Stable Loving Presence

golden-2096942_640Notes From the workshop at Bija Yoga in San Francisco, April, 2017, and more…

Intention and Attention
2  Forest and Trees
3  Lines and Circles
4  Living in Three Dimensions

Intention and Attention

Intention and attention are the twins that help us remain rooted in the present moment. Of course, we have to begin with the intention to stay awake and present. From there we attend to whatever it is that will help us realize this intention. The interplay between intention and attention will show up anywhere and anytime we find ourselves looking to go deeper into our soul journey. Stable Loving Presence is a term I am using to help organize the focus of our intentional and attentional possibilities as we continue our work to heal ourselves, human culture and our planet.

What is our intention for this class, this moment, this lifetime? Every moment, if we are staying awake, we get to choose our intention. We have no control over what may arise, in our minds or in life, but we do have the capacity to respond to whatever arises from the spacious, open present moment and not from conditioned habit. If we want to be a vehicle of sanity and kindness in an insane world, we need the intention to choose the open spaciousness of love over contracted and unconscious fear as our base for responding to the moment, every moment. If this is our life’s intention, we need to explore just what this means. When fear, or any of its related emotions such as anxiety, anger, shame and others, arises, as they will, over and over, day after day, what determines how we respond? We have to be paying attention to find out!

In general, habit rules our responses. A common reaction to difficulty or unpleasantness is to shut down/contract our heart center as a means of self defense. These challenges can come from the outer world, or from within the depths of our own psyches. We all carry many lifetimes of psychic and emotional wounds and we have ‘learned’ to ‘close down’ to keep from revisiting the old ones, or being wounded again. Unfortunately, as we all learn sooner or later, this strategy does not work in the long run. Closing down perpetuates a sense of separation, and this alienation from wholeness, and aspects of ourselves, is the true source of our suffering. We might call this the major spiritual disease of our times. Somatically, we feel this as contracted restricted energy.

Option two is to embody the negative emotion and get lost in it. We become the anger, anxiety or fear and the fullness of our world collapses. Our strengths and resources for dealing sanely with the moment become forgotten in the unconscious passion. This is happening collectively all over the planet, as people bond with others lost in similar fears and anxieties and act out in violence and stupidity. In both of these choices, we have lost the space of the present moment.

Option three is to stay present, open and alert, holding some level of spaciousness, wisdom and compassion, even as fear, in any of its variations, arises. If necessary, we respond to the demands of the moment, as best possible, with compassion for ourselves and others, and as much wisdom as we can summon, and keep going, moment by moment. This requires a certain level of emotional and spiritual strength, cultivated through practice. A spiritual practice involves stabilizing an awakened loving presence, so just physical exercise or mental training will not be sufficient. And this practice primarily involves paying attention.

When we have as our primary intention in life to cultivate stable loving presence, every moment of our lives offers a chance to practice. We are not limited to the yoga mat or meditation cushion.  And every moment we get to start anew, to be a beginner in life, hopefully recognizing that we are children in this practice, still learning and prone to mistakes. But we have to be paying full attention to what is actually arising. Most of the time we pay just enough attention to get by, but most of our mental energy is engaged in our habitual ‘lost in thought mode’. The more we practice staying fully present, the easier it gets. Of course, the spiritual irony is that stable loving presence is our natural state; we just seem to have forgotten and have become lost in our own delusions of self, in all of its stories.

Through practice, or grace, the awakening from our delusion slowly emerges, but even if a major spiritual shift has not yet taken place, we all have access to the present moment and can practice staying present. “Being steady with mindfulness as an anchor for all the changes we go through is the way we practice forbearance. And you can employ this same method anywhere and anytime: just pay close attention to the detail of what is going on internally and externally. Don’t flinch, don’t run away. Trust what happens. Take your stand there.” sailing-home-side

Forbearance is another word for equanimity, (Yoga Sutras)  samatvam, (Bhagavad Gita) or emotional resilience (Pema Chodron) . Zen priest and poet Norman Fischer, writing in his fascinating book ‘Sailing Home” is describing basic Zen practice, but the mindfulness he discusses is the root of all spiritual practices. In the body, notice that while fear or anxiety contracts the energy, you can slow that process down moment by moment, if you hold presence. The fear dos not go away necessarily, and if there is trauma associated, there will be a lot of work to hold presence, but you can do this. Keep you intention clear and your attention sharp.

Sailing Home‘ is also a book about stories, both personal and collective, and how we can use them wisely, without ever confusing them for absolute Truth. Our spiritual journey parallels that of Odysseus on his great journey. We never know when one of the  many hidden places in our unconscious, triggered by life experience, is going to jump out and create trouble. Emotional stability and resilience is a very important skill to cultivate. I am using the expression ‘stable loving presence’ as it captures the three qualities of ground, heart and openness that are the key for this resilience.

