WHAT DOES GROWING LOOK LIKE?

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

People often ask me, what is growing? What does it look like? How do I do it?

There’s no easy answer. While growing is a universal activity, it is individually expressed within each microenvironment, and there are trillions of microenvironments on the face of the earth.  That means that, rather than having me explain in detail what growing means to you, you have to do the work of figuring that out for yourself.  I will help in any way I can, but I can’t give you any rules. First of all, there really aren’t any.  But even more important, I feel that as an expression of respect for the potential that is in each person on this earth and the extraordinary range of resonance that is present in people, for the extraordinary variety of songs people sing, I should create and hold the space for each person in my life to find within themselves their own music and express it as they can.

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Everything in this world grows. Just look around you—you can see every living thing around you taking in energy, creating structure from it, and expanding within the sphere of its own field of operation into an ever-increasing flow. As a tree grows, it has increasing structure that supports increasing internal flow and external expression, which generates more flow coming in and more flow going out.

The same process is in play in everything that grows.  Every living thing is basically taking in energy and transforming that energy into structure. It takes it in through the biochemical process and expires it through respiratory process.

There are multiple dimensions of respiratory process. We are breathing in and sending out, and as we’re breathing in and sending out, we are participating in an extraordinary range of diverse activities.  For instance, trees take in carbon dioxide as part of the process of photosynthesis, through which they make complex sugars from light. They use them to create structure and, in the process, they are releasing oxygen and other chemicals.

All day, every day, each of us is taking in energy in three dimensions whether we are aware of it or not.  We are breathing air through our lungs; we are taking in food and digesting it; and we are taking in information from our total environment through our senses and also through our skin.  We are taking in information that we never consciously deal with because we don’t need to. We are taking this information and structuring it within ourselves for the sake of continuing to fulfill our fundamental biological imperative, which is eating and reproducing.

If you begin to pay attention to this three-phase respiratory process, you would start to understand that there is constantly a circulation of energy of various forms being taken in and breathed out all day every day, and that those respiratory processes are the mechanism by which you grow. Tuning in to the movement of energy that is happening constantly—and which actually is what you are—begins to inform you about yourself in ways that will certainly reorganize everything you think you know about you and the world you live in. 

It all begins with paying attention to your breath, the most basic respiratory process. If you pay attention to your breath and the quality of interaction between yourself and others, you begin to recognize that there is a living process inside of you that encompasses a wide range of experience. Some of that experience is really extraordinarily fine, and it’s accessible over and over and over again should you choose to access it.

If you understand that simple thing, if you understand that, like a tree, you are in this world to grow, whenever you come to a place of strain or trauma or difficulty, you can refer back to that understanding.  Then you’ll have a basis for beginning to sort out what you are doing and what you need to do within the experience that is expressing itself as your life.  It makes things simple.

ON EMERGENT LEARNING

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

As we engage in self-cultivation and express that engagement as service, we will get feedback. Because everything is a dynamic system, and the energy is constantly feeding back to us, every flow cycles back, it’s possible that the feedback that we experience will shift our awareness. If we are able to hold a place of equanimity through the experiences of negative feedback, eventually we can come to a place where a new skill set can emerge within us. I’d call it emergent learning.

The work of biochemist Stuart Kauffman focuses on biocomplexity. He asserts that consciousness is an emergent quality of complex dynamic systems: that increasing complexity requires what some would call an “evolution of consciousness.”  When a dynamic system is not very complicated, it’s intrinsically limited to one range of frequencies. When there is increasing complexity, there are more frequencies that are encompassed in the same field, which becomes an evolution of consciousness. We can say there is a kind of learning that happens, but this learning is something that is really a function of the dynamics within the field. So we don’t exactly “learn lessons.”  The way I see it, we do seva, we participate in flow, and, as we dissolve our tensions and our boundaries, and the dynamics of our own system are expanded, then the system itself reorganizes itself to express an appropriate balance in a new dynamic environment. That balance becomes manifest in a person as new skill sets.

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When most of us talk about learning things, we don’t express what we think we’ve learned in the positive. We mostly express what we think we’ve learned in the negative. For example, one common lesson is “I’ve learned that most people are assholes and I’m going to protect myself from them from now on.” Well, that pretty much undermines the whole impulse that people have toward connection and bonding. So that’s not a positive. It only builds boundary; it doesn’t dissolve it.

Learning is not, in my view, an intellectual activity. We can read books, we can accumulate information, but that’s not learning. Whatever information we accumulate will be eventually replaced by new and different information, and that all depends on what activities we engage in.  We really have no control over that kind of accumulation.

Through service, we increase the rate of flow and the dynamic range of our own energetic mechanism. As we release tensions and allow our Creative Energy to flow from within our own essence, transformation takes place, and it is expressed as learning. If we look at it from a dualistic point of view, we’re learning, because we took on something from outside ourselves. If we look at it from a non-dualistic point of view, what we have really experienced is the flowering of wisdom that automatically happens as the life expression that we are unfolds. A rose, after all, doesn’t learn to be fragrant; it’s just the natural expression of the rose.

 

WHEN WILL GETS IN THE WAY

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Will is one of the most basic expressions of our own personal power. Our individual will has a role to play in the initial stages of our development when we are finding our center and coalescing as a human being. It is, however, a total obstruction as we move into the higher levels of our work.

 Creative Commons "Arms Crossed" by ForestRunner is licensed under CC by 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Creative Commons "Arms Crossed" by ForestRunner is licensed under CC by 2.0
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Our will tends to keep us stupid in relationship to other people and our activity in the world. We get willful and stubborn, and that completely disturbs the flow of feedback in our environment. If we can be centered and use our will to hold our center and flow in every environment, nobody can push us off balance, and nothing is going to happen that undermines our basic strength.  Because we are able to flow within ourselves and move within our environment, we become more powerful. We are able to hear the feedback, make the changes within ourselves, and then respond appropriately to the needs of the environment and what the people in it are trying to express. Then we're not perceived as an obstruction to the flow, but as a facilitator of all flow. Too often, though, our ego hijacks our will, and suddenly we've created a situation where all the information and feedback is flowing around us, rather than through us.

