Samadhi pada

I: Samadhi Pada

I-1  atha yoganushasanam:
Now begin the teachings of Yoga

Now, where the infinite meets the world of time and space,
Now, the holy moment, the only moment
Now, at this time of tremendous climatic and social change
Now, with revolutionary breakthroughs in science and spirituality
Now, with the guidance of a yoga master (Patanjali)
Now, as we are ready to be initiated into spiritual adulthood,

begin the teachings, passed on from teacher to student,
begin the teachings, preserved in the sacred texts,
begin the teachings, revealed moment by moment in Consciousness
begin the teachings, revealed moment by moment in the radiant expression of the natural world,
begin the teachings, as revealed in the infinite wisdom of the body/mind,

of Yoga, the knowing of Unity,
of Yoga, the disciplined practices of integration known as samadhi.
“Yoga is samadhi” … Vyassa

Welcome to Yoga! In the following four chapters and 195 sutras, we are going on a spiritual quest, to discover the holy grail of spirituality, the awakenened heart/mind, also known in other contexts as enlightenment, liberation, freedom from suffering, oneness with God, Divine Presence, the Great Perfection, and more. This same journey has been wonderfully articulated  by many saints and sages and we will borrow from a few to help in unfolding Patanjalis words, including the The Bhagavad Gita of Vedanta,  and the Hsin Hsin Ming of Buddhism.

But the spiritual journey is ultimately a very personal one. It is about the nature of the self, the sense of “I” we all have, and this commentary is also a personal one as it flows from my own experience and reflects my own interests and passions, especially of Vedanta, hatha yoga and neuroscience.

What I love about Patanjali is that in three sutras, he covers everything. Sutras I-2, I-3 and I-4, taken together as a unit, offer a concise articulation of the essence of the spiritual awakening process and the revelation of Divine Wholeness. Penetrate to the heart of these and your journey is complete. Not your life journey! That will continue to unfold as a divine expression of light and love. But easier said than done! Each of the three sutras offers an very important clue to the unfolding and all of the subsequent sutras in this and the other three chapters offer further elaboration and refinement on the basic principles stated here.

This universal spiritual teaching has essentially three stages. (Patanjali uses a slightly different order.) First (sutra I-4) is the recognition of an inner personal turmoil in the heart/mind that seems to be unresolvable by ordinary means. If you are ready, the spiritual quest begins. The teachings in the Bhagavad Gita begin when Arjuna articulates his own inner suffering and confusion to Krishna.

Then, (I-2), a series of practices or inquiries is begun to transmute the energies of suffering into ‘healing’. In the process, obstacles are encountered, confusion and doubt appear. Glimpses of wholeness arise during this phase, where ‘Truth beyond words and conception is seen, but the awakening is unstable as confusion and doubt return. Progress is not linear. Finally, (I-3), the Awakening becomes stable. Feeling healed, feeling ‘whole’, knowing the truth of “I am Whole”, one settles into being a beacon of light and love for all of creation and participates in the evolutionary unfolding of the moment. Even here, life continues to throw challenges in our way, as this is the driving process of evolution, and as we shift to a collective awakening, the complications multiply.

Awakening is not necesarily a comfortable experience! There is no guarantee that all of your unconscious confusion has miraculously dropped away and will never appear again. The fascinating reality is that these three stages are often unfolding at the same time, which means that you can go from being absolutely awake and clear to being a whiny adolescent in the wink of an eye. It is not a linear process by any means, but if you can ride the waves of spiritual paradox, that you are always perfect and whole, but life will continuously challenge you, you will be able to accept life as it is with peace and gratitude.

Patanjali says:

I-2  yogash citta vrtti nirodhah:
Yoga is the resolution of the (dysfunctional) mind states.

I-3  tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam:
Then the identity of the Self (I am) with pure Awareness becomes stable.

I-4  vrtti sarupyam itaratra:
(At other times, i.e., in dysfunctional mind states) mind activity is mistaken for the Self.

To see the universality, we might imagine a Buddhist translation reading like this:

Yoga is the cessation of suffering. Then the realization of Buddha-Nature remains as a stable presence. When there is suffering, it is because of ignorance and attachment to transient phenomena, including the notion of a self.

Modern spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle might translate it this way:

Yoga is the transformation of the energy of the ‘pain body’ into Presence. Then Presence remains unbroken and undisturbed as your life story unfolds. In the absence of presence, there is the identity with the ‘pain body’ and thought, and suffering arises.

A Vedantin might say:

Yoga is a dispelling of ignorance about the True Nature of the Self. Then inadequacy vanishes and the knowing that ‘I am Wholeness’, Atman is Brahman, remains stable. Ignorance is caused by identifying with smallness and limitation.

Patanjali’s approach first uses the term ‘yoga’ to indicate the ultimate spiritual realization. Yoga is being ‘one with everything’, of being the source of unbounded light and love. Then, in the subsequent sutras of the first chapter, Patanjali introduces yogic practices, also grouped under an umbrella known as yoga, that can help lead to spiritual realization. The first chapter, known as the Samadhi Pada, is addressed to mature students who have attained a certain level of maturity and mental and emotional tranquility, and the practices offered here are more advanced. In chapter 2, Patanjali goes back to the beginning for newer students to give background and preliminary practices he calls kriya yoga and ashtanga yoga.

Let’s look more closely at how Patanjali uses his Sanskrit terminology. In I-2, Patanjali succinctly summarizes the essence of yoga with three words, citta, vrtti and nirodhah. Citta is the term for mind in its largest, most general sense, as opposed to manas, ahamkara and buddhi, words which refer to specific functions of mind. The mind is a busy place with multiple skills and and many layers of activity in its functioning and yoga is an inquiry into its functioning. ( see the Neuroscience section for more info.)

Vrtti comes from the Sanskrit root vrt meaning to move, to turn over. The same root appears in the English words revolve and revolution. So we can see citta vrtti as the turning over of the mind, or in more modern terminology, mind activity or organized bundles of mind activity known as mind states. Vritti refers to the energetic nature of mind. It is always moving.

A common mis-translation of vrtti is ‘thought’. Vrtti refers to all mental activity, mental processes, and mental states, not just thinking and thoughts. Thoughts are vrttis, but so are perceptions, emotions, memory and imagination.  This is explained further in I-5, – I-11. And as we shall see in the coming sutras, most of the samadhi practices articulated here in the samadhi pada require mind activity. Patanjali is definitely not stating here that yoga is the ending of mind activity, but as we will see, the ending of confusion about the nature of the self, the I am. This confusion leads to specific patterns of mind activity that lead to suffering.

Nirodhah implies restraining, eliminating, dissolving, resolving. Citta vritti nirodhah is thus describes a specific type of transformation that resolves some aspects of mind activity. Not all mind activity. The word ‘all’ is consciously left out of the sutra. As will be revealed in the next two sutras, what is to be resolved is mind activity that is not ‘yoga’, or yogic in nature, but mind activity that will be seen as ‘suffering’, or dukha, to use a lovely Sanskrit word we will meet again. A modern term used here is dysfunctional.  We find similar observations in Zen Buddhism. James Austin, in “Zen Brain Reflections” offers “No-mind does not mean a coma. It means that no self-centered thoughts interrupt the flow.”

