Painus in the Anus

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google
Image search

There are two things I know to be (at least mostly) true: If someone recommends a book or movie or… almost anything to me, I’ll not enjoy it. I’m still figuring out why this is the case. The other thing I know to be true is that if / when I recommend something to someone, it’s usually enjoyed or valued or, in best case scenarios, both. Maybe I know people really well. Maybe I’m just a bitch. Either way, for a while I’d been encouraging a dear pal to check out Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and had even offered to mail him a copy – which he pretty much made me promise I wouldn’t follow through with. Finally, and not long ago, said pal indicated to me that he’d picked up his own copy of
this book and was reading it. I was thrilled. Since that time, he’s posted a number of quotes from the book to his Facebook page and seems to be enjoying it well enough. If I can be honest, I’m more
than a little surprised at the speed in which he’s breezing through the pages of the book. I spend portions of my days contemplating things spelled out in this book, and I’ve read the book a number of
times, and it still takes me months to get to the last page. Perhaps he has more leisure time on his hands than do I. Perhaps all of this is old news to him. Perhaps the dark-n-wondrous life-changing-ness of the book is already in place in his life and he doesn’t need to masticate the material as much as I feel I do for the full benefit. I don’t know, and better yet it’s not really my place to know or care about suchery. However, this dear pal did send me a request: That I should write about what Tolle details as the “pain body.” So that is what this post is (supposed to be) about.

I called this post “Painus in the Anus” because everyone knows the concept of something being a pain in the ass. A pain in the butt can be anything that makes life less enjoyable, long-term
or short. But what if something was part of your life, was pretty much complicating your life on every level, and you weren’t even aware of it? That’s the pain body. It’s not just a pain in the
butt, it’s a pain in your very existence and there’s a close connection between one’s pain body and his ego (something else most people aren’t quite clear on, at last regarding what it really and
truly is).

Since the request to write about the pain body came from someone who’s been reading Tolle’s “A New Earth,” I went to that friend and asked for any knowledge he already had regarding the subject. The digest version of his response was something along the lines of, “Not your karma, but having an effect on your karma.” He’s absolutely right.

The pain body, according to Tolle is very closely linked to human emotion. Many humans (most?) are basically possessed by their own minds and the patterns that the mind operates in. These patterns are essentially what Hindus (and others) call samskara. It’s like the deer paths in a wooded area – with enough travel, there becomes a really worn place, not just a path. Sometimes those worn places are actually like narrow ditches – quite deep. Similar impression-like grooves form within a person and account not only for one’s thoughts and behaviors, but also the resultant actions (aka karmas). Be sure, this is what so very much hinges on because as long as a person not only is adding to their internal impressions but also is not doing anything to smooth those grooves out, he or she will be bound to rebirth.

The pain body is a trip, be sure of it.

One of the first steps in understanding the pain body is to understand mind-identification. I think a lot of Hindus understand the basic trickery of the mind and then choose a path that seems not to center around it because it seems safer or because it’s easier for today. In truth, any path one might take that doesn’t afford a decent amount of focus on knowing the mind and all its components will have a tougher time not only getting rid of pesky karmas, but preventing new karmas from forming. This is actually a really vital step in getting anywhere in one’s personal evolution because we are not the mind – a challenge to recognize!

So, thought / mind is at times a tool of the ego (which Tolle writes about extensively). According to Tolle, emotion is as well and may be even more of a tool of the ego since emotions form specifically as a byproduct of thought and act primarily as fuel for this kind of fire. And lucky for us, the two are often not far from one another. They are so practically joined because, according to Tolle, emotion is the body’s response to a thought. So, essentially what happens is that the mind perceives something, emotions form in response to those thoughts, and then the two cycle off of each other. It’s a lot like smoking cigarettes being the smoker’s problem AND solution to that problem. When this ricocheting goes on without examination, Tolle says emotional story-making results. This nonsense constitutes the voice of the ego and ruins most hope for true well-being.

When all of this happens, we’re talking about the pain body. It’s a cyclical mess whirling around within each of us and varying in “size” and intensity depending on the individual. Memories are often a part of this, as are many other components of human existence. The pain body is a semiautonomous thing that forms when emotions and thoughts reverberate off each other, and then feeds on thoughts later produced. To be more precise, Tolle describes the formation of the pain body like this: The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body… This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.

