Ain’t nowt as queer as folk, as they say up here in t’north. Meaning that there’s nothing more strange than people and I like to think that beneath this hardy no-nonsense wisdom is an intimation that human beings are eternally fascinating creatures. Studying my own inner creature has, I think, led me to appear more and more queer to others, which is funny because the deeper I go the clearer I become. The further down the rabbit hole I travel, the more real I appear to myself. Freer and freer as I strip off my layers, howling and marauding about the place in ecstatic pain and devastating joy, without the assistance of any class-A compounds. Curiouser and curiouser does the world become as my self dissolves and my spirit rises up.
Ok. I said it. I said the S word.
Does anyone else feel weird about the S word? I really don’t feel weird about it but I realize that I’m afraid of being measured by it. And then I realize, who fucking cares anyway? It’s my experience that counts and no one else can have my experience. Just me. Ain’t that something.
Over the last few years, and many hours of yogic practices, study and experimentation it’s become so obvious to me that I have a ‘spirit’. In fact, I find it surprising when people think that it’s weird to have such a view. It’s the fault of the word, of course. Spirit implies spirituality, which quickly tumbles into this whole chain of signification where I somehow end up at the foot of a splintered cross, on a grassy knoll, wearing a habit, chanting and rocking while sweeping the floor for fear of crushing an ant. A heady mix of Judo-Christian-Hindu-Jainism that makes little sense and bears even less resemblance to my experience of ‘spirit’. Apart from the chanting and rocking bit. I love a good chant-rock.
So, let’s, for a moment, pretend the ‘s’ word doesn’t exist and all we have is raw, direct, yet-to-be-articulated experience. Now imagine looking into a baby’s eyes. You know those babies where you look in their eyes and they stare right into your very soul and all you can do is look back at them from the deepest place in your heart. That unspoken exchange of pure being. Of pure consciousness that cuts through all the layers of language and perception to reach inside the very core of you and them. What’s that then? That, right there, is holy communion. Their very essence tapping into your very centre. That, right there, is nothing less than magic. It’s not rational and quantifiable. It’s beauty and love and connection and a recognition that what is inside of you is inside of everyone else.
“Recognising yourself in the other being and the other being in yourself requires an expansion of your perception – a move beyond ‘I am’ and a limited sense of identity. This expansion continues until you experience yourself in all things and all things in yourself. Realising yourself as a pattern of the whole universe, playing its part through you.” (Christopher Wallis, Tantra Illuminated). Woah there Christopher! You’re saying that I am a pattern of the universe?!? Oh yeah. Course I am. I’m made of Universe grade stardust.
Maybe that’s just science to you and science is your spiritual, but what it does for me is bring meaning and presence to the simplest of things. “When you contemplate a pebble, what is really happening is that the universe is contemplating itself. Your illusion is that you are separate from the whole. As you study protons, electrons and neutrons, you are studying yourself – it is the universe contemplating itself. Only when subject and object are collapsed can it reintegrate itself. Consciousness chooses to not stay as homogenous nothingness but as a vast multiplicity of apparently differentiated subjects and objects … a free and joyous act of self-expression done entirely for its own sake”.
[In case you hadn’t noticed, I love Hareesh Wallis. He’s an audacious, scholarly dude who has a way of explaining stuff that makes total sense and completely blows my mind at the same time. You can read more of his words here.]
So if the ‘S’ word freaks you out then don’t use it, but don’t let it get in your way. Don’t let it stop you from trying out yoga and meditation or, if you’re a yoga teacher, don’t let it stop you from speaking from your heart. Don’t let it draw you too far into your speaking, thinking, analytical mind. Drop the language and dive into the experience. As Hareesh says “only experiential proof is valuable in this domain. The experiment is worth conducting.” Hell yeah it is. It’s only through direct experience that any of this has made any sense to me. Sadhana – spiritual practice – helps you bust out of your existing structures so you can see yourself as you really are and access the blissful freedom that is already yours. “A completely autonomous blissful awareness”, right there inside that body of yours, just waiting to be recognized. And experienced.
When I meditate, I allow myself to just be. To rest in my own being, which is the most beautiful place I have ever travelled to. And I can go there whenever I want, which is nothing less than radical. That recognition of my own power, my own magnificence, my own infinite vastness encased in my finite form humbles me with the deepest gratitude for this breath, this life, this body. I don’t believe in God. I struggle with the word divine. But I know that what lies in me, lies in everyone else and all I can do is honour that and continue to remind myself that not everything can be explained. That my experiences are all I have to go on. And that I can find different maps to navigate and articulate what’s happening when my heart blasts open in a backbend or I feel like I’m going to lift off after chanting 108 Om Para Shaktis. I trust what I feel and that’s taken some time – and will be a life’s work – but getting skillful in being sensitive is what it takes to wake up. To my own light, my own dark, my own spirit. And if that’s weird then it’s definitely good-weird and I’ll bow down to that.
“The same awesome powers behind this whole universe are flowing within you and provide the very foundation of your whole experience of reality. Your fear and pettiness drop away as you harmoniously fall into the dance of life energy – realizing that you are the only one who has ever limited your potential. There is nothing to do, nothing to achieve, other than to embrace the divine powers that are expressed through you in an endless flow of moments.”