Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness and Intuition
We’ve all heard of the legendary supernormal powers of adept yogis: mind-reading, invisibility, levitation, supernormal strength, and so on. You may regard such abilities with skepticism or out-and-out disbelief. I don’t blame you if you do. You may believe in such powers explicitly. Again, I’m with you. Either way, though, it doesn’t really matter; nowadays skeptic and believer alike probably don’t understand the nature and details of developing these abilities. The truth is, there is a lot of murk surrounding the siddhis. It is, after all, something “mystical,” right?
But that doesn’t mean we can’t understand the siddhis; it just means we need to come to that understanding in a different way. Not through reading or analyzing, not even through experience, but rather, through inner experience, subtle experience; that is, mystical experience. So, just for the next few minutes it might take for you to read this article, let’s suspend belief and doubt, and dive in, to explore the siddhis…
What does it matter whether the siddhis exist? If that question is on your mind, it probably doesn’t matter to you. It probably does not interest you in the least, in which case, feel free to stop reading this. This isn’t your path. Yes, that’s right, if it doesn’t intrigue you, stop here and save precious time. (You’ve probably not even gotten this far anyway…)
If, though, you have a dedicated daily practice of meditation, maybe you have noticed your mental clarity increasing. You may be feeling your intuition showing up more and more in your life. You are learning to trust it even though you don’t always understand it. At times you may feel you know what another is thinking, or have the thought of someone just before you run into them or they phone you. You may feel subtle energies in and around you. Perhaps you have instances of subtle perception—of perceiving auras, angelic beings, or deceased loved ones. Maybe you can actually feel the consciousness in plants and trees. (Have you found yourself hugging a tree lately?) In other words, you may be experiencing a natural unfolding of, shall we say, “abilities.” You don’t have mastery of these, but something’s going on, and it’s suggestive, even intriguing. It makes you wonder: What is possible for a human being? What is possible for me? You may wonder this even if you don’t yet have any of these experiences, but only feel a sense of their possibility.
In that case, you are already on the path of inner, subtle, mystical experience. You already know the answer to “Why Care?” That answer is part of your being. It matters to you to explore your own inner potential. And that’s all the siddhis are: part of your true potential. They are actually a powerful key to rewiring your brain for much greater happiness and intuitive abilities than you ever imagined.
But I’m Not Supposed to Care, Right?
This is one of the great misconceptions regarding the siddhis: They are a “lesser” path and so we shouldn’t care about them and certainly should not pursue them. Support of this view comes from a number of sources, including the classic text about developing the siddhis itself, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Patanjali dedicates fully one-fourth of his classic text to the development of the siddhis (the entire third chapter out of the four that comprise his text). In that third chapter, he reveals the yogic technique for developing the siddhis: samyama.
What is samyama? He explains that it is a combination of fully mastered dharana (steady focus), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). Now stay with me. I’m not going to be technical here. This is a practical discussion. I’m only getting into this to dispel one of the great misconceptions about the siddhis—important because this misconception will stop you in your tracks from powerfully rewiring your brain for greater happiness and intuition.
Now Patanjali states (in III:8) that samyama is “external” to something that is even more essential to Liberation, namely seedless samadhi, absorption in the pure, unalloyed Self. This verse is often cited to affirm that the siddhis are less than… well, other things, like final Liberation. Yes, anything in the realm of thought or action is less than Nirvana. But hold on… We live in the world. Wouldn’t it be a blessing to infuse the miraculous power of infinite consciousness into your body, heart, and mind? To manifest pure energy, love, and intelligence in your life? This is exactly what samyama is about. Besides, as you progress in the stages of practice of samyama, you advance towards integrating seedless samadhi.* That is the point of the whole path.
Taken in this context, in the context Patanjali actually states, we can begin to understand why he dedicates a full fourth of his text to gaining the siddhis through samyama. Because the practice of samyama is extraordinarily powerful for unfolding our full human potential, and the siddhis are the objective validation of progress on the path to Enlightenment.
Patanjali was not only a sage but a scientist. He encouraged objective proof of higher consciousness. His teachings are a practical path that proceed from spiritual ABCs, to unfolding bliss, intuition, wisdom, pure love, and finally mastery. Think of historical figures that may have actually mastered the siddhis, like Christ. There aren’t many on that level that we hear of. Imagine what that stage is like; this is what Patanjali is talking about when he discusses the siddhis gained through meditation. It is a worthwhile path.
