Friday, February 26, 2016

Meditation & Eclectic Spirituality, Volume 2

As a follow-up to Sunburned: A Blog Series About Spirituality that I wrote while doing some research for War & Grace, the final installment in my epic fantasy trilogy Daughter of Light,  I'll be posting links to articles about meditation (and spirituality) from around the web every Friday.


7 Sneaky Ways to Meditate Every Day Because Even 10 Minutes is Beneficial: I'm big on easing into meditation and making it a natural part of your life. One of the beauties of mediation is it's simplicity; no fanfare is required to practice. So don't worry if none of the specific tips in this article appeal to you, its a great starting point for getting creative with your own mediation practice.

California 'church' caters to millennial appetite for awakening: Nearly 30% of folks under thirty in the U.S. are "nones", i.e. they have no religious affiliation but don't necessarily reject religion outright. I love the idea of "a spiritual community center" and totally agree that "the old paradigm, having someone to follow who’s more enlightened than you" is over.

Teens navigate own path when it comes to religion: Will encouraging and supporting folks to research and deeply consider their own questions about god, faith, and religion lead to the next Age of Enlightenment?

Why you should try meditation to chill out: A great personal account on easing past that initial resistance. One of the biggies: The first time you meditate don't try to sit for forty-five minutes!

Science and Meditation: Integrating a First-Person Experience Into the Scientific Process: A neuroscientist talks up meditation and how it alters the structure of the brain, for all you skeptics;)

The Mindful Couch Potato: I don't watch a lot of athletic events on TV, but if I ever do, this sounds like a worthy experiment! As someone who lived without a TV for years, I love the idea of transforming that much-maligned medium into a useful arena for developing connection and empathy.

Tech to help with meditation: More than half of Americans meditate or are interested in mediation? Wow. That is A-W-E-S-O-M-E! Being able to hear the chaos in your brain shift to clarity sounds intriguing (and pricey!).

A Blog Series About Spirituality

If you'd like to submit a link for a Friday post, please email me at Heidi _ g @ comcast . net, thanks!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Meditation & Eclectic Spirituality, Volume 1

As a follow-up to Sunburned: A Blog Series About Spirituality that I wrote while doing some research for War & Grace, the final installment in my epic fantasy trilogy Daughter of Light,  I'll be posting links to articles about meditation (and spirituality) from around the web every Friday.


Political Staffers Find Their Zen The "Quiet Time Caucus" is a great "real-life" example of how meditation can be effective in active/hectic/real lives. It also touches upon the "they'll think I'm weird" factor, and provides a vision for the broader application of meditation and its benefits.

These 10 Tattoos Have Deep Spiritual and Religious Meaning As someone with three tattoos, I related to the: "they are in fact, 'road signs'  that mark a person's spiritual journey" angle of this article.

Here's How Meditation Can Help You Study Smarter Any type of work involving complex mental processes can benefit from the mediation habit!

If Mindfulness Makes you Uncomfortable, It's Working I consider mindfulness, meditation's sister, as a secondary practice, i.e. I make my meditation my priority and tap into mindfulness as needed, remembered, etc. The beginning of this article brings forward an excellent point that applies to meditation as much as mindfulness: Sometime's it's just going to feel uncomfortable. When I'm meditating and I would prefer to jump up and run from the room screaming to remaining still, if I can just stay there in that desire to "run", something particularly juicy invariably surfaces, some deep treasure rises from the depths. So, yes, meditation/mindfulness practices are as much about expanding the parameters of our ability to experience all spectrums of emotion, thought, etc. as they are about experiencing bliss, joy, peace, zen.

7 Ways to Meditate While You Move Sometimes we just can't sit still and movement can calm our minds.  If you already participate in any of these activities, they're also just a great way to enter/integrate a meditative quality, state into your life.

A Blog Series About Spirituality

If you'd like to submit a link for a Friday post, please email me at Heidi _ g @ comcast . net, thanks!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunshine without the Sunburn

Why are we here?

On this planet.

I don’t know, but it seems that there is a natural progression in the journey of a human life. We're conceived when a sperm meets an egg. That's two separate entities. Then we grow inside a womb. That's two separate entities, fetus and womb inside Mom (for now, some day it may be womb inside machine). At this point in our journey, we receive all nourishment and sustenance with no effort on our part (as far as we can tell). Then biological birth occurs, and we spring into the world, finally, biologically and physically separate.

