Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nadi Yoga Part 8 - Preliminaries - Shauca

The Five Niyamas
            The niyamas are orientations and attitudes that we take in aligning ourselves with the direct practices of the yamas given above. Together, the yamas and niyamas are like a strong pair of legs that form the  foundation of our yoga practice. Depending on the tradition consulted there are 5 or 10 niyamas. I will follow the tradition of the Yoga Sutras which list 5 practices. You will find that the 10 niyamas of other traditions are subsumed under these 5. 
              Traditionally, the last 3 niyamas of tapas, svadhyaya, and Isvara pranidhana are known as kriya yoga and can be considered a separate series of practices themselves. For the purposes of the Nadi Yoga I am choosing to consider the first 3 niyamas as part of an orienting group which helps to stabilize the 3 traditional energies of the gunas. 
              The 3 gunas are the primal energies of creation. Sattva is the energy of clarity, rajas is the energy of movement, and tamas is the energy of stability. These are similar to the western alchemical energies of mercury, sulphur, and salt. They correspond to the 5 elements as well. Sattva corresponds more to the lighter elements of space and air, rajas to the elements of air and fire, and tamas corresponds to water and earth. If these gunic energies are out of balance in the individual, then disease results. For the practice of yoga, we need primarily sattvic energies, with a careful balance of rajas and tamas. 
                 From the perspective of Nadi Yoga, the niyama of shauca can stabilize sattvic energies, the niyama of santosha can stabilize the rajasic energies, and the niyama of tapas can stabilize the tamasic energies.


            The niyama of shauca is oftentimes translated as cleanliness and/or purity. At the outermost level, this niyama is about cleanliness of body and external surroundings, all of which are conducive to clarity of mind. On a more internal nadi level, shauca is about cleaning our house, our internal house. If our system is clogged with impurity and undigested food, how can we function? How can energy flow clearly and cleanly?
             Shauca is about having the willingness/intention to bring internal balance about  within ourselves. It is about clarity. If this willingness is fully embodied with the actions of the yamas, then we have the means to move forward to clean the house. If we cannot first assess with full satya - clarity and truth, the state of our house, how can we hope to clean it?  If we violate ourselves, if we are not willing to see the truth in ourself, if we expend ourselves, if we hoard undigested food, if we rely on others for our strength, we find that we are already living in an unclean house and no amount of cleaning will be able to overcome these tendencies that we have habituated ourselves to. The yamas are thus seen as the action component of shauca. In this way, the yamas and niyamas work together, in this case shauca providing a motive for the yamas to function and bring about a clearer space.
            Why should we have a clean house? Vyasa, the first major commentator to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, tells us in his first sutra commentary that there are five states of mind/body. These five states of mind in turn are based around three qualities of the gunas, described above. To state again, Sattva guna is clarity, openness. Rajas guna is activity. Tamas guna is inertness. When we relate these 3 qualities in different ways to the mind, Vyasa tells us we come up with five combinations. These are called mudha or torporous, kshipta or frenetic/distracted, vikshipta or mildly distracted, ekagra or one-pointed, and niruddha or resolved. The mudha state is one in which the mind is mostly tamasic in nature. The kshipta state is one in which the mind is mostly rajasic. The vikshipta is a mixed state. The mind only becomes one pointed or ekagra when it is mostly sattvic in nature. The last state is transcendent of the gunas and we will discuss this later.
             Shauca is a commitment to balance one’s gunas and come to a more sattvic or clear place in one’s life. Recognizing that the mind and body are not separate, if we seek to improve the clarity of the body, the mind will come into line. So the commitment to cleanliness and clarity of our environment, both external and internal will bring clarity to the mind, which will bring about the deeper result of yoga - one pointedness. 

Questions about Shambhavi Mudra

2 questions came to me today regarding Shambhavi mudra.

"1. Please write on whether shambhavi mudra leads to a awakening of the Ajna chakra, on whether trataka combined with shambhavi leads to quicker opening of the ajna chakra ?
2. is it correct to awaken the ajna chakra before you awaken the muladhara chakra in your kundalini awakening progress ? "

1. I would say that yes, Shambhavi mudra does lead to an awakening of the Ajna cakra. Trataka for those of you who are not familiar is a process or kriya that involves staring at a candle flame or other small object without blinking until the tears are shed. Then one closes the eyes and follows the inner image that is now "burned" into the eye until it disappears. I would say that trataka is also good for awakening the Ajna cakra. Shambhavi is superior in my opinion but if one did do both practices, yes the Ajna would open "quicker". What is important in the Shambhavi mudra is to follow the deep feeling of clarity, which leads one through the blockages which are felt at the midbrow and frontal brain region. Relaxing these blockages actually creates the clarity we are seeking with the Shambhavi mudra. Eventually one is able to relax and release this center without Shambhavi mudra as one learns to feel it out. The same blockages will be felt in the practice of trataka. This brings up an important point that in the beginning of practice the chakric centers are felt more as granthi or knots. This isn't a bad thing but is a good basis to place our awareness and learn to relax and release these deep centers. By following the pathways of blockage, we are led to deep mental/emotional holding patterns that have to be addressed and resolved before the respective center can open up. Maybe I will write more on this at some point.

Awakening the Ajna cakra is in my opinion necessary before the stabilization of the concentration practices can fully be realized.

2. According to the tradition of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, author of Kundalini Tantra, and according to my Guru's tradition, yes, the Ajna cakra is very helpful to awaken before muladhara. In the tantric cakra nyasa practice from my Guru's lineage which I will eventually post on this website, we always work first with the ajna before the muladhara. This helps to open the doors of deep level discernment before undertaking the work through the elemental centers leading through the central column.

