Meditating with The Radiance Sutras
One of the genius insights of yoga and meditation traditions is that we can pay attention to the flow of life through our bodies. We have the power to be intentionally self-aware at any time, in any place, in any way. Pranayama, asana, and meditation are practices designed to encourage merging of awareness with the free-flowing energies of life. A central definition of yoga is “joining, connection, union,” and this joining of awareness with the life force is an exciting affair, an intimate relationship, a marriage, a party, a celebration, and an adventure. Meditation is a full-bodied relationship, touching every level of our lives, employing all of our senses, emotions, and energies.
The word “mindful” has come to be the standard jargon for paying attention in a meditative way, but the word does not do justice to how rich and varied attentiveness can be. Because of the hypnotic power of words, some of us interpret mindfulness as an attempt to calm down, to be detached or distanced from our experience, rather than intimately involved and rejoicing in aliveness and vibrancy.
Meditation is antar-yoga, where antar = interior. In meditation awareness flows through an internal asana sequence of attitudes. In an asana class, you generally do not do just one asana—you enter one, stay with it, and then transition to another. You can train yourself to move between asanas of the mind, as needed. This is skillfulness. Breathing is one manifestation of the dynamic pulsation of life energy. Breath is handy and accessible, so let’s explore some of the many rich ways to engage with the breath.
The first yoga meditation practice given by Shiva in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is to savor the nourishing fullness of breath. He uses the word bharita – “nourished, full.” Breath is our primary food – we breathe continually, about twenty thousand times a day. The oxygen we breathe in allows our solid food to be burned as fuel.
This is the stunning realization that there is a bounty of air for us to breathe. No matter how much you breathe, no matter how greedily you inhale, you cannot use up the air of the world. It is bountiful and renews itself.
Some scholars derive the meaning “mindful” from the Sankrit word smara, “Remembering, recollecting. Memory. Loving recollection, love, especially sexual love.” And the root word of yoga is yuj, “to yoke or join,” which has a wide range of meanings including, “to offer prayers, to be absorbed in meditation, to be united in marriage, to inject semen.” During meditation, it is healthy for most people to actively celebrate every impulse of sexual desire and every tingle of erotic sensation in the body.
Breath is continually flowing into us, caressing our hearts, flowing out into the universe, and then flowing in again. The universe loves us into existence through this intimate exchange.
There is no reason to be serious about breathing. Play freely and explore.
Yoga is defined also as “the union of the soul with matter,” and “the union of the individual soul with the universal soul.” However we want to define “soul”, this inner marriage is a tender mystery.
Be free to feel sorrow and let the tears flow.
We can breathe with our prayers, our heart’s desire. Breath itself is considered an ongoing, involuntary prayer to the Goddess, to Shakti. To breathe is to pray.
Breath is song. As the air flows over the soft membranes of the nose, mouth, tongue, and throat, it makes a whispered susurration that can be heard as a mantra.
You can be your natural self. No need to impose anything. Be true to your instincts.
Be free to simply delight in breathing.
With every inhale, the universe is giving us life. Receive each breath with gratitude.
Breath can feel soothing and relaxing.
Breathe with the intention to wake up and become more alert to the grandeur of life.
With every breath, we receive new life. When we engage with this renewal, there is a sense of being reborn and rejuvenated.
As we accept every aspect of the flow of out and in, we can settle into peace.
There is a current of bliss underlying all life, intrinsic to the nature of consciousness.
This is Shakti-fulness, when we become aware of the power of life, the infinite energy pulsing everywhere.
Full of awe. A sense of sacredness or reverence.
Be permeated with pure joy in the midst of breathing.
It is fun and entertaining to suspend the breath for a moment at the end of the exhale, and at the end of the inhale.
The sense of trusting that when you breathe out, the air will be there for you to breathe in again.
There are many times when you are paying attention to breathing, or some other object in meditation, when you will find yourself considering thoughts about your life.
Life is flow and rhythm. With a slight shift of awareness, we enter a world of wonder as we notice how life sustains itself. Breathing is one form the pulsation of life takes, and it is a wild one – atoms of oxygen and nitrogen that have been breathed by other beings on Earth for millions of years come into our bodies, are absorbed by our bodies, and are borne by blood throughout our bodies to permeate every cell. Then we breathe out and give the air back to the world. This happens every couple of seconds. As we breathe, we interact with the whole world; air flows freely all over the earth, from one ocean to another, over land and mountains, through all the leaves of plants and trees, high up into the sky, and then down again to flow through our lungs. Learn to be surprised and delighted by the tiny differences each fresh breath brings.
Whatever style of “fullness” you engage in, you can be alternately thrilled and soothed, nourished and purified, energized and relaxed by the flow. Skillfulness in meditation means accepting and appreciating all the wild and serene energies flowing through your body in every moment.