Tag Archives: shiva

The Three Dreams (Dream 1, The Panther)

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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)

Shiva, Swamp, Guru

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Shiva, Swamp, Guru
by Barefoot Justine

My longing plays its ripples upon your placid lake,
My forever is the flowing of your loving grace,
My walking is deep study of your truth and light,
My joy it only rises if after you I’ve given chase.

My guru is this swamp, green and one in all as I,
He is the path I walk and the rainfall all around,
He is hot sand underfoot, and tall amidst the pines,
On this path, as within, his wisdom is the ground.

Oh winding guru I felt your wholeness in my heart,
In coming home to your shaded land of golden sand,
Where wisdom of the wolves laps the swampy shores,
Where ash of Shiva’s embers warms me as I stand.

Once trees with fiery hollows graced my eyes with awe,
In my guru Agni danced in silks of red and gold,
Among the ashes, deep as snow, I as Aghori roamed,
Under ash embers burned in Mahadev’s stronghold.

Shiva dances maya in the windsong between the leaves,
He nests my pains into a hole amidst the tallest pines,
My guru is this forest and all I know there grows,
Where Soma’s light falls in Shiva’s deepest shrines.

Be with me Guru on Kuruksetra as I string my bow,
Come to me oh Guru, in the restless dark of night,
Reveal to me your self in dreams if not in words,
May I sleep in your embrace of one of love in light.

Shiva Aghori (2 of 2)

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To see PART 1… scroll down…

On The very same night of realization I wrote about in part one, after meditation, study, and contemplation of Shiva’s stories in “The Siva Purana,” I fell into not only ecstasy, but a second realization. This time the realization came about through another story of Shiva’s marriage, his second, this time to Parvati. But before we go into that, let’s briefly discuss the importance of “realization.” Just to be clear, it is one thing to know a thing, to read it, to have an intellectual understanding of it, but that sort of knowledge comes at a great distance from the truth. That sort of knowledge vibrates only in the left side of the brain. In moments of “realization,” those things that we knew on the shallow level of vibration that only happens in the logical side of the brain become internalized and integrated, and that knowledge become Truth that resonates and vibrates through every cell and particle in our bodies. Realizations are when we “KNOW” a thing at a much deeper level, a level so deep that the words we had once understood intellectually become far too small to hold what we now know through realization.

Parvati’s mother awaited Shiva and his wedding party to arrive, eager to see him, but to her horror Shiva came in full Aghori mode, some say he was inebriated, but regardless he came smeared in the ash of a renunciate, riding a bull, and covered in animal skins. His attendants and followers were in tow, a mass of deformed and demented beings, demons and spirits. It was said of Shiva that he spent time with dogs and ghosts. Here he arrived totally unfit for polite society.

“On seeing Siva in their midst, the mother of Parvati trembled. She saw Siva who though devoid of attributes was better than those who had all the attributes, He was seated on the Bull. He had five faces and three eyes. He had ashes smeared over the body. He had matted hair with the crescent moon on His head. He had ten hands with the skull in one of them. His upper cloth was a tiger’s hide. He held the bow of Pinaka in one of his hands and the Trident in another. he had odd eyes, ugly features utterly dishevelled and untidy. He wore the hide of an elephant.”

Description of Shiva as he came to the wedding from “The Siva Purana.”

“You do not know Siva. Siva has many names and many forms. Seeing a peculiar distorted form you have become excited.”

Himacala speaking in “The Siva Purana.”

When this scene which I had read and heard numerous times was enacted in “Kahi Suni,” the portrayal somehow moved me to realization. Seeing the Aghoric Lord Shiva so beautifully represented brought me to a sudden and gripping ecstasy so intense I had to lay prostrate on the floor before a vintage Indian poster of Lord Shiv. I did not know what to do with this sudden ecstasy, whether I could bear it, whether I could go deeper, or whether I could hold it. I tried to let go of everything between (i.e. the ego and monkey mind) me and ecstasy, to let it do what it needed to do with me. I let it flow through me as long as it needed to. It was only after that when I began to reflect on it.

This couldn’t be so? Could I actually be so profoundly aroused by Shiva in his Aghoric form? I can’t think of anything less practical, let alone possible or sane, as being drawn so powerfully to the Aghoric aspects of Lord Shiva? While it is difficult to imagine myself meditating in cremation grounds, drinking from skulls, or living in the extremes of the Aghori… I did, after the controlled burn of the forest I live in, spend a lot of time wandering half-naked through the ashes. That scorched forest, which I so often had entirely to myself, became my cremation grounds… it was then that the forest became my Guru. That forest became one huge lesson in the constructive destruction of Shiva the Destroyer! As much as I thrilled to watching Agni dance through the forest in his robes of red and gold, as much as I sunk into my own Aghoric reality in the aftermath of the ashes, so I equally enjoyed the profound lessons of Shiva’s constructive destruction as I watched Samsara taking place before my eyes when up through the ashes sprouted new growth… new life! Since then I have watched my scorched forest, my Guru, grow lush and green with life. Still, part of me misses the fire and ash of my forest in its Aghoric sate.

“Aghora is not indulgence; it is the forcible transformation of darkness into light.”

Robert E. Svoboda from “Aghora, At The Left Hand Of God.”

Yet I cannot even say that I romanticize the Aghori, cannot even say I aspire to become one, nor that I am obsessed with them or know much about them, but what I can say is that there seems to be far too much truth in Aghori to be ignored, and furthermore, far too much Aghori in me to ignore, and I am afraid it has liberated as well as complicated my spiritual life. How am I to submit to a Guru or commit to an ashram when I have so little respect for polite society, when I see the Aghoric truth that filth is no less sacred than a flower, my dirty feet no less sacred than my freshly washed hands? How can I turn my back on the truths that formed me, not considering that when I came to Lord Shiva it was through a dirty-footed orgasm while stoned on cannabis? How am I going to resolve my spiritual life when I have this side of me that is so transgressive that the mere portrayal of Shiva’s Aghoric nature and company can reduce me to trembling ecstasies? How on earth am I going to be able to submit to the teachings of any Guru who does not see the value in “Shiva’s Gift”(ganja), in our plant teachers, in ash and transgression? I ask myself if it is possible to submit to the disciplines of a Guru who denies the truths of my realizations? And yes, these are questions, NOT arguments, because the truth is… I do not have the answers to the above questions.

