Mudra is a mindfulness practice tied to 24/7 application. It consists of intensive mind/body exercises followed by subtle sensory awareness exercises in three domains — seeing, hearing and touching.
Founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the 1970s, is derived from Tibetan Monastic Dance. Mudra Institute is led by Dr Craig Warren Smith who has adapted Mudra as a means of lifestyle adjustment in six domains:
spiritual growth, creativity, communications, wellness, finance and social change.
The essential meaning of Mudra is implied by the word itself Mudra’s two syllables: mu = dra. Mu, a fundamental term in the 3000 year foundation of sanscrit, refers to a an absence of things: no thing. An ineffable space of nowness. The second sylable refers to a gesture that puts mu into action in support of personal transformation that lies beyond the dualistic construct of mind in which self and other are considered to be physical things.
The framework of Mudra-enabled transformation is the Mudra Mandala on this page.
Go inside Mudra Institute.org to find out how others have benefitted by Mudra and how you can too. Jump in now at no charge to begin your journey of Mudra enabled transformation.
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Introduction: Have you ever heard of Berkeley's infamous hippies? Well, I was one of them. My hair was so long that I had to tuck it into my jeans. That's what I did one morning in 1973, half a century ago, before going out the door. I was nervous, excited. Why? Because my guru, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was arriving that afternoon to check out the little Mudra group I was directing in the old Oddfellow's building at the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph Ave, on the edge of the University of California campus. Trungpa had arrived from Boulder, Colorado, and today he was going to view our performances of the Mudra exercises.
Background: We had already been practicing the Mudra exercises intensively for months, so it was like showing a tough NFL coach the results of spring training. We longed for Trungpa's occasional visits, but they were unpredictable, and he always defied expectations.
We had been meeting several times a week, sometimes late into the night and through the weekend. But we did not know where all of this was heading. Like most hippies, we were familiar with hatha yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi Kung. But we were clueless about the meaning of these strange mind/body exercises, sensory awareness exercises. He had us memorize obituaries from the newspaper to learn the art of speech. To learn how to see, he had us turn a 360 degree circle that it lasted a whole hour to make one turn.
Mudra was leading us into a no-man's land. I had already taken LSD, Psilocybin, and lots else. As for hallucinogenics, the effect eventually wore off. But with Mudra, the intensity lingered.
On his arrival, on behalf of our group, I blurted out the essential question, "What is the meaning of Mudra?"
Trungpa's Response: He answered flatly, "Mudra is about being. It is to be."
Seeking Clarity: Huh? I persisted, "Don't all humans automatically know how to be? Don't all meditation practices enhance 'being'? What is it that makes Mudra's Being distinct?"
"Just do it!" he said, clearly irritated, and hobbled out of the room, limping from a dramatic auto accident years before.
Continuing the Journey: So we continued blindly. Opting out was not a question. I could not not do it. From the first time I saw this practice a year earlier, it had entered, my bones. The understanding would have to come later.
Well it did come later, half a century later. In some sense, Mudra’s being remains mysterious. But we can unpack it here and in the articles, Videos, classes, retreats and training programs, online and offline, in this web site.
But let’s unpack it here. Mudra’s Being has Six Aspects.
- Mudra’s Being is Lion’s Roar.
It is not the same as ordinary nowness. It can be described as the "fourth moment," a term you won't find in Meister Eckhart's book on the Power of Now. The fourth moment encompasses the past, future, as well as the present. A Mudra moment presents a nowness that is so spacious – so vast – that can include traces of the past and future without losing the one-pointedness of the present. Every Mudra exercise has vastness built into it. That’s why it was originally called “Mudra Space Wareness” by Trungpa Rinpoche.
- Mudra’s Being is Non-Binary
Unlike basic sitting meditation where one focuses on the breath or concentrates on an object, Mudra is not tied to self-to-other, directionality. You don't become a "watcher" who observes a scene like a bird looking down from a telephone wire. The Being of Mudra, on the other hand, is multi-dimensional and multilayered, . It does not come from you nor does it come to you from the outside. Rather, Being emerges in the space between self and other. It is multilayered.
- Mudra’s Being is “Thin-Slicing”
Mudra breaks apart a moment into separate parts. Mudra exercises slow down moments outrageously. A related term from Trungpa is "first thought, best thought." This brings us to the so that moments that once seemed bound together can be separated so that space shines through. These little gaps allow agency. They are a call to action.
- Mudra’s Being is Wrathful.
The sort of agency that Mudra commands is not hesitant, not timid. It is “wrathful”Mudra's Being is not passive but "wrathful." Mudra creates a vigorous "wrathful" leap into a moment. The term "wrath" is not much used in normal English speech anymore. Its etymology combines "wroth" (Old English for "anger") with "strength" from Proto-Germanic speech. In Mudra practice, we sometimes make roaring sounds that may seem fierce to outsiders, but Mudra's actions are devoid of hatred or discord. Quite the opposite. It is as if we are angry at materialism itself. We are angry at believing the fake news of materialism. . Wrathful actions are the cry of a warrior.
- Mudra’s Being corresponds to its two syllables: Mu+Dr.
Mudra is not the same as the hand gestures of classic Indian dance. The first syllable: Mu can be found in the deepest and most ancient layering of sanskrit perhaps 3,000 years old. It is the ineffable space of no-thing: a realm devoid of materialism, a realm that physicists speak about when they explain that in quantum physics reality is devoid of matter. Mu is sometimes translated as emptiness, but it is emptiness with potentiality. The “dra” provides a gesture, turning a moment into a temporary thing.
- Mudra’s Being is Freedom
Beyond gesture, there is release: freedom. Mudra's Being lacks the dutifulness of shamata, in which one struggles to be up to date with one's own mind. In Mudra, one lets go of the urge to refine or improve a moment. It's more a matter of surrendering into a moment with gusto. Mudra thus produces, at last, a feeling of freedom. Take a Mudra class indicated on the website, and you'll see what it's all about.
In conclusion, Mudra is a practice that goes beyond ordinary nowness, expands perception, slices moments of cognition, engages with vigorous energy, involves a gesture that unites mu with dra, and which ultimately leads to a sense of freedom. Embarking on the journey of Mudra can provide a transformative experience of Being.