KVMR Earth Mysteries Show with Haines & Catalina Ely: 12/24/07Pranja: The actual word Satsang means “to gather together in truth.” . . . How this meeting is different than most meetings is that it is not dominated by the sense of a “me” or by trying to improve your self-image or to somehow get beyond the actuality of what’s already happening in your life. It’s purpose is to come out of the trance of “me” and to settle down into what’s actually happening beneath the surface—to come into a deep stillness, a deep realization of the foundation of all existence. In that realization comes a great freedom.
Catalina: I remember the story when Gangagi went to Papagi and he said to her, “Just stop.” The way our minds work, it doesn’t want to stop. If someone wants to experience the stillness that you speak of, how does one stop
Prajna: We are conditioned to go, to obtain, to acquire. One thing to understand is that enlightenment isn’t an achievement. It isn’t an attainment—something you can add on to yourself. Instead, it’s more of a subtraction. It’s a taking away what is untrue and seeing what already exists. The part that wants to stop can’t do it. Stopping happens hen we begin to sense the actuality of what is already here. Eventually our wheels stop spinning. Our existence is immediate and always here.
Catalina: What place does meditation have in all this?
Prajna: When meditation is not about the meditator it can be very effective. When it comes to reality directly, what we are, all forms of meditation can relax. For many people, this sounds horrifying because it requires letting go—letting whatever is be exactly as it is.When we shake a glass of water and there’s mud in it; when you stop shaking it, everything settles and you begin to see through it. You are able to see through murky water, confusion, sorrow, pain–everything that keeps our wheels spinning. In that seeing, stopping is automatic and we touch what we are naturally. This emerges as joy, stillness, tears, peace, or relief.
Haines: How does one stop the story that is always being told in your own head?
Prajna: How about not trying to stop it? My approach is to let the story happen and, instead of resisting it, feeling the full impact of the story. It’s like when you tell yourself not to think of a pink elephant; then all you can do is think “pink elephant.” But as soon as you let the story drop out of the head and into the body, there is presence. It’s no longer an unconscious story – it becomes conscious and you can actually have the experience that the story has been trying to bring you. In that, there is a letting go and a freedom. So stop trying to get rid of the story – let the story be the story.
Haines: It has been said that our beliefs create our own reality and it’s hard to even know that this is a story I’m living. My way of looking at is to look at the world as I see it and say, “That’s the story. What’s my part it in and how can I interpret the story?”
Prajna: Instead of trying to interpret it—because interpretation is a function of the mind; it likes to give everything meaning. Instead, you could approach it with inquiry, which asks, “Is it true?” So maybe at a surface level it seems like it is. But what is actually allowing the perceiving to happen? There’s something else that is aware—a deeper sensing happening that perception cannot hold. That’s where truth comes from. That’s the unmanifested, the unseen – that which the senses cannot contain. So, “Is it true?”— taking that outside of the mental parameters and dropping it into the depths of inquiry, which is coming to an actual answer.
Catalina: From my experience with inquiry, it always seems that it’s still at the level of the mind and no answer ever comes. But what does happen is more of a relaxation but no answer coming
Prajna: For instance, I work with people individually and I was working with a woman in a lot of pain. . . . I asked her to go into her body to find out what was going on instead of just living in her head, and it was very difficult for her to do. So she started to relax, and she was only able to relax by letting the difficulty be there. . . . Then there is no resistance if you allow everything to be there. And once that experience happens, there is relief. That’s where you start to experience what you really are—which is more of a flavor of peace, relief, stillness. It’s not negating the story; it’s letting it all be as it is.
Haines: Submitting to the story. I think submission is a key to everything – that you can’t resist anything. Whatever you resist… magnifies.
Prajna: Yes, what you resist persists. And resistance is just fear of the unknown. It’s fear of what has not yet been explored. As soon as we start to explore, fear dissipates.
Catalina: In this day and age, what can you say to people who are seeking enlightenment or have this yearning to awaken? What does it require? Can it happen to anybody?
