Tag Archives: yoga

A Day in a Life: Three Ring Circus

I'd been swimming along when I decided to stop and look around. All of a sudden I noticed that things had changed! - Art by Jan Ketchel
I’d been swimming along when I decided to stop and look around. All of a sudden I noticed that things had changed!
– Art by Jan Ketchel

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog called Silent Meditation, about my experiences in the presence of a female guru. I had gone to the silent retreat seeking to jolt my yoga and meditation practice to a new level. Now, two months later, I am beginning to string together the unfolding of that intent, coming in many forms of support—in dreams, in continued practice, and in the never-ending experiences of life.

The female guru was known not only for her teachings but also for her singing of the sacred mantras of India. From the time she was a young child she had been recognized for her unique ability. During the meditation session at the retreat, she put on some music and instructed us to focus on the vibration as we silently chanted our mantras and sought inner silence. She hoped that we would find her voice pleasing.

I have always meditated in silence, so it struck me that we would be listening to music. But as I thought about it, I realized that in my weekly yoga class there is always music. There is even a specific vibration in one song that rattles my bones, or at least that is how I experience it. Every time I hear it, the sound vibration seems to enter my body and go right into my teeth and bones and before I know it I’m vibrating. It’s not unpleasant at all, though it has always felt a little strong to me.

The music of the female guru was beautiful, the vibration extremely pleasant, and I found that I could connect to it. Unlike the sound vibration of the music of the yoga class that I also connect with in a different way, her music melodically flowed right into my physical body. I noticed how my muscles and skin responded by going completely relaxed.

Since that silent retreat, I have listened to music during my own practice of yoga and meditation. I’ve tried a few different types of music—drumming, chanting, and melodious singing, as well as other styles. I have settled on the chanting of a Buddhist monk, a man, who like the female guru, was recognized in his youth as being especially gifted in the singing of the sacred music. The vibration of his music strikes in yet another place, right in my heart chakra, matching the energetic vibration of my own heart. His vibratory energy soars right through my organs and then takes me with it, out of my body and into other worlds.

As I look back on these three experiences of musical vibration, I am struck by the three responses I experienced within my own body self. First, there is the skeletal vibration, which I experience each week during yoga class, representing the core of the physical body, the strengthening of which ensures physical stability. Secondly, there is the vibration of the female voice, much like a mother’s soothing touch that my muscles so responded to. The training of the muscles enables physical prowess and fluidity in this world. Thirdly, I find the vibration of the male voice, the Buddhist monk, so deeply penetrating that my heart and emotions immediately respond. Here, in the organs of the body, are the other aspects of the physical self that require honing if a spiritual practice is to be deeply meaningful, fulfilling, and freeing.

As I study these three experiences that have so aligned with my intent to strengthen and deepen my spiritual practice, I am reminded of dreams unfolding simultaneously. One Sunday night, a few weeks ago, I dreamed of a tall man in tails and top hat, the Master of Ceremonies at a three ring circus.

The first night I dreamed of him, I asked for advice. He told me that the first order of business in achieving a balanced spiritual practice was to get the physical body in tiptop shape. This I see as aligning with the yogic vibration of physical prowess. He also encouraged good eating habits and moderation in everything.

The second time I dreamed of him, exactly one week later, also on a Sunday night, he instructed me in establishing a firm spiritual practice and sticking with it. This I see as the meditation practice as encouraged by the female guru, which I have been deepening.

The third time I dreamed of the Master of Ceremonies, last night, I asked for more advice. “Teach me something,” I said. I dreamed of a woman I had known a long time ago. She told me that her mother had died, but that she was always with her, that they connected all the time. This I see as the awakening of the heart chakra to the truth of our vibratory existence, the kind of experience that I have every time I meditate with my chanting Buddhist monk. He takes me soaring. I am one with the vibration, the vibration is one with me, I am one with the energy of the universe.

There are many roads to the sublime... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
There are many roads to the sublime…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

When I woke up this morning, I knew that the Master of Ceremonies had shown me the third ring in the three ring circus of this life, as we endeavor to reconcile our human/spiritual dilemma. The third ring of a balanced spiritual practice is to recognize that we are all comprised of energy and, as such, we are fully capable of existing in many realms simultaneously. It is our job to strengthen our awareness of this and open up to it. It is what the Shamans of Ancient Mexico teach as well, that we are primarily beings comprised of energy. We come from energy and we will return to energy. In the meantime, however, we must bear the tension of navigating life in the physical bodies that we inhabit.

