Friday, March 18, 2016

Powerful Women of the Yoga Vasistha

“In the body of Kalaratri were found night and day, creation and dissolution, purity and impurity. Though all the gods were tumbled by her dance, they were apparently steady because of the steadiness of her infinite consciousness. In her consciousness there was natural knowledge. By her dance she created and dissolved the universes moment after moment, just as a small boy shifts his attention from moment to moment. Now she is near, now she is far, now she is infinitesimally small, now she is cosmically large. Such is the manifestation of her cosmic creative power. She dances and holds the horns of the buffalo, the vehicle of the god of death, to the accompaniment of the sound of mantra…”
                                                            Vasistha’s vision of Kali Ma, Yoga Vasistha 6.2.81

I want to talk today about some of the most inspiring female characters in an ancient yogic text called the Yoga Vasistha.
Some of you may not know about this text so I’ll give a little background.
The Yoga Vasistha is a yogic scripture based around the dialogue between Rama, a human divine incarnation and Vasistha, one of the ancient Rishis (Seers).
There is so much to say about the Yoga Vasistha. It is unlike any other scripture that I have read in that it does not copy or borrow from other textual sources and at the same time many texts quote from it (see Hathapradipika, Jivanmukti Viveka among many others). Some of the most famous quotes attributes to Hathapradipika actually have their source originally in Yoga Vasistha.
One other thing that I love about the Yoga Vasistha is that, unlike many other scriptures of the time which are predominantly male oriented, it also contains stories about powerful women. And not just companions to powerful male teachers as is so often the case. No, the women of the Yoga Vasistha are powerful in their own right, as explorers, teachers, leaders, and more.
I thought I would write this simple article out of respect for these women and what they represent in an effort to bring to light some of the forgotten female contribution to the spiritual heritage of yoga.
I started regularly reading the Yoga Vasistha in 1994 and in 2001 began to read it to my early morning classes, including time for discussion, debate, and inquiry. We still meet on conference call every Friday to read and discuss this wonderful text.
One of the beautiful aspects of this book is that it is composed of many stories layered within other stories. The stories are, as Vasistha says “have only one purpose: to enable the listener to arrive at the Truth. The realization of truth is so vital that any reasonable method used is justified, though the parables themselves may be fictitious.”
All of the quotes in this article are from Vasistha’s Yoga, the SUNY press translation done by the wonderful Swami Venkatesananda. So much gratitude to the Swami for his amazing efforts in bringing this text to the English speaking world.
As the stories in this book are quite long, I will only introduce the respective stories and maybe inspire you as the reader to read these amazing stories for yourself and discover the magic that is the Yoga Vasistha. Herein I have included my favorite stories with powerful female characters.

The Story of Lila

“This universe is but a long dream… The sole reality is the infinite consciousness which is omnipresent, pure, tranquil, omnipotent, and whose very body and being is absolute consciousness. Wherever this consciousness manifests in whatever manner, it is that.”
                                                            Sarasvati talking to Lila, Yoga Vasistha 3.42

The story of Lila is one of my personal favorites in the Yoga Vasistha. Who doesn’t like a story with astral and time travel? Who wouldn’t want to travel the multiverse with the goddess Sarasvati? Lila is a cosmic explorer like no other.
Lila is a word basically meaning “the divine play of God”. In the Yoga Vasistha, Lila is a queen, married to King Padma. They were an ideal couple, enjoying “their life in every possible and righteous way. They were young and youthful like the gods, and their love for each other was pure and intense, without any hypocrisy or artificiality.”
The love between Lila and Padma was so fierce that Lila decided that she didn’t want to live without her beloved. She began a serious yogic penance, every third night, for a 100 nights, worshipping the Goddess Sarasvati. After this intensive period of sadhana, the Goddess Sarasvati appeared before Lila and offered her boons of her choice.
Lila made the following requests: 1. That whenever her husband departed from his body that his soul would remain with her, and 2. That whenever Lila prayed to Sarasvati that she would appear before her and be seen.
Some time later, King Padma died in battle. Queen Lila was “inconsolable with grief.”
The voice of Sarasvati arose and said to Lila, “cover the king’s dead body with flowers; then it will not decay. He will not leave this place.”
Lila followed the instructions but nothing appeared to happen. She felt tricked, like somehow she had been robbed of her actual wish. Wishes are like that are they not?
Sarasvati saw that Lila was continuing to grieve. She appeared finally before her and said, “My child, why do you grieve? Sorrow, like water in a mirage, is an illusion.”
Lila wasn’t having any thing to do with lectures on sorrow and straightaway asked, “Tell me where my husband is.”
In the ways of ancient sages and gods, the answers to our questions don’t always come in the ways that we think they will. Sarasvati answered by talking about the three different types of space.
“O Lila, there are three types of space – psychological or mental space(cittakasa),  physical space (bhutakasa), and the infinite space of consciousness (cidakasa). Of these, the most subtle is the infinite space of consciousness. By intense meditation on this infinite space of consciousness, you can see and experience the presence of one like your husband, whose body is that infinite space, even though you do not see him here. That is the infinite space which exists in the middle when the finite intelligence travels from one place to another; for it is infinite.”
Lila at once began to meditate on Sarasvati’s words and further instructions for how to reach that infinite space of consciousness. She entered the highest state of Samadhi through her combined effort and the grace of Sarasvati.
From her deep meditation, Lila saw with her inner vision her husband once again. He was seated on a throne with many attendants. Some of the attendants were members of her own court which were still alive which puzzled Lila. After assembling the court in ‘real life’ to see if they were still there, Lila discovered that they were and rejoiced. But at the same time she questioned, wondering how the court members could be in two places at once?
It is here that the story gets ‘very odd’. Our feeling as we read through the story at this point is that reality is not exactly as it seems. Lila moves in and out of the inner space, where time and space seem to function very differently.
Reality itself is questioned.
Sarasvati asks Lila, “What do you consider real and what unreal?”
Lila says, “That I am here and you are in front of me – this I consider real. That region where my husband is now – that I consider unreal.”
Sarasvati then takes Lila on a wild journey through consciousness to show her that her statement above is not exactly true. I won’t relay the whole story here, as it is quite long.
Lila as the yogic student of Sarasvati, learns over the course of her adventures about the real nature of time, space, consciousness, and Self. It is a story that makes modern movies like the Matrix look tame. Lila learns about the secrets of creation and reality, life and death. She meets her alternate parallel universe ‘twin’ and much more.
I won’t ruin the story for you, but know that it has a beautiful ending…
Lila is an excellent example of a strong female yogi, explorer and creator with an amazing mentorship from the great goddess Sarasvati herself.

