That Which I Know
Justine Mara Andersen
Do not mediate
That which I know.
To mediate is below
That which I know.
To mediate is part of
That which I know.
Within that which I know
Is that which is.
That which is
Is, Tat Tvam Asi.
That Which I Know
Justine Mara Andersen
Do not mediate
That which I know.
To mediate is below
That which I know.
To mediate is part of
That which I know.
Within that which I know
Is that which is.
That which is
Is, Tat Tvam Asi.
Shiva, The Eagle and I
by Justine Mara Andersen
Sister eagle as you fly,
I hear the wind in your wings,
As though they are mine,
For are they not?
Mother rain as you fall,
I breathe in your rising mist,
And take it all in me,
As I rise and fall.
Hunter hawk of my woods,
I come to join you,
Together we stand,
And you allow it.
And wild turkeys beyond,
Still as the mighty hawk,
Steady is our stance,
We four are one.
White skull of the deer,
Mounted above my window,
Eagle, hawk, turkey and I
Will be bone too.
Lord Shiva in my eyes,
Show me that bones and ash,
Are nothing but rain,
For we are all as you.
“The scouts report that you’ve been seen down the river,
They say you sleep with one eye open, one eye dreaming,
Did they tell you madness passes? Did they tell you?
There’s no such thing as passing madness,
The monstrous has become mundane,
Routine takes the place of pain,
Voici le temps des assassins,
You’re addicted to revolution,
Addiction is no revolution.”
Paul Kelly “The Execution” 1987
And nothing’s changed. Well it has, these lyrics now seem more like personal and political prophecy than a warm voice from the past. What do you do when the monstrous has become mundane?
I do lots of things, for one I go down to the river as often as possible, and always (always) keep one eye dreaming. Mainly I try and make it warmer and wiser within my sphere of influence, but personally, I try to let it go. If this is the reality everyone wants going into 2018, welcome to it. No one consulted me, so I guess it’s time to go deeper within. Yeah.
” I remember I remember,
I go leaps and bounds,
I remember everything.”
Paul Kelly “I Remember”
I first heard Paul Kelly in 1987. Paul Kelly, shoulda been a household name… but in 1987, at 21 I thought I was gonna be a household name.
What a dumb ambition. It was bondage… and not the fun kind.
When I was 21, man, there were so many things pushing and pulling on me. I was dizzy, spinning, and hadn’t yet attained the courage or wisdom to know I could blow it all away in a puff of sweet smoke, let alone go deeper into letting go through meditation. With fire in the belly I wanted this and that, but whatever this or that I wanted, my family wanted anything but that and no part of this. This wasn’t their collective fault, it was just the way of things. I was headed off their path, hell, was already way out and way off their path, but I hadn’t beaten any of my own paths through the underbrush and thorns yet. Lost in the woods, like a fairy tale with stupid-looking cars and MTV. Whatever path I was on, I was the only one who thought I could make it, even lost as I was. I had teachers telling me I didn’t have what it took. Well, neither did they, but what they lacked was something I had in spades…. vision!
For all the people who told me “no,” and for all the confusion, I had a fire in the belly that drove me on. Maybe I wasn’t as lost as many, I don’t know, but knew what I wanted. If I was lost it wasn’t for ambition or dreams that had to be fulfilled, I was lost in knowing how to go about making anything happen. I mean, adults had it all figured out, right? That was what I thought as a kid, if I could just grow up it would all make sense.
It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Trump, progressives, “reality” television, Facebook, extremism, superhero movies, relentless war, still poor, painfully lonely, barefoot and walking the same tightrope. I was wrong, adults never had it figured out. In some ways I wish I could sit that young skinny Justine down in the grass and tell her that. Might have saved her a lot of suffering. But that’s just it, I’ve realized, she wasn’t after the answers, she was in mid-adventure. Think about it, is “The Hobbit” all about how Bilbo got home and put his ring on the mantle, knowing deep in his heart who he was, or is that story about the fucking journey!
The journey, damn straight! Being changed and bigger is grand, but how you get there is where the stories lie.
I bought a turntable this week. You know, I’ve always been passionate about music, but I prefer Country over Rock, McCartney over Lennon, and Nat King Cole over almost anyone else, but I’ve forgotten how much fun music is. Fucking CD’s and Youtube… oh and Amazon. Yep, there it is, most anything you want. But who cares? This turntable has changed my life. ALBUMS! VINYL! Fucking albums. CD’s are a bummer. I haven’t enjoyed buying music since all the people “in the know” (you know the same guys that think they’re too hip for McCartney), peer pressured me into giving up on albums to buy CD’s. But this whole thing, a return to flipping through records, checking for scratches, finding stuff from the DEEP catalog rather than the surface of the top ten, the size, the heft, the art, is bringing me back to what fun it used to be to shop for music. When you hold an album in your hand, 12 inches of glorious vinyl and cardboard, you know you’re really holding a THING, an object worthy of your time!
Funny story, McCartney knew what was worthy of his time. Back in ’67 at the time “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was about to come out it was decided that the time had come to use cheaper thinner cardboard for the record covers. It wasn’t “spokesman” Lennon or “cool” Harrison that took on that, it was McCartney. He went to the top, arguing with record company executives for the thicker cardboard. McCartney knew, always did, still does, what was worth his time. Holding that album in his and in our hands was worthy of his time.
As the needle hit the vinyl I laid back on the bed, the album beside me, feet up, feeling herbally “groovy,” and listening to Paul Kelly and the Messengers, it got me to thinking, thinking back, and ultimately churning the sea of milk for the nectar of life. Back in 1987 I was handed that album at Kent State, and I thought, “What the hell is this?” I wasn’t that into the lousy crap that passed for music in the eighties, and the good stuff that was out there I recognized as good, but it just didn’t grab me. God damn that wretched brittle mechanistic eighties drum snap, those grating keyboards, to say nothing of the eighties metal guitar sound. Shit. So here I was handed this album by some eighties guy I’d never heard of because I answered a trivia question at some event I was unintentionally passing through between classes, hell, I was probably skipping classes back then, and definitely barefoot.
Once upon a time I was a lousy student, but I became a brilliant one once I grew up a little. Actually, funnily enough, I did less homework, study and class attending when I consistently made the Dean’s list than I had when I was getting C’s and D’s. See, THAT I’d figured out, go to class and take as much of an active interest in the subject as possible and I’d remember it all since I had been so interested. A genuine interest in a thing will earn better grades than suffering long anxious study sessions. I soared through college… but never could apply that active interest wisdom to Algebra, I guess some things are just to evil to be conquered with wisdom.
