What Does Awakening Mean To You?

Awakening, for me, means an inner peace that exists prior to any of the outer challenges that life brings. It means being present with what is and free of mental reactivity that triggers resistance and contraction. And it means a gradual unfolding of consciousness into many aspects of living. When we accept how it is, how we are, we become free and awakening continually unfolds.

Awakening does not bring a perfect life and continual bliss, nor the opposite — absence of all feeling, and a dry and passive emptiness — as some people might imagine before navigating this passage. The terms emptiness and detachment are common in the world of non-duality, and are greatly misunderstood.

As we become empty of our conditioned self we move through stillness and into a vividness of the senses that is more immediate and more appreciative than previously lived. In any moment that we are really here and now we see life with more nuance – for example, the darkness or discouragement brought on by world events is seen in relationship to the innate beauty of the earth and the inherent kind spirit of most humans, who long for love and understanding and mutuality rather than violence and suffering. We see the creativity in humankind. It is seeing the whole, and while a feeling of sadness may float through the heart at certain times, this is not held as a filter through which we view all the world. Anger may arise but along beside it is a witness wondering why it is there – what hidden belief is it unveiling, what part of us is still waiting to come awake? Feelings move through and guide us to deeper truths within our self.

Awakening unwinds gradually in our life. It may come in spurts that seem to magically open before us, in an unguarded moment in which no thoughts are arising and yet presence is there. It may come when we step back out of an old pattern and feel compassion for our self and all other humans entangled in conditioned beliefs and anxieties.

Moments of awakeness may come because of a stunning sunrise, or vast view of the world, or a sense of consciousness slipping free of the limits of one body and embracing the allness of itself. They can happen when a baby smiles, or you relax into a lover’s arms just to be there, or when you are swimming and suddenly at one with the water.

Awakening is simple in that it is prior to all the complications of mind and conditioning. It is like the sky with no objects or with the planets and stars so scattered that they present no interference with the stillness. It is the moment between thoughts that is ripe with any possibility. It is the quietude in the heart that needs nothing more to happen.

You may have thought you had to be a saint to be awake, or go through a lifetime of austerity and the abandonment of human love and pleasure. But if you are only awake when in a deep meditation, separated from all the forms of life expression, then you are only half awake. We are not just awake to ourselves when we are pure untrammeled consciousness – we become awake with eyes open to the wonder of being here momentarily in the play of a human experience, with others to meet and dance with through our lives. We are here to bring consciousness and light to our world as embodiment, if even for only a brief period of time.

As we face our contractions and resistances we become more free personally, but also collectively, and generationally. We are breaking lineages that were confused and had been passing dysfunction from one generation to the next. We may wish we could wake up all at once and stay awake and never have an issue to address. But life unfolds itself more gradually, and our awakenings bring us more and more opportunities to clear away our patterns and see our potentials. Just as maturing takes humans some time to unfold, so does the maturing of our ability to live awakened in the world.

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Meditation and Centering

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Heidi and Mark in Italy  who provide a you-tube program on Conscious Aging through The Wisdom Factory.  We talked about the value of meditation and I provided a brief meditative practice that I find centering and calming. If you would like to see this program here is the Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=kOQVtwXQZkA
Meditation is useful at stages of life for calming the mind and finding the still point within you, which is never in the head but more in the center or what is called the hara, a place just above or below the naval. You can learn to rest here or to move from this point and to be present with what is around you as you walk or sit in silence. This is nurturing for the spirit and in time provides a new perspective from which to view the world.  You will find an increase in mental clarity, greater peace and a more open heart if you follow a sincere meditation practice.  At first you may find it difficult to be still and quiet the mind, but one day you will find yourself drawn to it the way you are drawn to food when you feel hunger.  Meditation becomes  food for the spirit and the heart.
If your longing is for Self-realization meditation is also the most classic and ancient path to this knowing of the Truth of who you are — connecting you to the stillness of pure consciousness.  We cannot discover this realization through thought and belief because the Truth is beyond language and form and the world of thought is limited. Understanding is not the same as knowing, just as reading about water is not the same as drinking it. There are physiological changes that happen when we mediate for a long period of time that prepare the body for realization by calming the senses, clearing negative energies and opening up channels into brain centers that produce new possibilities.
There are many styles of meditation that suit various personality types and stages of practice.
There is a meditation available on each of my websites: http://www.kundaliniguide.com and http://www.awakeningguide.com.
You can also  access links on to my interview at the Wisdom Factory website: https://thewisdomfactory.net/bonnie-greenwell-meditation-and-centering/
I have also been invited to speak at the Science and Non-duality Conference in San Jose, CA next October.  This is a wonderful gathering of scientists and non-dual teachers from around the world with many talks and experiences and a great place to meet others who share a longing for or encounter with non-dual awakening. The SAND website is http://www.scienceandnonduality.org.  Look me up if you are there.

