Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Color Red

Color symbolism is important in Tantra. Color exists on a spectrum that is both "horizontal" (the infra-red spectrum) and "vertical" ( in which color modulates from the visual, via imagination and hallucination, to color that symbolizes transcendent realities.

Red signifies fire. The pingala, or sun, nadi is fiery red because, when Kundalini ascends the pingala nadi. She is the fire that underpins materiality and physical manifestation. This is why, in the pingala nadi, Kundalini can become a consuming force, an unbearable heat. There is a significant moment in Gopi Krishna's Kundalini awakening (described in Kundalini, The Evolutionary Energy In Man) when, exhausted and feverish, almost at the point of death from Kundalini's rising up the red pingala nadi, he makes a last-ditch inner effort and rechannels Kundalini into the ida, or moon, nadi (its color is white) where manifestation is female, interior, sustaining and cooling — and by so doing Gopi Krishna saves his own life.

Front Cover of Paul Lyons' novel Natalie
In alchemy, the initial awakening, after the "separation of the mercury" (the ability to sustain consciousness in the subtle body, or female state) is called the albedo, or white work. After this stage comes the rubedo, or red work, the more challenging task of sustaining consciousness in the fiery forces that underpin physical matter and one's own physical body. The red work is done in the pingala nadi, the white work in the ida.

Red is also associated with the belly chakra and its fire, where prana (the force directed at transcendence) and apana (the force directed at physicality) are mixed to create the "Blessed Inner Heat" that Milarepa speaks, in fact, sings, of. Interestingly, the inner woman, or shakti, whom Milarepa evokes and celebrates he calls the Red Dakini, the shakti of material manifestation.

Tantra in the movies
Last Tango In Paris (1972)
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider

There is a fascinating correspondence between Milarepa's red dakini and a passage from Dante's Vita Nuova. There is evidence that Dante, the great medieval Italian poet, was a member of the Fideli Amore, or "Love's Followers," an esoteric group that practised an alchemical/sexual awakening comparable to Milarepa's. Dante describes how Love appeared to him in a vision as his "Lord" (the transcendent Siva or Real Self) "the memory of whose being maketh me shudder:"
"In his arms methought I saw one sleeping, naked, save that she seemed to me to be wrapped lightly in a crimson drapery; whom, gazing at intently, I knew to be the lady of the salutation (Beatrice), who the day before had deigned to salute (save) me. And in one of his hands methought Love held a thing that was all aflame; and methought he said to me these words: Vide Cor Tuum (Behold Thy Heart)."
 This is a wonderfully powerful symbol, the after image of a true vision: Love holds in his arms a naked woman (shakti stripped of all conditioning) who is wrapped in a crimson drapery. What he has awoken (or better, what has greeted him) is the inner woman or shakti who is found the red bloodstream of the physical body. This "woman" is the Kundalini, union with whom, goes beyond physical sexual intercourse. She is woken in the heart that is "all aflame." The shakti of the breath, on the other hand, is wrapped in a white "drapery."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Like-Minded People

"Groups don’t think, act, or have motivations, only individuals
do. Each individual is different from every other. How can we fit
in one world? There isn’t much in common when you extend the
relationship beyond the one of mutual self-interest, so someone
will have to sacrifice. Any relationship should last only as long as
it is beneficial for each party. Intimacy needs to be cultivated and
~ How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World — Harry Browne
Like-minded people are the basis of groups, but finding and maintaining like-mindedness over a period of time is an illusion, bolstered by the urge to fulfill certain needs. Don't think so? Look at the divorce rates. What starts out as a testament to like-mindedness ends up in a lawyer's office because like-minded people are needy people, and needs diverge over time. How do I know this? I was conditioned to be needy; we all are. Our cultural markers direct us to identify with the needs of others, and, by extension, subsume their needs as our own — as if what others have is somehow more desirable than what we have.

To see this mechanism in action, look at popular culture. For example, the highly-regarded HBO television series, "The Newsroom."
"In 'The Newsroom,' Emmy-winning executive producer, Aaron Sorkin, uses the operation of a fictional cable news network as the heart of the story, with Jeff Daniels portraying the network's lead anchor and leading an ensemble cast. Episodes are written around actual recent news events, reported by a staff that takes its collective responsibilities seriously, but corporate and commercial obstacles — plus entangled personal relationships — fly in the face of their public mission."
While the show venerates the news gathering process, it revels in the vicarious interplay of the characters' compatible and incompatible needs, leaving the viewer withfield guide to neediness. In fact, "the entangled personal relationships" segments occupy more screen time than the news gathering segments do, and are so entangled it's amazing that these hard-charging producers and reporters get any work at all done.

It's not that those segments are less interesting or less well constructed. It's that any personal neediness a viewer might have is amplified by a parade of familiar tropes in each of the character's relationships. At one point, there's a play within a play in which one of the neediest characters encounters a "Sex And The City" tour bus that's hosting a guided tour of locations featured in that show. Need on top of need on top of need.

