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.

 

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The Sacred in “The Shack”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Out of the Shadow, Into the Light

 Those who long for love, compassion, universal equality and protection of thIMG_4158e environment as a foundation of society are likely feeling despair today over an election that has forced us to see the shadow of our country in its willingness to support  fear, bigotry, misogyny, ignorance of science and lies in a man who will become the acknowledged leader of the free world.  But the worse thing we can do to ourselves is fall into the abyss of fear caused by our own projections of what will happen next.

            Each of us, no matter who we supported in this election, was born with the capacity to create the energies of fear and anger in our bodies.  This is a body/mind dynamic built in for protection in times of danger that is activated in the face of physical or psychological threats.  Even the thought of threat can make us ill, but when the threat is only in the mind’s image and not in the immediate now (when we may need to run from a bear or a flood), it festers like cancer and destroys our capacity to do anything creative in our lives.  We might feel paralyzed. We might run aimlessly even though we know we cannot successfully escape our own minds. We are part of a collective and just protecting oneself is not enough. We feel for the whole. The tragedy of 9/11 showed us we can hurt for everyone.

             I recently listened to a Sufi talk about chillas.  Chillas are challenging tasks a spiritual seeker requests from a Sufi Pir or teacher that force one to discover or develop new capacities within themselves, an inner strength they did not realize they had.  It brings forth a new perspective that serves a spiritual seeker in finding his or her inner spirit, growing inner strength and awakening to the sacred in all of life.  They are sometimes very challenging, such as going to an unfamiliar country with limited funds and finding someone, or walking through a desert. In ancient times they lasted 40 days and 40 nights but today they can be more condensed. They may be as simple as giving public talks when you are frightened of speaking or serving the poor for a few weeks.

                  It was a synchronistic talk for me because instead of falling into grief today I am seeing this event as a chilla for all of us.  It is an event that will challenge all of us to grow through our personal and collective shadows by starkly meeting them, and finding new ways to live in love and truth despite the existence of our own fear, bigotry, ignorance and dishonesty. It will challenge us to see the darkness in our own political structures and their impact on the world.  If we are all One, then this country and this world is all One, including all the shadow that we desperately wish was not there.  How do we find the will to overcome our personal and collective shadows? How do we find in our autonomy the courage to stand directly for what an awakened heart and intuition is encouraging us to express?

            Our personal darkness is fed by fear. To the extent we let this energy overwhelm us we become helpless and victims of the shadows.  Out of this victim identification we risk becoming perpetrators, when our ego claims we must destroy those who think differently than us.  But how do we stand up against our fear?

              Michael Singer, in his book “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” has offered some guidelines on living with fear.  He says to be free “You must  first accept the fact there is pain in your heart.”  But he points out that joy, beauty, love , peace and even ecstasy and freedom lie on the other side of fear.  He writes that freedom and greatness is available when we  find the courage to relax with the pain instead of blocking it.  It calls this the core of spiritual work.  We can use our pain to become more open rather than contracted and closed.

                This may seem paradoxical – as most true spiritual teachings are.  But think of the freedom gained with complete acceptance of tragedy and trauma, darkness and pain.  When we are able to connect with the deep center of Truth and Love within ourself no matter what the world throws into our path, we become free inside from the grinding, suffering, and resistance of our ego and let go of our personal demands that life be as we want.  Because every life will have tragedy and loss not matter how we try to protect against it, no matter how good we are, or even how awake we are.

                 Our internal survival depends on our ability to overcome the downward spiral within ourself when these events occur, and to use this new-found strength to create change where we are able, rather than falling into paralysis, hatred or revenge.  If our house burns down we must clean up the mess and create a new house.  If our environment is threatened we must find within ourselves our unique role in protecting it.  Life (or God, if you prefer) works through us but we have to let go of our noisy  demands before we can hear the whisper of what it can enable us to do

                 Our minds believe we must fight in any way we can for our beliefs or when we feel we are “right” and others are wrong.  No matter which side of politics you are on this is likely your motivation.  No one fights for someone else’s beliefs.  But this battle of the egoic stances denies wholeness, denies freedom, and energizes the fear and despair, the least helpful psychological qualities in our lives.

                 When awakening happens there is an opportunity to step out and back, to align with a sacred witness that sees the division in our human world without identifying with it.  This does not mean an awakened person has  detachment with indifference to the problems of the world.  A deep awakening brings love for the whole and asks for our deepest, most authentic, unselfish and creative response to what is needed.  We won’t find this if we succumb to fear and anger.  We have to acknowledge our human fear  – but choose not to let it be the decision maker and ruler of our spirit.  We must find something greater, more inclusive within ourselves that brings forth our contribution to the greater good.

