Week 2 of the Raja Yoga training at the Ananda center. Focus on meditation.
Ananda’s Raja Yoga course covers much more than I have described here. These are my personal highlights — the things that were, for me, either new, especially interesting, or especially illuminating. As they mention in the very first session, what they teach in this course is not unique to Ananda. Raja Yoga is an ancient science that belongs to the world. It is the “kingly” (raja) Yoga in that sense that it spans many different branches of Yoga practice — organizing them and devoting resources (your time and energy) to each in turn, for the good of the whole (you).
- Thu, 14 Sep: Session #2 – Meditation
- Continuing Insights
- Thu, 14 Sep: Total Focus
- Fri, 15 Sep: Lifting the Eyes (OL): Three Ways!
- OL: Combinations of Lifts
- OL: Turn Around! Look up!
- OL: Handling Rejection
- Sat 16 Sep: OL – Keeping an Even Keel
- Sun, 17 Sep: OL – Tournament Tension
- OL: Ultimate Stress Test — Traffic!
- Mon, 18 Sep: Gratitude for Grace!
- OL: Makes her Laugh, Refinement
Thu, 14 Sep: Session #2 – Meditation
This was a good one. Do a full Yogic breath (abdominal inhale, rib cage expansion, minor chest lift) while lying on your back. Feel it as a wave!
That was a cool instruction. When the abdomen expands to start the inhale, it goes out. (Note that it need not go out a lot, in fact, your stomach can actually be mildly taut while you do an abdominal inhale. It’s a hard technique to master, but when you do you get the benefits of a flatter stomach and deep abdominal breathing.)
Now then, when the ribs expand, they mostly expand to the sides — but in the process it also lifts slightly. Meanwhile, some of the air moves up from abdomen, so the abdomen is a little less extended than it was. That’s the first part of the wave.
When the chest expands, it goes up towards the chin a little — and once again some of the air that was in the ribcage goes there, so the rib cage relaxes a bit. That’s the second part of the wave.
That much was pretty easy to feel. (But it was a revelation, since it was the first time I had been made aware of the wave action.)
When I exhaled, it was harder to feel the wave action. I had to really work at it. With additional air coming in, the movements are easy to notice. But on the exhale, it’s more like things are simply relaxing in sequence. So it’s more like a “relaxation wave”, where the slight muscular tension that accompanies the expansion is progressively released.
The injunction was to practice this breath whenever you can, as much as you can. After a while, it becomes the way you breathe normally!
The meditation session tonight included a mention of the Inner Smile — the technique I first heard about in my Ipsalu training. I love that technique. It brought a smile, just to hear it. :__)
Lift the Eyes
The talk this evening was an introduction to meditation. It was a really great introduction, too. I found myself realizing that when I begin teaching, there are many details I could easily overlook! So I was impressed by the thorough introduction to the physical mechanics (how to sit, where, when, with whom). The session concluded with Hong Sau meditation (more on that below).
This time, rather than “lifting the eyes as though looking at the top of a far mountain”, the injunction was to “focus your gaze on the 3rd eye”. But for me, the first instruction is much more effective!
When I attempt to focus my gaze on my third eye, my eyes roll up and in — so I get a little cross-eyed! I feel an uncomfortable tension in the eyeballs. Looking at the top of a distant mountain avoids the discomfort, but even that instruction is a little off the mark. (Which may explain why the friend I told to didn’t “get it”, when she tried it.)
What I’m really feeling when I “lift my eyes”, is some sort of internal muscle above and at the back of the eyes, lifting them upward. It’s not so much that I’m focusing on anything with my eyes (although there is a bit of that, and the far away mountain does help). It’s rather that my eyes are lifting upwards in their sockets.
I’ll keep on working to describe it, until I can teach it effectively. Because to me, it is a life-changer. It’s a pathway to positive energy and to staying positive regardless of circumstances the like of which I’ve never experienced before.
Of course, that’s partly because that particular movement reminds me of “magical moments” I’ve had in the past. But if that’s how it works, fine! One shining moment leads to the next, and the next, like a string of pearls. It’s a way of reconnecting with past growth, and expanding on it. If that’s all it is, it’s enough — but somehow, I think it is more. :__)
When To Meditate, and How Long
The goal, of course, is to meditate for 15-20 minutes a day, preferably twice a day! But that’s something you build up to. It’s not where you start!
