Monday, 3 June 2013

End of Blog

This project is over for now.

After my third time through The Presence Process I haven't felt called to do it again.

The third time precipitated a kind of non-dual realization. Whilst doing the breathing exercises in TPP initially the sense of a "me" who was "doing the breathing exercises" started to disappear, and instead I came to know myself as non-dual awareness, the witness of experience.

That's the simplest way of describing it. I cycled on and off through this experience for several months, with deep bliss accompanying it.

There's still a need for on-going spiritual practices and so I continue on my journey. If you'd like to discuss TPP etc, or want to meet up in NYC some time, welcome to contact me.



Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Presence Process: Third Time Through

22nd May. 2012.

I'm on my 3rd time through Michael Brown's The Presence Process. This takes us deeply into the Now. This is not an idealistic mental concept of the Now as a place of peace, ease and total contentment (this seems to be what is sold by much of the Now-centred New Age literature) but instead it takes you out of mental concepts of the Now, out of trying to "achieve" this elusive state of cessation of all painful emotions, away from reactive behavior designed to control experiences by seeking to avoid or achieve something by externally focused action, and into simple, unconditional non-doing and embracing of whatever is occurring right now. That means just simply bringing unconditional awareness to whatever is happening, even it's very painful and unpleasant.

It's an end to goal-seeking, an end to running after mental ideas of enlightenment, an end to seeking some sort of experience that is "better" than what is taking place Now. Instead of seeking something else, we turn around and face what is, cease attempting to change the images on the screen of awareness with external behavior, cease attempting to control and sedate the inner experiences (thoughts and emotions) with drugs, alcohol, "bliss-seeking spiritual practices", positive thinking or visualization, instead just allowing awareness to deeply permeate what is taking place.

This frees us from the very identification with ourselves as a Doer, or Ego, who is suffering from these experiences and needs to take action to change them. It also results in a growing inner strength and emotional maturity.

What is emerging?

There are a series of memories: mainly comprised of visual images, sounds, emotions. This is what I’d call “my life story”, it’s the ego’s definition of What’s Happened to Me.

Then there are a series of thoughts, beliefs and mainly fear-based emotions. This is the ego’s “personal context” given to the experiences that arise within awareness. It’s largely thought, which sews together that sense perceptions and emotions that arise within awareness, giving them meaning, and proposing courses of action. For example, I’m on my 3rd time through the Presence Process and have lost all desire to act and to work. This often occurs during the process for a time. The ego believes “I am doing the Presence Process and this is happening to me”. But is there really an I who is doing the process? There is definitely an inclusion of the Presence Process in a series of perceptions that arise within awareness, but it’s hard to find a real me who is doing it. The ego is also providing a fearful personal context: “I am a human being called Josh, and I have my life and my income to think about. What if I fail to achieve my financial goals as a result of going through this process? What if my career suffers and I don’t do so well?”. The sub-context of belief is in having to maintain and control the life experience, by outward action, so the experiences that occur are in line with what the ego wants to experience. But the truth is, outward action with the goal of improving the life experiences is always based on an imaginary projection of what the future will be like, and when arrived at, I find only the Now, and nothing has really changed.

As I’m proceeding through this process for the 3rd time, a lot has changed. There have been experiences of recognizing all perceptible objects (including internal objects such as bodily sensations, thoughts, and beliefs such as “I am a body”) as arising within awareness. This is an experience where it is noticed that even the belief and perspective: I am a body, perceiving an external world is simply a perception arising within awareness.

So the ego is still pretty active, it’s doing its thing, tying together experiences with a personal context and self-referencing, and identifying with the body. But there is now awareness of this as a perception arising within awareness. I’m not completely hypnotized into believing I am a human body who has to act and react in the world, seeking to control experiences so they fit in with my personal agenda. Gradually the personal agenda is being let go, and I’m sinking into the Now, and into the Witness, who is compassionately present with and aware of experience, but does not seek to change it.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Integrating Sattvic and Rajasic Qualities

When AYP awakened ecstatic bliss and joy inside me, that was it. I’d found an internal source of fulfillment which I’d always been unconsciously seeking.

