Friday, September 24, 2010

Amritayana Kundalini Pranayama I

In my study of the Immortalist spiritual traditions, there are several themes that recur. One is that the practitioners were vegetarian or vegan, used herbs, did fasting and cleansing rituals, had good hygiene, and did some gentle physical exercise that helped energy to flow through their bodies. They all meditated everyday. Some meditated for 8.5 hours a per a day (Kriya Yoga), some for 2.5 hours per a day (Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini Yoga), and some for at least 1 hour per a day. They used mantras and mudras to help move the energy up the central spinal channel. They all practiced some kind of pranayama or conscious breathing. They had a spiritual philosophy of life, lived in harmony with nature, and trusted life to take care of them, and therefore lived without fear or anxiety.

In this writing, I would like to offer a version of the pranayama and call it "Amritayana Kundalini Pranayama". The combination of elements that form this yoga or practice is relatively unique, but all the elements have come from various immortalist traditions. I am emphasizing the internal elements necessary to make it effective and efficient. The goal is to empty the subconscious mind or alaya vijnana of all the samskaras (thought impressions or potential conditioned reactions that can be triggered by sensory experience). The physical body is an expression of the samskaras which are stored in the subconscious mind and when we transform our subconscious mind by emptying samskaras or physical bodies vibrate to a higher energy frequency and experiences light shifts, eventually becoming an immortal light body beyond aging and death.

Unlike some of the older traditions, I do not recommend padmasana or the lotus posture. There are several reasons for this. We are used to sitting in chairs and when we go into the lotus pose we do not do it correctly and this puts stress on the spine. I have tested a number of people during bodywork sessions, some of them leaders of various kinds of meditation groups and some of them just students of various meditation traditions. Whether they are the leaders or the followers, all of them, without exception, could not do the lotus posture correctly. It is not about discipline or will power, but that our bodies are usually unable to sustain a loose and erect spine well while sitting. The sitting in the Lotus posture is actually doing some harm. If a person feels called to do Padmasana, then I would recommend that one study and learn how to Hatha Yoga very well, and systematically stretch with great sensitivity, awareness, and breathing until the body is able to do this well. I would also recommend regular chiropractic adjustments with a chiropractor who preps the body before making the adjustments and also getting some massages and/or subtle bodywork. There is a lot that can be learned about how to exist in a human body, fully inhabiting our life on Earth, and how to be a loose erect spined biped who is able to flow with life. One of the primary causes of aging, to me, is that gravitational stress on the body from poor posture, poor function, and poor movement, with Tai Chi and Chi Kung teaching people how to correctly move and flow with life all the time. When we learn how to flow with life, use gravity like a sail boat uses the wind to glide across the ocean, stay dynamically centered and balanced while in motion, breathing in coordination with the extention and retraction of our arms and legs, then we will not experience gravity as an enemy but as a friend. When the body is free from this kind of stress, then its starts to gain the regenerative capacity to live a long and healthy life. Eventually, I think it would be good to be able to master Padmasana, but until we do, it is more of a growth goal than something usable now for our breath mastery.

What I feel is better to do is Shivasana aka corpse pose. This is lying down on the ground with spine loose and erect. There are several checks needed to do this asana correctly. It is deceptively simple, but it is not about merely dumping the body on the ground and having it go limp. Once lying down and checking the looseness and erectness of the spine, you want to bring up your knees and flatten the lower back to the ground, taking some deep and full breaths, letting all tension relax via the subtle stretching of the lower back, letting each exhale be a letting go. Once the lower back relaxes, then to gentle slide the legs back down to the ground, extending them, with toes gently pointed outward, away from the center line. The neck is then checked to see if it is holding any unnecessary tension, then the jaw, then the shoulders, and then to see if any vertebra in the spinal column are tight. The arms are to the side, with palms facing up, and the thumb and index finger tips touching each other. This hand mudra forms a valuable energy circuit that helps regulate the flow of internal energy. There are many hand mudras that are helpful, but this one is very usable in the long term. The palms up position encourages the shoulder/heart area to gently open up a little more, helping to release tension in the pectoralis muscles.

There are asanas which play off of Shivasana, which help deepen the pose, which help to release unnecessary tension from this pose. Many of the leg stretches are helpful. Almost all the lying down poses of Hatha Yoga can help to deepen Shivasana. Some of them should be done during each meditation session. It is also possible to use some massage tools to relax the muscles as well as various pressure point tools. Dzogchen Buddhist masters are seen in some murals pressing various meridian body points with their thumbs (and intoning "ah" while doing so) often with the assistance of an asana (pose) which helps an area to open up. There is a book called ACU-YOGA BY Michael Reed Gach (paperback, Japan Publications, Fifth Printing 1986, ISBN 0-87040-489-X) that is helpful and understanding Hatha Yoga from a meridian and energy flow awareness of the body. I could teach many classes on various still and moving asanas to help the kundalini pranayama to activate and move through the channels and circuits of the energy body. Right now, I can only give an outline of the practice and give some idea of the depth of relaxation necessary to be fully accomplished in Shivasana.

The inner aspect of Shivasana is that it is about deeply and fully letting go of all effort and tension. It is the mudra of surrender. You surrender so deeply that you become a corpse. You die to all your problems and issues. A dead person literally does not have any problems. The opposite of this conscious dying surrender mudra is "self clinging" which in the deep analysis of sorrow that the Buddha did is the source of all sorrow and all pain. The Sufis have a saying, "Die before you die," to summarize this yoga. They talk about "fana" (extinction/dying) and "baka" (resurrection/rebirth). There is more than one level of dying. Immortalist practice is paradoxical in that totally surrendering and dying to everything allows us to regenerate everything and live an immortal life.