             We have to refuse the projections of the mind about what will happen and face change day by day, acknowledging there is as much good as there is ignorance and greed in our world, there is as much light as darkness, and that both are within us, but we can choose, because we are awake, not to let the fear drag our life down into the shadows or allow despair to limit our lives and the acknowledgement of the sacred within and around us.  Only then can we move forward and face change with integrity and compassion for others, and become effective agents of positive change in our collective consciousness.

              I’ve always loved a comment  by The Mother, who was the partner in the spiritual teaching of Aurobindo, and the founding of Auroville in India. She said that if there is a great darkness within you, you can be sure that at the core is also a great light.

             Perhaps by seeing the shadow of our country with clarity and compassion we can contribute to bringing forth the light.  If it be the will of the universe it will be done. We will all do it.

 

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.

Shanti River Events

I am back home in Ashland Oregon now, and although it’s cold and damp it still warms my heart to be in this picturesque town with its charming theaters, parks and people. The pace is more nourishing here, with much to be involved in, yet a quieter pace of traffic and only a few thousand people, most of whom are happy just to be here. It is the best of small-town living.

I’ve created a Spring schedule for the non-dual center here, and here are the events scheduled:

Meditations at 9 a.m. Saturday mornings;

Satsang on Sundays at 7 p.m on March 27, April 3 and 17, May 1, 15 and 29;

A workshop on “The Kundalini Process” on Sat. May 14 from 9 to 5;

A Meditation Intensive “Sudden and Gradual Awakening” from 9:30 to 4:30 Sat. April 30;

A Non-Dual Wisdom Discussion group at 7 p.m. for 9 weeks beginning April 14;

A Transpersonal Exploration group on Weds. for 7 weeks beginning April 13.

Contact me at kundinfo@mindspring.com if you need information or want to register.

On World Events:

What has been on my mind most often these past few weeks are world events. Every day I want to know just what is unfolding in Japan, Libya, Bahrain and all the other unsettled and chaotic places on our planet. I see that what I am includes all of these, even though I as a body/mind have the luxury of living free from harm in this particular or apparent moment in time.

One of the biggest challenges of seeking freedom or liberation is the recognition that so many people and places are suffering. It makes it seem one should not allow oneself to be free of suffering since we are all in this together. Guilt can arise in those who are not in pain along with everyone else. But freedom from suffering already exists in each of us and until we remove the patterns that block this freedom we are not capable of bringing any lasting freedom into the world. All of us as humans have our times to suffer –with losses, grief, illness–or because we are holding on to anger, self-rejection, jealousy or fear (psychological suffering). Isn’t most of the horror caused by humans in the world the result of someone who suffers from a rage, or greed, or fear of “others” or desire for revenge? Isn’t the need for power just a reaction to all these internal limitations we resent and reject? Some folks are simply obsessed with a greed for power. What fear and rejection of humanity must lie beneath this obsession? It is easy to see how a repressed people would want to gain control over their lives and would battle authority for it, would hunger to overcome the pressure of someone else’s power drive. It is harder to see how someone could want so much power over others unless they felt a great lack and fear deep within themselves.
Despite all of the horrors we witness on the world stage do we dare to remember our own internal freedom, our natural compassion and love, and the true nature that is empty of all conditions while paradoxically holding all conditions?
If we who have the breathing space to wake up and to live as freedom do not invite it into our lives how will it ever penetrate the collective, or infuse the planet with wisdom and love? We cannot force freedom or love or wisdom but we can let go of ourselves deeply enough to remember that these qualities are reflected naturally from the light of what we truly are. We seldom see them in the world because most humans are so identified with the surface of their lives, and fearful of the inner shadows in their psyches, that they do not sit still long enough to penetrate the delusions of mind and heart that trap us. When someone begins a spiritual path it is usually for the purpose of ending suffering within themselves, at least on the surface of things. But perhaps it is really a drive imposed by the universal source or wisdom in order to release just one facet of the suffering in the world, to breathe into the universe a fraction more of freedom. If the repression of Truth and Love ends in you or me, something painful ends and something new and unexpected can emerge. If we are then moved in a way to help others who suffer we then can do so from freedom rather than pain,trusting the capacity for freedom in others, and we can see the obvious fact that anyone who truly lets go, lets go of suffering. Even in pain and loss there is a possibility to discover an endless and eternal freedom of spirit.

Some people believe the reason for suffering is to force someone to go deeper and to wake up. But why wait until you are suffering or struggling with great losses to go deeper? Why not move when there are less outer distractions, before loss, before chaos — why not move inward to see through delusion and get released to be a force for freedom now?
Then whatever happens on our vast and erupting planet can be embraced as part of the whole, with compassion and spontaneous wisdom, with love amidst the pain? All of it belongs to all of us but few are those who can bring harmony into the whole. And this harmony will never come from mind, whose nature is division, but must come from the awakened heart.