We have reviewed the theoretical frameworks presented by two of the greatest yogis the world has known, Shankara (Incarnation of Shiva, Adi Yogi) and Maha Rsi Patanjali. These closely related classic approaches remain as the cornerstones of yoga philosophy.
They are the principles through which the unmanifest becomes the manifest; through which spirit becomes the material universe. We believe there is value in applying the seven Bases to the practice of yoga because the principles that underlie yoga are the principles that support a life of balance, flexibility, and vitality. The practice of yoga is practice for life. Success in yoga provides a template for success in life.
The Bases are presented below in a condensed form with a focus on their application to a yogic practice. Each Base is associated with a specific mantra whose vibration resonates with the core principle.
1. The Base of Pure Potentiality
The first is the base of Pure Potentiality, which states that at the core of your being you are pure awareness. This realm of pure awareness is the domain of all possibilities and underlies creativity in all its forms. Pure consciousness is your spiritual essence and the source of your joy in life. The realm of pure potentiality is the home of knowledge, intuition, balance, harmony, and bliss. Giving rise to thoughts, feelings, and actions, it remains undisturbed. This domain is the womb of silence that gives birth to all forms and phenomena in life. It is your essential nature. At your core you are pure potentiality.
The silent ever-present witness is your true Self. The experience of the Self, or self-referral, means that your internal reference point is your soul rather than the objects of your experience. The opposite of self-referral is object-referral. In object-referral, you are influenced by what is happening outside the Self, which includes situations, circumstances, people, and things. In object-referral, you need and therefore are constantly seeking the approval of others in order to feel comfortable and worthy. Because in object-referral your thoughts and behavior are always in anticipation of a response, it is a fear-based state of being.
The ego is your internal reference in the state of object-referral. The ego, however, is not who you really are. Rather, it is your social mask, the roles you are playing. At one moment you play the role of friend, in the next the antagonist. You play the role of child in the presence of your parents and the role of parent when you are with your children. You play one role when speaking with your supervisor and another with those you supervise.
Your social mask thrives on approval, strives to control, and is sustained by power. The corollary of this is that your ego lives in fear of losing approval, control, and power.
But your true Self, your soul, is completely free of these things. It is immune to criticism, fears no challenge, and feels neither beneath nor above anyone. Your soul recognizes at its deepest level that everyone else is the same Self in different disguises.
During the practice of yoga, the Base of Pure Potentiality reminds us that every movement emerges from the silent field of infinite possibility. The more powerful the silence, the more effective the movement. Every movement is a vibration, a wave on the ocean of life. The deeper the connection to the depths of the ocean, the more powerful is the wave that arises.
While practicing your yoga poses, bring your attention back to the silent space within you between every movement and every posture. Remain in a state of mindful witnessing as you perform each pose, cultivating the experience of having your awareness in this non-localized domain of pure potentiality as you engage in activities localized in time and space.
Enliven the Base of Pure Potentiality while performing yoga poses and throughout your day by taking the time to do the following three things:
- Cultivate stillness in your body and mind. Between poses and between movements, bring your attention to the quiet stillness within you. After per-forming your set of yoga postures, sit alone in silent meditation for approximately twenty minutes. By quieting the mind in meditation, you will learn to directly experience the field of pure awareness, where everything is inseparably connected with everything else.
- During your postures and during each day, practice shifting into a witnessing mode of awareness. Observe from the inner stillness of your soul the dynamic activity of the world. Take time each day to commune with nature and silently witness the intelligence within every living thing. Watch a sunset, listen to the sound of the ocean or a stream, or simply smell the scent of a flower. From the peace of your inner silence and through your communion with nature, you will experience joy and reverence for the eternal movement of life in all its manifestations.
- Practice nonjudgment. While performing your yoga postures, relinquish the need to judge your ability. Begin each session with the statement, “Today, I shall judge nothing that occurs,” and remind yourself that self-acceptance is the source and goal of yoga. When you are constantly making judgments, including of yourself, as things being right or wrong, good or bad, you create turbulence in your internal dialogue, which constricts the flow of energy between you and the field of pure potentiality. Nonjudgment cultivates silence in the mind, which gives you direct access to the field of pure potentiality.