Standing Up for the World

How many people need to stand up in order to create positive change on our planet?  Change is usually initiated by one insight or action. Movements begin with one or a few who care about this change.

h042luminousearth-5x7s-1      I admit I have never been an activist. As someone who has spent most of my life caring for family, college and career, preoccupied with personal growth  and spiritual realization, while living in comfort, I can recognize easily how much effort it takes to let go of personal concerns long enough to become involved in the greater picture of planetary and political issues.  Most Americans are busy with daily challenges and experiences, both positive and negative, and feel they have little energy or interest left for the bigger needs of the collective, hoping somehow our political structures will support us, since that is felt to be their job. I believe the majority feel, as I have often felt, they can help a person one on one, to get what they need, but trying to support the overwhelming greater needs of the planet seems both exhausting and impossible.

            All the ordinary and self-serving activities of my own life have happened with the backdrop of WW2 (as an infant), Korea (as a college student), the Civil Rights Movement,  the women’s movement, and Vietnam (as a  young mother), the Gulf War , and invasion of Iraq, the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, the shooting of Martin Luther King, nuclear proliferation and numerous other tragedies of human interaction based on the delusion we are separate and must fight and eliminate one another.  I remember when we bought our first tv, and as an adolescent watching with horror films from WW2 showing the release of those few who survived the concentration camps. I remember watching the killing of Sirhan Sirhan iive on tv as I was ironing one morning shortly after JFK’s death.  I have watched the increase of violence – or at least our awareness of it – grow exponentially as our media became more sophisticated. And in the shadows of this most of us continue to lead ordinary lives.

            Today our world problems appear to be random terrorism, environmental degradation and threat, challenges to our educational opportunities and scientific integrity, the pressing needs of immigrants, corporate profits displacing human needs, challenges in healthcare, and the possible disappearance of jobs as technology advances.  And once again we are people in a cultural values division. Distrust of government, and fear of its impact on our personal lives is uprooting our peace of mind.  The challenges change but the cultural anxiety stays the same.

            Today we are more aware of what is happening everywhere, thanks to the web, and people are marching and writing, and pulling themselves away from their personal concerns to seek a voice in the larger collective.  Many average citizens are choosing to run for office. Sometimes those who speak up are met with harsh resistance, or the indifference of those who carry power.  But we humans are the web of society and we need to connect and interact for the good of the whole, and in many places this consciousness of our larger role in our society is starting to rise.

            Indigenous cultures thought and acted from a collective field for the welfare of the community.  Our great modern accomplishment of individualization has left in its shadow our capacity for awareness of and compassion for the whole.  Our inability to recognize that we are rooted in One consciousness, One source, no matter our intellectual theories about its nature, divides us into separate camps and identifications, and allows us to witness tragedy without much response, unless it is happening in our own neighborhood.

            But slowly we are beginning to recognize that what happens in one region of the world profoundly impacts all others.  We may still feel helpless at times to be a corrective force when greed and anger and violence emerge like a hurricane or volcanic eruption in the human experience, but it is harder to be unaffected and unmoved.

            It appears that every great movement or great invention arose through the insight of one person who inspired a small group and instigated a new perspective.

Every political, psychological, educational, spiritual theory,  and every new invention from the wheel to the automobile to the internet emerged from the smallest imaginative thought in one or a few creative minds or hearts.  Everything begins with one and expands (sometimes more slowly than we wish) into the world of thought and then into manifestation.  We think of it as genius when we like the ideas, and as horrors when they cause destruction.

            If you believe you are moved through spirit, what is the one thing you have to contribute to the world?  Is it an idea, a service, a movement from love, a potential that can help the life of a few or someday, perhaps many.  Find your own unique skill, something that moves you from the heart, and find a simple way to express it. If every one does one action for the good of the whole, the forces of good will outweigh the forces that cause suffering and pain.

Light and dark, joy and suffering, will always be part of this human experience, and the challenges bring many of us into personal searching for freedom and self-realization.  But this movement to awaken cannot be limited to the personal life – not if there is one consciousness under all experience or one source.  If you are clearing yourself from your personal suffering you are also clearing your lineage, opening new possibilities for the next generation.  If you will find the one thing for which you have the time and talent to contribute to the welfare of the whole, you will become part of  the future health and wellbeing of the planet.  We each need to release our self from fear and avoidance of the world, and bring the strength of our true nature , which holds love and creativity,  into the world we share.

Transcending the Inner Committee

I’ve always appreciated the concept that we humans have a committee in our heads, often with parts of us holding different perspectives and goals.  This analogy comes from a transpersonal therapeutic model called Psychosynthesis.  The collection of various ideas and positions we hold represent different aspects of our psyche that cause us to feel divided, undecided, impulsive, moody, and to make choices one day that we might regret the next. These parts of us are always jumping up and demanding our attention.

