Monday, 24 October 2016

Bliss Bubbles from the Beyond - 6th Week of the Katha Upanishads

Throughout the study of the Katha Upanishads, we’ve been receiving the teachings through Yama, the Lord of Death, via the story of his encounter with the young boy Nachiketa. Nachiketa and ourselves have essentially (and bravely!) chosen to make Death our Guru, as we boldly begin to delve into it’s deep mysteries. However along this journey, we are also starting to recognise the wonderful paradox that Yama – Death himself, truly and totally believes in our capacity for LIFEIn our complete entitlement to freedom. It turns out that Yama is actually 100% life-affirming, utterly pro-life and absolutely life LOVING.
This week, Yama brings us deeper into the untouchable – the unshakeable place within us all that even Death cannot reach. For this, he gives us the gift of one word.

“I will give you the word all scriptures glorify,
All spiritual disciplines express,
To attain which aspirants lead a life of sense-restraint and self-naughting.
It is OM. This symbol of the Godhead is the highest.
Realising it one finds complete fulfilment of all one’s longings.
It is of the greatest support to all seekers.
Those in whose hearts OM reverberates unceasingly
Are indeed blessed and deeply loved
As one who is the Self.”

He uses OM to highlight the true Self, or Atman, which resides beyond the layers of all else. Almost like an onion, we are layered – and to experience what lies beneath, we must begin to peel these layers back to believe in beyond the surface. The great Yogic scriptures describes the understanding of these layers as Pancha Kosha – the 5 ‘bodies’ or Sheaths. (And there we are thinking we just have one body!)
So we begin with OM, the behind-the-scenes ultimate Self with a capital S – the essence of creation, unity, oneness and ultimate consciousness. Sounds great, to know that is our true nature, but it seems that it is not always so plain-as-day to see that. And it doesn’t seem like we can force it to come about either. We cannot grit our teeth and ‘try’ our way into universal consciousness. Rather, it is just always there, and actually has not much to do with ‘us’ making it happen at all. Instead, what we can do is clear some of the layers to allow this natural place to be experienced.

On top of OM, our true self, we have our Bliss Body or our Anandamaya Kosha. It is the thinnest and most subtle body between our ordinary awareness and our highest self. This is our closest connection to our natural self which is complete, whole and utterly, naturally, blissful. We know that this one definitely exists, as we can hopefully all recognise some moments of pure bliss in our lives that perhaps even happened for no reason at all. They don’t come from an external circumstance – they come from within….they are like little bliss bubbles that have managed to make their way through the other layers or bodies and come to the surface. But a lot of the time, those poor bubbles get burst for whatever reason. Of course, we all naturally have the desire to be happy, to be blissful, and in fact, it is our innate right to be living in our natural state of joy. Children are pretty much 24-7 in their bliss bodies! The pure existence of our Bliss Body means that the experience of bliss and those bliss bubbles are already there. We don’t have to try to become more blissful, we just have to clear the way to allow those bubbles to come to the surface.

Our next body, is the Wisdom Body or the Vijnanamaya Kosha.  As we travel through the 5 bodies, they move from the very subtle to the more physical. The Vijnamaya Kosha is a slightly thicker field than the Bliss Body. It is a place where our creative inspiration and intuitive knowledge comes from. This is a place of knowing, but beyond our thinking minds.  This is not the knowledge that we can gather from books or learn at school, it is not borrowed – it is inherent and again, already there. We don’t need to “become” more intuitive or more creative, we can just assist in letting it shine out through us by tapping into it.

