Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Thoughts And The Lies They Tell Me

A Jihadi extremist walks into a crowded restaurant with explosives strapped under his coat. His thoughts tell him that the people around him are his enemy; his God will reward him for destroying them and furthering his cause. He pushes the remote that sets off the explosives that tears apart his own flesh as well as those who are close by.

Although this is a very extreme example, are we not all victims of our thoughts. When I was twelve, I thought my parents didn’t love me. This made me feel very sad and was responsible for some silly, bad behavior. It wasn’t until sometime later that I began to see how much my parents loved me, and the sacrifices they made, not only for me, but also for my brothers and sisters. This changed everything about our relationship and my behavior.

Our thoughts are often full of judgements, fears, doubts, worries. Our minds are filled with negative voices and pictures of what could go wrong. Experiencing life through our busy thoughts is often unpleasant. Even if our thoughts are positive, if they do not reflect reality, they can and will lead to disappointment because they
only portray fantasy.

There’s a funny quote that I found when I turned sixty:

"When you're 20, you care what everyone thinks; when you're 40, you stop caring what everyone thinks; when you're 60, you realize that no one was thinking about you in the first place." ~ Unknown
Built into our thoughts is this very strong sense that they are true. We don’t question our thoughts because we assume they are who we are. But are they true? Are they really who we are? And when we believe them to be true — a part of who we are — how do they affect us? Do they lead to inappropriate and destructive behavior?

Richard Rohr, in his on-line course on the Twelve Step program called Breathing Under Water, says: "We all take our own patterns of thinking as normative, logical, and surely true, even when they do not fully compute. That is the self-destructive nature of all addiction and of the mind, in particular. We think we are our thinking, and we even take that thinking as utterly 'true,' which removes us at least two steps from reality itself."

As a young person growing up on a farm in Eastern Canada during the fifties, I saw and experienced a lot of poverty. I recall a time when I asked my parents for a bike. I was told that they couldn’t afford it. Words I heard often and they were true at the time. Now that I’m sixty plus, not rich but financially secure, I still hear that voice when buying something I don’t necessarily need: I can’t afford it.

But it’s a lie; I can afford it. When the stock market goes down, (as it has a lot over the last decade) my thoughts are: My God, I’m going broke. But it’s a lie. The money I have invested in the market is money I don’t really need. But still, when the market go down, I feel depressed as if some impending disaster is just around the corner.

Meditation and Kundalini are teaching me to stop listening to my thoughts, and the lies they tell me. Kundalini has revamped things inside so that I am learning to listen to the more subtle voice that exists at a much deeply level than the chattering mind. This inner witness and its connection with the mystery that lies beyond it are able to observe the ramblings of the mind, to pick and choose what to accept and what to reject. They enable me to see how truly good life is, how supportive and trustworthy it is when I don’t allow meaningless thoughts, and the lies they tell, to lead me in directions I never wanted to go in the first place.

Thoughts, images, voices, constructs, conditioning, beliefs are transit visitors that protrude into our lives. They arise and they fall. They are not permanent. They are not you. When we learn to observe them, and not become attached to them, we can follow them or let them go. We can build the life that we want for ourselves.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hello, My name is ______. I'm an alcoholic...

This post is inspired by a moving documentary I watched recently. Eight men and women spoke about their journey towards alcohol dependence/addiction. What struck me was how each spoke about feeling a sense of anxiety/unease that alcohol "was able to take the edge off."

I began thinking about the nature of "the unease" which the alcohol numbed in relation to my own life. And when I looked back at my childhood/adolescence, I recognized this feeling of anxiety and unease. It was a feeling of not belonging. What I used to dull the pain was food and in my book Female Kundalini I speak about this. I now recognize that the emptiness I felt then and continued to feel until I found my spiritual teacher was a spiritual emptiness which all of us, by virtue of being human feel, but frequently block out either by denial or by employing a crutch. The particular crutch we select to make us "feel better" tends to stick to us for the rest of our lives.

I recently heard a famous writer being interviewed and he
spoke about how in his early childhood he developed a stutter and turned to writing as a relief from talking, he channelled the anxiety he felt into writing which has made him the extremely successful writer that he is today. Many other writers speak about "being driven to write" that the writing "relieves something." 

This is all good and productive when the crutch one uses is socially acceptable and lucrative, but my compassion goes out to those whose crutch is alcohol and/or drugs, both of which quickly become a slippery slope. It is said of alcohol that first it becomes a guest, then a host, and then a master. In the stories which the eight people in this documentary told, that was the inevitable pattern.

What makes one person use alcohol and another the pen to relieve anxiety? I don't know, is it karma? We all do it — more or less. If, however, each of us was to make an honest self-appraisal, we could probably identify the crutch we use to make us "feel better." As our dependency advances, shame and denial kick in. This is the despairing cycle that I went through for years with food. And that's why I'm concerned with the nature of this unease we all feel and are constantly trying to get relief from.

