This blog, which began as a piece I started writing around the end of 2009, is meant for those who already know me. I wanted to be able to speak with my own voice, rather than to spend a lot of time and effort trying to create an appropriately beautiful and felicitous expression. I didn’t think I could do it anyway, so what you will get is my regular voice with its sometimes pompous dissertations on my favorite ideas, its sometimes self-deprecating emotional pieces and its jumping around from one thing to another without proper transitions. I have given up on the idea of “writing a book” in favor of just telling my story. Hopefully it will convey the sense of process, since it is the inner process of spiritual unfolding that interests me.

I have received some feedback from old friends who take exception to some of my characterizations of Siddha Yoga and the Buddhist teachings. I do not claim to be right - it is just my story.

I wanted to show how an apparently inexplicable set of events in an apparently inexplicable order can somehow end up with a happy outcome. I believe that the mystery of life, present always and in all things, is ever working its divine magic in our lives, however ordinary they may appear.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chapter 11: Resolving

How Things Unwind

According to Buddhist teachings on the mind, there are different ways that thoughts are resolved into Awareness or pure consciousness. One is described as similar to the coils of a snake naturally unwinding themselves. If one simply sits with an apparent dilemma or with any mental phenomena, it unwinds itself naturally. This is called resolving and is an ongoing process.

After one becomes firmly established in Awareness, the resolution process is described as being like a thief entering an empty house. The thief is faced with nothing to steal, nothing to do. The dilemma no longer exists.

I realized that I still had a dilemma, since I was reacting with negative emotions. When I first visited the ashram, Swamiji told me that I would be the one to teach him Buddhism. It had all looked very positive. But once there, I found that when I tried to present my ideas to Swamiji, he immediately and viscerally reacted against them. We sparred in our usual way. My sister’s visit, two months after my surgery, brought this into focus.

She agreed with my assessment of the situation, which was in itself very healing for me. She tried to convince Swamiji that the gonpa had been good for me and that it was a good place which she herself had visited and benefited from. She got nowhere and saw his resistant attitudes. But she also saw my intransigence. She told me I had to stop being confrontive. As always, it was the Mars. I was so combative, argumentative, and competitive that no matter how I masked it or swallowed it, the energy of it came through and set off Swamiji. How perfect!

I decided that I had to give up combat and find a way to express myself independently. I was supported by a new astrological interpretation. The whole house system put my north node in the first house, the house of independence. So I declared my independence - in an inner way, of course.

I just gave up wanting the means of expression to be given to me. I decided that this was up to me and so I prepared to take the reins and to leap into the abyss once again. Upon coming to this decision, a great calm descended. I began to pray to the universe to provide a way for me to move forward without any negativity. Upon making this decision, I no longer felt trapped and my great love for Devi and Swamiji was unblocked.

It felt so good and so right. There were numerous positive signs - invitations, possibilities, openings. I began a meditation group in a suburb of Melbourne where I used any terminology I wished. It wasn’t that much different from the meditation groups I led at the ashram, but the participants were not Swami Shankarananda’s disciples, which made a subtle difference.

Teaching independently and writing this piece provided me with an outer resolving, and my meditation practice continues to provide me with inner resolving. Again and again and again, there is letting go of the sense of dilemma, of the sense of negativity, of the sense of being tied up in a knot. The resolving goes on and on.

Give Up All Negativity

One of the most powerful and life transforming teachings I received from Lama Drimed was in an advanced dzogchen retreat. It was a very simple teaching, which was, “Give up all negativity.” It was explained that this was the key to success in practice. I was profoundly stirred by this simple teaching and have made efforts to put it into practice in my life. It was quite easy while living at the gonpa, since by the end, there were no difficult relationships for me there.

During my time at the gonpa, however, there was one relationship to which I knew I had to apply this teaching and that was my relationship with Gurumayi. When I decided to leave her, I was too afraid to be honest about it and instead crept away under the pretense of going to New York City to study NLP. My fear, dishonesty and negative feelings had festered as an inner wound for years.

Because I had left the ashram in such a cowardly and defeated way, I was very happy that I had been able to leave the gonpa so positively. When I left the gonpa to move to Australia, I was open and honest about what I was doing and Lama Drimed was extremely loving and supportive. Little by little I was bringing light to dark places in my psyche.

I had blamed Gurumayi for many things for a long time. That had melted away during my stay at the gonpa, when I really began to see that my own karma and stuckness was the cause of my suffering in every situation. There was a period during which I had very frequent dreams of her, which came to an end along with a positive feeling.

