For years I thought meditation was about struggling to quiet my thoughts.
Suddenly one day, I understood that meditation isn’t about focusing on not thinking, it’s focusing on something that’s not thought. It’s about getting our awareness out of our head and placing our awareness on our bodymind, on our consciousness.
Before this epiphany I thought meditation was about technique: I sat up ramrod straight, legs twisted in the appropriate pretzel-like pose, motionless, breathing “properly,” holding fervently onto an intention.
Then one day my body just spoke, and on an impulse, I decided to listen to my own inner promptings rather than to what the world outside of me had told me to do.
I laid my body down.
Opening Up To Energy
During the months that followed that decision (and the years since) I have had some amazing inner experiences in meditation. I interacted with the energy within and around me and very cool things have happened.
And I’m not special: these things are available for us all because it’s who we are: we are biologically, neurologically, energetically and chemically designed to have amazing inner experiences. Although I now understand a good deal of the science that explains what’s happening in meditation, I had no idea what was happening to me at first.
But it felt really good, and it was incredibly interesting, so I just kept at it.
I experienced feelings I can only describe as bliss or ecstasy flowing through my body and brain, I had sudden and complex epiphanies about my life which became my best guidance. I healed old emotional wounds within me by somehow spontaneously becoming aware of and reconciling them with no effort at all.
With eyes closed I could see amazing colors, living kaleidoscopes, and images that played out like movies in the “third eye” within my brain. I saw unfamiliar symbols pass through the space behind my brow and became aware of the connection of every person, every place, everything and every time as One. I even heard wisps of celestial music that were from some dimension beyond my room.
I know it sounds a little trippy, but I assure you these were drugless experiences, with the only chemicals involved being those naturally occurring in my body and brain.
As a healer I now know so many of us have these kinds of experiences, we just feel we can’t talk about them publicly because our culture isn’t very supportive, trusting or understanding of them. We are afraid we aren’t supernatural, be instead mentally ill or that we will be seen by others as mentally ill.
And by supernatural I don’t mean paranormal, I mean supernatural: outside of the “normal” range of perception and eminently real.
I think our supernatural and meditation experiences are inspiring and liberating and healing, and I have a strong desire to normalize sharing our inner experiences, because to reject them or to suppress them is to reject and suppress our wholeness.
A collective of Oneness & Wholeness
As a collective we are having all sorts of fascinating inner experiences and we deny or question the reality of them because we feel alone and we haven’t been taught that this is a normal biological, endocrinological, perceptual and spiritual reality of who we are.
Back when I changed my meditation practice from sitting to lying down, I didn’t have any language around what was happening to me energetically. I thought I’d stumbled upon something magical and that the whole world should know about. Then one day I exclaimed to a neighbor (who is well versed in the Eastern wisdom traditions) this fantastic discovery I made.
He just laughed and said, “Diana, that’s Yoga Nidra. People have been doing that for thousands of years.”
I was both amused with myself and affirmed! This exceptional experience was REAL! And I knew with all my heart I wasn’t special: anyone could do this…feel this goodness within the sanctuary of their own body.
Meditation means “to become familiar with,” and in Yoga Nidra we become familiar with our unknown Self and we learn that:
- The body is an instrument of consciousness that is biologically and energetically designed to connect to the life-giving and loving intelligent energy that manifests everything—the meta-reality beyond what we experience through our 5 senses in the here-and-how
- We are designed to connect to the energy of the all-in-all and to fearlessly participate in the creation of our life
- The inner space within the body, no matter what it has experienced in the past, is actually the safest place in the Universe to Be
- To linger as awareness in this sweet safe place is to flow more energy into our life
Lingering in the sweet space within you
Yoga Nidra is the art and science of lingering in the state of consciousness where the mind maintains a state of awareness and the body is relaxed, even asleep. It is a practice informed by the Mandukya Upanishad, a Sanskrit (Eastern Indian language) text of Hindu philosophy. Anyone can enjoy and adopt this practice, as ultimately it is a natural state of being that is beyond any religious affiliation.
In Sanskrit the term Yoga Nidra means “awake asleep.”
Many people find this ancient form of meditation practice naturally easier than sitting, standing or walking meditations. It is typically performed while lying down, supine, but it can be practiced reclining or sitting in a chair if lying down is difficult or uncomfortable.
In Yoga Nidra we learn to observe our body as space, as a sort of container through which all experience flows. Practicing this meditation—and energy healing modalities like Reiki—we may experience knowing ourselves more deeply as the awareness that is having this bodily experience, not as the stories of the past Earthly reality we so heavily identify with.
Suspending our awareness in the state of consciousness that is Yoga Nidra we are able to experience our inner being as the space through which thoughts, feelings, perceptions and beliefs flow and move. The practice cultivates relaxation, restoration and healing.
It is a state of consciousness in which the “doorway” between the subconscious and conscious mind opens and we may experience epiphanies or spontaneous spiritual, mental, emotional or physical healing. And it is the threshold beyond which we may experience mystical connection to the all-and-all of our Divine source.
