Friday, November 19, 2010

Physical Experience

I have a new-found respect for living a physical life, in a physical body. From some of the work I have studied, mostly the teachings of Abraham/Esther & Jerry Hicks, I've come to know that we as physically embodied souls --human beings-- are on the leading edge of thought. We are on the very precipice of Creation, meaning we are the ultimate expression of thought, of energy, of Source --all of which is made up of God-substance. We are It! Quite literally. If before anything ever existed there was God, then all of that which came into existence thereafter is formed, manifested of God -- literally God-thought, God-energy, God-substance. Everything is made out of God. God is all-there-is. And to acknowledge that it could be otherwise is to say that God is not the ultimate Source, not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent. For God could only be so if He were All, if He were All-there-is.

So getting back to my original point: many of us who follow spirituality have a sort of reverence for the disembodied spirits, the disincarnate. There is something alluring to this kind of energetic presence that is formless and lives among thought and energy and emotion, and can be molded at-will, changed, mutated. It is akin to dreaming. Many adults lose that sense of wonder and interest about dreams; dreams take a back seat. Oddly, though, our dreams are the easiest to manifest and closest experiences that we can have resembling the astral, non-physical experience without extensive training in spiritual arts and sciences. Dreams are the only place that most people experience that infinite potential and possibility. But I have digressed once again.

My point is: spiritual people get geeked about out-of-body existence and about the different phenomena which are associated with such an astral presence (e.g.: telepathy, seeing the future, speaking to spirits).

What I have learned, however, is that those disincarnate entities are just as geeked about physical existence as we are about non-physical existence! It is yin and yang, ebb and flow. You see, physical expression is the ultimate in energetic expression. It is the reason why expansion is continuous. It is the contraction which releases more energy into the universe. In fact, I believe that humans are continually creating things because it is a drive to expand, to grow, to become better. It stems from the desire to manifest God into the physical and to experience God-self, for God is that ultimate perfect expression of Creation, of Life, of Existence. We instinctively create and manifest because it is the process of creation and learning and striving that brings us closer and closer to God and God-life-expression and closer to experiencing Heaven on Earth.

Treasure your physical life, and go forth and learn, grow, create and explore, knowing that you are the ultimate expression of God, and in so being, you are perfect, for God is perfect and infallible. Be at one with All-there-is and be fulfilled by your creations because they bring you closer to God, closer to yoga, closer to your dreams.

Namaste to all of you beautiful, physical expressions of God.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finding Yoga

So I haven't written in quite a while, and I feel I should fix that. Things got crazy for some time at the holidays and then moving to Chicago, I just couldn't really find time for me, much less for a blog.

Anyway, so here I am, and I feel I should write, but I'm not feeling terribly inspired lately. You see, I'm burnt out. That is the only way to put it. (Brace yourselves for a rant.) I'm working at a job I hate, underpaid and overstressed. Honestly, were I the man for the job, I'd start a union. Retail has to be the absolute worst job, if only for the hours. It is incredibly taxing to be on an ever-changing schedule. And let's face it, I rolled a low score for constitution. How do people do this day in and day out? I was not built for it. It is so psychically draining to move from one person's needs to the next, multitasking myself into the tiniest portions of attention to be spread around like so much peanut butter on a piece of toast, a very thin spread, to point where you barely taste the peanut butter because the carbon from the charred toast is so overwhelming. That's what I feel like at work. I have absolute dread for it. I'm nearly sickened each morning at the thought of spending eight hours at that job. I mean, I'm mentally, emotionally, and psychically fragmented by it, by the job itself and even by the mere thought of it. And isn't the point of being a yogi, of having a yogic practice, to experience unity? I feel like all the spiritual work I do is splintered and rendered ineffective, weakly effective at best.

