Monday, 27 June 2016

Contemplations from the 23rd lesson on the Shiva sutras.

You alone are responsible for your own liberation.

So we reach a momentous point in this course on The Shiva Sutras; a point where the group journey comes to a sweet, satisfying end only for the resumption of our many solo journeys with a reignition of our ardent hunger for openness, growth and expanded consciousness.

The seeds sown by Shiva’s Sutras will live long in each of us and we will all undoubtedly embody their wisdom and practicality in our own distinct ways. But the golden threads of timeless truth which run through each sutra will surely connect us all in some undeniable fellowship of Shiva’s Studious Acolytes, as we continue individually to work with, dance through and refine these invaluable gems which we’ve assimilated, and with which we’re now infused like the marrow in our bones.

As we hug our goodbyes, pat backs, swap numbers, reminisce and promise to reassemble one day to explore further into the ancient, perennial philosophy which underpins our Yoga practice; a booming voice calls us to attention. Mahadev, with paternal love in His dancing eyes, has a parting message for us before we take the next leg of the quest before us. ‘You alone are responsible for your own liberation’ He declares… then He is gone from our sight… gone but ever-present, always full of Peace, flowing through all forms as Truth, Consciousness and Bliss, the essence of Illumination.

So a last sutra for us to ingest and process, a delicious ‘One for the road’ which brims with relevance for a group of pilgrims on Life’s spiritual highway. Its relevance is in that Shiva is saying, now walk the talk! Make these teachings your experience. Do it, live it, embody all the wisdom you’ve gleaned. But YOU do it! No one else can do it for you. He’s saying, you may have a library full of texts, an unending supply of super-supportive sangha-buddies, or even an external Guru with the Wisdom of Solomon and the Patience of Job. It’s also true you may have some really cool baggy trousers, a year’s supply of tea-lights and incense, plus a really authentic looking practice room back at home with all the gear in it but… it’s up to you to do the work for your liberation and enlightenment! You see it doesn’t matter what your neighbour, parents, best friend, Priest, Rabbi, wife, husband or children think or say about your path, only what you think matters, and that you do the work and make the journey. It’s only relevant, really, what’s going on internally and how that pertains to your sadhana. Shiva’s saying, succeed alone, fail alone, stumble yourself but grow yourself. Carry on regardless, do the work, walk the walk and keep it ultimately between you and God. Then one fine day you’ll arrive… or as Lahiri Mahasaya was known to say in Bengali, ‘Banat Banat Ban Jai!!’  Doing a little bit daily, one step at a time, one finds oneself at last on the spiritual summit.

You alone are responsible for your own liberation.

‘One should lift up the self by the self,
And should not the self droop down,
For the self is the self’s only friend,

And the self is the self’s only enemy’          - Bhagavad Gita

~by Elliot Donnelly.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Contemplations from the 22nd lesson on the Shiva Sutras.


When you know all things to be energy, you will see all things as equal.

In our penultimate visit to the fountain of divine insight, the upsurge of wisdom foaming and sparkling into our eager cups is as clear and pure as it’s ever been. Shiva, as always, wants for our liberation and empowerment, He wishes for our fruition and fulfillment; thus He’s produced yet another rugged jewel for us to cut, polish and make our own for all time.

The true Teacher is plunging straight to the heart of the matter (or energy to be more accurate) this week as His sutra delves directly into the crux of reality and its substratum. He is saying in quite plain terms that when we see, that is to perceive empirically for ourselves, that ALL the multifarious and diverse elements of our experience are simply manifestations of the same one energy, then we will naturally behold all things as equal. From memories to moonbeams, sneezes to skyscrapers, they’re all just ever-changing permutations of Shakti or life energy.

Although with their limited scope, our sense perceptions report back a Universe of many separate, discrete fragments, each with its own origins, composition and identity, Shiva is saying quest deeper, look higher and unshackle your awareness from the village stocks of the senses. Take a universal perspective on what is; and know the truth of oneness and the fundamental, energetic basis of everything… literally everything from quarks to quasars, emotions to empires, roller-skates to Rodin’s thinker and all stops in between. These apparently unique, disparate items, beings, objects, forms are all the one energy in more or less gross or subtle states. So a photon and a battleship are the same energy in a subtle and a gross configuration, just as a feeling of envy in the pit of your stomach or the sound of a Mozart piano concerto are also the same ‘stuff’ just appearing as very different entities. Understanding this sameness, this universality, says Mahadev, is the key to unlocking our mental bondage to the pervasive notion of separateness, insularity and the whole false and limiting construct of ego and the ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ mentality.

