We can consider perception, all our experience, to be a celebration of the elements.
This body is made of earth and gold,
Sky and stars, rivers and oceans,
Masquerading as muscle and bone.
Every substance is here:
Diamonds and silver, magical elixirs,
Ambrosia that gives visions,
Herbs that nourish and heal.
The foundation of the planet,
Immortal magnetic iron,
Circulating in the blood.
Every element in you loves the others:
Earth loves rain, sky loves sun,
Sun loves the space it shines through,
Space loves everyone equally.
In meditation, luxuriate in knowing this deep
and simple truth.
Every cell is an organ of sense
Infused with majesty.
sarvaṁ deha gataṁ dravyaṁ
viyad vyāptaṁ mṛgekṣaṇe |
vibhāvayet tatas tasya
bhāvanā sā sthirā bhavet || 47 ||
sarvam deha-gatam dravyam
vi-bhaavayet tatas tasya
bhaavanaa saa sthiraa bhavet
Here is a brief glossary - just the dictionary entries for each word, from the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Further meaning could be built if we consulted specialized Tantric lexicons. You can see where the imagery in the Sutra comes from.
Sarva—whole, entire, all together, completely, in all parts, everywhere.
Deha—the body. Form, shape, mass, bulk (as of a cloud). Person, individual. Appearance, manifestation.
Gata—gone away, departed, disappeared, come forth from. Having walked a path. Spread abroad. Diffusion, extension, celebration.
Dravya—a substance, thing, object. The ingredients or materials of anything. Medicinal substance or drug. Elementary substance. Spirituous liquor. Gold. A stake, a wager.
Viyat—being dissolved, passing away, vanishing. The sky, heaven, air, atmosphere. ether (as an element). In music, a kind of meter.
Vyapta—spread through, pervaded, extended, covered or filled with, thoroughly occupied or penetrated by, as the universe by spirit. Filled up. Wealthy, rich. Celebrated, famous. Open, expanded.
Mṛgī—female deer or antelope, doe. Name of the mythical progenitress of antelopes. A particular class of women. A kind of meter. A particular gait of a dancing girl.
Mṛgākṣī - a fawn-eyed woman.
akṣan - the eye. An organ of sense.
Vibhava—any condition which excites or develops a particular state of mind or body, any cause of emotion. A friend, acquaintance.
Bhāvanā—promoting anyone’s welfare. Imagining. Forming in the mind, conception. Meditation. Feeling of devotion, faith in. Reflection, contemplation. Saturating any powder with fluid, steeping, infusion.
Sthira—motionless, still, calm, steady.
And the core word Bhāva—becoming, being, existing, occurring. Turning or transition into. True condition. Reality. Love, affection, attachment. Heart, soul, mind. That which is or exists, thing or substance, being or living creature, all earthly objects. Wanton sport, dalliance. The world, universe. An organ of sense. The Supreme Being. Contemplation, meditation.
*Mṛgekṣaṇe is a term of endearment, "doe-eyed one." That would be a fair, literal translation, and doe-eyed is an expression in English meaning, "having large, gentle, dark eyes." There are pages on the internet listing female celebrities with the most alluring doe eyes: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Penélope Cruz, Katy Perry, Sophia Loren, and others. The Macmillian dictionary listing is, "someone who is doe-eyed has big attractive eyes and looks as if they do not have much experience of life." That would be an insider joke when speaking to the Goddess of the Universe. There are over two hundred *mṛgi related words in Sanskrit, such as mṛgalocanī, "deer-eyed, the moon, a fawn-eyed woman,"mṛgaketana, "the moon," mṛgarāja, "king of beasts," and mṛgodbhava, musk. Mṛgadāva is a "deer-park, name of the place where Gautama Buddha first preached."
The listing for mṛgī begins with "a forest animal or wild beast." So the image suggests, "My wild one, whose glance melts my heart."Another expression of this in English would be "adorable one." I let the softness of this shape the language of the elements loving each other. Mṛg is "to chase, hunt, pursue. To seek, search for or through, investigate, examine. To visit, frequent. To seek or strive after, aim at, endeavor to obtain. To desire or request or ask anything." This invokes the sense that the lovers are always seeking each other, and also refers to the posture the Goddess has taken in asking questions of Shiva — Devi has taken on the embodiment of a seeker, for the sake of the conversation.
Love Is a Practice
by Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine
Love is an energy, a Shakti, that calls us to unify ourselves internally, merge body and soul, and form a relationship with another being. There are many forms of love: the kind of love we have for a friend, a sexual partner, a family member, and the profound, unconditional love we share with a pet.
Great skill is required in every moment of love. Each relationship asks to be cherished and held in our awareness in a particular way; it requires balance of a specific kind, and uses different emotional muscles. A love relationship is a type of asana flow.
Love is a particular practice of yoga – complex, demanding, and exhausting. It can also be the most meaningful and rewarding practice in the world. When we give our total attention to someone, a special quality of spaciousness and tranquility can emerge.
In the love song between Shiva and Shakti called The Radiance Sutras, we hear:
Love is particular.
When you love someone,
A tangible, touchable someone,
The whole world opens up.
If you want to know the universe,
Dare to love one person.
All the secret teachings are right here—
Go deeper, and deeper still.
The gift of concentration
Is the spaciousness that surrounds it.
