World in Chaos or World Awake?

We are, once again, living in chaotic times. Each generation seems to endure it’s own brand of chaos, with new issues arising but old patterns of violence and despair recurring over and over in our so-called “civilized” societies. Those who have spiritual inclinations, and those who simply wish to love, visualize a world without this strife and suffering, and imagine that if all would wake up we would be a kinder world, with all people thriving. Perhaps this was the way Jesus hoped things would go when he advised us to love our neighbor as our self, or Moses when he offered ten commandments that would greatly improve human conduct on the planet. (I have often wondeIMG_1375red how we can ignore the simple dictum ‘thou shalt not kill!’.)

Despite the efforts of many teachers, guides and compassionate leaders to suggest models for human compassion and cooperation, our patterns of human interaction continue to generate violence, hatred and insanity. For others they produce anxiety, depression, and despair. In some they are met with courage, caring and a renewal of the desire to contribute something hopeful and positive to our societies. In many others there is escape from these patterns through economic, sexual or family preoccupation or many other social distractions. As far as I can tell, these have always been human patterns on this planet and most minds are entangled in the energies they produce.

There is a growing sub-culture of people seeking answers through  what is clearly an inward journey – an exploration of their own conditioning and a seeking for a calm center or a sense of connection with “god” or “Truth,” or the primal source deep within. When within this depth of self-exploration the primary and universal consciousness awakens itself, and it is clearly revealed and experienced how you are entangled in thoughts, emotions and beliefs not true but only generationally conditioned, then “awakening” occurs, and there is the possibility of becoming “free” of yourself, and ending  suffering. We each have a potential to “awaken” beyond the boundaries of the personal self and into a new perception of our universal connectedness, but very few access this realization consciously in their lifetime.

The search to awaken may emerge in the psyche as a way to end suffering, or the divisive thoughts of the mind that cannot understand the terrible things humans do to one another. It can be triggered by a trauma or by simply wondering why there is so much struggle in many lives. It feels very personal at first. For myself, it came when I recognized that I felt a hole inside related not only to my mother’s sudden death when I was a kid, but also because my faith in God had died along with her. I wanted to know what was True about life. Did something called god even exist?

Usually it is personal pain that propels us to ask these questions. But I have met people who simply fell into the vastness of pure consciousness for a short time due to a shock, injury or deep despair, and when they emerged they felt driven to understand more. Many who are drawn to the peace offered through meditation and self-inquiry go deeper, and find consciousness stirring itself into revelations that surprise them. There are many doorways into the transformation of perspective about who we are.

This searching for Truth is not the personal escape you may imagine it to be. When successful it cracks open the destructive collective patterns that trouble our world. There is a collective consciousness that allows the darkness on our planet to flourish – or we might say a collective un-consciousness. Each of us that can awaken ourselves to the universal collective field hold a potential for healing a small facet of it, bringing light in some degree into the whole. It makes clear the possibility of love and compassion to overrule hate, first within ourself and then in the greater collective. No authentic spiritual guide or teacher is in this work to further their own lives – they are driven to bring more light into the collective. They may not know how to do this effectively – they are ordinary beings after all – only awake – so they give pointers from their own experience to encourage awakening in those who are available to it. They may teach from heart or intuition or a process they have found transformative in their own lives.

It is unfortunate that in some systems the way to encourage Self realization is to discount the attractions of human relations with the world. This approach has a place in helping you to recognize the inner world may have something more fulfilling, lasting and joyful to offer. It helps you to release the addiction to form so that you can directly know the ecstatic essence prior to forms. But once that is felt then awakening will optimally be brought back through the heart and into the lived experience. Great poets. musicians and artists sometimes radiate this. Brilliant inventions may be birthed from this insight. Mental confusion, violence and suffering can be transformed into understanding and compassion, along with a profound appreciation of the beauty and the miracles of the ordinary life.

We may never have a world without some chaos and a percentage of wounded or misguided people striking out at others. But the hope for me is that awakening generates greater wisdom and an evolution of  a new perspective within humanity, so that we understand that we are One interdependent species, and it is to our benefit to accept and support our common human needs. Awakening is not for you alone – it is for all of us.

