Enlightenment Magic Trick Number One: As You See It, So It Is


surrealeyeomni

Changing your thoughts is nothing compared to changing the perceiver of them. 

Six months before my overnight awakening, I dreamed I was wandering in the ruins of an ashram in India. (Later I would learn from photos this dreamscape is the now derelict grounds where the Maharishi held court in 1968 with the likes of actress Mia Farrow and the Beatles.)

In that dream, a white haired female guru approached me. She took my right arm, drew me aside and whispered, “This will be a full transmission.” She then kissed my forehead where I knew my third eye to be located.

At once I was filled with a lightness of being—which I might expect if an enlightened person were to transmit grace, even in a dream. But what happened next startled me. I was seeing—not through my eyeballs—but through my single eye, as if all my perception had relocated to a place above and between my eyes.

What I was seeing with this eye was another single eye hovering in space and peering back at me. I knew instantly that I was seeing “the eye of God” but at the same time I knew this eye looking at me was the same eye through which I perceived it. (Chew on that koan for a bit.)

I woke up, wrote down the dream and forgot about it until a few months later when this “transmission” kicked in and an awakening happened. For the record, I do not know for certain who that female guru was in this dream ashram. But in real life, I spent three days in retreat with Ganga-gi about six weeks before my awakening. (And to this day, she appears in my dreams along with Igor Kufayev and the Maharishi).

—-

I have a theory. And it’s most likely a well known truth for deep scholars of Vedic wisdom, and for quantum physicists out on a limb, and for scientists on the frontiers of consciousness research.

We are all magicians.

magicianwitchestarotWe are all spinning reality into apparent form, all of the time. The only difference between the everyday Joe and his magic, is that it is wielded blindly and relatively impotently. Books like “The Secret” and new age teachings on “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “The Law of Attraction” point in the direction of truth but miss the mark.

These teachings tell you that if you change your thoughts/vibrational frequency (and positive feelings will follow) you change your reality. But what they don’t tell you is the key to real magic.

Changing your thoughts is nothing compared to changing the perceiver of them. 

What I mean by this is simple. You are either generating thoughts (or noticing them for purists who insist thoughts just uncontrollably arise or happen) through your finite self, or through your Infinite Self. You are either “seeing” reality through your mortal two eyes or through your Eternal One Eye.

It is this one shift in perception that the teaching called A Course in Miracles defines as a “miracle.”  It is a holy instant in which a perceptual shift from finite to infinite happens and then real form-changing, rule bending miracles become possible.

Or as teacher Igor Kufayev states in The World is As You See It, “The World ‘out there’ is the way we perceive it ‘in here’ and that’s not a static affair, for our reality changes with our perception of it. It is for that reason that refinement of perception is seen as an indispensable part of any spiritual progress.”

It is in this deeper spiritual context that I have noticed that just changing/monitoring/manipulating thoughts to determine outcomes in my apparent favour is child’s play at best and folly at worst.

Because those thoughts I can most easily tinker with are sourced in the chatter of my finite self, it is like attempting to grant wishes to a four year old child. (One reason why the Desire Map work of Danielle Laporte has not appealed to me—it’s saying, let your pleasure-and-temporal satisfaction-self rule). Laporte calls desire an “evolutionary impulse.”

But let’s get real. It depends on which self (finite or infinite) is doing the desiring, whether the impulse is evolutionary or simply self-satisfying.

I don’t want to be a downer on the whole “you create your reality movement.” I was an early adopter, starting with a book called Seth Speaks that I inhaled as truth in 1987. I’ve had my lion’s share of major manifesting success stories.

But, let’s look at it this way. If I am manifesting from a less than ultimate aspect of self, of what lasting value and transformative power are my creations? Yes a child can make a wish. But does a child’s wish consider the good of all? Does the child yet know even what is best for herself? Realistically, a child will wish for gratification, or forbidden fruit, or immediate pleasure. And of course, for more toys.

aladinlampThe teaching of the bestselling book “The Secret” caters to this child in us.  It tells us we can create with the power of positive thought and emotion the bigger car, the grander house, the better job, the perfect romantic partner. And yes, to some extent we can manipulate the world by “manifesting” these things using the rudimentary tools of the Finite Self (affirmations, positive thinking, creative visualization, vision boards, neurolinguistic programming, desire-mapping and more).

But ultimately these tools have one single and drastic limit. They are tools made to fit the hands of your grasping and childish finite self. They will never work in the hands of your Limitless Being. And for that reason, if you care to create real magic that matters, that heals this world and transforms your being, you need a different set of tools. You need the magic wand meant to be used by your Quantum Self.

That wand is here already. It is what you are. You are the wand itself. Your body (energetic and physical), your mind, your feelings are the elements that make up the structure of this wand. Even the much maligned ego and personality have their roles in this wand that they are a part of forming.

But a wand without a current is useless. The power that activates the wand that you are, that runs like electricity through a lightning rod, is none-other that your Infinite Self in the form of Shakti.

When you realize that the only magic worth making, the only spells worth casting, are those that source from the Real You, the whole Secret biz drops away. It’s like graduating from kindergarten and going straight to architecture school. You used to play with play dough, to create forms that crumble. Now you are working with steel and stone, and drafting edifices of Truth, Flow, Wonder and Love.

Life is different when seen through the lens of my One Eye.  From this holy lens, nothing is ever wrong and everything can be righted. It is an eye that sees paradox as delightfully essential.

And I am only in the training wheels phase of learning the truth of the Yoga Vasistha statement: “The world is as you see it.”   

The world is not simply as I “manifest” it as The Secret would tell me.  It is more intimate than that. The world is made from my perception. The very idea that there is a “law of attraction” and a self to use this law, is a part of the world my perception has created.

In the end, what I am pointing at is simple and yet elusive.

After years of playing with the The Law of Attraction, I quit for a better game. It’s the game of “Not my will, but thy will” and then the immediate joy of remembering that “Thy will IS my will.”

As such, I am experimenting now with a change in how I see my role in reality creation. Rather than play the child’s game of fulfilling every desire through “magnetizing” outcomes, I am waiting to see what desire wants of me. Rather than the fool’s game of wanting this or that, I am allowing the flow of my own being to provide what is perfectly needed before a want arises.

This is not about being passive or without dreams or goals, but rather noticing that by moving into the One-Eye perception (which can be called constant effortless surrender) my goals surprise even me, the non-ordinary magnifies, synchronicity intensifies, and miracles multiply.

In the words of mystic poet W.B. Yeats, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

That sharpness grows when we are willing to behold the world through the One Eye of our Quantum Self. And then, watch as the astoundingly magical and miraculous become everyday events.

As Dorothy says, “Toto, I have a a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”

Awareness is here…..or maybe in the Land of Oz.

Lori Ann

Did you know I’ve started a weekly 3-minute video blog that arrives in your email each Monday morning? It’s free, fun and magical. Curious? Then subscribe here. 

Featured Image: Omni magazine cover photo

Magician: Witches Tarot, Illustated by Mark Evans

Aladin’s Lamp: Art Insights

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The Awakened Magician: What Happens When Non-Ordinary Becomes Ordinary?


celticgoddessI’ve been hiding something from my readers. A dirty little enlightenment secret.

It’s the kind of cover-up that happens when you think you might be crazy to voice something that no one else in the non-duality, awakening to Self/No Self crowd talks about.

You think: Maybe I’m an anomaly? Or you wonder: Did I get caught up in one of those sidetracks the Sages of Old warn about, that admonition to “not get seduced by the siddhis.”

