Several weeks later, you think, this glowing orb will have changed to a delicate crescent none the less gorgeous for its transformation into a mere sliver of silver light. For all the moods of moon enchant us with their diversity and chameleon-like effervescence like a young dancer or ice skater whose gauzy tunic swirls about her body as she floats through her tale in motion. That these moods influence all the rhythms of fluids on the planet is a not so subtle reminder of her power to change.
The moon's reflectivity is reminiscent of the reflection principle in creation. The radiant energy of light bounces off of anything dense enough to provide a reflective surface. In like manner, the light of pure consciousness reflects from the structures of our intuitive minds to create our souls. Or so say the Yogic philosophers in the Samkhya tradition. (Review Figure 3 for details.) Whether this is actually true is not really important because at higher levels of understanding it gives us an image of ourselves that reminds us of our Divine heritage. It offers a reason to value our density even though we have trouble transcending because our feet are rooted in mud. Reflectivity presents a way of understanding our yearning to return to the Source of that Light. In addition, it provides an explanation for the shadow of darkness in which we find ourselves immersed when we turn around and face away from the light. We all get in the way of our own truth sometimes when we look in the wrong direction for enlightenment.
The crescent moon in the second chakra represents receptivity. This is not a passive, wait-and-see kind of receptivity, but an open-armed reaching out for the truth just as the two horns of the moon appear to be embracing the light with the passion of an equal partner. We are meant to be co-creators of life and the universe, partners with the Divine One, not cringing slaves to a destiny we cannot control. This is a concept that is difficult to intergrate with traditional Jewish and Christian doctrine that portrays humanity as sinful and disobedient. It can be an engaging exercise to re-read the New Testament and make a list of all the times Jesus reminds us that we are God in our bodies and earthly life.
It is important to realize that the Bible was put together by human beings who were probably not immune to power motives in their selection of documents to include in the collection of Holy Books. So, to be truly open-minded, one should examine the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic Gospels from the Nag Hammadi library (Robinson, 1977) and ask why these documents were not included. And why there is such a dearth of material about the feminine aspects of the Absolute. Patriarchy, it seems, has deprived us of half of our religious birthright. Because the moon is typically viewed as being feminine, it may serve to remind us that half of human history has been created by women although it has yet to be acknowledged. We need to recover it in order to resuscitate and regenerate the planet from which we derive our sustenance.
Exercise: God in Humans
Secure a copy of The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis (1960) from your library or bookstore and read it. This novel is so controversial that many video libraries refuse to stock the tape of it. You may also find that your library has to secure it through interlibrary loan because local feelings about the book precluded its shelving. As you read, ask yourself why this particular story should be the object of so much controversy. What is it about Jesus in this novel that so many people find threatening? What is Kazantzakis' most important message? Can you identify with Jesus' suffering and despair? Of what was he despairing? What do you think of the Jesus presented here as a model of the mystical life? What is the last temptation of Christ and why is it so significant? Were you surprised by it? What was your reaction? Make some notes in your journal about your reflections on these issues and any other thoughts you may want to remember.
Contraction is only connected with death in nature. As a child, I used to think that when a person stopped changing, s/he began to die. Now, as an older, wiser individual, that idea still seems valid but is now based on experience and numerous observations. Who does not know people who, regardless of their ages, have contracted and collapsed in upon themselves because of their resistance to change? This process is visible to anyone who cares to look at it.
At one point during my residence at the Ashram, the forest above us was being clearcut. My distress was so acute, I thought I might have to leave. And, indeed, it did become an important lesson for me - about leaving. In processing some of my writing (which included my thoughts about the clearcutting) in class one night, I came upon the insight that that which does not move is cut down. This seems an obvious observation, but it had deep significance for my life at that time. It was time for me to move on and return to the world of light and shadows.
Open-mindedness means keeping the mind open to new learning. This requires making space in our cognitive structures for new material that may not relate easily to what we already know or which may be threatening to ego or the status quo. Often, when we approach something that is totally unfamiliar, such as going to an Ashram to live, the patterns of behavior and beliefs are so weird that we have trouble processing them and integrating them into our own systematic view of the world. For instance, when I arrived at the Ashram, I found that no one was interested in what I knew. Every time I began to explain something to people, they would simply walk away. For an ex-college professor, that was simply incomprehensible. My knowledge had always been valued before. I went into a blue funk of rejection and confusion. My body/mind reacted with a profound fatigue. (This is ego's work of defense, by the way.) I had no experience to help me understand what was going on. Why didn't these people like me? Etc., etc., etc. You can imagine what my mind did with this gap in its information. Well, it was not until some time later, after I had begun to understand that the intuitive mind was the cognitive giant in a spiritual environment, that I began to understand why the intellect was degraded. We will come to more of that later on. I do recall Swami Radha saying to me once that she could not help me learn anything new because my mind was so full there was not room for anything else.
