Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Introduction to Creation Level Exercises in Nadi Yoga

As some of you have experienced recently, we are now taking the Nadi Yoga to a much deeper level.

I call this level of the work Srsti Yoga, or the Yoga of Creation.

Are the many nadis or rivers of awareness places that we discover? Are they real outside of our own consciousness?

Or are they pathways that we forge through our own attention, inseparable from that very attention itself?

My recognition is of the latter.

It took me many years to figure out that the many deep level processes of Hatha Yoga were not about seeking to find the subtle but actually involved creating pathways in the field of mind/consciousness and working with what arises when we shape and construct those pathways.

Consciousness has an infinite ability to shape and manifest itself according to intention. Where does our intention lie? Do we even have to rely on the traditional sources to manifest these pathways? Not really, but I do think that some of the pathways that have been described in the past can be both valid and original corridors if we pay attention to our direct instrumental sensory level of awareness in shaping them.

However ultimately, the work has to become our own if we are to truly understand this level of yoga. Can we step outside of our habitual and unconscious constructions to truly allow these creations to unfold?

I feel that it is important to have a basic grasp of mudra when undertaking the creation level work. This is because mudra allows for a dissolving of mental constructions to take place, akin to wiping a blackboard clean before we draw on it. Mudra allows for us to ground in the central point of lucid clarity. See my other posts on mudra if you are unclear.

So lets try some techniques.

Try standing with the feet apart about 3 to 4 feet wide. Turn the feet out slightly. Keep the legs straight. Push into the shins and feet to establish the normal force (see the post on physics of yoga if you don't know what the normal force is) through the bones. Relax all musculature above the kneecaps, including the hips to allow for the normal force  to be felt upwards through the navel into the spine and arms. Raise the arms to about shoulder level to feel the uprising of the normal force. Use mudra to maintain clarity and the center. Wait until you feel the contact/normal force flood the bones.

At this point open from the navel to the sole of the foot like you would open a tube. Don't worry about whether you are getting it right. Just allow yourself to experience directly the opening in what ever way that comes. Feel the tubes of the legs expand into the ground. Now let the opening of the tubes continue from the navel up through the 'trident', the spine and two arms. Is there any place that the tubes feel more closed? Open them up.

Now begin to expand outwards from the navel downwards with blue fire. Why blue? It is higher frequency than red. And anyways, why not? Feel it come back from the earth purified and stabilizing the base of the position, simultaneous with the normal force generated by the shins. Feel the connection of the navel to the earth.

Now draw the blue fire up into the trident, the arms and spine. Fill the spine and take the fire out the arms to hold it in each hand. Like you are a strange 5-limbed spider made out of blue fire.

See it clearly in the mind eye. To stabilize the image in the mind eye, utilize Shambhavi mudra and recognize the union of clarity/emptiness and form. Don't attach to the form. Let it become clear in the empty lucid sky of consciousness. Let it burn.

Let the legs bend as the top of the shin presses out, allowing yourself to come down into horse. Open the fingers and let the palms face each other. Now, maintaining the continuous stream of fire in the legs and spine, release the continuous stream in the arms. Let the fire in the arms condense into a blue fire ball between the hands. Let it hover there for some time. Then absorb the fire into the left hand, draw it down into the navel and then let it rise through the right arm and come out from the right palm. Let it leave the palm, feel it as it moves from the right to left palm and then absorb it again into the left. Continue, letting the ball travel from right to left hand and moving the blue fire ball down into the navel and up through the right palm and out again. Repeat this several times. Then reverse the direction, taking the fire ball in through the right palm and bringing it out from the left palm. Let it travel in reverse direction several times, completing the circuit.

As you do this try to simultaneously see and feel the blue fire traveling through you. Sharpen the clarity of the form with the Shambhavi mudra.

If you decide to stop at this point, dissolve all forms back into natural lucidity and rest there for awhile.

If you want to continue, try the following, keeping in mind to stop the activity if you start to feel overwhelmed at any point:

Take the ball of blue fire above the crown of the head about 12 finger widths. Hold it there and then draw it down behind the body in an arc to 12 finger widths below the feet under the floor. Let it rest there a moment and then draw it up the front of the body in an arc back up over the head. Let it rest for a moment. If you like you can continue this movement with the breath, inhaling the ball down and exhaling it up. Or your can exhale it down and inhale it up. Or you can just focus on the movement of the ball separate from the breath. Mantra can also be used here simultaneous with the movement (more on that another time).

Once you've established the movement and the two points above and below, start to move the ball rapidly, basically forming a quickly moving ring of blue fire around the front and back of the body, like a rapidly spinning wheel going backwards. Hold the form clearly in the mind eye and feel it simultaneously. Use the Shambhavi mudra to sharpen and stabilize the form.

Then quickly and immediately stop the ball above the head. Hold it there briefly and then reverse the direction, taking it down in the front to below the feet. Hold it there. Take it up the back to the crown. Hold it there. Repeat several times. When it is stabilized, begin to move it rapidly in the 'forward' direction like a blue wheel of fire. Stabilize the movement and unify it with the clarity of Shambhavi mudra. After some time with this stop it immediately above the head.

For the second phase, try moving the ball down to the right and up on the left. Let the arc down and up go completely to the outside of the body to right and left, between the crown and foot points. Go between the two points holding at the points briefly and then begin to spin rapidly again. Hold this for some time. Then stopping at the crown, reverse the direction again, this time moving the ball down to the left and bringing it up on the right side in the same way as before. Stop the ball above the head when you are ready.

The third phase involves taking the ball down in front of the navel several feet out. We are going to circle the navel horizontally this time, beginning with moving the ball around the right side of the waist to several feet behind the spine, holding it there briefly and then bringing it around forward to the left back in front of the navel. Go back and forth around the body between the two points for awhile and then rapidly begin to circle it around the waist. This variation might get you hot. Stop the ball when you are ready in front of the navel and then reverse the direction this time taking the ball back to the left and forward to the right. Repeat as above until the ring of fire is spinning "counterclockwise". Hold for some time and then stop.

The fourth phase involves taking the blue fire ball down to the outside of the left ankle. This variation is influenced by the middle pillar exercise, described by Israel Regardie. We are going to take the ball on a counterclockwise spiral journey around the body and up from the ankle, circling the body counterclockwise and up until it reaches the crown. When the ball hits above the crown, it explodes into a shower and falls down like liquid fire through the body, pooling at the base and condensing again at the left ankle. You can do this in discrete movements with or without the breath, drawing it up and then showering and then you can do it in a constant flowing movement when you are ready. See the blue fire turn to white over the course of this activity. Unify the creation with the clarity of Shambhavi mudra.

When you are done with these practices, dissolve all forms into innate clarity and rest for some time. Then exit the position and rest briefly. If for any reason you are ungrounded by the activity, send everything down, connecting spine and navel to the earth. If this doesn't work, sit and repeat 'lam' (sounds like 'lum') over and over or go put your bare feet in the earth. You should feel energized and alert if you have managed to keep the forms stabilized with the clarity of the mudra.

The exercises described above are a very tiny sampling of the creation level work of the Nadi Yoga and give an example of how we can shape the mind space with our consciousness. Horse stance is nice but not necessary. We can also do these techniques from seated or pick another stance that works.

We are always creating whether we realize it or not. Working with this level of the work consciously allows us to recognize more and more our own unconscious creations and begins to build new pathways, simultaneously purifying our mental and energetic corridors.

I find this level of the work profound. Try it out for several weeks, and take note of the effects in your life.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creation vs Seeking

I wanted to write a few words on intention in our practice and life.

For many, the 'path' of yoga is one of seeking. Seeking to find our true nature, enlightenment, the nature of subtle energy, power, or any number of things. That which we seek is influenced by culture, religion, spirituality, books, teachings, teachers, traditions, and 'other' sources than our self.

The Bhagavad Gita says "You are entitled to action but never to its fruit." Many interpret this as a statement that tells us that our fruits are God's alone, as if God is something outside of our self. What this statement says to me is that we need to perhaps emphasize the movement of action itself and not  desired permanence of forms. Forms are changing. There is nothing stable in form to rely on.

Why do we consider ourselves bound? Does this come from someplace outside of ourselves?
What are we truly lacking? Anything? Where is it that we get this idea in our mind consciousness that we are somehow limited and lacking? Do we really need to improve our selves? Do we need to become better or more than we are? Do we need some experience to validate our sense of self? Why?

Ego. Non-ego. These are just concepts. Forms in the sky of consciousness. What happens when these forms relax?

Where does movement come from? What initiates it? There is so much present in movement itself that can reveal itself if we pay attention.

Where is the center of movement? What is this center? It is the bindu.
What if we were to start from the place of perfection? What if we were to start every moment from a place of acceptance? What is it inside of ourselves that resists this? Is it so hard to accept our rightful place at the center of our our yantra, to take our place at the bindu of creation?

If we allow ourselves to be at the center of our own mandala, one of the first things that might strike us is that we ARE the center. Can we accept our own self-reliance? Can we take responsibility for our life around us? Are there really 'outside forces' imposing on us, forcing us to move this way or that? Are we relying on God and fate to govern our actions? Can we accept our own divinity and examine our intentions, our direction of movement at every moment?

