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Q: Certainly there must be more important things to think about than I AM. What about the pressing problems of the world: terrorism and war, poverty, hunger? I don't get it. Are you sure meditation isn't an escape from reality?

A: Keep in mind that meditation is not about thinking I AM in a haphazard way. As has been discussed in detail, it is a precise procedure that brings us to the deepest level of peace and bliss in us, and brings these qualities out into our daily activity. Meditation is not an escape from reality. Rather, it is a preparation for it. You could even say that meditation is a revealer of reality, because what we consider to be reality is almost entirely a product of our perception. Specifically, do we see the glass as half full, or half empty? If we see the glass as half full, there is hope.

There is boundless energy to do good, even in the most daunting of circumstances. We see ways for things to get better, and we work towards that. When we see the glass as half empty, there is little hope, little energy to work for something better. There is misery, and we become a drag on everyone around us. We become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. So, if you find that meditation is a source of peace, inner happiness, optimism and strength in your life, then this is a formula for bettering your surroundings, and the world. The results of meditation are infectious. When we meditate, others are affected not only by our inspired actions, but also by the invisible radiation of pure bliss consciousness emanating from us. We can induce peace and optimism in others by opening ourselves to the infinite within.

Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." If millions of people engaged in meditation each day, the world would be illuminated. We can each do our part by bringing out the divine light within us. It is not an escape. It is a responsibility. To become more is not only about us. It is about everyone on the earth. So meditate every day, and wholeheartedly go do the work you feel in your heart is most important. May your glass overflow for the benefit of the world. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on deep meditation, see the AYP Deep Meditation book.
Q: In a yoga class I went to, the instructor said one should always sit vertically without back support on a floor mat or pillow when meditating. I have been trying this and getting pretty sore in the process. Is this necessary for successful meditation?

A: In a word, no. Meditation works just fine while sitting on a soft surface with back support. An easy chair is good. Being on a bed with a couple of pillows behind us is better, for reasons that will become clear shortly. Don't meditate in a reclined position, as this can result in sleep rather than meditation. The idea is to be sitting upright comfortably. We don't want unnecessary discomfort in the body competing with the simple procedure of meditation. If it is natural for you to sit on a hard surface without back support for twenty minutes or more, this is okay for meditation. But few will be able to do this, and it is not necessary. Less comfort is synonymous with unnecessary distraction in meditation. So keep it comfortable.

Having said all that, here comes a curve ball. Once you are steady in your daily meditation routine and feel you are ready for the next step in your yoga practice, it is a good idea to put your legs in a crossed position while you are meditating. This is where the bed comes in handy. If you can get one leg in so the sole of your foot is against the inside of your thigh with your heel near your crotch, this is good. The other leg can come in with its sole resting on the shin of the first leg. It doesn't matter which leg goes inside first to the thigh. It is your choice. Over time, you can develop the ability to switch legs, so that either one can be the inside leg during meditation. Comfort will be the determining factor on which leg to use on the inside. If you are new at this, it may seem difficult. For most it will take some doing, but we will not be approaching it in an extreme way.

We will take a very gentle, gradual approach. There are important long-term reasons why we are tackling this now, so give it the necessary consideration, as long as it does not jeopardize your regular meditation routine. Making first attempts, you may find that you are not able to get your inside foot to your thigh. You may find your knees sticking up in the air, not wanting to lie flat on the bed. Go as far as you comfortably can, and use pillows to prop up your knees if necessary, so you can be as comfortable as possible while meditating. Don't torture yourself, or your meditation, by forcing yourself into an uncomfortable position. What we want is to gently coax our legs into a cross-legged position over a period of time. It might happen immediately for some. For others it might take weeks or months of gentle coaxing. It is the direction we gradually want to go in. Rome was not built in a day.

As you become familiar with the physics of your legs, you will find that your knees will more easily come down and lie comfortably on the bed when the soles of your feet are turned up a bit. The toes of the inside foot can then tuck under the thigh with the heel remaining near the crotch, and the toes of the outside foot can then tuck under the shin. A bed is very good for this, as the soles of the feet can easily turn up while the tops of the feet sink into the mattress a bit. Having turned the soles of the feet up, if the knees still have not come down, feel free to use pillows to fill in the void under them. But if you are turning the soles up, the knees should come down, just as though you are heading toward kneeling on the bed with your knees spread wide apart.

Use back support while meditating and developing this new way of sitting in meditation. You will find that you can get comfortable in this position after a gentle coaxing period of several weeks or months. If your legs get uncomfortable during meditation it is okay to extend one or both of them out on the bed as needed and continue meditating. Or you can switch the inside leg from one to the other from time to time, and continue that way.

Do whatever it takes to keep comfortable during meditation, while gently favoring the cross-legged way of sitting at the same time. In time, sitting this way will become second nature, and you will be able to meditate easily and not even notice how you are sitting. If there is a disability or other limiting factor you can't overcome, and sitting cross-legged is not going to be possible for you, it is okay. You can still meditate and derive all the benefits. Nothing is lost.

