PhD Research & Papers

(This Chart may only be used with prior permission from Laura Madsen)

The ICM is a simple map of the movement of two basic energy-systems within our nervous system: the conditioned (human, time-bound) and unconditioned (Soul, timeless). With willing spaciousness, the mobile-like movement of these inner-aspects becomes increasingly transparent to us – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Silence Practice groups have increasingly focused on refining our capacity for inner-awareness through deep listening and attunement. As this function stabilizes in the group dynamic, subtle energy-movements in our nervous system become palpable and increasingly conscious. The Inner Constellation Mobile (ICM) emerged in the most recent Silence Practice series as a map of the sacred territory of our inner life.

Silence Practice was originally founded upon a Master’s Research thesis Surrendering to Silence: A Heart-Centred Practice from the Vancouver School of Theology in 2011. The next iteration of Silence Practice has developed into a Research PhD program. The PhD proposal Discovering and Integrating the Soul’s Nervous System through Inner Constellations and Sound was accepted in April 2018 by Thomas Hübl’s AIS (Academy of Inner Science) in conjunction with Ubiquity University’s Wisdom School.

PhD Papers – 2019

Tasting the Embodied Faith of The Miraculous

While Living in a World of Shadow

Abstract

Setting myself to the daunting task of writing on a book of this spiritual magnitude, I feel humbled and inadequate; yet something breathlessly exultant stirs within me–and so I begin. Every twenty years I find myself reading Autobiography of a Yogi. Since my early twenties, this astounding book has been a fiery reminder that life is nothing other than a spiritual journey. As part of the “Great Books” series offered by Ubiquity University’s Wisdom School, this third and latest reading is my first attempt to articulate the depth of its personal and collective message.

How does western materialism relate to endless tales of the miraculous from the eastern spirituality of Gurus and devotion? As I see it, the readership can have one of two responses: the first is to view it as an entertaining glimpse into a reality available to a few spiritual adepts; the other, far more challenging option, is to be willing to explore the truth behind the miraculous that lies dormant within one’s nervous system, heart, and mind. The first option does not challenge the personal or collective status quo, while the second beckons with the potential for radical healing and awakening. 

The journey into willing exploration is not one to be taken lightly. Only a burning desire to experience God beyond the already-known suffices. Such profound attunement reveals new possibilities in every arena of life. Miracles may even happen, but they are not the point. The point is living a life of embodied Faith.

Tasting the Embodied Faith of The Miraculous While Living in a World of Shadow

A belief-based Faith is easily attained, revolving, as it does, around external identifiers. An embodied Faith requires a highly attuned, receptive inner-capacity. An embodied Faith is a dynamic practice, informed moment-to-moment by a palpable flow of energetic-intelligence within the nervous system. While contemplating how to describe this energy flow, the term “a temple of divine frequencies” came to mind. This energy makes itself apparent through the nervous system as altered body perceptions as well as a sense of something (seemingly) “new” coming into our awareness. I have experienced these states of consciousness during meditation, in groups cultivating inner stillness and silence, and during individual and group Sound Healing sessions (more on this later). During these experiences, the body can feel more expanded, lighter (like there is more space between the cells), and/or more solidly grounded and present. A receptive nervous system is vital to becoming a reliable vessel for attuning to higher frequencies such as the “temple of divine frequencies.” Mental abstractions or the lower vibratory level of conditioned frequencies that are considered “normal” are neither sufficient nor reliable.

Though a steady stream of the miraculous flows through Autobiography of a Yogi, that is not its most astounding feature. The treasure found in these pages is the palpable abundance of living Faith coming through Babaji and the various Indian saints in his lineage. They embody their Faith like we might eat a sandwich. A pithy (paraphrased) participant-comment during “The Great Books” presentation at Ubiquity Wisdom School contrasts our lack of Faith-capacity: “The Miracle is not the goal, but the sense of our continuity with the divine. The continuity is always going on and is more common then we realize, but we usually have a small bandwidth that we deal in” (Oct.09, 2018).

Autobiography of a Yogi exudes a continuous flow of divine consciousness. From Yogananda’s blessed lineage and his willing surrender to come to America, this divine transmission is passed along through the purity of their single-pointed God-devotion and Faith. The downward flow of its generosity is palpable while reading this book. Though we may feel it as a mere trickle in “the small bandwidth” of our conditioned consciousness, this beautiful synchronous God-world remains our birthright–with or without our awareness. In chapter forty-three, Sri Yukteswar describes how the subtle body of the astral worlds becomes more available at physical death because the consciousness of the flesh recedes (1987, p. 485). Unbeknownst to our conditioned attachments, God is the very ocean in which we swim and gives birth endlessly to–what we perceive as–the miraculous. 

If the subtle astral world is available to us, the impossibly large question facing us is how do we learn to live from there while still embodied? As someone who has been graced more than a few times with a taste of this sacred world, I find myself devoting more and more of my life to this question as the manifest world seems to be spinning into chaos and destruction. I view the world Yogananda describes as an embodiment of Faith, and Kriya yoga as the recommended “how to” of his lineage.  Kriya is a Sanskrit word for “to do” (Jim Garrison, Great Books presentation, 2018), so we could summarize Faith as the action of God-attunement or the doing of God through the refinement of embodied Faith.

The God-reality in which we unheedingly swim becomes visible through the paradigm of experienced Faith. Our western culture’s steadfast engagement to the temporal world leaves us with a collective spiritual blindness and a painful separation from our authentic identity in God. The vast majority of social, political, economic, and religious structures operate from within a polarized commitment to spiritual forgetfulness. Essentially, we live within cultural structures that support and encourage spiritual blindness. Again, in his rich exposé in Chapter forty-three, Sri Yukteswar explains that even after death, “… an undeveloped being from the earth remains for the most part in the deep stupor of the death-sleep and is hardly conscious of the beautiful astral sphere” (1987, p. 491).

How do we activate an awareness of the temple of divine frequencies while living in a culture so spiritually bereft? How can we support the movement of Kriya within our bodies and in the world around us? Can we cultivate awareness of astral splendour before we shed the body? What spiritual capacities are inherent in a lived Faith? What inner receptivity makes us available to the abundant energy capable of moving mountains, surrounding us in every moment? “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matt.17:20-21).

Thomas Keating, among other liturgical leaders have stated that God is closer than our own breath. Through our Faith, God shapes all manner of (perceived) finite things, including our (seemingly) impenetrably conditioned humanity. What hypnotic trance keeps us in a state of collective-collusion and makes us largely oblivious to the Faith-energy moving in and around us–apparently closer than our own breath? 

The Faith addressed in this book is surely not the traditional faith founded upon a belief system where God becomes an object designed to answer our prayers. Sri Yukteswar reminds his students that ” … man cannot glorify an Abstraction that he does not know [and] … the only honour that man can pay his Creator is to seek Him” (1987, p. 335). By seeking God, the devote is lifted from the conditioned weight of materialism. It seems that Kriya Yoga is a Faith-in-action that opens students to new heights of experience, insight, and knowing. I suspect that the practice of Kriya involves a paradigm shift in focus, along with a complete reorientation of cellular-energy in the body and nervous system. 

Connecting with Shadow as Embodied Practice

Paramahansa claims that merely “sitting in silence” is not effective because the contemplative mind is constantly dragged back toward the five senses; whereas Kriya controls the mind directly through the life force to the Infinite (1987, p. 282). Disconnecting from the senses, he explains, allows the Yogi to be free from past actions, and better able to receive directions from the soul (1987, p. 283). This point is pivotal for western readership and central to this paper. The dynamic between the conditioned senses (of the past) and receiving directions from the soul employing these same (now awakened) senses fascinates me. Same body, worlds apart. How can this be? As Caroline Myss reminds us in her recent presentation for the Ubiquity Chartres Academy Community Webinar:

Our concept of space is that our physical space measures substance, but we are in the age of energy. This higher consciousness is the age of grace the mystics were given. In order to heal, you have to make that transition to Holism. We are only now exploring the power that Jesus (faith of a mustard seed) and Buddha spoke about. (paraphrased, Jan.13, 2019)

My doctoral research proposal and current group work emerged out of ten years of studying and facilitating Silence Practice groups and cultivating inner-stillness in everyday life. I began to have a visceral understanding of two basic systems of consciousness within us: the time-bound human condition and the timeless potential of the soul. I refer to these two different energies within the nervous system as an Inner Constellation Mobile (see Appendix). In contrast to Paramahansa’s encouragement to disconnect from the senses, my commitment is to connect more consciously with conditioned senses (of the past) in order to integrate them. 

