Sunday, December 25, 2011

How busy is the Universe?

It’s almost the end of the year and I can’t help but notice that I am saying, again, “This was the most awesome year ever!” Exactly what I said last year. And the year before. Probably because that’s how I see things, not because the year has anything to do with it and not because the actual circumstances support the notion. Yet, I am convinced that this was indeed the best year ever and I can point to a few things that would constitute “proof” in my mind. But that’s just in my mind. That’s also because I get happy just because, so one may say; low expectations go a long way.

One thing I try NOT to say anymore, though I did used to say before, is that the Universe had something to do with how things are. You know the usual expressions: “The Universe is telling me something,” “The Universe is opening doors and helping me along the way,” “The Universe is teaching me a lesson,” “The Universe is responding to me.” Basically, it appears that folks blame everything from good to bad, to strange and unexplainable on the Universe. This means, the Universe is really busy these days!

It actually is, but not in this way. In its own way the Universe is indeed super busy.  Stars come and go. Celestial bodies are moving with astronomical speeds. Galaxies are still forming. Comets are buzzing through space.  The Universe is expanding, than not, than expanding again….you name it. It’s happening in very real terms.

What is not happening is “Personal Catering by the Universe.” I expect folks would get a little confused with all the enlightened teachings out there that they hold dear – from dream boards and the Law of Attraction to the Secret, to all sorts of New Age excitement. What’s even more interesting is that somehow yoga got mixed up with wishful thinking and ended up being “feel good” escapist pursuit. So, now you can hardly go to a yoga class without some enthusiastic yoga teacher, telling you to release your worries to the Universe, or trust the Universe to guide you, or pay attention to what the Universe is telling you….

In all my years of studying yoga I have never encountered the notion that the Universe is my personal goodies delivery system. The Universe can actually be a scary place, with all the gods, goddesses and their relations, according to Hinduism. On the other hand, the Universe appears to be, just like all visible reality, a temporary phenomenon – every time Brahma goes to bed, a new Universe is being destroyed and another one is created in the morning after he wakes up. It’s a good thing a day & night in the life of Brahma is 8.64 billion years, which happens to be more than the age of Earth or the Sun, and about ½ of the age of the Universe according to astronomy. Therefore, our Universe is now longer than a day & night in the life of Brahma, so thank God Hindus were wrong in their calculations, because we should have been dead about 5 billion years ago (The current age of the Universe, as we know it is estimated at 13.75 bill years)
What they did get right is how dynamic and temporary the Universe is.

Yet, I haven’t read anything about the Universe working for me out there.  So, I am guessing the Universe is just not the kind of thing that works for anyone. Not even for Brahma, since Brahma seems to just make it up as he goes along and then leaves it to Vishnu to maintain it until it’s time to start over, in which case Shiva steps in and torches the whole thing. I guess, this shows you how seriously they take it.

So, why  do we feel like when we are doing things “right” we are supported, doors are opening, things are happening, and we end up in the “right” place?…Likewise, if we are finding difficulty, struggling, encountering obstacles, suffering, we feel like someone is trying to tell us something, teach us a lesson, show us where our mistakes are. Why is it that your dream board seems to work (sometimes)? Why does it have to be a “someone,” an “intelligent entity,” of some sort, that opens or closes those doors?

Could it be because we selectively choose what to focus on, have an insatiable need for meaning, hate to be alone, are desperate for approval… Is it all just wiring in the brain that colors things this way or that way, tricking you into experiencing a real connection where one does not exist, drives you out of unexplainable mixture of brain chemicals and hormones and basically has you enacting your species’ survival mechanisms?
No one likes thinking we are just flesh, bone and brain chemicals on a planet in the middle of nowhere, with no purpose and no meaning.  We must be more important than that! Aren’t we?

People prefer alternatives such as the existence of God, a reason for being, and a place to go after this is over. (Then they fight over which version of this is the better one. For thousands of years.)

Meaning, purpose, life…those are the big questions that we all entertain sometimes, or in my case, all of the time. The Universe seems to be how people fold everything into one word, a notion that encompasses all our hopes, dreams, needs and faith. The Universe is just like God, but you talk about God in church and you talk about the Universe in a yoga class and among your non-religious/spiritual friends while looking down on the folks that go to church. So, now we have another layer of discrimination: God vs The Universe. Theoretically God created the Universe, so why not just say God. On the other hand if you don’t believe in God, why attribute to the Universe the characteristics of God?

