Feeling Ourselves as Shakti by Nataraj Chaitanya

Feeling Ourselves as Shakti

by Nataraj Chaitanya, October 2022

Attuning ourselves to the felt experience of a yoga posture, the breath, or the energy that underlies thought, emotion, and sensation, helps us in allowing awareness to expand into more and more subtle realms.

It lessens the grip of the thinking mind and puts us back into continuity with the flow of life. Working with ourselves as energy and trying to expand that, is at the heart of the Spanda school of tantric yoga.

Yoga is a practice of awareness. Ultimately, through the process of self-effort and grace, our sadhana (practice) culminates in the ability to rest in awareness as awareness, but along the way we can learn to attune our body and mind to the experience of shakti, energy.

Swamiji (Swami Shankarananda) says, “The spanda yogi tries to enhance his experience of Shakti. He studies in himself which thoughts and actions deplete his energy, and which ones uplift it. His ultimate goal is the experience of divine bliss.” (Consciousness is Everything: The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism).

If Shiva, the experience of divine consciousness and pure Being, is the most subtle thing, Shakti- the experience of aliveness and energy, is the bridge to Shiva.

The scripture Pratyabhijnahridayam affirms: “He is a bound soul who has poverty of Shakti. With the unfoldment of his Shakti, however, he becomes Shiva Himself.”

Shiva is our very own Self, and Shakti is the power of the Self.

This Shakti, sometimes called Kundalini or Prana, vibrates the chakras. This intelligent and uplifting energy of consciousness works on us from the inside out to purify the psyche, chakras, and samskaras, including our habitualized ways of thinking, feeling, and relating. All the ways that we close ourselves off from life are rooted out by the Shakti.

When this process reaches a certain state, one comes into profound contact with the Divine and the Self. The tantric yogi sees everything as consciousness expressed everywhere. Realizing the Self and allowing it to be experienced through the purified psyche bridges the immanent and transcendental realities. We come to know and experience that where there is Awareness (Shiva), there is Aliveness (Shakti). Where there is aliveness, there is Ananda (bliss).

Swamiji brilliantly sums it up, “The essence of the Shaivite world view is easily understood. First, we look at universal Consciousness, Shiva. Shiva’s creative and active aspect is Shakti. Shakti can manifest as spanda, the blissfully aware cosmic vibration of the divine. Spanda is described as a throb, a quiver, a pulse or a tremor. The dynamism of spanda manifests at the highest level as the bliss of the divine.” (Consciousness is Everything).

 “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the heartbeat of the Universe.” Joseph Campbell

Remembering that I am divine energy, a blissfully aware cosmic vibration, has been pivotal in my own sadhana and has transformed the way I relate to life. To feel myself as eternal, pulsating consciousness and energy has, time and again, untangled me from feeling stuck, helpless, or like a victim of life’s unpredictable ups and downs.

This process of unification using energy is my main agenda as a yoga teacher. I want my yoga students to feel themselves as an energetic process.

A key component to the process, is how we first engage with ourselves. How we approach the practice can influence the fruit of the practice.  Think of it this way: when you talk to someone on the telephone, are you talking to the phone, or to the person on the other end of the line? We use the phone to talk to the person. By understanding ourselves as consciousness through energy, we can use any experience to connect with the Highest. In the same way you can inquire: Is it just a body in a yogic posture, or is it the Divine Living Presence behind the ordinary appearance of a body?

Am I practicing to somehow fix myself, or am I practicing with the understanding that the presence of the Divine is already here, waiting to be revealed and longing to be known?

Through the self-effort of sadhana and with the help of grace, we can feel ourselves as a wave-expression of oceanic divine energy. Our continued dedication to this practice allows us to be a greater manifestation of divine consciousness in the world. It all begins with feeling and identifying with yourself as Shakti!

The most available form of shakti we have to work with is the breath. The body, mind, senses, and prana may appear separate from one another, but they are one within consciousness. They throb with the pulsation of spanda shakti. Feeling the wave-like rise and fall of the body, senses and mind points toward the unifying field of consciousness. This is spanda expressed as prana shakti. Prana has its source in the heart.

Through the breath, consciousness pervades matter. Everything that is alive breathes and moves from the waves of bliss emanating from the eternal love-play of Shiva and Shakti. All things are created, sustained, and dissolved riding on the waves of this energy. Through prana, matter becomes alive. If the body, breath, and mind become steady through the felt experience of energy, consciousness has the opportunity to expand. When we can feel the prana shakti, consciousness naturally moves back towards Shiva Tattva (the more subtle), and the practitioner can experience all phenomena included in that one all-inclusive point where Shiva and Shakti are united (bindu). This is the goal of yoga. This is the experience of the spiritual heart.


Putting it into practice: Feeling Yourself as Energy

Close your eyes and turn inside. Become present. To locate yourself in presence ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” and “Where am I feeling it?” Whatever captures your attention first, go with that! It may be a thought, emotion, or sensation. Notice where it shows up in the world of your body. Study it with curiosity and compassion. Can you sense a shimmer of subtle movement? A gentle pulsation? Recognize this as the Shakti. If not, simply perform the practice with the intention that the experience of the Shakti might be made apparent to you.

Holding the feeling in your loving awareness, bring the breath into the feeling. Try to expand the experience of the Shakti.

Notice the feeling that arises from merging awareness with energy. Has the practice put you in touch with a greater sense of peace, bliss or clarity?

Inquire: What is it that underlies all thought, emotion, and sensation? Give yourself over fully to That.

Nataraj Chaitanya runs weekly hatha yoga classes that explore these teachings and how they can integrate with a physical practice. Explore these classes here.

1 Comment
  • Tani Jordan
    Posted at 09:35h, 11 November Reply

    Thank you for this profound wisdom expressed so beautifully.

    Namaste 🙏🏼

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