SENT TO ME WITH RESPONSES:
It is very nice to hear from you!!
I am doing well. I sit mostly at night time and probe the sense 'I Am' for 20 minutes a sitting, which is much more formal and longer in duration than my previous practice. I also try to sit in the morning however I generally have to wake up early (I work at Starbucks), but I hope to slowly incorporate a consistent formal sitting then too. I hope to be sitting consistently both morning and evening soon.
I have been experimenting with a pranayama technique called 'spinal breathing' for several minutes before each sitting to help relax the mind, and to build a 'head of steam' as you call it. I found the technique at the AYP.org website written by Yogani, have you heard of AYP? It has some interesting forums, and techniques. I found it when I searched Google to see how popular 'Autobiography of a Jnani' was.
Do you think this practice is beneficial? I feel like I should have asked you before starting, but I was curious about pranayama, especially since Rajiv spoke often about it (I was one of the many that e-mailed him) so I thought I would try for a bit just to see what happens. So far, when doing it, I notice a deeper sense of bodily and mental relaxation going into my sittings, but I have only been doing it for maybe two weeks and am still getting the technique down.
RESPONSE: No, focus only on the I Am. The breath control comes automatically with concentration on the I Am. All pranayama practices can cause kriya type experiences which can be dangerous. Notice Rajiv advises AGAINST pranayaman practices and he had 12 years experience.
During sittings I sometimes get the impression I can 'see through' my eye-lids, like I can open and close my eyes even with them closed. When I 'open' them I can see the outline of my body, and sometimes other shapes in the room, and when I 'close' them I see only moving darkness. Sometimes outside of meditation, when I doze off, I observe a state where there is witnessing of thoughts, but no perception of the world. I know I have a body, but I'm not aware of it or the world. I'm only aware of the thoughts that pertain to the world and the body Ryan Altman.
The pressure in my third-eye area is more intense and prolonged now. Only a little attention on the area or a thought causes pressure to occur. It mostly occurs on it's own. It happens a lot in the mornings when I ride the bus to work, or read spiritual literature or think intently on spiritual thoughts.
RESPONSE: Also, forget the Third Eye. It, along with pranayama, are kintergarten practices that cause sensations and energies that have nothing to do with awakening, except to make it take longer because you get distracted by experiences.
The other day when coming home from work I had the realization that I was unchanging. The world and the consciousness in front was in constant flux, but 'me' at the background was steady and unchanging in it's perception of consciousness. The question immediately came 'Who witnesses all this? These thoughts, this body?' and I 'sank' back into that background awareness. I came home and was speaking with my Mother and it didn't feel like I was speaking, it didn't feel like I was standing there. It was all sort of just happening and I was watching, but not participating in it. The state faded soon thereafter when I became engaged in more strenuous activity around dinner time. I think this was my first taste of the 'watcher' state.
RESPONSE: This is where you need to spend your efforts. This is right on.
I will focus solely on the 'I Am'. I'm sorry I strayed from your instruction.
TO ME 4 DAYS LATER:
SIr, I can't stop chuckling. Throughout the day things that once used to bother me now just make me laugh. The mind manipulates perception to give the appearance that you act or feel a certain way, but it isn't so. It's just playing games with you. What I am is always silently watching what's going on in front of me. It really is like a movie. I cannot say that I still do not identify with the body, thoughts, or what's going on in the 'movie' but I am becoming more aware of the way the mind functions to give the perception of a body, thoughts, etc. that belong to 'me'.
As I result, I am beginning (at least intellectually) to identify more with consciousness as a whole. It isn't exactly natural yet, but I've been identifying with my body for so long that it will obviously take some time before it once again becomes natural to see the totality of consciousness as 'me' rather than just the body and it's thoughts.
Michael James' Chapter 8 has made this all even more clear, Sir, and I cannot thank you enough for pointing me towards it. I read it before but it didn't really sink in until now. I look forward to reading Chapter 9. Thank you again for everything.