Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pranayama

The conceptual mind misses the point.

In encountering the many different texts about yoga that discuss the question of breathing and breathing exercises, there is a tendency to believe that the exercises are actually about breathing, the way we physically experience it. One understands it that way; and one becomes involved with the breath and the body in a way that can be quite involving. But the real practice has, in the end, little or nothing to do with the mechanical process of breathing; and pranayama, control of the breath, is actually about the regulation of the life force, not air.

 It is, in other words, a practice of breathing the energy in and out of the body; a second breathing. This is a question of relationship quite different than that of the literal air we breathe, although the mechanics of air and air itself are indeed connected with it. Mistaking one for the other, however, is like thinking that hammers and nails are boards and walls. The higher energy is a dwelling that one inhabits, not the tools one builds it with.

 The whole aim of yoga is coming into relationship with this finer energy. In this way, we see that the work of Jeanne de Salzmann is above all Yoga, in its essence: the development of a relationship with a finer energy. This energy needs to be sensed with all the parts of one's being, because it feeds everything: the body, the mind, and the emotions. And the attention and sensation need to be directed, ultimately, not towards any hydraulic physical action that drives it; rather, attention and sensation must be invested in the presence of the energy itself.

 Without this presence, there is nothing. No work; only imagination. If and when there is a practice of presence, it is a presence to the energy.

One forgets this; everything else is attractive. The Christmas season, automobiles, that lovely young man or woman. It's perfectly natural and right for everything else to be attractive, but the center of gravity cannot be in them. The center of gravity must be within, inside the energy, and in the presence. The presence itself: the inner presence. The presence of Self is the breath. Breath is not what we think of as breath, in other words. Breath is the Lord itself, the energy, and its relationship to us, as much as our relationship to it. So when we talk about breath, we don't talk about ordinary breath; and when we talk about breathing, it is not the breathing of the physical body.

It is actually the breath of a higher body in man.

Many years of work may be needed in order to reach this point of understanding, but there is only one such point, and it cannot be varied by philosophy, argumentation, or theories. One must furthermore be quite careful about reading theories or abstracts about such things, because the inner understanding of energy is very specific, and not at all related to theory. The theories are elaborate, and the abstracts are detailed and descriptive, but they are all what is called ersatz in German — substitutes. And we absolutely cannot substitute what comes from the ordinary mind for what is necessary in the relationship to the energy.

 This was driven home to me this morning while reading Harish Johari's book on Chakras, which, while it provides a wealth of potentially useful information, also might be prone to create many misunderstandings. It also contains an enormous amount of  folklore which has been mixed into energy practices. The result is a set of superstitions with an elaborate and colorful veneer that becomes attractive to anyone who reads it. One must turn to texts such as The Reality of Being or Inner Yoga in order to find unadulterated understandings of energy work, and one immediately discovers that they speak in a very different language.

 This, of course, creates its own set of problems. The demand is great; and people want quick fixes, or things that are immediately tangible, that can be picked up, and touched. Breathing is like this. Yoga asanas are like this. Each one of them is taken as a gospel and undertaken as a thing.

But the work with inner energy is not a work with things. It is work of a completely different order. It brings us into touch with levels of materiality that are much finer than what our ordinary mind can conceive of, and contain dimensions that do not touch the world except through the bridge formed by consciousness in man.

 It is, furthermore, mistaken, in many senses, to talk about "control" of this process; because the process is not actually under our control. We don't control the process; what we try to do is bring ourselves under control, by using the reins that the carriage driver has connecting him to the horse to direct it and bring it into an intelligent relationship.

When this is done, the process controls itself. We assume the role of observers; and this is necessary, because we are not competent in these areas. They have been given to us as gifts; and we are custodians who ought to pay close attention to the generosity bestowed upon us in this act of life and living.

 May your soul be filled with light.


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