It may be that my western psychological upbringing dictates my rather strong orientation to connecting-with, rather than disconnecting-from. Autobiography of a Yogi was written in 1950 and was an early attempt to “spiritually awaken” the sleeping West. Almost 70 years later, disconnecting from the senses as Paramahansa recommends feels Vedantic (i.e., the world is an illusion) and easily serves as a practice of spiritual by-passing. It seems an encouragement to abandon a sinking ship that has no idea how to overcome its situation. To use Ken Wilber’s terminology, we would be waking up without doing the work of growing up or showing up (2001, pp. 261-264).

As an energy-healer, the emergence of shadow-patterns becomes an opportunity for integration and healing rather than something to escape. Abandoning the (already abandoned) trauma of shadow-patterns feels incomplete. It is my experience that the cultivation of inner-spaciousness in the body is foundational for shadow-integration. Hence, my commitment to facilitating the practice of inner-stillness since the 2011 completion of my research thesis “Surrendering to God: A Heart-Centred Practice.” 

My motivation for cultivating connection with shadow is three-fold: firstly, shadow is often rooted in childhood trauma when we had no choice to leave; secondly, the trauma is already a wound of abandonment or disconnection; and finally, avoiding connection with or ignoring unconscious shadow-patterns does not make them disappear, it just grows more shadow.

I have been fortunate to study with spiritual teachers who emphasize embodiment and thorough connection with shadow. Spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl specializes in meeting individual and collective trauma-patterns with spacious non-judgmental awareness. He has discovered, over almost two decades of group facilitation, that generational holocaust trauma persists in the German youth today. In the presence of an expanded awareness, trauma is met, not abandoned. Being present with what is was also a core teaching of bhakti (devotional) teacher Lee Lozowick (d. 2010). Based out of Prescott Arizona, I studied with Lozowick’s Western Baul tradition from 1997 to 2004.

Surrendering to the will of God as what is, as it is, here and now. The sensations, images, thoughts, identifications, experiences that are here and now. And questioning any fears and beliefs that prevent this surrender. Also, surrendering to the inner guidance, to the heart. And here too identify and inquire into fears and beliefs preventing following this guidance … recognizing that what’s here is love makes it easier (http://absentofi.org/tag/lee-lozowick/).

Whatever form it takes, the suffering of the human condition seems founded upon a collective (unconscious) agreement that we are separate from God and therefore from each other and from life itself. We are convinced that we are alone in our trauma-patterns, whether as a group or individually. Paramahansa refers to this as the “common life [that is] influenced by past actions” (1987, p. 283). This past-based “common life” is what most of us accept as reality. We will likely doubt ourselves even if we experience a taste of the miraculous. The “common life” cultural agreements preclude the realization of an embodied Faith in God. What good can come from further disconnecting from the world’s shadow in our spiritual practice?

The phenomenon of spiritual by-passing is prevalent in our culture. Many of us are inclined to make our spiritual practices about personal comfort rather than connection to God. Ironically, making our spiritual practice primarily about abandoning our physical/emotional/mental traumas only increases the underlying trauma of our God-separation. Unintegrated patterns make for a turbulent inner environment until we begin to experience the spaciousness of embodied Faith. 

Resistance as Personal Shadow

Whether we inherit trauma patterns from our lineage or through our childhood traumas, they feel real. They do not feel like an illusion. We experience them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We so wholly identify with these patterns that we may resist the blessings of the more abundant energy flowing in and through the temple of divine frequencies. 

I say this with confidence because I am such a person. I know of few people who have been graced with the number of mystical and near-death experiences as myself. These encounters have ranged from pleasant to powerful and, on one occasion, terrifying (as “I” was non-existent). I began my spiritual journey at the tender age of three, experiencing unitive states in the forests near our summer home, and they have continued intermittently throughout my life. When only one of these experiences has been directly terrifying, why do I still resist?

Simply put, I do not wish to surrender or give up control. I continue to engage in life predominantly from judgement and contraction rather than trust and flow. During meditation, doors of perception often open, but fierce habits of fear and resistance seem to prevent them from becoming a more stable influence in my daily life. I am unwilling to give up what Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault describes as a “fixed point of identity.” Happily, she also points us towards the discovery of a latent operating system within: 

We identify ourselves by what makes us unique and special. Of course, that same list also makes other people separate from me; they are outside, and I’m inside. I experience myself as a distinct and fixed point of identity that “has” particular qualities and life experiences, and these things make me who I am. But we come into this life with another untapped operating system, and we can learn to steer by it, understand through it, and ultimately discover our deepest sense of identity within it (The Wisdom Jesus, 2008, pp. 33-35).

The Nervous System: The Conditioned and The Free

The gospels of Jesus became my first teacher at the age of twelve. At that age, I felt such physical resonance when reading the gospels that I read the Bible every night on my own for almost three years. I have loved Scripture ever since, although church attendance has never held appeal. Years later, I found a similar resonance in the teachings of Lee Lozowick and Thomas Hübl.  All three spiritual teachers are from the West. Each employs their abundant inner-spaciousness as a means of engaging with the human condition: the abandoned, the wounded, the traumatized, the weak, the sick, and the spiritually lost (covering most of humanity).

I strongly feel that the ability to attune to the nervous system trauma-response is crucial for Western spiritual seekers attempting an embodied practice. Western culture has disembodied itself by increasingly understanding the world through dualistic thought processes. An embodied spiritual practice requires a grounded, responsive nervous system that can inform thinking through insightful connection; then the nervous system can serve as a spiritual resource through attuning to the temple of divine frequencies and by being present for the constriction or trauma. The most intoxicating chapter of the book for me is chapter forty-three where Sri Yukteswar (in his resurrected state) describes the vast astral cosmos. I could literally taste these fine vibrations in my nervous system as he described the astral cosmos; “more finely attuned than the earth to the Divine Will and plan of Perfection” (1987, p.479). 

Two different consciousnesses are also featured in Paramahansa’s rendition of the Bhagavad Gita (1999). Each consciousness is shown in a one-page map detailing their diametrically different effects on the nervous system (The Bhagavad Gita, 1999). He refers to one structure as the “Bodily Kingdom as Ruled by Rebel King Ego,” and the other as the “Bodily Kingdom as Ruled by King Soul” (1999, p. 17 & 20). Paramahansa and Bourgeault seem to differentiate between the same two basic structures available in human consciousness. In the preceding quote, Bourgeault references the dualistic operating system of our conditioning and the untapped operating that we can learn to live by. In Autobiography of a Yogi Paramahansa refers to the “ego prison” of the past, where “gross man seldom or never realizes that his body is a kingdom, governed by Emperor Soul on the throne of the cranium” (1987, p. 283). 

As an embodied spiritual aspirant, how do I free myself from the grip (or prison) of conditioned structures while living in a culture that largely operates from within their structures? How do I become more available to an intelligence that is already within me, but latent? Perhaps it is easier if we recognize that love is here with us as Lozowick suggests — not merely as an abstraction or concept, but as a sensory-recognition within the nervous system.

According to Paramahansa, both of these questions can be answered by learning and practicing Kriya Yoga. With all due respect, I know a few people who have undertaken the Kriya Yoga method and have not experienced progress in “being with” the conditioned past or “attuning” to the higher dimensions of “Emperor Soul.”  I suspect there is something more essential at play than simply learning a method. There are also too many saints who have never heard of, let alone practiced, Kriya Yoga.

Embodied Faith as Discrimination and Heart, Sword and Love

Autobiography of a Yogi relentlessly questions our western cultural conditioning and the egoic operating system. Our “ego prison” flourishes within a dualistic worldview. As Paramahansa states: “The entire phenomenal world is under the inexorable sway of polarity; no law of physics, chemistry, or any other science is ever found free from inherent opposite or contrasted principles” (1987, p. 310).

I believe that the action of Kriya is the action of embodied Faith. It is an embodied Faith that allows us to transition from King Ego to Emperor Soul; or from the fixed identity to the untapped operating system. The subtle inner-world of Faith lies within the sphere of deeper attunement than our conditioned landscape affords us. Too often we try to understand the higher frequencies of Scripture or mystical experience from the dualism of the already-known. How do we hear and see the movements of Emperor Soul or discover the latent operating system within us? What inner-orientation shifts as we come to know God and ourselves through the action of embodied Faith?

