Wisdom Without Dogma

Wisdom Without Dogma

Here is an opportunity to receive a free e-book “Wisdom Without Dogma” that includes an excerpt from my upcoming book “When Spirit Leaps: Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening”, to be released in April  My publisher, New Harbinger and Nonduality Press, is offering this collection of selected excerpts from several of their authors.

As New Harbinger writes “With these essential teachings, insights, reflections, practices, and real-life examples—written by renowned spiritual teachers and authors who speak from direct experience—you’re sure to find the guidance and support you seek on your own spiritual journey.”

I am honored and  excited to be part of this wonderful collection and encourage you to go to www.newharbinger.com where you can download for free this remarkable collection, and join their email list to get the first announcements when my book is released.  The sampling includes selections from:

  • Being Aware of Being Aware by Rupert Spira
  • White Fire by Mooji
  • Shakti Rising by Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan
  • The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
  • Yoga and the Pursuit of Happiness by Sam Chase
  • Kabalah Yoga by Audi Gozlan
  • The Kindness Cure by Tara Cousineau
  • Boundless Awareness by Michael A. Rodriguez
  • The Courage Habit by Kate Swoboda
  • When Spirit Leaps by Bonnie L. Greenwell
  • Suffering Is Optional by Gail Brenner
  • The Heartfulness Way by Kamlesh D. Patel and Joshua Pollock
  • Undivided Love by Lynn Marie Lumiere
  • Living the Life That You Are by Nic Higham

We invite you to explore all of these books, and wish you true well-being, peace, and joy.

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Kundalini and Non-Duality

 

Photo from SAND_n

Kundalini Panel at Science and Nonduality Conference 10/23/17

(Photo by Nathan Lee)

I just returned from the SAND conference, meeting an amazing group of scientists and non-dual teachers who are exploring the further reaches of human consciousness and bringing an understanding of awakening to the mainstream.  I also just put the final editing touches on my new book “When Spirit Leaps: Navigating the Spiritual Awakening Process” to be released by New Harbinger Press in June.  It includes excerpts from many descriptions of awakening experiences collected by me over the past 30 years, and reveals what I have learned about the portals, the phenomena and the challenges of awakening, and how to address them and come into the harmonious balance that self-realization ultimately brings. As the Kundalini Conference of the Spiritual Emergence Network was an introduction of my first book 30 years ago, this feels like an introduction of my new comprehensive  book into a new world today. It was great to have a chance to speak to those at this conference looking to understand the impact of awakening on their energy and their lives.

Kundalini has not often been addressed by non-dual teachers, and yet changes in energy are inevitable in any transformative process.  We are energy beings, a molecular structure, and awakening is about the reorganizing of our internal world so that our original or primal consciousness can become primary in our lives, bringing us peace, acceptance, intuitions and new depth of understanding about the human condition.  If you are in a kundalini process your own life force is inviting you to a new perspective and a clearing of old patterns and beliefs and reactivity imprinted by your conditioning.  This is what freedom means — we become free of our old ways of seeing and being — and learn to be with the moment, rather than entangled in past and future concerns and anxieties.  It is a challenging passage for many, but a grace beyond expression when it has unfolded. I have attempted in my writings to bring the  non-dual world and the understanding of  kundalini together.  Non-Duality implies a direct realization of Oneness — of the fact there is one consciousness underlying all existence, and non-dual awakenings have typically brought forth teachers who see this as a flash of realization that can happen in any moment.  They have tended to discount all the energetic changes that may precede or follow such a flash. But without some energetic change our subtle body cannot hold and live from our realization because we have been programmed or wired to live in particular human cultural and family patterns.  Awakened consciousness is free, for the most part, of these patterns.  Awakened consciousness also shifts the brain dynamics so new possibilities of perception and functioning may arise.  All of these are energetic and possibly chemical changes. So if you are in a kundalini process you are being invited by the consciousness within you to awaken to a new potential, and express in your world a new way of being.

I was happy to be able to speak at SAND about kundalini and begin the deep dialogue that will promote a better understanding of this process among people who are exploring the nature of consciousness.

Are You in an Awakening Process?

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Every week I speak with several people who have entered a process of transformation. Usually their energy has accelerated and their bodies are moving or vibrating in ways that startle, surprise or frighten them, because the energetic aspects of a spiritual awakening are not discussed or explored in most spiritual traditions. And yet, we are all facets of consciousness living within biological and molecular structures. It is natural for any significant changes in how we view our self and the world to have an impact on our energy systems, as well as the way in which our consciousness operates. As our vehicle changes, consciousness gains new ways of expression through us. Awakening brings changes in every aspect of our lives and even the functioning of our brain. Meditation slowly reconstructs us, as does energy work, long-term yoga or Qigong practice, and even serious physical or emtoional trauma.

