Sunday, 14 August 2011

Recognising the Sacred.

Our world is scared of sacred. Naming it is unacceptable. Imagine taking ‘sacred’ into the vocabulary of a corporate business meeting, into brokering a major financial deal, into a discussion of medical diagnoses with a team of Harvard physicians, or into a pub with members of a rugby team.

As a planet, we are sad and heavy, filled with fear and rage. We easily speak of violence, retribution, war, famine, sexual abuse, corruption, factory farming, pesticides, crime, inequality, judgment, shame, swindling and greed. So we should. It must all be named, there is no turning away from the truth of what we have created.
Yet when a pink and white rosebud peaks out at the start of spring, can we find a small space in our hearts to stop and recognize its delicacy?

We have such a need for protection that it has become difficult to let in tenderness and sweetness. To do so means to also feel the pain that is overwhelming us all. But if we don’t, we die. Probably physically, since we’ve been on a careless, adrenaline-filled roller coaster ride of destruction for so long. Certainly we die emotionally and spiritually though. It takes such intensity to access our emotions these days; only passionate love affairs, traumatic world events, and personal tragedy will do. The intensity of life inures us to the fragile appreciation of silence, to the scent of wild sage, to the touch of a toddler’s soft hand on our cheeks.

Sacred is quiet. It takes stillness to connect with it. It requires patience, slow breathing and watchfulness. We catch the sacred the way a lynx catches a bird; softly, with focus and perseverance.
Bringing the sacred back into our hearts through recognizing one tiny moment of it at a time is the start of shifting our trajectory from destruction and chaos back to peace, love, joy and equanimity. And we can only do it for ourselves, by ourselves, bit by bit. Yet each moment that we do so is transformative.

Sometimes it takes real horror to awaken us to our need for a change of consciousness. Turning our attention towards sweetness nourishes our hearts enough that we can find space within them to care for one another.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Meditations for transformation.

Meditation is so often perceived as a drudgery, it takes longer than brushing our teeth, it is harder work than yoga or aerobics or spinning, it is more boring than bookkeeping or cleaning the house, and anyway it is not a requirement, so why add yet another “should do” to an already endless list?

How about if we chose to meditate because it was yummy and soothing, like chocolate cake or a fag and a drink at the end of a long and stressful day? Meditation is not always going to be fantastic, because it is about staying present, and often we would rather escape, but 10:1 that cigarette isn’t always brilliant either. Meditation can be fulfilling and spacious and calming, and it can release some of the anxiety and stress of daily life. The calming aspects of meditation are side effects of the process rather than the end goal, however if we employ meditation techniques that develop a sense of well being and enjoyment from the beginning, then we have a chance of sticking to it, so as to develop the ability to become more open hearted, equanimous and wise in the face of the experience of daily life. If meditation can’t be an enjoyable process then, unless we’re dogged and tenacious, it’s not going to be part of any kind of daily ritual for long. 

There are many effective meditation techniques that develop contentment and peacefulness. They are useful for their feel-good factor. Having achieved some peacefulness in meditation, it becomes much easier to stay mindful and to focus on ‘Being Here Now’.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Meditation 1. Listening Deeply

Listening Deeply

Shhh... Slowdown. Listen. Listen to the subtler sounds behind the strident sounds. Not only to the subtle external sounds, or the sounds of the universe humming, but also to the sounds of our senses – breahing, pulse and stomach sounds.

Listen to the rising and falling of your chests as the breath moves in and out.

Listen to the weightiness of the of your body as you settle into it.

Listen to the judgment shifting aside as you notice what’s here.

Listen to the energy tingling and flowing in a rhythmic pulse of life through your body.

Listen to the silence and the stillness and the settling.

Listen to the heat, the cold, the breeze, the traffic, the passing thoughts, and the presence of being more than a limited body.

Listen to the expansion of your consciousness.

Listen to the dissolving into Oneness.

Listen to your heart creaking open and to the painful edges that initially provokes.

Listen to the well-being and bliss that is beneath being open and tender and welcoming to all of life's experience in this very moment.

Listen and be at peace.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Meditation 2. The Present Moment.

My happiness, peacefulness and equanimity, depend not on my outward circumstances, but on my perception of my circumstances.

“Be Here, Now”. They all say it. Echardt Tolle. Ram Dass. Buddha. Mindfulness gurus. Thousands of people, saying the same thing, in thousands of ways. It’s become a litany, a catch phrase, a truism that’s lost its meaning through over use.

