Day before yesterday, I mentioned that the reference to churning in the myth about the ocean of milk probably refers to a particular kind of yogic experience, without any further elaboration.
At the time, I didn't really feel like getting into it, but I suppose that the reference deserves some further explanation.
Many of the unusual motions that we encounter in esoteric disciplines such as the Gurdjieff movements are actually attempts to re-create movements that take place spontaneously in the human body when the inner flowers connect. For example, the Jewish practice of davinning, which looks bizarre to outsiders, is actually an intentional re-creation of a body movement that arises during meditation under certain conditions. A second example is the fluttering of hands, which is a re-creation of a particular sensation which takes place when the heart chakra opens.
In Yoga, most, if not all, positions are meant to open centers. The discipline is to some extent operating ass-backwards, however, because what "ought" to happen--i.e. what actually happens if anything real becomes connected--is that the center opens, and then a posture is spontaneously assumed.
Yoga, bless its heart, takes a page directly from Gurdjieff's little red instruction booklet and tries to assume the posture in order to open the center. As in other esoteric disciplines, it's taught that the intentional re-creation of movements and postures with known (or at least traditional) associations to the opening of centers can bring a man into the state from which they originally arose. Gurdjieff's movements are jam-packed with such material, practiced in a far less leisurely form than traditional yoga delivers.
...When he called his teaching "haida," or "hurry up," yoga, he really meant business.
I'm not 100% clear on the practice. If it really worked that way, yoga would reliably produce one master after another, and the planet currently has countless hordes of ordinary people practicing yoga without any notable progress on their inner state.
In fact, I suspect, practicing the Gurdjieff movements, or perhaps even yoga, may well be of limited value simply because no one actually knows any more what a particular posture or movement is actually supposed to express, teach, or open. By now much is a matter of guesswork.
In any event, from my own experience, I'd suggest that the myth of churning the ocean of milk probably relates to a set of movements that take place reciprocally in the neck and the head, and then at the hips, the pelvis, and the base of the spine.
Under the correct set of conditions, when energy centers are brought into relationship, the lower triad (root, solar plexus, sex center) and the upper triad (heart, throat, third eye) engage in a reciprocal exchange of vibrations which will cause the head to spontaneously and rapidly rotate back and forth, with the energy generated from this activity traveling down into the lower portion of the body and arousing the same motion. The movement loosens the spine at the top and the bottom and brings the top and the bottom of the spine into a greater sense of relationship. It's not uncommon for the forward-and-backwards motion seen in davinning Orthodox Jews to arise as an adjunct to this process. This "churning" of the body's muscles opens the spine and the energy centers, relaxes blockages, and facilitates a better flow of inner substances. (The somewhat discredited guru Da Free John--truly a man of many names and faces--wrote a bit about this in "The Method of The Siddhas," for those who may be interested.)
In the churning myth, many other valuable substances are created before the elixir of immortality appears. There is a clear and direct analogy here to the various levels of higher hydrogens found in Gurdjieff's system, all of which need to be developed in an orderly manner before the highest "12" hydrogens are attained.
In Zen, Dogen oft refers to the "psychic powers" that adepts develop while on the path-in all likelihood, the selfsame magical substances created by "churning." Dogen's material is rich with allegories that may well refer to aspects of this process.
In all three cases, it's understood that the many miraculous substances created during the process are just steps on the path. The "true aim" is the creation of the elixir of immortality.
I had a few more thoughts about this in the morning while walking the famous dog Isabel. One was that it's entirely possible the "ocean of milk" referred to in the Hindu myth represents what Gurdjieff would have called si12, or sex energy. Gurdjieff mentioned in In Search of the Miraculous that ancient schools routinely attempted to work with this hydrogen, instead of working with Mi12 which, according to him, was in fact the primary step, and produced more reliable results.
A second impression is that the snake- the naga- in the myth is wrapped around a mountain (Mount Mandara) which serves as the rotor to churn the milk. Occupying the central position in the saga, and lying in the center of the naga which represents the spine, this mountain has to represent the heart location, so it is the movement of the heart that creates the magical substances.
May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.