Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 199 - Managing the Opening of the Crown (Audio)
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"
The crown is also known as the "sahasrar" - the thousand-petaled lotus located on top of the head. Physically, it corresponds to the corona radiata, a mass of nerves located near the top of the head above the two main ventricles of the brain. When inactive, the energy rests there in a "skullcap" shape, not noticeable to us. When it is aroused by the attention, the skullcap turns up to form a cup, or flower shape, the thousand-petaled lotus. When it is up like that it is said to be awakened, or opened. We can't miss it then, because when the crown is in full swing it draws us up inside like a spiritual vacuum cleaner. This drawing up can be felt deep within our loins. Kundalini can't resist the temptation of an opened crown and lurches up toward it. The problem is that, if our nervous system between the root and the crown is not purified enough, kundalini energy will begin tearing through everything to get to the crown. This is what produces so-called excessive kundalini symptoms, which can include a counterpart of emotional difficulty as well.
A number of traditions encourage going to the crown with practices early on the journey of yoga. A few even go there first. The results are predictable - people with kundalini problems, and there have been quite a few folks that have come to these lessons looking for relief. Others experience what is called a "spontaneous awakening" of kundalini. While I cannot prove it, it is my opinion that spontaneous awakenings are also the product of yoga practices that have gone to the crown prematurely, but in a past life rather than in this life. Such people are born in this life "wired" for a spontaneous awaking due to those long forgotten practices and imbalances stored deep in the nervous system. Premature awakening of the crown is the number one cause of excessive kundalini symptoms. It may be the only cause.
Fortunately, good practices for awakening the crown in tandem with purifying the rest of the nervous system also aid in smoothing energy imbalances that are a hangover from the past. So there is good news here for all of us - we who are stable with our energy who want to finish the journey, and we who have fallen off the wagon with kundalini difficulties and want to recover the situation and move on to finish the journey also.
Let's talk about the dynamics of the crown in relation to the rest of the nervous system. In the recent lesson on mantra design, it was mentioned that the sushumna has a fork in it in the middle of the head. One fork goes forward to the point between the eyebrows, and the other one goes up into the center of the crown. In spinal breathing we take the front fork with our attention and traverse the spinal nerve repeatedly with our breath, going between the root and the point between the eyebrows. In doing so, we are cultivating and purifying the spinal nerve along that route. The result is a radiation of purifying life force (prana) going out in all directions in the nervous system from the spinal nerve.
This radiation of energy from the spinal nerve also goes up the other fork to the crown. We don't even think about it. We don't put attention on the crown. Never the less, spinal breathing between the brow and the root purifies the crown in this way, just as it purifies all the rest of the nervous system.
A similar effect happens with deep meditation. With the I AM mantra the crown is naturally permeated with inner silence and is gradually purified along with the rest of the nervous system. With the mantra enhancements we gradually expand the mantra in ways that serve several functions. One of those functions is to bring more purifying influence to the crown without focusing attention directly on the crown. It is done through the resonance of the mantra vibration deep inside us. Samyama amplifies the influence of inner silence in the nervous system by moving silent awareness out from the inside in various directions through the nervous system, and the crown receives its fair share of this moving siddhi silence.
Over time, we add many other practices to stimulate the purification of the spinal nerve - mudras, bandhas, siddhasana, yoni mudra, kechari, chin pump, spinal bastrika, and so on. All of these practices are opening the crown by indirect influences. By awakening the spinal nerve between the third eye and the root, we are automatically awakening the crown.
A milestone on our journey is the awakening of ecstatic conductivity. This is a gentle, gradual, and ecstatic awakening of kundalini. It is easily recognized by the direct connection that arises between sambhavi and the pleasurable sensations stimulated at the root. From there, ecstatic conductivity proceeds gradually with our continuing daily practices. Once ecstatic conductivity is occurring, we are in the position to clearly observe for ourselves what the connection is between the gradually awakening crown and the rest of our nervous system. If we put our attention up into the rising flower cup on top of our head, we will feel it pulling us ecstatically upward inside, from the root all the way up. Don't make an extended practice of this, because even with ecstatic conductivity awakened it is possible to overdo and experience excessive energy flows and an emotional letdown afterward. In other words, ecstatic conductivity is not a license to go straight to the crown. But we can experiment a little now and then and get the feel of what is stable and what is not. Usually any slight excess at the crown experienced in this way will only last a few hours, or a day, before the energy balances again.
