Sunday, 15 April 2012

What is Health?

And I've thought very carefully about that title, given that an acceptance of its opposite as real is erroneous as far as instruction goes.

But instruction also insists that I must not deny the existence of the thing, i.e. sickness, although once the error has been accepted it is "only an indication that immediate correction is mandatory".

And so I have recently found myself, well over the last 12 years more or less since 2000, struggling with ill-health, systemic candida and all that that entails, upward and downward movements towards better-ness, then worse-ness, finding life impossible and then just do-able, yet steadily moving upwards, thankfully, until a few years ago when a level of health was realised that I had not yet experienced in this lifetime.

It may be of great comfort to many that I have finally found the years of continued health concerns (a.k.a. worry and stress) on diet, supplements, what's going in, what's going out, what I need to do in terms of therapies, detoxes, diets and life-style changes, are quite unimportant once you get to the crux of the matter (interesting use of word there!).

So what has brought on this revelation in terms of health? Well, bear with me because this will appear to be unconnected for awhile, but I beg you read on...

Last year I travelled in India. I stayed in ashrams and practiced yoga and meditation and reached a sort of persistent bliss-state. Yes, the yogi's are right about that being achievable! But at the same time I was experiencing this bliss my health was failing. We can clearly say there was some sort of conflict here - another post on that perhaps - and my lack of health became somewhat alarming. I was experiencing colitis-type symptoms which would have sent anyone else to the doctor, or emergency room even, forthwith. The fact that my experience with the medical profession has not been particularly positive over the years, coupled with my success in healing myself from debilitating illness over an 8 year period, made me decide to deal with this problem on my own by utilising my personal knowledge of herbs, diet and what works for me that I have gained over this personal healing process; a true scientific endeavour, although possibly non-transferrable in terms of medicinal prescriptive measures.

But anyway. I got better on my return to the UK. I healed myself from illness again. Wheat came out of my diet completely and I went on a severe candida cleanse of no sugar, no dairy, nothing that might incite a fungal reaction, and the bleeding stopped, completely.

However, I was still very high on this bhakti yoga which I had been doing in India. Bhakti is devotion to God and it feels amazing. The problem is in the egoic mind's choices on how to express such a devotion to God. I have no other intention but to serve God. And so when the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation course appeared in a magazine that I subscribe to, Miracle Worker, it felt utterly correct that I should do this, this would be my bhakti here in UK, in the West. I could continue to serve God here in a practical way.

I joined the course and pretty much immediately upon doing that my health deteriorated to a state in which I became scared to leave the house.

From the beginning of the course I noticed that there were some huge mis-creations going on within the organisation. For example, there was a prominent belief in lack which came out very obviously in clunky activity designed with the hope of alleviating this fear of not being able to continue as an organisation due to not having enough money. Activities that could be seen as money-grubbing perhaps. Now I'm well aware that this is quite a common error for us humans, but I had presumed there would have been some healing done on this one. There was a lot of chat about abundance, but it was quite clear nobody had really got the point on what abundance actually is.

Moreover, there was a lot of chat about the reality of the shadow, as well as this continued seeking for condemnation we all do when we're not listening to ourselves. Judgments swayed towards the negative arising from an impoverished evaluation of other's personal expression. It became clear that this wasn't a place for true heart openness, unless you accept that you have issues. For example, I would say something that expressed a fear coming up and it would be jumped-upon as a condemnation I had against myself, another, or the group, without the option of just discarding it as illusion. A solid reality. Unchangeable.

Fear was always given this concreteness.

These things hit me physically, like banging my toe against the radiator in the morning. It was really painful.

Undoubtedly I had made some assumptions as to how the course would be managed. These assumptions came from the fact that the course was advertised in Miracle Worker, the magazine printed for the community of A Course In Miracle students in the UK, the Course in which we are instructed, repeatedly, to discard any belief that we don't have enough. We are told, instead, repeatedly, that there is no lack in the universe and everything is available to us, God being loving and beneficent. We are also instructed, repeatedly, to discard any notion of the reality of the "dark-side", knowing that whenever light is brought to darkness, the darkness disappears, completely, and so it could only have ever been a dream, an illusion.

The Interfaith course was originally set up by a well-known student of ACIM who wrote a lot of the course handbook (at £30 a photocopy!) and then after some years left it to others to manage for unknown reasons, although it is my suspicion that like with any human group or organisation the ego quickly gets itself established, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. But that is only my thought at this moment.

Of course, like everyone, I continue to navigate through life within these structures, groups and situations in which the ego is prominent, how could I not? But I did not expect to have to accept its dictates again in the setting of spiritual ministry.

In any case, it started to become apparent that I couldn't continue without feeling like a total hypocrit. And the straw that broke the camel's back finally came up with the "rule" of payment for spiritual counselling. The Interfaith course requires that in any spiritual counselling session for trainee ministers, a payment structure must be agreed upon and rigidly adhered to.

Can you imagine going to your imam, rabbi, priest and asking for guidance, and then having a very healing chat with that person, and at the end them saying, "right, £50 please"? Or worse still, going to your priest, rabbi, imam, with a deep issue in your life and them saying, "oh well I can help you, but it will cost you £50 an hour and I can't help you without some agreement on that first"? Or can you imagine going to your rabbi, imam, priest thinking that you need to pay by the hour at all?

Donations come and abundance flows when peace is there. And this peace comes without the structure of economic theory within spiritual life. Economic theory and the barter system should be left to the collective ego, it is nothing to do with God, Spirit, Great Spirit, the Godess, however you wish to call the All That Is.

God doesn't get paid for His services and will always provide everything we need whilst in His service. But the mistake is completely understandable given ignorance of true abundance and the belief in divine retribution and the eternal reality of sin...which by the way doing ACIM clears up for us completely and forever.

Admittedly, I had read this stuff about payment in the Interfaith course agreement at the beginning of the process. But truthfully I had thought they must be joking. This is so far outside anything I'm learning in ACIM and I had assumed (bad move) that we were all on the same page. A more prominent part of the same training agreement was to always "walk your talk", so you might see the insurmountable obstacle I came up against right there. How can I "walk my talk" and be true to my path and yet behave in a manner I know to be spiritual procrastination? How can I knowingly be complicit in the avoidance of making any real changes in the world?

