Choosing Liberation

Green Tara

Have you ever experienced your mind hijacking your awareness? Mine seems to often have its own agenda (all in my best interest :-), about what I ought to give my attention to. It particularly likes to solve fearful problems or explain why I am powerless to change things, which leads me into sadness and despair. When I want to change my experience/story/life I have to contend with the mass of imbedded choices that my mind uses to guide my attention.

These choices are embodied in webs of thoughts that trigger emotions, which provoke more thoughts. Then I go online, or talk to someone, I often find “confirmation” and the mind/web wraps me up tighter and carries me away. This is what has been called Samsara, illusion. Especially the sense that I have no choice about what my experience is. There is little joy in going on this ride.

Although in the moment these mental/emotional states feel compelling and inevitably “real”, I do have a choice about wether to give my attention to them. The other day, in the kitchen making diner for my beloved, an old narrative arose involving isolation and helplessness. It’s a very old narrative. I remembered the experience of buying into it, curling up in isolation and helplessness and giving up on the world. This was the moment of Grace: that I recognized the track before I stepped onto it.

I looked at that option and said to my mind, no thank you! I’d rather make a nice diner and be happy with my beloved. I saw that I had a choice about how I showed up emotionally in that moment, and making that choice I began to feel differently. I started signing kirtan, let go of the old story, and gave my attention to simply being present. And the present was OK.

It’s not about fighting the story, or my mind, which is doing what it does because it thinks it will help. The original motivation and choices were often emotional. Emotional charge is what captures my attention, and is what I must release. Consciously taking my attention away (just as you change the channel, if a show is upsetting or unpleasant). It’s not about engaging my mind and discussing things with it. It would like nothing better. You pick option B and make a different choice. Own your attention and shift its focus. What would you choose if you had a choice? because you do.

The Green Tara Mantra

Lately my beloved and I have been doing the Green Tara Mantra. This invites Tara (Bodhisattva of Compassion) to take away all our suffering, the mental web of illusion that the mind presents as reality. The Mantra has been used for millennia by Tibetan Buddhists seeking liberation for themselves and for all sentient beings. So it has a lot of juice to it. Moreover Tara, an aspect of the Divine Feminine, is a powerful being in her own right.

If I had thought about it, I might have expected that Tara would help the mental patterns, beliefs and habits to dissolve, so that all the hinderances, fears, and attachments, simply went away. That would be nice, wouldn’t it. My experience seems to be a bit more subtle.

Rather than fading silently away, my old patterning has been coming up more, not less. But as it arises I also remember that I have a choice about how to relate to it. This is the Grace that I am receiving. I get to make a concsious choice. Doing this I claim power back from my mind. I claim the power to be my Self and experience Life from a higher perspective. I claim the freedom to be present in each moment and make new choices that create a new story.

Chant to Tara, pray to Christ or either Mary, or surrender the flowers of your mind to your Guru. Maybe your mental cages will arise one last time, so that you can make the conscious choice to step out of them. The cage is not you. You are Self not the ego mind and it’s stories. Each time you have this awareness, the ability to choose becomes stronger and easier. Each time you take another step towards liberation.

(© 05/2018)

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Attention and Experience

Filtered Image

Daily experience is made up of the things we give our attention to. You may say that the world/life is just there and what we experience is given fact. However there are layers of choice involved in how we experience each moment. All the stories and the engagement of mind with the world are actually optional!

Where we are in space depends on all the life choices that have brought us to be at home in a specific house, or at work at a specific job, or walking along a specific trail or street. Who is present with us depends on another long line of (possibly overlapping) choices. A beloved, a child, a dog, just ourselves or a whole group of people. Consciously and often unconsciously, I have made the choices that have brought me to this moment and populated it with a specific cast of characters.

Given a location and a scene, there are also many internal choices about how I experience this moment. Human consciousness is only aware of a fraction of what our senses take in. There are filters that make the raw sensory data manageable. Though in the moment, these filters are largely unconscious, we have trained them our whole lives. Some of that training was conscious, much was, and is, unconscious. What do you give your attention to? what in an experience is important to your mind? As we move through life, what do we notice and what do we pass by?

Another layer comes from our modes of participation. Are we looking, or acting? feeling or thinking? how much attention is outside at this moment and how much is inside? We each have propensities for how we engage with our lives. Each style gives a different experience. The sum of all these choices and options is unique to each of us.

The layers of choices are bound up with the story or stories my mind has made up about who I am and how the world is. My mind is proficient at focusing on things that feed these narratives and their associated emotional tone. This ability for the ego to find supporting evidence has always been true. In today’s world of media and the internet it is even more so. Somewhere out there is any opinion or story that you can imagine, and many that you cannot. We get to choose constantly what sources we are tuning into.

What we give our attention to feeds our experience, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. This is our power as creative human beings, to use our freedom of choice to create our experience. And yet mostly we give up that power, allowing our mind to direct our attention as the ego wills, as our habits and patterns dictate. Giving it up to family, friends, the media and the internet. Then we really are powerless.

