consciousness

Comfort

Cedar Breaks, Southern Utah

Cedar Breaks, Southern Utah

The ever-repeating known

We often opt for what we know. To our ego, it seems the most easy, safe way to proceed toward any given goal. Instead of choosing a new path, we take the one we are most familiar with.

The problem with this approach is that, if we look at the record, it does not work. If we stay where we are, we are embodying the consciousness of the static, the stable, that which does not evolve. The ego takes comfort in the familiar and comes up with a myriad of reasons why we must not risk forward movement.

We heat our houses, we dress warmly, we refrain from challenging ourselves physically. We tend to choose familiar foods, activities, pleasures. We re-read the same books. Why does this not bring us happiness?

Because we are not built to behave this way. Advances in knowledge in neuroplasticity indicate that stroke victims who have suffered brain damage are able to recover more quickly and completely when they are challenged to learn new activities, to go outside their "comfort zones," and to engage the world without a safety net. This new brain activity actually forms new neural pathways. Slight activity variations are more effective than rote repetition in achieving this result. Taking bold action towards unknown activity is even better.

When we make it a habit to avoid the habitual, we are rewarded with a refreshed and renewed experience of existence. Let's challenge ourselves, even by starting small. Take the long way home. Turn this corner instead of that. Pay attention to nature whenever we feel the urge to go on autopilot.

Nature will reward our bravery every time.

“Great people do things before they're ready. ”
-Amy Poehler

Bristlecone Pine, Southern Utah

Bristlecone Pine, Southern Utah

Suffering in isolation

San Fernando Valley

San Fernando Valley

The permeable membrane that separates us

We are connected. This is not a fanciful notion; this is a fact. When we behave in a way that ignores the needs of others, they are affected negatively. In the West, we are in the habit of acting as if we are separate and alone in the world, pursuing our self-centered agenda and profiting from short-term gain. This is why it is difficult to defend our position in the court of world opinion.

Our justification of "manifest destiny" does not play in other countries, and there is no mystery as to why this is the case. Candidate Trump says he will build a wall on our border with Mexico, and that he will force the Mexican government to pay for it. This plays to those in his base who revel in fantasy. We could build the tallest wall imaginable and not keep ourselves safe from the world's suffering, or the backlash of anger that would inevitably follow.

We cannot operate with impunity when it comes to our neighbors. The ego tells us that it is desirable to keep ourselves safe against an "other." But if there is only one thing, and if we are part of that one thing, it follows that we are all a part of each other.

In India, people seem to recognize this kinship and honor it. There are horrific exceptions of course, but for the most part gentility and friendliness are the rule. There is a tacit agreement that I will not harm you to advance me, as that would be harming myself.

We that follow teachings of the Vedic worldview also know this intuitively, but we still occasionally act out of willful ignorance. Willful ignorance, by definition, means that we know better but act as though we don't. It is time that we uncover the undimmed light within us and behave accordingly.

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

Jesus Christ in the King James Bible • Matthew 7:12

Salt Lamp

Salt Lamp

Having enemies

Looking North from Topanga thru the fog

Looking North from Topanga thru the fog

Losing touch with our connectedness

Americans have been taken hostage.

In this election year, more than any period in recent memory, we are expected to do ideological battle against those with whom we disagree. Divisive public figures demand that we pick a side. It is perceived as almost noble to engage in lobbing rhetorical missiles via social media, to bully others, to belittle anyone who holds a differing opinion.

When we engage in these activities, we allow ourselves to be distracted from the truth of our natures. The real tyrants who benefit from confusion and distraction are allowed to take away all our real strength, our unity. If I can be distracted by who is winning the media horse race, I may not be paying attention when bad legislation is passed, shady trade deals are constructed and pushed through, or our planet is decimated for some hidden corporation's short term gain.

Yes, we are citizens. Yes, we have a duty to stay informed and to vote. But do we need to consume every bit of media "bummer porn" that is thrown our way? Do we need to have our emotional chains yanked by candidates and corporations who have raised enough cash to buy access to our eyes and ears? No, we are under no such obligation.

