Thursday, February 25, 2016

Kundalini And Anger

What happens when we are angry while Kundalini is active in the body and consciousness? Anger is natural and inevitable. The Tantric texts associate anger with the belly chakra, and the deeper form of anger — violence, the ‘fight’ element of the ‘fight or flight’ reflex — with the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine.

This is understandable: anger is a fiery state, a facet of the fire element of the belly chakra, whilst violence is in our very bones, a facet of the life force at its most elemental. It’s perfectly right and normal that Kundalini may awaken whilst these deeper forms of anger and violence are still inside us, not just mentally, but as part of our DNA. There are plenty of things in the outside world that are a just cause for anger: idiot politicians enshrining gun laws, fanatics prepared to kill for their meager beliefs. Such anger, however, is merely ideological, and nowhere near as raw or intense as the anger we save for our nearest and dearest when they upset us. When Kundalini is activated, this raw, personal anger can become magnified out of all proportion.

An example
The other morning I woke in the dark with a couple of hours still before the time I needed to get up, but with Kundalini very intense, an upward movement in my spine of a light that I was conscious had been there all through the night. By keeping still and lying flat on my back I could let it become both more intense and more supra-conscious. However, at a certain point, I needed to meditate. The simple repositioning of my body from prostrate to upright, and a more conscious control of my breathing, enabling me to stay with the energy as it grew more powerful. I got up, washed, and was just about to begin meditating when my mother-in-law came running in, wanting me to look at something. It was a long, deep, expensive-looking dent in the side of my father-in-law’s car. He’d been shopping in Chiang Rai, and someone had backed into his car while it was parked and he was in the shop. I’d given him some money to insure the car. Where were the insurance papers? I asked, eager to start meditating. Well, the money had gone to a big party celebrating Loi Kratong, the Thai River Goddess Festival.

What had my father-in-law been doing in Chiang Rai? Buying a uniform. He’s never had a job in his life — has lived for decades off his beautiful, marriageable daughter — but he owns six uniforms — western-style municipal and military-type uniforms that Thai men particularly fancy themselves in. He goes to fairs and temple parties dressed like a brigadier general and directs traffic and car-parking, an honorary occupation remunerated only in whiskey. His car needed fixing. What was I going to do about it? I was angrier than I’ve ever been at a politician or fanatic.
Edvard Munch
The Scream

The tipping point of my fury wasn’t so much the money as the fact that now I wouldn’t be able to meditate. Stillness, breath relaxation and mind control were now out of the question.

I sat down anyway, which made me even angrier — and a strange thing happened: All the energy of my rage was still there, racking my body, up and down, but the reasons for my anger, all the things and people I was angry at, suddenly faded away without my even trying to stop thinking about them. My father-in-law and his car were still there, but only as harmless husks, vague memories faintly troubling the surface of this deep energy. In some ways, I was meditating more powerfully than usual, because I understood that the slightest inner turning towards any of my usual thought processes would cast me down into a maelstrom. I knew that trying to struggle against my anger, or reason myself out of it, would be disastrous. Kundalini would lurch over into the right channel, the pingala nadi, alone, in a sort of physical explosion. After an hour, the energy was calm and luminous.

Blake has interesting things to say about anger. He speaks of anger, jealousy, sorrow etc as "states," as "states of being," comparable to the "elements" of Tantric cosmology: earth, water, fire, air, akasha (ether) and manas (mind). These states, like the Tantric elements, are simply configurations of energy, and, as such, are neither good nor bad. They can be passed through without ill effect, as long as we center ourselves on the energy itself, the Kundalini shakti. It’s in this sense that Blake speaks of anger and violence being transmuted into spiritual war, the struggle for liberation: "I will not cease from Mental Fight..." It’s the truth behind his saying: "The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Thoughts And The Lies They Tell Me

A Jihadi extremist walks into a crowded restaurant with explosives strapped under his coat. His thoughts tell him that the people around him are his enemy; his God will reward him for destroying them and furthering his cause. He pushes the remote that sets off the explosives that tears apart his own flesh as well as those who are close by.

Although this is a very extreme example, are we not all victims of our thoughts. When I was twelve, I thought my parents didn’t love me. This made me feel very sad and was responsible for some silly, bad behavior. It wasn’t until sometime later that I began to see how much my parents loved me, and the sacrifices they made, not only for me, but also for my brothers and sisters. This changed everything about our relationship and my behavior.

Our thoughts are often full of judgements, fears, doubts, worries. Our minds are filled with negative voices and pictures of what could go wrong. Experiencing life through our busy thoughts is often unpleasant. Even if our thoughts are positive, if they do not reflect reality, they can and will lead to disappointment because they
only portray fantasy.

There’s a funny quote that I found when I turned sixty:

"When you're 20, you care what everyone thinks; when you're 40, you stop caring what everyone thinks; when you're 60, you realize that no one was thinking about you in the first place." ~ Unknown
Built into our thoughts is this very strong sense that they are true. We don’t question our thoughts because we assume they are who we are. But are they true? Are they really who we are? And when we believe them to be true — a part of who we are — how do they affect us? Do they lead to inappropriate and destructive behavior?

Richard Rohr, in his on-line course on the Twelve Step program called Breathing Under Water, says: "We all take our own patterns of thinking as normative, logical, and surely true, even when they do not fully compute. That is the self-destructive nature of all addiction and of the mind, in particular. We think we are our thinking, and we even take that thinking as utterly 'true,' which removes us at least two steps from reality itself."

