Living in the Line of Fire

There is a simple effective means to relieve suffering, overcome obstacles and enhance our experience of life. This method has been proven from age to age through its practical application. It is described at the beginning of the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as quoted by Roy Eugene Davis in his commentary The Science of Self-Realization. "Intensive self-discipline, studious Self-inquiry, and surrender to God are the practices of kriya yoga." Here we define "kriya yoga" as actions that result in the experience of wholeness, union with our essence of being.

    Why do many choose the path of Kriya yoga?  It is a path of transformation. Transformation from ignorance, conditioned habitual behaviors, delusion, fragmented thinking and ultimately all suffering. The transformation is to peace, contentment, conscious mindful living, fulfillment through useful service and awakening through progressive stages of Self- and God- realization to total liberation of consciousness.

    Let us examine the first leg of kriya yoga practice. The Sanskrit word used by Patanjali is "tapas" which literally meant heat, or to burn. In the Yoga sutras it is translated as Self-discipline, austerity, and right action. When we hear the word "discipline" it may have a negative connotation. We may feel that to be disciplined is to do without, to force an uncomfortable change for some future reward.

    The word "discipline" evolved from “discipulus," in its original latin meaning, a pupil, student, from “discere” to learn. To be truly disciplined simply means that we are capable, and willing, to learn from and be transformed by our experiences.  "Tapas," heat or burning, is required for all transformation. We assimilate food and through the tapas of metabolism the food is changed, cooked, finally becoming us. New ideas are assimilated, and we metabolize them using our mental "fire" or energy until they become part of us, informing and supporting our perceptions and choices.

    Often what we learn reveals where it can be useful for us to change. If we are used to conditioned, habit bound behaviors, change may be uncomfortable, we may feel the "heat". If we are willing to experience the tapas, to be cooked, we grow in personal power and understanding and we move toward total freedom. Patanjali reminds us that progress on our spiritual awakening path depends on our level of intensity and interest. If we are motivated disciples, learners, then we keep ourselves in the line of fire, observing our actions, thoughts and behaviors, changing, growing, cooking, being transformed. 

    Part of our discomfort as we go through the process of change and transformation is our tendency to cling to what is known and familiar, and to be wary and frightened of the unknown. We do not know what life will be like when we are different. We cannot be sure of what to expect when we move out of our zone of comfort, we do not know how others will relate to us when we drop old non-useful habits and acquire new useful ones. We must be like a circus acrobat, willing to let go of the trapeze we are clinging to, trusting that as we fly through the air, the next trapeze will be there to support us and carry us forward.

    We can learn to be comfortable with the unknown. The only way to learn to truly trust the supportive nurturing nature of Reality is to put it to the test, to be disciplined, to be willing to learn and make every necessary change, to remain in the line of fire. 

Our disciplined actions can include the following dimensions:

  • Physical - Get adequate rest, eat wholesome nutritious foods in the right amount and combination for your mind-body constitution, exercise on a regular basis, schedule your daily routine and activities to accomplish worthwhile purposes, maintain balance and be well ordered in all activities. Remember, you are God in action, always honor the gift of life by doing your best.
  • Mental - Practice and develop powers of discernment, become a masterful practitioner of creative imagination, exercise your mind through problem solving, games and learning about new things, meditate to the stage of one pointed, unwavering, focused attention on a regular basis.
  • Emotional - Develop compassion for those who are suffering, gratitude for the many blessings you have received, and continue to receive, forgiveness for any upsets that you still carry regarding the actions of others in your past, or your own perceived inappropriate behaviors, let go, give it all to God and develop an attitude of dispassion. Dispassion is the ability to move in harmony with life without being affected, distracted, or upset by what others do, or don’t do. It is to remain focused on what is of importance and to continue to fulfill our life’s purpose with an open heart and open mind.
  • Spiritual - Practice the presence of God at all times, acknowledge and relate to the innate divinity, the spiritual essence within each person, appreciate and honor the inspiration, guidance and grace that has led us to where we are in life, and how this innate intelligence is actively directing us, leading us, orchestrating our future. Meditate until there are no more stories, no narration of past events, present circumstances, or future possibilities, until the mind becomes clear and thought free, then rest in silent awareness.

