Archive for December, 2012


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I’d been meditating from the age of 12, and over the years had heard rumours and whispers of some mysterious place in the body that, when found and activated, was capable of unlocking the untapped potential of the human mind, catapulting the meditator into states of inner bliss, where he/she would experience oneness with all things. Since I first heard of its existence, I thought such a point was nothing more than a myth, just another story told to encourage spiritual seekers to stay on their path. That was until, as if by some strange twist of fate, at the age of 26, I experienced the effects of this point directly for myself.
 
 
It is said in the ancient Yogic texts of India that when the spiritual force, called Kundalini, rises up through the body, the tongue rolls back and the eyes turn in as the spiritual eye opens and the yogi enters through the door of Brahman to realise his/her true self. Ok, so that’s all a bit esoteric. Let’s see if we can get our heads around what I just wrote by changing our perspective and looking at it in terms of reverse engineering the body and mind.
 
Reverse engineering the awakened mind
As the mind begins to expand and wake up, its physical counterpart, the brain, goes through many structural and functional changes in a process called neuroplasticity. While these changes are happening in the brain, the body responds by changing and refining its own biological processes. As Yogis and Yoginis of the past went through the natural awakening process, catalysed by their meditative practices, they noticed many physical phenomena occuring in their body, phenomena that were caused by changes in their brain. Yogis, understanding that the brain and body are interconnected and comunicating in a two way process, realised that just as the awakened brain can change the body, an awakened body could just as effectively change the brain and, incidentally, trigger the expansion of the mind. It was from this understanding that the physical sciences of yoga were born.
 
So what are the physical body symptoms of an awakened mind? Well, the list is long, far too long for a single blog post, so instead of listing and explaing them all, I’ll name a few important ones and then focus on one that’s particularly significant to the awakening process. The following are a few important awakening symptoms of the physical body:
 
  • Spontaneous postures (asanas) and hand positions (mudras).
  • Severe, spontaneous changes in breathing patterns, ranging from rappid to extremely slow respiratory cycles.
  • Complete cessation of the breathing cycle for long periods of time.
  • Extreme changes in body temperature.
  • Spontaneous internal muscle contractions, called Bandhas.
Of all these symptoms, the one I’ll look at here is the spontaneous, internal muscle contractions called Bandhas. There are many Bandhas that have been recognised by traditional Yoga as vital ellements to the awakening process. The most important of these are Moola Bandha (contraction of the perineal muscles), Uddiyana Bandha (Contraction of the abdominal muscles), Jalandhara Bandha (contraction of the neck muscles), Kechari mudra (contraction of the tongue), and Shambavi mudra (contraction of the eyes). And of these, it is said that Kechari mudra is the king.
 
As the nervous system undergoes cleansing and physical changes, various muscle groups within the body are stimulated to contract in very specific ways. These contractions are what I’ve described as the Bandhas, above. As the bandhas are engaged, various parts of the brain and, therefore, mind are stimulated, which, over time, leads to expanded states of awareness. 
 
Kechari Mudra
Kechari mudra, described as king of the mudras, is the name used to describe a peculiar phenomenon in which the tongue moves back, behind the soft palate, and up into the nasal cavity where it rests against a point on the septum, otherwise known as the door of Brahman. It is this point on the septum that can catapult the yogi/yogini into super conscious states of extasy and bliss.  
 
A personal experience of Kechari Mudra
My experience of Kechari was a spontaneous one. But I’ve already described that experience in my previous post. So instead of writing it out again, let me talk about the after effects of the Kechari experience.
 
For months after my initial awakening, my tongue would spontaneously move into the kechari mudra position. During these mini awakening episodes, which often lasted for half an hour or more, I experienced dream like states accompanied by wave after wave of blissful, orgasmic energy washing over my body. All of these effects are great when in the safety of a meditation room, but not so safe, as I would come to realise, when they happen in the outside world. While in those dream like states, there were many occasions where I was brought back to my normal senses by the distant sound of a car horn, to find myself wandering across a busy road.
 
