Sunday, August 28, 2016

Is Compromise Possible? - A Kundalini Worldview

With tropes like, "This is the dirtiest campaign ever" being amplified to a fanatical degree by the Media and the Internet, it's possible to think it may be so, until you remember the pundits have been saying the same thing about the last several election cycles and presidential campaigns. So I think it's safe to predict that the next election cycle will sink to even lower depths, waste more time that could be used for getting things done, and throw away more money for the wrong reasons.

It's not so much about the beliefs and positions of the left or right as it is about the growing distance between the two camps that's making compromise close to impossible. So what's wrong with that, what's wrong with opposing camps raining down invective and hurling personal insults at each other?
Black Lives Matter in an America Made Great ©JJ Semple
Is Compromise Possible?

You've heard the expression, "It's not personal; it's business." It's an expression that makes a lot of sense when applied to the nation's business, the business of running the country, which amounts to government doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, even if that sometimes means doing nothing. Personal connotes doing something for your own immediate gain; business connotes a rationale that involves something larger than the individual.

Sitting around the table negotiating takes patience, civility, and a degree of mutual understanding — what George H. W. Bush called a kinder, gentler mindset — the capacity to put oneself in the other's position. So what's happened to cause our society to move from positions of relative cooperation to total estrangement? Not that the political forces in this country didn't oppose one another's policies. They did. But when things were on the line, they compromised.

Alienation and ideological fanaticism lead to perpetual gridlock, a condition that's expanded geometrically since the 1970s, one we use as a talking point to blame the other side.

Can anything short of a Napoleon-like dictator get the nation focused on fixing the things that need fixing? That's what Donald Trump is telling us: that only a strong leader can put things right. But we know what happens when a country resorts to a so-called strong leader.
Bun-Hur: avoid the remake
Crowning the New Savior

The people who wished for it soon realize they got more than they bargained for. There's a memorable passage on the subject in Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata! (1952), a film that tackles ambition and abuse of power:
Zapata (to his followers): "You always look for leaders, strong men without faults. There aren't any. There are only men like yourselves. They change. They desert. They die. There are no leaders but yourselves. A strong people is the only lasting strength."
"A strong people..." How did we lose our strength? I'm not talking about military hardware, world hegemony, or economic supremacy; I'm talking about integrity. And when you succumb to every temptation out there, you do lose it. I've summarized this issue previously; no need to repeat. Only to add to the above that we're not alone; the rest of the world is right up there with us, chasing the same illusions: money, power, wanton sex, domination, self-aggrandizement — all the elements Freud said destroyed a man. And if they can destroy a man, they can destroy a nation, a world, a planet. Just look at the frequency and prevalence of incarceration, addiction, war, new diseases, racial hatred, sex crimes, wanton violence.

I used to believe the rapid increase in kundalini awakenings would somehow put us on the right track. No more. Why? There doesn't seem to be enough time to slow down the headlong worldwide rush to self-destruction.

Not by any of the accepted orthodoxies can we change course:

Religion can't do it: There are more religious wars now than ever before, and on a grander, worldwide scale.

Education can't do it: There are a lot of intelligent people, but the true test of intelligence is not IQ; it's what you use your intelligence for. The more people who graduate; the more they disagree; the more they indulge self-interest.

Politics can't do it: Any institution beholden to money and driven by it is bound to fail.

Science can't do it: It's one step forward and two steps back. For every Salk vaccine we get napalm and the atomic bomb...with runaway profit margins. A cure for every ill, never mind the side effects.

If these orthodoxies were capable of change, they would have already changed things — they've been at it long enough. My guess is, over time, our brains become hard-wired in one of two ever-more-bitter positions: Right becomes Alt-Right and Left becomes Alt-Left. Over generations this breeds a strident, militant, self-righteous inflexibility.

Kundalini can change this wiring, rewiring the brain to a more flexible worldview, a more temperate, more tolerant human being, one whose consciousness extends beyond the puny, insubstantial ego. In order to do so, time is essential; it also running short.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Color Red

Color symbolism is important in Tantra. Color exists on a spectrum that is both "horizontal" (the infra-red spectrum) and "vertical" ( in which color modulates from the visual, via imagination and hallucination, to color that symbolizes transcendent realities.

