Level 5 Member
Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 2:05 PM
Q: I've been going through a process for a long time now where I just don't identify with the body. I don't identify with the emotions or feelings. Something else is feeling them, not I. Sometimes I am aware of an emotion trying to come up, but I just don't know what to do with it so I ignore it and it goes away. My grandmother died 2 weeks ago and it didn't bother me at all. I must have been the only one in the funeral smiling or trying not to smile most of the time. My cat whom is everything to me.. my best friend.. my companion.. my love.. I think is going to die or is dieing slowly and I am just not bothered by this. I am concerned and a bit worried yes, but I am not bothered. It changes things externally, but not internally. I can fall down the stairs and just laugh not caring. I could get fired from work with out a care in the world. I am just not attached to anything. More recently, I feel like I lost identity with my name. It almost hurts me to sign an email or a posting with my name. Is this normal and a part of Pratyahara? Are there stages to this, so I would be prepared for what's next to come?
A: Thank you very much for writing and sharing.
The answer depends on what your state really is, and that has to do with how you got there. If you have been meditating and have this feeling of separation in silent witness, that is one thing. If you have separated from your life and the world as a psychological defense mechanism because of some trauma in the past, that is something else. The former is due to purification in the nervous system. The latter is a pigeon-holing of awareness in avoidance of subconscious obstructions involving a lot of pain. One is an opening up. The other is a kind of closing down. They can appear similar, but are not. Under certain circumstances, it is even possible that some of both could be happening at the same time.
If it is purification in the nervous system giving rise to the emergence of inner silence, then the thing to do is engage in spiritual practices and in life. Ultimately, our enlightenment is not about us. It is about everyone else. The first stage of enlightenment is the rise of an ongoing inner silence -- a temporary separation. The second and third stages are about joining with the divine rising dynamically in ourself and in others (this is where ecstasy and pratyahara come in, not much before). Going beyond stage one (inner silence/witnessing) is not an inert do nothing process. It involves the rise of devotion, and engaging our pure bliss consciousness in the further processes of enlightenment, which include practices and involvement in the world. It is a natural evolution, part of which is in our deciding to participate.
Suggestion: When emotions come up, instead of ignoring them, consider the process of bhakti as described in lesson #67, "Bhakti – The science of devotion," and subsequent lessons discussing the finer points of witnessing and bhakti, especially, #109, "Bhakti, meditation and inner silence." These might give you some tips on how to make better use of your witnessing state to move on to next steps. The relationship of witnessing and emotion is a key dynamic in this. Pure bliss consciousness, the silent witness, is not touched by the phenomenal world, but it is not uncaring. Just the opposite. Inner silence is an endless well of love and compassion, and moves us naturally to engage in the ecstatic processes in the body, and in loving service to others. We can even get angry and cry in the witnessing state – the nervous system will continue to purify itself. Even though the silent witness is the ultimate unmoved spectator, the enlightenment game is not a spectator sport. This is one of the paradoxes of spiritual life. Until pure bliss consciousness becomes fully present in every atom of existence, joining continuously with the ecstatic processes of creation (the divine inner lovemaking), there can be no completion of enlightenment. If we want to move to higher stages of enlightenment, we must actively participate.
So, my suggestion is to see if you can find a desire in yourself to grow beyond where you are. Any desire will do, because you can transform emotion easily into bhakti in the witnessing state, if you choose to. If you can, cultivate it. Then you will find it easy to do something -- some daily practices, some service, doing something for someone else. If you find it difficult to "engage," then maybe the situation is psychologically more complicated than a natural process of purification coming up in the nervous system stimulated by spiritual practices. Or, sometimes there can be some tenderness during the witnessing stage (or any stage) where we just have to bide our time for a while – a sort of healing into a new state of being. Once we get comfortable where we are, then we will become more interested in moving on to the next step.
Whatever the underlying cause of your witnessing is, it will not hurt to be in daily practices – meditation and pranayama especially. Sooner or later, these will naturally bring you to the next step.
I wish you all success as you travel along your chosen path.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on utilizing witnessing with Bhakti, see theAYP Bhakti and Karma Yoga book.
For the role of the witness in self-inquiry, see the AYP Self-Inquiry book.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 9:59 AM
Q: During spinal breathing and meditation different sounds are heard. One is a low frequency fluttering sound that I assume is the AUM. However, I do not always hear that frequency. Sometimes there are multiple frequencies heard. Are these pitches associated with the different chakras and does that indicate that they are active or perhaps cleansing? Should the attention become fixed on these sounds or should they be dismissed?
