Kundalini Splendor

Kundalini Splendor <$BlogRSDURL$>

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

What Are We to Do? 

What are we to do when the initial blaze dies down, when the original emblems and pictures--of the gods and goddesses, the secret images implanted in the chakras--no longer stir us within? We no longer want to turn about and feel the secret currents flow. We scan the sacred texts which so fascinated us early on and find the magic has fled.

We wonder and ask, Is it over? Is the process finished at last? Am I now to be dropped back into the world of the ordinary, the mundane realm where others abide all unaware of the enchanted regions where I have discovered such intense passion and joy?

Today I had these questions and here is the answer which came to me:

I took down a wonderful collection by F. Lynne Bachleda called "Blue Mountain, A Spiritual Anthology Celebrating the Earth," and on the very first pages found these words:

"All journeys have a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware."
(Martin Buber)

"With the gathering force of an essential thing realizing itself out of early ground, I found in myself a passionate and tenacious longing--to put away thought forever and all the trouble it brings, all but the nearest desire, direct and searching."
(John Haines)

These words brought me back to who I was--someone forever captivated by the language of longing, a person enamored of the journey and its secret passageways, somebody alive and grateful for what others had given in such great abundance.

Lynne herself once said to me, "It can’t be Christmas every day." But then, maybe it can be, if we just know the right place to look for our presents.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Eryk Hanut's Spiritual Pilgrimage 

Recently, my friend Eryk Hanut published an outstanding book describing his spiritual journey to Mexico City to pay homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe. I wrote the following review, and reprint it here so that other readers will discover this fascinating account.

The Road to Guadalupe: A Modern Pilgrimage to the Goddess of the Americas, by Eryk Hanut

In this amazing work, Eryk Hanut, as modern Everyman, undertakes a spiritual journey to discover the truth at the heart of Guadalupe, the presence so beloved by Mexico (where she resides) as well as much of the rest of the world. His odyssey is at once magical. spiritual, fantastical and--at times-- hysterical. For Mexico, as he quickly discerns, is no single entity, no homogenous reality. It is, on the contrary, a mix of wild disparates--beauty and squalor, reverence and fakery, potent icons from the past and modern kitschy variations for sale at the temple door.

Along the way he encounters a cast of characters worthy of a Fellini movie: a hopelessly vain ancient and faded beauty who resembles "a mummified wedding cake"; a prescient witch who reveals to him unnerving facts about his past; cathedral priests who drone endlessly before a throng of the devout who move humbly forward on their knees, in awe of the divine spirit they have come here to celebrate. The object of their devotion--and the goal of Eryk's search--is the Virgin herself, whose image is mysteriously imprinted on the renowned tilma, the simple peasant's cloak once worn by Juan Diego, which has survived intact through many centuries, by some process which science is helpless to explain.

We soon perceive that Eryk comes equipped for his adventure with the three requisites for the authentic spiritual voyager: a pure heart, an honest eye, and a willingness to be open to the unexpected, in whatever form. What he discovers delights and perplexes, as his odyssey unfolds at ever deeper levels of Mystery and contradiction.

This work is part travelogue, part historical narrative, and part spiritual exploration. In a bravura performance, Eryk deftly fuses the levels and achieves a truly remarkable revelation of the archetypal search set within the banal realities of the modern world.

Mexico City is ever present in brilliant evocation, with its constant stream of hallucinatory images and bizarre figures, as if to underline the pervasive spiritual grotesquerie which characterizes our times. Yet, this same city harbors the miraculous image imprinted on the tilma, visible proof that the transcendent flourishes still within the material realms.

Eryk yearns to experience the numinous through authentic connection with sacred reality, the ultimate divine feminine. The challenges he faces are those which traditionally confront all such pilgrims, and indeed, together they comprise an allegory of the ills which beset modern society itself, and prevent us from claiming our rightful spiritual heritage.

He must literally wade through the crowds of hawkers and clamorous purveyors of spiritual tinsel to enter the cathedral (our obsession with materialism which distracts from spiritual progress?) Inside, he encounters the entrenched hierarchy, the male representatives of the establishment so reminiscent of our own omnipresent authority figures. The priests care little about the actual experience of the seekers before them, as long as their own power of control is not challenged. And elsewhere, he meets a cuandera, a witch/healer with apparent supernatural powers who offers some striking evidence of secret gifts, but who also relies on blatant superstition for many of her ritualistic practices. Like many today, Hanut is both drawn to and skeptical of such emissaries of the occult, a realm which often proves to be a deceptive path. Each of these obstacles is presented in telling precision, acutely and stunningly drawn. Indeed, Hanut's capacity for description is a rare gift.