It might be scary to come to center. It involves dissolving and dying to what we thought we were. It may destroy our concepts of God and the world. Perhaps we have confused the forms of the periphery with the true stability of the center point. Responsibility and self-reliance might be terrifying as we are so used to blaming, worshiping, submitting to something outside of our own selves.

From here, at the bindu of the yantra, we find authenticity. We find the truth of movement's origin that presents as 'us'.

From center, we find the possibility of authentic creation.

At this center, the distractions and confusions of the peripheral forms are not present. It is like the eye of a storm. We can move in any direction unimpeded. We don't need to rely on others or traditions. We don't need to conform. True creation is possible here, uninfected by the stain of what we feel we 'should' be or become.

True creation allows the periphery to unfold with its center at the bindu. The bindu and the periphery are in perfect alignment. Form and emptiness are recognized as one and simultaneous. Clarity is present with movement and appearance.

There is a deep joy and playfulness with creation. All is right. Let go of shame, guilt, and fear to truly let creation unfold from center. We don't need to act for another.

Some have the feeling that it is all about finding center but then what? Our natural ability to create is just pushing inward on itself. Are we reacting to empty forms? Why? What are we telling ourselves? The forms are empty in themselves. Do we want the center or bindu to remain only as a point singularity? Are we a black hole? No. Once we recognize the center point, let the bindu unfold. Let it expand outwards.

In and out. Contraction and expansion. Dissolution and creation. Shrim Hrim. Heaven is united with Earth. The Mother and the Father are one. There is no need to judge form. Form is divine expression. And it is never separate from the center. We ARE that center.

Do we realize this? What movement wants to come forth?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Footprints of Birds in the Sky

I sit constantly with the nature of Samsara. In awe. The wheel of revolving forms and names. The shapes that arise from the ocean and dissolve back into it. I am fascinated by the forms, the patterns, the appearance. Why dissolve forever when I am continually created anew moment after moment after moment...

Yet the teachings of many of the ancient wisdom traditions often appear to condemn samsara. They seem to tell us something which apparently contradicts the movements of creation, existence, and destruction which endlessly cycle in blinding displays of brilliant light.

Gaudapada, the teacher of Shankaracarya's teacher, says in the Mandukya Karika, "Neither the mind nor the objects perceived by the mind are ever born. To see their birth is like seeing the footprints of birds in the sky." (verse 4.28)

Nagarjuna, the famous Buddhist philosopher says similar things. Vedanta is riddled with this apparent mystery of why in truth, creation, existence, and destruction are void of actual truth.

What are these ancient teachings attempting to say and why do their teachings go against all experience and appearance of what seems to be so true before our very eyes and through our very skin?

The sages say it is due to confusion. What we ascribe to be permanent, in other words a "thing" such as a thought or form as being real, discrete, solid, is actually not permanent. Nagarjuna goes so far as to say that these "things" have never actually come into being nor are they ever destroyed.

What is form? What is name? When we discover what these things truly are, do the forms remain or do they disappear?

Om Prajnana Brahma. Consciousness is Brahman. Om aham Brahmasmi. I am Brahman.

I am Consciousness.

So what? To me, this only indicates a beginning. This is not the end of practice. This is the starting point. The bindu. Now it is time for the yantra to explode...

If you understand the nature of wave as water, does it cease to present itself as wave? No. It doesn't. Does this somehow destroy our innate sense of beauty if it can somehow not be permanent or abiding? No.

The implication that seems to come, at least the feelings that I received from many of these traditions  for many years was that the world itself, because of its impermanence was thus tainted or imbued somehow with suffering.

I don't buy it anymore. Whether "I" appear for some time and then cease, or whether "I" do not experience myself as "I" and only declare my oneness with the ocean doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter.

The ocean is the ocean, and the wave appears as the wave. Choosing sides with language is the real bondage.

In utter disregard to self limiting language which appears to me as if from some distant sage like the footprints of birds in the sky, I cast it all off and, with every cell of my being, I smile at Her, who is "as brilliant as a 1000 rising suns" (Lalitha Sahasranama 6).

As the Heart Sutra says, emptiness is form, form is emptiness. In fact form "arises" from emptiness, it "dissolves" back into emptiness. Emptiness only being that potential from which all is possible.

Brahman. Ever expanding.

Tantra. Expansion.

Interesting this word expansion. It implies the meaning of the mantra Hrim, which is the bija sound of creation. Creation is ever expanding. But if nothing is ever created, what is expanding? Is the dance of the waves on the ocean becoming like a symphony? I for one, know it is not still. At least not all of it. The eye of the hurricane is different from its arms.

What is this divine pulse throb of that which they call Brahman? Is it just an illusion? An effect? A dream? A by-product? Inert? All of these words are used to describe her veil, the cloak that apparently covers and binds us.

But we ARE Her. She is Us. The ocean is one. Can the ocean appreciate its own beauty? Can it create? Can it bring forth a symphony for its countless children to hear? Why do we refuse to listen to that symphony and instead dissolve ourselves so deeply that we cannot hear any longer?

I find that the source of a lot of the difficulty in the old traditions is embedded in the fundamental reliance on a noun based language. Quantum mechanics ripped apart traditional notions of particles when they encountered wave/particle duality. I think ultimately the same thing is required here is one is to truly understand creation, existence, and dissolution. From an ultimate noun based perspective, discrete entities cannot be found to exist according to Chandrakirti and many others. We all know we are "supposed" to ultimately live without ego, and many have declared, "the ego has never actually been."

Of course it hasn't! At least not as a "discrete entity"! So what? Does it matter? Truly?

When we throw out the noun based attachment in our languaging, then we are "becomings", "dissolvings", and in fact truthfully, even these words become hard for defining us as verbs as well because no matter how we slice it, language always attempts to limit and define our experience.

The trap I fell into for many years was to despair, to contract in on myself, to negate, to dismiss, to fall into the trap of the blank state. An empty blackboard with nothing to draw on it.

I laughed one time when I read a story of Jean Klein's in which he was in a symphony concert. A monk came to visit him and sent an attendant in to get him. Jean came out of the symphony and asked why the monk didn't just come in and enjoy the symphony. The monk responded that he avoided distractions like that. Jean was puzzled by this and felt sad for the man and his inability to see and understand the fullness of what he was. Jean asked the monk, "what is there to be distracted from?"

Although the footprints of the birds in the sky are sometimes so wispy, ethereal and transparent, are they any less beautiful? Although they will not be here tomorrow, yet they are born again in the sky of mind as a memory. That memory is another footprint which gives rise to another. The dance or symphony of the ocean continues to play.

Why do we insist on making the requirement of non-suffering being something permanent and lasting? The ocean that we are has already fulfilled that requirement. We are infinite beings. And the world is perfect just as it is.

The scriptures simultaneously piss me off with their language and yet make me laugh as I witness their truths. There is indeed a very strange paradox at hand. I love to throw them far across the room and then go outside to smell the air.

Some days I definitely prefer the storms. The contraction of even my preferences becomes expansion. I think white robes on me would fast become muddy. Maybe black suits this footprint more...

Most days I choose to leap from the waves and witness their undulating dance. I often choose to surf on their forms, in oneness with their expansion.

As "I" do that, footprints smile in the sky in the radiance of the morning sun.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Concentrated Mind Field, Creation and Completion Stage, and Mudra

I wanted to discuss today the role of mudra in the act of concentrating the mind.

For many years I labored unsuccessfully at concentrating the mind other than just briefly. It was only when I started to get "underneath" the breath and discovering the power of mudra that mind started to fall into line.

The Bhagavad Gita says "The mind is restless and as difficult to control as the wind." As I've mentioned previously, this is a double edged statement. On one hand, its saying the mind is extremely difficult to control. On the other side of the blade, this statement is saying that the mind is as easy to control as the wind...  The pranic wind.

The Hathapradipika quotes a great line from Yoga Vasistha "To control the mind, control the wind, to control the wind, control the mind."

We can access the point of control through either. But the most important point is to understand what is beneath each. In this place where the two are one, there is a singular substance. The basis of Consciousness itself. From this place arises what is called in yoga, Buddhi. Buddhi is alert choiceless awareness of "I", as well as the tipping point for its movement which is the Will.

The light or awareness aspect should be merged with its movement in our attention. This is accessed through mudra. Details on the mudra are found elsewhere in this blog.

Mudra is like a large moon which drives the tide of force, magnetic in nature, that moves the sea of prana. The driftwood of the body and gross mind are led by this sea.

Prana is felt. Why do we say this? Because the wind element is said in Samkhya theory to connect with what we call Sparsa. Sparsa is not easily definable in English. It is like "inner touch". Imagine for a moment the feeling you have on your skin. Imagine that everything within you 'touches' in the same way. You can call it the nerve endings through the body but this isn't enough as this is just a concept. It has to be an immediate direct felt experience of one's entirety, including mind, body, breath, feeling, and sensation.

Now, that sparsha or direct sensory feeling has to be moved. We move this through the tidal practice of the tantric breathing technique given a few writings ago in the pranayama posts. This tidal breathing practice should be one with the mudra work, engaging the mudra at each point of polarity shift. If one stays with this practice long enough, we encounter directly the phenomena called samadhi, where it appears as if there is only one thing, not two. In other words, we are one with the movement or sparshic field.

