Back to Homepage
Manual of THE NEW YOGA
The New Yoga of Bodying
to the bodying of awareness
ACTION AS THE BODYING OF AWARENESS
BODILY IDENTITY and bodily ACTION
MIND, BODY & THE MEANING OF ‘MUDRA’
MUDRA MEDITATION AS ‘BODY POETRY’
Mudras of the Mouth, Face and Eyes
The Three basic tantric mudra
LESSON 6 – SUMMARY
LESSON 6 – GLOSSARY OF SANSKRIT TERMS
We know by now a great deal – almost more than we can encompass – about what we call the body, without having seriously thought about what bodying is. It is something more and different from merely ‘carrying a body around with one’.
The bodying of life is nothing separate by itself, encapsulated in the ‘physical mass’ in which the body can appear to us…
Every feeling is an embodiment attuned in this or that way, a mood that bodies in this or that way.
A disposition can confine man in his corporeality as in a prison. Yet it can also carry him though corporeality as one of the paths leading out of it.
Helping us to enter into the continuum of the field of motility, mudra teaches us that there could be no gesture which does not recognise a primordial kinship already entrusted with a binding value … Even at a distance we can touch others with our compassion. Even at a distance, all beings are bound together, sealed by mudra into the weaving of Being.
David Michael Levin
…physical actions are the ‘key’ that lets the actor penetrate to the inner world of the character.
The outer shape of a person reflects his inner mood. Changing that shape can change his mood.
… if I were speaking to you in person, you could see my body moving in synchrony with the voicing of my utterances, my hands in synchrony with my intoning of my words, my eye movements with my pauses, and my facial expressions with certain of my linguistic emphases. I shall use the word ‘orchestration’ to denote the unfolding structuring of these intricately timed, creative intertwinings and interweavings of the many inter-related participant parts or ‘bodily strands’ of our responsive-expressions … [the] expressive-responsiveness of our bodily movements …
It is one’s own spiritual nature in enlightenment that responds to the ‘external’ world, comes into contact with objects, raises the eyebrow, winks the eyelids and moves the hand and legs.
The yogin who stands in the embodied cosmos (kula) quivering and vibrating … whatsoever bodily position he may adopt is considered a mudra.
Salutations to You which are transcendent and immanent … Becoming your devotee, I became of your form … You appear like an actor in all respects, taking the casts of waking, dream and sound sleep. As a matter of fact, you are without form.
Whatever is done with the siddha-rupa [psychical body] takes place in the sadhaka-rupa [physical body], and whatever is done with the sadhaka-rupa takes place in the siddha-rupa …The siddha-rupa and the sadhaka-rupa are similar to a vinya and a vinya player. Even though the two are distinct, there is a oneness of their melody.
The physical body or ‘organism’ (sadhaka-rupa) is the musical instrument or organon with which we can learn to become adept in amplifying, modulating and orchestrating the music of our psychical body (siddha-rupa).
Giving expressive bodily form (morphe) to feelings – bodying them - amplifies our awareness of them through resonance. The amplification of feelings through “morphic resonance” automatically leads those feelings to transform into other feelings. This is the essential principle of metamorphic resonance.
Only by expanding the expressive mobility of our body language can mobility of awareness be expanded, expressed and embodied. Any immobility of posture and body language constricts mobility of awareness.
Mudra is any way of intentionally giving expression to or imparting a quality of awareness by embodying it. The smallest movement can body and transform our awareness and that of others – that is the principle of mudra.
The word mudra means ‘seal’. A mudra is the ‘sealing’ of an inner mood or ‘disposition’ of our awarenees – literally setting a seal on it through a change or dis-position of our outer bodily bearing or posture, our way of ‘posing’ ourselves.
Awareness – SHIVA - is essentially formless. That formlessness however, is not an emptiness but a fullness of latent or potential forms – of ‘form-giving’ or ‘formative potentialities’. Action - SHAKTI - is essentially formative. Action is the actualisation of the formative potentials of awareness. All action is formative action or “forming” (Shapiro) - action which gives form to and transforms awareness, thereby giving rise to infinite shapes or forms of awareness. ‘Formative action’ is also the root meaning of ‘energy’ (energein). Being the very action through which all things are formed and transformed, ‘energy’ cannot be considered a ‘thing’ in itself. Action is formative. Bodyhood is form - the countless forms, material and non-material, taken by and within awareness through formative or cre-ative action (kriya). The essence of action is therefore the action of bodying awareness by giving it expressive bodily form. Kriya is both formative and performative action - expressive bodily action. Identity or selfhood too is form or bodyhood – all identities being patterns of action.
