Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 131 - Coordinating Sambhavi and Spinal Breathing
Date: Tue Mar 2, 2004 5:37pm
Q: I am facing a problem in doing Sambhavi and Spinal breathing simultaneously. I think when I concentrate on spinal breathing my eyes do not stay between the eye brows. My eyes go wherever the attention goes. If I do Sambhavi separately, I don’t have any problem. But when I start spinal breathing since the attention is in that, the eyes tend to traverse the spinal column. Can I imagine the picture of spinal column between the eyebrows to resolve this? If I concentrate on the physical position of the ‘sushumna’ my eyes won’t stay between the eyebrows. Could you suggest a way to synchronize these two practises?
A: It is a good question, and an important one. I think many have this same challenge to one degree or another. Coordination between sambhavi and spinal breathing is something that evolves over time. It is forming a habit in the beginning, and then it becomes very easy later on due to the rise of inner sensory experiences that draw the physical eyes and attention naturally to their optimal functions for rising ecstasy.
We have lived all our life with our attention going through our physical eyes. To expand our horizons to the inner spiritual life it is necessary that we develop the additional ability to have the physical eyes going one place and the attention going other places. Imagining the spinal column at the point between the eyebrows does not accomplish this, though it is a clever idea.
To fulfill its function in spinal breathing, the attention must traverse the physical length of the spinal nerve (sushumna) from the root at the perineum to the point between the eyebrows, again and again. Done with long slow cycles of breathing, and other aspects of spinal breathing practice, this is what induces the balanced movement of prana in the spinal nerve, and the cultivation of the entire nervous system. At the same time, the physical eyes are stimulating in a physical way the neurological and biological processes that begin in the brain and reach down through the spinal nerve to the root. So, while the attention is going with the breath in the spinal nerve, the eyes are physically stimulating the brain, which also is affecting the spinal nerve all the way down. Also, there is the furrowing of the brow (pulling the eyebrows slightly together) which is involved in the physical stimulation in the brain. This is the other half of sambhavi. The only time sambhavi involves attention, besides for the physical positioning, is when the attention comes up and goes to (or through) the point between the eyebrows. But even this is not engaging the attention through the eyes. The eyes just happen to be there too, but we are not looking through the eyes. We are looking through the spinal nerve, which is the same as the third eye at that location.
In spinal breathing, and at the times we fix our inner gaze through the point between the eyebrows (like in yoni mudra), we are not giving our attention to the physical eyes. We are engaged in inner seeing. The physical eyes are not used for inner seeing at all. The eyes, along with the brow, perform a physical function, squeezing the inside of the brain in a certain way, and that is all.
This separation of attention and the physical eyes is very important for the development of inner spiritual experiences.
When Jesus said, “If your eye becomes single, your body will be filled with light,” he was talking about two things: The physical centering of the eyes, and the attention in the spinal nerve, functioning through the third eye. These, done in concert, fill the body with light once ecstatic conductivity comes up in the spinal nerve and spreads out through the rest of the nervous system.
So, how do we achieve this separation of attention and the physical eyes? Sensory feedback is an important factor in it. The ecstatic sensations inside the body are the best sensory feedback. But what if we don’t have the inner ecstatic conductivity yet? Then how do we separate the attention from the eyes? We still can use sensory feedback to develop the habit, and developing the habit will help bring up the inner ecstatic conductivity.
Pick an object on the other side of the room and gaze at it. Don’t examine it, or even “see” it. Just put your eyes on it and leave them there. As you are doing that let your attention go to your perineum. It isn’t hard to do, is it? Now, keeping your eyes on that object, let your attention go up the center of your spine to the point between your eyebrows. Don’t worry about your breathing. Just do the gaze on the object and move the attention. When your eyes wander off the object, and you notice, just easily put them back on it. Use the object there in front of you as a visual feedback. Go up and down the spine a few times with your attention without taking your eyes off the object. Practice this for a while, until you can go up and down your spine with your attention without moving your eyes off that object very much. If the eyes or attention go off, then easily bring them back to the task at hand. It is a habit you are developing, much like learning to pat the top of your head with one hand while rubbing your belly in a circle with the other hand.
Keep doing the exercise until you can move your attention up and down the spine while keeping your unseeing gaze on the object. The object is your sensory feedback that enables you to keep your eyes in one place while your attention is going somewhere else.
Once you have good success doing that, then try it in actual spinal breathing. The furrowing of the brow produces a sensation at the point between the eyebrows that can also be used as a sensory feedback for the eyes. See if you can use that to bring the eyes centered and up while your attention is going up and down the spine. It is not a visual sensory feedback, so it may not be as easy in the beginning to use as the object across the room was. But try it. If it is too big a jump from using the object, then there is always the tip of your nose, or looking upward with your eyes partly open so you will have some visual feedback for sambhavi during spinal breathing. These are not ideal, but if you need visual feedback, then use it until you are ready to go up to the sensation at the slightly furrowed brow.
What we need in sambhavi is something the eyes can get sensory feedback from, something we can gently bring the eyes back to when we realize they have wandered elsewhere. As mentioned, later on, it will be ecstatic pleasure inside our body that will cause us to raise and center our eyes. For now, we are using other sensory feedback that will enable us to train the eyes and separate them from the attention going up and down the spine.
If the attention keeps coming back into the eyes while we are doing all this, it is not such a difficult thing. We know how to deal with the wandering attention from our training in meditation. When we are doing spinal breathing the attention can end up anywhere — In the eyes, off in thoughts or emotions, at the grocery store, or even half way across the galaxy. Anywhere. When this happens in meditation, what do we do? We just easily come back to the mantra. In spinal breathing it is just the same. When our attention goes to the eyes or anywhere else, and we notice, we just easily go back to our spinal breathing. If we get lost on where we were in the spine, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be exact. We just pick up with the breath. If the breath is coming in, we go up the spine. If the breath is going out, we go down the spine. And so we continue. When the attention goes off somewhere again, we just pick up spinal breathing again. It will happen many times. It is normal. The eyes will wander many times too. It is normal. We never strain or struggle for perfection. There is no such thing. The practice works best when we are easy about it, favoring the procedure we are doing when we realize we have gone off it.
So, sensory feedback for the eyes, and easily favoring attention moving up and down in the spine are the keys to developing the two separate functions. It will evolve slowly. Rome was not built in a day. Eventually we will be doing lots of things at the same time during spinal breathing. They are habits we develop one by one that become automatic.
Somewhere along the line we will feel some pleasure coming up our spine from the root. Then we will notice it is affected by sambhavi. We will also notice that spinal breathing spreads it up and down and all through us. Then these practices will have very nice sensory feedback inside. We will be rewarded with ecstasy for doing them. We will become conditioned to respond to ecstasy very easily, and then all the elements of practice become a breeze. We all have this built-in ability. So, we start at the beginning with whatever sensory feedback we have, knowing that a whole new world awaits us inside. Before we know it, our body will be filled with light and we will be bathed all day and all night in the ecstatic bliss of God.
The guru is in you.