We need to have self-respect, not expecting that anyone else will respect us. We make the effort, every single day, to be where we need to be to do our work the best way that it can be done. That's where will comes in. We respect ourselves. When we are centered and flowing, that power compels respect. When we’re busy telling people they have to respect us, we’re just setting ourselves up for more disappointment.

When we understand that life is a loving process, what we are trying to do is connect to that love within ourselves and connect to our life as it is. We listen to what the love within us and the love we share with others is telling us about what it needs in order to grow. If we communicate all of that clearly to the people we share our life with, and if we're patient and listen to them, too, then slowly the love that is within us and the love we share with others is going to transform our life completely. We will understand that our life is an expression of the loving process of life itself and not our own ego.

We can make ourselves sick by demanding things that have nothing to do with our connection to ourselves or our connectedness with others. It's just some misunderstanding that got planted in our brains about what we think it is to be a real person. A real person is flowing in every circumstance and is an endless expression of loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, service. 

 

END OF STORY

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

An important belief in Indian religion is that we reincarnate over and over again, but there is some misunderstanding about what reincarnation actually is.

If you look at a tree, year after year, you will notice that, each year, leaves come out and, over the course of the season, the leaves fall away. The next year, the leaves come again. This happens over and over and over again. Those leaves are not separate living creatures; those leaves are connected to the tree and are expressions of the life of the tree. The leaves are participating in, having a role in the conversion of the total biosphere into this expression manifesting as the tree.

The trunk of the tree isn’t the life of the tree. It’s also part of the structure. It is an expression of the life of the tree that is subtly flowing to the center of the tree and year after year after year, creating, transforming, the earth that its roots are in, and the sun into this dynamic display…a tree!

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So each year, the leaves fall down. What happens to the leaves? Well, if the tree is in the forest, the leaves become the soil. The minerals in the leaves go back into the soil and are absorbed again by the tree, year after year, as the soil builds and builds and builds, and the same minerals become the tree and the leaves all over again. The biosphere itself is expressing its aliveness in the form of tree and leaf, and the leaf and the tree and the earth and the sky are all completely interconnected in this dynamic process. At some point in time the tree is going to fall down, and the trunk is going to dissolve and become the dirt again, and all the minerals that gave the trunk mass will then become a part of the soil which gives a new tree mass and vibrancy.

The story of the leaf is finished the moment the leaf detaches from the tree. The story is over. In the same way, the moment a human being dies in Nepal, particularly if they’re a Brahman, the first thing that happens at the cremation, before the body is burned, is that the person’s the astrology chart is torn up and thrown in the river—because that story is over. So when thinking about your past lives, you have to understand: your story is not what transmigrates. That story that you hold so closely now is a story that was a fiction in the first place, a fiction in the second place, a fiction in the third place, and then completely forgotten. Why do you hold it so closely? Why do you let it torture you?

What transmigrates are the minerals in your bones and the resonance that you held in your heart. The feeling that is the life of your life lives on. None of the rest of it does. Only the connection to the beauty that is your essence lives on. All of your tumult will live on, too, but the story will not. So you have to just go forward in life, instead of reinventing the same tortures all over again in some new fashion.  You to have remember to purify your mind and open your heart to all of the variety of forms of light that populate the wondrous field of your experience. You are able, in that case, to receive the blessing that is this life on Earth.

There’s only one life and that life is not yours or mine; it is its own. It is a self-organizing, self-sustaining, self-expressing dynamic system that is the self-awareness, the livingness of the Universe Itself. Having an experience of this reality puts an end to 99.9% of the misery of being a human being. In time, it heals everything—all of the traumas and all of the disappointments of your ancestors—and brings wellness, not just to you, but to everybody with whom you share your life and many generations of your ancestors, backwards and forwards.

LIFE IS A LOVING PROCESS

Commitment to a deeply open heart and a deeply loving place within ourself will reveal to us, in time, a very simple and very profound insight. That insight is a realization that is one of the goals of tantric practice. In my own words, rather than in the language of esoteric Saivism or tantric Buddhism, the understanding is this: Life is a loving process. We have to realize, from the efforts we make inside ourselves, the loving process that is life attempting to express possibilities that are far greater than our ordinary human experience.

Life is a loving process that is self-existent. Our life isn't really ours; each of our lives is totally interconnected in the loving process that is life, that has a logic all its own and a direction of its own. If we are able, through our practice, to come to a profound state of harmony with it, we will understand its possibilities, which are mind-boggling, brain-breaking, unbelievable. 

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Part of what this understanding means is that we stop taking it personally and we stop trying to do stuff with it. Rather, we allow life to inform us because we are living in love within ourself and allowing that love to lead us through all of the various transformations we will have to undergo in order to to arrive at a place where the understanding and the palpable experience of life as a loving process begins to permeate every part of us. It releases within us and all around us a sweetness that is just...heaven.

Everything that happens for us, all of the various changes that we have to go through, is life trying to free us from our egotism, from our fear and anxiety, to begin to live in a place within ourselves where we can appreciate that life is a loving process. Then we no longer have to have an agenda. We don't have to be this thing or that thing. We are free within ourselves to allow that love to shape us and inform us of who we are and what pathways are available to us for expression to allow us to participate in the vastness of the loving process that life is.

So, the first thing is to be committed to a finer place within yourself. Every single day, no matter what change happens, let the change go. Don't make the ordinary response that human beings have which is to cop an attitude, close your heart, make some kind of stupid reaction and then bury yourself forever, basically.  Instead, stay open and allow the love within yourself to lead you toward a new balance and a new alignment in the ever-shifting dynamic circumstance that is life as a loving process.  

 

SUSTAINING MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

To develop the possibility of a finer and richer and more meaningful existence requires commitment. If we are sincere about looking for more in life, we will meet people who will be mentors to us, who will open doors for us, and who will in some way or another share insights with us that are meaningful and sometimes very, very powerful.  It is important for us, for the sake of our own integrity, and for the sake of honoring our own life process, to sustain those connections and to deepen them, if possible in the context of our life, forever. 

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Going from person to person, teacher to teacher, relationship to relationship, never allows for us to develop any depth whatsoever in any system of practice or depth whatsoever within ourselves as a human being. In our current culture, loyalty is almost non-existent. People are friends one day and not friends the next--and not just on Facebook. In this kind of cultural environment, rather than allowing meaningful relationships to break, we need to look within ourselves. We need to see what it is about every circumstance that we struggle with, and what it is about us in every circumstance that we struggle in, that creates tension and disturbance and brings us to the point of disconnection, and we have to try to change that.