I still don’t give a shit what X plus Y equals, and I have NEVER needed to know, either. They tried to con me into thinking that in some abstract way I’d need to know algebra… well I didn’t! What a waste of time and anxiety, all that mathematics.
Take that math!
So there I was earlier today, bringing it all back around. In the bliss of flipping through albums, of all things, there was the album I least expected to see, hell an album I hadn’t even thought of in ages. Yeah, there it was, Paul Kelly and the Messengers, “Gossip.” Funny, though that first copy was free, I had to buy this one. The difference is, now I know what that albums all about. Back in ’87, with low expectations, I put the record on and it fucking blew my mind! Christ… how come no one I knew knew how good this guy, these guys, were!
Today, fucking 30 years later, and the album held more surprises for me… for one, it sounds as fresh and stunning in 2017 as it did in 1987. In fact, it sounds BETTER now than it did then.
And I ask again… how come no one seems to know how good these guys were… or are? I mean, I’ve never really heard anyone talking about him around these parts. But looking him up, it seems he’s quite beloved and famous after all.
Is it just me? I hope so, I’d like to think he’s wildly famous and I somehow missed it.
It’s New Year today, gonna be 2018 when I wake up, how ironic that I would discover Paul Kelly again on the 30th anniversary of the album. Synchronicity is Shiva… there are NO coincidences.
And now, it doesn’t just sound good in this moment… it takes me back and forth through a single 30 year continuity, and I can see it all so much more clearly now. Paul Kelly, the message is, THAT young Justine had a lot of bad karma to create, she had a lot of anger and confusion to work through, and she had a lot of life, adventures, dreams, breakdowns, blood and gore, drawings, friends, drinking, surprises and a life of barefoot ecstasies ahead of her. Though that little Justine eventually conquered most of her fears and accomplished all her dreams, not a damn one of them turned out the way she’d expected.
Not a damn one!
It was perverse how not a bit of anything came out anything like she’d thought it would, but it was always far more crappy and far more sensational than any of her fantasies about how everything would turn out. Did I think one day I’d be performing Carter Music songs before Buddhist monks in the mountains of South Korea, or the same songs in a bar full of johns and prostitutes in the Philippines?–And by the way, is “johns” capitalized in that usage? But I digress. Did I think one day I’d be talked about by Paul McCartney, running barefoot through the swamps, or bowing before Lord Shiv? No, she couldn’t have imagined a bit of it, but she had imagined changing the world with her art. Christ, how absurd!
I may not have changed the world, but I’ve done alright in mine. Paul Kelly’s done alright too.
Here and now “Darling It Hurts” is snarling through the speakers, heavy fucking guitar, raw and perfect. As I sat there with my feet up I felt a sudden end to all the suffering I had been allowing myself to fall into the past few weeks. It just drained down from my toes and out the top of my head to stream across the bed to the floor and out the window into the swamp. It came to me… I was still that young 21 year-old Justine, and if I could just drop the neurotic bullshit, I could be in bliss. A few weeks ago I had realized how since the physiological symptoms of stress and delighted excitement are the same, and it’s me who decides which to feel, that all I had to do was stop choosing compulsively and start choosing consciously how to feel in reaction to such sensations.
Flip the switch. Bliss!
My toes tingled as they bounced to the music, below or above them (as my feet were up, which is which?) and I sunk into that 21 year-old Justine. That which is really me was there then, is here now, and will be here later. That which never changes is all that is. I am that Justine… if I am Justine at all, which I am not, but I am having a “Barefoot Justine” experience. Not bad, someone’s gotta do it.
And you know what, young Justine, it was all worth it, the hard hard work, had knocks, hard times in Korea, the poverty, the mugging, the cancer, nearly drowning SCUBA diving in Thailand, the bankruptcy, the foreclosure, the divorce, the loss of faith and family, the disillusionment, because it all led to Shiva, and because it’s not about sitting at home with my ring on the mantlepiece, it is and was about surviving the revelation that nothing is ever like it seems. But everything is alright just as it is. I was and will always be about realization… even when I didn’t know that. I’ve been working off vasanas, conquering fears, seeing the patterns, and am ever seeking.
And that, is Shiva! That is Brahman, yeah? At the very least, it is Satvic thought, and baby I need it now.
“Baby I look so fine but I feel so low,” sings Paul Kelly as I type. Now, I’m not feeling so low.
But that’s it, I think I know now that if I had the chance to talk to young Justine, I think I’d just smile and give her a thumbs up and a wink. On your way, babe, live it out, that’s your dharma.
Would I trade places with young Justine? No, because I know what she really was looking for. I know through all the shit, the adventures, the boredom, the madness, joys and disappointment, the ecstasy, stoned or sober, she was looking for liberation!
“Listening to these stories of me,” sings Paul Kelly.
Well, Paul, let me tell you some stories of me.
Mein junglee ladhki hai! Which, if I remember right (or spelled it right), means “I am a jungle girl” in Hindi. Or, loosely translated, “I am a wild girl.” I set off into the forest knowing that it was likely to rain. Frankly, I’ve never seen so much rain. Sure enough, it began raining shortly into my walk, and like most people I instinctively turned to head home, but I got to a point where I realized that I was already wet, so what I was doing, running to my car to get home, was an unconscious act. It was a compulsion that made no sense. I was not the one making a B-line for the car, my conditioning, social and cultural norms and brainwashing compelled me to unconsciously, compulsively, head for the car. I got to the point on the trail where I could have gone straight to get to the car, or I could turn left and go deeper into the forest, following a path I do not know. I chose, consciously, to stop obeying an automatic and predictable compulsion to head for my car, and instead head off down a path that was unfamiliar to me.
And that was Shiva.
Choosing the path I did not know helped me pay attention to the new scenery as the rain slowly dripped on me. It was turning out to be a good walk, and I could feel the ecstasy of a realization coming on. For those of you who perhaps do not understand realizations, it goes like this. A realization written down is nothing you haven’t heard a hundred times before, a thousand if you are a seeker. Realizations are when the teachings we intellectually understand suddenly internalize, and the firsthand knowledge of a thing at the Godhead level can bring about an ecstatic state that can sometimes become close to orgasmic, though not sexual. This, is why, Shiva’s phallus is seen as erect in many of the ancient images. It is a symbol of being in a state of awareness so intense it can be hard to bear until you get the hang of it.
Soon, I had circled back to a familiar trail with the intention of heading back to the car, though this time consciously. I came around to the trailhead off the forest road and started up the path towards the car, satisfied with the long contemplative hike, all the way the rain falling. I thought about how I was a drop of rain, no different. It was the perfect realization to keep me company as I walked towards the car.
