educational

Deeper Meaning of Shiva and Shakti, plus Desire & the Search for Happiness (Video)

Discover the ways that Karma pulls our attention into the world, distracting us from our deeper Spiritual Nature and thus how Karma keeps us search for happiness outside of our own Self. Explore the need to turn our awareness within, so we can directly experience our True Nature and the innate Joy and Bliss which is contained within the True Self.

Learn about the deeper meaning of Balancing Shiva and Shakti (Masculine and Feminine), developing awareness of the Witnessing aspect of Consciousness, and the Power of Consciousness. Also discover the deeper meaning of Goddess worship within Tantric context.

This is Part 4 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUBhbatVFjo

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUBhbatVFjo

Balancing Shiva and Shakti in Life: Resolving Separation and Duality by Clearing Karmic Conditioning (Video)

Explore Shiva and Shakti as a metaphor for duality.   Learn a powerful perspective that can help you shift out of conflict and suffering and empower you to take responsibility for our own experience so you can begin to consciously move into a more joyful relationship with Life and the world around you.  Discover how Karma directs your experiences and how learning to become more aware of and witness your reactions and Karmic patterns can begin to free you and help you live more consciously.

This is Part 3 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIIPV4_tDL4

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIIPV4_tDL4

Kundalini, Tantra Yoga and Spiritual Development

There is a lot of talk these days about Kundalini. What is it?

Sometimes labeled “Sexual Energy”, Kundalini is in fact much more than this. Kundalini is the Full Creative power which resides within each one of us as Unlimited Potential. When awakened, it begins a new phase of transformation for the spiritual aspirant. The Tantric traditions declare that one cannot realize the final goal of Spiritual practice without the awakening of this Kundalini energy.

Prior to beginning any formal Tantric practices, for most people, the Kundalini remains dormant. It exists only as Potential, but not as direct experience.

Through the Tantric practices, one begins to prepare the body and nervous system for the Kundalini awakening. In the beginning, Tantric practitioners utilize the energy that is available to them, which is the Life Force, or Prana that is active within each living thing. There are even specific practices which seek to awaken and harness sexual energy.

The spiritual development and the awakening of Kundalini can be understood through an analogy of the development of the butterfly.

When the butterfly starts its life, it emerges in its larval stage as a caterpillar. It is destined to be a butterfly, but it does not yet know that. It lives its caterpillar life, eating leaves and searching to satiate its hunger. It goes through cycles of maturing, growing and shedding it’s cuticle or skin and moulting into a larger stage.

After many cycles of growth when the caterpillar is fully developed, hormones begin to be released, signifying the transformation is ready to begin. They go in search of a safe place and molt for the last time, creating a chrysalis as a hard protective layer made from its old body structure. Within the chrysalis, it begins to transform itself into a butterfly.

At the end of the transformation, it breaks out of its protective casing, and emerges as its fully developed potential: a butterfly. After a period of time to let the wings dry, it is ready to take flight and experience its new full expression and freedom.

The spiritual development of the human being is much like this. In our spiritual infancy, we are like the caterpillar. We roam about focused on fulfilling our innate desires, such as hunger, pleasure, and procreation. Through lifetimes of growth, change and development, we will even develop new desires and interests, desire for power and fame, addictions and aversions. All the while, we are destined to become a Spiritual “butterfly”, to fulfill our natural development, but we are not yet aware of it. We simply go from desire to desire, always seeking, completely identified with our experience of Spiritual infancy.

As we get to be more mature as a “caterpillar”, we may start to question the life we have been living, and wonder if there isn’t more to Who We Are. We begin to suspect there is a larger experience or greater potential to this experience, at which point, we may seek out some guidance. We start to learn a more conscious or spiritually aware way of living, thinking and experiencing. We begin to “shed” the old behaviors and beliefs that do not serve our further development.