As we take on new advanced yoga practices down the road, there are ways we can get around the lack of crossed legs. Crossed legs are preferable, but not mandatory. Obviously, when we find ourselves in situations where we will be meditating in planes, offices, waiting rooms, etc., we just sit normally on our chair without any special position for the legs. But when we are meditating at home, we always favor (with comfort) the cross-legged way of sitting just described. It is an important preparation that will form the foundation for a dramatic stage of our spiritual transformation as we add additional advanced yoga practices. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on deep meditation, see the AYP Deep Meditation book. For detailed instructions on siddhasana, see the AYP Asanas, Mudras and bandhas book. http://aypsite.com/33.html
Q: Since I began pranayama, my breathing has undergone a change. At first I couldn't seem to find a rhythm, and I was behind or ahead of my need for air as I breathed slowly. But lately, it is smoothing out. I seem to have enough air, even as I slow down more and more. Sometimes my breathing seems to suspend at certain points in the cycle. Is this normal? Am I doing damage to myself when my breathing becomes so slow that it almost stops? A: Your experience is very good. It demonstrates that much cultivation is going on underneath in your nervous system, and the life force is coming up from the inside to replace your reduced intake of oxygen. This is why you feel comfortable with your breath slowing down, and are without strain. This is a normal consequence of pranayama and it will not be harmful to you, as long as you don't force the process. There is a great natural principle at work here. It is why pranayama is so effective for cultivating the nervous system. Recall that "pranayama" means "restraint of the life force." When we restrain the life force in a simple unforced way, something is created. The gentle restraint of breath creates a biological vacuum effect, a small suction on the life force in us. The body must deal with this gentle deficit of life force in some way. It does so by pulling from the vast storehouse of prana within the body, and this prana flows out from deep within the nervous system. This is a new dynamic in the nervous system, and the outflow of prana from within plays on the nerves with a great loosening and purifying effect. This process is at the heart of all the effects that come up from pranayama. Right behind the flow of prana coming up in pranayama is the bounteous flow of pure bliss consciousness, assuming we are practicing our meditation every day. We are all familiar with the benefits of applying the principle of restraint in various areas of our life. If we gently restrain what seems to be our immediate need, we invariably benefit in some way. This is particularly true if we have been overdoing in terms of fulfilling our perceived needs, as we are prone to do in our consumption-oriented western lifestyle. There is great wisdom in the saying, "Moderation in all things." A very simple and obvious example is eating. If we gently restrain our food intake, we begin to burn the fat in our body to replace the reduction in food intake. This has an overall purifying effect in the body, and will improve our health as long as we don't take the process to an extreme and become anorexic. The principle of restraint operates in many areas of life. If we restrain our spending, even a little, we find that we have more money. If we lose our job, which is not always perceived as a positive event, very often we end up in a better one. Life has a way of compensating for whatever is restrained, often with something better. There is no doubt that if we moderate our excesses, we find more in life. In many areas of life, we find that less is more. This principle is also operating in meditation. As we easily favor the mantra, we are gently restraining the endless streams of thoughts that we are almost always immersed in. In meditation, we create a state in the mind where the attention is not focused on meaning. Yet, we are keeping the mind active with the mantra. We have not put the mind to sleep. So, with less opportunity for attention to cling to meaning there is a kind of vacuum created in the mind. What happens? Well, you know what. The attention goes to quieter and quieter levels, until the mind becomes completely still in the great silent expanse of pure bliss consciousness. By gently restraining the flow of mind, we create a vacuum that draws pure bliss consciousness into us. It has been said, "Nature abhors a vacuum, and rushes to fill it." It is true. Much of yoga is based on the application of this principle to stimulate the human nervous system to a higher level of functioning and experience. We are not usually inclined to voluntarily restrain things that we consider basic to our existence. Yet, if we understand the principle of compensation that is operating everywhere, we will find opportunities to move forward in our lives with greater skill. Pranayama is one shining example of the application of this principle. As you will see, pranayama reaches far into the essence of what we are, and plays a major role in pulling us out, enabling us to become ecstatically radiant. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book. http://aypsite.com/45.html
Q: I am having some difficulty imagining the spinal nerve. Does it look like a nerve or a tube? You mentioned both. Does it have a color, a taste, a feel, or any other sensory characteristic? A: We effortlessly imagine the spinal nerve as a tiny tubular channel going from our perineum (the spot underneath, between the anus and the genitals) to the point between the eyebrows. During inhalation we trace it up the center of the spine to the center of the head, and turn forward to the center of the brow. On exhalation we trace it back down the same path to the perineum again, and so on, over and over, for our time of pranayama. If we realize we are not tracing the spinal nerve up and down during our pranayama session, we just easily come back to it. We don't force the mental image of the spinal nerve. We gently favor it. The details will come on their own. What is the spinal nerve? What is this sushumna thing? Is it something we will just keep imagining in our pranayama forever, and that's it? Fortunately, not. Imagining the spinal nerve and tracing it up and down in pranayama is only the beginning. At first, it is like making a survey of the land where we have been told there is a rich vein of gold underneath. Then we are digging, and soon we are into the gold. Then the imagining, the tracing of the mental image of it, takes on a different quality. We find we are into the vein of gold and there is no more looking for it. We know where it is. It is shining in our face. Our imagination is supplemented by the growing reality of it. So, imagining the spinal nerve is just a beginning, We have to start somewhere. As we trace out the path of it over and over again with the breath, something begins to happen. Something starts coming up. It may be feelings. It may be colors. It may be sounds. We will experience something. We just keep practicing, not detouring very much into the sensations that come up. All the senses operate in the inner realms, and we are gradually opening them up. How we first perceive the spinal nerve depends on our unique condition, our unique pattern of purification that is going on in both pranayama and meditation. However unique our pattern of purification may be, we are uncovering the same thing, the sushumna, the spinal nerve. In doing so, we are opening up our highway to the infinite. What we are doing in spinal breathing is simultaneously finding the spinal nerve and opening it. We find it by opening it, and then we keep opening it. It will not be the imagination alone for very long. Soon we will be adding powerful features to our pranayama practice that will aid in opening the spinal nerve more quickly. The breathing and imagination will get lots of help. When you are mining for gold, you may want to use some dynamite. There is plenty of dynamite available. It will soon be brought to you. Then you can be quickly uncovering something very real as you