Red signifies fire. The pingala, or sun, nadi is fiery red because, when Kundalini ascends the pingala nadi. She is the fire that underpins materiality and physical manifestation. This is why, in the pingala nadi, Kundalini can become a consuming force, an unbearable heat. There is a significant moment in Gopi Krishna's Kundalini awakening (described in Kundalini, The Evolutionary Energy In Man) when, exhausted and feverish, almost at the point of death from Kundalini's rising up the red pingala nadi, he makes a last-ditch inner effort and rechannels Kundalini into the ida, or moon, nadi (its color is white) where manifestation is female, interior, sustaining and cooling — and by so doing Gopi Krishna saves his own life.

Front Cover of Paul Lyons' novel Natalie
In alchemy, the initial awakening, after the "separation of the mercury" (the ability to sustain consciousness in the subtle body, or female state) is called the albedo, or white work. After this stage comes the rubedo, or red work, the more challenging task of sustaining consciousness in the fiery forces that underpin physical matter and one's own physical body. The red work is done in the pingala nadi, the white work in the ida.

Red is also associated with the belly chakra and its fire, where prana (the force directed at transcendence) and apana (the force directed at physicality) are mixed to create the "Blessed Inner Heat" that Milarepa speaks, in fact, sings, of. Interestingly, the inner woman, or shakti, whom Milarepa evokes and celebrates he calls the Red Dakini, the shakti of material manifestation.

Tantra in the movies
Last Tango In Paris (1972)
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider

There is a fascinating correspondence between Milarepa's red dakini and a passage from Dante's Vita Nuova. There is evidence that Dante, the great medieval Italian poet, was a member of the Fideli Amore, or "Love's Followers," an esoteric group that practised an alchemical/sexual awakening comparable to Milarepa's. Dante describes how Love appeared to him in a vision as his "Lord" (the transcendent Siva or Real Self) "the memory of whose being maketh me shudder:"
"In his arms methought I saw one sleeping, naked, save that she seemed to me to be wrapped lightly in a crimson drapery; whom, gazing at intently, I knew to be the lady of the salutation (Beatrice), who the day before had deigned to salute (save) me. And in one of his hands methought Love held a thing that was all aflame; and methought he said to me these words: Vide Cor Tuum (Behold Thy Heart)."
 This is a wonderfully powerful symbol, the after image of a true vision: Love holds in his arms a naked woman (shakti stripped of all conditioning) who is wrapped in a crimson drapery. What he has awoken (or better, what has greeted him) is the inner woman or shakti who is found the red bloodstream of the physical body. This "woman" is the Kundalini, union with whom, goes beyond physical sexual intercourse. She is woken in the heart that is "all aflame." The shakti of the breath, on the other hand, is wrapped in a white "drapery."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Like-Minded People

"Groups don’t think, act, or have motivations, only individuals
do. Each individual is different from every other. How can we fit
in one world? There isn’t much in common when you extend the
relationship beyond the one of mutual self-interest, so someone
will have to sacrifice. Any relationship should last only as long as
it is beneficial for each party. Intimacy needs to be cultivated and
~ How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World — Harry Browne
Like-minded people are the basis of groups, but finding and maintaining like-mindedness over a period of time is an illusion, bolstered by the urge to fulfill certain needs. Don't think so? Look at the divorce rates. What starts out as a testament to like-mindedness ends up in a lawyer's office because like-minded people are needy people, and needs diverge over time. How do I know this? I was conditioned to be needy; we all are. Our cultural markers direct us to identify with the needs of others, and, by extension, subsume their needs as our own — as if what others have is somehow more desirable than what we have.

To see this mechanism in action, look at popular culture. For example, the highly-regarded HBO television series, "The Newsroom."
"In 'The Newsroom,' Emmy-winning executive producer, Aaron Sorkin, uses the operation of a fictional cable news network as the heart of the story, with Jeff Daniels portraying the network's lead anchor and leading an ensemble cast. Episodes are written around actual recent news events, reported by a staff that takes its collective responsibilities seriously, but corporate and commercial obstacles — plus entangled personal relationships — fly in the face of their public mission."
While the show venerates the news gathering process, it revels in the vicarious interplay of the characters' compatible and incompatible needs, leaving the viewer with a field guide to neediness. In fact, "the entangled personal relationships" segments occupy more screen time than the news gathering segments do, and are so entangled it's amazing that these hard-charging producers and reporters get any work at all done.

It's not that those segments are less interesting or less well constructed. It's that any personal neediness a viewer might have is amplified by a parade of familiar tropes in each of the character's relationships. At one point, there's a play within a play in which one of the neediest characters encounters a "Sex And The City" tour bus that's hosting a guided tour of locations featured in that show. Need on top of need on top of need.