The word resolved is the ‘clue word’ here and carefully chosen to indicate the alchemical transmutation of the mental energies through yogic practices. No longer crystallized out as stuckness or aimlessly going in circles, the psychic energy of unhealthy patterns dissolves back into the on-going flow of the moment in an more integrated mind. Suppression or repression, as we have come to understand in modern psychotherapy, is an unhealthy strategy that ultimately strengthens the unhealthy energy patterns. The terms ‘spiritual by-pass” or pre-mature transcendence’ describe the modern attempts to avoid dealing with our own painful memories which are the roots of suffering. Jack Kornfeld quotes Ajahn Chah; “If you haven’t cried deeply an number of times, your meditation hasn’t really begun” (PWH pg 42). But as we will see, those painful energies can be transformed and used for awakening the yogic mind.

What are the means and methods of this ‘resolving? This will be taken up in subsequent sutras. But next Patanjali describes what happens when the energies of suffering have been transmuted.

I – 3, Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam, tada, then, in the fruition of this practice, with the accomplishment of the practices of yoga, when the negative or self-destructive energies have been transformed, drashtuh, the Seer, Awareness, “I am”, Purusha;
svarupe: the truth of, the true nature of; avasthanam: stable abiding.

With the fruition of the yoga practices, the yogi realizes ‘I am Light and Love’ and remains grounded in her own infinite wisdom and compassion. The key word here is stable, from the Sanskrit root stha. In verse 2-54 of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna to describe a person with ‘stable wisdom” sthitaprajna. Throughout the rest of the second chapter, the key one in the Gita, Krishna goes on to explain that Awakening or Self-knowledge goes hand in hand with mastery of the mind, and this is the yoga of the Gita. The Hsin Hsin Ming, “Verses on the Faith Mind” attributed to the 6th century Chinese Zen master Seng Ts’an, also offers an eloquent and beautiful unfolding of this key sutra.

Ironically, all of us have tasted the infinite self without necessarily recognizing so. We have all had moments of total inner peace, of the dropping away of conflict and struggle and resting in the ever-present joy, light and love. Because there is no meta-recognition here, that is, we don’t ‘know that we know’ it is not technically yoga. And these states are certainly not stable. But we can use these experiences as guideposts to help us relax and see yoga practice not as a struggle to acquire something ‘other’, but the opportunity to rest in this moment as it is.

Also, there can be spontaneous revelatory awakening, known as satori in Japanese Zen, where delusion drops away and the Self as unbounded luminous awareness shines forth, and bingo, there is recognition or jnanam, knowing. This is often preceeded by some type of spiritual practice, but not always. But usually this awakening is unstable and eventually the previous confusions return.

As we will see in Chapter 2, Patanjali frequently uses the language of the Sankhya School of Indian philosophy. This sutra will be further explained later on as the resolution of the mind’s confusion of the Seer, Purusha, and creation, what is seen, or Prakriti. Then deep spacious unbounded openness remains present as life unfolds through space and time. Luminous emptiness is a lovely term used by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa. There are many more Sanskrit and English words that are used interchangably to point to this ‘beyond words’ we awaken to. Purusha is the term Patanjali will use the most and he will contrast this with Prakriti, creation, the world of form. There is no fear, no resistance; only open spacious silence from which one can listen deeply to the emerging moment.

Now, and this is a crucial point which will be further unfolded in I-4, Self Identity is the key. I can be deeply grounded in the luminous emptiness, And, the world of form I am immersed in can be turbulent or chaotic. In Non -dual awakening, (and Patanjali does not develop this at all, as he uses the dualistic philosophy, Sankhya as his primary model,)  I am in the chaotic and turbulent world, moving through it, making choices, decisions and acting, like Arjuna in the Gita; and still rooted in timeless presence. It is not one or the other. This is a major challnege and the razor’s edge of a dynamic spiritual life.

Modern spiritual teacher Adyashanti  has produced an extrordinary cd, “The Phases of Awakening” where he unfolds several of the key stages and transitions that are often experienced on the journey of spiritual awakening that is described by Patanjali in these three sutras. As we are all unique individuals, there are an infinite number of ways in which the process evolves, but, none the less, there is also much commonality across time and culture. I highly recommend this for all on the amazing journey of awakening.

Finally, I-4, vrrti svarupyam itaratra. (At other times, that is, when not in the state of yoga), the negative mental patterns, the dysfunctional mind states predominate. A dysfunctional mind state is one that inhibits rather than promotes or sustains healthy growth, learning, integration, and well being. The thoughts and emotions are pushing and pulling the mind in all different directions and the innate tranquility of the mind is continually disturbed. This is the opposite state to yoga, known as suffering or dukha. The dysfunction can be mild moderate or intense, active, latent or dissolved. When active and intense, violence can often arise, to oneself or others. When mild or moderate there is still suffering and unhappiness. In the collective awakening, social groups and communities can express this dysfunctionality and pull others along into the suffering.

When latent, there is a break in the suffering and one can consider the implications of our suffering. This is the state of the seeker, the student, of Arjuna in the Gita and the beginning of the Buddhist teachings. All recognize that these enduring pathological patterns of energy can be redirected into healthy expression through diligent practice. The nature of these practices is the on-going subject of the Yoga Sutras. Buddha, a yogi in his own unique way, taught the path to the end of suffering, as does Patanjali.

With I-4, we are back to the beginning of the spiritual quest. For the average person, there is a seemingly non-stop dialogue on going in the mind, commenting, comparing, criticizing and often just babbling, often accompanied by emotional upheavals. Beginners in yoga and meditation struggle with attempts to stop this process, but the mind seems to have a mind of its own. It is easy to become totally lost inside the mind. Who am I? How can I find myself? We seek something stable to grasp onto amidst the teeming flow of ideas sensations emotions. We often settle for a false stability by holding onto a conglomeration of likes dislikes and desires and call this ‘Me’. But we eventually see that these are unstable. There may actually be several ‘me’s inside the mind, often in conflict. These are the citta vrittis that need some nirodhah.

The first step in the process of transformation is recognizing the ability to just notice the mind activity, like you would observe a conversation between two people. You may notice many different voices contributing to the dialogue, but as a witness to it, you no longer need to resist it. This witnessing mind doesn’t criticize or praise, like or dislike. It just sees what is, objectively. One type of mind activity objectively observes another. In the next set of sutras, I-5 through I-11 Patanjali will describe various types of mind activity. This witnessing awareness is silent, open. As this type of mind activity becomes stronger and more stable, the ‘monkey mind’ loses much of its fuel and may occasionally just stop, leaving bare awareness or stillness.

This is the first stage of nirodha. As we look more deeply into the neuroscience of mind activity, we see this as an alchemical transformation of the patterns of energy. Witnessing awareness is a healing type of mind activity. As we will see in subsequent sutras, loving kindness, compassion, friendliness and equanimity are all types of mind activity that promote deep healing and further unfolding of the infinite possibilities of human potential.

“Science is now revealing how the flow of thoughts actually sculpt the brain.” (Buddha’s Brain”, back cover). Modern neurobiology refers to this process directing energy flow into patterns of health and wholeness as integration and the capacity for change and growth as neuroplasticity. We could thus call yoga the science of integration. “Neural integration is fundamental to self-organization, and indeed to the capacity of the brain to create a sense of self. Tucker and colleagues further suggest that integration within the brain may consist of at least three forms, which focus on particular aspects of anatomic circuits: “vertical,” “dorsal – ventral,” and “lateral.”  (TDM-302)

Those of us in hatha yoga explorations will recognize this as a huge clue as to why postures can be effective tools for integration. Also, in neurobiology we discover that mind, for survival purposes, is inherently biased toward fear and anxiety, so it requires a serious effort to overcome this.