After a few months of spontaneous Kechari, I gained control over it, and was able to apply it at will. But by this time I’d gotten used to the energy flow it induced and was able to function normally while in an uplifted state of awareness. 
 
Some of the other notable things triggered by the practice of Kechari only began to kick in at a later stage, about six months after I first experienced it. One such effect was the unusual but definite connection made between my head and genitals. This was experienced as a type of orgasm. When my tongue entered the nasal cavity to touch the door of Brahman, it triggered a spasm of my perineal muscles. This would last for as long as I left my tongue in that position, and was enhanced by turning my eyes inward to look up at the location of my thrd eye. For all you knowledgable Yogis, this perineal muscle spasm is a dynamic form of moola Bandha, but very subtle and completely unforced.
 
Accompanying the activation of my perineal muscles was another unusual spasm, which I haven’t been able to find a name for in Yogic scriptures. This was the spasm of my soft pallet, which would contract and pulsate around the base of my tongue as my breathing slowed and almost came to a full stop.
 
The accumulated sensation of the kechari mudra practice was what I can only describe as a brain orgasm. This effect resulted in deep states of bliss and inner tranquility which continues to overflow into my surroundings to this day. Ultimately, Kechari leads to a feeling of connectedness to all beings and an ensuing feeling of love towards them.
 
In my next post, I’ll look at some of the other effects of Kechari Mudra and explore its connection to the path of the warrior. Plus, I’ll see if I can upload a short video clip of myself demonstrating Kechari mudra 😉
 
HAPPY NEW YEAR, AND MUCH LOVE TO ALL OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES 🙂
 
P.S, The image in this post was taken from www.sanatanamitra.com

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This is the first ink image I made, about one week after my kundalini awakening. It shows the path through which she travelled on her journey into bliss.

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This image illustrates the realisation of my body being nothing more than a vessel, like a boat navigating its way through the river of life.

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I called this ‘Dead wood,’ to symbolise the same idea of the body being dead and without life when there was no SELF stirring it.

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This is how I saw my aura shortly after the awakening. I was in such a blissful state that nothing on this earth could disturb my mind.

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For months after my awakening, I had the sense of being much bigger than the physical body. Often I would find myself walking around the house during the night, only to realise my physical body was still in bed, at which point I would be snapped back into the physical world.

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I painted this vision a few months before my daughter was conceived. I called it ‘Incarnating Buddha’ 🙂

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This was how I perceived love. Two divine lovers, embraced with their energies in complete harmony. 

Awakening the serpent fire

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Just as my awareness reached the point where it seemed as if nothing existed, I felt my head explode and as it did, my awareness spread outwards in every direction. I felt as if I was both everything and nothing, simultaneously existing and not existing.

 – From my personal diary

Kundalini (coiled serpent) is the spiritual power that, in most people, lays dormant at the base of the spine. When she awakens, she makes her way up through the spiritual centres, called chakras, until she reaches the highest spiritual centre, the sahasrara chakra, where she unites with her consort, shiva. As Kundalini and shiva unite, the Sadhak (spiritual aspirant) enters a deep meditative trance where he/she becomes one with the universe.

The path of kundalini, also called the path of fire, is filled with many dangers and for that reason is only suited for certain Sadhaks (spiritual aspirants). If Kundalini rises through the wrong channel, even though various siddhis (yogi powers) arise, many physical and mental illnesses manifest in the practitioner, sometimes ending in death.

What follows is my story of how Kundalini woke me up to the world.

The Awakening

Five years ago, in late Spring, I had just finished my morning practices, which consisted of breathing and Meditation. As I lay down on my back to allow the energy generated by my practices flow through me, a sudden panic set in as I realised my body was completely paralysed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t even move my eyes; every part of me was frozen.

Soon after the paralyses set in, I began to feel something moving just beneath the surface of my skin. It felt like dozens of worms wriggling and moving upwards, starting in my lower legs and making their way towards my upper thighs and sacrum (tail bone). As they progressed up my legs, they grow in size and reduced in number, as if they were merging into one.

