After-Mom

I’ve recently taken an interest in lucid dreaming, especially its potential as a tool in exploring consciousness, investigating the psyche, and gaining psychological insights. In beginning this practice it’s useful to know the landscape of one’s dreams so I’ve begun keeping a dream journal to record my dreams. Additionally, I’ve been going through my personal journal in which I’ve recorded remembered dreams over the years and transcribed them in dream journals. In the process I came across a dream about my mother I had a couple of years ago and it brought to mind a couple of other experiences I’ve had since her passing.

Since she left her body on 21 May 2008, I’ve had several moments when she has touched me in in a significant way. These moments don’t confirm any particular belief in life after death, an afterlife, rebirth or reincarnation, but they touched me deeply, nonetheless. I don’t subscribe to any religious persuasion nor do I consider myself particularly spiritual. However, I am open to such possibilities and I strongly suspect that there is something that lies beyond our range of perception and our concepts of conventional waking reality.

The first two events are extracted from my Padawan Yogi blog (no longer online) and the third is from a dream I had and is extracted with notes from my dream journal.

Chants for Ma Kirtan
Sun, 08 May 2011

Michael and Melissa led a wonderful Chants for Ma Mothers’ Day Kirtan this morning. I’ve enjoyed the energy of the kirtans I’ve attended but this simple kirtan really moved me in a profound way. The first chant, Jai Ma, opened something inside me and a lot of feelings and emotions came to the surface. I had tears on my cheeks and my voice was breaking. It’s hard to describe but it was powerful and intense. At the time I wasn’t able to identify the feelings, it was just raw emotion. Looking back I can only guess the predominant feelings were love and loss. Even several hours after the kirtan, the intensity had ebbed but the feelings still weighed heavily on my heart.

My mother passed on three years ago this month and on Mothers’ Day she was going through the process of dying so I guess I’m always going to have that association with the day. The kirtan obviously triggered something inside me and brought it to the surface. Maybe I’d been holding them in for the past three years and they needed to come out.

03-17-2013 Meditation & Yoga
Sun, 17 Mar 2013

My practice since injuring my shoulder in October has been sporadic and it shows. My pranayama, asana and meditation practices have all shown obvious signs of neglect. Now with spring coming and my shoulder almost fully recovered , along with a couple of good sessions, I’m feeling motivated to get my sadhana back on track. My good friend and teacher, Melissa, will be leading a week-long spring detox next month and the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that I should do it. Hopefully, I’ll have more success than I had with the fall detox. If I can at least become semi-competent at making kitcheri, I should do alright.

I had a good home practice yesterday. Parts of it were challenging but I worked my edge and it felt good. For the first time in nearly five months, I was able to do Savasana in relative comfort without placing a blanket or something under my head. It seems strange that a pose like Savasana would give me such difficulty. I’m happy that my shoulder is finally almost healed. It’s not 100 percent yet but it’s getting close.

This morning I made the effort to make it to Melissa’s guided meditation class and her hatha yoga class at Day Yoga Studio. They were my first Sunday classes with her since she stopped holding them at S.W.O.R.D. back in September. I found that, while I enjoy classes by other teachers, I really missed Melissa’s classes. Her Sunday mediation and yoga classes will be a priority.

This morning’s meditation was a heart meditation using visualization, drawing in what you wanted to bring into your life and releasing that which you wanted to let go of. I have a little trouble imagining the process she describes but often, into the meditation, a vision will form. I saw white, fluffy clouds and in one cloud there was a hole through which I could see bright blue sky. Occasionally, I could see a refracted ray of sunshine on the edge of the hole. I don’t know if this has any significance or how it relates to the meditation, but that’s what appeared to me.

In the time between the meditation and the asana class, I rested in Supta Baddha Konasana, resting my shoulder blades and the back of my head on blocks. I find it quite relaxing along with being a nice hip opener, back bend, and heart opener. It turned out that she would have us start the class reclined either on a bolster or on blocks.

The class itself was challenging, keeping me at my edge. No particular pose or sequence stands out; it was all good. Again, Savasana was quite comfortable and without props.

