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.
Go deep. #62 October 23, 2018
They go low, we go high. They stay shallow, we go deep.
There is a common theme in the Tantric tradition, emphasized by Abhivinivagupta, that we take the traditional or conventional understandings, rituals, and practices and then interiorize them. Rather than understand them at the surface level of life, we find their inner-most meaning. How we can experience their deepest values and apply them directly to our lives?
The triadic school of yoga, named Trika, speaks of many triads. There is will, knowledge and action; manifestation, maintenance and dissolution, and the triadic structure of knower, object known and means of knowing. Ordinary awareness is the condition in which me, as the knower is so entranced by the object held within my grasp, via the particular means of knowing, (many types, most common: direct, inferred, revealed) that the sense of self is overshadowed. The stronger the attraction or revulsion, the more hidden that knowledge or sense of self is. This is not a bad thing as it permits absorption so necessary to perform, enjoy and handle any and all circumstances that arise. We are absorbed in a good book or movie or concert; we even say, ‘we lose ourselves’.
The problem is, we take this partial knowing as our full self. We risk the sad limitation of believing the ‘play is the only thing’, the whole thing. We never come to know who we truly are at heart, and thus continue to act on the stage of life with a partial script. We possess incomplete knowledge, knowledge that is missing key information and thus our experience too is partial. Therefore whatever we think, manifest or act upon will also be limited and riddled with ignorance. Ignorance that is two fold: we take the limited self to be the whole story, the whole truth; and are ignorant of the fact that there is anything else to know. In other words, we identify our self primarily as the mind-body, limitations and all and we shouldn’t; we do not recognize and identify as the Great Consciousness, unbounded and free and we should.
Everyday we awake and from someplace deep within, awareness rides out in huge streams of light; alighting on objects, filling the senses. This is the powerful outward current, captivating and natural, named vama. We do not need to do anything, awareness simply rides out and captures attention.
In deep meditation, we locate its opposite; we locate the inward current, named jyestha that is also natural and very powerful, but must first be found and the path cultivated. Then, as individual consciousness naturally turns inward and traverses those ever subtle bands of awareness, it comes to rest in the turya, 4th, state. Like a stirred glass of water, consciousness comes to rest from a state of flurry and activity, with less available power on the surface, in the way that the surface is always fluctuating and shallow, to a place of settledness that is deep and in the way of depth, powerful and quiet. This state, in which a sublime condition arises, is a state that is neither awake, as in outward engagement, nor dreaming, as in semi consciousness; nor is it deep sleep in which unconsciousness prevails. This state is new and surprising; sweet and tender and vibrating with silence.
So we have the knower (pramātṛ), the process of knowing (pramāṇa), and the knowable object (prameya). This triadic structure is symbolized as the fire (the knower), the sun (the process of knowing), and the moon (that which is known). Here the triadic structure, so strong on the outward relative plane, looses its power and simply falls away, collapses. In this moment, the knower has nothing holding individual consciousness mesmerized, and it is freed. Freed to stand facing itself. Individual consciousness stands in relationship to its source absolute Consciousness writ large, by means of the heart seed mantra, itself pure vibratory consciousness (given and made potent via initiatory diksha) and we say say, consciousness faces consciousness by means of consciousness alone.
In this sublime moment we are stripped bare and wholeness, perfection is revealed, divinity known; we are full, satiated. Upon emergence awareness brings something of this sweetness back to the surface and that ordinary triadic stricture is elevated, expanded. In truth we come to know that there is nothing ordinary about awareness or life at all. This is not something we can talk ourselves into or purchase; we cannot earn it though there is indeed something for us to do.
How fully do you see, know? What do you experience? Expand, deepen and cultivate awareness, for this determines the depth of awareness of absolutely everything. Forge the pathway, develop the habit of going deep in meditation, then anywhere attention is placed naturally, spontaneously go deep and pierce to the core. Yes we must continue to feed the mind, the intellect; we must hone, refine and heighten senses, all of them. We must increase our skill.
Importantly, we have the very basic understanding of the condition of the vessel itself, the state of consciousness of the knower, individual awareness, that will always determine and color whatever we perceive, have access to, experience and act upon. More, the heightened state of the knower, refines and expands the object itself as well as the means and process of doing so.
We want to immerse ourselves in the light, in the fire of consciousness. Not to merely understand it at some intellectual level, but to experience it directly and permit, cooperate, in opening our senses, our mind, our physicality to the entire expanse of possibility. We want to burn impurities, refine what is beautiful, reduce ALL to its fundamental constituent, freeing the mind rendering it clear and ready for astonishing insight. We do not wish to be cut off from that which is source and support. We want direct immediate access to the trajectory of growth that brings meaningfulness to life in the face of confusion, fragmentation and chaos.
