Babylon, an extract

i love people
without exception

they are so fragile and beautiful
like a snowdrop in a late winter storm
almost hidden in the cold white cruelty of its dying
yet still dancing its slight white innocence
in the biting wind that sweeps its coverlet of death upon it

i haven’t met one yet
that didn’t have a thousand stars hiding in their eyes
that didn’t have a rainbow tucked into the corners of their mouth
ready to break out in the light of one of those stars
when the rain has passed
cleansing their too often clouded eyes

that’s what gets me the most
not so much the magnificence of those stars
that shine from so deep inside
that i can feel the heat in my own cells
but the tremulous, fragile shimmers of light
breaking into momentary colour from a tear unfrozen
by an unexpected moment of honesty and pain
that in its innocence has become a gift of freedom
a rising breath
a wing outstretched that stirs the air
and cools the lashes of the watchful eye

i want to die then
in those eyes, on that smile
let my flesh melt, my bones crack
and my blood run through new gorges
into a brand new furnace
where the fire that burns is my own fire again
my blood, my life embodied
again and again in a million forms
a billion passing flowers of flesh.

because i know
i know the power
in the honesty of that tear
the balm of peace
that it sets free

a peace that hides in each of us
as desperate to come out
as i am to see it
loosed upon this mortuary of lies
to see it turn upon the beast
and hold it steady in its gaze
till it shrivels, cowers and vanishes

as it does my friends, as it does

yes
it cannot go anywhere
it cannot do anything
without our approval

we give it the feet
that stomp across the gardens of paradise
that we have laid waste

we give it the hands
with which it tears at the soil
uprooting the delicate balance of nature

we give it the engines of hell
with which it blackens the skies and thickens the oceans
with its foul and pestilent breath

it has no hands of its own
no feet, no eyes, no tongue
but ours

Response to Jem Bendell’s request

I am responding to Jem Bendell’s post about meditation, chanting and prayer. I am responding from my own almost 50 years experience of meditation, both as practitioner and teacher  My perspective on meditation rests on many years experience as a member of the Kanzeon Zen Sangha. Yet this perspective has been deeply fertilised by my experience of almost 50 years practicing and teaching Yoga also.

My perspective is that the deep benefit/purpose of meditation is to integrate the intelligence of mind into the intelligence of consciousness. This is certainly what my Zen training brought me to. In my experience of Zen Training there was no conceptualisation about this process. There was however a strong emphasis on letting go of concepts. Any story of any kind, however satisfying, refined or subtle, was always dismissed by my teachers as a distraction.

As yoga takes place in action and meditation in stillness they offer different challenges and gifts. Yet my experience of Zen inspired me to fold its heart into my teaching of yoga. In doing this i came not only to a clearer understanding of yoga and how it works, but also of what was going on in my experience of zen meditation.

In yoga posture practice the first concern must be to protect the bodies vulnerability at the joints. This demands that the practitioner become intimate with the sensations being generated in the tissues within and around the joints. Then it becomes possible to not only ‘hear’ what the body is saying, but respond to it also. That responsiveness provides the protection (ahimsa).

In my latter experience of Zen Training my teachers had only one instruction for me: “do nothing”. At first i simply rejected this out of hand. They kept at it. Eventually i decided to drop my arrogance and see what it might mean. Eventually i found out. Having spent a lot of time and effort using my mind to ‘make’ nothing happen, in the end my mind let go completely of any attempt to make anything happen.

As my mind let go of its intention and efforts i was overwhelmed by an intense pressure in my chest. This pressure seemed to be pressing outwards and inwards at the same time. Its intensity was initially and for quite a while painful. But suddenly the intensity reached a peak pitch and spread and the pain dissolved into a deep, quiet, satisfying delight.

Even though i did not realise it at the time what i had been taken through was an intense experience of physical sensations. So intense that there was no space left for mind to impose itself on what was happening. Instead awareness was taken deeply by the flow of sensation.

In applying “do nothing” to my practice over time something else happened, over and over again. If my mind really did let go of its ability to make things happen i arrived at the same place. A place of clear, calm rapture. This happened no matter the quality of feeling i was experiencing. It was the same for pain in my ankle, pressure in my shinbone, aching in my back, grief, anger, fear.

So, my advice to anyone wanting to ‘deal with’ intense emotions through meditation is simple. Feel the sensations as deeply and clearly as you can. Allow your mind to express its dynamism freely, but invite your mind to let go completely into your deeper ability to feel.

This means no longer paying special attention to the content and activity of your mind. Instead it means just feeling the flow of sensations as continuously and clearly as possible: whatever they may be. It means no longer asking your mind to do anything. Not even to understand: with experience it will understand. Not even to notice anything in particular: what can be known will eventually be known.

Feeling sensations is quite different from noticing them. In noticing there is a gap. This gap can reduce intensity, but it reinforces the split in your experience between the observer and the observed. This split is the foundation of our sense of separateness and the anxiety and aggression it generates. Meditation for  daily living must dissolve that split, close that gap: unifying observer and observed, dissolving the distinction between self and other.

If we emphasise our ability to observe or notice the gap our underlying sense of separateness is strengthened. This can lead to chronic detachment. Not only from particular feelings, inspiring us to avoid, displace or repress our anger, grief and fear. It can also detach us from life itself. It can create a deep longing to escape the pressures and responsibilities of daily life and flee to an ashram, monastery or cave.

If we emphasise our ability to feel we will be doing more than quietening mind. Our ability to feel is a remarkable capacity. One that we share, in different ways, with all living beings. What it is that we feel as human beings is excitations in our nerves. Yet we do not feel most of the neurological activity of our bodies.

To feel a sensation three things must be present. The intelligence of the body must be generating neurological activity in the sensory nerves. The intelligence of mind must be recognising that something is happening, even if it does not recognise exactly what. Yet the experience of a sensation also requires awareness.

Awareness is an expression of the intelligence of consciousness.

Awareness functions through different pathways: feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing and thinking. Thinking, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling all require the intelligent presence of consciousness. Your ability to feel requires the intelligent presence of consciousness.

Your ability to feel is a direct expression of the intelligence of consciousness. This is not the consciousness of the conscious mind. It is a deeper, more fundamental expression of consciousness. One which we share, in different ways, with all living beings.

By becoming intimate with your ability to feel you are becoming intimate with consciousness. In becoming intimate with the presence of consciousness mind becomes very still, quiet and clear. It is absorbed into the presence of consciousness and its spacious luminosity. The disturbing stories of anger, fear and grief dissolve into that peaceful luminosity. This allows us to act on their underlying cause with a clear, calm mind.

If you are feeling fear, grief, anger, loneliness or anxiety you have many options. Yet, whatever else you do, try feeling the sensations within them as deeply as possible. So deeply that you no longer even know exactly what you are feeling. So deeply that you no longer even know exactly who or what is feeling them. Stay there, being deliciously marinated by the nourishing presence of consciousness. It will make a welcome difference.

A RADICAL INTERVIEW extract two

People don’t trust nature. We don’t trust others. We don’t trust ourselves. This has to change if we are to meet this ecological catastrophe effectively. Even if that doesn’t mean preventing it. Even if that only means going down gracefully.

Trust in nature does not come from intellectual analysis. Nor does trust in others. It only comes from experience. By becoming intimate with your own presence you can arrive at both simultaneously. Trust in self and others and trust in the natural world.

That is really what we need. Trust and love go with each other. We can’t love nature if we don’t trust her. We can’t love ourselves if we don’t trust ourselves. That is what Radical Ecology is all about: generating that trust. Through experience. It does not have to be total, there just has to be an opening.

What do you mean by total trust?

I mean completely trusting life, in its wholeness, just as it is. This of course includes trusting Mother Nature and human nature. Not just as abstractions or collectives, but in all their individual particulars. I don’t mean that the trust has to be fully there but the openness to the possibility of trusting life has to be there because why would you want to be sensitive to something that you can’t trust?

Where most people are starting from is that you can’t trust life; you can’t trust nature and its dangers. For thousands of years civilisation can be seen as and is often called the conquest of nature. Within that there is fear of nature and within that there’s mistrust.

Of ourselves too – we fear our own moods so take drugs to change them

Yes. We fear ourselves because we don’t really know ourselves. We don’t know that there is an inexhaustible source of peace, delight and love inside each one of us.

People need to get to the point where they’re willing to become open to trusting life. That is two degrees away from actually trusting it. That is not such a big ask. It is very doable. In fact that is what Embodied Resilience Trainings are for.

The change we need has to come from very deep. It is not enough to change our beliefs and values, to put on an acceptable uniform, to pay carbon offsets. We need to change what we consciously want. Not what we want as an ideal or a dream or a hope. We need to change what we want to do and feel right now.

Only then will our behaviour change. I don’t see a political solution. Clean clothes on a dirty body just get dirty very fast. We need a deep change in the way people think. Not only concepts, but first, desires. We have to choose different things because we feel how much we want them, need them. How much we need to nestle in the roots of a tree, run our toes through sand and look each other in the eyes.