Hope these answers help!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nadi Yoga Part 7 - Preliminaries - Asteya

 Asteya – non stealing of the life force, proper boundary

            This next yama is a little unusual but very important. At its grossest level it involves not stealing. Most yogis are not thieves of gross things but of course it is possible to steal on many levels. With nadi yoga, we have to take a closer deeper examination of how it is that not only we steal from others but how others steal from us. This brings up the importance of proper energetic boundaries and the idea of boundary is vital in the understanding of this level of asteya.
            When we understand how our boundaries function healthily through brahmacarya and aparigraha, we recognize more clearly how our system is meant to be when it is functioning in a healthy way. The next place we have to examine is how we function with these boundaries in our relationships with others. To have healthy relationship with others, there must be equal give and take. You choose consciously what you give to others and you choose consciously what you take from others.
            Many relationships in our modern world are parasitic and even vampiric. In other words we take from others psychically and energetically, most of the time completely unconsciously. This builds psychic and energetic dependence on others. It can go both ways: we can take from others and they can take from us. It is one thing if this exchange is a gift, another if it is unconscious and/or trying to fulfill some lack within oneself.
            There are a couple things to consider when we first examine whether or not we are feeding vampires in our life. The first is to remember the old phrase which tells us that vampires cannot come into our house unless we first invite them in. Second, we have to do something about the vampires that are already in our house. The first thing is most important. It reminds us that we are in charge of who we let in. It is important to see where we do let others in, where we give our power away. The second is more difficult and may involve some hard choices regarding family, friends, and co-workers or bosses. We have to understand that we are not going to be really free unless all of the vampires are out of our house.
            It gets even more complicated when we consider that this problem extends beyond the grave. We can be and most of us are affected by our ancestry. Our ancestral “curses” rob and deplete us psychically and energetically, most frequently beneath our radar. This work is even more tricky to negotiate but can be done with specific practices of the tantra and deep inner process work. How many of us are “haunted” by the shades of the past? 
           In addition to seeing where we are giving our life blood to the vampires, we have to see where it is that we are vampiric with others. Are we truly dependent on others like children, parents, friends, co-workers, and bosses for praise, fulfillment, “love”, and other things? This will be very difficult for some to face as they work to get farther along the road of self dependence. This work forces us to get out of “other’s houses” and to learn to truly feed ourselves.
             It is important to recognize with this and other yamas that we are in charge of our lives. Unless we come to terms with this, and find freedom and independence and security with ourselves, we will allow ourselves to be violated and allow ourselves to violate out of insecurity, the need to please, fear, guilt, and a whole host of other negative energies. It is important to learn to first see these qualities in ourselves. Then we can ask our different selves what it is that they truly are needing in an attempt to heal them and to heal our own internal relationships. Then we will find the external relationships and our boundaries changing in response.
            For more on this topic of internal relationships see the blog - Union and Internal Alchemy. Also see the 2 blogs on Kavaca/Armour for techniques on dealing with the Psychic Vampires.

Nadi Yoga Part 6 - Preliminaries - Aparigraha

Aparigraha – non hoarding / proper flow of the life force

            This next yama is given slightly out of sequence with the traditional order as I consider it to go hand in hand with brahmacarya from the energetic nadi perspective. Aparigraha is traditionally translated and interpreted as non-hoarding. There is that aspect of it, not to hoard or keep possessions, to live a simpler life. However, there is a more profound aspect to this yama, and that is to not hoard internally. Hoarding implies storing and keeping things, many of which we do not need. When we look at ourselves with the light of satya/truth in a very sincere way, we see all of those dark areas of ourselves where we have been holding things. Holding some past secret, some dark memory. We hold traumas, tensions, things that have been stored for years, even decades.
            The lack of aparigraha is even more than just hoarding. It implies that when something came in, we did not process it completely or fully. We did not digest it fully. We just stored it away somewhere for later. How many times do we take in food, media, sensory experiences out of some greed or desire, not even taking the time to process it before we are on to the next thing? This is how modern society functions, getting drunk on experience which leaves it only hungry for more. We are obese not only with food but with sensory overload, with sex, with media, with thrill seeking.
            The symptoms of lack of aparigraha are lethargy, anxiety, depression, and more. Aparigraha involves not only hoarding but the desire to fill something in ourselves that cannot be sated. The inability to fulfill this constant desire leads to suffering. And because the wheel of desire moves us so rapidly in this attempt at fulfillment we only store more and more and don’t know how to let go of what we have taken in.
What are we seeking? What hunger are we trying to fill? To understand our desire and why we have it is a very important topic and one we will come to later on. Even beginning to take a look at these questions however will cause us to start to have some understanding though at how we violate ourself through the lack of aparigraha.
Taken together, brahmacarya and aparigraha deal with the boundary of the nadis. They deal with the interface between ourself and the external world. Brahmacarya checks what goes out. Aparigraha checks what comes in. If we have a proper balance with these two yamas we will have more balance in our energetic life. If too much goes out we are depleted. If too much stays in, we become full and energetically unstable. Like any system in life, there needs to be balance. These two yamas help us to find that balance and need to work hand in hand. The yama of satya helps us to discern what is required here. Satya also helps us to slow down if needed, properly digest what comes in, to not take in more than we need. To not expend more than we should. Balance is ultimately what is required to keep these inititial yamas in check.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nadi Yoga Part 5 - Preliminaries - Brahmacarya

Brahmacarya – Containment of the Energy Body

The next 3 yamas are related to each other and have to do with energy flow in and out of our body/mind systems and how well this flow of in and out is occurring. The principle of ahimsa guides us in these principles as if there is not a proper balance of in and out with the flow of life then we violate ourself, either through too much containment or not enough. Or the boundaries that help with this flow are skewed.

Brahmacarya literally means “to move in Brahman”. It is oftentimes translated as celibacy or sexual restraint. However the sexual nadi or flow corridor is only one of the 10 major nadis. To just blindly restrain this corridor and not the others is not enough. And to just restrain without understanding is also equally problematic.