When we are driving our cars, we do not need to tune in to opinionated talk radio. When we have time to ourselves after work, we do not need to share that time with television. When we are on the internet, we can make a choice not to read every angry meme that competes for our attention. 

A true crime would be to lose precious time that could be spent renewing ourselves with adaptation energy through meditation. To free ourselves, all we need to do is unplug and engage with our fellow beings in the true spirit of brotherhood and unity.

Wave and ocean 

If I am ocean (consciousness) through and through, as I learn in my happiest and most aligned state, I find it counterproductive to have enemies, an adversarial position, express divisive opinions, indulge in sarcasm, or be attached to outcomes.

Image of Durga, Hindu temple, Vrindavan

Image of Durga, Hindu temple, Vrindavan

Religion or spirituality

Transcending shame

Organized religion has a product to sell us. The product is "Spirituality" with a capital S. Religion demands unquestioning belief. If we are obedient, we may earn a place for ourselves in some future heaven. If we are curious and question a religious authority, we may be rewarded with the threat of eternal banishment and torture. As in all selling, fear is a very effective motivator. Our choice is simple: obey or die.

This less-than-gentle paradigm is not the way of the Veda. We have no doctrine to sell you. Do your own research, follow your own heart, we say. We don't require that you believe in a God or Gods. You needn't tithe to a church or bend to an authority. 

There is a technique that we teach that has simple instructions. For this knowledge, we ask a traditional payment. Because an exchange of energy and information takes place, the student keeps his newfound knowledge close to his heart and has a chance to observe the results of diligent application over time. There is no shame in choosing a different path or in not following a path at all.

We meditators tend to express a loving reverence toward our teachers. This is not an enforced requirement. It is a simple and sincere expression of gratitude. In any spiritual community, there are instances when a charismatic leader might have sycophantic followers, and ego worship can develop, but this circumstance has no bearing on the value of the practice itself. Once learned, our simple technique can be repeated for a lifetime of satisfying meditations.

Paradoxically, we are not anti-faith. if you follow an established religion that enriches your life, regular meditation serves to deepen that bond, and to clear away stresses that conflict with a stronger connection to a higher power. We have many practitioners in all faiths.

We do not recruit. We do not punish. There is no eternal torment in our worldview. One is always free to practice or not to practice. My teacher said one thing consistently. "Follow your heart, and observe the results."

Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.
Benjamin Franklin

If you would like to learn yourself, or if you are already a student and would like to pass on this knowledge, it starts with a free intro talk. click here to attend.

Wildflowers, Siskiyou mountains, Southern Oregon

Wildflowers, Siskiyou mountains, Southern Oregon

Letting go of stresses

Value added benefits

We all carry a load of accumulated stresses in the tissues of our bodies. Along with these stored stresses, we have imbedded "stress triggers" that correspond to the environmental circumstances that were present during the overwhelming life experiences that caused the stresses in the first place.

If I am attacked on the street, I will not only store the stress of the attack, but also the blue car that passed just before, the scent of street food, the glint of light from a passing windshield. If in the future I have similar experiences that resemble the stress triggers, the original stress plays over again like a record. I re-experience the trauma, although there may actually be no danger present. This phenomenon has a lot in common with symptoms experienced by combat veterans suffering from PTSD.

Consistent meditation serves to safely and gradually release the stored stresses we have accumulated. Over time, we become better able to handle overwhelming life experiences that might come our way. Without these automatic stresses replaying constantly, we start to have an easier, gentler experience of life in general.

Vedic "Rounding" (meditation in combination with yoga positions, breathing exercises, and intervals of deep rest) can facilitate a much more rapid release of these stresses. A Rounding retreat is a great way to experience this accelerated method of "emptying out" the reservoir of unwanted energy we have been carrying around with us. It is good to be with others on the same path at such a time.

