Thursday, March 1, 2018

Towards wisdom based politics

Having to vote in an election at the weekend has had me musing on the inadequacies  of modern politics. Without naming names my choices this weekend are:

  • A party that will cater for the rich and big business
  • A party that in the past has closed schools and medical facilities in country areas
  • A party that in the past has been responsible for bringing in draconian building regulations and a swathe of other "we know what's best for you" regulations
  • A party that looks like an alternative but has seemingly already formed an alliance with the pro-big business party.
  • A party that hasn't even advertised itself and is so small it's only mentioned in the polls as "other" - policies other than being pro-recreational activities?
  • and one independent who no one seems to know about.

So listening to Tenzin Wangyal's videocast this morning got me thinking about what he was saying. Whether its politics, social intervention, advocacy, parenting, care programs or just about anything else if its done from a standpoint of :
  • Ignorance or doubt
  • Hate, fear or frustration
  • Greed or grasping
then its doomed at some point to fail.

I don't think any of this is new or earth shattering: What we need are decision makers who can connect with their inner source and act from that innate awareness that comes from the heart-mind. Decision makers who can allow others to be as they are while protecting the weak and those who might otherwise have their rights trod on, those without a voice. Politics should be about listening to all sides and finding solutions that best balance the needs of everyone - not just the noisiest of most influential lobbyists. This is by no means an easy path as you risk pleasing no-one 100% and in the end tough choices have to be made but isn't that what we pay for, as tax payers. Along the way the decision making process would be open and transparent for those who wanted to know about it. Evidence used to support a decision would be available to anyone who wanted to know. Voters could bring issues to the notice of government and trigger peoples referendums on issues where there were enough petitioners. And for everything that concerns how we personally choose to lead our lives the government would butt out. Government should be about the big picture items like roads, research, infrastructure, health and hospitals, care for those who can't care for themselves, education, addressing pollution, environment protection, national defence, the protection of civil rights, democracy and free speech.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Moving beyond the limitations of labels, identity and other self imposed boundaries

I remember some years ago going on my first long holiday from work, to see the outback. The scenery was breathtaking, the lack of phone calls peaceful and the chance to sleep in bliss. Yet for the first few weeks I was at a loss. Who was I? I had identified with my job too much. I'd tied my self worth to it. What was my worth beyond the job? Who was I if not that identity? Fortunately I'd taken a few months off so I had time to disengage and disengage I did. When I came back to my job it no longer had the same hold on me. Sure I was still concerned with helping people who rang me in the job I administered but I had started to look beyond. I now knew I was something else than what I did.

We spend our childhood and teenage years trying to define ourselves. As we leave home we have to find out who we are as adults. What is our purpose? Now we've left home who else will love and care for us? I remember my frustration in my twenties, wondering what I was supposed to do in this life as nothing quite fit.

One day I had to wait by the side of the road with our trailer while my partner went the short way back home for a spare tire. I had no books, no one to talk to, no tv or radio to listen to. So I sat and watched the birds flitting in the trees, the breeze as it moved the grass, the color of the sky. Time dissolved and a peace I had never known merged with me. It was a first awakening of a sort, a preliminary one anyway.

This sense of boundlessness is what can be found when we let our selves go, lose ourselves in the moment of the infinite now.  There are plenty of how to instructions around the internet but really it is as simple as that. Letting go all effort, just being.

Despite the simplicity of that, once you've mastered it, it's not as easy for those still immersed in who they believe they are. One of the most famous approaches to unraveling the self is the "Who am I technique." You start by saying something like your name, where you were born, what you do. You can make up quite a long string of things like "I am Jane Citizen from Idaho, I'm a typist and I like to paint." See how that feels. Now repeat your version of this but drop off the last bit. ""I am Jane Citizen from Idaho, I'm a typist". Does that feel any different? Keep repeating but each time dropping off more of the sentence until you are just left with "I am". How does that feel? This is the "Who am I method developed by Sri Ramana Maharishi. His answer to the question was a very yogic one "Who Am I?’ I am pure Awareness. This Awareness is by its very nature Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda)."

