Our inner state is difficult for us to see. One of the hardest ideas to understand in spiritual work is that we are not unified beings, always and everywhere the same, but a self divided into a multiplicity of I’s or parts of ourselves that are in conflict with each other. We must verify this for ourselves. When we loosen up and become more playful, things can be revealed more easily. In studying ourselves, we will find things that are not so playful, but we can refrain from trying to change or run away from what we do not like. We can look at the functioning of multiple I’s as theater, with our inner state represented as a stage and characters with different roles in our internal play. Every emotion can be considered as an expression of one of our I’s. One way of getting to know our characters is by giving them a voice through journaling. We can be grateful for all the I’s that helped us survive and become who we are today. As we get to know them and the power they have, we can choose those that we wish to animate. Is there the possibility of a Real I which can run the show based on our spiritual intention? Elise Erro (e.e.) has been committed to a life of engaging spiritual principles and service through theater, support for the dying, and bringing enjoyment to others as a chocolatier.
Awakening Conscience: The Potential Value of Not Expressing or Suppressing Negative Emotions (Panel Discussion with Red Hawk, Clelia Lewis, and VJ Fedorschak)
Conscience is an internal uniting force that acts as a compass, always orienting us toward non-judgmental love. Though everyone in human form has a mustard seed of conscience, it must be developed. Buffers are mechanical habits that negate the influence of conscience and blind us to our contradictions to the positive qualities we like to identify with. We have to train attention to recognize conscience. Negative emotions are the ground of the buffer system, and the non-expression and non-suppression of negative emotion is one of the fundamental principles of work on self. This is different than suppressing unresolved trauma that needs to be talked about and worked through. We are trained to run away from strong emotions and sensations in the body. The heat and friction of containing energy through non-expression and non-suppression can create transformational potential for different energies to unite. This is a slow process, and it is actually the feminine force that heals. To skillfully work with ourselves, we need to develop discrimination, utilize support, and never work beyond the body’s capacity to hold energy. We can prepare the ground for working with non-expression of negative emotions with a change in attitude, by recognizing that no one else is responsible for our negative emotions which are already in us. We can do a turn-around in the moment when we find ourselves in a state of unlove. The non-expression of negative emotion can be easily misunderstood; it is really about learning to be with “what is.” Breath and sensation are doorways to the present, gateways to accepting emotion without identification. The distinction between emotion and feeling is discussed. Red Hawk is an acclaimed poet and the author of 12 books, including Self-Observation and Self-Remembering. Clelia is a freelance editor and author of Stainless Heart: The Wisdom of Remorse. VJ is author of Shadow on the Path and Father and Son.
Embodiment can be considered in different ways: bringing something into physical reality from a more subtle dimension, as when creative ideas are manifested through art, and being fully present and inhabiting the body, as when spiritual qualities such as compassion become grounded in the body. The mind tends to grasp and hold ideas like a possession. The superficial mental satisfaction of feeling like we’ve understood something we’ve read or studied can keep us from incorporating it in the body and in our lives. We are not the “doer,” but we can be instruments for bringing the unknown into the known when we are like a hollow bamboo that the creative force can move through. A lot of being able to express creative process has to do with mitigating or eliminating resistance. This takes time—for example, through meditation practice or what life teaches us. When confronted with necessity, we embody what is needed in the moment. By wholeheartedly embracing what we are passionate about as an expression of consciousness in the body, we may see past the limits of the body to what we are beyond it. Our impermanence is part of the mystery of the human experience. We can be a work of art that is useful for what is at hand in the moment. Bandhu Dunham is author of Creative Life and an internationally recognized glass artist and teacher.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Sarvam Annam,” which translates as “Everything is food.” Tibetan Buddhist teaching tells us that every setback can be brought to the path and used for the purpose of liberation. If we argue with reality, we waste a huge amount of energy. No real transformation can take place unless a great amount of energy is saved. We fritter away our vital life force in many ways such as spending it on unnecessary emotions. Gurdjieff described three sources of food: that which feeds the physical body, the air we breathe, and impressions which we are always receiving. Everything that we push away or say ‘no’ to is prime food for developing an inner body of being which he says may survive death. We can take in impressions and let the breath and the body transform them since the body has the alchemical knowledge of how to make use of different kinds of food. One of the fundamental practices of the Work is not to express negative emotions. A corollary is not to suppress them. We are confronted with choices regularly and can discriminate about what food is good for us at any particular time. There are also many life circumstances or impressions that we do not have choice about. Regina is the editor of Hohm Press, a workshop leader, retreat guide, and author of The Woman Awake, Igniting the Inner Life, Praying Dangerously, Only God and other books.
There are deep religious programs that go back thousands of years that tell us that we need to get away from the body and the senses. Tantra arose in response to repressive religious structures, but all indigenous and tribal cultures have their versions of tantric principles. Tantra asks if we have to abandon our earthly existence, the body, and pleasure in order to realize the bliss of the Self. The meaning of the word tantra has to do with continuity. No aspect of reality including sex is to be rejected, and the phenomenal world is co-essential with transcendental reality—they can’t be separated. The sun is a symbol for the Absolute and the moon for embodied creation. The Bauls are a sect that looks for direct relationship with the Divine, which is essential tantra. Tantra questions if we can accelerate our personal evolution on the path. This can be dangerous, especially without a qualified guide, since de-stabilizing energies can be opened up. Many ordinary, practical things to bring essential tantric practice into embodiment are discussed in this talk. Until our last breath there is work to be done and a purpose to be fulfilled. What is calling us? Angelon is a workshop leader, editor, and author of As It Is, Under the Punnai Tree, The Baul Tradition, Caught in the Beloved’s Petticoats, Enlightened Duality (with Lee Lozowick), Krishna’s Heretic Lovers, and The Art of Contemplation.
