"There is no coming to consciousness without pain.
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
From Carl Jung's The Red Book (1915–c.1930)
From the wildfires in Australia, to the Coronavirus spreading rapidly within China and beyond, this past month has been a harrowing time on a global level and no doubt, for many of us, on a personal level too.
Life is never without its unexpected twists, turns and challenges. Even if some circumstances we can predict or in some cases, we were responsible for ourselves, the inevitable waves of uncontrollable emotions from grief and loss as well as the aftermath of destruction, are often unpleasant. My previous articles on prana vayu "RECLAIMING OUR VITAL ENERGY" and apana vayu "STAYING GROUNDED IN TIMES OF CHANGE" are still relevant to our situation today and lead me to go further, to now unearth and make sense of samana vayu.
In the yogic traditions, samana vayu or the “balancing air,” is the vayu of digestion and assimilation. It is the meeting point between prana and apana vayu and helps to keep them in balance. It is said to be located at the navel center and is related to the Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra. It governs agni, the digestive fire that aids us in processing and comprehending what we take in, not only food but also emotions, perceptions, and breath.
A teacher of mine reminded me recently that not everything we experience in our grief and our human experience needs or can be cleared out and eliminated. I took some time to let her remark sink in and soon realized the importance and the truth of what she said. If we purged everything that we ingested (food or otherwise), where would we receive our nourishment? In fact that kind of destruction, of "getting rid of" or of so called "purification" can be quite dangerous without proper discernment or appreciation for that which is in fact serving us. We only need to look to horrors in our human history and to the degradation of our planet to realize this.
On a personal level, this includes messy, painful or difficult emotions. Without truly witnessing, processing or "digesting" these emotions, if left ignored or buried under the surface, over time they can fester and cause an imbalance in the body and often surface to express themselves in another form. Being honest with ourselves and our circumstances, revealing the "ugly" side of our human experience takes a great deal of courage but it can be one of the most vital things we can do. If anything, understanding ourselves and being fully present in our own pain, helps us to know and to connect with others on a deeper and more profound level.
Another dear friend of mine also brought this to my attention when a seemingly small but uncomfortable circumstance occurred and instead of "sweeping it under the carpet," he skillfully allowed space and time for inquiry around the discomfort. At first I found this triggering and then I found it informative and intriguing. How often in our daily lives, in our society, do we ignore early warning signs and indications that something is not actually okay? Instead we cover up or move quickly on from what is unpleasant or inconvenient to address and continue with our lives as usual. The potency of slowing down is that in doing less, in allowing space, it brings a clear focus to the problem and often the truth can be revealed. In our overcommitted and overstimulated society, convenient "quick fix" solutions and promises often come at a cost. You need only look to the pharmaceutical industries and the plethora of side-effects from even the most common drugs on the market to know this to be true. In contrast, slowing down and taking the time to see clearly takes patience, perseverance and humility but has greater and long-lasting benefits.
From Carl Jung's The Red Book (1915–c.1930)
One of the most vital aspects of digestion that we have lost sight of in our culture today is allowing the adequate time and space for optimal processing. The more our society and its relentless expectations push us towards the sympathetic "fight or flight' mode of living, the more we need to focus our attention to practices that activate and support our parasympathetic "rest and digest" mode to find balance and recovery. Inevitably this means slowing down and letting go in order to optimize our digestive fire. However, as simple and enjoyable as this would seem, it is in fact not as easy or as comfortable as we might expect.
Even though many of us are familiar with the benefits of yoga and meditation, there can still be an attitude of "doing", "accomplishing" and "competing" even in these disciplines. Often we go to yoga wanting and expecting to experience peace, serenity and joy.. but this is not always what we get. If however, we approach these practices with an open mind and with an attitude of letting go, sometimes unexpected and unpleasant emotions arise. This is perhaps why there is still a need to "do" yoga rather than humbling and surrendering ourselves to what yoga is truly all about.
For me, prana vayu is about making that first step, it is the moment I choose to observe my breath, the moment I draw my attention inwards and I begin to witness and become aware of how I am feeling. I feel apana vayu as the wind of trusting, letting go and surrendering to the process, to nature, to something beyond myself and my personal drama. In my experience and understanding, samana vayu is often activated upon grounding and releasing. It is a mysterious and uncontrollable wind that can be unsettling at times but I have learned to trust this now too with the guidance of my teachers.
You may have heard of the term samskaras or karmic patterns. These are undigested experiences that are imprinted into our mental, emotional and physical bodies. The fire of samana vayu helps us to transform these samskaras. How I have experienced samskaras personally is by witnessing my thoughts and emotions in meditation and also by my teachers noting and responding to how my thought patterns have expressed themselves in my body, speech and lifestyle. Reiki, Tai Chi and yoga have been vital modalities and disciplines for me to not only understand and witness my samskaras but also to begin to digest, unravel and shift these patterns. Sometimes a memory or undigested experience arises in a dream and I will investigate this in a meditation the next day. Sometimes I unconsciously hold onto thoughts or emotions until they bubble up to the surface when practicing yoga or Tai Chi. At major junctions and transitions in life I often seek the guidance of my Reiki master teacher or fellow practitioners who help to detect timelines and congestions that are often memories of past experiences (and sometimes past lives) that serve to guide me in my current situation. Transforming samskaras takes willingness, dedication and finding the right teachers and guides to support you. (I am always happy to direct you to those that have helped me). I would be weary of any teacher, healer or therapist who has not in someway shown up fully for their own healing or offer a quick-fix solution. Healing trauma and working through deeply ingrained karmic patterns is a life-long process. There is no escaping discomfort and you simply have to do the work. Healing is possible but it may not feel or look like what we imagine. Sadly it is our society's attraction and addiction to the pretty, shiny, convenient, fast-track to personal transformation that so often leads to disillusionment, burn out and re-lapse. This can also be seen and understood on a global scale. We have to fully address the origins of our problems, no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient and ugly, before we can we can fully heal and move towards long-term solutions.
From Carl Jung's The Red Book (1915–c.1930)
The chosen path of spiritual exploration and self-discovery is unique to each individual. Although, I do believe there is something that connects us all in our journey, which is the desire to free ourselves and others from suffering. From my experience and understanding however, the suffering itself is not the problem. It is in fact alerting us and pointing us to what needs to be witnessed and brought into consciousness. We can consider grief, pain and discomfort as simply signs, as motivations to study deeper, as impetuses to transform and as ways to connect more authentically with others.
Reiki has helped me profoundly over the years and I truly believe in its ability to help bring what may be laying hidden beneath the surface into the light. I continue to study and to practice under the ShivEnergetics™ Energy Training System and I am truly grateful for the tools and methodology it provides. A reminder for those seeking guidance but wanting to preserve their vital energy by not traveling or commuting, I do offer distant Reiki treatments as well as hands-on sessions. From the comfort of one's own home, studio or office, connecting with the same Reiki method and insight, I have found the experience and results to be profound.
You can email me directly for more information: email@example.com).
I want to thank all of those clients that joined me this past month, both in person and from a distance, for your courage and willingness to show up. Through your investment and with RIGPA ARTS donating 5% of sales of all private sessions in January, together we raised $128 for WIRES and their mission to actively rehabilitate and preserve Australian wildlife.
Thank you for your presence and commitment.
I wish you all strength, grounding and perseverance in these challenging times.