The Karmic Sandwich

By Acharya Shambhu

In the prior posts of Opening the Heart and Deeper Understanding of the Ego, we explored the intellect, ego, and mind. The ancient nondual Tantric masters provided us with a map which describes simultaneously the contraction of Consciousness (descent of Consciousness into form) and expansion of consciousness (rising from form in Consciousness). The map contains 36 levels, with Consciousness the highest at 1. In Sanskrit, these layers of creation are called tattvas, meaning “that-ness”. Over time we will discuss all the 36 tattvas, but for now let’s direct the magnifying glass at the middle of the ladder.

Most human beings function below the level of ego with limited capacity to look up. Ego and mind are considered levels 15 and 16 respectively, i.e. ego and mind are 15-16 levels removed from Consciousness. Levels 1-14 are extremely well obscured by the gravitational pull of the ego. The ego reinforces our limited identity, keeping us stuck at the middle of the ladder – we are literally stuck in no-man’s land. Let’s discover which tattvas sit on either side of the ego (i.e. below and above the ego), what that means in terms of our daily experience, and what we can do to begin to look up.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Below the cognitive inner organs (mind, ego, intellect), sit the lower 20 layers depicted on the chart below, which represent the gross and subtle elements, the powers of perception, and the powers of action. Nathaji (Swami Khecaranatha) guides us,
In terms of our spiritual growth, we seek to internalize the energy contained on these levels in order to transcend the misunderstanding that our interaction with material life is something outside ourselves.

The ancient inner scientists appropriately called the organs of action karmendriyas (karma means action). Through our self-willful actions, using the organs of action (our words, the acts we perform with our hands using our ability to move around with our feet, our reproductive abilities), we could hurt other people, creating karma in the process. Unfortunately, we so often use our free will to perform actions that bind us, reinforcing the concealment from our Divine nature. These actions are choices we make on a moment-by-moment basis. It is always a good idea before we say something or do something to consider: first, out of what place are we about to act from, and second, what could the ramifications of our actions be?

Above the cognitive inner organs sits nature (prakriti). Nature is where the objectification of consciousness happens with the end result being the Universe as we know it, from a grain of sand on the beach to the countless galaxies. Prakriti is the amazing expression of the Divine, the choice of the Divine, out of the bliss of its own existence, to choose to conceal itself in creation in order to feel the joy of finding itself again and again. Scripture describes this as the play of Consciousness.

Prakriti does not just encompass the material objects of creation, but also the non-material objects of creation, i.e. the objects of our imagination from our dreams and our mind-created stories. So, Prakriti creates both external and internal objects. The essence of Prakriti is what are called the three gunas, the three qualities that make up nature: sattva (light, harmony, virtuous, positivity, purity, clarity), rajas (activity – both bad and good, energy, passion, egoism), and tamas (darkness, inertia, chaos, apathy, violence, delusion). The gunas pervade all the layers below Prakriti ¬¬– we can determine that based on our own experience of people and places, sometimes we sense light or activity or inertia in various proportions of the three gunas. We can also detect the three gunas in our mind-created stories. For example, a common raja tendency is to keep the mind active to a point where we are always trying to achieve something in the world and are constantly planning our next move.

The Karmic Sandwich

Rudi used to say that karma is a shit sandwich we don’t have to eat. I borrowed that yummy metaphor to illustrate the karmic sandwich. As human beings, we feel both much external and internal friction. We feel friction externally as we engage the field of objectivity (other people, objects, and situations) – our ego meets other people’s egos in the process of trying to find a sense of accomplishment by pursuing money, career, etc. Internally, in our minds, we may struggle with our own self-worth and wonder what to do or not do in order to feel better about ourselves. Using the organs of action, we act out in the world from our patterns and create consequences from our actions. Endless causes and effects, both from ours and other people’s actions, interact in what I call the field of activity, creating the state of the world as we know it. We all run karma sandwich food trucks, competing who will create the best tasting karma sandwich!

