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Advanced Yoga Practices
Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.
Lesson 232 - Meditation and Automatic Yoga (a dialog) (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"
August 16th, 2004 8:34-8:55
2nd attempt at I AM. First time I did this was lying in bed. Did it for about 20 minutes and then went to sleep. Did not notice anything spectacular. Probably wasn't a good idea to do it in bed as it is too relaxing and I was sleepy when I did it.
Had coffee, no food prior to beginning:
2nd time, sat in my office chair with doors closed. Palms on thighs. After some time, felt as though I was about to float out of top of head but only very briefly. Felt like a floating sensation. This happened twice.
Then after some more time, an overwhelming tingling sensation washed over my body and became stronger and stronger. I noticed my breathing change with it. It was intense like a wave similar to waves of ecstasy one has in approaching orgasm. It was definitely sexual in nature and ran throughout my entire body, not just one area.
When it first started however it also resembled the feeling one gets when one experiences some excitement of the kind that gives one goose bumps and butterflies. Similar to what may be referred to as an adrenal rush but, but a good one. This tingly sensation of excitement soon led to the waves of ecstasy described above.
After several moments of this it was almost as though I could take no more, and then it backed off for some moments. Then a second wave came like the first. I actually made some verbal sound as a sigh or groan as it continued and my breathing became heavier and deeper. I noticed too I felt like I might be trembling but am not sure now whether my body was actually trembling or it just felt that way.
After this second wave passed, for some reason I was ready, perhaps even anxious, to end the session but was aware that I was supposed to do this for a full twenty minutes. I looked at my clock and saw that I still had a little more than 5 minutes or so to go so resumed it. After some moments, again, the feeling started to come as described above but this time it was more jolting, not as smooth as the first two. I felt this jolt twice. After some moments I ended the session, having gone a total of about 20 minutes. I took several deep breaths and remained sitting and rested as advised and then wrote this so that I forgot nothing.
A1: Thank you for writing and sharing.
You are off to a very good start, finding out right away the difference between meditating lying down and sitting up! Keep in mind that your experiences will vary over time, sometimes very deep, sometimes with lots of energy (even sexual - you will read more on that in later lessons), other times dull, and sometimes a bit restless. All experiences are correct as long as we favor the easy procedure of meditation. What is important is long term daily practice. That is what purifies and opens our nervous system. See lesson #180 with a response to someone having strong start like you did.
Our experiences during practices are mostly due to purification going on in our nervous system, and will vary greatly. Even ecstatic experiences are largely purification. It all comes out according to how the impressions of past actions are stacked inside. There is no accounting for it, and all we have to do is our procedure of practice, and purification and opening happens. So, don't become too attached to experiences that occur in meditation. Practice is good if we follow the procedure, no matter what happens experientially in our sitting. Of course we all love blissful and ecstatic experiences. Enjoy them when they happen. But keep in mind that experiences are symptoms, not the practice itself. We don't want to become distracted from our practice by experiences that come up. So when experiences come, we notice them, and go back to the practice we are doing. That is what keeps us going forward toward enlightenment. As you read through, you will encounter many lessons that discuss this from a variety of angles.
Q2: Thank you. I am somewhat relieved to know that I don't necessarily have to expect to repeat that experience. Otherwise I may have thought I was doing something wrong if nothing happened next time.
I just read lesson #39 & #41 on pranayama, which I have not yet tried. I did some deep breathing before starting my meditation on I AM that morning. Maybe that was one reason my experience was so dramatic.
I am taking another course that gives the sound OOMM to chant. I haven't been doing it lately but thought I would start again. I saw one of the Q&As where you state the difference between "I AM" and "OMM", that latter being circular. But I am wondering if I should wait a while after the meditation to do my OMMM chanting.
I have several questions:
Can you tell me when I should start trying spinal breathing pranayama? That is, are there a certain number of days that one should do the I AM meditation before they do the pranayama exercise? Also is it advisable to set an egg timer so that I will know when my 20 minutes are up? Is it necessary to do it 2x per day to achieve optimum results? Do you state somewhere in the Q&A why the lotus position is better than sitting in a chair?
I am really surprised at how powerful that mediation technique is. I still can't believe it. I had always wondered at the significance of the phrase I AM in the Bible. Now I am even more curious and want to go back through all the places where it is referenced.
My husband is going to try it sitting up now. He too had only tried it lying down before so I am anxious to hear of his results. I didn't tell him about mine because I didn't want him to be expecting a certain result.