In broad strokes, the childhood progression is one of separation with return for nourishment and sustenance. Now, we scoot away from our mothers, then we crawl, then we totter, then we walk … finally, we run (hopefully). It seems that “good-enough” child-rearing is a kind that allows us to feel secure enough to set off and explore the world on our own. Developing this inner sense of security seems to involve a freedom to return to Mom/safety when things get too scary and overwhelming, perhaps too dangerous.

What a perfect segue to my most favorite mystical poem ever by Kahlil Gibran!

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.


As the dwarves tended Una, three events unfolded in the Whole.

Somewhere between Azyllai and the borders of Una’s dark and light, a new world dawned. Born of pure energy and imagination, the Realm of Faerie came into being. Faeries, elves, pixies and brownies drew their first breaths.

The bounty of Isolt’s waters overflowed from her mother’s world into the Realm of Faerie, binding the worlds in symbiotic union. This was the first thing that happened.

As Isolt’s waters spread, the love of all creation grew for her.

Resentment eructed within her mother’s depths. Una could never know the flowing grace that was Isolt’s essence. It is said she wished her daughter limited and contained, as she was. Envy’s long shadow darkened Una’s heart.

One day Una asked this question of the god Vulcan: “My daughter, Isolt, do you find her attractive?”

“She’s a great beauty,” he acknowledged.

“I would offer you her hand in marriage as repayment of my debt.She would be honored to be your queen.”

“I shall be honored then, to take her as my bride,” Vulcan answered Una.

An obedient daughter, Isolt stood with the crippled god at the grand wedding ceremony. However, their sterile union, born from a mother’s envy, was the second thing that happened in the Whole. It is said it marked the end of Una’s glory. For our children are not our possessions, and Isolt was never hers to give away...—Isolt's Enchantment, Daughter of Light

Okay, back to: There is nothing in the natural progression of our early years that seems to set us up for a biological re-union with another human being … Oh, except for sex. That’s as close as we’re going to get post-birth.

I want to share an interesting quote from the book Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel:

"The self-absorption inherent in sexual excitement obliterates the other in a way that collides with the ideal of intimacy. Such people find they can be safely lustful and intemperate only with people they don’t know well, or care about as much. Recreational sex, pornography, and cybersex all share an element of distance, even anonymity, that avoids the burden of intimacy and makes sexual excitement possible ... Being with an unavailable partner provides a protective limit—if you can’t get too close to a person, you need not fear entrapment or loss of self."

Hmmm … kind of interesting. To experience sexual orgasm we need to “be” separate—inside our own bodies—while we merge with the other.
What in the heck does that have to do with spirituality? Mysticism?

Oh, I think a lot.

On the material level—body existing in externality—the Self merges with the Other to achieve sexual orgasm (among other things.) (BTW could the drive toward pornography, bondage and submission, etc. simply be an expression of the unindividuated Self? Like there is not enough YOU to really enter the SEX ACT so you need an artificial stage, so to speak, in which to play-act at being someone else? Someone else being: A Separate Self? An Other Self?)

And on the inward (mystical) level—psyche, spirit, essence, what have you—the Self reveals itself in some kind of union with the Divine—God, Source, Tao, Unified Field, whatever you want to call it.

There does seem to be this theme going on. Separateness and union ... separateness and union ... separateness and union ...

Separateness and union seems to be THE Cosmic Dance.

So does that mean a fully realized adult human being needs boundaries, separateness, after all? The ability to say “no” and the ability to say “yes” to the many many many things that we must say “no” and “yes” to to create, fulfill, navigate a meaningful life? With no core Self to radiate outward into our beliefs, our commitments, our passions, our values—what do we really have to offer the world? I mean if you’re basically a pastiche of your church’s your parents’ your friends’ your partner’s beliefs, if they’re defining your commitments, and presenting obstacles to your passions, and putting the kibosh on your values, things are going to feel pretty out-of-sync.

They should.

