Advanced Yoga Practices
Note: For the Original
Internet Lessons with additions,
For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books,
Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.
Over-Sensitive Meditators (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
367.1 - Using Nadi Shodana when Sensitive to Spinal
367.2 - For Sensitivity, Meditating Once Per Day? (Audio)
367.3 - Follow-up on
Breath Meditation (Audio)
367.4 - Passive Awareness Technique for Very
Sensitive Meditators (Audio)
367.5 - Meditation: Good Results, but with
Sensitivity vs. Progress with Different Styles of Meditation (Audio)
367.7 - Restarting Practices after Discontinuing
Due to Overload (Audio)
367.8 - Breath Meditation Slowing Overload Down.
Now what? (Audio)
Self-Pacing with Fewer Meditation Sessions per Day or Week (Audio)
- A Case of Well-Managed Over-Sensitivity to Deep Meditation with Mantra (Audio)
- For Sensitive Meditators: When to Switch from Mantra to Breath as Objecta (Audio)
- A Case of Sensitivitya (Audio)
November 5, 2009
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Note: For an interesting series of Q&As early in the
lessons on successfully handling a case over-sensitivity to deep meditation,
see Lessons #160 and
#200. A refinement and expansion on
those methods is provided below.
One of the great
advantages of an open resource on spiritual practices like AYP is that we
can see quite clearly the diversity of responses practitioners have to the
practices being offered. On the individual level, practitioners have
knowledge and tools necessary
practices and ground themselves in daily activity for best results over
time. Collectively, we can evolve solutions and offer suggestions for
adjustments in practice for those who find themselves outside the range of
responses which can be managed by standard means. This is the "bell curve"
distribution of practitioner responses discussed in
Lesson 365, as it pertains to deep meditation
in particular. Unlike traditional spiritual teachings, which tend to be
rigid and limited in their ability
practitioners having non-standard responses to practices, there is much we
can do here to offer adjustments in the application of practices for the
benefit of all who seek to move ahead on their spiritual path.
previous lesson, we discussed suggestions for "under-sensitive" meditators,
focusing on spiritual desire (bhakti), regularity of practice, the finer
points of meditation technique, and acceptance of
our path within its own parameters, rather than measured against the
parameters of others. The evolution of patience and persistence were
encouraged, leading to individual self-sufficiency on
path. With that, there can be no stopping a practitioner from going all the
The same can be said for those who may be "over-sensitive" to
deep meditation. Certainly, all of the points discussed in the lesson on
under-sensitivity also apply to the over-sensitive meditator, and to
everyone. But for the over-sensitive meditator, it has become clear over the
past few years that additional measures beyond "standard operating
procedure" are needed.
Over-Sensitivity to Deep Meditation vs.
Premature Kundalini Awakening
What is over-sensitivity to deep
As with under-sensitive meditators, while it is
difficult to know the causes of over-sensitivity (unfathomable karma), we
can certainly notice the symptoms, and systematically apply means leading to
a more effective and balanced practice. The symptoms of over-sensitivity to
deep meditation can be summed up as, "use of
mantra resulting quickly in too much energy flowing."
When too much
energy is flowing through our inner matrix of obstructions, the result is
"excessive friction." We have also referred to this as "excessive
purification," which is not to imply that it is a sustainable approach
to purification and opening. There is only so much purification our
nervous system can tolerate in any given period of time. So we are obliged
to find ways to regulate the process. It is the same result that can occur
if someone of normal sensitivity to deep meditation gets up from a sitting
without resting first, or deliberately meditates for much longer than usual
(note: inadvertently going over on time rarely creates a problem). The
difference is that an over-sensitive meditator will have symptoms during
and/or after practice, when meditating very little, even with a good rest at
the end. This can mean strong emotions, irritability, physical discomfort,
movements, rash, headaches, and so on.
If these look like classic
kundalini awakening symptoms, it may be so, with one distinction while a
premature kundalini awakening may tend to persist without additional
stimulation, the symptoms of an over-sensitive meditator are quickly caused
by mantra use, and will normally die down within a reasonable period of time
after a meditation session.
