Tag Archives: dmt

Mara Page 11

Standard


To support Justine and Mara, become a patron!
https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

This was one of those pages that was a real struggle, my original plans for the composition were not working, too busy and disorganized, in the end the composition became about the enormous toad head and her psychedelic portrait. There’s a bit of a Yellow Submarine influence in the psychedelic elements, as well as a dash of Vaughn Bode. I always loved the face make-up in Bode’s drawings. But to be honest, though the tribute was not intended, when I look at page 11 all I can hear is the Hypnotoad from Futurama.

Probably the most interesting story that ended up attached to this page happened after I had pencilled this and shot the video. I was asked to draw a cover for an upcoming Barbarella comic! I was thrilled, as much as I have very mixed feelings about the movie, I’ve learned to love the original Barbarella comics by Jean Claude Forest. But even for all that, Barbarella represents something to me, something that it inherently is not, something abstractly iconic in the mythology of my life. It was and is part of my love for Exploitation Cinema, a part of the elusive comics that formed my earliest influences, and the psychedelic chick aspect of it is part of what influenced my sense of self. In other words, when asked to draw Barbarella, I wasn’t drawing her, I was drawing what she meant to me, it was more like an impressionist interpretation of Barbarella in that I was offering my impression of who she was to me.

When asked to do the cover, I was really stuck, I felt so intimidated by the monolith Barbarella has become to me, by what the concept of Barbarella within the context of my life means… and I was paralyzed. I couldn’t come up with a decent cover idea… so I figured I’d swipe this Mara page, though changing it a lot along the way. So yep, there she is below… Mara transmogrified into her grandmother… Barbarella.

Barbarella Cover Justine Mara Andersen

Barbarella Cover Justine Mara Andersen

To support Justine and Mara, become a patron!
https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Mara Page 3

Standard

Become Justine’s patron: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

And introducing… MARA! This is where the truth starts to shine through, the influence of of everything, DMT, Exploitation cinema, and, of course the artists that influence me, and this is where all that merges into the real me.

Early on, Berni Wrightson had a huge influence on me, and in many ways, this page was a tribute to his beautiful mad scientist laboratories, only mine is more organic, and I wanted to get away from Wrightson’s Gustave Dore obsession to remain true to my stylistic preferences. But that’s always the way with the things that influence me, once they are filtered through me, they end up looking little like the source from which I took inspiration.

…And this was also all merging with my love of research. I wanted this image to have the feel of an opium den. For me Mara is very much a “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella” story, in that I am excited by the vision of her beauty surrounded by the foul and beastly, whether that foul and beastly presence be a place or an entity. Plus, at this point in the story, Mara has to be at rock bottom… or at the very least is traveling in that direction. I also have a fascination for things of the past, so a good old opium den setting was far more interesting to me than a rave.

Funny, but the truth is, my fascination with the opium den setting goes back to a fantastic old penny arcade machine I saw in San Francisco at the Musee Mecanique, I was lucky enough to find a picture of the very machine that fired my imagination… wish this was a video and we could watch it move.

I’d like to note also the “DMT toad” in the upper left. Now here is where I have to be totally straight, the entheogenic drug Mara is on is NOT actually DMT, let alone 5-MeO DMT, but a FANTASY version of DMT. Below I have included a photo of a DMT toad… the DMT is NOT activated by licking the toads, but by extracting the fluid from the sacks on the toads.

I’ve never actually had DMT from the toad, but since this is a fantasy, that seems irrelevant. The toad was more picturesque.

At this point I’d like to point out that Mara’s world isn’t so much a future world of any particular time, Mara’s world is another dimension, an alternate reality, and its logic runs on the logic of that reality, as dreams run on dream reality and fairy tales run on fairy tale reality, and Exploitation films run on Exploitation reality.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Page 2

Standard

As I explained in the video, page 2 was in a sense a compare and contrast between the world of Mara’s DMT visions and her “reality.” The page was laid out with the same panel dimensions, and the top panels of both pages were meant to compositionally run parallel to each other.

So, I am showing them side by side below:

Side By SIde Justine's Mara Pages 1-2

Side By SIde Justine’s Mara Pages 1-2

I think in a sense this imagery is a meditation on how entwined the realities and dimensions we live in are, the reality and dimension of our fantasies, and that of our reality.

Yet there is MOST definitely a difference between fantasy and reality, something the political correctness movement has entirely lost track of. It amazes me how quickly people will assume things about an artist’s politics or philosophy based on the fantasies in their art. I was once asked (hell… not asked… ACCUSED) by an ass-kissing gallery owner about my erotic fantasy work, “What does this say about slavery? About women’s rights?” I said, “Uhm… nothing.” I am constantly astounded at how many people cannot tell fantasy from reality. Let’s face it, most of the stuff that happens to Mara I would not want to live through, but that has nothing to do with what I might fantasize about. Fantasies should never line up with ideology, if they do, then I think you have surrendered your imagination, or perhaps chained it, to your politics. Shame, isn’t it?

OK, rant over, Just for fun, and to show how page 1 and page 2 relate even more clearly, I have merged the two pages into one below:

Justine Mara Andersen New Mara Pages 1 - 2 Merge

Justine Mara Andersen New Mara Pages 1 – 2 Merge

To be honest, I don’t really have much of a feel for science fiction, too much technical stuff, I prefer the organic quality of fantasy, but for the story to work, Mara had to start out in a world in which she feels misfit, so I had to draw environments in which I feel misfit.

Whenever I draw science fiction, I tend to turn to Syd Mead for influence, the man who essentially designed Blade Runner. I turn to him not so much to copy, but to draw influence, I also turned to Roy G. Krenkel for influence, but I could not find the Krenkel in particular that influenced elements of this page.

Below I have included a fine example of a Syd Mead, a world I admire as an act of creation, but not a place in which I would want to spend any time, a place Mara is forced to exist in… at least for now.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Page 1 (& Classic Mara)

Standard


Watch video above!

Old Mara Art

Old Mara Art

These entries are meant to compliment the on-camera video flip-through (TOP) I did with Tom Hart for the unfinished relaunch of my highly personal Mara comics series. At first we thought we might edit in close-ups and images from the artists that influenced me, but it seemed that a better treatment was to write accompanying blogs so the viewer can perhaps come in closer, or at least spend more time with the images I want to spotlight.

Before even going into the first page of the new Mara, I spent some time discussing “Classic Mara,” if something as utterly ignored and low-selling as my Mara can ever be considered “classic.”

Regardless, that old Mara project came from the heart, and it kept me “sane,” and drove me nuts at the same time… and kept me poor. But I felt I had something to say then, and then I thought it was important. Now, I have something to say, but being older… I no longer suffer from the delusion that it will be in any way “important.” As I often say, “I wanted to leave a mark, but I fear all I’ve left is a stain.” What kept me doing it even while it was being so utterly dismissed was that I had never seen anything like it. In other words, as familiar as I was with Exploitation Cinema, eroticism, and comics in that style, nothing sated my thirst, ONLY Mara did that. My unique vision was what kept me going.

Here she is, good old Mara! The image below was done about the time I had begun to burn out, it’s hard to believe now, but I abandoned this page because I thought it was lousy…

It ain’t!

Classic Unfinished Mara by Justine

Classic Unfinished Mara by Justine

The first page of the “New Mara” was inspired by my experiences with the psychedelic DMT, experiences which ended a couple years back. The problem with translating these experiences into art is that the DMT experience does not translate into the limitations of this reality. The DMT experience is not about seeing and hearing things, it’s more about BEING things. And worse, the DMT experience is a lot like having a handful of gold in the cave of wonders, gold that quickly turns to dust once you exit the cave.

How does one draw that which cannot be grasped, that which cannot be described or defined, or even remembered? About all an artist can do is try and recreate what the experience felt like.

I found the image below, and while it is not what I experienced, it came far closer than anything else I have seen. But imagine if the image below were in motion, the colors rotating, luminesce, and wholly immersive. All I could find to credit the artist was that it was done by “Beacon.”

I think if you look at the 2nd panel of the first page you will see that I did a variation on this image, but chose to reference the trunk of the Hindu deity Ganesh. Also note the floating circles and how they pan across all 6 of the lower panels.

Justine Mara Andersen's Mara Page 1 Detail

Justine Mara Andersen’s Mara Page 1 Detail

The grid underneath was intended to help me maintain symmetry, but I am thinking I might ink it in, it seems now to be a part of the drawing.

I was asked just yesterday if the DMT experience changed me for the better or for the worse. I stammered, and had to say that every action comes with consequences, some could be seen as positive, some as negative. All I know is that the changes have been profound and utterly irreversible. What I have learned from DMT has expanded me, and somewhat frightened me, it’s not something that should be undertaken lightly. Was it for the best or for the worst? I don’t know, but I don’t regret it.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

The Three Dreams (Dream 3, The Lamb)

Standard

Shiva White Lamb

Shiva White Lamb

36. Concentration may also be attained by fixing the mind upon the Inner Light, which is beyond sorrow.
37. Or by meditating on the heart of an illumined soul, that is free from passion.
38. Or by fixing the mind upon a dream experience, or the experience of deep sleep.

from The Yoga Aphorisms Of Patanjali (as translated by Swami Prabhavananada)

It’s hard to say how long I had been on this pilgrimage, but I found myself suddenly traversing the last leg of it, which started at the bottom of a hill, or perhaps it was the final peak of a mountain. Mountain? Hill? It was hard to tell when all that concerned me lie ahead. Up there, unseen, was my higher self. As I climbed that peak, the ground covered in patchy chill blue grass and porous stones, I began to notice the toads. They were hard to miss, thousands, of large Bufo Alvarius, the DMT toads. These toads were hopping their fat warty bodies here and there on the path as I ascended, the toads sometimes hopping onto my bare feet, me sometimes having to step over and around them, ever conscious that one might hop right in my path as I set my foot down. The higher I climbed, the more toads covered the hilltop. It appeared there was no other life on that hill but me, my higher self, and these magical toads.