I'm not sure that means we should try HARDER at fitting in, following the myriad rules humans have created over the centuries (and there are so many external human authorities to choose from!), pretend we are all ONE (and the world would be an oh-so-much better place if we would just get that through our thick [separate] skulls!) (Oh, and one of my favorites: If we don't realize we're all ONE THE WORLD IS GOING TO END ... Sorry, but every spiritual guru uses this as the final fulcrum to push you into their worldview. If you don't see things my way ... OH, THE WORLD IS GOING TO END! The good news is: There's been so many documented false alarms it is safe to say there is a higher broader intelligence that mysteriously keeps the world from: ENDING. Oh, so you think you're God and the only outcome you can see is The Apocalypse? Hmmm ... I think the Creative is just so much savvier and smarter than that ...  at least, so far, history backs me up on this one!)

See, the paradox is we're here to be our brilliant Selves among the billions of other brilliant Selves on the planet. (I'll refer you back to one of my first Sunburned posts: Is Being Spiritual Being Weird?) We’re not here to merge, we’re here to emerge. But to really allow each other the freedom to do that, well, it seems to be quite a challenge for all of us! I mean what is war but trying to force everyone to be on the same page?

So if our family our clique our politics our religion is all about convincing the other girl/guy to be like us, believe like us, it’s quite retrogressive. It’s like we can’t stand someone else being fully who they are, because we haven’t quite mastered, solidified, been given permission to be who we truly are.  We spend so much time corralling THE GROUP, when we could just be blissfully exploring our own selves and realities ... which THE COSMOS seems so elegantly equipped to handle ... maybe even designed to handle ...

So, in the end, for me, it’s all about surfing, riding that inner wave and experiencing, feeling how that  aligns with the world around me, all the while appreciating the marvel of everything that is out there that is not me.

It’s kind of ecstatic.

Sunshine without the sunburn.

Much better than chocolate.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Wabi-Sabi Meditation

OMG! Meditation is a wild and wooly terrain all its own. There is so much information out there, so much INSTRUCTION—what when why where how. And so many people have such strong opinions about it.

It doesn’t have to be that complicated.

In the 1970s Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came West and the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement was born. TM is all about chanting a (secret) mantra. Very esoteric, enlightened, and special, yah?

Maybe not so much.

I do like to hear John Hagelin, Ph.D. talk. He has a great interview at Buddha at the Gas Pump and his 16 min ad for TM is pretty compelling, what with all the scientific research “proving” the superiority of TM. But, really, TM is the only group that’s sunk tons of money into the research. Anyone who’s studied statistics knows: You can make the graphs, pie charts, numbers prove whatever you want them to prove! So, if you’re sold go buy it. But, honestly, I’m not into sitting there for 20 minutes or however long and silently, inwardly chanting a mantra. Too much like daily life for my tastes. Meaning: More garbage for the inner sanctum. I know, I have such spiritual speak, hehe.

What is the inner sanctum?

Well, there may be some book or organization or group who has some definition of the inner sanctum, but for me, it’s just that place inside you that exists for two and only two. Those two would be YOU and THE DIVINE (or whatever you like to call it.) That’s it. No one else get’s to enter. Ever. Never. No one. It is not a geographical or biological location, although it might feel like it’s in your chest somewhere. But no one else belongs there. That means: No one else’s mantra or image(s) belong there either.

I mean all day long aren’t we already bombarded by one another? It’s all—okay, it’s not all—well-meaning, but the point is: There is a point where we connect with the sacred and it’s private. Personal. Sans other humans.

So I just don’t like dragging other folks in there, not gurus, yogis, other mystics, meditation teachers, pastors, priests, your mother, your father, your kids, your lover—whoever—they don’t get to go THERE. So ix-nay on their antras-may!

That being said, I’ve been meditating off-and-on now for almost thirty years. Unbelievable, but it’s true.

And really, you start where you start. I’ve experimented with all kinds of meditation, and have just ended up settling with what feels right to me.

There are three basic types of meditation:

1. Focused awareness: Focus on the breath, focus on a mantra, focus on the sensations in your body …

2. Generative: Visualize yourself on a beach, imagine yourself as radiant loving kindness, see yourself as pulsing awareness …

3. Open-Ended … sit or lie quietly, close your eyes, be still, be aware of, engage, notice whatever arises from within you…

The open-ended type gets a lot less press, I think. Not too many high-powered sales folks involved … because, well, what is there to sell? How much would you pay someone to say: Sit or lie quietly, close your eyes, be still, be aware of, engage, notice whatever arises within you.

Can you guess which is my favored type of meditation?