It’s not a question of changing from one thing to another thing, “Oh, I will no longer do this,” or “I’ll no longer do that,” or “I’ll be better over here” or “I’ll work harder at that.” In the context of all of the challenges that we face in the world with one another, the appropriate way to express our commitment to the relationships we have is to reach more deeply within ourselves first and to connect to what is really essential and basic in our connections to everybody.  The simplest way to put it is that we open our hearts and we connect to the love within ourselves.  Then we find from that love our connection to every single person that we relate to, and we allow that love to inform us of the ways in which we need to express ourselves to continually deepen and grow every aspect of our life.

WRINKLES IN THE SHEET METAL

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Someone recently asked me whether deeply ingrained tensions, or fundamental hurts that keep resurfacing over and over can ever be resolved.

My own personal experience is that most of it is never fully resolved. It’s as if when we are born, we’re put in a Corvette Stingray with a 425 supercharger in it and pointed at a brick wall, at a very high speed. BAM! We hit the world. There’s lots of damage to the sheet metal. It’s just what happens in the course of our lives. I’m using this metaphor because you can patch the body of a damaged car back together again, but it’s never going to be the same. You can never really get all the wrinkles out. You can’t, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean it won’t drive, and it may not be as pretty as we wanted it to be, and some people will stress about it forever, but it really just doesn’t matter. Slowly, through our practice, through our self-cultivation and our self-study, we are able to come to a place where we can access some love and joy within ourselves that is an appropriate antidote to all of the wrinkles that have established themselves as our personal experience.

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Pain, moreover, is fundamentally energy. What all the wrinkles in the sheet metal represent is energy that has been transferred from the motion of your vehicle in contact with the wall to the body of the car. It has been transferred and endures in the sheet metal. That’s what the wrinkles are. When you attend to the pain without any attitude about it, that energy is released. You just feel it, you hold the awareness of it, you don’t avoid it, you don’t get entangled by it in your mind, you simply relate to the pain. Doing this, the pain becomes released and that energy is absorbed into your system.

Don’t even bother to think about life lessons. Personally, I think life lessons are bullshit. When I hear people asking, “Oh, what’s the lesson in this”, I cringe. There is no lesson in this. The lesson is in the absorption of the energy and the inherent transformation of our energetic mechanism that will come from that absorption. There is no mental, intellectual, emotional information that we can ever wrap our mind around and call a permanent lesson because, in every case, the lessons that we refer to are not lessons that are positive, they are lessons that are life negating. Right? Think about it!

Instead of talking about life lessons, we need to take the pain and transform it into joy. It doesn’t matter what level the pain is happening in—physical, mental or emotional—it is simply energy locked in wrinkled sheet metal that needs to be released so that we can absorb and digest it. Absorbing that energy brings about an automatic change in the structure of our energetic mechanism, and that’s what takes us to a higher, life-affirming state.

WE ARE CURTAINS OF LIGHT

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Most of the world’s major religious traditions suggest that the world and the physical body are places of temptation and evil. That is not the view of the tantric tradition. The tantric tradition views the body as curtains of light. The body is curtains of light that, due to a suppression of the activity of the breath of life, are condensed into what appears as our form.

There is, in fact, a total integration between physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. There’s no such thing as body being over here, mind being over there, and God being someplace up above. The body is the mind, the mind is the body, and there is no separation. All we need to do is take a few small steps in practice to begin to understand that. The body and the mind are expressions of the divine creative force and there is no separation. Then we loop back to the understanding that the body is not the source of sin and degradation and the pathway to hell. On the contrary, the body is divine. The body is the condensation of the ultimate creative energy.

Padmasambhava in rainbow body.

When the breath of life within us is released and can flow, then the condensation of the curtains of light that we are is released as well. When the layers of respiration within us can move freely, the circulation allows the layers of curtain that is our body to become expanded, allows the breath moving in our body to become full, and in the fullness of the expansion of the breath, our awareness expands to the degree that we begin to appreciate that this body is an energetic event.  We can literally feel the energy moving in our muscles. 

The body is curtains of light. The mind is the sparkle and the shimmer in those curtains of light. The curtains themselves are the breath of God. You have within yourself a creative capacity that your mind will never be able to wrap itself around. It’s not what the mind exists for. But when you know that creative capacity and you can establish yourself in connection with it and hold that space of the breath, that creative capacity will completely reorganize you and express that reorganization in the total field of your experience. That’s when the recognition emerges: I Am That. I am that divine creative energy.

Whether you are sitting in your favorite coffee shop having your coffee in the morning, or going to work, doing whatever you do, working in your day, you are nothing but the breath of God. Whatever you are doing, you are an expression of the fundamental respiratory process that underlies the entire universe.

SERVICE AND SUSTAINABILITY

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

An attitude of service is one of the essential elements in the emergence of any inner life that you hope to cultivate. When we have an attitude of service, we will find that we no longer need to defend our ego, to defend ourselves and our actions. Instead we live a life of caring and consciousness, awareness and thoughtfulness.

Whenever you find that you become aware, in any area of your life, that you are defending yourself in some circumstance, I would like you to consider that perhaps the only thing that is ever possible for you to defend is your stupidity. You don’t need to defend your intelligence or your brilliance or your talent or your capability. If you have a little bit of strength, you can stand in that. In fact it will exist, it will shine out in the end after every challenge. It is only in our weaknesses and in our stupidity that we get ourselves locked in struggles and become defensive. That is when in fact we accumulate trauma. It’s only when we are locked and stiff that we can absorb and maintain any kind of shock and trauma to the system. When we are relaxed and flowing, any force that enters into this field we can move with. We can adapt to anything.

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So a life of service brings us an attitude of openness and connectedness and participation in the lives of everybody whose life we touch. Now, I am not saying that having an attitude of service means that you should go out and start doing charitable work. That doesn’t really matter. What I am saying is that when you meet your parents or your brothers and sisters, it is very important that you have an attitude of service. That attitude of service denies you the opportunity to take anybody for granted and not make contact. It requires of you that you are constantly aware of that creative energy happening within you and connecting from that deeper place in you to everybody that you interact with. You are not trying to impose your will or even your limited idea of what is right on anyone, but embracing and appreciating all the diversity in life.  For each person that you connect to, you can be a source of energy that they can use to make a change within themselves.

