Riding the Emotional Wave

Anger, fear, hate, and jealousy are great gifts. Finally we leave the spiritual mirage behind. We are no longer this sanitized being smelling of lotus perfume. We smell like hate. We stink of it. This is reality. This is unity, at last. Transforming hate into love is like putting Saran Wrap over a container of rotting food; it does not resolve anything. We must go to the raw and direct feeling. There is nothing to transform. To transform is to lose the chance that we have been given to look at reality. The solution is in the problem and not in its negation. The problem is a marvelous gift.

Daniel Odier, Yoga Spandakarika

This passage in Daniel Odier’s beautiful commentary on The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra sang out to me when I read them earlier this week. I felt the great breeze of Truth, the scent of freedom in his words.

In Human Design, the evolutionary astrology based on the I Ching, I am an emotionally defined Projector.  To keep it simple, this means that I am wired to receive emotional waves that arise of their own accord without any direct external cause, and like all waves they subside all on their own.

My role is to recognize the wave for what it is and to take care of myself until it passes. Like ocean waves, the emotional wave picks up everything in its path. So it’s good, to extend the metaphor, to keep the beach clean and free of debris.

This morning a wave arose. I could say it’s because I slept poorly and had an upsetting dream. But it’s just as–if not more–likely that I slept and dreamt as I did due to the wave. As Odier says, the gift is in the “problem,” not its solution.

A lifelong transcender of difficulty, I have had a long process of unlearning this behavior. Getting the Saran Wrap off the rot and letting it have its way, do its stinking work of transforming itself. Seeing the natural beauty of rot has been a blessing. What is composed will decompose. This is as true of bodies as it is of feelings.

It’s bracing to lean into this. To be encouraged to let the raw reality of the moment offer itself to us. In my own experience, this allowance has the power to transform, to bring forth compassion and love like flowers out of shit. But you can’t start with the flowers. You have to start with the shit. You have to get comfortable with the buzzing, stinking, rotting of the moment with no expectation other than your own ability to remain.

Earlier in the passage, Odier says, “When we have the chance to become angry or afraid, we feel a gathering of energy followed by a dispersal. It is in this gathering that we can reach the sacred tremor . . . It is only rarely that we achieve a clear awareness of our emotion in the present moment. If this were always the case, there would be no drive to action, no manifestation of the emotion outside ourselves.”

The cultivation of awareness, to be resting always in its embrace, has the power to bring us into unity with the depth of our Being. Let the wave come. It knows that it’s not separate from the ocean.

Wind, River, Chainsaw: The Profound Nature of Space

I have always had a deep sensitivity to sound.  When I was teaching, side conversations among my students created such pressure in my head that it felt like it would implode. Once, living in South Jersey, I had a neighbor who kept beagles caged and chained in his backyard, and their barking so disturbed my sleep, my “peace,” that I took him to court twice. When I discovered meditation, then, sound became a longtime teacher.  The woodpecker that seemed to wait until I sat on my cushion to begin his relentless knocking.  The housemate whose shoes became like wooden blocks being dropped down the stairs.  The silverware drawer that clattered like a garbage truck in the kitchen. Whenever I sat to meditate, sound became the foreground, a magnetic pull on the myriad filings of my mind.

As I progressed in my practice, I had the good fortune to be introduced to Ajahn Chah, the great Thai Forest Master, by two teachers who were his former students and monks.  One time when he had traveled to England to give a teaching, there was a very loud band playing at a pub across the street.  In response to the agitation of those who had come to sit with him, he asked “is the noise bothering you, or are you bothering the noise?”  I came to understand that sound is a function of the ears, and noise is a function of the mind.  Once, walking with his young monks, they came upon a very large rock.  Ajahn Chah asked them, “is this rock heavy?”  To a person they agreed, “yes, it is very heavy!”  His response was “Ha!  Only if you try to lift it!”  This is a fairly common Buddhist teaching about the nature of perception.

It’s been some years since my Buddhist studies and practice although I still meditate most days first thing in the morning as part of a regular practice: puja, prayer, yoga and meditation.  Part of my journey into awakening as consciousness has been the continual differentiation between experience and Being.  I almost wrote “reality,” but what is reality but a perception?  Awakening as consciousness shift one’s relationship to every thing.  The dissolution of the boundaries of the self bring about the dissolution of the “other.”  It’s a realization of the complete subjectivity of being in a body.

Once I realized that there was no separation between “me,” and what “I perceived,” I knew inherently that everything was me.  Daniel Odier says “The self contains the void, the nonself, plenitude, the worlds, the Buddhists, the Sufis, the Christians, the Jews and the tantrikas!  The mystical experience is one; abolishing all dogmatic limitations, it is silent fusion, the annihilation of all disputing.”  This appears in a chapter on the way tantra differentiated itself from the “excessive” teachings of Buddhism of “understand[ing] the void with nonconsciousness.”