A2: Given that you have just started and have lots happening already, it would be wise to stabilize your meditation practice for at least a few weeks before adding pranayama. Then you will have a good platform from which to expand. As you read through the lessons you will see a lot on "self-pacing," which is essential for success in yoga. You already have seen the first lesson on this (#38) called "What is your time line?" A very important subject - more important than any single practice. Without a skilled driver, the car is not likely to reach its destination.
Self-pacing applies to taking on other practices outside AYP too, which is risky to begin with because the effects in combination with AYP practices can be unpredictable. You are in charge of your journey. Be measured in your approach, always stabilizing what you have before moving ahead. Each person is different. Stabilizing could take weeks or months. In some cases (as with mantra enhancements and advanced pranayama-kumbhaka methods given later in the lessons) it could take years. A few days will rarely do it. Even experts in yoga have to apply prudent self-pacing in practices to accommodate the many experiences that come up as the nervous system goes though stages of purification. So, satisfy your thirst for knowledge by reading on, but build your routine very gradually so you can remain consistent in your practices over the long term. That is how enlightenment happens. Rome was not built in a day.
It is okay to use an egg timer for meditation, but don't become too dependent on it. It is best to develop the inner clock for timing practices, with occasional peeking at the watch or clock as necessary. Once we have this "inner clock" skill, then using an egg timer is not our sole means of timing. That way, if you are without your egg timer, you won't be at a loss.
Siddhasana (not lotus) is the way of sitting that the lessons evolve toward. You will see why as you read on. It is a simple and powerful practice for raising ecstatic energy. The cultivation of inner silence and ecstatic energy, and their natural union (inner lovemaking of "shiva and shakti" or "father and holy spirit"), is the key to human spiritual transformation.
On the twice a day, read lesson #148. Many of your questions you can find answers to in the topic index on the web site, or by using the site search feature. I will be happy to help with anything that you cannot find a satisfactory answer on.
The methods in the lessons are the simplest and most powerful I have encountered over more than three decades on the path, integrated together into a system of practices. So, yes, this is all very powerful stuff. Use good self-pacing, avoid tangents (lots of those will tempt you), and you can go very far with this over the long term. Enjoy!
Q3: Thank you much again. Yesterday I again received the waves washing over me, up and down which felt as I can best describe, as an electrical current. I noticed my breathing began to change each time this occurred causing me to take deeper breaths, which I immediately corrected. I soon found that I could control the waves at will. Not sure if I should allow them or discourage them?
I also noticed my head began both times to rock gently back and forth and then to eventually sway side to side in what seemed a figure 8. After the experience, I did a search under "swaying" and found where one of your students also experienced swaying but with his entire body. I read your responses about not letting all these sensations detract from the main purpose.
For the first time today, I did my meditation in the lotus position with my back against my couch. It wasn't as comfortable and was a bit distracting a few times but I managed to keep directing my attention away from the discomfort and concentrate on the mediation. The electrical waves came again, but this time were a lot more subtle. And again when the breathing intensified I immediately stopped it and calmed it and stayed quiet.
I did away with the egg timer and peeked at the clock again. I think I may have been a little more anxious to end the session because of the position I was in. When it was over, my lower leg was asleep. I didn't see any instruction on "when" we should start the lotus position. I did see lesson #33. I will start doing some exercises to limber my joints up a bit which I remember from ballet school many a year ago. I still felt my mediation was good though it wasn't quite as smooth as in the sitting position.
A3: You are having the classic symptoms of what I call "automatic yoga," from just a few days of meditation. It goes without saying that you have come "wired" for this from past lives of work in yoga. We are all wired for it by virtue of our human nervous system. Some have more neural conductivity than others because they have done direct work on the circuitry before. You are one of those, and now you are picking up where you left off. We all have the same journey and destination - purification and opening of our nervous system to unending ecstatic bliss and outflowing divine love.
By automatic yoga, I mean physical, mental and emotional tendencies coming up out of nowhere, seemingly unrelated to the practice we are doing. This happens because there is a connectedness of yoga throughout our nervous system. This is explained in more detail later in the lessons, particularly in discussing the "eight limbs of yoga". For now, just know that your rising desire to study, practice, take on more, etc. is all coming from the few dives you have taken into pure bliss consciousness within. So too are the bending legs, breathing symptoms, and head movements from this. Pretty amazing, isn't it? The lessons will help you guide all of these tendencies step by step into a safe and effective routine of practices.
When movements or deep breathing come up in meditation, we don't entertain them, or force them out. We just easily go back to the procedure of meditation, picking up the mantra at whatever level of refinement we left it, and let it continue to refine.