go up and down in spinal breathing. The spinal nerve will become tangible on the inside, palpable. There will be less imagining of it. You will be in it, experiencing the inner dimensions of yourself. Ecstatic radiance will fill you and start to stretch you from within. At some point you will come to a realization that is both comforting and scary at the same time. You will realize that while you have been looking for the spinal nerve, the spinal nerve has been looking for you. In finding the spinal nerve, the spinal nerve has found you. Then the doing will shift. Before, you were the one doing the seeking, digging and digging. Finding the spinal nerve changes that. Now it is the awakened spinal nerve that is doing the seeking, spreading out everywhere inside you, purifying every cell in you. You become a witness to a vast and glorious display of cosmic cleansing, and you are falling into an endless abyss of ecstasy. It is a humbling experience, and a gratifying one. Now you are witnessing first hand what has been recorded in the scriptures and truth writings of humanity for thousands of years. This is what finding the spinal nerve is like. It is like being found. Then we move into a mode of surrender, accommodating the divine process going on inside, because we are no longer alone on this quest. We never were. We don't sit back and do nothing. There is much more for us to do -- many more means that can be applied to facilitate the transformation. So we go on with our daily practices, and add more advanced yoga practices, as we are able to digest them. There is no resting on our laurels. We may be full with ecstasy, but there is more, and we will not stop. The guru is in you Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book. http://aypsite.com/44.html
Q: I am having wonderful blissful feelings in my first pranayama sessions, and they are flowing over into my meditation period. I found myself swaying with pleasurable feelings coming up my spine, covering me with goosebumps. I found my attention drifting back into spinal breathing during my meditation. Is this okay? What is the relationship between pranayama and meditation? Is pranayama a kind of meditation? Can pranayama stand alone as spiritual practice without the meditation we have learned? A: Your early experiences are beautiful, a wonderful taste of things to come. Let them inspire you to carry on along the path toward enlightenment. With regular practice of pranayama and meditation your experiences will go much deeper. If there are movements during pranayama or meditation, don't mind them too much. This applies to either pleasurable movements, or unpleasurable ones. Just easily go back to the procedure of the practice you are doing, whether it be pranayama or meditation. If the movements persist to the point where you are unable to easily go back to your practice, then let your attention rest with the movements for a while, not favoring or resisting them. Once they settle down a bit you should be able to effortlessly go back to your practice. Pleasurable movements, and pleasurable feelings without movements, can be tricky when they arise in pranayama and meditation. We tend to be attracted to these. It is natural. The tricky part is in not confusing the rise of pleasure with practice, and becoming unduly focused on the pleasure. Keep in mind that these experiences are rising due to correct practice of pranayama and meditation. In order to advance, we must continue our practices and not fall off them into excessive attention on the ecstatic experiences that will be coming up. This is not to say these experiences are not welcome. Certainly they are ? we are doing advanced yoga practices so we can rise to a life in ecstasy! As we continue our daily practices, ecstatic experiences will overflow and become a regular part of our daily life. This is what we want. So, if they are coming up during our pranayama and meditation, we welcome them with joy and go back to our practice. This is how we promote the rise of ecstatic experience in life. We will be discussing the topic of maintaining the integrity of our practices during ongoing experiences of ecstasy in more detail later on. In time, ecstasy will become the predominant experience during our practices, and this presents a unique challenge on the road to enlightenment. It is a most enjoyable challenge. It will happen sometimes that we will find ourselves doing pranayama during meditation, or vise versa. When this happens, we just easily go back to the practice we are supposed to be doing at that time. We should not attempt to do both at once. Both rely on the simplicity of attention, i.e., easily favoring the mantra in meditation, or easily favoring spinal breathing in pranayama. If we try and favor both procedures at once, we divide the attention and this detracts from both practices. So, first we do pranayama, and then we do meditation. This is the formula for maximum effect. Meditation and pranayama are distinctly different practices with distinctly different purposes. Meditation instills in us the silence of pure bliss consciousness. Pranayama loosens the subtle nerves and stimulates the flow of prana in particular ways. This provides pure bliss consciousness the opportunity to flow dynamically in the nervous system. This is experienced first as the ever-increasing expansion of ecstasy, and later as the rise of universal, blissful self-awareness. Pranayama is on the edge of meditation, but it is not meditation. Meditation is on the edge of pranayama, but it is not pranayama. You might say that they both come from opposite sides to the edge of the subtle boundary that exists between pure bliss consciousness and prana everywhere in us. By doing pranayama and meditation in succession we are dissolving the boundary from both sides. It is a double whammy. This is the great benefit of doing both practices. Pranayama in its various forms has tremendous value, and we will make extensive use of it. It is one of the master keys to opening the human nervous system to divine experience. But, pranayama is not a replacement for meditation. Only through meditation can the nervous system be permeated with pure bliss consciousness. Pranayama and other techniques we will discuss aid greatly in providing the ground for pure bliss consciousness to come up, and they are means for its expansion outward, but they are not the primary cause of its coming up. Meditation is. For this reason, pranayama is not recommended as a stand-alone practice without meditation. Meditation can be practiced as a stand-alone. It is a complete practice that will lead to a full flowering of pure bliss consciousness in a person over an extended period of time. This is why meditation was said to be enough for those who are not inclined to pursue other advanced yoga practices to speed up the journey. Meditation is the best single practice one can do. On the other hand, practicing pranayama alone without meditation can leave the practitioner vulnerable in some ways. Imagine you plow a field, turning the rich soil over and over. It is exposed, fertile, and ready for the seed to be planted. What will you plant there? If you meditate deeply with an effective method, you will plant the field full with the seed of pure bliss consciousness, and it will germinate and grow strong, filling the field with joy. But what if you don't meditate, and you don't plant anything in particular in your fertile pranayama field? What will grow there? Something will. But what? Whatever happens to be around. Some desires, some thoughts, some emotions, whatever happens to be blowing over the field. To tell you the truth, a lot of weeds can grow there, because there is no crop of pure bliss consciousness filling up that field. This is why pranayama, practiced as a stand-alone over months and years, can lead to less instead of more. In some people this type of imbalanced practice can lead to increasing rigidness, egotism, anxiety, anger, and just plain bad luck. Meditate every day after you do pranayama and you will experience the opposite of these things in great profusion ? flexibility, compassion, peace, joy, and lots of good luck. That's how it works. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book. http://aypsite.com/43.html

