I write today on the tail of my topic from the other day on spiritual practice, or sadhana. You can read that here.
My inspiration is stimulated through my studies of the work of a psychoanalyst by the name of Robert Moore, whose material I came across about a year ago when I was deep in the study of initiation and ritual processes. I discovered Moore's work while seeking to understanding the nature of spiritual transformation in the human psyche, and through his work but also the peripheral work of other great psychologists such as Freud and Jung, to name but a few, what I've been discovering and piecing together is quite astounding. I will attempt to synthesize my thoughts here as writing is a way that I can do this.
During our 21 day program with Keepers of the Earth, a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training course that completed in February, we dove into some of these topics as they are very relevant to the spiritual practitioner. One of the lectures I gave was deeply inspired by a concept or framework that Robert Moore talks about called "the Courage to Be Transformed". What I attempted to do in the training through my teaching was to give my students a roadmap and an understanding of the great struggle for life that we are all faced with. I believe that understanding our struggle is a fundamental piece for what helps us understand our spiritual path, and helps us orient to our "work" from a holistic and effective place. IF we are going to do "work" on ourselves, we want our work to be effective. We hope that our efforts bring us more joy, ease, and grace. At least, I believe that the inspiration to live "a better life" is what propels us to seek spirituality in the first place...
What is "the Courage to Be"? According to Moore (and others, but I will reference Moore for the last time now and proceed to share my insights from his work), all humans are faced with the fundamental existential crisis of Being. We open our eyes, and we see a world. In the yogic perspective, the world we see is the world of maya, or duality. No matter what or where we are, there is a world "out there" to contend with. And there are forces in this world that want to destroy us. There are also forces within us that want to destroy us. To destroy life, you could say. There is the reality of death, a very real existential thing. Subsequently, we could say that there are oppositional energies that make it difficult for us to manifest our Highest Self, where our "highest Self" is the greatest and fullest manifestation of you that could be, with your given characteristics and qualities. This Great Conflict is the mythological battle told in many ways, through countless narratives and within so many traditions. This is the contention between good and evil. The "Courage to Be" is the willingness to make a stand against the forces that want to bring us down and to pursue a life of virtue and goodness, despite the odds, oftentimes, beings stacked against us.
No matter a person's caste, creed, belief, religion, race, culture, identity, race, or "grouping" of any kind, each person faces this existential crisis. You could say that this crisis is fundamental to being human. This is a good place to start, as we can begin to clarify a universal framework that may help us navigate out of the abyss of our existential misery into, one might say, a life of alignment with the Divine. Now, of course we have to understand & define what we mean by "Divine", and that is not the subject of this essay, although one might be able to generate their own conclusion on this. I would simplify it here by saying that the manifestation of the Divine is the manifestation of the greatest goodness one could possible do or be with their life. The highest level of personal achievement one can attain in this lifetime. I would say that this has nothing to do with money or material success but rather is related solely to virtue. A person who attains their Divinity lives a life of spiritual success. Qualities such as happiness, friendliness, compassion, generosity, charity and etc are visibly manifest in their reality. This person is at peace with this cosmos, for they understand the plight we all face and has taken steps within themselves to create order from the chaos. Again, doesn't matter a person's background; the final result is the same. A life (and psyche) that is completely integrated and aligned with the natural laws of the Universe.
We are all up against this challenge. Some people are in denial of it, others are making their best attempt to set things right in their lives. Others still, with the best intentions, are trying to create order from chaos and yet they are actually inflicting harm on others, unconsciously. Why is this happening?
In the Courage to Be, we can begin to understand the complexity of this fundamental existential problem. Allow me to explain.
All religious technology is and has been an attempt by humans to help humans relate to the Universal Energy. There is a Universal Energy -- its all around us, and it is in us. This Energy is moving through us and manifesting our life and situation. In Yoga, this is called kundalini. Kundalini is a concept that helps us understand the impersonal, natural force that drives evolution. Every single one of our cells is propelled by evolutionary momentum. Every thing is striving to be. And to take it a step further, every thing, including ourselves, is in an effort to become. But become what?
Back to the idea of this Universal Energy and our relationship to it. Humans have long understood that there is a force beyond the ego where all creativity and inspiration emerges. For renewal to happen in our lives, and consequently in our communities and society at large, one must tap into the infinite reservoir of life energy bubbling up from beneath the surface of us. One must dive within themselves to discover what they are made of, essentially, and bring this to the surface for Creation to take place. If this is not done successfully, this life-energy remains trapped or otherwise un-potentiated. This is what is meant by the yogic teaching: "kundalini energy remains dormant at the base of the spine." A person who wants to transform themselves has to some way align with the creative energy within them and bring it into manifestation. However, this requires tremendous courage.
