Diary: The Fox On The Kymin

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An ecstatic walk up The Kymin. For the first time in a long time, I have experienced joy in being completely alone. One is never alone in the woods. Everything here conspires to occupy your senses – bird song wreathes you in melodic clusters, and you feel the complete fullness in the emptiness of existence. The air is fresh with flavour, medicinal pine sweeping into my lungs – you just want to grasp every protruding piece of bark in your hands, like Mayan hieroglyphs, that are actually secret keys to organic space stations.

“I pause for a while by a country stile” opening onto a meadow, where, in the coming summer, one’s eyes will be blinded by bluebells. I see the visions of a century’s old boy perched on that stile, and feel impelled to access my own inner child, walking along the stile as on a bucolic tightrope, limbs wrapped around the wooden vine-posts overhead. I look down on a friend’s hilled mansion and marvel at the power altitude can lend to perspective.

I feel happy standing here – all else ceases to matter; no interruptive thirst for conversation, or brooding desire to be touched, when I am already touched by the penetrative essence of the wood. Everything glistens – every rock is a jewel – and the trunks of old trees are the gnarled faces of old men; sylvan spirits that find beauty in the grotesque.

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There are wood nymphs, too, of course – a whole panoply of fair folk, dancing in ecstatic procession behind The Spring Queen of the wood, somehow still gentle, even in the maddest of their March-mad antics.

But the view on top of The Kymin beside The Round House is unrivalled – it is addictive; you look at anything else, and it only makes you want to look at it more. There is a beauty to the cluster of town houses in that expanse of free landscape; and I pick out all the places I am used to experiencing at insect-level: the row of path-lining aspens down Vauxhall Fields – the single oak that stands as an Axis Mundi in its centre – the spire of St. Mary’s – and the many Welsh mountains beyond.

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Families chatter around the railings – unappreciative parents stuck in irritable protection mode – imagination-led children – and people picnicking in a square field circumscribed by electric wire.

It is interesting to hear how birdsong develops this time of year. Robins, who whistle so thinly, sadly, in winter, become full-throated. Blackbirds, who began singing at the end of February, uninspired, and repeating the same half-meant phrases, as though cleaning the cobwebs from their syrinxes, have now really taken to their theme. You can hear the languor-suppressed passion and excitement in every phrase they sing, occasionally taking the best-loved phrases of their combatants, and then striving to make them better, like duelling saxophonists and trumpet players in a throbbing bebop band. I have occasionally heard the explosive rapture of the blackcap, but I do not think they are in full-concerto mode quite yet.

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But, until The Universe grants me more longevity in love, Nature will remain my First Woman. I shall cling to her – hide myself in the verdancy of her bejewelled clothing; loving getting to know even smallest parts of her – the flowering of wood anemone – the perfect meditation mats of mineral-encrusted boulders – the primroses, common speedwells, forget-me-nots – the effortless affability of daffodils – the duelling riverine currents of The Monnow and The Wye.

There’s something deeply therapeutic about the sun in spring and summer; the way it penetrates your skin and sinks inside your soul, chasing even the weediest of your dark thoughts away.

But now for the crème-de-la-crème: while still sat on my woodland stile, without either of us thinking of it, a fox sauntered unexpectedly by. His coat was faded from dirt and hunger – but I was so awe-inspired, honoured, majestified at having this prince of creatures stood so near to me, that I sat there, slack-jawed, unable to look away.

But, once we’d both gotten over this little spell, as though returning to the normal rules of things, he scampered over the new-grassing meadow, intermittently looking back to see what I was doing – a fox looking back at a fox. Sylvan muse indeed!

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***

There is something very shocking about spring now. I am so much impaled on the point of every moment, that each moment seems eternal. Like laying on the slope in Chippenham Park yesterday, nailed to the ground by the rays of the sun. I felt like I would always be there – and, in the intensity of mixed joy and heavy pain, I had little to prove me otherwise.

And now, sat here, blue tit and great tit beeping out to one another in crystalline Morse code, I can feel the light heaviness of that eternity again – just page and pen, page and pen – on and on into the sunset.

I’m definitely feeling healed now.

Coming up here is one of the best things I could have done.