The point of all this is that we must make room for new experience and cultivate the ability to tolerate frustration and ambiguity if we want to enter new realms of learning and experience. In addition, we need to admit there might be some things we may not know that are important to our spiritual development. All of the eastern disciplines extol the virtues of humility. This doesn't mean enslavement or unquestioned or unexamined obedience. Any teachers worth their salt will welcome questions even though they might not answer them directly. In the eastern tradition, seekers are encouraged to discover the answers for themselves. The reason for this is because our most important learning comes from experience. When we confront the learning situation directly, the result is knowledge rather than simply information which is what you always get when the source is second-hand.
Now, does it not seem strange to you that all mystical traditions require a purification process that essentially neutralizes our conformity to social conventions? It is called "purification" because it is designed to remove the veils of illusion that cloud our direct perceptions of the way things truly are. One of the major scams perpetrated by all western religions is the denial of our true identity with the Divine One. Not so strange that it may take years of self-examination, often with the guidance of an experienced teacher, to peel away the layers and come into the light of more wholesome perceptions about who we are. Swami Padmananda at Yasodhara Ashram used to say, "Enlightenment means lightening your load." She meant the load of false perceptions and misconceptions we all carry around and defend so tenaciously.
So we return to the Kundalini system of spiritual development which is intended to help aspirants remove the layers of social grime that obscure the light of divine intention. In the second chakra, we come to examine our social training during the preschool years of growth and development. This is a time of serious vulnerability because children between the ages of two and five years are physically active enough to challenge the supervision of their parents. They are curious and busily questing about all aspects of their lives and have enough ego developed to confront the social norms their parents would like them to adopt. So dutiful parents usually find it necessary to bear down with some determination in trying to channel youthful energy into the paths it must take in order for the child to survive socially. This is inevitably painful for the children involved because they are not mature enough to defend themselves and are essentially at the mercy of those who would oppose their natural instincts which are not always socially inclined. In addition, the young ego needs to test its strength and wants to have its own way. So the conflicts that ensue may become traumatic for both parties. All of this, the conflicts, the pain, the sources of the obscurations of reality and the missing, repressed parts of oneself need to be recovered in order for healing to take place. This is what is meant by purification.
Erik Erikson (1968) writes about the crisis of Trust vs Mistrust that occurs during the first years of life (roughly birth to two years). He says that, if our needs are met with regularity and we are treated with respect for our human dignity during infancy, we develop a sense of basic trust that the universe is friendly and that our needs will be met. This then generalizes to all our experience with others and the environment. However, if our experience is painful and we are neglected or abused, we may go through life distrusting each and every comer as well as the universe's ability to provide for us. Furthermore, the trust or mistrust that is developed during this period colors and influences all subsequent learning and development in such a way that the foundations of our lives become more and more dependable as we go through life or, conversely, more and more unstable.
The reason this reminder comes at this point is that early learning has remarkable staying power. In fact, early learning rivals current learning in terms of its persistence and ability to influence our lives. This is seen most dramatically in elderly people who remember vividly details of their early life when, at the same time, they might not be able to recall what they had for breakfast. Therefore, our initial learning about trust will, inevitably, extend itself to our current relationship with the Divine One.
What we often do, in fact, is to project all of our parental and authority figure issues onto the image we have of God. And then we respond to the Divine One as we did to our parents or the supervisors of our childhood learning. We may deny Its power and authority, or deny Its entire existence if we wish to negate the whole relationship we suffered at parental hands. We may argue, rage, grieve, hide or flee from what we perceive to be an omnipotent Divine figure. Incidently, that is how children perceive their parents. If our early experience was benevolent, on the other hand, we might easily accept the Love and protection of a heavenly Father or Mother.
So what do we do if we are unable to trust in a Divine Power? Spiritual practices are one answer to the dilemma. When we make a habit of trying to connect with the Divine One and to become open to relationship with It, the distrust may be gradually overcome. This is because we slowly but surely gain a new, more direct experience of divine power that is firmly based in the everyday realities of our adult lives. However, don't expect miracles. Habits of a lifetime are not easily reversed, and it may take years to get rid of them. Still, modern psychology with its body of research on habit formation has given us reason to persist. Undesirable habits can be extinguished though sometimes with difficulty. So there is hope and room for creative change to occur.