What the Buddhists called the “void,” a cold, emptiness, the trantrikas called space, which contains everything including the void.  Meditation, Odier goes on to say, “becom[s] almost ordinary . . . at the occurrence of any c0ntact with things and beings . . . because all of reality is transformed.  Our presence in the world becomes so open, intense, and refined that the sacred tremoring (awareness of consciousness) is continual.”

Moving to the country, here in the mountains where the population is around 6 people per square mile, my relationship to sound has blossomed as a direct result of this spaciousness that contains everything.  Sounds typical of my day are the rooster who starts his morning prayers these days around 4:30 and his hens beginning their daily song of laying–there’s a whole blog post on the sounds of laying hens!  The river comes into my awareness once Roosty rings his alarm.  When I go outside, the wind is moving in the aspen and cottonwood leaves.  There’s a rich layered texture of white sound. It permeates me and holds me in this tender time as I come more fully into conscious awareness after sleep, and I cherish it.

Yesterday, however, something happened.  Around 6:30 a persistent high pitched whine came in, gas motors revving and slowing, screaming and keening.  It was as if a dirt bike rally was going on in my mind, up and down the trails, long runs and short hops over hills to rev and return and go again and again and again. Almost instantly this scenario became embedded in my awareness.  It touched on years of sensitivity that have more or less healed but have left scar tissue that resonates at the slightest touch.   Still, my relationship to it felt different.  I both felt its irritation and also its essential there-ness.  I allowed this dichotomy to just be.

Later in the day, when my Beloved and I were driving down from our land to the road, we could see far away, across both the road and the river, a white truck parked at an angle where the well watered green of our friend’s pasture gave way to the natural brown hillside of the season and then the trees just beyond.  Immediately on seeing this I felt a shift in my relationship to the sound.  Magically, the dirt bikes dissolved back into the ether from which they had sprung and were replaced by this image of “work.”

This morning they started up again as usual just as I knelt before my altar to wave some incense around Ganesha and do the prayer that has been my regular daily practice for at least five years: please remove the obstacles from my path today by giving me the wisdom to see every difficulty, delay or setback as a gift from my exalted lord Shani for the removal of karma on this path to liberation.  It’s an old-school prayer from my days as a student and follower of Vedic astrology that examines the relationship between our desire for freedom from “obstacles” and their indisputable purpose of instruction.

Throughout my daily prayer of thanks to my yoga asanas and into my meditation they kept up their strange music.  While meditating I knew that they are no different from the sounds of the wind and the water.  Each is chewing away what is.

Thus, in this great unity, everything touches everything else.  A world, a movement of the body, where emotions pour out from the infinite, navigating through the infinite, end in the infinite, only to give rise to another movement.  Act and actor, subject and object, perception and perceiver are united. This is the realization of the Mahamudra.

Daniel Odier, Yoga Spandakarika



News from Nerdville: Or the Process of Absolute Happiness



It’s a big day here in Twisp.  The couple of miles of Route 20 that comprises “town,” is clogged with foot and vehicular traffic.  The weekly market ran two extra hours from 8 to 1 instead of 9 to 12. The parking lot at Hanks, the local supermarket, is packed, and gas prices seemed to have inched up a bit since mid week. Wonderful. Twisp is an idyllically scenic town that thrives on tourism, and Memorial Day weekend, as in many such places, is the real start of the season.  It’s great to see our local community benefiting from summer tourism.

It’s a big day here, inside me as well.  Yesterday, a long time dream came to fruition with the offer of a job that makes it possible for me to finally join my beloved here on a full time basis and more or less support myself.  I’ve been praying for this daily for the last year: please provide the means.  A number of doors in the maze of job seeking opened and led to dead ends.  Each one was a short lived thrill of expectation and then an equally short lived disappointment. As I wrote in an earlier post “Has God been Co-opted?” patience is trusting in God’s timing, trusting in Being.  Each of those potential positions was showing me something about myself, how far I was willing and able to stretch, to lean out from my safe and reliable perch as a tenured college professor and pick the higher hanging fruit of change.  The job that I’ve been so lucky and happy to get is just such a plum.  I haven’t signed the contract yet, so I’ll keep things a little vague for the moment.  But suffice it to say that it’s a job in private sector elementary education in a school that is well established as a provider of what I’ll call “whole being” education: inter-disciplinary, collaborative and life based with lots of space for exploring the vast and ever changing outdoors in each season.

When I applied for this job, I had a completely incorrect expectation, which I know is a redundancy.  I made the usual projection my own ideas and sentiments into and onto the unknown reality of the job.  I applied for it as one more opportunity to get here permanently, and even though I got a response from the Board a couple of times before I left Pennsylvania, I had no real “expectation” that I would get an interview let alone get the job. And yet, here I am.  It’s as if the job was waiting for me.  The school, the board, the children were waiting for me.  At the first interview with two board members, I fell head over heels in love with the reality of the position, with its numerous challenges and uncertainties and with its radiant possibilities.  Love at first sight even at a little less than half my previous salary.  No problem!