Mantras – Peaceful & Wrathful – An Introduction

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(Extracted from a conversation with a client)

Okay, let’s talk about mantras. Mantras are chants of sacred syllables, and one of the most powerful spiritual practises. The Hare Krishna mantra is, of course, the most well known, as is ‘Aum.’ The great thing about mantras is that they don’t necessarily have to be chanted out-loud – you can keep them going in your mind at all times, so that, whatever you’re doing you’re always engaged in some kind of spiritual practise – and such continuous practise fruits results very quickly.

 

Most mantras are associated with different deities and  energy patterns/beings, and therefore have different effects and powers that they convey. In Tibetan Buddhism, these are roughly grouped into two different types – the Peaceful and the Wrathful. The mantras of Peaceful deities are very good for developing peace, tranquillity, wisdom, patience, healing, equanimity and other enlightened qualities. They’re very gentle, reassuring, and loving, though they will still challenge you from time to time, and can reawaken old memories and psychic powers.

 

The mantras of the wrathful deities are very different, and usually far shorter. They are much more challenging and demanding, but, for that very reason, they get things done a lot quicker. Rather than making us more placid, these mantras generate a huge amount of energy, and make life incredibly more vivid and intense. They have a great fondness for placing you in crazy or strange situations, which force you outside of yourself, and demand you to be more spontaneous, real, or authentic. They will not let you hide from anything! Nor will they hesitate to make you break-down and reduce you to rubble if they think it will do you some good. But, the effects they produce occur incredibly swiftly if one is sincere; and, through them, one can gain powers, awarenesses, memories, and abilities very quickly – you just have to be very brave, as they will always give you far more than you bargained for! Very good for dealing with one’s shadows, personal demons, and visits to the underworld.

It’s usually good to know several mantras for different purposes, and to work with both Peaceful and Wrathful deities, so that you can cultivate both the passive and active/aggressive sides of enlightenment. Usually there will be 1-3 deities that you will develop a close relationship with – though, it’s good to have a strong central one.

If you would like to learn more about mantras, and be recommended some, please contact me at reubenftourettes@hotmail.co.uk

 

Meditation: The Thingsness of Things

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After finishing my meditation lesson yesterday, one of my students noted how they always felt they experienced reality differently after a deep meditation. While reality usually felt quite bland or flat to them, after a good meditation, he said everything felt richer, deeper, more three-dimensional and solid. As we had just done a meditation on the nature of emptiness, I was quite surprised to hear him use the word ‘solid,’ until I realized he was talking about The Thingness of Things: a phrase I use which describes experiencing each thing and phenomena exactly as it is, at its utmost blistering intensity.

Most of the time, we only relate to things and phenomena in a very half-assed and dispirited way. We pass a tree we walked past yesterday; we greet a person we see every morning; we unknowingly hear a birdsong that follows us everywhere we go. Because these things have become habitual for us, we treat each of these things – the tree, the friend, the birdsong – as though it is something static, stuck in time, that can never satisfy or delight us. Because we have seen it a thousand times, it has become dull, mundane, and humdrum according to our benumbed senses, always looking for new pleasures, new experiences, new desires.

The tragic thing about this view is that it is incorrect. Every moment is new, every moment is unique, every moment has its own special character that well never be repeated ever again, not even if infinity were to bend over, poke its head between its legs, and eat its own scrotum. Newness is the fundamental nature of each experience – always new, always shocking, always vibrant.

So why don’t most us feel that vividity and uniqueness? It is because of our habituations, and how we have allowed our insecurities to mute the palette of these rich, vibrant moments. We claim we want new, exciting experiences. But most of us are terrified of change, and of anything that threatens the illusory security of our habitual routines. To really experience the uniqueness and freshness of each moment would mean being open, vulnerable, receptive, insecure – it would mean letting down the barrier of our cold comforts, erroneous certainties, and beliefs, and instead just letting things be as they are.

