Spiritual Bypassing, a phrase coined by John Welwood, is the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks. We have to develop the ego before it can be transcended. When one is committed to the spiritual process, psychological and spiritual work cannot be separated. It’s possible to become narcissistically fascinated with psychological process. There are a lot of things about the spiritual supermarket that can be misleading. States that are not ordinary can be confused with spiritual experience. Real spiritual work is for something greater than ourselves. Swami Prajnanpad said that the Sage is 100% adult. An article by Arnaud Desjardins, “From the Child to the Sage,” is discussed. If we understand that we are more or less childish, without taking it as an insult, the path becomes clear. We can hold professional responsibilities and still function as a child. Emotion, dependency, the need to “have” rather than “be,” and the inability to be alone and to wait are signs of childishness. On the path, we must have the courage to look at our weakest link, the area of our greatest childishness that we tend to push away. Being with childish feelings and finding ways to come back to center allows us to move forward. There is a difference between being childlike and childish. Transformation into adulthood begins when the love of truth becomes stronger than anything. If we get carried away with our own liberation, we may try to bypass pain and not be very committed to other sentient beings. The dark side is as much part of enlightenment as the light; one does not come without the other. Deborah is a nurse by vocation who spent 19 years as the lead singer of the blues band Shri. She is a student of Lee Lozowick and a life-long imperfect lover and seeker of truth.
“Discriminate and integrate” is a traditional spiritual motto. We can look at different teachings and find what is useful to integrate in our practice. Spiritual principles can be found everywhere, including in creative work. A list of opposites, “good theft” versus “bad theft” is considered, which contrasts getting inspiration from other people’s work, digesting it, and making it our own versus pretending it’s ours. We can look beneath the surface and discern whether our activity is dynamic or dramatic. Creativity is dynamic, but there is often resistance to this in distraction which pulls us away from creative work or the work of the soul. Resistance can take the form of drama and chaos. Pairs of dynamic and dramatic opposites are discussed. Dynamic is about continuing to evolve; the nature of the dramatic is being stuck. Polarization tends to be dramatic. Spaciousness can be seen in terms of accepting what is as it is. Curiosity about another person’s perspective can be seen as the opposite of being judgmental. There may be elements of both dynamic and dramatic qualities at play at the same time. How do we reconcile such opposites in ourselves? Holding two perspectives at the same time is lifelong work—for example, having remorse about dramatic qualities that can be hurtful and also not beating ourselves up. If we have the intention to surrender, the universe will move us from the dramatic to the dynamic. Gurdjieff’s teaching about affirming, denying, and reconciling forces is discussed. The drama triangle positions (victim, persecutor, rescuer) are a way of staying stuck. The most powerful transformative influence in life is subtle, when there are others in the environment who see what someone is up to. Are our communications kind, useful, necessary, and true? Bandhu is author of Creative Life and an internationally recognized glass artist and teacher.
The first three “obligolnian strivings” referred to in the Gurdjieff Work are the strivings for what is needed for the planetary body, for perfection of the being (which has two qualities, presence and attention), and for understanding of world creation and maintenance. It is said that we are rigidly governed by 48 laws on Earth, so that almost everything we do is mechanical and automatic. The nature of the General Law is that all beings feed on those levels below them and are fed upon by those above them in scale. There is a great need for organic life to produce mechanical energy. Humans react with negative emotions, which are vacuumed up, consumed, and transmuted by Great Nature to achieve mechanical equilibrium. So what can I do to avoid mechanical death and die more consciously? We are buffered from seeing the reality of our position on Earth when we have the view that thinking about death is morbid, frightening, depressing, pointless. The difference between mechanical and conscious death lies exclusively on the quality and stability of attention. We can radiate a more conscious and finer energy which feeds the being and helps evolution, which goes up the ray of creation back to its source. We work to serve beings higher than us and in so doing can develop a conscious soul. To escape the General Law, we have to remember to bring attention to the present moment by remembering and observing ourselves, which can make us subject to fewer laws. When we remember ourselves we begin at zero. The “me” we believe ourselves to be is composed of identification and imagination. We have a limited range of postures, which promote mechanical unconscious thoughts and emotions. Erect posture is awakening. Breath is always and only present. Reminding factors are discussed. Red Hawk is an acclaimed poet and the author of twelve books, including Self Observation, Self Remembering, The Way of the Wise Woman, and Return to the Mother.