The pain body is very complex and very prevalent – in fact, entirely prevalent. Everyone has one and brings one with them to this life when they are born. I see parallels here between what Tolle is saying and what “Hinduism” says about one’s individual karmas, which also follow one from one life to the next. Certainly, there is a very close link between karmas and pain body.

Karma and a pain body are definitely distinct. The mind perceives, when this goes unchecked emotions form as a result (this is a reaction), the two then pair up and perpetuate a kind of story telling that virtually entirely flavors one’s life view which in turn flavors that person’s responses / reactions to life experiences – the reactions and responses responsible for the creation of additional karmas, which in turn are interpreted according to the pre-existing psycho-emotional story telling. And the whole mess keeps it up. If a person doesn’t awaken in a fairly timely manner, it’s becomes increasingly tough to dig one’s self out of this kind of mire.

So where’s the silver lining in all this? Some might conclude that people not swamped in their pain bodies are necessarily more advanced or developed than those who are not. This isn’t necessarily the case. According to Tolle, the opposite is often the case: People with heavy pain-bodies usually have a better chance to awaken spiritually than those with a relatively light one. Whereas some of them do remain trapped in their heavy pain-bodies, many others reach a point where they cannot live with their unhappiness any longer, and so their motivation to awaken becomes strong.

So… For me, this is it. This is the pain body in a nutshell and really is the reason for why Jnana Yoga & Raja Yoga appeal to me so much. So much starts in our thoughts and can be transcended by evolving that part of human life. That transcendence, when achieved, affects everything else. Emotions, however, truly fuel so much of what goes into karma. You can think anything in the world, but when it comes down to it you’re actually moved by emotion, whether you recognize it or not. And since emotions stem from thought to begin with, it seems vital to know your way into, through, and beyond the mind. With that under your belt, your chances of forming hard-to-control emotions decreases greatly. And as we’ve discussed already, without those emotions feeding problematic mental stories (resulting in the cycle that grows the pain body), the whole ordeal is minimized, if not entirely avoided – which has a direct effect on karmas and virtually everything else.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Teachers To Me

It’s fairly safe to say that most people on the planet don’t really enjoy being challenged in regard to their deeper levels of existence. And of those who say they do, I think a fairly small percentage are being honest – many might like the idea of being challenged because of some of the noble implications, but like so many other things when it comes to practical application and the resultant experience, many tend to become shy in the face of that experience.

Not me. Actually, there’s not much I’m shy about these days… a near 180 from my demeanor as a youth. Sadly, my extroversion as an adult has at times gotten me into pickles. But I’m glad for the stories, no less.

So… in a few of my circles I’m the wise one. In a few of my circles I’m just “a” wise one. I’m sorting out how I feel about that exactly, and will likely be sorting that out for a while to come, but I’m happy to help anyone whenever I am able. And I do.

Still, I’m grateful (again and again) for those who are teachers to me. They provide me, when it’s needed usually, the challenge I’m seeking for my very own personal “next step.” One such teacher is a drag nun in California, I’ve mentioned her before, and her name is Sister Unity Divine. You’re able to locate her online without much effort, if you feel inclined. What I’m sharing below is a video of hers regarding God and Unity and our individual identity. Her flavor is that of Kashmiri Shaivism, which is only slightly different than my own path.

The Sister helps me. She helps me remember the nonduality inherent in (virtually all of) Shaivism, and of why I adhere primarily to that marg instead of a couple others available to me. She also helps me remember things I already knew – things I’ve taught others many times, but myself need reminded of periodically. She helps me to be glad for my humanness and the (often insane) humanity of others – something I’m usually glad for only infrequently.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Solstice Day After

Servants of Christ Lutheran Church

Servants of Christ Lutheran Church

Last weekend was one high in religiousness and spirituality.

Saturday was the monthly Gansha Sankashti I observe and was also the Winter Solstice – a day that yearly surprises me at how early it seems to come. And Sunday, at the request of a dear friend, I visited a Lutheran church for the congregation’s Advent concert.