The mind uses its stories, especially the emotional ones, to engage and keep my attention. This is how it runs my life, creates my life. I have watched it reaching out and engaging the world in ways that sustain its story, or current mood. It keeps me distracted and engaged in its story. If the world is a mess, or dangerous, my mind works overtime to find “answers”. This is job security. It is supposed to be about my security but in fact it often means I’m distracted from joy, or opportunity. I’m so busy following my mind as it chases its tail that I have little time to be, or to consciously consider, who I am and what I am doing in the world.

The good news is that if we have made all these choices, we can also make new ones. You can consciously retrain your mind to use your attention to support a narrative that is more in alignment with your soul, your heart, your inspiration and visionary creativity.

There are practices for freeing my attention, so I can make new choices. More on how we can choose freedom and a new experience of life next time.

(© 04/2018)

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Sacred Touch

Sacred Touch

Touch is how we meet the world. Sacred touch is how we meet Spirit.

To the extent that we experience ourselves as separate individuals, we come into contact with everything outside us through some form of touch. Touch can be physical, emotional, mental, energetic, or even spiritual. Reach out and touch someone. But how do we touch them? what is the quality of our touch? what subtexts are embodied in it?

Touch can be passive or combative, defensive or seductive. All the qualities and strategies of our ego come through our touch. Sometimes we are not present in our touch, perhaps afraid and holding back, or disinterested and not paying attention, and our touch is lifeless, like the proverbial dead fish. We neither give nor receive anything more than a small symbolic acknowledgement of another’s presence. We may have come to believe that engaging the world is always a contest or battle, something about winning and losing, controlling or being controlled. Then we are likely to bring fear and anger into our touch, mistakenly believing that this is power. Here also there is little giving and no receiving.

None of this is sacred touch. Sacred touch is touching with awareness that we are sacred and that what we touch is sacred. In Spirit we are part of the web of Life, the expressed consciousness of Source. Quantum mechanics teaches that we are part of the fields that comprise the Universe. Modern society does not teach us to live, or touch, from this understanding or awareness.

When we reach out to a person from our Spirit, we do so with curiosity, compassion, and love. Touching from our own Sacred core we automatically engage the Sacred aspects of the other. As Spirit in me touches Spirit in you touching becomes a Sacred act. Nothing really fancy about it. It could happen anywhere anytime: making love with your beloved, or simply smiling at someone in the grocery store.

Sacred touch is an act of being present with someone else. It is an offer to engage, to connect, to communicate, to bridge the sense of separateness and explore something outside of our selves. Sacred touch doesn’t expect anything. It is freely offered, but not insistent. It is open to receive, but does not take. With presence and awareness touch comes alive. Awareness is listening, mindful curiosity and appreciation about what I am touching. When I touch my beloved with attention to how her arm feels in this moment, it is a very different touch than a hasty pat. She feels that difference and responds accordingly. When you receive a massage, you know immediately if the person working on you is paying attention. Their awareness is in their hands and they are present with you.

In Sacred touch there is receiving as well as giving. With attention I become aware of my beloved’s energy, her tension or relaxation. I can even become aware of how she is experiencing my touch. Giving love I empathically feel her receiving love. Separateness fades and we are creating an experience of Love and Joy together. We are touching each other. Through my hand and her arm our Spirits meet.

Sacred touch is being present in yourself and offer your presence openly to your partner or the world. When you are open to receive what you touch touches you back. Experiencing life in this way there is learning, growth and the ongoing generation of Love. Sacred touch empowers the global Love field, which nourishes us all. Thank you for playing.

(© 03/2018)

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Mindful Questions

by Alan McAllister, CCHt PhD-phys

Intersecting Ripples

Lately I have very clearly noticed myself about to ask a question of my beloved which is not really in alignment with what I need to know. Somewhere I have picked up habits of being a little indirect or circuitous. When I was younger I probably thought I was being clever, but I now realize that it doesn’t serve me very well. Asking indirect questions can lead to misunderstandings, or other forms of confusion. If I am saying one thing, but thinking about a different question in my head, then my beloved’s answer will almost certainly mean something different to me than it does to her.

When I caught this happening I paused to ask myself, what is it that I really want to know? Why am I asking this question anyway? This simple act of mindfulness pulled me out of unconscious habit pattern interaction, into the present moment. Often it is something that seems small or unimportant. But small steps can start an important new habit.

“Are you hungry?” is a simple caring inquiry. But perhaps the question I really have is: ”Would you like me to start cooking” or “Are you ready to cook a meal together?” These questions are related, but not the same. My beloved may be hungry, but busy creating something and not ready to shift gears. Or she may not be hungry yet; but will be by the time a meal is ready. The more precise questions gain me answers that are closer to what I really need to know.