Perhaps you have a spiritual seeker on your committee that is trying to help you wake up out of the suffering in the world, and another character that turns on the news at night andIMG_0667 keeps you angry or frightened about world events.  Most of us have parental introjects – the part of us that responds the way our mom or dad responded in times of stress.  The inner mom might hold a belief in a god that is punishing and demanding, or a lifestyle you do not entirely enjoy.  The inner dad may be a critic telling you that you are never quite good enough, or successful enough. We often have a character that wants to lose weight, and another that says “Life is short. Eat sweets, Feel Better.” Addicts are taken over by a committee member that wants to escape emptiness, or be high one more time, while other committee members with better judgment are wasted in the background of the mind.  Take a minute to make a list of your personal committee members – perhaps a judge, a protector, a problem finder, a problem solver, a conflict avoider, a dreamer,  a poet, an activist – what attitudes are carried in your committee?  Those thoughts of yours are neurons firing. Their content reflects the committee.

            Our minds are full of opposites.  Our human experience is one of division and multiplicity.  We can feel paralyzed by indecision for weeks because of these committee members who argue about what we should or should not do, where we ought to go, what are our goals, what someone else thinks of us, and corresponding emotions of fear, anger, inadequacy, desire and failure.  (Isn’t this the outer world as well? )

            Is spiritual awakening simply the addition of a new committee member, discovered by the seeker inside of you, or could it be the locating of a witness, a neutral observer of  all these characters within the play of your life?  What if you could rest as the witness or become a centered peaceful presence that sees through these committee members as simply belief structures? What if you knew them to be irrelevant most of the time? Would you like to have the power to step out of the boardroom and into the sunlight where there is no chatter, no conflict, and new clarity? Awakening offers this chance.

When you have a glimpse of your awakened Self it seems as if everything else falls away, and you are standing with no objections, no needs and no defenses in the field of timeless existence. It is the consciousness that you essentially are – the I am — realizing its connection to Source, or seeing clearly that all is One and Whole. In this moment the world of human thought has fallen away, leaving a knowing presence that cannot be defined. It just is. You just are. You are free of following the demands of the apparent separate and conditioned little self you have always depended upon.

            These flashes of realization are not permanent.  You cannot stay transfixed
by this moment and function in the real world.  To the extent you are ready, the impact  of awakening can last indefinitely.  But most often there is a long period of slipping between ordinary functioning as you always have known it and moments of perception where you see the world in a new way.  IF you return over and over to trusting the Truth of what you have seen underneath the habitual veils of the human mind, gradually you will become able to live more and more from an awakened perspective.  This means you become less reactive, more light-hearted, more flexible, more compassionate and more intuitive than you were before the realization. The critical mind loses influence. You may find yourself to be more creative, more sensitive, more alive. These are signs of freedom taking hold in your psyche.

            Most of the committee members fade away once there is a strong awakening of pure consciousness.  But many of them put up a fight.  You may have the judge telling you how you should be more enlightened. You may have a doubter telling you that what was experienced was only imagination.  The inner striver may insist you have not accomplished enough, learned enough or earned enough money and you need to put your attention there.  The inner parent may say you cannot let go now because you might stop loving your kids,  Often there is a wanderer who shows up – a part of you that wants to give up everything and just float around the world or hide in a cave somewhere.  The adventurer may seek more dramatic ways of feeling high. The lover may seek a soul mate.

            Some eastern teachings suggest it is the belief in an “I” that holds all these parts of us together.  Instead of facing and releasing each character, one of them at a time, we can just release the sense of the I, the do-er, and be done with the whole scene. Like a house of cards the separate self will collapse.  Something new and more authentic  can then enter and direct our life choices, and there is no one in you to object to what arises.  This  is a greatly condensed description of how it is to lead an awakened life.  To most of us who have developed a workable life and functional mind this sounds crazy, until it happens.

            If you are honest with yourself, haven’t most of the major turns in your life begun with something you never planned, beginning with your birth, a random event caused by two other people? You didn’t plan the family, the place or  the time.  Didn’t your friends and your partner just show up in your life one day with no planning or expectation?  Someone was there and you recognized them!  Did you pre-plan your career and all the turns it took?

            Sometimes the committee members worry too much and take too much credit or blame.  In their efforts to protect you and guide you they create great unnecessary arguments and generate fear and contraction.  If by chance a part of you gets its way there can be great joy for a time, or if life calms down and a crisis has passed there can be great relief. Your committee members enjoy these times of agreement with what is, and may even feel a sense of accomplishment,

If you wake up and leave the committee behind you may have less intensity, less drama in your life.  Even the spiritual seeker part of you will fall away eventually, and you will wonder what to do with yourself. The deeper part of us is free of seeking,  anxiety, anger and demands.  As it becomes more of your “go-to” place life is
smoother, even though the same challenges may arise.  You still have to face whatever lands on your doorstep, and at times a committee member may arise to yell about it or weep. You may have to deal with sexual desire, or the emotional bonds of family and  other human conditions that are part of your DNA.  But you have found a home base, a quality of stillness, and a breadth of perspective and even unconditional love.  This can sustain you and bring light into the darkness you encounter.  This is why some non-dual teachers say there are no problems.  Situations arise. Response arises and action coming from the heart may move you.  But the perspective through which you see this dance of life IMG_4835unfold has changed.   This is what makes you free. This is, as far as I can tell, awakened living.

