How to Cultivate Compassion

Mantra
Be present
Be present in the words you speak
Be present in the thoughts you think
Be present in the actions you take
Do no harm
Om Mani Padme Hum
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Go Ask Alice

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“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?

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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_in_WonderlandAlice 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

free-wallpaper-11111111111In 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.

The Resurgence of the Feminine in 2014

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402045Back in 1997, a psychic told me I should read “The Mists of Avalon.” I don’t remember the context in which he made that suggestion, but I bought it and started to read it. I’d always been fascinated by the Arthurian legends, but never found any that put the female characters at the forefront.  This one had that unique perspective and it gave me greater insight into the worship of the Goddess before the spread of Christianity. Some have called it feminist, but there is much more going on here.  Over the centuries, women have been pretty much relegated to the cheap seats in every world arena, but that may be changing in this present paradigm shift, which is the crisis of perception all are currently witnessing and experiencing on a global…and personal level. I feel this may be a resurgence of the Feminine, the Goddess, that we are experiencing.

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Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey, mystical scholar, author, and founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism, asserts that “…the new cherishing of the values of compassion, interconnectedness… the attention being paid to holistic medicine, the passion for a new vision of cooperation in business and a new vision of ecological sustainability, … are all evidence of the return of the Feminine as Sacred.” He goes on to note,  “…What this means is that the force of divine compassion and interconnected understanding and love in action that is the Sacred Feminine … is the way through for humanity … the Sacred Feminine is a force that can save the planet.”

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Sri Sarada Devi

You could say that the Feminine has always been an important focus of my own spiritual practice. My guru repeatedly tells us that, “The Shakti is the teacher.”  The Shakti is the Feminine – the creative power of the universe – and even though she wears many faces, as every culture has these archetypes in their history, what we see and experience as the world is the manifestation of the Shakti, the Goddess. Sri Ramakrishna recognized the Sacred Feminine when, in one ritual, his wife and spiritual companion Sarada Devi, sat at the altar of Kali and Ramakrishna worshipped her as the Divine Mother. Perhaps our goal for 2014 could be to strive to re-awaken and re-connect to the feminine archetype we recognize and resonate with according to our own personal beliefs and which resides in all of us.

Below is the final scene from the miniseries made from the book, “The Mists of Avalon.” It depicts the return of Morgaine and Arthur to Avalon and Morgaine’s recognition that although Avalon and the Goddess seem to have been forgotten as she knew them, the Goddess still lives on in a new incarnation…

Wishing you all a magical 2014!

You are Nobody

256px-Adobe_Red2In December 1990, I was contemplating (and secretly preparing for) a difficult but necessary life change. I felt scared, helpless and alone. At a Christmas party with friends, I remember thinking that this was probably going to be the last time we would all be together like this. My sadness deepened and I felt the fear of change crystallize inside my being. Then, the Christmas grab bag ritual began. I reached in and pulled out a book by Og Mandino.  I’d never even heard of him until that moment and for the life of me I can’t remember the title, but that book gave me great comfort and courage at a time when I needed it most.  I also recognized that it came to me at that moment in time for a reason. It gave me the validation I needed that I was making the right decision regarding my new life path. A month later, I made my move.

According to Forbes, “Americans spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs.” And although, according to PRWeb, that number hadn’t risen very much in 2012 due to the recession and various scandals, that kind of money is still pretty hefty for an industry full of experts (some more qualified than others) who, for a price, are willing to help us achieve all that society deems important: the best career, the best relationship, and the best body, because as you know, this is the only way we can feel good about ourselves and the life we are living. Now, I don’t have a problem with people wanting to better their circumstances as they do glean insights into themselves, and gaining those insights is a not only a step on the journey, but those same insights can help them through some difficult times. Yes, it’s psychological insight, but it’s still insight and we all have to start somewhere. I believe that psychological insight into the personality is an important tool in the eventual “bigger picture thinking” aka “spiritual seeking” that inevitably follows.  Advaita Master Mooji says that when a part of your life crashes you experience “birth pains to a deeper awakening inside you.”

That said, my biggest issue with self-help gurus, as well as the dreaded self-help aisle at the bookstore, is the emphasis placed on the impermanent. If you were to put your energy into finding out who you really are, then the rest of it won’t matter anymore.  The biggest obstacle to seeking is that too much importance is placed on the life of the personality, largely because we still tend to separate out our earthly lives from our spiritual lives. And therein lies the problem. Even though our seeking tells us that ‘all is One,’ there is still a dualistic perspective to this life we are living.

