Alex Grey’s Universal Mind Lattice

I mashed together recent yahoo group posts to make this little essay:

I’ve discovered that chi has at least two aspects, which can be tuned into and felt very strongly.

Upward and downward, which in the yogic tradition correspond to Prana and Apana. When they meet the spark is called kundalini.

Kundalini is not merely the rising serpent of Prana ascending to higher chakras – that is fairly easily accessible – nor is it bringing earth energy up to higher chakras in refinement and then descending this back down in embodiment – it is making the spark between these universal polarities.

Chi that is not moved can also be felt, and the listening is an active communion, but the practitioner has to steal a moment of transition. Like when the tennis ball approaches and the player meets with full force preparing aim and velocity – and steals a moment to impart her strategy of spin, her muse, what can’t be guessed. The healer approaches energy, and listens, and steals a moment to listen differently, ear cocked. He steps into the muse, changes her strategies based on subtle cues, remains attentive, new and new, ear cocked. He briefly steps out from expectation to enter the wave, by feedback of listening and adjustment, listening, adjustment, until listening and adjustment seem a flow inseparable from what is listened to. The hand above the heart, sinking in, as there is resonance in her of what he feels. Her resonance quickly changing the shapes of what he feels, and he is in the process, placing attention mostly to see, he recognizes the obvious, and the obvious becomes obvious. There are words for the obvious, but the listener is deeper right now. the place where listening is listening to what is sacred. Love changes through bare attention.

When the serpent of Kundalini wakes it is the rising energies that are first felt, and we take them as the most important, as they are our introduction to our energetic body. As the rising energy introduces us to higher chakras, has a wakeful quality and wisdoms, and discloses subtle new objects of awareness, we assume this is the rising serpent, Kundalini, a gateway to participating in fundamental subtle universal energies. I suggest that at this stage of practice, we make the mistake of thinking the rising energy is the whole picture. It is just a preparatory beginning; part of a bigger picture.

The evolutionary and increasingly subtle changes of consciousness that are embodied in successive chakras leads many to think that the higher we go, the closer to God, love, and transcendentally sublime reality. This is true, but again I argue that even this is a limited vision – not the whole picture.

We’ve all seen Alex Grey’s masterful depictions of the human body as an energy system, with fields of force emanating out in the shape of a toroid, like a 3-D version of the lines of force shown by a bar magnet laid under a piece of paper that has iron filings sprinkled on it. Is there any less God below the feet than above?

Having full access to our system makes us more completely human, but once there is a free flow and openness, going up is a bias. There is nothing above the head that has more God in it than what is in the head, or heart, or second chakra, or below the feet. It all interpenetrates. Freedom is a kiss, not a place; a communion, not a movement towards or away from anything.

So we are made more full by being able to go up. And we are magnets with two poles. It follows we are made more whole also by going down.

The downward moving energies, that eventually can be felt from above the head, but are an inherent aspect to chi that can be felt anywhere and “originating” in any chakra, can feel like earth energy pulling and dragging itself down. It can feel as strong as the upward energies, that spinal energy that ascends and tingles and fills anywhere with blisses and power.

Focusing on below the feet is a good way to learn respect for the earth energies, and will help to let any chakra be free to move its energy down as well.

But let’s backup. Why bother with any of this at all? Why take the time to refine attention and follow a spiritual unfolding?

We all grow up, through several different ways of seeing the world. A newborn has not yet differentiated his perceptions into body and not body, a baby has not yet differentiated from personal self and mother, a terrible two toddler in diapers hasn’t learned social rules and identifies with his body, and so has not yet differentiated mind from body, and so on.

In our culture the average mode of awareness for adults centers around rational, with many people just below this with a more simplistic type of rationality that is mythological, in that rules and regulations are understood, but looking critically at rules is difficult (true believers). The stage up from rationality is being able to see many world views at the same time, and make sense of them, see systems of systems. Having a global perspective that can maintain personal morals at the same time as seeing differing morals.

There are many stages of integrating perceptions into more coherent and complete views. Some people don’t like philosophy, but our mental maps are a lens through which we focus, and with it we can see farther and closer and sharper and more broadly.

There are many lenses we can exercise. Many ways to make more sense, include more into a coherent picture. What is usually called mystical is just the perceptions that can’t be understood from the world views that are not refined enough to make sense of them.