A: Someone asked a similar question and it was reviewed in lesson #53 -- "Light and sound." In a nutshell, yes, it is purification, and we just easily favor our practice over experiences that come up. And yes, the chakras are involved, but there is no need to manage the details of it. It's "under the hood," you know, to use the analogy from past lessons.
The truth is that all our inner senses come alive throughout our nervous system (nadis and chakras) as we progress on the path, so we have to be mindful not to get distracted from the practices that are opening our nervous system up to the divine experiences. In yoga the change in sensory experience is called "pratyahara" which is often interpreted to mean losing or giving up attachment to sensory experiences. This is sometimes taken to mean killing involvement in the senses, or controlling them. Something anti-sensual, like that. This has led to bizarre practices in some cases, running away from natural experiences of the world. This is a limited interpretation of pratyahara. What pratyahara really means is "expansion inward of the senses," meaning we sense more and more divine qualities inside that are initially more charming than physical sensuality, so we are naturally drawn to them. We do not reject physical sensuality. We just begin to operate on a broader spectrum of sensuality as our nervous system opens inside. In time, even our physical senses are heightened as inner sensuality opens up, and our sensuality is seen to be broad a continuum. All the while, we keep up our daily practices, which are the underlying cause of the transformation. The rise of pure silent bliss consciousness, a fundamental constituent in this process, keeps us beyond the grip of ego attachment to the widening sensory experience.
Some traditions use inner sensory experiences for practice. There is nothing wrong with this if it is a tradition we have chosen, and it works for us. But as you said, sometimes the experiences are there, and sometimes they are not, depending on the course of purification in various parts of the nervous system. What we do in advancedyogapractices are global practices that will be purifying all of our nervous system, no matter what else may be going on inside. That is why we use meditation and spinal breathing first. These will do the global housecleaning, and we are not dependent on any particular experiences coming up in any particular part of our spiritual anatomy.
Sooner or later, everything will open up. When experiences come up, great. We enjoy them. In time we will have them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When they come up in practices, we just stay with the practice we are doing. When they come up while we are in daily activity, we can enjoy them however we like. Our perception of our inner and outer world will change very much for the better. This is the fruit of practice, not the practice itself.
Once meditation and spinal breathing are well established, we can add on practices for stimulating from both ends of the spinal nerve to awaken it to ecstatic conductivity, which spreads out through our entire nervous system automatically. These practices have been given already in previous lessons.
In upcoming lessons we will look at additional practices for moving prana more from both ends of the spinal nerve toward our center, our heart.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book.
Thursday, February 14, 2013, 9:18 AM
Q: The main aim of my remaining life is to make all possible efforts to get liberation from the cycle of birth & death in this life time only. I know that I have many weaknesses yet to overcome but still I wish to make all possible efforts to get rid of them & make this soul merged with the supreme soul during this life time. Is it possible or not? For this if I have to undergo more vigorous practices for a longer time I wish to do that also, that is, spinal breathing and meditation for a longer time or any other practices. Kindly guide.
A: Yes, I understand that you don't want to waste a minute to get enlightenment. Yes, absolutely! I have felt the same way since taking up practices in this life many years ago. You should continue with practices to your capacity using self-pacing, being careful not to overdo. If there is strain, then it is too much. We all have to go at our own pace, or progress gets stymied. I will do my best to see that everything you need will be here in the lessons. Everything but a purified nervous system. That you have to do yourself, swept along by your bhakti, your love of truth and God, which is God alive in you.
Keep in mind that "getting enlightenment" is an ego strategy, and not likely to be completed in this life if it continues like that on the basis of "getting." This does not remove the necessity for practices to achieve progress. But getting enlightenment is a letting go. A paradox. Not letting go of practices necessarily, but letting go of something. Letting go of our need to "get it." How can we let go of the thing we need so desperately? How can we let go of the very thing we have been cultivating – intense desire for God?
It is a strange thing. Somewhere along the line we stop trying to "get" enlightenment and find ourselves "giving" ourselves to it. We may be doing everything the same -- practices, bhakti, service, and all that. Maybe even more practices – yes, definitely more practices. The nervous system wants to do them as it opens. But something changes. Maybe it is in the rise of kundalini, and we no longer feel in charge. It is easy to give in to a powerful divine process happening automatically inside, even while continuing aggressive practices. As the ego is dissolving to become pure bliss consciousness it still craves enlightenment and struggles to do more to "get it!" Then, magically, our need to "get" turns into a need to "give." This is an important turning point that has its foundation in practices and rising bhakti. It is a maturing that occurs in our nervous system as it becomes purified.