We generally model relationships that are dysfunctional in some way since we grow up in situations where conflict and relational instability are common. That’s where we start, but we can take relationship—with whoever it is that we have love for—deep into the heart of love. There is something archetypal, that we all resonate with, about the relationship between love and longing. The mood of love that is produced in separation from a beloved is the theme of epic stories in many traditions and cultures. The tales of Romeo and Juliet, Layla and Majnun, Krishna and the gopis, and the poetry of Rumi that poured out of him evoke our own experience of deep love and longing that we have had at some point in our lives. One of the elements of conscious love (as distinct from chemical love or emotional love) is putting the other’s needs first. In the traditions, the Beloved is not an individual but is reflected in a person who can be the doorway to the state of love. If love finds us, it is free-standing, not dependent on another. In longing, the only way out is through, to love more. Life is a training ground for love even though we don’t look at it that way most of the time. VJ is author of Shadow on the Path and Father and Son.
Conscience: The Transformative Effect of Working with Inner Conflict (an interview with Clelia Lewis)
The happiness of others fulfills the deepest need of the heart. Conscience develops with remorse, which is different than guilt. It involves the capacity to feel multiple contradictory things, conflicting parts of ourselves, at the same time. The “real war” is with sleep and unconsciousness and is about becoming a participant in life with one’s whole heart and self. Music makes a communication that can bypass the mind. (Two Attila the Hunza songs are played during the interview.) There is “no magic pill” in spiritual work. Buffers are physical, emotional or mental tendencies that lessen or negate the impact of feeling one’s true nature. To do deep spiritual work we need to love ourselves. Conscience is more than following moral prescriptions. A deeper sense of conscience comes from the recognition that we’re not living the full potential of this life. Clelia is author of Stainless Heart: The Wisdom of Remorse and a freelance editor specializing in works of spiritual teachings, memoir, and self-development. She has been a longtime student of Lee Lozowick and a singer and performer in the band Attila the Hunza.
One must leave the mind and all of its knowledge at the gate of the Mother Spirit, which dwells in the present only and is a still field of vibratory awareness. We then enter into completely unknown territory. Awareness of the breath is an objective feedback mechanism that lets us know when we are present and awake in the body. The most fundamental, primal, and ancient of all longings is to return to the Mother, which is stillness. Active stillness is a masculine move that involves the active movement of attention from the head-brain into the body that allows the inner feminine energy to emerge. When one engages active stillness, thoughts begin to lose some of their power over us. There are gaps between thoughts that we can then begin to investigate. Two secret keys to awakening the feminine are forgiveness and apologies. In embracing the practice of active stillness, we embrace life and death as one and the same. One returns to the breath over and over, as one returns to the mother. The feminization of inner work is considered through Red Hawk’s poetry. Red Hawk is the author of 12 books, including The Way of the Wise Woman, Self Remembering, Self Observation, and Return to the Mother. He held the Alfred Hodder Fellowship in the Humanities at Princeton University in 1991-1992. He was a finalist for the Walt Whitman award of the Academy of American Poets and a runner-up for the Paterson Poetry Prize.
Enlightenment does not exist as a thing that can be achieved or acquired. We can see its effect, which cannot be grasped. There is a Buddhist perspective that there is no enlightened person, only enlightened activity. Knowing the truth of reality is irrelevant if our behavior does not serve reality. Impermanence can be known as an advantage, as a blessing and not a threat. The person is continually in process, fluid, connected, and not the collection of memories that we call ourselves. There is a chance to live as freedom for something rather than to see the process as a battle. We fear a relationship with enlightenment, but change is nature’s delight. We are happiest when we have the least concern for ourselves. The quality of what we give back to the world is something we can consider. Transformation happens in action which can be simple and unspectacular. In enlightened activity, a person does not leave a karmic trace—the activity does. Jocelyn is a mother, artist, logotherapist and spiritual practitioner who has been involved in homeschooling, teaching and reclaiming burnt out land to become farms and homes. She is interested in growth and in the possibilities of the human being and the Earth.
One way of allowing a topic to go deep is not putting it in a box of what we assume we already know. Through self-observation, we can see that we are not free but that we react constantly to circumstances in the environment. We can't get beyond this state of sleep because of the place we live life from: the context of scarcity and survival (which involves self-image, our identity, who we take ourselves to be). Scarcity is the deeply held belief that there is never enough. Everybody's story of sleep/unconsciousness is the same in principle, which is suffering. Anything we try to do to alleviate suffering perpetuates it. To be asleep is to assume the body-mind is who we are, and that is the context of survival. We can do something about this, but by seeing and not by trying to fix it. Matthew facilitates groups that support people to look deeper into their process, formulate their own questions, and become responsible for their choices.