Patanjali now begins to describe the variety of mind activity included in the word vrtti.

I-5  vrttaya panchatayyah klishta aklishtah:
Mind activity has five basic categories and can perpetuate delusion, or not.

Sutra I-5 opens the door into the nature of the mind. Patanjali introduces the term klishta, referring to the five kleshas (kilesas in Pali), the major impediments to a healthy mind he will further describe at the beginning of the second chapter. Patanjali not only articulates the nature of mental health and the possible evolution to spiritual awakening and spiritual stability, but also how the mind can become stuck in patterns of activity and belief that inhibit awakening.

Modern neuroscience and the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology offer us a language and an understanding of the dynamics of mind activity that is very helpful in navigating Patanjali’s instructions. What might Patanjali be referring to when he uses the expression citta vrtti?

Mind activity involves changing patterns of neuronal firing known as states of mind. What is a mind state? According to neurobiologist Dan Siegel, a ‘state of mind’ is ‘a clustering or a profile of activation within the brain’s neural network.’ Or, ” a ‘state of mind’ can be defined as the total pattern of activations in the brain at a particular moment in time.” (TDM – 208). Also, a state of mind is “a pattern of activation of recruited systems within the brain responsible for (1) perceptual bias, (2) emotional tone and regulation, (3) memory processes, (4) mental models, and (5) behavioral response patterns.” And finally ” a state of mind does two fundamental things: It coordinates activity in the moment, and it creates a pattern of brain activation that can become more likely in the future.” (TDM – 210) These ‘ patterns of brain activation that can become more likely in the future’ are known in sanskrit as samskaras. (see I-50)

Patanjali describes these states as being painful (dysfunctional or traumatic) or not painful (not dysfunctional). (Later on we will see the dysfunctional vrttis come in two basic categories, tamasic and rajasic.) In neuroscience, tamas is the stuckness of rigidity, the inability to change or adapt even when the situation requires it. Rajas is chaos, the inability to stabilize the mind to function normally (serious chaos) or the inability to settle the mind for meditation. As mentioned in the commentary to I-2, integration is a type of mind activity, a process where different systems of organizing and processing information can be linked together to create a new set of possibilities.

We can now say that traumatic or dysfunctional states inhibit integration, and healthy mind states enhance integration. Dysfunctional states create the illusion of a self that is false, a self that is based on mind activity, which we can call ‘I” thoughts. I am unhappy, I am angry, I am … fill in the blank. I want…, I need…, if I only could…, then I would be happy, whole free. Yoga involves resolving those patterns, alchemically integrating them into pre-existing states where stability and flexibility are already in balance.

Mind activity is to be recognized for what it is. This brings us to another way to look at the samadhi process. Samadhi is about the process of paying attention. What does it mean to pay attention to something? What determines which objects attract my attention? Who is paying attention? Patanjali will spend the rest of the sutras unfolding the answers to these questions. We will see that sustained attention on the various aspects of mind activity gradually strengthens and focuses the capacity to pay attention. Sustained attention on awareness itself eventually dissolves into Pure Awareness, the Seer.

Yoga is healing (making whole) the self sense suffering from confusion and misunderstanding. Yoga is integration, the natural process of the nervous system when in a healthy environment.

Why do we suffer? And by suffering, its important to carefully differentiate physical and physiological pain from psychological and emotional pain. A tooth ache or a broken bone, influenza or any of a number of unpleasant diseases and conditions are painful, miserable experiences. Experiencing the death of a loved one, or recognizing the amazing amount of suffering humans inflict upon each other can be heart-breakingly painful. Intelligent living and life style choices can eliminate some types of pain (see Yoga Sutras, Chapter II), but various types of pain and disease are an inevitable aspect of the human condition.

However, thoughts also have an amazing capacity to inflict pain and suffering and this is the realm addressed in these sutras. How do some thoughts come to be self destructive, or dysfunctional? Why do some people seem immune to mental anguish while other seem totally imprisoned by it. Most of us lie somewhere in between, moving in and out of suffering like the sun moving in and out of the clouds.

The Sanskrit word for suffering is dukha and literally means to be stuck. It comes from the root kha meaning axle and refers to a wheel that is either no longer turning, or wobbling and off center giving a bumpy unpleasant ride. It complements the sanskrit word sukha which means free or flowing, or easy as a well greased, well centered wheel flows smoothly over the road. When the mental suffering becomes great enough there is often the incentive to take action. Yoga practice can be seen as helping the healthy, integrated components of mind learn how to heal and integrate the dysfunctional ones.

Dan Siegel, in his book “The Mindful Brain”, describes 9 distinct domains of neural integration. Neural integration is “the linkage of anatomically or functionally differentiated neural regions into an interconnection of widely distributed areas of the brain and body proper. These interconnections take the form synaptic linkages structurally, and create a form of coordination and balance functionally.”In the developing of the nervous system in infancy, integration is a natural process when the infant is surrounded by mature, integrated adults. But as we all know, we are all a work in progress, with more than a few regions of dysfunctionality floating around in our mind fields.

Sutras I-6 – I-11 offer further elaboration on these five categories. Dan Siegel offers a useful definition of mind as ” a process that regulates the flow of energy and information”, and we can use this to consider the term vrtti as a particular pattern of energy and information flow.

I-6 pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa. nidra, smrtayah
(the 5 basic categories of mind activity are) correct or valid knowledge, incorrect knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory

Patanjali classifies all vrttis into five possible categories further unfolded in the next few sutras.

I-7 pratyaksha anumaanaagamah pramaanaani
correct or valid knowledge (arises through) direct perception, inference, and testimony

How do we know something is true, is correct? What really happened? There is a perception, an interpretation and a correct conclusion drawn. This is a neuro-biologically complex process, not a simple one, where at least these three layers are involved. Patanjali includes three variations on this process.
1. In direct perception an object is perceived and correctly recognized. I see the apple. I hear a Beatles song. I smell the coffee brewing.
2. In inference, there is no direct perception. I see smoke rising in the distance. Although I do not see fire, I can infer its existence from the smoke. I see foot prints in the sand. Although I do not see a dog, I can infer that a dog was walking here. Good trackers are masters of subtle inference.
3. My son told me about seeing a rabbit in the back yard. I did not see it, cannot infer this from any evidence, but trust his word. Reliable testimony is the third form of uncovering correct knowledge. Our judicial system is quite dependent upon this form of knowing

I-8 viparyayah mithyajnanam atadrupa pratistham
wrong understanding arises through misperception, misconception, (or some combination of both)

As in I-7, there is a perception, interpretation and a conclusion. But here, the conclusion is wrong or false. We make a mistake. The form perceived is misinterpreted, but the truth of the form is available to correct. I see a coil of rope in a corner, but mistake it for a snake. In better light, I recognize the rope. Sometimes our senses fail us. In low light, we don’t see as well, we do not always hear clearly, etc. Also, our senses may be reporting accurately, but because of previous conditioning, known as ‘priming’ in neuro-science, we draw the wrong conclusion by confusing the past and present. The extreme version of this is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

I-9  shabdajnana anupati vastushunyah vikalpah
imagination is when conception is not based on the perception of a real object

We can combine memories and experiences from the past, combine them in new and unusual ways, and create images the mind ‘sees’. This can be a very positive and creative process, neutral, or a very dysfunctional process.