Action gives form to awareness in the form of somebody or something. Since all forms are essentially forms of awareness however, there is no such thing as an insentient or unaware ‘thing’ or ‘being’. Instead all ‘things’ are aware beings – manifest forms of awareness. Since the formative potentials of awareness are inexhaustible however, action possesses an innate tendency not only to form but also to transform all bodies and identities so as to actualise these potentials. All action, once having actualised a given form, multiplies the possibilities of action – facilitating the actualisation of new potential forms. Thus in the activity of writing a book, every sentence, paragraph or chapter not only gives form to the awareness it conveys but facilitates the formation of further potential sentences, paragraphs and chapters. At the same time each sentence, paragraph and chapter, once formed, implies other possible sentences, paragraphs and chapters. Like each line of a poem, once formed, it can be reformulated in countless ways – thus opening up potentialities for the transformation not only of that particular line, sentence, paragraph or chapter but of the poem or book as a whole. There is an inherent tension then, between action on the one hand and form or identity on the other – identity being nothing but an already formed pattern of action, but action tending to transform identity. For the very act of giving expressive form to awareness makes one aware of new potential forms of expression – whether in the form of words or bodily actions. There is also an inherent paradox in the relation of action and identity. For both speech acts and bodily movements are not only actions which give expressive form to awareness. They are also highly specific forms of action with their own already-formed patterns. Such patterns of action are essentially ‘languages’ - expressive patterns of awareness. These not only form within awareness but also give form to awareness – shaping and patterning it. As a result, they can either expand or contract awareness. Every action then, can either reinforce an existing identity or pattern of action, or facilitate the formation of new patterns which transform both identity and awareness. For by giving new expressive forms to awareness, action also transforms awareness – imbuing it with new, previously latent patterns and qualities. This applies particularly to bodily actions – such as speech and movement – for action as such is essentially a means of giving bodily form to awareness. What we call ‘energy’ is both the active bodying of awareness in different forms and its expression through different patterns or languages of bodily action. ‘Energy’ therefore is no actual ‘thing’ but power and potential for action - the capacity for formative and expressive action, for the bodying of awareness.
Kriya yoga, as ‘the yoga of action’, belongs to the very essence of yoga as action – as a life-long practice of meditational disciplines, all of which are themselves understood as life-practices, practices central to the art of living. Yet since bodying belongs to the very essence of action, ‘The New Yoga of Action’ (kriya yoga) leads directly to mudra yoga in the form of ‘The New Yoga of Bodying’ - this being a yoga of aware and expressive bodily action. This yoga embraces every mode of bodily action and every medium or expressive language of the body - from facial expression and communication through the eyes to expressive and communicative posture and gesture, speech and movement.
Every aspect of our larger identity, our whole self or soul, is not a ‘what’ or ‘who’ but a ‘how’ – a specific way of bodying our being, whether through our way of breathing and speaking, looking and listening, or our way of voicing and giving a face (verbal and bodily) to our soul. We do not merely act in accordance with the way we ‘are’ or how we feel. Instead, altering any aspect of the way we act with our bodies alters our bodily sense of identity - of who we are and how we feel. The same arts that enable an actor or actress to use their body to embody or “incarnate” a part (Stanislavski) can also enable each and every one of us to feel and embody countless different aspects of our soul. It is only through habitual ways of bodying our being - acquired modes of bodily action - that we maintain a fixed bodily identity - a habitual sense of self. Conversely however, it is through learning to adopt different ways of acting with their bodies – characteristic ways of standing and moving, speaking and gesturing, that the actor embodies the part or ‘character’, and that we can each learn to ‘shapeshift’ our bodily identity in such a way as to incarnate whole new aspects or dimensions of our soul, whole new shapes, tones and qualities of awareness.