Some of the spiritual practices that may assist in the process are meditation, chanting, prayer, prayer dance, reflection and journaling, contemplation, concentration exercises, Hatha Yoga, JnanaYoga (classes in self-examination or self-study), Karma Yoga (the practice of selfless service), Bhakti Yoga (devotional practices) etc. The last unit in this book will explain these practices and others in greater detail. Meanwhile, you will have a chance to experience some of them as part of the exercises in this guidebook as you go along.
Exercise: God as Parent
1. Do some self-reflection and then write a paper on how your image and perceptions of God or the Divine Power (however, you may conceptualize It) reflect your experience with early parenting, as well as you can remember it.
It might be useful, in organizing your thoughts, to first make a list of the characteristics, personal qualities and behaviors toward you that you associate with each of your parents or those individuals who raised you. You might include some notes about the quality of the relationship you had with them. You needn't stick to the preschool period, but try to get at the prevailing patterns that influenced you during your early years.
You may find you cannot remember much during the preschool period. That usually means the experiences you had were especially traumatic, and so they were split off from memory. If you focus your intention on that period of your life and/or if you meditate regularly, you may find that your dreams and daydreams will soon reveal material that is germane. However, you should trust any disinclinations that may arise and let them guide the research. To do too much violence to one's defense mechanisms can precipitate a crisis. On the other hand, do push the limits enough to make some progress. Your Higher Self can be trusted to reveal the information you need at a rate you can process without traumatizing you if you tune in and ask for assistance. There will be some exercises later on to teach you how to do this, so do not get upset or discouraged if you find yourself very resistant. Just let it go. Sometimes we can plug in an intention, then confidently leave it alone to germinate in its own good time of ripening.
Incidently, in this regard, most everyone has no memory prior to about two years old. This is because the mind was not developed enough to make or retain images, so experience was coded into the body instead. This is why massage can bring up emotional trauma. We will see, in this book, how the image-making faculty comes into being.
Be ruthlessly honest as you begin to confront these issues. This reflection is only for your eyes, so you needn't be concerned about someone else criticizing your process. If you are not honest, you just perpetuate the illusions and get nowhere.
[time lapse = two days]
2. Now, perhaps allowing a day or two to elapse between these two parts of the exercise so you forget what you listed in the first part, make another list of the characteristics you associate with the Divine One. If you don't acknowledge a Divine Power, reflect on why this is so and indicate the reasons why you do not. When the two lists are complete, compare them and notice any similarities or differences. How do you account for the similarities? The differences? Is there evidence for projection? Projection means you are attributing your own stuff to others and then responding to it as if it was theirs and not yours. What does this information mean to you in your current life? Do you react to other authority figures in the same way? What would you like to keep and what would you like to change in these patterns?
3. Write a paper that summarizes what you have learned as a result of these reflections. Then file this information away in your journal or a safe place. We will return to it later in the guidebook and continue to work with it.
Incidently, if you haven't already, you might want to secure a looseleaf notebook in which to keep your work and these lessons. A looseleaf notebook works better than a composition book because you may want to shift materials around or to add things later on. For example, it is fun and intriguing to compile a dictionary of your own symbolic system. Since everyone's system of meanings is different, it is not safe to use the interpretations of others in self-analysis.
The obvious answer is that the only person, besides the Divine One, whom you can absolutely trust is your inner Higher Self who is the representative of the Divine energy in your life and being. The problem is that you may not know how to contact this part of yourself, or even to be sure that it exists. Part of the reason for this indecision is that our culture does not support either self-confidence in exploring this territory, nor a belief in a superordinate mental system that would allow you to access the information you need directly. What I am referring to is intuition which, generally speaking, is a right hemispheric function.
The solution many people elect to use during this period of initial searching is to use some form of divination to help them understand what is going on at higher levels of consciousness. Now there isn't any real magic in divination. In fact, you eventually grow out of the need for it as you develop your own intuitive strengths. It just becomes defunct when you can access the information you need directly without an intermediary tool. However, in the beginning, it helps to have a way to focus your questions. There are many of these: Astrology, the Tarot, Runes, the I Ching and artistic productions, to name a few that may be familiar.