If you are drawn  toward awakening you will find support  in “The Awakening Guide”available on Amazon and Kindle and the website:

http://www.awakeningguide.com

Energy & New Perspectives

img_4814When energy moves in your body it is a sign you are on the verge of a shift of perspective. All of your beliefs and points of view are simply perspectives, and they are conditioned by culture, family and experiences. If you have been in an awakening process and are experiencing energetic shifts you are having birthing pains, moving into a new experience of the world.

Our religion, politics and other belief systems, even beliefs about ourselves, are not real – they are all happening in the mind, as bleeps of random thought. They are transient and sometimes repetitive thought forms. The impact of what we believe is programmed into our energy field, and we often suffer because of the limitations of our beliefs about ourselves and others. As new or better things happen in our lives these thoughts change, and with disappointments and discouragement they may also change. If I believe I am inadequate or you are dangerous or life is unfair I will live accordingly, until my perspective shifts. If you have suddenly experienced  energy vibrating or releasing in your body and you believe it is dangerous you will feel afraid; if you understand it is your own vital energy trying to release old and difficult patterns so you can feel free, then you can feel relaxed and curious and you may find bliss as releasing happens. If consciousness shifts out-of-body and you think you are mentally ill you will be alarmed; if you are surprised and curious to find you are not your body but this awareness that transcends it, you may feel joy.

Spiritual awakening is all about shifting perspective. It is opening yourself to seeing the wholeness, the unity of all things, and the underlying consciousness that permeates our lives.This undermines the ego, and a new point of view arises in its place. Energy shifts happen because we are molecular structures and the ability to live from a new perspective calls for the reorganization of this structure away from division and toward wholeness and balance. It is disarming because many of us fear change and feel we are losing our world when we change our ego’s perspective of it. But the ego is only a movement of identification with the experiences of a separate “Me”.  It is not real..

Because each of us has accumulated our perspectives from differing sources we sometimes have clashing perspectives, and we tend to choose friends who share the perspective we are most comfortable with. Thus we bond with various religious, political, national or social groups and the ego tendency is to avoid, distrust or even hate those with different values and beliefs. Many people who have shifts because of spiritual or energy practices feel they no longer fit in or enjoy the groups that used to be compatible for them. They find it harder to project evil on the other side. They might feel they have become an entirely different person inside. The mind may  at times be alarmed about this, but it is an important evolutionary step for our planet. It brings us closer to recognizing our alignment with nature and our connection with all forms of life.

I attended yesterday the 3rd conference held by a group called Architects of the New Paradigm. They had a large attendance of people concerned that our culture and our world needs new paradigms if it is to survive the environmental, economic and social issues that trouble us. A paradigm is a way of seeing things, the way we construct our interpretation of the world. They questioned whether it is a revolution or an evolution that is needed in the current paradigm, where corporations focused on making profits rule the economics of our government, and our freedom as individuals is compromised by regulations and laws. I would define revolution  as an external movement and evolution as internal. From my perspective the internal needs to move first, and freedom from our old patterns needs first to be claimed within. Without these internal changes any new movements will lack appreciation for the wholeness the planet needs to come into balance.

The speakers at ANP offered a diverse exploration of new ways to view the human condition as it impacts government, economics, health and science. They offered inspiring perspectives of revolutionary change based on the impact of our recent discovery through space probes that millions of exo-planets exist in our galaxy that likely contain some varieties of more advanced life-forms, radical new potentials in technology and environmentally friendly inventions, and examples of ways to change how government and health care function through taking personal responsibility. There were no definitive answers, but questions asked with an openness to discovering new and compassionate solutions.

Ego and the thoughts generated in mind are not real (although some are useful), but what is real is the experience you have before your mind makes a decision or creates a story. Holding a flower in your hand is real. Labeling it a flower is not. Your heart opening with love is real. Labeling it love and expecting a response is only perspective. The environment is real; your relationship to it depends on how you think and feel about it and this can be changeable and varied.   Ultimately form is not “real” either, as everything, including you, is made of cells that are 99.99% space. It is a miracle of nature that we have forms that appear in relationship with one another, and can see, touch, smell, hear and taste all the beautiful aspects of our planet.  These forms of ours contain what is real – a consciousness within that is connected with everything and indestructible.

Some physicists are beginning to recognize that each of us is a microcosm of the macrocosm of our universe. The space we are is not empty but is full of all possibilities, just as the vastness of space. At AFT one of the speakers called our bodies receiving stations for consciousness.