The fact is every cell of our body is always dying and rebirthing itself as you know from the fact your body is not the same today as it was at age 1 or 10 or 20 or 40. These changes evolve slowly so we do not notice them day to day, but it is certainly clear after a few years that we no longer look the same, that our consciousness lives inside a continual state of change. In fact I have heard it said that we as humans are more like active verbs than nouns, being in continual movement. The seeking of self-realization is the seeking of that within us that never changes, while all else is in motion.

When we have longed for Truth or God or simply to know who we are, it initiates a subtle change in our direction in life, and we adapt practices we hope will offer us new revelations, outside of our traditional cultural patterns. We may imagine a change that is beautiful and expansive and that will make us a happier person than we are when we begin. What we don’t often realize is that while these new possibilities arise, they do so because old patterns are being dissolved, previous belief structures are being torn apart, and conditioned experiences that block our capacity for freedom are being exposed, so that we can see them clearly and realize they are not the Truth of who we are. Awakening is either preceded by or followed by a necessary demolition project, just as a house may be rebuilt from the ground up.

What makes this most challenging is we don’t get to see the plan before hand, or have any control over the pace and style in which it will be rebuilt. It takes a great trust in the infinite, and the goodness of the universe. I suppose this is why many people get a glimpse of the radiant love or beauty or peace of Oneness first, and then feel they have lost it when the demolition project begins. We have to trust in this glimpse, that it was valid and real, and learn to navigate the process it initiates.

My websites and current books “The Kundalini Guide and “The Awakening Guide” on amazon are designed as supports for this journey and my new book “When Spirit Leaps: Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening” is moving toward publication next June by New Harbinger Press. It has excerpts from many stories of the ups and downs you may experience as you awaken. It has been the unexpected direction of my life to meet many who are in this process and be part of a movement toward changing consciousness that all of us are living in. While the World has many challenges today (and when has it not?) there is a subculture seeking Truth and love and understanding of how to be more complete in our human expression of this sacred opportunity for life that we share. I see our consciousness as wanting to help us grow into a true understanding of our relationship to one another. Awakening is not about dissolution into transcendent ethers and leaving our world. It is about bringing light to one another and evolving ourselves so that we are free of the many conditions that block our natural capacity to express human kindness, wisdom and freedom.

I encourage you to join me at the 2017 Science and Nonduality Conference Oct 19 to 22 in San Jose, CA along with multiple other speakers familiar with awakening. It is a place to find your tribe, and understand the process you are part of if you are awakening or longing to awaken. You can learn more about this gathering at http://www.scienceandnonduality.org.

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.

Webinars & Retreat for People Awakening

KG IMG_4832 sml copyI now enjoy offering webinars to bring together people from diverse states and countries who would support in their spiritual awakening process. These are the upcoming webinars and programs I plan to offer between August and November through www.zoom.us.  Here are my upcoming programs.Contact me for fees and other information through email: shantiriver@gmail.com

 Awakening and Embodiment – session 2 –  4 weeks, Thursdays, August 11,25  Sept 8, 22 ( 12 noon—1:30  Pacific time )    

This is an on-line satsang and sharing for those intending to deepen their spiritual practice, support others interested in awakening to our true nature, and explore how to live from a new perspective of awakened intuition and inner autonomy.

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Living with Kundalini —  weekly for 6 weeks – Fridays Aug. 19 — Sept. 23  a.m. PST)                         

This program and supportive group is designed for people who are going through a kundalini awakening process and wish to meet others having this experience while learning classical and modern perspectives of Kundalini, the kinds of experiences and challenges this process brings, and methods of living more comfortably with it while awakening to the transformation it offers.

 Therapist and Teacher training for Kundalini Awakening – 4 Sessions Fridays Oct 14, 28, Nov, 11 and 18 (12noon – 2 p.m. PST)

 If you have taken The Living with Kundalini program at any time you are eligible for the therapist/teacher training which will focus more on identifying the kundalini process in a client or student. You will learn how to use the preliminary questionnaire to assess and understand where to focus in a consultation, the impact of the background and spiritual practices on the experience and how to support this process.  There will be time to discuss cases and learn from one another’s experience.