Mystic Secrets

http://mysticsecrets.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/ankhing/ [caption id="attachment_4" align="aligncenter" width="467"]Egyptian Ankh Cross Egyptian Ankh Symbolizes Eternal Life[/caption]

Ancient Egyptians may have utilized the ankh emblem in a way that was believed to institute human physical immortality: eternal life. It is believed by some that Akhenaten (father of Tutankhamen), the ancient Egyptian pharaoh that pioneered the idea of monotheism, led 300 of his people to immortality through raised consciousness. ?This would explain why his name was removed from archaeological findings and monuments in the late 19th century: an attempt to cover up these teachings perhaps. ?But could this be the case?

It seems that most people believe in an immortal soul, but not an eternal life on earth. Let's look at what the Bible has to say about the matter.

Genesis 3:3

"But of the fruit of the tree which?is?in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."

1 Corinthians 15:50-56:

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.?Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,?In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.?For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal?must?put on immortality.?So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.?O death, where?is?thy sting? O grave, where?is?thy victory??The sting of death?is?sin; and the strength of sin?is?the law."

Revelation 21:1-4:

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.?And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God?is?with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them,?and be?their God.?And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

God's punishment to Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was death. ?And the eradication of death in scripture is mentioned many times throughout the bible aside from what I have quoted. ?The Bible clearly notes eternal life on Earth.

Akhenaten was said to have had no disciplinary actions against his people for "misbehaving." ?This idea is compatible with the idea that the knowledge of good and evil causes death (Genesis 3:3). ?Although these ideas are not in line with fundamental religious theory, they are supported by scripture.

How was "ankhing" used to enhance consciousness and promote immortality? ?

Essentially, one would use their awareness to move second chakra energy released during orgasm and manipulate it. ?Normally, this energy moves up the spine, through the top of the head, into the eighth chakra (above the physical body), and disperses outward. ?The ankhing technique allowed one to harness this energy at the fifth chakra and send it back down into the body where it would stay and revitalize touched energy centers.