Once at the gonpa, one of my housemates came to my room and told me that there was a woman who was a disciple of Gurumayi’s attending a program there and that she had been told she should see me. I said OK and she soon arrived. When she saw my pictures of Baba and Bhagawan Nityananda and Ananda Mayi Ma sitting side by side with pictures of Dudjom Rinpoche, Chagdud Rinpoche, Lama Drimed and others, she burst into tears.

She had felt a split between her love and loyalty to Gurumayi and her new relationship with Lama Tsering, an American woman lama who was a disciple of Chagdud Rinpoche. We spoke for a while and I tried to reassure her that she could have both connections in her heart.

This also helped me subtly because I found myself in the position of supporting someone who loved Gurumayi. I visited this woman’s center where she invited me to lead the Tara puja at a satsang program. She also held a Siddha Yoga program on a different night. She was a loving devotee and this to me trumped any notions of correct or incorrect which I would have previously held. I saw that with Gurumayi’s retirement from public life, the universe had handed her on to another beautiful woman guru.

When I got to Australia and unpacked, I put up the pictures of Gurumayi which had been packed away since I had left South Fallsburg in 1992. It felt liberating. I took the idea of unpacking completely as a metaphor for the inner process of resolving. It is another way of bringing light to dark places, in this case the darkness of old suitcases. Writing has also had this effect.

One night about 9 months after I moved to Australia, I had a very vivid dream of Gurumayi and decided to write her a loving letter. Shortly thereafter I received a facebook invitation from an old friend who was close to Gurumayi. I assumed that because she was contacting me she had left the ashram, but when I wrote back and asked where she was and what she was doing, she said she was still in South Fallsburg.

I intuitively knew it was a mystical response to the letter I had written to Gurumayi but hadn’t mailed. What I mean by “mystical” is that I don’t think it was in anyone’s conscious mind that this communication was happening. It was a message for me only. At least I chose to interpret it in this way.

I sent a message to this old friend conveying my love to Gurumayi and never heard from her again. I discovered that I had only love in my heart for her, as well as the conviction that she was doing well and in a very good space. This was a kind of miraculous culmination to a slow recovery.

One thing I got from the Buddhists was a meditation practice in which the thoughts in the mind, when left alone, will resolve themselves. It is a way of holding the mind without interfering in any way, whether by indulging, rejecting, antidoting, or reacting to the various thoughts which play in the mind.

This training in meditation is now applied to the living of life in which karmic events arise both inside and outside. The challenge is to hold a place of oneness and openness and at the same time participate in the dance of life without a sense of separation. This is the essence of what I have received from the spiritual path.

Yoga Means To Join

At the end of November, I was invited to a reunion of all the people Baba had given sannyas to. It would take place in Santa Fe in June, 2010. Swami Chetanananda very generously offered to buy me an airline ticket so that I could attend this event. I sensed that things were in motion for me.

As time went by and with the inner decision made to move forward with my own work, I began to see that the model I had had about coming to Australia for the benefit of Swamiji and Devi had been egoic. I was ridden with agendas for other people. A true bodhisattva does not aim to correct errors, to mold others or to fix anyone. The real way to be a bodhisattva is to embody the motivation. It is about loving everyone just as they are, without an agenda to change them. As always, life is the true guru.

I have always loved Sharada Devi, the wife of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. She is known for her teaching on not seeing faults in others. On her deathbed, she uttered the following words, “My child, if you want peace, then do not look into anybody’s faults. Look into your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own.” These were words I had long cherished as an aspiration.

It has been a challenge to tame my obstreperous mind. Once in the 80’s, I was hanging out with a group of Baba’s swamis and one of them presented us with a zen riddle or koan. There is a goose in a bottle. The goose is large and the neck of the bottle is very small. There is no way the goose can get out through the neck of the bottle. The question is how to get the goose out of the bottle without breaking the bottle or hurting the goose.

My answer, of which I was quite proud, was “Break the bottle.” I was immediately told by the disapproving group, “You can’t break the bottle. It is against the rules.” My reply was, “Just break the rules.” It seemed like a wonderful solution to me but the group didn’t like it at all, saying it was just like me.

The correct answer was, “The goose is out of the bottle.” The solution was a matter of just changing one’s mind to another reality. Here the mind is changed, not the bottle. It is seeing that there is no problem, rather than fighting to alter the physical reality. I didn’t appreciate it very much at the time.

