opening to joy

Building Confidence and Inner Strength Through Tantra Yoga

Confidence

The Need for Change

In my early days of learning about healing and energy, I experienced many personal challenges. This makes sense, of course, because most people who find themselves exploring Healing and Spiritual avenues do so because they themselves are seeking a life which is more healthy, vibrant, balanced, joyful and peaceful.

I was not an exception in this regard. I knew something needed to change in my life, but I really couldn’t explain it.

See, I had a problem that is probably more common than you know. I frequently found myself caving into other people’s desires and needs. I found myself “going along” with others because I was afraid if I said “no”, or explained how I really felt, or what I really wanted, that they wouldn’t like me. Or they would get angry and then I would still end up caving in anyway.

I kept setting aside my own needs and happiness, because I somehow thought that “if I give them what they want, they will like me, and then I will be happy because they like me”.

Well… that didn’t work out so well. Because, what I was clearly failing to see was that MY OWN NEEDS MATTERED more to my happiness than simply having someone like me. And if having them “like me” meant that I had to set aside my own needs and personal values, well, ultimately it was just a formula for disappointment, failure and misery. And in the end, those people weren’t really interested in my happiness to begin with…

This same pattern showed up everywhere in my life really. At work with co-workers and bosses. In friendships. In family dynamics. And also in romantic relationships.

It wasn’t isolated, even though at some points it seemed more intense in certain areas. For a while, like is so often the case, I simply thought that others were doing it to me. They were “overpowering me”. Or” being too demanding”. Or “being critical”. Or whatever it was.

And, in some cases, they probably were. But more importantly, I was allowing it to happen. I was the one who kept saying “yes”, when I really wanted to say “no”. I was the one who would be treated poorly, and still go back smiling knowing it would happen again.

I needed to find my own inner strength and confidence. But “life” kept throwing me off center, or so it felt.

The Turning Point

It was around 1999. I had been studying energy healing and metaphysics for about 9 years. And I had been a massage therapist and healing professional for about 2 or 3 years. This included plenty of study and training. And I finally found myself in “crisis”. I had learned a lot of “techniques” for healing others. Some for healing myself. But I knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this without some guidance. And at that time, I really didn’t even understand “what the problem was”.

I found myself going through a healing “process” with a woman named Lisa. Every 6 weeks for a period of 9 months, I would spend a weekend with Lisa and about 9 other people. Of the other nine, there was only 1 other man. So, it was two guys and 9 woman. And what I experienced during those 9 months radically changed my life and my understanding of myself for the better.

This Process was the turning point for me to find my Inner Strength and my Confidence. It was a Spiritual community that was focused on exploring the Divine Feminine, and the balance of Inner Masculine and Inner Feminine.

To explain everything I learned and experienced is not practical here. But I do want to share one of the most important principles to get started with. Without this principle, the rest really doesn’t work very well anyway.

So, let me start with an analogy

In order for someone to develop confidence and strength, one needs to be able to “stand firmly” in ones own values, beliefs and self-acceptance. Without “standing firmly”, then even the slightest force can “push you off center”. So, if I am standing on my “Truth” as far as values and needs, and something comes along and I stumble or fall, then I will land outside of my “Truth”.

In the extreme version of this, I would become like a “Tumbleweed”. Even the slightest breeze would have me going in whatever direction the wind was blowing.

And, in my earlier experiences, this is how I often felt. Someone else’s desires or needs were like the “wind”, and as their desire came into my experience, I was blown to where their Truth was. Off of my Truth and my center.

This same phenomenon, energetically, also prevents focus. Because the awareness and mind are easily pulled off course by the influences of what is around you.

So, lacking confidence, strength and focus, the world begins to toss you about. Your directions in life, and the directions of your mind are subject to the outer forces of life: your circumstances, the people you interact with, etc.

In order for you to develop Self-Confidence, Inner Strength and Focus in the outer world, you will necessarily need to find a way to “Anchor yourself” to the location of “Truth”. Once “anchored” and “centered” you will be able to stand firmly in your own Truth and Power, even when the “winds” of life are blowing about you.

Tantra Starts with The Life Force Energy

Tantra teaches that we are energetic beings. And in order to develop a Tantric practice where you access and direct the Life Force within you, you need to begin to think of yourself in Energetic terms.

When you are not “anchored to your truth”, your energy is unstable and scattered. It is easily blown off center, and easily influenced by outside vibrations.

Energetically, then, one of the first steps to take is to stabilize the energy that exists within you. Before you even concern yourself with any more advanced healing method, you just need to get your energy to stop being so easily influenced.

After all, if you can’t stabilize a Higher Vibration in your energy field, because the world around you keeps “blowing it” back to something lower, then you will keep going back to the old pattern.  Learning to Stabalize your own Life Force Energy is the First Step.

In energetic terms, we often refer to this “Stabilizing” process as “Grounding”. You want to Ground your Energy and your Energy Field.

Some of the symptoms of an Ungrounded Energy Field may include:

  1. Inability to focus
  2. Being easily influenced by the beliefs of others
  3. Being easily influenced by the emotions of others
  4. Life feeling chaotic or unstable
  5. Lack of confidence
  6. Difficulty handling the “unexpected” situations and events that life brings
  7. Depression, Fear and/or Anxiety
  8. Difficulty standing up for yourself
  9. Experiencing lots of “activity” with little actual accomplishment
  10. Difficulty expressing your own needs
  11. Difficulty saying “no”
  12. Feeling that you are always attending to others needs, with no time for your own needs
  13. Challenges making Positive Changes in your Life

The above are some examples. To be clear, lack of Grounding is likely a major factor in most of the above. But, there are also likely other Energetic layers of healing that would need to be addressed to fully restore balance.

But, you must start by Grounding your energy first. Some things resolve on their own just from learning to ground. And in other cases, grounding is the important first step to be able to affectively address other aspects of healing.

The Ecstatic Union® Approaches to “Grounding”

Self-Mastery of the Forces of Creation in Tantra YogaIn the Ecstatic Union® Vibrational Healing approach, I look to multiple layers of where an imbalance may be created, and therefore corrected. This provides multiple tools and healing methods to assess where the issue is originating, and also to be able to address it in the way that will best serve the individuals unique circumstances.

Here are a few of the approaches that the Ecstatic Union® System uses for “Grounding”.

Ecstatic Union® Energetic Maintenance approach to Grounding

This involves methods to understand and “retrain” how your energy is being directed. Two common grounding methods are listed below:

1) The “Roots” Grounding Method

  1. Standing up, imagine that roots (like tree roots) are growing out of your feet and into the Earth.
  2. Continue to take slow deep breaths, while visualizing, feeling and imagining them growing deeper and deeper.
  3. Then visualize, feel and imagine the stability of the Earth and how stable and grounded you feel as you are anchored in place.

