The Zen of Anger

anger-18658_640

I originally posted this in February 2015.  I am reposting with some edits–it feels so relevant to my previous post (Heartbreak Catapult).  The spiritual path (sadhana) is not a straight line it is a circuitous path.

It would be ludicrous to think as a practitioner of Yoga Meditation I don’t get angry. Candidly, my inclination toward becoming annoyed is a reason I am dutiful with my practice.

According to DISC personality typing, I am an “I”–which means “Influence”–but, it can also mean impulsive! The same energy that is the source of my strengths is also the source of my lesser strengths (not weaknesses).

This morning I got angry with my son.  Paradoxically, the people we are closest to can be the source of our greatest joy sand the catalyst of our greatest frustrations!

I have a lot invested in my son–he is after all, my son.  With an investment comes an expectation.  When the investment does not yield a return there is disappointment.  The return on investment is an attraction and the disappointment is an aversion.

According to the Yoga Sutras, both attraction (raga) and aversion (dvesha) are two sides of the same coin–attachment.  Both stem from a primal lack of knowledge regarding our True Nature (avidya) which is perennial and not ephemeral.

Conversely, the apparent nature of the physical world is transient.  Due to this, we cling to the things and experiences of the physical world that we love.  We push away the things and experiences that we abhor.  But, both the pushing and pulling cause us suffering (dukha or dukkha).

I am attracted to my son doing what I believe is best (for me), he does something other than that, my expectation is not met, I experience disappointment, my disappointment is a form of suffering.  To the unmastered mind, all worldly experiences yield suffering because they are impermanent.  However, this does not have to be the case.

When we are rooted in awareness of our True Nature from earnest practice and non-attachment (abhyasa and vairagya) we are aware of the fleeting nature of our experiences and we can be released from the suffering of attraction and aversion.  It does not mean we are apathetic or ambivalent–I am still going to parent my child–with the hope that he leads a skillful and happy life.  But, I am working on not expecting him to do what I want.  We still have rules.  If he breaks them, he is punished.  But, now it’s not a big emotional tirade–because I didn’t get what I want.

Today I got angry; I felt the blood pump and my temperature rise.  But, I was very aware that this was a bodily experience and not who I am at the core; moreover, not an emotion I have to act on.  I didn’t resist the anger–that is aversion–I just let it come.  I went for a drive and returned as the person I want to be.

Heartbreak Catapult

catapult

It has been a powerful 10 months–although when does life cease to provide opportunities for growth?  My husband and I separated and are in the process of divorcing; due to my spiritual prowess (sarcasm oozing) I thought I was over “it“.

I know grieving is a natural process– I even wrote a post about it!  Yet, somehow I hallucinated I had earned spiritual cred and would ascend the proverbial staircase effortlessly. Well, it hasn’t been flawless.

I, a long time aspirant, rebounded, ate too much sugar, slacked on my meditation practice, called into work sick, grumped with my children, and finally acknowledged that I am unhappy to be uncoupling.  But, the heartache is also bringing me to a place that is so real and fertile.

About a year ago, when I couldn’t even imagine that we were on the verge of separation, I was hosting a meditation retreat.  My group skyped with Ma Tri  and she shared a beautiful insight about devotion.  To paraphrase, she explained that these practices are not about suppressing emotions; rather, an adept harnesses them to fuel their quest for self-knowledge.  Emotions are energy–the energy of desire.

Right now, I have to be with this pain.  It is my teacher, it is teaching me about attachment.  But, it is also teaching me about gratitude.  I have gratitude for the skill of self-inquiry, which I have developed during this spiritual journey.  I have gratitude for the ability to shift from my sadness to reflect on what is working in my life.

When I feel that I am beating myself up, I return to my favorite Rumi poem, “…even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come”.  Then I know that these practices, my sadhana, is working.

All Yogic Approaches Involve the Replacement of Old Habit Patterns with New Benign Patterns

Part 11, the final installment, of “How Do You Qualify Yoga?” (a series I originally posted and have converted to a permanent page).