Our somatic explorations in yoga will show how we can embody and nurture stable loving presence, (SLP), through diligent, careful practice. ‘Sthira sukham asanam‘, Patanjali’s description of asana is also a description of stable loving presence. Krishna, in chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, calls this ‘sthitha prajna’, stable wisdom. SLP requires the brain to surrender to the heart, the entire body to deeply ground into Mother Earth, and hours and years of practice. Patanjali offers abhyasah, as the very first practice in the Yoga Sutras.

I-13  tatra sthitau yatno’bhyasah
Practice leads to stable healthy mind states and stillness.

I-14 sa tu dirgha-kala-nairantarya-satkarasevito drdha-bhumih
Stability of mind requires continuous practice, over a long period of time, without interruption, and with an attitude of devotion and love.

Deeply ingrained habits do not go away overnight, whether in an individual or a society. The neuronal connections can be strongly wired, especially if they have been repeated over and over. Laying down new neural pathways and weakening old ones take time and patience. The intention to sustain devotion and love are required to make sure the new pathways are healthy and not dysfunctional. It is quite easy to react to an unhealthy pattern by creating another unhealthy one. “”I hate myself for having all this judgment,” is a common thought/vrtti. Learning to gently and compassionately see the thought and recognize it for what it is requires discipline and patience. This then leads to the process of letting it go. This is vairagyam, described in sutra I-15. There are many vrttis floating about the mind field that are triggers for suffering. Vairagyam is sustaining a healthy and alert immune system for the mind.

Forest and Trees

We will look at what this means in life, as well as how our asana explorations can deepen the openness of our heart and the stability of our grounding. Remember to balance the view of the forest with the details of the trees in your practice. Obsessing over detail (trees) never allows you to rest in the openness of the present moment. For those of us trained in the Iyengar system, it is easy to get seduced by the endless pursuit of perfection. In the world of form there is always one more adjustment, one more instruction to remember, one more prop, one more nuance to notice. To be stuck here is the sign of a restless mind. In any asana, just choose a few points to awaken, using an energetic pattern to anchor your attention and 04-waxing-waning-qian-kunintegrate the flow, and then step back and ‘be’. If and when you become distracted, repeat the cycle. (For more detail on this way of practicing, see Samyama in Asana pt1) and pt 2.) Notice the incredible richness of the whole forest and the vast unbounded stillness at the core of our being waiting to be seen.

Getting lost in detail is a problem but to never notice the subtle possibilities available in refinement is also a great loss. Asana practice has been trivialized by most of modern culture. It is seen as a fancy exercise to complement your Pilates or spin classes, or some simple practices to get you ready for the ‘real’ yoga. To experience asana as a spiritual practice is to see asana as the whole expression of spirit in matter. How are you embodying wholeness, wisdom, compassion and delight in your organs, cells fluids, structures, moment by moment, 24/7/365? Can you feel a deep resonance in your cells with every form in the cosmos, from stars to starfish, as they embody the same depth of cosmic creativity as you? If so, you are beginning to get a sense of asana.

Practice: Roots and Stability

SBK_17010761-85Sit in any comfortable position, preferably with a slight lift to get your pelvis off the floor. Feel tall without effort. Relax the breathing and feel the heart soft, open and relaxed. Rest here momentarily, softening the facial muscles and sense organs.

Now bring your attention to the bottom of the pelvic bones and feel the contact there. Roll very slightly forward and backward on the bridge or ramus between the pubic bones and sitting bones until you find the balance point where you feel a natural effortless lifting coming up from the base of the pose. Stay here without too much effort. There will be a very subtle natural oscillation as the body uses flow to remain stable. When you feel the ‘grounded’ state of the body, there will be no urge to do anything. The body and mind can rest.

Now let your attention drop into the lower abdomen, (dharana), several inches above the imagesbottom of the pelvis, where the center of gravity of the body is located, and keep your attention here, (dhyana). Feel the breath expanding and condensing from this lower body center. Feel the brain resting and the heart open and floating above your stable base. Sit quietly and allow the body to rest in its center, its own stillness, (samadhi). Feel stable loving presence as a living vibrant state. Practice this every day. Start with 5 minutes, work up to 30 or 40.


IMG_7947When ready, transition to standing. Keep your attention in the lower body center with relaxed breathing. Feel tall and light. Notice that now your feet are your roots. Like the pelvic bones, roll slightly forward and backward until you find a place of balance. Although not necessary, slightly bending the knees might make it easier to feel your feet.

