In the past couple of days I have become unexpectedly engaged in a Facebook discussion about the Israel-Palestinian Gaza tragedy. I find myself moved to say something about my personal guiding perspective. Go back about 13.8 billion years and you arrive at the infinitesimally tiny something coming out of nothing – an explosion of light that was the beginning of everything and has never been less than the entire universe. The explosion itself apparently lasted almost a million years. No wonder it is called the big bang! There is no end of evidence. Here, for example, is a very quick and easy place to start:

So we all began as ONE. By we I mean all that is, has ever been and ever will be. Knowing this intellectually is one thing. Experiencing it is the real eye-opener! Whether it happens in deep meditation, on drugs, in putting your life on the line, at the moment of death, watching the sun rise, listening to music, making love, waking up to your real self or for no apparent reason, the experience of being one with all is personally liberating and life-transforming. It makes you aware too, that you are playing your own unique part in the universe’s ongoing and awesomely creative evolution. It seems that language, music, consciousness and the capacity to think, imagine, invent, appreciate beauty and be self-aware are very recent developments, at least in our vast galactic speck of the universe where they have appeared only since we human beings arrived on the scene. How creative is that!

Inevitably, our human faculties bring in fear along with all the pleasures and delights of our sensing-feeling-thinking-creative magic. Seeing how indifferently it annihilates us, we fear death, and the mystery with which it confronts us. Like a reversal of the big bang, life is taken out of time. Into nothing? That is the question – and not just Hamlet’s.

Enter God! In retrospect, (s)he is predictable. I don’t know if there is a single human community that didn’t discover or invent him or her. Naturally, the stories that illustrate, prove and exemplify God’s existence differ from culture to culture and nation to nation. What they all share in common is the adamant certitude that their own God is a discovery, while everyone else’s is an invention. It is baffling testimony to the power of belief that so few religious believers have cottoned on to the simple realisation that if they had been born in a different land or culture, they would worship a different God and practise a different religion.

With dreadful regularity throughout human history, believers have persecuted, dominated, tortured, enslaved and slaughtered in the name of their faith. Such crimes against humanity come too in the name of tribe, race and nationality; of political persuasion; of social class; of US AND THEM. But the worst offender has to be religion with its long track record of holy wars, crusades, jihads, inquisitions and so on. It is immensely ironical. All the God-stories contain fairy tales that belong to kindergarten – except that they are sometimes horror stories no child should have to hear. Yet whilst the religions are apt to bear witness against each other, they in fact all worship the same mystery – THE ONENESS that brought us all into being. Spinning it into their own God-story, they make outsiders of those who don’t believe or have woven a different God-story. THE ONE is effectively split into different ONES. In reality this is of course absurd, since all that is, including the splitting, the Gods made out of it and their makers’ passion to wage war against each other, is all part of one ever-evolving whole. Experience the whole and there is no them. There never was. We all began in the same singularity. Brothers and sisters does not capture our unity. Even twins separates the inseparable oneness of us all.

If it were not so tragic, Gaza and all the other religious quarrels still going on all around our highly informed world would be merely farcical. It is questionable whether humanity will survive its current insanities – the global climate catastrophe becomes more imminent every day and that too owes some of its blind destructiveness to religious beliefs that have no need of truth and reality. But if somehow we do come through, it will be because enough people wake up, befriend their fears – which is how we come to love – and so get to experience the full mystery that integrates time and eternity in our being, reconciles us with death and frees us to celebrate life fully. Yes, we will still need to disempower the fanatics, extremists, psychopaths, sociopaths, dictators and the money-and-power-mongers who perpetuate the mayhem; but serving our essential oneness, we will do so more intelligently and compassionately than we do today.

© Alan Lowen, Aug 22 2014

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GOT TO GET ME INTO MY LIFE! Personality and Being, Pt 2

(inspired by a recent conversation with a very nice guy)

The personality games that people play are all rooted in fear and mistrust of being real. Take, for example, the child who learns, “If I’m not a good boy, people don’t like me. When I am a good boy, I get what I want.” The stage is set for Mr. Nice Guy to run the show when he grows up.  Behind the scenes is his fear – of rejection, of not being good enough – with all its threatening consequences that can often be summed up in one word: loneliness.

