If you travel on the metro in London you are familiar with the call to “mind the gap.” The gap between the train and platform that is always present yet often not seen. We are called to bring attention to it in order to navigate successfully and avoid catastrophe.
There is always a gap between the way things are and the way we would like things to be. There is a gap between my authentic emotional response and the way I would like to spontaneously react. There is a gap between what is and what will be. There is a gap between what I know and what I yearn to know. There is a gap in who I know myself to be and who I truly am.
How do we mind the gap? How is it possible to be both authentic, respectful and honoring of what is at the present moment rising, and what we would like to participate in creating?
This is the practice of yoga. We go deep inside into that space that is prior, silent and restful, yet dynamically alive. The place that is not really a place; fathomless yet as measured as the next breath. It is the sacred middle, the madhya. It is this space we naturally expand in deep meditation.
Upon emergence from this vastness we come armed with some new sense of knowingness. What is it we know? We must pull on the tender threads. We must articulate to the degree possible. And then refine again and again and again so that we may get to the essence, to the core, to the white hot molten center of what ever is.
Resting in the middle space, the space of infinite potency, possibility yet born, we increase our capacity to create, moment by moment, a life of authenticity, discernment, respect, wonderment and love. We make space, stand apart, not as other or in detachment, but rather in compassion with full access to all our tools - emotional, mental, physical and all the subtle realms between. Moment by moment we are able to truly mind the gap between impulse and action. Senses heightened, mind sharp we are poised to choose, to live the best life possible under the current circumstances. We increase not only perspective, but knowledge of every sort; knowledge of our deepest self and what is necessary to bring the desired outcome to fruition.
Mind the gap. Expand the middle. Meditate.
Knowledge is an antidote to ignorance. This is not a surprising statement. Organizations, schools, various groupings of all sorts, are built around it and profess it’s attainment.
In the Indian mystical traditions, there is an important focus upon knowledge in overcoming of ignorance; more precisely, the illusion of ignorance. The prime reason ignorance is to be overcome is for the purpose of overcoming suffering. Simply stated, we do not know the truth of who we are, what we are made of, capable of, and in that, we suffer. We are under the illusion that the limited self we come to think of as “I” is pretty much the whole subject and the world of objects and indeed other beings, are separate from us. We walk around in our own, as Muktananda says, “play of consciousness.”
The goal in these traditions then is to overcome this circumstance. In Classical Yoga we find the topic of ignorance discussed in the Yoga Sūtra. In the sadhāna pada, which focuses on practice, we are told that the agenda of yoga is two fold: (1) to become immersed in samādhi, pure awareness and (2) to weaken the kleśa-s. We must therefore engage in the steady practice of yoga to fulfill this goal. It is a lifelong process.
There are five kleśa-s, which are described as the source of suffering. These include avidyā (ignorance), asmitā (limited ego), rāga (desire; dependence upon certain experience for fulfillment), dveṣā (aversion to certain experiences), and abhiniveśā (fear of death).
The first one, is ignorance, avidyā and its place of primacy is not arbitrary. If we look at all of the other kleśa-s, besides ignorance, we can see that they too are a result of avidyā. How? To the extent that we are ignorant of our true nature, and identify solely with our mind-body as the full description of who we are, and what we are capable of, we experience craving and aversion. We further the never ending inadequate strategy of comparison, sucking up all our energy in a game that can never truly be won. If this were all it would be terrible enough, but there is more. We then act from this place and since we are ignorant as to the truth of our fullness, we must of necessity act out of ignorance regarding that fullness. Therefore whatever we do will also be limited.
The tradition tells us we must refine the space of discrimination, the place of yes and no, the buddhi. Briefly, there are three parts of the mind: the manas, the ahaṃkāra, and the buddhi. The manas is the most surface-level part of the mind. It takes in sense perceptions, does surface-level functions; it organizes and categorizes. The ahaṃkāra is literally the i-maker, Aham = "I", kara = “author, maker”, it personalizes, brings all that the mind organizes around the orbit of self. The buddhi is that part of the mind that thinks deeply, decides, discriminates. It is also the storehouse of the saṃskāras, the karmic impressions, the residue left of every experience had, positive, negative and neutral. It resides behind the sense of self as described and is closet to the doorway of what the ordinary mind thinks of as consciousness, pure awareness.
