It’s not all about enlightenment
Perhaps this is quite a controversial statement for a yoga teacher to make. For most of us who practice yoga and meditation, enlightenment is seen as the ultimate goal. It’s the end result, the ultimate reward for all the many hours spent on the mat, in contemplation or asana. In kundalini yoga, various kriyas are performed which raise our awareness of the chakras or energy centres which run through the centre of the body. Practitioners talk of ‘raising the kundalini’, lifting the subtle energy laying dormant at Mooladhara through successive chakras until it reaches Sahasrara at the crown of the head. This is the upward movement and refinement of energy from its densest and most manifest form, to a more subtle and free energy which can be experienced, with practice, in asana and meditation.
Anodea Judith, in Wheels of Life: User’s Guide to the Chakra System (Llewellyn’s New Age), describes this upward movement of energy as the ‘current of liberation‘. This liberation of energy eventually leads us to enlightenment- though this is traditionally held to be the work of many lifetimes.
The opposing downward movement, which Judith calls the ‘current of manifestation‘, could be seen as our ability to act from our highest impulses, to bring our most inspirational ideas to life. It is closely associated with the way we live our lives in the here and now. Another way of looking at it might be to ask how much you embody your principles, your values, all that you feel makes you you.
We have all had times when our actions or words fail to reflect who we believe we really are. And then we wonder why our lives are not working out the way we were sure they would in our most inspired moments. We know something is bad for us, or we intuitively know that there’s someone we should see or somewhere we should go – but then we fail to act on that knowledge. We have the best of intentions, but then we don’t see them through. Life gets in the way.
Or we believe we are patient and kind but act differently for much of the time. We want to practise right speech but our words come out all wrong. There is a disconnect somewhere in our downward channel of energy so we are unable to act in line with our highest selves. We act out of the – often strong! – emotions of our lower energy centres instead of listening to the more refined energy of the higher chakras.
So by all means we can aim for enlightenment. But along the way we can place equal emphasis on the practical, down-to-earthness of our daily actions and interactions, embodying our highest values more and more.