I think the most effective strategy is for day-by-day. It is a higher path to take. Never mind enlightenment somewhere down the road. Is it good today? Is today better than yesterday, last week, and last year? That is something real and concrete. Enlightenment may be next year, or a hundred lifetimes from now. Who knows? How we feel today, and what we can do to feel better tomorrow -- that is not so nebulous. It is real, while enlightenment, salvation, or whatever, is out in the imagination somewhere.
The future isn't real. Today is real. It is misery to want a thing in the future, keeping it out there, out of reach. The future never comes. It is maya (illusion). On the other hand, it is bliss to want what we are having today, and tasting it being more already tomorrow. That is why I have said, "Do something nice for someone today." That is more enlightenment than we can find anywhere in our imagination of the future. If there is enlightenment, it is to be found today. It is a fine point. As long as we do practices for the future, enlightenment will remain in the future. If we do practices for happiness today and tomorrow, then enlightenment is suddenly much closer. Then we can relax a little and breathe. The relaxing and breathing is the enlightenment itself coming up.
Will we ever experience enlightenment in the future? No. We never will. We can only experience it in the present. That means today.
What does this mean in relation to our practices? Remember that meditation is going inward when we sit, and then going out into daily activity to engage the blissful silence we have gained. If we meditate all day we will have lots of silence. If we don't engage our silence in meaningful activity, we will not get full enlightenment. Maybe only the first stage – unending inner silence. That's not bad, but not the whole thing. Enlightenment is the union of inner and outer. If we are all inner and no outer, we will not be in yoga. We must move to all inner and all outer -- two fullnesses. Then we are becoming it.
I have been doing all this writing here for months. Why? Well, it is a good thing that needs to be done for sure. Many agree with that. From my perspective, it is going out with my inner silence into many lives, and that is helping me expand tremendously inside. The more I give away, the more I am filling up with ecstatic bliss. I am a very selfish person doing all this transmission of knowledge. Yet, my self is becoming more and more in everyone. Your joy is my joy. You can do the same thing in your life. Do your sitting practices, however much and whatever kind you find is good for you, and then go do something good for someone. That is rising enlightenment.
If we don't share it, we don't get it. It can happen today. Don't worry about enlightenment in the future. Claim enlightenment today by doing practices and then giving away your silence and your bliss to others. Whatever good feelings practices bring to you, give them away in daily activity. That is enlightenment coming up right now. All we have to do is say, "Yes" to the flow of divine love going out, and it will surge out through us like an endless river of ecstatic bliss.
Then we will be laughing like joyous innocent children all the time. That is what we are when all the obstructions and holding on are gone.
Getting enlightenment is giving it away. Getting enlightenment is letting it go.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed discussion on the role of service on the path to enlightenment, see the AYP Bhakti and Karma Yoga book and the AYP Liberation book.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 12:16 PM
Q: I am still having some difficulty with mulabandha also. It is very difficult to keep the muscle flexed. Sometimes I'm not sure if it is unless I flex it strongly. Are there any intervening exercises I can do? If I just don't do it- I can't see how I will ever advance to the stage where I am able- yet it takes all my effort to do it during pranayam and I don't know if that is good.
A: It might be a bit easier if you do the gentle flexing on the rising inhalation during spinal breathing and release it on the descending exhalation. Then the breath will be a cue for flexing. This is actually called asvini mudra, the alternating flexing and releasing. If that does not work, then try a short flex at the bottom and a short flex at the top during spinal breathing, again, the breath is the cue. This last approach might be the easiest, as it is a short flex and done. Once you get comfortable with that, then maybe do two at the top and bottom of each cycle, and later move on to the rising flex and no flex going down. Later, you can let it become more spontaneous as it was originally given. Another thing you can do is flexing exercises for ten or more repetitions a few times during the day. It is just a matter of developing coordination and familiarly. Then it becomes second nature. The sphincter is part of an organ of spiritual ecstasy. We find them all over the body in yoga, sometimes in the least expected places.