Thicker still, on top of the Wisdom body, is the Thought Body or the Manomaya Kosha.
This body is to do with our thinking minds – our thoughts, emotions and memories. Now this one can be helpful – to plan, to sort things out. It is totally necessary. But it can also be not the most beautiful. It is mostly very self-concerned and self-believing and also sometimes quite draining. It spends most of its time making up stories and trying to lead us on. And we tend to spend a lot of our time up there. It’s the one we might yell “Shut up!” at whilst we’re alone, or the one we sometimes wish we could just turn off with a switch for a while.  This mental body feeds off the things we feed it from the outer, physical world and because it takes in so much it actually needs to shut itself off for approximately 8 hours per night to rejuvenate itself! But we mustn’t go to war with it – again, it can totally be a friend if we learn to look after it well. (And also stop believing in all of its chatter from time to time).
Covering this, and even denser still, is our Energy Body or our Pranamaya Kosha.
This is the blueprint of our physical body, the energy or ‘life-force’ that holds your physical body together. If this were to cease to function, your physical body would also cease to exist. This is the sheath that the Chakras or Energy centres are held in. And the Energy Body is totally so – it is not just for “Super Yogis” or “The Spiritual” – Prana is the vital force that makes life happen – it runs through you as it runs through the world around you. In Yoga, we devote our time to cleaning up this Energy body with the physical practice and Pranayama with our breath. 
Our last body of course, you’re completely familiar with. It is the Physical Body or the Annamaya Kosha. ‘Anna’ meaning food – the body that is made up of the food that we eat. Here, energy is solidified into matter and it is made of the five elements, of which the earth element is the dominant one. The physical body is the doorway to the inner bodies, and although it is the most outer shell, it is the one we have to start cleaning and taking care of the most so that the layers beyond can start to clear. When we begin to start clearing the first 3 layers, the Wisdom body, Bliss body and true Self can more easily come through.
Our true self is always speaking out to us, and always has a bigger plan for us (usually one much better than our own ideas!). In order to be able to listen to this, we must first let the other layers become more fluid, more responsive, and as clear as possible. The layers can act like walls – for example, things on the outside physical world can get through the cracks and break into the bliss body. For instance, perhaps when we see a newborn baby and are suddenly infused with a deep sense of love and bliss (even if we are changing stinky nappies!). And it can also go the other way –  we can allow our own innate intuition or bliss to flow through the walls and embody it on the surface. The clearer and cleaner the layers get, the more and more we have access to these more subtle bodies and experiences. And of course, this is why we use our Yoga practice to help us to do the inner cleaning and get closer to the nature of the True self – the place of universal consciousness…that which cannot die.
And so, we end this week’s teaching with a few wise words from Yama himself on the nature of The True Self…..
“The supreme Self is beyond name and form,
Beyond the senses, inexhaustible,
Without beginning, without end, beyond
Time, space and causality, eternal,
Immutable. Those who realise the Self
Are forever free from the jaws of death.”

With love
Adéle x

Friday, 14 October 2016

The fifth week of the Katha Upanishads….an invitation to come and sit near to the Guru within yourself.

Throughout the journey, we’ve been downloading the wisdom of Yama, Lord of Death, through the story of the brave boy Nachiketa. We start off this week with a note on wisdom, and how we can deal with the sometimes overwhelming supply of it all!

We’re always learning, and especially when we are choosing to enquire deeper we can be presented with so many awesome insights. This could potentially lead us to think we need to suddenly become completely enlightened with all the wisdom we have received, and perhaps never make a ‘mistake’ again. We can think learning is a 1-2-3 step process…learn the wisdom, and BAM that’s it - you’re perfect and you have all the ‘answers’ and you’ve officially NAILED IT. Off you go!

How terribly boring that would be.

The thing is, wisdom is not designed to be ‘nailed’. It is beyond nailing. It is non-nail-able. We can sometimes start to take it all in and then try to look through the wisdom into the world. This can lead to us over-analysing every situation and trying to enforce our nuggets of ‘wisdom’ we’ve gathered onto everything. And then we miss the pure, natural, wonder of things. I’m writing like this because I’ve been totally guilty of it. I’ve also realised how great it feels to put your hands up and say “Um, actually, I don’t really know all the answers, and I don’t think I ever will….or want to! Sorry!”.  I love that its means that we’re not supposed to do everything right. Wisdom isn’t a pill that we can swallow and then ‘we got this’. We can read so many books, listen to so much Satsang, and come away feeling like “Ah, right cool…NOW I know”. But the truth is, (for me anyway), we go out into the world and things get a bit jumbly and it isn’t so straight-forward as we’d like to think, and we are not the enlightened wise guru we thought we were for approximately half a minute. Huh.
Alternatively, there is the much lower-pressure route of just letting the wisdom nail itself. Just letting yourself take a bath in it – soak it all up, and then go on your merry way knowing that it’s been absorbed inside of you on its own and will apply itself, when it needs to. Rather than us trying sooo hard to apply it all the time, it will settle inside of us, sprouting and blooming over time. All we need is to hold an openness – a receptivity to it infusing our life. We can fall back a little, feel our way through life trusting that it’s there, and it will do its own work when the opportunities arise. Phew.

So after that “Ahh” breath of relief, we continue on. With another serving of wisdom to eat up, of course!