Breathing generally becomes very quiet during meditation, as the metabolism slows way down. If it is getting deeper or is speeding up, that could be associated with ecstatic energies beginning to move. Don't dwell on that, as it will take your attention away from the simple process of meditation. When you begin spinal breathing (a separate practice done before meditation), then you will have the opportunity to cultivate the ecstatic energies in a progressive and balanced way. Favor the procedure for using the mantra during meditation over anything that comes up. The same goes for head movements and other symptoms that can occur - just easily let it go in favor of meditation. Much later in the lessons, you will see that head movements also will be part of practices in the form of an advanced method called "chin pump." That is way down the road though. You are just starting out. Take things one step at a time. Gently favor the practice you are doing, no matter what else comes up. If some of these things become so strong that they seem to be dominating your meditation time, then just be easy and let your attention be with the movements or sensations (without encouraging them) for a few minutes without picking up the mantra. That will help stabilize the energy flow. Then after a few minutes you can go back to meditation.
On the folding legs, the lessons do not teach lotus (feet up on thighs). We use siddhasana instead, which is a more direct means for cultivating the ecstatic energies within. Once you get through spinal breathing, mulabandha, and sambhavi, you will come to siddhasana. You are doing right to be loosening up the legs now. No need to go up on the thighs with your feet though - just develop some comfort having the legs folded with toes tucked under a bit, as discussed in lesson #33. This builds a foundation for things to come, with a minimum of distraction to meditation. If it becomes too distracting, ease off the folded legs. Try one folded until two works. Try legs folded only one sitting out of two each day. It is a gradual process of adjustment that can takes weeks or months to work into. In the meantime, keep as comfortable as possible while meditating. In time, sitting with legs folded will be completely natural and unnoticed during practices. So will siddhasana, except for the fountain of unending ecstasy coming up from it. Well, that is another subject.
Timing for taking on new practices is discussed in the course of the lessons. It has to do with your ability to assimilate things more than anything. That is why specific times are not given. Everyone is different. The main thing is not to get too far ahead of yourself. Even that is not the end of the world in the short term, as long as you know to back off when you get a little too far ahead of your nervous system's ability to digest new practices. It is a process of always testing, stepping forward, and stepping back -gradually learning the ropes of this wonderful transformable spiritual vehicle we are living in - the human nervous system!
Q4: I took a quick skim of the chin pump article (#139) and it seems that describes something very similar to what was happening to me.
This is getting quite exciting but I want to take it step by step as you suggested so I didn't read it in detail. There are so many articles that to do otherwise would be very difficult in any case. Yesterday for the first time, I did the meditation twice. My legs were just crossed. (I haven't even attempted the lotus position & am glad to hear we won't be expected to use it!) Again, sitting cross legged was very distracting but once I got into the meditation it became smoother.
I am wondering about the meditation on "I AM". Over the past weeks before I found your yahoo group and website, I had been doing a mental affirmation throughout the day, "I am in harmony with Christ". I even have a pillow speaker under my pillow with me speaking that affirmation. The reason for this was that I had read in one of the books I am currently reading (reading Spalding on the Siddha Masters, Collier, Trine & Hill so I get them mixed up sometimes) and one them had said that one of the reasons for sickness, stress, etc. was being out of harmony with Christ. Also they all talk about us as being Divine, that God is within us. I suppose I grew up like a lot of people thinking about Him as being up there somewhere separate from us.
So sometimes in my meditation, while thinking I AM, I am thinking of God then I alternate with just meditating on the words "I AM" without thinking of God. So I suppose I'm uncertain as to how to think/feel when I think "I AM".
At one point, for just a few seconds last night in my second session, it seemed I stepped out and forward from the meditation on the words, into a circle with some colors and there were no words or thinking. It was just like a complete separation from thought and body. But it was just for seconds and then I was back thinking I AM. This occurred a couple of times very briefly. I wanted to explore it more but it didn't happen again. It was as though I was on the very edge of something but couldn't quite get there. Then during this morning's mediation, I felt that same separateness but this time rather than moving up into a circle I felt as though I were falling backwards and floating into that separateness. Again, all thought of thinking I AM and my body was forgotten. It was so 'still'. I wanted it to last longer again but it was only for a few seconds a couple of times. For the first time since beginning the meditation, I wasn't anxious to come out of it. I was content to stay there but went ahead and ended it at 20 minutes since that's what you have advised.
I do have a question that is confusing me even while I meditate:
Should I think of God as I meditate I AM or try just to meditate I AM without its meaning or thinking of God or my Divine nature? Should I try to divorce the meditation form thoughts of God?
I wanted to check about something new that happened last night.