Service is appropriate in your family and personal life. An attitude of service is also equally important in your office and in whatever professional work that you do. This attitude allows you to come into line with the people that you work with, so that there is a sharing going on in that environment. That kind of sharing allows for it to be a much more rewarding experience. It is going to reduce conflict and facilitate flow. In that case, everybody is going to feel better about everybody else, and you will all be able to focus more on the goals of the organization that you are working with. You will be encouraging that organization to be more true to its mission, and therefore more efficiently and more capably supporting that organization in making a contribution to whatever area of society it is intending to affect. Only those of us who actually work in corporations with an attitude of service will be able to create a sense of alignment among all of the people who work there to begin to influence their function in a way that will genuinely serve our societies, that will genuinely cause those people to function in a way that is responsible to the environment and responsible to the communities in which they exist.

Our only hope for sustaining life on this planet is that all of us have an attitude of service and that we bring that attitude of service to every aspect of our lives.  As we bring that aspect of service to our life, we are bringing our understanding of the unity of the whole. We are bringing a mystical, profound spiritual awareness into the differentiated world in which all of us move around in everyday, and we are demonstrating the power of that awareness to awaken and transform human beings, restoring health and vitality to their bodies, clarity to their minds, expansiveness to their emotions. We are allowing the world to become healthy again.

 

FINDING FLOW

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Breath is flow. That’s the simplest form of it. Just to speak to another person can also create flow. If you could, in any conversation you’re having, bring a deeper awareness of flow to that moment, you have changed that person’s life forever. Everyone has had experiences of flow, where suddenly there’s a connection and something starts happening between you and the person you’re with.  

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Flow can happen anywhere. I used to be a cashier in my father’s drugstore. I learned that smiling at people and saying something, anything nice, to them started creating a flow between us. Over the years that I worked in my dad’s drugstore those connections deepened, and I saw people’s lives change. Having that job opened opportunities for me to share with people whom I would never have met anywhere else.

So, flow can be breathing. Flow can be touching. Flow can be speaking. Flow in the finest sense is just to feel yourself, feel the other person, feel the space between you and to hold that awareness. Do that, and magic can happen.

ON SELF-CULTIVATION AND LETTING GO

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Surrender is the first thing we need to do every day. By that I mean letting go, letting go, letting go. Usually we wake up in the morning, we think about what we have to do, we think about what we haven’t done, we think about all this stuff, and it immediately makes us crazy: “I’ve gotta do this, I can’t do that, I’ll...” Blah blah blah blah. Upon awakening to our day, we enter into that state of what has to be done, what shouldn’t be done, what wasn’t done, and we become all inflamed around our entanglement in the world, when the first thing we need to do every day is think about the complete lack of control that we actually have in our lives.

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One of the reasons why I recommend that people read the book Incognito by David Eagleman is that he argues from a neurophysiological standpoint that we have no free will. This discussion doesn’t come up much in the media or in popular science because it’s a complicated subject. But Eagleman makes a convincing case that we have no free will. So, getting up in the morning, the first thing we do is let go, and think about the lack of control that we have, which clears our hearts and minds of all the struggle, so that we can become attuned to our own inner strength and our inner vitality. Remember that the most important thing that we are doing, all day every day, is self-cultivation. We are cultivating the awareness of ourselves, cultivating a connection with our hearts, cultivating kindness and compassion and caring, and, ultimately, love for our fellow human beings. We are cultivating devotion to Life Itself. That’s our first job every day.

We do asana practice to cultivate body awareness and flow. The movement of the energy in our body, through the intentional movement of our body, gives us a deeper connection with and awareness of ourselves. Then we go, layer by layer, from the body to the energy, through the mind to the energy, to our heart and to the abundance that resides in our Essence. From that abundance we serve each other. Slowly dissolving the boundaries of our awareness, the boundaries that are expressed as want and need and desire and also opinion and attitude and judgment, all of which are lumped together in most spiritual texts under the word “ignorance.”

We let go of the idea that we have control in the outcome of our day, and we engage in the activity of self-cultivation. After first establishing our awareness within ourselves, we move out into our day, following the flow of the energy and doing our best to serve the flow that is expressing itself in that day—which sometimes means that the day ends up going some place we never thought it would. A lot of the time that’s a very happy and fruitful occasion.

 

BHAGAVAN NITYANANDA AND THE BIG PICTURE

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

The way Bhagavan Nityananda lived was completely different from the way we do. He was completely removed from people, and he probably didn’t even need them at all. He had a rich relationship with the spirits around him that sustained him on every level. For the most part, he simply had no reason to deal with people and all their tensions, their worries, their jealousies, and their judgments. He was out of touch with all of that. I don’t think that any western person can grasp the intensity of his asceticism and his solitude.

His asceticism was not something that was contrived. It wasn’t like saying, “Oh, I’m going to go out and stop eating all glutinous material,” and it wasn’t like he was trying to live a healthy life. You can’t do what he did and be healthy, exactly. But he didn’t care. He had no interest in the issue of health. It just never dawned on him. He was completely, totally above it all.

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We might look at Nityananda and see his asceticism, and we might think we can imitate it and become like him. We’ll just give up something: it might be alcohol, sex, meat. Nityananda wasn’t like that. He just was what he was. He wasn’t trying to be anything other than what he was. In a very real sense, he was doing everything that was natural to him. He was established in a profound spiritual state that completely released him from everything that had anything to do with what ordinary people need. He just didn’t need it.

For years I used to think about what I would have to do to be like Nityananda. I finally came to the place where I decided that to be like him I had to be like me. The only thing I could do was be like me. I would be whoever I am, and that would be enough. I don’t think most people are even remotely capable of living the kind of asceticism Nityananda demonstrated. But I also don’t think we should try. He was completely extraordinary, yet maybe not the only person in India who had that kind of capacity around that time.