In all, this book is a brilliant accomplishment--a bringing together of the many levels, a story told with an uncanny knack for revealing what is truly there, rather than offering the idealized picture a naive journeyer might suppose. It is Pilgrim's Progress and Fellini, Dante and Flannery O'Connor, the hero and the comic foil all in one superb, entertaining, enlightening package.

And, in the end, he gets his reward. Finally, after the crowds have departed, after the souvenir sellers have closed their shops, he and and his husband (Andrew Harvey) are admitted to the old cathedral, now undergoing renovation. Here, away from the meaningless turmoil of the exterior world and the hollow rituals of the official sanctuary, in a state resembling that of Juan Diego, the simple peasant who opened his heart to the original vision of Guadalupe on a barren hillside, Eryk discovers at last the essence he has come to find--the Sacred Feminine, real, vibrant, as powerful as ever, the one who triumphs over all the foibles and follies of a deficient humanity to confirm the immeasurable divine reality which underlies and motivates the entire universe of perceived things. It is here, in this unpretentious setting, that she acknowledges his presence, and extends to him the grace of acceptance which he has longed for. Indeed, she is "the goddess who did not leave," but remains to console and nurture her children as the Divine Mother of all.

"The Road to Guadalupe" is a rich feast for the soul. a compendium of marvelous sketches revealing a culture which, like our own, yearns for connection, yet too often is lost in the maze of the irrelevant and the misleading. It is an enthralling and entertaining book, filled with both wisdom and wit in a rare combination. It is a treasure, a valuable contribution to an age filled with seekers desperately striving to recover the lost link with spirit.

Dorothy Walters

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

For Rilke 

How often you have come at evening
or late afternoon
caressing our cheeks, our ears, silently
as if with long stemmed blossoms
of invisible flowers.

How many times
we have sensed your tentative presence
lingering nearby,
a shadowy outline
lounging in the doorway,
an almost discernable form.

Do you walk through
our dreams at night
planting verses
the way a gardener
might fling seeds
into the rich furrows of glistening earth?

Do you wait expectant somewhere
for new shoots to rise,
fresh bloomings to spring forth,
more tokens of the ever unfolding?

copyright, Dorothy Walters

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Wild Card 

Recently, I attended a spiritually focused workshop at a nearby retreat center. I enjoyed the people who came, many of whom were obviously sincere, dedicated people, looking for ways to deepen and expand their spiritual commitments. But the topic of kundalini was not included (nor did I expect it to be.) I even had an energy balancing from a lovely 80-year-old nun, and the experience was quite nice, but she herself seemed to know nothing about kundalini.

Once again, I felt a bit of the "outsider," the person whose spiritual experience is so out of the ordinary that it seems futile even to bring it up. Most of the meals took place in silence, so I was not able to talk with many there. But on the last day the prohibition was lifted, and during the final lunch, a woman in her thirties sat down next to me at the table and we began to talk. I discovered that she was, like me, a writer, and, when she asked me what I wrote, I told her (after a moment of hesitation) about "Unmasking the Rose," my personal spiritual autobiography. Immediately, her experession changed to one of wonder. "I knew there was a reason I sat by you!," she exclaimed. Then she described for me her own spontaneous kundalini awakening of a few years back, an experience with many striking parallels with my own. During her awakening, she also went into what I think of as "mystical consciousness," the time when all the world and its beings are suffused with great beauty and love. So, we exchanged key information about our lives and our awakening process in a space of some 40 minutes or so, but we each recognized a deep bond with the other.

Such meetings are, I think, highly significant. Each of us learns that we are not alone, that others are also undergoing a similar process, and indeed such radical experiences are occurring world wide. This in itself is a source of great hope and inspiration for me. Who knows how far this incredible phenomenon will spread? And who can predict what its consequences will be? Things which start small often grow to mammoth proportions (consider the beginnings and spread of such movements as civil rights, feminism, gay rights, to name a few). No matter how disturbing the events reported in the daily news, another, deeper, and more significant transfomration is taking place, beneath the radar of the common press, invisible to many except those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear. There is indeed a "wild card" in the deck, and although we can't name it, it may be the means of our salvation.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Hope Amidst a Sea of Despair 

An article in today's newspaper highlighted a thought-provoking quote from a contemporary writer: "What passes for optimism is most often the effect of an intellectual error."