    Paramahansa Yogananda said “You have to live life anyway, why not live in the highest way?” We live in the highest way by remaining in the line of fire, through our willingness to observe, to practice Self-discipline, learning from what we observe and making changes when necessary. We are in this world to awaken fully and to live effectively. Jazz musician Charlie “Yardbird” Parker said “You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” So it is with us. We learn our instrument through observation, experience, trial and error, and then we practice, practice, practice what we learn until it is fully cooked and assimilated. Then we don’t have to think about it, we just go out on the bandstand of our day to day life and live joyfully, in harmony with our destiny, fulfilling our purpose for being and sharing our consciousness with an awakening world.

Be Healed

We live in a universe that is manifesting following well-ordered laws and principles that can be observed and cooperated with.  Everything from the realm of sub-atomic particles to the ecosystem of our planet can be seen as a dance of creation.  And it is working perfectly on all levels.  We observe this magnificent perfection in the blossoming of a flower, in the smile on a baby's face, in the cycles of day and night, in the ability of our body to heal and in the way we often experience unexpected support and guidance.

 Why is it that in a perfect, ordered universe we experience suffering?  Are experiences of conflict, physical challenge, problems in relationships, feelings of lack and limitation, stress, anxiety, fear and separation evidence that all is not in order?  Are there forces of chaos and disorder that are running counter to the perfect unfolding of life?  A careful examination of the nature of our suffering will reveal that it often results not from imaginary forces of chaos and disorder, but rather it is the effect of our perspective and the choices we make.

Physicians report that seventy five percent of all the problems they treat are caused by, or related to, the effects of stress.  Stress alters the functioning of our physical systems.  It impairs digestion and elimination, releases excess sugar into the bloodstream, raises blood pressure and stops our immune system.  This is useful if we are facing a threat and need to optimize our ability to either fight or flee.  fighting or fleeing neutralizes the stress hormones that alter internal processes.  Chronic stress resulting from fear, worry, perceived threats (rather than real ones), anger, overwork, depletion of vitality and insufficient rest creates a hardship on all of our internal organs and processes.  Since we neither fight or flee our system remains on alert all of the time.  Eventually internal organs, systems and processes begin to break down and malfunction.

We may also experience challenges resulting from accidents, genetic predisposition, acts of others and nature.  While we may not have direct responsibility for creating the resulting conditions, we are responsible for how we deal with them.  We can choose not to be victims, but to see conditions for what they are, without reacting, and initiate a course of action to relieve suffering and bring balance and harmony to the situation.

When we are in need of healing in some area of our lives the place to begin is within.  We first need to re-establish a connection with the perfect, unlimited, radiant being that we are.  Our essential nature is pure consciousness expressing through a mind and body in relation with this same consciousness in other forms of expression as individuals and our universe.  When we operate from this radiant essence of our being we are in harmony with the forces of creation and our healing unfolds quickly and without great effort.

 Awakening to an awareness of our essential nature is accomplished through prayer, meditation, study, mindful living and an acknowledgement of ourselves as part of the wholeness of life, the One Reality we refer to as God.  Prayer can be thought of as talking to God.  However we conceive God to be, we can maintain an ongoing conversation with it in order to assist in opening our awareness to this "higher power."  Meditation is the practice of allowing the mind to come clear (to cease repeating stories, analyzing, rationalizing and replaying memories) and then resting in the experience of pure consciousness - bright and aware, but not thinking.  We study to learn about the nature of consciousness, how things really work, and about the nature of the One Reality.  Mindful living is the art of paying attention to what we are doing, remaining focused in the present moment, not allowing our attention to become fragmented and distracted and using our powers of discrimination to see things as they are.  Acknowledging our relationship with the wholeness of life is accomplished through inference; observing that we are designed to express perfectly and the supportive nature of the universe - and through experience; opening ourselves to the feeling that we are an inseparable expression of life.

