At my Thanksgiving table, my family has a ritual where we each, in turn, say what we’re grateful for. We often get some snarky answers, like, “my iPhone,” or “my subscription to the New Yorker,” [yes, I really did say that!] but then we get some lovely answers, too: “my Mom” [thanks, son – it’s nice that you know on which side your cornbread is buttered!], “spending quality time with my family,” “the beauty of nature.” It might be interesting to go deeper, examining the gift of life itself.
In the philosophy of yoga, there is a model called pancamaya. It refers to five layers of being, from the outermost, outside physical body to the deepest, most subtle layers of our existence. This guided meditation offers an invitation to examine every layer with gratitude for the gifts each presents:
Sit comfortably, eyes closed, spine erect, breathing easily. Become aware of the sounds and smells in the room, the temperature of the air, the feeling of the floor (or chair) under you. Start to examine each of the five dimensions.
The first, outermost layer is the annamaya kosa. Anna means “food”, and kosa is “sheath.” This is the physical body into which we ingest the food that nourishes us. Bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Contemplate the miracle of your birth, the gift of life manifested in your physical body.
The second layer is the pranamaya kosa. Prana is energy – your “life force,” which can be represented by your breath. Bring your attention to your breath – feeling the inhale enliven your body, and the exhale relax your body. Contemplate the miracle of your physiology – your ability to breathe, to transform the food you eat into energy.
The third layer is the manomaya kosa. Mano means mind. Bring your attention to the workings of your mind – your ability to learn and understand, to acquire and hold onto knowledge. Contemplate the miracle of your ability to think.
The fourth layer is the Vijnanamaya kosa. Vijnana means knowledge – but a higher, or more subtle, level of knowledge. It refers to your natural, innate wisdom, your ability to discriminate and to achieve insight. Contemplate the miracle of your deep, knowing consciousness.
The fifth layer is the anandamaya kosa. Ananda means unending joy, or bliss. This is not the joy of a single event, or of the happiness you might feel when engaged in an activity that you love, but rather an underlying joy that pervades your existence. It is a joy that is always there, part of your true nature, and that you can always tap into. Contemplate the miracle of joy.
Consciously deepen your inhale and lengthen your exhale. As you breathe, visualize appreciation and gratitude washing over you from the outside in, like a gentle, nourishing rain, or radiant sunlight,
I wish you all a holiday season filled with warmth, love, and light.