This assertion led me to reflect a bit on whether is it possible, even appropriate, to hold on to optimism in the current world of multiple disasters. We seem to be surrounded by crises and threats on all levels. Our faith in human goodness and powers of regeneration is being severely tested. Do we dare to maintain our hope that transcendence is possible in current circumstances?

I like to think that we pass through three major phases in our progress to intellectual and spiritual maturity. The first is that of youthful idealism, the time when one believes that anything is possible, that slogans such as "love not war" will save the world, and that every change is a sign of progress. Later, disillusionment sets in. We see that persons in authority are often inadequate or corrupt, that many in society are motivated by greed, not innate goodness, and that the bottom line apparently rules in all circumstances. Our intellect confirms such observations with myriad instances. Indeed, it is essential to see through the shams and slogans, to shatter the false myths by which much of society operates. At this point, many become bitter and even cynical, and renounce all hope for a better future.

In order to get beyond this limiting and ultimately self-defeating view, one has to cross a threshold, where mind alone does not rule. True, mind is utterly essential in the restricted realm of "practical" human affairs. It affords protection from charlatans, opens our eyes to deceit and deception, keeps us from falling into all sorts of follies. It also allows for impressive progress on the advance toward understanding of ourselves and our universe.

But mind has set limitations. At some point, those who rely solely on mental approaches are like blind men stumbling against an invisible wall. Their progress is halted, for at this point they are relying on the wrong instruments to see.

There is a universe outside the apparent realm of familiar experience. To enter, we must be willing to open on a new level, to take immeasurable risk, to voyage into uncharted space. Here are the spheres of the transcendent, the places unmarked on any atlas and unnamed on any map of the universe. To find them, we must risk all in what T. S. Eliot calls "the awful daring of a moment's surrender." "Only then will we find 'it'," the treasure locked within, the Self we have yearned for so long.

We will not be hopelessly blinded by our new vision. We will continue to acknowledge the shadow as well as the redeeming light. Glory and horror, suffering and transcendence--all will be recognized as realities existing together in our limited human plane.

Kundalini operates to awaken us to the possibilities of transcendence. Once this light flows through us, we know through the testimony of our own bodies and spirits that redemption can come in unsuspected ways and transformation occur in surprising circumstances. It becomes the ground for perpetual affirmation, the basis for undying hope, for now we have met "the still point of the turning world." (Eliot)

Transcendence is no longer a concept to be proved, but a reality to be experienced.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Discipline vs. Pleasure 

I recently spoke with a friend who does two hours of spiritual practice each morning, mostly mantra repetition. When I asked her if she felt the energies move, she said only on a very subtle level. This gentle approach spares the body any discomfort (she explained.)

Then this morning I went to Golden Gate Park (in San Francisco) and for the first time saw the large group of tai chi practitioners who gather there each Sunday morning for two hours. For years I have wanted to visit this class, perhaps to join in, certainly to feel the exquisite energies I was certain must flow there.

What I observed was, to me, more like a military discipline. The instructor spoke through a loudspeaker, leading the large crowd through a complex series of intricate postures, one coming on the heels of another, the entire process taking a very long time. The emphasis seemed to be on "getting it right," rather than on "getting in touch with the within."

I was reminded of the time I visited a Zen Center to receive preliminary instruction. When I discovered that the meditation was a carefully controlled ritual, where every movement was prescribed, I realized that this was not for me. I was certain that I would forget and step into the zendo on the wrong foot, or turn to face the wall from the wrong direction. Later we observed the tea ceremony, again a rite conducted under strict protocol.

I myself am not clear as to why people follow such carefully orchestrated protocols to such a degree. Of course, tai chi practice is good for the body, keeping it limber and supple. Quiet meditation does calm and balance the mind. And certain asanas, certain moves of chi gong, certain sounds do indeed awaken the energetic centers and allow for a truly invigorating and often enrapturing experience. But must the approach be so rigid? Must the instructions be followed with such total mechaical precision? Anxiety over "whether I am doing it right" can prevent awareness of inner feelings. Someone even suggested that students obtain satisfaction simply from the act of "mastering" the practice. Following the protocol is, for them, itself the reward. Always, I am wondering, what do they feel, if anything other than the gratification of being able to follow difficult instructions? Many people follow such regimented modes, so they must gain some benefit. But always I am unclear as to what this might be.