The Story of Karkati

“The world has never really been created, nor does it disappear; it is regarded as unreal only from the relative point of view. From the absolute point of view it is non-different from the infinite consciousness.”
                                                                        The Story of Karkati, Yoga Vasistha 3.81

Some may argue that it is perhaps sexist or degrading that the next story portrays the female character in the role of a demon. I personally don’t feel that way, and in fact there are more male demons in the Yoga Vasistha than there are female ones. And I also personally love the stories about the demons! Hey we aren’t all saints and gods right? Sometimes I feel I have more to relate to with the demons than the good guys who are always perfect in every way.
Karkati is a bad ass. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. She eats bad people to satiate her huge appetite and is a yogi unlike any other. Who else stands on one leg for thousands of years? What other characters do you know from tales that have immense appetites that transform their very body into a disease through their yogic power to feed their hunger? This is Karkati, the demon yogi extraordinaire.
The story of Karkati starts out with the “demoness known as Karkati. She was huge, black, and dreadful to look at. This demoness could not get enough to eat, and she was ever hungry.”
Karkati thinks about eating all the people on her continent to satiate her hunger but realizes that many of them were pious and good so felt it inappropriate to harass them. She begins an intense yogic penance by standing on one leg for 1000 years.
At the end of that time, the creator Brahma appears before her and grants her a wish.
Karkati wished that she could fulfill her appetite by becoming the disease cholera, one who could fulfill her wish to ease her hunger through those who “eat the wrong food and indulge in wrong living.”
Suddenly Karkati went from mountainous size to one very subtle and small. She spends many years consuming people with the new found abilities. Until at some point, she begins to regret her past actions, regretting over those she has killed to satiate her endless hunger.
Karkati again begins an intense penance, this time for 7000 years. Her impurities and desire begins to melt away. “The energy of her penance set the Himalayas on fire, as it were.” The gods begin to take notice again. The gods in fact, began to get worried, that with the incredible strength of her penance that she might grow too powerful. Indra, the king of the gods, began to worry that her abilities might grow to such an extent that she could devour the whole world. So he sent Vayu, the god of the wind to see if he could stop her penance.
“In the Himalayas, Vayu saw the ascetic Karkati standing like another peak of the mountain. As she was not eating anything at all she had become almost completely dried up. When Vayu entered her mouth (to force her to breathe so she would come out of meditation) she threw the wind out again and again. She had withdrawn her lifeforce to the crown of her head and stood as a perfect yogini. Seeing her, Vayu was amazed and lost in wonderment. He could not even talk to her.”
Vayu went back to Indra to plead with him to send Brahma once again to grant her a boon that she might stop her powerful penance. “Or else, the power of her penance might burn us all up.”
Karkati’s penance had become so powerful that “even the air around her and the particles of dust near her feet had attained final liberation!”
Brahma finally appeared before her and she listened to him grant a boon of her choice.
At this point, Karkati had no desire for boons.
Brahma told her, “the world order cannot be set aside, O ascetic. And it decrees that you should regain your previous body, live happily for a long time and then attain liberation. You will live an enlightened life, afflicting only the wicked and causing the least harm, and that only to appease your natural hunger.”
Karkati finally consented and regained her form. The story goes on from here and I will let you discover the rest for yourself.
Karkati is an amazing example of an incredibly powerful yogini, a female ascetic, and a practitioner who has learned through long practice to control their intense desires. On a deeper level, I believe this story is about learning how to transmute our demonic tendencies through practice. Karkati is truly inspiring.

The Story of Ahalya

“The body does not create the mind, but the mind creates the body. The mind alone is the seed for the body. When the tree dies, the seed does not, but when the seed perishes, the tree dies with it. If the body perishes, the mind can create other bodies for itself.”
                                                                        The Story of Ahalya, Yoga Vasistha 3.89

It is no accident that three of the stories in this article about powerful women in the Yoga Vasistha occur in chapter three of the Yoga Vasistha. Chapter three is the section on creation. Who knows creation better than the woman, who gives birth through her very body and/or also gives birth through music, art, and countless other ways. The central triangle of the Sri Yantra points downward, signifying the sacred power of the yoni and also the symbolic organ of bringing our existence into play.
The story of Ahalya is an interesting one. It starts off with a character who leaves her husband. Some misogynistic readers might consider Ahalya a whore or a slut, as she leaves her husband for another when she finds true love. I don’t share this view. I find Ahalya an amazing character who owns herself.  She is solid, she doesn’t take shit from her previous partner and she chooses through her yogic power to even overcome the intense shaming and persecution that he throws at her through her deep love and choice. Considering the time this book was written, it is amazing that this story exists at all.
The story is a short one. It is a story within a story, told by the Sun to the Creator of the Universe.
Queen Ahalya, married to King Indradyumna, listens to a story about another man Indra, “a man of loose morals.” During this discourse, Ahalya realizes a love for the man Indra.
The story is wrapped in certain symbolism. On one level, she is falling in love with God himself. Indra is the name of the lord of heaven. The text tells us, “Ahalya was so fond of Indra that she saw him everywhere. The very thought of him made her face radiant.” This is the essence of Bhakti, and a story of a woman who had incredible devotion towards God and her partner.
The king, however was not so happy with his wife’s love for Indra. The text continues, “The irate king, in an effort to break this relationship, punished them (Indra and Ahalya) in numerous ways. They were immersed in ice-cold water, they were fried in boiling oil, they were tied to the legs of an elephant, they were whipped.”
Ahalya and Indra scoffed at the king, saying to him, “You can punish the body; but you cannot punish the mind nor bring about the least change in it… The mind is unaffected by even boons and curses, even as the firmly established mountain is not moved by the horns of the little beast…”
Even the sage Bharata was persuaded by the king to curse the couple. The couple was unmoved in their devotion towards each other, laughing at the sage that he had squandered his merit on curses.
Even as the curse destroyed the couple’s bodies, they were reborn again and again as animals and birds, and eventually as another human couple again, forever with each other again and again.
This short story illustrates the power of the resolved mind and shows us an example of a powerful yogini who was both filled with yogic level devotion and a being who was highly established in her creative center.

The Story of Shikidvaja and Cudala

 “I am the ruler of the universe. I am not the finite being. I delight in the Self. Hence I am radiant. This I am, I am not, in truth I am nor am I. I am the all, I am naught. Hence I am radiant. I seek not pleasure nor wealth nor poverty nor any other form of existence. I am happy with whatever is attained without effort. Hence I am radiant. I sport with attenuated states of attraction and repulsion with the insights gained in the scriptures. Hence I am radiant. Whatever I see with these eyes and experience with these senses, whatever I behold through my mind – I see nothing but the one Truth which is seen clearly by me within myself.”
    Queen Cudala to King Shikidvaja on attaining enlightenment, Yoga Vasistha 6.1.79

