Eros as a Feminine power

Eros as a Feminine power

I have a considerable amount of passion for this topic. Eros, defined as the desire for union, is a powerful force, albeit one that is often misunderstood and disrespected.

In secular life, this desire is interpreted narrowly and directed towards other human beings. Of course, this is important. But without a broader understanding of eros, we miss opportunities to experience the gift of life in all of its erotic splendour.

Some of our best loved poets speak of the desire for union with the Divine, or with nature, in erotic terms. Rumi would be one that is often quoted. I’ve loved a Deepak Chopra publication of his love poems. Rumi speaks of the erotic face of God and not of a human lover.

‘You arouse me with your touch
although I can’t see your hands.
You have kissed me with tenderness
although I haven’t seen your lips.
You are hidden from me

But it is you who keeps me alive’

In some traditions this erotic aspect is considered to be feminine.

This month I’ve been reading the biography of the man who built the Devipuram temple in South India. The temple faced controversy for its use of erotic icons. The Goddess and the Guru by Michael M. Boden is recently published and a very fascinating read.

The book tells of how one of India’s leading nuclear physicists left his job, following a spiritual awakening in his 40’s, and devoted the rest of his life to a Feminine tantric (non religious) spiritual path and social causes.

The separation of the secular world from the divine has led many to believe that it is necessary to separate oneself from family, from a lover, from income generating work and from other material responsibilities if one wants to live a spiritual life.

What drew me to tantra, as a mother and householder, was the promise of relevance to my life and concerns. My quest started around 15 years ago, after reading a book called Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw. Further fuel was added to the fire when I discovered Daniel Odier’s book, Tantric Quest, a few years later.

Sensationalism of tantra, in both India and the west, has led to many misunderstandings of the erotic images and sexual metaphor.

Although I never met Guruji Amritandanda/Dr. Sastry, who died in 2015, I have been a student of one of his senior students for 9 years. I have some understanding, therefore, of this man’s incredible gift to the world. I appreciate teachers, such as Guruji and the qigong masters that I follow, for their deep knowledge of science as well as spirit. They have brought teachings out of the mystical closet and given clear explanation of their relevance to modern life.

Amritananda/Dr. Sastry, in particular, took a stand for the Feminine. ‘Patriarchal religion, untempered by matriarchal wisdom, he asserted, is the root cause of the world’s strife and misery today, and balance must be restored.’

He wasn’t afraid to restore eros to her rightful place as a Feminine transformational power. The book details his courageous stand against prejudice, ignorance and prudery.

Here’s an excerpt from a notice that he posted outside the Devipuram temple.

‘This unique temple is built to tell you that you are goddesses and gods. If you like, you can be like them too. You are free here. Nobody stops you. All the powers shown here are dormant in you subconsciously. Your sadhana (practice) consists in bringing these powers out to use them for loving yourself, improving yourself and all those around you. You gain nothing by leering or laughing at the goddesses here. You gain everything by understanding your own nature as reflected in them. You are beautiful and lovable, just as you are. You are erotic. Nothing wrong with that! You can create your identity and destiny. You are not powerless. You don’t have to be what others tell you to be. We are with you in empowering you to be yourself.”

Premium travel at your personal edge? Or status quo economy?

Premium travel at your personal edge? Or status quo economy?

Around 8am in the morning of May 3rd, I was eating breakfast in Pret-a-Manger at London Heathrow, Terminal 3….

Some of you will no doubt consider me somewhat weird when I disclose my love of airports.

I admit that I have travelled more for my own purposes than I have for business reasons. This may be why I have retained a fascination for people watching and window shopping that transcends any frustration or boredom, should I experience long queues or flight delays.

What I noticed on the morning of May 3rd was how alive I felt, despite the early morning start a 10am flight necessitates.  I remembered a remark from a colleague some years ago. When I told him I liked airports, he’d said, ‘That makes sense Cathy. You like transitional, edgy places.’

So true. The thing about transitional, edgy places is that they are full of possibility and potential. I think this is what airports represent for me. Whether I am departing to a far flung destination or not, the thrill of adventure and the unknown is present as I look at the departures screen.

New environments bring new perspectives. When we travel we may encounter unfamiliar situations that force new and creative responses. In the process, we may also have to face our fears and reactive patterns. We can feel more alive when we explore new ways of being and doing. We will also feel more alive when we unravel the habitual patterns that have caused repeating problems in our lives.