2. The Base of Giving and Receiving
The second is the Base of Giving and Receiving, which states that the universe operates through dynamic exchange. Your body is in constant and dynamic exchange with the body of the universe. Your mind is dynamically interacting with the mind of the cosmos. Life is the flow of all the elements and forces that comprise the field of existence. The harmonious exchange between your physical body and the physical universe and between your personal mind and the collective mind is expressed as the Base of Giving and Receiving. Because your body, your mind, and the universe are in constant and dynamic exchange, stopping the circulation of energy is like stopping the flow of blood. When-ever blood stops flowing, it begins to clot, to coagulate. Whenever a river stops flowing, it begins to stagnate. This is why you must be open to giving and receiving in order to keep the life force circulating within you.
The most important thing is the intention behind your giving and receiving. The intention should always be to create happiness for the giver and the receiver, because happiness is life-supporting and life sustaining. The return is proportional to the giving when it is unconditional and from the heart. This is why the act of giving has to be joyful the frame of mind has to be one in which you feel joy in the very act of giving. Then the energy behind the giving increases many times over.
During your yoga practice, the Base of Giving and Receiving is lively in every breath you take. With each inhalation and exhalation, you are exchanging ten billion trillion atoms with your environment.
Right now, take as deep a breath as you possibly can and hold it. Hold it as long as you can and notice how uncomfortable you begin to feel when you are holding onto something that is meant to be released. Now, exhale as fully as you can and hold your breath with your lungs fully emptied. Again, feel the discomfort that arises when you are resisting taking in something that you need. Whenever you resist the Base of Giving and Receiving, your mind becomes anxious and your body becomes uncomfortable.
With every pose you assume, complementary pairs of muscles are contracting and relaxing, holding and releasing in accordance with the Base of Giving and Receiving. When the life force is flowing freely through your body/mind, you are in natural alignment with the generosity and receptivity of the universe.
Make the commitment to put the second Base into effect in your yoga practice by taking the following three steps:
- During your yoga poses, maintain breathing awareness, effortlessly exchanging air with your environment through the inflow and outflow of your breath. Anytime throughout the day that you feel resistance in your body because things are not going the way you think they should, bring your attention to your breath and use it to regain your sense of effortless receiving and releasing.
- Cultivate the sense of gratitude for the gifts you have in your life. During your yoga practice, tune into the life force that is circulating through your body and be grateful for the opportunity to experience life through a human mind and body. Enjoy the sensation of your body contracting and expanding as your move through your postures. Celebrate your physical manifestation that enables your soul to express its meaning and purpose in life. Celebrate the very improbability of your existence.
- During your practice of yoga have the intention of surrendering to the needs of your body. Rather than forcing your will upon your body to attain a specific pose, practice listening to the needs of your muscles and joints. The impulse to give flows naturally from the experience of gratitude. You will find that through this subtle shift in your attitude, challenging postures are more easily achieved.
Outside of your asana practice have the intention to give something to everyone you come into contact with during the day. It might be a kind word, a compliment, a smile, a prayer, or a small gift. Similarly, be open to receiving the gifts that come to you during the day. They may be gifts from nature, such as the songs of birds, a spring shower, a rainbow, or a beautiful sunset. They may be gifts from people in your life a warm embrace, a kind gesture, a helpful suggestion. Make the commitment to enliven the Base of Giving and Receiving by taking every opportunity to circulate love, caring, affection, appreciation, and acceptance.
3. The Base of Karma (Cause and Effect)
The third low is pertains to karma or cause and effect. Every action we take generates a force of energy that returns to us in kind as we sow, so we reap. When we consciously choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.
Although many people misinterpret the Base of Karma as imprisoning us in a cycle of unending reactivity, it is actually an assertion of human freedom. Karma implies the action of conscious choice-making for we are all infinite choice makers. In every moment of your existence, the real you resides in the field of pure potentiality where you have access to unlimited choices. Some of these choices are made consciously, while most are made unconsciously. The best way to understand and maximize the use of karmic Base is to become consciously aware of the choices you make in every moment.
Whether you like it or not, everything that is happening at this moment is a result of the choices you’ve made in the past. When you make choices unconsciously, you don’t think they are choices, and yet they are. If you step back a moment and witness the choices you are making, then in just this act of witnessing you take the process from the unconscious into the conscious realm. In every situation, there is one choice out of the many available that will create happiness for you as well as for those around you. And when you make that one choice it will nourish you and everyone else influenced by that action.