You start by doing whatever it is you can do, and then stretch it out, a little at a time. The point is to be meditating, regularly, and to enjoy the process — rather than focusing on achieving some kind of goal, which is pretty much to miss the point of the whole thing.
For me, I find that my current practice of meditating once a day for 8-10 minutes (moving towards 10-12), is about right, at least at the moment.
My visiting Yoga master, Swamiji Asanganand, recommending meditating twice a day for 10-15 minutes. That’s my goal. He had an interesting take on the two meditations, too.
One was when you wake up, one before going to sleep. In the morning meditation, you listen for instructions — your plan for the day. The bedtime meditation, on the other hand, is a “spiritual check in” — you review the day, report to your higher power, and see how you did — and that one can be done while you’re lying down, before going to sleep (which makes it easy to do, when you remember to do it.)
As all traditions recommend, meditation is easiest in the early hours of the morning, when the rest of the world is asleep. That’s the time that works best for me, too. As a kid, I slept 8, 10, or 12 hours at a stretch, so there was no way to do that. But now that I’ve gotten older, I sleep for maybe 4 hours at a time. That makes it easy to get up a 3 or 4 in the morning, exercise, meditate, stretch (my favorite sequence), write whatever I’ve been inspired to write, and then go back to sleep!
On the other hand, the Raja Yoga program recommends that transition times” — noon, midnight, dawn, and dusk. (Whatever works for you, use it.) One of the great thoughts in the talk was this: “A __fill in the blank__ meditation beats no meditation.” And that’s true no matter how you fill in the blank.
Double- or Triple-Time, Once per Week
The really interesting bit of advice in tonight’s talk was to double or triple the length of your meditation time, once a week — for example, on the weekend when you have more time. So if you meditate for 20 minutes regularly, go for 40-60 minutes once a week. Or if, like me, 10 minutes is the norm, go for 2o-30 minutes.
That’s pretty terrific advice. In that extended session, you might find yourself going deeper. If nothing else, it’s like lifting a heavier weight — you get stronger! So the following week, what seemed like a long time before feels a lot shorter! And you’re likely to find yourself meditating for longer during the week, as well.
Where to Meditate
Ideally, you have a little altar set up, with things that remind of you “good energy” — objects from nature that remind you of great feelings you had, or pictures of your guru(s), or objects of worship, or any combination of the above. (I have one, but these days I’m most comfortable just sitting on my “spot”, on the edge of the bed.)
The interesting observation in the talk was that after a while, you may find that place calling to you. “No, no!” you reply, “I have to go to work!” — even when it was hard to make yourself sit there, at first. (As a kid, I remember really not wanting to have go take a shower. But then once I was in, soaking in the hot water, I didn’t want to get out! Meditating is like that.)
Three Points of Contact
Another good rule of thumb was to make sure you have three solid points of contact, when you meditate.
In a chair, you want your full leg in contact with the seat, preferably slanted slightly down. If they’re slanted too steeply down, put a cushion under your feet. If they’re upright or level, you wind up with too much pressure on your sitting bones. In that case, put a cushion under your butt.
Another tip from the talk: If you like to meditate with your hands in your lap, and you find your hands sliding down your legs, you can roll up a towel or scarf and put it in your lap, to give your hands a comfortable place to rest.
Sitting cross-legged, the three points of contact are your backside and two legs. Ideally then, you want your thighs to be in contact with the floor or with some cushions. Sitting with one leg crossed over the other can work, if you have enough cushioning to keep pressure off the ankles, but if your knees aren’t making it to the floor, having them crossed in that way has two problems: 1) You’re less stable, because you have only two points of contact — your backside and the point where the ankles are crossed and 2) (more importantly) there is a lot of pressure on your ankles!
So unless you can sit in one of the more advanced cross-legged positions — and reach the floor with your legs in the process, it makes more sense to use the Tibetan sitting position, where one leg crosses in front of the other, rather than on top of it. (But even then, cushioning for one or both legs may still be needed!)
Hands open at the juncture of the hips and thighs was recommended. But what I learned from coaching volleyball is to identify the invariant.
In volleyball, there are many ways to pass a ball successfully with your forearms, but what they have in common (the invariants) are having the hairlines of the wrists level and joined to each other, and pointing the fingers to the ground, which extends the arms. Once you achieve the invariants, you can pass the ball successfully. After that, you realize that the many different ways you can position your fingers are a matter of style, rather than a critical part of the technique.