The environmental crisis is deeper than politics. It’s deeper than economics. We are not going to get an economic or political solution. The crisis is one of desire. We are wanting things that won’t and can’t satisfy us. So we keep banging our head against a brick wall: the brick wall of consumerism.

I don’t see a social solution. I see only an inner solution. People’s motives have to change. People have to want intimacy more than things. That’s it really. Intimacy with nature, with consciousness, with their body, and with each other. Not jut wanting that – we all want that – but realising that we want that. And that the other things we want are fine but they aren’t going to give us what those will give us – intimacy with body, mind, consciousness, others and nature. Intimacy with organic life, natural life is what’s needed.

I don’t mean to say the environmental, social, economic, political actions that people take shouldn’t be taken. I’m just saying that those are going to come to nothing if they don’t rest on something deeper. Our political actions must be based on loving and trusting life. Not on fear of destruction, or guilt about destroying.

Of course we need political and social changes. But they must rest on changes in the individual psyche. It’s not an either or. Life is recycling its units so very quickly. There has to be a deep change in human understanding. We need a change of consciousness. Something very deep has to happen.

Maybe something already is. I’m not suggesting that somebody has to come up with an idea. Maybe the idea is already expressing itself; we just haven’t quite recognised its fruition. People talk about critical mass and tipping points. Yes, sure we know these things happen. Yet of course you can’t tell that it’s tipping until it’s tipping. You can’t tell the waters about to boil – it’s just getting hotter. All of a sudden you know it’s boiling because it’s steam.

I’m not worried. The reason I’m not worried is that I love life more than I love Godfrey. I don’t really know who Godfrey is. He is a chameleon, a will o’ the wisp.

I think I know what life is. People always suffer. Suffering is the secret face of joy. I think to try to avoid human suffering is foolish. That’s never going to happen, that’s never going to come. People are making a lot of fuss, and I don’t mean to belittle the fuss, about economic and political exploitation. The 760 billion dollar bailout. Of course, I agree, it sounds ludicrous, nonsense. It’s just one more example of elitist exploitation.

Just show me a time when the few were not riding on the labour of the many. Just show me! I don’t see such a time. Except outside the history and thrust of so called civilisation. In the African savannah or the Amazon rainforest perhaps. But civilisation as we know it is based on surplus. Surplus means accumulation. Accumulation means concentration. Concentration means exploitation as long as society is based on mistrust and fear of nature.

As long as we fear for ourselves we lose touch with our compassion for others. This has always been the flavour of so called civilisation. We need to rise above that fear, that mistrust. It doesn’t take effort to do that. It takes intimacy. With our bodies, with each other, with nature. Most of all it needs intimacy with the indivisibility of wholeness. This is not so hard to come by. This is somatic spirituality, this is Radical Ecology. Only through intimacy can we come to the trust that we need to live in peace with each other and nature.

It’s interesting what you say about trusting yourself, trusting life, the wisdom because so few people really do…

Most people don’t even recognise that life has its own wisdom. Some people might give it intelligence but of a very basic kind. They don’t even recognise that their conceptual intelligence comes from life. It comes from the specialised differentiation of cellular intelligence, cellular sensitivity. The sophisticated circuitry of the cortex is just cells.

Not realising this is alienation. An alienation from nature that forces us to hope for something more, something other, something out there, something mystical, transcendent, metaphysical. It isn’t there. It just isn’t there. But still the hopeful keep tying themselves up in cords of hope, frustration and despair. But this alienation is easily remedied. We only have to become intimate with our bodies. As we do so we become intimate with our mind, and with consciousness. All along we are becoming intimate with nature. Within this intimacy a deep trust in and love for nature can not help but be born.

A RADICAL INTERVIEW: extract one

Isn’t the aim to get people to fall in love with all these creatures we share the planet with.

It has to be more than that unfortunately. I could fall in love with you, Laura, and still hate women. Do you see what I mean. So it’s not the specific, it’s not the particular. We have to fall in love with the abstract essence, the heart of it: nature itself, life itself.

That’s very difficult for people to do because it’s an abstraction. To fall in love with a particular is easy enough. To fall in love with a certain amount of the particularities is not enough. It’s not enough. You have to see the wholeness, the indivisible wholeness behind it. And to realise that that’s actually what’s functioning.

When I’m talking to you, what’s functioning? I couldn’t even begin to start describing it. Our love of nature is underpinning our knowing each other. The dramatic cerebral development of the neocortex is providing the means for us to talk to each other. The long slow drift towards vertebral verticality is behind this conversation. Cellular respiration is a necessary precondition for our existence. The love of oxygen for hydrogen, water, is functioning through me talking to you. The strong and weak nuclear force and gravity are supporting us.

Everything that’s involved in the evolution of life is expressing itself through this phrase. Totally. And that word, this gesture depends upon all of that. This is what people have to encounter deeply for there actually to be any possibility of environmental recovery. Otherwise it’s just a tax we’re having to pay.

Targets to be met..

Yes: “fuck it, I’ll take one less flight this year because otherwise my grandchildren…..” That’s not going to work. It has to come from the heart. There has to be a change of values enough to bring about a change of motive. You have to really, really not want all this destructive consumer accumulation. To not want that strongly enough means you have to want something else so badly that you can see the false shine on all that stuff very, very clearly. Clearly enough to let go of your self deceptions, to let go of reassuring yourself with your carbon offsets. 

It’s not enough to want to save nature, to save the planet. It’s not enough because it needs to be saved from us. From human beings. From human consumption and accumulation. Saving the planet does not come from understanding the subtleties of interlocked ecosystems. It can not come from agreeing to reduce fossil fuel consumption. It will not come from targeting limits on global warming. It can only come from a total transformation of human behaviour, of human culture.

This transformation can not be imposed. We cannot intellectually proscribe how we all need to start behaving. Not least because we are collectively in so many different types of situation. Some of us would die fast if all environmentally damaging practices were abruptly terminated. Others would be fine.

No, we can not depend on top down, politically or socially imposed behavioural limitations. We may need to use them, to reconfigure our transportation, consumption and eating habits. Nevertheless it won’t be enough.

We need to start to feel that we are nature. We need to feel, not just know intellectually, that what we do to any part of nature we are doing to ourselves. We have to feel the destruction of the environment as a protracted form of suicide. And we have to want to live. To live as part of nature, as part of the wholeness.

You have to want intimacy with nature, with others, with the elements. If you don’t want those things badly enough then the gap that’s left by not having them will drive you into consumerism. All those gadgets are substitutes for nature as trees and dirt, snotty shitty animals and other people. You have to want to be intimate with all of that.  Otherwise you’ll just try to drown your longing with gadgets and special experiences. Especially spiritual experiences. Most of which are no more meaningful than a walk along the riverside: probably less.

The heart of the problem is a very deep one. We are deeply out of touch, deeply alienated from our own nature. This alienation leaves us with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction: only temporarily relieved by our excitements, achievements and successes. The constant drive to relieve it is underlying our consumerism.

Consumerism is not only about things. It’s equally about experiences. Those people who think and say that there are so many things they want to do before they die are hard core consumerists even if they are not hoarding physical objects. Their consumerism is not just about the resources they have to consume to have that experience, to go on that journey, to explore that place. It is also about that deep, ongoing dissatisfaction.

This dissatisfaction arises from not having come to terms with our apparently binary nature. When we do come fully to terms with our apparently binary nature we find our nature is absolutely singular. Not only that but we discover that it provides with as many resources as does the natural world.

Unlike the resources of the natural world however, the resources of our nature are inexhaustible. We can not exhaust, nor even deplete them. They are not quantifiable.

What are these resources?

They include courage, resilience, fortitude, generosity, compassion, wisdom, love. These resources are not only available to you, but to anyone and everyone around you too.

How can people access these resources?

The most simple, direct way is to become intimate with your own presence. For some people this is easier to begin in movement. For some people it is easier to begin in stillness. For others it is easier to begin within the mirror of others. In all cases it is a somatic experience, a somatic journey through your own presence into your own nature. Of course the remarkable cognitive intelligence of mind is involved. It is involved but it is not leading, not guiding. Rather it is simply recognising, and learning.

It is possible for almost everyone to access the singularity of their nature by way of their body. All that is needed is that you feel totally safe and can be guided deep into the presence of your body. As you relax deeply into the sensations being generated by your body you begin to be taken deeper than its anatomical and phsyiological expressions. You no longer notice ankles, pressure, nostrils, breathing.

As the sensations in your body dissolve into the deepening presence of softness spreading, softness opens. It loses its localisations and becomes nonlocal, expanding, becoming lighter, emptier. Boundaries melt, form dissolves. You very easily become enraptured in the peace of it. You very easily begin to vibrate with the presence of love.

This is not love for or of. It is the love that you most deeply, deliciously are. This is actually what you are feeling when you look openly and softly into the eyes of your beloved. It is not really your love for them, nor their for you, though it is flowing through those. It is the love that you are meeting itself in the love that they are. Love without a cause meeting love without an object.

