Sunday, April 27, 2014

Upcoming events

We are coming close to the end of the blog on Wilderness Rapture and Healing. I hope this has helped you get more out of your wilderness or nature experiences. 

My upcoming talk on Messages from the Ancestors, May, Saturday the 10th, Schott Center from 10-12 noon will be taking on a new direction. 

Although spirit guide or ancestor wisdom has been seminal to everything I have done or talked about over the last 13 years I am now shifting gears to sharing and expanding their messages with the help of music driven meditation and discussion. Over the next series of semesters at C.L.L. we will be covering topics such as: Destiny and the technology of the Soul, the power of Non Local Information available to us from our guides, Reincarnation, the Three Deadly Sins of Karma, Love, Words, Intention and Imagination, the importance of the Present Moment, the Hero/ine's journey and the Four Directions, how Neuroscience is coming into alignment with Ancient Wisdom (and making it more powerful for some of us left brained junkies,) the Tree of Knowledge vs. the Tree of Life (and also Health,) even a little about the Dark Side and more.

Many of you who have studied Eastern and other ancient wisdoms will have a sense of de ja vu' with these discussions since they are after all universal truths. Still I believe the most sophisticated among you will gain from their messages which come in a different form to those that have been familiar certainly to me and others who have read them. It  has been channelled from a mix of African indigenous wisdom, Celtic insight and Kabbalistic mysticism, sources not that accessible to most of us. Remember this is not coming from "me" and I am presenting it with great humility. The fact that we will talk about it doesn't mean I have mastered it. 
I would like to hear from you about your interest since this will be more of a coarse than just a number of isolated non-linked presentations. Naturally anyone is very welcome to come at any time. The talks, however, will build on one another. Missing out on some of them will not affect anyone's understanding, only maybe a more subtle integrating of the information. That being said, one should have a deeper appreciation with more rather than less. I will be posting some of their sayings and those of others on the blog and on Facebook but these will be just a taste of the profound wisdom they have given.
Please email me at so I can get a sense of your interest. This is also important for logistics since normally we meet in the Auditorium.
There are two books recently published with some of their insights; Messages from the Ancestors - Wisdom for the Way and Mpofu's Grandmother's Loving Lessons. They are obtainable at Chaucers, Paradise Found, Tecalote and my office (8059646771.) 
I am really looking forward to sharing this with you all.

Friday, April 25, 2014

This is the third in the series Opening up the Heart and the Six Pointed Star

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about peoples approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back, the only path to serenity. 
Tao Te Ching

Desire and Attachment

Buddha taught that all is sorrow and desire that creates attachment is one of the main causes of our suffering. Just as we can create inner calm by noticing our breath and achieve peace of mind by not judging others, we could prevent sorrow and suffering if we could stop our desirous attachments resulting from our ego-grasping nature. Desire and attachment are closely linked as it is the desire for something that leads us to become attached to it. Desire without attachment can be quite healthy. It is ego that leads us to want and acquire "things," and through attachment prevents us from letting go. Its ok to have things but they should not have us!
In the wilderness we can come close to the hunter-gatherer model, since we are separated from home comforts, modern conveniences and status symbols. In spite of this, many of us are still attached to the technology of our equipment, and conversations can easily gravitate around what kind of tent one has or how much one's boots cost. This takes on new significance in third world countries where the local help are doing well in sandals and short pants in situations where the trekkers in the same clothing would soon be hypothermic or frostbitten.
Hunter-gatherers own little and share everything. The Kung Bushmen have a sophisticated system of gift exchange called Hxaro. Richard Lee describes this as a delayed form of gift exchange, which is not necessarily equal in value. In this way goods circulate around the group and there is less chance of someone feeling deprived. The size or merit of the original gift bears no relationship to the size of the gift eventually returned. It is the thought and intent of the giving rather than its value that counts. The Bushmen are more interested in the social interaction than the gift itself. Wealth was measured more by how many times one gave and exchanged than by how much one actually kept. Food and water are never exchanged, but freely given. Lee also stresses that gift exchange is not the same as barter.
The Quechua people of the Peruvian Andes have a similar system called "Ayni" although it is a form of barter. This means "Today for you, tomorrow for me." The idea refers to a work exchange rather than a gift exchange. One day I help you till your fields, and on another you help me build my house. Again, the exchange does not have to be equivalent. The penalties of not reciprocating are severe and the culprit is likely to be ostracized from the community. However, no grudges are held and the moment reciprocation is instituted all is deemed well.
One of the advantages of trekking in exotic places is the knowledge one gains of local customs that can help us Westerners with our strained group interaction and trivial complaints. The visitor who is reluctant to share toilet paper can benefit from this exposure.
When we return to the essentials of what is involved in being in wilderness we can detach from desire, connect closely with Self and let our judgments fall away. We need only emulate Mother Nature's neutral stance, since just as she does not judge us, we should not judge others.
Our pain creates judgment and physical pleasure strengthens desire, causing attachment to "stuff." If we can remain in the middle path, not becoming attached to pleasure or pain, judgment or desire, our management of these difficult hurdles presented to us by the lower chakras can be overcome and we can live more readily in the realm of the upper chakras.
The upper chakras above the diaphragm can be represented by the qualities of truth, awareness and being in the present moment. Each in turn occupies one of the points of the upper half of the hexagon of the heart chakra which itself signifies love.
Truth is an integral part not only of the trek itself but also is manifest in the talking or council circle where the group shares feelings, insights, thoughts and experiences in a milieu of honesty, trust and openness. The talking circle is one of the most vital components of this inner journey and is an entire subject on its own. Not only is it a way to heighten the group coherence but it is another way to connect to “the Field” or the Tao of nature.

