We briefly mentioned in the previous chapters how health, happiness and clarity of mind are all basically a function of how abundantly and harmoniously our energy is flowing through the body and mind. Thus it would be useful for us to discuss briefly the seven centers from which this bioenergy radiates out to all the body, nourishing all the cells and organs of the body with this life creating and sustaining force. The quality of this energy flow has a profound effect on the quality of our meditation, as well as our thinking and feeling processes. A low or disturbed energy flow can lead to fear, depression and negative thinking, or anxiety and agitated thoughts all of which are obviously obstacles to our spiritual growth and happiness in general. The existence of these centers was discovered thousands of years ago by mystics and yogis who, while in meditation, penetrated into the deeper realities of the body and the mind. They actually saw these seven centers like vortexes of energy which were in continuous pulsating motion. Throughout the years, individuals, gifted with the ability of supernormal sight, have seen and reported the existence of these centers. They have also reported that the quantity and quality of energy flow, as well as the color of the light being emanated, change according to the physical, emotional and mental state of the individual. In recent years very interesting scientific tests were made by a doctor at the Belview clinic in New York, concerning the ability of such “psychics” to diagnose diseases and other physical problems, by interpreting what they saw at these energy centers. The doctor’s name is Shaffica Karagulla and the book which she wrote, which documents the results, is titled “BREAKTHROUGH TO CREATIVITY” – DeVorss Publishers. This very interesting book reports on the incredible accuracy (usually about 80%) with which these psychics were able to diagnose the cause of the patients’ problems by interpreting the conditions of these energy centers. Doctor Karagulla and the psychics sat in the emergency ward of the hospital and observed the patients coming in.The psychic reported to the doctor what she or he understood to be the problem and the doctor wrote it down. Neither the patients nor the doctors in the emergency room were aware of what was going on, for doctor Karagulla and the psychics were sitting in the entrance lobby, and the diagnosis which was made was done as the patient passed by. This is an amazing phenomenon which could help many people to recognize the existence of these energy centers and their connection to our physical and mental condition. This is definitely a realm for much more research in the future. As we mentioned previously these centers are located along the spinal column. They are not actually a part of the spinal column. They are not nerves, but actually the energy system which is the causal reality of the nervous system. If there was no bioenergy, the nervous system would stop functioning. There are thousands of tiny lines of energy which flow out from these centers. They are called nadis, and they distribute the energy to all the cells of the body. If we open up the body, we will not see these energy centers, but if we photograph it in an electromagnetic field, we will probably be able to see them on the print which is created. Such work is being attempted both in Russia and in the U.S. These are both centers of energy and also centers of consciousness simultaneously. They are centers through which consciousness becomes manifest as energy and through which energy is directed to the body and the mind. They are centers through which the soul or the higher self communicates with, and supports, the body and mind. As we evolve, this energy flows upward, the higher centers are activated and we become more conscious and intelligent, more connected to our higher self. Let us discuss these seven centers.
The first center is found in the area at the base of the spine. It governs the legs, and the genital organs, and, to some degree, the process of elimination of wastes. If there is a disturbance in the energy flow at this center there will be problems in these areas. On the other hand, if there are problems in these parts of the body, a corresponding disturbance will be created in that energy center. These centers are also connected to our emotional and mental bodies, and thus our negative thoughts and feelings can create a disturbance in any center and this can, in turn, be manifested as a physical problem. Many emotional problems are transferred to the body in this way. This energy system communicates its state of harmony or disharmony to the body through its affect on the nervous and endocrine systems. The first center has to do with the need for security and survival. A person who is functioning from this center will feel basically insecure and most of his actions will have survival and safety as their motive. The psychological aspect of all these centers is discussed in more detail in the book “Psychology of Happiness”.
The second center is located some centimeters below the navel. This center regulates the energy flow to the organs which hold and eliminate the wastes from the body. It also governs the reproductive organs. This is the center which governs our need for sensual pleasure. A person who is functioning basically from this center will be seeking continuously to satisfy his need for pleasureful experiences in various ways; through food, drink, sex, coffee, cigarettes, and, in general, drugs of various kinds. Such persons tend to get easily addicted to substances, people or stimulating situations. This is often at the expense of their health and real lasting happiness.
