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29 April 2016 4 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 79: Spiritual Retreat Experiences with My Teacher, Part 1

“This work can’t be taught—it has to be caught!” SAM Lewis

Finding myself having a spiritual Teacher something that happened about a decade after I had given up the search and decided I did not need or want one. The fact that he was indeed my Teacher was unequivocal, and I had both to adjust to the notion and work diligently to bring it about.

In this culture, we look askance upon having a Teacher. As with the rest of life, the spiritual scene includes a lot of misguided people doing strange things together, running the range from mutual but well-meaning confusion to blatant power games and various types of abuse. I find myself wanting to share the simple joys of my own experience.

The spiritual lineage with which I am connected has a very natural way of interacting with our teachers. We P1000563love and honor them, yet we all understand that they are playing the role and figuratively wearing the mantle of Teacher. They are not held out to be better human beings than their students. Teachers are appreciated in that they help to inspire others to sense and express divine energies.

Naturally, I bring a unique type of attention into my relationship with my Teacher. (I’ll call him “W” for ease here.) It is a connection like no other, infinitely personal yet impersonal at the same time. It is about energy and essence instead of personality. W openly receives and reflects real Love, but actively and consistently pushes away any shred of attachment.

W shows amazing internal freedom and mastery. He is humble and self-effaced, and yet fierce—sometimes even startlingly abrupt if one verges into stupidity in his presence. At the same time he is one of the two people I feel the safest around. He reveals me to myself, challenges my limitations, and also subtly protects me when I am truly open and tender. He is usually grounded as a mountain, yet open and sensitive, expressing a vast array of subtle and powerful qualities of energy.

I would like to describe my experience with W over a several hour period at my retreat. The non-accidental element builds and builds:

The group did a partner dance (Dances of Universal Peace, originated by my Teacher’s Teacher) practice during which one person radiates like the sun while the other receives like the moon. Then we reverse roles. Last we go into a balanced Unity between both attributes and persons, before moving to the next partner.

I got to partner with W at one point. During the Unity part of the practice I intentionally sensed into the light at his crown chakra, sought to match mine to it, and placed my stream of light inside of his. (One’s spiritual Teacher, lineage, or the Divine are the only influences one should allow into one’s crown center, since this connection allows for direct influence.)

Smiling together as we turned in dance, we whirled on a pivotal axis of shared light, in a loving and comfortable unity. This was totally magical—a peak experience for me. This was so joyously and unequivocally mutual, feeling and noticing together without the sense of distance between souls—the painful underlying separation—that marks most human contact. It felt Divine. I removed all walls and veils and felt utterly safe and totally “seen.”

Being able to to enter into loving Oneness with all of life is a wonderful spiritual goal—yet it’s challenging to be so open. I honor W’s inner strength, being solidly enough inside himself to melt into a sense of Unity with many different types of people. I still find it hard to experience Unity with those who are not yet open to experiencing it themselves. Feeling it with one person, even for a few moments, helps me to contemplate our human potential to experience Unity consistently and with All. This ‘teaching’ occurred without words, through direct experience.

Have you had anyone in your life with whom you have experienced the joy of a spiritual and intuitive sense of Unity without being in an intimate relationship?

What brings YOU into an experience of Unity?

22 April 2016 2 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 80: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 2

Manage Your Energy Part 80: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 2

Continued from previous post:

My Teacher told a story about a friend who takes about half an hour to enter a swimming pool. “That’s what we do,” he continued. “We come up on these thresholds. At every threshold of Awakening, there is a resistance at the threshold, and we get across into it and then we don’t STAY there, but we have the light of that experience. Now it’s in our cells. It’s in our body of light that we carry forth. It’s in our soul. Those are the things the soul doesn’t forget, because the soul can learn a new thing and have insight into it, and the next thing, it’s out of it’s vision . . .

“So that’s what we try and go through at first. You step over the threshold and you come back, and you have whatever experiences you have and you don’t lose heart—you don’t lose heart!

“And you don’t lose trust in your practice, but you don’t try and force it. You don’t achieve this by ratcheting up your will. You achieve it by trusting and letting go, and by moving very naturally through it. . . .P1000436

“So go across the threshold, but tell that unconscious part of yourself, if that’s what you’re working with—it’s just my intuition—‘Ok, I’m just taking a step here. I just want have the condition to do this. This is not a destructive activity on my part. This is providing That in which one lives forever. You’re not being threatened by this, except just in your control. You have to let go. I need you to let go. But you can only let go at the speed at which you’re willing, so let’s stay in touch about all this. I’m going to still continue my practice, and I’m not going to let that fear that happened as a result of having entered into this state, and now—okay—I’ve gone into this kemal state and now everything is different.’