“The drop in the ocean, everyone knows
The ocean in the drop, A rare one does”
I am a drop of rain, no different. And I am the frightened deer in the distance, the wetness in the ground, the mightiest tree and the old dead willow, and I am Shiva. Though this metaphor has been said a thousand times, this time I knew what it meant to say: “I am a drop of rain,” and I knew as the raindrops fell to tickle through my hair, that there was no separation between the rain and I. And that like each drop of rain, I form from the mist of Atman to manifest, to become physical, then act as the raindrop which falls to the ground to expire, wetting the soil to nourish life, evaporate, then rise and fall again and again and again, mired in Samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth). Until, of course, I get tired of the forming, falling and perishing and realize the pain of Samsara.
I am a raindrop that has become aware of the pain of falling. I want to evaporate and merge with Brahman, never to fall again.
As I pondered this realization of oft-heard wisdom (remember what I said about “realizations,” you’ve heard their wisdom so many times before, to where they sound like cliches, the realization is what changes that cliche to a vibration so powerful it becomes existentially experiential), I began to realize I did not know where I was. I was not headed for my car. A moment later I realized I had accidentally doubled back and gone in a loop around the same unfamiliar trail. Like the raindrop in my realization, I had been literally and physically going around in circles! Just as in Samsara! I was physically moving through samsara as I was realizing its nature through the drops of rain. I thanked Shiva, and soon got my bearings, took the right path and found my way back to the car.
This time, this drop of rain is falling in the form of a “Western Hindu.”
“Is it not true that a nation is, in reality, first and foremost perhaps a subconscious construct? You imagine the nation before it exists, and so it exists.”
I’ll tell you what a Western Hindu is… sometimes an honored guest, sometimes a curiosity, and sometimes sniggered at. There are some Indians who are amused by us, but privately dismiss us. Other Indians are delighted to meet Westerners who are so engaged in their culture and spirituality. We are, however, surprisingly spoken of with derision even by white male leaders of the American Vedanta movement as white women in saris with dots on their heads. Worst of all, many Western Hindus like to wallow in the “white guilt” gutter and try and be overly magnanimous and humble and dismissively shit upon themselves. But the sad truth is, what is the root religion of “the white man” in America? Well, being on American soil, should we be practicing the religions of the Cherokee? Should we take up the desert religion of the Old and New Testament? Face it, though some paths are seen as more acceptable for and among whites, none of the things we turn to come from our white caucasian heritage. Simply put, any religion a white person takes on is a robe designed and weaved by other people, usually in other lands.
And let’s just take the dismissive attitude of those few Indians and Americans, who will not entirely accept us, after all, we were not born South of the Indus river. Even one of my many white Vedanta teachers was sharing concern over how they are treated or thought of by Indians. Anyone who has gotten outside of mainstream white culture and has experienced other cultures knows that racism is not a one way street heading from light to dark. I have been a minority in a lot of situations (take 2 years living in Asia for a start), and I’ll tell you what… a minority is a minority no matter what the color of the skin.
It is often snobbishly said that it is impossible for anyone not from India to ever truly be a Hindu. But anyone believing that… is clearly not a Hindu, or at least, knows nothing about what Hinduism teaches. Yet, it’s only natural for a white woman to ask… then what am I? What is a “Western Hindu?”
I will say this, anyone who thinks a white person cannot really be a “Hindu,” in the spiritual sense, has completely misunderstood the core concept of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).
“That which is in us, the pure consciousness that observes all our senses. emotions and the ego and is beyond it all is what we really are. And that pure consciousness is common to every living thing on earth. It is an idea that inevitably stops you in your tracks. It is an idea to end all ideas: in essence, every living thing is the same.”
Hindol Sengupta, “Being Hindu”
Shiva is, and is as much for a white person as He is for an Indian.
We are all Atman, white or Indian. If you cannot accept that, you have not accepted Shiva.
We are all souls caught on the wheel of samasara, slowly rising towards liberation. ALL OF US!
In other words, to my dear skeptical and derisive friends, I ask, is it so that all the wisdom of the Hindu scriptures applies only to people born in India? Is it so, then, that only Indians can know God? Is it true that only Indians can meditate? Is it so that ONLY Indians are Brahman? Is it so that we are all in maya, that we are all manifestations of Atman… or is that only true for people born below a particular river?
And, is it not said again and again in “The Siva Purana” that Lord Shiva takes on many forms? Shiva takes on whatever form he chooses, and those forms are not limited to the borders or gene pool of India.
To think less of us, to dismiss us, to treat us as novelties, to turn us away from temples… is to deny Shiva, is to to live in ignorance… it is a sin!
A Western Hindu is a Hindu, if “Hindu” is a term used to describe a person who follows the specific sets of spiritual concepts laid out by the sages. Was Shankara ONLY talking to Indians? Was the vision of the sages limited ONLY to people from India… or are those truths universal?
OK, this is not debatable, those truths are universal! A Western Hindu is a Hindu. I will say this proudly (EGO), I have probably read many more of the core scriptures than most Indians at the Temples I visit. How many India-born Hindus have read “The Siva Purana?” I have read about 6 books to prepare for it and am well over halfway through the 2,200 pages! I have read many translations of “The Bhagavad Gita.” Geographic accidents of birth are as irrelevant as the ego itself.
An Indian friend of mine corrected me on concerning myself with what to call myself or what a “Western Hindu” is by saying that it might help if I stop thinking of myself as “converting to Hinduism” and simply think of myself as a sisya, as a seeker, and to drop the word “Hindu” and go with “Sanatana Dharma.”
To be honest, most of my encounters with Indians have been overwhelmingly warm and welcoming (in fact, most Indians are more welcoming to me than other whites), and they have proven to be wholly open to the things I say… and they treat me like an equal, like a seeker. This piece is written for those few who would refuse us entry into temples, and who would dismiss or deride us in the quiet of their own minds. It is written for the whites who crumble into apologetics and shameful self flagellation. Sadly, it is written primarily for my own myself, to my own weaknesses, for when I sometimes do not entirely accept that a white woman can be a Hindu either!
At last I had returned to my car soaking wet and sat for a moment with my thoughts and questions. Maybe it is so that it is almost impossible for a person from a Western background to truly understand the complexities of the Indian mind, culture, and spirituality… but that does not mean Shiva will choose to speak to an Indian over a white Northerner transplanted to the South. It does not mean that I have less a chance of attaining Samadhi, or of becoming realized.
