Camatkāra # 39 April 30, 2018
The ever expanding exploration into uncovering what is the fundamental nature of being human invites many questions: What is the nature of consciousness? How does it move? Is it some static witness or dynamic pulsation? How do I acquire authentic insight? How do I become free of suffering? How may I contribute in some positive manner to the world? In the face of these, I diligently curiously, practice, study and write. Writing assists digestion and hopefully offers some light.
There is this beautiful, evocative word camatkāra. As in many Sanskrit words it is rich in meaning and is most commonly translated as aesthetic rapture; the complete absorption in the essence of experience, whatever experience, that awareness is bathed in; astonished wonder!
It is not the thought or understanding of what you find joyful or even disgusting, but the complete saturation of the experience. The moment before it registers as a mental construct, “I find this amazingly beautiful!” or its opposite, “I find this abhorrent!” This state can be brought about by any experience that takes us straight to the heart. The Śaivite Tantric teachings tells us we can cultivate this moment. First recognition and then practice at permitting the experience to unfold.
This speaks of the madhyama or middle; the betwixt and between places found between any two thoughts but unknown to awareness insufficiently expanded. We take awareness deep within in meditation, permitting our constricted sense of self, of identity, to be melted in its vast, eternal source. Resting here, awareness is saturated in the light of Self. Returning to the surface of life, we are changed, subtly so at first, but nevertheless powerfully, authentically changed.
In time this dipping of awareness in the vat of pure whole light, that contains every possible color, is rendered steadfast; every color, every possibility of how color might be used, all variation known. A powerful personal pallet is ours to create, talents and skills heightened. Awareness saturated in it its light becomes fully that light. The knowing imprinted in our DNA, in what yoga calls our subtle energetic body, as well as our physical one; stabilization permitting the essence of everything to be seen as its purest source. Like recognizes like.
This metaphor of the ‘dyeing of the cloth’, used to such potent symbolism in the Tantric tradition, is a wonderful way for us to begin to grasp the incredible subtle and powerful transformation that occurs via deep meditation. The cloth can only absorb so much, then it must be taken out to dry. So it is with our awareness. It is cumulative and just as the cloth is returned time and time again until it is deep and colorfast, so too is awareness returned daily and rendered steady, pure, whole.
It is this steeping that opens the space for camatkāra moments to happen more and more. While we understand even now, the capacity for art and beauty to take us to our hearts, to speak to us, we also understand that this experience is dependent upon some outer occurrence. More, we tend to seek only those experiences we have determined enjoyable and thus greatly limit the possibility for these incredible moments of astonished wonder to occur.
Open, open says the tradition, melt limited mental construct, expand into the light that shapes everything. Know your light, be that light already full, more fully. Render your mind-body optimal and thus able to naturally reflect the fullness of its light. As we do this, we not only saturate awareness as spoken of, but become capable of digesting the full essence of all experiences and in doing, release in order to permit the next its full due.
Digestion is dissolution. Dissolution is one of the panca-krityas, the five acts: creation, maintenance, dissolution, concealment and revelation occurring simultaneously on both the cosmic and individual level. We mirror the cosmic in our individual body-mind. How can we do so more closely aligned to the original?
Dissolution is a pivot point of sorts. It is a release, as in the letting go of holding awareness fixed, but it is also the moment where separation dissolves; the moment when true recognition of whatever is in awareness is known as an aspect of the self, not as a mental thought but revelation: I Am This! This is unity in consciousness. Union, harmony, wholeness.
The first instance of releasing awareness from what the senses hold tight is in fact concealment. The teachings tell us that because we do not recognize, experience unity, we conceal the truth of existence from our self. This repetition, we can call it resistance, is what results in the planting of the seed of every experience or thought had, called samskāras. These seeds then, hidden in a true ‘mind-field’, wait for a trigger to set them off. We are held prisoner of our experiences and do not know that we have the freedom to shape the contour and color of inner awareness. This is termed ignorance of the deepest order.
Camatkāra is astonished wonder at the presence of grace. Grace is easily known in moments of joy and conceptual beauty. The birth of a child, the sound of music, light glistening on a tree all have the capacity to transcend, to give taste to that which is sublime. But we are told grace is always present. How then to see, to transmute our seeing, our understanding? Grace is always present everywhere in everything but fully known if digestion takes place. This digestion is begun and continually refined in the fire of meditation. Grace is present in the fire of our purification and known when digestion, sudden, natural and spontaneous occurs.
Digestion is a natural process, the by product of a healthy body making fuel, sustenance available to live. Digest fully all experiences say the teachings in order to reveal not just intellectual understanding, but to release us from attachment to what we term beautiful and from aversion to what becomes sorrow. Digest and render all experiences potent fuel to live brightly. Free your mind to engage fully.