This is very powerful.

If you go there enough everything begins to change. Especially if you do it with many people. Particularly people you don’t know. It becomes clear that you are not hallucinating, not projecting. That this love, this peace, this joy are real. Not only that they are real, but that they are what you most deeply are.

Beneath your memories and dreams, beneath your skills and knowledge, beneath your credentials and identity you are unconditional love, imperturbable peace, inexhaustible joy. This is your deeper nature, your spiritual nature. This is the source of all the resources you need to transform the quality of your life, to take care of others and honour nature with genuine respect.

The joy of this peaceful love that you are wants and needs to express itself. It expresses itself by giving. It has only one need. It is not like the needs of the body. The body’s needs are a demand. It needs to take, to get, continuously: oxygen, water, energy, minerals etc.

Your spiritual nature has only one need, and it is a need. It is a very powerful need. If it is blocked you will never be able to be happy. You will never feel satisfied. You will never be fulfilled. It is the need to give. It is not a need to give anything in particular. It is simply the need to give whatever is needed.

This need not only becomes a spontaneous and effortless generosity. A generosity towards all life, all beings, all people. It is also generates deep compassion, courage and clarity. When you are not pursuing your biological, psychological or social needs you can see more clearly. The doors of perception are cleansed by your passionate need to give. You see what is needed, you know what to do. You don’t have to think about it.

As i said earlier it is not enough to act from fear or obligation. We need to act from love, from generosity. And we can. All we need is to get in touch with our deeper nature. So we understand what we are. So that we know why there is a deep peace inside us. Why it is so easy to give time and attention to a stranger. Why violence is actually so disturbing.

As long as people believe that human nature is defined by our biology it is hard to be deeply optimistic. The old story, reinforced by Darwinists, Marxist, Freudians, that human beings are selfish, aggressive, greedy creatures by nature has to be challenged. It has to be totally discredited. This can not be done by abstract ideology. It can only be done experientially. That is not so hard to do.

So we’re back to where we were. We consume and accumulate because we are out of touch with nature. Not only with human nature, but also Mother Nature. We have to discover the deeper ‘spiritual’ truth about human nature, and we have to recover a genuine love of external nature.

To get to that love we have to first find to the connection. But to find the connection we cant’ go into the wilderness because the wilderness isn’t available to most of us. So we have to go into the body, because the body is nature. It’s our most intimate and precious resource – of nature. At the same time that then brings us to the heart of human nature. To our spirituality as an experiential discovery.

That’s somatic spirituality! We need to immerse ourselves in somatic practices that put us fully in touch with consciousness. This is not difficult.

Radically ecological.

There is in the discourse and institutions of human culture a deeply destructive dogma. That of the “Higher Self” which supposedly inhabits this body for a while. Sometimes known as the “soul”, we are convinced it is the real, meaningful part of us, untouchable by the trials and tragedies of circumstance. Untouched by disease and death. Even when, the story says, it can be stained by sin.

The fact that we are biological beings makes this dogma very tempting. We all know we are going to die. Most of us are going to die too soon, before we are truly ready. We know this. It makes us insecure. It makes us susceptible to well orchestrated superstitions masquerading as divine revelation or spiritual insight.

All of the errors, confusions and tragedies of the worlds of religion, meditation and yoga have their roots in this unsubstantiable dogma. Clearly any belief system that includes a transcendental personal core will generate psychological, technological and social artefacts that bind and distort human intelligence and its longings. Perhaps in the end even destroying the natural world upon which we all depend.

How can we truly love and care for nature if we believe there is something in us, that we really are, better, more valuable and significant than our own natural bodies.

So tenacious and all pervasive is the longing to be free from the inescapable vulnerabilities of our biology that there seems to be no escape from this dogma and its destructiveness. Even for those who recognise its absurdity. Yet escape there is.

It has a clearly delineated path: deep into the body.

This is the fertile soil within which Radical Ecology unfolds. Your body, its vulnerabilities, its dependencies, its intelligence, its richness, its capability, its deeply rooted power. This richness, this power has been sidelined and lost within the slander so relentlessly directed at the body, and thereby at nature.

It is only our alienation from our bodies and their significance that allows us to be bound by doctrines that feed and depend upon our destructiveness.

It is only our alienation from our bodies that allows us to see others, to see ‘the other’ as aliens. It is only our alienation from our bodies that allows us to feel threatened by, and so be a threat to, nature.

To become intimate with your own body is to encounter its identity with nature. To become intimate with your body is to encounter your identity with the world. To become intimate with your body is to encounter directly your spiritual nature.

Become intimate with your spiritual nature and the vulnerabilities of your biological nature will lose their power. Become intimate with your spiritual nature by way of your body and the temptation of ‘spiritual’ dogmas will dissolve into the clear light of the natural intelligence that you are.

Human nature is not distinct from Mother Nature. The intelligence that allows you to derive meaning from these words is a natural intelligence. It emerges from, is dependent upon, the sophistication of your biology. It is not a “ghost in the machine”. It is just one among so many expressions of the intelligence that sustains, drives and generates nature. It is not only intelligence that is encoded in your DNA. It is the intelligence of nature. Your DNA is an encoded record of the journey nature took from its opaque beginnings to you.

The easiest and most direct way to recover and embody love and respect for nature is through your body. Become intimate with the remarkable intelligence, power, resilience and wisdom of your body and you will find yourself face to face with intelligence, power, resilience and wisdom of nature. Then it will not be so easy to use your body as an instrument of destruction. Just as it will not be so easy to use your body to harm itself.

This is the way of Radical Ecology. The way that takes you through human nature into Mother Nature by way of intimacy, awe, appreciation and love. Radical ecology is not a discipline. It is a celebration: of Nature in all of its breadth, depth and subtlety: human nature and Mother Nature. Try it.

SEX AND CONSCIOUSNESS (part one)

GODFREY TALKING WITH NATALIA, ARTIST, YOGA TEACHER AND RADICAL ECOLOGIST.

Hello Natalia we are going to have a conversation, just a relaxed friendly conversation, about two of your favourite subjects as I believe. One of them consciousnessthe other one sex. 

 Of course

 I’m under the impression that these interest you a lot more than politics or philosophy 

 Much more.

 OK. I just want to begin with why I would be  interested in having such a conversation. I spent most of my life as a yoga teacher and I really enjoyed it. I’ve had a very unusual adventurous journey as a yoga teacher in which I’ve had many amazing experiences.  Not least really deeply investigating the nature of the body and how yoga can be made to work in the body. But over the last few years slowly, gradually I find that I’m less interested in yoga. Not completely, but it doesn’t have quite the same pull that it used to have. 

 You mean the practice? 

 No the teaching.

 OK

 Of course this also coincides with me teaching tantra and meditation more. But I think that is symptomatic of the fact that i have gradually become more and more interested in consciousness and sex than anything else: including yoga. So that’s why I thought we should have this conversation because you are interested in both of those. 

 I am.

 I am sure most people are interested in sex but I don’t think that most people are interested in consciousness. Which I think is a shame. But anyway as time takes me closer to death i find myself less able to be clear where the boundary is: not conceptually, but in experience.

 The boundary between sex and consciousness? 

 Yes. I think the association of sex and consciousness all began a long time ago without my knowing quite what had begun. I was actually very slow getting to sex as a teenager, because i was busy with consciousness. I had spent plenty of my teenage years being mildly sexual, but never quite completing. Eventually i made myself complete, because i didn’t want to be left behind. It didn’t seem to grab me as much as it grabed my friends, both male and female. But when finally i got there i was struck by how immediate and potent was the change in the quality of my consciousness that came with sexual penetration. It was like another world. Not just of delicious sensation, but a whole different frequency of perception. I couldn’t explain why even now I couldn’t even describe how but everything seemed to change. 

 At that time was your understanding of sex different to what it is now. I think for most people the word sex means fucking. What was it for you back then? 

 I lost my virginity at 20. I think even then I was more curious about sex than driven by sex. I remember very well why I finally said to myself “Godfrey you have to loose your virginity.” I didn’t have a girlfriend. I’d never really had a girlfriend by the time I was 19 and this surprised all my friends because I was very open, gregarious, uninhibited and at parties I would be the first to dance and do all those things. However I was actually otherwise occupied with God and consciousness.  Of course yoga was a big part of that. So to me sex was not about fucking. Sex was to me was just another thing to explore. “What is this really?” I remember where I was when I made the decision. I was in my bedroom which was actually a cupboard in somebody else’s bedroom. I was coming down on LSD. I’d been having the LSD experience of everything melting and merging – the word that I used to use back then was fusion. Everything was fusing. I was coming down and becoming more normal. It occurred to me that sex was also a kind of fusion and therefore I wanted to know what it was like relative to tripping. So I went out and a few days later I found somebody open and lost my virginity. So it wasn’t out of hornyness or anything like that. It was out of my curiosity trying to understand “What’s really going on in here”. My wanting to understand what is going on here had already been focused on consciousness for a while without me having read anything of Eastern or Western philosophy. My curiosity had come from the fact that I started doing yoga just after I started taking psychedelic drugs. So they came together. The practice and experience of yoga totally coloured my psychedelic experiences. This wasn’t the case for all hippies. Some, yes: it is not unknown for psychedelic drugs to be profoundly spiritual with an Eastern twist

 What was sex’s part in your life back then? 