Students who have been through this procedure attest to its effectiveness, and seem to have more happiness and a more carefree experience in their day-to-day lives.

The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it's your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can't package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking. 
Wayne Dyer

Yankee Meadows, Southern Utah

Yankee Meadows, Southern Utah

The Illusion of Separation

Maples, Ashland, Oregon

Maples, Ashland, Oregon

Our Deadliest Mistake

We are conditioned by a myriad of forces in the world to believe a lie about ourselves. The lie is simply that we are alone. Because all we know is bounded by the five senses, and by the recall and re-experience of our memories, we believe that this is all that comprises us. We see beings around us, and because we don't live in their skins, we see them as other. Others are to be hated, feared, mistrusted, competed against, conquered, vanquished. We look for the differences, not the similarities.

Our world is an unhappy place of fear, of danger, of lack. The best we can seem to do is provide for our own safety and the safety of those most similar to us, and hang the rest. We work hard to distinguish ourselves, to stand out, to prevail against others, to survive at their expense.

By seeing our surroundings in this light, we ensure our own unhappiness. We may gain brief respite from our problems, but never a lasting peace, never a sense of oneness with nature or a loving Creator.

Identifying with this negative world view becomes a virtue, a "realistic" survival strategy that rewards us with a short, empty life, stress-filled days, and sleepless nights. We might, however, become lucky enough to be introduced to a meditative technique.

We sit quietly, as we are instructed, about twenty minutes twice a day, and a miraculous thing starts happening. We begin to have a direct and subtle experience of the Vedic worldview, which is that there is only one thing. If this is true, it becomes impossible to have enemies.

We discover that there are no others. There is just us.

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."

James Madison

Shiva temple detail, Vrindavan, India

Shiva temple detail, Vrindavan, India

The greatest force

Jeff Kober's wet plate camera, Los Angeles

Jeff Kober's wet plate camera, Los Angeles

How do I feel love?

As we pass through the stages of infancy into adulthood, we lose the need to receive from others in order to survive. We have, to one degree or another, become self-sufficient. Our ego, ever the naysayer, insists that we must acquire more and more material wealth in order to be worthy. Worthy of what? The love of others, of ourselves, of our creator.

But our creator already loves us. He brought us into this world and gave us endless gifts that we often choose to ignore. We have difficulty loving ourselves because we don't wish to be judged as narcissistic or conceited. Yet we are encouraged to appear confident and assertive. No wonder we get confused. What is the path to true self love? The Veda states that there is only one thing. The difference between you and me is miniscule. The love of others and the love of self is an academic distinction at best.

This leaves loving others. It is a paradox that, according to the Vedic world view, we can only feel love if we give it. We must strive as yogis to do just this. In what circumstances? In every circumstance. When is such effort appropriate? Always. Every time we ask the question, the answer is yes.

When we do the research and check our deepest intuition, we know that we must love others always. To follow this path yields so much more inner wealth than the acquisition of material goods. 

So, for us, to give love is to experience love, with no exceptions.

We have never killed our way to peace. Our culture goes so far as to discount the very idea of peace and deems its study unworthy or unrealistic.

War is justified by adopting a twisted worldview in which the exact words of the Christian savior are ignored and discarded, or cherrypicked.

"Market forces" or the dangerous dictates of crony capitalism are sold to us as inevitable, or even morally superior to actions or ideas that are sustainable.

Orwell warned us about this linguistic pretzel logic. His prescient dystopian fiction seems to have become an accurate depiction of our daily lives.

Perhaps it is time to try love.

Boat passengers on the Ganges

Boat passengers on the Ganges

The devil you know

Rainforest, above Fryman, Los Angeles

Rainforest, above Fryman, Los Angeles

How we romance our afflictions

Am I this? This body that will ultimately fail and die, no matter what I do to contribute to its longevity? 