Toward the end of Savasana, thoughts about death popped up. They were mostly about deaths in my family, particularly my mother and my paternal grandmother. One thought that came up was that my mother’s atman had either been reborn or was about to be and the body she occupied was (or would be) nearby. There was another recent death that appeared in my thoughts. It wasn’t anyone I knew personally but her unfortunate and random death in Afghanistan had touched my heart. I acknowledged the thoughts and let them go.

It was nice to talk to Melissa for a few moments after each class about my shoulder injury and my practice. She has always been one of my favorite teachers and I’ve learned so much from her.

30 June 2015 Dream
I see my mother and give her a hug. While hugging her I feel a sensation of unconditional love, untainted by any feelings of sadness, grief, or loss. I felt that I had transcended to a higher level of consciousness.

Notes: The dream resonated with me for several days afterward. I found it interesting that in the dream and when reflecting upon it later I felt no sadness or grief. If anything, I felt a sense of relief and it may have signaled an official end to my grieving.

See also: Ninth year remembrance

Friday Update (03-10-17)

What I’m reading
I finished Co-ed Naked Philosophy by Will Forest. About halfway through the book I began to find that many of the clichéd nudist slogans, some of the improbable scenarios, and unbelievable conflict resolutions were getting a bit tiresome. I put my Kindle aside and thought about it a while. I began to think of the novel as kind of a “what-if” scenario and a possibility that I could envision. I suspended the rationality of the current reality and let this alternate reality take hold in my imagination. That renewed my interest and I followed the story to its inevitable happy ending where everything worked out and everyone lived happily ever after. I hope I didn’t spoil it for anyone.

It seemed logical to start Forest’s most recent novel, Aglow which I finished in a day. Admittedly, it took me a few chapters to get into it but once I did, it turned out to be quite interesting. In many ways, I enjoyed Aglow more than Co-ed Naked Philosophy.

On Wednesday I read The Timebound Traveler by David Newman, a kirtan artist and a Bhakti yogi. Although I’m not particularly spiritual, spirituality is an area I like to explore and this book was a wonderful exploration.

Yesterday I got started on In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality by John Gribbin. It’s not light reading but quantum physics is interesting.

Healthy stuff I’m doing
I’ve been faithful to the treadmill and I’ve found that the time passes much more quickly whilst I’m walking. I set up my Kindle on the treadmill’s shelf and start walking and reading. Before I know it, the workout is done. I’m also starting to work some yoga into my workout.

I’m making an effort to track what I eat and log the carbohydrates I consume. In 2008 I was diagnosed as per-diabetic and urged to count carbohydrates as means of managing my blood glucose. After doing this a while I noticed that I was also shedding weight since I was consuming fewer carbohydrates to be turned into fat. Of course, it’s too early to see any effects but fewer carbohydrates and more exercise should work well.

Movie I enjoyed
I watched the Mel Brooks classic, Blazing Saddles, a movie that never gets old. It probably never will grow old as long as bigotry, prejudice, and racism exist.

Weekend plans
There’s another DWB house party on Saturday night and although I’ve RSVP’d the hosts, I’m not sure I’ll attend. Social nudity doesn’t seem to have as high a priority in my life as it once did. Being nude is my preferred state and I enjoy the freedom and comfort as well as the other benefits one derives from being nude but sharing it with others is not a necessity. Oftentimes it’s not even sought. I tend to be introspective so nude solitude seems to be a natural preference.

Sunday will likely be taken up with the Sayaw dance practice. I’m not a dancer but I support my granddaughter’s participation. I love that she’s embracing that part of her heritage.

Quotes I’m pondering
“You can’t manage to avoid your own true nature forever. It’s a wonder anybody manages it at all.” ~ Jed McKenna

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~ Alan Watts

“Waking up is not a spiritual path, but the simple recognition of who we are. “ ~– David Newman, aka Durga Das, The Timebound Traveler

The quotes are all from David Newman’s book, The Timebound Traveler: How My Journey as a Seeker Came to an End. For me, these quotes, as well as the book itself, appealed to me in a couple of different ways. It resonates with the thoughts I’ve expressed recently about how we are at war with our natural selves which includes our physical, mental and spiritual natures. The book helped me clarify some things about my own spiritual path. In many of my yoga classes and workshops that dealt with yoga philosophy there was always the idea of being a spiritual seeker. Yet in The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells us to act without expectations. Doesn’t the very nature of seeking imply the expectation of finding what you seek? And if we don’t find it, don’t we become frustrated and we suffer? Maybe we just need to follow our practice, let go of our expectations, and trust that through grace, when the time is right, you’ll awaken?