The story of Shikidvaja and Cudala (pronounced Choodala) is one of the longest and greatest stories in the Yoga Vasistha. In my opinion it is the crowning jewel story of the Yoga Vasistha and contains one of its best characters, the great Queen Cudala, an extremely powerful yogini and siddha (master of psychic powers). It is also my favorite story in the book. It was quoted often by Sri Ramana Maharshi. Within this story is given the psychic coding for the technology of Kundalini, in addition to many other great pearls of wisdom.
The basic story goes like this. Shikidvaja and Cudala were noble, just rulers of the kingdom of Malva. They were highly devoted to each other. At some point in their marriage, both of them came to the conclusion that only self-knowledge could overcome worldly sorrows. So they both began the quest of self-knowledge.
The queen began her own personal inquiry, inquiring “Who am I?” Through this intensive process of inquiry, she soon woke up to her essential nature. Upon discovering this, she recognized that Self-knowledge does not entail giving up the worldly life and continued with her duties. When attempting to help Shikidvaja with his own limited understanding, he spurned her, telling her, “You are childish and ignorant my dear and surely you are prattling!... Never mind: enjoy the pleasures that are afforded to you. I shall continue to sport with you; enjoy yourself…”
Quite the pig wasn’t he? Here his loving partner and queen wakes up and he cannot see it for himself, nor could he allow a woman to instruct him in the ways of self-knowledge.
Instead, the king decides at some point to go off to the forest, leave his royal duties and become an ascetic. The queen Cudala questioned him at this point, asking him why it would be necessary to leave his vast responsibilities, as self-knowledge could very easily be found at home, right in the midst of his duties. Unable to hear her, Shikidvaja left the kingdom in the hands of his wife.
Thus begins an 18 year interlude, with Shikidvaja going off to the forest to meditate while Cudala, awake and enlightened staying at home, taking care of all of the duties, and at the same time, learning to cultivate the powers of astral projection so that she could regularly check up on her husband at night without him knowing.
When the 18 years had passed, Cudala saw with her psychic vision that Shikidvaja was ready and decided to pay him a visit. She knew however that he would not accept her teachings even now, so she took the form of a Brahmin boy through her psychic powers and approached him.
Shikidvaja saw at once a radiance from the Brahmin boy and realized that he/she had something to teach him.
There are many wonderful stories within stories that take place at this point, as told by Cudala. One story that she tells is the story of the Cintamani Gem, the wish fulfilling stone:
A man decided one day to seek the wish-fulfilling stone, the Cintamani. At that very moment of deciding to seek it out, he tripped over it. Picking it up he laughed, “what is this bauble” and threw it far away. He then left in search of what he thought the Cintamani to be in his mind…
This story among others demonstrates the idiocy to which people go in search of truth. “Clinging to puddles, they ignore the vast flood around them.”
Such was the way with Shikidvaja, unable to see what was right in front of him. In desperation, he began to declare to Cudala (as the Brahmin boy) that he just hadn’t given up enough yet and so he burned his house down. Cudala laughed and said that now he didn’t have a house to live in. He burned his ritual items. Cudala laughed and asked him what he hoped that would bring. Shikidvaja began to get more frustrated and declared, “I shall burn my body!” Cudala shook her head and declared that now he would no longer have a vehicle to move in. Why destroy the temple?
Shikidvaja finally gave up.
Cudala explained to him that it was only necessary to let go of his self. In other words, to let go of his attachment to form and object, his very mind…
Shikidvaja finally woke up at the prompting by his wife…
The story continues with some very interesting twists, including a very interesting gender bending odyssey wherein Cudala lives as a man during the day and a woman at night, among many other adventures.
The story finally culminates in both of them returning to the kingdom as husband and wife and ruling happily ever after…
This story is important on many levels, beyond just the fact that a powerful yogini is at its center. The story explains in detail, the inner workings of Kundalini, energy, and manifestation. It is also primarily a story of the nature of true dispassion. The kind of dispassion that is displayed more inwardly than outwardly. The Jivanmukti Viveka, a profound Vedantic text on detachment, utilizes much of the teaching from this section of the Yoga Vasistha. The story emphasizes, as do so many of the stories in the Yoga Vasistha, that self-cultivation and self-knowledge do not go hand in hand with exiting life and duty, that one can do the inner work and still function quite well in society.
Queen Cudala is a profound example of a working woman who manages to still find time for yoga, self-inquiry, cultivation of the psychic arts and much more. She manages an entire kingdom while remaining awake fully and caring for and ultimately teaching her idiotic husband (yes, he is kind of idiotic).
This story occurs in the 6th chapter of Yoga Vasistha, the chapter on liberation and it is one of the culminating stories. It is unparalleled in its wisdom and applicability towards modern day practice. Many gems can be unearthed by its study.

The Story of Kali

“The whole universe was reflected on her body as if in a mirror. Even as I was looking they appeared, disappeared, and reappeared. What was that dance? The stellar firmament was revolving and the gods and the demons were also revolving like mosquitoes. The revolving firmament looked like her flowing garment. It was delightful to watch the big trees which were but hairs on her body revolve while she danced. They were ascending and descending between the heaven and the earth as it were.”
                                    Vasistha witnessing Kali Ma’s dance, Yoga Vasistha 6.2.81

At one point in the last section of the book, Vasistha describes to Rama how at one point he had witnessed the destruction of the universe through the dance of Rudra (a form of Siva) and Kali (a very wrathful appearing form of the Goddess).
The description of this dance is very beautiful, quite cosmic and can even give you goose bumps reading it… Rather than relay the story of the full dance here, I want to utilize this story as a springboard into the deeper meaning of male and female as given in the Yoga Vasistha. I will pull a few quotes from section 6.2.83.
“Consciousness is never without some movement within itself. Without this movement it might become ‘unreal’... The plane of consciousness itself is known as Bhairava (or Rudra or Siva). Inseparable and non-different from him is his dynamic energy (Kali or Bhairavi) which is of the nature of the mind (and creation).  Siva (or pure consciousness) is beyond description. It is the dynamic energy of the Lord which executes all of his wishes, as it were and makes them appear as visions. This energy is consciousness (in other words, the consciousness and its energy are inseparable). ‘She’ is a living force… Since this creation-manifestation is natural to the infinite consciousness, she is known as prakriti or nature. Since she is the cause of all things being seen and experienced, she is known as kriya or action….”
The description goes on and is quite poetic and beautiful, explaining the cosmic male and female, in other words the essence behind the primal polarity and how important they are together and individually.
There is of course more to say here but I’ll leave this section for you as the reader to perhaps investigate and explore. I like this section of the book as it goes beyond mere male and female characters and explores the depths of what male and female even mean from certain perspective, at the cosmic level of understanding.

I hope this article has been interesting dear reader. Perhaps it has sparked an interest to explore on your own the amazing text that is the Yoga Vasistha. Perhaps it has revealed a few more strong female yoginis who we may have not known about.

May we all follow the example of the great queen Cudala, and learn to live our life, have our relationships, do our dharma, and still find time for deep self-reflection.

Jai Ma!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Endings and Beginnings

We hear it often said that when one door closes, another door opens.

I suppose it’s finally time to write again. It’s been so long. There have been many times over the past year when I’ve tried to write and then just ended up discarding page after page. I suppose it wasn’t the time.

Today, strangely is my father’s 75th birthday (I love you Dad, I wish you were still here in your sweet body).

Today also marks the end of an era for me.

This morning was the last early morning immersion class I will be teaching for the near foreseeable future.

Why is this significant? I have been teaching these classes for literally almost 20 years with little to no break. Monday through Friday, for years I’ve gotten up at 4, done my practice and gone in to teach.

I started teaching early morning immersions right here in Seattle at the Yoga Tree (the original one started by Kathryn Payne, major bow to you by the way). That was sometime in 1997 I believe.

I kept teaching monthly up until the time I moved to Portland in 2000 and then continued my early morning immersions there. I taught the early morning classes Monday through Friday all the way through 2009, when I moved with my family to New Mexico.

I taught early mornings in Santa Fe up through 2013 until we again moved back to Seattle, where I picked them up again.

And now we are here in 2016. My early morning students are only a handful of the numbers they once were.

