Form, Flow, and the Flower of Life

The Sahasrara
The Sahasrara

Some years ago, during contemplation, I was given a glimpse of the Sahasrara, the one-thousand petaled lotus. It appeared to me as a white mosaic and inside was a triangle, the shape of which was continuously being outlined in black. My teacher is always telling us that we might see colors and/or geometric shapes during contemplations, but I recognized that this glimpse was important for me to check out.  I had guessed I’d seen the crown centre, but I wasn’t sure why a triangle was there. I knew the triangle had esoteric significance, but I just didn’t know enough at the time to put it all together.  After some research, I found the closest representation of what I experienced in the book, “The Sacred Power” by Swami Kripananda (the picture above is not the one from the book, but similar. I saw only the color ‘white’).  My teacher confirmed what I saw and when I asked him what the significance of the triangle was he pointed to a tapestry of a yantra (designs helpful for contemplation or meditation on the Absolute) he has hanging on a wall in the sitting room. The triangle as ‘trinity” is probably most familiar to Christians, but the trinity actually appears in many religions/cultures which predate Christianity. India, Greece, Babylonia, Egypt, among others, all had their own triad representations of the Divine. In the asana practice, “The Flow Series,”  Ganga White of the White Lotus Foundation comments on trikonasana (triangle pose): “The triangle is the building block of geometry. A foundation pose that represents the three principles of knowledge, will, and action.” Swami Kripananda in the book “The Sacred Power,” describes the significance of the triangle located in the Sahasrara this way:(*Swami Kripananda, The Sacred Power: A Seeker’s Guide to Kundalini, (SYDA Foundation, 1195), 114)

“The sixteen Sanskrit vowels beginning with ‘a’ form the first line of the triangle, the first sixteen consonants beginning with ‘ka’ form the second line, and the sixteen consonants beginning with ‘tha’ form the third line.”

“…The first line is the line of fire…is associated with Brahma, creation… The second line is the line of the moon, connected with Vishnu, preservation…The third line is the line of the sun…is associated with Rudra, destruction..”

“The a-ka-tha triangle is the abode of Shakti and also of Paramashiva…”*

Yantra
Yantra

In other words, the triangle contained within the crown centre is the seat of the Supreme Consciousness. You see triangles forming yantras (literally meaning “instrument” or “machine”) representing the creative forces of the universe through the Divine aspects mentioned. You may also see lotus petals surrounding the yantra or maybe circles connecting the geometric patterns.

The lotus is the flower used as the metaphor of spiritual unfoldment. It is rooted in muddy, murky waters until the lotus flower rises above the muck and blossoms, just as we transcend the murky ignorance of the ego to realize our true Self. A lotus sprouts from Vishnu’s navel when the cycle of creation starts.  Each of the chakras are described as having a certain number of lotus petals. So how does the flower and the triangle connect?

Flower of Life
Flower of Life

Nassim Haramein is a cosmologist trying to connect some of the dots in the mysteries of the universe. His research has led him to explore the so called “flower of life.” This is a symbol, which appears in many spiritual traditions and ancient cultures and is thought to be the ‘structure’ from which the universe originates. It incorporates ‘the torus,’ which, for ease and clarity, can be described as a flow of energy. But here’s an interesting connection: if you take the triangles represented in a yantra (you need 64 of them), make each of them into the 3d structure of the tetrahedron, add circles (spheres), representing the torus energy pattern, surrounding the tetrahedrons and then drop away the tetrahedra, you’ll be left, amazingly, with a pattern that fits the “flower of life” symbol. The video below illustrates this.

Maybe I’m trying too hard to make these connections, probably it’s a major oversimplification; at the very least it is fascinating to ponder. Hope you find it fascinating as well…

 

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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

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.

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 Sound of Silence

“Hello darkness my old friend ……..” is the opening line of Simon and Garfunkel’s famous song The Sound(s) of Silence.” I enjoyed listening to the duo’s music in the second half of the ‘60’s, as it appealed to my poetic sensitivities.

Of course, the song title’s meaning for me has changed over the decades. The more I delve the depths of reality, the more I crave those sounds of silence, because that’s where it’s happening. That’s where the action is. Action in inaction? Sounds in silence?  Yes, reality is full of paradoxes, but one thing is for sure: the volumes of information conveyed or found in the silence when you contemplate/meditate is astonishing and the ways in which truth (information) is communicated is unique to each person.

