The 2 Dimensions in Which We Grow

Deepen your understanding. Broaden your perspective.
Depth and Breadth feature image

I moved out to California from the east coast after I graduated. I had a very challenging time with my experience in college. I did in high school as well. Looking back now, I see just how much negativity I had inside of me for a large part of my life.

So I did what you do when you’ve got a problem; I moved out to the farthest location away from where I was. Entirely across the country.

Not a new story. Many others like it. How many people go to California or Spain to find themselves?

While the change of scenery, especially that of a place like the Bay Area, from New Jersey, did a lot to distract me from my problems. However, as it goes, you can’t outrun your problems.

Within a few months of moving to California, a series of experiences gave me the opportunity to confront those problems. Our instinct so often is to outrun our problems as an act of denial. This surrender to, and acceptance of my issues would allow me to transcend them, sending me on a journey towards growth and change that I never could have ever expected at that time. That was 6 years ago.

A renewed sense of purpose and expanded awareness would lead me to dive deeper into the understanding of the deeper nature of our human experience, and how I could heal myself and now others.

I began to consume what I could about personal growth. Psychology. Spirituality. Philosophy. Psychedelics. Yoga. Meditation. Books/Audiobooks and podcasts took precedent over music.


On one particular day I was listening to The Joe Rogan Experience about 5 years ago (Which is much more controversial now than it was back then.)

He had the sports hypnotherapist Vinny Shoreman on. Vinny, a mind coach famous for the combat sports athletes he has worked with, at the time was working with Joe Schilling. This may not mean anything to people who don’t follow combat sports. But if you know combat sports, kickboxing, in particular, you know how famous and high-level a fighter Joe Schilling is.

Being a huge Joe Schilling fan, MMA fan, combat-sports fan, and very much into my own personal growth and understanding of psychology, I popped this podcast on during one of my long work drives from Sunnyvale to San Francisco.

It was so long ago that I can’t say I remember very much from that podcast except one part in particular.

Vinny mentioned a very simple technique that he uses with some of his clients.

A technique that originates from the ancient Hawaiian Kahunas, who can be compared to the sage’s in the east(India & China) or shamans in North and South Native American culture. Kahuna literally means “sorcerer, wizard, priest.”

This technique, called Hakalau, is often described as part of the ‘Huna System’ or a western label given to the mystical & spiritual practice of the Hawaiian mystics.

How to perform Hakalau meditation:

  1. Either sitting or standing rest your gaze comfortably on something in your field of vision or on a wall. Your gaze should rise upwards so that you are looking almost through the space between your eyebrows.
  2. With your gaze fixated on the particular spot, begin to release attachment to thoughts and feelings, deepening the focus on the spot.
    As you begin to focus on the single spot you will notice that while your focus stays fixated on the single spot, your vision expands(ie. Peripheral vision.)
  3. As you begin to expand into the peripheral state of vision, shift your attention from the fixed point to the peripheral
    Maintain this state and observe the changes you experience while in this state

This was often considered part of a walking meditation of the Kahunas as they were able to maintain this state while functioning and walking about. ( I do not recommend doing this.)

you may have done it accidentally before as a child or randomly while zoning out in the many lost moments of life. If you haven’t experienced this before formally or intentionally, take a moment, put down the phone, tablet or laptop and give it a go.


Meditation break


Pretty interesting, huh?

What’s even cooler ( in my opinion) is that the techniques outlined by Huna or the secrets of the ancient Hawaiian mystics are very much in line with techniques and philosophy that we see in yoga.

When I say yoga, I don’t mean group fitness with skinny upper-class white ladies in overpriced stretchy pants (with whom I have no issue) as American capitalist marketing (with whom I have some issue) would convince you of.

I mean the thousands of years old spiritual practice of enlightenment. Old super-beardy Indian men sitting in caves meditating into states of higher consciousness, yoga. The ultimate goal of yoga outlined by the ancient teachings of Patanjali, is itself Yoga, or the “yoking” of the self with the divine.

Self-realization.

That Yoga.

While the physical practice of yoga is a necessary part of the practice of Yoga, it is just 1 of 8 ‘limbs’ of yoga. Making it 12.5% of what is defined as Ashtanga Yoga or the Yogic path.