Anyway. Again.

There are ALREADY so many problems with us humans creating the world from this egoic-error-based mind. We have made a total pigs-ear of it all. To find myself in yet another human-ego defined situation, except dangerously insisting itself connected to God, was the end of a long journey looking outside of myself for spiritual connection.

So I left the course.

And the very day I officially left the course I got blood test results back that were completely normal. (My parents had been so concerned about my poor health I eventually capitulated and went to the doctor). The symptoms I had been experiencing decreased enormously and within days I started to feel better about leaving the house.

And so the lesson was given and received - the practical assignment. Health is in my own mind and in reality I decide upon everything that happens to me. And if there is something in conflict within my consciousness, something I'm doing that is against the Truth within me, then it goes straight out into my physical body and manifests itself there.

I believe that we are One, we are God, and all that is shadow in this world is a mere error in our thinking. Actually, I don't just believe that, I know that to be true. And so connecting with a group of people with the intention of living that belief, and instead being required to stay in an assumed dark and fearful world where chaos reigns free made me ill.

Thus, health is a state of no conflict within.

So, on that note, back to the job of dealing with the rest of the conflict remaining within, cos I'm not done yet on that, but I'm making good progress, and I have a great Teacher. And now I'm aware that when I make a huge spiritual error, such as looking for God in worldly structures and expecting to find Him there, I'm gonna create for myself some really big conflict and make myself sick.

I should have known really. In fact, I did know, and that was the problem. Lesson learned.

THE LIAR, by Niramisa Weiss

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Interfaith reflections on the Divine Feminine, Sacred Masculine

The third meeting of the Interfaith Seminary in January 2012 focused on what the foundation calls Abrahamic Traditions, subtitled as an investigation into the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine. I'm not entirely sure how those two labels are linked apart from perhaps a growing personal understanding of the Kabbalah from my reading of the Zohar in which I understand that God is made up of essential parts represented by masculine and feminine energies, the joining of which is key. I suppose the ideas of masculine and feminine archetypal divinities were felt to be essential parts of any Interfaith course and needed to fit in somewhere; here being the most obvious place to put them, on a weekend that was not really clear in terms of which religion was being looked at, if any in particular.


I'm not attracted to either of these paths as they stand separately, although I have certainly felt the Goddess energy in my life during shamanic practice over the last years, as well as the God energy in my study of ACIM in which all the pronouns within the human and much edited version are given in the masculine gender.

As I understand it, any spiritual practice has at its foundation, and quite often hidden within obscure references, the Oneness that is the basis of the Universe. This is because God is in everything and this fact cannot be escaped, ever, even if it is not fully comprehended. If you gave me some time to research any spiritual practice I could pull out all the bits that support Oneness, and I suggest to you that all the other bits that are left, i.e. from religion at the surface level, are “Separation Management Strategies”. SMS's could be thought of as basic instructions to the ignorant on how to avoid falling back into lower-level realities (lower states of evolution), fearful states which undoubtedly cause pain, chaos and confusion in the human world.

The Masculine and Feminine, divine or otherwise, are two halves of dualistic and egoic thinking, and thus very much part of the right mind stuck in its separation fallacy. The Marriage of the two is exciting to me, but embracing them as distinct entities worries me a little and I’m not quite sure anyone really has a notion of what the Divine Masculine is, outside of becoming a little bit sentimental. I'm going to offer an interpretation of the Divine Masculine right here, which I feel is a little more balanced than perhaps the more common and naive notions of male warrior energy, kindly kingly archetypes, and what not.


Any problems faced in life are most often quite impossible to understand whilst in the thick of them. It is only when time has passed a bit, and assuming the lessons have been learned, that we can look back and explain to ourselves, in a more balanced way, what was going on at the time. To those who look to the Divine Masculine as something from the past, or from the future, and outside current human experience I suggest that they are looking in the wrong place for something that is right here alongside us, and has been so very strongly for around 500 years in the West; at least since the beginning of rational, objective scientific thought and the philosophical notions of the “person”, a separate state in a separate physical body, that thinks and therefore is, on its own. This singular “person” state now interestingly includes corporations and businesses, considerably devious notions miscreated by the collective human ego as projections of the singular fearful ego state that are scarily unable to speak for themselves whilst wreaking havoc on the world.

To me, the Divine Masculine is quite obviously our current God of Science coming with a very Atheist tilt. Belief in nothing is just as strong a position as belief in Something and I suspect that in another 500 years from now, in whatever state we make it, we will look back at these times and see an expression of the Sacred Masculine in full throttle, extrapolated to its maximum with no tempering from its counterpart; a pathological state of collective consciousness.

An important point here is to say that the Divine Feminine existing as a similarly pathological underpinning of human consciousness would be (has been?) as destructive, but in different and maybe unimaginable ways; hinted at in ancient texts and by recent seers such as Robert Graves.

Essence of the path:

Which path? In separation the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine are at loggerheads. The Divine Feminine is the path of nurture, birth, creativity, shamanism, witches and herbalists in a world deeply connected to nature and viciously derided by modern culture. The Sacred Masculine must therefore be this modern culture I mention, our current worldview where this God of Science is fervently worshipped. The Sacred Marriage, which has to be a goal for any sane and spiritually minded person, would approach a collective consciousness state of Oneness again, respectful and accepting. Do we really know what it could be, or what it might look like?

Aside: I suspect menstruation might stop in women when we start approaching this state of Oneness, and be replaced by a conscious Willing of reproduction. It is my feeling that early female humans or pre-humans created menstruation in order that they might get a break from continued and forced sexual intercourse.  The Interfaith course manual talks of menses being perhaps the original human spiritual ritual, and this is supportive of my thesis here, menses being perhaps the first mis-created projected act by higher-consciousness on our planet, something indeed to be celebrated, certainly in terms of the proof in our creative ability, not so in terms of the basis of the need to create such a situation, i.e. fear. Is perhaps all bodily dis-ease connected to fearful conflicted states of consciousness?