At the top, there she was, me, my higher self, a hilltop ascetic. I don’t remember much about my higher self, only that she had been sitting atop the mountain like Lord Shiva on Mt. Kailash. There I, She, Shiva, was, centered, chanting, so deeply immersed in samadhi that I am not even sure she saw this little me, her unrealized self, coming ever nearer. She had merged with God, Om Shivoham! The toads barked, hopped, and many stood silently, a tribe of hundreds and hundreds all around both of me, and thousands beyond.

As was so with my conversation with The Panther in which Her words turned to sand when I awoke from that cave of wonders, so has the encounter with my higher self been lost to the mists of the mountain on which she did her meditation, but I think we merged, and I attained and realized her. I emerged as her, as I can only recall there being one of us as I stared down the path towards home. But I can not say, perhaps she was sitting in meditation behind me, I wish that part of the experience had not become veiled in such uncertainty.

Regardless, The path down from the hill was not the same path I had climbed to ascend its peak, and this path was far more covered in toads. As I stared down the winding path there were thousands upon thousands of toads with glowing white eyes covering the path, seeming to stretch on infinitely. The white light shining from their eyes filled me with a strange awe, that though eerie, did not frighten me, and though they were not perfectly still, they were subdued and staring at, or rather into, me. One of them, far below, began to rise up over the others, and to move towards me. This toad seemed to be almost floating a head above the others,but it was hard to tell as it was so far away all I could see was the light of the white eyes as it ascended. As it came higher up the hill I noticed a whiteness around the eyes as well, and when it crested the hill to stand above the toads and directly before me, my eyes went wide! This had been no toad, but The White Lamb! The Lamb stood there at the head of the path, staring and blessing eyes of pure white light glowing, offering me an ecstasy of peace and silent wisdom.

When I awoke, I worried that this dream would dissolve as certain as most dreams do, but I soon realized this was the dream that put the other two into perspective as being of powerful personal and spiritual significance. This was the third dream! So many significant things come in threes, wishes, the trinity, the eyes of Shiva, the three lines of Shiva’s head, the three bears, the three little pigs, three is a magic number. And this, The Lamb completed the cycle. As this was a year ago I know that cycle of dreams, that cycle of prophetic dreams, of visions, is complete. Other dreams and visions are likely to come, but they will tell other truths. I will add that like the other two dreams, this one is clearer and more real to me than yesterday.

Bufo Alvarius

Bufo Alvarius

Why the toads? And who was The Lamb to me? If the Panther was Atman and attainment through meditation, if The Horse was the power and strength of courage it would take for me to travel the spiritual path… what was The Lamb?

But first, why the hill? Why the pilgrimage towards the higher self? The hill, or mountaintop, it possessed qualities of both, was obvious in meaning. Serious spiritual progress is an uphill battle, like any pilgrimage, it is an ordeal, glorious, but an ordeal nonetheless. And atop that hill my higher self sat as Shiva atop Mt. Kailash. At first, why the hill was covered in DMT toads was a mystery. Of course it had been my experiences with DMT that had opened me up enough to finally be able to receive such dreams and visions, to finally realize that my higher self was attainable, but why, specifically, were the toads there? Well, that I at least would understand once the Lamb rose up from among them, but what was far more spectacular was that I had come on pilgrimage to seek audience or to merge with my higher self.

Om Shivoham.

The whole point is to know that I am the higher self as much as I now live as this ego-driven self. I am nirguna (without form) just as I am saguna (with form). That higher self was the Shiva I am to realize. In the dream I am fairly certain I merged with her, but like my dream of The Panther where our conversation did not survive the trip back to waking reality, neither did the events that took place between us on that hill survive waking up. Had I really merged with my higher self, or do I recall her being behind me? perhaps I should meditate on that a little longer, but for now I choose to believe that I had either merged with my higher self, or I now, at the very least, knew not only that she existed, but where to find her, and regardless as to whether or not we merged, she is my conduit to Absolute Reality, to moksha (liberation), to realization and realizing of Shiva. I know this, that higher self is existential, and I have enough faith in the message of this vision to have hope that I may realize her in my waking life. As I consider it now, why would my higher self appear to me were I not meant to realize her? It seems to me this dream was showing my the goal if not my destiny. This dream, as Brother Shankara said, was no mere dream, it was prophetic. That higher self is attainable, and although I have yet to fully realize her, she is already in me, under it all, she IS ME! Will I ever find her under all this flesh and bullshit I wear as I travel the material world as Barefoot Justine?

Once my time with her was done and I turned to go, I was not to go down the same path I had followed in my ascent. I was now going to travel a new road. How could I possibly go backwards down the same path I ascended after witnessing or merging with my higher self? But perhaps that’s part of it, perhaps I am constantly merging with that higher self, perhaps that merging is less a single moment and more a process. Regardless, I was heading down off the hill from a different point of view, down a very different path.

The path before me was lined and filled three deep with DMT toads, and why became obvious as my dream progressed. At first it simply was a reminder that it was DMT that had brought me closer to Shiva, that opened me up to meditation, that had cured me of relentless anxiety, and had revealed to me the secrets that have fed me for the past year and a half. Without the light of this entheogen I might still be stuck in the mud spiritually, spinning my wheels on the wheel of samsara, I might not be able to meditate, I might be stuck in a feedback loop of anxiety and self loathing thoughts. The funny thing is that I never took DMT from a toad, I took the DMT that came from ayahuasca, or at least it had been created molecularly to be the same as the DMT in ayahuasca. Why the toads? Well, I guess because they are a more poetic and intriguing symbol than a vine. Besides, out here on the lake, I am surrounded by the roar of frogs on the lake, and “Bufo Alvarius” are not really toads, they’re called “DMT toads,” but they’re really frogs. Why the glowing white eyes? Well, the light seems to me to have been just that, “The Light.” DMT led me out of the darkness and into the light, so of course the eyes of the toads glowed to bathe me in their light. That light had dispelled the darkness in which I was living, had brought an end to much of my ignorance.

But what exactly was the light they shone on me? I have experienced what I can only describe as “the eternal,” have enjoyed the bliss of being without ego. I have a better understanding of the nature of maya, and for better or for worse, have experienced alternate realities, perhaps greater realities. I have experienced the joy of a silent self, a self without desire, memory, even the pollution of a single thought. I have been able to disassociate from headaches, thereby curing several of them (most of the time I can’t pull this one off either). I have realized oneness and the nature of “reality” and maya in glorious ecstasies. All of these things have actually been shown to me, have been experienced by me, even if I get scared and my shriveling little ego cannot handle it, these things are existential, and are far greater and far truer than the simple constructs my ego prefers. The problem I have now is those experiences, those moments and ecstasies have been fleeting, I am far from enlightened. I am awake, I am aware, I am grateful for the experiences… but I have a long long way to go.

“Although lord Shiva is omnipresent he is not seen by the people of deluded intellect. He is known as a mere lord, he who is beyond the reach of minds and words.”

Siva Purana

“Fly my pretties… fly!”

The Wicked Witch of the West

Our ego, and our intellect, work in tandem, as one. They work to maintain their self-appointed tyranny over all they see. Think of this union of ego and intellect being rather like the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz. Dorothy comes in with a load of truth, revealing the great and might Oz to be nothing more than a little man behind a curtain, showing her friends how to surpass their weaknesses, and the witch does not like this, and neither does our ego. Our ego will do anything to maintain its place as self-appointed dictator of our lives, and anything that threatens its supremacy, say like spiritual truth, prophecy or realization, is a threat to the tyrannical toddler that is the ego. Anything that comes along to threaten the ego’s tiny little construct, anything that threatens its tidy little notions about the nature of reality has to go, so the ego, like the wicked witch sends its flying monkeys out to rip to shreds any truth that threatens it, that threatens the status quo. This is why when we have mystical experiences or experience things that are beyond our limited understanding of how reality is constructed and how reality works, it must be destroyed. The ego will defend itself from any truth that threatens to usurp its power. And it will fight dirty and it will fight tirelessly.

“Reasoning is necessary, but we should not let it swallow the faith in us. We should not allow the intellect to eat up our heart. Too much knowledge means nothing but a big ego. The ego is a burden, and a big ego is a big burden.”