It was only when I read the teachings of my guru and His explanation — that unease is the result of "self-contraction," a separating of ourselves from Reality — that I was finally able to understand the nature of this discomfort.

For the first time, I felt beyond the tension of the self-contraction to the indivisible Reality that lies beyond. Now I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have finally found my Guru. I know that the word Guru holds negative connotations for many people, and for me to be a devotee involved a major loss of face because I am on record as previously saying that no one needs a Guru.

But because each of us creates the self-contraction it is not possible to free ourselves from it alone. Was it Einstein who said that a problem cannot be solved at the same level as the mind that created it, that solving it requires something else? Guru means going from dark to light and it is the hardest thing to accept that as human egos we are in the dark and in order to be free we have to surrender to the light of a guru or realized adept; there is no other way. The Guru removes the obstacles to realizing our true nature, not by working on ourselves, but by turning our attention to the Guru and surrendering to the process.

The ego "I" rejects this and I am sure that the previous paragraph is controversial, but I have only ever spoken or written about my own experience and that hasn't changed because I am now committed to the path of devotion. This activity of self-contraction that we all do at a deep subconscious level leaves an anxiety and unease that we don't want to feel so we look for ways not to feel it. Any search, whether material or spiritual, is aimed at relieving the underlying anxiety caused by the decision to break away from Reality and identify itself with the body/mind. This is how the search works and it is the ego "I" that searches. The irony, however, is that separate-ness is an illusion.

Freedom or Self-Realization comes not from searching for ways to relieve this anxiety but by having the courage to feel into and examine the sense of anxiety and unease and trace it back to its source. I am aware that this is much easier to write about than to practice. At the height of my self-destructive food binges, if you had asked me what it was I was trying not to experience or feel, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. All I would have been able to say was that there was a tension in me that binge eating eased temporarily, which is why addictions are so strong.

At the end of the documentary, all of those interviewed said that the way they cope without alcohol today is due to learning how to handle and manage feelings of unease and anxiety; they don't go away (of course they won't because they are inherent in the design of the human being). So instead of seeing these feelings and unease as a sign of weakness, we need to see them as human feelings that we all have. The only way to be free of them is not to search for ways to be free, but to recognize that we are and always have been free, but we just don't realize it. To understand this is to end the search forever.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Dream Of Loss

About every six months I have the same dream, always close to morning after making love with my wife with particular tenderness during the night. It’s a dream that aches through my whole body, yet it isn’t a nightmare. Nightmares and dreams in general lessen when Kundalini is awakened. Kundalini stays on throughout the night, with a greater or lesser intensity, and burns away the subconscious stuff that gives rise to dreams and nightmares. Except for this one exceptional dream of loss. It occurred again last night.

My wife and I had passed through one of those love-makings where there is a shift from a pair of bodies copulating to a pair of subtle bodies, fused at the base of the spine. When this happens, the issue of ejaculation-or-non-ejaculation is simply bypassed, forgotten, by both of us. Ejaculation doesn’t happen because it’s no longer important. The Kundalini energy is felt very powerfully. When we finally fall asleep, Kundalini stays on during the night as a physical light that keeps us keenly aware of each other even in deep dreamless sleep. And then, near morning, this same weird dream:

Her phone rings. A man wants her. She’s gone. That’s it. There’s some peripheral wandering around by me, looking for her, which isn’t important. What’s important is the fact that someone I love and am aware of so utterly could suddenly become so absent, so unlocate-able, so unfind-able. The sense of loss is too deep to be a nightmare, and seems on the point of tipping over into joy.

I’m sure everyone has these dreams, and I feel certain that far from being sad, they are glimpses of the transcendent state. The simple fact is that each of us is a god/goddess hidden behind our individual psychology, senses, and DNA. These dreams of loss are a glimpse of the fact, unbearable to our psychology, senses, and DNA, that we are gods/goddesses, and it’s such a stunning fact it can only be brought into focus in the dream state, particularly after making love. This person I feel so deeply aware of, close to, and at one with is unlocate-able, out in the night somewhere, totally beyond me, because she is the Shakti in her primal state. The unknown guy who phones her, and takes her, isn’t my rival, he’s my real self.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Beliefs and Kundalini

"In meditation, we practice observing our thoughts, seeing them come, seeing them change, seeing them go. They are a phenomenon of the mind, empty of any permanence. We discover that we are not our thoughts. Our inner witness or observer gives testimony to this. In the same manner, we must practice observing our beliefs. They come, they change, they go. They also are a phenomenon of the mind, empty of permanence. In this manner, our inner witness can become an instrument of compassion, not of judgement, with those who do not share our particular beliefs."
 Mehru Danda ~ "Being Overly Identified With Our Beliefs"
Beliefs are like being slowly poisoned. You don't know it's happening until your half dead, in this case brain dead.

Not all beliefs are harmful: believing that your dog has a spiritual connection with you harms no one. But believing that your religion is the one and only truth is largely the result of cultural indoctrination and social conditioning that comes with many more — sometimes even militant — overtones. But I'm not out to generalize; I'd rather look at my own case as honestly as possible — a survey of my beliefs over the decades, what I've done with them, how they influenced me, or not.