Cast clapping after another scoop in HBO's "The Newsroom"
HBO's "The Newsroom"
In this sequence, that character, Maggie, who lives with co-worker Don, who she doesn't love, is given notice after a YouTube video in which she confesses her love for co-worker Jim, who she does love, goes live and is viewed by Don who tells her their relationship is over. Maggie locates the woman who posted the video and beseeches her to remove it. At the same time, Lisa, Maggie's roommate, dates Jim, much to his chagrin because he loves Maggie.

Maggie discovers that Lisa has also seen the video and now wants to end their friendship. As the downtrodden Maggie ponders her next move, a double-decker tour bus, with Sex and the City plastered all over it, appears on the roadway alongside her. Frustrated by Jim's reluctance to commit to a relationship with her and anguished at his persistence in remaining quasi-faithful to Lisa, Maggie rails against the injustice of her plight to the tour bus passengers on the open-air, double-decker bus, only to have Jim emerge from among the amazed passengers, aghast at the melodramatic nature of her indelicacies. Jim, it turns out, is on the bus because a colleague had suggested he get in touch with his feminine side.

So...for starters, Maggie needs: Jim's love, Lisa's friendship, and Don's respect. She also wants to move up the ladder professionally, is frustrated that she's been unable to pull off her Don-to-Jim switcheroo in classic Sex and the City fashion.

How does this affect the viewer? Without being aware of it, the viewer is sucked into a cesspool of neediness. Why can't I have job like that? Be chasing a guy while another guy is chasing me? Vent my frustrations on the street from time to time? I deserve better; I NEED better!

Groups are unproductive because everyone goes full-speed ahead; everyone wants to impress, to prioritize their particular laundry list of needs.

In life, needs compete. And the more ardent the competition, the less likely the individual is to slow down and take stock. Who has time to be mindful of his or her neediness when 15,000 new Hillary emails are made public? Who has the time or the inclination to be mindful?

Mindfulness is being aware that you are You in the present moment, in spite of what else may be happening around you. It's not something that comes naturally; you have to learn and practice it. You have to acquire the ability to slow down, much as you do when you meditate.

Mindfulness is an extension of meditation, a practice you can call upon to recreate the meditative state at the first sign of provocation, turmoil, or stress...if only you can remember to do it. That's the hard part: remembering yourself! Nevertheless, once you're adept at remembering yourself in the present moment, you can extend your practice of mindfulness to include being mindful of superfluous needs that may be controlling your thoughts and actions. You can bring them to the fore, turn them around, examine them in all their aspects, and then dismiss them forever.

Being mindful is being present in the Now, and still getting your work done! Your actions are, in a sense, purified. You become unattached to the outcome, more aware of how you are doing at a given instant and less attached to the goals of your actions.

Woody Allen is a past master at using his characters to portray neediness, right up there with Anton Chekhov. In Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) his leading character's needs lead him into the murkier regions of the soul including murder-for-hire and the need to rationalize it.

In The Seagull, Chekhov's Boris taunts the beautiful young aspiring writer/actress, Nina, in this passage, using the seagull as a metaphor for the girl:

Boris: This is a beautiful place to live. [He catches sight of the dead sea-gull] What is that?
Nina: A gull. Constantine shot it.
Boris: What a lovely bird! Really, I can't bear to go away. Can't you persuade Irina to stay? [He writes something in his note-book.]
Nina: What are you writing?
Boris: Nothing much, only an idea that occurred to me. [He puts the book back in his pocket] An idea for a short story. A young girl grows up on the shores of a lake, as you have. She loves the lake as the gulls do, and is as happy and free as they. But a man sees her who chances to come that way, and he destroys her out of idleness, as this gull here has been destroyed.
And so, over the course of the play, he does exactly that — destroys her with Iago-like "motiveless malignancy."

Both Allen and Chekhov introduce us to the fact that because art comes to the artist intact — as a result of their talent — artists tend to become heedless of the strivings of others. Witness Boris's wanton destruction of Nina and Irina's belittling of her son's writing. Thanks to an innate talent, the artist's needs of self-expression are taken care of, so they must manufacture new needs, exemplified in The Seagull by the artistic characters unconscious destruction of the weaker characters.

What does this have to do with kundalini? Kundalini not only leads to mindfulness, it overhauls human nature, allowing you to become less attached to real or perceived needs. Moreover, it puts "like-mindedness" in perspective, that the urge-to-merge is largely an illusion, that you don't have to run alongside a tour bus blurting out your despair. That being yourself with yourself in the moment is satisfaction enough.