Meditation

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.

I Bow to My Teachers…and I Also Bow to My Students

I want to talk today about something very simple: the practice of bowing.

Whenever I come to meditate or to teach, I always bow. I bow to my lineage gurus, and I bow to all teachers who have made themselves available, who shared the benefits and insights of whatever difficult work they have done, to uplift the lives of people. Bowing to such people in profound respect is an important part of the tantric tradition. It is not in any way a demonstration of subservience.

Bowing is important for two reasons. The first is that the goal of our work is to have the palpable experience of the interconnectedness of the total unity of all. One of the reasons that a teacher is crucial is that if we can establish ourselves in the awareness of the interconnectedness between us and one person, then it is possible for us to take the leap from that experience of interconnectedness with one person to the experience of interconnectedness with all people, and from all people to all life forms, and from all life forms to the very living conscious field in which experience asserts itself in the first place. So, we’re not just bowing in respect for our teacher’s realization, their willingness to unconditionally accept and love us, and their allowing their own energy to be the nourishment for the awakening of our potential. We are also bowing to express our unity, which is the basic nature of reality.

In bowing to our teachers, we also bow to the work, the conscious effort that is necessary and appropriate in our endeavor to release ourselves from all of those limiting patterns that we were born into. Those patterns filter all the input and all the energy that we take in, and filter all the output, so that our understanding is always somewhat limited and our self-expression never truly meets the mark that we hope it would.

There’s one final thing about bowing that is also important. When I bow to my teachers, I am expressing my devotion. Devotion is the chemistry that unifies all the disparate aspects of my life and allows me to experience all the different ways in which I am called to express myself and the understanding that I am here to grow spiritually.

So, I bow every time I come to meditation. I bow to remember to reconnect to the wisdom aspect of our spiritual endeavor, which is the understanding that we are all completely interconnected. I also bow to remember the devotion aspect of my spiritual quest. That experience makes me feel really, really grateful, grateful for my teachers, grateful for my students, grateful for my life, and grateful for life itself. So please know that I don’t just bow to my teachers every morning. I also bow to my students.

Why Do We Meditate?

I have thought a lot lately about the object of meditation and why we are meditating, or what we would be meditating on if we were actually meditating like we think we ought to.

Typically, I would say that the object of meditation is growing the flow of creative energy, and that wouldn’t be wrong. But I think that there is another answer that is, in a way, deeper. That answer is that the object of meditation is the breath of life.

The breath of life is three-dimensional. First, it is the breath that keeps our body alive. It is also the breath which is the essence of our mind and our individual existence, our ego and our personality and all of that. Finally, it is the vitality of Life itself–it is the life of the universe.

In the past several months, I’ve changed the way I work in meditation, and I’ve changed the way I think about it. I used to refer directly to my energetic mechanism and skip everything else between my attention and that. But I’ve changed that now. I’ve come to understand that when they talk about the goddess in Eastern religious traditions, they are really referring to the breath of life. This means that the body is the divinity; it is the deity manifest in the material world. Mind is also the deity manifest in the intermediate realm between material and pure spirit. Beyond that breath is the deity itself. All three dimensions are present within the breath.

So now when I practice, I refer to my body on a regular basis, and I stay very much in contact with my body, recognizing the body as the deity in the material world. It’s important to take care of your body–to eat properly, sleep properly, and to move it every day. It’s also important to take care of your mind and to nourish it with sensory experiences that are pleasing, to have the experience of beauty and the unique ways that you appreciate it. Those experiences help release tensions in us by putting us in touch with what is rich, juicy and delicious about life. In this state, you will have access to the true religious experience, a sense of profound gratitude for your life.

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 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.

Working under Pressure Doesn’t Work

We can’t accomplish much in a five minute meditation. We need to allow more time–a half an hour, forty minutes. It takes time for our bodies to relax deeply enough that we can start to make contact with our own vital energy, the place from which any enduring change is going to happen.

There are physiological changes that happen when we meditate. They’re inevitable. They’re also temporary–the temporary effect of our vital energy. There are also emotional changes that happen, and they’re also effects.

Enduring change happens in our vital force. It happens when we make contact with that vital force, when we literally and quite palpably make contact. When we bring our vital energy to a state of quiet, that facilitates a shift, and allow for the release of any and all patterns of constraint and the emergence of a creative flow. This flow is an enduring change that manifests itself in our physical bodies, in our mind and emotions, and throughout the whole field of our life. It manifests as intellectual acuity, an expanded range of emotional expression, and greater physical vitality and mobility.

It takes time for us to know ourselves. There is no point in pushing it. There is a point to being disciplined and focused and persevering, but all of this must be done with patience. Otherwise the pressure we are putting on ourselves and our environment only perpetuates the pathologies that we are hoping to relieve ourselves of through our efforts. Our ambition, our drive, our impatience undermine the healing we aspire to in our physical bodies and in our hearts and minds.

Work is necessary, but work done in a pressurized environment for the sake of some imaginary goal or some temporary power will never bring us to a place where we are in contact with the abundance that is our own vital essence.

An Enormously Powerful Place

Meditation practice is, in my personal experience, the most wonderful thing there it. To sit and be in touch with the life of our life is just incredible. To be able to be in touch with a place that is beneath the limitations and tensions that are held in our body, to be able to go someplace that is free of our thoughts and our craziness, is amazing.

Like anything that is worth anything, meditation practice isn’t exactly for free. You have to train yourself to it. That means you have to sit down every day and you have to stay down, no matter what is calling you to bounce up. You have to sit down again and stay down. 

Start by training yourself to deeply relax your body. Meditation doesn’t happen away from your body. Our body and our mind are not separate. First we relax our body, then we relax our mind as we become aware of our breathing and the movement of the life of our life, the movement of the vital energy that is held within the breath.

When our mind starts to go somewhere else, we pull it back to keep relaxing our body and being aware of our breath. As we do this, we move more and more deeply within ourselves to a place of pure awareness beyond body and mind. We expose within us a place of very great beauty and purity and clarity that is already and always within us. That place is enormously powerful.

This guided meditation will help you begin to find that place.

 

Breaking through the Shell

The minute we’re born, all  of the potential that we are becomes encased in a shell. Some people call this shell karma; the Christians call it original sin. I call it the disappointments of our ancestors.

From the moment we’re born, the outcome of everything we’re inspired to do in our life is a foregone conclusion, written in the disappointments of our ancestors. This idea isn’t original to me. The Buddha, I think, said something similar.

The only way to break through this shell you were born into is to train yourself to meditate. That way you can learn to release all of the patterns of tension that have been imposed upon you by the very fact of your being born in this world. In the process of training yourself to meditate, you develop the capacity to connect to that pure, unlimited potentiality that is the essence of your human birth, the essence of your presence in this world. You have to learn to hold your attention steady in the connectedness, in the contact with that pure potentiality that resides within you. You have to do it long enough that the potential can take enough energy from your attention to rise up and start to express itself through the layers of tension you’re encased in as a gift from your ancestors.

Our attention is usually magnetized to all the distractions going on in our environment, and we never spend enough time to reach through the tensions to the extraordinarily beautiful and sweet, vibrant and inspired place within us and begin to have a life that is really alive. To be alive within your life, you need to train yourself to meditate.

I guarantee that it will be the most rewarding time that you have ever spent in your entire life.