In case your Sanskrit is rusty, we turn to Wikipedia for this handy definition: “Spiritual, paranormal, supernatural, or otherwise magical powers, abilities, and attainments that are the products of spiritual advancement through sadhana (spiritual practices), such as meditation and yoga.”

To be clear, I’ve always had the gift of foresight. It started when I was a teenager as nocturnal dreams that later came to pass as real life events. By my early thirties, I took a break from journalism and crafted a nine year career as a highly accurate, sought-after professional clairvoyant. So my caveat is this—the non-ordinary is not unusual for me.

What is unusual these days is the magnitude and range of what I can only call rampant magic. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve stepped into a sci-fantasy novel where there are new paranormal rules of engagement and I seem to be cast in the role of a dazed and somewhat suspicious wizard. And oddly, it’s not just me…..those around are reporting a dramatic uptick in synchronicity, high strangeness and non-ordinary perception.

Add to that, I’ve intersected (by a precognitive dream nonetheless) a spiritual teacher named Igor Kufayev who is becoming known for his multi-day immersions where he routinely zaps students with shaktipat. You can’t get anymore “the force be with you” than having a divine energy flow from one being to another in service of accelerating awakening to true nature. Zowie!

This surge of the magical in my life, and the lives of those close to me, is not without meaning and nor is it something to be hidden or avoided. My heart tells me that this acceleration in non-ordinary perception and ability is what happens when consciousness resides in the non-local realm–awakening tends to do that to you. It blasts through the contracted localized version of self (call it Ego or the “I”) and expands consciousness to awareness of what quantum physicist Amit Goswami calls the Quantum Self.

That’s the real magician—non-local consciousness IS the proverbial fairy godmother.

And more and more people are discovering that awakening is not just about the end of suffering and abiding in a kind of static peace and equanimity. It’s also about the exciting stirrings of the reality-bending capacities of human potential. Jesus did not walk on water, heal the sick, raise the dead, and multiply loaves and fish as a circus stunts–he was pointing at what happens when the Quantum Self is realized. (You might check out my Bending the Reality Spoon article from 2012, touching on the miracles thing).

I’m going to be exploring this “magic” theme in greater depth over the next few blog posts, but for now I will sign off with this stunning excerpt from Boy’s Life, an award-winning novel by Robert McCammon. When I first read it, I felt my heart flutter with recognition of something deeply true and hauntingly accurate.

 “You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”

….The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It’s not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir.” It just happens.

These memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I’m going to be when my journey winds down. I need the memory of magic if I am ever going to conjure magic again. I need to know and remember, and I want to tell you.” 

In the  spirit of remembering the magic we are, Awareness is Here.

—–

Did you know I’ve started a weekly 3-minute video blog that arrives in your email each Monday morning? It’s free, fun and magical. Curious? Then subscribe here. 

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The 4 Types of Goal-Setters Pre and Post Awakening: Which One Are You?


Power of Goals

Recently someone posted on an enlightenment FB group, the question, “Do you have goals?” If this were any place else, the query would have seemed strange and the answer would be “Of course I have goals.”

What happened next were dozens of comments along the lines of “No goals here. No one here to set goals.”  That is like asking, do you breathe? And people say, “No breathing here, no one to breathe.”

You see, in the land of liberation from illusion, there’s a patch of quicksand that many aspirants fall into: The quicksand of inertia. It has been called Zen Sickness, a kind of ennui that leads to depersonalization: You know the gig: There is nobody here and therefore for nothing to do.

But this is a spectrum disorder with degrees of, well, temporarily insanity. Are you unenlightened and sane? Enlightened and crazy? Let’s take the test, shall we and discover: Do you have goals or apparent goals? And are you in possession of a somebody or a nobody?

Check only one of the next two types as Yes or No for you (no you, nobody here, or whomever is taking this test).

I find myself best described by:

1) An everyday middle of the bell curve human yet to awaken to the vast self that I truly am and caught up in the thought that I must achieve something to be successful, lovable and happy. My goals are carrots that promise well being. They keep me distracted from the well being I already am. My goals are self-serving. They are karma bound and karma creating.

2) A post awakening person who playfully engages true nature in acts of creation. I have goals, but they are fluid and flowing, changing with truth in the moment. I have goals, but am not attached to outcome. I notice  there is incredible flow, ease and synchronicity when my goals are true: they are arrows from my soul ready to hit the mark. My goals are in service of the greater good. They are Dharma directed and free of karma creation.

If you answer no to the above you are one of these two types:

3)  I am a depressed or despairing everyday individual going through a rough patch in life. I no longer have goals because I’ve lost sight of my own worth and creativity. My goal-less state is triggered by a emotional loss, life set back, death of a dream, a loved one or a catastrophic failure of some kind. Sometimes Prozac is prescribed so I can get back on the goals achieved=happiness treadmill sooner than later.

4)  I am a a post-awakening individual whose liberation landed me in the inertia quicksand. I suddenly find my “me” missing in action. Along with this new no-self, is the loss of directionality and goals. What used to matter to me is irrelevant–the self that was at the center of those old goals is gone.

—-

If you answered yes to this last type, good news  This is a phase. It passes. It’s a clearance sale of the emotional and mental junk that defined who you were most of your life.

But you see, these types of individuals get stuck there sometimes. You are watcher, not a participant. You witness own actions as if they are happening without you. And you get comfortable here, in this passive place of watching, of existing without apparent agency.

I went through this stage and it lasted for three months. But if you don’t attach to the idea that this is an arrival point, you will pass through it.

On the the other side is a freshness and delight where goals are lightly held, and easily made manifest. And that which is a struggle is seen simply as a misdirection. Now, a goal is released with as much ease as we would experience in letting go of a negative thought–well, if and when those thoughts arise anymore.

The story of NO YOU and NOTHING TO DO is no more real than the old story of YOU and EVERYTHING to do. The truth is in the middle..and it allows for goals. And sure, times of being without a goal. But ultimately, if you are breathing, you are creating. If you are creating, you are goal-directed. Like it or not. Nothing can happen without goals because goals are the focalizer for intention.

I have a Rumi quote that sits at the bottom of all of my outgoing emails. Take this quote and really read into the truth of it. Rumi does not say you are “nothing with no movement.”

Rather, he writes, “You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Stop acting so small.”

Awareness is here, in ecstatic motion,

Lori Ann

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Why Shakti Matters


holy spirit 3
I’m in a room of folks who are shaking, trembling, laughing and crying. One is even chanting in Spanish though I think she told me she was Bulgarian. We’ve been meditating for about thirty minutes and the sudden outburst of expression is happening because the teacher has gone around the room touching peoples heads. In Sanskrit, it’s called Shaktipat (Sanskrit, from shakti – “(psychic) energy” – and pāta, “to fall”) which translates roughly as the conferring of spiritual energy upon one person by another.

When Igor Kufayev touches my head, a stream of coolness pours down my neck and back, and the deepest bliss rises up into uncontainable laughter. Soon, I’m laughing so hard, I can barely breathe. Bent over in my seat, holding my belly, I realize I’ve got it, the cosmic joke that has no words. It’s so funny, and so beautiful. How could I ever forget the incredible ecstatic humour of it all?

Yet, it was this same intensely blissful revelation of who (or what) I really am, that ushered in my own spontaneous awakening in the fall of 2011. Now, three years later, in this room, it’s as if the clear stream of that knowing has become a Niagara Falls-like torrent of grace. It’s not just a reminder of the what I know, it’s a wholesale baptism in that truth.

