Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shambhavi Elaborated Part 2

Hi Folks,

I felt I had to elaborate more on the mudra after receiving a query from a friend on Facebook yesterday.

It is in regard to whether or not the eyes should be open in Shambhavi Mudra.

The texts state very clearly that the eyes should be open. But we have to discern carefully here. According to my instructions given in the last post, the process of Shambhavi Mudra involves the instrumental layer, in other words the seeing itself and not the object seen. If we take Shambhavi Mudra in this way, it doesn't really matter whether the eyes are open or closed. The eyes are always seeing, whether it is dark or light, no matter what object is in front of the eyes. This process of the senses mirrors the nature of awareness or consciousness itself. This is the point. The eyes train us to come back into the nature of seeing itself. To come back to the Seer.

If we are focused on the object of perception we are stuck in the objective realm, no matter how high or lofty that object is. It could be the third eye, it could be God, it could be the highest thing imaginable. It is still an object of perception. This is why Patanjali divided the three modes of meditation into objective, instrumental and subjective forms. Meditation has to progress inwards towards the subject. And the instrumental level is a powerful bridge.

So ultimately whether the eyes are open or closed doesn't matter. However I have found according to the texts and my own experience that the eyes open in the beginning is better. Once you discover the depth of this mudra, feel free to close your eyes. Stay in the seeing even in the dark. This helps one to realize that outer and inner makes no difference. This is what the tantra teaches us.

In regards to whether this is right or wrong according to sampradaya I make no claims. I only speak from my own experience. It says in the Amanaskayogah "Shambhavi mudra is received by adishakti who is Uma (the Goddess)". What does this mean? To me it means that it can be received directly, deeply from the Self, from God. This is how it came to me after almost 25 years of practice in 2009, after 10 years of daily intensive Uddiyana Bandhas and Vicara practice. I felt in many ways that it was a deep fruit of intensive investigation and practice. But again I make no ultimate claim here. One can only ever speak from experience.

May you all investigate for yourselves to determine the Truth. Peace to you in that search.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shambhavi Mudra Elaborated

I thought I would elaborate on the Shambhavi mudra to go into deeper detail of this most powerful mudra. This is a more detailed description of the process which was discussed in an earlier post.

Mudra means gesture. Gesture can mean many things, from a physical gesture to an internal gesture. It is a slight movement that is initiated with the will which has the capability of propagating outward or inward through space.

Shambhavi mudra, also call Bhairavi mudra, is a subtle internal technique involving the eyes which can lead one to the depths of yogic meditation. It is described in many texts including Hathapradipika, Gherandha Samhita, Amanaskya Yoga, and Vijnanabhairava Tantra. These texts however do not give full instructions of this powerful technique but rather only hint at what it truly is.

The process of mudra follows what is called in Patanjali's yoga sutras parinama. Parinama is the process of transformation of one state to another. It involves movement and a change of state. The important point to understand in parinama is the process of movement itself. Mudra is a gesture that starts in a very subtle way and then follows a powerful movement gradient to affect objective perception, transforming the energy that underlies this objective manifestation to one of pure clarity. This clarity can be followed internally to the central nadi Susumna. At this point many "doors" open, through which the movement can be continued and the expansion of knowledge through one of these doorways can be facilitated. This is the topic of the 3rd chapter of the Yoga Sutras.

Shambhavi mudra thus is the excellent technique which brings about the results of the containment of the mind discussed in the first chapter of the yoga sutras. It is a technique which starts beneath the mind and completely brings it under control. It is in some ways a powerful technique of bio feedback.

One of the most important things to attend to in the mudric process is movement and not object or outcome. If one is attached to name and form, one is still in the objective layer of mind and will have no access to this mudra. The mudra is purely an instrumental or sensory process that underlies the mental functioning. The Hathapradipika quoting the Yoga Vasistha tells us that the mind and prana are like two sides of a single coin, that if we control one we control the other. In the Hatha tradition we take a hold of the mind by taking hold of the prana. So what is this prana? Prana is the felt layer that underlies all sensory processes. It is immediately felt as the totality of the underlying sensation body. So following this understanding, we can access this prana by following any of the knowledge or action senses to their point of origin. With Shambhavi mudra we use the eyes.

The technique of Shambhavi mudra begins with the eyes. We keep the eyes open. The texts say not to blink but in my opinion this matters not in the slightest because it doesn't matter what we are seeing. The important point is the seeing itself. This technique in my opinion is also not about directing the gaze. Gazing is not Shambhavi mudra. Gazing at the midbrow or third eye only puts the attention on an object and not on the seeing itself. The seeing itself is what draws us in, not what the eyes are looking at. The opening of the third eye comes when the ordinary two eyes become clear of the mental projections. Ordinarily our eyes are completely contaminated by the "eye of the mind" which distorts what we are seeing through the pureness of the seeing itself. I have given the example before of trying to see purely when one is thinking of one's favorite movie. Try it. Can you do it? Can you see with complete clarity and focus while the mind thinks of some topic? It can't be done. We are either seeing through the mind's eye or the 2 eyes of the body. Both cannot be simultaneously activated. In our everyday functioning, we are bouncing back and forth between objective and instrumental awareness, normally so quickly that we are not even aware of it. And our home base is in the objective level of perception. Continued application of Shambhavi mudra takes our home base lower into the instrumental realm, a vast realm completely unlike the objective reality.

