Is Paradise a place, a state, a feeling or an idea? I recently spent days on Paradise Island in the Bahamas at the Shivananda Yoga Ashram on a Bhakti-yoga retreat pondering such thoughts. The Shivananda ashram is an idyllic environment situated in a tropical rain forest sandwiched between the bay and the ocean, surrounded by crystal clear waters and white sands.
Between my daily routine of mantra meditation, sat sanga (literally the association of truth seekers), yoga sessions, kirtan (congregational chanting), philosophical discourse and swimming in the ocean, It was an opportunity to engage every aspect of my being, my material physical body, my material subtle body (mind, intelligence and ego) and who I truly am; the soul. A wholistic trip in every sense of the word. I can say, I have not enjoyed myself so thoroughly in quite a while.
In this world we try so hard to squeeze enjoyment from our activities but often we are left frustrated, unfulfilled, or disappointed. We are engaged in trying to satisfy ourselves without really knowing who we are. In our ignorance to satisfy our senses or our mind, we try so many activities some clearly self-destructive and many repetitive even though we know they do not truly make us happy. May be it's time to change our perspective on how we see life?
In the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Krishna speaks to His student Arjuna about the temporary position of the body and how to over come the distractions of this material world.
In the darkness we may confuse a rope for a snake because we can be overcome by illusion.
Similarly, in ignorance we’ve accepted our body and mind as our self, but this is an illusion. A bona fide scripture like the Bhagavad-Gita can free us from such an illusion.
O son of Kunti (Arjuna), the non permanent appearance of happiness and distress and their disappearance in due course of time are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one should learn to tolerate them without being disturbed. Bg 2.14
O best among men (Arjuna), the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation. Bg 2.15
This was the dilemma Hamlet faced, the desperate search for liberation from the never-ending onslaught of negativity:
To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark- Act III Scene 1. William Shakespeare.
We all must travel to that “undiscovered country” eventually, but we can begin to prepare for the trip now, by shedding the excess baggage we are carrying.
My trip to Paradise reminded me that truly the best things in life are the simplest, the company of friends, the beauty of nature and taking the time and opportunity to connect with who we really are separate from this body.