There are many different interpretations of how to work with this yama. In the terms of Nadi Yoga, brahmacarya is learning to control how much of us “goes out”. This not only concerns the sexual force but also all of the senses.

The sense gateways that are the nadis are labeled as problematic in many of the ancient traditions, not just the Indian traditions but also the western traditions. This problem goes way back to the beginnings of patriarchal society where there was a split between heaven and earth, between the mother and father god. This was a time of the beginning of the idea that somehow spirit was superior to the body. That the body was even to be reviled and the world discarded in favor of a higher heaven. This topic is a long one but suffice it to say that the Nadi Yoga favors the approach of tantra, which regards heaven and earth on equal terms, the body as an expression of spirit, the male equal in power to the female principle.

In this way, as the Yoga Vasistha tells us, the senses themselves are not problematic. Vasistha says in his work on Yoga that it is the mind, interfering and polluting the senses that is the problem. If this is so, why do we “throw out the baby with the bath water” and reject the senses? Does restraint of the senses really involve the retreat of the senses themselves? Or does it involve something deeper?

In this work of nadi yoga, it is vital to separate the senses from the mind. What does this mean? What it means is separating the instrumental level of consciousness from the objective level of consciousness. More will be explained on this later as we explore the process called mudra.

Coming back to the topic of brahmacarya, we have to look at where it is that we lose energy through the senses. The mind and its objective layer obsessions contaminates the raw experience of the senses and in effect takes energy from us, causing us to “leak” through the 10 sense doors. This doesn’t just happen with sex. It happens through our eyes when we desire different forms and activities. It happens through our ears when we let ourselves become entangled in conversation, in music, in sound. It happens with food, when our mind becomes habituated to certain foods. It happens through our hands when we become over controlling or obsessive with things like work, when we grasp at things. It happens through our feet when we are constantly moving forward, unable to stop going and going. In this way, we have many “leaks” in our energy body, in our nadi structure. Are we aware of how we spend energy? How do we feel? Are we depleted? Are we continually tired? Why is it that we are tired? Where do we leak?

Like all things, there is a balance. Brahmacarya is not the principle of telling us to contain and contain and not let go. That leads to the problem of hoarding, discussed later. This is another problem energetically. Brahmacarya is about containment yes, but containment tempered with discernment about how much we can comfortably contain without depleting ourself. Like a car, we need a certain amount of fuel, but with too much fuel we also run a risk of violation.

What does the proper amount of containment feel like? This is something you will have to discover for yourself. There is a certain glow, a certain buzz, that comes with proper containment. Proper containment is like storing “juice” in your body, healthy juice that feeds you and causes you to grow. It gives you energy. It feeds your life. If you don’t have enough of this juice, you feel depleted. Something is off and you constantly try to get the juice back, oftentimes by violating through another nadi corridor. For example, you may have excessive sex, which will deplete the body and then try to get the juice back through food, further unbalancing the system. After a hard long, overextended day at work, you may seek balance through visual media with the tv. There are many examples. Living a life of constantly spending and trying to make up for it through other corridors is a game we play. We take money out of the bank and try to put it back in in another way. The savings account never gets anywhere and we are constantly putting ourselves in the red. Living life like this is stressful and how much of modern society lives. The yama of satya helps us with this, to understand clearly what we are doing to ourselves.

Brahmacarya is vital as a preliminary practice as it causes us to conserve, to build our energetic savings account. As we start to store life energy, we start to recognize it more clearly and we have energy to proceed. Patanjali tells us very clearly in sutra 1.20 that virya or energy is necessary to have to build us up for the higher stages of yoga. Brahmacarya is how we build that virya or energy.

Nadi Yoga Part 4 - Preliminaries - Satya

Satya - Truth

Satya is the next Yama. Satya is truth. Truth is much more than just speaking truth. It is living truth. Living the truth that our life demands if we are to grow as individuals, if we are to truly live. Satya is Dharma, the alignment with our highest truth. Truth requires courage, requires willingness to truly see, to truly take stock of our life and see what it is that we truly need, what we truly need to do in order to live life to our fullest potential.
If we have the courage to follow the yama of satya, of truth, we will be able to more clearly see where it is that we do violate ourselves (referring to the first yama of ahimsa). Truth requires light to come in to all of the dark, hidden corners of our selves. We cannot hide in the light of truth. We cannot escape our selves and our games any longer.  We are forced to pick up the rugs and sweep out the dust. We are forced to clean out the closets, long ago packed with things long forgotten.
Truth can be bitter in the beginning when we first start to look, just as it is painful to clean the house when we have long let it go. However, we will get nowhere on this path of Nadi Yoga unless we have this willingness to take a look at everything in our life. There can be no stone unturned. There can be no closet neglected.
Truth is not about following some code of conduct and seeing where we match up and where we don’t. This can actually be a form of deep violation. Truth rather involves deep acceptance. Deep compassion and love for ourselves in our process. It may take time. It most likely will take time to do this work. It will not happen all at once. Even after one layer gets peeled back, there will be more.
This is a process that we will constantly be working on. In this way it is important to look at the gross things in our life first. What is our relationship like? What is our job like? What is our infrastructure like? Are we doing too much with our time? Do we have time for our selves and our process? Are we taking care of ourselves and our families? These and others are all the most important questions to look at first. When the gross gets taken care of, we can then look towards the subtler ways that we sabotage and harm our selves.
As the layers get peeled back more and more we may realize we have not dealt with certain things for many years and that certain themes keep reoccurring in our life. We may find that even our practices, even our "spirituality" has only been a front, an escape, a bypass of the real truth that has been hiding underneath all along. It is important to examine ourselves and our process deeply and thoroughly and honestly.
In this way, satya/truth goes hand in hand with ahimsa/non-violation. Ahimsa is the agreement with our selves not to violate our life force. Satya is the willingness to see clearly the truth of where we do violate ourselves. At the deepest level, satya is the truth of our existence itself and the willingness to be witness to this. So in a practical way if we can truly learn to see where we do not have the first yama of ahimsa, we will be shown clearly the truth of where we need to go, what we need to do, how we have to act, to bring our life more into balance with our dharma.
Only when we have satya will our energy be truly liberated to flow naturally and in balance with our life. It is here in the light of truth that our blockages start to release, our physical and mental problems start to dissolve, and our pathways become clear. In truth we have freedom to move in unlimited directions without the binding of conditioning.
These first two principles are the foundational guideline that steer the rest of the 8 yamas and niyamas.