Nondual scripture talks about the three veils of duality, “I am separate,” “I am different,“ and “I am the doer.” “I am different” relates to the perpetuation of duality by reinforcing our sense of individuality in the field of objectivity through our ego. “I am the doer” is an outcome of our self-serving actions in the field of activity. Both veils are an outcome from the primal veil, “I am separate.” The illusions of doership and differentiation can only exist because of the illusion of separation.

Ultimately, we understand that we have to stop acting out of our own will to free ourselves from all veils of duality, but in this discussion, we are concerned with karma, which results from the friction between our ego and the fields of objectivity and activity. Burning our karma frees us from the veils of “I am different” and “I am the doer.”

Tattvas 12 36

Repetition of Patterns Sustains Karma and Creation of New Patterns Creates Karma

Understanding our own patterns is important as they represent our karma, which we must burn to find our freedom. Karma is the repetition or creation of patterns created from willful, self-serving actions which reinforce our limited understanding and bind us from knowing God. Nathaji insightfully says,

We try to have an outlet for all this pain, compression, tension, and pattern—and generally this means reaching out and doing something to somebody else. In this state of pain and confusion we are not concerned with freeing ourselves. We are simply trying to relieve the pain at whatever cost, and so we generate karma, the inevitable result of our self-serving actions.

Repetition of patterns reinforces our karma: Pattern -> Contraction -> Tension:
• Pattern of self-absorption -> we contract when we do not get what we want (job, money, etc.) -> we express that contraction as tension in the form of negativity: “Life is not fair,” or being pushy in life, or mowing over people to get what we want.
• Pattern of self-rejection -> we contract when we perceive we failed in something -> we express that contraction as tension by blaming the situation or people for our perceived failure, thereby externalizing our excuses.

Creation of a new Pattern creates karma: Tension -> Contraction -> Pattern:
• If we allow ourselves to become tense and keep contracting over the same thing, we create a pattern.

If we truly wish to grow, the last thing we want is the creation of new patterns. Instead, we must focus on uncovering existing patterns and dissolving their grip over us. We develop greater self-reflective capacity by surrendering our patterns as they arise.

Looking Up - How Do We Free Ourselves from Karma?

Nathaji and Rudi give us the following eloquent guidance about how to deal with karma. There isn’t much I can add to their wise words.

1. Functioning from the heart allows us to create enough perspective to see karma as it approaches around the bend. From this perspective, we choose not to engage karma in the first place, by using our discriminating awareness (tattva 14 from the chart above). Rudi advises,

A deepening spirituality allows you to avert potentially negative situations. As you work to surrender spiritually you become more sensitive to your karma, your life patterns. The word karma could be loosely translated as fate, the effects of past actions. By being sensitive to our fate, we can recognize the danger of a potential situation and not enter into it. A man who is wise enough or evolved and sensitive enough to see the buildup of an event can avoid or minimize its negative aspect.

2. The highest action is non-action. Be still and act from a place of clarity. Nathaji reveals,

Find that stillness of awareness. This is the platform from which we can make truly conscious choices. My advice is that when you are not in a place of stillness, don’t make any choices, and don’t spew negativity and tension onto the people who love you. When we are reactive, we either end up apologizing later, or we justify ourselves by saying, ‘You deserve it . . . it’s your fault!’

Open and surrender until you find stillness inside. Otherwise the effect of our action is the creation of karma. This is not something we can postpone doing until some future time, thinking, ‘I am not yet strong enough.’ It is always now, in this moment, that we must be willing to let go and be changed. We are either growing or not growing. When we doubt and second-guess, it is just a sign that the ego is trying to grip us.

3. Digest the energy of the karma in the flow or simply let go of it in our consciousness. According to Kundalini practices, the inner mechanism comprised of the chakras and the sushumna, contains lifetimes of impressions from patterns, contractions, and karma. These impressions clog our inner system, inhibiting the flow of higher energies and consciousness. Put differently, we can think of patterns, contractions, and karma as energies that are not in motion. This is intuitive when you think about it – what is really self-identity? It is a static idea, a creation of our ego, of who we think we are. Its nature is stagnation, that is, energy not in motion.

