Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Search Of Lost Timelessness

Marcel Proust ate a cake, called a "madeleine," and experienced a powerful influx of energy that brought up memories of his childhood. And so began his "search for lost time" À la recherche du temps perdu (known in English as In Search of Lost Time and Remembrance of Things Past). Proust's taste bud moment was clearly a form of Kundalini awakening. The fact that the trigger was a taste indicates that Kundalini was aroused erotically, in his genital chakra. (The novel is about love, as much as time.) The chakras are real, and perceptible to honest introspection. They are areas of metaphysical resonance within the body. Each chakra vibrates along with a specific sensory function. The chakra at the base of the spine, with smell. The genital chakra, with taste. The belly chakra, with sight. The heart chakra, with touch. The throat chakra, with space/time. The forehead chakra, with mind.
À la recherche du temps perdu
Marcel Proust as a Young Man
Perhaps different people experience the past in different ways, through different senses. Maybe memory operates in different chakras, in different parts of the body, from one person to another. I seem to remember in my throat, through my sense of space. Even when I'm thinking about someone I loved, or someone who made a deep impact on me, I remember a place, not them. I'm by a campfire, or on a clifftop, or in a room, or the back seat of a car. The person whom I'm remembering isn't there. They are a tangible absence, a ghost hovering above a scene. I used to feel bad about this — why aren't I picturing faces, words, personalities? — till I realized how close this spatial awareness is to erotic rapture, the moment, during physical love, when bodily separateness is overcome by sheer presence. Something happens to space and time at this moment, and it's something that stays.

Proust embarked on a long journey of recollection — from being sent to bed by his parents as a child, to wandering the mist-filled streets of Paris during the First World War (and stumbling on a brothel.) He reclaimed his lost moments, and brought them back into the present instant, distilled by his mind's urge to be all-encompassing. He carried (or forced) the past from the genital chakra to the forehead chakra. There's something inhuman about the process. When Proust's lengthy contemplation of his lover, Albertine, is done and dusted, she conveniently falls off a horse, bangs her head, and dies. The process defies logic. Wandering through the foggy streets in search of a sit-down and a cup of cocoa, Proust mistakes a brothel for a cafe, and, instead of resting, wanders up and down its many corridors till, through the open door of a chance bedroom, he happens to see Monsieur Charlus, the embodiment of his own refined homosexuality, chained to a bedpost.

Kundalini defies logic, and can seem inhuman. This is because Kundalini turns the power that brings the world into being back on itself. The only thing that exists is the present instant, yet the present instant is what I experience least. It's like a pressure lamp, lighting the past and the future, which have no reality, throwing them outwards at so great a pressure, it's impossible to see the lamp itself. The present instant is a powerful absence, no longer even a place, where I, like the people I try to remember, hover like a ghost. When Kundalini awakens, this changes. Sheer absence switches to sheer presence. The closer I come to the reality of the present instant, rising from chakra to chakra, the less there is to hang onto. Even my body, and the bit of space closest to it, becomes an avoidance of entering the present instant. Asleep, Kundalini is an absence flowing outwards into space/time; awakened She flows backwards towards the present instant, returning everything to sheer presence.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Transpersonal: Beyond the Personal Contains the Personal

Lately, I haven't written much for this site because I've been busy studying for an MSc by distance learning. The MSc is called Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology.

I first learned about the course five years ago when it was an in-house university academic course in Liverpool. Having just relocated, I didn't want to do it again, so I forgot about it.

In 2013, I organized and facilitated the first UK conference on Kundalini called Kundalini Matters: Science, Psychosis or Serpent. When the conference was over and I was wondering what my next step could be, I remembered this course. I looked for it again online and to my amazement found that it was now a distance-learning program accredited by Middlesex University and another organization called the Professional Development Foundation. I emailed the course director to find out more and to cut a long story short completed everything that I needed to register and began the course in September 2013. It has been one of the best investments I ever made.