Go deep. They go low, we go high. They stay shallow, we go deep. In that depth we are able to make leaps and bounds of unimaginable lengths.
Be a Warrior! # 61 October 16, 2018
What defines a warrior? Poise, readiness, skill, courage, focus and the desire to be in the thick of things. Householders are yogis who embrace both a spiritual practice and living fully in the world. The desire to positively impact life and the skill to do so is supported by time spent in the dynamic silence of deep meditation. In other words, Tantricas are warriors!
While the desire to remove oneself from the messiness of life is natural and indeed necessary, we need respite, there is a difference between removing oneself, detaching from the world as goal and doing so in a temporary manner, with the firm conviction that life, to be embodied, is a gift to be unwrapped each and every day.
This distinction is what defines the renunciate and householder paths. Each path is beautiful and serves the individual practitioner with love, support and a stated goal. But many are living as householders, one who has responsibilities and the desire to be fully present in and of the world, while attempting to embody renunciate practices that are working to the opposite effect.
There is a metaphor used to illustrate this teaching that comes to us from Ayurveda called the ashaudi nyaya, that states: the right ingredients, in the right amount, given at the right time will yield the best results. We want the best results always and so we go to experts of every sort to ensure we are participating in the best manner possible.
Yoga is a beautiful umbrella with many practices nestled under its canopy. To receive its most potent benefits, we need teachers who are themselves both practitioners and students, with the knowledge, the understanding via experience, of the sequential process that will yield the highest result. The choice is ours alone; yoga as a grab bag or as true sādhanā with a systematic body of practices that supports and enriches life whatever you wish to do.
Life is short. There is no time to waste time going down roads that may or may not get us to our desired destination. Or worse, wander aimlessly not caring where we end up. Know what you are engaged in and why; make sure that what you practice supports your highest goal. Be a warrior for a life well and fully lived. Meditate, contact me and learn this simple, effective, powerful householder practice.
Measure of Worth # 60 October 9, 2018
“Comparison is the thief of joy”. I heard this phrase the other day and thought, how true. We compare ourselves, our lives and all the details that give it shape and often, very often, this comparison brings sorrow, a sense of being not quite up to par; not as good. And in that conclusion we are to one degree or another devastated and further separated.
The invitation to stop comparing is a good one. It is meant to have us celebrate our uniqueness and to be grateful for what we have been given and most importantly for who we are. This of course begs the question, exactly who am I?
I am a woman, wife, sister, friend. I am a yogi and a student. Despite what I believe, I am of a certain race, ethnic background and socio-economic level, all of which color the cues, subtle and gross I embody. I do my best to be aware of what this sum total brings to my thinking, my speaking, my being. I take the seat of the teacher in my work and I delight in all these rolls. Yet they do not tell the whole story.
We live in a world of duality, the sun rises and sets; there is light and dark; comparison is an inherent component. We must use the skills of comparison when choosing which school to attend, which home to live in, what car to drive, what philosophy to embrace. We must compare when deciding where our skills are best utilized.
In seeking to not compare we must take care that we are not muddying the water with the brown hue of “its all the same”. It is not all the same. Some things are decidedly better than others; some people more suited to one field of work than another. Some individuals have more resources which brings more choice. You get the idea. We need our facilities of discernment not to be dulled but to be heightened and clarified.
These two arenas, knowing self and clarifying our faculty of thinking and discernment, are key in embracing the uniqueness of who we are as individuals and navigating life with skill. Skill is what permits us to embrace joy and weather challenge knowing full well one is much more desired than the other. Ah, there’s comparison again. Skill, anchored in a true knowing of who we are, is what permits that joy to bubble up without clinging to what will surely end, and to weather what feels as though it never will, without the walls of prison closing shut.
Just as we understand sameness is never the response of life in a world of duality and multiplicity, so too must we come to understand that to announce prematurely that at heart we are all the same is to risk causing harm and suffering both to those who announce and those who hear. The proclaimer may have goodness and healing in mind wishing only to bring comfort, but without knowledge of that unity, it is just words; and the one who hears has a life that perhaps does not measure up to that announcement and so feels even more separate, more other. The question is always what do we experience? Not as a philosophical platform, but what do we truly experience moment by moment in life?