On all levels and in all realities action is intimately related to identity – to what a ‘thing’ or ‘being’ is. What ‘is’ a painting by Picasso, for example, except the expression of one of his idiomatic ways of painting? The painting as an object or thing – a ‘what’ – is the expression of this ‘way’. The same can be said of anything – whether a painting, person, or a piece of literature or music. Identity, quite simply, is idiom. What is a Beethoven symphony except the expression of an idiomatic way of composing? And is there any such ‘thing’ as ‘Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony’ outside of the countless different ways of conducting and performing it? Indeed was there even some ‘person’ we call ‘Beethoven’ – except as an idiomatic way of embodying and personifying the music of the soul, a music composed of infinite tonalities and qualities of awareness?
Per-sonare – to ‘sound through’. Persona – a dramatic ‘mask’, the face through which the voice of the actor speaks and ‘sounds through’. What is the inner relation between ‘persons’, ways of ‘personifying’ and facial masks or ‘personae’, living or sculpted? Is there anything that could be heard in the music of a Beethoven or Bruckner that was not already embodied in their whole way of being; borne in their gestures, revealed in their looks, expressed in their faces and inscribed – almost in its entirety - in their death masks? Is there ultimately any ‘thing’ or ‘person’, any ‘being’ or ‘body’ that is not a ‘what’ or ‘who’ but rather a ‘how’ – the expression of a unique way of being - of bodying awareness? For if ‘Being’ itself is a verb rather than a noun, an ‘-ing’ rather than a ‘thing’ - what is that activity of be-ing except an activity of body-ing? Not the bodying of some pre-existing being or identity, someone or something, some ‘who’ or some ‘what’, but the bodying of awareness, and through it the bodily experience of awareness in all its infinite qualities, all its infinite shapes and tones and patterns and textures.
You are and live in a world of power, a world of “ing”: being, doing, acting, thinking, hiding, identifying, exploding, -inging… and any “it” is actually a phase of self-differentiating activity of this world of “ing” which, by its very paradoxical nature can appear either as self‑opposition or self‑integration — either as power fighting itself or releasing itself…
… we can immediately note here the chiasmically organized nature of the expressive-responsiveness of our bodies … I shall use the word ‘orchestration’ to denote the unfolding structuring of these intricately timed, creative intertwinings and interweavings of the many inter-related participant parts or ‘bodily strands’ of our responsive-expressions.
What is action except inter-action – our “expressive-response” to all that we
experience within and around us? And what is this interactive experiencing
except that which went by the name of chiasm (Greek) or tantra
(Sanskrit), an interweave of different ways of giving expression
to countless tones, textures and qualities of awareness? Not just ‘through
sound’ but through every medium or language of sensory experiencing -
all of which are tinged and toned by each other, and each of which
(not just that which we bracket as ‘body language’) are bodily
languages - languages of bodily action and interaction, bodily experiencing
and bodily expression, bodily response and communication. Mudra belongs
to the essence of tantra as the art and discipline – the ‘yoga’ - of
aware bodily expression and responsiveness.
As the British child psychoanalyst Winnicott recognised, the key to the infant’s sense of going on being was an on-going and uninterrupted sense of somatic in-dwelling – the ability to feel at ease and at home in its own body. Without an ongoing sense of somatic in-dwelling, the growing child begins to substitute their own mental and emotional processes or mind-psyche for a deep sense of contact with their psyche-soma or ‘soul body’ – their own inwardly felt body. As a result, both child and adult individuals come to experience themselves as essentially alone – unable to feel an intimate bodily sense of connectedness and communion either with their own deeper self or that of others. Their immediate bodily sense of themselves, the world and other people is instead replaced by a sense of self entirely mediated by the mind-psyche, and their sense of somatic in-dwelling is attained, if at all, only through sensations of pleasure and pain, or through somatic symptoms and processes of ‘somatisation’.