[caption id="attachment_12" align="aligncenter" width="436"]Ankh Charkas Position of the ankh visualized during ankhing process[/caption]

The Spirit of Ma'at has an eight step process describing the ankhing process that is very clear:

  1. The moment you feel the sexual energy about to rise up your spine, take a very deep breath, filling your lungs about 9/10th full, then hold your breath.
  2. Allow the sexual energy of the orgasm to come up your spine. But at the moment it reaches the fifth chakra (located just a couple of finger-widths above the sternum), with your willpower you must turn the flow of sexual energy 90 degrees out the back of the body. It will then automatically continue inside the?ankh?tube. It will slowly turn until it passes exactly through the eighth (or thirteenth) chakra, one hand-length above the head at 90 degrees to the vertical. It will then continue to curve around until it returns to the fifth chakra, where it began, only this time in the front of the body. ?Even if you don't understand what was just said, it will happen automatically if you get it started out the back of the body at the fifth chakra, and it will automatically come back around to the front of the body and reconnect at the fifth chakra. You just have to make it turn 90 degrees so that it begins.
  3. It will often slow down as it approaches its point of origin, the fifth chakra. If you can see the energy, it comes to a sharp point. When it approaches the fifth chakra from the front of the body, there is sometimes a tremendous jolt as it reconnects with this chakra again. All this takes place while you are holding your first breath.
  4. The instant the sexual energy reconnects with its source, the fifth chakra, take in the full breath. You had filled your lungs only 9/10th full, so now you fill your lungs as completely as you can.
  5. Now exhale very, very slowly. The sexual energy will continue on around the?ankh?channel as long as you are exhaling. When you reach the bottom of this breath, you will continue to breathe very deeply, but a change happens here.
  6. It is here that, if you know the Lightbody work of the Mer-Ka-Ba, you would begin to breathe from the two poles using Mer-Ka-Ba breathing. But if you are like most people and don't know this work, then continue to breathe deeply until you feel the relaxation begin to spread throughout your body. Then relax your breath to your normal rate. Feel every cell becoming rejuvenated by this life-force energy. Let this energy reach down into the deepest physical levels of your body structure even past the cellular level. Feel how this beautiful energy surrounds your very being and brings health to your body, mind and heart.
  7. Once the relaxation begins, slow your breath down to a normal shallow breathing.
  8. If possible, allow yourself to completely relax or even sleep for a while afterward (Click here to read more of this article).

Whether or not ankhing can lead to eternal life, I cannot say. ?Please note that some tantric ideologies state that release of second chakra energies is essential for maintaining energetic health, and that holding them in brings us closer to death. ?This could be interpreted more than one way. ?Further exploration of the concept could give us a better understanding of the consciousness shifts we are currently experiencing.