My dying breath

Once the worms, which were more like two snakes at this stage, reached my upper legs, they merged into one large snake. This powerful snake entered my sacrum and began moving up my spinal column, one vertebrae at a time. As she moved through my spine, each vertebrae she moved through, completely disintegrated.

As the snake ascended, I became increasingly panicked. And by the time she reached the level of my heart, I thought I was going to die. At this point, I completely surrendered to the process; I accepted my impending death.

Once I accepted my death, the process became much smoother and almost enjoyable, although still scarier than anything else I had ever experienced.

As she moved into my chest, she forced her way into my heart, which felt as if it exploded into a billion pieces. As this happened, I released a deep sigh, after which my breathing became completely suspended. I thought it was my dying breath, but strangely, I was still conscious, still existing in this thing, this body I call my self. From this stage on, my mind became completely serene. Even though I thought I was dying, I was absolutely at peace with the process.

The grand finale: my orgasmic brain

As the serpent emerged from my heart, she continued moving up through my spine until she reached the point at the base of my skull. She paused there for a few moments as if preparing for her final ascent. Then as she penetrated my skull, my tongue physically rolled back and pushed up behind my soft palate, penetrating my nasal cavity, with the tip of my tongue touching a soft spot directly above my nasal septum. As this happened, it was like having a thousand orgasms all at once, in my brain. In this moment, everything around me disappeared as my awareness was turned completely inward.

Just as my awareness reached the point where it seemed as if nothing existed, I felt my head explode and as it did, my awareness spread outwards in every direction. I felt as if I was both everything and nothing, simultaneously existing and not existing.

The sense of being everything and nothing at the same time seemed to go on for an eternity.

Re-entry: My descent into a world of illusion

After a period of time, I’m not sure how long, my awareness re-entered the physical body. It felt as if the universe was breathing me into physical existence. Moments after entering my body, my lungs expanded as I took my first breath in this new state of expanded awareness.

For about three months after this experience, I felt as if I was floating around in a world of illusion. Everything I looked at had a glow emanating from it. Living things had auras of vibrant colour that expanded further than I could see. Each aura was connected to the things around it. Watching the world in this way was like living in a dream. I watched waves of energy dancing across the sky, witnessing scenes that I could never hope to describe in a physical sense.

Gradually, over the next six months, I settled back into a more normal state of perception, mostly because I stopped my practices, in fear of leaving my body and not returning 

The after effects

Although, five years later, I still experience many after effects from this kundalini awakening, I am for the most part able to function as a “normal human being.” But in saying that, there are two after effects that are of deeper significance than the others. One is the ability to apply something called Kechari mudra. This is the name used to describe when the tongue is pushed up behind the soft palate, into the nasal cavity. Doing this has many powerful effects upon the body and mind, effects I’ll discuss in my next post. The second after effect is called Shaktipat, the ability to initiate the awakening of another person’s kundalini. This is something I’ll also look at in a later post.

A visual journey

I made some drawings soon after my kundalini experience to visually illustrate the process of awakening I went through. I’ll upload them, hopefully tomorrow 🙂

 

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While walking by the river in Sligo town with my daughter Aoife, the beautiful swan pictured above came over to say hello.  

Our brief meeting with that swan reminded of a powerful practice called hansa yoga, a practice that is both basic and advanced. Basic in that it’s a simple exercise of following the breath, and advanced in that it’s a powerful mantra capable of arousing the spiritual power called kundalini shakti that lays dormant within us.

The practice is simple. To do it, you sit, stand or lie in a comfortable position. Then, listening to the sound of your breath, as you inhale, visualise a stream of light flowing up through your spine and out into the universe, and as you exhale, visualise a stream of light flowing in from the universe, through your head, and down your spine. During the inhalation phase, sub-vocally make the sound sa, and during the exhalation phase, sub-vocally make the sound han.

This is a very deep subject that probably needs more explanation than I’m about to give it. So, I’ll expand on what I write here in a later post.

Hansa as a mechanism of Samadhi

Hansa is the natural mantra generated by the breath and movement of the prana (energy) through the nadis (energy channels). According to yogic science, It’s this movement of prana through the nadis that causes consciousness to arise. The aim of Yoga is to unite the up-moving prana with the down-moving prana. This unification causes the energy to stop moving, stilling the mind and allowing samadhi (self absorption) to occur.