When it comes to meditation, I’ve seen people recommend back of the hands on the knees, on the tops of the thighs, at the juncture of the thighs and hips, and overlapping one another in your lap. (Some systems have left hand on top, others have right hand on top, and in some Yoga systems the way you do it depends on whether you are a man or a woman.)
When they overlap in your lap, some systems have the thumbs touching each other, others have them laying flat. When hands are on your legs, some systems have thumb and forefinger lightly touching. Others don’t say anything about it.
The invariants in those positions are a) Your hands are open and facing up, and b) your elbows are at your sides! That’s my observation, anyway. I find that as long as my upper arms are hanging straight down at my sides (or just slightly ahead of my sides), my arms and shoulders are totally relaxed. Any other position adds tension. Once you achieve that invariant, the position of your hands depends on how you’re sitting, and style. :__)
Personally, I like sitting with the back of my hands on my knees. When I was first starting, especially, I found that it helped me to sit straight, and took tension off my back. (But once I acquired the ability to sit upright with my back relaxed, the the position of my hands became less consequential.)
When hands are on my knees, I noticed that I am most comfortable with the ridge of the hand on the knee, rather than the back of the hand. (The hand is angled outwards a bit, so it’s resting mostly on the ridge-side of the back of the hand. There is a little hollow on the top of the knee, too. It’s a shallow valley that runs between the inside and outside edges of the knee. The bone that leads to the pinky sits nicely in that groove.)
Naturally, you avoid serious pain at all costs! But minor discomforts can also arise when you’re sitting for a longer-than normal period of time, in meditation. Some good tips for alleviating them:
- Tense and Relax – Tensing and relaxing the muscle where the discomfort is felt can allow it to let go of tension and get comfortable again.
- Quivering – A more advanced version is to tense the muscle until it’s quivering, it should then relax completely when you release the tension. (More on that below.)
- Minor Shift of Position – Sometimes, a small shift can make a big difference. (When I have unconsciously slumped a bit, there is a bend in my back that begins to get uncomfortable. The problem often goes away if I lift my head and spine upwards as I inhale, and then relax the back as I exhale.)
- Move with Awareness – If things are really getting uncomfortable, there is absolutely nothing wrong with moving to a different position! Maybe you need a different cushion. Or you need to move to a chair. Or you grew up sitting on the floor, and you need to move there. The point of the process is meditation — which means being fully aware — it’s not about getting a medal for sitting! So move as you need to. The important thing is to maintain your meditation as you move. (In fact, there are whole systems that teach “moving meditation” where you walk, for example, while maintaining full conscious awareness of each and every step, and what your body is doing as you take them.) So remain quiet, maintain your focus and inner awareness, and move to the position you need to be in, to be comfortable.
The Hong Sau technique was taught, but without the energy flows I learned in Ipsalu Tantra. (That’s ok, once you start working with energy flows, you vary them anyway.)
The injunction was to hear “Hong” (hahng) in your head as you inhale, and hear “Sau” (saw) as you exhale. But the advice was to mentally make/hear those sounds in your head.
The thing is, if you pay attention to the many noises that occur inside your body, you can literally hear those sounds as you breathe! The sounds are most extreme if you use the Yoga ujjayi breath, where you constrict the top of the throat, so it sounds like you’re snoring. But you don’t have to constrict it much (and possibly not at all) to hear Hong as you inhale, and Sau as you exhale! (In poetry, onomatopoeia is the term for a word that represents a sound. Hong and Sau are just such words! The definition, in fact, says that the term “comes from the combination of two Greek words, one meaning “name” and the other meaning “I make”.)
Here’s the quandary, though: I’m not sure whether it makes more sense to teach it that way, or whether to let people discover it for themselves.
When the tense-and-relax technique was explained last week, I couldn’t quite hear whether it was supposed to happen on the exhale or the inhale (or both). So this week, I asked about it.
It turns out that Yogananda taught the technique in a variety of ways. So it could be done during the inhale, or during the exhale, for example, or as taught last week, during the pause after an inhalation, before exhaling.
In fact, one technique Yogananda recommended for real healing (as opposed to simple relaxation), was Quiver Healing — preferably done with the area in need of healing exposed to the sun.