Where we'd like to end up with mulabandha/asvini is with spontaneous subtle movements as ecstatic energy moves naturally inside us. It will evolve gradually to that as our inner ecstatic conductivity comes up. All the other bandhas and mudras will participate in simultaneous coordination, so it will be like one spontaneous whole body mudra going on subtly everywhere inside us. When it gets to that stage we have found our new natural spiritual biology. One slip of the eyes upward and we are in ecstatic bliss everywhere inside. Our nervous system is permanently transformed to a higher mode of functioning.
There is no one way to awaken mulabandha/asvini. There is no exact formula. Experiment and see what works for you. It is supposed to feel good. You may find an option that I have not mentioned that works for you and does not distract excessively from other practices. Of course, add siddhasana in with any of these mulabandha/asvini combinations and there will likely be distraction for the short term. That goes with the territory. It is a transition period filled with delight, and it gets more delightful all the time. Eventually it calms down to an unending divine smile radiating from within.
The guru is in you.
Note: For instructions on mulabandha, see the Asanas, Mudras and Bandas book.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 9:36 AM
Q: Is it possible that energy is getting stuck in my solar plexus? To give you background, I have faithfully done the practices twice a day for about two months. During breathing, I include Sambhavi and Siddhasana. I do not include Mulabandha, because I found I was not able to take a deep breath without releasing the lock and that was distracting. I will focus on Sambhavi until it is automatic and then try again. I'm doing 15 minutes of pranayama. During meditation I stay in Siddhasana and meditate for 20 minutes.
Lately I have noticed during meditation a very strong pulse in my solar plexus that distracts me from the mantra. It can be quite a strong series of jolts. I do go easily back to the mantra but with nearly every breath I am distracted by the deep pulse. The pulse is strongest after I begin to exhale. (It is noticeable when I inhale and sometimes during pranayama) If I hold after exhaling - which I did just to see what happened - it subsides a bit. It does seem to grow stronger throughout the meditation and I often feel it up to my ears. It does not go below my navel at all. I guess I wouldn't mind if I could remain focused on the mantra, but it does distract. The occurrence of the pulse did not follow any new practice, I have been doing pretty much the same things throughout. Most days I also do some yoga before pranayama. The yoga does not have any affect on the pulse. I'm not sure if you have any suggestions. I seem to be at a point where I could relate to your discussions of bliss were it not for this issue. I appreciate any thoughts you might have and thank you for your time and consideration.
A: Sometimes pulse can happen like that in practices for a few days or weeks. It can happen almost anywhere in the body. Usually it will settle down as the nervous system adjusts. The solar plexus can be the blockage, or it could be something elsewhere in the nadis (subtle nerves). I presume the pulse is not prevalent in daily activity. If it becomes so and doesn't clear up, make sure to cover the medical angle. Not to be alarmist, but we don't want to be blind to potential health issues.
You might review the lesson on physical sensations that can come up in meditation -- #15. There is a specific technique in there to deal with distracting physical sensations during meditation, which would include a distracting pulse.
After using the method in lesson #15, if it continues to distract you, you might consider backing down a bit on your pranayama (and siddhasana and sambhavi, if necessary) for a week or so and see if that helps. Then slowly come back when the symptom subsides. Self-pacing you know. (You did not mention yoni mudra kumbhaka -- it goes without saying that backing down on that is also in order if symptoms become excessive.)
Also, you could do some uddiyana (and learn to do nauli) as part of asanas before pranayama and meditation. Those can help clear the solar plexus. We will be doing nauli (special churning of the abdominal muscles) in the lessons in a week or two, and then another physical technique higher up that will bring energy up through the solar plexus and chest. So, we will be working on it from a few more angles.
On mulabandha, there is no need to keep it locked throughout pranayama. It will naturally go through its own pattern of pulsations as our inner spiritual biology comes up. Yes, it is distracting when the mulabandha comes alive. But the distraction gradually turns to ecstatic bliss as the inner processes in us come up. It is part of the process.
The first order of business is to get comfortable in your routine, and that could mean backing off temporarily on the things mentioned, until you get through this bump in the road. It is up to you.
Real yogis and yoginis are hungry to stay on the leading edge of their journey, and I admire you for it. Your bhakti is terrific. But we want to avoid having it become the "bleeding edge." It should be fun. In time it becomes much more than fun. It becomes infinite joy!
