Photography & Yoga 13 Commentaries on Photographs

Commentaries on

Picture Kundalini Shakti as a . . . vast  
spinning circle of brilliant colors. 

There are forty symmetrical photographs in the Photography and Yoga project.  With but a few exceptions the source images used in their construction were made as I was writing the various texts for the 12 parts or "chapters" of the project.  I began the project by writing commentaries on the symmetrical images presented in each of the first four chapters, but as I began working on the fifth chapter it occurred to me that the texts within the chapter provided enough "entrance" into the images, thus it seemed to me that commentaries were no longer necessary; the photographs could "speak" for themselves.  Nonetheless, there are interesting things worth saying about some of the photographs in chapters five through twelve, and so I am devoting this last additional part of the project to sharing with you some of my thoughts about ten images.  

When I began the project I was concerned about how to approach making photographs for the yoga-themed chapters.  I could see no way it would be possible.  So I decided to just write the texts and make pictures on pure impulse and see what my creative process would yield.  The images in this project just came forth, as if of their own volition.  

Though I would not say there is a direct relationship between the texts and the photographs within the project, I have found there to be interesting correspondences between what I had been writing at the time the photographs were made.  I have been happily surprised and deeply moved by many of the images that have presented themselves as if gifts to the project.  Not only are many of images appropriate in the way that they relate to the various thematic texts, but indeed I find some of the photographs very powerful, evocative and meaningful on their own terms.

Contemplation vs. Commentaries
I want to make it clear that there is a difference between writing commentaries on photographs and the process of contemplating photographs.   Commentaries are not particularly deep expressions of the "meaning" of the image.  First of all Meaning is a personal matter, and thus the responsibility of each viewer.  Meaning is usually a discovery of one's self as projected into and reflected in the image, and since the viewer is constantly changing from day to day, meanings for the same one photograph could very well change from one viewing to the next.  

I am aware that viewers often look to what artists have to say about their own work in regard to meaning.  From my own experience I must say that the artist who has "created" the image has no more authority in regards to the meaning of an image than anyone else does.  I would say, thought that as I have written commentaries on photographs, sometimes unconscious contents do bubble up to the surface of my awareness.  In those cases, where some genuine insight seems to have occurred for me personally, I consider that revelation but just one thin layer of meaning that is latent within an infinitely deep ocean of possible meanings.

When I write commentaries on photographs, anything my active mind can conjure up in response to an image is permitted to be considered for inclusion in the final published text.  This could include such things as personal and intellectual associations, relationships I discover between subject matter and text materials, spontaneous fantasies, yogic teachings, practices, etc.  Once these things are written down and collected, I evaluate the materials, re-write some of the parts (multiple times), then I make a final decision as to what should be edited out, and what should be kept in.  My goal as an artist is to make symbolic images, and commentaries only scratch the surface of images that truly function as symbols.  


Contemplation is something like a silent dialogue that occurs between oneself and a symbolic image.  Just as in meditation the mind that is turned inward merges with the Self, so in contemplation the essence of the image is taken inward, into the silent space of the Heart where the luminous grace of the image merges with the luminous space of the Self.   This heart-to-heart "silent dialogue" between image and Self transcends language, for at this level of being, where image and Self merge into one, the mind, intellect and ego are no longer operative.  In other words, the meaning is not-sayable.

A photograph that functions as a symbol was made in a state of grace.  The image is imbued with grace, resonate with grace, and thus it is also a transmitter of grace.  Contemplation is a process of opening to the grace contained within the image, receiving and absorbing its creative energy, its shakti.

The symbol's "meaning" is formless and essentially pure; it is nothing but resonate divine energy.  Such an image will silence the mind of the contemplator who turns inward with the image.  The contemplator then imbibe's into his or her Heart the grace of the image.  The grace is now free to work its magic in the the heart of the contemplator in any way that it deems appropriate and necessary.

An important part of the process of contemplation is turning inside with the image, giving one's self to the image, surrendering to its divine energy.  Then the grace within the image will be able to enter into the silence of one's Heart where it merges in sympathy with the heart's luminous pulsations.  