“Everyone has weaknesses. Wise is he who acknowledges his weaknesses and works steadily to remove them and replace them with the essential virtues that strengthen him and make him brave, fearless, and truthful.”

Swami Rama: “The Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita”

There are so many ways to approach this qualifier of a Yogic approach (all of which I have discussed in previous posts): the eight-runged path of the Yoga Sutras, a discussion on samskarasdeveloping the skill of witnessing, and uncoloring.  Even better, a combination of the four (although a scholar can illustrate innumerous examples of this being the purpose of the practices).

In this Tradition, classically, one did not begin with meditation directly.  One began with developing a dharmic lifestyle.  This is seems at conflict with the Western concept of Yoga being almost amoral (not immoral)–as if anything goes.  The difference between the morality of Yoga and many other belief systems is the morality is intrinsic; it is morality for the sake of morality.  It arises from the understanding that we all are One; the integrity of a Yogi is not due to fear of retribution from a deity.  The early teachings of Yoga sought to develop this inner compass, then the aspirant would move into a seated meditation practice.

After moving into meditation, we begin to notice that thoughts come and go constantly. As we spend more time in this space we begin to notice that thoughts have trends.  Perhaps we discover we have a trend towards judgement, craving of material items, or feelings of unworthiness.  These trends can be thought of as being grooves that are etched into our mind-field–the Yogis called these samskaras.

The initial goal of Yoga meditation is to become AWARE of these patterns, NOT to critique or engage with them.  Early meditation is not psychoanalysis, it is accepting that all minds are capable of all types of thoughts: good, bad, and neutral.  But, thought is not who we are, it is what we are doing.  The art of witnessing is allowing the mind to naturally unfold without interfering with the process.  This reduces the emotional attachment to the thought, it uncolors them.  It is easier said than done.

Over time, the more practiced meditator begins to take a dispassionate stance and without judgment seeks to teach the mind to cultivate thoughts which bring them closer to harmony.  A practiced meditator explains to their mind (yes, I know how that sounds; but, dialogue with one’s own mind is essential if you want your mind be sharpened) this thought is useful and this thought is not useful.  Over time the mind entrains towards thoughts which create equanimity.

So after writing this series, what have I learned: I need to meditate more!

 

The Driving Dead

1501100007

I have a visceral reaction to rush-hour traffic–it is abhorrent. But, I live in metro-Atlanta, it’s unavoidable. It’s also a great opportunity to test my spiritual practices It’s my own laboratory: I listen to “edutaining” audiobooks, I try to remain present, I avoid judging other drivers, I resist the phone.

The Yoga Sutras suggest five behaviors for a spiritual seeker to cultivate; one of these attitudes is mindfulness (smriti).  Which is simply, paying attention to whatever you are paying attention to.  It is also seeing that the path is every step you take; not compartmentalizing spiritual life and secular life.  I am learning a great deal about myself while I am behind the wheel.

Recently, while wrestling with the traffic juggernaut, one of my greatest teachers abruptly tested me.  She wanted me to see if I was grounded in my practices. During a particularly frenetic moment, my five-year-old daughter, Clementine, exclaimed from her booster seat, “I don’t want you to die and leave me alone!”

This was seemingly out of nowhere; yet, in a previous post, I noted our home is in a state of transition. So, the outburst wasn’t entirely unwarranted.

My mind was in a whirl; how do I explain impermanence to a child while, paradoxically, trying not to kill us on the road?

The answer was simple, my practices had prepared me, I surrendered.  Yoga practices make you flexible–not as a contortionist.  Sadhana is a process of systematically reducing reducing attachments, such as expectations, and attaining a state of pure spontaneity.