Yesterday and last night I noticed at times, my breathing was so slight, that once I thought I had stopped breathing. But the newest thing is last night, the area in my solar plexus was pressed inward to such a degree that it felt as though my entire rib cage was exposed with the area in the middle under the breastbone going inward. It must have actually been drawn inward towards my back for I could feel the movement under my breast. It wasn't painful, just really intense. I didn't think I was holding my breath and cannot remember now this morning exactly how my breathing was when this happened. I should have made notes right after this. So naturally again I am wondering about this and if you have ever heard of this happening?
A4: The mantra is used for sound only, not meaning. In the topic index you can find several lessons on this under "mantra - language and meaning." Another way to spell the "I AM" mantra is "AYAM." Same pronunciation. None of this takes away from the meaning and mystique of the Christian phrase, "I AM." It is just that when we use it as a mantra, it is the vibration that matters, not the English meaning. My background is Christian also.
So, when thoughts come up in meditation regarding the meaning of I AM, or God, or whatever, we just treat them like any other thoughts that come up and easily go back to the mantra. The same is true for all experiences we have in meditation, no matter how ecstatic, profound, revelatory, strange, or dramatic - when we realize we are off into something, no matter what, we just easily go back to the mantra. That is the procedure of meditation.
Ah, you noticed the breathing slowing down and nearly stopping. As
The diaphragm pulling in and up is another of those automatic yogas. It is called "uddiyana." You can find discussions on it in the practices section (top) of the topic index, under "uddiyana/nauli."
Take it step-by-step, and enjoy!
Q5: So in other countries, in other languages they also use "I AM" rather than their translation of "I AM"?
I just did a quick read of the article you referred to on uddiyana. This is so incredible that my body is doing all of these things on its own. Though I hadn't mentioned it, my tongue has also been cupping and pressing against the roof of my mouth near the front. I didn't realize it was something that you consciously try to do. I guess whatever my body starts to do from here on, I can safely assume it knows better than I.
I am trying to follow everything step by step. By my body jumping into all of these things on its own, am I at risk in not developing properly since I seem to be doing things out of order? I only start out by thinking to do only the mediation. These things are just happening on their own. I've had some other things happen as well that I may later learn are automatic yoga.
A5: Yes, since we are using the sound of I AM (AYAM) and not the meaning, translation of meaning into other languages is not advised. The sound has a universal vibratory resonance in the human nervous system. That's why I call it a universal mantra.
Ah, the tongue has gone up? That is called "kechari," a very important one we talk about a lot in the later lessons. You can look it up in the topic index.
With all this coming up, I can see that you are a little concerned about how to manage it going forward. I suggest you don't even try. Just do your practices according to plan, taking on new ones gradually over the coming months and years, with the priority being to establish stable practice each step along the way. Whatever comes up as automatic yoga, regard with equanimity, and stay the course with structured daily practice over the long term. If you do that, then all these things will fit together naturally in due course.
Given your fast moving situation, the most important things I recommend you keep in mind are patience and self-pacing in practices. If you try and accommodate all that is going on at the same time, it will be very difficult. You have many gifts of yoga sprouting there. Tend your garden with care, day by day, and you will travel far.
Always remember that the most important practice is deep meditation. This is what cultivates our foundation of inner silence underneath all of the external hub-bub. Without it we will be flailing about in the wind, with no center, no matter how much automatic yoga we have going on. Inner silence (pure bliss consciousness) is the key to all progress in yoga.
As it says in the psalms, "Be still, and know I am God."
Q6: Thank you for your answer to my many questions. I was a little concerned about how to manage these things but that has now been put to rest by your answer. I will proceed methodically as though these things weren't happening.
Yesterday, I only did the meditation (with spinal breathing) once rather than twice. I had been for several days, experiencing a difficulty in putting my mind/energy on the more mundane tasks that my work requires. I had no motivation to do my work and thought that it might be a result of the mediation. I remember that you have stated that it is advisable to rest after the meditation and I never really did that beyond a minute or two at most so perhaps that is what I needed to do.
But I decided yesterday to try doing without the morning session and only did the evening session. I looked in your Q&A for any info on whether you are to do it everyday, 7 days a week or if it's desirable to perhaps occasionally skip a day or one of the two sessions once in a while at least at the beginning. It may be there in the postings but I didn't find anything that addressed this question.
One other thing I wanted to ask about: I had written after my second or third mediation that I had found I could control the waves of energy charge that pulsed through my body at will. It started off happening without conscious effort but then I found I could make it happen again with minor effort. But lately, the last couple of days, I have been experiencing this in my daily routine out of mediation as well. At times during the day or night I feel the urge to push this energy current through my body at will. It might be while making a protein shake or working at my computer or while watching the news. It's becoming somewhat addictive I think. It's happening at least once about every hour. If I don't do it willingly, then it comes on its own. I don't feel it's a bad thing. It feels rather pleasant and gives me an unexplainable feeling of empowerment. Is this an enhancement of my spiritual powers or merely a part of the purification process?