Shiva offers the following analogy to help illustrate the way the Shakti/energy mutates and shifts but remains itself in essence. He asks us to imagine Shakti as a river flowing and rolling, wild and free along its creative course from unmanifest to manifest. Now imagine we take a copper pan and plunge it into the ‘river’, we say ‘I have put the pan in the river!’ However the moment we pull our hand and pan out of the ‘river’ we say ‘I have water in the pan!’ In that moment the ‘river’ was given a new name changing it from ‘river’ to ‘water’. What if we then heat that ‘water’ over a stove? It will boil and rise as ‘steam’, another name change. If we capture that ‘steam’ in a bowl we will find it cools into ‘droplets of condensation’, which if we put in the deep freeze, will emerge as ‘ice’. If we take that ‘ice’ and hold it in the flow of the ‘river’ it will naturally melt and once more be called ‘river’. So says Lord Shiva, we see that the river never stopped being the river, only the names changed, those names being mere conceptual labels designed to aid our limited psychological faculties in framing and ‘making sense’ of the infinite, eternal vastness of all Creation. The mind needs to do this labelling and setting within parameters so it can compute and ‘get to grips’ with experience, but it is necessarily narrow in scope; so when we only experience life through the myopic lens of the psychological mind, then we miss the ineffable boundlessness of Truth and remain blearily blinkered and obliviously blind as we survey the drab stone walls of Plato’s cave instead of wandering and wondering free and unfettered in the unfathomable ‘is-ness’ of the Cosmos. To see the truth of the one energy, open the mind then transcend it, as feeling picks up where thinking and conceptualising fall short.

How best to do this though? Shiva has the answer. Start with the closest, most obvious form that Shakti takes, and by this He means us, ‘ourselves’, our very own life force, the prana coursing through our nadis, and then make a simple conscious connection with this shakti-fest. He’s inviting us to step outside the dungeon of the mind with its bars and meshes, ceilings walls and floors and instead to engage with the unbridled energy of the rest of our being as it is conducted through our five-sheath ecosystem. This way thoughts and psychological forms can lose their falsely bestowed pre-eminence within our experience, and the energetic totality can balance out and become a truer expression of itself. This means sensations, intuitions, emotions, bliss, thoughts and all other internal energetic phenomena can lead their merry dance as multi-faceted Shakti, but we give no preference or priority to any of them. We just sit as the subtle-most of all Shakti i.e., pure, pristine Consciousness, and witness, feel, experience and indeed worship the less subtle configurations as they play, emerging and dissolving, reprising then resolving… then starting all over again… the play of Shakti, bubbling and dancing in all its guises shapes and sizes… coursing here, flowing there, pulsing everywhere. One Divine Energy!

Once we have escaped the padded cell of the mind and established a meaningful and intimate relationship with our true nature as undifferentiated Shakti, we then use Sadhana as a means to deepen and expand this relationship. Spiritual Practice then becomes the interface between our subtle-most core (The Self) and the sheaths or layers of energy in their various degrees of grossness and materiality as they extend outwards; from the mind to the gut to the tips of our toes and beyond.

When we know what we’re made of beyond all equivocation, then naturally the question arises, ‘If I’m made of this energy at EVERY level, then what’s She/He made of, what’s this floor made of, or that long winding river flowing from mountain to ocean??’ The answer springs up like a Jack In The Box. Energy of course… Life, Shakti, God Essence call it what you will, they’re only name tags; the underlying principle is changeless, universal and indestructible. It’s as simple and as complex as any paradox could ever be; you have and are Nothing (roles, possessions, identities etc.) because you have and are Everything…energy! Everything is equal, everything is One.

We are energy in energy, with energy on energy surrounded and infused by energy as energy! Unity, Oneness, Non-Duality, Universality, Total Equality but definitely and crucially NOT… 

Name: Joe Bloggs    DOB: 09/09/69    Shoe Size: 10   Occupation: Ego.

So in summary, Shiva wishes us to know that everything is energy and for us to begin to perceive this oneness everywhere. He invites us to ‘drop a foot’ from the mind into the feeling instrument of the Heart, and to experience the Life-force at play as ‘Ourselves’. We will discover how equal all inner permutations of energy are when we cease judgement, analysis and identification with them and just bear plain witness to their flow. He’s saying once we’re established in the true nature of our Shakti and the equanimity that ensues from there, then it’s only a hop, skip and a jump ‘outside’ of ourselves to the Cosmos at large and all the infinite, shifting expressions of energy in the Universal Dance beyond our apparent physical boundaries. Here we attain the Divine Vision (SAMADARSHANAM) with which we see for ourselves the energetic basis and utter, impersonal equality of all elements of experience, all items, beings, objects and abstract forms as One… as Life… as The Divine.


