Sunday, February 28, 2016


Fear elicits a response from the Sympathetic component of our Autonomic Nervous System leading usually to a flight or fight response but also sometimes to freezing or feigning death. The latter two occur in animals but shame and severe condemnation of self or by others, by putting our brains in a lock down, freeze mode, can achieve the same result. 
The causes of fear are many; superstitious, religious, loss of life,  limb, organ or function, the deep, the dark, the steep and the unknown. Of all fears the social ones surrounding loss of ego are sometimes the most powerful and can lead to the kind of self-paralysis described above. 
Fear arises because of an appraisal of an impending threat. In most it leads to stress, in some it may lead to eustress or good stress which occurs in folks who thrive on stressful challenges. The defense mechanism was meant to rescue us from life or death situations and results in a pouring out of adrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal glands and a sympathetic nervous system overload (dilated pupils, dry mouth, increased heart rate and blood pressure etc.)  When we were hunter-gatherers and survived a lion attack, at the end of the ordeal our body would down regulate quickly to normal and there would be a sense of gratitude, empowerment and self mastery. In our modern era, however, stress leads to a chronic up regulation of the sympathetic nervous system leading to hypertension, an increase in pro-inflammatory factors which can cause atherosclerosis and certain autoimmune disorders and cancers. Chronic increases in cortisol can suppress the immune system and also predispose to diabetes. If we do not find a way to counteract chronic stress we will not endure good health or realize spiritual growth. Any spiritual practice will balance the scales by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a relaxation response and down regulating the sympathetic overload. This is why yoga, meditation, chi gong, tai chi etc have become so popular in the West.
Overcoming fear leads to greater self-mastery, self-esteem and self-actualization. Hence the emphasis on the Hero/ine's journey recently. In all three phases of the journey (Separation, Threshold, Incorporation) described by Van Gennep and Joseph Campbell one encounters fear and overcomes it allowing one to obtain the "grail" of whatever it was that the journey offered up. 

Those that have further to go in self mastery will usually gain more from the challenge but an overload can be debilitating to the novice.  The army uses the following principles to increase the intensity of a perceived threat by; increasing the complexity of the task, the risk and consequences of failure and by decreasing the time given to complete it. Fear increases if the participant is kept ignorant of the exercise and does not know what to expect. All these principles also apply to our own lives and abilities to manage stress.
 Handling fear effectively is a vital part of our existence and self-transformation. 
As Aldo Leopold said; "it must be a poor life that obtains freedom from fear."

It is essential for us to have a spiritual practice which can help  balance the fear based polarities of our lives. The first Chakra is the energy center at the base of the spine responsible for survival but we should ensure that the challenges of just a day at work are not perceived by our bodies in the same way as if we were being chased by a bear. We have to raise the energy above the second and third chakras to the fourth or heart chakra of love above the diaphragm in order not only to live in harmony but for transpersonal growth. The diaphragm is critical for breath work which is a powerful way to get an immediate relaxation response in challenging circumstances.

We should all nurture, almost on a daily basis, a spiritual practice that is enjoyable, sustainable and done for its own sake for at least 20 minutes a day, if we are to heal and grow spiritually.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Raja yoga is also called the royal road and is the science of physical and mental control whose chief practice is meditation. It is also embraced by the complete system of eight limbed or Ashtanga yoga. The practice of Raja yoga can lead to Samadhi or a superconscious state of oneness with Self and God.
Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge and wisdom where the yogi uses the mind to inquire into its own nature e.g. Buddha's final enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

Just as each one of us must find the spiritual and transformational path uniquely suited to ourselves so also, will each of us have a bias to one or other form of yoga; (and archetype in which to manifest our destiny.) However, at the end of the day the path is one of love. 

The Ancestors can help guide us with these principles. We can manifest this love through any, many or all of the main archetypes; the Healer, the Teacher, the Warrior, the Visionary or the Hero/ine who is often also a visionary.

We need to remember that...

...which needs to manifest for its own sake and for no ulterior motive.

God does not micromanage or play favorites. Karma is built as a default into the soul so we can attain spiritual perfection with the skillful use of free will.

The Creator wants a personal and co-creative relationship with each of us and wants us to fully actualize our God given talent or gift...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

more on bhakti yoga

Nature is another way to practice devotional or Bhakti yoga, best on our own and in silence. 

The Ancestors

Nature is the Creator's masterpiece where walking alone can saturate our senses with "soft fascination"; sunsets, smells/aromas, scenes and sounds or Nature's mantra and Her rhythms, and daily, monthly and yearly cycles. Walking in pristine wild areas meditates us and leads to entrainment much like an infant is entrained to the heart beat of his or her mother. The Ancestors tell us to...

It is possible to hear the soft, silent, still voice of God in nature if one tunes in with the right receptivity, intention and vibration. No doubt this was the experience of David, the shepherd, psalmist and musician as well. 

The Ancestors

 Like the Bushmen of the Kalahari the Zohar tell us that the stars are singing and astronomers have recently begun to record the sounds that emanate from them.

 It was for good reason that the worlds greatest sages - Moses, Jesus, Buddha and others - found enlightenment in wild places. It seems that 40 day and 40 nights are required, somewhat of a challenging time for most of us to spend alone.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


it helps all seEkers to classify spiritual practice into these four categories; KARMA, BHAKTI, RAJA and JNANA Yoga. All can lead to union with the creator. 

last week we dealt with karma yoga - the yoga of love through service

Bhakti Yoga appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the love of God. Through prayer, worship and ritual she/he surrenders to God with unconditional love or devotion. Chanting or singing the praises of God form a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga. The practice is not confined to Yoga. We can find it in the writings of the ecstatic Sufi poets, David's psalms and all wisdom traditions. 

Kabbalah believes that God wants a personal relationship with every human and that God is playing a game of love - hide and seek ("search for me and you will find me..." ) but very few want to play. Also that "...the route to God is through the senses." 
When one participates in a sangoma ecstatic healing ritual with drumming, singing and dancing it often feels as if God is present. 
The Chassidic branch of Judaism express their love for the Divine by dancing and singing. 
For many embodied spiritual practice is an easier way to connect with Source than passive meditation. Asana Yoga  - Yoga postures (which includes breath practice or pranayama) - now so popular in the West, is only one of the eight limbs of Yoga. It is essentially sensory in nature. (The Eight Limbed or Ashtanga Yoga stands apart from these Four Paths described in the current blogs.)

We are all heading towards the same light but each of us must travel a different road. The Ancestors say; "There are many paths to transformation and many sacred practices and prayers, you are to find the one for you." At the end of the day the universal medium is love expressed in the four different Yogas. Bhakti yoga may be difficult for some but there are three others to choose from and one need not be confined to one alone.

More on Bhakti Yoga next week