Meaning, finally, is nothing but the inner experiential feeling of the Unity of Being, the conscious awareness of the Heart's resonate pulsation in sympathy with the grace embodied within the image.

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A few

Question: How important is subject matter to the symmetrical photographs in terms of how they look and mean for this project, and in regard to the specific themes addressed in the chapters?  
For the first six or seven weeks of the project I was making photographs with a relatively restricted access to subject matter because of my wife's accident.  I needed to stay with Gloria in our house.  Though serving her was my primary concern, I did make photographs when I felt inspired to do so.  Obviously I could photograph only what was immediately available to me in our house or just outside our house.  I have written about the challenges of photographing during this time in Part 4 ~ God Exists In My Feeling.  

Domestic subject matter, and very importantly, the light that flows into our house, dominates the photographs within the Yoga project.  This seems appropriate in a way, since Yoga is all about turning the mind inward.  Thus the interiority of the light and space and the domestic things I photographed contributes to a certain feeling of intimacy one experiences in the imagery.   

On the other hand, the process of constructing the Four-fold symmetrical photographs quite often radically transforms the content within the source image used in the construction. It's thus not so easy to say in general how much the content which was initially photographed finally matters in one's response to the finished symmetrical image.  It varies from image to image, and it's probably more a personal issue than a general rule.  As I have already written, I believe it is the grace resonating within the image that is the most important factor when it comes to one's experience of meaning.  I don't know how to measure the impact of content on the way grace resonates within a symbolic photograph.

"Subject matter" is a concept difficult to define.  Subject matter it is a complex set of relationships having to do with the things of the world, of course.  But there are non physical things, too that qualify as subject matter, such as: light (quality, quantity, how it plays on surfaces, etc.), space, color, tones, formal relationships, visual rhythms, etc.  The apparent world is more mysterious than it generally seems.  The symbolic photograph awakens us to the mystries of life which is nothing but the play of the divine energy, Shakti.  Baba Muktananda taught that Shakti lies in the center of everything: the world, the body, in the center of every object.

Question: Why use only symmetrical photographs in this project?  Why not use straight photographs?
The process of making symmetrical photographs is dynamically transformative.  The representational image and the abstract image interface with each other and coexist in a rather complex, tense and evocative relationship in the symmetrical photograph.  The tension between what and how something in the world becomes presented and transformed by the four-fold construction process makes the symmetrical photograph visually and conceptually attractive, exciting and challenging for me.  It is difficult to anticipate how the process will impact the representational nature of the source photograph.  Each image offers unsuspected surprises.  I like the unexpected revelations that occur in the symmetrical picture-making process.  

I think contemplators must come to terms with the challenges associated with the transformative interface between form and content within the symmetrical photograph.  It's possible the contemplator could experience inner transformations in sympathy with the transformational process which the source image has undergone in the symmetrical process.

Cleaning the Mirror
I especially like the repeated mirrorings of the source image in the Four-fold symmetrical photographs.  The conjunction of the four images manifests a visual rhythm that seems to "spin" in a circular way around a central, still point.  The presence of the still point at the center of the symmetrical image probably has a deep impact upon the viewer's experience, though probably in untold ways that vary differently for each contemplator. 

(A great sufi saint, Bayazid al'Bistami, often compared sadhana [spiritual practice; and, for me, this includes the making and contemplation of photographs] to the process of cleaning a mirror, which when sufficiently cleansed, he said, clearly reflected the light of God.) 

Regarding straight photographs: I did include two newly made straight meadow photographs in part 4 : God Exists In My Feelings.  They were intended to echo the Stieglitz cloud Equivalent photograph.  Also I have presented one straight photograph below as an example of how source photographs become transformed into symmetrical images. 

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Picture Kundalini Shakti as a rainbow.  She softly glistens in the
 form of an arch, across the inner sky.  A rainbow is not fixed.
It arches across the sky like a bow, and yet it is more
 than a bow or an arch.  It is the visible half of a
 vast circle.  The other half is obscured by the
  earth.  Think of the movement of the
awakened Kundalini Shakti 
this way.  She is a vast 
spinning circle of
brilliant colors. 

