The Three Stages of ISIP
Levels 1 and 2: Emptying the Mind — Unraveling the ‘I’ — The ‘I AM-ness’ Starts to Open
Level 3: Effort and Grace
LEVEL 1 / STAGE 1 – Emptying the Mind
What is the mind? The mind is nothing but a collection of thoughts, perceptions, ideas, imaginings, concepts, etc.
So, in the first stage of ISIP we put our attention to “what is the mind?” to enable us to separate our existence from the mind. We learn to maintain a distance between our SELF (the ‘I’) and our thoughts.
We watch the thoughts… ideas… imaginings… coming and going. Everything is coming and going… rising and falling.
This means there is always going to be a ‘gap’… a distance… which allows the existence of you, the ‘I’ being a witnesser (subject), and the thoughts or the mind, being the object that is being witnessed.
Initially, it appears that the ‘witnesser’ and ‘the witnessed’ arise together. The thoughts are so continuous that we do not realize that there is a gap that allows the emergence of the witnesser.
So as you keep attending to the mind, to the thoughts, you end up in the space between you and the thoughts and can observe them moving around, coming and going… like clouds passing in the sky, or traffic on the road. You can watch everything… your thoughts… ideas… imaginings, appearing and disappearing into that gap, that space.
Now what makes this possible? How does this happen? This happens because you have used your ‘attention’.
Attention is inquiry. Remember this. If you are able to ‘attend’ then you are doing Atma Vichara, Self-Inquiry.
• ATTENTION is the backbone of spiritual investigation, Self-Inquiry.
• As you attend to your thoughts, you will see they disappear.
• As you attend to your mind, you will see that it is empty.
• And, if you REALLY attend to your mind, you will discover it is not there!
The beauty of the faculty of ATTENTION is that when you apply it, you will discover that anything that is unreal will begin to disappear, and anything that is Real (everlasting), will ‘fill you up’. That is the power of Attention.
So, if you want to know if anything in life is Real, just attend to whatever it is and you will come to know if it is Real or unreal. Because if it is unreal, it will begin to disappear, to disintegrate. It will start to have a ‘distance’ from you until it is finally gone.
And if it is Real, it will start to consume you, to fill up your Heart with Love. It will possess you. You become ‘whole’ with it; it completes you.
Attention has the capacity to empty you, or to make you whole. Attention is a tool to help you determine the difference between Reality and un-Reality.
An example is a room filled with all sorts of dirt and muck. Attention is the broom that sweeps out everything and makes you aware of the space that is available. It is not that it has created the space, the space was already there.
Another example is to think of a room completely filled with furniture, totally overflowing with furniture. As you start to apply your Attention, that is to move the furniture out of the room, it appears that it has created space, but it has not. The space was always there. What your Attention has done is to remove the hindrance… the furniture… so that you become aware of the space.
It is important to understand that spirituality is not about attaining anything, or trying to create a state… you cannot create a state… you only have to remove the hindrances that are needlessly been kept within your mind, within your Being (like removing the furniture to reveal the space).
The moment you have removed the hindrances, you become aware and observe that there is infinite, expansive space within you. So, as you pay attention to your thoughts, they start to disintegrate and disappear, leaving you with a spaciousness that you can feel within the upper part of your body.
Thoughts can still be there, but you begin to recognize more and more space between you and the thoughts. The space will become more powerful than the thoughts. Your relationship with the space within you will become more intimate, much stronger, than your relationship with the thoughts.
To summarize, in Stage 1 of ISIP Levels 1 and 2: You are able to feel the emptiness of the mind.
LEVEL 1 / STAGE 2 – Unraveling the ‘I’
In Stage 1 of ISIP Levels 1 and 2, you learn to empty the mind and recognize the ‘Witnesser’. In this second stage, you learn to fall back into the Witnesser, dismantling and unraveling the ‘I’.
In Stage 1 you learned, instead of observing your thoughts, to focus your Attention on the background ‘I’. You learned to pay attention to the subjective ‘I’ feeling, the ‘I-sense’ that is there prior to the space that you have created, and prior to the thoughts.
So, using the same tool introduced in Stage 1, ‘Attention’, you keep bringing your attention again and again to the background ‘I’, to the ‘I-sense’ that you can feel as the background to everything that is happening — prior to the space and prior to the thoughts.
The Rule is, that as you pay attention to anything, the unreal starts to disappear and the Reality starts to arise.
What happens when you bring your attention again and again to the ‘I’ is that the impurities start to fall away leaving you with the ‘real I’ at the very end. But this is a different ball game altogether. The ‘I’ is more subtle and more complex than the mind, more complex than thoughts, because of the subtle energies at play — the life-force… the vasanas (tendencies)… the feeling of voidness, the sensations at the physical and subtle levels — so it is not easy to tease out the ‘real I’ only through attention.
The ‘I’ is made up of a labyrinth of feelings, emotions, tendencies, sensations, life-force, nerves, etc. that is much more complex than just the thoughts. So even though you pay attention to this background ‘I’, you can get very frustrated because there are so many facets to it. You clear one thing, and another comes up and then another… and so on… and it seems never-ending. As a result, you can become very frustrated attending to the ‘I’ because the process to purify it can take a long time. And this is where ISIP Levels 1 and 2 can help, along with abidance or attention to the ‘I’.