One of the teachings of Kriya Yoga is that breathing is a mantra. Every breath has a sound. It is aspirated in the movement of the inhale and the exhale. This means that every breath, especially the exhale, is a form of chanting a mantra. Every exhale is a micro-surrender into the Divine or Quantum Field. Every inhale is a receiving of Grace or Quantum Aliveness from the Divine.

Notice your inhale and exhale, imagine that you are aspirating the sound "ha" on the exhale, like a soft whisper of the sound into the ear of a friend. Notice how this shapes the breathing. See if you can source the sound from the belly relaxing back into the spine, rather than sourcing the sound from the jaw. I recommend aspirating the sound with mouth breathing, rather than nose breathing. It is easier to get the feel of the breathing this way. Most of us underbreathe and need more air volume. When we only breathe through the nose, we usually keep our underbreathing intact. One Rebirthing saying is "Mouth breathing is energizing, nose breathing is balancing." If we start with nose breathing, then we have nothing to balance. If we start with mouth breathing, we will rapidly energize our bodies. It should quickly tingle with energy if we are doing it right. Then we can switch to nose breathing if we want to balance the energy flows.

Rebirthing breathing has these characteristics:

(1) In and out through the mouth or through the nose, but never a combination of the two (never in through the nose and out through the mouth or visa versa).

(2) Inhale and exhale connected into one smooth circle of breathing with no pauses between the inhale and exhale. This makes the breathing slightly faster.

(3) Inhale expanding the belly and exhale relaxing/softening the belly.

(4) The exhale is never forced or forceful. If we are pushing on the exhale, then it usually means we are moving into fear breath and need to make an adjustment. Fear breath is pushing something away.

I would also add these elements to Rebirthing breathing:

(1) Visualize receiving the energy of love, wisdom, and creativity from the atmosphere that surrounds us, imagine and feel that we are never alone, but are always in this energy.

(2) Visualize surrendering into this energy with each exhale, imagine that you are sinking deeper into gravity, the embrace of the Earth, and are allowing yourself to feel safe and held by life.

(3) Notice how the intention to receive on the inhale deepens the inhale, making it fuller, eventually expanding (without strain) the belly and rib cage into full lung breathing.

(4) Notice how the intention to surrender on the exhale makes the exhale softer and smoother. This is very important, because every exhale is a literal letting go into the Divine when done rightly. When we are consciously exhaling, then we are consciously letting go. This is especially true when our minds are focused on each breath and are not wandering in thought land (and thereby staying in ego control). Every exhale is a dying to ego control. If we concentrate our focus and intention this way, each exhale will very rapidly move us into the Divine Domain.

(5) As the body relaxes, the repressed emotional experiences stored in the chronically tense muscle tissues will surface. You want to "not cling, not resist" whatever is flowing upwards. Ideally it will pass through the third eye viewing screen and be gently released. If we get hooked into the thought flow, we can get lost in an ego drama and play out a karma, rather than finish with a karma. Getting hooked in is when we react with clinging or resisting to something in the emerging experience. This is the inner yoga. If we stay focused on the breath, stay in the exhale, stay in the let go, then the thoughts will flow out the crown chakra and be released and we will be done with whatever it is. This the gentlest way of healing karma and releasing samskaras or healing everything. Our dying to what arises is our gesture of trusting Divine Grace to do all the release work and karma burning work for us. The thought flow is "digested" by each chakra and then passed upwards until it is blown out the crown and done.

Shivasana is also ideal because it literally requires no effort to be in this state and the idea is to surrender even any other subtle effort we are doing until we reach deep trustful not doing of anything, completely trusting the Divine to do everything for us. This means that we can easily sustain this breathing meditation for many hours. If we are in a deep healing process, it is good to have time to continue as long as possible. I have gone many times for as long as 14 hours straight, not feeling hungry during this time, and then often only eating a light soup, herbal tea, and salad afterwards (or just one of those items).

It is also possible to come to "suspended breath" which is where we stop completely and with our bodies so deeply oxygenated that we do not need by breathe for a long pause (without any strain). It is a Nirvakalpa Samadhi experience, where deep cellular regeneration can happen. Some yogis in the past tried to do this through breath retention (holding) for long counts (Earth Element Breathing). But I found that Rebirthing breathing does it more strainlessly and naturally by just having each breath be a full and efficient prana generator for the body. When it first happened, I found I was not merely not breathing, but felt no pressure, need, or urge to breathe. It lasted for about five minutes. There was a serene kind of eternal silence, but unlike a deep space I had reached in Zen meditation, it was more grounded in the physical body.

There is another experience called "breath release" where our ego does temporarily and completely die, and releases its control of the breath. To me, this is when we enter "nirvana" (nir=out, vana=wind aka out wind or exhale or surrender). This is also, I feel, when Jesus "breathes his last" (exhales, breath releases) and tears the veil of separateness apart to enter into unity consciousness, and says, "It is finished". Breath release completes something very deep and ends something relatively permanently (there are more egos stored in the subconscious mind and need to also be surrendered). When we do breath release, we shift from Water Element Breathing (Rebirthing) to Space Element Breathing (zero ego control breathing).

Staying in the Mudra of Shivanasa, without fidgetting, staying aligned, or re-aligning when we notice we are off, helps deepen the surrender into the Divine. Part of Zen practice is the unity of practice and enlightenment, when you take on the posture or body of an enlightened being, then you also take on the mind of an enlightened being. The Mudra of Shivasana allows us to take on the surrender of an enlightened being to the Divine.

One powerful way of working with all this is within Tanran Reiki energy healing, where the receiver is holding Shivasana mudra and a Reiki practitioner is "opening the flows" so that every cell can participate in the surrender process. The Reiki practitioner lays hands on any blocked area and runs energy through this area until it opens up. This can accelerate the pranayama process and make more efficient use of our time.

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