Spinning Circle of  Brilliant Light
I love the above statement by Gurumayi.  I found it (or did it find me?) when I was working on the text for the Epilogue.  The idea that one could actually "picture" the Kundalini Shakti fascinates me, and I find the poetic metaphor, that Kundalin Shakti is a "vast spinning circle of brilliant colors," to be profoundly evocative.  Indeed, I have often thought of my symmetrical images as being "round" and related in both spirit and form to mandala images I have seen in various sacred art contexts.  When I read Gurumayi's words "brilliant colors" my mind spontaneously turned the word "colors" into the word "light"-- "brilliant light."   The image below is remarkable for its roundness of light, and its warm brilliancy of light. The image is for me a magical wonder of spinning, circular luminous pictorial energy.   

                                                                            Photography & Yoga      Image #25        Light          Symmetrical Photograph

Through my yogic practices I have come to the realization that my creative process is nothing but the manifestation of the creative energy known as Kundalini Shakti.  I often refer to this mystery as grace for short.  The movement of the shakti within my creative process has its own independent life, a will of its own.  I am particularly aware of this when I am making the symmetrical photographs because the transformation of the source image is so surprisingly unpredictable and oftentimes revelatory.

The symmetrical image above, from the chapter Lightis quite literally a "circle of bright light."  Indeed, the light in this photograph is extraordinary, perhaps even otherworldly, for it does not come from the bedside lamp, or anywhere else for that matter.  It seems to be coming from the picture's own central interior.     

The mandala is a sacred art form often used to support and guide the practice of meditation.  Mandala imagery is often round or circular; it may appear as a circular image placed within a square or rectangular format, as in the image above.  Mandalas have a distinct, pronounced center point which may function as a destination for one who imaginatively traverses the interior space of the image as a ritualized-meditation practice.  In the picture above, though the center point of the entire photograph is not specifically visible, it is there, as a felt presence, in the luminous space at the center of the entire image. 

Baba Muktananda once said: 
The Great Shakti, or energy, lies inside every human being.  It is the same energy that created the world.  This energy also makes every outer activity go on in a very systematic manner.  Even though we see, it is the Shakti which perceives through the eyes . . .   This great energy has two aspects, outward-turned and inward-turned. . .  It truly lies in the center of everything: in the center of the world, in the center of the body, in the center of every object.  It is this Shakti that makes everything function . . .  Swami Muktananda Darshan magazine #67

Despite the humorous caricature-like squashed appearance of the lampshade, the image as a whole is an intimate pictorial space.  The round interiority of the light seems to turn an ordinary bedside table and lamp into a sacred place, perhaps an alter that would be used for sacred rituals.  The lamp exists in a kind of "half-light" or semi-silhouette; but its quiet, interior glowing luminosity suggests that the lamp has absorbed some of the light emanating from the background. 

The yogic sages say the Supreme Self is the Light of Consciousness, and that Kundalini Shakti, the creative force of the Universe, the energy that has created the entire world, is unfathomably mysterious and powerful.  They also teach that the outer world is a reflection of the inner world.  I associate Gurumayi's statement above with the poetic idea of the roundness of being: the earth is round; the earth moves round the sun; all the planets spin round and round in their round orbits.  If the outer world is a reflection of the inner world, then "roundness" must be more than a mere metaphor.  (see G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space)  

Gurumayi commands us to picture the Kundalini Shaki as a vast spinning circle of brilliant colors.  If I could make a series of photographs in response to such a command, I would initiate the project with the round luminous image above.  Indeed, the entire body of photographs within this Photography and Yoga project represents my attempt to honor Gurumayi's command and to visually praise the Kundalini Shakti.   

