Vulnerability is Good : Accepting Vulnerability is Better

Recently, I see a lot of posts about vulnerability, mostly accepting it as a positive human construct. It is encouraging to feel this wave of perception that has risen and is relentlessly touching thousands of kindred souls.

Of course, my friends and fellow travelers! Vulnerability is an honest human construct. Fear, doubt, frustration, hurt, failure, depression, angst, anxiety, insecurity all are sensory responses to varied external stimuli.

I find movies a good place to quote or to draw parallels from. The iconic martial artists, actor and stunt man, Jackie Chan brought something fresh and new to the erstwhile martial art movies. His movies introduce vulnerability with impeccable comic timing. He made the  people, the viewers relate to the troubles of the protagonist.  The heroes also get hurt and why not, they are human beings, made up of flesh and bones. They are susceptible to emotions, circumstances, to the people in their lives. Of course a hero wins at last, but it is usually after he learns from his mistakes and learns to adapt.

We are conditioned, programmed to believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. A valid point, apparently. But what is weakness? Have we analyzed weakness enough to understand it. Or have we made a rapid connection to the word, and formed a thesaurus of words like bad, lack of strength, inability, inadequacy, imperfection and so on? What if we look closer, spend a little time with vulnerability? We begin to realize, hey, it is more a tendency, just like our tendency to laugh at jokes, or the tendency to feel bad. We are sentient beings, we are meant too feel. If we were not vulnerable, why would we feel hurt?

Vulnerability is the nature of the garb, this human body. Human beings are susceptible to change, vulnerable to the world around them. What is vulnerability, if not heightened sensitivity and awareness. It is this awareness that makes us such a wonderful species. Vulnerability to thought, emotions, stimuli, environment and practically everything perceivable and tangible. Accepting vulnerability brings us closer to our awareness. What do we find when we are past vulnerability, a rewarding revelation, that we are still here! We continue to be, so can this be a weakness then? How can anything be a weakness, isn’t it just strength in disguise.

Accepting vulnerability takes us to  something indomitable, invulnerable and imperishable viz. the human spirit.

Here are some choice posts that I enjoyed for their honesty

http://victorianeuronotes.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/vulnerability-the-birthplace-of-creativity-connection-and-authenticity/

http://tonningsen.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/reflections-on-self-belief/

http://atruthseekerspeaks.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/a-case-of-the-tomorrows-learning-to-live-in-the-now/

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Which is the highest or best Yoga practice?

I love answering this question always and my answer, as always is, none. Yoga, is the end, not the means to achieve the end. Yoga is communion with the self. So whatever means suits you catches your attention, or strikes you as pragmatic and effective.

  • Ha tha Yoga
  • Kundalini Yoga
  • Sahaj Yoga
  • Kriya Yoga
  • SIddha Yoga
  • Tantra

among other instruments, to achieve this communion, are just instruments. Everything that we possibly need, is already there with us. Samkhya Cosmology maintains that there are 25 tattvas that manifest in this universe or creation. Incidentally (or not?), research shows that the human body contains 25 elements including some trace elements (not all) from the current periodic table, that play significant biological roles. Some may argue that there are 58 known elements or even all of them in our body. So be it.

The point here is, the human body is perhaps one of the most complex systems to have evolved. It encompasses the best known biological, chemical, electrical, magnetic and physical systems within it. It is not a wonder then, human beings are amongst the sentient species known. The human body is the best available tool, equipped with a powerful mind, to probe beyond the observable, to inquire the supernatural and to discover the metaphysical. Ultimately, to merge with the spiritual.

Anyways, I digress, coming back to which Yoga practice is the best; I would like to use the western movie analogy here. A cowboy who could draw fast, was the one who could shoot the others. He may or may not have the best hand gun in the world. His foes and contestants could even have rifles, cannons, shotguns. But, the gun was  and is as good as the hand that uses it. And, the hand is as fast as the mind that uses it. This was true, even when all shootists trained hard for precision and speed.