Pranayama like this can be done anywhere, not just in the seated position. At least the basic techniques of shifting and holding polarities. We can do it literally at almost any moment, explaining why in the texts like Hathapradipika they say to do so many rounds in one day. We can do far more than they suggest...

Working with the field this way regularly will lead to a oneness with it. 

At this point, when we are one with the field, it can be directed. The will and the movement are not two. At this point we can construct any number of possible internal constructions which will have a direct, although perhaps grossly unobservable effect on reality. There is a lot to say at this point. At this point we are accessing what the Tibetans call Creation Stage. This is not mere imagination or visualization. This is felt imagination or what I like to call srsti or creation.

There is a very common misconception that meditation involves something solid or stable. But stability arises out of movement. This is discussed very clearly in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali when he discusses the notion of parinama or transformation of state. Parinama involves movement. It is a gradient shift. For example, when you hold a cup in your hand and hold the cup still, is your hand moving or is it still?

Answer: it is not still. Examine this until you understand. Its directly relevant to the understanding of mudra and parinama. Even just catching wind of that movement and becoming one with it will guide you into the practice of mudra.

Back to creation. Many suggestions are given in the texts, from deity work, to points of light, to cakras and adhara meditations, the elements, to internal yantras, to kundali arousal. All of these are possible and these are only a small number of the possibilities. The more one works with these techniques, the more that open up. The doorways become infinite in number.

In the beginning, if the mudra is not strong, the forms will not hold. The important point to remember is to strengthen the mudra, have a union of clarity and feeling, and then to direct the movement from that union. The images or forms will sharpen in clarity as the magnetic force of mudra increases. They can become quite sharp in definition. It is like "inner focus" or "inner clarifying" at this stage, in the same way that we focused or clarified the eyes externally in shambhavi. The difference here with creation stage however is that, unlike the first stage of shambhavi, where we were letting go of form, here we are actually creating and sustaining form, but it is done with the union of clarity and feeling/sparsha. This is akin to unifying the subjective, instrumental and objective states that Patanjali discusses, in a singular act.

What is the result of this? Change. As Crowley defines magic, "magic is the act of causing change to occur in conformity with will". We may not be moving say, a physical object with our mind, but once you sit with what you are moving, you will realize that moving the sea is far more important than moving a single piece of driftwood. This is creating effects on the deep level of conditioning, of vasana. It takes a lot in a consensus reality as strong as the one we are living in to affect things directly. Most of our work will alter things here over time. This work will cause negatively conditioned processes to halt and turn around, shifting the driftwood over time. Of course, there are those times that we do experience direct, fast results. We notice the effects immediately in our bodies and minds. And we may be changing more than our limited minds can comprehend. I have been witness to some interesting things...

It is helpful to note that at the end of the practice, we can dissolve all forms into innate clarity. All forms arise from that fundamental clarity. We emphasize the clear light aspect of the mudra. This is Completion Stage. The dissolution of form and the resting in the basis.

From the perspective of what we call Sat, Cit, Ananda, or Reality/Being, Consciousness, and Bliss, the mudra can be emphasized from any of these perspectives, as they are all one. When we emphasize the Bliss and Consciousness aspects, in conjunction with Nama Rupa or name and form, we can access the creation stage. When we emphasize the Consciousness and Sat aspects we just rest in the basis.

To understand this, play with the two beginning aspects of Shambhavi mudra, the sight and then the feeling aspect.  Learn to emphasize one or the other. Learn to unite the two. Learn to combine them with inner forms. Shape and move the forms. Dissolve the forms and rest in basis.

Create. Sustain. Dissolve.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Some Thoughts on the State of the World and My selves


I “accidentally” hit the video on youtube today for the National’s “half awake in a fake empire" (the version with Ryan Lewis). My girls ended up watching it and then one of them asked, “What was that about?” I didn’t really know how to answer a 7 year old that question. I just cried instead.

Since coming “back to civilization” from New Mexico (yes New Mexico feels like being on a distant mountaintop) and moving to Seattle, we have been brought back into the fray of 'in your face' samsara. Or perhaps it was just me in New Mexico, hiding on the mountaintop so skillfully that I refused to even see the samsara there. I admit full responsibility for hiding. And of course it isn’t easy, even for a modern day person who lives like a king compared to 90 percent of the world, raising 2 children, having a family with 2 working parents, dealing with your shit, your relationship, modern living, school lunch, do this, do that. It’s why we left “civilization” in the first place. To get the fuck out. To escape and heal. 

Fine. Did that. Escaped. Healed. Became whole. Fine and good. I had that luxury. Maybe it was my karma, maybe just sheer random draw. It was a raft like Shankaracarya tells us in the Vivekacudamani, a raft that gave us brief reprieve from the storm. We took advantage of it. 

I see many unable to take ahold of the raft. For many there may not even be a raft. Or they may be unable to see it. 

            Some recent events:
Nicole takes the bus to work everyday downtown. Sees a white man enraged getting on the bus with his kid. Nearly beats him telling him to sit down. The kid gets excited about something outside the window. The guy nearly kills him. The kid looks up and just asks if he can give him a hug. The man doesn’t respond.

I meet a very loyal old student “randomly” here and it turns out she is facing losing her job at Boeing, the state’s largest employer. Turns out they are eliminating options for telecommuters, the folks that work out of home. All fine and good except for the folks like my friend who are single mothers and have a young child at home. Why are they doing this? To outsource the jobs overseas.  If she quits, she loses her retirement and benefits she has accumulated over the last 15 years. How’s that for loyalty?

We are facing having to pay 3000 dollars for our youngest to enter kindergarten next year and that’s public school. Hmmm. I was under the impression that public school came out of our tax dollars. But Oh, I forgot, Washington State doesn’t have income tax. Never mind that some of the richest people in the country are here, lets help them get richer. Fuck the schools. And hey, those large corporations probably need the tax breaks anyway…

I basically lost one of my best friends a few weeks back who got involved in a “spiritual” pyramid scheme. Who can blame her really? We’re all struggling. Who wouldn’t want to make 40,000 dollars by only giving 5 K into an “abundance circle.” Never mind that the math doesn’t add up (does 8 = 1?) and that you’re asking the universe to give you 40 back for 5. The “dessert” comes from basically fucking over 8 people. But its “spiritual” and a “women’s circle” so somehow it comes out all right. Anyone ever hear of the law of conservation of energy?

But then again corporate America is one big pyramid scheme isn’t it? And it’s all perfectly legal. I hear all this shit about how corporations like Walmart create jobs. And “Oh, they’re liberal or Oh, but they supported Obama…” Those are the funniest ones. Lets look for a minute at the first excuse. Jobs? Really? I had a friend here who recently traveled to Aberdeen, WA and said it was like a ghost town, except for the Walmart, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Whatever…  If we consider that if Walmart wasn’t there, we would see in Aberdeen: clothiers, tool shops, car mechanics, local groceries, toy stores, book stores, music stores, appliance shops, and how many others? They would all be small businesses with people making far more money. And the economy would be local. Second excuse, don’t even get me started on Obama. What the fuck has he really done for us, for America? No, really…

The selling of false liberalism and spirituality is a real sham. People very easily can lose their discernment. Of course, if you look at the curriculums in today’s schools, teaching discernment is not on the agenda. In fact, the curriculums are not even original. Our oldest child has the same homework here that she had in New Mexico. Stock sheets of standardized paperwork that sometimes is hard for me to even follow. Utter trash. One of my friends here who homeschooled his kids last year said they completed the entire “curriculum” for the year in ¾ of the days and in only 3 hours a day. Hmmm…

But back to false liberalism. When we see only two choices on the menu, it limits our options. I see vanilla and chocolate but what if I want strawberry? What about the billion other flavors? It is far too easy to become conditioned by the news, the sources that tell us it’s this way or that. I find out a lot more personally by daily interactions with folks. Direct contact. Look at what’s going on around us. Really look. We don’t need the news to tell us that things are a bit out of balance.

Same with the false spiritualism. I see a lot of cutesy “spiritual wisdom” quotes on Facebook but not as many first hand accounts of personal investigations into what these things are saying (and many kudos to those of you who do this work and do say something). Buddha said this, Ramana said that, Krishna or Christ said…. What do you say? Are we so castrated energetically that we have lost our true voice? Have we lost the ability to reason, discern, practice, and move forward with our own power?

Of course so many are exhausted. Tired. Beat down. Kids. Work. The grind. The day in day out. Most barely have time for practice. I understand. I think. But really? If we don’t find the time for cultivation and practice in our lives now then when? I groan many days when I look at what’s on the schedule. This. That. This. Then that. But I have it easy compared to many. Good to remember that. How do we integrate cultivation and daily living? I know how I do it. I get up early. I practice in my sleep (no really…). I watch every moment between the movements and during. If all of us stopped blaming the outside for our lack of time to cultivate, let it get us down, and found a way we might find the ground shifting underneath us.