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

Questions for Awakening

What does it mean to awaken spiritually? Should it be a struggle to “get there” and take years of spiritual practice? Or is it pre-existing and so obvious you will laugh hysterically when you recognize it?   These are the opposite opinions of teachers who invite you into their perspective of self-realization. Spiritual seeking invitIMG_1375es you into a world of many paradoxes. Partly it is because awakening itself happens in many ways, as unique to each of us as the varieties of our faces.

You are already what you are seeking, say many pundits. Just Stop. See what is here right now! If only our thoughts were not so full of limitations and our emotions so plugged up by a sense of inadequacy, desire, resistance and discouragement, we could notice that underneath it all is a simple awakened state of presence that has no argument with life as it is. We are what we seek. When we give up all efforts at self-improvement, and simply trust our intrinsic value, we find that underneath all this efforting is a simple beingness that enjoys the experience of living without any attempt to make us better. Like the lotus this part of us is not rooted in our stories but springs from a spontaneous universal impulse toward life.

So how can we be free and awake and enlightened already when we feel rotten much of the time! What is this mystery that no one seems able to describe? Is it something you must discipline yourself to find and make sacrifices to accomplish? Or is it a realization you just fall into through an act of grace?

Of course we, in our human incarnation, have many arguments with life – our personal life may have loss and suffering, physical and emotional pain. We sometimes feel like lost children, seeking to find our way home. Even if we are well physically and emotionally, it is clear that many other people we share the planet with are suffering because of the inhumanity of man, or the vagaries of fate. And sensing we are One, we all share the suffering of all. Minds can be obsessed and overwhelmed by the challenges of incarnation, and any thought about anyone can trigger suffering. If only we realized we are not our minds, and our thoughts are only neurons firing away to keep us preoccupied and motivated to hold on to our separation.

There are many qualities of mind. One is the working aspect of mind, useful to help us remember how to do tasks, and figure out relative solutions. There is the speculative and inventive mind that wants to know answers and helps humanity evolve. There is memory, which keeps us identified with the sense of a separate self. And there is the catastrophic mind that worries continually about the past and future. Where do you hang out most of the time? Does it serve your life?

And most importantly, are any of these tasks reflective of what you really are, or only facets of your human experience?

You did not come into the world with all these activities of mind – you grew into them. They developed the way a seed grows into a tree, and like the tree, there is a lifespan and it will eventually fade away. Like the winds that can bend a tree, your emotions flavor the way you evolve, and the view you have of yourself and the world.

What if for only a few moments you could drop all the activity of mind, and see if there is something underneath that is more eternal than the world your mind presents? What if there is a radiance in the cells of your body, or a knowing deep in the chest, or an energy that thrives on being alive – all functioning without the activities of thought? You might find all of this below the neck, in the experience of your body. You might find it in stillness. Just for a moment release all the mind from its work of holding you together and see what else is here now, having no arguments with life. You can fall now into this knowing, or you can struggle for a lifetime to touch a glimpse of it. Either way it is a great and humbling gift that will change the perspective looking out of your eyes. It will open you to understanding, compassion and expression in a new way. Nothing in the world will change, but you will relax within it and follow a new rhythm in your relationship to it.

 

Fear of Transformation

When the energies of spiritual awakening arise very often so do the energies of fear. Awakened living is supported by the heartfelt release of this fear.

images-4If you are a serious meditator, longing for awakening, you may someday feel odd sensations like the body quivering, or the head spinning, or the brain feeling it is being rewired.  You may have sudden out-of-body sensations, or hear an inner sound or wake in the middle of the night with the body moving into an unfamiliar yogic posture. You may have  inexplicable emotional upheavals that seem out of character, or hear a sudden psychic message or inner voice. You may be confronted by recognizing  the need for major changes in their life.  When you go deeply into inner stillness change happens. And it is not always the quiet strength, stillness and centering that meditation typically offers.