 Not much. It became a biological necessity once I had it. I didn’t think it was a particularly great experience but I remember very well two days later I was knocking on her door. 

 Would you say that when we are children there is some curiosity about sexual pleasure? 

 I think it is there for everybody. Curiosity is another way of referring to how intelligence works. “What is that, what is this, is it really?” You know. For reasons I will never know my curiosity wasn’t shut down really. In fact I think my curiosity was supported directly, especially by mother. Also I can remember my grandmother had a neighbour who was a teacher who my mother said was fascinated by my curiosity. She was constantly feeding it by asking me questions and not giving the answers. I think I was very lucky in the sense that my curiosity, my natural intelligence  was not hindered. I was also lucky that my education stopped when I was sixteen. Which is a long time before most people that I know. Because most people that I know have gone to university. You know they had twice the education as me and I’m not so sure if that is so good for your curiosity. So I think yes, there is natural curiosity about sensations and pleasure, but of course there is no sense of sex. I remember when I was 8 when I went to boarding school. An older boy was wanting to intimidate the new boys and told us there was a witch living in the attic and she was very, very, very sexy. I had no idea what that meant.

Then when I was 17  I was visiting my parents and my father came home to lunch unexpectedly and as he was coming down the drive he passed this pretty girl who was leaving. So of course his curiosity was triggered. He knew I didn’t have a girlfriend. And anyway I was just visiting. I told him she was my best friend’s girlfriend, who works in the hospital across the road. He didn’t understand why she was in his house at lunchtime. I told him she came to see me every day. He looked at me oddly and said; “It’s extraordinary Godfrey but females seem to find you irresistibly sexy”. I really didn’t understand what that meant. Not really. I knew that he meant women really liked me but I didn’t know exactly what sexy meant. So I’ve been a little slow. My curiosity of course extended itself into anything, into everything including females and what were they like, why do they behave the way they behave. But it wasn’t specifically focused on sex. It’s only now in the last few years it’s coming to a focus like “OK this is an unexplored territory.” People think they understand sex, but i don’t think we do. 

 No they don’t. That’s why I say that for most people sex is the same word as fucking. Would you say that having sex is an expression of consciousness? 

 Yes. In a way it is not fair to say yes. You can change any word for sex and I would say yes. Because to me it is very clear consciousness is all there is and everything is an expression of that. Can you be more specific? 

 What is it that has driven you to make this connection between consciousness and sex and why both have become two most interesting things for you? 

My focusing of interest in sex and consciousness is something that I notice. I notice it. I don’t really know how I got here but I have seen things that can perhaps make sense of it. There is an apparent duality, almost an opposition between sex and consciousness. To me consciousness is not a serendipitous accident of evolution, of sophisticated biology. Which it is in the vocabulary of scientists and philosophers. They are using the word consciousness to refer to the conscious mind, to conscious awareness. The word for that, for the conscious mind, in sanskrit is “citta”. But when i have been using the word consciousness in this conversation the sanskrit equivalent would be “cit”.  Cit is the root or the source of citta. This root or source consciousness precedes biology. 

The apparent distinction between consciousness and sex, or between biology and spirituality, or between matter and spirit is a distinction that exists only in the mind because of the way things happen. You slap me, I feel pain but then I think I better avoid you. I can distinguish between those two. There is a physical pain side and there is the OK I have learnt a lesson side. Mind and body. But the fact I learned it like that, verbalise it like that and think about it like that doesn’t actually mean that there is a duality. It’s an experiential one, a functional one, a linguistic one. So in that sense they are different. Within our experience they are different. This is the domain of yoga and meditation, the whole conundrum of that. So I’m not talking from a philosophical point of view of analysis. I am talking from the point of view analysing my experience which is not the same thing as pure analysis. I’m not familiar with the history of people analysing. I know a little but I am not a professional philosopher. 

Life went on for a long time without sex. So sex is not the deepest expression of biology. But sex is at the heart of mammalian biology. For a human being sex is very deep. It is very very fundamental. We could be reductionist about what is going on within a human organism. The human organism exists so that genetic information can find a way forward. As it has gone forward from amoebas to human beings. The genetic information has found a way forward. At a certain point it found a sexual way forward. And that’s where we are. Sexual transmitters of genetic information. Yet women don’t die when they reach menopause. Sometimes they really start to flourish. So there is more to life, to biology than the genetic imperative. It not then women would just die with the last egg. But that doesn’t happen. So for me … 

And if they didn’t die they probably wouldn’t have sex any more.

 Yes. Except that it is enjoyable. Nevertheless the propogation of genetic information is driving sex and it’s driving sex from very deep. It’s driving sex before sex. So it’s massively deep. Therefore it’s very very powerful. You know it’s almost ridiculously stupid that people should moralistically urge people to control their sex drive without understanding it. How do you control a stallion? Not by saying “Move over there”, not by saying “Don’t do that”. It has to be more sophisticated than that. To me consciousness is all there is. So what that means is that consciousness is the driving force behind evolution. To me the driving force behind evolution is not the propagation of genetic information. What is genetic information? It’s intelligence compacted, compressed. And the fundamental nature of intelligence is consciousness in the sense that it is the ability to distinguish. Without the ability to distinguish an amoeba dies.  So this ability to distinguish which is  the fundamental property of intelligence is also the fundamental property of consciousness. “I am aware it’s not this, I am aware it is that.” “I am aware I am alive.” “I am aware I am not asleep.” So to me you can’t get deeper than consciousness. So sex is very, very, very deep but consciousness is deeper. So your question is how did I get to see this relationship between them. 

 Yes

 And the answer is I don’t really know. It’s partly their depth. You know sex is not a superficial thing. Sex is a very, very, deep thing. But it is also that in my experience both sex and consciousness are inextricable from love.  Not in everyone’s experience, and not in all of my experience. I have been sexually assaulted and i have been raped, a number of times. Nevertheless to me sex and love, consciousness and love are intrinsically inextricable: they belong with one another.

They can’t be separated and in both there is love. 

 What I mean is that neither sex nor consciousness can be separated from love without losing touch with them somehow. 

 So is it’s all of them. 

 Yes, but I am giving that as a fundamental answer to your question. It is because both consciousness and sex point in my experience directly to love that I am fascinated by the relationship between them. 

 Point directly to love.  I would like you to talk a bit about sex and its deepness and how that relates to consciousness. I mean sex is so huge and I think there is a part of it that is unseen. I would like you to talk about how you can be overwhelmed by sex but without really knowing what is happening. We can’t explain but there is something there. Do you know that I mean? 

 I don’t know. Let’s see. There are people out there: Fromm, Reich, Osho who see more to sex than fucking and genetic propogation. I do too, but i can only speak from my personal experience. So what i have to say may not yet be too coherent. My experience is of course that of a human being, so a sexual and a conscious being. But it is also filtered through my role as a teacher.

Nevertheless my functioning as a teacher is a natural, spontaneous expression of my character, of simply wanting to share what I love with people. It’s not that I want even to help people, even though i understand that i have share what i want to share in a way that is not detrimental, that is helpful to those who momentarily play the student/teacher game with me.  It’s not just that they won’t get it if i am not thoughtful about it, if i am not careful about what i do and say: which i am, even to an extreme perhaps. More to the point is that to be a sexual being is to be inherently vulnerable, fragile even. Human beings are extremely fragile especially when it comes to sexuality. Also when it comes to consciousness.  A deeply frightening experience can predetermine the quality of your conscious experience for the rest of your life. Even if it has nothing to do with sex. So the hugeness of sex reflects the hugeness of consciousness.

I just want to drop in a story here.  It comes from one of those Hindu books. One of those stories. Briefly the story is that things started to go seriously bad with the Universe. The planets were imploding and gravity was not functioning properly and all kinds of things weirdly going. So the Gods were panicking. Indra, who is a king amongst gods insists that only Shiva can handle this shit. So one of them goes, in not a little trepidation, to find Shiva. Shiva after all is the Destroyer, so not an easy one to ask a favour of. So Shiva is approached but he is totally engrossed playing chess or whatever is the equivalent in India, with Parvati. Now this is my version of the story and he is losing and that’s why he is engrossed. He does not want to loose to Parvati. So Indra comes and says “Hey excuse me Shiva my lord the universe is falling apart we need your help.” No reply. And Parvati gets the point: she knows Shiva is beyond verbal communication. So she just pushes him over and starts to fuck him. And as they start to fuck gravity starts to return to normal and everything else goes back to normal. 

The way I understand the point of this is that the universe is fundamentally sexual. That sex is the fundamental power of the universe, where consciousness is regarded as the source of that power. You know the power is normally called Shakti, while consciousness is referred to as Shiva. 