This isn’t so surprising. When we are cut off from ourselves we are lonely, and acting out the role of our personality – for example being the nice guy – we have no chance to say hello to the one hidden inside our costume. In the depths of our soul we long for the one we cannot be. We may not even know anyone is there, living in the belief that our personality is who we really are. It’s like acting in a constantly running movie called Who I Try to Be. There are people who live their whole lives in the movie. Their real being never gets to experience and celebrate the light of day. Their real life passes by unlived.

Trying to be occupies centre-stage when in our growing years there was nobody inviting us to trust and live our real feelings and experiences: we were not supposed to be sad or angry or too boisterous or explorative, or even to enjoy ourselves too much. The message we received was, “It’s not OK to be me!”

There are so many ways to tell children that they are not supposed to be themselves! If they are punished for being so, they may grow up vengeful too. In any case, what to do? How to be happy, or at least feel safe? Ah, design an acceptable personality costume! Even better, design one that is admired and rewarded. Or, if life has just been too nasty to you, build yourself a suit of armour and go to war against the world. Or an insulation kit so that you just don’t feel anything. Nice, nasty or anaesthetised, our personality costumes can ensure that we never discover our inner being. This is the magical one, the one who can be creative, light, warm-hearted, intelligent (rather than just clever); the one who can love and laugh and care; the one who can sense the mysteries of soul and spirit; the one who can be here, fully alive and awake to all that is here now. Of course, you can design a costume to act all of these qualities. How to tell the difference? It’s easy; your real being has no ulterior motive – no trying to get anything, no need to make people like you, no money-making agenda, no lust for power or stardom – no politics! By the same token, having a good personality wardrobe is a valuable asset; after all, politics can be useful, even creative! What matters is whether you are present inside the costume you are wearing. To put it another way, is your personality serving you, or running you?

“So if my childhood drove me into my personality and that’s all I know, what can I do about it?”

If I am asking myself the question at all, I’ve already started doing something about it. Personality is not interested in the question. It believes in itself. If the nice guy is convinced that he is for real, there is no question! If the nasty guy is satisfied with hurting other people, there is no question. The question only arises because something deeper – yes, hidden inside the costume – is stirring, listening, sensing that perhaps all is not as it seems. Self-discovery begins with doubt; when the doubt leads to wondering, then the question becomes the quest and our journey from personality into being begins. That’s when people get interested in experiential adventures; it is certainly what has brought a lot of people to Art of Being workshops over the past three decades. But there is something anyone can try without going anywhere special – just bringing it into one’s ordinary daily life – and it can be magically transforming. It’s very simple, and needs only your trust and courage. All you have to do is catch yourself in the act! Become aware of your personality costume – your habit – while you are in it:  playing Mr. Nice, being nasty, complaining, blaming others, doing poor me, having to win every argument, being the know-all, talking the hind legs off the donkey, being holy, acting the fool, laughing at everything … the list goes on and on.

At first you may only catch yourself after the act, or when you’re well into it. What matters – and this is why you need trust and courage – is that the moment you become aware of it, you let it go. You take a deep breath and as you breathe out, you simply release yourself from your habit. You drop the charm, you stop talk-talk-talking, you quietly lose the argument, you leave the joke unfinished, and so on. And you don’t do anything instead! This is the critical factor. You don’t cover up by shifting to a different personality game. You simply let yourself be there in a state of not knowing how to be. You are likely to feel all kinds of uncomfortable things at first –helpless, embarrassed, perhaps a bit foolish – but that is only part of what is happening. If you keep paying attention to the gap you have allowed yourself to experience, it begins to come alive. Nobody else needs to know what is happening. You don’t explain yourself – that is just another hiding place. You simply keep breathing into all that is happening within you.

If you dare to keep catching yourself for the coming 6 months – yes, I mean months! – this gives you time to regularly catch yourself before you go into your personality game. By this time you are becoming aware of the much more mysterious being who is waking up; you are beginning to say hello to the one you have been ignoring all your life, the one you are now becoming! Your friends, work-mates, your sweetheart, your spouse, your kids and your parents will wonder at how you’ve changed; and everyone will enjoy you more, except people who are afraid of being themselves. They may find you scary, though you may also be their inspiration to discover their own magic!