Its like some cosmic drama, some cosmic battle playing itself out. Do we see it? Is there a way to transform the obstacles into freedom, the shit into gold? Both Rama and Ravana are God. It’s an interesting play. Notice that neither are sitting on the sidelines. Neither of them are hiding out in their rooms. I admit, most of the time I would rather do that myself… But the screams taking place outside truly get to me. Or are those the screams inside my own heart? Time to pick up the sword… Fuck.

The outside is not different from the inside. The internal work is reflected in the outer work. The outer is in the inner. That was one thing that truly terrified me in New Mexico one day sitting on my porch. It’s why I decided to “come back”. Can I change anything? I can examine and refine my will. I can pay attention. I can speak up when I feel more like hiding in a hole. Even when people turn away from me or throw shit. I can recognize more and more my daily hypocrisies (yes, I like my Ipad...).

Life is dirty. Spiritual work is dirty. It ain’t clean. Or maybe the shit itself is truly gold waiting to be transformed. Perhaps there is more than one way to look at it. I do prefer black robes to white. I prefer Saturn to Venus most days. Even though he tends to beat the shit out of me. At least it keeps me awake.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Highest Action is in the Mind or the Deconstruction of Consensus Reality

This article serves 2 major purposes, to demonstrate the power of the individual mind as equivalent to and even far greater than mere physical action as well as to show that one of the major responsibilities of the true power of mind lies in deconstructing the shackles of consensus reality which serve to bind us into narrow constraints.

There is a tendency of many to consider action as something of the physical body. Thoughts themselves are commonly dismissed as being separate from the physical world we live in. When we consider though that all physical structures have started as ideas in the mind as well as considering that consensus entities like corporations, money, and property are all really objects held in the mind then we start to really take a look at the power of consciousness in terms of its manifest ability.

"I shall now declare to you the creation and its secret. For, it is only as long as one invests the perceived object with reality that bondage lasts; once that notion goes, with it goes bondage."

                                                                                                Yoga Vasistha 3.1

"By names and images are all powers awakened and re-awakened."

                                                                  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

These are only 2 quotes of many suggesting that the power of the mind, with its associated names and images/forms, has the capacity for true power and the potential for shifting what we perceive as the "external reality".

If the mind has such power, then why is it that we feel so helpless and fearful in the face of what seems to be an incredible weight of problems in our lives? I would say that it is due to our internal fragmentation. Many of us want to change and unify the world but we do not know how to unify and internally rewire ourselves. Part of the illusion lies in the fact that we consider ourselves one stream of consciousness, or one individual personality and not many. Do we ever notice the internal wars inside of ourselves? Even more interesting, do we notice that what we fight with on the outside, what we perceive as an external war is oftentimes a reflection of our own internal wars? Our tendency is to externalize ourselves and "put the responsibility on someone else". In this way we can avoid deep seated feelings of guilt and shame by having an external scapegoat to carry the load for us. This only gets compounded by external consensus.

As I've stated previously in my blog on the Internal Bodhisattva, I believe that only by truly healing and unifying all of the streams and identities within ourselves will we truly be able to release 100 percent of our inherent power, which is colossal. Most of us are only operating at a very low percentage of potential, precisely because we are internally conflicted with ourselves. The "spiritual" us beats up the "material" us or any other infinite number of possible internal conflicts. Acceptance is the key to truly starting down this road of healing. Acceptance and discernment. The taking of responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions.

When we start to have the condition of inner union within ourselves, what do we do with this immense release of energy? Do we just check out and hang on the mountain? Or do we utilize the new found recognitions by applying them with the power of generosity? What is true generosity and help? Is it agreeing with consensus reality or it is finding the courage to call bullshit? Facing the possibility of becoming an outcast among not only society but also religious and spiritual organizations? It takes true courage at this point to find and continually seek for authenticity in every situation. To have the courage to disagree, not only with what everyone disagrees with in our circle but also to have the courage to question the paradigms that even these circles close to us cling to.

As many times as I have cherished the Yoga Vasistha (I have studied it intensely for 20 years now), I have also thrown it across the room in utter disgust. I abhor Vasistha's tendency to dismiss nature and truly revile his tendency to cling to outmoded patriarchal paradigms. Nevertheless, he speaks truths, powerful truths which I cannot simultaneously dismiss. The more I disagree, sit with, chew it out for myself, the more the depth of it truly comes alive in me.

When a friend goes on about how great Obama is, I oftentimes play "devil's advocate" talking about the hypocrisy and bullshit that also goes on in his organization. Does that make me a Republican? No. It makes me a free thinker, and one that gives a shit about deconstructing these comfortable plateaus that even I want to hang out and sit on for some time.

But being comfortable never gets us very far.

I see a lot of cutesy pop-wisdom spiritualism on platforms like Facebook. These pop-quotes with the lovely pictures are like a two-edged sword. One one hand they may actually inspire and direct one's mind in a direction that brings more freedom. On the other hand, they may also inspire laziness and the tendency towards being submerged in certain spiritual beliefs that actually increase one's bondage in invisible threads of subtlety. Honestly I prefer reading original accounts of people's experiences, the ones that are pushing the envelope in the modern day.

Our minds are powerful. We barely recognize how powerful they are for both freeing us as well as ensnaring us. Waldo Viera, a Brazilian consciousness researcher who has been working decades in the fields of consciousness and the multidimensional nature of man/woman discusses these concepts that have been around since time immemorial, about how thought/feelings are actions that shape and define our world. Simple thoughts in our minds, what we dismiss perhaps as meaningless, actually build and shape vibratory mental bodies, which in turn act directly on the world.

Many traditions, both Western and Eastern acknowledge this but do we witness this directly? Do we truly see the causal relationships between our minds and this world? I think sometimes we ignore it because it can be truly terrifying. Why terrifying? Because we are scared at how powerful we actually are. Chogyam Trungpa once wrote an amazing article on the terror of space. It is terrifying to the mind that wants a comfortable structure to hang out in because in space there is nothing that constrains it. The ability of movement becomes unlimited.

"In this world whatever is gained is gained only by self effort... What is called fate or divine will is nothing other than the action or self-effort of the past. They indeed are fools who are satisfied with the fruits of their past effort, which they regard as divine will, and do not engage themselves in self-effort now."
                                                                                                          Yoga Vasistha 2.6

The more that we become used to living in the freedom of space, the depth of power that our true will and minds can unleash, the more that we will have to capacity to start to shape in positive ways and even shatter harmful consensus realities with authenticity and pure deep level intention.

I abhor traditions that dismiss the will. One student brought up the whole thing about how science has determined that action in the physical body has been proven to come before the thought of it (discussed in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell). This is easily explainable to me not as proof of the non existence of free will but rather that the true will lies prior to the body. The deep level decision making process which arises from what the yogis call the buddhi, is prior to the body. This gross shell is only one of our many layers. What causes us to consider that decisions are even formulated by the brain? The scientific paradigm? The modern scientific paradigm is not a paradigm of direct recognition but rather one of collected consensus viewpoints based upon axioms which themselves are thoughts.

Taking responsibility for our personal will frees us. To think for ourselves, to act for ourselves, to shape the world through the power of authentic expression, released from the shackles of conformity and comfort. It takes courage. Courage to actually express our individual nature which itself is the true divine expression and the ultimate fulfillment of our dharma.

What we think causes changes, whether we immediately see this or not. Thought is energy. The more that we recognize this, the more that we clue in to the changes that are occuring as a direct result of our minds. This gives us faith. Faith in the power of consciousness. This faith fuels the sharpening of our intentions, the examination of our motives. Breaks us out of our comfort. It forces us to examine the relationship between what we think and what we say. Between what we think and what we do. We begin to examine the deep threads that connect and shape the net that is relative reality. We begin to see our potential as divine creators.

What do we want to create?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pasa Mudra and the Liberation of Desire

I want to discuss today the role of desire in the path of yoga and tantra.

Traditionally, at least through patriarchal paradigms, desire is viewed as poisonous, which has led to many practices and modes of work which involve sublimation, suppression, or dismissal through viewing the world of phenomena as unreal.

With the liberating teachings of the tantra, desire itself is utilized as a powerful vehicle for movement and the creative force which can both liberate through the breaking of molded consensus as well as sculpt powerful shapes which aid, heal, nurture, and bring vast joy to the microcosmic and macrocosmic worlds.

The pasa is the noose. It is a weapon or instrument that is held in the hand of Lalitha Tripurasundari, a tantric representation of the primal Sakti, or power of God. In her upper right hand she holds the "noose of desire". A noose binds. Binding is a contractive power. What is contraction? Contraction can be seen as a force pull which unites or brings different streams together in a singularized way. This very power is needed to stabilize the currents of energy and mind which act to bring about the one pointed state in yoga we call ekagra.

Even Patanjali acknowledges in sutra 1.18 that the power of nirodha, the power that causes the mind to rest in its own basis, is dependent upon samskara, or a habituated contraction that acts to steady the mind energy currents.

Desire is no different. Desire is a feeling we have that draws us toward something, in effect "contracting" us towards a particular name/form appearance. How is desire felt? We feel a "pull". It is interesting to observe the inner pulls that desire creates in our life. Instead of observing the objects toward which we are pulled, can we study the feeling of the pull itself? When we observe this inner pull, we touch or unify ourselves with a certain magnetic power behind the pull. What is this inner magnetic force?