It doesn't take a genius to see that all signs point to GO! Get out! Move on! Follow your bliss, find your yoga, get into the vortex, be all you can be, live YOUR life! Yet when I look through jobs online, I am paralyzed by fear. I become filled with such a fear for the unknown. I fear getting too far away from the design industry, but I need something. And no designers seem to be hiring, not that I know any designers up here really. I've been working on building my own business, and that is so slow-going. I need clients. The rest will take care of itself. But I have no contacts up here. My portfolio has nothing in the way of real life projects, and I don't know how many people will want to hire a designer based on conceptual work. All I can hope for is that my charisma and my soul will shine through in conversation and something will click that tells the client, "Hire this man!"

How do I get back to my place of power? At the moment, I feel like I'm defeated. Like "the man" has finally got me down. I have brief moments of respite with meditation and yoga, and all the soul-signs point to joy and success. Yet those are my only moments of hope.

I need a breakthrough. I need to find my yoga again. I need community and a sense of belonging. When I'm surrounded by like-minded people, I feel that I know myself; I feel I can achieve anything. Those people are few and far between up here. Very far between.

I was hoping that just writing about it would help me move some energy, but I don't feel very moved. It's all about the journey, though, right? Send me your love and light for my journey, and I shall do the same for you.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Such a Big Ego

So this post is long overdue, I had a lot on my plate, and now I seem to have very little on my plate, but in any case: here we go!

I have always seen parts of myself as bad or wrong. And looking at those parts, I wanted to change them. I didn't always have a name to call these traits, but having gone through so much spiritual training, I have come to know them collectively as ego.

We can all name traits about ourselves. We can describe ourselves as shy or outspoken, athletic or sedentary. These traits can go still further an become more detailed phrases about ourselves, such as: "I always get in way over my head!" or "I don't know why everyone doesn't just listen to me because I'm usually right." All of these descriptions, when viewed collectively, describe the ego. The ego is unique to each person, and it is supposed to be a reflection of the inner, highest Self, the great I AM. What tends to happen, however, is that we begin to mold ourselves, our egos, into the image of what surrounds us, as opposed to the image of our Creator, as was laid out in the Bible. We become inundated by so many physical things. We become overwhelmed by our thoughts, by our feelings, and over time we begin to believe that they really are us. We lose ourselves to the errant thought or feeling that comes as a reaction to an experience, and begin to define ourselves. And in so defining, we become finite, limited. This definition is often what psychology, sociology, or even medical doctors would term 'healthy.' But they don't realize that it is completely antipodal to our very nature, absolutely opposite of the intrinsic infinite being that each of us possesses, and is our birthright.

Limitations arise from the ego because we end up believing that we are no more than we have observed our egos to be. Many people subsist on this incorrect knowledge of the self. They live their lives believing they can be no more than they already are. Yet they could be so much more if they would just claim it.

I came to awareness of my ego about five years ago. At which point I immediately identified it with Satan of whom we hear tell in the Bible. And while the association is more or less true, my next set of thoughts was incorrect: I wanted to separate myself from the ego.

I'm sure that most of you reading this now are thinking, "Hmm... well, that's exactly what I would do." But the thing is, it's out of alignment with spiritual teachings of all kinds. Spiritual masters teach unity, not separation; they teach unconditional love, not terminal hatred.

Yet for the longest time, I lived life with this sort of hatred for my ego. And unknowingly, I was fostering hatred for myself. My ego is inseparable from me, yet it is not me. It is as much a part of me as the Creator who loved me enough to give me life.

The ego is to be a reflection of the highest Self, but there is so much that gets in the way. It can be a relatively short distance between ego and Self, but there are layers in between them. From the bottom up, we have ego and physical self, emotional self, energetic or astral self, and then mental self. So you see, the energy of the high Self has to make its way down through all these layers in order to express itself physically, and on the way, it can pick up a lot of junk thoughts, energies and emotions, which end up distorting our perception of who we really are. It is distorted, and it is still us. In the end, the distortion is what we come to know as ego. And if we are not wise, we identify ourselves as ego, and live forever in limitation, never knowing the true Self, never knowing the Creator, who is within us all.