This week, Yama’s message really just follows on from last week regarding our energy, or Prana choices. We know we’re on the journey of making more Shreya choices, or choices that serve us long-term. And we come to know what does and what doesn’t by observing our internal landscape – the city inside of us. Is it filling up with energy? Or is it spilling out? What is causing it to leak and what is it that makes it rise? Of course, we can only begin to see these things inside ourselves because our energy is functioning at such a higher level that we’re able to pay attention to it. In other words, if you can even just notice within yourself when your energy is being lost, you’re already on a higher level of energy than being oblivious to it. I think that’s really good to know, because we can sometimes get so caught up in what we see, we don’t appreciate that at least we see it. Then when we can pay attention and make these choices, we start to upgrade our vehicle (or our chariot). We can start to ride first-class. Until eventually, our vehicle could even drive itself with its own energy. Super sustainability.

What if energy was money? What if it was our level of Prana that paid our bills? I can imagine that everyone would be interested in taking care of it then. But actually, it IS our currency – everything is energy, and our energy level is how we exchange with the world around us. When we fill up our Pranic bank account, or the energy inside ourselves, how does the world look from that place? When we suddenly don’t need anything from it for our energy to rise? Then I guess that we can actually start to just enjoy it.  As Steve jokes, we become the “IN-JOYERS”. The one within is already full, and therefore we can truly in-joy the world around us.

When our Prana is low – we reach for things to feel it fill up; people, objects, appearances, food (particularly choux buns), whatever we feel will make us feel “okay” or “better”. We’re grabbing at the outside world and we’ve got our hands in the wrong jar. What we need to do, in that ‘needy’ moment (that I hope we all get some of, because I know it well), is take a deep breath and come inside. Ahh. This is what we do in Yoga…we take time to conserve and pay attention to all the energy within and start to build it up. When we lay down in Savasana at the end, we can notice the energy that we’ve cultivated. We’re much more empowered. The King or Queen of our cities is there, ruling rightly. (That’s you by the way).
Something that inevitably takes a lot of our energy, is our thought patterns. And goodness, we put a LOT of energy into trying to stop our thoughts, don’t we? We do everything we can to try and “fix” the way we think. But actually, when we decide to raise our energy, it also affects our thoughts. We start to actually think less – the stuff we try to avoid so much just isn’t really there, because it just can’t function at a higher energy level. And so our mind expands, and the psychological mind recedes as we raise our Prana higher. And the journey is never over, there are things now that we may not even notice is taking our energy from us…but the higher we go, the more we can see. Things may get wobbly for a while, as we adjust to being on a higher level, just like we do when we take our stabilizers off our bicycles – we can go through spirals of feeling secure and then insecure before we feel secure again. And this is adjustment. This is growth. This is good.

Yama’s message this week, simply, is to look after our energy;
"The Self cannot be known by anyone
Who desists not from unrighteous ways,
Controls not the senses, stills not the mind,
And practices not meditation.
None else can know the omnipresent Self,
Whose glory sweeps away the rituals of
The priest and the prowess of the warrior
And puts death itself to death."

In Steve’s translation:
"If you wish to reach a deathless place, raise your frequency to a place of such high energy until it matches the frequency of the Universe”.