Amritanandamayi Ma

Most of us will use our intellects to undo any magic, realization or spiritual progress by sending in the flying monkeys to dismantle, disassmble, dismember and discredit anything that threatens it or the limitation in which it is comfortable. “No, not me, I couldn’t have had a prophetic dream, those sorts of things don’t happen, the dream was just a collection of cliches and corny old symbols that I, the ego, the king of all I see, has created, therefor there is no depth, no truth, no prophecy, and indeed no God, after all if there was a God, if there were mystical experiences, science would have shown me evidence.” Then the flying monkeys go back to the witch and everything returns to normal in the good ol’ land of Oz, in the good ol’ land of our limited reality. We call things “coincidences” just to make ourselves more comfortable. “Coincidence,” ha, so far as I’m concerned “coincidence” is just another word for “cowardice,” as the word is used to discredit any ideas or experiences that suggest the universe is so big and mysterious that our brains cannot comprehend it and our science cannot explain or prove it. Frankly, I don’t need science (man’s intellect and ego) to prove to me that what I have seen I have seen, what I have experienced I have experienced, and that what I know I know.

Why do we fear greater realities? Because to the ego, its death is a great agony and threatens to undo everything we earned, everything we own, and everything we thought we knew. The ego knows that spiritual awakening, that prophecies and signs are nothing but trouble. We all know, don’t we, that it’s easier to disassemble, discredit and dismiss the deep truths that are revealed to us rather than to let them destroy us, rather than allowing ourselves to be transformed and reborn… who needs all that? Well… I do! I long for such destruction, ordeal or no, agony or no, it is also the greatest of liberations! And the White Lamb came to me in all its innocence, with all its light and purity to remind me that through spiritual use of entheogens, meditation, contemplation and study, that my old model of the world, of reality, was too small and that I am not to sacrifice that knowledge on the altar of democratically constructed “reality” and that tyrant of tininess… the ego! I am to be strong and brave enough to live up to what I know to be so, whatever the consequences. And there have been, are, and will be consequences… but, as uncomfortable as those consequences might be, they are merely waves tumbling over an ocean of vast peace, knowledge, and Godhead. The consequences of not following spiritual truths through in life, I have to say, are far greater than the consequences of dismissing them.

“‘Faith’ is often used by agnostics as a term of abuse. That is to say, it is taken to refer to the blind credulity which accepts all kinds of dogmas and creeds without question, repeating parrot-like what it has been taught, and closing its ears to doubt and reason. Such ‘faith’ should certainly be attacked. It is compounded of laziness, obstinacy, ignorance and fear. Because it is rigid an unyielding it can quite easily be shaken and altogether destroyed. … True faith is provisional, flexible, undogmatic, open to doubt and reason.”

from Swami Prabhavananda’s “How To Know God”

No, of course we need to discriminate, but using our intellect to discriminate is entirely different than using our intellect to dismiss. And it is so that any faith that cannot bear testing is of no real value. If your faith cannot stand up to questioning, it is a sad and tired faith. Faith must be built upon solid stone and hard work. But, when we are given truth and insight, it is to be welcomed, not shunned.

The Lamb represents truth, truths that have survived discrimination and have emerged from my DMT experiences (hence the toads) and greatly furthered by my spiritual practices. The Lamb came to remind me of those truths, and more specifically, of the sacredness of those truths. The Lamb came to show me that only my higher self, which I had merged with, will be capable of remembering and holding those truths. The Lamb came to remind me not to disregard what I have experienced and what I know. The Lamb came to remind me not to give in to materialist constructs or cynicism. If the intellect always returns one to cynicism, said intellect knows no wisdom.

The Lamb is wisdom!

The toads revealed The Lamb to me, to remind me never to forget that I have been shown truths, pure truths that I am not to dismiss, deny, or allow my ego to destroy.

The Lamb was the third eye of Shiva opening upon and within me. The Lamb, gentle and pure as it was… IS my destruction! And now that it has revealed itself to me, I have to travel a different path than the one I took to realize my higher self and see The Lamb. Up one side of the hill and down another, the journey continues, but I can never go home again no matter how many times I click my heels.

I came up one path, have been destroyed, have been reborn, have been shown challenging truths. The Lamb came to show me this, and now I must use all the power of The Horse as I follow a new path to realize The Panther, and through Her, to journey ever deeper into the mysteries. My old game is over, the jig is up, and I am up to contending with what all that entails, and I will call upon The Lamb, The Horse and The Panther as I realize my true nature as Brahman, as Atman, as Shiva!

Om Shivoham!

And yet as I meditated this very morning (the morning of my writing the next draft of this entry), an alternate accounting of my meeting with my higher self was realized. In meditation I chose to try and see this dream from a different perspective, so instead of seeing it from the perspective of myself as the pilgrimaging seeker, in meditation I saw the vision from the perspective of my higher self, and I became that higher self, I realized Shiva. I saw Justine approaching me, and saw with great compassion that though she came as a sincere seeker, I saw her pain, her entanglements, attachments, and the many scars she carries. I hurt for her. I felt terribly sorry and hoped she would let go and merge with me, realize me. We both knew I was her, that we were one, but she, perhaps, did not yet know how to realize me, her higher self, so I guided her to the road she was to follow and manifested The White Lamb to forever remind her of the deepest knowledge and great wisdom she has already realized. I will wait patiently for her, and I will guide her compassionately, for I am She.

Om Shivoham!

I am here for her to realize, and I am her whether or not she realizes it to be so.

I will add that in the days following the above meditation and its revelations, I have begun to see the world more and more from the perspective of my higher self, and I have begun to realize that I am living two lives, having been split in two by the desperate clinging force of my ego and the greater force of my many realizations, dreams, prophecies and knowledge.

But I know who I am, I know what I want…

Om Shivoham!

Regardless which story, which translation of this visionary dream I choose, at their core, they are pretty much the same, aren’t they?

Har Har Mahadev!

The Three Dreams (Dream 1, The Panther)

Standard

Shiva Panther Self (Barefoot Justine)

Shiva Panther Self (Barefoot Justine)

“He has no Gotra, family or name. He is independent. He is favorably disposed to His Devotees. At His will He assumes bodies taking many names. He is full of attributes.”

Siva Purana

I have had three powerful dreams, rather like in “A Christmas Carol,” and no less transformative or real. I only bind them to a word as reductive as “dreams” due to the conceptual limitations of our language. I use the word “dreams” because these profound spiritual moments occurred when I was sleeping, and manifested themselves within the reality of the dreamworld. What I really had were three enigmatic visitations of holy truths, three visions, wherein three animals came to open their light upon me like the three eyes of Shiva. These “dreams” were no less reality than the construct we have democratically agreed upon as “reality,” in fact, to me these three dreams are more real by far than yesterday. Yesterday, it seems to me, was much more a dream. Like a meal, yesterday has nourished and passed through me, as I have nourished and passed through it. But today, still, those dreams, are me, and I am them, and they do not pass through me, they continue to nourish me at every moment. They will forever be part of my present.

First I dreamt of The Panther who has been both golden and black; then of The Great White Horse; then of The Pure White Lamb. Yes, I had three dreams, three visions, and as I recently told a friend, when something comes to you in threes, treat it as personal scripture.

“The number of the stars in the sky, of the sand particles on the earth and of the bursting showers of heavy rain can be specified by intelligent persons at some time in the course of many births over many kalpas; but not of the incarnations of Shiva; know my words to be true.”

Siva Purana

I had been spiritually stuck up until about a year and a half ago when I asked for help from “The Spirit Molecule.” Though I have since graduated from a year and a half of respectful exploration with our plant teachers, molecules and entheogens, at that time I began exploring I needed to regroove, rewire and move beyond the place where my mind, emotions, and spirituality were stuck like a wheel in a rut. I understood that often entheogens could help a person who was stuck in a rut. As I said, I have graduated, I no longer need this boost and have given away the last few doses of my psychedelics. As Alan Watts said about LSD, “Once you get the message, hang up the phone.” Alan, I got the message. For me those messages, those journeys were great, so great they opened me up to profound truths and far less limited notions of “reality,” they cleansed me, healed me of a lot of unnecessary suffering and brought me closer to Shiva The Destroyer, as through DMT, Shiva destroyed me! I worship such destruction.

Taking DMT was a big deal, I had never taken a psychedelic before, and I never took DMT for granted, so much so that I would plan my trips and prepare. Contrary to the frankly snobbish opinion of Ayahuasca purists who errantly believe DMT has no spiritual value… it does, and like it or not, that’s a FACT! The integration of the DMT experience does not take place over the course of a six hour trip like it does with mushrooms or Ayahuasca, it takes place in the subconscious, the discriminatory intellect, and in the weeks, months and years following the trips. The integration process brought me ever closer to experiencing and realizing that I am Atman. Once DMT changes you down to your deepest core, it continues to change and enlighten you forevermore. But DMT is intense, and it takes a lot of preparation.

Late one Sunday night, I went to bed knowing that on the following Monday evening I was going to trip, was going to cross over into another world (what Shaman’s consider the spirit world), another reality, a higher self, hopefully an infinite place without ego. I hasten to add that though I had this vision of The Panther when I was NOT on DMT, but the night before, it was previous use of DMT that had opened me up to other deeper realities and possibilities… it was DMT that got me unstuck. As I slept I journeyed to a place that, though it was enshrouded in mystery, contained far more personal and complicated truth than even what DMT could reveal. A vision came to me, or a “dream” if you’re the type who is too afraid of the spirit world and God to face up to any truth bigger than you. I am not afraid of things that are too big for the bit of grey pudding in my skull, nor of things the fragile delusional ego cannot bear… but buddy, it ain’t been easy!