Worldview shift:

I have heard from many traditions that the feminine is the foundation of everything that exists in the Universe. I never really understood the wholeness of that until a workshop exercise that took place at the meeting. In this practical experience of listening, reflecting and writing I was the writer, having to note down the non-process aspects of what the speaker was saying. Being something of a scientist I found it fairly easy to split the subjective from the objective content, only noting the facts. During our discussion about the process afterwards, I remembered from my research days that there is no objective reality; even though we accept our approximations as the last word without question.

It must be pointed out that there is only ever approximation (i.e. a choice or probability) in science but we’re not really aware of that, and of course the mathematicians avoid making the link to human psychology, because science is the ultimate projection outwards, and therefore must remain external to minds residing in bodies that believe themselves to be a brain-body thing alone. I’m reminded of one of the most amazing books I ever read, Arnold Mindell's “Quantum Mind” which links every mathematical concept going to human psychology. A beautiful read.

My thoughts on this eventually converged into connecting the masculine idea to that of scientific endeavour. So, the Divine Masculine is the foundation of objective thinking. But there is no true objective view, there cannot be. Even in the deepest reaches of scientific experiment and mathematics, we only ever make approximations on an assumed objective truth. It is all probabilistic. This objective truth is never, ever, reached. So where does this leave the masculine? Does it even exist?

Whatever view we have as a species at any particular time must be consensus. And quantum physics supports this. Perhaps the fact that we have never pinned down our material reality adequately (something required by the Divine Masculine acting without his other half, proving Himself right) explains our obsessive and arrogant need to find this Higgs Boson and solve all problems of the universe (sarcastic type emoticon required here) never mind how much it might cost. When we consider the living situations of the majority of our brothers in the world, do we not see here a form of madness in the extreme?

And so we are currently, in our lifetimes, witnessing firsthand the effects of thecollective human ego driven by its goal of separation. It acts under the label of “masculine”, the rational (irrational actually) thinker, the “right” one, the proof of that which exists on its own and the real and unquestioned basis of reality. Our support of the masculine consensus is similar to an unconditional acceptance of a deity, whilst the feminine principle, which in truth does underpin everything even in scientific thought (in terms of the fact of infinite subjective possibilities), is side-lined, ignored, railed-against, tortured, put-to-death, silenced, etc.

The fact is that the so-called objective truth emerges from infinite subjective truths, is born of them, whilst yet remaining within uncertainty at very fine levels of measurement; just one reality of an infinite choice of them. And so the masculine can only ever be a part of the feminine, in divinity and/or otherwise. We are One, but in the material Universe we do appear to be mostly feminine, if you have to give a label to it. Did we create the notion of the masculine to ensure continued separation? Has it got out of hand? Shall we not just let it go and consider ourselves the same, and perhaps find another label for that sameness, if it is needed at all?

THE LIAR, by Niramisa Weiss

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Interfaith reflections on Hinduism

Currently I am undertaking a two year learning process with the aim of graduating as a spiritual counsellor with the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation based in the UK. Each month we look at one of the major world’s religions and have to produce a written piece for homework. After some editing, here is my submission for Hinduism.


On a visit to Kedarnath in Northern India, a Hindu pilgrimage town devoted to Siva, reputedly where Shankaracharya left his body, Nandi and I connected. Nandi is the little bull that sits looking at Siva. He is the gatekeeper to Siva and Parvati, as well as Siva’s vehicle. His name means ‘he who grants joy’ and he represents the serious student and seeker of enlightenment who looks only to Siva as personification of the goal. Nandi also represents the male principle and all that that entails. It is considered that only those who have conquered desire and achieved self-knowledge can ride the bull like Siva. The connections I made between Nandi and my life experience were very strong. He seemed to be a loving, kind but oh so powerful character, not to be messed with; the most appropriate student of Siva, strong yet humble, faithful yet independent. In Kedarnath, he smiled at me and welcomed me. He gave me a gift, a thread bracelet tying us together. The feelings of warmth, love and acceptance that were coming from his statue slathered with butter and peppered with coloured powder that sits facing the temple which houses perhaps one of the oldest Siva lingams in India were overwhelming. I love Nandi like no other Hindu representation of God. And I really, really, love him. I adore him. Interestingly, the picture I took of him at the time shows him in full regal and imperious state, and not at all how I was seeing him at the time.

Recently I visited a local Siva temple near to my home. This temple is so authentically Indian I could have been back there. On wandering around the murtis I found myself in front of Nandi again. My heart burst with love and tears filled my eyes. I became very sentimental indeed and was transported immediately back to India, to the ashrams, to the people and the Himalaya. The feelings were as intense as they had been at Kedarnath and I was amazed that a proper statue of Nandi lives so close by. I became elated about this and I vowed to visit him for a chat once a week. After a few weeks of this I realised I was getting funny looks from the traditional Indian priests and some of the congregation and I realised I had to rethink this situation. It was one thing being in India where all the temples are open to everyone and no-one has a problem about who might pop in for worship or to just visit. But here in London, in the West, where the Hindu community is in the minority it is certainly not going to be the same situation. I had misjudged this completely; I had not come down from my prolonged trip and spiritual high in India, and didn’t see that I was needing to readjust to the cultural differences here so as not to offend or worry anyone, including myself. I stopped visiting Nandi, but he stays with me at all times in my portable temple which goes with me everywhere, so I’m not sure it’s important or matters. And I learned something about diplomacy and tact there.

In Hinduism God is considered to be everywhere, in everything, as everything. This fits entirely with my view of what we are, where we are, and why we are and so I am very attracted to Hinduism as a spiritual practice and it fits hand-in-glove with my study of A Course in Miracles. I have also been studying yoga for the last 12 years, a practice that comes from India, and what started as a desire for physical fitness and emotional calm has become a personal scientific investigation into All That Is, and an effective manner of answering the One question for myself, What Am I? It is interesting to note that my personal spiritual journey through illness and beyond really began at the same time I decided to start attending yoga asana classes in Holland in 2000 due to experiencing undue stress at work. Somehow, I knew that yoga would be the answer, and it was. The very first class I ever did, at the Iyengar centre in Amsterdam, gave me some stillness in a mind that had not been at all still since a very young age. This was a powerful and immediate proof of the efficacy of yoga as a holistic well-being therapy and even though at the time the main surface consciousness focus I had for doing it was body fitness, the peace had come and I used to blabber on about that to people, and then forget again and think I was doing it to have a healthy body only!