2) The “Cord” Grounding Method

  1. Imagine dropping an energetic cord from inside your body, just below your naval deep into the earth.
  2. Continue to take slow deep breaths, while visualizing, feeling and imagining it anchoring deeper and deeper.
  3. Then visualize, feel and imagine the stability of the Earth and how stable and grounded you feel as you are anchored in place.

Ecstatic Union® Ayurvedic Approach to Grounding

The “lack of focus” and “ungrounded” are seen as a Vata imbalance within the mind. Vata is the Ayurvedic principle of “Air” which, when unstable will blow around and be unfocused.

If you are a “Vata” constitution, you may have more tendency towards being ungrounded, but the reality is that any of the constitutions can experience this. Our culture is very “vata” stimulating for the mind, with many distractions and a common desire to be “entertained” with short attention spans.

Some general practical tips would be:

  1. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and coffee
  2. Create experiences that will allow you to “be in” your body, such as receiving Massages or taking a long warm bath
  3. Avoid “light” and “cold” foods, such as salads, raw vegetables, and chips (especially in the winter)
  4. Favor “warm” and “nurturing” foods such as cooked whole grains and cooked veggies along with using healthy oils (especially in winter)
  5. Establish a regular routine of sleeping, waking and eating whenever possible

The above are general recommendations that will benefit most people, but please note that a proper Ecstatic Union® Ayurvedic evaluation would be need to determine your current Energetic State and the unique imbalances and needs that you may have.

Ecstatic Union® Vedic Astrology Approach

Some ways that Lack of Grounding can be shown in the Astrology chart as a “tendencies” for you:

  1. The predominance of “Air signs” in the chart (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius)
  2. The strength and location of specific planets that could show a higher level of Air influence, especially on the Moon (which is the mind)
  3. Strong Saturn influences often show nervousness and fear tendencies.
  4. Strong Rahu (North Node) and Ketu (South Node) can show influences of scattered Vata like energy
  5. Different Planetary Periods and Transits can reveal periods which will be more or less ungrounded

Seeing the various factors in the chart allows you to better understand your “natural tendencies” as well as see other contributing factors around confidence and the tendencies that you have in relationships and career. The chart can also point the way towards remedies that can assist you in becoming more focused and grounded.

A proper Ecstatic Union® Vedic Astrology Consultation would be needed to properly assess your unique circumstances.

Once Grounded, You can Create Lasting Transformation

These are some of the ways that Ecstatic Union® offers to assist you to address and create better Grounding in your life. And once you begin to stabilize your Energy, then you can more easily Cultivate and Increase your Confidence, Inner Strength, Self-Acceptance and your personal Truth. From there, your vibrancy, joy and peace will also expand as you learn more tools and methods to Consciously create the life that you truly desire.

This “Grounding” step is really a Foundational Key to succeeding in Tantric practice. It is needed for more effective Self-Healing, for increasing and expanding Sexual energy, for developing Intuition, as well as creating higher Spiritual States. It is needed to help create the focus needed to succeed in Chakra healing and meditation as well.

Let me know your thoughts and questions below!

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Divine Grace and Tantric Practice

October 31, 2011

What is Grace? Many on the path of Spirituality are seeking it, but do we always recognize it?

Grace is always a positive thing for our Spiritual Growth. There are no exceptions to that rule. And because of that, many people are also assuming that Grace will come in a way that is pleasing to them. And sometimes it does, but we cannot put Divine Visions, moments of Bliss and deep meditation experience in a box of “Grace”, and assume things that are not pleasant are not grace. The more we open to the spiritual Path of Tantra, the more we are always flowing in Grace. The question is, can we see it, and can we accept it in all its forms? Not just the extraordinary, but even when it seems ordinary? Or painful?

Grace can happen as synchronistic moments that point to the next step to take, or that validate something for us. There are moments that are so statistically improbable that one who is consciously expanding his or her awareness can only explain it as Grace, or the intelligence of the Divine Revealing itself.

About 7 months ago, I was laying in bed, thinking about my study of Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. Thinking about how much I would like to find a way to blend them into my Yogic teaching and my private healing sessions with clients. I began to feel a sense of excitement in the possibility of integrating these techniques together, and as I felt the excitement, the Blackberry on my nightstand vibrated indicating that I had a new message. I reached over to check, and the message was from the Ashram where I did my teacher training inviting me to attend the Yoga Therapy Training Course starting on October 7th, 2011. I smiled.

My initial reaction was this was confirmation and a Divine message to tell me the next step. I felt the “rightness” of it. I felt the same excitement that was present during my contemplation time. Everything pointed to this being the right step, but a small part of me struggled. Doubts began to creep in. Could I afford to take that much time off? What about my clients and students? I discussed it with my partner and a friend of ours. They both said, “Go.”

I began to mentally make my plans, while still struggling a touch. How long should I stay if I go? Should I fly into Mumbai or New Delhi? Is this really the right thing to do? Sometime later that day I received another email. It was from one of my travel email newsletters. The email subject simply said: “It’s time to book your flight to New Delhi.”

This time, I not only smiled, but I had to laugh out loud. I have been subscribed to this newsletter for several years. I had NEVER received an email with this subject line before. And, so that sealed it for me. The Divine intelligence was clearly telling me to go.

Grace can also happen in ways that ask us to look at our attachments and our expectation, or that challenge the status quo. In other words, sometimes we need to have things “Shaken up a bit” in order to grow. This is also grace.

About 5 days before I was supposed to leave for India, someone I had known for over 5 years had a massive heart attack right before my eyes. It happened so fast that there was no real chance to save him. I went through many stages as this unfolded. At first I thought he was being playful. Then I began to suspect something was really wrong. I could not get a response from him. I tried to check his heart beat and his breath, but by this time my own heart was beating so fast that I could not tell if it was me or him. Within a couple minutes of his collapse, I was on the phone with 911, following instructions for chest compressions. No response. The ambulance team finally arrived. Compared to my own state of panic, they seemed to have a rather casual approach to the whole thing. They took over chest compressions, introduced IV’s and asked me to help find a number for his family.

It was pretty clear to me that there was no sign of life. And perhaps they already knew that when they arrived, and thus the reason for their casual behavior. They worked with him for a while, got in touch with his daughter, and then took him out. And then I was left in an empty room, still in a bit of overwhelm.

Over the next several days I made conscious efforts to witness and process what was happening in me. There was sadness at the loss of a friend. There were remnants of panic. Doubts and wondering if I could have done something different that may have changed the outcome.

I also had to witness all of this from the lens of my Spiritual Path and growth. The impermanence of the body. Everyone will die eventually. It was his time. The True Self cannot die. His consciousness just left the body, and will live on. Perhaps being reborn. His suffering with the body and worldly life had ended, but he himself as consciousness was now free. From that perspective, there is no death, only transformation of form.