So, without being too kerflummoxed, I was in a new role–Teacher Mom.  Off went the radio, deep breathing resumed, and a truly beautiful moment ensued. I told Clementine that everything she can see is a cosmic ocean.  I explained we are all waves in the ocean.  A wave rises and falls; but, is never removed from the ocean.  In the same manner, we have not and cannot ever be apart.  She continued to be emotional; but, she found comfort in knowing she and I are One.

I offered a prayer of gratitude for my car temple.  What a sublime moment of intimacy in the sea of automotive chaos.  Every moment is Divine.

 

Be the Best “Version” of your Self

Truly, there is no “better” or “worse” version of You, or I–we are the Center of Consciousness.  How can there be a flaw?

DK_butterfly_Lifecycle_Rev05_affmr0

Be the Best Version of your “Self”

In Yoga Philosophy, a human is viewed as an expression of the Center of Consciousness.  As the Center of Consciousness “moves outward” it appears to condense (for lack of a better word) and become the individual.  But, the Center of Consciousness remains eternal, undiminished, unchanged.  

There are various sheaths (koshas) appearing to veil the Center of Consciousness; they are like layered lampshades covering a light.  At the outermost level there is the physical body; the next, more subtle, layer is the energy/breath body; the next, subtler, layer is the mental body; the mind is preceded by the wisdom body; at core is the Self–the point where Center of Consciousness initiates individuation. 

Whether or not you subscribe to this philosophy, we can intuit that we are more than we appear to be. What we hold to be as our “True Nature” is a personal belief.  However, the busyness of our lives causes us to misidentify with all of the actions we are doing instead of our illusive “True Nature”.

Furthermore, our addiction to moving outward–as opposed to focusing inward–causes many of us to fixate on our failures and challenges.  We can become mired in a victim persona, subjecting ourselves to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Meditation is a tool which can shift us to a state of empowerment by: improving our physiological functioning, depersonalizing the thinking process, and relieving us from attachments.

When the human nervous system evolved, it bifurcated into two aspects which work like gears on a manual transmission.  The sympathetic nervous system causes humans to jump into action.  It triggers the “fight or flight” response via the release stimulating hormones, which includes: dilated pupils, accelerated heart rate, and increased rate of respiration.  Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system is associated with feelings of safety and wellbeing–reflect on the feeling holding a calm baby.  Unfortunately, many people are primarily tapped into the sympathetic nervous system–they are reactive, anxious, and judgemental.  

Most systems of meditation are practiced in a relaxing environment and incorporate techniques, such as: body scanning, diaphragmatic breathing, and focusing attention–all of which elicit a parasympathetic response.  When this is stimulated, thoughts are inclined to be uplifting and positive.  In fact, a recent Harvard study indicates, 8-weeks of mindfulness meditation cause the brain to grow new gray matter. This asserts you can rewire your brain into new thought patterns. Despite the catharsis of improving the quality of our thoughts, it is important to understand that we are not our thoughts.

As previously mentioned, we identify with our accomplishments and roles; however, we also identify with our thoughts.  Thoughts, like the material objects of the world are “objects” we have created on the mental plane.  Many people have an antagonistic relationship with their thoughts.  They tend to believe that they are good when they are having positive and altruistic thoughts.  They tend to judge themselves when they are having negative thoughts.  All minds are creative–even Buddhist monks have thoughts of murder.  However, acting on a thought is a different scenario.

Although there are benefits to positive thinking; it’s important to get distance from your thoughts.  This is not an attempt to have cessation of the thinking process; rather, the goal is to become detached from the activity of the mind. In most meditation traditions, practitioners are taught to allow the mind to behave naturally–not to interfere with the thinking process.  Over time, one is able to become aware of the transient nature of thoughts.  Ultimately, as one becomes dispassionate about thoughts, the mind begins to relax; this is not unlike a pond settling after it is undisturbed for a while.  Then one becomes aware of spaces between the thoughts.  In meditation we attempt to move into those spaces–not to shut the mind down.  

