Raja Yoga Insights #5

Week 5 of the Raja Yoga training at the Ananda center. Focus: Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

Note:
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, 28 Sep: Session #5 – Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga

Focus on the Light

The injunction during the meditation portion of the evening was raise your gaze to the third eye, and then “focus on the light” — however you perceive it.

That was a cool bit of instruction. Instead of looking for any particular form of light, I dwelled in what was already there, and connected with the presence that lifts me to the skies. :__)

Intuitition

Really terrific insight:

Intuition is hearing the voice of God (as words, or as a feeling in your heart). Click To Tweet

Love that. Really beautiful. And it resonates with what I’m hearing/feeling in my meditations: I need to publish the book, and start doing workshops! (“Really, me?”. “Yes, you.” “We sure about this?” “We are.” “Okay, then…” :__)

Patanjali’s “8-Fold” Path

Apparently everyone in Yoga knows how to pronounce the man’s name correctly. The speaker did, too. But in case you’re like me, and only knew of the name from reading about it, it’s pronounced pah-TAHn-jah-lee. (Until I took Sanskrit classes several years ago, I thought his name was pah-ten-JAH-lee. Oops. Thought I’d pass it on.)

The presenter noted that Ashtanga means “8-Fold” or “8 Steps”. But “steps” more in the sense of things you do all together, rather than things you do one at a time.

One of the people asked if “8-Fold” could be translated as “8 Stages”. Great question! The more I looked at the “steps”, the more I noticed that in the latter stages especially, they formed more of a continuum!

  1. Yama (controls — things to restrict first physically, then mentally: Non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing, non-sensuality, non-greed)
  2. Niyama (Uncontrolled — things to do, or let flow: Cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, devotion)
  3. Asana (“sitting” — see below)
  4. Pranayama (prana — energy, breath + yama — control)
  5. Pratyahara (interiorization — going within)
  6. Dharana(contemplation, concentration, single-pointed awareness)
  7. Dhyana(absorption, true meditation as in “experiencing the joy of divinity”)
  8. Samadhi (blissful union, oneness, divine union, ecstasy)

Notice how the last 4 are pretty much a continuum! And the way I do asana and pranayama, they’re part of that continuum. For a few moments, I could almost see how the various Yamas flowed into the Niyamas, too. I didn’t quite there, though. Perhaps one day…

Asana = “Sitting”?

The goal of asana, according to Ananda, is the ability to sit comfortably. That’s not a terrible definition, actually. It’s pretty darn hard to meditate unless you can sit comfortably! (Moving and standing meditations like Tai Chi are an exception, of course.)

That would explain why the Ananda Yoga practice is just about the most relaxing and un-stressful brand of Yoga I’ve ever encountered! One part of that is exceptionally good: You rest between poses for just about as long as you spent in them. That policy is spectacularly conducive to meditation.

And the fact that they want to not strain is also good. They want to stay where the stretch is still comfortable, which helps a lot. So there is a lot of good in their practice. If nothing else, a bit of physical activity before sitting makes you less restless!

On the other hand, I think the practice can be improved in two ways:

  1. It could be a bit more vigorous, so you develop a modicum of strength, as well as flexibility.
  2. The asanas could more directly target the flexibility you need for seated meditation.

As for #1, I agree with my martial arts master: It’s all about Body AND Mind AND Spirit. All three. The goal is to maximize all of them. The process needs to address each.

Her great point was this: A physically strong person without a spiritual connection has no direction. But a spiritually connected person without good health can’t do anything. To get anywhere, you need both direction and movement! So you need both connection and a strong body.

I’m happy to say that, in the brand of Yoga that has come through me, both points are addressed! The asanas are directly targeted at the ability to adopted a comfortable seated position, and there are strengthening movements, as well as stretching movements.

In other words, the feedback I’m getting is that all systems are go! There appear to be green lights everywhere, telling me to go ahead with this project!

Non-sensuality?

This was an interesting point to contemplate. What does “non-sensuality” really mean?

To some, it means not overindulging. But of course, the very notion of “over”indulgence is the idea that you have indulged yourself “too much”, to the point that it is harmful. But where do you draw the line?

Then, too, there is the concept born of Tantra, where the idea is to fully connect with the body, to really experience its sensations.  That path, too, leads to liberation — so perhaps this is more of a surface difference, rather than an essential part of the path.

The question comes down to whether it is truly necessary to be “austere” (the niyama version of the principle) in order to be fully connected and enlightened.