Discrimination: Learning to See and Hear

A phrase well-used in modern spiritual circles is “where we place our attention is where we grow.” For many of us, to realize that we have a choice on where to place our attention is a huge shift in consciousness. I suspect it is the biggest hurdle to overcome as we “become aware of when we are serving Emperor Soul or succumbing to King Ego” (1999, p.19). When we recognize that we have a choice, we literally see and experience a wider/deeper reality. We perceive a less conditional field of possibility and something opens up that wasn’t there before.

Paramahansa employs the word ‘discrimination,’ in all his books, perhaps to allow us to see more clearly the difference between awareness and conditioned habits of the past.  Discrimination is a third-eye capacity enabling us to distinguish Higher Truth from habit. This is the “seeing capacity” of the “untapped” operating system within us. I believe this is what Jesus referred to when he said that our hearing and seeing must come from a different place within. I feel that the Kingdom of Heaven is none other than our largely-untapped operating system of Emperor Soul within.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand (Mt.13:10-13).

Similar to an outer journey, an embodied spiritual journey begins from where we are. While we must be in touch with conditioned habits, we also need to see and hear beyond the known of conditioned dualism. If I am unable to discriminate between the conditioned inner-impulses of “King Ego” and the deeper inner-guidance of “Emperor Soul,” my spiritual journey will not progress.

The Yearning Heart: An Inner Compass

The Yearning Heart is a powerful Faith-instrument that can call or transmit signals to the divine. The Yearning Heart became the most influential of the five themes of my 2010 Theology Master’s Thesis “Surrendering to Silence: A Heart-Centred Practice.” Paramahansa compares the heart to a radio, and the third eye to an antennae (1987, p. 299). He explains the dynamics of a finely-tuned nervous system as one that gives and receives telepathic messages. For example, Paramahansa explains that he “broadcasted [his] love to the soul of his student Kashi through the microphone of the spiritual eye” (p. 299). He was also certain that he would know when Kashi answered his call because he would feel it “in the nerves of [his] fingers, arms, and spine” (p. 299).

Babaji’s responsiveness to the yearning heart of a few Americans and Europeans lies at the root of Paramahansa coming to America: On his first meeting with Sri Yukteswar, Babaji (in the body-form of Lahiri Mahasaya) explains that he will send Sri Yukteswar a student who will travel to America because: “The vibrations there of many spiritually seeking souls come flood like to me. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened” (p. 390). His perception turned out to be true as Paramahansa had several close students ready and eager for his Kriya Yoga teachings. It has been my experience that my Yearning Heart is responsible for many varied mystical experiences throughout my life, as well as teachers that have come into my life at the right time.

Personal Faith Experiences

At eight years old, I had my first near-death experience. After falling onto my head on a cement floor, I suffered a severe concussion and fell into a coma. According to doctors, hope for recovery was slim, as the equipment necessary to drain the swelling of my brain was in Vancouver. In Kamloops they could only offer twenty-four -hour watch in critical care.

When consciousness finally returned after a week, I stared in disoriented surprise at the nurse beside my bed and she, also surprised, stared back at me. Her surprise was a response to my regaining consciousness. My surprise was because she had two eyes rather than one and I had no clue where I was! Wherever I had been, everyone had only one eye in the centre of their forehead. For years I maintained that I had been “on a different planet” for that comatose week. I had no context for my belief at that time, but when I read chapter forty-three of Autobiography of a Yogi for the second time twenty years ago, my whole body responded with relief and joy as though reminded of a precious home I had forgotten.

I have had a propensity for mystical experiences throughout my life. Having no guidance in these matters, I was at a loss on how to express them without sounding crazy. Like many, I grew up in a conventional world where divine possibility was an inconvenience at best and a sign of psychosis at worst. In fact, my father was adamant that if I spoke about my experiences, he wanted nothing to do with me. With time, I began to develop an inner-resistance to the mystical leanings within me. I learned that I had to choose between the call of the mystical and belonging to my family and culture. By the age of ten, I saw myself as “an alien” going through the motions of “being normal.”

Autobiography of a Yogi assures me that I already belong as a spiritual being abiding in God. The profound spiritual weight of this sacred book revolves around God’s play. In the Hindu tradition, God’s play in our life is referred to as a Lila. As I read this book for the third time, my physical-body relaxes as my subtle-body glows in resonance at the sacred truth behind the miraculous stories. Given half a chance, these subtle resonances become accessible. Facilitating Silence Practice groups over the last decade, I have become aware that the shared experience of listening to these higher truths opens a collective field that can feel like a new world that has opened within and between us.

Ananda Moyi Ma refers to the “sheer logic of Faith” and claims that “it is man’s duty to become a seeker after God or Truth” (p. 525). I believe that Ananda Moyi Ma’s “sheer logic of Faith” is experienced in our nervous system. We are the perfect vehicles for Faith-logic embodiment. “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 38:8).

On several occasions in my life I have “tasted” the “logic of Faith” as a significantly different consciousness coursing through my nervous system. These experiences have come unbidden, some more subtle than others. The strongest of these occurred in 2001 while my husband and I were doing our (then) regular evening meditation. It began with the sensation and inner-observation that my heart was beginning to expand and open like a camera lens. For several years in my mid-twenties, I taught energy-meditation techniques that included observing from the neutrality of the “centre of the head” (the pineal gland) and grounding from the root chakra. Initially, I just observed this unusual occurrence as it unfolded within me, but gradually I came to be immersed in a full-blown multi-sensory experience of the Universal Heart. The visual heart-sensation was one of being in an endless galaxy consisting of moons and planets in a sapphire-blue sky; the cells of the body seemed to be floating in the spaciousness of this sky; the feeling-sensation was one of boundless beauty (a mixture of exquisite tenderness & love); the olfactory sense was a perfume of jasmine. (I am actually not sure of the smell, but if heaven has a smell this was it!) All of these wondrously mysterious sensations seemed to emanate from an endless source of energy in my heart chakra. I recall feeling that this experience had something to do with Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s picture on the bureau to my right.

The next morning, I learned that my experience coincided with Yogi Ramsuratkumar, the “hidden saint” of Tiruvannamalai, exiting his body. Yogi Ramsuratkumar had frequently said that his sincere students would know when he died because his energy would become more available. Seventeen years later I can still feel the heart-vibrations of this astounding divine blessing and gift. A small taste goes a long way. At this time, I also became aware that the “turbaned man” appearing in two powerful dreams in 1977 was Yogi Ramsuratkumar. 

This experience may be what Sri Yuketswar describes as “Superconscious perceptions of truth [that] are permanently real and changeless, while fleeting sense experiences and impressions are never more than temporarily or relatively true, and soon lose in memory all their vividness” (1987, p.483). I am suggesting that this is Bourgeault’s “untapped operating system” and the world of the mystic whose entire life becomes a willing consent to God. What is freely given with this operating system is a taste of power, grounding, and energetic-circuitry palpable in the nervous system.  The body begins to resonate at a distinctly higher and more coherent frequency.

Yogi Ramsuratkumar was a man of impeccable Faith. For him, there was “only God” and he lived this truth, never considering himself a teacher (because “he” did not exist, only God did). Following his spiritual death in 1952 (aided by his third and final Guru, Swami Ramdas), Yogi Ramsuratkumar only referred to himself in the third person as “this beggar.” I never met the “hidden saint” in person, but in 1999 and again in 2001, I watched a video of him bestowing blessings on his devotees. The difference in the way I perceived his movements during each viewing addresses the significant energy shift that I believe resulted from the February 2001 heart-opening experience I had at his physical death.

Trained in psychiatry as I was, the 1999 viewing had me concluding that Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s rather jerky body movements were similar to the dyskinesia seen in patients taking too much Psychotropic medication. I did not even notice the movement of his hand giving blessings. When I watched this same footage again in May 2001, I could feel hundreds of darts-of-light landing in my heart as he flung his hand in the direction of the camera saying, “my Father Blesses you.” I did not even notice his jerky body movements, only the uncompromising force of his blessing as these light-darts landed in my heart. 

Like many spiritually oriented people raised in a materialistic culture, there has been an extreme lack of education on subtle nature of the astral and causal worlds described so beautifully by Sri Yukteswar in chapter forty-three. Materialism imprints heavily on my western mind and heart, even when I have been blessed with occasional tastes of these astral worlds.

The refined teaching in Yogananda’s book cannot seed itself within the dualistic operating system of materialism. Chapter forty-three places my four near-death experiences and several mystical experiences within a higher-ordered context where I know beyond doubt that I belong because I Am. It is a physical, emotional, and mental relief to place these experiences within a higher-order mystical intelligence. Reading this chapter feels like an ecstatic home-coming where the world-as-I-know-it disappears, and another comes into focus.