It is in these odd moments when the body feels invaded and out of conscious control that the experiences of transformation becomes real, and the illusion that we can jump out of all of our personal conditioning into a permanent stay of transcendence is shattered. Our body, mind, emotions and spirit are in a process of radical change.

Our bodies are fields of energy — living, changing and vibrating with the life force. Awareness moves through these energy flows connecting us with many experiences.Yogic science describes 72,000 lines of energy in this grid, connected by chakras. The prana or chi in this grid carries thoughts, emotions and sensate experience, and facilitates our movements and responses including breath, coughing, sneezing, blinking, digestion, elimination, the heart pumping and every other condition we experience as living beings. Without energy we are inert and lifeless.

When Kundalini energy activates it unlocks our vital energy at the source and intensifies the experiences we have, as it moves through the body and into the brain, connecting us ultimately with universal energies. What I have seen over the years of listening to many who have awakened kundalini energy is that this is essentially a clearing process, shaking loose old patterns, memories, blockages or knots in our energy field so that the body can become open and present without contraction or habitual reactivity. It makes it possible for a more impersonal quality of presence to impact how we move in the world. It opens new abilities and possibilities.

When people write about negative experiences with kundalini on the web they are describing their own challenges with letting go, either at the physical or emotional level. The “letting go” is trying to facilitate the release of identifications with our body, mind and feelings. Deep unconscious material may arise, or archetypal visions related to the collective unconscious. Kundalini is not dangerous, as some contend, but it is threatening to those unwilling to face the personal work that it demands, and who are not open to the shifting worldview that it generates. It can amplify hidden or suppressed emotions and illnesses so that they will be seen and addressed. It can trigger unfamiliar phenomena. It requires flexibility and integrity if the activation is going to facilitate spiritual realization.

There is a place of deep stillness and presence available when we are not identified with the history and beliefs stored within us, personally and collectively – rather like the deep sleep we have when we are not for the moment aware of our personal self. Awakening is awakening to this consciousness/awareness that is alive in us prior to association with all these attachments. The letting go that comes with awakening is not under our control, but is a deep transformative process that is taking us into this unknown or unremembered realization and it can be very frightening for the little “me”, the holder of a separate sense of unique perspective and history we each collect as human beings.

There are many experiences in this journey to awakened living, and discovering the deeper Self, the Oneness of consciousness shared by all. Some of them are exquisite and expansive and overflowing with love. Some of them feel invasive, out-of-control, disruptive of our lives and self-image. Many of them are unfamiliar and some feel overwhelming. To the extent you can see the fear as energy, a reaction of the little “me” who prefers control and predictability, and release yourself to explore with curiosity and openness, or become willing to just let go and let be whatever is, you will be leaning into a more awakened life and discover wonder and grace in this evolutionary process.

As awakening becomes more stable it does not mean the end of all feelings.  But as we learn acceptance of whatever arises the energies can help the feelings release more smoothly and quickly, because there is no longer a need to hold on to the stories they represent. Awareness notices the feelings with compassion, and holds them in a more broad perspective of the nature of consciousness manifest as humanity. They are just energies moving through, perhaps as a personal release, perhaps for the universal good of the species.

If you need to know more about kundalini please look for “The Kundalini Guide” on Amazon, based on the stories of many experiencers and offering practical advice. You can get on my email list for webinars through http://www.kundaliniguide.com.

Awakening As Process

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Are you one of the thousands of people who are in an awakening process and don’t know it? The light of transformation is always available, and today there are so many options in meditation, energy and healing practices, internet experiences, psychedelics and even through the basic traumas of living that can trigger the intensification of your subtle energy field, moments of vision, light or bliss, emotional releases, past-life memories, and other shifts in consciousness. We live in a time where many ancient and secret practices are available to anyone, without the normal cautions and preparations they traditionally demanded. So it is easy to enter a transformative stage of your life without knowing what is happening or realizing why it is happening to you.