Once we have taken the first step in coming back into an awareness of what we really are - a spiritual being in a spiritual universe - then we take practical action to relieve suffering.  This practical action takes the form of creating an environment that will support our healing.

To support our physical system we require sufficient rest, regular exercise, proper nutrition, conservation of our vital forces, avoidance of toxins in our food and environment and a lifestyle that is in harmony with our constitution.  Our mental system is supported through feelings of peace, balance and harmony with our environment and in our relationships, suspending judgment of ourselves and others, forgiveness, releasing feelings of anger, guilt, fear, worry, insecurity and the sense of separation (ego).  Our whole being is supported through the practice of meditation and through mindful living with a positive, optimistic attitude.

In conjunction with adjustments in lifestyle and thinking to produce a nurturing supportive environment for healing, we can use the process of creative visualization to empower the transformation we seek.  Because our mind is a portion of the One Mind, whatever we clearly envision and feel to be rue for ourselves creates a pattern through which the creative forces of the universe flow and manifest.  We simply see and feel the conditions we desire to have manifest in our lives as already existing.  Even though external conditions may still appear to need healing, if we can hold to an inner conviction that they are transformed they will be.

It is important to have clearly defined goals.  Then in a relaxed mental state, just before going to sleep or at the conclusion of our meditation session, we can visualize circumstances and events that imply the accomplishment of our goal and have the accompanying feeling that it is done.  Following this we live with faith (evidence of things unseen) that the power of the universe is actiely working to meet our needs and fulfill our desires.  Anxiety, doubt and fear create conflicting patterns, which interfere with the natural process of fulfillment, so must be avoided.

I see you now in perfect health, happy, happy, fulfilled and prosperous.

Love and unceasing blessings,

Ron Lindahn

Amazing Grace

Grace

    1- unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration (to make new) or sanctification (to make holy, whole)

    2- smooth and attractive, ease of movement, being considerate or thoughtful.

The flow of traffic in India at first appears chaotic and dangerous. Automobiles, rickshaws, cows, bicycles, motorcycles, people walking, and carts fill the roadway from curb to curb. Some places have lanes marked, and they are ignored. Most, but not all, stay on the left side of the road. Everyone is constantly jostling for position. Vehicles, animals and pedestrians pass within inches of one another, traveling in the same direction and oncoming. Once in the middle of the traffic, if one lets go of fear and expectation about how traffic is supposed to work, there dawns the realization that what appears to be random and chaotic is actually a self organizing system which flows unimpeded, absorbing and incorporating a disparate mishmash of vehicles and creatures, all moving at different speeds. Obstacles merely divert the stream, but never completely stop it. 

The appearance of chaos is amplified by the ever present cacophony of horns and bells, honking, beeping, and ringing. Observation reveals that the din of horns is not a frustrated road rage reaction to the press of traffic. Instead it is a kind of echolocation system, like the one developed by nearly blind bats to find their way. The surround sound burps and squeaks let everyone know where they are in relation to one another, when one needs space to pass, which side one is passing on, if someone in front begins to move in what might be a dangerous direction. The sound, combined with a kind of sixth sense telepathy, supports the flow, and the fulfillment of purpose; things get delivered to where they need to be. The system works. Here we see evidence of order and underlying intelligence. 

So it is with our lives. With a superficial look life appears chaotic, filled with potential dangers. Deeper examination reveals that our lives are a stream of interactions, like the traffic in Delhi, horns blaring, we speak our signals of discovery, distress, joy and suffering, letting those around us know where we are and where we are going. This flow is like our life giving blood stream.  Every individual cell has a destiny and purpose, each performs some function. Taken together we see throbbing life essence expressing as a body, or a city. Even though each seemingly separate individual cell, or person, has its own agenda, desire and expectation, beyond their limited vision they cooperate to fulfill larger purposes; the maintenance and well being of a body, a family, a city, a nation, the wholeness of life on the planet, and the awakening of soul awareness.

