Krishnamurti on ‘Understanding’

imgresSpiritual teachers have the delightful challenge of trying to articulate the ‘(already I’m in trouble here!) inarticulable. There is general agreement on the two points of view available to the human consciousness, although the words used to point to these two vary. For the overwhelming majority of humanity, the dominant, and perhaps only point of view is that of limitation and impermanence. This is the world of forms. All forms are inherently limited and impermanent, whether we are referring to a thought or a galaxy. In this ‘world’, our self sense is composed of pieces: ideas, beliefs, memories, likes and dislikes. There is never stability or peace of mind for me as everything that is ‘me’ is constantly shifting. We can struggle and fight to hold on to something, trying to keep this ‘self’ intact. We build grand edifices out of beliefs and philosophies, we align ourselves with religions, political parties or cults, trying to find our ‘self’. But in the end, these edifices are castles of sand. Finding our ‘self’ here a hopeless proposition, but one we cling to lifetime after lifetime.

On the other hand, it is possible to ‘see’ the world from the eyes of wholeness, where absolute silence and stillness echo through eternity as all forms arise and dissolve in their own time. This is the Absolute, Buddha Nature, Brahman. Here, the “I am” rests in its own wholeness, with no separation, no division, no other. “Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam” says Patanjali. There is no struggle to become, or to self-improve. The Self is already whole and complete. This does not mean that life, in the world of form is without challenges and struggles. To embody this teaching in the world of form with death and disease, is difficult. But we do not have to make the innate difficulties ‘personal’. They are not about ‘me’. They are just as aspect of being alive, in this body, on this planet, in this moment. We feel, we act, we learn, and we keep moving along. Or more accurately, life just keeps flowing through us, as the forms come and go.

In the following quote from “The World Within” , reprinted from the current edition of the Krishnamurti Foundation of America newsletter, Krishnamurti uses “Understanding’ to point to the realization of “Unbounded Wholeness” and describes the human struggle to ‘recognize’ this.

“Understanding is not to be gained eventually, in the distant end. That which is not understood continues, and that which is understood ceases to be. Understanding is not accumulative; there is no experiencer who understands. What is incomplete remains as a 1987memory, giving continuance to identity, to the ‘me’ and the ‘mine’. That which is understood and completed ceases to be, as it does not leave traces, memory. Understanding can exist only where there is freedom, not where there is bondage, not when the mind is crowded with memory. The end, the goal makes for and strengthens memory, and memory or accumulated experience does not bring about understanding. Accumulation creates a self-enclosing centre, separative, exclusive, and what is enclosed is never free, and so the experiencer can never understand. The experiencer is ever experiencing, and so the experiencer is ever incomplete. He can never understand, for understanding lies in freedom.

How can there be surety, certainty in freedom? That which is free, immeasurable, is beyond all comparison; it is beyond and above all opposites. He who is uncertain craves for certainty, but is not all existence uncertain, insecure? Death, disease, old age is upon us, which creates impermanency; yet we seek certainty in the impermanent. In death, in decay, in the transient we seek surety. How blind we are!

IMG_8867“But we must surely live in this world. Who will give us our daily bread?”

In seeking the Real, bread will be supplied; but if we seek only bread, then even that will be destroyed. Bread is not the ultimate value; when we make it into the ultimate, there is disaster, there is murder, there is starvation.

Through the transient seek the eternal. There is no path to it, for it is ever-present.”

2014 YLT, 11th Weekend Summary

Working with the Prana Vayus:

This is the eleventh entry in a series of twelve posts summarizing the basic material covered in the year long training which began in January of 2104 and will come to a completion on February 15th. Previous posts can be found on this blog page. A lot has been covered over the past year. If any questions arise, please feel free to contact me.

We are now working with the subtle energies, so some quietness and reflection is needed, even in dynamic postures. Meditation is primary in all poses, and the heart is the place to start. We are cultivating subtle streams of perception in both the fluid body and the etheric or spatial body, so some patience and persistence is required. Developing the skill of resting in stillness will allow the more subtle energies to reveal themselves.