Focus illuminates immensity.
vastvantare vedya māne
sarva vastuṣu śūnyatā
tām eva manasā dhyātvā
vidito 'pi praśāmyati
Constructing an approximate pronunciation:
taam eva manasaa dhyaatvaa
viditah api pra-shaamyati
Consulting the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, we see:
Vastu - becoming light, dawning. The seat of any really existing substance or essence. In philosophy - the real, opposed to that which does not really exist, the unreal. The right thing, a valuable or worthy object. In music, a kind of composition. The essence or substance of anything. Antare - amidst, among, between. Vedya - notorious, celebrated. To be learned or known. To be recognized. Relating to the Veda. To be married. Sarva - whole, entire, all, every, everything, all together, in all parts, everywhere. Sunyata - emptiness, loneliness, desolateness, distraction. Nothingness, non-existence, non-reality, illusory nature of all worldly phenomena. Sunya - void of results. Bare, naked. Guileless, innocent. Space, heaven, atmosphere. Tam eva - that indeed. Manas - mind in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense, the faculty or instrument through which thoughts enter or by which objects of sense affect the soul; the breath or living soul which escapes from the body at death. Thought, imagination, invention, intention, affection, desire, mood, temper, spirit. Dhyana - meditation, thought, reflection. Mental representation of the personal attributes of a deity. Vidita - known, understood, perceived. Information, representation. Api - and, also, assuredly. Prasam - to become calm or tranquil, be soothed, settle down. To make subject, subdue, conquer.
The imagery in these definitions suggests the poetic truth, a language of the heart:
Love is light. This is real. This is essence. This is to be known. To love is to know. Everything is right here. The world is not real. This love is real, right now. My mind, my heart, my very breath, are focused on you. I am naked before you. I surrender, I am conquered by this love. I die into this love, I let go. The spaciousness around us is heaven.
This verse hints at the idea that when you love one tangible person or thing, everything else melts into nothingness. When meditating on that spaciousness, the mind is able to rest in tranquility.
These are experiences that lovers know in the intensity of love’s flow. When you are with your cat, dog, boyfriend, girlfriend, mate, or child, and love streams through you, body and soul are united in loving attention. This yoga of love is a practice that occurs naturally to everyone who loves deeply.
When you focus on something that engages your entire interest, the mundane world dissolves and all your troubles are forgotten. You melt into the spaciousness that is holding you both. This is wonderfully peaceful. You are walking on air. This tranquility, however brief, is a nectar, a magic food that soothes the nerves and gives strength to keep on loving. The total involvement of our full capacity to perceive opens the doorway into the surprising moments of communion when the outer world fades away into an illusion and we realize, “this is heaven.”
In order to love fully, we need to utilize all of our senses – vision, hearing, balance, motion, touch, smell, and taste. For example, our bodies are permeated with sensors—stretch receptors that inform us of how far we are extending as we move. We also have a sense of heart-stretch, and through this sensation, we are called to say ‘yes’ to the ache of loving. The heightened sensory appreciation we cultivate through practice lights up our inner pathways, so that we learn how to go inside and draw on greater reserves of strength and forgiveness. Savoring the moments of tranquility soothes us, so that we can practice graceful responses beyond mechanical reactivity of fear and anger.
When we adore someone, we even love their idiosyncracies, all of their weird but charming quirks: the sound of their laughter, the way they want to be touched, the way they perceive the world. We delight in their ever-evolving soul expression.
Love is a perpetual meditation as we cherish those we love and hold them in our hearts. In this sutra, Shiva is pointing out that any object we love and attend to wholeheartedly is a worthy mantra or doorway into practice. The tools of yoga meditation can be used with any perception – shift from the outer physical level to the subtle essence and then into heavenly spaciousness.
*This approach to Sanskrit, of listening to the poetic resonance inside it, could be termed a “semantic field” (SA) analysis, as contrasted with a grammatical analysis (GA.) A GA analysis of this verse might be, “When you perceive a particular object, all other objects will melt into nothingness. Meditate on that nothingness and rest in tranquility.”
**Thanks to Dr. John Casey for consulting on the pronunciation.
Dr. Lorin Roche began practicing yoga and meditation in 1968 as part of scientific research at the University of California. His first taste of practice was with the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra as a guide, and it has been a daily love affair ever since. He is the author of Meditation Made Easy and The Radiance Sutras.
Camille Maurine is a dancer and author, with Lorin, of Meditation Secrets for Women. She teaches a global online course based on the book, visit camillemaurine.com.
Lorin and Camille train meditation teachers worldwide and also work with individuals to develop meditation practices that go with their essential nature. Visit lorinroche.com. On Facebook look for The Radiance Sutras. Twitter @lorinsez, for Sanskrit word of the Day. For information about Meditation Teacher Training, go to meditationtt.com.
102 BLOCKHEADS AND BARBARIANS
Meditation by Lorin Roche
Placing your mat in class, the teacher gives you a spiteful look. You don’t know it, but her ex-husband, to whom she is paying alimony, was walking out the door as you walked in, and she saw you smile at him. Driving to work, you slow down and give lots of space to a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street. The driver behind you does not see the pedestrians and leans on the horn in rage. Shopping for food, you block the aisle as you get lost in reading labels. You look up and someone is standing there acting as if you are ruining their day – you’ll never find out that they were alone and depressed all morning, and that flashing a bit of anger is actually a step up the vitality ladder from the gloom they were in.
