It is said that prayer is speaking and meditation is listening.In this time of unprecedented turmoil, so many voices clamber to be heard. It can be hard to tune it and truly hear.
How do you listen?
Each time we sit and close our eyes, permitting attention to move inward resting in the dynamically alive yet profound silence deep within, we release all the chatter of outward life and simply listen. For a time individual identity is merged in it’s oceanic source and this merging, while it may seem solipsistic, is actual a path to deep connection. In truth, no matter our belief’s or personal preferences, we all emerge from this same source. Taking time to truly know this, not in a mere philosophical manner but experientially, we are changed at root. Emerging and moving throughout our day, senses are heightened, sharpened, naturally we sense, with all our senses, more deeply.
Because we inculcate the habit of going deep each day, anywhere we place awareness on the surface of life, it will also spontaneously go deep. This heightening of senses not only impacts how we hear, but how we respond.
This is a natural process and as in all things, it requires learning, a guide to point the way.
How do you listen?
Surrender & Skill October 12, 2020
I grew up at the Jersey Shore. I remember sitting on the rocks of the jetty, the wall built to protect the land and hold the ocean in highest respect for her encroaching power. Sitting there, I would watch the waves powerfully crashing to shore, power apparent. Then the silent return, seemingly so subtle in its movement. It was only when standing in her that I could feel the strength and majesty of that returning current.
One must be in it, locate it to know, experience and utilize its power. So too with our meditation practice. We must locate the inward current and then silently permit awareness to ride naturally to source.
I was also taught to respect the power of the ocean. To read her; to intuit when I was able to playfully ride the waves to shore and when I must surrender and dive deep under her tumultuous power. And always, never to turn my back on her authority. Most importantly, as a child I was taught to look out for rip tides or rip currents. Those impenetrable places unseen from the surface unless eyes are highly sensitized and trained. These powerfully eddies would catch and trap you in their grip. Neither moving in or out, tiring, weakening and frightening you in their grasp as you struggle to be released. You are limited in your strength to fight this sort of power no matter your skill at swimming.
The only hope was surrender. Not in a complacent manner but a respectful one. Release and feel, then at the right moment, whoosh… you would be released. Of course the point of leaning about them was not to get caught in the first place.
This sort of natural power demands respect. We are helpless at the feet of its influence. To project my will only serves to hold me in the rip tide. Awareness heightened, align, surrender and then at the right moment, participate; moving in the desired direction catching what is naturally powerful.
Rip tides are at also at work on the surface of life. We find ourselves caught in the powerful grip of saṃskāric patterns swirling and pulling awareness in a direction unseen until it is too late. We are caught and thrown, thrashing into a repeated pattern we are unable to release. We vow to do better next time but how? We must work on two levels.
1. Just as in the ocean metaphor, we must locate the current that naturally and powerfully moves inward- jyesṭha. Merge into silent source. Its natural effect is not only for the time of practice; this releasing has transformative powers, heightening and refining senses, a settling not just of the mind but of the body too, and in that a slowing down. In this subtle space, expansion occurs and there is a change in our sense of time. More and more these same effects are felt on the surface. We do not emerge from practice unchanged; we bring something back. Just as when we emerge from the ocean, the water may dry but salt is left on the skin.
2. So too the effects of diving into the oceanic depths of being are felt upon emergence. Daily practice feeds and reshapes our response. We are able to see what was previously unseen, the rip tides of our saṃskāric patterns. Senses heightened, space opens between the trigger and our response. This middle space, the madhya, is sacred. Expanding this we are more and more able to choose how to act as opposed to reacting in habitual pattern. In this choosing we naturally align more and more with our heart’s highest values. We become more skillful in enacting the injunction of the Bhagavad-Gita, “Yoga is Skill in Action” not as an inspirational slogan but as a lived experience.
We fulfill the agenda of yoga spoken of in the Yoga Sūtras II.2: increase states of samādhi and attenuate saṃskāras. Samādhi here defined as profound meditative absorption in which the knower and known object are merged and awareness is melted into the profound silence of source that is dynamically potently alive; and saṃskāra, as habitual pattern, a stored impression or residue from a previous thought or action held within the subtle body that triggers outward response.