I do not know where all my questions and realizations are leading me, but what I do know is that there was a practical lesson in this Aghoric ecstasy, and the lesson applies to the same hell I had fallen into after being bullied a week ago to the day of my realizations and ecstasies. I began to realize that Lord Shiva does inhabit the cremation grounds as well as the pure and still white snows of Mount Kailash, and that he kept company not only with Devi’s, but with dogs, ghosts and demons. To truly be Shiva, to truly know “Om Shivoham,” I must learn to accept the demonic nature of other men and see that they, too, are part of Shiva. These animal men who persecute me are demented beings, beings no less demented than those in the company of Lord Shiva. Moreso, I must recognize that my own demoniac and demonaic qualities, while to be strenuously overcome, are to be accepted as part of Shiva. Indeed, the Rakshasas (demons) are to be risen above and not too greatly indulged, but all, good or evil, light or dark, ignorant or illuminated, all is Shiva. Yet… Shiva is the road to light beyond the path of darkness. Shiva teaches us to elevate ourselves beyond the darkness, but, more importantly, to view the darkness without fear. Darkness is to be accepted fearlessly, but never should darkness become a wallow we delight in. It is a trap and madness lies there. Life is messy, Shiva is messy, and one cannot follow Shiva who is too weak to cope with such messiness.

“Fear destroys the alignment of the mind; rather than accept the reality of nature, the mind seeks to change and control it. These attempts invariably fail, creating frustration and fear and confusion that blinds one to spiritual reality.”

Devdutt Pattanaik, “7 Secrets Of Shiva.”

Will I ever be able to learn to love such demented demonic beings and traits? Will I ever learn to love those animal men who seek out nothing but misery, their own misery, and the twisted delight they enjoy in passing their misery into others? Such men are bearers of misery, just as lepers bear and transmit leprosy. So how can I love men diseased with demoniac tempers?

I think the answer is to come to realize that while I need not love evil, need not love cruelty, darkness and ignorance, I can recognize that those qualities. are merely crusts, are merely twisted and ugly Maya slopped upon the Supreme truth, and this should be considered with some compassion. We are all composed entirely of infinite space, vibrating briefly between poles of infinity, the same poles of infinity. We are all composed of the same atoms, but all vibrating in different manifestations. We are all Shiva, even if we only display the most demented aspects of His Sports, of His Maya. The only difference between the Dalai Lama and Trump is that Trump has forgotten who he is, and has fallen so far from the supreme reality of his being that it may well take lifetimes of groveling as a worm before he will even begin to crawl into awareness, before he will even begin to awaken from the dream his ego has encrusted around him… then again, maybe not. And that is the thing, who knows what realizations may come to any man, or any woman.

I certainly don’t know.

And here we learn that dark, ignorant and demoniac men are more to be pitied than despised as they have fallen so far into the darkness that their only company is misery and a shallow occasional happiness that is always tainted with wickedness.

Yet, are we then to suffer their demoniac tempers with surrender? Perhaps these deominiacal men, these twisted beings, perhaps the only way they will learn and rise above is to fall so deep into despair and misery that there is nowhere to go but up. Many years ago I was molested in a bar, and I defended myself violently. While I do not hate the man who molested me, and while I feel no anger or need to avenge myself further, I also know that perhaps it was my duty to have defended myself so violently. No, loving the Godhead, the Shiva, in another person does not mean loving or even passively enduring their wickedness, nor even allowing them to get away with it. Sometimes the greatest love is demonstrated when we defend ourselves, when such men are, sometimes painfully, taught the lessons they need to learn to begin their journey inward, or upward, or at the very least, out of the karmic pit of bile they have been wallowing in. Are we not supposed to confront darkness fearlessly? Are we not supposed to shed light upon darkness? Again, I ask questions that I have yet to find answers to.

Life is complicated, Karma is complicated, it’s messy, it’s a battle, and while we Seekers seek peace and love and grace, sometimes we have to fight. Sometimes in order for karma to realize itself we have to do so through action, through fighting our battles, but we need not fight them in hatred or with revenge or anger in our hearts. We must be just and in control. After all, as much as “Fight the battle” was one of the lessons Krishna taught Arjun in The Gita, the one theme running through the scripture, the one truth that had cankered Arjun, was that he loved the men he had to fight.

Arjun loved his enemies, as they were family to him. And aren’t we all family in Om Shivoham?

Regardless, he had to fight them even as he loved them. Easier said than done… right? Do I have light and wisdom enough to love those who persecute me? Perhaps, but at the moment, only abstractly.

Har Har Mahadev!

Shiva Aghori (1 of 2)

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Yesterday I encountered 2 truths, both revealed through Lord Shiva, and one, once again, through his Aghoric aspects. Prior to the studying I am doing now, I read several books just to prepare me for my current undertaking, as what I am reading is so thick with symbolism and nuance that to have launched into it unprepared may well have been dangerous. At the moment I am reading “The Siva Purana,” yep, all 2,200 pages! The best estimate of when it was written speaks to the text being written between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, which means that much of the text contains intrusions from politically motivated Brahmin who, so it seems, were very concerned with preserving social order and the hierarchical position of their caste. When reading these scriptures, as is the case with any scripture, it is wise to root the wisdom out while leaving burried the material concerns of the men who intruded upon the wisdom of the sages.