I have been on a spiritual path on and off since I was 11. I have read a lot in almost every spiritual field from mysticism, religion, channeling, the occult, theosophy, yogic philosophy. I studied Buddhism for almost 10 years and then trained to teach Kundalini yoga, having experienced this powerful energy once in 1998 and again in 1999. So, I've done and read such a lot, but what was missing was some academic research that would tie it all together and ground everything. The lack of grounding in some spiritual communities and spiritual writings has often frustrated me. Over the years, I have become more of a spiritual scientist in that I am very discerning about what I consider to be Truth. With everything I have read and listened to, I have gone within and asked myself one question, "Is this something that I have experienced?" And if I haven't experienced it, I don't throw it out, I wait patiently to see if I can discover it within my own experience. This is the way that I have navigated the unpredictable spiritual waters, and to-date it has served me well.

In the first year of the course, I learned about Quantum Mechanics, an area I've always found fascinating at an intuitive level, but couldn't really grasp. The module on this course grounded my understanding and from it, I could understand the point of view of the mystics who say, "everything is ONE." From a quantum point of view, everything also exists until we observe it and then the waves of possibility change into observable particles or things. Doing this module, I felt like a child in a sweet shop; I enjoyed every minute of it and there's so much more that I could write about. The other two modules I did were creativity and transformation and meditation and mindfulness. The range of material covered and the academic documents available were so interesting I felt like I was putting together the pieces of the spiritual jigsaw. Altogether, a thrilling and absorbing experience.

The 2nd year has been more experiential; it's a module called "Learning through Integrative Practice," one I really like. I have often thought and sometimes written about how the spiritual is much more than a spiritual practice. It requires practices in other dimensions of being human such as, the physical, emotional, mental, social and interpersonal. So, this year, I will put together an integral program of these practices to be submitted for approval. Once approved, I will keep a learning journal as well as a log of the times I work on each element. At the end, I will submit a 3000 word reflective essay. I am really looking forward to it, as I am sure it's going to be transformative in ways I can't yet imagine.

Flyer for the course. Next session: September 2014
If doing the full MSc doesn't work for you, there is also the opportunity to become an associate student. As an associate, you can choose from all of the modules offered — the ones you'd like to delve more deeply into.

This experience has been much more than a course. I see it as building up a transpersonal community, committed to that which is beyond, and yet within, the personal. A community where we share and help each other grow and evolve and, because we are all connected, share and help each other make the ideas and experiences we share more powerful. This isn't just spiritual; it's related to the discoveries in Quantum Mechanics.

I thoroughly recommend this course. The people who run it are committed to human potential in its most advanced forms, which is why I feel it's important.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Confidence on the Outside is the Result of Integrity on the Inside

What does it mean to ‘live with integrity on the inside'? The closest I can get to explaining is to recount a story about Gandhi. One day a mother brings her son to Gandhi and asks for help. Her son is extremely overweight and she doesn’t know what to do. Gandhi looks at the boy and says to his mother – 'bring the boy back next week.' The boy comes back the next week, Gandhi looks him intently in the eye and says ‘stop eating sugar.’

You must be the change you wish...
Why didn’t Gandhi say this to the boy the first time his mother brought him? He didn’t say it because he was eating sugar himself at that time and for Gandhi there was no integrity in telling the boy to do something which he was not doing himself. The next time there was no discrepancy between what he said and what he was doing.

Very often integrity gets confused with morality. Integrity has nothing to do with morality, right or wrong Integrity is about workability. Integrity for us as human beings means being true to who we are at the level of SELF. Not selling out on ourselves. When there is integrity within, there is no separation between who we are, what we say, and what we do — so the result is increased confidence on the outside.

Many years ago, when I was doing transformative, self-development work, I was asked to consider a law which operates like the law of gravity — and that is the law of integrity. Like gravity, it’s a law that operates regardless of the type of person you are. If I go up to the top of a building and jump, I’m going to go splat on the ground no matter if I am good or bad. The law of integrity operates irrespective of me; it's that kind of law.

The minute a person agrees to do something for somebody else or for himself, or makes an agreement of any kind, then, when it comes time to keep that agreement, and the individual doesn’t keep the agreement, for whatever reason, there is a karmic kickback from the law of integrity being violated, which has nothing to do with being right or wrong.

However, this kickback is not immediate which is why the connection between being lack of integrity and the quality of life is not made. In my own experience, when I can't keep my promises, I let the person I promised know as soon as possible if I’m not able to do what I said I would. This way life has a flow and a harmony that it doesn’t when I don’t keep my promises or act with integrity.  

