Consciousness

Feel What You Can Feel

The spiritual work I teach is not hard, but it does require a persistent effort. It doesn’t take an enormous effort. Sometimes managing yourself might take some time, but this shouldn’t be exhausting. It’s simple.

The simple effort is to feel…and don’t try to be a superstar. What I encourage my students to do is simply feel what you can feel. Bring your attention to your body, bring your attention to your heart, bring your attention to your breath, feel what you can feel.  Here’s what happens if you feel what’s available to you to feel: in a little while, maybe not tomorrow or the next day, what’s going to happen is that you are going to feel what’s underneath what you’re feeling now.

We think we are doing.  We think “I am doing this thing, I am doing that thing, I’m doing so many things.” It’s possible that, in fact, there is only one awareness and many minds. It’s possible, in fact, that there is only one life on the Earth and that is the life of the total environment of the Earth. There’s only one life. Every living thing on the Earth might just be just an effect of that one life.  Maybe it’s true, and it’s up to you to decide.

So, as you feel what you can feel, with the understanding that you’re not doing it, you become aware that there’s something deeper at work.  As you feel just what’s available to you, slowly, the flow that arises within you, from the release of tension, informs you of that deeper happening.  Having experienced that, you go…wow!  It’s that experience that inspires you and carries you into a new layer of practice and a deeper commitment to your work, and a deeper appreciation of the benefit of the extraordinary abundance that is available to you.

Trying to be a superstar is just making more tension. You might think, “Oh, I’m going to hit a home run and be a Tantric master tomorrow.” Don’t.  If you just feel what you feel, what you discover within the experience that you’re having is discovering  dimensions of subtlety that are astonishingly beautiful. They are beautiful enough that a little contact with them will sustain you as you go through all of the uncomfortable structural reorganization that happens as you come from the state of tension that you’re in to a state of flow. So, just feel what you can feel and keep coming back to it and feeling--feeling your body and feeling your breath and feeling your heart.  Feeling, feeling, feeling, is the key.

This practice reveals within you dimensions of information, a range of awareness, a visionary capability that allows you to have a completely different perspective on the problems that we face. It also makes available to you simple solutions to those problems, naturally available in your environment, and has attached to it the abundance that will easily allow those solutions to assert themselves in the field of your experience.

Once you get the hang of it, you will find that inside you is experience, outside you is experience. It turns out that subject, object and means of knowing are a total unity. Your experience is totally integrated into the universal experience.  The abundance that created the Universe has created you, and aligning yourself in that total experience allows miracles to manifest as your life. It’s natural. It doesn’t require too much work. It just requires a persistent, conscious effort.

Cultivating Creative Capacity

My guru, Rudi, completely appreciated the creative capacity of life itself as demonstrated through human beings. He appreciated human beings who were able to rise above the limitations of their circumstance and find, even in the simplest ways, some creative capacities that they could begin to demonstrate. Those capacities were ones that they could cultivate and grow for the sake, ultimately, of liberating themselves from their own constraints. Rudi’s teaching was an expression of the appreciation that he had for that capacity.

Thumbnail for 2005One of the main things I learned from Rudi is that what we are trying to come to understand is the most fundamental basis of our existence. Underneath this physical body and this mind there is a subtle body. You could also call it an energetic mechanism. There is a creative capacity, a power, an energy, which has organized itself for the purpose of expressing us. Rather than wasting our lives, struggling with our desires, it would be wonderful if we could begin to commit ourselves to the realization of this creative capacity, and connecting to it, cultivate that awakening and follow it where ever it is and wants to take us, because none of us get the life that we think we want.

We all have the life we have. That life never becomes someone else’s life. It’s always going to be our life. Without a conscious effort to connect to that life and discover what that life has in store for us, without surrendering our resistance, and our doubts and fears and tensions and coming into contact with that vibrancy of life, and realizing the fullness, the abundance, the unimaginable possibility that it has for us, we spend our lives struggling over what amounts to a pile of rabbit pellets.

You can think of 99% of the things that you worry about as a pile of rabbit pellets, because that’s about how important those things actually are. And at the end of the day, the first heavy rain is going to wash it all away. It will be as if it never existed.

