Go Ask Alice

the-matrix
“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”……

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Space and Holograms and Black Holes …Oh My!

I’ve always held firmly to the idea that just because something you believe cannot be proven by science doesn’t mean you should change your mind about it.  But, I have to say that, occasionally, it’s nice to get some confirmation from the scientists. This is one of those times.

I recently showed my chemistry class a Nova program, “Fabric of the Cosmos,” featuring Brian Greene (the physicist who gave us string theory). It was entitled “Space” and the upshot was that space was not the vacuum we thought it was. (By the way, this and what follows is not news to any student of non-dualitybut I digress.)  Turns out that space is teeming with energy or ‘activity’ as is the so-called “empty space” that comprises the atom.  My students were fine with all that, except when it came to the end of the show where it was suggested that physicists are now thinking that the universe is a hologram. Seems it has something to do with newly discovered properties of black holes. There was an audible silence after the show as they digested what they had just heard.  The idea is difficult to wrap your brain around. The implications are even more difficult to verbalize.

For me – I was thrilled. I’ve written about this idea, on this blog, based on Michael Talbot’s work, The Holographic Universe, which was published back in 1991. This blog entry was taken from a larger piece I wrote, published in November 2007 in the Aquarius (a newspaper published in Atlanta). You can check that out in their archives here.

These times we are living in reminds me of the early years of the 20th century when science was exploding with all the new ideas put forth by Einstein, Max Planck, Niels Bohr etc. Quantum mechanics was born during that exciting time and changed how we view the world. I feel that we are on the precipice of a similar radical revision of our view of reality. I felt it back in the early ‘90’s when I read about the work of physicist David Bohm, who is mentioned in Talbot’s work. That was also around the time I read Fritjof Capra’s “Tao of Physics.”

Ideas that have been discussed and bandied about outside of the mainstream over the past few decades are now suddenly being hailed as “new” discoveries. I applaud those men and women who risked and endured being ridiculed and laughed at in order to present the world with other possibilities. In the words of Epictetus, “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

Free Will….Part Two: Go With The Flow

Laguz - Rune meaning "Flow"

In my first posting of the question of free will, I talk about how, as students of non-duality, we are taught that we cannot be the doer of anything. Some points previously made:

  • Spiritual and religious traditions stress the notion that everything that happens is a result of the will of God.
  • It seems that it is only when we think we can’t ‘do’ anything about a situation do we relinquish our imagined control.
  • We do have the free will to choose where to put our awareness (attention).

This suggests that events in our lives (or the world) happen exactly the way they’re supposed to happen. Which, taken a step further, suggests that the future is set. That said, let’s indulge our ego’s need to analyze and dig a little deeper into the idea that everything happens just as it’s supposed to. If people on some level didn’t already believe this, nobody would be interested in consulting psychics. People go to them in order to know what is going to happen – doesn’t that suggest that they think the future just might be set? So what does free will have to do with anything? How can we separate free will and predetermination? That’s like saying, “I choose what I’m having for dinner, but the trip to Europe that the psychic saw is predestined.”

When we pay attention to the present moment and accept that moment and not let our awareness dwell on the past or worry about the future, we go with the flow. I know, I know – easier said than done. I have found that everyone has his or her own threshold of pain. Eventually we get tired of beating our heads against a wall by trying to control everything in our lives, and once we sit back exhausted, we throw up our hands and say, “Whatever….” That’s when we surrender to ‘what is’ and go with the flow. But honestly – it doesn’t have to be so painful.

Years ago, during a particularly difficult time in my life, I was obsessed with the need to make things happen a certain way. And of course, nothing (and I mean nothing) was happening the way I wanted it to during that period. I was tense, nervous and miserable most of the time. Finally, a friend told me, “You’re not flowing. You need to learn how to flow.” I resisted, not having a clue on how to do that. It happened that I recently had purchased a set of Runes. For those unfamiliar with the Runes, they are a set of stones carved with letters of Scandinavian origin and intended to be used, not so much for divination, but as guidance for the Spiritual Warrior. I can’t remember why, but I checked all of the Runes in the set and noticed that one was missing. The missing Rune was the one meaning “Flow.”

Not quite a watershed moment but a useful and interesting one for me, since my  awareness in that moment did expand beyond the horizon of my mundane life, serving to remind me of the bigger picture. Perhaps if we can do that, not just in challenging situations but everyday ones, remember that we are a part of an interconnected Whole and not apart from that Whole, going with the flow will become an easier and even natural way to live.

Some Tools for the Nondual Mind

In the last post, I talked about how reality just might be an illusion because physicists are now suggesting that the material world is nothing more than a hologram, which would confirm what Eastern traditions have recognized all along, which is that “reality is an illusion.”  There is also the suggestion of the interconnectedness of everything in our universe – that everything comes from the same ‘Source.’  Understanding that “we are all one” is becoming more and more obvious to us all, though the deeper implications of this statement still eludes us.

Duality implies separateness – the idea that we are separate from everything and everyone. Non-duality, on the other hand, implies the opposite. Non-duality implies “Oneness.”  So let’s see what can help us understand a deeper layer of reality.

Various traditions give us simple, helpful tips. Here are a couple of them:

1)   In certain yogas, repeating, “Neti Neti “ translated as “Not this, not this” to everything we see helps us to recognize that the material is not real.

2)   The first lesson in the Course in Miracles is similar in that it has the student look at various objects and repeat, “This table (or book or coffee cup) doesn’t mean anything.”

These exercises serve a couple of purposes. They help the person understand that the physical world is not real, thus allowing him/her to transcend the material and come closer to understanding the Sacred, the Infinite Source, which created the illusion and is therefore the only thing that is real. Also, this exercise helps free the student of judgment. He/she does not form any opinion about anything. Everything just is. These are simple techniques that offer interesting insights. With the right intention, they are definitely worth giving a try.

Calling all Mystics….

This is the launch of Nondualmind. I’ve always been a seeker and writing has always been a creative outlet for me, although it has usually been a monologue – up until now  (I hope).  To kick start this blog, let’s get to the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’.

Who – This is the part that’s all about me. I won’t waste your time here with that – go to the “about” tab and read on….

What – Discussion of the practical applications of spirituality in an attempt to better understand who we really are. Other topics like yoga, meditation, astrology will show up on occasion.

When – No regular schedule, though I hope to post a few times a week.

Where – Here

Why – The same reason you’re reading this right now – curiosity about the mysteries of life.

How – Through dialogue. That is how, I hope, something useful will come out of this blog. I encourage constructive and respectful interaction. I want to hear what you think….

So, let’s get started….”Calling all mystics…”