A famous metaphor that is used to illustrate the role of discrimination is that of a snake and a rope. If the appearance of a snake slithers across our path, naturally we are gripped with fear and our heart will begin to race. A few moments later, low and behold, it turns out that it is not a snake, but rather a rope. So this illustrates the notion that what seems to be the case, but is actually not, can still have profound effects. It is neither fully really, nor fully unreal. But what is crucial is having the right kind of knowledge in order to discriminate what is most fully real.
The Śaiva Tantra tradition also places a great deal of importance upon the problem of ignorance. There are two types of ignorance and two types of knowledge: that type of ignorance which is related to the puruṣa -non-conceptual- pauruṣa ajñāna. One might think of this as the soul but that is fraught with many connotations. We can frame it as our pure awareness, unrelated to feeling, thinking, perceiving, or action. And then there is that ignorance related to the buddhi, the deepest level of our mind, bauddha ajñāna.
Regarding intellectual ignorance, we want to understand two things. The intellect spoken of is not merely the mind, though indeed that is to be refined and made sattvic. What is being spoken of is a specialized intellect. Bauddha, refers to the buddhi, that level of the mind, of citta, that is the most subtle, nearest the transcendent portal on the tattva schematic and, as stated, the place of discrimination as well as the storehouse of samskāras.
The light of consciousness flows through the layers of mind, or citta and we quickly comprehend the reason we seek to make the space of the buddhi, optimal, light filled, sattvic in nature.
How? See the agenda of yoga above. The first step is introversive, meditate. All of the limbs of yoga, asana, pranyama, etc says the great Śaiva Tantric master Abhinavagupta are in service of attaining the highest truth, sat-tarka. The truth of our nature and that of every knowable object. Not as an intellectual concept, or as a wish or hope or some late night dorm room subject, but as the living experience of the yogi.
We want to understand that these two types of knowledge and of ignorance are very closely related; they feed and support each other. As we deepen in our meditation we are experiencing the puruṣa more potently and yet at the same time, this experience is reflected through the citta. To permit the light to flow fully, the vessel it moves through must be refined.
We could make a good case that it would be easier or less challenging to maintain equanimity in a renunciatory setting in which the goal is to have as little to do with the world as possible. In a householder setting, in which one is constantly engaged in different relationships, various environments, work situations, etc., there are many more ways in which one can be overwhelmed, confused, and lose one's sense of freedom, peace, and bliss.
Yet, it is the engagement in this very setting that permits the frictional transmutation of the body-mind, the prakritic vessel, to occur. This is a deepening of the “dyeing of the cloth” nyaya. We must bring awareness in and out on a regular basis to wash clean and refresh; to strengthen what is brought out so that it may be utilized, lived. This is the second step, extroversive in nature, described in the Śaiva Tantra tradition.
Meditation then not only brings one knowledge of the Self, but makes the practitioner smarter. I will never forget the first time I heard Paul Muller-Ortega say, “want a better quality of thought? change the thinker.”
Knowledge is an antidote to ignorance. Meditate.
The Space Between Us
How do we stretch ourselves? Not just of body but mind and spirit?
Do we increase repetitive patterns or push ourselves - this pushing against something is a confrontation that is necessary to refine to expand to deepen. And it is the friction necessary to spur growth.
One should always keep something of beauty in the mind - Pascal
When you think the word beauty what pictures come to mind?
Beauty, the word that best relates is the classical Greek noun "kallos" meaning good or of fine quality. The combination of beauty and good is associated with truth.
Beauty - we yearn for it and it is everywhere if we have the capacity, the sense(s) to discern. We seek to bring beauty to impoverished spaces because experience, what we inhabit feeds our inner world just as knowledge of interiorized states is the fuel of outer manifestation.
We are each day creating our acts of beauty even in the making of daily life. Life exists in the space of how we go about it, with what intention and attention.
The Śaiva Tantra speaks of the madhya space. The Heart is madhya; it stands in the middle, it is intermediate standing between any two extremes. Between the inhalation and exhalation; between the beat of the heart; in the interval of pleasure and pain; between the thought and subsequent action. “It is central; it is the interior, which is the space or vacuum at the center of all things.” Paul Muller-Ortega
Kṣemaraja in the Pratyabhijna-hṛdayam, sūtra 17, speaks of the madhya-vikas̄a:
By the expansion of the center, one attains the bliss of consciousness.