Tantra Part 1 - Introduction

In addition to the Nadi Yoga articles I will be writing a new series of articles on the practice of Sri Vidya tantra. It is my hope to eventually bring both subjects into book form for the benefit of practitioners worldwide.

Not all will resonate with this work so if not, please just skip these tantra articles! If you are connected to this work, feel free to read and explore it.

These articles on tantra are not meant to be a scholarly examination from the standpoint of theory but are designed to get one dirty very quickly with the practice.

Introduction to Tantra

What is tantra? Tantra is expansion. Tantra is empowerment. Tantra is freedom from limitation and the breaking down of the view that we are anything other than God.

It is my goal with this new series of articles on tantra to share age old traditions to a new age of practitioners. It is my goal to strip away the limitations that have been previously put upon these age old disciplines and make them available to everyone, without regard to sex, gender, age, culture, caste, and station. This is the way that my Guru has been bringing the teachings to the modern age and he has given me his blessing to share these teachings with all. Some may balk at the sharing of these ancient "secret" teachings. All I can do is to bless these folks and hope that they can find it in their hearts to understand that as my guru says "Sri Vidya is for everyone".

What is Sri Vidya?  Tantra has had many different forms and manifestations over the last 5 to 10 thousand years (yes many believe it goes back that far...). Sri Vidya is a form of tantra that works with the Goddess principle. Sri means auspicious and is also a word that designates the Devi or Goddess. Vidya is knowledge. So Sri Vidya is the "auspicious knowledge" or the "knowledge of the Goddess". My lineage through Guruji Sri Amritanandanatha of Devipuram India, is connected with the Dattatreya line which works with the Goddess Lalitha Tripurasundari as the highest expression of the divine. It may seem strange to some, especially those brought up in Western systems of spirituality to focus on the feminine aspect of the divine but if you look deeper into the Western streams you will find that the feminine has only been hidden from view.

According to Tantra, the world from the highest to the lowest manifestations can be broken up into 36 tattvas or categories. At the highest level, what we call Paramasiva, reality is completely one. Division occurs, breaking reality apparently into two. These two primal realities are called Siva and Sakti. Siva, the traditional "male" principle is also called Prakasha or the innate light or awareness aspect of being. Sakti, or the traditional "female" principle is also called Vimarsha or the reflective, manifest blissful aspect of being. You find this same primal splitting in many other spiritual traditions across the world from the Chinese to the ancient Hebrews. From one perspective the Goddess represents one side of the polarity. From a higher perspective, the Goddess is Paramasiva herself, in other words, she is the sum total representation of everything. Take it as you will. As one of the 1000 names of Lalitha suggests, Lalitha is ever in union with her lover Siva.

Many traditions over time have focused their attention more on the awareness/luminous aspect of this primal splitting, emphasizing one side of the expansion over the other. By focusing on that aspect which our traditions have ignored for so long we strive to bring balance back to the work. Ultimately divinity and our true nature is neither one nor the other. Balance is required in the work to understand the primal polarities within ourselves.

Theory is good only in so far as it helps us to establish a framework for practice and so wherever necessary I will bring it in. Otherwise, there are many books out there which you will find if you feel you need to research such matters. There is a saying in the modern field of neurolinguisic programming that “the map is not the territory”. There is nothing that will compare to actual practice because it is only with practice that you will realize the benefits of tantra.

Reality is. In other words, we can philosophize and theorize all we want to but Reality itself will always be, just as it is. The tools of tantra only help to break down our limiting views and beliefs to bring us to a deeper recognition of the inherent ok-ness of this. Tantra is a “bringing down” of that recognition, so that we learn to see that inherent purity in our minds, our feelings, and our bodies.

I am basing these series of articles on the traditional teachings of the Parasurama Kalpa Sutras, an ancient treatise on the work of tantra given by the sage Parasurama. Secondly, I am also basing them on the classical instructions handed down by my Guru who follows this tradition. Thirdly, I am  basing these teachings on the results and experiences given me by my own practice and the material that has "manifested" through the doorway of the powerful lineage to which I belong. I do not claim mastery in this practice and only share it out of my love of the work and my strong belief in its power, evidenced over my own serious personal transformation of the last few years.

More important than the tools of the tantra are the empowerments themselves that the tools bring. More important than the techniques are the alignments that occur with the techniques. Given that, we will still employ tools. Powerful age old tools that have been handed down through the centuries. Through some of the upcoming posts we will also explore newer tools, tools only discovered in the last century by my guru and even more recently by myself. If it works for you use it, if not feel free to discard it and discover your own. There is no right way.

We are Consciousness and Bliss itself, God and Goddess. There is nothing which is separate from this. Whatever we think, feel, say, or do is all the expression of God. There is no impurity. Division is only a thought, a feeling, one that upon investigation will reveal itself to only be like a dream.

It is my prayer that through this work or other, that all will recognize their true nature and feel completely and utterly free to step into their own power as children of God and begin to act to create and shape this world as God intended, with love and presence and creativity.