People have begun to spontaneously sing and tone — it sounds like a heavenly kirtan session, and it’s building momentum. There are overtones that sound angelic and there are baritones that rumble like thunder in the distance. The sounds of this spontaneous choir are hauntingly evocative and for no reason my laughter becomes tears. There is no thought here, only wonderstruck awe.

This is feminine face of God in the room. This is me. And I am blissfully juicy.

◊♦◊

What exactly is this intoxicatingly moist side of God-Self? It’s known by these names: The Holy Spirit, Shakti, Kundalini, the Divine Feminine. It’s not an optional choice on the enlightenment menu but an essential part of dining on truth.

Honestly, if you hang out on the contemporary non-duality circuit long enough, you eventually develop a hunger for the tangible aliveness of your own divinity, something more filling than kibble-sized morsels of Just This, No-Self, Emptiness and No Mind.

Even if these descriptors are actual recognitions on the path, there exists a whole lot of ideation that does not seem to translate into the actual lived reality of peace. In fact, a lot of the online non-duality crowd spend time and energy arguing their right to live daily lives full of anxiety, anger, despair and reactive emotions. Their reasoning goes something like this: “I’ve seen through the illusion of self, so anything that happens or any choices I make are not real anyway, because the me is not real. So who cares if it apparently suffers?”

There are, of course, those non-duality advocates who do experience an abiding peacefulness. And while it can be super-chill to lounge in that still emptiness and attendant Witnessing Consciousness, this detached perspective is the equivalent of seeing the world through only one of your two eyeballs. It’s a monocular vision of Truth and as such lacks the depth perception that comes from perceiving from the wholeness of your Being.

What do I mean exactly, by wholeness?

I’ve been hinting at this a long time, from posts as far back as my entries Empty Mind, Full Heart and Everything Matters Including Whiskey, Fairy Pools and Waterfalls. The dropping away of the self you mistook yourself to be is incomplete unless it is accompanied by the discovery of what you truly are. And you are not just empty. You are fullness itself. You are not only no-thing. You are also everything.

Confusion arises because the initial deconstruction phase is truly a demolition, a wholesale liquidation. Teacher Adyashanti says it well: “Make no mistake about it. Enlightenment is a destructive process…enlightenment is a crumbling away of untruth…It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”

But that phase inevitably gives way to a remembering of what is true. This remembering catalyzes a full body-mind metamorphosis (and not always easy or pain-free, as I note in my viral hit post Why We are Not Ready for the Full Bodied Truth of Awakening and Crucify Those Who Tell It. ) That inpouring of our divinity and subsequent blossoming embodiment is the action of Shakti, the dynamic aspect of the immoveable absolute. It’s both a fiery cleaning agent and a soothing nectar–usually in that order.

And it’s not always a calm and quiet affair.

◊♦◊

Someone in the room is screaming, the kind of scream you typically associate with a scene from a horror movie, where a guy wielding a chainsaw has jumped out of the closet. Another person is sobbing in a grief-stricken wail–when I hear her, I feel she is crying for the lostness of something, perhaps for the monumental sadness of worldly ignorance. I’m still laughing, but now tears have joined the mirth.

At some point, the teacher asks us to lie down on the mats in the adjacent room. Once I am settled on a yoga mat the kriyas kick in and my arms and legs begin to jerk, like I am a marionette in the hands of a crazed puppeteer.

I’m no stranger to kriyas–which translates from Sanskrit as “action, deed or effort.” These spontaneous movements, from trembling, shaking, jerking to involuntary vocalizations and even postures, are well known in kundalini circles. My first encounter with this powerful force, I was 39 at the end of a yoga class. I thought I was dying. I did not sleep for two days. I was not prepared and I was not educated. I thought I was having a seizure or a stroke and stayed away from yoga for weeks to avoid a reoccurrence.

Yet the kriyas continued on and off for another six years. A few sexual partners experienced their first kriyas just getting close to me (it’s catchy). I was being purified by a holy fire, though then I would have said I was being harassed by kundalini. In the end, all that kundalini activation must have been good for something because my overnight spontaneous awakening three years ago was gentle.

One day I was me. The next day I was still a me, but without a trace of mine. It’s hard to possess something when you are everything.

◊♦◊

What a growing  number of contemporary spiritual leaders are beginning to message to the world is we need to include the feminine face of God, that any awakening that cleaves to the Absolute (Shiva) only, is in fact a bypass. As Kufayev declares in his talk at the 2014 Science and Non Duality conference:

“Knowledge is too dry. Even the knowledge of the self is too dry…if you are not drowned in the waves of your own love that that knowledge evoked, you’ll be fried. You’ll become brittle. You may think you’ve realized the Self, you may think you are bathing in the glory, but bathing means being wet. And it’s only Shakti that gives us wetness. The juice of life is in the Shakti.”

But why does it matter that we engage this juice of life, the sacred feminine? Why not continue on in the dry detached transcendent non-duality view that nothing of the world is real, and therefore nothing to worry about, nothing to do?.

Because it is becoming alarmingly obvious that the planet that sustains us can no longer be mistreated by her human children–if this earth is to sustain us, we need to cherish and to nourish that which gives us life. And the recognition of the divine feminine, of shakti, brings with it always the clarity and heart-centered knowing that all beings are interconnected. It’s as simple as this: to harm another, to harm earth, is to harm oneself.

Said most poignantly by contemporary Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, “…my heart hurts for the Earth, grieves at the way our culture treats her wonder and gifts, her magic and sacred meaning. And the question arises from my depths, in a culture of seeming abundance, how have we lost so much?”

One of my favourite spiritual philosophers and mystics, Andrew Harvey sums it up best in his book, A Return to the Mother.

“We are now, I believe, on the threshold of a third stage which I call the stage of the sacred marriage. This is the only position we could possibly take and still survive. This is a stage beyond both matriarchy and patriarchy. It involves the restoration to human respect of all of the rejected powers of the feminine. But it is absolutely essential that this restoration should be accomplished in the deep spirit of the sacred feminine. Not only should we invoke the sacred feminine, restore the sacred feminine, but this union between the matriarchal and the patriarchal, the sacred marriage, must be accomplished in the spirit of the sacred feminine for it to be real, effective, rich, and fecund. It must occur in her spirit of unconditional love, in her spirit of tolerance, forgiveness, all-embracing and all-harmonizing balance.”

◊♦◊

The morning meditation and discussion period is over and, at the week long immersion retreat I’m attending,  I find myself sitting beside the women whose voice I had recognized as she chanted in Spanish during the post-shaktipat outbreak of kriyas.

I ask her: “What were you saying? I only caught a few words, my Spanish is not that good?”

Her eyebrows raise. “Was that Spanish?”

“Yes, I clearly caught more than half of the words,” I say, sharing with her what I managed to translate.

“Oh.” She hesitates. “Well, I don’t speak Spanish”

I laugh, realizing at once that what I heard was what the Pentecostal Christians (I was in the movement for two years in my late teens) used to call speaking in tongues, one of the gifts of the holy spirit, along with spontaneous healing and mystical rapture. Not only does Shakti bring juice to the parched party, but she has a lot of magic up her sleeve.

And it’s that kind of magic–that sense of wonderment and mystery–that is so lacking in contemporary non-duality teachings. In that wasteland of no-self philosophy, we’ve lost a sense of the sacred and the non-ordinary.