No, I cannot be just this. My body does miraculous things if I don't severely hamper its mysterious healing powers with my constant emotional cravings and override its superior innate intelligence in the mistaken idea that I "own" it. We, as westerners, insist on making bad choices for ourselves and those around us because we arrogantly feel it is our birthright. This assumption is based on what?

It is based on an idea. We think we are this story that we have constructed around the individual, around the consumer of corporate products, around our job, around our tattoos.

Our tattoos will fade and become unreadable as our skin loses elasticity. We will cease buying Mercedes-Benz automobiles when our reflexes fail and we can no longer safely navigate a freeway. We will even cease having preferences that our precious opinions matter as our fading mobility isolates us. This is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

We are not youth; it is a stage we pass through. We are not uniforms we wear, or clothes we buy. We put these on and take them off, and no indication we ever wore them remains.

What remains? Only this: the silent witness. The sky that shows no trace of yesterday's clouds. We are the seeing, the experiencing, We could not own it if we tried. It is on loan to us.

Meditation puts us in touch with this experience by clearing away that which we are not. If we enter the subtler realms again and again, we can renew the only thing we have ever had.

This beautiful moment.

Our false sense of ownership robs us of true compassion, of the choice to give to and receive love from others. Time is passing. We can surrender our preference to be selfish, and in doing so to experience the joy of service, of creativity, of love.

Overlooking Northern California

Overlooking Northern California

Justification

Window display, Valley Village, California

Window display, Valley Village, California

The hardest work you'll never enjoy

When we justify behavior we have chosen for ourselves, we are taking on extra maintenance work that is exceedingly arduous, and the payoff is negligible at best.

We have probably all done it. We engage in some socially embarrassing behavior. We regret it. Instead of admitting that we made a mistake, we compound the problem by propping up a rickety structure with excuses.

Our ego self-identifies as a personality that needs defending in order to stay safe. The kind of safety that justification buys is illusory. It is like the presidential candidate who changes the subject when he is unprepared with a ready answer. It takes very little time for observers to glean that he is actually ignorant of the topic at hand. Such a candidate does little to inspire confidence in his ability to lead.

A better strategy is to simply admit the wrong as soon as possible and move on. The present needs our attention, and if we are rehashing events in the past or dreading the future, we cheat the world of our honest intention and action in the here and now.

Grounding ourselves in truth is ultimately the easier policy. We no longer need to remember the excuse, carry the baggage, feel defensive about the lying, or keep it all sorted in our mind. We reduce the risk of coming off like a shady used car salesman to others.

Our meditation practice aids us in cutting through to the simple truth of the matter. The juggling act is over. We can simply be.

Appearing to others as we are not is indeed hard work. Aligning ourselves with reality and truth is the easier, softer way.

Friendly nuzzle, Vrindavan, India

Friendly nuzzle, Vrindavan, India

Getting quiet enough

Wildflowers, Fryman Canyon, Los Angeles

Wildflowers, Fryman Canyon, Los Angeles

LIstening for the still small voice


My ego presents my consciousness with a dizzying sequence of thoughts. Sometimes it resembles a petulant child, tugging at my hand, demanding all of my attention to this crisis or that perceived insult. It makes endless commentaries on what I should do, how I should think, how have I failed. What does all this say about me? How can all of this be fixed, right now?

We don't try to quiet the mind. Unlike other techniques, the householder's Vedic meditation routine consists of sitting quietly and innocently repeating the mantra for twenty minutes, twice a day. That's it. My teacher was very easy, very accommodating, but on one point he was adamant; "This is not negotiable," he said, and I listened. "Get to the chair, twice a day. Sit down. Let the mantra come effortlessly. Whatever happens, happens for good."

This directive is simple, but the ego is persistent. A meditator is in danger of succumbing to a torrent of judgements, rationalizations and erroneous conclusions. Some of us may stray from the path. But if we observe objectively, meditation increases our sense of peace. It places us in a position of neutrality and removes us from the onslaught of chaos delivered by the ego. We return to the path.