Dissolution is a pivot point; do we walk the path of concealment or revelation? The fire of revelation begun in the fire of meditation is continually refined, alchemically transmuting senses so that awareness moves naturally more and more to the heart, the essence of all experiences, dissolving separation and inviting astonished wonder, camatkāra, as an everyday extra-ordinary occurrence.
Some call this a practice of gratitude, to see grace inherent in life and indeed it is! And we come to know that this practice of gratitude IS the natural response, not from some outer legislation “look for the good” or “do unto others” but as the spontaneous echo of inner brightness revealed.
Expand this space, this knowing, this understanding, this experience, found most potently in deep meditation and then cultivated in life. Naturally expand the space between experiences, actions, thoughts, yoga poses, between any two breaths. Here, in this place that isn’t a place, we expand camatkāra, those moments of astonished wonder, of aesthetic rapture, of complete absorption and experience. Revel, in the ever refining revelation, I Am That! Until finally one day, the Great Mantra roars, simply, profoundly, truly, I AM! AHAM.
Know your light. Bring the light! The world needs your colors.
Refining Why #38 April 23, 2018
I set out to write this blog after much deliberation, in fact, years. I look around and see so much writing, posting, tweeting, and I wondered, I still wonder, is there any need for more words? Is anybody reading never mind listening and contemplating? What I wanted, want, is dialogue. Apparently I don’t seem to know how to make that happen. At least not on this platform. And still I write. Still I offer.
Of course there is skill involved. Skill of the writer to communicate, skill of presentation, skill of getting the message out, I know my limitations and still I write. I send words that have been incubated in both deep study and experience, that come from my heart out into the—where exactly? Where do they land?
Perhaps the better question here is why. Why am I writing this blog? It is important to refresh the why of anything, to revisit our inspiration and motivation. Otherwise we risk staleness, a kind of rote didactic offering void of any feeling or power, sakti in yoga-speak.
I am dedicated to bringing the light to bear in my own life as much as possible and I know that this possibility grows daily. I know that this growth happens naturally, spontaneously and that I can cooperate with it. My writing is cooperation then for myself and also for others because I know I am not unique or alone in wanting to bring the light to bear. I understand that a thing, any thing, is never known just once if it is to grow and flourish. So I keep revisiting and refining what I know in both intellect and experience; writing helps me to tease out the glimpses of deeper understanding found in the light of both.
Light reveals and also assists in the act of removal, of transformation. In that it is both sweet and fiery.
I've spent a good part of my life dedicated to assisting people in changing their behavior. There are many good theoretical models our there to aid in this important work and experts of every sort are needed to bring it about.
Yet the recidivism rate is disheartening. People cannot maintain change even when they truly, achingly, desperately want to do so. What prevents this at the deepest level is the question I've turned my attention to. I am not saying that work on the level of the surface of life is not important or that it does not need to continue and indeed expand. I am simply saying some thing more is needed. That something not only serves those desirous of change, but those assisting in that process.
I write about the value of a daily meditation practice. The benefits/by-products are many from both a physical and psychological stance. By now the list is well known, reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, increased sense of calmness, a slowing down, etc. But as has been pointed out by others, many things brings these responses; go for a run, listen to a beautiful piece of music and blood pressure falls, momentarily we are transported. This is beautiful and we are after more.
Meditation is the trajectory of growth in awareness. It is not visualization or mindfulness, beautiful practices that are all increased via time spent in that deep absorptive state. Meditation IS expansion in consciousness vs contraction. It brings the increased capacity to move from light as opposed to darkness, to live and act from fullness as opposed to limitation. It is the journey in to source, to the space of vast silence that is yet dynamically alive, and pulsing with emergent possibility. The key word here is alive.
That possibility shapes itself in our moment by moment awareness. How can it get through clearly? How can we have a direct immediate path to it? What is blocking us from knowing and experiencing this? The problem, is not that our ego is too big, it is too small. It is contracted and small and in that limitation we suffer.
It is not a matter of convincing yourself that you are worth the effort or deserving of something, though attention here is necessary, it alone cannot reach those subtle structures where thoughts take shape. It alone cannot clear the storehouse of experiences we carry in our mind-body. Yoga teaches us that every experience we have, positive, negative or neutral, leaves its trace in our very DNA. These traces lie in wait to be animated when something triggers them.
The body with its limitations and challenges is precisely the arena that joy takes place. This speaks of movement’s necessity as it prepares the body mind. How does the light shape itself in order to disclose and reveal what it contains? How does our light do the same?
