Friday, March 29, 2019

Dragon Bone Broth: In the Palace of Mirrors

In the Palace of Mirrors 

Consciousness has numerous attributes, numerous powers, numerous functions; e.g., it pierces through, analyzes, dissects, it computes, it conceives and creates, it remembers, it imagines, it illuminates … and it reflects …  All of these attributes, powers, functions are ways of knowing, ways of arriving at knowledge … Consciousness aggregates, elaborates, extracts, and expands, it independently evolves knowledge … In the context of this talk, I just want to focus on one of these powers … Reflection is a very powerful way of knowing … the great Sufi Inayat Khan called the Mind World a Palace of Mirrors … We mirror each other …  In this instance, I don’t mean “mirroring” in the way you might imagine, I don’t mean someone showing you to yourself by holding a mirror up to you; I mean your consciousness comes upon something and opens to it and reflects it and in reflecting it, you learn and know and in this process of reflection, we, meaning me and whatever it is a being human or another species a seemingly inanimate object even a space that I am reflecting, we  know each other in a new way and we are changed. When two psyches mirror each other, they meet each other in a very different way than they would otherwise, they know each other in a very different way.

Inter-species communication offers examples of this kind of knowing. You have this experience with animals, it could be an animal that lives with you and shares space with you and depends on you, or it could be another domesticated animal you encounter in a friend’s home, or on the street, or it could be a wild animal you encounter on a trail in the forest. Inter-species communication. You just know what the other wants or needs. I’m not talking about projecting human thoughts or emotions on animals, I’m not talking about anthropomorphizing them. I mean when you really simply know what they are trying to tell you, not in words, not in anything like a human thought, when you really understand each other in the moment, well, they are actually mirroring each other’s minds, and in that mirroring they understand. We have the same experience in mind to mind communications between people who are very close to each other, even if they are only meeting for the first time in this life, because they are so close, so aligned. They feel a great openness toward each other. So they slip seamlessly into that mirroring mind and they know each other’s thoughts and feelings in that moment.

Each psyche is a palace of mirrors. And each grouping, each city, each country, each collective is a palace of mirrors constituted of the palaces of mirrors of all of the individuals within it. And Gaia itself, Herself, is a palace of mirrors which holds all of the collective palaces of mirrors which hold all of the individual palaces of mirrors within. And of course each palace of mirrors is … Infinite … So this powerful, these concentric circles of collective psyches, palaces of mirrors in which each mirror is a palace of mirrors, and the planetary psyche is a palace of mirrors which contains all of the collective palaces of mirrors holding all of the individual palaces of mirrors for all of its life forms, for all of its life forms …

And to that you add the Internet, and social media, clusters of such mirror palaces, accessible to us in ways never before possible, and it changes psyche, it changes all of the psyches, all of the palaces of mirrors receive new reflections directly or indirectly, because of the internet and social media, which become like another sense, of course our framing of “five senses” is very simplistic the reality is much subtler much richer much more complex, but within that “five senses” framing we describe the intuitive faculties as a “sixth sense” and so we should describe the internet and social media as a “seventh sense.” 

I want you to put aside for the moment all of our valid and serious concerns about the internet and social media, the issue of addiction, the issue of potential damage to cognitive functioning, the issue of the ways in which hidden forces seek to use the internet and social media to warp and misdirect the collective psyche or even individual psyches in a targeted way, all of these concerns are serious and valid, but just for the space of this presentation let us explore the powerful benign primal potential that is available to us …

I just want to touch on three realms of phenomena within this vastness …

But first some recent statistics to provide context:
  • 1 billion people use Instagram. 
  • 80% of Instagram users are outside of the US. 
  • Most Instagram users are between 18-29 years old. 
  • 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day. 
  • Over 40 billion photos and videos have been shared on the Instagram platform since its conception.

This is a palace of mirrors being poured into by a billion palace of mirrors, so everything is out there, on there, in there -- the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it, the stupid, the brilliant, the vain, the poignant, all of it … 

I just want to take two or three slices out of this vastness for us to briefly examine:
  • Instagram Yoga
  •  Selfie
  •  FOMO 

The power of Asana unleashed in the Palace of Mirrors.

