Archive for July, 2011

Spiritual Journey–Denial

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

As I mentioned in my first Spiritual Journey post, I recently bought the book Autobiography of a Yogi and began to read it again.

Early on, Yogananda talks about his parents’ teacher, Lahiri Mahasaya, and refers to a photograph he had of this teacher. I turned to the page with the photograph, curious to see if I would feel anything upon looking at the picture of this revered teacher. No, looking at the picture did nothing for me.

Then I had the thought to close my eyes and meditate on the picture. I did so, and I immediately felt myself in the presence of Lahiri Mahasaya. It was peaceful, and we began conversing.

You will not be surprised to learn, if you have read my two previous “Spiritual Journey” posts, that I cannot tell you much of our conversation. Even as we were talking, I blocked out many of his words. I could still hear that he was talking, but I could no longer understand what he was saying.

*   *   *   *   *

It reminds me of a dream I once had when I was seventeen. In the dream, I was somebody else, with their mind, their body, and their memory. This has happened a few times over the years, that I totally become someone else in a dream. What surprises me most when this happens is that I have someone else’s memories. I can draw upon a lifetime of experience that is totally different from my own life experience.

In this particular dream, I was a German man. The part of me that was watching the dream, the part most closely associated with my waking self, knew that I cannot speak German in the waking world. So, even though my dream-self spoke German and conversed with others in the dream in German, my watcher-self could not understand what was being said.

How was it possible, I wondered upon waking, that one part of me understands something while another part cannot, at the very same time? How can my access to knowledge be so variable? I suppose it’s not much different from waking life, when one moment you have forgotten something and another moment you can remember it. The difference in the dream was that I witnessed my inconsistent access to knowledge.

To my shame, I notice that I have inconsistent access to knowledge in waking life, too. I can remember several occasions when people have said things that I didn’t want to hear or know of, and, once I realized they were saying something I did not want to hear, I could no longer understand what they were saying. It was as if a flip had been switched, and instead of hearing English, I heard gibberish.

The first time I became aware of this was in college. There was a person in the campus administration whom I admired very much. His department was holding an event that evening, so his name was in the air at the student center, where I was having lunch. Some women at the table next to me were discussing him, and one was criticizing him rather vocally.

I remember taking offense when I realized they were criticizing him, since I considered him to be such a fine person. I did not want to hear a word spoken against him. Once I had that reaction, I could no longer understand the words of the woman who was speaking against this man. She had changed neither volume nor pitch, but speech that I could discern and understand before became garbled and unintelligible. Even though I had been curious to hear what she would say next (she was going to explain why she disliked this man), the larger part of me completely rejected what this woman was saying, to the extent that in my ears her words became gibberish.

This event points to two things. First, I can and do filter my world, limiting my perceptions to what some aspect of myself has determined to be permissible within a framework of acceptable world view. I have read in self-help books as well as spiritual books and I have also inferred from my own observations of the world that we perceive the world according to our beliefs. This means that our experience of the world is limited or enhanced depending on what we allow to be true. This is obviously the case for me.

Second, this event highlights how much understanding depends on emotional concordance. Have you ever been so angry with someone that all communication seems to break down? The expression “breakdown in communication” is generally meant figuratively, in that the negative emotions of one or both speakers prevents them from creating a receptive environment within themselves to the words of the other person. But in my college experience, once I became angry and rejected what this woman was saying, the breakdown in communication was absolute. Even though I could still hear her, the woman’s words no longer held any meaning for me.

Remembering this humbles me, because I like to think that I am open-minded. Yet here is proof positive that at times I am close-minded. It’s one thing not to understand talking seals in a dream (see previous blog post), but quite another to lose understanding from one moment to the next in “real life”. How much confidence can I have in myself when I know that I do not allow certain information into my awareness?

*   *   *   *   *

In my meditation moment with Lahiri Mahayasa, our conversation became unintelligible and I could no longer hear his words. I do not know what he said during that part of our conversation. I did perceive that the information was being absorbed by me on other levels, as if my body could hear and receive his words even though my mind refused them.