After one develops a regular practice they may observe that thoughts are of two sorts: neutral and colored.  Neutral thoughts are benign, they do not elicit an emotional response. Colored (klishta) thoughts are shaded with attachment.  Attachment is twofold: attraction and repulsion (aversion).  We cling at what we are attracted to and we push against what we are repulsed by.  Yet, these are two sides of the same coin–in both cases one is attached.  We expend a great deal of energy trying to get more of what we want and an equal amount of energy trying to keep away what we abhor.  The rationale of this behavior is happiness; but, true happiness is not determined by what is outside of us.  

As a meditation practice develops, one is able to discern which thoughts are colored. A regular meditator is detached from their thoughts, they are able to uncolor them and decrease incessant craving for the the material world and it’s ephemeral pleasures.  Many philosophies believe attachment is our greatest downfall; whether is desire for more accomplishments and experiences or the fear of death.  Meditation does not make us apathetic; a healthy yearning for that which brings us inside and towards truth is amplified with regular practice.

Meditation is a wellspring; it allows us to set down the many false ideas and identities that burden us on a daily basis.  Then, as if we hang these on a clothesline, after meditation we pick these up and they feel lighter. With meditation we begin to perceive ideas of lack are not our true nature; they are fantasies we created along the way.  During meditation, we still the body, smooth the breath, quiet the mind, and steep in the silent Center of Consciousness.  How can we be undeserving, unworthy or unlovable if our true nature is perennial and connected with the True Nature of everyone?  

 

The New Normal

Spiral Staircase Queens House UK www bamorama com

Ah, it’s nice to return to the blog-o-sphere…

I never pegged myself as one to share extremely personal things via my blog; however, I feel sharing this experience is beneficial on multiple levels.  Firstly, I want to explain my hiatus from this commitment.  Secondly, I hope that sharing the experience will allow others to catch a glimpse into my reality and, perhaps, see our commonality.  Lastly, I believe that appropriate sharing is cathartic.

When I first set out to create this blog, I did so with my life partner, my best friend, my husband.  Some of you who have been following will remember our collaborations and his poetry–which are still hosted on this site.  Despite us both being committed to our spiritual paths, our relationship path has diverged and we are not continuing in the direction of a married couple.  We are still committed to our children and to the being the best co-parents and friends we can be.

Sharing what “happened” isn’t necessary. In fact, according to Swami Rama, “The nature of Reality is a game of hide and seek, which is really the only game there is—now you see it and now you don’t.” Furthermore, the Yoga Sutras explain: “Although the same objects [or situations] may be perceived by different minds, they are perceived in different ways, because those minds manifested differently.

So in actuality, what “happened” is based on whose perspective you garner.  In fact, the word perspective is powerful in and of itself…  According to Google, “[in] late Middle English (in the sense ‘optics’): from medieval Latin perspectiva (ars ) ‘science of optics,’ from perspect- ‘looked at closely,’ from the verb perspicere, from per- ‘through’ + specere ‘to look.’”  What calls me is not the fact that it means to look, it’s the fact that it denotes looking through.

So what is it that we are looking through?

It is the veiling Power of the Universe, Maya.  “Maya means appearance, as if something appears to be one way, but is really another… some view maya as meaning that nothing is real, and turn this into a cold-hearted intellectual practice, others view the illusion of maya as being shakti, the creative force of the universe. In this way, the maya of the koshas is experienced both as unreal and, at the same time, as the beautiful manifestations of the universal oneness” (Swami J).

The reversal of this process is the purpose of meditation in traditional Yoga. As Georg Feuerstein has explained, it is implosion.   A receding (for lack of a better word), through all the “layers” until there is an experience of “The Witness?“.

How does this tie in with Chad and I?  Well, I believe the philosophy and the practices I have been sharing have helped me to be more at peace with what is happening.  Firstly, as I have mentioned, I appreciate perspective in a way that I have never before.  I feel more empathetic towards someone who I may have considered to be an adversary in the past.  Secondly, they have given me more self-regulation.  All of the time watching my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors have helped me to be less reactive.  I am certainly not professing mastery; but, I feel less volatile.  Additionally, I attribute a general feeling of optimism because I know that what I am is not defined by my life situation–there is a constant which is unaffected and I have access to the peace of this space.