I could blame my low numbers of this past year on the modern state of yoga but I won’t do that. If anything the last few years have been a reflection of me.

I’ve had a hard time since leaving New Mexico. Hell, my life has been difficult since about 2007, in Portland. So many developments in my life…

Moving countless times, divorce, separation from my children, and working through the transition of a very strange gender journey…

For those students that have stuck with me through this crazy ride, I thank you with the deepest gratitude. Sometimes I’ve wondered why the hell you keep coming back for more…. Lol. I know I can be difficult at times. I do think I’ve mellowed out and changed however. Time has tempered me. My transformation has tempered me. So thank you. Thank you so damn much. I would have to say I’ve probably learned a lot more from you than you have from me. I am so filled with gratitude for you.

For those students and friends that got fed up with me and left, I thank you with the deepest gratitude. Why? Because you’ve taught me things, not always immediately perceptible, but sometimes only after years in reflection… I’m not an easy friend. I’m sometimes a person of vast apparent contradiction. I just wanted to let you know that I acknowledge you and am grateful for your lessons. Thank you.

For those students who still aren’t done with me. We are never really done are we? Life always has more to teach us… I’m still here. I’m still teaching a couple times a week. A little more on this at the end of this piece…

A little fill in, for those who have been following me. I haven’t updated my life in some time…

Last year, as some of you know, I changed my name finally. I still haven’t changed it legally, but I hope to soon. After moving out of my apartment last year and moving in with Brandy (my sweet love, kiss kiss), I fell into a deeper depression. A big part of me was still contracted around who I was, where I wanted to go, how I wanted to live.

Sometime around summer of last year I began to shave my body daily and wear more feminine clothes. You might argue that this has nothing to do with actually being female and perhaps you are right. However, I needed these daily rituals and external reminders to help myself be ok on some level with not being male. It was like baby steps. There was something about the ritual of it which helped me as well. All I ever saw before in the mirror was someone who was not me… Gender dysphoria can be so intense and I wonder if those who do not have it can ever truly understand its magnitude.

So my daily rituals and changes began to help with my depression and anxiety. Then I changed my name. At this point, for the first time in so long (we are talking years and years) I began to actually feel like I could see light. My life for so long has been a dark tunnel. Sure I have the yoga, sure I can rest in my essential nature, but the arisings within that eternal space had been filled with such darkness.

So light began to shine. I decided to poke my head into uncharted waters. I started off slowly with herbal hormones, phyto-estrogens. I began to feel even better. There is much to say of this time…

Finally I took the leap off of the cliff which I had been so afraid of, so ashamed of for so long. I got health insurance (thank you Washington State, thank you tax payers, I’m really really grateful…) and I began hormone replacement therapy.

It was a little rocky at first but as of today I feel better than I have felt in so long. So long…

Right around the time I started taking hormones last fall, something sparked in me. I realized that the time had come to change it up. I was tired of making 15 thousand dollars a year. I had been living in poverty for years now. The yoga world has changed. So much…

I realized that if I was to change it up I needed a new career. I had been bending my mind around this for so long.

Then one day it hit me. Back in my early teens and high school years, once upon a time, I used to enjoy computer coding. So I started again. I began to do online courses. I finished some online courses. I applied to an immersive school for computer coding. I got in. I am currently applying to another school (so I have multiple options).

If all goes according to plan and the Goddess continues to shine her blessing, I will start school in the fall. Depending on which school I pick, a few different roads will open up. I feel good about this. Really good… It feels good to know that I will be able to support my children.

What about the yoga? Well, what about it?

I still practice every day. I could tell you that new doors are opening all the time there. The hallway of open doors that appeared to me 5 years ago is still there. I just open them a little more carefully now.

What about teaching?

I will continue to teach a very limited schedule through July of this year. I will most likely take off 6 months to a year of teaching starting in August. From there on out, I cannot say. 

As of right now, I will continue to do call in conference calls every Friday morning at 6:15 am Pacific Time for studies in the Yoga Vasistha. We've been doing that since 2001 and I really don't want to stop. :)

I have ideas and plans still to produce more video. The video that I already did shoot, I plan to make public soon.

Lets just say that I don’t think I’m done with teaching. On the contrary, I think this is just the beginning of a much deeper phase.

There is a lot I cannot see right now. I am going on faith, a deep feeling. But I know that it will all lead to a powerful good place.

I will most likely pick up writing again soon. I actually may finish that book at some point. I will say that when that time comes, the time will be right.

Is this an ending or a beginning? Is there a difference?

Many blessings to you all... My heart is filled with love and gratitude for you.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Personal Update

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”            Anais Nin

In an effort to overcome depression and to help better work with my gender dysphoria, I am changing my name to Madeleine Rose Huish.

Madeleine after my wonderful aunt Maddie, whom I loved as a child, and Rose as a connection to my firstborn (her middle name) from the city in which she was born, the city of Roses…

For those who didn’t get the memo in the fall of 2013, and the writings which followed over the next 6 months, I am transgender, two-spirit, trans-feminine, genderqueer, genderfluid, pick whichever term you like. Am I woman or man? Does it matter? It does in some sense to me and how I appear to the outer world gives rise to issues of invisibility and incongruity, which affects me. I can’t control how others see me but I can take steps like this, which help me to feel more comfortable in this life.

I prefer female pronouns and Maddie is fine also, and hey it’s fairly close to Matt. I recognize overriding our basic readings on gender can be difficult and don’t want anyone close to me to feel pressure around ‘getting it right’ so don’t worry if the pronouns come out awkward. I’m just stating my preferences and appreciate your understanding and support.   If you have any questions please just ask.

I reserve the right to change my name and preferences again if I decide at some point that I feel differently.

Many thanks to my wonderful loving partner Brandy and all of my great supportive family, friends and students over the past few years.

Much love you all, 


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga

I wanted to blog today about the meaning and practice of yoga from the perspective of hatha and raja yoga. Have some patience. The theory developed in the first part will pay off in a deeper understanding of the practical application in the second part.

Today's 'yoga' is almost always derived from hatha yoga. What is hatha?

Hatha is defined in several ways as 'forceful', 'willful', even 'violent'. This last definition seems to go against the first principle of the classical yamas as defined by Patanjali which is ahimsa or 'non-violence'. We have to be careful with that one.

The way that I take this definition is that Hatha involves a certain intensity of will. It is an attitude that is undertaken when we practice that involves sharpening our dedication to yoga in a way that cuts like a sharp sword through the obstacles that inhibit us.

One of the meanings of yoga is union. From that meaning, let us look at another definition of hatha as given by Brahmarandra in his commentary on the Hathapradipika:

"The word hatha is composed of the syllables ha and tha, meaning the sun and the moon, i.e. Prana and Apana. Their yoga or union, i.e. Pranayama, is called Hatha Yoga. In this stanza (which says the hathayoga is a 'stairway for those who wish to attain the lofty Raja Yoga) and throughout the work (the Hathapradipika), it is stated that Hatha Yoga is only a means to Raja Yoga. 'There can be no Raja Yoga without Hatha Yoga and vice versa.'"

Hmm. Lot to unpack there...

Rewording a little bit, we have:

'Hatha Yoga, also known by Pranayama, is the union of the Prana and Apana, the Sun and the Moon. Hatha Yoga is a means to attain Raja Yoga.'