The 8 limbs of yoga are:

Yamas (Abstinence)
These can be seen as behaviors to abstain, or refrain from, as it relates to our relation to others. The 5 Yamas are Ahimsa (not causing pain), Satya (truthfulness), (Asteya) non-stealing, Brahmacarya (continence), and Aparigraha (non-greed or non-grasping).

Niyamas ( Observances)
In contrast to the Yamas, there is the Niyamas, which are observances or attributes to maintain within ourselves as opposed to in relation to others. The 5 Niyamas are: Shaucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (accepting pain or burning for the sake of purification), Svadhyaya(the study of ancient texts, self, thoughts, or self-reflection), and Ishvarapranidhana (Contemplation and surrender to God/Truth/Brahman)

Asana (Postures)
Fun fact: Original Asana contained only a few poses that were mostly seated postures in which to meditate in contrast to modern hatha yoga which has dozens of poses and variations.

Pranayama (Breath Control)
Conscious breathwork practices now have been scientifically shown to alter physiological chemistry within the body by dampening the sympathetic nervous system response.

Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Senses)
The 5th limb shifts the focus of yoga to the inward-journey where the first 4 limbs are focused more on the physical or external.

Dharana (Concentration)
Dharana is characterized by the singular attention of the mind onto a single point of focus, internal or external.

Dhyana (Meditation)
Where Dharana is a singular focus on a particular point, Dhyana is the abstract contemplation of that point of focus or a continuous flow of cognition towards that point.

Samadhi (Contemplation, Absorption, Union, Superconscious state)
Nothing to be practiced, not something to be achieved. Not something that you do
The result of practice and meditation. The final state of union with the divine. Enlightenment. Oneness.

As you can see, as we progress through the 8 limbs, the focus of yoga begins to move away from the physical towards the mental, and finally the spiritual.

The last three limbs of yoga: Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are very similar to the practices outlined by the Kahunas in Hawaii. What we see is that the ‘focus’ of Hakalau meditation is very similar to that of Dharana outlined by Patanjali.

Dharana

Dharana means concentration in the sense of a singular focus. This focused gaze, or Drishti, can be on an internal space in the body, a yantra ( a sacred geometric pattern), a spoken mantra, or a simple spot on the wall through space between the eyebrows ( Ajni Chakra, or third eye) much like in the Hakalau.

You may say this is a coincidence, that sages in India who have attained enlightenment are saying the same things as mystics in Hawaii who have attained enlightenment… but I know better than that at this point on my spiritual path.

Ima let you in on a secret: Everything is Connected.

But outside of the immediate experience of the meditations of Hakalau and Dharana; what do they really show us on a deeper level? What is it about these particular forms of meditation that can elicit such a profound state of being?

While one can practice these forms of meditation without any real understanding of them and reap the benefits of the experience, these two techniques can be amplified by understanding the subtler meaning hidden within them.

The two dimensions of growth realized

For much of what we desire to understand about ourselves, we can look to the universe for an answer. The microcosm and the macrocosm AKA The big true true and the small true true.

In the same way, we can observe patterns in the formation of galaxies that are incredibly similar to the molecular structure of an atom, we can observe a host of patterns in ourselves by observing that which is around us and within us.

That observation in and of itself: the microcosm and the macrocosm, presents a great opportunity to understand the way in which we, as conscious beings grow. To observe the microcosm there must be a deeper focus of our awareness. Observing the macrocosm requires an expansion of awareness.

The observation of the Hakalau meditation and Dharana is actually this same observation and can give us the same answer as observing the microcosm and the macrocosm together.

What each of these examples provides us is two ways, or two dimensions, the only two dimensions in which growth of awareness occurs. The best part is that you can observe it everywhere around you, and integrate it into everything in your experience (see: everything is connected.)

Breadth

In the technique outlined above, breadth is the expansion of our vision. The deepening or depth of our focus on the singular point allows for the expansion outwards. Allowing us to broaden our vision into the peripherals.

Research into vision actually shows that the prostriata, the part of the brain associated with peripheral vision, is unlike any other vision-related part of the brain in that it has a direct connection to the areas within the brain that control emotion and quick reactions.