Nadi Yoga Part 3 - Preliminaries - Ahimsa

Preparation: The Yamas and the Niyamas

In the undertaking of any science of transformation, there are preparations necessary. In the classical yoga, there are various breakdowns of how the path is laid out and the preparations necessary but in most cases they agree that the yamas and niyamas are important. Most often these two words are translated as observances and restraints. Depending on the text consulted these yamas and niyamas vary in number from 10 to 20. For our purposes here we will focus on the classical 10 yama/niyamas as given by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Really the texts that give the 20 yama/niyamas are giving practices which are really subsumed by the 10. For example mitahara or proper diet can really be understood by the yama of ahimsa or non-violation.

To truly understand these yamas and niyamas in the context of nadi yoga we have to get beyond the traditional way of understanding these as moral precepts which bring about right living. We have to embody these principles very directly by seeing how they act directly on us through the instrumental layer of our being. In this way we can look at them as laws or principles of energy. Only in this way will we start to gain a deeper understanding of yoga from the nadi level. We will take each of them separately in turn. It will be helpful as we go through this list to seriously take stock in your own life and look directly at how these different principles are present and where they are absent. If one truly starts to pay attention to these principles, the nadi yoga will be understood at a far deeper level.

The Five Yamas

            The five yamas are five commitments of practice that we take that help to create a healthy functioning energetic system of body and mind. Unless these five practices are undertaken, all of the other practices of yoga will fall short. They are our guidelines for how to function in the world and with ourselves.

Ahimsa: Non-violation of the life force

            Ahimsa is oftentimes translated into English as non-violence. I prefer to call it non-violation of the free flow of the life force. When we classically think of this yama we think of being non-violent in the world, it is more of an external expression. But if we consider this action truly, before taking this yama outside ourselves, for our purposes in direct experience of the body and senses, we have to see how we cause violence or violate our own self first and foremost. 

Where does violation first occur? It occurs in the mind. It occurs through our intention, conscious or not. If you examine deeply you will find that every time, violation occurs at the deepest level of will. The expression then ripples out through our emotions and the body. However to see it at that deeper intentional level is not an easy thing to always do, especially when we have little understanding of our own mind.

One way that we can start to understand ahimsa and how it affects us is to begin to feel the effects of ahimsa in our own body. All effects that begin in the deepest level of the mind have manifest results in the outermost layers. How does our body feel when we speak, when we act, when we do a yoga posture? The symptoms of the body and mind will reveal the deeper layers of intention. Negative symptoms manifesting in the body are oftentimes the direct result of some violation that we are making with our very life force. Given that most of us have never been taught about our deeper life force and its expression, it’s not surprising that most of us are not even aware of how we violate ourselves. When we start to have the awareness to see these symptoms we can go deeper into our investigations. 

Always, when there is himsa or violation, there will be a rupture in connection, there will be a break in awareness, there will potentially be tension or even injury. It is important to learn to see what those breaks in awareness look like and feel like. If we can start to see these breaks we can oftentimes get at the source before the effects ripple out through our system. Eventually we start to see himsa right at its point of manifestation and we can learn to stop it at its point of origin.

Himsa is usually repetitive; we oftentimes repeat again and again the same actions seeking certain results out of obsession, greed, anger, and desire. In a yoga posture, we force ourselves into a position in an attempt to achieve some result. We may stay in a job out of a feeling of responsibility or guilt. We may allow personal relationships that are harmful to our person. We eat food that doesn’t agree with us out of habit. We engage media that slowly consumes us. Our habits take us over through time. There are many different ways that we can violate our own life force and most of the time we are not even aware of what we are doing.          

I think of ahimsa as knowing how to find our way through a maze. When we hit what we think of as a dead end, then instead of continuing to push down that same corridor, which has blocked us, we turn around and go back to the last junction that we encountered and try another path. If we do this each time we hit a "dead end" we continue to move forward instead of getting stuck. We won't continue to move down the same corridors but try something new. This is the only way to get through the maze. Each "dead end" presents itself as a feeling. It may be pain, or some other form of obstruction. We might think that by continuing to go down the same corridor that we can somehow unlock a secret there, but the real secret is to turn around and find another way through. The important point is to keep moving forward and not get stuck. 

To begin to see the symptoms of violation in our own lives is critical if we are to truly have ahimsa. Seeing the symptoms or the "dead ends" helps us to start to understand how responsible we are for our own well being and to begin to take ownership and power back into our life. We may feel out of control of our life and not recognize that we alone have the capacity to change many of these habits and patterns that are consuming us and slowly taking our life. 

When ahimsa becomes a regular part of practice the energy of the body/mind system becomes freed up to move in a more natural fashion. The polar imbalances start to even out and we find more clarity and central column movement of life-force. We also find that we are able to naturally enter postures and activities without strain or force, "knowing" how to find our way in. There is more freedom and expansion in our range of being.

The next post will continue with the yamas as a proper foundation to practice.

Nadi Yoga Part 2 - Preliminaries - The 8 Fold Path

At the outset of the undertaking of the practice of Yoga it is good to have an idea of the territory involved. Classically the texts define 8 limbs of yoga, what is called ashtanga yoga (8-limbed yoga).

One might upon looking at these 8 limbs of the yoga path think about these limbs in a linear way. 1st limb then 2nd limb and so on. This is only partially true. In some ways we do have to have the early stages before we get to the later stages of the path. However it is also simultaneously true that the 8 limbs are holographic, each containing the other limbs within it.

So much emphasis has been given to the 3rd limb of yoga - asana, that most beginners today only associate yoga with that limb. This is very unfortunate because it has led to the propogation of yoga as a form of intensive exercise. Not that it cannot fill this role, but the science of yoga has the capacity for so much more.

The first 2 limbs of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, are the attitudes and observances that one undertakes during the practice of yoga. Without them, yoga falls short, and in fact utterly fails. Some texts list 5 yamas and 5 niyamas, while the classical hatha texts list 10 of each. We will explore these beginning in the next post.

