Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting Rid Of The Silt

I’m cold! How often have you said this, or heard it from someone else? Actually cold is a relative term. It only means an absence of heat. What’s cold for you may not be cold for me because we function quite comfortably at different levels of heat. It’s a term without any substantial substance. The solution to being cold is to turn up the heat.

Spinning Wheel

From a Christian context, sin means “missing the mark.” It’s also a word without any essential substance. Like cold being the absence of heat, sin is the absence of love. By acting out of love’s absence, we do some pretty terrible things to ourselves, to others, and to the world. The purpose of our prison system is to rehabilitate a person so that they may operate in society in a more appropriate manner; or in a more loving manner. It’s a process that takes a long time and often fails to work at all.

But still, the solution to sin is the same as the solution for cold. We must turn up the love.

For most of us, turning up the heat is easy. We adjust the thermostat on the wall. Not so with turning up love.

"How can I create a relationship?"

I'm impressed with a study by Dr. Carl Rogers who speaks about the development of our personalities by moving beyond the responses we have been developed from our past-life experiences. He says that deep down in each of us lies the "innermost self," the core of our personality which is basically healthy, positive, society-oriented and loving. By plunging down into this innermost area in silence, we make contact with an inner healer. But as long as we live superficially on the surface, with its noise and fragmentation, we will not know the wholeness we were meant to enjoy.

Over the last twenty years, I've made a yearly five to seven day retreat. I have the many journals of these times to remind me of the changes that I experienced during these periods of quiet recollection. Upon arriving on a Friday afternoon, my normal underlying feeling is: Do I have time for this now with all I have to do? By Sunday evening, I have slowed down to the point where I am moving at a similar pace with others, and connecting with them in a more purposeful way. Relationships are being formed; openness is developing as defense mechanisms drop and sharing begins at the deeper level of self. As the days go on, windows and doors begin to open to a deeper reality within, and I realize that the old “normal” is gone, and a new more wholesome “normal" has come in its place. The difficulty comes after the conclusion of the retreat when you return to the world that has not changed. Very quickly, the new “normal” disappears, and the old “normal” reasserts itself, often to the point where you even forget the experience of the retreat. So what is happening here?

The time of recollection has caused a settling of the storehouse of past impressions, imprints, the reservoir of memories, injunctions, unresolved issues, repressed habits, drives and concepts of the “Chitta” and “Ahankara” levels of consciousness, but they have not been disbanded. During the time of recollection, we have opened the doors to a new normal, a new reality, the one which I believe we are called to live, but it cannot be sustained as we return to our customary way of life. The waters that had become settled and clear are again stirred and the silt rising from the bottom is again blurring our ability to see.

Black girl, cross around her neck, prays

How can we get rid of the silt? I believe the unexpected rise of Kundalini during an extensive retreat for me facilitated doing just that.

Kundalini is often described as an evolutionary process within the human metabolism, an energy lying at the base of the spine, often associated with sexual energy, which, when released, rehabilitates the subtle body system. It brought about, and continues to bring about, change in a much more efficient manner than conventional psychological approaches. Constructs of conditional thinking, boundaries of indoctrination built-up over a life time dissolved under its influence. Most of these constructs and boundaries existed as impediments to loving properly. They cause us to miss the mark in ways that we may not even be conscious of. I have referred to this process in previous postings as the renovation and restoration process of kundalini as it makes its way through the various layers of the subtle body system, removing and modifying anything in its path that hinders growth and well-being.

Subtle body depiction

It is futile to try to change or cure another to bring them to a heightened sense of love for themselves and others. To provide a loving relationship, which the other may use for their own personal growth, helps them heighten their ability to love (to turn up the love). But to provide such a loving relationship, we ourselves must be free of the silt that exists in our own lives.

Doesn't the rising Kundalini help us to become that instrument of healing for ourselves and others by removing this silt and bringing wholeness?