Awareness is engendered by the intention of the group as well as gentle reminders of “inward bound” principles. To open our hearts we must be aware of and in control of our lower chakras and the sometimes undesirable qualities of, judgment, desirous attachment and ego. Once we modulate these, the heart opens and we connect with the present moment, truth and self- awareness through love. Now energy can move up above the diaphragm through the fourth, fifth and sixth chakras respectively, and ultimately to the seventh.

Friday, April 18, 2014

This is the second on the series of Opening the Heart and the Six Pointed Star 
"When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him; when you seen an unworthy person then examine your inner self!"
Modern medical research has shown that people who are critical and easily angered are more prone to certain diseases. Neuroscience is discovering that cynicism depresses, while compassion and forgiveness bolster the immune system. Therefore if for no other reason than our health we need to try and suspend our tendency to find fault. Judgment also takes us out of the present moment. If one is judging whether this is the best sunset one has ever seen, there is little energy left for being with the sunset. This space becomes occupied with the analysis of the event.
We spend much of our waking lives judging circumstances, situations, events and people. In doing so we are taken away from the nature of Self since judgment reinforces ego. Unfortunately, to be effective in the Western world, it is difficult to get rid of judgment entirely. We need to judge and evaluate others to see if they can do the job or not. It might be more appropriate to use a softer word, like discernment. On the inner journey into wilderness we can let personal judgment slide, since there are no deadlines to meet and no goals to achieve. The Bushmen have a gentle pace of life and possibly this is why judgment is not a big part of their behavior. When there is peace, calm, harmony and equanimity judgment falls aside. When there is no judgment, peace and calm result. Noticing and being aware of one's breathing puts us immediately in touch with our mood. If we are anxious or upset, our breathing is shallow and rapid. If we are calm and relaxed, then so is our breathing. We can control our state of mind by controlling our breathing. Breath control or pranayama invokes a parasympathetic relaxation response to counteract our day to day survival or sympathetic nervous system overactivity. We can change a feeling of being upset and harried to one of being tranquil and at peace just by altering the breath. If we can control judgment with a similar practice we can have a powerful effect on our spiritual progress.
"Self condemnation strengthens guilt, which is one of the greatest obstacles on the path of realization." Sri Swami Rama
All spiritual traditions rest on a firm moral foundation and have tenets to reinforce righteous behavior. Neuroscience has also shown that shame and guilt increase pro-inflammatory factors in the body such as C Reactive protein that increase the incidence of certain cancers, autoimmune diseases and atheroschlerosis. Furthermore, we cannot aspire to high ideals if we have a poor image of our character and behavior. Our own self-critical feeling that we are not good enough leads us to invest a lot of energy into judging others to compensate for our feelings of deficiency. Judgment of others and of ourselves makes us angry and takes away our power. We suffer more from judging another than the person who is being judged.
We can forgive others, their failings and idiosyncrasies, if at the same time we forgive ourselves for some failing. We can make a trade and be kind to ourselves for non skillfulness in our own personality. This barter system might work a little more effectively, since being non-judgmental in a situation that evokes strong emotions can be extremely difficult.
