Before the inception of our universe, the All That Is existed as eternal, pure, positive, Source Energy - Infinite Light. Our universe as we know it, lay in potential, in a state of profound contraction, like a seed containing the unending cycle of birth, growth, death and decay. With the “Big Bang,” the cosmos is born, its never-ending cycle of expansion and contraction continuing, as it transforms into its next incarnation.
This Infinite Light, what some might call God- a self–contained whole- in order to know itself, had to expand, splintering off in myriad directions, like shards of a great cosmic mirror rent asunder. Evolving over countless millennia, as inseparably connected extensions of that Divine Self, we, and everything else in the universe, eventually contracted again to come into form. All that we can perceive with our five senses, and all that exists beyond the limited awareness of those faculties, every atom, every cloud, every rock, tree, whale, and human being is this God-Source Energy.
With each incarnation, through the process of involution, the Supreme Self lowers its vibration, condensing down to come into innumerable physical forms, our human bodies only one satellite in an infinite constellation.
From the moment of our conception, we begin to expand again, perpetuating the evolution of our species and our soul. The fetus grows exponentially in the mother’s womb, from a single cell to a multi-dimensional, dynamic, living, breathing bundle of Life Force Energy. Our entire birthing process is carried out in the same primordial dance of the universe. The uterus contracts to expel what has reached fruition, and the cervix expands to allow for the passage from inner to outer.
Just as we are connected to and nourished by our mothers through the life sustaining umbilical cord at our navel, we are linked to the Infinite Light through the Antahkarana, at the crown of the head. Though we are separated from our mothers at birth in the cutting of this tie, we are never severed from our Source. That cosmic connection is inextricably present.
As our bodies develop further they are in a constant state of growth and decay, as new cells replace those we cast off, with each inhalation we take, and each exhalation we release. The cycle continues, as we “shuffle off this mortal coil,” and merge back into non-physical, at the moment of our transition, or death, only to cycle back again, in the infinite cosmic rhythm of expansion and contraction.
As a practitioner and Instructor of Hatha Yoga, I am well acquainted with these terms, as they embody the external expression of the asana or poses that make up the physical component to the practice. In pranayama, we train our focus on the breath, riding the waves of the inhalation and exhalation. In dhyana or meditation we concentrate our awareness on a single point of focus, in order to transcend the physical form and the mind, expanding beyond them to ultimately merge into the Infinite Bliss of samadhi.
In the practice we cultivate a balance between these polarities. They play and work together, each containing the other by degrees. Hatha Yoga is yang and yin in motion. Ha, meaning Sun, is the active, outward or expansive principle, and Tha, which means Moon, represents the receptive, inward or contractive component. It is when we lose this equilibrium, through our habits of thought and behavior, throwing off the balance of nature, that disharmony results.
Very often I hear people say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible.” Or a student will say, “You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t do that pose.” My usual response to statements like those is, “If you believe you can’t, then you never will.”
In my work as a Yoga teacher, I am introducing my students to new experiences, new ways of engaging with their body, mind, breath, and soul. They are called upon to expand the boundaries of what they think they are capable, physically, mentally and spiritually, the ultimate goal being Self or God-Realization, simply put, coming to the awareness that we are, in fact, God.
Ironically, what is most critical to progress in the discipline is one’s willingness to unlearn. Yes, I instruct my students in various physical postures, forms of breath control, as well as philosophy, but more importantly, I assist them in recognizing where they are harboring blocks and resistances, and I offer them tools to begin to release them.
These blocks and resistances, what one might call contractions are built up over many years, and very often over many lifetimes. They are patterns of thought and behavior that have been laid over our true nature, this pure positive Source Energy, becoming veils that obscure our essential God Self, which is limitless. The most insidious and powerful cause of contraction is fear. When we operate from a place of fear it adversely affects us on multiple levels.
Psychologists describe fear as an emotional response to a known or definite threat, a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, or imminent danger that is perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.
The most common physiological responses associated with fear include: increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, contraction of the muscles, sharpened or redirected senses, dilation of the pupils (to let in more light), increased sweating, and constricted breathing. All of these effects throw off the normal balance of expansion and contraction in the body.
It is believed that these bodily changes are an inborn reaction, born out in the fight, flight or freeze response, necessary for our survival. These signals alert us to a potential or perceived danger and allow us to choose to stay and face the threat, flee to safety, or even freeze in fear induced paralysis.