One of the big challenges in doing this reading was to empty my cup of dogmatic and fundamentalist notions, leftovers from my upbringing as a fundamentalist Christian. This cup continues to need emptying at regular intervals. In my continued efforts to understand this nuanced scripture, I am not only rereading some of the texts I have already studied, but have been watching “Kahi Suni,” which is an Indian television program that visits the sacred places and explores the myths, legends and stories of India.

The past two days I have spent immersed in meditation, devotion, study and contemplation in the forest. Honestly, I am beginning to think that this is what I am meant to be doing, as nothing else brings me peace. Every one of my material entanglements, work, art, relationships, my car, finances, you name it, all of it leads me down the same path, that of anxiety, fear and depression. The cycle seems to be that I devote myself to Lord Shiva, spending all of my spare time in meditation, contemplation and study, and come to peace, joy, and levels of wisdom and realization that have astounded me… but then the ego begins whining in my skull like an annoying little bitch or begins barking like a tyrannical selfish father, and I am called back to engagement in material concerns, and then I am let down, disappointed, fearful, anxious and depressed. Why do I keep going down the path of darkness when I know the road that leads to light? But, then again, that does seem to be the eternal struggle, doesn’t it?

I keep falling from grace because the ego is loud when it becomes threatened, it insists upon being in control, and as it sees me wandering farther and farther down the path of spiritual life, it begins to ask me questions and telling me things, such as, “You can’t live like this? You cannot spend your days meditating and studying. You are wasting your life, your days are numbered, you need more money, a husband, fame and a large body of work.” And this ego raises itself before my eyes and I follow it like a dying woman follows death. It is one thing to recognize that our culture is constantly at work brainwashing us, but another level of comprehension entirely to recognize that we are perpetuating this brainwashing from a much more insidious place… from within our own minds!

This last 2 days of immersion began in fear and helplessness. I felt abandoned by Shiva, I had succumbed so fully to the ego that meditation and Shiva began to seem foolish to me. But, slowly, as I shed my material concerns, as I studied, increased my meditation and the length of time I spent in the forest, the quietude of clarity began to dawn within me again. So desperate was I to let go, to fall into Shiva, that I laid myself on the floor and begged him to reveal himself to me.

Ultimately, as usual, he did. I was taught once, in a profound moment, while in the audience of a Pandit, that Shiva cannot help but rush to the aid of a Devotee who cries tears for him.

A week ago yesterday I was badly bullied in public again. The experience was humiliating and enraging, and I felt a deep resentment at having to live in a world full of vile troglodytic animal men. Having to share the planet with hostile ignorant Rakshasas and leeching vampires can be exhausting, and I found myself being drug back into the hellish world of my damaged ego.

But this was when the first lesson came to me, and it came in the story of Shiva’s marriage to Sati. I had read it numerous times, knew it well, and as I watched a version of this story played out in “Kahi Suni,” aspects of the story and its secrets suddenly became relevant and known to me in a way that elevated me out of my stupor of self loathing and self pity. Though abstractly, the lesson in the story was applicable to my own experiences of the moment.

Daksha, father of Sati, was holding a sacrifice, and Daksha had intentionally snubbed Shiv and Sati, this infuriated Sati. She was enraged that Daksha, her father, would dishonor Mahadev, and the insult grated on her. Shiva tried to tell her to let it go, tried to instruct her, but Sati was insistent. Shiva knew that the moment she defied him, she would be lost, and while this may seem like a patriarchal notion, that reading would miss the point. The point being that when we deny and question God, as we become taken in by the constructed “reality” of the material world and culture, we are likely to fall into its traps of misery and unconstructive destruction. She went, uninvited to confront Daksha, and encountered a cold and unrepentant Daksha, in the end, unable to move Daksha, she immolated herself in the sacrificial fire.

“All these Suras and Asuras, brahmins and sages bow to me. How is it that this gentleman who is always surrounded by goblins and ghosts behaves like a wicked man?

How is it that this shameless frequenter of cremation grounds does not bow to me now? he is devoid of rights. He has cast off religious practices. He is surrounded by spirits and ghosts. He is elated and spoils good policies and conventions.”

Daksha speaking of Shiva in “The Siva Purana.”

Now, of course, Daksha is a manifestation, or metaphor, for the ego, the ego of social order in particular. His daughter was a manifestation of nature, of worldly and social existence. Shiva, of course, not only rejects, but flaunts social convention, this, of course, is intolerable to Daksha. Let’s step into this for a moment and apply this to our world. Think of Nixon as Daksha and the youth of the sixties as Shiva. Look back at how, not only threatened, but insulted, enraged and offended Nixon was that he had become BIG and powerful, the PRESIDENT, and here were a group of people who were not impressed, who rejected not only his world view, but the immensity of his very material accomplishment. Essentially if a person or people rebel against a man of power, to the transgressors he is seen as and becomes impotent and powerless. The powerful cannot abide those who do not recognize and praise their power. Recently when talking to a friend, he complained after the election that “The next 4 years are going to suck.” To which I told him that whether or not the next 4 years sucked were entirely up to him. I explained that Trump only has as much power over you as you give him.

Shiva, quite innocently and as is natural to his character, meant no offense to Daksha’s power, or his constructed “reality,” but he had no interest in being part of it. Now, of course, just as it is Shiva’s job, his Dharma, to transgress social norms, to challenge the reality of power, it is also the job of Sati to exist between her father and Shiva. She, a woman, as was traditionally realized in India, was a creature of nature, of the world, and it was her job to keep Shiva engaged in the world, lest “reality” as we know it be destroyed. That, however, is Shiva’s Job, to destroy the construct most people have democratically accepted as “reality.” His destruction contains no malice, only Dharma, it is Shiva’s job to destroy not only constructed “reality,” but to destroy our attachment to it so that we may shun this temporal construct and engage with the supreme reality that we already are. Om Shivoham… I am Shiva! Under the heavy robes of the ego, under the crust of material construct, we are all Shiva. And we all decide how much power men of power have over us. Me, I refuse to recognize most men’s power as it exists only within the confines of a construct of reality that I do not buy into. Hence Trump is powerless against me just as Daksha was powerless against Shiva, and Sati, had she the wisdom to see that.