Nathaji explains,

Creating flow exposes our karma. What is revealed are all the patterns of self-absorption and self-serving that we have created in this and past lifetimes. Those patterns are the coalescence of all our tensions, attachments, contractions, and resistance. That is what forces us to repeat the same thing, over and over again—usually projected at the world and the people in it. This is how we create karma.

The bumper sticker about karma reads: You Did It, Now Undo It. We must free ourselves from our karma. In order to do that, we have to work in the place from which the karma was created—but by relating to the dynamic as an energy field and not as a particular circumstance. When we find ourselves in a karmic relationship, we have to separate from the specifics of the engagement. We do this by recognizing that there is a pattern of energy in that situation which is trapped on the merry-go-round of our life. We understand what part of us created it, and ask, ‘How do I free myself of it?’ Freeing ourselves doesn’t mean saying, ‘Okay, bye,’ and walking away.

We can’t just walk away from our karma. We can’t escape it, nor should we want to, because there is tremendous energy and freedom available to us in liberating ourselves from karmic patterns and relationships. So many times those dynamics are really powerful and really painful. If we are conscious, our karmic relationships will expose extraordinary limitations within us. If we are unconscious, we always believe our tensions and our contractions are someone else’s fault!

What people do to us is their karma; how we react is ours. As this torrential flow of flow is released within us, it exposes all misunderstanding, all limitation. We don’t beat ourselves up because we have misunderstood. It’s better to embrace our misconceptions so that we can be clear of them. We don’t get involved and dramatic, but instead accept any revelation with an openness that expresses, ‘This is part of my limited understanding of the truth of life and I want it to be exposed. I want to burn it up in the fire of Consciousness.’

Rudi reveals,

To fulfill past karma, it is essential to gather the energies of the past into our consciousness and then to empty our consciousness of them.

We Must Free Ourselves from the Energy Bound in Our Ego-based Stories and Develop the Capacity to Penetrate through Concealment

In my experience, it has been important to get quiet and do self-inquiry to become aware of my mind-created stories. However, the minor details of our stories are not important. It is our energy, bound by those stories, that we must free as fuel for our growth. I think it is important to know why we close, just as it is important to understand the energies of the ego. Yet, we have to keep our practice simple: every moment we are presented with a binary choice of either to open or to close.

We should learn to consume our contractions as they arise. We can do that in the heart and/or stillness and/or in the flow. Otherwise, by the time we are finished analyzing why we closed, the energy of the contraction might be gone until some future time when it will resurface again. We will progress faster when we choose to open no matter what, despite the pain, because behind the pain of letting go of our carefully constructed self-identity, absolute freedom reveals itself.

Exercise – shedding of ego/identity into awareness
Do Exercise 1 from the Opening the Heart blog until you experience a sense of deep stillness.

1. As we tune into the heart and as we let go of whatever arises in the heart, our deeper discriminating awareness begins to see thoughts as they begin to arise.
2. Notice that there is a revving of energy, an impulse, before the thought takes form.
3. As we stay in that level of awareness, we begin to have the insight that the initial impulse is simply the pulsation of the heart. It is only our ego that takes that impulse and molds it into form, i.e. thoughts and thought constructs, to reinforce our separation from our own heart.
4. Fall deeper into the pulsation of the heart. Let go of your sense of identity.
5. Allow a deeper opening to take place, a simple presence, a sense of being, where you have melted completely in pure awareness.
6. Be patient with this meditation, allow pure awareness to reveal itself.