What is awakening? It is a transforming of your perspective, your energy field and the way that consciousness moves within you. Ultimately, it is the consciousness within you waking up and remembering itself, free of the attachments to who you believed you were. The process that precedes awakening does not follow a predictable path because your practices, life history, emotional patterns, and probably previous life development all have an impact on how your mind and body responds to this awakening. In my research I’ve identified seven categories of phenomena that indicate a person is encountering the awakening of consciousness and with it the energies known as kundalini – pranic activity (shaking, vibration, heat rising, etc.), other involuntary yogic movements (i.e. asana, mudras or chanting), physiological problems, psychological and emotional upheavals, extrasensory experiences, parapsychological events and Samadhi. Most people experience some but not all of these phenomena, but if they experience 3 or 4 of the categories I believe they are in the unfolding of their awakening process.

We can call this spiritual awakening, but it requires no religious connotation. Many spiritual communities offer practices that can trigger these changes but this is a movement of the psyche – the deepest human capacity for an interior evolution that is far beyond any religious belief system. You wake up out of belief and into being. You discover directly potentials of mind and body that are out of the mainstream understanding of God.

This is not an escape from your human foibles and challenges, because you are living as a human and embodied in the world dream. Those who seek awakening to escape life can have a difficult time dealing with awakening when it is time to ground and learn to live an awakened life. In the end, only a relaxation into the ordinariness of life will bring the ability to recognize the sacred both in the form and formless aspect of existence. We cannot live only in the formless reaches of consciousness, but only be visited by them when we enter the stillness we are. Living requires the openness and heartfelt acceptance of life as it is.

If you are in this process, which brings with it many months and years of curious shifts and insights, and might begin to understand it better if you look up my websites www.kundaliniguide.com or www.awakeningguide.com and check out www.adyashanti.org .

 

What is Enlightenment?

What is enlightenment? I asked Adyashanti this question once and he said “It is being undivided.”  Unfortuimg_4835nately, many people imagine enlightenment to be a state of having magic powers, continual bliss, and connection with other-dimensional beings. Some think of it as genius or having omniscience.  I remember being told as a child that God knew everything and was everywhere, and this impression seems to be the way some look at enlightenment – as if it means becoming all-knowing, all-powerful, having control over everything.  This would be an exciting possibility for an ego, and may encourage some people to seek enlightenment who are not well suited to it.

But what does it mean to be undivided? Could enlightenment or awakening to the Truth of our real nature have a result as simple as this?  The ego’s way of being undivided might consider it as being one-pointed, determined and set in one way of looking at things, never allowing facts or feelings, or the needs of others to interfere with your set direction.  But that is being narrowly one-sided, rather than living the undivided way of an awakened mind and heart.

 I believe we come into life undivided.  It is the state of openness to whatever arises. It is availability.  It is a part of our cellular structure that naturally allows anything to happen.  It is always within you but from your first experiences of pain or sorrow, and your first lessons of separation and identity, you formed a shell around this openness and became a character with opinions, demands, emotional upheavals and drives that you think of us as “me”.  This “me” has fear and resistance to many aspects of the human experience and generates many problems and thoughts in a life.  Of course this “me” can have lots of accomplishments and feel love and joy and be a positive force in the world as well.  These options are usually thought of as free will – but since in the early years there is so much conditioning and shaping of identity – positive and negative — it is questionable just how free you are.

 When a person’s True Nature awakens there is a sense within the body/mind of no boundary or border to the energy of the heart and mind, no separation from either form or space, and no argument with life as it is. We might call this clarity. Some have called it radiance. This openness into life as it is can be felt viscerally, at the core.  It feels as if all identification with that “me” has fallen away and what remains is clear, at peace, sometimes kinestically flooded with love or bliss.  This realization may look like an experience but it is more of a knowing of what always was and will be, even before birth, and after death.

