One of the most extraordinary of human capabilities is language. The articulation of words, spoken and written, originating from the clarity of self-knowledge, can constitute a magical dimension so powerful that all the lives of this world are affected by them. Due to the defensive sensitizing and conditioning effects of the human amygdala, it also happens that meaningless words, originating from unconscious reflexes, can sometimes produce similarly global effects. In both cases the mechanism of resonance is the operative principle. Whether we are responding to words of wisdom or words of ignorance, what actually happens within us is an exquisite process of symbolic resonance.
There are a number of theories and systems for making sense of this resonance phenomenon. One system that has endured many millennia is what is now popularly known as the Chakra System. The best known arrangement of the chakras is a seven-tier system utilized in Indian yoga. To understand the functioning of these energy centers in a detailed way requires considerable study. Each center, or chakra, resonates literally and figuratively with ambient energy. Ambient energy includes very local activity such as our own thoughts and feelings and interactions with others beings, and also includes cosmic conditions such as moon phase and other astrological factors. Each center has a fundamental tonic frequency and infinite harmonic capabilities. For those whose main interest is spiritual practice, it is sufficient to just have a general understanding of this. In the Dzogchen teachings the energy centers of the body are usually viewed as four principal spheres, experienced in the brain, throat, chest and lower abdomen. The teachings of Gurdjieff likewise make use of a four-fold arrangement to work with resonances in what he called the Moving Center, the Emotion Center, the Intellect Center and the Instinct Center. An elder Gurdjieff teacher once told me that the cause of spontaneous laughter is information entering different centers at the same time, evoking equal energy scores in each.
We are all familiar with conundrums that cause us to question our own judgments or responses. We may say, “I’m doing this against my better judgment” or “It doesn’t make sense to me but I have a good feeling about it”. These are examples of information being processed in different centers and yielding different scores. In the first example, the Instinct Center trumps the Intellect Center. In the second example, there exists a contradiction between the Emotional Center and the Intellect Center. What may not be obvious in considering these examples is the fact that the different centers may not be, and usually are not, equally developed. For the purpose of this discussion, the question of a center’s level of development will be over-simplified as either: healthy, unhealthy, mature or immature. If any of the centers are unhealthy or immature, the scores they yield from processing various information should not be weighted (or trusted) the same as scores from healthy, mature centers. A healthy center is one that functions in a balanced way, coordinated with the other centers. A mature center is one that has no dormant features. Of course, this is an objective view of an exceedingly subtle and entirely personal process. In our habitually subjective state, it is likely that none of this will be considered or even noticed. However, it is precisely the noticing and considering of this process that would grant passage into the so-called higher levels of spiritual practice. It takes tremendous effort to develop a genuine practice of objective self-observation. The Masters have all pointed out, however, that the effort expended running on the treadmill of unconscious subjectivity is even greater.
In the Tantric Buddhist tradition the various centers can be quickly matured through the esoteric process of initiation. To benefit from the full potency of Tantric initiation, one needs to be properly prepared and receptive. There are a number of factors included in the orthodox approach to preparing for initiation. These factors and the details of initiation itself are traditionally kept secret. Receptivity is a function of understanding and maintaining the correct spiritual perspective. The spiritual perspective (tawa, in Tibetan) varies according to the level of the initiation. Complete maturation of the centers then develops from cultivating the essential meaning of the initiation, and this consists of practicing the Sadhana/meditation (gompa, in Tibetan) associated with the initiation. At each level of practice in Vajrayana Buddhism there is a clear delineation of Perspective (tawa), Meditation (gompa) and Conduct (chopa). It is the maintenance of the correct conduct that serves to establish the health of the centers.
There are also other historical systems for optimizing the centers. Brahmans, Gnostics, Sufis, Taoists and others, all offer some system of knowledge regarding the various energy centers of the human being. The main point of all of them is to foster holistic experiences that liberate rather than ensnare. Mindfulness, simply paying close attention to our experience, is the key. In the beginning, in order to pay attention fully we must consciously suspend our tendency to make judgments about our experience. The judgment reflex, being mostly a vestigial defensive strategy, strongly inhibits and dumbs-down the full harmonic unfoldment of experience. Once we are more used to it however, mindfulness can easily include the mindfulness of judgment, as well as any other mental state. At the ultimate level, we can even learn how to maintain mindfulness of our essential true nature. Remarkably, in the Dzogchen method of training, mindfulness of essential true nature is how one begins.