Lacking a sense of somatic in-dwelling, physical pleasure seeking through sex, sport and drugs becomes an addictive substitute, and harmful medication for somatic disease has become humanity’s substitute for meditation. Indeed the very symptoms of both bodily disease and so-called ‘mental illness’ - whether in the form of anxiety, depression and other so-called ‘mood disorders’, ‘psychosomatic’ symptoms or ‘psychosis’ – are all substitutes for meditation. In The New Yoga, meditation is understood not as an activity of the mind, brain or physical body but as mindfulness of our inwardly felt body. It is only through continuous meditation in this sense - continuous mindfulness of our inwardly felt body - that we can regain a sense of what Winnicott called going on being. This is why the essential aim and meaning of ‘meditation’ in The New Yoga is such mindfulness of our inwardly felt body as a whole. For without feeling our body as a whole we cannot feel our own self as a whole – our soul. Neither can we extend our feeling awareness beyond the boundaries of our own flesh so as to meditate the other – using our own felt body to feel both the sensory outwardness of another person’s body and their own inwardness of soul. As a result, we cannot feel a deep bodily sense of connectedness to our own souls and those of others – something that we nevertheless each need and seek.
Meditation is a constant mindfulness of one’s inwardly felt body as a whole. But that inwardly felt body – our ‘inner body’ - is not simply the physical body as we feel it from within. It is a field body unbounded by the flesh – the field or ‘feel-d’ of our own feeling awareness of ourselves, the world and other people. Whole body awareness brings with it a transformed sense of our own bodies as a unified field of awareness - one that unites our own sensed inwardness of soul with the field of our outer sensory awareness of the world and other people. The boundary of our inner body – its psychical surface or ‘skin’ – is nothing more or less than a field-boundary of awareness. This is not the fleshly boundary of our own skin but our own felt boundary. It is this boundary of our own feeling awareness - one that can either divide or unite the way we feel the space of our own ‘insideness’ with the way we feel the things and people around us in physical space.
We cannot feel our bodies without bodying how we feel. More specifically, we cannot feel our own body as a whole without bodying the way we feel as a whole - giving physical form to the whole overall feeling tone of our soul. Our physical bodies do not simply ‘have’ a language. They are a language. A living biological language of our own souls. But if we do not use ‘body language’ to authentically embody our own souls - giving physical form to the soul’s inner feeling tones - then the soul will use the biological language that ‘is’ the body to somatise what we feel in our souls. Bodying and somatisation are quite distinct. Somatisation is involuntary bodying. Bodying is voluntary somatisation - intentionally expressive and communicative use of the body as a language.
Our physical body language is comparable to a musical instrument through which we can consciously give form to inner feeling tones – thereby not only amplifying those tones but allowing us to modulate them, and to lend them a different bodily shape and texture. Through the musical instrument or organon of our own physical body organism therefore, we can also learn to shift the shape and alter the tone of our inner body – our soul body or psychical organism. That body is not some ‘second’ pseudo-physical body that we can only become aware of through ‘out of body’ experiences. Instead it is the felt bodily shape, tone and texture of our soul – something we can sense at any time through awareness of our felt body as a whole.
Before we speak, for example we can use whole-body awareness to check out if the words we are about to utter – and the tone we are about to utter them with – are in resonance with our wordless felt sense of what we mean to say. Similarly, before we decide to physically act or react in any way, we can use whole-body awareness to check out whether or which of our potential movements are in resonance with our underlying bodily sense of what we feel moved to do.
Maintaining constant awareness of our body through continuously bodying our awareness is the fundamental meditational practice (sadhana) of The New Yoga – understood as an ongoing life practice and not just a way of practising ‘meditation’. Only through whole-body awareness can we achieve ‘right action’ – action that springs from our self as a whole. Conversely, only through ‘right action’ can we truly act ourselves – bodying our awareness self. That means ensuring that our words and deeds, our speech and bodily action are not simply reactions springing from localised bodily sensations, emotions and impulses – for these can reflect only a part of ourselves – but instead are fully in resonance with our self as a whole, our soul.