                                                                     Photography & Yoga      Image #38        Epilogue          Symmetrical Photograph

Between the Jokester and the Guru
I had placed this symmetrical photograph in the Epilogue in relation to a story I wrote about a clown I had been photographing as he was performing on a stage for Gurumayi and a crowd of Siddha Yoga devotees.  The event was part of a farewell celebration for Gurumayi and her visit to Milwaukee.  As I was photographing the clown he mischievously grabbed my extra camera (which was attached to a tripod) and proceeded to do juggling tricks with it.  Then he lifted it high into the heavens and balanced the entire camera-and- tripod apparatus on his chin!    

Cross Form
As I witnessed this experience from below the stage I saw the clown's body, and the tripod with camera extending upwards as it was being balanced on the clown's chin, as the vertical aspect of a cross form.  He had also outstretched his arms to helped stabilize and balance himself as he performed his trick, and so his extended arms had became the horizontal forms of "the cross." 

I associate the photograph above, then, to this memory image I have of the clown balancing my camera and tripod on his chin, with his arms stretched out wide.  In the photograph there is a well defined cross motif which cuts the photograph into four equal parts.  There's also multiple echoing cross forms within the image, the most important one to me being the central horizontal shape of blue sky, and the verticality of the four repeated lamp images, two of which are pointing down toward the central blue shape; and the two of which are pointing up toward the central blue shape.  

I do not mean to suggest that this image functions as a metaphor for the clown's mischievous performance.  I simply associate this image with the memory of my experience of the clown's performance with his arms outstretched and my camera equipment balanced high upon his chin.  After I had written about the experience I came across this symmetrical photograph and immediately associated the image with the story.   

One of the challenges I have had to face in this project is the use of symmetrical images which function as symbols for me in the context of narratives and yogic teachings I have written for each of the thematic project chapters.  To reduce symbolic images to mere illustrations has been at times a rather uncomfortable thing for me to do.  In this case, however, there was a certain revelatory aspect to recognizing the relevance of the image to a story after having just written the story.

The mind is programed to desire something easily understood in its own terms.  What I want as an artist (and as a serious student of yoga) for this project is a meaningful text-image relationship that simultaneously clarifies and extends the meaning of both the image and the text.  But, because of the nature of the ego, the mind hates being confronted with the unknown, and symbols are precisely about the unknown.  I like the way C.G. Jung defined the word symbol as being "the best possible expression of something that is presently unknown."  The ego resists giving itself over to the unknown meaning of symbols.  It wants to be in control, and it wants to understand everything in its own terms.  

Though I placed the above photograph in relationship to the clown story as a light-hearted fun-loving gesture, clearly the image has its own integrity outside of that context.  Also, though the clown's gesture of taking my photography equipment and thrusting it high into the air was a fun-loving, spontaneous and creative gesture, it also had its transcendent or symbolic meaning: his gesture was the the spontaneous, intuitive play of the creative Shakti.  And importantly, the entire "play" unfolded before Gurumayi as she sat in her chair watching and laughing.  I became unwittingly thrust into and became an integral part of the clown's act.  And importantly, metaphorically, as he was juggling and balancing my equipment, and as I was photographing both him and Gurumayi who was watching and laughing at his antics, I found myself standing between the jokester and the Guru.

One of the teachings I associate with my symmetrical photograph above in relation to that experience is: What is above is below--What is within is without.  Also the luminous blue sky in the photograph references for me the Blue Pearl--the point of origin at the center of the apparent world.  In general the color blue means to me grace, divinity, Shakti.  And there is also the lamp motif in the photograph, a motif that pervades the entire body of work created for the Photography and Yoga project.  Of course it is a reference to light, the source of light, the Light of Consciousness, the Light of the Supreme Self.  

The light in the photograph does not come from the repeated lamp motif.  It comes from within the image (from behind the window shades, behind the four lamps).  Also, there is a wooden bird, a Christmas tree ornament, hanging on the lamp.  The bird, a familiar archetypal image, represents spirit, inspiration, the breath.  An important yogic teaching associated with the breath has to do with the practice of focusing on the space between the breaths as one prepares to go into meditation.  The space between also relates visually to the blue space in the center of the symmetrical photograph.  The space between relates to my standing in the space between the jokester-juggling clown and Gurumayi.  (Note: I will have more to say about the space between later, in my commentaries on the last two pictures at the bottom of  this page.)