This space is the dimensionless point of Śiva and Śakti, it is the union of power that creates all manifest reality and is alive in each one. Meditation then is the journey to the great Heart. Resting here, awareness steeps in creative power; expansion is known, and is palpably available to the practitioner in life.
Expand the middle. Stand on what Paul Muller-Ortega terms the “ledge of freedom.” From this ever expanded space, see clearly and deeply, choose wisely, create with love and efficacious power.
When we meditate, we meet in the space of the heart. It is that knowing that heals the individual and by extension, the world. Expand the middle, push the light of your own consciousness into every dark corner. Yes, this will shine a light on sorrow and ugliness as well, but in doing so, bring the fire necessary to transmute and create beauty. In that, the space between us expands with possibility and diminishes in differentiation and limitation.
Why do we humans cry? Not the philosophical, emotional or circumstantial reason, those are deep and vast, both universal and specific. No, I mean why do humans cry, what is the mechanism that brings water to the eyes? Why does it work in this manner?
I am not a biologist or whatever branch of science or medicine that explores this mechanism but it seems to me that perhaps we cry as an inner bath. A ritual cleansing as it were; an attempt by the physical body to remove the sorrow and the sadness that is blocking our natural light.
In Sanskrit the word is snāna. Snāna is the ritual bathing in sacred waters that cleanses purifies and makes ready. It polishes and honors the highest essence.
Perhaps this is why humans cry tears of water. We need to cleanse, to release, to purify so that we can see and hear more clearly. We need to bathe daily in the light of our purest Self.
Daily we bathe our bodies to cleanse and honor the physical self. It is natural that we would do the same for our subtler inner being. Especially when we consider it is this inner being that illuminates, supports and animates the physical self altogether.
So, next time you find yourself crying, let the tears flow knowing that with daily attention, in deep meditation, awareness is touching this source of purification, clarity and wholeness. And in the process. we are truly refreshed.
Cry for sorrow. Cry for joy. Let your individual awareness bathe in its oceanic source. Bathe in the water of highest consciousness. Meditate.
Disruptive forces are all around us, constantly.
When our world order is disrupted for what we term positive we call it miracle.
When it is disrupted in the negative we call it tragedy.
Disruption is another name for dissolution, the creative force that permits the new iteration. Operative on the cosmic and relative level symbolically portrayed in the dance of Nataraja.
The panca krityas, the five acts: something is always being created, maintained, dissolved, concealed and revealed. How do we mirror? How do we cooperate or fight? It is in the fight that we cling or avert and in that suffer greatly. It is in the cooperation that we dance and are fulfilled and in that we experience joy.
Meditation is the invitation to increase our ability to cooperate. Daily steep in the source of creative disruption.
Transformative power lies underneath the issues expressed on the surface of life. Transformative power lives in the elusive language of the transcendent. We must go deep to hear, to touch, to taste.
Walter Brueggeman says, “poetry opens and doctrine closes” listen to the poetry of your heart. Open, commune in the silent potency of the word. Meditate not as some doctrine pledging allegiance to any grouping, organization or teacher but as the means that permits your highest voice to be heard. Rich language opens the divine to our everyday existence. In that there is both poetry and love.
The world needs you. To most efficaciously offer your gifts, each one needs to learn a practice of authentic meditation and the theory that supports its growth. In that there is both poetry and love.
Begin your New Year by inviting your poet voice. The world needs you.
Grace in Motion.
The joy of being present to a dancer’s grace or an athlete’s performance is both universal and personal. Witnessing the act together in the audience and sharing in the amazing feat performed is a universal experience, but the way it touches our hearts and leads to transcendence is very personal.
There is a feeling of transcendence, how is that possible? And also a beautiful trick of experience in that it looks so graceful so effortless that surely, given enough time, I too could move like that. Leaving talent out of the picture for a moment, this is the gift of the performers practice. Daily every day for probably more that Malcom Gladwell’s requisite 10,000 hours, they practice. And that practice refines and hones the body-mind permitting grace to flow through effortlessly and their gifts to be revealed in the highest light.