Cast clapping after another scoop in HBO's "The Newsroom"
HBO's "The Newsroom"
In this sequence, that character, Maggie, who lives with co-worker Don, who she doesn't love, is given notice after a YouTube video in which she confesses her love for co-worker Jim, who she does love, goes live and is viewed by Don who tells her their relationship is over. Maggie locates the woman who posted the video and beseeches her to remove it. At the same time, Lisa, Maggie's roommate, dates Jim, much to his chagrin because he loves Maggie.

Maggie discovers that Lisa has also seen the video and now wants to end their friendship. As the downtrodden Maggie ponders her next move, a double-decker tour bus, with Sex and the City plastered all over it, appears on the roadway alongside her. Frustrated by Jim's reluctance to commit to a relationship with her and anguished at his persistence in remaining quasi-faithful to Lisa, Maggie rails against the injustice of her plight to the tour bus passengers on the open-air, double-decker bus, only to have Jim emerge from among the amazed passengers, aghast at the melodramatic nature of her indelicacies. Jim, it turns out, is on the bus because a colleague had suggested he get in touch with his feminine side.

So...for starters, Maggie needs: Jim's love, Lisa's friendship, and Don's respect. She also wants to move up the ladder professionally, is frustrated that she's been unable to pull off her Don-to-Jim switcheroo in classic Sex and the City fashion.

How does this affect the viewer? Without being aware of it, the viewer is sucked into a cesspool of neediness. Why can't I have job like that? Be chasing a guy while another guy is chasing me? Vent my frustrations on the street from time to time? I deserve better; I NEED better!

Groups are unproductive because everyone goes full-speed ahead; everyone wants to impress, to prioritize their particular laundry list of needs.

In life, needs compete. And the more ardent the competition, the less likely the individual is to slow down and take stock. Who has time to be mindful of his or her neediness when 15,000 new Hillary emails are made public? Who has the time or the inclination to be mindful?

Mindfulness is being aware that you are You in the present moment, in spite of what else may be happening around you. It's not something that comes naturally; you have to learn and practice it. You have to acquire the ability to slow down, much as you do when you meditate. 

Mindfulness is an extension of meditation, a practice you can call upon to recreate the meditative state at the first sign of provocation, turmoil, or stress...if only you can remember to do it. That's the hard part: remembering yourself! Nevertheless, once you're adept at remembering yourself in the present moment, you can extend your practice of mindfulness to include being mindful of superfluous needs that may be controlling your thoughts and actions. You can bring them to the fore, turn them around, examine them in all their aspects, and then dismiss them forever.

Being mindful is being present in the moment, and still getting your work done!

Woody Allen is a past master at using his characters to portray neediness, right up there with Anton Chekhov. In Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) his leading character's needs lead him into the murkier regions of the soul including murder-for-hire and the need to rationalize it.

In The Seagull, Chekhov's Boris taunts the beautiful young aspiring writer/actress, Nina, in this passage, using her as a metaphor for both the seagull and the girl:
Boris: This is a beautiful place to live. [He catches sight of the dead sea-gull] What is that?
Nina: A gull. Constantine shot it.
Boris: What a lovely bird! Really, I can't bear to go away. Can't you persuade Irina to stay? [He writes something in his note-book.]
Nina: What are you writing?
Boris: Nothing much, only an idea that occurred to me. [He puts the book back in his pocket] An idea for a short story. A young girl grows up on the shores of a lake, as you have. She loves the lake as the gulls do, and is as happy and free as they. But a man sees her who chances to come that way, and he destroys her out of idleness, as this gull here has been destroyed.
And so, over the course of the play, he does exactly that — destroys her with Iago-like "motiveless malignancy."

Both Allen and Chekhov introduce us to the fact that because art comes to the artist intact — as a result of their talent — artists tend to become heedless of the strivings of others. Witness Boris's wanton destruction of Nina and Irina's belittling of her son's writing. Thanks to an innate talent, the artist's needs of self-expression are taken care of, so they must manufacture new needs, exemplified in The Seagull by the artistic characters unconscious destruction of the weaker characters.

What does this have to do with kundalini? Kundalini not only leads to mindfulness, it overhauls human nature, allowing you to become less attached to real or perceived needs. Moreover, it puts "like-mindedness" in perspective, that the urge-to-merge is largely an illusion, that you don't have to run alongside a tour bus blurting out your despair. That being yourself with yourself in the moment is satisfaction enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Krishnamurti used to begin his talks by describing the terrible state the world was in: war, famine, refugee crises, negative emotion, and blind politicians profiting from the suffering. Krishnamurti’s dead, and nothing much has changed. There’s turmoil in Europe with Brexit, the Euro crisis, and there’s conflict in America with the forthcoming election. The aftershocks of these crises affect people all over the world.

Was Krishnamurti stupid in saying that an inner transformation has anything to do with, let alone could change, world conditions? Is Samadhi simply escapism?