                                                                           Photography & Yoga      Image #21        Silence           Symmetrical Photograph

The image above, from the Silence chapter, is imbued with the presence of silence.  In fact, the image induces that experience within me as I look at it.  My mind becomes very still when I give myself to this image and allow its grace to permeate the deeper layers of my being.  

The photographs I make as source material for possible use in the construction of the Four-fold symmetrical photographs often do not have their own visual integrity.  They are like raw diamonds that need to be carefully crafted into the gem that lies latent within them.  Though I am somehow able to intuitively sense a symmetrical photograph in what I am seeing when I click the shutter, I usually cannot pre-visualize the finished symmetrical photograph as I am photographing.  

I have a deep regard, however, for the image (below) which served as the source photograph for the above symmetrical construction.  It is of course significantly different than its constructed transformed version, but in its own way it is just as powerful.  I thought it would be interesting for you to see it.  I invite you to click on both images for a more detailed close up viewing.

click on the image to enlarge

The center of the symmetrical image is especially worthy of a closer scrutiny, it seems to me.  The center point is a very powerful presence in all of the symmetrical photographs.   Though it can often be visually understated or not at all visible in some of the symmetrical photographs, it is around this center space--the still point at the "heart" of the image--that all the rest of the image breaths with vital, sometimes "spinning" visual energy.  In both the  straight photograph and in its symmetrical version, Silence pervades the entire image as warm radiant light.  The symmetrical image has two vertical forms which seem like "rays of light" which point upward and downward, once again reminding me of the yogic teaching: What is above is below; what is within is without.   

X Marks the Spot
In the image below, which is also from the Light chapter, the shadow form interscects the space in which the center point of the image exists.   When I took the source photograph I never saw this symmetrical image coming; I simply was responding to the light streaking across the bathroom wall.  When the source image was transformed into the image you see below, I was quite surprised.  The X motif is of course another variation on the cross, which means on the most universal level, the union or merging of opposites.  That point where the four repeated, mirrored source images meet and merge is the origin point of the image.  Deep in the velvety black space of the cross form there is, it is said in the yogic teachings, a luminous point of light, the blue pearl, the size of a sesame seed, brighter than a thousand suns, from which the entire photograph has flashed forth into appearance.  The same energy that created the world created this photograph.  The Shakti is in the center of the center point of this photograph.  

                                                                                Photography & Yoga      Image #23        Light          Symmetrical Photograph

                                                             Photography & Yoga      Image #36        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

The Cave of the Heart
The photograph above, from the chapter Vision of the Heart was placed in the context of several statements about the "Cave of the Heart" and the "inner light" of the Heart.  I associate the word "cave" with a hole in the earth, earthy darkness, and Plato's Allegory of the Cave.  I can also associate it with the aperture in the lens of a camera and the human eye. 

Here, in this symmetrical image, there is a sense of looking out from inside a cave toward its entrance; the world is on the other side of the "veil" (curtained window).  Perhaps we could see the world more clearly if we only looked through the bindu, the point or hole at the very center of the black rectangle located squarely in the center of the photograph.  

The hard edged shape in the center of the image is in contrast to the soft edged, illuminated, veiled window, which itself seems to softly emerge from within a more vast surrounding darkness.  The left and right edges of the veil has a bluish halo of color, and on the top and bottom edges, a warm red color gently emerges from the darkness.  Beyond the veil, green can be sensed, if not clearly distinguished, behind a luminous horizontal form.  The form, which could be a cross, is in perfect alignment behind the black rectangle.  The point where the cross intersects could be precisely behind the bindu.

It is interesting but also helpful for me to write out the details of what I see in my photographs.  Writing helps me see with more conscious awareness what's actually in the image.  Often when I look at my photographs my mind wants to turn inward and become still, and just slide into something like a meditative state.  It's as if I merge into the atmosphere of the image where I can feel the image as much as see it.  It could be the grace within the photograph that causes this.

