Sunday, 30 March 2008

Always spiritual......never religious

For me there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual. From the age of 11 - 18 I was boarding away from home in an Irish Catholic boarding school. Each morning we were made to get up for mass. One day a young priest came to say mass and he said something which began my spiritual path. He said 'God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts' . In that instance I knew there was a difference between being religious and being spiritual. I didn't know what that was but I resolved there and then that I was going to be spiritual and not religious. I did not know what being spiritual meant or how I was going to do it but I was clear that I was not going to have anything to do with religion. I see clear differences between being spiritual and being religious. Religions have tended to put some figure at the head and pronounce that one to be the only one that can take people to the Truth. To be spiritual means to have no figure head only the ONE from which, through which and in which everything is possible. To be spiritual means to have this Union with the One as the goal of the spiritual journey. The spiritual journey is truly one that is made by the Alone to the Alone.

At the moment I am reading 'God lived with them' - Life stories of Sixteen Monastic Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Chetanananda. What is striking is that all of them left normal life to found monasteries. Yet most of them became ill and died and I am left wondering what was it all for and what use is it now. The last couple of days I have been thinking deeply about whether or not the Divine, when it finally manages to purify a human form to be empty of ego to the extent that some realization can be given wants it then to leave society and set up Monastic orders. I am aware that this may be viewed as controversial but I feel an urgency to write it.

There is a school of thinking that posits that once the soul becomes God-realized that it is only then that the Divine can experience what it has created. While the soul is unconscious and not God realized, the Divine cannot experience what it has created. It seems somewhat ironical then that when this state of God-realization descends on Yogi's and they enter into continuous Samadhi or God intoxicated states that they are giving to the Divine more of the same. Whereas if it were possible to accept this state but still function in the world, but function to make a difference by the magnetism of this God-realized state then this is really what the Divine wants. To work through an awakened realized form to shift spiritual evolution onto the next level. The more of this book I read the more I feel that the purpose of the God-realized state is not to remove oneself from the world but to be effective within it.

The Self-realized state does not result in this taking oneself away from the world to found Monasteries. To be self-realized is to know without any doubt that who we think we are is not who we are at all. It is to know that underneath everything that is changing is that which never changes. But this is more of a coming home, a realization of that which we already knew but which the ego fought against us knowing. It results in a state of peace, bliss, joy, one-ness with all that is. But this is not the God-realized state. It is a state which results in greater love and connection to all beings and awakens the desire to be of service.

The God-realized state as I understand it and I stress that I don't consider myself to be there is experienced as a deep and continuing bond with the beloved. It is so strong as to make everything else fall away. It might be because I have no experience of this state that I am questioning the actions of those in this state who choose to make the deepening of this state the most important thing for the rest of their lives. I wonder if this is really what the Divine wanted when it lifted the veil for these men.......

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Visit to Mother Meera for Darshan......

The turmoil I wrote about yesterday continued into the night. I intended to get up early and spend some time meditating in preparation for receiving Darshan from Mother Meera later in the day. I woke naturally at 7am and thought to myself 'I'll meditate here in bed, instead of getting up and sitting on my meditation stool', yeah right, the next thing I knew was that it was 9am and I was awoken by someone ringing my doorbell. I couldn't believe it and I was so angry at myself for not getting up when I had promised myself I would.

I showered and dressed feeling thoroughly miserable and thinking that there was no-one less worthy than me to receive this Darshan. While on the other hand a part of me was saying 'why are you going anyway'. It's hard to describe this kind of inner tension and turmoil without risking some kind of diagnosis but to me it is integral to the spiritual path and is always there when it comes to events which have the potential to stretch consciousness. There is a constant battle going on between a part of us that wants to grow spiritually and another part which doesn't want this at all.

I decided to leave to get to the venue early in case my booking had not been received in which case I would have to wait to see if a space became available. When I reached the bus station to wait for the bus that would take me to the venue I noticed there was another woman there with relatively younger man. We got chatting and it turned out that they were also going to see Mother Meera and like me they had never seen her before. I was struck by how stressed the woman seemed to be. Granted she had come from Oxford which is quite a way from London and didn't know where the venue was in London but she had plenty of time and so I couldn't see the need for her level of mental agitation. She told me that she had worked for the organisation founded by The Maharishi and had met him a number of times. I was fascinated by this and we had a good conversation. The bus came and we got on. I felt the need to voice my long held concern about giving away power to self-proclaimed gurus like Mother Meera and I was quickly told that Mother was an Avatar and not a Guru - OK. I wondered how much of a difference knowing that would make to me.