I know, I know, just as there is with the internet and social media as a whole, there is much that is of serious and valid concern about the phenomenon of “Instagram Yoga” There is a whole conversation we could have about what’s wrong with Instagram Yoga. But just as I did with the internet and social media as a whole, I want you to put that all aside for the space of this presentation, and focus for a moment on the powerful benign primal potential that is available to us … The power of Asana unleashed in the Palace of Mirrors …

There are several overarching themes in both “Wyrds of Power” and “I, the Dragon,” e.g., the Ascendancy of the Feminine in Psyche, Altruism and Sustainability as Spiritual Imperatives and yes, the Evolution of Yoga and the Yoga of Evolution. Yoga is evolving in the 21st Century. It has evolved beyond its origins in India. It is evolving beyond the patriarchal framework within which it was held, and handed down, over these last few centuries. 

Yoga is evolving on a global scale. It is no longer the intellectual property of India. It is not the property of patriarchal and hierarchical traditions. It is evolving. And this evolution is being largely driven by women. On a global scale, being driven by women, and in its initial phases it is being driven primarily by women in the West. And I say that the evolution of yoga and the yoga of evolution are intricately intertwined, but by that I don’t mean that yoga itself as a methodology will be somehow at the center of everything, the center of government, the center of business, I don’t mean it that way, I mean that those who are now moving toward the centers of power in business, in government, in the arts and sciences, a significantly higher percent of those people, on a global scale, have yoga in their bodies, have done asana, have taken on yoga, not just physical yoga of course, but also aspects of jnani yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, the principles, the experiential power of yoga, they are in it, it has opened them up to somatic intelligence that they would not otherwise have, a significant number of people coming to power in all of these realms, at all different levels in all of these realms, will have an awakened somatic intelligence, will be informed in a way through their yoga practice, in a way that others have not be informed in the past, and this will play an important part in the evolution of what is to come in the Great Shift …

The power of Asana unleashed in the Palace of Mirrors.

The hash tags tell us the story:

#InstragramYoga (61,865 posts)
#Yoga (61,048,707 Posts)
 #YogaEveryDamnDay (15,315,887 Posts)
#YogaLife (7,606,890 Posts)

The power of Asana unleashed in the Palace of Mirrors --

It all starts with one asana, one pose. Maybe it’s a heart opener, like Ustrasana,maybe it’s a hip opener, like Baddha Konasana, maybe it’s an inversion, like Salamba Sarvangasana. It could even just be Mountain (Tadasana), simply standing tall and open, or Corpse (Svravasana), simply lying on your back in stillness. But in some pose or another, if you are meant for this path, it will just happen, it will just take you. Seemingly suddenly, seemingly spontaneously, you will be on the other side of the membrane of maya, you will be inside your physical body perhaps for the first time, and certainly in a new way. It will all flow onward from that moment. The truth will dawn on you, what yoga really is, and it will offer you ever deeper insights into the mystery of your own being. Each asana is a hieroglyphic. In the language of soma. Each asana is a sacred syllable. In the mantra of human embodiment. Each asana contains occult information. The asana knows more about you than you do. And it knows what it knows about you in a way that you are probably not used to feeling or knowing anything about yourself. Each asana has a message for you. It may be repeat the same message over and over again. Or it may bring forth a different message every you settle into it. But whatever message(s) you receive, you will be in direct communication with a power beyond comprehension.  When you enter into an asana, a single, simple asana, any asana, you are entering into direct relationship with an infinite intelligence that has direct access not only to the full spectrum of your current physical state, but also to the entirety of your own soul’s akashic record (past and future) as well as to the sacred, multi-dimensional repository of all divine wisdom from all ages in all worlds.  If you listen to what the asanas tell you, a path will open to you, a path of transformation, a path of healing and revelation.  –Richard Power, I, the Dragon: Chronicles of An Epic Life Among the Humans (2018), pp. 287-292

I posit that asanas are hieroglyphs that unlock vita information for you in practice, I further posit that even seeing asanas unlocks information … Hence my fascination with the number of posts using these hash tags … These powerful somatic hieroglyphs are being shot out into the palace of mirrors tens of millions of times. This means something on both the individual and collective scales, and changes something on both the individual and collective scales …

Occult History of the Self-Portrait

Another element in this palace of mirrors that is social media is the Selfie.

In the 19thCentury, and before the 19thCentury, and even on into the early 20thCentury, self-portraiture was the exclusive province of the painter. Brushstrokes on canvass. Furthermore, the little we have, the compelling self-portraits that hang on the walls of our galleries, are only the work of the subset of artists who somehow survived both the gauntlet of critics and patrons, as well as the labyrinth of their own psychological challenges. In particular, Edward Munch and Frida Kahlo bravely explored the vast, abysmal depths of the self-portrait. These are two of my favorites: Munch’s Self-Portrait in Hell (c.1903) and Kahlo’s Autorretrato Muy Fea, Self-Portrait Very Ugly (1933) 

I align the rise of photography as an art form alongside with the rise of existentialism in philosophy and psychology in science, in terms of its importance to the modern and post-modern world. The rise of photography as an art form led to a quantum leap in what a self-portrait could convey, and also who could do a self-portrait. The who, how, when, where, it all opened up, it moved beyond the brushstroke and the canvass, the field of self-portraiture became much more intimate, much more immediate and much more democratic.  

