At the heart of Rudra Meditation is an ancient tantric technique that involves opening to the ever-present flow of Kundalini Shakti within and all around us.
An Endless Sea of Energy
Wherever we go we are surrounded by an endless sea of energy. Yet we close ourselves off to that infinite supply. We imagine ourselves to be separate independent entities, helpless victims detached from the whole.
We spend our lives struggling for sustenance and fighting with each other over crumbs. If we could just learn to open our hearts the energy of the universe would come rushing in. And we would discover that the nourishment we seek was always within our reach.
This is the truth the tantric yogis discovered many centuries ago. And this is the same truth Swami Rudrananda (Rudi) uncovered within the depths of his own spiritual practice.
In the 1960’s, Rudi brought a powerful exercise to the West which he taught to his students in NYC and to others across the US . He most often referred to it as “the work”, and later as “Kundalini yoga” (not to be confused with the style of yoga by the same name which was popularized by Yogi Bhajan). In honor of Rudi, we refer to the practice here as Rudra Meditation.
Rudra Meditation trains us to quiet the mind and expand the centers of energy within our body. Most often practiced with open eyes, it helps us develop the capacity to maintain a meditative state in the midst of daily activities.
Inner and Outer are One
The spiritual orientation of this work is nondual. It acknowledges both the depths of divinity within us, and the divine essence of the universe around us. And it seeks to break down our mind’s illusory division of the two.
Rudi’s teacher, the great spiritual master Bhagawan Nityananda, described the nondual nature of reality in this way:
“A lump of dirt and money are the same to one who has realized the Self.
Such a person is not attached to either one, seeing all as the Self —
The Self in all and all in the Self.
This is inner vision, subtle thought;
This is Shiva-Shakti, the creative power of the indivisible One.
And God’s creative power is the Self,
the One reality.”
(Above passage is from The Sky of the Heart – Rudra Press)
Opening to Life
Rudra Meditation is easily transferable to real-life situations. The work we do during our practice develops our capacity to stay open and connected to the energy of the day.
In Rudra Meditation we train to stay open to whatever is present. As Rudi once put it: “Everything is a reason to open, nothing is a reason to close.”
We often practice with open eyes, though it can be just as beneficial when performed with the eyes closed. In either case, we are not attempting to withdraw from, or escape from the world.
Nor are we trying to visualize or conceptualize any higher state of being. Instead, we are working to come into direct conscious contact with the multidimensional reality of existence.
In non-dual tantra, the tradition from which the elements of this practice emerged, no separation exists between the inner and the outer. All is Shiva. All is the Self.
Awakening Your Dormant Potential
Tantric texts describe a dormant energy that lies coiled like a snake at the base of the spine. They call this energy Kundalini Shakti, and portray her as a sleeping Goddess.
When awakened, the Goddess rises up the central channel (sushumna), enlivening all of the subtle channels (nadis) and energy centers (chakras) throughout the human body. Eventually, she rises to the crown of the head, unfolds the “thousand-petalled lotus”, and merges with her cosmic lover Shiva. These metaphors symbolize the unfolding of our dormant spiritual potential.
When we close to life we become filled with tensions which block the flow of creative energy. This is the common state of people living in the world today. Living in a closed state dims our awareness and dulls our sense of aliveness. The result is suffering.
As we work inside, and learn to release our tensions, our vital force “awakens”. The Goddess uncoils and rises. We become more alive inside, our awareness expands, and we become more consciously connected with Life Itself.
The driving principle of this practice can be stated in one word:
While this may sound simple in theory, it goes against the thing we’ve been most conditioned to do:
We spend a lifetime(s) building up armor meant to protect us from life’s blows. Filled with fear and anxiety, we latch onto our limited sense of identity and to the people and things which help us maintain that identity.
We close the psychic doors to any new experiences that may leave our ego vulnerable. We build a castle, dig a moat, and hide out in the inner fortress.
So we become crystalized and stuck within those walls, held captive within our self-made prison.
But beneath all of our anxieties and tensions each of us possess the innate desire to grow and to express life. We can choose to tap into that desire and break free of our conditionings. The moment we do so, Kundalini Shakti will rush in and lift us up.
How to Practice Rudra Meditation
- Sit in a comfortable upright posture in a place you won’t be disturbed.
- Rest your hands on your thighs with your palms turned up and your forefingers touching your thumbs. Known as gyan-mudra, or chin-mudra, this hand position helps cultivate stability and the steady flow of prana.
- Acknowledge the divine Presence within and around you.
- Feel a sense of gratitude for the life you have within that infinite field of Presence.
- Begin to establish an inner flow of awareness by directing your attention into the chakra system. Become aware of the third eye, the throat, and the heart chakra.
- Feel your way into manipura chakra (just below the navel and slightly inward toward the spine) and summon your desire to grow spiritually. Feel this desire increase within you until it is a tangible hunger, a need that must be fulfilled.
The Double Rudra-Breath:
- Take a deep, slow breath in through the nose. Feel it reach into the third eye chakra and then flow down through the throat. Swallow as the breath comes into the throat, and then bring it down into the heart chakra.
- Hold the breath in the heart center, without force, for five to ten seconds. Feel deeply into this area, relaxing any tightness. Ask for help to surrender. Ask to let go of your tensions so that you can open more fully to the flow of higher creative energy.
- Keeping your awareness in the heart chakra, release about 20 percent of the breath. Then inhale, bringing the energy and awareness down into manipura chakra (just below the navel and slightly inward toward the spine). Hold the breath there, without force, for about 5 to 10 seconds, asking again for help to surrender.
- Exhale slowly, bringing the energy and awareness down through the sex chakra, across the perineum, and into the base of the spine. Allow the energy to rise up the spine and toward the crown of the head.
