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Advanced Yoga Practices
Main Lessons
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Note: For the complete lessons, with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 317 - Eleven Key Questions on Samyama  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
317.1 - Loss of Stillness During Samyama
  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: Mar 16, 2009

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


As soon as we begin our daily practice of samyama (see Lesson 150), questions are bound to come up. They can be on subjects ranging from the basics of the technique to new experiences that can occur. Here we will review eleven key questions on samyama practice. This review is for newcomers to samyama, and for those who may have taken on expanded applications beginning with Lesson 299, for cosmic samyama (advanced yoga nidra), samyama with yoga postures, and using the principles of samyama in prayer.


Q1: Nothing much seems to be happening during samyama. Am I ready for this?

A1: You are ready if you sense some abiding inner silence, feel in your heart you are ready, and if you can sustain a daily practice. As with deep meditation, we do not measure the results of samyama by what is happening during the practice itself. The real measure will be in how we feel during our daily activities, in-between our sittings. If we feel more peace, creativity and happiness in life, that will be a good indication of results occurring, even if our samyama sittings are uneventful. This is true of all yoga practices. 

The fruit of yoga is found not in what happens during the practices themselves, but in how they affect the quality of our life.

Q2: What is the difference between picking up and releasing the word, Love, and contemplating Love during samyama?

A2: The sutras we use in samyama are code words for information that is already embedded deep within us with language. Picking up the sutra alone and releasing it into our inner silence will merge the full content of meaning automatically with our resident pure bliss consciousness, just as speaking a word out loud will automatically convey its meaning externally to anyone who understands our language. If we understand our language, so does our inner silence, so we need not worry about conveying meaning with our sutras.

We do not contemplate during samyama, as this will keep us engaged in thinking and prevent the absorption of the sutra in inner silence. Less is more when we are going inward. We just follow the easy procedure for picking up the sutra at that very faint and fuzzy level every 15 seconds, and let it go. Very simple. 

If we wish to contemplate the meaning of our sutras outside samyama practice, this is fine. It is good for us to understand the meaning and intent of our sutras. It is we who determine that. It does not come from somewhere else. It will become part of our inner programming, as is the case with all language. This is why we do the sutras in our own language, so the meaning of the words will be alive in seed form deep within us. It is not necessary to overdo it and think about the meaning of our sutras all day. We just easily come to know what they are and what they mean. That's all. When we sit to do samyama, we forget all that and just use the sutras as suggested, and the best results will be there. 

There is a story in the Bible about how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle. It is like that with samyama too. If we are "rich" with thinking and meanings, contemplation, etc. during our samyama, then letting go into inner silence will be like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle nearly impossible. But if we pick up the sutra in that very faint and fuzzy way in the mind and let it go, then it will go into inner silence easily. The camel will become very small and indistinct, almost nothing at all, and go right through the eye of the needle. Then the results will be very good. That is how samyama works.

Q3: I am having trouble keeping with the 15-second interval. Any suggestions? And why 15 seconds?

A3: In samyama, timing is simply a matter of developing a habit. It takes several sittings to do that. The nervous system actually has a very accurate clock built into it, and we can access it simply by engaging it repeatedly in our practice. In deep meditation this is true, and it is true in samyama also. However, there is a difference.

In deep meditation, most of us will follow the easy procedure for 20 minutes. Peeking at the clock near the end of the session is a suitable way of confirming where we are in time.

In samyama, we don't want to be peeking at the clock to verify every 15-second interval. That would be too much distraction from the natural process we are engaged in. Instead, what we do is go through all of our sutras for the two repetitions each and check our time near the end, or when we are done. Then we will know if we have been going too fast or too slow, and we can make an adjustment the next time we sit to practice. 

We know that nine sutras done twice each with a 15-second interval will be about five minutes of samyama practice. If our session is coming in around five minutes, we will be on track. If it is significantly shorter or longer, we can make an adjustment. Over a few days or weeks the approximate 15-second interval can be achieved in that way.

For extended use of our last sutra for five minutes (Akasha - lightness of Air, for most of us), we can go back to the same method of timing we use for deep meditation, rather than counting repetitions. So we just go on with the sutra with the approximate 15-second intervals until five minutes have passed. Having established the 15-second interval with our other sutras, we can be reasonably confident that we will remain on track with our last sutra for the five minutes at the end of the session.

