|What Am I? Galen Sharp
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, David Hodges. All rights reserved.
Nondualism is not a religion. It does not have an equivalent
to the Ten
Commandents. It does not offer moral or ethical advice. It is not a
guidebook to life. It does not tell you how to handle abuse, nor how to
organize a political rebellion, not how to escape, nor how to suffer, nor
how to submit.
It doesn't tell you anything (despite the volumes of words we manage to
crank out about it here in this Salon.)
But I can tell you this: if the person in your example is living a life
informed by nondualism her answer to her predicament will be surprising,
unique, and awe-inspiring. It will come from the totality of who she is and
everything that is in the moment that she comes up with it (which is Now,
there is no other moment, ever.)
We are so lucky to have that nice new
paperback edition with the yellow and black cover. It will change from
inspiration to experience, though, when you put down the book and ask
yourself where "you" were while your mind was busy reading the book. Another
thing to try is, whenever Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj says that the key is to
find I AM, pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention. Don't let yourself
be in the position of all those questioners of his, trying to figure him out
or trying to figure IT out. Realize that Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj is asking
you to experience what he is saying NOW.
Why not make that "one day" today? Since you already ARE the I Am, why not
become aware of it?
>Before we can surrender ourselves
>we must become ourselves.
>For no one can give up
>what he does not possess.
I think there is a lot to this little quote. Becoming ourselves is easily
said but very hard to do. I have spent so much of my life becoming what
people expected or wanted me to be as a son, husband, father, employee,
etc. etc. Becoming myself has always been there too but it competes with
lots of other priorities.
Now that I am at a time of life when I have the luxury to look inward and
spend more time alone, I can feel how conditioned I have become to look
outward for what can only be found within. When I learned about I AM it was
like a dim inner door in the distance. Now the door is closer and
occasionaly light comes from within which draws me. And I think the paradox
is that when I am most grounded in I AM, in the emptiness of it, I am also
most in the state that Thomas Merton is hinting that we can get to.
Because to get to I AM we have to learn what we are not.
In Merton's terms, again, once we learn who we are and possess it, then we
can realize that you can't possess something that is already you. All these
bits of ourselves that we assemble become objects in consciousness that can
then float free like beautful balloons released from a child's hand at a
jolly 4th of July Picnic.
> David, hope all is going well. God bless you on the spiritual path with peace
> and joy and understanding.
Thanks Harsha so much. Yes, I would say all is going well. And "it" does
just go - no effort on my part required! Lately events have produced a
mirror for me to look into to see an aspect of my self that I have tried
to disown. But the very fact that I can see this aspect so clearly must
mean that it is arising in the space of "I AM" and will pass in that
space as well, with out causing any ripples in the waters of what is. So
that helps me to remember to not get caught up in it. Is that how the
mirror of Self gets polished so that it can reflect more and more of "I
I read this somewhere recently, and it resonates, that our consciousness
is a mirror to catch the reflected light of the Absolute. When I
meditate now I don't bother to reach out to find any kind of spiritual
activity or kundalini-activity, instead, I bask in that reflected light.
In your blessing to me you mention peace, joy, and understanding, which
is very close to Satchitananda - being, awareness, bliss. Yes, I would
wish that for me and for all as well.
Do I have peace? Lately I have been more at peace.
Do I have joy? No.
Do I have understanding? I hope that whatever I have is, again,
reflected from the Absolute and not a mental construct.
Where is the joy? I don't know. I do know it isn't something to hold on
to, to store up. Perhaps there are more aspects of my self that I need
to own and not disown before I'll get to joy.
Anyway, the same blessing back to you, Harsha! Peace! Joy!
Understanding! Being! Bliss! Awareness!
I am a person of many
interests, from spirituality to creative writing to photography to human
relationships to computers. During my career I bounced around through
various jobs including long stints as a waiter, before coming to rest in my
current computer career, which I've been in for twenty years. A few years
ago I completed my Master's in English (Creative Writing) in order to
re-contact that side of me.
One thing I learned along the way was to not expect fulfillment to come
from the job, but to bring fulfillment with me to the job. When I did that
the work changed spontaneously. I think that even before I learned about I
AM I learned how to create a space of not-doing in regard to the big things
of life. In other words, to not try to make things happen, but to create a
space in which things could come to me naturally, or by grace. Part of that
involved following my interests in any job, following what turned me on,
instead of following the money and the power. Another part involved being
open to the people around me and not missing any chance for Relationship no
matter how trivial. Most people tend to be political at work, forming
intricate patterns of people they like or dislike, people they shun or seek
out based on power relationships. I would recommend avoiding all that and
seeking out heart relationships everywhere - they can really transform any
I have no advice for you about what work you should do. My advice says, you
can be aware anywhere doing any work. Bring awareness to your work, don't
expect your work to provide it. Follow your interests and your heart. Be
alert for the little gifts the universe will give you. You won't get huge
signboards telling you what to do but you will get little signs and signals
if you are conscious and aware and on the lookout.
There is no job that can't teach you something.
There is no job you should keep forever.