For the person whose kundalini energies are fully awakened, almost any movement or mantra can produce an exquisite flow of shakti, affirmation of divine connection. Thus some "invent" their own tai chi forms, improvise their own mudras and mantras. These achieve easily and spontaneously what the various energy and sound practices are meant to accomplish. The channels are wide open. The range of energetic response is vast. These responses, whether subtle or intense, are a "self-validating experience," one the practitioner yearns to repeat again and again, not as an imposed discipline but as pure joy in existence itself, confirmation of the divine source of all being.

And, of course, there are also problems with such a seemingly haphazard, inner directed mode. Both the physical and subtle energy bodies can become unbalanced, and produce unwelcome symptoms, such as illness or emotional disturbance. The swings from pleasure to pain can be dramatic, with no apparent cause for either extreme. If the student is not sufficiently grounded, from prior life experience or mental maturity, the experience can lead to a state of disconnection with the "real" world of practical affairs.

But some of us are the "rugged individualists" of the spiritual realm We test all authority, follow our gut instincts, make our own discoveries as we go. Whether we rush headlong into disaster, or soar into the empyrean, we are our own guides and teachers. We seek the connection to the original source, not the (sometimes) diluted or distorted philosophies and practices of the contemporary scene. After all, someone had to invent these movements, discover the power of these syllables. My own guess is that the originators felt the effect of the moves quite clearly as bliss within, repeated the mantras because these sacred syllables resonated wondrously within their own bodies. And, for us today, there is still a "teacher within" waiting to reveal the sacred paths if we but pause to attend. We do not avoid all teachings, nor shun all preset directions. But we pick and choose carefully, adopting only those ideas and approaches which feel "right" to us and which can be effectively integrated into our own self sustaining modes.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Origin, the Middle, the End 

"I am the object of all knowledge,
father of the world, its mother,
source of all things, impure and
pure, of holiness and horror.

I am the goal, the root, the witness,
home and refuge, dearest friend,
creation and annihilation,
everlasting seed and treasure.

I am the radiance of the sun, I
open or withhold the rain clouds,
I am immortality and
death, am being and non-being.

I am the Self, Arjuna, seated
in the heart of every creature.
I am the origin, the middle,
and the end that all must come to."

Krishna, speaking to Arjuna, in
"The Bhagavad Gita," (5th?-2nd? century
B. C. E.), tr. Stephen Mitchell

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Greeting Ra 

Recently, I was at an organizational meeting for a small group of women who are planning to meet informally from time to time to enjoy mutual spiritual support. Some felt we should begin by setting a clear intention and then describing how we would achieve it. Some felt we should define aims and means. Then it was suggested that it might be useful for each of us to start with the phrase, "My intention for this group is," and then to finish with whatever came up. Immediately, the following came into my head:

"My intention is to have no intention. My goal is to have no goal. My aim is to forego all aims. I wish to be a seed dropped from above, taking root where it falls, not certain of its true identity until it blossoms in due season."

Of course, such a philosophy ("the path is the goal") may work better at my stage of life than for a twenty or thirty-year old just beginning the journey. And perhaps some guidelines or general outlines are needed for a group effort.

But, for me, detailed life plans and extensive lists of intended accomplishments have proved futile, since those events which most shaped my experience have frequently come unexpectedly, without design or forewarning. True, I often found that I had unknowingly prepared for the new revelation or unexpected opportunity, sometimes for years. But there was simply no way I could have imagined the form it would take. It often felt as though a "hidden script" unfolded at the propitious moment, bringing a fortuitous meeting or a chance confluence of circumstances which totallly altered the course of my life. Who can predict the moment a stranger may appear who totally chages everything? Who could arrange the precise pattern of events which brings transformation?

Today, when I wanted to locate an appropriate passage to quote for this entry, I stood at my bookshelf, opened a volume, and my eye fell on these paragraphs from "Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead," translated by Normandi Ellis. This magnificent book is an eloquent, delightfully poetic work, which I read frequently for the beauty of its language and the deep profoundity of its text.

" This day I am with you. Stabbed by the light of the great mind I wake. The sun crests the hill and the hawk, according to a higher will, whirls and circumscribes day. I am called from my house. I shuffle sand underfoot, but my heart leaps. I open, am pierced by light. A cry escapes my lips. I know not what I say; it is the language of soul beneath skin, the song of birds in acacia trees.

Beautiful is the golden seed from which the corn arises; beautiful the sun on the hill from which springs god's day. My body nourishes some unfolding time and purpose. I shine bronze as Hathor's mirror. My heart lifts like the sun. Passion and power quiver on the land, casting long shadows."

from "Awakening Osiris," tr. Normandie Ellis

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?