When It Isn’t Really “All God”

There is a popular phrase in some spiritual circles: “It’s all God.”
This is meant to align with nondualistic philosophy.  Nonduality has its roots in Hindu and yogic philosophy, and is increasingly popular in the West. The foundational phrase is “Brahma satyam jagat mithyā, jīvo brahmaiva nāparah — Brahman is the only truth, the world is illusion, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self.”  Very roughly translated, Brahman is God.  And so, we find the idea of It is all God.

But, like many ideas that are adopted in the West, the meaning behind this text has become used to defend the spiritual ego. Spiritual ego is when the conditioned ego takes on the trappings of spirituality. So, It Is All God becomes:

It is all God…so I don’t have to let go of this bad habit.

It is all God…so I can’t really be hurting you.

It is all God…so nothing has to change.

It is all God…so I am off the hook.

One of the essential elements of  It Is All God is that it is non-personal.  It reflects realization of the true self.  It is sourced in the realization of both non-separation and the fact there is an individualized expression of consciousness.

Claims like “It Is All God…so…” followed by justification of a personal reality is kinda not it at all!

Jeff Foster is one of the most responsible Western teachers of non-dualism.  He captures this idea really well:

“I am officially no longer an ‘Advaita teacher’ or ‘Nonduality teacher’ – if, indeed, I ever was one. Life cannot be put into words, and however beautiful the words of Advaita/Nonduality are, they must be discarded in the end. I could never claim to be any sort of authority on this stuff. I will continue to speak, to sing my song to those who are open to listening, but gone is the need to adhere to any tradition, to use ‘Advaita-speak’ to avoid real, authentic human engagement, to pretend that I am in any way more or less special than you, to kid you that I know more than you, to play the ‘teacher’ by refusing to meet you in the play, to stop listening to you because I see you as ‘still stuck in the dream’ or ‘still a person’. This message is about love, in the true sense of the word – otherwise it is simply nihilism masquerading as freedom. The ‘Advaita Police’ reply ‘Who cares?’ I say I do. I do.” (emphasis is mine).

The idea of It Is All God points to something beautiful, when it is used with awareness.

“And so what is seen these days is this: nonduality is not a rejection of duality, but a celebration of it – such a total celebration, that one cannot even use the words ‘nonduality’ and ‘duality’ as separate from each other. No-one and someone are actually one – they were never two.”

It Is All God. It is all love.  And love will explore that bad habit, be concerned about hurting another, change to be in alignment with love, and take responsibility for authentic human engagement.

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Ecstasy Is Within

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I layed on the massage table, practicing shifting between Self and No Self. In no way due to something I was doing or was being done, I experienced a moment of ecstasy.

It wasn’t physical, like an orgasm.

It wasn’t a substance induced altered state of consciousness. 

It wasn’t energetic. With my practice, I can gather energy, expand its flow and augment experiences.

This was a moment of ecstasy.  A moment of joy so big it could not be contained. It burst forth from me to everyone. Timeless. 

The massage therapist didn’t know it happened. There was no perceptible change in the physical world.

It happened.

It may happen again. Or it won’t. 

I won’t try to get it back. I don’t need to.

Now that I know ecstasy is within, it is simply true.

How Deeply Can We Meet?

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Early in my non dualistic Tantrik study, I asked a friend, “But what’s the purpose of relationship?  There is no separation.  It’s all one.” His answer had something to do with learning from each other, which I rejected. We can learn from everything.

Jeff Foster speaks to this experience too. “Yes, nonduality so easily becomes a war against duality. “You’re stuck in your individuality! That’s just a story! That’s so dualistic!” So deeply ironic, once again.

I speak from experience. I have been there myself. I spent a long time stuck in that nihilstic place where nothing matters, where there is no world and no relationship and everything is disconnected. I have written about this ‘Advaita Trap’ extensively. At the time, I thought it was freedom. I see now, it was another identification. It was totally lacking in love and compassion. In the end, it wasn’t nonduality that saved me and ended seeking. It was the discovery of this love beyond form, beyond words.”

I find myself disconnecting from people I love when they talk about their Story. I am very engaged in their soul journey yet I feel like pulling back when their story is filled with what is not True.

My spiritual partner approaches it like a curious spirit having a human experience and witness what humans do, feel, and say. In that way, she can be empathic when she is curious because  she can see how it is affecting them as they tell their story. That is a beautiful perspective.

“Life is a constant invitation, to recognise yourself as the vast ocean of consciousness in which every single wave – every thought, sensation, feeling, sound – is deeply welcome. What you are may be a non-dual ocean of consciousness, but as that ocean, you welcome – apready welcome – every wave without conditions. This is not an acheivement, but your very nature, the way you are actually built. Awakening is not an acheivement, it is a real-time remembering of how you are ‘built!’…

Life gently whispers, always, “How deeply can we meet?” – Jeff Foster

Some part of me denies experience when I tune out of the story because it does not comply with my desire to be immersed in Spirit. It is the ego wanting a spiritual experience on egoic terms.