 There is no division in the True Nature. All division comes from the mind’s ideas about protection and separation.  When events in your life seem threatening this need to create safety is a genuine response of the body and mind.  The dimension we live in as humans has definite boundaries. We cannot fly off cliffs or stand in the middle of the highway and survive. We must have water and food and protection from the elements. As infants we need others to care for us and as emotional beings we crave love and community. Enlightenment does not remove these patterns that are part of our human imprinting. We are energies dancing as form and the form has specific limitations that the spirit does not

This is why no matter how deeply you have felt your True Nature you may at times have medical problems, you may sense waves of the suffering in others, you can feel loss as loved ones pass, and you may still have patterns of conditioning arise to be met and released.  The difference is that when undivided you can have compassion for or perhaps even laugh at your human vulnerabilities because there is no one there who cares to judge them.  And when the events in the world are troubling, you understand that human form by its limitations produces troubles and challenges, and if you feel an inclination to engage you can do it without attachment to results or acquiring new karmas (conditioning) to be worked through (the true meaning of karma yoga).  You are unbounded formless consciousness living within the patterns and boundaries of energetic forms, imprinted with the uniqueness of your conditioning and DNA, and thus you are One and Undivided.

 

Awakening and Engagement

      Like many of you, I am thinking more of politics these days, and concerned about the impact on millions of lives as our leadership in Washington undergoes major changes.  I wonder within a non- dual perspective if I can offer a useful response to decisions (or for this moment, threats) that seem to undermine the health and well-being of the whole – our country and our planet. Non-duality, a perspective that points out how all that we live and experience is transient or impermanent, encourages us to find inner peace by being fully present and non-resistant to what is.  This implies that non-attachment is relevant to inner realization. But does this mean non-engagement as well?h042luminousearth-5x7s-1

       What I have seen in those who are awakening is not only the awareness of no separate self but the realization of one universal Self.  This brings the opening of the heart, the expansion of compassion and sensitivity, and the realization that all of us are One beingness united eternally with all of life.  There can be the sense that as individuals we are nothing but vibration, but as awareness/consciousness we are everything. What awakens is the realization of connectedness with All and what dissolves (often this is gradual) is belief in separateness.  As forms we appear separate and have unique experiences but as consciousness we are All. In Buddhism many take vows to incarnate over and over until all of humanity is awake.  In Hinduism it is understood our spirit returns over and over burning away karma until we realize we are One with all. In the heart of Christianity is the understanding that we should love one another as ourselves, and in Islam is the teaching that God is all things.

           But our religions do not protect us from our failings, our fears and our habits of separation. Human minds tend to be preoccupied with “me”, an illusion of spirit  evolving from the moment of birth and hardened through our life experiences and conclusions.  The sense of being part of the whole collapses under the pressure of personal survival, fears, cultural beliefs, and desires. This is our human condition, not to be judged but to be understood.

         Awakening does not free us from our human experience, but it can give us an opportunity to see these experiences with clarity and objectivity, and release their impact on us..  It is not a freedom from any need to respond in our world, but a freedom to respond without fear and with no attachment to results.  It is a freedom to move from love rather than rage, to seek truth rather than conditioned belief.

         Within this framework what can we do when we feel in our heart a need to respond to political positions that cause harm to others?  Thousands may march but in the end these massive displays of the longing of people seems to have little impact on our politicians, who seem to be far removed from mainstream concerns.  But if each of these thousands of people, and the millions who identify with their concerns but are not called to march, chose one heartfelt cause to support or a few congressman to write weekly, there could be a groundswell of letters, phone calls, volunteers, and other activities to slowly shift the country into an America for all. 

         Looking at the whole picture can feel overwhelming and most of us feel helpless to influence those who make the big decisions.  But each of us can have an influence on a few others, and if millions of us speak up from compassion for humanity rather than fear and anger there will in time be a rebalancing of our political priorities.  We can each choose a cause to advocate for or raise funds for if we see government funds being withdrawn. We can each find in our uniqueness what we can contribute.

        We are living in a time of great upheaval and change throughout the planet – politically, environmentally, economically and spiritually.  But if you look at history there have been huge upheavals in every century.  This is our century and each spirit brings a perspective, a message, a potential for evolution.  If you are awakening now and touching your own authentic connection with Source, and seeking what your heart would have you do in this lifetime, then listen to your deepest longings for the world and the humanity in it, and find your own unique gift – it doesn’t need to be dramatic, just a movement that is true for you. You are not abandoning your true nature by engaging in service to life and others. Instead of being burdened by fear and angst and all the other mental resistances that arise, let go of yourself at a deeper level, and ask what you would like to do, what you can contribute to making this day better or this world better for someone else.  This, to me, is the embodiment and manifestation of non-dual realization.

