I’ve learned how to become the experience of ordinary days. Some become the rush of the joys and tears of every moment. To many, that rush is life. But to balance between the two, as in the moment of twilight, where the light and the dark tremble in each other’s embrace before one surrenders to the other – that is equanimity – that is life.
If You Build It…
Making resolutions at the beginning of each year is a widely accepted ritual. Whether or not there is follow through is another story, but the steps taken to proceed with resolutions also involve rituals that are unique to each person. We all have our own ideas on how to achieve our goals, but I think we can all agree that the impetus for this process is desire. The desire to improve. The desire to remake. And if you’re on a path, desire and ritual become inextricably linked.
Progress on the spiritual path requires commitment. You read the words of masters and listen to teachers who embody that which you are seeking. With all the learning and absorbing of teachings, I can tell you that the most important component to any spiritual path is devotion or bhakti, which is the piece many will avoid. In a previous post, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” , I discuss the West’s discomfort with devotion. The bottom line is, if you approach your path with an open heart, devotion will come.
Those of us raised in a traditional religion are familiar with the forms and rituals devotion takes. At the beginning of my sadhana, my teacher told us that our idea of the Sacred will change over time. In the beginning, he suggested that we use the form of our personal Ishwara to help us in our contemplations until we reach the point where no form is needed. Whether you approach spiritual practice with or without form is not important. What’s important here is the desire for the presence of the Sacred in your life. Build your practice around that.
Your sadhana may or may not involve the ritual an altar or meditation room provides, and while we might get carried away with the externals of the physical space we set up, dedication to that space (whether internal or external) will allow the Sacred to lift you up to become the highest expression of yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner. The Sacred will meet you wherever you are, but you have to want it. How much do you want it?
Message to self (lowercase ‘s’ is intentional)
You think you are free. That you have free will. Who is it that you think is free? You, as a body/ego, are not free. The ego is a bundle of karmas and your life is providing an arena for those to be played out…and to acquire new ones. You have responsibilities: job, family. Where is the freedom? You feel constrained by a body that gets sick, gets old. Where is the freedom?
You give way too much importance to the body/ego personality living a life. You think that is all there is and you pour all of your energy into sustaining things that do not last.
YOU as a being of pure consciousness, YOU as part of the Absolute are free. Know the difference and the struggle ends. As a being of pure consciousness, You are free to place the attention of the body/ego wherever You want. That, and only that, is under Your control. This is Your power; wield it with good intentions.
So, You’ve Freed Your Mind, Now What?
If you tried any of the tips I suggested at the turn of the New Year, then you may be experiencing some problems. You’ve probably noticed that as your mind begins to transcend the limited and narrow scope of the material world in which we live, a whole new set of complications arises. After taking that red pill, you may wonder, “What in the world was I thinking?” In “The Matrix,” Morpheus apologizes to Neo, knowing that freeing a mind, especially past a certain age is “…dangerous…the mind has trouble letting go.”
“… Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path, so the wise say—hard to tread and difficult to cross.” ~ the Katha Upanishad
Learning to live in harmony with what is real and what is not is like learning how to ride a two-wheeler all over again. You’re going to fall and it’s going to hurt, but eventually you will learn that delicate balance required to carry you to your destination. Near the end of the 1946 movie, “The Razor’s Edge,” Tyrone Power’s character comments on his searching: “It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun. I’ve known moments of futility and frustration…” well, you get the point. So, let’s take a look at life outside the Matrix.
“The ego lives in darkness, while the Self lives in light.” ~ the Katha Upanishad
ॐWhen we begin to awaken, our compassion grows. Our thoughts turn away from competition to thoughts of cooperation. Not so concerned anymore with what we can get for ourselves – be it glory or more material things – we become more concerned about how can we alleviate the suffering of others. Tolstoy, who became enlightened in his later life, said: “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” Throughout the past, there have been individuals who walked this path, inspiring others toward peace, justice, and equal rights for all: Jesus, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon, Malala Yousafzai, just to name a few. It shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that everyone I just mentioned either met a violent end or, as in Yousafzai’s case, was targeted for assassination. There have been others, of course, who have met similar fates, and many more that will never be known beyond their own small circle of life. Keep walking the talk.
ॐ When we begin to awaken, we become intolerant for anything that might pull us away from the still mind and pure heart we are trying to establish. We may find parts of our old life fall away. This can be scary. Don’t worry, new will replace the old, as an old friend used to remind me, “You have to empty the cup before it can fill up again.” Don’t resist this process.