No religion yet on a path

It’s not often that I remember my dreams. Usually, all I have after waking up are disjointed fragments that usually fade within a few moments of opening my eyes.  That said, occasionally one of these fragments will stick with me. Such was the case when I woke up yesterday. In this dream I was being interviewed for something and one of the interviewers asked me about my religious beliefs. I responded that I had no religion and followed no sect but I did endeavor to follow the precepts of The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path that were taught by the Buddha.

It’s true that I don’t subscribe to any religion to include Buddhism. On the other hand, I do find Buddhism interesting and much of what I’ve read, makes more sense to me than many other religions. Most of my knowledge of Buddhist thought comes from The Teaching of Buddha by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai. My daughter-in-law gave me the book several years ago and I’ve read it several times and I’m currently reading it yet again. I’ve also read a couple of books by Pema Chödrön. Other than that, my exposure to Buddhism has been online. So, I wouldn’t say that I’m a practicing Buddhist.

Maybe this dream fragment is a revelation or a not so subtle hint about my spiritual path. At the moment, I can’t say for sure what significance it has. It might not have any but it’s still an interesting prospect and a direction that bears looking into. I have kind of stuck on the path for the past couple of years so maybe it’s a finger pointing out a possible direction out of my rut.

An Atheist in Denial? Does it really matter?

How I Went from Being a Southern Baptist Preacher’s Daughter to an Open Atheist was interesting to read. Lately, I’ve been reading Facebook posts and watching videos by the Godless Engineer and Timothy Havener. I tend to relate a little better to Havener’s perspective; the Godless Engineer presents good logical arguments but he seems to be coming from a place of anger.

I didn’t have much in the way of religious indoctrination growing up other than Grandma Sophie dragging me to JW meetings and her frequent preaching. I have vague recollections of Vacation Bible School at the Baptist church downtown but nothing that sank in. Christian ideology was present in the culture; I was well aware it and, to a degree knowledgeable of it. For most of my life I was content with a Christian identity of “non-church goer.”

It’s probably only been in the last decade that I’ve given a lot of thought to spiritual ideas. Working with the assumption that I was, by default, Christian, I attempted to read the Bible. I think I got less than halfway through the Old Testament and read three of the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). I found some some of the ideas attributed to Jesus interesting and inspiring but nothing that inspired belief and faith. Later investigations of Eastern spiritual ideas put many of those ideas into a different perspective but still nothing I could cling to.

I began to formulate my own ideas about the Divine, the spirit, and the soul, drawing on things I’d had casual exposure to when I was younger. I read some about the teachings of the Buddha and found that, at a basic level, Buddhism made much more sense to me than anything I’d heard or read in Christianity. My study of yoga philosophy and Buddhism supported many ideas I’d held for quite some time and further separated me from my Christian assumptions. Finally, I let go of the assumption of Christianity as the default and realized that I didn’t not need religion or a religious identity to be spiritual, to lead a holy life, or to be a good person. I have no need for salvation for there is nothing from which to be saved except my own ignorance and desires which are the cause of my suffering. My soul is Divine in its essence, unchanging, and immortal.

I shed the Christian identity and, to a point, only loosely identified as agnostic in that I admitted I don’t know, which is what agnostic means. I’ve drawn the line at calling myself an atheist because I have concepts of Divinity, not as a supreme being, but as a force, an ultimate source of energy in the Universe, or a Cosmic Consciousness. Lately, however, I’ve been pondering the thought that I may be an atheist in denial.

I’ve been reading and listening to Ram Dass lately and trying to come to grips with the concept of transcending the rational mind and go beyond what I can observe and know with my senses. Transcending the rational mind leads into the realm of faith and knowing things intuitively. My rational mind still has a desire to give name and form to what it intellectually knows is beyond name and form, creating a paradox that it can’t deal with at this stage of my spiritual evolution.