Rudi was all about the energy. He wasn’t the slightest bit interested in his own, or anybody else’s imagination of what their problem was. He was only interested in people who were willing to commit themselves to, and work to connect to, to cultivate their awareness of, their own subtle rainbow body and the creative energy of this living event, which is our essence, and to grow the voltage and the volume of that creative energy to the degree that it could hold and express the entire range of subtle frequencies.

By Swami Chetanananda

“I Will Do Your Bidding”

The Bhagavad Gita, which is a very important and beautiful and very ancient text on human spirituality, begins with Arjuna on the battlefield looking at his family. His family represents the disappointments of his ancestors--the accumulation of tension in that system over how many eons that human beings reincarnate. For each of us, in a real way, our family represents the fundamental obstacle that we have to engage and transcend in order to become completely awakened. Our family is an intractable situation, in which, for the most part, people lack any real respect for one another. Family is the context in which the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” functions most fully.

Arjuna is called to do battle with his family. It’s going to get ugly. He says, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. Whatever I’m working for is not that important.” Krishna says to him, “You have to do it, because first of all, because, if you don’t, you will be enslaved. You will totally lose any kind of freedom whatsoever. Secondly, you’ll lose your dignity and self-respect. And, thirdly, you’ll lose any respect anybody else has for you now. You have to do this.” This is a metaphor for each of our personal lives.

Krishna goes onto explain that nobody escapes work. The modern translators use the term “action.” Nobody escapes action. The discussion is then, “Should I be acting? Should I be a man of action? Should I be a man of inaction? Should I engage the world? Should I be completely removed from the world? “

Krishna says everybody has to work. Nobody escapes work. We have to do it. It is in working that we develop the capacity to extract from our life the nourishment bound up in the tensions that we convert into energy. Working is about moving our energy and sustaining ourselves. We sustain ourselves by doing physical work to move the energy.

Cosmic Vishnu

Krishna is sending Arjuna out to war to do this extremely intense work. In the eighteenth chapter, Krishna reveals his cosmic form. Krishna reveals himself to Arjuna as the life of the life of every being, not just human beings. He shows that he is the life of the life of all deities and all devatas, the life of the life of all angels and devils and ghosts and spirits and human beings. Arjuna says, “Oh, I get it.”

Krishna also says, “Don’t worry about the outcome. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen to these people. The fact of the matter is, who lives and dies in this upcoming battle is already written. This is not your business. Your business is to do your duty, and all the while, understanding and being devoted to the divine cosmic form and awareness of the breath of life, which is our foundation, our home and our ultimate end.”

So, if you have some interest in spirituality and some feeling within yourself to grow closer to the truth to become closer to yourself, what you need to do is shift your focus beyond the ordinary world that you walk around in. You have to shift your struggle from the fight with your husband and your kids and the bank and the mortgage. You have to establish yourself, your mind, your commitment firmly in your intention to experience the breath of life. You have to sustain yourself in that awareness, even as that awareness sustains you in an experience of total well being no matter what kind of chaos is going on in the world.

Krishna explains to Arjuna that in every aspect of our life, in every day of our life, through every circumstance of our life, rather than getting tangled up in all of the superficial tensions of the circumstance, we need to hold ourselves with dignity and grace in the awareness of the grace that allows us some dignity. Whatever our circumstance, if we live in contact with the breath of life, aligned with that purpose within ourself, that highest expression of creative energy, flowing in that and allowing that to flow in us, cultivating our awareness of the flow itself, we will become ultimately aware of our own truly divine and completely transcendent nature.

After Krishna has revealed his universal nature to Arjuna and Arjuna’s own universal nature to himself, Arjuna says, “I will do your bidding. I will do what you ask.” This may appear to mean he’s saying, “Well, I’ll take orders from you.” That’s not at all what he means. He’s saying, “I will live in contact, alignment and flow with my own universal divine nature, which is nothing other than the supreme deity, which is the essence of all there is.” When he says, “I will do your bidding,” there is no other that he is referring to. There is only the ultimate reality, which has a billion, names: Buddha, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Devi, Durga, Kali. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you smile while you’re calling it.