Sati, being caught between Daksha’s ego and social order and Shiva’s renunciation, slips so far into the power of her father’s ego that she becomes consumed by it… literally consumed by fire! So as to keep Shiva from becoming attached to the remains of her corpse, Vishnu has her dismembered and her parts drop throughout India, and wherever her remains fell, holy temples were raised.

So what, beyond the less than significant political ramifications of this story, was the lesson here for me? To listen to Shiva, to be like Shiva. Why was Sati allowing Daksha’s ego to damage or control her own? Why, Shiva must have wondered, did Sati become so caught up in Daksha’s ego that her own was consumed by him, by his fire, his fire which had excluded Mahadev? And this was the lesson for me, when being bullied and sexually harassed, of course it is hurtful and dangerous in the moment, but why would I, a week later, remain consumed by the wicked and demonic ego of the animal-man who had offended me? Why would I allow myself to be consumed by his godless fire? In the actions of this man, he, like Daksha, had started a godless fire, and I allowed myself to be consumed by it. Furthermore, when harassed, I chose to confront the man, just as Sati had confronted Daksha, and just as Daksha could not be moved, neither could this animal-man. Any effort to confront ignorant and material-minded men like Daksha and my own bully will result in little more than a deeper state of entanglement in not only your own, but their egos! Shiva had warned Sati, had warned me, but we both became consumed. The lesson is to stop becoming consumed, to be with Shiva, to be Shiva, after all, I am Shiva… I am Shiva!

Om Shivoham.

NEXT: Part 2

Still Fighting The Battle 3 of 3

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Third-Eye McCartney

Sunday morning, and Brother Shankara’s talk was on the very subject we had covered in our conversation. My heart further leapt when, during his service, Brother Shankara quoted not Lennon, not Harrison, but Paul McCartney. I knew at that moment that here was an experience I could call my home! And I do not mean that lightly. To my mind it takes a very wise person to witness the oft-overlooked and subtle wisdom that flows from Sir Paul McCartney.

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”

Again, my heart leapt when a fellow seeker in the back raised his hand to talk and asked how he was to resolve the battle in him where he goes from great engagements in his spiritual practices to fearing and thinking it was all nonsense and that he was nothing more than skin and bones here to eat, die, and rot in the material world. Needless to say we had one helluva talk in the library after the talk was over.

I feel less lonely. I feel less frightened. I feel less foolish. I feel more loved and understood… and I feel closer, again, to Lord Shiva.

Manharji and I (after the Sunday service) went to the Indian mall here in Atlanta (The Global Mall), where we had a very good, if not humble, Indian dinner, and where I had the chance to visit the Shiva Mandir and the Vinayaka (Ganesh) srhine, as well as the chance to shop through the fantastic Indian boutiques.

Then I came back to the ashram and volunteered to clean the guest house, which I did in all love, and with a great sense of gratitude.

And come Monday, I shared dinner with Brother Shankara between Arati and his “Bhagavad Gita” class. We talked for a moment more on the Beatles, and I was delighted to hear Brother Shankara, in his own words, state something I had dared not speak for fear of people just not being willing to get it. Essentially, it was the Beatles that made it possible for me to understand Eastern spirituality once I came into it. Brother Shankara agreed that they were here to do a job, that job being helping immensely in opening the West to Indian wisdom, and he felt they did their job very well. They were not merely a band, The Stones were merely a pop band, the Beatles, as Brother Shankara pointed out, manifested different Yogic principles, though, to be honest, I don’t recall exactly how he said it, but it was well thought out. With me, the Beatles got in far deeper than anything else had up until Shiva revealed himself to me.

Shortly, we dug in deeper through many of the struggles I have been having, which partly has to do with my very unconservative views of the truths of Shiva. We talked about how I came to Sanatana Dharma, and of how what finally compelled me to seek a temple was that I had a vision of Shiva after partaking in some of “Shiva’s gift,” and while having, let’s say, an ecstatic physical pleasure. This, for me, was the moment of truth, if he could handle that with real insight rather than by regurgitating some “company policy,” then I knew I could trust him with the unorthodoxed truth of my journey, and with anything else I would ever need to share with him. There is a movement in Hinduism that seems to want to sanitize Shiva, but as I understand it at this time (and perhaps further study will clarify this one way or the other), this movement seems to do the same outrageous somersaults certain Christians do to prove that Jesus did not turn water into wine, but Grape Nehi. In other words, there are a number of conservative Hindus who want to pretend that plant teachers and medicines were not part of the story of Sanatana Dharma in general or Shiva in particular, or that if they were part of the story, they have elaborate “logical” reasons that it’s OK for Shiva, but nor for us. To me, this reeks of colonialism and an unconscious submission to American moral tyranny, and people who buy into that with authority, I cannot yet entirely trust. Not all of us follow the common conservative paths. To those people, Shiva calls, after all, he kept company with dogs, demons and ghosts as well as Devas. Brother Shankara proved to be a man of insight and honesty.

Yet, I must say, as I have been reading the “Shiva Purana” I have found no textual evidence to support Shiva as a user of ganja or soma. I have read and heard numerous versions of stories where Lord Shiva does at least consume ganja, and I mean numerous stories from reliable sources, but as of yet not a single mention in the Purana. Of course the Aghori and Sadhus are known to use ganja (“Shiva’s Gift”) as a meditation aid, but there doesn’t yet appear to be much evidence for this in the scriptures. Ultimately, this begs the question… is there any such thing as a, or the, authoritative version of Shiva? That I can answer from a Puranic perspective, and the answer is that he is sportive and takes whatever form he pleases, as forms are irrelevant to the ultimate realized being, Lord Shiva.