Similarly, in all yogic practices the body and the mind have to be trained. Scriptures, texts, tutelage, music, dance, entheogens, chanting, exercises and practice are all part of the training. This training is more to restructure the conditioning of the mind, to  be able to comprehend or accept that is inherent and within,  to better make sense of the day to outwardly experiences that we accumulate post birth.

Like the Oracle says to Neo in the Matrix, ” You have already made the choice! You are here to understand why you made it.”

There have been seers, religious revolutionaries like J. Krishnamurti who sought freedom from the Guru, the book, the tradition and the authoritarian voice of another. “Truth is within you”, he said, and to discover the truth in the luminous light of perception was to transform the very nature of thought and consciousness. It was to awaken intelligence, insight and abundant compassion. The total responsibility lies with the individual. No one, according to J.K. can free another.

Then there was, who I dare to call the nihilist yogi, U. G. Krishnamurti. He was an Indian thinker who questioned enlightenment. Although necessary for day to day functioning of the individual, in terms of the Ultimate Reality or Truth, he rejected the very basis of “thought” and in doing so negated all systems of thought and knowledge in reference to It.

“Tell them that there is nothing to understand.” he said.

Although many considered him an “enlightened” person, U.G. often referred to his state of being as the “natural state.” He claimed that the demand for enlightenment was the only thing standing in the way of enlightenment itself, if enlightenment existed at all. Incidentally, to clutch on to nirvana was also a desire and not a fool proof mechanism, as per the Buddha.

The legendary, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, changed his religion several times to explore the ideology and philosophy behind each. Changing a religion for a Hindu was then and even today is a great taboo. Ramakrishna Paramahansa saw the mother goddess Kali in his wife and remained a celibate thereafter.

All said and done, all perceptions, ideas, beliefs and systems can be changed, broken, reused,  Religious doctrines, texts, philosophies, teachers, yogic systems all exist in abundance for men to extract what facilitates their quest and discard what they cannot. This does not imply, however, that we disrespect the means or belittle the efforts of others. Talking, listening, reading, following, imitating, meditating, self-enquiry, questioning, all are part of the process. Like a clay sculptor, who adds and removes clay as needed to sculpt, we must learn to imbibe and let go as need be. Adapt and Improvise.

Zentheogens

Disclaimer: The post and its author do not promote or encourage the consumption of alcohol, drugs, psychedelic or psychoactive substances.

An Entheogen, says Wikipedia is  (“generating the divine within”) is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Entheogens can supplement many diverse practices for transcendence, and revelation, including meditation, psychonautics, psychedelic and visionary art, psychedelic therapy, and magic.

A good article that sums up a lot about entheogens,  has been posted by Ryhen Satch at Entheogen: The power of the forbidden fruit

An entheogen is ritually used to alter one’s perception of reality, to generate god or divinity within. It has found altruistic uses in

  •     Ego death
  •     Egolessness
  •     Faith healing
  •     Psychedelic therapy
  •     Spiritual formation

and so on.

Alcohol has been used by Tantrics and Aghoris for spiritual advancement. Shaivite extremists, pan-india consume Bhang, a preparation made out of cannabis during  MahaShivaratri (the night in reverence of Lord Shiva).

I have not tried any of these for spiritual advancements. There are certain herbs that are known to increase dopamine levels in the brain. I call them Zentheogens. These herbs, are not entheogens, but may be used as ingredients, among others, for preparing entheogens.  The herbs are

  • Periwinkle
  • Ashwagandha
  • Kapikachhu
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Gingko
  • Green Tea
  • Brahmi

Although radical changes in ones perception of reality, can be induced chemically, as there are definitive pharmacological effects during deeper states of meditation. However, I believe the body along with the mind needs to be ready to withstand the effects of such radical changes. Supervision by seers, or traditional practitioners also is necessary to conduct such experiments on the self.

I always say, and I believe that the human body has everything it needs within itself. One should not underestimate the power of a suitable diet, good rest and regular meditation.