The “dream” went something like this: I found myself on a barren landscape bowing, perhaps even groveling, before a monolithic panther on a boulder, not just “a panther,” but “The Panther.” I recall “The Panther” as having been gold. She stood before me like the Sphynx, though unlike the Sphynx, the riddles of The Panther were meant to be solved. I was on the barren and comparatively tiny “reality” we all know and continue to create, and The Panther was in that twilight zone between that smaller reality (maya) that I (and we) inhabit, and the DMT realm, as I once thought, though I now realize that what stretched beyond The Panther was not DMT reality, but was the an alternate reality, perhaps some realization of the Absolute Reality, the great truths, the other half of me. Though light shone from behind The Panther, beyond The Panther was darkness (things I am ignorant of), the infinite and the Divine. By taking DMT the following evening I was going to be crossing over into that reality… so why was The Panther between me and that reality? Why was The Panther between me and traveling between these two worlds?

The Golden Panther spoke to me, but like the gold being taken from the cave of wonders, once I came into the light of day, once I awoke from the cave of wonders that was this vision, the precious gold of The Golden Panther’s words turned to sand and flowed through my fingers, and the once Golden Panther turned black, and in its blackness, it returned me to my ignorance. Was The Panther a guardian warning me to stay on this side and well out of the realities and universes DMT would reveal to me? Was The Panther my guardian there to protect me when I passed into that larger universe? Was The Panther there to test my courage, to ask me riddles, to warn me without telling me what to do? I don’t know, Her words, a language I understood only when physically in Her presence are now, in the ordinary waking reality, little more than the mewls and growls of a predatory cat. What I understood, the language She spoke to me then, has now returned to the realm of mystery. I could not bring the wisdom of The Golden Panther’s words out of the cave of wonders of my visionary dreamworld. I was left with a powerful symbol enshrouded in mystery. I had returned to the darkness of ignorance.

I could not figure out how to solve the riddles of The Panther, let alone The Horse and The Lamb who were yet to come. After a visit to the Vedanta Center of Atlanta, I called Brother Shankara, and he excitedly told me that these dreams were not merely dreams, but were prophetic, and I was to meditate on them. For some reason it had never crossed my mind to meditate on them. Perhaps I was unwilling to fully accept that these dreams were that grand, too humble to truly believe in the dreams as prophetic, I mean, it was unthinkable to me that I (as in “little ol’ me) could be having “prophetic” dreams, I’m still a child as a Seeker… right? Still, was it possible? More specifically, was it possible that I could solve some of the mysteries of The Panther through meditation? I have been following Brother Shankara’s advice and have begun meditating on these “prophetic” visions. Today I meditated on The Panther. Today she revealed to me some of her secrets, or at least aspects of Her truths and Her self. But, I think, like most myths and prophetic visions, their truths will grow and evolve as I grow and evolve, their truths are omnidimensional, and I am certain that like all great truths they will even turn back in on themselves and will perhaps even lead me down paths in the exact opposite direction of the truths I have come to realize today. I expect these truths to contradict themselves. But now, as of this day, this is what I understood through meditation.

“They call you minuter than the atom and greater than the greatest.”

Siva Purana

The Panther was, obviously, in the twilight between my known realities and the realities of the larger universe of Atman, Brahman, of wisdom and knowledge. Twilight beings are sacred, and this Panther was not only standing between worlds, blocking me, but could travel between them. More to the point, this Panther was both worlds, was all worlds, and vibrated between the poles of not only maya and reality, but between the poles of infinity, the same poles we vibrate between. We are composed of infinite space, and whether you need to come to this conclusion through the atheistic materialism of science or the poetic mysteries of Sanatana Dharma, it is still truth. We are infinite within at the quantum level, and there is infinity without that goes beyond and forever into the universe, and we vibrate between these internal and external poles of infinity. Whereas I know I am vibrating between poles of infinity, The Panther IS infinity itself and IS the vibration itself. The Panther was both nirguna (without form) and saguna (with form), as am I, as is Shiva. The Panther, I now realize was, among many things, the infinite column of fire Lord Shiva revealed to Brahma and Vishnu. That column of fire went infinitely within through the ground (flesh) Vishnu burrowed through, and went infinitely into the universe that Brahma flew upwards through. The Panther is Shiva! Like Vishnu who became the burrowing boar, seeking the truth of the infinite as it dug into the ground, so was I, bowing and groveling before The Panther, my head on the dry and barren ground.

And why was the ground I was on barren and dry? Because that is the reality of material life, of maya. It is full of distractions, but all distractions lead to disappointment, fear and anger. All happiness that occurs in the material world is ultimately barren of true or lasting joy. I have become world weary. I have grown weary of material distractions and the trials and disappointments of material life, thus I was bowing my head into the driest of desert dirt.

The Panther was at it’s simplest, Atman; and beyond the simplicity of its being Atman, The Panther was Shiva, was all. Yes, in answer to my earlier questions, The Panther was a warning, an invitation, a guardian, a riddler. The Panther is ME, even though I have not yet attained The Panther. The Panther was not there to tell me what to do, but to show me what to realize. I am to realize The Panther, I am to realize Shiva, I am to realize Self, Ultimately I am to realize Atman. I was not separate from The Panther, nor from what exists at either pole beyond it, as is so with the Atman. I am to realize The Panther before going in so deep again.

Om Shivoham.

I am Shiva.

I am The Panther.

I am Atman.

Tat Tvam Asi.

I went beyond the rock on which The Panther stood using an entheogen as a bridge. And there I was the night before I was going to take DMT again, being told to merge with The Panther, to realize The Panther, to come closer to realizing Atman, before again going over to that side. I was shown great secrets, and became greedy for more, so I kept taking DMT. Now The Panther, Shiva, Atman, Self, was telling me to attain the status of The Panther, The Panther itself, to realize Shiva, Atman and Self before crossing over again. Attainment, realization and wisdom were now between me and crossing over. But this was more than that, in that dream of The Panther, I saw everything revealed, I have yet to understand it, but where I bowed, where The Panther stood, and the Absolute Reality beyond were a singularity, a continuity, were one. They, I and all are Shiva, Atman, one!

The Panther was telling me all of this, and I was not meant to learn more through tripping, but through meditation. The Panther was all the above, warning, riddler, guardian, but more than anything, The Panther was an invitation, a way of telling me that I am now ready to explore what was beyond The Panther through the gentler path of meditation and wisdom rather than through the ripping and tearing of psychedelics. Furthermore, whereas I, as Shamaness, had crossed between the worlds with DMT as the bridge before, now I knew that The Panther itself IS the bridge, more specifically, that realizing myself as The Panther IS the bridge I am to cross… for now. The Panther was telling me that I am ready. These meanings which I realized through meditation were the words of The Panther that had been lost to me when I left the cave of wonders, when Her golden words turned to sand and her coat turned to black, and I returned to my ignorance.

Through meditation, The Panther is now golden again! And I am no longer ignorant, I can hear Her words, Her teachings

Om Shivoham, I am Shiva, I am The Panther, I am Atman. I know all this, and in moments of ecstasy, have realized it, but I have yet to manifest wholly as that truth, I have yet to become fully realized. But I know this, The Panther is the bridge, The Panther is Atman, and I am Atman, and all I have to do is shed maya and realize what I already am, attain what I already am. How is it that we become so confused as to what we truly are? How did I become so distracted and distant from the core truth, the Absolute Reality? How is it I am so afraid to let go?

As the Indians say, “The bee came to suck the honey but got its feet stuck in it.”

It seems I have spent my whole life up to now getting my feet stuck, and now it seems I may spend the rest of my life getting them unstuck, or at least becoming unstuck will be my life’s work until I am liberated from the honey.

Today, this is what I know to be true about that dream. I wonder… what else may be true about that dream? As I get my feet unstuck I am bound to find out. I doubt The Panther has revealed all of its truths to me, but I am grateful to have finally begun to unravel at least a fraction of the mystery. Yet, with all that said, The Panther is a richly symbolic, multidimensional and powerful animal, and who knows what I may have misunderstood, who knows what I may yet learn. Whatever it is I know now… I must remain open, as I am certain The Panther will remain full of mysteries and surprises.

Whatever I think I know now, it may have to move aside as I come closer to The Panther.

Har Har Mahadev!

NEXT: The Three Dreams (Dream 2, The Horse)

One American White Chick’s Struggles With Her Vasanas: Part Three

Standard

anrrcuar

Part 3: Beware Of Darkness (To read parts 1 and 2, scroll down)

(Before proceeding, please note, this is all written from the point of view of a student of Sanatana Dharma who is still struggling to understand the specifics of these concepts. Errors and misunderstandings on my end are to be expected, and with time I will learn to correct my thinking.)

“She’s fragile, she has depression and anxiety, she can’t help it.”

We are taught in the West by well-intentioned professionals and other experts, that our darkest corners, our illnesses, own us, that we are victims. We are taught to forgive ourselves our helplessness because we are victims of our biology, of our chemistry, and that we have to accept lives of inevitable sickness because the illnesses are bigger than we are. Well, folks, they’re not. Believing we are that small, and living in a culture of enablers, keeps us bound in helpless suffering. We have far more power over our depressive and anxious tendencies than we might believe, and we have far more power over them than BIG PHARMA or politicall correctness would ever want us to realize. Yes, the struggles are real, the problems are real, but surrendering to them, or resigning ourselves to lifetimes of medicated numbness, or worse, defining ourselves as anxious people, are not the answers, even if from time to time we need the medical numbness to get it together. I am not denying that mental illnesses are real, I am merely stating that many of us have simply lost control of our minds, and all the feel-goodie politically correct crap in the world cannot cover the stink of bondage this way of thinking has reduced us to. And what have we been reduced to? Slaves to our own self-perpetuating suffering, slaves to illnesses as part of our identity, resigned to living as “victims.” If we are victims, it is not of incurable diseases, it is of brainwashing by well-meaning boobs. As serious as a problem may be to contend with, resigning to victimhood takes away whatever power you may have. Serious as these illnesses are, do not resign yourself to helplessness or despair.

