Thursday 27 February 2014

Tonight is Maha Shivaratri

     Maha Shivaratri, the spiritual night of Lord Shiva, is considered to be the most sacred night of the year. There is fasting during the day and the puja goes on all night with mantras to Shiva whilst anointing the shivalingam with water, milk, honey, and flowers.

     It happens the night before the new moon and is a chance to honour Shiva and the masculine principle of consciousness and awareness. For everything is consciousness and it is on this foundation principle that the world is danced into being through the awesome creative power of Shakti.  

     There has probably never been a time in history when the principle of the Divine Masculine needs to be honoured and affirmed as it does now, for it is precisely the qualities of the Divine Masculine that can create the space and the safety for good mothers and mothering to happen. Far too often, in many cultures across the world women are trying to hold both poles of masculine and feminine at the same time and be mother and father to their own inner child and to their "outer children". Men are physically absent for many reasons or emotionally absent from their own lack of connection to the Divine Masculine and their historic lack of good enough mothering and fathering. They then end up as wounded, disconnected and dangerous; perpetual teenagers fuelling the cycles violence that are destroying the Earth. Celebrate the masculine as the force of awareness, consciousness, presence and the Truth of who we really are. 

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Workshops, Life and Therapy

I don’t know how I can put it more simply than I have before;  but I will write it again; "Workshops are not life" and "Spiritual practice is not therapy"!

           I have come across more people for whom going to a workshop is a refuge from the real problems and challenges of ordinary life. They can function well in the refined, structured and boundaried space of a workshop with the controlled intimacy of exercises but faced with ordinary real life with its fluidity, chaos and need for choices and practical action they simply collapse into regression or depression.
           Spiritual and esoteric practices can of course help the spiritual development of the practitioner; but as Ken Wilber has shown with his map of lines of development; there is virtually no linkage between spiritual development and; emotional, moral, intellectual, aesthetic, somatic or any other sort of development. In particular, spiritual practice doesn't help produce a solid sense of self for dealing with the world. This comes from a good enough early childhood and then from living life - and if that isn't working, then from therapy. Therapy isn't best done in workshops with dramatic and intense experiences. It comes best from the experience of a steady therapeutic relationship where past traumas can be gradually cleared and with good enough holding, empathy and mirroring; to develop an ego strong enough to deal with the challenges of life without dissociating, disintegrating or regressing. So often, as with catharsis; we mistake relief for real healing. Ironically, many esoteric practices actually encourage the letting go of the ego and connection with everyday life. Again we are back to Ken Wilber’s map of the different regions of the arc of consciousness; the pre-personal the personal and the transpersonal. 

             It is “courses for horses”; but in today’s quick-fix and intensity-addicted world, few want the “boring” journey of therapy when instead they can be offered instant enlightenment or intimacy or mind-blowing ecstatic or orgasmic states on a workshop or in a festival.  There are exceptions in terms of workshops that can make a huge therapeutic difference. In my experience some psychodrama and in particular family constellations workshops can really change past influences but the process of working though and anchoring these changes and insights may still need ongoing work. 

          Having said all this Transcendence is re-starting its tantra workshops with a residential workshop for committed couples 14th - 16th March. The lucky participants will have enough homework ("homeplay") from this weekend to last them for a further three months at least. After this workshop, at the end of March, we are running a workshop to teach the Cobra Breath a powerful method from tantric kriya yoga which is a daily practice taking a maximum of then minutes which can also be used to transmute sexual energy in lovemaking. Again it is taking the practice into life that is what counts. See for more information.

Monday 3 February 2014

Candlemass and Light

           This night is Imbolc or Candlemass the Celtic and pagan celebration of the beginning of Spring. Warmth is returning to the weak wintery sunlight; the days are clearly getting longer and the darkness of night waning.  Snowdrops are out and life is visibly stirring in the earth for a new cycle of fertility and growth.

          It is traditionally celebrated by lighting all the candles in the house; it is our Diwali; our festival of light. In the tantric tradition and far beyond light is associated with consciousness and awareness; shining a light into the dark recesses of the unconscious; the basements and attics of our mind and body. It is a quality of Shiva of  basic consciousness that is the basis of everything. Consciousness is a quality of the masculine and meditation shines a light onto the operation of our mind and small ego and opens us to the vast spacious qualities of consciousness; Rigpa in the Buddhist tradition the vast, spacious illuminated qualities of mind. This is en-light-enment. But it is more complex than that, for the primary quality of the feminine; of Shakti, the goddess is that of radiance. When the feminine enters a room; it is as if a light has gone on; something lighter, and brighter and warmer has entered. So the masculine is Light and the primary quality of light is feminine - Radiance. The tantric dance of masculine and feminine is everywhere.

         This night I lit an altar full of candles for my mother who died last week; with a central large candle to Shiva, as consciousness. I chanted the  Mahamrityunjaya Mantra to Shiva as the three-eyed one; the third eye being a beam of light.

       Light flows down the body from the splendour of the crown chakra reflecting the light of the Divine entering the body; through the third eye as a searchlight of awareness beyond the surface of things; to the heart and the hands as "wings of the heart" which in the healing traditions channel light from the crown as healing energies through touch. Then last but not least (but least understood); the lingam, or wand of light in the Hindu tradition; vajra, lightning in the Tibetan, as a bringer of light, consciousness, healing and above all pleasure and bliss.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Life, Death and Tantra

      In Christianity most of the images are rather static, a figure on a cross is stuck there and you can’t imagine the Virgin Mary dancing. Tantra often uses Indian figures of Gods and Goddesses because they are usually depicted moving. Most of the Goddesses are pretty active and even Shiva where more of his many forms are sitting in meditation; there are common ones like Shiva Nataraj who is dancing. In the upper right hand, he holds the drum that calls the world into creation, whereas in the upper left he carries the destroying fire, symbolizing life and death, order and disorder, creation and destruction. His lower right hand is raised and the palm is turned outwards, in a gesture that means, “Don’t be afraid; it’s All Right,” because  as his left hand shows; he is dancing and treading on a small figure on the ground; dominating greed, ignorance and the possessive small ego.  Shiva is the Lord of life and death; creation and destruction.

         With some of the Goddesses, such as Kali it more obviously looks like destruction with her large knife and necklace of severed heads. Kali cuts off heads representing the ego. Chinnamasta also has her own head severed and the garland of skulls. It is very clear that destruction and creation go hand in hand. The dance is invariably of both creation and destruction. When a painter puts a mark on a canvas to start a painting, the pristine emptiness of the canvas is gone for ever.  

         Popular Western ideas of tantra with their emphasis on sexuality can seem a long way from many of the tantriks of India with their rituals in the burning Ghats. However sex, also requires surrender and a letting go of the small ego into bliss and ecstasy as the French for orgasm la petite morte (the little death) shows. The preparations for such tantric practices have to include purification, ritual and meditation otherwise they just enhance the ego and become another means of self-delusion. Sadly, in the current enthusiasm for festivals of "tantra" as “conscious sexuality” there is much more interest in the sexuality than in the consciousness.  Today, in front of  a statue of Shiva Nataraj the Lord of creation and destruction I am writing something for the funeral of my mother who died last week at the age of 91. At the end of the simple Quaker service I want them to play The Beatles, Here Comes the Sun as people leave the Western version of the burning ghats; the crematorium.