Balancing Practice


Balancing Practices

Contributed by Yogani


Q: I’ve been practicing Integral Yoga, off and on, for 35 years and
your teachings have help me tie up all those loose ends of how the
various practices blend together and help in the rise of bliss
consciousness. Especially on how to tie the Pranayama and Kundalini
with deep meditation. Spinal breathing is a powerful exercise. I’m 51
and I’m disabled with neurological damage and I’m on my own as far as
therapy goes. That’s one of the reasons I started practicing yoga
again. I gave the western doctors a chance and they shrugged. I get
around physically all right. I just don’t have the stamina or memory I
used too. What this also means is, I have all the time to devote to
my practice as I can handle.

I have been doing 1 1/2 hours of Hatha, followed by about a half hour
of Kundalini/Pranayama exercises and then 30 minutes of meditating on
samadhi. In the evening I just do a Kundalini warm up and then go
right into my sitting. I also work my philosophy into my life, Karma
Yoga, and do walking meditations, witness to people and read
uplifting scriptures.

About two weeks ago I decided to take my sitting meditation past the
half hour mark because my body was spontaneously coming out of trance
after about 20 minutes and I wanted to break that compulsion. I loved
it and I started meditating for a hour or more at a time. The silence
became absolutely profound and my brain started giving up trying to
interrupt me. I was getting so into the Now that I couldn’t tell how
long I was sitting once I got past the 30 minute mark. Then I had
this experience; My whole consciousness, not just my focus, traveled
down my spine and came out the bottom of my root chakra. I was trying
not to put any words to the experience but I had a vision of these
intertwined dancing figures unfolding towards me kaleidoscopically.
Then I was in this field of wildly dancing Shiva’s, then I gained
some distance and I saw my whole root chakra lit up and covered with
these waving cilia like things. (I think they were nerves radiating
off the root chakra.) I was moving back up the sympathetic system and
the whole root was lit with a yellow light with a blue aura around
it. I slowly drifted back up my spine and as I entered the brain I
could see my whole cerebral cortex lit up with the same light. It was
quite awesome. I wasn’t able to sleep at all that night but didn’t
feel that fatigued either.

I am making very good progress I think, and I’ve backed off a bit
because of a couple of problems. My sleep patterns have become
completely erratic, my mind is so stimulated I don’t sleep for more
than an hour at a time. I go into the dreamless state and its like as
soon as I start to dream I wake up. But if I get up and start moving
around I still feel fatigued. It’s like part of my mind is active and
part wants to sleep. Breaking ingrained habits upsets the flesh. I
get up for an hour then go back to sleep for an hour.

I was just going to accept the change in sleep patterns but then my
crown chakra started to open. I’ve had it open before so I knew when
I started feeling dizzy all day and I started to feel it tingle that
I was overcharging myself. I’ve read your discussion on crown chakra
and have had those Revelatory explosions before too. I’ve also been
involved with what one could call, shamanistic ecstatic practices, and
my nervous system is proving very sensitive to this process.

My question is mainly about pacing and the effect of meditation on
sleep patterns though. I have friends that have lucid sleep and are
aware of themselves sleeping and dreaming. Their awareness is a
witness to them sleeping.  How or when should someone lengthen the
amount of time spent in samadhi? Is it too unsettling to the system
to meditate for and hour one time and a half hour the next? I feel
consistency is preferable and have gone back to half hour sits.
Should one expect to develop that lucid sleep?

I know I am on the right path, I’ve always felt that a balance
between the ecstatic and ascetic was the best path. This system works
extremely well for me and I can feel the rising ecstasy inside me.
Part of me feels I should just sit until I attain nirvana, but the
other 95% says, “You’ll be pushing yourself too hard again.”

Thank you for your teaching and advice. You are truly a blessing to
us all. Ahimsa Om

A: Thank you for your kind note and sharing of your wonderful
experiences of growing enlightenment. I’m very happy you have found
the lessons to be helpful.

No matter how far along we are in yoga, we have to consider the
principles of self-pacing. I always knew this was true for me. Since
the AYP lessons and correspondences have been going on, it has become
clear that self-pacing applies to everyone. Yoga practice is a
balancing act between the desire/bhakti that drives us to do more
practice and the ability of the nervous system to purify and
acclimate to ever-increasing levels of energy. Since these lessons
have been underway, practitioners at all levels of experience have
confirmed this many times over. Prudent self-pacing is a necessity
for everyone.

