Society, Spirituality

Episode 37: Waking Up Isn’t So Easy!

My friend, a true craftsman who has been honing his skills for 20 years, once mentioned to me: “the more you do something, the easier it gets!”. That always stuck in my mind, until a whole podcast episode came tumbling out in the midst of a run through the city and woods.

Take running as a simple example: not only have I been running for the past 5 years religiously as my Sadhana — loyalty and a sense of routine balances out my Vata/Air persona — through major life and emotional changes, but daily, there are factors that add to the conglomeration of making it challenging each and every time. The weather, my sugar levels, sleep the night before, mood, muscular fatigue, shoes, future daily responsibilities, route and the addition or lack of other people, increased expectations, choice of music, and all the rest make it a new experience each day. It’s not any easier; it’s just different.

So, how can it be that the most courageous, difficult, and virtually socialy unacceptable human endeavour in the human kingdom become easier over time? That is: waking up!

Waking up comes with its own challenges and hardships, each to be processed and overcome in its own good time. Don’t give up simply because it didn’t become easier.

Here are some common barriers and experiences on the spiritual path:

Temporary Enlightenment:

As a teenager, I opened up a book after having a psychological break (you know, the world ends with everything when you’re young), and I read the sentence out loud: “We are all One”. With that sentence, I lost my sense of self completely. Tears ran down my face, and I became one with the universe and all my pain and suffering was relieved. After this, I avidly read every book and discarded many concepts I had built up until that point. At 15 years old, I borrowed Indian mantra CD’s from the library, lit candles in my room, and chanted — somehow, I was attracted to spirit, though knowing nothing of Indian culture or tradition, and I certainly didn’t find it outwardly in the small conservative Christian village I lived in, in Wisconsin, USA. Eventually, life took hold and I began focusing on studying and moving abroad to London where even more social conditioning was being spoon-fed to me; then, a second awakening occurred (which I mentioned in other episodes, where I had a non-dual awakening via finding Mooji), yet that didn’t last, either.

Final liberation or awakening, is just that — it is a final stilling of the energies that give rise to the person or human being that has been conditioned to be “small”. Or even to be “big-small”! Even the biggest ego — the richest billionaire with the most confidence who never gives a second thought to enlightenment — has an extremely fragile body that is destined to become sick and to die. This is because we are bound by duality, and when we think the body/mind passes away, then we pass away, too.

It’s totally okay to celebrate your awakening experiences — in fact, they help push you on to the final surpassing of death! But, know that this may come and go for a while until you stabalise.

Spiritual Bypassing:

I’ve done my rounds with this one, too; it can even happen unconsciously. That is, taking hold of spiritual ideas or practices to avoid dealing with issues that you may have from either the past or present. This can range from childhood trauma to using meditation to avoid emotions and thoughts or suppress them. By all means — if you need therapy, get therapy. If you need to meditate, then meditate. In fact, you might notice what has been hiding beneath the surface when you finally sit down to watch your emotions and general mind. A lot can come up during meditation: fear, anxiety, restlessness, and even strange ideas, images, and uncontrollable sobbing or laughter. But don’t stuff your emotions away and pretend something pressing doesn’t exist.

To find out about emotional suppression and release, I recommend Craig Holliday’s video; just make sure you’re alone and in a comfortable place to release and let go:

Taking up the Wrong Practice:

Really, there is no wrong per se, but we know what resonates with us. Don’t take up just any advice, because your friends or family or colleagues or culture believe it is right. Initially, the factor of trying something new or going into unfamiliar territory is necessary. Then, practice, without expecting instant or unchanging results. But, if results never come… if people are demanding your time and your money to convince you of their viewpoint without you doing any work yourself, then be wary. Your practice should carry you, and you should be making decisions about yourself throughout without relying on others.

Western, capitalist, societies are filled with advertising and marketing for everything, and going beyond those messages to get to the grit is necessary. I often say, “If it can be capitalised on, it will.” You can find a course for any type of yoga or meditation or be sold new-age self-help, so just be aware that you should be making your own decisions. We wake up alone, are born alone, go to bed alone, and die alone. So, finding what is resonant should be considered and reflected upon throughout the process.

