Carlos Pomeda & Sonia Doubell – Yoga Wisdom, Tantra & Truth (Part 2/2)

Interviewer: Sonia Doubell for The Secret Bliss
Transcription: Dylan Robertson, Nele Duprix, Lori Flynn

In Part 1, Carlos and Sonia talked about Carlos’ yoga background, how yoga spread from India to the West, social perceptions of yoga in the West, environmental awareness, Tantra, meditation and yoga philosophy. Here in Part 2, they talk about the long-term effects of mediation, yoga practice, prana, consciousness, asana, ideology and spirituality.


The breath and meditation are very important. How do you teach people to connect with their breath and meditate? And for everybody out there, what are some tips on how somebody with just an ordinary life, who maybe hasn’t gone through any sort of yoga training, can start to find this meditative peace in their lives?

CARLOS:
Well, like in every practice there are many layers, and breath is no exception. There is one layer, which is the physiological layer. Just the very act of breathing more deeply, more consciously already has a whole set of benefits in terms of relaxation, stress reduction and so on. At a slightly deeper level, you can actually induce quite a clear level of awareness, a calm level of mind, because there is such an intimate connection between breath and mind. Yoga has been investigating very deeply the intimate connection between the breath and mind. You know we are sort of wired inside. So from that perspective, just the practice of focusing on the breath itself has an immediate effect. I see that all the time. When I teach beginning meditators one of the easiest and most powerful techniques is actually working with the breath. There are different things you can do. Just observing the breath itself is a wonderful technique. But one that is even more powerful is just elongating each inhale and exhale very gradually by counting naturally, never forcing. You start with whatever count feels natural to you, and you gently see if you can add one more count. But make sure that both the inhalation and exhalation are symmetrical.

SONIA:
Would you set a timeframe for that?

CARLOS:
Well, if you want to do a regular meditation practice I always tell people, “Let’s be realistic, if you really want to do a solid practice, go deep and experience the effect of the practice, anything less than 20 minutes is not going to do much.” Having said that I also tell people, “Look, 5 minutes is better than 0.” Right?

SONIA:
Yes, right.

CARLOS:
So look, if you are just starting and say, “I don’t know if I can do half an hour,” then okay, do whatever you can, because it is more important to establish a constant presence of the practice in your life. In other words, 5 minutes a day is better than bingeing today and then fasting for a month. But really, if you then decide you want to go deeper, I would say start with 20 minutes. Half an hour is even better. And, for a really solid meditation practice, 1 hour.

SONIA:
Even if you’re struggling and you’re a beginner you would still say sit down and do this practice?

CARLOS:
Very much so because, and particularly I would say, if you feel resistance or if you feel “I’m bored.” There are so many excuses we can come up with for not doing it, but if you go through those things you’ll learn so much about yourself. I mean we are talking about the breath, relaxation, awareness, and the expansion of awareness, but one of the great benefits of meditation as well is that you develop this habit of self-observation. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a deeper way in the sense of really knowing yourself. This is what allows you to transform inside. When you start observing your own reactions to things; when you start observing your own state, your own emotions that are arising, how expanded or how contracted you feel. When you start to become more and more aware, then you can do something about it. Not only do you start understanding yourself better but you also start becoming the master of your own inner landscape. You are no longer just the victim of whatever is happening.

Your state of mind ultimately does not depend on what is happening outside. Of course, things have an influence on us, if you’re human it doesn’t matter how enlightened you are. I see meditation as really empowering in this sense that it really shows you that you always have the freedom. Freedom opens up awareness and without awareness it’s impossible.

This is one of the great benefits of meditation. From that perspective, I would say it doesn’t really matter whether you are enjoying it or not. Today may be difficult or today may be easy, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all part of a process that is guiding you and taking you deeper little by little. I have been meditating now for almost 40 years and look back and realize, “Wow, I’m not the same person anymore.” I mean, you start seeing this inner transformation from the beginning. I would just say don’t meditate so you just feel better, or you get a high or whatever. No, meditate so that you get to know yourself and everything else is going to come from that core. The breath is a great anchor in that way.

