My yogic journey is a beautiful adventure into the Cave of The Heart.
When reclining, either in savasana or supine upon an angled bolster, I am most aware of relaxing and entering this sacred cave. My true home of holiness. The Silence within and without.
This is a most delicious time.
With the body completely supported and happy, I dis-attach from my physical self, the outer kosha called annanamaya kosha, and commence a journey inward. Though I have practiced for years, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the path is blocked, cluttered with Mind and Body chattering painfully, refusing to release my sweet Heart.
Ahhhh, but when it does happen, when I travel through Pranamaya (breath sheath), Manomaya (mind sheath), and Vijnanamaya (wisdom sheath), there is a synergy of Body Mind Heart Awareness opening and growing. I enter a deeper, wider place of no place and no time. I enter a lush cave of Anandamaya, the bliss sheath.
“Life is a journey to find ourselves, our God and our own wisdom. The beginning and end of our journey is the cave of the heart. The cave of the heart is the deepest psychological ground of one’s personality. It is the inner sanctuary where self-awareness goes beyond analytical reflection and opens out into metaphysical and theological confrontation with the Abyss of the unknown yet always present. This is the one who is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. In Romans 5 in the Christian Scriptures this is the heart where God’s love is poured forth by the Holy Spirit. In the Hindu tradition the Upanishads speak of the spirit of the One who created the universe as dwelling in our heart. The same spirit is described as the One who in silence is loving us all.”
I invite you to venture into this cave during your next yoga practice. There is nothing to do or even to try to do. Just give yourself permission to release into your deepest being. Invite your self to delve into the cave of bliss.
It’s ironic that at a workshop titled Inner and Outer Strength, chanting made the strongest impression. Well, maybe not; maybe the hard asana work prepared the channels and enabled an opening as never heretofore experienced? Chanting does require inner strength of the vocal chords and deep release of the diaphragm.
In the white studio, thirty voices intoned OM in thirty different intonations. I, too, opened my mouth and a sound welled from deep in my torso. Gradually it grew louder and pitched higher as I traveled with it:
A – O – U – M.
Up from the belly, into the solar plexus, through the heart center, rising in the throat, finally vibrating between my eyebrows. Then a deep inbreath, opening my mouth – and as I find the deep inner place from which om begins – the sound is released, flying into the flock of oms in the room. Some large and deep, some resonant and harmonic, some high and sweet. All one energy.
Over and over the oms played louder, softer, faster, deeper. Over and over I let them go; I let sound happen through me as if releasing a long pent-up voice.
chautauqua secret garden bridge
The primordial voice that existed before “I” was, before the universe existed rang outward and inward. Becoming transparent to sound, I tried to hold it, though it never stayed. Without my thinking or expecting, the energy carried me across another bridge.
Eventually there were no more students, or teachers, or moms, professors, midwives, writers, bloggers, musicians, Techies, yogis, gardeners, poets, grammas. The sound erased personas as each voice moved on its own, emanating from ever-deepening channels within.
The vibration filled the room. I was aware of it and not aware of it. Eventually there were no individuals at all. Just sound. A flight of harmonics and energy. There was nothing to do, just keep sounding OOOOooooommmmm.
Like a lover after the fact, the chant eventually would wind down – the vibration still there, though softer. I opened my mouth to receive the sensation which became a fine humming – a string vibrating inside me and in the room. Then the sound was no longer present; sound gave way to silence and I became aware of a vibrant ringing, maybe my body was rocking, but I am not sure. Waves of energy throbbed and passed through me. All was vibration and nothing else. My body had become a bell and in all directions there was ringing.
Panterra garden buddha
Existence made sense. There was no denying that I was alive and that being alive equaled this bliss.
When I sit in meditation and focus on my breath….that is “normal” breath at that point…I find the simple act of being there, the act of sitting coupled with watching the breath in its daily tides….that action brings me almost immediately into a meditative space….it’s a different consciousness…an internal realm of existence that I am always happy to visit …It reminds me of the limited world I inhabit in my daily life….a world free of form….unlimited energy …it’s a place of mental rest, hence relaxation…just me and my breath…ahhhhh.
Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher and monastic, calls this first stage of sitting practice, accessing absolute boddhicitta. We begin calming the wild elephants of the mind and dedicate our practice to serve all beings. What follows this stage may not be so blissful, so I am sure to savor those first quiet moments. Truly, they are what bring me over and over again back to the practice.
In yoga class, we begin with a stage called centering, which is very similar and often engenders a similar blissful state in the practitioner. Consciously befriending your breath is a transformative experience in itself. Recently, a student remarked as we were transitioning to a more physically active practice, “Ahhh, this is why I come to class!” Truly, she hadn’t needed to say anything; bliss surrounded her in a warm glow.
If you’d like to hear more of Ani Pema Chodron’s explanation of Shambala Buddhist meditation, watch the inimitable Bill Moyers interview her on PBS. Here’s the link.