To describe the indescribable, don't our scriptures — no matter the source — use their own choice of language, symbols, and images to explain the effects and movements of Kundalini as best they can?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Love's a Skill

I’ve often wondered about Love, what it actually is. It seems so intertwined, so many life facets operating on so many planes. How to define it? Especially when it’s bandied about so freely. Talk show hosts and guests in familiar mutual self-promotion mode. “I love this guy” type statements.

The pull of youthful nature to couple with another human being — to feel and to be felt, to smell and to be smelt, to kiss and to be kissed. How those passions progress over thirty or forty years of marriage. How the young look at their parents and can’t wait to move on with their own lives. How their parents see themselves in their children. How the two find it impossible to communicate their feelings.

How frequently Love is used as a Twitter hashtag — how it peaks at 5:00 PM and again at 8:00 PM.

How the word #Love — even though it’s sincerely meant by many a conveyor and felt by many a listener — somehow gets lost in the sentimentality repetition engenders. In a masterful popular song lyric, for instance:

What's it all about, Alfie, is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?

As sure as I believe there's a Heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in 

I believe in #love, Alfie 
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed
You're nothing, Alfie

When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie
 © Alfie - Music & Words: Burt Bacharach, Hal David

And yet, when Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, or Cilla Black reaches the payoff line, I believe in love, Alfie, it sends a chill down our backs and we forget about definitions and believe we really know what it means. Then, when the song is over, we ask ourselves, once again, What does it mean? Is it “I believe in #hashtag Love, (fill in your lover’s name here) or is it remaining married for 40 years and being able to live and laugh together?

Whitney Houston in concert 1997
The Magnificent Whitney Houston at the very moment she tells Alfie, "I believe in love."

And even though we understand in our minds that a big part of it is only a hashtag cliché, we know, there are occasions when it transcends banality. Nevertheless, until a few days ago, I didn’t know what love was, and now I do: Love is a Skill.

A few days ago, in a meeting, a writers group was discussing the meaning of love, going through the usual changes, the sharps and the flats of our various triumphs and failures, until someone said they’d heard phrase, Love is a Skill and it resonated. And, it fell into place for me, because I looked back and realized how unskilled I’ve been for most of my life. At that same instant, I reflected on how Love, when treated like a Skill, is closely tied to self-remembering.

It’s the difference between Reacting and Responding, a shift from emotional to mental, or mnemonic. Reacting is immediate; Responding is the moment one uses to remember one’s self before rejoining the fray. It is, in fact, stepping outside the fray, seeing the fray as an enactment with all the players, one’s self included, strutting and fretting. A true out-of-body experience.

So if Love is more than a hashtag, it must be different than Tin Pan Alley love, just as passion and lust are different than sitting around the kitchen table discussing the family finances, and coming out of the discussion without once raising one’s voice.

There’s a lot of talk about civility today, and rightly so: That instead of calling people names, thinking of them as #Assholes, we need to see people as unskilled or inexperienced in the various arts and sciences of love and/or the practices of civility.

Sex is one thing; Love is another. Not to say that sex has no place in Love; it does. But it’s not the only thing. Yes, it’s the thing we get lost in (like we get lost in a song), the thing that gives us immense pleasure (like a roller coaster or other thrill). And, yes, it has to be done right, mutually accepted and mutually satisfying.

Love is the skill (art and science) of dealing with other human beings, playing a hand of cards, shuffling them around expertly: the money card, the sex card, the prestige card, the power card, the health card, the pride card, etc. Some decks have more cards than others; some players have to play more cards than others at any one time. It’s the hand you’re dealt with and how you play it. What does this have to do with Kundalini?

Progressively, Kundalini gives us an other ethereal, subtle body that allows us to detach ourselves, to observe the daily reenactments, instead of getting swept up in them. It helps us to witness the realities on the physical plane, instead of idealizing them. And that’s why I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a #Soulmate because this notion, if built on sex alone, crumbles over time, as the body debilitates.

