Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer In The City

Kundalini is distilled sexual energy. What does this mean? Why is sex so important? You might say it's because, walking through the midsummer crowds in a big city, it's in your face. The erotics. You withdraw into your mind, just as urgently as into your body. You could be walking happily out the door of your lover's apartment, or you could be an equally happy celibate heading for a contemplative coffee. It hits you just the same. The Tantras say that all things manifest the copulation of Siva and Sakti. The sunlight off a glass building, a squeal of brakes, a whiff of barbecue chicken — it's all sex. There is some truth in this.

The sexual act is the time when we face the paradox of being alive at its sharpest. It's the moment we come closest to complete union, yet it's also the moment we are at our most separate. We are joined to one another in a way that we are joined nowhere else in our life, and yet our innermost self moves further away than the most casual face or sway of hips we come across in the street.
Seeing With The Heart

The temperature rises. The clothes come off. The paradox sharpens. There seem to be only two things you can do: Get as much sex as you can. Convert as many of the hits into conquests as is humanly possible, knowing that no matter how often you score, your tally will lag behind the hundreds of daily contacts on buses, trains, footpaths and escalators.

Or else — ignore it. Defuse the gorgeous faces and intoxicating bodies by pretending that they have nothing to do with you, are not a meaningful part of your life, not like the wife is, or the exciting television program you're going home to. This second solution, unfortunately, entails a blunting of perception and a lowering of intensity in all element's of one's day, not just sex. As you put the key in your front door, your partner and Coronation Street feel a little unsatisfying.

There is, perhaps, a third solution. The arousal of Kundalini is known as the backward-flowing method. What does this mean? Tantric sexual practice involves a suspension of ejaculation, either spontaneous or willed, that takes place at the moment of orgasm. Something happens to the erotic energy when this occurs. It increases, and heads for the brain. Via the heart. If you try it, you have to accept the fact that this is not only unnatural, it's anti-natural. It's an attempt at transcendence. It's called "backward-flowing" because the energy rises along the spine, as consciousness, rather than  outwardly, unconsciously, as semen. A parallel reversal occurs in perception. Smell, taste, touch, space/time, and particularly eyesight — the whole sensory package that makes summer in the city what it is — stop being external sensations. They stop hitting us from the outside. The intoxicating bodies and gorgeous faces come from inside us! They are visions our brain has imposed on otherness. Does this mean that the world ends, and that other people stop existing? No. A sort of miracle takes place. The world is still there; other people are still there, in their skimpy clothes and heart-stopping loveliness, and ugliness, but they have lifted themselves to a dimension where their humanness, the thing that the heart sees, the thing that you can only look at, but never desire, is all that's there. You suddenly see them, and the hot day, and the noisy streets, and the smells from the pubs, with your heart, not your genitally-driven brain.

I think this is what William Blake is talking about when he speaks of the "Human Form Divine" being "four-fold," whilst the sexual body is only "three-fold."
"For a four-fold vision is given to me, and a four-fold vision do I see;
'Tis four-fold in my supreme delight,
And three-fold in soft Beulah's night,
And two-fold always; May God us keep
From single vision, and Newton's sleep."

In Tantric symbolism, Sakti, the life force at the base of the spine, has risen to the brain, and found union with Siva — That which is Beyond.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Evolution and Kundalini

Evolution is a much scrutinized subject. I once saw an X-Men movie. Walking through walls, telekinesis, telepathy, magnetic powers, etc. were included.

The context was mutants. Of course, there would be no homo sapiens without evolution, or without mutations; it's the operating currency of DNA and genetics. Modern humanity is considered to be about 50,000 years old.

Human evolution reminds me of auto sales. New cars may have features, new devices like an MP3 player or lights on side mirrors, that soon morph into "minimum requirements." And those new "features" become old hat, and newer features are needed. Such is evolution.

Kundalini as evolutionary energy is really a wild idea! Inside us is a mechanism driving evolution? Gopi Krishna reckoned that this "evolutionary energy" was pushing us toward a predetermined future human being. Nietzche wrote about Man and Superman, which Hitler misunderstood to be his "Master Race." "In his posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin wrote of the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is 'pulling' all creation towards it." Ouspensky wrote a book called The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution. Of course, it is a genderless idea.