If our physical births are births into maya. if our bodies are the gross layer, if the Atman is our true self, then surely the bit of dirt we were born upon is less significant an attachment than a child’s attachment to her favorite rattle. Those who think only one born in India can be a Hindu are living under the spell of Shiva’s maya! They are deluded, still attached to materialism. They believe that the matter from which we came, the land from which we emerged, makes us more or less Atman, more or less Hindu, more or less human. They are in darkness, in ignorance, and that is the only real sin in Sanatana Dharma.
Could I not have been an Indian in a previous birth? Could I not have been a spiritually advanced person who has reincarnated as a devoted seeker challenged and tested by her birth in the West? Isn’t gender, political ideology, financial status, nation of birth, aren’t all those things aspects of maya, of the material world? If a Hindu does not identify with the trappings of the material world, then why would geography be the only material trapping that would decide whether or not one attains moksha? Shiva (Krishna, Vishnu, Durga) chooses his followers, and he does not take gender, wealth, or nation of birth into account.
But it is so, due to my Western birth, I am not steeped in a culture that was founded on and inherently understands the juicy complexities and ultimate simplicity of Hinduism. It’s a challenge to take on this belief system from the West, but, as I intimated, perhaps that is one of the things I am to overcome. Is it fair to suggest I cannot overcome the country of my birth or the color of my skin? All aspects of our material manifestation are to be overcome. And while I’m at it… ultimately isn’t this sort of bias against “Western Hindus” just another form of bigotry?
Let’s consider also that the word “Hindu” was originally a derogatory word (Hindoo) used by the British. The term many so-called Hindus prefer is Sanatana Dharma. The word “Hindu” was meant to describe people from a geographic location, not a people who followed a specific spiritual school of thought. And what is the specific school of thought that makes up “Hindusim?” There is as much, if not more, diversity of thought within Hinduism than what exists outside it within the multiple faiths that are not Hindu.
Once it is analyzed, perhaps there are no “Hindus,” not in the spiritual sense. There are only seekers.
So, perhaps I do have this all wrong after all. Maybe I am not a Hindu, but Shiva has made his presence known to me as both nirguna and saguna, Mother has sent me signs, Ganesh has cared for me. I have trembled in the ecstasy of realization. I have seen a higher self. I know I am on the wheel of samsara, and I want off. I want to stop circling, to stop falling.
Maybe I am not a Hindu.
But I am a drop of rain.
I realized today that cancer can be cured, but once you’ve had it it never goes away. not that I think about it much, for the most part I don’t, but sometimes in the dark of night, sometimes when you are suffering some new health problem… whatever the physical problem is, the real problem is always cancer. Having cancer teaches you one thing for certain, and that is that it can most definitely happen to you. Cancer isn’t just something other people suffer. Perhaps it is… but who knows who the other people are, and who knows whether or not you are one of the other people?
I have always been one of the other people. I belong to that tribe, the Tribe Of the Other People.
People die, people around me have both beaten and been taken by cancer. Once you’ve had it, cancer becomes the little devil of existential possibility in even the most unfounded and anxious worries over health. Cancer can turn an ulcer, cyst or ache into a tumor, at least in the mind, and what we think is our reality. if that ulcer is cancer, it’s cancer, and when it’s proven to be an ulcer and treated and healed… it just becomes the one that wasn’t cancer… but what about the next time? Once you’ve had cancer you know that not all of them always turn out to be ulcers, cysts or aches. Man, it’s brutal KNOWING that as an existential certainty.
No, I do not think about cancer all that much, but I had a long week and a miserable day to think about it again, and I learned a lot of things.
I looked around and learned that my life really would go on without me. Everything that was my material reality will still be going on. The sun will still be shining on all the people I love in Gainesville.
I know I am going to die. Not abstractly either, I know I am going to die. I can see it on the horizon, the only question is… who will I be when it comes for me? Will I greet death with grace or hysteria, with confidence or terror? Will I meet death at peace or in a panic? Will I meet death with a smile of contentment knowing that everything is perfect? That is my biggest fear, you know, it has changed. My biggest fear is no longer death, it is that I will not be ready to meet death with a smile, that I will not have mastered the art of dying. Will I greet death having attained Shiva?
I thought about Shiva a lot.
But I fear I failed this test. I panicked, I was not at peace. It feels like I have a lot of work to do before I will be able to stand back as the watcher and go at peace. But at least I had a plan, and I realized where I am. Panicky or not, my thoughts all turned spiritual. Whether or not I learn to die with grace, I know now that I will at least die a seeker with Shiva on her mind.
I thought a lot about Varanasi. Today, as I sat in the emergency room, I knew that I wasn’t going through it again. If it was cancer, I was going to Varanasi. I was going to let go of my body there. I saw myself on the cremation grounds well before passing. I saw myself learning to let go. I saw myself surrendering to Smashan Tara, to Shiva, to my own true SELF.
Yeah, a cancer scare is a helluva thing.
I suspect this will change me. I am hoping this has come to bring about a new clarity. I have a lot to sort through, but I know something has changed.
Perhaps what has changed is, from this point on, maybe, just maybe… the ghost of cancer has finally left me.
from The Yoga Aphorisms Of Patanjali (as translated by Swami Prabhavananada)
It’s hard to say how long I had been on this pilgrimage, but I found myself suddenly traversing the last leg of it, which started at the bottom of a hill, or perhaps it was the final peak of a mountain. Mountain? Hill? It was hard to tell when all that concerned me lie ahead. Up there, unseen, was my higher self. As I climbed that peak, the ground covered in patchy chill blue grass and porous stones, I began to notice the toads. They were hard to miss, thousands, of large Bufo Alvarius, the DMT toads. These toads were hopping their fat warty bodies here and there on the path as I ascended, the toads sometimes hopping onto my bare feet, me sometimes having to step over and around them, ever conscious that one might hop right in my path as I set my foot down. The higher I climbed, the more toads covered the hilltop. It appeared there was no other life on that hill but me, my higher self, and these magical toads.
At the top, there she was, me, my higher self, a hilltop ascetic. I don’t remember much about my higher self, only that she had been sitting atop the mountain like Lord Shiva on Mt. Kailash. There I, She, Shiva, was, centered, chanting, so deeply immersed in samadhi that I am not even sure she saw this little me, her unrealized self, coming ever nearer. She had merged with God, Om Shivoham! The toads barked, hopped, and many stood silently, a tribe of hundreds and hundreds all around both of me, and thousands beyond.