You are supposed to be hurt at these insults. You are supposed to get angry in return and have a bad day. But what if you don’t respond? What if you don’t give random people power over your inner emotional state?
In The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Shiva says:
It’s always the same.
Barbarians and blockheads,
Rival queens and rival kings,
The drama rolls on and on.
When people honor you,
You are supposed to be glad.
When they disrespect you,
You are supposed to sulk in indignation.
One minute you are cruising on a throne in the sky,
The next you are standing on some bleak patch of dirt.
I say, the Sun regards all with a steady eye.
The force sustaining Earth and Sky
Calls everyone to awaken from this trance.
This whole world revolves around an axis, and I am that.
When you are friends with the Friend to All Beings
Nothing is the same.
Rich beyond measure, abundant beyond counting,
You can move through this life laughing.
Opinions of others have no rulership over you
samah shatrau cha mitre cha samah maana–ava-maanayoh
brahmanah pari–poornatvaat iti jnaatvaa sukhee bhavet
The Sanskrit here sounds like the plot of a daytime soap opera: mānahas a range of meanings including “opinion, arrogance, indignation excited by jealousy, sulking, blockhead, an agent, a barbarian.”
- sama - smooth, flat. Same, always the same, equal, like to or identical. impartial towards. Easy. Peace. In music, a kind of time. "On level ground "
- śatru - an enemy, rival, a hostile king. The sixth astrological mansion.
- ca - also
- mitra - a friend, companion. In the Rig Veda, Mitra is described as calling men to activity, sustaining Earth and Sky and beholding all creatures with unwinking eye.
- māna - opinion, notion. Self-conceit, arrogance, pride, a wounded sense of honor, anger or indignation excited by jealousy (esp. in women), sulking. In astronomy, the name of the tenth house. Also a “blockhead; an agent; a barbarian.”
- vimāna - devoid of honor, disgraced. Disrespect, dishonor. Traversing. A car or chariot of the gods , any mythical self-moving aerial car.
- brahman - literally "growth, expansion, evolution, development, swelling of the spirit or soul." Outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods. The sacred word, as opposed to the word of man. The sacred syllable OM. Spiritual knowledge. The brahma or self-existend impersonal Spirit, the One Universal Soul or one divine essence and source from which all created things emanate.
- pari - round, around, abundantly, richly.
- pūrṇa - filled, full, filled with or full of, abundant, rich, fulfilled, finished, accomplished, ended, past, concluded (as a treaty), contented, drawn (in augury). Full-sounding, sonorous and auspicious, said of the cry of birds and beasts.
- jñā - to know, have knowledge, perceive , understandexperience, recognize. To recognize as one's own, take possession of, intelligent, having a soul, wise.
- sukha - ease, easiness, comfort, pleasure, happiness, pleasant, agreeable, gentle, comfortable, prosperous. Originally, “having a good axle-hole,” running swiftly or easily. In music, a partic, mūrchanā, of one of the 9 śaktis of śiva. In astrology, the name of the fourth house. Joyfully, willingly.
- bhavet - becomes. (representing a possibility, a hoped-for state, a potential “It could become.” From bhava - becoming, being, turning or transition into, true condition, temperament, any state of mind or body, way of thinking or feeling, intention, love, affection, attachment; the seat of the feelings or affections, heart, soul, mind.
This sutra points to a daring level of equanimity that any of us can inhabit, spontaneously or intentionally. Sometimes we find ourselves full of our own sukhi, our own pleasure, and just don’t have time to join other people in their bad moods. We can also set an intention to explore equanimity. A good time to set an aim is at the end of your meditation time in the morning. Take fifteen seconds and say to yourself, “Just for today, I am not going to let other people control my inner life. Other people can have whatever mood they are in. I am going to be in mine.” Say it in your own language, in a way that is intriguing to you: “I am interested in learning about equanimity.” Or even, “God, Great Spirit, teach me about joy and emotional freedom.” Rest your attention on this thought at the end of your morning meditation practice. Then prepare yourself for interesting changes in your emotional reactiveness during the day. You might find that you suddenly step into a new kind of internal stability.
Whenever we set any such intention, we embark on a road of adventure in which we remember, and forget, and remember again. In the morning, we are all set with our emotional freedom, and by noon, we have been jostled and impinged upon and we forget. Setting an intention never means we are perfect, it just means we are asking life to teach us about a topic – we have signed up for that class. No one comes to yoga because they are already perfect.
You also might find interesting challenges – Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House advisor, said recently, “If somebody’s trying to get you angry, the calmer you get, the angrier they’ll get.”
This sutra is a hint that after meditation, you can keep favoring the inner happiness and fullness percolating up from your deepest bhava(becoming, existing, transition into.) Let the soap opera continue on its own, without you - all the other actors will be fine. And why not give everyone a free pass to be a blockhead once in awhile?
The Marriage of Passion and Peace
A meditation on lust, anger, bewilderment, and intoxication
By Dr. Lorin Roche
She drives you wild, out of your mind. You are crazy over him. She cast her spell over you. You’re thinking with the brain in your pants, not the one in your head.