There is no perfect job.
Even if a job is nearly perfect it won't be that way forever.
Money is highly symbolic and charged with meaning. As spiritual people we
tend to look down on money as beneath contempt and thus we avoid learning
the teaching it has for us. For some reason I came into this life knowing
that the best way to make good money was to not seek it directly but to
seek value and to create value in myself. Money follows from that without
If indeed I were thinking
"I am aware" then that would be a thought, yes. But the state I was trying
to describe is simpler than the words used to describe it. There are other
ways to describe it, other familiar phrases that have been used: "Be Here
Now". "Attend to I AM". "Be aware of everything but focus on nothing". "Be
a Witness". "Remember yourself".
I am still very much a beginner and I don't think I have achieved moments
of pure awareness that lasted more than a few instants. The thought might
arise, "Hey, I'm doing it!" which of course moves me out of pure awareness.
Or an irrelevant thought stream might spontaneously start up. Now, it is
possible to witness thoughts as they rise and fall. And the spaces between
thoughts. But eventually one of those thought streams (especially if laced
with feelings) proves too compelling and then attention moves away from
awareness to the thoughts. However as I practise this the overall purity of
awareness seems to be increasing. But even on days when my thought/feeling
life is so stubborn that it won't quiet down, the effort is worthwhile.
Lest someone quibble, the "effort" to do this is a different kind of effort
from that required to, say, run a mile or impress a boss or whatever. To
borrow a term from Carlos Castenada, it is a "Not doing" rather than a
"doing." Perhaps it is a relaxing of something that is normally active -
letting go of that restless movement of consciousness through its objects
seeking stimulation, drama, items of interest - to allow pure awareness to
be. Or perhaps it is a shift of focus from outward to inward. Perhaps it
isn't even worth trying to figure out, since what is of value isn't the
words and ideas we have about it, but the "not doing" itself.
Have you noticed any changes in your life by your "not doing",
>professionally, personally, in relationships with people, with the world
Oh yes. There are too many details to unburden myself with in such a public
place, but, in general, I seem much more inclined to let things emerge on
their own rather than force them. It is a feeling that the universe
continually unfolds in a most agreeeable surprising and entertaining way,
without my needing to put my shoulder to the wheel to make it go.
And my intuition seems to be a reliable guide to just about everything -
even difficult technical problems at work.
I would say that there is no moving beyond the witness state
(but those farther along than I say that it too dissolves at some point).
The way I think about it, the think that you do is SUBTRACT from the witness
state so that it gets clearer and clearer. The path of self-inquiry (called
"Insight Meditation" by Jack Kornfield) helps you to realize that parts of
you that you thought were essential, i.e., of your essence, really aren't.
It was a big insight for me when I realized that there isn't just one
observer, but many. For example, when you are with your parents this weekend
and feeling like you are in the Witness state, ask yourself "Who is
observing this?" You may find that your observer with your parents is
different from your observer at other times. I have an observer in me who
can create bad feelings! I have had to realize that this observor is NOT ME,
nor are the feelings it creates. In fact, we all have a multitude of
observors, none of whom are I AM.
We have to understand that the map is not the territory. The
words we use are not the thing itself. Sometimes in my practise of
remembering to come back to I AM, I realize that I have come back to a
remembered feeling or concept of I AM, and not I AM itself. It gets subtle.
I'll take a stab at an explanation. One of my particular problems in life
has been depression, and I am still afflicted fairly often with heavy
emotional states. Since I started being drawn to I AM, I deal with these
states a lot better. Instead of letting emotions take over my whole
consciousness and constrict me into a painful knot, I can usually relax into
I AM and let the emotions float there as if they were clouds in a blue sky.
Then I realize that the feelings are just passing through, that there was a
time when they weren't there and there will be a time when they aren't there
again. After that realization I usually can feel the emotions as pure
energy, and then, as just another aspect of consciousness itself. Usually at
this point the emotions dissipate entirely into I AM. Jerry calls this
process "essencing", I believe. It really works. Emotions within you
that aren't of your essence tend to dissolve into essence when you can
steadily attend to I AM. And this gives you a lot more inner freedom. This
is what I mean by being a more spacious, free person. I have more space
inside to exist, and I am free to experience life in other than depressed,
I thought I'd try to explain what 'I AM' 101 is to me. In order to exerience
I AM throughout the day, I engage in a simple process as many times a day as
I remember to do it. This is the process of bringing your awareness back to
your consciousness. In different words, it is the process of becoming aware
that you are aware. Instead of attending to your thoughts and feelings, you
attend to the very exerperience of being conscious. You actively try to
identify what you are conscious of: sounds, sights, smells, tastes, etc. But
also you try to identify, or note, thoughts as they pass through your mind,
feelings as they exist in their qualities of energy, heaviness, lightness, etc.
This exercise in becoming conscious of being conscious is what Gurdjieff
called "Self-Remembering". It is also an entry-level state in meditation
called the "Witness" state. It is remarkably easy to get into. It isn't a
big deal, really. We are all conscious all the time, it just takes a little
inward look to realize it.
