Thursday, January 24, 2013

When aversion rears its ugly head and all your equanimity goes out the window

Mostly we like what we are good at or praised for and we hat what we do badly or are criticized for.  It's how the ego protects itself and how we are conditioned and enmeshed within the world.

For me, as a child everyone went "oo" and "ah" at my drawings so I liked art and thought about being an art teacher one day, until I got to senior high school, Australia's year 11 & 12, and they told me I wasn't avantgarde enough to go on to art school. Geography was doomed because the teacher took a dislike to me or maybe it was just all those history dates and economic production stats yet my interest in the world survived.  My French teacher, said I'd never be good at languages - Ha! Proved her wrong! School sport meant being out in the cold and wet, running around until my childhood asthma played up, wearing hideous sports clothes and trying to vault something way to high for me in what seemed to be and old barn.  I always got picked last for any team game during the compulsory physical education classes.  I ended up hating sport, couldn't see what others saw in it and was the only girl in the whole school that seemed to be exempt from being on an after school team.

And so it goes on through life.  Pursuing the line of least resistance and greatest rewards to the ego with only a few genuine interests, like my love of languages, persisting due to bloody mindedness and love.

It's exactly that level of determination (bloody-mindedness and love) that you need to free yourself from this revolving mouse wheel of carrot and stick, aversion and attachment conditioning.

The last year or so has been pretty kind to me. These days I take responsibility for creating my own reality so when something I don't like comes my way I have to assume that I at some level I wanted to test myself and strengthen my skills (in this case my equanimity and ability to abide calmly) in the fire of experience.  However, being human my initial inclination is usually "how can I avoid it?" and probably the next thought after that "why me?" followed by emotions of anger and helplessness (not unlike going through the stages of grieving but lower on the Richter scale). However, negative emotions are pretty quick to hurt not only those around us but also ourselves.  Plus I'm sure a negative mindset is some kind of cosmic magnet that draws in more of its like. So...
  • Breathe out! Release!
  • Ask yourself what have you truly got control over.  Yes I create my interpretation of the world and draw certain events and people to me through my thoughts and action but ultimately I'm the only one who can truly manage my internal state. So the answer to that question is "me". Sometimes it's better to just say that the external world is what it is, not as a statement of helplessness but as a statement of release. There are always variable you can tinker with but when it comes down to it it is a co-created reality that you're either love, hate or are neutral about.
  • As Tenzin Wangyal says, isn't it better to be happy of no reason than to rely on external conditions.
  • The only way not to project your temporary state of negativity on to others is to become aware of it.  Not fostering it, not trying to suppress it, not judging it... just being aware of it.
  • Once you're aware of your current state start to become aware of everything else around you.  become aware of the space around you.  Space is immutable, vast, all pervading and eternal. It's a refuge.  As you connect to that refuge your focus on your current state lessens, it starts to dissolve into that space. If you work with this a bit you become aware that your vision of doom was a creation of your mind and it too is empty.  What you were experience was a collection of past memories of a similar event, situation of person neatly packaged in all its related, conditioned aversions and attachments   It was that "vision of mind" that was pressing the "DefCon 1" flight and fight response. this understanding of the vision of mind gives you a bit of perspective. From there you can either use deeper meditation techniques such as Dzogchen and/or make a logical, clear-head assessment of what you are trying to avoid.  Is it going to kill you, harm you or others? If not it's probably not the end of the world, not as bad as your "vision of mind" would have you believe. Do a risk assessment of the problems and opportunities involved in pursuing an avoidance strategy. Ask yourself if you're willing to take up the challenge of abiding in your reclaimed calmness and facing what you seek to avoid? Know that whatever you decide is the right decision for you at that point in time but only make decisions once you've regained your equilibrium and clarity. Meditate and reflect as often as you need.
  • Remember that for everything you dislike there is some, possibly weird, person out there that likes it.  There are also a lot of others that feel the same way in the same situations so don't judge yourself for the way you feel.
  • Treating yourself with a hot bath or chocolate helps in the short term but make sure you do it when times are good too otherwise it could just become another way to condition you.
  • Support the above with expert advice on what herbs, mood altering foods or other medications may help lessen the conditioned response. Address any underlying issues: nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, phobias, inferiority complexes or trauma.
  • Skillfulness, knowledge and your network of people are always vital. Make sure the people who are important to you know you have an issue and importantly reassure them that they are not the cause of it, or at the very least not responsible for your reaction, that their support is welcome and that you're doing what's necessary to get back on track. Be willing to receive their compassion and empathy and hear their stories too. Since we tend to attract like minded people to our company they may have similar aversions and attachments they've had to face.
  • Breathe.  Any deep breathing, light exercise that requires breathing or connected breath work.  I like pranayama and the breathing involved in Tibetan yoga and Tai Chi to clear my energy channels and reground myself.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