As was so with my conversation with The Panther in which Her words turned to sand when I awoke from that cave of wonders, so has the encounter with my higher self been lost to the mists of the mountain on which she did her meditation, but I think we merged, and I attained and realized her. I emerged as her, as I can only recall there being one of us as I stared down the path towards home. But I can not say, perhaps she was sitting in meditation behind me, I wish that part of the experience had not become veiled in such uncertainty.
Regardless, The path down from the hill was not the same path I had climbed to ascend its peak, and this path was far more covered in toads. As I stared down the winding path there were thousands upon thousands of toads with glowing white eyes covering the path, seeming to stretch on infinitely. The white light shining from their eyes filled me with a strange awe, that though eerie, did not frighten me, and though they were not perfectly still, they were subdued and staring at, or rather into, me. One of them, far below, began to rise up over the others, and to move towards me. This toad seemed to be almost floating a head above the others,but it was hard to tell as it was so far away all I could see was the light of the white eyes as it ascended. As it came higher up the hill I noticed a whiteness around the eyes as well, and when it crested the hill to stand above the toads and directly before me, my eyes went wide! This had been no toad, but The White Lamb! The Lamb stood there at the head of the path, staring and blessing eyes of pure white light glowing, offering me an ecstasy of peace and silent wisdom.
When I awoke, I worried that this dream would dissolve as certain as most dreams do, but I soon realized this was the dream that put the other two into perspective as being of powerful personal and spiritual significance. This was the third dream! So many significant things come in threes, wishes, the trinity, the eyes of Shiva, the three lines of Shiva’s head, the three bears, the three little pigs, three is a magic number. And this, The Lamb completed the cycle. As this was a year ago I know that cycle of dreams, that cycle of prophetic dreams, of visions, is complete. Other dreams and visions are likely to come, but they will tell other truths. I will add that like the other two dreams, this one is clearer and more real to me than yesterday.
Why the toads? And who was The Lamb to me? If the Panther was Atman and attainment through meditation, if The Horse was the power and strength of courage it would take for me to travel the spiritual path… what was The Lamb?
But first, why the hill? Why the pilgrimage towards the higher self? The hill, or mountaintop, it possessed qualities of both, was obvious in meaning. Serious spiritual progress is an uphill battle, like any pilgrimage, it is an ordeal, glorious, but an ordeal nonetheless. And atop that hill my higher self sat as Shiva atop Mt. Kailash. At first, why the hill was covered in DMT toads was a mystery. Of course it had been my experiences with DMT that had opened me up enough to finally be able to receive such dreams and visions, to finally realize that my higher self was attainable, but why, specifically, were the toads there? Well, that I at least would understand once the Lamb rose up from among them, but what was far more spectacular was that I had come on pilgrimage to seek audience or to merge with my higher self.
The whole point is to know that I am the higher self as much as I now live as this ego-driven self. I am nirguna (without form) just as I am saguna (with form). That higher self was the Shiva I am to realize. In the dream I am fairly certain I merged with her, but like my dream of The Panther where our conversation did not survive the trip back to waking reality, neither did the events that took place between us on that hill survive waking up. Had I really merged with my higher self, or do I recall her being behind me? perhaps I should meditate on that a little longer, but for now I choose to believe that I had either merged with my higher self, or I now, at the very least, knew not only that she existed, but where to find her, and regardless as to whether or not we merged, she is my conduit to Absolute Reality, to moksha (liberation), to realization and realizing of Shiva. I know this, that higher self is existential, and I have enough faith in the message of this vision to have hope that I may realize her in my waking life. As I consider it now, why would my higher self appear to me were I not meant to realize her? It seems to me this dream was showing my the goal if not my destiny. This dream, as Brother Shankara said, was no mere dream, it was prophetic. That higher self is attainable, and although I have yet to fully realize her, she is already in me, under it all, she IS ME! Will I ever find her under all this flesh and bullshit I wear as I travel the material world as Barefoot Justine?
Once my time with her was done and I turned to go, I was not to go down the same path I had followed in my ascent. I was now going to travel a new road. How could I possibly go backwards down the same path I ascended after witnessing or merging with my higher self? But perhaps that’s part of it, perhaps I am constantly merging with that higher self, perhaps that merging is less a single moment and more a process. Regardless, I was heading down off the hill from a different point of view, down a very different path.
The path before me was lined and filled three deep with DMT toads, and why became obvious as my dream progressed. At first it simply was a reminder that it was DMT that had brought me closer to Shiva, that opened me up to meditation, that had cured me of relentless anxiety, and had revealed to me the secrets that have fed me for the past year and a half. Without the light of this entheogen I might still be stuck in the mud spiritually, spinning my wheels on the wheel of samsara, I might not be able to meditate, I might be stuck in a feedback loop of anxiety and self loathing thoughts. The funny thing is that I never took DMT from a toad, I took the DMT that came from ayahuasca, or at least it had been created molecularly to be the same as the DMT in ayahuasca. Why the toads? Well, I guess because they are a more poetic and intriguing symbol than a vine. Besides, out here on the lake, I am surrounded by the roar of frogs on the lake, and “Bufo Alvarius” are not really toads, they’re called “DMT toads,” but they’re really frogs. Why the glowing white eyes? Well, the light seems to me to have been just that, “The Light.” DMT led me out of the darkness and into the light, so of course the eyes of the toads glowed to bathe me in their light. That light had dispelled the darkness in which I was living, had brought an end to much of my ignorance.
But what exactly was the light they shone on me? I have experienced what I can only describe as “the eternal,” have enjoyed the bliss of being without ego. I have a better understanding of the nature of maya, and for better or for worse, have experienced alternate realities, perhaps greater realities. I have experienced the joy of a silent self, a self without desire, memory, even the pollution of a single thought. I have been able to disassociate from headaches, thereby curing several of them (most of the time I can’t pull this one off either). I have realized oneness and the nature of “reality” and maya in glorious ecstasies. All of these things have actually been shown to me, have been experienced by me, even if I get scared and my shriveling little ego cannot handle it, these things are existential, and are far greater and far truer than the simple constructs my ego prefers. The problem I have now is those experiences, those moments and ecstasies have been fleeting, I am far from enlightened. I am awake, I am aware, I am grateful for the experiences… but I have a long long way to go.
“Although lord Shiva is omnipresent he is not seen by the people of deluded intellect. He is known as a mere lord, he who is beyond the reach of minds and words.”
“Fly my pretties… fly!”