“Sure things are going to strike you differently under certain circumstances. Under other circumstances everything we do, having come out of that state, everything you do will be perfect. No matter what happens, it just is perfect. So I can’t generalize about it, except to say that we all are unique in our configuration. Even our souls are unique. Even every time you say a wazifa [name of God] it is unique, even in the repetition.

“Everyone has a different terrain to deal with, and in so many ways we are alike. So that’s as much as I can say about it. I think a number of us have had that experience, of being afraid of some state that we’ve gotten into, because there’s a part of us that is geared up for survival. Geared up big time in a certain way. And that feels threatened. So we have to have a communication with that and say, ‘We’re not really dying now. This is something we do, and it’s not that it’s dangerous. Can you give me the support to let this happen?’ And sometimes you run into a voice of yourself from some previous age, and you say ‘How old am I?

“‘How old is this part of myself that is communicating? Am I nine now, or five, or fifteen, or what?’ This is all part of the adventure. So this is not like ‘an enlightenment intensive.’ I don’t even know what they are anymore. But when you come: ‘Now you’re enlightened!’ and we tap the magic wand.

“Sometimes there is just an instance when something happens. It was just a glance, it was just a moment. It never died. It’s still alive. —But that’s usually after many years of this and that or the other, and it just opens for you. It’s not that you cut the Gordian knot [a metaphor for an intractable problem]. Sometimes you have to cut the gordian knot.

“So I don’t mind taking questions. I hope it’s not boring for others, listening to other people’s questions. Generally the questions people have are not just for themselves. How many people felt a resonance with her question?”

At least a third of the people in the room raised their hands.

“If something comes up, go into it. Go into it. Explore it, don’t just take it as a random thought. If something really grabs at you, and it grabs at you several times, go into it. Stop what else you’re doing and take that inquiring breath and say, ‘What’s in here? What do you have for me? Why are you interrupting me? What do I need to know here from your presence.’ And you may get some surprises from doing that.”

Someone thanked me later for being brave enough to bring up the topic.

Which aspect of this discussion stands out for YOU the most?

What does it speak to in you?

What do you think it means to “provide That in which one lives forever”?

15 April 2016 3 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 79: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 1

Manage Your Energy Part 79: Spiritual Growth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Part 1

At the spiritual intensive I recently attended, I continued to address the theme we were discussing before the last post, about the ins and outs of spiritual growth.

On the first day of the retreat, my spiritual Teacher (I’ll just call him W. in here) read a passage from Inayat Khan, who brought our lineage to the West. The quote refers to achieving a certain state of balance that maintains powerful opposites at the same time—“kemal”.

W. said, “I’m reading this because some people take one idea and walk down the road with it, and it may not be so helpful to them.”

I love that he said this! Spiritual growth is so NOT about finding some particular rule and living by that!

Here is part of the quote, in all its thought-provoking intensity: “The kemal temperament is found only in the holy beings who are living dead, who live in God, not in themselves. Every action, when it reaches kemal ceases to exist. And every person, and every plane of being, after reaching kemal, has a falling. Therefore those who study the nature of life, and who value the unchanging nature of life, drink the bowl of kemal, however bitter it may appear at the time. This is a bowl of poison.”

“So what do you think of about this?” my Teacher asked the group. “The kemal sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? Pretty extreme. However—there is a lot more to it.”

I asked, “Is this something that happens only to advanced adepts, or does it refer to the processes that happen to all of us along the path.” W. said it was the latter.

“It is the gift presented with the gauntlet,” he said, “You get something you desire—but it comes with a challenge. When you unwrap it, there is work you have to do, and it’s not what you expected.”

So much to contemplate here, but the group moved on.

I brought the topic up again the next day: “I’m still chewing on this reading you did yesterday, about drinking poison when you get to the kemal state.”

W.: “Well that’s only one place that it goes.”

“Right,” I paused to acknowledge that. “I had an experience during which my spiritual practice was intensive and consistent, bearing positive results, followed by a series of events that precipitated a prolonged dip into P1000434whatever was still left of almost every trauma I have endured in the course of my life. I found myself afraid to do my practices after that because I don’t want the consequence of having to drink the poison.”

“How do you feel about death?” W. asked.

“Well, dying seems a lot better than suffering. I’ve been thinking some about dying.”

“You could drink a cup of poison,” he said, laughing, and the group joined in.

W. knows I have a sense of humor about such things. I said, “Maybe I’m just not drinking enough! I could drink more and die instead of just suffering!” Most everyone was laughing now.

“You’re running into some ground floor conditioning that is fighting back.”

I asked whether the practice we had just done as a group—practice to surrender into allowing the personalty to die and our essence to be resurrected—would be useful at such junctions, or bring about additional suffering: “Is this a good practice to do if one is afraid of going into practice because one does not want to bring the karma on faster? Is it advisable to try and push through it by being willing to sort of die into the states, and head right into that pain and suffering?”

W.: “I understand what you are saying, and it’s a good question, and it’s a question you need to consult your own sense of Guidance around, because some people are conditioned to be martyrs, and they will jump right into the fire. —But it may not be their fire to jump into. And so, if you know what I mean, you don’t want to just jump.”

His response continues in the following post.

Have YOU ever noticed that intensive movement forward is often followed by a difficult passage?

What would you consider to be “the unchanging nature of life”?

9 April 2016 4 Comments

A Spiritual Poem

A Spiritual Poem

Below is poem I wrote on spiritual retreat.

The word “Hu” is a name for God in the most intimate and personal but not embodied form. I used it as “Who” in my poem:

It snowed when I wasn’t looking.
I emerged from sleep to inhale the morning,
sunny and smiling; all innocent.
Birds whistled as if nothing
had happened. Hu spoke that into Being—
and why does it surprise?

Earth pushes mountains from her belly.
Planets whirl. Continents and cathedrals
crumble to Ether through a long breath out both nostrils.

Hu is watching?

In the heart of God I watch the universe
recreate Itself as breath returns.
Infinite points of frozen light,
I swirl through space, interlace vast
limbs of pine and softly settle,
a blanket of white, melting into Service.

P1000528

18 March 2016 4 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 76: Creating Your Reality?

Manage Your Energy Part 76: Creating Your Reality?

“No sooner does man become the creator of the drama of his dream state through the projection of his dormant impressions, than this very projection of his own dormant impressions reflects his past as if it were really his present, and man, finding himself involved in this drama, gets absorbed in his past while still maintaining his past to be his present.”  ~Meher Baba

This quote may initially seem convoluted, while it is actually quite lucid. It is structured in the same way the energy kind of bends when we are DOING what the quote is about. That energy structure makes the description more vivid, once we can wrap our perception around it.

Perceiving this evokes some of the elements of looking at the bottom half of your arm and hand under water. You see the illusion of disconnection between body and arm as the image is displaced by the view through water. The hand seems to be the wrong size and angle. It’s a bit confusing. At the same time you can SENSE P1120995that your arm and hand are in correct relationship with your body.

When we are involved in our pasts and taking them to be the present, a certain amount of distortion of the current reality occurs. This displaced reality often feels normal or continuous. We might say this is what happens in a dream; things that are bizarre when awake seem normal. Unlike correctly sensing that your arm in water is still straight and continuous, the illusory, shifted past-in-present can be a compelling “reality,” displacing the fresh, clean, present moment and casting that awareness into the background of perception.

As we begin to wake up into Presence, we may begin to notice when we are becoming absorbed in the past, replaying things that happened before and projecting them out like overlays upon the faces and events around us.

Have you noticed yourself doing this?

Re-live your awareness in that moment. Note that you can tell The Observer part from the parts of yourself, and of your experience, that you are observing.

What do you notice about when you are present to this awareness?

25 February 2016 0 Comments

The Relative Value of Religious or Spiritual Practice

The Relative Value of Religious or Spiritual Practice

This excellent quote on the relative value of religious or practice nicely summarizes the theme of my last few posts:

“Often the aspirant is concerned in the early phases of his awakening by his attitude towards established religions and their rituals. All of these have a tendency to encourage the spirit of love and worship, and as such they help to a limited extent in wearing out the ego-shell in which human consciousness is caught.  But if they are followed unintelligently and mechanically, the inner spirit of love and worship dries up.  Then they harden the ego-shell instead of wearing it out.

Rituals and ceremonies cannot carry one very far towards the path, and if they are unintelligently followed they bind as much as any other unintelligent action.  In fact, when they are deprived of all inner life they are in a sense more dangerous than other unintelligent action, Version 2because they are pursued in the belief that they help towards God-realization.” ~Meher Baba.

Steady and consistent practice of a discipline has multiple advantages in creating rhythm, momentum, focus, and depth. It can form positive neural networks that persist and assist us for extended periods of time.

The quote is not intended to discourage spiritual practice, but to point out that awareness, engaged personal expression, and open, intelligent application are essential elements.

Whether a particular action or mindset serves development depends upon where we are along the path. Intelligently engaged action furthers. Taking an aware and intentional breath in the line at the grocery store furthers Awakening more than habitual, unengaged spiritual or religious practice. Fully engaged, Present practice aids development significantly.

The benefits of religious or spiritual practice depend as much upon how we bring ourselves to it as on the particulars of the practice. It could be argued that one action, engaged with Presence, has no greater or lesser merit than another, except as a personal preference. This is more true in abstract theory than in practice. In life, learning to engage ways that express our own Highest Option in the particular moment at hand is ideal. Doing so is a function of inner Guidance.

Have YOU ever felt that the way you are approaching religion or spirituality was keeping you asleep instead of waking you up?

Did you find a more alive and satisfying way to bring yourself to it, or move on to something else?

12 February 2016 5 Comments

What is Genuine Love?

What is Genuine Love?

“How few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service.  But these things in IMG_0108themselves are not love.  Love springs from awareness.  It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and how and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire not as he or she is in themselves.

“The first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking . . . a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person’s need or your own?” ~ Father Anthony de Mello

Contrast this understanding of genuine love with your conditioning about what it means to be loving.

What do you discover about yourself?

5 February 2016 0 Comments

Corrective Insights About Being “Religious” Post

Corrective Insights About Being “Religious” Post

A friend wrote the commentary, below, on my last post, and another friend shared an insight about the topic. I appreciate and welcome these loving and expansive viewpoints, and would like to share them:

“My religious conservative family in Arkansas and many conservatives I know abhor the word spiritual. It has been constructed as the other, much like the word liberal. Folks like this would say they are religious (period) and are offended by the term spiritual (again, think liberal). To the religious, there are specific forms of practice and these forms are required to be called a person of faith.

I grew up in that world. It worked well for me when it worked, and there came a time in my life when everything I had been taught fell apart. But for the rest of my family, it did not fall apart for them. It still works and be careful, because they have experiences of their faith. Experiences, just like Sufis have.IMG_0261 So you cannot divide believers from mystics around experiences. They both have experiences of their faith but they come to them through different means. Both are valid, even if I do not understand how it works for others who are not like me.”

Since thought and insight cannot themselves be Truth—which is ineffable and cannot be rendered into words—every insight opens itself to what is called “a corrective.” A corrective is another insight or truth that does not diminish the first, but augments and modifies it in an important ways, increasing perspective.

It was my intention to stimulate inquiry into the way rigidity of thought can make us uncomfortable directly exploring the Greater Whole. I like my friend’s comment because it makes my own thinking more flexible and comprehensive. It decreases the inadvertent “other” in my previous post.

A few reflections:

—Hypocrisy comes in both spiritual and religious flavors, as do all human issues.
—Superficiality and rigidity have many different types of packaging.
—Dedication to depth and direct exploration of personal experience are more likely to lead to growth than hand-me-down beliefs we do not actively engage through life experience, no matter what we label our experiences or call our belief systems.
—Either/or thinking limits us and exacerbates “other.”
—When there is an “other” group, each group is likely to project what we don’t like in our own group onto the “other,” just as individuals project inner material that is difficult to own onto other people.

The second friend with whom I discussed my last post shared another valuable insight. He said that some people who become “religious,” in the sense of having a rigid and codified way of managing reality, have emerged into this way of being only after living in unmanageable chaos. In this case, sorting reality into manageable categories is a big life improvement. This is one reason people may go from drugs to Jesus.

It is important to allow our beliefs to be flexible, to reach for experience, and to allow our experience to change as our hearts continue to unfold. Then again, we can only start where we are. Rigidity may compensate for fear, overwhelm, uncertainty, or shame.

Behavior and ways of thinking that are an advantage for some are severely limiting for others. The hermit crab needs a shell that is not too cramped and not too big to get around and stay safe. We are like hermit crabs in the way we view and take on life. We cast off beliefs that are too tight and take on the next bigger size, only to jettison that one as we continue to grow.

Whatever perspective we maintain, broadening it is of spiritual benefit—but we can only do that when and as we are able to do so and remain relatively stabile. Maintaining compassion is more important than maintaining any particular point of view.

When you are set in a particular view, what makes that view resistant to change?

How is this resistance structured inside you?

29 January 2016 2 Comments

What Does it Mean to Be “Religious”?

What Does it Mean to Be “Religious”?

I have a friend who uses the word “religious” differently than most people do. At first I had trouble understanding what she meant. She is a self-aware therapist, a shaman, and a highly insightful elder. I have been contemplating what she means when she describes someone this way—particularly those who are not involved in or interested in religions. Through my meditations on it, I have come to find her use of the term enlightening.

Let’s unpack what she is describing:

Spiritual people who are comfortable with the universal energetics and insights that underlie and lead to the development of religions are not “religious” in the sense I am about to describe–and probably already understand.

The word catholic means “broad-based, diverse and liberal” when it is not capitalized. It is used largely to refer to a person’s tastes. The same word refers to the Catholic religion when capitalized. Similarly, my use of “religious” here is like an antonym or opposite for catholic. It refers to tastes or habits of mind that are narrow, based on either-or thinking, and rigid. In this case “religious” specifically refers to IMG_1056belief that is mind-based, garnered from something one has been told to believe, instead of upon direct personal experience.

Here is an example: Someone I know was listening to a transformational speaker and became fixated on the fact that the speaker mentioned that he likes a particular country. Instead of paying attention to the transformative value of the speaker’s offering, she went off on a mental tangent, judging him for supposedly tolerating atrocities she associates with that country. Obviously she had no way to know the speaker’s standpoint on the problems. This thought-based, emotional reaction was irrelevant to the main thrust of the talk.

The content of the talk applied directly to life issues she was too fearful to take on. In this incident, judging the speaker and taking attention away from what was being said constituted:

–a defense, preventing insight from getting in
–a way to stay stuck, avoiding life change
–a conceit, owing to the use of moral superiority to hide behind

We cannot say someone is “religious” based on one incident, any more than you can say someone is Catholic if they attend one Christmas Mass. The habit of thought I am talking about is consistent. It is a defense against insight.

Implications of “religious” and characteristics of people the term fits:

–narrowness gussied up as idealism or Rightness
–judgment of other people under the veil of moral superiority
–black and white thinking
–trying to navigate life from a set of rules instead of sensing what is going on and making a fresh and principled response

Let me unpack this in more detail: Unfounded, mind- or belief-based, idealism is “religious.” It is unfounded on experience, impractical, unpracticed, or even unpracticable in actual life. Movements or political actions based on concepts that spring from judgments, reactions, and suppressed personal emotions create, at best, ancillary problems. This can be seen as a naive attempt to solve a problem without appreciating the context in which the problem exists. I will skip making an example here to avoid inadvertently stirring up reactivity, taking those who most need to hear this off on a distracting tangent.

From the perspective of learning personal balance by working with the Elements, being “religious” can be described as: too much Air (thought), heated up by Fire (passion), in the absence of adequate Water (emotion—this kind of reactivity is out of touch with personal emotion and uses reactivity as a substitute), with the Element of Earth being both deficient and stuck (Earth represents grounding in reality. When it is stuck, people become rigid and resistant.).

From another point of view, being “religious” is almost the same as being controlling. The person is seeking security and stability by being Right. Like all psychological defenses, this behavior protects the person from insight and change until he or she is ready and able to face life’s paradoxes and inconsistencies more directly.

A lot of people who are spiritual dislike anything religious because they lump it in with the “religious.”

Similarly, many good hearted people resist spirituality because they associate it with control issues and hypocrisy, including wars and outright abuse, supposedly founded on religions. Those who have openly explored numerous religions understand that the universal and spiritual heart of each religion stems from something lovely. The “religious,” unable to grasp the heart of it, become fanatic and sometimes perpetrate upon others. Again, that is a conceit and a defense.

None of us are totally free from limited thinking or judging others. Excessive resistance to religion can show a “religious” reaction toward those who are religious. 🙂

People being people, there is no group anywhere that does not contain individuals who are “religious.” Wherever we have beliefs, we have people who grasp them with their minds and become passionate, without yet being able to live these beliefs from day to day. This is a call for compassion.

It serves us to look inside and see where we are being “religious” ourselves.

What are YOU “religious” about?

How does this play out in your life?

What persons or groups show up as “other” when you hold this view?

22 January 2016 4 Comments

Barriers

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers

within yourself that you have built against it.  ~ Rumi

 

IMG_0843