Sometimes how we define ourselves can be a very long sentence indeed but if we let go all the labels what we are left with is infinite potential. See:
Yet even dealing with identities is quite an abstract conceptual exercise. And we come back to the act of simply letting go: 

Boundless View, Self Arising Meditation, Flexible Behavior

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A resource list for foundation Tibetan spiritual support practices (particularly Bön ) - for solitary practitioners

A lot of people these days are keen on Tibetan meditation and mindfulness practices but not everyone is aware of the underpinning skills and techniques that can support those practices.

For those of us who live in remote locations or lack the wherewithal to go on overseas retreats or even pay for expensive online courses there is a wealth of information on the web these days to get you started. It wasn't always that way. There was a time when, unless you could travel to Tibet or India and convince a teacher to take you on, you had little hope of learning anything other than about the importance of the Four Immeasurables: Compassion, Joy, Love and Equanimity. These days there is plenty of information out there but sometimes you need to piece it together. Ligmincha learning gives a good run down of their teaching topics which you can find at but there are some pretty advanced topics covered there.

So what are the basics? This is where I give my disclaimer that I really am just a solitary and somewhat eclectic practitioner. So I can't tell you what will work best for you. If you dive into these practices you do so at your own risk. Listen to your inner wisdom and/or find instruction. That said here is what I find useful and strive to do every day.

Starting your day with connection and intention

  • Any daily life activity can be turned into the path by doing it with mindfulness, compassion, joy, love and equanimity. I see joy as including gratitude. I see equanimity as encompassing egalitarian principles and non-judgement, not grasping onto somethings as better while running away from what we don't like. The principle of equanimity also encompasses non-interference, as much as possible leaving things as they are. I remember my life partner and I once had an old Toyota Corolla we'd bought for a couple of hundred dollars and proceeded to run it up and down the road to work for many years. It had regular basic maintenance but we didn't fix things unless they were broken or close to breaking. Fix one thing and you might put more pressure on something else. It was about maintaining the balance of the system that was the car. The lesson here being not to poke and prod at life unnecessarily.

  • Gratitude: My favorite way to get my intentions straight for the day is to wander into the warmth of an early morning shower, giving thanks to the five elements. The water of course, its warmth, breath, the stable earth beneath my feet and the space all around me. Giving thanks to those spiritual and guardian beings I relate to. Once warm and dry I throw on some light loose clothing to prepare for practice. It's time for my morning practice.

  • Prostration: The very notion of prostration can conjure up all sorts of nasty connotations for those of us in the west who distrust the establishment and authority figures but you're not dealing with governments, dictators or slave owners here. Prostration is a time to visualize all that supports and protects you, your fellow practitioners (even those you may never meet), those who give you guidance on the path and any beings you see protecting you. Prostration is about acknowledging and honoring that support. I also see it akin to bringing down the light to earth as we might do in a ritual of magic. Geshe Yongdong gives a very good overview . You can also watch  Tsem Tulku Rinpoche teaches PROSTRATION (1 of 2) and adapt it to whatever tradition you are following, replacing the chant with the one you use. For a yidam I personally choose to visualize Shenlar Okar as I can easily equate the limitless white light he represents to Christ consciousness.  He is the "subtle body of limitless form" version of Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, the founder of Bon. Prostrations are similar in some ways to the Indian "salute to the sun" exercise so you can expect similar health benefits from the exercise. Try to work out where your head is going to be when you meet the ground and have a nice bit of carpet or a cushion ready. The custom seems to be doing a minimum of three.

  • Dedication: By dedicating your practice to the benefit of all beings you clearly state your intention. You're not just taking time to do your morning ritual for your own health and spiritual progress but also for the people around you and indeed the whole cosmos. Feels more important now doesn't it. This dedication can be alternatively done or repeated at the end of your morning's practice.

