Here is the Introduction to my new (ninth) book, User's Guide to Human Incarnation, The Yoga of Primal Reality
, available now from Amazon.com:
By “User’s Guide,” I mean a text that makes vital information accessible, to help you get the most out of some enabling technology, a text that explains that technology in a way that empowers you. In this instance, the technology is your own extraordinary incarnation, with its numerous vehicles and powers.
By “Human Incarnation,” I mean the journey from the first breath to the last, the span of an individual lifetime, all that befalls us between birth and death, and in all our bodies (i.e., physical, mental,emotional, energetic and spiritual).
By “Yoga,” I mean a methodology by which those of us willing to dedicate ourselves to practice can cultivate healing and conscious evolution in all our bodies.
By “Primal Reality,” I mean the miraculous power and beauty of human existence in its totality, from our basic animal needs to the highest states of human consciousness, all of what and who we are in our utter nakedness.
The book is divided into four parts, “Part I: Divine Nature, Human Experience,” “Part II: Human Nature, Divine Experience,” Part III: “The Aghori Within,” and “Part IV: Mapping Primal Reality.” Much of the content in these sections is transcribed from a series of seven talks on “Mapping Primal Reality,” delivered at the San Francisco Theosophical Society Lodge between August 2012 and April 2013. Interspersed between these four sections, I have included small groupings of three or four “Epiphanies,”as well as a larger such grouping of “Epiphanies” at the end, to provide further experiential context for the main exposition.
There is need for this new User’s Guide to Human Incarnation.
We misunderstand so much about who and what we are in this extraordinary space between our first breath and our last. Human incarnation itself is the spiritual path. At the moment of birth, we are not dropped into exile from the life of spirit. Quite the contrary, we are dropped into its greatest opportunity and, potentially, its fullest expression. This physical body is not a curse, it is a remarkable instrument of divine will, adorned with extraordinary faculties and capacities, e.g., the senses, the mind, the sex organs. Seekers should view them as siddhis, rather than as impediments or distractions.
The personality that develops in relation to the world around us is not a prison to be escaped, or some monstrous impostor to be slain, it is a magic mirror in which we can see divine playfulness reflected in human folly, and divine nature reflected in human virtue.
This life is a laboratory in which we are, individually and collectively, researching the chemistry of ignorance and intelligence.
Physical existence is not a limitation imposed on our spiritual life, quite the contrary, it is an exercise in freedom, will and expression that is highly coveted on the other side of the veil. This world is where the action is. Our life is of vital importance.
Human incarnation is divine revelation.
There is also need for an articulation of the Yoga of Primal Reality.
Yoga is not a methodology for uniting human and divine, or resolving the human into the divine, it is a methodology for realizing the union that already exists between human and divine. Yoga is a methodology for reveling in the truth of who and what we are, i.e., pure being (Sat), consciousness (Chit) and bliss (Ananda).
This being-consciousness-bliss is our spiritual reality. But our material reality is one of animal needs, ego, creativity, desire, and so much more.
These are not two distinct realities. They are not separate. They are not at odds with each other. They are one, and they are our PRIMAL REALITY, i.e., the full spectrum of divine nature in human incarnation, all of it, from flesh to spirit, in light and darkness, from birth to death, in joy and sorrow, all of it. This Yoga of Primal Reality embraces all of it.
For me personally, this particular book is like some extraordinary cliff from which four mighty rivers pour into one deep,rolling sea.
The first of these four rivers spans the fourteen years I spent in apprenticeship to my “Yoda,” the legendary American sage Joe Miller, as well as the twenty-one years since his death in 1992. I have spent these years since his death, integrating what I learned from him, and expanding upon it in my own voice and from my own perspective.
The second river is the knowledge and experience that flow from a decade-plus healing journey, under the guidance of a brilliant somatic psychotherapist named Staci Haines. With her, I went on a quest into the hell realms to retrieve those chunks of my heart and psyche lost during a childhood shattered by profound abuse. (I will share this story sometime down the road.)
The third river began as an offshoot of the second. As Staci and I began to peel away layer after layer of trauma, and I began to get in touch with my real feelings, my real thoughts, and my real body, I realized I needed some auxiliary avenue of exploration.
In addition to our weekly hour together, I needed some further outlet in which to stumble toward embodiment.
