The tantric practice of prana dharana, which is established on the firm ground of the tantric version of bhastrika pranayama, is completed in several steps. The first step has been described in some detail in Living Tantra, Part 6: awaken the prana shakti at the ajna chakra with bhastrika-style breathing, retain the last inhalation at the ajna chakra, and rest your awareness in the pranic field pulsating there. Through regular practice, you make the prana shakti become stable and compact at the ajna chakra.
Do not do this practice for more than a few minutes a day. If it is done accurately and methodically, a five-minute practice will generate more than enough shakti to recharge your entire body and mind. You will have enough shakti to command your mind to attend to the object of your choice. Not only will your mind return from numberless corners of the world, it will stay at the ajna chakra joyfully. Through prolonged and consistent practice, prana shakti and the mind begin to embrace, nurture, guide, and support each other. As this happens, any quest—worldly or spiritual—becomes easy and fulfilling.
Practicing the next three steps of prana dharana requires a deepening understanding of tantra, especially the secret of tantric rituals and why they bring dramatic results. The second step involves selecting an object and bringing it into the field of prana shakti concentrated at the ajna chakra. For example, you could bring an image of sacred fire into the intense pranic field at the ajna chakra. When it falls into the awakened and active pranic field, it automatically comes to life. No longer an inert, motionless image, it will share the vibrant pulsation of the prana shakti. Then you could bring this living fire down to the navel center, and with the power of mantra, formally place it there. Tantric adepts use unique mantras to further feed and nurture the fire at the navel center. An understanding of the dynamics of fire in tantric cosmology forms the basis for these practices.
The third step of prana dharana involves the precise application of prana shakti to accomplish a specific purpose. For example, you wish to cultivate healing power—the power to heal yourself and/or to heal others. Let’s say you wish to boost your strength and stamina. You wish to restore your vitality and youthfulness. In that case, you would meditate on one of the most powerful healing mantras—the maha mrityunjaya mantra—while keeping your focus at the navel center, which is already filled with intense, awakened, and active prana shakti. This third step of the prana dharana practice is for healing oneself. If you wish to heal others, you would go on to the next step.
The fourth step of prana dharana involves undertaking and completing a tantric practice called purascharana. This practice consists of reciting a mantra a specific number of times while focusing at the navel center, then making an offering with the same mantra into the sacred fire at the navel center. You would go into your navel center and, with the exhalation, bring the fully awakened, active healing force from the navel center into your nostrils. From there, you would transfer it into a special hand mudra known as trikhanda mudra. As you dissolve the trikhanda mudra, you would transmit the healing power to the person or precise aspect of the natural world you wish to heal.
Only a ritual brought to life through the power of prana shakti can heal or nurture ourselves or others.
The process of prana dharana as described in this fourth step can also be used to breathe life into a particular yantra, mandala, or mantra. As tantrics affirm, only an awakened mantra or mandala can awaken our minds and hearts. Only a ritual brought to life through the power of prana shakti can heal or nurture ourselves or others. The practice of prana dharana is the means of making our practices come to life. The beauty of prana dharana is that we benefit from it while we are practicing it. Once charged with and guided by this energy, we gain the competency to undertake any practice, including the ones forbidden to ordinary seekers.