Q: I am struggling to incorporate all the pieces involved in the spinal breathing, and am not getting much out of it so far. It seems contradictory to your repeated mention of how "natural" these practices are supposed to be. It is certainly different from meditation, which I find to be very easy and enjoyable. Is pranayama supposed to be easy and enjoyable too? A: Yes, pranayama will become easy. And enjoyable is an understatement. Ecstatic is a better description for what pranayama becomes. It may take some time to get it together though. Take your time building up to it. Give it a fair chance in your regular practice, and you will not regret it. There will be help coming in the form of new elements of practice that will make pranayama much more pleasurable to do. You will learn how to light everything up from the inside. But first things first. Get the basic habits of practice in place. Over time, it gets progressively easier and more enjoyable. Meditation is easy and enjoyable from the start for most people. With pranayama, it might take a little longer. Is pranayama natural? There is no doubt that pranayama, with all of its supplementary pieces, is a complex practice, and it may not feel natural at the start. However, as with meditation, pranayama is tapping a natural ability inherent in us. In the case of meditation, it is the mind's natural ability to become quiet and experience pure bliss consciousness. Just set up the proper condition in meditation and the mind becomes quiet all by itself. In the case of pranayama, we are tapping the nervous system's natural ability to refine and become ecstatically radiant from within. Setting up the initial conditions takes more doing. But once we have taken the necessary steps through pranayama, the condition of ecstatic radiance comes up naturally. Once it gets going, it is completely automatic. It is then that you know without any doubt that your body was designed to sustain divine ecstasy ? quite a revelation. Just as inner silent bliss consciousness is our natural state brought up through meditation, so too is ecstatic radiance our natural state brought up through pranayama. Once stimulated through pranayama, ecstatic radiance deepens in meditation. Pranayama cultivates the soil of our nervous system to the point where meditation is capable of yielding a dynamic flowering of pure bliss consciousness. Pranayama enables the silent seed we are awakening in meditation to grow into ecstatic radiance, and this overflows generously into our daily life. The objective here is to structure the advanced yoga practices to be as easy as possible, and be pleasurable and fun. Otherwise, not many will want to bother with it. Patient persistence will sometimes be required during formative stages of practice. With your ongoing commitment to daily practice, experiences will keep advancing. In time, you will be rushing to get to your meditation seat, because the ecstasy coming up there will be so great. Then, before you know it, the ecstasy will be everywhere. The whole world will be transforming before your loving eyes. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book. http://aypsite.com/42.html
We will now begin an advanced pranayama practice called spinal breathing. It has several components to it, and is done right before our daily meditation sessions. The procedure of meditation will not change in any way. First we do our pranayama. Then we do our meditation. Sit comfortably with back support, and close your eyes just as you do when you meditate. Now, keeping your mouth closed, breathe in and out slowly and deeply through your nose, but not to the extreme. Be relaxed and easy about it, breathing as slowly and deeply as possible without discomfort. There is no need to be heroic. Work your muscles so each breath begins in your belly and fills you up through your chest to the top of your collarbones, and then comes back down slowly. Next, with each rising inhalation of the breath, allow your attention to travel upward inside a tiny thread, or tube, you visualize beginning at your perineum, continuing up through the center of your spine, and up through the stem of your brain to the center of your head. At the center of your head the tiny nerve makes a turn forward to the point between your eyebrows. With one slow, deep inhalation let your attention travel gradually inside the nerve from the perineum all the way to the point between the eyebrows. As you exhale, retrace this path from the point between the eyebrows all the way back down to the perineum. Then, come back up to the point between the eyebrows with the next inhalation, and down to the perineum with the next exhalation, and so on. Begin by doing this spinal breathing practice for five minutes before your regular meditations. We don't get up between pranayama and meditation. Just keep your seat, and begin meditation when your pranayama time is up. Take a minute or so before effortlessly beginning the mantra, just as originally instructed. Once you get comfortable in the routine of doing pranayama and meditation, one after the other, increase the time of pranayama to ten minutes. You will be doing ten minutes of pranayama and twenty minutes of meditation twice each day. Continue with this practice. In a week or so, or whenever you are feeling steady with the ten minutes of pranayama before your meditation, add the following features: On the exhalations, allow your epiglottis to close enough so that there is a small restriction of the air leaving your lungs. The epiglottis is the door in your throat that automatically closes your windpipe (trachea) when you hold your breath or swallow. By partially closing it as you exhale, a fine hissing sound will occur in your throat. This is called "ujjayi." Be easy about it. Don't strain. Keep the slow, deep rhythm of breathing you have become accustomed to as you add this small restriction in the throat during exhalations. On the inhalations, allow the throat to relax and open more than usual. Do not restrict the air coming in. Rather, allow the deepest part of your throat to open wide, comfortably. Do not change the slow, deep rhythm of breathing you have been doing. Keep your mouth closed during pranayama. An exception would be if your nose is stopped up and you can't breath easily through it. In that case, use your mouth. While all of these mechanical actions may seem complicated at first, they will quickly become habit as you practice. Once the mechanical habits are in place, all you will have to do during pranayama is easily allow the attention to travel up and down inside the spinal nerve with your automatic slow, deep breathing. When you realize that your attention has slipped away from this easy up and down procedure of traveling inside the nerve during spinal breathing, you will just easily come back to it. No forcing, and no strain. We easily come back to the prescribed route of attention in pranayama, just as we easily come back to the mantra in meditation. This pranayama will quiet the nervous system, and provide a fertile ground for deep meditation. With this beginning in spinal breathing, we are also laying the foundation for additional practices that will greatly enhance the flow of prana in the body. Once we have stabilized the practices we have learned so far, we will be ready to begin gently awakening the huge storehouse of prana near the base of our spine. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book at http://aypsite.com/books.html#sbp Addition from the AYP Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living book: Over the months, several have written and asked about a form of pranayama called "nadi shodana." This is alternate nostril breathing. It is one of the most basic breathing techniques, and is usually the first breathing method taught to beginning students in hatha yoga classes. These days it is also taught by mental health professionals due to its calming influence on the nervous system. Nadi shodana is done by breathing slowly out and then in with one nostril blocked by the thumb of one hand, and then slowly out and in with the other nostril blocked by the middle finger of the same hand. That is all there is to it. It is a well-known practice that brings almost immediate relaxation. Why is it not taught in the Advanced Yoga Practices lessons? The reason nadi shodana is not used here is because spinal breathing includes the benefits of nadi shodana, plus it is a tremendously more powerful practice with effects extending far beyond those of nadi shodana. The calming effects of nadi shodana come primarily from a reduction of the breath rate by using one nostril at a time ? restraint of breath. In spinal breathing, the breath is restrained on inhalation voluntarily with the lungs and on exhalation with ujjayi (partially closed epiglottis), while the attention is used in the particular way of tracing the spinal nerve discussed in this lesson. While spinal breathing does not include alternating nostril breathing, this is not a shortcoming. Otherwise nadi shodana would be included along with spinal breathing. It is possible to do both practices at the same time, but it would be complicating our practice for very little gain. That is one of the guiding principles in all of these lessons ? Is there a substantial benefit derived through the addition of an element of practice? If there is not a significant benefit from an additional element of practice, we leave it out. That is how we keep the routine of practices as simple and efficient as possible. Otherwise we would be loading ourselves up with all sorts of supplementary things and risk losing focus on our main practices. There will be plenty of practices added as we go through the lessons that will have huge impacts on results. We want to save our attention, time and energy for those, so we can achieve the most with our yoga. Still, if you are an avid nadi shodana practitioner, or are strongly attracted to it, it will do no harm to incorporate it into your routine. If you have time, you can do some alternate nostril breathing before spinal breathing. Or you can incorporate it into your spinal breathing session. Keep in mind that nadi shodana is not recommended if you are beginner in spinal breathing. There is plenty to learn in taking up spinal breathing ? new habits to develop ? and nadi shodana is not in the mix for the reasons mentioned. But, since it has been asked about by several people, and perhaps wondered about by others, it is covered here. It should also be mentioned that nadi shodana is sometimes taught in combination with voluntary breath suspension. Breath suspension is an advanced practice and is discussed in detail later in the lessons. Nadi shodana with breath suspension is a different practice altogether, and can be hazardous if done without a good understanding of correct methodology and the effects. If you are a beginner and contemplating using breath suspension (holding the breath in or out) with nadi shodana or spinal breathing, it is suggested you wait until we get into it in these lessons, which is at Lesson 91 (http://aypsite.com/91.html) and beyond. The Sanskrit word for breath suspension is "kumbhaka." So, for now, it is recommended you develop a good understanding of spinal breathing and get the habit solidly in place, with as few distractions as possible. The following Q&As will help with that. Later on, there will be plenty more to add. One step at a time?