However, this is just an idea and for many it will be rejected outright mostly because respecting that law requires a level of responsibility and accountability which we, as human beings, resist, almost as if by design. This is why it is a notion to be considered, not a truth to be fought to the death for, although I would fight to the death for it because intuitively I recognize its power. It is the very foundation of life for me. Without integrity, nothing works has been my mantra for many years and it has kept me safe when being true to my word was the last thing my mind wanted to do. In the weeks and months that followed Kundalini rising my mind was destabilized by all kinds of compelling and absorbing thoughts — to the extent that making a phone call I had promised to make or going to a training I had promised to attend was the last thing I wanted to do.

There were times when I was physically present, but was so tired from the inner battle that I could barely hear what was going on. Nevertheless, I was there. I had defied the mind —  it was a victory over the mind. This process is not easy, but it is necessary if one doesn't want to get stuck at various points on the spiritual path.

From time to time, people call me about their Kundalini experience. They tell me they want to give up work and just ‘process what is happening.’ When I hear this, alarm bells go off in my mind and I stress the importance of doing just the opposite, of continuing with daily life to find something to make a commitment to — whether it be charity work where you promise to do a certain number of hours, or something else.

In moving through the early stages of Kundalini rising, this is important, at least it was in my own case, and that is all I can speak or write about. By choosing to have what I said I would do be more important than what my mind, thoughts, feelings told me to do, I gradually experienced a level of freedom and integration of energy. While it often wasn’t easy, it taught me how to ignore the constant chatter of the mind. At the end of the day, when I've done everything I said I would, I feel happy and confident and life flows. Confidence is nothing more than being true to yourself in every way.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Breath And The Subtle Body

When she was 17, my mother contracted tuberculosis. Her father had died of the lung disease three years earlier. This was in the late nineteen forties. My mother often compared TB at that time to AIDs in the 1970s. Those friends who didn't abandon her in her contagious condition counseled her to never have a child, as the child was bound to be born with the disease.

My mother didn't take kindly to this advice. Shortly after I was born, she had the most serious of her "flare ups." She was in hospital for nine months, dreading she'd be moved to the sanatorium where her father had died. I remember waving to her from the hospital garden, through the ward window, not allowed to go in and visit her. When she came out of hospital, my mother had lost her beautiful red hair, and only three quarters of one lung still functioned. The doctors gave her a year to live. Wheezing, and fighting breathlessness 24 hours a day, she survived for another 46 years.
Stilling of the Breath
Girl Meditating

Why is stilling of the breath so important for the awakening of kundalini? Kundalini is transcendental consciousness in a physical form. Kundalini arouses, and reveals, the subtle forces that produce bone, nerve, skin, blood and breath; the nexus of forces that configure the body's individuality. Kundalini also reveals, like a candle shining upwards at a face in the dark, the individual body's relationship with the cosmos. This relationship is breath. This to-and-fro is breathing.

My mother had a terrible time breathing. A constant gurgling in her chest; wheezing 24-7, even in her sleep; fits of coughing at concerts; and the dreaded breathlessness attacks when there simply was no air. What kept her going? The will to live. The desire to be with her husband and watch her child grow up. Prana, the subtle force in air that is the source of being alive.

When I first practiced meditation and mindfulness of the breath, it was as if I'd contracted — not tuberculosis; dragged along to the X-ray unit every six months of my childhood, I showed no sign of the disease — but my mother's struggle with breathing. Panics. Black-outs. Oxygen-starved euphorias. Slowly, I came to realize that a lengthening of inhalation and exhalation, and a protracting of the time the lungs are empty, is natural. Suspension of breath was the natural, and optimum, condition for a new body that became discernible behind my gasping, gurgling, anxious physical body.

This deeper, subtler body is the source of my breath, blood, skin, nerve and bone. The moments when I live in it completely, I find that my physical body gets along quite okay on its own. It relaxes. Grows stronger. Thinks clearer.