From our own experience, we will find that 15 seconds is about the right amount of time for a sutra to be released in inner silence, and enlivened from within to produce its given effect via the process of moving stillness. Then another repetition of the same or next sutra will be necessary to continue the process of cultivating moving stillness. The human mind and nervous system are pre-wired for this approximate duration of processing in samyama, much as they are pre-wired for about 20 minutes of deep meditation per session for most people. 

If we go significantly shorter than 15 seconds between sutra repetitions, there will not be enough time for stillness to fully absorb and move from within the sutra. This is a common occurrence in samyama practice going through the sutras without adequate time of letting go in-between repetitions. This happens when the mind is fully engaged, which we are all prone to have happening in our busy lives. But this is samyama, where letting go is essential. The thing to do is develop the habit of letting go and allowing inner silence do its work, not minding thoughts or other experiences that may come up. In time, we learn to trust the process. It works!

Think of it this way each repetition is a fraction of a second of faintly picking up the sutra, and 15 seconds of letting go. So, what is samyama primarily about? Is it primarily about the sutras? No, it is about letting go! 

The reason we do not deliberately go much beyond 15 seconds between repetitions is because our awareness is naturally coming back out into thoughts by then, and is looking for something to latch on to. Either that, or the mind will be wandering aimlessly after about 15 seconds. It is the nature of the mind. So we give it another sutra repetition at that point, and let go. Because samyama is an enjoyable process, the mind will be happy to go with the sutra into stillness again.

Sometimes we will lose track of the time and go way over 15 seconds. It can happen. That is covered next.

Q4: Is getting lost during samyama practice okay? And once I realize it has happened, what do I do?

A4: Losing track of our sutras is common, even for advanced practitioners, due to ongoing purification and opening occurring in the nervous system. It can happen to anyone at any time, and there is nothing to worry about. When we realize we have wandered off from our sutra practice, we just easily come back to it, wherever we left off. 

If we find ourselves in a blizzard of thoughts, we do not hang on to them or try to force them out. We just easily come back to our samyama practice whenever we realize we have wandered off into a stream of thoughts, or any other experience. 

Of course, wandering off and coming back to our sutras after some time has passed can mean our overall time will be longer. That is fine if we have the time. If we run out of time, then we can end our session as necessary wherever we happen to be in the sutra sequence and lay down to rest. There will always be other sessions, so we do not have to fret about an interrupted sequence of sutras. It has been for a good cause our purification and opening, and for the ongoing process of our enlightenment. Everyone goes through changing experiences in samyama. Over the long term, samyama practice tends to become more steady and stable, as inner purification and opening advance in our nervous system. 

If we get lost during the five-minute session with our last sutra, we can just lie down and rest if our time is up, when we realize we have been off somewhere.

It is common for such variations to occur, and we don't have to be concerned. It is our long term practice that will make the difference, so any variations that occur we just take in stride and keep on with our twice-daily practice.

Q5: I have heard that concentration is one of the key elements in samyama, but you do not mention it. Why?

A5: In the style of samyama we are doing here, we pick up the object, the sutra, with attention and let it go. That picking up is called dharana, the sixth limb of yoga. The letting go is dhyana, which is the dissolving of the sutra, the meditation component, the seventh limb of yoga. Absorbing of the released sutra into our inner silence is the samadhi element, the eighth limb. 

It is important to recognize that when we are picking up the sutra in a very faint and fuzzy way, then all three limbs of yoga will becoexisting at the same time. This becomes very natural and easy as our inner silence becomes steady and stable from our well-established deep meditation practice and increasing experience in samyama. So, samyama is all three aspects together, and this is the essential cause that yields the remarkable effects of samyama.

While it might seem ironic, the clunky stage we may experience for a few days or weeks when getting started in samyama practice is caused by too much fixation of the mind on the surface level of the sutra. In other words, too much concentration. Success in samyama comes from touching the sutra faintly with awareness and letting it go. It is that simple. 

The word dharana, is often translated to mean concentration, and this is a reflection of how some traditions practice both meditation and samyama, at least at certain stages, riveting the mind on an object (like a mantra or sutra) until it wears out and falls into stillness. Hence the word concentration. But this is not how deep meditation and samyama are practiced in the AYP approach, so we do not use the word concentration in relation to practice to avoid confusion with techniques taught elsewhere. But we do talk aboutconcentration in another way.