On that subject, the speaker recalled Patanjai’s aphorism: Yogas chittra vritti nirodha, which means “stilling the disquieted whirlpools of the mind” (chittra=whirlpool, vritti=mind, nirodha=calming, stilling the agitation).

The speaker also used the example of a glass of dirty water (long a staple in my martial arts tradition). If you let it sit still and get quiet, the sediment falls to the bottom, leaving a clear glass of water through which you can see clearly!

But if you believe in reincarnation, that concept poses a bit of a problem! Stilling the mind long enough for the sediment to settle is all well and good, but the sediment is still there! And over many lifetimes, you accumulate even more! Eventually, you have a ton of sediment, leaving room for only a thimbleful of water!

The solution, of course, is some kind of filtering system that lets you clear out the sediment. That is the goal of Tantra. (And, interestingly, it was the goal of my martial arts practice.)

Now then, to get the sediment to the filter, it does no good to have a quiet mind and act all enlightened and stuff. Instead, you need to stir it up! Then you need to observe it (the Tantra practice of “Being the observer” and “witnessing” the experience. That’s the filter that lets you clear the sediment from your system.

Interestingly, chittras was also translated as “primordial feelings”. That really resonated with me. Because here, “primordial” doesn’t mean “feelings that were implanted in you a billion years ago”. Rather it means (to me, at least) “feelings stored in your primordial brain — your lizard brain. That’s the brain we all have, in the form of the limbic system.

That brain kept our lizard-ancestors alive for a few billion years, until consciousness developed. It’s a brain we all develop first, as we grew from embryo to a child. It’s a brain that feels pain and pleasure, that seeks to avoid one and repeat the other.

The thing about memories in that brain is that they are both pre-conscious, and pre-verbal. That is, they form before you conscious of yourself, and have memories of the world, long before you have any words to describe them.

I’m fortunate to have re-experienced some of those feelings in my Tantra sessions, which has allowed me to release them. The important bit here is that they are the sediments in the glass, and until they are stirred up, viewed, and released, they go on producing totally unconscious reactions to the events we experience.

Once we become aware of them, they become semi-conscious reactions. In other words, like breathing, they occur automatically, without conscious control — but we can exert conscious control, when we deem it to be desirable.

So the first step in healing is to bring such things to light. That means stirring the pot! That step gives a person a degree of self-determination, so they have a greater degree of choice in how they respond. And the more they release the traumas of the past, and the more they choose their state of being, the more they become quite literally unattached to past experiences that used to dominate their consciousness, without them ever being aware of it.

Dhyana = Meditation = Joy!

Another great concept. If you’re experiencing joy, you’re doing it right!

(That’s a pretty good description of my asana-and-meditation practice, too. So once again it would appear that I’m on the right track!)

As a learned from Tantra practice, energy flow = joy, joy = energy flow. In fact, a noticeable energy flow is pretty much a mini-orgasm! Talk about feeling good! :__)

Opposite of “Being Right”?

One lady mentioned she had a problem with her need to be “right”. We could all understand that, for sure. She asked what was the opposite of that?

She was clearly referring to the breath technique we learned last week, where as you inhale, you bring up what you want to release to the third eye, and then draw in it’s opposite. Then you expel what you want to release with each exhalation, and bring in its opposite with each inhalation.

By this time, though, everyone was focused on the Patanjali Paths, and they were trying to relate her question to that theme. There were some good answers, too: The need to be right is the opposite of contentment. The need to be right is a kind of emotional greed, and like that. All were accurate, but they didn’t seem to answer the question of what she could use in her meditation.

As I imagined the situation, about how much I need to be right, too, I thought about what I was generally feeling towards the person (who was clearly wrong!). Then it’s opposite came to me.

I raised my hand and said, “It occurs to me that the opposite of being right is being Love.” She looked over and gave me a big smile. I suspect she’ll be able to use that, when next she meditates and an aggravating situation is in the way. (I’ll check with her next week.)

The opposite of being right is being LOVE. Click To Tweet

Continuing Insights

Sat, 7 Oct: Cushioned Position

I sat on a low blanket during the last meditation session, so I wouldn’t put any strain on my knees. And I put cushions under my knees, as well. But after a few minutes, I discovered I had a problem — my hip muscles were working too hard to keep my upright!

This morning, it occurred to me that it was because my knees were higher than my hips. In that position, my hip muscles had to work to keep me upright. After a while, of course, they got sore. 

The solution then, when sitting in a cushioned position, is to ensure that your knees are level with your hips (as when sitting on a level floor) or slightly lower (as when sitting comfortably on the ground, where you utilize any slope or depression to achieve maximum comfort).