Bandha is no different. Bandha is that aspect of mudra which pulls. It gathers. It condenses. The same force which is felt at the heart of desire is felt also at the heart of bandha, a process central to the magnetic pull of mudra.

When we have a buildup in sex, prolonging the orgasm, we notice this buildup of magnetic force. The buildup involves a contraction, a gathering, a collecting of energy. Do we hurry to the outcome or can we notice the vibration in the pull/contraction/gathering itself? Can we allow it to build more? This is a conscious gathering of tension. Conscious tension through attention.

Something happens when we allow ourselves to become familiar with this conscious tension, this contractive state. We become friends with it and don't just seek to rid ourselves of it in favor of the outcome. It becomes stronger. The noose becomes tighter. We gain skill in utilizing that very noose. We can consciously engage with this power, this magnetism through what we can term Pasa Mudra.

Then, at the other side of contraction, there is a release of tension, what we think of in sex as the orgasm. There is a liberation of energy. Noticing what occurs at the exact timing of release is the secret of creation and magic. What do you discover here? Vijanabhairava Tantra tells us to observe this moment carefully. This leads us to the vast power of what is called Yoni Mudra. The other side of the noose.

There is much I'm saying here and much left unsaid. In some ways this path is secret, not because a student's worthiness must be questioned, but because it is highly individual and unique and prone to much misunderstanding.

When you truly investigate the nature of desire, you start to understand creation and destruction. Why destruction? Because everything has two sides. With the death of one thing comes the birth of another. Life is circular, and yet evolving.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Vast Depth of Mudra and Bandha

I want to write a bit today about the inner dynamics of mudra.

Movement of the primal pulse of Sakti, which we call the Spanda can be discovered in the same way that we learn to catch a wave. This catching of the wave is what is called in the Hatha tradition, Ujjayi, which means to "to conquer or seize". We catch a hold of the movement itself, which is the pranayama, or the yama / control / restraint of the prana. The prana itself is non-different from the awareness that perceives it.

Following this movement back, we arrive at the magnetic force or the moon that creates the tide which pulls the sea of prana, wherein this movement is experienced. We notice perhaps here that the body and its gross breath is only like a piece of driftwood, being pulled back and forth by the deeper movement of the tide.

What is this tidal pull, this moon which draws the sea back and forth? The tidal pull is called in the Hatha and Raja yoga traditions bandha. Forget what you think of as bandha here, forget about squeezing your anus or pulling your abdomen in, or locking your chin or sticking your tongue here or there. Focusing on these things is akin to attempting to control the sea by moving a piece of driftwood. Does the driftwood move? Yes, of course it does, but it does so because of the underlying movement of the sea. What causes the sea to move? The tidal forces. So it is at this level that we need to work if we are to truly understand bandha, and bandha itself is only one aspect of this greater process called mudra.

How are we to understand mudra?

The texts speak of many mudras. Gherandha Samhita speaks of 25, Hathapradipika speaks of 10. Are there many mudras? No. Mudra is one. But the entry points are many. The manifest powers of mudra are many. This is why so many have been described. The texts would lead one to believe that mudra is about physical technique but they are describing something much deeper related to different aspects of the singular magnetic powerful force that is capable of driving the life energy and simultaneously the mind which is dependent on it. This process of mudra goes right back to one of the deepest levels of ourselves, the Iccha Sakti, that aspect of life energy that is concentrated around Will.

Why are there so many mudras described in the texts? Lets break down some of their unique entry points into the singular practice of mudra.

Maha mudra is the aspect of mudra which centralizes. This can be felt. Bandha is that aspect of mudra which constricts like a strong magnetic pull, culminating in mano bandha, the constriction of the mind, as described in Yoga Sutra 3.1.

The movement of mudra is felt like a central river pulling the peripheral rivers into it. When these pulls occur from specific nadis or rivers, we speak of them in individual ways such as Vajroli mudra pulling through the genital center.

When the constiction of bandha occurs, movement flow is sent in either the outer or inner direction. Yogis typically focus the direction inward and upward, in a process called laya, where the movement moves in a way we call nivritti. Most only know of the bandha which draws in and up, many do not know of the opposite, which is described very clearly in the tantras. When the movement is outward and downward it is called pavritti and leads to the process of creation and siddhi. Right handed methods emphasize nivritti whereas the tantric methods emphasize both the inner and outer movements as all part of one field. These two movement flows are intimately related to prana and apana, the magnetic polarities which drive the twin energetic wind movements.

In the process of movement flow, there is not only the constriction of bandha that sends the movement one way or another, but there is also the dissolving and expanding aspects. In each direction, something dissolves and something else expands. These terms are called nimesa and unmesa respectively.

Two major expansions in the nivritti direction are clarity/luminosity and space. When we emphasize the space aspect, which is unobstructed nature of our being, we call it Khecari mudra. This is far more than just sucking the tongue into the throat. When the mudra expands into the luminous nature of our being, we call it Shambhavi.

When the mudra expands in the pavritti direction, we give birth. This is the powerful Yoni mudra. The secret of siddhi and magic, and why this is utilized at the beginning of mantra (says Siva Samhita). There is much to say about this. More later...

When the mudra is drawn by the primal power of desire itself, then we have Pasa mudra. The noose is one of the sublime "weapons" of Lalitha Tripurasundari, the Great Goddess. This aspect is incredibly powerful at transformation of the ordinary into the sublime and utilized to a high degree of skill among serious Tantric practitioners. Much to say about this one as well.

We learn about these mudras by learning to follow movement. Movement is felt. It is sensed. We notice movement according to physics by a detection of acceleration, which is defined by a change in speed or a change in direction. Notice changes of direction when they occur. These are the windows described in Vijnana Bhairava tantra. Notice changes of speed. Then catch the wave of movement. You are non-different from it.

After "getting on the wave" at one of the various windows, follow the movement gradient. Follow the motion itself. It will guide you. The more you practice, the more you feel and the deeper it "takes you". Words become difficult but nevertheless we have to try.

Don't fall prey to the external descriptions. The "external" practices are a distraction. I am not referring here to what you consider inside or outside. This has nothing to do with the body. The external I am referring to here is considering "anything" outside of yourself.

Unless mudra and bandha are taken on this level, you might find yourself contorting your body in any number of ways and yet still being as far from the deeper understanding as you were when you started many years ago.

What is described here is closer than close.

Nearer than near.

She is radiant.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Internal Bodhisattva and the Uniting of Diverse Streams

Almost 2 thousand years ago, the Mahayana branch of Buddhism brought forth the idea of the bodhisattva, a spiritual hero who forsook the liberation of total Nirvana for the world of Samsara, in order to liberate all sentient beings without exception. The bodhisattva embodies the ideal of compassion for all beings.

I believe very wholeheartedly that actual freedom of individual movement can really only come when diverse streams come together. The place to begin looking at these diverse movements does not lie outside of us however. It lies inside.

Within all of us are multiple streams of movement, what we call our different egos or personalities. We may think of ourselves as one, but are we? Do we not have multiple desires and impulses that we want to take in the course of even one day? Multiple voices speak within our heads, funneling our energies in sometimes completely apparently divergent directions.

Dominant voices appear in our internal worlds like inner kings or queens, their agendas enforced by internal guardians who keep things in line and keep the "troublemakers" or darker elements in the dungeons. However sometimes, those in the darker areas are freed and come up to wreak havoc, until the ruler can fight back and reassert authority within the inner kingdom. Sounds like a fairy tale perhaps but I have found this to be the case with not only myself but with everyone in this world I connect with. Most in the world are facing internal war. And we are acting out these internal wars on the external world space.

Roberto Assagioli, a wonderful yogi and psychologist from the early 1900's did much work and writing at the time to explain how these divergent streams come about and as well how the union of these divergent streams becomes possible in a sort of alchemical process through his basic principles of Psychosynthesis.

I feel that this work of internal alchemy, this Psychosynthesis, uniting the divergent streams is vital as a foundation for proper authentic spiritual development and forward evolution of the individual. One of the first problems we encounter with spiritual practice is that we don't often recognize the basic patterning of how our internal kingdom is set up before we come to sadhana. Oftentimes, when we first come to a spiritual tradition such as yoga, we attempt to subvert and suppress the darker elements of ourselves and beat them down with the "spiritual" king or queen who we then place on the throne. This is most oftentimes just replacing one "material" king or queen with a "spiritual" king or queen. A deadly problem occurs here. The "spiritual" king or queen within us attempts to shape the personality with all sorts of "spiritual" work while the rest of the kingdom is pushed down. The dominant face on the throne becomes the "spiritual" face, which is supported and held together by external world consensus view and even our fellow practitioners and "sangha". "Dispassion", "non-attachment", and many other terms get thrown back and forth as "virtues" that attempt to disassociate ourselves even further from our own internal energies and streams. Instead of uniting the diverse streams however, this right-handed, patriarchal paradigm backfires on itself, and actually causes us to become more internally divided. Assagioli terms this process as the "spiritual bypass". We use our practice to actually avoid the deeper work of understanding and uniting our various energies and instead act to increase the isolation within ourselves.