“Karma is a shit sandwich you do not have to eat.” Swami Rudrananda

 

Claim the Extraordinary

By Acharya Shambhu

BlogDonald Epstein said that “Unless you claim extraordinary, ordinary claims you.” Everyday we make a choice between what Swami Rudrananda called being buried by "the silt of life" and becoming bigger than every day life i.e. discovering our own magnificence. I do not know any other way to do that, but to do serious spiritual work. It requires dedication and effort to commit to freedom from ego and limited identity, so that the soot of ego and everyday living can be polished to reveal the inner light that is always shining in all circumstances, easy or difficult. Only by engaging life we can become free of our limitations. It is in the friction between our limited identity and life that we fulfill the very reason for our being - freedom. Let's live life with an intention for freedom - this is the difference between claiming the extraordinary and being claimed by the ordinary.

 

 

 

 

The Bath Upāyas (The Bath Practices)

By Acharya Shambhu

image1The Bath Upāyas were inspired by verse 152 of the Vijñānabhairava Tantra, which you can find at the end of this post. I noticed a few years into my practice that doing the various exercises given by my teacher often resulted in what I would call “taking an internal shower.” Verse 152 validates these experiences and also reminds me of something that Rumi said: “Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” It’s a great advice, but how do we do that?

I live on Kauai and one of the favorite tourist spots is Queen’s Bath, a truly amazing coastal pool that looks like a giant bathtub. While taking a bath in an ocean bathtub or a regular bathtub with salts, oils, and rose petals etc can be relaxing and purifying for the physical body, there are much more potent baths, presented here in order of their effectiveness in their ability to melt the ice of our identity. The real royal bath is in the deepest core of our own being.

An iceberg becomes a chunk of ice, then a snowflake, then a drop of water, then vapor, then air, then ether, then space, then nothingness beyond time and space.

Doing these baths in the logical order they are presented, helps us to naturally and gradually tap into deeper levels of our own energies and awareness. We wash ourselves of ourselves one layer at a time, revealing deeper and deeper levels of cleanliness i.e. freedom. Doing all the baths in one session can be very powerful.

Here, I introduce in ascending order, the Bath Upāyas, the various means of bathing and purification, of washing oneself from oneself. I could have used the term the Bath Tattvas, the principles of bathing. According to Wikipedia, the Sanskrit word tattva means 'thatness', 'principle', 'reality' or 'truth'. A tattva is an element or aspect of reality. By grace, the Divine has embedded at all levels of creation purification principles, i.e. identity escape valves, which manifest in these techniques.

Of course the Bath Upāyas are not different from the traditional Tantrik upāyas. They are just another way to describe the levels of purification.

PRANIC BATH. Sustained breathing in and out at different time intervals and pauses and varying degrees of intensity bathes the body at the level of breath, i.e. physical life force. There are various martial arts, yogic, chi gong etc potent breathing exercises, whether aligned or not with different body movements, that can be extremely invigorating.

MANTRIC BATH. Chanting can be a powerful bath at the sonic level, tapping into the power of sound to move energy, thus removing energy blocks. I prefer using bija (seed) mantras like OM, HAMSA, SOHAM, SAUH, etc in sync with the breath.

TENSION RELEASE BATH. This is a unique idea introduced by Swami Rudrananda (Rudi). It’s a technique called tension release, the simple asking inside the energy centers to release all mental and emotional blocks. This creates an openness and flow of energy.

ENERGY FLOW BATH. We can develop the capacity to internalize our own life force which is normally extended out via the senses and mind (thoughts, emotions). We can reverse that outflow into a flow down the front of the body and up the back of the body, creating a complete circuit. Like a river, this pranic flow washes our tensions. Rudi’s double breath exercise is just one of many techniques that can be used to stimulate and sustain that flow.

RESONANCE BATH. The energy flow over time, as we surrender to it, exposes a liberating current within itself, which is its source. What is exposed is a Star War’s like light saber that vibrates from the base of the spine to the third eye, center of the head, or crown, with the resonance becoming subtler the higher it goes. There is no movement of energy, but resonance. We are like a sitar or guitar string that the Divine can create melodies with!

