Shambhavi talks about how to relate to energetic experiences and answers lots of questions from students about honesty, sleep, the color red, the blue bindu, boredom, and more. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
Live satsang is mostly free range Q&A. “Tastings” are special episodes of our Satsang with Shambhavi podcast where you’ll get to listen as students ask all kinds of questions and Shambhavi responds. Welcome to the buffet version of satsang!
So there's fundamentally three layers of reality that we're practicing with. And one is our experience of a physical body, which is very easy for most people to access.
Then the second body that we work with is our energy body, which is more subtle than the physical body, although it's exactly the same as the physical body. I mean, it's our body. It's just we have to have our perceptions subtilize a bit in order to work with that.
The energy body is the realm of textures and flows, at least in its first encounter. And then the third body that we're working with is what could be called the wisdom body. So, for instance, this is the wisdom virtues, like compassion and clarity and creativity that are built into reality in every aspect of existence everywhere. They're ubiquitous.
And so many, many people, their first entry into this kind of practice and—what I call proof of concept—is that you begin to have more subtle, energetic experiences.
So, you're sitting in satsang with the teacher, and you feel something different from how you normally feel or something energetically different.
Or you feel waves of things, or you feel tingles, or you feel textures that you didn't feel before.
And particularly when these are happening in a way that seems to not be contained within your body, you're feeling something around the teacher in particular.
If we don't make the mistake of owning that experience—and saying 'this is my experience'—if we notice that the experience is actually an experience of continuity, then we really can begin to have more confidence in the practice.
A lot of people latch onto those kind of experiences, and they're actually very important to develop because it's part of our sensitivity that we're developing. But it's kind of like if someone who had loss of hearing then begins to open up their hearing, then their hearing develops until they have very good hearing.
These experiences of this energetic body are mid-level hearing, mid-level feeling. So we want to develop that, and it's a very good sign when we are developing that sensitivity.
But the things that actually are shocking or mind-blowing about doing this kind of practice is when the wisdom virtues start showing up, when we start to be able to access this incredible compassion that's manifesting that we couldn't access before.
This feeling of really wanting the best for everyone that we couldn't access before, or this clarity that we couldn't access before, or this sense of lightness of being that we couldn't access before, sense of the comedy of everything.
Those are the things that are very surprising because they pretty much directly blow up our concepts about ourselves, and about other people, and about life.
Like, for instance, the concept that if someone does something horrible, we should hate them. A lot of people think that! Or if somebody does something to us we don't like, we should get back at them.
These are these concepts that many, many people are operating with, either consciously or unconsciously. Maybe they're even righteously defending those concepts. And then suddenly, as the heart is opening and you're feeling all these flows in the heart, and then you start feeling connected to the flows of other people.
And then suddenly you turn around and like, now you love everyone. It's like, what happened to revenge? [laughs]
I'm not saying this is what's going to happen to every single person. These things are grace, and it's not up to us. It's not about our effort that these things happen, right? It's just a collaboration with God, or with this alive aware reality. And we don't know when it's going to happen.
But when things like that do happen, when the wisdom body starts showing up, that's where it just gets kind of crazy, because all of our concepts about everything just go right out the window.
So this developing a lot of sensitivity in the energy body is something that is going to happen if you're practicing diligently. Everyone, I think, is going to develop some additional sensitivity in their energy body. And that's really wonderful.
But just understand that this is really about wisdom. And that will just come naturally. It's not something you can force, but experiencing that energetic aspect of things is kind of the gateway to wisdom. Right? The gateway drug. But we don't want to get too addicted to that.
There's a lot of people who—especially people from the US—who are practicing without more traditional teachers or teaching. They get very stuck on these sort of big, energetic experiences.
And the way that they talk about it, it's very clear that they don't understand what this is actually about.
But the rewards of just letting wisdom overtake you over the years, they're wonderful. It's wonderful to have that happen—and surprising.
So I've been scrutinizing this tendency I have—that I sort of thought of as privacy, like just being kind of a private person, but then wondering if it borders on being secretive. And then secretive starts to kind of look like dishonest. So I'm just curious if you have anything to say about that.
If that thought has crossed your mind, then it must be true, right? [laughs] So I would assume that it's true—that privacy, secrecy, and dishonesty are bleeding into each other.
I would even question, like, what is the role of privacy? If there's only one Self in all of existence, who are you being private from? Privacy seems to me to be only about dualistic karmic realm vision, because you can only conceive of privacy if you think you're a separate individual.
If you understand that there's only one self here, and you're an aspect of that self, there is no such thing as privacy.