I became inured to external reality and simply wanted to remain in a blissful, ecstatic state all the time. “What do external conditions matter?”, I asked myself “When I have all this accessible pleasure and joy inside me?”.

The signs arose that something was up. I didn’t much want to spend time with other people, it was much more joyous to be alone and in silence. I found the company of my worldly friends to be too visceral.

I became depressed. The bliss and joy turned into a pretty melancholy bliss and joy. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what. I wasn’t motivated to work hard in my job, I didn’t particularly want others company etc. Some good things came too – a lot of creativity, artistic inspiration, increase in gentleness and empathy with others. I did a lot of volunteer work to help people during this time, and suddenly became very concerned with the welfare of others.

Then suddenly BAM! I had a huge explosion of ecstatic extroverted energy. Whilst I didn’t stop AYP, I cut down meditation times, and tended to only meditate 3 to 5 times per week instead of twice a day, every day. I’d completely stopped drinking alcohol and I started again. I had fun. I went to parties. Life became a big, ecstatic, extroverted joy-ride, full of activity, instead of a placid, beautiful, peaceful but lonely retreat. I also started working really hard and being very successful at work as a result.

Now the summary of the integration I experienced.

“Sattwa the shining can show the Atman by its pure light: yet sattwa will bind you to search for happiness, longing for knowledge.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:6)

State one (Sattvic): Introverted, interested in transcending reality, very spiritually motivated, calm, peaceful, silent, seeking inner fulfillment, always looking to God, likes to be around spiritual people, artistic, creative. Believing that consciousness is the true reality, material reality is the dream. Loves to be alone. Very empathic and concerned with the welfare of others. Vegetarian diet of mainly raw foods, green smoothies etc. Self effacing. Spends time in spiritual practice and meditation. Exercise was yoga and running. Negate the body and it’s physical appetites.

“Rajas the passionate will make you thirsty for pleasure and possession: rajas will bind you to hunger for action.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:7)

State two (Rajasic): Extroverted, interested in sensual pleasure – sex, fun, entertainment, materialistic and working hard for money (in an ethical way), loves to be with friends, practical, down to earth, grounded. Not afraid to put myself first, assert myself, ask for and get what I want. Inclined to be a little selfish. Narcissistic instead of self-effacing. More meat-based diet, eats heavier foods. Exercise was mainly weight lifting and bodybuilding. Active, passionate, loving life, full of ideas and ambitions and dynamic energy. Love the body and it’s physical appetites.

I basically went from 6 months of being extremely Sattvic in my inclinations, basically living a monk-like lifestyle (my friends actually started to call me the monk :D) to plunging into the reverse polarity of being extremely Rajasic for the next 6 months. It was pretty confusing, although I had an awesome time in both modes – particularly the Rajasic one ;-)

When I went into the Rajasic mode, I thought I’d regressed into some kind of “less spiritual state” and I kind of had.

But in retrospect, what was happening was an internal integration of my Rajasic and Sattvic qualities (previously they’d been opposed, my Sattvic side was kind of ashamed of my Rajasic side). But I’ve learned a pertinent lesson, which I feel like describing as it seems that many other people have or will have to undergo this in some way.

Embrace and express all parts of your being. There’s nothing wrong with your dark side, your selfish instincts, your tendency to be angry or cruel, your meanness etc – you should love and integrate these parts of yourself. I know many people on AYP probably already know this, but for me it was a lesson.

If you look around the spiritual world, it seems errors have occurred when people missed this lesson. I was just reading about Swami Kriyananda, for example. I’ve read many of his teachings, and what inspiring teachings they were. Then I found out that: “eight women testified under oath that Kriyananda had used his power as the leader of Ananda to obtain sexual gratification from them when they were in their 20s”.

The experience is a shock, to have been inspired and guided by someone, and regard them lovingly, then learn that they were capable of such despicable behavior. People’s reactions are manifold: to cast the first stone at the Guru. To disregard all the good teachings that came from the Guru. To deny that the Guru did this.