I certainly don’t blame you for wanting to forge ahead. Challenging
circumstances have a way of spurring us to new heights. If we have
the time, we would like to do practices all day. But, contrary to the
stereotype of the yogi meditating in his cave for months and years on
end, it doesn’t work quite like that. The nervous system needs to
cycle between practices, activity and sleep to achieve the most
efficient transformation to higher functioning. It is a lot like
athletic conditioning. If we are a runner, we can’t expect to improve
our running ability if we run 24 hours a day, with no periods for
rest and rejuvenation — integrating the effect of our workouts into
our body functioning in a stable way. It is like that in yoga. If we
are doing practices all the time, or even just a bit too much, the
nervous system can get out of balance. The result will be too much
energy running around inside, which can take a toll on sleep and
other aspects of our life. Then our ecstatic bliss can get a bit
frazzled. It will be time to slow down, as you have done.

But still, we can and should increase our practices if we are called
to from within, if we have the time in our life to do it without
shortchanging our responsibilities.

The best way to increase practices is in small steps — baby steps.
With each new step we look to find a stable platform of practice that
we can sustain over the long haul. Jumping back a forth between long
and short practice routines is not usually conducive to long term
progress. The nervous system likes a steady diet of whatever we are
feeding it practice-wise, and it can get used to a very large diet of
practices if we train it up gradually. The athlete analogy applies in
this case as well.

So, if you are wanting to increase your time of meditation, try
adding on 5 minutes at a time, and wait a week or more before
stepping up again. The same goes for other practices. With each step,
the best measure will be in how we feel in daily activity. If
activity is smooth and radiant, well, that is just right. Give it a
week or two to be sure you are stable, and then think about taking
practice up another notch. If you go too far, it is not the end of
the world. You can step back a step or two in practices and wait for
things to settle down. In that way you can gradually find your
maximum comfortable routine.

I should also add that in “retreat” mode it is possible to increase
practices beyond our norm for days, weeks or months, and bring them
back down when we are coming off retreat mode. In retreat mode we
don’t increase our practice times in each sitting. Rather, we do more
sittings during the day with light activity in-between. See lesson
#193 for more on this.

Samadhi is something we are gradually cultivating as a full-time
experience. It is promoted primarily by meditation and samyama, and
secondarily by pranayama and other methods. As inner silence
(samadhi) comes up, we become more a silent witness to our other
three states of consciousness — waking state, dream sleep state and
deep sleep state. It happens as our nervous system becomes more
purified and we find our “self” to be inner silence present at all
times. Then the “lucid sleep” you mention becomes a normal part of
life. It is also called “yoga nidra.” In the early stages, witnessing
during sleep might feel like sleeplessness, because we are always
awake (aware) inside. Too much energy running around in the head from
overdoing practices, or doing them too close to bedtime, can also
feel like lucid sleep. The difference between witnessing sleep and
too much energy in sleep will be felt in daily activity. With
witnessing, we will feel refreshed during the day. With too much
energy running around, we will feel a bit tired and frazzled, even as
the energy keeps going on — time to ease up on the gas pedal in that
case. Of course, it is possible to have a mixture of inner silence
and energy excess during sleep also. Regardless of the reason, if we
are getting behind on our rest due to our yoga, self-pacing in
practices should be applied. 

The witnessing experience will come up naturally with daily practices
over time, and there is not much more to do about it in the AYP
approach. Some traditions focus on developing lucid (witnessing in)
sleep. In AYP we just let it come up naturally over time as part of
the overall rise of inner silence. Then we have it all the time, and
it is no big deal. It is the first stage of enlightenment. See
lessons #35 and #85 for a review of enlightenment milestones.

These are some of the fine points on dealing with advanced
experiences of inner silence and ecstatic bliss. When it comes to
optimizing our practices, it boils down to good self-pacing whether
it is “day 1” of our practices, or “day 10,001.” That is how we keep
going forward along the road to enlightenment. Our nervous system is
the car, the methods of yoga are the easy-to-use controls, and we are
the driver.

An unmistakable indication of our rising enlightenment is when we get
up from practices and forget about our luminous inner experiences
altogether because we are too busy helping others. That is when the
energy is pouring out from us in the form of pure divine love. Then,
for us, all the world is illuminated with ecstatic bliss, and we know
ourself and everyone to be That. Then the journey we are on as an
individual has become the same journey humankind is on, and it is
about love, love, love! That is coming into unity, the third stage
of enlightenment.

It is a great honor to have you here. I wish you continuing success
on your chosen spiritual path. Enjoy!

The guru is in you.

Highly recommended! An open and integrated system of advanced yoga practices is offered here which will unfold natural ecstatic radiance. The techniques act directly through heart, mind, body, breath and sexuality. Practices taught in the lessons include deep meditation using an efficient universal mantra, advanced spinal breathing pranayama methods, and an integration of hatha, kundalini and tantra techniques, all for steadily cultivating inner peace and enlightenment through daily practice. Everyone is encouraged to go at their own speed in taking on new practices. Much attention is devoted in the lessons to developing skills in “self-pacing,” with the aim of assisting every practitioner to become self-sufficient in yoga.



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