Total Freedom by Krishnamurti
Awakened Kundalini perfects the brain and balances the body. Kundalini also clarifies personal relationships and intensifies energy in the immediate surrounding reality of work and social life. But how far this surrounding reality reaches is a moot point. Whether Kundalini has anything to do with facing up to the horrors of the modern world is an open question. The Blissful Inner Heat is blissful when it’s inner, but can become a delirium when applied it to the state of the larger world. I have a deep admiration for people who are activists and manage to maintain their integrity, but is it really possible to awaken Kundalini and run things, make larger decisions?

There is an alchemical motto: "The All, The One." The fact that there is an energy continuum is becoming more and more obvious. Therefore an individual’s inner action can affect everything. But this realisation, while true, can easily lapse into a Tolkienesque fantasy world of good wizards vs. bad wizards, of the goodies behind the scenes warring with the baddies out front. In order not to fall into this fantasy trap, the individual, the little one must become the "One, The All." In other words, blustering politicians and corrupt businessmen as well as the suffering victims of war and famine are all me. They’re inside me. It’s no wonder Krishnamurti died saying that he’d failed. The Awakening he spoke of has perhaps only ever been achieved by Sakhyamuni, the Buddha...if at all.

If transcendental and non-human forces lie behind, and form, the manifest world, then the politicians and warmongers are as much "the sons and daughters of Eternity," to use Blake’s phrase, as are those who are seeking Truth. We are in the Kali Yuga big time.

So what, then, is Kundalini? She is physical, powerful, white hot. Is She also "consciousness," in some higher form or other? Consciousness is certainly the starting point, a conscious act of sitting down to meditate and become free. In the Buddha’s original teaching, consciousness, too, is one of the five strands of the "five fold stem of illusion." Another of these illusions is "personality" (even the loudest politician’s!). It’s a daunting truth, but perhaps, behind even consciousness and personality (i.e., in an apparent eternal darkness) there is "panna," — "prajna" in Sanskrit — wisdom. Wisdom is not confined by consciousness, which is why, when Kundalini awakens, she’s as physical as the hand in front of my face. And perhaps, on a quantum level, where sub-atomic particles share knowledge, it’s this "panna," "prajna" or non-conscious wisdom that is the ultimate constituent of Kundalini.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beyond the Relaxation Response (Part 2)

The particular genius of Dr. Benson (see Part One of this post for background) lies as much in his packaging and marketing approach as it does in the actual process. No matter the name of the method, the first two steps discussed in Part One, and the physiological changes wrought by mastering them, are common to most Western meditation methods imported from the East and are found in each and every serious meditation method. 

However, many teachers, including Dr. Benson, appear to gloss over or avoid one of the most challenging issues of all meditation methods, two-step or other, and that is the issue Dr. Benson identifies in his second step as "Passively disregarding interfering thoughts."

Sitting next to one another we are connected, yet separated
Down time Is Self-Remembering Time
As opposed to the aforementioned "physical transformation processes" this process is defined by many, including Dr. Benson, as a passive process. He says so in the wording of his second step: "Passively disregarding interfering thoughts." It boils down to finding a means of quieting mental activity during meditation and, contrary to Dr. Benson, I believe the practitioner must take an active approach.

This uncontrolled mental activity has many names; one of the most colorful is Taoist expression: "the ten-thousand things." There are others like, the inner dialogue, monkey mind — all our crazy secret thoughts and schemes, our dialogs with ourselves stifles our daily lives and interferes not only with meditation, but with all our endeavors to realize our full potential.

But it is very difficult to control the mind directly; almost impossible to tell the mind to just "shut up" or try what Dr. Benson calls "passive disregarding." Once again, we need a kind of subterfuge or "handle" to stop the mind from running away. Each teacher has his own approach. Yet frequently, the discussion over the best approach devolves into acrimony. I recommend two approaches to "handling" the 10,000 things. It’s an attempt to "sidestep" the mind completely by giving it something banal to do.

And that is letting the little voice in your head — what psychologists call “inner speech” — count your breaths to yourself as you breathe. So, in a series of four beats, you would count: On inhale, one-two-three-four; On hold, one-two-three-four; On exhale, one-two-three-four; On hold, one-two-three-fourStart over. Inhale-four, hold-four, exhale-four, hold-four. Start over. This activity occupies the mind just enough to forestall the 10,000 things. Some practitioners have even found that the counting drops away of its own accord after a while, and correct diaphragmatic breathing becomes second nature.

A second approach to counting entails walking, that is, timing the breath cycle over a given number of strides, always breathing through the nose, of course. So you would time one breath cycle over a series of steps, for example, inhale one breath over four steps, hold that breath over four steps, exhale that breath over four steps, hold over four steps. Start over. In this way, the activity of walking and counting occupies the mind even more than inner speech alone does; it compounds its efficacy, especially if the practitioner lets himself become mindful of the oneness of nature and his being, the sights and sounds of nature come alive in him, thereby subduing the diversions of material life.