Here, right now, is a slow breathing, clock ticking, truck passing, white duvet experience. It tastes of toothpaste and smells of July early morning, which in southern Africa is Winter, not Summer. But most of all, it is soft and spacious hearted. Can every morning be soft and spacious hearted? Can icy winter, late for work with the geyser broken yet again be soft and open hearted? Or, beyond personal experience, can tsunamis, earthquakes, uprisings against dictatorships, and the violent quelling of them, be met with soft and spacious hearts? As our world trundles into deeper chaos, more violent wars, children headed households, and environmental degradation can we find peace and inner stillness?  If we can’t find it, we’re doomed.

The drama and hectic pace that is blowing our world apart is not only global, it is also intensely personal. How many people do you know who are not exhausted and dealing with some kind of emotional tsunami? We are in a vortex of chaos, and unless we can drop into the middle of it, with the surrender of a soft and gentle heart that can embrace it all, the vicious spiral will only increase.  However from its centre, held without closing our hearts to any part of it, and responding from there with appropriate clarity and wisdom, we will have discovered the point of this grand all-fall-down experiment.

The size of the crisis is irrelevant; a broken coffee machine, a broken kid’s shoe when we’re late for school, a broken marriage, a broken nation or culture all offer the opportunity to take a deep breath and drop into the very midst of what is happening. Right now. With a heart that can smile and embrace this too. There is nothing we can afford to turn away from any longer. We can no longer avert our global crisis through fighting it, but we can transform it by being here fully and responding appropriately to each and every moment. In the midst of the darkest places, is the seed of purest light. It is each and every individual’s quest to find this seed of light. We find it through the soft hearted, present moment opening towards our full-on lives.

There is a fundamental issue that arises as soon as we start investigating open heartedness. We may find ourselves closed to the pain of a child who’s being bullied at school, to the resentment arising from an irascible boss, or a beggar hassling us with “Funny Money” pamphlets at the traffic lights, or to the deep anger aroused by another massive corporation destroying our fragile environment. However, we cannot open our hearts to those around us, until we open them first to ourselves. Until I, Robyn, open my heart to myself. To Me. Can I love ‘me’ first? All of me? Peevish, prickly, fractious, disheveled, blotchy me? Since I can’t find my open heart in someone else’s body, I have to start the journey with finding it within myself first, and embracing all the pain and longing for who I wish I were, but quite clearly am not. The Buddha stated that of all beings in the entire Universe, the one most deserving of our love, is ourselves. 

Being open hearted to whatever is happening right now is the key to staying fully present, and there is nothing as reliable as the present moment. It is solid. It may not always be the way we want it to be. It is seldom fully the way we want it to be. But it is always there. Any time we focus on it, it is there, in its entirety. The solidity is not always in material form, dreams for instance, are a depiction of what's happening here and now within our minds. During meditation we can be fully present and even lose a sense of ourselves. The present moment can be scary, uncomfortable, angry. It can be constricted and tight or frighteningly without boundaries. We make it the way it is; this present moment is entirely a creation of who we are. When we investigate this moment deeply, we discover that our happiness, peacefulness and equanimity, depend not on our outward circumstances, but on our perception of our circumstances. Wealthy people as a group are not happier than slum dwellers, and on the whole they are not less happy either. We are happy, more or less of the time, dependent on our attitude about our circumstances and not on the circumstances of our lives themselves.

Living fully in the present moment is the ultimate creative act. It changes who we are. It changes how we relate to others and how we react to experiences. As we open more to the experience of how it is to be here, we expand into experiencing how it is for every being we interact with too. If we are fully present, we cannot be closed to the experience of someone whom we encounter in that moment. Fully present, by definition, includes not only our own experience, but also an empathic and open response to the experience of others. Fully open in this moment transcends the boundaries of self and other, of material physical reality, of emotional awareness, and of other dimensions of space.

Not only does this moment include an awareness of those around us, it also includes all of our past experiences, not only of ourselves, but also of the collective consciousness of all beings. We are who we are because of who we have been and how we interact with our surrounding external reality. 

This moment also includes our future potential.  How we experience this moment now, and how we respond to it, creates and forms the future moments; both ours and those of the people we interact with. We are entirely interdependent in terms of self and other, mind and body, time and space, form and being. 

There is no escaping the phenomenon of all is One. The meeting point for this interdependence is this very moment. This moment is the place where we creatively construct our lives.


Notice what is here, right now.
Include all the senses. 

What do you see? The colours, the time of day, close up and in the distance.

Close you eyes to increase your perception of your other senses.
What do you hear? The strident sounds, the subtle sounds, the silence beneath it all.
Can you be with these sounds without judgment?