Our job is to become aware of our energetic abilities and find a practice that will train us in the use of all that we truly are comprised of. The Shamans of Ancient Mexico offer the Magical Passes. I have always found yoga and mediation to fit my inner vibration most compatibly. There is music, there is art, there is dance, there are sports, and all kinds of other activities that can lead us to experience the transcendent. Joseph Campbell speaks of running track when in college and twice having experiences of the sublime, when he achieved complete and total alignment with the energy of the universe that he just happened to be flowing in at the time. We can enter the flow of such energetic alignment by happenstance, or we can train ourselves to enter it volitionally, as I work to achieve in my own spiritual practice.

As my vibratory experiences with three types of music point out, if we are seekers, if we are open and aware, we will eventually discover just what strikes the right chord with our own vibration. And then the universe will join in our endeavors and help us out in a myriad of ways. It may take some time to discover just what the right vibratory chord is. I stumbled upon what I needed by opening to some new ideas and challenging myself to have some new experiences.

By setting the intent to find our way to our energetic selves, we open the door to going beyond the three ring circus of life to vibratory experiences in other worlds. In fact, it was what the female guru was suggesting as we listened to her music. She was asking us to connect to the truth of our energetic reality. It is the key to everything, to the mystical and the mysterious, the awareness that we are first and foremost energetic beings, vibratory beings. Whether we exist in the here and now, or whether we have passed on into other dimensions, our connection to everything is energetic.

I thank the people who teach me, my dream teachers, the people that have intersected my life, the seekers who teach about another reality beyond this so solid one. I am thankful for all that comes to me, for all that I experience, energetically and otherwise!

Thank you too!
Jan

A Day in a Life: I Am Here

I focus on staying present. I am doing yoga.

“I am here,” I say. “I am here in this body, in this moment.”

“I am me,” I say. “I am me in this body.”

“I am this body,” I say. “I live here on earth in this body.”

“I am here,” I say. “I am me.”

I am present in this moment...

As I move and breathe, I bring my attention back again and again to the moment, to being present in my body. I thank myself for giving myself this healing time and I thank the universe for providing the paths I took to get to this moment of this day. I take each moment as sacred, as ritual.

I take a moment to write down my thoughts of awareness of being, of being in my body, of being in the moment of doing yoga somewhere in the world, a small speck of awareness in the universe, one small speck of knowing that I am alive, intent on being fully present in my body.

Sometimes I am pretty aware of being present in my body, but most often I am not. Most often I am somewhere else, my body along for the ride. But in this moment, I am aware that my body is my natural environment, my beingness resides in it and depends on it, needs it, trusts it. I am in the moment, present and enjoying the rituals of doing yoga, of breathing, and of being consciously aware.

Ritual of Fire

After I do yoga, I carry the wood from the woodpile. I build a fire and light it, another ritual. I am aware that this is a ritual performed by millions of others. Since fire became a part of human life this ritual has been important. As I carry out the steps of making my fire, I am aware that I am partaking in an ancient practice of firemaking for the same reasons that eons of people have made fires. I do not cook over my fire, but I seek warmth. I am part of an ancient ritual today as I make my fire. I honor the ritual and I honor myself in the process of partaking in this ritual. I honor all who have done this before me.

I take time to notice that I am present. I am me. I am in my body, present in this moment doing this ritual. In the next moment the fire is burning well. I can turn to other things now, back to my writing, back to preparing for other rituals that come throughout the day, if I care to see them as such.

I remind myself to slow down and take the time to feel myself in my body often throughout the day, present in the moment and in my awareness of being, as often as possible. I remind myself to remain aware that my daily activities and chores are part of my ritual life too.

Honor and create ritual

I remind myself to invent new rituals as I go along, making life sacred, simply because it is and it deserves to be lived in sacred fashion. I deserve it, the earth deserves it, all creatures—man included—deserve the honor of sacred ritual. If we all slowed down and made our personal lives sacred rituals, if we all invented our own personal rituals—honoring and thanking ourselves, our bodies, others in our lives, the universe—perhaps we’d end up with enough pauses full of calmness and peace to temper the otherwise busy and fast-paced world we live in.

When we slow down enough we realize we don’t really need that fast-paced world. We discover we don’t really want to live like that. When we slow down we discover that we, by our very animal nature, are more connected to the earth and the sacred ritual of a simple life than we realized. When we slow down we walk and breathe the pulse of the earth and it calms us and nurtures us beyond anything else we might have available.

We desire our vacations by the ocean, a lake, in the calmness of the mountains or meadows because we are animals who crave nature’s slow pace and the beat of our heart knows this. By establishing our personal rituals we automatically slow to the beat of our heart, and automatically our perception of our personal place in the world shifts too. We actually become one with nature, connected and aware of being in the moment, in our bodies, in the right place: in total beingness.

