Posted on

Learning to love simply and purely for its own sake

Teachers and gurus of many traditions all urge us to apply love in our daily lives. Without it we are, as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal“. It’s a brilliantly simple way to experience more love in our lives. Muktananda wrote, “In your ordinary life, learn to love. This love should be pure, unattached and given for its own sake. If it contains any demands, it is just a commercial exchange – the motions of love but not love itself.”

If the pursuit of the awareness of love is taken further, if for example we practice such awareness in ways consistent with our own chosen spiritual practice, then this love deepens. It becomes a pursuit in its own right. Gurumayi wrote: “Without the experience of inner love, without embracing God’s love, without the darshan of one’s own true nature, without the awareness of So’ham, “I am That“, a human being is like an empty container.”

So when we are aware of something missing inside us, and we do our own journeying and find that we need to cultivate more love in our lives in this unattached way, without neediness, dependency on another, expectation or the other manifestations of the ego around love, then we are moving towards cultivating something wholely precious, beautiful, utterly fulfilling. For when the ego really and truly gets out of the way, That is all there Is.

This weekend, perhaps you could spend some time meditating on your heart centre, in the awareness that there dwells love. Whether you feel it or not doesn’t matter. It is the intention and the practice that matters. It maybe that lots of stuff needs to be got out of the way first. But if one sets out with the intention to create more authentic, genuine love in one’s life, we steadily draw it to us. Consistency is needed, along with a willingness to face what comes up along the way. But the results are a treasure indeed.

Posted on

Allow yourself to meditate on love

Reading the news today, and the usual catalogue of disagreements, upsets and conflicts as presented by our media, I was reminded of an excellent book by James Twyman, Emissary of Light, which describes the author’s visit during the Bosnian conflict to a group of people who devoted years during the conflict to meditating together right in the midst of the conflict in the cause of peace.

Every day, this group would meditate for most of the day and they would send out light to the world. James describes how on one occasion, a large group of soldiers were advancing and came right up to where they were and then passed them by without seeing them. They had made themselves as if invisible.

A lot of their work was about transcending fear, since conflict originated from fear. He describes how at one point he was instructed by the leader, referred to as “Teacher”, of the principle that “as you release fear through surrender and trust, incredible waves of light will wash over you. You’ll begin to feel joy and peace greater than you even knew existed,” and “You in your essence are the fountain of unconditional love…let it flow from you and wash over all those you see.”

This reminded me too of the passage in A Course in Miracles about love and fear. “God“, it says, “is not the author of fear. You are.” It goes on to say that “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” It is love that is real. All else is an illusion. “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”

When we get caught in our stuff, or we read about others doing the same, whether on an individual, group, or national basis, this is always worth remembering. “All there is, is love.” It is so easy to forget, such is the power of ego. We can forget these words in minutes, which is the testimony to our disconnection, and thus replicate the same dilemma.

Thus, spending time meditating on love is a powerful practice, not just for ourselves but for everybody. Unconditionally.

Posted on

The paradox of quiet in the midst of crazy activity

Between one moment and the next, between one thought and the next, or between one breath and the next, there is a tiny, often imperceptible gap, a pause point. In the cycle of awareness, we let go of one experience before turning our awareness to another. Before going through another cycle of becoming aware, engaging and taking action, there’s a slight gap, a tiny pause, infinitesimal even. We’re reaching such a natural pause point at present, not that you would think it.

This is in some ways a strange time of year. In the west we all dash madly around doing our Christmas shopping, getting ready for the feast, when paradoxically nature is quietening down and the cycle of the earth reaches an energetic still point at the Winter Solstice. It’s a time of frosts and cold weather. Nature has bedded down for the winter, turning in upon itself in hibernation. Humans though seem to be on an opposite trajectory.

Many of us are acutely aware of this, often feeling very stressed. It’s a kind of “be-perfect” driver in action: the idea of having everything sorted out, all the food bought, all the presents obtained, all the arrangements in place, for the mythical “perfect Christmas”, which is probably based on some very imperfect memory. Queues in supermarkets are noticeably long and bad-tempered, the whole place is jammed with people and the car parks over-full.