Vayu means air or wind and  the term Prana vayus refers to the five fundamental organizing movements of the energetic body. We will be working from the tensegrity/fluid body/pressure cavities perspective to make these movements both tangible and integrated. For anyone living in their body with sensitivity and intelligence, three major pressure cavities can be experienced, the cranial vault, the thoracic region, and the abdominal/pelvic region. Relative to the outside world, the head and abdominal cavities have positive or higher pressure and the thoracic cavity has a lower pressure. To present this in a more dramatic way, if you puncture the head or belly, stuff squirts out, but if you puncture the chest, it collapses inward, as in a collapsed lung. The basic point here is that this pressure gradient of the body is constantly moving energy toward the heart, i.e., pressure draws energy from higher to lower to create an internal equilibrium that is a major player in all of the fluid movements of the body.

This equilibrium can cover a whole spectrum from very dynamic, vital and healthy, to highly restricted and pathological. Our process in yoga physiology is to maximize the dynamic relationships for optimum health. And, it also turns out that in doing so we cultivate a deep inner presence in the heart center that is a place of infinite stillness and wholeness. Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. We have to make it stable, of course, through practice and surrender, abhyasa and vairagyam.

images-1We’ll begin with our Hoberman spheres and begin to feel the energies of the two directions: opening the sphere, expanding out from a center, which we can call the yang or centrifugal energy; and closing the sphere, condensing from the perimeter into the center, the yin or centripetal energy. When they are in balance, we can find a dynamically stable state of the sphere at any where along the spectrum from open to closed.

When we come to the body and the Prana vayus, we first come the first, also known as the prana vayu, which governs the process of taking energies into the body/mind. (I’ll use a capital P when refering to the general term including all five, and a small p when referring to the intake. The prana vayu ,or prana, is an expanding field that creates space and invites energy to move into the body. This expansion is centered in the mid chest at the heart and balances the negative pressure usually felt in the chest which causes the outer world to press in upon the chest. If you hadn’t noticed, as people reach middle age and older, the chest has more often than not sunk in a bit from this pressure. Gravity and the aging belly energy also play Unknowna part in this sinking. By consciously finding, feeling, creating an expanding field from the heart, the chest opens, the heart lifts, and we are ready to be present to whatever the world offers us in the moment. If your connective tissues have fallen into a collapse of any level, it may take a while to reconfigure them. The intercostals and other chest muscles, as well as the diaphragm and mediastinum are involved. The prana vayu is usually associated with respiration, but on a sublte level governs everything you take in, from emotions to ideas, sensations and images.

As we are open systems, we have to balance taking in with moving out. The second vayu, apana, governs elimination, or what we let go of, at all levels. Apana is a squeezing or condensing energy, complimenting the expanding of the prana vayu. Expand to take in, squeeze to move out. Very simple. Most commentators focus on the downward flow, as solid and liquid wastes are eliminated predominantly out through the pelvic floor, but the apana is more complex than that. Sweating takes place throughout the body. Exhalation of the breath takes place through the nostrils or mouth. Regurgitation, a hopefully infrequent form of expelling unwanted material, moves out the mouth.

Ultimately apana is a radiallly condensing energy. However, it also has an unusual role in that the downwards aspect is also what governs the action of the legs and tail, real or imaginary. So we might say the the abdominal/pelvic cavity also can be expanded to include legs and tail. As we saw with the prana vayu, aging often takes a toll on the connective tissue structures of the body. The apana is a squeezing energy, but the belly has a positive or outgoing pressure. Aging often leads to this positive pressure creating the pot or beer belly, giving many middle agers the look of being slightly pregnant. With this state, the ‘sqeeziness’ is also much weaker, creating all sorts of problems from poor elimination and digestion, to lower back problems. From the perspective of Ayurveda, the medical wisdom of the Vedic tradition, poor elimination is the beginning of the disease process.

