© Barbara Stone, 1995
A newborn infant is totally dependent upon its parents for survival, and any experiences of loss or abandonment may lead to panic and association of fear with being isolated. When separation from both Spirit and the mother occur simultaneously, the child feels abandoned and totally vulnerable. So the first negative emotion to develop may be fear.
This guidebook will give you an opportunity to examine the separation hypothesis to see if it operates in your life especially in your past history. It will also cover the basics of Yoga psychology and consciousness, help you identify where you are on your journey and show you how to clarify your purpose in this life.
Easwaran, Eknath. The end of sorrow: The Bhagavad Gita for daily living, Vol. 1. Petaluma, CA: 1981.
Rama, Swami, Ballentine, R. & Ajaya, Swami. Yoga and psychotherapy: The evolution of consciousness. Honesdale, PA: Himalayan International Institute, 1981.
Johari, Harish. Chakras: Energy centers of transformation. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1987.
Radha, Swami Sivananda. Divine Light Invocation. Spokane, WA: Timeless Books, 1987.
Phillips, Rick. Emergence of the divine child: Healing the emotional body. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1990. Now republished as Windows to the soul.
Almaas, A.H. Essence: The Diamond Approach to inner realization. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1986.
Almaas, A.H. The pearl beyond price. Berkeley, CA: Diamond Press, 1990.
Easwaran, Eknath. The Upanishads. Petaluma, CA: 1987.
Levine, Stephen. A gradual awakening. Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1979.
Purce, Jill. The mystic spiral: Journey of the soul. NY: Thames & Hudson, 1980.
Small, J. Transformers:
The therapists of the future. Marina del Rey, CA: DeVorss, 1982.
Practices and Exercises:
The spiritual journey, which is not really a journey, is a process of clarification of who we are. There is a gradual removal of the veils of conditioning until we can see ourselves, finally, as an integral part of the Divine One. We find our way, often laboriously, back to the Source overcoming each of the separations as we systematically give up the unauthentic ideas, concepts, opinions and judgments we have learned to make about ourselves and reality.
The spiritual journey begins when we become aware that our lives are not satisfying any more, and nothing we do seems to make any difference in that. We intuitively feel that there is bound to be more joy, more peace, more fulfillment than we are presently experiencing. It's as if we know something about life and our place in it that we can't seem to quite bring to awareness. There's a heavy kind of darkness that hangs over us. Stress is the medium through which we conduct our daily business. We have struggled our whole lives to make things work, to find a place in the world, to become independent and support ourselves. We may have a loving mate. Perhaps we have created a family and are raising children. There's maybe a lovely home; and, if we work, our job is challenging. Why isn't this enough? It isn't enough because there's no Spirit in it. We have lost our connection to the Divine Source of all being. We wander aimlessly and try to nurture our loneliness, that loneliness that is most terrifying because we feel it in the midst of otherwise satisfying relationships. The search for wholeness is becoming acute.
How to Work
There are several guidelines for how to work. The eastern traditions claim that a guru is essential for the journey, and that may be true at higher levels of aspiration. However, everyone must begin with an examination of how social conditioning has influenced their lives, and I believe this can be done with somewhat less formal guidance. Therefore, the first three books will be dealing with personality: how it is formed, governed and integrated. The fourth book is transitional and the later ones will enable you to work with the higher levels of Self or Essence.
One way to insure your independence is to trust your own experience, a principle that was demonstrated by the Buddha and conveyed to his disciples and also to us. There is, in your heart center, what could be called a truth-tester. The answers to anything you question, and you must question everything, may be tested against this truth-tester. With some practice you will come to know how to determine whether something is true or not. That we have ceased to question is largely responsible for the success and rigidity of social hypnosis. Therefore, these guidebooks will call into question most of what you have learned to take for granted during your lifetime.
I should also add that no attempt has been made to make these materials internally consistent nor is any claim made with regard to their truth. The explanations are just information being passed along to you to serve as guideposts along the way. They are drawn from many different traditions that don't necessarily agree on their constructions of how or what reality is. However, you are using your own experience and truth-tester to see what is true for you. That, after all, is what really counts.
We learn not only from our own experience but from watching others. So it is not necessary to suffer all of the consequences of being wrong or making mistakes. However, it is wise to keep in mind that making mistakes is not wrong or bad. There is no need to punish yourself for them. Mistakes should be viewed as feedback, information that whatever you did was not the Way. Since humans are not perfect and it is likely that we are here on this planet to learn some lessons, mistakes are inevitable. However, learning from the mistakes of others can help us to avoid some pain. So you are advised to pay attention to what is going on around you - wake up and spare yourself!