My experiences taught me firstly, if you deny or fail to embrace your shadow-self, your dark-side or your rajasic qualities, it’s expression becomes even more warped and distorted. It strikes me that in the case of S.Kriyananda he constantly took refuge in his Sattvic side and the bliss of meditation, denying his darker human/animal side (he’d taken vows of celibacy), and his darker side came up and caused much more damage than it would have done. If he’d just refused to be a Guru, admitted he was just a regular guy who liked sex, refused vows of celibacy, he’d never have been in a position where he had this grand and pure image, yet he was abusing it (and abusing those women) for sexual gratification. I understand why with his practical wisdom, Yogani shuns Guru status.

I suppose for people who have children and a husband/wife, it really helps to ground them and stop this occurring. But I think there are also a lot of people out there who may not have this grounding influence, and tend to concentrate on their Sattvic side to the exclusion of their Rajasic side. These people can even find themselves being treated as Gurus, when in truth, they may have a great deal to teach, but they are just regular human beings like everyone else. This can lead to some real tragedies. It’s a tragedy if someone rejects the value to be gained from GURU X/Y/Z’s teachings, just because GURU X/Y/Z mistakenly allowed themselves to be elevated to Guru status, only to have a hard fall from this pedestal when it turned out they were just a regular human being with flaws.

So there we go. Hope this resonates with some people. And I wanted to include something interesting I read about the differences between Sattvic and Rajasic.

The source is:


“Sattwa the shining can show the Atman by its pure light: yet sattwa will bind you to search for happiness, longing for knowledge.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:6) This conveys the general idea quite well, but literally the verse is: “Of these, sattwa, free from impurity, illuminating and free from disease, binds by attachment to happiness and by attachment to knowledge.” From this we know that sattwa is free from impurity–from any element that obstructs higher consciousness from functioning on any level. Further, sattwa illuminates the mind and whatever the mind is fixed upon. Understanding and practical knowledge arise naturally in the sattwic mind. Sattwa is free from any defect, either mental or physical. Nevertheless, sattwa is as much an element of bondage as rajas or tamas. It binds us through attachment to happiness and ease of heart and to the pursuit of spiritual wisdom. When these are sought as attributes of the Self, such seeking frees us. But if they are sought under the influence of sattwa, they are sought for their benefits–ultimately for our personal well-being and understanding. The motive is tainted–albeit only as the faintest shadow–by egoic motive. Sattwa, too, must be shed by the ascending spirit. For: “The power of sattwa enslaves the happy.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:9)
“When sattwa prevails over rajas, tamas, man feels that sattwa.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:10) That is, sattwa is a force of positive introversion, of keen awareness of inward states–a condition essential for proficiency in meditation. It is a psychic sensitivity, an awareness of subtler realms of being. This is because sattwa is fundamentally an orientation toward spiritual ascension which results from the dissolving of all lower things. The ultimate sattwa (shuddhasattwa) is a melting away of all that is not spirit.
“When understanding shines in through the senses, the doors of the body: know sattwa is present.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:11) Those in whom sattwa predominate are not bewildered by life and its experiences. Rather, the sattwic person is ever gaining in understanding, being taught by life itself. The sattwic persons SEES in the fullest sense.
“That man who meets death in the hour of sattwa goes to a sinless home among the saints of God.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:14) Being himself a knower, at the time of death he ascends to the pure worlds of those established in the highest consciousness, his state of mind being in harmony with theirs.
“Fruit of the righteous act is sattwa.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:16) Action that increases the quality of sattwa in us is the only truly good action. This is a necessary lesson for us who seek the Highest. For: “Of sattwa, knowledge is born.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:17) And as has been said: “Abiding in sattwa, man goes to higher realms [after death].” (Bhagavad Gita 14:18) But he must abide in sattwa, be established in sattwa, not just having occasional bouts or flashes of sattwa. Sattwa must be a steady condition.


“Rajas the passionate will make you thirsty for pleasure and possession: rajas will bind you to hunger for action.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:7) Rajas produces fevered desire in us, whatever the object might be. Fundamentally it makes us crave enjoyment and possession of the objects of enjoyment. It literally addicts us to action–the shackles of rebirth and karma. In sum: “The power of rajas enslaves the doers.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:9) Pity the fool who says: “I am a doer, not a thinker,” who considers himself “a man of action.,” and thinks it is an enviable virtue.