We reached the venue and there were lots of Mother's helpers to guide us. I had a few anxious moments as I explained that I had submitted a booking but hadn't received any confirmation. She asked my name and ran her eyes down a page and then produced a black pen and with a flourish ticked a box - hurrah, seems they did receive my booking after all. I entered into the chapel which was the venue for the Darshan and I had a quick glance around, there didn't seem to be a space available at all in the front pews. Then I spotted one single spot quite near the front. I couldn't believe that it wasn't taken so I asked the Indian lady sitting there whether or not it was taken and she shook her head. Delighted I arranged myself on the bench and saw that I would have a direct view of the Mother when she appeared.

It was early and nobody was speaking so I closed my eyes to meditate. Immediately my inner voice went on a rant 'what are you doing here, waste of time etc, etc,. But I said to I don't really know who '1% of me is serious and sincere in being here, give power to that 1% to make a difference in the world; strengthen that part and don't worry about the remaining 99% that wants to rant and rave and is resistant' This felt OK to me.

At one point I stole a glance around and I was amazed at just how many people were there. The chapel was full and there were people outside also. At 2pm Mother Meera arrived and everyone stood up. Then there was this rush. The Indian woman beside me jumped nimbly over my feet and went into the aisle and knelt down. In a few seconds this huge queue had formed. I didn't know what to do so I didn't do anything. Mother Meera began to give Darshan. I watched devotees kneel before her with bowed heads. She placed her hands on either side of their head for a few seconds and then looked deeply into their eyes for another few seconds and then lowered her eyes. This was a sign that the Darshan for that person was over. After watching this for some time with my inner voice upping its rant about how this was so not the place for me I stood up and took my place in the queue.

The closer I got the more my apprehension grew. A big part of me wanted to run but the 1% that got me there was insistent and so I stayed. Mother Meera had a man beside her to ensure that she wasn't mauled by any devotee and he had to tell me twice to move up closer. When there was only one more person before me my inner voice reached a crescendo with wanting to leave but I shuffled over to her and bowed my head. Devotees could also touch her feet but this was something I didn't want to do so I didn't. I felt the lightest and gentlest of touches on either side of my head as she held it. After a few seconds I felt slight pressure which was the cue for me to lift my head and look into her eyes which I did. Now I've stopped writing as I try to be honest and authentic about how this was. I tried to keep my mind blank as I looked fully into her eyes and the word that seemed to come was 'connection'. After a few seconds Mother lowered her eyes which was the sign that my Darshan was over. I heaved myself up to my feet and returned to my seat.

On reflection in my seat it seemed that her eyes were not as powerful as they were in the photo I had looked at yesterday. I didn't feel anything when I returned to my seat, not elation nor disappointment nor even relief that I had done it. I just had a sense of wonder and curiosity as to how this woman can have all of these people present when she doesn't say a word or allow any devotee to say anything to her during Darshan. It is quite incredible the number of people who were there just to receive in faith. I stayed for another 1/2 hour and then I left.

Walking back to the bus I was berating myself for the way I am always so sceptical of this kind of thing. What is this uneasy feeling that I seem to have around it all. Whenever I feel like this I always look to the universe for some kind of confirmation. To my immense relief I saw when I got out onto the street that the bus I needed to take me home was just about to pull up alongside. Filled with gratitude I took a minute out to thank the universe for this, that even though my mind was filled with doubt, that I was still being taken care of. It may seem strange to the reader but this tends to be how I gauge how well or not I am being true to myself. When life flows and things are working I know that I am being true to myself. When things change I ask myself where am I not being honest and/or authentic and if I sit with the question for long enough an answer will come and I can put in place the necessary measures to restore my integrity so that life will flow. In my experience when we are true to ourselves and others life can't but flow and be in harmony. It gets out of harmony when we are not being true to ourself or others.

So on balance, am I pleased that I made the effort to receive Darshan from Mother Meera today.....the jury is out......

Friday, 28 March 2008

Full of spiritual tension............

The title of this blog is the only way I can describe how I have been today. Tomorrow I have booked to received Darshan from Mother Meera and for some reason I am feeling nervous and apprehensive. Darshan is the method whereby Mother Meera gives to those who wish it a powerful spiritual transmission. She does this by looking deep into the eyes and holding the head of the person who kneels down before her. I understand this spiritual transmission to be a trigger for the spiritual energy which normally rests dormant at the base of the spine to rise to allow spiritual experiences. I have no idea what to expect tomorrow and I am trying very hard to keep an open mind but I have looked at some photos of Mother Meera and what has struck me is the power in her eyes just from a photograph. The eyes are the window to the soul and it is through the eyes that we connect with each other.

