Monday, October 20, 2014

The Self

We all feel, sometimes obscurely, sometimes urgently, that if we could only escape from ourselves — from our ego, egotism, self-centerdness, selfishness, whatever word we use — we'd emerge into a limitless field of freedom. We attempt to break out with drugs, alcohol, sex, prayer, gambling, altruism; thrills, escapes, addictions, and diversions of all sorts — none of these work. The instant we glimpse the reality beyond our own center something snatches us back. The reason is fairly obvious: selfhood isn't a chimera of the mind that can be shaken off with a bit of positive thinking or by getting plastered. Selfhood is physical. It's in our DNA. Every cell of my body is me. Selfhood, in fact, is as much a product of evolution as our ability to grasp with our thumbs or think logically. It should be cherished. In our efforts to free ourselves of selfishness, self-centeredness, etc, we're in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Kundalini Rising
The Energetic Revival
Alchemical texts speak of the grain of gold hidden at the bottom of the mine, under the earth. The mine, the earth, is the body, and the grain of gold is the embodied self. It's funny that the shaft dug down into the earth has the same name as the possessive form of "me" (mine).

Down in the depths of the mine lies the lead that's to be turned back into gold. This is the real, or pure, self that is to be purged of its dross. What is the dross? The dross is conditioning, our false idea of what, and who, we are. At the moment of conception we are pure gold. The conditioning that drags us away from that primal state is deep and powerful: our sense memories...everything we hear, taste, feel, touch, and see; the impact of our basic instincts...cold, heat, hunger, fight and flight; as well as our social constructs...pride, anger, greed, fear, and loneliness. The conditioning that we undergo from the moment of conception onwards isn't just a mental attitude; it's physical. Conditioning works its way into our bodies, into the way we speak, walk, breathe, and make love. Only a powerful energetic revival can overcome it. This energy is Kundalini.

Kundalini lies coiled asleep at the base of the spine. What wakes Her? What is the trigger? I think it's the awareness that there is a real self somewhere, up there, in the brain — or above and beyond the brain.

At first, we don't really know because this real self is also, paradoxically, everywhere. It's down in the mine, as well. It's under the earth. It's the Siva Lingam at the base of the spine, round which the sleeping Kundalini lies coiled. This is why Kundalini feeds on sexual energy, because the Siva Lingam at the base of the spine is the "self-subsisting state" in an erotic form, the erotic force that creates physical life and puts each one of us into separate bodies. And, the fact that we end up in separate bodies drives us to love, and couple with, other separate bodies. Kundalini feeds on sexual energy, yet takes us into the "self-subsisting state."

The Tantric texts have many interesting things to say about selfhood. That the Tantric reality is complex is merely a true reflection of the complexity of selfhood. It has to do with the chakras. The Muladhara Chakra, at the base of the spine, is the place where selfhood is purely physical, a fact of blood, bone, nerve tissue, and DNA. Sexuality is said to originate in this chakra, where our physical separateness is most strongly felt, and not in the Svaddhisthana Chakra at the genitals, where the first upwards movement towards another person occurs.

When Kundalini opens the Manipura Chakra, in the belly, the experience is often traumatic, because this is where selfhood is felt as opposition to, and struggles against, other people. The Belly Chakra is where we burn with competitive striving, and with the dread of failure. When we find our true self, the same energy that made us afraid, now makes us fearless and strong. The Heart Chakra, or Anahata, is central. It is where the real self, in its cosmic form, resides. That is why this chakra is hard to open, even when Kundalini is coursing up through the body. Again, it has to do with our relationship to others and with the world outside us. In some weird way, the world outside us disappears; other people are taken away from us, and then, by a miraculous act of grace, other people, and the physical world, return to us, as part of us, in a paroxysm of love. The Visshuda Chakra, at the throat, is sometimes called "The Threshold Of Enlightenment."

Vissudha means purity. When Kundalini opens this chakra, the self is no longer felt to be a separate thing. The identity of all things with the self is directly seen. "I" am the bird on the shed roof. In fact, I'm the shed, too. I'm even the lawnmower hanging on its hook inside.

In the Ajna Chakra, in the brain, the self is experienced as wholly other. The self is seen to be something coming from another dimension. The Tantras say that the Ajna Chakra is the place of the third Siva Lingam (the other two are at the base of the spine and in the heart), the Itara Lingam, and of the mantra "AUM," and of the Ahamkara, or "I-maker." Itara means "crossing over from beyond." AUM combines the male sound "A" and the female sound "U" in the central channel "M." And Ahamkara, the I-maker, is where the blueprint of our perfect body comes out of the void.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Unintended Consequences of Everyday Decisions

In August, I attended a conference on consciousness and human evolution. Normally, I avoid these events because I find them conceptual and not always derived from experience. But, as I had heard Lynn McTaggart speak before, and had been impressed, and had read the books of another speaker, Amrit Goswami, I thought that it was worth taking a chance to attend.