What is this new, subtle body? I don't really know. To me it doesn't feel individual. It doesn't feel as if it's mine. I have a hunch that other people are somehow part of it, which is odd, because the precious thing about other people, particularly the ones I love, is their otherness. This subtle body, which kundalini lights up, insists on certain gestures. Twining of the wrists above the head, touching of the fingertips at a point above the fontanelle, spreading of the arms, straightening of the spine, and, coming from within, neither willed nor chosen, nor remembered from anywhere, the raising of the left hand, palm outwards, in front of the heart, and the opening of the right hand, palm flat, in the lap, the ancient gesture of blocking fear and offering gifts.

This subtle body is made of consciousness in a way my physical body isn't, and which my physical body often resists. This subtle body is where the fact that consciousness is more powerful than matter gets a foothold. It's the source of thoughts that are aware of their own deeper power; thoughts that come out of transcendence to be, sometimes, captured by the brain. They are Wordsworth's "thoughts too deep for tears," JJ Semple's "ideograms harvested in another dimension." The power of these moments of consciousness is proven by the way the physical body — anxious, panicky, strung out — resists them. This resistance happens, to me, in the lungs, a sudden clenching in the chest, like my mother's breathlessness attacks, that blocks my brain from registering what it already knows.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What to Do While "It Does You!"

There seems to be a polemic building around the notion that "spiritual" work (meditation, praying, attending workshops, seminars, and retreats) takes care of underlying psychic issues, so you don't need to undergo any type of psychological analysis to complete the self-actualization process:
"... the vast majority of us who are engaging in spiritual practice are making a similar mistake. We tend to put far too much emphasis on the need to “work out” our personal psychological issues as part of our spiritual path.
"The way this plays out practically is as follows: let’s say that you take up a spiritual practice in earnest, and you notice in the course of that practice that you’re deeply defended against life and intimacy. You won’t let other people see you. You always wear a social mask which hides a deep-rooted insecurity.
"The trouble is that although this “archaeological dig” into the depths of your psyche might lead to greater self-understanding, it won’t necessarily make it any easier for you to be vulnerable, authentic and present. Indeed, it might even take you further away from authentic intimacy with life by making you more self-preoccupied than before.
"It’s important to recognize that this tendency toward self-preoccupation isn’t our fault. This habit grew out of our over-psychologized culture which basically told us that we were all damaged by our childhood and that we have “inner wounds” that need to be healed in order to become happy and fulfilled as adults."
~ The Mistake Most of us Make on the Spiritual Path – Craig Hamilton
This appears to go counter to Margaret Dempsey's hypothesis that some psychic work may be needed, not so much to overhaul the psyche, but to help the individual recognize the ego indoctrination process:
"So before any spiritual work is attempted, I strongly recommend individuals, especially those who have been on a spiritual path for many years, do a transformative, self-development programme. In my case it was the Forum from Landmark Education, but there are others. It's not important which one is done. What is critical is doing something to deal with the sloppy thinking in which one presumes that simply by meditating or doing yoga one is going to transform the ego that stands in the way of awakening. 
"Trying to transform the ego on one's own is like a thief turning detective to catch the one who is the thief; it can't be done and leads to frustration and disillusionment."
The First Stage of Spiritual Awakening: Know Yourself  – Margaret Dempsey
To answer the question "What to Do While 'It Does You!'," I created a diagram of the process that attempts to illustrate what happens when you reach the It Does You! stage. In short, it really does do you!

That is to say the Kundalini-Life Force energy starts re-engineering your being (body, soul, mind, ego, psyche, all) and you can sit back and let it work its evolutionary magic, or as Craig Hamilton says, "... feel instantly connected to the heart of Life and energized by the impulse of evolution itself."

The challenge is, at least for me, that I have been living with this energy for 40 years, exploring, as time went by, many facets of my being, and I don't believe that delving into the various aspects of my being has been counter to the It-Does-You! work that Kundalini carries out on a daily basis.

That said, I can see how too much psychic self-analysis might short circuit an individual in the You-do-it! phase, leaving him/her prey to what Hamilton terms "inner wounds." Nevertheless, once you reach the It does You!, there's no harm in gaining insights into how the mind and the ego work, especially as pertains to the finer aspects of social interaction. In my case, I never felt the need for psychoanalysis; I got the point of it after reading Eric Berne's Games People Play.