Chogyam Trungpa, a very paradigm breaking buddhist of the last century, talked about this problem as well. Its interesting that Assagioli was proposing it in the early 1900's though, well before the practice of yoga hit in full force here in the west. There is a lot I have to say here about how the patriarchal paradigm has enforced this deeper underlying spiritual sickness which has permeated almost every major tradition, Eastern or Western. I'll save that for another post.

The important thing to recognize here is that the work of uniting ourselves is not only the goal of yoga but also that of the bodhisattva. Working to heal the internal splits within ourselves, unifying our internal streams of energy, teaches us to learn to work together internally and to move together as one, united in the very definition of yoga. Relative freedom becomes possible. Each of us is a macrocosm within a microcosm. Learning to listen to the different voices, teaching the different voices to communicate authentically, and allowing the different voices to sit in one circle, on common ground, with no voices on the throne and none in the dungeon, gives us a very important thing. Power is liberated (which is what the right handed patriarchal traditions are deathly frightened of). Power liberates the will. This frees us in a way that is not often discussed in even the classical texts. And the deeper processes of yoga amazingly fall right into our lap. Samadhi becomes possible. True freedom of movement becomes possible.

But the most beautiful thing that occurs is that we then have compassion. By deep and abiding love and compassion for our inner selves, for all of them without exception, we then have true and deep compassion for the world outside of our skin.

In my opinion, then and only then do we have the capacity to listen, communicate, and give wholeheartedly to the world in a truly authentic way.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Buddhi, Will, Movement, and Mudra

I wanted to write a little bit more about some important things to consider as one works with the practices of pranayama described in my previous blogs.

When one is working with the magnetic forces that we call prana and apana, it will be important to learn to discern, to inquire as to the driving impetus behind these forces.

The buddhi is the term given by classical Samkhya philosophy to describe the deepest level of our mind. For many years I labored under the assumption that this buddhi was the deep level "I", which of course it is. But it is also more than this. The Samkhya Karika and other texts tell us that the buddhi is not only "I" but it is also will.

In some ways its like the quantum mechanics experiments from the early 1900s. At the deep level of things, we can approach ourselves like a "particle" or a "wave". I personally have preferred to approach my deep self through movement over the past few years. With this practice, it becomes more important to inquire into will than it does to inquire into the "I", which is common through the classical and modern Vedanta based practices.

Movement is felt. It is inseparable from attention itself. It can be traced. Like finding your way through a maze. It can be followed back and found. This is what is called in yogic terminology laya or absorption. Because it is inseparable from attention itself, movement, which gives rise to form, can be changed, and altered.

In our ordinary state of objective consciousness, the movements and rhythms are mostly unconscious and are felt and experienced through all layers of our being without any real understanding. The more that we make these movements conscious, the more that we start to peel back the layers towards the more base levels of our consciousness. We move from the objective, through the instrumental and finally to what I prefer to call the causal rather than the subjective state. This causal state of consciousness is what some refer to as the subject. But that is only if we approach it as a noun. It is also a verb.

Approaching the subject as though it were a verb is an interesting process. It aligns with all of the teachings of the tantra, in that it doesn't act to set one thing against another, allowing for a more deeply felt integration and union to occur.

Imagine treating a river as an object. Is a river an object?

The word nadi itself means river. There are many rivers that encompass the human being. The goal of yoga is the union of the rivers into the central river, which we call Susumna. A wonderful thing happens when this union occurs. From here, many new directions of movement open up, many of which we were not aware of before.

Unifying ourselves is a vast topic beyond the scope of this post. But this is what is required if we are to truly come to the deep level understanding of our own will. Otherwise, will is divided. Flows are divided. Our energy is split into many.

What is it that controls our will? What is it that confines our will? Ultimately we alone are responsible for the containment and control of our will. We can be our greatest friend or our own greatest enemy. Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras tells us that the five main directions that the mind flows can take can be either liberating or binding. Are the flows of our mind binding us? Why? How do we become our own enemy? Likewise, how can we alter the flows to produce something wonderful? These can be important questions to look at.

Yoga helps us to address these questions. The process of yoga can help us to understand that which limits us, to help us transform that very movement in a more positive direction, one that will create more space. If we energetically align with the practices of yama and niyama, it will help to set the foundation in order, to make these powerful practices of pranayama far more effective. I have written about the energetic understanding of the yama and niyama in several posts from 2012. These are just suggestions.

Otherwise, if we do not have yama and niyama, we may find that we are manifesting a strange world of contraction and division around us. Pranayama and therefore containment or channeling of the mind/energy will be very difficult.

This is why foundation work is important. Examining our intentions is important. Examining our movements. What direction are we going and why?

Learning to trace movement is the very thing that will cause us to meet this powerful process known as mudra. We follow the driftwood in its motions to trace the sea. We trace the sea as it is pulled by the tide. We look up to the moon and recognize its role in directing the tide. We find in this process that the very thing that is directing is inseparable from that which is directed.

The difference however between this process of inquiry and just working with the driftwood is that the driftwood itself doesn't lead us to the tidal forces. It is the following of the movement of the driftwood that is important if we are to learn to trace back to source. Once we contact this source of movement, the tracing work is not as necessary anymore and we engage the work from this deeper level.

Forms can be deceiving. They are reflective of something deeper but this only becomes apparent when we know how to see them. Learn how to trace their phenomenal display back to their source by practicing this work constantly.

All success to you in your practice.

Pranayama, The Vayus, Mudra, and Meditation

I wanted to discuss further the practice of pranayama which I began a couple blogs ago. I have updated that blog, written on March 14th, to only include 4 stages. I will discuss some further stages of practice here.

In yoga, pranayama and medition are not separate practices. Yoga citta vrtti nirodhah is the partial or complete containment/control of the mental movements. These vrtti or movements are not just constrained by what we think of as the mind itself but are contained by the control of the pranic flows, through the practice of what we could call prana nirodhah.

Many people think of nirodhah as complete cessation as if this is something like a negation. This is far from true. Nirodhah, either partial or complete, is like the channeling of a river. Life is ever in motion, the force of life itself, ever moving, expanding and contracting. Learning to control the flows is like harnessing the power of life itself, like harnessing a powerful river. I only speak of partial nirodha here. We will discuss complete nirodha later.

The body is like a piece of driftwood, whereas the prana or force of life itself is like the sea. The tidal pull is like the vayus, which direct the sea in a particular direction. And then there is the magnetic force which causes the tide, which is the moon. This magnetic force akin to the moon, is connected to our deepest layer of what we call buddhi, which contains the force of our will.

It is vital to understand the process of mudra to authentically have pranayama. Otherwise we are just pushing the gross breath with our body. This is akin to controlling the sea with a piece of driftwood. For many years, I was taught by my teachers to work with the driftwood. I didn't get anywhere with these practices. The same gross techniques were taught with the mudras, forcing the body into intense positionings, stopping the gross breath, etc... All of these techqniques are very gross, some of them violent, and they lead nowhere in terms of ultimate understanding.

The process of mudra and bandha, done authentically, causes the flows of the sea of prana to shift by affecting the tide through the use of the deep magnetic forces. Some call these tidal movements vayus. There are traditionally 5 classical main vayus with 5 sub vayus. However, the vayus themselves are affected by the deep magnetic pull. They don't act on their own. Working with these deep levels of magnetism, tide, and sea will automatically produce the effects which people normally think of as the cause (in other words, what we think of as bandhas may occur by controlling the deeper, more subtle state of the body).

It is important to understand the directional shifts that can occur as we can trace these shifts back to the underlying force that guides them. Of the five classical vayus, the prana and apana are the most important. These are discussed in detail in the Yoga Vasistha. When we work with the practices given in my blog from March 14th, we are engaging the prana and apana vayus. The movement of the subtle breath to the outer dvadasanta introduces us to apana vayu and the movement of the subtle breath to the central column introduces us to the prana vayu. There is a natural and constant oscillation between these two flows, just as the tide brings the water in and out. Some modern teachers call the basic inhalation and exhalation prana and apana but this is incorrect. This is like equating the driftwood with the tide. Likewise the prana itself is not the prana and apana vayus as discussed in the texts. This is like saying the water is the tide. They are more closely related but they are still not exactly the same.

I have found no word yet which discusses the magnetic force which pulls the prana and apana vayus in perpetual motion. I'll let you know when I find this word. For now we will call it the magnetic force or just prana and apana (without the vayu). Please understand that the pranic "energy/attention" is not quite the same as the prana "magnetic force" but there is a relationship. Of course at the base level it is ALL CONSCIOUSNESS, but for the sake of this discussion, we are learning to separate different levels of phenomena.

Mudra is a practice which allows us to alter the flows of vayu and thus prana and thereby affect the mind directly. Mind is nothing other than prana, as the Yoga Vasistha (and then Hathapradipika) tells us. Mind's substance is prana itself. So when we affect these flows, we affect the mind. Many mudras are described in the hatha texts but we shouldn't be confused by this. Mudra is one, but its facets are many. This is like saying "gear shift mudra", or "pedal mudra", or "rear window check mudra", or "steering wheel mudra", when all we are really referring to is "driving mudra". What is driving?

