Steve Harrison interviewed by Natalie Dekel. Part 2 of 5.
Natalie Dekel: In yoga you use chanting; how does that work?
Steve Harrison: On a practical level it’s a tool, a kind of vibration to get into body/mind energy field and loosen it up. The mantras themselves contain the seeds of balance. They contain a potency that mirrors the infinite. So just by intoning them, their vibration will work to free up the knot or constraints.
All the tools of yoga are working to loosen up the energy of your body and mind, so that it can more fully express your true nature. This becomes more of an instrument rather than making the body the point.
Natalie: How the mantras work?
Steve: The mantras’ sound contains certain potency and this is the basis for the Sanskrit language which we use in yoga.
You don’t just chant it, but go into different chakras?
You can go to different chakras, but the main thing is to feel it within the field of your body, to feel the resonance of the mantra. In all yoga processes, the essence is to feel them rather than to have them as some kind of theoretical idea or philosophy. So the question is always: can you open and sensitize yourself to feel the effects of the process?
It’s good to feel the mantra so you can feel the vibrations. And also it’s helpful to have an understanding of what the mantra is doing. What you’re calling for is a divine quality.
If people don’t understand this, will it have the same effect as those who do?
The vibration will have some effect. Even if somebody’s asleep in the room, if the rest of the group is intoning a mantra, it will have some effect on their energy field. But when we become conscious of what we do and fully engaged with it – when we participate – then our whole energy joins in with the mantra and then the very room is affected. It’s like anything we might do if we’re a total unit. When we completely give into it with all our energy then there’s a great joy in the union, the oneness.
Whatever we’re participating just as human beings, normally we’re not fully here with whatever’s happening.
It’s basically like trying to direct your intent to inner opening rather than outer.
Yes… it’s the mastery of observing your own condition in your body/mind system and developing a capacity to relax and soften. As you relax into any experience that you’re currently having, your energy on the inside can join the energy of the situation that is occurring around you.
Isn’t it natural to resist?
The resistance is natural?
If it is rainy outside and you need to go out, for instance, you would resist it.
Yes. But you can also observe the situation and relax that little bit. I’m not sure it’s helping the situation. It’s natural to put on some sun glasses if it is very hot, or put up your hood if it’s raining, it’s all fine.
But the inward grip and tightening and the resistance, and then the mental interplay that comes with that, maybe this we could have a look at. When we say, “It’s raining, oh God, isn’t this terrible, isn’t this going to ruin my weekend!…” we bring up mental thought which does not serve us well.
So mental silence is important.
Yes. It’s good to observe the mind until you’re quieted. It’s good to have some mastery over the mind.
Our system is teaching us to train the mind to look for information. They don’t teach you to stop thinking and feel what is happening, or acknowledge your emotions. The whole emphasis is to think more and think in a certain way. Yoga seems to be outside of this ‘way’, isn’t it?
Yes, a little.
Knowledge is fine, and gathering information in order to function is fine, but it doesn’t equate to wisdom or to a deep knowing. Most of us are looking around at today’s newspaper and for various other people’s opinions, and then we come to a mash or a stew of an idea that we claim is our own… It is a belief; a borrowed information, which we ascribe to and say “All right, this is what I think.”
So as opposed to this view, how would you know in yoga that “there” is you, when you spend so much time and effort to remove all identity and walls that makes you ’you’?
We’re brainwashed all our lives. Our parent’s opinion was not even theirs; it’s been brought to them, inherited – what you should do, what you should be. And there’s this thing called conscience. You feel guilty if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do… so which one is you?
It’s good to put all these words down until there is a clear space. Put down everything that’s been added on to you, by your parents, by the church, by your education. If you just put down everything that’s been acquired and added on, you can find a clear space underneath it.
And in that clear space you find direct access to the cosmic mind; to the ‘bigger mind’, the ‘internet’ mind. It comes up from an unpolluted space. It comes up from a deeper source inside us and it rises with a slight bubble of joy and some energy.
It’s dropped into you, it’s risen up within you and it comes with a certain spark. It always comes with a sense of “I knew that already. I wasn’t taught that but I knew it.” It comes up with a kind of ancient familiarity, and it comes up with sweetness and without a sense of ownership.
Of course, the mind will immediately try and possess it and claim ownership over it. But at the moment of this arising, if it gets to come cleanly up to the surface, sometimes it might even come out in expression with your hands or your voice and there’s a sense of “That wasn’t me.” It didn’t come from my identity, it didn’t come from my learning; rather it came from my heart core, from the bigger mind.
So the way to start to know is through practice. It’s a practice of learning to show up in life’s situations and just show up and open up. That’s the only thing that you’re required to do; just show up, open up and take care that your energy on the inside is freely moving to the situation and opening without any mind in play.
So you just go and experience the situation and then let the universe use you in that situation to do the work that it needs to do, rather than me doing what I want to do according to my personal desire in the situation.
It’s practiced and it’s hard in a way, in that it requires a certain not-going into the situation, so that you can be used as an instrument…
7 May 2014.
Exclusive publishing rights © Natalie Dekel and Gil Dekel. Images © Gil Dekel. Text editor: Gil Dekel. Interview conducted on 29 April 2014 in Southampton. Steve is based in Southampton, UK. Natalie is based in the UK. Steve’s Website. Natalie’s art gallery.