Sunday by the bay
The Marketplace of Inner Wounds
The work I've done on myself since Kundalini took over has been pretty much confined to self-remembering, which is geared toward the issue of self-control, the key to success in the material world, and I'm not using the preceding term in a materialistic sense. I mean it in the sense of learning to respond instead of to react.

Other than that, any polemic brewing over the question of what to do while pursuing self-actualization is a non-starter. I think all three of us (Hamilton, Dempsey, Semple) are basically saying the same thing: It depends on where you are in the journey:

  • If you're in the You-do-it! stage, beware that psychic contents don't usurp your real intentions.
  • If you're in the It-Does-You! stage, you should have the perspective, and the metaphysical knowledge, to manage the important aspects of your life.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spotlight on Consciousness Research

You’ve visited imaginary worlds and other dimensions in science fiction movies, in comics and in novels. Are they just the writer/director's hallucinogenic fantasies? Or are these dimensions actually KNOWABLE? If so, how can we prepare ourselves for this type of altered perception?

Jacob’s Ladder. The Matrix. Memento. Altered States. Fictional worlds in which material reality suddenly melts away and the protagonist is left to fend for himself in harrowing, seemingly unreal situations. We’ve witnessed these worlds and believed them to be figments of the writer’s imagination. But are they?

Chico store window display
Undersea World of the Mind
These so-called imaginary worlds are as real the people, streets, houses, and stores we encounter in our normal daily rounds. Although we cannot see these apparitions in our current state, scientists and other investigators are finding they are real. Moreover, they are not the threatening specters moviemakers would have us believe — but simply exist beyond the reach our limited consciousness.

At a key moment in Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob's friend, chiropractor and guardian angel Louis (Danny Aiello), cites the 14th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart — “Eckhart saw Hell too; he said: ‘the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you,’ he said. ‘They're freeing your soul. So, if you’re frightened of dying and... you’re holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.’”
Arcata Race Day

This is straight out of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In fact, this film is a fictional interpretation of a Near Death Experience (NDE). At the end we see “Jacob never made it out of Vietnam.” His body is shown in an army triage tent just as he expires. Apparently, the entire series of events turns out to have been a dying hallucination. Jacob's experiences appear to have been a form of purgation in which he releases himself from his earthly attachments, finally joining his dead son Gabe to ascend a staircase (Biblically known as Jacob's Ladder) toward a bright light.”

The science of consciousness, or should we say the scientific investigation of it, inevitably delves into the unseen — that which lies behind the physical — the metaphysical. This investigation is now moving forward on two fronts (metaphysical investigation and physical science) toward the same objective, namely the full unfolding of consciousness, or as Gopi Krishna called it: "Knowing the Knower."

Much investigation is still outside the realm of traditional science, yet, as metaphysical exploration moves forward, we apply more scientific methods, which caused JJ Semple to wonder, "Who's to say that the same scientific methods we apply in the physical realm won't someday apply to the metaphysical realm? The NDE provides palpable evidence of meta-physicality.” 

This exploration is being conducted by two informal, loosely-knit research tendencies, not by any sanctioned organization. Nevertheless, it moves forward with a dynamic élan, prompted, I believe, by what Gopi Krishna called "the evolutionary impulse." Metaphysical investigators explore consciousness from the inside-out while physical scientists explore it from the outside-in. Instead of sniping at one another, they need to cooperate:

Group 1: Metaphysical investigators
Metaphysical investigators, those who have undergone Kundalini/NDE experiences, write about them from the inside-out, just as a 16th Century explorer might have kept a journal of his adventures during a sea voyage. This inside-out group is headlined by such researchers as, Gopi Krishna, Richard Bucke, J Krishnamurti, and PD Ouspensky, who cautioned that metaphysical research in the laboratory of the body deserves a rigorous methodological approach:
"There is no question of faith in all this. Quite the opposite, this system teaches people to believe in absolutely nothing. You must verify everything you see, hear, or feel. Only in that way can you come to something."
In keeping with this approach, JJ Semple described his experience in Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time: “After activating the Kundalini-Life Force, I was able to see the blueprint of my perfect body and compare it to my actual state. Amazingly, the Life Force recognized my deformity and immediately began to correct it. I witnessed it slowly reshape my body to the exact proportions in the blueprint.