I feel fortunate that I don't need to figure it all out. I just need to follow simple instructions, and slowly over time, observe my life getting better.

Getting started for some of us is tough. The ego has a lot to say about why we should not learn. 

"It's a racket. It's all about money."

"Do don't want to become brainwashed, do you?"

"I'm a tough customer. I'm nobody's fool."


Having introduced doubt, the ego has again tricked us into inaction. Some of us may actually never get started, and the ego's death-grip upon our consciousness remains intact.

We owe it to ourselves to break this cycle, and give ourselves the gift of meditation.

Riding the wave, not driving it

Asilomar beach, Pacific Grove, California

Asilomar beach, Pacific Grove, California

Taking it as it comes

I spoke to a friend about surfing. He surfs. I do not. Yet.

I was so curious about the experience that I just listened to his description and reserved judgement until I had some time to absorb what he said. He started off with the simple intention of riding a wave. He visited the ocean every chance he could and spent a long time just paddling on his stomach, building upper body strength, and getting used to being with the powerful ocean’s energy. Then at one point, he knew to get up and stand on the board.
 
He felt that the success of the ride had to do with a partnership between himself and nature. Making the right choice instinctively in the moment, never becoming arrogant and misjudging his own individual power over the situation, he also had to learn from his own experience and from the guidance of those with more “wave hours” than he himself had logged.
 
The man who taught me to meditate is also a lifelong surfer, and although I have not heard him speak much of the experience, he did use the “ocean and wave” analogy repeatedly. The number of skilled surfers who also happen to meditate in our tradition and many others seems to be exponentially increasing. As sports go, I can think of few that are as simpatico to the Vedic way of perceiving the world as surfing.

When I find the right teacher, I hope to do it myself.

The Indian subcontinent has about 7000 km of coastline, and surfing is gaining popularity there.

http://www.surfingindia.net/mantra-surf-club

Iceplant.jpg

How far, how near?

Black monkey and barbed wire, Northern India.

Black monkey and barbed wire, Northern India.

Locating our enlightenment

The idea that we must struggle to gain is persistent and pervasive. The Horatio Alger archetype of the "Self-Made Man" tells us that striving is itself a virtue, that only by overcoming insurmountable obstacles can we achieve anything in this life. Our culture reinforces this scenario again and again.

The Vedic worldview posits that we are part of the one thing of which all is made. We are not removed and observing the action; we are an integral part of everything that is happening. By surrendering our individuality to the flow of nature, we have surpassed any "goal" that struggle could achieve for us. There is nothing to "get."

The Self, the silent eternal witness is not to be attained, only uncovered. By removing obstacles that obscure the effulgent light that cannot be diminished, we can know truth. We do not have to traverse great distances to do so. The ultimate attainment is closer than our own breath.

We sit comfortably with our back supported, and head and neck free. We repeat a sound silently that we have been trained to use. When thoughts come, we quietly go back to the sound. It's that simple. Soon we become aware that no further travel is necessary.

We have arrived.

"Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
Luke 17:21 - King James Bible

Roiling skies in Arkansas.

Roiling skies in Arkansas.

Emotional identification

The error of grandiosity

We all get our feelings hurt. We are not always treated with the respect we would prefer by someone in our life, or, depending on our level of grandiosity, by life itself. It's a common experience, and actually, a reassuring reminder that we are still alive and human.

The problem arises when we regard hurt feelings as something to be resolved, something to be guarded against, or a cause for retaliation. So-and-so disrespected me. What does this say about me? Should I engage further with that person until I wrest satisfaction from them emotionally? Should I take my interpretation of their current regard for me as gospel, or should I recognize my own past propensity for emotional distortion?

Our "filters" are not always clean. We all carry stress and emotional baggage that colors our perceptive abilities. This person who so offended us is battling their own demon, or could just be having a bad day. Either way, it serves no good purpose to react out of fear and ratchet up the level of tension. We in the meditation community have tools that non-meditators may not have access to.

