Western Baul Podcast Series
Using Death as an Advisor: What Death Can Teach Us About Living (Vijaya Fedorschak)

Using Death as an Advisor: What Death Can Teach Us About Living (Vijaya Fedorschak)

March 17, 2022

This talk references teachings from the writings of Carlos Castaneda and material from the book The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski. Holding on to things goes against nature since everything ends. In our culture, we seek to have death affect us as little as possible. Another option is to look at and show up for death when it crosses our path so that it informs our lives. If we push death away, transformation is not possible. Suzuki Roshi said, “We die, and we do not die.” How are we to understand this? On one level we are terrified of death and on another we encourage it. We can practice with little deaths, with accepting what is, relaxing ego, and acting as needed every day. Stories are recounted which illustrate the five invitations: don’t wait, welcome everything, bring your whole self, find a place of rest in the middle of things, and cultivate don’t know mind. Any consideration about avoiding dying raises the consideration of avoiding living. Our problem is that we think we have time. Are we holding on to something which keeps us from forgiving? How do we hold back from giving our whole self to life? Through loss, feelings of love become transformative. When we surrender to grief, we learn to give ourselves to life. People who are dying offer us a great gift. It’s too important to wait until the last moment to contemplate the mystery of death. VJ is the organizer of the Western Baul Podcast Series and author of Shadow on the Path and Father and Son.

Grace and Mercy: Return of the Goddess (Angelon Young)

Grace and Mercy: Return of the Goddess (Angelon Young)

March 3, 2022

It is difficult for us to relate to cosmic forces and energies, and so it is useful to see them personified in human form. Myth helps us to make the leap from ego, from our small window on the world, to a much bigger reality. In the Hindu tradition (as in others including the Celtic tradition), the Divine is inclusive of three primal forces—creation, preservation, and destruction. These forces are associated with the three primary deities in the Hindu pantheon and their shaktis without whom they can do nothing: Brahma and Saraswati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, and Shiva and Parvati, who assumes different forms such as Durga and Kali. During the nine-day celebration of Durga Navaratri, different aspects of the Goddess are worshipped. The Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris and the myths associated with Black Sarah in France and Smashan Tara in Tarapith, India are discussed. The Goddess brings us to work with our unconsciousness and to embody what we have learned because she is us and we are her. Grace and mercy is everywhere, moving us toward the totality of awakened oneness that always exists. There is a healing power in darkness, which is why deities are sometimes represented as dark-skinned. A seed will not sprout if not in darkness. We have been trained to avoid the unknown, but we can invite the Goddess into our lives. The message of the Goddess is to be fearless even when there is fear. Angelon is a workshop leader, editor, and author of As It IsUnder the Punnai TreeThe Baul TraditionCaught in the Beloved’s PetticoatsEnlightened Duality (with Lee Lozowick), Krishna’s Heretic Lovers, and The Art of Contemplation.

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For… Why? (Matthew Files)

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For… Why? (Matthew Files)

February 17, 2022

A conversation with Bono about the meaning of U2 lyrics is parodied in this talk about the spiritual search. Matthew wants to know why Bono still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. The search is rooted in dissatisfaction, a feeling that something is incomplete or missing—whether it be about mundane things like money or relationship or the spiritual search for God. We can lament or be proud of the search, which can be a racket that we enroll others in. It is a human condition that seems normal since everyone is involved in it, but it perpetuates suffering. We can’t search for something that we don’t know already exists. The body is always in the present, which is why it’s useful to be in touch with it. We can perpetuate the search in spiritual practice—for example, by meditating as if that is going to get us somewhere. We may not see clearly that we are seeking, but seeing what we are doing is needed in working through the knot that keeps us searching. Something happened for great Realizers and the search ended. We cannot stop the search by force of will. The only thing sillier than searching is pretending that we’re not. The search is not a mistake; its origin is the Divine itself. Carrying our own cross involves taking responsibility for every aspect of our lives. Matthew facilitates groups that support people to look deeper into their process, formulate their own questions, and become responsible for their choices.