We were talking about these different layers, the physical and the mental layer. There is a deeper layer, one that I was thinking of when you were sharing your experience. If you think about it, at the root, in the very movement of the breath, you are connecting with the very mystery of this force, of this dynamism of consciousness that we call life. The yoga tradition calls this ‘prana.’ You start seeing how, out of that infinite emptiness which is not really empty, arises this pulsation that animates everything. Then what our subconscious does is that it has to translate this deep experience, which is beyond the realm of words, into symbols. That is why you hear in your meditation ‘I am your mother.’ Your own deep mind is translating into words what you are touching, what you are contacting with. That is what you are experiencing. You are getting in touch with this deeper level from which everything arises, and that is the sublime mystery of existence and you connect with it through the breath. In fact, every moment we are being created and we are being dissolved with the movement of breath.

SONIA:
It’s incredible.

CARLOS:
And we are dying in between two breaths – dying in a good way in the sense of the limited existence, and we are being reborn with every inhale. The breath for this reason is very simple, and yet a very powerful means of practice, because it connects you with the very essence of existence.

SONIA:
It really does. You could actually not just meditate on a passage of the breath moving in and out of the body, but you can just meditate on ‘What is the breath?’

CARLOS:
Absolutely. Just observe it and follow it, it takes you there.

SONIA:
Amazing.
Carlos, your love is Tantra and Tantra is often misconstrued for many reasons. But can you tell us in short what the essence of Tantra is, especially for those who are interested in the truth.

CARLOS:
Tantra is primarily a very radical tradition. Radical in the sense that it doesn’t consider anything off-limits. Tantra started exploring areas that the traditional forms of yoga never explored, for example the senses. We were talking about the mystery of breath, but the senses also contain their own mystery. Tantra relates to the senses, not as potential enemies or potential dangers like the earlier yoga tradition had done. There are all these definitions of yoga that have survived and each one of them defines yoga as ‘control of mind and senses.’ So early on there was this notion of, “Oh my God, the senses are pulling me out, away from my center and I want to go to my center so the senses are my enemies, let me control them.” Tantra comes along and says, “Wait a minute, the senses are just doing what is in their nature to do, which is generating the experience in you. That in itself is not a problem, the real issue is, where are you? Where is your awareness in your relationship to the senses?”

So Tantra starts developing all these different forms of practice that utilize the senses and sensory experiences as a means of accessing the source from where those senses are operating. This is what makes Tantra really radical. I think it’s unfortunate that so many people associate Tantra with sex. Not that there is anything wrong with sex, but because it’s something misrepresented. Tantra does talk about sex, absolutely, and it mentions it in the texts. But it does not particularly emphasize sex over any other sort of path or activity. Not at all. And in fact there are many branches of Tantra. The areas of Tantra that deal with the ritual of a sexual nature are a very small part of Tantra. By the way, that type of ritual practice has nothing to do with the sort of thing you hear about nowadays.

SONIA:
Whenever I think about Tantra I feel the word freedom. It’s like a dance with life and it’s free. It’s like an experience rather than a doctrine. The importance of awakening and self-discovery is this movement into freedom and to understanding that we are not computers for downloading information. We are humans. We are experiencing life. There is a big difference.

CARLOS:
There’s a huge difference. The reason why I love Tantra and I also love traditional forms of yoga is because they all have their value. But I do believe very strongly that for our own life system the tradition that can give us the most is Tantra. The Tantricas, as I was saying, took a completely different approach to the previous yogis. We have to understand, yoga came from an original renunciation, a criticism. It is not the lifestyle that most of us lead. So when you have a teacher saying, “Still your mind, calm your mind, that is great,” it’s much more challenging to do it in a time when you’re constantly bombarded with information and distractions. So you have a system like Tantra that says, “Actually, let’s work with your present situation; let’s work with your body, let’s work with your breath, let’s work with your senses, let’s work with your mind, let’s work with every single activity.”

