So, You’ve Freed Your Mind, Now What?

“We never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. It’s dangerous, the mind has trouble letting go.” ~Morpheus to Neo
“We never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. It’s dangerous, the mind has trouble letting go.” ~Morpheus to Neo

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 imagesus. 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

 

 

 


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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

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”……

The Summer of My Discontent – Part 2

As my summer of discontent continues, I’ve been thinking a lot about the teacher/student relationship.  What I found was that this connection changes and deepens as bhakti develops for the student.

The guru/disciple relationship remains a foreign concept to Westerners, who consider it to be suspicious or just downright scary. I’ve written about gurus on this blog before – The Idea of Guru – suggesting that a true teacher is merely a guide, for no one can show you truth; you must experience it for yourself.  Still, there are those who continue to strongly reject ‘the idea of guru’. One such dissenter was Jiddu Krishnamurti, who said:

“You yourself have to be the master and the pupil. The moment you acknowledge another as a master and yourself as a pupil, you are denying truth. There is no master, no pupil, in the search for truth.”

“You must know for yourself, directly, the truth of yourself and you cannot realize it through another, however great. There is no authority that can reveal it.”

My teacher would be the first to agree with this. I believe that Krishnamurti was referring to those who put themselves in authority and their followers into a submissive position; the way organized religions do.  Interestingly, Krishnamurti did have teachers; just not in the usual sense of the word.  His sadhana was a rare one. It is known and accepted that Masters, who were not in the body, initiated him into the process leading to Realization, that state in which identification with the Immortal Self is uninterrupted.

DoF_largeIrina Tweedie describes her personal experience of the guru/disciple relationship and how it evolves for the student in Daughter of Fire: A Diary of a Spiritual Training with a Sufi Master.  Spanning five years, Tweedie’s account of her relationship with her teacher runs the gamut of emotions. In the beginning, ego strongly intact, she dealt with confusion, doubt, and at times, harsh treatment from her teacher.  We should keep in mind that she was a Westerner living in a foreign country while dealing with an Eastern guru; all adding to the difficulties she encountered during her sadhana.  She writes:

“I hoped to get instruction in Yoga, expected wonderful teachings, but what the teacher did was mainly to force me to face the darkness within myself…. I was beaten down in every sense until I had to come to terms with that in me which I kept rejecting all my life.”


Tweedie, in an interview with Jeffrey Mishlove (Thinking Allowed series), dismisses the notion that the guru subjugates the student:

“One doesn’t surrender to the Guru – not really – ….One surrenders to the Light within oneself, the Light of the Soul, that part in us, which belongs to Eternity.”

As you read Tweedie’s diary, you are carried along on her journey of Self-discovery. You watch as her ego, which is where the doubts live, dissolves and she arrives at the place of complete love and maindevotion – a place far from where she started. In The Matrix, a movie with many non-dual themes including the guru/disciple relationship, there is a scene where Neo tells Trinity not to join him in his quest to save Morpheus. Trinity plainly tells him that she is sure that Morpheus means more to her than he does to him.  The devotion they both feel, however, becomes clear as they risk their own lives to save their beloved teacher.

It takes time for the teacher/student relationship to deepen.  The ego needs to diminish enough for the Love, which is the Light within, to replace it.

If my summer went according to my plan, then I never would’ve acknowledged the depth of feeling for the guru that arises with spiritual practice. This experience was a great gift for me. This is the way sadhana works. You may not get what you want, but you get what you need and no one could ever predict what that might be.

Dancing with Maya

Lord Shiva Nataraja, The Cosmic Dancer

One day, my teacher was answering a fellow student’s question and he remarked about how our egos are “…dancing with Maya.” Maya, a Sanskrit term, loosely means ‘illusion.’ It is really our perception of what is real that is illusion. What we see as real is merely the manifestation of the One Reality. However, we perceive our physical world, including ourselves, as separate from the One Reality or God. The truth is that there is no separation. The idea of separation is the illusion.

I’ve used this analogy before, but if you remember the TV show Star Trek Voyager, the crew was able to entertain themselves on the holodeck. This was a place where various holographic worlds were created and story lines played out with the crewmembers acting out roles. While they were in the story, everything seemed perfectly real to them.  But, of course, none of it was. So, while we think of the world we live in as real, which it isn’t – physicists say reality is more holographic in nature -we, our egos that is, are merely characters in a play acting out a script on the world stage.

In the first Matrix movie, Morpheus continually tries to show Neo who he really is – or isn’t, which is Thomas Anderson living a tedious life within the confines of a computer generated ‘reality.’  Through a number of experiences, Neo is freed from the limited perceptions of his mind and by the end of the movie knows the truth. He sees the physical world as the computer generated illusion and therefore knows that the bullets that are meant to kill him are not real.