I thought about the state of my own health, the inevitable end of this body, the loss of loved ones as time moves on. Challenging my possible attachments to others, and my relationship with death itself. And as part of that, my relationship to life as well.

My Tantric path and experience is that nothing happens without cause. This was not a random event, but a Divinely orchestrated moment in my Spiritual Sadhana. I did not see it coming, which made it all the more potent. To experience first hand the transitioning from life to death. To feel the energetic essence moving out of a body, while the body became lifeless. To come face to face with the inevitable impermanence of this experience. To experience my human sadness, but also see through it to deepen my faith in the Grace of God. To realize, once again, that I am not in control. There is a force which is operating behind the scenes that I must surrender to, and my goal in my personal Tantric Sadhana is to lift the veil and reveal to myself directly that Divine Power which is operating the Universe. Or rather, let go of my false sense of control enough, so that the veil will dissolve.

This experience also made the reality of disease and illness forefront in my mind as a headed to India. It made me more interested in learning how to use Yoga as a Therapy to help with diseases. More present to the suffering and pain that is present globally, and more inspired to find some compassionate way to serve others who are wanting to end that pain. That is the result of the flow of Grace.

Grace also presents us with frustrations, and challenges to help us grow.

In 2007, my first time in India, I visited Satya Sai Baba in Puttaparti, India. On the third morning, which I planned to be my last Darshan with him, I went outside to find my sandals were stolen. I was quite shocked and disappointed. I couldn’t believe that in a town that revolves around the spiritual teachings of this man, someone would steal. I told a security guard what had happened and his only reply was “Well. Come back to the afternoon Darshan. Maybe they will be returned.” I doubted that, but I decided to stay anyway. And I am glad I did. My sandals were not returned, but it was the most spiritual inspiring Darshan that I attended with Satya Sai Baba. I felt more Divine Grace and energy in that session than any of the others. My sandals were gone, but I was blessed in the end.

This trip, I took a day to visit the Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Shirdi, India. For those who do not know, this is the first incarnation of Sai Baba (before Satya). Both of whom are considered in India to be incarnations of God, and Self-Realized Masters. I waited in line for over 2 hours to get into the temple. (This, by the way, is a normal to short time to wait. It is often much longer). As I got into the temple, I was instructed to sit on the floor as they were getting ready to start a special ceremony called an Aarti. What auspicious timing. That lasted 30 minutes, and then there was a stampede to get to the main alter to make an offering. I finally got up, made my offering, which was blessed and returned to me, and as I left, I felt and connected to his energy, and asked simply to be blessed in whatever way was most helpful for my spiritual awakening. Within 10 minutes, while I was bowing to another small shrine with his picture, my wallet was stolen by a pickpocket.

So, both visits to Sai Baba resulted in something material being taken away. It would be easy to be angry. To think horrible thoughts about whoever did it. But, for me, while I admit feeling a little surprised, I was quickly able to see it as Sai Baba’s Grace. It was Grace for me to have a chance to realize I am not in control. Grace for me to have a chance to see how strongly I may be attached. It was not sandals or wallet really being taken away, but my attachment to them being removed. In this case, I was much less attached the second time than the first. I surrendered to what happened, and could only wish that whoever got it was able to benefit from what they had taken from me. Tantra teaches that all things belong to God anyway, and God dwells within all Beings. So the Divine grace was simply redistributing wealth within its own Self.

While in India this time, I spent several weeks trying to get my Blackberry internet service activated. It kept telling me it could not process my request. I called customer service, spoke to the shop owner, went to this office, and that office, and was finally told it was a problem with my handset. Further conversation with “an expert” revealed that it was because my handset was registered with another provider, and thus it would just not work. I surrendered, gave up, and decided “well, I guess I am just not supposed to be distracted by this while I am in the ashram.” I let it go.

9 days after my last attempt, and having been told it wouldn’t work, my Blackberry internet service activated without notice. I received a text message saying it has been activated for one month of service. There were only 5 days left at the ashram when it happened. It came just in time to allow me to use it to research my final paper on the internet using my phone. What I could not accomplish with the assistance of multiple people, and hours of my time spread out over three weeks, happened unexpectedly in a flash, without any “doing” on my part 9 days after I gave up. I also checked my prepaid balance. I was not even charged for the service. To me there is only one explanation.

While many may explain these things away as “coincidence”, or “bad luck”, or “good luck”, or even “blame it on India”, to me these are all examples of Divine Grace. Grace offers us the experiences we need to grow Spiritually, and most of us need to let go, surrender and see new perspectives on the nature of Reality a lot more than we need a blissful vision of God. We must learn to trust that we will get the exact experiences we are needing, and not necessarily the experiences we are desiring.

What we begin to realize when we grow spiritually is that Grace is always happening. The real change that happens is learning to surrender to “what is”, and ending the struggle against what life brings us. When we can do this, then everything that happens is for our growth and for our good, even if it doesn’t initially feel that way. We learn to flow with Divine Grace.

As I was feeling inspired to write this blog this morning at breakfast the following quote was written on the board in the Dining hall of ashram:

“Through the practice of yoga you can learn to smile at circumstances, you can learn to see every stressful situation as a challenge, or an opportunity to learn, give, serve and love.” – Swami Niranjanananda

To me, another moment revealing Divine Grace.

The Love That Arises in Silence – Tantric Practice

(Written October 20th, 2011)

Yesterday, for the first time in my life (that I am at least consciously aware of) I spent an entire day from waking to bedtime, without uttering a single word. This was part of a day of silence in the Ashram, so almost everyone participated. Although, most people began speaking again after dinner, I continued with the practice.

The practice of silence has been part of yogic traditions for probably as long as there has been yoga. I will admit, even in my daily life, I prefer as much silence around me as possible. I would rather sit in a silent room than watch TV on most occasions. I would rather not speak at all than to force a conversation of pleasantries. And I have even become pretty sensitive to the types of music I listen to on a regular basis. (Spending hours a day with massage and new age music played at low volumes will probably do that to most people.)

So, I welcomed the practice. I went to bed the previous evening, having already turned my “silence” practice on, and when I awoke, I was already in the mode. The first thing I noticed, was that it was very comfortable for me. During the morning meditation, having already turned my awareness away from speech, I became aware of the inner realm of thought very easily, and it was also easy on this particular morning to direct my awareness into the silence within as well.

I also noticed I become more sensitive to other sounds. The sounds of birds chirping, or any little bit of racket that may have been in the outside environment. I was present to new things. Within the meditation, there were times when something in my mind let go just enough, that it felt like the outer world merged into my mind, and the sounds of birds and the wind blowing were like thoughts arising within my own mind.

After morning asana practice, I spent some time outside connecting with nature. I discussed this in a previous post called “My Tantric Nature.” And then the flow of the day began. People going about walking from place to place, without speaking. And I began to notice something very odd. People, having adopted a practice of silence, seemed to enter their own private world. People were looking at the sidewalk instead of saying hello. It seemed that without words, most people didn’t know how to connect, or perhaps thought it was inappropriate to do so. No eye contact. No smiles. No winks of joy shared. Just blank faces, looking any where but an another person.