STILLNESS BATH. As we get still inside that resonance, movement of energy slows down and vibrates into a single still point (center of the heart, center of the head) or the innermost channel of the central channel. We miniaturize ourselves into a simple yet incredibly vibrant single point. Its quite refreshing!

AWARENESS BATH. The subtlest resonance of energy, as we get still, expands into unbounded awareness. We immerse ourselves into the Ocean of Consciousness. “The essence of one’s own Self is freedom, bliss and pure consciousness. (The purifying) bath is said to be the penetration in all respects of one’s own Self into that essential nature.” Verse 152 of the Vijñānabhairava Tantra translated by Mark Dyczkowski.

HOW CLEAN DO YOU WANT TO BE? THE CHOICE IS YOURS. HAPPY BATHING!

 

Practical Meditation Pointers...That Cut Across and Illuminate All Techniques

By Acharya Shambhu

The heart is the most sacred of all places, go there and roam.” Bhagavan Nityananda

I have pursued a spiritual path and have meditated for almost 20 years, most of which I spent doing non-dual Tantric practices. Reflecting on my experience in the context of Bhagavan Nityananda’s sage advice for one to seek the shortest and most direct path to Shiva, I can’t help but notice a few insights that might be helpful to fellow seekers – this is the humble purpose of this contemplation. None of the content here is meant to be soundbites, but an invitation to truly, deeply, explore these pointers in one’s own practice.

Shiva candles with textFor me, this is a journey to and into the Inexplicable. The essence of the Inexplicable is the Enduring Revelation of Presence - my mouthful preferred term to Enlightenment, Liberation, Self-realization, etc. I use this term to reflect that from the highest perspective, the only thing we need to do is to remember. That’s it, it is all very simple. Presence is always there, it is revealed and stabilized permanently in our moment-by-moment experience through the pointers discussed here. These pointers fuel our capacity for pure insight (pratibha), which cuts through the veils of duality, ultimately revealing the Inexplicable.

During the journey, I have fallen into multiple traps – obsession with doing the techniques perfectly, the belief that the journey is a slow grind, unconscious separation of spiritual life and everyday life, spiritual bypass, unconscious over-reliance on the guru versus having and strengthening my own connection to the Divine, etc. Note how each of these traps reinforces duality with varying subtlety, in effect making the path itself an obstacle. This insight has been a major revelation for me, completely changing my practice, allowing me to go much deeper than ever before.

I realize now that there are several crucial pointers that naturally resolve these traps, illuminate any meditation technique, and allow one to accelerate the journey. These pointers make the journey much less mechanical and much more personalized, allowing the seeker to have increasingly deeper heart-to-heart with that which is being sought, until the slightest distinction between seeker, means of seeking, and the sought, is completely dissolved.

The salmon has no choice but to journey back home, because the beacon (grace) is always calling. Enduring Revelation of Presence inevitably arises. Freedom is inevitable. But, how can we make the journey at least a bit faster and more natural? We are all familiar with this amazing statement by Archimedes: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Lifting this statement (pun intended) from the great Archimedes into a spiritual context, suitably puts together the pointers I am trying to describe below in a coherent practical framework:

“Give me surrender long enough and stillness on which to place it, and I shall move the Universe, to reveal the Inexplicable.”

I truly believe, based on my humble experience, that all these pointers can and should be applied to any meditation technique. Without these pointers, not only secret treasures will continue to be lost in the field of duality, but most importantly not found. DO NOT TRUST ME, trust your own experience, try these pointers, and see what happens.