I-10  abhava pratyaya alambana vrttih nidra
sleep is a state of mind activity accompanied by the absence of cognition

Here Patanjali is referring to the dreamlessness of deep sleep. In dream sleep, there is mental activity, with cognitions, but the outer world plays a minimal role. This is a form of imagination. In deep sleep, the mind continues to operate in the background, but in the foreground is emptiness, the absence of activity normally associated with being alive and present in the world.

I-11  anubhuta visaya asampramosah smrtih
memory is the retention of experience
We now know that memory is a highly complex, multi-modal experience that changes with every recall. Autobiographical memory, the experience of ” I am remembering” is but one type of memory. The body also holds memory, like the ability to tie ones shoes, or to play a piece of music. In our neuroscience section, we will look at memory in a bit more detail.

The next 4 sutras discuss the first two upayas or spiritual practices that are used to reduce the dysfunctional mind states and increase integration. They are the alpha and omega, the yin and yang foundational practices of samadhi.

I-12  abhyasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodhah
Practice and dispassion lead to the resolution (of the dysfunctional mind states).

Abhyasa, practice, can be seen as consciously creating, sustaining, and stabilizing a simultaneously disciplined and relaxed state of the mind where we create specific neuronal pathways of action and perception. Vairagya can be conversely seen as a state of consciously inhibiting neuronal pathways, of relaxing and letting go of habits and patterns that are perpetuating fear, anxiety and confusion. Craving is a classic category here.

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 engrained 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. To lay down new neural pathways and weaken the old ones takes time and patience. 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 the next sutra. 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.

I-15 drshtanushravika-vishaya-vitrshnasya vashikara-sanjna vairagyam
The control over craving after any experience, whether sensual, psychological or spiritual, is known as dispassion.

The root of dysfunctionality is craving, the intense desire to acquire or get rid of ‘something’, to create a temporary feeling of wholeness or relaxation. These are emotional or limbic responses, that evoke a threat to our existence. To a self-sense that feels inadequate, there is always something that is threatening, that needs changing. Craving, as we soon find out in life, is a self-perpetuating path of inadequacy and subsequent suffering. Life is what it is happening moment by moment and true happiness is not dependent upon the constantly changing circumstances of life. If I believe that my happiness depends upon this moment being different from what it actually is, I will suffer. Seeing through this delusion is a crucial component of yoga. The true nature of the Self, the unchanging limitless existence and consciousness, (sat – chit – ananda) is undisturbed by any and all possibilities life throws our way. With the discipline of vairagya we stop believing the craving thoughts, even if they keep arising. No, my happiness is actually not dependent upon getting rid of Glen Beck! This eventually leads to dispassion towards most craving. The subtle forms are dealt with in the next sutra.

The neuroscientific perspective on inhibition offers tremendous insight for yoga students. In Buddha’s Brain” authors Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius  describe the capacity to “simply not respond” to limbic (emotional) activity. There is not the inhibiting of the emotional activation which manifests as physiological sensation, but rather inhibiting the next level of neural activity, the story I tell myself that perpetuates the suffering. Repressing emotional content is not healthy on any level, but recognizing it as it arises, positive, negative or neutral, awakens a meta level of awareness. Then I can use skillful means to help the emotional energies move to a more integrated state.

Important note! Vairagyam is not the absence of passion! An integrated self is highly passionate, just not insecure and needy.

I-16  tat param purusha-khyater guna vaitrshnyam
The more advanced form of dispassion involves the full realization of self as the absolute and the dropping away of the most subtle forms of craving and attachment.

see also sutras II – 26, III – 5, IV-29 – 31

In I-16, Patanjali restates I-3, the knower/seer resting in its own nature, as an example of the culmination of refined discipline/dispassion. My mind may generate wants, needs and desires, but I can see their origin and not turn them into issues of survival. I may want an ice cream cone, but getting one, or not getting one is not a big deal in the overall scheme of things.

In I-17, Now that we have abhyasa and vairagyam in out tool box, and this being the samadhi pada, Patanjali introduces us to more details on refining our capacity to pay attention to what is arising, using the Sanskrit term samadhi.

I-17  vitarka-vichaara-ananda-asmita-ruupa-anugamaat samprajnaatah
In samadhi with wisdom, refined focal attention (samadhi) can be sustained on the forms of gross level of reality, forms of the subtle level, the sense of limitlessness, and the sense of “I-am-ness”.

Samadhi is a flowing and focused mind state balancing alertness and relaxation, abhyasa and vairagyam. Like a microscope, the samadhi state can be focused on different levels of reality/experience and the possible confusion and dysfunctional habits that may exist in each. In these four stages, a support or seed is used to focus the attention as the samadhi process of abhyasa/vairagyam seeks out confusion and dysfunctionality. In I – 18, seedless samadhi is introduced where awareness no longer needs anything, any form, to sustain itself.

The first stage of the samadhi with support requires attention on the gross or most tangible aspect of the world of form or prakriti. In hatha yoga we use the felt sense of weight, through bone, fluids and gravity to access this level. Confusion here is directly felt as tension in the muscles, connective tissues and joints. Asana practice begins here.

The second stage, the subtle body, that is, the breath and all energetic interactions of aliveness can be used for support. Included are the physiological processes, lower mind activity such as perception and memory, and higher cognitive functioning such as abstract thought and analysis. Confusion here begins as physiological tension, restricted breathing, digestive tension, and can soon be seen as psychological, in the form of fear, anxiety or anger. Even more subtle forms arise as belief systems and wrong assumptions about life and the nature of the world around us. Our emotions reflect the state of the subtle body as they link all of the layers of the body/mind. Emotional harmony is fundamental to mental health and well being. Pranayama practice begins here.

The third level steps back from specific aspects of mind activity all together and explores the pure vibration of the atoms, molecules and cells and the larger organizing principles of the cosmos such as gravity and electro-magnetism. There is a natural harmony in the fundamental functioning of the universe here experienced as pure pleasure or bliss. Even at this level we are still in the world of form, the seen and not the Seer, and the ‘I sense’ can land here and claim the territory for itself. The samadhi scanner seeks out such confusion and brings vairgayam to help in the resolution.

Finally, in the 4th level, the I-am-ness itself is explored. In the Samkhya model of creation, this realm is the intelligence underlying the universe, mahat or the higher buddhi, and thus is more subtle, more primal than even the vibration of the bliss level. This is the first emergence of form from the primal void/Seer, but is still not the Seer. The samadhi uses this as its last support before finally resolving the need for any support. This leads to the seedless samadhi of I – 18.

I-18 viraama-pratyayaabhyaasa-puurvah samskaara-shesho’nyah
In the other samadhi focal attention is on the radical emptiness or absence of mind activity, with only unconscious traces remaining.

Here the I-am-ness has resolved and what remains is the radical emptiness of the quantum field, where time, space, and creation appear and disappear instantaneously. ‘Luminous Emptiness’ is a lovely term pointing to this I learned from His Holiness, the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa is his visit to Cambridge a few years ago.

