• © Sheila Foster

Samyama: The Heart of Direct Experience

Unusual, mystical experiences are known to occur on ordinary weekday-workday mornings when we least expect them. In 1990, on a beautiful spring morning, I went to meditate in my home office for an hour as usual before my sessions began. I sat in my chair next to the window and for a few minutes I gazed out at the vibrantly alive spring-green meadow noticing the grasses, weeds, and yellow wild flowers growing higher and opening more every day. I saw some turkey vultures scouting for breakfast over the woods, a pair of hawks soaring in another part of the cloudless blue sky, and I heard the crows and mockingbirds calling to each other. There were cute little brown rabbits munching along the path that went down the hill to the woods, and I breathed in the morning freshness that was wafting in from the open window. Dew was sparkling like diamonds on the leaves in the meadow as the early morning sunshine illuminated the spider webs that were strung like fairy lights from plant to plant. This magical phantasmagoria was only seeable in the mist of third dimension reality very early as the morning sun was rising.

I made myself comfortable, adjusted the pillow behind me, closed my eyes and began a scan of my body-being to fully arrive. My heart was aching that morning, and, as I breathed into it, I heard a soft voice within begin to speak:

“This morning we are going to focus attention deep into your heart center….”

Momentarily, I was surprised to hear a voice directing me and, as always, curious enough to do as I was instructed. I have heard voices and received guidance most of my life, and I felt gratitude for this unexpected blessing. I paid close attention as Her presence became more palpable and my thinking mind stopped its monologue to listen.

As I was sinking into the deep tenderness of my heart space I became aware of the potent energy of Kundalini Ma rising through my body from her resting place in my root chakra. I focused my inner eyes downward, into my heart center and felt Her presence even more. My consciousness began to shift and sink more deeply inward. Shakti Ma’s inner presence held my inner gaze and the energy in my body intensified, even though it was very gentle and warm as it rose upward through the central channel in my spine, into my heart and beyond. My body-being felt more diffused as Her energy filled my physical body, opened all of my chakras, and expanded into the energy field in the room.

Without words, Shakti Ma transmitted instructions to focus and concentrate attention on the pain in my heart which felt raw, fragile, broken, and more vulnerable than ever. I rested my attention there and took a big, slow breath, allowing more in. Another deep breath and the pain emerged more fully and rose more intensely into my awareness. After a couple of more breaths, I then felt my whole body-being relaxing into what was happening. My attention sunk in more deeply without resistance or distraction. It felt good and comforting to feel this heartache so fully and completely without the narration of thoughts. My thoughts had stopped! Perhaps, Shakti Ma was guarding the gate against thoughts arising as she guided me. I had been skimming the top of this pain for a while, not wanting to feel the depths of it as I was not ready to take in what that would mean for my life. On this day, trusting Shakti Ma, I felt safe enough and ready to fully feel what has been calling for my deep attention. I concentrated and dropped deeper into the pain and experienced profound intensity in timelessness, and then it began to dissolve.

I had never focused so fully on my heart ache before without the story or comments intruding. The pain gradually dissolved into nothingness, back into the Source from which it arose, and my heart felt peaceful. The dissolution was a surprise and it left my physical heart feeling very soft, opening gradually like a slow-motion film of rose petals gently unfolding in response to the sun’s light and warmth. My heart was gently opening into the light of Shakti Ma’s Love. When this meditation ended, I sat there in the mystery of it all and felt the enormity of this blessing and humbled by such an amazing gift.

Throughout the day, insights arose, but not from my thinking mind. I felt them emerging and rising up from within my body as they brought more understanding of what happened and what was possible. It was clear that the high vibration emanating from the fire of Kundalini alchemized the pain and it dissolved back into Source. I was shown that my human heart with its pain and pleasure, is a portal to the Great Heart of the collective, and it abides just beneath my human heart, as a gateway to Source and higher vibratory dimensions of consciousness. I realized that alchemy happened when Shakti Ma transmuted my heavy-as-lead broken heart into the rose gold of love, gratitude, openness, peace, and joy! Before this experience, I didn’t know that sustained focus and presence in my heart is what direct experience is, or that it activates alchemical changes and raises vibration. All of this was amazing new information that would not have made any sense or been so significant without the direct experience.