Quietly, in the background, nature does its thing, much of it quietly sleeping. Traditionally at the Winter Solstice the yule log was brought in and mistletoe was given, symbolising light and life in the darkness. It is the time of the longest night, before the sun slowly starts its upward course across the sky towards spring. This still point, when energies are quiet, is a superb time for meditation. So it’s good to have a long meditation around this time, and really give yourself time and be still.

This is a challenge for many caught up in the pre-Christmas rush, but it’s an excellent exercise in putting things on one side and connecting with Oneself inside. Thus it’s a bit like life in general, becoming aware of what’s happening, letting go and connecting with Oneself.

Posted on

the Winter Solstice is a good time to tune into nature

At this time of the year, as we get closer to Christmas and many of us in the West scurry around before Christmas on the annual pre-festival spending spree, it is not so obvious that this is also the time of year for more ancient festivals that are timed for the Winter Solstice, such as Yuletide in the UK.

The earth energy seems to slow down and there’s a natural still point around the time of the Solstice, a pause in the earth’s cycle. Because I think of the pre-Christmas splurge, people don’t notice this time. For the aware, however, it is a good time to meditate, and therefore to plan for this. So, we’ll be holding a special webinar for this occasion, in the evening in the UK, which will include a guided meditation.

It’s a good time to let your awareness tune into nature around you. At one time I used to meditate in a hut in the grounds of the house we had. It was good at this time to go out to meditate when it was dark and it was quiet. We were in the countryside, so that was easier to get. As I’d walk to the hut, I’d sense the plants, trees and shrubs around me and the earth beneath them, and feel the soil and the dead leaves, as autumn had just finished, and the moisture in the ground, and the wind blowing through them. Whatever the actual weather, the earth energy would feel still, as if in suspension, pausing, waiting, attending, pregnant with future possibility but still and very conscious of itself.

So it would be an excellent space in which to go within, and connect with this sense, take the outer stillness inside and connect with inner stillness. In the stillness consciousness is vibrating, and one can sense the vibration, the aliveness in the stillness. It’s a paradox and the two coexist in the One.

So, if you like to meditate, see if you can make space in your diary so that you can take time out on 21st for a special connection with nature, and with yourself.

Posted on

Watching where your mind keeps going

Most of us are probably very used to our mind doing its own thing and no doubt complain that when they try to be still, for example in meditation, their minds are persistently busy. Many say to me that it’s only when they try meditation that they notice how active their minds really are. Most of the time, they somehow didn’t notice it or took it for granted.

In the east, the need to take care of and manage the mind is a key part of their practices. My guru’s guru, Swami Muktananda told a story in which a poor person sat unawares beneath a wish-fulfilling tree and started to think of what he would like. He was sitting in a beautiful place but he could not sit quietly. His mind was busy. He thought, if only he could have a girlfriend to share this place with. Immediately a beautiful one appeared. If only he could have a nice house, he thought, and one appeared. Then he wanted servants and good food, and these duly appeared. He was about to taste the first delicious morsel when a thought came to him, “What’s going on here? This must be the work of a demon!” A demon duly appeared who had a great big gaping mouth. “Alas, he’s going to eat me up!” he thought. The demon duly ate him up.

If we leave our minds to do their thing, they can go all over the place, including where we don’t want to go. We truly create our own heaven and hell. This is why it is so important as part of a spiritual practice to manage the mind, to watch as the witness where it keeps going.

One of the great benefits of meditation is to sit and be aware of the mind. That is not to get caught up in what the mind is thinking. It is to be aware of what it is thinking, and be the witness of that. We bring our awareness back to the mantra or the breath, and we keep doing that. Thus it provides excellent training in the management of the mind, interrupting the train of thought and focusing it on that which uplifts us.

This practice was a theme of the workshop just finished, in which we explored how we can be so focused, what interrupts that and how we can re-focus.

You don’t have to meditate to learn this practice, but it helps a lot. A start can be just to slow the thoughts down, so that there’s a pause between thoughts. It requires an effort but if you practice it daily you’ll find your incessant thinking can slow down. Then you have the chance to pause, be aware, and perhaps discover the treasures that are available to you when you are in the moment, still, aware, just Being.

