Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kundalini And Evolution

The authors of the Tantras speak of history as a decline, a falling away from an original perfection. As the ones who revealed the techniques for awakening Kundalini, these authors ought to be listened to. What we call evolution, they call a darkening. What we call progress, they call a lapse and a forgetting. They depict human history as a stage-by-stage descent into chaos. These descending stages are the four "ages" of Hesiod's "Works And Days," the Ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron.

Natalie book cover
In the remarkably parallel Hindu picture, our present era (Hesiod's Age Of Iron, and the Age Of The Wolf of Norse legends) is called the Kali Yuga, the "time when Kali is wide awake," Kali being the female deity symbolizing the elemental, primordial forces, which become destructive when not balanced by a transcendent stillness. The Kali Yuga is a time of alienation from that which transcends the world, a severing of the links with the Primal Spirit, leading to the predominance of all that is merely material and physical. As The Visnu Purana puts it: " alone will confer rank; wealth will be the only source of devotion; need will be the sole bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation..." Surely this describes much, if not all, of the outer social and economic world in our era. Far from evolving, we are descending. It's for this reason that there's been such a widespread current awakening of Kundalini, because it's on the physical body that Kundalini works, opening a sort of Last-Chance-Saloon path to transcendence, when the more ancient and more spiritual paths have been largely lost, and we're stuck in our own heads and nervous systems, floundering in the surrounding materialism.

That Kundalini heals and re-balances the body and brain is beyond doubt. I am undergoing this physical reshaping myself. However, as it goes on, I can feel it being resisted by forces from outside me, by energy fields in my environment. As my center grows more still, the powers trying to throw it off balance become more and more external, and more powerfully external. When Kundalini awakens, sensitivity to the surrounding energy field becomes so heightened as to be sometimes frightening. The Kali Yuga is right there in your face. An opaque being is standing an inch in front of your eyes. Personal weaknesses and problems become charged with a force they never had before, as if they too come from outside you, and are no longer merely the quirks, loveable or less so, of the guy or lady you used to be.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Spiritual Pursuits...Then and Now

In olden days, spiritual pursuit was more of an endurance trial-by-fire that required proving yourself before being admitted to the ultimate truths, as per the following example:
Knowing that his revenge was wrong, Milarepa (Then known by his boyhood name 'Fortuitous') set out to find a lama and was led to Marpa the Translator. Marpa proved a hard taskmaster. Before Marpa would teach Milarepa (c. 1052 – c. 1135 CE) he had him build and then demolish three towers in turn. Milarepa was asked to build one final multi-story tower by Marpa at Lhodrag: this 11th century tower still stands. When Marpa still refused to teach Milarepa, he went to Marpa's wife, who took pity on him. She forged a letter of introduction to another teacher, Lama Ngogdun Chudor, under whose tutelage he practiced meditation. However, as he was making no progress, he confessed the forgery and Ngogdun Chudor said that it was vain to hope for spiritual growth without the guru Marpa's approval. 
Milarepa returned to Marpa, and was finally shown the spiritual teachings. Milarepa then left on his own, and after protracted diligence for 12 years he attained the state of Vajradhara (complete enlightenment). He then became known as Milarepa. 'Mila' is Tibetan for; 'great man', and 'repa' means; 'cotton clad one.' At the age of 45, he started to practice at Drakar Taso (White Rock Horse Tooth) cave — "Milarepa's Cave," as well as becoming a wandering teacher. Here, he subsisted on nettle tea, leading his skin to turn green with a waxy covering, hence the greenish color he is often depicted as having, in paintings and sculpture.
~ The Magic Life of Milarepa
Contemporary seekers of enlightenment, truth, self-realization (or whatever term the current the spiritual authorities bestow on such seekers) would giggle at the prospect of building and tearing down towers and would quickly move on to the nearest strip mall offering kundalini yoga, a tee shirt, a yoga mat, and a 10% discount. Not so in yesteryear:
Marpa said to Milarepa, "I was very hard on you, but do not be distressed. Be patient. Teaching is very slow work. You have the energy to work, so build a tower of Sutra. When you have done that, I will instruct you and I will supply your food and clothing."
Western civilization is not cut out for "slow work." We want answers, shortcuts, formulae, handholding and all manner of emotional sustenance. After all, compared to the life of an eleventh century Tibetan, we're all fairly high maintenance.

Sure sign of spring.
Cherry Blossoms
Back then, the student stayed with the teacher/guide/guru 24-7, living in his house or boarding with a group of like-minded students. However long it took. Today, it's fitting in an hour of Tai Chi here and there, then back to the rat race.

California Street Garden Plant
So what kind of effect does the difference between the two paradigms have on the teaching?

1) Whether it's a weekend workshop or a Thursday night yoga class, there's an immediate dissipation once the practitioner is back on the street, in the subway or on a bus. A dissolution of energy. The student begins to question the process: as in "After all, what's the point?" "I won't be able to go next week because my daughter has a recital."

2) Motivation is eroded. It's normal. There's a lot of demands in modern life, and so little information on how to manage it. We might look around, pick a role model and follow it, but this is often hit or miss. So we end up wondering: I sit; I meditate, but nothing happens. How did I ever get involved with this stuff? Where does it all lead? How can it solve my problems?

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they're here to stay."
 Yesterday -The Beatles

All manner of colors
No one to turn to for advice; no towers to build and tear down. And yet the towers are all there, in other forms, of course: bills to pay, dishes to wash, jobs to go to, meals to cook, beds to make, dogs to walk, intimate conversations to have. These are our towers. All we have to do is recognize them, changing the way we think about the various intrusions in our personal space and daily lives.

Mixed bouquet
Girl With Flowers
Once we're able to change perspective, the task is no longer drudgery, but an exercise in mindfulness. And once mindful, our deep breathing kicks in to lower stress, make us even more mindful, and we whisk through menial tasks joyfully.

Wooden fence, sidewalk, curb, and flowers
Four textures
Mindful, we no longer waste time questioning things that must be done and we see our daily life as an extension of the weekend workshop or the Thursday yoga class. The paradigm is turned around; the restlessness vanishes. It begins to make sense: That it's not so much about teaching as it is about learning to remember ourselves.