My biggest question is why do you always look outside of yourself for all the answers? Could it be that you are God, the Universe and everything else, and that’s why yoga scriptures always seem to find a way to point your attention back at your own being? Could it be that because you are all that, you are the inspiration, the motivation and the power for creating reality and that’s why your dream board works, or doors open, and when they don’t it is because you are not focused and acting out of that selfness? Could it be that mystics through the centuries and from all sorts of spiritual roots have been telling you all you have ever needed to know – You are IT, and you have not been paying attention?

“Love the questions.” said Rilke, and I think that’s all anyone should do. Love the questions as they lead you ever further, ever deeper and show you where you are not exactly jiving.   
What is this (reality)?
Who am I?
What should I be doing with “this one wild and precious life?”
Sometimes the answers come. Sometimes they don’t. Either way you are a changed person.  Next time you see me, don’t tell me what the Universe has been doing for you. Tell me what you have been doing.
Happy New Year. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The winds of change...

Is it winter, or is it summer? It’s hard to say by just looking outside. The nights are long but the days are sunny and warm. And then, there’s the wind…. Rattling windows, blowing leafs and whistling through windows.

That’s generally how I feel just before something interesting is about to happen. First I get a little confused and discontent as to what am I really doing, why and how long have I been doing it and am going to be doing it. Then I find my meditations getting longer and my mind shuts out the world of activity and goes into contemplation mode which kind of feels like dreaming, thinking, sleeping and meditating all at the same time. Then I start smelling the winds of change and shortly after I get blown away in some amazing direction and I am off to a new adventure!

It’s easy for me. I am sort of a romantic adventurer with passion for learning and discovering, so when I hear that wind hauling, I am off, full sail and a smile on my face. I don’t even mind the high seas or the occasional thunder storm that inevitably appear. I believe that every good adventure is worth all of its thunder storms and even the occasional getting lost. It’s who I emerge at the end that makes all the difference.
Yet, not everyone welcomes the winds of change with equal enthusiasm. Folks batten down the hatches. Close the blinds and turn on the TV louder so they don’t have to hear the whispers through the window cracks of consciousness.

There’s something comforting in knowing where you are, what you are doing and thinking that you have control over every aspect of your life. The need for certainty rules all other needs. So, we seek shelter, food, friendships, things that make us feel stable on our two feet and secure in the future.

Krishnamurti finds this need for perpetuity at the root of all human drama and struggle because, as he said, the self that seeks it is the ego and the ego is nothing but a story, told and retold, over and over again. You can’t make a story “feel” happy. It’s a story. And it is a story that does not exist outside of your own head.
As Wei Wu Wei put it:

Why are you so unhappy?
Because 99.9% of everything you think,
And everything you do,
Is for your self,
And there isn’t one.

So, what story are you listening to when you are all alone in your own head? Do you like it? My point is that if you are going to be telling yourself stories, you should at least pick one that you like. It beats the alternative. However, be aware that it is still a story. Swami Chetanananda ones told me “The difference is that I can hear my own bullshit.” And that made all the difference for me at the time.

How amazing that we can invest so much energy and effort, sacrifice so much for a story!

What would it be like if you choose to be storyless? I can imagine something like this…
Hi, what’s your name?
Everyone calls me Valentina, or Val, or Tina…

Or something like this…

Who are you?
Which “you” are you talking to?

Or like this….

So, tell me something about yourself?

So, you kind of need a story if you are going to enjoy a conversation here and there. Just as long as you don’t put all your chips on it and try to defend it, perpetuate it and uphold as if it is true, and at any cost. Let the story change with the times and the requirements of your creativity. Feel comfortable with that change and enjoy the results.

The stronger the identification with your story, the more painful the inevitable transformations. You can’t stop the winds of change. You can shut yourself in for periods of time and pretend you don’t hear what’s coming, but you can’t avoid it forever. While you are trying to avoid it, you are suffering, struggling and unhappy. Eventually, the storm that’s brewing out there smashes your shelter to pieces and you have no choice but to stand out there, your illusions blown to pieces in all directions, and kneel on the grown with gratitude that you are still alive.

I know. I’ve been there.

Now, I hear the winds of change, step outside of the shelter of my story and let them carry me away to where I should be.

Ah…so much easier. So much more fun. So much more to learn.