CHAPTER-5: Continued from the previous issue of YOGA Magazine…
Words: Yogi Raj Muni
The other technique of Trataka which I performed regularly was on a flame of fire from the log fire. But it can also be done on a candle flame.
Occasionally on a few rare occasions, Chinese travellers who passed through the valley stopped at Yoga Bhavan. They would gift Yogi Ji with a box of beeswax candles. ‘‘See Muni, my Chinese companions in my spiritual chain have sent these to me. See how beautifully crafted these candles are.” I was delighted at seeing such well-crafted candles that smelt divine when lit. The sweet smell of the beeswax mingled with the scent of pine inside the cave creating a wonderfully inviting and cosy atmosphere. “Muni, I will teach you how to perform Trataka on a candle flame and the same technique can be performed on the fire,’’ said Yogi Ji, ‘‘Perform all the preparatory steps as you would do if you were practising Trataka on a bindu, except this time your attention will be on a candle flame, not a dot. The candle can be placed on a box that is in alignment with your shoulders and neck, at least 10 inches away, so that you do not need to restrain your shoulder muscles.
When you are practising trataka for long periods of time, you will find that ‘thoughts’ begin to arise. They will at the start of the practice come fast – so that you may find it difficult to even make sense of what is going on in the mind. But keep up the practise and persist in making this special technique an important and integral aspect of your practice. It is a ‘key’ to unlock the subconscious mind which Yogi Ji taught me was the ‘soul’ or an aspect of the ‘soul’. As you practice regularly, and for longer periods your concentration and awareness significantly improve. Under a trained teacher and supervision, this technique can be used to access ‘thoughts’ from previous time-tracks in your life and even unlock ancestral locks and energy patterns, accumulated over generations and bring them to the surface of the mind and deal with them. You will also enhance your perception, awareness, appreciation that nothing in the world is really static, that whatever we place our observational awareness upon, has the capacity to change or move.
Just by ‘observation’ we are unlocking ‘thoughts’ that may have dredged themselves deep inside our subconscious mind. These thoughts may be both toxic or pleasurable. ‘‘Eventually Muni, the observed can become the observer and vice versa and then the realisation of your true identity may emerge,’’ Yogi Ji told me.
The toxic thoughts, just like the pleasurable ones are charged with a current. This current can be negative or positive. The more negative thoughts you have harboured in the mind, the more it becomes like sludge or dark energy.
This dark energy is living and breathing. The more denser and volume this dark energy has, the less room there is for prana to move freely. Prana is a life force energy. It signifies vitality, spirit and life. It is light energy. When it flows through the chakras (energy centres of the body) it activates them and with that activation comes a heightened emotional sense of wellbeing.
When I first started practising trataka, it was difficult to control the acrobatics of the mind and to concentrate. Every time I tried it, instead of concentrating on the dot, I found my mind wandering to what events had passed during the day or the night before or recently; even seemingly unimportant things. I tried my best. It was frustrating. How was it possible that I could not keep my attention on one thing I thought; that confused me. I was perplexed and sought constant advice from Yogi Ji. He told me
that the mind does wander and thoughts are difficult to control. However, if I persisted on learning, I would eventually overcome such difficulties.
I had complete faith in Yogi Ji. He was my Guide and I lived for him in his service. I was totally dedicated and there was nothing more that I liked than to serve him every day. He was connected to me in spirit. I was bonded to him he had told me from centuries past. It was in my destiny to be connected to him. My mind, body and spirit belonged to him and his task was to shape them.
I carried on trying to perform trataka first on bindu and then on a candle flame. Yogi Ji told me that I should not actually force thoughts away but let them arise, because eventually they would pass. So, in this way and using this advice I was able not to resist or push thoughts away forcefully but to allow them to rise, acknowledge them and then let them go. I found that this way I was able to concentrate longer and longer on the dot and so my attention became one-pointed and stronger. When I tried it on the candle flame, I could see beautiful colours of different shades and glow. Eventually as time passed, I began to see that the flame was a gateway to another dimension in which I began to see shapes and movement. I took the skills I learnt from this exercise and began to apply it to my day-to-day life and noticed that I became efficient and that the work I did during the day was of a far higher quality. Yogi Ji noticed a big improvement in many of my day-to-day activities. I also noticed that one of the skills arising from mastering trataka is mindfulness. The stronger this skill is, the better will become the way one performs other tasks that are part of day-to day living. Masters of their professions such as great musicians, poets, writers and other talented individuals including inventors also experience such states or flow which, in turn, results in the creation of works of art and related end products.