Form and shape release in order to shape again. In our bodies it is the practice of asana, form made that permits energy’s flow unencumbered, health and ease result. And, as has been pointed out, other forms of movement may do this too.
In the deepest core of being it is the practice of meditation. Individual awareness melts as it is effortlessly merged with its source reshaping into higher iterations as it moves back out. Awareness no longer caught, trapped in the persistent, limiting shapes and contours of reality is expanded. Even that which is familiar takes on a new luster.
What are we re-shaping? Do we simply return to the same shape or permit the tender, subtle reconstruction to occur?
To effect at the roots we must go deep, we must move from the gross to the subtle. Change here naturally brings change at the surface expression. We work then from both ends, water the roots and attend to the budding flowers with love and care.
Is there anything else that offers change at the deepest subtlest levels of existence? Change that is not dependent on outside forces or substances ingested; change that is not merely words offered, however inspirational and well meaning.
It is my meditation practice that has shown me more and more how to bring the light to my own life and it is my gratitude for this, and my longing to do something about the contraction, the fear I also experience in the world around me that moves me to write, to teach, to speak.
So here I am again, another Monday. Another consideration another impulse I send out into the world freely. I must admit it is challenging to send something out feeling that it may be just more white noise that no one is hearing; to have no expectation. But I do have hope. And while hope does grow with feedback it is not dependent upon it. For hope to be more, it must have some basis in truth. My hope springs from my experience, in order to bring the light, one must know the light not as a mere hope or philosophical discussion, but as the very source of creative possibility found in one’s very own being, freely given.
Expand your consciousness and bring the light to bear. The world needs you.
The Vitality of Ordinary Things April 16,2018
The sublime, the extraordinary takes the breath away and moves us straight to the heart.
The recognition of this in the ordinary holds us there at every turn.
Vital and familiar, alive.
Running warm water washing worry.
Recognition, articulation, brings the light to bear.
When insanity threatens it is the ordinary that grounds.
Notice light leaking through the crack.
It’s escape weakens form and frees imagination moving simultaneously in both directions..
Extra is more and also superfluous.
Use, of what use? None said the poet.
But it has value, immense value.
That is more than enough.
Notice the specialness of what is beginning or ending. Beginnings like the dawn are full of wonder, ‘what is this’! Endings, like the sunset, tend to be fiery and honey toned. There is a bittersweet richness to its leaving.
Why does the middle go unnoticed until ending shows up?
We are told when young that we are special by those who love us and they most likely believe it and certainly want us to. Perhaps we do for awhile, but there comes a time when we realize our ordinariness, even make peace with it.
Yoga tells us we are of the divine, this is another way of saying special, extraordinary. But saying it thinking it, and knowing, truly experiencing, is not the same thing.
We cannot see the essence of the ordinary, its truest intrinsic core if we do not know our own. Go deep, recover the wonder of dawn and sweetness of dusk within. Rest in the middle, in the source of all and every form of light.
With eyes of full of light, bore to the center and expand meaning, perception, reality.
Return to so called ordinary life and see it for what it is, extraordinary.
Beginning, middle, end rest between the bookends of concealment and revelation.
No matter where in the cycle we find ourselves, comfort with unfolding must blossom if we are to see and move with joy and skill.
Moment by moment life unfolds, where does our awareness rest? The vitality of ordinary things is sustenance. Today I am sad at the thought of leaving, grieving; and full of hope at what may unfold. Simultaneously I pulse. More and more I know expansion lives between the two. Vital, exuberant, audacious ordinary life calls.
Expand The Light
Darkness is always here even when we are unaware of its presence. It’s all around. It is the light that brings it into view. Light accompanies darkness. Darkness permits light’s expansion.
Isolated black holes are almost impossible to detect, but black holes have a companion — an orbiting star. These black holes interact with that star in ways that allow the pair to be spotted by telltale X-ray emissions. Recently a team of scientists searched for those signals in a region stretching about three light-years out from our galaxy's central supermassive black hole. They found a dozen black holes paired up with stars; a place that's filled with a huge amount of gas and dust, and it's jammed with a huge number of stars! "So we're looking at the very, very, very center of our galaxy. It's a place" says team member Hailey.
There are huge scientific implications here, but what intrigues me is how we mirror the cosmos in our individuality. Carl Sagan famously said, “we are the stuff of stars” and he meant that on many, many levels both physical and metaphysical.
There is a space deep inside each of us that is the very, very center of our being. It is both source and light that pours out as individual consciousness. Expanding consciousness and then living life from this authentic experience is the point, the mission of deep meditation.
Lately darkness seems to be prevalent. It is all around us. We live in a time of walls and armor; the reflexive reaction to fear is contraction. This is frightening but it is also natural. Everything contracts and it also expands. The question is how are we cooperating with that expansion? How are we bringing the light to bear?