Rajas is a consuming monster, for: “When rajas prevails over sattwa, tamas, man is seized by that rajas.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:10) His will is wiped out, at least for the moment. In the second chapter Arjuna asks: “Krishna, what is it that makes a man do evil, even against his own will; under compulsion, as it were?” (Bhagavad Gita 3:36) And Krishna answers: “The rajoguna has two faces, rage and lust: the ravenous, the deadly: recognize these: they are your enemies.” (Bhagavad Gita 3:37) “In greed, in the heat of action, in eager enterprise, in restlessness, in all desire, know rajas the ruler.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:12) And we are the slaves!
The following are self-explanatory:
#61607; “He who dies in rajas will be reborn among those whose bondage is action.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:15)
#61607; “As for the deeds of rajas, pain is their fruit.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:16)
#61607; “Of rajas, greed [is born].” (Bhagavad Gita 14:17)
#61607; “[After death,] remaining in rajas, in this world he remains.” (Bhagavad Gita 14:18)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Breaking identification with desire

I’ve recently begun to experience a falling away of downward desires. In yoga there is the concept of downward and upward flow of energy. Love, selfless desire to help others, faith and meditation (for example) cause upward flow of energy, to the crown and third eye chakra. Lust, desire for material possessions, selfishness and egotism (for example) cause downward flow energy. The upward flow leads to liberation from suffering, spiritual awakening and enlightenment. The downward flow, to sense fulfillment, perpetuation of suffering, and attachment / bondage.

Spiritual practice is simply the process of gradually re-directing the energy flow upwards. As the direction of energy flow changes, spiritual transformation begins to occur automatically. Using the pranayama and deep meditation routine from rapidly increased the speed of this energy re-direction. As this routine awakened the surging of ecstatic and blissful feelings within me, automatic and natural changes started to happen. I felt a real desire, on a regular basis, to help and serve people and began to do so by volunteering and in more spontaneous ways. There was a great movement from wanting to control reality to surrendering to what is.

This was a blissful experience of expansion. After a while though, the expansion reached a plateau. In fact, my spiritual practice started to feel kind of fraudulent. There was this great rise of ecstatic blissful energy, freedom from attachment, and a loving desire for service. On other hand, I still had some pretty narcissistic tendencies. I still felt strong lust and sexual desire, that felt divorced from a loving sexuality. I had a big desire for acceptance and approval from others. I would still desire to get drunk and feel highs. The desire to “have it easy” (i.e. serve myself) was stronger than the desire to serve others. Ultimately, my desire for liberation from suffering started to feel like just another facet of my total selfishness. There was my ego sitting around saying “I am doing all these spiritual practices, and it’s giving me all this pleasure, yes, keep it coming. I’ll be a more exalted version of my former self.”

All this selfishness, desire, lust, vanity and downward flow of energy began to feel really uncomfortable. Particularly when compared with the calm purity of upward flowing ecstatic bliss. I tried self-denial for a while: i.e. having a mental (egoic) concept of how I should be all good and pure, and trying to discipline myself to act in accordance with it. That really just results in suppression. But I continued my spiritual practice anyway, and just experienced this uncomfortable phase of really looking at myself honestly, and not liking what I saw. I wanted to be different, but somehow knew self-discipline (forcing myself to match an ideal) wasn’t going to affect any permanent transformation.

Then something started to happen, particularly when the Bhagavad Gita came into my life. There was a compulsion to explore it. “Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita” by Ram Dass turned up and had a particularly transformative affect. A strong desire occurred to do more than just meditation and pranayama, to find a way of turning every single second of every day into a spiritual practice. A compulsion to pray regularly automatically happened. The prayers tend to be asking God to show me how to surrender to his will, instead of seeking to control through my ego. Just enough courage to open my heart to God arose, inviting him to look inside me and see what I was ashamed of. I’ve had some very personal experiences of feeling the presence of Ram Dass in my life, which turned out to be moments of opening.