Asana means "seat". There are some other interesting definitions we will explore in later posts as well. Traditionally the asana was what you sat on while practicing and this later came to be associated with the type of position one took while seated. As the years rolled on over the last 1000 years, many different positions came to be called asanas, even the non-seated positions.

Pranayama, the 4th limb of yoga is the control of the prana. This is listed before control of the mind because it implies that mind control is hopeless without first knowing how to control the energies of the body/mind system.

Pratyahara, the 5th limb of yoga is the control of the senses. There are other definitions as well which we will explore later. Mastery must be made of the peripheral sensory and action organs before one can undertake work with the central channel. Pratyahara takes a primary role in this process.

Both the 4th and 5th limbs involve work at the sensory or instrumental layer of awareness of which Nadi Yoga explores greatly. These two processes are thus very intimately intertwined.

The last 3 limbs of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are collectively called samyama. Samyama is a process of bringing the energy/prana and then the mind under one pointed focus or control and applying it in a particular direction. The movement required for this process is what Patanjali calls parinama or transformation of state. The first stages of this collective process involve moving attention through the objective, instrumental, and then the subjective levels of awareness. The last stage transcends the subjective. When all of the previous limbs have been satisfied, these 3 limbs start to fall automatically into place.

The hatha yoga texts list another process/practice that is not talked about explicitly in the Yoga Sutras. This is the practice of mudra. I have talked quite a bit about mudra in the previous blogs. Here I will explain how this practice relates to the 8 limbs. Mudra means gesture. This gesture can be external or internal or both. Mudra as an internal gesture actually incorporates the 4th through the 8th limbs simultaneously. As an external/internal gesture it incorporates the 3rd through 8th limbs. One could even say that the 1st and 2nd limbs are necessary to even engage mudra so in this way, the practice of mudra is a very comprehensive practice involving all of the limbs of yoga. This is the reason that the hatha texts like hatha pradipika only list the practice of mudra after asana. The other limbs are implied with the practice of mudra.

Seeing the importance of mudra within the overall scheme of the 8 limbs of Yoga, Nadi Yoga utilizes the mudra as its central process and practice. Various techniques exist within the framework of mudra but at their central essence, the practice of mudra is one. It is important when doing work of this nature to discover the inner meaning of this profound practice so that one can quickly access the entirety of the 8 fold path of yoga. This is not something that has to take years if one realizes this inner key of mudra. It is much simpler than many controlling gurus and obscure texts will tell you.

The next post will start to explore the yamas beginning with ahimsa, the first of the yamas.

Nadi Yoga Part 1 - Introduction

This is the first in a series of articles that will attempt to put to words the practice of Nadi Yoga, a form practice that I have been cultivating over the past few years, rooted in the classical work and brought to life by years and years of experience. I intend to write about all stages of this work in the blog.

Lets start with some basic definitions. Yoga has already been defined in this blog elsewhere so I won't define that here. The word nadi means river or flow corridor. Classically the different nadis have been assigned to the 5 jnanendriyas (knowledge organs) and the 5 karmendriyas (action organs). These follow the traditional elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth. Respectively (to the elements) the corresponding knowledge organs are ear/hearing, skin/feeling sense, eyes/sight, tongue/taste, and nose/smell and breathing. The elemental correspondences with the action organs are tongue/speech, hands/manipulation, feet/locomotion, genitalia/sexual functioning, and the anus/elimination.

Note that in the above correspondences the functions occur on many levels. For example the hands in relation to manipulation relate to ALL functions of manipulation including grasping, pushing, taking, holding and other. And these functions are not only related to the hand but to all functions in our psychological and physical worlds. In other words the energy of grasping itself is included under this flow corridor. So if there is any obsessive tendency to grasp or hold things in our life, it will affect this particular flow of energy in our lives. The same is true of all of the nadis. It will be worthwhile to contemplate the different relationships here.

The central channel or susumna (only one of its many names) is the primary channel. According to traditional work, the peripheral channels have to be worked with and cleared before proper functioning of the central channel can occur. There will be more said on this channel later.

Understanding the basic definitions of nadi and yoga, we come to the conclusion that Nadi Yoga is the "union of the flow corridors" or the "samadhi that results from harmonious functioning of the flow corridors". This follows closely with the meaning of Hatha as Sun/Moon and thus Hatha Yoga as a union of the sun and moon or the polarities of the body/mind system.

We have here only described the major nadis. Note that I have said nothing of the mapping of how these corridors flow in a specific way through the body. This is because I truly feel that it is not possible to map these corridors in some universal way with every person. Even more importantly, these nadis are purely instrumental modes of functioning. A map only presents from the objective understanding and is ultimately useless if one is to truly understand the nadis from a personal perspective.

So what do we mean by instrumental versus objective modes of functioning? Patanjali defines 3 different modes of experiencing in his Yoga Sutras. These are the objective, instrumental, and subjective modes. I have elaborated on this elsewhere in the blog but will recap briefly here. Objective is any sort of object of awareness. This could be an object of mind or an object of sensory awareness. Instrumental mode is the sensory mode itself or the mind sense in itself. The subjective is the I which witnesses the sensory and objective modes. There are varying levels of objective awareness as described in sutra 1.17. Instrumental awareness is quite different as it brings us into the sensory process of perception itself. It is here that we truly start to understand and witness the actual nadis in themselves.

This is an important distinction to make with the practice of Nadi Yoga as it implies that the practice of Nadi Yoga is not as much about external forms but more about how we relate to the practice internally. From this perspective, many different forms from different traditions could be used under the term Nadi Yoga if one is working to function and explore within instrumental level awareness.

Nadi Yoga thus entails a deep process that involves understanding instrumental functioning and being able to access that level of awareness. Not that following the techniques in themselves will not lead to beneficial results but rather that the true depths of this work will not unfold unless one can start to access those instrumental layers of oneself.