Among the speakers, there was one who stood out for me as a mix of vulnerability and strength. Her name is Nicola Christie. She stood out and resonated because she spoke from her direct experience about the need for the psychological ego to be integrated with the spiritual.

If I had one slight criticism of her talk, it was that she seemed to slightly overindulge her ego. Her presentation included a poem to her ego, acknowledging it for the part that it had played in keeping her safe at times when her survival was threatened but how it was now preventing BEING from reclaiming its "rightful throne." The entire poem was written from the point of view of BEING addressing EGO. I wish that we had been given copies of the speakers' presentations because, aside from the overindulgence, it was a moving poem. One experience she recounted went straight to my core and I thought that my heart would explode with compassion when she spoke about it.

As I understand it, Nicola works as a psychotherapist. At a therapy session she was attending for trainee psychotherapists, it came out that she had been adopted when she was six weeks or six months old — I can't remember which. Up to this point, she had been on a spiritual path. The therapist asked her "How do you feel about being adopted?" And she glibly replied, "Oh great, I know that I have had a soul contract with my biological mother, that she would give me up, and it's fine."

Then, the psychotherapist asked her to close her eyes and take herself back to when she was six weeks/months old and feel what she had experienced. She then said, "My whole spiritual world collapsed as I faced that pain for the first time and realized that I had been running from it for most of my life." It was this event that set her on the path of ego integration which she is now on.

This resonated so strongly with me. Since I was 11, I have been interested in the spiritual and I had progressed a long way with Buddhism in that I had an intellectual understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. I had studied Mahayana Buddhism for almost 10 years, but it was only after Kundalini rose that I had to face up to the truth that up to that point I was pursuing the spiritual to escape from painful events that had happened in my past. As a result of this, I see integration of the psychological — call it ego — as vital for a truly balanced spiritual life.

The subtle formation of the ego and how it limits what's possible in life was brought home strongly to me a couple of weeks ago when I went to a friend's birthday party. There was a young boy there aged 8/9, confident and articulate. Then some music was played and I said to him, "When someone goes out dancing, we'll go out."

To which he replied, "I can't dance!" And immediately the happy confident young man was replaced by an insecure and small little boy.

I said, "What do you mean can't, there's no such word as can't, there is won't which is different, but can't is a choice." I continued, "What happened the last time you danced?"

He said, "I fell over and my friends laughed at me."

I took a deep breath as I recognized this as one of those moments in life where something happens and the ego makes a decision to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen in the future, to avoid the shame of it. But nine times out of ten, this decision is life-limiting, not life-enhancing.

I considered for a moment because I knew that my next words would either deepen or undo the process being laid down as a neural pattern in his brain.

I said, "So you've decided you can't dance, not because you fell over, but because your friends laughed at you, right?"

Immediately, he said, "Yes." I could see relief on his face that I had somehow understood. Again, I took another deep breath, this time because of his honesty.

I then said, "Could you consider something with me? Could you consider that your friends laughing had nothing to do with your dancing, that they were laughing at something else?"

"Yes," he said simply.

I continued, "You didn't ask your friends, 'Hey, are you laughing at me?' did you?"

"No," he replied.

I said, "So, your mind told you they were laughing at you, which means you can't dance and now you're not going to dance ever again, thus denying yourself the pleasure of dancing?"

He was silent. I finished by saying, "Don't trust what your mind tells you, check it out."

He looked at me with the widest smile and said, "I will." And then we sat in companionable silence, there was nothing more to say. If this conversation had never happened, time would have gone on and the incident of his friends laughing at him would have faded from his consciousness, but the decision "I can't dance" would have remained with him for life. Moreover, as an adult, gaining access to the real source of that decision might never have become available to him.

I left the party soon afterwards in awe of how quick the ego makes decisions based on false evidence that is ultimately life-limiting. This is something I discovered in my own life as an adult and it was the result of much hard work with structured transformational training programs. To see the process happening in a young boy and to be in the privileged position of helping to unravel it without hysterics and/or drama was truly amazing for me.

I don't know what the eventual outcome will be in terms of his dancing again, but when I was leaving he gave me the biggest hug, and I quietly said, "Don't forget what I said." To which he replied, "I won't."

