Questions from Stacie: Part 2

1.) Do you think all children should be exposed to some sort of organized religion to help form their moral compass?

I don’t know much about child-rearing, so I really can’t say. Religions in general can  be a mixed bag of nuts when it comes to imposing their particular “moral compass” on others. Though generally I think it’s good to expose children to religion. At some point later in life most of us start asking the religious questions: “Why are we here? What is this life all about?” And religion is a good starting point for investigating into these questions.

2.) What effect does religion have on your daily life today?

Not much, I consider myself as a spiritual person, more so than a member of any particular religion.

3.) Are there any negative aspects of religion that have affected you in the past or that affect you now?

When I was in college, my roommate — who was a pot-smoking, guitarist in a KISS cover-band — suddenly became a Born Again Christian, cut off his hair, and spent the next semester tormenting me that I was going to Hell if I didn’t renounce Satan and give my life to Jesus.  So that was annoying.  Other than that, I can’t think of religion impacting on my life one way or another.

Questions from Stacie

1) Do you consider yourself religious, spiritual, or any other creative source?

I’ve always considered my life a spiritual quest. I’m a seeker by nature. At times I’ve felt like I was gaining hard-fought spiritual wisdom. While at other times I’ve felt like a spiritual cripple.  I’ve checked out most of the world’s religions. But don’t belong to any of them. Practiced yoga and meditation for many years. But I suppose those would be considered more as a form of spiritual science than as a religion. I’ve probably most been influenced by Vedanta and Hinduism.

2) Have you ever had a religious or spiritual experience so intense it changed the way you feel about the universe that you’d like to share?

When I was 19 I was heavily into LSD and Alan Watts and books about Zen. And at one point, peaking on acid, I had what I considered to be a pretty intense mystical experience. Experiencing God, experiencing myself as a manifestation of God, experiencing Oneness with God, Oneness with the Universe. I transcended my individual identity and experienced my Universal identity. Though later I came to question the authenticity of the experience. And to question the validity of psychedelics as a spiritual tool . . . .  My spiritual life sort of hit a dead-end after awhile, and was dormant for many years. Until I was 40 and a friend of mine gave me for a Christmas present a copy of this book by Swami Muktananda — an Indian guru — titled “Where Are You Going?” (good question) And I had an instantaneous “Shakti” experience just from looking at the photo of Muktananda in the book. “Shakti” is the experience when an enlightened spiritual master directly transmits his divine spiritual energy into a devotee. It’s like the ultimate “contact high.”  Where the guru gives you a taste of his Divine state. That experience kick-started a renewed interest in my spiritual development. And I would spend the next 7 years reading all of Muktananda’s books and practicing daily kundalini yoga meditation and mantra repetition. And I had many spiritual experiences from those practices.

3) What do you think happens when you die? If you believe in heaven do you think there are certain criteria that must be met to be worthy? Do you believe in redemption?

I believe in reincarnation. That we all go through many lifetimes — as a process of purifying ourselves. Until we ultimately reach the highest state and merge with God. Though the mystics regularly point out that in fact we’re already one with God, even though most of us haven’t realized that fact yet.

4) Do you believe that objects like crystals, symbols like tarot or ouija, have any power?

I believe that different objects, and places, can be blessed as well as haunted or cursed. There is spiritual power emanating from all the points of this universe of ours. Personally, I’m not very familiar with crystals, tarot or ouija, so can’t really comment about that.

5) Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

One of the unusual — and dangerous — side effects of practicing kundalini yoga is that as you get more advanced into it, you start to gain these occult powers. The powers are along the lines of “whatever you think will manifest.” The more purified and powerful your mind gets from the yoga, the more you’re able to make things happen simply by willing them to be. Which can get you into all sorts of trouble if you start using these powers. Especially in the early stages. Because you’re like a baby who has been given this extremely powerful (and volatile) toy to play around with. And I severely retarded my spiritual development because I couldn’t resist indulging on the occult level.

6) How do you think all this was created? Big bang, evolution, a higher power?Does your personal belief system help you act with higher standards of morals and behaviors? Was your first exposure to religion a positive one, or was it used as a judgment with unreachable standards or harsh punishment?

I believe God created this entire Universe in a blink of an eye, primarily for sport, for His own amusement and cosmic kicks. And one day God will blink his eye again and dissolve this entire Universe back to nothingness. And that the entire Universe is nothing less than the body of God Himself.

