Q: Sometimes I see colored lights in pranayama, and hear sounds too. Yesterday I heard a crashing sound inside my chest and everything turned a glowing golden color. Then I was filled with a delicious humming sound. It was so beautiful. What am I supposed to do when these experiences come over me?
A: Such experiences are wonderful. In time they will commingle with us in daily activity for our constant enjoyment. During practice, we welcome them and then gently go back to our procedure of pranayama, our spinal breathing.
Keep in mind that we are engaged in a process involving causes and effects in our practice. If we favor the cause, the procedure, the effects will grow both in practice and outside it. If we favor the effects (the lights, sounds, and whatever else might come up), we will no longer be engaged in the causes, and further progress will be hampered.
In our current practices we are doing two things. First, in pranayama, we are purifying and opening the spinal nerve, which, in turn, cultivates all the nerves in our body. Second, in meditation, we are permeating our entire body with pure, silent bliss consciousness. From these two actions, everything else comes up. How and when it comes up is a function of the unique process of purification going on in our nervous system. It is unique because we each have our own distribution of inhibiting obstructions embedded in our nervous system. How it comes out is anyone’s guess. But it will come out if we keep doing pranayama and meditation.
This is not to say that experiences of light and sound are bogus. Not at all. If they are of the nature of a “peak experience,” you may consider them to be glimpses of truth you see as you are peeking between the clouds. In practices, you are in the business of removing the clouds. While you are doing that, you will get these glimpses. The more clouds you remove, the more common the glimpses will become. In time, there will be no clouds left, and the view of ecstatic beauty will be constant. Then all of life will be a peak experience.
The experiences that come up along the way to enlightenment should be regarded as milestones, indicators of progress that will inspire us to carry on with our practice. Once we zoom on past them, they have already served their purpose, and we are on to a new level. Maybe we will want to stop once in a while to enjoy the view. If we stop and look, that’s okay. Soon we will be back in the car and on our way again.
Some traditions put much attention on experiences of light and sound, using them as objects of meditation. When they are not there, then they are imagined and meditated on. It becomes a goal to see certain visions. While this may be a valid approach for some, it is not the practice we are doing here in these lessons. Our goal is to keep it as simple and effective as possible. We want to be using as few levers as possible, the main ones that trigger the natural abilities within us that open the inner doors. There is only so much we can do at once, and do well. If we bog our attention down trying to do too many things, our progress can easily stall. This is why we first do the simple procedure of pranayama, and then do the simple procedure of meditation. If we do these correctly, everything else will happen automatically.
When the Wright Brothers were methodically going through the process of inventing the first successful airplane, one of their biggest challenges was in identifying the least number of levers necessary to control the airplane’s pitch, roll, and yaw. After much trial and error, they got it down to just a few controls that anyone could handle with some training. The principles the Wright Brothers mastered are still used today in modern aircraft. What we are doing here is the same. If we try and manage everything that is happening in pranayama and meditation, we will have no chance of success. If we identify the basic controls necessary to open the nervous system fully to pure bliss consciousness, and use them faithfully, well then, the sky will be the limit.
The natural principles that govern human spiritual transformation have always been, and will always be. They exist in each one of us. Finding the levers has been a hit or miss affair for humanity for thousands of years. Now is the time for us, the human race, to get our collective act together on this.
Speaking of levers, next we will be adding a layer of new practices to our pranayama session. But before we do that we need to develop some understanding of what these practices are for. So, let’s get a good running start, and take a flying leap into the deep end of the swimming pool. Ready?
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book.