The reason I’m home here today on this spread of land that backs up to countless conservancy acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is that my partner is away in Seattle at a two day retreat with our beloved Guru and teacher Mata Amritanandamayi Devi known as Amma, “the hugging saint.”  Even though Amma’s organization does what it can to keep down the cost of attending the retreat, which is not for profit, it nevertheless still costs money to produce, and it was money that I thought it better not to spend. It’s not that I don’t have the money; I do.  It’s in my savings account biding its time until I need to buy a ticket to fly east in June to see my family and get my car and winter clothes and then drive the 2300 miles back home.  It’s waiting for the final course in my Waking Down mentor/teacher training, Advanced Mutuality Skills in August.  Its waiting for need to arise, which is different from desire.

Daniel Odier says quite a bit about this in his commentary in the Yoga Spandarika.  He says that the Tantric masters asked about the “whole of human passions . . . How to make it so that all is used, nothing is denied, nothing is rejected . . . so that we will not find ourselves one day face to face with our own demons, who always come back in hordes to destroy the quest?”   He says that for the Tantric, there is “no place for sublimation.  There is simply the act of looking deeply at what is there and of allowing whatever has remained buried to come up out of the ground and open like a budding flower.”

So not going to the Amma retreat is not a renunciation and does not feel like a sacrifice.  It’s an opportunity for me to look at an old pattern, one that says, “oh, what the heck!  I’ll just spend the money and go,” and  let it breathe freely and find expression in the comfort of staying home.  He says “One day, confidence begins to bloom, then flowers.  We then lose the idea of separation, and we get a taste of totality, space . . . a process that never stops evolving over the course of a life . . . process that is this absolute happiness.”

This process is deeply alive in me these days.  Today in particular I feel a simultaneity of excited joy, spaciousness and expansiveness. I have no needs.  I hung a closet rod and put my shirts on hangers.  I moved my altar from one side of the room to the other. I made and drank a smoothie.  The birds are singing.  It’s otherwise absolutely quiet, and the hills are at work being hills.  There’s a way in which they anchor me, drop me more deeply into my body.  Slow me down.

One more quote from Odier:  “When we talk about awakening, it is nothing other than . . . to discover , in a more or less permanent manner, [the] comprehensiveness of the universe, which is wholly contained in our consciousness . . . infinite fluctuation . . . never a beginning, nor an end.”  This is the process of absolute happiness. Be still and know that you are God.


Controlled Burn

Yesterday, the forest service started a controlled burn somewhere in the Okanogan Forest that surrounds the western end of Twisp River Road where I live.  It was a high moody sky already yesterday afternoon, a little muggy with the smell of rain in the air.  By the time I finished having coffee with a friend at Blue Star, cool winds were tousling the pewter clouds, and the smoke from the burn was a concentration of grays tinged with black up over the hills.  It did rain a little, and the temperatures fell back down into the 50s by night fall. This morning, the air smells like Gouda cheese or a wet camp fire, or a little of both.  It’s not unpleasant, but it’s different from the sweet clear spring fragrance of lilacs and greenery that usually greets me.

Controlled burns are essential to forest management.  They take out what would be fuel once the dryer weather and fire hazards of the summer season start.  This morning, this feels like a good metaphor for spiritual work.  I’ve been reading the Yoga Spandakarika: The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra with commentary by Daniel Odier. The Spandakarika, which translates to “The Song of the Sacred Tremor,” says in verses 4 and 5: “All the relative notions tied to the ego rediscover their peaceful source deeply buried under all the different states.  In the absolute sense, pleasure and suffering, subject and object, are nothing other than the space of profound consciousness.”  

In his commentary, Odier says “For a Tantrika, an emotion–for example, sadness–is a prelude to joy. The idea that the world was created and that one day it will be destroyed is unfathomable because we see the creation/destruction process as a perpetual cycle.”

Over coffee yesterday with my friend, we were talking about relating with difficult people, and she said “it’s all just patterns.”  And my whole Being nodded vigorously with this.  What’s so beautiful about the Spandakarika is its focus on the spherical nature of things, what Odier describes as “the manifestation of any emotion and its withdrawal.” The way the world is always being created and destroyed over and over in the vast imperceptible ages or yugas described in the Vedas.  Or the geological and biological history of the earth.  Or look at the film from the Hubble telescope trained in on a piece of “blank space” the size of a grain of sand.  You’ll see a mind-blowing illustration of “the space of profound consciousness.” Focus your own inner Hubble on the vastness of your consciousness, and see what worlds it contains.

When we commit ourselves to a deep and ongoing investigation of our nature, we’re bound to discover the need for the occasional controlled burn.  The old patterns that are still with us, lurking under the upswept branches of our highest selves, are fuel to both fire change and inflame our emotions.  While we’re still in this relatively moist spring, before the dry heat and volatility of summer, turn the magnifying class of investigation on the twigs of your unresolved issues, and let the burn clear some space for new growth.