Advanced Yoga Practices
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?"
We live in an age where many enjoy political and economic freedom. Hopefully human civilization will continue to evolve in a direction that brings that kind of freedom to everyone on the earth.
But we are not talking about that kind of freedom here. We are talking about a kind of freedom that transcends political and economic circumstances, a kind of freedom that transcends the suffering found in all the circumstances of life, whether we are happy, sad, rich, poor, healthy or sick. We'd all like to better our lot in life. But beyond that, there is a way to find an inner unending joy that is entirely independent of our lot in life, whatever it may be. This is what we mean by "freedom" in the yogic sense. True freedom is the fruition of yoga. It has also been called "liberation."
This freedom, this liberation, is not an external thing, and not an idea or a state of mind. It is not something we can possess. It is a condition of consciousness in the human being, and also reflected in the society. It is something that is self-evident when it appears, and entirely independent of our outer circumstances. It is an abiding inner silence, a blissful ecstasy, and an endless outpouring of divine love. Most importantly, it is freedom from suffering. It is also a direct experience of Oneness (unity) through all the faculties of perception. It is living within and through the essence of what we are pure bliss consciousness. Human beings are designed to express that reality in the realm of time and space, in ordinary daily living. We are That.
If we wait long enough, evolution will bring the human race to a full expression of that condition of freedom. Without our direct participation, it could take a very long time. But, thankfully, that is not how the system works. There is something in us, something that causes us to take action for the benefit of our evolution in this life. Once we have sensed our potential, there is a spark of recognition, and we are moved to do something. We experience a divine desire for that which is beyond where we are today in the expression of our consciousness. We have called that desire "bhakti," which is devotion to a higher ideal of our own choosing. There are a variety of experiences that can create that spark of recognition and the resulting bhakti. Once it happens, we have to do something. There is no turning back. We are on the path to freedom.
There are many ways to travel. We can take a religious route or a non-religious route. Whatever suits our nature. All routes lead to the same place, to the extent they are true to the inner dynamics of human spiritual transformation. In spite of all the glitz and glamor, spiritual development is largely a mechanical process. A pretty mundane thing. It is inner purification and opening of our nervous system at the deepest level that ultimately brings about freedom. A systematic approach involving daily practice will yield the most reliable results.
Here in the AYP system of practices, two primary angles of approach are recognized and addressed, leading to a third, which is the unfoldment of freedom.
One, two, three - Very simple.
To enable this process to occur, an arsenal of tools has been presented throughout the AYP writings, beginning with the core practices of deep meditation and spinal breathing pranayama, and with many additional practices and variations on practices available to facilitate the three-step process in as flexible a manner as may be needed.
It is our own direct experience that will drive our actions on the path. We can have the greatest blessings of the sages, and all the tools in the world, but if we are not willing to take responsibility for our development, driven by our direct experiences, our journey will be out of balance, out of kilter, dysfunctional, and not very progressive. Taking personal responsibility is the key on our path to freedom. Isn't this the case with anything that is important to us?
The AYP system is designed for those who have realized this and are interested in proceeding in a self-directed manner. No one else can do it for us. The resources on practices are openly available and plentiful, the community support is considerable, and the guidelines on self-pacing of practices to facilitate progressive and stable inner purification and opening have been tested by thousands who have gone before. It is an approach that works. Many are advancing along their path according to their own efforts in twice-daily practice.
But there is something more. We have called it "getting ripe" and falling off the tree of duality into the non-dual condition, which is the unity condition. This is the province of "self-inquiry," which is also developed in the AYP writings. While we can find great joy and excitement at every step along the path, ultimate freedom is found in realizing the non-dual condition of unity. It is here that we know ourselves to be fully in but not of this world, and no longer susceptible to the suffering associated with the identification of awareness with the body, mind, emotions and sensory perceptions. This is not primarily a state of mind or an intellectual understanding. We simply find that we are not any of these things, and that we are all of them. It is a mystery.
Freedom is an unknowing in which all is known and all can be accomplished without limit. The process of getting ripe for this is primarily about the cultivation of abiding inner silence, stillness, which we have also called the witness. The rise of ecstatic conductivity and radiance also has a key role in enabling stillness (witness) to "move outward." With the rise of the witness, we find a separation of our sense of self from the objects of perception, including thoughts, feelings, sensory perceptions, and even our sense of "I, me and mine." In stillness/witness and with inquiries released in stillness, we "go out" from identified awareness the attachment that leads to suffering. But this is only half of it. This is a dual condition of unidentified awareness, with everything else being an object it is still subject and objects. The other half is a "coming back" into relationship with all the objects, including our sense of "I," with a merging in stillness. Then there is no longer subject (awareness) and objects, but a unity of subject and objects. This is the Oneness, the freedom that is the fruition of yoga.
First it is about becoming ripe, primarily with sitting practices, and other considerations in our daily living and lifestyle, such as enhancing the spiritual/ecstatic role of our sexuality via tantric methods as may be needed. Once we are becoming ripe, having increasing abiding inner silence, then there is a role for self-inquiry. Finally, when we have gone out beyond identification with objects and come back into the unity of merged subject and objects, we are free, and continue to help others as we are naturally inclined, moving from within in a natural divine flow.
The journey to freedom is not an overnight affair. It is a marathon, not a sprint. But it is a much shorter marathon than it has been in the past. World consciousness has become considerably more fluid than in the past. More can be accomplished with spiritual practices these days than at any time in our known history. And there are many more options for practice available. So it is a pretty good situation. Still, there is much to do.
The AYP writings are a resource. Certainly not the only approach available, but one that is effective and open to all. There are no limits or requirements for the use of AYP, except for each of us to endeavor to be true to our own journey. It is suggested to aim for the long term in daily practice, while taking it one day at a time. In the now, but not caught up in the now. Do your best to release expectations as much as possible (difficult sometimes), always gently favoring the procedures of practice over the many experiences that will come up along the way. This is the surest path forward.
With this simple approach, stillness will rise and begin to move in a blissfully ecstatic way in daily living, carrying us forward like water running downhill. No obstacle can stand in the way of the awakened divine flow. Let go in the flow, and you will realize that you are the flow, a marriage of human and divine. This is freedom.
Share with others as you are so inclined, so many can move onward into freedom, wherever they may be.
I wish you all the best on your path. It is in your hands. Practice wisely, and enjoy!
The guru is in you.
Note:For instructions on building and maintaining a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing for long term progress to spiritual ripeness and freedom, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga book and the Liberation book, and AYP Plus.
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