Dawning awareness with integrity

Awareness gradually dawns upon the consciousness of Earth that what we think of as reality is illusory.

It is observed that those who lack knowledge of the higher realities are liable to be seduced by nihilism in the form of abuse and exploitation, and false knowledge in the form of conspiracy and paranoia.

What you are seeing *is* an illusion. But there is higher practice that points the way to a higher knowledge that is all embracing and all encompassing, patient and loving, positive and blossoming.

In this context, one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself and society is to teach positive aspiration, hope which is centred in the truth and consensus revealed by the mystics.

How to use intensity to launch into expansion

You are a pulsation, in so many ways it is your being and your essence. Just as when you observe the functions of the heart and lungs, you see their daily movements and know it is healthy, so too with the movements of your simple emotions, memories.

We can use intensity in moments as a launch pad into expansion. Usually an increase in intensity takes you further into one direction. Example: You think something is good or bad, and more intensity exaggerates the pendulum swing.

When you are able to hold the two opposing points of view in your mind simultaneously, they cancel each other out. They still exist, the issue still exists, but you are floating motionless in between the extremes.

At those times, when you are stable in the middle, more intensity moves you up to a new plane. The previous issue of concern, now resolved through understanding of the opposites, moves away from you, and you move above it.

 

Higher and Lower Self

We all have split personalities. Do you wish to admit that? We think and feel different things at different times. Our minds are nebulous and whimsical, you can drug or surgically interfere with a brain in order to produce very strange beliefs and opinions.  We become clouded with emotion, we become influenced by others.

Who are you, actually?

You could say that we have higher and lower selves, and following this, that the lower self ought to be a tool of the higher self. For this to occur we apply introspection and meditation techniques to explore the terrain, learn to discriminate, learn to wrangle the passions, yoke and harness the tools at hand.

This is purification and the application of concentrated awareness, and the purification requires active conscious participation, every possible moment. What begins being an unstable chore becomes automatic, and we experience an inflow of ecstatic wisdom. When the lower self becomes still and receptive we can finally experience consciousness as undifferentiated, unrefracted light.

Asana (physical yoga) and pranayama (breath control) will drive the purification process, but it has to be hand in hand with yama and niyama (ethical and behavioural guidelines). We learn to direct our passion upwards instead of into the ditch, we channel our urge for expansion into fervent and persistent efforts. We expose our lower self to our higher self, we learn to love the discovery of blemishes in the personality that can be transformed.

That’s what we need, tune in to the subtle aspects. Use humiliation as a motivator to not get offended and hurt by life. The personality will die in a few decades so we might as well disown it now and live a more useful happy life without it getting in the way.

Remember that the lower self isn’t a bad thing, it’s just dilute, a filtered reflection of the divine imperative, pressing down upon us, urging us to grow and move forward.  So allow the urges within you to exist under observation. When they don’t make you act they become a source of energy. You have to be able to feel it in you and do nothing with it, don’t reject it and don’t act on it, just let it be in you.

 

Stun Your Mind

We have to gradually realise that there is a mental landscape, a reservoir which we can all access, but of which we are mostly ignorant, which is the source of that most fundamental conscious awareness.

It feels blissful, but this word is inadequate, it dwarfs our usual experience of sensory pleasure and gratification. It feels like the euphoria of a eureka! moment, it feels like the relief of a major anxiety finally resolved, it feels like the moments following sexual release, it feels like the first glimpse of a grand landscape or a newborn baby. Imagine if these states could be felt for hours at a time.

All of these examples have a common element – the mind is temporarily stunned into stillness.

That is the key. When the mind as a whole is suddenly made still, when the incongruous, habitual mental activity is paused, a blockage is temporarily removed and the reservoir can begin to trickle that pure consciousness into us.

Our ability to stay in that still frame of mind dictates the intensity and duration of our experience, and this is where the real training is required. Conditioning the mind to not latch onto bliss and start thinking again. When you think, the mind regains its control and the babbling dialogue puts the block in place again.

When I was in the outback recently, I was able to experience longer periods of a stunned mind.  Raja yoga, meditation, this kind of training gives us freedom to enjoy a still mind and the bliss that flows, without automatically resuming the humdrum of over-thinking.

