LA Yoga June 2012 Practice pages: meditation
The Celebrity Instinct
A meditation on people we love
from The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra by Dr. Lorin Roche
Johnny Depp. Natalie Portman. Robert Pattinson. Jennifer Lawrence. Denzel Washington. Angelina Jolie. Leonardo DiCaprio. Scarlett Johansson.
Are you daydreaming about an actor? Have you ever? Believe it or not, there is a yoga for that. I am not making this up. A yoga text from 800 AD gives this as a meditation practice. The text uses the word patra, which has many meanings, including “a drinking vessel, a meal, a master, an actor in a play.”
The journey begins here,
With whatever is capturing your attention.
Are you looking at the patterns on some wall?
Are you daydreaming about a celebrity?
Is there someone you love and long to cling to,
A soul who is a chalice for
Beauty to pour into the world?
Whatever your focus,
Give your whole being.
Gradually, step by step,
The infinity from which you both have emerged
Will encompass you with blessing.
īdṛśena krameṇaiva yatra kutrāpi cintanā |
śūnye kuḍye pare pātre svayaṁ līnā varapradā || 33 ||
idirishena - “in this way,” By adopting this means.
Krama, a step, proceeding, a course, order, series, succession, step by step.
Yatra - going, setting off, journey, march, expedition, pilgrimage, exploration.
Kutraapi - there
Chintana - thinking, thinking of, reflecting upon, anxious thought, consideration.
Sunya - The void.
Kudya - a wall, plastering a wall, a curiosity.
Pare - another
Patra - drinking vessel, goblet, bowl, cup, dish, pot, plate, utensil; a meal; channel of a river; a capable or competent person, an adept, a master, an actor or an actor’s part or character in a play; a leaf, a measure of capacity.
Sva - one’s own, one’s self, the Ego, the human soul, the second astrological mansion.
Lena - clung or pressed together, attached or devoted to, merged in; resting on, staying in, hiding, dissolved, absorbed in, disappeared, vanished.
Varapradana - the bestowal of a boon, granting wishes.
This is the tenth practice in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. The first nine include various breathing, mantra, and spinal awareness techniques. Pranayama and mantra are ways to become intimate with life. You can ride the waves of breath, listen to the song of life resonating in your nerves, cherish the energies of the body as they flow.
The pilgrimage, the inner expedition, begins here, with whatever you are thinking. Any object of perception – the wall over there, a person you admire, a work of art – can serve as a focus for meditation. Attention follows interest. If you use something or someone you are intensely interested in as a focus for meditation, your attention will follow. If in this moment you don’t feel like doing an “official” practice, with breathing or mantras or energy running up the spine, just use what’s in your mind.
When you think of a charismatic actress or actor, for example, you are holding in your mind an image of their name (nama) and form (rupa). And if they have captured your attention, there is a feeling (bhava). So right there in that little thought you have the three classic props for meditation – nama, rupa, and bhava - and off you go. If you sit with your eyes closed and allow the natural rhythm of attention, you may drift beyond the name and form into subtle feeling, then into formless space in just a few seconds. Spontaneous celebrity worship can teach us something about how to let meditation feel natural and innate.
Meditation uses the senses to go beyond the senses. Breath is an internal massage, so we can go into meditation with the sense of touch and motion. Breathing is also an exchange of substance between our body and the ocean of air around us – so the sense of being nourished can carry us into a deep meditative awareness. When we enter meditation with the sense of hearing, called mantra yoga, we ride an inner sound into a groovy internal silence. Yantra practices employ geometric symbols to delight the sense of sight and engage our inner vision. Any sense, singly or in combination, can be used as a gateway into our inner life.
Thinking of someone we admire evokes a whole symphony of sensory impressions. Who to you is a chalice for beauty to enter the world? What quality of the human experience are they illuminating? If you are fantasizing about a celebrity or an actor, perhaps they breathe in a way that could be useful to you on your path. Maybe they have a way of moving through life that is courageous. Their voice may carry a resonance that has mantric qualities for you and can teach you about the power of speech. For many of us, the star in our lives is a child or grandchild, yoga teacher, or animal. Just to think of them is inspiring, fills us with love.
If you are meditating with a goddess mantra, and start thinking about Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Lawrence, you may be sensing the way they channel goddess energy in their roles. Your mind has not wandered; it is musing on something closer to home and wondering, “How do I live this energy? How do I work through the obstacles in my life?”
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 describe their inner experiences. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from Lorin’s website: lorinroche.com. Email comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (310) 570-2803. Become a fan of The Radiance Sutras on Facebook.
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. Lorin is giving a meditation teacher training at Prana Yoga in La Jolla this June. Come to Esalen August 19-24, for Wild Serenity, a five-day immersion in movement and meditation with Lorin and his dancing Dakini wife, Camille Maurine.