spiritual practice as energy medicine
Without a doubt, when viewed with a dispassionate and clear eye, serious advance on the spiritual path inexorably drags one into a prolonged dance with forces much greater than simple everyday human existence. Mind-blowing to say the least, this would be completely intolerable to head and heart if not for a saving grace: we are all—each and every one of us—made of the same fundamental building blocks—brick and mortar—as all else whether it be nature itself or peaceful and wrathful deities or some advanced alien race or whatever else mind and dream can conjure up. In short, although all that a person values may be transient and subject to negotiation, the bedrock of sādhana (sincere, focused and consistent spiritual practice) stands firm enough for true spiritual transformation to occur.
You really can come into touch with your soul now, here in this life. Why wait for death? The only thing that will certainly help you then (and now, in truth) is resting firmly in your fundamental spiritual nature. Everything else adds glitter and window dressing to your life but ultimately betrays you and leaves you. The truth of it is simply this: spiritual practice is the most sensible and practical endeavor a human can hope to make into a good habit. The journey through life is long: both tedious and glorious. Clearly, for most folks, sādhana can not hold center ground amidst daily concerns and personal interests. But the smart money lies with making sādhana a habit, an exceptionally good and helpful life-long friend. By doing so, over time you will transform for the better despite any and all voices that may speak to the contrary. And when it’s time to check out from Mother Earth’s masterful mix of Gothic horror and fairy-tale charm, you will truly have something genuine to take with you and use as the essential fare needed to pay for travel to a next, better destination.
So, now to the unvarnished truth: how to leverage sādhana and accomplish the spiritual journey to Light. It’s not easy but there are so very many different paths and teachers that if you have a keen interest, you will soon find teachings and fellow seekers that suit your needs and circumstances. Here, we are going to detail an integrated yogic practice called Neidan (inner elixir) yoga. It consists of a blend of many yogic traditions but essentially follows the path of spiritual qigong. That is, as will be explained, the overall process starts with cultivating a sense of qi (bio-electricity in and around the body) and goes from there. Each step along the journey gets treated as a form of more and more subtle energy medicine: thus, each stage aims to transform blocked and stagnant energies and cultivate progressively more wholesome and life-giving ones. It’s an amazing perspective and experience once you get the knack of it.
adi shankara’s good advice
Adi Shankaracharya (or Shankara, for short) stands as one of the greatest spiritual reformers in Indian history. During the early part of the eighth century, he developed profound philosophical concepts and fostered a spiritual renaissance that provided the bedrock for modern Hinduism. A prolific writer, he penned many great classics that still find their place in the hearts and minds of both monastic and layperson, alike.
The title of one of these texts, Bhaja Govindam, means to chant, pray or sing the praises of the Lord in whatever form works best for the devotee. For the great Hindu yogi and reformer, this simply meant one should take the name of Lord Krishna (Govinda).
The below illustration captures the essence of a famous tale about this sage: walking with some of his disciples, Adi Shankara came upon a scholar studying his many Sanskrit texts; the master explained to his students the folly of investing all one’s spare time in pursuits that lead nowhere in the end. To paraphrase the gist of the story: at the time of death, only the name of the Lord (the Divine) will help you—all else tarnishes, then vanishes and leaves you without support or guidance. Even worse, the usual fare at life’s end inexorably drags the average person further into spiritual darkness.
Bottom line? Keep your job, family, career and fun and whatever else makes up your life BUT you absolutely must foster and develop a steady spiritual practice over the course of your life. Start praying now. Learn to meditate and associate with sincere spiritual seekers. Over time, such steady and genuine investments will accrue great interest; enough so, that your coffer in the cosmic bank will shine brightly and afford you passage to better and more gracious places and planes of existence on the spiritual journey to Light. It’s worth the extra effort!
Adi Shankara’s sage advice: There’s more to life than daily chores and interests; for one solely engrossed in the superficial dance of pleasure and success, there is no hope. Best, you start now to cultivate good company with true spiritual seekers and teachers. For, Spirit will show Itself on your doorstep one day soon. Whether a decade or a century to go, time flows on and on swiftly to journey’s end. So, it’s your great, good fortune to praise Govindam (Spirit) now and not wait for that fateful encounter, one day hence. Credit: Adi Shankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam, Swami Chinmayananda, Chinmaya Publications