For the average person, since less energy is required to look out into the world and see problems "out there" than to face the problems "in here", they remain stuck and trapped in a world of disillusionment. Essentially, they abandon the idea that they can do anything significant with life, even though deep down there is an intuition screaming at them "there is something more than this." This happens because, as I mentioned, more energy is required to look inside and face the problems "in here". If we are disconnected from The Energy, even though we might know what to do, we cannot do anything about it. Hence the use of sacred technology, ritual, plant medicine, etc. All of these are our best attempts to generate the appropriate energy needed to take the actions necessary to make things different.
A person must be able to identify their connection to this Source energy. They must build a relationship to it, and then they must learn to regulate it. It's not enough to have power; we must have power in a regulated way. If we are possessed by too much power -- sometimes a person has too much freedom but not enough structure -- our lives can end up in chaos. The creative force is moving through us too powerfully in an unregulated way. This is exactly what happens to rockstars and why many of them die so young. The creative force of life is POWERFUL. It WANTS to LIVE! It wants to BE! And it is propelling us all in our lives, whether we know it or not. If we fail to acknowledge it's presence, it will destroy us, one way or another. This is precisely what the wisdom sciences of Yoga and Tantra try to teach us. They teach us how to align properly with this force so that we can use it effectively, creatively and wisely in our lives to produce the greatest good.
As we build our relationship to Source energy, our next step is generating a vision for where we want to go. How we want life to look. What our deepest dreams and aspirations are. This is necessary to create the structure needed to begin walking our path. Too much energy and not enough structure, as I mentioned, leads to more chaos and disorganization. We've got to get organized in our strategies. Having a clear vision is essential once energy starts to flow, because that energy wants to flow and it needs to flow into something.
With a vision, the next step is having the courage to take a stand against all of those things that want to take you away from that vision. Think of patterns, habits, behaviors, conditions, personal narratives and beliefs. We must be clear with ourselves about where we are. This requires energy, too! To really honestly examine our life and take clear stock of what's happening is no small feat. As I mentioned above, many people would rather live in denial of this and see instead the problems outside. There is an incredible amount of work available for us to do inside -- why would we even bother with wasting our energy on things outside of our control? Taking the turn inward is the beginning of regulating the energy that is flowing in our life. And we need to be connected to this energy to even have the courage to take the stand needed to create order from chaos.
As one takes a stand for what is true, all the forces of darkness come to contend with them. All the forces of disorder and chaos in their life are no in stark contrast to the pursuit of light and goodness. Uh-oh. This is where a person often turns back, or "goes back to sleep" . We started to awaken to possibility, and we may have even started taking steps in our life to move in a better direction... and all the friction starts to reveal itself. When you begin to shine, things come out of nowhere to drag you down. This is no reason to lose sight of the vision. You must persevere. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a 15th century text on Hatha Yoga, there is a beautiful teaching around "The Six Keys to Success". I want to share the first two with her here, as these two can really help a person who is at this initial stage of awakening. The first key is enthusiasm. We must have enthusiasm as we set out. Of course, it is easy to be enthusiastic when you are presented with a clear image of where you might end up if you start getting your life in order... but when things get tough, that enthusiasm dwindles rapidly. Don't lose your enthusiasm! The second key is perseverance. We must be able to persevere despite all obstacles. Things will try to drag you down and distract you from the true path. It is inevitable. Do not be discouraged. Maintain focus and continue.
Armed with enthusiasm and perseverance, the aspirant starts to be a real force to be contended with. Their spiritual practice which helps them connect to the Source of Energy and regulate the power that comes from this connection is their fuel. Their heart's intention is their compass. And the dream of the soul is their destination.
You, me... we all must understand the real battle we are fighting. And the forces of our psyche that are trying to hold us back. We can easily be disconnected from life and unregulated with our creative energy. We can easily be so in pursuit of freedom that we forget the structures that channel our free energy towards a higher goal. We can so easily be confused at the state of the world around us that we end up losing our centeredness and integration and fall into being a victim of circumstance. To take our power back and to make a stand against all of this is the spiritual path. This is what leads us to realize our own Divinity, to understand God and Creation. These are fundamental to all humans and religion has attempted to help us understand this, and it can, but it can also be misconstrued. True spiritual life occurs in the person who starts to see the real struggle we are facing and seeks to align themselves with the Higher Goal of life. From there, all success is possible.
These are concepts but in our own analysis we may be able to see them playing out in our lives. There is a very practical side to spirituality. We must not turn a blind eye to wisdom, or pretend that we know. There is a real risk of becoming grandiose in our thinking, believing that we have it all figured out. We might never escape the challenge of being, and it is possible that we will always, in some way, be in a struggle to be, to become. This must be embraced and understood. Life wants to LIVE. Through you. Through me. Through us. And, through our alignment with life, we discover what we are made of, after all.