Spiritual Soul Quest

Wed. April 19, 2006
Categories: Dreams, Papers

Thirty years ago I used to run the track at the high school football field and one day I was thinking about Jesus. Running wasn’t easy. I didn’t particularly enjoy it.  Maybe it was the clear blue sky along with deep breathing that elevated my thoughts because suddenly in my mind’s eye I saw a blue-bodied figure playing a flute. The idea occurred that I should follow the song being played on the flute, pacing my stride and my breath with the rhythm.  He was beautiful!  I had never imagined anything like this, nor heard of it.   Six years later I was at a Vedanta Center bookstore in the mountains of Montecito, California.  A friend suggested I might learn to meditate properly. I spied the blue-bodied flute player on the cover of a beautiful book surrounded by women who danced around him, entranced. I asked the nun to tell me who it represented.  She said Lord Krsna was the cowherder who stole the hearts of the Gopi women (away from their husbands). I bought the book. I felt Lord Krnsa was to the Hindu what Jesus was to me, and I felt that I was a Gopi. I imagined dancing before the blue-bodied Lord Krsna and sensed the strange paradox between feeling sexual and spiritual at the same time. I had moments where I felt that if there were a spirit of god, this spirit accepted my totality as a human being. I could praise this spirit with my body, please this spirit with graceful motion and surrender to romantic passion as an act of worship.  While daydreaming of love and self-abandonment as I danced before Krsna, I learned about Ramakrsna and Sarada Devi, turn of the century saints of India.  Ramakrsna surrendered to the feminine archetype of Kali as a goddess and experienced bliss.  He initiated his child-bride into spiritual practices and called her Holy Mother.  I never imagined them physically engaging in intercourse because they were “holy” people.  I sat in meditation before photographs of the male and female representations of the divine, yet the father and mother aspects were separate and I felt I had to pick one or the other to love most. The duality filled my mind and heart with conflict.

My practice of yoga over the years has informed my understanding of duality.  I am aware of the opposite sensations in my body:  cold and heat, strength and weakness, light and dark, and the actions of opposing muscles as well as tension and relaxation.  I have been working with my body for years to balance these opposites through physical exercises called asanas along with breath work.  The breath work helped particularly with balancing emotions.  My sympathies were with Marx, as well as Freud, because I understood life as conflict and struggle.

During this period I learned a technique that claimed to resolve conflict. I used it to deal with my emotional problems. I was taught to work at the level of my beliefs, first labeling my beliefs as only opinions and then consciously reversing my belief (opinion) to experience both sides of an issue.  As much as possible I tried to “feel into” these opposing beliefs to discover my experience of them as I amplified my sensations around the belief. I tried to be as non-symbolic and non-intellectual as possible. It was simply a visceral experience without words. Then I let go of my opinions and redefined my experiences of persons, objects, feelings or ideas by accepting them just as they appeared to be, surrendering all judgment by choosing to create no responses to the phenomenon until I felt peaceful.  I began to be conscious of how to counteract all sorts of conflicting experiences by feeling fully what is, and then consciously trying to feel the opposite of what is while expanding these opposing feelings until they eventually merged and I experienced release of the tension of opposition.  I don’t think this was repression, but it was not expression either.  I disassociated myself consciously from my beliefs in order to discreate them, in other words, to remove energy from them.

The reason I mention this is because of a recent experience (now twenty-six years later) of Amma, a modern day saint from India.  After deeply uncomfortable feelings around my sexuality and after the end of a relationship, I was experiencing separation and the feeling of loss that it brings.  Flipping through a magazine found during lunch at an Indian restaurant, I saw a picture of a pleasant Indian woman along with the invitation to see her that very night at a hotel near LAX.  I had never been “taken in” by traveling saints and gurus, but she seemed different.  I wanted to receive a spiritual blessing called ‘darshan’ through the wordless ‘spiritual hug’ she freely gives to whoever approaches her.  I sat and watched for hours as she hugged hundreds of people, watched closely the look at her eyes to see if she were genuine, observed the obvious happiness of the people flooding from their eyes, wondered it if was a cult and if I would get caught up in it.  I met nuns with whom I easily engaged in enjoyable conversations, and approached Amma hesitantly and fell into the prescribed hug posture with head resting on her right shoulder.  Although earlier in the evening I had felt peaceful excitement, at that moment I felt only my personal, individual sorrow like a child begging for attention.  I left expecting a miracle (I was rather ecstatic) only to wake up the next morning in extreme pain, more emotional pain than I had experienced in a lifetime, the pain of being separated from Her, the pain of absolute aloneness in the universe without her embrace. the unbearable existential pain of total separation.  I reached into my magic bag of tricks, remembering one I had paid two thousand dollars for…I embraced the pain, every inch of it, feeling more and more of it, unafraid to die, just kept pushing into it to explore every aspect of it.  I then merged this feeling with my impression of Her love for all of humanity.

To my relief the pain resolved and I knew I was not alone or separate from Her, that I had somehow imagined the separation as real, that the union of these opposing feelings into a larger feeling of peace and love is possible, which leads me to believe now that I only imagine duality even while I continue to live in it!  This experience helped me to understand how the soul is divided, and that this division creates suffering.

Initially my experience of union was of merging opposing male-female archetypes which helped me to understand what marriage is meant to be.  I carried this incredible feeling of joy all day, unaware of any division in my soul.  I had married the archetypes inside my heart, and loved their union and now worship it and can find peace at the remembrance of it.  Only in Tantra are there rituals for symbolic sexual union between man and woman, the feminine being so absent in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But this experience with Amma was union between Mother/Child archetypes.

I continue to observe that the experience of union, either physical or metaphysical, does not last.  Even after experiences of sexual and/or spiritual union, we can re-experience the feeling of being separate and alone.  That leads me to wonder if separation is bound to be the human condition and if should be embraced for its own unique meaningfulness.  Ultimately, there may be no ritual or celebration of wholeness, unity, or sex that will alleviate suffering permanently, because suffering is meant to be a part of human existence that requires acceptance.  And somehow this acceptance is another path to wholeness, to be one with our suffering.

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