With Quiver Healing, you tense a muscle until it’s literally quivering — shaking or vibrating, in other words. You keep it quivering, and then relax it.
Healing the knees was one an example of a use for that technique. Whether or not it will help to rebuild the cartilage that needs to be replaced inside my knees remains to be seen, but it’s worth a try!
- It makes sense to me that the healing would be done in sunlight. Sunlight converts cholesterol in the bloodstream into Vitamin D and other important compounds. Vitamin D unlocks the RNA sequences that tell the body how to defend itself and rebuild tissues, so this is an important part of the technique.
- The heat of the sun would increase increase blood flow to the area, all by itself. Muscle tension would also increase blood flow, at the same time that it increases the respiration. Increased blood flow, rich in oxygen and nutrients, would definitely assist the healing process.
- I find it easiest to get that kind of maximal quivering when I tense a muscle while exhaling. I do a full “dynamic tension” style contraction of every muscle in the area, until my breath is fully and completely exhaled. That takes 8-10 seconds, which is the optimal time for an isometric style contraction (one muscle with no opposition), or a dynamic tension contraction (where opposing muscles are contracted at the same time).
- This technique could be especially beneficial for my knees (so I am extremely grateful for the advice), because that kind of tension strengthens the muscles surrounding the joint — the stabilizing muscles. When I did physical therapy, I found that the exercises they gave me helped a lot, because they strengthened the muscles that kept the bones above and below the joint in the best possible relationship to one another. Doing this exercise, I notice the same kind of effect. The muscles around the knee feel more taut, and the joint feels more stable when I move. So Quiver Healing needs to become a standard part of daily routine!
Thu, 14 Sep: Total Focus
While listening to the speaker last week (Shanti), I had the familiar sensation of “focusing in”. The speaker seemed larger, and much closer — as though there was much less distance between us. At the same time, everything around the speaker seemed to disappear. Only a narrow bubble around the speaker seemed to have any real existence. Everything else was ephemeral, vanishing.
I had written that question in my notes after last week’s session: What is that? What does it mean? I asked about it during the practicum part of the meeting, but no one seemed to have any real explanations for it.
The good news is that after several years of experiencing it with several teachers (most of whom were conveying spiritual lessons), the fear of the sensation has gone away. (The first time I experienced it, I thought I was losing my mind! But now I know that it comes, and then after a while it goes, and I’m free to blink my eyes and return to a normal state at any time.)
Driving home after tonight’s session, I was reminded of what my martial arts master had told me about it — something I had totally forgotten: “That is when you are totally focused”. As someone who cuts an apple off a person’s head with a Samurai sword, she went on to say, “When you are focusing on your target, and the target becomes huge, that is when you strike!”
Ah. I now understood that sensation. When the speaker gets large, its because I am totally focused on them and on what they have to say!
Fri, 15 Sep: Lifting the Eyes (OL): Three Ways!
Much like the fan-shaped perineal muscle at the base of the spine, which can be contracted at the rear (sphincter), middle (perineum), or front (urethral muscle, used to cut off the flow of urine), there appears to be similar set of three contractions for the eye muscles!
As I experiment with it, it feels as though I can lift the eyes at the back, the middle, or front. Of these, the middle lift appears to be the most effective at lifting consciousness and creating a connection with the greater god-energy of the universe. But as with the perineal muscle, all three have their place.
Near the front of the brain, just behind the eyes, is the pituitary — the regulating hormone, responsible for growth and mood. Lifting the front of the eyes appears to affect that gland, producing positive emotions.
Near the center of the brain, right at the top of the spine, lives the pineal gland. It looks like a small pine cone (hence the name) has literal rods and cones in it, just like the eyeball. So clearly, that gland is the seat of visual imagination. It’s where the visual component of dreams are created, like a movie theater. (It has to be.)
Clearly, that gland is quite literally a third eye. (Could be any more clear that India was the culture that most successfully recorded and preserved the wisdom of a highly advanced civilization? They passed it down by word of mouth from generation to generation, by virtue of sheer diligence, repetition, and discipline. We could not owe them a bigger debt!)
At the same time, much of the science appears to have been preserved in Egypt — although without preserving the knowledge of practical uses for the information. (If the information was preserved, it was shared only with a select few — which is tantamount to losing it completely, when the inevitable day arrives that the last member of the tradition is lost before revealing the “final secret”. So if there are 100 secrets to tell, after a while there are 99, awhile later 98, and so on… )
The area at the top of the spine includes a number of interesting glands and brain areas: cerebellum, medulla oblongata, thalmus, hypothyalmus, and pituitary, as well as the pineal. All of them are underneath the large cerebral cortex, and some combination, it would appear, are affected by muscular movements of the spine.