The reason we can’t accept the world as illusion is because we don’t see that the material ‘stuff’ the world is made of is not ‘stuff’ at all. Physics has proven that nothing is solid.  What’s more, the kinetic theory of solids, liquids and gases tells us that nothing is static, which means the ‘particles’ that make up matter are always in motion.  However, these ‘particles’ of matter are atoms and when you look at atoms you will find that subatomic matter is not matter at all but energetic patterns. Physicist and author Fritjof Capra in his book, the Tao of Physics, says, “…the constituents of matter and the basic phenomena involving them are all interconnected, interrelated and interdependent; that they cannot be understood as isolated entities but only as integrated parts of the whole.” He goes on to say that “…particles are processes rather than objects,” and that, “…subatomic matter is continually creating and destroying itself through the emission and absorption of virtual particles.”

We are witness to this creation and destruction all the time. The change of seasons is a perfect example. Also, we recognize the impermanence of our world in the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history, as well as the birth and death of stars and other universes.

Eastern mysticism sees creation, perpetuation and destruction in the universe as the dance of Lord Shiva Nataraja (pictured above).  It is Shiva’s dance that sustains the universe. From a physics standpoint, this is an elegant explanation of the continuous ‘dance’ of the interconnected patterns of energy that we perceive as the material world. Fritjof Capra goes on in his book, the Tao of Physics, to explain the details of this metaphorical representation as follows:

“The upper right hand of the god holds the drum to symbolize the primal sound of creation, the upper left bears a tongue of flame, the element of destruction. The balance of the two hands represents the dynamic balance of creation and destruction in the world accentuated further by the Dancer’s calm and detached face in the center of the two hands, in which the polarity of creation and destruction is dissolved and transcended. The second right hand is raised in the sign of ‘do not fear’, symbolizing maintenance, protection and peace, while the remaining left hand points down to the uplifted left foot, which symbolizes release from the spell of maya. The god is pictured as dancing on the body of a demon, the symbol of human ignorance which has to be conquered before liberation can be attained.”

Our perception of a material-based reality keeps us blind to the truth and bound to the rhythm of birth and death and rebirth powered by karma, which means ‘action.’  The bonds of karma (action) are broken only when we recognize that we, and all that we experience, are not separate from the One Reality or God, but are part of it. When that happens moksha or ‘liberation’ is the result.

Until then, keep your dancing shoes on…..

The Idea of Guru

People bristle when I tell them I have a spiritual teacher. They probably think I’m part of some cult and half expect me to talk about the flavor of Kool-aid I was given to drink. Can you imagine what people would think if I use the word ‘guru?’ Actually, I do use that word. What the heck, they think I’m over the edge anyway. Why disappoint them? And besides, I’m finding I like ruffling a few feathers.  I enjoy challenging people’s perspectives.  Nevertheless, the idea of a guru is a concept that many find disturbing.

There are valid points to this argument. Jiddu Krishnamurti strongly opposed the idea of a guru and he rejected organized religion and spirituality as well.  He did this most publicly in 1929, when he gave a speech in which he stated, “…Truth is a pathless land.”  Krishnamurti felt that the spiritual search for enlightenment can only be found in one self and if we follow a guru or church we become enslaved by the authority and power they wield over us.  And, of course, he is right.  You just have to look at the hypocrisy that is rampant these days among certain organized religions and so-called spiritual leaders. But there have been spiritual Masters through the ages, who have had gurus and have themselves acted in that role.  There have also been followers of organized religions, saints in the Catholic Church for example, who attained to realization (enlightenment). St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila both reached enlightenment and they endured great hardship because of people’s reactions to their experiences. So how do you know who or what to trust?

The guru/student relationship is demonstrated beautifully in the first (and best) Matrix movie, a film that is remarkable in its parallels to non-dualistic philosophies. Morpheus puts Neo through a series of difficult trainings with the purpose of showing Neo his true identity. “I’m trying to free your mind Neo,” Morpheus tells him, “but I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”  Morpheus never told Neo, “Do what I say or you’re going to hell.”

So, let’s take a look at the qualities of a true guru or teacher.  A true teacher doesn’t demand you ‘follow’ him/her. He/she doesn’t have ‘teachings’ but will help you know the Truth.  A true teacher is one who will help you navigate the unfamiliar territory of the spiritual landscape without an agenda, without judgment, and without demanding anything from you, until the veils of illusion are stripped away and you realize who you really are.  Remember, it’s your sadhana; you are the one who has to walk through the door.

There is the Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This is a true statement. I know this from personal experience, as do many people I know.