Mudra means ‘seal’. In traditional yogas, mudras have been identified primarily with outward symbolic hand gestures (hasta-mudras) or with outward physical postures (asanas) of hatha yoga. In The New Yoga mudra is understood as the ‘sealing’ of an inner soul-mood, comportment, or ‘disposition’ through the aware activity of bodying it - giving it outer physical form in our posture or ‘position’. Yet it is also important to understand that the sealing and ‘holding’ in awareness of an outward bodily posture or ‘disposition’ through mudra is quite literally the sealing or ‘holding’ of a shift or change of position - a ‘dis-position’. Every mudra therefore begins with such a shift in position, or posture, countenance or facial expression – it begins, in other words with bodily movement. Such movements are necessarily aware movements, for only as such can they serve to ‘seal’ and sustain a shift in the felt mood or tone of awareness they serve to seal and embody. “A disposition can confine man in his corporeality as in a prison. Yet it can also carry him though corporeality as one of the paths leading out of it.” (Martin Heidegger) Mudra is what brings the outer bearing, comportment or ‘position’ of our physical body into alignment or resonance with that of our inwardly felt body or awareness body, an intentional dis-position or shift in our bodily comportment. Everyday examples of mudra are such things as intentionally standing up in a social situation in order to (a) embody one’s disposition to leave and (b) to communicate this disposition to others. In contrast to this, unaware and unintended movements such as fidgeting or shifting restlessly in one’s chair, or looking bored and tired without intending to do so, are not ‘mudra’. Having a certain look on one’s face or in one’s eyes is not an example of mudra unless the look is intended and in-formed in an aware way by the way one feels – as when one gives a person a ‘nod’ or ‘wink’, greets, smiles or frowns at them, or in any way gives them a ‘knowing look’ – one intended to embody and impart a message. Every bodily act of an actor is a mudra in this sense - an aware and intentional act of bodily communication. A mudra then, is any manner of intentionally and expressively bodying a change or dis-position in our inner mood, bearing or disposition. It is also any way of actively giving outer physical form to the countless different shapes, tones and qualities of awareness that make up our awareness body. The essential principle of mudra is a principle of “morphic resonance” (Sheldrake). By giving outer form (morphe) to inner feeling tones or patterns of action we reinforce those patterns and amplify those feeling tones through resonance. Resonation is the very activity that leads to this state of morphic resonance with our own feeling tones or those of others. It is the very process of resonating back and forth between how we feel in our souls and the physical body language with which we express it - until they are in full and precise resonance. This is rather like finding the exact tone or chord on a musical instrument that gives expression to an inner tone of feeling.
We do not have a body. We body. Morphic resonation is the
essence of mudra as a natural and continuous process of bodying
how we feel and who we are. It is the art of using all the fine muscles of our
physical body – of the mouth, face, eyes and limbs – as a subtle musical
instrument or organon by which to enter into deeper resonance with our
psychical organism or awareness body. Through it we can learn to freely
shape-shift that body in resonance with how we or others feel - or
wish to feel. As a new and comprehensive understanding of the true essence of
mudra yoga, The New Yoga of Bodying embraces many different types of
mudra - mudra of the body as a whole and all its limbs, of the mouth,
face and eyes - as well as those of the fingers and hands (hasta-mudra).
The practice of each of these different types of mudra is a distinct
yoga in itself. The New Yoga of Bodying therefore embraces all these
yogas - every ‘alphabet’ of our body’s many languages.
At all times, every minute and moment of every day, be continuously mindful of the following basic questions, whilst feeling both question and answer with your body:
1. How much of my body am I feeling right now?
2. Where is my feeling awareness of myself concentrated or centred in my body?
3. Which regions of my body am I not feeling – and thus not feeling as a part of me?
4. How far does my feeling awareness descend into and fill the inner spaces of my body, not just the inner space of my head, but of my chest, belly and abdomen?
5. How much free awareness space do I feel in the hollow of my head, chest and abdomen?
6. How far does my feeling awareness extend into the outer space around my body?
7. What is the fundamental mood that underlies my current mental-emotional state, permeating my body as a whole and lending it a particular overall feeling tone?
8. Who is the self that feels the way I do in my body – how do I feel the me that is permeated by this underlying mood and overall feeling tone?
9. To what extent is the language of my physical body - the look on my face and in my eyes, the way I breathe and speak, walk and talk, sit or stand, my tone of voice – in resonance with the underlying tone of my inwardly felt body and felt self ?
10. What aspect(s) of my physical posture and comportment can I actively alter so that they fit and give form to the way I feel myself and feel my body from within – allowing me to authentically embody the me I currently feel myself to be?
11. Which regions of my body do I need to feel more in order to feel more ‘myself’ – to feel more of my body and self as a whole – to feel my soul?
All bodily action is innately creative and meaningful. Hence the meaningfulness of mudra yoga. Your smallest bodily action – a mere glance of the eyes - is a meaningful and creative act. It is - and can be experienced as an enactment of your relation to the entire cosmos - acting on, communicating to and instantaneously altering All That Is. That is because all action is interaction – an expressive and communicative response to the interactive context in which it takes place.
