Shaking in devotion

In 2010, I went for a ten-day vipassana course near Delhi. Group meditation was conducted in a large hall for almost 10 hours every day. After a few days, along with this group meditation, our schedule included sitting in silence in tiny cells, where we could meditate in privacy for an hour or two every day.

That’s when the fits started. There, in the privacy of a little room, my body began behaving in ways outside my control. I shook and swayed and vibrated as if given an electric shock for hours on end. Due to the master SN Goenka’s remote guidance, I did not judge the experience and just let it happen. But after returning home from the ashram, I gave up vipassana meditation because it was too embarrassing to shake this way in the presence of my family who could walk in any minute.

And yet the tremors remained in my cells, and would erupt in a jerk or two whenever I went into deep silence on my yoga mat. I found some explanation for this strange physiological reaction when I read Kay Newton’s interview of Caroline Purvey in eShe. I understood that this was suppressed stress being released from my psoas muscle.

I further found validation when I learnt Osho’s evening meditation that includes dancing and shaking all the stress out of the body before sitting in silence on the floor. I was relieved that my fits were nothing to worry about.

In 2020, during the pandemic, I began my pranayam practice in earnest. From a few minutes a few times a week, I intensified my efforts and made yogic breathing a daily part of my life. The fits often happened towards the end of my meditation – instead of lying still in shavasana, I would be shaking on the mat. But I persevered and gave my body the space it needed to release whatever was going on. I began locking my bedroom door for privacy.

Gradually, the fits subsided on their own with no extra effort on my part. Last year, I suddenly noticed that I hardly shook during my meditations, and that deep yogic stretching was enough to release myself at the end of my pranayam. I marvelled at this development.

I then came across two things that further expanded my understanding.

The first was a video of energy workers releasing trauma from a young woman’s body after she had been raped. After many minutes of her lying there while they hovered around her drawing out energy with their hands (sort of Reiki), her left leg floated up in the air twitching wildly, completely out of her control. I recognised it from my own involuntary fits – and putting two and two together, I realised my body had been releasing trauma too over the years.

The second was an email from Sri Aurobindo Society quoting The Mother on the limitation of the practices of the traditional bhakti cults in ancient India where disciples would go “mad with God” with frenzied feelings and wild dancing.

“If you have to bear the pressure of the Divine Descent, you must be very strong and powerful, otherwise you would be shaken to pieces. Some persons ask, ‘Why has not the Divine come yet?’ Because you are not ready. If a little drop makes you sing and dance and scream, what would happen if the whole thing came down?”

Even more pieces of the jigsaw fell in place for me after reading this. Thirteen years ago, my body and being were not physically ready to receive the divine. There was too much stress and trauma in the cells that needed healing and release. Now — with God’s infinite grace and compassion — I am calmer and marginally stronger, I suppose, so the fits are much reduced.

But this is a gift of the divine and I must not make the mistake of assuming I am ‘fixed’ because who knows what else lies in which layer of the subconscious?

I remembered another email in my inbox in which The Mother responds to a question on what we must do to deserve divine grace:

“You must feel and understand from the depth of your heart you don’t deserve Grace. If you think you deserve Grace by your purity, virtues, merit, sadhana or work, you shut your doors to Grace by your egoism. When you go through the writings of great saints and true devotees of God, a common prayer you will find is something like this: ‘Oh, Lord, my infinite gratitude for showering your Grace on this totally undeserved person with so many imperfections’.  This is the right attitude, humility and gratitude, which can open your heart to Grace.”


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