Ayurvedic medicine or the science of life, believes that we have a basic nature or Prakriti. There are three main Doshas which can make up anyone's Prakriti. These Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, each of which represents a mind-body type. This is more sophisticated than the similar Western definition of endo, meso and ectomorph. Vata represents movement, Pitta metabolism and Kapha structure. The characteristics of each is unique. We are unable to change our makeup. If we try to be someone else and not true to our Dosha, we may go out of balance and eventually become diseased. Ayurveda gives many recommendations for keeping a particular Dosha in balance, by paying attention to whatever it is that gives our Dosha equanimity. There is no such thing as a good or bad Dosha; the Dosha just is! That is the way we are and the dosha is the body-mind card we were dealt when we were born. Some of us are single Dosha types and others can be a mix of di- or tri- Dosha. It is the dominant Dosha that is likely to go out of balance. This mind-body classification can give us insights into judgment. If we can look at people in the light of their having a particular Dosha, we can forgive them more easily for some of their "faults." The overanxious, irritable Vata personality who has been excessively stressed, has not slept and is exhausted, is no longer seen as a jerk, but recognized as manifesting the signs of his Vata Dosha which is out of balance. Kapha personalities who have trouble getting up in the morning and are constantly gain weight can be appreciated for their inherent Kapha nature instead of being regarded as lazy and undisciplined. By the same token, we can recognize some of our own behavior patterns and not judge ourselves so severely for our own deficiencies. At the beginning of a trail one can introduce participants to this system so that they can all trek together more harmoniously in a non-judgmental way.
One of the main principles of the talking or council circle is that; “Whenever one points a finger there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves." We are incapable of recognizing a shadowy quality in someone else unless it is a part of our own shadow as well. 
More often than not, judgment is a projection of our own shadow onto another.
Judgment can be positive or negative, and we are inclined to think that as long as we are saying good things no harm is done. Certainly praise is preferable to criticism but it is still judgment. It has been my experience in the group setting that lavish praise can be just as harmful as strong condemnation. When we praise in a close-knit group we are comparing one person's performance to the others, and this can lead to a feeling of inadequacy on behalf of those not being praised. It may be more constructive to the group as a whole to take the individual aside and say what must be said in private, be it appreciation or otherwise. Many of us find it difficult to talk about our own feelings and often remarks in the circle gravitate toward praise for one or other member of the group, the trip, the day, or the leaders themselves. Although it is easy and agreeable to listen to this type contribution it often distracts us from the main object of the circle, which is sharing more intimately a part of our inner self.
We may need to take another lesson from the Bushmen in this instance. They have ways of keeping everyone humble and holding egos in check to maintain clan harmony and equanimity. Richard Lee, in his book "The Dobe Kung," describes what he has called "Insulting the meat." This is an indifference or even a negativity displayed to the good news of a successful hunt by members of the clan. An accomplished hunter will tend to understate and be self-effacing and modest about what he has brought for the group, and the happy onlookers are more apt to say something derogatory about a kill. Even something as impressive as a giraffe may be met with a statement such as, "Do you expect this puny specimen will feed us all?" The hunter furthermore is expected to reply in a deferential way. This type of light-hearted bantering is vital in keeping more arrogant individuals in check.

The shadow archetype with its judgmental temperament is apt to come up in wilderness and can frequently be a disruptive force in the group. If the group has an understanding and awareness of the psychodynamics of this shady side of the ego self each individual can take responsibility for their shadow rather than assign blame and point fingers.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This is the first of a series on Opening the Heart and the Six Pointed Star or Hexagon and...
 I apologize profusely that this first in the series is now following the second - (being born in South Africa every now and again I am back to front.) When I posted it I was pretty sure I checked that it was there which it clearly wasn't. Anyway no problem, I am posting it now as well as the third in the series.