Writing commentaries on my photographs imposes the discipline of witnessing with some detachment; I tend to look more closely and carefully, and consider in detail what is being presented in the photograph and what I am seeing of it.  So much of my creative process is instinctual, or intuitive, for I want to be surrendered to the Shakti, the divine energy of the creative process.  And so to step back and actually consciously see what is there, in the finished image, can at times be something of a revelation in itself, or at least an important preparatory step that could lead toward some revelation.

(There is however a deep pleasure in simply seeing a photograph through the eyes of intuition, through the eyes of a no-thinking, quieted mind.  Sometimes feeling alone presents gifts of insight that would have otherwise been obstructed by the machinery-like controlled workings of the mind.  Feeling provides access to deeper understandings of one's self.  (see chapter 4 God Exists In My Feeling)

Black Space
A final remarks about the photograph: it has occurred to me that the dark space surrounding the soft edged image of the veil, and the dark space within the central hard edged rectangle, are the same silent space.  ~  Black space has represented Silence in several of my earlier projects, particularly the Morton Feldman projects: The Garage Series, The Departing Landscape Series and Triadic Memories.  It is silence from which the sounds of music emerge, and it is silence into which sounds dissolve into decay.  The yogic sages say the Blue Pearl emerges from silence; and it is silence from which the primordial sound OM emerges.   Everything in the universe has it source in silence, the stillness of the Supreme Self.  Black space in my photographs can be understood to represent the potential energy of the Kundalini Shakti.  Even though black space looks empty to the eye of the mind, to the eye of the Heart it is alive with unimaginable luminous potential.

                                                                    Photography & Yoga      Image #40        Epilogue          Symmetrical Photograph

Axis Mundi
I used this image in the Epilogue to symbolize "the entire universe, and our beautiful planet."  The black vertical tree trunk at the center of the image, interpreted in archetypal cosmological terms, is the World Tree or World Pillar, the Center of the World, or Axis Mundi.  It is also the Celestial Pole which connects Heaven and Earth.  The Axis Mundi is encircled by a line that seems to be holding at bay a tremendous amount of "spinning" visual energy.  Perhaps this energy is trying to force its way through the "border line" and gain access to the center of the image.

In yogic terms, the Celestial Pole could represent The Cosmic Guru.  When I used this image in the Epilogue it was intended to visually complement my expression of gratitude to Gurumayi: "Thank you for blessing this entire universe and our beautiful planet with your grace, your love, your seva."  But in fact I wrote those words feeling deep in my heart that it was also a prayer or invocation for help and protection, and perhaps for right understanding, for I am very concerned  about how vulnerable our planet is right now.  It is at an ecological tipping point--some say--to which there is no going back.  

We humans have made our beautiful planet quite ill; we have created for ourselves an unprecedented world ecological crisis due to unconscious and unconscionable folly: greed in particular, and a desperate desire (on the part of a very few people, actually) for world domination.  We have set in motion a disease that is gaining nearly overwhelming strength day by day.  

My expression of gratitude to Gurumayi was to her personal form as the Guru.  She has made it quite clear how much she loves the natural world.  She has taught that it is everyone's duty to protect and care for this beautiful planet.  My secret, silent prayer for protection and well being of the planet was spoken in the depths of my heart to Gurumayi the cosmic aspect of the Guru.  (see Part 5.)  

The white shapes in the image above at first seemed to me to be sky in the background.  The shapes then began to assert themselves in my awareness as a more dominant animated presence in the picture.   I thought: perhaps the shapes are butterfly wings.  ~  There is no end to the symbology of the butterfly; thus for simplicity's sake, and to be optimistic (given my comments about the global ecological crisis we are facing) I prefer to embrace the butterfly as a symbol of transfomation and transcendence.  

But, perhaps the shapes are eyes.  I feel an awesome presence or Consciousness in those shapes, which feel to me as if they are looking at me.  In Part 1 of this project, entitled Seeing the Self Everywhere and In Everything, I quoted verses 59 & 60 of the ancient yogic text, the Guru Gita.  The two verses focus on the concept: The Glance of the Guru.  I will provide below a few translated excerpts from these two verses that relate to the  points that have been discussed thus far about the image. 