 A FALL RETREAT IN OREGON —  PRESENCE AT THE CENTER  -Sept 2-5, 2016

This 4-day/3-night non-dual silent meditation retreat will be held Sept 2-5 at St Rita’s Retreat Center in Gold Hill, Oregon, a few miles from the Medford OR airport. It is an opportunity for meditation and reflection on awakening, experiencing silence,  guided meditations and teachings related to awakening to the presence of our true nature, You may also hike in a beautiful  60-acre setting with a labyrinth and waterfall. Journal, or participate in Qigong and sound meditations. Retreat is designed to support your deepest intention for awakening to the Truth of your own Being, and bringing that awareness into your everyday life. We will meet at 4 p.m. Friday (arrive 2-4) and close at 2 Monday.  The fee is $275 is paid by August 15.  This includes a comfortable double room with a bath, vegetarian meals, and all expense

ACISTE CONFERENCE IN PALM DESERT, CA                                           Oct 20-22

I will be speaking on Therapeutic Issues of Spiritually Transformative Experiences at this conference  of an organization related to Spiritually Transformative Experiences at the Doubletree Inn is scheduled Oct 20-22.  Go to www.aciste.org for details.  I am considering doing a kundalini and awakening workshop following the conference in Palm Desert while I am there.  If you would be interesting in attending a program with me at that time and place – Oct. 23-24 – please let me know by sending me an email.

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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)

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.

 

Non-Dual Perception — the Corrective Lens

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When I look out the window of my bedroom at night at the lights of my town below, if I am not wearing my glasses it appears that all of them are shaped like Christmas trees — the green and red traffic lights, the yellow of house lights, the white in the street lamps — all are triangular, pointing up like lighted Douglas fir trees. Then I put on my glasses and they reduce to their natural size and shape and I realize that however beautiful the view, my perception is distorted.

The shift in how awareness perceives the world after consciousness awakens itself is very similar. Many teachers compare it to awakening out of a dream. It is a shifted perception of how the world functions. In those moments when our deepest sense of presence arises — and we feel ourselves being alive as open and awake consciousness — we are unencumbered by thought and judgment. Suddenly the world problems appear to be due to misperception of our true nature and blindness regarding our interwoven connectedness to one another.

The shared illusion that we are nothing but physical forms driven by thoughts, opinions and emotions, keeps us confused about the nature of reality and our natural role within it. This illusion locks each of us into conditioned thought and behavior until it is shattered by the explosive recognition called awakening or Self-realization.

Human thought has a tendency to doubt, blame, rage, attack, hide and fear. These emotions are universal and we often project them on others as well as turn them against ourselves.  From an awakened perspective it is as painful to watch a person hate and reduce herself or himself as it is to watch her or him hate and reduce another. It is painful because it is seen clearly how these patterns and beliefs are deluded, false and destructive to life.

Every spirit or presence enters the world as a spark of potential, a package of talents, an openness to love and be loved. If this is lost it is because of a distorted perception caused by rejection, grief, trauma, verbal or physical abuse, or violence. When love is not encouraged and nourished it recedes deep into the heart which then armors itself against feeling, often at a very early age. The distortion can be severe — a belief arises either that “I am bad” or “Others are bad,” or “All humans are bad and my genuine expression in life is unsafe”. We can see streaks of hatred, rage, and prejudice in people who compensate through power and manipulation. We can see the same qualities turned inward in those who feel powerless, believing their lives do not matter. Both are blind to the incredible power and beauty of expressing their human potential.

Non-duality is a teaching — a spiritual perspective originating from the ancient eastern perspective of Advaita Vedanta, which sees all existence as the production of appearances coming out of One vast stillness or potential. God is seen as All– the One consciousness in multitudes of forms. Some non-dual teachers have pointed students toward the realization of being Nothing — No Thing, Emptiness. Others emphasize Oneness or the Vast endless universal Self or Non-Self. These are efforts to describe a realization that is beyond language, which cannot be contained in words.

When consciousness shifts an initial perception is often that Nothing exists — it is appearance only. All is an illusionary dance in the vastness, and therefore not to be concerned about. This is nihilistic from the point of view of mind, and in some folks there is a return to self-identity and this brings up depression, despair and a deep passivity. Because the egoic drive deserted them they collapse. This is an interpretation of mind and a great loss. It has been called the Dark Night of the Soul, the chasm, the pit one can stumble into on the path to liberation. Sometimes one is stuck here for a long, long time. It is like an endless long winter when all seems dead.