Stagnation with Practice:

When we stagnate, we stop believing that we’re on the right path. “Things should be happening!” we say. Yes and no. In one sense, things are always happening. Moods, thoughts, changing places in space, people coming and going, situations, bodily changes… but we want big things to happen. Big things do happen, but often they are in between lots and lots of micro-movements. What can also happen is that movement seems to be too slow which leads to doubt…

Doubt:

Doubt can be helpful or a hindrance, depending on the situation. The Buddha pointed out that doubt is one of the five hindrances, in fact.

When is doubt helpful? If we’re in our car and doubt that we’re going in the right direction, then that is good, because it gets us going in the right direction. Similarly, if our intuition or conscience gives us a strong message of doubt about a particular person or place, perhaps, like “don’t walk through that park at night!” — then that is good doubt.

Phillip Mofitt describes bad doubt better than I can:

“Doubt presents many faces, some of which are quite subtle. You may experience it as nonspecific anxiety, as if there is something you have forgotten to do or have done incorrectly. Doubt may be felt, yet unrecognized, as exaggerated or everpresent distress over a decision you have to make, or a vague sense that you have failed or that life isn’t as you thought it would be.

These subtle symptoms reflect the dilemma of modern life: the absence of feeling grounded in something greater than your own ego structure. It is for this reason that doubt is both an existential challenge and a spiritual hindrance.

The Buddha taught that doubt is one of five hindrances that arise in the mind, clouding your judgment, limiting your ability to act, and causing great emotional disquiet. The first is sensual desire of any sort; the second is aversion to a person, situation, or something about yourself. The third, sloth and torpor, is the inability to initiate action, while the fourth, restlessness, is just the opposite – the mind is so restless and anxious with worry that it cannot settle down. The fifth hindrance is doubt. I sometimes call doubt the mother of all hindrances because when it is in control of your mind, there is not enough energy to engage. You find you have no heart for facing difficulties.”

When we have a goal or aim that we know we should be striving for that will change us for the better, often this negative doubt creeps in to tell us “we can’t change”. We doubt our abilities or the courage to see a particular situation through. If we are practicing, say, Zazen meditation and become frustrated or impatient, then we might doubt that it is helpful or useful as a means to reach the goal.

Here’s the kicker: no process is perfect. Whether you’ve done something once or a thousand times, there will be ease and there will be bumps. But, persist.

Use the knowledge of the above of what could get in the way.

On the positive side, use the forces of knowing what is right for you and nobody else, step back and reflect on the macro and micro movements in your progress, change if you feel positive doubt, and don’t forget to be gentle with yourself when frustrating moments arise.

 

Interview, Spirituality

Episode 4: Interview with Jana Rosenbergova on Freedom


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Good morning or afternoon, wherever you are! Jana Rosenbergova is a massage therapist working out of East London — in London Fields near Broadway Market, to be exact. She has been in the trade for around six years. With her expertise, she has been growing and learning the art of massage through traditional techniques such as deep tissue and Swedish massage, hot stone, and even Indian head massage, yet she integrates her own spin on the practices that can only be described as divine.

Jana’s instinct towards freedom, imbibed in her personality, comes out in each and every treatment session as she meets her clients where they are.

I am one of them. For years, I have experienced back pain; chronic, to the extent that it has been hanging around for as long as I can remember, but also just another human facet of busy London-life, breakups with ex-partners, a dash of ruffled-up sleeping habits, and perhaps not enough yogic postures to keep my spine limber. I am also a daily runner, trekking between 5-10 kilometres per day every morning, so massage is paramount in the weekly routine to keep my body happy and healthy. Jana has met me in this juncture, as a runner and as someone who has carried around a bit too much in her past.

Knowing Jana for just over a year has been such a pleasure and we have created a bond that will last a lifetime. (We even joke that we knew each other in the past and the bond will last multiple lifetimes!) She knows not just my physical pain but also my mental and spiritual pain, and I’m completely safe to put that into her “hands” and let the tensions melt back into the source.

Jana is first and foremost a healer and takes seriously the desire for spiritual and emotional growth and wellbeing for the people and natural elements of this planet. In the future, she hopes to go to a more lush and natural setting, like South America, to further her skills and learn from more masters.

You can email Jana for a massage at holisticandhair@gmail.com or visit her website at holisticandhair.co.uk.

Have a blessed human experience today!