I’m certain that there is something beyond what we can detect and measure with our senses or our science, subtle forms of energy or even matter, subtle forces, planes of consciousness and existence that are, as yet, intangible to us. Because they are unknown and mysterious to us, it’s convenient to attribute them to God. There’s nothing wrong with that but we have to be careful of falling into the trap of allowing the mysteries become ideology and dogma that bind us to suffering, making us slaves to the belief, and veiling ourselves from our own Divinity.

Did Jesus fake his death and resurrection?

This is an idea, Just one possible scenario, that I’ve toyed with for a number of years. I’m sure that most Christians would find it blasphemous or heretical, if not downright offensive since it goes against one of the most fundamental beliefs of Christianity, his Resurrection and ascent into Heaven.

  • At an early age (the age of 12), Jesus showed exceptional understanding and knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures (Luke 3:40-52). We can deduce that he had an inquisitive mind and sought spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
  • The Canonical Gospels do not say any thing more about his life after this point. All the Canonical Gospels take up the story again with John the Baptist and Jesus being baptized. Many biblical scholars believe that Jesus would have been about 30 then.
  • We can only speculate about the intervening years but it’s quite probable that Jesus would have encountered merchants and travelers from the East and he would have discussed spiritual matters with them and learned of their religions.
  • There are stories and legends of Jesus, as well as Jewish communities, in India so there is a possibility that he may have traveled there and stayed for a number of years. He could have conceivably spent time in Buddhist monasteries or in ashrams, learning about Buddhist and Vedic teachings as well as yoga practices.
  • Many of his teachings in the Canonical and Gnostic gospels appear to have Eastern influences, suggesting more than casual exposure to Eastern spiritual ideas.
  • He may have carefully chosen his disciples and taught them individually based upon their temperament, aptitude, and readiness to accept the teachings.
  • It’s possible that, at some point in his ministry, he began to formulate a plan to bring about the Old Testament prophecies and fulfill the messiah prophesy.
  • He was quite knowledgeable about the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of a messiah and the Gospels tell us that he manipulated events to fulfill them. (Mark 11, Luke 19:20-44, John 12:12-19)
  • As part of his plan, he quite likely set up Judas to “betray” him.
  • Crucifixion as practiced by the Romans was a slow and agonizing death by asphyxiation and exposure to the elements, and often took as long as three days before the victims died. The Canonical Gospels tell us that he died in just six hours then was removed from the cross and taken to the tomb before the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday.
    • If he had spent a considerable amount of time at an ashram in India, he could have learned yoga practices that would have enabled him to transcend the pain, and slow his breathing and heartbeat to a point where it would have been imperceptible to the average person.
    • His body was quickly wrapped in a shroud and taken to a nearby tomb which had been procured by Joseph of Arimathea. It’s probable that Josesph of Arimathea could have secreted food, clothing, and other necessities in the tomb for him.
    • Since it was highly unlikely that the tomb would be disturbed before the end of the Sabbath, Jesus would have had time to clean himself up, attend to his wounds, and begin to recuperate.
  • On Sunday morning, he appeared before Mary Magdalene and the other women who came to anoint his body. When they saw him “risen” they were convinced that the prophecies had been fulfilled. Mary told the disciples what she saw and he appeared to them as well, further confirming the prophecies.
  • Having established himself in the minds of his followers that he was the Messiah and had risen from the dead as prophesied, he made his way out of the Roman Empire to India where he lived out the rest of his days.

buddha-jesus.gifjesus-the-yogi

Believe nothing. Question Everything.

Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.

The Buddha

The article, 9 Questions That Atheists Might Find Insulting (And the Answers) by Greta Christina, was interesting. I don’t claim to be an atheist though I can appreciate many of their arguments. It’s really none of my business what you believe as long you don’t impose your beliefs on others. I may not perceive the Divine (or God) in the same as you but that doesn’t mean either of us is wrong. Your belief in God is real to you but I don’t need to be convinced that your belief should be my reality. Likewise, I have no need to convince you that my perception of the Divine also should be your perception. My reality should not be your reality.

