Practice pages: meditation by dr. Lorin Roche

Subtle Shakti

A meditation on quiet healing
Shakti from The Radiance Sutras, a new translation of the vijnana bhairava tantra

Shakti is power in all forms, and in Sanskrit is defined as “energy, strength, might, capability, skill, effectiveness, and regal power.” Shakti is the energy or active power of the divine. She is the goddess, the feminine aspect of the divine. She is the power of generation and creativity. She is also the power in the power of words, the energy of mantras. She is the creative power of imagination. Shakti is pranashakti, the life force expressing herself as the flow of energy through the body. Shakti is Mother Nature.

Let’s celebrate the quiet aspects of shakti that invite us into the silent depths and heal us from the world’s noise. In meditation, we get a chance to delight in the quiet flow of shakti. The techniques let us revel in the subtle rejuvenation of
pranashakti bubbling up from Being. One of the sacred functions of meditation is to be a place and time in which we let nature heal our wounds, massage our nerves with the ointment of the life force, and revive our spirits.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra describes 112
yuktis or yoga meditation practices, and each plays with shakti in a different way. Here the 32nd:

Strong or soft, wild or serene,
Wherever breath is flowing there is song.
Inspiration is moving
Across the delicate membranes of your inner temple —
Touching the spaces behind the face,
Singing in the throat, dancing spirals in the sanctuary of the heart.

Savoring the energy of life, senses delighting in subtle harmonies,
There you are in your practice, going along just fine.
Suddenly you are giddy, lightheaded.
This is a doorway. Go.
Surrender to the enticing urge to lie down.
Fall into the wide open embrace of life.
Be the instrument breath is tenderly playing.

All the meditations you have ever loved
Are vibrating in this luxurious hum,
Continuing in sleeping and dreaming.
This is your school, your system, just you and infinity.
The texture of the self is untamed freedom.

pināṁ ca durbalāṁ śaktiṁ dhyātvā dvādaśagocare |
praviśya hṛdaye dhyāyan muktaḥ svātantryam āpnuyāt|| 55 ||

This verse is 32 syllables, each one coded with lots of info. Sanskrit is
polysemous - each word and phrase can have many meanings. This is because back in the days before iPhones, people had to memorize things.

They were texting the future, playfully packing as many images into each syllable as possible, because it helped with memorization. If you choose to read this glossary, you might want to take a breath after each word, and let the word-pictures make their little jokes in your mind. If your eyes glaze over, don’t worry - the text is supposed to have so many layers of meaning that you can chant it every day for years and keep on discovering new puns, implications, and nuances.

Pinam ca durbalam “with sound slowly,” breathing in and out with sound.*
, pina - strong, muscular, beefy, full, fat, luxuriant; and durbala - of little strength, thin, a slender waist, a lean cow, scanty, small, little.)
Shakti - the power of life flowing in your being.
Dhyatva - having meditated.
Dvadasa-gocare - literally “in the range of twelve.” This is tantric code, referring to many little places in and around the body where the flow of shakti becomes perceptible. Gocara - pasture ground for cattle, range, field for action, abode, dwelling-place, offering field or scope for action, within the range of, accessible, attainable, within the power, the range of the organs of sense, object of sense, anything perceptible by the senses, to come within range of the eye. The field of operation for the indriyas, the senses. From go - cow, ox, cattle, to set out for a battle (to conquer cows) + car “to graze,” and implies the field of perceptible food on which the senses graze.**
Pravesa - entering, entrance, door, intentness on an object , engaging closely in a pursuit or purpose.
Hridaya - heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations), soul, mind (as the center of mental operations); the heart or interior of the body, the heart or center or core or essence or best or dearest or most secret part of anything. True or divine knowledge, the veda. Science.
Dhyana - meditation, thought, reflection, especially profound and abstract religious meditation, mental representation of the personal attributes of a deity, insensibility, dullness. From the root dhi - to perceive, think, reflect.
Mukta - loosened, set free, relaxed, open, liberated, delivered, emancipated, released from, fallen (as fruit), sent forth, discharged, poured out, the spirit released from corporeal existence.
Svatantra - independence, self-will, freedom, “one’s own system or school,” “one’s own army,” free, uncontrolled, full grown. (Tantra is a “loom,” and metaphorically, “a framework or system,” from the root tan, “to extend, spread, be diffused (as light) over, shine, extend towards, reach to, to stretch (a cord).”
Apnuyat - attains.

A simple meaning of this verse is that when you have been practicing yoga and meditation, there will be times when you get sort of dizzy - you just can’t practice any more and you have to lie down. This is not failure. This is a doorway opening. Give in to the urge to lie down and let the meditation continue by itself in sacred sleep. It is as if the body has become meditation, you are flowing with shakti, and as you melt into shakti, you fall into freedom and your own free spirit.

Breathing is our primary food. We breathe in and out maybe 17,000 - 22,000 times a day - thousands of gallons of air. Babies may breathe over 40,000 times a day. When we attend to the flow of breath, the whole point is to be well-fed on all levels - with physical air and with the subtle energies that flow into our bodies and souls from the universe around. We are enjoying life as we take pleasure in feeding on air. All our senses, especially touch, hearing, and subtle taste and smell, are to be alert to the delight of exchanging substance with the universe. When you practice meditation and engage with shakti in any of her forms, there will come a time when your body is sufficiently tuned that shakti will invite you to let her take over: “Lie down on my healing table and let me work on you. Let me carry you for awhile. Just doze while I recharge you with the essence of vitality. Then you can rise up renewed and jump into life again.”

Lorin Roche began practicing with the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra in 1968 and it has been a love affair ever since. He is the author of 
The Radiance SutrasMeditation Made Easy (Harper 1998), and Meditation Secrets for Women (Harper 2001) (written with his wild Shakti wife Camille Maurine). He has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine in Social Science, where he studied the language yogis and meditators develop to describe their inner experiences. Lorin does one-to-one coaching and trains meditation teachers. Visit to order copies of The Radiance Sutras.

Come to Esalen December 14-16 for a joyous weekend of immersion in The Radiance Sutras with Dr. Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine. Reservations: (831) 667-3005, or visit


Vijnana Bhairava: The Manual for Self-Realization, revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, edited by John Hughes, Universal Shaiva Fellowship.
(The word “giddy,” used above, comes from Lakshmanjoo. According to some etymologies, giddy is from “goddy,” or “possessed by God, possessed by the divine.” )

Sri Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati, Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India, 2003.