Prajna: I think the yearning that you are speaking of is the most important part, and to follow that yearning. When you really listen and feel into the yearning—wherever that takes you—it’s important to follow that because everyone really does need to find their own way. One person’s way is not another’s, so whatever you are drawn to, follow that. Another thing I would say is that there is a lot of mythology around spiritual awakening, and there are a lot of things that go into it that aren’t necessarily necessary. Anybody can awaken at any time. People have fallen off barstools and awoken; people have gone to mountaintops and awoken—awakening happens, we’re not in control of when or where it happens. The most important part is to see that it’s not you that has awoken—that spirit awakens out of the trance of the “me”, of the manifested form. So most people have spiritual experiences over and over again that they discount because they feel that they are going to have a spiritual image that they had hoped for—how spiritual enlightenment is supposed to be like they read in books. Then they discount their experience and go back to seeking. A belief is referenced that they haven’t done enough, forgetting happens again. Yet it is ok as spirit will continue to find itself and wake up to itself. The seeker does not wake up. The seeker can only seek.
Haines: I like your point about what people think it should look like. My father was a very enlightened man and when he was particularly awake, he would say that these are golden moments and to be really aware of these golden moments….
Prajna: So he had a sense of self and awakening never gets rid of our sense of self, or we are not going to know who’s talking to whom. There’s no reason to get rid of that because that’s going to function in life in whatever way it’s supposed to function. But what becomes more clear is spirit, the unmanifested, starts to then harmonize aspects of life that may have been in conflict. Harmony starts to pervade all of existence. It doesn’t mean that we are going to change in functionality. It doesn’t mean that your life is necessarily going to look good or be easy or that you will be free of disappointments or confusion. The difference is that you will not attach to them—you will not get stuck in them—because as soon as you start to identify with them, suffering follows
Catalina: In retreats, people have talked about the void or the emptiness. My experiences have always been bliss and divine intoxication, so I felt I was on a different wave, like an oddball. Adyashanti said to not compare myself to other people, to the books, to ancient teachings—just stay true to what is for you.
Prajna: The other part of that is that experience comes and goes, whether it is an experience of emptiness or bliss or grief. The important part is what remains, what’s aware of what’s coming and going. That’s our eternal nature. That’s what recognizes itself, the natural state.
Haines: I always liken it to the eyeball trying to see itself. When the awareness is looking through the eyes, there is something behind that and something behind that and it never seems to end. Do you ever feel that it gets to a point where there is no more?
Prajna: No, and that’s the beauty of the mystery of what we are—that it is endless. Once spiritual awakening happens, it doesn’t ever end and it’s forever unfolding more and more of itself. Many people wake up and then stumble around for ten or twenty years just getting used to this new dimension. It’s an entirely new way of perceiving the world and being in relationship to the world. It doesn’t end. There’s a quotation from Christ in the Gospel of Thomas that says, “At first you will be shocked, and then you will be astonished.” It’s shocking to see how unconscious we can become, and it’s shocking to wake up out of that initially. And it’s tempting to go back to sleep, especially if you think that you still need to do something about the trance, like you have to repair some part of it. Our tendencies are not dismantled overnight. You can wake up and still have egoic tendencies in place. It takes time for those to dissolve. What takes longer is tinkering with that, fiddling with the “me.” The more we let go, the more peace. You are then in a space of non-doing – it’s a direct experience of the oneness of the universe. The unborn or unmanifest truly does take care of everything. It doesn’t mean that manifested form becomes a couch potato. You actually have much more energy because you are no longer arguing or in doubt, and confusion tends to clear up.
Haines: Thomas said that life is both a movement and a rest. You are still moving, the momentum is still going, but you are at rest.
Prajna: Yes, it’s like being and becoming. What we are is always so that is the being and becoming is how we move through life. You can’t have one without the other. What we are used to as humans is always being on the move, going to get the next thing. But repose. Most of us, myself included, have to come to a place of total exhaustion where letting go happens; you didn’t decide to let go, it just happens.