First, let's remove facts from the discussion; facts are not beliefs.

Beliefs are like hypotheses with emotional baggage. Instead of trying to validate a belief, like we would a hypothesis, we accept them for a variety of reasons, usually because of social or cultural pressures. When young, everyone is exposed to a variety of beliefs. If they take hold, they're hard to get rid of, even subsequently when doubts arrive.

They are also relative, not absolute. Relative, that is, to environmental factors. Not absolute because they are not the inherited byproduct of a given ontology of some religion. In other words, beliefs are not the result of heredity or some sort of ontological programming passed on through DNA.

Luckily, I was moved around so much as a child that I was mostly confused, rather than zealous or devout. Prejudice never took hold. As for religion, I admired some of the liturgy and literature of the Episcopal church, but the doctrines left me thinking: there must be something else — something that didn't involve an anthropomorphic being somewhere in the sky. Something more tangible. I didn't stop to think what it might be; it was way beyond my ken. How could there be something that bridged the seemingly unbridgeable gap between myself and some sort or God? As an entity, I felt so limited. It didn't occur to me that religion had probably sprung up as a result of man's feeling just that way — small and insignificant.

Well, after many hardships I found that bridge. I won't go into the details; my books do that. They're all about my discovery and practice of kundalini meditation, which is not a belief but a physical-to-metaphysical transformation process, one that involves the body as much as it does the spirit.

I should like, however, to point out that kundalini reinforced my inherent skepticism. It reengineered my psyche so I would question everything I saw, heard, or felt. Does it do this with every person it touches? From what I've observed, the answer is no. Some people are so dependent on having a set of beliefs that they keep replacing outmoded or debunked beliefs with new ones in spite of the fact that they have already discarded many sets already. Is this harmful? Unless what they believe in concerns violent political or religious opinions, I can't say for sure. I just wonder why kundalini was able to wipe my psyche clean while other kundalini adepts still adhere to beliefs that are, at best, unproven hypotheses.

If kundalini can't consistently expunge unverifiable beliefs, what can? Once again, science comes to the rescue.
New research involving a psychologist from the University of York has revealed for the first time that both belief in God and prejudice towards immigrants can be reduced by directing magnetic energy into the brain.

Dr. Keise Izuma collaborated with a team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to carry out an innovative experiment using transcranial magnetic stimulation, a safe way of temporarily shutting down specific regions of the brain.

The researchers targeted the posterior medial frontal cortex, a part of the brain located near the surface and roughly a few inches up from the forehead that is associated with detecting problems and triggering responses that address them. In the study, half of the participants received a low-level "sham" procedure that did not affect their brains, and half received enough energy to lower activity in the target brain area. Next, all of the participants were first asked to think about death, and then were asked questions about their religious beliefs and their feelings about immigrants.
~ Belief in God and prejudice reduced by directing magnetic energy into the brain 
What these experiments mean to me, a layman, is that there are regions of the brain that store beliefs and certain types of energy directed at those regions may affect the severity or degree of one's attachment to beliefs.

Of course, some people are already saying that this kind of experiment is dangerous because scientists might also be able to replace one set of beliefs with another. Nevertheless, it appears to be one more indication that beliefs are relative, not absolute.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Fear Of Death

Why is the fear of death so powerful? We have constant experience of endings — tasks, holidays, feelings, days, all end — so that it should be easy to transfer that experience to understanding of our own death. But it isn’t easy. Death isn’t as simple as falling asleep and never waking up. The idea of falling asleep and never waking up isn’t strong enough or profound enough to encompass the actuality of death.

We experience those instances of falling asleep at night when there is a sudden jerking back into consciousness, a bodily spasm similar to falling that instantaneously wakes us. These moments happen instantly because the fear that underlies them, the bodily fear of death is too profound to bear for any more than a split second. But even these times — times of physical danger when there’s an adrenalin rush of physical recoil — aren’t enough to approximate the real fear of death. The fear of death is so powerful because death ends the universe, not just an individual being. At the moment I die, everything dies, not just me. The mountains, the stars, the people and places I love, all die too. This reality, only approachable in the turiya state of samahdi, is an opportunity.

The End is Near
The Grim Reaper
In the Ajna Chakra three states of being are symbolized: the Itrara Lingam, the inverted triangle symbolizing the shakti, and the aham-khara, the strange reality called, in the Tantras, the "I-maker." It’s the force that in Blake’s prophetic books is called the "Spectre." Its source is outside the body, yet it creates the separateness of the "I" literally in every cell of the body. It’s such a powerful force that it has to be constantly hidden from consciousness under the various sense functions. These sense functions are seen to be more and more illusory, the closer they get to the "aham-khara."