There you are, talking to someone, when suddenly a sweet erotic tingle begins taking over your attention. Or an obstacle appears and you are mad, aflame with anger. Your blood boils, you want to blow your top. A conversation goes south and your mind is swirls with confusion. Now you are missing your loved one, with a palpable tug of yearning on your heart. You don’t know WTF is going on, but you know you have chakras, because they are spinning.
We have an app for that, says Shiva. Welcome to the Yoga of Passion. Game on.
Desire, lust, longing –
Anger humming in your blood.
Confusion, jealousy, bewilderment,
Swirling in your head.
Catch the first hint as passion rises,
The first quickening heartbeat.
Embrace that vibrancy
With a mind vast as the sky.
Witness the elemental motion of emotion –
Fire burning, illuminating,
Water gushing, cleansing,
Air inspiring, soothing,
Earth supporting, holding,
Space expanding, embracing.
Go deeper still and rest in essence,
Awake to infinite spiritual energy
Surging into form
buddhiṃ nistimitāṃ kṛtvā tat tattvam avaśiṣyate || 101 ||
kama - wish, desire, longing, love, affection, pleasure, enjoyment, sexual love, sensuality, The God of Love (the god who grants all desires), a stake in gambling, a species of mango tree, a kind of temple.
krodha - anger, wrath, passion, a name of the mystic syllable hum or hrum, the name of a sruti in music.
lobha - perplexity, confusion, impatience, eager desire for or longing after, covetousness, cupidity, avarice, greed.
moha - loss of consciousness, bewilderment, perplexity, distraction, infatuation, delusion, error, folly, fainting, stupefaction, a swoon, darkness or delusion of mind, a magical art employed to bewilder an enemy, wonder, amazement.
mada - hilarity, rapture, excitement, inspiration, intoxication, ardent passion for.
mātsarya - envy, jealousy, displeasure, dissatisfaction.
gochare - pasture ground for cattle, range, field for action, abode, dwelling-place, district, offering range or field or scope for action, within range of, accessible, attainable, within the power, the range of the organs of sense, anything perceptible by the senses.
buddhi - the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions, intelligence, reason, intellect, mind, discernment, judgment; perception - of which 5 kinds are enumerated, comprehension, apprehension, understanding, presence of mind, ready wit, an opinion, view, idea, conjecture, thought about or meditation on, intention.
nistimitām - motionless, without agitation.
kritva - having done this.tattva - true or real state, reality, element or elementary property, essence of substance of anything.
avashishyate - remains.
The Sanskrit here is amazingly condensed. This one word, kama, represents desire, love, sex and sensuality in all forms. Kama also hints at that reckless gambling impulse, the urge to risk it all, to go for it, throw away the life you know and follow your heart. The verse rocks on from there. In sixteen syllables, the first line lists a whole range of passion and wildness, inviting us to notice whenever any of these become perceptible, come into the range of the organs of sensing.
The second line says, bring your ready wit, your best intentions. Call upon your intelligence. Use your mentality and wake up to the Great Reality.
Passions are activated when we care deeply, when we are committed, when we connect intimately with someone or something. Inside every passion is a blessing, an impulse of life evolving itself. Love is a force of connection; lust makes the hooking up of bodies feel sacred, delicious, delirious. Anger is a hum and hruumm of mighty power whose job is to blast through any obstacles in the way. The ache of longing calls us to meditate on whatever or whoever we are missing. Infatuation and wonder take us beyond our narrow scope and make us feel we are in the presence of something amazing. There is a rapture to hilarity and even intoxication that loosens the tight hold of everyday consciousness and makes us forget who we are, so we can discover ourselves anew.
Shiva gives 112 yoga practices (yuktis) in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, and this one is saying, use every bit of your skill in yoga to perceive the magic of passion. Use your appreciation of breath (prana), the centers along the spine (chakras), bring your awareness of the song of life (mantra), and savor your passion in the moment that it first becomes a tingle in your senses.
When we notice passion in its initial rising, in the first couple of heartbeats as the juice begins to flow, we have freedom in how to shape our expression. Lust, anger, greed, amazement, hilarity - we must choose a way to express these intense energies of life in a way that is appropriate, ethical, and beneficial to us and everyone around. If we do find it necessary to blow things up - leave that job or relationship, make dramatic changes in our life, we try to minimize the damage. This is intensely challenging. Yogic awareness raises the stakes – more is asked of us in terms of discernment. We can get slapped harder by karma when we make mistakes.
Lust is a life-giving, creative energy - without it, you wouldn’t be here; the human race would have died out long ago. Every surge of passion is created out of the divine Shakti in action, the energy of life that is sublime in its essence. In the intensity of desire, the fireworks of sex, wrath or intoxication, your inner world becomes a physics experiment, a Particle Accelerator, displaying the elements of life, so enjoy the show. In this yoga practice, find your deepest serenity, bring it to embrace and penetrate your wildest passion.This is the mating dance of life and consciousness.
Meditation in Motion
Dr Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine
Just for a moment, let’s set aside the notion that meditation is a practice of trying to be still and quiet the mind. Instead let’s consider that there are many different doorways into meditative experience, and quite a few involve delighting in motion.