I long to be that graceful in my life. I wish to move through my day fully present permitting grace to flow though me so that my actions may also bring joy. I realize that my stage is small but my heart is big and it yearns to express the joys and challenges of life both large and small. Not just during the big moments but all moments. I want to move with grace. I yearn to be grace in motion.
This, this is why I have spent the past 10 years cultivating a deep meditation practice. It is why I study and give my mind something to hold onto as the more full experience of practice comes into being. It is the effortless practice of Neelakantha Meditation that has made me aware of the grace I naturally possess and revealed to me the many ways grace is present in my life. Even in challenge, there is grace that rises to support and reveal.
There is text of the Śaiva Tantra that speaks to this. It is devoted entirely to Consciousness, to our own true vibratory nature, The Śiva Sūtras.
It is a text that is initiatory, in that it is meant at the highest to reveal this nature known more and more as practice permits deeper access to that knowing.
As Paul Muller-Ortega says, “it may be informational and even academic in nature but fundamentally it is the text where the highest nature of self crystallizes in the heart and we must learn for ourselves to access this.”
It is practice that permits one to gain the capacity to “read the text of the heart itself” in the turya state of deep meditation.
It is not meant to be merely read but taken up and contemplated in the deepest space of the heart again and again and then insight is brought up to and shaped in the mind.
Sutra16 of the third opening:
āsana-sthaḥ sukhaṃ hrade nimajjati
Established in this pose, the yogin plunges easefully into the lake. Standing or seated, it is the Yogin's deepest awareness that must always abide firmly, constantly, and in subtle and perfect alignment with the Supreme Śakti. This state of being constantly seated in the Supreme Consciousness is such that a Yogin easefully, spontaneously, and without effort steeps, is immersed into, and deeply plunges into the great Ocean of Consciousness, the great Lake of the Immortal Consciousness.
This subtle focused practice of abiding in this pose allows the Yogin to leave behind superficial or gross efforts to control the mind, to the concentrate the mind, or to meditate in a directed or harshly limited way. Instead, by means of this alignment with the Supreme Śakti, the Yogin is easefully steeped in the great Consciousness. In this process, all limited identifications with the body, with the limited individuality, with the external objectivity of the world, all such are transcended. Translation and commentary, Paul Muller-Ortega
It is the effortless practice that leads to the natural flow of grace and then grace is more and more available to the practitioner in life. I have glimpses of grace in motion in my “ordinary life”. These glimpses are coming more and more frequently. More and more space opens to permit me to act with as much grace as I can muster. More and more I am able to call upon grace because she is more and more present to me. The choice is not easy but it is becoming more natural and in that there is grace in motion.
There is much talk these days of influence. It runs a wide berth and exists on many levels. Were we influenced by the Russians in determining the election outcome? Do commercials and advertising really influencing our buying choices? Something as innocuous as a font on a menu has been shown to influence what we order to eat. And what of friends and family and coworkers and all those we align with, their subtle and persistent impact has its effect.
Indeed this is nothing new, the ancients wondered and worried at influence. They looked up at the stars and pondered the influence of the planet formations and the tides of the oceans on human behavior.
Thomas Aquinas acknowledged the impact of influence but chaffed at its predetermination; after all, we have free will do we not?
Free will. How is it displayed in life? Choice. But choice is more than picking one thing over another from an intellectual or even emotional stance. Choice is the sum total of prior knowledge and experience making itself known in the present moment.
Knowledge and experience, in Sanskrit jñāna-vijñāna. One feeds the other in a mutual feedback loop of growth. Both are necessary, intellectual knowledge and an experience of what that knowledge means.
We like to think we are not that easily influenced, that we have a strong sense of who we are at heart; that our actions reflect our values and beliefs. Yoga asks the big questions, at the pinnacle: how do we define the self?
Knowledge, from the yoga perspective, is overcoming ignorance. Ignorance as to the truth of who we are at source, our whole fullest self.
Experience points to the immersion of that knowing first in states of deep meditative realization and then over time, bit by bit, the bringing of this knowing out into life. We bring the light of this introversive, meditative knowing out, and it shines naturally everywhere and anywhere our awareness rests permitting the light of everyone and everything to show itself. Light seeks light, even as it pervades the darkness.