For some readers, this may be a trivial example, but what if the decision made is: "I'm not loved/not loveable?" What kind of life results from a decision like this? This is why the process of knowing yourself, or more specifically knowing how the ego is constructed, is absolutely critical to liberation. The irony and tragedy for many on the spiritual path is that they are either unwilling or too arrogant to do this work and, as a result, the many glimpses of awakening that occur are not sustainable because of a failure to dismantle the ego.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The True Teachings

From a Tweet I ran across recently: "@XXXxxxxxxxxx good to see Yogi Bhajan's familiar face, some are misdirecting away from the true teachings"

Sorry, what are the true teachings again? Are they like the US Constitution that some say can NEVER be amended no matter what? Do true teachings mean that certain ideas and principles are frozen in perpetuity like the insects ancient Romans found in blobs of crystallized amber? Can we not discover new ways  — sometimes, even better ways — of doing things?

Nervous channels
The Laboratory of the Body

Resistance is to be expected, even in science. Yet, aren't pioneering, innovation, and trailblazing accepted features of the scientific method? A better way, or a more complete way, a new way, a way we never thought of, lateral thinking, new and improved, fresh, unusual, unprecedented, inventive; advanced, state-of-the-art, revolutionary, radical; important, noteworthy.

Some people are always experimenting with new ways; others are dedicated to protecting the old ways. Experimenting with new ways doesn't necessarily mean that the old ways are obsolete. It usually means that the subject matter was larger than we believed at first and there is more to learn, more to uncover, new hurdles or conditions to overcome. If we abided by the old ways, we'd still be sitting in saber tooth tiger skins rubbing sticks together to make fires.

The human being is evolving right before our eyes. In spite of all the issues that grab at our attention — pro football, rampant terror, hacked celebrity nude photos — our collective and individual consciousness is evolving at this very minute. Ideas and new notions are popping into people's heads at an amazing rate — not only in science and self-development, but in every walk of life. It's natural that there be a clash between the old and the new. But to become a dedicated fanboy of only only way — refusing to acknowledge or examine new data — is tantamount to wishing the clock would run backwards or evolution would reverse its course. That's not going to happen! Not in science, spiritual exploration, finance, cooking, sports, fashion, literature, or art.

You may say there's nothing new under the sun. In one sense, that's true. Fashions repeat themselves; fads and fancies run in circles. But I'm not talking about under the sun; I'm talking about beyond it — universal truth — of which we know so little, in which so many are engaged, in one way or another. Puttering around with it, burning the midnight oil to understand it, coming face-to-face with it in the laboratories of their bodies, accidentally brushing up against it in the night, like meeting a wolf in the dark and standing up to it.

Buddhist Women Dancing in Arcata Plaza Event
Femmes Dansants

Finally, new ways, like new ideas, are traded in the marketplace, so to speak — like the handy cleaning device that makes washing the dishes easier. If it's better, people will support it, most of the time.

Gopi Krishna hit the nail on the head when he coined the term, evolutionary impulse: "The aim of the evolutionary impulse that is active in the race is to mold the human brain and nervous system to a state of perception where the invisible world of intelligent cosmic forces can be cognizable to every human being."

When he made that statement, he realized this would not happen over night. Even if thousands discovered and started to experiment with Kundalini, it would take eons before our beings develop the faculties he describes. In the time it takes to get to that point, the true teachings will be added to and revised many times, just as evolution continues to revise every species over time. Nevertheless, inherent in his statement is the notion of inevitability. That much is clear: That we don't know exactly HOW it will happen, only that it WILL happen.

Kundalini and Akasha

In Australia where I grew up, there were a lot of gum trees. These eucalyptuses have a fine membrane of gum inside the casing of their leaves. If you split the green casing and draw it apart, you get a half inch or so of eucalyptus film. When I was a kid, we used to use this to make a high-pitched whistling noise, similar to the shrilling of the cicadas that lived in the trees. This gum-whistling cicada song is like the sound Kundalini makes in the head, especially when the Throat Chakra opens and one experiences the distilled essence of time, Akasha.
Australian Gum Tree
Australian Eucalyptus

The cicadas lived in the canopies of the gum trees, and sometimes we'd find the empty shells from which they'd hatched still clinging to the bark. These shells had eyes, claws, heads and abdomens, like lacquer molds, with a split up the back where the cicada had emerged. It seemed like an appropriate symbol for the two aspects of time — memory, and the All condensed in the present instant.