I like to kid around and say there's always someone that knows what's going on, and that someone is God. [laughs] There's always someone you're not fooling. And if you're not lucky enough to be around people with enough clarity to see what you're doing, at least God is seeing what you're doing, that's for sure.
So when I say that privacy in and of itself is an aspect of karmic realm vision and dualistic vision, that doesn't mean that I'm advocating everyone just go around spilling their guts all the time.
I mean, there's such a thing as discernment, right? About what is appropriate in different circumstances to be talking about. And your reasons for not talking about something, or not just like running your mouth, might be a feeling of kindness toward other people. Not wanting to bore them [laughs] or they're having a hard time not wanting to— it's just not appropriate.
Like you don't have a meeting with your boss and start talking about the brownie recipe that you made last night, even if you happen to think of it.
So this isn't about going on brain dumps everywhere, but it is about not harboring any parts of yourself that you're ashamed of or feel need to be protected in all circumstances.
That's what it's really about. A feeling of fluidity within yourself and connection. Understanding that everything that's here is an aspect of God. So there's nothing to protect.
And if something needs to be revealed or shown, you can just relax about that.
And—you know—in terms of intimate relationships with lovers, with spouses, with friends, with your spiritual teacher with whomever and [...] someone, that's actually important in your life, if there are things you can't say to those people, you have to look at those relationships, right?
You really have to look at—are these really functioning relationships? And I often find, maybe because of the position that I'm in, I often find that people police themselves way more than is necessary. Way more.
Like, there's a lot of projection happening about how you think other people are going to respond to something, or what you think other people are going to think of it.
And so then you just start self policing based on your fantasy about how someone else is going to respond. And then you never actually get to find out how someone else is going to respond.
When karmic patterns are very strong, even when you do reveal something that was difficult for you to reveal, if the person doesn't respond in the way you predicted—if they respond in a much better way—the next time you've forgotten about that. You're just as police-y as you were the first time.
I've noticed this with students. Like, it doesn't matter how many times I don't respond the way they think I'm going to respond, they still think I'm going to respond in a more negative way. It's almost like the weird mind wipe happens or something. [laughs]
Very often students have said to me—Wow, you really didn't respond to that the way I thought you would. You're being so kind. Why?
I'm like, well, maybe the unkindness was actually in your mind! Not really [...] anything to do with me! [laughs]
But then the next time we're back to square zero. So you want to just watch out when you're doing that, when you're projecting stuff outward about how people are going to respond, and then notice when that doesn't actually happen. Or when it does happen.
Because sometimes we have very good reasons for thinking people are going to respond in an unpleasant way or a violent way or something like that.
There's a lot of various karmic flows out there, like racism and misogyny, that cause various responses to be repeated over and over again when traditionally marginalized people speak their minds.
So those things are real. And then the question is, who are you going to spend your time with? And what are you going to do about that?
So we don't want to keep spending our time, our energy with people who cannot deal with who we actually are. And that sometimes means making hard decisions.
I've been thinking a lot about honesty, too, and I made this deal with myself. Like, I'm going to be honest starting now. But then I'm wondering if I [...] to, like, past lives.
If they're on your mind. Dishonesty is like poison in our system. It eats away at our ojas. It eats away at our self-confidence. It eats away at our feeling of integrity.
So, if there are times you've been dishonest, where it's just like, oh, well, that happened when I was five. I don't really care about it. It's not really eating away at my ojas anymore. [laughs]
But if there are things that keep recurring to you that when you think of them, you feel anxious and tense, then maybe so.
Some of it might be a thing where nobody else cares. But I also don't want to take up time with that, too. But I do feel anxiety still.
Yeah, well, I don't know about anybody else, but I care about you. So if something were eating away at your ojas, even if I didn't need to know about it personally, I'd still want to give you the opportunity to say that, right? [STUDENT 2: Okay.] It's not, like, for the other person, right? Necessarily, it might be. But if someone's your friend, and something is a burden to you, then they might feel like they want to help you be relieved of that burden.
Can you tell a little bit about the risks of sleeping with your head facing north?
Well, it's a very busy direction. It'll create more wakefulness, if you have trouble sleeping. It'll make your sleep more light, and possibly more broken, depending on if you're someone who wakes up during the night. You'll have busier dreams.
That's basically going to provoke vata in your mind. For people who sleep too heavily and have very kapha constitutions or who are very balanced, the north is perfectly fine.
But if you're having trouble sleeping, or your dreams are too busy and chaotic, if you don't feel rested when you wake up, if you've been sick and you're in recovery from an illness, you don't want to have your head facing north.
Why is it so busy?
I could tell you the why, but it won't be as effective as just seeing how it is to sleep in different directions.