I have never seen this woman in the flesh and the fact that I should be feeling so nervous about meeting her is a bit ironical. Last year I gave shelter in my flat to a man who was doing a 3 month course and had nowhere to live or no money to pay for accommodation. He proclaimed himself to be a yogi. One day I came home and there were some dried flower petals in a desert bowl sitting on top of the fridge. I asked him where they had come from and he said 'Mother Meera gave them to me'. I can remember feeling angry and thinking that he would have been far better off going out to look for a job than wasting time sitting at the feet of this woman. I feel quite ashamed when I think about it now. I've never been one to sit at the feet of so called gurus. I've always been suspicious of those who proclaim themselves to be a guru but over the years I have accepted that this is a genuine path with real milestones which if they are to be reached requires a level of trust and surrender to someone who is further along the path than me and this woman is meant to be enlightened.

When the course was finished the self proclaimed yogi left and I thought no more about it. Then about 6 months ago I had an intuition that I should see Mother Meera. I couldn't believe this after I had practically ridiculed said yogi for going to see her. However, I will always listen to my intuition because it is my only guide as I don't have a teacher or belong to any group. I found her website and saw that she was going to be in the UK at the end of March and I found myself completing the booking form and sending it off to receive Darshan at 2pm tomorrow.

A couple of days ago I realised that I hadn't received any confirmation that I had a place booked so today I tried to call on the number given but it was only an answer phone, I left my details. So I think some of my apprehension is to do with whether or not the organisers even received my booking form. But this really doesn't account for the level of turmoil and restlessness I am feeling this evening. I feel the need to wash my hair and not have any alcohol so that I can be prepared.....but prepared for what..... why do I feel that there is going to be something important happening tomorrow.

Oh well...the blog entry will be interesting tomorrow evening......

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The spiritual path and its three stages

At the moment I am off from work recovering from an operation on my foot so I have more time on my hands. I can see how tempting it is to take oneself away from conventional life in order to receive insights and intuitions. I have found that since my mind has been relatively empty of the pressure from work that insights and intuitions are more readily available.

This morning when I was lying in that precious state between sleeping and waking I was reminded of what for me are the three stages of the spiritual path. I saw with perfect clarity the tools that one can use to attain each stage. Again, these are just my insights, I don't consider the stages or the tools to be the truth but they resonate with me. I offer them as guidance to the reader to play with and try out if they also resonate. The most effective and less dangerous way to handle the spiritual path is to treat it as a game. For me it is a game I desperately want to win yet on the other hand it doesn't matter whether I do or not. What is important is to play full out within the rules of the game.

This is the paradox of the spiritual path - the desire to experience and realize while also not caring whether or not it happens. It is this paradox that is the hardest to grasp never mind put into practice. What I am clumsily trying to say here can be best understood from a Sufi saying 'The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it'. Summed up in these few words is the beauty and frustration of the spiritual path.

I see the spiritual path as happening in 3 stages:

Stage 1: KNOW THYSELF - This involves becoming aware of everything that motivates our behaviour, to understand not judge the decisions we made when we were children which drive our behaviour now and to take responsibility for that behaviour. The tool that is available for doing this is reason. Reason is the most powerful tool there is for shifting consciousness. The more we use reason and work things out for ourselves the more we accelerate progress along the spiritual path. This reason applies to the writings and teachings of self-confessed spiritual teachers. The Buddha said something along the lines of don't believe anything that is said, test it out for yourself, if it accords with your experience then the choice can be made to accept it or not. The ability to be discerning and clear about what resonates and what doesn't is critical for the spiritual path.

Stage 2: KNOW THE SELF - At some point the realization will come that what appears to be separate is in fact not separate. One Soul that appears to be divided but in reality has never divided. The tool for this is Consciousness. We become conscious of the unity behind the separation. When the consciousness reaches a certain level the heart awakens and then comes the realization that everyone and everything is connected. Like the hand which has 5 separate fingers but they all come together at the palm; like the firework which begins off as one and from it comes all the individual sparks, but all the sparks have come from the one. Knowing the SELF is realizing that there is no separation between me and others.