What does this have to do with non-duality or with spiritual awakening? Why should we care about the world around us if it is all illusion, as some Advaita masters like Ramana Maharshi or Papaji have indicated? As near as I can tell we are the world!  If this is illusion we are all it together! It is a dance of molecules and particles and color and explosion and it is never-ending no matter how the forms change.  Awakening is not an escape into blissful detached alternate realities. It is a simple realization of what you are. If you are to live from this realization then you will live with a new paradigm, expressing wholeness and gratitude, aligning with an authentic deep intuitution that may be unique to each situation (instead of conditioned) and available to meeting life as it is and making choices from love rather than fear.

This is the evolution our species needs. It is not easy to accomplish in ourselves, and each day can bring a new challenge. But your willingness to allow your energy and your consciousness to shift and to be part of the movement of humans toward living in wholeness, is what will make you free.

The Sacred in “The Shack”

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A lovely aspect of the film “The Shack”, which I saw yesterday, is that God is portrayed in several images – none of them traditional. This film, based on a best-selling Christian book,  offers as well a universal message that divine love is unconditional just like our love for our children, and that the tragedies of life are not “allowed” and cannot be prevented by God, but are part of the experience of living as humans.

This is a film about how we can heal. Presented through a Christian lens, it may not appeal to those who follow eastern practices, but essentially the message of Buddhism, Vedanta and the Perennial Philosophy is the same, as expressed in the teachings about suffering found in Buddhism, and in the challenges and questions Arjuna (representing every man) faces in the “Bhagavadgita”, the most universal scripture in India. It is a message about facing darkness and healing the broken heart through love, forgiveness, wisdom and trust. Christians encourage faith to accomplish this, but more than faith there must be a deep internal turning and releasing in order for healing to happen. Eastern teachings are more focused on this internal path, and view God more as a primary source of the energy and consciousness of life rather than a physical form. The images are only transitional objects defining aspects of this One Source, because our minds more easily relate to Source in the form of a human body, and cannot mentally grasp the wholeness and radiance of the First Cause. It is too much bigger than mind.

Some Christians are really afraid of this internal turning. One woman condemned me recently as offering teachings of the devil. I don’t know why, but I guess she came to this conclusion by watching an interview I did recently on Conscioustv about living with kundalini energy. Such a perspective distorts a person’s ability to find joy and contentment in life, because it denies our own direct connection with the sacred.

It is sad when people are brought up believing that anything arising within them is evil, and unloved by their God. The darkness among humans is often something passed down generationally by people who have experienced extreme neglect and pain, and pass this unconsciously along to their own children. Violence begets violence. Prejudice is taught. Self-loathing is taught. Hatred of those who are different is taught. We as a culture do very little to prevent these teachings as much of our entertainment is focused on violence and prejudiced images of those who are different. Parents are stressed to provide a living, often unsupported and occasionally harshly reactive with young impressionable children. Children in poverty often lack enough food to eat and time with their over-worked parents. Fear is promoted as a way of marketing goods, religion and politics.  Evil emerges from the cracks in a culture – the unwillingness or inability to recognize what is needed for love and self-acceptance, and compassion for our fellow humans, to thrive.

Unfortunately some churches do not preach the universal sacredness and connection to God that is in all humans. Some governments are managed by people more attracted to power and personal gain than the emotional and physical health of their communities. This places a huge burden on an individual family system to model inclusiveness and compassion, while also meeting basic human needs.

If there is an original sin it must be this human tendency to care only for our own gain and neglect the needs of others. If there is a hell it is likely the lives of some in our societies who are caught in war and other unspeakable pain.

The true gift of Christianity when rightly used has nothing to do with walking on water or going to heaven or recruiting more Christians. In the teachings attributed to Jesus it is  finding the kingdom of God within – the simple connection we each have with wisdom and love and others of our species that can only be found by facing and eventually releasing our personal dramas and traumas, demands, disappointments, anger and grief. It happens when we let go into ourselves and discover our True Nature. Then we may experience forgiveness for the way things are and discover the freedom of seeing the joy and possibility of creation. Then we can find each in our own way how we can express the sacred that has been latent within us.

 

 

Awakening the Light in Troubled Times

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I am looking at the ocean in Santa Cruz on an unusally bright December day and many sparks of light are dancing over the surface. In the great depths below much activity is likely happening, but all I can see is the grey-blue rippling surface and thousands of dots of light, resting below a greyish pink sky so that the world from this view is simply a peaceful and sparkling watercolor.

As we move through a world that has many troubles, among people with worries and sorrow, we hold a potential to be a spark of light in the grey, the one who can reach out and be a friend, or a helping hand or a smile. Beneath the surface much may be going on but still that potential for light is always there. I believe non-duality is about the light available in the darkness, the wholeness of One  alive and bright ocean within the apparent separation.

