On Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, I once led a winter nature outing for families. I still vividly recall an eight-year-old boy sitting quietly, intently writing a poem, while a downpour of thick snowflakes fell gently from the sky.
The boy was so focused that he was oblivious to the cold and to the snow piling up around him. The snow rose to cover his legs, then his waist, and, still, the boy remained virtually motionless. Everyone else had long since left for the comfort of a large heated tent. Knowing the group was waiting for us, I asked the boy if he had finished his poem. “Not yet,” he replied. Then he immersed himself once again in his poem.
The absorbed boy sitting in the white sea of snow made a strong impression on me. Swami Kriyananda says, “To worship God ‘in Spirit’ means, in deep meditation, to rise above body consciousness.” The Japanese boy beautifully demonstrated the principle of one-pointed concentration so essential to deep meditation and finding God.
The goal of meditation is to free us from physical and mental limitations and realities. In Conversations with Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda tells how Paramhansa Yogananda could withdraw his mind completely from any pain his body suffered. Once, a thousand-pound concrete wishing well slipped from the grasp of the men lifting it, and crushed his foot. Immediately Yogananda said, “I will show you something, I will focus my concentration on the point between the eyebrows.” As he did so, every trace of pain instantly vanished from his face, and he could walk back and forth easily.
When we withdraw our life force into the spine and brain, we experience another world — a world of Spirit. A friend was standing on a hotel balcony one night in Mexico, enjoying the city lights spread out before him. Suddenly a power failure plunged the city into darkness. As the lights of the city were darkened, the brilliance of the stars came alive. The glow of the city had over-powered the stars’ subtler light. For the devotee, a “spiritual power outage” occurs when he pulls the plug that connects his life force with the senses, and then the inner world comes alive.
Nature’s manifestations are often symbols for deep, inner realities. The sun, for example, is the most immediate “physical” form of AUM, because it enlivens all life.
Similarly, the awakened yogi’s spine finds a physical counterpart in a river, because the human body also has a vast tributary system that feeds life force into the central channel of the spine.
Swami Kriyananda wrote in the Raja Yoga part of the Ananda Course in Self-Realization:
Tremendous joy and awareness are experienced as one’s consciousness becomes centered sensitively in the spine. The spine is, indeed, the holy river of baptism in which the Godward-moving soul becomes cleansed and regenerated in waters of divine joy.
There are instructive parallels between rivers and the flow of energy in one’s spine.
The Mississippi River’s drainage area comprises 41% of the continental United States. After it has gathered the water from tributaries along its 2,350 mile length, its flow rate is tremendous — 600,000 cubic feet per second. At its headwaters, however, the Mississippi River is puny — flowing at 6 cubic feet per second — making the river’s volume 100,000 times greater as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. The disparity in flow rate between the Mississippi River’s headwater and mouth is comparable to the difference between the energy flowing in the spine of an ordinary man and an advanced yogi.
Most people’s spines are spiritually paralyzed, and their life force is locked up in their bodies. Spiritual progress begins when we redirect our energy inward — changing the center of our consciousness from the body and senses to the spine and brain, and thus transmuting it into superconsciousness. Withdrawing the life force is the inner, universal path of all spiritual effort.
The goal of every raindrop is to reach the sea, just as it is the goal of every soul to unite with God. Both, however, must enter their respective “channels” if they wish to make rapid progress. Geologists estimate that it takes 90 days for a drop of water to travel the length of the Mississippi River until it merges into the Gulf of Mexico. By contrast, if that drop remained in the earth as groundwater, it would travel just four inches per day. To journey the length of the Mississippi would take it 100,000 years — over 400,000 times longer than by traveling in the river.
Kriya Yoga draws our energy into the river of the spine, which makes it, as Yogananda says, the “super-quick” method for finding God.
According to yoga science, cosmic energy enters the body through the medulla oblongata, the negative pole of the sixth chakra, located at the base of the skull. Then it descends down the spine and out through the chakras to different regions of the body. The energy flowing from the heart chakra, for example, radiates outward through the nerve channels to the physical heart, lungs, and chest, and into the arms and hands.
The spinal centers, or chakras, are found at the points where tributary streams of energy can either flow outward to sustain the body or flow from the physical body inward to the spine. There is a tremendous amount of energy locked in our bodies waiting to be released. When it is released, the devotee feels an overwhelming sense of joy in his spine.
To drive this point home to us, Swami Kriyananda said, “You don’t realize how much power, bliss, and expansion there is in the chakras as you go deeper into them.”
To give you a greater sense of this subtle reality, practice The River of Joy visualization during your next meditation:
Visualize your spine… as a mighty river flowing inside you.
Feel its magnetic current rising upwards from the base of your spine to your spiritual eye and merging into the vast Ocean of Spirit.
Feel streaming into your chakras rivers of divine joy. Feel all of your chakras and your whole spine nourished by inflowing rivers of bliss.
Pray: O Ocean of Bliss I Return to Thee!
Swami Kriyananda has defined Ananda as a rising flow of energy. The whole path of Kriya Yoga: devotion, selfless service, attunement with one’s guru, meditation, and right living and attitudes, help keep your consciousness interiorized and expansive. God’s nature is joy, and when we, like the prodigal son, begin our journey home, we’ll experience more and more of His bliss in our lives.
Interiorization is not only a state one achieves: It is an attitude that must be cultivated consciously. I invite you, dear friend, to share what practices you’ve found helpful in keeping your consciousness interiorized and inspired throughout the day.
May your feel ever more deeply the blissful presence of God. I want to wish you a blessed New Year.
In divine friendship,