When you know all things to be energy, you will see all things as equal.

The infinity of space,
The limitless profundity of silence,
The ubiquity of energy,
And the eternal now,
All support the truth of Being.

The luminescence that reveals form within void,
The stillness that sits unmoved in your thumping core,
And the consciousness that bears plain witness to the microcosmic fragment or the macrocosmic whole,
In essential equality, these are the ultimate reality.

To know this energetic reality and this Truth,
Is to be at once present and perpetual,
In peaceful acceptance of the impermanent,
And in joyful surrender to the timeless.

When we seek without looking,
Ask without speaking,
And can know without understanding,
Seeing all as equal...
There is the Heaven within.

~ by Elliot Donnelly.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Contemplations from the 21st lesson on the Shiva sutras.

Nurture a seed and watch it grow.

Mahadev is in gentle repose in the lush surrounds of the richly cultivated garden of the Universal Soul. His Godly eyes are closed in the deepest meditation, and yet He lovingly surveys the cornucopia of this infinite, eternal garden of the Divine. His sacred heart beholds the manifold herbs, fruits and flowers; the myriad trees, shrubs and bushes, each having grown strong and beautiful in its own way. Shiva loves each aspect of this cosmic abundance as his own offspring, for they are all the yield of his caring, sagacious nurture.

A long, loud OMM issues from The Almighty and then His lotus eyes open wide and come to fix us, his studious acolytes, with a firm gaze above a serene countenance that is as loving as it is strict. “Behold the Universe, my garden!” He says.

“See all in it as it blooms and grows, dies, decays and is reborn. Enjoy its natural splendour with your senses, but realise this is no accident…no haphazard horticulture here! This cosmic riot of colour and fertility has been carefully guided and ordered; intricately engineered over a timeless span to manifest in the flawlessness you see before you. I have chosen, sown and fostered the seeds of all this vastness, I have dedicated energy and love in their cultivation. And this synergy of Gardener with Garden has engendered such profusion and perfection as you have come to know.”

Shiva pauses then speaks once more. “Dear ones please understand this process, I implore you to assimilate the prudence of this natural cycle and use it as the template for your own inner development. For indeed it is the case that the laws of the macrocosm hold just as true for the microcosm; if you seek to rest in your own internal garden with all you wish abounding you there, you must surely choose well the seed then nurture it and watch it grow!”

Here The True teacher’s meaning is crystal clear; there’s an earthy earnestness and an unsoiled simplicity to His message this week. In this Sutra He’s saying: know what you want in your garden, and proceed to sow the appropriate seeds. If you want an orchard in your garden then you better plant apple seeds, because if you plant lemon seeds you’ll end up with a lemon grove in the future. The clarity of mind and discrimination to know what future garden you wish to enjoy is an essential prerequisite for successful, soulful cultivation. Shiva’s saying be clear on what your highest ideals are, then stock up on the energetic seeds which will grow up into those very ideals. If you select the right pellets of potential to place in the fertile ground of your consciousness, then your ‘garden’ or your internal world, in the future, will be abundant in the plants and fruits your heart most desires…your highest ideals.

So with seeds selected and safely sown, says Shiva, we move into the critical phase of fostering the seeds through their growth. This period of nurture is delicate and painstaking and unless we are deft and dedicated here, our progeny will perish and our future won’t look so rosy. We must protect our young seedlings when they first appear above ground because the elements of frost, drought, wind and deluge will each, in their own way, threaten to wither, stifle or uproot a tender plant in its early days. Equally the elements of fear, doubt, ignorance and arrogance (to name but a few) can kill off the fragile beginnings of bright, new shoots inside of us on our path toward enlightenment. Thus here too we must be vigilant and attentive whilst still giving the garden space and air to flourish. This is skilful work requiring balance and discernment.

Not only are the elements of the weather, or emotions, a menace to the wellbeing and thriving of our junior plants but there are the risks posed by slugs, insects, birds and weeds, or the negative thoughts, words and deeds of others at a familial, institutional or societal level. Care must be taken to ward off unwanted incursions by these hungry pests and choking growths as they can spell the demise of many a fresh bloom before it has the chance to show the world its beauty. Beware your influences says Mahadev.