 I think it is so important what you just said. That sex is the fundamental power. I really do. 

Well remember that story was made by humans. 

 Yes.

 So to humans it’s maybe the fundamental experienced power. Though maybe gravity is a little bit more fundamental. 

 Also I was thinking perhaps it’s going a bit away from consciousness and sex but going back to this would you say this is intimacy?

 Parvati fucking Shiva?

 No.  But intimacy is part of what you feel when you go deep through sex to consciousness. 

 Well let’s just keep it going deep through sex. Because people can go really deep into sex and arrive at consciousness but they don’t know it. They don’t think they want to go back into consciousness. So I think that intimacy is a key for unlocking these mysteries a little bit in the sense that we are driven into sex by genetic imperative, by the biological imperative. Of course that’s there. But what happens when a woman goes through menopause. It must be something else and it could just be pleasure. But it could be more. It could just be habit, it could just be insecurity. Yes, yes it could. It could, but what else it could be. Especially in the theme of where we are. 

Taking this into my experience as somebody who came to sex late, yes i knocked on her door two days later but I didn’t get involved with anybody. I didn’t have a girlfriend for a while. I was busy doing yoga and taking LSD.  When I was living in Ibiza I met this couple and the woman was French and a yoga teacher. And one day in the conversation I said something like “Ohh sex is overrated.” And she looked at me in that French way and said “Yes Godfrey, but that is  only because you have never had really good sex.” What am I to say? It’s a fair enough observation on her part. If there is somebody who thinks sex is overrated it’s just because they didn’t have good sex. That makes sense. But this seems to be in my character, in my make up. Those things people really like about sex don’t have the same appeal to me. Nevertheless there is something that I experience in sex that definitely appeals to me and that is intimacy. I think that where biology and consciousness meet in sex is in intimacy. Biology doesn’t need intimacy,  it just needs sex. You can rape somebody and pass your genes on. Yet that’s not enough. Nobody is actually is satisfied by that.  Not even the rapist.  So I think that intimacy is the key to sex. But that key is actually an expression of consciousness.  That’s a way you experience consciousness without recognising it, and without knowing anything about it: through the intimacy of sex. Of course there are other ways to enjoy, share intimacy with others. You can be intimate with yourself also.  They are all satisfying. Now sex may have depths and subtleties to its frequency of intimacy, but for sure it has loads of overt, intense, even mind stopping pleasures.

Now I tend to be intimate with my body a few hours every day and from that experience of being intimate with my own body I derive a great deal of satisfaction. I experience pleasure too, but not the kind of pleasure that you get in sex. My experience is that sexual pleasure without intimacy isn’t worth much. But when sexual pleasure comes with intimacy it’s deeply nourishing.  

 Yes and why? 

 Consciousness. Because consciousness is being accessed, even if not recognised, within that intimacy. 

 That’s why I think it is so important  to understand that sex is not only about fucking. It’s much more. It’s also about intimacy

 From the genetic point of view it is about about fucking. But from the consciousness point of view or the point of view of intimacy it’s not.  A woman not too long ago expressed her desire to be sexually intimate with me. I was completely open to this idea. She is also a teacher. Not a yoga teacher. She is a teacher of shamanic tantra. We got naked and we lay down. We looked into each others eyes. And that was it. We just lay and looked into each others eyes. You know on a certain level, on an intellectual level we were both surprised and disappointed so we tried again a few days later. Same thing. So we thought we would try a third time. Same thing. It was enough. There wasn’t any need to do the other stuff.

 Would you say that it was a sexual encounter? 

 Yes, totally. Absolutely and a very, very satisfying one, nicely and amusingly repeated three times.

So this is also why you are more and more interested in teaching tantra than yoga? Would you say this sharing your experience sharing your interest in consciousness and sex and all we are talking about here has led you to this tantra? 

 Well I don’t know where the cause and effect is. You have witnessed  the journey. It began when my wife Olivia insisted that we had to take more responsibility for the effect what we were teaching was having on our students. She was getting lots of clear feedback that many of our students were having their sexual energy awoken by the practice. Yet we weren’t offering any help with that. She said this was really irresponsible of us.  I had a lot of resistance to bringing sex into out teaching conversation but she kept on at me. So I said “OK let’s try.” 

I’ve had had some experiences in my past with tantric teachers but I’ve always kept it to myself. I haven’t even shared it with my partners , because when I am with the person I love I just want to be with them. I don’t want to be doing any kind of conceptualised practices. But anyway we started teaching tantrayoga classes with overt references to sexual energy, desire and pleasure. We usually taught separately, but when we sometimes taught together I asked her to do the teaching and me do the assisting. That was part of my resistance, what you could call my conditioned sexual reluctance. My uptight middle class Englishness. I remember when you were translating you would say “Ohh Godfrey that was brilliant you should do more of this.” And I would say “I don’t really like it.” 

You told me once “This is so boring.” 

 Well it was, it was but it isn’t anymore. That was because I hadn’t let go into it. I was still functioning out of the erotophobic conditioning that there is something not spiritual about, that there is something wrong with, sex. That there is something dangerous about sex. Well of course there is, there are many things dangerous about sex and especially fucking. Now I wouldn’t say I enjoy teaching tantra more than I enjoy teaching yoga but I feel that it is needed more. I enjoy teaching both of them and they are different. In a way teaching yoga is deeper because it’s more directly about consciousness.

 When I practice and I’m alone on my mat a lot of what we are doing I can feel the sexual energy and also the practice is bringing to me to consciousness. It’s also on my mat that I think sex is going on in another way. 

 Recently when i said something negative about tantra one of my students said to me “Yes Godfrey but when you are teaching yoga you may not be saying it but you are teaching tantra. The way you teach yoga, the things you are teaching put people in touch with their internal energies, and sexual energy is here to be felt.” 

Interestingly, at least to me, i can not say, like you just did, that i have ever felt sexual energy during my yoga practice. I know many people who say they have, they do. Not me.  Maybe it’s again a part of my resistance. Maybe i have an unconscious block that doesn’t allow me to acknowledge that this or that frequency of pleasure is sexual in nature, in origin. I have delicious experiences but they are experiences of softness and pleasure which I do not in my mind associate with sex. However I’m absolutely sure that they are sexual but I just don’t get it like that. And I wonder how many other people don’t. You know we are feeling it but we are not willing to recognise what it is. 

If I think about how powerful is the sexual drive and how misunderstood it has been socially and culturally I really think it would be a revolution to understand sex the way you are talking about and if people could be conscious about this relationship between sex, consciousness, intimacy, love all this I really think it’s revolutionary it will change so much cultures, societies. 

Well you have to remember Natalia that you are talking to an old hippie. We thought that we were revolutionising the world back then, especially sexually. And it didn’t happen. Therefore having been there I am not so inclined to look at it in that way. But I do understand what you mean. And of course if people could be as relaxed about their sexuality as I am now I’m sure the world would be a different, better place. But I have no relationship to that idea of revolution or of changing human culture or human society. My motivation as I said before is the sharing. But there is an extra element within that sharing. Of wanting some relaxed company who have similar values, what i take to be more sane values about sex than those imposed by our implicitly manipulative culture. 

When i was young i shared psychedelic drugs with one and all, for free. Now i would like to share an ease with human sexuality. Not in a Hugh Hefner Playboy way, but simply inviting people to become intimate with their own sexuality so that they can become more comfortable with themselves and therefore with others. And therefore less exploitative, less manipulative. You know that when I look at the protocols of human society I see manipulation everywhere. Everywhere. From the fact that somebody ask you a question they think that you have to answer. Or if they dialled your phone you are supposed to pick up. And again from my own experience I think that it is impossible to manipulate and exploit if you are satisfied. If you are happy and if you are satisfied you just can’t, why would you anyway? You don’t want anything, you don’t need anything that needs to be extracted from someone against their will. 

So being satisfied as a human being is not just having enough food, it’s not just having enough water, it’s not just having enough protection against the cold. And it’s not just having enough sex. Those are the basics. Those are the things I would say are not so important including sex. To be satisfied we need intimacy, we need understanding and we need to love. And I think our need to love is actually deeper than our need to be loved. And we know we do need to be loved. We also need to love because love is our nature and you cannot be satisfied if you are not expressing your nature. Hermann Hess wrote a great story about it. 

And actually that is etymologically the significance of the sanskrit word for suffering: dukkha. Because dukkha means the axle is stuck.  It can’t revolve. Therefore it cannot express its nature, and that is the essence of suffering. The inability to express your nature. And if your nature is love then you need to love. But human nature is multi dimensional. We are sexual beings too. So sexuality is a part of our nature and it needs to be expressed. And if it is not expressed openly, which might just mean lying down and looking into somebody’s eyes, its going to come as criticism, anger, judgement, ideology, fundamentalism. 

 But all these are consciousness. Even that way of expressing is consciousness? 

 Yes, have you ever danced? 