See sutras III-10 – III-14

I-19 bhava-pratyayo videha-prakrti-layaanaam
Samadhi can occur spontaneously at rebirth to those who have in previous lives been practicing samadhi at death.

Here Patanjali offers a brief acknowledgement of incarnation and the developmental nature of spiritual practice. Thus some may move right into the state of samadhi seemingly without having done the preliminary work. The work just happened to be done in previous lives. Or it may arise in adolesence, seemingly out of nowhere, like the experience of Ramana Maharshi.

See sutra III-43

I-20 shraddhaa-viirya-smrti-samaadhi-prajnaa-puuvaka itareshaam
The samadhi of others (one’s who achieve samadhi in this life) is accompanied by faith, strength, memory, meditation and wisdom.

The five “yoga vitamins” are key components to practice. These are attitudes of mind that create a state conducive for awakening.

Shraddha, loosely translated as faith, is the full clarity and pleasantness of the mind field. Like a benevolent mother, she protects the yogi, says Vyassa. It is an inner confidence that it is in fact possible to awaken and move out of suffering and confusion. Spending time in the company of those who radiate love, compassion and wisdom nurtures this. It builds enthusiasm which leads to virya.

Virya, strength, energy, vitality, accumulates with the inner confidence of shraddha and the results of practice. Virya can also be seen as creativity, the power to create, and has traditionally been associated with celibacy. The tantrikas have a different point of view about this.

Smrti or memory, mentioned previously in I-6 and I-11, is recalling states of deep inner peace and clarity as a way to re-stimulate the neuronal circuitry associated with these states and strengthen them.

The practice of samadhi deepens and further wires the circuitry of the samadhi state. The more time spent here, the easier it becomes to sustain as a natural state. This is Hebb’s axiom applied to yoga.

Prajna or wisdom arises through samadhi practice and reinforces our capacity to make intelligent decisions as we go through our daily activities. Intelligent decisions do not lead to negative mind states and further suffering

I-21 tiivra-samvegaanaam aasannah
Awakening is near for those whose practice and desire for liberation is intense.

Abhyasa is mentioned again as intense practice. When accompanied by passion, focused emotional energy, the being is ripe and ready to pop open like a flower bud about to bloom

I-22 mrdu-madhyaadhimaatratvaat tato’pi visheshah
Even in the serious students there are mild, moderate and intense levels of practice

The emotional energies available for practice vary from student to student. It is important to be true to one’s own capacities and not try to force the process. Balance is always a smart path.


Now Patanjali introduces the practice of direct experience of the Divine as a means to samadhi. Ishvara in Vedanta is what we might call the ‘Laws of the Universe” in manifestation. Or the underlying intelligence and on-going expression of the creation/universe. In Indian theology, there is the recognition that the divine as the attribute-less, unchanging, unbounded Absolute is too challenging to handle for many, so a “Divinity with attributes” is presented as a more graspable concept. This the divine as an alambana or support is seen as the seed of sabija samadhi of sutra I-46.

In Vedanta you find Nirguna Brahman (attributeless, no gunas) and also Saguna (with attributes) Brahman.  It is complicated, trying to evoke the infinite while still defining something to grasp. Such is Patanjali’s challenge here. Let’s see what he does.

I-23 ishvara pranidhaanaad va
or by practicing the presence of God

Isvara pranidhana will show up again as one of the three practices of Kriya Yoga in sutra II-1, and as one of the niyamas of the eight limb ashtanga yoga. In sutra II – 45 Patanjali repeats that surrender to God leads to perfection in samadhi. The fact that there are six sutras devoted to Ishvara right here in the Samadhi pada indicates how important this is as an aspect of yoga practice.

Praying to a personal divinity contrasts strongly with the Buddhists who stay away from ‘Divinity’, probably to avoid the inevitable contradictions that arise when trying to describe the undescribable, but the intention is to evoke the heart and not the brain. This is the practice known as bhakti or devotional yoga.

I-24 kleshaa-karma-vipaakaashayair a-para mrshtah purusha-vishesha ishvarah
Isvara is a special ‘purusha’, untouched by the afflictions, actions and the results of actions, or previous impressions.

Samkhya gets a bit convoluted here as the term purusha now has another connotation. Here pursusha refers the divine aspect of an ordinary individual, a person. Thus, from the Sankhya perspective, there are multiple purushas, some enlightened, some not. Your typical mortal human type has had to work through doubt, confusion and plain wrong thinking to ‘discover his innate divinity’. The Christians might call this human karma ‘original sin’, our inheritance from Adam and Eve. But Ishvara is a special purusha, Divinity in form, without the limitations usually associated with the world of form.

I-25 tatra nir-atishayam sarvajna-biijam
In him, the seed of omniscience is unsurpassed.

He/she is all knowing. The seeds of all possible knowledge are contained in his/her being.

I-26 puurveshaam api gurah kaalena an- avachchedaat
(Ishvara) is also the teacher of the ancients, because he is unlimited by time.

Ishvara is unlimited in time as well as in knowledge. Patanjali is building the case for the infinite.

I-27 tasya vaachakah pranavah
He is designated by Om

Pranavah means the sacred mantra Om, the sound that contains all sounds, the form that contains all forms.

1-28 taj japas tad artha-bhavanam
Repeating (OM) and contemplating the meaning

1-29 tatah pratyak-chetanaadhigamo’py antaraayaabhaavash cha
From this comes freedom from obstacles and an inward directing of awareness.

The practice of japa, silently repeating a mantra, in this case Om, is introduced as a way to develop powers of concentration and to help transform distracted and dull mental states into samadhi states of deep clarity and wisdom. The main types of distracted states are described next.

I-30  vyaadhi-styaana-samshaya-pramaadaalasyaavirati-bhraantidarshanaalabdhabhuumikatvaanavasthitatvaani chitta-vikshepaas te’ntaraayaah
The obstacles are disease, mental laziness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, attachment, mistaken perception, failure to reach stability, failure to sustain stability. They are distractions to the mind.

Patanjali lists 9 fundamental obstacles to the state of relaxed focal awareness we call samadhi. Here he describes the psychological and physical aspects. In I-31 he will add the emotional piece.

1. disease: when the physiology is disturbed and out of balance, the mind has trouble remaining clear and present.
2.mental paralysis: the mind just will not cooperate in sustaining a concentration practice.
3. doubt: can be a positive component to advanced practice as it prevents the mind from holding on to subtle beliefs thinking they are absolute truth. But for the beginner doubt prevents a commitment to serious practice. Maybe it will work, maybe it’s a waste of time. Who knows? Sraddha, faith, givin in I-20 is the antidote.
4. carelessness: not practicing, or living your life with full mindful awareness. Once one has tasted awakening, it requires a powerful sustained effort to sustain. It is easy to feel that one has already accomplished something and thus slack off, distracted by the trivia of daily life.
5. laziness; I want to practice but, you know, maybe tomorrow I’ll get back to it. Not today. I’m a little tired. A physical and mental heaviness.
6. attachment: Craving for sensory satisfaction. Vairagyam, introduced in I-15 and I-16, addresses ways to address this obstacle. In sutra II-4 when Patanjali introduces the kleshas, or impediments, we will find raga attachment and dvesha – aversion, variations on this theme
7. mistaken perception; related to I-8, viparyaya. Unlike in doubt, there is no oscillation. As this relates to yoga practice, it involves wrong notions about practice. ‘The pain in my back is good for me”. “I have to eliminate all thoughts for my mind to meditate”. There are many more.
8. failure to experience the samadhi state: In spite of diligent effort, the mind is still stuck in dullness and aggression. The harder you try, the worse it gets.
9. failure to sustain the samadhi state. In the beginning, samadhi is often neurologically unstable. Abhyasa and vairagya, as mentioned in I-12 – 1-17, and Ishvara pranidhana, are the practices to stabilize the wisdom.