Time's gum, drawn from a split eucalyptus leaf
For a moment's ecstatic shrilling; I press the tip
Of my tongue to a disinfectant tang; blow
Hard, and a skirl of wet cicada's wing
Turns to ear-splitting Time
When memory's just a dry shell on a tree.
There are things and places stored in that bright shrilling
And invisible people panelbeating the light
Dead shell, the vacated claws, the stiff eye nodes
Of a memory carried — From where? — Left — By what?
On the inner, upright tree trunk of a man,
Gripping the bark as if it were nothingness.
They say there's a quick rewind at the moment of death
On a maniac wheel, so fast that One Great Still
Appears, no detail lost, no monkey's tail
Of celluloid scrabbling up the sudden dark;
Just Time's gum, shrill light, wet cicada wings
That stretch, that beat, that fly, and I am an ecstatic
Whistle looking down on a boy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer In The City

Kundalini is distilled sexual energy. What does this mean? Why is sex so important? You might say it's because, walking through the midsummer crowds in a big city, it's in your face. The erotics. You withdraw into your mind, just as urgently as into your body. You could be walking happily out the door of your lover's apartment, or you could be an equally happy celibate heading for a contemplative coffee. It hits you just the same. The Tantras say that all things manifest the copulation of Siva and Sakti. The sunlight off a glass building, a squeal of brakes, a whiff of barbecue chicken — it's all sex. There is some truth in this.

The sexual act is the time when we face the paradox of being alive at its sharpest. It's the moment we come closest to complete union, yet it's also the moment we are at our most separate. We are joined to one another in a way that we are joined nowhere else in our life, and yet our innermost self moves further away than the most casual face or sway of hips we come across in the street.
Seeing With The Heart

The temperature rises. The clothes come off. The paradox sharpens. There seem to be only two things you can do: Get as much sex as you can. Convert as many of the hits into conquests as is humanly possible, knowing that no matter how often you score, your tally will lag behind the hundreds of daily contacts on buses, trains, footpaths and escalators.

Or else — ignore it. Defuse the gorgeous faces and intoxicating bodies by pretending that they have nothing to do with you, are not a meaningful part of your life, not like the wife is, or the exciting television program you're going home to. This second solution, unfortunately, entails a blunting of perception and a lowering of intensity in all element's of one's day, not just sex. As you put the key in your front door, your partner and Coronation Street feel a little unsatisfying.

There is, perhaps, a third solution. The arousal of Kundalini is known as the backward-flowing method. What does this mean? Tantric sexual practice involves a suspension of ejaculation, either spontaneous or willed, that takes place at the moment of orgasm. Something happens to the erotic energy when this occurs. It increases, and heads for the brain. Via the heart. If you try it, you have to accept the fact that this is not only unnatural, it's anti-natural. It's an attempt at transcendence. It's called "backward-flowing" because the energy rises along the spine, as consciousness, rather than  outwardly, unconsciously, as semen. A parallel reversal occurs in perception. Smell, taste, touch, space/time, and particularly eyesight — the whole sensory package that makes summer in the city what it is — stop being external sensations. They stop hitting us from the outside. The intoxicating bodies and gorgeous faces come from inside us! They are visions our brain has imposed on otherness. Does this mean that the world ends, and that other people stop existing? No. A sort of miracle takes place. The world is still there; other people are still there, in their skimpy clothes and heart-stopping loveliness, and ugliness, but they have lifted themselves to a dimension where their humanness, the thing that the heart sees, the thing that you can only look at, but never desire, is all that's there. You suddenly see them, and the hot day, and the noisy streets, and the smells from the pubs, with your heart, not your genitally-driven brain.

I think this is what William Blake is talking about when he speaks of the "Human Form Divine" being "four-fold," whilst the sexual body is only "three-fold."
"For a four-fold vision is given to me, and a four-fold vision do I see;
'Tis four-fold in my supreme delight,
And three-fold in soft Beulah's night,
And two-fold always; May God us keep
From single vision, and Newton's sleep."

In Tantric symbolism, Sakti, the life force at the base of the spine, has risen to the brain, and found union with Siva — That which is Beyond.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Evolution and Kundalini

Evolution is a much scrutinized subject. I once saw an X-Men movie. Walking through walls, telekinesis, telepathy, magnetic powers, etc. were included.

The context was mutants. Of course, there would be no homo sapiens without evolution, or without mutations; it's the operating currency of DNA and genetics. Modern humanity is considered to be about 50,000 years old.

Human evolution reminds me of auto sales. New cars may have features, new devices like an MP3 player or lights on side mirrors, that soon morph into "minimum requirements." And those new "features" become old hat, and newer features are needed. Such is evolution.

Kundalini as evolutionary energy is really a wild idea! Inside us is a mechanism driving evolution? Gopi Krishna reckoned that this "evolutionary energy" was pushing us toward a predetermined future human being. Nietzche wrote about Man and Superman, which Hitler misunderstood to be his "Master Race." "In his posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin wrote of the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is 'pulling' all creation towards it." Ouspensky wrote a book called The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution. Of course, it is a genderless idea.

My own version of this is contained in a poem called "Beneath The Surface of this World."

Beneath the surface of this world,
Invisible to the naked eye,
Exists an energetic framework,
The basis of both you and I.