My experience, open-ended meditation is extremely subtle and extremely powerful. The effects are cumulative. No, you don’t have to practice every day. It seems the effects accumulate even when you take time off. Correspondingly, the benefits seem to increase the more consistent you are with the practice.

It also makes for a completely personal inward journey.

Your experience might have similarities with others, but it won’t manifest, reveal, or unwind in exactly the same way. Simply because you’re you. And you’re unique. And you’re connection, experience, relationship with the Divine (or whatever) will be distinct from anyone else’s.

But it can be quite the fun, thrilling ride, the Cosmic Game. It won’t ever be what you think it will be. I can promise you that.

Plus, it’s simple. Free. Available to us all. This door we can choose to open, at almost any time.
For me, my meditation experiences seem to interweave with my daily life and my dream life. When I meditate more regularly, the cohesion seems more direct. The thing I love most about meditation is how it keeps me connected to me. That should be a no-brainer, right? But it seems, without meditation, a centrifugal force exerts itself upon me, one that seems to propel me away from my Self. Meditation has proven to be a reliable counterbalance to the forces that would draw me away from Self.

So I like it.

A lot.

I call the kind of meditation I do: Wabi-Sabi meditation.

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term I was exposed to several years ago. And as soon as I gained an understanding of its meaning, I just fell in love. Like Wabi-Sabi might be my favorite term ever. I just hear those two words together and I melt.

From Wikipedia:

Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".[2]

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. It just makes me swoon. What in life if not transient and imperfect; impermanent and incomplete?

My meditation, if it is anything, is my best attempt to practice a kind of inner Wabi-Sabi. There are times I sit just to take out the inner garbage. Thoughts bubble up in an endless refrain. I sit with them. Sometimes that can last through days, weeks, months of sittings. Then the inner pool gurgles clear. Not because I'm forcing myself to not think. There just seems to be no more inner garbage at the moment. Sometimes my sittings are so inwardly silent, I feel like I am floating in the Cosmic Void. Other times a creative thought or idea arises. Other times clarity and insight about some ISSUE. And then there are the times when rivers of pure emotion gush through me: could be anger with no identifiable source, or melting love, the same. I never really know what I’m going to get. But that’s the way I like it. And I do my best to stay with whatever arises. And of course, I do that imperfectly. Because it’s all impermanent and incomplete.

And that’s the beauty of it.

“Watch each wave come to you," Tatou said. "Receive the energy it brings. Breathe it in, deep into your belly. Do that for as long as you can.”

Melia didn’t believe the Great White Sea could give her energy. Rather than refuse to try, she decided to follow her friend’s instructions precisely and prove nothing would happen. At least sitting on the beach was an improvement over sitting in a Bryndale classroom.

The first wave, crested with white foam, rolled toward her. It was a simple thing to synchronize her breathing. Inhale when the tide comes in. Exhale when the tide flows out. Repeat over and over and over until …

My belly and the ocean are one. My mind stops spinning. And the fear that ripples through me settles like sand on the ocean floor.
The ancient rhythm of the ocean holds the pattern of my breath.

The salty air stings my nose and expands my lungs. Each exhale carries away something I thought was mine but never was.

Memories misshaped by guilt, shame, and regret dissolve.

My heart feels clean, yet nothing has been lost.

I can sit here forever.

Melia turned her head. Tatou sprang into focus.

“What happened?” the pixie asked.

“I feel like I belong here. Like I’m part of the Whole.”—Half Mortal, Daughter of Light

On Sunday, I’ll have a special and final Sunburned post for you!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Spiritual Exhortations

So what is my BIGGEST spiritual pet peeve?

Spiritual exhortations.

What am I referring to as spiritual exhortations? Basically, they’re this: Any statement that says: IF YOU grow spiritually—if you meditate—if you go to church—if you study scripture—you get the idea, THEN THIS: you will become: MORE BETTER.

And what is: MORE BETTER?

Glad you asked.

MORE BETTER is ALWAYS what the person who is making the spiritual exhortation wants you to become. The key words being: “the person” i.e. other human being—believe me, they are as limited as you, no matter how much they want to convince you that they are better equipped to decode your experience of spirituality than—the other key word—“you”—are.

This kind of predictive dogmatism just drives me nuts. Why? Well, the Creative Principle, the Divine, God, whatever you want to call it, is so, well, creative, limitless, and playful … that no one no way no how can know exactly what will happen if/when you connect with Source!