Now locate the points noted to the left. In Chinese medicine, these are the first points on the kidney meridian, known as K-1 or the bubbling spring. Here is where the earth element and the water element meet and these points are crucial in elegant and powerful movements of the body.images

Technically, acupuncture points are actually cavities  into which the point of the acupuncture needle is inserted, so this may help you imagine the K-1 as spaces. In athletics, ‘being on your toes’ means ‘be alert and ready to move in any direction’. When the K-1s are awake through both feeling and action, the body is relaxed and alert, stable and open. From the abdomen, breath into these points, charging them with sensitivity and alertness. Connect them to your soft open heart, feel the dynamic presence and you are now embodying stable loving presence.

Activate them further by walking and moving about the room, using the K-1 spaces as the brain of the movements. Change directions by pressing the floor at differing angles and feel how the whole body responds. Then return to tadasana and feel the breath connecting the feet and the entire body. Feel the inner stillness amidst the aliveness. We have the opportunity to cultivate stable loving presence with every step we take. How many of us walk unconsciously through life?

Take this practice into the world. The easiest is to be in nature, where every step can be nurtured by the grace of Mother Earth, if we are paying attention. From your feet, feel the trees, the rocks or mountains, the sand at the beach. Through your soft open heart take in the grace of all that surrounds you. The more time you spend in this state, the easier it is to sustain or rediscover it. (Hebb’s Axiom)

Continuing this practice in the human realm is a bit more challenging, as the collective human energy field is pretty traumatized. Practice with friends. Family members offer many delightful/frustrating/painful challenges to staying in loving presence.

Openness and Boundaries

As we bring our practice into the world, it is very important to understand that loving presence does not preclude the need for and skill in using flexible boundaries. As much as I love being in nature, I keep my distance from rattle snakes and poison oak. Although too much sun or too much cold and dampness is not conducive to good health, and I avoid those states whenever possible, my loving presence doesn’t take these personally. I realize that I can differentiate the needs of this individual organism, me, and act accordingly, without creating a feeling of separateness from wholeness.

The same is true in the realm of human relationships. Ideally, healthy parenting teaches us how to deeply and lovingly bond with another, and also how to clearly differentiate ourselves from all others. Our own authenticity is essential for soul health and a key component to this is learning how to set strong and yet flexible, and even dissolvable boundaries in our relationships.

Strengthening Our Ground.

Moment to moment practice in life helps stabilize our SLP. In asana, we can use the postures to also deepen and strengthen the nervous system’s potential to be strong, stable and open. Come back to tadasana, with the feet awake and the lower abdominal area breathing easily. To release some of the tension held in region of the pelvis and hip joints, to unlock the root chakra, and further ease the breath in the center of gravity, we can explore the effects of the standing poses. Tadasana allows us to feel our legs and feet as an extension of our root chakra and deeply bond with the gravitational field and Mother Earth. We now can discover how the other standing poses can liberate our tail energy and create a tri-furcated muladhara, where the two legs and a long imaginary tail give you three energy vectors to help create stronger grounding and more space and freedom. Click here to read more.

proxyLines and Circles

Hidden in tadasana is the horizontal circle seen here in a gyroscope. We can see the spinal axis or chakra line in the center. In the gyroscope, or any spinning topGM2434B-1, the rotation gives stability to the vertical energy. This  fundamental energetic pattern of the cosmos is seen in the solar system and the Milky Way Galaxy, both spiralic systems with a central axis. The rotation creates an expanding pull known as centrifugal force which tends to expand the circle. A complementary centripetal force gathers energy back to the center to sustain a balance and contain the energy. We can use twisting poses mentioned in the standing pose article referenced above to find this energetic field in our own bodies.

Living in Three Dimensions

If we take asana to the next level, we begin to feel our three dimensional being extends out into the cosmos in all directions, intersecting with layers and levels of reality we may never have noticed. Please click here for more on this.

Stay awake, grounded and openhearted and let life flow through you. Be the vehicle of social and spiritual change by living this, as best you can, moment to moment.


Dense and Subtle Energy

Dense and Subtle Energy or Embodying Evolutionary Spirituality
Notes From Detroit, January , 2017

Love and Compassion

The fundamental essence of Being is Love. Unmanifest Love is infinite awareness, vast stillness, silent, pregnant with possibility, unimaginably mysterious. In the world of form, Love manifests as cosmic harmony, the balance of complementary possibilities in a dynamic tension that drives the evolutionary journey. The multitude of forms that comprise A galaxy on the edgethe known universe are evolving, from quarks and atoms, to stars and galaxies, to deeper and deeper expressions of complexity like butterflies, rain forests and Lady Gaga. In the ‘Wholeness’ of this process, manifest and unmanifest, there is no ‘other’, no separation. The terms ‘non-dual’ or ‘advaita’ refer to this oneness, and we must continue to ‘realize’  or ‘recognize this.