Unless and until we are stabilized in this knowing of the Self writ large, in the source of our light, we will always be held sway under the influence of whatever bright shinny crazy loud beautiful terrible thing captures our attention. Attention will be grasped and held, even when we wish it to release.
Yes we take on many roles sister, wife, daughter, friend, teacher. As beautiful and satisfying as these may be they do not tell the full story. Fortunately so, for they are all transitory, impermanent; children grow up, jobs end, the body ages and people depart in all manner of leaving. What are we left with if this is the sole understanding of who we are?
Know and experience your truest Self says yoga, then all the roles we enact will be served.
We have more significance and weight than we know.
Influence the trajectory of the growth of your life and leverage your influence in service of life. Meditate.
When we fall in love truly, madly, deeply, it feels as though we have discovered some sacred, secret place never before found. We pulse with an inner light so full, so bright, so new.
Certainly no human before has ever felt this power so keenly, so wildly, so completely?
We discover the poets, the writers, the elegant wise gifted ones who have touched this place and been compelled to articulate its beauty, its power, its pain, its joy.
It is the pulse of the wave of love moving through the ages, through us all.
Once tapped, this source never runs dry.
We never tire, we never stop attempting to articulate, to speak of the gift of love in all its incarnations. Ancient and always new we are the very avatars of love.
The goddess surges, she compels. When we touch her, permit her entrance, we dance.
So entranced poets all
We express full, soft, malleable
In and out of form.
Certainly no one has ever felt this before.
We recognize her
The secret abode of the heart
Possessed by all, known by too few
She sings still and always.
Through you I have known love
And gratitude ignites sweet memory.
Giving Thanks Anew.
In Tantric yoga, murtis or statues, are symbols that represent various characteristics or values of the absolute. The absolute which contains all values and yet retains its essential wholeness. Particularly there is a focus on Nātaraja, as he dances the five acts of creation, manifestation, dissolution, concealment and revelation, both on the cosmic and individual level.
Another such one is the Goddess Sarāswati.
The goddess of knowledge and wisdom. She is also the goddess of art, literature and intellectual esthetic connection. The one who connects what we know, with our appreciation of what is pleasurable and beautiful to the senses.
Sarāswati is also the name of a river in India. Rivers are the lifeblood, the vein as it were of a place, bringing nourishment to those not living as close to source, always moving. We have this image of the flow of knowledge moving to the individual from all sources: nature, art, books, the voice of teachers, making potent that which enlivens it all, consciousness.
And this knowledge imparting wisdom in the form of that knowledge being not only understood and deepened, but because individual awareness is moved to source, closer to the root of all knowledge, it is more potently experienced, digested, owned and finally articulated via the mouth of the speaker. In doing so, it becomes a source of personal wisdom. These are the values, the characteristics Sarāswati represents. When one speaks eloquently and potently it is said that “Sarāswati dances on the tongue.”
She is the goddess of knowledge and the arts, embodies the wisdom of the devīs. She is the river of consciousness that enlivens creation; she is the dawn-goddess whose rays dispel the darkness of ignorance. To realize her one must go beyond the pleasures of the senses and repose in the serenity of the spirit. Even, as it is the very senses she enlivens so that we may engage more fully with what is beautiful and high.
The four Vedas, books of universal knowledge, are her offspring. Her mount, the swan, personifies pure knowledge and her herald, the peacock, is a symbol of the arts.
Schools and libraries are her temples; books, pens, musical instruments and all tools of the artist, are the items used in honoring the enlightened goddess of wisdom.
What is the highest knowledge that humans may attain about anything and everything yes, and at the pinnacle, about the nature of consciousness itself, the subject of Self. The subject and source of our very Self.
How do we go about hearing the word of consciousness that is paradoxically silent? We come to understand that to hear, we must learn to listen, we must refine and permit complexity to settle because these teachings, the commentary of the masters, and our own inner voice of wisdom, are at the level of the paśyanti, the ultra subtle visioning word prior to coalescing thought. We approach as we can, with innocence and a kind of humility, as well as the understanding that whatever we think we know, will open more and more.
Knowledge flows through the senses, the mind organizes, and this knowledge is deepened and refined via practice, study and life lived fully. The path is forged and cleared as we trace back from the gross level across ever more subtle bands of awareness, resting in source. Coming back out into the world, what we see and know is more vivid; its intrinsic beauty revealed because the light, always free is now naturally expanding into the clearing we have made. There are many levels of sequential unfolding in the tradition as there is in life. Go deep.