 Yes

 Consciousness too. That’s how I see it. I know I’m being anthropomorphic. I know I’m being metaphorical but that’s how the mind works, how my mind works. You know and sometimes it’s like “Yes, but what’s going on?” OK consciousness is all there is but “What is it up to? What’s it all about?” and the closest I can get to make sense of it is just: consciousness is dancing. It’s not trying to make anything, it’s not trying to build anything, it’s not trying to find anything, it’s not trying to prove itself. It’s just dancing. I’ve been told there’s a sanskrit text that begins:  “Consciousness leaping in eternal delight”. I totally get that. I think what comes next is the manifest Universe. Yes, I get that totally, consciousness leaping, dancing in delight. You know how it is though when you really go for it, when you let go into the dancing.Sometime you get dizzy. Sometimes you hurt yourself. Same for consciousness.

So even just fucking is an expression of consciousness? 

 To me everything is an expression of consciousness. Hey but let’s not be mean here. There is nothing wrong with just fucking if both people want to be just fucking. Even if it doesn’t have intimacy. Tennis doesn’t have intimacy. There is nothing wrong with playing tennis. Well except for maybe for your shoulders and knees. 

 What I am trying to say is that sex with intimacy can bring you to the depts of consciousness but sex without intimacy would be an expression of consciousness but not really bring you to it.

 Not in a conscious way where you clearly enjoy the fundamental properties of consciousness like love, peace and joy. 

So I keep on thinking when we are children sex is so much wanting to express itself. This sexual drive is potent as I’ve experienced it, but you can’t express it it. As a child we are more close to consciousness then what we are when we grow up. I feel there is something very authentic about children and their sexual curiosity, then it’s like you get alienated from it. 

 I don’t know again if it’s my sexual resistance but I have no childhood memories of being sexually curious. I do remember discovering that I could get amazing pleasure from my cock when I was in the bath and at boarding school I would play with myself at night in bed and other boys would realise and we would talk about it. But it wasn’t like a really big thing. I never touched anybody else, nobody ever touched me. I never showed my genitals to a girl. I never asked a girl to show me their genitals. I say i never did, but maybe I just don’t have the memory. So I can’t really say anything about what that is. But to me it’s pretty clear that children to the extent that they haven’t been too traumatised are in touch with consciousness. And for me this resonates in my current experience as an adult. If you asked me to characterise what it is like to become familiar with, grounded in consciousness i would say that you become more like a child. Not absolving yourself of practical responsibilities and obligations that children don’t have, but in not thinking so much about things. Not constantly worrying about what to do and how to do it. Just doing more feely and spontaneously. Like a child. They are not using their minds to direct and determine their lives like we do. They just get up and just do what they feel like and of course some of them feel like being nasty to others. But I’m sure a lot of nastiness has come to them and they are just trying to get it out. But I think left to their own devices an untraumatised child will just feel like exploring. That’s all, just exploring anything and everything. So if they feel sensations on the genitals why not explore that? Which is what I explored in the bath. But I had no conceptual vocabulary for it.  I don’t remember masturbating being a particular feature of my childhood. But then again I might be blocking the memory. 

I never lost the curiosity. 

 You mean the sexual curiosity? 

 The sexual curiosity yes.

 I think my curiosity is more general and sex is just in there, but not as a major factor. At least until more recently. More recently it’s its association with consciousness through love that intrigues me. But actually I’m still not particularly curious about sex what I’m curious about is its relationship to consciousness. So my interest in sex is contained within part of my interest in consciousness. I am not likely to sit around thinking about sex. I am likely to sitting around thinking about consciousness. 

 And experience sex? 

 What do you mean? 

 You say you don’t sit around thinking about sex, but you do about consciousness. But what about doing sex, having sex? You do that right?

Well I do experience sex, yes. But my sexual activity is not research, like my meditation and yoga are. Going to a yoga mat or meditation cushion has many elements and one of them is definitely research. But my sexual activity is motivated more by the call of consciousness rather than researching into it. The call of consciousness by way of intimacy. The story I told you about the woman with whom three times we just looked into each others eyes. I have no problem with stopping there. I don’t  need to go to any particular destination within the context of intimacy. It’s not a problem. So the sexual side of it is secondary. Although, supposedly, my testicles are still wanting to propagate genetic information. 

At some point I can make the connection but it’s like I smell something in a very naive way. Intimacy has given me another clue. I can understand what you said. The call of consciousness. 

 Let me tell you what I mean by the call of consciousness.  And I’ll misquote my friend Juan whom I mentioned to you earlier. “Those enlightened people who’ve realised we have to dissolve at least once a day.” By the call of consciousness I mean that. And it’s the same thing that calls me to a yoga mat. The same thing that calls me to a meditation cushion. But of course it’s calling in a different way. And the call to consciousness is a call to intimacy. You could say it’s a call to love. You could also say it’s a call to surrender. You could also say as Juan said, it’s a call to dissolve. The dissolution of your social identity and armour and memories and even of attention. Sex doesn’t do that. Intimacy does that. But sex can be a way to get very quickly into intimacy and stay there. Meditation has a lot of oscillation. And yoga is a little bit the same. Sex is like, if you open the door it’s there until you are finished. It’s there until you get up and go. And it doesn’t oscillate. Not for me anyway.

 Plus meditation is intimacy within yourself and sex is intimacy with another. 

Yes but to me the call is still call of the consciousness. And you are accessing the same property, qualities and nourishment of consciousness. But the thing about sex or tantra as opposed to meditation or yoga is that the other person is a mirror. Not just a mirror but an amplifier: so it cranks up the juice. The juice of the love, the peace, the joy and the nourishment that comes from it. Again I’m not saying that sex is more nourishing than meditation. No, I’m saying intimate sex is deeply nourishing. I’m not making a comparison in nourishment but I am making a comparison in stability. The intimacy of sex in my experience is more stable. It’s much more naturally stable. We don’t have to learn. It’s not stable through practice. Meditation becomes more and more stable over time. But with sex it falls on me and stays there as soon as penetration happens.It doesn’t waver or fluctuate. I remain in a deep state immersed in delight, love and peace being amplified in another.

So anything else? 

 I was just thinking that it’s been perfect for me. The way we’ve been going through this conversation to arrive to this clarification of intimacy, intimacy with the other, intimacy with yourself, intimacy on the mat, in sex, consciousness. It has been super clarifying for me. 

 Great. I’m sure we are going to talk about it another time. 

Yes please. 

 

LIVING FROM FEARLESSNESS

We are living in scary times. The familiar and the known are threatened from every side. As the planet heats up exponentially, the soil is losing its fertility. As billions of living creatures are incinerated in wild fires, the insect population is being worse than decimated by chemical agriculture. As trees are demolished at accelerating speed, water is being degraded by the activity of rapidly reproducing human beings. Not to mention financial instability, religious fundamentalism and the rise of fascist populism.

It would seem like we have little choice but to shrivel uptight with anxiety and fear. Or gird ourselves with elaborate denials and hypocritical self deception.

Not so.

Even if we police our thoughts, and allow others to regulate our information flow, there is more to us than what we think. There is more to being human than what we can do. More fundamental than our ability to act and our ability to think is our capacity to feel.

What we feel is not unlike what we think and do. In that they are based on experience. They all function through the remarkable power of habit. We do not really choose what we think. We think what we think now because of what we have thought before. We can not do something just because we want to. We have to learn to drive, use a computer, climb a tree. We feel what we feel because of what we have felt in the past.

Human experience is a function of our ability to learn. Although based on genetic determinants we have to learn to walk the way that we walk. Although based on inherited capacity we learn to speak the language and the way that we speak it. Although based on the nature and limitations of the human nervous system we all learn to perceive what we become able to perceive. Eskimos see many more shades of white than other humans. Those who grow up in the jungle or forest see flora and fauna that city dwellers can not.

It is hard to look at little babies without responding with warmth and delight. They are so full of joy and love. They can not speak, nor move freely. Yet when they are not in physical need they radiate happiness and trust. This can not be said of many human adults, if any.

This universal transformation from joy to anxiety, from safety to insecurity is no mystery. It is a learning process. A learning process based mainly on experience. We learn to feel unsafe by experiencing being threatened. We learn to mistrust by being neglected, rejected, manipulated, exploited. Not only by strangers, but even and especially by those that we know and love.

It can be unlearned. Not by reading, thinking, talking about it. It can only be unlearned by experience.

A human being is a social being, a tribal being. We need each other. Because we experience neglect, rejection, manipulation and exploitation at the hands of others we feel unsafe. We know how vulnerable we are from long and often bitter experience. To feel safe we need to experience something else. We need to feel that we belong. That we are not alone. That we are supported.

This is definitely possible. Even in these cataclysmic times we can learn to feel safe. Even though we can never know when nor how disaster and death may take us, we can still feel safe in the unpredictability of this world.

There is a place of inviolable safety. It is an unusual place. It can not be found on any map, nor in any diagram. It has no geographical location. It can be found in the city or the desert. It can be found by the old and the young. It can be found by rich and poor, able and disabled. It can be found no matter the colour of your skin, the architecture of your ideologies. It can be found in solitude and it can be found in company.