When the balance is disturbed in manifest reality, the powerful energy of love seeks to restore harmony in the system and keep the evolutionary journey moving forward into deeper and more prolific expressions of itself. (See ‘The Universe Story” by Thomas Berry and Brain Swimme to see how evolution unfolds.) This process, however, becomes very complicated in the realm of human thought and activity. Because of the nature of our survival based nervous system, it is easy for the energy of love to become distorted when disharmony sets in. Here, creativity becomes stifled, chaos and stagnation, fear and anger ensue and the evolutionary journey stalls.

Rather than remaining in wholeness/love, we create ‘other’ to blame for the inevitable challenges that arise in evolutionary progress. Our own ego structures may turn on each other (I’m such a terrible person, etc), stifling pour own growth. Or we find individuals or groups to demonize collectively. We may be wise or clever enough to recognize when some of the cultural disharmony is arising, but if we do this from a place of fear and anger, more conflict is assured and the problems become more deeply entrenched in the cultural field. When disharmony is recognized from a place of love, creativity can begin the process of self healing. Adyashanti is calling this ‘Fierce Love’.

Is it possible to be fiercely for love, compassion, truth, equality and justice without becoming lost in anger or depression? Is it possible to recognize and speak out strongly for what we believe in, rather than expending energy for what we are against? Resisting comes from a sense of separation and thus can never provide a long term solution to any problem. Gandhi was not resisting the British. He was fiercely standing for satya, truth, and would not be moved from that because he had the whole cosmos with him. Is it possible to recognize the others may be operating from delusion they do not see or understand and feel compassion, meaning your heart stays open, even as you strongly disagree with specific policies and actions? These are not easy practices, which is why we have to practice….. a lot.

The great challenge of our time is to recognize that anger, fear, frustration and depression are the deeply embedded roots of the problems we are facing. This is true both individually and collectively. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them” observed Albert Einstein. We can also say that we cannot solve our current global challenges without changing the fear and anger based emotionally dysfunctional mind states, both personal and collective, that dominate social dialogue on all sides. That is why spiritual transformation is the foundation for healthy sociological, economic and political change.

Facilitating this spiritual transformation, ‘Awakening’,  is why we have incarnated in the present moment. ‘Incarnation’ is the here and now of spirit and soul emerging moment to moment as you, as a flesh and blood human being, awakening to its divine origins, healing its shadows and wounds, and pouring creativity into the local fields of the planet. Yoga practice is an all in commitment to fully incarnate and actualize all that your soul is capable of. To do this we need the ability to discriminate between what I am calling dense and subtle energy. To be as simple as possible, dense energy is dominated by the shadow and fear, subtle energy comes from love and cosmic harmony. In the modern yoga world, the shadow work is the most important and least recognized realm for this work.

As spiritual practice takes us deeper into the Awakening, we continually discover the layers of our shadow in the form of grief, darkness and despair that have accumulated over time. We are all experiencing, to one degree or another, anger, frustration, anxiety, fear and depression. No surprise given the insane way in which humans are treating each other and the planet. And it is obvious that there is a personal as well as a collective component to the darkness. Managing these less than pleasant domains is essential if we are to make positive contributions to the awakening.

As an ‘Spiritual Evolutionary’ my practice involves discovering and activating the resources available from as many layers and levels of creation as possible to help move forward the collective spiritual awakening and healing desperately needed by our planet. As a somatic practitioner as well, I find that in exploring ‘incarnation’, the innate and emergent intelligence of life that is the core of my being, I can discover the primary evolutionary urges and desires of the cosmos.  As a ‘Soul Man’, I also recognize the need to do the personal and collective ‘shadow work’ to transform and heal the repressed psychic wounds that bind up or misuse the energy needed for healing and growth. Both the Yogis of India and the Tao’ists of China have explored and mapped this journey of awakening and transformation for us.

The Taoists and the Yogis have slightly different ways of expressing cosmic harmony and each is helpful to our understanding of the cosmic healing process we are nurturing. In Taoism, the universe is composed of two complementary forces, Yin and Yang, that when in balance, create and sustain a healthy universe. The Taoists noticed the difference between the north and south sides of the mountains. Being in the northern hemisphere, the north face was cooler, damper, darker; the south was warmer, drier and sunnier. This was the primal origin of yin and yang which eventually expanded to include the cycles and qualities of night and day, winter and summer and so forth.