In a sense your body does not really belong to you. You did not create it, you are not in control of its vital functions, circulating blood and fluids, assimilating and metabolizing fuel, processing input. You do have access to limited controls for mobility, directing attention and breathing (try to hold your breath until you pass out and you will see innate intelligence take over). This body is an amazing vehicle that we are entrusted to operate for the fulfillment of our life's purposes and the refinement and awakening of our immortal consciousness. It is equipped with an innate intelligence, an auto pilot which is always actively guiding us. It is only when we choose to manually override or ignore our inner guidance system that we create problems for ourselves and experience suffering.

Our innate intelligence, the auto pilot, can be thought of as what is commonly referred to as "grace." It includes all the aspects of life that we take for "granted." We are granted, given, this body, with it's ability to perceive, self-regulate, process fuel, and move. We are granted this environment, supportive of our every need. We are granted fellowship, connecting and relating to our fellow travelers here on earth. We are granted intelligence to examine, learn and evolve. We are granted an innate impulse to awaken to deeper awareness of our essential nature. All these gifts come to us unearned, unmerited. And they come to regenerate, to make us new again and again. The food we eat renews us, becomes us. The environment supports and our interaction with it results in experience which we process and metabolize, it becomes us as well. Fellowship, our relations with one another, change us, providing opportunities to contribute, give of ourselves, and to open to greater awareness of our connections. Intelligence affords the assimilation of information and experience which is also metabolized, transforming our perception and awareness of self. And we find that we are never truly, completely satisfied until we awaken to the ever presence of God. No matter how wonderful our lives are, without God there is always the subtle feeling that something is missing.

Grace is the supportive intelligence that inspires, guides and supports us at all times in every way. It is what invites us to move in harmony with the flow of life. We can ask ourselves "How did I get to where I am today? How did I come to live in this place? To have this occupation? To enjoy this relationship?" If we are honest we will acknowledge that an idea just came to us, a desire together with an opportunity for expression, a vision of a possibility. These graceful invitations did not result from the intellect rationalizing and choosing the best course, instead they come from a resonance with our essence, what is often referred to as the heart. 

When we are open and receptive to the action of Divine grace expressing through our innate intelligence, and we accept the invitation, often we find we are being called, led, guided, to make changes in what we are thinking, how we are feeling and what we are doing. This is when the intellect begins to rationalize. Here we may observe the emergence of fears, limitations, doubts, old conditioned patterns of thinking and feeling that may interfere with our ability to change and grow. This is when we need to rely upon the faith and trust we have been practicing in order to have the strength and courage to be transformed, to move more fully and more effectively with life.

Life is a flowing tapestry woven of countless threads - lives and experiences touching, intersecting, entwining, resonating. Every action we perform is the effect, the result of countless millions of connections. We awaken in the morning and glance at the clock. We are in a room that we did not build, in a bed that someone else made, under covers woven from materials we did not grow. The clock is made from metals dug, refined, processed and manufactured, combined with plastics and paints transformed from oil pumped from the planets depths. The location of this room we awaken in, our home, community, environment, all influence and support our thinking and feeling in this moment. We exist at a kind of nexus, a confluence of all that we have experienced and ever touched, of all that has ever touched us. 

In turn our actions affect and influence others, rippling out into unknown and unknowable futures. We never know the true effects of a smile, a kindness, a sharing of energy and consciousness, how someone we touch in a moment of passing may be changed and this change may be passed along again and again. The law of doubling reveals that if we bring a smile to two people, and as a result of being cheered each of them brings a smile to two, that makes six, and if this progression continues for ten connections we will have contributed to cheering 1024 people, twenty connections influences over a million! Each of us experiences hundreds of interactions every day, each an opportunity to make a positive contribution.

Seen from a distance we can observe life as this beautiful tapestry, a pattern of unfolding, awakening consciousness. Everything and everyone serves the purposes of life - to express and awaken in joy and to know itself as oneness expressing. The guiding force behind all is an intelligence, implicit in the expression of God as creation, this amazing grace. The second definition of grace is: smooth and attractive, ease of movement. It is our destiny to move easily with life, to have our essential needs easily met, to travel a path that is smooth, to enjoy the beauty and wonder, the ever supportive grace that surrounds and enfolds us.