The Wicked Witch of the West
Our ego, and our intellect, work in tandem, as one. They work to maintain their self-appointed tyranny over all they see. Think of this union of ego and intellect being rather like the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz. Dorothy comes in with a load of truth, revealing the great and might Oz to be nothing more than a little man behind a curtain, showing her friends how to surpass their weaknesses, and the witch does not like this, and neither does our ego. Our ego will do anything to maintain its place as self-appointed dictator of our lives, and anything that threatens its supremacy, say like spiritual truth, prophecy or realization, is a threat to the tyrannical toddler that is the ego. Anything that comes along to threaten the ego’s tiny little construct, anything that threatens its tidy little notions about the nature of reality has to go, so the ego, like the wicked witch sends its flying monkeys out to rip to shreds any truth that threatens it, that threatens the status quo. This is why when we have mystical experiences or experience things that are beyond our limited understanding of how reality is constructed and how reality works, it must be destroyed. The ego will defend itself from any truth that threatens to usurp its power. And it will fight dirty and it will fight tirelessly.
“Reasoning is necessary, but we should not let it swallow the faith in us. We should not allow the intellect to eat up our heart. Too much knowledge means nothing but a big ego. The ego is a burden, and a big ego is a big burden.”
Most of us will use our intellects to undo any magic, realization or spiritual progress by sending in the flying monkeys to dismantle, disassmble, dismember and discredit anything that threatens it or the limitation in which it is comfortable. “No, not me, I couldn’t have had a prophetic dream, those sorts of things don’t happen, the dream was just a collection of cliches and corny old symbols that I, the ego, the king of all I see, has created, therefor there is no depth, no truth, no prophecy, and indeed no God, after all if there was a God, if there were mystical experiences, science would have shown me evidence.” Then the flying monkeys go back to the witch and everything returns to normal in the good ol’ land of Oz, in the good ol’ land of our limited reality. We call things “coincidences” just to make ourselves more comfortable. “Coincidence,” ha, so far as I’m concerned “coincidence” is just another word for “cowardice,” as the word is used to discredit any ideas or experiences that suggest the universe is so big and mysterious that our brains cannot comprehend it and our science cannot explain or prove it. Frankly, I don’t need science (man’s intellect and ego) to prove to me that what I have seen I have seen, what I have experienced I have experienced, and that what I know I know.
Why do we fear greater realities? Because to the ego, its death is a great agony and threatens to undo everything we earned, everything we own, and everything we thought we knew. The ego knows that spiritual awakening, that prophecies and signs are nothing but trouble. We all know, don’t we, that it’s easier to disassemble, discredit and dismiss the deep truths that are revealed to us rather than to let them destroy us, rather than allowing ourselves to be transformed and reborn… who needs all that? Well… I do! I long for such destruction, ordeal or no, agony or no, it is also the greatest of liberations! And the White Lamb came to me in all its innocence, with all its light and purity to remind me that through spiritual use of entheogens, meditation, contemplation and study, that my old model of the world, of reality, was too small and that I am not to sacrifice that knowledge on the altar of democratically constructed “reality” and that tyrant of tininess… the ego! I am to be strong and brave enough to live up to what I know to be so, whatever the consequences. And there have been, are, and will be consequences… but, as uncomfortable as those consequences might be, they are merely waves tumbling over an ocean of vast peace, knowledge, and Godhead. The consequences of not following spiritual truths through in life, I have to say, are far greater than the consequences of dismissing them.
“‘Faith’ is often used by agnostics as a term of abuse. That is to say, it is taken to refer to the blind credulity which accepts all kinds of dogmas and creeds without question, repeating parrot-like what it has been taught, and closing its ears to doubt and reason. Such ‘faith’ should certainly be attacked. It is compounded of laziness, obstinacy, ignorance and fear. Because it is rigid an unyielding it can quite easily be shaken and altogether destroyed. … True faith is provisional, flexible, undogmatic, open to doubt and reason.”
from Swami Prabhavananda’s “How To Know God”
No, of course we need to discriminate, but using our intellect to discriminate is entirely different than using our intellect to dismiss. And it is so that any faith that cannot bear testing is of no real value. If your faith cannot stand up to questioning, it is a sad and tired faith. Faith must be built upon solid stone and hard work. But, when we are given truth and insight, it is to be welcomed, not shunned.
The Lamb represents truth, truths that have survived discrimination and have emerged from my DMT experiences (hence the toads) and greatly furthered by my spiritual practices. The Lamb came to remind me of those truths, and more specifically, of the sacredness of those truths. The Lamb came to show me that only my higher self, which I had merged with, will be capable of remembering and holding those truths. The Lamb came to remind me not to disregard what I have experienced and what I know. The Lamb came to remind me not to give in to materialist constructs or cynicism. If the intellect always returns one to cynicism, said intellect knows no wisdom.
The Lamb is wisdom!
The toads revealed The Lamb to me, to remind me never to forget that I have been shown truths, pure truths that I am not to dismiss, deny, or allow my ego to destroy.
The Lamb was the third eye of Shiva opening upon and within me. The Lamb, gentle and pure as it was… IS my destruction! And now that it has revealed itself to me, I have to travel a different path than the one I took to realize my higher self and see The Lamb. Up one side of the hill and down another, the journey continues, but I can never go home again no matter how many times I click my heels.
I came up one path, have been destroyed, have been reborn, have been shown challenging truths. The Lamb came to show me this, and now I must use all the power of The Horse as I follow a new path to realize The Panther, and through Her, to journey ever deeper into the mysteries. My old game is over, the jig is up, and I am up to contending with what all that entails, and I will call upon The Lamb, The Horse and The Panther as I realize my true nature as Brahman, as Atman, as Shiva!
And yet as I meditated this very morning (the morning of my writing the next draft of this entry), an alternate accounting of my meeting with my higher self was realized. In meditation I chose to try and see this dream from a different perspective, so instead of seeing it from the perspective of myself as the pilgrimaging seeker, in meditation I saw the vision from the perspective of my higher self, and I became that higher self, I realized Shiva. I saw Justine approaching me, and saw with great compassion that though she came as a sincere seeker, I saw her pain, her entanglements, attachments, and the many scars she carries. I hurt for her. I felt terribly sorry and hoped she would let go and merge with me, realize me. We both knew I was her, that we were one, but she, perhaps, did not yet know how to realize me, her higher self, so I guided her to the road she was to follow and manifested The White Lamb to forever remind her of the deepest knowledge and great wisdom she has already realized. I will wait patiently for her, and I will guide her compassionately, for I am She.
I am here for her to realize, and I am her whether or not she realizes it to be so.