The Meaning of Inner Work

My teacher, Rudi, used the term “ inner work” in reference to spiritual practice, which could be understood as making an effort and working for an accomplishment. But Rudi, in talking about “inner work,” was not talking about that at all. There is a kind of an effort, but the effort is a natural introspection that arises from our cultivation of the awareness of our own energetic mechanism. By awakening the channels, the senses automatically naturally rotate within, and that rotation brings us into contact with our own essence. So, in effect, what we are doing is not making an effort, but cultivating an awareness. This awareness doesn’t lead to an accomplishment—it leads to a realization, or layers of realization.

In our physical engagement with our spiritual practice, we realize our ignorance. Dealing with our ignorance, we realize our physical capacity. Realizing our physical capacity, we can begin to understand our creative potential. Understanding our creative potential, we encounter our attachments—our hopes and fears. Encountering our hopes and fears, realizing our hopes and fears, and dissolving them, brings us into contact with a deeper layer of resistance in us. Realizing and dissolving that deeper layer brings us into contact with what Rudi called “nothingness,” what the Buddhists call “emptiness,” what the Shaivas call “consciousness,” which is sometimes in all those traditions referred to as “the Void.” Our practice brings us into that dimension of unmanifest, pure creative energy, which is without beginning or end, without any limitation whatsoever. It is pure awareness that is also self-aware and unimaginable possibility.

This unimaginable possibility is not an accomplishment, because it’s already inside you. It is a realization because, turning your attention inside and becoming sensitive, you come to a realization of the depth and the range of what is going on inside you.

If you get lost in the idea of an accomplishment, you will get on a treadmill and go around in circles for a hundred million years. That’s why so many times I have said surrender is the key, because this is not an effort of effort, this is an effort of awareness. It is the cultivation of an awareness of what is going on inside you right now and realizing the cosmic implications.

In this realization, there is tremendous relief and a great sense of joy. There is no amount of shedding of worldly engagement that can any way bring any pressure on us or any tension to our mind. The process is a process of continuously becoming enlightened—lighter and lighter, more and more light. The experience of all of the tensions which we have accumulated in this life, and all of the tensions that we have brought forward into this life from the family system that we have been swimming in for thousands of years, is dissolved.

If you work with the idea of making a big effort, what you will end up with is a complete desensitization to your own energetic mechanism. It does not take a big effort; it just takes a conscious awareness to open all of the chakras and activate all of the channels and begin to experience a simple sweetness and a joy. That simple sweetness and joy is like Drano: it dissolves all the clogs. How fantastic! How unbelievably fortunate that we have the opportunity to dissolve our clogs as we are growing our own happiness and cultivating the innate capacity of the breath of life within us to awaken, in all the lives that we are connected to, a similar experience of joy and a dissolving of tension.

Even though my title is a “teacher,” I don’t teach anybody anything. I will share with you my own experience, and also I am sharing with you the blood of my blood, the life of my life. I am making my entire energetic mechanism available to you, if you have the ability to access it. I make it available to you so that you will have the extra energy that’s necessary to awaken your own energetic mechanism and begin a transformation process in you. But I won’t teach you anything; you will have to learn this yourself.

In order to learn, you have to have a passion for growing. To be alive, you have to have a passion for something. If you don’t, you’re wasting your time here in this world. I suggest you begin to have bit of passion for growing, which is the only reason we’re in this world to begin with. Out of that passion, you will develop a curiosity and a hunger for an understanding of the life that is flowing in your body, and the life that is vibrating as your mind, and the life that unrolls itself from within you in the form of your life experience. To grow, you have to have some curiosity about that, and some commitment to understanding it. Then, paying attention, you will realize.

This is really what life is all about—realizing. This is where the nectar is in life, in realizing. It’s where the juice is. It’s where the joy is. It is the most important thing we are in this world to do.

