Look Both Ways
Practicing the Seal
Begin by imagining your body's subtle energy channels, or nadis, which traditionally number in the tens or hundreds of thousands. They're often compared to nerves or veins, but I think a more apt analogy is to think of them as ocean currents, flowing from a spot behind the bridge of the nose. This spot has enormous significance in yoga, and is known variously as the Wisdom Eye (jnana chaksus), the Command Wheel (ajna chakra), or as we'll call it, Shiva's Station (Shiva sthana).
For the first stage of the meditation, close your eyes, "go inside," and for a few minutes slowly circulate your consciousness like a subtle fluid through these imaginary channels, until you sense it percolating in every cell of your body. Then, just as slowly, imagine drawing this fluid out of the channels and gathering it to a point in Shiva's Station. Imagine that no fluid consciousness can leak out of this point.
The old texts don't describe any preliminaries to stage 2, but I think it's best to take a few baby steps before attempting full Shambhavi Mudra. Begin in a darkened room facing a blank wall. With your awareness fixed firmly in Shiva's Station, the source of your fluid consciousness, open your eyes about halfway, steady them, try not to blink (half-closed eyes will help to still your blink reflex), and, to paraphrase the traditional instruction, "Look outside, but don't see." Of course, in a dark room staring at a blank wall, there's not much to see anyway. What you're doing here is twofold: You're getting accustomed to meditating with open eyes, and you're providing a situation in which your attention won't be tempted to rush out into the world.
Once you're comfortable with this practice, illuminate the room and continue to stare at the blank wall. Next, turn away from the wall and focus on a familiar but relatively featureless object, like a yoga block, positioned on the floor in front of you. Finally, as you become more comfortable with the practice, look "out" into your practice space.
What happens next, to paraphrase Patanjali, is that the physical and psychological grip of your limited individual body-mind relaxes. Your consciousness expands beyond its normally perceived boundaries to encounter what Patanjali calls the "endless," the consciousness that pervades all space. At this stage of the meditation, I often experience a -feeling of great openness and peace, as if "I" am still there, but there's more to that "I" than I am usually aware of.
Contributing editor Richard Rosen is the director of the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, California.!--page-->