I-31 duhkha-daurmanasyaangamejayatva-shvaasa-prashvaasaa vikshepa-saha-bhuvaha
Suffering, sour-mindedness, unsteadiness, (incorrect) inhalation and (incorrect) exhalation acompany the distractions.

How do we recognize the distracted state? Patanjali now lists the emotional components, the energetic expressions, of distraction.

1. Duhkha, suffering, is a very useful Sanskrit word. The Sanskrit root ‘kha’ means ‘axle hole’ and refers to the way a wheel and the axle interact in a cart or chariot. A well drilled axle hole gives you a smooth ride, sukha. A poorly drilled one, a dukkha’, leads to a bumpy ride or even being stuck. Duhkha has come to mean suffering and all Buddhist teachings begin here. Not gliding through life effortlessly, but being tossed and turned and banged around emotionally. The word sukha will appear when Patanjali describes the nature of a yogic posture in II – 43.
2. Sour-mindedness. I love this word, probably because this state is very familiar to me. Unfulfilled desires, large and small can lead to this pissy feeling.
3. wiggly limbs: the body expresses mental restlessness by fidgeting. This will definitely interfere with seated meditation. Asana practice can help integrate the body/mind to overcome this tendency.
4. (disturbed) inhalation
5. (disturbed) exhalation: when the mind is distracted the breath is also affected and this can be felt directly. Asana and pranayama practice help liberate the breath into an effortless flow conducive to samadhi/meditation

I-32 tat-pratishedhaartham eka-tattvaabhyaasah
Constantly creating one-point attention will eliminate these disturbances.

Patanjali again uses the term abhyasa, (sutras I-13 – I-14), to indicate long dedicated uninterrupted practice of eka-tattva, one pointedness of mind. This is also known as concentration practice, dharana/dhyana, to be introduced in chapter 2 as part of the 8 limbs of astanga yoga. Vyasa discusses ekagra citta in his commentary to sutra I-1. Patanjali returns to this again in III-12 as ekagrata parinama.

I-33  Maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha dukha punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatash citta prasadanam.
(The mind becomes purified by) friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference (equanimity) (respectively) towards those who are successful, suffering, virtuous and unvirtuous.

Patanjali continue the discussion of eliminating the distractions to samadhi consciousness by addressing the emotions. Because the emotions are so crucial to bringing stability to the mind, this is one of the most important sutras. This sutra also is recapitulated in sutra II-33 where pratipaksha bhavanam, cultivating the opposite mind state, is reintroduced as a means to overcoming negative emotions. These are practices of the heart and are very important in the Buddhist teachings as well.

Friendliness is the easiest and most natural positive emotion to cultivate. We all know what it is like to have a friend, to feel the warmth and openness that comes when we are with a friend. But also, it is not uncommon to feel envious or jealous over other people’s success or good luck. Practicing (maitri) amity, friendliness or loving kindness, by remembering and recreating these feelings, when feeling jealous or disappointed helps to keep  the mind calm and the heart open.

Compassion goes right to the heart. When we see others suffering we may either turn away to avoid the depths of feeling, or perhaps take some cruel delight if it happens to be an enemy that is suffering. Choosing to remain compassionate (karuna) in the face of suffering keeps us in our hearts and grounded in being. Being compassionate towards ourselves is also an important and challenging practice.

Virtuous people may make us feel inadequate, less than worthy, insecure in our selves, if we are prone to engage in comparison. Expressing joy or delight (mudita) in their virtuousness allows us to touch our own joy, our own virtue and thus strengthen our own joyful, open-hearted self sense.

Seeing injustice can easily evoke anger and fear. The Sanskrit word upeksha literally means indifference. Here, indifference to injustice does not mean inactivity (See Bhagavad Gita) but a state of non reactivity so that anger and fear do not arise to disturb the mind field with a torrent of negative emotional energy. The Buddhists translate upeksha (upekka in Pali) as equanimity. Again the point is to be present to injustice without falling into emotional turmoil. Then appropriate action (dharma) can be taken with a clear mind and open heart.

I-34 pracchhardana-vidhaaranaabhyaam vaa praanasya
Or by sustaining the state experienced during soft relaxed exhalation and the natural pause after exhalation has finished.

Here begins the ‘or’ section. Patanjali is discussing ways to stabilize and relax the mind and he lists several options. In I-34, the breath is used. There are two natural pauses in the breathing cycle; one after inbreath and before outbreath, and one after outbreath and before inbreath. These may or may not be conscious and relaxed. Opening and releasing the exhalation relaxes the mind and after a relaxed exhalation, the following pause is also relaxed and open. Patanjali says to discover and nurture this sensation/feeling of calmness and ease and the stability of the mind will increase. This is directly tied in with the emotions as they determine the flow of the breath. (See I-32 above)

I-35 vishayavatii vaa pravrttir utpannaa manasah sthiti-nibandhanii
Or, focusing on a subtle sensation brings steadiness of the mind

Patanjali uses the term manas rather than citta as manas is where the information from the senses first appears. Modern neurobiology recognizes that differing regions of the brain and sets of neural circuits govern different types of brain function and Patanjali concurs. Manas refers to the part of the brain that is always comparing, contrasting, labeling and thus it can get very busy. To notice subtlety requires slowing down, quieting down, allowing space. To attend at this level of sensitivity requires patience and persistence and thus naturally cultivates a relaxed, one pointed mind state. Notice the root stha, stable or steady, is used again, as sthiti

see II-53 and III-48

I-36 vishokaa vaa jyotishmatii
Or, (by focusing on) the sorrowless luminous (sattvic qualities of mind)

Sattva is the dynamic balanced integration of relaxtion and arousal in the nervous system/organism. It is described as joyful and luminous. It is the beginning of recognizing the realm of light, more subtle than that of fluid flow.

I-37  viita raaga-vishayam vaa chittam
Or, (by contemplating) one who is beyond worldly desires

“What is this person like?,” asks Arjuna of Krishna. For Krishna’s reply see Bhagavd Gita, II- 55 through II- 72.

I- 38 svapna-nidraa-jnaanaalambanam vaa
Or (the mind acquires stability by) taking support from knowlege arising in sleep and dreams.

As sensitivity awakens, information from the higher planes of consciousness begin to appear in the dreams. As the cells become energized by practice, their capacity to communicate often first emerges in the dream state and thus clues to deepen the practice appear here.

I-39 yathaabhimata-dhyaanaad vaa
Or (the mind acquires stability by) meditating on anything that works for you.

This is Patanjali at his most open minded and a great sutra. There are many ways to bring clarity and stability to the mind. He gives permission to use your own temperment, wisdom and experience to come up with a practice that works for you.

