From Worded Truth to Wordless Gnosis:
The Puberties of Khecari, Shambhavi, and Unmani Mudras
Khecari Mudra: Linguistic Transcendence and Hypoglossal Maturation
The rediscovered meditation practices of both Eastern and Western spiritualities have bequested transpersonal psychology an appreciation for the “wisdom-beyond-language.” Psychologies of meditation now abound. Yet, when movement during meditation is kept within apollonian forms, as is commonly taught, further maturations of the body can be inhibited. Thus, the postgenital puberty of the tongue and hypothalamus known as khecari mudra (“the sky-dancer delight-gesture”), so supportive of the meditative maturations of consciousness, is little known. (I am not referring to the intentionally contrived practice of lengthening the tongue, but the mudra that emerges spontaneously via pranotthana.)
During this puberty, the anatomy underlying speech and linguistic-knowing outgrows the “grip” of language and its limitations and passes through all manner of maturational longings and sacred utterance in which semantic purport, somatic auto-developmentalism, and ecstatic worship converge. Thus, the impact of the khecari puberty is wide-ranging. It spiritualizes the voice, distills mental energies to a quivering stillness, and revitalizes the body. Subjectively, longing (kama) arises throughout the body and into the pharnyx and the hypoglossal nerve. The tongue literally moves beyond its linguistic-enunciating function into an esoteric “vocabulary” of tumescent archings and developmental “delight-gestures”–mudras–and panlinguistic utterances.
As the tongue leans fore- and backward in graceful or empassioned, movement, whatever theological discourse hopes to achieve, is arrived at by purely somatic means. The articulative mechanics of utterance become the sonic and fleshy props for this oral-spiritual ascent. Here, the gap between words and wordless meditation, or body and spirit, is filled in exquisite detail, like the warbling lark at dawn.
These particular swaying, arching, and yearning tongue, and other bodily movements and soundings–moreso than all those of the logico-semantic ilk–unfold now a somatic-aesthetic way to the truth. Guided inwardly by the alluring scent, glow, taste, cool then heat, and eternally beckoning yin-yang whorl of the subtle-pineal’s heavenly portal, the tongue takes on this postlinguistic purpose. The central nervous system, with its elaborately beautiful structural and energetic subtleties, becomes its own highest thought and proprioceptive feeling, and the tongue its now-silenced and prostrate devotee.
Comparative anatomy reveals that homosapiens has the most elaborately ennervated tongue of all lifeforms. That this anatomical fact should be interpreted by sociobiologists as an evolutionary advantage or selective adaptation whose purpose is precise verbal articulations is cast into the background of a far more profound bodily potential, in the light of khecari mudra. The unusually complex hypoglossal nerve gives the tongue the sensitivity and muscular-articulating capacity to stretch back toward an inner-calling, thus stimulating the brain/mind in its maturation beyond language-knowing toward deeply embodied, meditative gnosis.
Embryology as well suggests that khecari mudra is part of a developmental continuity from the earliest to this most advanced stage of bodily manifestation. For we find that the timely secretion of sweet-tasting mucopolysaccharides causes the proto-tongue to lick itself away from its embryonic contact with the hypophysis (the rudiment of the hypothalamus and pituitary) and out of the then-forming cranial cavity and into the just-developing oral cavity. It is interesting, then, to find that after years of pranotthana, other sweet-tasting brain secretions (soma, amrita) will again draw the tongue toward further bodily maturations in khecari mudra. This time, the sweetness guides the tongue back behind the soft palate proximal to the hypothalamic “appetitive-drive satiety center” and the pituitary developmental “master gland.” The breath-less “hermetic” meditative episodes that occur during its arousal quicken the maturations of this puberty.
For, during certain breathless meditative passages that emerge during the mudra’s hypoglossal tumescence, a “psychic membrane” opens, certainly related to the hypothalamic monitoring of blood oxygenations. Through this permeable boundary between psyche and soma, an internal respiration, known as kevala kumbhaka, begins to gasp sustenance. The yogini becomes like the first amphibious fish who risked crawling ashore breathing no longer through gulps of water, but now of atmospheric oxygen. She finds a motionless way of breathing life into her body from the “lungs” of the akasha, the glowing pranic ethers of her own endless mind. This motionless inspiration feels interminably deep, going to the source of life itself, and even without khecari is common to many meditative paths. For here the mind-brain, which is, in part, based in pranic vibration, deepens its meditative maturation and the meditator begins to identify with such wordings as “The Self,” “Atman,” “Space,” or with the Ineffable of “not this nor ‘not-not’ this.”
Shambhavi Mudra: The Inner-Outer Visual Puberty. The expanse between shambhavi (“delight-gesture of divine knowing-seeing”) and unmani mudras (“no-mind mind delight- gesture”) tracks visual attentiveness from the outer seeing to the inner, esoteric visions and finally, into the enstatic samadhis of the fully matured ensouled body.
In popular parlance, a “soft-focus” of the eyes into the space in front of one’s face is a way into shambhavi, as are the various interpersonal gazing meditations of tantra. The clinical eye movement techniques known as “EMDR” (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) derive from the release of ocular tensions while focussing mentally on traumatic memories moreso than on the openness of perception that just then emerges as ocular tensions have been released. Thus, gazing or abreactive techniques, however helpful, can divert us from the more endogenous depths where the beauty and poignancy of seeing into sheer-space-in-time can catch our attention. Whatever chronic tensions there may be, and whatever memories one might associate with them, we can still become naturally allured and spellbound by the now-emergent simplicity: the innate blossoming-open of the eye-mind-heart complex.
Yet, technically, shambhavi mudra covers concentrations only so far as the eyes remain open, and somewhat downward in focus. As the eyes enter a kind of tumescence, they raise slightly. This indicates the beginning of unmani mudra, described below.
Unmani Mudra: Puberty of Cortical-consciousness. In the next puberty, unmani mudra, the cerebrum-mind further outgrows the grip of semantic processing. This “no-mind mind” correlates with various stages of Buddhist and other meditations, whereby the originating Source of moment-to-moment consciousness is lived into with sustained, fully consumed concentration, thus pre-empting any “later” generations of thoughts, recalled images, or comparative multiplicities of any sort (smritis). This is the mental puberty otherwise known as “enlightenment,” continuous flow of shruti (revealed truth) develops in the silent hush of this womb of consciousness: “The uninterrupted news that grows out of silence” (Rilke, 1963, p. 25); Or, as J.D. Salinger put it in his story, Teddy, “God pouring God into God.”
The expanse of these maturations of consciousness begin with pratyahara, the capacity to focus attention to the degree that this focusing itself can be felt and attend to. Next emerges dharana, such focus sustained to the level of a flow of concentration hovering in sheer impermanence itself. Dhyana next emerges as impermanence is continuously embraced as the temporal nature of the on-flowing of attention, on and on and on and on.
Thus quickens the consolidation of truths: being-in-time, quiddity, the love-bliss of pristine creation as first, sabija- samadhi, constant knowing of the Source, beyond the need for explication, yet with the “seeds” of thought; and then nirbija- samadhi, constant knowing of the Source so convincingly as to extinguish all “seeds” of hankering.
After many lifetimes of Yogic “gestation” at this advanced level of maturation, so it is said, the body, enters its fully matured status of divya sharira (“divine light body”). Thus, Kundalini Yoga logs maturations beyond the meditative absolute of the “enlightened mind” which correlatively fructify in the body as its regenerative rebirth.
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