It is during this phase that we will likely be drawn to various types of personal growth, healing work, and spiritual practices. They work in our growth to help release the limitations and prepare us for our final transformation. For Tantric development, this phase will also include consciously working with the Life Force or Prana energy. This includes the sexual energy, but is really more than that. It is all energy that is within us, and that energy is neutral in and of itself, yet very powerful.

As we work with the Tantric practices, we are making final preparations within the body, mind and awareness for the final transformation. We free up the energy from the places it had been previously limited or trapped. We develop the capacity of the energy channels in the body to flow freely, and to hold and circulate increasing amounts of Life Force energy. We begin to get glimpses and experiences which reveal the deeper truth of our True Nature. This is a necessary, and powerful time of development, but the truth is, even though major transformation happens, this is still the later phase of the “caterpillar”. The deeper transformation has not yet begun.

When the individual has developed enough maturity, the “spiritual hormones” are triggered, signaling the time to stop seeking and prepare for the upcoming metamorphosis. There is a different relationship with life. The adult caterpillar goes in search of a safe place to undergo the transformation, in the same way that the more matured spiritual seeker will now find “safety” within a spiritual teacher and/or a deep spiritual connection. This Teacher often appears in human form as someone who either is further along the Path or already knows their True Nature. In rare situations, the Teacher may not be in a physical body. This Spiritual energetic connection with this Teacher or Guide will provide the safe space for the final development to happen.

This Teacher, in whatever form He or She appears, will reveal to the seeker the deeper truth of their True Nature. “You have thought you were a caterpillar, but you are really a butterfly. Now I will help you awaken the butterfly nature that has always been in you.”

This begins the Chrysalis phase of spiritual development. A spiritually protected and inwardly directed phase of transformation. It is at some point during this phase, anywhere from beginning to end, that the Kundalini energy is finally awakened. Up until this point, all of the transformation and energetic experience has been Prana or Life force energy. Not until the full preparation and development is complete can the Kundalini be awakened.

Kundalini is awakened by the Grace of the Teacher, or the Grace of God. It is not accomplished through the individual will of the student. It cannot be imagined or “visualized” into awakening. It is through Grace and Surrender alone. The Kundalini, once awakened, begins a relatively rapid transformation of the individual, removing all notions of being a “caterpillar”, and awakening the Being into its Full Potential as a “butterfly”.

The caterpillar, not knowing it, has had tiny little “wing discs” just under the surface of its skin the whole time. These “wing discs” are like the dormant Kundalini which resides in each one of us at the base of the spine. They are potentially “wings”, but have not yet begun to develop, just as the dormant Kundalini is our Spiritual potential, yet to be awakened and developed.

Inside the Chrysalis, at the direction of the awakened Kundalini, the “wings” begin to develop. All old structures are transformed and released, and the fully developed “butterfly” takes form under the Spiritually protected watch of the Teacher or Inner Spiritual Connection.

As the butterfly reaches full development, it prepares to break through the protective casing, which now serves as a final limitation to be released. The butterfly frees itself, and then stabilizes itself as the wings dry. Once the wings are dried, the Butterfly is ready for its freedom of flight. It has awakened to its full potential and discovered its Truest Expression.

In the case of the “Spiritual butterfly”, or the human being, this True Self is Pure Consciousness with the nature of Unconditional Love, freed from all limitations. Enlightenment, or Self-Realization, as discovering your own True Self, is not so much a “becoming” of something, but is instead the letting go of all you are not. You do not become something different, but instead discover what you were all along. You were always the “butterfly”, you just didn’t realize it because you thought of yourself as a “caterpillar”.

You are not the “caterpillar”, not the limited human form you now experience and think yourself to be. You are the “butterfly”, the unconditioned Self, free of all form and limitation. Your very nature is Freedom, Joy, Bliss and Love. This is the Nature of the Self.

