Sunday, 9 September 2007

Another frustrating Sunday.....

I made myself get up this morning at 5am when the mobile alarm went off. It was a struggle. There is always that tiny voice that says 'get up' and then immediately it's drowned out by another which booms out 'don't bother, go back to sleep'. The consequences for me when I do not listen to the first voice are extreme. Both in terms of my frame of mind and also in what I make happen out there in the universe.

I was determined not to have another morning like yesterday morning when it felt so right to go back to sleep but was so wrong when I eventually did wake up. When I say right and wrong I don't mean in the moral sense. I mean it in a sense of being right in that I am effective and in a calm state of mind. Although this is paradoxical because my overall demeanour is calm it is only in my mind that the storm rages when I allow myself to sleep in. I know how inconsistent I am when it comes to listening to the inner voice early in the morning when my consciousness has not yet woken up fully.

I got up and read some more of the writing of Etty Hillisum and once again found the closeness in the style of writing that I have spoken about in a couple of these blog entries. I then had the thought to meditate so with a great flourish I produced my shawl, dug around in a box for some matches. Had a go at myself for putting used matches back into the match box. This resulted in not having any fresh match to light the candle with. I retrieved my meditation stool from the corner of the room, wrapped my shawl around my shoulders and began to meditate. The mantra that I find works best for me these days is to say 'just this'. I say 'just' on the in-breath and 'this' on the outbreath.

This works in terms of focussing my mind but it doesn't have any effect in producing that state of complete absorption that I long for. The Witness is ever there, watching, ensuring that the separation persists. Occasionally I will sense I am slipping into a different state and then my mind will go 'is this it' and immediately wherever it was I thought I was going, I'm no longer going there. Then I have a couple of moments of frustration until I once again remember my mantra 'just this' and accept that what is there is exactly what is meant to be there.

What is the key to knowing whether or not a meditation has been successful? This is something I have always wanted to know. It's like everyone says 'oh yes I meditate but that's it'. I never hear 'and this is what it's like for me' , before I meditate I'm like this and afterwards I''m like that'. Has it served its purpose if it creates calm and ease or should it lead to insights and intuitions that move the spiritual understanding forward? I remember many years ago when I first began to study Mahayana Tibetan Buddhism I joined a study class that met in Campden in North London every Sunday evening. The evening would begin with a meditation and I would sit there with the others but I found it impossible to even sit quietly then! I would spend my time looking around me at all the books on the shelves in the room or the guitar which was propped up in a corner of the room. Then I would steal a glance at the others and they all seemed to be somewhere denied to me.

After the meditation I would always be the first to break the silence with some stupid inane comment that would be greeted with a stony stare from the teacher who was leading the evening. I was always dying to ask, 'what happens for you when you are meditating' but I never dared. It seemed to be this big secret that nobody talked about. Pretty soon though I forgot about all this when we immersed ourselves in the study of some Buddhist text. Then I was so happy, my intellect had an outlet and I loved teasing out what the meanings of certain sentences might be.

Looking back at how much I understood of what was being studied, it was like I understood at an intuitive level but not at a level that I could give back to people in a way they would understand. I would go 'yeah' and the others would look at me expectantly and then my mind would be blank! I had the meaning for a split second then it was gone..major frustration. The beginning of this path is characterized by much confusion. For me it has taken the form of being attracted to some guy and building up all these fantasies about him and then not taking opportunities when they present themselves and then beating myself up. This has tended to be the unrelenting exhausting pattern.

The situation I am currently facing in the gym with a guy is an exact replica of what went on when I was studying with this Buddhist group so many years ago. I began a fantasy about this guy who was at a more advanced level in Buddhist teachings. He was also witty and funny and I used to spend my week waiting for Sunday evening. All week I would fantasise about what I would say and how it would all go and then Sunday evening would arrive and nothing would go the way I wanted it to. I would sabotage every opportunity to move something onto another level and then beat myself up driving home. The fantasy would then begin again for the next week. Can you imagine just how exhausting and confusing all of this was. I'm surprised that I didn't kill myself driving home because my mind was still back in that room in Camden, and my mind was berating myself for having left so there was precious little attention left for concentrating on the road!

Fast forward many years and I find the exact same thing happening with this guy at the gym. I fantasise about how it's going to be and it's never like that and then I spend the rest of Sunday beating myself up. Now instead of it being Sunday evening, it's now Sunday morning aagh....

I have said in my profile that the journey of spiritual transformation goes in cycles. Looking back I see how the turmoil that was created with my fantasy about the Buddhist teacher that never came to anything was keeping my mind and body in a state of tense alertness. I know that may sound implausible but it is how it appeared to me. Its purpose which I see now but did not see then was to make the mind turbulent and uncertain because then growth can happen. There is no growth in a mind that is certain. All of the mental beating up of myself that I did because I didn't do this; say that; behave like that; all of this stops the mind from being certain and thus complacent. At the end of the last cycle I had a movement of energy from the base of my spine during a meditation retreat in Southern England which shifted and changed everything. That experience is the reason for this blog.