Applied to your practice of yoga, the Base of Karma is demonstrated as you consciously move through your postures aware of how there is a reaction for every action you execute. If in your impatience you force yourself into a pose that you are not fully ready to perform, your body/mind will react, and the consequences of your straining will generate feelings of strain within you. On the other hand, when you move gracefully into the limits of each pose with an attitude of gentleness and finesse, your body/mind responds with effortlessness and ease.
Notice that by slowing down your movements, you become more aware of the karmic consequences of your choices. If your body is unusually uncomfortable the morning after a yoga session, it is most likely the result of your ignoring the Base of Karma. You probably pushed too hard, making a less than ideal choice, and the karmic cost is your discomfort.
Karma presents itself in your present by reminding you of your past. Choosing more consciously from the witnessing realm of quiet awareness, you make karma-free choices.
Put the Base of Karma into effect in your yoga practice and your life so that you make the most evolutionary choices. Commit yourself to the following three steps:
- As you move through your yoga practice, witness the choices you make in each moment. In the witnessing of your choices, you will bring them into your conscious awareness. Be fully present in this moment and your next moment will not carry the consequences of the prior one. The best way to prepare for any moment in the future is to be fully conscious in the present.
- As you make your choice about how to move through resistance in your poses, ask yourself two questions: “What are the consequences of the choice I’m making?” and “Will this choice bring comfort?” When you make your choices outside of your practice of yoga, ask yourself, “Which choice is most likely to bring happiness and fulfillment to me and to those affected by my choice?”
- Then listen to your heart for guidance and be guided by its message of comfort or discomfort. Your heart is the junction point between your mind and your body. If the choice feels comfortable in your body, move into it with confidence. If the choice feels uncomfortable, pause and see the consequences of your action with your inner vision. Honoring the guidance that is provided by your body’s intelligence will help you make the most evolutionary choices for yourself and those in your life.
4. The Base of Least Effort
The Base of Least Effort states that nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease. If you look at the ebb and flow of the tides, the blossoming of a flower, or the movement of the stars, you do not see nature straining. There is rhythm and balance in the natural world, and when you are in harmony with nature, you can make use of the Base of Least Effort by minimizing your effort and maximizing your effect.
When a Newtonian model of the world predominated in our collective awareness, the principles of force and effort were dominant. But in our modern era, when quantum physics provides the most comprehensive model of how the universe works, there is no place for force and effort. Rather, timing and finesse are the tools for transformation in a world that is understood as the expression of an underlying field of energy and information. Stated simply, the Base of Least Effort tells us that we can do less and accomplish more.
Nature is held together by the energy of love, and least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love. When your soul is your internal reference point, you can harness the power of love and use the energy creatively for healing, transformation, and evolution.
Yoga is the antidote to the prescription “no pain, no gain.” The greatest benefits of yoga come from relaxing into a pose, rather than forcing your body into it. When moving into a flexibility pose, find the point of resistance. Rather than muscling your way through this point, breathe into the resistance surrender into the resistance and you will find yourself extending your reach and enhancing your flexibility. Stay present with your full awareness in your body and engage an attitude of surrender. In yoga as in life, patience is a virtue. In yoga, the more you are able to embrace rather than fight your limitations and vulnerabilities, the less limits they hold and the more balance and energy you experience.
To enliven the Base of Least Effort in your yoga practice and in your life, make a commitment to the following three steps:
- Practice acceptance. During your yoga practice, accept your body the way it is. Although you may have intention for it to change in some way, accept that how it is now is exactly as it should be, because the universe is as it should be. Give up your need to struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment. By acknowledging each situation as it exists, you are in the best position to help evolve it to a new level. In your daily life, practice accepting people as they are and circumstances as they occur, under-standing that every moment in your life is the consequence of every prior choice you’ve made. Rather than resisting who or what is currently in your life, practice acceptance of what is present and reinforce your commitment to make more conscious choices from this moment on.