“I could see my original design and the fact that it is perfect means that an unseen sentient entity in nature created it before my substantive being came into this world.”

These observations are alluded to in the writings of other Kundalini researchers, such as Michael Bradford:
"This control and guidance is also evident in the experiments done with developing animal embryos in which the removal or substitution of tissue, if done at an early enough stage, does not result in a totally deformed final form but rather in a smaller or modified, but still complete form. If the process of development were strictly a mechanical one, this would certainly not be the result. One logical explanation for this phenomenon is the existence of a controlling field, such as the pranic spectrum, which has a pre-determined form towards which it is guiding the development of the organism via the growth processes.”
In The Backward-Flowing Method: The Secret of Life and Death, JJ Semple wrote, “Where this blueprint had been stored between the time of my conception and my 35th year, I did not know. Physical scientists, geneticists, in this instance, would probably say it resides in the brain, and that is a safe assumption, for, until we can prove it resides outside the body, we must assume it is somehow connected to it, as in lines of code stored in DNA. Nevertheless, the fact that I saw the blueprint and watched the Life Force energy use it to “reengineer” my body makes me think that some sentient agency must play a role in reproduction, and in the design and formation of the body. Why had this blueprint suddenly reappeared? Where had it been for thirty-five years? Why was the Kundalini-Life Force using it? If it had no purpose, wouldn’t it have ceased to exist? So then, it must have a purpose, for it was still there.” Does the notion of controlling field (an outside the body metaphysical entity) come into play?

In The Biology of Consciousness: Case Studies in Kundalini, JJ Semple continues this discussion:
"As applied to my situation, the 'controlling field' referred to in the above passage used a blueprint of my perfect body to manage my bodily substantiation. The changes in symmetry I experienced were due to neural blockages caused by the splinter — blockages causing a massive redistribution of growth energy throughout my body. Ergo, my transformation from a symmetrical to asymmetrical being. Not only did this newly awakened pranic energy reverse this process, it started it going in the other direction, namely from asymmetrical back to symmetrical. It healed me, and it did so intelligently, which made me realize it had access to DNA and other evolutionary information about my being. And that is what I base my hypothesis about Kundalini’s ability to modify DNA on: finding a way to restore and revitalize the affected body parts, a process that included conforming my body to the blueprint for its intended substantiation. It still amazes me that 35 years after my birth, this 'controlling field' or super-consciousness went back to my 'archives,' found the blueprint, and used it to restore my body to its original intended state and form."
Group 2: Physical scientists
Physical scientists, such as Dr. Harold Saxton Burr of Yale University, who explored field theory in the 30s. “Physicists define a field something like this: when something occurs somewhere in space because something else happened somewhere else in space, with no visible means by which the cause produced the effect, the two events are connected by a ‘field.’ If this is true, then:
"As everyone knows, when we sprinkle a card with iron filings and hold it over an ordinary magnet, the filings will arrange themselves in a pattern that represents the ‘lines of force’ of the magnet’s field. And though we can change the filings as often as we like, each set of filings will always assume the same pattern.
 “Even by the most pedantic, therefore, the ‘fields of life’ can be considered a scientifically-respectable phenomenon, eligible one day for the imprimatur of the hierarchy. When that will be will depend on how long it takes biochemists to lose their enthusiasm for present fashions (and perhaps for economic interests to open their focus to cost-effective natural vs. patented chemical solutions)."
  • The fact that we do not perceive these states/fields means our current consciousness must be inhibited,  
  • There is consciousness in every field/cell.
As author Sol Luckman points out:
“A salient point in the evolutionary model I am elaborating is that evolution of species ultimately is driven not by material, but by metaphysical energy, or consciousness, of a spiraling, 'meta-genetic' nature.
“If today we are to embrace a worldview in which consciousness is more important than matter, we need to base our timekeeping on the nonphysical, invisible reality (that gives rise to reality) rather than on the physical.”
If both groups combine their efforts, they will uncover actualities that make the themes explored in science fiction a reality, enabling, as Gopi Krishna so aptly phrased it, "a state of perception where the invisible world of intelligent cosmic forces will be cognizable to every human being."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Who Looks Outside, Dreams; Who Looks Inside, Awakens

The title of this post is taken from a plaque I received as a Christmas present a couple of years ago from a good friend. When I tore the wrapping off and read it, I felt a shiver go down my spine as the truth of the words resonated. Since receiving it, I have pondered what the words "to Awaken" mean in practice.