The Tradition of Initiation

In the Vedas, a person who performs Vedic ritual sacrifice was called a Brahmin. Brahmin means “twice born.” The Brahmin is twice born because he receives an initiation that qualifies him to perform the sacrifice. It’s the beginning of his education and the beginning of a commitment that he makes to peel away the layers of the tensions that bind us together as a person. Those are tensions that we have accumulated through so many lifetimes, and that have manifested in this lifetime as the disappointments of our ancestors we’ve inherited. The desires that we manifest, the aspirations that we have, the areas that we go into in our lives, both constructive and destructive, are really an expression of the deficiencies in the nourishment of our upbringing. Those deficiencies are not there through anybody’s fault; they’re just what is.

In the Vedic times, for Brahmins, this initiation lifted them out of the family circumstances they were born into and immediately liberated them from the disappointments of their ancestors. They were born again into a different circumstance called a guru kul. The guru kul is the family of the guru, the family of the teacher. The tradition recognizes that the guru kul makes available the nourishment that wasn’t provided in the birth parents’ home. That nourishment dissolves the tensions that limit a person in every dimension of their life. It makes it possible for them to become completely spiritually developed and mature, totally fulfilled, and liberated in life.

The central part of the initiation experience is when the guru takes his own conscious energy, his own awareness power, and plants it in the student, so that the energetic mechanism of the student acquires the nourishment needed to start to break down all of the accumulated tensions. As those tensions are broken down, the vital force within the person is awakened and expanded.

This was the critical moment in Vedic initiation, and the practice continued through all the various traditions in India. The Vedas were followed by the Upanishads, and then the six classical philosophical systems, including yoga, which ultimately matured in the Tantric tradition.

The Tantric tradition was unusual in its complete maturity because it asserts that there was only one consciousness in the universe. Even though there are many minds, there is only one consciousness. It is that one consciousness that the teacher is established in and through which their life force is transmitted to the student. That is called “shaktipat” in the Tantric tradition. The term means “descent of grace.” In the Tibetan side of the Tantric tradition, in Dzogchen, it’s called direct transmission.

This experience that I share when I teach eyes open class is not different from the Vedic initiation. It is the transmission of the understanding that there is a singular dynamic awareness from which all phenomena arise, and that all phenomena are interconnected. So this interconnectedness, the understanding, the experience, the awareness of this interconnectedness, is what is being transmitted as shaktipat, or initiation. It is the continuing awareness of that connectedness that represents a leverage on all the tensions that we’re walking around with.

So, no matter what our condition is, no matter what our experience is, no matter what kind of confusion we’re experiencing, we have a reference point we can always go to. This experience is also an energetic resource we can draw on to lift ourselves out of whatever limited state that we have fallen into.

Kundalini, the Breath of Life

Classically, in the scriptures of the Vedas, of Kashmir Shaivism, and of Vajrayana Buddhism, the fundamental issue that each of us faces is to confront our own desires and in that confrontation, to understand the nature of our mind. We then appreciate that our mind is a manifestation of our consciousness, and that, in fact, it is not OUR consciousness at all, but consciousness itself.

A simple way to relate to this is for you just to look around the room you’re in. You may notice objects and have thoughts and maybe even feelings about them. There is, however, one thing that you are seeing that 99.99% of people never notice–your own awareness. Everything that is in that room is manifest on the screen of your awareness.

This awareness is one, and it has the capacity for extension and absorption–it has vibrancy. It takes on a fundamental presence, and within that presence there is all potential: past, present and future. All knowledge, anything imaginable, and even that which is unimaginable is present within that vibrancy. That presence, which is one and self-aware, is sometimes referred to as Shiva. More often, however, that vibrancy is identified with the feminine and is called a goddess.

This goddess is the breath of life. Another classical scriptural name for the breath of life is kundalini. That breath of life is present in each of us equally without ever differentiating itself, in the same way that a symphony is an expression of a huge number of notes that only together make a suggestion of the richness and the abundance that is available within the music itself.

This breath of life, the vibrancy of ultimate consciousness, is the subject of our meditation. When we sit, we’re tuning into the energy that supports our physiology and our physiognomy–our bodies and our minds. In becoming aware of the circulation of energy that sustains our bodies and our minds, we will become aware of a deeper energetic movement happening within this mechanism, which is also kundalini. There is the energy that supports our body, the energy that supports our nervous system, and the energy that is awareness itself–all of which is one and all of which is ever-present within us.