My own version of this is contained in a poem called "Beneath The Surface of this World."

Beneath the surface of this world,
Invisible to the naked eye,
Exists an energetic framework,
The basis of both you and I.

A Brownian motion generator,
A quantum dynamic mold,
A thermodynamic continuum,
A multi-frequency spectrum of old.

It has a purpose, this sublime world,
A tendency to go from hot to cold,
A subtle yet definite cooling off,
A conductive, convective, radiative road.

A path, if you will, that all energy takes,
But Life defies this blasé manner,
Building structures and storing energy
With all the power of Thor's hammer.

Life's purpose is to grow, my friend,
Individual, species, and ecospheric biomass,
To convert the nonliving to the living,
The soil and water to trees and grass.

The whole direction of living energy,
Both universal and close at hand,
Is to increase its nature and its volume
While striving for the Super land.

Therefore the direction of human evolution
Must be to achieve the higher state
Of conscious living energy
That comes when spirit and matter mate.

A higher state of energy,
More concentrated and powerful,
This is the purview of the gods,
Of shamans, witch doctors, and monks of old.

A higher state of consciousness
Is simply life's purpose to fulfill,
To convert sunlight into gold,
The alchemy of the spiritual.

So freeing up one's energy,
Clearing the path for prana, chi,
Spirit, life's essence that circulates
Throughout the body is the key.

From Chinese medicine to Indian yoga,
From Egyptian meditation to Toltec Naguals,
From Nordic runes to Lakota totems
Life's purpose to fulfill is the ultimate goal.

The universal pursuit of higher states of being,
Religions of the masses and philosophies all
Are part of life's process of self-preservation,
A means to an end, a guide to the far.

So think not that there is an evil in life,
Evil is the absence of life, the self-destructive mode
That occurs when living energy falls short of the need
To bridge nature's gap, and continue the road.

We all do our best to live out our purpose,
To grow and to prosper as organic beings.
Some fail it's true, but no one is perfect,
Death's part of the cycle that gives life its meaning.

Continue to pursue the path of improvement,
Of self progression, of achievement of excellence;
The curve spirals inward toward an infinite center,
Unreachable it's true, but always intended.

As for the condition of society, ecology, and such,
It is all part of our living romance,
To fight the good fight when fighting is called for,
These are just steps in the cosmic dance.

Have faith in this bedrock of spiritual design,
This underlying world of energy,
For suffering is longing, the desire to grow,
There is nothing wrong with wanting, desire is holy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Long Distance Love

When I was twenty one, I left Australia to study at Cambridge. I'm an only child. My mother was very upset. She didn't want me to go. She made me promise faithfully that I'd come home as soon as my studies were finished.

I made the promise, and immediately broke it. I stayed away for fifteen years.

Taxed by my father with disloyalty, I pleaded that I loved my mother and thought about her a lot.

"Codswallop!" Dad replied. "That's an avoidance. That's just thinking. Without actions, thinking means nothing. Thought, on its own, is a cop-out."

When Kundalini awakens, something happens to "just thinking." Consciousness takes on an increased energy, while the physical brain's power over us abates. Thoughts become packets of energy arising from an energy field. They're no longer a series of compulsive nervous tics in the head. It's possible to see a thought coming, as it were, on its way — like an eruption from the surface of the sun that hasn't yet reached the earth — and to know what the thought is, without having to directly think it. It's this that makes mindfulness possible, and rewarding.

The true energy of thought begins in the heart, and is only registered in the brain as a secondary image. When the mind's center of gravity is changed in this way, passionate contemplation of a loved one becomes a movement towards them in the energy continuum, a movement that is as real as seeing them with our eyes, or holding them in our arms. In this way, Kundalini alters the possibility of what "just thinking" might mean to people who are physically separated.

It's no coincidence that there's been an upsurge in Kundalini awakenings at a moment in history when more and more people are parted from their loved ones: the Thai farmer selling hot dogs at Abu Dhabi airport, who's missed seeing his children grow up; the Filipino seamstress cleaning hotel rooms in London, who can't be with her dying father. People displaced by war and natural disaster. The drifter who can't explain why he doesn't go home to see his mother.