Sarāswati is the river of knowledge, the arts and aesthetic sensibility. She flows from, and as the source of the most potent form of knowledge, wisdom. The source of everything, she flows through our bodies as śakti, energy moving, pulsing to nourish every cell, to illuminate and expand the mind and heighten the senses. I yearn, deeply to flow ease-fully with her.
When she is blocked strong emotion in the form of frustration, anger, sadness arise. I realize when I feel as though I do not belong, or that I am unheard, unwanted or superfluous in some capacity, sadness is deep and strong. My life force arrested, I am in a sense, imprisoned. In moving the body and breath we assist the release of these blockages. Just as the removal of rock, debris and sludge permits the flow of water unencumbered, so too does movement of our energy in yoga open and free the stoppage of her natural flow. Rooted, always rooted, in source the flow of śakti moves naturally and freely to nourish the body-mind and life in full.
Recognize the emotion that arises from blockage and settle, surrender, risk vulnerability and permit the flow of tears that arises when separation from source is felt. This too is the flow of her power. To be more fully human is to embrace the understanding that we carry all within us. In the daily practice of yoga, we steep in source, and naturally flow powerfully and freely through all life brings. We may stop for a while, temporarily caught, but we come to know more and more that we possess the tools to free what is blocked and nourish life.
Some stay shallow. Yogis go deep
Vote. Please Just Vote. # 63 October 30, 2018
What has exercising our right to vote got to do with the practice of meditation? In a word, freedom.
It may seem that one vote means nothing. There is a real chance, in some places and under certain circumstances, that it may not even be counted and even if it is, no one is listening. So why bother?
It is our birth right. Don’t let any one take any of your rights as a human away from you. When we do not stand up to be counted, we acquiesce, we turn away; we stay hidden in the shadows. Of course, you may not know what you really and truly think or feel. You may not know your own heart and mind. That is indeed a tragedy of great magnitude.
There are many ways to educate oneself, but whatever method chosen, it must be enacted by the individual. It cannot be spoon fed, regurgitated via the digestion of others and then poured into our brain and heart. We must do the work. And to do it well, the vessel we take information into must be refined, opened and made optimal; the mind clarified and sharp, the body supple and strong; the sense of self, healthy and secure. We must come to know who we are at deepest core and in that, we naturally gravitate and engage with those things that support the growth of Self. Then, any and all expressions on the surface of life are also supported and given the best opportunity to blossom. We must know the light in order to bring light to bear in any circumstance.
This is where yoga, in all its forms, but most potently deep meditation, excels.
When we fail to see, understand, recognize, appreciate, open to, accept, merge with and eventually take full radical and complete possession of our own highest, deepest, most extraordinary light, we are incapable of truly seeing that light anywhere else. And in our own failure to do so, what are the consequences? How have we lived those consequences? How are we continuing to perpetuate the consequences of that refusal, that resistance? How is it showing up in our lives?
Fundamentally we are bringing the light to bear at root; we are not just counteracting at surface, though this indeed necessary. We are householders, people fully immersed in the world and we need a practice that permits us to engage in every and all circumstances. We yearn to bring our best always; when the world is harsh, painful and tragic as much as when it is bright and pleasing.
With deep meditation, we are creating the condition more and more where the darkness and construction of circumstance is met with the counteracting natural force of light that has been expanded into our awareness vis a vie deep practice.
Light naturally arising from the depths to dissolve contraction in any and all forms. Eventually it is eradicated at root and because the light is full and all pervasive, there is no potential for darkness to come into being.
Kula, has many meanings in the context of yoga. It is the group of individuals who have received the same initiatory teachings or the same set of initiatory practices; it is the embodied cosmos. On an individual level, it is the prana or life force, the senses and 5 elements, i.e.the mind/body; and it is family or blood relatives.
There is also kula as body. In this sense, we understand that the health of each individual cell fuels and contributes to the health of the whole being. This is not just true of the individual but of that individual in various groupings and society at large.
You matter. What you do matters. Your actions, including the decision not to act, to stay out of “politics” has consequences.
Vote, Please just vote. And then come home and bask in your light.