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.