I see now that yoga is a rigorous science. The only difference in the yogi’s idea of science and that of common culture is that any findings are personal and cannot be replicated externally. You must experience the truth yourself or it is not necessarily true. None of the evidence is second hand and this is very appealing to a mind somewhat habitually looking for the weak point in any argument. You really get what you pay for. Even the most cynical non-believing doughnut can find a great deal of benefit from doing yoga asana classes, and these days in the West the number of classes, packed to the rafters with people who don’t know what an Om is, must be testament to that.

Having spent some time in India it appears, outside of the veil of the caste system, that every human can be considered a Hindu. It is a welcoming faith where all human beings are considered part of the same system and does not insist on conversion or declare itself the only way. There is something very sane about this.

I started my life-changing study of A Course in Miracles around 5 years ago. This year I undertook an intense and challenging yoga teacher training course at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta centre in Kerala. It was a wonderful surprise to hear the words of Christ being echoed in the Advaita Vedanta philosophy classes I took on the course. This undisputable connection has strengthened my foundation in yoga. Advaita (non-duality), I believe, explains Reality, but does not describe the more familiar dualistic world which is explained through other ideas such as myth and the Hindu pantheon, maya and the law of karma in particular. Although very logical, we can say that karma and the continued cycle of death-rebirth must itself be part of the illusion of duality. The more worldly practices of Hinduism remind me of my own shamanic approach to being in the living natural world where, for example, energies are revered and worked with and nature is given to be benevolent and loving. I feel a close connection to Hinduism in both its highest philosophies as well as its pragmatic worldliness.

Being in India was like hanging out with God every day, the most inconsequential things in India are steeped in spirituality. There is no separation of the mundane and the sublime, everything, every atom is a part of God, and that is reflected in the country, the people and the faiths there.


I would say that the “separation” or ego generated ideas found in Hinduism are as follows: the biggest is the very prevalent idea that enlightenment, although a very real pursuit, is not for us in this lifetime. Somehow the ego has managed to persuade us all we’re not good enough to go for it and it won’t be for many lifetimes that we get a shot at it; certainly this thoroughly limiting belief does not come out of Hinduism alone. It is a most obvious a win for the ego as we wonder exactly which lifetime it will be, if it’s never this one?! If true, would we not see some people openly going for it in this lifetime? But we don’t because the ego has persuaded us to stay small, and stay here. We fear being labelled an egomaniac if we think of wanting to be enlightened. Wow! A perfect example of the irrational logic of the ego we live with every day, the opposite of what we believe being the truth instead. Another win for the ego is that “being enlightened” does seem to be a real delusion for some who clearly still have a lot to learn and so we avoid the escape plan even more perhaps.

One way to address this challenge is to observe ourselves as part of the “we” and not a separate, alone and defensive “I”. Anything anyone says, even if I don’t disagree with it, is part of “we” and thus part of me. There is a practice in groups of not using the “we” whilst talking, because it assumes you speak for everyone and a lot of people get scared about this. Well, if every thought everyone ever had is also my thought, then everything anyone says is part of the “we”. However, as people are very determined to maintain the structure of their own truths, and feel fear when someone includes them in a statement that is outside of their defined reality, I think it’s probably better to be sensitive to that in those situations, as they arise, although how can “we” approach unity and Oneness if we’re not prepared to let go of the “I” which insists on being separate and defining strict boundaries for itself in terms of delineating where it and other egos stand in terms of belief or opinion? Another win for the ego there for sure! And a learning in compassion, which can't be bad, sorry ego :)

I’m convinced it is very possible to become enlightened in this lifetime and have made it my clear and only goal. I’m really done with all this suffering and have no desire to go around again, and again, and again, each time convinced again that this madness is real. I’m seeing very clearly why getting out of this is the only sensible choice. This is the only worthwhile activity. Everything else comes second to getting to God, to being and living who/what I truly am.

One thing that really worries me in Hinduism is the fatalistic belief in the prophecies about the Kali Yuga (the current age) which state that humans will be greedy, lying and cheating, amongst other things. India is unbearably corrupt and one wonders how anyone can make a difference to that when the common belief is that, oh it’s Kali Yuga, and that means I’m justified in behaving this way, a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is really worrying considering current global ecological matters and I don’t know how it can be addressed.
Not advocating skulduggery at all, I note the resistance to acceptance of the smallpox vaccination by India was resolved by the forging of holy texts. It seems, in India, unless it comes from God (via holy texts) it is not applicable, and even destructive commands/ideas (perhaps even those posing dire danger to life on earth) are given great weight.

It was interesting to note that recently in India when a prominent politician went on hunger strike to protest against corruption the government backed down the day after there was a mass protest by Indian businesses, which closed spontaneously for a whole day. One wonders what was the most powerful influence, the hunger strike or the shops closing? He had already made a similar protest the year before. He was able to start eating again after 12 days. The following day it was business as usual and it was clear to me that the message of anti-corruption had not filtered down to the rickshaw drivers on the Paharganj and I'm sure I didn't remember them being quite so aggressive 15 years before when I had visited.

I am very challenged by the hypocrisy of holy men, Indian yoga teachers and Indian men in general who have a very poor view, maybe no humane view at all, of women and the feminine principle. Indian women appear to share this opinion as there is very little dissent amongst them, an example having been set for them in tradition, myth and legend. The Hindu religious stories support these ideas. For example, Sita is the most exemplary wife due to her faithfulness to Ram and the consorts of deities are ‘perfect’ devotees. There is a lot of promiscuity amongst the male deities but the goddesses never step out of line. The Indian feminine ideal is insipid and quiet. Indian women have very little, usually no voice. Unmarried women, particularly foreigners, are regarded as available sexually to any Indian man, married or otherwise, and being in India presents a daily wrestle with these mistaken ideas. If you are lucky to be born wealthy India, then you can have a chance at a gender-based freedom, particularly if you manage to get out of the country to be educated in the West and see a new view, true for both men and women from the minority wealthy classes.


