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.