1) INTENTION. Intention is the focusing of our life force to seek the highest purpose of our life, to move the Universe to reveal its source, pure Divine Presence. Intention gives us direction. Initially, intention feels like a booster of a spaceship that allows us to rise above the gravitational pull of the ego. In every meditation, and every day when we open our eyes first thing in the morning, set the intention to tune into the home beacon. Just take a breath in the heart center and feel that call (grace) to go back home. If you can’t feel grace, say silently in the heart center a few times whatever mantra works for you: “Show me the truth,” “Show me what is Real,” “Help me open my heart,” “I wish to grow,” etc. Wait until some openness happens. Then do your meditation or go about your day and hold onto that intention. Swami Rudrananda made an incredible statement that the wish to grow for a human being is the most powerful force in the Universe. Our intention, at its deepest, is pure Divine will seeking to remember its Source, expressed at the level of the individual. Devotion is another way to describe this self-referential power – it arises from pure Consciousness. Bhagavan Nityananda said: “As is your devotion, so is your liberation.” That’s why intention is so powerful. To put it in practical terms, do not seek the object of your longing, seek its source. In meditations, sense intention as a field of subtle energy or awareness, feel deeper and deeper inside it, until all distinctions between seeker, means of seeking, and the sought, just go poof. Ironically, holding onto intention at its surface layer, reinforces the distinction between the seeker and that which is being sought. We end up creating another sticky identity: “I am a spiritual seeker.” You are the one you have been looking for all along – discover this mystery in your own experience by feeling deeper and deeper into the energy/awareness of intention.

2) SURRENDER. Surrender leads us from the experience of us doing the work to a point where the Divine takes over. All of a sudden, the Divine begins to do the work, we are being worked. We have moved into effortless effort. It is important to reach the point where the big boss takes over, otherwise we are stuck in an illusory loop of us doing something to get somewhere, reinforcing duality. There are several important aspects of surrender.

      A) BE WILLING TO DROP THE CRUTCH. We have to realize that the meditation technique is just a crutch. The crutch is not the end, it is just a means. Abhinavagupta said in Ch. 4 of the Tantrasara, translated by Christopher Wallis: “None of the ‘Limbs of Yoga’ are a direct means to the goal, though they may support discernment. Accurate discernment & insight (sat-tarka) alone is a direct means to that [goal of awakening & liberation].” Also, we can drive ourselves crazy with and get lost in the rich menu of powerful meditation techniques the ancient Tantric masters have bequeathed to us. The crutches range from external (rituals, chants, etc), the body, the senses, the breath, mantras, energy centers/channels, awareness, etc. These masters are saying that anything is a way to go back home, and how can it not be, when everything is an expression of Consciousness. To prove that anything can lead to immersion, for example, I have had meditations of simply feeling the tension in my jaws, and soon after pure awareness is revealed inside the physical tension. Try this – in meditations, follow the crutch until there is a shift in your awareness or some energy openness, then drop the crutch, abide in whatever is being revealed. Do not spend the entire meditation trying to perfect the technique. If after some time practicing the technique, it does not bring you to a point where you feel a shift in energy or awareness, drop it altogether, it does not work for you, try another technique. Simpler techniques seem to be more effective. The quicker a meditation technique brings about a shift, the better it works, as it allows one to spend the majority of meditation surrendered into a new level of awareness where one can allow revelation to happen, rather than expending a lot of effort trying to get there. Any meditation technique is just a bridge, do not stay on the bridge, the view is way better on the other side. Be willing to drop the crutch, be curious, find out what is beyond the prop. Another way to look at this is to view the crutch itself as the end and let go into it so deeply that it naturally evaporates into its source - the Sky of Consciousness.