The third center is located in the area of the solar plexus and has to do with the flow of energy to the organs of digestion and absorption; in the stomach, duodenum, small intestine, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and the adrenal glands. This center and, thus, these organs are very much affected by our emotional states. Accordingly, our problems with digestion, gastric ulcers, colitis and various other such disturbances, are very often psychosomatic. Various exercises and breathing techniques are given in our book “Self Healing”, to help release the energy blocked in this center, so as to help restore the proper functioning of our digestive system. This center is also responsible for the body’s heating needs. If one has poor circulation or feels cold easily, he may need to free this center with the various techniques given. Emotionally this center has to do with personal power and self-affirmation. A person functioning basically from this center will seek to prove himself to those around him through his success or power in various areas; professionally, socially, sexually, politically, athletically, economically, verbally, or intellectually, etc. He will be always comparing himself to others and competing so as to prove that he is right,or superior or the most successful. This, of course, is tiring for his body, his nerves and his mind. Deep breathing, with a short period (5 seconds) of holding the breath, will help to release the excess built up energy in this center. Relaxation techniques will also help.
The fourth center has to do with our heart, lungs and Thymus gland. When there is a blockage here, we may have problems with our breathing such as asthma, bronchitis or frequent colds. Or, on the other hand, we may have heart problems. This is not to say that these energy blockages are the only causes for such problems, but that they can be a factor. In our spiritual growth process as this “love” center starts to open, we may feel pain in the chest area. If in fact this pain is an energy phenomenon (which is seldom the case), then it has nothing to do with our heart. As the energy rises and centers open (like buds which open and become flowers) then temporary problems, or symptoms, can sometimes appear in the area of the energy activity. This may mean pains or various sensations in the chest, neck, forehead or top of the head. We will not be giving techniques for raising that energy upward in this book, however, because they require very specific guidance and purification, without which this process can sometimes be dangerous. A person who functions from this heart center, acts out of unconditional love for others and himself. He likes to serve and help people. It is only at this stage that we begin to feel real love. Until then we feel love with conditions. We love people because they offer us security, pleasure or affirmation. When they stop offering us these or start obstructing us from having what we want, our love turns into hurt, disappointment, anger and sometimes hate. The process of evolving from this kind of love into the unconditional love of the fourth center is often a painful process, because we pass through many trials which test whether our love is really unconditional or not.
The fifth center is found in the area of the neck and regulates the energy flow to the neck process, i.e. swallowing, speaking, singing etc. Its close vicinity to the thyroid and parathyroid make it responsible for the energy flow to those glands. This center has to do with the power of creation which is very much connected with the throat, and the logos. It is the higher creative center. The lower creative center is the second center, through which we create children. Through the higher creative center we create music, art, poetry, drama and ideas. This center is directly related to the subconscious and to psychic abilities. We are not interested, however, in cultivating psychic powers and are cautioned not to play with them!
The sixth center is in the center of the forehead and it regulates the energy flow to all the muscles of the face and the brain. It is identified especially with the pituitary gland. It is the center of higher knowledge of the inner witness, the higher self. It is the seat of the conscience and of spiritual discrimination between the real and the temporary. Relaxing this center and concentrating on it, help us to withdraw our attention from the physical body. It is an excellent way to overcome pain. No matter where we are having pain in our body, if we can isolate our awareness in the center of the forehead, we will not feel the pain. A person who functions from this center is detached from what he does. He is the eternal witness. He realizes that he is not the body and mind which are acting, but actually an immortal soul which is temporarily occupying and using the body and mind.
The seventh center is not actually considered to be a center. The corresponding organ in the body is considered to be the pineal gland in the brain. We still do not know much about this gland, probably because it is not yet functioning as it will after some thousands years of more evolution. This center is beyond the body. A person centered here is in blissful union with God, nature and all beings. He is in a state of continual bliss, which is unaffected by the changing conditions around him. He is in a continual state of meditation.