Exercise: A Path with Heart
Please read the Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2 in A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield (1993). Jack is an American Buddhist who has had extensive training especially in meditation. Why do you suppose he begins with a chapter on love? Is loving-kindness a different sort of love from what you are used to? Why does Jack think love is so important? Do you agree? What is the war he talks about? Does his description of it resonate for you? In what ways? We will see later on that the word "war" is used by the Yogis as well, and also at the beginning of another spiritual classic, The Bhagavad Gita. Think about these questions a bit and make some notes in your journal on the things you may want to remember. This is a good habit to get into, so you can find ideas or inspirational passages later on when you need them.
Commitment is extremely important to the spiritual journey because inevitably there will be difficult or painful experiences and/or obstacles in your way. A deep sense of commitment to your own growth will help you stay on course when things get rough. This is not narcissistic. Far from it. Everyone who extends their own spiritual development changes the whole climate on this planet and probably in the entire universe because everything is connected, part of the One Whole Divine Being. Your commitment should extend to doing this work on a regular basis, some sort of a schedule if your life permits that. These books were designed to help you work independently because so many people have home, family and work commitments already that prevent them from attending regular classes. However, some time can be set aside during each week to cooperate with your own evolution, to use a phrase of Swami Radha's. The transformation process will proceed whether you do this or not, but it will speed up your development if you attend to it with conscious awareness. I assume that this is what you desire or you would not have been interested in doing this work.
Another critical factor is humility. You must be willing to admit there are things you don't know in order to become teachable. Ego doesn't like to admit this, so your first conflict may be over whether you need to do this work at all, followed by the thought that you already know it - whatever is being presented. The reason for so many exercises is to give you a personal experience of the teachings. Therefore, you can check the new information out for yourself in a very direct fashion. As well, you can re-examine your life to see if, indeed, you are right about whatever is in question. An open mind is essential, as is an open heart. But more about that later. This project will not be like school work because, although we will be calling it lessons, it is your own life and experience that is the content to be examined.
You will be asked to write down something about nearly every experience generated in these units. There is a definite reason for this: What you process, you remember, plus it then becomes available for later on. Reflection and introspection are critical skills to master so you can organize and integrate the new learning. For example, when trying to solve a problem, if you can get the parameters of it down on paper in front of you, you will not lose sight of any of the important facts or issues; whereas keeping them all simultaneously present in your mind may not be possible especially if there are a great many factors. Another part of this is that a good deal of what you will be working with are things the ego would rather not enjoin. Since ego's way of dealing with this is to forget or repress the unpleasant material, writing it down when it first surfaces insures it will not be lost or filtered out. To this end, you will be asked to keep a spiritual diary or log.
Exercises: Spiritual diary
1. Spiritual Diary. By the end of this book, you will have been asked to establish a partial set of spiritual practices: keep a diary, sign up and go to a regular Hatha Yoga class, meditate on a regular basis, and pray which is different from meditation. The latter three will be introduced in more detail later. For now, please acquire a large composition book or looseleaf notebook and begin your spiritual diary as soon as possible.
What goes in the diary? Anything you want to remember that is relevant to the passage you are making. That could be dreams and dream analyses, inspirational material, insights gathered from meditation or daily life, reflections on your life, experience, etc. The diary is then used to track your progress. If you re-read it every three months or so, you will be able to see how you have grown. It will also probably become apparent that your dreams are prophetic. Some people reflect on their day's experience every evening and write some notes in their diaries. Others set up goals they wish to achieve for a day, week, etc., then track their progress in achieving them. For example, one might set the goal of becoming more conscious in each moment of the day, living in the NOW. Or, more simply, to say something positive to each person met during the day. You get the drift.
A second use for the diary, and you may want to get another book just for this purpose, is to make notes on the exercises you will be doing. Some of them will ask you to write a paper. The other exercises you should work through on your own. That means trying to answer the questions asked and/or writing down what you have learned from the exercise in question. You'll be tempted not to do this when no one is checking up on you, but I urge you to get in the habit because reflection and writing down serve to fix the learning in your mind. It's a kind of rehearsal or practice. In addition, it requires a certain amount of thinking through that you might let slide otherwise. Reflection, in itself is very valuable, but the addition of recording your thoughts leads to a higher level of organization and assimilation of the new material.
2. The End of Sorrow:
Read Chapter 1 in The End of Sorrow (Easwaren, 1981) and make a few notes for yourself concerning the main points you understand. These notes are toward a reflective paper on the book when you are finished with it that will be a brief summary of the teachings in it. There is no right or wrong evaluation to be done of this work. It is solely for your benefit, so write down what is significant to you and to your search.
