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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 400 - Theory and Practice (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
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?"
Then I got tingling sensations at the bottom of my throat that became really intense. And the other morning I was about my business and suddenly it was as if the front channel nerve connection had closed. I had a tingle deep inside my nose, and then a strong sensation of pull in my perineum, pulling up inside my body, and a huge flow of electricity up my spine, reaching my third eye, and then going down my front. It was so intense and pleasurable, that I was scared and felt compelled discontinue practices until I could comprehend what was going on.
I was wondering: (1) What is happening exactly? (2) When should I resume practice?
How about the theory behind how all of these things work? I mean, I understand the approach "learn to drive the wheel," but I personally like to know "what is under the hood."
For instance, I would like to be able to diagnose what is happening right now, and how it relates to the practices. From reading the AYP books (and I've read them all), I can say: "Oh, I feel mildly uncomfortable. I should self-pace." Which really isn't a diagnosis. But with an appropriate theoretical background I could maybe develop a better understanding of what is going on.
In the Buddhist tradition, you find "maps of progress" detailing a range of experiences that the meditator may come across, and how they fit into the overall scheme of practices.
A1: It was an energetic awakening, or kundalini surge. You are correct to back off practices. But it does not have to be all or nothing. Simply scale back on practice times until you find a stable and balanced routine that does not have you getting knocked energetically from pillar to post. The regulation of practices, combined with good grounding activity in daily activity, is essential on our path. See Lesson 69 for more details on managing excessive kundalini symptoms.
Theories, philosophies and maps are pretty easy to come by. Every tradition has them, devised from particular points of view based on someone's experience. Not necessarily yours, which will be the same in some respects and unique in others. For this reason, in AYP, we try to keep theory and maps to a minimum, providing basic milestones indicating the emergence of the abiding inner silence and energetic components of spiritual development, and the joining of these in unity (see Lesson 35). How these components may be experienced along the way on each of our paths can vary.
The experiential maps are pretty easy to compose once practices are underway and symptoms of purification and opening are occurring. Every sage throughout history who has taught others has offered their particular map. Theories will either be confirmed or set aside based on our direct experience. The ultimate scripture is in us.
What is less simple is mapping practices in a way that will be useful for many practitioners. That has been an objective in AYP. The assumption is that if the experience can be delivered through effective practices, then the theories will be self-evident, and they will vary depending on the pattern of purification and opening each of us is undergoing. However, there is a general underlying pattern we can describe that applies to everyone, which can accommodate the specifics of individual experiences. AYP goes for that, rather than a precise experiential map. There really is no such thing as a precise experiential map that fits everyone. My detailed map and your detailed map may be different. Recognizing that is the first step in providing something on the theoretical/mapping front that will be useful for a wide range of practitioners.
If there is something theoretically solid in AYP (and perhaps a bit revolutionary), it is that the human nervous system is regarded to be the center of all spiritual development and experience. All systems, philosophies, theories and maps are derived from that single truth. Absolutely no one is left out, because everyone has a nervous system. The systems, philosophies, theories and maps may vary depending on culture, religion, and the particular process of unfoldment occurring, but the human nervous system remains at the center always. In recognizing this and taking it to heart, the practitioner can be freed from a lot of unnecessary baggage that may be taken on in the form of, you guessed it, systems, philosophies, theories and maps!
It is very simple. Each of us is the map, and we need to look no further than ourselves for the answers. All we need are effective practices and sound procedures for using them. Then all the rest will be revealed to us.
I recognize that dramatic experiences can shake our confidence to practice at times, as you have been going through. The truth is that all of these experiences are symptoms of purification and opening. There are a variety of ways how they may manifest through our nervous system. How it will go for us always boils down to how we go about regulating the rate of purification and opening. This is what defines the quality of our journey. From the AYP point of view, it is always about improving the quality of our daily life here and now. We manage our practices for that, not to accommodate a map, or anyone else's idea about what our experience is supposed to be.
Is it better to recognize that self-pacing and grounding are in order to regulate the intensity of our experiences, or is it better to try and map them? Should we be doing both? I think it is better to understand in general the underlying process of purification and opening that is going on than to try and understand the precise internal dynamics of a particular experience. The general understanding will lead us to effective self-pacing and grounding, as may be necessary, while striving for an understanding of the particulars of a given experience can lead us into attempts to micro-manage symptoms as they come up with physically focused energy techniques, etc., which we know will not work nearly as well as the more global/holistic techniques.
So there is more to the theory versus practice discussion than meets the eye. It is essential to approach theory in a way that encourages sound practice. The danger of detailed maps is that they can pull us away from sound practice. The more into the particulars we go, the less effective our practice will be. If we are not careful, we can be trading our systematic surrender in stillness for a bag full of concepts and distractions.
Sounds like good things are happening there, and in relatively short order. Continue to self-pace practices and ground in daily activity as needed to maintain steady progress over time. Remember, practices are not all or nothing. Practice times can be adjusted incrementally to find our balance. That is putting practice in front of theory for best results.
Q2: Would you consider writing a book with much more detail on mapping experiences on the way to enlightenment? Do you see value in it? And, if not, why not? Now that I've explained what I mean by "theory" and why I want more of it, could you provide references for such theoretical knowledge?
A2: As long as there is a clear understanding of the in-the-trenches business of managing causes and effects in spiritual practices, there can be value in building a framework of theoretical knowledge on human spiritual transformation to go with the practical implementation side. But it is not a one or two person job. Not even close. It would be like asking the Wright Brothers to document all of aeronautical theory from their perspective in the early 1900s, clearly an impossibility. But they did demonstrate that airplanes can fly, and it was more than enough to keep them busy. That work started the revolution in aviation. This is what I hope AYP can help do for applied spiritual science. We are demonstrating that anyone with the desire can open themselves to a fuller and happier life through a set of simple practices undertaken daily.
Building an evolving and ongoing science to go with that, with a solid theoretical foundation, is a job for the worldwide scientific community. This is addressed in discussions in the AYP Support Forums. There is quite a lot of research work going on around the world already, albeit, needing more focus on the essential principles of human spiritual transformation. It is evolving, and accelerating.
No one person could devise a comprehensive theory of medicine, aeronautics, or electronics. Invariably, a few demonstrated key principles in practice, and then many were inspired to build on that, both theoretically and practically. And it keeps going on indefinitely like that. This is the way of science. So if you are interested in applied spiritual science, there are a variety of ways to get involved, hopefully not at the expense of your daily practice.
For those who are in the scientific community, it is suggested to take a closer look at the causes and effects involved in sound spiritual practices. No one person can do it all. It is in every one of us, and assessing the experiences of the many over time is how we are going to further develop the theory behind the obvious effects of spiritual practices. On the theoretical side, it will take an ongoing effort by the scientific community to carry it forward. And on the practical side, it is up to each of us to continue on our path of purification and opening with prudent daily practice.
As we proceed with research, let us not forget that it is practices that bring the results, not theory. No matter how good the airplane looks on the drawing board, we will not know if it will fly until we build it, get in it, and take off. It is the same relationship between theory and practice in the spiritual arena.
The guru is in you.
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
Note: For detailed instructions on building a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, and on the evolution of the stages of enlightenment, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book, and AYP Plus.
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