The "ahama-khara" is only experienced directly, face on, at the moment of death. But, the wonderful thing is that the moment of death is here, right now, constantly with us, because the space/time continuum is in fact nothing but the present instant. When this is seen, a strange thing happens. We realize that being a separate "I" is just a state, a mere stage of being, through which everyone and everything passes. This is the real sense in which we are all identical, as we pass through, or open, the aham-khara by means of kundalini.

This is the "one body" spoken of by Blake, Boehme, and Paracelsus, and not any identity in our minds or feelings or bodies. In fact the bigger the differences in our minds and feelings and bodies, the greater the variety, the better. It’s also in the aham-khara that a person — say a person we love, or even one we hate — becomes so much "One Person" that their stature as God or Goddess is seen, or in Tibetan terms, "Prajna," wisdom entering us from above.

Friday, December 25, 2015


I’ve always been sensitive to noise. It can make life difficult in a crowded, noisy city, and can be challenging when kundalini has woken the deeper energies of the nervous system.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian,1863-1944) "The Scream”
The guy next door to me hopes to be a DJ. He practices his scratching very loudly and repetitively. At the moment he works on a building site, and can only rehearse of an evening, or on those mornings when he can’t face climbing into his overalls. He’s a nice man, but he doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Romanian. When I talk to him about meditation, there’s a lot of hand-shaking, back-slapping and invitations to drink wine, but the noise issue doesn’t get resolved. I was faced with the problem of simultaneously handling Kundalini and dealing with his wall-rattling dub base without going insane, giving way to rage or moving house. It brought the issue of ‘First you do it; then it does you’ into sharp focus.

The mind that goes insane and gives way to rage is, strangely enough, passive. I go insane or give way to rage because my consciousness is the victim of the outside world, my brain is the outside world’s passive object. That’s why noise is so intrusive. My inner passivity is the reason that noise gets inside me, and can bug me, in a way that visual impressions don’t. I can live happily looking at an un-beautiful bedroom wall. Tired magnolia woodchip doesn’t do my head in, but when the wall starts to vibrate to Romanian drum and bass there’s a deep clenching of my nervous system that shuts me off from the world around me. This is the bodily reflex of the animal ‘fight or flight’ mechanism (‘fight’—break his door down with a sledgehammer; ‘flight’—move house.) This reflex, even the ‘fight’ part of it is, again, the result of an inner passivity. I want to sleep, relax, switch off, and I can’t. I flee from the possibility that there might be some inner state of permanent activity powerful enough to dispel or transcend noise intrusion (let alone other more violent intrusions). Yet there is such a state of permanent inner activity, and it’s name is Kundalini, Kundalini that isn’t resisted or which I don’t attempt to channel via the pingala nadi (which is when Kundalini burns and short circuits the nervous system).

When Kundalini overcomes the fight or flight mechanism and becomes a permanent conscious force (even at moments of intrusion) a strange state is arrived at. There is no otherness. The guy next door and his music are part of me. I willed them in the pre-natal state just as I willed my whole life and body, its strengths and weaknesses. Stated as a bare concept this sounds both bland and bizarre. But in fact, Kundalini can overcome otherness, and is powerful enough to overcome otherness, in a quite literal way. I arrived at a state in which I still felt the walls shaking, and the pounding of the music—nothing was shut out—but Kundalini changed the pounding and the shaking into manifestations of a silence that was welling up out of me. I heard the silence that the noise came out of and anchored myself in it. I felt no resentment of my neighbour, in fact, I could somehow feel him through his seemingly mechanical and, to me, inhuman, music.
There is a paradox in this—‘Kundalini does you’, but the ‘does you’ is in fact the awakening of a permanent inner activity.

The Shuragama Sutra speaks about ‘sense organs returning to their source.’ Each sense function (smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing and thought) has its place of origin in the subtle body. In the Tantras, this place of origin is called the tanmatra of a particular sense function. When Kundalini rises through the chakras, the physical sense functions return to their origins, and the tanmatras awake. Sound, as physical hearing, has its origin in the tanmatra of the throat chakra, where the source of space and time are also revealed (space and time bearing a distinct relationship to sound.) This is why sound can be particularly intrusive, because it disrupts one of our higher manifestations—our being in space and time (trapped in a room at one a.m with the walls shaking.) The Sutra says that ‘when one sense organ returns to its source, all six are liberated.’ Also: ‘If one wants to attain Samadhi, hearing is the best way to enter... How excellent is the contemplation of the world’s sound, a pure sound, like the ocean’s roar.’