Now I seem to have mellowed and I like the solution very much. I find that as I write this, the desire to break bottles and to accomplish things is fading. I see that instead of changing the world and people to match my idealistic model, I want to love it all just as it is.

Although I will always have an interest in schemes of regeneration, transmutation, and spiritual growth, there is less urgency and less ego in the expression of them. The great saint Jnaneshwar in his Amrit Anubhav, said that although there is no real need to express the teachings, still there is the pleasure of expounding. It is like that.

I had wanted to share what I had received and as I do this, I find that there is more peace and the sense of having little left to say or do. The old joke about Confucius, the Buddha and Frank Sinatra comes to mind. Confucius said, “Do”. The Buddha said, “Be.” And Frank Sinatra said, “Dobe, Dobe, Do.”

Swami Shankarananda extols the power and virtue of laughter. It is one of the powerful ways in which he transmits his gifts to others. His humor and his love brightened my life during my sojourn in Australia. And so it continues to unfold. All I have to do is to keep going.


Once More Into the River

On May 14 an angry encounter over a trivial matter sent me to my room to sit and ponder my situation. My initial response was my usual one when faced with difficulty, which is to withdraw or retreat - some version of “I’m out of here!”

As I sat in this mood, suddenly everything shifted. There was a massive downpouring of peace and light and love and the certain knowledge that it was time to move on. I didn’t see a man dressed in green, as in the story of the man with the inexplicable life with which I began this blog, but I received a clear and powerful message in a sublime manner that it was time to go.

There was no trace of negativity in this “download” – only a vast and vibrant field of love and light. I saw that I had accomplished what I was meant to accomplish in coming to Australia. On the one hand, I had arrived at a place of acceptance of Swami Shankarananda, which was without negativity and pain, and on the other hand, I had also arrived at a place where I knew that I was to begin my own work, whatever that might be.

I shared my experience with Devi and Swamiji from this field of love as we sat in my room. There was some resistance and concern, but over the ensuing weeks, it began to resolve. By the time I left, the feeling was smooth, loving and peaceful. During this time I had intuitions of spiritual work being accomplished on a very subtle inner level.

From time to time, fear would arise. Where would I go? How would I support myself? I knew that I had to hold to the higher vision and not go down the road of investigating these questions. It would be revealed. I disciplined myself to deal with the issues at hand, namely packing all my stuff and arranging for it to be shipped to my brother’s.

As I began to share with friends in the U.S., several invitations were received. At least I would not be homeless at the outset. My mind played over an imaginary map. It would hover over places in which I had friends and connections and over places with a warm climate. I tried to keep this inquiry free from fears and mundane agendas. Arcata? Florida? Southern California? Marin County? Hawaii? Ashland? Atlanta? I played around with some astrocartography, the branch of astrology which deals with relocation.

Meanwhile, the resolving of the relationships continued in a very subtle way. I was determined to hold to a positive state of mind, a state of love, acceptance and peace. Although the parting was very emotional, I managed to move through the various airports and arrive at the swami reunion in a positive and happy mood. It felt and still feels like a bardo or intermediate place – between one thing and another. Of course, even this ordinary life is considered to be a bardo. There is only transition and change.

The original plan for this blog was to tell what I got from the Buddhists, but that plan arose in a relatively stable situation. Now that my situation is in flux, it seems appropriate to share a little of what is going on presently, which is why I have added this addendum.

The swami reunion was wonderful and reawakened old feelings and connections in a most positive way. Then, on Gurumayi’s birthday – of which I was reminded later in the day – my morning meditation included the idea or inspiration that once I finish my story of what I got from the Buddhists, I should move on to what I got from Baba, which was a totally new idea for me.

On a purely factual level, I can share that I have been checking things off on the list of things to do, which I made mentally in Australia when I first knew that I was moving on. These included buying a car, picking up and storing my 29 boxes from Australia, and finding a place to stay.

I visited the gonpa and then went on to check out the Arcata area. On my first day of house hunting, I got an email from an old friend with an offer to rent their house from August to March while they visited Asia. So I will be living in Trinidad, eleven miles north of Arcata, for the winter, as my new life unfolds. During this almost effortless outer unfolding, there has been a significant inner process unfolding in my daily meditations.

The swami reunion powerfully awakened the connection to Baba’s mandala or energetic circle and many inspirations are flooding in. I feel that my job now is to stay open. At this point I have no idea where any of this leads, but am happily floating down the river waiting to see how it goes on from here.