Giving Ourselves to Love (Nachama Greenwald)

Giving Ourselves to Love (Nachama Greenwald)

February 3, 2022

Love shatters three abiding illusions: that we can construct an invulnerable life, that our hearts will remain unbroken, and that we can know life’s outcomes from where we stand now. A distinction can be made between loving and giving ourselves to love, which involves being willing to go wherever love takes us. Love is always fresh and new. It unravels and then reconfigures us—we are never the same after experiencing it. Love brings out the best and worst in us. It reveals our woundedness, but healing is possible by reclaiming our projections. In loving, we project our deepest wounds and also our deepest beauty. Love takes us deeper than we would ever go on our own into the mysteries of life. When we truly fall in love we fall back to the source of creation, which penetrates our defenses and exposes our deepest tenderness and sensitivity. There is an intimate relationship between love and death in that both require us to let go. Betrayal is an ingredient on the path of love which brings us to a place of greater trust in ourselves. If we are devoted to the path of love, we need to have love and compassion for ourselves. Attachment is fuel for the process that we have to work with. Love is a present phenomenon only; without presence there can be no love. There is a fine line between loneliness and longing for God. Nachama is a physical therapist, editor, and musician who for seventeen years was a member of the Shri blues band which performed Western Baul music.

Nonduality: Speaking the Unspeakable (Peter Cohen)

Nonduality: Speaking the Unspeakable (Peter Cohen)

January 20, 2022

Nonduality is another way of saying God, Reality, Truth, "Father," or that consciousness is all that is. The human mind is a dualistic machine; it can only think in terms of opposites, of subjects and objects. Nondual (direct) teachings are specifically focused on the nature of reality and questions such as, “Who are you? What is ultimately real?” Behind all passing phenomena is an aware presence. “Pointers” are ways to consider the unspeakable nature of reality, such as the false sense of authorship of our lives, the illusion of being the doer and of cause and effect given that everything is the cause of everything else, and the role of karma in chipping away at defensive layers we have developed in response to the shock of coming into embodiment. It is possible to take a “backward step” of being aware of being aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations. This produces a powerful intimacy and gives rise to love and beauty. Awareness is not only the witness of all that arises, it pervades everything and is the substance of all phenomena. Enlightenment is a transcendent leap, outside of phenomenality, not a progression or an event. The ascending current in the body gives rise to the understanding that “I am nothing,” and the descending current to the understanding that “I am everything.” Meditation and enquiry are practices on the nondual path. Peter Cohen, the drummer for the Western Baul rock band, Liars, Gods, and Beggars from 1988 to 1994, has followed the nondual rhythm of life.

Know Your Character: Who’s Running the Show? (Elise Erro/e.e.)

Know Your Character: Who’s Running the Show? (Elise Erro/e.e.)

January 6, 2022

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)

Awakening Conscience: The Potential Value of Not Expressing or Suppressing Negative Emotions (Panel Discussion with Red Hawk, Clelia Lewis, and VJ Fedorschak)

December 23, 2021

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.

Being Where We Are: Grounding Spiritual Teaching in the Body (Bandhu Dunham)

Being Where We Are: Grounding Spiritual Teaching in the Body (Bandhu Dunham)

December 9, 2021

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.

Everything is Food: A Gourmet’s Guide to the Spiritual Path (Regina Sara Ryan)

Everything is Food: A Gourmet’s Guide to the Spiritual Path (Regina Sara Ryan)

November 25, 2021

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 AwakeIgniting the Inner LifePraying DangerouslyOnly God and other books.

Sun. Moon. Tantra. Navigating the Ocean of Chaos and Coherence (Angelon Young)

Sun. Moon. Tantra. Navigating the Ocean of Chaos and Coherence (Angelon Young)

November 11, 2021

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 IsUnder the Punnai TreeThe Baul TraditionCaught in the Beloved’s PetticoatsEnlightened Duality (with Lee Lozowick), Krishna’s Heretic Lovers, and The Art of Contemplation.

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