One other, minor, issue is the effect of Kundalini outside of the body, on ‘the world’ and other people. I think it’s wise not to dwell on this side of things too much as there’s scope for both fantasy and paranoia. However, as regards my neighbour, I clearly needed to act outwardly as well as inwardly. One night, a little after midnight, I knocked on his door. I had to knock loudly because the music coming from inside was deafening, however I didn’t knock with my sledgehammer. My neighbour was performing his DJing to a roomful of his friends, and didn’t like me interrupting him. I felt both angry and scared (they were drunk). I said my piece, and a weird thing happened. I felt kundalini coming out of my words, and out of my whole body, and filling the room. My words were forceful, but not furious! I felt a wonderful relaxation and strength in the simple justice of what I was saying. And I could tell that they heard it too. In fact, they were aware that Kundalini was in the room. What ought to have been a shouting match turned into a dignified and friendly conversation. And they switched the music down!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Death Is Not Physical

In 1999, I was on a Buddhist Vippassana Meditation retreat when I experienced the rising of energy which I now know to be Kundalini. At that time I had neither experience nor knowledge that this energy existed in the body. The form that the energy took was a rising and falling that seemed to start from the base of my spine and rise up through my body to the top of my head and down again. As it rose I found myself being raised high and rocked from side to side. My feet were wrapped around my meditation stool so I knew I wasn’t being physically raised and rocked; the experience was purely energetic.

Turning my attention inwards and merging with the energy I allowed myself to go with what it wanted to do. I cooperated fully with it. There were no thoughts, no fears, just complete absorption in what was happening. I experienced this rising and falling of energy during a number of sitting sessions. It must have been around the sixth session that the energy changed its intensity and I began being lifted higher and rocked more violently. This made me think that maybe there was something that I was expected to "do." All was intuitive on my part because, after trying to speak with one of the teachers about what was going on in the meditation sessions and seeing her confused reaction, I knew that I was on my own. I was determined to see the process through to the end, whatever it might be.

I remember one vibration that made me feel as if I was being lifted very high, making me think, "If that’s what happens, okay." But I didn’t fall. When the next vibration came I suddenly remembered the Buddhist concept of surrender. Did surrender have something to do with this experience? I didn’t know, but I decided to give it a go. At the height of the next vibration I said "I surrender" and immediately the vibration died down. I was relieved and thought that was the end of it all. To my amazement, the energy rose again, now I felt this acute fear. I didn’t know what else to do. I had exhausted every technique I was familiar with and it wasn’t enough; the rising and falling of the energy wasn’t ended by "surrendering."

Since 1999, I have reflected on the fear I experienced during those moments when I realised that surrendering wasn’t enough to end the movement of energy up and down my body. The fear wasn’t all encompassing in that I could have opened my eyes and brought the experience to an end. It was something that I had to feel and experience and, having come as far as I could, I was determined to see it through. Looking back, it seemed vital to feel the fear and stay with the experience. I was fortunate because I didn’t have to "be" with the fear for very long. But for those moments of fear were paralyzing.

It was in that same sitting during the next vibration that I knew exactly what it was I had to do. I don't know where the realization came from. (Did submitting to the fear create the space for eventual clarity?) I don't know. All I knew was that I had to take my feet away from the stool when I surrendered so that I was totally vulnerable. This is why the rising and falling did not end: I was still holding on and what was surrendering was my ego. Again without any fear or thought about what I was doing or the possible consequences, on the next vibration when I was raised to the highest peak with the energy, I took my feet from the stool and said, "I surrender, but only to the Light." Why I said this I have no idea. I don’t remember seeing any light, or having any perceptions. I only wanted to be clear about what I was surrendering into. I didn’t want there to be any ambiguity about the surrender. Immediately, all of the movement of energy ended and for the remainder of the sitting sessions of that retreat, my meditations were once again what I was used to.

I have also pondered on the surrender and what it meant. There is no doubt that there was a sense of "going over" in that surrender, but over where and to what? Something died in me for sure and now many years later I think I understand what happened. I have never had a teacher or guru to ask about this, but in the last couple of years have been Graced to have been introduced to my Guru, who I intuitively recognize to be a great Realizer and Adept.

From reading His spiritual experiences and teachings I now recognise and accept that what happened that day wasn’t a physical death but the psychological death of the ego. This process happens gradually, and now so many years later, I see how the process unfolded and continues to unfold.

It began by my saying yes, by my staying with the process. This is why courage is so important if one is serious about Enlightenment. The process is an ordeal, it always was and it always will be, and it demands absolutely everything. Ultimately, it demands the sacrifice of the ego "I" or the egoic self. This is why when authentic realizers undertake the process with groups of devotees, you can count the number of devotees who are able to realize the process for themselves on the fingers of one hand.

Undergoing the psychological death of the ego is not easy, but once surrender is offered voluntarily, it then becomes inevitable. In my case, after the initial surrender, it was a case of painstakingly unconcealing how the ego had been put together to see that it is something that is constructed in language. Once realized, the ego can be voluntarily transcended. It is important (for mental stability) that it is transcended by seeing it for the made-up construct it is.

When certain things happened to me in life, I constructed Margaret as an ego "I" and I decided who I was and what my life would be in relation to that I. I don't doubt that without having first surrendered in that meditation session that this insight with its overwhelming resonance would not have happened. The ego would never have allowed it to penetrate, but being mortally wounded by surrendering many years ago, the experience was an "ah-yes-I-see-that" moment without any associated drama.