The Yogis describe two fundamental tendencies and add a third term to describe the dynamic state of balance between them. These three are the ‘gunas’, a key aspect of Samkhya philosophy. Tamas is urge for stability, Rajas is the urge for change and Sattva is urge for a dynamic and creative balance between these two. Traditional discussions on the gunas refer to tamas and rajas as unhealthy and sattva as desirable, but I find this to be misleading. It makes much more sense to see that the sattvic state is a balance of tamas and rajas. Patanjali comes right out and says in II – 46,  ‘sthira sukham asanam’, incarnation is the balance of stability and mobility. If they are out of balance, problems arise.

Dense and Subtle Energy

Subtle Energy’, as I am using the term, represents all actions and states that arise from cosmic harmony. In the Tao’ist perspective, the masculine Yang and the feminine Yin mutually support each other at every level of creation and society. For the Yogis, the need for stability, to ‘conserve’ the accumulated wisdom, is balanced by the need to ‘liberate’ ideas, beliefs and structures that are no longer serving the greater whole. This subtle energy is transparent to the infinite stillness, allowing us to rest in stillness effortlessly when centered here.
‘Dense Energy’ represents all actions and states that arise out of disharmony. When Yin and Yang are no longer in dynamic balance, either or both can be diminished or in excess.
When rajas and tamas are out of balance, too much rajas (or not enough tamas) promotes anger, aggression, forcefulness, excess will, frustration, fear, and anxiety. An excess of tamas (or a depletion of rajas) can create depression, sluggishness, heaviness, lethargy and a loss of will.
Our challenge is to feel these energies as they arise, at every level of our existence, and develop skillful means to transform the dense energies of imbalance to the harmonious energies of sattva. We embody these energies in the tissues and organs of the body, so in an embodied spiritual practice, we learn the alchemy of bio-dynamic energy fields and energy flow to create/restore/maintain harmony. The innate intelligence of the organism naturally moves toward healing, but trauma and confusion can inhibit this process. That is why human intelligence, buddhi, has to be cultivated, to sort through the trauma and confusion.
Working with Emotional Dense Energy

All spiritual practices begin in, and continually refer back to the heart as the heart is the center of all center, the ground of being, the root of the soul. In Sutra I-33, Patanjali offers clear guidance on living from the heart and healing the shadow issues. These practices of the heart, the Brahma Viharas or the ‘Four Unmeasurables’ are very important in the Buddhist teachings as well.

I-33  Maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha dukha punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatash citta prasadanam.
(The mind becomes purified by cultivating) love, compassion, joy, and equanimity (respectively) towards those who are successful, suffering, virtuous and not so virtuous.

Love, or metta, loving kindness as the Buddhists call it, refers to the sincere desire to see all beings up-lifted, loved, supported, and nurtured so they may also feel and live from the infinite depths of their own hearts. Is it easy to feel this deeply towards all beings? No, not at all. We all experience jealousy, anger and resentment towards certain people and situations, and have no problem directing negative energy at ourselves. These dense energy mind states obscure the pure light of the heart. It takes practice to over-ride our habits and transform the energy.

Now, it is important to note that we can strongly criticize wrong action and stand up to injustice while still holding the person or persons responsible in the light of love. This is called ‘parenting’. The natural energy of the heart is love, so this is a difficult but ultimately a straight forward practice. Can I truly feel love toward those who disagree with me, even if I know I am convinced that I am right and they are wrong. And can I truly listen to those who appear to me to be ‘wrong’, from openness and compassion, and hold the possibility that I may be lacking in perspective or information.  Like is any other strength building exercise, start with simple challenges and work your way up. Very dense energy is very resistant to change, so we need patience and subtlety to work at this level.

The basic metta practice is a simple, three phrase mantra you can repeat any time: May all beings be happy, May all beings find inner peace, may all beings be free. When you feel ready, you can be more specific in your intentions: may all politicians be happy, may all politicians find inner peace, may all politicians be free. Feel free to add your more challenging names as your practice grows, including yourself.

Compassion is a more subtle and challenging, as it requires us to have love plus  discriminating wisdom. Compassion implies deeply feeling the nature of someone’s suffering and attempting to discern what actions might possibly help alleviate this suffering. This is not pity or condescension but a heart to heart connection at the soul level. Deciding a choice of action, if there is one, is where the wisdom comes in. Dense energy is afraid of feeling someone else’s pain, because it has enough of its own to deal with, and isn’t even conscious of this. Feeling compassion toward those who are creating suffering for others is quite challenging and requires the capacity to feel the suffering that underlies their actions. There are many times when compassion calls for letting the person learn their own soul lesson by not interceding. Start slowly, and gradually expand your capacity to be compassionate. Take this at your own pace. This is not a rush to saint hood!