We work daily at the root, level 1, in our deep meditation practice. Then the addition of the Tantric Masters: the transformation of the prakritic body-mind so that true knowledge and experience in this body may be had; this is level 2. These two levels mutually feed each other and we must participate in order to bring its fruit to bear.
The non-dual Tantric Masters, do not indict life but rather seek to expand and fulfill its promise. To transform life, the vehicle in which life is lived and known must first be refined.
We meditate not only to take refuge in the silence, but to pull from the powerful source of creative intelligence and participate in the transformation of life altogether.
From the One many. Each one of us is an expression of the One. Freely moving out into the relative- what is whole, complete, full, and transcendent- dynamically takes shape. Embodying, permitting the very aliveness of who we come to think of ourselves to be: daughter, sister, wife, friend, teacher, student. As we sit each day to meditate, we permit the natural melting of these relative identities to merge back into source. From the many One.
Visarga śakti, the potency of consciousness; she is the emissional power, the explosion out of transcendence that manifests time, space, form and differentiation; she is also the movement back to Self, simultaneously pulsating in both directions. Every day when we open our senses and take the world in anew, we ride outward on the stream of consciousness, the current of the visarga-śakti, the tradition names vama. When we simply, naturally, close our eyes and permit the heart seed mantra to rise we naturally, innocently ride the inward current to source, named jeyestha; the senior prior, first.
In our surrender to the daily experience of this inner bath, spontaneously the pulsating, driving essence of source, infills every fiber of our being on every possible level; whether we register it or not. Even as we sit here now, in our bodies, using our senses, hearing the words spoken permitting them to land connections made by the mind and ego, inhabiting our individuality, we are simultaneously this individual identity, and cosmic wholeness. Moment by moment in our waking consciousness, indeed as Śiva Sūtra 3.20 states: triṣu caturthaṃ tailavad āsecyam - like oil pouring into every state, this extraordinary natural process, floods our awareness.
Unity and diversity are relevant to identity; in acknowledging our gross level, (sthula) pseudo identities and experiencing a more subtle highest identity, we transform our sense of who we truly are. We are becoming, always becoming more: more present, more knowledgeable, more subtle, more creative, more alive; more our truest self. We are, to be sure, challenged as we engage in the process of awakening, but always a growing sense of joy, of the extraordinary gifts this one simple, potent practice brings. In this, we experience meditation as both sublime and immensely practical. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Like oil pouring into every state, this extraordinary natural process, floods our awareness--- how is this showing up? Always we connect the dots.
How do we reconcile benevolence with horror? The problem of equating an all-good, all-loving God with a world that can be harsh and cruel is one that has taxed theologians for many years.
Of course, we understand from our perspective, which is esoteric, we are not aligning with any deity or form of God as traditionally understood, but rather with the essence of what that figure represents: the creative potent source of all; the dynamic silence from which everything arises and to which everything returns.
Rudra is perhaps the most ancient name for Śiva. As Rudra he howls and is depicted as the “roaring raw essence” – what is he roaring at? Ignorance, stupidity? If so, we can hear him quite loudly now. He is the one slinging his arrows and yet, he is also the one who we entreat for protection. The dual representation of Rudra for me, more accurately reflects the nature of the world in which we live, which is both benign and beautiful as well as harsh and destructive.
To my mind, this reflects both the divine unconditional love we long for, as well as the harshness of the world we experience. Rudra is the divine representation in the early tradition as the “god for all.” He howls for the criminals and the saints; the high and low born and everything in between as opposed to the Brahmanical stance of strict purity and those who are entitled ‘to know.” Rudra guards and protects the animals and humans as well as nature, both large and small-- all are worthy of his attention. Perhaps this is because he sees his reflection everywhere.
The wrath of Śiva then as Rudra, is directed primarily against ignorance and the evil that pervades the human consciousness, and the true nature of the deity is inherently loving and benign. This we come to know, via meditative absorption, is our true nature though clearly, we have evidence of its opposite on full view in the world. What do I howl at? What is causing a roar to rise in my throat?