The practice of yoga, and yoga is a body of practices beyond asana, is one way to address those two arenas, knowing self truly and deeply at the core of being and clarifying the space in which all thoughts are received and incubated. In the process we create what my meditation teacher calls a “ledge of freedom” that permits the expansion of space as well as access to the silence necessary to really hear, and then act in a manner of our choosing; one that reflects our deepest values as well as presents our unique offering to the world in order to create the best life possible. In this we freely add to the beauty of diversity while holding the knowledge, via experience, of the wholeness inherent at source. We are able to embrace both the spectacular diversity the world has to offer and know at heart, because we’ve experienced at source, that we are all indeed the light of consciousness reflected in that diversity.
It is the practice of yoga, particularly meditation, that permits the experience of this knowing. Our time on this earth is short, there is none to waste. Are you practicing in a way that supports your deepest desire? Or are you picking from a grab bag of bright things that may or may not be designed to support those efforts?
Without knowing the measure of our true worth, we will always under value it despite what is announced on the outside. What is the method and the ingredients that will reveal this; in what sequence and amount? There are other disciplines that speak of this path, if yoga is your chosen philosophical framework be clear that it includes more than asana and sometime contemplation; be clear that the practices you do include knowledge gained to assist in the blossoming of both. There is a reason, that no matter the path, it is called discipline.
Comparison need not be the thief of joy if we are rooted in the source of our truest self; the colorless light from which each individual light derives its color, brightly, proudly and joyously displayed. The mind rendered clear, focused and expansive, discernment becomes a joy as we embody the freedom of choice a true collaborator in this one wild and courageous life.
Gifts #59 September 25, 2018
I was given a compliment the other day. It was offered sweetly and came as a lovely surprise to me. I of course, said thank you and put it aside, as my humility has taught me to do. Later, when I had some time to contemplate I brought it out.
Now what I was complimented on was really nothing of my doing. It was the gift of my parent’s co-mingling of genetics, like the shape of our eyes or the texture of hair. It was gift. We do enhance our gifts, an agile mind is made more so through disciplined study, so in that we have something to hold. But I wondered two things.
First, was this a way to enter more deeply the yogic teaching that we are not the agents of our actions? While simultaneously teaching that there is something for us to do? True this compliment had noting to do with my “actions” but how I receive the compliment, and what I do with it, does. So too does the understanding that each gift we are given, and there are so many that simply go unnoticed by us, a real treasure. When they are brought to awareness then what do we do? This leads me to my second thought.
Why are we so often willing to do one of two things with compliments: gently or firmly push them aside as simply not of our doing, and thus dismiss whatever part we have to play; or take it fully on as ours and as such, permit our ego a bit, or a lot, more air to hold us up.
How do we both accept gifts, in whatever form and also acknowledge that at root, we may have had not much to do with it at all? The answer rests in part, with worthiness, intention and subsequent action and of course, connection to the source those gifts arose from.
To accept a compliment fully, to allow it in requires a welcoming space; this speaks of the opening of awareness, as well as our true value. And what do we do with such attention? Do we permit it to just feed our ego, as nice and necessary as that sometimes is, or do we take it to heart? In taking it to heart then, we may examine it and determine its place; perhaps it is something we have cultivated, can further cultivate and nourish; to what use? Finally, what are the ways in which we may offer this; how might we act on this knowledge?
One of the gifts of deep meditation in the Śaiva Tantra tradition is the means, the path cleared for our talents and skills to be brought “on line” as it were. There is much to say about this subject which is spoken of in the third pada of the Yoga Sūtras. Suffice to say, which of us would not like our talent and skill brought to awareness or made more fully apparent? This is not something simply wished for, and there are pre-requisites, things that must be set in motion in order for it to occur. Again, why teachers, guides, are so important.
We look to the myth of Bhairava, the Pine Forest sage. Briefly this myth speaks of sages seated in the Pine Forest practicing and praying for the divine to show up. They have their ideas of what the divine looks like and so fail to recognize when he/she shows up as a beggar in rags, the very fierce form of S̄iva called Bhairava. In failing to recognize him they turn away and thus miss out on the very things they so fervently devotedly and sincerely wanted. A missed opportunity of a very great magnitude.
Where and how is the divine, for are not gifts and talents divine in nature, already showing itself to us in life and we are failing to notice? The discipline of study, feeding the mind, combined with that of meditation practice permits this pratibha, this recognition to occur. So too does our practice of consideration, of contemplation, of journaling.
