The Refinement of Energy
Sublimation—An Inner Movement of Energy
Sublimation is a transformation in the nature or quality of energy. It represents the inner movement of energy through which that energy is refined (transformed into a superior form of energy with an elevated frequency). This movement of energy progresses either level by level (from one chakra to the next higher one, thus ascending progressively) or directly from a lower to a higher chakra. It might also happen at the level of the same chakra, in this case bringing refined subtlety to the energy.
This process involves the modification of the frequency of the vibrations of the initial energy. For example, through sublimation, repressed sexual energy is directed to other non-sexual aspects, such as our general vitality or the psychological, mental, or spiritual domain.
Sublimation can be compared to what happens to the energy generated by an electrical power plant, which is later transported by wires and transformed via a wide range of phenomena and processes (heat, sound, light, magnetism, etc.). In the same way that high-tension lines transport electrical energy in order to be used according to need, sexual energy is transported to the different levels of our being through the nadis (energy channels).
Through the sublimation process, one type of energy is transformed into another type of energy with a different (usually higher) vibrational frequency. For example, the movement of sexual energy through the nadis generates many phenomena that correspond to our intentions. Thus, if we control our sexual energy during lovemaking and focus our attention on the Heart Center, we being to feel an openness of the Heart, an immersion in Pure Love, a euphoric expansion, warmth in the chest area, a loss of the perception of body outline, and spanda (the Sacred Tremor of the Heart).
Therefore, an erotic-sexual impulse is sublimated when the resulting energy is directed to a non-sexual domain (the psychological, mental, or spiritual level).
Sublimating Sexual Energy into Love
The sublimation of sexual energy does not necessarily require lovemaking. In the Philokalia, Saint Kalistus (one of the Desert Fathers) advises us to “curve the sexual energy into love.” This recommendation simply means to transform sexual energy into another form of energy through awareness, will, and aspiration (the act of sublimation), thus releasing any possible tension caused by the sexual energy and generating transformative effects.
There Are Two Ways to Sublimate Energy:
- Via specific Hatha Yoga techniques like uddiyana bandha, inverted asanas, etc. Even though this means of sublimation can bring a quick release of tension, without a systematic practice it will not bring an essential shift in consciousness. As long as energies or states of mind are not embraced in the radiance of Pure Presence, transformation will continue to occur at an individual level and will be governed by lower, ego-based intentions. This type of change does not allow a vertical leap of spiritual growth such as the one from the sphere of the individual consciousness into Pure Presence.
- Through Self-Enquiry, detaching from the identification with that energy and thus naturally sublimating it in spanda. When an emotion is embraced and welcomed with an attention free of mind patterns or personal reactivity, its energy is transformed in a natural way. Sublimation is fueled by the alchemic athanor (furnace) of the Heart. This is the most natural way to sublimate individual energies and emotions.
Sublimation and Transmutation
In Hridaya Yoga, defining the terms transmutation and sublimation is a way to better understand the inner transformations that appear in the practice of brahmacharya (spiritual abstinence or sexual continence) and in the Hatha Yoga practices in general.
In the yogic context, these terms have a slightly different connotation than when used in alchemy, psychology, or physics. When we refer to phenomena based on inner physical changes, we refer to “transmutation.” When we refer to energetic changes that are not caused by a physical, material transformation, we refer to “sublimation.”
An essential spiritual process that appears in Hridaya Yoga, especially through Self-Enquiry, is the sublimation of pain. It happens when we embrace sorrow not just from a personal perspective, but also from the Stillness of the Witness Consciousness. The Sufi poet and master Rumi teaches that using the powers of the soul (even sadness, sorrow, and anguish) to free ourselves from the identification with the ego and surrender fully to the Spiritual Heart is the very essence of Sufism:
“A Sheikh was asked: ‘What is Sufism?’
He said: ‘To feel joy in the heart when sorrow appears.’”