A Brownian motion generator,
A quantum dynamic mold,
A thermodynamic continuum,
A multi-frequency spectrum of old.

It has a purpose, this sublime world,
A tendency to go from hot to cold,
A subtle yet definite cooling off,
A conductive, convective, radiative road.

A path, if you will, that all energy takes,
But Life defies this blasé manner,
Building structures and storing energy
With all the power of Thor's hammer.

Life's purpose is to grow, my friend,
Individual, species, and ecospheric biomass,
To convert the nonliving to the living,
The soil and water to trees and grass.

The whole direction of living energy,
Both universal and close at hand,
Is to increase its nature and its volume
While striving for the Super land.

Therefore the direction of human evolution
Must be to achieve the higher state
Of conscious living energy
That comes when spirit and matter mate.

A higher state of energy,
More concentrated and powerful,
This is the purview of the gods,
Of shamans, witch doctors, and monks of old.

A higher state of consciousness
Is simply life's purpose to fulfill,
To convert sunlight into gold,
The alchemy of the spiritual.

So freeing up one's energy,
Clearing the path for prana, chi,
Spirit, life's essence that circulates
Throughout the body is the key.

From Chinese medicine to Indian yoga,
From Egyptian meditation to Toltec Naguals,
From Nordic runes to Lakota totems
Life's purpose to fulfill is the ultimate goal.

The universal pursuit of higher states of being,
Religions of the masses and philosophies all
Are part of life's process of self-preservation,
A means to an end, a guide to the far.

So think not that there is an evil in life,
Evil is the absence of life, the self-destructive mode
That occurs when living energy falls short of the need
To bridge nature's gap, and continue the road.

We all do our best to live out our purpose,
To grow and to prosper as organic beings.
Some fail it's true, but no one is perfect,
Death's part of the cycle that gives life its meaning.

Continue to pursue the path of improvement,
Of self progression, of achievement of excellence;
The curve spirals inward toward an infinite center,
Unreachable it's true, but always intended.

As for the condition of society, ecology, and such,
It is all part of our living romance,
To fight the good fight when fighting is called for,
These are just steps in the cosmic dance.

Have faith in this bedrock of spiritual design,
This underlying world of energy,
For suffering is longing, the desire to grow,
There is nothing wrong with wanting, desire is holy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Long Distance Love

When I was twenty one, I left Australia to study at Cambridge. I'm an only child. My mother was very upset. She didn't want me to go. She made me promise faithfully that I'd come home as soon as my studies were finished.

I made the promise, and immediately broke it. I stayed away for fifteen years.

Taxed by my father with disloyalty, I pleaded that I loved my mother and thought about her a lot.

"Codswallop!" Dad replied. "That's an avoidance. That's just thinking. Without actions, thinking means nothing. Thought, on its own, is a cop-out."

When Kundalini awakens, something happens to "just thinking." Consciousness takes on an increased energy, while the physical brain's power over us abates. Thoughts become packets of energy arising from an energy field. They're no longer a series of compulsive nervous tics in the head. It's possible to see a thought coming, as it were, on its way — like an eruption from the surface of the sun that hasn't yet reached the earth — and to know what the thought is, without having to directly think it. It's this that makes mindfulness possible, and rewarding.

The true energy of thought begins in the heart, and is only registered in the brain as a secondary image. When the mind's center of gravity is changed in this way, passionate contemplation of a loved one becomes a movement towards them in the energy continuum, a movement that is as real as seeing them with our eyes, or holding them in our arms. In this way, Kundalini alters the possibility of what "just thinking" might mean to people who are physically separated.

It's no coincidence that there's been an upsurge in Kundalini awakenings at a moment in history when more and more people are parted from their loved ones: the Thai farmer selling hot dogs at Abu Dhabi airport, who's missed seeing his children grow up; the Filipino seamstress cleaning hotel rooms in London, who can't be with her dying father. People displaced by war and natural disaster. The drifter who can't explain why he doesn't go home to see his mother.

Mindfulness — knowing thought without thinking it — empowers consciousness and takes some of the physical edge off necessity. Painful though it may be, physical separation becomes the pale, outer shadow of an inner closeness. Indeed, when Kundalini opens the throat chakra, the source of space/time, closeness becomes oneness, no matter how far apart you are.

I finally made it home to see my mother, and she forgave me my broken promise and long absence before she died. Close to death, high on morphine, I think she understood the power of "just thinking," though my Dad still reckons it's Codswallop!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Centering and Breathing

Nothing is More Important Than Proper Breathing — Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing

Still, even if you breathe correctly, bad habits such as smoking, lack of exercise, overeating may negatively affect your overall breathing capacity. When you are a prisoner of habit, all the devotional practice and good intentions are to no avail. And that's where diaphragmatic deep breathing comes in. It can actually help you break bad habits.

