Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Are Born Into This World

Grace Cathedral

We are born into this world, into our fate,
Driven by a will to live,
Inheriting our present moment,
Our ancestors,
Our history,
Our natural world.

We are born with the freedom to choose,
And that choice is:
To follow our evolutionary impulse, to grow and do good;
Or to pursue a less noble path,
Against our conscience.

To choose the evolutionary path, some would call Tao, some the Path of Knowledge, some the Way,
Is to follow our hearts.
To follow this path is to face fear and grow courage,
To find clarity,
To gather power,
To accumulate wisdom,
And in the end to know death.

One cannot follow this evolutionary impulse without the awareness of this choice.
To be awakened to this choice is to become religious in some sense,
To become aware of the spiritual world we live in, and the consequences of our choices,
To accept that a solely rational thought process excludes and denies intuition,
Upon which so much depends.

It is to accept the value and meaning of inspiration,
To create,
To dance, paint, sculpt, write, to invent,
To help others, to feel the earth’s heartbeat
In our own hearts,
To reflect the music of the deeper world
In the radiation of our beings,
In our light and life.

Therefore, if we wish to enjoy this life,
We must cultivate our awareness of this evolutionary impulse within us, and
Choose to believe that our choice to follow it is for our own good and the good of the world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Finding Balance in the Effort to Integrate Kundalini

One day there was a Me; the next day there wasn’t. One day I was practicing meditation, breathing in and out in a rhythmic manner; the next I was transported to another dimension I’ll never be completely able to explain or describe. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying. After all, I have one advantage: I never really returned from that other dimension; I live with a foot in both — the physical world we know as the “real world” and that other dimension. To describe it, I use terms from science as well as those from various spiritual traditions, not because I like arcanum or confusion, but because when I say kundalini, you’ll say chi, someone else will say orgone; and we’ll be talking about the same thing without knowing it.

Legs up
Are You Upside Down or Rightside Up
Nevertheless, once it happens to you, you'll understand how unimportant terminology is. Each awakening experience is only a different manifestation of the same energy. Sure, it involves struggling with terminology and understanding the same notions phrased in slightly different ways. The closest we get to clarity is a series of approximations of an actual awakening experience. And that's perfectly understandable because it’s not easy to express or describe. But there is a constant: everyone who experiences Kundalini has one foot permanently in that other dimension.

Mahatma Gandhi
There’s a corollary to that constant, one we learn, not during the Kundalini activation experience per se because during the experience we are floating in a no-mind state, at least I was. Immediately after — when we “come back to our senses” — we know there is an all-pervading consciousness behind the universe and behind human evolution. It’s not a hallucination or a projection of aberrant mental activity.

This consciousness is much greater than our bodies or the physical world we perceive. We are part of it, contained in it. In this consciousness, nothing is separate. All is Whole and Undivided. This cannot be learned in school or books, it can only be Known.

Hula hoop
Ever Increasing Concentric Circles
Very few of us progress straight from birth to self-actualization. To perceive whole and undivided Oneness, we first serve an apprenticeship, as it were, in a world of duality, a world in which every aspect seems to be in opposition to every other. This is not reality; it is the world of the senses, one we are conditioned to from birth. Once we recognize that we are conditioned to think in terms of duality, we are able to find ways and means of extracting ourselves from that conditioning; and we are offered the opportunity to do so.

Many individuals are so completely conditioned they remain that way for the rest of their lives. Some are able to recognize this conditioning. A few are able to work their way through it to the cosmological Oneness behind duality. Those who achieve this may attempt to integrate this knowledge with their real world lives; others are content to remain immersed in the bliss they’ve discovered. I chose a balance: remaining in the world, at the same time, realizing I am a part of an Energy Continuum. I didn’t really choose It; It chose me. That’s the kind of purposeful compulsion Kundalini introduces into our lives. After awakening, we can’t take credit for anything we do, say, or write. We are driven to it.

Yet, spurred on by an urge to understand my experience to the extent I can — how conventional science views evolution as opposed to how someone like myself, a person with a foot in two different worlds, perceives it — I concluded that Kundalini is an evolutionary force with a guiding intelligence behind it, and I looked for an evidence-based paradigm for examining it.