- Pause briefly, noticing the space between breaths.
The Single Rudra-Breath:
- Inhale through the nose, following the breath up into the third eye.
- Bring it down through the throat, then continue through the heart chakra without pausing.
- Draw the breath into manipura chakra (the navel center).
- Pause briefly. Notice the space between breaths.
- Exhale slowly, bringing the energy and awareness through the sex chakra and perineum toward the base of the spine.
- Allow the energy to rise up the spine into the crown chakra.
- Pause briefly, noticing the space between breaths.
Sequence of Practice
Double Rudra-Breaths can be practiced every 3-5 minutes, or around 8 times during a 30 minute session.
Single Rudra-Breaths can be performed when not practicing the double-breath. As you breathe, feel the energy circulate throughout your chakra system. Let go of your tensions and feel the chakras continue to expand.
Throughout all of your practice, keep your attention centered in the manipura chakra (again, just below the navel and slightly inward toward the spoine). This is your fire center, the place where all of your stresses and tensions can be digested and assimilated.
If you feel energy begin to build in the lower chakras, gently rock from side to side to encourage the energy to rise up the central channel toward the crown.
At any point during a meditation session, you may feel yourself being effortlessly drawn into a state of quiet, expansive stillness. If this happens, let go of all techniques and allow the inner current to take you.
Meditation techniques exist to help you get beyond the ego-mind and become more aware of Awareness. Once established in a clear recognition of Awareness, set the techniques aside.
If the mind and emotions become too active again, come back to the exercise.
Always remain open and responsive to the guidance that comes from within.
Duration of Practice
Shorter sessions performed with full attention are far more beneficial than spending hours in a state of trance. 20-30 minutes once or twice a day is a good place to start. As you progress you may benefit from 45-60 minute periods.
I find it helpful to sit once every week or two for an extended amount of time. The increase causes me to stretch inside and to deepen my practice.
Meditating with Open Eyes
Rudra Meditation can be practiced with the eyes open or closed. It can be practiced alone or with a group.
In a class setting, the teacher sits at the front of the class, and works eye-to-eye with each of the students in turn. A sharing of loving energy and consciousness takes place. Tantrikas refer to this transmission as shaktipat.
When meditating alone, or in a group setting without a teacher, sacred art such as a statue, yantra or mandala, or a photograph of a spiritual teacher can be used. You can also practice with a sunset, canyon, river, ocean, or any other natural setting that helps you to open.
Feeling Energy During Rudra Meditation
It’s normal to not be able to feel energy in the beginning stages of meditative work. Be patient, continue to sit each day, and trust in the process. As your practice deepens over time you will develop a greater sensitivity to prana.
To feel the flow of awareness is more important than to feel the flow of energy. With the help of the breath, you should be able to sense your awareness move down the front of your body and rise up through the spine into the crown.
Prana will follow awareness.
Notes on Surrender
- Surrender is the key. In the beginning you are making an effort, you are engaged in intensive work. But as you learn to surrender to Shakti’s flow, you move from working to being worked.
- Allow thoughts to come and go. There’s no need to wrestle your mind into submission. Just let your thoughts flow by as if you’re sitting on a river bank watching the stream.
- Notice the stillness of your body. Allow your mind to settle into that stillness.
- Become aware of any increased sense of openness and energization.
- Notice the quiet spaces between your breaths and between your thoughts.
- Notice the silent Awareness behind all thoughts and sensations.
- Let go into that Awareness. Become centered in It as It. This is surrender.
Kriyas: Spontaneous Surges of Energy
As you surrender more deeply, and come into a deeper state of rest, you may notice some tensions begin to release. As that happens you may experience rising thoughts, emotions, or as muscle spasms. These unprompted movements of energy are called kriyas.
Kriya is a Sanskrit word meaning action. Yogis use the term to describe an action which purifies. There are kriyas such as fasting and breathing techniques which are performed deliberately, and there are kriyas which occur spontaneously.
Some people experience sudden movements in the spine or neck, or unexpected jerks in the arms or legs. Many have more subtle kriyas such as slight muscle twitches or deep, natural breaths. These are all healthy releases of tension.
All forms of kriyas should be surrendered as part of the flow of the meditation.
If a strong emotion surges, watch it rise up, play out upon the screen of your awareness, and then fall away.
Never try to suppress or ignore an emotion. Instead, feel them fully and allow them to pass through. There is no need to analyze them. Simply allow the release to occur, then draw the freed energy back into your chakra system.
As kriyas occur, the energy that is freed will provide you with the nourishment you need to further your growth.
The Cosmic Light Show
When practicing Rudra Meditation you may experience subtle sounds or colors, have visions, or become immersed in feelings of bliss.
It’s human nature to want to hold onto those experiences, to bring them home and give them a name. Or to attempt to analyze them and figure out what they mean. But to bring the mind into the process limits the experience and cuts you off from the natural flow of creative energy.
The mind wants to hold onto pleasant sensations and pull away from uncomfortable ones. But this is what traps you in limiting thought-patterns and belief structures.
If you desire to grow, you must always work to deepen the flow. All must be offered to the inner current if that current is to carry you toward a greater recognition of your true nature.
No matter how alluring your experiences in meditation, it’s important not to get seduced by the cosmic light show. The moment you become attached to particular states of consciousness, or to attempt to recreate a beautiful experience you had in a past meditation, you get washed up on the riverbank and removed from the flow.
A Better Ride
Each time you sit you are working to build an inner mechanism that will allow you to stay open and connected to Life. It will give you the ability to extract the nourishment from whatever environment you find yourself in.
If you can learn to open rather than close, if you can learn to transform your tension into prana, you will become a happier human being. If you can feel a sense of gratitude within you and a feeling of aliveness, you will have a better ride through life.
Many blessings on your journey!