So, is there a purpose to deep breathing, beyond its beneficial therapeutic effects? Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing allows you to slow down your metabolism, which in turn allows you to center yourself. What do I mean by centering?

It is hard to define centering because it is both a physical state (locus) and the awareness of being in that state. It's like being in the center of yourself and feeling and visualizing the confines of your being, watching it ebb and flow. Once you are able to center yourself, the very notion of confines drops away, and you exist in a state of undivided entirety.

You can enter and exit this state (center yourself) at will. Moreover, knowing that this state exists and you are able to enter it allows you greater power in fending off the rigors and challenges of daily life. Not that the world around is shrinking; you become one with it and your being looms large in it. You feel yourself expanding, able to fend off any challenge. Breathing is the key to this state and needs to be mastered as a precondition to Golden Flower Meditation. I found a great description of the process, one that parallels and broadens mine. Check it out:

Breath Of Life
"In the image above, the action of the diaphragm is shown. The diaphragm is located towards the bottom of the rib cage, and its job is to bellow down to draw breath into the lungs. This is much like squeezing a turkey baster. When you release the bulb, the action of it expanding draws air into the tube — this is natural breathing. Notice how in this way breath is draw in, not forced in. This type of breathing also ensures that the full area of the lungs are involved in the process, allowing more oxygen and energy to have access to the bloodstream."
Breath Of Life: Calm Power Through Natural Breathing ~Joshua Williams
The Secret of the Golden Flower states:
"One should not be able to hear with the ear the outgoing and the intaking of breath. What one hears is that it has no tone. As soon as it has tone, the breathing is rough and superficial, and does not penetrate into the open. The heart must be made quite light and insignificant. The more it is released, the less it becomes; the less it is, the quieter. All at once it becomes so quiet that it stops. Then the true breathing is manifested and the form of the heart comes to consciousness. If the heart is light, the breathing is light for every movement of the heart affects breath-energy. If breathing is light, the heart is light, for every movement of breath-energy affects the heart. In order to steady the heart, one begins by taking care of the breath energy. The heart cannot be influenced directly. Therefore, the breath energy is used as a handle, and this is what is called maintenance of the concentrated breath-energy."
Breathing is of vital importance; it is first step in the quest for self-actualization. A very important step, the key to new states of being. Begin the journey by exploring the relationship of breathing to heart rate and to centering. It leads to better health, reduced stress, and ultimately to ecstatic states, should choose to pursue them. But it starts with breathing: for a detailed description of proper breathing practice, visit the Visionary Being website. It's as simple as breathing in and breathing out. What's more, it's the doorway to the Backward-Flowing Method.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Awakening is NOT Enlightenment

Google the term Awakening, or surf Facebook long enough and you are bound to come across someone claiming to be Awakened. An experience of Awakening can be triggered by many different things from meditation to nature to psychological turmoil of some type.

Awakening is characterized by an experience of knowing that the personal self-narrative is not the correct story; there is an awakening to the truth of who one really is. Consciousness, which was identified with the body and mind, dis-identifies and becomes free, hence a realization of higher consciousness is experienced. However, in many cases, this Awakening recedes, giving way to the return of ordinary consciousness. Expressed differently, consciousness re-identifies back with the body/mind and is followed by a period of adjustment, often accompanied by a longing and yearning for the return of the Awakened state. There's no doubt that any experience of awakening, where one experiences a shift that alters consciousness, is transformative, but, at the same time, not always transformative to the level of Enlightenment. Too many people use Awakening and Enlightenment to mean the same thing, but for me, they are different.

Many famous people have had Awakening experiences that were the result of intense psychological trauma — two examples being Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. Both endured many years of depression. It was a thought that triggered their awakenings. For Tolle, the thought was "I cannot live with myself anymore, who is the I and who is myself." This thought was enough to shock his consciousness out of its normal patterns of identification, allowing him to become aware of who he really was.

I am less familiar with Byron Katie's story, but I believe her awakening was also triggered by a thought. Her method of self-inquiry, The Work, teaches individuals to examine thoughts to see if they are true. As a result of their Awakenings Tolle and Katie are enlightened.

A snapshot of how Katie's The Work operates
The trigger for many awakening experiences is the questioning of thought, or to put it another way, the questioning of the identification of consciousness with thought. The process of questioning or inquiry — frequently a result of great pain and psychological trauma — seems to provide a portal into the NOW, which triggers Awakening. Afterwards, life is never the same. It's as if consciousness recognizes that it had been bound, is now free, and is going to create and create and create; and so you have The Power of Now from Tolle and The Work from Katie. These are two examples; there are more.