Now Playing
Let's All Go to the Movies
Science recognizes “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” as the operative mechanisms behind evolution. But is there another mechanism working at a higher level, one Gopi Krishna called the evolutionary impulse? Not perceptible by everyone at this time, this mechanism drives certain beings toward super-consciousness, allowing them to recognize and access energy fields beyond the confines of the circumscribed physical universe, beyond the five senses. Those who do experience it say this super-consciousness manifests itself as vibrational energy. If so, could it become perceivable at some future time by all humans as a result of a rapid surge in the quality of human evolution? A new tip of Maslow’s pyramid dedicated to higher consciousness? In other words, could all human beings eventually become conscious of consciousness at each and every moment of their lives?

Hand to mouth
Preparing for the July Fourth Nacho Eating Contest
Is the objective study of Kundalini a fool’s errand? Perhaps, but Kundalini is a many-sided subject. I believe we can learn from an evidence-based approach to studying its role in evolution.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Ego is the Root of all Diseases...Give It Up

I came across the title of this blog post while surfing Facebook. I couldn't believe that it received over 1,000 "Likes" and was shared over 300 times. What is it about that sentence that moved so many people to respond? Whatever it was that responded it wasn't the ego. In fact, the ego is the price paid for what is actually given up. Reading this sentence I asked myself the question "how." How do I give up ego? It's a topic I have long pondered.

After reading great words of wisdom in books, I always come back to the how. As I write this, I am reminded of the old proverb: Give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime. Spiritual writing affects me that way. The reading part is like being fed a fish. When I close the book, I am still hungry, still feeling the truth of becoming spiritually self-sufficient has eluded me. In the weeks leading up to my first experience of Kundalini, I was frustrated about not being able to find the tools for achieving the promised altered state of consciousness — whether it be awakening or enlightenment — in any of the writings I had come across.

In order to give something up it is necessary to understand how it is constructed in the first place. The ego is a construct, but just knowing that is not enough to enable one to give it up. Actually, it isn't giving it up as much as it is dismantling it and then realizing it is unreal. The process
demands rigorous and authentic self-observation, which is impossible to do on one's own. This is why the importance of the guru or the adept has been emphasised through the ages. The ego is always more cunning and clever than the soul. The ego is what Gurdjieff called the false self and it is constructed from life experiences. Not so much the experiences themselves, but the stories we manufacture around them and what we make these stories mean.

There are three ego development stages in life. The first comes around the age of 4-5 when the unconscious thought "there's something wrong here" appears and a way of being (pattern of behavior) is created to survive. This is the first construct of the false or ego self.

 The next stage happens during the teenage years when  thoughts like "I don't belong" arise and a second survival strategy is put in place, based largely on "fitting in." This ego layer is difficult to dislodge because it is a deeply ingrained protective mechanism.

The final stage happens sometime in the 20s when the thought "I'm on my own" surfaces and another survival mechanism is put in place. The sum total of the decisions and strategies adopted in consequence to these three events are what constitutes the ego. And the fact that they become so deeply buried in the persona is why the ego stays so well hidden, even after one finally goes looking for it.

It took an intense weekend of self-development training to enable me to see the who I thought I was wasn't the who I really am. Seeing those three events with perfect clarity allowed me to realize that what I had made them mean shaped the who I was. As a result of those insights and realizations something fell away and I experienced an unbounded peace and bliss. This happened in 2005.

I'm not saying that I am now ego-less; I'm not, but who I am for myself is now much more flexible and I am able to see the play of the manifested with that of the un-manifested. Dismantling the false or ego self is an absolutely essential step in the spiritual awakening process.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cosmology and the Life of Pi

Whenever we analyze something, anything, we are only seeing a part of a larger whole. Thus, we rely on something other than our immediate reason to make sense of our choices. Why did we focus on this or that? Can we really rationalize why we do what we do?

Sure, we guess, speculate, estimate what our motives are, but the fact is that motivation is pre-intellectual. It happens before we think, because in motivation is choosing what to focus the mind on. This goes to the heart of major choices in our lives. Why did we choose this or that spouse? Why did we leave college for a time, and go back with a new goal? Why do we vote the way we do, if we vote at all?

What tools do we have to maintain a sense of sanity in this profusion of unconscious drives and a reason that may or may not conflict with the real workings of unconscious motivations? For many, it is a belief in God, or something mystical, The Force, the Great Spirit, Brahman, the Tao, and so on. In human psychology, the function of this is to explain in lump sum all the unconscious energies that control our lives.