What do you smell, and what is the taste in your mouth right now? Notice whether you like or dislike the smell and the taste, and let go of any judgment.

What are the sensations in your body? Externally on your skin - a breeze, the temperature, and internally - the areas of tension and those that are relaxed and calm. 
Can you feel these and allow them to be just the way they are?
How is your breathing, deep, shallow, slow, fast, easy anxious? Allow it.

Notice the thoughts that pass by, or churn through your mind. A myriad thoughts a second. Can you allow them to pass by without attaching to them and following them off on some story? Like clouds in the sky.

Notice your emotional state right now. Are you peaceful, anxious, resentful, bored, calm? Can you embrace that feeling the way you would a little child, without needing to fix or change it.

Be with it all. It does not need to be profound. Be with the ordinariness of breathing and of noticing what is here.  Focus your awareness on the simplicity and the complexity, the clarity and the confusion, the depth and the breadth of right here, right now. 

Staying with whatever is there, allows resolution. Breathe into the experience of nowness and be fully present to whatever is there.
Watch it change. The one certainty in life is that everything changes.
Breathe deeply and embrace this very moment.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Meditation 3. Meditation for connecting with the your highest potential.

Bring your attention into this moment…..

Visualize a sense of being in a place of peace and harmony. Feel the essence of that place in your body and allow it to calm and quieten your mind.

Allow the most beautiful potential of who you could be to emerge in your mind. What does this ideal potential you look like and feel like. Let the essence of this future you wash through you and experience his or her perfection; experience the particular aspect of perfection that you could potentially bring to the world. To anchor your perfect potential into your body here and now, let this aspect of you help you to release your tension so as to allow your perfect potential its full expression.

Begin by acknowledging and feeling the times when stress and haste and work have overwhelmed you, leaving you unable to cope with the pressure of juggling too many commitments at once. Hold these times soothingly, gently and patiently.

Acknowledge and feel the times when your world has fallen apart and left you stranded, alone and unprotected. Hold these times with compassion.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have felt depressed and life has seemed grey and dreary. Hold them with joy.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you've experienced sorrow and abandonment. Hold them with tenderness.

Acknowledge and feel the times when your mind has governed you in a tight grip of skewed perception; when anger, resentment or indignation have distorted your judgment, when you have ben subjected to uncontrolled emotions that do not belong to you, and that have caught you and held you hostage. Hold these times with equanimity.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have been caught by raging desire, so that rational, thoughtful behavior is no longer accessible. Hold these times with tranquility and peacefulness.

Acknowledge and feel the times when your mind has been deluded through ignorance or laziness or stubbornness, and hold these times with understanding and wisdom.

Acknowledge and feel the times when it has been necessary to compromise your integrity. Hold them with forgiveness.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have been overcome by envy and jealousy, and hold yourself with enough self love and joy that you are able to let them go.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have been avaricious. Hold them with a generosity of spirit.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have felt agitated and anxious. Hold these times calmly.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have experienced great pride. Hold yourself gently and humbly.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have felt genuine hatred for someone or something. Hold this time, yourself and the object of hatred with loving kindness.

Acknowledge and feel the times when you have judged yourself or others harshly. Hold yourself or them with affection.

Acknowledge and feel specific times of trauma in your life; times when life has felt most cruel to you, or when you have been most cruel to yourself or others. Hold these times with bountiful warmheartedness and care. Gently cradling them with the perfect potential of who you could be in a perfect life under perfect circumstances.

Now let the perfect potential of who you are show you how to be centered in the luminosity of your pure self. Let it show you how to be centered in its brilliance in the midst of all the circumstances of your life.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to stress and haste and overwork. Feel its patience and calm.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your world falling apart. Feel its compassion.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your depression. Feel its underlying joy.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to sorrow and abandonment. Feel its tenderness.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your anger and indignation. Feel its equanimity

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to raging desire. Feel its tranquility.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your deluded mind. Feel its understanding and wisdom.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to compromise. Feel its integrity.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your envy and jealously. Feel its ability to hold you with love.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to avarice - yours or others. Feel its generosity.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to anxiety and agitation. Feel its calmness.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your pride. Feel its humility.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your hatred. Feel its loving kindness.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to your judgment. Feel its affectivity.

Imagine how your luminous self would respond to the the times when life has been particularly cruel to you. Let it hold you with warm heartedness and care.

Let your perfect potential hold you gently, soothe you and release you from the stranglehold of past conditioning. Feel your perfect potential settling into the cells of your body. Breathe into the feeling, allow it to anchor and take hold and become a reality, right here and right now.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Meditation 4. Have You Ever Been Intimate With a Fly?

