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Part 2: Akasha

Akasha –Spaciousness

The word translates as ‘space’.
In this instance we are looking at the space within the mind, or perhaps more accurately, at spaces that the mind can be trained to distinguish. Developing such perception can assist with discovering spaciousness within the sense of the self.
Spaciousness at the vital points; -
Yoga,Martial Arts and no doubt other traditional medical systems identify bodily vital points marman where life force prana can become stagnant or blocked. This may lead to a sense of numbness, sensations of discomfort or eventually, disease where the trapped prana remains unnoticed or unheeded. By focussing awareness on one of these areas, investing it with a sense of spaciousness, akasha, the yogin can release the dammed-up life force and stimulate energy flow[1]. This action can occur spontaneously during asana practice (yogic exercise) or consciously be achieved in the internalising pre-meditative process.
This is an extension to the nyasa[2] system used in Yoga Nidra[3] during the rotation of consciousness.
Here the body is gradually relaxed and brought into stillness, some detachment from the concerns of the routine life is let develop… at last, the quiet mind settles on an area that has brought itself to attention in whatever way and for whatever reason. Perhaps there is pain, tension, cramp or curiosity; becoming the centre of focus, that part of the body is viewed with compassion and if possible a ‘dialogue’ can take place where the body is given an opportunity to ‘express’ the memories, thoughts and emotions that are being held there. During this time of concentration, the mind creates a sense of spaciousness – akasha – by looking to see what might be present behind and within the initial perception; could there be colour, sound or sensation? Perhaps there is a felt-sense of iridescent colours that cannot be seen by the eye, - or sounds that cannot be heard by the ear – or even unexpected sensations; seek to find what can be experienced as space is created and the original symptom allowed to unpack its agenda.
Focussing in this way can give insight into the background issues that generally are present, overwhelming the prana and blocking its flow. Due to the constraints of family or cultural expectations, there may be suppressed or repressed emotions. During this practice, these can be safely brought to the surface and regarded with detachment. Perhaps detachment cannot be maintained and some discharge occurs or the need is found for further action.
Better to learn how to unfold spaciousness in the body-mind, than to let it fester into distress and illness.
Bahyakasha[4]; -
The material universe (bahyakasha) is the macro cosmos encompassing all that is within the dimensions of time, space and object, which can be explored by the mind, developing detachment and distance from the humdrum. A new perspective can be taken by systematically visualising greater and greater distance between the point of view taken in the mind’s eye, and the location of the resting body, and then returning back in to the body following the same ‘path’, in reverse. This can be a very useful short practice after a hectic or stressful experience.
Antarakasha[5] - spaciousness within the skin; -
The inner (Antar) space is the location of the micro cosmos consisting of the subtle forms of consciousness. The largest organ of the body is the skin, it is a boundary that keeps the outside out and the insides in; except for the food passing though you, everything inside your skin carries your unique genetic code, DNA and perhaps there is a unique psychic code also[6]. In this practice the mind can be trained to feel the integrated space within the skin, to expand and contract that sense, ending the practice by externalising to the resting body.
Translating as ‘consciousness’, this is the headspace or mind screen, usually seen as blackness when the eyes are closed and where visualisation and dreams are ‘seen’ by the mind’s eye. The experiences sensed here come from:
Ø     Remembering events, sensations, emotions, impressions etc.
Ø     Visualisation of consciously created images or impressions
Ø     Dreamlike manifestation, spontaneous creations of the senses
Focussing on this akasha provides a vehicle for awareness of the mental and subtle interactions of the body and the senses, with the four mental components; reasoning (manas), intellect (buddhi), memory (chitta) and the personality (ahamkara).
The greater mind lies beyond the deep aspects of mind within the energy centre known as Ajna chakra. Contained within this chakra, there is the sixth sense in which Yoga identifies Kriya Shakti the power of action, from which stems the power of resolution Sankalpa Shakti, powered by desire Ichcha Shakti. Chittakasha can be thought of as the borderline between the five senses of the world in front of our eyes, and the transcendental experience of the world within the mental space, the focus of attention can turn either way. Within this space mind acts like radar, or a receiver-transmitter able to focus into the subtle spaces within the body-mind, or tune the antennae out into the greater mind (supreme consciousness). When the mind becomes a powerful laser-like precision tool, when skills in using the faculties of chittakasha are developed and honed, great wisdom and detachment are required to maintain a compassionate focus and intent.
The heart space interacts with the subtle intensities of feeling.