Dancing With the Divine

"We do not dance to see how quickly we can reach the other side of the dance floor. We dance to dance."  Alan Watts

We dance for the simple joy of dancing. If the music is right, if we have the right partner, if the environment is right, we experience a flowing from moment to moment, letting each go in order to be fully present for the next. We move in time to the music, in harmony with our partner, without concern for where we have been, or where we are headed. 

Meditation is like dancing. We meditate for the joy, for the experience of meditating. There is no floor to cross, no prize to win, no feat to accomplish. There is only being -- for the sake of being.

When we are learning to dance we develop skills for listening to the music, for hearing the beat, for ways to move our bodies, to co-ordinate our mind and body until we no longer have to work at hearing, or force our movements. With practice we learn to just be having the experience of the dance, witness to the harmony between self, partner and music. 

When we are learning to meditate we develop skills for noticing the story teller compulsively narrating the circumstances and events of our life. We learn to observe thoughts as they rise, unbidden, from the depths of our sub-conscious, fueled by memory, expectation, upset and desire. Each calling for our attention. Each a diversion, distraction, a little enchantment keeping us confined to the experience of feeling separate, limited to being just a character in our story.

As our skills develop, our powers of concentration become refined, we are able to discern that the narrator with its constant, compulsive, commentary on what is happening, is but one aspect of our mental process. We observe that the mind is both the story teller and the audience, that this little trick of making up stories and then reacting to them is what has comprised our experience of life. And we discern that there is more. We witness that this is occurring and ask ourselves "Who is it that is observing this?"

As our skills in meditation practice progress we learn to disregard both the story teller and our reaction to what is being presented. As we turn down the volume on the narrator we discover that there is a subtle music playing in the background. It is the sound of the cosmic motor, the vibration of creation, the Om, and it is felt as much as heard. With patience and practice we discover that it is possible to remain focused on this inner music and that as we do so we find ourselves transported into a new experience of being. Here, like dancing, we find that there is no where to go, there is no prize, there is no reward. This experience is perfect, whole, complete. Here we have no desires, no compulsions, no upsets, no past, no future, only the perfect experience of this precious moment.

Just as the practice of listening and learning to move prepares us to let go and dance, our practice of observing the fluctuations in the mental field and letting them go, prepares us for meditation. After resting in the experience of Om for a time, with attention flowing only to the sound-vibration, ignoring all distractions, stories, opinions, we finally come to a shift in awareness, to thoughtless being. This is true meditation. Up to this point there is an observer, that which is listening, and something that is being observed, the sound. This is a subject-object relationship. The transition to superconscious awareness collapses the subject and object into an experience of oneness. 

In meditation we experience pure being, pure consciousness. Being pure means there is no thing, no experience, nothing to relate to, to compare with. This is a direct experience of Self. Here there is no story. Here there is no accomplishment, no goal, no prize. Why do we meditate? For the joy of being. For the exquisite experience of Self-remembrance. 

Just like in dancing, after meditation we have the memory of our experience. Roy Eugene Davis explains that super-conscious meditation leaves tracings, samskaras in the sub-conscious. These are transformative, replacing old thoughts and feelings of limitation, separation from the wholeness of life, with direct experience of wholeness, oneness, being in God. These new tracings help us to be attuned to the essence of our being when we are not sitting in meditation. Like tuning a radio to get a clear signal, in this way we tune the receiver of our awareness to the reality of our nature as expressions of the Divine. We discover that in every moment of our lives we are not outside, not separate, but that we are participating in this perfect dance with the Divine.

In the words of T.S. Elliot "Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance. And there is only the dance." In the silence of our superconscious meditation we discover that we are the eternal witness, the seer, the observer. Then we resume our role and dance with grace and style, providing a useful service, making our contribution, participating consciously in the grand ballroom of life.