Being joyful when in difficult times, or in a difficult situation, is also quite challenging, so we have to practice finding joy wherever we can. Gratitude practice is a good one. There is so much to be grateful/joyous for, and yet the mind quickly and easily gravitates to negativity. The song of a bird, a flower blooming, snowflakes; Mother Nature is fundamentally an ongoing outburst of joyous activity, but for many, their world is contained in electronic devices and the spontaneous joy of being has been forgotten. Cultivate joy as often as possible, so you can access it when needed. Give yourself a vast reserve to draw from.

Equanimity (Patanjali uses the Sanskrit work ‘upeksha’ ) is a lovely word. The Bhagavad Gita calls this ‘samatvam’ and uses this as a primary definition of yoga. This is a crucial practice when working with deep shadows, both personally and collectively and is subtle energy in action. A recent excursion in the medical world has given me ample opportunity to explore this practice of ‘non-attachment’. Pema Chodron’s teachings on ‘Discomfort Resilience has been most helpful here.

Chapter 2, verse 48

yogasthah kuru karmaani sangam tyaktvaa dhananjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhuutvaa samatvam yoga ucyate

Remaining steadfast in yoga, oh Dhananjaya (Arjuna), perform actions, abandoning attachment, remaining the same to success and failure alike. This evenness of mind is called yoga.

The next time a challenging situation arises in your life, explore samatvam, equanimity, even as other aspects of the mind run around in their own patterns of fear and anxiety. The feelings will remain highly unpleasant, but the space in which you hold them will be vast and supportive, and even light and joyful in odd moments. A recent excursion into the medical world has given me a wonderful opportunity to put all this to practice. Pema Chodron’s teachings on ‘Discomfort Resilience’ has been most helpful here.


Working with Dense and Subtle Energy in Asana Practice

From an asana perspective, dense energy arises in the body when overworking, collapsing or some combination of the two. Remember we have structure, energy flow, and fields to work with in the realm of form or Prakriti, as well as ‘infinte spaciousness or Purusha. We will explore how gravity, (the field)  healthy alignment (structure) and the capacity to feel the subtle aspects of the breathing (energy)  combine to create energy flow connecting structure and field in a way that can heal, awaken and transform. To get the most form this, and to save me from repeating, you will be sent to other pages on the web site for the foundation work. Then return to this post.

Standing Poses: click here: Standing Poses

imagesIn all of these poses, begin with K-1, the Kidney 1 acupuncture point. Activate by pressing down through the point, which will raise you up a bit. Differentiate this action from lifting the heels, which uses the superficial calf and not the deeper muscles of the foot. The correct action grounds and lifts simultaneously, with no tightening. There will be fatigue if these new muscles are not used to working, but that should be in the feet and not the outer calf.

UnknownNext, connect this feeling of lift to the very center of the perineum and feel the springiness and elasticity in the tissue here. It should be neither too loose nor too tight, but shtira and sukham.

Now find the tip of the coccyx, just behind the center point and send a line of energy from it, forward, over the pubic Unknown-1bone and up to the base of the sternum. Return the flow from sternum to coccyx and repeat until you feel a stable and dynamic connection between them. This is not a ‘gross tucking’ action, but will create space, length and support to the whole lower body. This line tends to be very weak and leads to overworking the lower back muscles (rajasic dense energy) and weakness in the abdominal wall (tamasic dense energy.) Connect to feet and walk around without losing the connection.

Now, find the point behind your heart that sits above the center of the perineum and connect it to the two K-1 points. Let the breath flow freely without disturbing the energy flow and field connecting the points. Feel the heart floating in the chest, supported by feet and the coccyx-sternum energy line.

Now connect feet, perineum and back of the heart to your crown chakra, releasing up into the heavens as you also release down into the earth. Click here for more:  Find the balance of weight and lightness and feel its quality.

imagesImagine one more point, on the spine between the shoulder blades at the level of the heart. Connect it in a loop up to the crown chakra,  down to the mid sternum, around to the perineum and back up to the inner shoulder blades. Change direction. You may find some other points along the circuit that carry energy. This is a Tao’ist path known as the micro-cosmic orbit.

Sustain this circuit in all poses, as best possible. When you feel contraction or collapse, reconnect the points and re-establishing the energy flow and field.