Whether we include the Big Bang Theory with religious cosmologies or not is a question to be debated for a long time to come. I enjoyed the film Life of Pi on this subject. This beautifully photographed film examines the question of which story of creation one should believe.

In the film, the narrator seeks to know the meaning of God. The protagonist, Pi, presents two creation myths: the Christian version in which God sends his only son to Earth where he is crucified; and the story of Krishna, whose mother is afraid he has been eating dirt and looks in his mouth to check. There she sees the moon and the stars.

On a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, Ang Lee
Life of Pi
Life of Pi is the story of surviving a shipwreck and Pi's sharing a lifeboat ride across the Pacific with a Bengal Tiger. Pi relates two stories to the Japanese Insurance company that insured the ship. One story concerns him and the tiger; the other, a fight to the death with his mother's murderer on board the lifeboat. One story is, of course, a metaphor for the other. Pi is the tiger.

Pi asks which story do you want to believe? It doesn't matter, he says. There was a shipwreck, and he is the only survivor. The Japanese insurance men prefer the tiger story. "...and so it is with God," Pi tells the narrator. Do you want to believe the Christian cosmology or the Hindu version? It makes no difference, since the world was created and we have to live in it. Believe whatever makes you happy.

It is faith that allows us to live day after day, faith that there is a larger spiritual medium that supports all we do and gets us through life. A loss of this faith causes people to despair, to lose hope, to become cynical and bitter. This is not the faith of a child who is taught that a parental God looks after us. Nevertheless, we accept the need for faith by understanding that one human life is trivial in the grand scheme of things. The daily newspaper bears witness to the tragic ways that people die — in hurricanes and tornadoes, landslides and plane crashes.

No, it is a faith that there is more to this life than a simple bio-mechanical construct that sees only a physical world. It is faith in the surrounding energetic world and the inner sensorium that drives us, these drives of living energy that push us forward through our days. That faith is a source of strength, of motivation, and of values.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Secret of the Golden Flower - Revisited, Part II

For over 40 years, I’ve practiced Golden Flower Meditation (GFM), the method in The Secret of the Golden Flower (SGF) that many adepts recognize as derived from the Buddha’s own meditation system. When I first started, I had no idea it was a manual for activating kundalini...

Perhaps it was because the Wilhelm translation of the SGF has a poetic quality that obscures unambiguous execution of the meditation teachings embedded in the text. Metaphor rather than easy-to-follow, step-by-step explanation is the norm. A modernized How-To it is not. Terminology often sidesteps the underlying process, hints at it, leaving you to wonder if you are doing it correctly. Some terms overlap in meaning; some techniques are referred to by more than one term. Only by obstinate practice do the techniques become clear.

Nevertheless, I kept at it. I’m not sure why. Part intuition, I suppose. Part distrust of mass movements: I was turned off by Scientology and similar movements that herded initiates toward obedience as dictated by a single leader. Buddha and Milarepa had done it on their own. Why couldn’t I?

Life in 1970 — when I started meditating — was quite different from today. No Internet, not many books on yoga or meditation. It took me over a year to understand the method and practice it in a systematic manner. The one thing that kept me motivated was that, once I caught onto the breathing techniques, I began to detect sensations of energy stirring and flowing throughout my body.

I became a skilled observer, applying techniques in a manner best suited to my particular morphology and soma. I created a step-by-step order for my practice, which turned out to be important because it’s not possible to jump over or skip a step; each one has to be mastered before moving on to the next one.

I stress the point about becoming a skilled observer as much as I stress learning to meditate on your own. Groupthink never gets it done; you can only learn so much from others. The real work is done in the laboratory of your own body. You must become your own best “spiritual” detective.

Individuality vs Groupthink
It Takes Courage to Go It Alone

GFM has entirely reengineered my nervous system, body, and brain. The method is composed of three techniques, each of which must be mastered in turn before beginning the next:

  1. Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing (DDB)
  2. Control of Heart Rate
  3. The Backward-Flowing Method (BFM)
Chi, prana, micro-cosmic orbit
The Backward-Flowing Method

It’s a system that Gopi Krishna, the 20th century’s great elucidator of Kundalini, described as “containing unmistakable hints about the sublimation process.”