The church is called Servants of Christ Lutheran Church, it’s about 20 minutes from my home, and their website can be found here. The friend who invited me is one I’ve mentioned before and despite our sometimes enormous differences, she remains someone very dear to me. I think, knowing what I know about her, that this isn’t likely to ever change. People will always be in my heart.

This church experience was fabulous. And I mean it. I don’t know that it played into my experience at all, but I genuinely felt welcome. I shook the hands of only one or two people as I entered and not fifteen feet inside the main entrance I was hardly getting to ask if someone (a random person I grabbed on to) knew where my friend was when I heard, “Hi Josh!” and found myself in one of the best hugs ever. A mom hug.

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Soon enough I was seated in a pew with my friend’s family – something I was glad for because otherwise I was only going to grab the first empty place I saw, and I’m already well aware that every church family has their favorite seating.

In addition to the family members I sat with there were only two other people in our pew – a seniorly couple. For as long as I live I’ll never forget these two, particularly the wife. She welcomed me, once, briefly but warmly and calling me “friend.” At another time, when congregants were shaking hands and “sharing” with each other peace, she took my right hand in both of hers and said sweetly with a smile something along the lines of, “Peace to you, friend.” We interacted once more when she was returning from communion – we both laughed as I quickly and briefly placed both of my legs up into the pew so she and her husband could pass me while returning their seats. I think the effort I went to – so suddenly – to allow her to pass easily somehow tickled her.

The music was great. A mixture, really. Very classy and classical. It included performances by the handbell choir, which my friend is a part of. Such an interesting instrument! My favorite ones are those that sound off a deeper tone.

I recall some of the scripture read during the service. Various parts of the old and new testaments. Nothing super challenging, but I remember noticing a difference between my interpretation and that understood by the church. Still, I experienced beauty even in those times.

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One of the greatest things I took from the experience will also follow me for a very long time. I felt welcome. Sincerely, even. People called me friend, and it really felt genuine. There have been many times in my life, while surrounded by Christians, when I was welcomed with smiles and handshakes and being called things like “friend” …and it didn’t feel like this.

For someone like me, formally hated by most of the church in its various forms worldwide – even to the point that in some places these same people would even possibly go so far as to beat me to near death with a board before dousing me in kerosene and cremating me alive – to be greeted in the spirit I was greeted, could literally mean the difference between life and death. Whether at the hands of those others or at my own hands.

It wasn’t overkill – like they were just trying to make sure I’d come back. It wasn’t a technicality being met – like so many churches that are more about numbers and warm bodies than anything else. (I’ve known those churches all too well and they are, sadly, the majority.) And when the old woman shared peace with me, I received it. I really received it. Really. These things could make a difference in the life of anyone visiting, but for someone like me – who was once literally kicked out of a church and continues to be considered a second-class citizen (and often worse!) in large part because of the church’s views and unwillingness to stay out of government – it makes an immense difference.

It will be a long – long – time before I’m “into” Christianity again. I think the church as a whole has much evolving to do. And to be honest, if it fully evolved over night, there are still wounds that only time can heal. Probably entire generations of people like myself would need to come and pass before the church’s long history with violence against gays can be swept under the so-called rug. But if there’s a place where this evolution might already be in process, Servants of Christ Lutheran Church could be it.

Aum namo christaya namah
Aum namo mitraya namaha
Aum namo christaya namah

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Sri Rudra

Earlier last week a coworker introduced me to a game / app that, depending on your phone is either free or very inexpensive. It’s called Plague, Inc. and it’s essentially a game of strategy. The game goes like this: You’re a disease (fungus, bacteria, virus, etc…you get to choose) and your goal is to spread throughout the planet employing various transmission methods, symptoms, and “abilities” until all of life on the planet is not only infected, but also extinguished.

I love this game right now and I may well have a temporary addiction to it. No joke.

I like the game because it’s based in potential reality and it makes you think and well… it’s fun. At the start, you go through a few steps to “build” your disease and this includes naming it. One of the first names I gave my disease was Kalki. This is the name of God’s “End of Days” avatar, for the not-so-really end of days. I thought it was fitting because I’ve read that it’s possible Kalki will come as a virus or something that will pretty much wipe out humanity at the end of the Kali Yuga.