For me, Diane Arbus’ Self-Portrait, Pregnant (N.Y.C., 1945) and Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait (1986) embody this quantum leap.

Now fast forward to the world of the smartphone and social media, and to the culture of the Selfie. Suspend for just a moment whatever derisive views you might hold concerning Selfies, and take in the sweeping scope of this occult history of the self-portrait from the brushstrokes of Munch and Kahlo to cameras and tripods in the age of Diane Arbus, Francis Woodman and Andy Warhol to iPhone and Instagram, and therefore to everyone, anyone, everywhere, anywhere … The power to take an instantaneous self-portrait. The power to take a Selfie, and the social permission to share it, allows you as an individual to capture a dimension of yourself you might never have seen, to preserve some fleeting version you that might otherwise be lost forever, and perhaps most important, it not only allows you to share it, the intimacy of it, the transparency of it, it encourages you to, it invites you to … 

and it is not just you taking a selfie can allow you to explore the nature of relationship, to reveal the nature of friendships, it allows us to display how we reflect each other in this palace of mirrors … the power of the Selfie can be transformative …

Palace of Mirrors - FOMO

I was with a young friend of mine, we were walking her dog in the Oakland hills, she is one of the most impressive people I know, we met on a golden dragon in the desert, i.e., at Burning Man, in the six years she has survived two challenging, heartbreaking relationships, she has walked away (literally) from a serious car crash in which her convertible flipped over and landed upside down, she changed careers, became the valedictorian of her class and bought her own home. But when I asked her about something I had seen on Facebook, she mentioned she wasn’t on social media much anymore. And when I asked why, she said “FOMO.” 

Urban Dictionary Definition of FOMO
a state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out …
A form of social anxiety - a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media websites

The notion intrigued me. As I said, she is one of the most impressive young people I know. How could she feel FOMO? And then I looked at myself and said well, I certainly shouldn’t be susceptible to FOMO. After all that I have experienced, after all my adventures, all my travels. I dug deeper. But once the notion had been introduced into my psyche I found it there after all.  There are some studies of FOMO. It’s a fascinating subject to explore. It is something that has always been with us of course. The Four Noble Truths speak to it. Seriously. But in this palace of mirrors, with our seventh sense operating, we are vulnerable to it in a heightened way. 

This is a self-portrait taken by my friend Erin (@KikiLeOrange), she is a professional photographer, adventure leader and yoga teacher. She took this photo of herself at an extraordinary waterfall in Bali. (Because after all on Instagram it seems as if everyone is moving from Bali to Iceland and back again. Such is the nature of the illusory in the palace of mirrors.) In the accompanying caption, Erin shared her feelings on a year of transformation and healing. 

So FOMO, FOMO. FOMO … Everything that you once experienced that you can no longer experience. Everything that you have never experienced, and have always wanted to experience, but never will experience. Everything you choose not to experience and now regret choosing not to. Everything. Everything. All of it. In the course of scrolling through your Instagram feed, all kinds of emotional and psychological content arise.

Sadhana: 21stCentury Opportunities, 21stCentury Reinterpretations

NOTE: “The Strophalos, or Hecate’s wheel is an ancient Greek symbol, and is an emblem of the initiatory lunar Goddess Hecate (Diana Lucifera), and her triple aspect. Only one ancient source remains to shed any light on the emblem’s meaning. The second century Alexandrian text known as the Chaldean oracle describes the emblem as a labyrinthine serpent (emblematic of rebirth) surrounding a spiral, symbolic of the Iynges- “whirlings” or emanations of divine thought. Today, it is generally used by practitioners of Hellenic Recon or Dianic Traditions of Wicca as an emblem of religious identification. Other emblems of Hecate include torches, dogs (generally female), keys, serpents, and of course, the crossroads.” – Dictionary of Symbols

So as you can see now, even just by touching lightly on only these three strains within the infinite reflections coursing through the palace of mirrors, the 21stCentury offers us countless opportunities to practice. And I want to offer you two 21stCentury reinterpretations of powerful methods to deepen your awareness, your grounding in the reality of who and what you really are and what this life truly is …

The first of these two powerful methods is Vichara (Self-Inquiry). 