Those who are spiritual “seekers” sometimes get their lives out of balance. The very longing to know Truth or God or “What is it all about?” demands a kind of passionate focus that can disturb all the normal rhythms of a life, along with slowly destabilizing the conditioned identity. We can begin to feel isolated, lonely and misunderstood, and withdraw from the opportunity to interact with others.

Perhaps your longing for Truth or awakening arose because of dissatisfaction with the cultural mindset , or because of difficulty in facing ordinary challenges of living in an intense and competitive world, or possibly you just came into the world wondering from a young age what life was all about. In some cases a major life event or a trauma or simply even a dream or a phrase in a book , can trigger the longing to know more. Although it sometimes feels like a desire to escape,  this is actually a longing to feel whole and intimate with all of life.

A few centuries ago you would have found your way to a monastery or ashram or temple to study the secret mysteries that could help you go so inward that you would move beyond yourself. Today all levels of practices and teachings, both valid and distorted, are sprouting up everywhere. No preparation required. Little understanding provided. It is easy to get lost and confused in the inner world and the phenomena it offers, and drift away from engagement with your humanity.

One of the challenges of awakened consciousness is seeing more clearly the insanity in much of human behavior, and choosing our response. We are likely the only species willing to destroy our own environment, neglect the basic human needs of one another, and become prone to self-limiting self criticism. At some point it is natural to want to escape to a deeper peace inside and try to ignore the outer world, but awakening paradoxically makes us more sensitive to human loss and trauma. We cannot refuse to see.

Many spiritually-oriented or simply compassionate people are disturbed today by the direction of our government and institutions. It appears likely values we believe in such as equality, freedom, compassion and opportunity for the poor, open-minded education, environmental protections, ending nuclear proliferation etc. are threatened. Fear and anger can overwhelm us as our minds create the possible scenario for a new and more cruel world. We have to go beyond the mind for our response.

We only need a slight glance at history to see that these same concerns, or worse, have plagued humans since the beginning of civilization. Human life has long been a struggle between opposites and each generation must find a way to stand for the light within. Our generations have dealt with WW2, Viet Nam, the Gulf wars, the Civil Rights movement, assassinations, floods and other environmental disasters – cultural trauma is nothing new – like energy it doesn’t disappear but simply changes form.

As spiritual seekers we can become attached to the light, and develop strong aversions to the cultural and political battles of our world. Generally we are not people who are adept at fighting, and prefer retreating into meditation, interior calming and prayer. Perhaps we are holding the center for those who are out on the edges demanding change, but when we are very passive, sometimes the changes generated are not the ones we seek. Perhaps there will always be waves of power-driven people creating havoc in the world – there always has been so far – and yet there has been human progress too and great inventive minds that contribute to the rising of all.  So how do we find balance and inner harmony in a world that seems to deny its value? And can we have a useful impact by offering our own light?

Here are a few quotes of Krishna speaking in the the Kula-Arnava Tantra (1.16-27) that I recently found in Georg Feuersteins book “Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy”. They remind me that we must nurture our own lives, including our bodies, and offer kindness to others, if we are to awaken to Truth. Even under a political system that is not offering the supports we think are needed, we can offer this to one another. I’ve added my own interpretation of the stanzas.

After obtaining a human body, which is difficult to obtain and which serves as a ladder to liberation, who is more sinful than he who does not cross over to the Self?(Think of sinful meaning blind or neglectful. Krishna encourages us to use the great gift of incarnation wisely)

Therefore, upon obtaining the best possible life form, he who does not know his own good is merely killing himself. (Recognize that your birth offers great opportunity! Use this precious time to awaken to Truth.)

How can one come to know the purpose of human life without a human body? Hence having obtained the gift of a human body one should perform meritorious deeds.(As humans we have a sacred purpose and can do good things for one another.)

 One should completely protect oneself by oneself. Oneself is the vessel for everything. One should make an effort in protecting oneself, Otherwise the Truth cannot be seen.(Love yourself and care for the vehicle of the body/mind. This is essential in finding the Truth of who you are.)

 One should cultivate the highest good while the senses are not yet frail, suffering is not yet firmly rooted, and adversities have not yet become overwhelming. (Life is short – seek truth from an early age. However, I would add it is never too late.)

             Of course, this was also the message of Jesus, on whom Christianity was founded. He advised us to love our selves and our neighbors and told us that heaven was all around us yet we did not see it. He even pointed out the kingdom of God is within. Although many so-called Christians seem to have lost this theme under the stress of greed or fear, it is likely many more embrace it. Christmas is a time we try to reignite generosity and renew family ties, and remind ourselves of our capacity for love and transformation.

Can we use these challenging political times to come back into balance and inner harmony – valuing our bodies, our lives, our neighbors, our families, strangers and nature?  By bringing gratitude and consciousness into our own personal environments and discovering what we each have that can be contributed to the common good we may even bring a gradual balance back to the planet.