Catalina: Looking at awakening from a little different perspective. Adya once said purification can happen before enlightenment and after enlightenment. So many paths of yoga are an attempt to do purification that will lead, encourage and promote enlightenment. What is your perspective of kundalini, going up into the crown chakra where one becomes enlightened at that point, the yogic belief?
Prajna: I have experience with that myself because I was on a purification path for quite some time where the focus is on form and there is very little focus on formlessness. And we want to give attention to both. The purification that we were involved with was so physically straining that it was beneficial because we came to a place of total exhaustion. But the best thing from that is that my first spiritual teacher came to me and said, “Get on with it! What are you doing here? What are you doing this for?” Eventually, we have to question what are we trying to purify within ourselves? Do we need to purify that which is already pure and natural to us? This is a very worthwhile inquiry. We are the natural state, what can you actually do to come to this but undo? Awakening is the great undoing of all that is false. For me, sitting meditation in the way I teach it is a purification process because it’s a time where you simply sit and don’t manipulate anything at all in your experience, this purifies the mind of mental gymnastics. As the mind is purified, naturally the body will come into harmony through not doing. Paths are wonderful if it’s what’s meaningful to you at the time. You’ve heard the expression, be careful of the trappings of the path. And there are many trappings that seekers get caught in. Kundalini can awaken before or after; it’s not necessary; in many ways it’s a bi-product of direct seeing into the source of all.
Haines: There’s such a picture of enlightenment and such a picture of how enlightened people must behave that’s conditioned by beliefs. It would be so nice people’s beliefs could be dismissed so that they could be open to everything.
Prajna: There’s a fundamental understanding that needs to come to all of us that we are one, all inclusive fabric of existence. This includes everything. At the core of everybody is an essential goodness that is already pure. For some it is not conscious yet, but whatever comes into being comes from this space of goodness, from core goodness which is all inclusive. The manifested expression may be confused, unconscious or functioning out of old habits. People would travel to on of my favorite Sages, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in India . . . a friend of mine spent time with him while he was still alive and shared many stories that clarified that awakening is not about becoming a particular type of persona. Nirsargdatta smoked. He sold cigarettes to feed his family. Seekers would arrive to his Satsang which took place in a room above his garage. They would travel thousands of miles to meet an enlightened master. They climbed up to his loft and it would be filled with clouds of smoke. Some people would turn around and say, “This isn’t being enlightened,” and his response to that was that it was just a habit that hadn’t fallen off—it doesn’t disturb anything. What is disturbed is the mind’s interpretation that this shouldn’t be happening. As soon as we say something shouldn’t be happening, we are in a virtual reality, which is where 99% of humans live because we are forever interpreting that this shouldn’t be happening. And the reality is that it is happening. And as soon as we allow ourselves to see that, our arguments fall away and enlightenment remains. Nirsargdatta could be very direct and wild with his passion for the truth and those who sat with him were readily able to see through the clouds of their illusionary concepts. Most people have the habit of avoiding loving presence, oneness that already includes everything. Our minds are so conditioned by these rules of what is right and wrong and “this shouldn’t be happening.”
Catalina: I think the mind can also be a wonderful tool and on the everyday level, it is good to have discrimination and it’s good to have preferences. Perhaps you could address that.
Prajna: Yes, the mind is a wonderful tool, especially for driving your car, sewing your clothes or building a house. But it is the wrong tool for discovering who you are because it cannot see its source. Preferences come along the same line of everything being included. So there isn’t a right or wrong in preferences, it’s our belief about them. So if we are drawn in a particular direction, follow it.
Caller: If reality is everything or God is everything and that includes rape, murder, war and crime and really awful things. Could you speak to that shadow aspect of reality as inclusive as what we see as good?