I have spoken about Vichara over the years, and I have written about Vichara over the years.

It was principally articulated for us by Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of Arunachala.

Ramana is a very important source. His being, his teachings, had a profound impact on my Yoda, the legendary American sage Joe Miller. And consequently his being, his teachings have exercised a profound influence over me on my ow journey forward and inward.

The method, the technique, the practice is simply to ask yourself, “Who am I?” Whatever you are doing, whatever arises, however you feel, wherever you are, whatever, whatever, whatever, just ask yourself silently, inwardly, “Who am I?” Not to separate yourself out from whatever you are doing not to separate yourself out from whatever you are feeling, or wherever you find yourself in the moment, just ask yourself, peacefully, gently, “Who am I?”

I say “not to separate yourself,” and this is very important, I mean not to isolate yourself, it’s not intended somehow remove yourself from the moment, or to somehow make whatever you are experiencing less than something else, or different from something else … so this is NOT “Neti, Neti …” (i.e., “Not this, Not that …”) Although it will often be presented to you as something equivalent to “Neti, Neti …” Vichara is not “Neti, Neti …”

People would come to Ramana and ask him, “Is reincarnation real?” And he would say why don’t you ask yourself, “Who am I?” Find the answer to that question; and then if you still want to ask about reincarnation come back and we will discuss it. People would come to Ramana and ask him, “Which is it, is it all free will or is it all determinism?” And he would say why don’t you ask yourself, “Who am I?” Find the answer to that question; and then if you still want to ask about free will vs. determinism come back and we will discuss it.

Who am I as I sit here and speak to you? Who am I? The answer isn’t “I am not my body,” or “I am not my ego,” or “I am not my name.” That’s not it. 

Just ask yourself, “Who am I?” And don’t posit an answer.

Just ask the question. Don’t posit an answer. Just take a gentle, in-drawn breath and allow the question to answer itself, allow the question itself to reflect the answer. Unspoken, unspeakable. Indescribable, incomprehensible. But nevertheless immanent, intimate, direct and utter. That space between two thoughts, that is the answer itself, it is the substance of the reality of who and what you are. It is from that that the Voice of the Silence arises. It says nothing, and in saying nothing it embraces and exalts everything. The answer is so immediate, so direct, that people don’t believe it, they can’t trust it, there is no concept to cling to. The answer to that question is so immanent, so instantaneously present, that people miss it.

Who am I?

The second practice is Vairagya.

Vairagya is typically translated as “dispassion, detachment, renunciation, indifference” and the subsequent implication is that you must somehow rise above, to live in pure white and eat only pure food and remove yourself from the profane world, to live removed from the world around you, or somehow cultivate indifference to the world, to be detached from it.

Here is a description of Vairagya offered by Swami Vivekananda, who was a very important historical and a noble servant of the truth. But in this description of Vairagya, Swami Vivekananda is just wrong, typical but wrong. 

This quote BTW has literally become an internet meme, rattling through the palace of mirrors. 

“The chief helps in this liberation are Abhyasa and Vairagya. Vairagya is non-attachment to life, because it is the will to enjoy that brings all this bondage in its train; and Abhyasa is constant practice of any one of the Yogas.”— Swami Vivekananda

As you see, I have taken the liberty of crossing out the wrong-headed teaching.

I suggest to you that Vairagya means no such thing, at least not to us here in the 21stCentury, if it ever did mean any such thing. For us, it means to be able to remain present, to abide in a great peace, to call it an inner peace would be misleading because it takes us back into “inner” and “outer” let’s just say a piece that is like your own skin a peace that moves with you through all of it, so you can be fully present with the greatest joy or the deepest sorrow, fully present, without pulling away, remaining with the truth of it in the moment, fully, all of it, to feel the greatest joy or the deepest sorrow, fully, and yet not lose that all enwrapping skin of peace even when you unravel it, even when you are skinned alive, and robbed of that peace, you simply return to it, you reinitialize it reboot it, and you resume your practice, and you put one foot in front of the other, leaning forward, that’s vairagya, and so FOMO brings us this opportunity to cultivate vairagya, scrolling through all that you once had and will never have again, all that you have always wanted but will never have, all that you could have had if only, all that you should have except for, all of it, the places you will never return to, the places you want to visit but may never get to, the life experiences you have lost, the life experiences you have passed by, all of it, whatever it is for you, it is an opportunity to practice, to cultivate true vairagya, which is not the pushing away of the greatest joy or the deepest sorrow, or the memory or echo or reflection of either, but simply being present with it, for it, through it, and on and on and on … Vairagya is a powerful ally …