I had been fighting my mental and emotional-health wolf-demons head-on and with courage for a long time, and was making headway, too, but I was still feeding those wolves, was still stubbornly attached to the vasanas that fed, caused or were them. I had made a lot of headway on my own, and more headway after the DMT experience (which ONLY offers medicinal healing if you integrate the experiences diligently), so I was not depending on any miracles, but, and I went into this in depth when I talked about my trip to the Temple in Atlanta, I did experience a miraculous healing. This is extremely surprising in that, though I was seeking temporary relief, I was not asking for healing as I didn’t even think such a thing was possible. Regardless, there I was in the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, and within a period of about 30 seconds, completely out of the blue, all of my anxiety and depression evaporated. Every bit of stale depression, fear and anxiety that I had been carrying around since I was 3 flushed out of my system in a miraculous moment. Depressive and anxious thoughts and states of being had become like the drone string of my life. No matter how much fun I was having, those feelings were always there underneath it all, and now they were gone.

Simply gone! I was free, and I was clean and clear. It was as stark a contrast as having been blind since birth and suddenly seeing… I had NO IDEA what life felt like without anxiety or depression until after that moment.

A few weeks passed, me very suspicious of the healing event. I kept thinking I was delusional, that such a healing was impossible, that I was a sick person and I had to accept my illness as a fact of life with the resolution of absolute certitude, then the truth rang in me with all the clarity of a bell… the words of Shiva came to me in my own voice…

It was up to me. It was entirely up to me if those feelings came back and settled in as the drone string to every moment of my life. I had been given an opportunity by Brahman, Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, to shed the vasanas that kept me a prisoner of my own suffering, and it was up to me if I sunk back into the wallow of them. It was up to me if the event was delusional or not. But, that’s just it… it is ALWAYS up to me, and up to you. It is up to you if you want to master drawing, it is up to you if you want to beat, or at least diminish, depression and anxiety, it is up to you if you want to climb Everest, and it’s up to you if you want to master your mind! Having said that, yes, I most definitely believe in the reality of mental health problems, but I also believe in the reality of hard focused work and years of patient effort. And now, I believe in miracles. Whether you want to master drawing, your mind, or Everest, the amount of work it takes is intimidating, and most people simply dismiss it as impossible for them… and so for them, it is.

I chose to make the healing event real. From that time, and it has been months, I have had isolated episodes of anxiety and depression, perhaps I always will, perhaps I won’t, but I can root out short-term episodes of depression or anxiety much more easily when I am not carrying around depression and anxiety that I have nursed to my breast like a serpent since I was three years-old. These mental health vasanas (inherent tendencies) had been with me since birth, perhaps longer, so I am not saying I will never have another episode, I said that I already have, but what I am saying is that I am winning this battle (eliminating these vasanas) by significant degrees, and for the most part, not only are these problems no longer a part of my day to day life day in and day out, I no longer view them as inevitable or incurable. Perhaps for some they are, but deep down I honestly believe that most of us can do better and be healthier and happier, if not entirely well.

I had allowed numerous other problems to take me down, whether or not they are “vasanas” I am not certain, but some were simple, like going to bed late and sleeping in too late, which I have since conquered. It’s amazing how much daylight helps disarm depression. I had the problem of having too tight an attachment to my former best friend, but in losing him I have since realized that if I could let go of that consuming attachment to him, I can let go of any attachment. It seems that in the wake of working out our vasanas and karma, other aspects of our spiritual life and growth begin to purify and work themselves out with greater ease. I had the vasana of being a hopeless misfit and cultural outsider since childhood, and grew into seeing my current solitude as a tragic loneliness, as sorrow and suffering. For years now I have bemoaned my solitude as an agony, I longed for a lover, for a best friend to spend time with, but even that I have changed. Now my solitude is holy. I wake up, meditate, take a long walk in the beautiful forest around my home, then I go to lunch and see my friends. After that I come home, read Puranas, read Vedic scriptures, and often walk and meditate more. My solitude is now something I cherish, and I am feeling less like a malcontented misfit and more like a Sadhu, more like the Adiyogi, Shiva. Slowly, vasana after vasana, big and small have revealed themselves, a few have dropped away. But there seem to be so many yet to go, for all my successes I am still deep in this battle with my vasanas, and I’m not certain I will have let them all go before I die, but I will have laid a good number of them to rest.

Yes, there are many vasanas I still struggle with, among them, a difficulty accepting the nature of maya. It is natural to inherently view “reality” the same way everyone else seems to. Like most of us, I had an habitual way of viewing reality in a rather democratic way. While I now live in awareness of a larger reality, I tend to cling to my old smaller “reality.” To be honest, at times I have become terrified as I have watched my former notions of reality, and of who I am, being destroyed. If our notions of reality and self are destroyed… what then? Who are we? Where are we? What are we?

What then? indeed… BLISS! At times I respond to the upset of my reality as bliss, at others with fear. This vasana, this struggle between my true self and my mighty and tyrranical ego is still a battle I fight. I am too attached to maya, to this illusory and limited version of reality, even though I have time and again seen and experienced far larger realities.

But, perhaps the vasana I have struggled with most recently is one more stale leftover from Christianity. I tend to return too often to fundamentalism and literalism when I read the sacred texts, Puranas, Vedas, whatever. This leads only to fear, never to release, never to peace. The only way to live at peace with fundamentalism and literalism is to walk headlong into that bondage and to keep your eyes closed and your ears full of wax. And even then, I promise you, something will have to give. Fundamentalism of any stripe is limited and is bondage, and God is limitless and infinite freedom, therefore, God never resides in fundamentalism, only limited and bound people reside there. Folks, you will not find God in fundamentalism anymore than I will find my panties in the silverware drawer.

Time and again I find myself reading the sacred texts, particularly the Puranas, and getting hung up on my dogmatic fundamentalist literal interpretations of the texts… and these are always MY vasanas at work. This leads to all manner of confusion. I am still not entirely certain how I am to view Shiva. I mean, as an existential entity with 4 arms and a blue neck? As a metaphor manifested to pass along wisdom? As a form revealed to the sages so that we could better relate to the teachings? As formless? As myself? To be honest, this confusion only sets in when I think about it. It seems this vasana is eliminated by not thinking about it. Shiva IS, and Shiva is D) all the above… none of the above, “That Which Is Not,” and more.

In the wake of all these fundamentalist freak outs along came my concerns about whether or not I should install a stone Shiva lingam, and if whether or not my Shiva murti is in the right place in my home, and whether or not I am making enough offerings or offering enough bhakti. Not only all that, but as I was not born and raised in a Hindu family, I have no idea at all how to perform a simple proper pujah, nor what to offer Lord Shiva. I have taken the advice of my teacher Manhar-Ji to resolve this. Firstly, he told me a story from the Shiva Purana that I did not know. It was about a Shiva devotee who had nothing to offer Shiva but meat. There is a lot to the story, but essentially meat is considered a filthy offering, and to many it would be considered blasphemous and sinful to offer Shiva meat, but in the end, Shiva accepted the meat because he understood that this was all the man had to offer, and that he was offering it in all devotion. In other words, perfection of the specifics do not matter. What matters is the intention and practice of holy acts to the best of our abilities, and this comes right down to realizing that neither Shiva nor any of the other Gods actually demand perfection no matter how unforgiving other passages in Puranas may be. In fact, this issue of perfection was one of the topics I had to discuss with my guru (simply translated as “teacher” in this context) Manhar-Ji. When reading the Puranas, it seemed they demanded perfection, and as a person who has the vasana of perfectionism, this was causing me nothing but suffering. Fortunately I have the right teacher, and he clarified that the process is not about being perfect, it is about accepting our imperfections as we strive towards a spiritual perfection, a perfection that may not realize itself for lifetimes.

With great eagerness I had finally begun reading the sacred Shiva Puranas, and by page 24 I had been condemned to hell four to six times! Now, I’m not so sure I believe in “Hell,” as anything more than a metaphor (I’m also not willing to say outright that I do not believe in Hell… how could I know?), but this struck a red-hot rod of misery straight down my throat. Here I was battling the same miseries I had battled as a Christian. I do not respond well to threats of eternal damnation, I will not be manipulated by fear, so I set the Puranas aside and sought counsel. I contacted Manhar-Ji, and he set my mind at ease, dismissing the passages as both secondary and metaphorical. Here, again, my old vasanas, those of reading scriptures too literally, too much like a fundamentalist were manifesting in different forms. As I had said, I thought I had outgrown concepts of Hell, but being confronted with it again had upset me deeply. One of the things that had drawn me into Sanatana Dharma was that it was not dogmatic, literal or fundamentalist, that it was full of metaphor and full of choices, but there I was, time and again, trying to drag Sanatana Dharma into the little room, locking them in there with my vasanas. Manhar-Ji sent me a passage that I will return to time and again. I don’t know where it came from or who wrote it, but he paraphrased it in his email like this:

“Do not accept anything because it was laid down by sages and saints! Always question humbly? Why? If you adopt their declarations mechanically, you flout the fundamental principles of religion. Religion today is far from reaching that objective. The Self is made the slave of the ghosts of old books. Torturing old books to squeeze out the truth! Force meaning out of personal experience or want interpretation of lifeless words. Be free to think. Use reason to arrive at your conclusion. If not then this is spiritual suicide. The enlightened souls, compassionate ones, masters who give guidance and solace are not here to enslave you. They free you from bondage – this suffering. Do not let yourself be influenced by any obsolete codes of conduct that influence you by their imperative commandments. Gain the sane knowledge of the living present – NOW – rather than burying yourself in the past. Learn from past. But Live in now.”

