Practice Notes: Opening to sky
“When one concentrates on one’s self in the form of a vast firmament, unlimited in any direction whatsoever, then the citi śakti freed of all props reveals herself”.
Vijnanabhairava (transl. Jaideva Singh) v92
For the last few days I’ve being doing a “sky-practice” based on v92 of the Vijnanabhairava. This, like many other of the dhāraṇās in this popular little work, are so simple that they hardly merit the term “exercise”. One of the reasons I keep on returning to the Vijnanabhairava is that these practices are ideal for engaging in opportunistically, rather than the way that meditation practice is often thought to necessitate making a distinct space for – a “setting aside” time for.
My basic approach is to situate myself in a comfortable position – standing up or sitting (ground or chair); turn attention to my breathing, and by means of focusing awareness on the breath, stilling my internal dialogue. Then it is just a matter of looking into the sky for a period – typically 5-10 minutes or more each hour. I can do this quite easily at my desk – sitting on the eighth floor of a tower block facing a huge window – or for preference, go outside.
There are differences. Doing this practice indoors, I notice the stillness around me (particularly at lunchtime, when the office is fairly quiet) and everything seems muted. Tiny sounds – like the whirr of a slightly dodgy disk drive four desk rows away – are magnified. A plane slides across the sky and for a moment i am struck how thought-like it is, sliding into and out of the vast horizon of awareness.
At ground level, it feels more engaged. Traffic on the bridge, people passing, aircraft noise; sun’s warmth, wind, the chair, still damp from last night’s rain – all these merge into the rising and falling of breath, into the sense of opening to sky.
In the Vijnanabhairava Singh notes (p78): “Looking at the sky has been recommended, because on account of the vastness of the sky, the beholder is apt to be lost in sense of infinity”. Here though, the intention is to feel one’s awareness to be as vast as the sky. Gradually, this sense of distance – of opening towards – settles into the heart; becomes the pulse of the breath.