My heart literally leapt in rejoicing when I read Paramahansa’s descriptions of an operating system that serves spirit alone — as absolute authority. I feel like the swan in “The Ugly Duckling” tale who realizes that her attempts to become a duck were fruitless and unnecessary. I have been trying to conform to the dualistic operating system and forgetting to listen more regularly to this subtle, beautiful higher intelligence of the untapped operating system within.

Sri Yukteswar’s teachings on the awareness of the three energy bodies in chapter forty-three are unparalleled (1987, p. 493). While reading the book this time, the truth of his astral teaching activated my nervous system. I felt more alive and breathlessly still–my whole body galvanized with listening. The description of the physical, astral, and causal energy-bodies rang true as a visceral knowing. It seemed that time stopped as the higher intelligences moved like an uplifting inner-breeze bringing relaxed alertness in the body, a feeling of peace and understanding, and mental acuity.

Paramahansa himself describes his response to Sri Yukteswar’s intimate descriptions of the three energy bodies this way: “never from song or story had I ever received such inspiring knowledge…though the Hindu scriptures refer to the causal and astral worlds and to man’s three bodies” (1987, pp. 492-493). Paramahansa goes on to exclaim that it is his master’s authenticity that makes this teaching about the three energy bodies come alive (p. 493). The relationship between teacher and student has a profound influence on our spiritual progression. The relationship between Paramahansa and Sri Yukteswar is one of trust founded upon a deep love; the best transmission source for higher learning because the heart is open and available.

Equally important and related is spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl’s reference to the importance of healing within relationship. Thomas says that because trauma occurs within relationship, it is also where we heal most effectively. This is good to remember if we are attempting an embodied spiritual practice. Grounding our practice in the healing of relationship also prevents our spiritual aspirations from becoming a way of by-passing the shadow patterns often revealed in relationships. It also supports the regular Triads and Dyads I have implemented in my Inner Constellations work. (To see more about Inner Constellation group practice, please go to lauramadsen.ca)

A willing mind and heart light our way home to the Soul’s beauty in God. The foundational principles of our inner God-journey are the signposts and practices hidden behind the miraculous nature of these stories. Babaji proclaimed to Lahiri Mayasaya that the truth is for earnest seekers and not for idle curiosity where soul-searching is not required (1987, p. 368). There is a way that we must learn to relate to these teachings, and it involves more than respect from us. I sense that it entails an unwavering understanding that these Teachings are the only Life we have and our true place of Belonging. When we understand the Teachings, we can then honour them with our faithful allegiance. Eventually the conditioned habit-of-who-I-am relaxes enough to experience the subtler dimensions within our own body, heart, and mind. Lee Lozowick describes our relationship to the miraculous this way:

To ultimately “make it” in this Work of Awakening, of Transformation, you have to embrace the miraculous — always. And that miracle is you being so much at peace with yourself that you can turn your energy towards welcoming and using the opportunities that are always falling into your lap. To embrace and devour these opportunities will make you free, happy, full of life, full of passion (http://arunachalagrace.blogspot.com/2011/03/lee-lozowick-tribute.html).

Where to From Here?

In his first meeting with Babaji (disguised to resemble Lahiri Mahasaya), Sri Yukteswar describes how Babaji claimed that “East and West must establish a golden middle path of activity and spirituality combined” (1987, p. 389). Hübl refers to this as the “mystic in the marketplace.” Culture is vital as a spiritual container if we are to ground our spirituality in and through the body and live in the marketplace. As an example of the influence of culture, I traveled for five weeks in India with the Western Bauls in 2004. As we traveled from Tiruvannamalai in the south to Calcutta and a small village in Bengal, I experienced a graceful energy flow in my body, along with a calm mind and emotions. Everywhere I went I experienced a sort of “unifying hum” in my body. (Unfortunately, with re-entry into my own culture the same tensions and feeling of disconnect returned within a week.)

The culture we create together matters. Slowly, groups are gathering together to practice accessing and embodying higher frequencies, not as an abstraction outside ourselves but as a lived experience — tapping the untapped operating system within our nervous system and heart. In the West, I believe that it is not so much “a method” as a profound, singular will that allows us to both transcend and include our dualistic conditioning.  As Garrison said, it is not about knowledge, so much as capacity (Great Books presentation, Oct.09, 2018). Faith is a capacity we are capable of developing given the right environment and direction.

I see Faith-capacity growing in the number of ways that healing is available in the West. What healing is and how we are guided to new forms of healing is an act of Faith: a calling out, a listening, and an emergence of a new way to integrate higher frequencies. I can thoroughly relate to Caroline Myss saying, “I am nothing I trained to be, and I am something I have never heard of” (Ubiquity Chartres Academy Community Webinar, Jan. 13, 2019). I feel that we are in the middle of a transition or birth process– complete with contractions! We are being guided from the restricted perspectives of dualistic operating systems to an expanded operating system. For those of us in the West, it is not just “wrong thinking” as the Buddhists say, but an “outdated operating system.” Hübl has a delightful expression about our propensity to behave as though we are separate lap-tops when in fact, we belong to One Big Super-Computer (spoken on several of his on-line classes).

Of personal interest to me is Paramahansa’s statement that “India has long recognized the human voice as the most perfect instrument of sound” (p.184). I am a singer. On more than one occasion I have been told that my singing voice is “very calming,” or “makes me believe that there is good in the world,” or “feels like a prayer.” I have never been interested in using my voice to entertain per se, although I have willingly sung at friends and family weddings and funerals. As a newly awakening gift, I am delighted to discover a rather surprising ability to connect with energy using my voice. Varying the sequence of the notes, tones, and vowels–including intermittent silent periods–can make powerful shifts in the nervous system and consciousness of an individual or group. I am thrilled therefore to include sound healing in my doctorate proposal “Discovering and Integrating the Soul’s Nervous System through Inner Constellations and Sound.” Of particular interest is Paramahansa writing that “Hindu music is a subjective, spiritual, and individualistic art, aiming not at symphonic brilliance but at personal harmony with the Over-Soul. The Sanskrit word for ‘musician’ is bhagavathar, ‘he who sings the praises of God’” (1987, p.184).

It is clear to me that there is a parallel universe running through our thick shadow-world consensus– one where synchronicity with God is the rule rather than the exception. From this perspective, there are no miracles as we would perceive them, only the Grace of God’s creativity within and through us. The movement of God in our lives is a magnetism and a felt experience in the nervous system—closer than our breath (Keating). It is a temple of divine frequencies that is capable of flowing through my body, emotions, and mind because none of these are separate from God. As Garrison said in his presentation, the mysteries of the cosmos begin to imbue the ordinary (The Great Books, Sept.11/18).

What makes this book astounding is the Faith of Paramahansa Yogananda and his lineage. They are a living expression of the uncompromising reality of divine order; a world or operating system that remains untapped for most of us, despite having been blessed with openings into this hallowed reality. Transitioning to our latent operating system, new possibilities emerge because we see and hear differently. We taste the miraculous through an embodied Faith where God manifests as the highest expression of our will. Arguably the greatest Western teacher of embodied Faith puts it this way: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matt. 6:33).

Perhaps this gospel quote is as good as the “how to” instructions get for West meeting East, creating Babaji’s “golden middle path of activity and spirituality combined.” The question of how to receive and transmit this reality in a way that makes it visible in our secular culture has intrigued, beguiled–and at times–tortured me, all of my life.  As I see it, our individual and collective lack of embodied Faith is the only barrier between ourselves and the miraculous God-world we inhabit. With the third reading of Autobiography of a Yogi, I experienced this book’s transmission more profoundly and more frequently. Several times while reading, I felt a responsive resonance that vibrated with the “hidden” Truth beneath the miraculous: that we dwell now and forever in the timeless dimensions where the miraculous dances effortlessly in this world and worlds beyond.

References

Bourgeault, C. (2008). The wisdom Jesus: Transforming heart and mind— A new perspective on christ and his message. Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

The holy bible (RSV, revised 1952). Matt. 6:33, 17:20-21.

Hübl, Thomas, On-line course content (2017-2018).

Lozowick, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://absentofi.org/tag/lee-lozowick/

Lozowick, L. (2011) arunachala grace, a tribute [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://arunachalagrace.blogspot.com/2011/03/lee-lozowick-tribute.html

Ubiquity Chartres Academy Community Webinar, Caroline Myss presentation, Jan. 13, 2019.

Ubiquity Wisdom School, Great books course, Jim Garrison presentation, Oct. 09, 2018.

