The practitioner of ‘yoga-meditation,’ assuming one has practiced properly and long enough, will eventually achieve two things.
1) The continued practice of yoga will result in a properly aligned spine and in the near effortless process of breathing in what is perceived as a continuous figure-8 pattern.
What is referred to as a ‘straight spine’ is actually the shape of an ‘S’. When one sits in a lotus and maintains the proper alignment of the spine, one can sit that way for an indefinite period of time. This alignment facilitates the flow of Kundalini energy through the spinal conduit; that is the ultimate goal of the devout yogi.
One learns to breath deeply and evenly, and it could be said that the breath is felt in the conduits of the spine and is instrumental in the process of its alignment. As the alignment is trued, the breathing becomes less and less of an effort until it is barely discernible.
This is necessary so that one can reach a state of perfect stillness which, of course, is never ‘perfect’ and that state of stillness is imperative for the process of true meditation.
2) The continued practice of the meditative process will result in the discovery of the Kundalini energy and in the ability to harness it.
Not to sound condescending, but when most people speak of ‘doing yoga-meditation,’ in conventional and contemporary settings, they are not really ‘doing meditation’. Yoga is taught in studios for superficial health and fitness purposes much like dance or working out. There is nothing wrong in that, except perhaps that the student might be led to believe that this is the sole purpose of yoga and that there is nothing more to it.
In such settings, very often, after a series of positions and movements, the class is told to sit or lie and ‘relax’, and there may or may not be some instruction on proper breathing and proper alignment of the spine, which is also conducive to what is known as ‘conscious relaxation’.
Conscious relaxation is a process in which every muscle and muscle group, the meanderings of the mind, and the emotional obtrusions are all acknowledged and willfully calmed, without drifting off or going to sleep. In fact, properly done, one maintains full awareness and alertness. It is in these initial exercises of relaxing intently that one begins to learn the essence of ‘perfect stillness’.
If you pause here for a minute and take in some deep breaths and let them out extendedly, you will notice quite a bit of movement in the body. It is from this point of awareness that the devout yogi begins to learn. And what we learn in the beginning is contemplation.
One does not meditate on or about any object or subject; one can contemplate the spine, the breathing, the present point in time, the goal … or one can contemplate on a flower, or a flame, or a rainbow, or a malady, or a relationship. In meditation, there is no object or subject … there is only awareness turning back upon itself.
To achieve this much may take a lifetime, depending on the student and the willfulness in one’s heart. It should be noted that the devout yogi does not pursue these practices with any ambition or sense of competitiveness; these qualities will only bring disappointment and probably cessation.
Think of it this way. One is taking a walk; ordinarily, one would have a destination in mind, even if it is just to return to the point of commencement. But for the yogi, that point does not exist in the present moment. As one raises one’s foot to take one of many steps, one might die for some reason right in the middle of that step. Ideally, the movement in that step was the only ambition, the only goal – not the completion of the step, but the process of taking it.
It has been said many ways by many people, but the Tao says it the simplest: The journey is the reward.
The following experience took place after I had spent a number of years in my own practice and pursuits, and then, after some years of further study and practice under the guidance of the people to whom I will be referring. Prior to this undertaking, I had been familiarized with the ‘inner consciousness’ by surfing on the blood stream through the various arteries and by subjecting that consciousness to the heartbeat from within; and I had ridden on the current of the breath, into the lungs, and followed its path into the cell structures of the brain.
In 1988, some time after my recruitment into an order of mystics, The Order of Shama’an, the most secretive and reclusive bunch of people I have ever known, I was guided through my first vision quest. I’m afraid that the only reference to location I am allowed is a mountainous area in the Great Northwest. To anyone who has read The Teachings of Don Juan, this will probably have somewhat familiar resonations.
After fasting all morning one day, I was led by 6 monastics, and we hiked up a mountain trail; I was given only a few sips of water along the way, and we walked until it was late afternoon. When we arrived at the location where my experience was to take place, I was given three almonds and told to savor them completely, one at a time, before chewing them up thoroughly and swallowing. I then was given water and told to rinse out all traces of them; we talked in a comforting and relaxed manner for perhaps 20 minutes, and then, I was instructed to brush my teeth (without toothpaste or other agent) and rinse thoroughly again.