However, I can tell you some of what Lahiri Mahasaya said to me. He told me to write and publish these experiences, and all my spiritual experiences.

“Now publish it,” he said.

“Publish what?” I asked, not wanting to know.

“All of it,” he answered.

“All my writing?” I asked.

“All of it,” he said again.

And so here is the beginning of the writing. May it serve.


Spiritual Journey — Teachers

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

I had a lovely dream once.

I was underwater, in a temple deep under the ocean, in a room where I could breathe easily. There were ionic columns, and a stream ran through the temple room. It was beautiful.

A seal was there, speaking to me. She told me she could teach me. To show me some of what she could do and teach me, she made beautiful green vines grow up around the columns. The vines bloomed and bore fruit–clusters of grapes appearing all around. She took a handful of grapes in her flipper and showed them to me, then changed them into precious gems. She offered to take me on as a student and teach me.

I was scared and angry. This was too different from my understanding of the world. Talking seals? Vines that grew from nothing? Grapes that turned into gemstones? It was too much.

I hit her flipper, making the gems fly all over the place, and I refused her offer. “Seals can’t talk,” I said. From that moment, I could no longer understand what she said.

Then I woke up.

For years I regretted my choice. I wondered, Why hadn’t I said yes? I could have learned all manner of interesting things! But my fear and anger had interfered, and I had lost an amazing opportunity.

Then, a few years ago, I decided not to regret that choice. For one thing, that was who I was at the time–someone who refused teaching and learning because she didn’t like how it was presented. For another, who was to say that I should have said yes? Perhaps the seal didn’t have things to teach me that I needed to know. My fear kept me ignorant as to what, exactly, was being offered, but perhaps that ignorance served me well anyway.

I’ve known that I receive teachings in other ways, however. Sometimes it is through the books I read, sometimes it’s intuition, sometimes something else. I’ve come to recognize them and accept that this teaching actually takes place, even though I am still uncomfortable with it. Perhaps it’s a control issue. I’m not sure.

One of the more profound ways I receive teachings is information that is transmitted to me in the night. Often I fall into a deep sleep, a sleep so deep it’s as if I am in a coma.

Once, a friend woke me up while I was in the middle of such an experience. She had been scared because so little of me and my essence seemed present. When she woke me, it was as if I was still very, very far away, and I had trouble becoming fully awake for hours. It was odd, but one of the attendant phenomenon during that time that I was awake but not awake was that my body seemed to weigh very little. She could pick up my hand or arm, and it wasn’t as heavy as it usually was. It’s as if part of me still wasn’t there. Once I was fully awake, however, my body had its normal mass again.

In these nighttime transmissions, the teachings are extremely deep and meaningful, yet don’t translate well into words. I know that I am shaped and changed by these teachings, but I couldn’t tell you the why and how of it.

A few weeks ago I awoke retaining more memory of the teaching event than usual, and the best way I can describe the information was that it looked as if it was comprised of geometric symbols. As if words are too surface-level to convey these meanings. As if these meanings were meant for the cellular level rather than the intellect level. Even now I can kind of perceive those symbols–flat and slanted and red-colored, but it’s only a sliver of what was conveyed to me at the time and, obviously, doesn’t translate well into English. If you were to ask me what they mean, I couldn’t tell you anything but that it was important.

I recently realized that I’ve been dreaming of the seal again, and she is teaching me. I guess part of me has accepted these teachings after all, even if I seem to be keeping it from myself. And, since I am keeping it from myself, I cannot tell you what the seal is teaching me. Honestly, I prefer it that way. I still find comfort in my inability to name information that baldly. So long as I can tell myself (and you), “I dream of a seal teaching me” but not that the seal’s name is “X” and she has taught me such-and-such, I can still pretend that it’s only a dream, even though I know in my heart of hearts that it is more than that.