Tsa Lung exercises and Tibetan Yoga. See:

Meditation - opening the heart. Inner Refuge. Dzogchen (pronounced Tsoh-chen)

There are any amount of tutorials and guided meditations on youtube. Just search for "Tenzin Wangyal guided meditation". Check out also the youtube channel or the website for some extra  practical tips. The profound talks channel has a lot as well by the likes of Alan Watts, Adyashanti and Sadhguru. These last three all follow what I call the non-dual tradition which deals with a view of the world that transcends all polarities and is best understood, not with the mind but with heart, through direct experience such as meditation. introduction to Dzogchen meditation:

Also check out his awakening and the two part formula:

Tummo as a tool to support transformation

There is not a lot of freely available information about this practice but a number of traditions have published the following:

  • Clear Light of Bliss: Tantiric meditation manual by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso gives an explanation of the stages of meditation of inner fire.
  • The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa by Lama Yeshe gives a broader overview
  • The Power of Tummo - Free Video Teaching by Tulku Lobsang (in English and Spanish) This is not a how to video but it does give a very good overview of why you would practice it. Worth watching.

It's best to tread lightly into this practice as it can unblock emotional energies stuck in your chakras and channels and you really don't want all that stuff coming out at once. This is one practice you could really get yourself in trouble with so respect it, take it nice and slow and precise. Listen to your body and your inner guru.

Start with mastering vase breathing. See  Chumba Lama Tibetan Breathing Yoga. Then add the visualization. To get a better understanding of some of the physical mechanics behind Tummo or indeed an alternative route to raising kundalini (for those who don't want to undertake Tummo without the appropriate training) check out

Asanas, Mudras & Bandhas - Awakening Ecstatic Kundalini (AYP Enlightenment Series Book 4)

The way of meditation website lists a lot of the benefits that come from this practice. While the main reason we practice Tummo is for inner happiness one of the more noticeable physical benefits is that it improves your digestion. It also improves your ability to tolerate the cold which, with something akin to a Maunder Minimum nearly upon us (as at the start of 2018), might be a really good thing.

While you can practice Tummo in any upright seated position I have found that cross-legged or even better, the lotus position works best. If you thought, like me, that your not capable of getting into the lotus position check out: Develop flexibility for Yoga (Padmaasan - Lotus Posture) w/ Eng Subs. After doing this for a few weeks I could finally do it - at age 57. Okay one side works better than the other but I'm getting better the more I do it.


At the other end of the day: Getting ready for bed and the practice of dream and sleep yoga. Whatever you're working on or thinking about just before bed can pop up in your dreams. Sometimes this can be a useful thing. You may dream the solution to a problem. But if we wish to use our dreams as another place to do spiritual practice it might pay to read or watch something inspiring or contemplative before bed. Imagine your thoughts are like baggage you take into your dream world, what are you packing? Of course a good way to clear the day is to practice the nine purification breaths, make an intention or dedication for our sleep. Listening to a guided meditation is a good way to transition from the day. Then practice your dream and sleep yoga:

The cyber sangha

You might be on your own but there are, these days, a wealth of forums, social media and online courses that can provide support.

Other media

If I've missed any useful resources, or indeed support practices, please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ancient Secrets of Siberian Wisdom: gleanings from Olga Kharitidi's "Entering the Circle"

Olga Kharitidi's "Entering the Circle" first came out in 1996. I came across it in a second hand bookshop and the proceeded to consume it. This well written, first person account of her foray into the Siberian wisdom tradition and the legendary land of Belovodia is an easy read.

Several things got me taking the highlighter and sticky labels to my copy:

1. The idea of a spirit lake as the home of the inner being. Having immersed myself in Tenzin Wangyal's teachings on finding inner stillness, silence and spaciousness the concept of spaciousness being a spirit lake resonated well. Olga asserts that while it is important to create our physical reality we must not lose our connection to this inner reality or will become slaves to our creation and dead inside. I liked how she equated physical reality with a shore around the spirit lake. The shore is nothing to be afraid of as long as you realize it is "your own creation".

2. Around page 103 Olga relates an visit, early on, to a healer who used music to heal. He tells her that music could create miracles if we would only put the right intention behind it. Have we lost much of the soul of music by only creating to the mass market. Isn't this what makes the classics of Bach and Mozart so enduring, the expression of emotions in music, uplifting, inspiring and at times challenging? Simply folk tunes take us back to our roots. Irish tunes and shanty, at times bawdy and at other times funny or nostalgic do the same. Blues connects us with the struggles and heartache of the singer. The power of intention makes music special. We need to use its power more.