So, you're able to get into this state. Then you follow this Witness back to
its source, or ground. This is the prcoess of self-inquiry. You begin to
realize that anything that you can be conscious OF is NOT the ground of
consciousness. So, I may think that a certain feeling is really part of the
core of my being, but then I realize that it floats in my witness state, so
it is not part of the ground of consciousness. When I realize this I am
closer still to the ground, the essence.
And this ground of consciousness, or essence, is what is called "I AM". At
least it is in this little 'I AM' 101 course. But definitions of I AM are
tricky because I AM really encompasses everything, and yet has as its
essential quality a kind of voidness. (Sorry, maybe that statement gets
beyond the 101 level).
Doing this process of bringing my awareness back to I AM seems to be helping
me to become a more spacious, free person. As was said in the Nisargadatta
quote yesterday, I AM shines forth. My problem is remembering to do it. So I
have reminders, like a little notebook I keep by me at work where I jot down
little statements, sometimes just "I AM" as often as I can, to bring me back
to it. Calling me back to self-remembering, being conscious, noting what I
am conscious of, letting the flow of thought stop if it will, even if for a
moment, to be in the silence of I AM.
Right now for me, I AM doesn't seem to have anything to do with kundalini.
But I would say that my experience with kundalini was what brought me to an
intuition that the next step might be to explore I AM.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj says:
"In fact the entire universe exists only in consciousness, while I have my
stand in the Absolute. In pure being consciousness arises; in consciousness
the world appears and disappears. All there is is me, all there is is mine.
Before all beginnings, after all endings, - I AM. All has its being in me,
in the 'I am', that shines in every living being. Even not-being is
unthinkable without me. Whatever happens, I must be there to witness it."
So, every time I go back to attend to I AM, the dense cloud of thoughts and
of feelings that I used to think were my self start to float, they start to
essence, to turn into energy, into consciousness. And I AM shines.
I just returned frm a two week vacation to find that this list had started.
I am so glad. I have been working with an I AM practice for several months
now, and Jerry has been most supportive of me. One of his recommendations
is Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, excerpts from whose work I read on Jerry's web
page. I had never found his books until I happened upon a harcover copy of
"I Am That" on the bookshelf of my host in Encinitas, Cafilfornia. I read
in it as much as I could while I was visiting there. Then in Gateways
bookstore in Santa Cruz, I found a brand new, freshly published paper back
version! Reading in this book is a wonderful way to bring me back to center
in I AM.
Another author with a more Western slant is Stephen Wolinksy, whose
"Quantum Consciousness" and "The Tao of Chaos" both offer extremely
practical meditation techniques for experiencing I AM and for getting
through heavy emotional states.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj was asked "What benefit there is in knowing I am
not the body?".
He replied, "Even to say that you are not the body is not quite true. In a
way you are all the bodies, hearts, and minds, and much more. Go deep into
the sense of 'I am' and you will find."
Sometimes it seems to me that the fact that my consciousness is tied to this
body is the result of some knot operating at my normal level of awareness.
And it seems that that knot could dissolve leaving my consciousness to roam
anywhere it wants or be anywhere it wants without being tied to the locality
of my physical body. But perhaps also after that knot dissolved it would no
longer be "my" consciousness but just consciousness."
Nisargdatta went on to say: "All you need is to get rid of the tendency to
define your self. All definitions apply to your body only and its
expressions, Once this obsession with the body goes, you will revert to your
natural state, spontaneously and effortlessly...the only difference between
us is that I am aware of my natural state, while you are bemused...we
discover it by being earnest, enquiring, questining daily and hourly, by
giving ones life to this discovery."
I first got started writing in cafe's inspired by Natalie
"Writing Down the Bones", a wonderful book about writing and Zen, as is her
other book, "Long Quiet Highway", about Zen and writing.
My favorite cafe for writing in is Muddy Waters, in Burlington, Vermont -
great atmosphere, friendly people, lots of other people writing. My second
favorite is Cafe Trieste in North Beach of San Francicsco, a place where
you can almost feel the shadow of Jack Kerouac passing by. (Not that I get
to either of these places very often!)
But most of the time I visit my four favorites, two in Madison,
Connecticut, and two in New Haven. Each one has its own personality. For
example, at Willoughby's in New Haven, some ALWAYS spills something each
time I am there. The first time I was there, a Snapple hit the ground.
Other times, coffee. Last time, a guy came in for an iced mocha to go and
he lost it right in the doorway. It seemed to leave his hands on its own
volition, leap in the air, flip over, and splash on the floor. The woman
behind the counter said cheerfully, "Oh, that's okay. We do have a policy
though: the customer cleans it up!" You could probably make something
cosmic or karmic out of that statement.
I find it easier to concentrate in an atmosphere of moderate activity than
in total silence and solitude. I don't know why this is. My writing
consists of this discipline (from Natalie Goldberg): "Keep Your Hand
Moving". You keep writing, following your thoughts. This requires a
meditator's witness attitude towards thought in order to avoid censoring or
interfering with the thought stream. And it induces the witness attitude
towards your thoughts and a resulting deepening of consciousness.