Regardless, Brother Shankara’s warm understanding nature and nonjudgmental approach brought me to being able to trust him enough to share that there is a part of me that is intrigued by, and agrees with, the Aghori. I don’t know that the Aghoric part of me is a very large percentage, but it is large enough to complicate matters as I seek a spiritual home.

Humans are complicated, and the truths of our selves requires understanding more than hard and fast rules, and as the books of wisdom repeat, even if most people cannot see this truth, each seeker will have to find their own way, and some seekers need to walk through the forests rather than along the well-lit and fully maintained roads. I won’t go into details, let’s just say Brother Shankara handled all these topics with insight, grace, wisdom, and essentially won me over entirely in that he did not regurgitate absolutes or rush to judge me, he listened, and he understood that I was on the path I was on, and he saw me as a serious seeker even if my path would not be acceptable to many.

Everything is complicated and nothing within the constructed framework of democratically deemed ordinary reality and the ensuing ordinary points of view work, not once certain experiences and knowledge has been had and gained. “Reality,” for me, has been wholly upended. I can no longer see things in the way other people do, and most do not, can not, and will not see things as I do. This puts me on the outside with my family, but on the inside with Brother Shankara, Siva, Manharji, Swamiji, Durga and Ganesh. But this new reality exists on a level beyond the reach of language. We talked about this very topic, about how between DMT, meditation and Shiva, my concept of “reality” has been utterly shattered. When I told him how frightening this was, he nodded knowingly, saying: “Of course it’s frightening.”

And I guess that’s that. And that was all I needed to hear. He essentially helped me to feel and understand that it is perfectly natural to be frightened at this point… but in no way led me to believe that this was a bad thing, it simply is what is, and is not an uncommon experience. It’s hard enough to find your way in the world… let alone if you have seen and experienced things that bring everything we all take for granted about the world into question. Simply put, Shiva The Destroyer… has destroyed me, but, as challenging, at times frightening and overwhelming as such destruction can be, I wouldn’t have it any other way, which is good, ’cause there’s no going back now. And I would like to add that this destruction is wholly constructive, and I am willing to endure the trials.

Nope, this isn’t going to be easy, but you know what? It’s worth it, and these struggles are a lot better than lying in bed under the smothering inertia of anxiety and depression, and these struggles and this reality is a lot better than hanging around talking about Duck Dynasty.

By the end of the week, on the very day that I was headed home, I made one last stop at the Hindu Temple Of Atlanta. I was satisfied with all I had learned, and with all the new people and places in my life, but I felt bothered that there still seemed to be some Asuras lurking in my shadows. I had not had that release, that mother-of-all blissful experiences that so often had come to me on temple visits. I resigned myself to the wisdom of having to accept that though that hadn’t happened, I had learned and gained a lot. But then, quite unexpectedly, as if I had finally let go of all that darkness I had carried to and through Atlanta with me, within about an hour, the inner-demons I had struggled with and shared with Brother Shankara, left me. I left the temple, got in my car clean, and drove home in peace, and today, I am still at peace.

I have found my center, and it was right where I left it, inside.

I, for one, will accept battles with depression and anxiety, but I will not feed those demons.

And, you know, for all the ups and downs, on whatever road I’ve travelled, it always comes back to that pivotal choice I was given by the fundamentalist youth minister at the suburban evangelical church of my youth, “You know… one day you’re going to have to choose between Jesus and the Beatles.”

I made my choice…

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”

Still Fighting The Battle 2 of 3

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BAPS Temple Ceiling

The BAPS Temple in Atlanta is indescribable, and whenever I enter into it I am transported into a world where mingles a cloud-like heavenly purity, the staggering symmetries of a DMT trip, and of course a holy dwelling of the Gods, Shiva, Uma and Ganesh included. For all my questions about certain aspects of the BAPS experience, finally getting there and seeing Shiva and Ganesh brought me to tears. After all, I had come 5 hours just to show my devotion and request their aid. Though the Hindu Temple Of Atlanta resonates with me on a far more immediate and familiar level, the BAPS Temple is going to be a regular part of my spiritual circuit when I go on my pilgrimages to Atlanta (which sounds utterly ridiculous, “pilgrimages to Atlanta,” but that is essentially what it comes down to).

There is a funny quality to the BAPS Temple, in that at times I feel at a distance from the place. For a start we have to give our names at the gate before we can get in. There is a logic to this that I can understand… but it doesn’t “feel good.” And more puzzling, I was struck again with how we women have to sit in the back and had to eat and gather separately from the men. Is this really the least bit holy? Instead of taking the higher road and learning to master their minds, hearts and desires, why do the men insist we be segregated, is it to protect them from their own weaknesses? The irony is that women are no threat to men, I mean what do men have to fear, that they might have a sexual fantasy? On the other hand, what do women have to fear from men? Sexual harassment, rape, abuse, it seems the situation here is upside down and that the men should, if they insist on segregating us, have to sit in the back so as to contemplate why they cannot control their minds. Simply put, women are people, not “distractions.” This does, however, have a grand upside… we don’t have to be surrounded by men! It is, quite frankly, rather lovely to be free from them. I, for one, love being surrounded only by other women. And fully embracing duality here, to be honest, I found the old-fashoned segregation of genders somehow warm and charming, especially considering their determination to respect their traditions and not budge for a modern mindset. For me, this whole “thing” creates a vibratory cognitive dissonance that I cannot resolve and mostly embrace joyfully. Simply put, while the segregation annoys me a tad, I also rather like being a part of it. So, in the end, for all my questions, who’s to say, who’s to judge? Not me. But a rock ain’t gonna stop a river from flowing, and that ain’t gonna stop me from asking these questions.