“The obstacle is the path” is a Zen proverb. Usually when we encounter obstacles we go around them. But on the spiritual path the only way around is through. Our neuroses can be obstacles. Our work with them is but 1% of the process even if it feels like a huge amount to us; the other 99% comes from grace. We don’t have to fix neurosis, which is just energy that can be used for transformation. Every neurotic manifestation has a complement which can be transformed into something that serves. We can bring practice to every form our lives take. At the heart of practice is to live with kindness, generosity, and compassion. How we relate with our obstacles is key, so having compassion for ourselves is important. We can experience grace even if we don’t believe in God, however we conceive of that. Things that feel so big to us are really not that big to the universe. When we make small steps the universe responds. We’re good at hiding from our obstacles or neuroses. We can ask ourselves, “What is it that owns me right now?” It is important to see, be curious and intimate with our obstacles without judgment, which is the practice of self-observation. What we do internally has an impact on the world. To be inwardly active and outwardly passive, without acting out, builds a lot of energy. Most people are caught between the inspiration for spiritual transformation and the movement of ego. Over time, if we continue right action, we begin to convey to ego that we won’t be manipulated or controlled. What we want ego to do is to put its power in service to right action. Chris is a co-author of The Conscious Parenting Workbook whose practice includes work as a personal chef and nanny. Debbie is an advocate for the wisdom of community and conscious parenting and the author of Widening the Circle: Inspiration and Guidance for Community Living.
The same energy we pour into attempting to prepare for and control life can be applied to serving a vision, helping others, and our spiritual development. Rick speaks about having the trajectory of his life interrupted by the pandemic after having worked as a keynote speaker in the events industry for twenty-five years. He talks about his experience of continuity of place and relationship with his family that had not occurred before. When preparation for something is not possible, presence or panic has to take its place. We can be impacted in unexpected ways if we say yes and move in directions that come to us that we are not prepared for, when we do not just follow the usual script. Rick describes the way he has been affected by contact with women inmates after being invited to write to them. He poses a writing exercise that those attending the talk engage in by writing about things they are ignoring or avoiding. We deepen our suffering when we ignore it. Avoiding makes sense at times, but there is often a blanket avoidance of things that makes us uncomfortable. We can consider what we might embrace rather than avoid. It is possible to be in prison and not be behind bars, or to be behind bars and be free in spirit. We are imprisoned by our stories, the narratives about ourselves that we hold on to. When we question what we are ignoring or avoiding, the body will attempt to reclaim our being. The point of spiritual life can be seen as doing what is wanted and needed, but our stories can steer us away from this. The only way we can do what is wanted and needed is if we are free to do so. Rick is a national speaker and author who has coached and inspired many individuals in personal and professional growth. He is the author of numerous books, including 7 Rules You Were Born to Break, The Perfection of Nothing, and You Have the Right to Remain Silent.
This talk involves a discussion of the relevance in our lives of the Pratyabhijna Hridaya, a sutra text written about 1,000 years ago during a flowering of practice and tantra in India. It was written in Sanskrit and contains twenty sutras, which are short statements or pearls of spiritual wisdom. It rests on the view that manifestation arises out of consciousness which steps itself down into form. Many in the West have the experience of growing up and learning that we are not enough and so constantly strive for improvement. But we suffer when we identify with our limited circumstances. The path of spiritual and yogic practice can loosen misidentifications and bring us to recognize our heart, our real identity as the whole in every part. We can open to Grace, possibility, and undivided love as well as purification. The first sutra in a sutra text generally contains the whole transmission. Feminine pronouns are used in this sutra text which is in keeping with its tantric roots. The Goddess of awareness overflows into form, which expresses itself in the multiplicities of creation which are never separate from their source. We are each an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself. Every perspective is necessarily partial and limited to an unknown degree. Contraction becomes so dense by sutra nine that there is no remembrance of connection to the whole. Sutra ten begins the great path of return. All the players in myths are us. Instead of running away from parts ourselves, we can see everything as an aspect of the Goddess with “jaw-dropping wonder.” Sacred texts are alive, and classic ways of studying them are discussed. We can recognize truth in ordinary life, but we remember and we forget… Karen is a teacher of all the aspects of Yoga--the physical and philosophical, the scientific and the mystical. She is a long-time student of Lee Lozowick.
We tend to think of time as a constant, but it’s not immutable. Our three-dimensional perceptions of time and space are limited. As our understanding of the universe has evolved, we’ve learned that the faster we move through space or the more gravitational pull we are under, the slower time goes. The hermetic spiritual principle “as above, so below” posits that smaller systems like our bodies are miniature versions of a larger system like the universe and that by understanding the body we understand the universe. Something is drawing us to align with the movement of the universe. But we try to create our own outcomes and resist reality in the belief that we are separate beings. Being one with reality may be the state of ever present peace. When we loosen resistance we open to what else there is beyond our limited perspective. We can’t separate the movement and timing of things. Windows of opportunity come on the universe’s timing and are completely unexpected. We can then find ourselves at a crossroads and the trajectory of our life can change depending on the choice we seem to make. It’s useful to learn not to be impulsive and also not to procrastinate when opportunities to grow come to us. Such opportunities may continue to present themselves in the future but perhaps not in this lifetime. Our relationship to time really says a lot. If we intend to be of service to others, we have to consider if the timing is right. It’s possible that time does not exist traveling at light speed or in a black hole. Time may seem to stop for us as well—for example, in true meditation or in deep sleep. But losing our reference points in time may be very threatening to ego, to a self-sense that exists in space-time. There is presence and being when the thinking mind stops. We can learn to follow what feels right. VJ is the organizer of the Western Baul Podcast Series and the author of Shadow on the Path and Father and Son.
