Swamiji: Dr Swami Shankardevananda and I will be discussing certain points which I feel will be very helpful in comprehending the process involved in understanding the deeper aspects of personality. He talks about the different compartments that exist within the personality. This is exactly what we are all trying to understand in our process of learning.
Dr S: I have been working mainly as a doctor and Yoga teacher, trying to convey what I learnt while living with Paramahamsaji - how to expand our experience and perception of life and to develop a greater sense of inner knowledge amidst all the distractions of day to day living. Also, how to combine these various aspects into a greater whole. And connected with this is the question: what is blocking us from letting go of all our old concepts; of all the things that we hold onto in order to feel safe? What blocks our capacity to hold onto the vision of a source of light in the depths of the personality from which the rest of our being arises? How can we keep the awareness of this vision amidst all the old patterns and concepts that we have picked up?
My work is concerned with two main areas, and I employ meditation as psychotherapy. One area is working with the personality, the ego structure. The other is the content, the bits and pieces that we have accumulated over our lifetime. Around that is a kind of context, an environment in which we live.
There is also the space in which his personality lives. There are times when we develop awareness of that space for a while. Then immediately that awareness stops; and we contract our perception and become diminished.
Swamiji: Most of the time we use the so-called 'head-space'. All the feelings, emotions and desires are converted into 'ticker-tape' passing through the head space. If we have to feel anything from another area, which is not within the headspace, we tend to contract.
It is not just an expression of love, harmony, compassion or openness. Feeling from the heart is not the expression of an emotion but rather a process of being spontaneous and of opening up, which we usually cannot do. Then is a desire to be spontaneous, we try, but our ego pulls back and we get confined in our own particular headspace.
Dr S: So, what actually happens to us when we construct? It seems that our awareness tends to oscillate between feelings and analysing thoughts. In this process we sometimes achieve better awareness, for periods of time.
We have a certain fear of letting go of old patterns, of old ideas of ourselves and taking on board new ideas and concepts. I think this has got to do partly with our upbringing.
In the West our upbringing is very different from that in the East. Our sense of safety is underdeveloped and not much stabilised because of the family structure. We are missing the experience of feeling safe and having faith in 'letting go'. If we want to do So, immediately the question, 'Where do I go? What will happen?' comes in and blocks the whole process of 'letting go'.
Swamiji: Our life has been conditioned from the day of our birth. In order to make life rich and full we have to make up for or repair the lack of emotional satisfaction or fulfilment.
I can give an example of this, in relation to the social structure. Here in India, from the time of birth, there is constant support, love and affection given by the family, especially the parents. That bond is so strong that the parents decide when one is going to marry. There is no personal choice. (This may be a negative side of it, but that is a different matter.) People have a very deep and intimate relationship with their immediate family, practically from the day of their birth until the day they die.
In other countries, love and affection is also given to a child but at the same time, however, the parents want to maintain their own independence and freedom. So, the emotional security and affection which a child cannot have in early childhood is expressed later in a different way. It is expressed in a search for security outside. This search creates many self-centred and sensorial desires: 'I want to do this. I want to feel good. I want to do that'.
In the countries where family values are kept alive and parental and family support exists, that deep craving and search for satisfaction is not so strong. It is there, of course, but for different reasons: like the need for competition with others. But it is not inherent, it is not in the tissue.
Dr S: Yes, our early experiences are stored in the tissues, as feeling states. It we are lucky enough to have come from an environment where we were nourished and supported, then the feeling in our thane will be that it is okay to be who we are, to be alive, to be involved, and the world will feel safe.
If, in those early days there is a sense that the parents are not quite fully present or that our needs are not being fully met, then this sensation is imbibed by our tissues; it is a feeling that something is rot quite right, and we carry this with us into later life.
This is where one of the great blocks for letting go arises. We think we can work it out in Our heads, but actually we have to purify the tissues of these old attitudes or conditionings which we call vrittis in yogic terminology.