There is one more thing: finding the trust and courage to catch yourself in the act and then to gradually and continuously make friends with all you encounter in yourself can be very challenging. It can be so daunting that you simply dare not. That’s when it could be really valuable to participate in one of those self-realisation experiences that is essentially calling you into your being. This is the metapurpose, the something else that is at play in all Art of Being workshops. It really doesn’t matter what the theme is: Tantra if you want to explore your sexuality; death if that is your abiding fear or you always have trouble letting go; soul if you feel like you’ve lost yours; childhood regression if you have wounds to heal; a couples workshop if your relationship is in a rut or on the rocks. The theme is whatever attracts you; it is your chosen path of learning. What matters is the mysterious opening and awakening that is happening in you during the workshop because there is something else going on all the time. This something else is the real treasure, invisibly radiating in all that happens. It is what guides you out of your personality hideouts into the vibrant, life-changing magic of being.

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(edited from a talk to participants in the Love, Sex and Shadows workshop for couples in Czech Republic last month)

Most of our schooling – what we call education – can be summed up as “think about it”. Never mind learning to be present in your whole being, never mind really experiencing what is going on; just think about it and be able to talk about it, and have apparently intelligent things to say about it. Then you are considered educated. If other people are doing the same – and so many are – they don’t notice that you are thinking life instead of experiencing it. A lot of the chatter is just so much comfortable noise to cover everyone’s absence!

It’s the great disservice foisted on us by our schooling. Learning to think life saves us from feeling too much – especially from feeling vulnerable, which is still such a taboo for many people. But the fact is that if we want to fully experience life, we have to be able to feel how it touches us, and that can only happen if we are in friendship with all our feelings. Otherwise we reject our inner life, and likewise reject it in others. Scorn, sarcasm, bullying, intimidation, even joking, or just talk-talk-talk – anything to shut out the inner life we’ve learned to shun. That is where our educational systems have failed, and it is a massive failure.

If you just pay attention to yourself, you can become aware of how your personality functions to make sure that you don’t feel anything you have learned to avoid in yourself, and the games you play to keep your highly developed personality in control of the show. It’s hardly surprising that it is so. Our image-obsessed culture is a product of its own schooling. It doesn’t know any better than to believe that our personality is who we really are. Just look at how personality is idolized by the media! The crazy truth is that it is our personality that conceals our real being.

So this evening I am inviting you and your partner into a ceremony in which you are guided into removing the costumes of your personalities so that you can meet each other in an experience that may actually be quite magical. You see, if your personalities are running your relationship, they have to constantly sabotage the possibility of deep intimacy, because personality is only interested in its own survival. It is nothing more than a costume that thinks it is who you really are. As long as it is running the show, its deepest intention is to keep running the show, which prevents you from ever discovering the truth of your real being. Only you in your whole, open, sensing and feeling being can ever experience the magic and mystery of meeting another in his or her whole being. Or indeed of being on your own, fully in touch with yourself and so in an intimate relationship with life itself. It all happens because you are in friendship with your feeling life.

Way back in the 1920’s, D. H. Lawrence said it beautifully in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, his great novel celebrating sexual love: “While you live your life, you are in some way an organic whole with all life. But once you start the mental life, you pluck the apple. You’ve severed the connection between the apple and the tree: the organic connection. And if you’ve got nothing in your life but the mental life, then you yourself are a plucked apple, you’ve fallen off the tree.”

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Why MYSTICAL Tantra?

Tantra is not about having wonderful sex. It is about becoming open and awake in our whole being – which makes sex as wonderful as it makes any experience. Much of contemporary Western Tantra is focussed on the pleasure and beauty to be found in sexual and sensual intimacy, and good that it is so because it helps people get free of the heavy conditioning – whether repressive, or shaming, or exploiting and sexist, or merely crude and trivialising – that still shapes mainstream sexual attitudes. Good too because the idea of finding more enjoyment in sex attracts lots of people who might not otherwise discover the deeper and higher mysteries that lie beyond the entrance hall of erotic pleasure. They can be discovered through Zen meditation too, but there are not so many takers.

As we venture beyond the entrance hall, it is not just that we experience more; we BECOME so much more of our own magic and beauty –  more perceptive, more sensitive, more playful, more creative, more loving, more understanding, more intuitive, more trusting, more graceful, more passionate and more serene too. If we keep opening to our inner being, one day we open beyond the things of this world – beyond even ourselves. We come to our soul, the bridge on which we balance between our being and eternity, open to both. Whatever we do now is with soul-consciousness.

The Tantric journey is this inner progress: from sensing into feeling into heart into being into soul. On the journey our life becomes a mystical adventure, in which, as we become adept at being with whatever life brings, we are also not contained within it or limited by it. We play, work, love and make love with total presence and in all of it we are one with the eternal spirit: this is the meaning of mystical.