Sun, 8 Oct: Addicted to Meditation?

Found myself thinking about the rough week I had last week. It occurred that I may be somewhat addicted to meditation! There are worse things, of course. But if true, it means I need to get better at transitioning my meditation-state into normal life!

When I’m meditating — or doing my Yoga practice which has, in effect, become one long meditation, I’m very happy. And I’m positively ecstatic when I’m writing inspired — when I’m connected with a flow of ideas that seem to run into my head and down into my fingertips, even as I’m writing. But when I’m not doing either of those things, it feels like I’m mostly “marking time”. 

One of the books used in the Raja Yoga course, had an interesting take on that point: 

The first few minutes after meditation are especially important. Keep silence, if possible, and go about your tasks calmly while holding onto the inward peace of meditation. Feel that you are merely playing a role on God’s stage….Hold on to this portable paradise for as long as possible, extending it into your commute, your workplace, your whole life.
    —How to Meditate: A step-by-step guide, p. 89

Pretty good advice, that. :__)

Adrenal Exhaustion?

On the other hand, the rough week I had last week could be related to something like adrenal exhaustion. It takes a lot of coffee to get me really alert, these days. It probably indicates that I’ve used up adrenal reserves (again), and need to recharge them by returning to a rigorous program of nutritional supplements, and avoiding caffeine for a while. (That kind of program has always helped my mental outlook and energy levels in the past, at any rate.)

Mon, 9 Oct: Pollen or Pollution?

Feel pretty good this week. Which makes me wonder once again if last week was anomaly, which brought to mind a couple more thoughts:

  • Pollen?
    When I was gluten intolerant without realizing it, I used to get the “flu” 4 or 5 times a year — any time of year, even if no one else had it. I was sneezing and coughing, stuffed up, and muscles ached. In retrospect, I suspect that those episodes were allergic reactions to pollen by a system that “was on the edge”, and taken over that edge by the extra inflammation caused by the pollen. Since eliminating gluten from diet, I no longer have the sneezing or coughing or super-sore muscles to tell me I’m sick. But I do get super-fatigued a few times a year, for a week or so. It might be pollen in the air.
  • Pollution?
    Another possible cause is living on the West Coast. You’d think that wouldn’t be a problem, would you? What with the ocean being where most of the wind comes from, and all. But it turns out that here in the S.F. Bay Area, we’re right in the path of China’s pollution, under the right conditions. 

When I was working at a company, I often noticed that others felt down at the same time I did. That gave me a clue! But now that I’m semi-retired and working on my own, I’m not seeing others unless they, too, are feeling good enough to get up and about!

Tue, 10 Oct: Wealth will come when needed

Writing about the 8-Fold Path, I stumbled across this tidbit from the course notes that were handed out for the Raja Yoga class on the Yama non-stealing (physical) and non-covetousness (mental), where siddhi means “ability” or “power”: “Perfected Siddhi: Wealth will come whenever it is needed.”

That, in conjunction with my notes on non-sensuality and chittras, suggests that I have an unconscious fear factor that needs to be released, and a capability to develop like the one that Jesus suggested, to be “like the lilies in the field”, secure in the knowledge that God is clothing them in the finest raiments!

To be honest, although I have gone totally bankrupt several times, a job opportunity or support from friends has magically appeared, just in the nick of time! Kent Multer and Gary Albitz were two friends who helped me get over huge setbacks in the past. And good jobs did seem to magically appear just when I needed them. So maybe I have been protected — and blessed — all these years! :__)

The Job I Need

Accepting that it will take a while for any books I publish to become popular enough that they recoup their initial expenses — much less produce any kind of income, it becomes reasonable to look for a job. Now then: What kind of job?

There is only one possible answer to that: It must align with my goal! The goal, in this case, is generate a “core dump” of the things I’ve learned during my time here. I’ve learned a ton, so there is a lot to pass on. Any job that aligns with that goal is on target. Anything else is off target.

Of course, it’s also possible do something short term or part time, so I can return focus to my primary mission. But it can’t take my focus away for long! (The reason: Whatever I’m doing gets my full attention and background creativity! I was working on a couple of completely different books, before I began this Raja Yoga course. Since then, my personal practice has expanded exponentially!

The insights gathered during that process are being recorded in the book, augmented in some cases by insights recorded in this series. As a result, the other two books have come to a screeching (if temporary) halt!

One of those books was on how to fix America’s troubled political system. The other was on how to lose fat and restore health. But the one that has my attention at the moment is on meditative, “energy flow” Yoga. All three of them are sorely needed by the population at large! 