Stage 3: KNOW THE ONE - This is the next step after self-realization and is the state of realizing THAT which makes everything possible. I get connected to a Presence which is more of an energy. I say this because there are no visions of any deities. There is simply a deep abiding peace and calmness. A resting in what IS. The impossibility of describing this stage is reflected in how difficult I am finding it to write about this stage. Here there is no perception of separation, everything is one, the Divine is realized in everything and is realized as being composed of everything. The tool at this stage is Grace which is not given by anything in the mind.

My spiritual life now consists of me staying true to these stages, working to deepen them in whatever way I can. They give me a framework which works and through them I feel I have a framework for where I am going....which is nowhere............

I had just finished reading the above and was congratulating myself on how well it had all come together when the computer crashed and I lost the Internet connection. With it went everything I had written. I immediately knew why. I had allowed the ego to operate. I had forgotten that although the words are written by me they do not come from me. For a moment I allowed the ego to take over from humility and in that I paid a price. Humility is one of the most important qualities on this path 'who am I that I should be given such insights and intuitions', not 'what a great writer I am'. I try to be vigilant about this but on the spiritual path there is no mercy.

It may appear strange that this is how I interpret a loss of Internet connection which to the reader may be more to do with co-incidence or bad luck, but my experience of this path to date is that, it is when the ego is in danger of being inflated that I am brought down to earth quite heavily. I am grateful for this and will always acknowledge the lesson I am being shown.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Putting the theory to the test........

Parts of the blog entry I wrote yesterday could be seen as quite academic and sterile. After I had posted it I thought to myself 'where was the personal human element in it? The truth was that there wasn't one. I was hiding behind the theory without putting myself on the line and relating it to my own practice.

This morning I got up early, lit a meditation cone, settled myself on my stool and began to meditate. I began by bringing my attention and focus to my breath. Not attending to the in- breath or the out-breath but to the space in-between - that point where the in-breath stops and the out-breath starts. This space is more important than attending to either the in-breath or the out-breath. I found that I could do this a couple of times and then my attention wandered. Once I became aware that my attention had wandered I gently brought my attention back to that space between breathing in and breathing out and began again. It is this willingness to begin again and again without any judgement of being a good or bad meditator which is the important thing in meditating. Meditation is not something that should be 'done' it's a state which the consciousness falls into effortlessly.

For many years I made the mistake of thinking that meditation would take me somewhere. On all the retreats I did I would sit in the meditation sessions completely aware and bored out of my mind. I would look at everyone around me deep in some state that seemed to be denied to me and I would feel mounting frustration that I couldn't 'get' to that place. Now many years later I realise that meditation is not a tool to 'get' somewhere, it's a tool to tease the consciousness into an altered state. In this altered state which is a brain altered state a different perception of the world emerges.

I wrote yesterday of the difference between consciousness and awareness. During my time meditating this morning I was aware of every thought and feeling thus I was conscious. You could argue that it was a high level of consciousness because I was aware of thoughts and feelings without reacting to them. I watched them come and go as one would watch events in a film, as a witness with no emotional or intellectual involvement. Yet the fact that I was conscious means I had not entered into the state of absolute awareness. I was still in a dual world, the world of separation seeing my thoughts and feelings as separate.

Vippasana meditation is based on this watching of thoughts and feelings and becoming conscious of the fact that they arise, stay for a while and then disappear. The aim of such meditation is to realise that nothing is permanent and to be able to let go. In my opinion this method gives relief from stress and tension as the realization dawns that while we have thoughts and feelings that this is not who we are. We can watch these thoughts and feelings arise and go therefore we cannot be these thoughts. With this realization for me came huge relief in that I was no longer at the mercy of my thoughts and feelings.

But to go to the state of Awareness or total absorption requires more. I know that a part of what is preventing me from allowing my consciousness to shift to this state albeit temporarily is spiritual fear. There are only two things that motivate human behaviour one is fear and the other is love. Unfortunately in today's world it is fear which appears to be the greatest motivator. Fear that there won't be enough, fear of not being good enough/successful enough etc. Meditation brings these fears to the surface.

What I have noticed in my own meditation and contemplation is that when I started off first many years ago, it was novel and relatively easy. But then as I learned more about myself from the kind of thoughts and feelings I had I experienced psychological fear - I experienced resistance to becoming aware of my thoughts and feelings because I didn't like what they were showing me. And so I used to spend many meditation sessions day-dreaming to avoid becoming conscious. I have passed that now and can honestly say that there is no longer any psychological fear because thoughts and feelings hold no fear for me now.