Those with a premature kundalini
awakening often find relief by taking up deep meditation and/or spinal
breathing pranayama, while those who are over-sensitive to deep meditation
may have little in the way of previous kundalini symptoms, and must
self-pace their meditation practice to avoid them.
Over-sensitive meditators may not find stabilizing help from spinal
breathing pranayama either.
So we should make a distinction between
a premature kundalini awakening, most which come from outside the AYP
system, versus an inherent over-sensitivity to deep meditation with mantra
which may or may not be heralded by prior kundalini symptoms. Those who come
to AYP with a premature kundalini awakening are advised to try deep
meditation and/or spinal breathing pranayama according to the lessons, plus
additional measures that are available (see
Lesson 69), and see how it goes. Many arriving at AYP
premature kundalini awakening have found
balance and good progress by taking this route.
Those who find
themselves sensitive to deep meditation, with or without a premature
kundalini awakening, are advised to read on here.
Standard Methods and Developing the Metrics
Before we get into
alternative approaches to meditation practice, we should review the standard
methods for handling symptoms of excessive energy flow and purification
occurring during or after deep meditation with the base mantra.
Even if we are over-sensitive to deep meditation
with the base mantra, we can use it as a baseline from which we can move in
exploring alternatives for developing a stable and effective practice.
This does not mean we should engage in a meditation practice that is
uncomfortable and destabilizing for us every time we sit to do it.
Beyond the normal emotional and physical ups and downs that may occur during
deep meditation, which can be handled with the energy/body awareness
procedure in Lesson 15, we should be sure to be taking
enough rest before getting up after practice. Lying down for 5-10 minutes is
good if we are prone to irritability during or after deep meditation. We
should also be active during the day, and make sure to get regular exercise.
Mental and physical activity play key roles
in stabilizing the inner silence we are
cultivating during our twice-daily deep meditation sessions.
there is discomfort every time we sit to meditate, we may be over-sensitive.
In that case, we can scale back our practice time as much as necessary to
reduce our symptoms to a comfortable level. In cases of extreme sensitivity,
this could lead to very short meditation sessions
even only a few minutes per sitting. If we are
consistently encountering uncomfortable symptoms after only 5 minutes
of deep meditation, we can be sure that we are over-sensitive. Anything less
than 10 minutes per sitting with ongoing discomfort can be assumed to be
Ironically, over-sensitive meditators often have very
strong bhakti (spiritual desire), so it can be frustrating to have to scale
back meditation time so much.
will be our bhakti that leads
us persistently toward a more balanced approach,
enabling us to progress with comfort, and even
If we have gone beyond learning deep meditation and
are doing spinal breathing pranayama and additional practices without
noticeable stabilizing effects, then we should eliminate
these until we have found a stable meditation practice. This applies to any
other practices we may be doing from any source, with the possible exception
of a light set of asanas (postures) for limbering up before sitting. If not
doing these already, do not add asanas (or anything) if symptoms of
over-sensitivity to meditation are occurring. First things first. If our
goal is to find a stable meditation practice, then everything else has to
take a back seat until we have found a stable
from which we can later begin to explore other things. In most cases, it is
wise to work on meditation first, as it will
deliver the abiding inner silence that will enable us to proceed with
everything else on our spiritual path.
By developing clear "metrics"
on what it takes to engage in deep meditation with the base mantra without
excessive discomfort, we will establish whether or not we are
over-sensitive. If we are self-pacing back to a few minutes per session, we
will know it is time to consider alternatives in our meditation
practice. We can continue to self-pace with
alternatives we try, with the goal of settling in with an approach
that enables us to meditate comfortably for 10-20 minutes twice-daily. How
we feel in daily activity will be the primary measure of our practice. Once
we have established a stable meditation routine, we can draw with confidence
on the many additional tools available for enhancing our progress on the
spiritual path. One step at a time.