Lets leave aside the meaning of Raja Yoga for a second and take a look at these concepts Prana and Apana.

There are many ways to discuss Prana and Apana. I am going to talk about these concepts from the perspective of direct experience as I find it easier that way.

Prana is that attractive force of life, centered in the core of the body (spine). Apana is that repellant force which removes that which is unwanted. It is centered outside of the body. Some of you may be saying at this point, "Well Yajnavalkya says the prana is in the chest and the apana is in the legs and lower regions..." Yes, yes, yes, these are just other ways of looking at very complex forces. Here I am following the teaching of Tantra and the Yoga Vasistha, which places Prana central and Apana peripherally. I'm going to go with that for now...

Hatha Yoga, according to Brahmarandra is nearly equivalent to the practice of pranayama. Here, pranayama is not simple breath exercises, but is rather the direct manipulation, or the 'forceful or willful' control of the life force essences. These forces exist prior to the physical breath. By gaining control over these forces and then ultimately uniting them, we have Hatha Yoga.

Before moving on, lets look again at the breakdown of hatha into its two parts. Ha and Tha. The Tha sound here by the way is made by pushing the tongue up to the top of the mouth. It doesn't sound like an actual th sound as in 'the' but rather more like a 'ta' but with the tongue curled back and up. Hatha sounds more like 'ha ta' with the tongue up. Anyway, ha can also be sun, tha can also be moon. We can interpret these as prana and apana but we can also use them as defining the primary polar channels of the nadis, which run alongside our central column and connect to the nostrils.

The word nadi means river. Many think of the nadis like Chinese acupuncture meridians. I don't have expertise in acupuncture but from my little understanding of it, I don't think this is the case at all. The classical nadis are actually described from a sensory perspective. This means that all of the nadis have their openings at one of the classical sense doors, the ears, skin, eyes, tongue (taste), and nose. These just described are called the jnanendriyas or jnana indriyas, the knowledge senses. However there are also nadis at the tongue (speech), hands, feet, genitals, and anus. These are called the karmendriyas or karma indriyas, the action senses.

Yajnavalkya tells us that the nadis have their terminus in the sense organs and their origin in the navel, a place called the kanda (described in the texts like an orphic egg). The upanishads tell us that the nadis have their origin in the heart. Other tests describe the origin in the sexual center. What does this tell us? That the texts are confused and that no one actually knows where the center of the nadis is? No. What this tells me is that the nadis have their connection to all of these places.

What is this central place that all of the nadis connect to? It is the central highway, the central river, the central column. What the texts call the susumna nadi. It can be thought of as the central river into which all the peripheral rivers merge. It can be thought of as the world tree, with many peripheral branches. It can be thought of as the central mountain, surrounded by the other hills. All of our main life centers or cakras exist along this column or river. Depending on what we are needing, the nadis may route differently during different times.

The main polar, peripheral nadis are the pingala and ida. The right and left channels which have exits at the nostrils. There is much to say about these. From our perspective here in the defining of hatha yoga, we are interested in these two channels as the channel of the sun and the moon respectively. These channels have different qualities as described in the Siva Svarodhya, an excellent text on the ancient science of Svara Yoga, the yoga of divination based on the current flows in the nostrils. The right nostril governs activity, exertion, sex, eating and other active expressions. The left nostril governs more passive activity, contemplation, rest, and retreat. The deranged expressions of these two nostrils, when unhealthy are manic activity and torpor or sloth.

The union of these two forces is like a calming of their excess, so that they are able to balance out. In this balancing, the twin nostrils come to equality in their flow and it is then said that the life force enters the central column. This is true in my direct experience. When this happens, the mind stops and there is a deep calm all throughout the body.

The Hathapradipika tells us when the mind and life energy centralize in the Susumna nadi then the mind becomes objectless. This gives us a clue for something which will be discussed later on.

I will talk more on the practical side of this later. Lets first come back to our definition which was extrapolated from Brahmarandra above. I'll repeat it again:

'Hatha Yoga, also known by Pranayama, is the union of the Prana and Apana, the Sun and the Moon. Hatha Yoga is a means to attain Raja Yoga.'

So what is Raja Yoga?

Raja yoga is the 'royal yoga', a term oftentimes used to describe methods of mind control. The tradition of raja yoga is expressed beautifully in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Vyasa, one of the classical commentators of the Yoga Sutras, gives a wonderful explanation of Raja Yoga, broken down for us in a more practical way in his commentary on Yoga Sutra 1.1.

I will quote part of the commentary here and then we will look at it:

"Yoga means Samadhi (a highly concentrated state of mind). It is a feature of the mind in all its habitual states. Such states are five in number: kshipta (restless), mudha (torporous), vikshipta (distracted), ekagra (one-pointed), and niruddha (arrested)."

Ok, a lot to unpack again...

Lets start with the definition of Yoga here as samadhi. Yoga, depending on its conjugation as a word, means union or samadhi. These are not entirely unrelated as we shall see later. Here, Vyasa is choosing to define yoga as samadhi, a highly concentrated state of mind, wherein the mind is focused exclusively on one object or alternately with no objects of mind at all. These two states of highly focused concentration are called ekagra or niruddha respectively. The types of samadhi, Vyasa goes on to explain, that correspond to these two states of mind are called samprajnata and asamprajnata respectively.

Having only briefly discussed the two yogic states and samadhis,  let us look first at what is not a concentrated mind.

The first state of mind talked about by Vyasa is kshipta, which means restless or agitated. It is a state akin to busyness, freneticness, distraction from too much thinking, and an over active mind. It can occur when we have too much air and/or fire, or what is termed in Indian philosophy, an imbalance of the Rajas guna. The gunas are three in number and compose the base elements of our psychic, physical, and emotional constitution. So when the guna corresponding to air and fire is out of balance, then we have the potential for a mind dominated by the restless or kshipta state. Going back to our discussion of the nadis, from a nadi perspective, this would mean that we have an imbalance in our right or solar nadi, which could either give us a lack of fire or too much of it. In this case we would have too much. This could be indicated by a lack of flow in the left nostril or too strong of a flow in the right. I am talking in very simple terms here and this is a very general diagnosis. The complexity can be far greater but this is a good first approximation.

The second state talked about is mudha, which means torporous or stupefied. It is a dull, blank, tired, distracted state. It is like frozen mud. Too much water and earth. It is an imbalance of what Indian philosophy would call the Tamas guna. From a simple nadi perspective, this could mean an overactive left nostril which might bring an almost immobile state, or a blocked right nostril.

The third state talked about is a mixed state, called vikshipta. It means distracted. It is a state that is mixed with the other two. The mind is more concentrated and balanced in this state than the first two but it still doesn't have the capacity for concentration and clarity that the yogic states do. Most likely the nostrils in this case will be fairly open but one of them dominant over the other in its flow.

In life, we alternate between these three states, only occasionally and usually accidentally, without purpose, finding ourselves in the yogic states.

I have discussed these two yogic states of ekagra and niruddha (through the processes of samprajnata and asamprajnata samadhi) before in several of my previous blogs:

In brief, the ekagra state is one in which the mind holds one thing. It is sattvic in nature which means it is almost pure sattva guna, or ethereal or space-like in nature.