Could it exist? Yes, if, when one partner plays a card, the other knows how and when to play the right card in return. It would mean a mutual stepping back to witness an enactment from outside the body — an ability Kundalini readily confers upon those it favors.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kundalini - Not the End in Itself, but a Means ...

Earth rotation, light burst

I am moved by the story of Lo-pu who asked: “How is it when the morning sun has already risen but the night moon has not yet appeared? He is told that this is a meditative accomplishment. You sit in meditation and forget both body and mind, and there is just this single brilliant expanse of light. It is as if the sun has already come out but the night moon has not yet appeared. At night, it is not the same. This light is pure and cool.

The Taoist classic, The Triplex Unity says: perfect yang is “brilliant” and perfect yin is “reverent.” After yin culminates and yang is born, when body and mind share the same root with heaven and earth inside and outside, and it’s a single light, this is the realm of “perfect yang is brilliant.”

At this point, you have already gone beyond the issue of whether the ch’i channels are open or not. When you talk of the three channels and seven chakras, you have not even reached the first stage of Samadhi. When Lo-pu reached the stage expressed in “when the sun has already risen but the night moon has not yet appeared,” he had already transcended the state of Samadhi. 

Lo-pu is told: “The dragon carries the ocean pearl in his mouth, paying no attention to the fish swimming by.” There is something here. In the single expanse of light that is both inside and outside, it seems that a dragon is swimming through the ocean, and in his mouth he is holds a bright pearl. This bright pearl is the dragon’s root of life (reverent). Fish are swimming by on all sides, but the dragon does not even glance at them or look their way.
The Dragon with the pearl in his mouth swimming by
The Dragon Swimming By
If you cultivate the ch’i channels properly and recite the mantra properly, if your cultivation reaches the point where there is just this moment of mindfulness, you, too, will be the same as the dragon carrying the ocean pearl in his mouth, paying no attention to the fish swimming by. You will pay no attention to all the false thoughts around you in whatever form they may take. 

As you do your meditation work, no matter whether it is by refining the breath or reciting the mantra, or any other method, all you have to do is to hold onto that moment of mindfulness, and focus your mind on one object without letting it move; and remember: “The dragon carries the ocean pearl in his mouth, paying no attention to the fish swimming by.” Slowly, you too will be able to reach this realm.
~ Adapted from Master Nan Huai-Chin’s book “Working Towards Enlightenment”.

I’ve always intuitively felt that Kundalini was never meant to be an end in itself, but a means to something more. What is that something more? It could be that which is expressed above in the story from Master Nan Huai-Chin’s book; reaching for that realm where, as a single light, body and mind share the same root with heaven and earth inside and outside. This is a book on Buddhist thought, and this is a Buddhist story. It explains to me my own experience. But I don’t believe it has to be Buddhist. My experience of “the dragon carrying the ocean pearl in his mouth, paying no attention to the fish swimming by” originates from a Christian context. But I don’t believe it has to be Christian.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
~ Gospel of Matthew

From my reading and my understanding, I believe that kundalini, like childbirth, belongs in the scientific or biological realm. But just as childbirth, for some, is seen as an unfolding of a mystical or spiritual event, so too, for some, kundalini is seen as an unfolding of a mystical or spiritual event. When the perfect yin, that which is reverent (celestial) is combined with the perfect yang, that which is brilliant (free from all distractions), something new emerges that is beyond the activity of kundalini. And from this new emergence, something new again is probably beginning to take shape.

How does one escape the everyday, the grind, the ordinary?