I-40 paramaanu-parama-mahattvaanto’sya vashikaarah
Mastery (of one who has refined the mind) extends from the smallest particle to the totality of creation

Patanjali the physicist descibes how the mind of one who is fully stabilized extends from the sub-atomic realms of the quantum field all the way to the galaxies and beyond. The universe is the mahat, the great mind that is the mind of the yogi.

I-41  kshiina-vrtter abhijaatasyevamaner grahitr-grahana-graahyeshu tat-stha-tad anjanataa samaapattih
Absorption of the mind that is free of the fluctuation is like a transparent jewel reflecting the object before it, whether that object be the knower, the instruments of knowing, or the object to be known.

Patanjali now begins a more detailed  description of the nature and process of samadhi introduced in I-17. The main metaphor is that the purified mind is like a clear crystal that reflects the objects placed in its vicinity. The term samapatti is introduced, offering a more nuanced definition of an aspect of the samadhi process. Here samapatti refers to the coalescence of mind with the object of contemplation, where the mind totally takes on the form of the object to know it more completely. The object of contemplation can be any gross form, or the any of the instruments of knowing such as the sense organs and lower mind, or the intelligence (buddhi) itself. From a neurobiological perspective, all unnecessary neurological activity has been inhibited/eliminated and the mind state that remains is stable and undistracted. But, as we shall see, there is still much more refinement available to the yogi.

Samadhi refers to the generalized process of transmuting the vrttis to reveal the luminous Self. Samapatti is a specialized version of this process. Notice that samapatti is a vrttti itself, as it is a state of mind. More variations on samadhi will be introduced next.

In the following sutras, Patanjali uses the metaphysics of Sankhya to articulate the levels of reality penetrated by the deepening lens of samadhi. We can use the metaphor of a microscope to help make sense of the 24 point structure the Sankhyans have created to explain the manifest world.

Prakriti refers to the first emergence, the fundamental essence of all forms. It is completely undifferentiated and cannot be reduced any further. Mahat or Buddhi, primordial intelligence, is the emergence of the laws of the universe, the organizing principles that underlie all forms. Ahamkara is the principe of self-identification. It is where individual forms begin to distinguish themselves from all other forms and in the humans , the emergent self sense.

I-42 tatra shabdaartha-jnaana-vikalpaih sankiirnaa sa-vitarkaa samaapattih
Sa-vitarka samapatti (Samadhi of gross forms) intermingles words, meanings and concepts.

Savitarka accompanied samadhi, introduced in I – 17, is now further divided into two separate, more nuanced categories as described here and in I-43. In this first level of samadhi, savitarka samadhi, although absorbed, the mind unconsciously intermingles three levels of reality. If I were contemplating a rose, for example, the mind would rotate amongst the actual word ‘rose’, its sound, its shape, the memories and thoughts about ‘rose’ that I have accumulated over the years and lifetimes, and the actual rose itself. Thus the absorption is less than clear as conceptualizations are entangled with the actual perception of the rose.

I-43  smrti-parishuddhau svaruupa-shunyevaartha-maatra-nirbhaasaa nir-vitarkaa
Emptying of the mind of concepts and memory and leaving only the object shining forth is called nirvitarka samapatti

In nirvitarka samapatti, the conceptualizations have been eliminated and only the pure perception of the object remains. This is the highest form of correct direct perception, pratyaksha, introduced in I-7, and is likely the perceptual state the animal world experiences. We are still at the gross level of reality, the material realm, the most obvious and tangible, but are seeing this level with total clarity.

I-44  etayaiva savichaaraa nirvichaaraa cha suukshma-vishayaa vyaakhyaataa
Samadhi of subtle forms is explained in a similar manner.

Savichara accompanied samadhi, like savitarka, is divided linto two levels. Here we are engaged with the subtle realms, the energy underlying the material level. Modern science, Einstein specifically, has shown that matter is actually a dense form of energy. In savichara samadhi the energy of an object, or any form, as it appears in time and space, is felt directly. In nirvichara, the universal energy of all forms, unlimited by time and space is the seed of absorption.

I-45  suukshma-vishayatvam chaalinga-paryavasaanam
The subtle levels, the layers of creation (explored in the levels of samadhi) extend to unmodified prakriti itself, (the substratum of all forms, before disticnt forms emerge.)

In Sankyha metaphysics, the most suble evolute, the level beyond which you can no longer find something still more subtle, is known as prakriti, here noted as ‘a-linga’, without a sign. This sutra indicates that the previous samadhis can continue to be refined all the way to prakriti. In sutras II-19 – II – 28, Patanjali will return to the sankhya metaphysics.

I-46 taa eva sa-bhiijah samaadhih
They (the four levels of samadhi just discussed) are known as “samadhi with seed”

The ‘seeds’ are any form, any evolute of prakriti, that the mind uses as an anchor to stabilize, or seed to “crystallize” the mind field and inhibit the emergence of the dysfunctional patterns, the rajasic and tamasic vrttis.

I-47 nirvichaara-vaishaaradye’dhyaatma-prasaadah
As nirvichara samadhi becomes clarified, spiritual clarity or lucidity arises.

As the most refined samadhi with seed deepens, the rajasic and tamasic vrttis, (the dysfunction mind states,) have been transformed and all that remains in the mind, as mind activity, is sattva, illumination, the inner light.

I-48 rtambharaa tatra prajna
There (in the state of nirvichara samapatti) is truth bearing wisdom

Rta is the ancient Vedic root for the wisdom of the universe, the underlying harmony of the whole. This is pure sattva and from this vantage there is direct realization of the nature of suffering and the freedom. This is pointed out in the next sutra.

I-49 shrutaanumaana-prajnaabhyam anya-vishayaa visheshaarthatvaat
(Truth bearing wisdom) is different from wisdom gained through scriptures or logic and inference because it deals with specifics.

More yoga metaphysics underlies this sutra. The term ‘vishesha’ refers to a specific object or form. Wisdom here is the mind knowing the nature of the world of forms ‘from the inside out’. The fundamental nature of mind, being at its essence the same as the nature of all forms, knows all forms as itself. This is unity consciousness. In Inference and testimony, one is on the outside looking in. There is duality.

I-50  taj-jah samskaaro’nya-samskaara-pratibandhi
Samskaras produced by that (truth bearing wisdom, rtam-bhara-prajna) inhibit other samskaras from emerging.

The dysfunctional samskaras (latent patterns of possibility still lurking in the unconscious) are inhibited by these new patterns of energy created by the wisdom. When in the state of ‘knowing wholeness’, ideas and beliefs of separateness cannot arise.

I-51  tasyaapi nirodhe sarva-nirodhaan nir-biijah samaadhih
Upon the cessation of even those (truth-bearing samskaras) seedless samadhi is attained.

Patanjali returns to I-3. No seed, no form, nothing is needed for the mind. It rests in (dissolves into) absolute stillness, the truth of the Self. Notice the return of nirodhe at a new level. Now mind activity dissolves into the living presence of life, the vibration of the organs and cells. Consciousness is not dependent upon vrttis but is the source of the vrttis.