Moving from doing to non-doing…from doing to Being
This meditation practice is often called the art of non-doing: of moving beyond the active mind that is conditioned to the habit of doing to get something/somewhere. Yoga Nidra is the experience of relaxing and observing the inner self as we enter a state of restful awareness. During this experience our brainwaves drop from higher frequency (cycles per second) to lower frequency, just as they do when we fall asleep, but in Yoga Nidra, we maintain an aware mind. Here’s a hierarchy of brainwave states:
- Gamma and Beta, 12-100 cycles per second, where the brain is focused in problem-solving mode; busy and active (or overactive in anxiety) with attention placed on the external environment, to
- Alpha, 8-12 cycles per second, a state of relaxed, restful, reflection and passive attention (like when you’re watching birds at your birdfeeder) to
- Theta, 4-8 cycles per second, where the brain and body are drowsy, deeply relaxed and inwardly focused, to
- Delta, .5- 4 cycles per second, where the body is dreaming or deeply sleep
Yoga Nidra is typically a guided meditation, but it is entirely possible to entrain and condition yourself into this meditative state through independent practice. Ultimately, we practice navigating through subtle realms of consciousness: we experience levels of mindful awareness in which we identify less with the known self and become aware of our unknown Self.
We move from a known and familiar consciousness (the story of our limited life) to greater unknown and expansive source Consciousness (the unlimited unknown.)
We experience ourselves less separate, less a “part” and more of the Whole, or as Wholeness itself.
The brain gears down through the brain wave states in Yoga Nidra and can spontaneously return to Gamma, as the inner experience of the meditator becomes as real or more real than any experience the body has had in 3-dimensional reality. When this happens, the meditator is having a supernatural experience in Consciousness.
For many people, this creates a certain knowing in which we understand we are more than, greater than our physical body. We have had a direct, first-hand experience of the supernatural.
The supernatural experience is real and we integrate that energy and information from our new awareness back into our body, living our life in the here-and-now more free, more clear, more in love with ourself and others, and in a very real way more enlightened.
We bring more light, more love into our Earthy experience.
Body of light
Both Yoga Nidra and energy medicine (including the Japanese healing art of Reiki, in which a practitioner flows universal life-force energy to the recipient) are informed by the knowledge that our physical body is nested in an invisible but perceivable torus/apple-shaped energy field of light and intelligent information. This field is a matrix of emotional, mental and spiritual energy, a constellation of consciousness. Energy medicine calls this the biofield or the Human Energy Field (HEF.) The Vedic texts call these subtle fields that surround the body “koshas:” bliss, wisdom, mental, energy (emotional) and physical elements.
The physical body has 7 primary energy centers. The Vedic texts refer to these as “Chakras,” or “spinning wheels of light.” These energy centers are each associated with an epicenter within the physical body where nerve plexuses emerge from the spinal cord. These centers inform and are informed by the brain. They are also associated with the endocrine (hormonal regulation) system. You can find more information on my energy centers/Chakras chart here:
An energy medicine view of the body: our nervous system is converting the energy and information of our life into chemistry and communicating this information through our circulatory system to our physical flesh.
This transmutation of energy causes a state-of-being that we perceive of as an emotional state: we feel at peace or in stress, or somewhere in between. We may be consciously (knowingly) aware of our state or unconscious (not knowing) of it. For example, we can be unconsciously fearful or shameful or guilty and those states may drive our behavior.
For many people right now, the set point state-of-being is stress, anxiety or depression. Yoga Nidra has been shown to reduce these sensations. In Yoga Nidra the parasympathetic (rest/digest/restore) nervous system is engaged. When this system is engaged the body self-regulates and self-organizes to order, harmony and coherence, and we feel sensations of well-being.
And in Yoga Nidra some people have mystical experiences that can be healing, transformative or personally informative and deeply meaningful.
In this state the neurochemicals in the brain and the hormones in the tiny pineal gland within the brain generate conditions in which the brain acts like a radio antenna, receiving and decoding energy and information from the universe at large and creating a mystical experience that is very real to the person experiencing it.
Why take the journey?
I love Yoga Nidra as a tool to support my/our transformation to a better-feeling state-of-being. This practice has taught me there’s nothing to “fix” within me, that nothing is “wrong” with me. It shows me that meditation leads us to embody the freeing sensations we feel through the practice during our waking hours, which translates to:
- Observing our thoughts rather than attaching to or believing in them as absolute truth
- Challenging our beliefs and assessing whether they limit or expand us
- Becoming aware of biases, programs, distorted thinking, fears, shame and guilt of the past and deciding if these have a place in our future
- Becoming objective about our subjective experience and taking things less personally
- Being less affected by the low energies of other people
- Being less influenced by the environments and of the conditions in our life that aren’t actually life-giving to us
- Knowing how to self-regulate to obtain relief from aspects of our reality that cause us stress
- With agility detach from the energy that is not preferential to us
- Fall more deeply in love with ourselves, our life and with others, embodying objective non-judgement
Would you like to learn more? I have some upcoming 2-hour group healing Yoga Nidra sessions you might want to attend. Please sign up by texting, calling or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, as space is limited to 4 people. Also, some upcoming day-long retreats are scheduled. You can view upcoming opportunities here.
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