Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine
Pranava Meditation is a joyous approach to the internal skills of yoga and is especially suitable for those of us on the Path of Intimacy - in other words, we have jobs, lovers, families, and passions. By contrast, meditation systems that are offered by monks are colored with renunciation, detachment, and withdrawal from life. Meditation is antar, or inner yoga (antaryoga, antar=interior, yoga=connection).
Pranava is a nickname of OM, and means “shout of triumph,” or “sound of rejoicing” - the sounds you make when you are jubilant, lively, in joy. Meditation is an instinctive ability we all have and we each have our own unique style. We thrive in meditation when the approach we take goes with our svarasa, our own inclinations and instincts.
Meditation is the most natural thing in the world, a relief, a time to be with yourself and everything you love about life. All you have to do is select, from among the thousands of techniques developed in Yoga, Tantra, or Buddhism over the past 2500 years, the style that fits you. To fit you, a meditation practice has to be in tune with your physical, emotional and mental nature - your prakriti. In tune with your body, your heart, your soul, your daily life. When you do this - when you meditate in accord with your nature, meditation can be something you look forward to, as you would a bath and a good meal. It can be something you crave, like time to listen to your favorite music.
There are simple principles you need to know to develop a meditation practice based on your essential nature. These are learnable and teachable. Most of the intricacy of meditation is not the technique per se, but rather the challenge of accepting all your emotions, sensations, and instinctive wisdom. There really are tens of thousands of different styles and techniques. They can probably be divided into groups of a hundred or so, with many variations on each. So don’t be confused - the different styles of meditation are like different styles of cooking. Some people eat raw spiders and worms, because they are a good local source of protein. Meditation is infinitely customizable. There are thousands of techniques. Selecting what works for you, and customizing to fit your body, emotional body, mental nature, and daily life is a challenge. Most meditation traditions around the world, including India, are based on the Path of Renunciation and are aimed at monks and nuns, rather than people who live in the world.
Pranava Meditation feels natural and effortless, because you are giving in to your deepest impulses to rest and be recreated afresh. The hard part is individuality - learning to accommodate your unique individual nature. There is no one to imitate when you meditate. You have to learn to make subtle internal adjustments or modifications to the classical techniques.
Pranava means, “shout of joy,” and is a nickname of OM. Both sounds refer to everything that is, the whole universe, as a humming song of exuberance. Pranava (Pranavah) - The sacred syllable OM, from pra, before, forward + nava, from the root nu, to sound, shout, exult. “The primordial shout of joy.” OM, “sometimes translated by "yes, verily, so be it.” Exult is defined as, “to show or feel a lively or triumphant joy; rejoice exceedingly; be highly elated or jubilant.”Pranava Meditation is a joyous approach to yoga practice in which attention engages with your primordial yes to life, what inspires you. This is your meditation object.
The teachings of Pranava Meditation emerge from the lively discussion of Shakti (Devi) and Shiva (Bhairava) in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a classic yoga meditation text from around 800 A.D. The text is set as a conversation, and begins with Devi asking, “Beloved, tell me, how do I enter more deeply into the reality of the universe?” In reply, Bhairava describes 112 techniques for becoming enlightened through everyday life experience. Each of these techniques is a way of attending to the rhythms, pulsations, and sensuousness of the divine energy that we are made out of and that flows through us always. As we engage with these meditation techniques, we are alerted to the presence of the sacred that is permeating our bodies. All of these methods involve savoring the incredible intensity underlying the most common experiences. They work by activating the senses, by extending the range of the senses further into the inner and the outer world. The basic dynamics of life—breathing, falling asleep, waking up, walking, loving—are all used as gateways to alignment and enlightenment.
Each meditation is a deep dive into aliveness, into the underlying reality of what life is. Balance is there at every step; the unshakable serenity of the depths is used as a foundation so that we can tolerate the electrifying vastness of the universe. We are invited to cross the threshold, to walk by the guardian of the gate, to face our terrors, and make our way into the immense and timeless mystery that is always calling.
Many of these meditation techniques are surprisingly informal: Notice a powerful emotion, sensation, or desire, and enter into that awareness with total abandon, so that you go with it right into the root movement of the universe. When making love, put your awareness into the flame of passion pulsating through the body and become that flame. Falling asleep, pay attention to the transition from waking consciousness to unconsciousness, and catch a glimpse of what consciousness itself is. Or go outside on a moonless night and simply merge with the darkness and vastness of space.