That day became dream-like as my being was still in the field of this magical encounter and profound teachings. I had not known that there was a veil was over my heart until it was lifted, and I felt such expansive joy and relief. It was like taking off a pair of tight shoes. I felt more freedom to breathe and be without the emotional and physical happenings in my heart. I was certainly more present and light-hearted than I was prior to this meditation. Each session I gave that day felt magical as this new energy coursed through my body and the energy field in my office. It was an extraordinary experience, to say the least, and I was so eager to continue and discover what this was and how to have more of it. I approached each session that day from my heart.

Alchemy and Direct Experience

I discovered I had new access to asking questions into my heart and getting answers, sometimes in the moment of asking, other times the answers came later. I inquired if this was a spiritual bypass and, by the end of the day, I was clear that it was not. This was alchemy! The pain had been transmuted by the fire of Kundalini Shakti in the alchemical vessel of my heart center. I had never noticed that before, nor had I meditated in the way that I was directed. This can be taught to others, I realized. This isn’t just for me. Prior to this, alchemy was a concept for me. Now alchemy was a direct experience which I later realized came with seeds of imbued, unspoken knowledge that emerged into my awareness in its own timing as the days went on. Alchemy brings wisdom we can only know through direct experience. I understood that I was to cultivate what I was learning by continuing the practice and then offering it to my clients and students, as well as friends.

The next morning, I was still in the afterglow when I went to my chair for meditation. I still felt the energy and presence of what had happened the day before and decided I would guide myself through the process again with whatever feelings arose when I took my chair that morning. I was feeling joy and excitement. I was so very curious about what might happen, and I had no expectations. After surveying the beauty and life outside my window, I began my meditation the way Shakti Ma had instructed me. Within a few minutes, I heard her soft voice again, offering me further directions. My joy and happiness expanded through my body-being and into the room. I had another day of exquisite sessions as I led clients into their hearts with remarkable results. Between sessions, I practiced the heart focusing with my eyes open to see if it worked that way. The more I turned my attention into my heart, focused without thoughts, the fuller and quieter my awareness became. I committed to doing the practice every morning and was guided to try it out during the rest of the day.

I took the practice into my kitchen, on my walks with my two standard poodles, and into the car when I travelled to town. Obviously, it worked without closing my eyes, so I tried it with eyes open in the short moments of sitting at stoplights and while waiting in the line at the grocery store. I began to work with the practice in myself even as I shared it as part of all of my sessions. I began to teach the practice to my clients and students, and I also guided my groups through the process. They responded by wanting more of this and loving the new awareness of direct experience. Even though I stopped hearing Shakti Ma’s voice, I felt Her presence and many discoveries continued to arise in me as a knowingness, a kind of re-membering something I knew in my cells, as She showed me new things to try. For those whose Kundalini was awake, it became stronger, and for others who had not yet had a Kundalini awakening, Samyama prepared them and the awakenings eventually occurred very gently.

The practice also sharpened my intuition and creativity in my work and my art. I was able to drop into meditation more quickly as my heart felt like a magnet pulling my attention down in. When all thoughts and stories related to what I was feeling moved to the far edges of my awareness, or disappeared, I knew that the alchemy was happening. This practice evoked spiritual powers, called siddhis, that refined and expanded intuition, answered questions that arose, guided me in new ways of working, and increased the Shakti that was needed for healing and the emerging new work. Dreams increased, as did my devotion. My clients and students received the transmission of this practice in their own hearts and began to work with and explore it for themselves outside of our sessions. They got really good at the meditation and asked me to teach them more so they could bring it more fully into their lives and work.

A couple of months or so after all this occurred, I was telling my own therapist about my experiences with this and she suggested I read the Patanjali Sutras, an ancient Vedic text. I purchased the book and when I got to the third chapter, titled Vibhuti Pada—On Supernatural Abilities and Gifts, my mind was blown with recognition. Holy Shakti!

There on the first page were three steps of a very ancient yogic practice called Samyama in Sanskrit. Since the stages of the Sutra were exactly the same as those Shakti Ma transmitted to me in the heart meditations, I felt called to name the practice Samyama. This revelation felt very important to me as it served as a confirmation that I was on the right track at the right time. I also was humbled and grateful to realize that She, Shakti Ma, was closer than my own breath.