Opening up the Heart

We are all climbing toward the summit of our hearts’ desire. Should the other climber steal your sack and your purse and wax fat on the one and heavy on the other, you should pity him. The climbing will be harder for his flesh and the burden will make his way longer. And should you in your leanness see his flesh puffing upward, help him in a step; it will add to your swiftness.” ... Unknown
In this new age, a term we often hear is unconditional love. This is a lofty ideal, and few of us will ever reach that level of spiritual development where we can truly love everyone. The San Bushmen shaman must open up the heart to reach the transcendent through the Trance Dance. Bushmen healers say that to be a good healer one must love everyone, no matter what you think of them and that the key to out of body spirit travel in order to heal is to open the heart. Yogis say that of the three blocks or “knots” in the chakra system that prevent the flow of Kundalini energy, the heart block, is the greatest. The symbol of the heart chakra is the hexagon, or the six-pointed star and that is also the symbol for Tiferet, the "heart" of the Tree of Life.
This six-pointed star consists of two overlapping triangles pointing in opposite directions. The apex of the triangle directed downward symbolizes the material descending to earth, and the apex of that pointing upwards, the spiritual ascending to the Field or "heaven." Also if one considers the heart as sitting on the top surface of the diaphragm, one can see how the three lowermost points of the six-pointed star indicate below the diaphragm while the three uppermost point upwards.
Opening The Heart: The Six Pointed Star
The three lower points can be regarded as representing three spiritually inhibiting properties of the lower charkas just below the diaphragm; judgment, attachment to objects of our desire (desirous attachment) and ego. The three upper points indicate three qualities of the upper charkas; truth, awareness and being in the present moment. The hexagon itself embodies LOVE crucial for moving energy upwards. The main impediments to the flow of Kundalini energy are ego, judgment, and desirous attachment. The diaphragm is essential for pranayama, the control of breath, and pranayama is one of the most important techniques used by the Yogi to balance the sun and moon energies and get energy to move into the central channel and up into the higher chakras above the diaphragm. Not only does the diaphragm divide the lower from the higher chakras but it is vital for raising energy into the heart chakra and up.
Self lies beyond ego. Judgment and desirous attachment are facilitators of the ego. When we examine our inner selves in the space of judgment, we may find it truly wanting since there is no judgment in the place of true Self; judgment occurs in the space of ego.

The soul of a person who judges suffers harm. Talmud

Buddha taught that our ego-grasping and self-cherishing behavior are not only the source of all our misery but are the biggest deterrent to reaching nirvana and enlightenment. Only by doing things for their own sake rather than for an ego-based reason can we transform.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Continued from last week
Peeling Away Different Layers of Consciousness Leading to Self-Awareness, Peak Experiences or Moments of Transcendence
Patanjali the great Yoga sage described these sheaths, or layers or bodies, as follows: going from outside inwards.
(1) The Food sheath or physical body. 
(2) The Energy sheath or body of breath, energy, or prana. 
(3) The Mind sheath (body.) 
(4) The Intellectual sheath (body.)
(5) The Bliss sheath, or Ananda, in the center of which is the Self.