Enjoy your birth-right, please!

 

On Samadhi and Enlightenment in Yoga

In Samadhi Yoga we train the mind, initially to just be able to concentrate in general, but once this is achieved we focus on specific objects so as to learn their true nature, and in doing so we remove bias and conditioning from the mind. With clear vision and perception we obtain truth, and it is truth which liberates the yogi.

The realisation of the true nature of the self in relation to the manifest and unmanifest world allows us to navigate this world, deftly avoiding unnecessary trouble, sincerely embracing growth, and fixing our gaze on that which truly warrants our obsession…

The cosmic process consists of an initial thrust into the material play of prakriti, followed by a gradual “enlightening” as the individual plays out the individual and collective karma, eventually she begins to outgrow and dis-identify from lower pursuits and searches for something greater, for that which is pure light and love and knowledge. It is the unfolding of hidden potential in innumerable simultaneous forms.

Beware the common use of the term “enlightenment”; it is a nebulous and dilute term that can refer to any number of states of mind, such as the mind that results in effective and sustained practice of samadhi, but also potentially for lesser states such as the elation of lower level spiritual attainments (and often subsequent self-aggrandisement and degeneration), or more morbid states of self delusion.

The role of teachers and gurus

Spiritual development is hard work, there is a great deal of education and practice involved. There is intense self inquiry and confrontation with the aspects of nature which need to be improved, it’s a long process of transformation spanning many lives.

The appearance of a teacher or celebrity who has or appears to have attained this can be intoxicating.  The belief that personal effort can be replaced by idolising someone or by adopting a dogma is problem that can be exploited. The power imbalance between teacher and student should be closely monitored, even with the discrediting of the old fashioned guru/disciple structure, there continues to be a proliferation of power and fame-wielding personalities who offer favourable conditions to those who would cater to their whims and help build their power base.

This is a simple capitalist domination strategy which is being played out in politics and corporate worlds everywhere, as well as in yoga and spiritual circles. While ever there is an urge to make fast progress, and a complementary urge to wield power, this kind of situation will recur. –

A solution may be communal structures where there is a shared intention of growth, where individuals apply these techniques and share outcomes. Where potential abuse of power is reduced by honest and open discussion and experience.

It reminds me of a case of a tribal society who practiced a certain level of polygamy, described in the book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan.  Some men would have sex regularly with a woman.  From time to time it would be noticed that her belly would begin to swell. As they continued having sex with her, over the ensuing weeks, the belly would swell more. Eventually a child would be born, and each of the men believed they were a co-contributor and co-father of the child. Each with a vested interest in its welfare.

When we move from power-hungry, competitive society into more pan-species, super-human, altruistic forms of society, we can evolve the notion of idol worship into a collective that moves together, allowing autocratic and elitist structures to fall away.

 

The importance of higher, intense Meditation

As you know, our cultures and societies are becoming more distracted and fond of escapism via external stimulation. Accordingly, you will find that modern spiritual and meditation techniques tend to make sacrifices, muting or discarding the lofty objectives declared in the ancient texts, slowing down progress, putting a ceiling on our endeavour.

Worse still is the creation a false belief that the outcome to be sought is a passive, one-with-everything stupor, from which nothing of importance can be realised or utilised in this world.

Meditation techniques are wide and varied. Some prioritise the emotional nature, some the intellect, but you will see that as you go back further and further through the millennia that eventually the two sides unite. There is a lucid and rational model of the psyche and the cosmos that harmonises all disparate and disconnected aspects.

You can start here. You can begin meditation in its deepest sense from the outset rather than wading through reams of new age confabulation.

It is through the techniques described in Vedanta and ancient Yoga that knowledge in its highest sense, and healing of the selves occurs. The vehicles of physical existence are purified and made sensitive, a stream of information from the object of your meditation comes into your awareness. You can select the object to be meditated upon, it can be something as simple as a task or problem in your life, something with which you are curious or fascinated, or if you find yourself with the time and capacity to tackle metaphysical or spiritual realms, you could choose an object like the nature of the manifested universe, the all pervading consciousness, or an image of the divine if you are so inclined.

This is how we accomplish the noble goals, the ideas that inspired teachers throughout human history have hinted at. This is how we make fundamental shifts in ourselves and the world. By redirecting our active extroversion into active introversion.