What is Humility?

Most religions promote humility as an essential quality necessary to gaining God’s favor.  The Bible has at least 70 verses that refer to humility. For example, Luke 14:11 promises that those who humble themselves will be exalted and James 4:6 commands Christians to humble themselves before the Lord. Although some in society still hold humility in high regard, its opposite, unabashed arrogance, has gained widespread acceptance over the last few decades. In fact, it often appears that those who indulge in the most narcissistic and conceited behavior are the most successful.  Since “Godly humility’ doesn’t appear to reap immediate rewards, but arrogance often does, many wonder if humility has any real value in our world. To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at what humility actually is.

The dictionary definition tells us humility consists of having a modest opinion of ourselves, our importance or our rank. A person who displays humility is thought by most to be meek, subdued, patient and long suffering. From the perspective of most societies, a humble person is one who may be highly accomplished, yet downgrades their accomplishments as insignificant. The humble often refuse to accept well deserved praise or accolades, pointing out that others are far more deserving (whether they are or not). From a religious standpoint, the humble are expected to recognize their sinful state and consider themselves as nothing without the mercy of the Almighty.

When we look at these definitions, we cannot help but notice that humility often demands that we behave in an inconsistent (dishonest) manner. If we make an honest assessment, we may well feel that we’ve been very successful, but humility demands that we back off and degrade what we have done in the eyes of others. Sometimes this comes off as mock humility, just a backhanded way of tooting our own horn. But when we believe we have no right to own our accomplishments and constantly downgrade what we’ve done in the eyes of others, it can also cause us to devalue ourselves.  We become afraid to accept praise because others might think we’re arrogant, ignoring the fact that there is a wide rift between an honest self-appraisal and arrogance. Arrogance makes much out of very little, relying on the willingness of others to accept the egotistical person’s own inflated sense of self.  But there is no need for us to be dishonest with ourselves or swing wildly on the pendulum of humility and arrogance. Instead, we can learn much by discovering the spiritual view of humility.

Consider the words of Rumi: “Abandon all arrogance, all vanity, and acquire Majesty.” At first glance, his statement makes no sense. How could we give up arrogance and vanity to gain majesty? We can understand if we stop looking at humility from the standpoint of separation and view it in terms of oneness. If you’ve read our blog before, you already know quantum research has demonstrated that we live in a universe of indivisible, interconnected oneness. The human eye and brain limit us to ‘seeing’ a world of separate forms. But material forms are a virtual reality that overlays the Reality of quantum oneness. More important, that oneness is made of, permeated with, and sustained by the Divine. Therefore, everything in existence is the Divine.

Here is where humility takes on new meaning. We are the Divine, but do we truly agree with that statement and live in accordance with it? Or, do we argue that we are either too sinful to be Divine, or refuse to associate ourselves with the Divine, claiming instead that we came about by some cosmic accident? Making either of these claims is vain and arrogant. After all, who has the right to tell us what we are? We can make all the claims we want to make, but the only valid assessment of who and what we are is the truth of our reality that emanates from the Divine.