Om Shakti….Wishing boundless energy to you all.
Adele x

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ruling your own Inner City…(Katha Upanishads week 4)
We continue on to week four with the teachings of the Katha Upanishads – essentially in truth, a deep conversation with our highest self. 
Up until now, we’ve explored the first two teachings that Nachiketa receives from Yama, the Lord of Death. Questioning the idea of what it is that can ‘die’ within us and what it is that cannot. 
We found out that we only ever have two choices in front of us, Preya and Shreya – what isn’t beneficial in the long run, and then what is ultimately better for us. And to further understand how to make these two choices, we learned an analogy of our being – understanding that our body, mind and senses are vessel which we must learn to control to navigate through this life.
Which brings Yama to his next point in how to defy Death itself….A challenging statement:
“Nachiketa, what most people are actually experiencing of life, is really just a slow process of death”, says Yama.
“And if, Nachiketa, you really want to go beyond this idea of Death…you must start by becoming more and more ALIVE on the inside.”
Isn’t it true, especially in our modern day and age, that we wear ourselves and our bodies out by so many externals? Over-working, staying up late, eating the wrong foods, seeking approval from others, chasing after desires….the list goes on. The horses (or our senses), continually promising us happiness by tugging at the reigns, causing us to make less than beneficial choices. All of this meaning our system gets slowly less and less alive on the inside. 
But the good news is (explains Yama), that it can totally go the other way.
We can start to grow and feed our aliveness from the inside – we can start to fill ourselves up with life energy or what we call PRANA. The force that runs through all of life. And we can either focus on filling it up or we can let it spill out.  
Yama gives us a new analogy to help us comprehend:
“Your body is like a great city, Nachiketa, with 11 gates within the surrounding walls. These gates represent your centres of exchange. Your two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, your mouth, genitals, anus, belly button and the point at the top of your head. Your job Nachiketa, is to man this city – to RULE this city. You are essentially King. Making sure that your life force, or your Prana is not spilling out into the world through these gates. That it is yours for building and using to create a sparkling, vibrant city within.”
So there you go, you may have more ‘exchange centres’ or ‘gates’ that you knew about in your body, but coming from The Lord of Death explaining the secrets to immortality…we can assume he knows a thing or two.
We can think of it like a whiskey barrel full of holes – if we’re continuously trying to fill it up with whiskey (or energy), but still letting it leak out the holes (through choices which deplete our energy), we are going to become exhausted. With no whiskey left for us or anyone else!
We need to start becoming Kings and Queens of our inner cities. We need to control the gates, or our energy choices, to keep building up our Prana inside. This means NOTICING what steals our energy from us and what builds it. For example, what happens to our energy after eating a delicious, sugary choux bun? Does it generally serve to lift our energy or does it actually make us feel a bit drained a few hours afterwards? If we get enough hours of sleep does this help generally enhance our energy? And are there some people in our lives that we realise lower our energies and some that maybe help us raise them? Are we perhaps letting visitors break into our inner cities and graffiti the on walls? It starts to get super interesting when we really start to pay attention to the little things.
So we start to come back to Preya and Shreya – our decision making tools. But tonight realising that these tools are to help us BUILD UP our level of Prana, so that we can become a total fountain of energy onto ourselves. So that we can live not just a ‘good’ life, but an utterly enriching one, totally beaming with aliveness. This reminds me of something I once heard Steve (our teacher) say:
“To live an ordinary life it requires an ordinary amount of energy. To live an extraordinary life, it requires an extraordinary amount of energy”. 
I remember hearing that and walking away thinking…’Gosh… I want the extraordinary life’. Wouldn’t anyone? And we’re all learning that it takes some real discipline, as well as being a process of never-ending learning and evolving. Personally, I feel that these energy choices, and Preya and Shreya, seem to reflect well on the idea of ‘self-love’. And I’m figuring out that it’s a two way street – to make better energy choices, means that I am being loving to myself, and being loving to myself makes me make better energy choices. And of course, being connected to everything else, as we all are, loving myself means loving the WHOLE. Which we reflected on when we questioned whether a Shreya choice for yourself could possibly not be beneficial for anyone else in the long term. In other words, could we do something that is beneficial for our highest good in the long term, which is NOT beneficial for someone else’s highest good also long term? The answer seems to be no. We may of course cause temporary pain in someone, but ultimately, they will also grow through that. All we can do, if life and the insistence for us to expand pull us one way, is offer love and try to reduce any damage to the best of our ability as we grow on our path.
Choosing to fill ourselves up with our own energy may sound a little bit selfish, but it’s more like becoming responsible for our own inner landscape. It is really the level of energy, or the Prana behind our own eyes that starts to determine our experience. That way, through our senses, we will start to experience the wonder everywhere – we’ll sit back as the perceivers of the glory of the externals. But only…. When we fill ourselves up FIRST. We can’t force ourselves or ‘talk’ ourselves into seeing the wonder everywhere. Imagine that! “Come on…we must try really hard now to appreciate the beauty around us”. It’s just not authentic, and it doesn’t happen that way. We must feel it within first.  And when we ARE full of energy inside ourselves, even within what we may consider a “mundane” and “normal” life – suddenly the trees start to become a little greener, the sky a little bluer, the sunrise more beautiful. Until one day, we catch ourselves ‘falling in love with a snail and we don’t even know why’. Life starts to become more technicolour, HD. The ordinary suddenly reveals its extraordinariness
So for one week, as rightful rulers, we get to examine our own energies – what builds our gleaming inner cities and what it is that knocks them down…What can we choose? Is this adding Prana or deducting? 
Until next week, Kings & Queens! :)