Chakras DeMystified – Part 2 – Prana: The Universal Life Force

If ‘steadfast awareness or super subtle pure conscious’ is the quintessence that permeates everything in the observable universe and beyond, then Prana is its universal principle of energy or force. It is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe, all the forces in nature and powers which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us.

Swami Sivananda Saraswati says:

Prana is force, magnetism and electricity. Radio waves travel through prana. That which moves the steam engine of a train and a steamer, which causes the motion of breath in lungs, that which is the very life of this breath itself, is prana. It is prana that pumps the blood from the heart into the arteries or blood vessels. Through prana digestion, excretion and secretion take place. Prana digests the food, turns it into chyle and blood, and sends it into the brain and mind. The mind is then able to think and enquire into the nature of Brahman.

Prana is the link between the astral and physical body. When the slender thread-link of prana is cut, the astral body separates from the physical body. Death takes place. The prana that was working in the physical body is withdrawn into the astral body.

How is Prana related to the Chakras?

In the pranic body, prana flows through nadis, energy channels, and is stored in chakras, energy vortices. According to some researchers, the electromagnetic energy in prana gives rise to radiation in which the waves of electric energy and magnetic energy are at ninety degrees to each other, resulting in what looks like a spiral. Indeed, the spiral radiation structure around chakras has been seen, described and drawn by sages and savants from all parts of the world at different times.
At the pranic level, in their initial stages the practices of pranayama clear up the nadis, energy pathways in the body. The scriptures say there are over 72,000 nadis or pathways of prana in the pranic body and six main chakras. However, in the average individual, many of these pathways are blocked and the chakras release energy only partially. In other words, we do not utilize our full potential in terms of energy, mind and consciousness. The negative conditions we experience, whether physical or mental, are the cause as well as the consequence of the blockages. The state of our nadis and chakras are defined by our samskaras, conditionings carried in seed form, as well as purushartha, self-effort and anugraha, grace. When these pathways of energy are gradually freed so that prana moves through them smoothly.


Why know the self?

Today as I was talking to my wife, I asked her, why should there be the need to seek who I really am? I further added that mostly I never ask this question when I am happy. I enjoy being happy. Only when there is sadness which extends beyond my tolerance, I turn to some higher power. I shy away from accepting sadness or dukkha as easily as happiness. Then the separation of two identities, the duality, is evident.

To which she reminisced of a Sanskrit Subhashita from her childhood. The subhashita had etched on her mind since then. The crux of it was the default state of the mind is happiness. This is why, the mind never questions happiness. There is no analysis of happiness. When the mind deviates from its default state, it experiences non-happiness. This experience, the mind questions and then thrives in doing or finding things which will make it happy again.

This fueled a discussion, which demanded a deeper probe into the subhashita.

Why deviate from happiness in the first place? Who or what causes the deviation? Why do I not feel completely in control of happiness and sadness? Is there an experiencer and the experience? The observer and the observation?

Any serious enquiry into this is essentially a self-enquiry. Thus knowing the self is inevitable. If we do not wish it, it still is happening inadvertently as long as we experience.

 

Chakras DeMystified – Part 1

Most people practicing Yoga would say that there are 6 chakras. Certain sects believe there are 7 chakras. Dr. Svoboda in his conversations with his mentor Vimalananda, reveals that an aghori knows of 9 chakras. Some specific Shiva Yoga practitioners believe there are 22 chakras, 6 within the body and the other 16 situated outside the human body and ascending upwards above the head.

Some deep mystics, claim there are all in all 24 chakras, that correspond to 23 tattvas and one mahattatva out of which the divine purusha and the universes manifested. These 24 chakras, also correspond to the 24 syllables in the sacred Gayatri Mantra.

However, without getting into much debate into the number of chakras, let us try to demystify the chakras.

What are Chakras?

I love Svoboda’s text on this subject, in his conversations with Sri Vimalananda. So, I am going to quote him directly.