Nityananda was an immensely powerful person who, without going anywhere, saw and could see what was going on everywhere. One of the wonderful stories about him happened on the day that Sputnik was launched. The Russians had launched the first satellite to orbit the earth. In Ganeshpuri, there was no radio or newspaper, and no way for anyone to know, but Nityananda came out and sat down in front of his small group of devotees who were there. He started telling them, “Oh, the Russians have just launched a satellite and it’s going to go around the earth, and then the Americans are going to do something in response. Before too long, people are going to be walking around on the moon.” Of course, all of his devotees were incredulous because even the idea of a satellite, a rocket taking off the face of the earth, was beyond them.

This story is just one example of Nityananda’s ability to know anything that was going on anywhere and to express it. He was amazing. Nityananda’s presence removed diseases, removed obstacles, removed affliction and suffering from the lives of those people who kept his company, and he asked nothing for it. He had but one thought in his mind, and that was the total unity of everything. He saw connectedness where most people see diversity and difference. He saw God in everyone, without any kind of judgment or any attempt to make any distinction. He had the big picture firmly in mind at all times. This quality, rather than any practice of asceticism, is what we need to remember about Nityanananda. 

TURBULENCE AND TRANSFORMATION

By Swami Chetanananda

One of the things that the ancient Shaivas observed, which is really simple and easy to grasp, is that if something is breathing, it’s alive, and if it’s not, it’s dead. They came to realize that the entire universe is alive with respiratory process. Everything, on every scale, is breathing. This universal respiratory process is what they call kundalini.

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Kundalini exists in three levels: the physical level, the mental and emotional level, and the level of infinite spaciousness. The Shaivas understood that the universe was a self-organizing, dynamic system, and that its fundamental quality is “freedom,” often translated as “autonomy.”

What’s a dynamic system? It is a pattern of energy. It is patterned, there is movement within the pattern, and this pattern exists as a self-organizing expression that is constantly adapting to its ever-changing circumstance. If I were going to define consciousness, I would say it is the capacity to adapt. Because there is constant feedback, there is constant adaptation, and within that adaptation, the potential is infinite. The world itself, the whole universe, is one dynamic system that is fueled by respiratory process. That respiratory process is constantly manifesting itself as turbulence.

The universe, because of its “livingness”, its “aliveness,” through respiratory process is generating turbulence on an infinite number of scales. Turbulence on an infinite number of scales gives expression to all living forms of life that we are aware of and experience and also forms of life that completely exceed our own limited sensory capacity. There are forms of life that are tiny beyond our ability to see, and forms of life that are large beyond our ability to recognize. All of this is expressed and sustained by respiratory process, which is turbulence.

This fundamental dynamism of the Shaiva Shakta universe, this respiratory process, manifests in a human being as the Breath of Life. It is a subtle pulse, within the cerebral spinal fluid, that powers our physical breathing and our three-phase circulatory system. In other words, the highest and finest, most refined cosmic principle is available to us in the simplest expression of our individual lives: our breath. Turning our attention to our breath, cultivating our awareness of our breath, we can find, within ourselves, an abundance that dissolves the tensions and the traumas of our past experience, internalizes that experience as nourishment and as benefit, and makes available to us the resource, the energy, the inspiration if you will, to engage in transformation.

Turbulence becomes available to us as a positive force as we become familiar with ourselves as energetic beings instead of things. We have to be able, first, to feel the energy moving in us, and to facilitate the organization of that energy into a flow. Learning that internally, then, allows us to start to become aware of the energy, the turbulence in our environment and bring our attention to that turbulence so that it becomes a self-organizing pathway to some kind of accomplishment.

I think the brilliance of the Shakta Shaiva model is that it’s based on the simplest demonstration of life within us. That demonstration of life is an experience that powers us, an experience that transcends our mind and our emotions, and all of the limitations of our body. It is an experience that has endless healing capacity on every level. It has Unimaginable Possibility and ultimately a joy that makes our lives integral and meaningful.

The Fruits of Living From Love

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

You may hear that there is a bhakti path and a jnana path and various other paths, but all paths boil down to the same thing. Every path is about you connecting to your heart and opening yourself deeply to drink in your life, be nourished by it and grow up and give back to life whatever it is you are called upon to give.

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Each of us has unique gifts to give back to the world once we have grown and flowered and matured, and each of those gifts that we are blessed with requires a different soil or climate or something unique. There are peach trees and mango trees and blackberry bushes and apple trees and apricot trees and grape vines, as well as tomatoes and habaneros. It’s still fruit, and it all arises from the same process. The leaves of the trees and the vines reach out to the sun and take in the light and draw it to their core as they draw up from the earth the minerals that are present in the place where they’re planted. They bring it all together in this extraordinarily complex chemical reaction. That reaction is the same for all of us, and through it, our fruits are expressed.

Opening our own hearts to our core, appreciating and accepting our life and ourselves just as we are, we take in from the soil all the nutrients that are there.  Reaching to heaven, we take from each other the light and love that radiates from all of our hearts, and we grow. In growing, plants reach to the light; humans reach to the love. Loving God, loving our lives, loving ourselves, we discover the unity of it all and all the rest of it is just the chemical reaction that happens around us. All the relationships, all the careers, all the money issues, all the sex, all the this thing and the that thing and all the arguments we have with each other, it’s all just part of the soup that is our life.

If your path doesn’t support you in lifting your spirit every day to the light and love in your life and taking that deeply within yourself, then it’s useless and you need to change the recipe. Refine it a little bit. Doing that, you will become a complete human being, find total peace and happiness, and discover the unimaginable abundance that is available to you in your core. That’s what we’re all doing here, and we need to get on with it.

LOVING GOD

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

I’m not very comfortable using the term “God.” I suppose the reason is that I grew up a Catholic, and I was quite certain at an early age that whatever the Catholics meant by God was not what God was. Despite that, it was in church that I first had the experience of God. My first memory from being in Catholic grade school was getting a copy of the Baltimore Catechism. The first lesson in it included the question “Why did God make me?” and the answer given was “God made me to know, love and serve Him in this world.” I believed that when I heard it, and I really tried to live it.

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I was going to church every day (I was an altar boy), and each time I found I could go to a different place, one that had nothing to do with what was going on around me, by feeling into my heart and feeling something wonderful there. I learned to breathe into my heart and to feel there, with my breath, something wonderful. I did that every day as a kid, and I had some pretty far out experiences doing that.

Life went on and I grew up, went through puberty, and became completely disillusioned with Catholicism as I knew it. When I got to college, I lost myself in that whole experience, in the struggle to find my place in the world and to create for myself a career and think about how I would manage family and career and so forth. The whole time was a very big tumble for me. Then one day I was experimenting with mind-altering substances, and I remembered something that I had forgotten in the whole process of growing up: that there is something really wonderful in my heart. As I began to understand that I needed to find myself again, I relied upon that wonderful feeling that I found in my heart and what I learned from everything I had experienced as a child. I realized that I absolutely could not allow myself to be distracted by all the crazy shit going on around me. In fact, I couldn’t allow myself ever to be distracted by anything, ever. Instead, I should always establish my awareness in the wonderful feeling that was available to me in my heart, and go through my days in touch with, thinking from, speaking from, acting from, doing what facilitated the expansion of that wonderful feeling and its expression in the field of my life.

During my college days, there was a lot of countercultural discussion going on about God. Throughout that time, I sincerely wanted to understand what God meant, and I really wanted to find God. I heard a lot of talk about different paths to God and that everybody had their own path. There seemed to be thousands of paths, and I was glad I finally remembered that, for me, there’s only one path. There was always only one path, and there will forever be only one path. That one path is loving God. That’s it.

To find that wonderful feeling in your heart, and go to the depth of that wonderful feeling in your heart, you will discover that you, your life, and God are exactly the same thing. Every single day, connecting to that feeling will open you deeper and allow you to extend your awareness through the field of experience itself in a finer and finer way.

 

Dispelling Self-Doubt

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

The simplest, most brilliant method for dealing with self-doubt is a tool that Rudi created, that we call “The Wish to Grow.” Now, in all the Indian spiritual traditions, whether it’s Buddhism, or Shaivism, or Vaishnavism, devotion is essential. Devotion is essential because devotion continually brings us back to our heart. Devotion is the tool by which we can break down all of the accumulated tensions of our lack of self-esteem, all of the accumulated weight of our own self-doubt, and lift ourselves and our spirits to a place where our energy is activated and flowing. What we are devoted to is growing spiritually, which means growing ever closer to the truth of our own existence. We are growing ever more aware of and rooted in the awareness that we are nothing but energy, and that this total environment is curtains of light, permeated at its most refined dimension literally by only one awareness, one mind. That mind has one thought: I wish to grow. I wish to grow is the only thing on the mind of Shiva.

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The brilliance of this simple tool is, on the one hand, that it is a recognition of our limitations. It’s an acknowledgement of the tensions that we carry. It is an admission of our faults and our mistakes. The Wish to Grow acknowledges the reality of our physical existence,  and our mental, emotional and physical tensions, and the struggles that we have in our daily life, even as it is also recognizing the possibility of transcending all of that and arriving at an understanding of our ultimate reality.  That possibility is extraordinary—a recognition of the beauty that is forever present inside us, and the Unimaginable Possibility that is present as this life.

So in those moments when we encounter any self-doubt, rather than collapse into a puddle or a ball of tensions, if we could release that tension and turn our awareness to the Wish to Grow, and begin to feel within ourselves, in our energy centers, and, take it deeper and deeper and deeper in connection to our energy centers, then we have a natural, innate experience of the devotion that resides within us as beauty, as joy. Slowly, but surely, we are transformed. This doesn’t have to take a long time, although we do need to practice for a while to develop the skill. If you sit and practice every day until you have an experience of the flow, eventually you have the awareness that you can lift yourself within the flow any time you choose. Then, moving through your day, in your ordinary day, that becomes the context of your practice. You are aligning yourself, connecting, flowing, from within yourself in all the activities and with all the people that you share your life with, and that becomes a context for your practice.

Finally, you settle, every day, within yourself, in the place where you are aware, even as you move about in your day, that the reality of you has nothing to do with this physical body or all of the movement that it’s going through. The reality of us is a profoundly refined, sweet and beautiful possibility that presents itself as health and well-being and understanding, that heals and transforms our environment. You become established in a place within yourself, in which it doesn’t matter what you do anymore.  Nothing matters, because your heart radiates joy and gratitude.

So use this brilliant tool that you can sit with and, asking in your heart, connected to your breath, more and more deeply, say to yourself, again and again, “I really, deeply wish to grow.” Relaxing your body, and feeling it again and again, cultivate an intense feeling within yourself that that’s really what your life’s about. Because it is. Every living thing that exists on this planet exists for one reason, and that is to grow. All the diversity and all the environments exist for one reason and that is to support growth.

Remember that the wish to grow doesn’t deny your tensions and isn’t a suppression of anybody’s shortcomings.  It’s in fact an admission of it all. At the same time, it is a recognition that there is an Unimaginable Possibility and profound abundance within us that is available to us, if we can connect to it and hold the space long enough for it to begin to express itself. To hold the space long enough, we have to be able to dispel our self-doubt. The only reason I’m still practicing is because I have experienced again and again, that when we do that, miracles happen. And I wish miracles for all of you.

GROUND HOG DAY--AND THE ALTERNATIVE

By Swami Chetanananda

Most of our attitudes and opinions become formed in a family system, which for, many of us, was dysfunctional. We can also say our attitudes and our opinions have been formed in the past, as they are part of the disappointments of our ancestors from long ago. That deep past goes back long before this body even existed. Our attitudes and opinions were formed ages ago, and they were just sitting there waiting for a body to emerge around them so that they could fully flower. If we are living in our attitudes and opinions, where are we constantly going to go with them? That’s easy -- around and around and around again in our past.

So it becomes important for us to understand that nothing that we see today and will see tomorrow is anything at all like yesterday. While we understand the concept that every day is a new day, most people every new day bring the same attitudes and opinions they had yesterday. You know what that’s called, don’t you? I call it Ground Hog Day. To make the effort to reach inside ourselves, beneath those tensions, and find some fundamental goodness that is ever present in ourselves that we so strangely, rarely access, and begin to engage that part of ourselves and bring it to the forefront and open ourselves and allow ourselves to be open and reeducated every day, is to begin to completely transform ourselves.

The one ingredient in our chemistry that allows for all the lessons that we experience to be absorbed into the deepest place inside us, instead of endlessly reinforcing our attitudes and our opinions, is gratitude. When you find that fundamental goodness in yourself and you start to be able to access it in your daily life, instead of being totally controlled by your past, you will find many reasons to be grateful. Feeling that gratitude, absorbing it into yourself, and becoming that gratitude does not take a lot of effort.

Having desires is almost always a problem. That’s because desires take us out of ourselves. We start reaching for things that we think we need instead of reaching inside to connect to that fundamental goodness inside us to grow the love and the joy and the gratitude in us to the degree that that love and joy and gratitude attracts into our life everything that we need.

The only desire we should cultivate is the desire to grow. In desiring to grow, all of our desires will be transformed into the experience of an abundance that is already inside us just waiting for the chance to spring out and show itself. We get so caught up in our opinions and attitudes and our habitual ways of doing things that we’re constantly allowing our creative energy to be consumed by an inner struggle that gives no benefit whatsoever. The struggle just eats you alive, and it does nothing.

The yogis, saints, the accomplished masters of all spiritual traditions, came to a place within themselves where they were able to enjoy every moment and every breath, fully. Pain or sorrow or struggle or whatever, these are the moments of our life. What other moments have you got? You’ve got a different moment? These are the moments of our life, and instead of getting all tangled up in what we want and we don’t want, and where we’re going or we’re not going, or whatever, the great spiritual people understood, these are the moments of our life. We don’t have different moments. Be ambivalent about pain or joy. Be above it all. Don’t be attached to what comes and what goes, because there‘s always coming and going.

The ascended masters understood whatever it is that presents itself is presented by the goddess, the breath of life itself. The way we see what is presented is due to our own karma. Karma is the accumulated tensions of our family system, our attitudes, our opinions, everything. If we stay connected to our body, aware of our breath, quietly enjoying the moments of our life, pretty soon we will start to feel our breath dissolve our body and dissolve this worldly experiential context, and we’ll be some place completely different. That place is completely quiet, completely peaceful, completely beautiful.

My advice is: rather than wasting your time on desires, enjoy each and every moment of your life. Don’t waste your time fighting with your friends. Don’t waste your time wanting something different from your kids. Don’t waste your time with any of that struggle. The more you cultivate the experience of enjoyment in these moments the more healthy and fit you will be physically, the happier you will be, the more love you will experience in your life, and the more all the things you think you want will naturally appear in your life as an effect of the abundance which is overflowing in you. Don’t struggle with desire. Let it go; let it all go.

The only thing that endures is the breath of life. That breath of life, of which you are an expression, of which you are an effect of, that breath of life endures. Enjoying the moments of your life, all of your struggles are dissolved into the breath of life. In that process of dissolution, we come to understand that we’re nothing but the breath of God. The beauty of that experience is absolutely intense and indescribable. It shatters every tiny small attitude and opinion and desire that we could possibly have.

 

STEP OUT OF THE WORLD into your own sweetness

By Swami Chetanananda

If you ask me what the fundamental problem with humanity is, I would say it is the disease of the ego. The disease of the ego is that sense of separateness that also implies a competition for resources and a struggle for acceptance and then dominance and so forth. Another way of putting it is that it leads to a struggle for control.

If that’s the fundamental problem, then the solution is very unbelievably simple. It’s unbelievably simple. Opening your heart is the solution. In opening our hearts, first of all we’re releasing tensions and allowing our creative energy to flow, which makes us healthier physically and mentally and emotionally and intellectually. Secondly, we’re discovering a place within ourselves that is pure sweetness and beauty and love. In that place we also discover that we are completely interconnected with every other human being on the planet and the total environment. We discover that we have emerged from the biosphere, that we will dissolve into the biosphere, and that any and all of it is within us and we are within it. There is nothing else.

We’re completely connected. Discovering that connection creates an ever-increasing flow. This discovery generates health on a physical level; on a mental and emotional level, it produces clarity, generosity, gratitude. On a spiritual level it is total well-being, abundance (not of a material kind), and unconditional love.

So, the essence of the practice is opening your heart every day. Why waste your energy on the struggle? It is absolutely something you cannot win. There is one rule to the game of life, and only one rule to the game of life. That rule is: you play, you lose. That’s the rule. That’s why there are such things as hermits and monks and wandering ascetics—people who forget about the world. Instead, they go about every day exploring the inner world that begins with opening their hearts. Exploring what it is to lose the world and be found in unconditional love. Think of it.

As we see in the Sufi tradition, the dervishes left the world behind. The same with the yogis, the sadhus, and the chöd practitioners. When you step out of the world completely, you’ve just moved outside of time. The uprising, upwelling, of love and joy and beauty dissolves the ego, dissolves every sense of separateness, pacifies every dimension of our body, mind and emotions, satisfies us and allows us to leave the world.

This is amazing, dazzling, wondrous work that just keeps on blessing us. The first moment you can each day, open your heart, feel that movement within you, breathe into that sweetness, merge your breath in that sweetness, and get up and get about your day. At the point that your breath and that sweetness have merged, you have completely left the world, because there is nothing at all the world is going to give you that you don’t already have in yourself. The truth is there is nothing in the world that is going to give anybody, ever, anything close to what we already have in ourselves. I just have endless compassion for anybody  who thinks they’re going to find something out there that is going to make them happy because well, good luck, sailor. Whatever comes up between you and that sweetness, just let it go. Let it go.

While we all still deal with the world every day, we can leave every worldly aspiration, every need for worldly approval on any level that we might have, and every expectation of the world. We can instead live in the incredibly rich and beautiful experience of the presence of our own sweetness.

Practicing with Heart

By Swami Chetanananda

There is one simple thing we need to understand, and it’s this: we’re in this world to grow. Every living thing in this world is here for that one reason. We’re here to grow.

Growing, however, has nothing at all to do with getting what we think we want. Growing has to do with taking in energy from every circumstance and circulating it to release our boundaries. This allows for the expansion of the respiratory process that is the essence of what we are. Take away this respiratory process and you are…dust.

All the desires, fears and worries that we have are only expressions of our limitations, our limited ability to see and do. It’s when we begin to make contact with that respiratory process that is the essence of what we are, which is most simply experienced as our breath, that we can experience a new alignment take place from within.