Now I consider this to be the second cycle and once again I have a fantasy with a guy that happens every Sunday and never comes to anything. Today I had the ideal opportunity to speak to him on his own but what happens, my legs get a life of their own and I find myself leaving the gym studio with a curt 'bye'. These men guards who do not want me to have a relationship just picked up my legs and walked off with them. And then true to form I beat myself up for the rest of the day. The minute I am out of the gym, the fantasy kicks in and I begin to plan again how next Sunday will be oh so different. In the same ultra exhausting scenario as years ago with the Buddhist teacher.

Strange as it may read I have faith that it is like this for a reason. This faith is based on my past experience. There is something happening. Last night I experienced the shaking again. This process does not frighten me it is just intense, the energy tends to cause me to convulse but I can control it by breathing. It has no visual component with it, it is solely something that happens within my body. It tends to start with the stomach and causes a kind of circular shaking.

I am aware of how bizarre some parts of this blog entry may read. I have committed to a spiritual journey and it seems important somehow to keep a record of these experiences. What they mean is not for me to interpret. My only duty is to share. I feel convinced that a period of turmoil always precedes a spiritual event - an initation of some kind. The fact that this time round is so similar to the last time leads me to have faith that this is an integral part of this path. All I have to do is surrender to the process.

My only regret is that my erratic behaviour whereby I will initiate something from my fantasy and then never follow it up with a concrete proposal is causing confusion and bewilderment to this guy. I am sorry about this because it's not fair. Usually I will go for a coffee with him and the others but today because I now understand what is going on I didn't go. But this action didn't give me any relief either because it could have been 'THE' time that the fantasy and reality came together and the men guards defending this process got drunk! I didn't go, so the current confused state is kept intact.

I am aware of the importance of not causing suffering to others and a couple of years ago I was listening to some gospel music that Elvis Presley was singing on the radio. It was beautiful. A few days later I was in a small record shop where I live and the only Elvis CD that was there was this one which contained his gospel music. The CD is called 'Peace in the Valley'. I bought it and when I went home I played it. The words of one song really moved me and each night I say a few sentences from it. I would like to share these sentences in this blog entry. The words come from the song Evening Prayer. They are:

If I have wounded any Soul today
If I have caused one's foot to go astray
If I have walked in my own willful way
Dear Lord forgive

I say this because even though my intention is not to hurt I cannot guarantee that my words or actions haven't hurt or offended anyone today. Tonight I will say it especially for this guy in the gym who is soon going to need a home for the bewildered if I carry on acting the way that I am.

Yesterday I wrote about how important I consider integrity and keeping one's word to be and how I have suffered by breaking my word to complete a seminar because of this operation on my foot. I wrote an email to my group that was formed on the first evening to explain that I had decided to pull out of the seminar because of the operation and not being able to attend all of the sessions. When I returned from the gym there was a message on my answering machine. It was from a woman from the group. It turns out that she has had the same operation that I am going to have and she encouraged me to find a way to honour my integrity and that she would help me. It turns out that I can miss up to 4 sessions of the 10 week sessions of the seminar without missing the whole seminar.

I was so inspired by what she said to me and moved by her offer to work out with the group how to fix it so that I can come to the seminar sessions. I was so happy after the phone call. I really did not want to break my integrity. It is something I take so seriously that now to have the possibility of being able to complete the seminar after all is absolutely great.

This is the strangeness of this path. I can mentally beat myself up and yet the universe never fails to show its benevolence. It is events like this that bring me to my knees in gratitude and humility. It doesn't matter how much I give myself a hard time this is never reflected in the outside world. I know the incident with my car could be given as an example of something that happened because of a loss of integrity, but nobody was hurt and a car can be repaired. Anyway with my foot operation I am not going to be able to drive it for 3 months! and the insurance is due to be paid at the end of this month!!

All of this interpretation requires a leap of faith and the willingness to be thought of perhaps a bit strange by others but it brings such magic, brilliance and a delicious anticipation to life....the great thing about this journey is that you never know what's around the corner. As I write this the words from something Jesus said once has come to me so it seems important to write them. He said 'be ambitious for the higher things and I will show you a way that is greater than all of these' . Be ambitious for the fruits of the spiritual and everything else will come because everything is enveloped in the spiritual.

Tomorrow I go into work and explain to my boss that from next Monday I will be away from work for eight weeks. I'm not looking forward to it because it is short notice to arrange caretaking for all of my work. I will also have a lot to do to get everything into a position where someone can follow easily all that needs to be done. But I have faith that all of this will also get done.

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