On Sunday mornings I like to stop by a sidewalk cafe in Madison to view the
weekly passage of a group of bikers who stop for their capucchino's,
chai's, and lattes before roaring off again. I imagine that in weekly life
these middle-aged people are investment bankers and stock brokers from
Greenwich or Darien, because there has never been a better dressed, better
outfitted bunch than these. Their bikes are all late model, shiny Harley's
with all the accessories. Their clothes are the finest biker gear,
including lots of black leather uncontaminated by the slightest hint of
grease or dirt. The women wear these black leather chaps over their tight
jeans, and carefully knotted bandanas around their necks. They are well
made up and occasionally speak to mysterious others on their cell phones
while waiting for the guys. Then the group mounts up and takes off down the
Got nothing to do tonight, got no one to be with.
So I went to the video store and didn't find any video I wanted to see
So I went to the cafe and wrote in my journal and drank a latte.
Then I figured I'd go to the LARGE video store. Then I thought, nah.
Then I came home. Then I meditated.
Then I noticed that SHE had been trying to get my attention all along. SHE
was physically located in my chest. In consciousness she was just - inside.
When my attention would wander she would pull me back. My impulse was to
praise her or worship her but she wanted me to be quiet. Then my impulse
was to figure her out, relate her to theories and ideas and myths but she
wanted me to be quiet.
SO - I just stayed there with HER for a while. I continued to do nothing.
But I wasn't alone.
Now I'm writing this to you Salon folks.
Now I'm not.
one large step in
my spiritual development came when I realized that God wasn't "out there"
or "external", but God was and is "inside" me. This lead me on an inward
quest that still goes on, but I now have gotten to the point where I
realize that the very terms "external" and "internal" and "inside" are
really not germane. Those words are like scaffolding that holds up a
building while it is under construction but then it is removed. So you can
think of God inside and God outside all the while that another realization
is under construction that will be revealed at a certain point and then
those words won't be necessary any more. HOWEVER, it is a good first step,
an excellent first step, to stop worrying about the external God, the
sky-god who is "up there" overseeing everything. In my own way of
explaining this, the very meaning of NonDualism is that God is not separate
from creation, from All That Is but instead is identical with it.
I am relating well to what you
say, especially about "the Silence". Because if one is in the Silence and
aware of it at the same time then there is still a bit of Observer
consciousness still on the field. Whereas in ALL-NESS (it's a word now!)
that bit of Observer is absorbed into the Silence as well. But this is
speculation on my part since I've never actually gone there. Or if I have I
don't remember it because...there was no Observer to trap the moment!!!
But lets talk about "soul". This is a word that hasn't come up much on
this forum and I think the definition of it is squishy because it is used
in popular culture in some contradictory ways. Back when I used to lead a
religious study group I could count on getting a good discussion going by
asking people what the difference is between "soul" and "spirit". People
have a hard time with that, most treat them as synonyms, and were suprised
to learn that they are quite different.
As a newly-hatched Non-Dualist I would say that Soul is one
more item in
the field of awareness, one more term of duality that ultimately gets
absorbed into the Silence or ALL-NESS. In a broad sense I think of soul as
the sum total of my thinking AND feeling life. In the popular sense,
though, I think people think of soul when they think of being connected to
deeper feeling currents (for example, music has "soul" when it is deeply
felt, by this definition. Poetry is soulful if it is full of emotion. Etc.)
But for me Soul isn't something I have to plug into or open up to. It is
simply my field of awareness - including feeling. The very fact that I can
say "I have a soul" shows that I AM contains soul and is not identical with
it; and that Soul is not a pathway to I AM. That's the problem with
religious expressions that rely on pumping up feeling. Sure, such
gatherings have a lot of soul, but do the people leave with any more
Realization than when they came? Or did they just have a moving experience?
Then again this is all verbal attempts to define the undefinable. The
problem in this Salon is that we are always trying to talk about things
with words that are beyond words, and everytime we try to trump one
another's explanations of things we move farther away from That Which Is
Poetry is a form for the feeling of being alive. The
Langer said that.
It is a form. Words on paper, lines that stand by themselves, lines in
stanzas, stanzas with titles. Forms: sonnets, epics, lyrics, odes.
A form for the feeling. Feelings. Something elusive to capture in words.
You cant capture a feeling by naming it. I can name a feeling: love,
despair, praise, loss. But that doesnt give you the feeling. But a
A form for the feeling of being. Being. What is it that God gives us but
Being. God. In whom we live and move and have our being. Being. That which
underlies everything of which we are conscious and everything of which we
are not quite conscious but which rumbles beneath the surface of our lives
like a subway train under the streets of New York. That which rumbles in
our dreams, in our reveries, in our intuitions, our glimpses that we dont
quite notice while we are doing something else.
A form for the feeling of being Alive.
We are alive. Life. Life is about Being. Life is what happens to us while
we are getting ready to do something else (who said that?).