So back to the technique. We look and then see. In seeing there is distortion. The distortion takes us towards the rajasic or agitated state or the tamasic or lazy state. The eyes experience this as either becoming tense or lazy. The eyes have to be constantly adjusted or focused so that they continuously come into a state of clear focus. Remember that it is not the focusing on an object but the focusing of the seeing itself. This is only the initial stage of Shambhavi mudra but it is a very important one. In fact many things occur as a result of this focusing/clearing that propagate throughout the body and mind system.

The next part of the technique involves feeling the seeing. We yoke the feeling layer directly to the seeing layer. To do this we have to focus more on the movement. We attend to the directional gradient that either takes us from clarity to unclarity or from unclarity to clarity. Attending to either movement is extremely important as it is the catching of the movement from unclarity to clarity which reactivates the mudra process. This is a powerful form of bio feedback and is the heart essence of the yoga. It is discussed quite clearly in Yoga Sutra 1.18. The holding of the state of meditation is brought about by what is called samskara or a conditioned pattern. The holding of a state is effected by parinama or transformation which is movement. We don't attend to the state, we attend to the movement which holds the state. This is an extremely powerful process, one which I will elaborate on in a later blog.

So by recognizing the unclarity, the mudra activates and "tunes" the eyes and system to bring it back to clarity. This clarity/unclarity, when we yoke it to the feeling layer begins to reveal itself in the totality of the body. Suddenly it is no longer just limited to the eyes. We feel Shambhavi mudra as a holistic activity which is felt throughout the system. Mind is felt suddenly as tension in the body. With the release of that tension, mind disappears and the clarity of body/mind expands. This is the process of unmesa/nimesa discussed also in an earlier blog.

If we follow the feeling of the clarity, it takes us "backward" into the central column area. If we stay with the movement, it takes us to a very special realm. At this point we can either just hold steady or "direct" the movement further into an infinite realm of doors. If we hold the mudra on a particular doorway, the knowledge of that doorway opens and reveals itself. This is the process called samadhi which is discussed by Patanjali. I will discuss this aspect in another blog.

The nice thing about Shambhavi is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. It is not limited to seated sessions of practice. It takes our asana and physical practices to a whole other level. 

Hopefully this post has helped to outline the process of mudra, Shambhavi in particular, in a more comprehensive way. With the use of this technique, one has no longer to rely on hours of meditation to still the mind. The mind instantly comes under control along with the body and one can utilize the focusing of that energy for a number of different purposes. Thus we have yoga, through the practice of prana nirodhah, giving rise to citta vrtti nirodhah.

 Please check out my youtube video for a video instructional on Shambhavi mudra.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Love of the Mother

One of my students asked me once "but what about love?"

I haven't thought about it too much until recently.

Then a powerful practice came to me. One that took me by surprise. The power of the mudra in aligning attention towards many things is not ceasing to amaze me. I will write more on that soon.

But it came this time in a direction I wasn't expecting. One that continues to pour forth in waves.

I began to pay attention to the Love of God. I read a few short articles by my guru describing this and thought I would try it. I'll try to share those articles soon. There are some very good clues in the article I posted by him entitled Kaulacara, earlier in this blog. Check it out.

So the Love of God. What does the Love of God look/feel like?

First the entry point to this love. It is unconditional. It is all expansive. It doesn't care what you have done or not done in this life. It doesn't depend on any thing. In other words all that you do or don't do won't diminish it in even the tiniest bit. This is the love of a true mother for a child.

Every part of you that has guilt, self hatred, shame, fear, worry, or feels the need to be other than exactly what you are is completely eradicated by this love. Every part of you is ok. Truly.

When you open to this love in whatever way you can, it pours in. It is like those painful things I mentioned above act as dams to this love.

I am not talking about you loving God. I am talking here about God loving you. The deep full Love of the Mother. For you.

When you pay attention to this love, the dams start to break. Suddenly a flood begins to fill you. The heart center begins to open in a vast way. The breath stops. The Mother fills you. Every cell feels it. Throbs with it.

I can only say from what I know. There may be many ways to open to this, it is probably up to you. For me the mudra helped me to open up and align with this. The reflexive internal gesture of movement recognizes all of these ugly things that I hold in myself and instantly releases them when the attention turns to the openness of God's love.

Truly the tears want to pour fourth. It is so vast that it is inconceivable and (mostly) indescribable.

For those who don't relate to reality through the image of God I am sure there is still a way to align with this. It is beyond form and name.

All of the patriarchal crap that has infiltrated our cultural and "spiritual" consciousness washes away like the filth that it is.

And what is left is the radiance of true and unconditional Love.