This alignment connects us ever more completely to The Earth, as well as to Heaven. We can discover that realignment just by tuning into ourself and feeling, not thinking. Thinking is useless. Instead we have to feel our breath, deeply. A new alignment will automatically emerge from within us if we just hold that contact.  As this alignment emerges, it will express itself in a reorganization of the flow pattern in our energy and all the patterns of our energy. Our mind, our emotions, our desires, our tensions will all be changed, released and refined.

This isn’t rocket science; it’s not complicated.  But here’s the trick: we have to want it, because inside us there are millennia of strain and trauma that we are packaged in, that we inherit from our ancestors. It has nothing to do with us at all. It’s only the wrapping that we come in. If we don’t want it, if we can’t stay focused on the feeling and hold that feeling through the unwrapping of all of those layers of trauma that we have inherited from our ancestors, then we end up stuck.

Wanting to grow, generating a feeling in ourself of longing to connect to the deepest and finest place within ourselves, is not unique to my teaching. This is the methodology of the Sufis, this is the methodology of all of the Bhakta tradition, this is the methodology of the Christian mystics. We generate a feeling within ourselves and hold and deepen that feeling, sustaining us as we are taking in energy and expanding its circulation in the form of respiratory process. The ultimate result of that is to discover a quiet and a sweetness and a joy inside ourself that is packed with a million miracles.

There is beauty in every human heart. There is beauty in each of our hearts that has the potential to change our world and the world we connect to profoundly. That process begins with understanding we are in this world to grow and making the commitment that is appropriate to accomplishing our purpose here.

Understanding that we’re in this world to grow puts an end to being lost and wandering. Understanding that we’re in this world to grow puts an end to every kind of negativity, because we can at that point begin to understand that every experience - positive, negative, pleasant, unpleasant, painful, whatever – is energy to grow from. Instead of spinning in our patterns of tension, we can breathe and open and circulate every experience inside us and become profoundly strong and profoundly clear. In that clarity, we experience the emergence of a beauty and the power that we call love. This transforms us and everything the breath of our life touches.

Put your heart into your practice and you will discover a treasure in your chest that is richer than all the bankers in New York. But you have to put your heart into it. For the most part what we do, especially here in America where we live in constant fear, is go through our life building walls around our heart thinking we’re protecting ourselves from pain and thinking that’s a good thing. In fact, there’s no protecting ourselves from pain. It’s only when we understand to take everything in as energy and digest it that we become strong enough to hold a space of true love. To discover that space and live in it is the purpose of our life. 

Commitment is Crucial

By Swami Chetanananda

I talk a lot about unimaginable possibility, but I don't talk enough about the fact that realizing  an unimaginable possibility within our own individual lives is work and that it requires commitment.

Commitment is the center of gravity around which your own energy field can begin to reorganize itself as it sheds pathology and builds or takes on new structure.  Without that center of gravity, we are constantly shedding old pathology and taking on new pathology, and basically swirling around in the same intellectual, psychological, and emotional toilet bowl that we’ve been swimming in since we were kids. That’s a long-winded explanation of my term, disappointments of our ancestors.

Commitment is really, really powerful. And if you have any value for the quality of your own life, there has to be commitment. When I started out in practice, I could  look around both in myself and around me and understand what the quality of my own life wasn’t.  Understanding what your life is not is a really good place to start. Beginning to reach inside yourself beyond your tensions and your pain to a deeper place inside you that you can experience as beautiful, and developing and cultivating within yourself the capacity to hold that space, is a beginning of a transformation of your whole mind and your whole experience of your life.

The work itself is actually not that complicated. The way I would describe it is: every day we have to become present with our own pain and our own disappointment. We have to separate that sensation from the story, because the story is always bullshit; not just sometimes, but all the time. The story is bullshit. 

The work is coming into the present with your pain and your disappointments and confusion, and simply holding that sensation until it dissolves. Using the simple tidal motion of your breath to dissolve it brings about a release of all of that accumulated and suppressed pathology and transforms it and releases it into what it essentially is anyway, which is creative energy—which then becomes available for you, for your system, to create new structure from.

Holding that space over and over and over again makes us very much more capable of holding the experience of the sensation and releasing the trauma, and in developing that capacity, slowly we shift into the experience of the movement of the breath inside of us. That sensation—how good it feels to actually breathe—becomes available to us, and from that experience of the breath within us, the awakening of our creative energy begins to be expressed in a whole different dimension, and it goes on from there.

Fundamentally, all growth requires commitment. When I lived in New York with Rudi, I used to sleep by the door of the meditation room on an air mattress. I used the only pair of pants I owned as a pillow, so that when Rudi peeked his head in the door early in the morning, I just whipped my pants on and got dressed, and we’d go for a walk.  We used to walk down in the West Village.  This was at a time when SoHo had potholes in it that were 8 feet across and 4 feet deep and bricks were falling off the sides of buildings as you walked by.  It really looked like Berlin in 1945.  We’re walking along one day, and I wasn’t long out of Indiana, so this was my first urban experience.  We used to walk, and Rudi wouldn’t say much during these walks, we just walked.  One day we’re walking along and Rudi looks over and says to me, “You can’t want it one day and not want it the next and ever get anywhere.”  That’s all he said to me the whole walk. Maybe that’s all he said to me the whole week.  But I understood very well what he meant.

There is an unimaginable possibility available within every single living person. No matter what your disagreements or differences with anybody, that’s a very good reason to respect them. The realization of that unimaginable possibility that it’s available to you—it’s available, it’s not free.  It doesn’t cost you anything; it requires a commitment and a consistent, simple effort. That commitment and consistent simple effort will awaken and release in you a creative energy that is more powerful than 100 atom bombs. It has the capacity to completely transform you and in the process, not kill you but make you even more alive. And reveal to you the simple and profound intelligence that underlies all of creation.

Forty-five years ago I committed myself to the realization of an unimaginable possibility. I’m still totally, totally committed. Whatever else I’ve done, popular or not, for the last 45 years, every single day I have made contact, aligned myself in and generated a flow from that unimaginable possibility, which has transformed not only my life, but a lot of other lives as well. So it’s good to think about the finest thing you could possibly hope for from your life and commit yourself to its realization in some way.