Think about it.

No one knows the End Game of your union with the Divine. Maybe not even the Divine. Certainly no other human.
This is also related in a big way to the “we are one” theology. Yes, we are connected; being connected is not the same as being the same. Perhaps it’s just a battle of semantics, but why, why, why, are we always trying to return to the womb? Even if/when it’s a Cosmic One, returning, going back being THE PURPOSE of our existence is non-sensical. If THE PURPOSE is to go back, re-unite, why leave in the first place?


I think the BIG GOAL is to grasp how truly unique we are—accept, appreciate, embrace?, support, tolerate, whatever-level-we-can-muster-of-living-with our own unique-ness and everyone else’s—to move beyond national, racial, tribal, and family values. THE GROUP. See. Evolution is the individual thriving within the group, not just one leader, or the upper echelon, but everyone, thriving in their uniqueness. Until then, it’s just THE GROUP doing everything they can, in every way they can, to eradicate, obliterate, suffocate, our inconceivable uniqueness.

See I think the Cosmos is moving from unity to singularity—not from unity to the illusion of singularity back to unity. But that’s just me. Oh, and maybe Aldous Huxley too ... 

Grateful for every bone in my body.

Within this framework, the purpose of mortal life is to bring the soul’s essence to fulfillment. Various qualities inherent to mortal existence challenge this purpose: a certain spiritual density (seemingly unique to mortals), a propensity to relinquish individual thought, a tendency toward mental and/or physical sloth, to name a few. A relatively small number of mortals ever achieve their destiny in a single lifetime; thus, upon death, few are released to the Unknown Beyond.

A greater number of mortals die without knowing or experiencing themselves to any significant degree. Their souls (vessels of consciousness) are reabsorbed into the primal essence of the Whole. While lost to the individual, residual consciousness from prior lives is pooled within the primal essence of the Whole for rebirth.

It bears emphasis: The Whole conserves all consciousness. Considering the grave obstacles mortals must overcome in its attainment, any gains along these lines is deemed worth preserving.—Half Faerie, Daughter of Light

On Friday, I’ll give you my take on meditation.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stanislav Graf: Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness

Today, I’m going to introduce you to Stanislav Grof. Born in Prague in the former Czechoslovakia in 1931, he began his studies in medicine, and obtained an M.D. and Ph.D. Since then, he’s embraced over sixty years of professional training and experience in psychiatry and psychology. In his 80s today, after years of “traditional talking therapy” in his early adulthood, he had a life changing encounter with LSD, and from there went on to become one of the founders of Transpersonal Psychology—integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology (Wikipedia).

OMG! Squee! Heart bursts! That is how I felt reading the TABLE OF CONTENTS of Stanislav and Christina Grof’s: Holotropic Breathing. (Christina is Grof’s wife and they have worked together to develop their method of achieving non-ordinary states of consciousness through, well, holotropic breathing [accelerated breathing].)

You have to understand, my path, which has been always a bit rebellious, often incoherent, and not rarely meandering, nonsensical, and odd, has always been dancing in some Venn diagram of body/movement, mind/psychology and soul/spirit/spirituality/wholeness. I’m always circling around those issues, sometimes dive-bombing one or the other, but really always and only interested in their points of contact.

Because … well, they really cannot be separated. I mean if you want to talk about ILLUSIONS, one of the greatest ones is that: our bodies, our minds, and our souls are somehow separate. I know. I know. Everyone wants to go on and on about how We. Are. One. Humanity. The species. Doesn’t the thought just make you want to run and scream, hands waving in the air. I am God, you are God, we are all inseparable, after all, skeletons don’t exist, and, well, we’re really all just one ginormous amoebic blob. Hehe. I don’t think so. But that’s fine if you do. You’re probably AWAKENED. But paradox abounds, so as much as the essence (or Whatever) of the Divine is in us, we are ALSO separate, discrete, unique … umm … individuals.

She twirls in the sun.
AND … I am certain that my body, my mind, and my soul/spirit/what have you ARE one. A continuum of me. Just like your body, your mind, and your spirit are a continuum of you. Honestly, this is why I used to just cringe at church potlucks. Have you ever been to one? Seen the crap people bring? The amount of food they shove in their pie holes and then what, pray? Expect to receive some revelation about the scripture when you can barely waddle out of your chair?