This is why a Kundalini experience in and of itself is not enough. In fact, it’s just the start. The energy must be brought to a certain point if it’s to play a role in the psychological death of the ego "I" — without which Enlightenment is not possible. Ego and Love cannot occupy the same space. Kundalini is a purificatory energy. What it purifies is everything that would might interfere with the death of the ego. In effect, what Kundalini is doing is preparing consciousness for the sacrifice of ego "I" so that a state of Love can emerge.

This is my last post for 2015. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who read my posts during the year and wish you all a pleasant festive holiday season.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Being Overly identified With Our Beliefs

The commonly held definition of “belief” as found in the dictionary is: A firm opinion or conviction; an acceptance of a thing, fact or statement; a person’s religion or religious conviction. Some would argue that their belief is the “absolute truth.”  The question that comes to my mind when a statement like this is professed: If your belief is an absolute truth, then why does it sometimes change? Why does a transformation process like kundalini rising break down, modify, and even eradicate beliefs previously held? 

Over the years, my own beliefs have radically changed and continue to do so. I grew up in a family where religion was neither emphasized nor a concern, however, the culture of the Eastern Canadian farm community did leave an impression on me that continues to this day. My early identity was shaped by the families and neighbors who worked independently but at the same time depended on each other for many tasks that couldn’t be handled alone.
During my early working years in the city, through the positive influence of people who were important to me, I began a journey into the Catholic Christian faith tradition, which impacted and changed my life in a substantial way. By my mid-thirties, I was engaged in part-time ministry, as well as full time employment and family life. My identity was being shaped by many formation programs and retreats, as well as a ministry that moved me in a radically different direction from my days on the farm.  Christian meditation and meditation retreats became my means of maintaining a focus on what I thought was important. They were a way to affirm my beliefs in the Catholic faith. It’s not that I never questioned certain beliefs of the Church that made no sense; I often did. These apparent differences were dismissed on the basis that wiser teachers knew far more than I did; some things just had to be accepted by faith
In my mid to late fifties, Kundalini rising was the next dramatic turn that blew a hole into my many deeply ingrained thought patterns and beliefs. Kundalini leaves few stones unturned. Its energies modified and dismantled many of the images and constructs that had served to define my identity and that gave me a sense of who I was in relation to the world and those around me.  My identity had been substantially modified. Many of the beliefs that motivated me to act in a certain way disappeared. I was left confused and bewildered, but also with a great sense of spaciousness, wonder and freedom. The world as I previous saw it had changed, and I knew there was no way I could ever go back to the way it was before. And I didn't want it to.

In her book “Returning To Essence,” Gina Lake describes beliefs as deeply held patterns of thought that structure our experience. She says that because we believe something, we behave accordingly. Most activities we engage in are based on our beliefs. Those who have different beliefs and values spend their time doing different things. Beliefs form the basis of our identity. They give witness to who we are. But when our beliefs change, our identity changes with them. She writes:

"Our beliefs actually create the situation they describe. That's why it is said that we create our own realty: Our beliefs determine our reactions to life and our choices and therefore our experience, and our experience reinforces our beliefs. Once you realize that, you can choose whether to listen to this version of you and of your life, or not."

All of this, if you think about it carefully, is tied to ego. Our ego is defined by the identities and roles that we assume, how we see ourselves in the exterior world. So our beliefs, when acted out in the stage of life, maintain this ego definition.

When I examine the patterns of change in beliefs in my own life, I must conclude that beliefs in themselves, like thoughts, are not the problem. The problem comes when we become too attached to them. When we become too attached to our beliefs, they may crystallize to form something that is rigid and inflexible. When we become too attached, there is a danger that they become our “absolute truth.”  This “absolute truth” then begins to prepare its defense to justify itself. There is a danger of becoming like the Scribe or the Pharisee we read about in the Gospels, a person who allows ego beliefs to become God; and then look, with judgement, at anyone who does not share that same belief. Are we not seeing this play out in the world today?

Our beliefs need to be examined often and treated more lightly. Those that no longer serve a useful purpose, that no longer lead to a further evolution of consciousness, must be let go, and replaced with something else. Where possible, kundalini would be glad to do this for us.

In meditation, we practice observing our thoughts, seeing them come, seeing them change, seeing them go. They are a phenomenon of the mind, empty of any permanence. We discover that we are not our thoughts. Our inner witness or observer gives testimony to this.

In the same manner, we must practice observing our beliefs. They come, they change, they go. They also are a phenomenon of the mind, empty of permanence. In this manner, our inner witness can become an instrument of compassion, not of judgement, with those who do not share our particular beliefs.      

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About Kundalini

Can one person know everything there is to know about Kundalini? And if so, is there such a person? For instance, the other day I ran across some online wondering about the use of Kundalini in provoking and treating abdominal pain. Of course, all aspects of Kundalini interest me, but here was one aspect I had never encountered and had to admit I knew nothing about.

Pasted images on gray wall
Gray #1
I realized there are other kundalini-related topics that I know nothing about because they are not part of my experience, all of which points out the danger of offering advice about specific kundalini topics outside the ken of the "advisor."