“Are you able to meet the one in front of you, and for a moment, not try to fix them, or heal them, or spout nondual cliches at them, or try to win some argument, proving your identity? How deeply can we meet?” – Jeff Foster

How deeply am I willing to meet life? Can I let go of even this happening on my terms?

Belongingness

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As a practicing Tantrika, one of my blessings is to belong to kula. Kula is a spiritual community of Tantrik yogis. It is family, it is self-contained and it is about absolute connectedness.

My kula partner and I have worked together for a year now. It is one of the safest relationships I have. He is able to relate to how I experience life, particularly the aspects of consciousness and spiritual philosophy. In most respects, we are quite different personalities but that adds to our practice. It is not a romantic practice nor is it sexual. It is very intimate, especially energetically, however.

This week I have felt restlessness, fueled by the full moon, the coming eclipse, and other planetary movements. When I sink into my practice, the restlessness is worse, not better. Some of what is surfacing is a desire for belongingness. My kula mate has felt that too.

It is ironic to be in a practice of connectedness and union, and to share in the feeling of not currently belonging.  This is not new to me. I have spent most of my life not feeling a sense of belongingness,  and those moments in which I did became an energy that I grasped at, and grasped for.

Today, Matt Licata shared words to which I am returning to ride my way through this wave of shifting energy:

“Something happens and you get triggered. Someone says something or ignores you, or doesn’t show up in the way you want and need. You quickly become convinced that no one will ever see you as you are. Others are not on your side and the world is unsafe. And there is only one explanation at the root of it all: you are unworthy of such contact and something is fundamentally wrong with you. 

In these moments, you are totally hooked. Your emotional world is on fire and you’re falling apart. You are shaming, blaming, and raging in all directions. The old voices remind you of how wretched you truly are. The energy is hot and surging through your heart. There is a panicky nauseous feeling in your stomach. Your throat is starting to constrict. You are about to collapse. Here we go again.

But wait. Breathe deeply from your lower belly. Touch the earth. Feel your heart beating. Return to your body and the aliveness of the here and now. See if it really is as urgent as it seems, that you need to disembody and find relief.

Give yourself the gift of sacred pause. This is no ordinary moment. The harbingers of integration have appeared. While you may never have much control over what thoughts, feelings, or emotions arrive in a moment of activation, you have a choice as to how you will respond. This choice is the threshold of a new world.

Depending on your early strategies for meeting overwhelm and dysregulation, you flow into motion. While these responses are wired in to your neural net, they are open, plastic, translucent, and awaiting reconfiguration.

No matter what is happening in the inner and outer landscape, you can start right now – you can lay down a new pathway. Slowly, over time, you can replace the aggression with kindness. You can replace the abandonment with holding. You can replace the rejection with curiosity and fiery compassion. You can develop a new relationship with your feelings, your emotions, and with the beliefs which have become the lenses through which you have come to see your life.

While the old narratives and emotional strategies emerged as the best ways you knew to care for yourself and to somehow make sense of empathic failure and a misattuned holding environment, you are the artist of a new world. Your canvas is the entirety of your embodied vulnerability, the tenderness of your heart, and the brilliance of your creative psyche. You can rewrite the story, rewire your nervous system, and find new meaning. No, this is not easy, and will take everything you have… and more. But it is already written inside you.

While it may seem hopeless at times, you have capacities that you did not have as a little one when the original pathways were formed. Call on the seen and unseen worlds to assist you. Open to the holding and the wisdom of the mountains, the oceans, the stars, and the blue rose inside you.

You are surrounded now by the heartbeat of the earth. Feel the new pathway emerging. Allow the new template to come online now. The template of love.” – Matt Licata

The Middle Path: Being, Less Doing

When relationships end, it is normal during the grief process to pull back and go inside. You don’t have the energy to go out. You don’t want to do things that remind you of your former partner. And really, you are trying to keep one foot moving in front of the other anyway.

Which is why I began to beat myself up when after a few years I still wasn’t going out every week or taking new classes outside the house. Was I stuck? Had I not moved on?

This week my child was out of town for 3 days (gulp!) and people asked what I was going to do to indulge myself with my free nights. I signed up for yoga. A floatation tank. Dance night. Woo hoo!

And I didn’t go to any of them.

Why not?

Because I am in love with being connected to the Divine.

What did I do those nights? Well, nothing really. I meditated. I journalled. I sat in silence. I cooked. I had incredible teas from my little collection (Shout out to Acquired Taste Teas). I wasn’t doing. I was being.
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I was listening to Wayne Dyer in “The Shift”. In it, he refers to the things we value when we begin to awaken (the list varies for men and women. Sorry guys!). Before awakening, women value Family, Independence, and Career. After awakening begins, women valued Personal growth, Spirituality and Happiness. That shift in what was being reflected in my own life resonated.