We can touch the crown with attention for short periods in this way when ecstatic conductivity is awakened, because we have also awakened the third eye. Having the sushumna awakened between the third eye and root gives us a stability we did not have before, and a natural inner energy balance that can be stimulated at any time simply by letting go into the conductivity occurring between the third eye and the root. This is the power of a third eye awakening. There is little that can destabilize it once ecstatic conductivity comes up in the third eye to root spinal nerve. That is why the third eye (ajna) means "command." With ecstatic conductivity rising in the sushumna between the third eye and root, we are in command of the kundalini process, and having a very good ecstatic time with it too.
As mentioned, this does not mean we can go all out in the crown. Even a small mess we make at the crown will not be fun, so why do it? Some have asked, "Why can't I just shift my spinal breathing from the third eye to root to the crown to root?" Two reasons: First it curtails the continuing activation of the third eye to root awakening. Second, it shifts the emphasis of attention to the crown, which will increase instability in the energy flows. So don't shift your spinal breathing to the crown. It will not be stable, even for advanced yogis and yoginis. Just keep going with third eye to root spinal breathing, deep meditation and all the rest that has been given, and all the openings will continue to progress rapidly and smoothly, including at the crown.
With occasional "testing" with awareness placed at the crown from time to time along the way, eventually those tests will become more stable. Putting occasional brief awareness at the crown will not be the cause of this stability. It will only test to see how far the crown has come in tandem with purification in the rest of the nervous system. Any stability that comes will be from our integrated advanced yoga practices. Once some stability does come, we will be able to put our attention at the crown for a few minutes without falling into energy difficulties, or an emotional letdown afterward. Then, and only then, we can have the safe option to let our attention rest at the crown for a while at the end of practices, before our rest period. We can be reclined or lying down if we want, and using sambhavi as we let our attention enter the gorgeous raised crown flower with the shaft of the radiant sushumna coming up through the center. Sambhavi adds a layer of both ecstatic bliss and stability, because it activates the third eye at the same time while the crown is being stimulated with attention. Maybe we see the crown as a flower. Maybe a cup. Maybe red. Maybe silver or white. Maybe violet. It comes in many colors. Some may see it as a cobra with a great flared hood going up. However we see it, it is how we feel it drawing us up that will be the in-common experience. As the crown opening and nearly purified nervous system mature, we are drawn up without the chaos and mayhem that is so common in premature awakenings. We are drawn up into pure ecstatic bliss. Then we can surrender...
We may be gone and not know where we were. Or we may have some celestial visions. When we do come back, we are somehow new, illuminated, radiating like never before. That is the beginning of the experience in the awakened crown.
Once we become stable in our visits to the crown, then we can take a more active role there. Still, we keep all of our advanced yoga practices the same. But we can add something. It was mentioned in the last lesson on targeted bastrika. Once our nervous system has been purified enough to carry the flow of energy stimulated by an open and active crown, then we can do additional targeted work there. One of the most efficient ways to do this is by using targeted bastrika between the crown and the root. We can do it with the crown raised and open, or closed. The former is more intense. We can use sambhavi and other mudras and bandhas while we do targeted bastrika between the crown and root. One thing we do not do, and that is do it without having met all the prerequisites of targeted bastrika, and also the testing and gradual development of crown awareness described above. If we are premature with anything involving attention at the crown, we will know it within a few hours. This applies especially to targeted bastrika, which is all-out stimulation of the crown. So, when targeted bastrika at the crown is undertaken it should be very sparing at first - not more than a minute at a time in the beginning. If the result is stable and good in activity, then it can be stepped up a minute at a time. This practice is done at the same time that any targeted bastrika is done - at the end of sitting practices, before rest. The effect of this practice is to bring the environment of the crown into our daily life. What is that like? "Heaven on earth" is a phrase that comes to mind.
So carry on with practices, and be mindful not to get too far ahead of yourself with anything. If you do, you will know soon enough because it will be uncomfortable. Then the thing to do is back off immediately to a stable platform of practice. Sometimes we can go forward faster by going backwards a bit.
It is good to be stubborn about keeping up our routine of twice daily practices. It is not so good to be stubborn about overdoing practices. That applies especially for anything we do at the crown.
Keep moving forward at a smooth pace, and you will arrive in time at your destination -- endless ecstatic bliss and outpouring divine love!
The guru is in you.
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