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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Head-y Heart Games

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

A friend recently accused me of employing hindu head games. He didn’t mean the accusation literally and the context in which the accusation came is too removed from here to really go into. What he was getting at – from a superficial level – is that I push people into areas of thought they may not go on their own and that person’s unfamiliar territory often causes them to rethink a few things. Little by little, this gets the ball rolling in other directions and if the effort is maintained and followed through, it can bring wonderful changes and growth. However, this is something I think runs far deeper than even he realizes and I want to discuss, as briefly as I am able, what I think might be the very best of Hindu head games.

In many branches of Hinduism, we’re taught that our (little) self isn’t much to speak of although usually very problematic and that our (big) Self is our truest essence and is a sliver of God and is essentially the same from one person to the next. This bit of belief is actually of supreme importance.

There’s a story (which I’m certainly about to butcher) of a robber running into a monk on the roadside one day. The robber either attempts to rob the monk or asks the monk for a boon or something along those lines. By the end of their discussion the monk has convinced the robber that he can give him a mantra that will bring the robber more riches than the monk could ever hope to possess, let alone be robbed of. The mantra was, “Mara.” I now forget what the exact translation of that is supposed to be, but I think it was along the lines of “bitter” or “Devil” – certainly not anything positive, which apparently appealed to the robber’s sensibilities. And so off goes the robber, repeating his mantra, “Mara” hoping that he’ll gain riches from it. The monk, though, has tricked him. The thief starts off, “Mara, Mara, Mara, Mara…” and, as would happen naturally with speech the ending of one repetition is sewn into the beginning of the next and so the thief gradually and almost seamlessly goes from, “Mara, Mara, Mara…” to “Maramaramaramaramaramaramara…” which little by little is the same as “Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama…” And so, the thief has been subtly “tricked” by the monk into chanting one of God’s names and is thereby changed into a good person. End of story.

If there are Hindu head games, this story surely illustrates one – and one that is paralleled in the concept of self / Self.

Most people live and behave very selfishly – centered around the (little) self. This is the only identity some people ever realize in life. I need this. I need that. I am this. I am that. This feels good to me. That does not. However, most teachers (although not all) within the Hindu belief system encourage their students to go deeper and deeper into things like meditation, prayer, and jaapa. Sometimes these practices appeal to people who are seeking peace or happiness. “Look within” says the Hindu guru. And so, in an effort to serve what they perceive to be their self, people might start this – their motives at this point are almost invariably selfish (little). They’re entering these efforts perhaps to escape thoughts and energy that habitually cycle and recycle around and around within their minds. Like seeking the most comfy spot on the couch to chill out, these people enter sadhanas for the results the think they will get. And they may get them.

But there’s something else they’ll get, too. (Big) Self-realization. A major difference between this and the thief / monk story is that the monk pretty much tricked the thief. In other settings, his kind of guile isn’t needed or employed. Still, if we were to take a clear look at why many enter sadhanas of various sorts, we’d find a great many reasons that are (little) self-centered. And yet they enter, and with any luck they gain depth of experience here. And so then what happens?

They go deeper and deeper into their practice. And as they do, they gain an increasingly clearer picture of the (big) Self. As more time is spent gaining familiarity and transparent access to the (big) Self, the very definition of that Self is experienced and the seeker will eventually learn that This is common to all sentient things. As that new experience becomes increasingly familiar, a weird thing happens. You enter through the door of you, but as you learn of the Self and experience it, when you come back out you are using the door of that same Self – but in others. That is, you realize and experience That which is you to be identically true and paralleled in every living thing. This is the essence of a teaching of Jesus I referred to a couple posts ago where we’re told to love our neighbor as our self. It’s like diving into the swimming pool in your own back yard, but surfacing in the pool in your neighbor’s yard.

Some pools are above-ground and some are in-ground. Some are heated and others not. Some are circular, some are rectangles, and others are amorphously-shaped. Yet the water in your own pool (in each pool) is not different than the water in their pool (or any other).

Our neighbor, truly, IS our Self and I think this is the best Hindu mind game.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Sahaj Marg, The Breakdown

Sometime late last year, December-ish, I found myself in a psychology class.

Before continuing, I’d like to assert that only “psychos” go into psychology. I know this is likely an unfair statement, and certainly an over-generalization. I should also admit that there are moments, sometimes daily, when I think my own sanity must be mere minutes from leaving me for good. Many very educated people I know claim that virtually every psych professional they’ve know is in some way or another… off. The suspicion is that people with psych problems tend to enter that industry as part of some deep-rooted desire to figure their own selves (problems) out, and of course, help others in the process. Projection, which is illegal, happens all too often.