But the status quo is a formidable opponent to growth. When we return to a familiar comfort zone, we literally lose our edge. It is harder to act on insights received at edgy places from the midst of the demands of familiar, daily life.

There are times in life when the comfort and stability of the status quo is necessary and enjoyable. However, when our comfort is punctuated by longings for adventure, we might consider what part of ourselves is lying dormant and asking for expression.

While a holiday might ‘take the edge’ off that hunger for a short while, we will soon be back. Unless we’ve worked out what needs to change while we are away and acted on it, we may soon be re-experiencing the signals for the need for change, such as boredom, tiredness, frustration or restlessness. There may even be depression if a situation has become chronic.

After I boarded my flight to Philadelphia on May 3rd, I took out my phone and headphones and recorded the insights that form the basis of this newsletter. I didn’t want to lose them. By the time the plane was in the air, I’d also recorded insights regarding choices I need to make with regard to my own direction over forthcoming months. That included a decision re the right coaching support to invest in for the next phase of my life and work.

My question to you this month is to ask whether you are in touch with your growing edge? Are you feeling excited as you engage with the frontier of your life? Or, do you need help to decide where the frontier is? Or, having found the frontier, have you discovered inner saboteurs that seem to lie in wait to persuade you that the status quo really is acceptable?

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who is selling the house that his grown up children and elderly mother are fond of. They would rather he didn’t sell. But, he has strong personal reasons to make a move that he has delayed for some time.

He said, ‘The status quo is no longer an option.’ I thought that was a great statement!

For a house move, the appropriate support comes from estate agents and solicitors. But, personal edges, which challenge us to call forward underdeveloped parts of ourselves in order to shift our work and relationships to new levels, are different.

Is it wise to wait until a crisis brings you to a forced edge? Might you prefer the premium choice of hiring the support of someone who can keep both keep you in touch with the potential of your growing edge and support you as you make changes? If there’s a part of you that knows you have inner challenges to address in order to make outer changes, coaching can shift you out of a vicious cycle or a downward spiral.  

Reviewing an ‘old chestnut’. Are spiritual services supposed to be free?

Reviewing an ‘old chestnut’. Are spiritual services supposed to be free?

True story.

‘But neither Jesus nor the Buddha charged’ he said. ‘Spiritual services are supposed to be free and available to all.’

Probably I should have deleted the email. But, I couldn’t resist informing him that comparing me to Jesus or the Buddha, while flattering, was entirely inappropriate!

This exchange dates back some 10 years. But the ‘thorn’ of money, related to services perceived to be ‘spiritual’, persists. Unexamined beliefs are a fruitful area for spiritual growth. It could be argued that contemplating what constitutes a healthy, non reactive relationship with money is a spiritual path in its own right. 

This month, as I was contemplating my newsletter topic, I had an experience that made me feel a little defensive about my charging practices. Defensiveness indicates resistance indicates a hidden belief. So, I took a look at whether a part of me was triggered by the ‘old chestnut’ of spirituality and money.

I took leaflets for my spring qigong classes into my local library to ask if I could post on a notice board displaying local services.

The answer I received was, ‘Only if the classes are free.’

I was taken aback. The fact is that I’d be very happy to run a free of charge qigong class as a contribution to the community, provided local services and businesses could help with free room hire and free printing of leaflets.

But, the Museum, which is next door to the Library, is charging me £25 per hour to hire the room where I hold my class. And the printing shop, opposite, is charging me full price for my leaflets.

I accepted the library’s refusal and I also decided that my charges were perfectly reasonable given my costs.

But, I wonder: Do we have illogical expectations in society with regard to what can be available free of charge, at least when practitioners must cover their own costs? Do we really not expect teachers that have invested money in their training to value their own skill and time?

Personally, I would love to see all highly trained professionals be valued for their services, ‘spiritual’ or not. Surely, this ‘old chestnut’ belongs to a former age and time. Or, maybe it has relevance in ashrams and monasteries where the advisers are supported by an institution.

These days I have a much clearer stance than I used to. Today I would suggest to the man that made the Jesus and the Buddha comment that he may be confusing ‘spiritual’ services with spiritual wisdom. 

