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Lions Roar : January 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2011 31 her hunter fiancé to live in a cremation ground, clad only in her long black hair. hatha yoga shares tantra’s elaborate mapping of the subtle body—an intricate network of energies coursing through channels called nadis and concentrated in swirling vortexes called chakras. The intense physical techniques of hatha yoga, including postures, breathing techniques, and purifications, are a kind of ritual al- chemy through which these energies can be harnessed for liberation. Whether you are standing on your head, pouring salt water into your sinuses, or swallowing a piece of cloth and then hauling it out of your stomach again—you have to perform these physical practices in the ser- vice of ultimate spiritual awakening, hatha yogis insist, or your actions are meaningless. at the same time, hatha yoga’s body-based techniques keep the practitioner grounded in the world of physical form—the only place where it is possible to honor the pre- ciousness of human incarnation, with its infinite sorrows and infinite joys. So every morning I step out under the trees, gaze at the mountain, and open my- self to whatever awaits me: fog and sun- shine, darting hummingbirds, and dead rats. Like matsyendra, I am swallowed whole by my practice and drawn to the dark underwater depths, where—if I lis- ten carefully—I can hear the whispered secrets of the gods. Last month, a high wind blew my shel- tering oak down—shattering part of my deck, knocking down a bay tree, uproot- ing my garden steps. It missed my house by less than a foot, falling instead directly on top of the statue of prajnaparamita, who peered out unscathed from between its roots. Without the oak’s shade, it’s hot- ter on my deck in the morning and not so comfortable. But I practice there anyway, in the bright blast of sun. I know I’ll blow down myself one day. my body will be torn apart and eaten by the feline-sharp teeth of time. But until I do, I’ll go on reaching my branches to the sky each day and sinking my roots deep into the earth. I’ll go on cherishing this fragile, impermanent union of spirit and bone. ♦