The name Rudra itself is interpreted in different ways, but the most commonly suggested meaning is as the one who makes a roaring sound, which again connects Rudra with the violence and destructive nature of the world, its storms. He roars and we roar too in our pain; and also, we roar in our delight.
I sign my messages with the word courage. I have done so for years and each time I write it, the truth of the word comes into fuller view. Courage, vīrya in Sanskrit.
Vīrya may be translated as: strength, vitality, power, potency, bravery, courage. We have vīrasana: hero’s pose in yogasana. There are many references to vīrya in the Indian and yoga tradition. Importantly for us in non-dual Śaiva Tantra tradition there is the mantra vīrya; the potency of the heart seed mantra -the hṛdaya-bījā-mantra- that is installed, pratiśta, mantra-pratiśta, the installation of the mantra at the time of initiation. It is whispered from the mouth of the acharya to the ear of the recipient.
It travels, from where to where? The mantra, composed of letters or phonemes, is but a vessel, an empty cup, until it is filled with power, vīrya. This vīrya is drawn forth from the very Heart of Consciousness itself; vīrya, the power of all creation, rests in the heart of the absolute. It is daily practice that renders the pathway to this ‘resting’ space, the portal of the parā, the transcendent, at the junction of the paśyanti, the subtle visioning word, ever clearer. This space of the parā, is both silent and dynamically potent. It is this very same source that our individual awareness moves to in deep meditation. And it is subsequent study applied, that assists the mind in grasping these esoteric teachings, thereby rendering them signposts for what is naturally taking place. The four levels of the word: vaikhari, gross/spoken; madhya, intermediary/thought; paśyanti, visioning/taking shape; parā, transcendent/formless from which all form arises, is a hallmark of the non-dual Śaiva Tantra tradition.
The closer we get to source, the more power inherent in what is received. It is the resting in this source that then renders, individual awareness its increased potency, increased expansion and upon emergence the practitioner is more and more able to draw from this source.
It’s a beautiful picture. I close my eyes and traverse as though on a super highway; what my teacher calls an ‘access ramp’ opens. We move on this inward path to home. Home, source of all creative power, and it is not surprising then, that we begin to understand and experience this vīrya in ever new and potent ways. It is an indication of the ever-burgeoning knowledge that all is indeed consciousness. We get glimpses. Our practice is first and foremost very practical. Aid our capacity to live a full good life, then enlightenment; not the other way around.
It takes great courage to be a fully realized human. To dare to look at all the spaces, both contracted and full. We seek to expand the light, our light into all the contracted dark spaces of self so that we may more authentically know and live from the light of our truest, whole nature. In doing so, we are then able, rendered more capable, to share that light with the world.
Meditate. The world needs you.
OṂ GAṂ GAṆAPATAYE NAMAḤ
OṂ ŚRI GAṆEŚĀYA NAMAḤ
NAMO GAṆEŚĀYA VIGHNEŚVARĀYA
OM! Let us meditate on the benign face of Lord Ganeśa, the face of grace itself!
Let us bow to Ganeśa, the remover of obstacles.
Ganeśa in the Indian tradition, is known as the remover of obstacles. More precisely, he is the energy who stands in relationship to obstacles. We know from our perspective that consciousness is one, whole, eternal. In order for us to exam this perfection, its characteristics, qualities or values are teased out. This is the whole consideration of diversity; what is absolute and whole, out of its freedom, svātantrya-śakti, breaches that wholeness to move into diversity, separation and with that, we experience a profound loss. It is like birth, the child cries at being pulled from their mother’s womb. So, too, we cry, it is a cry of the heart, at being separated from our spiritual mother as it were; from wholeness. It is a palpable ache.
It is this loss, that impels the vama, the outer current, to move like a heat seeking missile to fill the hole created by that loss. We do so in various ways, but because life is in a state of constant flux—not stable and eternal—but temporary and ever changing—that feeling of fullness, completeness, never lasts. So, we are in constant search mode. We intuit that there must be something out there that is solid, lasting, eternal. This, sets us on a path to find that something. It is the awakening of śakti within us always present, but not always available, that sets us on the path to find a teacher and teachings, an authentic sādhanā, that will provide us the framework necessary to begin to understand- to hold, contemplate and above all experience the fullness that is the source of all creation.