Concentration means intense or complete attention. As we advance in our practices and experiences, inner silence continues to rise and stabilize in us, with many benefits. One of those benefits is the ability to increasingly focus attention like a laser beam on any task or object for an extended period of time. In other words, over time, yoga vastly increases our power of concentration. This ability to concentrate is an effect of yoga practices, which, in turn, becomes a cause in all that we undertake in life. An increased ability to concentrate is a practical benefit coming from yoga one of many.

Like so many things in spiritual life, the rise of concentration from undifferentiated inner silence is a seeming paradox. Yet it happens. The more awareness (inner silence) we have available within ourselves, the more we are able to focus our attention intensely on external tasks for long periods of time.

When we engage in the efficient process of samyama on a daily basis, the flow of inner silence outward takes on a much more active role in our life. In time, it becomes a vast outpouring of attention, positive energy, intelligence and love that can lead to remarkable achievements. It is the stuff of miracles! 

Q6: I have been doing Buddhist meditation for years. Can I use this style of samyama with it?

A6: The fuel of samyama is inner silence. Any meditation technique that cultivates inner silence (also called the witness) will be a support for samyama practice. So, Buddhist meditation will work to the extent that it cultivates inner silence. Typically, the best time for structured samyama practice is right after meditation, which is the time when the most inner silence is likely to be present. We always rest for 5-10 minutes after samyama practice (lying down is good) to facilitate the winding down of inner energy flow and purification in the nervous system that may be occurring deep inside. If we get up too quickly, there can be some irritability in daily activity. 

Samyama also works outside sitting practices, and we will find this occurring increasingly in our everyday activity as we continue with daily sitting practices. Suffice to say that our genius resides in stillness within us, and to the extent we are able to entertain our desires in stillness, the likelihood of their fulfillment will be greatly enhanced. Einstein, Newton, Mozart and many others stand as testaments to this fact. Where there is inner silence and the principle of samyama operating, there is genius. It is in all of us. 

Q7: Is doing samyama for gaining personal power wrong? Is it dangerous?

A7: Of all the ways we can seek to increase our power in the world, samyama is the least dangerous. This is because true samyama is not projection. It is not acquiring anything, or manipulating anything in the world. Samyama is surrender to the divine within us. There is no harm that can come from this, even if we are doing it for selfish reasons. 

What is not done for selfish reasons anyway? Everything we do is for our own self, even if we are making great sacrifices for others. It is merely a matter of what we regard our self to be. When we become filled with the joy of pure bliss consciousness, we begin to find our own self in everything and everyone around us, and act accordingly. This is the direct result of daily practice of deep meditation and samyama.

So, if we have some egotistical desire for enlightenment, or for some powers to exercise in the world, this is fine. Learn deep meditation. Learn samyama, and go for it. What will happen as we continue with practices and act in the world is, we will expand from the inside. As we do, our view will expand, as will our sense of self and the quality of our actions. Then we will be projecting our personal desires less on others, and surrendering them more into stillness. What comes out from that will be divine flow, no matter what sort of impure thoughts we have been letting go inside. It is a natural process of purification. It is very simple. Samyama is divine judo that takes all desires and elevates them to divine status, which then manifest as all love and support for everyone around us. This kind of surrender is not weakness. It is the greatest strength that can be found in life, nourished by the infinite residing within us. 

So the fear about samyama being abused and used for wrong purposes is a myth. It is not possible with right practice. We can say that samyama is morally self-regulating, meaning that the deeper we go into it, the more moral strength we will have coming out from within us. If it is not right practice, not letting go into stillness, it is not samyama, and the power coming out will be much less.

Samyama is not projection of personal power. If there is projection involved in a practice, it is something else. It can be misguided ego, the dark arts, whatever we want to call it. It isn't samyama. If there is a danger, it is in the personal projection of power. Many of the worlds ills have come from this. Samyama is the great undoer of egocentric adventures that have caused so much misery in the world. Correct practice of samyama is infallible in its results. And incorrect practice of samyama will not work. It is very safe. 

So, let's begin samyama, and all that our heart craves deep within will be given to us, and much more.

Q8: I am experiencing fast breathing and physical movements sometimes during samyama. What is it?