As a young person growing up on a farm in Eastern Canada during the fifties, I saw and experienced a lot of poverty. I recall a time when I asked my parents for a bike. I was told that they couldn’t afford it. Words I heard often and they were true at the time. Now that I’m sixty plus, not rich but financially secure, I still hear that voice when buying something I don’t necessarily need: I can’t afford it.

But it’s a lie; I can afford it. When the stock market goes down, (as it has a lot over the last decade) my thoughts are: My God, I’m going broke. But it’s a lie. The money I have invested in the market is money I don’t really need. But still, when the market go down, I feel depressed as if some impending disaster is just around the corner.

Meditation and Kundalini are teaching me to stop listening to my thoughts, and the lies they tell me. Kundalini has revamped things inside so that I am learning to listen to the more subtle voice that exists at a much deeply level than the chattering mind. This inner witness and its connection with the mystery that lies beyond it are able to observe the ramblings of the mind, to pick and choose what to accept and what to reject. They enable me to see how truly good life is, how supportive and trustworthy it is when I don’t allow meaningless thoughts, and the lies they tell, to lead me in directions I never wanted to go in the first place.

Thoughts, images, voices, constructs, conditioning, beliefs are transit visitors that protrude into our lives. They arise and they fall. They are not permanent. They are not you. When we learn to observe them, and not become attached to them, we can follow them or let them go. We can build the life that we want for ourselves.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hello, My name is ______. I'm an alcoholic...

This post is inspired by a moving documentary I watched recently. Eight men and women spoke about their journey towards alcohol dependence/addiction. What struck me was how each spoke about feeling a sense of anxiety/unease that alcohol "was able to take the edge off."

I began thinking about the nature of "the unease" which the alcohol numbed in relation to my own life. And when I looked back at my childhood/adolescence, I recognized this feeling of anxiety and unease. It was a feeling of not belonging. What I used to dull the pain was food and in my book Female Kundalini I speak about this.

 I now recognize that the emptiness I felt then and continued to feel until I found my spiritual teacher was a spiritual emptiness which all of us, by virtue of being human feel, but frequently block out either by denial or by employing a crutch. The particular crutch we select to make us "feel better" tends to stick to us for the rest of our lives.

I recently heard a famous writer being interviewed and he spoke about how in his early childhood he developed a stutter and turned to writing as a relief from talking, he channeled the anxiety he felt into writing which has made him the extremely successful writer that he is today. Many other writers speak about "being driven to write" that the writing "relieves something."

This is all good and productive when the crutch one uses is socially acceptable and lucrative, but my compassion goes out to those whose crutch is alcohol and/or drugs, both of which quickly become a slippery slope. It is said of alcohol that first it becomes a guest, then a host, and then a master. In the stories which the eight people in this documentary told, that was the inevitable pattern.

What makes one person use alcohol and another the pen to relieve anxiety? I don't know, is it karma? We all do it — more or less. If, however, each of us was to make an honest self-appraisal, we could probably identify the crutch we use to make us "feel better." As our dependency advances, shame and denial kick in. This is the despairing cycle that I went through for years with food. And that's why I'm concerned with the nature of this unease we all feel and are constantly trying to get relief from.

It was only when I read the teachings of my guru and His explanation — that unease is the result of "self-contraction," a separating of ourselves from Reality — that I was finally able to understand the nature of this discomfort.

For the first time, I felt beyond the tension of the self-contraction to the indivisible Reality that lies beyond. Now I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have finally found my Guru. I know that the word Guru holds negative connotations for many people, and for me to be a devotee involved a major loss of face because I am on record as previously saying that no one needs a Guru.

But because each of us creates the self-contraction it is not possible to free ourselves from it alone. Was it Einstein who said that a problem cannot be solved at the same level as the mind that created it, that solving it requires something else? Guru means going from dark to light and it is the hardest thing to accept that as human egos we are in the dark and in order to be free we have to surrender to the light of a guru or realized adept; there is no other way. The Guru removes the obstacles to realizing our true nature, not by working on ourselves, but by turning our attention to the Guru and surrendering to the process.

The ego "I" rejects this and I am sure that the previous paragraph is controversial, but I have only ever spoken or written about my own experience and that hasn't changed because I am now committed to the path of devotion. This activity of self-contraction that we all do at a deep subconscious level leaves an anxiety and unease that we don't want to feel so we look for ways not to feel it. Any search, whether material or spiritual, is aimed at relieving the underlying anxiety caused by the decision to break away from Reality and identify itself with the body/mind. This is how the search works and it is the ego "I" that searches. The irony, however, is that separate-ness is an illusion.

Freedom or Self-Realization comes not from searching for ways to relieve this anxiety but by having the courage to feel into and examine the sense of anxiety and unease and trace it back to its source. I am aware that this is much easier to write about than to practice. At the height of my self-destructive food binges, if you had asked me what it was I was trying not to experience or feel, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. All I would have been able to say was that there was a tension in me that binge eating eased temporarily, which is why addictions are so strong.

At the end of the documentary, all of those interviewed said that the way they cope without alcohol today is due to learning how to handle and manage feelings of unease and anxiety; they don't go away (of course they won't because they are inherent in the design of the human being). So instead of seeing these feelings and unease as a sign of weakness, we need to see them as human feelings that we all have. The only way to be free of them is not to search for ways to be free, but to recognize that we are and always have been free, but we just don't realize it. To understand this is to end the search forever.