We acknowledge that we are all imperfectly perfect, that God dwells in each of us, and that it behooves us to carry an extra large ration of human forgiveness for ourselves and others. This is called "adaptation energy," and we get it from a diligent meditation practice.

We go to a place where, for twenty minutes, twice a day, we lose our wave identification and become ocean again. From this vantage point, we can see the counter-productive error of being a wave in conflict with other waves, and we can relax, knowing we can contribute to others' sense of well-being from the point of view of the oceanic "Self."

Reasons not to learn meditation

The ego has no problem coming up with entries on this laundry list. We all know seekers who get caught in this loop. Hopefully, they find their way out eventually. We, as meditators or as teachers, can only wait patiently for them, remembering our own difficult path before we finally pursued our practice.

Succulent in a Venice rock garden

Succulent in a Venice rock garden

Super powers?

Statue of Shiva at rest, Rishikesh, India

Statue of Shiva at rest, Rishikesh, India

Arrive without traveling

The Vedic world view posits that there is only one thing. There are not two things. These statements may seem simplistic, and to the more intellectually accomplished of us, redundant. There is a subtle distinction between the two sentences.

There is only one thing. We are all part of creation itself and of the creator.

There are not two things. We are not separate from each other or from the creator.

This oneness means that to place oneself in opposition to others or to nature is counterproductive and misleading.
If we share identity with our creator, it follows that we can share our creator's characteristics. The characteristic of omnipresence indicates that it is possible in consciousness to be everywhere at once.

The Rishis of the Himalayas were said to close their eyes, and while in a meditative state, travel vast distances. We meditators in the West have only scratched the surface of what can be accomplished by removing the inner boundaries we cling to so fervently in our ego-driven identities. We are able to gain not by grasping but by releasing.

Daily meditation gently trains us to do this, again and again. It is a gift we can give ourselves. It only requires a steady intent and resolve to get to the chair as our teacher taught us when we first learned meditation.

Without going out of my door
I can know all things on Earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of Heaven

The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows

Arrive without traveling
See all without looking
Do all without doing


Excerpt from The Inner Light - George Harrison
©1968 Northern Songs

Clouds over LA basin

Clouds over LA basin

What did Jesus teach?

Is the kingdom of heaven within us?

Regardless of their differences, most religions have a great deal in common. The idea that God has three main properties: Omnipotence (all powerful). Omnipresence (everywhere at once). Omniscience (all knowing).

If God has these qualities, it follows that we as individuals are part of his creation, too. We have it within us to exemplify the best version of ourselves, to embody the Christ's vision of God's will on earth.

Are there any of Jesus' actual words that say God favors one group of people over another? Or that it is permissible or desirable to act violently in judgement against others in his name? He does not say this. He does say to love thy enemy as thyself. He does say to "judge not, lest you yourself be judged."

He does not demand empty actions or gestures of us. He does not promise special favors in the afterlife for a chosen few.

In this season when Jesus's birth is celebrated, even those among us who do not formally follow the teachings of an established Christian sect can learn so much from his words, from his very spiritual presence in our own hearts. We need be careful not to conflate his teachings with other questionable intentions his professed followers have added posthumously. If we stick to what Jesus said, his message is in no way antithetical to the ancient Vedic principles we in the meditation community study.

Regardless of your spiritual orientation or your professed faith (or lack of faith), I wish you peace, and hope that your heaven becomes uncovered to you as it will to all beings in time.

Go with God. Jai Guru Deva.

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
Corinthians 13:1-13

Choose what is good for me wherever it is, and make me pleased with it.
Prophet Muhammad - 7th century

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
Ancient Tibetan buddhist meditation
 

When I despair,
I remember that all through history
the ways of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants, and murderers,
and for a time they can seem invincible,
but in the end they always fall.

Think of it - always.
Mahatma Gandhi - early 20th century

Accidental openness

Bare locus branches, winter, Los Angeles

Bare locus branches, winter, Los Angeles

Call it a boon. Call it grace.

