Day One - Kośa
On Day One, I wrote what I thought would be the first paragraph of this book. By the afternoon when I re-read it I thought to myself: “Yeah, right. What’s the Sanskrit word for bullsh*t?”
But I committed, so here’s what the paragraph said.
Positive outcomes await us all. When we embrace positive thinking, our limiting ideas disappear. Positive thoughts create a bridge over our negative perceptions that block the road between where we are and where we want to go.
You see? Day One of my new positive thinking practice and I’d already pulled the BS card on myself. Funny, I didn’t think to make a BS card for my homemade deck.
The problem with trying to be a positive thinker is that it sounds great on paper. But coming up with positive thoughts and then putting them into real practice, is terrifying. It’s like walking towards a cliff and believing there are steps down to safety that you won’t see until you’re right on the edge.
To be a positive thinker, you have to scrounge up the strength to believe that the next step forward really is your next step and not your last, even as you’re going over the edge. We must believe in the journey even when we feel lost and hopeless.
Thankfully, the first card I drew on Day One made me laugh at myself on this daunting new path I’d committed to walking. But it also taught me to take the process in layers, one step at a time.
Kośa was my first card.
Pronounced “kosha,” it reminded me of when I moved to New Jersey for four years and lived amongst a sizable Jewish population for the first time. I quickly learned about the practice of keeping kosher as many of my new friends and classmates (I attended law school at Rutgers) were Jewish. But with their New Jersey/New York accents, the word kosher sounded like they were saying “kosha.”
Twenty-two years later, I still savor the warm memories of delis, diners, halvah, kugel, latkes, my life-long Jersey friends, being blessed with an invitation for dinner during Chanukah, and the beauty of a well-placed Yiddish word.
Kośa in Sanskrit means “layer” or “sheath.” We each have five different layers, according to the Vedanta teachings (a school of Indian philosophy). The layers go from the outer physical body (e.g., skin and bones), inward to our breath, then to our mental body (intellectual), then to our spiritual/conscious layer, and then to our bliss (ooh la la.)
As an attorney who acts like David in a world of Goliaths, and as a mature (i.e., beyond middle aged) female, I must say, I rank the enjoyment of my kośas in the opposite order than I’ve listed them here. Bliss. I just want bliss. Is that too much for a girl to ask?
There is no bliss in the practice of law, in my opinion. Lawyers tend to assault each other, a lot. And attacks don’t always come from the opposite side. By mid-afternoon on Day One, I felt like I needed five layers of thick skin to survive the shrapnel wounds after my day blew up into a massive controversy.
I wanted to be a lawyer to fight for the little guy, the underprivileged, the injured, and I’ve got enough piss and vinegar in me to be good at it. But after almost twenty years of fighting, I was roughed up.
And now it was Day One of becoming a positive thinker. It was “go” time. Time to start the engines and let the divine rubber hit the positive road. So when I meditated in the evening, I gingerly pushed my bad day aside and focused on the five layers as if they were strata of protective coatings I could manifest physically, closing myself off from the world. I took another deep breath and began my new practice. Seat belts fastened, here we go.
Perched comfortably on my meditation cushion, comfortably leaning back on some pillows, I started with my physical body and pictured myself mentally removing what felt like a battle-ax from my head. I was deliberate in picturing it come out of my brain with grey matter on it, and some of my dignity too, before tossing it aside. Physical layer? Check. “I’m sort of good at this,” said my ego. Aaah. Another inhale, and a long exhale.
Moving inward, I focused on my breathing, on the breath “layer.” And that’s where it got a little strange. I recall taking nine or ten deep cleansing breaths, feeling a tingling my chest and hands, then nothing.
Two hours later, I woke up with the lights still on, and my contact lenses dried on my eyeballs like little plastic satellite dishes.
The meditative exercise focusing on my kośas seemed to have worked. Although I didn’t make it any farther inward, when I woke up, I had no nagging anxiety, no palpitations, and no burning questions of a real or existential nature.
Did it work? I don’t know, but I felt good about Day One, because although I wasn’t particularly blissful, I’d have to say, everything felt more “kosha” than the day before.