…Ah… but then… was I discriminated against? I was refused admittance to the main event of the evening. While I usually find myself extremely welcome among Indians (who are the most welcoming and hospitable people I have ever met), once in a while I encounter situations like this. Manharji would have none of this and somehow his presence got me into the event, and for some reason, at this point I was personally escorted to the front row of the women’s section, and there I met the lovely, smiling and exemplarily hospitable Rameshi (if I got that right), who truly understood the Hindu tradition that guests are to be treated like visiting Deities. She was a delight to talk to and wanted nothing more than to make me feel welcome. To say the least, my BAPS experiences, at times, leave me with a lot of questions. All the same, I revere the place even if I, respectfully, have some questions.

But enough of that, when the event ended I was shuttled along in a river of Indian women, bustling, bumping, and reminding me once and for all that among Indians there is no such thing as personal space. While most Americans might find this intolerable and offensive, I, personally, truly love physical contact, and found their fearless physicality refreshing and warm. Apart from being far taller than most of them, I felt absolutely at home among the Indian women. Once we got into the women’s dining hall, I was treated to a lovely thali plate, and sat on the floor with the other women and ate, like many of them, with my fingers.

But so it goes at BAPS, segregation on one hand, a warm welcome and inspired beauty on the other; being excluded on the one hand, and being treated by the Indian women like one of them on the other. But through it all, being in awe of the divinity I feel in that temple.

Brother Shankara

Shortly after, Manharji dropped me off at the Vedanta Center of Atlanta, which he felt would be the perfect central place for me to stay as it was between Patel Plaza, the BAPS Temple, the Chinmaya Mission and the Global Mall (which has a Shiva Mandir and a Ganesh shrine as well as great Indian food and shops). That night, after Manharji left, the presiding monk, Brother Shankara, said he wanted to know about me. We sat in the library and he asked, “What brought you here?”

“Well,” I started, smiling, feeling already a deep sense of relief, “that’s gonna get us right to the heart of the matter, isn’t it?” To which he told me he didn’t want to waste time on small talk, and neither did I, so we dug in. What followed was not only exactly the talk I needed to have, were not only the words I needed to hear, but I was in the presence of exactly who I needed to be talking with. My gut, God, and Manharji had been right. Yes, the impulse I had to get out of Gainesville NOW was the voice of Durga (or “The Mother,” as Brother Shankara insisted) drawing me into the arms of wisdom and caring. This is an important lesson, which is that if you listen to yourself, without making excuses, and just up and “Get On The Right Thing,” rather than sinking further down, Consciousness, Brahman, Gurus and your gut will always lead you to where you need to be, to who you need to be talking with, to what you need to know, to how it’s all going to work out, and to why… well… to why I needed to follow that impulse to simply drop everything and go. Once your consciousness tunes into the higher consciousness, your own consciousness becomes guided by the supreme consciousness. This is how consciousness works, consciousness will lead one consciously to the consciousness one needs, but you have to both surrender and listen. I have taken many such leaps of faith, and they have always worked out. I had no plans, no reservations, I just placed my fate in the hands of Manharji and God, and landed in the care of the people and situations I needed. In other words, however hard I could have tried, I could not have researched, planned or organized anything as profoundly perfect as this all turned out to be. Even the suffering that led to my restless and sudden impulse to leave was a boon, the blessing that placed me in the care of people and places that will continue to nourish me as I travel deeper down the path of a seeker.

I started by telling Brother Shankara everything I have just told you in this writing so far, then we dug in deep, real deep, and got straight to the heart of the matter.

I told him how over the past few weeks I have backslid, and how I became overwhelmed with fears and doubts. I began wondering, what if I am nothing more than flesh and blood, the descendant of fesces flinging monkeys, here to vote for or against Trump, here to watch Monday Night Football… or not, here to text, Facebook, and here to decide between eating at McDonalds or eating vegan “cookies.” What if all this God stuff is nonsense? What if all the time I spent monastically at home in the forest, meditating, contemplating, hiking and studying scriptures was a waste of time? What if the joy and peace I experienced then was a delusion, was nothing more than me avoiding “reality?” All of this had made me miserable, and had led to a depressive and anxiety state so deep that I began seeking distraction. It led me to such distraction that I began looking for answers that could come only from outside, from other people, and this led to disappointment, which led to a clinging attachment, which led to frustration, sadness, anger, loneliness and bitterness. By the bitter end of it, Wednesday’s class, I had lost my way, I had no longer had any control over my own emotions. Like Sita, “Ram, get me that deer,” I had let myself become distracted, my mind like that of the frightened and fleeing deer… and what happened to Ram and Sita after that? Well, if you don’t know the story, everything unravelled and all hell broke loose!

I lost my ability to discern, I had sunk into suffering by clinging to materialism for answers I knew the world did not contain, by seeking love and comfort no one around me was in a position cared to offer. “Ram, get me that deer.”

He knew, of course, that the root of the problem was not loneliness, but my spiritual crisis, he asked how long I had been a seeker. I churned that through in my memory and said, “Oh… seven years.”

He applauded and laughed, “Right on schedule. I hate to tell you this, Justine, but you are right on schedule.” He then elaborated and explained to me that they call this the “seven-year itch.” I don’t know why, but for some reason, the seven-year mark seems to be very difficult for serious seekers. Who knew? To say the least, I was greatly relieved, as this normalized a situation that I thought had become my own personal hell. Now I knew that my own personal hell was so universal as to be laughably predictable. He went on to explain that these battles and backslides never end, that even the most advanced of seekers and the most realized of beings have them. On one level it was a huge relief, on another it was somewhat devastating to know that I had more of this coming. I was hoping for a point of no return to happen, in which I would slide into joy until death, and that would be that. Yes, I now understood, even enlightened beings have vasanas, and have to contend with being “space-time meat vehicles.” I began to see Osho (Rajneesh, a controversial Guru) with more clarity. Of course Rajneesh proved to be dangerously insane, paranoid and delusional… but those traits did not mean he was not also wise, insightful and worthy of respectful consideration. Once one embraces Sanatana Dharma, one realizes that there are no easy answers… none! And… if you think there are… may God help you.

