Sunday, November 17, 2013

James 1

Today I read James 1. And I had a few impressions come to me that I can honestly say I have never had before.

I have been able to read the bible with new eyes after a hiatus, and this chapter actually gave me a lot of new insights. It is actually really interesting to see what terms stand out to me now that never did before. I especially like the imagery of the flower of grass "passing away". It actually reminded me of a nature documentary on the great plains. Grassland fires appear to completely devastate the plains. It seems nothing remains. But, whereas the stems and flowers of the grass are all burned up, the roots are protected, and "rise again". The symbolism of roots is a strong one, and a fitting analogy for the cycle of life. I have recently been studying the beliefs, and symbolism of agriculture-based societies as far back as the neolithic period, around 10,000 BC in comparison to hunter-gatherer societies and their regard for life and how it manifested in their rituals. It actually draws out the mindset—literally, the "lifestyle"—of living for a greater cause, as opposed to living for the moment. For instance, hunter gatherers regarded death as a certainty, and lived a 'kill or be killed' lifestyle: living for the moment. Whereas agriculture-based societies focused on LIFE as a certainty, and lived a 'live and let live' lifestyle, celebrating birth as triumph over death. celebrating the seasons and their associations with planting and harvest with the process of birth (new crops) life (harvest, feasting) death (planting) and the repetition of this cycle. Their rituals of internment mirrored those of their crops: Just as they retained some seeds for planting so their crops would grow from year to year, they 'planted' their dead in the earth, and regarding new births as the return of those dearly departed.  Whereas the hunter-gatherers were inclined to violence, to pillaging, to using up all the resources they accrued. They worshiped the animals they hunted, but only inasmuch as their own 'selfish' needs (food, tools, clothing, etc.) were met. Their lifestyle consisted of using every inch of hide, and bone from the animals they preyed upon, or collecting and consuming every edible berry they could forage, or taking over every tool and resource from a conquered tribe, often burning whatever they couldn't use. It struck me that these two regards for life persist even today, and often both perspectives exist in a single individual. Such is the state of the "double-minded" man.

I should mention also that, in looking elsewhere (from biblical texts) for truth, I have come to find that Kabbalah seems to be the grandfather (that is to say, the unwitting predecessor) of almost all modern Abrahamic religion, as well as many eastern religions. If nothing else, it is the origin of much of the religious symbolism I was raised with. But don't let's get me started on that. I only mention it to say that, through studying Kabbalah, I have begun to see hidden esoteric truths in the words of the bible, especially once I stopped trying to take every word literally, as an explicit instruction manual written and translated from many different languages to the point that it literally takes divine intervention to make use of it.

 It actually speaks to me in a deeper way when I allow it to be poetic. After all, much of it is imagery, and little of it is clear instruction. I used to look for clear instruction, in an effort to "lean not unto my own understanding", and I got little more than frustration for my effort. But I find now I have begun to see terms like that in a different light, focusing on the words "lean not" as opposed to the words "own understanding". Or, in other words, focusing on being in balance, as opposed to denying, or relying wholly on, something in my own nature. One's own understanding is crucial to comprehension of God, or His word, and personal meaning. However, "leaning unto one's own understanding" seems a lot like "staying in one's comfort zone"... If you cling to comfort, or certainty, or a certain level of understanding, then it never expands, never grows. And if it does grow, you most certainly don't want it to be "leaning", or it will only grow so far before collapsing. Like a ladder on soft or uneven ground, you risk a fall the higher you climb; you will never reach that "Crown of life". Or , like the wise man says, you must have a sure foundation to build upon. You must have strong roots in order to grow.

What else stood out to me this time around was the term "superfluity of naughtiness", or more specifically the word "naughty". I am not sure, but it seems as though this word "naughty", is one of the stronger synonyms of 'Sin'.To have 'Naught' = nothing, zero, goose egg.

Sin, translated from its greek origin means "to miss the mark", as in an archer missing the bull's eye. It doesn't matter if it is by an inch, or a foot, or a mile, missing the bull's eye is missing the bull's eye. Some might argue that missing by an inch is better than missing by a mile, but ultimately, it comes down to hit, or miss. You either get a point, or you get a zero.

"Naughtiness" then, is a state of having, or deserving no reward. Scoring a zero. Think of a "naughty" child; they are behaving in such a way that would not deserve reward, or praise. Their behavior or effort is deemed
unsatisfactory.

The same with sin. We strive to be like God, but invariably we miss our mark, we sin. We "fall short of the glory of God". We strive for perfection, but sinning is sinning. Though we seem to measure sin in terms of severity, ultimately we are either perfect, or we are sinners. We all "miss the mark". We all get "bad marks" for our unsatisfactory performance. But if the goal (perfection) remains our focus, we find that we become more and more consistent. Perhaps we may hit the mark from time to time, though we may miss again on our next shot. But only in having a goal of perfection are we able to improve toward it.