A few years ago, I went on pilgrimage to John of God. I had many experiences while I was there. The three most notable were John committed to supporting a deepening in my spiritual awakening, he worked with me on reflecting self love, and I found deep joy in quietly serving others. I mark that trip as the start of significant moments of awakening.
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Following that trip, anything that didn’t align with these aspects of growth were removed from my life. Relationships first. Business next. Then the move from doing to being.

I may not be taking the silver working class I had considered but I have completed over 20 hours a week of spiritual study. I may not be attending yoga class weekly but I am on my mat weekly and I am in nature daily.

What is important about this? It reflects what is termed The Middle Way in Buddhism, and is similar to surrender or abiding in Tantra.

“Abiding means letting everything be as it already is – no matter what it is. If you’re feeling good, let that be as it is. If you’re feeling bad, let that be at it is. No matter what your emotional, physical, or mental state, let it be as it is and don’t wish it to be otherwise. If you want it to be different from what it is, you’re not abiding; you’re picking and choosing and trying to control your experience.” ~Adyashanti
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My doing had been a way of controlling my experience. What was I going to do next? I could orient to a menu of options, anticipate an experience, and hold that experience tightly. I could get angry if you took it away or disappointed me by not complying with how it should be. Bloody hell…as an expletive and a descriptor of that time.

So now, it is this:

Let come what comes, let go what goes. See what remains.

~Ramana Maharshi

But you aren’t a yoga teacher

Do you call yourself a yogi or a yogini? Have you earned it?

These questions arose when I was walking with a friend, talking about being called a “corporate yogi”, because of my business background and my yogic values. “A yogi?”, he asked, “But you aren’t even a yoga teacher!”

At first, I wrote off his comment to the Westernization of yoga, where the title of yogi is bestowed on the leader – the teacher. But what is a yogi?
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“A yogi is a practitioner of yoga. The term “yogi” is also used to refer specifically to Siddhas, and broadly to refer to ascetic practitioners of meditation in a number of Indian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.” – Wikipedia

We have Westernized yoga, there is no doubt. I resonate with the humorous Western archetypes in this article Just because you practice yoga doesnt make you a yogi.

“This is the one who comes to class and participates physically, but completely ignores the divine philosophical teachings. They sit on their mat chatting to a friend about a night out drinking Jack and Cokes and eating a GMO-filled, pesticide-laden, hormone-sprinkled, factory-farmed flesh burger before hooking up in a bathroom bar after a line of blow.

They claim yoga at a cocktail party, but don’t make any sacrifices to be it. This disintegration of yoga in their outside lives means they are seeing it as a form of exercise rather than a way of being.”

Possibly the way we know a yogini is by the intention that brings her to her mat. Is it a sculpted body, tight clothes, and a calm demeanour? For me, one aspect of yoga is that you desire more yoga – you desire yogic philosophy, deeper understanding, spiritual growth and awakening.  Certainly that may be precisely what has drawn many people to become yoga teachers. After 20 years of asanas and meditation, I am considering my teacher training in 2016.

But here is where East meets West: what is a Yogi in the East?  “In Hinduism, a siddha is one who is accomplished.  It refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. Siddha may also refer to one who has attained a siddhi, paranormal capabilities.” -Wikipedia
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Yoga in India is not a commercial activity. It is a way of being. “Here in India, Yoga is a spiritual practice first and a physical practice second. The different techniques we use like posture or breath as are viewed as tools in the search for a higher state of consciousness, for enlightenment. The intention of the practice isn’t to get into shape, or to loose weight; it’s part of the process of self realization. Here they create a state of Yoga through disciplined and regular practice of all the limbs of Yoga. Spiritualism is assumed and found not through esoteric ideas and a ‘feel good’ attitude, but through focus and self-control.”

Do I call myself a yogini? I do, and specifically as a tantrika. My asana work occurs a few times a week. My meditation work happens several times a day. My spiritual practice happens every minute of my day. It is my way of being.

My Hungry Ghost

The fear of emptiness.
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The reflection that I am less than I might have been.

The fear of missing out.

Desperate grasping. The longing. The search. Trying to be satisfied, to end the emptiness.

Looking for the next experience. The next insight. The next deepening in the relationship. The next spiritual teaching that would be IT.

This is my hungry ghost.

Hungry ghost is a concept in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese traditional religion representing beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way. The term appears in Tantra to reflect moments in which we display those intense emotional needs and pursue them. The mind believes that a desire exists to be satisfied. Not achieving satisfaction leads to suffering for the moments we are hungry ghosts. Dr Gabor Mate, an expert in addictions, describes them as “The Realm of the Hungry Ghost” in his book of the same title.

I faced the ghost and fed it to Kali.
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The cure to existential loneliness? The beautiful glorious inner void. The next experience? Watching all emanate from the creative force. Longing that can’t be filled? Returning to the sense of presence.

It sounds like hocus pocus. It sounds like more spiritual double talk. It sounds like BS. I know. To the Hungry ghost, it is.

If you ask who you truly are, and if you settle into your own nothingness, this all becomes self evident truth. It all stops for a delicious moment of peace and freedom.