Ganeśa is also known as Gaṇapaty, Lord of the gunas, the categories. We seek to align with the highest energy who lords over all the categories. So Ganeśa, he who stands in relationship to obstacles. What is my relationship to the obstacles in my life? Both inner and outer. How do I meet them? Do I move from habitual pattern which lock steps me into furthering my limitation or do I engage, in a new fresh way as I stand upon the ‘ledge of freedom’ that my daily practice permits? This ledge is the natural slowing down, the pause that permits individual awareness to stand free, even for but a moment, between cause and subsequent action. It is the madhya space, the in-between and we begin to see why this space is held as sacred. For in that moment, in that opening, we are able to choose. Of course, it matters what column we are choosing from. Do we choose from the habitual, which is pretty deeply grooved, or something new? This newness may feel odd, clunky even – like the saw that skips over clean wood- it does not quite take hold immediately. But with practice, we create new grooves even, as we sand down the old ones.
The Indian tradition is rich in myth. The mythology of Gaṇapaty is vast. He is said to be the son of Parvati and Śiva. Meant to keep Parvati company, to guard her from unwanted attention, and permit her to focus on what is important, while Śiva is away meditating and doing his deeds in the world. He guards her inner sanctum, where she bathes and readies herself; only admitting those through who have the adhikāra, the readiness, qualification, or entitlement to receive initiation or sacred knowledge.
So, we chant to the 'placeholder' of this energy, Ganeśa, first to remove all inner obstacles that prevent us from entering the inner sanctum of our own abode and bathing in the waters of our own sweet consciousness. It is from this daily bath, that our individual awareness emerges refreshed, rejuvenated, and thus impacts our capacity to meet obstacles on the surface. Meditation is the bow that permits awareness to be pulled back deeply into potent source, such that when we open our eyes, awareness is released; hitting its target with effacacious potency each and every time. How do we stand in relationship to obstacles?
Why do we chant?
There is benefit in raising the voice, a harmonic convergence of sorts. After all, we are beings of vibration and we respond to vibration. The Sanskrit language has a potency and richness unparalleled. There is no need to even know the meaning, if there is one, the vibration itself is healing. But those who have a regular practice of meditation, receive so much more. For those, due to the time spent in that inner sanctum of deep samādhi, when chanting or reciting, it calls forth that sweetness like an echo and once again, we are immediately refreshed, bathed in the potent water of source. Meditation is the gift that keeps on giving.
We do not meditate for any one session, no matter how sweet or fiery, but for the cumulative effect. Like putting money in the bank, so that when it is needed, it is there.
We rehearse these themes again and again. Always jñāna and vijñāna- the Śaiva Tantra exquisite understanding of knowledge and experience. We give the mind something to hold on to, something to lean into until recognition dawns in our experience.
Neelakantha Meditation- what are we doing? Neelakantha Meditation is a simple profound and elegant practice. It is natural. It is innocent. It requires of us only that we surrender.
It is natural, not forceful. We say yes, there is a discipline at the surface of life. We’re creating the nirodha-saṃskāras as the Yoga Sutra so beautifully clarifies. But then also it is just the fact that this pulsation of consciousness, as it is increasingly powerfully present within us, just entices us. And we don’t even have to think. It’s not a decision. We’re just drawn to close our eyes and to deepen into that uplifted state. We use the natural inbuilt mechanism of the mind to want more. The heart seed mantra is the tool “man + tra”. We apply it like a pair of pliers, we leverage the endeavor.
It is innocent. Innocence is not naivete. It is not childish though it is pure in its enactment as the child is in her wonder. We do not manipulate or force. We sit and accept what shows up knowing that if it is sweet, it is healing and nourishing. And if it is fiery or agitating, it is benevolent in that it is ridding the body- mind of what hinders the light- always there- to shine more fully.
It requires only surrender. What are we surrendering? Surrender is not giving up. It is not complacency. It is permitting, for a short time, the release of our individual identity- of who we know ourselves to be- and permit awareness to bath in its oceanic, vibrant, rich source. So that when we open our eyes and take in the world, we see more clearly, more truly.