In Tantra, there is a practice called Eye Gazing, or Soul Gazing. It is sitting in silence, sending your awareness deep into the Soul Essence of another person, and allowing yourself to feel, to connect, to experience another Being without words, as they also connect into your deepest Self. This practice, at least in the beginning, is often met with discomfort. It is normal for people to laugh or giggle, or to close their eyes. It is normal for obvious discomfort to come across their face and body, and to see them squirming. I explain over an over to new groups of people, that these reactions are a part of our conditioning. It is rare in our culture for us to be so intimate with another. Even with the ones that we love such as friends, family and significant others.

Most of us say we want love, to feel it, to know it, to give it. But when given the chance to sit, and honor the Essence of the other people with love and reverence, something stirs within us that pulls us out of it, that causes us discomfort. The reality, is that for most of us, this fear of deeper connection is always there, just below the surface, but we don’t feel it because we distract ourselves with thoughts, with TV, with activity, and of course, with words. We don’t allow there to be enough silence, enough stillness to acknowledge it.

The same is true for many people with regards to their own thoughts and feelings. We find ways to distract ourselves, and never get still enough to feel or connect consciously to our own inner world. The moment silence is imminent, most people will jump up, turn on the TV, grab a book, begin to talk about anything that comes to mind: anything to not have to feel what is happening in our deeper experience.

As I watched the blank faces parading through the ashram, and the gazes away from each other, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness. Sadness for not having an opportunity to connect, and sadness to see so many unable to make the connection without words. Without words, they seemed to have nothing to share. It never occurred to share their silent Essence. That same silence which pulses beneath Creation lives within our own Beings, ready to be tasted, touched and felt. That silence contains the Love we are seeking. It is not the words that convey love, but the Essence of a Pure Heart.

As I continued my day, I enjoyed the silence. I watched for moments when I might ordinarily speak, and then questioned whether speaking was necessary. In most cases I found the answer to be no. When a desire to speak would arise, I would watch as I reminded myself there was no talking today. And I witnessed the desire for whatever pass through, unspoken, and not responded to. And after the moment passed, I realized I was no worse off. I was still content, even joyful in my silence, and the thing I thought I wanted to communicate, or thought I wanted to ask made me no less joyful for not being shared. I was content to experience what was around me, without commenting, or feeling a need to inquire deeper into it with words. I was content without feeling the need to request something else to make it more or less “satisfying”.

What are these words we speak? And why do we speak them at all? How much of what is said is really useful to our deeper happiness, and how much is just habit and social convention and expectation?

The Tantric traditions describe three primary stages of speech. There is the gross speech of our everyday lives. This is the speech we use to share ideas from person to person, and vibrates at the most dense level. We then have a more subtle form of speech that we call thought. This is the speech that continues the dialogue in our own inner world. And beyond that is the most subtle form of speech, which exists as the arising impulse of vibration, that eventually becomes the thought, which then becomes the words spoken.

The normal world conditions us to focus on Gross speech. And over time, we come to identify with and give great importance to the Reality of this outer form of speech. Most of us also give, even without realizing it, great importance to our thoughts.

When one takes up the practice of silence, the outer speech is given up. This initially leaves us with our thoughts, and the opportunity to contemplate our relationship with gross speech. It gives us the opportunity to experience life without outer words, so that we might see how we have come to identify with them in a way that keeps us looking into the outer world. It gives us a chance to see how the words themselves are associated with our desires, attachments and aversions, and the way that words reinforce the same as “reality”.

When the inner thoughts become the primary world, and outer speech is stopped, then the next step is to get beyond even the thoughts themselves, and into the arising vibrations which are pre-thought. A realm of feelings, and intuitions, and knowledge that really has no “word” as we call it, just vibrations. And dissolving even those vibrations, we are taken into the realm of the practice of silence: inner silence itself. This Silence is the Holy Grail of meditation, but it is not just emptiness and nothingness, but is great peace, joy and love.

This is the basic general idea of meditation, and practicing silence gives you an opportunity to explore these levels of meditation in your daily living. To discover this peace and silence within the world around you is a goal of Tantra. We practice meditation so that we can transfer the depth of experience into our daily lives, not just to escape for a few minutes of peace.

Throughout the whole day, my voice only made one sound: the sound of laughter. After dinner, there were a few people speaking around me, and a story someone told made me laugh. So even Gross speech has its place. It caused me to laugh.

It is not that gross speech is “wrong” or bad. It is not that it should be given up entirely forever by everyone, but practicing silence should hopefully help us put it in perspective, so we don’t make it the “great reality”, and so that we see its limitations. So that we see the ways it can distract us, and become mindful so we don’t use words in this way. To become mindful of the ways words can harm, so we don’t use speech for negative purposes. So we learn to harness what, when and why we speak into conscious choices which enrich our lives, rather than just allowing mindless chatter to fill the silent space around us. So that we connect the words “I love you” with the deep love that arises within the Heart of our deepest Essence upon recognizing the Sacredness of the Being in front of us. And so we can learn to connect with others is this heart felt way even without words. So that silence gives us more presence to connect with others through smiles, honoring and love.

As I flowed through my day of silence, many moments of deeper love, gratitude and joy arose, as I touched into spaces of deeper silence within my own Being. This brought me to one other point of sadness: I will never be able to convey the experience of that Love and Joy with words.

My Tantric Nature

(Written October 19th, 2011)

I took some time to sit in nature this morning, which conveniently is the grounds of the Ashram itself. Today is also a day of silence, where only a few people running the Ashram are speaking. In my own silence, I witnessed Nature all around me, expanding my awareness into it, smiling into it, and welcoming it.

Birds chirping and flying about. A small field where yellow butterflies dance across blades of grass. Various trees, standing strong, silent and still. The sun in the sky and a light mist of fog still blanketing the mountains which are not too far away.

Again, I am reminded of the power of nature, even in its peaceful play. I reflect on the stillness and the silence which lays beneath Creation, supporting it like the ground where seeds are planted, only this stillness is the ground of Consciousness itself, and the seeds are the Divine thoughts which have arisen within it to bring about the current experience.

I feel into the pulsations of Creation, and am again reminded that nothing in nature is rushing. Nothing in nature is forcing or pushing. The grass is not trying to grow any faster or slower, it just grows. The sun is not racing to get through its day.

Nothing in nature is wanting to be anything other than what it is. The tree is not wishing it was a bush, or a flower. The birds do not aspire to be anything other than birds.

Nature is the ultimate example of WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”). Even the creatures which camouflage themselves are simply expressing as their nature, exactly as they are. The challenge is to be still long enough to see it.