Love is the one thing that can right all wrongs. It reveals the truth in us all. Love crosses all borders, all means of separation, and it heals. It creates unity. It creates community. It creates. Love is what gives each of us the capacity to create. We have thoughts and desires, and we love them into existence. Think of all the things you have accomplished in this life, and consider how much you cared about those things in order to make them happen. Against whatever odds, love is the thing that breaks through and restores balance and generates possibility. Just as your Creator loved you into existence, so too do you love each of your accomplishments into existence. Life is a labor of love. It is a lesson in love. And you can create not only physical manifestations, but you can create the self you want to be if you love yourself enough to grow. Guilt, anger, pleading, these do nothing but cause further separation. Only love can give you new life and a second chance. Love because you want to. Just because others don't love what you love, don't let that dissuade you from it. So many dreams are lost because we defer loving ourselves and our desires unconditionally to seeking the conditional terms of love of those who surround us.

So the moral is: love yourself--endlessly, boundlessly, unconditionally, eternally, infinitely.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life, Liberty, and How to Pursue Happiness

I struggle to understand responsibility. I get that it can be broken down into Latin roots that mean 'the ability to respond,' and that it differs from reaction in that reaction means 'to act again' usually in the same manner as before. But there has always been some part of the equation missing for me. In my meditation yesterday, I had an experience that I think may fill in the blank.

Someone told me once that responsibility leads to freedom. But I never quite understood what that meant. To me, responsibility just meant that there were more things that I had to live up to, had to take care of, be responsible for... and that just sounded like a lot of work, or even a burden. How could taking on more stuff possibly be freeing?

The thing is, responsibility also has to do with what you let go of.

As I already mentioned, I had an experience in meditation. Part of the meditation I've been practicing involves mantra. The same abstract syllable mentally repeated as a focal point for my attention. Whenever I find that my attention has wandered down a path of thought, I simply return my attention to its focus on the mantra. Thus, I train my will and cultivate inner silence. Yesterday, I found my attention wandering as it usually does, consumed by some emotion or another, but for some reason when I returned to the mantra, I was stricken by the awareness of the freedom I had just created for myself. The feeling I had had was a rather heavy one and not at all enjoyable, but with a simple exercise of my will, my attention was placed back at a neutral focus. I was now free from that emotion.

Now, of course, I could return to it. I didn't defeat it or stave it off forever. What I realized, though, was that it is just so simple to apply the will and create freedom for oneself. The nagging emotion and the heavy feeling are what had enslaved me, and to entertain them would be succumbing to them, and to do it continually would be reaction. Yet I had learned to respond. Not only that, I recognized its value. This was the lesson I had been praying for.

All too often do I let myself fall into the trap of feeling worthless, feeling like I'll never make anything of myself, or feeling guilty or not good enough. I have these thoughts and feelings so often that I've nearly paralyzed myself by the fear that I could be different, that I could perhaps be better. I have made them part of my identity in a way that I find it hard to separate myself from them. I have altered my ego into one of paralyzation, of fear, of worthlessness, of being unworthy, and just plain being less than what I am.

It's funny how fear manifests itself in ridiculous ways. My fear is of changing. I've become so used to these self-defeating feelings, the self-loathing, that I am afraid to feel otherwise. Who would I be? What would happen?

And I know from experience that whatever thoughts you dwell upon are the ones that manifest. Situations in life are made from your deepest thoughts. When you direct your attention to them, you give them power, you give them energy, and slowly that energy begins to coalesce and solidify, and eventually it is made manifest by your feeding it--it becomes reality.

What I have discovered is how to apply my will. And with practice it will turn into will power. And through responding to these emotions and feelings and thoughts and physical life experiences, I can alter my reality. I create freedom for myself. I no longer have to be a slave to my thoughts or emotions. I can choose to be different and to let go of negative thoughts. All I have to do is respond by placing my attention on the stillness. In that way, I can purify my mind. The more stillness I can hold in my mind, then all the more stillness will there be made manifest in my physical existence. And when I place my attention on positive thoughts, my ego can be changed. It can be molded into a construct of positivity, and it will reflect my innermost being, my highest Self, and my Creator.

Truly, responsibility is the path to freedom. And I embrace it, for all humankind.