The physical layout of that part of the brain is accurately depicted by the Egyptian Eye of Horus.
Image from How to Open Your Third Eye, at ShivanaSpirit.com.
Meanwhile, the shape and appearance of the pineal gland, along with the left and right energy channels (ida and pingala) coiling around the central channel (sushumna) is captured nicely by the Egyptian Staff of Osiris (especially since there were no pine trees anywhere near Egypt, at the time):
Staff of Osiris in the Egyptian Museum at Turin, Italy.
Interestingly, the heads of the snakes in this representation appear to be birds (representative of flight?) with small Pharaoh’s crowns on their head — crowns that include a stylized kundalini serpent — although the serpent curls down, rather than up, which is unusual for such a headdress. (Symbology in Ancient Egypt: The Original Crown has a picture of the crowns and explains its representation of the Cobra god of southern Egypt, Wadjet. In that crown, the serpent curling upwards — as it does in every other image I could find. So perhaps this particular staff has a special meaning — or perhaps it was created much later?)
Now then, the important bit…
We know that the lifting the perineal muscles at the base of the spine affects the kunda gland — a small gland below the base of the spine that science has no explanation for. In fact, although it was originally called a gland, current medical science now calls it the coccygeal body, as explained in Kundalini Massage… Kunda\Kundalini Gland, posted at Advanced Yoga Practices (AypSite.org).
But even if science doesn’t understand, we energy practitioners know that gland as the seat of kundalini energy — a buzzing, vibrating energy that travels up the central nervous system, activating and awakening many other chakras (sets of glands connected by the nervous system) in the process.
In the same way that lifting the fan-shaped perineal muscle affects the kunda gland at the base of the spine, lifting the eyes in various ways appears to affect the glands at the top of the spine — with similarly uplifting results!
More needs to be discovered about which glands are affected, and how — and those discoveries undoubtedly will be made, in time, by a combination of scientists and spiritual practitioners. In the meantime, it is fascinating to me that we seem to have a structure at the top of the body that matches the one below, with the heart at the center of everything!
OL: Combinations of Lifts
OMG. Just rose after a nap and realized that there are so many combinations. Hundreds. First, some terminology. Lets call the eyeball lifts orbital lifts, since they involve the muscles of the “orbital socket” (and because they put me at least, and you too probably, into orbit). At the other end, I’d love to call them sacral lifts, since they involve the muscles of the sacrum — the muscles inside the flat, triangular bone in your backside, just above the glutes and just below the base of the spine (and also because they are sacred, and constitute a sacrament!)
In traditional Yoga, the sacrum is considered the home of Swadhisthana — the sex chakra. And that chakra is considered to be separate from the base chakra (although it is said to lie very, very close). I suspect that the distinction is a mistake. I hasten to add that I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the same muscle activates both the kunda gland and the powerful sexual-energy center of the testes in men, and the equivalent energy centers in women, all depending on how the muscle is exerted — in the same way that many glands near the top of the spine appear to be activated by different Orbital Lifts. Again, I could be wrong, but I think that the separation between sexual energy and Muladhara (root chakra) energy is perpetuated by traditions that cannot bring themselves to admit that sexual energy and spiritual energy are the same energy — and that the only difference lies in the way the energy is channeled.
For combinations of individual lifts, we have front (orbital) and front (sacral), back and back, front and back, back and front, center to center, or full contraction (front, center, and back) to full contraction.
For the full contraction at either end, there are several possible orders: back-center-front, front-center-back, front-back-center, back-front-center, center-front-back, or center-back-front, or all at once. And each of those orders can be paired with a corresponding order at the other end!
I doubt that all such combinations make sense, but some of them surely do. To take one example: back-center-front coupled with back-center-front, or back-center-front coupled with front-center-back.
Then there is the Figure-8 breath, with contractions at the end of the inhale and at the end of the exhale. That gives a couple more combinations: 1) Contract one on the exhale, the other on the inhale, or 2) Contract both on the exhale and on the inhale.