The interactive context of every action is constituted by countless actual and potential patterns of interrelatedness. It does not just include the immediate current context or ‘situation’ with its established patterns of interaction and interrelatedness. For the immediate con-text is itself but a smaller text within the inter-weaving and ever-changing patterns of interrelatedness that make up the entire cosmos.
Every act of speech or writing (each line of a poem for example) explicates a previously implicit bodily sense of meaning – of actual and potential patterns of interrelatedness. So also is every bodily act a speech act, one more line that is written or inscribed in a bodily poem, a line that also explicates an implicit bodily sense of meaning, but does so by enacting an actual or potential pattern of interrelatedness.
If a person’s ‘body language’ is impoverished, so is their body speech. They will lack the bodily words to articulate feelings and felt meanings through bodily action. Indeed they will not even be able to feel those feelings and meanings fully. Yet if they were to add so much as a single new letter to the alphabet and vocabulary of their bodily actions, this would allow them to feel and give form to entirely new feelings and meanings, to form new bodily words and sentences, and speak freely and fluently with their bodies.
Our bodies imply every next bit of our further living. An action can explicate this implicit further living and carry it forward.
Our bodily expressiveness can be muted or used to produce the equivalent of an endless and unreflective stream of speech. Alternatively we can use whole body awareness to turn our body speech into body poetry. We write a poem one line at a time, pausing to listen for the precise words that fit our felt sense of what we wish to express in the next line. Each new line we write makes an implicit or felt meaning explicit. This in turn allows us to feel new implicit meanings that the words of the next line can make explicit.
is like writing a poem, except that each line is not articulated in words but
through a precise articulation of our body language into new expressive
‘comportments’ or mudras, each of which can express and make explicit a
new way of feeling ourselves, and be a source of new insights into our lives.
For any feeling, once followed and given form through a new expressive bodily
comportment or mudra, naturally transforms into another feeling, thereby
also giving rise to new thoughts.
1. At any moment in time, freeze your bodily posture and facial expression and feel it in every detail, including the tilt of your head, shape of your mouth and the exact look in your eyes.
2. Sense the particular way in which holding that posture and facial expression makes you feel - the particular quality or shade of awareness it expresses and embodies, and the particular ‘you’ you feel through it.
3. Now choose to alter just one or two features of your posture and facial expression – for example the tilt of your head, the shape of your mouth, the openness of your eyes. Freezing and holding that new bodily posture and facial expression for some time, notice how it alters your entire sense of your body and self.
1. Whatever is going on within or around you, maintain awareness of your immediate sensory experience of your environment and immediate bodily experience of yourself.
2. Let your awareness feel itself into every part of your body in turn, until you reach a point of feeling your body as a whole and can sustain that whole-body awareness.
3. Now feel the exact way you are currently bodying this sense of yourself through your physical comportment – feel your way of sitting, the positioning of your arms and legs, your way of breathing, the tilt of your head, the shape of your mouth, your facial expression, the direction of your gaze and the look in your eyes.
4. Now adjust your bodily comportment to your sense of yourself, altering any or every aspect of it until it exactly expresses and bodies the way you are feeling yourself.
5. Hold yourself completely still in this comportment - freezing every aspect of it, from your way of sitting to the look in your eyes. Notice how this amplifies your bodily sense of the self, allowing you to feel the basic tone and quality of your awareness.
6. Still freezing your bodily comportment in all its aspects, and staying with the specific way of feeling yourself that it embodies, attend to all the different thoughts that arise from this specific sense of yourself, your situation and your life.
7. Attending to all that comes up in your mind remain aware of your felt body as a whole, and sense how your thoughts start to alter your feelings and your bodily sense of self.
8. As you become aware of a felt shift in your bodily sense of self, once again adjust the different aspects of your comportment until it exactly expresses the new sense of self, and once again hold yourself still in the new comportment – freezing it in every aspect and seeing what new thoughts arise from it.
9. Continue the process of forming and freezing a comportment that gives exact expression to your felt sense of yourself, holding yourself still in that comportment, feeling the self it expresses more fully, waiting to see what new thoughts arise from it, and altering it in any aspect whenever it no longer exactly expresses the way you feel.