Han and sa are the sounds of the prana (downward moving energy) and apana (upward moving energy). In using the hansa sadhana (spiritual practice), you are mixing the two of these energies together, which eventually stills the consciousness.

Inner meaning

The meaning of the mantra is “I am that.” I am is the awareness of self, the first point of consciousness arising in duality.

Now, the breath is the sustaining power that binds us to physical existence. As we breathe hansa (I am that), we are binding ourselves to duality. I am that is the cosmic vibration that pulls the SELF into duality, through identification. Keeping this in mind, you can note the following about kundalini shakti. Shakti is the power of the self, the creator of this illusory, phenomenal existance. So you can see that shakti manifests itself through the principle of hansa (I am that).

By consciously using the hansa mantra, you are awakening the sleeping shakti and calling her to the first point of duality within you, which is energetically located at the third eye. This is what’s called raising the kundalini, which leads to the breathless state (nirbikalpa samadhi). 

Whew, how did such a simple post end up getting so full on?!

In my next post, I’ll talk about my own kundalini awakening and somehow explain how yoga relates to Bushido (the way of the warrior).

Cycle of life and death

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Spending time in nature this weekend got me thinking about the cycle of life and death. It made me remember that Death’s greatest gift to us is Life.

In the warrior traditions of Japan, there’s an art called sakkappo no jutsu (the art of killing and resuscitation). This art teaches the warrior how to kill with a single strike, and how to revive someone from death, as if by magic. Although there are many dark aspects within this art, learning it didn’t turn me into some kind of crazed psychopath, instead, it developed within me a deep appreciation for life.

Seeing how delicate the human body is and how easily that delicate spark of life can be extinguished forced me to think about what was really important to me and gave me the strength to tear down the self imposed barriers and limitations that would have otherwise stopped me from truly living instead of simply existing.

As we think about death, our mind becomes incredibly clear. Coming to terms with our own mortality really does wake us up to life. 

When walking the path of the warrior, we must constantly think about death. The warrior, reminding him/her self that each breath taken may be their last, lives every moment in the present, without fear, ready to face and overcome every challenge placed in front of them. This is is Death’s greatest gift to us.

Liebster award

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Today I was nominated by Jenni Burke for the Liebster Award. Thank you Jenni 🙂 The idea of this award is to help promote relatively new blogs that have a following of less than 200 people.

How does it work?

When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself, then you answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you. After this, you nominate 11 more bloggers and ask them 11 more questions.11 random facts about me.

1) I’m married to Catherine, my amazing wife. 2) I’m the father of two awesome children, Shane (11) and Aoife (2). 3) I’m a vegetarian, but I’m totally cool with cooking meat for other people. 4) I speed read books for the fun of it (if you haven’t tried speed reading, you’re missing out on something really cool). 5) I’ve had 3 near death experiences, brought on by meditation (they really change the way you see the world). 6) I’ve never done a skydive, but I would love to try one. 7) I have an unhealthy addiction to adrenalin, which makes me do stupid things like submit books to publishers and fight people (in a gym, with proper controls) I have absolutely no chance of beating. 8) I love food cooked in Govinda’s restaurant. 9) I don’t think the world will end on 21/12/2012. 10)Teaching martial arts is one of my favourite things to do. 11) I think you’re very patient to have read to the end of this 11 things about me bit.

What is your favorite quote?

This isn’t so much a quote, it’s a speech. So here’s a link to the best speech you’ll ever listen to

😀 Please listen to it. Such powerful, moving words. Here’s the link.

What is your favorite season?

Spring. I feel most awake and alive at this time of year.

What is one of your hobbies?

Reading. I love to read books, blogs, and magazines where the writer expresses something they are passionate about. In particular, I enjoy reading things that get me thinking deeply about the subject.

What is your favorite form of exercise?

That’s a difficult question to answer; I like most forms of exercise. But if I have to chose one, then I’ll say breathing, simply because it has such a deep effect on every level of being, and always leaves me feeling amazing.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with the world?

