Becoming a stabilising force in the midst of chaos

Becoming a stabilising force in the midst of chaos

Autumn is such a potent season for those who are interested in personal and collective awakening and transformation.

This year, the gentle lessons we receive from observing the changing autumn leaves, are juxtaposed by evidence of the devastating power of nature in many parts of the world. The world has been shaking – literally – as hurricanes cause devastation in the Caribbean and the United States, an earthquake causes further deaths and damage in Mexico City and Asia experiences its worst monsoon flooding in years. In the southern hemisphere, there are spring bush fires in Australia and a volcano threatening eruption in Bali.

No wonder some are speaking of an apocalypse. (In fact, some say that will happen next week. Google it!)

The apocalypse theory is based on biblical information. Meanwhile, ancient Vedic teachings speak of a long period of destruction, hardship and decay of morality known as the Kali Yuga. The bad news is that the Earth is just 5000 years into this long cycle, said to last a few hundred thousand years!

But, there is a silver lining to this cloud…..

The Kali Yuga is considered to be the easiest age in which to awaken. Why? The transformational energies that hold the power of dissolution also hold the power to upgrade consciousness. It is said that a personal transformation that would take many lifetimes in more settled ages can be achieved in just a few decades in the Kali Yuga.

Here is the motivation to maintain commitment to whatever type of transformational work you do. And, here is the inspiration to step onto ‘the path’ if you have not yet developed a transformational practice.

The metaphor of the calm ‘eye’ at the centre of the hurricane prompts consideration of how we might become a stabilising force in the midst of chaos.

Applying this metaphor to ‘human play’ on the world stage, we have plenty of examples of ‘hurricane forces’. Terrorist attacks. Surprise election results that change the political landscape. Volatile leaders. Technically bankrupt countries. Greedy businesses that destroy the environment and avoid taxes.

The world is our mirror. In the face of devastating tragedy and suffering it is easy to feel impotent. Yes, we can send money to the causes that stir our hearts. We can turn our work towards the changes we would most like to see. But, for the broadest transformational impact, individually and collectively, inner work must accompany outer work.

I would define a transformational practitioner as someone who has learned to value life challenges because of the opportunity they bring to further personal growth and possible collective evolution.

Practitioners are needed. Scientific research confirms what many practitioners have experienced. Intentional prayer and meditation creates an energetic impact. Groups of practitioners magnify that impact.

Sustaining the calm ‘eye’ beyond a yoga mat or meditation cushion is achieved as a result of transforming inner emotional reactivity, including parts of the personality that take on the role of terrorist, dictator, destroyer or protector in the psyche. These are just some of the parts that might show up strongly when you feel challenged by life.

What better time to start, resume or create a new intent for practice and personal development than during autumn, as the leaves turn and we begin the season of ‘new year’ celebrations in the dark half of the year.

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.”

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.

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.