For a few breaths, consider that everything about you is the primordial dance of the energies of life, pranashakti, always flowing, revolving, and moving to the beat of its own music. Right now, as you read this, your breath is flowing, blood is pulsing throughout your body, your brain is generating waves of electricity, nerves are sparking with signals and communing with each other, and trillions of cells are vibrating with the processes that go along with metabolism and maintaining life.
Your heart is a miracle of motion, beating perhaps 80,000 to 100,000 times a day, whether you are waking, sleeping, or dreaming, always intelligently adjusting its rhythm to how calm or excited you are and how much blood and oxygen the muscles need. Life is movement, patterned and organized, beautiful in its functioning. Living bodies breathe continuously, and adult humans breathe around 17,000 to 24,000 times a day.
The dynamic rhythm and flow of breathing is one of the classic doorways into meditation in the yoga tradition. In The Radiance Sutras (a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra), The Goddess and her lover Shiva are talking, and in a language rich in sensual imagery he sings to her:
If you want to know the life essence,
Simply explore what happens as you breathe.
As you exhale,
The breath of life flows up into heaven,
Where it came from.
As you inhale,
The breath of life flows downwards
To spark the genitals,
The sacred creative center within.
This teaching begins with four words in Sanskrit, urdhva prana adhah jiva
Looking in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary, we see:
Urdhva is “upward moving, rising, to go upwards into heaven.”
Prana is “filled, full. The breath of life. Vitality.”
Adhas is “below, down, in the lower region, the pudendum muliebre” (an archaic term for vulva), “the external genitals of the female, specifically the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, and vestibule of the vagina.”
Vestibule means “a small entrance hall or passage between the outer door and the interior of a house or building. In anatomy: a body cavity, chamber, or channel that leads to or is an entrance to another body cavity.”
Vestibules are used in churches and temples, and so an image suggested is, “The breath of life is continuously entering the temple to the Goddess which is right here in your body.”
As you inhale, the breath of life flows downwards through the body to the genitals, to the sacred space within.
Jiva means “the individual soul, the living or personal soul as distinguished from the universal soul,” and “the principle of life, the breath.”
Meditation is that activity in which, for a few moments, we stop taking this miracle of breathing for granted and consciously savor the flow of our own essential energy. Meditation practices invite us to fall in love with the movement of vitality and become immersed in its music. As we learn to appreciate the many levels of motion that are always dancing within, we become enraptured, and meditation becomes a quietly thrilling experience. For all these reasons, it is can be more useful to think of meditation as “savoring movement,” than as anything to do with stillness.
Breathing is rhythm, a play of opposites. Here we are invited to enjoy the play of prana, the universal breath of life and jiva, the individual soul, the way the breath of life condenses into our bodies. Another play of opposites is up and down—upward into the sky above you and downward into the brightness of the pelvis.
A good way to initiate yourself into this practice is to go outside, where you can feel the sky and earth, and take a standing posture. As you breathe out, let your hands flow upward along the front of your body to the area above your head. As you breathe in, let your hands float back down toward your pelvis. This is an easy gesture, as eloquent as conductors waving their hands as they direct an orchestra. Give yourself the freedom to experiment with different tempos and energies within this movement. For example, speed up and become more dynamic with your breath and motions, and then slow down until your moves are sublimely subtle and gentle. Explore tiny undulations of the fingers or spine as you do this. When you engage in this movement with awareness, you are joining with the primordial, creative flow of life. All levels of your being are woven together, and each pulsation of movement can become a revelation.
After you get the sense of this wonderful flow, you can continue the movement in any posture—walking, dancing, or even sitting or lying down. Exhaling upwards, offer your breath to infinity. Inhaling downwards, receive the nourishing fullness of your individuality. This is a handy practice to do when traveling, to give yourself the feeling of simultaneously being at home in yourself and on an adventure.
There is a yogic practice called japa, “whispering, murmuring prayers.” If you want to do a japa practice, then as you exhale, whisper the word prana to yourself and notice your relationship to the mystery of universality. Follow the motion upwards from your heart into heaven. As you inhale and receive the breath, whisper jiva and notice your relationship with the mystery of individuality. Allow your attention to travel down from the space above your head to the heart, to the area between your legs, and even to your feet. Every place in the body is spiritual and sacred.
If you prefer to do japa in English, you could make up some statements based on the definitions of prana and jiva. Breathing out, quietly celebrate, “I am part of the life of the universe.” Breathing in, be in awe of the experience that, “I am a living soul, an individual.”
As you get used to the pulsation of upward and inward flowing breath, add another motion: tilt the head back slightly as you breathe out, so you are facing upward, then tilt the head downward slightly as you inhale. This adds another subtle dimension to the kinesthetic richness of experience.
The rhythm of the breath happens thousands of times a day. When you spend just a few minutes in this delight and wonder, the other 99 percent that you take for granted are also subtly transformed.
Embracing how much movement we actually are is a great art. Attune your awareness to the flow of vitality in your body, and you will get a sense of being simultaneously at ease in yourself and excited to be alive. When we take this approach of meditation as immersion in the dance of life, then each moment of practice becomes like traveling, flying, and journeying through surprising inner landscapes.
Dr. Lorin Roche began practicing with the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra in 1968 as part of scientific research on the physiology of meditation. He has a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language of meditative experience. He is the author of The Radiance Sutras and Meditation Made Easy. With his wife, Camille Maurine, he wrote Meditation Secrets for Women.