Yogananda, P. (1987). Autobiography of a yogi: A classic introduction to the science of yoga. (revised ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship.

Yogananda, P. (1999). God talks to Arjuna, the bhagavad gita. (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship.

Wilber, K. (2001). The eye of spirit: An integral vision for a world gone slightly mad. (3rd ed.). Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

 

The Timeless Beauty of the Mystic Heart:

A Fiery Refuge in Times of Spiritual Anemia 

Abstract

Exploring the timeless beauty of the mystic heart is the most heavenly challenge of a lifetime. As embodied spiritual beings we live within her eternal beauty, although she remains as little known now as she was in Kabir (15th C.) and Jesus’ time. The challenging beauty of the mystical path is precisely this: there is no true understanding without being transfigured by that which we are seeking to understand. The identified seeker slowly fades from their own perception as their relationship with the mystery burns ever deeper. There are no half-measures, compromises, or “having it our way” for a mystic. Kabir says “I’m nobody. So are you. What ecstasy! Join me” (2018, p. 178); and Jesus says, “… unless you come as little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Through Kabir and Jesus we find a sacred transmission in their uncorrupted expressions of the mystic heart. Uncorrupted because, in each of them, we find profound inner-capacities for timeless listening and a skillful wielding of truth’s sword. I have chosen Jesus over other possible mystics because his direct unsparing style is similar to Kabir’s, and because he is the most influential mystic of all time. 

Traditional monotheistic religions refer to this supreme intelligence as God. While naming is a valuable aspect of our human development, the naming of our divine inner-intelligence has been costly. With the exception of a few devoted mystics throughout history, “divine naming” has empowered the “naming-institution” rather than the essence of what is named and the furthering of our sacred relationship with it. Without the lived intensity of a fiery mystical state, we are rather easily misled by various forms of fingers-pointing-to-the-moon, rather than the moon itself. Lost in the fire of mystical union, both Kabir and Jesus effortlessly discern the moon from the fingers and— when not praising God— they are calling out the piously religious for their spiritual delusions.

Our historic tendency to “conceptually-identify” rather than “engage-with” continues to contribute to profound levels of spiritual anemia and confusion in the west. Somewhere beyond secular materialism and religious institutionalism lies the unexplored territory of the mystic heart that sees through the naked beauty of “only God”—not as a thing, or a qualifying name, but as a profoundly intimate relationship that is more alive within us than the beating of our physical heart. Attuning to God is the mystic’s first priority: through their fierce commitment they become a timeless refuge in a troubled world.

The Timeless Beauty of the Mystic Heart: A Fiery Refuge in Times of Spiritual Anemia

In the following essay, I also wish to explore the unique language of mystical expression. Deeper than the expression itself however, I wish to honour the mystic’s steadfast willingness to listen beyond time—to be devoutly receptive to the mystery of belonging to God alone. The expression of the mystic is encoded, not as in trying to keep anything secret, but because it takes a similar resonance or wave-length to receive the timeless subtlety of the mystic’s expression. As Jesus said, “blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matt. 13:16). There is a transmission-transaction between the inner-coding of the one reading or hearing mystic expression and the place the mystic is attuning to while expressing. This is true in the case of reading scripture and mystic poems/songs where, in the receiving, the “listener” is transported to the place where the expression was conceived. In both the mystical expression and in the receiving of that expression, one enters a timeless dimension and is transported, transfigured, and/or—if lucky—transformed permanently.

I also wish to explore the receptivity-factor for “hearing/seeing” divine expression. As one with a strong propensity for the language of the mystic I can attest to the strong transmission inherent in a mystic’s expression. To that end, I have included mystical reflections from Andrew Harvey’s Great Books lectures (Ubiquity University) on his recent book Turn Me to Gold (2018), the penetrating nature of Kabir’s songs, the gospel-gold of Jesus parables, and my own mystical insights that have graced my awareness more in the past fifteen years than at any time in my life. (http://lauramadsen.ca/practice-insights/). I have also included two of ten Devotional songs I wrote in 2010 while deeply immersed in exploring the mystical practice of relating to Silence and inner-stillness.

As mentioned, the inner-upwelling of the mystic heart takes place through their ability to attune and listen. They are consumed by a piercing reality that can be expressed in unique flavours and styles. For example, there are many Indian mystics who, other than the blessing of a palpable transmission, offer little in the way of obvious expression; while scientific invention could conceivably qualify as an aspect of mystical expression also. For example, Albert Einstein and Elon Musk may be able to envision well ahead of their current paradigm because they are influenced by the timelessness creative abundance of the mystical realm. My point is merely to suggest that, whether consciously listening or not, we are eternally saturated in the timeless God-mystery we share. Thomas Merton, mystic and “king of silence practice” in the 20th C. Christian tradition, writes:

It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us? Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from, when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences, only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace? (The Seven Story Mountain, retrieved from http://goodreads.com)

Kabir also addresses this phenomenon of our lack of God-awareness in the punchy wit he is known and loved for: “The fish in the water that is thirsty needs serious professional counselling” (Daniel Ladinsky, 2002, p. 211). In an attempt to remind us that we are indeed fish-in-God’s-water, both Kabir and Jesus teach about right relationship with a higher order of intelligence. In his song writing, Kabir refers to this intelligence as Beloved, Lord of Truth, King, Father, Magician, Master, among others. Jesus often stays with Father and the Kingdom of God or Heaven, and is highly creative in relating everyday life allegory (parables) to enlighten his followers about their relationship to God. 

In both mystics we hear an expression of abundance that compels and electrifies them. Any personal loss they have suffered is subsumed in the generous beauty of the mystic heart’s surrender to God. During these moments, we hear Kabir and Jesus admonishing us to release our precious identification to religious dogma and secular materialism. Kabir sings of the timeless paradox of finding refuge and bliss only in the naked vulnerability of our relationship to God: 

Everyone is wound in illusion’s web—

The so-called holy as much as the worldly

And those who run for safety

Under the comforting dais

Of form and ritual and dogma—

Well, life’s hurricane lashes them.

Stay out in the open: 

You’ll be left safe and dry.

The ones Love never savages

Live in boredom and pain;

Those Love devours like a cannibal

Live in bliss forever.

The ones who lose their own eyes

Come to see the whole Creation

Blazing in their own Light;

Those who hold on to their sight

Remain blind as bats in full noon.

When I began to awaken to the Truth

I saw how bizarre and crazy the world really is! (2018, p. 58)

Fifteen hundred years earlier, Jesus expressed the same mystic principle or divine law: 

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

We do not encounter God in tidy ways that suit us. God’s way is not “convenient to us,” and can be challenging to discern amidst the noise of the world. The Mystic in the world reminds us that our deepest treasure is finding the sacred in everyday life through the timeless beauty of the mystic heart.

The Timeless Landscape of the Mystic

A mystic is an embodied spiritual being. They live in the world, but their treasured home is elsewhere. The timeless dimension where they live and work from, lies well beyond their separate identity. The mystic has surrendered their personal life story, with its time-bound conditioning, for something incomparably different. At some point, the mystic is loosened from the grip of maya or karma and tastes the liberating waters of their soul’s timeless flow in God. Getting there however, becomes a fiery alchemy as the timeless landscape of the mystic births itself into embodiment in the world around them. Who among us are willing to endure that level of alchemical heat? As Jesus says, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).

In September 2017 my spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl gave a six month on-line course called “Walking Forever.” This was the fourth in a series of courses called Mystical Principles where he taught principles of mystical embodiment. Hübl describes his basic teaching platform as the art of being “a mystic in the marketplace.” Also emphasizing an embodied mystical path, Jesus expresses a similar teaching as “We are to be in the world but not of the world. … its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (John 2:15-17). In both teachers we hear two primary mystical principles: one encourages us to take our mystical spirituality into the world rather than “hide-out” in a cave, mountain top, or behind the false safety of conditioned comforts (religious beliefs and/or possessions); and the other, is that we—as mystics—are walking forever through the grace of living in alignment with God-truth. Ladinsky states that “the glorious role of the mystical poets is to help us accept God more as He Is—and ever less than our prejudices and fears want Him to be” (2002, p. 211).

Whichever way we look at it, becoming a mystic is a radical process operating as it does outside of secular and religious reference points. For this reason, the mystic has not walked smoothly in the marketplace, being misunderstood and feared as they have been. Many mystics have been killed or otherwise threatened in their “coming out” or in sharing their elevated “walking forever” consciousness. Jim Garrison referenced Plato’s Cave Allegory in a recent Great Books lecture to highlight the threat awakened individuals impose on the status quo. As an awakened individual, the mystic’s message reduces the shadows on the back of the cave as ephemeral apparitions: “for this, Plato said, they will hang a good man on a tree” (Great Books lecture, May 14, 2019).