It only seems evident in retrospect. Before I found meditation, I only had the tools of self-will to power my life. Since I was only able to identify with my thoughts and feelings, I was acting only out of ego gratification. If my ego was displeased with any aspect of my life, I judged that situation to be untenable, unendurable. I was doomed to live a sad life, lonely, and angry with the universe and my fellow travelers in it.

But in spite of my warped world view, I made one or two decisions that turned out to be prescient and wise. Where was this guidance coming from? Certainly not from my ego. In spite of the negative bent of my view of the world and the culture I was born into, despite the prevalence of unhealthy examples around me, I made the choice to become vegetarian at around twenty years of age.

At age twenty five, I started practicing yoga. Los Angeles was not the overt marketplace of all things eastern that it later became, and I had to tape Richard Hittleman's yoga instruction programs off of KCET, a local PBS affiliate. I practiced alone, told no one, and managed to become more and more proficient. I later let the practice go, but I never forgot the asanas. When I resumed decades later, it all came back.

Then about ten years ago, I met the man who taught me to meditate. I knew that I did not know how to do it, and that he did. I paid him to teach me. Although it seemed like a large amount of money at that stage of my life, I know now that it was the bargain of a lifetime.

I don't feel like I made these choices. I feel these choices made me. No amount of money could dissuade me from continuing these habitual actions.

Where did I get the willingness to set aside my ego and take on these seemingly risky practices? The only answer that makes sense to me now is that I became open to a higher power's direction and ignored the pressures of the prevailing culture to conform.

In retrospect I can clearly see the guiding hand of a loving God.

This season, let's strive to not take our own emotional temperature too much. Let us look outward toward our fellows, put their happiness before our own. Let us be open to the joys of anonymous giving.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life."

Francis Bernadone, (St. Francis) 1204, Italy.

Inner peace

San Fernando Valley from Fryman Canyon trail, Los Angeles, California

San Fernando Valley from Fryman Canyon trail, Los Angeles, California

What do I bring to the party?

At times, we choose to react to world events by mirroring the turmoil we see around us. We think that reacting with anger, violence, and vengeance will keep us safe. We tend to feel that such emotions are justified, and in some way, appropriate and helpful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking on the angst of the moment, while an all too human and understandable response, helps no one, least of all, ourselves.

The carnage in Paris and elsewhere in the world is an expression of the world view that we can kill our way to peace. This tactic has never worked. Every angry reaction, no matter how justified, has always proven to pour gasoline on the fire of more anger and bloodshed. How can we, as peace-loving citizens, help?

The answer is simple and clear. We need to react out of our own fulfillment. We need to share our inner peace generously with others, not by proselytizing or converting others to our own habits, but by contributing to the collective calm by showing ourselves to be reliably peaceful and stable.

How can we share something we haven't got? We can't. We can only contribute to our own inner peace by meditating, filling ourselves with precious adaptation energy, twice a day for twenty minutes. The dominant culture tells us there is no time for such endeavors, but there is time.

There is this twenty minutes. Starting right now.

The way of the world would have us believe we share nothing in common with our "enemies." Power-brokers and world leaders have always used this concept to divide and conquer. The way of the spirit is very different. Intuition states and experience confirms that our humanity bonds us, bridges divisions, and makes us whole. We serve no one by reacting out of fear, anger, and ignorance.

Locus tree at dusk, Fryman Canyon

Locus tree at dusk, Fryman Canyon

Learning, then choosing action

Laurelhurst Park, Portland, Oregon

Laurelhurst Park, Portland, Oregon

How to evolve by shifting priorities

A close friend once had to establish communication with a family member whose relationship had become difficult. He went to his mentor and asked for advice. The advice was simple: "Have the conversation you will be proud of when you are eighty."

Suddenly my friend was no longer so concerned about establishing his point of view, convincing anyone of a behavioral change, or "having his way." He was no longer after short term goals. He was now playing the long game.