I’m a little surprised that didn’t get comments on my Facebook meme when I said, “I abandoned the assumption of having religion and that has been spiritually liberating.” Maybe people did react to it but didn’t say anything. That wasn’t a statement of non-belief or anything like that. I simply meant that I do not assume that having a religion or being part of one is necessary and that I don’t feel any obligation to follow any particular dogma or set of scriptures or belief system. I don’t renounce religion. Rather I renounce the attachment to the label of a religion.

Claiming a religion can be very limiting. It’s really a label, an identity, a way of defining yourself. Many people are very attached to those labels and identities and some will fight to the death to defend them. That isn’t always healthy as attachments often limit personal and spiritual growth. Growth often requires that we leave our comfort zones and let go of our attachments.

I have found inspirational and meaningful messages in the Old and New Testaments, in the teachings of The Buddha and in Vedic texts. I’ve also found inspiration and meaning in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas Adams, J. K. Rowling, Gene Roddenberry, Joseph Heller, Lewis Carroll, George Carlin, John Lennon and many others. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy changed my perspective on life as much as any spiritual tome. There are many paths to Truth and all are valid.

I don’t take any spiritual or religious text as literal fact even if divinely inspired. The texts were written by men who may have been given to editorial license and bias. Truth can be found in these texts but it is often subtle and may require much contemplation and meditation to find that truth. Even then, it may be subject to individual bias. Facts are bits and pieces of intellectual data and can be taken at face value until superseded by new evidence or a new fact. A spiritual truth is intuitively known or revealed at a subtler and deeper level than the intellect and tends to holds true universally.

I do not identify myself as an atheist. Nor do I identify or align myself as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Hindu or a member of any other religious sect. Agnostic may be the most apt description. Agnosticism is not doubting that God or any deity exists but realizing that one does not, and can not, know or comprehend the true nature of the Divine.

Question everything and believe nothing unless you yourself have tested it and judged it to be true. In my short time on this planet, I’ve realized that what you believe doesn’t have as much impact as what you do. Your beliefs will not entitle you to a “get out of jail free” card that absolves your sins nor will your beliefs gain you a backstage pass to Heaven. Buying indulgences is a scam. (Didn’t Jesus have something to say about a rich man’s chances of attaining the Kingdom of Heaven?) The only way to negate karma is through your actions. There are no shortcuts.

Thank you for your concern…

Dear Facebook Friend,

Someday you will see that I posted all of my “annoying” and “religious” Facebook posts because I care about you. Your soul matters to God and to me. I would rather you hate me for telling you the truth, than have me lie to you or keep silent to gain your acceptance.

Someone was kind enough to share the Gospel with me and God has opened my eyes to the truth. It’s now my responsibility to do the same for you. That’s what the love of Jesus is about.

Sincerely,

Your Christian Friend

Dear Christian Friend,

Thank you for caring about me and my soul. I appreciate your concern but it’s really unnecessary as my eternal, unchanging soul and I are just fine. We are not in need of salvation and I feel no need to be forgiven for any “sins” I may or may not have committed. Forgiveness is generally for the benefit of the one doing the forgiving, rather than the one being forgiven.

I do not “hate” you for telling me the truth or, rather, your truth. We all follow different paths and because we walk different paths, it does not mean that either of us is lost. If your truth is right for you then I’m glad for you, but your truth may not be right for others. While our truths may appear to be different, at their core, they are much the same.

Yes, my friend, I have read the Canonical Gospels and a few of the Gnostic Gospels as well. I don’t disagree with the teachings of Jesus but I may view them from a  different perspective. I feel that in whatever spiritual path you follow, the teachings are essential, far more important than the beliefs or the rituals.

If I do find your religious posts “annoying” then I’m at fault and I will try to be more open-minded and less judgmental. You are entitled to you beliefs and ideas just as I am entitled to mine. I will not try to sway you follow my path just as I would expect that you will not attempt to sway me to follow your path. As your path may not be right for me, my path may not be right for you.

You stated that your eyes were opened to the truth. Well, my eyes have been opened too. When mine were opened, I saw a new perspective of Divinity and my spiritual paradigm shifted. I also saw that the Christian path was not necessarily the path I should follow. Regardless of what spiritual path we follow, I’m sure that if we stay true to our paths and be open to what awaits us on our path, we will ultimately arrive at the same destination.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” — The Buddha

Sincerely,

Your Spiritual Brother