Each of these phases can potentially take lifetimes, although the final phases of spiritual development are usually relatively quick, compared to the many lifetimes spent in the “caterpillar” stage. It is important to note that the true Transformation or metamorphosis actually begins to take place from birth. There is a total cycle of development that starts from the first lifetime and ends in Spiritual Awakening. Even those that only think they are a “caterpillar”, with no thoughts of anything else, are in fact growing and transforming. Once day, when they are mature enough, they too will undergo a deeper transformation and realize their True Self.

With this in mind, it is important to understand that each individual is at the stage of development where they are. Just as a caterpillar cannot become a butterfly on day 2 of life, neither can we rush our development. We must honor the process and be patient, and understand that it will happen in its own organic time. We cannot “awaken Kundalini” before the pre-destined time in our own natural developmental cycle, so before that phase of development, we must learn to be content in whatever phase we are in. This could be the use of Life Force energy and the various healing and Tantric Practices that help prepare the body, mind and awareness for the final Transformation, or it could be a little before or after that.

Each phase of development has its own mystery, power and beauty. The more present and accepting of the phase of development you are actually in, the easier and smoother the process will become. Honor where you are on the Path, and continue to savor the experiences and awareness that are available to you in the Here and Now. This will do much more for you than wishing you were more advanced. Embrace this moment and it will gently lead you into your True Nature.

As they say “When the student is ready, the Teacher will appear.” This is true of ALL phases of development. We will encounter the teacher(s), healer(s), healing methods and spiritual lessons that we need at each phase of our development. Be present to what you are experiencing and learning now, and set the intention to continue to grow and awaken. Set your goal to awaken to your True Self, if that feels like a genuine desire within you. And then keep taking one step at a time, and see what shows up, what changes, and what direction the Path takes you.

When the time is right, the conditions for Kundalini awakening will be ripe, and you will find yourself under the watchful guidance of a Teacher who can assist you in the final phases of awakening. Be mindful of false teachers. Be patient, and keep your eye on your personal spiritual Goal. Desire to be the “spiritual butterfly”, the Awakened Self. Be determined to know your True Self, and then keep taking one step at a time until your transformation is complete.

And above all, Trust that you will one day awaken. Whether it is this lifetime or a future one, you cannot help but to discover your deepest Truth eventually, just as the butterfly cannot stop its own transformation. You already are the Highest Self. You just can’t see it yet. And the Path of Tantra Yoga helps you discover Who You Really Are.

Modern Tantra and moving beyond Sexual Energy (Video)

Discusses Neo-Tantra, Sacred Sexuality or Western Tantra as a modern tool for erotic/sexual healing and relationship enhancement in context with the fuller Tradition of Tantra Yoga as a Spiritual Path.  Discover a deeper understanding of Sexual energy in the path of Tantra Yoga.

This is Part 2 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp80gru4gFM

What Enlightenment Is Not and Approaching Your Practice (Video)

Tantra to discover your True Self. Learn a helpful perspective to approach tantric techniques and practices.  Explore a misconception about Enlightenment and gain a deeper understanding of how daily life relates to Enlightenment.

Part 1 in a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMU4G53xdxI

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMU4G53xdxI

Guru Principle or Guru Tattva (Video)

Explore the Tantric ideas around the Guru (the Spiritual teacher) as the Guru Tattva, or the Guru Principle.

This is Part 8 of 8 in the Mantra Meditation Series.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=redw0R35vqE

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=redw0R35vqE

10 Things Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Know

It is so easy for beginning yoga students to be hard on them selves, or focus on non-beneficial things.  I know I did.  Even advanced practitioners sometimes can over-emphasis a particular posture or philisophical point.

I have injured myself trying to do postures my body was not ready to do.  I have compared my ability to do or maintain a posture or a pranayam to others in a class to the point where I became distracted from my true practice: to embrace the present experience with compassion and self-love. I have even become so focused on a philisophical aspect of Yoga, that I got lost and forgot to simply practice and open to the experience it brings.