I will add that in the days following the above meditation and its revelations, I have begun to see the world more and more from the perspective of my higher self, and I have begun to realize that I am living two lives, having been split in two by the desperate clinging force of my ego and the greater force of my many realizations, dreams, prophecies and knowledge.
But I know who I am, I know what I want…
Regardless which story, which translation of this visionary dream I choose, at their core, they are pretty much the same, aren’t they?
Har Har Mahadev!
A verse from the poem “The Battle” by Barefoot Justine
(For complete poem: https://barefootjustine.com/2016/03/21/the-battle/)
My room consists of a lot of windows, the front of my room is nothing but one huge wall to wall floor to floor window overlooking the swamp and a lake, and the side wall offers me an unspoiled panoramic view into the forest. While I love the view and my windows… I don’t have much room for art or posters on what little wall space I do have, so instead of looking at art… I look out through my windows into the ever-changing forest, where I have seen young fawns lying at the feet of their mothers, predatory birds on the hunt, and about everything but other people. The view out the side window caught my attention as the sun coming in shone more golden and brilliantly than usual. There was more sky than I remembered. I was drawn to get up, and was astonished to find that the landscape was not the same. When I look out the window, now as I am writing, I see forest, but in that reality it wasn’t that way. What I saw was a meadow, and to the right, running parallel to the back wall of my room was the forest, a perfect line of trees and undergrowth. The sun had lit up the meadow in rich rolling golden greens, and rich deep greens.
Suddenly there was a stir coming from the forest, something deep among the trees, something massive, a dinosaur, a cyclone, Paul Bunyan, something, was ripping its way through the leaves out into the meadow. Leaves, twigs, Spanish moss, birds and dragonflies flew and blew out over the meadow from ground to treetop. The trees were bending and blowing outward towards the meadow like tall shafts of midsummer sweetgrass.
Then came a rustling, almost as if a furious and starving prehistoric predator were charging through the forest and towards the meadow. The chaos was thunderous and tumultuous. A beast, the size of a dinosaur, broke through the tree line and out onto the meadow, stopping, dust and leaves settling around its mighty legs. It was The Great White Wild Horse! White or no, the body of The Horse was scarred and haggard like the walls of an ancient embattled fortress. She was earthy, as if she had emerged from the ground itself, and stood with the presence of an ash covered ascetic. Yes, though it was weathered like an old stone mountain, it was luminously beautiful. I was awe struck as I stood staring at this The Great White Wild Horse. It towered over many of the trees, and its mane blew and whipped the leaves from the over-reaching branches. Its breath rumbled like alligator bellies to the ground, like thunder.
Yet The Horse was saddled. And the saddle belonged on The Horse, was as much a part of The Horse as its mane. Then, from around the side of the house came my friend, we’ll call him Jay. Now, Jay, being Jay, he put his rational mind to work and decided to free the poor horse from its saddle. As he stood under it, working the buckles, I was horrified! Couldn’t he see? This is a mythic beast! You don’t just amble up to it and start messing with its stuff! To my further horror, The Horse bucked up on its hind legs, its front right hoof poised to crush my dear friend Jay! Down it came, like a falling brick tower, it’s hoof down on him. The last thing I wanted to see was my dear friend, atheist or no, crushed under The Great White Wild Horse. But The Horse stopped short, gently but firmly pinning Jay to the ground, applying no more pressure than what it took to hold him to the ground. It’s head, nearly big as a bus, turned to me. It’s black eyes were the size of bowling balls. Her stare burrowed through my many sad delusions and unconscious illusions, as if to tell me who I truly was.
And I woke up.
I hadn’t even figured out The Panther, and now I had to work out who or what this Horse was. Now I had to work out what it was telling me. I knew the dream was big, but what I didn’t know was that it was so big it was part of a trilogy of dreams that had not yet been completed. It seemed I was dreaming my own personal “Lord Of The Rings.” In waking from the dream of The Great White Wild Horse, The Panther dream, I suddenly realized, took on even greater significance.
Though these dreams happened about a year ago, thanks to Brother Shankara, I have just recently found answers, as he had suggested I meditate on them. As it turns out, the very day I meditated on The Panther, answers came to me about all three dreams, The Panther, The Horse and The Lamb. Meditation is a powerful thing, and while it took DMT to destroy the walls my ego had put between myself and these larger truths, this deeper knowledge of self and the nature of maya, now it seemed I was so open to the larger truths and realities that Panthers were speaking to me and Horses were staring God-like gazes into my deepest corners.
Since the forest here has become my Guru, let’s first consider the forest itself. Of course The Horse came from, and was probably born of, the forest, of the wild, just as I have gone wild out here in the forest of my Guru. I live in the middle of Newnan’s Lake State Forest, and so much has this forest become my Guru that upon returning from a week long trip, when I got home the first thing I did upon my return was head straight for its paths. As I walked the dirt road to its end, as I got ever nearer the paths and trees, I felt the same elation any Devotee must feel as she returns to her human Guru. This Horse was not only emerging from the forest, but was inviting me deeper into it, deeper into its truths, deeper into my self, further from maya. This Horse was not merely emerging from a forest, but The Forest that was my Guru! Right now, at this stage in my spiritual development, the answers are in meditation (which I do in my room, from where I saw The Horse), and in the shade, rain, sun and mud of the forest (which was from where The Horse came).
“Man, the imperfect, the bound, the sorrowful, has a thousand enemies within. He is riddled with negative thoughts, fears, yearning. These are selfishness, jealousy, meanness, prejudice and hatred–just to mention but a few. The Sadhak must get rid of these lawless villains within. With Mother Kali’s Kripa, these destructive masters are to be annihilated. No amount of soft persuasions can avail. The forces of Sri Rudra must be applied. There must be a deep, determined, adamantine resolve, and a fight royal within, as sanguine as Kali’s ferocious sword dripping with blood; and unless the Sadhak is ready to wear about his neck the Skull-mala of these murdered false values there can be no peace or order within.”
Swami Chinmayananda from “Symbolism In Hinduism”
So… who was this Horse? Was she Ma Durga. “Mother?” Why was it so wild, so raw, so uncivilized… and yet wore a saddle? I am a person with wild, raw, sometimes uncivilized emotions, that at times to me feel like raw unprocessed feminine power, a power of emotion that can help me proceed when others would pull back, but a power that has not only a deconstructing power, but a destructive power as well. The Horse is Shakti! The Horse is the other half of Shiva, the feminine. But The Horse is also everything I need to carry me through not only life, but the coming challenges of a life that is slowly growing more spiritual, a life that may well take me away from all my material attachments. I need that power, but I need to reign it in, I need to master it, just as I have needed to learn to master my mind and my emotions (both of which I have only begun to do). The Horse, perhaps more clearly than anything, is my courage, my strength and my energy. My feminine power indeed, my Shakti! These powers need not only focused, steered, and guided, they need to be integrated. In the dream The Horse was outside of me, staring not only through my eyes, but through my windows! The Horse started off outside of me, in the depths of my forest Guru, and turned and, with its black eyes, bore its depths right into mine. The Horse was outside, in my forest, outside my room, outside my body… but through our eyes, we were one.
