Ruling your own Inner City…(Katha Upanishads week 4)
We continue on to week four with the teachings of the Katha Upanishads – essentially in truth, a deep conversation with our highest self. 
Up until now, we’ve explored the first two teachings that Nachiketa receives from Yama, the Lord of Death. Questioning the idea of what it is that can ‘die’ within us and what it is that cannot. 
We found out that we only ever have two choices in front of us, Preya and Shreya – what isn’t beneficial in the long run, and then what is ultimately better for us. And to further understand how to make these two choices, we learned an analogy of our being – understanding that our body, mind and senses are vessel which we must learn to control to navigate through this life.
Which brings Yama to his next point in how to defy Death itself….A challenging statement:
“Nachiketa, what most people are actually experiencing of life, is really just a slow process of death”, says Yama.
“And if, Nachiketa, you really want to go beyond this idea of Death…you must start by becoming more and more ALIVE on the inside.”
Isn’t it true, especially in our modern day and age, that we wear ourselves and our bodies out by so many externals? Over-working, staying up late, eating the wrong foods, seeking approval from others, chasing after desires….the list goes on. The horses (or our senses), continually promising us happiness by tugging at the reigns, causing us to make less than beneficial choices. All of this meaning our system gets slowly less and less alive on the inside. 
But the good news is (explains Yama), that it can totally go the other way.
We can start to grow and feed our aliveness from the inside – we can start to fill ourselves up with life energy or what we call PRANA. The force that runs through all of life. And we can either focus on filling it up or we can let it spill out.  
Yama gives us a new analogy to help us comprehend:
“Your body is like a great city, Nachiketa, with 11 gates within the surrounding walls. These gates represent your centres of exchange. Your two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, your mouth, genitals, anus, belly button and the point at the top of your head. Your job Nachiketa, is to man this city – to RULE this city. You are essentially King. Making sure that your life force, or your Prana is not spilling out into the world through these gates. That it is yours for building and using to create a sparkling, vibrant city within.”
So there you go, you may have more ‘exchange centres’ or ‘gates’ that you knew about in your body, but coming from The Lord of Death explaining the secrets to immortality…we can assume he knows a thing or two.
We can think of it like a whiskey barrel full of holes – if we’re continuously trying to fill it up with whiskey (or energy), but still letting it leak out the holes (through choices which deplete our energy), we are going to become exhausted. With no whiskey left for us or anyone else!
We need to start becoming Kings and Queens of our inner cities. We need to control the gates, or our energy choices, to keep building up our Prana inside. This means NOTICING what steals our energy from us and what builds it. For example, what happens to our energy after eating a delicious, sugary choux bun? Does it generally serve to lift our energy or does it actually make us feel a bit drained a few hours afterwards? If we get enough hours of sleep does this help generally enhance our energy? And are there some people in our lives that we realise lower our energies and some that maybe help us raise them? Are we perhaps letting visitors break into our inner cities and graffiti the on walls? It starts to get super interesting when we really start to pay attention to the little things.
So we start to come back to Preya and Shreya – our decision making tools. But tonight realising that these tools are to help us BUILD UP our level of Prana, so that we can become a total fountain of energy onto ourselves. So that we can live not just a ‘good’ life, but an utterly enriching one, totally beaming with aliveness. This reminds me of something I once heard Steve (our teacher) say:
“To live an ordinary life it requires an ordinary amount of energy. To live an extraordinary life, it requires an extraordinary amount of energy”. 
I remember hearing that and walking away thinking…’Gosh… I want the extraordinary life’. Wouldn’t anyone? And we’re all learning that it takes some real discipline, as well as being a process of never-ending learning and evolving. Personally, I feel that these energy choices, and Preya and Shreya, seem to reflect well on the idea of ‘self-love’. And I’m figuring out that it’s a two way street – to make better energy choices, means that I am being loving to myself, and being loving to myself makes me make better energy choices. And of course, being connected to everything else, as we all are, loving myself means loving the WHOLE. Which we reflected on when we questioned whether a Shreya choice for yourself could possibly not be beneficial for anyone else in the long term. In other words, could we do something that is beneficial for our highest good in the long term, which is NOT beneficial for someone else’s highest good also long term? The answer seems to be no. We may of course cause temporary pain in someone, but ultimately, they will also grow through that. All we can do, if life and the insistence for us to expand pull us one way, is offer love and try to reduce any damage to the best of our ability as we grow on our path.
Choosing to fill ourselves up with our own energy may sound a little bit selfish, but it’s more like becoming responsible for our own inner landscape. It is really the level of energy, or the Prana behind our own eyes that starts to determine our experience. That way, through our senses, we will start to experience the wonder everywhere – we’ll sit back as the perceivers of the glory of the externals. But only…. When we fill ourselves up FIRST. We can’t force ourselves or ‘talk’ ourselves into seeing the wonder everywhere. Imagine that! “Come on…we must try really hard now to appreciate the beauty around us”. It’s just not authentic, and it doesn’t happen that way. We must feel it within first.  And when we ARE full of energy inside ourselves, even within what we may consider a “mundane” and “normal” life – suddenly the trees start to become a little greener, the sky a little bluer, the sunrise more beautiful. Until one day, we catch ourselves ‘falling in love with a snail and we don’t even know why’. Life starts to become more technicolour, HD. The ordinary suddenly reveals its extraordinariness
So for one week, as rightful rulers, we get to examine our own energies – what builds our gleaming inner cities and what it is that knocks them down…What can we choose? Is this adding Prana or deducting? 
Until next week, Kings & Queens! :)



  1. Beautifully, beautifully expressed. Thank you Adele.

  2. Been reflecting the question of whether Shreya choices can ever cause long term harm to others, whether they will always bring growth to others.

    Perhaps a useful way is to also look at the alternative - at Preya choices. Will Preya choices ever bring more good, more growth than our best attempt at Shreya choices ? Will turning our back on growth, on what we need to learn, on the lessons that life gives us - will this ever help those around us ? To me the answer is a resounding no - so whilst Shreya choices can bring harm, which we can try with compassion to reduce, to turn our back on what life asks of us (the Preya choice) seems far more likely to bring greater harm, less growth, less love. Or so it seems to me :-)

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