Swamiji: We did different kinds of meditation during the sannyas course and explored the different possibilities which can help to remove this inner contraction. People came to me and asked, "How do you visualise things in the heart? We have always been taught that visualisation takes place in the head." Many people have had the same, experience, but have not been able to express it. There are many who have been able to feel it, react to it and understand it in a different way. We could even talk about the different compartments of feeling, experiencing and analysing.
The body reacts according to the mind. However, the mind is a greater force than the body. It is like saying the body moves because of prana, but prana is not only the body. Prana is also the energy pattern of your mind; it is also the force which motivates your desires, emotions, feelings and behaviour. It is the force that makes the body move and act as per the rules decided by the mind for the body. Mind is a greater entity then body.
Dr. S: There is no actual separation or boundary between the body and the mind, they are interconnected. The body is like a coalescence of the mind; it is the basis of the mind. The whole evolution is contained within the genetics, like a condensation or crystalline form of consciousness.
It is possible that we diminish the experience of ourselves when we cut ourselves off using our muscles, our prana and our mind. Actually we create these compartments. For example, the tension we feel in the head and neck is where we cut ourselves off to avoid feelings.
There are three areas where we tend to 'cut off': the head and neck; the diaphragm (around the navel) and the lower abdominal area (around mooladhara).
Swamiji: In Yoga those three areas are represented by the bandhas. Jalandhara bandha is the neck contraction and by releasing it you can learn to live in a space other than that of the head; jalandhara bandha influences the rational and the feeling aspect of the personality. Uddiyana bandha is the contraction of the diaphragm and the navel area, which is taken as one area in Yoga. The function of uddiyana bandha is to ground feelings on an earthly plane. Emotions are represented by the element air, solidity or stability in life is represented by earth. Moola bandha symbolises awareness of all this plus the instinctive level, the aspect of reaction. We are not aware of our reactions, our blowups and explosions, of things that happen instantaneously without our rational knowledge.
These three bandhas represent the opening of the three blocks. In Kundalini Yoga we call these blocks granthis: Brahma granthi, Vishnu granthi and Rudra granthi. The knot of Brahma is where the energy manifestation of the creative process is blocked. The knot of Vishnu is where the energy manifestation of sustenance, maintenance and preservation is blocked. The knot of Shiva or Rudra granthi is where the energy process which helps in transience is blocked.
Dr S: We contract especially under changing conditions. For example, when we feel Yoga beginning to work we contract. We become frightened sometimes. All our energy starts to go up into our head. We start to contract and hold onto the old ideas as we are not quite sure about what is happening. When these contractions take place we need to be aware of them; we have to follow the meditative process and hold our awareness on the spurting of old information in order to remain relaxed.
Basically, when we contract we hold attitudes within the fold of those contractions. Then; attitudes have certain energy forms. There is accustomed knowledge and information we can tap into. The contraction occurs because we have a certain attitude that forces us to contract. It is related to emotions like fear, anger, etc. We have resistance to letting go of all the old attitudes. It is not that we do not want to let go. In our head that is what we want to do most; but in our body there is a kind of tenacious holding on.
It does not matter what we say or want, we just keep holding on. This is where the technology of Yoga Comes in: learning how to let go, how to deal with those attitudes, learning a way which helps us not to be too upset while being contracted.
Swamiji: To me, this process is like letting go an arrow from a bow. You can draw a bow and you can also release it, but if you do not relax your grip on the arrow, no matter how hard you pull the string, the arrow will remain in your hand. If you are able to let go of the grip of your fingers, the arrow will be released. So we make an effort to let go of the grip, but awareness has to be there. Awareness is the main factor. You can contract a hundred times, and expand a hundred times. If there is no conscious recognition of that contraction or release, it becomes a psychic movement which is not known to you. Once it is known to you, you then become aware of the experience after releasing.
It needs very deep relaxation for some of the deep contractions to be released.
There are so many different levels of contraction: more superficial contractions and deeper tissue contraction. If we were totally contracted in our muscles we would not be able to move.
We need to be able to relax as well as to contract. Within the contraction, within the movement, we are tense, we hold tension. We have to start to perceive and deal with the tension using Yoga, self regulation and the capacity to regulate those contractions.