The Mind body, Intellectual body and ego together also have been labeled the Subtle body. The body of Bliss or Ananda has been called the Causal body. This model is extremely useful for anyone trying to understand the dynamics of reaching Self. Jung described this as a spiral rising upwards towards a peak with the Self at the crest of the peak. The spiral is an important spiritual symbol in many cultures and is more dynamic than the circle. Ego is referred to in Yoga text as I-ness and has a broader interpretation than does ego in the Western psychological sense. I-ness has no self-awareness and separates us from our true Self. In the West we see the establishment of I-ness or ego as desirable, whereas Eastern philosophies talk about spiritual evolution occurring beyond ego. Attempts to transcend ego in the West have been considered by many to be pathological.
The Mind body is the primitive mind and is responsible for thoughts, such as emotions, feelings, desires, impulses, habits and addictions. The Intellectual body, however, is the higher wisdom that dictates ideas, concepts, notions, beliefs and discrimination. The Intellectual body or higher mind should govern the lower mind, but does not always do so. If the Intellectual body can detach from memory and sensory input and detach from ego, it can step outside of the chain of cause and effect, i.e., the cycle of Karma. If it does this there may be no need to be born again. If not, one repeats the cycle of reincarnation until we can demonstrate that ego no longer has any binding power over our behavior. Things are done purely for their own sake and for no ulterior motive or any ego aggrandizement. A simple example of this may be charity done for its own sake versus charity done for the sake of a tax break or getting one's picture in the media. This kind of act, though superficially noble, has an ego-binding motive behind it, the consequence of which is yet another cycle of rebirth.
The Mind body, or lower mind is directly in touch with sensory input that often leads to a motor response. It is also vulnerable to the Buddhist concept of "Store" consciousness of the present and past lifetimes. It is constantly in a state of flux and without the higher mind to regulate it has no ability to discriminate. This can lead to anger, hate, jealousy and other negative emotions. With the help of the Intellectual body, the Mind body can generate positive emotions. Without it Mind resides in a state of doubt and acts on habits and impulse. The Mind body can be manipulated favorably with meditation, mantra, being in the present moment and mindfulness. 
Simplistically speaking, there are two blocks preventing us from reaching our higher Self. The first is ego or I-ness and the second is the uncontrolled Mind sheath. Both of these are intimately connected and governed by the Intellectual body, and hence the three form a triad. The Mind body believes that the primitive emotions arising from it represent truth when, in fact, this is the chattering monkey sitting on our shoulders giving us messages of delusion. It is Mind that is operating when our emotional garbage comes up in wilderness or anywhere else. For some, this “mind” trash can be modulated and governed by the Intellectual sheath. We can take responsibility for our negative emotions and realize that this spiritually debilitating conversation is not in our highest interest and that it needs to be released. If the emotions of the Mind body become reality this results in denial of self-responsibility and assignment of blame. Judgment is a powerful tool for the Mind body, and judgment, blame and self-righteous indignation are frequent manifestations of this sheath during the stress of wilderness situations or others.
It is possible to tap into the five sheaths of Patanjali during a wilderness trek or any other spiritual endeavor to access the higher Self. 
Researchers in Transcendental Meditation refer to the "Superfluidity State." This is an effortless often alfa state where activities seem to progress of their own accord. Actions become automatic and just "flow," and concentration appears minimal. There is a different quality to consciousness and a slowing of brain wave frequency. It appears that we begin the journey with our Physical body or food sheath and go inwards from there. As wilderness works its magic we tap into our Energy body or body of prana and may develop unexplained resources with the ability to walk all day or carry the heaviest pack. We are tapping into a different reservoir that seems limitless and sometimes leads to unusual physical feats like those seen by martial artists as they connect with Chi or their inner life force. These states resemble Superfluidity.
Unfortunately, the Mind body is often a large part of some peoples’ journey and they are unable to get out of the space of blame, judgment, envy, hate and other negative emotions. For these participants, significant positive shifts in wilderness take longer as their psyches slowly integrate. There is no doubt that exposure to the multifaceted dynamic of the wild will confront us with the psychic debris we least want to confront and this occurs in the Mind body bolstered by ego.
Others govern the Mind body with the Intellectual body, but may still be in the space of Mind. However, there is no acting out and the rest of the group does not suffer. They are nevertheless in a state of internal conflict where mind is bubbling up and wants to take over but their higher wisdom or learned behavior dictate otherwise. 
Still others have a well developed Intellectual body and are in a higher spiritual state approximating that of the Causal body, or body of Bliss. They are not so strongly attached to defending their egos.
When energy moves toward the body of Bliss we start to connect with the higher Self. Many of us may experience this at some stage of the journey and recognize it as being a momentary profound change in our state of consciousness or a peak experience. It is usually brief and as we try to hold onto it, it disappears though the memory imprint remains.
This model of Patanjali goes beyond what Western psychology has previously had to offer which is truth at an experiential, if not at a scientific level. Only recently neuroscience and functional M.R.I.’s have been able to differentiate between the two by localizing specific areas in the brain that “light up” with higher thoughts (frontal lobes) and monkey mind (more primitive areas of the brain.)
With the help of this model one can watch people tapping into their different energy bodies and see what manifests. Meditation and mindfulness in wilderness go a long way to modulating the Mind body's manifestation which is a cause of much suffering to most of us, as is our ego. Since wilderness facilitates mindfulness and entry into a meditative state, it is hardly surprising that wilderness rapture is so common.
Patanjali's sheaths are useful to appreciate the level at which we are operating. They are a map to follow to move up to a higher vibration. The biggest obstacle to entering higher levels of consciousness is the Mind body and ego. Wilderness can modulate the Mind body in such a way that the wisdom of the Intellectual body takes over and there is no more space for our monkey's annoying chatter.
The first step to a greater state of awareness is the appreciation that this Mind body,which occupies so much of our waking state is a distorted perception of reality. Nothing creative occurs in this space, and it is a perseveration of old conversations we have with ourselves over and over again. This emotional garbage that comes up for us on trail (or at other times) needs to be released into the wilderness. These are our negative desires, emotions, habits, compulsions and addictions. The wilderness can accommodate this type of mental delusion and will be happy to help us take care of it if we tend to our physical garbage and take care of wilderness by using mindful, minimal impact techniques.