“Is that the last of the spinach?” is related to, but not the same as “Is it time to buy more spinach?”, which is what I really need to know so I can put it on the grocery list. Often there is an action that I am contemplating, or may need to take. The question’s true purpose is then to determine if the action is necessary, or the time is right. Rather than asking about the condition that would give rise to it, I can focus on the way to move forward.

I wonder how often I miss the mark on other things I say? How about asking for something I want? “Are you done with that?” is more ambiguous than “Can I use that for a while?” Even deeper I might ask “Are you tired?” hoping my beloved will say yes so we can go cuddle in bed. It seems harder to say “I’m feeling like I could use a little cuddle time; can you join me for a bit?” Perhaps because this reaches a level where there are old pictures about rejection, or about bothering someone. When the stakes are higher, shouldn’t my communication be clearer, rather than hoping she will read my mind?

It is easier to ask a question when I am not emotionally attached to the answer. Or I don’t expect the person I’m asking to have a charge on the topic themselves. Being afraid, I avoid the clear truth of a matter. I may think in terms of the other person, but I am really being untruthful with myself. I am not serving my own interests and giving my power away by being indirect.

Inviting mindfulness about questions, is part of being mindful about speech in general. Being mindful about speech leads to the ability to be aware of my choices around actions. Starting a small mindfulness practice anywhere in my life begins to build a new muscle. This muscle will grow organically. This is not some difficult practice. It is an intention; an invitation to my self to align with my true Self. Along the way it will highlight habits and fears that no longer serve me. It helps me to speak and act in the way I want to speak and act, in alignment with Self and Spirit.

I am grateful that I have been noticing my questions more; grateful to spirit, to my Self, and to my beloved, who sets me a wonderful example of paying attention to meaning in how we speak with each other. Mindfulness of questions is about becoming aware and honest with myself. Honoring myself and my beloved, I focus on the truth of a communication, question, or need. It is a small piece on the spiritual path of aligning thoughts, words, and actions with spiritual intention and flow. A seed that can grow into a mighty tree.

The Practice for this is simple: just be curious about how you say things the way you do? Set an intention to begin to notice when your words are not in alignment with your intention. Over time occasionally water the seed with your continuing intention and attention. The awareness will come.

(© 02/18)

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Mind Palaces

Mind Palace

A mind palace is a mental space used for storing a sequence of visual memory cues. It was know in ancient Greece 2500 years ago and well used by Roman orators. Imagine a series of spaces, like the rooms in a palace, and then place visual representations of the things you want to remember in them. When you visit the spaces and there the memories are.

While it might be fun to design and create fancy palaces, that turns out not to be very useful. It is much easier to use places that you ready know. The house you grew up in. The route to school. A favorite walk in the woods. The house you live in now. Any series of rooms, or locations, that is already well ingrained in your brain by frequent use.

The images that are placed in the palace, should also be simple, personally meaningful, and emotionally or energetically charged. These are qualities that naturally make something easy to remember. They are also qualities that make any ceremonial or meditational tool effective in general, the qualities that align attention with intention.

The intellectual human mind likes to create structures to play in. Spaces where words and ideas are elaborated and strung together, theories are forged, and information collected. Lives and societies are ordered based on those structures. The ego mind also likes to embellish and enhance, to create more complexity and detail. This makes it feel accomplished.

Spirit, however, is simple. Source is beyond form and all embellishment. It simply IS. Embellishment, although sometimes beautiful, makes something more uniquely individual and thus further removed from Pure Being.

Creating palaces, mental or physical, is a creative movement, a flow outward from Source. Returning to Source is served by going deeply into a single idea, e.g. Being, Love, Presence, Compassion, reaching for Essence. Ramana Maharsi’s teaching was simple. Keep asking “Who AM I”? There is a place for both exploring how Life flows out into the world and for breathing back inwards to Source. Different tools serve each flow.

The mind, like the body, is an aspect of the temple of my Soul, part of what allows my Self to be human and live in the world. The mind can be a baroque palace, or a zen tea house, or both. Which one helps you to remember the Spirit that inhabits it? Which helps you to create in the world? In a mind palace the key thing is the information or idea that each picture inside the palace represents. The palace is a container two steps removed. Similarly our own mind is a container for holding ideas and information. It is an expression of Essence, not Essence itself.

The mind is important, but Essence is what is most important. It is prior to, and foundational for, all its forms and expressions. Exploring the expressions can lead us back to Essence, or distract us from going deeper. Forms are helpful on the spiritual path when they are personally meaningful, energetically/emotionally powerful to you, and helpful in focusing your attention on the Essence which they embody.

Spiritually we are here to learn to Be, to remember the Essence behind all the pictures in the palaces of our mind, as well as the palace itself. Thinking is part of the creative outward flow. We are not here to search out the secret of the universe, or to build a better palace. We are here to remember what is inside and underneath it all: Source. You already Are. Source expresses through you, as through everything. You are That.

(© 01/2018)

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