A toddler would consider a scientist a magician. Logic is like a mysterious magical power to her. There are other perceptions that come into focus that are useless to try to translate down into the abilities of a toddler. You can’t put into words the meaning of a shared orgasm, much less expect those words to mean anything to a pre-pubescent.

There are many aspects of the self that can develop. One good motivation for engaging in a mystical path is that it makes a person feel better. The emotional sense of self develops, and this leads to feelings of bliss, oneness, union, and timeless deep connection that makes sensations and the waking world seem relatively small, like a surface film.

Science has not come close to why matter is aware, or what that means. Assuming that we are made of matter, you have to assume that it is matter that is aware. What awareness can know is also beyond science to know. We have no idea about this mystery – that we feel mystery.

Most top scientists today admit that they have no idea whether or not science has the ability to know the limits of what we can know, or to fully explain this world. The fact of awareness is a puzzle that has led many respected scientists to speculate that awareness may in some way be an inherent aspect of the universe, in a similar way that gravity and time and space are.

Speculation aside, there is nothing about science and the rational mind that leads us to think that awareness itself could not have other means of knowing the world, other ways to focus, that are not merely rational. After all, we see red, and this gives us meaningful information, rational or no.

When we place our attention on our kinesthetic awareness, that awareness of body that lets you feel your fingers wiggle when you have them behind your head, we find distinct types of feelings in different parts of our body. Some of these areas of feelings are worth exploring, and the more obvious ones have been labeled as the seven chakras.

One view is that since the higher chakras come into focus step by step as awareness evolves, that they are the aim, each higher being better than each lower. But most non-dual realized teachers, as I understand it, have said the step up the chakras is only one part of the path. Take as an analogy the famous Zen ox herding pictures. The last picture that symbolized the highest attainment is returning to the market to sell fish.

Daoists also think that our greatest aim is to bring heaven down into earth. Bring the energies above the head into the organs.

From an energetic standpoint, opening each chakra is relatively easy, and a beginner stage of practice. Once the whole system is felt, energy above the head and below the feet is felt as equally sacred and profound – in fact a 50/50 essence of the energy of every cell; Prana and Apana.

Working with kinesthetic body awareness can quickly lead to feeling an aspect of our body that in the west we rarely acknowledge, unless we are talking about shared intimate sexual feelings with a lover. Some people who put focus on this aspect of our being act as healers or kundalini teachers, because our bodies energies can not only be felt, they can be shared, and so do a communication of reading and writing. Think shared orgasm.

Many have reported that even the most subtle possible expression of chi – non-dual wakefulness – can be transmitted as communication.

Love defies explanation because it can be embodied, and it transcends the body. Fullness that allows emotion and is expressed specifically and yet not bound. Merely going up is not full love.

In my life it took more than a decade to feel a downward flow of energy as more than a mindfulness exercise of placing attention at successively lower points. The energy up the back is easy to tune into, and has an obvious life of its own. The downward energy, for me, was elusive. But there is a distinct downward force. For the upward energy, we are told to begin by placing attention at the seat of it, the coccyx. It makes people uncomfortable to talk about the seat of the downward force. But we all pretend to be either adults, or capable and curious children, so I’ll say it. It’s up your ass. It is for guys anyway. Women have wombs and monthly mysteries. Apana is a downward flow that you can feel as strongly as the upward one, but to tune into it may be difficult. As with kundalini, sex is a powerful way to turn up the amplitude of feeling energy, and the downward energy can be strongly accessed through it. Talking about sex makes people uncomfortable. Talking about the parts of the body we use only in the privacy of the toilet makes people uncomfortable. But sex is not uncomfortable, and the joys of the downward flow are ineffably beyond taboo in their blissful partaking of our vitality.

Women seem to be more naturally attuned to the downward flow than men, and I suspect that’s a part of the attraction between the sexes – a polarity of energy types. Men’s religion is usually described as seeking a higher god and women’s as seeking the embodied divine.

To tune into and enhance Apana, or downward energy, it helps to get a strong feeling for energy below the feet. Earth energy. There are many chi-kung exercises for this. But downward energy is not the same as earth energy. Earth energy is down energy, not downward.

Imagine a hose flowing from a mountain pool to a valley pool. Prana flows from below to up, and in the hose this invokes a feeling, and we connect in our mind and body to where the energy is going. It is as if up is going up. The thrill of the rush through the hose is a sensation, with qualities that we feel. Tingling, vibrant, some say blissful.