Of the many different yogas of bodily action – it is specific expressive gestures or mudras of the mouth, face and eyes that are the most central. For except when flirting or frowning in anger, few people except trained actors know how to intentionally form a face to express a feeling, let alone intentionally communicate the feeling it expresses through their eyes. Yet it is the eyes that communicate what the face expresses - and thus the face and eyes are the chief instrument with which we can actively give form to and transform our entire bodily tone of feeling and sense of self. Bodying means using specific parts of one’s body to give form to soul qualities - those qualities of awareness that permeate one’s experience of oneself and the world. These include emotional qualities such as sadness and joy, hope and fear; elemental qualities such as fieriness, airiness, fluidity and solidity, sensuous qualities such as warmth and coolness, softness and hardness, brightness and darkness, lightness and heaviness, clarity and dullness, and related spatial qualities such as closeness and distance, expansion and contraction. Learning to actively body such qualities involves learning to form expressions or mudra of the mouth, face and eyes in particular. The meditation below focuses on an emotional quality – in this case ‘sadness’. But the stages of the meditation can apply to any quality of awareness (Q) whatsoever - whether emotional or elemental, sensuous or spatial, animal or divine.
1. Feel Q (for example – feel ‘sad’).
2. Feel the Q more (for example – feel more sad or feel the sadness more).
3. Feel the sadness in your body.
4. Feel where and how you feel the sadness in your body.
5. Feel how the sadness makes your body feel to you.
6. Feel how the sadness makes you feel in your body.
7. Sense the basic feeling tone and quality of the sadness as you feel it in your body.
8. Let that basic feeling tone and quality permeate your whole body and whole self.
Find a bodily posture that fully embodies the felt tone and quality of
10. Now simply feel your own mouth, lips and lower jaw.
11. Now let yourself feel the tone of sadness with and in your mouth, lips and jaw.
12. Now feel for a way of shaping your lips, mouth and jaws that precisely gives form to or ‘mimes’ the tone of sadness you feel with and in them.
13. Now simply feel the entire surface of your face.
14. Form a face that fully expresses the tone of the sadness as you feel it in your body.
15. Feel how showing the sadness in your face helps you feel it more in your body.
16. Finally - simply feel your brow and eyes.
17. Feel the tone of sadness in your brow and let it shape your brow.
18. Now feel for and form a look in your eyes that fully shows that tone of sadness.
19. Be aware of how letting the sadness into your eyes allows you to fully identify (‘I’-dentity and ‘eye-dentify’) with and reveal the sadness as you feel it with your body, mouth and face as a whole.
20. Feeling and revealing the sadness in your eyes, intend to not just show but communicate it to the eyes of another, or to your eyes seen in the mirror.
21. Ask a partner to seek to precisely mirror the look of sadness in your mouth, face and eyes - directly or in the mirror - and to seek to feel in their body as a whole what they see in your face and eyes.
Aware of every limb,
Every part of my body,
Aware of feeling it from within;
Aware of my face and eyes, feeling them from within,
Aware of my bodily posture, feeling it from within,
Aware of my way of sitting, standing or moving
The inclination of my body, the tilt of my head
The tension in each and every muscle,
The openness of my eyes,
The direction of my gaze,
The shape of my mouth;
Aware of how my body
Gives outer form to my
Inner mood or disposition,
I choose to dispose myself in a new way:
To alter my comportment in one or other way.
In this way, I evoke a new mood or disposition,
A new way of feeling my self and body as a whole.
In this way too, my every bodily movement becomes ‘mudra’
A dis-position which seals a new inner mood or disposition,
Letting me experience a whole new quality of awareness
With and within
There are three basic mudra which, in traditional tantric philosophy and practice, were historically recognised as keys to the liberation (moksha) and expansion (tan) of awareness. These mudra were not identified with the fixed postures or asanas or simple hasta mudra of the fingers and hands that are taught in today’s historically ignorant ‘yoga’ classes. Instead they were understood as fundamental inner postures, dispositions or comportments - each of which had the power to fill the adept with the bliss (mud) of pure awareness, and to dissolve away (dra) the karmic bondage that, in terms of The New Yoga, comes from identifying with anything we are aware of. Another root meaning of mudra is ‘seal’. In essence the three tantric mudra are three different relationships that can be intended and maintained - ‘sealed’ - between the inner and outer spaces of awareness within and around our bodies. Their common aim was identification with the divine as a singular space or ‘unified field’ of awareness.