I have also watched my students be too hard on themselves.  I have suggested someone try yoga, only to have them respond back “I am not very flexible, so I can’t do it.” 

Amidst the many postures, practices and techniques, the simple act of being mindfully present and opening the breath and awareness into your experience will do more good for you than any specific “ability” ever will.

I ran across this blog post about the “10 things every beginning yoga student should know”, and felt inspired to share its simple, practical and light-hearted wisdom.

Let me know what your thoughts are after you click the link below and read it.

10 Things Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Know | elephant journal

Enjoy!

Namaste,

Jeff

Tantric Healing: Clearing Clutter from Heart and Mind

                There is a laundry room and storage area in the basement of my home which has become overly filled with useless things.  It is not a large room to begin with, but the free wall space and shelf space has become full to the point where additional items are spilling out, slowly overtaking any practical floor space.  There is just barely enough room to get in and do laundry and get out.  Occasionally I will trip over some random item en route.

                The open floor space has also become the storage area for the vacuum.  In recent months, another member of my household has decided that “the vacuum is in the way, and must be put somewhere else.”  Whether fair or not, I find this concept amusing.  To my mind, the vacuum is one of only a handful of things in the room which is actually useful, worth keeping and stored in a convenient location.

                It amuses me to think that even the very best canister vacuums to use, the very essence of a clean floor, is the “enemy” when all around the room are stacks of ceramic tiles which will never be used, an abundance of scrap wood which will likely serve no future purpose, close to 20 cans of half used paint from previous projects, and an empty, barely clean birdcage from a pet that died three years ago.  The list goes on to include power tools which have not been properly stored (because you can’t get to the shelf space where they should go), endless random construction items like doorknobs, screws, nails, and of course a studio sized four-burner gas stove and oven that was purchased over 8 years ago for a specific project, and have never been used because the project needs were altered.

                The majority of items will practically never be used, and the items which are worth keeping are not stored in a manner which is an efficient use of space or convenient to get to.  Yet somehow, because the vacuum is in the walk-able floor area, IT is “in the way”.  I laugh to myself as I see all the useless items disappear, and the vacuum cleaner sitting quietly and peacefully alone, snuggled up next to the now inaccessible wall, completely out of the walk path in a now open room.

                This situation, however stimulated in me the following questions.  “How often do we fail to see the real ‘problem’ or ’cause’ of the ‘obstacles’ we see in our lives?  How often do we define the ‘Vacuum’  or the discomfort in the moment as the problem, when the deeper issue is the piles of useless junk which clutter our hearts and minds?”  It is so much easier to look at and respond to the resulting crisis than it is to look at all of the influences, choices and actions which led up to it.  The “vacuum” is not the problem.  The junk that prevents it from having a proper home is.

                An important part of the path of personal growth and transformation is the ability to open self-awareness and observe the role we play in the experiences we have in life.  To stop blaming the Vacuum when what we really need to do is acknowledge and deal with the “mess” that brought about the situation.  Taking personal responsibility for what we have done and what we have not done, and then consciously addressing those areas of our lives, rather than simply reacting to the outcome and acting surprised or as if it has been “done to us” by some outside cruel force of the universe.

                In some cases, the “mess” was created long ago through our conditioning in childhood, or past lives.  As part of the Tantric healing process, we learn to clean up and clear out the past conditioning so we can be free and fresh in the moment.  In this way, we remove the clutter from our hearts and mind, and keep the energy of our life flowing freely, and the enjoyable and useful experiences have room in our lives and our hearts.  When our hearts and minds are cluttered, there is no room for what is joyful and peaceful, because all of life revolves around “finding a place for the vacuum”. 

                Joy, Love and Happiness all should be a part of your life as they are a part of your True Nature. If you are struggling to create a place for them in your life, then stop and look at the ways you can clear up the mental clutter and energetic conditioning from the past to open space for them in your heart.  Simple meditation practices can help calm the mind, giving your greater peace, focus and self-awareness.  Tantric Energy Clearing practices can be learned from a Tantric teacher or practitioner.   Through a combination of healing sessions and self-healing at home, you can use these techniques to clear the inner landscape of your Heart and Awareness, and create space for Joy and Love to arise.