What patterns do you let yourself be enslaved by? What situations do you allow to recur and feel powerless to change? What sort of image do you keep of yourself? Do you dwell on the negative more than the positive? You can change the thought instantly with your will, and continually changing it with will power makes the new thought permanent, bringing you change. Once you realize you can do this whenever you want to, you are free. You no longer have to be a slave to your faults, to your pet peaves, or to your emotional outbursts and reactions.

Many misunderstand responsibility. It just takes a new perspective and you can be free.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Tapas and Other Food for Thought


Not usually a word that I have a positive feeling about. That is, the first image that comes to mind is of punishment or having a drill sergeant screaming in my face. In fact, it's an idea that I'm still coming to terms with. I do have an alternate image in my mind for discipline, and the feeling that coincides with it is one of respect, of a can-do attitude, of pride, and of freedom. You see, there are a few different definitions of discipline that appear when you search the dictionary. Perhaps the most common understanding of the word does have to do with punishment. However, there is a definition that refers to learning, to practice that improves a skill. I think the latter definition ties in with my previous post about yoga practice. Discipline is the practice of practicing.

Only through discipline do we become better, do we gain more knowledge, more affluence, more comfortableness with a skill. And it could be any skill of your choosing. How many times have you sat down to do something that you've done at least a million times, and still you learn something about it that you didn't know before? For example, just the other night I was going through my asana practice, and something new opened up for me about grounding into the earth. This revelation, which would be fairly difficult to describe without physically taking you through the sequence, led me to a greater opening in my lower body. It helped me connect the sky energies to the earth energies.

I am fairly systematic with my asana practice. I have a series of 'rules' that run through my head about alignment and lifting and lengthening and which chakras are active; where's my drishti (gaze)?; where's my mind? Grounding has been a somewhat difficult concept for me. It sort of mirrors my tendency to be mentally somewhere in space a lot of the time. I tend toward the busy, masculine, mental energies, and I am somewhat lacking in the more physically attuned, feminine, earth energies. That's not to say, however, that I'm an aggressive person; on the contrary, I'm rather passive, a pushover most of the time. Anyway, the point is that I busy myself with thinking more often than doing, which doesn't bring about a whole lot of manifestation of my goals.

The answer to this quandary comes with the application of discipline. The Yoga Sutra speaks of discipline as tapas, one of the niyamas. Whereas yamas are attitudes we should restrain, niyamas are attitudes we should embrace. Obviously the application of tapas is to quicken one's spiritual development. It has nothing to do with punishment. The definition of discipline that denotes punishment must have been developed by someone who did not like to live by the rules, did not want to better himself, and felt restricted. But even as I write these words, the picture becomes clearer. Punishment is associated with discipline because one who does wrong must practice right in order to improve his character. (Yet another illustration of how the ego takes hold of us and creates this fear of dying, of change.) The only restriction that occurs with discipline is the restriction of the ego, and for those of us on a spiritual path, restriction of the ego is a healthy thing--it cultivates control, and ultimately leads to freedom. When one is free from egoic mind chatter, she is free to respond to a stimulus in any manner that she chooses; she is not bound by egoic re-action, which by its very definition means to act again in the same manner as before.

When we are stimulated to change, we quite often have an egoic reaction: "Why should I change? I wasn't doing anything wrong," or, "You can't tell me what to do! I'm just fine the way I am!" These are reactions of the ego wanting to stay the exact same way it always has been. The ego doesn't want to die, it doesn't want to change, so instead, it opts to kill you; for if you consistently choose the ego, your energies slow down. They stop evolving, stop moving. They become sluggish and will most likely manifest as a disease or an unwanted life experience.

At which point, it must seem like punishment.

My own relationship with tapas is sporadic at best. It's one thing to understand these ideas conceptually, and quite another to know them through practice. There's that word again.

You know, many who are afraid of change become so because they are not the ones causing change. They wait it out until the change happens to them. They sit in fear of the inevitable change that is to come and wipe out everything that they have taken to be a certainty. They build their life-houses on the shaky sands of the ego whose grains provide an illusion of stability, and solidity--yet it is fragmented. Those who practice change and discipline have built their life-houses on the secure rock of ages: the soul. They know that if they practice tapas, if they change and mold themselves into an image more like that of the Creator, more like that of the highest Self, they will have freedom, and they will be safe, and they will not die.