Now for the third transformational step and the physical changes it produces. Adding this next step takes the meditation process "Beyond the Relaxation Response." And it involves implementing “the backward-flowing method.”

My familiarity with the “the backward-flowing method” stems from extensive first-hand experience with Taoist meditation, all detailed in my book Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time. Written in narrative form, the book describes how I was given a copy of The Secret of the Golden Flower by a stranger in Paris during the early 1970s.

I was a bad actor at the time, so I put this book away for over a year. Then one day, as my life began to spin further out of control, I picked up the book and reading it. Soon after, I began meditating. At first, I didn't understand the text. Slowly, however, I began to "figure out" what to do.

I became so involved in the meditation that I left Paris to live in a small village in the south of France. The experience was one day, one page at a time; I didn't know what to expect, had no idea there would be a dramatic outcome. I had never heard the word, Kundalini. This was 1972. And Gopi Krishna's book wasn't available yet, not in my tiny French village, that is.

Main Street St. Jean, l'Herault, france
St. Jean, The House Where I practiced GFM in 1972
Page by page I worked my way through The Secret of the Golden Flower until one day, while meditating, I noticed something different in my breathing. In Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time, I describe the moment thusly:

“Observing my breath as I sit one morning, I am aware that it has the property of direction. At each inhalation the hitherto imperceptible wind in my belly appears to eddy slightly at the bottom of my abdomen as it descends before taking an upward circular course. Or so it appears to me. Down the back, then up the front, in a circular motion.

"Something clicks. I remember the words ‘backward-flowing method’ in The Secret of the Golden Flower. Words I'd passed over a hundred times, never having a clue as to what they meant, never imagining they might be important. I break off to look for the passage. In two quick flips, I‘ve located the text, ‘At this time one works at the energy with the purpose of making it flow backward and rise, flow down to fall like the upward spinning of the sun-wheel…in this way one succeeds in bringing the true energy to its original place. This is the backward-flowing method.’”

Yes, diaphragmatic breathing is the key to stabilizing heart rate, but the key to causing the energy to flow upward to the brain is the ‘backward-flowing method.’ Again it works like pump-priming, that is, reversing the direction of the breath begins the process of drawing distilled seminal fluid (cervical fluid in the case of a woman) up the spinal column. This passage from my book describes what happened after I reversed my breath:

“I visualize a plumb-line and close my eyes half-way. I command the breath to change direction and it obeys. I am elated at receiving confirmation from the book. What I don’t yet realize is that this is the last time I will direct the meditation process. From now on I am on automatic pilot. I remember the words of Ram Dass: At first, you do it; later, it does you. Action to attain non-action.

”For a week I observe my breath circulate in the opposite direction without noticing any effect. I go back to my uninspired routine: walking, cooking, meditating. Then, two weeks later, about the length of time it takes the backward-flowing process to become permanent, there’s something new. On the day in question, I feel a sensation at the base of my spine like the cracking of a small egg and the spilling out of its contents. For the next month, I observe the fluid-like contents of the egg trickle out of its reservoir and slowly begin to climb my spine. What is this fluid? I can’t describe it exactly. It seems to emanate from the base of the spine and press upward. Each time I sit to meditate it has risen a half an inch higher.”

I believe — and I discuss it in detail in my book — that The Secret of the Golden Flower contains the safest, most reliable method of taking one's meditation practice beyond the Relaxation Response, so much so that I have modernized it into a method for contemporary practitioners. I call it Golden Flower Meditation or GFM. Of course, there are many methods; it's impossible to know them all; some, it seems, are very close to GFM.

Now the ‘backward-flowing method’ may be the key to arousing kundalini. But it’s a big step to consider because there’s no turning back. I got confirmation of this fact first hand, for shortly after I willed my breath to change directions, the Kundalini activation process began. Yes, there were glitches, but overall using The Secret of the Golden Flower to activate my Kundalini has been a restorative process — physically, mentally, psychically, spiritually. And I believe it can be so for others.

When I met with him in Kashmir during the summer of 1977, Gopi Krishna termed my experience, “One of the most far-reaching, permanent Kundalini awakenings I’ve encountered. Rare, very rare, indeed.”
The Backward-Flowing Method, The Secret of the Golden Flower (Routledge & Kegan Paul)
I ascribe the positive results I achieved in activating the restorative powers of Kundalini to the secret “backward-flowing” technique in The Secret of the Golden Flower.

Adding this one extra step to the two-step Relaxation Response process wakes up the hidden powers of Kundalini and primes the body for restoration, renewal, and an explosion induced by a flood of psychic fuel into the nervous system. So I prescribe a three-step transformational process:

  1. The development of systematic diaphragmatic breathing.
  2. The use of diaphragmatic breathing to control heart rate.
  3. The moment you detect the property of movement, change the direction of your breath — the backward-flowing method.