Fast Transcending and Modifying the Mantra
In discussing the
under-sensitive meditator in the previous lesson, we mentioned that inner
obstructions tend to be "densely packed," thereby slowing
down the flow of awareness inward to more silent levels of the mind.
In the over-sensitive meditator, the situation seems to be just the
opposite, with inner obstructions being "loosely packed," and awareness
going inward quickly. We could also call this "fast transcending."
It is a two-way street. No sooner does the
over-sensitive meditator quickly go in with the mantra, than the awareness
comes quickly out again, bringing excessive purification and opening with
it. So, while the over-sensitive meditator may have experiences of bliss,
ecstasy and rapidly rising bhakti (spiritual desire), there
is also the experience
of excessive purification. Then
self-pacing may be necessary to the point where meditation time
becomes very short.
A possible way around this situation is to modify
the mantra to facilitate "slower transcending." We cannot suddenly change
the nature of the matrix of obstructions in the nervous system we are
dealing with. But we can change the vehicle we are using to traverse it,
going from the surface of the mind to its silent depths, and back again.
There has been some research done in the AYP
community on the third enhancement to the I AM mantra, which is the
longest mantra we have in the AYP
system. The additional syllables reduce the speed with which
awareness moves to more silent levels of the mind. In doing so, a
longer mantra creates a wider sweep on the way in and also on the way
out. It is less prone to "falling through the cracks" between
the loosely packed inner obstructions and thoughts
of an over-sensitive meditator.
While working to stabilize our
meditation routine, it is suggested to discontinue
spinal breathing pranayama and any other energy stimulating practices or
activities we may be engaged in.
For those over-sensitive meditators
who would like to try slowing down the rate of transcendence, the third
enhancement of the AYP mantra is suggested. See Lesson
188 and Lesson 369.
This is not a
recommendation for everyone to begin skipping through the mantra
enhancements willy-nilly. The discussion here is focused on the very
specific situation of over-sensitivity to deep meditation. Everyone else
will do well to consider taking on the mantra enhancements in order, as
instructed in the lessons.
Taking on a mantra enhancement slows down
the inward and outward flow of awareness in the mind during the procedure of
deep meditation. If we are premature in taking on a mantra enhancement, it
can feel like we have hit a brick wall, with awareness staying much on the
surface of the mind. This is normal, and if we are shifting the gear to a
longer mantra at the right time for us, the awareness will go in
more slowly through a wider swath of the mind and
nervous system. And likewise coming out.
For the over-sensitive
meditator, jumping to the third enhancement will
have the immediate effect of slowing down transcending and can bring some
relief on excessive purification symptoms. It may be possible to increase
meditation time from the few self-paced minutes we may be doing to 10
minutes or more without immediate discomfort.
However, what we have
found is that the benefits of using a longer mantra may be short-lived in
some over-sensitive meditators. Once we become acclimated to the longer
mantra in daily practice over weeks or months, and are going in with it more
easily, some of the symptoms of excessive purification may begin to return.
Then we are back to self-pacing our meditation time downward again, perhaps
to a duration that is unsatisfactory for our level of bhakti. But the long
mantra is worth a try for those who are inclined to stay with mantra
meditation. No harm can come from it if we are engaged in prudent
self-pacing. It can work for some as a long term
For others, the long mantra will not
solve the over-sensitivity issue, and may instead be a stepping-stone to an
approach that does not use a mantra at all. Now
let's take a look at that.
Replacing the Mantra with Breath as the
Object of Meditation
True meditation always involves the use of an
object, and systematically refining our awareness of that object in the
mind. In AYP the object we use is a mantra (actually, a progressive system
of mantras), which has been found to be highly effective for cultivating
abiding inner silence in the nervous system.
For those who are
over-sensitive to mantra meditation, no matter how it is approached, it is
suggested to use an object for meditation other than a mantra. There are
certainly alternative ways to
cultivate abiding inner silence in the nervous system. An ancient and
reliable method of meditation used widely in the Buddhist system, and
elsewhere, involves using the breath as object, rather than mantra.
We can meditate using our breath in the same way we meditate with mantra.