In the Bible, there were only twelve disciples (meaning those who are disciplined). It is a relative few who seek out change on their own, who are disciplined in becoming, which is the continual evolution toward the ideal self. But I believe there is a quickening, and many more have decided to be disciples to whatever spiritual path they may follow. They choose to change; they choose to live; they choose to be free.

Discipline: the practice of practicing life.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's yoga practice, not yoga perfect

Those are the most memorable words of advice I have ever heard.

"It's yoga practice, not yoga perfect."

From where I stood, or from where I sat contorted, it was that piece of advice that helped me let go of my constant struggle for perfection. (Yes, I am a Virgo.) It was toward the beginning of my second real attempt at taking yoga seriously as a path for transformation that these words were spoken to me. And those words are my reminder to let go of expectations, to stop comparing myself to others, and to ultimately let go--my path is my own, unique to me while at the same time intertwined with and inseparable from all others. While I have no problem with uniqueness, it's the inseparability that scares me because it implies responsibility. All my choices affect everyone else. The cosmic potential revealed by that singular, universal truth is akin to Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. In fact, I'll bet the mythology surrounding Atlas is meant to teach responsibility to humankind. Anyway, I digress.

Because yoga is practice, and life is practice, it's ok not to be perfect--not that anyone ever could, really. But the point I'm trying to make is that I continue to practice at life. I continue to have experiences, to make choices, and they all end up according to whatever the Creator has in store for me, for us all, regardless of how comfortable the process may be. But I want to share these experiences with you. Beginning this blog is for me yet another redo, another practice session, another attempt to be better than I was before.

Essentially, I desire community. And the same etymological root for community is also the basis for communication. And commune. All of these words imply a coming together. And while you can take it at face value to mean physical communication or assembly of a group, I feel it is more important to understand it at a soul level. Bringing something together means assembling many parts into a larger whole. The final outcome may be large, it may be small, but it is a whole no matter if it is composed of three people or 3000 people. The headcount of the group may vary, it may fluctuate, it may dissolve altogether and be born anew, yet it is still whole, it is still a community. When you assemble with a group, just because you have left it doesn't mean you are not still a part of it. And when you no longer desire to commune with them, it does not make the group less valuable or less whole. Of course, a group is a lot more stable when it is composed of many parts as opposed to a relative few--think of it like gravity--but regardlessly, it is always whole.

Getting back to the soul level understanding: the mind-body-spirit connection functions the same way. As individuals we begin our spiritual paths, attention scattered, feeling fragmented; but as we grow, as we seek knowledge and understand, as we continue to practice life and garner experiences, we become aware of all that is offered, all that we have to offer. We become aware of the greater wholeness, of the wholesomeness of the Self.

Yet all this understanding, all this growth, is nothing if you selfishly guard it and keep it to yourself. What good is all the knowledge, all the wealth, all the love in the world if you have no one to share it with? Your growth is for naught. As you grow individually, you must grow universally. You must give, you must share. You must take only what you need for your health, joy, and fulfillment, and share the rest selflessly. It is precisely the aforementioned selfish mentality that got us into such mess with the current financial crisis. If only all the Wall Street bankers, mega-corporations, and politicians who sacrifice their morals for lobbyist backing had known that all they had to do was share. While I'm not Catholic, I do respect what the Pope had to say on the matter: "Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty." While his statement was in reference to the financial crisis, it's meaning is universal and can be applied to the mind and to the soul. Spiritual poverty is far worse than financial poverty. It leaves you empty, devoid of feeling or joy, not just devoid of money.

So here I am, sharing my experiences with you, taking advantage of the practice of life, surrendering to Savasana (corpse pose) and assimilating growth. A mantra I was taught at a spiritual school I once attended was, 'I die daily,' meaning that I lay down all my burdens, my egoic construct, and I let it die with an exhale, only to inhale once more and be reborn like the phoenix, free from old habits and thoughts, free to become someone new.