Since I’m not very much of the vaishnav persuasion, I’ve switched the name of my disease to Rudra, a fierce form of Mahesh / Shiva. Since Kalki, being of Vishnu, comes more to restore / balance dharma on the planet and not so much to wipe the so-called slate (entirely) clean, it seems more fitting that one of Mahadev’s names would be used (at least by me). Mahadev is, after all, the one who’s dance brings actual, lasting balance as it eliminates the entirety of phenomenal good and phenomenal bad, the result of which is the Mahapralaya – when everything phenomenal and causal is finally given rest.

I can see, given that folks raise hell over our gods showing up increasingly in secular usage, that some would be offended by the idea that a devastating disease would be named after something holy. I’m not, although I did hesitate to share all of this because I know many non-saivas already have an inaccurate and incomplete understanding of Shiva to be that He’s primarily known for destruction – and even then the common understanding of that word, destruction, is misapplied. However, in regard to gods in secular settings, in my opinion this isn’t the same as putting god on a pair of socks or a bikini bottom. What do you think?

For your viewing pleasure I’ve included many shots of different parts of the game in its progression.

BeginSpread

Cold

AwarenessDay

MostlyRed

Partial

AllRed

Eradicate (1)

DestroyHuman

Victory

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Satguru

AllamaPrabhu

One of the books I purchased not too long ago and which arrived by mail recently is part of a trilogy of quotes by three successive gurus of a lineage I’m studying. They’re “specialty” is Raja Yoga and, I think because of my background with Jnana Yoga, a lot of it is making sense. So far, it seems like Raja and Jnana yogas are more conspicuously related than some of the others appear to be – although, we know that all interweave at various points and if practiced long enough and “correctly” will integrate eventually.

The book I mentioned is the first in the trilogy and holds quotes only from the first guru of the lineage’s “official” organization. (For the record, I’m speaking strictly in terms of the relatively modern face of this lineage, which actually traces its roots far, far back & includes Patanjali and others before him.) The quotes are divided into chapters according to their context or content. One chapter is titled, “GURU,” and leads into the quotes with a single sentence, “The definition of a Sat-Guru is that:” after which there are listed five apparent traits a satguru is to possess. The chapter closes with a few paragraphs of discussion. I’m still chewing on some of this, but you can see below the five traits that “define” a Sat-guru.

(Sri Ram Chandra of Fategarh)

(Sri Ram Chandra of Fategarh, taken from Google Image search)

1) He should attach himself to Reality, i.e., he should dwell in the fourth state and in the jivanmukta condition.

(For the record, while I’ve known the term “jivanmukta” for a solid decade, I’ve really only encountered its use with one other teacher.”

2) He should have practiced yoga (shabda-abhyasi) and by means of this practice should have control over the inner regions of the human brain.

3) He should have glittering eyes and a broad forehead.

4) He should have knowledge of devotion, knowledge, and work, and should be able to answer questions but should not bind the tongue of the questioner.

5) He should concern himself with spiritual things, i.e., he should pay attention towards them.

“These are all ordinary characteristics. But the real inner qualification is that he should be able to satisfy his disciples by imparting the Divine grace, transmitting grace, through the awakened inner vision.

“If you sit by a fire, you feel warm; if you sit by ice, you feel cold. Why then will you not get transformed if you sit with a person who is perfect in discipline and etiquette? Worship of the worthy Master should be done. Association with Reality is called satsangh. Guru-bhakti means only worship. Spend some time in the company of the Master and get your doubts cleared.

“A master should treat all equally. His love should flow evenly on all without any difference. He should not think himself superior to the abhyasis in any way. Love alone does everything.”

So far, I think the biggest standouts for me would be things that amount to, as a dear pal would say, semantics. The main purpose of this post is to share the five traits and the paragraphs that follow them in the book, so I won’t go into those semantic differences right now.

Umm… I also think I know that the guru who gave these sayings lived in a part of India that was (is?) influenced a bit by Middle Eastern culture. I’ll have to check again but I think he spoke Hindi & Urdu and some sources say that he rubbed elbows with Sufism – a mixture I find particularly interesting, if true.

