Just Three Breaths – My Practice

“Like milk and its whiteness, the diamond and its lustre… [the] Divine Mother and Brahman are one.” (full passage)

When Andrew Harvey first quoted this bit of wisdom from the nineteenth century Indian saint Ramakrishna I had my first introduction to the intertwined nature of transcendence and immanence. I began to realize that the adoration of the Goddess did not preclude God and that, in fact, the two faces of the divine are inextricably bound to one another.

For whatever reason, these metaphors made sense to me almost immediately, as if they were elucidating something I had always known but never understood. Brahman is the supreme spirit in Hinduism, the unchanging heavenly power associated with the transcendent Father God. The Mother is the energy that dances through us and all of creation, the universal love of the heavens in action upon the earth. All that we know is the union of these two aspects of God.

At the conference at which I first heard these ideas everyone was high on potential spiritual power (both real and imagined), yet there was a palpable sense of worry because people did not know how these feelings would translate back at home in reality. I think this little practice that I cobbled together from the ideas I gathered that weekend is my response to the concern that I would forget the resonance of such words. It is informed both by Harvey’s description of the divine and Caroline Myss’s journey into the soul, Saint Teresa of Avila’s interior castle.

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After closing my eyes I search around to find my center for a little while until I remember yet again that only in stillness can one find that peaceful place of silence within. When I have stopped struggling with my own mind, I can just experience what it is to be for a few moments until a breath that seems to come from the earth itself begins to fill me. It is the power of the Mother, the earthy glory of the Goddess that I have identified with for so long, but here there are no rules or separations, just the wash of creation and growth itself. It is green, it is gold, it is the rich black of fertile soil. I pull this breath up and all the way through my body, filling with the Mother’s love and then release it, letting this energy flow back into the universe.

The second breath comes from above, the transcendent essence that arches over us all. It is the peace that lifts me out of my body to a place of complete freedom. There all human definitions of God might fade away so that the power that is the Absolute can wash the ego away. It is white and silver, it is cool and warm all at once. I pull this breath down through mind and heart, down and down to root the heavenly in my feet, and then release it, letting this energy flow back into the universe.

Finally there is the breath of synthesis that pulls every facet of creation into my own soul. It comes from every side, it is the very air around me. It is every color, texture, scent, taste. The beautiful mixes even with the horrible because to be truly present is to recognize all threads in the tapestry of this life. With this inhalation I realize my place in this incredible universe, this constant interplay of the divine with itself, of the sacred with the material. Rather than retreating from the world because I find solace in the spirit, I am driven to delight in all that is so that I can see the spiritual in everything.

Om Tat Sat

Discovering the Space Beyond the Silence

Long Beach treeMany months ago, before this whole unfurling of epiphanies began in earnest, I was rocked with uncertainties over something or other, or probably about everything, more likely. I read my tarot cards, I stared beseechingly up to the sky, I read a text about the Goddess that was full of footnotes. I just felt like I was trapped in the maelstrom of my own psychology.

There have been a few times in my life when a voice outside of all that I know has spoken to me. Once, it said “he’s not the one.” (I could regret not listening to that one, but the two years of kidding myself in the particular relationship that followed got me here, with someone who actually is “the one.”) This particular day in question, I heard as clear as the winter air outside my windowpane “Why don’t you ask the Goddess?” In my journal I simply wrote: SILENCE.

Ask the Goddess? I’m sorry, but I really wouldn’t want to trouble her, and there would be so many candles to light, and really, what is there to say that I have not already shouted a million times into the inside of my own skull? It was at that moment I realized the relative emptiness of the self-proscribed path I had chosen to study. And by “study” I do not mean in the way that one studies Talmud or even tea leaves, but in the way that one studies the periodic table or Shakespeare. I was reasonably certain there would be a test (not of the type that gets you through a set of heavenly gates or anything, more like the sort that proves you are intelligent and witty in a bar).

I want to wrap that lost version of myself in the enveloping soul I have discovered has always been here. I want to make sure that the me from last year understands that she can ask the Goddess whatever she needs to, and if she wants, she doesn’t even have to assign a gender to the divine.

Why do I write a post about something as intimate as the understanding that, when I address an entity outside myself, I feel like there is a sensitive power in the universe? This is not the sort of declaration I feel particularly comfortable with and I don’t think I am trying to vaunt my own spiritual development as another thing I have “achieved” (at least I hope I am a little better at transcending my ego). In part, it must be that this quiet realization that barely resides in the world of the explicable means that, when confronted with the chaos that is waking up in the morning, I find there is a force beyond the void of my own fear and questions. If I am to continue spiraling through epiphanies and trying to pin them to page, I must establish this new sense of something greater as my truth. The path I am beginning to travel now is still determined by instinct, and luck, and what I hope are occasional flashes of authentic vision, but that emptiness, that silence, is a memory as I begin to try to understand the hum that is the energy that binds us all.