The Many Faces of Transformation

sky w stairs Have you had a spiritually transformative experience (STE)? I just returned from presenting at  a conference held in Palm Desert by ACISTE, focused on people who have had such events in their life — ranging from near-death experiences (NDE), kundalini activation, powerful dream sequences, shamanic openings and alien encounters. The ACISTE brochure reports a 2004 survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago indicating 35.7% of the adult US population has had at least one religious or spiritual experience that “changed their life”.   Such changes alter how people look at themselves and the world, triggering both positive and negative reactions. Whatever the cause or source you cannot comfortably retreat to an old pattern of being when you have had such an awakening. You must move forward.

In my experience with “experiencers” I believe the most important factors in this transformation are the ability to share their stories without the listener pathologizing them, the opportunity to frame the event as a positive shift or expansion in understanding of the collective Self and personal sense of self, the acceptance of an invitation to awaken the inner spirit and live from a new perspective, and the willingness to nurture Oneself. The Mother, who worked with Aurobindo to establish Integral Yoga and expand the understanding of consciousness in the world, once said that the heartfelt release of fear is the most important step on the spiritual path. Fear creates contraction and contraction blocks the free flow of physical and psychic energy, confuses thinking, and can even make us ill if it is prolonged.

Awakening is an encounter with a new perception and as our perceptions change and broaden we become transformed. If you have awakened energy in these processes, it is your own life force moving through the subtle body to clear out the cobwebs of old beliefs and patterns that are no longer useful. One is literally shaken out of complacency! Anyone who has sincerely engaged in a lengthy therapeutic or growth process, or pursued a spiritual practice or energy therapy, can look back and discover a before and after in their way of living. These process bring us into gradual change and transformation. STE’s are life’s way of suddenly and irrevocably plunging you into change, bringing you to encounters with previously unknown aspects and potentials of human consciousness. How you interpret them and how you live them forward significantly impacts every aspect of your life.

As a non-dual teacher I have seen many experiences of “no-self” — moments in meditation or unexpected awakenings of consciousness to its own expansive and unbounded nature.   No-self is the experience of One Self or the realization of the ground of our being. Many of the dramatic transformative experiences that come unbidden are showing us the vastness of the creative expression that arises from this ground, demanding we find a new center that can encompass more of creation, and learn to search for Truth in new ways.

Transformational change that reaches through the entire psyche and physical structure, depleting the identification with the separate self, is seldom recognized by therapists, who much prefer step-by-step integration. Transformation is challenging and sometimes messy. But it is time for therapists to listen with curiosity instead of hurrying to a psychiatric diagnosis of such movements, and offer support, creating approaches that encourage flexibility, grounding and inner strength to those who encounter them. It is time to recognize that these kinds of awakenings happen to much of the population, and can lead to a more rich and radiant life, rather than one reduced by a mistaken diagnosis.

My books “The Awakening Guide” and “The Kundalini Guide” (on amazon.com) address many of the issues of transformative experiences, and I am happy to say I am about to sign a contract for a new book that will explore the many ways I have seen spiritual awakening arise and transform lives over 30 years of listening to the stories of those who live this experience. I am hopeful that through conferences like ACISTE, SAND and many others, along with many new books and neuroscience research, we will as a culture begin to recognize and truly value the power of awakening to change the quality both of individual lives and the collective understanding of consciousness

Presence, Awakening and ACISTE

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I will be speaking at the ACISTE conference in Palm Springs the weekend of Oct. 20 -22 on Identifying and Supporting Spiritual Transformation. Go to http://www.aciste.com for information about this event, designed to support people who are a spiritual awakening process. ACISTE is the Assn for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences. I hope to offer a one-day workshop on Living with Kundalini the Monday following for people who want to better understand the kundalini process.. Please drop me a note at kundinfo@mindspring.com if you would like more information.