We talked about the great story of the Devas and Asuras churning the sea for Amrita, and of how, in so doing, they released the poisons, and I told him I felt like I was at that stage where the poisons could destroy me, the world (as my notion of “reality” has been permanently destroyed, in the Shivanic sense), and the Gods. He seemed to thrive on hearing about my battles, not through any Sadism, but because I was revealing myself to him as a “serious seeker” (as he referred to me continuously), and he recognized in me that I am one of them.

“Gooble gobble.. one of us… one of us!”

In the end he welcomed me into the fold, told me I was allowed to come here at any time, and that I could call on him day or night to talk, and that he wanted me to know how much he meant that. I told him I have students who I try and help, and that I do know that he means it, as so do I. So, yes, not only have I found a new Guru in Brother Shankara, but I have found a new family of seekers. And beyond that, there is and was no pressure, as they say, “The doors of the ashram are always open,” meaning you can come and go and come and go. I can rise and fall, revel and doubt, and the Vedanta Center and Brother Shankara will be there. I can be human, can make mistakes, can choose a path that is not the one focused on at the Vedanta Center, as there are so many paths within Sanatana Dharma and I do not yet know which one is for me, and yet still be on the path of liberation, and be part of their community. Brother Shankara in no way pressured me to follow the path of the Vedanta Center, and warmly welcomed and honored the path I was on… or will resolve myself to.

By the end of our talks I felt the beginning of a healing. I feel now like I will have deeper insight and wisdom as I deal with these downsides and backslides that are all part of the spiritual journey, that are all part of the process of learning to master the mind. Will I ever truly master my mind? I don’t know, but I do know that the process has already provided me with many boons and greater peace and joy, and now the homes, friends and teachers I will need along the path.

Next: Part 2 of 3… And much much more…

Still Fighting The Battle 1 of 3

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Q: “Why did Justine suddenly leave Gainesville for an unplanned spontaneous trip to Atlanta?”

A: “To get to the other side.”

I am in a challenging position. I have told my students at SAW about my struggles with depression, anxiety, fear, etc., and how I have made a lot of headway simply by not identifying with those feelings, and by working to master my mind, which I have been striving to do ever since listening to Sadhguru speak. Through him, I realized, it is so, I/we have become sick and have lost control over our own minds. I share my experiences and encourage the students in the hopes that it might help them see that they can fight these battles themselves, battles many lose. I have helped a few of them learn better ways to think about their struggles, as well as how to fight against their inner tyrants. I began doing this because I was endlessly frustrated by how many of my students have sunk into the lousy habit of nursing their depressive and anxious states to their breasts as if they were helpless, or worse, as if they were cherished parts of their identities, if not their entire identities, and I wanted to speak up and show them that there is a better way.

Obviously this situation creates a certain pressure to be a good example, to rise above, but the truth is, that is not how any of this works, it’s not that simple. Yes, I teach them to begin to take control of their minds… but the problem is, this is not a won and done proposition, it is an ongoing battle, one I, too, am fighting! I hope to make it clear to them I have not won the war, have not yet mastered my mind, but I have realized that it is a battle you have to participate in, and in so realizing, I have learned how to win many battles. I have won enough battles that I am now fighting from higher ground. I am striving to get control of my mind… but I am in no way claiming to be realized, enlightened, or totally free of neurosis. Still, I feel some pressure to never show my weaknesses lest they dismiss me as full of shit.

Harryhausen’s Skeletons from “Jason and The Argonauts”

Tuesday of last week I went to Andaz, the Indian restaurant where I eat about five days a week, and I felt myself crumbling. For a few weeks I had been battling with my ego, and had fallen into a crisis of faith, wherein I began having doubts about my spiritual path (not an uncommon condition for any spiritual seeker, as you will soon see). This battle had been brutal and had caused me to back off my spiritual practices out of fear that I was avoiding “life” and “reality.” So, I began seeking satisfaction outwardly, from other people. Well, this didn’t work, doesn’t work, won’t work, hasn’t worked, and before long demons of depression and loneliness were sprouting up out of the ground like Harryhausen’s skeletons! It got to me, and I began to cry. I do not cry in public, I am not an attention whore, but I began to cry. There was no stopping it, and THAT is when I realized something must be done.

The next morning, Wednesday, I had to get up and teach, but there was this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to call off. I NEVER call off sick! I get so frustrated with students who miss class after class because they are lying in bed nursing, wallowing in, and feeding their weaknesses… how could I call off when I scold my students for allowing their bad habits and lack of discipline, and often their depression and anxiety, to rule them? Well, that was not a fair question to me. I have no pattern or habit of calling off because I don’t want to get out of bed, or I feel stressed or depressed, that is not a weakness I wallow in, but this Wednesday was an exception, and it wasn’t just depression or anxiety, something bigger was telling me to stay home.

But I have this whole Dharma (duty) thing going on, so I went, and what greeted me? Immediately, one more person I really like telling me why they had to cancel what I thought was a lunch plan I had been looking forward to. A cancellation, not a big deal to most people, but lately I have been having people cancel, postpone, and put me off one after the other. THIS was the problem, this was at the core of my suffering du jour (or so I thought, but we’ll get to what was really at the core later). Triggered, I blew it all out of proportion. I didn’t go nuts exactly, but I realized that I had dropped the reins and now this wild horse (my emotions) was bucking, running, and charging madly in all directions kicking against the walls of my skull. Then, as class time came… only three students appeared to be attending, and that started getting on my last nerve. I at one point had to turn away and clutch the table… I was out of control emotionally, and totally stuck in front of a class… trapped! I could not figure out what to feel, couldn’t stop feeling, and was afraid of embarrassing myself. I felt like a butterfly caught in a bullies hand, the bully being my own mind!

