LAYOGA July 2010
practice pages: meditation
Finding God in Exhaustion
a meditation on fatigue from the radiance sutras, a new version of the vijnana bhairava tantra
by dr. lorin roche
There is a Yoga of tiredness – thank God. And we are all good at it. Everyone I know is running themselves ragged, which is part One of the Yoga. Part Two, diving into the samadhi of rejuvenation – not so much. We aren’t as skilled at cultivating deep states of relaxation. Is there is a cultural taboo against rest? Who stays in savasana long enough to be fully restored?
We each have our own ways of wearing ourselves out: multiple jobs, commuting, classes, trainings and exercising before and after work. There are so many kinds of fatigue – physical, from long hours of work; emotional, from pressure or worry; and mental, from unfinished projects that keep on nagging us and demanding our attention. We each have a hundred or more sticky notes circling in our minds, adding an unknown burden to our general tiredness. There is the fatigue just from being awake for a long time and of doing one thing – like sitting, or standing – for too long. Then there are other, newly-minted syndromes such as Reality Show Fatigue.
It is an art to experience just the right kind of tired. This sutra focuses on that kind of tired, on the practice of wearing yourself out physically, and then, with the attentiveness of a yogi, entering shaking exhaustion and finding therein a gateway into Shakti, the vibratory nature of the life force. In The Radiance Sutras, a translation of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Shiva says:
Wander and wander to the point of exhaustion,
Whirl until you lose all control,
Dance until you are ready to drop.
Fall to the Earth.
Surrender to the swirl of sensations
Surging through your form.
Dissolve in awe as arising energies
Continue to dance in your inner world.
Beyond motion and commotion,
Become the body of ecstasy.
bhrāntvā bhrāntvā śarīreṇa tvaritam bhuvi pātanāt |
kṣobhaśaktivirāmeṇa parā saṃjāyate daśā ||
Inserting word boundaries (losing Scrabble points but gaining readability) and giving the letters a buzz cut to remove the diacriticals (ś) - we see:
bhrantva – wander about, across country, or whirl around and around; sarirena – support, one’s own body, bodily strength, that which is easily dissolved; tvaritam – very quickly, at once; bhuvi – on the earth, touching the earth; patanat – the act of flying or coming down, alighting, descending, throwing one's self down at or into; kshobha – shaking, trembling, agitation; shakti – power; viramena – cessation; para – transcendental; samjayate – arises; dasa – state or condition of life.
“Wander across country until you can’t take another step. Dance or whirl until you are exhausted. Then at once, throw yourself down on the Earth, surrender to gravity and the trembling tiredness. Open your attention completely to the power of the shaking. As the sensations fade away, you will enter a sublime state of rest, absorbed into the divine power of life renewing itself.” To add a couple of words of Sanskrit, “Meditate on the kshobha Shakti, the trembling energy, and follow it into the divine state of restoration.”
We all know the magic that happens when we lie down and surrender to fatigue – it is bliss. Maybe you have forgotten, but you certainly experienced it when you were a kid. You can begin to remember if you work your muscles really hard and then “immediately throw yourself to the ground.” The buzzing of fatigue is a relief and a joy like nothing else in the world. It is quiet ecstasy and you earned it.
The gateway to this state opens wide when I go a bit past what I think my limits are, and right there at the point where my body melts, give in. There is a subtle science to it, an exactitude of timing, which is where the art comes in – we have to monitor our own bodies and sense the right moment. This is the edge athletes are always riding. If we go too far and become injured, then there is the wrong kind of ache and pain. It’s slightly scary to go there, past the point where you are running on fumes. There are weird sensations, like being an empty shell, with no more to give, totally spent. Then you have no choice but to surrender completely. When you do give in, it is scary to feel the intensity, the utterly desperate need for rest. That is where the ecstasy is, right there in the aching – life’s restorative powers go to work, healing, regenerating, renewing. You are in the arms of the Goddess. Shakti is making you whole again. You may know more about both exhaustion and the bliss of savasana than you think you know. Go ahead and explore.
We all have our ways of getting there: running, long hikes, intense Yoga classes, trance dancing. My favorite way of getting exhausted is swimming through the chilly waters of Malibu, and then pulling in at a beach and sinking into the warm sand with an ahhhhhh. I actually love swimming against the current, through the chop, so that I am immersed in little waves on all sides. Then when I stop and rest, the undulation of my internal waves continues inside my body. I am in the inner ocean. Another way of using the body to achieve a fine state of tiredness is to walk for six or seven hours across the countryside. Don’t forget that you can wander, ramble, and meander, smell the roses as you go; you don’t have to be marching.
When you throw yourself down, you will be in savasana, an undulating, rhythmic state, in which attention fluctuates between deep restfulness and vivid sense memories of action. As your muscles relax and let go, you will feel intense, continually changing sensations while your body replays the motions you were just engaged in. The feeling is of alternating rest and restlessness. Attending within, you’ll be absorbed in your experience. Then attention will suddenly shift to scan the outer world and you’ll feel tempted to jump up and go do some item on your to-do list. Don’t resist this process, welcome the restlessness, it is just another sensation and part of the cycle. If you have time, dive back into the buzz of fatigue and see where it leads you. The speed of the cycle varies, sometimes every few seconds, other times every few minutes. Some day, give yourself a forty-five minute savasana.
Find a safe place and uninterrupted time to surrender to your internal movement and follow it into silence and utter rest. If you can be in a state of open attention as you lie there, feeling the immense currents surging through you, you will enter bliss. At first it may be startling, and then you will remember, “Ah, I know this state. This bliss is mine.”
Dr. Lorin Roche has been practicing and teaching from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra since 1968. He has a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to de¬scribe their inner experiences. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from Lorin’s website: lorin¬roche.com. Email comments and questions to email@example.com.
The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra describes 112 Yogas of wonder and delight for touching the divine in the midst of daily life. Dr. Roche does one-to-one coaching with individuals wishing to evolve their daily meditation practice and trains yoga teachers in how to teach meditation. Call (310) 821-0620 for more information.
Lorin is presenting at Bhakti Fest this September, at Joshua Tree. And feel free to come to Esalen December 15-17, 2010, for a weekend of yoga energy practices – called Wild Serenity - with Dr. Lorin Roche and his wild Dakini wife, Camille Maurine. Visit Esalen.org, or call (310) 570-2803.