And in dismissing this planet, its beings and our very bodies as somehow unreal, we’ve become blind to what matters: In the words Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth or we will not survive at all.”

◊♦◊

If you’re curious about what a spontaneous Shakti choir sounds like, listen in…

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5 Reasons a Guru is Good for Your Post-Awakening No-Self


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“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you  there”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

In a popular Facebook group for enlightenment chit-chat, someone wrote about how post-awakening, a spiritual community or teacher seemed unnecessary if not impossible. This man, prior to his popping awake four years ago had even been an ordained member of a Buddhist community. Then, it all fell away.

This question of the need for a teacher post awakening is a juicy one. A deep and true awakening obliterates the seeker, the very identity that attached itself to a club (Buddhism/Tantra/Shamanism for instance) or to the role of a student/aspirant. And the often-unspoken truth is, the seeker loves to search more than it desires to find. Pre-awakening, attachment to the role of spiritual practitioner can be a sly haven from waking up.

In my tectonic shift from spiritual dilettante to “Holey Moley I’m Awake” three years ago, I wrote that “I used to be a seeker and so I invested energy and time in renovating that house. I continually decluttered it with new meditation or visualization practices. I repainted it inside and out with new knowledge, to make it more beautiful and give it curb side appeal. I threw out the junk as best I could, so that my house would be spacious, simple and Zen like. I wanted that house of my mind to be a place of stillness, equanimity and joy.

I worked really hard to make it all of those things though yoga, tantra, self-improvement books and psychological house cleaning. And yet always, hidden dirt under the carpet or a skeleton in the closet would emerge to reveal that stillness was not here. Only the unstable illusion of stillness was here.” (When the House Burns Down ).

But that said, two years post house-burning–after basking in abiding equanimity and inner stillness–I found myself unexpectedly encountering the muck of conditioned responses and ancestral line mud in my spick-and-span house of emptiness. I would say the stable ground of my awakened awareness started to develop patches of quicksand….and this is when a teacher became helpful.

For me, a teacher is simply someone further along in their own awakening journey. And to discount the need for this kind of been-there-done-that guidance can be a sign of spiritual immaturity at best and spiritual egoity at worst.

Rather than luring me back to Seekers-ville  (as if it is even possible once we glimpse the truth of what we are not), discovering a teacher  post awakening has stabilized and accelerated this enlightening process (thanks to Tim Foley for that term). And it is a process with stages and depth. Too many mistake it as one-shot deal, a kind of “I’ve arrived” when all that’s happened is a threshold has been crossed from the unreal to the real. Yet there exists an entire landscape beyond that initial shift–and it does have its share of pitfalls.

So, in the playful spirit of  clickbait lists, here is my top five reasons to have a teacher even after you have realized you are not the ‘me’ you thought yourself to be.

Why a Guru is Good for You–Even if your Me is Missing in Action

1. A Real Teacher Points the Finger Back at You.

Here is where you need guru-discrimination. There are teachers out there, looking for adoration, power and glory. But there are just as many teachers out there where the value is in a teaching that points you in one direction: inward. This is of immense assistance when the the residual of ego (the survivor bits of your awakening firestorm) show up clambering for self improvement or well-being through the externals of him, her, this or that. Your teacher, if this teacher is real, reminds you simply: “This outward Spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden.” ~ Rumi

2. A Guru Helps You Keep Your Mirror Clean.  

You already know what I mean. Just when you think you are seeing the spotless reflection of God-Self/No-Self in the mirror of your daily life, you find a smudge. The one that looks like a “me” having a me-moment — you know, like arguing with reality. A teacher at this juncture is a great astringent for that greasy spot on the mirror of self-reflection, readily pointing out in Rumi-esque ways, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

3. A True Teacher Rescues You from the Trap of Mental Gymnastics.

This is perhaps the biggest pitfall post-awakening. The mind jumps in to analyse. And it’s frankly, exhausting and diverting. Because the mind is not where it’s at–the mind in fact, is a decoy from the heart, where all spiritual truth resides. You won’t realize this while you are busy bickering in virtual chat rooms with other no-selves about how many angels dance on the head of a non-duality pin. But trust me, there is so much more to be relished in the bliss and peace available in the fullness of the heart than in the dry debates of the mind.  A good teacher will point out: You are in your head again. Please step aside. Or as Rumi would instruct, “And from beyond the intellect, beautiful Love comes dragging her skirts, a cup of wine in her hand.”

4. A Teacher is an Accelerant for the Fire of Truth.

Here we enter the tricky notion of progress. Post awakening the celebration is a kind of arrival-relief, an end-of-the-journey satisfaction for the road-weary. It’s so damn clear when the seeking ends, that what was sought was here all along (or as Rumi said, that which you are seeking is seeking you), a merry mirth emerges as well. The cosmic joke on us can be so en-lightening at first, that the idea there is a “go further” seems absurd. Where is there to go, and who is there to go? Yet, if you sit long enough in in the post-awakening terrain, there is a niggling question that emerges: I have awoken but am I living this awake-ness?

In the words of neo-advaita teacher Adyashanti, during a 2008 gathering:Even though you’ve seen in that moment that there is no you, nonetheless the dissolving of you has now begun in earnest and you can expect it to continue in ways and to a depth that you never imagined. And that’s basically what it’s about. And once that process has started, it doesn’t really need your help. It just can use you not hindering it. The “me” can’t help it along, but the “me” sure can kind of slow the whole thing down. “

And that is where a teacher steps in. A good teacher sees where you are stopping or blocking this progressive unfoldment, and with skillful insight (and sometimes a spiritual transmission) gives you the momentum needed to overcome post-awakening-inertia. Because as my teacher Igor Kufayev notes, “Enlightenment is not a moment fixed in time, but a process of expansion.”

5. A Teacher Can be A Conduit for Grace.

A definition is probably needed here and one of my favourites is this line by progressive Christian theologian Preston Sprinkle, “Grace…means that God is pursuing you.”

It is by this mechanism of grace (God’s pursuit of us) that we initially awaken to the truth of who we are–which is an ultimate irony, because in the quest for enlightenment (which I call the end of suffering) it seems as if we are are the pursuer. In fact, two years prior to my own grace-filled overnight awakening, I wrote a poem hinting at the same insight about who is chasing who and what happens when we surrender our search.

“When I stopped looking,
God found me. When I was minding
My own sweet business, God
Kept butting in.

What a pain in the ass. After eons
Avoiding me
God suddenly
Can ‘t stop
Harassing me.”

The point then of a deeply self-realized spiritual teacher in the context of post-awakening is that grace can continue to manifest as God nagging us and cheering us through our teacher to go further. It’s all too easy to rest on our awakening laurels, sit in self-satisfied bliss or peace, and imagine ourselves “cooked.”

A good teacher is a like a great chef, tending to each student’s progress with a knowing eye. It’s not enough to leave the awakened student at a low simmer when a full boil is best. Or to take that cake out of the oven before it rises–for the impulse of the divine is pursuing itself to wake up ALL THE WAY, to the place where separation of any kind ceases to exist.

This far shore of enlightenment is not a place we often reach alone–but more often with the guidance of a teacher or teachers who know the way. And grace is the mechanism by which a teacher can truly teach. It’s not about the words a teacher speaks–it’s the truth carried on the backs of those words.

I’ll end here with a video called A Touch of Grace. Yes, it’s a shameless plug for teacher Igor Kufayev, but there is also ample footage of me sharing just why I have chosen this particular teacher to be my guide.