Everything in nature is peaceful, accepting of its nature, and spontaneously expressing that nature, without any hesitancy or desire to change.

Nature can teach us a lot about our own selves. We are a part of nature, yet our minds pull us out of sync and cause us to rush, to force, to resist, to chase after and to hesitate. When we become still as Tantra Yoga teaches us to do, and connect into the Nature of all Creation, and seek to discover that same Nature within our own being, then we too learn to accept life as it is. We too learn to acknowledge our own nature, and express it without apology. We too learn that there is no need to force. There is no where else to be other than where you are right now.

We learn to separate our Authentic Expression from the conditioned mind which pulls us away from it, rejects it, or puts a spin of expectation and attachment into it. And then we gracefully embrace our Authentic Nature, allowing it to express, and accepting it. If we are a squirrel, we will store nuts for the winter. If we are a bird, we will fly and eat seeds and insects. If we are a musician, then the very core of us drives us to play, to write music, to sing and to feel the music as life itself. If we are a dancer, then we must allow our bodies to move and express what words cannot say. If we are a linguist, then we must explore the nature of language and communication through words. If we are a mother or a father, then we must be the fullest expression of love and nurturing to a child. The list goes on and on.

Everyone has a Nature which should be uncovered, refined and expressed. If we can look past the mind stuff which distracts us and carries us away from it. If we can look past the mind stuff which judges our innate expressions and pushes it into submission. If we can look past the mind stuff which tries to twist and control our Authentic Nature for its own purposes and agenda. Then can we fall into the rhythm of Nature and Creation. Then can we just be, and not resist or be attached.

And when we surrender into that level of freedom, the ground on which Creation rests becomes more obvious, more apparent. And then, we discover the stillness, the silence and the peace that has always been supporting life, and we discover that this peace and stillness and the freedom, joy and bliss which arise within it are our very Nature. Always shining and pulsing beneath the surface of experience. Ever present, even when the external world fades away. It is the ground of all experience. It is Consciousness Itself. God. The Divine Essence. This is the real “Nature”. Not the birds, oceans and trees, but the cause of all of life, which is Consciousness Itself.

Like waves arising on the ocean, various forms and experiences arise within Consciousness. And then they return to Consciousness, like the waves which crash and return to the sea. No matter how big or small the wave, the nature of the ocean itself does not change. Just so, the nature of Consciousness, from which all experience arises, never changes.

Authentic, spontaneous expressions arising and dissolving over and over again within this Ground of Consciousness create the flow and rhythm of life. This is the experience of Tantric Nature. Awakening yourself to this experience and aligning yourself with this Reality is the work of Tantra Yoga.

Synchronicities, Miracles, and Infinite Possibilities

Written October 6th, 2011

This morning, I set out from Mumbai by train to Nashik, which is the main city near the Ashram where I will be staying for my Yoga Therapy Program. My train, leaving at 8:20am, required me to be up and walking to the station around 7:10am. The previous evening when I checked in at my hotel, I asked the front desk to help me confirm my ticket and see if my seat had been assigned. They told me it was confirmed, but no seat was posted yet, and suggested I arrive a bit early in order to check my seat.

It is amazing to me how something so simple as checking for a seat number can become a potential challenge if you are not familiar with the way in which the locals do it. I found my way easily to the train station. I found the platform from which it was leaving. I even found the posted lists of passengers, but despite my confirmed status, there was no mention of my name or a seat number anywhere to be seen. Seeing my confusion, and overhearing a local man who didn’t speak english likely trying to tell me I was looking in the wrong place, a kind stranger offered to assist me.

He looked over my printed ticket and announced what I already knew: “You are confirmed but there is no seat number.” This is the same thing I know the non-english speaking man was telling me as well. Yes, I know, I thought. That is indeed my entire reason for staring at long lists of names.

The man assisting me then proceeded to reach into his pocket, pull out a mobile phone, load an app, plug in my confirmation number, and within 30 seconds had received a text message which stated my confirmation, along with seat number. He then pointed me to the correct end of the train, and voila, I was in my correct seat.

Moments like these always make me smile. Not only is it wonderful that technology exists, but situations like this remind me again and again that the flow of the universe is always moving towards something positive. It reminds me that a solution always exists to any given circumstance. It reminds me that in moments of confusion, grief, pain, frustration or fear, that if I can simply be still, be present and patient, that the moment will pass, flowing into a resolution.

This same principle applies to anything. The present moment, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant will always flow into another. The experience you are having will inevitably come to end. This principle teaches us to keep our awareness in the present moment, and to embrace and accept whatever is happening. Knowing that the experience will come to an end reveals that the true pain or suffering in the moment is resistance to it. Our pain comes not from what is happening, but from a desire for it to be different. An attachment to a different expectation.

There is an order to the universe. If we resist it, we suffer. If we let go, embrace what is, and find gratitude for each moment, then we learn to flow with the grace of the universe’s unfolding. We must learn to train our awareness to focus away from suffering, disappointment, pain and frustration, while at the same time accepting what it is, but looking beyond it.

Focusing our awareness into the infinite possibilities, and the deeper stillness and peace that are always beneath this moment’s experience. Learning to tap into the pulsing energy of Consciousness which permeates everything. These yogic and Tantric practices, assisted by various methods and techniques, help us to connect with a deeper intelligence and the grace of the Divine Universe. They help us learn to find a spiritually beneficial joy and detachment to outer experience and expectations, and help us to align our awareness with a deeper reality.

By connecting to these underlying energies and states of awareness, a natural freedom and joy arises, which is independent from and beyond any happiness based upon worldly fulfillment. It is moving closer into your true Nature, which Tantra declares to be Pure Consciousness, Being and Bliss Love. Or Satchitananda in Sanskrit.

This deeper awareness allows us to learn to trust the unfolding experience of life, and experience joy from our Inner Being, no matter whether the outer experience is seen as pain or joy.

When I finally made it to my seating area, after a few people shuffled around, a young woman from Japan joined me in my train berth which seated only 4 people. With a fairly certain and amused thought, I confirmed that she too was headed to the same Ashram. Small world as they say. After we talked for a few minutes, just as the train began to move, two other young women joined us. From Turkey, and both headed to the Ashram.

What are the chances? Yes. This is the final day to go to the Ashram. Yes. This is a likely train to take to get there. Yes, it is likely that we would be more inclined to book a train car with AC. But we all could have just as easily ended up in separate train berths, never knowing of each others existence until we got to the ashram.

Our “chance” meeting provided everyone a sense of safety and relief. Hearing of my previous positive experience at the Ashram, I could see a part of them relax. They were no longer alone to find a taxi to the station. Life once again found a resolution, with no effort on anyone’s part.

There was a time, maybe ten years ago, when I used to think of synchronistic moments like these as magical. That some how the universe was reaching out to me, showing my special relationship to the Divine.