Shine/shamatha meditation teaches us to do this. By mindfully resting in the uniqueness of each moment, without weighing it, analyzing it, or assessing it, we no longer fear being afraid of the startling shock of every moment. This, in turn, effects how we experience reality, post meditation. Each moment, each second becomes like a new century, a new epoch, which disturbs and delights us with its instantaneously known unknownness. Colours become more colourful. Every touch becomes more erotic. Sounds become more soundy. Even things that usually annoy us suddenly become palaces of wealthy delight that cause us to loosen with fertile appreciation.

All this spell-binding depth and luxury can be returned to your reality, just by learning to be still, and rest with all of your feelings and thoughts.

Mindful Love

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The Chaos of Love

Everybody wants to experience love and loving relationships in their life.

But, very few people question their true motives for wanting a relationship, or contemplate just how deeply and violently love will impact every level of their life.

In wanting love without fully understanding it, we are like people who want to sail in the middle of a dangerous ocean, without first learning to swim – we will very quickly find ourselves overwhelmed.

This is why love is so powerful. Because it is so overwhelming, and can seem so chaotic, yet harmonious, it forces us to radically face who we are. Love is the ultimate leveller of the playing field. It strips all the certainties and illusions out of life, and forces us to face what we have always hidden from – ourselves, and the nature of reality itself.

We may think we are all different. But, in love, we are all the same. Once in love, we all have the capacity to experience the highest of happinesses and the deepest sorrows, as well all the jealousy, madness, passion, tranquillity, self-grasping, and self-losing that comes in-between.

Because love makes us all the same, it helps us to disentangle from the bondage of our egos which always want us to be better than everyone else. Love empowers us by making us humble. By lovingly placing the importance of all beings before us, we become important to all beings.

A Question of Love

So, we have two choices when faced with love:

  1. We can be self-grasping, and flee from it, not having the bravery to face our own vulnerability.
  2. Or we can be self-losing, and completely surrender ourselves to love. We allow it deconstruct and destroy us, so we come out the other side, selfless, gentle, and fearless.

This is why I ask you to be mindful in Love, and to always question your own motives. In loving someone, and wanting to be intimate with them, are you willing to be completely honest, open and free with them? Or is it just a subtle case of manipulation, in which you use that person in order to increase your own gratification?

Many of us do the latter, without even realizing it. We want relationships that promise to resolve all our problems, and make our lives luxurious, easy, and comfy.

Taking the clothes off your Heart

But love is not easy. It is most difficult and challenging thing we can ever face. It uproots every illusion we’ve ever held about life, and gives us a chance to confront and come to terms with our most selfish aspects.

In this respect, our lovers or partners are not cushions against the blows of life. Instead, they are like warrior teachers, who constantly test the depths of our selflessness. They challenge us to commit to being completely authentic in absolutely every situation, regardless of how terrifying and groundless that may feel.

In the same way that we must take off our clothes off to make love, we must take the clothes off of our hearts in order to be love.

A naked heart is a brave heart, and the only one worth having.

And if you are brave enough to do that, than you are brave enough to love.

Joy and Suffering in Meditation

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Meditation is all about integrating yourself into reality in a completely fundamental way. As repeated practice continually refines your sense of awareness, your joy becomes clearer – your suffering becomes clearer.

Through this heightened clarity, both our suffering and joy is heightened. They are not lost, transcended, escaped, or destroyed; rather, whole new dimensions of reality are added to them. Two-dimensional joy becomes quantum joy, unfolding and overlapping into increasingly vast panels of existence. Selfish suffering transforms into selfless suffering – an awareness of the incredible fragility of everything we touch and co-exist with.

This sensitivity changes how we respond to reality. Deepening the realms of our joy, we become more intimate, caring, and friendly – every moment, no matter how chaotic, confusing or challenging, becomes an opportunity to love, to learn, to understand, and, most crucially, an opportunity to be truly naked in the presence of all beings and experience, without contrivance or adornment.

Deepening our suffering, we no longer grasp at it as something endemic to us, but recognize it as something intensely personal to every living being. Whatever sadness or sorrows I feel, you will also one day feel, and vice versa – how could such a knowing not breed empathy, compassion, and Bodhicitta? Being aware of this engenders an authentic tenderness in us – a wish that this weren’t so – a wish to cradle all beings from their unceasing afflictions, and to try make life as smooth and as real as it can be.

Your joy and suffering are not obstacles to the path – they are the path. They are the intertwined and indivisible staircases that we use to ascend to the heaven of non-duality – the twin-breasts that nourish us with the milk of oceanic compassion.

Keep adding new dimensions to everything in your life through daily determined meditation. Eventually, once all walls have been broken down, and all untruth stripped away, Dharmadatu can be attained.

 

 

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Controlling Your Chi

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“Control your chi

Becoming gentleness itself

As a newborn child”

Chi is the basic force that keeps our physical beings alive. In the same way that we would die if we had too little blood, so we begin to perish and decay when our chi stagnates or scatters.

Being that chi is the source of life, it is naturally quite lively, meaning that we need to control it before it controls us. Chi responds to our mind, moods, and emotions. If we get over-excited, our energy screams and races around like a toddler. If we get angry, our energy becomes fiery, dangerous, and difficult to control. When we get depressed, our energies stagnate; when we get obsessed, our energy gets trapped in just one place.

So, in order to keep our Chi gentle, we must keep a gentle mind. Anger, over-excitement, depression and obsession all stir up and exhaust the spirit, damaging all areas of our health. Emotions do not have to be dangerous by themselves, because they are also an energy – it is when they are extreme, excessive and uncontrolled that dangers begins.

Even the strongest among us may feel all of these things from time to time; but, so long as we do not allow these moods to become habitual, and deeply-rooted within our psyches, having the ability to transform these energies into something beneficial, then we can still succeed.

Taoist alchemists often refer to this act of governing chi as ‘The Firing Process’ because it is a lot like boiling water. You want to keep the water at a stable temperature. Too hot, and the water sizzles up and scars your face; too cold, and the water loses its life and potency.

Keeping Chi even isn’t easy – it requires the constant practice of gentleness and balance in every area of our lives. If we can be like a baby – soft and gentle, yet carrying within us a lifetime’s worth of potential energy – then we will be that much closer to preserving The Way.

TAO TE CHING: Vitality and Spirit

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“Cultivating vitality and spirit

Embrace this unity”

Vitality is the totality of energy of your physical being. Spirit refers to transcendental energy – the part of your energy that inhabits and vivifies your body, but is not dependent upon it, only visiting it as a guest.

For the Taoist, it is essential to nurture these two things. Taking care of our physical being, we live easier, and make ourselves more receptive to the spirit, aligning ourselves with the earth. Cultivating spirit, we align ourselves with heaven, learning to control our body without becoming attached to it.

Cultivating one, we enhance the other. What is good for spirit, is good for vitality – what is good for vitality, is also good for spirit. They are a unity – no difference should be made between them.

But, because of the materialistic philosophies of our culture, we only think about the vitality of the body, and ignore the crucial role the mind and spirit have in regulating it. Only cultivating vitality through physical exercise, with no concomitant refinement of the mind, will exhaust you, and be of little purpose. Only cultivating spirit through meditation and psychological practice, without also flexing our bodies, altering our lifestyles, and improving our diets, then all our spiritual achievement will be impractical, and our relationship with our bodies will be unhealthy and out of balance.

Many mystics were serious haters of the body. The body is a walking coffin, a ticking time-bomb, a prison for the spirit. It can seem like our greatest impediment to growth at times. But, the very difficulty of having a solid body is what enables us to make so much spiritual progress while we are in it. Our body can feel our resentment and hatred for it. We have to love it, or it will not comply with us, any more than a dog will return loyally to an owner who beats it.

Lifestyle of Transformation

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Making one’s love/compassion absolutely pure and selfless isn’t something that we can do completely and utterly straight away – it’s something that requires a lot of practice. It demands that we uproot ourselves from attachment, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving, and all the other things that generate ill-will in the heart. They are like the smudges on a dirty window that stop the light of our love shining through with perfect clarity. In the same way that we wash our bodies on a regular basis, we must also make sure to clean our minds and spirits on a regular basis through meditation, yoga, mind-training, spiritual practice and healthy eating/living. We must make a lifestyle of constant purification and transformation in order to really live the love we preach.