Fourth Way Magic: How Hermetic and Indigenous Traditions Interface with the Gurdjieff Work (Rob Schmidt and Stuart Goodnick)
The Fourth Way is a Western spiritual tradition founded by George Gurdjieff, a mystic of Greek and Armenian origin who taught in Russia, Europe, and America and died in 1949. The system he developed out of his own spiritual search which is shrouded in mystery was completely unique and geared toward working with a modern mindset of “waking sleep” in the West. The Gurdjieff Foundation purports to be the holder of his legacy which in some ways may be true and in others not. It has often been considered to be humorless and dogmatically committed to a rigid system of practices and ideas which, when this has been the case, ignores Gurdjieff’s own flexibility ranging from playfulness to seriousness. Approaching the spiritual path as a smorgasbord of different traditions does not support the deepening of transformational opportunity. There is value in both going deeply into one tradition and in being open to exploring and integrating teachings of other traditions, including indigenous paths, from one’s foundation in a tradition. Life provides opportunities for us to grow in unexpected ways. To learn from indigenous traditions that we are not culturally attuned to, we must be passive and let go of our ideas and judgments about the spiritual process. The power of ritual and of western hermetic and indigenous teachings, including West African and native Californian, are considered in this talk. The speakers discuss how these traditions have enriched and expanded upon the indispensable foundation they have in Fourth Way work. Rob and Stuart are the spiritual directors of the Tayu Meditation Center. They are students of Robert Daniel Ennis, who died in 1998, and owners of Many Rivers Books and Tea in Sebastopol, CA. They have hosted 400 episodes of The Mystical Positivist, a radio show which broadcasts conversations with practitioners of different traditions.
Many of us feel that we want to stop the world and get off given the suffering that we see all around. But without conflict and adversity, how would we have the opportunity to practice compassion? And where would we go if we got off? There is the implication that there is a place to go away from “what is.” It’s useful to look at our escape fantasies. While resistance is sometimes demonized on the path, it is a normal part of life. What is the world that we want to stop? We are in and out of worlds of our own creation all day long. The question on the spiritual path is about stopping the world-making mind. Our worlds can be about overwhelm, “never enough,” taking things personally, giving our power away, being a victim, or renewal and new beginnings. We want to get off the world in times of great suffering. There is no way to avoid making our worlds. Responsibility comes into play when we see how we are creating them. It can be useful to stop, step away and take a whole new perspective on our worlds. Sometimes getting off is what we need to be with the unknown. Some types of shock (falling in love, the death of a loved one) can stop the world and be used either for or against growth. We can stop the world with breath, putting attention on the sensations of the body in the present, or saying the name of God. As soon as we notice a hook, we have identified with a self and a world we’re creating. Since this is the world we are in, we can choose to be here. Self-absorption is never the source of real happiness. Why have we come to earth? To love, serve, and remember. 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.
Basic trust is a term used by A.H. Almaas. It manifests as the willingness to leap into the unknown. Basic trust is different than our ordinary sense of trust that is dependent on external circumstances. It is an implicit trust that reality is ultimately good, that the universe will take care of us, that everything is OK and that what is optimal will happen. Almost no one has this basic trust--though some have more of a taste of it than others. One definition for enlightenment could be perfect basic trust. All activities of ego are evidence of a lack of perfect basic trust, a sense that we have to strategize and manipulate to get our needs met. The solution is not to strive for it, which can be just another form of the striving that is constantly manifesting in life. The paradigm of cause and effect and that we are the author of our choices and actions is an illusion from the perspective of nonduality, which can be considered as the "independent co-arising of phenomena" in Buddhism. The (theistic or non-theistic) view that all phenomena arises interdependently, that everything is being done regardless of us, can be comforting or threatening depending on whether we are trying to preserve our identity as a separate doer. So what is the role of personal responsibility? How can all the apparently horrible things that happen in the world be reconciled with basic trust? Who is it in us that can be trusted? Some statements from great spiritual masters on trusting God or the totality are considered. Peter was the drummer for the Western Baul rock band, Liars, Gods, and Beggars from 1988 to 1994. He is a spiritual practitioner who has followed the nondual path and rhythm of life in Alaska and Idaho as a nurse and a musician.