Yoga is an eight-limbed system designed with the ultimate goal of Enlightenment. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are supposed to be the original text, laying out each limb and the different practices of each. The physical postures that are commonly associated with Yoga are just one of the limbs. But in order to get the most beneficial "purification," we're highly encouraged to practice all that we are able to. Simply put, as with all other things one tries to master, the more you practice and the more devotion offered, the sooner the "prize."
The text I'm following is the Advanced Yoga Practices, put together by Yogani, who has taken from all the different traditions of Yoga and created a system that's easy to digest in plain English, and is easily integrated in to the "typical modern life." He explains that the theory of Yoga is that there is an inner and an outer reality - and that our human body's nervous system is the bridge that connects the two. And each of the different limbs offer different practices that help to purify and encourage the crossing of that bridge - to Enlightenment.
(By the way, please keep in mind that I'm very much a student! I'm just explaining this the best way I understand it.)
The first practice I've started is what's called "deep meditation." I get the impression it's one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do on this path - and that just by implementing this one practice, great changes can take place. I've only been practicing for about a week now - and it is powerful; I can say that with a knowing.
It is so simple. Twice daily, for twenty minutes or so, before my morning meal and morning activities and then again, before my evening meal and evening activities, I sit comfortably with my eyes closed and repeat the mantra of "I AM," over and over inside my mind, for the entire twenty minutes of the session. That is all there is to it. As your mind drifts to other thoughts, you just bring your attention back to the mantra, over and over again. Outside noise, bodily sensations, streams of thought - they are not to be resisted, simply noticed as they come up - and then gently you bring your attention back to I AM, I AM, I AM. He calls it "favoring the mantra." Always back to the mantra. It's not the meaning of the words that's important. Apparently, it's the sound inside your mind that makes the difference. AYAM, it could also be spelled. It's just the sound.
Like I said, I've only been doing this a week, but I've already felt a difference just in my sense of Stillness. Words fail me with these kinds of descriptions. I just feel more rooted in...life...the way it is-ness. My sense of Presence is more sturdy, I guess it could be said. That truly is great by itself - but of course, it would take something more dramatic to really sell me and excite me.
In my evening session last night, as I was following the mantra, I suddenly got a little "pffh" feeling, a gentle sort of pop (which is too strong a word) near my forehead, accompanied by a little blue light. Looking back on it, I wonder if something was happening with my "third eye." Back to the mantra, though, I went. I AM, I AM, AYAM. Then my eyes rolled up, my head tilted back, and my facial muscles formed a smile - all of this beyond my control, by the way. I felt giddiness rise up through my body, and involuntarily, laughter poured out of me as my body sat there contracted, motionless. AYAM, AYAM, I AM. It felt wonderful. It was a combination of an orgasm with its contraction of all the muscles, coupled with the feeling of a marijuana high. It was an intense trip. If I hadn't read that this kind of thing could happen, I think it probably would have scared me. The energy would rise through me, I'd sit there laughing gently or smiling, I'd watch in the inner space, light hazy blue and purple flames dancing (they looked sort of like the hypnagogic images that play on the back of your eyelids before sleep), and then all of a sudden my muscles released, I'd settle back down, a few seconds would pass - AYAM, I AM, AYAM - and then it would surge up through me again.
I've had a couple of experiences similar to this while meditating (with my own version, and in non-diligent fashion), but my body was not so "ridden" or "possessed" as it seemed to be this time. I had that orgasmic feeling, but definitely not as intense or long-lasting as it was last night or in today's sessions.
As incredible as this was, I'm reminded by the author, that these kinds of physical (and mystical) experiences are just sensations brought about by the purification of the nervous system. The way I understand it, our bodies are designed for Enlightenment, but our cells and nervous system can't accommodate the experience without being purified first - which Yoga is supposed to pave the way for. It's tempting to think about it, looking back, as something "Jeff" is gaining, but I know I'm not. It's not a unique experience. God, Presence, Abiding Joy is the destination - and these little experiences along the way are just, as Yogani put it, the scenery. In the midst of the giddiness and visions, you always return to the mantra - which you ride deeper in to the inner space - which is where you're headed all along.
With that said, I am excited by these strange sensations. It offers me undeniable proof that the method is indeed working. I can feel and know for myself that there is some sort of shift taking place inside. It's amazing - and even more so, the fact that I'm just beginning.