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.

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