All of these devices have one, basic process in common. They are all projective techniques. Just like the tests used in psychology to access unconscious content, these techniques allow you to externalize your unconscious material, so you can apprehend and work with it. They are basically non-threatening and relatively innocuous.
Art. To take the most familiar of these first, most art work is projective in nature especially the art which has withstood the evaluations of time. This is because the inspiration for all good art is drawn from universal archetypes or patterns of human experience. Archetypes are patterns of those images, events or feelings that we all have in common due to our evolutionary heritage such as the things that accompany human nature or our existential dilemmas. Two examples would be the Great Mother or the Hero. These archetypes are found in every human culture and seem to emerge from the unconscious without any prior training.
If you think about a piece of art you like and may even have in your home, consider what it is about it that attracts you. What qualities of feeling and emotion are embodied in it? What happens to you when you gaze at it? The same questions can be asked about music, drama, literature and dance. All of these evoke something elementary in your experience of being human. That is one of the major criteria for good art.
Astrology. Astrology has bad press these days and is widely regarded as superstition, something that we might play with in a newspaper column or one of those small booklets that can be picked up in the grocery store. Most of us don't take it very seriously and soon forget the messages. There is probably some justification in this attitude since it is likely that someone just decided to take pen to paper and make up some interesting predictions. However, on the other hand, there is a serious, and very venerable body of evidence that astrology does, indeed, have reliability and predictability. It may not be what you think though.
Whether or not there are rays of influential energy coming from the constellations and planets is not the important point. What is germane is that the system is set up in such a way that people can use it as an entrance into their unconscious processes. If you study it for a while, you will see that astrology makes many and often divergent predictions for a given chart. It suggests character traits that, in a single chart, may differ widely or even be incompatible. Then you will notice that, as you choose to interpret your chart or as you read someone else's interpretations, you select those items that do agree with your experience of yourself and neglect to record or remember those that do not. This is projection in action. Your unconscious mind is latching on to those aspects that it wishes to acknowledge and ignoring the others. Such a correspondence opens a gateway of communication with latent parts of yourself that may prove to be very useful for you. You needn't be concerned with what is overlooked as it is probably not something that needs attention at the moment.
The Tarot. Tarot cards have a long and interesting history. Some folks say that they originated in Egypt, others that they encode mystical information that needed to be hidden from prosecutors during the medieval period when the Church was on a witch hunt. It seems to me that a case can be made for the latter interpretation. There is a more than a superficial correspondence between the Kabbalah and the Tarot, for instance. In general, the major arcana (sometimes called trump cards) refer to mystical practices and initiations while the lesser arcana are used to represent everyday experience.
If you take the trouble to learn how to lay out and interpret the cards, you will see that, once again, you are connecting to something that was formerly hidden from your conscious mind. If someone else reads them for you, the information is channelled through their subconscious or unconscious mind. However, even this may be more or less accurate information since we communicate on these levels as well. The important thing to remember if you are having someone else do the reading for you is that, to the extent to which that person is not clear about their own hassles, they may pass on their disruptive energies to you and cloud the issues under consideration. It is much safer to learn how to do it yourself. Another caution is that, if someone is doing the reading for money, they may be tempted to tell you what they think you want to hear. That kind of stuff is useless except for entertainment purposes.
Runes. The same process operates in telling runes. If you examine the book that is given for interpretations, you will see that many options are given from which you may select. As in astrology, your choices are made by intuition. All of these systems are symbolic. Symbols, as we will see later, are the "words" of the intuitive mind and, as such, each carries many meanings. We choose what we need from the smorgasbord presented.
It helps in working with these systems to try to be open, flexible and a bit unfocussed. Otherwise, what you will get is what your ego wants to notice, not what is actually present. This is especially true when the symbol seems to have unpleasant or negative connotations that we may prefer not to address. However, keep in mind that the dualities that we are tempted to honor do not actually exist. That means that what may at first appear to be negative may, in fact, have an important developmental core or implication for further growth. An example of this is the death card in the Tarot or the Hagalaz rune of disruption. Both signify radical change which may be unpleasant and seem undesirable unless you tune in to the opportunity for new growth that lies within it. So there is always the transcendental aspect in divination symbols, for that is what their main purpose is: to foster spiritual development.