The transformations that results from employing the “backward-flowing method,” the secret techniques in ancient Taoist texts that I ultimately deciphered, were used by the ancients for reliable Kundalini arousal. In a future post, we’ll examine GFM from a scientific perspective and learn how it produces standardized results.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Beyond the Relaxation Response (Part 1)

Until recently, meditation was considered a “spiritual” activity, a perception that caused many people to turn away from or avoid it altogether. In the 1970s, however, research led to the development of the Relaxation Response, Dr. Herbert Benson’s technique for promoting stress reduction and worker productivity. By borrowing techniques from Transcendental Meditation and other Eastern meditation methods and re-purposing them, Dr. Benson discovered a creative way of popularizing meditation.

My own research has uncovered benefits that go way beyond the Relaxation Response, and point to meditation as much more than a spiritual activity: it's physical exercise, albeit, a less-is-more form of aerobics, which, by the way, if practiced scrupulously, leads to metaphysical encounters and higher consciousness.

By adding one simple step to the Relaxation Response, or any other serious meditation method, I have designed a system with tangible therapeutic and restorative health benefits. I call it, Golden Flower Meditation or (GFM), not for religious or spiritual affiliation reasons, but out of deference to the ancient Chinese who developed and practiced the method.

The key to GFM is “the backward-flowing method.” Adding this one step to a meditation practice like the Relaxation Response opens the door to a safe, permanent Kundalini awakening, after which, self-healing, higher consciousness, stable life style, and emotional control are probable by-products.

After researching energy cultivation techniques for many years — and getting nowhere — I obtained a copy of The Secret of the Golden Flower, an ancient Taoist text from a stranger. Eventually, I spent two years mastering the intricacies of the method, especially the arcane “backward-flowing method.” Ultimately, success unleashed a powerful transformational force that rooted out all traces of illness and malformation in my body.

Through GFM my nervous system was stimulated such that the natural chemical substances of the body were recombined and used for healing. Is this remarkable meditation technique capable of bestowing similar therapeutic benefits on all those who master it? I believe it is. As long as the method is implemented correctly, many disabilities related to the nervous system are susceptible to treatment by this method. No, degenerative illness like heart disease and stroke cannot be cured by GFM because, just as the term degenerative suggests harm done to the body by poor diet and bad habits cannot be reversed.
If the Relaxation Response establishes a healthy climate for combating stress, consider the extended benefits of GFM. GFM is not only about becoming a healthier person; it's also a useful ingredient in the pursuit of self-actualization. Once the practitioner has mastered GFM, his ability to avoid addiction, to make well-reasoned decisions, to manage health, and to live naturally will improve dramatically. Who is suited for GFM? I believe it particularly interests doctors, trainers, researchers, scientists, nurses, students, laymen in all walks of life — in hospitals, businesses, universities, schools, progressive learning centers, and clinics.

Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a time is the story of my discovery of the “backward-flowing method.” As for "the secrets," this book is not a laundry-list of techniques; it's an account of one individual's trial-and-error discovery and practice of GFM. Why take this approach? In teaching the GFM method, I've discovered that:
  • People are impatient; they want get to the payoff without putting in the work. The method is a series of dependencies. You must master each step in turn; you cannot skip steps,
  • In the past, even though I offered a meticulously prepared list of steps and how to apply them, many people either got lost, misunderstood, or misapplied the steps in practice,
  • The book allows would-be practitioners to get a sense of what's involved, not only in the practice of the method, but also in what to expect afterwards. I've been living with kundalini for 40 years; that prospect is not something to be taken lightly. 
Although some of Dr. Benson’s acolyte’s have divided the method into many sub-steps, Benson describes the critical steps as being:
  1. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word, "ONE", silently to yourself. For example, breathe IN ... OUT, "ONE",- IN ... OUT, "ONE", etc. Breathe easily and naturally.
  2. Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them and return to repeating "ONE." With practice, the response should come with little effort.
He sums up the two steps as follows:
  1. Focusing the mind on a word, phrase, or sound.
  2. Passively disregarding interfering thoughts.
According to various write-ups, “Herbert Benson, M.D. coined the phrase (Relaxation Response) after studying people who practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM). Benson took the principles of TM and removed them from their Eastern religious context in order to make them more accessible for westerners.

“The Relaxation Response represents a form of meditation which has been practiced for many years. The technique can be found in every major religious tradition. It is a simple technique, but it is not easy to practice or to incorporate into your life. You will find your mind wandering, and you will probably find it difficult to set aside the time to practice. It feels like setting aside 20 minutes a day to sit and do nothing."

“If you incorporate this or any relaxation technique into your life, you may notice at least the following four benefits:"
  • "You will gain increased awareness of whether you are tense or relaxed. You will be more "in touch with your body."
  • "You will be better able to relax when you become stressed-out.
  • "You may even reduce the resting level of your autonomic nervous system - walking around more relaxed all the time.
  • "Your concentration may improve. By repeatedly bringing yourself back to the meditation you are strengthening the part of your mind that decides what to think about.”
That’s a third party take on the Relaxation Response. The big news here is his finding that meditation impacts health in a positive manner. This is no surprise to those already familiar with meditation, but the scope of Benson’s project, its scientific methodology demonstrates the enormous potential of meditation.

