I’ve described how important transcending was for awakening here. But let’s explore a bigger context.
The Yoga Sutra describes 8 “limbs” or approaches to gain Yoga or union and discover our true nature.
The next five are practiced together to create Raja or Royal Yoga, a path that combines aspects of the other yogas or paths. The result of these 5 is the last limb, Samadhi, when we step into Yoga. Because some of these are done sequentially, the limbs are often described as a ladder. But this has led to the impression that you have to perfect truthfulness, etc. before you can proceed to the rest. However, as limbs, they are like legs of a table. You pull one and the others follow.
1) Asana: effortless postures done to help relax the body and loosen it up physically and energetically. Often not as taught in yoga studios. With an exercise approach, there is often strain to perform or excess.
2) Pranayama: breathing exercises. Common is Sukh pranayama or gentle alternate nostril breathing to balance the 2 sides of the physiology. Again, effortless.
Together these 2 are an excellent preparation for meditation.
The Sutra then lists 3 more steps:
3) Pratyahara: retirement of the senses. Effortless pranayama begins this process. Then with the first step of meditation, we close the eyes and turn within. As the inner is more charming, it draws our attention further away from the world. Not long after learning to meditate effortlessly, pratyahara happens automatically when we sit and close the eyes.
4) Dharana: steadiness of the mind. The second step of meditation when the attention stabilizes on the object of meditation like a mantra. The mind steadies and comes to a point of focus effortlessly when transcending.
Dharana is often translated as concentration but any effort is ego control and will keep you in the mind. It also makes it difficult and diminishes results, reducing our desire to practice.
5) Dhyana: meditation, flowing attention. The third step and the result of correct meditation practice. The attention flows within. Then purification brings the attention back out. Then the attention flows within again.
Note that in an effortless practice, these “steps” are NOT the technique. The steps are an analysis of what happens naturally with right practice. The technique itself is traditionally taught directly by a teacher so the experience is guided and the practice is correct. A single, simple technique covers all three steps.
This is why I recommend effortless asana, pranayama and meditation. This is the royal road to Yoga.
As a bonus, yoga mentions another combination called Samyama. Samyama means “evenness of desire” and is composed of 3 parts: Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
Essentially, when your meditation practice is established, you’ve been transcending into samadhi many times. On that basis, you can rest in samadhi (silence) while having thoughts. You can then introduce a seed idea (from Dharana) into the flow of awareness (Dhyana). The Yoga Sutra then describes various formulas or siddhis you can use as seeds to get a certain result.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought out a program in the 1970s to use the siddhis to help open up the various energy channels or nadi’s in the physiology to speed up evolution. They then discovered that the effects on group consciousness of people practicing the siddhis in groups was much greater than the effect of people meditating in the community.
They describe this in some detail in the Yoga Vasishtha, although not in the translation I’d previously read. In the story of Cudala, she becomes enlightened but her husband doesn’t believe her, thinking her description was deluded. Eventually, she learns to fly to prove herself. In the meantime, Vasishtha describes how to create an enlightened society with 5% meditating, then with a much smaller number doing the siddhis in groups.
I’ve since observed an even more potent effect. When groups of people in Unity stage and higher gather, it creates an even more vibrant group coherence. And further, Lorn Hoff has been training the awake how to enliven Divine Shaktis. Because the Shaktis are the power behind laws of nature, they’re even more potent than the siddhis. This is helping accelerate the decent of the Divine.
We live in remarkable times. Ancient understanding and deep power is being progressively revived, accelerating the transition to a higher age.