October 8, 2011

Love: A sense of oneness felt as bliss. ~ Muni Natarajan

Love is too general a term to be useful if it is not put into context. So, let’s put love in context.

In a physical context, love might look a lot like lust. In an emotional context, it could be conceived as a sharing of intimacy. In an intellectual context, it might be understood as a mutual fulfillment of practical needs. In a spiritual context, however—which would be the context of yoga—love could very well reveal itself as an inability to draw lines of separation. The experience of this latter more broad-based and unconditional love might be described as the enjoyment of an inescapable sense of oneness felt as bliss.

But this blissful enjoyment of oneness would not be of the up-and-down sort. Ups and downs—as in mood swings—are emotional. Although emotional “ups” are fun enough as they occur, they are never long lasting and are forever followed by “downs” that happen in compliance with an inner law that states: “That which goes up must come equally down before cycling back around to center.”

Because yoga practices are always all about getting back to center one way or another, they tend to simplify our lives. Take, for instance, the bliss of being. The bliss of being and the bliss of a deep, broad and unconditional love are the same. Simple!

Once we have caught the idea that the bliss of being is not different from the bliss of a deep love, we know that when we are feeling one of these we are feeling the other, and that when we are feeling emotion (negative or positive) we are feeling neither.

In yoga, we have a number of practices designed to release us from an entanglement with the push-and-pull of negative and positive emotions so we can fall back into that one central bliss of being that is forever radiating a one unconditional love.

The Ego

Getting stuck off center is all too easy. Staying stuck off center is even easier. Staying stuck off center is how egos get formed, for an ego is nothing but an off-center, false sense of self that forms itself when awareness stays away from home so long it forgets where home is.

The longer awareness stays stuck off center, the harder it is to get unstuck, for wherever it is, it builds from there its own version of being and its own version of love—counterfeit replicates of the originals to be sure—as it nurtures a desire to remain as it is and a fear of loosing what it has become. As grim as this scene might seem to be, it is a necessary prerequisite to an effective involvement with yoga or some such practice. Yoga is not the only way out of an ego, but it is a way that is most effective.

Living life easily with a sense of centeredness is yoga in action. Such living springs forth spontaneously from a faith in being. Since a faith in being is inspired by the being experience and the being experience is inspired by a faith in being, which inspires more being experience, which inspires more faith, yoga in action is—as we can all discover for ourselves—a lifestyle that grows from within itself.

How to bless with bliss

As we prepare to bless with the bliss of a deep and unconditional love, we can learn from hatha yoga and pranayama how simply relaxing the physical body allows a release of thought and emotion that lets the bliss of our deeper love spontaneously flow out of us to others as blessings.

With an intention to experience this for ourselves right now, we’ll work with a hatha yoga posture called the “boat pose,” navasana in Sanskrit, and a pranayama called the “ocean breath,” ujjayi in Sanskrit.

The ujjayi breath control is sometimes referred to as the “ocean breath” because its performance sounds like the sum-total monotone of a nearby sea or the quiet wind-tunnel roar of a conch shell’s inner spiral. Many yoga teachers say ujjayi is “throat breathing” as opposed to “nose breathing.” What they mean by this is that in ujjayi we focus upon slightly constricting the passage of air through the throat while we are breathing through the nose. This constriction of air produces ujjayi’s distinctive wind sound as it softens and slows the breath to yield a curious effect of soothing and calming the nervous system, even though it increases oxygenation and builds internal body heat. Ujjayi is one of yoga’s most popular breath controls and perfect for this practice of “Blessing.”

To catch the knack of performing ujjayi, hold a hand mirror up close to your face and fog it up with an out-breath through a mouth open wide. That action applied with the mouth closed during controlled inhaling and exhaling is ujjayi.

In preparation for assuming the boat pose, sit on the ground with your legs together and extended forward. In this position, inhale deeply with ujjayi. As you begin to exhale, also with ujjayi, lean back to balance on your sitting bones while raising your extended legs as high as you can without rounding your back (see Figure one). To stabilize your balance in this position, straighten your arms forward and up until they are approximately parallel to the ground with the palms of your hands open and facing each other. When you have concluded your exhalation while holding this posture, lower your body into a reclining position of physical rest. This sequence constitutes one round of the boat pose.

Figure one: The boat pose or navasana in Sanskrit.

Once you have figured out how to get into and out of the boat pose, perform it five times.

Then, lie back in “the corpse pose,” shavasana (see Figure two) and perform ujjayi—slowly, deeply and luxuriously. During the exhalation of this soothing breath control, hold only the thought of letting go as you feel the release of physical tension, wherever in your physical body that tension might be. Do this for at least five full rounds of ujjayi. (One round of any breath control consists of one inhalation and one exhalation.)

Figure two: The “corpse pose” or shavasana in Sanskrit.

As you relax and enjoy the aftermath of these tension-releasing exercises, feel the bliss of being circulating through the nervous system of your entire physical body. After about five minutes, visualize this bliss flooding out through the skin of your body into the world as blessings. Try not to get consumed in a method of doing this. Just let it be done, knowing the being of you knows what to “do.” Continue this practice of blessing as long as you like.

Additional reading: Bliss: The feeling of the one life force. ~ Muni Natarajan

This article is an excerpt from Muni’s latest book: Into the I of all —An Ultimate Yoga.

For 37 years, Muni Natarajan lived as a monk in a Hindu monastery on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. During his monastic years, he traveled to India and became deeply connected to its people, spirituality, music and art. In the monastery, Muni worked as an artist, designer, writer and editor for the international magazine, Hinduism Today. During that time, he also studied the Indian musical system of ragam and talam and received instruction in tabla, mridangam and classical Indian singing. Since departing the monastery in 2007, Muni has been writing books about yoga, and sharing his inner discoveries through world music and art.

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