BINGO! I was home again, free from dogma! Free to breathe and trust my inner experiences, free to interpret the truths as I read them and need them. Free to accept “I don’t know” as its own truth and wisdom. Free to once again know with all my heart that Sanatana Dharma is a LIVING system, and not merely a slavish regurgitation of the words of long gone sages. This vasana of literalism, dogma and fundamentalism I have finally laid to rest! And I will stomp upon the dirt under which it is buried every time I need to remind myself of the danger of what lies buried there… vasanas.

Har Har Mahadev!

shiva-the-hindu-god-1165593_960_720

One American White Chick’s Struggles With Her Vasanas: Part Two

Standard

justineshiva2

Part 2: It’s All Too Much

(Before proceeding, please note, this is all written from the point of view of a student of Sanatana Dharma who is still struggling to understand the specifics of these concepts. Errors and misunderstandings on my end are to be expected, and with time I will learn to correct my thinking.)

I had not been living my life joyfully. In fact, for a very long time, decades and decades, I never knew a moment of pure joy. I had fleeting moments of joy, but always underneath it somewhere lurked a shadowy depression, or a sour twist of anxiety. Now, I know joy, not only joy, but pure joy, and at times ecstasy and bliss. But how did I learn joy? I learned it by realizing where the roots of my suffering lie, and by tearing up those roots, essentially by allowing Lord Shiva to dance me to destruction!

When I left Christianity, clueless, directionless, a lifetime ago, it left a huge charred hell in my psyche. I became morbidly terrified of death. I struggled to find myself through Taosim, then Zen, Celtic Paganism, and even mythology in general, but none of that fit and I knew it. Finally I became resigned to a decade or more of agonizing agnosticism. And through it all I remained terrified of the dark dank rotting reality of ultimate death. The story of how I felt drawn to Hindusim is long, and not one I can tell here, let’s just say that when Shiva came to me I was not looking for answers anymore. The answers came to me because Shiva knew I was ready. The problem was, Shiva may have known I was ready, but I did not feel ready. Funny that, because THAT is the very crux of what I am trying to get through to my students… YOU ARE READY!

Years ago, when I first began answering the call to Hinduism, I had sincerely installed a Ganesh in my home, and I adored Lord Ganesh, but that was only a first step. At least then I had a Hindu Temple less than an hour away, but once I moved to Florida, that was when my spiritual growth went dark. I was now clueless and all alone in my spirituality. I had no support, no Temple, no Priest, no fellow devotees, just a lot of questions, and nowhere to turn for answers. Naturally, my spiritual development not only stagnated, it regressed.

Yet I installed a Durga and Shiva, along with the Ganesh, in my new home in Florida. But, I was still clueless. I had no idea where any of this was leading or what it was I was supposed to be doing, so I continued to flounder, alone. At times it felt like I had made Hinduism up in some fit of desperate madness, so lonely I was in it, so hopelessly lost and without support. And it wasn’t just the lack of Hindu community and a Temple or teacher, all that was further confounded by the limitless options and possibilities within the framework of what we call “Hinduism.” I was like a child raised in a locked room (that room having been fundamentalist evangelical Christianity), and released into the Wide World in a moment, with no guide, no teachers, and no traveling companion! Unknown to me, this circumstance of birth had loaded me full of vasanas. I had been born into the wrong religion, a religion that may have been right for many, but not for me. How long had I suffered that? Were the vasanas that had become hard-wired in me born in this lifetime, or had I travelled through many before finally realizing from where God was calling? Frightened “child” that I was, I could not help but want to run back into my little locked room, so I all but neglected my spirituality, and worse, as I began to learn more about the Vedas and Puranas, I kept trying to drag them back into the little room I had been locked in.

It is hard to figure out what to become when you are a “Hindu,” especially when you have no Temple, no teacher, no guidance whatsoever, and when you have not been born into a culture of people that understand the many arms of Hinduism. I was overwhelmed. Do you become a follower of Vedic teaching? Do you join in with the Krishnas? Do you walk away from it all and join an ashram (and if so… which one under which guru)? Do you become an ascetic? Do you just meditate and be mindful to be calmer? Do you follow one as saintly as the beatific Anandi Ma, or do you wallow in the dirt of cremation grounds with flesh-eating Aghori? To have come from such a narrow path into a world of infinite possibilites without any help or guidance had paralyzed me. It was all too much, and there was so little for me to grab onto.

But then, and I have never revealed this on my blog, over a year ago a friend of mine showed up with a dose… and I took a hit of DMT, “the spirit molecule.”

WHOAH!

The point of no return. My entire concept of reality had been upended. From that point it was impossible to ever return to the limited notions of “reality” I’d had before. With my understanding of reality utterly destroyed, I had no choice but to earnestly engage in seeking Godhead. What was more instantaneous than that and quite miraculous, after my fist dose of DMT, is that I was suddenly able to do the impossible… meditate! No, really! I had struggled to meditate for years, both before I became a sysha in Sanatana Dharma (a “student” or “seeker” in “Hinduism”) and after. The ability to meditate had simply been beyond the power my vasanas had over me. Though I had considered myself a “Hindu” prior to DMT, it was DMT that, in one 15 minute trip. knocked down every obstacle between me and meditation, between me and Shiva. DMT became the eye of Shiva in that it utterly destroyed me and all I knew. Ganesh followed in the wake of that destruction and demolished every obstacle in my path. That first morning after the DMT trip when I woke up to meditate, it just so happened that my housemate and a friend were out my window in the yard running a chainsaw! Ordinarily I would have said “screw it,” and gone on with something else, but to me this seemed like a perfect opportunity. If I can initiate morning meditations by doing my very first morning meditation with a chainsaw going on outside my window… well… then, it seemed to me that I was “in.” Yes, that chainsaw was a test and a gift from Shiva… it was now or never.

I meditated.

And I realized.

I realized that ultimately that THIS is the nature of Shiva, both DMT and the noise of a chainsaw were used to draw me closer to him. The path to Shiva is not as sanitized as the path to God that I knew as I child.

So, you ask me:

Q: Are psychedelics a valid tool for genuine spiritual enlightenment?
A) Absolutely not
B) Yes, of course, take DMT now
C) Yes, but only with a qualified “professional” in some unlikely circumstance or obscure locale
D) All of the above

D) All of the above. No, I can’t reccomend that everyone go out and try psychedelics, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, tell anyone not to either. Let me say this, for certain people heading towards certain paths within the framework of Sanatana Dharma, I would say, no, psychedelics are not going to do anything but make things worse, but for others heading down other paths, then, yes, psychedelics can be as valid a tool as any. As a person who has leaned towards Lord Shiva, who seems to me a rather transgressive Yogi, “That Which Is Not,” for someone in whom Shiva is at work, medicinal and respectful spiritual work with psychedelics may well be just the thing. People debate this, but it is said by many that Shiva partook of ganja. Did Shiva partake of ganja? Did Shiva partake of soma? Some claim soma was a poetic reference to spiritual inebriation, but I and others tend to believe soma was an entheogenic visionary drink. Regardless of the validity or lack of validity of psychedelics as a tool, this is important, psychedelics are NEVER to become a crutch. Ultimately, psychedelics open doors for people who cannot otherwise open them, they can break us free from our vasanas by essentially rerouting our mental pathways, but to keep taking them and relying on them… well, doors begin to open right into brick walls. But if psychedelics open the doors of perception, as Alan Watts said of LSD, when you get the message, hang up the phone.

Yes, I do believe some people need psychedelics to open those doors, because those doors are often blocked by nonsense that only a good strong dose of “reality busting” can break through, and there is sound scientific thought behind it, in that psychedelics, as I had eluded to a moment ago, reroute our mental pathways, get us out of our ruts. For some these ruts may be impossible to get out of without a push, and if no guru is available, perhaps a medicinal guru can do the trick. Many of us get rutted into unhealthy pathways… and those pathways are, or become, vasanas. So, yes, if you ask me, psychedelics may be a critical guilt-free part of the journey for some, but if they are the destination, then I personally think that reveals a lack of vision if not a weakness of character, after all, once the doors have been opened, with a little discipline we can learn to find and travel through those doors without the aid of psychedelics. Psychedelics are tools, they are not God-realization, and they will not “open your third eye,” no matter what some white guy with dreads broadcasting from Burning Man may tell you on his Youtube channel. For me, DMT was nothing more than one essential step up a very high mountain, and the rest of the way I will now have to climb under my own power, though knowing that all of my power comes from Shiva, from Brahman, from Sanatana Dharma… and all that power can be accessed from within. My interest in psychedelics and DMT has diminished as I have learned what I needed to learn from them, which is good as it’s damn-near impossible to find DMT… I haven’t had the energy or desire to find it again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and that’s probably for the best. A very little goes a long way.

