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.

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The Summer of My Discontent – Part I

Summer vacation for a schoolteacher is a sacred time. I plan, in fairly great detail, how I will spend those days.  I’m going to do yoga ‘x’ number of times a week, read more books, eat healthier, etc. But it’s not just my summers that I plan; I try to plan most everything. It’s my way of controlling the future. You can probably tell where this is going.

During these summer months, I had plans of spending as much time with my teacher as possible. It’s more challenging to maintain a good spiritual focus during the school year as working lends it’s own brand of distractions, and since I’ve never really been good at walking and chewing gum at the same time, I’ve always looked to my work breaks as opportunities to place and keep my focus on more spiritual pursuits. That was the plan.  The first week into my summer, the plan got flushed. My teacher’s ill health is preventing him from seeing students and this state of things will probably continue for a while. You get what you need in sadhana – and usually what you need is not what you want.

So, during these past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of the time before I moved here. Living in New Jersey early on in my process with no teacher or fellow students nearby, I had to work to keep my practice front and center. Being physically close to your teacher is not required, but it does help.  It has also given me some insight as to how the teacher/student relationship changes over time, which I will address in part 2.  Basically, all this has made me realize that I needed to take more responsibility for my sadhana, much like that time in New Jersey.

Lately though, I’ve been more worried that my teacher may not be here much longer. I have no reason to think this, he should be fine, but during these past weeks without him, I’ve been wondering what it’s going to be like when he does leave his body.  He’s been preparing us for this inevitability, giving us the tools to make it easier to continue on our path without his physical presence.  After the death of her guru, Irina Tweedie, author of Daughter of Fire: A Diary of a Spiritual Training with a Sufi Master, began to realize that even though her beloved guru was gone he was still with her, and that she could have contact with him whenever she wanted. Oddly, in some ways, she felt that her real spiritual training began after her teacher’s death.

Sadhana is a conspiracy. It peels back the layers of the personality and forces you to know who you are. Not who you are as an ego, a character in this play, but the ‘You’ as the Immortal Self. That is no small task and, if you’re paying attention, you will understand that everything that happens is just another step in the long journey leading back to Yourself.

Photo credit: Red bench near Kilt Rock, on Skye Island (Scotland, United Kingdom). By Two Wings (own work)

Alchemy

William Fettes Douglas - The Alchemist

When we hear the word ‘alchemy’ we probably think of chemists trying to turn simple metals into gold during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But, in truth, alchemy has a fascinating history. Dating back to centuries BC, many famous people, including Einstein, have studied this subject. Alchemy or transmutation (a modern word for alchemy) is more common than we think. It occurs in the physical world and in the metaphysical realm of the transcendental.

We are all aware of nuclear alchemy (transmutation) when radioactive elements, because of their unstable nuclei, literally change into different elements. One way is through alpha decay – or the loss of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. You see, it the number of protons in the nucleus of any atom that identifies what that element is. The number of protons is the ‘DNA,’ so to speak, of that element. So, for example, Radium will become Radon. Lately, however, I’ve been drawn to the deeper meanings of alchemy.

Alchemy for people can happen in an interesting variety of ways. Sometimes the change is sudden. Something unexpected, usually unpleasant, happens and we are changed forever. Some who have experienced NDEs find that their approach to life changes. They can never look at anything in the same way ever again. They disregard the scientific need for proof, because as far as they are concerned they have all the proof they need – their own direct experience. And that direct experience has brought them closer to understanding their own true nature.

photo by cincooldesigns

A more gradual experience of alchemy includes those with a spiritual practice. They understand this process of change as they undergo their own metamorphosis leaving the chrysalis of their ego behind to embrace a freer, truer experience of Self.

I feel humanity is on the brink of alchemical change. There is no doubt that life on this planet today is changing  – at its very core. The old paradigms do not work anymore and even though massive efforts are being made to keep the world as it has been, it is becoming more and more clear that these efforts are futile. We are jumping down the rabbit hole. We have taken the red pill. And nothing will ever be the same again.

So, it’s time we release any notion or attachment we have about how things ‘should’ be. It’s time to release outdated notions or attachments about who we think we are. There is an old saying in the metaphysical genre, “We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences.” As we break free of the limiting structures of ignorance that encase and enslave our egos, alchemy begins.

So release the old patterns, habits, and thoughts. Free your mind.

Oh, Those Kodak Moments

The Times of Your Life...

As I watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, I reflected on the nature of impermanence. It’s so obvious at a moment like that since that moment, the change from one year to the next, is separated out and celebrated. We all know it passes never to be experienced again. That acknowledgement is a useful tool for us. It can help us understand the transitory nature of this so-called reality in which we live. But that’s not always what we want. Like Paul Anka singing “The Times of Your Life” we cling to our Kodak moments yearning for what is no more. The question is why?

Maybe it’s because our perception of the past as “the good ‘ol days” clouds what we are experiencing in the present. But the present is always on it’s way to becoming the past. See the problem? Still, we find comfort in the past – its outcome is already known, we’ve gotten through it, it gives us pleasure, we can re-visit loved ones who are now gone etc. We can’t say that about the future. The future is unknown and the unknown is always scary for us. So, between reliving the past (whether good or bad) and worrying about the future, we lose sight of where we are – the present.

Those Kodak moments also give us a glimpse of something else at work in our lives – attachment. When we experience nostalgia, we experience attachment: a longing for something that is no more. Also, we experience attachment when we plan for our future Kodak moments because we are attached to how we think the future should turn out.

Buddhism speaks of the interrelatedness between impermanence and attachment. The fear of losing something or someone makes us hold onto it more strongly. All of our energy is channeled into protecting what we have because we feel our possessions and relationships define who we are. Just ask anyone who has been dealing with the effects of the current economic crisis. They have been given a unique opportunity (although I’m sure they don’t look at it that way right now) to see their attachments and how their identity is wrapped up in all things external. It’s only when we can detach from our attachments in any given moment do we glimpse our true identity.

To understand impermanence is to embrace the present moment. When we are truly present, we live in that space that is free from attachment. We don’t mourn the past or fear the future. In the present moment there is no past or future, only the eternal now.