The procedure is the same. Starting out, we sit with eyes closed and easily
bring our attention to our breath. When we notice that our attention is
no longer on our breath, we easily bring it back to the breath. If our
attention and the breath have become refined, we
come back to the breath at that refined level, just the way we would bring
our attention back to a refined level of the mantra if that is where we
are when we notice we are off the object of our
meditation. And just as with mantra meditation, in breath meditation there
can be thoughts or no thoughts with awareness of breath. We don't try and
push thoughts out. We just easily favor the breath, no matter what else may
be going on. So, the basic instructions for breath
meditation are the same as the instructions for
There are a few
differences between mantra meditation and breath
meditation though, and we should point those out.
Some may ask, what
is the object we call breath? Is it the sensation of air moving in the
nostrils, in the throat, in the lungs? Is it the rising and falling of the
chest? As we begin breath meditation, and get into
it, we may find it is one of these, or all of these. That is fine. Whatever
we perceive the object of breath to be, that is what it is. It is not
necessary to physically locate our awareness of the breath. It may start in
one place, and move naturally. We can be comfortable with that, easily favor
whatever it is, and we will be refining our awareness, purifying our nervous
system, and cultivating abiding inner silence.
In time, we will find
that our attention will go to a very refined aspect of breath that we could
call the "energy impulse" of the breath, without a fixed
physical location. It is a lot like a refined mantra, and we can be
very deep with it. As we become advanced in our practice, we may find
ourselves picking up that refined energy impulse of the breath as soon as we
sit to meditate, just the way an advanced mantra meditator will be picking
up a refined level of the mantra as soon as the eyes are closed. We can't
force any of this refinement to happen. It happens by itself as our method
of meditation and the object we are using become baked into our nervous
system. This is why regularity of practice is so important twice daily,
whether we are using mantra or breath.
Breath meditation has been
found by over-sensitive meditators to be more gentle than mantra meditation,
and much less likely to cause symptoms of excessive purification in the
nervous system. Of course, there is no guarantee that it will not, but the
chances of an over-sensitive meditator finding a stable practice with breath
meditation are much better.
breath meditation and going deep, as with any
effective form of meditation, the breath may naturally suspend briefly from
time to time. This is a sign that metabolism is low, that we are in deep
silence, and that effective purification is occurring. If, during a breath
suspension, we become aware that our attention is not on the breath, we may
not find much physical breath or subtle energy impulse of breath to favor.
If that is the case, we can just easily be in the stillness we are
experiencing in the moment. When we notice the
physical breath or the faint
energy impulse of breath again, then we can
return to that at whatever level of refinement we find ourselves. This is
the primary difference between breath meditation
and mantra meditation. When breath suspends in mantra meditation,
we can still favor the impulse of the mantra. When breath suspends in breath
meditation, we just relax in stillness until the
impulse of breath returns. This is one of the reasons why breath meditation
is milder in its effects, which is just what the over-sensitive meditator
We self-pace breath meditation just the way we would mantra
meditation, according to our comfort in practice,
keeping in mind that all spiritual practices have delayed effects. So we
will be wise to start off modestly. If we have found it necessary to
self-pace ourselves down to 5 minutes per session with mantra meditation
(short or long mantra), we should consider starting there with breath meditation,
and increasing our time gradually, a few minutes at a time over multiple
sessions. That is if we find that we are stable
using breath as our object of meditation. If we
get all the way up to 20 minutes per session without any serious disruption,
it is suggested to stay at that duration of meditation for at least six
months, and perhaps indefinitely. While other systems using breath meditation
may involve much longer sittings, an over-sensitivity to meditation
may be a good reason to stick with the 20 minute limit. It also gives us the
option to consider additional practices in the AYP system, without throwing
the overall time commitment to spiritual practices out of balance with the
rest of our life.
As mentioned earlier, while working to stabilize
our meditation routine, it is suggested to
discontinue spinal breathing pranayama and any other energy stimulating
practices or activities we may be engaged in. And we should not be trying to
do more than one kind of meditation while we are
stabilizing our practice.
is a very good practice that can effectively cultivate a foundation of
abiding inner silence, which is the primary prerequisite for undertaking
additional practices we may be drawn to in due course on our spiritual path.
