For the past few weeks, I have especially, and particularly been feeling pulls between inner contradictory ways of feeling. With the loss of all physical studio spaces that I teach at due to the Corona virus, and simultaneous excitement of possibilities for the future, I have felt awkward. Awkward has been the best word I have felt that describes the way that I feel. And then I rediscovered a Sanskrit word that has come across my path in the past and yet this time it held such deeper resonance. And, I discovered even more deeper meanings to this word this time around. The word is “spanda”.
Spanda is Sanskrit for “pulsation”. It’s root word is ‘spandi’, meaning “to move a little”. Spanda is a vibration of expansion and contraction, and yet it is a movement that cannot be seen by the physical eye. It is a creative vibration. It moves things. It moves all things! It moves everything from our bodies to our consciousness.
Spanda is a pulsation that creates relationships as well as being the source of all movement; be it a physical movement, movement of our consciousness, or even movement of our prana. I think of the vayus here, the “winds”, or directions, in which prana, life force, can go.
It is these relationships within myself, between feelings of grief and excitement, motivation and exhaustion, worry and surrender, joy and sadness, as well as love and fear, that I have been moving with lately. It is why spanda is really resonating with me. Its movement, remember the root words meaning, “to move a little”.
Susanna Harwood Rubin has a really fun “30 words in 30 days” program that I’m taking, and it is how spanda came back across my path! I love how she prompts us with the questions, “What are two seemingly contradictory energies that you experience within yourself? How do they interact? She goes further by asking “when do you experience these things? Is one always more dominant”? And, “what do you learn about yourself from observing the pulsation and relationship of these energies rising and falling within your life”?
That last question is key to our inner learnings. Spanda invites us into deeper self-study. When we observe and see these different entities within our self, we have then brought it into our awareness. When we observe, recognize, and name the entities, and when we feel if one is more dominant than the other, then the practice of discernment moves us towards more authentic actions. It can move us to change our thought patterns, it can move us to change our actions, and it can move us to make changes in our life that support us in becoming our best and authentic self.
For me, I can see that when I observe my fear being the more dominant entity within my thoughts, I do a few things. I begin by recognizing the fear. I often forget to thank the fear for its reasons of wanting to protect me (because its most often holding me back), and I often jump to telling fear that it has no real foundation, unless its a hot stove, lol! After acknowledging the fear and making sure that it has no real foundation(here is a good moment to listen to intuition!), then I choose to give more of my attention and energy to the Light. I can think the opposite, positive, loving thought. I can choose wonder. I can choose to make the more loving action. I can simply be in the consciousness that is most helpful and loving for all.
In spanda.org, they write that spanda is “The subtle vibration which is the source and foundation of all these”; ‘these’ meaning consciousness, physical movement, contraction/expansion, etc. It also goes on to write that spanda is “consciousness as it orients through thought and intention to organize into authentic action”. Here again, we come to realize that our thoughts and our intentions lead to those authentic actions. Spanda brings us closer to our True self, and spanda IS the spark of who we are…
“When we sense this pulsation inside us, we are sensing our own personal spark of that huge, primordial life force.” Spanda.org. “It is the energy behind the breath, the heartbeat, and the movement of our thoughts and feelings. It is also the source of all our inner experiences. When we get deep into ourselves, we realize that this throb, this subtle pulsation, is ‘meditating’ us”. When I read that, my mind exploded! It reminded me of samadhi, “absorption”, and that spanda and I are moving towards Oneness. And it also made me feel, in a “goose bumpy” kind of way, that as I move and live and breathe and experience, that life itself is moving and breathing and feeling me. As I love, love is loving me.
Abinahavagupta (975-1025 c.e.)wrote, “Spanda is the pulsation of the ecstasy of the divine consciousness.”
I move it, it moves me. I am that, that am I. I meditate to meet it, it is meditating me.
In our classes this week we really embodied this essence by moving from one side of the mat to the other. We also really experienced it through breath. During the breathing we came to feel how even our rib cage is an embodiment of spanda. Two different sides of the rib cage, and yet connection through soft tissues in the front at the sternum, and soft tissues in the back that connect each side to the spine. Even in that relationship, there is movement because the rib cage can expand and contract as we breathe in and out. What a beautiful dance within our own bodies.
At the end of classes, as we came to sit, I would invite the following; and I invite you, dear reader, to try this now: Take a nice, comfortable seated position. Slowly bring your hands in front of your heart, facing each other, but not yet physically touching each other. Slowly, as slow as possible, begin to move your hands towards each other. Is there a moment you can feel vibration, life force, pulsing between your hands before they actually physically meet? Don’t worry if not, it’s still there. Life force of each hand, pulsing with each other, in creative relationship, spanda! The creative vibration between the two! Now, allow your hands to physically meet, close your eyes, and take a deep, peaceful breath.
To you, dear reader, and to all my friends, family, and beloveds whom I am not physically with, we are your two hands in front of you. We are representative of that moment where pulsation and relationship is happening even though we might not be physically together.
I truly have come to feel as if spanda is a metaphysical choreographer!
And that reminded me of a Martha Graham quote which I am going to use in next week’s classes! To remind us all that our spark, our light within us, is unique and important. “When we sense this pulsation inside us, we are sensing our own personal spark of that huge, primordial life force”! –spanda.org
And yes, I have already ordered on the book “Yoga Spandakarika: the sacred texts at the origin of tantra.”
Breathe and Believe.