There is no duality, there is no dichotomy, and it is so profoundly simple that there is nothing to be confused about.

The Essence of All Spirituality

After reading the Vedas again, I’ve come to the conclusion that their essence is also the essence of all spirituality. What it’s really all about is gratitude.

Spiritual practice is about coming to a place where you make contact with your body and your breath. You’ll note that when you become very aware of your body and your breath, your mind will automatically become quiet. If you hold that awareness long enough, you will discover that feeling what it feels like to breathe feels really good. Eventually, your heart will open.

As your heart opens and the tensions in your body and mind further dissolve, you will experience a flow of energy that is the vital essence of your life moving in you. You’ll come to a place where you can feel where this energy is coming from and into which it is dissolving, and you’ll feel the breath of life breathing in you. You will begin to appreciate that there is a profound abundance that is the same as your awareness, which is the ground of all experience.

When you are in touch with your body and breath and are appreciating the movement, the vibrancy of the breath of life functioning within you, naturally you come to a place of profound gratitude. You understand what a miracle consciousness is and that you have the opportunity to participate in the crazy ride that is your life. How amazing!

While we are fully responsible for our choices, the only choice that we can ever make that is not already programmed into us and a function of the disappointments of our ancestors is to be completely aware and, in our complete awareness, quite naturally totally grateful.

The Breath of Life

The Breath of Life is the fundamental manifestation of the vibrancy of consciousness itself. That self-sustaining, self-organizing capacity of pure being is totally potent and has present in it an unimaginable possibility. The Breath of Life has an existence that is independent of and transcendent of each of us. It permeates us and exists within us for a time. When it leaves us, it doesn’t end, and it is in no way diminished.

The object of our meditation is to cultivate an awareness of the Breath of Life, which is the essence of our life. At the level of the individual, it is known as kundalini. It is the ground of our physical existence, the vibrancy of our mind and emotions, and the field of experience in which we move. We work to be in contact with the Breath of Life, the abundance from which the whole universe has poured forth. In practicing meditation, we are committed to becoming aware of that abundance and animating it in the field of our experience.

To be in contact with the Breath of Life, the kundalini energy circulating within us, is to appreciate that it is not our breath we breathe, but the Breath of God. When we are in touch with the Breath of Life within us, we recognize that our body is a blessing–it’s not ours. Our mind is not ours–it is with us in a place and for a time. It has an intention, and it’s important that we are mentally aligned with that intention and committed to expressing it in our life.

If we are in contact with the abundance at our core, the quality of our life is transformed, and every life we come into contact with is blessed. We come to appreciate the interconnectedness of all human beings and the whole planet. We understand that there is a profound possibility, and that saves us from boredom and clears away tension, misunderstanding and confusion from our heads, hearts and bodies.

Revisiting the Vedas

I’ve been reading the Vedas again recently for the first time in a very long time. The Vedas are not actually religious texts–they have a more humane perspective. There is no dogmatism. They are about the miracle of consciousness and the wonder of the phenomenal world, and the writers had a very refined and sophisticated perspective on their environment.

The Vedic peoples understood the complexity of their environment and the limitations of their senses. They grasped that a unifying element underlies all experience, and that everything is part of one pure being, a presence that pervaded them as well as the natural world. They appreciated that there are forms of life that are more subtle than our senses can perceive.

The Vedas mention a number of gods and goddesses. These gods and goddesses are not anything at all like our conception of God. They are a physical reality connected to daily experiences. They are all interconnected in the dynamic system that is the whole of reality. They arise and subside as an expression of pure being, which is the most refined expression of that dynamic system. The Vedic gods were not intended to be objects of worship in the way that we are used to worshipping. Instead, they were seen as beings with greater longevity and more power than we have.

The people of the Vedas had a sensibility about the whole of reality and a humility in the face of its immensity. Unlike us, they did not attempt to quantify their experience. They didn’t consider it appropriate, because the universe was understood to be permeated with mystery that was indescribable and unfathomable. In their experience, the entire environment of the earth was alive.

The people in the time of the Vedas appreciated the vibrancy and the vitality and the vastness of the the abundance that is the essence of life. Having the experience of that abundance is something we should strive for, and you’ll read more about it in the next post.

