Autumn Lesson 3 in The Season of Cups: Unifying Three Essential Types of Vital Energy
In autumn, we focus on cultivating our intrinsic vital energy, or ch’i. The suite of Cups (from the Minor Arcana) is associated with autumn, and with the metaphysical element of water. Thus, when we put our attention on Cups (water) energy, we are really seeking to develop our internal cup, or energy basin.
Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identifies the second habit as: Begin with the end in mind.
We previously saw a visual depiction of our goal: Being able to bring our energy up and have it “fountain” or “flow” down around us. We saw this in the classic Rider-Waite interpretation of this card.
Our desire to “fountain” our energy is a normal and natural one, especially once we gain some proficiency with energy work. I learned about this energetic practice from Medea, my first teacher in Oriental dance.
“Medea had studied yoga. Her lover was also her guru. He had, she explained, taught her to bring up her energy during love-making – and to give it to him! Then they broke up. What, she wondered, was she going to do with her energy, if she wasn’t going to give it over to a man? She finally figured it out. As she told us, ‘Instead of giving it to him, I’ve learned to bring it up, and then to “fountain” it back down and take it in again!’” [Unveiling: The Inner Journey, pp. 402-403]
In last week’s class, we got more specific. We began our energy-study in earnest, with an etude (study piece) cultivate the two vital energy streams that come up on either side of our primary energy pathway in our spine. That is, we focused on the Ida/Pingala energy channels. We saw these two energy channels symbolized by the picture for the Two of Cups.
In this Two of Cups picture set, we see a consistent theme – a man and a woman come together to share their energy.
In the central picture, we see that the man and the woman each are holding a cup, and are each extending their cup towards each other. We connect this to the first step of the Ida/Pingala energy raising. We note that the two persons seem just a bit tentative; this is their first experience of bringing their unique energies to “cross over” and join with the other. This is where Ida (left) and Pingala (right) cross over at the base of the spine, at the root chakra.
Now, “begin[ning] with the end in mind,” we take a look at the final card for the Suite of Cups. The Ten of Cups similarly shows a man and a woman, and again each holds a cup.
The big differences? Their wrists wrap around each other, and their cups are upraised. There is energy flowing into and out of their cups (the rainbow). The signs of “cups” are all about them; the union of these two energies has resulted in a happy, positive overflowing abundance – complete success!
This is our end-goal for our Ida/Pingala energy-raising exercise, and in fact, for the entire Autumn Quarter, when we focus on Cups.
Keep in mind that when we look at imagery such as this – strictly in terms of how these images represent steps and challenges (and overcoming challenges) in our personal growth and mastery – that each person or being represents an aspect of ourselves. In the pictures showing a man and a woman, they represent our masculine and feminine psychological poles, and/or our different energies – in this case, specifically the Ida/Pingala energy channels, or nadis.
In this context – of knowing our overall goal for the quarter – we look at the Three of Cups.
Images for the Three of Cups traditionally show three woman, often dancing together. The middle image here shows them bringing their cups (energies) towards each other, and intertwining their arms.
This brings to mind what we learned last week; the Ida and Pingala are on either side of the primary energy channel, the Sushumna. This week, we remind ourselves that our deeper goal is not just to bring energy up the Pingala and Ida channels, but also bring up our primary energy (up the Sushumna channel); this becomes a kundalini awakening – a very advanced step. In our classes, we focus on prerequisites – on the “beginner steps” towards this very advanced goal.
One of the most basic, and important, practices for energy cultivation is pranayama. We introduced a “baby pranayama” exercise together with energy raising in the etude that we have set to Rasa’s Gayatri Mantra. (Hereafter, for simplicity, we’ll refer to this as the Gayatri Mantra energy-raising etude, or simply the Gayatri Mantra etude.)
In this Gayatri Mantra etude, we do three things:
- Bring energy up our spines, where we anchor (drop our body weight) and allow our hands to come up each time we “bring up our energy,”
- Coordinate the energy-raising with specific mudras (hand gestures) and with vibrating the words that go with each mudra, and
- Coordinate all of this with a simple (baby-level) pranayama breathing pattern.
This is only complicated until it’s not.
By the end of this quarter, we should be proficient with:
- Bringing energy up to each of seven different chakra-levels (actually, six nadis on the spine and then our crown chakra),
- Coordinating this with seven different mudras and their respective “intonations,” along with the ability to do some baby-level pranayama, and
- Some awareness of our Ida/Pingala energy channels, which interweave about our spinal column.
Also, by the end of the quarter, we should be much better at:
- “Containing” our energy in our pelvic “energy cauldron,” as opposed to spilling it out,
- Minimizing “holes” in our “energy cauldron” (making it a “cauldron” and not a “sieve” or a “colander”), and
- Protecting our energy boundaries (yes, “setting boundaries,”) so that we don’t unintentionally give away all this lovely energy that we’re cultivating.
The end result is that we should approach winter solstice with a strong, vibrant energy – ready to share at our discretion as we spend time connecting with friends, family, and colleagues. We should be energetically “insulated” against winter, and be strong for the next aspect of our inner journey.
Most of all, we should be feeling “juicy.” As in, downright fabulously “delish”! Here’s to a great autumn season for all of us!
Namaste! – Alay’nya