There is a saying that meditation can’t be taught, but it can be learned. Though there are many different kinds of meditation, the method is only the tool, the map, to help the seeker reach those states of quiet. The silence and what is learned in the silence is the journey. It’s like walking a labyrinth. The path is set (in stone) but the journey is unique to each who walk it. The first time I walked a labyrinth, which, by the way, is done in complete silence, I was astounded by the ‘impressions’ that were brought into my awareness.  And each time I’ve walked a labyrinth, the journey has been different.

Labyrinth at the National Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America

When you chant the Omkara, which is simply chanting “OM” in repetition, you focus on two things. You can put your attention on the sound of the OM vibration, but things get much more interesting when you put your attention on the space between the OMs. In yoga, pranayama or breathing exercises also emphasize the interval between breaths as the more important place to be.

The importance of silence in sadhana cannot be stressed enough. This is the place where the seeker touches the face of the Absolute, because it is in the silence where you find yourself.  It’s not even the noise of the external world that’s the problem; it’s the noise of your internal world that needs to be turned down in order for your ego to be pushed aside so you can be with yourself for a while.  And that’s when real learning or experiencing begins. You will never find the answers to the eternal questions you search for in books. Never. It is only by turning within, by spending time in the silence, that you will discover who you really are. The first line in Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks says, “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”

There’s a lot of resistance to living in silence even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.  Silence can be scary for us. We don’t know what to do with it because silence has no form. Having lost the anchor of the material world, we feel adrift with nothing in the void to cling to. The realization sinks in that our beliefs and thoughts about who we are don’t matter in this place. Those false identities are negated in the formless essence of stillness. The illusion of separation dissolves and in the silence we realize that we are the “…I Am that is deeper than name and form…” as Eckhart Tolle writes.  It’s the difference between ‘doing’ and ‘being.’

Spiritual literature about this abounds. If interested, a couple of titles you should check out include:  The Voice of the Silence by H.P. Blavatsky and the aforementioned Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. Both are excellent, though if you’re a beginner in these matters, I would start with Tolle’s book as Blavatsky’s is more esoteric.


Heart vs. Mind – Reconciling Knowledge and Wisdom in Spiritual Practice –Part 1

I was always a good student in school, placing a high regard on learning and acquiring knowledge, even at a young age. My mother always wanted me to go into some kind of profession. She recognized that society placed importance on these externals. Having a curiosity about life and all of its workings, I wanted to be a scientist. I played with chemistry sets and microscopes. Instead, I became a teacher, and though life has taken me through a number of diversions, teaching remains a profession I love.

I approached my spiritual seeking through the same academic lens I viewed everything else. In the beginning, I guess like most of us, it was all about learning something. The idea of directly experiencing what I read about never really occurred to me. I felt it was out of my reach. I didn’t have a teacher, a guru, available to dispel the darkness. So I stayed in my ‘learning’ mode for a long time. The more I learned, however, the more restless I became. I began to notice that I was missing something. What was the point of all this knowledge? Nothing was really changing for me and wasn’t that the point of all this searching?  I began to ask myself, “Is that all there is?”

Wisdom as Alchemy

the goal of yoga, union with Spirit, can only be known through experience, not through simply relying on understanding with the mind.”  ~ Upanishads

If knowledge is power, then wisdom is alchemy. It’s true that most of us get wiser as we get older, simply because living has transformed or transmuted what we know of life into something more profound.  Our experiences change us. How many of you (of a certain age) have said to someone that you are no longer the person you were 10 or 20 years ago? But if you try to describe that ‘new you’ to put words to it, you may find that difficult. You can say you are a ‘freer person” “stronger” “more compassionate” etc. but do those words truly convey the metamorphosis you know you have undergone through your life or do they fall short. Does that explain why when we try to give advice to a young person, he/she doesn’t understand anything we attempt to say, even if “it’s for his/her own good.” Young people respond to the concrete, the immediate. Wisdom is neither – knowledge is.

When I began my ‘active’ spiritual searching more than 20 years ago, I read as much as I could get my hands on. I tried to memorize the spiritual jargon thinking that if I could use those words in a conversation then I would be regarded as being on a spiritual path. If there were people who “knew “ more than I did, I felt that they were further along on the path than I was. I felt inadequate. I thought I had to “know” something. But it wasn’t long before I realized none of the mental gyrations I went through qualified me as a spiritual seeker. Listening to others explaining “this is this …and that is that….” only left me with more of an empty feeling. And words, no matter how many or valid, could not fill that emptiness.