In other words, all of the different mudras described in the texts are just different aspects of one practice. This practice is the practice which ultimately leads us to the uniting of the flows through the joining of the vayus, and causes the Goddess to unite with the God. This produces something very interesting and wonderful.

The scholars may disagree at this point but this doesn't bother me. The actual practice of this work is so far more powerful and wonderful than it is even hinted at in the texts. I was never taught this work through ordinary means. It only came after initiation into the tantra and through serious inquiry and investigation. Note that even though this work didn't come to me through ordinary means I have found that the Yoga Vasistha describes it perfectly in the chapter of liberation dedicated to Bhusunda, the long lived crow who is the master of pranayama. The other texts confirm it as well. Like many texts, most of the information is hidden and has to be unlocked. Hopefully the practices described here will help to reveal some things and be of use.

So here are stages five and above of the Ujjayi breath. Please see the post on March 14th for the first four practices. Note I have changed stage five and made it a later stage. Only stages 5 to 7 are described here.

Stage 5
At this point, begin to breathe normally with the gross breath and move the subtle breath to the central column and then to the periphery. Try playing with the frequency or speed of this subtle breath. Try stabilizing it, and holding it. When you hold it, feel the magnetic force which holds it in place. That which moves is the prana, the way it moves is the vayu, and the force that attracts the movement and holds it is the prana when held central and the apana when held externally. Study the various aspects of this work and determine definitively for yourself that these movements and forces exist. The difference between this and stage one are that the gross breath is not matching the subtle breath. The gross breath is normal.

Stage 6
In stage six, we are going to hold the twin magnetic forces equally, both at the center and at the periphery. This is in some ways like "splitting the flows". We hold prana and apana separately, in their two respective poles. I find this easiest to first establish apana at the periphery, hold it strongly by increasing the magnetic force there and then to establish prana at the center and strengthen it as well. It doesn't matter what the gross breath is doing here, however you may find that the gross breath cuts out or slows down considerably while doing this. You may also find some strange things occurring in the body now, spontaneous strange tensions, movements akin to the physical "bandhas", or slight shaking or jerking. Learn to hold this stage, with the twin vayus held equal. You might also notice that at this point, the twin nostril and other nadi flows are completely equalized during this stage.

Stage 7
This stage is only recommended for those who have completed the first 6 stages and have a good mastery of these stages. It is also recommended that one knows how to recognize the equalization of peripheral nadi flows (I will discuss this further in an upcoming blog). One should have yama and niyama.
At this stage we engage what is called "the union of prana and apana". Do the work of stage one for awhile. Then, when you are ready, split the flows as according to stage six.
Now, when you are ready, bring the external apana in to unite with the internal prana. This is like bringing two opposing magnetic forces together. At this point you may suddenly feel what is like a strong electrical shock or intense vibrations. Your body may shake, contort, spasm, and any number of other symptoms. The eye and ear lines can be affected. Noises or visions may arise. It is important not to pay too much attention to these phenomena but to stay focused on the magnetic forces of prana and apana themselves. This is a very difficult state to describe fully.
At this point you may engage what is called udana vayu. This is the upward magnetic force. When the twins prana and apana are united there is another force, the upward force which acts to pull the united forces upwards. I won't say more at this point until a later blog.
Udana doesn't have a corresponding downward force but it can be "invited" to come back down, which I strongly recommend you do.
When one comes out of this seventh stage, one should not be dizzy, spacey, shakey, or have any other strange symptoms. One should ideally come out very clear and grounded. What goes up, comes back down. But you may not feel exactly the same. More will be said on this practice later.
I want to emphasize again that this isn't something to be worked with in a casual way. This practice is extremely powerful and if one is not ready, one can cause problems.

The later stages of the practice involve waking and yogic nidras, as well as powerful creation level processes which some would call magic or siddhi. They are extremely interesting and relevant in terms of how the practitioner can learn to shape and guide their life and learn to contribute to the world. I truly feel that the practices of yoga, through the learning to control the life-force and the mind, eventually lead us back to the world of form to allow us to engage the practice of creation for the continued evolution of life. When one learns to master the pranic and magnetic forces, the distinction between prana and mind breaks down further and one will find that the mind is in the palm of one's hand. Very cool stuff!

More later. All peace, Matt

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Some Personal Reflections

Hi Everyone,

I thought I would take the time in my blog to reflect on my personal experiences and growth during my time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I normally don't use the blog for this purpose but I feel it is relevant now in light of what I now hold to be true with my practice of yoga and tantra.

In 2008, I was living in Portland and was struggling. Struggling with the death of my father, struggling with my business. Struggling with many things. I prayed for insight to come in the form of a tantra teacher as I felt that even with what I was working with the yoga, it wasn't enough. Little would I have guessed at that time that within a month my prayers would be answered. They were not answered however, in the way that I foresaw. As some of you know, my life was then turned upside down and all the mistakes and stickiness which I had allowed into my life came to the forefront. I found myself losing house, business, friends, and more. I blame no one for any of it but myself. It was only years later that I could start to see  more of the whole picture.

During the spring of 2009, a strange thing happened. The physical practices with which I had been working began to shift. I began to notice movement inside which I had not been aware of previously. In truth, these movements had been present all along but they had just not been in the conscious light of awareness. I didn't fully start to understand these movements until a couple years later.

When we came to Santa Fe, some of my demons followed me. No surprise there. Nevertheless, coming here was a reprieve. A breather. A place to time out. To reflect. To contemplate deeper matters of choices made in the past to directions that were needed in the future. A place to reflect on the present, who I was, where I was going. I am eternally grateful to all those who received us here: students, employers and friends.

In the summer of 2010, I travelled to East India and was initiated fully into tantra by Sri Amritanandanatha of the Dattatreya sampradaya lineage. This experience turned my world upside down. It also gave me an expanse of freedom which I had never before experienced. Diksa or initiation into the Sri Vidya is almost unexplainable to those who haven't had it. It is like a download. A massive download of information and insight, following centuries of practitioners who have gone before. It permeated everything. Nothing inside of me was left unchanged.

In the fall of 2010 I participated in a local spiritual ceremony which granted me a direct vision of the Mother, in her destructive aspect, which shattered my earthly reality and left me in a powerful void. The realizations that occurred that evening on the full moon in November have stayed with me to this day.

That fall I decided to leave my yoga teacher of 12 years, a man who had been like my father to me. I realized that after 12 years of study I was ready to step out on my own, that I needed to step out. I announced my decision to him in January of 2011 and he very graciously gave me a blessing, sending me on my way. Although we had differences, I will always honor his gifts to me. Most especially his gift of teaching me how to open doors. He never spoke this gift in words to me. It was an unspoken transmission. I had been studying his every action from the moment I met him, and after 12 years I realized that somehow this strange ability had passed to me.

In leaving my teacher, I realized that I was at a strange crossroads. I fell into a strange state. Not knowing how to exactly move forward, I carried certain things forward that should have been left behind. I carried those things with me and couldn't let certain feelings go. Anger arose in me, which infected my teaching. I lost students. I was bitter. In a state of despair.

During this time, struggling with my loss and not knowing how to go forward, I worked with someone who took me into caves at midnight, to rivers and streams, to observe energetics of the moon and other natural phenomena, and I began to commune directly with the natural world.  I worked with meditations which revealed to me a layer of mind and experience which I had never encountered before in this life. I started to experience states of consciousness which I never would have guessed existed before, and a lot of what I had held to be true up to that point began to fall away. I struggled with these insights as I was still internally at odds with myself.

Nevertheless, despite my struggles I began to trust in the deeper well of my knowledge and began to open doors, internal doors which began to reveal to me a much vaster world. This culminated in the spring of 2012 when I began to perform the powerful Sri Cakra puja in the early morning hours. At the two-week point of my sadhana, a huge door opened suddenly and I was struck down with a violent illness that lasted for over a month. My demons in the form of fear struck me fully. I began to separate from my body and, in order to understand what was occurring, I dove deeper. I began a series of investigations which took me through intensive studies of Western Occultism and a deeper investigation of the Tantra and Yoga. I began to deepen my studies of the laws of correspondence. I also began to resurrect certain practices and processes which I had forsaken sometime in my 20s. I began to embrace the creative force of the mind, imagination, and the dream world.

Throughout my period of investigation following this illness, I was literally cracking apart. At this time I utilized a combination of methods from psychosynthesis, western magic traditions, and tantra to gather all of the fragmented elements of my internal psyche to come together. I unified myself. This only came about through a deep, deep acceptance of myself and all of its parts; something which I had struggled with for most of my life. This acceptance and unification led to a massive liberation of energy which opened further doors. In fact, at this time so many doors were opening that I was forced to investigate the nature of will in order to clarify my direction as to which doors should be open.

On a day in August, 2012, I was sitting on the porch and it all came crashing down. I was responsible for all of it. All of it. I understood who I was and where I was going. Outwardly nothing much changed. Inwardly there was sudden clarity and a deep understanding of myself as movement. In this shift, it wasn't so much like I became someone else but rather that doubt had truly dropped away and I found myself standing with confidence on my own two feet. A strange conviction and faith was now present. A faith unlike any other. Truthfully, when that confidence and conviction arose in me, a new awe, almost fear, came alive. I was awed at the wonder of what we are and what we are capable of. What we are truly capable of. All of us.