Then there is the interesting technique I learned from Lexi Fisher and Kip Moore in Palm Springs: Extending the sacral muscle, rather than contracting it. The equivalent move in the orbital socket would be to pull the eyes down, rather than up. (I don’t find that move as “uplifting” as an Orbital Lift, but it may very well be a key to being “down to earth,” or “grounded”, and to achieving “mental focus” for disciplined mental activity, as opposed to be “open” to insight and intuition.)
Finally, there is the observation that Ida and Pingala are described as energy channels that start and end at the left and right sides, coiling around the spine as they do so. To go along with that orientation, we have: 1) The orbital muscles that pull the eyes to one side or the other, 2) Potentially flaring one nostril or the other to favor a particular side, 3) Lifting (or extending) the sacral muscles on one side or the other.
Wow. That is one heck of a lot of combinations. It remains to be seen which are most effective, and for what purpose. Clearly, there is room for a lifetime of experimentation and discovery.
OL: Turn Around! Look up!
Of course, the combination of lifts I’m most focused on is the central Sacral Lift, combined with the central Orbital Lift, and the sequence — whether to do one first and then the other, or both together. So far I’ve found that doing the Orbital Lift first makes me “expand” the most, but it also makes me a bit a lightheaded. Doing the Sacral Lift first, followed by the Orbital Lift once the energy starts moving, seems to raise more energy upward, and seems to be more grounding. Doing them both together seems to produce a balance of the two effects.
Last night, though, I realized that there are also muscles behind the eye, pulling them backward, and (somehow) muscles that pull them forward. When all are activated together, it leads to a Maha (Great, All) Combination — expanding the eye outward in every direction.
In meditation this morning, it came to me that there are also diagonal combinations of the movements. So the “Left Hand Path” combined with the “Lift” leads to diagonal-upward-left, while “Turn Around” leads to diagonal-up-and-backward-to-the-left! And when I did that, I have to say that reconnected with Babaji quite nicely! (Big ball of light, great joy, huge smile — the whole bit. :__)
OL: Handling Rejection
I’m feeling a little rejected today. It’s silly, no doubt. But the feeling is real. (When a lady I felt I had connected with the day before wasn’t in, I left a card for her to contact me because I wanted to talk.) So far, she hasn’t. In such circumstances, I always feel a sense of rejection.
But the game is not over yet, by far. :__) How do I know? Well, instead of going into a negative spiral when the feeling surfaces, I’ve been lifting the eyes. And guess what? When I do, the feeling dissipates, and I’m back to being my positive, happy self! Nice.
Of course, it’s a little like a continuing exercise, at this point. The feeling keeps coming back and I keep lifting to dissipate it. In a day or two, it will be forgotten — until another opportunity arises, at which point I will be free to interact without a lot of held-over negative energy, which has been something of a lifetime pattern, to this point.
The bottom line is that if the potential for a connection is there, great! And if it’s not, also great! Life is good. :__)
Sat 16 Sep: OL – Keeping an Even Keel
The next day, I would discover that lifting the eyes kept me on an even keel in a “success” mode, as well. On this occasion, my alma mater won their football game. Naturally, this is a time for celebration and joy! As I was celebrating, I also lifted my eyes.
I noticed that I was immediately made aware of the “big picture” and my greater connection. As a result, while I continued to enjoy my vicarious success, I wasn’t so totally focused on it that it dominated my consciousness.
This is a kind of awareness I have been lacking for a long, long time. I’ve heard from others on the path, and have read, that when you’re on the path, “the lows aren’t as low, and the highs aren’t as high” — in other words, you achieve more balance in your outlook on life. But I have never really experienced that, until now.
If meditation is one experience and sorrow is another and success in some form or another is a third, then all are equally “experiences”, and your state of mind depends on what you happen to be experiencing at the time. But that small Orbital Lift connects with that higher state, regardless of what I happen to be experiencing.
Sun, 17 Sep: OL – Tournament Tension
Played in a billiards tournament today (Nine Ball). At the outset I was shooting really well — brilliantly, even. My focus was on keeping my eyes lifted. Misses didn’t bother me in the least (unusual!) and every time I missed it really was an opportunity to learn something. (It’s a great attitude, when you can manage it. Keeping the eyes lifted made it happen automatically!) And I discovered a few quite interesting things! (To be shared some other time, in my notes on pool.)
