Living and loving with awareness implies caring deeply about other people in our lives, whilst at the same time remaining detached and releasing any sense of ownership; speaking out when there’s injustice, but doing so with non-judgement. It requires us to use our skills and knowledge honestly to interact to the best of our ability, fully aware of the energetic and practical consequences of our thoughts, emotions, actions and words, and with personal responsibility for the choices we make.
Even when we feel mistreated and undervalued, rather than contracting or retaliating, the goal is to respond by remaining open and giving. When in the throes of personal or inter-personal conflict, if we manage to continue living and loving with an open-hearted awareness we will both demonstrate the degree of our integrity and ensure that energy continues to flow through our subtle body as well as through our life circumstances, instead of the energy becoming stagnant.
Free-flowing energy is essential if we are to remain healthy during stressful times and if we are to facilitate the best possible energetic conditions capable of ushering in change and improved life circumstances. Moreover, living and loving others and ourselves with conscious awareness can bring us a greater sense of peace and empowerment.
Modified extract from my book “She Who Is Unto Herself”
In the realms of spiritual authenticity, our worth is not calculated by our monetary fortune, but rather by our actions and the quality of our emotional mind space at any given moment. We are responsible for our perceptions and attitudes i.e. our thoughts and feelings and, therefore, how we experience outer events. We are only partially in control of how those outer events play out. Life on the physical plane is impermanent and relatively random. To resist or deny that reality is madness. The sanest recourse is to accept life as an ever-changing playing field, to find the point of permanence in the inner self and then to live life with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. “A disciplined mind regards all changes as causal and temporary. The balanced does not fluctuate, and does not suffer.” This tantric attitude takes courage and persistent effort, which is why I refer to it as theway of the warrior. Continue reading →
My life experiences and contemplations have brought me to the conclusion that without suffering it would be all too easy to remain in mind-dom i.e. in the clutches of the emotional mind. The latter can always keep us entertained with never-ending, theatrical representations of past events or fantasies of potential future happenings. When everything in our lives is going as planned (by the personality), the emotional mind can be a very comfortable place to take refuge. The risk, however, is that we remain stuck there, which means living in the illusion that our rational mind and emotions are our sole identity. Thanks to suffering, we get the gentle push, or even dramatic shove, to move out of contracted mind-dom and discover the fullness of our (divine) identity and consciousness.
Georg Feuerstein provides a Tantric – and I guess also Buddhist – perspective on suffering when he writes: “Many people […] are not in the least aware of their self-perpetuated state of incarceration. But those in whom wisdom has dawned can see that the world, or rather how they experience it, is confining. They also are sensitive to the fact that worldly existence is suffused with suffering (duhkha).” Continue reading →
What is the (“existential”) purpose of suffering? That question has pursued me for many years now. My own personal struggles I’ve found easier to respond to, in relative terms, coming to see them as a learning ground for a deeper existential and spiritual understanding. What’s always been much more difficult for me is witnessing, or simply knowing of, the suffering endured by other humans and animals in incredibly cruel and/or dangerous circumstances e.g. subject to physical and/or psychological violence, hunger, displacement, personal loss, etc. Consequently, I’ve felt an existential imperative to gain some constructive perspectives on the meaning of suffering in order to understand how best to remain in touch with my empathy, whilst at the same time avoiding the pitfall of feeling discouraged.
The spiritual challenge we face is to be joyful no matter what life conditions we are experiencing i.e. whether we are surrounded by love and good fortune, or suffering and injustice. The tantric tradition offers a helpful insight by distinguishing between ananda, which is our innate blissful state of consciousness, and sukha, which is the emotional state of ordinary happiness that is dependent on external conditions. Continue reading →
Joy remembered when she had moved out of the flat with Jim and found herself alone for the first time in many years. She had experienced a severe crisis. Although perhaps outwardly nobody noticed, at night she cried, imploring the Universe – or whatever It was – to show her the way forward, to end the stagnation into which she felt she had fallen. Ever since she had developed a spiritual orientation in life, rejecting the more materialistic approach, she seemed to have struggled. It was as if all her efforts had led to nothing; as if she were no longer in the flow of life; as if she were swimming upstream.
Joy knew that, despite that cry to the Universe all those years ago, she continued to experience only pockets of apparent success in her personal and professional life for a long time afterwards. Nevertheless, she recognised that during those years of difficulty and struggle she had built up her inner strength, and expanded her understanding of the physical plane and its relationship with the non-visible world. Continue reading →
Tantrikas work with goddess energy through the use of: mantras – sacred sounds; yantras – “diagrams for working with the energies of life”; mandalas – “graphic symbol[s] of the universe, specifically, a circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side”; and, also through ritual practice.
To go into more depth on just one of the above-mentioned methods, a mantra can be considered to be: “… an absolute sound, having no conventional meaning, [that] work[s] on the body and the mind by virtue of [its] vibrational quality.” Indeed, I’ve found very useful and profound to follow Sally Kempton’s recommendation of chanting the mantra shrim [pronounced shreem] to evoke what I understand to be the archetypal energies of the goddess Lakshmi.Shrim (or any other mantra) can be spoken or chanted either aloud or silently. Moreover, mantra repetition can form part of a formal daily meditation practice, or it can be used in response to events that occur in our daily lives. For example, whenever my rational mind begins to churn never-ending fearful or self-bashing thoughts round and around in my head like a washing machine, I find silently chanting shrim and connecting with Lakshmi to be an excellent method for bringing the nose-diving personality back onto an even keel. Continue reading →
The over-arching Shakti, “the formless course of everything”  – a definition that’s strikingly similar to the concept of Tao – is believed to take the form of various gods and goddesses, which personify the “different energies that make up the multiple dimensions of existence and of our own consciousness”.
Cassandra Lorius gives further food for thought on the distinction between Shakti and other goddesses: “In fact, Shakti is not so much a goddess, as the creative force behind existence, who manifests in different forms. That’s why she’s not depicted as a single deity, but as a number of goddesses who represent the various qualities of this primal energy.”
Bearing in mind that abstract concepts are fluid and subject to perception, and as a neophyte to Tantra, I am tempted to situate the all-encompassing Shakti in the transrational sphere and put the various personifications of Shakti – for example, the different tantric goddesses like Durga, Parvati and Tara – within the transpersonal plane in the form of archetypal energies. “When [Tantric adepts] invoke a particular deity, they mentally bridge the gulf between the personal and the impersonal.”Continue reading →