Hinduism is super-cool and perhaps has the clearest and most obvious agreement with Christ in ACIM than any other faith I have studied as yet.

THE LIAR, by Niramisa Weiss

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Abundance before asana

The last of the yamas in the Raja yoga system of Patanjali is aparigraha, meaning non-possessiveness, no hoarding or no greediness, these states of mind arising from the fear of imminent lack that all unexamined human psyches believe to be real and justified.

Whether it is a lack of love, sex, beauty, youth, land, money or more often a whole collection of lacks, the lack is inescapable and very, very scary.

The fear of death must stem in part from the fear of the lack of a body!

These ideas promote the most outrageous behaviour in human beings. A perceived lack of love when equated with sex justifies faithlessness in marriage at best. A perceived lack of beauty or youth promotes self-harming and mutilation in the form of plastic surgery and the persistent feeling of not being good enough in the judging eyes of others, such an important measure of worthiness for us all. A perceived lack of land has fuelled most of the wars, and many smaller disputes that we know about over the centuries and millennia. A perceived lack of money induces a justification of dishonesty and criminal activity at all levels of society. To open your eyes a little on this, a recent study in the UK found that the people most likely to commit fraud were middle class, white, male and homeowners; a really needy group of people, I don’t think. We can imagine that might be astonishing reading to someone scratching a living. But it goes to prove the generality of the idea of lack and how it affects everyone, regardless of status, culture or any label or concept of self at all.

We build our personal identity on how much we have or how little we have depending on which way the pendulum has swung for us. So a person may see himself in terms of how many objects existing in space he has been able to amass and everyone with less looks up to him as the standard. Or a person may see herself in terms of how little she has and how no objects existing in space ever come to her. She may find herself defending her position as the victim of lack. It seem like these two identities are separate and distinct, but on closer inspection they really look to be the same. The perception of lack, or want, is there in both cases and it is this that is fundamental to our concept of self and all that that entails.

Not believing in lack is the state of abundance.

I believe abundance is what is truly meant by aparigraha. This is a state in which every need is met. There is no perceived lack at all. God, the Universe, nature and life itself provide everything a person needs, nothing is missing. The abundant state of mind is relaxed, peaceful and joyful. It has also eliminated the mental chatter built around perceived lack and can thus focus on creating.

The level of trust required to live continuously in this abundant state of mind is usually too much for us. Masses of healing work needs to be done to even begin to understand what that state of mind might be.

Now is a good time to be talking about this. Not only is it Christmas, a time in the Western calendar set apart to celebrate the birth of Christ into the world, but it is also an interesting time in terms of the global economy. Both these things are hugely tied up to this fear of lack that we have as individuals and as societies.

Personally I wonder how many people are aware of what Christmas really means in the West and western-type cultures in the East. Even in practicing Christian families, do the kids really get it when they are bombarded with the very powerful and sinister message from the television, the internet and the media generally that they need to have objects existing in space to be fulfilled and happy, their school mates supporting this idea by being more highly regarded once having secured the ownership of such stuff.

We talk of the “economy” as being something really important, but none of us understand its inner workings. Economists speak in given and acceptable terms that do not even attempt to hide the obvious policies of greed used to safeguard us from the dreaded lack, doesn’t matter if millions of people must suffer as a consequence, we’re alright Jack, business as usual, and everyone in the family can have a Playstation this Christmas. Then we’ll be happy. Isn’t it?

Do check out this marvellous article from the New Internationalist which will have a more political focus than anything I’m likely to say here.

It really won’t help matters me going on about all that, we’ve all heard the truth a million times, and yet we all still suffer from perceived lack, nothing changes. It is the fact that nothing ever changes that should be noted, no matter what anyone says or does. And this is because it is only the perception that is the problem; the actions come from the thought. You cannot fight the actions or consequences themselves, you have to change the mistaken perception at the root. Only then then do we have a chance.

If perceptions aren’t fundamentally rearranged, then any solution to the problems caused in the world by greed is simply a weak bandage over a seeping wound. There is so much in history to prove that statement, do I need to provide an example?

Knowing that we have enough already, is the solution. And this isn’t an intellectual knowing, because we all know we have enough food to feed the world. No. Not that sort of knowing. It is a spiritual knowing, a knowing coming from deep in our hearts that there can never be a lack for us, as a single person, and from that point all actions we make are based on a deep understanding and knowing of abundance and thus, slowly, the tide is turned.

In some circles, particularly quasi-spiritual ones, it seems to me abundance is misinterpreted. It is clear that what is in the mind is what is perceived in the world and thus an abundant state of mind, i.e. a mind with no concept of lack, can attract great wealth indeed, of course, but this is not a necessary result of an abundant state of mind and it must be stressed that an abundant state of mind does not need such riches, having already enough. However, this can be very attractive to those who miss the point and are fuelled by the desire for riches – truthfully, most of us, right?

Someone wants to be rich because there is a perceived lack of wealth.  Re-pattern the mind into believing itself wealthy already, let go of the desire to be rich, and wealth will come. But this is not easy and the personal work must be done before we can even approach this evolved state of mind. It is not surprising that we see many enticing spiritual practices promising wealth to its membership, and as it is very unlikely wealth will come so membership remains until able to drop the story. Hence the continuing of pyramid scheme organisations where the very few at the top are indeed very, very rich, but the masses supporting their wealth most often spend more money than they make. A nice reflection of the state of the world methinks.

It’s good to know that this is the only reason why dubious pyramid schemes like Amway can exist, manipulation of the perception of lack. Successful manipulation of any sort uses the belief in lack as the key to success. Find out what someone wants, offer it to them and you can successfully manipulate them. And here we have the main tenet of advertising: find out what someone believes they are missing and sell it to them, if they don’t believe they are missing anything, make them believe that they are.

Why not examine your thoughts to find out what you believe is missing from your life, what you think you need to make you happy? Ask yourself, is this thought true. Do The Work on your thoughts. You may find you are wrong, and wouldn't that be a relief?

