If You Build It…

retreats-linden-meditation-buddha-high-definition-wallpaper-download-freeMaking 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.

joga-fajtak-meditacios-pozThose 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.

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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?

“If you take a form and you let the Divine [in] through the form through your love…It will come” ~ Bhagavan Das
Wishing you a Blessed 2016!
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Tips to Free Your Mind in 2015

Free Your Mind
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

“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

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”……

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

Mind, Heart, and the Current Culture of Fear

SebastienEleven-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz sang the national anthem at one of the NBA games and racist rants on twitter followed. Then, just recently, the twitter world became inflamed once again with the crowing of Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, as Miss America.  Both incidents captured a bit of on-air news time, but what is not being ninaaddressed is the underlying cause of these less-than-enlightened knee-jerk reactions.

I was reminded of something I took note of two years ago in the post The Eve of Destruction…of Fear! where I wrote:

“…look at immigration reform. If you really think about it and look beyond the rhetoric, you will see that we are being manipulated to regard anyone who is not ‘American’ as a threat.”

Only now, it’s not just people who come here from another country who are being shunned; people who are born here are not considered to be “American” because of the way they look.

jean_houston7-203x300I remember a talk Jean Houston, author and scholar, gave at the National Headquarters of the Theosophical Society back in 1992, titled “The Greening of the American Psyche.” She said that nationalism among a country’s citizens would become stronger. The Balinese would become more Balinese etc. Her statements at the time surprised me because I thought we were supposed to be evolving past the idea of duality (separateness) and moving toward the truth of non-duality (Oneness). But today, twenty years later, I see that she was right.  With the rise of hate and so-called ‘patriot’ groups , the notion of  “we are all one” is relegated to being a quaint new-age notion that has no grounding in the material world.

Krishnamurti said, “Patriotism, whether it is of the western kind, or of the eastern kind, is the same, a poison in human beings that is really distorting thought. So patriotism is a disease, and when you begin to realize, become aware that it is a disease, then you will see how your mind is reacting to that disease. When, in time of war, the whole world talks of patriotism, you will know the falseness of it, and therefore you will act as a true human being.” You can see how those statements would have brought K to the FBI’s attention. He was under their surveillance for a time and he did not speak in public from 1940-1944.

Media outlets have been reporting on the changing demographics of this country, which are being analyzed, politicized and debated with so much rhetoric, that we need a scorecard to keep track of all the perceived traits used to identify and separate ourselves from each other.  Unfortunately, this separation has it cheerleaders in certain political and media circles, resulting in the acrimony and hate we saw directed at Sebastien De La Cruz and Nina Davuluri.

Identity, and thus duality, originates in the mind. All rhetoric, patriotic or religious, gets processed through the mind, which is where fear originates. Where are our hearts? Our heart is the place where our inner life is nurtured and from where compassion, understanding, tolerance, and yes, non-duality, is expressed.

When I wrote “The Eve of Destruction…of Fear!”, I stressed the importance of cultivating one’s inner life, through techniques like meditation, to get past the fear mongering, which is engendering a mean-spiritedness in people who claim to be Christian and who supposedly love God, but who continue to fail to recognize that there is no difference between us and the Divine.  No Difference. But isn’t it interesting that every modality that would help us reach that understanding of  ‘Oneness’ by cultivating our inner life is consistently attacked by some organized religions, who really don’t fully understand the concept in the first place, which is evident in this article from the Baptist Press.  When they hear the word “meditation,” they counter with phrases like “alternative religions” or “cults.”

I’ve said before that the world is shallow, noisy, and divisive, so it’s not that difficult to keep people stuck in duality/fear as it’s constantly propagated by the patriotic and religious agenda pushing of governments, churches, and media outlets.  They may be able to reach your mind, but they cannot reach your heart, unless you allow it.

“Mind, once swallowed by the Heart, is burped up as silence and peace.’  ~ Mooji

Mirror, Mirror

mirrorAs a teenager, obsessed with her appearance, I spent many hours in front of the mirror. It was during those years when I first heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” I remember leaning forward toward the mirror to look more closely into my eyes thinking I might be able to catch a glimpse of my soul.  I began to wonder, “Who am I?” Was I my body, my soul or something else?

Spiritual searching often takes many forms, but defining the goal of a spiritual search can be tricky. I never really knew what I was looking for all those years of doing yoga, meditation, reading numerous books, attending many lectures. All I knew was that I wanted ‘Truth’ beyond what society puts out there for mass consumption. Actually, I’m a little amazed at how clueless I was in my searching. I wanted answers, but what exactly were the questions? If I had to be specific it would’ve been, “What is the meaning of life?”  I didn’t expect to realize that spiritual searching is essentially a search for Self.  I didn’t realize that all those years ago as a teenager I actually asked the right question, “Who am I?”