I know a lot about kundalini. Most is specific to my own personal experience, which, although it shares many similarities with the experiences of others, is unique to me. I also know about a sundry and varied list of effects that my awakening has set in motion over the last 40 years. Many effects have to do with the current state of my body and the physical changes in my body that kundalini has induced since my awakening. Because of the variance in the state and condition of individual bodies, these effects are rarely shared. I have never met someone who said that kundalini affected their bodies the same way it affected mine.

Tati Store Window
Gray #2
I know a lot about Golden Flower Meditation (GFM), the method I used to activate kundalini, a method I've taught for 20 years. Yet, each time I teach this method, I am confronted by new challenges, participants' questions that were never raised before, questions I'd never encountered or thought about. And I had to find new ways of describing a certain technique, either because someone raised the question or a better way of explaining the technique suddenly became clear to me during the explaining.

Above the clouds Rt. 299
Gray #3
So, to sum it up, I know about my experience, the effects I've experienced, and teaching GFM. Even among these topics, there are various degrees of knowledge — things I absolutely know by way of experience, things that are almost impossible to communicate to others, things that I've learned empirically or inductively. Things I learned deductively. Things I can extrapolate on, usually items picked up in conversations with other kundalini novices, practitioners, and/or adepts. Hypotheses derived from the various changes kundalini has effected on my body. Some are hypotheses related to visions or intuitive data that kundalini has brought to the attention of my rational mind.

Yes, kundalini is always working in the background, moving thoughts, emotional states, and physical conditions around, toying with consciousness, allowing me to realize things that, in my pre-kundalini days, I never could have imagined, much less considered real and actual possibilities. Things already here and things to come. Creative things. Positive, inspired and inspiring things. Evolution hard at work, striving to avoid an imminent world collapse, as we veer — no, rush headlong — toward collective self-destruction.

PG&E Meter Board
Gray #4
So, why is kundalini important? Why should one limit comment on aspects of kundalini outside the range of the factors mentioned above? Because Kundalini is a biological expression of what Gopi Krishna termed the "evolutionary impulse." It is a subject so large that it cannot be "known" by just one person. It is also a means of changing the negative aspects of human nature and of jump-starting evolution. Its purpose is not to be trifled with...

Just as one engineer knows electronics, another knows construction, still another knows computers; kundalini has its compartments, its specializations, its properties. Whether this becomes a track worthy of further research is too early to tell. One thing is certain: each day I realize how little I know, and in so realizing I learn something new, not only about kundalini, but about myself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Something Inside So Strong

Those who know music will recognize the title of this blog post as a lyric from the song of the same name by Labi Siffri. I'd like these words on my tombstone because they capture my whole life.

A couple of days ago, I received an email from a woman thanking me for writing Female Kundalini. She spoke about how my writing about the messiness of life had struck a cord with her. In turn, when I read her email, it struck a cord with me.

The spiritual path is messy; it messed with the life I would have had, had I never come into contact with this "other" world. It was this "something inside so strong" that chose my path; I was only along for the ride. Now I can look back, acknowledge, and co-operate with this "something," but for many years I was being chauffeured by the something, and the result of it was a messy life.

What do I mean by that? For many years, the more spiritual study and practice I got into, the more confusing and bewildering life became. I was dedicated to "something" I didn't understand, something nobody else seemed to understand, least of all, the people I encountered. As you can imagine, this combination made for a lonely life. Although if you knew me then, I don't think you would have noticed I was lonely. It is only with age that wisdom and understanding come. I now see and understand so much more than I did then. is telling is that I have nieces, grand-nieces, and a nephew. Some of them are grown up now. I have never given any of them a spiritual book of any kind for their birthdays or Christmas, which, for someone as dedicated to the spiritual, is an exercise in self-control. Why haven't I tried to, if not indoctrinate them, at least, familiarize them with spirituality? Because the spiritual life is an ordeal. From the moment there's a glimpse of that "something," it's like an unconscious, yet overwhelming force that cannot be denied. It's a heart response. But a heart response is not enough; there has to be the ordeal of purification.

This means really taking on the ego "I," which isn't easy and is why I assert that so few do the requisite investigation that makes the difference in Awakening. The real purification is in confronting this separate and separative self which presumes itself to be different from SELF or from the field of Being. In order for any Awakening to be abiding and permanent, this presumption has to be investigated and exposed for what it is. Glimpses of the illusion of ego "I" from time to time are not enough.

We face an added urgency to recognize and deal with the ego "I" because the madness of the separate ego "I" threatens our world in ways and to a degree never before encountered. It is the responsibility of all of us who have awakened (or have a tacit understanding of) to the illusion of the ego "I" to be bold and create a movement of positive disillusionment with the ego "I."  This positive disillusionment with the ego "I" has to come about all at once in order to effect a new world order, one that is based on connection and union (which is our natural state) as opposed to the havoc and chaos being wreaked by the separate ego "I." Because of the level of entrenchment of this ego 'I' in the design of human being, this is going to take effort. But what's the alternative to the insane terrorism that magnifies the malevolence of the separate and separative ego "I."

