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  • Yoganand Michael Carroll

When You Think You Are Off the Path

A long time student of mine experienced seeing colors when she practiced pranayama initially. After several years of practice she noticed that she no longer saw colors during her pranayama practice. She was concerned that not seeing colors meant that was not progressing, or had taken a wrong turn in her practice. She asked me about this situation and my response is below. I have responded in the same way that my teachers responded to me when I had similar questions.


Regarding seeing colors, Krishna's Action Yoga from the Bhagavad Gita is basically to: perform those practices that you believe will lead you to freedom but, give the results to god. Seeing colors would fit in the category of results to give to god. I think the reason we are instructed to give them to god is because we cannot tell what should happen as we move closer to spirit. Moving closer to spirit may manifest as bliss for someone and sadness for another. There may be physical catharsis, or the body awareness may dissolve into awareness of love and light. We may feel freedom from a burden, or feel the burden more strongly than ever before.


The Bhagavad Gita refers to our unique path back to god as our Swakarma or Swadharma, both words mean, actions or structures arising from inside based on past actions and beliefs. If we are traveling on a path and yet cannot see the path, we can't tell if we should be going up or down, or if there are stones to trip over. Since we cannot know, Krishna's brilliant answer is to accept everything we experience on the path without judging it or holding on to it.


Swami Kripalu once initiated a student into his renunciate yoga. The student practiced sincerely and began to have fearful visions in meditation. The visions scared him so much that he came running to Swami Kripalu with tears in his eyes. Swami Kripalu responded by saying, 'My son, in the great ocean of yoga experience these are only drops.' His guidance was to experience them but to not be swayed by them into holding or rejecting. In a similar teaching the Bhagavad Gita says,


Physical sensations, truly, Arjuna, causing cold, heat, pleasure, or pain, come and go and are impermanent. So manage to endure them, Arjuna. (B.G. 2.14)


No precise technique is given, just 'endure them.' Every situation requires a different response but bottom line, get through them and keep going. Or, said another way, experience them and let them be free to stay or go as they wish.

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