SPIRALS: EMBODIMENT THROUGH YOGA AND THE PROCESS OF TURNING
Quote from The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul by Jill Purce — Thames and Hudson, London, 1974
“In a second, the faintest perfume may send us plummeting to the roots of our being, our whole life verticalized by a ﬂeeting sensation: we have been connected by a mere smell to another place and another time. The amount we have changed in the recognition of this moment — this is the spiral: the path we have followed to reach the same point on another winding.”
Spiral is a natural phenomenon — in the patterns we see in the natural world, in the unfolding of time, and in the body. Our relationship with this is, to a certain degree, conditioned by how or where we feel our ground to be, a patterning learnt from the womb. As we are born into gravity, mature, learn to carry our own weight through the world, we see how these patternings can change, when we discover the energy and health of our soul.
Spirals manifest as shapes that are circular. However, it is only a spiral because it exists on different levels. A circle stays on one plane; a spiral deepens, drops, widens and rises into multiple planes. The same is true of the body. Being ‘stuck’ often means that we have misinterpreted the journey of the spiral for a circle. From here we can experience a loss of energy and direction; either because we lose a sense of ‘turning’ or rotation in the body, so stay on one plane; or because we lose our centre or axis. This can go one of two ways; a downward spiral (a sense of ﬂopping or crashing), or a ‘taking off’ into a upward spiral or spin (the feeling of ‘losing my head’). Both patterns of holding and collapse cause tension in the body, which yoga seeks to undo.
Equally, importantly, we can misjudge this single, circular perspective as being the only way that exists, or the only way we have choice to follow. We sense a lack of meaning, loss of connection to our own truth and to others. We lose the ability to ﬁnd right orientation and to interpret our life experience in new and deeper ways. When this happens collectively, it can be destructive, as we see when a group creates a barrier between the people ‘inside’ and those ‘outside’.
A hallmark of this from the perspective of ‘I’ can be that the world and others around us take on a mirror-like quality, which is stuck in that it is inherently created by a solidiﬁed sense of self, therefore can only be self-referencing. A true friend should be able to spot when your life narrative becomes over-personalised, when you speak without listening and have become disconnected from a bigger picture.
We live in a world where we can attune to the idea more than ever before that everything is connected. So this is no longer the new perspective we need to attain. Perhaps the deeper question is, why do we want to ﬁnd this connectivity? What drives us? What really interests us?
This question points to the wider picture, which is often beyond our understanding, but that holds within it everything that is trying to ﬁnd connection.
In the body, there are millions of possible connections that we might like to investigate. Yoga means ‘yoke’ or ‘joining together; union’ — things revealing themselves as being united, belonging to each other. Ultimately this is the joining of the head with the heart, which yoga seeks to uncover through the layers of our being. Without some understanding of this, we will always be experiencing some level, overt or subtle, of splitting, fragmentation, separation.
However, once we have found the perspective of yoga we must not stop there. Vanda Scaravelli, as well as many other practitioners including Krishnamurti, warns us against the trap of using yoga to ﬁx things (the body or the mind) to suit our own agenda. There is a point at which a certain attachment to the connectivity that is in the body can lead to a self-fulﬁlling neurosis, which simply mirrors our culture and may describe some of the ways yoga has become expressed in the West.
This question of yoga in the West is a big subject, one for another fuller discussion. But perhaps for now we can see this theme of ’embodying the spiral’ as a creative invitation to gain a new orientation. One that connects us to a deeper sense of ourselves and what draws us more energetically to the source of life.
Through a coherent yoga practice, one that has an interest in true integration on all levels, one that enables a coming together of ground and sky in the body, a joining with the ‘higher’ with the ‘lower’, we ﬁnd ourself as participators in a whole new source of energy. Energy that, in Krishnamurti’s words, is no longer caught up with the self. From this experience, which in spiritual language is referred to as a conversion, it is as though a new moral compass is opened up, one that is not linked to circumstances but an inner orientation.
We could see this as the energy of the spiral, the inspiration of change, or metanoia, when a radical turning takes place in the soul. It is when the soul knows it is on a journey. It is an event, a process, when eventually the body understands what needs to stay, secure, hold, harness, anchor, offer direction and strength (the masculine energy) and what needs to release, circle, question, rise, fall, curve and coil (the feminine energy). And the freedom we seek lies in the eternal dance of both.