But also know that the words expressed by me in this video and by others, are the same words that could be said of any true teacher. The qualities of a guru–one whose sole purpose is to assist the student to no longer need a teacher at all–are universal.

Awareness is here, and on You Tube!

(Disclaimer: This post is in no way meant to suggest you need to find a guru to be on your path. It’s simply to say, if one shows up, it might be a good thing.)

 

Lori Ann.

 

 

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Bigger Than The Sky: A Book About the Love that You Are by Vicki Woodyard


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If you are looking for a non-duality treatise full of mental acrobatics don’t bother with this book.

Frankly, I never manage to get through a Vicki Woodyard offering without going through at least a half a box of Kleenex—she knows how to jerk those tears. But she also elbows in a few good jokes (after all, she used to write them for comedienne Joan Rivers). Yet her wit in this book is not the laugh out loud kind, but a clever humor that catches you in such a way that you stop reading and start pondering with a smile.

418hAqKg+FL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Her latest book, Bigger than The Sky accomplishes this full emotional range and yet adds a surprise element, something I at least, did not perceive in her earlier works, Life with A Hole in It, and A Guru in the Guest Room. Bigger than the Sky is a less a book about spirituality as it is a book that transmits Truth.

Between the lines, embedded in the music behind the lyrics, is the melody of grace. And if you really hear it, if you let that sweet song into your heart, you will surely finish this book lighter and more at ease than when you began. (Yes, that is the sales pitch).

Even as this book is a kind of transmission, it is also at face value two interwoven stories—Woodyard’s five-year-ordeal of caring for a dying husband and her parallel email correspondence with a man named Peter, who through his own failing health, awakened to the simple joy and ease of being.

In his own words, “In the absence of a presence of a me, there is a wide wildness bigger than the sky.”

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Peter has a grim prognosis for a progressive illness that leaves him tired, weak, unable to walk steadily, mentally challenged around tasks such as counting change (even though abstract math was his thing, pre-illness) and under attack from debilitating migraines.

Yet, this illness is a fierce grace. He writes, “Pain that goes on for years tends to drown out the silliness of belief in systems in favor of direct contact with life, God, or whatever one wishes to call Truth. Intermediaries are a waste of time when the body is crumbling. I have found that such difficulties tend to make all other sounds meaningless. Only the beating of one’s own true heart has meaning.”

Yet despite the pain his body endures, every one of his letters shares his utter wonder and joy at sitting in the sunlight by a stream with his cats, watching nature and feeling inseparable from it all.

Woodyard is writing from her current perch, almost a decade after the death of her husband and the end of her seven years of letters to Peter (she does not know when Peter died, only that his letters trailed off). As such, the narrative jumps time zones, taking us back to the past as she lived it, interspersed with snippets of insight gleaned years later.

Her life, she readily admits, has been a charnel ground – the death of her seven-year-old daughter to cancer and then a husband twenty years later, fuelled the raging fires of grief that would burn away illusion. “In one sense, sorrow is the true guru and when it burns away the dross of the self, only holy ash remains.”

Yet this spiritual aspirant who for many years threw herself into the quest for awakening reveals she was often lost in suffering during her husband’s slow dying. Peter was a life raft for her soul, holding her hand with gentle reminders of truth.

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Vicky is a likeable narrator—she is not prone to self-pity, employs ample wit and keeps the pace brisk with short, easily digested chapters. And we see and appreciate her character arc from a beleaguered widow to years later, a woman who has fallen deeply in love with life itself, as herself.

Her hard-won peace is evident in beautiful words such as these: “Life is hard. Death is hard. Love is the gift. If you are touched by the hand of sorrow and draw back, you are just being human. Once you move forward, and let it be yours, it lets go. It lets go.”

But as much as Woodyard shines, the show stealer is Peter. He takes center stage, and our author seems more than happy to play sidekick to the delightful clarity that comes through in his letters to her. She mentions at one point the “contact high” she feels from reading his words, even years later. I too feel the light streaming through Peter’s humble wisdom.

Here are just a few of my favorite lines from Peter, who so sweetly inserts the qualifier in almost every letter to his pen pal Vicki, that these are just his opinions.

“In one’s own heart (just my opinion of course) God is patiently waiting to jump out and say “Boo!” But for many the show seems so much more interesting. Especially when the show contains apparent love and suffering.”

“We think and we think and we think we know and we think we don’t know and we think some more, all in quite a wonderful effort to avoid joy. Which it seems to me, is what we truly are.”

“Well, I kinda feel that suffering is on whole simply a path of more suffering. I cannot see how suffering leads anywhere else.”

“It seems to me that truth (perhaps with a capital T) is so simple and easy that we run past it, sweating heavily.”

“That which can be gained can also be lost. Speaking personally—and this is just my opinion of course—only that which is permanent is of interest. God dies when I fall asleep, at night, so She is of no interest. Teachers die too, as do their teachings, so they are of no interest. Insights also fade, so they are of no interest. They story of one’s life, love, hate, religious fervor, knowledge, self…all fade, so they are blind avenues too. The fun question seems to me is what lasts—what is permanent?”

“To me, just my opinion again—ease is simple, obvious, permanent and always present. So simple just to relax with a little cat and breathe the sunlit days, as they appear to pass. Tomorrow if it comes, will take care of itself.”

“We hold back from love, don’t we? And since love is what we are (yes!)—not in a silly intellectual way, but in actual fact—love here meaning ease and laughter and a quiet lightness—falling in love every time one can is such an easy tumble into oneself.”

There are so many more morsels of Peter here in this enchanting book, I leave those for you to discover.

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What is so clear, at least to me, is Peter’s heart was where he lived. And it was his demonstration of this often overlooked truth–that we are love–that was the gift he gave his friend Vicki. As she confesses, “His simplicity untangled my knotted up heart.”

It is this same gift this book offers all those who will meet Peter through his words. After all, love doesn’t stop when the body dies. It’s here, right now. Where it’s always been.

As Woodyard so eloquently summarizes, “Love is not a four letter word. It is a sense of eternity filtered through time and space. It occupies the heavens and the tiniest corner of the human heart.”

Now, do Vicki and yourself a heartfelt favor and go get the book here. It’s even on kindle!

For the curious: My review of A Guru in the Guest Room.

Art: False Mirror, by Rene Magritte

 

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Do You Become an Emotional Zombie? And 3 More Burning Questions about Awakening


zombie

 

In the hoopla of my last post, Why We are Not Ready for the Full Bodied Truth of Awakening which generated an unprecedented 30,000 views in one week, I also received dozens of personal emails with comments and surprisingly, questions. One email stood out for me because of what felt like such an earnest desire to understand versus punditry, hostility or praise.

So, here are my replies to the verbatim FOUR QUESTIONS asked of me by Alice, creator of the blog Reiki Awakening.

 1) Does this process of awakening disconnect one from his or her emotions? If so, how does that affect the day to day relating and functioning with others? For example, do you still feel love for your family? Can you connect with them, empathize? Express compassion?

What I like about this question is how it ties in with my recent post When You’re Okay and Everyone Else is Not. In that article I describe how equanimity prevailed during a family medical crisis (my husband had a stroke) and yet how friends expected me to be worried, upset, and emotionally fragile–and were concerned at my calmness.

Awakening–at least for me–dissolved overnight most emotional reactivity. And in the years since, when episodic emotional trigger points showed up, they flared and then subsided, often never to return. In other words, there has been a profound softening, not hardening, around emotional content. It’s a bit like the soft-focus lens filmmakers will sometimes use to create an effect around an actor. This new ‘soft focus”  filters the harsh edges of emotional ups and downs and brings them into a new kind of impressionistic calm-abiding. And even that analogy doesn’t capture it.