Paradoxicaly, awakening may reveal that out of the ethers and boundless nothingness everything arises and there is One infinite consciousness exploding in a myriad of forms and dances, and every piece has its potential to express and bring new forms into the world. There can be a new perception through which the smallest flower expresses glory and love. There can be a time when it seems there is a natural flowing of all that is needed in each moment. There can be spontaneous and irrational compassion and joy, even in the most trying of circumstances. When the awakened can lean into the possibilities that arise from the heart and the deeper intuition of the gut, then a new birthing can happen. The natural impulse toward life as an expression of love or wisdom or creativity can emerge without the barriers of conditioning and contraction.

No matter if you believe you are nothing or you are everything there is a need in the human form to live, to move, and to express. One needs to be willing to do their unique dance and live their unique mark on the world because all of us are part of the expression of the One, and in this sense each facet of this universal jewel is relevant. We are the aspects of god that move forward the consciousness of the planet. Whether you as a separate being are real or simply a dream you are still a participant in the flow of humanity. Even if you have seen you have no control, you still have a role that no one else can play — the god/source/light in you gets to grace this moment through your form so you may as well lean in and live it out all the way. You find it by abandoning conditioned beliefs, and  following your authentic Truth.

To wake up is to see through the burden of conditioning, shed negativity and self-limitation, and be willing to go with the flow of circumstances with which you are presented. Living is not nothing. It is what spirit gets to have through you. Whatever happens to you is happening to god. Whatever your response it is god’s response.

When you pull the psychic energy out of the ego where will it go? It was wrapped up in illusion. Shift to the lens that will correct your perception. Let your energy be infused with Truth and love and become a positive force within our species. Why else would awakening be possible at all?

Surrender As Art

I begin to see surrender as an art, having recently witnessed the most graceful surrendering in form at the San Francisco ballet in a sequence called Hummingbird, danced to the music of Philip Glass. A male and female dressed in white, floating across the stage, she in drifting chiffon, completely releasing their bodies into one movement, a merging beyond form as she was lifted above his head, or melted her body over his back to back.

I’ve rarely seen ballet so this vision of surrender was a new realization. I have thought of the form as demanding great discipline and even very painful practice as young girls learn the challenging task of standing on their toes.   And while we might see great sequences of grace and strength, coordination and agility, it was a revelation to view the total surrender of the dancers body into the strength of her partner, whether falling back to back, or being lifted and carried in another sequence from one set of arms to another.

So of course this made me think of the act of surrender in spirituality. This moment of letting go seems terrifying to some people – they feel they are “losing” themselves, or that they might never know how to function again, if they relax into the mysterious unknown that arises at some point in the spiritual journey. They lack trust in the Whole, in the strength of that which is eternal and vast to hold them. So when moments of grace are at hand they contract, and the energy of fear washes over and paralyzes them.

Adyashanti wrote a book about awakening to life called “Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering.” Another remarkable book on awakening during the process of dying was written by   Kathleen Dowling Singh , called “The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope. Comfort and Spiritual Transformation”. This grace, which we do not easily understand and often wonder how to “achieve”, is actually the response to surrender, to slipping gently into the arms of another dimension, with a profound trust and relaxation of every cell in our body. We need this surrender to fall into Truth, into the recognition of our true nature, and ultimately to have a peaceful passage into the unknown vastness beyond our lives. Like the ballerinas, we each struggle and seek discipline within our own destinies to become capable and agile in our own lives and spiritual practices. And then at the right moment, we must utterly surrender and trust in the emptiness and the fullness in which consciousness rests.

She must trust her partner in dance. We must trust our partner in that which has enabled our existence.

Perhaps we are touched by great artists, whether in dance or painting or music, because it holds this paradox – the passion, the power, the hard work and the grace of surrender.

Going Beyond Resistance

As we face the prospect of another war in the middle east, acknowledging the bombings that have already happened there for weeks, and now are recognized officially as they will be continuing indefinitely, where do you feel resistance? Is it resistance to the engagement of U.S. people and funds in another war, resistance to killing, or resistance to a terrorist group who brutally eliminate the lives of others? On both sides — whether a dove or a hawk — the underlying dynamic is resistance, based on fear and rage at how people behave. The human mind seems to thrive on this opportunity to undermine its own capacity for freedom. The terrorists are born of resistance to life as it is and are demanding all people fall into their way of thinking or be killed. Many of the rest of us resist the terrorists and want them expunged from the planet.   Others just resist the idea of war, bombing and killing no matter the cause, or resist the costs, whether in monetary or human terms. We are all driven in one way or another by resistance. And so we suffer.