In practice, one-pointedness can also be on many things (not just one thing) but those many things should all be the many things that the practitioner has chosen to focus the mind on. In other words, the mind is doing what we want it to and not just acting in a conditioned and unconscious way.

The niruddha state is one in which the mind itself is held in its ground state and is not allowed to arise. The sub-impulses which hold the mind in check are conditionings in themselves, called nirodha samskaras by Patanjali in sutra 1.18.

There is much more to say on this process and what it involves in theory but we may find the practical application of learning how to find these states more interesting, at least for now.

Lets try to bring it all together. How can Hatha Yoga bring about Raja Yoga? 

If we examine the five states of mind in terms of relating them to the 3 gunas we come up with the following (easier to see this chart on a computer screen):

State                                                Guna                                        Nadi Functioning
kshipta (restless)                             rajas                                         right dominant
mudha (torporous)                          tamas                                       left dominant
vikshipta (distracted)                      mixed rajas, tamas, sattva       one dominant but more even
ekagra (one-pointed)                       sattva                                       even flow through both (centralized)
niruddha (resolved or held)             all gunas resolved in source    breath cuts out (deep central)

This is a very generalized chart but it gives us a good first approximation of the actuality of meditation that occurs due to yoga.

Just by the studying and examining of this chart, we have much of the understanding of what to look for in terms of finding the yogic states of ekagra and niruddha.

What do we need for ekagra? We have to find a balanced state, not too restless, not too tired. Our nostrils should be in even flow.

How does this relate in practice? Lets take a few postures from hatha yoga to discuss how techniques can help.

Seated meditation positions (padmasana, siddhasana, svastikasana, and others):
In the seated positions our main attention should be to our spine and its two "legs", the sit bones. The sit bones go down so the spine can lift up. Sitting on a cushion takes away the feeling of the contact force so ideally should be eliminated. There are techniques to work with this for stiff beginners. I almost prefer beginners to start sitting in a chair, a hard chair to really find this. Anyway, once the seat goes down and the spine goes up, we draw our attention into the spine. Sinking to the right or forward is going to increase the tamasic guna, inducing tiredness or the mudha state. Sinking to left or backward is going to increase rajas guna, making us more restless. Sitting upright needs to occur in order for the sattvic and thus one-pointed state to arise. Longchenpa, a famous Buddhist teacher from centuries ago, said in one of his meditation manuals that to sit correctly is 90 percent of meditation. Just sitting correctly alone can bring about the one-pointed state of mind. Once we are sitting correctly, we examine the nostril flows. If they are not even we can either correct that through breathwork or engage certain asanas like twisting postures or work with the groins or shoulders to release blockages and then bring the flows back to even, thus driving the life force more central. If there is major restlessness or torpor not fixed by this, we may need to look at our sleep or diet. The yamas and niyamas should be followed for maximum ability to overcome restlessness and torpor as really these are just symptoms which come to us from the conditionings of our life. The yamas and niyamas will help with this. Lastly, another way we can address the adjustment of flows is through the practice of mudra. Mudra, defined very simply, is a powerful practice within the hatha yoga toolkit that centralizes the life current and brings evenness to the peripheral channels and breath.

What is mudra? Very simply, mudra is a process of 'tuning'. It is like tuning a stringed instrument. We know we want to come to a centralized even flow. So we adjust. We employ one of two 'remedies'.

The first remedy is for the kshipta or restless or distracted state. To overcome restlessness, we need to relax. Our mind or body is contracting and we have to learn to feel that contraction to let it go. Thought itself can be felt, most often in the front brain, mid-brow region. We learn to feel that contraction and let it go. Focusing on the pause at the end of the in breath will help us here. This is the remedy of relaxing.

The second remedy is for the mudha or torporous state. We are too tired so we need to wake up. We rouse. We can make a crazy face, open the eyes, hold the breath in deep, focusing on the in-breath hold.

These two remedies can quickly adjust the state of body and mind. There are many more techniques which we can use to relax or rouse. This is just a brief introduction.

Let us look at one other position we encounter in Hatha Yoga.

In pascimottanasana we start seated upright as in dandasana. Danda is a staff. The staff is related to fire. The column of fire is our central column. Thus, the Hathapradipika tells us "this most excellent of all asanas, pascimottanasana, makes the breath flow through the Susumna (the central nadi)..." In pascimottanasana we are not going to be able to get central flow functioning if we just relax everything and flop forward. Remember how I said before in the seated position that the forward movement of the spine may induce the tamasic guna? This is why we get tired when we fold forward in pascimottanasana. We can correct this by the remedy of rousing, sharpening our consciousness and employing Shambhavi Mudra, focusing our attention on the feeling in the mid-brow and spine. Doing this will brighten our consciousness and reduce the tiredness. This will further feed back into the centralization process and soon we will be wide awake and alert and even one-pointed in the forward bend. All forward bends can be employed like this.

Use your deductive powers to figure out what will be required in backward bendings and some of the other postures...

The important point in asana practice is to notice the present state and continuously adjust it. Our attention is like the Buddha told us to have, "to live like you were living in a room with poisonous snake." In other words, we become very alert. The attention demanded here strengthens our resolve and we start to understand why hatha is 'forceful or willful' here. It is the same will and mental resolve that gets us to pass a semi-truck on an icy highway at night. We don't go to sleep.

This is the way we ideally practice throughout our asana practice. We first adjust and then move. In other words, the feeling comes before the form. Many of us try to find the feeling after imitating the form. But we can imitate for a long time without ever discovering the feeling. This would be akin to playing a stringed instrument incessantly and hoping that somewhere along the way in our practice of it that it will somehow tune itself. It won't. The tuning comes first. And it happens again along the way.

So coming back to Hatha and Raja Yoga, let us once again look at our reworded definition given us by Brahmarandra:

'Hatha Yoga, also known by Pranayama, is the union of the Prana and Apana, the Sun and the Moon. Hatha Yoga is a means to attain Raja Yoga.'

By adjusting the nadi flows through breath and asana, observing balance in sleep and diet, following yama and niyama, we begin to unite the flows, come into our center, and find the one-pointed state of mind.

This is Hatha Yoga.


Obviously there is much more to say. The subject matter is a lifetime of study and this discussion is very brief and only talks about the subject in a limited way.

I have not discussed here diet and the relationship of yama and niyama to centralizing the flows and calming the mind. There is more to say on the union of prana and apana. I have also neglected to discuss asamprajnata samadhi and the fifth state of niruddha. Another time.

In the meantime, here are a few of my other posts which go deeper into the study of mudra, which may help deepen the understanding of this discussion.

I wish you all blessings on your journey of yoga.

Additional Posts on Mudra

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I believe in Magic.

Not the parlor trick kind of magic but real Magic.

The kind of magic that shapes Reality. Causes Reality to open doorways before your very eyes.

Its there whether we see it or not. Whether we choose to believe or not.

We are Creators.

The world is in sync with our minds, our intentions, our wishes, our dreams, our fears.

Creation can go many different ways. It is infinite in potential.

If we live in a world where we don't believe in magic, that same magic will manifest in front of us in such a way to confirm such a belief. Our world will appear more random, more 'fact' based, more sterile. If we believe in our powerlessness, the world will reflect that.