Smile every day. Try do it the moment you wake up. Smiling sets of a cascade of reactions in your body, releasing positive hormones that positively effect you on every level of your being. As well as this, it positively influences your surroundings and the people within them 🙂

What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream, I would have to say, is to realise my self 🙂

Who is your hero/heroine?

Amma (the hugging saint).

Who is your favorite fictional character and why?

Superman. He fights for those who can’t; he always does the right thing even when he stands to lose everything himself. He’s a true altruist, a bit like Buddha, with the addition of some seriously cool superhuman powers.

Who is your favorite famous person and why?

Tommy Tiernan. He makes me laugh so much my stomach hurts.

What is your favorite book and why?

Seeds of consciousness. That book literally blow me away. After reading the first paragraph of this outstanding piece of work, my mind seemed to dissolve into nothingness. Reading seeds of consciousness was like glimpsing the pure nature of existence. By far the most profound words I’ve ever read. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj; what an amazing soul.

What is your dream retirement?

I’d love to retire to the countryside, and open a small private dojo, where I could train in and teach Martial arts and yoga to anyone willing to learn.

Now to the 11 bloggers I have nominated:

  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions.
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!
  • Make sure the blogs you chose have 200 or LESS followers

My 11 nominated bloggers:

My 11 questions to them:

What do you do to make yourself feel good?

If you only had 1 week to live, what would you do?

If you only had 10 seconds to live, what would you do?

What does the word love mean to you?

What advice would you give a random stranger who’s life you wanted to help improve?

What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

What’s your ideal job?

What do you need to do in order to get your ideal job?

What do you think about reality?

Are you dreaming your life, or are you living your dream?

What’s your favourite thing to eat? (if it sounds tasty, I’ll give it a go)

NOMINEES:

Irish rover

Declan

Jess

Patrick

To know Beauty

Aubury 27

Mary Claire

Chris

lleighh

Thane

Bert

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One thing in life that has always fascinated me is how every one of us sees reality in a different way, from a unique perspective, and how those perspectives can give rise to infinite possibilities. If everyone on the planet witnessed the same event at the same time, no two people would see that event in the same way. So, although we all exist together in the here and now, in a sense, we’re all living in our own separate personal realities, with everyone’s version of reality intersecting to make up this intricate web of  a communal experience we call life.   

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Infinite Realities 

Every one of us receives about 400 billion bits of information every second of every day, yet we only consciously perceive about two thousand bits of that information. To put these numbers into perspective, this is the same as having 10,000 cinema screens in front of you, all playing different movies, but only being able to watch one. So how do we decide which of these movies we should watch? What pieces of information do we decide are important enough to enter our conscious awareness and become our reality? And why do I choose to watch one movie (my interpretation of reality) while you choose to watch a different one? Well, this isn’t something we do consciously, rather it’s an unconscious process in which our brain’s filter into our conscious awareness only what they deem to be important to us. The parameters our brains use to make these decisions are made up from both genetically, hard wired instincts, and conditioned reactions we’ve learned through life experience. 

 

Perceptual Hierarchy: A walk in the park 

We have an in-built perceptual filtering hierarchy. Using this hierarchy, the brain prioritises events in the outside world by categorising them into levels of importance. At the top of the hierarchy are things that pose an immediate threat to our life. This is followed by things that could potentially hurt or injure us. Next on the list is hunger, closely followed by things that sexually arouse us. Underneath this are the things we consciously focus on. And below this is everything else.

To illustrate how this hierarchy works think of yourself walking down a forest path. As you wonder down the path, you consciously pay attention to the beauty of the brightly coloured flowers that give off such an intense aroma that they seem to transport you to some other place, leaving you in a type of waking trance. As you carry on down the path you suddenly stumble over a root that has risen above the ground. This quickly snaps your attention back into the present moment, allowing you to regain your balance. In this case, your conscious focus, which was on the scent and look of the flowers, is overridden by your body’s survival instinct. So as you trip, you completely forget about the flowers, as your awareness is drawn to something that could potentially do you harm. 