Mindfulness — knowing thought without thinking it — empowers consciousness and takes some of the physical edge off necessity. Painful though it may be, physical separation becomes the pale, outer shadow of an inner closeness. Indeed, when Kundalini opens the throat chakra, the source of space/time, closeness becomes oneness, no matter how far apart you are.

I finally made it home to see my mother, and she forgave me my broken promise and long absence before she died. Close to death, high on morphine, I think she understood the power of "just thinking," though my Dad still reckons it's Codswallop!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Centering and Breathing

Nothing is More Important Than Proper Breathing — Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing

Still, even if you breathe correctly, bad habits such as smoking, lack of exercise, overeating may negatively affect your overall breathing capacity. When you are a prisoner of habit, all the devotional practice and good intentions are to no avail. And that's where diaphragmatic deep breathing comes in. It can actually help you break bad habits.

So, is there a purpose to deep breathing, beyond its beneficial therapeutic effects? Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing allows you to slow down your metabolism, which in turn allows you to center yourself. What do I mean by centering?

It is hard to define centering because it is both a physical state (locus) and the awareness of being in that state. It's like being in the center of yourself and feeling and visualizing the confines of your being, watching it ebb and flow, and ultimately widen. Once you are able to center yourself, the very notion of confines drops away, and you exist in a state of undivided entirety.

Focusing on the tip of the nose with the eyes half-closed can is helpful in learning to center yourself. In case the eyelids flutter, try to find just the right amount of "openness" until they stop. Once you find the optimal position for your eyes and are focused on the tip of your nose without straining, you might begin to feel a sensation of the "head expanding," as if some force is prying you apart from the center outward. If you can "lock in," so to speak, you're centered. Now hold it and breathe.

You can enter and exit this state (center yourself) at will. Moreover, knowing that this state exists and you are able to enter it allows you greater power in fending off the rigors and challenges of daily life. Not that the world around is shrinking; you become one with it and your being looms large in it. You feel yourself expanding, able to fend off any challenge. Breathing is the key to this state and needs to be mastered as a precondition to Golden Flower Meditation. I found a great description of the process, one that parallels and broadens mine. Check it out:

Breath Of Life
"In the image above, the action of the diaphragm is shown. The diaphragm is located towards the bottom of the rib cage, and its job is to bellow down to draw breath into the lungs. This is much like squeezing a turkey baster. When you release the bulb, the action of it expanding draws air into the tube — this is natural breathing. Notice how in this way breath is draw in, not forced in. This type of breathing also ensures that the full area of the lungs are involved in the process, allowing more oxygen and energy to have access to the bloodstream."
Breath Of Life: Calm Power Through Natural Breathing ~Joshua Williams
The Secret of the Golden Flower states:
"One should not be able to hear with the ear the outgoing and the intaking of breath. What one hears is that it has no tone. As soon as it has tone, the breathing is rough and superficial, and does not penetrate into the open. The heart must be made quite light and insignificant. The more it is released, the less it becomes; the less it is, the quieter. All at once it becomes so quiet that it stops. Then the true breathing is manifested and the form of the heart comes to consciousness. If the heart is light, the breathing is light for every movement of the heart affects breath-energy. If breathing is light, the heart is light, for every movement of breath-energy affects the heart. In order to steady the heart, one begins by taking care of the breath energy. The heart cannot be influenced directly. Therefore, the breath energy is used as a handle, and this is what is called maintenance of the concentrated breath-energy."
Breathing is of vital importance; it is first step in the quest for self-actualization. A very important step, the key to new states of being. Begin the journey by exploring the relationship of breathing to heart rate and to centering. It leads to better health, reduced stress, and ultimately to ecstatic states, should choose to pursue them. But it starts with breathing: for a detailed description of proper breathing practice, visit the Visionary Being website. It's as simple as breathing in and breathing out. What's more, it's the doorway to the Backward-Flowing Method.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Awakening is NOT Enlightenment

Google the term Awakening, or surf Facebook long enough and you are bound to come across someone claiming to be Awakened. An experience of Awakening can be triggered by many different things from meditation to nature to psychological turmoil of some type.