The recently, and at an accelerated pace of the last few days, the downward desires have started to fall away. I started to look at each desire, and to just become aware of the cycles of suffering they would create. There’s been a dissolving of the self-image. You know: there can be a good day for the self-image, people are responding to you well, you feel like you’re so great. Feeling great about some imaginary self-concept started to feel superficial and uncomfortable, and began to drop off. Then there’s a bad day, people don’t respond well, you feel low about yourself. As there’s much less identification with self-image, the bad days stop too. No ups and downs, just a peaceful ecstatic bliss. Desire to drink or use external substances to tamper with my emotional state has dropped away. Finally some humility in my life, if only a little bit! Many thanks to my girlfriend for that, who unfailingly points it out when I’m being arrogant!

There’s a long road ahead, but this has been a wonderful opening and so I wanted to share.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Journal Entry - 18th August

Deep peace today. I feel permeable, as though life is a stream flowing through me and out of me. All the time there’s this vast activity, I’m in Manhattan, surrounded by a cacophony of sirens and horns, frenetic activity, but it’s all taking place within a vast ocean of silence. If you can imagine taking a television to the most remote mountain region in the world, covered in a blanket of snow, silent for thousands of miles, and turning on the television in this silence. That is the perspective. I am the silence within which this activity occurs.

The past few weeks have been interesting. Almost all forms of meditation (breath-watching, AYP etc) soon followed by depression, and an inability to do anything constructive. In fact, since late December 2010, continuous periods of meditation for more than a week or so would turn me into a complete mess. There’s just a mournful melancholy, which can be beautiful. This is termed ‘overload’ by AYP – too much meditation causing excessive purification, too much for you to integrate. However, as soon as I desist meditation, there is great joy, vast peacefulness and silence. I am reborn each time. Undoubtedly meditation is causing this effect (in combination with much talking to God, praying and bhakti).

I’m learning what uniquely works for me in terms of self-pacing. I find having ‘days off’ from meditation – once or twice a week, is remarkably useful (in fact it is the only way I can continue to meditate without suffering states of intense confusion and despair). During these days off, I become very grounded and highly effective at work again. I also get to experience the fruits of my labour: I feel like I’ve been cleaned out from the inside, and as light and happy as air.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Journal Entry - 9th August

I didn’t update my journal for some time. From January to May this year, I’d lived a considerably ascetic lifestyle. I’d been living in complete retreat from the world: not desiring anything with it, and finding most of my enjoyment in my spiritual practices. I became very introverted and wanted to spend much of my time alone. My diet had been highly sattvic: large quantities of raw, fresh fruits and vegetables, vegetable juices, smoothies with nuts and nut butters for additional calories.

From May to July, there was a huge surge of extroverted energy. Suddenly, I seemed to be living by the words: Eat, Drink and Be Merry! I’m afraid this lead to some excess. I drank a lot of alcohol. I smoked some cigarettes. My diet became more rajasic. Wordly desires arose. There was also a strong resurgence of some of my more pronounced negative egoic qualities. Yet beneath this, was much ecstasy, and acceptance of this side of myself, instead of attempting to control or deny it. I allowed it to enjoy itself. I was not born a saint, and violently judging myself for failing to always meet my highest ideals seems only to cause suffering.

This shift also corrected some imbalances. Where I’d been cold and detached in my relationships, I found myself becoming warm and loving. Where I’d been reclusive and introverted, I became sociable and fun. The long depression I’d suffered from January to May completely abated. I released a great deal of attachment, allowing things to be as they are, instead of forcing my ideals upon them. I became hard-working and had successful results in my career, where before I’d had difficulty motivating myself. My melancholy longing for enlightenment became transformed into non-attached love and acceptance of life as it is.

By mid-July, this excessive extroverted energy had died down. I’ve found I can resume my AYP routine (5 mins SBP, 15-20 mins DM) without overloading. Very strong desire for liberation is with me through each day. I read Nisargadatta Maharaj. My diet has naturally become very sattvic again.

I’ve left this experience having learned some important lessons. Particularly:

I’ve learned to stop looking outward for advice. Instead, if I have a question, I look within, and ask myself. The answers often come in a flash of inspiration. It’s a much better way to solve problems than reading other peoples advice.

I’ve come out with an enhanced awareness of my flaws that keep me trapped in suffering and egoity. Seeing the flaws is the first step towards releasing them.