From Ram Sharma's Ruminations

I very much liked this little piece of Ram Sharma's poetry:

The individual suffers because he perceives duality.
Find the One everywhere and in everything
and there will be an end to pain and suffering

more ruminations on and

The interactive movie called "Life"

No you won't find "Life" at the box office but could it be what we're living right now? (perhaps I've watched too much of the Matrix, The Thirteenth floor and Stargate episodes like series 2, episode 4 The game keeper and series 8 episode 6 Avatar).  It seems like many life times ago now that we saw a trailer for "Life" and got inspired to buy a ticket. It promised a level of control to the movie goer, you could pick from a range of scenarios, alter the variables to see how that changed how things played out and even change the ending.  At the time it was the latest technology.  You could compartmentalize your brain and experience, through a state of the art process called identification, all the characters in the movie simultaneously, exploring all the inbuilt story lines from their perspective.  The movie came with a warning though, it was so lifelike, using a technology called five sense reality filtered through a complex mainframe computer, the vendors were calling it FSR, that you'd be able to see, hear, smell and taste the scenery and characters in the movie you'd also be able to touch them. The danger, written in the fine print that nobody read at the time, was that we'd so immerse ourselves in the movie we'd forget it was a movie and forget that the other characters in the movie were actually being played by us. We've been trapped in this movie now for a very long time.  Several rescuers have been sent in to try and wake us up but nothing seems to work, sometimes, through the movie characters' conditioned belief systems, their messages to us get distorted and end up enmeshing us more deeply in the illusion. In the Stargate Atlantis series 2 episode called Aurora Colonel Sheppard must convince a shipload of beings in stasis that their virtual reality isn't real and that in reality they are going nowhere - he get's thrown in prison and ostracized for his efforts. Sometimes it's been possible to wake up one or two bits of our compartmentalized mind but such is our compassion and worry for the other fragments of our compartmentalized mind that we've gone back in to the movie to see if we can wake up other pieces. But things of late have been starting to change. There are enough bits of our mind that have woken up and helping to wake up the rest, from both within the movie and outside, that we finally have a chance, as a whole, of remembering what it was all about.  At that point we have I guess two options.

  1. We can go back to enjoying the movie and playing in it, remembering who we really are.  Some safety protocols may need to be put in place to ensure we don't get caught in it again. This would allow us to follow the movie's original promise of trying out different experiences, different scenarios and playing with different outcomes and endings within the movie. The chance to make heaven on earth.
  2. Or we can just get up out of our seat in the picture theater and go home. 
The later is the option offered to Colonel Sheppard at the end of the Stargate Atlantis episode Epiphany but he decides he's not ready yet.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The ongoing saga of The Fourth Awakening, the non-symbolic mind that frees us from the delusions of our co-created reality

Jeffrey A Martin and Rod Pennington have just released the next installment of their The Fourth Awakening saga.

The first book was a simple yet hard to put down story based around the idea that some individuals in the world right now are experiencing a leap in consciousness. The beauty of Martin and Pennington's slant on this is that it takes the idea out of the sole domain of religion and describes it in ways we can all relate to. The premise is that mankind has gone through a series of awakenings. Without going into all the details lets just say that one such shift was all about language, the beginnings of writing around 3100 bc that led to the rise of civilization and religion. The current shift is into a mind capable of non-symbolic consciousness, literally beyond words and iconic pictures. They hypothesize that the non-symbolic mind is capable of much including creating its own realities and achieving many of the unusual powers usually claimed by advanced yogis.

The second book built on this and was called "The gathering darkness." Not quite as earth shatteringly thought provoking as the first book but still lots in it. None of these books are expensive in fact you can actually download the first one free off the website above.

In The Fourth Awakening Chronicles 1 is a very short add-on to the other two. I gather it's gotten a bit of flak for being too short but it is still worth the 99 cents US for the ebook. What particularly stood out for me was how the guy they were there to interview, a gambler named Wooten, described how his mind had been since his non-symbolic aka enlightenment moment. It was like all the thoughts were gone. The constant mental chatter had disappeared and hadn't come back. They term it a lack of 'self-referential thought'. Wooten explains that before this happened it was like virtually every thought he had was involved in reinforcing his concept of self. When asked how that effects his ability to function he explains that he can still solve problems and discuss things like politics but there is no 'me' behind it. He also says that the loss of the 'me' had liberated him, lifting a great weight from his shoulders. Every moment had become new and exciting. With it had come a great calm and peace. Outwardly there was no discernible change apparent to his friends and family, unless he talked about it, then they thought he was crazy.