So, there, one vasana finally eliminated, at long last, I now could meditate and I was now on the path of no return. But what the hell path was I on? I’m back on the limitless highway of Hindu possibilities. I love Sadhguru, but he probably will not turn out to be my guru. I am devoted to Lord Shiva, but the path of Devotion (bhakti) may not be the path for me, though I practice bhakti still. Should I travel to India and be in the company of Anandi Ma? Again… do I join the Krishnas? To be honest, as much as this may freak people out, a lot of what the Aghori say, do and believe, makes a lot of internal sense to me… but I am definitely not an Aghori either. But that part of me that is fascinated by and appreciative of what the Aghori represent has, perhaps, made me unfit for more mainstream options within “Hinduism.” In a sense, a new vasana had been revealed to me, the same vasana one might say Hamlet suffered from.

I have long suffered from neurotic confusion (neurotic confusion having been an habitual state for me, one from which I frequently reacted) that manifests as over-concern for the destination when I should have been enjoying the journey. This had manifested itself for years in my artwork, in which I have rarely enjoyed the process as I always had an eye on the results. Now this was revealed to me as a vasana, but in this particular case, I was worried about where I was supposed to end up in my spiritual life rather than recognizing or enjoying the process of seeking. The removal of this “To be or not to be” existential struggle, this confusion and state of ignorance particular to my spiritual journey, came to me from the humblest and most unexpected of sources, a waiter at an Indian restaurant.

I had become friends with many employees of the local Indian restaurant, so I sometimes bring them out to where I live for a day of relaxation. I was standing on the lakeshore with him, and while he was staring out in wonder at the beautiful landscape of floating islands, exotic birds, lakeshore, lake and light, I was churning up concerns for the future, distressing over my destination. I said, “Vikram, I don’t know where this is going. I mean, am I going to end up in an ashram somewhere or what?”

He held his hand out over the lake and said, “Don’t think of the fruit.” He then told me how beautiful the lake was.

All in the teachings I know, but I had never heard Krishna’s teaching about how we are entitled to our actions, but not to the fruit of our actions applied in this way. To me this teaching meant that however hard I worked to learn how to draw, I had no right to expect being rewarded for it, but now, with Vikram, this teaching took on all new depth. From that point on I have stopped thinking about where I am going… and instead I am simply going, am simply seeking! It seems I have defeated one aspect of this monstrous vasana, I have stopped worrying about what path I will resolve and resign to traveling spiritually. I am traveling, and that is enough. The specific path and destination will reveal itself, as has everything else. This vasana of having too much an eye on the results and not enough focus on the process has many forms, but having defeated one manifestation, one avatar, if you will, of this vasana, it will be easier now to begin defeating it when it manifests in my art, or in other areas of my life. In other words, I had won one battle in my war with this one single vasana, but from this point, it should be easier to win the other battles.

The real vasanas I had been battling inwardly were my inherent tendency towards depressions, anxieties, obsessions and fears that had become part of the marrow of my being, and had been so since I was 3 years old, but probably since birth and long before. I had the habit of feeding those wolves as if they simply had to be accepted as part of who I am, as a permanent part of my life. Like many people with anxiety and depression, anxiety and depression had become an important and accepted part of my identity. These were diseases I wrongly understood to be ME.

For a start, it was Sadhguru who got me to realize that this way of thinking is backwards. In one of his teachings he asked, what if your hand was flopping around hitting you all the time when you weren’t using it… would you consider this a sickness? Well, he went on to explain, this is exactly what your brain is doing when it tortures you with undue suffering. Your mind, like your hand, should sit still and calm when not in use. He then explained that we have simply lost control of our minds, and that as common a condition as it is, it should not be viewed as normal, nor should it be resigned to.

Thus I became aware of one major vasana, I had lost control of my mind!

NEXT, Part 3: Beware Of Darkness

One American White Chick’s Struggles With Her Vasanas: Part One

Standard
Shiva Speaking To Justine...

Shiva Speaking To Justine…

Part 1: Living In The Material World

(Before proceeding, please note, this is all written from the point of view of a student of Sanatana Dharma who is still struggling to understand the specifics of these concepts. Errors and misunderstandings on my end are to be expected, and with time I will learn to correct my thinking.)

As I go deeper into my studies of Sanatana Dharma (or “Hinduism” as it is more commonly called), what is it am I learning? Well, lots of stuff, and a lot of it difficult to explain, probably in part because I do not yet understand it all well enough to explain it fluidly. As you may well imagine, at the moment I am as busy unlearning as learning, and this is where the trouble starts. Learning is always a challenging process, even though having to unlearn is not an uncommon part of the learning process. When becoming a serious student of Sanatana Dharma, unlearning seems to be far more important, and from an esoteric perspective, being a student of Sanatana Dharma is almost entirely about unlearning, untangling, detaching and letting go. Now, multiply the struggles of unlearning times a thousand when transitioning from a Western religious and social structure to Hindu spirituality. At the core of this unlearning process are the vasanas, as those are what we must unlearn, let go of, and detach ourself from.

Let’s begin with what I’m learning that is easiest to explain, and that is not only how to be a teacher, but more importantly, how to be a good student. I teach at SAW (Sequential Artists Workshop), and I know who the ideal student is in my mind, and knowing this, I have to humble myself to that place now that the tables have been turned and I am the sysha (student). After all, how can I ask of my students something I am unwilling to give of myself? Ultimately what this comes down to is being willing to not only listen, but to empty my cup. I don’t mean “empty my cup” in a general zen-cliche way, I mean specifically to empty my cup every single time I have a question; to empty it of the answers I want to hear, expectations, and of old answers. By this, I mean to ask questions from a standpoint of wanting to know rather than from the standpoint of defending some preconceived idea I might be attached to.

It is insanely frustrating to teach someone who is less questioning me to understand than to defend themselves for coming to me with a full cup overflowing with ideas and ideologies they are not even willing to consider letting go of. America has become a country of monolithic ideologies of all sorts, not the least of which manifest as insanely rigid political constructs through which far too many people view every aspect of life, especially in this age of deeply unhealthy political obsession… and people are doing this without even realizing they have wandered so deep into such a dark cave. Some students just won’t empty their cups, with those students it’s best to let go, teach them the particulars of whatever technique they are worried about, and let them go about struggling to keep their overfull cups from spilling over, which is a sad place from which to teach, because the best teachers do not teach technique only, they teach life as they understand it. A student who is not willing to learn about life, but only wants to learn what they choose to learn is a very frustrating student indeed. Most teachers don’t merely know more about inking or watercolor, they know more about living, as is inevitable with the aging process, light begins to fall into the shadowy corners of our delusions. Just as the sun travels over a landscape, illuminating at first the East-facing side of things, one who has only lived to early afternoon has not been able to see into the shadowy sides to the West what one who has survived until evening has seen.

“Siva, the merciful, removes ignorance even as the sun removes impurities and darkness by means of its rays. When ignorance is dispelled, the knowledge of Siva begins to function.”

Siva Purana

I have learned that being a good student means knowing when the right student, the right wisdom and the right teacher have come together at the right time. It’s about being conscious enough to recognize that when it happens, and being wise enough to humble yourself before it, as well as being humble enough to empty your cup and surrender to the wisdom and the teacher.

I have been studying Sanatana Dharma for some time now, and though I resist buying too deeply into this idea, it is said by some in India that one cannot be converted to Hinduism, one must be born into it. While this is wholly wrong… I have had to recognize that there is more than a little truth in it… however much that realization hurts. Hindus and India are not like America and The Republians (I mean “Christians,” sorry, I get those two mixed up sometimes… but so do they), in that the fundamental role of Christianity in American culture is not the same role Hinduism plays in Indian culture. The fundamental concepts and commonly taught lessons of mainstream American Christianity are not entirely the same concepts and lessons taught in Hinduism, or at the very least, there are not as many options or possibilities within the confines of mainstream Christianity. In mainstream (not all, but in “mainstream” middle-American) Christianity, the road is obscenely narrow and omnidirectional. I grew up bound to the hellish confines of that narrow one-way road, and have emerged into the highway of Indian spirituality where there are numerous lanes coming from multiple directions and splitting off into millions of exits. Without a GPS (Guru Positioning System), it’s easy to get lost. Simply put, by reading the Bible in a simplistic way, and by going to the average church, one can more or less understand what most Americans consider “Christianity” fairly easily, even if they did not grow up Christian. The same is not true of Hinduism where options, possibilities and complexities can be overwhelming to one who has not grown up immersed in the culture that has immersed itself in it, and I mean wholly overwhelming. In that way, yes, it is difficult to make a transition to Hindu spirituality from outside India, but Sanatana Dharma is, in the end, a spiritual system that has no boundaries, no race, no gender, and no one right path. Ultimately, this is where the issue of vasanas reveal themselves as being particularly confounding to a Western seeker, especially to one without a guru. We all, as we embrace Sanatana Dharma, be we American or Indian, have to struggle with our vasanas, but a good student from the West… well, their struggles against their vasanas are far messier.

