This blog post is my paper from my 300 hour training on Yoga Philosophy. This writing may be dense at times but I have come to feel fully empowered on sharing with you my views of “WHY?” Yes, the word “why” is broad and my ways of thinking are always a work, or journey, in progress. Enjoy!
I now have a better understanding of where I stand with philosophy after attending Linda Oshins’ online book club for “Heart of the Yogi” by Doug Keller. This paper will touch on ideas from his book as well as a practice known as ThethaHealing and a book called “The Seven Planes of Existence” by the creator of the ThethaHealing technique, Vianna Stibal. Her structure of meditation and realms of existence have helped me compartmentalize much of yoga thoughts and ideas presented in Keller’s book so that philosophy makes sense in my brain.
I will start off with my favorite quote in Keller’s book on page 248 which covers tantra. It states, “Moreover, tantra seeks to give a genuine appreciation of our true, even radical freedom in relationship to a very real world, and affirms our spiritual responsibility for the world, calling us to participate in the world (rather than only seek liberation from it) because the world is us – and we are free to make it better or worse by the very way in which we see – and thus co-create it.” This quote explains to a tee, where I am with my practice and life at this point. Some philosophies seek to do away with worldly things and encourage the yogi to break free from the ego in order to find enlightenment. To me, those types of philosophies seem to have too many rules and never landed right, as I have a very positive relationship to the world in which I live. Not in an attachment way, but in a I-see-the-beauty-in-the-world sort of way. I am here and a part of this world and tantra encourages the relationship of the material and spiritual sides of me to co-exist. By doing so I can better my spirit and leave the world in a better position than I found it (hopefully).
That being said, my mind still chooses to wander far beyond this world and my existence in this lifetime. I have found that certain philosophies within nature, science, and mathematics have a certain place in my spiritual journey. “The Seven Planes of Existence” book and the technique of ThethaHealing have been huge game changers for me. To break it down, ThethaHealing is a form of powerful brain frequency mediation that connects you to what some might call the bliss body, or the One, or God (everyone interprets it a little different). In this guided meditation, before you reach the realm of the Creator (this is where pure energy lives), you travel through the lower planes of existence. I understand this imagery, or even this practice, might not be for everyone but I am a very visual meditator (I tend to see colors and love chakra healing) and these planes have been my own little philosophy of how to interpret the “union of everything” which is what yoga is to me. In the book, Vianna Stibal describes the first plane as the place where all basic elements reside. These include minerals from crystals and rock and earth in its raw form, also atoms from the periodic table. The second plane includes vitamins, plants, and trees. The third plane is where humans and animals live. The fourth is the realm of spirits and our ancestors. The fifth is the plane of the divine or semi-divine such as Jesus, Buddha, etc. The sixth is the plane of Laws, such as the Law of Attraction, Law of Gravity, Theory of Relativity, and so on. The seventh is energy in its purest form, what might be recognized as God.
I think these planes make so much sense to me because I was raised by very open-minded parents who chose not to push any one belief system on me and my brother. They instead taught us to be free thinkers and make educated decisions based on both facts and intuition. The Planes of Existence have helped me to understand different philosophies that attempt to define consciousness. I now understand that consciousness has no real definition and exists in many forms. The Planes of Existence tie everything together for me from science and nature, math and sacred geometry, religion, energy, time, nature, and even what animals can teach us. This meditation technique has helped me better understand Dualism vs. Nondualism and the fact that they actually exist at the same time.
The Planes of Existence have helped to soothe my spiritual self. But back to the material world in my current incarnation… I feel like I need to keep talking a bit more about Tantra. Keller is quoted as saying (page 249-50) that “with the advent of tantric thought, ‘Nature’ is no longer treated as a problem to be solved, overcome or explained away. Prakriti became known as Shakti – another more personified name for the divine principle of creative energy. ….Shakti is to be fully celebrated as the divine creative principle of manifestation, the playful feminine principle of prosperity, wisdom, and plenitude that is to be welcomed into and honored in the spiritual life. She is not the obstacle to the spiritual life, but it’s very fulfillment.” Considering that Tantra is newer on the timeline of yoga philosophy is goes without saying that it seems to be a much less conservative and empowering way of thinking. Shakti seems to be the force that gives life, or reality, meaning. For me, life would be meaningless on this Earth without creativity, expression and individuality. I feel like I am pretty in tune with this level of femininity. Tantric thinking is said to be the very Force of Nature. There have been many times throughout my yoga journey where I have tried to resist this force or try to control it. It is only when I surrender and let go that Her true gifts can be given. I have learned through this tantric energy that magic is real. I am able to manifest my dreams and desires but only if I allow myself to release some of the control and just trust. Through learning this, I have become a beam of light in this world with very unique gifts that I pride myself in by serving others.