3. On pages 137-8 Olga outlines the three main processes working that drive humans. The past, the present and the future. While there's nothing new in us missing the present moment by immersing ourselves in thoughts of the past or possible future I do rather like how she describes it. "They speaking inside their heads about the past, reconstructing it by changing or erasing the things that don't fit" with the image of themselves they're trying to create. Of the future she peaks of how we try to image our future self, what it will be, do, look like etc. But, she warns, even the present can present problems as we work to ensure others see us as we wish to be seen. We gather around us people who reinforce our self image and our ideas while disliking those who don't. We can transcend these three processes by keeping an awareness of our inner self, our spirit lake or inner space. This heart self "is where real freedom and magic start".

4. On page 159 she entertains some interesting thoughts about the quantum reality. The particle versus wave nature of the universe and relates this to independent individuals . Like particles we can see selves as separate (like particles) or as a seamless wave "with no boundaries at all."

5. Finally, for me, what stands out in the later part of the book is "The first rule". Olga describes five attributes: truth, beauty, health, happiness and light. To find the right path through anything in life the being instructing her says "for each decision you face you must ask yourself if the choice you make will satisfy the five necessary attributes". Certainly a tall order but one to keep in mind. It reminds me of the main character in "The Celestine Prophecy" where he has to choose which way to go so he chooses the brighter one. This is illustrated elsewhere in the book where a story is told of a man who found Belovodia, the mythical land, akin to Shamballa, where no one ages and everyone is spiritually evolved. Although later it is revealed that the only gateway into this fabled land is through our connection with our inner being.

It is remarkable that the author, a psychiatrist practicing in Russia at the time, undertook the journey she did and had the courage to share it with us. I believe she now resides in America and has gone on to write a novel "Michael Gate" and another work entitled "The master of lucid dreams", which I've yet to read.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Self worth and the zodiac: the conditions we place on loving ourselves

We all know people with obvious low self-esteem and issues of self worth but I'm guessing we all have our own criteria for judging our worth. If we work around the zodiac we find that each sun sign's ego is a little bit different in how they judge self importance.

Aries values winning, whether their battles be romantic, business, sporting or military. They have an ability to fire-up and motivate others, to get things started. The problem for their self esteem comes when they lose.

Taurus values their own strength, their ability to protect others, to put food on the table and acquire property. The self esteem suffers through the loss of the very things the value. Old age, frailty, children leaving home, poverty can all dent their self-worth

Gemini values intelligence, vocabulary, fluency, their ability to communicate ideas, to have their stories heard and enjoyed, their ability to charm and entertain others. Their problem comes when they lose their audience, when people walk away because they've got things they'd rather do than listen.

Cancer values their capacity to nurture and care for others, whether as a good cook, a mother or carer. Their problems come when they either lack a caring role or others push them away for being too mothering.

Leo values their pride, their ability to organize, lead others. Their worth is tied up in how much others recognize their importance. wounded pride is their greatest threat. Their pride can built on shaky ground making their fall from grace even worse. Mistakes found out leave them defensive or fudging to cover up.

Virgo values health, neatness, order and perfection. Possibly the hardest set of conditions for maintaining self worth.

Libra values beauty, their own and that of their environment, harmonious relations with their lover and extended family. Old age, the natural wear and tear of material possessions, arguments - all leave them rattled, denting their self confidence. Beauty is transient.

Scorpio values power, their ability to know secrets and getting others to bend to their will. At a higher level their worth is in arising above that by transforming themselves. Their greatest fear is a competitor acquiring more power than them. Unfortunately, unless you emperor of the universe someone is always going to have more power.

Sagittarius values exploration, the chance to grow and explore, honesty and directness. Learning and teaching also come into this. Conversely if they fail to achieve academically, morally or lack for experiences they are inclined to see themselves as dumb, ignorant or uncultured.