As our saplings gather strength and begin to bear more and more of the elements through a process of weathering, and also they become less susceptible to insects weeds and birds, we can turn more of our attention to ensuring they are properly watered and getting enough exposure to the sun’s light to allow for their optimal development. The water of Sadhana and the bright, nourishing light of conscious wisdom will, when generously applied, give rise to strong, fruitful inner plantations and yield fine, flourishing futures for those green fingered aspirants who synchronise with nature’s cycles and pulse, one with Life.

Daily watering (Sadhana) and regular exposure to sunlight (wisdom) will show profit for the gardener who seeks contentment, self-mastery, peace and poise.  

Nurture a seed and watch it grow.

The gardener potters in his shed, his pocket full of seeds,
His hopes and dreams grow in his head, with few becoming deeds,

If only he would turn the fertile earth that makes his Soul,
And sow some seeds of Faith within, he’d one day reach his goal,

Of course he’d have to nurture them and water them with courage,
Then let the light of Consciousness shine on to help them flourish,

But if he kept his seedlings safe, away from frost and chill,
The Faith would grow up into proof, maturing well until…

The proof plant in the earth stood tall and strong by stem and root,
Then as the seasons turned the plant would bear its mellow fruit,

Now if the gardener picked this fruit and chose to look inside,
He’d find more seeds of faith which he could then spread far and wide.

~ by Elliot Donnelly.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Contemplations from the 20th lesson on the Shiva sutras.

The Sage is supremely free and unswayed by feelings.

As we gather, yet again, around the open hearth of Shiva’s scintillating sapience to warm our souls and to cleanse our minds, the question once more arises; what does The Gurave, Teacher of Truth, wish us to learn from this short, sweet, golden thread of wisdom?

Shiva’s coaxings are clear, be a Sage, an accomplished being, a Siddha. But he issues the caveat that to do this, we must learn in some way not to be swayed so heavily by passing feelings. Somehow we need to become a Feeler of Feelings, with space between the one who experiences the feelings (The Self), and the transient, energetic phenomena (The Feelings) as they pass through the mind/body complex. This template for Self-Mastery is not dissimilar to last week’s (SUTRA 18: NARTAKA ATMA) but here we’re changing the disidentification of Dancer with Dance, into the dissociation of Feeler with Feelings. Shiva’s keen to point out that this is not supposed to be an avoidance or suppression strategy, rather it is designed as a means to insert some much needed space and perspective between The Authentic Self (the ground of all experience) and the vast array of disparate, ephemeral elements of experience…namely feelings or emotional sensations in this case.

This space creation is essential, says Shiva, if we are to become less easily influenced by the fluctuation of feelings, and thus established, liberated, unshakeable Sages. Shiva invites us to sample the difference in flavour and intensity of a feeling or emotion when we’re fully, unconsciously identified and swept away with it, from how that same sensation is affected by a conscious depersonalisation and a dispassionate step back from it…the creation of a little space.

 He’s saying we should understand and practise this skill, honing it for our own edification. We should experiment with how creating this conscious buffer zone helps to keep us from being blown off course or dragged asunder by the inevitable and unpredictable maelstrom of feelings, whenever they intensify in response to the vicissitudes of Life.

So this capacity for being steady and open in the midst of these strong feelings means we can allow them just to be there in spite of their great force. Little by little this allowing of their movement within engenders a maturation of the nervous system, an upgrade of one’s sensory apparatus you might say. In turn then, as we become more willing and able to feel, without flinching, these feelings in all their visceral glory, we finally learn to relinquish the ‘Fear of Feeling’ which is the keystone of all apprehension and dread. Now instead of shivering in a cramped, squalid vessel, moored in some dreary little port, we set sail on a bright, bold Clipper onto Life’s high seas where anything is possible and where there exist no limits.

So we let the feelings in (not burying or dodging them) and we consciously digest them, absorbing their energetic nutrients and spitting out the pith. We ingest, digest then evacuate by dropping the feeling and moving on to the next thing just like last week’s Dancer or a Yogi in asana; we take what we need, we grow stronger then we let go. Simple says Nataraja, wearing his trademark playful grin beneath lively, glistening eyes.

The Sage is supremely free and unswayed by feelings.

IF? Says Lord Shiva….  
(A great influence on Rudyard Kipling as well, by the way?  ;-)

If you’re still inside while feelings rage around you,
If you can tolerate the zing and zap of fears,
If you can sit unmoved as other’s smites astound you,
If you can be the Island in a sea of tears,

If you can rise up strong from feeding on emotions,
If you’re steady as excitement squeezes tight,
If you can stay afloat in feeling’s choppy oceans,
If you can soothe your naked heart in darkest night…

Then yours is the Universe and everything that’s in it,

And –which is more- You’ll be a Sage my Son.

~ by Elliot Donnelly.