I love these books because they go along way to explaining what has been happening for me. There is plenty of non-dual stuff out there but a lot is focused on religious practices you must do to get there. There isn't much from a secular point of view, outside of some leading edge neuroscience. I liked the fact that the guy in the above story was a gambler and that it had happened to him out of the blue although probably as a response to his need to 'read' people in card games.

So this is what I've been thinking about - enlightenment for the secular. Ritual is comfort. Reverence opens the heart. Symbols engage the mind. Mantras help deflect the mind and create vibrational effects. Faith shapes our personal experience of reality and helps us to change how we add to the co-created whole. Religion came about because it was the killer software application of its time: a pattern, a set of systems and tools that worked at a time when we were transiting from the world of magic to the world of science. Magic, religion and science can still have their place as support structures and practices but in a post symbolic world it will be our ability to engage with both form and space (the unmanifest and non-symbolic, the blank page) that will take the world into a new stage. The ancient Greeks used no space between their words, they left the mind to break it up. We use space creatively to do this for the mind and give more blank space on the page to allow our minds to roam and reflect. I can't yet envision what a world beyond word and symbol (a totally blank page) will be but I do think it will be unfettered by such things. As we move away from black and white stereotypes and categories we will unchain our minds from the personal vision of the universe that now imprisons us. To quote Tenzin Wangyal: Mind is empty. Emptiness is clear light. clear light is union. Union is great bliss.

Sky Gazing: When the blue sky of mind meets the blue of the third eye

In my early attempts meditating on my third eye  I started seeing swirling deep electric blue color on the screen behind my closed eyes.  At the time I thought to myself "That's nice, but lets not get distracted by it." I've since discovered what you can do with that blue light, liberating it into the emptiness of mind.

To do this I first do some pranayama to clear the energy channels within in me.  I find it useful to envision previously enlightened beings that might have already done this, helping me.  This helps me to take the "I" out of the equation as it shifts my identification from my conditioned self to an the imagined guru who is capable of doing what I want to do.  I settle into a deep awareness of my body and surroundings then use a breathing pattern of inhale, inhale a bit more, hold and breath out to get the blue light going behind my closed eyes.  This becomes my object. I then ask my self "what is the mind that is seeing this." As I look for this I find emptiness, stillness, silence and space.  The realization comes that the nature of this mind is like blue sky and its looking at blue sky.  There is no boundary.  Opening my eyes I soft focus on a point in space against a dark background and see a hint of the same.  For me there is a cool sensation in the head that goes with this state.

I got here I guess because of late I've been doing so much reading and practice of the techniques of Bön Dzogchen, particularly following the writings of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and Lopon Tenzin Namdak. The later's Heart Drops of Dharmakaya was not as easy a read as Wangyal's works but was rich in insights. Working through it was like discovering little gems of wisdom after slogging through much Tibetan philosophy. I certainly think it helped to have read Wangyal's works first.

The gem that really lit off a light globe for me was this:

"The ordinary sky has nothing to do with the practitioner.  The sky is just the base of vision: the dark blue that appears to the practitioner spontaneously exists in his or her nature...

Up until that point I had been trying to soft focus on a point in space against a clear blue sky.  But as clear blue skies are a rarity here it was proving difficult to do on a regular basis and I had been thinking of doing it against other plain backgrounds such a white wall or a totally darkened room.  I reasoned that this may have been why the Tibetan yogis were fond of dark retreats although such a retreat seemed to have been a lengthy exercise of several weeks, not something the average westerner can do easily, certainly not without worrying the hell out of family and friends. But when I realized its not the ordinary sky they were talking about I made the connection that led me to the above.

Why do all this?  Well the result is sheer bliss as your mind stops its incessant chatter and you realize that all form and all space around form emanates from the mind and that the mind is empty (blue sky).  Which is all a long way of saying that you experience the non-dual without drugs or becoming a monk and meditating for years before experiencing it.

My goal now is to carry the awareness that comes in this state of mind into ordinary life and into the dream world. I'm working through Tenzin Wangyal's The Wonders of the Natural Mind and his book on The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep.  It's all a bit of jigsaw puzzle for me at the moment but I am a firm believer that if you want to know something or do something badly enough seeking within is a good place to start finding the answers along with just doing it and letting experience guide you. And for all those now screaming at me that you can't do this stuff without 'transmission' from a guru I would say that by doing guru yoga (my visualization of a guru) I'm getting that as well as indirectly from those who have written the books and made the videos that I have learnt from. And anyway we are all one which I think is probably the answer to everything. There is no distinction between me and guru, no us and them, no internal experience and external experience.