Now I see them as ordinary proof that an intelligence beyond our individual capacity is operating behind the scenes of the unfolding universe. They remind me to surrender, that all is fine, and everything is as is should be. They remind me to continue to be grateful and flow with the Grace of the Divine as it moves through me and the life experience that I am witnessing.

It is not, perhaps, that it isn’t magical is some sense. But perhaps that which many define as magical is really more ordinary that most realize. It only seems magical because we expect life is a different, more limited, way. By opening to the infinite possibilities, by being willing to live in non-ordinary states of consciousness, all that previously seemed impossible becomes possible. Then “miracles” and “sychronicities” become the norm.

The world of miracles IS a part of our natural state. We do not need to do something to bring it about, but rather we need to cultivate a perspective on life which is free from expectations and open to all possibilities. Then the Divine consciousness that is the True Self can reveal Itself to you. Stop believing miracles are rare or even special, and stop believing you are disconnected from the Infinite Intelligence of the Divine. That Intelligence is flowing through you as your own True Self. Then smile into life, and watch as reality begins to reveal Itself.

If you stop and pay attention, what ways is the universe showing you a greater set of possibilities than you are currently experiencing? What ways does the universe try to teach you to trust the flow of life, to surrender and be grateful?

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

Suppression of the Feminine and Tantric Healing of… Men? (and Woman)

I suspect today’s blog post may be controversial, but perhaps the collective consciousness will welcome it. It has all the great qualities of any good drama. We have the antagonist of Patriarchy, and the protagonist of the Feminine Essence. We have battles of power, suppression, and the counter attack. We also have some metaphysical twists thrown in, such as Karma, reincarnation, and the power of Spirit to create miraculous healing, bringing a bright hope for the future.

In my own personal healing journey as a man, I somehow found myself in spiritual and healing groups of women. In most cases, I was the only man in the group. And sometimes, maybe one of two. In many of those groups, there were discussions of the re-emergence of the Feminine Essence. Historical recounts of witch burnings and the uprising of a male dominated religion, with “The Church” casting out women, silencing them, even killing them to ensure that their deep Wisdom and connection to spirit would never be heard. In this way “The Church” could dominate the culture, indoctrinate its message into the masses, and separate the masses from their true Spiritual Essence.

What did the Feminine essence have that frightened “The Church” so much? The Feminine knew that it could connect directly to God by turning within and that it could experience the Divine through Nature and every pulsating atom within Creation. The Church was perhaps frightened by this awareness and power, not understanding it, and assuming it to be some sort of demonic possession. Perhaps they were threatened because they simply realized that the Feminine’s experience was much more powerful than what they could offer, and thus they wanted to “silence the competition”. It just wasn’t good for business, if you will. If people learn they can connect directly to the Divine within their own Being, then there would be no need for the Church and its priests as go betweens to bring the masses to God. The Church needed you one step away from God in order for you to need their “services”. And if they were not “in demand”, then they could not get your financial offerings. So they silenced the woman, and created a teaching that required their services in order to get into “Heaven”, otherwise, eternal damnation would be your punishment. (Now, that’s pretty scary stuff! People these days are willing to pay to avoid allergies and headaches, so you know avoiding eternal damnation was a good marketing tool! Especially when you are the only game in town offering a solution.)

Now, I will leave it to you to decide if the above version of the story is fair or not, but I can report that these types of ideas were commonly offered within the spiritual woman’s groups I found myself in. And there are historical threads that can and do support these types of activities, even if the motivations may be a little different (or not).

Being often the only male in the room in many ways gave me a “fly on the wall” type experience. I learned about these theories, and was quite honestly a little shocked at first. Once these things were pointed out to me, quite frankly it seemed hard to ignore that there is likely at least some, if not a lot of truth to it.

Within these groups, I also was invited to explore a spirituality that encouraged me to open to “Feminine wisdom.” To find my spiritual connection within, to experience it through nature, to awaken and own the Power that dwelled within me and could be experienced all around me. In this way, I learned to become my own bridge to Spirit, or a “Priest” in my own rite. Worlds cannot convey what a powerful impact these experiences had on my healing journey and spiritual transformation. It forever changed how I looked at the healing process, the world, my own Self, and God. And, also the Power of the Feminine Essence.

One of the things I did begin to notice among many of the woman, was that their “re-claiming the Feminine essence” sometimes came with anger and outrage at the Masculine Patriarchy who has suppressed them and in some ways is even doing so in the modern age. But I did realize that the pain that it caused was legitimate, and they were honoring their healing path to allow the pain, the anger and the rage to come up to be cleared and healed. The energetic “imprints” or the Karma that surrounded it needed to be released in order to step beyond the previous limitations.

At the same time, this stage of healing can also lead us into a place of feeling like a “victim”. A feeling that another had “done something to you”, and that you have no power in the situation. An often unconscious assumption that you are somehow completely innocent. The healing journey requires us to move past this as well. To acknowledge the pain, remove the source of the pain, accept any responsibility that may be yours and reclaim your own wholeness and power in the situation. Remaining a victim keeps you in a position of weakness and allows the power over the situation to remain in the hands of the other party.

If we look at the way Karma works, there are really “no victims”. Karma is 100% fair. It simply brings back the energy that you created from a past action. So, as a general analogy, we could say that a woman who is heavily suppressed in this lifetime may have been a male suppressor in a past life, and the Karmic energy is just being recycled to experience the energy that was created. (Although it may often be more complex than this.)

It is said that we are all interconnected, and all One, and that literally what we do to another, we are doing to own own Self. This is where to Golden Rule comes in. The actions that you take will energetically affect you in some way. Part of the Tantric healing cycle is to understand this energetic potential, and find ways to resolve the Karma so you are freed from its effects.

So we have “no victims”. But I can remember in all of this, that the stories focused on the suppression of the Feminine. And while it was important to bring the energy up to be cleared, there was a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, anger towards the “masculine” or the “patriarchy”. While I cannot speak for the woman of the group, the repeated hearing of the story began to make me think of the woman as “victims”. “Oh how awful it must be to be treated in that way, powerless, defenseless. Why, we the men are the most awful of human beings!”

I began to feel that I owed all women everywhere a huge apology. That I needed to grovel at their feet and beg for forgiveness for all that I had done to wrong them…

(Who is the victim now?)

There was an energetic reason for the Masculine to acknowledge and apologize for the pain it had caused, but there are always multiple sides to every story, and there are a few angles we are leaving out.

What would someone do who was being suppressed or controlled? Especially if they were afraid to reveal their true essence for fear of being killed? Might they resent the oppressor? Darn skippy! And don’t you think they might, in their feeling of powerlessness seek some way to have power, or to get revenge? Well, of course, and it wouldn’t be a good drama story without it!