One of the principal obstacles to this never-ending expansion is getting stuck at any one stage. Each step on this pathless path requires a letting go or surrender of what was previously experienced in order to embrace what is new. It’s easy to get stuck as I have so many times.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Alchemical literature (Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Julius Evola) speaks of the "etheric light," the source of space and time. Seeing in, or with, the etheric light is difficult. It is the "second sight" of traditional wisdom. You're walking along a street. You hear an unexpected burst of laughter. You glance up from the pavement at the approaching faces. You have the sensation that you've glimpsed something immense and completely other than what you're looking at — two pedestrians passing you on the sidewalk, sharing a joke. You've glimpsed something vast and radiant which has shut itself out of your mind too quickly for you to register, and left you with a mere visual, aural and spatial impression. You have a feeling that you're given this glimpse every second of every day, but that something keeps blocking it out of your awareness. You've seen the etheric light, but the brain's been unable to retain it.
Natalie Chinese ceremonial wedding
Chinese Ceremonial Wedding

As Kundalini works on altering the neural pathways in the brain, these instances of second sight become more frequent. There's a more constant presence of radiance around the head and throat, as well as an increased sensitivity to sounds. Clocks ticking and the rustle of truck tires in the street create spaces outside your mind for you to expand into. As well as filling your visual field, other people open a space inside you, like a tuning fork touching your coccyx. All this is normal, or meta-normal.

The depth, however, of this space/time dimension of the etheric light is vast, and can, perhaps, be taken way beyond glimpses and resonances, as Kundalini opens the higher chakras in the throat and forehead.

There are well-documented accounts of precognition, of living for a split second in a future moment of space/time, sometimes in the coming life of others, sometimes in one's own future life. What separates such real seeing from mere fantasy or dream? I think there are two things — firstly, a degree of physical detail, a quality of light, and a three-dimensional solidity to the vision that's not present in dream or fantasy; and secondly, a sense of threat, of being endangered. This feeling of being at risk is understandable — the approaching moment of space/time that we dread the most, and which is the most inevitable, is the time and place of our own physical death. Precognitions are rare, and varied, but they all have the nature of an ending. They share a similarity to dying. This is why they can be easily misread. The mind, in its effort to wriggle out of the impact of its own ending, can misinterpret its momentary transference to another time and place, and become trapped in highly-energized illusion, particularly when it's sexual desire that switches on the etheric light. I describe one such precognition, and its consequences, in Natalie, A Kundalini Love Story.

The physicist, John Wheeler, said: "No one ever saw a place except at a time, or a time except at a place." According to Einstein, this space/time continuum is static. All the events that have ever been, or ever will be, are present in the here and now. Quantum mechanics states that the act of observation is continuous with the event observed. The apparent randomness of particle events could well be a manifestation of a deeper "implicate order" (David Bohm), the action of an underlying consciousness. All this accords with the anecdotal evidence of precognition. We shouldn't let our awe of the physicists' braininess and the complexity of their maths, or even our fear of highly-energized illusion, prevent us from approaching this fundamental state from the angle of shared human consciousness.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kundalini and the Miraculous

There's a saying: "Be realistic, expect a miracle." Miracles, of course, come from the direction you least expect, and in a way that you don't, perhaps, want. A miracle can seem frightening, or even degrading. The awakening of Kundalini, and the thing that triggers the awakening, is a miracle in this existential sense. It takes place in your body, but only insofar as your body belongs to forces greater than you.

Love, too, can come as a shock, from an unexpected direction, and even seem frightening and degrading. The coup de foudre, the lightning stroke of love at first sight, is a reality. One is hit, split, burned, by another person.

A Tibetan lama, speaking about the awakening of Kundalini, wrote: "Throughout the world there exist countless emanations of the Female Buddha, Vajrayogini. If a practitioner conscientiously follows the Path, he will eventually meet an emanation of Vajrayogini manifesting as an attractive woman..."