So how powerful exactly is knowledge? Swami Muktananda said, “Knowledge of the external world is the root of all sorrow when it seeps inside and we identify with it.”  He goes further when he quotes the Siva Sutra 1.2, jnanam bandhah, “Knowledge is bondage.”  If we live steeped in our social agreements, that is to say the labels or false identities we use to define ourselves and our place on this planet, then we are missing the essence of who and what we are. The mind has created and perpetuates the illusion of separation.  Only when we free ourselves from the mind, can we begin to understand our true nature. This is when the alchemy – and real transformation – begins.  So it is only when knowledge is treated as an end in itself do we get into trouble. We need to get out of our heads and begin experiencing with our hearts. That is where wisdom lives.

Direct Experience vs. Intellect

Most of us do realize this on some level. And when we do, we usually try to augment our intellectual searching through some kind of sadhana or spiritual practice. Meditation is a common way to still the clamoring of the mind so something else (our true selves) can be acknowledged and heard. The four yogas (used to attain union with Spirit), Raja, Jnana, Bhakti and Karma are sometimes treated as separate paths, but that too is an illusion

created by the mind. When studied with the heart, separation dissolves into oneness. The idea of a “path” which has form disappears.  From that experience of oneness comes wisdom and the union with spirit we are striving to attain.  Direct experience transcends the mind and therefore thought.  As soon as we try to put words to describe our experience it seems to diminish it somehow. Something gets lost in the translation.

Something else begins to happen. I’ve noticed that I no longer care about the ‘workings’ of spirituality from a mental level. I don’t particularly care to have anything explained to me. My teacher gave a wonderful example of this. None of us are really concerned with the mechanics of how a TV works we just want to click the remote to get our programs. When you turn on the faucet to get water, do you really care where it comes from or how it gets to you? I don’t know about you, but I don’t. Indeed there was a time when I would’ve wanted to know and understand everything. The need to neatly label and file away information into mental compartments is disappearing. What is happening to me? I seem to be suffering from a shocking lack of curiosity.

I’m not diminishing intellectual curiosity, I’m just warning against giving it too much credit. It is a known fact that the greatest spiritual beings that have walked this planet were not Ph.d.s. Some never had any traditional schooling. The East does not recognize this as an impediment to spiritual growth or the attainment of wisdom. Only here in the West do we still hang on to outward forms. We always need to know a person’s credentials before we will even listen to what they have to say, much less judge it as acceptable.  (Part 2 will follow in my next post…)


 

Open Up and Feel the Love

I’ve been subscribing to Yoga Journal for years and still get a thrill flutter when I open my mailbox to find the new issue waiting for me. I usually begin flipping through the magazine as I’m walking back to my apartment or car not being able to restrain myself.

In a recent issue, there was an article by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame in which she relates the experience of her very first yoga class.  It’s a great read for those of you out there who do yoga. Remember your first yoga class? Well, for Gilbert, that first class began a love affair with yoga that continues to this day. I was particularly struck, though, by her revelation of how she burst into tears during that class. She was in the lying spinal twist when the instructor came over and opened up her body a bit more as she held the pose.  That prompted a flow of tears and emotion helping Gilbert to release, as she puts it, the “longing, prayer, and doubt” she had held inside but never openly acknowledged.

Crying during a yoga practice happens from time to time.  We don’t realize how much “stuff” we hold in our bodies. I remember when a woman started to cry during a class I taught. Afterward, she came up to me and during our conversation she told me that her son had died during that past year and she was finding the yoga was helping her to release some of her pain.

Sometimes, though, when a painful experience is too new, it might be best not to practice for a time.  Some years ago, there was an article in Yoga Journal describing an experience by Thom Birch (late husband of ashtanga teacher Beryl Bender Birch). He was in Mysore, India working on his ashtanga practice when he began to cry. Pattabhi Jois (the late ashtanga yoga master) came over and Thom mentioned to Jois that he had just found out his father had died.  Jois stopped his practice and told him, “No practice. Three days.”

The cathartic release of painful emotions from your body allows for a transformation of sorts. You create more space for something else to come in. Gilbert called the “something else” shakti. I like to call it love. Love for whatever you can finally let go of.  Love for whatever you feel is missing in your life. Love for who you are and where you are in this present moment of your life.  Love for whatever may wait for you in the future. Just LOVE.  So during your next practice, open up and feel the love that is all around you.  I promise you will carry it with you off the mat.

Here is the link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s article in Yoga Journal

www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/2999?utm_source=MyYogaJournal&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=MyYogaJournal