Of course, this fades. So, much like the daily bath we take for our outer body, we must dive in again and again and again.
My most fervent desire is that all individuals will know the powerful treasure they hold within their very beings. In this we create both an individual and collective ‘heaven on earth’ even in hellish times.
Courage. I’ve contemplated, wrote and signed off with Courage for so many years now- certainly it is available to be drawn from the ‘bank account’ of practice. I feel simultaneously up to the task and so very inadequate. Courage—from the French cour and sage—or at least that is how I like to think of it, courage as ‘wisdom of the heart.’ The marriage of intellect and highest compassion coupled with the capacity to confront and in that, access whatever skill held to act in accordance with the heart’s deepest desire.
The Heart here defined as Consciousness writ large, the source of all creative impulse and manifestation and also its dissolution. To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, it is the home of “our better angels.” How can we listen? How can we invite this wisdom? We must go there, experience must be had, there is no other way.
I have spent many years forging a clearer path to the Heart; I have steeped and continue to do so daily, in its dynamic throb. I have soaked in the light of Consciousness and take great comfort from its unending source and I feel the pain of challenge not less, but oh so much more potently! How can this be? Meditation makes you stronger and also weaker; weaker to do that which is deleterious to cultivating our higher circumstance. Perhaps this is why I cannot look away from the terror that is all around now in the time of Covid 19, and feel it more acutely.
My inadequacy to the task at hand has me grieving. Yes, I fear for myself and those I love but it is so much deeper than that. Truly I am not worried about myself. I will move through with grace as cultivation of grace is ongoing. But how can I assist and ease the suffering I feel mounting? It is hard to separate the personal from the public here and I am not sure it is even warranted.
So, I continue to nurture courage and the heightened capacity to act with skill and compassion. In communicating with our various groupings, we fertilize the seed of desire. The incipient sprout needs tender care to blossom. It matters. What we do matters even if it is simply to add a drop of courage to the collective bucket of light, the scale is tipped.
Tend Your Garden March 11, 2020
When you wake up one morning and the air smells fresh and clean, the sun pulsing a bit warmer, the harsh breeze of winter now softening, something stirs in the heart and we instinctively know, it’s time to plant! We yearn to get outside and put our hands in the dirt. For some, this is literal, we really do want to plant our garden; plan out the vegetables and flowers that will bring nourishment and beauty to both the body and soul. Regardless of whether this vision calls to you, all humans have an inbuilt mechanism, a cyclic clock that signals that it is time to begin anew.
Spring is synonymous with beginning but in truth we can begin at any time, even right this moment. We reap what we sow, say the scriptures. What are you planting? What is the condition of the soil in which you place the tender seed? How do you nourish it?
When one wishes to plant a garden, they look at pictures of what the seeds will become. Choosing what speaks to our desire, we purchase the necessary items that will support the project and off we go. We cannot leave the seeds in the packet and hope they will somehow magically grow. There is work to be done, we must make the soil ready.
Meditation is both the tilling of the soil and the planting of the seed. It is up to each individual to daily nourish the ground of their being so that naturally life burgeons. Whatever we wish to do on the surface of life flourishes. Even if we are not quite sure what that something is, in time it will show itself. Think of this simple teaching from the Upanishads, “water the roots." For a plant to blossom the roots must be watered. We can sprinkle water on the leaves and flowers and they may look good for a while, but this is really window dressing, and ultimately, it will not grow. The same holds true for humans. We want not to just survive but to thrive! Take awareness to source, “water the root of attention” and then anywhere you place attention life blossoms. It is cumulative in effect, refining the body-mind and heightening the senses which is, after all, the way we perceive, take the world in and offer our gifts back.
The world needs you it needs me it needs all of us. It is tempting to think one person cannot make much of a difference but this is incorrect. Yes, our meditation practice is personal, it is for us and in knowing the source of who we truly are, we understand, we experience authentically, that we are all already and always connected. Raise the consciousness of one being and effect those they touch. This effect ripples out into the world. It’s not magic, but it is mysterious and it is real.
