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.