- Having accepted things as they are, take responsibility for the challenge you are facing. As applied to your yoga practice, this means making the commitment to nurture your body through appropriate exercise and nutrition. If you are seeking to change your body in a positive way, taking responsibility does not mean indulging in blame for the state of your body now. Remember that every challenge is an opportunity in disguise, and this alertness to opportunity allows you to take this moment and transform it for greater benefit.
- Establish your awareness in defenselessness. Do not waste your life energy defending your point of view or attempting to convince others. Remain open to all points of view without rigidly attaching yourself to any one of them.
The third principle is of particular relevance to your yoga practice. There are many different schools of yoga without one right way. Every teacher and every system has its own variations on postures, pace, style, and intensity. As a system dedicated to awakening flexibility in body, mind, and spirit, yoga can accommodate and celebrate the many diverse approaches that have developed over past centuries.
Experiment for yourself with different approaches and find the style that fits best with your needs at a given time of your life. The right yoga system for you is the one that enhances your vitality and flexibility. Commit your-self to the Base of Least Effort and you will cease wasting your vital energy in friction and conflict. Liberated, this energy becomes available to you for creativity, personal growth, and healing.
5. The Base of Intention and Desire
The fifth is the Base of Intention and Desire, which is based upon the recognition that at the level of the quantum field there is nothing other than energy and information. This quantum field, which is really just another name for the field of pure potentiality, is influenced by intention and desire.
As a human being, you experience the quantum field subjectively as your own thoughts, feelings, memories, desires, needs, expectations, fantasies, and beliefs. You experience the same field objectively as your physical body and the physical world. At the level of the field, the collection of thoughts called your mind and the collection of molecules called your body are different disguises of the same underlying reality. The ancient yogic sages had an expression for this realization, “Tat Tvam Asi” which translates as “I am that, you are that, all this is that, and that’s all there is.”
If you accept that your personal body is not separate from the body of the universe, then by consciously changing the energy and informational content of your own body, you can influence the energy and information of your extended body your environment, your world. This influence is activated by two qualities inherent in consciousness: attention and intention. Attention enlivens while intention transforms.
If you want something to grow stronger in your life, direct more of your attention to it. If you want something to diminish in your life, withdraw your attention from it. Intention, on the other hand, catalyzes the transformation of energy and information into new forms and expressions. According to ancient yogic principles, your intention has organizing power.
Accomplished yogis are masters of attention and intention. They can influence components of their physiology in ways that modern science used to think were impossible. Yogis can raise and lower their blood pressure, speed up or slow down their heart rates, increase or decrease their body temperature, and bring their respiratory system and metabolic activity to almost imperceptible levels.
As you become increasingly adept at governing your own body through the Base of Intention and Desire, you will also experience your intentions being increasingly sup-ported by nature.
You can learn to harness the power of the Base of Intention and Desire in your yoga practice and in your life by following these three steps:
- Be clear about your intentions and desires. On a regular basis, take the time to write down a list of those things you would like to see manifest in your life. Review your intentions and desires prior to beginning your yoga practice and prior to your time of silent meditation. Modify your list as your desires are fulfilled or transformed and observe how your intentions and desires evolve. When you take the time to document what you desire in your heart and mind, you accelerate the process of manifesting your desires in the world.
Even as you bring your intentions and desires into conscious awareness, surrender the outcome to nature. Cultivate an attitude of trusting that when things are not going exactly the way you intend them to, there is a grander design at work. You can probably identify times in your life when things were not going according to your plan, only to realize later that some-thing better was waiting for you around the corner.
- When performing your yoga poses, maintain this inner attitude of surrender. Attend to and release your intentions as you move through your postures and watch the result in your yoga practice and in your life.
- Remind yourself to practice present moment awareness in all your actions. Do not allow any obstacles to consume or dissipate the quality of your attention in the present moment. As you engage in a pose, be fully in the present, remembering that being in the moment empowers your most cherished intentions and desires.
6. The Base of Detachment
The sixth spiritual Base of success is the Base of Detachment, which reveals a great paradox of life. In order to acquire something in this world, you have to relinquish your attachment to it. This doesn’t mean you give up the intention to fulfill your desire you simply give up your attachment to the outcome.
Attachment is based on fear and insecurity. When you forget that the only genuine source of security is your true self, you begin believing that you need something outside yourself in order to be happy.