Being in touch with the timeless dimensions within us allows the mystic to act freely and independently of cultural influences. Their steadfast commitment to belonging first to God rather than to culture and family is their strength and their greatest gift to culture—however rarely it may be recognized. When perceived through the (spiritually) blinding lens of cultural conditioning, a mystic is unrecognizable even when they are standing right in front of us. 

The timeless inner-landscape of the mystic stands apart from culture’s codes of communication and behaviour. A mystic communicates to serve God and not the shibboleth. The flavour of a mystic’s expression varies depending upon the focus of their awareness: they rejoice, pray, yearn, painfully burn, resist, stumble, discern, ridicule, and remain devoted to God first throughout all of it. 

Listening to be Found

In a culture drenched in materialism and spiritual amnesia, the “ears to hear, or eyes to see” are a rare phenomenon indeed. The mystical experience is a unique invitation. It is unlike any other because it is an initiatory invitation. As Harvey reminds us, “known at the depths of human history Kabir mutated, he became, he went through the dimension that the whole human race is being called to” (Great Books lecture, April 9, 2019). 

If sincerely engaged with, this fiery relationship pierces and expands the mystical heart lying dormant within us. In the heat of those flames, we become more of who we are in God and less of who our conditioning tells us we are. Our inner landscape is forged into an altered reality where we experience a feeling of “being known” in a more expanded or complete version of ourselves. It is as though simplicity and clarity increase exponentially as the deluded grandeur of “being the knower” recedes. Bruno Barnhart’s pithy observation addresses the rare quality of the mystic’s unguarded simplicity when he says that “most people prefer a manageable complexity to an unmanageable simplicity” (Barnhart, Camaldolese Monk, CA). Kabir’s advice to the seeker is similar: 

Seeker, the simple union’s the best. Since the day when I met Him there has been no end to the joy of our love. I don’t shut my eyes. I don’t close my ears, I don’t mortify my body; I see with open eyes and smile and see His beauty everywhere (Harvey, 2018, p. 188).

Few spiritual seekers are able to live with the burning tension of not-knowing that deep listening requires. It is far safer for us to engage in spiritual seeking than spiritual finding because we are in control when we are “doing the doing” of seeking. Whereas the spiritual “finder” discovers increasing levels of their own nakedness and vulnerability as they rest in the palpable reality of “being found.” Sounding like a fiery gospel commandment and Kabir himself, Harvey encourages us: 

Don’t just go on looking — dare to find! How? Offer your whole heart to the mystery, your longing to the mystery. Go Near Now to His Heart. Longing and Knowing is how you go near. God will teach you directly — it is the relationship itself with God that gives us exactly what we need (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019).

The mystic knows that even the finding is not something they can credit themselves with because they have experienced the undeniable reality of “being found.” Thomas Keating described this highly personal divine-interchange as “divine therapy.” That which was seeking no longer exists because that impulse now rests in the merciful grace of being found. “There is no denial — the whole body, mind, heart is the transcendent offering; it is all from the source” as Harvey says (Great Books lecture, April 9, 2019) quoting Kabir: “Ram has come to live with me … How blessed I am” (2018, 172). As all hints of our previous “desire to find” dissolve, an overwhelming sense of abundant celebration emerges: “Sing out the wedding song! I’ve come home with Lord Ram … The beloved of my heart” (2018, 172). 

The following quote is a description of a personal mystical experience of “being found”:

I was alone in my Vancouver kitchen on a rare sunny mid-November morning in 2012. While enjoying the everydayness of a cup of tea with family dog Rosie by my side, something substantial landed within my awareness. At this point in my life I had been facilitating Silence Practice groups for a couple of years following the completion of a 2010 Master’s Research thesis entitled “Surrendering to Silence: A Heart Centred Practice.” What I did not realize at the time, was the depth of commitment and consequent awakening this regular practice would initiate within me.

I had experienced many major and minor shifts in consciousness before, but this one had a solidity to it — like I had crossed a threshold of some kind. It seemed as though previous mystery-glimpses had now rolled into a solid view. I also experienced a deep knowing that my life did not “belong” to me; that my True Life, my Real Life, my most Alive Life belonged entirely to the experience presently flowing through my awareness.

The more I surrendered to It, the more I became It: how delightfully circular and joyously playful. At the same time that we were “one,” we were also two. At this point my “thinking” mind had receded and all of this felt abundantly natural. There was no questioning or second-guessing. I was not separate from what I was experiencing, and yet “I” was enjoying it.

My heart beat faster. Rushes of vital energy flowed up and down my body and out of my arms. My body was light and alive, and yet solid. The lightness seemed to come from a diminished resistance in my body: I had no personal agenda in this moment, so it seemed as though I could just be there in a sort of suspended and “held” way. Rosie, the cup of tea, and I were held in the same timeless moment. My heart raced again in response to this beautiful congruency, accompanied by a strong pulling sensation in my chest. My eyes brimmed with grateful tears as I recognized how deeply I am held in this Beauty.

I also knew, with strikingly calm clarity, that I was not the identified-self I had strived to maintain for most of my life. From the perspective of this spacious awareness, the “identified-self” was thin, frightened, meagre, and ghost-like. With sadness, I could also see that this “ghost-like” self had kept me occupied for much of my adult life. Although I have been intellectually aware that I was not that, I seemed to be caught in an endless battle with it: and the more I struggled, the more entangled I became.

Abruptly this beautiful harmonious awareness was broken by a sharp familiar voice within me, “You’re making all of this up”! I recognized this voice as the all-too-familiar voice of fear. I felt a slight heaviness enter my chest. My breathing became shallower and more contracted. I became aware that the middle of my back was hurting. I was also shocked to see that 3 hours had passed in a space of time that I thought was about 20 minutes. I had had an encounter with timelessness in my own kitchen, with my dog Rosie by my side!

“You have a Choice.” I was brought back to the threshold of this expansive encounter by a calm inner voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere in particular. I noticed how much vitality disappears as entangled habits of fear and resistance re-surfaced in my awareness. They seem so very real, and yet they cost so much. If I do have a choice, it is clear that there is only one sane choice. It becomes, as the Buddhist’s say: the choice-less choice (http://lauramadsen.ca/about/).

Kabir hints at a circular movement similar to what I experienced. What he expresses as “united with Ram, round and round, how blessed I am” (2018, 172), I express as “circular and joyously playful.” It would seem that the mystic’s listening becomes a delightful dance between our non-dual nature in God and the duality of being the listener that is “found.”

Being Alone: Forsaking the Entanglement of Habit

Whether we are aware of it or not, the timeless reality of the mystic is where we belong. It is our authentic home. How could there be such overwhelming peace and joy within the mystical encounter if it were not our home? When we are in relationship with the sacred, we open to the depth and breadth of who we are. A mystical experience marks us for life because it is so far removed from the context of cultural and personal habits of conditioned awareness. Once our timeless God-encoding has been activated within us, returning to “life as usual” is not only impossible, but undesirable. 

Watering the tender seeds of this awakening takes intention and courage. It can also be helpful to practice with like-hearted/minded souls as Jesus reminds us: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). With sincere practice, we experience being “known” from within a deeper inner-truth that allows us to feel “cared for or guided” in our naked aloneness: no longer dependant on our inner-defences, we feel full and abundant. Meeting life with transparent authenticity allows entangled habits to fall away naturally.

When asked about his relationship with Kabir and his five-year immersion in writing Turn Me to Gold, Harvey said that his life was changing, he wanted to live in the wild, and he wished for a profound solitude. He also said that it was the right time to meet Kabir without fantasy, and that he was also called to write his own poems. (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019). Our struggle to know God in this direct way is only initiated by a deep inner-calling. As mentioned, this is not the God of our concepts, but a guiding voice within. We are “called to”: create art, write a book, a song, a PhD dissertation, teach, dance, retreat, or to invent something we didn’t even know existed. The listening of the mystic creates “new worlds” of coherent beauty in the marketplace and in the minds and hearts of the people. 

The depth of mystical-listening that is required at this level of creativity cannot happen without experiencing the nakedness of “being alone before God.” If we do not land regularly in the beauty and grace of this sacred aloneness (through states of prayer, creativity, communion, meditation etc.), we too easily loose ourselves to habits of cultural and familial entanglement. Our intention and courage create the inner-heat that eventually burns through conditioned entanglement. Jesus expressed this determined intention as “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matt. 7:7). 