Back to the psychology class. The faculty teaching this class is an incredible person. She has life experience I’m glad I don’t have. The result is that her perspective is… interesting. She clearly adores psychology and all it entails. She certainly enjoyed teaching the class. I could truly write a book about her, but that’s not the point of this post. She is, however, relevant to this post because she’s the reason I encountered the Natural Path-formally and officially known as Sahaj Marg. We were actually doing a few ice breakers at the start of the class, one of which was to discuss one of the meditative techniques we had researched and tried prior to the class’s start. To be level with us, she shared similarly about herself. The meditative practice she mentioned was Sahaj Marg. I went home that night and looked into it. After only a day or two of poking around online and taking notes on everything I read, I made an online request to be contacted by a local representative.

When someone shows interest, the contact to them is initiated by someone called a Preceptor.

The preceptor who contacted me was an intelligent and charming woman named Jan. However, Jan was then about to head out of town and so she put me in touch with her husband, a tall and handsome man, and also a Preceptor. He and I met at a Starbucks shortly thereafter. During that chat we discussed the Sahaj Marg in general, and also he did well answering most of my questions at that point. Below is the digest version of what I learned during my preliminary study and in meeting with that Preceptor.

  1. Practitioners of Sahaj Marg are known as Abhyasis. Abhyas means concentration, and is actually an applicable title for followers of this path.
  2. The practice itself is a branch of Raja Yoga and essentially encompasses/simplifies Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and the goals of the Yamas and Niyamas through a specialized and summarized meditation practice which is centered in the area of the heart chakra.
  3. In addition to the practice of abhyas/meditation, the path employs the unique practice of “cleaning.” This is essentially a visualization practice during which the abhyasi perceives the day’s impression (samskaras) as leaving the body through the upper back/shoulder area in the form of smoke or vapor.
  4. Each person interested in becoming an abhyasi must undergo a minimum of three consecutive initiatory “sittings” with a Preceptor, during which the Cleaning Process is initiated as well as the beginning of Pranahuti, also known as Transmission, in which a bond with the current Master is established. Pranahuti is kind of like shaktipat, but entirely more subtle.

All of this sounded interesting enough, and while I’m not racist in the least, I should admit that it was kind of nice to be introduced to something like this by a non-Indian. In all my other spiritual pursuits, like 96% of all of them, I’m the only non-Indian. It truly doesn’t bother me, but it does perpetually feel rather lonely. At the end of the Starbucks meeting, I told this Preceptor that I’d be in touch about scheduling my initiatory sittings. I did just that.

As it turns out, this husband-wife Preceptor pair hosts much of the group’s local activities in their home, which isn’t new, but is nice. Their main living area actually makes for a very nice “sanctuary” with its enormous windowed space and near-panoramic view of their backyard.

After the initiatory sittings, there’s a prescribed manner of practice each abhyasi is encouraged to maintain including morning meditation, “cleaning” when the day’s work is done, and evening prayer. Additionally, there are a number of writings by the Marg’s lineage of Masters available for the abhyasi to study. Probably the most known of these are the Ten Maxims…which are not like the Ten Commandments.

Once their foot is in the door, so to speak, abhyasis are encouraged to do sittings with a Preceptor something like twice monthly. This is in addition to the individual cleaning one should be doing on his own. The benefit of this is that, if the abhyasi is diligent with his own cleaning it makes for increased progress in cleaning when he sits for such with his Preceptor.

The heart-based meditation is actually quite sweet, although it can be challenging to get a good hold on. It’s like picturing something without actually picturing it. The verbiage I feel is often used in this context is supposition. One “supposes” the existence of this Light, without actually picturing it. Apparently, picturing it too concretely will lead to kind of idolizing an image of this Light and this will, in its own way, deter the potential progress of the abhyasi. It’s for this reason that, although this practice comes from a Hindu background, no murtis are employed or encouraged.

Another aspect of Sahaj Marg is their use of journaling. All abhyasis are encouraged to do some post-meditative journaling as a means of logging their meditation experiences or realizations.

So far, in its relatively short lifespan, the Sahaj Marg has experienced three Masters (known respectively as Lalaji, Babuji, and Chariji), and the fourth was recently designated. I feel like a Google search has turned up some interesting tidbits about the Sahaj Marg, including that it’s a cult, that Preceptors at times force abhyasis to share their journals, a sex scandal or two, and disagreements in regard to the succession of some of the past Masters, among others. I’ll speak more about these things in my next post, when I detail my actual experience with the path.

My apologies for this post being so long. I intended to lay out a foundational understanding of as much of Sahaj Marg practice as possible, so that in my next post I can speak as much as possible about my specific experience with the path and not have as much explaining to so.

Om Shanti