But that’s not to imply emotions cease to exist. Happiness, sadness, annoyance, irritation, anger can all make guest appearances in this house of equanimity. It’s just that they are that: guests. They are not householders. Instead these feeling states come and go, but they do not take up residence. They simply do not stick around for very long, but nor are they unwelcome.

Perhaps the most profound difference post awakening is this: I used to be identified and invested in my emotional states–they meant something about “me.” If i was miserable, there was something wrong about me. If I was happy, I was on track in life and my “me” was a success. The kicker post-awakening is the me is no longer the Big Kahuna it used to be. It’s just a facet of this creative vastness which expresses as Be-ing and its antics are amusing at best.

Which brings me to the punchline: There are states that emerge post-awakening which are not emotions but qualities of what we really are, beneath all feeling states and thoughts. Qualities of the transpersonal self, if you like or qualities of being. Peace, joy, bliss come to mind. And from these states of being, actions often emerge that look like compassion, service, kindness, playfulness and even sacrifice.

As for daily functioning, that’s mostly a matter of how well I manage my physicality. If the body does not get the sleep it needs, I might be irritable or more withdrawn, less likely to express myself in a joyful manner. But the inner landscape is emotionally neutral–that’s the new baseline. Prior to awakening, the baseline was a jagged line of anxiety and frustration. Prior to awakening, I could seem “happy” to others but inwardly, there was a suffering. Now I can appear “unhappy” (because I am grumpy or irritable) but inwardly there is peace.

2. How do you, once awakened, deal with things that would formerly make you angry, such as your children fighting or hurting each other?

That is the beauty of an awakening versus a mystical experience or glimpse of our true nature. Once we are awakened to the Self, these things that used to upset us, often no longer have an impact. I often tell the tale of two days post-awakening, my then boyfriend (now husband) telling me he wanted to leave the relationship. Now THAT would have upset me greatly prior to awakening–we had just moved into a new home together, I had sold a house, consolidated furniture, and my daughter was already seeing this man as a father figure. For him to just leave from frustration would have been cause for me to scream, wail and react. Instead, I took a deep breath and said something like, “I can see you are suffering right now and I honour whatever choice you make for yourself. I just ask you give this decision three days.”

Of course, if my children were hurting each other physically I would separate them. But this would be from a place of obvious action not reaction. I would not be telling myself a story about my mothering abilities good or bad, or running a narrative in my head about my rotten children.

So, action happens that simply makes sense. Reaction happens rarely.

3) Can a person who is awakened in this way practice energy healing?

I don’t see why not. The question would be a matter of motivation. If moved to perform healing and if that impulse was met with flow, ease and grace, then it would self evident. I’ve noticed post-awakening, that my creative writing has increased, along with the ease and synchronicity of finding places to publish it.

At the same time, if post-awakening there is a natural desire to go inward, or to be still (which there often is) then healing work might take a back seat as a priority. It’s not the work that matters, really (chop wood, carry water) but rather it’s the motive. If the impulse or intention arises spontaneously and effortlessly, outcomes usually unfold without the need to question.

4) How does being awakened in this way change the way you live the mundane aspects of your life? Feels like grocery shopping, errands, work and the like would seem different. Can you describe how.

In the beginning–the months-long honeymoon period–everything was infused with wonderment. The feeling was awe and delight at every thing because I AM THAT. It’s discovering you are all of it, after imagining lifelong you were a small bit of it.

It’s a stunning revelation/recognition and at first, I had a kind of dazed, giddy appreciation of every detail of reality. Over time, as that became the new norm, my perceptions moved toward a more refined noticing of the intricate, perfect weave of life. The synchronicities increased and my clairvoyance (a born talent) also increased.

In this way, the wonderment has moved toward the joy of experiencing myself as the director and the actors in the story of my life. And the mystery of how it all fits together, my intentions the actions that unfold, the players that play this game alongside me, all if it inspires me. Most of all, I feel grateful to in the dance of life as Lori. It’s a cool role to be me, and to know I am so much more than that “me” as well.

Awareness is Here, Playing at Q & A

~ Lori Ann

 

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Why We are Not Ready for the Full Bodied Truth of Awakening (and Crucify Those Who Tell It)


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The Myth: Awakening is a shift of perception, a mental-emotional acrobatic that leaves one refreshingly peaceful and delightfully uninvested in personal identity, but that has no impact whatsoever on the physical body.

The Truth: Awakening is a radical of shift of identity that leaves one refreshingly peaceful and delightfully uninvested in personal identity, but that has profound impact on the body (and ultimately requires collaboration of the body).

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A spirited controversy erupted this week over spiritual teacher Igor Kufayev’s commentary on his Facebook page (then reposted by Rick Archer at Buddha at the Gas Pump’s FB Page) about neo-advaita teacher Adyashanti’s most recent bout of a chronic illness that apparently emerged in the years after his awakening. In a nutshell, Igor Kufayev suggested that Adyashanti’s recent relapse of Bell’s Palsy was a part of a larger picture–that of the toll of post-awakening energies on the body.

Wrote Kufayev: “What it brings is a sober reminder of how little we know and even less understand about the actuality of the process (of awakening) which demands realignment of all bodily systems to function in a totally different set of circumstances often unleashed by major impact of awakening.”

Folks were quick to defend Adya’s illness, to declare that it had nothing to do with the process of self-realization, and to accuse Igor Kufayev of being an opportunist in his decision to comment publicly about the state of another teacher.

But as someone who has experienced a profound awakening three years ago, I can say there are physical repercussions, side-effects both challenging and very often baffling. I have battled with unholy levels of fatigue; insomnia; a vibrating body that sometimes feels like a locomotive; heart palpitations (with no known medical cause); a complete inability to sustain vigorous exercise without near collapse (and I was a lifelong exercise fiend); migraine headaches (I’d suffered one only lifelong, during pregnancy years ago) and perhaps most challenging in the context of my marriage, the loss of sexual desire and a spontaneous move toward celibacy. Oh, and did I mention the rare and little understood auto-immune disease?

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Part of the problem with coming out and declaring that an abiding awakening to true nature (which Adyashanti terms enlightenment) is a process that also involves the body, is that in contemporary non-duality circles, there is s strong preference to jump to the Absolute at the expense of the finite. But to dismiss the body as “unreal” is to leap frog over the very obvious fact that this enlightenment happens not when we are dead (that we know) but while we are alive. And being alive means –not incidentally– having a body.

In the words of Kufayev in response to criticisms of his post about Adyashanti’s health, “It’s not …. even about Adya’s illness, but about the sickness so prevalent in western spirituality which denies the body as the carrier of the soul.”

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Igor Kufayev is not a voice in the wilderness, exactly.

There are other teachers telling the truth, including Adyashanti himself who devotes a whole chapter in his book The End of Your World to the topic of the impact of Awakening on the body. And by no means does Adya deny the body, despite the prevalence of that kind of denial by many teachers of  contemporary non-duality.

In fact, Adya has said, “Ultimately, everything’s a dream, and yet you still have to deal with the body. It’s still there. You can call it “a dream,” but it’s still going to hurt if you bump your head.”

Yes. It will hurt when you bump your head, and when you bump into awakening, especially if the body is not particularly purified or ready.