The Bhagavad Gita, from which The End of Sorrow and two other books on the Gita that we will be using are derived, is one of the major scriptures in the Hindu tradition, so it provides an excellent background for understanding the teachings of Yoga. You may already know that Yoga is the mystical path which comes out of Hinduism.
A major difference between western and eastern spiritual traditions is in the view of the ultimate goal. In western traditions it is unity with God or reunion, a relationship focus. In the eastern traditions, the focus is on identity with the Divine One: I am That, in other words. Buddhism is excepted as it disclaims personal identity or the existence of a Godhead.
The opening scene of The Bhagavad Gita is a battlefield. This is not to be taken literally but is a metaphor for the struggle between ego and the personality aspects within an individual. All of Arjuna's opponents may be seen as those personality aspects that prevent us from perceiving our divine identity. Krishna is the aspect of the Divine that is Cosmic Love. The Gita deals with three of the main types of Yoga: Jnana, Karma and Bhakti, six chapters on each. Jnana is the Yoga of knowledge and understanding which includes self-study. Karma is the Yoga of action and selfless service. And Bhakti is the Yoga of devotion and worship.
The End of Sorrow is the first of three books on The Gita written by Eknath Easwaren. There are six chapters of it in each book. See if you can tell which of the three types of Yoga are dealt with in this first book. The Gita is one of the greatest books in the world on the return part of the spiritual journey, so we will be following it throughout these guidebooks. Easwaren has written a commentary on each verse in the book in order to help us understand this teaching. He is a native of India who came to this country first on a Fulbright scholarship to teach English at The University of California at Berkeley. He now has an Ashram called The Blue Mountain Meditation Center in Tomales, California. People go there for retreats and to study with him.
Assessing Where I am and Where I Want to Go
The universe is not particular about good and evil. Both are always present for us to accept, confront, ignore or engage in struggle. Which we choose to do is solely our choice. Every religious tradition has something to say about good and evil, and mostly they are trying to optimize the former at the expense of the latter. At some point, love comes into the picture, and we are often advised to love our enemies. Or we are told that love is the basic energy of the universe, and that all we must do is learn how to love - or how to be compassionate, engage in loving kindness or unconditional love. All mean about the same thing. Another frequent admonition is to love ourselves in order that we may be able to love others.
But the hitch comes when we try to carry out these instructions. How do I love my enemy, or those who have injured me in my lifetime? How, for that matter, do I love myself when I perceive that I am imperfect, somewhat ugly and far from measuring up to my standards of what a good person should be? When, no matter how hard I try, I keep slipping backwards into whichever of the seven deadly sins is my particular weakness? There must be some intermediate steps since I obviously can't pull myself up by my bootstraps.
Three of these steps I know about from my own experience. One is understanding of my own life and choices and also understanding of others. The next step is acceptance and the last is forgiveness. Understanding comes first. If I understand, for instance, why a parent, in terms of his/her own life experience was unable to reach out to me in love, then I am better able to accept his or her behavior toward me. Next, if I can find a way to accept the facts, in spite of whether they are what I want or not, I am ready to begin to forgive him/her. Forgiveness, in turn, enables me to release the past and anticipate the future with hope and joy.
The understanding and the acceptance may involve my own behavior, so I need to be prepared for that. For instance, in working through my own issues with my parents, I found to my very great surprise that instead of my parents rejecting me as I had assumed all my life; I had, in fact, rejected them. They were serving as a mirror to me, so I might see myself. This is called projection and it is a very widespread phenomenon after the age when ego is mature, about five years old. Generally, the word means that I am seeing in someone else something I do not wish to acknowledge in myself. Some theorists go so far as to say that we cannot ever really see or understand another person because of our own images projected upon them. Regardless of whether this is strictly true, it is common enough that we need to examine ourselves thoroughly so we can be clear enough to be sure. This is what the first three guidebooks will be encouraging you to do.
Exercises: Life Assessment
1. Values Clarification. This takes the form of a Values Hierarchy, so your rational mind gets a chance to shine. This exercise will give you a sense of what is important in your life, what you want and care about, and what has value for you.
Directions: Gather a quantity of small pieces of paper, perhaps post-it notes, and a large piece of paper (newsprint is great for this), also a pencil or pen. Find a large space where you can lay out the pieces of paper and a quiet time to concentrate.