The various techniques suggested to the spiritual aspirant; physical exercises, breathing techniques, cleansing techniques, deep relaxations, dietary guidelines, prayer and meditation – are all designed to establish harmony in these centers and gradually liberate the energy from the lower centers and let it rise up into the higher centers of higher consciousness. Especially important in bringing about harmony in these centers and in the general flow of the bioenergy throughout our bodies are the various breathing techniques and especially the rhythmic breathing through alternate nostrils.
Let us take a brief look at what role these energy centers play in the overall evolution of mankind. Consciousness existed before the creation of the Sun and Earth and the eventual creation of physical life here. This consciousness began to express itself first as tiny one celled organisms (that is if we exclude its expression as the elements of nature such as mineral, water, air and heat, light). Evolution took place and this consciousness became more and more capable of expressing its unlimited, latent powers in more and more advanced ways. In this way it became able to create increasingly more capable vehicles for expression of its innate nature, such as plants, animals and then man. In each stage of this evolution this consciousness obtained greater freedom from the limitations of matter. Along with this freedom of expression man also gradually began to experience consciousness of himself as something separate from the rest of creation, and the freedom to choose to live in accordance with natural laws or not. These two discoveries were to become his great undoing and possibly his destruction. He can also now learn to choose to live in harmony with the universal laws and rediscover his oneness with all of nature. There are indications that more and more people are doing this today. Until now this evolutionary process has been an unconscious one. Few have participated consciously seeking to improve themselves and evolve. What this book is all about is participating consciously and willfully in this process of evolution. That is the purpose of life. One’s evolutionary process is accompanied by the gradually awakening of the higher centers of consciousness. Thus, as we meditate and employ other techniques for increasing spiritual awareness, we will begin to experience the awakening of these centers. Some will experience phenomena at the sites of these centers. But, most will simply see the results of these openings as changes in their mental and emotional states, and predominately in their character. We become more peaceful, more loving, more universal, in our perspective, more creative and, in general, happier and more in balance. But the road is not always without obstacles or difficulties. We have already mentioned to some degree in chapter five about the phenomenon of unstressing. Let us look into this in a little more detail. The energy flow between these centers is obstructed by the following factors:
1. Toxins which obstruct the free flow of nerve impulses.
2. Weakness in the organs, limbs and spine.
3. Muscular tensions.
4. Poor posture.
5. Emotional blockages – especially insecurity and fear.
6. Attachments, habits, addictions.
7. Identification with the body and mind.
8. Tendencies, habits or karma from before our birth.
As the energy seeks to move upward into the higher centers it will encounter these obstructions. Just as water passing through a pipe, through which there has not been any flow for a long time, will begin to dislocate and carry with it sediment which has accumulated, this energy will do the same with these obstacles. As these are pushed to the surface of our body or mind, we may begin to experience various “healing crises” or “growing crises”, as they are called, because although they may be unpleasant and temporarily disorienting, they are actually a beneficial process of healing and growth. Many seekers will not experience any of this because the “pieces” are dislodged and released in small regular doses and everything proceeds smoothly. If serious problems occur it is usually because the person already had a high degree of imbalance physically or mentally (regardless as to whether it showed to himself or others), or because he overdid some techniques.
What symptoms might one encounter in such a case? What usually happens is that a person experiences one or both poles or extremes of the various physical and mental opposites. For example one might feel intense inner heat regardless of the temperature around him. Or he may feel so cold that no amount of clothing can warm him. He may experience a tremendous appetite which knows no satisfaction, or have no appetite at all. He may feel intense sexual impulses or none at all. There may be moments of ecstasy with the simplest things, or depression which nullifies everything. He may have unlimited energy or no energy at all. He may need very little sleep or need to sleep continuously. He may have visions – pleasant or unpleasant. There may be pains in various parts of the body where the energy is trying to flow more abundantly but is receiving resistance. Such symptoms are also experienced when one employs methods of natural healing, such as Homeopathy or fasting. Meditation is in fact a “fasting” from thought forms. I repeat that very few will experience these symptoms. If they do let them employ the guidelines given in Chapter 5.