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on the procedure of deep meditation, see theAYP Deep Meditation book.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 9:02 AM
Q: Since all mantras have meanings attached to them, even Sanskrit ones, how do I find a mantra with no meaning?
A: Meaning or absence of meaning is in the way we use the sound. In the procedure of meditation the sound of the mantra is favored over thoughts that come up, including meanings, so the mantra has no meaning in that application of sound inside.
Take the sound, "AM." Not only is it a word in English, but it appears in hundreds of other words -- ham, lamb, sham, bam, cram, and so on, not to mention the innumerable meanings in other languages. Do we think of all these words and meanings when we think the sound, "AM?" No. It is a matter of context, a matter of what the situation is when we use the sound.
The mantra has a unique context of use. It is used in a specific way for going inward to stillness of mind. In this method of use, we let go of meaning. We don't have to worry about pushing meaning out or anything like that. The method of meditation will take care of it for us. It is very simple. When we use the mantra we follow a particular mode of thinking, a procedure, which we develop into a habit that we use whenever we sit to meditate. Part of that procedure is easily favoring the sound of the mantra over any thoughts that come up. Once the habit is in place, meanings don't come up when we sit to meditate. It is just the mantra. That is what we mean by the mantra having no meaning. Whatever particular sound we use as mantra in meditation has no meaning by virtue of the way it is being used.
For details on the procedure of meditation, see the series of lessons near the beginning of the archive.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on the procedure of deep meditation, see the AYP Deep Meditation book.
Thursday, January 31, 2013, 10:22 AM
As we continue to use the mantra, I AM, in that particular way that allows the mind to go to stillness, we are clearing out obstructions deep in our nervous system. Over time, our experience will become smoother and deeper as the purification progresses. We will experience more inner silence.
With rising inner silence, at some point in time we will be ready to take broader strokes deep in the nervous system without getting bogged down too much on the surface of the mind. We will be ready for an enhancement of our mantra.
Think of it as shifting gears in a car. With a manual transmission, we go along in first gear, and then at some point we are ready to shift to the next gear, which enables us to go faster with ease because we have gotten up to an adequate speed with the first gear. If we shift into the second gear too soon, what happens? We bog down and don't get much out of it, because there is not enough speed yet. Shifting too soon is a strain, and does not help us go faster.
Taking on a mantra enhancement is like that. If we have smoothness and good depth in meditation with I AM, we can think about moving to the first enhancement. It could be in a few months after starting, or it could be in a few years. Everyone is different. It is one of those situations where self-pacing is important. There is no rush to step up too soon. We can make the entire journey using the I AM mantra for our meditation if we wish. Nothing is missing. It is only a matter of how fast we want to go. If and when it is time to shift, we will know. Then we can do it and the transition will be reasonably smooth with minimal clunkiness, like making a good shift of gears in a car.
The enhancement adds syllables and sound vibrations to our mantra. This will make a "bigger footprint" in the nervous system as we meditate. Meditation will be slower going into silence and slower coming back out of silence. This creates the effect of making pure bliss consciousness stick more in our nervous system and in our awareness. That is the benefit of the enhancement. It speeds up the cultivation of inner silence to be more prevalent and more steady in us. It is a "higher gear."
The first enhancement is an expanded mantra. It is:
SHREE SHREE I AM I AM (audio)
We use it exactly the same way as we have used I AM, following the same easy procedure of meditation we learned early in the lessons. Once we have made the change, this will be our mantra from then on.
We will notice a difference right away. Our mind will go to stillness slower, and come out of stillness slower. Interestingly, this slowing down of the attention moving in and out speeds up the infusion of pure bliss consciousness into our nervous system.
Think of the mantra as something we are systematically penetrating the fabric of our subconscious with. A mantra with few syllables goes through more quickly, clearing out obstructions easily a little bit at a time. Then it gets to the point when we can use a "wider" mantra and cover a bigger area as we go in and out through the subconscious, clearing out more obstructions with each pass through. A mantra with more syllables does this, but only after we have prepared the ground with the first level of mantra – I AM.
If you have just begun meditating recently, give yourself time to develop a good habit using the I AM mantra, and to develop smoothness and good depth of inner silence before jumping ahead to the first enhancement. Several months at least. It could take a year or two before meditation with I AM clears the nervous system enough. Maybe longer. We each have our own unique journey to take (and time line) as we open our nervous system to the infinite. The mantra enhancement will be here when we are ready, so lets take our time... and enjoy!