7) Do you think there’s only one “Right and true religion?” Can an atheist have a conscience and similar high moral integrity without religious rules or the punishment of purgatory, or hell?If you do believe in an afterlife or higher power, when did you first find your faith? Have you had more than one religion that you Identified with? Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

I think most of the world religions have something of value to offer. Different people feel comfortable with different religions depending on their temperament and cultural background. But there’s a common mystical thread that runs through most of them. And that’s the primary facet of religion that has always interested me. I started out primarily interested in Zen Buddhism (the satori experience) and Taoism. But was later drawn primarily to Vedanta.

I appreciate your questions. Spirituality isn’t something I talk about very much. It’s a personal thing with me. And not always easy to communicate with others about. And like I said, I primarily consider myself a spiritual seeker. So it’s not really my place to be a spiritual talker or teacher.

Meditation

 

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I’ve been doing one New Years Resolution every month.  In January I quit smoking.  In February I lost 13 pounds.  In March I considered quitting drinking, but I’m not ready to tackle that one.  So instead I decided to try and get back to my spiritual practices.  I abandoned them about 10 years ago.  I want to do at least a half hour of kundalini yoga meditation every morning.  Its a start.

I’m an incredibly impatient, high-strung personality who craves constant stimulation. So it’s extremely difficult for me to force myself to sit still and do nothing (which is basically what meditation is).  But the 5 years I did meditation every day,  it was unbelievable how much it helped me.  Its one of the few things I’ve found that really worked. . . When I stopped doing it I knew I was in trouble.

I meditated religiously (no pun intended) from 1997 to 2002.  First thing every morning, I’d light up the incense and sit there in half-lotus  for an hour,  with my eyes closed and silently repeating my mantra.  It was fantastic!  It was like every day  for 5 years, I got higher, clearer, stronger, purer. . .  I remember I regularly turned down all offers of drugs and alcohol.  Not out of willpower.  But because I was already in such a high state of consciousness that I didn’t want to tamper with it.  . . . .

But then it was like I hit a glass ceiling or something.  I couldn’t get any higher.  I’d think:  “Am I meditating?  Or am I just sitting here?”   So I stopped doing it.   And then I was really in trouble.

My spiritual practices basically consisted of an hour of meditation, and another hour of chanting my mantra.  And reading extensively from the Hindu scriptures — particularly anything about Vedanta or Kashmir Shaivism.  As well as reading books about the lives and teachings of all the great mystics down through history, from all the great religious traditions of the world.

My mantra was “Om namah Shivaya.”  It literally means “I bow to God” or “I surrender to God.”  The basic principal is that “God is doing everything.”  This concept had immediate and practical benefits.  1.)  It toned down some of my egotism, because when I did something good, I gave God the credit.  And 2.)  it toned down some of my guilt feelings, because when I did something bad, I gave God the credit for that, too. Ha ha.

So, I took a stab at meditating again yesterday.  I ended up spending about 3 minutes meditating and 27 minutes looking at the clock.  But at least its a start.

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2002_10_20 Seeker II

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By 1996, at age 40, I had pretty much failed at everything I tried. After a lifetime of going around in circles, getting nowhere, in fact everything getting worse and worse every year, to the point where my life was finally reduced to nothing but pure zhit, I finally just gave up. It was at that point that I stumbled upon the books of Swami Muktananda. He taught the great path of Siddha Yoga. Muktananda not only promised a taste of one’s divinity, he delivered it. Much to my shock and surprise. After 40 years of nothing working, finally something that worked. He imparted the sacred mantra “Om namah Shivaya” and its still the only thing that’s helped me. I can’t tell you that I was Born Again and transformed into a great new being, but Muktananda’s teachings were the first thing to put even the slightest dent into curbing the odious aspects of my personality.

But I wonder now after 6 years of study of Siddha Yoga, failed seeker that i still am, if I just found out about it a little too late. Because by 1996, I was already so drug-addled, perchance the damage to my mind and my soul had already been done. And the ship of my mind had done sailed, along with my fleeting chance for enlightenment or happiness or love or peace.

In my despair and agony and pain as a failed seeker, I can only appeal to God to the best of my abilities, to save me from life on this wretched earth; to rise me above the turmoil and sadness and tragedy of this “Hell Planet.”
Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. May all the great Siddha saints living in Siddhaloka stand behind me and give me strength and protection. May You have mercy on me, Oh Lord. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya. Om namah Shivaya.
Om namah Shivaya.