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 their associated practices 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 iteration 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 of notoriety for a brief period. Someone comes along with a slight variation; the current buzz fades with the setting sun to be reborn with the rising sun as the latest iteration.

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.

       ~ Success Consciousness

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 ontology/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
Does Mindfulness need Kundalini? Must an individual activate Kundalini in order to practice Mondfulness? 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, albeit from different angles, to shape and influence the awakening process.

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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Transpersonal: Beyond the Personal Contains the Personal

Lately, I haven't written much for this site because I've been busy studying for an MSc by distance learning. The MSc is called Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology.

I first learned about the course five years ago when it was an in-house university academic course in Liverpool. Having just relocated, I didn't want to do it again, so I forgot about it.

In 2013, I organized and facilitated the first UK conference on Kundalini called Kundalini Matters: Science, Psychosis or Serpent. When the conference was over and I was wondering what my next step could be, I remembered this course. I looked for it again online and to my amazement found that it was now a distance-learning program accredited by Middlesex University and another organization called the Professional Development Foundation. I emailed the course director to find out more and to cut a long story short completed everything that I needed to register and began the course in September 2013. It has been one of the best investments I ever made.

I have been on a spiritual path on and off since I was 11. I have read a lot in almost every spiritual field from mysticism, religion, channeling, the occult, theosophy, yogic philosophy. I studied Buddhism for almost 10 years and then trained to teach Kundalini yoga, having experienced this powerful energy once in 1998 and again in 1999. So, I've done and read such a lot, but what was missing was some academic research that would tie it all together and ground everything. The lack of grounding in some spiritual communities and spiritual writings has often frustrated me. Over the years, I have become more of a spiritual scientist in that I am very discerning about what I consider to be Truth. With everything I have read and listened to, I have gone within and asked myself one question, "Is this something that I have experienced?" And if I haven't experienced it, I don't throw it out, I wait patiently to see if I can discover it within my own experience. This is the way that I have navigated the unpredictable spiritual waters, and to-date it has served me well.

In the first year of the course, I learned about Quantum Mechanics, an area I've always found fascinating at an intuitive level, but couldn't really grasp. The module on this course grounded my understanding and from it, I could understand the point of view of the mystics who say, "everything is ONE." From a quantum point of view, everything also exists until we observe it and then the waves of possibility change into observable particles or things. Doing this module, I felt like a child in a sweet shop; I enjoyed every minute of it and there's so much more that I could write about. The other two modules I did were creativity and transformation and meditation and mindfulness. The range of material covered and the academic documents available were so interesting I felt like I was putting together the pieces of the spiritual jigsaw. Altogether, a thrilling and absorbing experience.

The 2nd year has been more experiential; it's a module called "Learning through Integrative Practice," one I really like. I have often thought and sometimes written about how the spiritual is much more than a spiritual practice. It requires practices in other dimensions of being human such as, the physical, emotional, mental, social and interpersonal. So, this year, I will put together an integral program of these practices to be submitted for approval. Once approved, I will keep a learning journal as well as a log of the times I work on each element. At the end, I will submit a 3000 word reflective essay. I am really looking forward to it, as I am sure it's going to be transformative in ways I can't yet imagine.

If doing the full MSc doesn't work for you, there is also the opportunity to become an associate student. As an associate, you can choose from all of the modules offered — the ones you'd like to delve more deeply into.

This experience has been much more than a course. I see it as building up a transpersonal community, committed to that which is beyond, and yet within, the personal. A community where we share and help each other grow and evolve and, because we are all connected, share and help each other make the ideas and experiences we share more powerful. This isn't just spiritual; it's related to the discoveries in Quantum Mechanics.

I thoroughly recommend this course. The people who run it are committed to human potential in its most advanced forms, which is why I feel it's important.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Confidence on the Outside is the Result of Integrity on the Inside

What does it mean to ‘live with integrity on the inside'? The closest I can get to explaining is to recount a story about Gandhi. One day a mother brings her son to Gandhi and asks for help. Her son is extremely overweight and she doesn’t know what to do. Gandhi looks at the boy and says to his mother – 'bring the boy back next week.' The boy comes back the next week, Gandhi looks him intently in the eye and says ‘stop eating sugar.’

You must be the change you wish...
Why didn’t Gandhi say this to the boy the first time his mother brought him? He didn’t say it because he was eating sugar himself at that time and for Gandhi there was no integrity in telling the boy to do something which he was not doing himself. The next time there was no discrepancy between what he said and what he was doing.

Very often integrity gets confused with morality. Integrity has nothing to do with morality, right or wrong Integrity is about workability. Integrity for us as human beings means being true to who we are at the level of SELF. Not selling out on ourselves. When there is integrity within, there is no separation between who we are, what we say, and what we do — so the result is increased confidence on the outside.

Many years ago, when I was doing transformative, self-development work, I was asked to consider a law which operates like the law of gravity — and that is the law of integrity. Like gravity, it’s a law that operates regardless of the type of person you are. If I go up to the top of a building and jump, I’m going to go splat on the ground no matter if I am good or bad. The law of integrity operates irrespective of me; it's that kind of law.

The minute a person agrees to do something for somebody else or for himself, or makes an agreement of any kind, then, when it comes time to keep that agreement, and the individual doesn’t keep the agreement, for whatever reason, there is a karmic kickback from the law of integrity being violated, which has nothing to do with being right or wrong.