Despite the darkness reported in the media we are the people, and what brings about the deepest change lies in how we treat one another. Politicians and corporations and criminals are not the majority of the people. Money is not the only commodity. We who seek or have found our Oneness, even briefly, can rebalance ourselves by moving beyond our personal contractions and finding our own unique way to contribute to the whole. Your way may be very quiet, touching only a few, or you may find yourself in a larger role. Truth and awakening have always been present in the world, holding the center amidst the chaos. Could this be the true message of Christmas and the life of Jesus, who himself lived in very troubled times?

 

 

Finding Our Light in Darkness

The majority of people in this country are concerned, even despairing, about where the nation is going, because of the election through the electoral college of a minority-chosen president who is impuspiritual-awakeninglsive and appears to stand against many of our better values. We don’t know what he will do – but we fear what he says. Fear and anger is arising on both sides. The anger of fear and the anger of defensiveness.

The appointments for many agency heads are people who have in the past been against the major practices of those agencies, and in many cases have no experience in the field they will be managing. There is a huge flaw in the federal government that allows people to be elected into leadership with no stated qualifications for office. Among other actions, it would help to promote changes in this model.

This political upheaval (not the first in our difficult history) is an opportunity for the majority to stand up for what we believe. We need to find a positive way to express what the majority want, but include what the “other side” needs. We need to stand for rather than against, because pushing against only strengthens resistance on the other side. We need to show these people we are afraid of that we will value them when they make choices for a healthy community, a clean environment, decent salaries, good education for everyone, or women’s rights. Money is not the problem – values are. Even rich people can love, find creative solutions, appreciate health and nature and enjoy appreciation. We need articles in the press that continually show the advantages of greater wealth and safety in the country that will follow in an educated and fully healthy society and environment.

It is easier to rage against what we fear than it is to promote inspiring change – this is why our politicians rely on fear to get voters to the polls. It is time for the people to promote creative change and mutual support of persons and environments in communities, states, businesses, schools – in time those elected would want to be part of it. Can we find in ourselves that which we want to promote and protect, and speak up creatively. I found in my past that when I was depressed it was because I was not doing what was meaningful to me. I had to act on the desires of my heart to rise above the heaviness of spirit. Eventually I found my way to a deep internal peace. Acceptance is not passivity – it is the beginning of clarity and right action. We need to encourage this evolution in one another.   We can benefit from the will to do what is good and loving for ourselves and others. And so can the country.

The Mother, a great spiritual companion of Aurobindo, believed in the evolutionary potential for transforming human minds into an awakened loving presence. She once said that “When there is a great darkness in someone, you can be assured that underneath it is a great light. “ The state of the world is primarily because we do not recognize what we really are. Today is the time to ignite this light in ourselves and others.

 

 

What is Spiritual Freedom?

spiritual-awakeningThe way to become free is to recognize the freedom that already exists. Once the pure essence of being or presence is remembered and lived the mental conflicts of worthiness, desire, disappointment, guilt, depression, irritation etc. fall away because they are seen as irrelevant. The True Nature knows none of these because it knows itself as the All or the Source, or the presence of consciousness.

Many people have a touch of this realization of Oneness and turn away from it because of fear that  arises when there seems to be no ground on which to stand. Separateness feels essential to the ego structure and bounces back readily.     The sense of Oneness is not recognized in mainstream cultures that emphasize owning the uniqueness of the separate sense of self. These teachings are not saying that the body does not exist or that at the relative level there are no guidelines for living. They point to the inclusiveness and divinity of All, that everything of creation made of the five elements is Brahman (the One Indefinable Source). Existence as form is not the problem; exclusive identification with a separate form, and the beliefs that arise within it, is what keeps us blind to what we truly are, and in conflict with reality. Vedantic scriptures point to the essence, vastness and inclusivity of what we truly are, and that the world of forms is not the Truth it appears to be.

Here are a few stanzas from a sacred Vedanta scripture, the Advadhuta Gita of Dattatreya, an extreme Advaita or Nondual text. Avadhuta means a liberated soul who has shaken off worldly attachments. Vedantic scriptures are inspirational for all who wish to directly realize Truth, for they touch us beyond the mind.

“You are not born nor do you die. At no time do you have a body. The scripture declares in many different ways the well-known dictum ‘All is Brahman'”.

“You are (One) who is exterior and interior. You are the auspicious One existing everywhere at all times. Why are you running hither and thither deluded, like an unclean spirit?”

“There is no body made up of five elements; nor is there anyone who is disembodied. All is verily the Self alone. How can there be the three states and the fourth?” (note: refers to waking, sleeping, dreaming and Awakened states)”

“I am not bound, I am not indeed liberated, and I am not different from Brahman. Neither doer nor enjoyer, I am devoid of the distinctions of the pervaded and the pervader.”

“As water when water has been poured into water, has no distinctions, so purusa (soul or essence, consciousness) and prakriti ( nature or forms of appearances, energies) appear nondifferent to me.”