To this end, the traditional practices given in the yoga scriptures of preparation are vital. The traditional yamas and niyamas as related to the energetic system of the body/mind system are extremely important. In addition one has to have a certain faith and recognition that mind and body are ultimately intimately related. One should have at least an initial understanding of this relationship or if even that is difficult, one should have faith that one can at least find this understanding. Nadi Yoga is about experience, direct experience, which leads to an understanding of the power that one truly has as a locus of consciousness.

Once this understanding begins to take root in the individual, it becomes apparent that bringing the mind and its energies under control is vital to the process. In this way, we meet the deepest aspects of the yoga very early on. In addition, with this understanding, one realizes the responsibility and magnitude of what can unfold with this process.

Self study is therefore very important with the yoga, even right from the beginning of the practice. Especially when one undertakes energetic work such as the Nadi Yoga. Understanding our different sides (as mentioned in the previous post) can be extremely beneficial to unifying our mental/psychological front and channeling the resultant energies into a concentrated effect. The directions one can go with this are without limit.

In the next few blogs we will explore the preparations and foundational work that are essential along every step of the way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Union and Psychological Alchemy

Lets talk today about psychological alchemy and how it relates to yoga.

We are all familiar with the concept of ego. How would it be if I told you that you were not one but many? Some may already realize this but we are all actually a large conglomerate of "inner people". The relationships that these inner people have with each other mirrors the relationship that we have with all the other people in our external life.

So how do these inner people relate? Is one usually in charge? Are some pushed down and even berated or neglected? If you examine all of your internal dialogues you will see that every voice is the voice of one of the inner people. Some of the voices are directed at other inner people. Some voices speak with other voices, forming "inner groups". Some groups are at war with others, some get along tolerantly.

Are you aware of your "spiritual" inner people? Do they assert their "obvious authority" in all higher matters? Perhaps until the "bad" people somehow usurp the throne...

So how do we deal with the inner people and why would we even want to look at this stuff?

Well consider this. Do you feel unified in all of your activities? Do you move forward in life without "distraction" or procrastination? Have any depression or fear or do you tell yourself negative things? Can you concentrate fully and skillfully with ease? If not, then I suggest that your inner people may not be getting along...

Take note the next time at a party or even observing dinner conversation dynamics. Ever notice how one or two people take over the conversation? Or observe children and their communication dynamics. Really take note. External reality mirrors inner reality beautifully. Also examine how you relate to others, specifically how you relate to different people differently. The same thing goes on in our heads internally all the time. The "inner kingdom" can really become a dictatorship and when we identify with the ones on the bottom life can be pretty depressing as the voices on the top keep putting us down.

The first thing to do is to see this at play in our own inner universe. To start to separate out the voices and identify the different people involved, the different people who are "us". This is the alchemical process called separation.

The next alchemical process could be termed purification. In psychological terms this would be cleaning the house,  helping the inner people and healing the relationships between the various people. This is the not so easy part of the work but if we have truly separated the people out it becomes much easier. Part of the problem comes when we cannot really separate out the different voices and we see them talking as one.

Another challenge at this stage is to truly see that "you" are not any of these people. Well you are and you aren't at the same time. The BIG I is something much bigger, much greater, beyond all of these voices. And yet it is not true to say that these are all just "figments and fragments" of imagination or just "contents of consciousness" either. To truly honor relative reality we have to honor these people and voices. If we don't then guess what? One of the people, most likely a "spiritual inner person" has the throne and is dictating that we need to get rid of all the other people!!! To truly come into the BIG I we have to step ALL THE WAY BACK. Back to where we pull EVERYONE off the throne. We encourage a democracy or rather a "friendly group". Here we can look without bias at all the people. Ask what they want, ask what they need. What do they EACH need to be fulfilled? If you are still asking at this point what the point is in dealing with all these voices, the "spiritual inner person" is still on the throne... Funny huh?

The purification process really involves settling the disputes or at least getting the different sides on somewhat amicable terms. Kind of like getting fighting kids to hug and make up.

If you can make it through this point, then the real GOLD comes out. We have alchemical union. We get all the people together in a "new age circle" and have them "hold hands". Your "spiritual inner person" may laugh at this but trust me you won't when you notice that suddenly you are filled with serious power. Power to concentrate, power to do, power to manifest things immediately in your life. With internal union we have one of the very definitions of yoga. Union. The dark sides and the light sides join forces and suddenly we realize the source of our power. Not only your inner relationships will change but your outer ones will too. External and internal realities reflect each other.

I say these things because for years I have fought with myself internally. The "spiritual" sides have waged war with the "mundane and dark" sides. It is a form of internal disease. The spiritual traditions that label these voices and inner people as "just thoughts" are the worst violators of all. We end up pushing down, repressing, forgetting about so much. And all of these thoughts and inner people together make up the sum total of our energy. When the voices/inner people are unified in one front we find a huge surge of potential, of energy, of freedom. Gone are guilt, shame, fear, depression, and a whole host of other negative emotions and thoughts.

And the practices of yoga, I'm talking about the deepest practices, become available. And the practices are not driven by a dictator. The practices move forward from the democratic movement of all the inner peoples that are aligned with the divine will of the BIG I. The little I's and the Big I are aligned and we truly are functioning in alignment with our true dharma.

I want to say one more thing. The hatha yoga texts tell us that "public contact" is one of the obstacles to success. What they mean by this is not that we should become hermits, but rather that giving our power over to others by joining consensus reality is dangerous. This is especially true during this process I have described above. Our "inner people" are strongly influenced sometimes by others and this can become dangerous to our internal process of purification. We have to have the strength to realize that we are in control of our own inner world, otherwise we open it up to influence that can be very dangerous to our inner ego dynamics. True allies are the exception. True allies have no expectation, want you to be fully who you are in alignment with your true dharma. They alone are worthy to let into your inner kingdom as they are the ones who will help you find true alignment with all elements of yourself.