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on the procedure of deep meditation, see theAYP Deep Meditation book.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 10:05 AM
Q: English is not my first language. I am wondering if I should translate the mantra "I AM" to my own language and use that for meditation.
A: It is a good question. Others have asked it too. Even those of us who have english as our first language should take note of the following suggestions.
No, don't translate the mantra. As has been said before, the mantra is not about language or meaning. If we had been given it orally, there would be no spelling, no language, and no meaning. Just a sound vibration to use in meditation in that specific way that allows the mind to go naturally to stillness.
Since we are doing all this in writing, we have to spell the mantra. With or without spelling, it is just a sound that is found to have certain good qualities deep in the nervous system. This was reviewed in lesson #59 – "Some mantra particulars." It is found in the english/christian tradition as "I AM." It is also found in other traditions and languages in similar forms, and sometimes identical. The natural vibrational qualities in our nervous system are universal, and not determined by language.
If the I AM spelling is distracting, then think of the same sound spelled another way like – AYAM. Same pronunciation, no meaning, and no language. If we try and attach a meaning to it, we will not be doing our meditation a favor. Let there be one sound in our life that does not have a worldly connection. Let it be the mantra. The mantra should mean only one thing – It is our ticket to ride to the infinite. Let us use it for that, and for that alone when we are meditating.
If meanings and language come up in meditation, we just regard them as any other thoughts coming up, and easily go back to the mantra at whatever level of quietness or fuzziness it is. Then we continue our inner march to stillness, inner silence, pure bliss consciousness.
The mind settles down to stillness best when using the vibration alone. Meanings tend to pull us to the surface of the mind, so we easily let them go and favor the finer levels of the vibration of the mantra. Meanings and language are for the outer word. Vibrations naturally becoming finer and finer are for the inner world of pure bliss consciousness. The mantra is for that. It is not a word of meaning. It is a vibrational vehicle that refines and disappears as we ride to the infinite every day.
In time, with the easy daily practice of meditation, our inner world of silent pure bliss consciousness becomes always present in our outer world, and vise versa. The gateway of our nervous system opens wide. We experience the truth of yoga, the joining of the infinite with our every day life. We come to find we are That.
This glorious outcome has nothing to do with language or any outer meaning of the mantra. We leave all that behind when we meditate.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on deep meditation, see the AYP Deep Meditation book.
Thursday, January 24, 2013, 10:10 AM
Q: I am one of those whose tongue has been rolling back. Your recent lesson on kechari is wonderful, a real eye-opener. My question regards some difficulty I am having as the tongue goes back on the roof of the mouth. In the beginning I was having a gag reflex in my throat, which seems to be getting less. Sometimes when my tongue is back during meditation, my breathing gets blocked temporarily. Are these normal experiences?
A: These are transitional experiences that can happen in stage 1 kechari. The reason for them is something I call, "throat jamming." It is a temporary phenomenon that can occur between stages 1 and 2.
Because the tongue cannot go up beyond the roof of the mouth in stage 1, the further back it goes, the more the base of the tongue will tend to be pressed down into the throat. This can create a "jamming" effect deep in the throat that can lead to some gag reflex and/or some closing of the epiglottis over the entrance to the windpipe (trachea). The epiglottis is a trap door-like flap connected to the root of the tongue that closes the windpipe when we swallow, and also when we hold our breath in the normal way.
Everyone has a slightly different physical anatomy, so some may experience these transitional experiences during stage 1, and others may not. In any case, the experiences should be temporary. As the frenum under the tongue stretches out, or is trimmed, the tongue will eventually go up behind the soft palate into stage 2 kechari. When this happens, the throat jamming should naturally end, because the tongue goes up into the nasal pharynx and will no longer be pressing down into the throat as much. I say "as much" because with the frenum still pulling down on the tongue, there could still be some throat jamming in stage 2 kechari, though much less, and less likely to create any distracting experiences in the throat. As the tongue goes higher up, the frenum will continue to be stretched, or trimmed, and the tendency for jamming will go away.
As mentioned, for anatomical reasons, only some people may experience the throat jamming symptoms mentioned above, while others will not have them at all. Whatever the case may be, the phenomenon is a transitional one as kechari evolves upward in us.
The experiences of ecstatic bliss we find in stage 2 kechari far outweigh the inconveniences we may encounter on the way there.
Take your time with kechari. Approach it in your own way. Your bhakti will take you up when the time is right.