This is what Tantra is really all about, but because Tantra can mean just the preliminaries going on in the entrance hall, I prefer to call it Mystical Tantra. If we never get beyond the entrance hall, pleasurable though that sexy state may be, it keeps us limited; it is always the experience that matters. If we are tuned in enough to recognise that all the gratification leaves us still longing, then we need to go further in. Searching for what we are still missing, we find ourselves discovering WHO we are still missing. No matter what the experience may be, our adventure becomes the quest to transform the experiencer. This is mystical Tantra.

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The Heart and Soul of Gun Control

I’m posting below what I said to a participant in one of my workshops last year, because it has something important to say about what is happening in the USA this past couple of weeks – the horrific shooting of the children in Newtown, and the bizarre responses of some members of Congress who – blatantly or discreetly – still oppose the banning of weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill people. Something is rotten in the United States when half of its political leaders have any reservations at all about a complete ban on assault weapons. I find it hard to imagine how they can live with themselves. Then the obvious jumps out at me: THEY DON’T LIVE WITH THEMSELVES. They can keep up their opposition precisely because they are disconnected from their hearts and souls. They are not in touch with themselves. They have lost the connection with their own humanity that sees that it matters – and matters more than all the ifs and buts – to eradicate without delay these weapons from all of civilian society in the USA. It is a no-brainer that this process begins with a total legal ban on the possession and sale of such weapons and the ammunition that goes with them. No compromise, no procrastinating, no watering down, no loop-holes, and never mind the difficulties, because the difficulties of eradication are nothing compared to the tragedies inflicted on innocent people by this crass and callous gun-cult. What matters is having the INTENTION. If you are heart-and-soul-connected with yourself, you care about other people’s hearts and souls. This is where the intention comes from and it cannot be subverted. It is not subject to manipulation by corporate lobbies, by money or political conniving and power-mongering. It is the rational and heartfelt position of anybody who is fully in touch with their whole being. And if, by the way, they are not, then what right could they possibly have to be governing other people?

So here is what I said to one of my workshop participants about caring:

“I realized many years ago when I was going through my own healing and therapy, that by the time I came out of the orphanage where I spent five years of my childhood, what I had learned to do in order to survive was to not care. My general attitude was, ‘So what, I don’t care! I don’t care what I do. I don’t care what they do. I don’t care what happens.’

“What it meant was that my heart was totally closed. That was how I learned to survive the unkind and sometimes cruel ways I was treated as a child. Of course, like everybody, my healing happened as I reconciled with all the feelings that I was afraid to feel and from which “I don’t care” saved me. As I learned how to be friendly again with my feelings – especially the tender and vulnerable ones that were the scariest to allow – my heart gradually opened again. With that opening came eventually the realization, Oh my God, I do care! That was almost four decades ago, and through all these years I have only come to care more. That is what I see happening for you. You found the courage to feel again and it is opening you to your real being. The more of your inner being that you befriend – and what you are afraid to feel is always the key – the more you care!

“And let me add, for all of you here, that, learning to care you become not only happier, but sadder too! Almost every time I read or listen to the news I am saddened, because most of the news is about people not caring. The crimes, the wars, the abuse – it’s like an endless procession of stories that can only be as dark as they are because of people who don’t care. And saddest of all is that so many people in positions of power don’t care, not with their hearts and souls. It seems as though in the corporate and political worlds most of those who climb high sell their souls to do so. When you sell your soul, how can you care? The most transforming thing that could happen to our human world and to this suffering planet is that people who aspire to positions of power and leadership have no chance if they are not fully connected with themselves – with their hearts and souls. That is a far cry from the way it is. What a pity!”

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The Paradox of Surrender

edited from a talk in June 2012, with members of Alan’s current Body, Heart & Soul Training               

Yes, the paradox again! This is why in the wild phase of the Art of Being meditation I try to give you this one guiding line – to keep your hands, mouth and pelvis moving passionately all the time, and to let that wild expression be your meditation. You’ve heard me say it so many times, meditation means being with what is. “OK, what IS, for the next twelve minutes, are the hands, mouth and pelvis moving all the time, so I will give myself to this and be in it no matter what!”