I was recently presented with the metaphor of grief being like a spiral staircase–as opposed to being like a ladder with rung-like stages.  We continually move through stages, which circle back around; but, on the next pass we’ve moved higher.  This is also a metaphor for sadhana (the spiritual path); we keep moving upwards–even if it seems we’re going around in circles.

Make sure to click the links– there is a plethora of information there.

Om Shanti Namaste

All Yogic approaches account for surprise and/or grace.

Part 9 of “How do you Qualify Yoga?

About a year ago, I was facilitating a workshop and met someone who is now a dear friend.  Our connection was instant; he had been raised a devout Hindu and was very complementary about my ability to simplify teachings he had previously learned.  We culminated our discussion with the idea that, assuming you subscribe to belief in Saṃsāra, how it took everything we had done up to that moment to even be in that workshop–to even be discussing teachings which were, at one time, only available to the chosen few.

According to Swami Rama, “…There is also the activity of grace. Grace is the impulse or the impetus of the energy to dispel darkness. There is the grace of the scriptures, from the wisdom that has passed down from others. There is the grace of the teacher, who imparts that wisdom and helps bring it to life in the student. There is the grace of God, or pure consciousness, that is alive and ever present in everyone’s life. Integral to these three graces is the grace of oneself, having the will to undertake a purposeful journey in life, to do the spiritual work of life, and to prepare oneself.”

What is the source of the impulse?

According to the mahavakyas:

  1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya–Brahman is real; the world is unreal
  2. Ekamevadvitiyambrahma–Brahman is one, without a second
  3. Prajnanambrahman–Brahman is the supreme knowledge
  4. Tat tvam asi–That is what you are
  5. Ayamatmabrahma–Atman and brahman are the same
  6. Aham brahmasmi–I am brahman
  7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma–All of this is brahman

If Brahman–which is an arbitrary word for the Center of Consciousness, the nameless apex, or whatever you wish to call it–and we are one and the same, the source of the impulse is from within.  We heard it said before, “You are who you are seeking.”  Ironically, the picture above says “to serve another”–there is no other.  There is only one.

There is no need to anthropomorphize the Center, I am not suggesting “someone” is pulling strings.  But, to paraphrase Ma Tri, when you done all the preparatory work, when you have gone deep enough in your meditation, eventually it is a surrender and grace that carries you the final distance.

Hence, meditation, affirmative prayer, contemplation, and gratitude–try to do some every day.

The closer we come to Enlightenment the more ordinary we become

Part 8 of “How do You Qualify Yoga?”

Toward the One,
the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,
the Only Being,
United with all the Illuminated Souls,
Who form the Embodiment of the Master,
the Spirit of Guidance.

I find such comfort in this prayer from the Sufi master, Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan.  Especially when I contemplate the line, “all the Illuminated Souls who form the embodiment of the Master”.  Pause to savor that concept.  There is not one Master, there is not one path.  When the Buddha was asked, “who are you”?  He replied, “I am awake”.

Self-realization is an experience shared by numerous individuals from numerous traditions.  One can argue that the Buddha, the Christ, and Rumi were all describing the same level of consciousness with different words.  To believe that the omnipotent Ultimate Reality is confined to one tradition belittles it.

One hallmark on enlightened Masters is simplicity.  Not merely renunciation; because like a dry drunk, mere physical renunciation without renouncing internally is playing a role.  Internal renunciation is the letting go of the attachment to the outcome; yet continuing to strive for ultimate Reality, as described in my previous post.