If I'd read these words ten years ago, I would have thought: "The geezer's cracked. It's a typical male fantasy. The guy can't cope with a real woman, so he gets himself a female Buddha." ...Except, it happened to me. person, man or woman, can slip out of their ordinary-person-ness and be known as a force that's greater than you. I was walking along a freezing cold sidewalk in mid-winter in London when I glimpsed a woman shoplifting a bottle of Listerine. The glimpse stopped me dead in my tracks and sent a jolt of electricity up my spine. I felt giddy, as if I was drunk. The woman was beautiful, but her beauty was off-putting rather than attractive. Making love to her, a short time later, I couldn't come, even though the act was powerful. The electric jolt going up my spine erupted in my head with a splitting sound, like lightning splitting the air, and flooded my chest with a love more intense than I'd ever dreamed could exist. Within an hour of first seeing her, I was in love with a total stranger, and bonded to her in a way I'd never been attached to another human being. I'd never been a "practitioner," never "conscientiously followed" any Path but my own. My life was in ruins. But something the miraculous had occurred.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake. c.1786.jpg
William Blake. c.1786: From William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
It could be argued that an orgasm, far from being a blissful release of tension, is a spasm of fear in the face of deeper forces that are at the point of taking hold of us. This is the reason that ejaculation, even the most self-surrendering, can feel like a defeat. The immensity of another being, their divinity, is about to manifest, not intellectually, but physically, gripping us by our nerves and muscles and bones. It's awe-inspiring to "... see a World in a Grain of Sand/And Heaven in a Wild Flower...", but it's even more awe-inspiring, and fearful, to see it in another person. Blake knew this, and stated it clearly in the same great, mystical poem: "... God is Love and God is Light/ For those poor souls that dwell in Night/ But does a Human Form display/ For those blest souls that dwell in Day."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Spiritual Journey Is an Active Not a Passive Process

There is some thinking in spiritual circles that the spiritual process is a passive process whereby you sit patiently and wait for the gift of Grace which heralds awakening and then enlightenment. Without Grace there is no spiritual journey. Moreover, whatever journey there is, is largely conceptual or mind-based. The gift of Grace marks the shift from concept to experience. But that gift of Grace is earned by an active conscious process. You cannot escape the intellectual rigor and reasoning required for the spiritual journey.

That active process begins by being authentic when reading spiritual books or listening to those claiming to have achieved certain stages of realization. Asking yourself, "What feels right about what I am reading/listening to?" What resonates as Truth and what doesn't. This is a process, which, in my case, began in early childhood when I began to identify those parts of the Catholic faith that felt right and those that didn't. Whether or not my reasoning was correct is not the point; the point is to have the courage to ask the questions and begin the vital process of discernment.

This process of discernment continued when I started studying Buddhism. I questioned everything, and most importantly I related everything back to my own experience, not to what I thought about or what I had read or heard — but to what resonated with my own experience. This was a particularly active process in meditation: observing the chaotic nature of my mind and thoughts, recognizing directly their impermanence and the root of my suffering.

However, seeing and experiencing this mind turbulence does not end the process; it continues as Sadhana or one's regular practice, and it is not easy. The process demands the engagement of the consciousness; there is no way around this. It involves facing up to and taking responsibility for every thought, word, action without projection onto anyone or anything else. All of this work is necessary before the gift of Grace is bestowed.

Then, having done all of this work, there is the active process of "letting go" so that everything can be refined, as if by internal incubator so that something new can emerge. This is a challenging part of the process because in my case when I let go in the sense of not reading/writing/listening to anything spiritual, I didn't understand what was driving this urge to "let go." Was it my ego getting too close to its own disintegration or was it a genuine intuition, which I had to listen to if I wanted to progress further? Writing this I can still remember the confusion and emptiness I felt at this time. Up to that point, I had spent so much of my life reading/writing/listening to all things spiritual that I couldn't see how life could be enjoyable without it. Was I self-sabotaging? All of these thoughts ran rampant through my mind.

There are crunch points at various milestones on the spiritual journey and each of these crunch points demands something in order to progress to the next stage. The intuitive impulse to end my search was one of these points. Choosing to surrender to the Kundalini energy when I experienced it was another. I wrote in detail about this experience in my book, Female Kundalini. These times demand that the individual make an active conscious choice at that point. 

On this path, there is nothing given that is not well and truly earned. So, those non-dualists who say, "There is nothing to do, you are already THAT. There's no need for practice, discipline, or self-observation."

I say, "This is simply not true. Believing it so is to live inside a spiritual bubble, which will sooner or later burst."