Legs behind the head and the role in Kundalini awakening

I have seen many people develop their practice to the extent where legs go behind the head on a regular basis. Young people, old people, people with wide hips, narrow hips, people with inherent stiffness in the joints, people with hypermobility, light people, heavy people.

The common factor is they practice a set sequence consisting of many variations of forward folds and twists in combination with many jump-backs and jump-throughs to strengthen the upper body and pelvic floor. They practice like this 5 or 6 days a week for a few years and the body opens, becomes graceful, long and strong. The practice is called Ashtanga Mysore style.

You have to resist the temptation to use bone structure as a cop-out. You have to apply a proven practice for a few years on faith. You have to persist and develop optimism and discipline. You have to learn to resolve the whims of the body and the vicissitudes of the mind. You have to organise your life and manage your time.

Back bending (spinal extension) and leg-behind-the head (spinal flexion) are the two extremes of the human spine and nervous system.  Alternating between these two states repeatedly has psychological and spiritual consequences. The latent power of the material aspect which exists at the base of our spine unfurls gradually, it rises up through the spine, piercing through blockages, transforming apathy into knowledge in a symphony of the highest order. Matter and consciousness unite, the feminine embraces the masculine.

Even a taste of it is overwhelming, it’s too much, and rare is the person with the nerve to hold this space for long. People can withstand it for a while, but eventually we shrink back into conditioned and distracted existence. We tend to stick to safe little self contained bubbles of self, where ego controls all which enters.

Through this practice the walls created by ego start deforming and expanding – it’s exhilarating, it is the greatest thrill that can ever be had, and also terrifying. The ego structures are the most familiar thing to us since we were first thrust out of the cosmic womb into separate existence.

Transformation of ourselves and our community through discipline

I turn 39 in a couple of weeks – this pic was taken on Christmas eve just gone.

It’s Ashtanga Yoga that did this. I can show you pictures of me around age 30 as a physically lacklustre, overweight, corporate “achiever”, running on a metaphorical treadmill of economic fixation.

What created this transformation is 5 years of Ashtanga practice, 6 days a week, the same sequence, over and over again, with minor tweak every few months.

This system works. It’s not all that popular, but it works. I’ve seen middle aged mothers with wide hips, thin and wiry mechanics with narrow hips, teenagers, large people, underweight people, all put their legs behind their head. The only common factor with them all is that they practice the same sequence daily, over and over again.

It’s “easy”. Just do the practice. Do what Dan says. There’s pain, but there’s very little tedium. There’s intensity, but it’s from within rather than put onto you from someone else.

Eventually the physical pain goes. I used to wonder if I was having too much pain, if I was doing damage. There was a lot of pain, but eventually everything that was once difficult became easy. There were injuries that turned into information about psychology and physiology.
Now there’s comfort and peace and a harnessing of a healthy mind that sees the temporary nature of pain and pleasure, that is aware of the amazing capacity of the being in which we inhabit to manifest all kinds of reality.

The physical image is a figurehead, an idol. Worship it at your peril. The repetitive, quiet, intense nature of Ashtanga Yoga ensures that, sooner or later, any physically-driven motivation will be burned away and replaced. But hey, I’ll still post this picture! I’m bending over backwards catching my thighs – how weird is that!!

You don’t actually need yoga btw, life will show you that with good intentions and a willingness to grow, you will grow. Things that were hard become easy, it’s a natural process. Yoga is just a system that has worked for a very long time.

We are here to flourish and to help each other flourish. Nothing more.

Sharath Jois Conference Notes – 15th November 2014

What is the benefit of doing these limbs, what is the purpose?  By following these we remove impurities, physical and mental. Once we get rid of that we have better clarity.  Jnana will flow within you, spiritual knowledge, you become wiser.  This is the benefit, the advantage of practicing Ashtanga.  Applying all the eight limbs, you can come closer to the last one, Samadhi.

We have been discussing yana and niyama, that no one can begin and follow immediately, transformation happens slowly, your practice is what makes the change.  99% practice my grandfather said, not too much talking.