As my exploration of this dynamic continued, it came to light that the response that “the Feminine” had to this situation was really not any more respectful than the original suppression by the Masculine. While many may have suffered a disconnect from their Feminine power, it karmically set up retaliation. And in many cases, this came in the form of subtle manipulation, resentment, passive aggressive behavior, etc. In other cases, it has been more blatant and long lasting: entraping men by getting pregnant, manipulating the court system for greater financial gain during divorce, etc.

(For the record, what I just shared is not my projection, but actually the uncovered “truth” from some of these woman during their own healing process. A realization by some of them, that they actually owed the Masculine an apology too. If you are brave, and willing to explore this deeper, please click on and read the Manifesto for the Conscious Woman, which was the inspiration for sharing this part of my own healing journey through this blog post. I am not suggesting I agree with everything written in it. There is a lot that, to me, is quite harsh and distorted, or at least “not true” more often than true, but I offer it more as a “makes you think” piece. It will likely enlighten you about some things, offend you and perhaps piss you off. But that is often true of things which bring to awareness that which we have not wanted to see or that we find unfathomable.  Save it for the end, or at least make sure you come back and finish this post.)

During one of the Healing circles I was a part of, this issue came up. I felt moved to apologize to the Feminine in a Sacred healing space, which was deeply moving for not only myself, but many of the Women in the room. And to my great surprise, one of the women felt the need to stand up, and apologize for the ways the Feminine had hurt, manipulated and dishonored the Masculine. Some deep part of my soul so needed to hear that, and intense emotion, self-forgiveness and relief flooded through every part of my Being. A weight was lifted. “It was NOT just me! I am (Men are) not the only one’s in the wrong!” It has been a mutual dance. And forgiveness can happen.

I have heard some people speaking about the “suppression of the Feminine”, in such a way where one can almost imagine or get the impression that there was this time in the past when women were pure, and enlightened, deeply connected to Spirit, loving nature and dancing in the forest with a radiance of inner light around them (and I imagine this was actually true for at least a few of them), and then suddenly, with no known cause or reason, the Patriarchy rose up like an unexpected black cloud and lightening came from the sky silencing them and forcing them to disown their greatest Secrets and Divine Powers… If you have been paying attention, you will immediately recognize this version of the story as coming from a place of “victim”.

The greater reality is that there has been conflict between people, and between genders probably since the dawn of time. And while there could easily be Truth in the Patriarchy and the Church simply making a “power move”, that does not discount that the woman from that time and before may have likely been seeking power in their own way. No matter what the truth is of the unfolding story, there is a Karmic thread that started long before the suppression of Feminine energy. The Patriarchy and “The church” did not arise out of a vacuum, but instead it was a result of Karma from previous times. No victims.

There is also another layer to this story that needs to be brought into the light. According to Tantra and many other wisdom traditions, each individual, whether male or female, is a unique balance of both Masculine and Feminine essences. By suppressing the Feminine Essence, the males also suppressed the Feminine Essence within their own Selves. They literally forced a part of their own Being and awareness into submission. They lost the chance to find their own wholeness, because they could not honor the Feminine. So, a deeper layer of truth, at least from the perspective of Wholeness and Spiritual evolution, is that the men also suffered under their own regime, although likely without realizing the harm they had done.

There was an increase in the polarization of opposites. We can still see this today through our cultural notions of gender roles: Men don’t cry (express feminine quality of emotions). An aggressive male in business is “good at his job” and a woman who runs the same level of aggression is usually given a more derogatory label. A friend of mine recently told me of a couple from Little Rock, AK who are in the antique business. They were traveling in Atlanta, looking to purchase things they could take back and sell in Little Rock. My friend showed them several stone bookends, all of which they liked except for one. When he asked what was wrong with that one, the woman replied: “It would never sell because it’s pink. We don’t even use the word pink in Little Rock. If something is pink, we have to call it ‘beige’.” The local sense of “manliness” will not allow for the feminine quality of pink.

So even today, this struggle between masculine and feminine carries on. The reality is that we don’t know when or how all this started. To isolate a point in history as “its cause” is to ignore the Karmic thread from which it sprung and potentially cry “victim”. And while the stories of the Patriarchy can be helpful to help us understand what has happened and how it may be effecting us now so we can heal the Karma, there is a point where it is no longer beneficial to reference the past. We must learn to look at our current situation. We are creating power struggles right now, not in the past. What can we do NOW that will change this and restore balance?

If two countries are at war, our common assumption is that one country must “win” and that the battle will continue until someone is declared the winner. There is, however, another option that is almost never taken. It is so easy that no one seems to acknowledge it, but no one ever uses it because they believe it is important to “win”. The simplest way to end a war is simply for both sides to set down their weapons, say “Sorry about that” and honor both their commonalities and their uniquenesses.

This is the same for the conflict between “Masculine and Feminine”, lovers of any gender, family members, friends, co-workers, etc. We must set down the weapons, and call a truce. When we push to be a winner in these situations, no one can ever win. History has already shown us that. Attempting to “win” and fighting the fight is ultimately a rejection of a part of our own Self. We all need both the Feminine and the Masculine to be out of conflict and in perfect balance in order to find true peace.

Continuing to “battle” is simply the Karma recycling itself over and over again. Left as is, it will go on and on, like a perpetual motion machine. Stopping the battle ends the cycles of Karma. The explanation is simple: “just stop”. The reality is more complex, because the Karma keeps driving us. But Tantric Healing and the Tantric Path encourages us to find ways to end these Karmically conditioned cycles of harming our own Self and others. To honor all parts of our own Self, both Masculine and Feminine. To honor both aspects of others as well. We will likely need to “stop the battle” one area at a time, but eventually we can become free.

My own healing journey to explore the Feminine Essence was a part of my preparation for Tantra, which I did not encounter formally until a few years after beginning my work with a more Feminine Essence based spiritual approach. Through my progression of the Tantric Path, each piece that I learned through that initial exploration has been re-affirmed, and woven even deeper into a tapestry of spiritual awakening and understanding.

Tantra is sometimes referred to as “The Cult of the Feminine” or “Goddess Worship”. This is because it works with the Feminine Essence of the Divine. In most Tantric paths, the Feminine aspect of the Divine is approached and worked with and is thought to be the “Power” of the Divine. There are many practices that involve honoring the Feminine’s Sacredness, including a practice which involves worship of the genitals (the yoni) of a human female consort. I have occasionally heard someone make a comment that seems to imply that their understanding is that the Feminine is actually superior to the Masculine. And from that, that women are superior to men.

There is a beauty and power in restoring the balance to honoring the Feminine through ritual. There is a beauty to giving woman the respect that they are due. But honoring the Feminine does not need to be done at the expense of less honor for the Masculine. We must remember that Tantric practices teach us to restore the balance between Masculine and Feminine within our own Self, not to assume Feminine superiority. It teaches us to learn to honor all aspects of creation, and discover the Sacredness within our own Being. It teach us that we can also experience our own deeper Self though conscious connection to another and how we can balance our relationship with others and end conflict. It gives us tools to clear out Karma, and end the cycles of pain and suffering. It teaches us to release the past, and live in the here and now.