My first experience of Awakening was triggered by a painful stressful psychological circumstance. Something happened and it was so shocking to my mind and consciousness that energy rose and I began to shake. At the time, I didn't realize it was an Awakening because I didn't have the words to express it, even though I had practiced Mahayana Buddhism for almost 10 years. It was only in the weeks and months that followed, when life calmed down and I became relaxed, that I realized "something" profound had happened. So while the phenomena of "inquiring into my thought" didn't happen for me, the element of psychological trauma was very much present and is the element I consider to be common in all degrees of Awakening to a greater or lesser extent.

I recently came across some research on this topic for the MSc that I am studying for, which shows that out of a study of 161 people who submitted accounts of their awakening experiences, 23 percent were triggered by or associated with intense turmoil and distress (Taylor, 2012 b). Interestingly, the type of turmoil didn't seem to be as important as the intensity. I didn't take part in this research, but my own experience supports this finding. For many people the experience fades, leaving just the memory and yearning.

Enlightenment is NOT Awakening; it is different in one respect in that enlightenment involves the transmission of spiritual energy and a transformation of identity. The Enlightened Masters in the past could transmit this spiritual impulse to their disciples/devotees. Accounts by devotees about the force of the spiritual transmission felt from their Master abound. It is this aspect of the process that distinguishes Awakening from Enlightenment. It might sound arrogant, and I say so from the place of being Awakened, but not enlightened, that if I don't feel an energy from the person who is claiming to be enlightened, then my view is that this person has had an awakening experience, but is not enlightened. In the burgeoning world of people claiming to be Awakened/Enlightened some tool of discernment is necessary to navigate the precarious, unpredictable spiritual waters without being lulled. Don't get me wrong, being Awake is a huge gift of Grace, but it's not the ultimate.

In the shift from the human to the spiritual that we are going through, many people will be having Awakening experiences and then claim to be Enlightened. This may not be done to intentionally deceive, but only as a result of the ego mind (identity) interpreting the experience and elevating it.

To determine whether or not they reach a state of Enlightenment, Awakening experiences need time to be integrated. Speaking immediately afterwards is not advised. This is where the adage "those who know don't speak, and those who speak don't know" comes from because it takes time for the experience to marinate and incubate, and speaking too soon can affect the process. Awakening is a stage on the path to Enlightenment; it is not IT.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dreams Of Loss

In my experience, when Kundalini is awakened, one dreams less. A light hovers in the back of the head during sleep, a sense of being fractionally awake whilst slumbering, which cuts down on dreaming. This state is depicted in the beautiful statues of the Sleeping Buddha one sees in Asian countries, Gotama lying on his right side, with his right hand under his head, watching serenely through closed eyelids.

For most people, however, dreams still erupt, stirred up by unfaced things in the unconscious. One of the most powerful of these is the dream of being abandoned by the person we love. The human being our life is centered on is suddenly gone. They are somewhere else, with somebody else. The anguish of losing them makes them vividly real, yet they are unlocatable. They have cut themselves off from us. They don't want us to contact them.

A throw-back to infancy or a throw-forward to transcendence
Dreams of Loss
Psychologists explain this dream as a throw-back to infancy, as a re-enactment of a baby's panic at not knowing where its mother is. There may, or may not, be some truth in this. Who knows? As an interpretation, it might be a help to some people, and a hindrance to others.

It hinders me. In these dreams, the person I love is too real, is present in too great a detail, to be anyone but herself. She is somewhere else, with somebody else, unlocatable, and yet my sense of who she is is stronger than at any other time. She is something infinitely more acute and piercingly particular than mere maternal warmth. The only other time she is as real and vividly present is when we make love. The 'somebody else' I dream she's left me for is, in truth, me, my invisible center.

These dreams of loss aren't a throw-back to infancy, they're a throw-forward to transcendence. They're good dreams, propitious and bracing. They reveal something that goes beyond loss. They look forward to the moment when Kundalini stands naked, as pure consciousness in the Ajna chakra, outside our selves. As Kundalini rises through the body, She pries open our grip on this or that person, this or that life situation, this or that hope or expectation. It's felt as a kind of cutting-off, the person we love distancing themselves from us (even when they're snuggled up next to us in bed), but it is, in fact, their realer presence that we experience. It demands an acceptance of the stark truth that the other is ultimately only knowable as "pure consciousness, outside the universe, She who goes upwards." (Sat-Cakra-Nirupana Tantra.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mindfulness and Kundalini

Mindfulness is to Self-Remembering as The Secret is to The Power of Positive Thinking. Now, what does that mean exactly?

It means that systems of knowledge and practice keep getting updated every so many years, but the denominations (the names they are called by) have to be changed to create enough buzz for the latest version to make the top-40 hit parade.