Awakening is characterized by an experience of knowing that the personal self-narrative is not the correct story; there is an awakening to the truth of who one really is. Consciousness, which was identified with the body and mind, dis-identifies and becomes free, hence a realization of higher consciousness is experienced. However, in many cases, this Awakening recedes, giving way to the return of ordinary consciousness. Expressed differently, consciousness re-identifies back with the body/mind and is followed by a period of adjustment, often accompanied by a longing and yearning for the return of the Awakened state. There's no doubt that any experience of awakening, where one experiences a shift that alters consciousness, is transformative, but, at the same time, not always transformative to the level of Enlightenment. Too many people use Awakening and Enlightenment to mean the same thing, but for me, they are different.

Many famous people have had Awakening experiences that were the result of intense psychological trauma — two examples being Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. Both endured many years of depression. It was a thought that triggered their awakenings. For Tolle, the thought was "I cannot live with myself anymore, who is the I and who is myself." This thought was enough to shock his consciousness out of its normal patterns of identification, allowing him to become aware of who he really was.

I am less familiar with Byron Katie's story, but I believe her awakening was also triggered by a thought. Her method of self-inquiry, The Work, teaches individuals to examine thoughts to see if they are true. As a result of their Awakenings Tolle and Katie are enlightened.

A snapshot of how Katie's The Work operates
The trigger for many awakening experiences is the questioning of thought, or to put it another way, the questioning of the identification of consciousness with thought. The process of questioning or inquiry — frequently a result of great pain and psychological trauma — seems to provide a portal into the NOW, which triggers Awakening. Afterwards, life is never the same. It's as if consciousness recognizes that it had been bound, is now free, and is going to create and create and create; and so you have The Power of Now from Tolle and The Work from Katie. These are two examples; there are more.

My first experience of Awakening was triggered by a painful stressful psychological circumstance. Something happened and it was so shocking to my mind and consciousness that energy rose and I began to shake. At the time, I didn't realize it was an Awakening because I didn't have the words to express it, even though I had practiced Mahayana Buddhism for almost 10 years. It was only in the weeks and months that followed, when life calmed down and I became relaxed, that I realized "something" profound had happened. So while the phenomena of "inquiring into my thought" didn't happen for me, the element of psychological trauma was very much present and is the element I consider to be common in all degrees of Awakening to a greater or lesser extent.

I recently came across some research on this topic for the MSc that I am studying for, which shows that out of a study of 161 people who submitted accounts of their awakening experiences, 23 percent were triggered by or associated with intense turmoil and distress (Taylor, 2012 b). Interestingly, the type of turmoil didn't seem to be as important as the intensity. I didn't take part in this research, but my own experience supports this finding. For many people the experience fades, leaving just the memory and yearning.

Enlightenment is NOT Awakening; it is different in one respect in that enlightenment involves the transmission of spiritual energy and a transformation of identity. The Enlightened Masters in the past could transmit this spiritual impulse to their disciples/devotees. Accounts by devotees about the force of the spiritual transmission felt from their Master abound. It is this aspect of the process that distinguishes Awakening from Enlightenment. It might sound arrogant, and I say so from the place of being Awakened, but not enlightened, that if I don't feel an energy from the person who is claiming to be enlightened, then my view is that this person has had an awakening experience, but is not enlightened. In the burgeoning world of people claiming to be Awakened/Enlightened some tool of discernment is necessary to navigate the precarious, unpredictable spiritual waters without being lulled. Don't get me wrong, being Awake is a huge gift of Grace, but it's not the ultimate.

In the shift from the human to the spiritual that we are going through, many people will be having Awakening experiences and then claim to be Enlightened. This may not be done to intentionally deceive, but only as a result of the ego mind (identity) interpreting the experience and elevating it.

To determine whether or not they reach a state of Enlightenment, Awakening experiences need time to be integrated. Speaking immediately afterwards is not advised. This is where the adage "those who know don't speak, and those who speak don't know" comes from because it takes time for the experience to marinate and incubate, and speaking too soon can affect the process. Awakening is a stage on the path to Enlightenment; it is not IT.