Hmm … I don’t think so. And no, I’m not for asceticism. But, come on.

Okay, a personal pet peeve. Yes, I do have a few, and I’ll be discussing another one next Tuesday. THE BIGGIE as far as I’m concerned.

Back to the Grofs—because they are A-Mazing—and that table of contents, for their book, well, here are some of the chapter headings that had me wanting to throw a consciousness, we-might-just-not-destroy-the-world party:

Holotropic states of consciousness: MIND (And what does holotropic mean? “oriented toward wholeness” or “moving toward wholeness”, “it is related to heliotropic—the property of pants to always turn in the direction of the sun [light]”)
Dimensions of the human psyche: MIND
The role of spirituality in human life: SPIRITUALITY
The nature of reality—Psyche, cosmos, and consciousness: MIND & SPIRITUALITY
The healing power of breath: BODY
Healing of emotions and psychosomatic disorders: BODY & MIND
Favorable effect on physical diseases: BODY
Effect on personality, worldview, life strategy, and hierarchy of values: BODY, MIND, & SPIRITUALITY
Potential for healing of cultural wounds and historical conflict resolution: MIND & SPIRITUALITY Healing as a movement toward wholeness: MIND, BODY, & SPIRITUALITY

See?!? It’s a single book, one lovely book, about all three of my favorite things!!!

From the Foreword: (ummm … you had me at hello!)

… the Grofs offer a comprehensive vision of mental health and of human growth potential that extends the range of psychology to dimensions of the perinatal, the transpersonal, the transcultural, and the mystical. Their work organically incorporates the indigenous wisdom of shamanism and the natural world, the cultural and historical basis of consciousness, and the far-reaching breadth of modern physics and systems theory. In it the personal and the universal are equally valued, the physical and the biographical, the cultural, evolutionary, and spiritual dimensions of our humanity are included.

Wow. I think it’s all covered!

Here are the five major shifts away from tradition psychological theory/practice that the framework of holographic breathwork makes:

1. Extending the cartography of the “Freudian” psyche from post-natal experiences and the individual unconscious to include peri-natal (memory of biological birth) experiences and transpersonal consciousness.

This is actually a huge leap as transpersonal consciousness would be vast: potentially including the ancestral, archetypal, collective, karmic, imaginal, mythological, Cosmic and more.

The idea that peri-natal experiences contribute significantly to our psychological make-up is intriguing. If you think about it, moving from un-embodied, formless being/consciousness into body/form being/consciousness is probably quite a trip.

2. Relying upon the direction/guidance provided by the individual’s “inner healing intelligence” as opposed to the external analysis/interpretation of a degreed/trained doctor, professional.

Everything always comes back to the unlimited creativity of the Cosmos. We are, after all, snowflakes. Therefore, theories, models, generalizations simply fall apart the closer and closer you get to truth.

3. Recognizing the limitations of exclusively verbal strategies in therapy.

If the body does indeed hold trauma, just talking about it is not going to be adequate to relieve those blockages.

4. Valuing non-ordinary states of consciousness that are commonly perceived as pathological.

“From a psychiatric perspective to take [spiritual] things seriously, means to be ignorant, unfamiliar with the discoveries of science, superstitious, and subject to primitive magical thinking. If the belief in the God or Goddess occurs in intelligent persons, it is seen as an indication that they have not come to terms with infantile images of their parents as omnipotent beings they had created in their infancy and childhood. And direct experiences of spiritual realizes are considered manifestations of serious mental diseases—psychoses."—Grof.

5. Considering states of consciousness as a fundamental aspect of the universe and that the brain mediates or moderates consciousness rather than “produces” consciousness from matter.

I love this. Let it sink in. We're swimming in a vast reservoir of consciousness that our individual brains mediate or moderate with unfathomable uniqueness.

The book Holotropic Breathwork provides a pretty thorough coverage of the kind of therapy that has evolved from the Grofs' lifework, although it won't teach you how to do it, as it's recommended to be experienced with a trained facilitator.

“Holtropic Breathwork is a powerful self-exploration and therapy that uses the combination of seemingly simple means—accelerated breathing, evocative music, and a type of bodywork that helps the residual bioenergetic and emotional blocks.”

Now, I’m not a shill for the Grofs, nor have I experienced their brand of breathwork, but my curiosity is piqued and if I ever have a chance to attend one of their workshops, I likely will.