 Image © Alex Wild

Have you ever melted to the touch of a fly
as it caressed your cheek,
picked your nose,
and savoured the moisture in the corner creases of your lips?

Have you ever welcomed a fly buzzing at your ear orifice,
and let it guide you into the delicacy of the present moment?
Have you ever quietly opened to a fly's fascination for you,
and let go into its tender touch?

Have you ever recognized your fly as the gatekeeper to Shambhala,
and blindly followed it home to God?
Try it sometime. 
A fly is the most intimate of lovers.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Meditation 5. Armouring

My heart cracks open.
Its painful tenderness reveals
Lichen on the bamboo fence,
And rain-splattered sand.

We define ourselves by our limitations. They create our self image and make us who we are. If we were unlimited, un-constricted, undefended, we would be enlightened and would have no egoic sense of self to define us as separate beings. Fully conscious beings experience each moment without resistance or judgment, because they know there is nothing to protect themselves from, and that their core essence is unlimited and impossible to damage.

However, this 'me' person, vulnerable, fragile and sometimes angry, jealous or resentful, is showing me where I am damaged by my moment to moment reactions to my environment. It is the perfect tool for healing. That which I resist or cling to is an indication of what inside me is longing to be healed. 

As individuals, the difficulties we encounter on our life journeys, from birth trauma to sickness, grief and death, usually increase our armouring and defensive separation. We want our layers of armour to shield us from further suffering, but they also serve to block the integration of Oneness into our lives. When a painful experience is too difficult to deal with, we block it off and suppress it from our conscious perception. This creates a wall of defense around us that protects us from feeling the pain. Our defenses mean we are less vulnerable but also feel less deeply. Highly defended people seem closed hearted and are more difficult to interact with. Some people become strongly defended from relatively small traumas, others seem to experience adversity with little scarring and contraction. But unless we are enlightened, we all have layers of defenses, fortifying, barricading and protecting our inner core. 

The cracks in this armouring are often the places where we feel most deeply. These edges are the entrances to our essential selves – they indicate the path towards our centre. Beneath the armour may be the pain of the original hurt, but beneath the pain is the soft, pure core of our being, that is always undamaged, no matter the circumstances of our lives.

Where each of us suffers most poignantly, that exact experience is the entrance to the individualised perfection of what we bring to the collective consciousness on earth. Staying open to our the places where we have felt the most pain, leads us directly to our deepest truth. This truth is the gift we bring the world. This truth has the power and potential to transform it. Each crack in our armour is the exact place from which we bring heaven to earth, so that the Divine within us may experience itself. It is the meeting point of the Creator bursting forth into the Creation. Through the entrances at the edges of our pain, we reach the stillness within. Resting powerfully in our centres, life unfolds, appears and manifests in uncontrolled and magnificent form. It is rich beyond measure. 

And it is also absolutely ordinary, simply the experience of whatever is here right now - marmite toast, rain on the windows, blue-cold typing hands and a peaceful or painful heart.

Meditation 5. Enquiry.

A.H Almaas founder Diamond Approach and the Ridwhan School of Inquiry and Pema Chodrun from the Shambhala tradition, amongst others, have developed a meditation practice that involves looking deeply at the defenses we place around ourselves. 

Enquiry works best in groups of either two or three: A listener/questioner, a respondent and possibly an observer/listener.

A question is posed to the respondent who is given 4 or 5 minutes to enquire into their personal experience around the question, and to answer aloud. Except for the questioner occasionally repeating the question, the questioner and observer remain silent, and listen with full attention and care.

A good question for enquiry, that can be repeated daily for weeks or months is,
"What is keeping you from living with an open heart?"
Or "What is keeping you from being present now?"

As the speaker, if you struggle to think of responses, give yourself time, and wait to see what else arises.
As the listeners:
  • Allow for silence.
  • Listen without judgment, interruption or advice.
  • At the end of the 5 minutes, there is no attempt by the listeners to 'fix' anything. All we do is offer a listening space, so that the person involved in the enquiry can explore their feelings and their armouring for themselves. 

Pema Chodrun says,
“If your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that — then that will take you as far as you can go. And then you will understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.”