I Ching. As with the other systems, the I Ching is also projective. One chooses from the many interpretations that are offered what is most germane to one's own situation. In all cases of projective divination, there is a randomized element (the data and hour of birth, shuffling cards, drawing a rune or runes from the bag, throwing the coins or yarrow sticks) which brings up the symbol or symbols that appear to be the response to the question one has. This seems to leave a space open for fate to intervene. In fact, what intervenes is one's own selection process. Nothing in spiritual development happens by chance. There is no such thing as fate, only a person's desire to avoid taking responsibility for his/her own life and destiny by attributing it to someone or something else.
Exercise: Projective Techniques
1. If possible, buy or borrow a Tarot deck, a set of Runes or the I Ching. The I Ching does not require any special equipment except three pennies to throw and a book to help you interpret the results. The Tarot is a deck of cards, and the Runes are a set of stones or tiles with the runes carved into them. All should have a book of instructions that tell you how to use the tools.
Following the directions, set yourself a divination task. Make notes in your journal about the interpretations you come up with and what significance they have for your spiritual journey. If possible, repeat the process several more times, perhaps on another day, and compare the results. Did you find that the results spoke to your present condition? Did they answer your questions? What, if anything, in the results was new to you? How do you account for that (either way)? Did you have an "ah ha" experience; that is, the results gave you a feeling of deja vu or an insight that was partially familiar? You might expect this from a true projective technique.
2. If you could not find the tools mentioned above, or if you just want to, do one or both of the following:
a. Either buy an astrology book in your local market or bookstore or follow the astrology section for your sign in the newspaper for a week or so. See what you think about its value as a predictive tool. If you have had a chart done, do you think it reflects your personality? If you have not had your chart done, you can do one yourself with the help of an astrology textbook. You will probably find one at your local library. It might be possible to find someone on the Internet who would cast a chart for you. Do a little research on the topic. You don't need to go to great expense.
b. Get some watercolor paper, a brush and a set of watercolors or tempera paints. You will only need red, blue, yellow and white paints because you can mix these to get any other color. You could use the felt pens instead, if you have those. However, tempera has a nice texture with which to work. You can even use your fingers to paint with if you wish. Then, without trying to paint anything recognizable, just let yourself go and play with the colors on the paper. Make something that is pleasing to you; or, if you are in an emotional mood, let that guide what you paint.
Then stand your masterpiece up on a table or chest, walk across the room and look back at it. Notice your first impressions. Does the painting reflect what you were feeling? Does it give you any information about yourself that you were not aware of before you did it? Wait several days and come back to it. Are there any new insights on this day?
Make some notes in your journal about your experiences with projective
The Way. What all of these divination techniques have in common is that they can serve as an intermediary liaison between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind. They can help us access information about ourselves and our lives that is not available in the conscious memory or data bank. They are tools of the intuitive mind which knows not only the goal but also the route for the spiritual journey.
If we pursue this information in good faith and for the right reasons, which do not include monetary gain or notoriety/fame, what we receive will be positive and growth-producing. One caution that will appear throughout these books has to do with the danger of getting ego-involved with psychic powers. As we develop spiritually, we find that access to the intuitive realm becomes easier and more and more fascinating. There is a huge temptation to exploit what is learned for monetary gain or ego gratification, self-importance, fame, etc. To do so is a serious risk to one's soul because it is using spiritual tools for material gratification. That causes what is traditionally called a "fall," meaning a fall from Grace which can plunge one into a dark night of the soul where the aloneness and apparent isolation from the Divine One is profound.
Psychic powers, or siddhis as they are called in Yoga, are meant to be used in selfless service to others. So, inexperienced spiritual seekers are always advised to ignore them as much as possible except perhaps as a sign of progess in the journey. This highlights the necessity of a teacher to guide one around the pitfalls. However, as there are more and more of us on the spiritual path, it becomes more difficult to find a qualified teacher. So we must find a way to access the inner teacher or inner guidance which can take on that role. It is my hope that these guidebooks will lead you to the inner guide, for that is my intention.