Camille is a dancer and meditation teacher exploring the creative intersection of dance, meditation, and yoga for over four decades. Beginning in 1975 with TransDanceFormations, her work has evolved to include kinAesthetics and Moving Theater of the Soul. Lorin and Camille train meditation teachers worldwide and offer a meditation teacher training program that is registered with Yoga Alliance.
by Dr Lorin Roche
Did you know that certain forms of meditation can give you a deeper rest than deep sleep? There are actually thousands of techniques that are all lumped together under the name “meditation,” and each one has somewhat different physiological effects – some are not very restful, and focus on vigilance instead. But there is one approach we can call effortless meditation that has been studied in depth by scientists.
For many years, those who use this approach of effortlessness have been going into medical and physiology labs to be tested. Scientists like to measure things, and oxygen consumption is one index of how hard the body is working – it goes up when we exercise, and down when we are relaxing and resting. For example, during sleep, oxygen consumption decreases gradually over the first few hours, until it arrives at about an eight percent reduction after four or five hours. According to research conducted at UCLA and replicated at Harvard Medical School, during meditation the body settles into a state of wakeful restfulness which correlates to a 10 to 17 percent decrease in oxygen consumption. This happens within the first three minutes of meditation.
Think of the deepest, most refreshing sleep you have ever had. Now double that and consider what it would be like to have access to that in three minutes whenever you want. Immediate access to this profound and restorative repose is one of the great gifts of meditation. When I am rested, the world is a different place – colors seem brighter, food tastes better, the wind and sun feel more wonderful touching my skin, and my overall experience is delicious. My mood is steadier and buoyant energy arises steadily from within.
We all need rest, and we have all had the experience of waking from a deep slumber with a sense of being renewed. And we have all had the opposite experience when we don’t get enough rest, and feel miserable and exhausted. Sleep allows the body to repair itself and tune its circuits. When we work our muscles hard, in athletics or yoga, we may need extra sleep, because that is when the body can repair damaged muscle fibers. If you are not getting enough sleep, you might be denying your body the time it needs to repair everything. While we are sleeping, the brain integrates what has been learned the previous day so the skills we are practicing become more readily available.
Sleep is powerful. And meditation is powerful. Think of meditation not as a substitute for sleep, but an additional way of allowing life, the intelligent functioning of pranashakti, to restore and revitalize us, body and soul. Pranashakti loves to lead us into deep restfulness, and to heal and rejuvenate us while we are there. Meditation skills help us learn to cooperate with this restorative power of the life force, the healing and rejuvenating processes that happen everywhere in the body and mind while we are simply sitting there with our eyes closed. The skills of meditation allow us to access a built-in ability we all have, that is part of the body's innate healing powers. The scientific research indicates that people are naturally good at meditation, and that the shift into meditative relaxation happens rapidly.
If we look at what happens moment-by-moment during meditation, we see that there are at least three major phases of meditation that we flow through continually: 1) deep restfulness, 2) sorting through emotions and releasing muscular and nervous tension, and 3) rehearsing future actions. Each of these phases is an aspect of the restorative power of meditation and a gift of pranashakti. The restfulness creates conditions for the release of muscular and emotional tension, and then in that relaxed state, the body practices staying relaxed while choreographing your to-do list. One of the essential skills of meditation is welcoming and cooperating with these phase changes. When you welcome these surprising and unexpected phase changes, you stay in a deeply restful state on a physical level even when your muscles, nerves, and emotions are healing.
Each phase has its challenges. With the “resting” phase, trying to meditate backfires, just as trying to go to sleep makes you stay awake and struggle.
The “sorting emotions and releasing tension” phase is challenging, because in essence, whatever you do not want to face will come right up to be healed. The paradox of meditation is that you can’t relax without letting go of muscular tension – and when that tension in your nerves and muscles releases, you will feel uncomfortable sensations, and sometimes you will see intense mental movies about what has been making you tense. At the same time, it is a relief to sit relatively still and allow waves of relaxation flow through you and wash away the tension.
The “rehearsing future actions” phase is when you are completely immersed in the movie of your life, visualizing your to-do list, or rehearsing some action you want to perform. This process happens spontaneously, and your mind is not wandering, it is practicing being relaxed while mentally choreographing action. You don’t have a monkey-mind. After meditation, when you are out in life doing those things, the awareness and relaxation carry with you. “Yoga is skill in action,” as it is said in the Bhagavad-Gita. Remind yourself that this choreography is a practice and helps to bring the peacefulness and relaxation of meditation into your daily life. Don’t beat yourself up because you have an exciting to-do list.
These three phases – resting, sorting, and rehearsing – tend to cycle over and over, in unpredictable sequences whenever we meditate. Each is an aspect of the restorative and evolutionary functioning of pranashakti. A phase can last for twenty seconds or three minutes, and sometimes we may be just sorting emotions for half of our meditation time. What we experience moment-to-moment in meditation is always surprising. We are wild and serene at the same time. The next time you are lying on your mat in shavasana, or luxuriating on your sofa in meditation, remember these three phases and honor them. Welcome resting, welcome sorting, and welcome rehearsing. These are the three loves of pranashakti, each one is tuning you up for life, and each is a blessing.