The sacred struggle inherent in the mystical impulse provides the alchemy for the incomprehensible transformation from human to human-divine availability. All that is left is gold. As in Jacob’s struggle with God’s angel, we come out of it wounded, but more whole— like Jacob becoming Israel. Our obstacles, our falling down, our rising up, our hope and our despair become the way forward — no longer something to be avoided or bypassed. The following is a theology paper excerpt about the 20th century American saint Dorothy Day: 

I have come to know that the spiritual path requires an acceptance of our aloneness before God. I resonate deeply with Dorothy Day’s book title, The Long Loneliness. The raw truth and magnitude of spirit demands attention and effort. Inevitably, “being known” by spirit competes with alternate realities imbedded within my family, culture, and personality habits. This naturally creates the innate resistance that mystical orientation has towards the status quo — Dorothy Day’s main argument.

Ultimately we are asked to decide “Who am I”? My most acute bouts of confusion and pain have come when I am unable or unwilling to experience my spiritual identity through the transparency of my aloneness. The reality of spirit is like a parallel universe that comes to life when we put our attention on it — immediately or eventually. I believe it to be a mutual calling to Divine relationship (2010 VST paper).

We come to realize that an easy spirituality of “how we would like it to be” is an anemic spirituality. It is better that we do not delude ourselves with it. As Ladinsky points out, a spirituality that “want[s] God on our terms not His … will probably always keep us separate from the One we say we love and the one we need to unite with; what an irony” (2002, p. 211). For the mystic, being “taken down” becomes a blessing, losing becomes winning, and the dissolution of “our way,” becomes our liberation. As Hübl says many times “the obstacle is not in your way, it is your way (notes from Timeless Wisdom Training US2). 

The Mystic’s Fire: Refuge in a Mad World

How does one take mystical experience into a world that spins on an entirely different axis of consciousness? How do we take this into the mainstream as Harvey asks, emphatically encouraging us not to “Oprah-fy” this by spouting off about something we haven’t embodied: “lead with your broken heart” he implores us (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019). We are so good with naming and identifying with tidy mental concepts, when the explosion of God informing our nervous systems is anything but tidy. Harvey asks: What is being born in me now? We are in a crisis of mutation and are being used to transform apocalypse into grace; and be turned to Gold (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019).

In the first lecture Harvey describes Kabir and Jesus as fiery: both born of humble birth, both fierce in their delivery of Truth. (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019). Unfortunately for seekers who burn with longing, religion has highjacked “Jesus as love and gentleness,” effectively denuding the mystical fire of his teaching. Religion has been reduced to “nice” ways to please cultural power structures. This anemic delusion supports belonging to a shibboleth, and is a far cry from a direct mystical experience. 

Ladinsky makes a striking observation that the closer a teacher/saint/mystic is to God, the harder it is for the average person to have faith in them (2002, p. 210). He says that as a person gets close to a saint, they typically go through an ego-dying process (2002, p. 210). Almost completely ignored by religious Christians, Jesus also said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Our passage from apocalypse to grace (Harvey) challenges us in ways that we are incapable of enduring— and that’s the whole point! When the heat of “I can’t do this” has us writhing, we turn to God/Goddess/Source—name this experience for yourself. Whatever we choose to name this experience, it is here that the miraculous reveals herself: in the landscape of surrender and vulnerability something new begins to awaken within us. We begin to be informed differently and in the listening we are simultaneously found and profoundly humbled. 

The mystic’s fire becomes a refuge because we experience arriving “in this moment” in a way we have never known; we find “refuge” as something incomprehensibly deep begins to relax within us and we are literally “shown” another place of belonging. We are living the book of revelations! We learn that the mystic’s fire and refuge are not two: we have entered an astounding sense of freedom where unconditional grace and miracles abound. Weeping with gratitude, we come to our knees as the timeless beauty of the mystic heart explodes within our own.

It is in this manner that the mystic’s fire creates both a sword of discernment as well as the beauty of unconditional love. This allows a mystic like Kabir to see the cultural conditioning around him with sharp clarity and compassion. Although I enjoy the praise and ecstasy in Kabir’s poems, it is in his wielding of the truth-sword where I feel a palpable relief in my nervous system. Harvey’s book, “Turn Me to Gold,” and the passion with which he speaks of his five year immersion in Kabir, is nothing less than a holy reminder of life’s sacredness and our eternal belonging within that crucible.

In a culture that is largely filled with the noise of “egos-everywhere-seeking-constant reinforcement-from-other-egos,” walking a path of discernment requires some fiery sword wielding. In my experience it cannot be done without a few “brandlings” from the mystical fire. In his ever-gentle manner, mystical teacher Thomas Hübl asks how we can challenge ego and not shame it, going on to describe the process of transcending ego as a “delicate procedure” (2018 Celebrate Life Festival USA). The mystic’s refuge comes down to wisely choosing what to engage in or not. Hübl has advised on a few occasions to simply “not engage” with entangled places in our relationships. As 20th C. AmericanAmericanAmericanAmerican philosopher William James puts it:” The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook” (retrieved from http://passiton.com). 

The Rejected Mystic: A Casualty of Time-Bound Consciousness

It seems that the more aligned we are with the mystery, the more misunderstood we are. I have therefore marvelled at the large following a mystical teacher like Thomas Hübl has amassed these past fifteen  years. Now that I am in his most intense personal two-year Timeless Wisdom training and am one of the first seven students to begin his Academy of Inner Science (AIS) doctoral program, I realize that very few people understand the magnitude of what he is teaching. His charm and his exceptionally beautiful personality and physique are a big draw. Unlike Kabir, I also suspect that Thomas leads with love in his teaching style, although one can sense the uncompromising fire not far beneath the surface.

In his first lecture on Kabir, Harvey refers to Kabir as a thug, “an assassin of God” who doesn’t lead with love, but with Truth (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019). We can hear this in Kabir’s punchy phrases of the first two movements (chapters) as he addresses Muslims and Hindus for their pious ignorance and God-betraying hypocrisy. For Harvey the naked reality of the mystic is how Kabir exposes everything with no anesthetic, where the dagger of the Truth sent to your heart forces you to look (March 12, 2019). He places one of Kabir’s most effective daggers in the middle of the book. Five hundred years ago, Kabir addressed one of the most ubiquitous spiritual by-passes still alive today:

If you didn’t shatter 

While you’re alive

Karma’s chains

How can you expect

Salvation after death?

Those who claim, “After death

Your soul melts into God”

Are giving you 

False comfort.

Whatever you gain now

Will be with you then

Or you’ll just be

Another inmate

In Death’s asylum.

The deluded wander around

Searching for God

In far exotic places.

None of the ends their pain

At returning again and again.

Only if you adore the holy

will the noose of your Karma be cut (2018, 88).

The Mystic calling draws us beyond our cultural and familial conditioning and even out of time itself. The limitations of a time-bound consciousness will always, and have always, rejected the mystic’s message. We seem unwilling to see that our spiritual allegiance continues to reside in our own beliefs and shibboleths’s rather than in the fire of a living relationship with God—the mystics only resource. Kabir reminds us that “the fight of the truth-seeker … is a hard exhausting fight [that] … goes on day and night—as long as life lasts it never ends” (2018, p.121) Many times in my classes I advise diligence as spiritual seekers living in a spiritually bereft culture.

Without the sword of Truth and the steadfast voice of teachers who put that truth above all other relative truths, western spirituality remains anemic and prone to rampant habits of spiritual by-passing. It is impossible to progress spiritually within a deluded context which tells me that I can “have God my way.” I believe Harvey was addressing this spiritual wasteland when he stated that Kabir asks him (Harvey) to see that we (as mystics) are alone in a cinema of demented projection in a lunatic asylum. (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019). 

Creating a Timeless Initiatory Field

Unique sharing of inner beauty is priceless. As Kabir reminds us, “True Heaven is only in the company of the Holy” (2018, p.100). When we resonate deeply with another in the mystery, we stand together in a timeless field. As we spend more time here, we discover that our life orientation is profoundly altered in unexpected ways. It is never about forsaking the living Truth within us in order to create a field of a shared togetherness. This universal field of initiation therefore needs to be spearheaded by mystical leaders with impeccable commitment to God first. 