All illuminated Masters incline towards simplicity.  Furthermore, the closer they are the less they are drawn to the fleeting transient world.  They taste what is “real” and tasting leads to savoring.  What could be more satisfying; to know the Ultimate Reality or to go on with the mundane temporary–even if it is stimulating to the senses.  Everything “out here” is subject to change.  The only constant is that core, “the perfection of love, harmony, and beauty”.

All Yogic approaches require the implementation of Discipline and Detachment.

Part 7 of “How Do You Qualify Yoga?

People think that sadhana–the yogic path–means the day-to-day process.  In a way it does, it is what practices you do (meditation, breath work, etc).  But, abhyasa is the moment to moment committment to this way of being and living.  It’s the cultivation, not obsession, of remembering your committment to reach Yoga.  But, all of the work you do has to be done with surrender–if you expect an exact outcome you are living in the world of control.  Control is an illusion.  There are many factors affecting us at any given time; our karma is coiled and spiraled in ways we cannot imagine.  So we do the work, we commit to the path, and we let go.  We make mistakes and we try again.  Life throws curve balls and we still meditate, contemplate, pray, and offer gratitude.  We are not bargaining with the Center of Consciousness– we are trying to connect to it.  Although, the irony is, we are never away from it.  Let the trials help you remember that every moment is Holy and Divine.

From Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

The Silence

enjoy_the_silence_by_archnophobia

From the Gross to the Subtle is proud to present our third guest blogger: the esteemed Cecelia Smith.  Please contact us if you would like to share lesson, personal experiences, meditations, and poetry from dharmic traditions and mindfulness.  Thank you for blessing us Cecelia.

THE SILENCE

Silence is of inestimable value in creating the place of change we are destined to inhabit. As our silence grows, so does the attributes of the One Being into whom we are transforming ourselves. Most of us are not yet capable of being in the Silence for extended periods of time. That is as it should be at this point in our development. Although, we may meditate for long periods of time, our moments of true Silence are very brief. Every second of linear time spent in true Silence is vast in the change it brings and the momentum it builds in our ongoing expansion. Each second of true Silence adds to our store of Silence and makes it easier for us to achieve that ultimate Silence in which we know ourselves as One Being.

That point, that second of transforming Silence is very close, and gets closer with every brush we make with the Silence. We feel it as a tremor, an awesomeness surrounding everything we do. We become excited in our anticipation of the revelations of ourselves, the One Being, Humanity. This excitement shatters our individual Silence, but in no way touches or disturbs the collective Silence we augmented by our entrance of the Silence. Second by second it grows. Second, by second, we are drawn closer to our objective; second by silent second we are a little more awake. The split second which transforms separate ego based individuals into the Great Being of Humanity is so very close. It is said in sacred writings that “no one knows the minute, or the hour when the Son of Man comes.” That is the truth.

We are building the habitation for the Son of Man on a second by silent second basis. The excitement is almost unbearable. The suspense so great, that some of us rush ahead. The Son is not ahead. The Son is not behind. The Son (translated SUN) is within the silent seconds we spend in the Silence. The magnificence of the raising Sun draws strength and substance within the Silence, getting bolder with every second spent within it. This Silence is an act of grace. We pray, we meditate, we sing, we dance, we expect and we love, all doing all building, all calling for the Silence to overtake us. Then it does and we remember. The truth of who we are dawns within our consciousness. We are astonished by our beauty and grandeur. Then we retreat from the Silence enter the world of doing again, leaving behind a Silence grown larger by our silent presence. The birthing of the Sun of man draws ever more close.

Enter The Silence Now and Become the Sun.

” I have written almost all my life. I write because I must. Words pile up inside my head and the only outlet for me to have is to write. I choose to share some of these writings in my blog ‘motivated in spirit” to inspire first myself and then others. It is my hope and prayer that you find these blogged words inspirational. Thank you… In the deepest love, Cecelia”

Cecelia’s home blog is:

Motivated By Spirit

A motivational blog to remind ourselves of our grandeur and Divinity.

http://motivatedinspirit.blogspot.com/