Childhood and adulthood

It makes me vulnerable to tell this story, but I guess vulnerability is essential to our human nature and there’s too much time wasted in hiding it. If I had to tell one major story, it would have to be about my mother. She is one of the most maternal, caring, self-sacrificing people I have ever known. As a compassionate person, and because her family were quite poor, she decided to work hard and go into Medicine. To be a female doctor where she came from was not a small achievement. But at the same time, she had two children. She married into a Medical family too, so she was expected to succeed in her career. Now, the point where I entered, she was already trying to marry the domestic and the professional aspects of her life. When she was in India, offered the chance to study and work in the UK, I was only two, and my sister was seven. Under a sense of duty, she was encouraged to leave me with my Nani, my maternal grandmother. I cannot complain about how my Nani was towards me: I was totally loved and cared for. But something about this has left its mark on me: I didn’t know my father because he left the country to better his career when I was born, and soon I would not know my mother too well either. Gradually, my mother became a stranger. When I turned five and could start school, I was brought to the UK, but this was now very hard for me because I thought of my grandparents as my carers. Also, as my sister and I grew up, we had to deal with my parents’ very unsettled careers that involved babysitters, moving around and periods left with different relatives.

That gap of not knowing my parents has never really closed. Certainly, to know someone as an infant is very different than knowing them later on. Infants have no judgement. I hardly remember my parents that way. I mainly remember their strange features, not really associating them as my own tribe. Then, I had to also adjust to a new culture in the UK, so I felt even more alone with no one around that knew me, spoke my alien language, someone who would be a real friend. Except, thankfully, there was my sister. Dealing with her own issues, but at least she was there.

All this has impressed on my memory a feeling of grief and sorrow. I don’t know if it is mine or my mother’s sorrow at the choices she had to make. More than anything, this affects me now in my relationship with my children. As early as I could remember, I had the strong desire to form a bond with my children where I would always be involved with their lives. But, knowing the fragility of the human experience, it also became a fear that, what if I can’t achieve this? And in this grappling, there has had to be a huge letting-go, that I can’t control what experiences are meant for my children. Just as I couldn’t control what experiences shaped my own childhood. And in that realisation, there is certainly a grief at how everything seems so vulnerable, but also a search for something enduring. Surely, love endures the human fragility and shows its power within and beyond our human limitations.

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Karmic webs

“There is no beauty without fragility.” – Susan David

I recently heard a talk by Francis Lucille in which someone asked the spiritual teacher, “Why do some people have better lives than others? Why are some people rich, others poor, some healthy, others unwell. Why also can some people deal with setbacks with grace and others not?”

Francis Lucille was to-the-point as usual. He said, “You are mixing up happiness with lots of sociological conditions. True happiness has nothing to do with sociological conditions.”

The questioner can be forgiven: we all tend to measure our happiness through conditions, because our minds are directed outward and we seek happiness through desiring conditions. Even surveys of happiness measure these according to economic and sociological factors. Indeed, when sociological factors are unfavourable, we notice more problems and more suffering.

More suffering. Is that true? Can we really say that to have wealth, health and favourable conditions in life gives you more happiness? And to lack these conditions allows less happiness? Can favourable conditions be a constant for anyone? A deep happiness may have nothing to do with good conditions, but outward conditions being unfavourable can afflict the mind in different ways: some suffer more than others. We may not know why we face the things we face, but we do know that some people handle their pain better than others. And that no one escapes some kind of pain, for pain propels the journey of human consciousness towards truth and the seeking of real happiness.

The mind has its patterns. The mind and body, with their patterns, may affect what happens in our experience, but this karmic web that influences how we think, feel, react and act has nothing to do with who we essentially are, the inner core which is the access point to truth. But the mind, so dominated by its patterns, needs to transcend its tendencies to reference the self in forms before it can transcend the forces of ‘karma’.

Meeting the radiant Mr Rupert Spira

This month I had the rare privilege of meeting author and teacher, Rupert Spira. He is a public figure now, with thousands of students across the globe, and the reason for his following is that he expresses and embodies the truth of non-dual teaching in the most beautiful way.

I went to a meeting in London’s Colet House, where people had gathered to hear Rupert talk. Mostly he answered questions by his students and friends. I asked questions and while Rupert was talking, his presence of peace and tranquillity could easily be felt. Here was a teacher actually living the understanding that he taught, walking his talk so to speak.

The urgency of my question to him lost its importance. I was basically taken over by the peace which made my questions trivial.