The Buddha, when asked "Who are you?" said, "I am Awake." To be Awake means to break free of the bonds Maya, what the Buddhists call the world of illusion and delusion. To see reality as it really is, not as it appears to be, is to realize the unity behind the perceived separation. As Jung said all those years ago, to look outside is to never find the treasure that lies within. To look externally for what can only be found inside is the trap human consciousness falls into. Awakening is an inner process. External factors can aid in this process, but the ultimate Awakening is an awakening of inner consciousness that shifts the perception of the world and brings alive, insights, intuition and illumination.

To be Awake means to realize that our thoughts and feelings are not who we are. It means to experience an aspect that has nothing to do with thoughts and feelings: SOMETHING that remains constant when thoughts and feelings change, SOMETHING that remains stable and enduring when everything else is shifting and changing. To be Awake is to be in contact with this SOMETHING. To stand apart from the drama, not by being detached, but because of the realization that it is not real even though it appears to be very real. To be Awake is to be in contact with a higher level of consciousness, such that life flows and has a harmony and balance it didn't have before. Yet, life after awakening continues much as it did before, which is the paradox of the entire process. The difference is in the quality of that life and how events in life are dealt with. A Zen description of this says, "Before Awakening, chop wood, carry water; after Awakening....chop wood, carry water." Same actions, but the context within which the actions are being done shifts; the 'I' (subject) is no longer, there is simply the action of chopping wood and carrying water.

Prior to Kundalini awakening, I felt a need to control everything in my life. The result of this was generalized anxiety and loss of freedom. The realization of this need to control, deeply buried in my subconscious, came about not by reading a spiritual book, but by having a conversation with a coach who I had been doing some transformative self-development work with as the leader of a team.

She said, "It’s like having a five year old in charge of the team: you don’t listen and you make people wrong." When she said that to me, I felt like I had hit a wall, which I had — the wall of my own obsessive need to control. I couldn’t listen to people because I wouldn’t be in control. It was my way or the highway, and I realized that this way of being stemmed from a decision I had made when I was young: that life was scary and it had be controlled — hence the rigidity and inflexibility I showed when members of my team made suggestions about doing something differently than the way I wanted it done. Realizing this, I also realized the absolute absurdity of the decision. There is no way to control life or what happens and, in that moment of realization, I let go of my need to control. By hitting the wall, which is what happened, I got to see the impact that my controlling way of being was having on the members of my team. I gave it up, thus creating the possibility of freedom and I have to say the results have been nothing short of miraculous in terms of how I have been able to flow and respond to life.

As a result of this experience and insight, I am convinced that the ability to operate from an Awakened state of being is closely linked to the letting go of control. To accept what is and surrender to it. The funny thing is that I have often written about the importance of surrendering when on the spiritual path. I realize now that after surrendering so completely when Kundalini rose in 1999, I went right back to trying to control everything in my life and my environment. This is because the need to control was hidden from my view. Until it became shown to my consciousness, it had power over me. The rising of Kundalini set in motion the events that would result in my having to confront this decision and its impact.

Now, so many years later, I understand the full meaning and impact of control. I also see that nobody made me take the decision that I had to control life; it was me alone. This decision to control life is something most humans make. At some point, our environment fails us in that it doesn't behave the way we expect it to. In the face of this failure, it is natural to say, "I will control things from now on."

So like me, the child might become bossy and domineering — always demanding his own way. Or it might show itself in other ways, but being bossy is the gold standard of control. I smiled when I heard my four-year-old niece acting assertive and bossy. At four it's cute, but 40 years later it can result in a very narrow, limited life. However, it's a highly successful and lucrative strategy that motivates many to achieve, but it isn't for me. I am so grateful that I was given the grace to realize this and the choice of whether to give it up or not.