However, if we live in sync with the world, knowing that we are inseparable from the world, it will be like engaging with it in a beautiful dance.

Everything we tell ourselves consciously and unconsciously will reflect in some way in front of our very eyes.

At one point, as a young child, I knew this. Then at some point, as I grew older, I allowed someone to convince me otherwise. The repercussions from this were vast. I became a victim of the outside world. I felt powerless. I built a web of self destruction around myself. The world began to reflect my belief in a disconnected world.

Years later, after I had struggled and wrestled with myself, I must have finally gotten tired. One morning I decided that I was tired of the struggle and I realized somehow that I was creating my own darkness. I was hiding from my own light, afraid of its brilliance. I was creating my own lack of power, of ability.

When I first realized this, (or was it remembering?), my first feeling was complete and utter awe. Awe at the vastness and potential. I screamed in joy at the 'discovery'.


The longer I sat with this 'discovery' the more something else, something other than joy, began to fill my mind...

What did I feel?

Fear. Perhaps it was actually more like terror...

Fear of responsibility. Fear of the innate power of my word and my thought. Fear of actually inhabiting the driver's seat. Fear of my own limitlessness. Fear of space, free and unrestrained in any way possible.

The more I explored and sat with this 'discovery' of this realm of magic, the realm I had forgotten, the more I saw the fears of my conscious and unconscious mind reflect outside of me.

I was existing simultaneously in awe and fear. 

It was like I was learning how to drive. Simultaneously liberating and terrifying. 

Then came my driver's test.

A short time after my 'discovery', a person who I will call the 'witch' came into my life. A manifestation and reflection of my deepest insecurity testing me, to see whether or not I really did believe. Testing me to see whether or not I could actually pull off living from that highest place. Testing me to see whether I actually knew how to drive.

The 'spell cast', obstacles arose. My belief wavered. Doubts began to creep into my mind. Life began to reflect that doubt.

It intensified. Everything crumbled. Everything. I fell long and hard. Was it all real? Was magic really true or had I just deluded myself all along?

Dazed and depressed, I lay there at the bottom of the pit for some time. No wait, I was still falling...

I continued to fall, if that was possible.

Then. At the lowest point I looked up. To the highest point I could see. I held my gaze there.

And I remembered.

Who I was. I remembered that Magic was real.

I remembered that it was not the witch who put me there. I remembered that it was me.

It was me all along who had placed these obstacles in my path. Reflections of past choices finally coming to fruition.

I bowed my head in deep gratitude. I realized I was already filled with abundance beyond measure. 

I wrote something on a piece of paper and filled it with my intention. Breathed life into it.

Then I burned the paper. And forgot about it.

A month later, a light opened up in the sky and from that light a brilliant Goddess appeared.

And shattered the walls of the pit in which I stood.

She picked me up and carried me high at incredible speed up into the expanse above me.

Acceleration of Light.

An unending Orgasm of Fire, burning through the spine of the Tree of Life.

A waterfall of Nectar over the Cosmic Mountain.

I stand here now in space. No ground. No ceiling. No walls.



My mind even now tries to contract in the old ways, to bring back the comfort of that dark hole.

Yes, it can be unnerving in space.

But in space you can see the doorways of lightning opening in the clouds.

A demonstration of the infinite power of Mind and its Light.

Will I forget again? A cloud passes by in the sky.

As I smile in complete awe and wonder, the glorious rainbow that appears shows me colors the like of which I have never before seen...


On this eve of Navaratri 2014, I offer immense thanks to my Guru, fractal in nature and inhabiting the heart of all beings, who are also in reality my teachers and mothers.

I especially offer thanks to the Glorious Goddess, who manifests as Divine Mother, Lover, Witch and far more.

Born from the altar of the Fire of Light, Her form glows with the brilliance of a thousand rising Suns.

The tears in my eyes flow with such joy at her Sight.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Some Reflections on the Last Year

            I write mostly because I like writing. Nevertheless with another personal update there is a part of me that hesitates. Revealing processes, thoughts, feelings to the world at large can be both an act of vulnerability and freedom, and on the flip side of that even an act of self-sabotage. I wonder sometimes if my personal posts of the past year were a bit of both.
            Nevertheless, I feel that I started down that road for some reason last year. Writing about myself and my processes that is. Many letters came back to me. Letters of gratitude for my honesty and openness. Some were grateful to have the experience of looking through a window into processes that reflected their own, or showed them a perspective from one who walked in the feet of two genders. And then there were those that threatened my life or said things that don’t bear repeating any more. What a crazy year it has been for me…

