Deity Yoga Practice Outline
Deity yoga is my favorite practice for a lot of reasons, but it’s the main practice involved in the creation stage of the SigmaTropic cycle. Creation is about shaping a new personal identity and learning about the fabrication of that identity in real-time. We as humans are habitually striving to fulfill some vision we have for ourselves, and this vision is not a bad thing- we want to be conscious of it more than anything. If we have a conscious idea of the type of end-goal that we envision, it’s easier in the moment to evaluate course corrections and intuitivelky know how to envision a future and manifest it.
The SigmaTropic Systematic practice utilizes deity yoga in order to create an idealized vision of some archetype that we aspire to manifest in ourselves. It is a goal/aspiration and reverence-based motivation. We specifically envision the qualities we desire for ourselves within ourselves. Then as go about through the world, we identify areas where our vision does not align, and we try to course correct. This is the stabilization/identification stage of the SigmaTropic cycle of manifestation.
The SigmaTropic Cycle of Manifestation
- Creation Stage. An imagined identity or desired event is visualized and the mind is set on actualizing it. In this stage the meditator sets out for awakening and strives to attain it as soon as possible, for the benefit of all living beings. The meditator visualizes herself with the enlightened qualities she seeks.
- We visualize a particular event happening.
- We visualize a particular experience we want to have.
- We remember a meditative experience we had before, and we visualize it.
- We maintain a strong conscious intention to actualize that identity or experience.
- Observation Stage– We do the meditative technique, observe the mind, and respond to what arises. This is the stage of applying an exercise, maintaining mindfulness, and attempting to learn something from our experience and work toward the imagined goal.
- We carry out a meditative exercise.
- We identify any stress in the moment, and the constituent parts that make up stress.
- We evaluate whether we are manifesting the intended result or not (this is metacognition).
- Stabilization Stage– Sometimes suffering arises and the mind loses the intention and is destabilized. This is a responsive stage where we bring the mind back to a state of calm into the present moment while watching the process. We are stabilizing and integrating the new information.
- We stabilize the mind and observe the process of cessation of stress.
- We rest the mind in this state and remain watchful for any hindrances (metacognition).
- Unification Stage – This is a state of rest and nourishment for the mind. Bringing the mind into unification makes intentions and visualization more powerful. This is a stage where exploration and curiosity flourish.
- We bring the mind to calm abiding and fulfillment in the now.
- We develop mental and physical pliancy.
- We expand this state of mind to all activities during all hours of the day.
As we can see, the SigmaTropic Cycle is a cycle of mental states we go through in the process of manifesting a conscious experience. Since enlightenment is a conscious experience, we can straightforwardly manifest it in ourselves with an understanding of dependent origination. Since the nature of mental experiences that happen along the SigmaTropic cycle are subjective and don’t necessarily imply anything conclusive about the nature of the “external world” – only our conscious experience of it – we can think of manifesting any conscious experience this way. This is an important distinction to make.
In engaging with the preliminary exercises on visualization and intention cultivation, we can think of our chosen deity the same way- it is a complex fabrication we hope to make and then be able to revisit that experience again and learn something from it in the process. This building process happens with intention and familiarity. But you can pick a deity and then proceed as follows.
- Settle the mind with mindfulness of breathing, jhana, or metta, until the bodily fabrications have ceased for the most part, and the mind can rest effortlessly in open presence. Just establish this good base of concentration first- no need to rush.
- Then, when you feel ready, imagine the deity in detail- try to see the clothing and the features of the deity in detail as if you were standing in front of the deity. Don’t worry if there isn’t a strong visual sense at first, but as you engage with the same deity over a period of time your perception will likely change and get more detailed. As you imagine this, you can envision them as beautiful, flawless, and you can sense their virtue and perfection in their presence. They emit a non-physical energy that is palpable in their presence. You can use the imagination with this, but imagine the deity performing miracles like walking on water and parting seas, for example. Try to vividly imagine this – the more detailed the better.
- Then, imagine that the deity is then in your presence and you feel totally accepted and understood as you are, and they make you feel empowered and secure in your aspirations for spiritual growth. When you imagine non-physical forces, keep an open mind. The mind can have some strange capacities when certain borders are broken down. Imagine the deities’ graceful, parent-like presence, and they reassure you and they take your flaws and help you to release these. Imagine the deity removing the obscurations from your mind and body, and feeling cleansed and energized by this process.
- Then, imagine feeling such overwhelming gratitude that you can envision the gratitude glowing from your heart. You take that shining ball of gratitude and you offer it to the deity as a holy gift of gratitude. You feel utterly contented and fully accepted as you are.
- Then, merge the sense of your deity with yourself, by visualizing their energetic essence merging with yours, and when this happens you then taker on those enlightened qualities and dwell in this sense of divine pride, then try to maintain it in all daily activities.
Divine Pride vs. Selfish Pride
Divine pride is a quality of mind that develops on a foundation of virtue. If a person is doing things that contradict the sense of divine pride that they are cultivating, then the meditator will likely experience significant cognitive dissonance, and would then move to the stabilization phase of the cycle. As such, when they envision the enlightened qualities of their chosen deity, they want to be sure that these qualities are compassion, lovingkindness, the qualities of awakening, and other wholesome qualities. Focusing on wholesome qualities of mind is one requirement to get into jhana. So often the vehicle of divine pride can take some of our selfish pride that is currently associated with worldly things, and channels it into a spiritual pride and pride in our project then defines the identity. As we soon see, that falls apart, and we realize we have no direct influence over the mind, but it does have certain rules we can learn to cultivate jhanas, rapture, and mindfulness. We can only fully grasp the insights and the methodology of the deity yoga practice with a significant experience of non-self insight. AS such, it’s not recommeded for pre-level 1 practitioners.