There are numerous approaches to meditation, and this makes the subject a bit confusing. Yogis work up to meditation starting with self-study and self-discipline (Yamas and Niyamas), body conditioning in Hatha Yoga (Asana), then learning how to control the breath (Pranayama)and withdraw the senses (Pratyahara). This is followed by concentration (Dharana) and, finally, meditation (Dhyana) itself which is inner concentration as opposed to the concentration proper that focuses on an external object. Meditation may be defined as ".. the effort to cease thinking and to attain mental tranquility in order to attain insight into the nature of Reality or Sunyata." (Tyberg, 1976, p. 253). Tyberg goes on to say that meditation as one of the six paramitas (ideals of spiritual perfection) has the three stages of 1) thoughtfulness and 2) contemplation ".. wherein discriminated meanings and logical deduction and rationalization will give way to intuitions of significance and spirit; [and] 3) Samadhi or that state of tranquility that comes as the mind enters into unity with truth and a perfect love-filled imagelessness which brings .. transcendental powers, faculties and graces." (p. 255) This timeless and mindless state of Samadhi is the goal of meditation. For more details on this progression, see the section on "The Eight Rungs of Raja Yoga" in Book I, Unit 2.
My take on all this, based on my own experience in meditation, is that what you are doing amounts to a kind of unfocusing. In my normal, everyday mode, I am usually very focused and I concentrate on whatever it is I am doing. That seems to me like a left-hemispheric kind of function. It is as if the mind is a kind of lens which can focus and control mental energy when it is in an analytic mode. In meditation, on the other hand, I let go of this focusing and let my mind open out rather like a satelite dish to better receive via the intuitive mind. So it is possible to shift back and forth between the two major types of cognitive activity that we know about and we call intellect and intuition. It seems reasonable to me to assume that this shift from intellect to intuition would feel like stepping through the crack between worlds since one's experience is so different from one to the other. And most of us are so unaccustomed to the latter.
But, you may say, I have full use of my intuitive faculties. And well you may. But, if so, you are not in the dominant majority of the educational elite whose training has been almost entirely and exclusively focused on the development of intellect. I remember the hue and cry one year, soon after I returned from the Yoga Teacher's Course at Yasodhara Ashram, when I decided to give equal time to the study of intuition and intellect in an Educational Psychology course I was teaching. The students, most of them, thought I had "lost my marbles." They literally didn't know what intuition was. A few others were delighted to find their habitual modus operandi validated for a change.
One of the important points to remember, in this context, is that the intuitive mental system is a very valuable receptor tool for accessing spiritual domains. And its skills can be developed with practice just like any other mental faculty. You are never too old to open your mind to new possibilities.
If you have not already done so, begin a meditation practice. Please plan to continue it indefinitely as meditation is the "royal road" to enlightenment. At the beginning, you may sit for a minimum of a half hour. Try to work up to an hour a day by the end of the first month as you get used to the practice. It will be difficult at first to find the time, and you may discover that your mind and/or ego is very clever at generating reasons why you can not sit for this long a time. However, it takes that much time just for the mind to settle down and begin to leave you alone with the silence.
Find a quiet, out-of-the-way place to sit where you will not be disturbed, a corner or even a closet will do if your living space is cramped or busy with others' activities. You may have to arise earlier in the morning to get the time and quiet you need. However, you will soon find that the meditation gives you more energy, so you will not miss the sleep.
It is important to sit erect with your spine straight, so the chakras are in alignment. If you are comfortable sitting cross-legged on a cushion, good for you! If not, or if your legs go to sleep, it is all right to sit on a chair preferably on the edge of it with your knees uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor. If you must lean back, put your buttocks all the way back in the chair and then put a pillow behind your upper back to support your spine in the upright position since most chair backs recline. Adjust your clothing so it does not bind you anywhere.
Close your eyes and begin to watch your breath. Allow it to become soft in the back of your throat. Let it slow down, and watch how the mind also slows with the breath. The two are connected. When one slows, so does the other. So taking a few deep breaths will help to settle the mind. Thoughts will come and go, inevitably. It takes a long time of practice before the mental chatter ceases. However, when you become aware of thoughts, simply let them go and bring your attention back to the breath. This is all you do - just sit there wrapped in your dignity, watching the breath. It is your time. Claim it.
Review Part I. In A Path with Heart if you need more help getting started.
Keep a log of your meditations. Your entries need not be extensive unless you just want to reflect on the experience. But jot down some notes each day, so you can follow your progress. You will find, after a month or so, that you can see some progress, and you may find the calmness spilling over into your everyday life.
So teachableness does not mean being a passive recipient of tons of information that must be memorized for an upcoming test. It means reaching out for the guidance offered by one who has gone before and who knows the way. It means you have discovered that you cannot pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and so you need a little help. Humility means acknowledging that you are willing to restrain your pride long enough to find a new direction, to seek a new way Home. It means being prepared to give respect and consideration to the one who is offering guidance. Most spiritual teachers try to lead you out of your old, false self into the Light of the Higher Self. Educare !