What about Benson himself? What does he think? According to him, “The Relaxation Response seemed to cure or help any medical condition or illness to the extent that condition or illness was caused or exacerbated by stress. Because this physiological state was accessible to everyone, I became convinced that the Relaxation Response was the opposite of, and perhaps the antidote for, the stress-induced, fight-or-flight response.

“I found that anyone who employed the two steps could elicit the physical changes of the Relaxation Response.”

More important than his health claims is Benson’s insistence that meditation induces physiological changes, or transformation.

First of all, whether a basic meditation method like the Relaxation Response contains two steps or two hundred, its immediate purpose is to produce the physiological change and transformation observed by Dr. Benson. So instead of judging a method by the number of steps, we need first to understand the physiological changes a basic two-step method hopes to induce and how efficient that method is in inducing them.

The physical changes produced by a basic two-step meditation method are:
  1.  The development of systematic diaphragmatic deep breathing.
  2.  The use of diaphragmatic breathing to control heart rate.
In a little while I will propose a third, and even more powerful transformational step, but first I want to discuss the two steps mentioned above, both of which require physical intervention on the part of the practitioner.

In Step One you encounter the notion of diaphragmatic deep breathing or the training of the diaphragm to regulate and improve your breathing. Unfortunately, since you cannot control or even isolate the muscles of the diaphragm directly, you must find a "handle" that allows you to do so indirectly. That handle is the belly or abdominal muscles.

 If you push the belly out to pull in air on inhalation and pull the belly in to expel air, you are embarking on a regimen of abdominal and diaphragmatic calisthenics. Starting this activity for the first time — whether sitting, walking, or lying down — you may feel a burning sensation. That is the muscles of the abdomen and diaphragm telling you that you're breathing correctly. Using the belly muscles is like pump priming, i.e., using the handle of a pump (the belly) to activate the pump mechanism (the diaphragm). More on the method and the importance of "centering yourself."

Step Two uses the acquired diaphragmatic deep breathing skill as a means of slowing down the heart rate, which has the effect of relaxing the body, hence the achieved goal of the Relaxation Response. Again, since you cannot influence or control the heart rate directly, you must use a subterfuge or "handle" to accomplish it — in this instance, you use your mastery of Step One (diaphragmatic deep breathing capability) to make the breathing more profound and more regular. What do I mean by more regular? Regular means both rhythmic and deep.

Because you’ve acquired the diaphragmatic deep breathing skill, you can now take in more air during each breath cycle. How does this work? Shallow breathing merely fills the lungs. Deep breathing fills the lungs, the diaphragm, the belly, even pockets behind the kidneys. With diaphragmatic deep breathing you not only take in more air, you slow down the inhalation/exhalation cycle to the point where breathing is entirely silent. The Secret of the Golden Flower says, “Only the heart must be conscious of the flowing in and out of the breath; it must not be heard with the ears.” Like the diaphragm, the heart is a muscle you cannot isolate or control directly. Once again you use a “handle” to control the heart (the source of emotion). As The Secret of the Golden Flower says, “The heart cannot be influenced directly. Therefore, the breath-energy is used as a handle."

Stay tuned for Step Three: The Backward-Flowing Method (to be continued).

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Blind Men And The Elephant

Throughout the ages there have been adepts who have realized the true nature of reality. Over the 30 years or so of my spiritual seeking and searching, I have read books by and about many of these individuals and there was never any doubt that each one experienced a reality that I could only intuit from the words they wrote.

Ramana Maharshi head shot
Ramana Maharshi
And yet the nature of that experience was different for every realizer. This left me asking the question how can so many realizers have such different experiences and in some cases different ways of explaining the one reality or enlightenment? This was certainly something to ponder.

As human beings we experience at three different levels. Experiences in the Gross realm take place largely in the body. The next level of experience occurs in the Subtle realm, characterized by phenomena, yet to be scientifically verified, such as mysticism, NDE, OBE, dreams, astral travel, visions, kundalini.

Finally, there is experience in the Causal realm which is where the ego 'I' originates. It is also the source of attention. Experiences in any or all of these dimensions are not enlightenment. When I first heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant, I had a palpable and immediate insight that the elephant was a metaphor for enlightenment and each realized adept had only perceived one aspect and then proclaimed it to be the whole elephant.
Writing and speaking from my own experiences and insights — realizations gained from these sources, as opposed to being theoretical and/or philosophical hypotheses — have always been important for my own integrity as a spiritual writer. And so I look at the nature of my experiences in these three domains and how sensing one aspect of the elephant fully convinced me it was enlightenment.

The experiences I'm talking about relate to the esoteric path of spirituality as opposed to the exoteric path of religion. It is also not a linear path; the Subtle/Causal can occur alongside the Gross, but the Subtle experiences are not consciously accessible in the beginning.