ॐ When we begin to awaken, we may want to isolate ourselves from the noisy, divisive world, as it no longer satisfies us. After Tyrone Power’s character begins to awaken to the Truth, he expresses the desire to stay secluded so he never has to leave the bliss he’s found. The holy man tells him, “It’s not necessary to leave the world…but rather to live in the world, and to love the objects of the world, not for themselves alone but for what there is in them of God…” So, while it is absolutely necessary to give ourselves that respite to reflect and renew, it is unrealistic to think that we can isolate forever, however tempting that might be sometimes. Besides, you will progress more quickly by staying in the world and learning how to balance while treading the razor’s edge. It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun….well, you get the point.
“May we light the fire….that burns out the ego, and enables us to pass from fearful fragmentation to fearless fullness in the changeless Whole.” ~ the Katha Upanishad
Tips to Free Your Mind in 2015
This past year has pushed up the emotional underbelly of our society, showing us that we still have a lot of work to do on ourselves if we are going to achieve the peace, joy and goodwill that each of us wishes for humankind. We are all victims of cultural conditioning, but the time has come to break away from the limitations of thought that have been imposed on us by society.
“You have to understand….most people are not ready to be unplugged and many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” ~Morpheus
I have assembled, in no particular order, some tips on how we might unplug from the matrix and free our minds in 2015:
ॐ An ancient Buddhist proverb says, “All suffering exists because of our attachment to an untrue self-image.” This untrue self-image is the one imposed on us from the day we are born. It keeps us stuck in the ego-driven world and encourages the “us against them” mentality. Rumi said, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” By contemplating this, you will begin to discover your true nature and come to understand that no differences exist between us. But be warned: Asking “who am I” may eventually lead to enlightenment (aka permanent freedom from the ego).
ॐ Jiddu Krishnamurti’s most famous speech was delivered in Ojai, CA in 1929 and is called “Truth is a Pathless Land.” Krishnamurti was referring to religion and spirituality in this speech and said, “Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.” He observed that once you organize a belief system into a religion you give it form, which then crystallizes and deadens it as it becomes entrenched in dogma. Dogma fits nicely into our 3D world, but religious intolerance has become the result. The challenges we face are forcing us to break free of the 3d matrix structure in which we’ve been living, transcend dogma, and expand our consciousness to include the whole of the manifest and unmanifest. Recognize the common thread that runs through all faiths; the Golden Rule is the same for all religious philosophies.
ॐ Look closely at the people whose words you take as truth and watch the thoughts you have as a result of what they say. This can be anyone from mainstream media pundits to politicians to religious leaders who limit, confine, point the finger, and manipulate through fear. An all-inclusive, compassionate way of living is rejected as these people keep serving up the blue pill. You can put your attention anywhere you want. If you ever have thoughts that in any way exclude, label, or polarize, then you need to reject these people and their weapons of mass delusion. Accept only love.
ॐ Meditate, or at least start to practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness, aka being present, will show you that a space exists through which you can escape the mundane. Meditation keeps you in that space. It is imperative to set aside that time to allow yourself to know yourSelf. Magic happens in the quiet.
Peace, Shanti, Paz, Paco, Pax, Paix, Hasti, Rukun, Shalom, Amani, Ukuthula, …and TLGO
Form, Flow, and the Flower of Life
Some years ago, during contemplation, I was given a glimpse of the Sahasrara, the one-thousand petaled lotus. It appeared to me as a white mosaic and inside was a triangle, the shape of which was continuously being outlined in black. My teacher is always telling us that we might see colors and/or geometric shapes during contemplations, but I recognized that this glimpse was important for me to check out. I had guessed I’d seen the crown centre, but I wasn’t sure why a triangle was there. I knew the triangle had esoteric significance, but I just didn’t know enough at the time to put it all together. After some research, I found the closest representation of what I experienced in the book, “The Sacred Power” by Swami Kripananda (the picture above is not the one from the book, but similar. I saw only the color ‘white’). My teacher confirmed what I saw and when I asked him what the significance of the triangle was he pointed to a tapestry of a yantra (designs helpful for contemplation or meditation on the Absolute) he has hanging on a wall in the sitting room. The triangle as ‘trinity” is probably most familiar to Christians, but the trinity actually appears in many religions/cultures which predate Christianity. India, Greece, Babylonia, Egypt, among others, all had their own triad representations of the Divine. In the asana practice, “The Flow Series,” Ganga White of the White Lotus Foundation comments on trikonasana (triangle pose): “The triangle is the building block of geometry. A foundation pose that represents the three principles of knowledge, will, and action.” Swami Kripananda in the book “The Sacred Power,” describes the significance of the triangle located in the Sahasrara this way:(*Swami Kripananda, The Sacred Power: A Seeker’s Guide to Kundalini, (SYDA Foundation, 1195), 114)
“The sixteen Sanskrit vowels beginning with ‘a’ form the first line of the triangle, the first sixteen consonants beginning with ‘ka’ form the second line, and the sixteen consonants beginning with ‘tha’ form the third line.”