A8: When we systematically let go of our sutras in samyama practice, inner silence will begin to move inside us in particular ways that reflect the flavor of the sutras we are using, giving rise to a variety of sensations, thoughts and feelings. These will be the result of purification occurring in our nervous system. The movement of inner silence outward can also be experienced as energy moving through us, which can give rise to physical symptoms, such as alterations in breathing and physical movements.

Sometimes we call physical symptoms automatic yoga, since they may resemble yogic maneuvers and breathing practices. By automatic yoga, we do not mean practices we must follow when they happen. The way we handle such symptoms is to neither favor them, nor try and push them out. We just easily favor the practice we are doing over such experiences. In this case, the easy procedure of our samyama practice.

It is possible for the symptoms to become dramatic, such as the body beginning to shake and hop on our meditation seat during the lightness sutra. If this happens, we should take necessary precautions to protect ourselves and the furniture, by avoiding such activity on a fragile bed and having suitable padding underneath ourselves on a solid surface during our samyama. While our practice might seem chaotic sometimes, there is a method to it, and a lot of intelligence manifesting from within along with the energy. Still, it is up to us to take whatever precautions we feel are necessary to assure our safety. This is true for all yoga practices, and is an aspect of self-pacing. 

Physical movements are caused by the friction of inner energies moving through our not yet fully purified nervous system. The further along the path we go, the more purification and opening we will have, and the less likely extreme physical movements will be. Then the experiences will be more along the lines of abiding inner silence, ecstatic bliss and outpouring divine love.

Along the path of purification and opening, we can have all sorts of things going on. It goes with the territory, and we deal with things as they come up in ways that assure our ongoing progress with comfort and safety.

Q9: I am filled with bright light and pleasurable energy during samyama, and for some time after. Is this the right result?

A9: This is another way our purification and opening can be experienced. It means we are experiencing inner energy flow with less friction involved, which can give rise to experiences of inner light and ecstasy. Such experiences can come and go along the path of inner purification and opening. 

Having this kind of experience does not mean we have arrived. More than likely we will continue to have many ups and downs along the way. It is a preview of what our life will be like permanently in the long term. The main thing is to continue with daily practices, and favor that over any lovely experiences that might distract us from doing the very practices that have created the experiences.

There are good things happening. It is our practice that is causing these experiences, so always favor the practice.

Q10: Why do I feel edgy and irritable after my samyama practice sometimes?

A10: Irritability can result if we are overdoing in our practices, or coming out too fast, not taking adequate rest at the end of our sittings. One of the most common causes of irritability in activity is getting up too soon after practices. So be sure to address that first. It is very important to take at least 5-10 minutes of rest after our samyama practice. If we have a place to lie down during this time, it is good.

If irritability persists after practices, even when we are taking good rest before getting up, it can be overdoing in our practices. In the case of samyama, if two repetitions of our sutras is leaving us with irritability, then we can drop back to one repetition for a few sessions and see if that will help. If one repetition of our sutras is still too much, we can temporarily reduce the time between our sutra repetitions from 15 seconds to 5-10 seconds. Shortening the time between sutra repetitions will reduce the energy that is being released in stillness, as discussed in Question 3 above. If we have forged ahead and are doing more than two repetitions of our sutras, and are having difficulties in our daily activity, then we should scale back on the number of repetitions until things stabilize.

Irritability can also be caused by overdoing in any of our practices, so it is good to take a broad view of all the practices we are doing, and consider making adjustments in the practices that are most likely causing the excess energy flow and purification.

Self-pacing of our practices is an important skill to develop as we continue along our path. Throughout the lessons, we keep returning to the many nuances of self-pacing again and again. 

Q11:What is the ultimate purpose of doing samyama?

A11: As mentioned, whatever our purpose may be, be it for self or others, it will be a good enough reason to be practicing samyama, assuming we have been cultivating a foundation of inner silence beforehand. From there, the process of samyama itself will take us steadily toward our own higher purpose. If we are looking for powers, samyama will deliver them, but not necessarily in the way we may be expecting. When we engage in samyama, we may not always get exactly what we want, but we will always get what we need to advance on our spiritual path. 

Ultimately, samyama, in conjunction with our other yoga practices, will lead us to enlightenment, which is abiding inner silence, ecstatic bliss and outpouring divine love.

The guru is in you.


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