Praani

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In this post, I wrote about how Sahaj Marg has aided my personal evolution to the point of somewhat regular experiences of  The More. Part of that development and those experiences (maybe a huge part of it), I think, relates to what I know to be called “praan” or “prana.” ( प्राण, prāṇa ) Depending on the source you reference, this term translates variously as: Life force, vitality principle, universal principle of energy or force, cosmic energy, and shakti. The Wikipedia entry (which I don’t usually count as a valid reference for anything) on the term tells us that it comes to the earth from the sun, connects all the elements, is responsible for the body’s life / heat / maintenance, and is the sum total of all the manifest energy everywhere. (I find this to be just one, very simple example of Hinduism’s ability to completely marry science / sorcery, mundane / magical, sacred / secular.) Obviously, with a definition as broad as the one above, there are a billion ways in which praana manifests and can be experienced. Another great aspect of Hinduism is that it not only allows for but also insists on the recognition of everyone’s ability to experience this, first-hand, in their own way. For me, this most often happens (or, at least, happens in a way that I have come to recognize with the most ease … ) while gardening. I’ll now annoy you with photos of some of my recent gardening efforts. 11050102_10155600723615235_4087172207148536321_n 11209590_10155600754980235_5902798348459611331_n 11210491_10155582210965235_3805607327618700350_n 11212769_10155582210095235_3930039768400469059_n 11141204_10155582209930235_2020331096100944633_n   It’s tough to describe. In fact, when describing It, all words will invariably fail. But I can try to describe my sensory experience. For anyone inexperienced in the dark art of gardening, allow me to say a bit: I don’t wear gloves. Ever. Give me lilies or a cactus, I’m touching it with my skin. This means getting my hands in the dirt and getting the dirt in me – at a minimum dirt will get under my nails, but it’s not uncommon that I’ve also accidentally cut or poked myself and broken some skin. When repotting a plant or placing it into the ground, there’s a lot of physical contact: I usually inspect the plant (above the roots) first to make sure it’s healthy. Then there’s minor prep work before and during the removal from its planter. After that, focus falls to the root ball – to loosen the roots a bit and break up some of the dirt being held onto. Occasionally, trimming or pruning is also beneficial or necessary before planting or repotting. Beyond that scenario, whether indoors or outside, gardening offers lots of opportunity to care for these living things: Watering, rotating, pruning, separating new sprouts or “pups,” … the list can go on, assuming the plant survives. All of this contact and attention and focus and care can, for the right person, contribute to the development of a rather meditative state. It’s not unlike a state I’ve experienced while doing dishes or mowing the yard – and others have experienced this, too, during mundane activities.The difference between gardening and washing dishes, though, is the contact with actually living things. And that’s where praana comes into this picture and is also where it becomes challenging to describe. There’s a sound that electricity carries. It sometimes can be sensed (heard?) after a lightening flash and right before a thunderclap. It’s not that “zap” sound. It can be heard again in silence – like immediately after the thunder or in between heart beats. (We reproduce this, somewhat, when during pranayam-ic exercises we pause between inhaling and exhaling.) From where I currently sit, I’m not sure if this “silence” is really a kind of noise or not. And truly, it must be felt to be experienced. I don’t think it can actually be heard with human ears. But there’s that electrically-charged silence-but-not-silence “sound.” This is what growth sounds like. A kind of electric, non-auditory, thunder. And because I can’t actually hear it, I feel it. There’s no ego in a plant. Consciousness (different from awareness), but no ego. And as already mentioned, the act of gardening can induce a deep meditative state. So, when I engage in this activity and enter that state my ego is brushed aside (quite involuntarily!) and magic happens. This is when people say they’re doing something from the heart or “in the zone” (it’s the heart zone!). Whether it’s basketball, gardening, archery, or whatever – you can enter that space within and operate from there. A huge, massive, invaluable benefit I’ve gained from Sahaj Marg – being able to tap into my core. So before I know it, I’m in my heart experiencing this magic kind of non-effort and that’s when I come into conscious and aware contact with praana. Please believe me when I tell you that I experience (feel) that universal sound – the very life residing in the plant (and in you, and me, and everything else, everywhere). I feel the sound of the movement of Life. I don’t feel the movement itself. I don’t hear anything. It keeps reminding me of the kind of sensitivity that guy in the movie “Powder” exhibited, but without all the melancholy. But I feel the “sound” made by that indwelling… And then I go to a greenhouse and buy more plants, pots, and dirt! When you find a way for you to tap into It so easily, it can be maddening. It becomes all you really want to do. Bliss. It’s probably a good thing I’m not yet able to experience this consistently in other areas of my life – I’d give away everything and run to the jungles or a mountain cave and would live my days in seclusion. I’m curious how many others have this experience, or their equivalent of it. What activities can induce this in your human being? Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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