As I said, I’ll definitely be chewing on this / these for a minute or two more, but now you can see the five traits that “define” a Sat-guru, according to him.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Heart To Heart

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

Most know me as a Ganapatya (Ganesha as the preferred face of the Supreme), but before that I was a blur of Smarta / Shaiva, with heavier leanings toward the Shaiva side of things. In the months of 2013, I’ve dropped the Smarta designation for all practical purposes and have instead adopted a religious theme decidedly more Shaiva / Ganapatya. Not that it really matters.

Certainly, that’s a change. Certainly, life involves evolution and change – neither of which are stoppable and neither of which should anyone want to stop or halt – or even slow down. If transcience and change and evolution weren’t somehow closely associated, it might be that the universe couldn’t exist. This, in general, is hard for humans to gladly accept. And depending on the inner landscape one has cultivated within, it could actually be an even bigger pill to swallow. None of that really matters, either – except it does matter, a little.

Facing (facilitating?) some change myself, I’m finding great comfort in the imagery employed in the Nataraj. For anyone unfamiliar, this is a depiction of the great lord Shiva mid-pose and dancing. Every – single – thing about this murti (as with other murtis) is highly symbolic. I find value in this because one isn’t required to dig deeply to learn dark-n-wondrous Truth. It’s right there in the very form of the Nataraj – both hidden and obvious. The same goes for the dancing form of my ishtadevata, Ganesha, which is called Nrtya Ganapati.

Change is blessed, indeed. More should learn to embrace this. Among the myriad benefits of this view, it’s additionally one of the best ways to conquer the ego, which one of my all-time favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle, has taught on extensively. Below I’m sharing a quote that is related to some of my own change recently. I think it paints an easy-to-understand picture of this supreme Truth and even hints and wonderful Truth that doesn’t pertain to the idea of change.

I hope you agree.

“Change is like watching a bud open into a flower, level by level, you know, layer after layer of petals. The important thing to understand is that it is one integrated idea – and the idea that a bit of change is followed by another bit of change, followed by another bit of change, until finally we come to see a changeless state. It is necessary to understand this, because we must know change as a process.” – Revered P. Rajagopalchari (Chariji Maharaj)

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Winter Aum

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

I recently decided to take a break from school. Around this time a year ago I did the same. I’m thinking that, regardless of how long it takes me to finish, I’ll take a nice long break from school around the solstice each winter season. I’m finding that this kind of pause is really healing.

Last year I had only been at my current company for about 2 months when this time of the year came and I was about to have to really step up my performance – I was exiting the training period and was about to have to fly quite solo. Anyone who knows me, knows that if I receive a letter grade under the equivalent of something around 96%, I freak out, so I decided to step away from studies while my work demanded so much of me. Once that time had passed, I resumed my studies.

The time since then (almost a full year) has been a time of great growth. Professionally, I managed to impress my way out of a position I should have been stuck in for at least a year – in less than a year – and moved to a new department. THEN, within three months of that transition, I managed to find my way into further specialized usefulness. And so here we are, a year from my last break, and I’m entering another – for pretty much the same reasons.

This weekend will be a special one for me. Saturday is not only the winter solstice, but also this month’s Sankashti (tonight is the full moon). I plan to use this time to pull within – to retreat a bit. I’ve mentioned a couple times already that I’ve recently come upon some realizations that will mean some changes for me, and this will likely be an auspicious time to sort some of that out more.

I’m no longer spending my weekends working on folks’ heads at the spa. As of yesterday I don’t have to worry about school for a few months. Pretty much all of our Xmas shopping is done AND wrapped. Nobody’s in the hospital. It’s a nice, and fitting, time to just “chill” – and the perfect season to do so.

This winter break of mine (as of two consecutive years now) is something I think all should do to the best of their ability. It fits into the natural dance of things for this part of the world during this time of the year. Water is freezing. Trees have dropped their leaves. Animals are (mostly) hibernating. Humans would do well to follow suit as best we’re able.

Chill out. Withdrawl a bit. Go within and start (already, yes!) assessing the seeds of yourself that you want to survive the harsh winter and manifest in the spring.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti