Sunday, September 29, 2019

Choose Your Own Mantra

My daily practice is the intention to stay present, to notice when ego's monkey mind takes over and—as in sitting meditation—come back to the present.

Often this means recognizing such triggers as anger, envy, hurt, or judgment and staying with the emotion, using what Stephen Cope in The Wisdom of Yoga refers to as restraint: ". . . the beginning of a process in which a pattern dies – beginning with the outward and visible gross behavior, and culminating with the death of the root of the pattern . . . These patterns, of course, take years or even lifetimes to be attenuated. But with each subtle attenuation comes an increasing sense of freedom and energy."

I've also used mantra meditation for many years, since I found the book Choose Your Own Mantra. Chanting (sometimes singing) a mantra can support your intention to be mindful.

Some online resources present a mantra as an affirmation such as "I will be successful in my career" or "I will have plenty of money." This is not an approach I recommend, because these desires can reinforce ego-patterns rather than transcend them. 

In Sanskrit the word "mantra" is derived from two words—manas, "to think/mind," and trai, "protect/free from." Thus, literal meaning of mantra is "to free from the mind." A mantra produces an actual physical vibration and carries high energy.

Because Choose Your Own Mantra is no longer in print, I offer readers a few possibilities to consider. (I recommend the Sanskrit instead of English because words in our own language have images that cause the mind to wander): 

Om Sri Maha Saraswatjai Namah (ohm shree muh-HAH suhr-uh-swuht-YAI nuh-muh)—deep study, mystical and academic wisdom. 

Om Sri Maha Lakshmiyai Namah (OHM shree muh-HAH luck-shmee-YAI nuh-muh)serenity of mind, humility, compassion.
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya (ohm nuh-MOH b'huh'-guh-vuh-TEY VAH-soo-dey-VAI-uh)—invitation to Divine love.

Om Sri Kalikayai Namah (ohm shree KAH-lee-KAH-YAI nuh'-muh)grants mercy, in the manner of a loving mother to her child.
Om So'Ham (ohm soh-hum)—liberation from limitations of the body and lower mind.

Om Namo Narayanaya (OHM' nuh-MO NAH-RAI-uh-NAI-uh)total liberation, the ability to dissolve obstacles resulting from egotism.
A great sage gave this mantra to his disciple, instructing that those who were not worthy should not hear it. The disciple immediately went onto the temple top and shouted it for all to hear. When the sage questioned his disobedience, the disciple replied, "I do not mind undergoing suffering if all these people can be freed."

Monday, February 18, 2019

When Intuition Becomes Psychic

I’d been thinking about how to teach a method for heightening intuition, struggled for two hours, reviewing books and articles, choosing quotes, feeling blocked, decided to take a walk, let my mind wander and suddenly thought, “You’re trying to explain it rationally. Use your intuition.” Duh!

We’re all trained to some degree to be analytical, and consequently to doubt intuition that isn’t tied to direct knowing or experience. In her introduction to Inner Knowing: Consciousness, Creativity, Insight, and Intuition, Helen Palmer admitted that her “anchor in intellectualism made it difficult to accept even profoundly convincing intuition as being meaningful and real.” Palmer was referring to several incidents of her own inner knowing, the first of which occurred when she was deeply involved in the East Coast movement of resistance to the Vietnam War: “my imagination became as believable and solid as the furniture in my room.” She knew, for example, that a friend must take a different route across the Canadian border than the one planned and later found that others who’d taken the original route were stopped and arrested.

Many people describe intuition as a hunch based on experience. A New York Times review by David Brooks (1/16/05) of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking summarizes the author’s opening story. The Getty Museum in California was going to purchase a supposedly ancient Greek statue for almost $10 million. A team of experts with state-of-the-art measurement tools took more than a year to assure its authenticity. Then several art experts looked at the statue and knew instantly it was a fake. When asked to explain how they knew, one said he “heard” the word fresh, which seemed odd to him – on further examination he realized the statue was too “fresh” to be that ancient. Another felt a wave of intuitive repulsion. The outcome? “The teams of analysts who did 14 months of research turned out to be wrong. The historians who relied on their initial hunches were right.”