When we are young we hang out a lot waiting for our lives to start. We lie
on blankets on the sunny field talking and laughing, or reading books, or
writing in our journals. And someone starts goofing about something and the
group comes together in a moment of shared awareness hey, somethings
happening and then it dies down again and someone wanders off and someone
else arrives and we are hanging out in a group. Or we hang out by ourselves
connecting to the thing within us that searches for deeper meaning, for the
shape of something that will tell us what our life is all about.
And meanwhile Being is what is happening and we dont even notice what a
great Gift it is. And we read a poem and it tells us what went through the
poets mind and consciousness and awareness while the poet was hanging out
at his or her desk or on his or her blanket on some sunny field somewhere
or while the poet was sitting in a café with a cup of espresso, or while
the poet was sitting with a friend through a long evening of rambling
conversation, or while the poet was sitting by a lake, a big lake in the
White Mountains, or while the poet was insomniac in an apartment in New
York or New Haven or Boston. And we read this poem and we love it and we
dont know why and it is because we catch the feeling of being alive.
And this feeling saves us for a while. It saves us from doubt, from
despair. It saves us from loneliness and the urge to merge. It saves us
from the sense that our lives are more meager than our desires and our
dreams. When we are young we hang out a lot waiting for that salvation, a
salvation of meaning, a salvation in which we can tell ourselves that our
lives have meaning and purpose.
And in church they tell us about salvation and they dont really tell us
what we are being saved from, they use the word sin along with salvation
but we the language is too old and it doesnt resonate for a lot of us.
And when we are subject to depression we know what we need to be saved
from. We know it well because it is our constant companion. And we learn
all the ways to touch that salvation. Maybe it is by reading a poem that
connects us to the feeling of being alive. Maybe it is a phone call from a
friend, the kind of friend where you ramble when you talk, each voice
feeding the other as you drift through a chain of associations that becomes
the being of your lives, and when you look up an hour has passed, or two
hours, and you hang up and you have connected to your friend and you both
have experienced the feeling of being alive and you have been saved for
that hour, and for several hours and even days to come, by your friend.
And in church they tell you Jesus is that kind of friend, What a Friend we
have in Jesus we sing. All our griefs and sins to bear. And when we are
subject to depression we know about grief and we know what a friend means
to our grief. And in church they serve us communion and maybe sometimes
Jesus our friend becomes very real to us and sometimes maybe not, sometimes
we are more aware of the annoying way someone is coughing, or of the
failure of the minister to live up to the excellence of the minister who
left some years ago, sometimes we are more aware of the problems we brought
in, problems of money and career and marriage, problems of singlehood,
problems of our own emotions which are like a foreign country to us.
When we are subject to depression every day becomes an exercise in staying
alive. Every day becomes a challenge to get through. Every day becomes an
exercise in lasting until the next day, which seems so far away. Every day
becomes a series of holes which if we are not careful we can tumble into.
Holes of loss. Holes of anger and resentment. Holes of despair. Holes of
emotion. The biggest hole is the hole of giving up. The hole with the
seductive voice that says, why suffer any longer? Why go on this way? What
is the point?
Then we know what salvation would mean. Salvation is salvation from ourselves.
Then we get an email from a friend and we feel connected again. Or a phone
call. Or a stranger in a store is nice to us. Or something on TV makes us
laugh. And we connect to being again, Gods greatest gift, and we begin to
balance out, to find the still center, and our feelings recede and Hope
When we are older we dont hang out like the young ones do in big clumps.
We dont hang out that way, we hang out in our easy chairs in front of our
TVs. Now that our lives have taken shape, now that we know who we will be
married to, and what our children will be like, or now that we know that we
are not going to be married or have children, or now that we know where we
are going to live and who with or that we are going to live alone, know
that we know what our work will be, now that we know what has become of our
youthful dreams and what the ending of that story will be, we hang out in
front of our tvs, or at a café drinking coffee, or we hang out at church,
or we hang out at spiritual retreats, but we are still waiting for
something, we are still waiting for Being, for meaning, for the deep
feeling that we are alive, that we inhabit Gods greatest gift with grace
and purpose and fulfillment. We wait for that feeling, we dont always
connect to it. But we can because it is here now and it is always here only
we have been too busy looking for it to see it. We have been too busy
searching to find. We have been too busy looking for salvation to enjoy the
feeling which is always there and always available that we are already saved.
We already have Jesus our friend. Jesus our friend is the flow of Being in
Gods universe, and that flow comes to us from inside us and is nothing but
us only thinking gets in our way. Language gets in our way. Longing gets in
our way, and feelings of Loss.
And when we are NOT subject to depression we can create a story for
ourselves that will last for 10 years or 20 or 30. We can live within a
story that gives us meaning and purpose. I rose to this level in the
corporation. I wrote this story or danced this dance. I had these wonderful
children or I did this wonderful deed. Or I didnt do any of that but I
made a life for myself and I didnt hurt anyone and I made the best of what
I was given. And that story works for a while, for a long while but there
comes a day and for many it is the day we lie on our deathbed when we
realize what the real story was, and that real story was that we had the
great gift of Being and we lived it out.