The process of cleansing Hridayakash of the impressions of emotion, action and reaction is life-long; these are not superficial feelings but the repressed and suppressed deep substrata of our mind that can block the subtle, mental plane. Ideally a sense of mental detachment should be maintained throughout the practice, while every grain of energy, thought and intensity of concentration is used to build up the feeling-sensation that has been projected into the heart space for exploration; the mind can then unpack the experience, detach from it and then allow whatever has occurred to subside. The tempest of passions can be seen for what they are - mere impressions and projections - best swept away so that the clear light of the heart can be experienced.
Yogic tradition identifies a subtle energy in Hridayakash that has been described as a flame, a light - as soul or spirit - as the golden womb Hiranyagarbha – this is an eternal essence unaffected by outer or inner experience – the ‘beyond’ that is ‘Not this; not that’ neti neti - the wordless ‘I am’.
It is this clear heart-light that is so obvious in the compassionate people that we meet, and so occluded in those we instinctively fear – yet it is present in every one of us. Union Yoga between the inner heart-light and the outer person is the path dharma that encourages so many to participate in the cleansing of Hridyakash. The practice can be performed by projecting a scenario where the self at a certain age, environment or circumstance is suggested and the heart-space can then unpack what is held there.
Within the heart space can be sensed: -
Ø     The existing feeling of the moment
Ø     The eternal flame
Ø     Spontaneous expressions of emotional combinations associated with memory and response.
It can be said that the only truth in the heart-space is the eternal flame – all else consists of chains of actions and reactions linked through memory, all of which originate within the levels of perception and interpretation – change an element in the picture and the whole kaleidoscope shifts. “We are not consciously aware of what happened but those impressions remain with us today and they are reflected in our behaviour, attitude and character, in our feelings and in our expression.”[9]
This is the lower or deep space where pranic and psychic experience is held, and is usually beyond the reach of the interpreting mind; here action and reaction are instinctive. The mind needs to be trained to be able to observe and understand this space where the personality is constructed. In Yoga, the concept of the personality is vast. While the Psychological concept of personality is limited to character, qualities, strengths and weaknesses etc. According to Yogic Theory, the personality is a combination of all the five koshas[10], together with the experiences related to them; these belong both to the manifest lower mind and the unmanifest higher mind[11]. In the practice of Dharakasha there is a reduction in the range of perception, which creates an intensification in awareness and concentration that can lead to dissecting the concept of prana: Prana – the vitality of the body – the subtle body – the subtle mental processes. “The superficial mental processes are thoughts, ambitions, desires… The subtle metal processes can be summed up as samskaras[12]…are related to character, actions and desires… this samskara aspect in the subtle body is vitalised by prana, which is visualised in the form of streams of energy particles. This energy body - the psychic body - the realm of actual energy activity, is the form of vibrating prana - pulsating prana - full of life - full of colour - full of warmth - full of light – multidimensional.”[13]
Identification with chakra spaciousness and their associated elements[14]: -
Here the elemental spaces (tattwakasha) can be sensed within the spaciousness of the skin, by suggestion. A very beautiful extended practice of awareness can be built up where the mind is asked to focus on each chakra while the traditional symbols are suggested with their associated seed mantras, colours, images etc.
The ability to observe the interaction of the elements both in the external world and within can be useful, by increasing our capacity to interact consciously rather than habitually.
In contrast to the practice where the traditional symbols are projected, one can do a simple practice of focusing attention into each chakra, or each kosha and explore the thoughts and feelings that are held there.
References; -
Georg Feuerstein. The Yoga Tradition ISBN    0 93425 83 1                         YT
DD  Sw. Niranjananda Saraswati Dharana Darshan Bihar School of Yoga; India           DD
Ann Weiser Cornell Ph.D The Power of Focussing ISBN 1 57224 044X
Eugene Gendlin. Focusing-oriented Psychotherapy

[1] Kshuriká Upanishad YT 433
[2] Nyasa “placement” – The tantric practice of touching parts of the body, repeating mantra and filling them with life force
[3] Yoga Nidra – yogic sleep – very deep relaxation practice as developed by Sw. Satyananda from nyasa
[4] DD p.201
[5] DD p.205
[6] See subtle buddhi - Vigyanamaya kosha in Part 1, Pancha Kosha at
[7] DD p.209
[8] DD p.227
[9] DD p.230
[10] see Pancha Kosha on
[11] DD p. 239
[12] Samskaras a yogic concept of seeds of action and reaction that take root and grow – every action or volition produces a subliminal deposit in the mind leading to new psychomental activity
[13] DD p.241

[14] DD 347 ff

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