     B) TRULY ACCEPT WHERE YOU ARE, FEEL INTIMACY WITH WHAT IS. Human beings have a natural tendency to avoid pain and seek pleasure. We also apply this pattern in our meditations. We try to change an uncomfortable state into a more acceptable state, we try to be alchemists transmuting base metal into gold, not knowing that the metal is already gold! Being an alchemist only reinforces duality, as we are imposing our will, actually strengthening our sense of separation, rather than loosening it. Start the meditation and your day just “feeling into” whatever state you are experiencing, do not try to control or manipulate it. Do not struggle with the mind, i.e. thoughts and emotions. Feel intimacy with what is, with whatever is arising in your awareness moment-by-moment. Nurture child-like curiosity, dig into all experiences, feel the juice in everything that arises in your awareness. This process frees our ordinary object-based awareness to melt into awareness being aware of itself (vimarsha). There is a natural shift to simply being, there is nothing to do, but to deeply feel the still nature of awareness (see Adyashanti’s book True Meditation for a great discussion of this topic). Only from this still place we can understand the dynamic creative aspect of awareness. My experience is that it is more beneficial to “go inside” i.e. truly feel/listen to/sense whatever is happening in awareness/body/emotions/thoughts, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable. This leads directly to the source of the experience – it can be said that we are following whatever has arisen or arising in our awareness back to its source. Taking the stance of being with what is, resolves a major trap for many seekers – spiritual bypass – and naturally addresses non-attachment. We are fully embracing what is, embracing every way the Goddess Shakti has chosen to express her creativity. In the process of immersion into what is, we develop the capacity to feel the source of everything as opposed to being caught in the surface waves of external creation and ego. Where is attachment in moment-by-moment experience when we are anchored in the Source of everything, drinking the nectar of life, basking in the glow of life?

     C) SURRENDER ALL YOU KNOW, ALL YOU THINK YOU ARE … AND MORE. Human beings are incredibly complex – we have bodies, senses, emotions, thoughts, mind, egos, memories, stories, beliefs, patterns, etc. In meditation we have to reach a point where we are willing to drop the laundry list of our complexity. The telltale sign we are approaching that point is the emergence of resistance or fear. These are the moments where we have to really let go and simply go into the resistance or fear. At some point it just falls away. Swami Rudrananda said it beautifully: “Life is profound only in its simplicity.” We have to surrender all we know and think we are so that the light of Consciousness (prakasha) can illuminate our limited understanding. In meditations, keep on surrendering until there is no sense of you as an individuated consciousness. This is called Samavesha, being absorbed in, or penetrating into Consciousness. Imagine there are two candles burning and shining, always-on. One is the candle of absolute knowledge of God Consciousness. The other one is the candle of God’s Love. Which one will you choose? Pause for a second, reflect on this question. In Sutra 59 of Bhatta Narayana’s Stava Cintamani (The magical jewel of devotion) translated by Swami Lakshmanjoo, Bhatta chooses the candle of Love. Why? Because when there is knowledge, there is something to be known. Some shades of darkness are bound to appear, as there are still traces of two, a seeker and that which is being sought. In the candle of Love, there is no possibility of any darkness, because Love just is. Drop everything you know, just drop it. If you have to, use this mantra: “I don’t know shit.” We ultimately have to surrender the illusions that we are the doer, that we are different, and that we are separate. To achieve the latter, we have to drop our will at the feet of Shiva. We are one step closer to this ultimate surrender by dropping first all we know. Wait a second – why don’t I just drop my will; wouldn’t this be a shortcut? This might be a good idea. Why don’t we give it a try? Give up the idea that we have to be martyrs and hobble our way into the source, it does not have to be a grind, it can be and is the joyful journey back home, the joyous offering of our limited will into the arms of Shiva. In meditations, feel your identity (stories, patterns, etc), actions, knowledge, and will as energies/awareness, let them go into the heart center/other stillness points or central channel, bathing them in higher energies and awareness. This has been a huge revelation for me – that “me/I” is an energy field/an idea/a thought and if I can just let go of it, I do not die, I get re-born, baptized in the flow of the river of life, whose source is the Inexplicable.