"Superfluity of naughtiness" I suppose, would then be unmindful, or deliberate, missing of the mark. Simply not putting forth an effort. Not caring, not trying. After all, It is 'easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle...' Or perhaps it is like threading a needle from 100 yards away with a string on an arrow... It seems so beyond us, and perhaps downright unreasonable, so we decide it's not worth the effort. All we have to tell ourselves is that we will never be perfect, we'll never make that one-in-a-billion shot, so why even try? Why beat ourselves up about it? It is easier to not care. So we become the archer who doesn't work on his aim, and blames the target. He simply fires away til he's out of arrows, playing the odds. And when his arrows are gone, he consoles himself that it was simply a matter of luck anyway.

A wise archer knows that he will miss the mark. He knows he is fallible, he is mortal, he is not perfect. But he knows that he can improve himself. He knows that the "bull's eye" represents perfection, but that his personal value is not determined in any single shot. He also knows that without such a goal there can be no measure of improvement. He teaches his hands, and his heart, how to do the best they can, always. Perhaps he'll never thread a needle from 100 yards, but he becomes a dead-eye on a larger target, or on the hunt, where his efforts are rewarded "in kind". It is not enough to know the principles of archery. One may know the physics involved, or the calculations of perfection, but be unable to even nock an arrow. Only practice—consistent practice—makes perfect.

Mindfully practicing being patient, humble, slow to anger, exercising faith, grace, resisting temptation... only with these goals in our hearts and minds do we become this person. Only when we are 'tried' do we receive that 'crown of life'. It is in consistently striving for perfection in these aspects of our lives that we begin to see improvement on our "larger" or "closer" targets. We may never be perfectly patient, or humble, etc. But we do become much more practiced at those traits. We begin to see our rewards "in kind", as we bring these developing skills and qualities into our daily lives, our relationships, or our interactions with complete strangers. I happen to work a job that is continuously trying my patience and humility, and even my physical stamina, but it is an opportunity for me each day to stretch myself, to not let myself resent the job. I want to learn these qualities almost more than I want an income. I am fortunate to have the ability to get both. I am putting into practice what I value. I want to be Christ-like, but I'm not going to just wake up one day with Christ-like qualities.

I actually was thinking about this very thing last night, before I went to bed. Perhaps not in terms of scripture study, but of meditation, or prayer. It occurred to me how in my reading spiritual texts, but not taking adequate time to exercise and develop my personal spirituality, I was a "hearer only", and not so much of a "Doer" (though not consciously in those terms).

 I have been defaulting to that reasoning of "I'll try tomorrow; I'm too exhausted tonight..." And it seems almost inevitably I feel the same way the next night. Again, I seem to apply this in my life in ways that I never would have thought to be relevant before. I am not currently seeking redemption from a savior, but I am seeking to build a stronger sense of, and connection to, a higher power. The concept of Faith has taken on a whole new meaning. 'Faith without works' is like "striving" to hit the bull's eye without ever actually picking up a bow. Or, being a "hearer only", and not a 'doer', is simply thinking about what the words mean (if even that), but not incorporating them into your life. Like reading a phone book, but never making a call. It does nothing for you if you do not acknowledge, and utilize, the connection we each personally have with our Creator. I don't want to get into my personal belief of who God is, but I do recognize a higher power in my life, and when I am able to tap into that higher power, I feel fulfilled, energized, peaceful, compassionate, charitable, patient. I imagine if I were able to be continuously in this place, to have an "eye single to the glory of God", that I would not suffer the doubts of being "double minded". It is what Christ meant when he counseled us to "consider the lilies of the field"... That we draw on our higher power for everything, and don't give way to doubt or worry.

All of that to say, I have recently fallen out of the habit of dedicating my attention to my higher power when I am meditating. I have felt the effects of faltering in my commitment, and I am taking the opportunity to rededicating myself, and a portion of my time, to getting to know myself through meditation, and my higher power through supplication.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kundalini Awakening

Tonight, I am a satellite.
I am a solitary drifter.
Observing. Searching the cosmos.
Embarking on a quest for knowledge.

I sit and gaze steadily at the pine cone in front of me. A perfect specimen of the Fibonacci spiral.I stare intently at the center of its crown, even as the natural spiral tries to draw my attention outward like a spiraling corkscrew. My focus is fixed. After a few minutes, it seems as though the center of the pine cone is becoming a white-hot pinpoint. After a few minutes more, this pinpoint seems to be an entire galaxy. Still, my focus is steady, as if my life depends on describing all the stars, and their planets, contained in this minuscule galaxy.