I just completed a weekend retreat called Presence at the Center, a gathering of women committed to spiritual awakening. If we wish to discover the innate happiness within us it is important to take time out of our lives to rest in our center – the deep stillness available within our hearts, but often clouded over by the demands, distractions and worries of modern life. Meditation retreats, especially those held with the added dimension of silence, offer a return to our Self.

I become very busy in those days when I have a retreat planned, especially if I am doing other events such as webinars or consulting with those who contact me with concerns related to their spiritual process. I’ve also just completed a new book on spiritual emergence and am waiting to hear from a publisher.  All of this busy-ness is like riding a fast moving train for several weeks, and then skidding to a halt at the retreat center, where I need to find my own deep silence if I am to invite others into it. Finding our Self is about Stopping!

Mental activity, emotional upheavals, multiple engagements in our lives, the many voices surrounding us with expectations – all of these can fall away if we STOP, leaving us in the pure sweet awareness that has always been waiting in the center of the cyclone of our lives. There is a place within each of us already still, accepting, and open to the quiet joy of simply being.

You may find when you are first silent there is an upheaval of mental activity, and even of unconscious material that arises. Both meditation and energy work (such as yoga or Qigong) open us to that which needs to be seen in order to be released, so that our subtle energy field can become more free. Release and insight bring growth and widen our access to inner harmony and relaxation. Be patient with what arises as it is your own consciousness inviting you to meet, release and move toward awakening. Suffering unwinds itself from our systems as we learn to meet our life experiences with equanimity and to meet ourselves with love.

Spiritual awakening has no religious preference and is open to all. It is not about a belief, or embracing a system or tradition, although for some people these may offer  initiating practices that will bring an invitation to know Yourself. Awakening is an intimate touching of our natural state of spirit embodied, a direct inner knowing of our connection with the All. It cannot be languaged clearly, although poets and sages have found ways to offer pointers. Unusual phenomena may arise when we follow our longing to know our true nature, but ultimately the outcome is an awareness that consciousness is vast and unbounded, and a return into a form that knows a deep relaxation into life.

 

 

Presence and Embodiment

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Presence is a full body experience of awareness. We feel it fully when we bring awareness below the neck and open the senses to this moment, this place where we stand in all of its dimensions. Awareness is present through all the senses, available to sound, touch, taste, smell and vision before you even think about it. It is the ground of all experience and when you feel it without an interpretation or thought you may feel deeply awake and connected, or even blissful and expansive, as if all the cells in the body are lighting up.

 If you have had an awakening of consciousness or energy your senses may be heightened, because awareness is more dominant, more available. Some people who awaken also feel highly sensitized to the consciousness and energy of other people, as if there are no boundaries, and for a time they need to rest more in nature, avoid intense environments and learn ways to consciously return to their body’s autonomy without losing the ability to be awake and present.

            Before awakening our attention is repeatedly diverted by thought or emotion. Our reactivity to what is happening clouds our capacity to fully be aware and respond spontaneously to what is. When the separate self feels threatened, either physically or verbally, it jumps to the forefront and begins planning a defense. When this happens presence is overcome by reactivity. Awareness is so distracted by thoughts that the senses are deadened and we may not even see what is around us.

Presence is awareness, an aware-ing not only of the mind but of the cells and the senses before the interpretations of thought. Beingness. It happens before labels, before acceptance or resistance, before the “me” takes a position. Most of the time we experience it as a flash before the thoughts enter to form an interpretation, decision or response. The brain is wired to hold concepts and memories and make judgments and choices based on past experience. This is a useful human function that supports physical survival in the world. But it also keeps us trapped in the container of our past that is flavored by misinformation, misinterpretation, the pain of rejection, loss and disappointment, and the self-image that was taken on very early in our life. All of these things form a belief in an “I” that needs to be alert all the time in order to be protected. This arises automatically and unconsciously.