Aside from Samyama’s ancient origins and amazing healing potential, I feel the most important benefit is that it cultivates our ability to live life in direct experience, able to show up from our hearts with our full presence in all situations and aspects of our lives, with fewer stories about what was happening. We began to recognize and witness stories that emerged with feelings, and noticed what happened when we stopped the stories: direct experience that was pure. Practicing Samyama regularly over time assures this. We can directly experience chopping vegetables and that feels really good! I know this because there came a day in my kitchen about a month after I began working with the practice when I was focused on preparing food and suddenly, my inner Witness arose, and I noticed that I was not thinking about something else as I chopped. My mind was quiet and fully focused on what I was doing. I also felt different in my body: aligned, fully present.

To my surprise, I realized that I was no longer wearing the ‘big headlight’ that I sensed when the centrality of my being felt to be located in my head from where I had always seen myself, others, and life. I was a talking head and, on this day chopping vegetables, I realized that feeling was gone. “I” used to live in my head, my thinking mind was Control Central, and I ran my life from my there until Samyama changed all of that. I still have thoughts and ideas, etc, but my head is no longer my living room. My thinking mind serves my heart, it serves Love.

This wake-up moment in my kitchen showed me that “I”—the center of my awareness—had shifted neighborhoods down into my heart center, and it felt amazing. I had finally arrived Home in myself. It was a wonderful, magical, surprising gift. My assemblage point had shifted from head to heart. It is still there now, after almost 30 years. I also witnessed this shift in my students and clients who persisted in the practice, so I know it is truly life-changing. We see and relate to ourselves, our beloveds, and the world differently from the lens of the heart than we do from seeing though the lens of our thinking mind.

An assemblage point is a powerful energy center and serves as the window and filter through which we see, feel, and experience this human life. The shift from head to heart is a shift of our assemblage point and is life-changing. Head and heart are two entirely different lenses and vibratory fields through which we see and experience ourselves, others, the world, and life itself. We come to see and value the thinking mind as being in service to our hearts instead of the thought police regarding our feelings. This shift helps us drop the conditioned, critical and judgmental stories we have about ourselves, others, and life. We can still access it when needed as we live and relate to others and the world from our hearts. This shift breaks old conditioned patterns, shifts priorities, and changes our relationships to everyone and everything. We become capable of deeper intimacy with self and others. We meet the world more with love and trust, see the beauty more, and old conditioned thoughts and stories are seen for what they are and the scales of conditioning fall from our eyes. Heart-speak is raw truth. Mind-speak is mostly conditioned and provides a layer that can obscure the truth.

With encouraging requests by my students, I was guided to develop a two-year training and certification program, and this was held in tandem with my original trainings in Sacred Feminine Initiations. Most of the women were in both programs, and each training offered different initiations that blended together in an exceptional manner. The Samyama practice made the archetypal initiations easier to go through. The women had a reliable practice with which to move through the stages of the initiatory journeys they were on having direct experiences. This has certainly been true for me these last 30 years. The name School for Women Healers arose as a container for all of this at the time, as all of the women involved had healing gifts they were called to develop, whether they were working as healing professionals, as most were, or in other businesses or even the government.

Awakening consciousness calls us into being fully present now, meeting and experiencing whatever is in the present moment, without the commentary of our thinking minds. We become more peaceful and present, life feels much juicier and colorful without the veils of judgment, conflict, fear mongering, and critical inner voices running on and on in our heads. When hard times come, when painful situations that we don’t want or like arise, Samyama helps us cope better when we can be in the present, centered in our hearts, and directly experience what is happening, including the pain, without the burden of obstructionist mind chatter. With Samyama, we can learn to be with what is, as it is, whatever it is. This is life-changing and essential to healing and being fully in our lives.

Ultimately, Samyama practice is portable, powerful, potent, and perfectly shows up in our lives at the right time when we are called to dive deeper into collaboration with the opening of our hearts and the awakening of consciousness on the planet. Over the years, I have asked many teachers of different kinds of yoga if they know about Samyama and, to my surprise, it apparently is not taught in most yoga trainings where the focus is on the body. The way I have learned Samyama, with the focus in my heart center, is a key to unlocking hidden gifts in our ever-expanding consciousness.

Bowing in deepest gratitude to Kundalini Shakti for this precious Gift.

May all beings benefit from the morphic field of Samyama

whenever and wherever it is practiced.


For more information: visit our Samyama page .

Blog from December 2016: What Is Samyama?

Samyama Summer Classes

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