On a scientific level, this can explain part of why the Hakalau meditation can help to increase presence, awareness and reduce stress.

In the observation of the macrocosm, we can easily see that the universe is infinitely expanding outwards. Infinitely more space is made available to observe infinitely more existence.

This is the basis of breadth as a dimension of growth.

Coincidentally ( or not coincidentally depending on your perspective) we can even experience the dimension of breadth in our very own breath. You need look no further than the rise and fall of your chest to understand breadth, through your breath.


Active Practice – Dirgha Pranayama


Put down your phone, tablet or whatever it is that you are reading this on, and come to lay down on our back resting comfortably on the floor. ( Might not be ideal if you are on the subway, driving a car, or in a public restroom. I trust you’ll use good judgment.).

Close down your eyes(after reading this)

Begin by exhaling all the air out of the lungs through the nose.
Take a deep inhale into the belly, fully expanding the abdomen. Exhale out of the nose drawing the navel towards the spine.
On the next breath, inhale into the belly, then continue to inhale into the rib cage, expanding the rib cage outwards on all sides. Exhale fully out from the rib cage first, then through the abdomen.
On the third breath, inhale into the belly, into the rib cage, and now into the upper chest and collarbone taking in as much air as comfortably possible, then fully exhale.

How do you feel?

Dirgha Pranayama, or 3 part breath, is a yogic breath practice that can help reduce stress and oxygenate the body by expanding the bounds of our breathing. Most clients I have worked with come to me breathing very shallow breaths in the upper chest region. Dirgha Pranayama allows us to feel the benefits of the full expansion of our breath by expanding our scope of what it is to take a full breath.


When we can expand our awareness in this way through meditation, self-reflection, or something as simple as our vision, our perception of our reality changes dramatically.

We can observe our experience as just the singular flow of our conscious waking experience. Notice how that changes when you expand your definition of what you are, to your neighborhood. To identify with your neighborhood or immediate social surroundings is very different than identifying with just yourself.

Now expand.

Broaden your field of identification to your state or your country even. You are part of hundreds, thousands, millions and potentially billions of humans.

Now expand your awareness further to all living things within your country. That’s got to be some ridiculous number I’m not even aware of if we’re including bacteria ( you have approximately 100 trillion bacterial cells in your body, which is more than the number of human cells in your body.)

That’s fairly impossible to fathom in the average conscious state, and we could continue expanding our vision of what we are as ‘life’ even further beyond that. Infinitely.

Take a moment to reflect on this. How does your perception of your experience change as you continue to expand your place in the universe continually outward?

Effects of this broadening of perspective outwards beyond ourselves is at the root of some of the most profound emotions humans can experience: Compassion and empathy. Empathy is the ability to viscerally feel what others feel. Compassion, or “suffering with” is expanding beyond ourselves to feel what others feel and to aid in the relief of that suffering.

Depression, anxiety, self-pity, self-hatred are all tunnel visions on ourselves. They are forms of self-absorption (not the same as selfishness.)

Empathy, compassion, listening, serving the community, the desire to change the lives of others in a positive way, the desire to change the world in a positive way, are all examples of the outward expansion of our perspective.

Loving-kindness meditation, is a perfect example of growing our field of love outwards beyond ourselves.

Breadth allows us to experience a dimension of growth that takes us closer to that profound self-realization of Samadhi: that we are all one. That there is only one.

Even as we observe in an acorn of an oak tree. That with time and under the right conditions grows into a tiny little bud of green from the ground. Into a sapling. Into a small tree. Ever-expanding outward, from the center of the seed. Each branch growing further and further away from that first initial moment of growth from the trunk. Covering more space, more ground, more air, spreading in all different directions.

The beautiful thing about trees (There are so many beautiful things about trees, but this one thing, in particular, is pretty dope as it relates to this article) is that as much as they are a perfect example of breadth, they are just as good examples of the next dimension of growth.

Depth

As the stalk of the seed grows outward from the forest floor, the roots of the tree begin to grow deeper and deeper into the earth. With every expansion outward of the trunk, branches and leaves is an expansion inwards of a vast system of roots. The roots move deeper towards the center of the earth.