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Meditation 6. Shambhala Meditation

An easy way to bring joy into the practice of meditation is through the use of the imagination. Our imagination does not just represent a childish state of daydreaming, it is the language of our soul, and is rich with symbols and deeper levels of meaning. We are each entirely responsible for our own imagination as it belongs to each of us individually. Nobody else does our imagination for us, we don’t mimic it, and each person’s imagination reflects who he or she is on all the levels of their being. Imagination holds an authenticity that gives us information that is specific to our worldview and our individual reality. It is moulded and changed through the layers of consciousness it moves through as it arrives at our level of reality. If we are angry or suffering, our imagination is likely to reflect that. But it also holds deeper levels of meaning and significance that can guide us to interpret our reality in a different and more wholesome way. We can teach our imagination to see things in a particular way, and this perception will eventually filter through all the levels of our consciousness and change the matrix of who we perceive ourselves to be.

If meditation is about being open to the experience of this present moment, it might seem that imagination is an escape from what is happening here and now. Sometimes it’s very hard to stay present; sometimes this moment is so awful we don’t have the will or the stomach to stay with it. Finding a space of peaceful inner stillness and equanimity can assist us to turn back towards that which is difficult, and to face it without flinching. Let us call the state of inner peace ‘coming home’. Let us imagine that this state is our True Nature that is always unchanging at the core of our being. It is so, but if we don’t know it experientially yet, then we can initially imagine it to help us understand it better. For ease of reference let us call this place of coming home ‘Shambhala’. Shambhala is the archetype for Heaven on Earth. We access Shambhala through imagining ourselves merging with the stillness, the joy, wisdom, love and peace of a heavenly place. Shambhala can either be conceptualised as a place which exists on a different dimension to our third dimensional experience on Earth, or as an archetypal symbol for a heavenly state of being that we have the potential to access whilst on Earth in human form. In either form Shambhala represents deep within our psyches that place of wisdom, understanding and love where we are not separated into lonely beings struggling to be heard, seen and acknowledged in a frighteningly careless world.

This meditation process is one of turning things back to front initially. It often seems that the experience of life is one of harsh suffering for innumerable beings a good deal of the time, interspersed for some of us, with moments of joy. If we are to believe that our external circumstances are a reflection of our internal state, or to put it in new age jargon, that we create our own reality, then the possibility exists that we are causing life to be like this. So, the suggestion is, to kid ourselves initially, by imagining a different reality whilst experiencing this one. We imagine as fully as possible - with our minds, our emotions, our felt sense and our bodies - an archetype of heaven on earth, so as to begin to change how we feel inside. Having done so, we can turn our attention back to the experience of this present moment with a broader sense of spaciousness and a deeper level of commitment to stay calm and present to it.

Initially it therefore seems like we are deceiving ourselves by imagining a perfect heavenly realm on earth. However, if we can become peaceful, we have more resources with which to manage our conflicts. If we are spacious and non judgmental, we can see things from a broader perspective. If we are loving and compassionate, people respond differently to us. 

Stillness within creates stillness without. If we can be still and spacious and receptive to our boundary-less nature, then an inner trust begins to manifest externally. Sinking into the stillness, creates the conditions for it to percolate into our external world. Meeting the external world from the space of stillness, rather than busyness and distraction, changes our relationship with the world.

Not only do we become open to embracing all experiences, but as we do so, the experiences themselves align with our inner state of being and become more harmonious, reflective, and loving. If we can be still in the face of external hardship, we transmute into beings that are more substantial and reliable.

As a vision:
Shambhala is a place of caring, of calmness, of spacious peace. 
As a practice we:
  • ·       Imagine Shambhala as a place – the colours, smells, sounds, and perceptions of how it would feel to be there.
  • ·       Then we draw the quality and the feeling of that vision deep into our bodies to experience it as a physical sensation.
  • ·       Ultimately we allow that energy to flow out from us into the world.
Anchoring the felt sense of Shambhala into our experience destroys our illusion of being separate and alters our concept of ourselves in relation to our world, so that we can recognise that we are One.

We simply focus on the highest level of consciousness we are capable of imagining, and feeling and merge with that in the most embodied way. We can feel the beauty and light of this in the cells of our bodies, and it creates a sense of awe, of love and of bliss to emerge.

Settling into that place of stillness within, we let go and allow it to do its work of transforming us unimpeded. All we need to do is to trust and let go. As we do so, we become wiser and more loving. Peering out into the world through the eyes of a higher level of consciousness, we not only perceive it differently, but we also gain access to wider and deeper levels of wisdom, that weren't available available to us before.

This wisdom informs our outlook and it also anchors through us into the earth at large and transforms the collective consciousness, to a lesser or larger extent, depending on the level of consciousness we are accessing.
If we want to change the world we can only do it from within. As UNESCO claims,
Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.