Dog Pose and Variations: click here Dog Pose


Femur action in fwd bends: chair work:

You have dig even more deeply for this one, but there is an article from the Yoga Journal that covers the work we did in class in much more detail.  When you click here (published articles) it will take you to the page containing all the articles I wrote many years ago. It is a fun page if you have not discovered it before. Scroll down to “Froggie Yoga, from the May/June 1989 issue and click there. You get the whole magazine. The ‘hip action’ article begins on page 60 with my dear wife Kate as a relaxing frog. Amazingly enough, and I just discovered this, there is an article on Chi Gong right before mine. I love cosmic simultaniety!

bakasana+iyengarMore challenging poses from the folded groin work begin with Bakasana and its variations. Keep the groin depth and expand the chest in all directions,
especially out through the arms.


chair backbendsSBK_17010761-98SBK_17010761-89

for opening the deep front, organs, muscles, connective tissue, breath, without contracting the back.











Setu Bandha  and variations on a block.






Anantasana for opening lateral line: trace from inner heels to inner ears.





Practice and Teaching a Somatic Based Spirituality

  1. Always begin, and return over and over to the heart center, nurturing and strengthening all the ways in which love can manifest: Compassion, Mercy, Gratitude, Selfless Action, Charity etc.
  2. Open channels through heart center into: Mother Earth for stability and grounded strength; Father Sky for spaciousness, lightness and openness. Know the heart as where heaven earth and you are one.
  3. Feel breathing as expanding and condensing, like the Hoberman sphere.
  4. Learn how to stand and walk from the integration of 1, 2 and 3 above.
  5. Learn how to use standing poses to refine 1 – 4 above.
  6. Awaken and discover the ‘median plane’ of the body, dividing front and back, by expanding core channel sideways. (see anantasa above).
  7. Learn how mammalian flexion/extension (fwd and back bending actions) can open up 6.
  8. Find twisting poses as spiraling patterns radiating out from median line/plane. (7)
  9. In dog pose, awaken arms as weight bearing limbs, as preparation for inversions.
  10. Learn inversions carefully, mindfully.
  11. Learn to sit in stillness, not by relentlessly seeking perfect alignment, but allowing the body to discover its own innate stillness.
  12. Learn to lie down in a supported savasana.SBK_17010761-30-Edit

Embryology For Yoga Students

Embryology for Yoga Students:
Yoga Room Berkeley, January 14 and 15, 2017
embodying the earliest days of embryological growth and development
as a yoga practice/meditation:

In: Non Dual Wholeness

where in the present moment, the unbounded infinite,
containing all, including past, present, future and parallel layers and levels of reality

we recognize forms emerging as

Yin and Yang as Egg and Sperm

Egg and Sperm merge / two become one…. then

One becomes two …





And two become three

And three become 30 trillion…

Out of the infinite, luminous emptiness of the present moment arises the entire cosmos, in a mind boggling multiplicity of forms. The forms to explore today are the echos of our embryological past, still emerging, available when we can be still and feel our inner depths.

Some general principles for contemplation:
1. Embryology for yogis is an investigation of the emergence and transformation of forms through fluid dynamics.
2. The morphology of the embryo is present in the adult human as possibilities of deeper integration.
3. Structures and cavities appear and disappear through time during development.
4. Growth is movement!
5. Not all cells grow/divide at the same rate. This leads to changes in both shape and function.
6. Cells grow by contact along lines of energy, like ants following a chemical trail.
7. Membranes and fluids are primary.
8. The first major differentiation of cells, known as gastrulation, gives rise to three primary types of tissue. The endodermal cells become the gut body, the mesodermal cells become connective tissue structures including the heart, and the ectodermal cells become the nervous system. Most of our explorations will be here. (See day 12 in the diagram below.)

Week 1: Conception, spherical energy: rolling, falling, tumbling, dividing, condensing, image_preview hatching, hollowing, fluidity, freedom.

Practice: Being Yin/Egg: Standing calmly, feel yourself as a sphere with your heart as the center. Feel the round, soft receptivity in all directions. Be patient, waiting, internal, grounded, rooted, still.

Practice: Being Yang/Sperm: Feel one of your arms coming alive like a snake waking up, undulating, pulsating. Add your other arm. Let each leg feel snake like. One at a time give each limb a direction and feel the energy surging out into the world. Feel your spine like a snake, ready to move into action,into the world.

Practice: The emergence of the poles. In any supine position like setu IMG_8375bandha, let the upper and lower bodies begin to differentiate. The block here acts as a fulcrum, allowing the pelvis/tail/feet move in the opposite direction of the head, shoulders chest. Feel the dynamic tension in the middle realm of the body – liver-stomach-spleen kidneys like the telophase above. Find vesica-pisces13the one-two-three: whole body, dividing into two with the middle opening as three. You may discover your own ‘vesica pisces emerging as the gateway to all possibilities.