Experiences in the Gross realm occur largely up to the age 21 although nowadays many twenty-somethings don't actually reach that age until a much later date. Nevertheless, these physical, emotional, mental experiences occur as the ego and egoity develops.

Physical also spiritual beings
While engaged in intensive self-developmental training for five years, I examined areas of my life where I felt a loss of freedom, power, and self-expression due to circumstances and events in my past, whose meaning I then shifted to other causes in order to free myself from the hold these experiences had on me. During my time in this training I was definitely gripping the leg of the elephant and declaring it to be enlightenment or freedom from suffering. At that time, this was Enlightenment for me and I told everyone who would listen that it was!

The Chakras
The Body's Chakras
Prior to this, I'd studied and practiced Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, which allowed me to understand that any path where the attention is turned inward stimulates Subtle realm experiences. On many a retreat, I remember participants sharing what occurred in the class meditations, members reporting how they'd "seen" lights and colors and my feeling baffled and somewhat envious as my meditations were nowhere near as blissful! Now I understand that this phenomena is the nature of the Subtle, which, for some reason, I didn't have access to at that time. Later, I was to experience the Subtle in its strongest form — the arousal of Kundalini with its attendant release of energy.

I now realize I held back from pursuing the Subtle: there was something I felt I couldn't trust myself with. Had I had these lights, visions, and mystical experiences, I might have gotten stuck there! Plus, my heart told there was more to it. My reluctance to engage in this realm is why I haven't had many experiences of this type and why I groan inwardly every time someone mentions "seeing angels." In the past I am ashamed to say that I was dismissive of everything to do with revelations like this. Now I completely accept these kinds of experiences as valid and originating from the Subtle realm.

Open hand vs. Closed fist
The Causal realm is where one adept claims the source of the ego 'I' and root of egoity as well as the root of attention dwells. Because of my lifelong struggle with ego, I decided to investigate his claims and despite the communal damage that devotion to a Guru often arouses, I became a formal devotee of this realized Adept because of the clarity with which He writes about this dimension of experience, and the fact that it can only be felt. He speaks at length about the ego knot that defines this realm and how it is only when the ego knot is released that there is Enlightenment. According to my Guru's analogy, before attention is freed from this causal knot the human being is like a closed fist — separate, but after the ego knot breaks, the closed fist becomes an open hand and the separation is no more.

Profound as this is, it is still only another part of the elephant because the elephant itself has four additional states within its own state: Divine Transformation, Divine Transfiguration, Divine Indifference, and Divine Translation. Another reason I became a formal devotee of this realized Adept is because these stages resonate intuitively. These stages exist not because this Adept was a great thinker, but because every word He's written comes from His experience. For me, this realized Adept has not only grasped the whole elephant but IS the elephant.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Supernatural And Metaphysical Unite!

Sad is watching someone thump his chest because he believes he's won an argument that's unwinnable. That's what the polemic concerning God vs. No God is, an unwinnable argument, a polemic.

In polemics the winner is the one most skilled in argumentation. Evidence, empirical or anecdotal, is not to be found, while shouting and obfuscation are ubiquitous and omnipresent. Invective, rant, tirade, broadside, diatribe, attack, harangue, condemnation, criticism, stricture, admonition, rebuke are its hallmarks. Ted Cruz is a master of polemics. didn’t have to read Cold-Case Christianity (CCC) written by LA cold-case homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace to realize that it was based on customer profiling and psychographic targeting with a liberal dose of the agent's and the author's crafting a clever non-fiction book proposal, i.e., that a veteran homicide detective could apply the principles and techniques used in solving cold cases to prove the veracity of the Bible. Trouble is, the author doesn't start from scratch; he has a foregone conclusion he is determined to fit his so-called researched facts to. I downloaded the sample pages, read them, saw where he was headed, and decided to pass on the rest. Nevertheless, the book is a big seller, which says more about the general lack of analytical skills than it does about the book's content. It tells us that people need constant reinforcements of their beliefs, and they are ready to accept them blindly, in whatever form they are offered — film, article, webpage, book.

Bart Ehrman's book Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible offers a more coherent appraisal of the Bible's content than CCC does, but whether you accept Ehrman's or Wallace's version of the facts is not the real issue. Both are best sellers. And both put forth arguments that are mere stand ins or straw men for the real issue: the God vs. No God argument. One side argues that, if they can verify evidentially the accuracy of the Bible, it then follows that God must exist; the other side argues that if they can disprove the assorted "facts" in the Bible, it proves that God does not exist. This is the straw man fallacy, which Wikipedia summarizes thusly, "The so-called typical 'attacking a straw man' argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition." Whether the information in the Bible is accurate or not does not prove or refute the existence of God.
This straw man approach is a new wrinkle to the old "There is a God" argument, the one which urged you to accept the existence of God on faith. But like that approach, it's beside the point. Whether you argue "Bible facts" or "faith," there's no proof that God does or doesn't exist. I'm not saying He doesn't; I'm saying I don't know. No one knows, and no one can prove otherwise.