 

Satsang

Episode 3: Organic & Spontaneous Satsang in London

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In this episode, I share the recent insights gathered in a spontaneous Satsang, unplanned and natural. There will be more organic Satsangs in the future. A Satsang is a sacred gathering, where beings meet to come to meet Themselves, as They really are — or meet reality, as it is.

Satsangs are lacking in Western societies by and large, and non-duality is not a buzz word on the streets and isn’t ready as a conversation starter at the cocktail bar, yet they have been going on in India since time immemorial. Regardless of this notion, we can also come together in a virtual Satsang where we share from across the globe and meet non-dual awareness together no matter your country, upbringing, age, or background. Those don’t matter, because they are not who you are!

In 2012 and 2016, I sat with my guru, Mooji, in Bethnal Green in London. He taught the way of the Satsang with the help of his master, Papaji, and his master, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Mooji has shown me the light that I needed to be propelled, against all odds, to awaken to my true nature. You can, too. Here’s a preview below of a Satsang by Papaji, a wise and hilarious character, now gone beyond. Enjoy, and om namo Buddhay!

Buddhism

Episode 2: Buddhist Methods of Awakening

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Have you been wondering what the difference is between Zen, Tantra, Dzogchen, Mahayana, Theravada, and all these Buddhism’s?

In episode 2, we go over a brief overview of the Buddhist traditions and what sort of material you can put into practice, today. I understand that everybody has a different temperament and no two humans are the same, so there’s a wide variety of techniques to help you awaken. I’ll let you listen, but here’s a few more tips:

If you have a keen intellect and been to years of university and enjoy a good book, then maybe studying Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist canons will be beneficial for you. There are 84,000 in all, so you won’t be curled up for reading! “Sutra” or “Sutta” means “string/thread” — a discourse as part of an entire tapestry. So take each as both a part and a whole. Don’t think you have to read in chronological order or get through all of them. (That’s for monk-hood, right there!) You can choose what you feel drawn to here, in this collection of Buddhist suttas.

Do you love the outdoors? A woodsman? A hiker? Skiing down the slopes of a snowy mountain, somewhere north? Dzogchen is be a good bet! Dzogchen, my favourite practice, pulls your attention outwards into the widest expanse possible. Beyond body, beyond mind, beyond environment… but interacting with all of them. When you’re in nature, and you’re thinking and strategising, just notice that… and then open into the wider expanse of your noticing. Where are the thoughts now? Are they controlling you, or are they simply happening in this larger awareness? The trees are still, the sky is wide, and you are here. Present. Pain can happen, happiness, joy, stress, stillness, worry — anything! But keep opening. Open to that. You can handle it, because it’s part of you but it’s not all that you are. You are larger than you ever know. You are awareness, itself. What colour are those tree branches? How is the ripple of the wind on your skin, underneath your fleece? What is that noise, over there?

Or, if you’re crazed by the arts — acting, throwing paint on canvas or yourself, a gallery-watcher, writer, poet, or feel the pull of a higher sense of the mystical, I recommend Tantra. Tantra is an unlimited practice which includes yoga, visualisation “meditation”, and drawing/gazing at/colouring mandalas. Yoga is a fluid practice, challenging the notions of what’s possible by the body/mind continuum. Yoga asanas can be interpreted in different ways, by both the Vedas and Patanjali up to the present day, but you will find truth in there — after all, you’re using your own body and mind which is in your own awareness! So play with yoga. Also play with visualisation. You can

Mother, father? Car mechanic? Love to bake and see the organic order in the vegetables you chop, the molasses on your spoon, the cinnamon in your nostrils? Zen. If you’re active and enjoy your dynamic life, both focused and intensive, then Zen is your friend. It’s the best combination of both worlds. When you’re focused on a task, then you commit yourself just to that task. If you chop, you chop. If you taste, you taste. If you need to stop chopping and take care of the baby or the dog, do that. Do it mindfully, fully. Move your attention from one task to the next with focus and awareness that you’re doing that or that it’s happening. Most importantly, when a friend comes to visit, be with that friend.

And for the more adventurous of spirit, advanced spiritual seekers, and those who want to delve deep into the question of existence itself, try non-dual self-enquiry or the netti-netti method.

The Buddha noted that any teaching is just a raft, bringing us across the water. When the raft arrives, there’s no need for the raft anymore.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t be shy to get in touch. We share this life together — not separately.