3) STILLNESS IS THE LEVERAGE POINT. This is a much more nuanced topic, but to simplify it, it can be said that the energies of life have two directions. One is external direction, which is object-based. Shakti, the power of Shiva, is exploring endless creative possibilities at the level of form. The external forces are gravitational and magnetic, they are designed to draw us out of our center, the form-based concealment power of Shakti. Internal direction is subject-based, where the subject processes both the external and internal energies. The subject on a more superficial level uses the energies of the mind (thoughts, intellect, emotions), and on a deeper level accesses the energy body where the subject begins to “feel” everything on a non-conceptual level. There is a still point in between external and internal directions that stabilizes all movement of energy, revealing the source of all energies - Consciousness. In my experience, stillness is the gateless gate. Stillness, per my teacher, Swami Khecaranatha, is the resonance of Presence. In his book, Depth over Time, there is a wonderful chapter on stillness where he discusses stillness of breath, awareness, desire, and will. Swami Khecarantha illuminates, “We open the door into inner stillness and Divine Presence by finding a place of profound simplicity within ourselves.” There are multiple still points that are dimensionless and timeless – they are the entryways into the Enduring Revelation of Presence. One of them is in heart center, another one in the center in the head, yet another one at the upper Dvadasanta. The innermost thread in the central channel also resonates with stillness. By grace, there are multiple entryways into Paradise. We might experience all our energies and awareness condensing and resonating into one of those still points. At other times, there is an opening on the other side of the still points into pure Presence. It is our willingness to surrender deep enough in our practice and during the day that allows us to tune our awareness into the still points. In my experience, stillness is not achieved through concentration or effort, but through total letting go.

4) CLOSE THE LOOP, IT’S A TWO-WAY STREET – BRING SPIRITUAL INSIGHTS INTO EVERYDAY LIFE. So, we have used our intention, have surrendered deep enough, we are anchored in stillness, we have moved the Universe to discover Presence, and are resting in the Self (vishranti). Sounds peachy, right? Well, yes, kind of. There is a reason we are human beings – we are here to serve and love and be part of the play of Consciousness. If we do not allow our experience of Presence to percolate in our daily life, we have done a lousy job – there are probably still some traces of dualistic Consciousness. We have to allow Presence to inform our intention, knowledge, and actions in everyday life for Revelation to stabilize. I have found out that when at the end of my meditations I “descend the ladder,” it is easier to carry meditation insights into everyday life. Let’s say we have had a good meditation moving through body to emotions to thoughts to heart to pure presence and we are immersed in awareness. At the end of the meditation, allow that awareness to inform your heart, mind, and body, feel how they all are born out of awareness. Swami Lakshmanjoo said (I cannot remember where I read this) that a great yogi is able to navigate all the levels of awareness (tattvas) in both ascending and descending directions. He also counsels: “While walking you are dissolved in Lord Shiva's state, while talking, while doing, while kissing, while doing, while going to the cinema, you are always centered in God consciousness.” Another even more powerful message from him from his Kashmir Shaivism, the Secret Supreme, book: “If you were to continue your practice of contemplation for just fifteen minutes while walking, the benefit will be the same as you would acquire if you were to continuously practice contemplation in your meditation room for two or even three years." I also love this quote by Adyshanti,

“In my case, which I think is similar for many, many people, the greatest solvent for ego is found within our lives—the fabric of our existence, the grit of what’s actually happening in our everyday experience. I find that this is often overlooked within the context of spirituality. Many of us are using our spirituality as a way to avoid life, to avoid seeing things we really need to see, to avoid being confronted with our own misunderstandings and illusions. It is very important to know that life itself is often our greatest teacher. Life is full of grace—sometimes it’s wonderful grace, beautiful grace, moments of bliss and happiness and joy, and sometimes it’s fierce grace, like illness, losing a job, losing someone we love, or a divorce. Some people make the greatest leaps in their consciousness when addiction has them on their knees, for example, and they find themselves reaching out for a different way of being. Life itself has a tremendous capacity to show us truth, to wake us up. And yet, many of us avoid this thing called life, even as it is attempting to wake us up. The divine itself is life in motion. The divine is using the situations of our lives to accomplish its own awakening, and many times it takes the difficult situations to wake us up.”

The mundane has to become Divine. All aspects of our life have to be immersed in Presence. All is One.

MAY ALL BEINGS ACHIEVE THAT WHICH IS THEIR BIRTHRIGHT – ABIDING IN DIVINE PRESENCE

 Shiva with text for website