Capricorn values achievement, through work, their ability to solve and rise above problems, to achieve and acquire, for their own benefit and for the benefit of those they are loyal too. They value loyalty to and from their family. They like their criticisms and suggestions to be appreciated as the help they intend them to be. Being beaten by problems is their greatest danger. Being unappreciated for their advice leaves them cold

Aquarius values being unique, being loved and understood because of and despite their innate nerdiness. They value the ability to innovate, to break down and challenge the old on the way to making something new. Their greatest fear is being ordinary. An environment that does not allow them to innovate and individualize can leave them withdrawn.

Pisces values compassion, reflection, dreams and visions. Most of all they dream of a  world without suffering. Realism and skepticism can leave them doubting their innate intuition. The limits on their capacity to solve suffering of others could leave them frustrated and questioning their relevance in the world. Death is the ever present threat, the ultimate suffering that threatens to beat them.

All these ego mindsets are traps. They all have built in conditions that leave the individual vulnerable to a dent to their self esteem

We are all vulnerable to all of these traps but usually the one that matches are sun sign will predominate. 

The only fool proof way to value yourself is unconditionally. Not requiring certain external conditions to be met in order to love and be compassionate towards yourself.
Everyone has their own favorite answers. For me, I find that Anam Thubten in "no self, no problem" effectively outlines the benefits of transcending our frail egos. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in his many books videos and online courses shows how to find that inner stillness, silence and spaciousness that can effectively get us in touch with an unconditional source of love, joy, compassion and non judgement we can realize as our true "self". The Toltec tradition of Don Miguel Ruiz (aka The Four Agreements" and "The Mastery of Love") and Heather Ash Amara ("Warrior Goddess Training') provides a philosophy that empowers the individual. And astrology helps us see with greater clarity and self awareness the karmic ego traps we are working to transcend. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Re-evaluating the metaphysics of star wars

Like many I was entranced by the star wars movie when it first came out. It spoke to me at a deep soul level and I've watched it many times since. I watched it again over the last few days, the original ones anyway. I didn't much like the so called prequels. However, I'm no longer fully comfortable with the portrayal of "the force". They made a polarized dualistic entity out of it. The so called dark side is not the opposite of any good side of a force. Rather it is the closed down, contracted, rigidly controlled experience of one who has placed or acquired barriers, including self imposed labels and misperceptions, that obstruct the free flowing connection with that absolute infinitely that is most tangibly understood as limitless light and unconditional limitless love. That which exist within the stillness silence and spaciousness at the core of our being.

Individually and collectively we are all to some degree obstructed. The more obstructed the more fearful and controlling we become in an attempt to survive perceived threats to our existence. It can become a vicious cycle but you are never as fully doomed as Yoda would have had you believe. You always have the option of letting go. Letting go the tight reins, the strivings, the goal seeking, the possession acquisition, the avoidance of what we fear will cause us pain, the avoidance of responsibility, of potential loss.

Let go, be, notice the moment. Whether painful or joyful rest in the moment.
Yoda says do or don't do, there is no try. The problem is we do try, often with lots and lots of effort and a head full of either doubts or pride. The problem of trying comes from us trying to do or achieve some Thing rather than letting go into the process of the action of doing. Yes we need some knowledge and intent Before we perform a task but at some point we have to release the analytical aspect and step into the process of the action. This is where the magic happens and this is where an aspiring Jedi finds herself.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Enlightenment, lets do it together

In my lucid dreaming time this morning it came to me sharp and clear that enlightenment is not something we have to do alone. It is not a competition. It is not a goal to be achieved to add to one's imagined self worth. It's something we can do together. Sure there are solitary practitioners out there who might get there on their own through extreme focus and discipline. But for the rest of us it's a damned site easier if we connect, at least on a psychic or imagined level to all those out there seeking awakening from the limits of their self. This connection can be across space time to all those teachers, wise people and their students, is anywhere in the universe, anywhere now, past or future and with any sentient species. We're all encouraging and helping each other. We're waking up together. Because we are together, one and connected.

It was a full moon last night. A huge one. In May. I looked that up on Google this morning and noticed it is wesak. The Buddha's full moon. Other great teachers seem to have been allotted a full moon, eg Christ. Anyway, I suspect I was really feeling the moon's energies in the early hours this morning.