There are ways of connecting with the highest consciousness in you in every moment. This is not an exaggeration. This is literal. When you look at the overall tantric traditions, they give you tools. There is a proliferation of new techniques. Tantra really was a revolution in the area of yoga. Because you have within the space of say 300 years, the early development of Tantra, more forms of yoga being created than in maybe 1,800 years or so of yoga before Tantra.

So it’s very radical in this sense. You literally have an incredible creativity and versatility of practice. You have hundreds of new practices. Basically there is a practice you can do when you’re talking. There’s a practice you can do when you’re eating. There is a practice you can do when you’re walking. This is what I love about Tantra. It gives you the tools to really transform your awareness in every moment of your life, and then there’s no separation between spiritual life and regular life. There is integration.

SONIA:
That is so important. We don’t go to yoga to create a beautiful trikonasana. What are we doing? We don’t want to just make a beautiful shape. Maybe it is a pretty picture, but it’s not the essence of the practice. Yoga is beyond that. What do we want to do yoga for? I think that bringing that energy into every aspect of our life is what we want to do with yoga.

CARLOS:
Right, yes. I mean of course it has its own value to do a beautiful trikonasana, but there are other beautiful things about it. Again I’m optimistic. Sometimes people say yoga has become so commercialized and they start getting a little bit disappointed in it. But what I see as the beauty of yoga is that whatever level you’re practicing at it will always take you deeper, because it is so powerful and it changes you in such a radical way. It’s not just so that you feel fit and more flexible and so on, but it affects your state in a positive way. Again I see this happening everywhere. People start doing Hatha Yoga because maybe they discovered it in their gym, and then they start discovering this whole universe behind it. They start discovering this deeper dimension that you are referring to. I’m an optimist in that way too. I don’t think that the yoga tradition is being polluted or corrupted by commercialism or anything. Even if that is true I don’t know if I agree with that type of unfair criticism.

SONIA:
If you trust the yoga practice, it will do the work.

CARLOS:
Exactly. I think that over time, if you take a long-term view, it is a force for good. Over time, yoga brings a transformation in people’s state, in people’s awareness and in people’s search.

SONIA:
It’s as though the universe knows what people need and it brings you there in time. The yoga will do the work. You will kind of find whatever you need to find at that moment. I often think we are a celebrity culture. We are often kind of crazily celebrity driven. There is a good, positive aspect to that because they are sending a good message. When you see somebody like Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow carrying a yoga bag I’m always like, “Yeah, more of that! Keep carrying the yoga bag!” So these great, wonderful celebrities have a platform to share positive, good stuff. We don’t always want to see them checking into rehab. We want to see people checking into a yoga studio, checking into a meditation center, or going for vipassana. Come out and tell us your story! This aspect of celebrity culture is like spreading wildfire of goodness and that’s how it can be made positive.

CARLOS:
Exactly. Everything can be used for good or not so good.

SONIA:
Exactly. Carlos, I can stay here forever and keep asking you billions of questions. I did have a question from Marissa: “What is Shaktipat?”

CARLOS:
The original Sanskrit term or Tantric term is Shakti-pata. It literally means the descent of power. It’s the way that Tantra subscribes to the process of spiritual awakening. We were just talking about evolution. The Tantric view of life is that we, as individual souls, are these points of awareness. We are on a journey of self-discovery and this is built into the very nature of our existence. We are meant to grow and you cannot stop that. This is the Tantric view. Just like you cannot stop the biological process of growing and aging. You cannot stop it, because it’s nature. In the same way, the Tantric view from the spiritual perspective is that we are in a constant presence of expansion. What is it that sets in motion the process of awakening? This is what we call Shakti-pata. The initial experience of the Shakti-pata is what triggers the beginning of the journey. But it is not something that happens only once. It is something that is always available to us, and part of the process of meditation and, of yoga is learning how to sort of tune into what Tantra calls the ‘anugraha’ or the ‘grace’. This is understood to be the capacity to expand our awareness. That is really what Tantra is all about; expanding our awareness. That sort of nurturing process where you feel as if there’s a sort of infusion of light, an infusion of joy, of love, and this is coming from the source. So this transmission from the source of higher awareness is what Tantra understands as shakti-pata.