High desert near San Bernardino, CA
High Desert Sunrise
Take self-remembering, for example. It was mindfulness before the term "mindfulness" passed into the new age lexicon. George Gurdjieff pioneered self-remembering back in the 1930s and 40s. It was a useful system then and it's still useful, even if the mindfulness craze has supplanted it. Both acknowledge a Buddhist influence; both share pretty much the same approach and practice — even if the ends and the means vary. No matter! It's still the same basic concept under a catchy new name:
"And herein lies my great help; this is the first step in the teaching that Gurdjieff brought from his extensive travels and seekings throughout the Middle East and Asia. He taught that to be mindful, or as he would put it, to 'remember myself' one needs to bring these two parts of myself, the mind and the body, together. The mind watches over the body and observes its functionings and the body is rooted in this present moment, in this present life. Then instead of these two parts going their separate unconnected ways, they can combine and have a relationship, working together towards a common good."
   Lunatic Outpost Forum
That's what happens in our "15 minutes of fame" culture. Buzz terms attain hit parade levels for a brief period, then someone comes along with a new idea, and the current buzz fades with the setting sun to be reborn with the rising sun as the latest, buzzed infatuation.

It happened that way with one of the biggest fads of the 1950s, The Power of Positive Thinking, which became the The Secret, as the same idea was repackaged and sold once again to a new generation...and will probably be sold in some new form to a another generation at a later date.

So what does Mindfulness have to do with Kundalini? How are they related? Once Kundalini awakens, there's a gradual expansion of consciousness. I'm not referring to ecstatic, visionary experiences, which, although they certainly do occur, act only as mile markers on the long road to a more developed higher consciousness. In most cases, they are not the "real thing," merely indicators of a greater awareness to come. As Kundalini slowly expands consciousness, it also overhauls the rational capabilities of the mind — two separate operations, two different types of consciousness:
"Knowledge proceeds through what Buddha called the five skandhas or Aggregates, which includes sensual perceptions and conditioned experience by way of the psyche or personal consciousness. To know is to comprehend noologically, through intellect-based thought.
"Gnowledge is to understand through metasensory awareness and unconditioned experience through the thymos or impersonal consciousness. To gnow is to understand by way of gnosis or Right Discernment, the gnowledge that Siddhartha Gautama, the 'Sage of the Shakyas,' implied when he said, 'Be a Lamp unto Thyself.'"
   ~ Science and Spirituality, FB Group Post – Ve Marco
As gnowledge (the gnostic approach to human cosmology) expands, mindfulness becomes an autonomic by-product. Our attention turns inward; we are able to recognize our programming and we begin to resist it. It doesn't happen overnight. Some of our programs — the most tenacious and unshakable — are those passed down to us by our parents. Tics, habits, idiosyncrasies — the hardest to recognize because they're part of our visera. We may recognize them, but we have trouble overwriting them until our awakened Kundalini effects an anatomical, somatic, and metabolic overhaul. Gradually, we become aware of the programs that "run us" and, with a mindful attention, we overwrite them. When Kundalini awakens properly, mindfulness is an autonomic offshoot.

Unfortunately, terminology prevents the various strains of mindfulness or self-remembering from joining forces and cooperating. Each group is so possessive of their own little piece of the pie. Too bad. Mindfulness has been around in various avatars or incarnations for a very long while, appreciated by many traditional as well as gnostic faiths. Witness these thoughts, borrowed from an Orthodox Christian website:
"Watchfulness is the action to guard us from our automatic reactions to thoughts stimulated by our senses. It is being attentive to your inner self. The Greek word that is translated as watchfulness is 'Nepsis'. It comes from 'nepho,' which means to guard, inspect, examine, watch over and keep under surveillance. Watchfulness has been described by Elder Ephriam of Philotheou as 'the axe which shatters the large trees, hitting their roots. When the root is struck, it doesn’t spring up again.'
"Saint Hesychios sees watchfulness as follows: Watchfulness is a continual fixing and halting of thought at the entrance to the heart... If we are conscientious in this, we can gain much experience and knowledge of spiritual warfare.
"He shows us that this involves an effort to intercede on our thoughts, forcing them to be examined, to shine the commandments of our Lord on them. He emphasizes the importance of this by calling it warfare. We know in warfare we need to have effective weapons that are stronger than those of the enemy."
   Ten Point Program For Orthodox Life: Being Watchful
In order to be practiced, does Mindfulness need Kundalini? Must an individual have activated Kundalini? No, but in most cases, Kundalini effects a shortcut to a meaningful practice of mindfulness. Whether the term applied is mindfulness, watchfulness, self-remembering, or some past or future avatar, Mindfulness and Kundalini work together.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Search Of Lost Timelessness

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

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

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