                The next time an “obstacle” arises in your life, stop and ask yourself “How did this experience get created?  Is there some practical way I could have prevented it?  Can I correct the situation to prevent it from happening again?”  And then take the practical steps to clean up “the mess” whether that means cleaning out the laundry room to make room for the vacuum, or seeking assistance to energetically clear our your mind and heart so you can re-harmonize your life.

Mantra Terminology and How to Get the Most from Your Practice (Video)

Topics include: Learn additional reasons for and aspects of the practice of Mantra as part of the Tantric Tradition. Why Om or AUM is considered to be the “master” mantra and when and why other mantras may be used.  Learn terms that relate to the practice such as Japa, Omkar, and Pranava.  How to use Mantra Beads, or the Mala,  to assist your practice. Creating positive spiritual merit or Karma for your Spiritual Path. Ways to refine and get the most from your practice. 

This is Part 7 of 8 in the Mantra Meditation Series.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E9VrAoVzXA

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E9VrAoVzXA

Tantric Spiritual Teachers and Human Imperfection

                Each Spiritual teacher, has been molded by an unfolding life experience and their unique walk on the spiritual path.  Each Teacher has had the experiences needed to be a better teacher, or at least to be the right teacher for the students he or she will have.  It is the struggles of the teacher that have been experienced and overcome that provides the wisdom to assist others through similar challenges. It is practices, techniques and experiences in the personal spiritual practice or sadhana which gives the teacher the ability to choose the right tools for the students and understand the results that will be achieved and help the students to get the maximum benefit from the practices. It is the direct experience of the deeper Spiritual Nature that grants the teacher the ability to direct your awareness towards the same with your own Self.

                And within all of that practice, experience and wisdom, there walks the outer presentation of a human being.  And with humanness there exists apparent imperfections.  Even within a Self-Realized Guru, the outer personality and human form is often quite unassuming.  The behavior can seem simple or even a bit surprising.  Their human expression can seem just as imperfect as any other person you may encounter.  They may follow what appears to be a rather unhealthy diet, even being quite overweight.  They may do or say things which seem a little harsh or stubborn or inconsiderate.  They may at  times appear to be angry or appear to share human struggles of financial concerns and medical problems.  In short, they appear to be completely human.

                I know when I began a spiritual journey, and sought to learn from various teachers, I held many of them as being near perfect.  I expected that because I was being taught about Spirituality and Wholeness on a healing journey, that those leading me would be perfect and their behavior would 100% embody and reflect what they were teaching.  With that expectation, all of them eventually failed the test and  left me in a position of disappointment, shock or sometimes even betrayal.

                In the moment, I could not see the simple truth that I had just expected too much from them.  Instead, I became angry, hurt, or felt abandoned.  I could not understand how a teacher who had supported my growth for so long could suddenly become an opponent to all the things she had encouraged me to do.  I felt baffled and confused when I began to see hypocrisy or would complete a set of teachings and realize it did not take me to the spiritual place I had expected it to.

                But years later, I can see it was simply their humanness combined with my expectations that set me up to be disappointed and hurt.  They were each offering me the best of what they knew with varying degrees of sincerity, and behaving in the best way they knew how, even if it appeared as misguided, selfish or greedy to me.  In short, they were each limited by their own humanness.  And, what they had to offer me was also limited, and thus it was also appropriate for me to move on when I had gotten what I needed from my work with them.

                When I finally met my Guru, he was nothing like I would have imagined an advanced Yogi to be.  He is a simple man, appearing very human.  At the time I met him he was a smoker.  He eats meat, has many medical problems including severe chronic pain, is a good bit overweight, and walks with a cane.  I must admit that I tested and kept watching for signs that he had something to offer me.  As I opened to practice and explore what he was teaching me, my life began to change.  This became the proof and allowed me to dissolve my doubts and expectations.