It is to be found in the heart of human nature.

The heart of human nature is not a place. Yet when it reveals itself you feel completely at home. You feel totally safe. Anxieties and strategies fall away into a peaceful, satisfied silence. There is nothing left to know. There is nothing left to prove. There is nothing left to do. Being is enough. You feel safe. You feel supported. You are home,

This place is easily found. You only need become intimate with your own presence, or that of another. This does not require any technique or action. You do not have to know anything. You do not have to do anything. You only have to feel. To feel as deeply and clearly as possible.

Of course the sensations generated by your body are always changing. Inhalations become exhalations. Air flows create changing stimulations on your skin. Digestion creates changing vibrations, rumblings, circulations. Gravity creates changing pressures and tensions. Plans and regrets rise into awareness. Doubts and anxieties bring changing feelings into your body. It you give them all welcome, if you let them express themselves without indulging them, they will pass.

If you remain quietly within your own presence, or sharing your presence with another, these stimulations will fade. They may continue in the background perhaps, but you will lose interest in them. Instead you will be taken by more subtle currents, flows and rhythms within your own presence. Currents of softness and warmth. Vibrations and pulsations of pleasure. Rhythms of opening and release.

It does not matter what your mind had been doing. If you leave it alone and just feel the simplicity of sensations being generated by your body you will be taken through the anatomical presence and physiological activity of your body. You will be taken into the presence of your spiritual nature. You will be taken through the particulars of your socialisation and biology. You will be taken into the universal presence of the human spirit.

This presence does not belong to any culture or society. It is as universal as blood. It is with you. It is you.

Sometimes you may be a teacher, nurse, doctor, mechanic, engineer. Sometimes you may be a daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, wife or husband. Just as you do not always wear the same clothes, you do not always act and live through the same social persona. We are all continuously changing our psychological and social clothing: in response to changing circumstance.

Whatever the social and psychological clothing you may be wearing you remain present. It is never your daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, wife or husband. It is never your best friend. It is always you. It has always been you at the heart of your life. It always will be.

Beneath your social and psychological identities is who you most deeply and continuously are. Who you most clearly know yourself to be. You are only sometimes any particular social role. You are always you. You know this you with a certainty, a clarity that you do not have about any of your social roles.

This you has no distinguishing characteristics. It is neither young nor old, small nor large, wise nor foolish. Yet you know it more intimately than you know anyone or anything. It is you. It has always been you. It has no flavour although you know it better than any taste. It has no scent yet you know it better than any smell. It has no sound but you are more familiar with it than you are with any melody. You know this presence better than you know anything. Yet if your try to speak of it you will likely find yourself floundering.

This presence, this pre-social, pre-cultural you, is not only more familiar to you than anything. It is also more reliable, more consistent than anything else in your life. You have always been you. You have never been anyone else. Even as all your experiences, hopes, memories, skills, knowledge continuously change, this presence and its familiarity never change. It is with you always, even when you don’t notice, without ever changing.

It does not change because it can not change. It can not change because it has not been created. It can not end because it did not begin. Even though most of the time you do not notice it. Even though most of the time you can not experience it. You cannot experience it without a nervous system. You cannot experience it without a brain, a body. You can not experience it in a coma or when you are asleep. Yet it is present. It does not go away. It has never gone away. It can not go away.

This presence, this you, is your spiritual nature. It never goes away. It never changes. It can never change. It will never change.

It is because you know that everything changes that it is so hard for you to feel safe. You know that what is born dies. You know that whatever begins ends. This makes it hard to feel safe. Unless you know something else also.

There is something you know that has never changed. That will never change. That which animates your own life as you. To become deeply familiar with your own unchanging presence is to loosen the grip of the changing. It is to weaken the power of your biological vulnerability. It is to find the presence of invulnerability: spiritual invulnerability.

This invulnerability is always present, always potentially available. To unlock that potential you need only become intimate with your own presence as often as possible. To hang out as deeply as possible within yourself whenever you can. To let go of your social, psychological and biological personae into who, what you most deeply are. Into this presence that is not a thing.

You don’t have to do this alone. You can do it with others: one other or more than one. It doesn’t matter. Whether you are alone or in company just settle into stillness and tune in. Tune in to the sensations being generated by your body. Allow your mind to freely recognise their implications. But invite your mind to relax, to let go, as much as possible into your deeper ability to feel. As distinctions blur and boundaries dissolve you will be taken through the opening spaciousness of your own presence into the peaceful abundance of a formless emptiness. You will feel and find your self at home. At home in your body. At home in your mind. At home in this unstable, crumbling world.

The experience of the changeless is all you need to counterbalance all of the experience that have left you feeling unsafe in this world. For within your experience of the changeless you find indubitably that you are not only a biological being. You are also a spiritual being. In your spirituality you are untouched by change, untarnished by time, untouchable by death.

Ok. Check it out for yourself then.

ASSIMILATING CLIMATE GRIEF

An ecological catastrophe of intimidating proportions besets us all. While some may have neither the freedom nor time to take it into account, many are those in denial of it. Those for whom denial is no longer an option are growing in number daily. Honest acknowledgement does not, can not come alone. It necessarily creates a response that arises from deeper than the rational, conscious mind. A response that arises into awareness only when it has space to do so.

This space depends upon more than honest acknowledgement of the immensity of this cataclysm. A cataclysm that has already eradicated many species and habitats, while threatening even more.

This space also depends on a generosity of circumstance: both inner and outer. External circumstance needs to provide both enough time and a sense of safety. The sense of safety almost inevitably includes the company of others who also can see clearly enough what is happening. Yet it also includes an absence of immediate threat.

Internally we need the courage to feel deeply the effects on us of this intensifying catastrophe. We also needs the resources capable of assimilating and integrating these effects: such as panic, grief, anger, despair.

Many approaches to emotional and psychological well being have been explored and developed. Many of them will be able to provide resources for this assimilation. Yet these resources have been developed in response to less intense and less permanent trauma.

What could be more traumatic than the imminent extinction of the species and habitats upon which human life depends?

This is not a  trauma that you can put behind you. It is one you must face. Not just once, but continuously. It may not be fully assimilable with the resources currently available. It is a trauma so powerful, do deep, so inescapable that perhaps it demands an approach of a similar magnitude and depth.

Such an approach may be more available than it might seem.

The psychological discoveries and understanding that we today enjoy contain a significant blind spot. This blind spot is the minimising of consciousness in the conversation about human experience, behaviour and intelligence.

Consciousness is the context of all human experience. Without it there can be no experience, no fear, rage nor despair. It is the ground of all understanding and knowledge. Yet it remains a mystery. Some even doubt its existence.

This mystery has often been challenged: by philosophers, by scientists. Yet there is no consensus about the origins, nature and implications of consciousness. There is no similar contention about gravity, light or radio waves. Nor about the origins, nature and implication of lightning and thunder.

Even if all there is to consciousness is conscious awareness, lived experience, this is a significant omission. If we do not understand the ground of human experience, how can we truly understand its inner dynamics? How can we understand the nature and origins of emotion? How can we fruitfully assimilate our response to bio-catastrophe?

While a cat does not talk, and a lizard does not distinguish between Vitamin  B12 and Omega 3, they both have awareness. They know when danger is near, and they respond accordingly. They know what to do when hungry or tired. They are not automata, despite so much human hubris to the contrary. Bees have been heard screaming as they burned to death. Plants respond differently to the presence of humans that have damaged them.

In order to understand human emotion we need to understand consciousness, awareness. We need to recognise that conscious thinking is not the only expression of consciousness. So, also, is enjoying Mozart or Led Zeppelin. As is enjoying the taste of caviar or chocolate ice cream.

Although it has subconscious roots, our experience of thinking occurs within the light of conscious awareness. This thinking is the conscious mind. The light which reveals it is awareness. We do not need to think, nor even be able to think, to feel pain: to know that it is pain we are feeling. Awareness is the ground of all our experience, only  part of which includes thoughts and thinking.

Without awareness we can not experience despair, grief or anger. Without an understanding of awareness we can not hope to assimilate the potentially overwhelming anger, grief and despair precipitated by ecological catastrophe. If we do not see clearly the distinction and relationship between mind and awareness, it is likely that our attempts at assimilation will be limited.

Such a limitation is not necessary.

If we become intimate enough with our own presence we encounter not only the physical sensations being generated by body and the cognitive interpretations made by mind, but also the luminous, inclusive  presence of awareness.

This encounter with the luminous presence of awareness offers insights that can help us to respond internally to ecological catastrophe in a nourishing and healing way.

One thing that we can quickly learn is that the presence of awareness makes a difference.

Become aware of your breathing and it changes. If it were shallow and restricted it will release and deepen. If it were forced and aggressive it will quieten and become more subtle. These changes happen spontaneously in direct response to the presence of awareness. Very often these changes will be reversed when awareness wanders. Only to be re-initiated on its return.