He’s referring, of course, to sexual sublimation, a process that uses distilled sexual energy to wake up the nervous system and revitalize the brain and the body, ultimately triggering Kundalini. Although sublimation sounds mystical, it is really a biological process, entailing the diversion of  sexual energy to the brain. Instead of flowing out, as it does during normal sexual intercourse, the seminal fluid, or cervical fluid in a woman, is diverted to the brain in a distilled form known as prana, which is the key to enhanced neuroplastic activity in the brain.

Sexual sublimation is the basis of activating Kundalini in whatever form it takes. I say this because the Kundalini experience takes many forms, probably because the sublimation process takes so many forms. Hidden channels can open in dissimilar ways, triggering a flow of distilled sexual energy to the brain that varies according to individual metabolism and soma:
“For a week I observe my breath circulate in the opposite direction without noticing any effect. The mind goes on autopilot and I go back to my uninspired routine: walking, cooking, meditating. Then, two weeks later, about the length of time it takes the backward-flowing process to become permanent, there’s something new. On the day in question, I feel a sensation at the base of my spine like the cracking of a small egg and the spilling out of its contents. For the next month, I observe the fluid-like contents of the egg trickle out of its reservoir and slowly begin to climb my spine. What is this fluid? I can’t describe it exactly. It seems to emanate from the base of the spine and press upward. Each time I sit to meditate, it has risen a half an inch higher.”
~ Excerpted from, Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time
Meditating is easy for some, but not for others. It took me a long time to get comfortable with the process, to learn the posture and to concentrate. I was alternately bored and restless, fidgety and impatient, sleepy and indolent. Sitting in the lotus position, my mind used the time to review the events, impulses, and relationships in my life. I was powerless to stop this inner dialogue, to clear my mind of chatter. I knew it could be done; others had written about it. To succeed in meditation, it had to be done; all the teachings said so.

"Nor must a man be led astray by the ten thousand ensnarements. This happens if, after the quiet state has begun, one after another all sorts of ties suddenly appear. One wants to break through them and cannot; one follows them, and feels as if relieved by this. This means the master has become the servant. If a man tarries in this stage long he enters world of illusory desires."
~ The Secret of the Golden Flower

I dropped everything and concentrated on meditation in the hope it would improve my breathing, allowing me to become a better musician. However, sitting in the lotus position, I couldn’t get the breathing right. One day while walking, I decided to sync my breathing to each step, counting my breath over a series of strides. Exhale four counts, hold four counts, inhale four counts, hold four counts. Start over. I practiced a lot, walking great distances until my breathing became regular. The process of counting obscured the chatter, and it gradually disappeared. Eventually, I stopped counting; my mind had emptied. And I returned to sitting meditation, which then kicked into high gear. It had taken me over a year to get my mind under control, but once I was able to, the meditation advanced quickly.
As a result, my Kundalini activated at the age of 35. Energy I didn’t know existed started flowing through the neural channels of my body. I could feel and observe it. Almost immediately, I realized that this pranic, super-conscious energy was the Primal Spirit, a term I’d come across many times in The Secret of the Golden Flower without really understanding what it meant.

It took about three months for this process to complete. I never felt sexual arousal, rather a benign hydraulic sensation, as if a liquid was slowly being “pumped up” my back. Should you succeed in activating "the circulation of the light," as explained in Part I of this post, the outcome will probably differ from mine, or from the next person's. Don't worry about it. You'll find your way.
"When one begins to carry out one’s decision, care must be taken so that everything can proceed in a comfortable, relaxed manner. Too much must not be demanded of the heart. One must be careful that, quite automatically, heart and energy are coordinated. Only then can a state of quietness be attained. During this quiet state the right conditions and the right space must be provided. One must not sit down [to meditate] in the midst of frivolous affairs. That is to say, the mind must be free of vain preoccupations. All entanglements must be put aside; one must be detached and independent. Nor must the thoughts be concentrated upon the right procedure. This danger arises if too much trouble is taken. I do not mean that no trouble is to be taken, but the correct way lies in keeping equal distance between being and not being. If one can attain purposelessness through purpose, then the thing has been grasped. Now one can let oneself go, detached and without confusion, in an independent way."
~The Secret of the Golden Flower
Don't Lose Sight of the Body's Role in This Work
After awakening Kundalini, I was able to visualize my body as a real time, transparent, 3-D model, much like a life-size version of a child’s human anatomy toy model. I could see the defective parts; they lit up and vibrated at a different frequency. I could see how certain parts my body had torqued as a result of their being denied vital life force growth energy. How do I know this to be true? I know it firsthand; it happened to me. I felt and observed the energy rising along my spine, felt and observed it entering my brain. But don’t take my word alone. Test it in the laboratory of your body.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Significance of the Witness Consciousness....