"When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you." Lao Tzu

Some of the thoughts going on in an abundant mind perhaps: Wakes up giving thanks for the rain and the clouds and the wind outside, beautiful expressions of nature. Goes to work and gives thanks to the thousands who provide a transport service, prepare the coffee, cleaned his spot the night before. Gives thanks for the colleagues, the communication with loved peers. Gives thanks for the challenges of the day. Gives extra thanks for the anger arising in certain situations which provide a moment for learning and a need for stillness. Gives thanks for the moments of stillness throughout the day; moments in which the mind feels connected, safe, fully involved. Gives thanks for the food, the water, the heat, the light, the comfort. Gives thanks for everything received. Gives thanks for everything not received.

If you give a thought away, you keep it. It is doubled. If you give an angry thought away, at least two people are fearful as a result. If you give a loving thought away, at least two people are blessed as a result. Loving thoughts are abundant thoughts. Fearful thoughts are separating thoughts. Give your loving thoughts away and keep them. Change your mind from giving-is-losing to giving-is-keeping, giving-is-multiplying.

Abundance is gratitude. Abundance is giving.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Brahmacharya before asana

I’m keeping the Sanskrit for this one as, again, there’s such a variance of translation of this word into English that we can perhaps better maintain the essence of it without altering the look or sound of the word itself. Personally, my sense of its meaning is encapsulated entirely by the Sanskrit as no definition in English appears sufficient. Split the word up and the importance of the fourth of Patanjali’s yamas, or behavioural restraints, can be understood. Brahma is a direct reference to the Divine and charya means, more or less, one who performs virtuous and selfless service.

Commonly considered to mean complete celibacy this is not the full story as committed couples with a serious yoga practice are also observing brahmacharya, with an emphasis on sexual “continence” or control. I suppose the idea of continence instead of celibacy will allow room for debate but essentially it is considered unhealthy to have too much sex which is said to bring problems to the physical body as well as creating energetic obstacles to emotional and spiritual development. Sex is an action in which energy is used up, wasted or spent. When a living being is sick, this energy is usually naturally contained. Apparently, human sexual energy is a potent force which can be redirected inwards. Brahmacharya is about preserving this vital force and using it along the path towards spiritual enlightenment. Conserving the sexual fire is not an outlandish suggestion for a serious spiritual practice and is indeed reflected in many spiritual paths from other cultures, including Christianity and Taoism, for example.

I have seen this particular restraint, or yama, being described as “not corrupting” but I’m not sure this grasps the real essence of brahmacharya. Certainly sexual deviance is unwelcome, but in this meaning perhaps two yamas are broken, maybe three. For sure brahmacharya is broken because there is a decided lack of continence, but the idea of corrupting another person must come under the breaking of, possibly, non-violence in terms of physical or fear-induced imposition, integrity or non-greediness if it is an uncontrolled addiction, or even truthfulness if the deviant finds they must lie in order to get what they want.

Non-violence was pretty easy to describe. It is straightforward, uncomplicated and simple to understand. But whilst stepping through the list of restraints, the outer illusory world soaks into the business more and more and there is difficulty being really clear about what is intended. Brahmacharya is obviously about sex; sex as befits a human being based in an awareness of instrinsic divinity. I don’t know anything about the tantric sexual practices but they do get a lot of air-time and I would bet on it that as westerners we have misunderstood it completely. A safe assumption is that brahmacharya cannot be concerned with the sort of sex human beings who are slave to urges and desires have, or the instinctual sexual acts of the animal kingdom.

Is this part of the wobbly link between evolutionary settled states; that of the animal who is driven by instinctual desire to partner; and that of the Divine who is complete? No-one can deny that the overwhelming majority of us are deeply confused about sex, gender and sexual relationships, never mind how they might fit inside a spiritual life. It is the area where we all have to make an extreme effort if we wish to liberate ourselves, or even approach liberation. It is perhaps the hardest part of this spiritual work that we do. And we have to do it on our own as well as collectively in order to become ready to take the next step. Celibacy deals with the issue very well, but is a little impractical maybe.

Breaking unhealthy patterns of addiction is one of the keys to freedom and sex is a big one, maybe the biggest. We all have found suffering here, which is understandable as every living thing has a deep impulsion to partner and procreate. But from a spiritual perspective we see that every living being inside the illusion of separation, maya, is perhaps only, and understandably, seeking to fill the aching vacuum caused by the belief in the separation from God. Sex is the closest we can get to another human being whilst in the body, and as we commonly consider ourselves to be bodies then sex is the obvious solution to our problem. But, of course, poor us, it never works, sex is never a satisfactory solution to the problem. I mean how can one other person live up to All That Is?

Please note that partnering with someone, making the required concessions or sacrifices, and putting up with them for a lifetime of perceived comfort is not an acceptable goal nor argument out of this problem.

The problem, when seen soberly, is absurd. Why, if we are constantly seeking after a partner, a significant other to fill the void, and when such a person finally appears and inevitably the partnership doesn’t live up to expectation, why do we continue to seek, and continue to consider this seeking a given in terms of what one does? We never question this irrational desire, even though the pursuit of it has never given us what we want. Are we so forgetful? Are we so darn stupid?

A Course in Miracles calls it the special relationship. A special relationship arises from the connecting of two bodies, or egos, where the other ego is so revered that a swap is desired, my poor sorry ego for yours. The swap never lives up to expectation. Limited ideas of self are put to one side by taking on the other’s ego identity and if the expectations are high, within a short space of time the fall comes, the disappointment, and in cultures where divorce is acceptable, we see the resultant high level of divorce that logically ensues. Cultures in which divorce is unacceptable suffer this problem equally - we are all the same of course - the rules when followed giving us proof that the special relationship works, victory for the ego and separation. Behind the veneer of stability in such societies, there is rampant faithlessness, in thought, word and deed, any of those mistakes being as potent as the others. In some very restrictive societies, a desperate and futile defence against such powerful ideas is manifested by the hiding of the perceived temptation - out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, this harsh solution to the problem has merely evaluated the problem incorrectly and perhaps exacerbates it, in thought, in word and deed.