So I walked into a yoga studio south of Market Street, and took a noon hour class in Ashtanga Yoga, and as I was lying back in Supta Baddha Konasana, somatic information began to rise up from my opening hips, and I knew that this powerful practice was going to become an integral element of my healing process. And so it was. For several years, I studied with the infamous Larry Schultz, a.k.a. the “Rocket Man,” who Prattabhi Joi had playfully christened the “Bad Boy of Ashtanga.”
Larry taught me so much. He taught me to curl my toes up in Downward Dog, he taught me never to go longer than seventy-two hours without yoga. “Don’t lose the burn,” he said. And in that studio crammed with sixty or seventy people on mats, he saw my first full Urdhva Dhanurasana and called out to me from the other end of the space, “BE U TEA FULL, Rich.” (No one calls me “Rich,” ever, but Larry got a pass.) Yes, I had survived and kept my sanity through the power of a warrior heart, and that evening on Folsom Street, my warrior heart found its home, and I found my signature pose. Back bending is heart opening.
The fourth great river emptying into this spectacular canyon, and further deepening this new sea is the current of knowledge and experience that flows from the Shamanic dimension of the psyche.
Like the river of Hatha and Tantra, this fourth river branched off from the river of Somatic Psychotherapy, and took on a life of its own, as all of the Wild rose up toreach out to me on my healing journey. Yes, the trees, the rocks, all that slithers, all that flies, all that scurries on four legs. Much of this opening occurred in the forests of Sonoma, and there were also profound initiations visited upon me on the Big Island, and on Kaui, and in Yosemite, and Death Valley, and at Uluru.
I will just tell one of these stories here.
A decade or so ago, I visited Hawaii. The islands surprised me, and seduced me. The visit provided a forward impetus into the new Shamanic understanding that had already begun to open up for me in Sonoma, in Yosemite,and in Death Valley.
The Hawaiians, a Polynesian warrior people, had enjoyed one thousand years of feasting, fornicating, hunting, fishing, surfing and fighting – before the bible-thumping, gun-touting Anglo-American exploiters destroyed their way of life with ant-like relentlessness. I visited Kauai, the oldest island (3.5.5 million years) and the Big Island, the youngest island (0.75 million years). These islands told me secrets …
In the heat of the day, hiking a coastal trail on Kauai, my companion was up ahead of me, around the bend and out of sight. I heard a strange female voice, cackling and cursing, coming toward me, from a distance farther on. “Get away from her! She’s a criminal,” the voice shrieked.“You and all your people are criminals!” Whoever it was up ahead was accosting my companion. In a few moments, around the next bend, I was face to face with an insane old hag with a small white dog. But she did not curse me, or cackle at me. “You can drink it, she said loudly, but not shouting anymore, “It won’t poison you.”
Several days later, on the Big Island, leafing through a book on Pele, I read that although she was best known for taking the form of a dark, exquisitely beautiful young woman, she also occasionally manifested as an old hag with a small white dog. Of course, for many years, I had been drawn to the image of Pele, the beautiful dark goddess of the volcano.But I hadno idea she would sometimes take the appearance of that old hag with a little white dog. Pele had indeed come to me.
“You can drink it,” she had promised, “It won’t poison you.”
So in the text, all four of these currents are present: experiential knowledge of Shiva-Sakti Yoga and Vajrayana Buddha Dharma, a powerful healing journey into somatic psychotherapy, a deep embrace of Hatha and Tantra, and a Shamanic awakening to the voices of the forests, mountains, deserts, and oceans.
All of these rivers had been separate flows, but here they empty into a vast inner canyon to become one rolling sea, and I have named this sea, the Yoga of Primal Reality. It’s not another system, not another school. What I offer is a unique perspective, a vision, some practical insights, and what I hope is some new and empowering language.
Every hour of every day, we lurch closer to oblivion, and the future is urging us to rescue our selves, our civilization and our natural world. There is only one way to perform such a rescue, and that’s from the inside out, one conscious breath after another, one loving heartbeat after another, one embodied asana after another, one moment of authentic prayer after another, one moment of authentic meditation after another.
My new (ninth) book User's Guide to Human Incarnation, The Yoga of Primal Reality
is available now from Amazon.com.