This used to happen to me all the time. I had forgotten how bad it can be. I have made amazing progress at mastering my mind and learning more positive ways of being and feeling, so this sudden bottoming out hit hard. The intense emotional experience I was having as I stood there with my back turned clutching the table had literally not happened to me that intensely in well over a year… and I was not prepared for it to return. It had been a horrible way to live, me feeling so intently I could not control my emotions, then having to go home and suffer the neurotic playback loop over how I acted, and needing to call and apologize… dear God what a royal purple drag! How in the hell had I been able to live like that in the past? I felt an absolute dread at realizing that THAT was what my life used to be like. Sometimes when I think back at who I was, how I felt, and what suffering I endured… I get horrified, and this was most definitely a reminder of a past I did not want to return to.

I excused myself and went to my car to meditate for ten minutes. I have acquired enough wisdom to know that sometimes I just need to get some distance between the triggers and my response. It helped, but when I came back, the class was lousy, I just could not find it in myself to sit there and teach one-point perspective. Unprofessional, you say? Well, sure, if it happens all the time, but right there and then it was simply very human. No, I don’t like that it happened, but looking back on it from the peace of the ashram from which I am (at the moment) writing, I can forgive the experience.

The next day I realized I was in trouble… sinking fast! And here’s the important part, the part I hope my students learn, and what is important is that you say “NO FUCKING WAY!” to it! There was no way I was gonna lay in bed day after day wallowing and watching myself get sucked under by something that is not me.

I am NOT my depression.

I am NOT my anxieties.

I am NOT my fears.

I am NOT my weaknesses.

For all that, I am not my happiness, nor even my strengths, I am what exists beyond and above, the silent center around which all suffering and worldly pleasure plays out. I am Atman, Tat Tvam Asi! That Thou Art! I am Brahman. I am Shiva.

The depression turned to loneliness, the loneliness turned to bitterness, the bitterness turned to anger, and I became little else but suffering. Yet, down there under it all was the truth. Down there under it all was a center I could not find. Down there under it all was all the wisdom I have gathered over the past year and a half. And I drew upon that wisdom and set my mind to immediately getting it together and getting to the Temple, getting to an ashram, and getting back on the center I now knew I had. But there were plans to be made, it is, after all, a five hour drive to Atlanta, there are things to settle at home, reservations to be made… and on and on and on.

Five hour drive or no, I was not going to let this thing have me, because I am NOT my neurosis. I will not identify with my neurosis. It cant’ have me. Furthermore, I realized one very important truth, I was happier living my solitary little monastic life of meditating, reading Hindu scriptures and taking long contemplative walks than I was descending back into materialism, and that was when and why things really fell apart. I had forgotten the core message of “Life Of Pi,” which is, “Which story do you prefer?” I preferred the story I was living when I was joyfully at home studying “The Shiva Puranas.”

But for all that happened once things fell apart, I am at least finally wise enough now to know, even under the crashing waves of my out of control emotions, that I have a center… a center I finally have realized. I knew that I must find it, and not only that, now I know that I can find it. And now I know how to find it.

So I determined that I would get through Thursday, Friday I would attend the meeting I had to attend, and by Friday evening… I would be on the road, and by Saturday lunch I would be with my Vedic Guru (as in “teacher”) Manharji in Atlanta. I didn’t even book rooms or make any plans. Manharji said he would set up a place for me to stay, so I trusted my Guru. Shiva, Ganesh, Durga… and yes, myself, to take care of me, so long as I took the leap of faith and hit the road. I stayed one night in a motel a mere 3 hours from home just so I would be on my way and out of my rut, and the next day established to meet Manharji at Patel Plaza in Atlanta for lunch.

When I arrived at Patel Plaza (the brilliant Indian shopping plaza in Atlanta… God how I LOVE that place), there was Manharji. We had a lovely lunch, I shopped around the Indian markets, and found myself feeling better by degrees almost immediately. To tell the truth, and I don’t know why this is, I am most comfortable around the Indian people, so I began to feel far more at home than I do at any white American shopping plaza. I mean, when I go shopping I couldn’t care less about Cinnabuns, cell-phone accessories or Applecrumple and Stitch… I want to see ladoo, saree’s and God posters!

From there, even though Brother Shankara, the monk who resided over the center, was not home, we dropped my stuff off at the Vedanta Center ashram where I was to stay, then we hit the road and visited the BAPS Temple. By Shiva’s grace, finally I was going to be on holy ground, where I could begin to bury all my nonsense.

BAPS Temple Ceiling

In 2 of 3… The BAPS Temple and more…

Less To Me Than Falling Leaves

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Less To Me Than Falling Leaves
by Justine Mara Andersen

Why the vine of thorns, if it is the nature of the bloom to fade,
Why the vine of thorns, if it is the nature of the bloom to fade,
And why the prick in knowing my fragrant youth is like a rose?

If poetry speaks truth, then words need be plucked like flowers,
If poetry speaks truth, then words need be plucked like flowers,
How thin then the fragrence of a thousand thoughtless words.

When the wisest of men say Shiva resides only in the silence,
When the wisest of men say Shiva resides only in the silence,
Why at Temple do I forever find him in chaos din and clamor?

If Brahman is light hereafter, how can I know this self to be,
If Brahman is light hereafter, how can I know this self to be,
When in a shell of darkness I have heard the song of Atman?

If in resigning to defeat, why is there a sadness warm as honey,
If in resigning to defeat, why is there a sadness warm as honey,
When all my grandest victories are not but gilded suffering?

May victory and vainglory bend me like wind through wildflowers,
May victory and vainglory bend me like wind through wildflowers,
And may both victory and defeat be less to me than falling leaves.

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

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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!

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

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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