Our political problems and health problems are temporary, however. They will pass, in time. But the problem of spiritual growth has been and will be critical for a very long time! That’s the intellectual justification for the shift in focus.

But the real reason — the honest reason — is that I simply can’t help myself! When I new ideas arrive, I am driven to record them! Wherever my attention is meanwhile, is where the ideas arrive! It’s like I’m tuned to a particular channel. My background processes go to work on the problems, and either download or generate new ideas and solutions.

That’s why I have to be very careful about where and how I put my attention!

Golden Healing Light

Was reading more of the How to Meditate book before going to sleep. On page 121, I come across this:

Concentrate at the medulla oblongata (base of the skull, top of the spine)….Visualize light entering that point and flowing down the spine….use your will to direct a flow of life-force from the medulla, down your arms, and into your hands…Rub your hands together, crossing the poles (Left hand is magnetic South polarity, right is magnetic North. Rubbing them together crosses the poles and, like a generator, produces a flow of energy.) Feel the tingling sensation of the life force flowing from them….Place your hands near the area you want to heal….visualize a flow of light into the cells

A couple of pages later, on 123, it has this:

(To use the energy to heal others) concentrate on the flow of energy, feeling it as warmth, or visualizing it as light…(also) you can visualize energy flowing from your spiritual eye into the spiritual eye of the other person.

Interestingly, I somehow missed the last half of the second statement, where you direct the energy from your spiritual eye to “the spiritual eye of the other person”. What I got from it was “you can flow energy from your spiritual eye” and “you can use it to heal”.

As I was going to sleep, I felt energy coming in at the Mouth of God (another name for the base of skull/top of the spine). And it was a golden light. (That was interesting, all by itself. I had heard that Sun energy coming in at the top was a golden, like the Sun, but had never before actually seen it.)

From there, I was directing that energy from the 3rd eye to my poor knee, which needs so much healing. (It’s getting there, too! The Vibration Healing technique is helping a lot.) And as I did this practice, I swear it felt better! And I swear it was a teensy bit better the next day. :__)

Moringa + CoQ10!!

I seem to have stumbled across a solution for the energy problem, the Circadian Rhythm problem, and the weight loss plateau.

It started when I was sent an article to link to, on the subject of Leptin Resistance. (Leptin is hormone that turns off hunger.) The suggestion was that I link to it from article on Fructose. It was a good article, so I did.

Reading it, one of the suggestions was having a “cheat day” — probably better called a “feast day” — at least once a week, to overcome “leptin resistance”. 

I need a bit more understanding of what the actual process is, I admit. (I don’t think the descriptions I’ve been reading are necessarily accurate.) But tracking down the articles it referenced led me to one on the thyroid.

Here was the interesting thing: It seems that a lack of thyroid hormone could cause problems in one of several areas, depending on where it was missing. One of them was this: “If it’s missing in the mitochondria, you get cold and don’t lose weight”. The mitochondria are the little cellular furnaces that burn fuel to create energy, so basically the situation is that you’re not burning fuel, so you’re not staying warm and you’re not losing weight.

But if, out of the long list of symptoms associated with thyroid deficiency, those were the only ones I experienced, then maybe the issue is with the mitochondria, rather than with the thyroid!

I was then reminded of two things:

  1. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that de-toxifies the mitochondria.
  2. Moringa is a Chinese herb one doctor gave me when I had the flu. When I took it, my temperature shot up like a rocket!

So I now had an explanation for the middle-of-the-night freezing I’ve been doing lately, and for the weight loss plateau I’ve been on. I immediately started taking coQ10 and Moringa.

The effect, I’m happy to say, has been electric. I’ll be more certain by the end of the week, but right now energy levels are very high!

That’s good, because it’s the middle of the afternoon. Apparently (it is said) “thyroid problems” can also result from Circadian Rhythm problems. But right at the moment, I suspect that what they’ve seen is a correlation, and that they have confused cause with effect. 

It makes sense. If you are low-energy during the day, you exert yourself less, and are less tired at night. Plus, you’re likely to take a nap during the day, all of which can throw off your Circadian Rhythm.

But with the mitochondria humming, mental and physical activity during the day is no problem! So in “one swell foop” as my girlfriend liked to say, I seem to have fixed energy issues, the weight loss plateau, and Circadian Rhythm problems. It makes me more positive too, knowing that when/if I do need to take a job, I’ll have the energy to perform! (When I was sleeping several times during the day, the prospect seemed bleak!)

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