It is hard to not notice the spiritual resurgence, particularly that borrowed from the orient, that surrounds us in the western hemisphere. Often eastern eyes observing this predominantly western phenomenon notice things that are interesting and intriguing - and this goes beyond the unfamiliar yet very drawing sounds of familiar words (for an illustration, listen to Patrick Bernhardt's "Mantra Mandala"; Les editions Multi-Cultures Inc., Canada, 1997, 0-76715 00822-8)!
A new paradigm often emerges if one becomes a participant in this movement of new age that has swept this half of the globe and like a wave returning to its shore, is moving eastwards with significant force. The ease with which spiritual progress is portrayed in the prevailing version here, as opposed to the traditional very hard route that many Indians grow up knowing the spiritual path as, the forceful role of choice and freedom that new age gurus impress upon their disciples with lend a new energy to an ancient, nay Shaswat ever-present, everlasting) structure that eastern spirituality represents. But without further ado, what follows is a stream of thoughts, my monologue:
|Breath has often been touted as the vehicle that must be tamed, must be controlled, in order to enter this region of 'light'. Much has been made of the rhythms of breath, of invoking the energy channels within the physical realm and of coupling those with patterns of breathing that activate more energy paths so that ascension of spiritual consciousness may begin.
"How crystallized, how well-defined, how mathematical the imageries tend to appear. We picture plumes of energy moving this way and that way, in patterns that would bring beads of sweat to the forehead of an artist that designs real structures ... Oh certainly, imagination is the tool that will let us get into that realm where structures morph and merge with energy ... the magic transition zone where neither flesh is flesh nor spirit is spirit, the realm of transition, the realm of transience ... where spirit gets its form ... and flesh loses its boundaries.
When we sample what lies around us, in books, in electronic document files, in online conversations, on spirituality, on metaphysics, we invariably run into well-organized, almost tangible, physical packages of rules, procedures, rituals. The stress is on 'doing' ... and on "my" technique being the most efficient! Ah, the consistent theme, the variations in the overlays!
They told her to focus on and surround herself with 'white' light. She tried, earnestly, for many many sleepless nights, but try as she might, she could not find the brightness or warmth of it! If she cannot even find it, how is she going to surround herself with it?
Teachers typically sound 'sure'! Very confident and sometimes a bit too sure!! Such a stance assures many, indeed most, perhaps! But there are those few who are put off by such a show of concrete certainty! For, this does not jive with what spirituality, what spirit reality exists in their conceptual framework. A realm where rules are only as rigid as the purpose that gave those birth. A reality that is neither bounded by rigid walls, nor has a single or even 'a' door! A cave within that is bounded by clouds that are impenetrable to the light of reason, where one can progress only by that innate almost wild horse sense, where ones feelings become the only staff that will enable one to feel around and make progress - one step at a time.
Breath has often been touted as the vehicle that must be tamed, must be controlled, in order to enter this region of 'light'. Much has been made of the rhythms of breath, of invoking the energy channels within the physical realm and of coupling those with patterns of breathing that activate more energy paths so that ascension of spiritual consciousness may begin. As we focus on our breathing and through it see how it controls our mental processes, one can hardly miss that the experience is somewhat alike driving a car. At first one must focus on each little thing, and become and remain aware of each component of driving, until it becomes second nature, after it all blends together. And, once we have attained that level of expertise, the moment when our vehicle becomes an extension of our body, if we look around and observe others driving similar vehicles, we would pick out subtle differences: the way they steer, the way they hold the steering, the way they shift gears, press the brake or gas pedals. One appreciates a broad range of 'procedures' that though different still fall well within the distribution that statisticians amongst us would call "normal". Though skills and efficiencies may vary, the vehicle moves, safely, and gets the passengers where they wish to go (mostly!).
Why should the same not hold true for 'breath', our vehicle into the realm of the spirit? Are the different breathing exercises, the different rhythms and patterns attempts to sharpen our driving skills? Methods that would raise our familiarity with the breath to such levels that the vehicle becomes a true extension of our selves?
Then ... how about the 'vehicle' of our dreams? Just as breath can transport us between different times (often when we return to the present moment from our mid-afternoon 'reveries' we almost always become aware of our breathing first, before we take in our surroundings!), can our dreams be vehicles of consciousness that move us between zones of realities? Zones that are as real as our desire and willingness to consider them so.
When we interpret our dreams, when we focus on our dreams, are we missing the destination for the vehicle? Is lucid dreaming the next stage when we realize, recognize and accept the reality of the vehicle? And embark on the journey? And are presented with the choice to embark on the journey??
Must we think about merging our two vehicles, our breath and our dreams?? The "how" comes much later. Must we focus on these two normal activities and determine how best we can move efficiently by linking the two? We breathe a certain way so that we may meditate well, but should we be meditating on our breath instead? Meditate on breath and on breathing! And, next, we may meditate on our dreams.
Throughout the stages of acquisition of all these various "driving" skills, of mastering these endless techniques, should a modicum of our awareness also be invested in understanding where we wish to travel to and why? Can peer pressure be an effective motivator in the spiritual quest? So long as we follow the path of the structure, procedures and set rituals, we travel safely, but we travel in the footsteps of others! The thrill of the wilderness of soul -- just like that detour to find a shortcut on our camping trek -- awaits for each of us, if only we would break away from the beaten (guided) path.
Perhaps, there are no lights, white or golden ... no sounds of heavenly angelic music ... resonating with the spheres ... but there is simply silence ... simply darkness ... neither reassuring nor threatening ... but just there! The sights that we see, the music that we hear, the joy or sadness that we feel ... are reflections from within ... accompanying us during our journey ... until we finally hit the primordial silence ... the seed of creation ... of form, feelings, desires, thoughts ... with nowhere remaining for us to go, we can rest and so can our weary vehicles.