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Micro-Cosmic Orbit: Pt 2

Exploring and Embodying Three Dimensions

In the previous post we explored the micro-cosmic orbit as a means to refine our focal attention (samadhi) through bringing our attention to specific points along the orbit and linking these points into lines, arcs and circles. As we work more deeply this way, we may discover that we can find these points at three levels. The first is out beyond the confines of the skin, in an ‘orbit’ in the energy field around the body. The second is directly on the skin, where an acupuncturist or shiatsu practitioner would apply needles or pressure. The third is in the interior of the body along the planes of fascia interwoven through the organs, blood vessels and nerves. When we can feel all three of these levels simultaneously, we are inhabiting our spherical energy field and can begin to fully realize the possibilities of having three dimensional/spatial sensitivity, perception and consciousness.

images-5The girdle vessel (Dai Mai,) the fourth vessel we use, is a latitude line and is essential in finding our three dimensional perceptual field. This yang vessel pairs with the yin ‘thrusting vessel, the vertical center axis, creating horizontal stability, and allowing us to rotate/twist. Rotation inherently builds the third dimension of depth ( A circle has length and width. To create a sphere you add depth. ) and is the gateway to cosmic awareness as well as a more vibrant embodied presence.

Rotation drives the whole manifest universe. In our solar system, the planets spiral around milky_waythe sun. In our Milky Way galaxy, the stars, including our sun, spiral around a center (probably a giant black hole! If you can find Sagittarius in the night sky, and you will probably have to wait until next summer, look through and imagine 26,000 light years off in the distance.) The earth rotates on its own axis creating weather patterns as well as a sense of day and night.

The spinning top (one of the oldest toys known to humans, found in archeological sites all over the world) demonstrates the cosmic principle in physics we are embodying. The faster it rotates, the more stable the vertical line. When the top slows down it starts to wobble and when it stops spinning, it falls over. To keep the rotation, you need to keep feeding it with energy. The bicycle uses this same principle, flipped 90 degrees. Another aspect we explore is the radius of the horizontal circle. Rotation pushes from the center outward (yang) in what is called centrifugal force. As this is counterbalanced by theGM2434B-1 yin centripetal (center seeking) force, we can change the volume of the energy field by playing with this ‘expanding – condensing’, yang – yin relationship.

In this top, the widest circle with the most outward thrust, the purple one, is below the center of the vertical axis. Lowering the center of gravity adds even more stability, which is why we emphasize the lower dantien in our breathing, movement and meditation practice. When we discover how to work with this principle in the energy field, our twisting poses can actually help expand the body. If we work muscularly, you will feel constricting in twisting poses.

SBK_1711254-24Traditionally the ‘dai mai’ girdle vessel surrounds the body at the level of the pelvis in the lower dantien. but we can move our attention to awaken other ‘latitudes’ of the body. To begin in the feet, stand with the right foot forward, the left foot back, as if you are about to move into a standing twist (without the forward bend), but haven’t yet begun. Before you move any further, imagine a spiraling coil of energy beginning below the floor (the Antarctic Circle) and traveling up the center. Notice how this mimics the girdle vessel. Now imagine the coils widening as they rise up from the base ( moving toward the equator), as the yang energy expands outward. The girdle vessel is very yang so this is quite natural. Feel the energetic volume expanding and condensing with the breath, but slowly expanding in overall volume

To awaken the front body-yin energy field, we can take the hoop forward to fully engage the arms and shoulders. Now imagine the hoops extends through the back body, receiving the rising spiral and expanding as the action of twisting. SBK_1711254-2SBK_1711254-9Most students eventually leave half of the body behind and end up contracting rather than expanding, especially along the spine column. Imagine the center of the spinal canal opening outward in an expanding circle/spiral, melting the tissue, feeling spaciousness, transcending the limitations of structure.SBK_1711254-4 (My front foot turns out much more than average to release the inner groin. Don’t feel you have to imitate this, but find out for yourself where openness and balance meet.) The hoop is moved to the front to expand the yin/organ/front body qi field and expand the ‘wings’ of the body, but also feel the back body softening and opening. This feeling can be evoked in sitting, lying and inverted twists as well. If you do not have a hula hoop handy, you can also use a thera-ball to find the volume.SBK_1711254-8


Another key component awakened here is the Pericardium 8 point, PC-8 (or P-8) in the center of the palms. Analagous to the K-1 points on the feet, P-8 is a gateway between the inner and outer qi fields. The SBK_1711254-11Pericardium, the fascial connective tissue membrane surrounding the heart, arises embryologically from the same cells and tissues that create the diaphragm and liver. The ‘heart protector’ literally does this, on many levels. As someone with a well-armored heart, I am finding that opening and nurturing the heart protector so that is does its job with over doing it is awakening a level of sweet vulnerability that is both precious and scary.

SBK_1711254-12In acupuncture, the pericardium meridian is part of the JueYin channel and connects all the way through the femoral canal to the legs. For those of you who have been practicing ‘climbing the wall’ for the last few years, you can actually trace the whole fascial continuity of the Jue Yin. (Use imagination to fill in the blanks.) Rise up from K-1 (not the heels, even though they do rise on their own) (DFL for those of you who know Tom Myers’ ‘Anatomy Trains’ system) to P-8, passing through liver, diaphragm and pericardium.

You can also track the qi from P-8 back into the body horizontally, again using the wall.SBK_1711254-14 Using the tip of the  middle finger of your other hand (PC-9) to feel the connections, trace the qi from the the wall and P-8 into the area around the pec minor muscle and then go inside the body to the pericardiam itself, along with the liver and diaphragm. Use the breath and your imagination. Then go back and try the twistings shown above with these new perceptions.

SBK_1711254-20To continue our building of a three dimensional perceptual qi field, we can return to the thera-ball to provide sensation and visualization. I like the feel of my third chakra having organ support, so I find placing the ball there and using a wall creates a powerful presence on the inside. Embryologically speaking, this is the extemely yin yolk sac which becomes the entire gut body. The conception vessel points on the micro-cosmic orbit are stimulated by the ball, bringing sensation and perception here. The liver comes from the yolk sac, so I can use this position to also find the Jue Yin channel we explored above. Lying SBK_1711254-19over the ball in a forward bend creates a similar feeling, with even more yielding and softening to the yang back body erector muscles. By moving the ball to the sternum, I can activate a new set of points on the conception vessel and engage the inner tissues surrounding the 4th chakra

If I want to build up my back field perception, I use the ball from behind and awaken sensation on the yang Governing Vessel.SBK_1711254-16 Here I have dropped it a bit lower to find the sacral-lumbar junction and here I can feel the possibility of both lumbar flexion and extension, from S curve to C curve and back.  The very important GV-4 Qi gong Image‘gate of vitality’ is here The inner abdominal space also opens and the front back and center plane begin to become conscious. This becomes trickier as you move upwards towards the liver. You can place the ball anywhere and feel different points coming alive. Feel their inner as well as outer presence. Back support can also help open the front. I haveSBK_1711254-17been trying to open my throat more for my sax sound and using the ball (or any elastic support) helps soften and melt tight tissue.

SBK_1711254-21Fish body support, opening some Gall Bladder Meridian points is another way to use the ball. I am using the wall, but this can be done on the floor as well, with slightly different effects. All of these ways of playing with the three dimensional field are ways of awakening and establishing a dynamic energetic field, centered in your heart, and radiating out throughout the whole of the cosmos. When you are out in Nature, feel this. When you are out and about in the human sphere, feel how you respond. It is fascinating to see what happens.

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