Terrible things occur in life; challenges and sorrows of every sort. They often present themselves as tearing apart the life we have come to expect and in that we see and feel it as challenge, even disaster. With the weathering of the storm and the passing of time we may come to see it differently. We may look back and say, that crack was the beginning of restructuring my life in ways I never imagined possible. Of course we may feel that we could have come to this new place without that challenge, thank you very much, but we do begin to see challenge in a new, if not altogether benevolent, manner.
People often say things happen for a reason. I am not one of them. I do however feel in my heart, that we are driven to make reason with our mind for what has happened and then compelled to act on it in some manner, in order to bring meaning to the gift of life. Without meaning, life is indeed tragic. Who’s responsibility is it to bring meaning to each individual life?
These are the big questions asked by many traditions, including yoga, specifically, for me, Śaiva Tantra Yoga. Are the answers you hear assisting you in living your fullest life? Are you hearing any answers at all? Are you asking?
How do we bring our gifts to the world; increase our skill? Practice and study, theory to the degree necessary in order to feed the mind, is called for in order to fulfill the injunction stated in the Bhagava Gita that yoga is indeed skill in action.
Share your gifts. There is a sequence, an order: first experience is necessary, then a more full knowing can occur, naturally your light flows out into the world.
Choice Architecture September 18, 2018
There is a theory put forth by behavioral economics that choice is not something we make but rather based strongly on environmental conditions. It states that what we think of as choices made solely within us, by us are actually shaped, rather strongly, by our environment.
We then, the theory postulates, “make up stories” about why we made those particular decisions. And we are very very good at writing this dialogue, so much so we believe we are the sole author.
These architects are shaping our choices. That said, many behavioral scientists stress that there is no neutral choice architecture and that people maintain autonomy and freedom of choice despite manipulations of choice architecture.
The thoughtful design of choice architecture as a means to improve consumer decision-making by minimizing biases and errors that arise as the result of what is called “bounded rationality” is one of the aims of this model. Bounded rationality is the idea that when individuals make decisions, their rationality is limited by the malleability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time available to make the decision.
I am not a behavioral scientist nor a policy maker, though clearly I understand the need for these disciplines, among others, to put forth a premise that seeks to assist individuals in finding a satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one. Who among us has not stood on the cereal isle and faced “choice overload?” But I disagree with my perceived understanding that we must somehow settle for satisfactory as optimal may not ever present itself. Of course this may be a matter of semantics, I acknowledge that. Still optimal arises in reference to choice availability; not only to what is being presented but to what we are present to as well as our skill at response. Both can be refined, deepened and expanded.
I bristle at the notion that I must be manipulated for my own good. Of course there are those who think this because well, I just don’t know any better, especially about policy making, and those that simply want me to buy their products. Either way, my sense of self is greatly insulted.
What shapes decisions at the deepest level is the question the theory of meditation asks? Not only what shapes our decisions but our very thoughts?
Because we don’t know our own mind as it were, we have a difficult time resisting these outside forces. We can of course restrict and shape our external environment to some extent but not always.
We can do something about our inner environment. Always. This too is a choice. One that will have an impact on all subsequent choices.
The karma mala grips us tight with the false supposition that we are the sole agents of all our actions. But we are not. We can see this on the surface when we speak of those who shape our environment and give subtle psychological cues that effect our response to stimuli. These are very powerful because they go deep. To what we might say is unconscious. Leading then to what may be described as unconscious choice that we convince ourselves was made consciously.
Becoming more conscious then is not just a choice made, though it is that, it is also the opportunity to know who we are and in that knowing, to have some real effect as to what takes shape on the surface.
Going deep in meditation is a profound gift that has an impact on those subtle spaces where thoughts are formed and coalesced in two ways:
It clears debris, the clutter that prevents us from seeing what choice might be present; thus we are less at the mercy of habitual patterns of response.
And in doing so, space is created that permits an increase of light to see more expansively; to allow options to enter, combinations of options, that might otherwise not be seen.
We are not the sole agent, there is a powerful full force we seek to align with; one that fuels our every thought word and deed. Of course there is something for us to do, we must act.
Are we acting from the most expanded highest perspective we can? Are you taking full advantage?
Yoga refines the entire body-mind structure on absolutely every level. Asana, movement to bring strength and flexibility to the mind-body; pranayama to move the breath more deeply and freely and most potently meditation, that permits awareness to go deep behind the structures of what we think of as our cognitive self. In doing so, we render that space of mind and ego ever clear.
Don’t be what Daniel Kahneman terms a “lazy thinker” associating your immediate thought, feeling, reaction to a plausible dialogue; if so you will never get to a level of critical thinking of a clearer, deeper sort. This has ramifications for every single choice we make including personal and political.
Whose choice is it anyway?