Practice: Rolling and Pouring, from “How Life Moves”. Lying on your back, quietly feeling your weight, your fluidity. Feel in inner currents and tidal movements even as you lie still. Let those fluid movements invite the body respond in movement, not from the limbs, but from the fluids, like a baby exploring rolling over. Feel and find the omni-directional freedom, felt sense of weight, rotation/spinning in relaxed, supported, quiet environment. This is a very internal, meditative state. Savasana or other restorative poses can take us here as well.

Week 2: Implantation; landing, attaching, making connections, establishing roots.

Unknown-1Practice: Making a connection with floor or wall, feel how a new level of stability allows more types of growth and movement. Attach yourself in one place and allow everywhere else freedom to move. Now we are moving outside ourselves to find support from the world around us. It is a more extroverted state, discovering the ‘other’.

Week 2: Gastrulation: differentiating into front, back and middle; expanding, differential growth. This is a huge shift in perception/awareness as the biological intelligence now differentiates into three modes of being/action/perception.

Practice: Explore each of these three places and modes of being before they complexify imagesand differentiate more completely. This can be done in any pose, as all embryological moments are available at any time, as fields waiting for imagination to re-ignite them. However, new students may want to stay on the floor where you can safely surrender to gravity and feel the awakening of the fluids and membranes. The fluid filled cavities carry nutrients, sound waves, and waves of movement.

Front body as:
Endoderm – yolk sac space- nurturing – gut body, eventually to become upper, middle and lower GI track; Feel the deep support of the yolk sac before it is drawn into the body and elongated. Feel it as expansive, soft, full. Kapha in Ayurveda.

Back body as:
Ectoderm – amnion to become amniotic sac, and primitive nervous system – brain – sense organs – skin; Feel the deep support of the amniotic cavity before in encircles you, before the middle emerges as mesoderm. Feel the wide sensitivity of the future skin/brain/nerves. Vata in Ayurveda.

Middle body as:
Mesoderm: mediator; grows out from middle – all connective tissues, muscles, bones, ligaments, fascia, heart, kidneys and eventually limbs. Pitta in Ayurveda. Find the middle ground as place of balance in all planes and movements.

Week 3: Yolk sac drawn into body as amnion grows around to complete sphere. Deepening the roots. The three layers begin there next level of differentiation. The ectoderm enlarges to become the neural plate and then the neural crest and neural tube. The neural tube will later become spinal cord and various sections of the brain. Mesoderm shows beginning of head and tail, heart. Bones and muscles will emerge. Endoderm begins lengthen to mouth and anus. Lungs, intestines and bladder will emerge.

Practice: Gut body; Hu breath or Vessel breath to active gut body – hollow tubular fluid consciousness. Wake up the fluids and feel the shifts in pressure as the fluids rebound around inside the membranes containing them.

Practice: Emergence of the Mesoderm: Lying on your back, feel the entire floor as your back body/ectoderm and amnion; the ceiling and space above you as your front body/endoderm/yolk sac. Take this into your cells so that all the cells behind your median plane become the ectoderm and all the cells in front become the endoderm. Now imagine the emerging of a middle layer growing along the interphase between endo and ectoderms. This is the median plane feel it spreading sideways and also lengthening to head and tail. Finally find arm buds, leg buds, head and tail emerging.

Practice: Embryonic Folding Click to see short video)

280x157-ylfCoiling and Uncoiling pt 1:  (right image) Rolling onto your side, use the mesoderm to begin to ‘coil up’, extending through head and tail, to come into a fetal position Keep the back long and feel the yolk sac being drawn into the body as you curl. Now, again from the mesoderm, begin to uncoil, extending through head and tail as you feel the gut body lengthening, carrying the spinal column into a mild back bend. Slowly and mindfully repeat this coiling and uncoiling. Bonnie Cohen calls this physiological flexion and extension as it is driven by the gut body action.

Coiling and Uncoiling pt 2: (left image) Lying on your back, feel/imagine the back body expanding sideways and wrapping around the center mesodermal channel to close the front, as the ribs emerge from the spine and wrap around to protect the heart and lungs. Feel space and openness along the whole back body. Then, gently reverse the action, softening and opening the front body like the petals of a flower unfolding.

Practice: Bring any of these explorations into any yoga pose or sequence of poses. Find where there deep inner movements and fluid waves can support you so there is less ‘muscling’ and more surrender in the poses.

Practice: Shamanic Journeying and Active Dreaming: With the support of your guides and gatekeepers, imagine that your soul awareness can step outside of time and see the soul energy coming in at conception.