Nadis and Chakras (Kundalini: Aghora 2, 83)

Arthur Avalon comments that:

” … from an objective standpoint, the subtle centers or Cakras, vitalize and control, the gross bodily tracts which are indicated by the various regions and vertebral column and the ganglia, plexuses, nerves, arteries and organs, situate in these regions. It is only therefore (if at all) in the sense of being the gross outer representatives of the spinal centers that we connect the plexuses with the Cakras spoken of in Yoga books. In this sense, only the whole tract which extends from the subtle center to the periphery, with its corresponding bodily elements, may be regarded as a Cakra. (The Serpent Power, pp 161-2)

The chakras are the knots that bind ahamkara into self-indentification with the substances that make up the universe. Each of the lower five chakras is the place where ahamkara and one of the Elements meet and interact; the chakra plugs ahamkara into the frequency of that Element, in effect broadcasting that Element into the organisms consciousness.


My oversimplification:
The Elements that Vimalananda refers to are the metaphysical elements or natural elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space or Ether.

Have you seen those pajamas for babies, the jumpers or body suits which have press buttons or studs? These press buttons run down from the neck all the way between the legs. When we open these press studs, we can remove the baby out completely of the pajamas. Now imagine if the baby is our soul and the pajamas is our flesh, bones, blood and the garb (our skin). Imagine the studs are invisible high energy wheels, revolving and keeping the soul attached to the garb. With the right kind of pressure, these chakras open and free the soul. That is how chakras work.

Diseases – Part 2

Continued from Diseases – Part 1

Sage Patanjali in his yoga sutra (1:30)  says:
vyâdhi-styâna-sanåaya-pramâdâlasyâvirati-bhrânti-daråanâlabdha-bhûmikatvânavasthitatvâni cittavikæepâste ‘ntarâyâï
vyâdhi = sickness
styâna = apathy
sanåaya = doubt
pramâda = carelessness
âlasya = laziness
avirati = sexual indulgence
bhrânti = false
daråana = vision, perspective
alabdha = failing to attain
bhûmikatva = developmental stages
anavasthitatvâni = inconstancy, instability
citta = consciousness
vikæepâï = distraction, stirring up
te = these
antarâyâï = obstacles

Sickness, apathy, doubt, carelessness, laziness, hedonism, delusion, lack of progress, and inconstancy are all distractions which, by stirring up consciousness, act as barriers to stillness. These are not isolated individual problems tampering the steadfast quality of the citta. Instead, these are all connected and evolve from one to another.

Prevention of disease and thereby distractions, is always better than their respective cures. For a cure, is a process of reverse engineering from analyzing the effect to reach and identify the cause. It is an overhead, it is time consuming, because the effect, may not be a benign one and would steadily or rapidly aggravate whilst the analysis is in progress. Or even if the effect is a benign one, it might not be an irreversible one. Even if it is irreversible, restoring the human body or mind to its original state needs time, this is time required in addition to the time already invested in reaching from the cause to the effect.

Systems like Yoga, pranayam, meditation and others are programmed for nipping the bud of distractions in their early stages. Simple body language techniques reveal,when we think about some event in the past, we tend to look downwards. We access the temporal lobe of the brain. The temporal lobes are involved in the retention of visual memories, processing sensory input, comprehending language, storing new memories, emotion, and deriving meaning.

Similarly a person who is thinking about the future, or the next step of action focuses upwards towards the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe is associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning, and motivation.

Most yoga, meditation and mind control mechanisms are well aware of this natural tendency of the human mind. They are scientific approaches to preventing the mind from wandering and improving concentration.

Research in Ayurveda, goes deeper into analyzing the chemical composition of these lobes and regions of brain at the time of duress, distraction and depression; as well as the chemical composition of the brain in states of ecstasy, happiness, calm and meditation.  Certain Ayurvedic herbs are powerful anti-stress agents and also help induce a sense of well-being and calm.

Having said all that, the benefits of eating full timely meals, avoiding over indulgence, exercising and adequate rest should not be underestimated. They are almost necessary prerequisites for any further developments, physical or mental.