Posted on

Being aware of the mind as contracted consciousness

My own spiritual practice is that of Siddha Yoga, which is derived from the Kashmir Shaivic tradition in India. In that tradition, the mind, chitta, is simply a contracted form of universal Consciousness or Shakti, chiti, the great Consciousness that creates the universe. It is a very useful concept to remember, particularly in meditation. Those words chitta and chiti come from the same root, chit, meaning Awareness or Consciousness.

What troubles many people in meditation are their thoughts. Despite their best efforts, their minds get absorbed in trains of thought and they think they aren’t meditating. In Siddha Yoga, we are taught to let the mind be. That’s not to carry on thinking the train of thought, but to witness it, to become detached from it in a sense, and be the observer of it, not engaged in it. The point here is that the mind is just energy, it is contracted consciousness. Thoughts arise and they depart. They dissolve back into consciousness. So, by letting thoughts be, they dissolve. It is said, “A watched mind becomes still.”

So, when you meditate, when you get lots of thoughts, notice them, and then bring your awareness back to your breath or your mantra. Keep doing this. After a while with this practice, thoughts begin to subside, and chatter away as some vague noise in the background, or cease entirely Instead, we adopt an easy restfulness, simply being aware.

It’s not simply a practice for meditation. It is a practice for life too.

Posted on

A good time to practice meditation

Reaching the end of the last week in October, it is appropriately sunny and almost warm here, with the last very golden colours on the trees before the autumn winds wisk them away no doubt very soon. There’s perhaps a sense of a turning point in the earth’s seasonal cycle, before we descend more rapidly into winter and the animals who hiberate start burrowing underground or wherever for their sleep, our evenings are now very much darker and the clocks about to go back. To me it feels like we almost close within ourselves more.

I often recommend people do more meditating at this time. It’s good to go with the seasonal cycle and take the awareness within and rest there a while each day. In a way, nature seems to get quieter, storms notwithstanding, going within itself, and of course all that happens now is in preparation for the next spring. Us humans continue to rush around, but many say they feel more tired and sleep later if they can. So, meditating seems natural.

Very early in the morning, before the sun starts to rise is a good time. That’s when nature is at a still point before opening to the day. Some say the energy level of the earth is at its stillest. It is of course the coldest time.

So, have a room ready and a seat if you prefer that. Have a cushion to place in the small of your back as a support, if you prefer. Ensure nobody will interrupt you. Maybe light a candle, or have a low light in a corner. Maybe have a sacred object, an image or a beautiful scene. Honour this place, as your special place, and if you think that way, those that watch over you or inspire you. Or you can simply honour yourself, as a sacred being.

Taking a simple, upright posture, with your hands on your lap, or one on top of the other palms upward, or placed on your thighs. Take several deep breaths, breathing in deep and breathing out long. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace and calm, and as you breathe out let go of any tension and thoughts. And now simply sit there a while, noticing your breath coming in…and going out. If any thoughts come to mind, you can just notice them, not engage with thinking them through but bring your awareness back to your breathe…coming in…and going out.

Do this for perhaps 20 minutes, gradually enlongating it to 30 or 40 minutes if you like. It takes regular practice each day to build the habit, which is needed to really start to see the benefit.

You can read more here about the practice of meditation to help you develop skill in this invaluable practice.

Posted on

Learning to truly connect takes time, patience and practice

Last weekend I wrote about the importance of having a spiritual practice to support you on your path, some regular set of activities that met different aspects of your needs. Weekends are a good time to be thinking about this, and planning ahead.

Thinking about it of course is all that can happen. There’s an old expression, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Not that I believe in hell, but we can often carry on in the same old unsatisfactory way while expressing a desire for change. That expression needs to be accompanied by planning and action.

For example, I often recommend meditation in order to build our awareness. To meditate means at least a suitable place, free from interruption, and an agreement by others not to interrupt. So, taking action could include creating a special place, perhaps with suitable objects that might reflect your path and your devotion, a chair and/or rug, a cushion, and other appropriate stuff. However, what would be key would be to commit regular time – and show up. Say half an hour at least, although in practice you’d build up to it, and every day if you are to get the benefit. It is a habit that needs to be developed. The mind needs time and practice to change its habits, re-wiring the brain.

