Everything that exists in this world can be described in two basic terms: space and energy, yin and yang, form and content, shiva and shakti… The atoms in your body, the thoughts in your mind: everything is just a dance between these two fundamental elements. Does this sound strangely abstract or theoretical?
If so, meditation and yoga can provide a means for discovering the very real space and energy inside you. Endless space. Pure energy. Yes, yoga may also give you a beautiful body – with regular practice, of course – but ultimately this isn’t the reason it was invented. Its true purpose is to connect us with Us, as it’s denoted by original Sanskrit meaning: ‘union’ or ‘connection’. (The idea lives on in the modern English word ‘to yoke’ a horse and cart together.)
All too often, in my view, modern yoga is dumbed down to a trendy, slightly exotic physical workout. Likewise, many meditational traditions are excuses to “bliss out” and escape the hard realities of everyday life. For me, yoga and meditation should instead serve to build a bridge between the purely physical and purely spiritual, strengthening our appreciation of both in the process. Yes, we are flesh and blood. Yes, we are pure spirit. It is our job as human beings to recognise that both are true, and to live our lives as materialised spirit.
Our everyday five senses already acknowledge that we are flesh and blood. Meditation and yoga provide additional tools to increase the odds of directly experiencing our spirituality. And let’s be honest: in this day and age, belief isn’t enough. We need to know, and this can be achieved only through experience. A tiny minority of us are born with the gift of such expanded consciousness. A few others will, at some point in their lives, spontaneously awaken to the truth. The rest of us must work at it. Never mind, at least we won’t get bored :-).
You can catch a glimpse of the kind of pure space and energy I’m talking about, even in unassuming, everyday activities. It’s always there around you, it’s always there inside you – if you’re open to it. You just have to be aware and tune into it. Why not try right now? Close your eyes, put your hands on your chest, and tune into the sensation of your heartbeat. Maybe it’s hard to feel at first. Especially if you’ve been working all day, especially if you’re stressed out, especially if your senses have been directed into the outside world all day long, it’ll take a little time to direct your senses inward: towards your core, towards the core of your being, towards who you really are. So many of our problems arise from the fact that we simply forget who we are, because we’re lost in the world around us. But the answers lie within. So relax your belly, let go of your breath, letting go of any tension with every exhale. Before long, you’ll begin to feel a sense of openness inside – which will make following your heartbeat much easier. Then tune into each heartbeat itself. The energy of each pulse. The way that energy dissipates in a ripple spreading through the entire body, touching each and every cell. Stay with this for a while. Then tune into the space between every heartbeat. Of course, here the meaning of ‘space’ refers to a moment in time rather than something spread across three dimensions. But within the temporal ‘space’ of each second between heartbeats lies a much deeper space. Perfect stillness. Peace. Infinity. A perfectly present moment. The point where space and time come become one. Tune into that, if you can.
In spiritual circles they say you have to “go up” in order to “come down.” It’s true, for only by experiencing your infinity “up there” will you be able to let go and truly appreciate your current life “down here”. Otherwise, you have no greater context by which to live. Without context there’s no meaning. Life here can only seem hopeless, pointless, with death waiting for you at the end of the day. When universal energy (also known as ‘kundalini’ energy) fully permeates your inner space, all that will change.
What is the personal experience of pure energy flowing through pure space? Pure love. Doesn’t sound like a bad place, does it? In fact, it can be tempting – perhaps too tempting at times – to just stay “up there,” or at least make that the aim of your life. It’s a nice place, after all… But trying to stay “up there” is an implicit denial of life “down here.” It’s also equally as extreme as the attitude of modern Western society, which takes the opposite approach, denying the existence of anything beyond the material, enticing us to fill only our stomachs and bank accounts.
Once we have “gone up,” yoga and meditation in the traditional sense have done their job, and this is why the ancient texts make so little mention of the return journey. But “coming down” also requires tools. There is an old Zen saying: “Before enlightenment, carry water and chop wood. After enlightenment, carry water and chop wood.” True, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of practical advice! In my view, meditation and yoga have as much potential to centre and ground us in “coming down” as they do to raise our awareness of space and energy in the first place. The tools remain the same. Only the perspective changes, evolving as we ourselves do through this dance of life.