It is true is that spiritual wisdom is free and available to all. Of course, a person must be able to access it. 

When a person wishes to consult a mentor, coach, healer or therapist for services that may enhance their spiritual development, while resolving their worldly problems, money simplifies what can be complex sequences of exchange.

The gentleman concerned learned of my existence through finding my website. I pay money for the hosting and development of my site. We can be certain that neither Jesus nor the Buddha did!

I’m all for the healing of the spiritual/material split. What is considered to be material, including money, is simply energy in form.

As scientist Nassim Haramein says – spiritual is the label we give to those things that science has not yet proven.

The art of engaging with ‘dark nights of the soul’

The art of engaging with ‘dark nights of the soul’

As we emerge from the ‘dark season’ in the northern hemisphere, I’ve been contemplating ‘dark nights of the soul’ in general and my own experiences in particular.

Around the time of the lunar eclipse on 11 February, I thought I might be heading into one. A sudden loss of direction was accompanied by an unwelcome sense of futility. A void beckoned… I wanted to disappear and do nothing.

The desire to disappear was accompanied by fantasies of tropical beaches. With fantasies like this we must ask ourselves whether the tropical beach (or other holiday) is really what is needed or whether it would be a-void-dance.

I knew the timing wasn’t right for a holiday. But, I did need to stop and take stock. I was losing sight of what was most important to me.

I also knew that the best way to deal with any state is to turn into it and experience it fully. Re-connection to soulful work and callings happen when we accept and engage with our experience, even when neither convenient nor desired.

Surrendering to a Celestial STOP

As I see it, a ‘dark night’ is an encounter with a celestial STOP sign. It’s an invitation to deepen into who and what you truly are. It’s a demand for integrity. Outcomes almost always include greater humility and awe for the life forces that are greater than the mind, which has a tendency to attach to specific outcomes.

From my experience with ‘dark nights’, I know that resistance can be a feature at the beginning. And indulgence can feature towards the end.

I felt the resistance to a call to STOP and reconsider in February. It was an interruption to my plan. ( BTW, eclipses can have this ‘stopping’ effect. What is no longer working for you gets ‘eclipsed’.)

But, I have learned to trust my ‘inner daimon’ or guiding force.

After a couple of weeks of ‘waiting’, I was back in touch with my calling. I recovered my ability to be discriminating with regard to both inner and outer imperatives to get things done.

Waiting is under rated. So often we are encouraged to worship the gods of action and outer achievement.

‘Dark nights’, whether short or long, are invitations to re-calibrate. They are opportunities to listen and get so close to your own truth that you cannot betray it.

The art of engaging with a ‘dark night’ includes learning how to surrender into it and how, and when, to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

Rising like a Phoenix

It can be just as scary to act on the fruits of our realisations during a ‘dark night’ as it is to surrender into the experience in the first place.

Certainly, there was a part of me that wanted to prolong my short visit to this realm in February. But, there was a stronger imperative to be of service and remain visible.

You?

Are you either resisting a dark night or wallowing in it? Are you honouring your soul’s calling?

Do you need to wait for something new to emerge?

Or, is it time to answer a call to be of service?

 

Contemplating jealousy and competition

Last week I had an interesting conversation about jealousy with a client.

Given that jealousy tends to be socially unacceptable and therefore repressed, I found it refreshing that she was so matter of fact in her admission of past jealousy towards her partner. And she was keen to determine where, and in what situations, this ‘demon’ still sabotaged her life. (The ‘demon’ being the jealousy and not the partner!)

We spoke of comparison, competitiveness, co-dependence and the points of view and beliefs that promote the behaviours.

A couple of days later, a colleague mentioned that the coaching field promotes competitiveness – to be the best, to make more money, to be more visible etc.

As a personal/spiritual development coach I hold to a different vision and purpose for coaching. But, I am not personally immune to falling into comparison and feeling inadequate.

I remembered a conversation I had with another coach last year. She said, wryly, ‘the problem is that the beautiful maiden of coaching was seduced by the slimy salesman of internet marketing.’ (If you want to use that quote, I heard it from Dawn Todd.)

I started to connect the dots between the conversations. The ‘beautiful maiden’ in all of us can be seduced easily, if and when ‘she’ believes ‘she’ needs the ‘slimy, charismatic salesman’.