Prajna: That’s a wonderful question, and that’s where the spiritual rubber hits the road. From my own experience, I first started teaching around 9/11, and prior to that time, I had wonderful experiences of bliss and . . . thought that was what spirituality was about, about feeling good and all of that. When I had children that were born to me 1 lb. each and we had 9/11 and I had those experiences, it really ran through my system and yet something was undisturbed. That was the day I actually began to understand in a fundamental way the oneness of creation—that everything is consciousness. It doesn’t mean that consciousness doesn’t get confused, and that it doesn’t manifest in ways that are harmful and painful and in ways that we really prefer not to have happen. That’s why we come to this place of stopping—we need to allow everything that has been denied and pushed away to arise within us. Because as oneness . . . we are both victim and perpetrator, we are on both sides of good and evil. In this unfoldment, everything gets to unpack itself, so what was suppressed, meaning grief, anger, shame, joy, bliss we get to have all of it, especially grief. That’s how we become fully human – we come from below the head of reason. Reason and theology might say this shouldn’t happen yet that is all in the head. But if we drop from there into the body of life, we receive the natural human experiences that keep us in direct contact with the core of who we are. This is peace and this is the full embrace of our human condition. It’s about opening up and seeing the reality of the whole, that it’s all here—everything from bliss to sorrow. Everything from “I wish it wouldn’t have happened” to “It’s happening.” And there’s a lot of feeling with that. As feeling starts to get expressed, we come to peace beyond all understanding and we are in a position, with a wider capacity to serve humanity in a way that makes a difference, which isn’t an argument. . . .
Also when we ask the question “why?”, it’s not a bad question but it keeps us in the head and it keeps us in a solution/problem solving mode. But when we ask “who?” or “what?” it drops us into a deeper reality. I want to share a quick story in relation to all of this. I was shopping with two of my daughters and our dog before Christmas and we were in the pet store buying baked goods for the dog. We go to the car, and my daughter that is disabled needs help getting in the car. . . . She had her hand on the front door, and my older daughter accidentally closed the door on her hand. In the crying and commotion, I dropped my bags and my purse. And in those two minutes, when I turned back, my purse was gone. I had just gone to the bank. I had a good amount of cash and it was gone. I could stop right here and say, “that shouldn’t happen,” but the reality is that it did happen. And even more, I was able to share that story, that direct experience of how that impacted us, with some friends. These friends turned it around from taking to giving. It gave them an opportunity to extend kindness to us. Something happened that was rotten, but through exposing or expressing that and not holding onto it, goodness came. I think there is a way, when we stay with the impact of cruelty until we can see what is on the other side of it. We need to let ourselves have the whole enchilada of life. If we go halfway and say, “That shouldn’t have happened,” we miss the other side where we get to open and extend ourselves perhaps where we wouldn’t have. We get to grow and evolve and embrace the whole human condition.
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Caller: My husband passed away three months ago, so how do I go about being both in grieving and aware and not self-centered all at the same time?
Prajna: I’m sorry for your loss and many blessings. Let your grief come in its fullness. Let yourself have all of it, the full embrace of the grief. And forget right now about trying to find the center because, in reality, there isn’t a central place where we are located. If there is, I want you to show it to me. So forget about finding the center and just let yourself have grief because it’s happening, and you are aware of it. Let yourself remain present to grief. That’s the best gift you can give to yourself right now. And beneath grief, the source of grief is eternal life, and this is where you and your husband meet forever.<
Praise for Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview
“What a powerful interview. I could relate to so much: Catholic Irish family, Theology training, ashram life, shamanism, and the great ability to transform challenge to blessing. Thank you Prajna. I look forward to reading your book and helping you with events in Ireland.”
“I’ve just watched and listened to your interview with Rick Archer. You are a lovely soul. Part of my practice is understanding and applying the six heart virtues of appreciation, compassion, forgiveness, humility, understanding and valor. How often they came up in the 2 hours!”
“Who are you when the lights go out?’ Just one of the gems packed into this hugely inspiring video.”
“I want to learn what you spoke about — ‘how to preserve my life force.’ I’ll be joining you in Global Stillness Meditation.”
“Best interview. I’m also a fan of Adyashanti. I’m going to watch your videos and get to one of your Satsangs.”
“I’m love your interview. It is having a wonderful impact on me.”