This quote by teacher Anadi speaks directly to the impact of awakening on all levels. “We need to understand that enlightenment is not only a shift in perception and consciousness. It is an existential metamorphosis at all levels, which radically transforms the vibration of our energy system and the delicate balance of various elements in our brain and the subtle bodies. A sudden and complete enlightenment that skips all the intermediate steps would undoubtedly lead to a mental and emotional collapse, if not the physical death. Such a radical transformation as enlightenment requires adequate time for the body and mind to adapt to the dramatic change of energy and identity.”

sheila-wolk-metamorphosis_i-G-19-1914-CJK9D00ZThe keyword here (and one I have heard teacher Igor Kufayev use as well) is metamorphosis. For those who are fuzzy about the meaning of this word from the online Miriam Webster:

a :  change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means.

b :  a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.

What strikes me most about metamorphosis, is that it’s not subtle. It’s not like, “Oh, I think I’m no longer a caterpillar.” Rather, it’s more like: “Holy crap, I’ve got wings.”

Yet in the morphing toward winghood, there is this small bit of concern called the body. And rather than the body being collateral damage in this process of awakening, I will suggest it is instrumental. 

By that I mean, the body is the vector for enlightenment. It is literally the delivery mechanism by which we experience the vastness of who we really are—at least while alive.

And if you look at cases like that of brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor, who experienced what she described as enlightenment via a catastrophic stroke that shut down much of her left brain, then you have to admit this: the brain is a key player in how we perceive reality–and who we are.

If you have not had the chance to read “My Stroke of Insight” then at the very least watch this woman’s riveting Ted Talk in which she declares:

Nirvana. I found Nirvana. And I remember thinking, there’s no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body.

But then I realized, “But I’m still alive! I’m still alive, and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana.” And I pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives.

What Jill Bolte Taylor is declaring is nothing short of revolutionary. A brain scientist has a stroke that knocks out her left brain and forces the right brain to dominate. As a result she writes a book where she basically says that what stands in the way of being a loving compassionate being who realizes itself as Oneness is simply our left brain.

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Despite all the hoopla around defending Adyashanti’s right to his illness (sometimes I think we want our enlightened teachers to be mortally flawed just like us), it’s important to note that this illness happened to him (along with a little known stroke) AFTER his awakening.

And despite assertions by many that the body is irrelevant in awakening and post awakening, it might heed us all to listen to Adya’s own words on this topic in a letter to his Sangha Feb 2008:

 I want to share with you some recent developments since I contracted Bell’s Palsy in early November. There are various causes of Bell’s Palsy, but mine seems to have been caused by a particular virus that causes not only facial paralysis but also nerve pain and fatigue. While I am happy to report that much of the paralysis and pain has healed, the underlying virus is still very active and gets activated by the energy that flows through me when I teach.”

I’ve placed in bold that last line because it’s clear here that Adya is admitting that this illness is exacerbated by something he vaguely terms “energy that flows.” Of course a tantric master might call it kundalini or shakti, but in Adyashanti’s “Zen” roots, and in most non-duality circles, there is no such beast. Why? Because kundalini is energy and it moves in this “illusory” thing called a body, this carrier for our soul that is vulnerable to illness and breakdown.

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Why are we not ready to hear this? And why do we shut down, diminish, hide or crucify those who tell us the body is not incidental in awakening; that the body is the gateway itself?

Even a Taylor’s TED Talk is benignly billed as “Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one.”

Yet her talk could easily and more accurately have been promoted as: “Brain scientist reveals the doorway to enlightenment is a matter of brain function.”

I suggest we are afraid to admit our bodies are key players in awakening because that suggests we might care for these vessels better. That we might tend the garden in which awareness of true nature might sprout. That we are stewards of the vehicle of our own enlightenment.

But to admit that is like admitting we might care for this planet as well, this homestead in our solar system that sustains life. It’s easier all round to dismiss the body and the planet as illusion, to imagine an ultimate reality that negates this proximate messy one called the earth and my body.

And let’s not even discuss the chance that an awakening that does not become ‘abiding” is perhaps an aborted one? What if, just as a fetus will not continue to grow in a hostile womb, the light of our own awareness can be choked off by the neglect of the very body it seeks to flourish in?

And what if too, there are casualties of awakening, where the fire of newly liberated awareness burns down the tinder-dry house of a body that is far from ready to withstand the heat of this metamorphic transformation? As teacher Kufayev often notes, many famous sages have died early, and of wasting diseases like cancer.

These are uncomfortable heresies in the absolutist world of modern non-duality. This is why we shoot the messengers rather than engage the message. The message is scary and formidable. But the messenger is an easy target.

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It’s been a physically strenuous last three years. I don’t write about it because it’s not exactly a popular platform: Step right up, get your peace, joy, vastness, and oh, enlightenment sicknesses.

But I also know this body is re-wiring. This vehicle is fine-tuning. And when it’s not keeping up with the enlightenment program, it’s often because I am treating my physical being like bystander, or idle witness when it’s the fiber optic through which God surges.

And so, I’m learning. I’m learning to rest more. To meditate regularly (instant tune up). To eat better. To tenderly care for this precious body, this superconductor for grace.

Awareness is here, resting in bed, sipping Yogi tea.

Did you know I’ve started a weekly 3-minute video blog that arrives in your email each Monday morning? It’s free, fun and magical. Curious? Then subscribe here. 

Featured Image: Here.  and “Metamorphosis” by Sheila Wolk.

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Riders on the Storm: Finding the Hidden Gift in Chaos


storm3Every now and then life twists and turns with all the grace of a roller coaster half off the rails. Things feel perilous, unpredictable and wobbly. And that’s just your life. Never mind the recent uptick in conflict simmering in geo-political hot spots like the Ukraine, the middle-east and riot-ridden Ferguson, Missouri.

Add to this, the astrological crunch of Mars (warrior) and its impending impact (conjunction) with Saturn (status quo) on Aug 25th and you get the recipe for a catalytic breakdown-to-breakthrough both out there, and in here.

I have been watching with interest how my inner landscape remains a muted version of the cacophony around me. Yet I have friends who are ready to jump ship—from their marriage, their careers, their homes—from anything that feels constraining, even if that jumping means swimming in waters that are completely unknown.

This urge for momentous personal change that seems to be storming through people’s psyches is more accurately an unleashed desire for transformation. What is being stoked by inner and outer chaos is the impetus to shed the old skin, leaving the dry husk of our finite identity behind for our boundless true self.  Simply, the craziness around us is a call to discover the sanity inside of us.

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When at age 39, I got the call the my mother had been hit by a car and killed, I was struck by two recognitions. One, that my life would change dramatically from this axis-tilting news. And two, that the change would be wrenchingly difficult but ultimately soul-saving.

We can stop asking, “Why is this happening to (poor) me.” Instead, we can dig deep into our soul with this new question: “Why is this happening for me?”

Within two years of her death, I was out of my 17-year-marriage and back on the path of the seeker–a journey begun in my early twenties, but abandoned in the stale confines of a marriage I allowed to shackle my desire for truth. My mother’s death was a shock-loss that was also a catalyst for my freedom. I was gifted with the ability to see this even as it happened, even as I grieved.

When we see that everything conspires to wake us up—that events blessed and cursed are equal contributors to the story of self-remembrance—then we can stop feeling victimized and paralyzed by life events. We can stop asking, “Why is this happening to (poor) me?” Instead, we can dig deep into our soul with this new question: “Why is this happening  for me?”