Such feelings of inadequacy affect all of us from time to time. This is because we all suffer from an existential wound of separation. That existential wound manifests a bit differently for each one of us. For some it is ‘I’m not good enough.’ For others it is ‘I’m unworthy’ or ‘I’m unlovable’ or ‘I’m unwanted’ or ‘I’m useless.’ In the case of my client, she had dimmed her light in the childhood belief of ‘I’m too much.’

When we can admit to our feelings of inadequacy and notice accompanying jealousy, comparison and competition, we are not dangerous. Consciousness is the antidote to dangerous forms of jealousy. Consciousness is the doorway to transformation.

We are dangerous if we claim to never feel this way. Invulnerability suggests a lack of attention to, and continuing suppression of, emotional data. This lack of consciousness is at the root of narcissism.

The world is a hall of mirrors. And part of the magic, for me, has been to learn to use this hall of mirrors for my own growth.

So, this last week, after working with my client, I worked on myself. This is a habit for me. I contemplated when and where feelings of jealousy or competitiveness might have been present recently. I found a couple of instances where my admiration of another person’s achievement, or their apparent ease in situations that I find challenging, were accompanied by feelings of inadequacy.

At least, now, I know what to do with such feelings – take the time to feel them fully. Often this must be done after the event, as part of a personal practice, which is what I did.

Further suppression and the accompanying behaviours that have their root in childhood reactions, can be nipped in the bud when we sit quietly and ask ourselves this question:

Where in my body is this feeling of inadequacy/jealousy?

Welcoming the feeling and being willing to experience it fully counters the old habits of suppression and initiates a process of dissolution.

When I reached this point in the consultation with my client, it was possible to guide her through a releasing process. The work I most love to do is help people to release old energetic imprints which block their freedom to be authentic.

My client understood that when she connects to her inner resources and guidance, there is no jealousy of anyone else. And, freed from the belief of ‘I’m too much’, she can reclaim suppressed parts. She does not need to live in the shadows of another as she learns how to shine her own light and offer her gifts.

May we all understand the root causes of relational dramas and find release from struggle and suffering. Spiritual understanding + energy/quantum tools + coaching skills is one way to make fast progress. This is my offering.

As for me, I will be enjoying a short break to Barcelona with my sister for a few days next week. Sibling rivalry/jealousy is not a problem between us as mature adults. But, it could have been if neither of us had done any personal work. It was present in the previous generation in our family. Having cleared a bit more of the ‘karma’ this week, I am looking forward to a catch up with her!

Nurturing the heart in the month of love

Many will have found their post holiday, winter ‘hibernation’ (in the northern hemisphere) cut short by the emotion and drama surrounding the inauguration of President Trump.

In these polarised times of outer chaos and change, it becomes important to have a practice that develops the capacity to act from a place of feeling centred, grounded and still. From stillness, we can discriminate between appropriate response and inappropriate reaction.

Experienced meditators will know that stillness is a portal to wisdom and love. In my years of practice I have learned that when the mind quiets, the heart can open. Genuine compassionate action comes from an open heart.

In this Month of Love, I’d like to offer you the tantric definition of compassion, which is this: Compassion is whatever heals the split between subject and object.

Here we have insight with regard to polarised situations. This definition suggests that compassion involves: 1) seeking the cause of the polarisation and 2) considerate action that serves the healing of it.

Beyond dramas, human hearts are beating and emitting powerful electromagnetic fields.

Problems arise because most actions are protective reactions.

Nurturing the heart is not about adding to our defences and protecting our wounds. Our hearts are healed and find wings when we attend to the dismantling of a defensive system that is well past its ‘use by’ date.

I’ve found it interesting that the metaphor for the heart centre in the cryptic tantric texts is the graveyard, indicating the transformative possibility of the heart. As the identities and illusions spawned by our defensive patterns dissolve, they become the corpses. Stillness becomes more accessible.

Resolutions vs. Mastery

I’ve realised that the word resolutions doesn’t work for me as a framework for a new year. 

I am more interested in orienting my life around the word mastery.

Resolutions are often to do with changes of habits. Mastery demands that we work towards a larger goal.

I hope the following teaching offers food for thought if you are inspired to consider what you will master in 2017.