Now imagine, just as you recover from stumbling, you hear the sound of a wild animal growling behind you. Your awareness is refocused again, this time being taken away from the protruding root, and focused on the growling sound behind you. Because you think your life is in immediate danger, your brain overides all other perceptual awareness and brings this to the surface of your attention. As you slowly turn to face the wild animal, you realise it’s only a small dog on a leash. The dog’s owner pulling on the leash, looks up at you to apologise, and as he/she makes eye contact, you notice how beautiful he/she looks. Again, your awareness has shifted. Once you realised you were in no danger of being eaten alive, your brain re-evaluated your surroundings and brought your awareness to a lower level on the perceptual hierarchy. 

After saying hello to the dog owner and maybe exchanging numbers or arranging to meet for a tea or coffee, you carry on with your walk. Now that all the excitement is over, you drift back into that other world, noticing how vibrant the flowers are, until your mind is pulled back into the present for a second time, only this time there’s no danger to your life. This time it’s an empty feeling in your stomach, a feeling of hunger, that’s snapping your awareness back into the present moment. 

 

A fluctuating state of mind 

For most of us, our awareness is in a constant state of fluctuation, moving up and down the ladder of perceptual hierarchy, and because we’ve all learned to see everything a little differently, each of us will see the world from a different state of perceptual awareness. For example, you might have an exaggerated fear of bees because you were stung as a child, and learned that bees can really hurt you. Whereas my two year old daughter hasn’t been stung by a bee, nor does she even know that a bee could hurt her, and for that reason is content to happily chase them around the garden. Now imagine, you’re in a car and my daughter happens to be there too. The window is slightly open, and just as you drive onto a busy motorway, in flies a bee. Your state of awareness will be dramatically different from my daughter’s. And because your state of awareness is so different, you would both have completely different experiences of the same event. Yours being an experience of fear and terror, and my daughter’s being an experience of fun and adventure. 

 

Changing our perceptual filters 

So the question is, Can we change our perceptual filters? And the answer is yes, we can. Changing our perceptual filters requires us to look at a situation or event from a different perspective. To do this we need to first become aware of how we currently perceive the situation. Once we are aware of how we’re seeing things, we can concentrate on looking at the situation from a new angle, a fresh perspective. How do we do this? We use some simple visualisation techniques. My favourite is to imagine the event from another person’s point of view. So let’s take the example of a bee flying in through the window of your car. As you sit there, you know you can’t just jump out of a fast moving car. So, instead, you put yourself in my daughter’s shoes and you try to see things from her perspective. You think to yourself, “oh, hello mr. bee, I’m so happy you’ve joined us today. We’re going to the park, you’ll love it there.” Getting into that frame of mind, becoming playful and meeting the situation assuming the best outcome rather than the worst, has a powerful effect, not just on our own behaviour, but also on the behaviour of the bee. 

 

In the same way reality responds to our state of being, so do the things within our surroundings. this is a bit like walking into a room where there has just been a big argument. Walking into that room, you immediately feel uncomfortable and stressed. Whereas, if we walk into the same room just after an uplifting event has taken place, a child’s birthday party, for example, we respond by feeling happy and uplifted. 

 

So changing our perceptual filters not only changes how we see an event, it also changes how the event unfolds in response to our perception of it. In relation to the bee in your car; it flies in through the window, and instead of attacking you, as you try to swat and kill it, it flies around for a few seconds, you wind down all the windows, and it flies back out. 

 

One of the best and easiest ways of changing perspective, when dealing with another person, is to simply try see the situation from their point of view. So If you get into an argument with someone, pause for a moment and ask yourself why is that person reacting the way they are. Doing this, and really trying to think like the other person, develops empathy, and as empathy develops, it gives birth to compassion. Compassion is probably the most powerful perceptual filter, a perceptual filter we should all work on developing. 

 

Try experimenting with different perceptual filters and notice how you’re better able to deal with the more difficult things in life. For those of us training in the warrior traditions, it’s essential that we learn to alter our perception. Doing this gives us new ways of looking at situations that we would otherwise see as impassable mountains on our path, in both combat and in life. 