When I first began this style of meditation, I would have described it as a process of "peeling a hole in the universe" through pure conscious. The idea is that, when you find yourself with a moment to spare, you may look around you and find any blemish or imperfection on any object or surface... And if you are able to focus on this point, you will find that it is a gaping passage into another world. The blemish, pattern, or imperfection is simply "a glitch in the matrix". Once you peel the hole, you may pass through it into another dimension. It doesn't have to be a pine cone. I have used a dime, placed at arm's length, and focusing on the mint mark on the face of it. I have used a grain of salt on my fingertip... the first time I did it, I was staring intently at a string cheese wrapper. Later, I found that this meditative process I thought I had developed was simply the serendipitous discovery of an ancient meditation technique called "Trataka", translated as "Fixed gaze" or "Steady focus", and it is traditionally practiced by looking into a candle flame.

At first, the eyes want to wander. They seem impossible to control; fidgeting and flitting about. After just a few moments of staring at a stationary object, their attention is drawn by any movement, any sound, any color that may promise to be more stimulating. The Mind must master the eyes. Eventually the eyes become disciplined, and a steady gaze is possible. Even still, the eyes crave to be active. They try to adjust focus on the stationary object. Again, the mind must command the eyes to be singular in purpose. Once a steady gaze, and a fixed focus is established, the mind is free to relax. Upon relaxing the mind, there is often felt a sensation of leaving the body. For me, it is the sensation of "falling into my own head". This is the rabbit hole. The wormhole leading out of this world.

Once this sensation sets in, I close my eyes. At first, it seems as if there is a wall of darkness just beyond my reach, but this is simply due to the fact that the brain is accustomed to observing the world outside of headspace, and had some difficulty with the concept of self-observation. In the day-to-day, it is used to operating in a proximity (usually the cushion of space arms' length from oneself) that we usually term as a "personal bubble". But the mind now must master itself. The brain must become introspective, and confront its own delusions: consciousness—the processing of all sensory experience and thought— occurs within the brain, not within the cushion of space surrounding the body.
Did you know that the eyes are technically an outgrowth of the brain? Our brains are literally bulging out of our skulls. Exposed. Protected only by a thin fold of skin, and the brain's ability to observe, interpret and avoid threats through reflex.

I meditate on the absolute zero clearance between my eyes and my eye lids. I struggle to reach a conscious level of awareness that this blackness—this almost tangible void— is not outside of me, it is within me. If I am able to come to terms with the fact that my entire existence is emanating from my conscious and subconscious mind, I continue to freefall into my own head, and experience nothingness: Zen masters call it "No Thought". I soften my gaze at the seemly expansive black void of my quiet headspace, and try to conceive of the vastness of my universe. Yet again, I must remind myself of the fact that my eye lids pose a physical barrier to the outside world, resting on the surface of my eyes. Again, my eyes revolt in a fit of self-importance, insisting that this is trickery. But the real trickery is every day life. In everyday wakefulness, the eyelids are only allowed to cover the eyes for a few hundredths of a second at a time. Because the brain places such value in the function of vision, it has hardwired, autonomic commands, which cause the blink to become nearly imperceptible to the conscious mind. But now the conscious mind is attempting to acknowledge the very presence and position of the eyelids. My poor, weary eyes are conditioned to believe that they are the gateway to my reality. That through them, I am able to perceive my world. This is why they are so eager to perform, and so anxious at the thought of relaxation... Through habit, they try to see beyond my eyelids but they are unable. Unable to focus on my eyelids, they ache, twitch, spasm. My eyes seem to have a will of their own, which my mind must struggle to tame. They seem to suffer from claustrophobia; They can't handle the proximity of my eyelids. Flashes of light, and electric white circles dance in my head as my brain receives a frantic neural feed through quivering optic nerves. I must calm my eyes with my mind: 'you are not needed at this time, I can see just fine without you...'. Eventually, my eyes relax, and my brain activates an eye of its own.

My third eye stirs in the recesses of my reptilian brain. I am entering the realm of pure conscious. From this realm emanate the esoteric abstractions of universal knowledge and energies, the concept of Nirvana, transcendence, or absolution through communion with the divine self found therein. The Chakras and their various domains, the flow of Yin and Yang energy throughout the universe, the Sephirot and the rungs of Jacob's Ladder-- All consciously perceived only by those who have a sense of this dimension. There are worlds within worlds. The physical realm lies on the surface of all human experience. In order to get below the surface, one must venture inward. On this inward journey, one may encounter the true self.  But to reach this depth of self-knowledge, one must be disciplined, with singleness of purpose: to navigate the precipice between physical stimulation of the senses, and a welling chasm of thought which reflects the outer world, and the outer self.