“…The first line is the line of fire…is associated with Brahma, creation… The second line is the line of the moon, connected with Vishnu, preservation…The third line is the line of the sun…is associated with Rudra, destruction..”
“The a-ka-tha triangle is the abode of Shakti and also of Paramashiva…”*
In other words, the triangle contained within the crown centre is the seat of the Supreme Consciousness. You see triangles forming yantras (literally meaning “instrument” or “machine”) representing the creative forces of the universe through the Divine aspects mentioned. You may also see lotus petals surrounding the yantra or maybe circles connecting the geometric patterns.
The lotus is the flower used as the metaphor of spiritual unfoldment. It is rooted in muddy, murky waters until the lotus flower rises above the muck and blossoms, just as we transcend the murky ignorance of the ego to realize our true Self. A lotus sprouts from Vishnu’s navel when the cycle of creation starts. Each of the chakras are described as having a certain number of lotus petals. So how does the flower and the triangle connect?
Nassim Haramein is a cosmologist trying to connect some of the dots in the mysteries of the universe. His research has led him to explore the so called “flower of life.” This is a symbol, which appears in many spiritual traditions and ancient cultures and is thought to be the ‘structure’ from which the universe originates. It incorporates ‘the torus,’ which, for ease and clarity, can be described as a flow of energy. But here’s an interesting connection: if you take the triangles represented in a yantra (you need 64 of them), make each of them into the 3d structure of the tetrahedron, add circles (spheres), representing the torus energy pattern, surrounding the tetrahedrons and then drop away the tetrahedra, you’ll be left, amazingly, with a pattern that fits the “flower of life” symbol. The video below illustrates this.
Maybe I’m trying too hard to make these connections, probably it’s a major oversimplification; at the very least it is fascinating to ponder. Hope you find it fascinating as well…
Reaching for the Light…(and a very special day)
There are moments in our lives that change us forever. Sometimes the change is visible, sometimes not. Those that are visible tend to carry more importance than the ones that change us on the inside, but that is the way of the world. Not that inside changes don’t ever get noticed; it’s just that it usually takes longer for those to manifest.
We break down our lives into manageable parts: childhood, elementary school, high school, college, jobs, friendships, romances, marriages, having children etc. Each stage of life will, upon reflection, reveal the secrets of its meaning to us, but that does take time. In her book, “Writing Down the Bones,” writer and Zen student Natalie Goldberg, called this ‘composting.’ We dig up our memories from the depths of our consciousness and turn them over in the soil of our minds, fertilized by the emotions that filter in as we process that which is now part of our past. When given enough time, maybe we can make sense of all that went before that made us into who we are today in this present moment. And when we do that, it’s hard to deny that there isn’t some plan at work. That which was planted rises up to the light.
I met my sadguru thirteen years ago. It is the one defining moment in my life that has no equal. Everything that went before was merely a preparation to bring me to that moment; I can see that now. And everything that has followed has carried me further along the path. Every life unfolds exactly the way it should. Be grateful to everything and everyone you have experienced. On this special day, I am most grateful for all that is in my past, in my present, and in my future, as I continue to reach for the Light….
How to Cultivate Compassion
Go Ask Alice
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” Morpheus to Neo
I’ve used the “The Matrix” before to illustrate themes of nonduality. Now, I’d like to explore the allusions the movie makes to the child’s tale of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which contains some interesting insights of its own. Tumbling down the rabbit hole has become synonymous with entering the unknown and is understood to be the ultimate adventure. Neo is instructed to “follow the white rabbit,” which he does, and it leads him to the red pill and his fall down that very high tech rabbit hole. Once Neo is unplugged from the Matrix, he is free to experience what would be considered ‘superhuman’ abilities: defying the gravity of the 3D matrix world or demonstrating excessive strength, as examples. Remember, “The Matrix” is an action movie, so the superhuman powers need to be visibly demonstrative. But the point is, whenever we see examples of ‘psychic’ or other ‘superhuman’ powers, we have mere mortals transcending the limits of the world in which they live. The question is why? Where in the collective unconscious do these ideas originate from?