Just last week, which was about a week after the metaphors and symbols of these dreams were decoded through meditation, I was hiking with my friend Melissa on Payne’s Prairie. As we hiked out onto the prairie, we noted at first a little rabbit, then hundreds of dragonflies all buzzing around our knees, and just ahead, five wild horses, one a young colt! Honest to God wild horses were just ahead on the path! As we approached them, several deer came charging out from the underbrush across the path to splash into the swampy marsh on the other side. This was, quite simply, the most unbelievable series of wildlife encounters I have ever had on land. We chose a safe distance from the horses (a very close safe distance as these horses are used to people being about) and we sat in the grass of the path and meditated. The wild horses went about their grazing, and we went about our meditating. As I had been contemplating this dream of The Horse and all the truths my meditation had revealed about The Horse, having the opportunity to meditate in the presence of five wild horses was intensely holy to say the very least. I was on holy ground.
Unlike the five wild horses on the prairie, The Great White Wild Horse of my dream was saddled. The saddle, I have only just understood, as it had been one of the big mysteries up to now, meant that I was to ride that horse, to guide that horse, to reign in and master that Horse… my own power, powers that at times seem to throw their energy like a spray of sparks. That Horse and saddle represented fiery hot virtues that are mine to realize, integrate and harness to propel me forward. Too often, now, I am afraid, those energies and powers still tend to run rampant.
Yes, though The Horse meant to be ridden, its powers harnessed, it is nonetheless meant to remain forever wild! I am to focus that energy, but not tame the wild intensity out of it. Both the tamed and saddled powers and the wild forest of emotional power are part of me, part of The Horse, and part of Lord Shiva. Just as Shiva, who came to his wedding party wild as an Aghori, so the wildness of The Horse is among my aspects. But just as Shiva reigned in his wildness and put on a civilized form, so was The Horse saddled, so am I to learn to ride my own power and forms with more grace. Just as Shiva had to tame his Aghoric aspects for his wedding to Parvati, so am I to tame the wildness of my Shakti… but like Shiva, only when needed. I am not to conquer or sublimate my wildness, only to harness it and keep my hands on the reigns, until I learn to ride that wind bareback.
I am The Panther Woman, and I am The Wild White Horse.
“The materialists — those who describe themselves as being ‘down to earth’ — are the ones who are living in an unreal world, because they limit themselves to the level of gross sense perception. But the perception of the illumined saint ranges over the whole scale, from gross to subtle and from subtle to absolute; and it is only he who knows what the nature of this universe actually is.”
From Swami Prabhavananda’s commentary on Patanjali’s “How To Know God.”
So who is Jay and why did he try and unsaddle The Great White Wild Horse? Jay is a materialist through and through, a political atheist, one of those guys who reads the “Humanist” magazine. You know the magazine, the one that always has a picture of some smug bearded middle-aged guy accompanied by a quote about how he believes only in his precious intellect (his over-developed ego), in what he has decided is “reason.” Those guys are a little like Daksha from the story of Shiva’s wedding to Sati. Daksha, Sati’s father, who was very offended by Lord Shiva’s ascetic wildness and disregard for social convention, but that is a simplistic reading. Daksha represented ego, a life centered around society, and cultural rules, which includes subcultural rules, and in subcultures the rules and codes of conduct demand far more conformity than those of mainstream society. Though Jay is an atheist and progressive, he lives a life that involves a lot more committee meetings (society, rules of engagement, etc.) than I could tolerate. When I do go to committee meetings (be they with city officials or museum officials or whoever), I do so barefoot in bangles, bindi and bare legs, as if to say, “I’ll do the work, I’ll do it well… but I am not one of you, I am not part of this committee, and I will remain The Panther Woman!” I relate to Shiva’s Ganas, outsiders who are not accepted by mainstream society but who are accepted by Shiva. I lead an internal introverted life. Jay leads an extroverted life, a life dependent upon outward pursuits. Now, I love Jay, but needless to say, we couldn’t be much more different. Now, I would like to say that in every other way Jay is not much like Daksha in that, for example, he, too is pretty uncivilized (like me), and he is in NO WAY interested in conservative rituals and points of view, but in the context of the dream, those Daksha-like qualities of Jay were of paramount symbolic and metaphoric importance.
So, why did The Horse rear up and pin Jay to the ground? Why did She do so without harming him? Because Jay is a really good man doing really good things, and The Horse and I (rather… The Horse IS I) love him… and love him just they way he is. But in the dream Jay was not Jay, Jay was a symbol for godless atheism and materialism (and NOT in the “materialistic” sense, Jay has, like me, practically taken a vow of poverty out here, but in the sense that he believes in non-spiritual intellectual/scientific solutions to life’s problems). The Horse wanted to keep Jay, and that aspect of me who is like him, under Her hoof. I am not to give into Godlessness or materialism. I am to face such concerns with courage and in steadfast power, just as The Horse silenced him under Her hoof. My spirituality is not to be trifled with externally or internally. In other words, I know the whole atheist and materialist song and dance, I know it well and inside and out, but I do not need to continue to let it infect me and it will take all the courage and power of The Horse for me to rise above such doubts and concerns. I am, like The Horse, to dominate such thoughts, I am to face courageously, yet say NO to thinking that binds me to maya. I am not to run away from the hard questions, challenges to my faith or doubts, no, I am to harness all of my power and face them… and THAT takes courage.
In a sense, The Panther was Atman, but also, in a sense, Purusha, and The Horse was raw earthy power, my courage and strength, but also, as she was a manifestation of the Goddess and her power, Prakriti. One is to be attained and realized (The Panther, Purusha); the other is energy to be ridden for spiritual purposes (The Horse, Prakriti). Yes, The Horse IS my power, my courage, but is also Shiva, is also fearlessness, or at the very least, by calling upon The Horse, by realizing or attaining The Horse within, I am to be fearless yet in control. I will need full access to my power, my Shakti, if I am to realize my spiritual potential, if I am to realize Shiva!
I am Shiva!
NEXT: The Three Dreams (Dream 3, The White Lamb)
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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!