2. RAISING THE LIFE-FORCE
In Levels 1 and 2 of ISIP, you not only utilize ATTENTION as a powerful tool, but you also learn how to raise your life-force up to the higher three centres: the Third Eye, the top of the brain (Sahasrara) and the Spiritual Heart. These three centres are symbolic of the ‘I AM-ness’, the Pure ‘I’ — they represent your ‘I-sense’.
It is therefore important to develop these three centres so that they become ‘activated’. Once they are activated, even if you lose Attention temporarily, the life-force will automatically remain in these three higher centres, instead of being dissipated into the lower centres. This prevents the space you have created from becoming occupied by something else the moment you lose Attention.
So in addition to having a focused Attention, your ISIP practice helps you to develop and activate these three centres through the practices of:
• Basic Spinal Breathing (Ujjayi)
• Internal Spinal Breathing
• Third Eye Freeze
• Heart Freeze
• Yoni Mudra
Doing these five ISIP practices, the Third Eye, top of the brain (Sahasrara) and Spiritual Heart are developed and activated and the life-force is then automatically pulled up and prevented from being distracted into other aspects of existence.
3. BURN THE VASANAS (TENDENCIES)
Using your ISIP Waking State ‘Burning’ practice, you must also use everything as an opportunity to burn the seeds of your vasanas and subconscious fears. That is, you become one with that play of emotion, or feeling, and see that it is you, that everything is a part of you.
To summarize, in Stage 2 of ISIP Levels 1 and 2, you unravel the ‘I’ as you:
1. Focus Attention on the Background ‘I’
2. Raise the Life-Force through the five ISIP practices:
• Basic Spinal Breathing (Ujjayi)
• Internal Spinal Breathing
• Third Eye Freeze
• Heart Freeze
• Yoni Mudra
3. Burn the Vasanas (Tendencies) through your Waking State Practice
LEVEL 1 / STAGE 3 – THE ‘I AM-NESS’ STARTS TO OPEN
In this stage, the ‘I AM-ness’ starts to open up and you will feel the energy is settling in the upper part of your body.
You can invite the I AM-ness in, but it is not permanent. It will still come and go because this is not yet the ‘AM-ness’ (as we have discussed in earlier Satsangs). ‘AM- ness’ is only experienced through the Grace of the Masters, of Consciousness.
In this third stage, there is still a lot of attachment to the ‘I AM’ feeling because you are trying to possess it like any other object you own. You begin to possess your Shakti and believe it is yours. You are deluded into thinking that the ‘I AM’ belongs to you, and forget that it is not yours.
It must be understood that whatever Shakti you are feeling, is not your doing. You are only putting the effort in to raise your energy, attend to the ‘I AM’, and burn your vasanas. The ‘I AM-ness’ feeling may be there… or it may not be there. This can be a very difficult stage for many seekers as they become so disillusioned when they feel they are not making any progress… not getting any experiences.
So it is very important to understand that, when you reach this stage, when you become disillusioned, that you persist with your practice. When you devote yourself to God, and do not divert your attention away from Him, the time will come when your devotion to God and Guru is greater than your devotion to your ‘I AM’. Then, no matter how you are feeling, you are completely devoted to the Path, completely devoted to God and the instructions laid down by the Guru — because you have understood the mystery that “this is not me”.
You will understand that the ‘I AM-ness’ is a toy given to you to play with so that you can amuse yourself with it. So, you must continue with your practice (sadhana) irrespective of whether you are feeling your ‘I AM-ness’, or not.
And then, when you have the deep certitude within you that “the I AM is not mine, that it is given to me by God” (Guru, Christ, Krishna… whatever name you wish), then God will give it to you permanently — as you have proven that your mind will not be diverted.
To summarize, in Stage 3 of ISIP Levels 1 and 2: The I AM-ness starts to open up.
Then, at this point in your practice, you come to Level 3 of ISIP as you have now gone through the three stages of Levels 1 and 2:
Stage 1 – Emptying the Mind
Stage 2 – Unraveling the ‘I’
Stage 3 – The ‘I AM-ness’ Starts to Open
ISIP LEVEL 3
As you progress in Level 3, you will find your three higher centres, the Third Eye, the top of the brain (Sahasrara), and the Spiritual Heart become activated. The upper part of your body now completely opens up, becomes fully developed, and the three higher centres become completely integrated with each other. The life-force starts to pour into these three higher centres and you feel your existence is in the upper part of your body, not the lower part. The lower part is definitely felt, perceived and functions, but it no longer dominates your existence.
You can function through the lower part of your body through your own will, but you are not forced to go into the lower part of your body. This is because Awareness and Consciousness effortlessly begin to remain in the upper area between your Spiritual Heart and the top of your brain (Sahasrara) as these centres have become highly activated.
The lower part of your body means survival, reproduction, hunger/food, cravings, etc. You are not denying the lower part of your existence, but when you are ready for Level 3, the three higher centres become so activated that they start to vibrate, opening up. At this point your attention remains in these centres and meditation becomes absolutely effortless.
EFFORT AND GRACE
In Stages 1 and 2 of ISIP Levels 1 and 2, you will find that meditation is 90% effort and 10% Grace.
In Stage 3, the ‘I AM’ stage of Levels 1 and 2, meditation is 50% effort and 50% Grace.
And in Level 3, it is now completely reversed and meditation is 10% effort and 90% effortless Grace.