When the flow is from above to below, the feeling again identifies more with where it is going rather than above, and it feels like down is going to down. The feeling of the movement through the hose has a different quality. The energies in each chakra have different felt qualities. Heart energies have a different energetic signature than forehead energies than belly energies than perineum energies. So too do these different directions have different energy signatures. When down is returning to down, and when up is returning to up, this activity has a subjective component that has such a different qualitative feeling that we have different words for it.

What is more, much more, is that there is a several thousands year old practice of creating a spark between these two energies that ignites a mystical expansion of awareness. This is not pushing down and up into the same space – you can’t, as far as I know, successfully compress them together to get a spark. You have to place awareness to both of them at once and get a jump between them. For instance you can feel rising energy above the head, and downward energy below the feet, and spark them together by placing attention in a chakra, like the forehead. Or you bring the rising energy of above the head down to the eyebrow, and pull the descending energy up to the second chakra, and have them spark together in the heart.

What I have described is both my personal experience and echoed in modern writings and writings that go back to before there was Hinduism.

Troy asked “Would it all change if I were upside down? I might just try that.” That’s an interesting question, I think – and bonus points to Troy for wacky thinking.

I feel two ways to bring energy up. One feels like sucking energy up a straw. I might say a straw with a crack in it, such that it burbles the water up, rather than pulls it up as a smooth solid flow. This is drawing the downWARD energy up. The other feels more like letting loose a buoyancy.

The coccyx is also called the “sacral pump”, and I’d guess most of us have had the sensation of being able to compress that spot and have it launch energy up the spine. At the base of the skull is the “cranial pump”, and it is easy to tune into that energy and find a similar feeling when “squeezing” that area. We don’t have any pumps that push energy down though. And the downward energy feels pulled, not pushed. Like a dragging feeling. Dragging down. I don’t want to bring in negatively loaded associations, but as most of us don’t know what sensations to look for when searching for Apana, I’ll mention one that we are familiar with that I believe is associated with it. When we are feeling sick and dragging, with not much energy even to think, the quality of our body and sleep drags down.

Again, I’m not trying to point to earth energy, but to the type of movement that moves to earth energy. Just as the coccyx lets out energy that travels in a specific direction and has qualities of feeling to it, so does energy that is released to drag down have corresponding feelings in the movement of it. Differentiating between these two qualities is useful, as that tool can be used in several ways.

There are other common experiences we can place our attention at to get a feeling for downWARD energy. Pooping. And if you want to amplify the Apana feeling in pooping, you can do what people do to amplify the Prana feeling, and combine it with sex.

When talking of Kundalini, most people focus on the upward flow. But pretty well all the literature on Kundalini distinguishes between Prana and Apana, doesn’t it? And don’t the more famous writers who talk from personal experience talk of their experience of Apana as distinct from Prana? I don’t have a Hindu background, and haven’t studied with Kundalini teachers, but from my online research that is what I’ve learned.

I could dig up some quotes, if that would be considered helpful. And if someone is interested in feeling how the downward energy feels qualitatively distinct, I might be able to come up with some meditations that could lead a person into feeling them, but just as likely not. I had been inquiring with energy teachers how to get a decent downward flow for many years. In my case I think it was chi-kung grounding exercises, practiced over the course of many years that opened up a small feeling that was only able to get very amplified through strong sexual resonance with an Apana queen.

But I think that well placed attention can lead some one practicing alone to strongly feel Apana. Focusing on and moving energy is chi-kung, and there are many chi-kung teachers, courses, books and videos available. After a preparatory warm up of your familiar chi-kung exercises, and after spending enough time getting a strong feeling for grounding, tilt the palms of the hands to face up and feel your energies rising. Straightforward and easy. Then tilt them down and feel the flow down. Perhaps then face the palms to each other and feel a chi ball, pull palms apart, and feel a vacuum, push together and feel a pressure, then re-create these sensation without moving the hands, but moving chi – most easily done by synchronizing pull with in-breath and push with out-breath.

I speculate that the vacuum feeling may be associated with Apana, and the push with Prana, but that may be trying to make associations where none are needed. Regardless, just noting that pulling feels different than pushing sensitizes one to note the qualitative differences in an energy flow.

I’d love to hear from anyone else who has strong Apana feelings – my guess is it’s really rare, and what goes for Kundalini is merely the upward force. Where the literature suggests that Kundalini is the spark between up and down.

Appreciation and love