Painting Our Own Canvas

One of the core texts of Kashmir Shaivism, the Pratyabhijnahrdayam, describes a sadhana for recognizing the ultimate reality. That sadhana is to absorb all of the objects that we encounter in our life into ourselves. By absorbing all of those objects, those energies, those processes into ourselves, we begin to appreciate that there is nothing outside our own consciousness, which is consciousness itself. By observing that we are connected with all of the objects that present themselves in our lives and having the experience of the feeling of the contact that each object in our life brings up within us, we begin to understand that there is total interconnectedness between objects and their energetic nature and ourselves. Slowly we assimilate all the objects into our own consciousness, and we begin to appreciate that our consciousness is unbounded and infinite, and has no beginning and no end.

Our attitudes, opinions and judgments deny us the opportunity to absorb our experiences and to resolve the residual resonances of those experiences within the circulation of our own creative energy because we are constantly building walls within ourselves. Until all experiences are assimilated and all the residual vibration of all the limited experiences resolves, we still have some karmic experience to pass through. So we should be taking down walls instead of building them.

Rather than spending any time getting engaged with all of your judgments and attitudes, take these kinds of tensions as a reflection of some circumstance within yourself that is appropriate for you to dissolve. Allow the experiences that you pass through in your day to be part of the learning process that we call life, so that you will be nourished and your understanding of the ultimate reality that you are will expand and expand.

This experience of the truth of your own individual consciousness is available to you, and it begins when you start to practice genuine love and respect for everybody in this world. You have to realize that each person is here to, and has the right and responsibility to paint their own canvas. Whether we appreciate their art or not is irrelevant. There is enough work for us in painting our own.

A Simple Matter of Love and Respect

The proliferation of experts in the media who bombard us with opinions these days is a reflection of the way we operate in our own lives. Each of us tends to have an opinion about everyone else’s problems. We also tend to have the opinion that if they just did what we said, everything would be fine. We believe that others need our opinions.

It’s interesting to see the way the world works, because it’s populated with people who are frozen in their opinions and attitudes in relation to everyone else in their life. This network of frozen-ness extends throughout the whole world. Every person thinks they know better than everyone else. That’s one of the main reasons the world is in the sorry state it’s in today.

Swami Muktanananda always used to say, “I welcome you all with love and respect.” He used to talk about the highest sadhana (spiritual practice) being simply to treat everyone with love and respect. To do that, we have to come to a place within ourselves where we don’t have any judgments, attitudes and opinions about anyone. We allow them the space to work out their own tensions and to be nourished as they do that. In creating this space for each other, we are accessing that space and making it more available for ourselves.

Our opinions and our attitudes and our judgments of others also obstruct us. They are an expression of the most limited aspect of us, which completely undermines the opportunity we have to experience the finest place within us. That finest place is also the ultimate reality. It would be a good thing to free ourselves from the burden of our attitudes and judgments and opinions because, at the same time, we are freeing everybody else of them.

Pouring Water into Water, Part 1

About a year ago I was in Rishikesh, India with a friend of mine. He’s a Brahmin, and when we were on the banks of the Ganges, he had to wade out into the river to say a mantra and make an offering to his ancestors. In that offering, he took the water of the river into his hands and offered it, pouring it back into the river.

That offering is an analogy for our lives. Taking water from the river and pouring it back into the river, thinking that you are making an offering, is the kind of egotistical thing that human beings do. The water is the water of the river to begin with, and in the middle and the end. There’s no place it was ever going but the river.

The water in our bodies is the water of the river.  Each of the elements that compose the container for this water was created in a star farther away than our eyes can see, a few billion years before our sun came into being. The elements of our body are not ours, and billions of years after we’re gone these elements will remain.

The only thing that is really our own is our complete connectedness to the ultimate reality, the pure, fine, vibrant silence–the rich and joyous silence of the core of our being. Silence that is uncreated and unceasing. Silence that was there before the universe and will be there after the universe is gone. That silence is pure being, pure consciousness, the very essence of all phenomena and life itself. That’s our own. Everything else we are going to give back. It’s impossible that the water that our bodies contain won’t pour itself back into the ocean of life.