The “faith" approach is more of a movement than a proof, a political groundswell with no rational basis. The "Bible facts" argument is moot because — even though it's a diversionary straw man tactic meant to bolster the less reasoned "faith" argument — it boils down to using the intellect in trying to prove, or disprove, the existence of God. I call this the outside-in approach. It is not possible to apprehend the supernatural — I prefer the term metaphysical — with the rational mind, from the outside-in. Not possible to use intellectual pyrotechnics or polemics to authenticate the supernatural or metaphysical. Authentication must be lived and experienced first hand.

There is an alternate: the inside-out approach, which uses Eastern energy cultivation techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc, to actually awaken the hidden subsystems of the human body, allowing the individual to experience metaphysical reality directly, i.e., to pass from the physical to metaphysical planes, and thereby bear witness to what I call the energy continuum — an expanded reality beyond the material world that contains that world and the worlds beyond all cosmological worlds. How far an individual goes with this type of practice depends on his volition and dedication. Let me add here one insight it has given me: the ultimate aim of meditation is to become more and more conscious. Enlightenment, therefore, is becoming fully conscious.

How did I arrive at this? Through a kundalini meditation that projected me into a vibratory state of such profound consciousness that I realized, not because someone asked me to take it on faith, but because I experienced it, that a hidden metaphysical reality does exist, that death is only an intermediate state. How unconscious I had been all of my life!

What sort of mechanism did this meditation trigger in order to accomplish this? It used the body's most powerful source — sexual energy. Quite simply, the energy source which creates life was rerouted and drawn up the spinal column into the brain. Since kundalini is a biological phenomenon, it needs to draw energy from a biological source in order to accomplish its purpose. That source happens to be sexual, the same energy source involved in procreation. How could it be otherwise? The energy used to create life is the same energy used in spiritual re-birth. What other source in the human body has the requisite energy to accomplish such a task? 

Luckily, I was in my early thirties when this happened. Plenty of time to learn from this process and to restore my body to its optimal condition. At first, the effects were physical; my brain and its casing were reshaped (strange how the physical awakens the metaphysical which in turn kick off a reconditioning of the physical). Gradually, as these metaphysical experiences deepened, I became more conscious, until I realized I was using only a portion of my potential, that full consciousness might somehow remove me from the physical world. As I said, becoming conscious is gradual and I haven't felt ready to make such an existential leap.

But whether it boils down to what Christians refer to as a supernatural experience or to the term I prefer, a metaphysical experience, my aroused kundalini showed me that while we can't prove the existence, or non-existence, of God, we have at our disposal a vast range of experiential phenomena, such as OBE, NDE, kundalini awakenings, etc., all of which are triggered by a voluntary or an unexpected summoning of biological energy.

With this type of experience, there's no need to thump the chest; winning the argument is not the goal here. Scientific evaluation is. These cases don't depend on polemics; they occur irrespective of cultural, language, religious, educational, or geographical differences and they share many of the same symptoms and effects. For the individual, it's a take-it-as-it-comes succession of phenomena in the laboratory of his or her own body, which, over time, also quiets the ego as it renews the being. For society, it's a piecemeal compilation of metaphysical accounts, which, as each anecdote is added, becomes an avalanche begging for a suitable means of scientific authentication.

The inside-out approach jettisons the whole baggage of conventional wisdom, polemics, and traditional religion. Christianity, which was turned into a political party by Augustine of Hippo and whose proponents/apologists and critics/detractors have argued God vs. No God back-and-forth for over two thousand years without making any progress, is an especially sad case.

Individuals, influential early Christians like Arius and Origen, who encouraged the direct experience of the inside-out approach — much in the mode of Buddha, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, Milarepa, and Lao Tse — were systematically rooted out and persecuted by pro-Augustine spin doctors, a case well-documented in the Elizabeth Clare Prophet book on Reincarnation and Christianity. Yes, there are unproven hypotheses in her book, but the idea that Jesus was on a Buddha-like trip during his lost years, supports the notion that the major historical spiritual figures used the inside-out approach to arrive at the insights and fundamental practices that the religions named after them are based on. The outside-in approach didn't appear until much later when the various spin doctors began arguing the endless stream of dogma/doctrine, much to the chagrin of the real authorities on religious experience.

In fact, the supernatural yearnings Christians feel are a positive element; they need to join with metaphysicians to practice and pursue the inside-out approach that values energy cultivation and direct experience over polemics and the dictates of intermediaries, i.e., priests, spin doctors, theologians, and ecclesiastics.

Those who take the inside-out approach have made, and will continue to make, measurable progress in the practice and discovery of energy cultivation techniques which lead to direct metaphysical experience, the multiplicity of which is just beginning to be catalogued and authenticated, à la Michael Murphy’s The Future of the Body, a survey of consciousness and meta-normal experience.