One thing the eye-lifting didn’t help in the least was the “nervous tension” I felt while I was playing. It was a like a buzzing in a my body — a major vibration. It was exciting, but at the same time I noticed I was shooting too fast, and missing because of it. The Orbital Lift didn’t help with that in the least! (But I was able to enjoy the sensation and observe it, which was helpful.)
What I realized afterward was that I really needed the Breath Wave described above. I knew I needed to slow my breathing to calm myself, but couldn’t quite get it to slow down! Focusing on the internal sensations of the breath wave probably would have helped.
Then, too, there is a need to ride the knife-edge balance between nervous-energy buzzing and totally relaxed. Because when I did manage to relax, I wasn’t shooting as well as I was before. It will take some time to find the right balance. When I do, I can tell that I’ll be supercharged, totally focused, and at the same time totally relaxed. How cool will that be?
Mostly though, the cool thing was that, win or lose, it didn’t matter that much. I could enjoy my opponents good shots as much as my own.
In the end, I lost by the smallest of margins. It would have been nice to win, but I was happy, regardless. I wasn’t overjoyed when I was doing well, and I wasn’t plunged into depression when I was shooting poorly. It was very much like my experience playing golf — the internal state remained the same. And – that – was – nice!
OL: Ultimate Stress Test — Traffic!
At last! A solution for the stress of traffic congestion! I’ve asked every guru I’ve met, “How do you stay calm, peaceful, and relaxed on my freeway?” To date, I’ve had no answer. Until now!
Lifting the eyes during my drive today was like magic. Had several “interesting” episodes. None of them caused anything more than a minor ripple in my mood, and each was quickly forgotten. Awesome!
Mon, 18 Sep: Gratitude for Grace!
As always, when I think I’ve found a reliable physical technique for experiencing that literally “enlightened” state (lighter–as in less weight and more light, floating and bright, happy) at some point I am reminded that it isn’t really me doing it at all.
As was mentioned in the first Raja Yoga session (a reminder that brought a smile to myself) that state is a gift — it’s something we are given. In other words, it’s granted by God’s grace (in whatever form you visualize “god” to be).
I noticed that when the Orbital Lift suddenly stopped working! I was reminded to inwardly express gratitude for that connection, whereupon it was reestablished.
OL: Makes her Laugh, Refinement
Ever have one of those days when you make every single traffic light? All of them? I’ve had on maybe one long avenue, at times, but never everywhere I went. Today was one of those days.
In fact, I only started missing them towards the end of my errands, when I realized I had forgotten to do the Steering Wheel Isometrics. I wanted to practice them, too. What do you know? I missed 4 out of the next 5 lights, for just enough time in total to practice them all! Wow.
I think it was some kind of karmic reward. The last few days I’ve been writing these notes and adding material to my Yoga-book outline. Haven’t been working on the books I plan to publish by the end of the year, and have been feeling a bit guilty about that — and worried, because of course I need to get them published. Maybe hitting the traffic lights was the god-energy of the universe saying, “You’re doing good. Keep it up.” :__)
Makes Her Laugh
Serendipity was working in another important way, as well. Late last night and this morning, the Orbital Lift didn’t seem to be working as well as it had been. Today was my day to see my chiropractor friend, so I asked her if she had been trying it, after I told her about it last week.
Turns out she had, and it had been making a difference! She said, “It makes me laugh”. She didn’t understand why. It just did.
The more I think about it, I suspect that it really is something primal. As children, we literally looked up to people we admired and respected. I suspect that the technique reconnects us to that childhood state.
But what she said also got me to thinking that maybe I was focusing too much on the “up” and “back”. Maybe I should try again with a more forward lift / more forward focus.
Orbital Lift Refinement
As I was driving for my next set of errands (including a quick visit to the driving range), I returned to a more upward focus. What do you know? Flood of super happy, super positive emotions!
Ok. There is definitely something to that. But what was working for my was lifting my internal gaze to the level of my third eye. I wasn’t actually looking at my third eye.
Now for me, the point of focus was about 3 feet out. Maybe looking far away makes it easier to do, at first? But it is interesting to note that the tip of the far away mountain is at the level of the third eye.
Maybe as you progress, the point of focus comes closer to the third eye. If so, then there may come a time when I really am focusing on my third eye. Or maybe the ideal point really is 3 feet away, at the level of the third eye, and that works best for everyone. Time, and what I learn from others, will tell!
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