STUDENT 3: [...]
Yeah. So that's the why. The why is in the experience. Yeah.
Sleeping south is the most restorative. And if you're sleeping north already, just flip your head around. You don't even have to move your bed.
I've been thinking a lot about honesty as well, and I think it's like a little bit heady. But sometimes I ask myself—am I having an honest connection with this person? Am I having authentic experience right now with this person? Or an authentic experience while I'm sitting here praying?
Well, I don't think the way that you're using authenticity is the same as honesty. So honesty just means telling the truth. It's very simple.
It's not about being authentically devoted when you sit down to do practice, because that circumstance is not something that's in your control.
You have a lot of karma impacting you all the time, and then you have little breaks from that, too. But everybody is a mixture of sincerity and insincerity when they do practice, because none of us are completely enlightened.
So there's always some realm fixation at work somewhere or some karma happening, even if it's very pale, not very strong, that's impacting us somehow.
Like, I'm in Rahu mahadasha right now, and the way that Rahu is in my chart and just who Rahu is, I'm just feeling more rebellious. And that's a karma, right? And I'm working with it.
I can't just, like, 'I'm going to be authentic now'. It's like, Rahu, go away. Stop making me feel rebellious. It's part of the package that I came in with, and I'm in Rahu mahadasha, so I can work on that more.
But I don't have any control over how much of that is able to resolve, right? So that's a much more nuanced topic, the topic of sincerity, or you're using authenticity like sincerity.
When you're talking to another person, am I having an authentic experience? Well, the real question isn't, are you having an authentic experience? It's like, are you being yourself?
The other person could be fake as hell, but you could still be having an authentic experience, right?
You could still just be relaxed, being yourself, and not putting on a show of any sort, not performing. So that's a more fruitful question in that circumstance.
But when we talk about honesty, we literally mean do not lie. And that's different. You do have control. Maybe not total control, but more control over whether you lie or not.
Can you talk a little bit about when boredom comes up in practice?
Keep going. [Laughter]
Take a walk, jump up and down, eat lighter food. Keep going.
STUDENT 5: That's easy.
Can you talk about kids lying?
People lie, including kids—who are really just people—because they aren't getting what they want, or they're afraid.
One of those two reasons—they're not getting what they want, or they're afraid. And lying is a way to get what you want or hide when you're afraid.
The thing is to try to figure out what does she want that she's not getting and why is she afraid?
And maybe some of those things she's not getting are things she shouldn't get, you know, like 7000 ice cream popsicles or something.
But it could be something that maybe she should get.
[...] outpouring of curiosity is what you would have to say around 'red'?
So, red is the color of Shakti. The red bindu is normally placed over some sandalwood. They usually put sandalwood first and then the red. And, the sandalwood is basically creating that saumya, cool, sweet, receptive feeling. And then the red is Shakti, and clarity in particular—clarity of perception.
At least that's how we're using it in our tradition. It might be different in other traditions from India, for sure.
But red is the traditional color of Shakti, and white of Lord Shiva. And many, many times you'll see a downward facing red triangle and a yantra that is related to some form of Shakti or another.
It's actually not a complex answer. That's basically it.
I've already used the blue bindu, is that coupled with a red and white bindu?
Well, the blue is the color of the totally unconditioned.
So in this tradition, there's Shiva-Shakti, which is the white bindu and the red bindu.
But there's also Paramashiva or Paravac or Parā, which are all basically saying the same thing, which is something that is beyond or all-encompassing even Shiva and Shakti. The sort of ultimate unconditional duality that you can't really have a name for, but you're just kind of pointing toward it.
So that's what the blue bindu is totally unconditioned. And it's basically enlightened essence nature showing up in a human being. That's what all the bindus are.
There's, like, various bindus that we can visualize in the human body or somehow associated with the human body. And they're all living symbols that are part of the cosmology of becoming this form and becoming a human person.
So that blue bindu in the heart space is the bindu that is symbolizing and gives us access to unconditioned wisdom virtue. That it's really beyond Shiva and Shakti.
One of the practices that we do is visualizing Shiva and Shakti in certain ways. And then sometimes at the end, I'll say condense that full visualization and dissolve it into the bindu, because the bindu is holding all of that.
Another way of thinking about it is the Dzogchen way, because they also use the color blue in exactly the same way, which is dharmakaya, the infinite reservoir of creative potentiality that is giving rise to all of this—that is also blue.
Same color blue, like the open blue sky. Especially in California. Or maybe Greece is also. But—we went down to Palo Alto the other day, and the sky was just this incredible blue color. It's just utterly magical and magnetizing.
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