SONIA:
And then is it something that’s given?

CARLOS:
Yes, but I would say primarily it is received, because the main role is that of the seeker, of the student, not that of the teacher. I always like to point this out. Sometimes people say, “So you have had the experience of having a guru. How can I find a guru?” And I always tell people, “Don’t worry about it,” because I believe what they say in India, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” That was the case for me. I wasn’t looking for a guru. But what is important is not so much whether you find a guru or not, what is important is that you become a student. Because if you are a student and you happen to find a guru then of course you will learn.

Even if you don’t find a guru, you will always be learning, from life, from events, from something that people tell you, from a meeting. So for me the most important part here is to be open and to be receptive. Tantra describes many different ways of receiving this shakti-pata, this infusion of grace. And of course there is one very obvious way when you are fortunate enough to meet somebody who is enlightened, who has achieved that full self-awareness 24/7. Of course somebody like that can act as an ideal bridge, because they have a human body, they are human, they are people, and they understand exactly where you are at because there’ve been there.

But at the same time they are anchored there as well. So they can serve as the instrument, as a bridge for the transmission of shakti-pata. That is what happens if you receive an initiation from somebody who is in that state of consciousness. This is a very obvious means but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes it happens through spiritual experiences that people have. And again, the more I travel, the more I hear about people who have had experiences they have forgotten about. Like my wife, for example. She had this awakening. She heard God’s voice when she was a child but she didn’t understand at the time. This is because consciousness is everywhere. The important thing for us is to be ready and open to it.

SONIA:
And what is a way that we can?

CARLOS:
So that transmission can happen spontaneously.

SONIA:
And just for everybody, what are a few ways that you might advise people to try to be more open? Try to live life with a more open kind of attitude, with a more expanded awareness I suppose? How can we be more open as people?

CARLOS:
I think there are a number of things. First of all, ideology. We cannot live without an understanding of life, and so when we say “no” to a certain idea then we are making it very difficult to grow past that. I think this is one thing to be aware of. One of the healthy things about getting in touch with traditions that are different to ours, say like the yoga tradition, is to not say “no” to them right away. As we were saying earlier, it’s not a matter of changing your beliefs or adopting a new belief system. No, it’s a matter of expanding your framework. You have to make room and often it begins with the intellect. Make room inside yourself. This is one way, examine with an open mind. Look at what other wisdom traditions all over the world are saying. What is remarkable to me, when you study mysticism all over the world, is to realize that all these great mystics, these great sages, these great enlightened masters, are not saying: “I wonder if there’s a God or not?” Whatever terminology they use for God, whether they use God, the Supreme Emptiness, or Brahman or whatever terminology. They are saying, ”I found something that is the ultimate answer to human existence.” This is a universal message.

I would just say, look, examine those traditions with an open mind, but the intellectual part of those traditions is another matter. Studying these traditions opens the way, sort of prepares the soil, but the real transformation happens through practice. I would say choose a practice that helps you to be centered, everything arises from there. If you want to do just 25 minutes meditation of breath, start there. Asanas, Hatha Yoga are fantastic practices. Not only have they all these tremendous benefits physically, but they also start connecting you with your inner being.

Just choose a practice that you find meaningful, a practice that will be your anchor, that will be your pillar of strength. Everything will arise from there. You know, just like in every area of life when you start practicing something you start getting insight and intellect. Everything comes from inside and I do believe that at a certain point, when we need guidance, the guidance just comes to us. It could be through a teacher, through an enlightened master, or even through a book. There are many ways it may happen. But the important thing is that we start the journey.