Brahmacharya ensures faithfulness.

The special relationship starts with my unquestioned and unexamined desire for a partner. I think my life can only be complete if there is one other to share it, and so I look for such a person. Perhaps I don’t find one and I spend a lot of time suffering the poor state of things. Perhaps I find one, and then the real suffering begins. But first there is a period of “being in love” which is very addictive and very deluding.

Being in love is based on an unconditional devotion to the one other who is revered and set up as a saviour. In normal life this revered one quickly slips off the pedestal created for them and the trouble begins, no need to go on about that.

But how is this devotion to one other different to devotion to a guru? The energy of the relationship appears to be the same. There is this person who ticks all the boxes and is the epitome of all you wish to be. You swap your ego for theirs, except in this case there is no perceived reciprocation, their identity remains intact, but you have given up your personal identity as far as your ego goes, because you never thought it was any good in the first place; typical egoic thinking.

We hope the guru is observing integrity at the very least, but as we know, if the guru is not actually an enlightened person, as his devotees may believe fervently and erroneously, his integrity can come into question as his ego grows and gets out of hand. And what can happen at this stage we’ve sadly all heard about.

Researchers spend billions of brain cells trying to figure out why groups of people are apparently so easily persuaded to kill themselves and their children at the behest of a madman. They wonder if there is something inherently wrong with the brains of such people. They wonder if there is perhaps a scientific formula available to describe and quantify such situations. They never think of the obvious similarity of guru devotion with “being in love” and giving up your identity for the other as an explanation for such insane behaviour. But it explains it entirely.

Love is blind, as they say, and certainly when you are blindly in love with a person you do not see their negative traits and instead would defend your loved one against perceived external malevolence of any sort. Likewise a set of adoring devotees do not see the negative traits of their beloved and any real or perceived attacks on him or her from outside are defended vigorously. In one famous case the devotees became so crazed they mass-poisoned the local townsfolk in order that their guru, the late Osho, might win a government seat at election due to the fact that no-one against him would be able to vote due to being in bed with salmonella. Absurd, but true. In the end, his main woman took the rap for him, claiming the whole biochemical terrorist plot was down to the devotees, as well as the amassing of arms that had been going on, and he was kicked out of the US to continue his guru-ing in India; with much success as we all seem to have forgotten about that particular event. Interestingly, this situation sounds unbearable to me; can you imagine how he could have been feeling utterly imprisoned by the activities of his followers. What do you do when your devotees go completely mad?! I wonder if he really could possibly have had no idea what was going on, or was just too busy playing with his 90 Rolls Royces to notice.

One big difference between the adoration of a beloved and a guru is that in the first situation you can escape reasonably easily and the fight is usually on with only one other person. Escaping the guru is rather more difficult, even once the body has physically distanced itself from the cult, as has been seen by the need for deprogrammers in some situations. The escapee will usually not have to deal personally with the guru, who is most often unobtainable and out of reach to all but a small elite. The most difficult thing for a person wishing to free themselves from sinister mind control tactics will be the pressure coming from other devotees. Going against the collective thinking is just too scary to consider. Would you have said anything against the school bully when you were a child? Have you spoken up when you needed to as an adult? Most of us don’t. It takes the courage of a lion to speak up at times. Most of us feel it’s not worth it because we know what thoughts we have had about those who did and how we have treated them at some time in the past. And, let’s face it, a person who is trapped inside an insidious cult situation isn’t there because they are grounded and emotionally strong.

Can you imagine standing up to a large group of people to point out the defects in the one who is revered by them?

In my view, answering yes to any of the following questions would signify a special relationship with the guru, i.e. not very beneficial and potentially lethal. (Sadly, when inside such situations, a person will unlikely have the stillness required for honest self examination, but I think it's worth saying in any case.)

If the guru suddenly started to go a little crazy, would I keep quiet and not mention it to anyone? If the guru asked me, or someone I knew, to do something immoral, would I do it or would I keep quiet about it if the person I knew did it? Do I make excuses for the immoral behaviour of the guru and/or his devotees? Am I devoted to the point of drinking the Kool-Aid? Am I too scared to go against the directive, “drink the Kool-Aid”, due to the pressure from the rest of the group? Am I unhappy inside? Does this relationship hide some emotional turmoil going on inside that I’m not prepared to look at? Note: The reference to Kool Aid refers to the Jonestown masacre in which nearly 1000 people, families, children, killed themselves at the behest of a lunatic spiritual leader Jim Jones by drinking an arsenic laced soft drink.

Unquestioned devotion to a guru and falling in love with one other seem to be part of the same principle of special relationship as pointed out in A Course in Miracles, and in the same way a woman stays with her husband after the umpteenth time he breaks her nose, or a man ignores the fact that his wife has just indulged in another extra-marital affair, and a whole populace under dictatorship go silent on the disappearance of their neighbours, so the devotee of a guru continually overlooks any misbehaviour.

Perhaps I’m straying from the point a little, but essentially if brahmacharya is a restraining of the urge to have sex, willy-nilly, thus limiting promiscuity as well as the potential to ‘fall in love’ due to the personal power and grounding that such a practice brings, then maybe all these issues I've mentioned and similar could simply drop away from human experience and us westerners who find ourselves devoted to a guru might not behave in these situations as if we have ‘fallen in love’ or lost our centres.

Special relationships are only part of the story, soon to be nothing of the story. There is another type of relationship mentioned by Christ in ACIM that is beneficial to spiritual development; that of the holy relationship. I see the holy relationship described in ACIM fully encompassing the directive of brahmacharya from the yogic perspective, as well as all the other yamas and niyamas, the two views being complementary.

A holy relationship is a relationship based on truth, love and with a clear and spoken goal of healing. It can be a partnership of any sort, including the guru/devotee relationship and it is every relationship between persons explicitly committed to truth, to healing and to God. It can even be a relationship consisting in a short meeting with a person you never see again. In many cases only one side of the relationship needs to be aware of its holiness and it still functions as such.