            My divorce finalized today. Here's how it went...
Standing in front of the ‘commissioner’ with my lawyer. I answer a bunch of questions. I am supposed to say yes to them all and yet I’ve taken a vow with my hand raised to tell the truth. But part of me lies when I say yes to every question. I forgive myself for it anyway. It would have cost too much, both in money and emotion to do otherwise…
            I didn’t want it. Or did I? Is the outside world really a reflection of what I have been asking for? Perhaps. Yet I still feel anger. Frustration. Sadness and tears. A world fallen apart and dismantled that I had so obsessively tried to maintain for so many years. I have many words. And yet I almost feel that the words don't really communicate truth. Not really. I really don’t feel that I have all the answers right now. Most of the time I feel the call to just surrender to the quiet and just know that I can’t really know the whys as much as I would like to. My feelings in the matter almost feel irrelevant. A part of me a hopeless romantic, loyal to the end, still in love… I struggle sometimes to understand it. Like making a square fit through a circle, maybe my perspective has not opened wide enough yet. I have struggled so much this year wrapping my head around what I could have done different. Can we ever do anything other than our best at the time? That I suppose is the most frustrating thing. Looking back and knowing it couldn’t have been any different.
            To say that I haven’t had my moments of peace with the changes would be a lie though. There are moments. Possibilities. Things I haven’t considered that continue to dawn in this strange new sky. These windows in the sky beckon me. I know in my heart the door has to close and despite the pain I'm choosing to walk through it. Anger, sadness, possibility... It is all of the above.
            My gender. Oh what a roller coaster ride I have been on this year! There is a term in the trans community called genderfluid. This term seems to resonate with me more and more even as I'm hesitant to even use any terms anymore... Genderfluid? Because I don’t feel myself or my gender to be the same from day to day… Gender is a strange thing. Much struggle occurred with me over the year when I resisted myself. I didn’t want to be female. I didn’t want to be male. Oscillation occurred. Then a strange thing happened. I know. I use this word strange a lot. Sometimes I feel that I want to call myself ‘gender-strange’. :) Well, I started to just feel more comfortable. This began to happen as I realized the more important underlying factor. That for years, literally most of my life, I have not loved myself. When that began to happen, in other words, I began to love myself, through a lot of force and effort mind you, I began to feel more comfortable inside. I began to not rebel so much against myself. I began to relax into me.
            Then a huge wave of relief hit me. I didn’t want to ‘transition’. I didn’t have to transition. And yet, I felt the freedom that if that need hit me strongly that it would also be ok. Whatever it was, it was ok. I feel freer in the world now, not really caring what people think so much about that anymore. Well, maybe I still don’t entirely feel comfortable with stares if I go outside in a skirt, but I do feel more comfortable breaking traditional boundaries for the most part and just living more fully as I am. Genderqueer, genderfluid, genderstrange, two-spirit. And I do have moments where I feel more one than the other... Call it what you will. I guess I’ll go back to mostly just calling it me. I can’t honestly tell you what tomorrow or even the next moment will bring though… Do we ever know?
            Depression. Depression is an interesting thing. I have found that the more I am depressed, the more it seems I welcome more depression into my life. Sometimes it can take a monumental amount of faith, energy, motivation, and force to cause that track to shift. Where does the energy come from? The energy required to shift it? I think sometimes in those moments that in the call, the true wanting to be free from it, that grace dawns. Personally, I’ve already started climbing. I’m sick of sitting at the bottom of the well. Joy is my birthright and I’m ready to claim it.
            Gratitude. I’ve learned a lot by observing those who are grateful. I watch what happens in their lives. Their lives become more prosperous. They bring more into the world of what they are grateful for. I was reluctant at first. Cynical. I’ve harbored so much bitterness and blame over the years. I’d like to say that it was because of such and such or so and so but the truth is that I accept the responsibility for my own bitterness and blame. I forced myself to start keeping a journal every morning. Writing down every little thing I was grateful for. Not publicly. To myself. I began to notice things. More things. I began to see more and more the things I was grateful for. I also began to see magic again. For that, I am grateful. I've decided to keep writing in that journal...
            Public and private life. I came out to the world last year as trans/gender-strange mostly to break down the wall that I saw growing thicker around myself. It was suffocating me. I felt trapped by my own guilt, shame, and fear. Was 'coming out' necessary? I suppose so. That particular wall did have to come down. However, it did simultaneously at times feel self-sabotaging. Both from a personal and a public perspective. I attacked myself and opened myself up to attack. I can only speak from my own perspective but I think it felt this way on a personal level because I still clung to this idea of the ‘right way to be in the world’. I’m not sure what that right way is so much anymore. To react, to rebel in a strong way to fight that ‘right way’  can be simultaneously an act of freedom and an act of self-sabotage. And I do acknowledge that I have felt both in the process. I’m grateful for the lovely mirrors that have shown me the multiple facets of this. Maybe its all about finding balance anyway. And being comfortable with what my good friend calls 'the power of and'. Despite the complexities, I do feel that sometimes stories have to be told. Even if they are just stories…  And... I do believe that some things, some stories, are best left unsaid, some things still kept close. All of our lives are far more complex than any of us ever let on I think…
            Stories. Oh the stories we tell. I’m coming more and more to the place that it isn’t so much that the stories themselves are the problem. Oh the guilt that I have felt over the years about that, feeling like I was supposed to be fucking Zen or something (sorry Zenners). I think it’s really just more that it is important to pick the right stories that work for us. The ones that will feed us. The stories that resonate with our heart. The ones that help us evolve and grow. Expand. Even as we let some stories go, knowing they are just stories, we cannot entirely escape their lessons. They mold and shape new stories. Our human life is a story. A story of wonder, pain, joy, love, loss, growth, evolution and much more. And with that said, onward to the next chapter…
            Much love to you all.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Field

In the last post on meditation, I talked a little bit about an analogy of a field of clay and potential shapes that arise within that field.

This analogy can be understood as a finger pointing to the very field of awareness that is us. The elaborate world that we inhabit, think, and feel are akin to the shapes of that field and the constant fluid that is awareness itself is like the substance of that field. The shapes and substance are one.

We hear sometimes these little spiritual snippets of wisdom such as "be in the now", or "discover yourself", or "find yourself", or are given various techniques for somehow shifting from our current state to another. These directions imply a duality that somehow we are separate from the field that we are. Nevertheless, sometimes we identify with name and form in such a way that we feel polarized from ourselves and our fundamental condition.

If we do take the route that suggests that something actually shifts, that somehow our focus transforms or shifts its identification, what then does it really mean to shift states or to go from one state of awareness to another? If we realize that the shapes of the clay are actually clay, does it now mean that there are no shapes? Are the shapes somehow less than they were before? Do we actually seek to somehow unmake the shapes in order that we might realize clay's nature?

In attending less to something's shape, and focusing more on its substance, what is it that actually shifts? Is it the shifting of one shape to another? Or is recognizing substance of an entirely different level of understanding?

If we come back to the analogy of the field of clay and the various shapes that arise from it, we might see that the substance itself is not a shape. It is that very thing that gives rise to shapes to begin with. It is that very thing that shapes dissolve back into.

From this standpoint, we might be tempted to say substance isn't seen, it is that which sees. We might be tempted to also say substance isn't felt, it is that which feels. The same goes for the other awareness avenues that we call the senses.

This is all true from a certain perspective...

But what if it is also true that substance is both that which sees and that which is seen? And also true that substance is both that which is felt and that which feels?

Taking this latter perspective, we are uniting our experience as noun and verb simultaneously. There is no separation.

I struggled for many years, and honestly still do sometimes, with this idea of being an imperfect being, of needing to attain this or that, or get rid of this or that, in order to become more fully perfect, enlightened, awake, better, a more spiritual being, blah blah blah...

This attitude however is akin to just trading one shape for another. "I prefer the shape of the holy one wearing white on a mountain top to the shape of this heaping crying mess on the floor," for example. Truly funny when you think about it. The substance has no judgements.  I am not so sure that the substance even has a plan. Plans are shapes. The field is infinite in its potential.

Starting from the substance, any shape is possible. Substance is like space, unlimited and unimpeded. In fact there is no need to hold to the shape that says that we must hold to the substance in order to be free even. What? But what about liberation? What is liberation from form but a shape though? Perhaps liberation is the relaxing of identification with shape? Is this a shape too? Who is liberated? Perhaps this shape of liberation is spontaneous and continuous, moment to moment, as we fluidly let go of identification with one shape and then another. And if we so choose to participate in creation, perhaps the shape-like movements that cause more shapes to arise will bring that same shape again. But is it the same shape? Or just similar? Does it matter if we like it or hate it? Does it even matter if it arises again? Some shapes we may like, some we may hate.  The relationships between shapes themselves just more shapes.  Do we embrace our shapes with the shape of shame or perhaps acceptance? How do we relate to the shapes? What gives us greater freedom? Perhaps in this way freedom is quite unique. Quite individual. Different for each shape. Can we discover for ourselves what freedom is?

What is inner? What is outer? Do we draw lines at our skin? Are we truly this body or is that too another shape? Perhaps my shape of the body is different than the shape that you see. My self, my gender, my life, seen differently through every pair of eyes or awareness that witnesses it. A square looked at from a far distance might appear to be a triangle. The shadow of a sphere might appear an oval. What perspective do we take?

Roles, professions, categories, preferences, all the various check marks that define us. That we agree to accept. That we agree to accept.

Perhaps though, we are not that triangle which one sees from a distance. No! We are really that cube. No wait! Perhaps we are not even that but a larger double cube! No wait!

Perhaps we are really the field itself just playing... And... Next we are also a torus, a double ... no quadruple helix!

Maybe we are a fountain, continuously renewing, water at play with itself.

Shape out of substance, dissolving, and rising forth once again.