The samana vayu,  classically associated with digestion, governs absorption. It is the decider or mediator between what comes in and what goes out. When healthy, we retain the ‘good stuff’ and eliminate the ‘bad stuff’. From the perspective of the pressure cavities, samana sits between the expanding center of prana in the chest and the squeezing center of apana in the pelvis. When healthy, the expanding nature of the abdomen is carefully Unknowndirected away from the abdominal wall and aligned with the spinal axis. Some of the energy lifts up through the diaphragm and into the heart, supporting the prana vayu; some of it extends downward to grow legs and tail, supporting the apana vayu. This action can be felt as a natural, mild uddiyana bandha. Here Krishnamacharya is demonstrating a slightly stronger version as part of pranayama practice.

The vyana vayu circulates the energies throughout the body. First felt as the fluid flow of the blood, vyana also governs the nerve currents circulating information throughout the body and the flow of Prana through the subtle energy channels known as nadis.images There are fourteen principal nadis, of which three are most commonly known. Ida is the lunar or cooling nadi associated with the feminine and parasympathetic nervous systems. Pingala, the solar or masculine nadi, works with the sympathetic nervous system. Susumna, the center channel, works with the central nervous system. There are some parallels with the meridian system in Chinese medicine.

The vyana vayu has both expanding and condensing energies and also governs movement. The grace and elegance of the limbs in movement is an indication of healthy vyana.

The udana vayu is a fascinating one. An upward moving energy, udana governs growth and development at all levels of reality. At conception it facilitates embryological development and triggers the urge in the baby to move out of the womb and into the world by extending out through the crown chakra. This same energy takes the soul out of the body through the crown chakra at death. During your life, udana is a sustaining field of intelligence that integrates the other four pranas in an on-going urge to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually. When udana gets stuck, it feels as if our whole life is ‘stuck’. Coming back to the heart center and resting there is always a way to get ‘unstuck’.

In any poses you choose, find these energies. In dynamic postures such as standing poses and back bends, to much muscular energy is a sign of blockage in all the vayus. Start with opening the prana vayu and follow it through the others. In more restorative of meditative poses, find the udana vayu as a field of integration and stillness, where the whole body mind is awake and relaxed simultaneously.

Notes from Detroit, January, 2015

Nurturing the Heart:
Stabilizing the Heart Field and using this as the center and source of action and perception in the postures, and in life.

human-heart1. Find your heart:
a. as a deep feeling of love and compassion, or even simple well being and joy: nurture this often.
See PYS I-33
b. as a place in the center of your chest, just behind the physical heart.
(yoga nerds: the sino-atrial node).
c. From here allow a subtle expansion field to emerge, radially. No force, no muscles, just an opening.
d. Recognize the ever-present stillness at the center of the field. Eventually the sense of stillness will grow to fill your whole being.

2. From the expansion, allow the “brain” to condense and drop into the heart. This is a subtle shift in energy from the brain center to the heart center.

3. From the heart expansion, allow the 3rd chakra energy to rise up to the heart, opening and spreading the dome of the diaphragm from below. Now feel the heart balancing head and guts as a single conscious intelligence.

4. Unknown-1Now allow heart energy to open through crown and root chakras, up to the heavens and down into Mother Earth. Feel the toroidal shape of the heart energy field. Let it stabilize. (The Institute of HeartMath is a rich resource for heart related studies.)

5. Using the sound ‘OM’, continue to awaken the heart field, feeling the balance of expanding and condensing (centrifugal and centripetal) energies.

6. Now, in tadasana, establish heart link to earth through the feet. Keep ankles, knees, hips relaxed as they feel the rhythm of flexion – extension, allowing energy to both ground and also rise up through crown chakra to the heavens.

Unknown-17. Chest expands, brain softens and drops, continuously. Divide the lower body energy, from diaphragm to pelvic floor, into three sections. The first, the upper abdomen, including liver, stomach, spleen, expands up toward heart, as if this region were part of the heart energy. The second, the navel region, strongly condenses, not muscularly, but energetically as in a vacuum. Half squirts up to help upper abdominal, diaphragm and heart rise and expand. Second half squirts down to help open the third section, the pelvic bowl. Feel the inside of the pelvis expanding slightly and let the downward energy grow through your legs and your imaginary tail. Let all levels and layers of energy and structure find the expanding heart field. Integrate, stabilize, dance.

