As discussed in our previous blog post which you can read here, we converged on the topic of working with the voice as a spiritual practice. In particular, I made the statement "singing IS kundalini yoga". I want to unpack this one here because this single statement alone more or less bridges the two "worlds" that I operate in -- one is my profession and career as a yoga teacher and spiritual scientist and the other is my passion and hobby as a musician and singer-songwriter.
To understand this statement, we'll have to go back and review what we know about the term "kundalini". You can read some of my earlier writing on this concept here although I never continued to 'Part Two' in that series.... hmmm. I guess I will have to elaborate briefly here as well.
As simply as I can state, kundalini is the evolutionary energy that functions opposite to the ego. The ego in Sanskrit is known as ahamkara which means the "I-am-action" (aham meaning "I am" and kara meaning "action"). The mechanism which produces the "I". If we pay attention to what is happening in the process of forming an identity, we may come to the conclusion that creating a sense of "I" is a contraction. Upon investigation, this is something that anyone can observe.
The subjective experience that we have through life is the "I". It is the self-aware locus of consciousness. However, further inquiry into this would show us that the "I" is not a fixed entity nor is it permanent. The "I" can change -- simply notice how often one changes one's mind! On a spiritual path, the question becomes -- what is beyond the "I"? This question has value to a spiritual practitioner of any background because transcending one's personality structure is what allows one to go beyond all limitation -- limiting beliefs, doubts, fears, stories, etc.
In archetypal psychology, which in my opinion is as close to a true inner science of human conscience that the Western world has gotten, there is a clear understanding that a structure, or structures exist beneath the personality and that one can build a relationship to these forces to overcome stagnation in their life. Because what is stagnation? Stagnation is the obstruction of the movement of life-force energy. When life-force energy is not moving where it needs to go, life is not organizing itself as it should, and the limited identity becomes more "fixed" in its "rut" and when this happens for too long, a person may experience the frustration of "feeling stuck" and "things just not flowing in life". Is this making sense? Can you think of a time in your life where it just felt like things "weren't flowing"? Contrarily, can you think of a time when things were flowing smoothly and you felt like everything was just... aligning?
The idea here is that, at least according to the wisdom sciences of Tantra and Yoga, is that we can create energetic structures within our own personal being that allow us to move with life more effectively, more positively, more favorably, and with a better attitude and mood about each and every situation.
You may be asking the question, "what are these energetic structures"?!
This is a good question and one that I am constantly investigating into for myself. I'm not sure if 9 years of consistent (daily) practice qualifies me to comment as an official authority on this topic, but I certainly can offer my conclusions and findings from the hours of spiritual research I've been diving into over this time.
One thing I've found and am finding is that value in understanding the subtle physiology of our organism. There is something empowering about learning how energy flows through us, and what this energy is doing within us. Everyone I've spoken to can feel things (some more than others), and almost everyone understands, at least viscerally, that there is more going under the hood of the body than just blood and flesh. When Tantra came on the scene in ancient India, these master-practitioners provided elaborate maps of the vast internal Universe of the human body. As above, so below. And, according to the Tantrika (a practitioner of Tantra), everything that is outside is also inside. As in, the entire Universe and all its fundamental bits and bops have a mirrored existence within the human system. The Tantrika sought to understand the cosmos by understanding -- deeply understanding and investigating and experimenting and questioning -- how energy flowed through themselves.
While it (Tantra) formally came on the scene sometime around the 5th century AD, this massive spiritual-philosophical system (of Tantra) was refined over centuries by countless practitioners undergoing incredible experimentation into the nature of Reality and sought to answer the age-old questions of how to develop mastery over one's own body and mind. The gold mined in their investigations were documented for future practitioners in what is now known as the tantras, which refer to the manuscripts written by master-practitioners for their lineage(s). These spiritual scientists wanted to pass on the knowledge to our future generations. It is the same thing happening today! As we heal, grow, and "figure it out", the nature response is to share what has been discovered with the next in line. We can walk a few steps and authentically be able to guide another who has yet to walk those few steps. This is how it works. The circle and cycle continues...
The Subtle Physiology
To circle back to the topic of the subtle physiology, I believe that this "concept" or map, as it were, is a beautiful representation and organization for one's mind to grasp the intricate inner mechanics of prana, or life-force energy, as it moves and organizes itself through our body. After all, we are all animated by a spark of divinity that entered us while we were still in the womb, animating our heartbeat and igniting the process of respiration, metabolic activity, and self-serving functions that create & sustain life in an organism. This spark of divinity will burn brightly in our heart until we cast our body off at the end of its life cycle and that little flame returns to the bonfire of All That Is. However, whilst we are alive, this fire-burning-inside provides something like an electric grid or current of energy that runs through the body along particular pathways and feeds consciousness into every little corner and crevasse of the body. The body itself serves as sort of "conductor" for this energy, and all the organs and cell systems and tissues are like little railway directors, each serving a particular function to arrange and organize this energy into its necessary format for life to exist. According to the metaphysics of Yoga & Tantra, there is ONE undifferentiated energy that permeates everything but it "descends" into the forms that it takes, and through its descent it formats and organizes itself according to the "instructions" of the particular form needed. ONE energy manifesting differently according to what life wants.
As this energy comes into and through the human body, there is an entire network of subtle channels known as nadis which correspond to the pathways that this energy, or prana, or life-force, take as they perform their function. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is primarily to cleanse and purify all of these channels (nadis), of which there are 72,000, so that the life-force can move without obstruction through one's system and do its job. When this is happening effectively, the ego has nothing to do, because the person is experiencing a sense of complete surrender to life and the life that is in them, as it is in the heartbeat, is doing exactly what it needs to be doing for everything to work perfectly. This person would be considered to be fully awakened, or in other words, their kundalini is moving perfectly through their system. After all, the kundalini is always moving through each of our systems -- it is the evolutionary energy that is attempting to move us away from contraction and over-identification of self... or experience of Reality will vary according to how much and how effectively kundalini is moving! If the life-force energy has no obstruction in the subtle physiology of a person, kundalini is rising up and down, up and down, like a snake rising and falling with the music of flute. This is important to note as we transition into the topic of SINGING as kundalini yoga.
REVIEW -- we have this idea of Hatha Yoga being used to purify one's subtle channels, Tantra as a spiritual science refined over 1000 years and mapping the subtle physiology of the human body, allowing the ego to get out of the way so that life-force can move through us, and singing as Kundalini Yoga. By the way -- Hatha Yoga emerged as a result of a need for a psycho-physical system of practices within Tantra to prepare the practitioner for more advanced stages of spiritual practice. Even though no-body calls it "tantric hatha yoga", this would be accurate. Hatha Yoga is inherently Tantric.
Where does singing and intentional vocal work come in?
This will be the topic for my next post....