“You verily are Truth, devoid of change, motionless, one of the nature of freedom. You have neither attachment nor aversion. Why do you suffer, seeking the objects of desires?”

“I know that I in every way, is the one indivisible “I” which is self-sustained and full while the five elements, beginning with ether, are empty.”

“The enlightened one is a yogi devoid of yoga and absence of yoga. He is an enjoyer, devoid of enjoyment and absence of enjoyment. Thus he wanders leisurely, filled with the spontaneous joy of his own mind.”

Quotes from Avadhuta Gita of Dattateya, translated by Swami Ashokananda for the Shri Ramakrishna Math.

 

The Interior Wisdom of the Self

“All this universe, movable or immovable, has come out of Intelligence.  Renouncing everything else, take shelter in it.

hs-1996-03-b-thumbAs space pervades a jar, both in and out, similarly within and beyond this ever-changing universe, there exists one Universal Spirit.”

Since the Spirit in its nature is not limited by time, or space it is therefore infinite, all-pervading and entirety itself.”Si

                                                                       Verses 48,49, 54 Siva Samhita

The ancient spiritual scriptures of India hold a perspective that directly touch our spirit, because they speak to our universal and eternal Self.  Spiritual practices in all traditions are designed to lead to this realization of One Self whether through meditation, grace, sacred chanting, visualizations , sacred geometry,  or contemplation.

What is this intelligence of the universe?  I think of it as the sacred source and instigator of life, an impulse of creation that far surpasses any human endeavor, and yet the same impulse that inspires all creative action through the human mind, and is the dormant potential in all lives.  It is the light that shines through us as life itself, and moves through the heart and mind when we are inspired by love or action for the good of the whole.

            This “intelligence” is considered “true existence” in the Siva Samhita and the only real substance of life, the Source of All.  It devolves into all states of matter that then form our human experience.  These are ether, air, fire, water, earth and their combinations , which are subject to destruction, and therefore a cause of distraction, delusion and suffering.  This is the teaching of impermanence in Buddhism as well as the reason that detachment is a teaching in Vedanta.  To awaken to True Nature we must detach from these identifications long enough for realization to activate.

            We humans have the benefit and challenges of being both form and spirit, made of the elements and the eternal Self.  This Self is yet to be acknowledged by a science based on matter, seeking the core of matter and yet to find it.  Just as science does not seem to be able to locate this source of intelligence in the working of the universe, so do we as individuals have trouble locating the source of true wisdom within ourselves, and for the most part rely on our accumulation of facts and experiences to frame our perspective of living.  If we are called to seek a deeper Truth, the mystery of what we are, then we may feel compelled to begin a spiritual search.

            The search of Spirit within is actually the removal of layers of delusion, of beliefs and attachments, emotionally charged history, warped relationships with other humans, and other distortions.  Many of these are shared distortions because of the prevalence of external forces of main-stream thinking designed to keep us in congruent social patterns.  These vary depending on the collective goals of our cultures, churches, educational systems and family myths.  Some of the ancient scriptures suggest these are all false – not because they are useless or in some cases reasonable patterns for living in our cultures – but because they are based on an underlying delusion about our nature as human beings.  They all identify this nature as being the extent of what we are, and this leads to divisions, conflicts and the willingness to harm others to get what we want.  This false identification is what leads to suffering, including the fear of death.

            Spiritual awakening is about a glimpse beyond these identifications that happens when for a moment or longer one has dropped all cultural, familial and bodily attachments and has seen or felt the light of spirit rising up or flowing downward in a way that feels irrefutable in showing us we are connected to all: we are not only Spirit but the One Spirit that is the source of all created forms and all unbounded existence.  We see through the eyes of this Spirit and recognize “I am this!” These amazing moments of grace change us profoundly, but much of this insight fades away as old patterns reassert themselves in our energy fields. The process of eliminating delusions once again takes time and we have to rise above the emotional difficulties caused by our belief we have lost something, or done something wrong, in order to remain steady in the Truth of what we know, and do the clearing necessary to live from this Truth.  This is made especially challenging because we live in a culture that is lost in its own identifications and delusions and is not in any way supportive of the awakening process.

            Anyone who has had a glimpse, or is willing to take on the journey of freeing themselves of “false” beliefs in favor of a direct knowing of what they are, can find encouragement in ancient scriptures like the Siva Samhita, the Siva Sutras, some of the Upanisads, the Bhagavagita and others.  Some of these Truths are hidden in the teachings of Jesus as well, especially in “the Father and I are One”, or “The Kingdom of God is Within”.  Buddhist and Taoist teachings, and Sufism also hold these Truths. The most useful thing to do when you are longing to understand who you are, from where you have come or where you are going, is to trust that there are pointers, and there are revelations, and you can find your own realization because we humans have arisen from this One Source and it is at the core of who we are.

Drop the mental struggle to figure it out, and ask your heart how this all began, and fall into the deep silence of not-knowing and rest there.