The Bible talks about dust and ashes. When we are depressed we know about
dust, and we know about ashes. The depressed person pours ashes upon his
head and rolls in the dust, in a symbolic way of course. The depressed
person thinks about dust to dust, ashes to ashes and sees no way out. The
depressed person is someone whose story has fallen apart. The depressed
person is someone whose story no longer gives them salvation and no longer
keeps them balanced and tuned. The depressed person reaches that deathbed
moment a lot earlier in life than most people do, the moment when the Void
opens up, when Emptiness is realized, and then Grace happens and he or she
touches Being, the greatest gift and comes back to life.
I hate to say this but Religion is what brought me to the brink. I thought
that religion was the form within which I could have my life and my being
but instead religion took me to my cross and left me there to suffer. And I
prayed a deep prayer, a dangerous prayer. The prayer I prayed changed the
direction of my life forever. I prayed for God to take me deeper. Whatever
the cost. Take me deeper, God, whatever the cost.
Heres what the cost was: I lost the outward form of my religion. I lost my
marriage. I lost my career. I lost my innocence. And I was taken to the
depths. God honored that prayer. And I walked through the valley of the
shadow of death for many years. I walked through the wilderness and in a
symbolic way I went mad and went on all fours and ate wild grass like the
cattle and grew hair and became like a beast. In a symbolic way.
That was the cost but what I found made it worth it. I found that the void
has a flip side, and that flip side is Being. I found that at any given
time I could be in heaven, or I could be in hell, it was my choice. I found
that Reality is not a monolithic Black Iron Prison that constrains your
every move. Instead of the Black Iron Prison I found that reality is a
joyous construction of Spirit and has infinite variety and possibilities. I
found that hanging out is our true condition and that the place where we
hang out is on Gods back pasture where the sun shines and the river flows
and people are singing and playing and having fun.
I found that hanging out on Gods back pasture you see life going on in all
its variety, people being born and learning to walk and talk, I found
people growing up and learning about the world they happen to be in, I
found people learning to laugh and love, I found people dancing and crying,
people getting married and getting divorced, people getting sick and people
getting well, people dying unexpectedly, people being healed unexpectedly,
people getting lost and people getting found. And I found animals there
too, and butterflies, and bees, and fish leaping in the water of the
stream. And I sat by that stream where I could hear the sound of the water.
In a sense its all a game but in another sense it is all real. It is all a
vast elaborate pattern taking place in consciousness.
I never would have found my way to Gods back pasture if I hadnt fallen
into depression in the middle of the story of my life and for that I am
profoundly grateful. And I never would have lost my religion and found God
himself ceaselessly upholding the world with his word, God himself
ceaselessly being Being.
Such is MY poem for today.
You know, I have been reading these posts on Eucharist with
I haven't known when and where to jump in. My background is Christian, and
in the denomination in which I spent most of my life (until the new wine
split the old wineskins) we called it Communion, and also, the Lord's Supper.
I have taken communion many times, and, in my role as a Deacon, served
communion many times. And, a few times, I have lead communion services at
informal prayer-and-praise services. My most vivid experience of communion
was at a summer conference, a Christian family retreat, at which communion
was served in an informal, serve-yourself manner in a rustic wooden chapel.
After taking communion that night, I felt the love of Jesus as strongly as
I ever had, it seemed to emanate right from my center - solar-plexus or
heart level, and it was like being held by someone of infinite compassion
Serving communion was a deep privilege. Love would fill that church and
in passing of the elements I knew that I was involved in the giving of a
sacred gift. People would cry during those services and many were deeply
moved. Communion, when approached as a living ritual with sincerity and
openness, is still a very powerful experience, and a real mystery. Most if
not all practising Christians would tell you this.
I hesitate to theorize about what Communion is about but I know that the
traditional teachings and formulas of my church didn't even get near to
explaining it satisfactorily. But that is as it should be - communion is
the embodiment of spiritual experience - literally - puts in right in the
body. And if we can follow it there we find that gateway to the infinite
that others have been writing about.
Anyone can have Communion any time they want. I used to take a bit of
bread and a sip of wine in a very mindful manner. Being a good
Congregationalist I believed that no Priest or Minister was required to
make the ritual real. This cup IS the blood and this bread IS the body of
our Lord Jesus Christ. And the question is, who or what is the body of our
Lord Jesus Christ? And is that any different from OUR body?
"The Matrix" tends to engage consciousness in many
levels and it is easy to
imagine that you are living in the Matrix. In the big corporation where I
am consulting at the moment, this is especially true. Today I was walking
back from the cafeteria with my coffee and I happened to fall in behind a
He was walking towards the front lobby and the exit. He wore a crisp khaki
uniform with a big red diamond patch on the back that said "Orkin." He wore
a cap that also said "Orkin." The uniform and the cap looked brand new,
without a wrinkle.