To support such practice, I’ve produced a download of mp3’s including two guided introductions and plenty of information.

Of course, what can happen is that we find excuses not to do it, and procrastinate. There’s always that seemingly pleasant alternative, short-term gratification but longer term continued dissatisfaction. Also it can feel very tempting to interrupt the meditation (I can always do it fully next time) and having done it a while, then have a break (I can always come back to it). What we’re not aware of is the subtle importance of continued practice. It is that that really makes the difference. Then we gradually, very gently start to experience a subtle shift, a greater calmness, an ability to settle into a steady state of relaxation and awareness, a tendency to notice moments of contentment, little touches of bliss or love, gradually introducing themselves more and more, and then subtly infusing the rest of our life.

That is getting a little bit closer to the treasure that opens up when we start to connect, bit by bit, with Who we really Are.

Learning to truly connect takes time, patience and practice, items not fashionable in today’s “I must have it now” world.

We are offering training in connecting more powerfully to Who we really Are.

Posted on

Be at peace with yourself today

Absorbed in our ego mind, we stay disconnected from Who we really Are. In our ego states, we get caught up in dramas, act out repeat patterns, stay attached to that which does not serve us, and stay stuck in persistent “thought chatter”. No wonder we somehow make our minds “not OK”.

Yet our minds are also our route to inner contentment.

Love your mind. The mind is the friend who leads you by its restlessness to search for God. The mind is the instrument by which you detect the inner world.” (Swami Muktananda).

We use the mind to become aware of the ego, to be mindful of it, to “witness” it, and to bring our awareness back to our Source of inner peace.

This is why practices like meditation are so useful. It is in meditation, or related practices, that we can observe our egos, let go of the “thought chatter” and find our own inner centredness, our own inner state of peace, and open ourselves up to our nature state of bliss.

So, take some time out to meditate (or go walking by yourself, or running, or swimming or yoga or tai chi, or contemplate, or pray, or just be still with yourself). Being with the Self in this way opens up portals to “the Peace…that passeth all understanding.”

Posted on

Time out to renew yourself

If you’re having a holiday at the moment, how easy has it been to stop and take time out for yourself? Was there a period of transition, of adapting to a holiday mode?

Living everyday existence can become automatic. We can be so absorbed in everyday living that it can get hard to step outside it and take time out. It is as though we’re addicted to this. It can seem so compulsive that this adjustment to “time out” is a hard one to do.

Yet it is so important to do it. There’s the obvious points about the need to relax, and let go of the usual cares for a while, to rest, get more sleep, maybe exercise, meet friends, spend time with the family, etc. The mind needs a break from its usual goings-on and we can come back refreshed.

I would also add the importance of taking time out to be with your spiritual self. The sheer relaxation and pleasurable experiences opens one up more to spiritual receptivity.

Yet, this addiction to busyness is an important one to be aware of. Mentally highly active professionals for example can find it is so compulsive that one almost doesn’t know anything different. It has become legitimised.

I’m using part of my break to meditate and to read and I’m able to do that in beautiful surroundings, where the eye can feast itself on visual beauty, and also get very wholesome food to feed the body too. This place is very peaceful, and so I can be very present with peace. The book I’m reading is “Waking from Sleep” by Steve Taylor, who writes about people’s spiritual awakening experiences and the factors most conducive to facilitating them. It’s an excellent book, and also it’s so good to read something really uplifting.

My new course in the autumn will be all about helping people focus more and more on what uplifts them, so as to help them bring more of that into their lives. So it’s good to focus myself on what uplifts me. Having an environment and carrying out activities that supports upliftment helps, which is why breaks like this are so vital to the system. Taking books to read with you that are uplifting helps too, as does keeping good company, getting a good rest and regularly conducting your spiritual practice, whatever that is.

The regular pursuit of upliftment is a key part of this whole process – except so much of us are so focused much of the time on the opposite!