The Law of Awakening

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

What is the purpose of starting letters with this sentence of eleven words? Often I think it deteriorates into a flag waving exercise, a means of proclaiming what team you are identifying with. Is that really all?

What would happen if you were to consciously think and write these words? Saying it consciously really brings it to the mind. These days so many people have shortcuts. What is the point?  If it is just another habit, albeit an odd one, it serves little purpose. It should be said thoughtfully, with intention.

In this way, the very act of writing these eleven words is an act of Awareness. In the ongoing struggle against habit and unconscious patterns, this one practice to help the dreamer awaken is welcome.

Do what thou wilt, or Svecchacara, or 93. Whatever you may say, let it have conscious intent, and help both yourself and others to experience, if but for an instant, that primordial pristine Awareness.

Love is the law, love under will

 

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Meditation for Humans

I’ve been a meditator  since around the age of 16. After decades of practice, and quite honestly, a lot of struggling, I have finally managed to come across a sweet spot in formal sitting practice that has accelerated my sense of “progress” (not that there is anywhere to go or anything to change, but that is a deeper topic for another day!)

So, what has suddenly helped me, and turned me from a semi-frequent meditator to someone that sits twice a day every day for about an hour? Here are a couple tips that work for me. Most of them are amazingly obvious, and I admit that I am just a slow study,

Sit comfortably

For years I would force myself into painful asanas in order to sit for meditation. I was convinced I had to sit on the floor in some way, either on my folded legs or in a half lotus (I gave up trying to twist into full lotus a long time ago). I would spend so much time in pain and discomfort that I would be unable to sit for long periods of time more often than not. My sitting practice was more of a twitching, tight breathing and stealing glances at the clock practice.

Now I sit in a chair. What a difference. Instead of struggling against muscle spasms and sprained back, I can focus. My friend and teacher Soror Meral told me to sit in a chair back when I was first starting out, but I discarded the advice of course because I had to sit in the Dragon asana like I saw in my copies of the Equinox.

Now that I am not battling against my body, I find that its a lot easier to settle in and move into the practice in a deep way.

Sit outside

This is another really basic one. For years my practice was indoors, inside a temple or shrine room. Thats fine and helped in many ways, but things really took off when I stepped outside into the world. The real temple has no walls.

I’ve found that being closer to nature, or just the sky outside, is far more effective for me than in a room. Something about feeling the breeze on my face, hearing the rustle of leaves and bird songs. I’ll often meditate with my eyes open, and seeing the wide open sky with its clouds, the trees and mountains, or the stars and moon at night — all of this goes a long way towards helping to stay centered and feeling the deep connection that we have with the world.

Again, this is a silly little trick in a lot of ways, as when your perspective shifts to one taste the location does not matter (really one should be in active presence in any situation). There is nothing wrong with using props to help you get jumpstarted, and nature is an amazing, beautiful, inspiring one.

Use an App

Despite working in high tech, I resisted using any apps for my practice for the longest time. Using technology that finds every possibly means to distract and interrupt attention seemed like the antithesis of any deep, mindful practice.

Then I tried out a free mindfullness app (Insight Timer), and discovered that these tools can in fact be really helpful. With guided meditations by many different teachers, and simple timers that can be configured to use custom timings and sounds, the app has actually become one of my most useful tools. Its simple to use, and rather than being another distraction, it helps to delineate the time. I also like seeing the charts that show how much time I have been meditating over the past weeks and months. An app can also help you to remain consistent, as you can set reminders which can be important depending on what your daily routines are like.

An app will not be for everyone, and there are still plenty of alternatives. The deeper lesson here is to not discard a potential aid simply based on things like “taste” or “tradition.” Use what works for you. Experiment, modify, discard and retain to find what is effective.

Take a Hike

Walking meditation has a long established history in many traditions. I am not suggesting a formal mindful walking practice here (although that is great as well). Just get out into nature as much as you can, out into the wilds if possible or even a park. Quiet, contemplative walks or hikes are great opportunities to feel at one with the universe.

There is a reason so many pagan and native traditions hold their practices outside in nature. Get out and try it. Like sitting outside for meditation, being active and moving your body, breathing fresh air, listening to the sounds of nature while being immersed in a forest, or making your way through a rocky path, along rivers — this is your world, and its best to experience it in its raw, natural beauty as much as possible.

Go alone or with a partner or group that has a similar intent to silently experience nature. Expand on this to go camping or backpacking in the majesty of the world.

I had some similar thoughts on this in relation to western esotericism in this article  Reuniting yourself with the natural world

At the Feet of the Guru

During the 1950’s Kenneth Grant wrote several articles for The Call Divine and The Mountain Path, exploring the non-dual philosophy of Advaida Vedanta and the teachings of such great sages as Sri Ramana Maharshi, Anandamayi Ma, Sri Thakhur Haranath and others.

Below are a few articles from The Call Divine, from Sri Ramanasramam

Resignation

Nothing Manifests Itself in Any Form

The Cult of the Hill

The Great Solvent

The Message Enshrined in Silence

Quicksand

Arunachala Siva, The Void Nature of the Self.

The Adamantine Way

Bhagavan Sri Ramana as I knew Him-SYMPOSIUM

The Bodiless Presence

These articles and others from The Call Divine and The Mountain Path have been collected together in the excellent Starfire publication, At The Feet of the Guru, Needless to say, this is a beautiful publication, as all the titles from Starfire are – highly recommended.

Additionally, in the Call Divine appears an article by Steffi Grant describing a miraculous healing dream with Ramana Maharshi, entitled A Dream

Say Ahhhhhhhh

“As the letter ‘a’ is the first of all letters but is itself uncreate and formless, free from all modulations, so also is the One Pure Consciousness likewise the formless source wherefrom Samsara appears to arise. Of all the letters, Sri Krishna, in the Gita, claims identity with the letter ‘a’ since this letter signifies the void and contentless vast of Consciousness, which is bereft of all concept and all ideas of subjectivity and objectivity.” – Kenneth Grant, The Adamantine Way (appearing in the Call Divine, 1 May 1954).

letter_a.jpg

This article and several others from Kenneth Grant are online at the Sri Ramanasaram site. 

making the unconscious conscious

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Had the pleasure of attending a talk and meditation by Professor Robert Thurman last week. With decades of experience  as both a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and as a professor, he has a great knack for presenting these often complex ideas in a simple manner that cut right to the essence of a profound teaching.

Professor Thurman is His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s personal representative in the US, and the founder of Tibet House, an organization dedicated to preserving the rich cultural legacy of Tibetans. He also has a wicked sense of humour, and this comes out often during his talks! Many of his lectures are available on the Bob Thurman Podcast, which I highly recommend. Even if Buddhism is not your thing, you might find a lot of value in these talks.

The talk I attended was geared towards the very materialistic, scientific minded engineers of Silicon Valley. He thought it was great that “mindfullness meditation” is becoming all the rage among the corporate world, even if it is a very stripped down version of the practices. It still has the benefit of getting people to be a little more introspective. In a culture of materialism and western science, where the tendency is to live for “this life only” and to negate any deeper look into the meaning of existence beyond making money, this is a welcome foothold into daily life. In such a context, Professor Thurman defined enlightenment as “making the unconscious, conscious.”  With nods to Freud and Jung, this was the perfect explanation for westerners.

A very simple meditation practice was given that can be used to enhance the vipassanna styled meditations that have been popularized in the Valley by all the meditation apps (10% Happier, Headspace, Calm) currently making the rounds. Inhale white light, with a sense of healing filling up your cells. Hold the breath briefly, just a few seconds, while seeing it as a rich ruby red light that is vibrant with health and healing. Exhale the breath, seeing it as a deep cobalt blue light that gives out healing to the world and the environment. Tantrik sadhakas may see in this simple practice the deep roots of vajra breathing with the vibrational syllables of OM AH HUNG.

 

 

cutting through

Labels. They are everywhere. We use them to define ourselves, each other, our space, our likes and dislikes, the world around us, our thoughts… In one sense, language is a great label maker for chopping up the vast expanse of raw experience into bite sized pieces that are easily digested.

If you do not “fit” into a label, people may feel funny about you. For the sake of comfort, it seems as though people expect to be able to categorize everything, including themselves, into well organized and defined definitions. If you can not label it, it can can not be categorized and fit in to the correct slot.

With the wide acceptance of social media like Facebook, the motivation to “fit in” and “label” oneself and others has become something of a collective past-time. Favorite music, books, movies, television… “I drink wine and enjoy watching Friends. Oh so do you? My political slant is <fill in the blank> and my religion is <label goes here>. I don’t like this person, they use labels I don’t like. I am in this club and you aren’t.” Subject and object, this and that, inside outside. Perhaps if enough data is collected and the patterns analyzed, we can give up having names and just be categorized under certain labels and numbers.

A case in point, the About page. How many labels do I have to choose in order to try to box myself in to a nice package that others will be able to label according to their own set of rules? Lets see —  I’m Typhonian, and I am big on Tantra and Dzogchen. Other labelled entities (poor humans), such as those calling themselves Thelemites, might not like that I’m Typhonian. Classical Hindu tantriks on the other hand, may dislike that I am into Dzogchen. Labels might get in the way of actual human connection if I don’t pass the initial word filter.

Based on the associations of labels, we limit our experiences and interactions with other living human beings. This person seems nice, but they label themselves as a <blank> – no thank you. That person has so much energy, looks so happy, really enjoys life – oh but wait… it says here they love a book by an author that I hate…. No!  We limit ourselves if the label does not “fit.”

Words imprison us. Sure, they can also liberate us. Language is both a blessing and a curse.

Life is for living. It is alive, dynamic, unpredictable, beautiful and ugly, magnificent and horrible. It is all of these things simultaneously. Try some of those labels on, if you must. The more we try to define ourselves, to live inside of our own well constructed boxes, the more comical the whole game becomes.

Meditation is useful in getting reacquainted with reality. I say reacquainted because we all know it, have experienced it. At the very least, you were an infant at one time, before language was part of your consciousness (I suppose that is arguable, with the sound of the mothers voice being heard in the womb). Go back further then…

Persist long enough and you might get glimpses of consciousness beyond (before?) language. What is experience before it is labeled? What is the raw, unfiltered, unspeakable experience of being?

Who are you, before you had a name?