The guru is in you.
Note: For instructions on kechari mudra, see the Asanas, Mudras and Bandas book.
Thursday, January 17, 2013, 10:04 AM
Q: Can you explain the difference between bliss and ecstasy?
A: Let's look these two words up in the dictionary.
Bliss means, "complete happiness, heaven, paradise."
Ecstasy means, "overwhelming rapturous delight."
They seem a bit similar, but not the same. In terms of how we interpret these two words in advanced yoga practices, the difference is in where these two experiences originate. This is the key to understanding how we use them in the lessons, and how they relate to specific practices we are doing. There is also a tie-in with the inner divine romance we have been discussing recently, and also our steps along the path to enlightenment.
We are putting names on experiences we have during and after our practices. So, the words are experience-based here, like everything else we discuss in the lessons. They are words we use to describe what is happening inside us. The experiences comes first, then the words. Not the other way around.
Bliss is associated with the "pure bliss consciousness" we experience in meditation and gradually more and more in our daily life as we continue to meditate. It comes up as a pleasant, peaceful silence, a sort of unending inner smile, if you will. It is happiness that comes out of nowhere inside us as we take the mind and body to stillness over and over again in meditation. Is inner silence we come in touch with during meditation "complete happiness, heaven, paradise?" As its presence grows in us it comes pretty close. It is unshakable, always positive no matter what is going on around us, and it has the feel of eternity in it as well. Most important, it is our awareness standing alone, independent of body, breath, mind, emotions, senses and all external events. It is the proverbial "rock" that will not wash away in the storms of life. Once our sense of self has become that inner silence, where have we gone? Everywhere, and nowhere. Pure bliss consciousness is a mystery. Yet, it is what we are in our essential nature. We experience it as bliss, a complete unending happiness. Our consciousness is the source of bliss. Our consciousness is bliss. No one has to take my word for it. As we meditate each day, we gradually come to know what pure bliss consciousness is. As the psalm says, "Be still, and know I am God."
Ecstasy, on the other hand, is an undoing. I mean, we get lost in a reverie of pleasure. "Overwhelming rapturous delight" is a good a description for it. Where does ecstasy come from? While bliss emanates from our consciousness, ecstasy arises in our body. Ecstasy is the result of prana ravishing us in delicious ways. You will recall that prana, the life force, is one of the first manifestations coming out of pure bliss consciousness. When prana moves in evolutionary ways in the nervous system it produces vibrations that we experience as overwhelming pleasure. Ecstasy is the goddess moving in us. Ecstasy emanates from an awakened kundalini, which we know comes from our sexual energy, our great storehouse of prana.
Now comes the tie-in, the relationship between bliss and ecstasy, which sometimes causes us to jumble meanings together into phrases like "blissful ecstasy," or "ecstatic bliss." What is going on here? Is Yogani confused when he uses these phrases? You bet. Who isn't when lovemaking is going on?
The truth is that bliss and ecstasy want to merge in us. Metaphorically, pure bliss consciousness is shiva, present everywhere in us as inner silence. At least if we have been meditating he is. If we have awakened kundalini shakti with spinal breathing and other advanced yoga practices, she is on the hunt for shiva in our nervous system. We know she is because we can feel her moving through us as ecstasy (or fire), cleaning house as she goes. At some point we have inner silence stabilized inside us, and ecstasy moving around inside us as well. What happens?
Activation of the experiences of bliss and ecstasy through advanced yoga practices corresponds to the first two stages of enlightenment, which have been discussed in previous lessons – the rise of inner silence and the rise of ecstasy, best done in in that order. The third stage of enlightenment comes following the union of bliss and ecstasy in divine romance inside. While this is going on, we tend to get the descriptions jumbled, because both pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy are present at the same time, joining inside us!
What comes out of this union of the masculine and feminine polar energies inside? We have described the third stage of enlightenment as "unity," where we see all as an expression of the One that we have become. That One is pure bliss consciousness coexisting within all the (ecstatic) processes of nature. When it gets to this stage, we become a channel for an unending flow of divine love. We act for the good of all, expecting nothing in return, because we perceive all as an expression of our own self. In this stage, personal need is expanded to encompass universal need. This is enlightenment, divine love naturally manifesting through us, born of the union of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy inside us.
Advanced yoga practices are for facilitating this evolutionary process of transformation in our nervous system. Everyone is born with the ability to make this glorious journey.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on building a daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book.