I’m finishing here because I have not yet experienced a partnership with another human being explicitly based on the holy relationship and so I do not have much more to say on it. Apart from saying that I'm going for 'holy' for all my relationships, and I’m experiencing a great deal of success in that. But at the moment it is only me that is aware of it, the idea of it has not been explicitly shared with any other. I’m open to experiencing the holy relationship more explicitly and welcome any opportunity to do so. At such time, if there is such a time this lifetime, I will finish this blog on brahmacharya, which currently I am happily observing in its fullest sense.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Integrity before asana

Asteya comes after truthfulness on the list of yamas, the series of ethical rules anyone with a serious yoga practice will be hoping to observe. To me, the translation of asteya appears slightly confused as a number of options can be seen in the writings, such as not stealing, not coveting, not acquiring things other than by totally honest means and even not engaging in anything private or clandestine. A few of my yoga teachers have told me that in a good many cases it is impossible to adequately translate Sanskrit words into modern English and we can only approximate an interpretation. With asteya, however, there is a definite theme of misappropriation.

My favourite translation is integrity. This word encompasses all the ideas given above and many more. Integrity, for many of us, contains the essence of what we desire to be in life. For sure we expect it of everyone else we deal with. We expect honesty and transparency in business. We do not expect to be robbed or ripped-off. And we do not expect our best friend to flirt with our partner.

We say of a person, “he/she is full of integrity”, when we know we can 100% trust him or her and this is not limited to being sure that the truth is being told.

So how to explain integrity?

Let’s start with the idea of theft. You may not steal objects. You may have never stolen an object from anyone in your life, maybe. But perhaps you consistently impose yourself and your ‘needs’ on the people around with little regard for them. Perhaps you are the only person in the universe in your own mind, and this means that everyone must attend to you, and you don’t have to attend to anyone else. In this case, you are stealing the goodwill a person has for you, or manipulating their pathological politeness or tendency towards people-pleasing. This always leaves a bad feeling with the other person and you may find that anyone you treat in this manner finds ways to avoid you. It is not cool. Don’t do it.

On the other hand, and more subtly, if you allow yourself to be robbed in this manner you are also breaking integrity because on some level you know what is going on, you are surely aware that a simple statement of truth will deal with the problem and yet you allow yourself to actively obstruct this person’s right to enjoy honest communication with another human being.

The person that imposes himself has no integrity. The person that allows herself to be imposed upon has no integrity. We all recognise these patterns of behaviour because we do them ourselves. We tell someone a secret expecting them to keep it. We hear a secret and immediately tell another person. We ask someone to lie for us, to support us in some dishonest business. Someone asks us to do the same and we feel immediately uncomfortable. We don’t pay our debts, yet when someone does the same to us we’re infuriated.

The alert to the breaking of integrity is the feeling in the gut. If you are following the principle then you will not feel any churning or discomfort in your stomach when you make the decision to act.

Recently I had a dispute with the bank. They were in the wrong and they accepted that. To recompense they offered me money. And I would have had to sign something to the effect that the matter was closed and I was satisfied; except no solution to the matter had been offered. I would have broken asteya had I accepted and when I considered taking the fifty quid I felt a churning in my stomach and knew I shouldn’t do it.

It goes so deep. Who or what is stealing your thoughts, your desires, your hopes and expectations, your experiences, your time, your goodwill, your good name, your stories, your honour or integrity? Is it the ad-man? Perhaps it’s the soap operas you’re addicted to? Is it the editor of the men’s magazine you believe in? Or is it the man who is having an affair with your wife without you knowing it? Is it your husband? The neighbours? Your children perhaps when you allow them to persuade you again to give them food that you know is no good for them? Are you self-sabotaging? Is the problem you?

Steal “not even a glance – a thought”.(1)

More urgently, as a species we are all failing miserably at asteya, as Hilary Buckwalter quite rightly points out, because we are stealing from the land, from our mother. We take more than we need, without permission and with no concern for the consequences. And even when we are aware of it, no matter how much we do to avoid it - going green, going vegan, going organic, etc - it is simply impossible to not be complicit in some way to the ongoing rape of our Mother, the Earth, the feminine principle of nurture, of nature; the single provider of our nourishment and warmth. We cannot avoid being part of it. It is endemic to our world and thus it must also exist as an idea, deep within us all, because as I mentioned before, we are all the same.

And on the subject of violation, as well as the clear theft of the right to decide in the case of forcible rape, there is a much more subtle and common theft of the right to choose freely within personal relationships in the form of emotional manipulation or blackmail and the misuse of status.

What is underneath all this plunder then? The idea is that we lack something. We see this lack in other people having more than us, more money, more things, more love, more beauty, more innocence, more freedom. And this always causes us to suffer. I see this very well with people who have a great deal of material wealth. They suffer. Indeed they may suffer far more as there is so much more, apparently, to defend from the looming threat of ‘lack’. So the solution is to ensure, insure, to make sure that lack is avoided at all costs. Actions towards the replenishment of this mysterious lack are taken and these actions always include someone else having less. As long as there is someone with less, we temporarily feel a bit better. And here is the foundation stone of the pursuit of profit above all else. And if the 99% think that they are not complicit in this belief system, they are wrong. We are all complicit. It may not be to the extent of banking system abuses. But if we were the bank, it would be. We all do it. We all fear the lack. And we all do what we can to remedy the lack, breaking the principle of integrity in our lives.

The only difference there is between our separate experiences of life is the degree of intensity and the form they take.

We are clearly mad. All of us. There is no integrity in this world.

So what of on the mat? What should we be thinking about here? A few things I can think of are: outside of committed, loving relationships, don’t have sex with your students if you’re a teacher and don’t have sex with your teacher if you’re a student. Turn up on time for class. Don’t hog the floor if questions are allowed, which doesn’t allow others a chance to speak and may extend the class time. Don’t overrun if you are a teacher, thus eating into the next teacher’s time. If you’re a teacher be sure that a small amount of personal opinion will be acceptable but ranting for half the class on what you think about the state of the world is not acceptable and is tantamount to stealing the retreat fees. This list is not exhaustive and your thoughts are welcomed.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself at all times.


1. Alberto Villoldo : Yoga, Power & Spirit, Patanjali the Shaman.