The Sacred Beat of Nature

No matter what is going on around us or inside us, when we slow everything down and take a sacred moment we are at peace. Even if only for a moment, it is enough.

Tomorrow I will build a different fire, but the ritual, the process, will have the same ancient energy in it. Whether I focus on the ritual of it or not, whether I am as aware as I am today, I will still be tapping into the energy of ancient ritual. I know this energy of infinity, as ancient as the tapping of my own heartbeat. It is as ancient as the tapping of your own heartbeat, one pulse, beating for eternity. The ritual is already present. We just have to make ourselves available to it and tap into it.

As humans we have so much available to us. Our creative energy begs us to pause and pay attention to its insistence that we are not so modern as we might believe. We are ancient energy and we know instinctively how to connect with it and what to do with it.

Find sacred ritual in life, in nature, in self. Be in the moment. Be present in the body self. Breathe with awareness. That too is ritual. Be thankful to the self and the universe and then pause and listen to its reply. In the calm beat of your own heart you will hear its resonant beat.

Present in the moment, in calmness, in beingness,
Jan

#699 Chuck’s Place: In-Body Experience

All the faculties, possibilities, and accomplishments of shamanism, from the simplest to the most astounding, are in the human body itself.”
-Carlos Castaneda, The Wheel of Time (p. 199)

Today, I explore the value of achieving the full energetic potential of the human body by learning to breathe. As Castaneda suggests in the above quote, the gateway to the energy body is the physical body. In Hatha Yoga, and all yogas, the breath is the most important factor. In fact, yoga is all about breathing. In the asana called Savasana the body is calmed to its energetic vibratory state. This is the result of deep relaxation and full breathing, no obstructions. Full breathing entails breathing deeply into the abdominal cavity and filling the lower, middle, and upper parts of the lungs; it is also commonly called the three-part breath. Typically, most people limit their breathing to shallow breathing that only fills the upper lungs, leaving the abdominal area, in particular, unfilled and dormant.

The tensions of modern day life and the inner instincts are borne in the rigidity of the body, in what Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst from Freud’s inner circle, called character armour. Reich, whose main area of focus was on the body, theorized that most of what the human race accepts as climax or orgasm is incomplete, as the natural involuntary movements of coitus are generally restricted by the ego’s inability to let go to full body release. His most famous student, Alexander Lowen, founded the Bioenergetic School of Psychotherapy to address the rigidities in the body that inhibit the full realization of physical pleasure in modern day men and women.

Fear, whether it be generated by the ego’s discomfort with the instinctual animal self or by trauma, or simply by the conjuring mind itself, often registers in the body as a constriction in the throat, resulting in shallow respiration. Deep instinctual impulses or psychic complexes may also be held back or stored in the stomach and abdomen, as well as in other parts of the body. Shallow breathing results in a numbness, or lifelessness, a virtual disconnect from the body below the head. Cultural norms that insist upon flat stomachs further rigidify the midsection of the body, forcing it to be held in. As a consequence of these types of bodily restrictions, middle and lower lung breathing is rarely accomplished in daily life, creating an in-body state of dissociation.

In-body association is critical to both wholeness and furthering our evolutionary potential in the energy body state. Many people who have had out-of-body experiences (OBEs) as a result of trauma must first re-associate their physical body to further their OBE exploration. This requires opening up the connection between the head and the rest of the body, which includes full breathing without obstruction. In fact, shamanic recapitulation, which is the practice of re-associating all of life’s experiences on an energetic level, includes a deep breathing magical pass.

I suggest, in addition to other practices involving healing and wholeness, that a focus be placed on learning how to naturally breathe into the abdominal area. Bringing awareness to the abdominal area, relaxing it, allowing it to begin filling with air while breathing in through the nose, and contracting the abdomen while exhaling through the nose, is a good first step in learning to connect with and discover the full energetic benefits of deep breathing. This can be practiced regardless of constriction that might be felt in the throat. Consistent practice may allow the rest of the lungs to fill, flowing from the abdominal area in full three-part breathing, eventually allowing the head to release its fear and constriction to this deeper connection.

Breathing is our most natural bodily instinct and our greatest bodily need. Our first and most important act is to take the breath of life. So, breathe fully! Breathe with awareness, allowing for deep in-body experience, the gateway to everything!

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,
Chuck

The following books are available in our Store: The Wheel of Time under the Shamanism category and Yoga and Health under Resources.