With regard to moving through the AYP lessons, using breath meditation as
our foundation instead of mantra meditation, it can be done. But there are a
few caveats we should mention.
Since we are using breath meditation
to find a balance with an over-sensitivity that has resulted in
excessive energy symptoms, we should be mindful of
the energy implications in many of the AYP
practices, beginning with spinal breathing pranayama.
we should be aware that spinal breathing and breath meditation are more
similar than spinal breathing and mantra meditation. So we should be
well-established with breath meditation before we attempt spinal breathing.
These are two different practices, involving two different procedures. In
this case, both are working with breath in different ways, so we want to be
clear about what we are doing with breath meditation
before we attempt to add spinal breathing. And there is the energy aspect,
so over-sensitive practitioners are advised to be on alert. The same goes
for other energy practices, such as mudras, bandhas, kumbhaka, tantric
sexual methods, etc.
Those engaged in breath meditation
may find a more comfortable path of additional practices
leading through samyama, self-inquiry and karma yoga (service),
which focus less directly on the cultivation of ecstatic conductivity
(internal energy flow), and may be more manageable
for practitioners who have inner energy sensitivity already present. These
practices naturally expand the expression (movement) of inner silence in our
life, and will bring the necessary ecstatic conductivity and radiance along
with less risk of energy overloads. Samyama, self-inquiry
and karma yoga are also excellent vehicles for surging bhakti, which
over-sensitive meditators usually have an abundance of.
additional practices are undertaken, prudent self-pacing is always the
watch-word. Step-by-step. One thing at a time. And be sure to stabilize each
practice, or level of practice, before moving on.
Self-Sufficiency for the Long Term
It is hoped that the additional
tools discussed above will enable over-sensitive meditators to find a stable
routine of meditation for cultivating abiding inner silence. The knowledge
being shared here is the product of the trials and errors of many
practitioners, and we are very grateful to them. Through their experiences,
many have a chance to find a stable meditation
practice much sooner. It is expected that more will be learned about meditation
sensitivity as we move forward, and additional knowledge will be shared as
its potential value to the broad community of practitioners becomes clear.
As discussed in Lesson 365, it seems clear that
world consciousness is rising, evidenced by the fact that spiritual
practices in general are becoming more effective.
Twenty minutes of meditation today produces more results than twenty minutes
of meditation did 10 years ago. If this is the case, then we can
expect the standard distribution (bell curve) of meditation
sensitivities to gradually become more skewed toward the over-sensitive
side. This means that potentially this lesson will find increasing use by
more practitioners as time goes on.
We intend to keep a focus on
sensitivity issues going forward. It is a moving target, and so too must the
tools we are offering be continually adapting to accommodate the changes
occurring in world consciousness. The discipline of self-pacing
gives us a big "leg up" on this, because we are in a position to test any
practice while minimizing the risks of overdoing.
As has been the
case since the beginning of AYP, the goal here is to provide everyone open
access to the tools necessary to become self-sufficient in spiritual
practice, and hastening everyone's progress toward
enlightenment with comfort and safety.
Those who are highly
sensitive to meditation have the gift of a nervous system with a high
conductivity and radiance of spiritual energy. While the sensitivity that
comes with this presents some unique challenges, once the practice routine
has been stabilized, wonderful experiences of ecstatic bliss and a great
contribution to the rise of world consciousness will be flowing out rapidly.
The guru is in you.
for additional methods in AYP Plus to aid those with sensitivity to
meditation, including modifying the mantra,
the breath meditation technique, the
passive awareness meditation technique,
Related Lessons Topic Path
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
Note: For detailed instructions on deep meditation
procedure, see the
Deep Meditation book.
For detailed instructions on building a balanced practice routine with
self-pacing, see the Eight
Limbs of Yoga book. Also, for the complete expanded lessons and
all the AYP books and audiobooks available online see