Within me—within the confines of my skull—there is boundless space, unexplored territory... ever expanding, yet my conscious is coalescing and condensing as my mind becomes centered. Now that my eyes have submitted to my intentions, I am able to begin drawing my other senses inward. My body awareness becomes more keen as I "scan" its surface in a microcosmic orbit. I situate my skeleton on the axis of my spine, and feel the flow of chi, serpentine, rhythmic. This is Kundalini energy. Ancient mystics describe it as "the serpent coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine". it is represented in the symbol of the Caduceus; the symbol of medicine. The two intertwined serpents represent positive and negative energy, or active and passive, yin and yang. The light serpent is known as Ida, and is the essence of masculine, or Yang force. Pingala is the dark, and represents receptive or passive energy. Like terminals on a battery, winds on an electromagnet, these two channels run along the spine. The spine is the staff represented in the Caduceus. The wings of the Caduceus represent the soul or human spirit, and its potential to "ascend". Kundalini energy is latent in the human organism, and is roused and cultivated by yogic practice, and meditation. Though it is said that some Gurus are able to waken Kundalini in others with a simple touch, or even with their voice. Kundalini is cosmic energy, and the spine is a veritable superconductor of this energy. The human brain the quintessential node between the two.

Ida, the active force of Yang energy, elongates and straightens my spine and stretches my neck. Pingala, the passive energy of Yin, flows behind, soothing my body in waves of relaxation and healing. They follow the path of the microcosmic orbit. Up the spine, over the head, down the throat to the navel, and around again. This energy slithers and weaves between the chakras, drawing vital energy from the extremities and channeling it up to the crown. My toes find repose. slowly my ankles release all tension, and I feel my conscious pull away from my feet altogether. I relax my calves, my knees, my thighs, my haunches.... each region that relaxes releases more awareness, which is drawn in by the black hole forming in my mind. The single goal of this process is to direct all conscious thought, all sense, all awareness, into that void in my head. The void becomes more dense, more energized. Blue-white energy is building. Deeper still, the vortex of this wormhole is opening. At last, the third eye looks up along the axis of the spine, beyond the crown chakra...

Kundalini is awakening.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reflections

"It seems like the universe is an hourglass, filled with people as innumerable as the sands of countless beaches. We pass from one orb to the other, we are shifting sands that count the time in eternity, my life is a single grain of sand, rough-edged in its own way, but indiscernible from the lives of those countless others... maybe the grain of sand that represents my existence is born from the same stone as those I feel an affinity with, some who have already dropped and landed, and are buried under yesterday. I'm just now joining the eddy of sand, the churning swell that channels me to my moment of freedom—falling. I only get that moment to glimmer, as we all get our chance to join the heap below. But, when I pass through that calculated orifice of fate, that keeps order to everything... I want to stand out from the rest. I want to be the crystalline silicone among the dull brown, I want to fall away from the rest and have my glory with the few who have the rough edge that catches on the spout, who spin away from the predictable stream of life. So while we're all together, with the gravity of destiny pulling at the sands of time, I'm just waiting my turn...." Gypsy Kid: Finding my niche July, 2007

I was recalling the essence of the above post today at work, and wondering to myself  '
...How did I get here? What series of choices led me so far off track from such worthy aspirations?' I feel as though I neglected a part of my soul, and let it die... I am not this person. 

This year I have been backtracking in my mind through all the philosophies I have embraced in the past 7 or 8 years, and how they have shaped my world view. Certain experiences have left me bitter and resentful, vengeful... afraid. I made excuses which, through repetition, have become thought patterns. These contrived patterns have shaped how I see the world at large, and they have certainly served to form my warped, myopic, self-centered views, and how I have viewed those around me.

 It seems to me now, looking back, that somewhere along my journey down the mid-way of life, perhaps in a dizzy daze from some wild ride that left my head spinning, I entered a house of mirrors: A maze full of smoke and illusions... my friends, who came along, have either passed me up and found their own way, or they have stayed with me, and shared in my experience... or I have left them behind. But I am only now realizing that I am still inside this so-called "Fun House". Stuck.

As I have tried to navigate through the the hall of false doors and rippled glass, I have seen my friends in a bad light, I have seen them as grotesque, I have mistaken them for circus freaks, I have fled and abandoned many of them. Some of those who were 
closest to me have tried to talk sense into me, and lead me out of my circles of confusion, but have been unable. I was too despondent. Either I ignored them and plowed ahead, convinced that I knew the right way... or I was so hopeless and afraid that I wouldn't budge, or follow their beckoning calls. It feels like I fell asleep in that place. As I awaken to this surreality, and try to remember who and where and what I have been. I am all the more perplexed at the task of navigating my way out. I have been looking at skewed reflections of myself for so long, I always wonder if I will ever see my true self again. Will I forget who I used to be? I am afraid that I will emerge from this experience  permanently disfigured. Afraid that if I ever find my way out, my friends wont recognize me. That, if I ever find my way back to the comfort and safety of my long-lost home... as I scrub and wash away the stink and grime of all those years lost in the carnival... as I step up and wipe away the steam from a familiar mirror, I am afraid that I will not recognize myself.