Dr. Lorin Roche
When you look around at the world – your friends, your phone, your yoga mat – your eyes are absorbing tiny waves that oscillate trillions of times per second. We call these waves, “light.” When you talk on your cell phone or send texts, your phone is using waves that vibrate millions of cycles per second to send and receive signals. We call these “radio.” When you listen to music or to the voices of your friends, what you are hearing has the property of waves. Sound waves oscillate through the air, enter your ears, and sets things in there vibrating. The sounds we can hear are generally in the range from 12 cycles per second to tens of thousands. Your brain, meanwhile, has its own wave thing going on, generating alpha waves at 8 to 12 cycles per second.
As you breathe, the air is flowing in and out of your body as a kind of wave. Your heart, as it beats, generates a pulse or energy wave that travels through your circulatory system. All in all, there is a whole lotta wave motion going on, around you and inside you. No matter how still you sit, no matter how quiet the space around you or inside you, there are waves everywhere, on every level. Everything is pulsating. That is how rock and roll the universe is.
One of many Sanskrit words for wave is lahari, a large wave. Shankara, a meditation teacher from the 8th Century AD, composed a text in adoration of the Goddess called Anandalahari, “Wave of Enjoyment.” Ananda is defined as “happiness, joy, enjoyment, sensual pleasure.” If we accept the metaphors here, the suggestion is that meditation is not an attempt to flatten the waves; rather, find the waves you want to be carried by and ride those into contact with the Divine.
Tantras are conversations between the Goddess, and her lover Bhairava, also called Shiva. In the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Devi and Shiva are bantering, and he says,
Set your mind free to wander anywhere it wants,
Think any thought,
Ride any wave, surge in any direction.
The instant a thought springs up,
Abandon it and move on.
Don’t let the mind rest anywhere.
In this way, gain entry to the bliss
Of the silent depths beneath the surf.
- The Radiance Sutras
yatra yatra mano yāti tattattenaiva tatkṣaṇam |
parityajyānavasthityā nistaraṅgas tato bhavet ||
Checking in with Dr. John Casey for how to pronounce this tongue-twister, he patiently explains (in sound waves):
yatra–yatra mano yati tat–tat tena eva tat–kshaanam
pari–tyajya ana-vasthityaa nis–tarangah tatah bhavet
Cruising the always-amazing Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1899 edition), we see:
yatra - wherever; manas - mind in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers, intelligence, the spirit or spiritual principle, the breath or living soul, heart; yati - goes; tat- that; tena - in that direction; eva - so, indeed; ksana - instant, twinkling of an eye, leisure moment, opportunity, a festival, the center; tyaj - to leave a place; anavasthita - unsettled, loose in conduct; nis - out, forth, away; tara - carrying across or beyond, a raft, a road; taranga - "across-goer," a wave, a section of a literary work that contains in its name a word like "sea" or "river," a jumping motion, gallop, wave about; bhava - becoming, turning into, any state of mind or body, intention, love, affection, attachment, heart, soul, mind, wanton sport.
You could say, “Windsurf the waves, keep skipping from one thought wave to the next to the next, until you feel like jumping off the board and diving in.” This is such a surprising teaching considering the conventional, pervasive idea that you are supposed to make the mind blank. This wave technique is a cure for those who have made meditation a place of stagnation by trying to still the waves of thought and feeling. In this practice, the skill is to accept every motion, every wave. Skip from wave to wave until you are so exhausted you just dive into the ocean and become one with it all.
What is inner peace? Is it stillness? Or is it some way of being at home in the waves, a continual inner bodysurfing, riding the waves, dancing in and on them? This is a mystery, and it beckons. Although we can’t stop the wave motion, we can allow awareness to become more inclusive, all-embracing, so that we are at one with the ocean.
Meditation is deep practice, inviting us to savor the rhythm and flow of life, the wave motion of reality. The sense of stillness we crave and also resist –is not stillness at all, but motion so fast that we perceive it as still or solid.
Mantras are sound waves we can adore in our inner world, they invite us into the realm of spaciousness, the resonating vastness of consciousness. There we find something that feels like silence but is not – it is the space in which sound resonates. Breath meditations invite us to cherish the rhythm of respiration that is sustaining us and feeding us all day, every day. The universe is great art, and when we thrill to its allure, waves of pleasure flow through us. All is wave. Life is movement. When we learn the subtle skills of loving the wave motion of reality, the mind goes silent in awe of the exquisite beauty.
*Nature likes to be mysterious, and light waves can act like particles or photons when they feel like it. This is the wave-particle duality. “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics” - Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.
Pain as Portal
By Dr. Lorin Roche
Ouch. Ooooooowwwwwwwwwwwch. The mantra of pain.
Hurt happens. In sports, we can get blistered, sprained, sunburned, and bruised. When we are cooking, we can get cut, burned, shocked, stung, pepper in the nose, onion in the eyes. Love is a workout too, with its own injuries – heartaches that come as sharp pangs and stabs of pain, the sensation of being broken, loneliness that feels like a hole in your soul, the tearing when something in a relationship rips. Whatever your run, if you really go for it in life there will be some hurts along the path. We need to be able to make use of the pain, heal quickly, and be back on our way.