The first part of Hakalau meditation is first finding a spot of focus. In this first step, the goal is simple: find a singular spot, and focus on it through the third-eye space.

This is a deepening of our focus.

This is the dimension of depth.

Intense focus on a singular point, whatever that may be allows us to grow deeper into that space of intentional focus.

In the observation of the tree, and in the Hakalau meditation, or a yogic yantra meditation, depth and breadth inherently go together. As the roots deepen, the branches broaden.

As you deepen your breath, your lungs expand with air.

As you begin to deepen your focus on the spot, your vision expands outwards.

As you deepen your understanding of yourself, you broaden your identification of self.

We observe the infinity that is the expansion of the universe, or the macrocosm. And conversely the deeper we look into our own beings, we see our bodies, then our cells, then atoms, and who knows how much infinitely smaller spaces exist beyond that ( see: Ant-Man for fictional information on the Quantum Realm.)

We see the swirl of planets around the sun in the macrocosm(breadth.)

We see the swirl of electrons around a nucleus of protons and neutrons in the microcosm(depth.)

It is much more common for us to think of infinite in regards to outer space, or the macrocosm, or breadth. But when you can understand the truth of what it is you really are, what it is that sits behind your eyes looking outwards, what you see in your reflection when you finally take off the mask you’ve been given, you see that you are that infinity that is “out there.”

That same infinity is inside of you. The depths of who you are, are infinite. I can attest to that firsthand, as can many others. Looking inward is often the most challenging part of growth for ourselves. We ”have” a body (as in to say we are not our body as much as we identify with it) are given a name by other people, are given labels by others, and are thrust into a society where we are told to focus on things outside of ourselves that keep us trapped in an illusion that what in order to grow we must chase things ‘out there.’

We are infinite beings, that have been given a body that is very much programmed to react based on sensory perception. The only sensory perception available to us (some have more some have less) are our five senses. Because these five senses become our basis for experience in this physical world, we naturally identify with these senses. The thing with the senses is that they are all programmed to interact with our external environment. I can see the keyboard in front of me, I can see the trees outside my window, I can see the stars at night, I can see that bird casually taking a shit all over my freshly washed windshield. But I can’t see my brain. I can’t see the thoughts “inside” my head.

I can feel the keys underneath my hand, I can run my fingers over the texture of the bark of an oak tree and identify it as such, I can touch the bird shit on my car if I so choose to ( I do not choose to), but I can’t feel my kidneys, I can’t physically feel my thoughts or my feelings.

We even say when someone is “shallow” they are someone who experiences the world at a surface level, something we recognize as not entirely the truth. In contrast, when we say someone is “deep,” we acknowledge that person has gone somewhere inside of themselves to express something profound.

So for those of us that are very much anchored in the idea that all of our reality is what we can observe with our five senses, we are limiting our scope of experience by quite a lot. Because what our five senses don’t allow us to experience is the depth of who we are. Which as I mentioned, can be a challenging dimension for ourselves to experience fully.

Take a moment to pause and reflect: What are the most meaningful parts of your life? The most meaningful experiences? Chances are you value relationships with people with whom you have a deep connection. Perhaps the experiences in your life that have required you to do some soul searching or look deep inside yourself have meant the most to you. There’s no coincidence there my friend.

Deepen your understanding. Broaden your perspective.

I’ll say it again for the people in the back:

Everything is connected.

If we are to grow as individuals, as a community, as a culture, as a society, as a planet, we must understand what it is that allows us to grow. The nature of growth and its dimensions of depth and breadth.

And not just the meaning of depth and breadth, but the importance of the interconnectedness of them as a catalyst for our growth.

Practicing the Hakalau meditation, or an open eye meditation on a focal point such as a yantra, will allow for the experience of the union of depth and breadth; the contraction and expansion that underlies the growth so many of us are seeking in our lives.

Deepen your focus, broaden your vision.

Deepen your roots, broaden your branches.

Deepen your understanding, and broaden your perspective.

You're on Your Way.

You’ve successfully subscribed to The Weekly Way! 

For gmail: check your “promotions” tab for the confirmation email and move it to the “primary” tab.
For all others: check your spam/junk folder, and move the email to your main inbox.