According to the principles of yoga, the only true security comes from your willingness to embrace the unknown, the realm of uncertainty. By relinquishing your attachment to the known, you step into the field of pure potentiality in which the wisdom of uncertainty is factored into all your choices. Practicing detachment and embracing uncertainty, you relinquish your need to hold on to the past, which is the only thing that is known. Being open to what is happening rather than trying to control how things unfold, you experience the excitement, adventure, exhilaration, and mystery of life.
Applied to your practice of yoga, the Base of Detachment encourages you to relinquish your attachment to an idealized pose. Rather than seeking only to achieve the perfect posture, have the intention for your practice to awaken deeper and more expanded levels of awareness within you. By relinquishing your attachment to an idealized form and allowing your awareness to embrace the essence of yoga, your body will naturally release its resistance, increase its flexibility, and will improve as a side benefit for your detachment.
Yoga is not a competitive sport, and you will not achieve integration of body, mind, and spirit through force and effort. Rather, yoga is a system of mindful surrender.
The practice of yoga accomplishes its goal of union through attention and intention through the conscious release of conflict and struggle. This is the essence of the Base of Detachment. Have your intentions clearly in your awareness while you maintain an attitude of Thy will be done. The coexistence of these apparently contradictory forces intention and detachment cultivates the flexibility that enables you to fulfill all your goals in life.
Put the Base of Detachment into effect in your yoga practice and in your life by making a commitment to the following three steps:
- Practice detachment. The goal of yoga is flexibility, for which detachment is an essential feature. Detachment and flexibility go hand in hand. Attachment breeds rigidity. Commit not to rigidly impose your ideas of how things should be. Allow yourself and those around you the freedom to be natural. Notice that when you force solutions on problems, you often create new problems that did not previously exist. Remind yourself to engage in everything with detached involvement.
- Embrace uncertainty as an essential ingredient of your experience and watch how creative solutions to problems spontaneously emerge out of chaos. Cultivate an attitude of curiosity and innocence as you live your life and notice how a deep inner security develops within you, independent of things around you.
- Surrender to the field of pure potentiality. Combine your focused intention with detachment from the outcome and observe how easily you are able to fulfill your desires while maintaining your center, even in the midst of confusion and turbulence.
7. The Base of Dharma (Purpose of Life)
The seventh spiritual Base is the Base of Dharma, which states that every sentient being has a purpose in life. You have unique abilities and your own way of expressing them. There are needs in this world for which your specific talents are ideally suited, and when the world’s needs are matched with the creative expression of your talents, your purpose your dharma is realized.
To be in dharma, your life force must flow effortlessly without interference. The practice of yoga provides a direct mechanism to release energy blockages in your body. When obstacles to the flow of your vital energy are removed, you become capable of expressing more expanded aspects of yourself. Increasing compassion, wisdom, and playfulness are evidence that your life is flowing in accordance with the Base of Dharma.
There are 3 major components to the Base of Dharma :
- The first is that your ultimate purpose is to discover your higher Self. Awaken to the unbounded, eternal witnessing awareness that is the essence of who you are and know yourself as a timeless, eternal Being in the midst of time-bound experience.
- The second component of the Base of Dharma is to acknowledge and express your unique talents. Take the time to honor your innate gifts by making a list of those things that you do well. One way to connect with your dharma is to consider those things that you really love to do. Make a list of the things that bring joy to you and to others while you are doing them. It might be singing, playing the piano, teaching gymnastics, or cooking. You may be naturally good at deep listening or caring for those in need. Whatever your unique talents may be, expressing them brings happiness and satisfaction to you and to others. When you are in the flow of your dharma, expressing your unique talents, time loses its hold on you and you enter into timeless awareness.
- The third component of dharma is serving others. True dharmic actions naturally bring benefit both to you and to those affected by your actions.
The inner dialogue of a person in his or her dharma is, “How can I serve?” and “How can I help?”
The answers to these questions will allow you to serve your fellow human beings with love and compassion.
Expressing your gifts in service to others is the highest expression of the Base of Dharma. When your creative expressions match the needs of your fellow humans, abundance flows into your life. Yoga is action in accordance with dharma.
Moving your body with awareness and impeccability is the essence of a life in harmony with the Bases of nature.
Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body has its dharma, which is to perform its unique function while supporting the wholeness of the body. The digestive tract performs its job of secreting gastric juices, moving food along its pathway, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating toxins. The endocrine system secretes its vital hormones that regulate metabolism, reproduction, growth, and repair. The circulatory system regulates blood pressure and cardiac output. While each of these systems has its specific role to perform, the essential purpose of their existence is to support the whole physiology.
Your practice of yoga supports the dharma of your body. When life energy is flowing effortlessly through every cell, tissue, and organ, the dharma of each is being fulfilled. When as a result of the flexibility, balance, and strength gained during your yoga practice you are effortlessly able to express your talents in the world, you are aligned with the Base of Dharma. When you allow the intelligence and vital energy of nature to flow through you, you are reminded of your highest purpose serving the world and supporting the evolutionary flow of life.
Put the Base of Dharma into effect in your yoga practice and in your life by committing to the following three steps:
- Pay attention to the quiet stillness within you that animates your body and mind. During your yoga prac-tice and during the day, bring your attention to the silent witness that observes your thoughts and actions.
- Become aware of your unique talents and those things you love to do while expressing your unique tal-ents. In your practice of yoga, notice the postures that you enter into easily and use this information to become more intimate with your nature. Some people are naturally flexible, some have inherently good muscle strength, while others have innately good balance. Celebrate your natural talents even as you strive to develop other ones in yoga and in your life.
- Cultivate an inner conversation of helping and serving. When your intentions behind every action are to align with dharma, your actions will be effortless and successful. By asking the questions, How can I help? and How can I serve? you will fulfill your deeper purpose in life.
Implement Your Insights
So far we have explored the theory and philosophy of yoga. Yoga is as much a science of action as it is a way of thinking about life. Meditation, regulating the life force, learning to hold and circulate energy, and moving with awareness are the fundamental technologies that need to be mastered for you to gain the full benefits of yoga on the level of our body, mind, and soul.
The most common complaint that new meditators express is that they are having too many thoughts. Thoughts are a natural component of meditation, and it is not possible to forcibly stop thinking. There will be many times in every meditation during which your mind drifts off the mantra to thoughts. You may ﬁnd yourself thinking about something that has happened in the past or some-thing you are anticipating happening in the future. You may find yourself thinking about sensations in your body or sounds in your environment.
During this period of meditation, when you become aware that your attention has drifted away from the mantra, easily shift it back. Whether you are thinking about what you want for lunch, a movie you saw yesterday, an issue at work, or some profound cosmic realization, when you recognize that you have drifted off into thinking about something anything gently, and without straining, return your attention to the mantra.
As your mind quiets during meditation, you will experience moments when there is the absence of thoughts with the retention of awareness. We call this experience going into the gap. There is no mantra, and there are no thoughts. The mind has temporarily relinquished its attachment to time and space and is immersed in the eternal, infinite realm of pure awareness. This is the experience sometimes known as Samadhi. With regular practice, the expansive awareness that you glimpse during meditation begins to permeate your life outside of meditation. The relaxation you gain while meditating extends into your activity. The ability to consciously experience nonlocal and local awareness simultaneously is the essence of yoga established in a state of unity consciousness while being fully engaged in the world of forms and phenomena.
All of the mentioned Bases are in play during meditation. The process is governed by the Base of Pure Potentiality, which takes your mind to the domain of all possibilities beyond thought. Allowing mental activity to come and go without restriction expresses the principle of the Base of Giving and Receiving. Not indulging in the meaning of the thoughts that arise allows you to transcend the Base of Karma.
The core principle of meditation is the Base of Least Effort, for the nonlocal field of awareness is also the domain of least effort. The state of nonlocal awareness, beyond thought, time, space, and causality, cannot be accessed through force. You utilize the Base of Intention and Desire by having the intention to relinquish your need to control, resist, or anticipate during the practice of meditation. The Base of Detachment is essential, for the only way to get to the field of unbounded awareness is by letting go. Finally, the Base of Dharma is active because it is the nature of the mind to seek ever-expanding realms of bliss and wisdom. It is the dharma of the mind to expand during meditation. Letting go and allowing the process to proceed innocently is the proven technique of going beyond thought and quieting the mind.