So, on this day, I am sending you love, light and perpetual encouragement to dive deep and water your roots. Tend to your garden, meditate. The world needs you.
Ah, the sweet recognition that what you seek has been yours all along. Love the one you’re with. Another name for self-love. Truly love the one you’re with, not in some solipsistic or surface animation- but truly, madly, deeply, love the one you’re with. This is the love the ecstatic poets speak of. This is the message of yoga. Devotion in the highest most powerful sense. This is the gift of deep meditation.
To share love, we must first know love. Love is light, the source of everything that naturally calls to us, because it is who we truly are. As much as we may try, we cannot convince ourselves of this from the surface of life. First, says yoga, go in, know your heart, steep in the love found there. Let it pervade the body/mind, flowing into all the nooks and crannies, gross and subtle. Then, naturally bring the light of love out in all you do. The more we root in that love, the more we stabilize our home in the heart, the more naturally, what will spill out, is love. To be self-less one must first be Self-full. Love the one you're with.
Welcome the Great Light 12.24.19
Winter Solstice celebrates the growing return of the light. As the earth spins on her axis, she tilts and the light always present begins to show itself more and more each day. We welcome this yearly ritual and, in its honoring, we symbolically welcome the light that is always present in each heart to blossom more fully.
I understand it is the darkness that lends the light a stage upon which to present her glory. It is the dark that brings rest and a sweet sort of silence that the sound of light may trumpet her arrival.
Of course, I don’t always remember or embrace this when darkness seems unending and often cruel. Still, they are partners darkness and light. They pulse and dance in unison, in an embrace so close it is often hard to tell which is leading.
So, I close my eyes each day and rest in the darkness, in the sweet silence of source that I may hear her secrets; know her truth, find steadiness and love in the core of my being, the core of each being. The darkness in a way births the light, and the light rests in darkness.
No matter where our physical body stands, always we meet in the great heart. Upon opening my eyes then, once more the world looks new as the light of my individual awareness illuminates the objects of the world and I astonishingly see, hear, smell, touch and taste the light as though it were for the first time.
This is the gift of contrast. The experience in which one, permits the other a moment of glory, be it sound or silence, darkness or light. The gift of meditation is one that keeps this experience alive. And it is more than fleeting experience, it is the gift of knowledge that permits one to embrace both dark and light in each life and in doing so, move closer to the living experience of light as source, anchor and home.
In this blessed season as many celebrate the return of light in the physical world and in the heart of humans as represented by the loving words holy beings shouted from the hillsides and temples, churches and ashrams, mosques and basement rooms, I wish you peace.
May you know the light of your own sweet heart. May it swell and spill out into the world in all you do, big and small, each day, in potent forms of love.
Sva Mahāprakāśa! Welcome the Great Light.
There is a gap between what is and what might be. Creativity, the creative act, is the universal human need to bridge that gap say the experts.
For some that gap is so large that the imagination cannot begin to conjure a bridge of any sort let alone one that carries the self forward.
The fundamental human urge to create holds infinite possibility. Nourish the soil. Be astonished at what blossoms even as you meet the challenge of tending. Love, found in the heart of each being, is the fertilizer that feeds the soil. This is why I meditate. To nourish myself, to have access to that nourishment and share it in whatever manner each meeting of person, place or thing allows; to be astonished, camatkāra, at what is manifested. The infinite creativity of consciousness writ large exists in each one.
From the perspective of knowledge and experience there is also a gap. A gap between what we intuit, feel, experience in the deepest part of ourselves and what the mind can grasp and understand. This is also why I meditate. I long to bridge that gap, to possess the power to share the intimacy of that experience as an offering to the world in all I do. Can you imagine what that might look like? To infuse each thing you do in the power of love? I spend some part of each day, twice a day steeping in it.
Love is not visible and yet we continually seek to possess it. Love does exist in tangible form as beauty, as object of affection. This may bring joy or misery but is dependent on relationship with other. Regardless, it will morph, it will end, as all on the surface does. This ending does not diminish our desire to know love in life, only to be more skillful at welcoming and engaging. The potent, endless source of love is within. Know your deepest self, build a bridge between what is and what might be.
Be astonished. Meditate.