The final goal is to re-unify the Masculine and the Feminine. In fact, it says they were never separated, but our own mistaken polarization and Karmic war has prevented us from seeing the deeper Truth. Once the Masculine and Feminine put down their weapons, end the war and begin to peacefully relate to each other, they will recognize their own essence within the other and merge into the non-dual state of Consciousness.

In the mean time, whether you practice Tantra or not, what can you do to put your weapons down? (One at a time is fine.) How can you begin to consciously end the current power struggles which exist. even if they are very subtle? Where might you do best to simply say “I am sorry.”? Where might you find that you can substitute a more honoring and supportive action or kind word? The war may not end all at once, but one by one we can learn to recall the “inner troupes” and restore peace and balance. We are not victims. We must discover how we contribute to this cycle, and consciously choose a different way.

At different stages of healing, we have different persectives.  My intention in sharing this story was to share MY VERSION of my own healing experience and spiritual path, and the way it has woven into Tantric Wisdom for me, with the hopes that it will provide some source of healing or insight for you. I have also learned that everyone’s path to wholeness is unique, and must also be honored. 

What have your experiences been around healing Masculine and Feminine balance?  Or around reclaiming your own Feminine Power or Masculine Power?

And in conclusion, this topic reminds me of a poem I love:

From “The Subject Tonight Is Love” by Hafiz:

It Happens All The Time In Heaven

It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth-
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are
Lovers,
And women and women
Who give each other
Light,
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover’s hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
“My dear,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more
Kind?”

Selflessness and the Spiritual Path

(This post was inspired by and in response to a post by Mark McElroy entitled “The Race for Last Place”.  Click Here to read his post.)

Hey Mark,

I have been silently enjoying your posts on the Tao, but today I feel the motivation to pipe in.

I have observed in my years of studying different spiritual paths, that the more I learn and experience, the more I see the commonalities within them.  You pointed this out yourself in an earlier post. All the major religions, and especially the main Mystical Traditions, are all giving “The Way” their own labels, and their own set of “pointers”.  I only say that because my main study and perspective is Tantra Yoga as a path of non-duality, and that is the perspective that the rest of my sharing will be based upon, even though I will continue to honor “The Way” as one metaphor.

This idea of “selflessness” and “putting others first” is indeed very complicated.

For me, I have to remind myself when looking at this that the “Sages” have a different perspective from the get-go.  Their Self-Identity is from a different vantage point than the average person who has not discovered “They Way”, or as Tantra might say, “the True Self.”

Tantra would explain the average person as being identified with the ego, or sense of individuality.  Ego says “I am the person known as Jeff.  I am the thoughts and feelings and desires that pass though the awareness of Jeff”.

But the Self-Realized Yogi or Sage, knower of “The Way”, sees beyond the limitations of the ego state.  Some would even argue they have dissolved the ego.  Either way, they have shifted their identity from the individual self as ego to the larger Self, of which Tantra says there is only truly One.  “We are all One”.  We are connected through “The Way”, or the permeating Consciousness that experiences, reveals and creates all things.

While the ego identified individual will base most of their happiness on the life circumstances they find themselves in (i.e. What they have or don’t have.  Who likes or doesn’t like them, etc), the Self-Realized Sage finds complete balance, fulfillment and a deep inner joy that is based purely upon knowing the Truth of their Own Being.

The Nature of the Truth Self is joy and the Sages then experience that the outer world is not the source of happiness.

So, I suggest that when the sages “Place themselves last”, this means that they stop serving the individual ego of the person they were before knowing The Way, and begin to serve the larger Self, which is actually within All Beings.  From this perspective, serving others has no “Selfish” motivation for gain by the original individual, but is instead understood as serving the Sacred Nature of Life, or the Consciousness that permeates all of Creation.  In other words, serving others becomes experienced as literally and directly serving God, of which the Sage knows him or herself to be.

So, to work with the quote from Jesus (“So the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16) ), when the Sage sets aside or dissolves his individual ego and lets it be “last” to be served, and instead places the large Self “first”, then the True Self or “They Way” is being served first.  If the individual ego is served “first” then the Large Self, or God, is placed last in the order of importance.

This wisdom works for the Sages, because they experience the deeper Truth of it.  There are many practices which attempt to work with this principle. “Service” is in fact one of the most widely used spiritual practices in the world. It can be beneficial, to use this practice as a way of deepening your spiritual path, but there must be a striving to connect with the deeper intention.  There must be a level of surrender, and a sense of serving God, or “They Way” or whatever Higher Power someone relates to, and not just serving “individuals”.  (Although, focusing on the suffering of others as a way to diminish awareness of your own suffering and increase gratitude is one Buddhist practice that can have benefits as well, and can deepen service as a spiritual practice.)

“Ego” serving “ego” does nothing more than create the very complicated scenarios that you described in your post. There must be a sense of serving the larger whole without the individual ego gaining or losing anything. That’s where the “selfless” part really comes in. To serve others without any thought of what you will get from it. Otherwise it slips into expectations, disappointments (I did all this for him/her and I got nothing back!) and pride (I am such a selfless and generous person! Yay me!).

If I look back over your examples, in each case there would very likely be “ego” engagement and needs being fulfilled or demanded.  A sense of placing either one’s own individual needs first, or placing the needs of the other first.  For each person, no matter how subtle or not so subtle, there was likely a hope for something in return, even if it was unconscious.

For the Sage, the Self-Realized knower of The Way, individual needs dissolved when ego identification ceased.  They arrive at a place of Wholeness, in which they feel complete within their own Being. They are “In the world, but not of the world.” All of their needs are satisfied by the deeper experience of the Self.  So, when they give or serve, it is from a place of fullness, because they have nothing else they need. They are just sharing out of the love that overwhelms their own hearts.  They are unaffected by whether you like or don’t like what they offer.  They do not care if you thank or praise them.

They approach their service with a sense of Compassion for those they serve.   And they serve in ways that we often may not be able to understand.  Serving by listening.  Serving by smiling at us.  Serving by being a beacon of Light in the darkness of experience.

Whereas the “ego” may think compassion to be the taking away of suffering through giving people what they seem to lack, or finding a way to end pain, the Sages know that the true suffering is caused by not knowing the True Self, or the Way.  As the Buddha said  something to the effect of “Enlightenment is the only True Healing.” (Enlightenment or knowing the True Self or The Way).  Prior to that, some type of suffering is inevitable.

In the spirit of “The Way”, I also acknowledge that my words are just words at minimum, and at most they are well written “Way Pointers”.  But, they are not “The Truth” in and of themselves.  They are an expression of how I understand things, and the experiences that I have had in my own spiritual journey.

Loving the Tao posts, and thanks for letting me share.

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

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.




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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