“How do I integrate spirituality into my everyday life? Throw out the concept of “spiritual life” and “everyday life.” There is only life, undivided and whole. ~ Adyashanti”

Another pitfall stemming from this dualistic perspective is that once the spiritual search has begun, the personality thinks that its life should benefit from this seeking, which is missing the point of the search entirely.  We feel we should be rewarded in some way for our diligence by finally attaining that perfect job or mate.  What we forget is that everything in our lives is there for our spiritual benefit. The ultimate goal of the spiritual search is to kill off the ego, not make it stronger by pandering to it. The ego wants to be somebody; but You are nobody.

I will be forever grateful for the Og Mandino book I pulled out of the grab bag that winter night. But I also know that it was supposed to happen that way. In the twenty years plus since, I can safely say that although my life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, and whose life has – be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing.  The Universe knows what it’s doing. We need to trust it.

The bottom line is that every personality, every ‘body’, will have the life it is supposed to have. And if you gain inspiration or solace on the journey from a book or person, there is nothing wrong with that, just recognize it for what it is: something that was supposed to be there in your life, at that particular moment.

My child, because you think you are the body, for a long time you have been bound. Know you are pure awareness. With this knowledge as your sword cut through your chains and be happy!   ~ Ashtavakra Gita (1.13-14)

Being Empty

4466The cup needs to be half-full and an empty room is pitied.  Changing perceptions is about as easy as changing eating habits, but let’s look at what can be gained from an alteration in mindset. When we allow ourselves to become empty, it’s not that we provide a space for something else to come in; we provide the opportunity for the recognition of what is already there – the space of pure Awareness – which is where you meet yourSelf.

“Only when a human being becomes empty of ego does it become a vessel of the manifestation of the Supreme. When there is sufficient space made through the absence of the person, then the Divine cannot hide.”  ~ Mooji

 We are constantly made aware of the many negative connotations associated with the idea of emptiness. If there is a part of your life that is empty, then it is perceived that you are “lacking” in something or not doing something right.  That promotes guilt. So there’s that.  But, I would say the most negative connotation is the fear that comes with the sense of incompleteness and aloneness. A fear perpetrated by the mind while holding us hostage to the unreal. It’s a conspiracy really – a conspiracy of the mind. Society, an accomplice, makes every attempt to ensure that no part of our lives has any emptiness at all. We fill up our minds and days with external stimuli to the point that we are never devoid of a thought or an action.  We physically fill up spaces with things, even people, we feel will make us happy or “complete” us.  Thoughts, emotions, things and others define the personality, which is who we erroneously think we are.  So, we equate emptiness with non-identity, and that is the scariest idea of all.

Let me repeat that: …we equate emptiness with non-identity, and that is the scariest idea of all.

 “Let yourself be merged into that pure emptiness which is the presence of God and true source of all spiritual strivings.” ~ Mooji

 Spiritual practice is a type of feng shui for our lives. Cleaning out the clutter is an important step as the outer is a reflection of the inner. In yoga, the asanas and breath work help empty the body of stress and pain (physical, mental and emotional).  As a result, we create a space for the recognition of pure awareness, which is not empty at all but is really a space of completeness. Meditation also provides the opportunity to enter into the vast fullness of our true Selves.

When you empty yourself of all that comes with the personality, all the mental, emotional, and material baggage, you reveal what was hidden but all the while waiting for you to discover: your true Self.  Yes, live in the material world – let it give you what you need and enjoy, but remember that none of it defines You.

 “…  I slide like an empty boat pulled over the water.” ~ Rumi

What do You Want?

This is an excerpt from a letter Mooji read at his weekly satsang on 9/29/13 (around the 1:29 mark).  I thought it needed to be shared. It stands on its own – no commentary needed… By the way, I happened to tune into Mooji’s weekly satsang right at this point…

“I don’t want anything

I don’t want to know

I don’t want to carry

I don’t want to hold

I don’t want to know what is ego

I don’t want to know what is mind

I don’t want to know what is consciousness

I don’t want to know what is self

I don’t want to know even what it is ‘to know’

I don’t want to know happiness, sadness, suffering or joy

I don’t want to know what is ‘I’

I don’t want to know what this ‘me’ is

I don’t want to know ‘who’ it is that doesn’t want to know these things

… let me be without me always

let me forget me

let the universe forget me

Please hear my prayer

Don’t let me appear any longer

Kill me now

Destroy what remains.”

From Satsang with Mooji, 9/29/13. I had the video posted, but it was removed. Here is the link:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/39371808