Interestingly, we also experience similar physiological shifts during moments of anxiety, often erroneously labeled “fear,” which is more accurately described by authors Kaplan and Sadock, as “a diffuse, unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension…” often a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. These physical changes still occur even when we believe there is merely the possibility of a threat, as the mind conjures a vision of some unspecified danger that might potentially result in an imagined undesirable outcome.
Whether as a result of imminent danger or simply a perceived threat, at these times various parts of the body go into a state of extreme contraction on a cellular level; major muscle groups in the body tense, and the breathing becomes constricted, resulting in shortness of breath. While others expand beyond normal limits.
Now, these physical responses developed early in our evolution as a species, as we were faced with many conditions that threatened our very survival, like being eaten by a large predator, for example. Over the millennia, those circumstances have lessened considerably, unless of course you live in a war zone of one sort or other. Yet, even in the most benign of conditions, we continue to create phantom threats based on what we think might possibly happen to us. We have conditioned ourselves into a constant state of “red alert,” what is now generally termed “stress.” Continually operating at this level negatively impacts us in many ways. We are ravaging our bodies, and wreaking havoc on our minds. The pharmaceutical companies and medical industry are the only ones benefiting!
The Greek, Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus eloquently and succinctly described our condition as follows:
Men are not worried by things,
but by their idea about things.
When we meet with difficulties,
become anxious or troubled,
let us not blame others,
but rather ourselves,
that is: our ideas about things.
We are adversely affected by our over identification with fear, not only physically and mentally, but spiritually, as well. I see my students come up against their fears and anxieties frequently in Yoga class, when faced with the prospect of trying a challenging new pose. Inversions like head and handstands can bring up some pretty heavy stuff.
The same sorts of reactions arise in us multiple times a day when we get caught in the “what if’s” of our lives. We send ourselves into tizzies, imagining a variety of unpleasant outcomes that might befall us should we attempt something new. We are afraid of failing, afraid of embarrassing ourselves, afraid of being judged, or ridiculed. So, very often, we say, “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “I shouldn’t.” Instead of boldly treading into the unknown, we stay firmly rooted, or stuck in our present condition, whether it is of benefit to us or not.
Consider the words can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t for a moment. What do we call these words grammatically? Contractions. When we use any of these words we contract, effectively cutting ourselves off from any possibility of growth, restricting our essential nature, which is one of eternal expansion or evolution.
When we say “I can’t,” we are saying “ I cannot.” In these moments, we place a strangle hold on the cosmic umbilical cord, tieing a metaphoric knot in the Antahkarana, that radiant Light connection to our Infinite Source. The stream of Inspiration and Energy that is continually flowing to us is pinched off. Every time we utter “I wont’” or “I shouldn’t” we block the Divine conduit, like plaque clogging an artery.
So how do we remedy this? We are in need of a Cosmic Roto-Rooter, something to flush the system, to open the gate allowing the free flow of the Divine to flood us, to embolden us into expanding into the greater potential we hold captive in our fear.
We might call fear a negative emotion, for lack of a better term. It isn’t really good or bad, but it does serve a useful purpose. It let’s us know that we have created a state in our minds that is counter to who we truly are. It is a signal that we are presently placing false limitations on our capabilities, based on our beliefs about ourselves, our belief that we are “only human,” that we are “mortal”, and “fallible,” or, perhaps, that we are “sinners.”
Signals are beneficial. They serve to get our attention and help us to recognize that something needs addressing. It is only when we get caught in an habitual mode of fear that it becomes debilitating. When we become stuck in these patterns of thought and behavior, they lead to stagnation, further contraction, and ultimately to decay and death. This is only our fate if we choose it to be. There is another way…
If everything is God, then nothing is imperfect. What is perhaps imperfect or at least distorted is our concept of who we are, a misrepresentation of the mind. When we understand that we are the Limitless Light, that we are God, the Eternal, I Am Presence, we let go of our false self, the ego self, the little “I am” that holds the limited vision of separation from Source and everything else firmly in its clutches, “afraid” of being “annihilated.”
There is no need to eradicate the ego; more accurately, we only need to rein it in. We do this by releasing the resistance and the blockages, the false concepts and impressions we cling to of who we think we are. Developing a practice that clears out the static, that quiets the cling and clatter in our heads is the first step toward Self-Realization - Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are but a few.
When we become the masters of our minds, we become the masters of our own realities. When we release the fear and limitations we place on ourselves, and divinize the mind, by expanding the consciousness to encompass the All That Is that we are, we finally come to know the deep peace we are all seeking, and the joy of bringing into form all we wish to create. When we still the turbulence in the sea of our minds, we can once again see our true reflection, the Infinite Face of God.
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.