A6: Yes, taking it easy, and one day at a time, is the best approach. It is the best approach whenever big changes come into our life - our system is opening us up to become infinite pure bliss consciousness encompassing the entire universe!
Yes, the experiences are part of purification and will change - expand actually, so there is much more to come. And yes, it can be addictive. That is in the very first lesson - my addiction to yoga and the experiences it brings. To borrow a word from the 12 step program for addicts, maybe we are all "recovering" yogis and yoginis. Recovering what is ours that has been long lost, that is. It is not primarily about the ecstatic experience of the moment. It is about something infinitely bigger than the greatest ecstatic pleasure we can have today. Enjoy your experiences, and incorporate them into your everyday life. The best way to do that is by taking your bliss and sharing it with others in simple ways. Simple living for the benefit of others is the best way I know to keep rising ecstatic experiences from going to our heads. That's part of why I am writing these lessons. What good is rising enlightenment if it is unshared? Not much good at all. Down-right self-indulgent. The truth is, enlightenment can't happen fully until it is shared in service for the benefit of others, because enlightenment is, by nature, all-encompassing.
It is not our fault that the true nature of life is ecstatic bliss. The human nervous system is an ecstasy machine. Should we run from that? I don't think so. As we move into our natural state of ecstasy, we can do so with responsibility. That is how we can make the journey. Ecstatic bliss must flow outward to the world to find its fruition, and so too must we. To do anything less is a form of spiritual hedonism. We may do that for a while, just indulge inwardly in our ecstatic experiences. That's okay. Sooner or later we will go out into the world with our ecstatic bliss. It is inevitable. Along the way in yoga, we unravel one of the greatest of all mysteries through our direct experience - the role of sexuality in human spiritual transformation.
As for daily practices, it is better to stick with two sessions every day, because developing and maintaining the habit is so very important. This was covered in a lesson not long ago (#209) called, "Fitting daily practices into a busy schedule." I know that lack of time is not the reason you have tried cutting back to one session, but that lesson gets into the reasons why keeping the twice daily habit is so important. So does lesson #148, "Why practices twice a day?"
If you are feeling a bit over-stimulated in your practices, then the thing to do is cut back on time in the twice daily sittings. If you are doing 5 minutes spinal breathing and 20 minutes meditation, and are having too much happening, then, rather than doing it once a day, try cutting breathing back to a few minutes and meditation to 15 minutes twice a day. If that is still too much, then try meditation at 10 minutes. It can be ramped back up later as your nervous system adjusts to the energies. This is the all-important topic of "self-pacing" which is discussed extensively in the lessons. The key is to find a balanced and stable twice daily routine. That way, we can cultivate inner silence and ecstatic energies in our nervous system and stabilize them in activity using a twice daily cycle, which is much more effective than doing a once daily cycle with longer practice. Of course, there will be times that we are too pressed for time or too exhausted to do much of anything at practice time. Then we just keep the habit by sitting for a minute or two with eyes closed. See how that works? It is about the twice daily habit. As they say, "use it or lose it." We can be flexible with our times and practices within that twice daily commitment, as necessary.
Q7: I had a session yesterday that was, well all I could think afterwards was WOW! I had had two days of quieter mediation with the usual 'automatic' head rocking and circling but the experience was much milder and quieter without all the involuntary surges of energy as before and no new automatic yoga experiences.
So I decided to move on and incorporate lessons #41, #54 & #55 (on spinal breathing, kundalini, and mulabandha) in my session yesterday. The experience was the most powerful I have had yet and there were a lot of new things, what you call "automatic yoga" going on I think.
A7: As you add on new practices, keep in mind that there can be a delayed reaction in effects. So we don't really know all of what a new practice is doing for a few weeks at least. If you have piled on two or three new practices, and things take off, it may be hard to figure out what is doing what - and that's when self-pacing gets tricky - what to back off on when the energy is flying everywhere? Getting a bit ahead of yourself is not the end of the world, as long as you know to back off when necessary for a smoother ride. You'll get the hang of it.
Just remember you have a spiritual Ferrari there (an extra fast one) and you have to learn how to drive the thing without running off the road. You are in the driver's seat.
All the best on your journey. Vrrrooom!
The guru is in you.
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Note: For detailed instructions on building a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book, and AYP Plus.
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