Now we are bereaved. There is nothing to take the place of mother love when we grow up. We are supposed to create and defend ourselves, to parent ourselves because there is no one else willing to do it for us. Adults in our society must be mother and father to themselves. Even if our parents are alive, it is considered a weakness to run home for help or nurturance when we are feeling needy or in need of body contact. We are supposed to develop an autonomous ego identity in adolescence, and then be prepared to go out into the world and fend for ourselves which includes meeting and coming out ahead in all kinds of unhealthy competitive situations. Essentially, and for all practical purposes, we are orphans. It is no wonder that young children often fantasize that they are adopted when they feel themselves to be estranged in a hostile, motherless world. As adults, we have no omnipotent Mother to protect us. There is a Father, but no Mother.
That this is a critical problem is reflected in that fact that most of us find it very difficult to believe that there might be a feminine side to the Divine One. Our beliefs have been shaped in the shadow of a patriarchial deity who is judgmental and distant, one who views us as sinners or wrongdoers who must atone for the evils we are constantly doing before we can be admitted to the company of the elect. This is a model of exclusivity. You cannot belong to the club unless you are properly deferential. Humiliation (called "hazing" in college) is the price of admittance. This is not humility in the sense given above, but humiliation in the sense of devaluation of self-esteem and self-value, and sometimes desecration of the body, mind and ego. This is not a model of co-creation. Rather it resembles the gang-like behavior of small boys on the school playground or the "old boys' club" found in the inner sanctums of big corporations and industrial conglomerates. Women are nearly universally excluded from these groups even when laws and the external facades of the "clubs" give lip service to affirmative action. For example, a woman being groomed for a higher level executive position must over-conform almost to the point of losing her femininity. There is actually a "power" dress code for women. In addition, an upwardly mobile woman must develop a ruthless, aggressive attitude toward her colleagues and underlings and be prepared to make enemies to the death in her struggle for power.
Now, all of this is not to toot the feminist horn though there is need for that too. It is intended to give you a taste of what the omnipresent, riotous and uncontrolled patriarchial attitude has wrought in our midst. This has to be happening, in large part, because of the absence of a mothering counterbalance. We view the earth as feminine and condone her rape. We allow men to rape women with relative impunity at all levels of the society. And this includes not only physical, vaginal rape but also rape of the spirit and the soul. Some years ago, one of my women colleagues who was co-teaching a course in Women's Studies presented evidence to the effect that the reason white, male plantation owners in the days of slavery raped their female slaves repeatedly was to prove to their slave husbands and sons that they were helpless and powerless to intervene. One might see the wholesale rape of conquered women during every war in history as an acting out of the same kind of motivation. This sort of powerful violence and humiliation could only be condoned in an environment of total disrespect for the value of the feminine in our lives. We need a Divine Mother to help us reverse these trends.
To get in touch with this aspect of ourselves is to tap into an eternal source of regeneration and transcendence. However, respect must be shown for the power that may be unleashed. The deep feminine is found in both men and women, but is more likely to be feared by men as its cyclic nature and feminine characteristics are less likely to feel familiar to them. It is that in us that threatens to overwhelm our rational controls and plunge us into madness. And it is a rare person who can face it directly and survive intact. That is the reason we protect ourselves from it, as we might shield our eyes from the direct sight of God. This is the wellspring, the fountainhead of the unconscious mind and the infinite connection with Divine Mother.
To tap into this resource is to brave the elements. To succeed is to bring back intuitive inspiration for one's creative endeavors. However, this journey is not to be taken lightly, and I am not recommending it as an experiment. It should be undertaken only by someone who is psychologically healthy and who has taken pains to clear his or her life of neurotic tendencies. For an ego that is overstressed may easily collapse in such an encounter.
The deep feminine is being presented in this context only to let you know of its existence - that there exists a formidable force that stands over against and next to the Consciousness that conceived the idea of a universe. We might think of Consciousness as the idea-generator and the Unconscious as the power that manifests that idea. This is Divine Mother in all Her glory. She is not to be trifled with.
Exercise: The Feminine Face of God
Read The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins (1992). Then continue as follows:
1. If you are a woman, write a paper on your reaction to the book. What kinds of thoughts, images and feelings did it bring up for you? What happened in your body? Were the authors telling your story, or do you feel they overextended their point? What new insights did you have about your own situation? In what ways has patriarchy invaded your life and diminished you? In what kinds of situations were you confronted with your second-class citizenship? Who were the key people who indoctrinated you? Were they mostly males or females? How do you feel about authority figures, and how do you react to them? What do you think needs to be undone in your life as a result of this kind of conditioning? How will you go about recovering your rightful status as an equal partner in the creation of your life? Make a list of some first steps you might take.