It’s impossible for us to be more than we actually are, but it’s equally impossible for us to be less.  When we consider that everything is the Divine, how can we see ourselves as either less or more than anything else in existence? How can our talents, abilities and accomplishments be either less or more than an indivisible part of Divine oneness? Enjoy them, but see all talents, accomplishments and abilities from the standpoint of oneness.  When we do that, we can work in unity for the highest good of all without being caught up in either arrogance or mock humility.

Of course in oneness, there is no place for sin and no need of salvation. All we need do is wake up to our Divine oneness. In oneness, humble worship becomes a ridiculous concept. Awe at the magnificence of All That Is, is reasonable, but so is the recognition that you are that magnificence. From a spiritual standpoint, humility is the recognition and acceptance of Divine oneness, to see that oneness in everything in existence, and the sincere attempt to live in accord with that knowledge. Be humble; claim your majesty.

One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind, endlessly emanating all things—Rumi

God is not external to anyone or anything, but exists in everyone and is in all things—Plotinus

The Lord of Love is the one Self of all. Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now—Mundaka Upanishad

You are within God and God is within you. You could not be where God is not—Peace Pilgrim

I am the Self in the heart of every creature—Bhagavad Gita

At the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and this center is everywhere, it is within each of us—Black Elk

God is one; and he himself does not… exist outside the world, but in it…being wholly present…the animating soul of the universe—Pythagoras

I saw my lord with the eye of my heart and I said, “Who art thou?” And he said, “Thou.” —Al-Hallaj

God’s kingdom is inside you and outside you. —Jesus, Gospel of Thomas

Lee and Steven Hager are the authors of several books featuring the synergy of science, spirituality and gnosis.

Visit The Beginning of Fearlessness Website and blog: http://www.thebeginningoffearlessness.com

It is common knowledge that when a friend is upset, really upset, it is good to tell him to breathe, to take slow, deep breaths in and out for a while. This invariably has a calming effect on the nervous system, mind, and emotions. Why? Because it loosens the nerves. Tension constricts our nerves, and this restricts the flow of consciousness through us. Breathing slowly and deeply loosens our nerves, facilitating the flow of consciousness through us, and this has the desired relaxing effect. To say that consciousness flows through us is a bit of an over-simplification. While, in truth, all is the flow of consciousness, it is more descriptive to say that the "life force" flows through us. What is the life force? It is the first manifestation of consciousness in matter. It is called, "prana," which means, "first unit." In the string theory of modern physics, the miniscule, subatomic energy strings thought to be the building blocks of everything in the universe might well be analogous to prana. In any case, we know that influencing prana (the life force) in the human body has significant effects on our nervous system, and our experience. Meditation is a way of influencing prana with the mind taking the lead. The human mind arises from a flow of energy through the nerves of the brain. In meditation, we systematically allow that energy (prana) to become still, which brings us to the underlying cause of that energy. We experience it as pure silent bliss consciousness. In meditation, the attention is easily brought beyond the mind, and beyond prana. It is an extraordinary natural ability we have. Besides meditation, there are other ways to influence prana to facilitate the purification of the nervous system for joining of our inner and outer nature. As mentioned, managing the breath can have a noticeable effect on our experience. By restraining the breath in certain ways we can produce certain predictable effects. This is the science of "pranayama," which means, "restraint of prana." In terms of what we do externally, it is called breath control. But there is more to pranayama than physical control of the breath. Other actions are brought to bear that deepen and broaden the effects of the breath. The mind is involved, and so is the body in ways other than by controlling the breath. Taken together, these actions loosen and cultivate the nervous system in ways that greatly enhance the effects of our core practice of meditation. Think of the nervous system as the soil, and of pure bliss consciousness as the seed. We have been awakening the silent seed through regular daily meditation. Now we will be cultivating the soil of our nervous system so the seed of pure bliss consciousness will grow to be dynamic and strong in us. How does the breath affect the flow of prana in the body? There is an electromagnetic relationship in the body between the breath, the mind, the flow of prana, and every aspect of our biological functioning. All of these are connected. This is why, when we meditate, the breath is automatically subdued and the whole metabolism slows down. During pranayama, when we consciously slow down the breath and mentally take it along a particular pathway, we influence the flow of prana in that pathway. It is a kind of induction. It is like inducing an electrical current in a wire with a magnet. So, using the breath in coordination with the mind, we are able to engage in selective purification of a particular channel in our nervous system that plays a leading role in the rise of enlightenment. This channel is the tiny thread-like nerve that runs up inside the spine and through the brain. It is called the "sushumna." Purifying and opening this nerve is where pranayama and additional advanced yoga practices will be focused. We will begin with a breathing technique to be done right before each meditation session. As we become comfortable with it we will add on new elements, step by step, that will greatly increase the power of our practice. The guru is in you. Note: For detailed instructions on pranayama, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book. http://aypsite.com/39.html
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