As I observed him I noticed that there was a big orange flashlight clipped
to his belt, and he carried a shiny aluminum case without markings of any
kind. Again, the flashlight and the aluminum case seemed brand new,
untouched by wear.
He seemed to me to be the archetypal figure of "The Repairman". He reminded
me of the many characters in Philip K. Dick novels who are repairmen or
technicians of one kind or another...Jack Bohlen, in "Martian TimeSlip",
Hoppy Harrington in "Dr. Bloodmoney," Joe Chip in "Ubik".
I began to enter the mindset of "The Matrix." This repairman was obviously
an imposter. Everything about him was too new, too spiffy. He seemed like
someone in disguise. I thought that perhaps he was an "Agent", sent to
repair a rift in the simulation, or to install a new module. Maybe later I
would discover a whole new wing of the building...or that the cafeteria was
now a five-star restaurant...or that a new "person" had been installed as
When I went outside later I noticed in the pavement a manhole cover I had
never seen before. It was clean and unworn on on it in big letters it said
"DRAIN". Yeah, right, I thought. Drain. Looks like a Socket to me.
In "The Matrix," Morpheus's forces also have their technician as well. His
name is Tank. He keeps everything running, and can produce maps of any nook
and cranny of The Matrix as well as programs to produce any kind of
expertise needed, such as the ability to fly a helicopter. Tank's control
panel in the "Nebuchadnezzar" is a boyhood dream come true...it consists of
display after display full of constantly changing images and information.
I think this archetype of "The Technician" bears looking into. The normal
programmed self requires constant repair and service to keep running.
Sometimes the patches that our inner technicians apply to our reality
programs are hastily done and produce ludicrous behavior. They also stay in
place long after they are needed and eventually become counter-adaptive.
Matrix self becomes a technician's nightmare as it is held together by an
endlessly patched program that barely runs under the weight of all the
exception logic forced into it by life experience. Its frequent system
failures result in periodic crises as the individual is forced to undergo
"downtime" while his software/hardware/wetware are fixed by the technicians
and then rebooted.
Meanwhile there are those who have escaped the System Failure/Reboot cycle
and have awakened in a place where they can clearly see The Matrix from
outside. Their Technician (the ur-Tank) provides access to them to
resources unimaginable to the souls inside. And the programs they run are
always subject to conscious modification during uptime (as Neo learns).
FOUNDATIONS OF YOGA
by David Hodges
I was inspired by my Yoga teacher, who is a fanatic about
having us fold the blankets correctly at the end of each
workshop, so I started thinking about the metaphors
The foundations of Yoga:
Balance - Balance is fundamental to Yoga on many levels.
Physical balance is achieved when we have a quiet mind and
can trust the body's intelligence. The centers of balance
are intuitively felt to be in the pelvis, solar plexus,
shoulders, and feet. When we can let go of conscious
control and let the body learn to balance in a tree pose, a
headstand, or other balancing poses, we have learned to key
to inner balance as well, to balancing our emotions and our
vital energies for daily life.
Breath - Breath is the great intermediary between the
physical and spiritual worlds. The rhythm of breath is what
allows us to extend and deepen into our poses and to let go
more and more of the holdings that bind us. By becoming
aware of breath and how it circulates energy in our bodies,
we become aware on a deeper level of our energetic patterns
Awareness - Awareness is the key to everything. Yoga
teaches us to maintain awareness without attachment to ego.
Without worrying about how well we are doing or if we are
impressing someone, we let awareness deepen with until we
come aware of our body from the inside. Awareness descends
into the abdomen, the pelvis, the legs, the feet. Awareness
extends into our roots in the earth and into our crown of
energy above us. Awareness shifts from the conceptual into
the deeply experiential flow of the moment during a yoga
workshop, until, in Shiva Asana, there is no separate "me",
but simply the awareness of the greater Self that unites
everyone in the room.
Alignment - The key to asanas is alignment. Alignment of
the bones to each other, of the skull to the shoulders, to
the hips, to the legs and feet. Alignment of muscles to
bone, Alignment of mind to breath. Alignment of intention
to practise. Alignment of self to Self. Alignment of
student to teacher and students to each other. Alignment of
learning communities to civic communities and global
community. Through the simple acts of gently moving our
necks back to align with our spines, and tipping our pelvis
to align the sacral muscles, we begin to align our bodies,
souls, and spirits with the great alignment patterns that
govern the spiritual worlds.
Folding the Blankets: Blankets are key parts of our yoga
practice. In other parts of life blankets are used for
warmth and comfort, but in yoga they are also used for
support and extension and alignment. Therefore, folding the
blankets at the end of the session is a sign of the respect
we have for our yoga practice as a whole. And folding the
blankets is a metaphor as well for everything goes into
supporting our yoga practice: Every conscious effort to
place our lives on a foundation of healthy diet, wholesome
self-care, and daily discipline of practise is folding the
blankets. Every effort to purify our bodies and calm our
minds is folding the blankets. Every attempt to live with
integrity, to conduct relationships with honesty and love,
and to work with dedication and cheerfulness, is folding
the blankets. And when we come to class and find the
blankets neatly folded on the racks, and find our lives
consciously prepared for practise, we can go deeper into
alignment, awareness, breath, and balance, which, in turn,
deepen and enrich our daily lives.