It’s a choice I invite you to make every morning as the meditation begins, so that during this time you’re watching all this stuff going on in your mind. It protests, “Wait a minute, I don’t want to move this morning.” And this is precisely the point! You’ve already chosen that for this time, almost an hour, you are in this meditation, surrendering to its structure. I’ve never said this to you before, but to surrender to a structure and to therefore stay with it no matter what is going on in your mind is an amazing way to release yourself from your mind stuff. As a matter of fact, The Art of Being meditation is a 50-minute microcosm of what I lived for eight years with Osho. When I became a sannyasin (disciple), even though I’d already found a lot of freedom, my mind was in control in so many ways. There was a big part of me that totally raged against surrendering myself to a master. To be a disciple? Ughh! And there was a much deeper, more valuable place in me that was choosing: I’m willing to put myself through this. At the time that I said yes to it, I didn’t know for how long it would be. I let it be as though it was for the rest of my life.

From the moment I said ‘yes’ to it, I was engaged with the paradox. Surrendering myself to a guru meant that I didn’t run my life any more. I lived in the ashram, and I lived the way we were required to live. I was given the workshops that I was to lead – though one beautiful thing was that Osho never interfered with how we led our workshops. I had no personal money, I didn’t get to choose where I lived. When I was put into a room with another guy the other side of a screen, and an Indian man and his grandmother in a loft built into the room for them, all I could do was rage – then surrender. For eight years I kept on raging and surrendering – with less and less rage! It wasn’t surrender to Osho or surrender to the situation even. It was surrender to all the feelings and inner experiences that were being provoked in me. Every time I wanted to fight and rage was an opportunity to say hello to what I could not – would not! – embrace in my inner world. What I was doing was finding my way through all my judgments and conditions and expectations and requirements and the stuff that ran my life – and that WASN’T ME! I was hidden inside all this reaction, and without the surrender, I would never have come home to myself!

I don’t think you have to surrender to a guru for eight years. I trust that The Art of Being has become something that gives you the opportunity to go through your surrender experiences without having to become anyone’s disciple. The opportunity is there each morning in those 50 minutes of the Art of Being meditation, and of course much more so in the extraordinary commitment that all of you made to be in this 2-year training with me, where you keep on having to let go of your personal agenda that wants to run the show. And you know for yourselves, in that letting go, when you allow it, YOU DISCOVER YOUR OWN ART OF BEING.

P—, you and I are similar in certain ways. I can simply tell you that for me it really worked to surrender when I didn’t want to, and to dare, when I didn’t know if it was me abandoning myself or me giving myself what I need, to choose to surrender anyway. Through this commitment I gradually acquired a vivid sense of what is mine and what is someone else’s. Learning that meant making mistakes, like saying ‘yes’ and then later realising that I should have said ‘yes’ to something deeper in me, which would have been ‘no’ to Osho and even, as it was in the end, to being a disciple. There were things that I experienced in my eight years of being a sannyasin, that I really regret putting on myself. I think I gave myself an unnecessarily hard time – especially in the later years – in my devotion to this Master-disciple relationship. But when I look back from the perspective of who I am now, really I can only say, “Thank you, Osho!” and my regrets evaporate. I’m left with a sense that maybe they were necessary too! Maybe they also dissolved parts of my personality.

For me, surrender is an essential element of the journey into BEING, really being THIS ONE THAT I AM. I found my way home by being willing to surrender myself for those eight years. And during that time I chose to be on the sannyasin path totally! It was really a wild adventure! It’s more than a year ago now that you chose to be on this two-year adventure of the Body, Heart and Soul Training, and you’re all still here! I honour you. And with no ego investment in it at all, I totally recommend to all of you, whenever your personality starts playing up – arguing, knowing better and all that stuff – keep letting go! Your surrender is not to me. You know that doesn’t interest me. No, your surrender is TO ALL THE FEELINGS AND INNER EXPERIENCES  that are being provoked in you by the Training itself. My work is to keep creating these situations where you can discover the magic that happens when you surrender your whole being – into a meditation or an experiential process or a homework assignment; to discover what opens in you, what heals, what lets go, what transforms, what blossoms! AND ALL BECAUSE YOU DARED TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING THAT WASN’T CONTROLLED BY YOUR PERSONALITY with all its agendas, conditions, attitudes, opinions, fears, desires and politics. This is how your personality’s domination over your life comes to an end. Instead, it becomes the servant of your being. Awakening means that you have stepped out of your personality into your BEING. When your being is guiding your life, your life becomes beautiful. Remember, personality is merely the costume that you wear – actually it’s a wardrobe of costumes that you use for different occasions. And no matter how chic and stylish your costume is, who you really are is the much more magical mystery inside it. Coming home to him or her is what this surrender is all about.

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