                I finally came to understand that my idea of the “perfect” teacher had been based around idealized notions from scriptures which I had mistakenly projected onto the human form and personality.  I expected a Spiritual teacher to be “god-like”, but from a limited understanding. After all, the yoga and Tantric scriptures often proclaim the “Perfection” of the Guru.

                 I finally have come to understand that a Realized teacher’s perfection comes from his Knowledge of the True Self, which is Perfect and Unconditionally Loving.  It is not the outer human form which is perfect from an idealized perspective (never getting angry and always kind, never smoking or drinking, and always eating a vegetarian diet), but instead it is his INNER knowledge and Being which is Perfect, radiant and unconditionally loving.  This will often be expressed outside at various times, but there are always moments of “humanness” as well.

                It is the INNER consciousness of the Teacher which is the True and Perfect Teacher, not the human form.  A Spiritual teacher cannot be judged by his or her outer appearance or behavior.  The true measure of a Spiritual teacher is his or her ability to help you transform your life, and most importantly, help you discover and awaken to your own True Self.   Should the Teacher be kind and supportive?  In almost all cases, yes they will be, but not always in the way you expect.  What you think you need is not always what is best for you. The way you expect the Teacher to help you, is often not the way the most transformational teachings will occur.

                The more clearly I am able to experience and grasp the “imperfection” of the human teacher for my Self in relationship to my Guru, the more I also see how I have projected those same expectations onto my own human expression.  I have expected “perfection” from my body, mind and speech, and been harsh with myself when I fail to achieve it.  But this human expression will never be “perfect”.  It is my awakening Consciousness along with Knowledge gained from my experiences which carries the real value of anything I can teach, not the shape or state of my body or the ebbs and flows of my emotions and mind.  It is my experiences of transformation on the spiritual path that allow me to assist others in travelling across the same terrain. The imperfect humanness simply comes with the package, and I am learning to accept and embrace it in whatever state of imperfection it appears, knowing that from a deeper perspective of Truth, it truly is perfect exactly the way it is, even in its apparent imperfect state. 

                For you, the Spiritual Seeker, this also means you can set aside any judgments you have as to your own “shortcomings”.  The moments of anger, frustration and sadness, while they may change over time on the path, are part of your humanness.  You do not need to “perfect” all the yoga postures to achieve a high level of spirituality.  You do not need to appear or behave “perfect” by some idealized standard of the yogic way of living and being. These practices will benefit you in specific ways if you feel drawn to do them, but you should be gentle with yourself if you are working with them.

                No matter what practices you follow, it is the determination to know the Truth of your own Self, beyond the imperfect human condition that will elevate you into the experience of Spiritual Knowledge.  It is allowing the Teacher to guide you to uncover your True Self, and your own determination to awaken to that Knowledge that are the most important aspects of your practice.  And the movements of your human imperfections are to be embraced with self-acceptance.  It is not the human form which is transformed into a “Divine Being”, but rather it is the Divine Being as Consciousness which awakens to experience through the imperfect human condition.

                When dealing with your own Self, and when dealing with a Teacher, remember where the Perfected Truth lies.  Not in human form, but in the Spiritual Consciousness which permeates all things.  If you are working with a truly Advanced Spiritual Teacher, then focus your practices on discovering that you are the same, identical Consciousness as your Teacher.  When that truth begins to awaken within you, you will also see that the human expressions, both yours and the Teacher’s,  are exactly as they should be, and your True Self is beyond both.




Latest CDs from Jeff Craft

Beginning Meditations: Expanding Peace by Jeff Craft

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Living with Awareness: Tantric Meditations for Expanded Conscious Living by Jeff Craft

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Expanding Consciousness (A Tantric Meditation to Awaken the Bliss of the Self) by Jeff Craft

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