8. With minimum disturbance to the dynamic balance, use your imaginary tail to take you in and out of the forward bend. Explore from uttanasana to prasarita padottanasana and back to develop and sustain fluidity through the full range of motion.

9. The groin gates and the groin highway: When we examine flow and structure in theUnknown-2 previous poses, we find energy/pressure often gets stuck between torso and limbs. Opening the imaginary tail is helpful to create space and flow here. The inner heels are part of the ‘tail line’ of energy, and they in turn are also connected to the groins. Anatomically, the energy passes through the ‘femoral triangle’, following the blood vessel highway. If this area stays open, from the heart, all the way to the feet and back to the heart, the legs and torso are harmoniously integrated.

In any standing forward bend, turn the feet out slightly (external rotation, and notice the feeling through the femoral gate. Next, turn the feet inward (internal rotation) and again notice the energy flow through the gates. On inwards rotation especially, extend out and down more through the inner heels. Which offers more space and flow for you? Notice that, in general, inner rotation helps spiral the energy down, and external helps to spiral the energy back up to the heart.

pisayoga10. Use the inner groin highway extending to inner heel for the back leg in the fish body standing poses, trikonasana, parsvakonasana, vira II, and ardha chandrasana. Feel the extension like a skater pushing out through the inner edge of the skate blade. The dominant energy flow is from the pelvis into the back leg, creating a deeper opening to the front leg groin.  get-attachmentThis can be further explored in this variation of half moon I call the mushroom. Here I am asking yoga teacher Amy Christine McCoy to drop her back leg slightly, without losing the inner length. this allows the whole outer leg, including ITB,  glute medius, piraformis, to relax into the support of the inner line. Many students hold the back leg from the outer line, which breaks the connection to the heart/core/organ energy. Notice also the ‘stem of the mushroom’, the standing leg, how the down and up energies are in balance and the whole torso ‘floats’ above the standing leg femur head. No compression, lots of space and lightness. This is sthira sukham in action. (see below)

images-411. Now take this action into the one legged dog pose, moving in and out of flipping the dog if your shoulder allows. Continue to elongate out through pelvis and legs, but also extend out through heart into crown chakra and arms, like plank pose. This double action centered in the heart allows you to remain balanced as you go deeper into the flip.Unknown-1 The blood vessel highway opens and becomes the perceptual source of deeper opening and movements.

12. Next, use the wall to do move from one leg dog to handstand. The extended legs grounds into the wall, use the groin highway to lift the leg from the floor and extend it up to th ceiling, going into slight extension to open further. Add a bit of ‘plank heart’ and bend the back-bending leg at the knee to create a mini scorpion pose.

13. Use the same principle of groin length in coming up into head balance and elbow balance.

Unknown14. Supported bridge pose with a block is another wonderful way to explore the heart energy and its capacity to open the body. Gravity and leverage are used to balance energies moving to and from the heart. Use the block as a fulcrum to help lift the heart by lengthening pubic bones / tail out and down. Lengthen the inner regions without contracting the lower spinal muscles. stay grounded through the feet to help. Let the heart and then shoulders lift away from floor. Only back of skull remains grounded at that end. Then, keeping the heart reaching to the tail, let the shoulder hang/release back to the floor with out sinking. This will keep 5th chakra open and maybe even 6 and 7. All the shoulder stand variations have this opening as a foundation. ( In theory anyway!)

Unknown15: Some other postures: Bakasana takes the same principles into a very compact pose. Groin length becomes groin depth as you extend out through pelvis, even as the legs are in deep flexion. The plank heart empowers the arms, and the whole core rounds and lifts simultaneously. Uncoiling the energy allows you to jump back to Unknown-1chaturanga or plank pose. Dhanurasana is the inverse: the back body coils to elongate the deep front line of the body, including heart, diaphragm, mediastinum and mesentery, as well as groins and armpits.