So how does this all begin to tie together? Let’s start by saying that I welcome as many Indian people into my life as cross my path, and when around them, I immediately become a humble student with absolutely no desire to bicker or debate modern American relativistic nonsense with them. A people who grew up in an environment immersed in Santana Dharma simply think differently than those who grew up in our American environment, and thank God for that. Often my vasanas become revealed and begin to loosen simply by being humble around the Indians in my life. Only recently I learned a very important lesson about being a good student. For a long time I have struggled with what to call myself, a “convert to Hinduism,” and while talking this over with an Indian friend, he suggested that for starters, I would have a much easier time of it if I consider myself a “sysha (a student) of Sanatana Dharma” rather than as one who has “converted to Hinduism.” PING! Wow, the light went on, instant liberation! Now, like all syshas, like all on this path, American or Indian, I am a seeker, the playing field has been leveled. Additionally, as a “sysha” rather than a “convert,” I have eliminated the need to “know;” no pressure to be perfect, no need to apologize for being an American white girl using the label “Hindu.” By being around people who have been immersed in the culture of Sanatana Dharma, we can approach our vasanas more consciously through listening to their wisdom.

Yeah… so what are “vasanas?” Let’s start with a couple of other concepts, concepts such as karma, maya, avidya, and then vasanas. And let’s start by saying that this is how I understand these concepts at the moment, and I welcome any input as to where I have misunderstood any of these concepts. As it is essentially the cornerstone on which our illusions are built, let’s start with maya, meaning, “not this.” Maya is essentially the concept that the material world is an illusion, or at least that our attachment to it, as who and what we are, is the illusion. There are tons of subtleties to the way maya manifests, and like all things in Hinduism, were we given a multiple choice test and asked to choose between 3 definitions of maya and a fourth option, “D) All of the above,” the answer in Hinduism is virtually always D. But maya is where the trouble starts, it’s where we all get lost, it is the the rope that binds us all. Maya leads to avidya, avidya creates vasanas, and vasanas are the tendencies from which we act, thereby creating karma both good and bad.

Avidya essentially means our personal ignorances, ignorances which have been born of our immersion in maya. These avidya (ignorances) manifest in us as our immersion in maya convinces us we are the ego, and this makes us blind to our true nature… which is not our identification with the body and the mind, but with our Atman (the particle of God in us that we are meant to realize).

Lastly, due to the world of maya and our ensuing avidya, thus our vasanas are created. The Vasanas as I understand the concept now, are our inherent tendencies, the habits, thoughts and compulsions that we engage in primarily as our reactions to avidya, which stemmed from maya. These vasanas may be positive, they may be negative; they may have been created in this life, or we may have come into this life with them. The vasanas seem to be our highly personal cosmic illusory inner thumbprint. These thoughts, habits and compulsions are what drive us, and they manifest as actions, or at least as the motivations behind actions, and the actions create karma. These vasanas keep us in a state of avidya, slaves to maya, and generate endless karma. Vasanas are what drive us to maintain our belief that we are the ego. When Westerners talk about karma, they often seem to think that is the BIG idea in Hinduism, but the truth is, in becoming realized, karma is a secondary issue to removal of the vasanas. By working on my vasanas dilligently, I am finding that my karma is straightening itself out. In other words, in my experience, we need to worry less about karma than our vasanas, for if we eliminate or exhaust our vasanas, our karma is cleansed in the wake of that elimination as we will have automatically begun living, thinking, behaving and acting in ways that correct and create better karma. By rooting out our vasanas, we naturally drift towards more conscious actions and more positive karma. In life, once we become conscious, we can begin to exhaust, fulfill, let go of, or eliminate our vasanas.

At least, that’s how I understand it all at this moment. I am certain with time I will have to relearn some of this.

The importance of rooting out the vasanas being more important than worrying about my karma has been a huge discovery for me. I mean, let’s just say that in the complicated world of Hinduism, having one thing that will work itself out in the wake of our other efforts is a huge relief. Some of the major vasanas I carried into my studies and thinking, be they good or bad, be they from previous lives or vasanas that have developed throughout the course of this lifetime, have influenced my journey as a student. As I untangle myself from Western ideas and Christianity, these vasanas have become so unconscious and instinctive that I often walk around with my cup full to overflowing while thinking I had emptied it. And that’s just it, perhaps I had emptied it, and emptied it time and again, but until I consciously recognize and work through my vasanas, my cup will not remain empty, it will refill itself time and again. I repeat, the realization I have come to is that one must continuously empty the cup, and in a sense, in emptying the cup we are pouring out our vasanas and our avidya, and we are being good syshas, the sort of students I want in my classes.

I have a number of vasanas, not just ones born of my Christian upbringing. I had the seemingly positive vasana, since childhood, of being creative and desiring wealth and recognition for my creative work. Now, that sounds good, but what happened when the work has been done and the rewards do not come? What happened to me was misery and a drunken bitterness. It seems to me that vasanas, good or bad, create karmic traps and unconscious actions. On the darker side, I have vasanas that have been forged in me like iron, vasanas made of the iron mined from the deepest of holes, holes I dug lifetimes ago and holes I have dug with great intention in this very lifetime. These are the holes I return to, be they good or bad. Great mines, and the dark ones are great holes of depression, desire, anxiety, fear, literalism, attachment, pride. Holes I myself dug to such great depths. That’s what vasanas are, the compulsion to dig holes for ourselves. Before we can even stop digging we have to ask, why are we digging these holes? What will it mean if I stop digging them? When all your life all you have done is dig those holes, the thought of stopping can be terrifying. Those holes are our realities. The thought of stopping can be so terrifying for so many that they are unwilling to even consider it, and sadly for others, the thought of stopping is unthinkable, for they are either too caught up in maya, too limited, or perhaps they are simply afraid of what might happen were they to stop digging. We are in bondage, limited, in our own holes. Our lives can become so entangled in maya that even thinking about getting out can be far too devastating to consider.

Devastating, destructive, Shivanic! But, some of us, we ache for such devastation, such destruction, and though we might resist at first, eventually we have to learn to be grateful for the destruction, and we have to learn to trust Shiva, and to beg him to dance his dance of destruction all through our illusions, all through our lives, so we may finally begin to live our lives in conscious joyful awareness of the illusion.

NEXT, Part 2: It’s All Too Much

What Is This Mess

Standard

What Is This Mess
by Justine Mara Andersen

What is this place of thirst and death that father calls home,
That fights and quarrels over gibberish, smoke and nothing,
That is washed in despairs even as it sips, sups and stares,
Through windows and ghosts at the tiny cage of the infinite sky,
To beg for the eternal pains of youth before a waning moon,
Where every soul’s sun sets in spite of all the begging.

What is this self before whom the grandest words fail,
This self which contains the unknown and is unknown itself,
That knows liberation from all foes, woes, words and forms,
That milk of life encased in every shell whether or not,
The shell is cracked and the gold of its light is revealed,
Such light craves only to be and be nothing more than being.

What is this place I know which had once been only words,
What is this place I cannot find without smoke or shame,
Which I know beyond all knowing and cannot know in thinking,
That cosmic sea where I and all together are one in being,
Beyond the heart of tales and time, and knowledge at its wisest,
Where forever shines until the tether of illusion snaps me back.

What now that I have sunk deep into being the truth of eternity,
What is this pinkish mess, I ask as I sink back from forever,
Onto this stuff of mist which once seemed immutable as a mountain,
What are these cuttlefish colors that fade with every breath,
And why all this noise ever increasing in the storm of illusion,
How could I have ever known this pettiness as the limit of all.

What are the rubber tangles of this thing into which I return,
A preposterous self too tiny to be the iron limit of all I know,
Me, a golden god on its belly struggling, returning, slithering,
In the slime upon this mad turtle’s back that I must call home,
Through the muck of dogs and lies into a shell far to small,
Too feeble, bizarre, and sickly to contain this me of liberation.

Why do I ache so now, when I have been nothing less than bliss,
Why must I cry now that I know the heartbeat of eternity,
And why do I fear a descending madness has deadened all my senses,
How hard it is being in the knowing of having been released,
If only for a moment from all desire, anger, sorrow, fear and dying,
Why then do I clutch so at cold damp stones of wind and trouble.

What is this knowing that ravages me in the fires of destruction,
That cannot be known when it is born from womb of words and mind,
That causes such distress at no longer feeling this ashen self to be,
Even as I look out the window and breathe the air of the forest,
What is that which destroys the false self with a whiff of knowing,
What is this tiniest crack in the behemoth shell of my ignorance.

What is this mess I ask in panic of having outgrown this tiny self,
Why does the pain of truly knowing being crush me like a can,
This breathing is a suffocation to me now, this flesh a holy lie,
The effort of living on in ignorance I can bear no more,
No more than the act of being here can bear the weight of truth.
What is this mess, I cry in the distant echo of forever.

Dear Shiva, tell me where to go, and what I need to know,
Who do I need to bow before to stop these siren fevered tears,
To still and mute these thousand untamed chattering monkeys,
To conquer this tyrant child that claims me as its tiny “self,”
What air must I breathe, and what teacher must needs find me,
Dear Shiva take me into your eye of destruction forevermore.

I weep and hunger for nothing more than that eternity,
Where my infantile weeping and hunger are neither fuel nor fire,
That silence where the great green dragon of desire is slain,
Where I can lay down my sword in the boiling blood of all,
I have slain in me to lie among the corpses of all I knew,
To be the self I am that is known in the silence of simply being.