Spiritual Journey

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I have begun to read the Autobiography of  a Yogi by Parahamsa Yogananda, again. I had read it a few times before and appreciated it. Not only is Yogananda a good storyteller, he has very interesting things to say.

Recently, the desire to read this book again has grown within me. I remembered noticing the second time I read it the positive effect it had on my outlook and temperament, especially when I was reading the passages on the lives of the saints. Similarly, I had noticed a similar difference in my general attitude when I was listening to Brian Tracy’s cd series “The Psychology of Achievement”. These experiences point to the phenomenon that the food we feed the mind is important, as it affects us deeply.

I’ve begun listening to Brian Tracy’s Psychology of Achievement again in my car–I bought a car with a working cd player–and I’ve noticed again how my mental outlook has much improved. Although I am by nature an optimist, these cd’s help me be more fully positive, perhaps by reinforcing my natural temperament as well as by helping me address pockets of myself where I am not particularly positive.

And so at this third experience of noticing the impact of what I read or listen to on my outlook and focus, my mind has begun to remember the positive effects that reading Autobiography of a Yogi had on me. I began to think of reading it again. During the time this idea was developing, I found myself in a local bookstore, skimming a few books on a particular topic. I’d gathered several books and was looking for a place to scan them. The only empty chair I found was in the biography section, and there, looking at me when I happened to glance up from my reading, was the Autobiography of a Yogi. I resolved then to buy the book, although not on that trip.

*   *   *   *   *

I suppose now I should confess to something that I don’t usually share with people, at least to any significant extent. My life is filled with spiritual (and, to a lesser extent, psychic) phenomena. I have an ambivalent attitude toward these experiences. My first reaction tends to be negative. I very much like things to be provable and replicable, and if I could apply the scientific method (including peer review) to spiritual experiences, I would. However, much of the spiritual seems to be highly individual in nature, for while any particular person’s experiences are not necessarily unique to that person, since each person is at a different place along the spiritual path, it may well seem that way.

For a long time I resisted that these things were happening. When I was a child, I could hear whispering–whether it was the whispering of spirits or other phenomena, I don’t know. It irked me considerably, because I couldn’t tell what they were saying, and it was distracting.

I once told my third grade teacher I was having trouble concentrating on my work because of the voices in my head. Her teacher-like answer was that if I didn’t do my work, I’d have much more to worry about from the voices outside my head. Since there was no help in that quarter with these voices, I decided to banish the voices. I’m not sure how I did it, I just know that I did. I haven’t heard them since, but I still intensely dislike the radio to be on at a volume low enough that you can hear it, but not loud enough to distinguish the words. It reminds me too much of those irritating voices.

Nowadays, much of the spiritual information that I receive is incomplete, as if it is interrupted by static. I have suspected for years that I myself am the source of that static. For, although I have come to accept the occasions when I manifest objects (or aid or situations that I have requested) and no longer falsely ascribe these events to “luck” when I know it is something else, I still have great difficulty accepting information, like names or places or numbers, that is verifiable. I can’t decide if I am more afraid that verifiable information would prove to be false, leaving me in a precarious position with respect to my understanding of the world, or true, which would also leave me in a precarious position with respect to my preferred understanding of the world.

It seems that while I (understandably) derive no comfort from the idea that these experiences might be delusional, oddly enough, the possibility that they may be true and that there is much more going on in the world than our science can substantiate is perhaps even more frightening. So I keep myself in a strange limbo, begrudgingly accepting happenings and occurrences that seem mild and don’t warrant any grand attention yet creating my own static and interference so that I cannot receive information that threatens to tip the uneasy scales in one direction or another.

Still, despite my deep-seated reluctance, the overwhelming number and frequency of experiences is slowly pointing my compass needle to North. Yet I drag my feet. I like logic and truth, and while these phenomena may well be products of logic and truth, they are not the logic and truth by which I prefer to measure the world and its events.