When you feel disappointed, anxious or angry at something that is happening have you ever asked yourself “Is this the event that is upsetting me or is it my resistance to it?” In a talk Adyashanti once gave he commented that it is resistance that causes our suffering, even when faced with death. Of course we cannot avoid pain, but it may be possible to avoid suffering, Brain scientists tell us that negative news activates brain activity far more than positive news — we seem to be wired to get worked up and resist.

I know most of us feel at times that outside events are making our life or someone else’s life miserable, depressed and angry, and so we think if these circumstances would only change happiness and peace would again be possible. But the fact is when entangled in resistance to what is we are trading our own peace of mind for misery. It is hard to avoid resisting — somehow we think if we just resist a horrible event enough, rev up enough energy against it, we can make it go away. Some strange internal dynamic equates resistance with the power to change what has already happened. But isn’t it possible that change is not caused by resistance, but perspective and wisdom? And isn’t it often the case that resistance only makes life more difficult, extends suffering, and makes it difficult to find a lasting solution to a problem.

When we can shift out of resistance and into acknowledgement that this event that we do not like is the truth — it has happened, so there is no point in resisting it, –we may find a place in us that can take a deep breath, feel and release the emotions, then calmly assess what is happening, and explore our options. We may be sorrowful or stressed as we explore options. We may wish this loss or challenge had never happened at all. But we can act without that confused and angry resistance that will contract our stomach and fog our mind. Politically speaking this may mean writing letters, participating in a campaign or movement, voting, or for a few even leaving the country. Whatever the action it would be based on choice and thoughtful assessment of our point of view, not resistance, so we would feel more internally balanced and not wracked with despair.

In our personal life when faced with difficulties in our work or families that initially flood us with resistance and suffering will we make more effective choices when in the throes of negative feelings, or when we have accepted something has changed and we must make an adjustment, a decision, a new direction, or get appropriate help? How many times have you regretted an impulsive action based on anger or a misinterpretation of events?

Perhaps we cannot entirely eliminate resistance — as an initial flash it is telling us something is wrong, just like a pain in the gut tells us something is not working well. But we can reframe it as a message, an impulse that is telling us to look at fresh options, to explore what is needed or how we can make improvements, to discover ways to put more functionality or love in our life. Instead of carrying resistance like a rock for weeks, months or lifetimes, what can we learn from the difficult event? How can we change and grow in relationship to it? We are much bigger than the mind gives us credit for — there is great resilience and wisdom in the human spirit if we just connect with that part of us that goes along with our fate, and knows how to adapt and trust. We can find new aspects of our self, new options, new ways of looking at the world, and this may lead to creative solutions. Of course there will be sadness, and we will not always get what we want. But we can live with openness and curiosity rather than fear and resistance.

Of course this is easier said than done, and easier in a personal life than on the world stage, where large swaths of people seem destined to be crushed by violence, war, and poverty. Many times we prefer blindness and denial to resistance, because if we do not really know about the bad news then we won’t have to cope with our feelings about it. This is a kind of blind-resistance that can be nearly as uncomfortable as resistance, because we know something is going on out there that must be awful so our energy is engaged in avoiding it. But avoidance does not free us from resistance — it just postpones it.

So what do you need to stop resisting? One possibility is to see this resistance as energy — like that of an angry child who didn’t get the toy in the store and is going to throw a tantrum. How can you release the anger without any harm to yourself or anyone else? Write about it, pound your pillows on the bed, whack a punching bag, run a mile. Give yourself a time out — spend the anger within a chosen time-limit, then find a quiet spot, music you love, walk in a beautiful space, watch a funny movie and become really present where you are. Become the BEING you are just BEing. Just exist in this moment. Get out of your head and into the spaciousness that is always within, always part of the very cells of your body.

When you are calmed down reflect on an action plan, if you are in a position to do anything about the issue that has sent you into resistance. If not, then find something you can move forward with what feels meaningful, or fun, or useful and put your attention there. Pull yourself out of your head and into your life.

It is not easy to face life on its own terms — loss, aging, shifts in circumstances such as health issues, legal problems, or divorce may always arise. So will disheartening world events.  None of us has the control we desire over life events, and all of us are inevitably headed in the same direction. There is no value to clinging to the past or to images of what we wish “could of “or “should of been”. There is only what IS right now, what belong to us because it has fallen into our lap, and what we are challenged to respond to as creatively as we can. Letting go of resistance is the first step in moving forward. Be with what actually IS. Follow what your heart tells you is the best response for you and those you are responsible to. This is a way to become free of suffering, and find clarity instead of confusion to guide your choices.