FOUNDATIONS OF YOGA, PART TWO
by David Hodges
Harsha wrote: David, perhaps you can share about your practice of
Hatha Yoga. When did you seriously start? What yoga style attracts
you? Any advice for people who are thinking of taking it up for the
first time in their forties or fifties. Have you ever experienced any
minor sprains or injuries from doing Yoga. At what age did you learn
the headstand and do you find it useful?
Thanks for your questions, Harsha.
While I took Hatha Yoga lessons in college, I didn't start
getting into it seriously until a few years ago, in my late
40's. Inspired by a friend, I started doing yoga on my own,
from a book. I was motivated by the desire to avoid growing
more and more restricted physically as I got older. I
realized that years of jogging had made my leg muscles and
tendons very tight and prone to injury, and I wanted more
flexibility and over-all strength and well-being. Realizing
that I needed instruction from a teacher, I signed up for
lessons at a local holistic health center.
This teacher had studied Kripalu yoga, and I made a couple
of trips to the Kripalu Institute in Massachusetts, last
Last summer I moved to New Haven and was invited out to the
movies with a group of people to see "Eyes Wide Shut". One
of the people was Ginnie, the teacher at the local Yoga
Studio. We talked about yoga some and I decided to sign up
for her class.
So last fall I took her beginner class. In the winter she
moved me to the intermediate level. This month she moved me
to advanced level. (So I must be progressing well!) It
turns out that Ginnie is a master teacher. Her classes are
more like workshops that last for 3 hours. She goes into
great depth in her ability to communicate the nuances of
the various poses. Her style is Iyengar Yoga.
Let me discuss the Yoga schools briefly. Kripalu Yoga is
flowing, and focused on the overall experience, as well as
awareness and the breath. It does not require a great deal
of finesse. Iyengar Yoga is concerned more with finesse:
the fine points of alignment. Instead of flowing through
the whole experience, we might spend a half hour working on
one pose and getting deeper and deeper into it. Another
style that is getting more popular is Astanga Yoga. People
are attracted to this style because it is active and
aerobic. You can work up a sweat and lose weight doing this
yoga! It moves fast and is physically more challenging than
the other two styles.
For people who are thinking of starting yoga in their
forties and fifties, my advice would be, "go for it". Every
class I have been in has had a broad age range, from
teen-agers to senior citizens. Age is no predictor of
success. In fact, the older students usually possess more
reserves of patience and persistence that lead to a more
rewarding yoga practice. Any teacher will first talk to you
about any physical limitations or problems you might have,
and will suggest alternatives if you find a particular pose
difficult. No one in any class is perfect. Everyone has
limitations, even the most advanced. Don't be worried that
people will laugh or criticize you, because everyone knows
that we are all dealing in our own way with the
peculiarities of our own bodies.
My other piece of advice is that there is a world of
difference in the classes being offered. Classes that you
might find in your local YMCA or Health Club will have no
comparison to those taught in an active Yoga Center or
Studio where the teachers have had years of training and
have devoted their lives to practice and teaching. Since
starting at the Yoga Studio in New Haven, I have learned
that people drive in from all over the state to take
classes there, due to the quality of the teaching.
Have I ever had injuries? When I was first starting out, in
my enthusiasm and naivete, I hurt a muscle in my lower back
which took a few weeks to heal. Other than that, no,
because I now respect my limits. I have heard of other
sprains and such, but nothing serious. After every class I
usually have little aches here and there but they go away
after a day or two. Yoga is safe if you respect your
teacher's guidance and don't try to accomplish too much at
any one time.
The headstand is called "The King of the Poses" (the
shoulderstand being the Queen). It is marvelously
stimulating and restorative. I learned how to do the head
stand in my intermediate class this winter. The teacher was
very helpful in terms of hints and suggestions, and it was
also motivational to be in a room full of people, most of
whom were doing them. I had to overcome some fear of
falling, but I dealt with that by actually letting myself
fall and learning to roll out harmlessly. Headstands
stimulate the brain and the thymus and pituitary glands. If
I have a headache, the headstand usually takes care of it.
If I am sleepy but want to regain alertness, the headstand
also takes care of it. And it is invaluable before
meditation because it seems to raise the subtle energy
levels very quickly and puts me in the "zone" from which
meditation takes off very easily.
One more thing: most teachers that I have had don't
emphasize the spiritual aspects of yoga but there are many
books available that go into that in great depth. But
during class part of my discipline is to maintain
awareness, as I wrote about in my previous post, to attempt
to stay centered, balanced, in the Now, in the NonDual
moment. As I do so and as the class goes on, awareness
descends more or more from the Thinker into the Body. After
class I often don't retain clear memories of we did because
the experience was received on other levels, just like deep
meditation experiences. And during the final resting pose,
Shiva Asana, I had had some supreme samadhi-like meditative
|What Am I? Galen Sharp