As it is now, society is structured to perpetuate the identity crisis in which we are all stuck. Everywhere there are distractions keeping us from indulging in any meaningful introspection.  The world is noisy, shallow, and divisive.  Any type of reflection is relegated to prayer on Sundays; however, even that is directed externally since we pray to something outside of ourselves. No wonder we don’t know the right questions to ask. When it’s all said and done, the struggle in life usually culminates with the question, “what was it all for?” since death appears to be the end. Impermanence abounds.  We are never taught that the continuity of the Self is the only constant.

Surprisingly, there are hints of truth from the mainstream media that you can catch. In the 1946 movie, “The Razor’s Edge,” Tyrone Power’s character is asked what he did during his time in India. He remarks, “I learned something about myself.”  As her time in India comes to a close in “Eat Pray Love,” Julia Roberts, portraying Elizabeth Gilbert, sums up her experience with the insight, “God dwells in me – as me.”

You probably think that once you discover who you really are you will find the answers to the rest of the questions. And you do, but really what you realize is that the rest of the questions don’t matter anymore. The struggle of finding your place in the world disappears when you discover your true identity. In fact, all struggles disappear once you become aware that there is no need to ‘strive’ for anything. You are already everything. It is the ego (personality) that is never satisfied, always doubts, and continuously struggles. It is the ego that believes society when it is told that it needs to do this or that to be considered successful or even acceptable.

It is the ego you see in the mirror.  It has nothing to do with who you really are.  In fact, the ego is the biggest obstacle to discovering the truth about yourself.  Next time you look into a mirror, try looking past the image. If you find yourself wondering, “Who am I?” congratulations, the quest has begun.

The Eve of Destruction…of Fear!

Barry McGuire sang the iconic song, The Eve of Destruction, in 1965, two years after the Kennedy assassination, when we were immersed in Vietnam and civil rights, and three years before the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.  The 60’s were a decade of change, turmoil and fear – sound familiar?

I think back about how we were all manipulated by fear back then, especially during the Cuban missile crisis: fear of the Russians, fear of the bomb. I remember, as school children, the completely ridiculous ‘duck and cover’ exercises we were forced to practice. I remember being out in the schoolyard and being fearful of every plane that flew overhead; afraid that it was the Russians coming to drop the bomb on us.  And we didn’t even have 24-hour news networks with nonstop talking heads telling us who to fear, how afraid we should be, and who was to blame for not keeping us ‘safe.’ To their credit, TV news anchors and journalists back in the ‘60’s behaved with much more dignity and impartiality than what we see today, and yes, the Cuban missile crisis was a difficult time, but fear still sells ratings and so we’ve seen the atmosphere of fear escalate, especially since 9/11. More wars, more money spent on death and destruction. Has the fear abated with all these efforts – even with the elimination of Bin Laden? Of course not. Even if we didn’t have a financial crisis going on right now, there would still be media attention focused on something to provoke fear in our hearts; look at immigration reform. If you really think about it and look beyond the rhetoric, you will see that we are being manipulated to regard anyone who is not ‘American’ as a threat. And it’s not just the politicians or the media, organized religions rank pretty high on the list of fear mongering.

Unfortunately, we cling to the material world as if it were our lifeboat. It’s not. When the stock market crashed in 1929, people threw themselves out of windows. Their identity was so wrapped up in what they had that they couldn’t live with the fear that loss provoked.

What does this have to do with non-duality? Quite frankly – everything. Fear keeps the illusion of separation alive.  You cannot experience ‘Oneness’ (non-duality) while you are in the state of fear. It’s impossible.  And, some will say, that’s the way ‘they’ want to keep it. Who are ‘they?’ – I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.  If you keep the masses in fear you can continue your control of them. It’s that simple.

There are two types of fear: fear that we internalize and fear that we externalize. The internalized fear results in panic, anxiety, obsession, compulsion, and worry. The externalized fear creates the hate and violence we see on so many levels of society.  This type of dysfunction, whether it’s internal or external, all stems from the incorrect notion that the ego is in charge and the material world is all there is.

When we get out of our egos, through meditation or other exercises that promote a state of non-duality, we are no longer afraid because we are tapping into that part of ourselves that is real and indestructible.  We no longer see others or situations as threatening.

Remember, it’s a matter of perception. It’s not what happens to us that we should worry about, but our reaction to what happens. So cultivate tolerance, compassion, and your inner life. We are on the eve of the destruction of fear.