We can not give what we do not posses. To bring light, we must know it. Mediation is not about belief or worship of some deity outside of self. It is not about the beneficial side effects of decreased stress and increased calmness. It isn’t even about slowing down and becoming more mindful though all those wonderful things do occur. But as has been pointed out, other things bring those responses too.
Meditation is about the trajectory of growth in consciousness. It is about expanding consciousness as opposed to shrinking, reflexively hiding, even as we profess with our words and posturing otherwise. The problem says the great masters, is not that the ego is too big, it is too small. We identify with small amount of identity available.
We may replace a negative thought with a more positive one and it is helpful for the time we apply the practice, but once we turn awareness away, the dark comes flooding back. Expanding light is not obliterating darkness but rather learning to embrace and make room; to speak up and to carry on. Something rises up to meet us in times of darkness, that something is the light of deepest knowing, of full consciousness.
It is a fool’s errand to attempt to rid the world of all darkness. Darkness accompanies light and it also permits light’s expansion. We must never stop bringing the light to bear in whatever manner possible. Do so from the place of unending creative potential arising deep inside as self; the place that is not a place but source and stream. Authentically experiencing self as a form of light permits each one to be a star that interacts with darkness in a way that brings insight and revelation. In this way we bring the light and not merely curse the darkness.
Expand your individual consciousness. Know the light, bring it to bear.
Knowledge and Experience
I grapple with the big questions of life: Why is there something instead of nothing? Who am I? Why am I here? How do I contribute to the world? The answers are constantly being informed and reformed. I have no wish to tell others what to believe. In fact I look to challenge my own beliefs and am less concerned with belief but rather fascinated with experience. What do I experience and how does that inform the structure I build my life upon, the lens I view life through, the actions I take?
It is my desire that this structure be magnificent, as such it is never complete though I yearn for its stability. I want the lens clearer more powerful even as it widens in scope. What do I experience moment by moment? How can I experience more and more deeply? How can I use this to serve life, my own, those I touch, and by extension the world?
And what of mystery? Where does it fit, what is its place? There is a mysterious element to life that cannot be denied, that informs all of creativity. How do I embrace it even as I seek true understanding?
Challenge belief. Open to experience. Embrace mystery. Move from deep understanding.
Belief can be a beautiful thing, an anchor when feeling unmoored; a pole star orienting when all around is confusion. It can also harden, stop serious consideration, limit wonder and astonishment. We long to be sure, to have clarity but clarity is not a final destination. What pulses is alive and what is alive is never stagnant. Growth is both beautiful and painful. One cannot be truly known, experienced without the other. Such is the nature of duality. There is what we know in some intellectual capacity, and then there is what we experience; truly authentically experience moment by moment.
Knowledge and experience go hand in hand; a mutual feedback loop one informing and expanding the other. Knowledge, jnana in Sanskrit, experience vijnana; knowledge permits recognition of what is already occurring in experience. Experience drives one to know more. Thus a mutual feedback loop that pulses and continually grows. It’s said, ‘map is not territory’. One can read all about a place, its land mass, mountains, oceans and individual roads but until feet have been placed upon the land and senses taken in the environment, it can never be truly known. Just as experience alone may fill the senses but miss so much of what is available because without prior knowledge ‘a thing unknown may as well not exist’. Guides are needed.
Belief is another thing altogether. There is an element of mystery inherent in belief requiring no proof nor experience, nothing but our agreement. A beautiful, glorious, obscure, puzzling truth that is unknowable except by revelation. Divine revelation, that which is experienced in the full state of grace. Know and experience the depths of self say the great masters of consciousness. Live life from this experience. All humans instinctively yearn for this. It is the desire set up at birth. Experience of this sort brings a specialized knowledge; immanent knowledge revealed in states of transcendental experience. Mystery brought to light.
Developing a meditation practice that naturally sets the framework for experience of that knowledge, mystical in nature to occur, is the hallmark of the non-dual Śaiva-Tantric teachings. In that, knowledge and experience of every possible sort is heightened, deepened and expanded. I am less concerned with belief but rather fascinated with experience. What do I experience in the deepest source of self? How can I increase and heighten my sensitivity so that I may experience more in myself and life?
Experience then must be digested in order for true understanding to blossom. Understanding is an A HA! moment, a ‘form of ecstasy’ says Carl Sagan. It is light, the light of expansion, of knowledge and experience. I’m still asking the big questions. I find intriguing answers that fit my framework and speak to my heart but still beg further examination, study and experience in the laboratory of my own body-mind. I invite you to do the same.
Bring the Light!