On separate pieces
of the little papers for each, write down all the things you care about and
want in your life from the most abstract (such as Justice) to the most mundane
(such as more money). When you have done this, begin to arrange the pieces
of paper on the larger sheet in a pyramidal hierarchy so that the most important
things are on top and the least important are on the bottom. This arrangement
gives you an opportunity to group them in "families" if you so desire. For
instance, "more money" might belong to a family called "possessions." If you
decide to do it this way, and you don't have to, you may need to create the
family names for the sake of organization. Use lines to connect things that
are related. [A general rule is that the vertical dimension indicates similarity
in some way and also inclusion or level of generality. The horizontal dimension
shows differences between concepts. For Example: See diagram that follows]
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Alley Lions Tigers Coyotes Sheepdogs
Any form you decide to create is right for you. However, it should be clear that what you value the most is on top of the pile followed by those of lesser value lower down. The pyramidal pattern gives you more scope than a simple list and enables you to show relationships. If you really want to get into it, you could make a three-dimensional form and attach your value pieces to that. This latter isn't necessary but can be fun. Make some notes in your diary about what you learned.
2. Ideals. Our lives are guided by what we value, and many of us pay tribute to this at New Years by making resolutions. It is a good idea once a year, perhaps on your birthday, to review your life (for this the diary is handy) and decide on a characteristic you would like to develop in yourself during the coming year. Making a commitment to such an idea can result in astounding changes in your life if you are able to maintain a connection with it. You can begin to do this by working with your ideals on paper.
Trying to forget what you came up with during the Values Clarification, make a list of all the things you want (just today will do). Then diagram them in whatever form shows their relationships. Next make another list of all the things you really, actually need - to survive, to make life possible for you, to optimize your potential. Give this list some really serious thought. Take a couple of days if necessary to incubate it. Diagram this list and arrange in order of importance. Then compare your two lists. What is the difference, if any, between your wants and needs? Do you need to revise your Values Hierarchy? If so, do so. [This is why post-it notes are handy.]
Next, consider how you might change your life and behavior to achieve or optimize the things you need. It is important to get down on the concrete level when you do this. Abstract principles and ideas are entertaining but not of much use unless you determine how they will manifest in your life. So what would your life look like, and how would it be different, if you manifested each of these important needs? Be behaviorally objective. Look at the problem from the standpoint of someone else who is not involved. What would that person have to see you do in order to agree you had reached your goals? What obstacles are standing in your way? List them. Are any of these obstacles mental? Psychological? Emotional?
We have the power to manifest anything we wish to. Do you believe that? If not, ask yourself, "what is belief?" Swami Venkatesananda pointed out that the word "belief" contains the word "lie." If we have experiential knowledge, we don't have to believe what someone else tells us. So is that principle of manifestation working in your life? If not, what is preventing it? Do you believe you can't?
If we are going to take responsibility for our lives, we have to give attention to meeting our own needs. It is not appropriate to expect someone else to if one is an adult, not even a mate - especially a mate. Expectation of a mate's meeting our needs results in a reduction of the relationship to an exchange of favors. Those kinds of expectations are social games which attempt to shift responsibility to someone else who, more often than not, gets blamed if life doesn't bring all the person desires. These patterns are learned during one's lifetime; and, for this reason, can be unlearned or extinguished.
Herein lies true freedom - the release from others' expectations and need for their approval. This is not to say that being with another person doesn't meet some needs. Obviously that is the case, for example there is a need for contact, for friendship, for sex, etc. We are talking here about the responsibility for meeting those needs. I choose who to be with, how I am going to relate to that person and what I am going to ask for, as well as how I will respond if I am refused. I also choose which needs to highlight in my life and, perhaps which ones to renounce if that seems appropriate.
3. Life Assessment. Read and take notes on The End of Sorrow, Chapter 2. What is meant by the "illumined man (or woman)? What does Krishna mean by "There has never been a time when you and I and the kings gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist?" How can it be that "We were never born, we will never die; we have never undergone change, we can never undergo change?" Who is the Self? Why does Krishna insist that Arjuna fight? What are the principles of Yoga? According to Easwaran, what is the difference between theory and practice? What is Yoga according to Krishna, and what does he mean by samatyam? Verses 55-72 are seen as a classic statement about who we are. Why do you think that is?
4. Paper on Own Life. Please write a 3-5 page paper on what you have learned about yourself and your life during this unit. You might want to look back over each exercise and see what, specifically, it has meant to you, how it has changed your life and/or contributed to your spiritual journey. If you are going to send the paper to House of Spirit in order to be admitted to the chat room, it should clearly indicate the work you have done.
Easwaran, Eknath. The end of sorrow: The Bhagavad Gita for daily living, Vol. 1. Petaluma, CA: 1981.
Kornfield, Jack. A path with heart: A guide through the perils and promises of spiritual life. NY: Bantam, 1993.
You are now ready for Unit 2. Spiritual Journey, Need for Meaning. That unit presents several different visions of the spiritual journey and a description of the stages in it. There's an introduction to Yoga and an opportunity to look at your own life as a journey.