The text also describes what we think of as traditional yoga meditations—ways of savoring breath, sound, and internal luminosity. The intimacy with the self implied in these teachings means that tantra is not a set of techniques imposed from outside. Rather, the method emerges naturally from one’s relationship with the self and with life. Lose yourself in intense experience, and find your Self. In this text, the word yoga is used in its etymological sense, “the act of joining, linking together.” Yoga is connecting—connecting all the elements and levels of your being.
The tone of the text is playful and exploratory—jump in and feel everything. Lila is Sanskrit for “play,” “amusement,” and the sense that the universe has been manifested as an act of play by the divine. Through play, find your way. In play, find freedom, revelation, illumination.
Meditation as Embrace
Taken as a whole, the teaching of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is startling in its breadth, in the huge range of human experience that it encompasses. It shatters the picture we have of what meditation is or how meditation is often presented—as a way of dissociating from the human experience and trying to rise above it. There is not a hint of the usual life denial that permeates and distorts spirituality East and West.
This tantra is about going deeply into experience, embracing it fully, without reservation. Nature is embraced, as is all of human nature. Lust and passion become fires that illumine, and gusto is taken to its most refined degree possible. Meditation is presented as the nexus or meeting ground of light and matter, spirit and flesh, and the meeting is to be consummated with great joy. Tantric meditation is an integration of the opposites, not obliteration or mere transcendence of them. It is an alchemical union in which each polarity exists in its fullness and in a relationship of complementarity with the other.
You’ll find here in one place many of the essential techniques utilized in meditation traditions the world over. If some of the experiences that the sutras describe seem familiar to you as you read this book, it may be because you have invented your own private meditation techniques, ones you probably never tell anyone about. Or you may have had inexplicable realizations in the midst of some life experience.
People who come for instruction in meditation usually have one or more of these awareness practices vibrating in their body already, spontaneously. This is what propels them to search. Sutras such as these are here to remind us of what we already know. They are here to invite us to go more deeply into the experience of being human.
It is likely that the same meditation techniques are invented or discovered independently around the world in different cultures, whenever people start paying attention to the subtle energies of the body. If this is true, then the Radiance Sutras is a syllabus of the types of techniques that could be discovered anywhere. In my experience, they are discovered and rediscovered continually, by all lovers of life.
Meditation Secrets for Women
Meditation Secrets for Women is essential reading if you are a woman and you want to thrive in meditation. It is also handy for guys wanting to understand women and what they need.
Meditation Made Easy is a great review of the essential elements of a meditation practice.
On this site
- offerings of books, seminars, and individual coaching to help you thrive with meditation in your daily life. If you are a yoga, meditation, or tantra teacher, I offer coaching in developing your own approach to practicing and teaching yoga meditation techniques. Meditation 24-7.com is one of my other sites and has some interesting notes on the senses and magnetism.
If you feel like meditating right now, you could head over here and listen to 14 different guided meditations. Each one is 3 to 7 minutes, and you are welcome to listen as much as you like. If you want to download, you can select any size, from small mp3’s to large AIFF files.
Or glance through The Radiance Sutras and notice what resonates with you. Keep it simple and be playful in your approach. Give yourself freedom to explore what delights you.
Invite Lorin to come speak to your conference or lead a workshop. One of my favorite things is training yoga teachers how to teach meditation.
The Instinctual Roots of Meditation If you have a body and mind, you can meditate. Learning to meditate is a matter of finding out how to activate your innate abilities, and this is always an adventure. If you want to include meditation in your life, find your personal gateways. These are different for each of us, and also change over time as we evolve.
Buddha said that he gave 84,000 dharmas, for all the different kinds of people there are. The good news is there is something for everybody. The downside is that out of the thousands of meditation techniques, most of them will be wrong for your body type and life direction in the here and now. When you practice a technique that is not right for your type, it feels like an imposition and is slightly harmful, and wastes your time.
When you discover your personal gateways, it feels like love. You are falling into the center of your own heart. A relief, and exciting, and restful. The goal of a teacher such as myself is to assist you in spending more time in love with life and less time struggling with techniques that are not right for you in the first place. Instinctive Meditation is a way of accessing the wealth of knowledge of the ancient yoga meditation traditions, and discovering the practices that work for you – your body, your heart and mind, your life.