However, this kickback is not immediate which is why the connection between being lack of integrity and the quality of life is not made. In my own experience, when I can't keep my promises, I let the person I promised know as soon as possible if I’m not able to do what I said I would. This way life has a flow and a harmony that it doesn’t when I don’t keep my promises or act with integrity.  

However, this is just an idea and for many it will be rejected outright mostly because respecting that law requires a level of responsibility and accountability which we, as human beings, resist, almost as if by design. This is why it is a notion to be considered, not a truth to be fought to the death for, although I would fight to the death for it because intuitively I recognize its power. It is the very foundation of life for me. Without integrity, nothing works has been my mantra for many years and it has kept me safe when being true to my word was the last thing my mind wanted to do. In the weeks and months that followed Kundalini rising my mind was destabilized by all kinds of compelling and absorbing thoughts — to the extent that making a phone call I had promised to make or going to a training I had promised to attend was the last thing I wanted to do.

There were times when I was physically present, but was so tired from the inner battle that I could barely hear what was going on. Nevertheless, I was there. I had defied the mind —  it was a victory over the mind. This process is not easy, but it is necessary if one doesn't want to get stuck at various points on the spiritual path.

From time to time, people call me about their Kundalini experience. They tell me they want to give up work and just ‘process what is happening.’ When I hear this, alarm bells go off in my mind and I stress the importance of doing just the opposite, of continuing with daily life to find something to make a commitment to — whether it be charity work where you promise to do a certain number of hours, or something else.

In moving through the early stages of Kundalini rising, this is important, at least it was in my own case, and that is all I can speak or write about. By choosing to have what I said I would do be more important than what my mind, thoughts, feelings told me to do, I gradually experienced a level of freedom and integration of energy. While it often wasn’t easy, it taught me how to ignore the constant chatter of the mind. At the end of the day, when I've done everything I said I would, I feel happy and confident and life flows. Confidence is nothing more than being true to yourself in every way.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Breath And The Subtle Body

When she was 17, my mother contracted tuberculosis. Her father had died of the lung disease three years earlier. This was in the late nineteen forties. My mother often compared TB at that time to AIDs in the 1970s. Those friends who didn't abandon her in her contagious condition counseled her to never have a child, as the child was bound to be born with the disease.

My mother didn't take kindly to this advice. Shortly after I was born, she had the most serious of her "flare ups." She was in hospital for nine months, dreading she'd be moved to the sanatorium where her father had died. I remember waving to her from the hospital garden, through the ward window, not allowed to go in and visit her. When she came out of hospital, my mother had lost her beautiful red hair, and only three quarters of one lung still functioned. The doctors gave her a year to live. Wheezing, and fighting breathlessness 24 hours a day, she survived for another 46 years.
Stilling of the Breath
Girl Meditating

Why is stilling of the breath so important for the awakening of kundalini? Kundalini is transcendental consciousness in a physical form. Kundalini arouses, and reveals, the subtle forces that produce bone, nerve, skin, blood and breath; the nexus of forces that configure the body's individuality. Kundalini also reveals, like a candle shining upwards at a face in the dark, the individual body's relationship with the cosmos. This relationship is breath. This to-and-fro is breathing.

My mother had a terrible time breathing. A constant gurgling in her chest; wheezing 24-7, even in her sleep; fits of coughing at concerts; and the dreaded breathlessness attacks when there simply was no air. What kept her going? The will to live. The desire to be with her husband and watch her child grow up. Prana, the subtle force in air that is the source of being alive.

When I first practiced meditation and mindfulness of the breath, it was as if I'd contracted — not tuberculosis; dragged along to the X-ray unit every six months of my childhood, I showed no sign of the disease — but my mother's struggle with breathing. Panics. Black-outs. Oxygen-starved euphorias. Slowly, I came to realize that a lengthening of inhalation and exhalation, and a protracting of the time the lungs are empty, is natural. Suspension of breath was the natural, and optimum, condition for a new body that became discernible behind my gasping, gurgling, anxious physical body.

This deeper, subtler body is the source of my breath, blood, skin, nerve and bone. The moments when I live in it completely, I find that my physical body gets along quite okay on its own. It relaxes. Grows stronger. Thinks clearer.

What is this new, subtle body? I don't really know. To me it doesn't feel individual. It doesn't feel as if it's mine. I have a hunch that other people are somehow part of it, which is odd, because the precious thing about other people, particularly the ones I love, is their otherness. This subtle body, which kundalini lights up, insists on certain gestures. Twining of the wrists above the head, touching of the fingertips at a point above the fontanelle, spreading of the arms, straightening of the spine, and, coming from within, neither willed nor chosen, nor remembered from anywhere, the raising of the left hand, palm outwards, in front of the heart, and the opening of the right hand, palm flat, in the lap, the ancient gesture of blocking fear and offering gifts.

This subtle body is made of consciousness in a way my physical body isn't, and which my physical body often resists. This subtle body is where the fact that consciousness is more powerful than matter gets a foothold. It's the source of thoughts that are aware of their own deeper power; thoughts that come out of transcendence to be, sometimes, captured by the brain. They are Wordsworth's "thoughts too deep for tears," JJ Semple's "ideograms harvested in another dimension." The power of these moments of consciousness is proven by the way the physical body — anxious, panicky, strung out — resists them. This resistance happens, to me, in the lungs, a sudden clenching in the chest, like my mother's breathlessness attacks, that blocks my brain from registering what it already knows.