By Dharmadevi Romano.
Of the techniques our great guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, gave, I’d have to say, for me, Hong-Sau has always gotten the short end of the stick. It isn’t that I don’t like it, per say, it’s just that I’ve never felt very good at it. Here’s where I’ll offer a common-among-spiritual-aspirants excuse – I’ve spent the last eighteen years in Rahu Mahadasha!
Well, at least our dear friend and extremely gifted astrologer gave me that excuse by saying the first time he saw my chart, “Hong-Sau will be like hell for you.”
I couldn’t say I agreed or disagreed at the time since I’d only experienced meditation (and the techniques of meditation) during my Rahu Mahadasha. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll simply say that this eighteen and a half year period can sometimes make one feel they are a chicken with their head cut off.
In spite of my “Hong-Sau hell,” I’ve never given up on what Yoganandaji called, “The most powerful technique of concentration.” And I’m glad I didn’t! During our yearly seclusion week at the Ananda Desert Retreat in Twentynine Palms between Christmas and the New Year, I had quite an experience.
As sometimes happens after leaving the big city, with all its noises, smells, lights – stimuli, in other words – and coming to the peace, silence, and tranquility of the desert, my mind is particularly, well, “engaged,” shall we say.
On our second night in the desert, as I was attempting to fall asleep, the thoughts swirling in my head would not relent – they just kept cycling around and around, endlessly it seemed. After what I imagine was a good couple of hours, I realized something needed to be done. I asked Guruji for help and “Hong-Sau” was his answer. This was an approach I had not yet attempted – Hong-Sau to get to bed? – “Well, maybe,” I thought, “it could calm down some of these restless worries.”
Lying there in bed, I began… “Hong” (mentally) on the natural inhalation, “Sau” (mentally) on the natural exhalation. Before long it worked and I dozed off. If that was the end of the story, I would have been pleasantly surprised, but I wouldn’t say Hong-Sau was my new best friend! Here’s where it gets interesting.
That night, I found myself in a recurring nightmare – one I’ve had numerous times, for the past 20 years. It never ends pretty and I could see things were going in that same direction. Well, what do you know, in the dream I started practicing Hong-Sau! I had a totally different reaction to my circumstances in the dream and woke up feeling pretty awesome.
So, what did I do when I woke up? I started practicing Hong-Sau, of course! I realized it was still really early and though I would have liked to haul my body out of bed to meditate, “brother donkey” (as Saint Francis used to describe his body) just wasn’t going to cooperate. So, I lied there practicing Hong-Sau for a good hour. I could tell I was slipping in and out of subconsciousness but, what did it matter, whenever I realized I wasn’t practicing the technique, I simply brought myself back to it – again and again. A couple of times, my attention was deeply focused at the point between the eyebrows. During one of those times, it seemed like there was a slow windshield wiper sweeping back and forth across my forehead. Not only did it feel good, it felt in fact, that this most powerful technique of concentration was clearing out my subconscious tendencies! One by one, and without my conscious will (except to practice the technique), these samskaras were being swept into the fire of the spiritual eye.
Yogananda said if you practice Hong-Sau for two hours a day (along with the other techniques on the Path of Kriya Yoga), you’d become a master. I’m not saying you should replace your formal practice of Hong-Sau with what I described, but, if you find yourself falling short of the 2-hour a day mark, why not bring Hong-Sau into your sleep, into your work, into everything you do?