How the Siddhis Work and What They Do for You
So now we can get down to the essence of it: How does practicing samyama to develop the siddhis work, and what does it actually do for you? Is it really about all flying and invisibility and such?
In his chapter on siddhis, Patanjali’s sutras reveals a number of secret formulas for unfolding the siddhis. Typically, they are stated in the form, “by samyama on X you get Y siddhi.” So for instance, “by samyama on strength, the strength of an elephant can be gained.” (III:24) Or: “By samyama on the relationship between the body and space, and by focusing on the lightness of cotton wool, movement through the sky can be acquired.” (III:42) And so on.
Now how does this work? Essentially, Pajanjali’s formulas are designed to open specific channels of mind-body coordination, or rather, of consciousness-bliss-intellect-mind-prana-body coordination.
Examine this diagram of the five sheaths, the pancha kosha. This is a yogic paradigm of your being. I won’t go into details here, but hopefully the diagram gets across the idea: these are the layers of your being. Normally, when we think of mind-body coordination, we consider only the mind and physical body. Patanjali knew well that these are only two layers of our being, but you are much more. When properly practiced, samyama awakens prana to flow through the nadis (subtle channels that conduct the flow of prana or life-breath/spiritual energy), clearing the way for the unbounded potentiality of pure consciousness to act upon and infuse its potency into the layers of your being. Eventually, this results in the abilities Pajanjali predicts in his sutras—the ultimate in mind/body coordination!
For instance, consider the sutra, “by samyama on the relationship between the body and space, and by focusing on the lightness of cotton wool, movement through the sky can be acquired.” Keep in mind samyama combines steady focus, meditation, and absorption. This is an extremely subtle level of experience; you could say the subatomic level of consciousness. As such, it powerfully awakens prana to open the nadis and join the intent of consciousness (as expressed in the sutra) with your physical body. When that joining of the intent of consciousness with your body is complete, your energetic and physical body are infused with the potency of pure consciousness. Then, says Patanjali, the body becomes light enough to walk on water, on a spider’s web, and eventually to move through the sky.
Siddhis can be Practical
There are other less spectacular physical siddhis, like control of hunger and thirst, or achieving calmness, or physical strength. Likewise, there are siddhis that open the intellect to greater coordination with consciousness resulting in various forms of advanced intuitive knowledge, like intuitively knowing the arrangement of all the stars, the levels of heaven, the functioning of the bodily systems in great detail, the workings of another’s mind, and so on. And there are siddhis that open the heart and develop friendliness, compassion, loving kindness, etc. Yes, it IS practical to integrate the pure energy, intelligence, love that is your inmost Self into the outer expression of your body, mind, and heart. Isn’t that why the One became many? Samyama infuses your whole being with deep bliss, peace, deepened awareness (= enhanced intuition), love, and spiritual power, long before you’ve mastered the siddhis.
The key, of course, is how to practice samyama. It is a precise technique, but it is not difficult. As Patanjali states, the practice must be applied in stages. (III:6) There are specific steps to take to prepare for samyama, and stages of practice of samyama. If you are interested in knowing more, consider attending my retreat that focuses on samyama and exploring the siddhis. In 3 days you can actually begin to Rewire Your Brain for Happiness and Intuition and learn a skill (samyama) you can use to powerfully unfold your potential day by day the rest of your life. Find out more.
Hope to see you soon!
PS. For a taste, you can always try the free guided meditation.
*It’s traditionally understood that there are 4 stages of yogis:
1) Those engaged in all the practices and are experiencing tastes of higher consciousness, heightened intuition, etc. (This is a wide range of “beginners” or prathama-kalpika stage.)
2) Those whose intuition is profound; they can know and experience whatever they want on the level of their consciousness. (This is the level of yogi that enjoys pure nectar or “honey”; really Soma, the nectar of the devatas; madhu-bhumika stage. It is an advanced level, but the ego is still quite present and the so yogi is subject to downfall if not careful.)
3) Yogis who have mastered the elements and organs and so have acquired the related siddhis or yogic powers (can move with the rapidity of the mind, walk through walls, levitate, make themselves invisible, large or small, etc.). These yogis are devoted to perfecting the coordination between pure consciousness and the other layers of their being. They are not only accomplished siddhas, but are illumined with the sprouting of pure knowledge (prajna-jyoti stage).
4) Accomplished yogis who have gained a high degree of detachment by virtue of wisdom. They have the seven-fold ultimate insight (see II: 27) and are devoted to the disappearance of the mind whereupon Liberation takes place.