"The Glance of the Guru"  
59. The Guru's glance creates all the worlds, makes everything flourish completely . . . it purifies devotees of all deficiencies. The Guru’s vision beholds the Self in the midst of ever-changing Nature and illumines the path to liberation. 

60. The Guru's glance is the pillar that supports the stage where all worlds are exhibited . . .  It is the sum total of creation, evolution, and dissolution. The Guru's glance creates past, present, and future, and bestows the vision of sat - chit - ananda: truth, knowledge, bliss absolute.  May the Guru's Divine grace always be on me!  Note: English translations of the Guru Gita can vary considerably.  The translated verses above are from the only online version I know of--and I believe it to be reasonably good--though it is not the one used in Siddha Yoga. http://www.yogalifesociety.com/GuruGita.html

I have seen eyes looking out from within many of my symmetrical photographs, but never before have the "eyes" appeared so large, the space within them so vast.  These "eyes" have always served as a reminder to me, as they do in this image as well:  Everything is alive!  Everything is Consciousness.  Everything is looking at me!  The world, in this regard, is a mirror reflecting back to me what I am, what I am becoming.  The world is a spectacle, a "stage", and it is the Guru, the Shakti, the transcendental, cosmic Self that is the source and the creator of everything.  The Guru in its cosmic aspect is looking at me in every moment, in every thing.  In my most conscious moments of being I witness my acts of perception as an act of seeing through God's eyes.  Yoga, and my practice of photography, helps me to be conscious, and pay close attention to this truth.   Indeed, it takes practice to pay attention.  Baba Muktanana wrote:  "When you come to the end of your practice of meditation, you will realize that everything is the Self."   Swami Muktananda, Where Are You Going?   

                                                                Photography & Yoga      Image #30        The Discipline of Seeing           Symmetrical Photograph

More Eyes ~ More Questions
The photograph above, and the one below, are from The Discipline of Seeing project.  Perhaps I have written enough about eyes.  Both these images are reflecting a mixture of feelings to me, part humorous, part numinous.  

Regarding the image above, I find there is something intimidating about the "eye" behind the window.  Why is the "eye" behind bars?  //  The storm clouds in the image below become humorously flashing eyelashes for me; but then I ask myself, is this a mask I am looking at, or into?  What or who is behind the mask? 

I began the Discipline of Seeing chapter with a quote by Gurumayi:  "What is the purpose of seeing? . . .  Who sees through the eyes?"  Two photographs; many questions--all worthy of  contemplation.

                                    Photography & Yoga      Image #31         The Discipline of Seeing           Symmetrical Photograph


                                                                            Photography & Yoga      Image #27        Time           Symmetrical Photograph

                                                            Photography & Yoga     Grace     Image #17       Symmetrical Photograph:   Purification ~ Shakti

The Space Between
I am presenting the two photographs above as a vertical diptych, a visual unity.  Both images are particularly powerful for me; both are radiant with visual energy, though of course in different ways.  I decided to pair them only after I discovered, in the process of writing about each of them separately, that they share multiple formal attributes which I will explain in detail here below.  Plus, more importantly, when they are juxtaposed to each other and experienced as a visual whole, its as if a new and even more powerful and meaningful energy is born within the space between them. 

Here are some of the relationships that I see and can write about; but as you read my text and look at the images, please also keep at least part of your attention focused on the space between the images: 

~ Both images are monotone, that is to say, pervaded by a single color: a luminous light brown in the one; an intense nocturnal dark blue in the other.  

~ Very interestingly, if I inverse the light brown image in photoshop, the resultant color is dark blue; and if I inverse the dark blue image, the resultant opposite color is light brown.  In other words, if I turn the colors of each of these photographs inside-out, if I inverse the images to their opposite colors on the color wheel, what I get in each case is the color of the other.

~ Both photographs have a vertebrae-like linear form, or "channel" that runs through the centers of the photographs.  In the brown image the form runs vertical; in the blue image it runs horizontal.  There are some intense green lines within the central channel of the blue image; as the green lines progressively move further away from the center of the image they lose their saturation and turn into blue. 