Well, certainly I encourage you to develop trust in your experience-based hunches. But the intuition that has served me so well is the kind Palmer experienced, the kind that led her to found the Center for the Investigation and Training of Intuition. Here’s what happened to me (a version of this was published in Charles Tart's "TASTE: The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences"):

More than thirty years ago, I attended a Silva course in mind training. Over several weeks we were taught relaxation and visualization techniques, including the development of a mental laboratory complete with desk, calendar, files, visual screen, a door beside the screen, and healing medications.

We were also told we would have an experience of extrasensory perception on the last day of the training, which I found intriguing but presumed impossible for me. For the final session we were instructed to bring in slips of paper, each with the name of an individual who had an illness or physical problem.

We first practiced on our own by placing the body of someone we knew on our mental screen and scanning for problems of any sort. I was mechanically following instructions when suddenly I saw a car colliding with a motorcycle at an intersection. I couldn't see the person's face, but because the friend I was scanning owned a motorcycle, I was alarmed. The instructor suggested I visualize the date of the accident and, if it had not yet happened, to send healing, white light to my friend. I pictured the calendar in my mental laboratory and was surprised to see the pages turning rapidly until they stopped at June 8th. I assumed this to be in the future, as the session took place in February.

After a break we were assigned a partner. As instructed, my partner – whom I’d never met – handed me a piece of paper that bore only a man’s name and the city where he lived. I closed my eyes, visualized a man on my mental screen, and saw that his whole left side appeared darker than his right. Using one of the techniques we'd been taught, I imagined putting on his head, and was immediately torn by depression, sorrow, and resentment. I could feel that my left side was crippled, that I had no hearing in my left ear and no sight in my left eye. I knew that hearing was intact in my right ear, but vision in my right eye was limited in some way, though I couldn't describe exactly how.

Then my partner told me this man was the son of a dear friend; he was only 21 years old and very bitter because he'd been crippled on his left side in a motorcycle accident at a four-way stop where a car had failed to stop. He had no hearing in his left ear and no sight in his left eye; his hearing was normal in his right ear, but he had tunnel vision in his right eye.

I was spooked by this, almost afraid to ask when the accident had occurred. My partner named the same date I’d seen on my mental calendar: June 8th. The accident I had pictured earlier that morning, before being assigned to her as my partner, had occurred the previous year!

Like Palmer I found this hard to believe, but the accident I “saw” was as real as the flash of an ad when watching TV. It was visible on my mental screen and in Technicolor, with sound effects.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Leap of Imagination

Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society illuminates an approach to change that Tim Flood and I developed, based on the premise that staying completely within metaphors is an exciting and powerful way to bring about personal transformation.

Metaphor-driven change work also requires the coach to be fully present. But what is presence?
We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one's preconceptions and historical ways of making sense We came to see the importance of letting go of old identities and the need to control... leading to a state of "letting come," of consciously participating in a larger field for change (Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers: Presence, pp. 13-14).
Spontaneous presence is absent of all preconceived notions, all self-talk, all assumptions and beliefs. It is trust in a knowing that has nothing to do with logical efforts. This knowing is absolute, unmistakable, and has a kind of magical quality.

The authors of Presence describe organizational examples. Here are two personal examples.

"Cloisonne Vases," by Mary Bast
In January 2008 I signed up for an oil painting class, purely from a desire to understand the medium so I could better appreciate works of art. To my utter amazement I found an affinity for painting, a complete engagement in the process: from preparing the canvas and setting up the palette to cleaning the brushes at the end of the class. I brought no expectation of being a "good" or "bad" painter, no preconceived notions, no need to control the outcome. By the end of the first year I had completed a large painting of two vases that had been in my family since the 1940's. I felt as if the canvas painted itself and I was the vessel of its creation by virtue of holding the brush in my hand.

My second example happened when Tim Flood and I were finalizing the materials for a conference play-shop about metaphors. We wanted to keep people moving and out of their left-brain preconceptions, so we envisioned notebooks that could hang from ribbons around their necks. We used every kind of logic to figure out the length of the ribbon, how to attach a pen, etc. but -- no matter what we did -- when testing the prototype the ribbon pulled the binding loose from the notebooks. Finally, when we were feeling "brain dead" (a good thing, as it turned out), I started laughing hysterically. Tim thought I'd gone completely off my rocker. When I could speak, I shared the image of a kangaroo with a pouch, my internal judge translating it as something "silly." But as I slept that night my self-critic also slept, and I awakened the next morning with the clear image of a two-pocket folder that could be converted, with a little snipping, into two "pouches." We had our solution.