What kind of relationship did you have with your mother? With other women? Do they support you or compete with you? How well, if at all, do you relate to a goddess image or presence? If you do not or cannot, do you feel your life is deprived as a consequence of that lack? Would you like to recover the Divine feminine? How are you Divine Mother?
If possible, gather a group of women friends and share your insights with them.
2. If you are a man, write a paper on your reaction to the book. Did it make you feel defensive? To what extent, if any, are you guilty of abusing women, putting them down, trying to silence them, humiliating them or trying to exclude them from your activities - honestly. Are they smaller than you and your male friends in the back of your mind? Do you ever ridicule women? If so, under what circumstances? If so, is this only in the presence of other men? What kinds of behaviors do you expect of women? Make a list of these expectations. Does your image of a wife differ from that of a lover or a woman friend? In what ways? Why do you think that is? Is your mother larger than life in your mind? Is your father? Which one held the power in your family? What effect did that have on your perceptions of male and female roles? Is there a pattern of behavior that you would expect from your wife? What is it? What behaviors do you expect of yourself in a relationship with a woman? What is your concept of the male role? When you have gotten this information together, see f there are any changes you would like to make in your outlook. If so, what steps will you take to initiate these changes? Where will you begin?
Who is the goddess to you? Do you feel that worship of a goddess or Divine Mother would diminish you or open out new vistas for you? Is there a Divine Mother in your Higher Self? Have you met the feminine in yourself?
If you have an opportunity, discuss your thoughts with some of your male friends and see how they respond? Are they defensive and in denial? Do they ridicule the process of self-examination and, if so, do you think that is related to their attitudes toward women?
Exercise: Chanting: If you can find a musical instrument or the tape so you can learn the melody, chant the following mantra to the goddess Tara. (The tape is called Om Tara and is available from Timeless Books, P. O. Box 3543, Spokane, WA 99220 for $9.95.) Tara is the feminine aspect of the Buddha, and she is conceived as the bodhisattva of compassion. A bodhisattva is one who has achieved enlightenment and who chooses to return to earth to help others on the spiritual journey. This is her mantra:
A A A A A A A ^ C A^ G G G
Om Ta--ra tu---ta--re tu---u---re---e so---ha
G G G G G G G ^ A G^ F F F
Om Ta--ra tu---ta--re tu---u---re---e so---ha (Yasodhara Ashram, 1986)In essence, this means: "(I praise) Her who eliminates all fear" and "Her who grants all success."
Chant this for 15 to 20 minutes a day or longer if you can. You may accompany yourself on an instrument or chant it a cappella. It may also help to have an accompaniment if you are one of those people who feels a bit insecure with the sound of her/his own voice. You may also play the tape as background music while you work. (Tape is available from Timeless Books, P. O. Box 3543, Spokane, WA 99220 for $9.95, code = 3190. The tape is optional but useful.)
Watch what the mantra does to your body and your mind. Keep a log in your journal of what you experience. It is not necessary to write extensively, just jot down a few notes that will help you recall what happened. Even if nothing happened, that is relevant, so note that too. Notice any changes over time.
We have been looking at ways to open up to the intuitive mind and become more receptive to the guidance within. This is a process that will take time to come to fruition, so patience and letting go of the need for results is very useful. Here, we have made a beginning. Please try to keep up the practices. It is difficult at first especially if you do not have a support group. But do make the effort. And, if possible, try to find some like-minded friends to do the practices with you.
Casteneda, Carlos. A separate reality: Further conversations with Don Juan. New York: Pocket Books, 1971.
Casteneda, Carlos. The teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui way of knowledge. New York: Pocket Books, 1974.
Erikson, Erik. Identity, Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton, 1968.
Kazantzakis, Nikos. The last temptation of Christ. New York: Simon & Schuster, A Touchstone Book, 1960.
Tyberg, Judith M. The language of the gods. Los Angeles: East-West
Cultural Centre, 1970.
You are now ready for Unit 3. Breathing into Life and Soul. In Yoga, the breath is believed to link the mind and body. The second chakra represents the astral plane, that space between the physical and mental bodies. Unit 3 explores those connections.