Awakening cracks open this conditioning, brings all of our innate reactions and patterns to the surface to be seen clearly. This is one of the challenges of spiritual awakening — it is not comfortable to recognize those aspects of oneself that are not congruent with Truth, love and compassion and are inauthentic to how the deepest essence would live our lives. It can even feel frightening and lonely when old familiar interests and patterns fall away spontaneously, as they tend to do after a true awakening to the natural Self.

Often people who experience the freedom that arises with an awakening of energy/consciousness feel wonderful for a few hours, days and even weeks. During this time they are living as presence, openness, and a connection with the natural life force in the body. The heart may open. They feel separated from the false and misinformed little self, and instead feel part of the vast unbounded universal Self, that is always present, accepting, open and loving.

But the body and mind of the apparently separate “me” needs to become clear of conditioning so that the individual can become free to embody the wisdom and love of this universal Self. So at some point the residual conditioning that has not completely released is triggered and arises so it can be seen and awakened into the whole of life. This is part of the transformation that occurs in spiritual awakening.

We can’t just reject old habits, beliefs, memories and suffering. As the ancients pointed out “What we resist, persists,” so fighting against or ignoring what appears does not resolve the need for freedom. It becomes necessary to accept that our humanness distracted us from knowing Truth. Realizing this teaches us compassion for others entangled in their own conditioning. The old ego structure is not bad or evil, it just is not true or real in the way we assumed it was. From one perspective our foibles and failures can be met with compassionate humor, because the one who was manipulated by them was nothing substantial that needed defending. (This seeing is one reason some who awaken are said to burst out in uncontrollable laughter!) It is understood it was all a misunderstanding about who “I” am, the activity of an illusionary self.

Here are a few ways these arising shadows of self can be encouraged to move on:

In some cases they are seen through as untrue, based on assumptions made with limited understanding, and it is seen they are not related to the real Truth of who one is. Seeing clearly can release an illusion, just as we know when a fictional movie ends we were seeing illusions on a blank screen, spun out of the imagination of a writer. It helps to question if a thought is true, and sense who you might be without that thought. The spiritual teacher Byron Katie has developed a set of questions for clearing these untrue beliefs from our minds, that she calls The Work.

In some situations the person must meet the part or character inside that feels wounded and let it express itself and be met with love and compassion, so it can heal and free itself. It cautiously appears so that it too can wake up. Some therapists work from this assumption, which can help clients move past their pain.

I have observed at retreats that there are times old patterns are felt simply as energy and heat and they burn through as one is sitting in meditation. In some cases images of apparent other lives appear as well, in order to address some incompletion. A few people may see the story, but often it is only energy releasing.

I have also found that when a wave of emotion like anger or grief arises if I sit and meet it more and more fully and deeply, not as thought but as a knowing in the heart and the body, at some point it will break open and spaciousness, even love, lies underneath. Awareness returns to itself.

Presence may arise spontaneously in those moments when we have released a difficult pattern or trauma from the body. It feels like a profound relaxation into the Now — into this moment, no longer blocked by the confused lens of the past. It often is accompanied by joy, or peace, or a physical sense of love emanating from the heart. It is here and was always here in every moment — the energy of the life force and the consciousness in the body are always present until they leave the body when they pass into another dimension of being. Always trust they are there beneath the confusion, complications, and challenges of ordinary life. Spiritual realization is accompanied by a healing process not just of the personal, but of the collective unconsciousness. I believe this is what Buddha meant when he said “When I awakened, the world awakened.” If one does not enter this healing stage the awakening is truncated, and this is when you see apparently awakened people who take advantage of or cause harm to their students and communities, or who appear distant and too detached from the world, unwilling to be present with other human experiences.

The embodiment of presence, including an open heart into life, and respect for all beings, is the hallmark of an embodied, awakened spirit. Despite the rumors of a sudden and complete enlightenment, most humans get there only a step at a time, as the residue of their history falls away.

(I will be holding a silent non-dual meditation retreat Sept 2-5, 2016 in southern Oregon, and also host webinars on Living with Kundalini.  To be on an email list for my  quarterly Shanti River newsletter please contact me through http://www.awakeningguide.com)