 

16. Spiralic action: twisting poses require a double actionUnknown-2, like the coiled serpents and wings of the caduceus, the symbol of Hermes, the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, also known as Mercury by the Romans. In any BettySitTwisttwisting pose, with the stillness of your heart at the center, feel the spinal axis or chakra line. Imagine that whatever rotation you desire will begin subtly and slowly from the deepest core of this axis. Let it radiate out slowly. Invite the opposite direction to join in the dance and allow the fluid body, open to your heart energy, respond in its own way and time. Old friend Betty Eiler shows the lightness and elegance of a heart centered twisting posture with some support from blocks.

15. Sutras Lesson: Key sutras to ‘embody’ the practice:
Chapter II, sutras 46, 47, 48; Chapter I, sutras 2, 3, 4

Patanjali has only three sutras on asana. Yoga students, and especially teachers, should know these ‘by heart’, i.e., embody them continuously. Every pose is a yoga pose, 24/7/365.

II-46, sthira sukham asanam: a yoga pose is a balance of stability and adaptability. Stability is neither static nor stagnant. It is a dynamic state that sustains its core organizing intelligence from the heart, as the world, inner and outer, changes. It is flexible and adaptable, in tune with its environment. It is an expression of the fundamental principle of aliveness.
II-47 prayatna shaithilyaananta samaapattibhyaam: with the dissolving of effort and absorption into the cosmic field (posture is mastered). When the heart field is the root of the pose, no effort is required. Then the cosmic field embraces the heart field and there is integration, wholeness, oneness.
II-48 tato dvandva anabhighaatah: Then duality is seen as an expression of wholeness, not conflict. Yin and yang, when integral to each other, are not two, but One.

These next sutras need to be experienced together to fully realize their meaning. Mind activity (citta vrttis) is normal and an inherently healthy aspect of being human. However, as we are also emotional beings in continuous relationship with others, we have an aspect of mind, known as the ahamkara in Sanskrit, that organizes our self sense, so we can, in a healthy way,  differentiate self from other. The immune system is the physiological component to this process. Parenting and the attachment process plays a major role in determining whether we mature with a healthy sense of self. When love and compassion, expressions of the heart, are the center of our self sense, the mind can function in a healthy way.

The question, ‘who, or perhaps what, am I?,  is a crucial seed for contemplation. From the yoga point of view, the self, the I am, is non-dual ‘Wholeness” or Purusha in the sutras, which we all ‘know’ when we are heart-centered.  But it may take a while to ‘recognize’ this. We may have multiple selves, multiple identites in our mind field, not all heart based, often in conflict. We play roles in society: father/mother, daughter/son, friend, neighbor, boss, employee, etc. When mind over-rules the heart, conflicts in these various roles lead to stress, feelings of inadequacy, the need to defend ‘ourselves/beliefs/ideas against ‘others’. The transformation of these stress inducing ideas/beliefs/patterns of mind activity into an innate sense of fullness, wholeness, inner peace and equanimity, also known as spiritual maturing and the awakening of the heart, is described in the next three sutras.

I-2 Yogash citta vrtti nirodha: yoga is the dissolving of the dysfunctional mind states. The energies tied up in mental patterns based on separation, alienation and feeling inadequate are transformed into the healing energies of the heart.
I-3 tada drashtuh svarupe avasthaanam : then, wholeness, resting in its own inherent “Stillness” centered in the heart, recognizes itself and becomes stable.
I-4 vrtti sarupyam itaratra:  (at other times) our beliefs about our self come from a sense of separation, are confused and inherently dysfunctional.

As these clues from Patanjali begin to resonate more and more, you will find they all lead back the the heart, that amazingly mysterious, wonderful, intense expression of being alive, of Spirit coming into matter to celebrate Itself! Rest there. Be consumed there by the fire of aliveness. Celebrate!