Tantra has served me well because I am able to identify forces in my own existence that are constantly at play. But I cannot do a philosophy paper without diving into the concepts of Dualism vs. Nondualism. It is my personal interpretation that these realms of thought are co-existing. But just thinking about that makes my brain start to spiral out of control. So, I think I will discuss one at a time. The Seven Planes have helped me to understand Nondualism probably better than any other piece of text, just because I am more of visual learner. Nondualism philosophy allows everything to exist together. I like to think of it as everything existing at once with the absence of space and time. If I start to think that animals and spirits have a different type of consciousness than a human but can also exist at the same time I can better understand going beyond my ego-mind and ‘transcend’ beyond what I know to be true in this existence. I believe in Nondualism because throughout my life experiences I feel that I have felt different levels of consciousness without losing my material sense of self. For example, as a child my mental, emotional, and spiritual knowledge was viewed through a different lens than my 25-year-old self that was going through a spiritual awakening and attempting to become a responsible adult. But at the same time, I have always known myself to be Alexa. My spiritual and material selves have always existed together, not apart. This is nondualism.
Now for Dualism. The more and more I practice yoga the more I steer in the direction of nondualism as my dominant belief system. However, I stated earlier that I believe both systems (dual and nondual) might be existing together. I define Dualism, based on Doug Keller’s words and lengthy google searches, to be understood as classic Good vs. Evil. That is, Good exists in one universe, and Evil in a separate. For the most part, I have passed this concept off as story-telling and plots to movies. However, if it hadn’t been for one particular event in my life just at the beginning of this year (2019) I would have already brushed the idea of Dualism completely off.
Here’s the story: I was taught, when I was attuned to Reiki, that I would only be working with white light. This meaning, that I would only be sending positive energy from the divine through me as an offering to heal as a service to others. I remember the person that attuned me say that I could not absorb dark energy from others because I was protected and that the practice of Reiki only uses light energy. I was good to go and honestly never thought about ‘dark energy’ again (because why did I need to if I was only doing reiki). Fast forward to the beginning of this year (2019). There were 3 months in a row of Supermoons and I could feel some pretty intense energy shifting (yoga really does make you really sensitive to these types of things!). During one of the supermoons I remember being stressed from work, school, and lack of sleep on top of all the weird energy of the season. There was one day when I felt this super intense force almost following me around throughout my day trying to pierce my aura. The same aura that I felt I had been walking around with since being attuned to Reiki. This energy was so strange and unfamiliar. It lingered for a few days and after the supermoon leveled out the best thing that I could compare the energy to was the ‘dark energy’ that my Reiki Master said I was shielded from.
I can’t explain enough in writing how distance and unknown this energy was to me. And even after thinking more on it, I could almost compare it to the idea of black magic in stories about witches and wizards that I read as a child. It seems like it belonged somewhere else and had somehow found its way into my universe. This is why I am not totally ready to discredit the idea of Dualism. I think a part of me is open minded to it like I am to all things. But at the same time, I believe you manifest what you are looking for. And I definitely do not want to manifest a universe of ‘dark energy’ for myself!
Lastly, I think one philosophical belief system that I relate to is presented by Doug Keller in the Postclassical Period where Hatha Yoga is introduced. I know these days physical asana is getting a bad rap because it is gaining popularity in the fitness industry. However, I am here to defend asana has a manifestation of philosophy in its own rite. Hatha Yoga seemed to be a pretty progressive ideology as it focused on the physical body. The belief is that through Hatha practices, the body can transform (through pitta, or fire) the human into a divine being. I might say, when I started doing rigorous Vinyasa (my preferred asana) and working with pitta that my entire being, body included, felt like it was vibrating at a higher frequency. It reminds me of the “Pheonix through the ashes” analogy. According to Doug Keller, Hatha yoga makes a case for Dualism. He states that Hatha yoga places the body as “other” or separate from, and “without that transformation, the body is indeed a drag, pulling us down into its own mortality.” I understand this as once the mind/body/spirit connection made then we have achieved Nondualism.
Throughout my yoga practice, philosophy and the “why?” factor have always been my driving force. I started doing yoga because I was looking for answers. I’m not completely positive that I found all the answers. But I did find a huge variety of tools and ideas that come and go that I can use based on the experiences I go through in life. They have helped in how I grow, connect, manifest, think, feel, communicate, create, love, and find my true North.