I have been reading the Bhagavad Gita since I was a child, having sleep paralysis in my teens which turned into Out of Body Experiences in my twenties. I felt uncertain about discussing these things, but in Rupert’s gathering, such experiences were not unusual at all: many people spoke of them. But the emphasis as always was on a very thorough and scientific approach of testing everything with our experience. Rupert always draws us back into the primary experience we have of ourselves as Awareness alone. He references the work of Ramana Maharshi and others but simplifies it for a modern, western audience. The truth, after all, should be accessible to everyone.

I am very grateful for Rupert’s work and I look forward to reading his new book, The Nature of Consciousness.

 

When you give up…

Giving up is not a “positive” idea in the world; it lacks personal will to impact reality. But personal will is a very limited thing which depends largely on the beliefs we have about ourselves. We can empower ourselves with our beliefs, but only if we have a way to really see ourselves beyond our beliefs and accept them for the reasons they are there. Getting to this place beyond is so absorbing that the need to change personal experience from that level often feels like a false effort, and whilst the ‘person’ who has started to see themselves as spiritual might work on the mind, once their spirituality has consumed them entirely then they will leave the mind behind. Thoughts may still be there, but the identifying faculty which gives them their emotional charge will start to loosen its grip.

So it is not about a person giving up, it becomes the giving up of personhood itself. Ages of dissatisfaction and suffering lead to the point where a person surrenders themselves so totally. Maybe by the force of a situation, or maybe through the pointings of a guru. When we give up on personhood, it means giving up desires that we know are not taking us to the fulfilment we seek. Usually by this point, a person will have fulfilled many of their outward desires through personal will and motivation, and seen that it does not bring them total freedom. Everyone’s inner purpose is to find that place of freedom, whatever their chosen outward roles. The fact that each desire was propelled by its contrast (the fears of not having that desire), will bring those fears to the forefront for our experience, as the shadows that exist in our unconscious thoughts (the thoughts we are not aware of). So we have to face all the fears of our personhood. And ironically, it is the complete acceptance and surrender to this play of opposites that leads us past opposites into wholeness, where both fear and desire are two sides of the same coin, as are pleasure and pain, suffering and liberation.

By now it’s getting quite complicated, but it appears as such for the mind that can only understand things through ideas. The consciousness in us, which has a self-conscious mind, begins to see its own nature as consciousness itself rather than as a limited person playing a role. A child does not have a strong sense of self-consciousness but neither does he or she have strong ego-consciousness: such a mind experiences both pleasure and pain, letting them go. The developing mind that can create low states of false identification or advanced states of peaceful beingness is the mind that begins eventually to search for its source.

As more and more ‘people’ awaken to their nature as consciousness, they realise there is no dimension to their true being, it has no limits, and therefore it must be shared. If it is shared then we and our world are an appearance in the same one being. That shared beingness has the fragrance of love. The egoic development may be a natural part of transitioning from childhood to the use of an adult mind, but in an awakened world, the mind need not go through as much search and polarity of desires and fears in order to know itself. I hope a more easily awakened world comes forth, which makes experiencing much more joyful instead of tainted with separation. Then humanity will begin to evolve to another dimension of being.

The Dissolving

In one of his question-answer sessions, Mooji explains that the reason consciousness chooses to come into the play of form is because it loves experiencing: it loves the variety, the contrast, the tastes. It is totally in love with it. But it forgets itself to do this, and eventually this forgetting turns into suffering.

What he speaks is clearly demonstrated in the the way children, animals and nature seem to dwell. They lack a ‘developed’ mind, but they are infinitely more advanced in their ability to absorb and enjoy life. This is because of the absence of thoughts, which we adults value so highly as a means of success and survival. Yes, maybe the mind is a helpful tool that allows us to do more than animals and children, but has it really made us happier? I think you’ll say no. Why does it have to develop then? Well, the short answer is, it is a necessary but painful stepping stone in the growth of consciousness. It is the mind that enables us to question Who We Are and the Meaning of Life, in order to search for Truth. It does this through a process of what the ancient Indian texts call ‘neti neti’ (I am not this, nor that). I say Indian, not Hindu, because Hindu now has religious implications, and the Yogis that wrote the old texts would probably not have wanted to brand themselves has having a religious identity. Their truth, after all, is the deconstruction of identity.