However moving into the state of Awareness brings with it another kind of fear and that is spiritual fear. The fear of letting go, surrendering the consciousness, the witness. This is a step that I am resisting and yet I know that if I am to ever write like the mystics that this is where I must go. To write from a state of total absorption will be to write words that won't fail to touch, move and inspire......

I catch glimpses of this state of total absorption not through meditation but when I am walking through the park or if my eye catches the perfection of a flower then for a few minutes there is nothing but a state of complete absorption in the flower and its perfection. At such time I feel a shift and experience a deep feeling of love and connection. The mind is quiet, there is no evaluation as to what flower it is, how long more it is likely to live, there is stillness and out of that stillness comes love.....

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The power of loyalty......

After an absence of writing this blog I am choosing to return to writing it. I have chosen this for a number of reasons. I have analytics on this blog and to my absolute amazement I have seen that even though I have not written any entry since early December 2007 that this blog is continuing to be read by people all over the world.

What is even more surprising to me is that there are also people returning to read the blog. Now I'm not a genius at interpreting analytics and statistics. That to me is a very left brain function and I am a self-declared right brained woman who loses the will to live when presented with statistics, but to my simplistic way of seeing these analytics, this blog is serving some purpose. Given this, I have chosen to return to writing entries. I will not be writing every day as this put immense pressure on me last time around. My book is still in the publication process but the main work has been done.

If this blog is interesting, useful, informative to at least one person then that is motivation enough for me to write to it from time to time. Like last time it is going to continue to be a spiritual blog but the spiritual cannot be separated from the human so I will take from being human and put a spiritual slant on it. As always what I write are only ideas to be considered, I do not consider them to be the truth and they are open to debate and discussion. But if something of what I write resonates then that's not to be ignored. When something resonates as being true it will be felt in the body, it is like the soul responds and resonates.

I have also missed writing. I find that in my writing I reveal things that I didn't even know I knew. So it is my own form of magic which I don't want to hide any longer.

The irony with the transformation from human to spiritual is that when it happens there is no awareness that it is happening. One day the state of being is one thing, and then suddenly it's another. This doesn't happen overnight, it is a very long process, oftentimes a many lifetimes process. But at one point the transformed state of being will be noticed, but the process by which it has come about will be largely unconscious.

The metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the butterfly is the closest example that I can think of. I may have written about this before but while the caterpillar is a caterpillar it has no idea of its potential as a butterfly. When the caterpillar becomes the butterfly it has no memory of being the caterpillar. I know I am asserting a lot here namely that the butterfly doesn't have the consciousness to remember that it was once a caterpillar. But for arguments sake let's assume that once the caterpillar becomes the butterfly it has no memory of what it was like to be a caterpillar or how it became a butterfly. All it knows is that it is now a butterfly.

The transformation of the human to the spiritual is exactly the same. The hard work in terms of reading, studying, meditation, contemplation is done while in caterpillar form (human) and then there is a period of incubation (everything is let go) and then from nothing comes the butterfly (the transformed person). To some reading this it might seem simplistic and rather far-fetched but when I consider this my whole body resonates so that I know that what I have written here is true for me.

When the magic of transformation happens the consciousness recognises the unity behind what seems to be separate. I use the example of being in a dark room. Around the room there are mirrors and in the middle of the room stands a lighted candle. When consciousness is transformed there is the realization that in spite of it appearing that there are many candles in the room (reflection of the one in the many mirrors), the reality is that there is only the one candle. But this realization is not the end of the spiritual journey it is just evidence of reaching the stage of knowing THE SELF. When we know THE SELF we become aware of the unity and connection behind everything that appears to be separate.

It is the existence of what seem to be opposites that produces the energy that creates the tension necessary for opposites to exist. The tension created between the opposites of good/bad, fat/thin, up/down produces energy. These opposites creates the tension necessary for the energy to create the illusion of separation. When the unity behind these opposites is realized all of that tension and energy disappears and that which appeared separate is unified and harmonized.

This is the shift from consciousness to awareness. Consciousness is necessary to see opposites and thus separation, the state of awareness sees none of this separation. This is why when the consciousness transforms to awareness there is no memory of consciousness. When a person in meditation achieves awareness, there is no consciousness. While someone in meditation is aware of the thoughts in the mind, their coming and going there is consciousness. Deep meditation is the state of awareness and not consciousness. Samadhi is the state of awareness not consciousness. With awareness there is nothing, with consciousness there is something. The state of being of a transformed person is that of awareness not consciousness no matter how refined that consciousness might be, it is not that revered state of nothingness......