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As Without So Within

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Connecting with others opens up a whole new world of awareness. Until met my husband I had no idea that petrol prices differed depending on where you chose to fill up, not did I reallise that some people hold their knife like a pen when they eat and the nemonic for this is HKLP or that spotting continuity errors in TV programmes is a thing that people actually do! None of these revelations are particularly life changing, although they do enable me to understand how my husband's brain works and I have no doubt saved a small fortune on fuel. In expanding my knowledge and deepening my practice of yoga however I've received some even more valuable lessons in awareness. One which really stands out for me was the moment my teacher, Claire Missingham relayed the concept of how our hands relate to the planets.

According to the yogic system, we are replicas of the entire universe, everything is within as well as without, and our bodies have corresponding trigger points and meridians. In this case, each finger is associated with a particular planet, and when triggered or pressured, it connects you with the properties or influences attributed to the planet [1].

This week I went to the Saatichi Gallery with my gorgeous friend Jed to see "We Live in an Ocean of Air." She'd already been the day before and on her recommendation I spontaneously booked it - (Jed has this capacity to inspire me and those around her to be fearlessly spontaneous!) The event is a virtual reality experience designed to explore the connection between us and nature through the breath. It's a little weird getting the equipment on and you immediately feel a sense of isolation once the visor goes down as you find yourself transported into this alternative 3d world where your intellect battles with your senses and you have to suspend reality - and quite literally get over yourself. Once I was able to do that the magic began. Bubbles of blue exhaled breath blending with the shifting tree roots beneath my feet and dissolving into the red outline of my own hands and fingers - where did I start and everything else begin? (The 20 minute session is over in a flash, in fact just as your feel your heart rate is stabilising, but it's so different I would definitely recommend.)

Yoga's ability to connect was probably the hook that caught my attention and encouraged me to turn it into a career. So when the idea of accessing connections to the cosmos through yoga was presented I was already primed. Our hands are an important tool of communication and reception and understanding what influences are at play can serve to deepen awareness.

The Thumb is said to hover between Mars and Venus and represents the ego or the small self;

The index finger represents Jupiter planet of knowlege, opportunity and expanding awareness;

The middle finger is Saturn - said to be the great teacher;

The ring finger is associcated with the Sun (sometimes with the Moon which governs moods) and brings life & vitality, it's also said to be strongly linked to how you are seen by others;

And the little finger is Mercury - planet of communication, how you express your truth but also creativity, where thoughts and ideas percolate.

These concepts were developed many thousands of years ago and as such we can't necessarily apply contemporary logic to their rationale. That can be either an obstacle or a doorway - rather than looking always for proof before we believe in something we are offered an opportunity to be open to an idea that we can just experience for ourselves before passing judgiment. Interestingly these concepts aren't limited to certain strands of yoga philosophy, they can be found in Ayurvedic science and Astrology, with some variations.

The planetary energies that we already hold in our hands can be stimulated by the wearing of rings and certain gem stones either to positive or negative effect. Be careful with the Saturn finger, it's sphere already has rings around it and depending on what's going on both 'within and without' this great teacher can offer up its lessons as challenges to be overcome. That might be a dawning awareness perhaps that someone is running rings around you? Just as my husband points out HKLP whenever we got o a restaurant, I now cannot help suggesting to people they take any rings off their middle finger!

The relationship between the cosmos and the physical body isn't limited to the hands and fingers alone:

Different planets affect different parts of your body. Your teeth is connected to Saturn. Your eyes are connected to the Sun, your cheeks are connected to Venus, forehead to Mercury, nose to Jupiter [2].

So harnessing these energies can be used to heal dis-ease in specific areas of the body - this is what mudras were initially used for and the hand gestures thus become a route to explore our relationship with these energies.

Mudras are a physical declaration of a state of being which we wish to cultivate on the inside. Gyan mudra, one of the most ubiquitous mudras you'll come across in any yoga class, connects the index jupiter finger to the thumb creating a seal that allows specific energies to flow. In this case the wisdom of Jupiter flows into the Ego, we physically express our readiness to receive information and therefore become more receptive to it.

Think of it as downloading knowledge into your personality or finite self, in other words: learning. [3]

My favourite mudra and the one I seem to offer up in class most frequently, as well as use in my own meditation practice, is Shuni Mudra. The thumb and middle finger connect, the palms face up, creating what is known as the seal of patience.

The great but at times challenging teacher Saturn provides an opportunity to sit and cultivate patience within - and who, in this frenetic world, couldn't use a little more patience? It's not about waiting for something to happen without getting frustrated though, patience is an active quality, and as you press the finger tips together you get a sense of staying true to a goal or sticking to a path even when it gets tough or the light at the end grows dim. Channeling this focus, commitment and self-will to keep going can flip any negativities around and give you that boost (or gentle shove) you need to keep going.

For an even deeper experience of comingling with the cosmos the ancient Kirtan Kriya as taught by Yogi Bhajan combines a 'mudric dance' that brings the thumb into contact with each finger in rotation. Drawing on the bija mantra of Sa Ta Na Ma (the continual flow of life and the universe) it utilises the cosmic essence of sound and the direct tuning in of focussed, meditative flow to stimulate the pineal and pituitary glands. Scientific studies have even shown it's benefical impact in reversing memory loss - read more here.

AND In an almost coincidentally circuitary seal of completion, it was in fact Jed who first taught me this kriya to me!

The invisible world of energy which is within and outside of us, can't be seen but it can be experienced. If you're willing to open yourself up to that potential, either be simply becoming more aware of each moment or by experimenting with some of the ancient practices that cultivate a more intuitive feeling sense to rise, then the smaller connections we are conditioned to make can suddenly appear less isolated and more deeply, intrinsically and infinitely linked to everyone and everything.

Sat Nam X

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