There are many asanas, as we have said, for every living being, for every nervous system, only Shiva knows them all.  Soma asana are not recommended for women, some are not for family men.  There are lots of different types, so what is good for us?  In the past yoga was only for sannyasi with no attachments, no family.  Krishnamacayra changed this, he taught his wife and his children, through him people came to know that everybody can learn yoga.  Everyone started practicing.

The process brings oneness within us, self transformation, this is why we do the asana, chanting, study.  If we just party all the time, just feeling good, smoking, transformation is not happening.  It is the changes that happen in you, change perceptions, thoughts, actions and reactions.

The six poisons each of us carry, kama (desire), krodha (anger), moha (delusion), lobha (greed), matsarya (envy) and mada (sloth).
In the ocean, how do you find a pearl? [Asks students for possible answers]

The pearl can be found inside a shell, and unless you break open the shell you can’t see it.  Inside you there is purity, like this pearl.  It is so attractive, your heart is this, so beautiful, covered up by these six shells.  Once we break through the shells, through practice, then you have better understanding, you are able to see and realise what is inside each of us.

So again, the sadhana is very important.  This is the purpose of asana, not for showing off, there is no use in doing asana if the changes are not happening within, with yama and niyama.

As you master asana, with many years practice, you can do pranayama, contraction of breath.  The body is controlled by mind, and the mind controlled by the breath you take.  Extend breath and extend life.  First need to have lungs and nervous system strengthened through asana.  Actually every day in asana we are doing basic pranayama to build this strength.  I have personally applied this with many people, those with health problems, basic breathing technique brings lots of benefits.  Sometimes we forget that this progress is coming.

After pranayama is pratyahara.  Everything becomes one within you, this is the state of pratyahara, when the mind comes close to the divine.  God doesn’t have a form, we have created these forms.  For man, god is a superman, for a monkey, god is a super monkey, for tiger, a super tiger. God doesn’t have any form, with higher consciousness, you can become god.

[Sharath tells story from the Uttar Ramayana, where Hanuman, as the biggest disciple of Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu), had to show his devotion by fighting Rama. Rama draws his bow and arrow, Hanuman does nothing but chant “Rama Rama Rama” and so becomes Rama himself, unaffected by the arrows]

There is delusion.  The six poisons make us think that we are not part of nature, part of the divine.  Every day you are breathing, do you know this?  Who is making you breathe?  You cannot say.  You are part of nature.  Who is making everything happen?  Everything is energy, god is nothing but energy.  If you don’t have something, don’t worry.  When you become attached life becomes miserable.  When the mind is free there is progress.

 

Q: Sometimes in practice we have fear, how do we overcome this?

A: I have a sutra for this: “no fear, no fun!”  You should have fun, with no effort there is no enjoyment.  Everyone has fear, fear makes it special.  When the fear is gone, you still have to be careful, if kapotasana is easy you still need to do properly and be careful.

Q: What about bad things that happen, how does god fit into this, is it god’s will?

A: Last year there was a huge flood in the Himalayas, afterwards investigation found that man had blocked the passage of water with hundreds of dams.  If you block something, nature will find another way.  With disaster, it is very bad that it happens, but it is part of nature.  With human crime, this is ignorance.

People are destroying so much, we create global warming, India had 80% forest, people vanish the forest.  It is not only humans that are important.  How many plants have you killed in your life?

Save nature, nature saves you.  How many wild animals have you fed and cared for?  How many trees have you planted?  There were 85,000 tigers in India, now only 2,000.  Each and every species is very important.  We have invited destruction, there is a lot of connection between us and these events.

People ask me will I have a third child, I say “No I will plant some trees instead!”    For one person we need three hectares of forest, good air.  Polluted air pollutes the mind.  Destruction isn’t “god’s will”, it is caused by actions.  Before the flood, many animals went further up the mountains to survive, they sensed it happening.  We have to be sensitive.

[Sharath shows a photo he took in a jungle one hour away, it shows a leopard next to part of the trunk of an enormous 800 year old tree, the leopard is completely dwarfed by the tree]

Think about your last five years.  Write down how many good and bad things you have done.  Make a list.  What have I taken, what have I taken that I did not need?  Small things can change the world, one tree gives air to many people.  Once you start caring for everything, not just humans, perception changes.  Plant more trees and have less children, plant enough trees to be able to support the children you create.