New Foundations

During my years of practice of Chinese and Indian yogic (i.e. non religious) traditions, I have been deeply inspired by the wisdom of the Five Elements.

In the non dual Indian (and Tibetan) wisdom traditions, the Five Elements are Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. Space is the element from which the others arise as aspects. The Five Elements represent the building blocks of the entire manifested universe, including the human body, its thoughts and its emotions.

There is no good and bad or positive and negative applied to the body/mind in the non dual traditions. The orientation is towards either obstruction or flow.

As we enter a new year, we might be wise to reflect on the Earth element, which is associated with foundations. Here’s a short summary of Earth element associations. Check your tendency towards any obstructed orientations that could sabotage your journey of mastery.

Obstructions to an element are created by fear. The fear that underlies Earth obstructions is insubstantiality. This fear tends to arise after an experience of the ‘rug being pulled from under your feet.’ Of course, many felt this last year following the Brexit vote and the US election.

Arising out of these surprise results were feelings of insecurity and uncertainty. To counteract this the individual (and collective) fear based persona leans towards strategies that re-store a sense of solidity (individual) or solidarity (collective).

Pride, territorialism and solidification of a stance together with behaviours of entitlement or control or obsession are some ways in which humans attempt to counteract the sense of lack, impoverishment, and need that can accompany insecurity. Or it can be the opposite – pretence of no need leads to deprivation, retraction and maybe isolation/self sufficiency. Actions of unsolicited giving, giving away or hoarding may occur but do not provide the security or validation that is unconsciously sought.

Authentic generosity, the wisdom associated with the Earth element, requires a different type of self understanding and relationship to uncertainty. There will always be uncertainty and impermanence in the material world. But it is possible to remain grounded in a way that lessens the impact of the shifting sands and enables appropriate response.

The liberated qualities of the Earth element – equanimity, contentment and stability – become established with spiritual maturity. The embodiment of these qualities is no small achievement.

Resolution may start a journey. But, only a commitment to mastery can reach the finishing line.

Grief as a vehicle for transformation

Letting go of expectations and assumptions seems to have been the theme of 2016.

The 2 unexpected election results – in the UK, Brexit, and in the US, the election of Donald Trump – might be viewed from the perspective that the collective energy was more focussed on what needs to go – given the lack of clarity around what actually was being voted for….

My personal opinion is that the results are a type of wake-up call. But, before any of us decides on how we are going to respond from an activist perspective, we might benefit from a period of contemplation.

Let’s dive deep to the calm waters beneath our overstimulated stress responses. Find the peaceful source, where fears are transformed and appropriate response that is not a wounded reaction can arise.

In this seat of contemplation ask what you need to let go of, incluiding attitudes, assumptions and patterns. These are some of the differing veils through which we interpret life.

Often, you will find some sort of mirror between what is happening ‘out there’ and what is happening in your more immediate circle. Any clues there with regard to what is past its ‘use by’ date?

I’ll share what happened in my personal world this year with regard to letting go.

My 92 year old Dad died in April. As the second parent to go, his ‘departure’ led to the clearance and selling of the home he, and my mother before her death in 2012, had lived in for 44 years. Not much had been thrown out in that time……

A major clear out, and subsequent sale, of the family home, uncovered many things that I hadn’t seen or thought about since childhood. Re-considering my parents with new eyes through the sorting of their possessions, put a clear focus on the wounds and the gifts of my genetic and conditioned inheritance.

I saw new ways in which certain family patterns re-appeared through my life experiences. Given that I have a very good ‘toolbox’ when it comes to practices and healing methods, I was well resourced. I took the time to work with these new realisations about my energetic imprints.

As I see it, this was an important aspect of my grieving process.  Grieving is a powerful vehicle of transformation following death of a loved one. Similarly it needs to be a part of our collective process, especially for those who were deeply shocked by the election results this year.

The place to begin to effect the change you want to see in the world is within.

What fondly held illusions and attachments must you grieve in order to release them with grace and forgiveness? What are you in the process of letting go of?

Grieving is pre-requisite to finding the physical energy, emotional enthusiasm and spiritual courage to move into a new phase of life and action.

We can emerge from the transformative fire of grief with new strength, greater humility and clarity with regard to where we want to place our energies in the forthcoming year.