In the book, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” (translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda), there is a section on “Accomplishments” or “Siddhis,” which are considered to be superhuman powers acquired by those pursuing a spiritual path. Even those not on a spiritual path may demonstrate certain siddhis, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience etc, which are presumed to have been acquired through past lives. Let’s be clear: These abilities only seem like ‘superhuman’ powers, but actually these abilities are latent in all of us. They come to the surface as the layers of ignorance about our true selves are removed.
“…but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.” ~Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
Alice followed the white rabbit and experienced strange occurrences after she landed at the bottom of the rabbit hole. She drank a potion and shrank in size. She ate a piece of cake and grew and grew. These are actually references to two of the siddhis (accomplishments) described by Patanjali. It is widely regarded that Lewis Carroll had deep spiritual leanings, which could have made him familiar with the sutras, but he used their literal meanings. What I mean is, no one literally shrinks in size or grows very large; it is consciousness that can be directed in such a way. For example, a person can ‘shrink’ his/her consciousness in order to contemplate the inner workings of an atom, or ‘expand’ it to contemplate the workings of the cosmos. Information is given to the seeker by use of the siddhis. Medical intuitives use certain siddhis to do their work.
“Samyama: practice of dharana, dhyana and samadhi upon one object, usually for the attainment of a particular power” ~ “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are the last three limbs of the inner practices of the Ashtanga Yoga system: Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption in the Absolute). Satchidananda explains, “By the mastery of samyama comes the light of knowledge….this means that the truth behind the object on which we do samyama becomes known to us.” As the sadhaka (one on a spiritual path) advances certain siddhis ‘come online.’ But there is a caveat: They sometimes impede spiritual growth. The ego just loves to puff itself up and show off, so you can imagine the danger here. Fortunately, the teacher, who is constantly watching over his students’ progress, monitors how each student handles the onset of siddhis. The teacher can take them away at any time if they are impeding spiritual advancement. Siddhis are to be regarded as “servants waiting in the corner,” used in a judicious manner and not for self-aggrandizement by the ego.
Every generation has examples of metaphysical insight hidden within the various products of its pop culture. The creative impulse is a wondrous thing; it taps into the collective unconscious to bring forth the art, music, literature and, since the 20th century, cinema we enjoy and study. So, enjoy the video of Jefferson Airplane performing “White Rabbit”……
You are Nobody – Part 2
In my December post, ‘You are Nobody,’ I discussed how we place too much importance on what the ego does. The ego has a role to play in this life, to be sure, but it’s a problem when that role becomes the only focus for the individual. The striving that propels the personality to achieve is crucial in the ego/personality fulfilling its destiny, but that same striving also takes it down roads that will never bring truth, or peace, because the importance is placed on the outer life at the expense of the inner life. Now, let’s take this a step further and consider the physical body itself.
“… you have to do all these things until you come to the conclusion that there is nobody doing anything… as long as you believe you’re still a body then you have to do those things that you have to do to find out that there is no body. ~ Robert Adams …from “The Knower is the last to go!”
The idea of immortality is a big deal for a lot of people. In fact, there are some very rich people pouring billions of dollars into longevity research. Of all our attachments, attachment to the physical body is by far the strongest, so this comes as no surprise. It’s also no surprise that attachment to the body keeps us stuck in duality. This is maya and this is the way it’s supposed to be, but the time comes for everyone when the way out of maya is presented. How many lifetimes that will take, well unfortunately, there is no way of knowing.
Meanwhile, we are all concerned with keeping the body healthy, as we should; however, society’s obsession with youth and beauty is not only a distraction, but also a perversion. It’s a trap that will keep you forever bound to the unreal, the impermanent. We all come into this life with a set of karmas that need to be expressed and experienced. We must realize that the prarabdha karma of the body (and of the personality) will play out the way it’s supposed to. There’s no getting around that.
Below is a wonderful video featuring a young woman with breast cancer. She describes to Advaita Master Mooji her struggles with accepting her diagnosis and how she came to realize the non-dual truth that it is just her body that is sick – she (as pure awareness) cannot be sick or die.
As Mooji says, “Take care of the body, but you don’t have to worship it. Worship the Indweller…”
The melody at the beginning and end of this video is particularly beautiful. It is “Remember” by Omkara. You can listen to the entire song on youtube.