There is a yoga practice for injury, and it is simple and cruel: enter the pain. Use it as a doorway. Let it wake you up. In The Radiance Sutras, a new translation of the vijnana bhairava tantra, it is said:
Sting of a wasp
Rip of a nail
A razor’s slice
The needle’s plunge.
A piercing word
A stab of betrayal
The boundary crossed
A trust broken.
In this lacerating moment
Pain is all you know.
Life is tattooing scripture into your flesh,
Scribing incandescence in your nerves.
In this single searing point
Of intolerable concentration,
Wound becomes portal.
Dive through to the wild brilliance of the Self.
kiñcid aṅgaṁ vibhidyādau
tatraiva cetanāṁ yuktvā
bhairave nirmalā gatiḥ
Consulting the Oracle of Koln – the marvelous Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary online at the University of Cologne, we see language intense as pepper spray in this brief verse of 32 syllables. Let’s look at the complex images inside these words:
kinchit - a little, a bit
anga - a limb of the body, a member, the body; a subordinate division or department especially of science; a subdivision of mantra or counsel; in drama - the whole of the subordinate characters; an expedient; a mental organ, the mind.
vibhid, to split or break in two, break in pieces, cleave asunder, divide, separate, open, to pierce, sting, to loosen, untie, to break, infringe, violate, to scatter, disperse, dispel, destroy, to alter, change (the mind), to be split or broken, burst asunder, to be changed or altered, to cause to split, to divide, alienate, estrange
adau - in the beginning, at first
tiksna- sharp, hot, pungent, fiery, acid, harsh, rough, rude, sharp, keen zealous, vehement, self-abandoning, black pepper, sharp language, iron, any weapon, poison.
suci - a needle or any sharp-pointed instrument such as a needle used in surgery; a magnet, the sharp point or tip of anything or any pointed object, a rail or balustrade, a small door-bolt, a kind of military array," (placing the sharpest and most active soldiers in front"), an index, table of contents to a book, a kind of sex.
tatah, there, tatraiva - in that place, there, thither
cetana - consciousness, understanding, sense, intelligence
yuktva - joined, yoked, union, conjunction, absorbed
bhairava – A form of Shiva – “Frightful, terrible, horrible, formidable.”
nirmala - spotless, unsullied, clean, pure, shining, resplendent, bright, sinless, virtuous.
gatih - going, moving, path, way, course, manner or power of going. Acting accordingly, obeisance.
If we play with these definitions, rock ‘n roll them:
Whenever you experience vibidh - being split, broken into pieces, pierced, stung, infringed upon or violated in any anga or area of your life;
By some form of tiksna (a weapon, sharp language, poisonous words, harsh emotions) and in that shock and pain you are tempted to abandon yourself or leave your body; Here, right here is a yukti, a “yoga moment.” You can join with Bhairava, the aspect of universal consciousness that accepts our terror as an offering and a gateway; Unite with pure, shining universal consciousness, and begin to heal. The moment of wounding immediately produces a healing response from life.
We are many-bodied beings, with bodies corporeal, emotional, mental, and celestial. We have a physical body, anna maya kosha. We have an emotional body – to coin a phrase, vibhava maya kosha or “body of emotional drama.” Mano maya kosha is the mental body, and ananda maya kosha is the body of bliss. When we get injured on one level, it can throw us through a door in space-time into the next dimension. This happens spontaneously if you have been practicing yoga and meditation. It’s one of the gifts of yoga: the ability to quickly, almost instantaneously, relax into the pain-sensation, not tense around the pain, but open up.
Getting stronger on a physical level is a sweet science of being torn down and then rebuilt, getting injured and healing. When we work out, our muscle fibers suffer microscopic tears, and when we rest, the body rebuilds itself to be stronger than before. Resistance is our friend because the body organizes itself to meet whatever challenges it encounters. The healing process encodes wisdom into our cells, writes a song of healing into our flesh.
This is probably true of the subtle bodies as well as the physical. If you have a meditation practice, you may have noticed at times there are little or big jabbing sensations, as if you are being pierced by something sharp. Open-hearted people, who are emotionally connected to others, report this a lot. Usually this is the heart chakra healing from life’s little injuries, replaying the energetics of some torn connection and healing it on a deep level. Feeling the wound leads to healing, and there is a clue right there, an OM inside the OW.
A slight danger of yoga practice is that we can become too relaxed about pain, and too adept at using it as a means of transcendence. Self-torture has been associated with yoga for centuries. Back in the day, one of the standard images of yoga was of a skinny guy lying on a bed of nails. If yoga were an App back then, this would have been the icon. You’d see it in cartoons, greeting cards, and magic tricks. If you did yoga in the 60’s, you would get greeting cards with this image on your birthdays. Just do a search for “yogi bed of nails” and you’ll see ‘em. My feeling is, enough pain comes to us in the process of living. We don’t have to go seeking it. If we go for it in life, love, art, creativity, sports, and adventure, pain will come to us and we can skillfully deal with it.
When our reality gets punctured, this spontaneous mantra rises in us: Ouuuuch. It’s a particle of OM, calling out to the tribe, that one of us is injured. Calling out to life, “Heal me, I’m hurt here.” When we are hurt, physically or emotionally, the forces of life immediately start the healing process. The spontaneous kirtan of Oooouuuuu is a beginning. OM is the primal song of creation joyously expanding, and Ouch is the beginning of reconnecting with the joy of existence.