Because underlying that question is an assumption there is order and purpose behind all apparent chaos. Or in the lingo of A Course in Miracles, “The universe is a friendly place.”

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In the last week I have heard about two friends who had terminal cancer experiencing miraculous shifts of prognosis–specifically having tumours disappear and blood counts make astounding and medically impossible recoveries.

These kinds of miracles are a part of the chaotic shaking up we are collectively experiencing. When structures begin to tumble, not only do institutions and governments topple, but also edifices of belief.  It’s one big shake-down.

The fractures that happen in this soul-quaking allow for new possibilities, new paradigms and new selfhood. We are being asked to let go of the old structures right now. That includes surrendering the self we have imagined ourselves to be.

And by the way, we don’t need to kill our egos–we need to grow them up and let them expand into (and be transformed by) the Remembered Self.  You can call this Remembered Self by many names: soul, Atman, no-self, One-self, Truth, true nature. The naming is irrelevant—it’s the direct recognition that matters.

So, let this chaos around you be the wave you ride rather than the wave that drowns you. See that there is a gift in the tornado–it took Dorothy to the land of Oz and chaos can take you to the land of Your True Self if you choose to engage with trust instead of hide out with fear in the cellar of your limited self.

How to engage? Be still. Go inward. Listen. Respond.

Awareness is here, at the still and vast center of all storms.

Video bonus: You know you love this one….

Lori Ann

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Feature Image: Flickr/Kristaps Bergfelds

Posted in Freshly Hatched Stories of Awakened Awareness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Mental Trap: There’s No One Here to be Enraged…or Blissful


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What is with the contemporary non-duality crowd who love to pretend they are not really here? They keep insisting “there’s no one to awaken”  and “there’s no me to get enlightened.” And because your thoughts and feelings come from this imaginary you (that can never wake up), there is no need to worry about having them run amok through our unreal lives as emotional reactivity and polarized thinking. 

When last week I posted on Facebook about the equanimity I experienced in the face of my husband’s stroke (When You’re Okay and Everyone Else is Not), a few hard-hitting “there is no me (or you)” types (who for some reason tend to be men) had enough of something intact (could it be a me?) to post endless comments correcting my wayward perceptions about awakening and peacefulness.

As one of them said, “So, the story in the blog was just that. A story. Seems as if someone had an awakening experience. That someone stayed calm in an emergency. But it’s no different than Goldielocks and the 3 bears. The characters in the story, have no idea that they are in the story.”

It’s somewhat tiring to go the rounds with those who claim there is no one here, yet go around acting as if they are not only here, but here to police those who don’t see that they (and you, and me) are constructs that are not here. I suppose the irony of this is lost on these ardent no-selfers.

I know this: Awakening is termed awakening by ancient and contemporary sages alike because the shift of perception is tectonic: there is a dramatic shake up of reference point that is a lot like jolting awake in bed from a dream (or nightmare), to find you are not that character in the dream, but the self that dreamed it into being. And it’s both a sweet relief and a delightful sense of “of course this is who I am and have always been.”

illusionSo yes, in a way as the non-duality crowd insist, the self that seeks enlightenment is unreal–but it would be better to say it is partial, or incomplete. It’s a fragment of our totality, rather than unreal.

I used to describe the “awakening shift” as suddenly identifying as the black background vs the white foreground in this classic vase/face illusion. It’s not that the vase (read limited self) is unreal–it is just a matter of perspective. From the black faces background the view is bigger, and the vase (“ME”) is seen as an artifact of consciousness. It’s not unreal. It’s just incomplete.

This black background is the reference point of a stillness and vastness that is unexplainable, really. You wake up to what contemporary spiritual teacher Adyashanti calls “the radiant emptiness of spirit” and “the silence that you are.” But ultimately, words fail to convey the magnitude of this shift: It has nothing to do with “being calm” or “feeling peaceful.” It is beyond those emotional states because it is a quality of being, not feeling.

Alan Watts says it provocatively: “Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”

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I see it like this: pre-awakening I am convinced I am the fictional self who lives in the story. It’s the equivalent of watching a movie and being so smitten with the film, that one enters the fabrication so totally as to forget oneself. Simply, you forget you are the watcher (and ultimately creator) of the film and become for a short time, immersed fully in a character.

But awakening  from this character is not just a mental override, the catchy ideas “no one is here” and “the self is fictional” that you tell yourself and everyone around you, all the while going on your merry way justifying your angry, sad and fearful states and actions as “just a part of the unreal projection.”

Awakening is like coming back to the you that watches the movie, the you that sits on that seat completely unthreatened despite the mayhem befalling the screen character.  Just as when you walk out of the movie theatre–shaking your head, even laughing at the “story” you just fell into while watching–when you leave the dream self for the awakened reality there is a new reference point. (Yes, you can argue this new reference point is not real either, but I’d suggest rather, that this new awakened viewpoint is real but not ultimate…there are further refinements in perception post awakening–for instance, the Maharishi called these Cosmic, God and Unity consciousness).

A sure fire quality of a true awakening shift? It’s rare this new reference point suffers. It would be like leaving the theatre and crying, raging or celebrating for days over something that happened to a character on the screen.

awakeningNot only do reactive emotional states and mental anguish dissolve, but what is eventually revealed beyond the silence and stillness of true nature is the bliss of being.

Even as I repeatedly describe this abiding delight and equanimity (or causeless joy) in my Awakened Dreamer blog posts, one FB commenter wanted me to know this:

What you are describing is the urban myth of waking up: That after some point of epiphany or event, all would be a rose garden and only love would flow; you would like/love everyone else (and surely they would return it). All unpleasant emotions would somehow be vacuumed up never to return again and only joy, peace, and perfect understanding would now be the daily experience.”

But it’s not a myth.

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Though it may seem unreal for those who have yet to taste the nectar of bliss consciousness (and it’s not a state that comes and goes but hums beneath all that is), it is the only thing that IS real.

At a retreat event recently, teacher Igor Kufayev described bliss as something that permeates to such an extent, that even while he experienced physical illness (pneumonia), bliss was still a “visceral” element. Says Kufayev: “Bliss illumines every experience, even pain itself.”

As the Maharishi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, said:

“This is the glory of the nature of the Self. Having come back home, the traveler finds peace. The intensity of happiness is beyond the superlative. The bliss of this state eliminates the possibility of any sorrow, great or small. Into the bright light of the sun no darkness can penetrate; no sorrow can enter bliss consciousness, nor can bliss consciousness know any gain greater than itself. This state of self-sufficiency leaves one steadfast in oneself,  fulfilled in eternal contentment.”

So, when one of these non-duality types tell me that yes, they are still having regular angry or despairing or fearful states of being, but they just no longer believe in the self that is experiencing them, I can’t help but want to still ask this basic question: But are you at peace? Does bliss permeate?

Sure you can “witness” the crazy antics of emotional turmoil and even as it rages on, tell yourself it’s not real. But what if there is another possibility beyond the detachment of seeing your rampaging feelings as unreal. What if those noisy patterns of reaction and contraction cease all together?

Simply, if you are are still riding the waves of emotional highs and lows (or the mental shenanigans of worry, doubt and despair), consider that perhaps you have stopped your inquiry far too soon.

Now, on a funny note (those non-duality debaters are so damn serious, a sure sign of missing the enlightenment pub on the way to truth) here is my before and after picture. Before Awakening…After. Note the change in hair colour. Awakening has it’s perks.

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Awareness is here, playfully red-headed for now,

Lori Ann

 

Feature Photo: Flickr: lisawiderberg

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