1. KHECARI MUDRA
Khecari mudra is that inner comportment in which, by attending to and identifying with our awareness of space we come to experience all spaces as spaces of awareness.
2. KRAMA MUDRA
Krama mudra is an inner comportment, by which, through feeling the surface boundary of one’s body, one can sequentially alternate between introspective identification with the inner awareness spaces of one’s body - of head, chest, belly and abdomen - and the awareness space of our outer sensory experiencing of the world around us.
3. BHAIRAVA MUDRA
Bhairava mudra was regarded in the tantras as the ultimate mudra. It is that inner comportment through which, by simultaneous identification with outer and inner spaces of awareness, one comes to experience awareness itself as one singular space of awareness – a unified field of awareness embracing everything we can experience within it, both inwardly and outwardly – including both thoughts and things, emotions and material bodies, sensual qualities of awareness and the sensory qualities of objects.
The following quotations from the tantras reveal both the distinctiveness and the subtle inner connectedness between Khecari, Krama and Bhairava mudra, all of which do indeed come to bodily expression as mudra of the eyes, revealing through the adept’s gaze their inner and/or outer direction and expansiveness of awareness.
Meditate on space as omnipresent and free of all limitations.
Think ‘I am not my own body. I exist everywhere’.
Meditate on one’s own body as the universe and as having the nature of awareness.
Meditate on the skin as being like an outer wall with nothing within it.
Meditate on the void in one’s body extending in all directions simultaneously.
Meditate on one’s own self as a vast unlimited expanse.
Meditate on a bottomless well or as standing in a very high place.
Meditate on the void above and the void below.
Meditate on the bodily elements as pervaded with voidness.
Contemplate that the same awareness exists in all bodies.
Whether outside or inside Shiva is omnipresent.
Initially he turns inward from the outside world and [then] from within he exits into the outer world under the influence of his absorption. Thus the sequence (krama) in this comportment ranges through both inner and outer.
With one’s aim [gaze] turned inwards, whilst looking outwards, eyes neither opening nor closing – this is Bhairava’s Mudra kept secret in all the Tantras.
By penetrating into Bhairavamudra, the yogi observes the vast totality of beings … like a series of reflections arising and disappearing inside a mirror.
If you project the vision and all the other powers [of the senses] simultaneously, everywhere … by the power of awareness, whilst remaining firmly established in the centre like a pillar of gold, you shine as the One, the foundation of the universe.
…from awareness of our bodies to the bodying of awareness
Questions to ask oneself:
How aware am I of my physical form in all its features – posture, facial expression, the tilt of my head, shape of my mouth, the look on my face and in my eyes?
Can I let every feature of my outer bodily comportment and countenance be in-formed by how I feel myself inside, and in this way fully embody my sense of self?
Can I allow myself to alter one or more features of my bodily comportment and feel how doing so transforms my entire bodily sense of self?
Summary of Principles
All action (kriya) is an expressive, formative activity of bodying (mudra).
Enlarging the expressive range and mobility of our body language
enlarges our range and mobility of awareness.
Giving outer bodily form (morphe) to the way we feel ourselves and others amplifies that feeling through resonance – the principle of “morphic resonance”.
Altering any expressive feature of our physical body can transform the way we feel ourselves and others – the principle of metamorphosis or “metamorphic resonance”.
We cannot maintain awareness of our body and self as a whole without
continuously and expressively bodying our self-awareness.
Summary of Practices:
1. Sustaining a particular posture and facial expression and being
aware of the sense of self it gives form to and embodies.
2. Intentionally shifting one’s posture and facial expression
and being aware of how this transforms our sense of self
“The outer shape of a person reflects his inner mood.
Changing that shape can change his mood.”
KRIYA – action, understood as form-giving or formative action.
MUDRA – aware bodily acts which give bodily form to states of being.
RUPA – form/bodyhood.
SADHAKA – practitioner or aspirant.
SADHANA – meditational practice.
SIDDHA – adept.
SADHAKA-RUPA – outer physical body or form/physical organism.
SIDDHA-RUPA – felt inner body or inner form/psychical organism.