~ In both images there are lots of long lines that radiate perpendicularly out from the central channel.  In the brown image, long straight lines extend all the way out to the edges from the center; plus there is an explosion of squiggly, crackling, shorter angular lines that are almost dancing with a fanciful energetic intensity.  //  In the blue image multiple short wavy lines transition outward from the central channel to longer and and heavier lines that gradually transition into softer toned, less defined forms that nearly dissolve into the blue colored surface.  

~  With both images these radiating lines remind me of electrical energy: perhaps lightening bolts, or magnetic lines of force.  

 ~ In both images there are shadow shapes, perpendicular to the central channel, on the edges of the picture frame; in the brown image the shapes are like mouths which are projecting outward something like "lines of sound energy."  //  In the blue image the shadow shapes are very soft and floating above the blue surface.  Perhaps they are moving slowly toward the center of the image.  I associate these soft shadow forms to a shadow cast by an airplane.  Since this image has a nocturnal quality, the light source must be the moon.  The whole image then becomes an arial view of a large body of night-blue water.  I can see through the water to the sandy bottom of the sea which is covered by rippled, wave-like forms.  The shadow forms have a threatening quality; perhaps the "airplanes" are slowly approaching its target--the center of the photograph.  Perhaps then the "airplanes" will drop their explosives into the sea.

~ I associate both of the images to the traditional yogic teachings about the awakened Kundalini Energy.  It is said that this subtle divine energy is asleep in the base of the spine, located at the very center of every human being.  When this energy is awakened (by the grace of a sadguru, through shaktipat initiation) the energy begins to move along the spine through a series of subtle energy centers called Chakras.  (When some people experience this awakening of the inner energy, it can be like an internal explosion.) 

When the awakened Kundalini energy moves through all the chakras it completes its journey in the Sahasrara, the "crown" Chakra, which is located in the top of the head.  It is here that the yogi experiences the goal of his or her sadhana or yogic practices.  Through a combination of great self-effort and the guidance and grace of a true guru, the yogi becomes fully seated in the constant, conscious realization of their Unity of Being:  "I Am the Self"  "I Am Shiva."  "God dwells within me as me."  In this state unbroken state of conscious awareness of one's own divinity, of one's own Self, the appearances of a dual world dissolve.  Nothing exists but the pure Silence, the pure Stillness, the pure Shakti, the pure bliss of the Supreme Light of  Consciousness.  

Imaginal Journey 
These two complementary, juxtaposed photographs, and the space between them, become a single Unitary visual reality.  Imagine the images suspended together, face to face, in a vast ocean of luminous silence.  They are attracted to each other, and so very slowly they are moving toward each other.  Eventually they touch and begin to merge into each other:  their vertical and horizontal channels intersect at their center points which dissolve into each other and become one.  The two images have become transformed into the formless, silent Unity that is pure Stillness, pure Shakti, the Supreme Light of Consciousness.  

This visualization exercise is related to the ancient yogic teachings presented in Part 11 ~  Threshold of the Formless.  In that chapter I juxtaposed two other photographs and presented them as a vertical diptych.  The two photographs, and the space between them, serve as a visual metaphor for the in-breath and the out-breath discussed in the yogic teachings presented in that chapter.   It is said that between the breaths there is place, or point in which the in-breath and out-breath merge into each other.  This place of their merging is said to be the space of the Heart, the space of the pure Self  . . . "the place," writes Swami Muktananda, "from which creation emerges and into which it is absorbed." 

The End
Your Meditation Practice

When you come to the end of your practice of meditation, you will realize that everything is the Self.  When this is the case, why do you not realize it at the beginning and meditate with the awareness that the Self pervades everywhere?  Then you will have no trouble meditating, because you will always be in meditation.  
Swami Muktananda, Where Are You Going? 

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This concluding part 13 of the Photography and Yoga project  
was announced in the "Latest Addition" section 
of my website's Welcome Page on
October 2, 2015

Recent Sacred Art Photography Projects
The Angels (2014)
The Photograph As Icon (2014-15)  

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.