Yogi Ji also asked me, as part of my training under his tutelage that I should stay up throughout the night for 10 days, reciting prayer and mantras for the snow leopard so that he recovers peacefully. I did not really understand the true power of mantra until I practised them practically. And as I did so I became more and more experienced in the way they healed my restless mind and heart.
I was surprised at the request. ‘‘Sir, I am too busy learning about spiritual matters to be sitting for 10 days just for one snow leopard,” I exclaimed. Yogi Ji twisted my ear a little, ‘‘Kaam chour’’ he declared. ‘‘You are a lazy person. Go and cleanse your mind and your thoughts and develop some compassion and then return to me later today!’’
With those words ringing loud in my ear and feeling the pinch on my ear lobe I hurried off to the meditation cave. It was another cave inside the main cave and its walls were probably as high as the largest mountain in the valley. All kinds of mantras, charms and Sanskrit script were scribbled on the walls Mantras and Yantras of all kinds, sizes and colours shimmered brightly under the flame of the natural beeswax candles that I lit up.
An Owl was already meditating inside the cave. He opened one eye and I heard his thought in my mind, ‘‘Come Muni, I have been expecting you here for quite some time. In fact, I have been keeping vigil here in deep Trataka meditation for over 3 years now. Now you have arrived.” I thought I was dreaming or hearing voices. But the words surely were uttered by the Owl; but in my mind.
The Owl peered at me and I looked into his eyes and asked ‘‘If you can hear my thoughts please nod.” The Owl promptly nodded not just once but twice and lifted his wings in reassurance. ‘‘I see that Yogi Ji wants you to learn compassion, so that you can then embrace it to share with Bushie the snow leopard, to affect his healing.” I replied rather quietly and indeed embarrassingly ‘‘yes please Owl.” It made no difference whether I spoke out the words aloud or in my mind because the Owl understood.
The Owl uncurled his wings that were crossed over his chest and flew down from a crag on the cave wall. He perched on a small branch of a pine tree that was growing inside the cave. He then fell down into upside down headstand while the claws on his feet clung to the branch as if he was bat.
‘‘Muni, if you are not compassionate and cannot develop kindness how will you become a first-rate Yogi? You are half way there yaar (friend), but you must work at this skill because if you have chosen the spiritual path then it is mandatory that you exercise love, compassion and kindness as these are just some of the many emotional states that must be sharpened.”
‘‘Yogi Ji is unhappy with my attitude.” I told the Owl. ‘‘He told me to read some prayers and healing mantras for the snow leopard, but I said I was too busy with other things. Can you believe Yogi Ji called me a Kaam Chour!’’.
The Owl laughed so loud that some of his feathers flew off his belly.
‘‘Thanks for your support, Owl! I do not understand how sitting for hours practising prayer and mantras can help anyone. Such activities are not tangible or measurable like ointments.” The Owl stared at me for a quite some time and then told me that it was best to follow Yogi Ji’s advice and that intangible activities do have an impact on the mind and body. ‘‘They can help the healing process. Just because we can’t see with our naked eyes it does not mean they do not exist. You cannot see a lot of things but you know they exist – such as air and the wind,” said the Owl. I nodded in agreement. ‘‘I feel rather faint,’’ exclaimed the Owl bringing himself out of the pose he was in and sitting upright. ‘‘I haven’t practised sheershasana (headstand) for some time now. Muni, you should try it – it’s very good for the head. I was watching the army of bats that are nesting here the other day and I thought to myself I should also do the headstand.” I laughed and replied “well I have been practising it but my hair follicles have shrunk, but my brain capacity seems to have increased tremendously.”
The Kundalini Memoirs of a Yogi
To be continued in the next issue of YOGA Magazine