PREPARING THE BODY AND MIND
We can, however, help this energy to flow more freely by employing various techniques which purify the body and mind and make the spiritual growth process much safer, quicker and more pleasant.
1. FASTING once a week will help us to clean out our bodies of various toxins which accumulate there and gradually destroy our health. This fasting can also be an excellent way to increase our spiritual discrimination and will power. You can fast on water, or juices or herb teas, or, if you cannot go without food for some serious reason, then eat only fruit. This can be done for twenty four hours. For example we eat Thursday afternoon, fast Thursday evening and Friday morning and eat again Thursday afternoon. Or we can fast longer. For example from Thursday evening all day Friday until Saturday morning. (Anyone who has anemia, very low blood pressure, heart illness, or is under heavy medication, should check with his doctor before fasting).
2. A PURE DIET is the greatest insurance for a healthy body and mind. The vibration of the food we eat has an affect on the quality of our body and mind. If we eat food which is dead, overprocessed, over cooked without life, we will create a body and mind which are similar – without life, without vitality. If we eat foods which are stimulating, corrosive, agitating, we will have a similar nervous system – uneasy, nervous, anxious, perhaps even aggressive. In both cases it will be difficult to meditate. We want our food to be harmonious, life-giving but calm. Thus we will want our diet to be basically:
1. Fresh vegetables and fruits.
2. Whole grains and beans.
3. Fresh unroasted, unsalted nuts and dried fruits.
4. Various dairy products.
These should be the basis of our diet, if we want spiritual growth and health. We should avoid as much as possible eating meat, fish, poultry, overcooked foods, sugar, polished grains and chemical preservatives. Meat is recognized by all religious traditions as nonspiritual food. For this reason all peoples of all religions abstain from meat before the major spiritual events such as Easter and Christmas. According to the official church calendar, a Greek Orthodox who followed all of the days of fasting from meat, would eat meat approximately 50 days a year. (It varies from year to year). Thus even Christianity, the religion which supposedly condones the eating of flesh, suggests that we abstain from it about 300 of the 365 days of the year. It is an obstacle in our spiritual growth. I would suggest, however, that one not force himself to stop eating meat. Let him think about it. Let him ask himself if he really wants to eat it or whether he is simply in the habit of eating it or believes that he must eat it in order to be healthy or have energy. This last belief is one of the greatest misconceptions of our times. So many millions of people in the East have lived all of their lives without ever eating meat of any kind, and they have evinced all of the physical and mental capabilities which we see in those who eat meat. They work hard physically and are as mentally astute as any meat eater. How is this explained? There is a simple test which you can employ to determine whether meat, or any other food, is suitable for your psychosynthesis. A code for determining what is suitable for you to eat is to eat whatever you feel that you can procure with your own hands. If you feel comfortable in plucking an apple off a tree, or pulling a carrot out of the ground, then these are suitable for you. If you feel comfortable in cutting the throat of a cow, lamb, pig or chicken or fish and then cutting them up into pieces, then these too are suitable for you. One may say, “I feel comfortable about the fish and chicken but not about the cow and the lamb”. This is your choice. Eat what your conscience and feelings allow you to procure with your own hands without feeling badly. This does not mean that you have to do it and feel comfortable about it. In this way our inherent sensitivity is the best guide as to what we should eat. Those who are less sensitive do not harm themselves spiritually by eating other animals. When one is more sensitive his feelings tell him when something is not good for him anymore. It is best, however, to make any changes in your diet gradually and if you have serious health problems to discuss them with your doctor.