SONIA:
Yes, I really do. I was saying to my other half the other day, “I’m not completely perfect, but I really want to be.” I have the desire to want to be kinder, to want to be more compassionate. You may not find that you are that in all situations, but you know, just the essence of wanting to be a better person is an inspiration. You are going to journey on that road knowing that you’re trying.

CARLOS:
The interesting thing about this is when you even have just a glimpse of your inner being. So often I feel, “Gosh, I wish every single person in the universe would experience their own essence, their own inner light, and their own inner beauty, their own love, even for just a minute.” My guru used to say, “There’s enough love in the human heart to fill up the three worlds.” That is all we need. The moment you connect with that fundamental principle, this beauty, this perfection, this really overpowering love, that is the moment you cannot help manifesting more in your life.

You could say we are a work in progress. We are not perfect but you know what, inside we are perfect. And so by connecting with that, a little bit starts reflecting in your actions day to day, which abides little by little, more and more. You know, it is a vicious circle and the deeper you go on the path in some ways the easier it gets. And by easier I don’t mean that you don’t have challenges, because there will always be challenges in life. Just start getting it. Just starting to find that connection will become your focal point in your life whatever you’re doing. You start finding it and you keep going back to it more and more. Just take the first step. Start walking and everything will happen naturally from there.

SONIA:
I love that. That’s a really good place to end. So take the first step, start walking and the rest will happen.

Carlos, thank you so much for being here and sharing all that wisdom with us. You have just released a 6 DVD series called, “The Wisdom of Yoga,” tell us a little bit about that. It is kind of what we have been talking about but more in depth about the history? Is that correct?

CARLOS:
Yes, but what I do is to survey. I talk about the traditions I have practiced and studied myself. You know, there are all these traditions that I have studied, but I do not want to talk about them just from my intellectual point of view. I feel that if I’m going to talk about a tradition I should have some insight into it, or even practice before I talk about it. So what I do is, I look at the evolution of the yoga tradition in a way that not only serves as a way of expanding our horizons and giving us more understanding of yoga, but also in terms of the practice. Understanding what the traditions can offer us. Each one of the DVDs centers around one or two of these traditions, their history and includes some of the meditative practices. In that way you can find out which ones work better for you and which one you want to integrate into your life.

SONIA:
That sounds amazing. I’m really excited. I’d actually heard so many people mentioning the DVDs, and for me it was like, ‘The Wisdom of Yoga!’ I started this series of interviews on YouTube, talking about the history of yoga, talking about the philosophy, the energy, and speaking to all the different yoga teachers. That is my mission: different schools, different teachers, no religion, no indoctrination of any kind, but everything being welcome into the family, this loving yoga circle. I actually wrote to everybody saying “Please come and talk for the ‘Wisdom of Yoga!’” And when I heard about Carlos’s DVDs, I was like, “That is wonderful, amazing, perfect, because we need more of that!”

We are out in this world, where Hatha Yoga has become all about the physical. But we need to remember that we are doing this physical practice to unite the body and the mind and to unlock the spiritual energy that exists in all of us. The more we come home to ourselves, the more it is just going to shine. Having the philosophy, having this information is very important. Thank you so much for creating those DVDs for us. It’s really an amazing gift for all of us.

So, if you are interested in learning more, and about ‘The Wisdom of Yoga,’ and all of Carlos’s work, you can go to www.pomeda.com where you can find the DVDs online. You can also get them at Triyoga in London.


For more information on Carlos Pomeda, please see:
www.pomeda.com

For more information on Sonia Doubell, please see:
www.thesecretbliss.com

For details of Carlos Pomeda’s August 2014 workshops at Be Yoga Japan, please see:
www.beyogajapan.com