I was then told to strip naked and given a brief-like garment, we practiced yoga, the evening came, a fire was built, it got late; and it wasn’t until the very early hours of the morning that a special blanket was set out for me to sit upon and to begin to contemplate. By this time, I was feeling very exhausted and weak, and I contemplated the blaze in front of me.
We sat in a wide circle around the fire, but as daybreak approached, the fire was allowed to dwindle and go out. One of the monastics had assumed a role of ‘keeper’ and ‘watcher’; he would be taking care of any needs or problems that might arise, while the others began to ‘om’. This was done in a relay manner, so that eventually, it seemed like an unbroken and continuous thread of sound.
One of the images that has stayed with me all these years, as that sound began to permeate into every aspect of my being, is the fire slowly dying and the white column of smoke rising; the fire went out, and I watched a final wisp of smoke rise and disperse. Now, there was nothing for me to contemplate but the constant sound of their chanting.
Whenever it seemed that I might pass out or lose the integrity of my posture, the ‘watcher’ would rub my lower back, with gentle upward strokes. The third or fourth time he did this, I began to sense something very interesting and difficult to describe. The reader must keep in mind that any elucidations I make from this point on are purely analogous; either the language or my fluency of it is inadequate or insufficient to give appropriate clarity.
I began to feel a series of ‘bubbles’ of some sort that would emerge from the very base of my spine, rise a few inches, and fade out. I heard a soft voice saying, “Contemplate this wonder.” And I did; it was somewhat orgasmic in nature.
These little sensations began to seem as bubbles of soft light – much like a Roman candle, but quiet and subdued. As my consciousness opened itself to this experience, the little orbs of light got brighter and rose higher along my spine. When they reached the central nervous system (CNS), in the nape of the neck, I felt what seemed like a silent explosion of white and golden light; the effects of this sensation reached into my shoulders, my arms, and into my hands and fingertips. It was electrical, prickling, and blissful.
Now, this ascension of light began to change into a continuous stream. The light-energy gathered momentarily in the CNS and then seemed to fill my head; and when it seemed that my head would hold no more, the energy simply erupted through the top and splayed out like a fountain of light.
I heard the voice saying, “Contain the light.” My state of consciousness was dream-like now, and all I did was think about it, so to speak; and the splay of light came together into an onion-like orb just above my head. I use the term ‘onion-like’, because this ball of light was still sort of ‘rooted’ in my head; and there was still a ‘spurt’ of discharge at the top of it. After contemplating this for a moment, I heard the voice say, “Enter.”
I felt my consciousness somehow, as it apprehensively moved into the sphere, and then suddenly, I was bathed in warmth and illumination. My sense of awareness of the external world was altered dramatically; I could sense all around me, above and below. And after contemplating that for another moment, I heard the voice say, “Rise.”
And now, I felt a sense of ascension; and soon, I was looking at the circle of monks, myself included, down below, from a distance of perhaps 100 feet above. There was a momentary feeling of vertigo, but it was quickly overcome by the feeling of exhilaration.
I could see a faint but distinct stream of white light coming out of the top of my head, and I recognized it as the often-mentioned ‘silver chord’. The consciousness within the orb of light can go anywhere – anywhere – and it remains anchored to the corporeal self by this chord of light. There are very few forces or agents that can sever the silver chord, but if it is severed, the separated ‘selves’ are doomed to uncertainty.
After I had floated around like a kite for what seemed like too short a time, I heard the voice say, “Draw the chord of light into yourself – slowly and gently.” And as I did this, I began to descend, until my consciousness was back in my head. I could hear the droning of the chant, and the memory of who I was and what I was doing returned gradually.
I felt a hand on my chest, patting on it gently and massaging in circles, and I opened my eyes to see the face of the ‘watcher’, smiling at me lovingly … and then, I passed out.
This was not the conclusion of this particular endeavor. The rest of it is described in another story, which is about ‘The Elephant and I’.