I attributed the natural understanding I have always had to being right-brain dominant. In Female Kundalini, I write about my efforts to get validation for this view. Looking back at this was my way of keeping myself grounded. Seeing it as a right-brain phenomena and defining all realizers and saints as somehow being right-brain dominant was a way of continuing to function without being afraid. Looking back you could say that this way of thinking was disrespectful, but considering any other possibility while experiencing spiritual events and synchronicities would have been too frightening for my state of consciousness at the time. For many years, I attributed the things that happened to my being right-brain dominant and, in doing so, there was neither fear nor ego. How could there be ego if it was a "brain thing?" And so bizarrely, this rationale provided a refuge for me.

Perhaps, had I had a spiritual teacher or guru, I wouldn't have experienced the spiritual path as the ordeal it was for me. My spiritual authorities were the teachers I was involved with during my study of Buddhism. So, while there were some who provided answers, I met nobody able to perceive my level of heart consciousness...certainly nobody who was able to nurture it.

None of my teachers treated me in any way different to anyone else who was sitting at their feet listening to their words. On more than one occasion, I remember longing for some kind of recognition, which never came. Was this due to some lack of innate ability on the part of these teachers as to their states of consciousness? I don't know. Certainly, this type of perception — the ability to see into another's heart — is rare. Now, many years later, I am more aware, grateful my journey has progressed the way that it has, and happy that it's not yet over.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Going Back To Basics

In the search for the pathless path towards greater awakening, sometimes we find that much is gained by going back to the basics of meditation. The search, particularly if it is done through the Jnana path (the path of wisdom and self-inquiry) can often lead to frustration as we periodically discover that we have again missed the mark, or question whether we have moved at all in our spiritual quest. And what is this quest all about anyway?

purity of the lotus flower represents the pratice of meditation

The other day, I went through a simple exercise which brought me to an awareness that everything is all right just the way it is: I am all right just where I am. And the striving, and the frustration that results from ego involvement in the awakening process, is perhaps the very thing that must fall by the wayside. What I found most surprising about this simple exercise is that it contains nothing that I did not know before. I learned nothing new, yet it was renewing. I would like to take you through this simple exercise. 

First, sit comfortably in a relaxed but alert position, back straight. Prop yourself up with pillows if necessary. Allow the ordinary preoccupations of the day to settle down and subside. Look around you. Is the place familiar to you? If not, no matter. Begin to cultivate a sense of yourself as being present in that place. You are here in this one space. The world, and everything else in it, the sensible world, is outside you, around you.

As you close your eyes, direct your attention to your body. What sensations are you aware of: breath, heartbeat, feelings in your back and backside as it presses against the chair or floor? Visualize your breath flowing into your nostrils down the center cavity of your body, down to the bottom and up again. Tie your consciousness to your breath and pay attention to the circular flow of the breath (down, around, up).  If you pay further attention, you'll catch a glimpse of something deeper, two things:
  • The experience (the muscle sensation of movements)
  • And the “I” that is experiencing it.

Now along with the muscle sensation of movement (the experience) also note the river of thoughts, images, emotions that are probably coursing through the front of your mind.  You may try to stop this mental chatter, but you will probably fail. All these thoughts, images, memories, ideas, plans, whatever, will continue whether you choose to let it or not. This is how the mind functions. But now again, observe two things: First, this functioning of the mind (images, memories, ideas, thoughts, plans) as the experience, and subtly in the background, the “I” that is experiencing them. As you continue, the most intimate feelings and desires will occasionally be there like images on a screen, accompanied by the “I” experiencing, watching, as they pass by.

If you can remain in this quiet, relaxed but alert state, you may gain a deeper awareness of a sense of something very small growing in you — the experiencer.  Even though this “something small” has no volition or power of its own, it quietly observes and experiences all that passes by. If you look for this “something small” observer, you will find that it continually recedes further and further away.  There is no limit to this “I” that experiences. St. Francis of Assisi is noted as saying in this regard: “What you are looking for is what is looking.”

the rising sun, purity of the lotus flower represents the pratice of meditation

There’s a sacredness, a blissfulness, associated with this phenomena of looking for that which is looking, intuitively touching the experiencer. Once this blissfulness, sacredness is tapped into, one gains a sense of “presence” which can be known by many names. Some call it “Kingdom of God,” the light, wisdom, still or zero point. All these terms reveal different aspects of this Primordial Self, the experiencer.

An experienced meditator may be able to enter into this exercise with little difficulty. The biggest problem, however, one even an experienced meditator may continue to have, is maintaining this vigilance to his/her inner sacredness outside of meditation, which is most of the time. Pains in the body, past regrets, worries about the future, aimless daydreaming, endless striving, everyday pre-occupations and planning constantly interfere, acting as a whirlwind to keep us absorbed in the illusions of life that hide our True Selves like rain clouds hide the sun. The simple exercise of meditation is the only avenue to overcoming these obstacles.