3. DAILY EXERCISES help to remove the toxins which accumulate in the body. They strengthen and relax the muscles so that one can sit for longer periods of time in meditation without being bothered by pains or discomfort. They also strengthen and attune our nervous system, endocrine system and immune system for a more harmoniously functioning, healthy and vital body and mind. But, most important of all, they release the energy blockages which exist in the energy body and especially between the energy centers. The exercises ,which each should do in order to maintain his health and proceed spiritually, will differ according to his type of body, specific needs and how much he has worked with his body. But there are some general guidelines which will help you use exercises to improve your meditation.
a. Do your exercises before your meditation. Energy flow will be freer, your spine straighter and concentration easier.
b. Do exercises which free the spine from its tension; stretching upward and exercises in any position which create backward stretching, forward stretching, sideward stretching and twisting of the spine in both directions.
c. Do exercises which free the neck from its built up tension.
d. Perform positions with the head down so as to increase the blood flow to the brain.
e. Free the abdominal area of tension with exercises which work for you.
f. Work on any parts of the body which are weak or need help.
g. Move on to breathing techniques and then onto your meditation.
For those who have cultivated their body through yoga exercises and have moved on to the essential static poses, we can suggest the following series as an excellent preparation for meditation. The spinal twist (lying or sitting), the shoulder stand, plough, fish, forward stretch (sitting), cobra, bow, locust and then the prayer position (or yoga mudra, for those who can without harming their knees) and then assume a sitting position for breathing techniques and meditation. (Those who have not been trained in these techniques should not try to do them without guidance). The above series is easier to do in the evening. One may have difficulty with such static positions in the morning upon first waking when the body is stiff. Of course the body can get used to any routine given time and practice. Some, however, prefer dynamic exercises in the morning. The salutation to the sun is an excellent way to prepare the body for meditation in the morning. Those who have not been initiated in these techniques can do any exercises which make their bodies feel lighter, less rigid and more alive. This progressive movement from exercise to breathing and then to meditation is like driving a car. When we start out, we have it in first gear, we need plenty of gas to get going. First gear is our exercises. Then we move into second gear after having already achieved some momentum. That is our breathing techniques. Having achieved even more momentum, we move into third gear (prayer or invocation) and finally we slip into fourth gear (meditation) and cruise along with very little effort. If we had tried to start the car in fourth gear, it would have been much more difficult (or impossible). Do not, however, get the idea that one cannot meditate if he does not make all of these preparations. There are many schools of meditation which do not refer to them at all. Our experience, is, however, that these preparations offer one a much deeper meditation and help one absorb these spiritual changes into his body and mind much more effectively. If one is, however, unable to employ these techniques he can meditate anyway.
4. BREATHING TECHNIQUES as we have already mentioned in Chapter 5, are very important for the balancing of energy and for the increased energy, which is necessary for one to transcend his mind.
5. SELF OBSERVATION and SELF ANALYSIS are important aspects of the purification process which will facilitate the rising of our bioenergy into the higher centers of consciousness. Our feelings and habits, which result from our basic beliefs, are the major obstacle to our spiritual growth. Observing, analyzing and then changing those mistaken beliefs is an essential part of our growth process.
6. DEEP RELAXATION TECHNIQUES are also useful for this purification and attunement process. In relaxation we can remove the various psychosomatic tensions, which obstruct the energy flow in the body and in the mind. Also, as relaxation is very similar to meditation in many ways, we can sometimes have meditative experiences (especially of total surrender) in our deep relaxation. This then helps us with our meditation.
7. PRAYER AND CHANTING are also very important methods of emotional purification. They release emotional energies and awaken higher spiritual emotions of love, gratitude and ecstasy which help to open the higher centers. They develop faith and a feeling of connectedness with God which facilitate our inner peace.
8. ETHICAL BEHAVIOR is perhaps the most basic preparation for any spiritual effort. As we will discuss in much more detail later, ethical behavior is the foundation of spiritual life. Without a solid foundation all of our spiritual “structure” is likely to collapse at some point.
As you can see, there are a number of ways in which we can facilitate the flow of energy into the higher centers of consciousness. These methods are a very important preparation for, and supplement to, our meditation and should be incorporated as much as possible into our daily life.