However, whether or not one participates in the breathwork, the advances the Grofs have made in understanding the inner life of the individual in relation to the cosmos is a Door-Opener. There IS much more to us, around us, and beyond us than most of us perceive.

If you put together things like: the unified field, a loving Source, form and formlessness, psychological life and biological life, and an individual spiritual drive that seems inherent in all of us (expressed in radically different ways of course!), the Grofs’ work makes a lot of sense, and certainly seems to orient our concept of ourselves and the world we live in in a constructive direction.

How does this relate to mysticism?

Well, number 1 and number 4. That extended cartography of consciousness accessible through the non-ordinary states of consciousness, have been “described by mystics of all ages …” and “Procedures inducing these states were also developed and used in the context of the great religions of the world—Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.”—Grow

Then, there’s number 2. Mysticism is always about plugging into a broader intelligence, a larger Self, of which, self-healing is an attribute.

And, number 3. Mystical experiences are simply beyond the verbal.

Finally, number 5. Us as mediators of Cosmic Consciousness. The more quantum theory reveals, the more the experiences and revelations received by mystics throughout time are validated, and the bridge between science and spirituality is strengthened.

Want more Grof? I thought so. Here’s a great video from youtube:
Next Tuesday, I’ll be sharing my personal BIGGIE as far as spiritual pet peeves go!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Asra Nomani: Child of Truth

Asra Nomani, a Muslim, born in India, and raised in West Virginia, USA is a contemporary mystic. I won’t say she’s inspiring, it’s become such an insipid word, as it’s so overused these days. I’d say Nomani is illuminating, showing us the way to travel where there is no road, revealing how to travel to places where no one has ever traveled before.

She wrote an amazing book, Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love, that is a much better read than Theresa of Avila’s over quoted Interior Castle—I know, I know, I read that tiresome piece of work in my twenties. Okay, sorry to dis a saint, but come on! We really are alive and living in 2016; today’s world is the one in which we must cultivate and explore and test our spirituality. So maybe, Tantrika is just more relevant to the modern mystic.

At one point in her book, Asra Nomani sees herself as a bridge, one of the rope ones; I’d add … one of those rope ones over a high gorge with treacherous body-smashing rocks below.

Her ancestry and life experience is so foreign to me, despite my also being raised in the United States—honestly, before I read her book, I didn’t realize Pakistan had been carved out of India, for Muslims, and the Hindus left—I know, ignorant American—and yet Nomani's story, her search for Self and authentic identity, her returning to her ancestral home and roots, the spiraling of her path, the stop-start-backward-forward, her grappling with the questions, reality, station of gender, resonated deeply with my heart.

There are so many gems in Tantrika. I don’t want to spoil them for you because you really need to read it. But let’s just say, Cheenie Bhai and Cheeni Apa are two of my favorite characters, because … well, the freedom of flight has always been one of my favorite metaphors for independence.
One of the gifts of Nomani’s journey is her clarity and her ability to articulate that. She’s not dogmatic—as someone who wore a head covering in solidarity with her Muslim sisters after 9/11, her co-written article As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear a hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity rings with greater awareness than if it had been written by someone who has never worn a head covering, has always refused to.

And the Divine is not dogmatic, in fact, the Divine is so fluid, humans seem incapable of comprehending—or accessing the power of that fluidity—perhaps our fascination with magic, a blink of the eye, snap of the finger, wave of the wand, transformation. Intuitively, we grasp that being responsive to the moment, being open in the now, is a key. But we’re so often stuck. Stuck by our ideas of how others perceive us, stuck in the actualities of how other’s perceive us—you know those people, the ones who feel so free in sharing their oh-so-limited opinions of us—and stuck in how we perceive ourselves.

The final chapter in Tantrika is: Child of Truth. Right behind Love is the Divine as bringer of Truth. Nomani’s evolution through personal truth to Divine Truth is one which can give us courage to ride our own tiger through streets crowded with illusions that are meant to define us as something other than who we really are.
Sometimes I think—know—only the power of the Divine breathing our hearts is the way out of the cage. Nomani reminds us that the journey is not only a worthy one, but a necessary one. I thank her.

Curious yet? Enjoy this recent interview of Nomani on THE SAAD TRUTH.
On Friday, I’ll be sharing another contemporary mystic with you!