Hope this is helpful!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tantra, Magick, Alchemy, and Will

It is easy to fall into the trap of religiosity or even worse fundamentalism with the practice of tantra. It is also easy to mistake the road map for the territory. If one is to truly understand the inner workings of a particular discipline one has to really get inside of the process rather than just the outer workings.
In following the path of tantra it is fine for some to just follow along with pure faith. I have no qualms with these folks. However, I enjoy getting into the nuts and bolts of certain things and especially the looking into a technology as powerful as this. In this particular case, much can be gleaned from the western esoteric traditions as mind technology applies to the discipline of tantra.

Aleister Crowley defined magick (spelled with a k to distinguish from magic, which is the illusionist's and charlatans trade) as "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will." There are many further subdivision which we won't get into. If we follow Crowley's definition then we realize that basically every act we do is an act of magic. There is more though. How do we know that we are actually acting in accordance with our will? Are we acting under conditioned influence? There is much to investigate in this. We discussed in class today that those in the heaven and hell realms suffer so much because they can't actually cause change to occur around them because they are so conditioned by suffering and desire that they can only reap the rewards of their previous actions until the karma from those actions expires.

The western esoteric tradition has long investigated this work, through the shaping and refining of the will, and one of the highest expressions of this work is called magick. At the highest level of this work, one brings one's alignment of personal individual will towards that of higher will. The mystical tradition usually causes this to occur through personal annihilation or dissolving of the ego structure. The mage or tantric or siddha "plays" and walks a balancing line between samsara and nirvana.

In the discussing of the Qabalistic "tree of life", author Donald Michael Kraig, a longtime contemporary practitioner of the western esoteric tradition says "We can say that the path of a mystic or yogi, whose intent it is to rejoin with the Divine, follows the middle pillar (of the tree of life). This path, sometimes known as the "path of the arrow" is like the path an arrow flies if pointed straight up from the Mahlkoot to Keter (the Qabalistic equivalent of the Muladhara and Sahasrara). The yogi sits in meditation until he or she can simply "hop" from the lowest to the highest.... a magician needs full access to all of the Sephiroht of the Tree, not just the middle pillar. A magician follows a path that can take him or her from Sephira to Sephira, going through and learning about each one while also covering each of the connecting twenty-two paths, winding about like a snake. In fact, the path of the magician (and in our case the tantric) is sometimes known as the path of the serpent." There is more...

We see this in the tantric tradition in the expression of the Sri Yantra and also in the traditional 36 tattvas or categories given in classical tantra. Near the highest level of the 36 categories we find the descent of iccha, jnana, and kriya shaktis. Once the bindu of the Sri Yantra "splits" we have the inner triangle, of whose corners represent the iccha, jnana, and kriya shaktis. Iccha is will, jnana is the knowledge that gives rise to power the will, and the kriya is the resultant action. Thus this world evolves from the top down and also from the bottom up. A saying from the hermetic tradition is in order here "as above, so below". Creation works top down as well as bottom up. Even in classical samkhya theory, the role of buddhi is one of "I" as well as will. There has been a long standing tradition handed down from ancient times that somehow the "I" aspect of buddhi is more important than will. Which comes first? Interesting inquiry to make. "Who am I" is a noun based question and "what is the will to be done?" is a verb based question. They are different in orientation. Examining and finding mastery through will is the path of the siddha, examining and finding mastery through "I" or luminous presence is the path of the jnani. According to Vimalananda, Robert Svabodha's guru, the path of vijnani or the siddha is higher than that of the jnani. I won't argue about that because to each their own huh?

It is interesting to note that traditional study of magick usually begins with serious mind training. Most of the exercises given in Franz Bardon's An Introduction to Hermetics involve serious yoga (and I'm not talking down dog...). The same is true with classical tantra. However many approach these disciplines today without an ounce of mind training and thus fall far short of the mark.

So lets talk briefly about alchemy, the inner process of both classical magick and tantra. Alchemy is a process of separation, purification, and unification. There are outer and inner forms of this, both related. The processes of magic and tantra both involve understanding and meditation on the elements, so that one attains a certain mastery of knowledge with the component energies of this universe. These are "purified" or if you prefer "discovered to be already pure" and then integrated. We see this in the tantra in the practice of the Viraja Homa, a practice which can be done lying down or seated with traditional pranayamas. We work with fire and air, creating an "internal fire" to burn and refine the various elements of ourselves. We then receive the nectar of the moon, working with water and the earth to "create" a divine body. There are very similar processes in traditional magick. Much more can be said on this, perhaps later....

The real power behind both the disciplines of magick and tantra is the deep understanding of mind. Patanjali tells us that the mind can be either klista (obstructing) or aklista (liberating). Understanding this we can use vikalpa or imagination to transform our "ordinary" reality into the pure land. We transform through alchemy ordinary consensus reality into a liberated reality. Those who doubt this are stuck in the materialist paradigm and will struggle against forces which they believe to be outside of themselves. Some magicians fall into this trap when they attempt to invoke and evoke external spirits, not seeing their own deep psychological relationship to the process. Tantrics fall into this trap when they consider themselves apart from their technology as well.

In the realms of invocation and evocation both magic and tantra shine. If you don't think you are doing magic when you do pranapratishta, think again. Pranapratishta is the invoking of Devi right into your very body. It can also be used to evoke the Devi into a murthi or a homa fire. Kavaca or divine armor is a form of evocation as is mantric healing. Many many parallels between the two sciences.

What we choose to do with it is up to us. We don't have to take the path of the arrow. Do you beg your mother to go back inside her vagina? When you have children would you expect them to dissolve themselves back into you or would you rather they go out and create a divine world? Questions to ponder...

As Aleister Crowley stated in the law of Thelema "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will." And as my Guru has always said "Do as you like. Minimize harm."