When we realize the precious nature of our tenuous and temporary relationships with others, the tone we take when conversing with them will necessarily change. It becomes easier for us to see from a more loving vantage point. While it can seem very important to have a desired outcome in any given interaction (winning the other person over), it can cause long term damage to that relationship.

When we realize that everyone is evolving at their own pace, and that others are doing the best they can, given the tools and knowledge at their disposal, it becomes possible to have more compassion. By projecting myself forward in time to the age of eighty, I can see that short term concerns need not drive my present actions. I may do more listening and less talking. I may be more loving and less judgmental.

My friend's family encounter went much more smoothly than he had anticipated, and the relationship was strengthened. The poetic truth of his teacher's words has stayed with me also. 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.


Corinthians 13:4-8New International Version (NIV)

"Correcting the intellect" means that I can open myself to input from sources other than my own thinking. Vedic readings, biblical teachings, inspiring words from teachers and mentors are all available to me, and are preferable to whatever fear-driven short term concerns I may have in this moment.

Vedic knowledge meetings and group meditations are also recommended and very useful.

Portland view from Hotel

Portland view from Hotel

Frozen in Time

The Myth of Achievement

Our ego tells us that it is possible, through effort and determination, to achieve a state of safety. The problem with this idea is that it misjudges the nature of reality. It is akin to perceiving the world as a static, fixed place, not the dynamic, ever-changing dance of subtle energies that it is.

The truth is that we can be safe, but not by manipulating people, places, and things, as the ego would have us do. We surrender and let go, something we have been doing diligently by meditating twice daily . We can join the stream of life instead of trying to control and direct the flow. We become present to the moment, accepting all with an open heart, not with a demanding, clutching grip.

Since all our senses are present and aware, not focused and tensely fixated on outcomes, we can take life as it comes. We are available to whatever changes come our way, because we are no longer being held prisoner by our own expectations.

If we take our cue from nature itself, we realize that true safety and security come from acceptance of what is; the ever-changing present is all we have. 

Twice-daily meditation and regular attendance at Vedic knowledge meetings are recommended to get the most out of one's practice. The sense of expansiveness that occurs in a group meditation setting is a welcome reinforcement of the resolve and dedication we need to continue growth as a meditator.

Lithia Creek in rain, Ashland, Oregon.

Lithia Creek in rain, Ashland, Oregon.

Meditation and sleep:

The value of unstressing.

Almost all my students have voiced concern over what to do if they fall asleep during meditation. I've kept my answers consistent. If we stay seated, with our back supported and our head and neck free, it is a rare occurrence to actually fall asleep, but it may happen, and it is never a cause for alarm.

The reason we do not lay prone to meditate is this: lying down signals to the body to release sleep chemistry. Sitting with the back supported signals to the practiced meditator that it is time to transcend. If sleep occurs, it might mean that everything is working as it should, and that the phenomenon of stress release is happening.

When stresses unwind that have been stored in the tissues of our bodies, whatever has built up comes out. Sometimes this is exhaustion or sleep deprivation. If I notice my head is cocked at a weird angle, or my mouth is dry, this is usually the explanation. If it happens, I don't fuss; I just add five or ten more minutes to my meditation. If I have run out of time and have to be somewhere, I take note of the fact that I'm currently unstressing sleep deprivation, and that I should allow myself nap time whenever possible.

Regardless of what is happening, I know that I can always call my instructor or attend a knowledge meeting for useful feedback from my teacher and members of the meditation community.

Knowledge meetings and group meditations are recommended to renew and reinvigorate your meditation practice. Please avail yourself of this resource. For my students, there is a knowledge meeting every Sunday at 10:00 am. I answer questions at a group level and privately, then we meditate as a group (an experience not to be missed). There is no charge. All are welcome; even non-meditators can get a benefit and will be given a free technique that will prove helpful. If you're in Los Angeles, let me know if you want to drop by.

chuck.bramlet@gmail.com