Pick up any spiritual book and at some point you will come across the notion of "the witness" or "that which watches." But what exactly is this and why is it so important in spiritual awakening? Awakening to Atman or Soul is the awakening of the witness consciousness and my experience of this consciousness is that it is most easily seen when meditating.

It is the consciousness that is present when I sit and simply and dispassionately watch my thoughts, emotions, attitude etc. That which watches all of these aspects is the witness.

In the early stages of meditation cultivating this consciousness is likely to be frustrating because the moment one recognizes that "something" is watching thoughts et cetera that awareness disappears at that moment; the moment you try to grasp it is the moment that it goes.

Meeting me for the first time, many people remark how calm I am. This is due to the many years I have spent building a connection with the witness. Cultivating the witness has resulted in thoughts and feelings that might have been difficult to control.

Because I am human, there are times when I react rather than respond, but as time goes on these moments are becoming less and less frequent. For me, this is what living from an enlightened state of mind is about. I don't know if it is actually enlightenment itself, but it is the state from which enlightenment arises. To come from pure enlightenment, I would have to enter into Samadhi or stillness, a state where the subject/object separation is not present. The fact that I can witness what is arising in the body/mind as the observer (subject) means that there is still separation and therefore not enlightenment. Awakening involves the witness consciousness, enlightenment is beyond the witness. When enlightenment occurs, there is no "I" present to witness or report back. Any reporting back is from memory and that is not the state itself. So when people — and there are now many who openly declare themselves to be enlightened — describe their experiences, a part of me says, "Awakened? Maybe, but enlightened, definitely not." This is the way I describe myself: awakened, yes, enlightened, no. All that can be captured after Samadhi is the essence of stillness, not the stillness itself.

The way to contact stillness is to create space. Stillness develops in space. When there is no space, when the mind is busy with idle chatter, there is no space and therefore no stillness. Meditation is the art of connecting with this stillness through becoming aware and not judging anything which arises while meditating. Witnessing is like a mirror that reflects exactly what is put in front of it without adding or taking away anything. A mirror simply reflects what is. Contacting this stillness results in an experience of bliss. Another way to contact stillness is through compassion, through a combination of empathy and love that involves the movement of energy from you towards something else. That movement of compassion, away from "I" or ego, also connects to the stillness. The most powerful way to connect with the inherent stillness at the core of our beings is by acceptance, by allowing any elements of experience to simply be there.

Many years ago, while doing a retreat I was sitting on a chair in the library of the retreat centre, looking out the window. I don't remember thinking about anything in particular when I was suddenly gripped by an intense wave of anger. I had a really strong urge to throw a plant sitting in the corner out of the window. This really surprised me because there was no trigger at that moment that would have made me feel angry. Then, I realized that anger is a natural energy that lies within and it is necessary for growth. At that moment, I was unable to attribute those feelings of anger to anything happening in my environment. Eventually, I saw it as an expression of natural intrinsic energy. If we acknowledge its presence — not looking for the reason why it's there, not desiring it not to be there, or not acting out in ways which are destructive to ourselves and/or others — then we can be free to let anger purify the body/mind, which is its natural purpose.

The energies of anger, grief, and love are natural energies that serve our spiritual growth. If they are suppressed and not allowed to be expressed safely, they become supercharged, and eventually uncontrollable. They change from being slow feelings to fast emotions which result in the release of certain neurotransmitters into the body. Feelings foster self-awareness. If they are slow and observable, then awareness expands. Quantum mechanics show us that the nature of something changes when it is observed. So if the feeling becomes supercharged, the emotional intensity prevents the act of observation in many cases. For quantum scientists, a "unit of measurement" that collapses a wave to a particle is, as I see it, nothing more than the witness. This is why it is so important on the journey to spiritual awakening. Without the witness there is no awakening of consciousness, no freeing of the self from the body/mind.