 

Learning to change our perceptual filters opens up infinite possibilities, possibilities we would never have considered had we not learned how to see things from different perspectives.

The awesome kid’s in my Jujutsu club, in Ireland, showing off some of their skills during training.

Awareness: life’s master key

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It just occurred to me that I’ve been writing all of these posts on things I think are important, but while doing this, I’ve managed to completely forget about the most important part of a warrior’s training and of life itself: Awareness.

“Without awareness, we can’t function in the world.”

The greater our level of awareness, the more we’re able to interact with our inner and outer environments. We can see this in the cycle of life and death; a new born baby will have very little awareness of the outside world, and for that reason her ability to interact with it is very limited. But as she grows and her senses begin to awaken, she gets better at interacting with her surroundings. So instead of only being able to cry, which can mean she’s hungry, tired, in pain, etc., she starts to point at food, or she holds her knee when she falls and hurts herself. As she grows into a young girl, she begins to talk and interact even more, enjoying her sensory experience of the world around her. But as she matures into adulthood, her senses gradually diminish in their capacity to recieve information from the world. This continues until, eventually, she grows into an elderly woman taking her last breath. As she leaves this world, her senses start shutting down. And as her awareness is drawn inward, her connection with the outer world fades. This cycle can be seen throughout nature, in every aspect of life.

Have your cake and eat it

You can think of awareness like this. Imagine, in front of you, a beautifully presented plate filled with the most delicious food you ever set your eyes upon. If you’re completely devoid of awareness, you won’t even know the plate exists, and you’ll miss the best food tasting experience of your life.

But let’s say you have some level of awareness, just enough to recognise that there’s a plate of food in front of you. Because your awareness is so low, you won’t appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the food, nor will you appreciate its taste. This is because we have two types of awareness, one being inner awareness and the other outer awareness. Inner awareness tells us about the inner environment of our body and mind, while outer awareness tells us about our surroundings.

So, looking at the example of the plate of food, as our awareness increases our experience of the food deepens. We start to see colours, which become more and more vibrant, various aromas are revealed to us, which keep increasing in their complexity, and bursts of flavour explode in our mouth with each bite we take.

“Increased awareness deepens our experience and appreciation of life. Deeper appreciation is expressed as gratitude. And as we experience Gratitude, we draw new, positive experiences into our life.”

Although the plate of food example is a good one, it doesn’t quite demonstrate the importance of increased awareness to its fullest. To do this, let me use an example from the warrior traditions.

Don’t just stand there!

If I have no awareness and someone decides to punch me in the face. I’m not going to move, I’m simply going to stand there and get punched. Worse still, because I don’t have any awareness, I’m not going to feel any pain. So, if that person decides to punch me again and again, I’m going to let him do it until my body can’t take any more punishment, at which point, it shuts down and I die.

The more awareness I have, the better are my chances of surviving a punch, or multiple punches to the face. In fact, if my awareness is deep enough, I’ll never even get into a situation where someone is going to punch me. This same idea applies to all situations in life. The deeper our awareness of our inner state of being and our outer environment, the better we become at navigating our way through the river of life.

Flex your awareness muscle

Developing better awareness is as simple as developing stronger muscles; you just have to exercise your mind. So how do we do that? We focus our attention on what we’re doing. Most of us aren’t very good at that, you know.

By focussing attention, I mean really focussing. That means getting out of autopilot mode, and actively engaging in what we’re doing. For instance, if you’re driving, pay more attention to the road, the other vehicles around you, your reactions to traffic, etc. Focussing in this way takes more practice than you might imagine. Just try sit for a few minutes while paying complete attention to your breathing, focussing on the air flowing in and out of your lungs. Notice how distracted you become, and how your awareness begins to drift, as you start thinking about what you’ll have for lunch, or how you forgot to feed the cat, etc.

If you focus in this way regularly enough, your awareness will grow and your experience of life will become deeper and richer. Enjoy.

For a nice look at the yogic understanding of awareness take a look at Jenni Burke’s Blog.

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