This all led to my decision, with my wife, to return to the NW. To return to the world from the wonderful retreat which we have been blessed with for the last few years. Even now, a big part of me wants to just go dissolve in the wilderness here, to continue to soak it up. But a stronger part of me feels called to come back. To share, to learn, to be with the world at large.

Looking back on my words I realize I must sound like I am one of those obnoxious people who has "found it". Not so. Quite the contrary. There was never anything to find. The Cintamani Gem, what they call the wish-fulfilling gem, is never apart from us. We are never missing that which we seek. That very thing with which we seek is the very thing that we might have been looking for in the first place.

I have decided wholeheartedly to stop seeking and start creating. To partake of God's movement and follow that deep will which is always in motion.

I have immense gratitude.

I want to thank New Mexico for its amazing gifts, its amazing people, its wondrous vibration which has shattered me and brought me back together.

I am truly humbled by its magnificence.

May I always carry Her and her Wisdom in my Heart of hearts, wherever I may roam.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pranayama, Sahita and Kevala Kumbhaka

I want to talk today about pranayama to clarify some of the practices that we have been working on here in Santa Fe. The book is still in the works and I have not posted much lately as this year has been a busy transition year for myself and family.

Pranayama is at the heart of Hatha Yoga sadhana. Some attempt to separate the 8 traditional limbs of yoga, dealing with each of them in a linear, separate way, but if one is intelligent with practice, one realizes that this is impossible to do.

One of the earliest definitions of yoga is samadhi, the control of the mind through several stages. This process is described in full detail in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This process is brought to full understanding in the teachings of the ancient Hatha yoga texts, which quoting from Yoga Vasistha, tell us that the mind has two causes, vasana or conditioning, and samirana or respiration. To control the mind through controlling the conditioning is one of the oldest methods utilized. We will not deal with that here but rather will focus on the control of respiration to control the mind.

The Hatha Yoga recognizes the truth of Arjuna's statement in the Bhagavad Gita that "the mind is as difficult to control as the wind." On first read of this statement one might be bewildered and discouraged. However, the wind referred to in the secret understanding is not the external wind but the internal wind, the prana.

Prana is related to wind or vayu and according to ancient Samkhya teaching, the wind element is associated with sparsa or the deep inner feeling that encompasses one's immediate sense of being. In simpler terms, prana is felt. This is important to understand. Another common misperception is that prana is something which must be discovered. However, this isn't true. Prana is always present. It is inseparable from attention/feeling itself. Let me state that again. Prana is not something we discover. It is inseparable from base attention itself.

Understanding these basic truths, one can immediately proceed to contain and control attention/feeling through various techniques which are given in the ancient teachings. In the process, the citta or mind will come under control rather rapidly.

It states very clearly in the Hathapradipika 2.77 and also the commentary on Yoga Sutra 1.34 by Hariharananda Aranya that at the end of all breath retention the mind should be made free of objects. This quickly dispells the notion that pranayama is mere breath exercise. Full pranayama should be done according to Hariharananda, first with associated relaxation of body, then full relaxation of mind. This is done according to sutra 1.35, first with the instrumental sensory feeling body, and then the mind rests according to 1.36 in the base level luminosity, the experiential heart of consciousness itself. This process described in the sutras is equivalent to the deep process of mudra described in the hatha texts. There is a lot to say on this process.

There is a common misperception within the yoga community that kumbhaka or retention of the breath is done with only the gross breath. However this is a very gross understanding. Many utilize the bandhas and mudras only on the physical level. However, pranayama is useless without the stabilizing of consciousness. It is at this level that we enter the fifth stage of yoga, the pratyahara. Pratyahara according to one of the definitions of Yajnavalkya and Vasistha is the stabilizing of prana in particular configurations, traditionally at the various adhara points. Many other texts also describe  ways to stabilize and hold the attention energy. This holding of attention/energy in the sparsic field is what I would call the "subtle breath" as opposed to holding the gross breath which is holding inhalation and exhalation.

In the texts, the holding of breath or kumbhaka, done with inhalation or exhalation is called sahita. Without inhalation or exhalation, the breath hold is called kevala. Many interpret this meaning to be that inhalation and exhalation holds are themselves sahita while kevala kumbhaka is an "in between" hold done somewhere between the inhale and exhale. I have heard other interpretations as well. I would say that after years of practicing these ways, I consider these interpretations to be very gross.

I now interpret the sahita kumbhaka to be just what it says, a hold of the prana, which is inseparable from attention/feeling with inhalation or exhalation (a gross inhalation or exhalation). In other words, the gross breath matches the subtle breath. Kevala kumbhaka is a hold in which the attention/energy is held separately from the inhalation and exhalation movements or pauses. In other words, the subtle breath separates from the gross breath. This can be done with gross breath held and subtle moving, or the subtle held and the gross moving, or both held or both moving. The important point is that there is a separation of gross and subtle that occurs in the kevala.

This separation process in kevala kumbhaka is an important thing to understand. In fact, the term kevala means isolated or unmingled. In other words, kevala is a separation or an unmingling of the gross and subtle breaths. This is not as complicated as it may appear.

One of the first breath techniques that I teach to understand this concept is derived from a powerful technique given in Yoga Vasistha and Vijnanabhairava. Traditionally the technique involves breathing in and out to two locus points, termed the bahya and antar dvadasantas. Bahya is external, antar is internal, and dvadasanta means the twelve finger width distance. Traditionally the bahya dvadasanta is held twelve finger digit width distances beyond the nose. The antar dvadasanta is twelve finger digit widths down from the nose base (located at approximately the heart). One focuses on these two points. After years of practice with this, I expanded the location feeling of these two points into the twelve finger digit width distance all around the body from the skin (bahya dvadasanta) and expanded the inner dvadasanta to include the entire central column. This is discussed further in Yoga Vasistha.

Stage 1
So the technique now goes as follows: breath out to the twelve finger width distance space around the entire body (like an external aura) and then breath in to the central column. When you breathe out, focus the breath/attention/feeling at the external field, wait until the body relaxes and then the mind relaxes. Employ Shambhavi Mudra here if you know it. When you breath in, hold the breath/attention/feeling in the central column, all along it, relaxing first body then mind. Shambhavi mudra again. When I say relax here, I mean relaxing everything that is not associated with holding the attention/energy/feeling at the specific location. There is much more to say on this but we'll keep it simple for now. Continue this process, holding the attention/energy/breath/feeling at each location, in sync with the gross breathing. This is sahita pranayama and kumbhaka (holding). In other words, the gross breath is in sync with the subtle attention/breath.

This is Ujjayi breath, the true Ujjayi. What does it mean to have Ujjayi? It means to be victorious. To conquer. It means to conquer the movements of the waters of prana. In other words it means to have true pranayama. Control of the prana.

Stage 2
After some time, switch the gross and subtle movements and holds. In other words, inhale to the external field and exhale to the internal field. This is also sahita but it is reversed.

Stage 3
After some time with the second technique, try the third one. This technique is the first experience of kevala pranayama. Go back to the first technique and breath out to the external field and inhale to the internal field. Then after some time, stop the gross breath, holding it in. Now, push the subtle breath attention out to the external field, while holding the gross breath in at the spine. Hold for some time, relaxing body and mind in the same way. Then bring the subtle breath/attention in back to the spine and hold the gross and subtle together. Then breathe both subtle and gross breaths out to the external field and then bring them back in together to the center and repeat the separation process again. If you do this right you will notice certain physical processes arise in the body. This process starts to naturally activate bandha and mudra.

Stage 4
The fourth stage is another kevala practice. Here, we stop the gross breath somewhere in between the inhalation and exhalation and forget whether we are inhaling or exhaling. Then we push the subtle breath/attention out to the external field, hold it with bodily and mental relaxation, and then draw it back in and hold it centrally with respective relaxations. This process can be done rapidly or slow. Take normal gross breaths in between. This is an extremely powerful practice that starts to electrify the central column and may produce deep physical reactions in the eyes and chakra regions. Kundali and the inner vibrations can be aroused in this practice.

The first two techniques are a normal and reversed sahita process. The last two are all kevala techniques in that the 3rd technique holds the gross and moves the subtle, the 4th does the same but in a different way.

These techniques should be learned slowly and ideally under the direction of the teacher. They help us to achieve control of the prana. Understanding these techniques leads to a deep understanding of prana, apana, mind, energy, mudra, and kundali, as described in the hatha texts.

This process of discovering kevala pranayama and kumbhaka leads to a deep process of separation of the subtle and gross bodies and one quickly learns how to work with the subtle field of sparsa. It is here that one truly starts to understand the instrumental and lower levels of the expression of consciousness as described by Patanjali. Then one is rapidly drawn in to yoga citta vrtti nirodha through the practice of prana nirodha. In other words, the inner limbs of yoga ripen as a fruit of the practice and meditation is in the palm of your hand, effortlessly.

One other interesting thing to note is that kevala and kaivalya are similar words. Kaivalya is that isolation that is described in the fourth chapter of the yoga sutras. The Hatha Yoga teachings lead us to that Kaivalya through the sublime practice of Kevala.