Diary of a Mystic: The Tiger

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Good meditation today. I managed to throat sing and chant with a far deeper resonance and endurance than I have done for well over a week. Produced some truly majestic sounding overtones, and still feel as though my understanding of the mechanics of the production of these frequencies is growing ever deeper and unconscious. Chinese chanting, and  Tuvan chanting too.

I used Tara’s Mantra, and the tantric technique of imagining myself with her female body, allowing great cosmic energy to penetrate my vagina. Worked on bringing this energy into all my chakras, and especially the energy channels along my spinal column which I still feel especially need more work.

I saw a stripped tiger. In China, the Tiger is a symbol of autumn, whiteness, the lungs, decay and death. It is the protector of the West, and it’s element is metal. This metal is the alloy of transformation. Like a mineral, it can be manipulated through fire, purified, and then eventually solidified into something else. It is the element of deep and lasting change, as opposed to something fleeting and ephemeral that can easily snap back to its habituations.

In Chinese astrology, the tiger is also representative of Aquarius. Thus, he is gregarious, powerful, innovate, eccentric yet sometimes conservative, lively yet sometimes reckless and impulsive, and also, quite often, promiscuous.

The symbolism of the tiger is said to be based in anger, aggression, personal power, strength and vitality, as well as representing the sudden, swift, and unpredictable. Given our closeness to entering into Aries, I think it is a good warning to channel that fiery strength in a positive way, and not to be allow it to make you destructive. Arians have a lot of personal power, but can be very quick to anger and conflict. It is a warning to keep that power under wraps, so that I control it, without it ever defeating me. Using my personal power in the most beneficial way. Being spontaneous as opposed to being impulsive. Being prepared for the unexpected – but also acting in a sudden and unpredictable way, so as to overcome others.

The bear also made another appearance, but we already explored his symbolism recently – solitary and withdrawing. Both of these creatures are loners by nature (I think) so perhaps it is an encouragement to enjoy being single and going it alone? The appearance of the ant recently was certainly very significant, as I have been very productive and industrious these last few days, able to be quite persevering, unemotional and prolific.

Dream Diary: Sleeping on the River

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I enter some underground world that is meant to be a recreation of some Tibetan paradise. It sounds like an idealized, ancestral culture. The practice that really stayed with me from the dream is that all the members of these tribes would go to sleep by swaddling themselves in enormous leaves, and just float down the beautiful warm river. It was completely safe to do this – and, because they all had a peripatetic lifestyle and no permanent encampment, it was of no consequence to them if the river carried them to a completely new place. They would just move on, and adapt to wherever they found themselves when they woke up, because the land would always give them what they needed.

I was encouraged to try out for myself this technique of river sleeping, and it was incredibly relaxing and comforting, being held lovingly in the all-embracing flow of this magical river. The landscape seemed to be tinged with blue, and the spiritual beings who lived there were also floating down the rapids.

When we returned to the surface, the place where this wonderland was stored just seemed to be a somewhat dingy old mining facility. As we came out, I could see the shimmering of water on the ceiling and was wondering where it was coming from. There was a pail of water on the other side of the room. Perhaps that was the source of the river?

Interpretation:

Mystic wonderland underground. This is an exhortation to return to the source, to the beautiful mystic realms and ancient Ways that exist within me. My meditation and general awareness has been far too shallow lately, and if I really want to feel happy and interconnected again, I must return fully to them.

Sleeping on the flowing river – allowing myself to relax in the all-embracing current of The Way. Trusting myself to this Ancestral Force, knowing that I can even go to sleep in it, and lose myself in it, without having to worry about danger; always knowing that I will always be able to adapt and find nourishment in whatever new locale of experience I happen to find myself. That this wonderland is meant to be Tibet in some way is also a suggestion from the spirit that I need to bring back awareness to my past life identities, and interweave them beneficially with the awareness of my current existence.

But the wonderland is just contained within an ugly mineshaft. A reminder that the supernatural hides within the natural – that the waking time and dream time are one – that reality and delusion always co-exist. (The wonderland is reality, the normal world is delusion). The mine-shaft is actually a mind-shaft – a reminder of the need to always dig in as deep as I can into the primordial origins of my consciousness, and that, like the ripple effect on the ceiling, the reflection of the sublime can always be witnessed in the waking world.