As children and animals enjoy the experiences of ‘No-Mind’, they do so unconsciously, not knowing that what they are enjoying is the truth of themselves reflected in many forms. Once their minds and hence, egoic ideas, develop, they think of themselves through their analytical faculties and can no longer enjoy pure experiencing. This is a push from consciousness to create misidenfication and unrest in order to investigate Reality (through the faculty of mind), and make the mind a servant to self-knowledge.

The mind begins its seeking and and goes through many identities before it eventually realises that ultimate truth is not ‘out there’. Once it turns inward, its conceptual identities fall away and it eventually is able to come back to pure experiencing, like the child or the animal. Suffering may also start losing its mental sting, as pain is no longer burdened with the concepts that make it unbearable. Pain and pleasure become passing phenomena. The deeply embedded fear of annihilation may begin to erode. We may feel like kids again. But there is an added seeing because this experiencing is now coming from knowledge rather than ignorance. We know God’s grace rather than innocently sleeping in it.

The being that enquires within through the thinking mind is able to dissolve into Ultimate Reality. The thinking mind is a useful tool but once it has done its job, it is not needed for consciousness to know itself. The mind and its patterns (karma, genetics, whatever you want to call them), eventually dissolve into all-pervading Reality. A step into this dissolving is to become the witness of experience, rather than the one identified with a role (ego). The witnessing consciousness is a step inwards. But there is further to go. Everything has to be given up from the mind. Even the desire to use thoughts to get certain outcomes (which can work depending on the patterns of the ‘person’). In the ultimate reality, the feeling of personhood is gone.

Excerpt from my story, Maya

Maya, the seemingly physical force of nature that is borne out of nothingness, wove her spell under a starry night. A girl of inexplicable beauty was born in the shambles of an Indian village hospital. Wide open eyes and hypnotic features spoke of wonder, but as she was a female child, her entire family was gravely disappointed by her. After a moment of awe and inspiration, her mother turned her head down in shame. Her father heard the news and felt assured of his wife’s poor reproductive abilities. He sighed and went on with his work, as there was no need to rush to his wife’s side.

They belonged to a class of people who relied on sons for their lineage and their work. They were farmers. A daughter gave them no continuity, no dowry, nothing but burdens. A daughter needed to be married off.

The mother, Kajal, came home quietly with her child, to the small house where she lived with her in-laws and their two sons. They had daughters in other houses, which they had been married into by paying a dowry so that the women could work as servants, cooking and cleaning, without wages and without the simple freedom to go out, work, study or do anything that required showing themselves to the world. One daughter’s husband gave her money and the freedom to run the household, so she was content in her role. The other daughter, however, had no say in finances and neither did she have authority in the home: her in-laws dictated everything from what needed to be cooked, to what clothes her children should wear. She could stand up to them, but she was sure that if she did, she would be thrown out of the house, bringing shame on her family.

So when Kajal came into the house with her first-born, a girl-child, she was afraid and disappointed for her child and for herself. “Nevermind,” said her mother-in-law, who clearly did mind. “Let me see the baby”. Kajal handed over the bundle, and her grandmother looked at the creature with curiosity. “Oh she is beautiful,” said the old woman. “She would be easy to marry off in a good family.” Kajal nodded and took the baby into her room to be fed. Since no-one was interested in the child, she took the authority in naming her baby. She called her ‘Maya’, the Hindu name for illusion, which is often used to describe something beautiful but inherently unreal.

The need for poetry

In the world of labelling and naming, words have meanings and definition. They are consolidated and purposeful, resolute and practical, useful and easy to understand. But in the world of poetry, words are used to challenge all our assumptions, ideas and purposefulness so that we may be plunged into the forgotten waters of our own souls.

How often do we visit the realm of the unnameable, the ineffable, the essence behind meanings and the ground of our own selves? Music gets there. Silence gets there. Nature upholds it. Poetry allows it.

Consider the following:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.

Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds…

The poet (Shakespeare, Sonnet 118), points to the word ‘love’ but immediately takes away its authority as a word because the word has no real meaning without its essence – which is its unchanging ability to remain as something that cannot be altered. So the incongruous contradiction ‘love is not love’ is completely allowed and permissible because the poet is pointing to a depth in meaning that is often overlooked when the word ‘love’ is used in conventional terms (if there are, indeed, conventional ways to use the word ‘love’).

Or consider Emily Dickinson’s:

I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody too?

Using language to break the formalities of language to pieces by denying the naming and identification of a ‘person’.

So sensitive souls need poetry as much as plants need sunlight. Because language is far too structured in syntax and meaning, and its frailty is exposed through poetry alone. And maybe silence, if we can manage it.