This tendency of awareness to initiate integrity or wholeness can be observed in everyday life. If the bucket you are using to water plants is leaking, your watering will be wasteful of water, energy and time. For it not to be so you need to become aware that it is leaking. As soon as you become aware of it, and not before, you can take steps to conserve your water, and energy: even if at the expense of time.

For the nature and implications of awareness to be well understood a deep and clear intimacy with your own presence is all that is required. Within that clarity you can learn something very valuable about inner intensities such as despair, rage or grief. This learning takes place when we allow ourselves to really feel any emotion.

To really feel an emotion is not so easy. Especially a deep, existential emotion such as ecological despair. It has such overwhelming and irresistible implications that it should be no surprise that we avoid them any way we can.

Perhaps the most common way that we resist feeling our emotions is to talk to ourselves about them. Of course we know how helpful it is to talk to others about them. Nevertheless talking to ourselves about our emotional suffering only too easily becomes an unhealthy excursion into masochism. We also know that denying, repressing and avoiding our feelings is equally unhealthy.

Yet expression and repression are not our only options. There is a third, far more healthy and fruitful option. This is the option of intimacy. To fully feel an emotion is to become intimate with it. To become intimate with it requires both a focussing and a quietening of mind.

All emotions have a sensory base. No matter what twists and turns your mind makes within your sadness, fear or anger there are physical sensations underneath. To become intimate with your emotions means to feel these sensations so deeply and clearly that mind lets go of its interpretations, of its stories. It settles quietly into your deeper ability to feel.

Instead of feeling sadness, despair or rage you will be feeling physical sensations. You will no longer be suffering. You will simply be feeling without any mental elaboration. Your mind will be quiet and satisfied. It has not turned away into any kind of evasion. It has simply become intimate with what actually is.

This is because an emotion has layers. One in the body and many in the mind. The physical layer is the presence of sensations: of heat, cold, pressure, tension, tingling, nausea, heaviness, dizziness, pain. While some of these sensations may be extremely unpleasant, that unpleasantness is a limited, local somatic event. To become overwhelmed by emotion it needs mental layers. The sensations need to be interpreted beyond their simple, somatic implications. Deep suffering, such as despair, anguish, rage and panic are generated in the multilayered elaborations of mind responding to simple sensations.

These layered elaborations only too easily get carried away with themselves. Then what was something very real, very concrete (unpleasant sensations), becomes something fantastical and abstract. It is in those abstract phantasms that most of our suffering lies. If we can strip away those abstract layers of mental interpretation, our suffering peels away also to a manageable core. Then it becomes possible to absorb and assimilate that core.

This does not depend on any special skill or knowledge. It depends only an a willingness to feel. A willingness to feel fully the sensations that are disturbing you. This is the heart and the power of somatic intimacy: the willingness to feel.

Somatic intimacy means becoming intimate with physical sensations. So intimate that all the abstract implications generated by mental interpretation peel away. As mind settles deeply into the presence of sensation it both quietens and clarifies. As mind quietens and clarifies the sensations themselves begin to dissolve. Even unpleasant ones. Eventually even intensely unpleasant ones will dissolve into the clear light of awareness. Their presence has been absorbed, their energy assimilated. This is the nourishing, healing power of awareness expressing itself.

Into the Invulnerable

The vulnerability of our biological nature does not define us. We are also spiritual beings. This does not mean we are made of two different parts, or substances. It means that we experience ourselves in two fundamental, and differing, ways: the outer and the inner, the external and the internal, the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual dimensions of our experience, of our nature.

Like all living creatures we are bio-spiritual beings. These two dimensions of our nature are neither separate nor in conflict. Nevertheless so much human suffering, struggle and confusion arises from the differing weight and emphasis we give them in our daily living. We are always driven from within, by what we feel: huger, pain, joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, anxiety, insecurity. Yet we almost always navigate and strategise by the outer, by what we have learned about the world.

This shows itself even in our vocabulary. We have many words for, and can make much finer distinctions amongst, the objects and actions that populate and define the external world. We have a much more limited vocabulary for our inner experience.

Take the phenomenon of consciousness, for example. It is the ground, the root of our lives. Without it we could neither think nor speak about anything. We could not even experience anything. Yet how rich is our vocabulary of consciousness? How many distinctions can we make amongst its properties, its frequencies? What if any is the difference between consciousness and awareness? What is the relationship between intelligence, consciousness and awareness? Our internal vocabulary is so limited that even these questions are not so clear in their meaning as the kinds of difficult questions we ask and answer about the external world.

This leaves us not only ignorant about, but alienated from, our spiritual nature. Yet here it is. It does not go away in our ignorance. It still expresses itself, but not into our conscious understanding and experience. This is a disaster.

It not only leads, by way of good intention and honest aspiration, to the tragedies and terrors of religious fundamentalism, but also bounces off them into denying the existence of the spiritual altogether. Within the materialist fundamentalism of some well educated minds there is actually no such thing as consciousness. In that view consciousness is simply an impression, a delusion generated by neurological sophistication.

So we are left stranded between or amongst the speculative metaphysics of religions and their cultish cousins, and arrogant dogmas of mechanical materialism.

Yet we all experience love. We all know that courage and friendship exist. We experience them. We all know that there is more to life than that which can be measured by technology. We all long for more than our intelligence reveals when it is projected outwards.

When we turn our intelligence in upon itself a new world opens. It is not the world of science, though we can approach it with the scientific spirit. Neither is it the world of which religions usually speak, though it speaks to the longing that underpins religious endeavour.

It is first the world of internal experience. A world in which intelligence encounters not only its own context, but its own functioning. Secondly it is the world of perception, rather than the world of objects and actions. The concrete is replaced by the fluid. The particular is replaced by  the general. The local is replaced by the non-local. The stable is replaced by the dynamic. We are no longer in a world of objects and actions. We are in a world of rhythms and vibrations, currents and tides.

Our everyday vocabulary is populated with words derived from our experience of objects and actions. It is inadequate to our inner world. We can not navigate and map it with the same terms and points of reference. We must let go of our need to be right. We must let go even of our ability to be certain. We must relax and let go into the dynamics of change.

Yet if we let go deeply enough we will be taken through the ever changing flow of sensations, perceptions, impressions into their context, their container: the changeless. While everything we are used to naming and describing is continuously changing, the changeless remains. While our experiences, feelings, sensations, thoughts, perceptions come and go, they do so within the continuous presence of awareness.

Even when we are asleep awareness remains. Otherwise how would you be able to wake up when the alarm goes off, when the earthquake cracks and rumbles? The assumption that awareness disappears when we fall asleep is based on the inadequacy of our interior vocabulary. Awareness can be conscious, as it is when you read or hear these words. It can also be subconscious, as when you are woken by a sound or a vibration.

Awareness is the non-negotiable foundation of your experience. Without it you could have no perceptions, thoughts, sensations, feelings, experiences. You would have no life.

Yet how well do you know awareness? How many of its properties can you identify?

Perhaps the most obvious and important functional property of awareness is its ability to reveal, to illuminate. Perhaps its most significant structural property is its changelessness. Everything we know changes, in one way or another. Except for consciousness. 

There are other structural properties of consciousness that are more seductive, delicious and obviously nourishing: spaciousness, love, peace, delight.

Yet the changelessness of consciousness is what we most need to become intimate with in the face of the ecological catastrophe that is approaching. This catastrophe, which is already well under way, will challenge our every vulnerability. It is already compromising people’s ability to breathe, drink and eat healthily. Our biological vulnerabilities are going to become more and more obvious, more and more deeply challenged.

If we are not to be overwhelmed by these challenges we need something real and available to offer us courage and resilience. It is in the changelessness of consciousness that this can perhaps most easily and authentically be found.

Don’t waste your time thinking about whether or not this idea fits into your pre-existing belief system. Forget about it, or test it. Try being scientific about it. Take the time to get to know your own nature. Take the time to become intimate enough with your own presence that the presence of consciousness becomes clear. Not only as the subtle luminosity by and within which everything is revealed, everything is experienced. Find its changeless nature. Find that unchanging invulnerability at the heart of your own nature: the love that you most deeply are.

If you need help visit radicalecology.net.

Being the Wholeness

You don’t have to find your uniqueness to be at peace. You have to find your place in and as the wholeness: then you will have found yourself.

You have to find yourself not just within, but also as, the indivisibility of wholeness.

Indivisibility is a very different word to interconnectedness. Interconnectedness implies separate things joined up. Indivisibility is something much more than that.

It has profound consequences to deeply and regularly encounter the indivisibility of wholeness. When you experience it very deeply, when that experience becomes your norm, then you start to have a light footprint.

No matter how much carbon you’re burning. Not just environmental footprint. You have a lighter presence altogether. You don’t need to take so much. You don’t need to get so much.

You become part of the giving rather than the getting. Without necessarily wanting, needing or trying to do that. It just happens to you. You lose your animosity, your hostility because you’ve lost the underlying fear that comes from feeling alone, cut off, separated.

Then you can enjoy not only experiencing, but being the Wholeness.