Creating a field of energy that keeps “company with the Holy” (Kabir) is challenging in a culture that does not easily recognize authentic spirituality.  As mentioned, the “conditioned eyes” of the world often misunderstood and even denounce the mystic and God-lover as threatening. Like Jesus, Kabir was counter-cultural. Politically likely, but certainly in his loyalty to any “form” of worship. Like Jesus, Kabir also seemed inclined to regularly call to task those committed to religious forms over a living-relationship with God— for Jesus, the Sadducees and the Pharisees; and for Kabir, the Muslims and the Hindu’s. 

There appear to be two foundational expressions of the mystic. We see can both clearly in the way Harvey has organized Kabir’s poems in his beautiful book. The first two movements/chapters explore the faith (“direct connection with the One”) that gives rise to the painful witnessing of spiritual ignorance (in religious dogma, culture, and ourselves); which in turn, gives rise to the fiery sword of discernment. The second two movements/chapters describe the palpable post-fire bliss where one dances in concert with the Divine and releases everything to her glory. 

In this way,  Harvey says, this book becomes far more than a book (Great Books lecture, March 12, 2019). It becomes a generous invitation into the fire of our becoming in God. It becomes the new wine in the new wineskin: Jesus says he is like “new wineskins,” and cautions about trying to put the new into the old (Matt. 9:14-17). As embodied spiritual beings, it is natural for us to devote ourselves to something. Where we devote our energy and attention is important to know because that is what we become. Who are we? What is life’s purpose? What consciousness are we serving by how we live and relate? Kabir relentlessly asks these questions because, as a mystic, they burn in him and he in them. These questions are the life-blood of a mystic and from that fiery engagement, a holy refuge is initiated.

A Personal Reflection: Entangled, Not Distracted

At one point in his presentation, Harvey wanted to hear from some of his audience and students in his Great Books course lecture. Unlike Harvey, we are not accustomed to expressing ourselves from within a mystical framework. After some silence from the group, Jim Garrison made the comment that “we are all too distracted.” I remember thinking at the time,  “But…I am not distracted, … I am entangled.” Exploring the difference between these two has been fruitful.

Being a mystic in the world carries with it the casualty of being a “social misfit” as referred to earlier. It is not so much that we become conditioned by culture and family—everyone does. It is about the lack of being met by those who also understand the mystical reality we swim in. We learn, as Hübl puts it, to sacrifice our becoming for our belonging. Being social creatures, we learn at a young age to turn away from the mystical callings and tendencies. As I grew older, I felt the pressure of social norms and my innate relationship with the mystical felt awkward and far too naked to expose within cultural norms.

The propensity for forsaking our becoming in God for the frequently entangled social belonging is likely what Jesus was addressing when he warned, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; he who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt.10:37, 12:46). “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt.12:50)

As a mystic returning to the deeper truth burning within me, I sense an increased desire to also be known from here. I sense it in the core of my body. Sometimes while writing, a mystical language overtakes me. In these instances language becomes poetry, almost as though nuggets of “gold-feeling” are downloaded into thought-parcels. They have a sense of flow to them like a stream of consciousness from somewhere full of grace. They drop into consciousness and explode as transmission—the breathing slows, the body relaxes into a greater field. When the fire of truth runs through the mind, the form and cadence of language changes and dances energetically within and around me. 

Assisted by the two year Timeless Wisdom Training offered by Hübl and his team, I feel myself untangling from sticky conditioned patterns: patterns of relationship where the mystical realms were a curiosity at best, and usually met with harsh rejection. Slowly and steadily there is a growing Hallelujah within me as I learn to reacquaint myself with an inner world that is still and moves with the joy inherent in the mystical connection to life. 

A mystic in the world needs boldness and uncompromising clarity. From here, compassion and love are held wisely, free from conditioned entanglement and collusion with delusion. The following insights are my version of “drops of gold” taken from my website. These short sentences arrive with a palpable transmission. They are felt as an uplifting alert connection in the body, a calm centring in the mind, and a feeling-mixture of gratitude, well-being and hope. There is a crisp freshness in the words that is typical of mystical poetry or song:

  • The best mornings are the ones where love’s invitation is heard in a bird song and seen clearly in a spider’s web.
  • This truth-yearning heart burns the past and transforms it into the most exquisite compost for Presence.
  • I am so busy wrestling with God sometimes that I forget to do the dishes.
  • It seems to me that God laughs a lot. But I so often miss the jokes.
  • God’s humour invites me into Loving, but I take myself too seriously to engage for long.
  • Loving God more than my life-projections is a fiery practice.
  • Within the stillness, I realize that my whole life has been a preparation for this one precious moment.
  • The “me” that forgives is not the same “me that is trying to forgive.
  • Engaging with inner-stillness is like a deep-tissue massage of the inner-landscape. It rearranges everything into a more coherent Flow.
  • When I have Connection I don’t need control.
  • This morning I woke up and turned a corner to realize that in serving the Master, I make a room in my own heart where the Master sits.
  • This paper was a beautiful piece of surrender … until I wrote on it.
  • Life blossoms when I finally give myself completely to what I love without a hint of apology or excuse. So simple. Why do I not wrap my arms around God more often?
  • The audacity of thinking that God is on my side is the surest way to turn my back on God (http://lauramadsen.ca/practice-insights/)

Timeless Beauty and Creative Fire

What is it to live our life on Fire? A Fire of a Truth so deep and compelling that we lose ourselves to it. As Kabir says, “I went looking for Him and lost myself; the drop merged with the Sea—who can find it now? Looking and looking for Him I lost myself; the Sea merged with the drop—who can find now”? (2018, p.164). The self that I know as “me” will never again exist. What will “that me” be missing? What will be left in her place? Or do we completely forget these questions as we burn in the mystic fire? How do I navigate the outer world from within such a fire, such a mystical burning bush? 

I do not have answers to these questions, but I believe that engaging in them deeply eventually reveals the beauty and creative joy of the mystic heart. As our focus shifts from “wanting something” to listening in Silence,” the answers we didn’t know we had emerge from within. In a culture as spiritually anemic as ours, listening becomes our life-line for hearing the abundant Hallelujah that rings through our mystical heart. When asked to silence his disciples, Jesus responds “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). 

God is not a belief system, but a reality that calls us to be a living expression of Herself. The mystic’s delight is to know myself, as myself, in myself, through God. The subtly charged nervous system of the mystic allows us to know (experience) ourselves and the world around us through new eyes. We can feel broken by the state of world affairs and yet rise up with an incomprehensible hope that seems to arrive from everywhere and nowhere—where even the stones cry out.

Perhaps it is good to remember that we are all seeded with mystical potential even if we have not yet experienced that Truth. Mystics belong to a timeless journey of becoming; of returning the broken shards (Kabbalah); of the Great Turning (Buddhism); of realizing that God lives in our Hearts eternally (Christianity). In his second Kabir lecture, Harvey encourages us to remember that in the middle of all the falling apart, there is a new birth: that in Kabir we have a dance leader of the glory that arrives through grace (Great Books lecture, April 9, 2019). In Kabir’s words, “My Father is the absolute Godhead, My Mother the embodied Godhead, and I am their divine child, dancing for them both on their burning dance-floor” (2018, p.163).

References

The holy bible (RSV, revised 1952). Matt.18:3, 13:16, 6:19-21,  22:14, 7:7; John 3:3, 2:15-17; Matt. 9:14-17, 10:37, 12:46, 12:50; Luke 19:40; Matt.12: 46-50, 18:3, 20:16

Hübl, T.  (2017-2018) Walking Forever (on-line course); (2018-2019) Timeless Wisdom Training US2; (2018) Celebrate Life Festival USA.

(?) Ubiquity Chartres Academy Community Webinar, Caroline Myss presentation, Jan. 13, 2019.

Harvey, A. (2018). Turn me to gold: 108 poems of Kabir. Unity Village, MO: Unity Books.

James, W. (n.d.) Quote retrieved from http://passiton.com

Ladinsky, D. (2002). Love poems from god: Twelve sacred voices from the east and west. London & New York: Penguin Group.

Madsen, L. (n.d.) Quote retrieved from http://lauramadsen.ca/about/; and http://lauramadsen.ca/practice-insights/

Madsen, L. (2010) Quote retrieved from Vancouver School of Theology essay on The Long Loneliness (1996) by Dorothy Day.

Merton, T. (1948). The seven story mountain, retrieved from http://goodreads.com

Ubiquity Wisdom School, The Great Books, Andrew Harvey presentations, March 12 & April 9, 2019.

Vancouver School of Theology (2010), Dorothy Day paper on her book The Long Loneliness (1952).