Egos aren’t so bad

Trance is an everyday experience. In those everyday moments the change in our state is gentle, so natural as to be invisible. When you day-dream, fantasize, space out, think deeply about a problem, experience an intense emotion, have sex, watch a movie or TV, sometimes at work, do and/or watch sport or exercise and do whatever hobby you experience altered states, no drugs or formal ritual involved. You are in trance, an alter state, whenever you become so absorbed in an activity your experience of time changes, feels shorter or longer, when you forget yourself as separate from the experience. You’re swimming at the shallow end to middle level of altered state of mind body.

Lots of mystics from different traditions talk about the feeling of separateness, the ego as an enemy to overcome. Different traditions use different names for this saboteur within. They don’t always explain what they mean by it. When they do explain it’s often in abstract and poetic language. So followers and practitioners fill that void of meaning and explanation with whatever they are uncomfortable with, they feel blocked by, whatever they feel is the source of wrong thinking about themselves and in others. These teachers and practitioners put themselves through all kinds of punishing intense disciplines to clear themselves the sins of their ego, to defeat that self-sabotage. They often offer disciplines which accentuate the sabotage. They are boring, physically difficult, if not impossible, and/or terrifying explorations of the most abject experiences we can have, each being different for each person, like submission or surrender, loneliness, stillness, poverty, pain, homelessness, death &etc.

I’m not saying it is bad to heroically develop your spiritual emotional strength, to heal yourself of trauma, by overcoming that which most terrifies you. But these achievements often have the opposite effect and affect on your attitudes to yourself, with your ego, growing it. So we see that the people who talk about dropping or getting past the ego are the most self centred and power oriented, getting into trouble because they lose perspective, becoming cult leaders, political and religious leaders who ask great sacrifice without sacrificing themselves.

To resist something is to give it strength, to confirm its existence. The ego, that feeling of separateness, will slips away like a shadow in the night if you simply do what you love, let yourself go, be absorbed into it without consideration simply because it feel natural. That absorption doesn’t get lost when there are obstacles if you accept them as par for the course, again as natural part of the process.

I’m reminded of the difference between the master tradesman and the apprentice. For the apprentice every achievement is a source of happy ecstasy, whilst mistakes or missteps are a sources of agonizing despair that threaten their sense of self, their value as a person. For the master tradesman the mistakes and obstacle are just interesting problems you solve and every achievement is a natural confirmation of trust, skill and knowledge. The apprentice’s journey is a storm, the master’s journey is a gentle sunny day with cool breezes.

When it comes to consciousness, self and identity there are those who are just happy to be taken on a journey so that it is simply the means by which they live comfortably. When they find themselves in a storm they simply seek out a captain and navigator, a master, for the ship of being who can get them through it. Others want to be the captain and navigator, be their own master, so they can steer their own way through and help others along their way. Seeking the insights that will give you the mastery of consciousness is the path I’m on. This group is for fellow travelers who want to decide when and how they step through the looking glass into the power of the mind body spirit so they can steer themselves and those they love or anyone else through pleasure cruises and storms with equal facility.

Tantra and Therapy 1

Tantra is about the cooperation between apparently conflicting parts of yourself and your relationship with others. Tantra as you’d expect for an art, science (according to some) and practice that is about the rainbow of interactions between dualities has ways to help people improve their lives. Some of these are about improving what is already good, so it becomes transcendentally great but also help the bad, the uncomfortable, the out of balance to find their place in the psychic and social ecology. In this way a battleground becomes a place of peace and harmony, where conflict becomes a source of creativity and dynamism.

How do we do this?

First step is awareness. Next step is clarifying intention, that is getting the right point of view and know where and who you would like to be. Then there is the path to change and walking it. You can only walk it if you have the feet to walk it, that is you know it’s possible to change let alone actually do the change.

Awareness starts quite simply with knowing there is a problem that needs changing or that you wish to improve your life and relationships, which may include an intense desire for enlightenment. Even the Buddha was driven by pain, so usually the latter arises out of some sort of problem. Also you need to have a clear sense of where you are who you are so that you know if the direction you want to go is right for you, and your partner.

Clarifying Intention is that you need a model, a goal for how things might be different. A strong enough reason for the change. The Buddha had a clear intention discover the source of suffering. His legend puts it in a rather dissociated way – “all suffering” not his suffering. Today we would say that he was probably driven by post-traumatic stress. He had lived in a protected home environment in wealth and privilege, with every whim catered for and no sense of limitation. Then he is shocked to discover that people are not in his world, that there is such a thing as suffering. He then proceeded to self mutilate for seven years of disciplines to fulfil his goal of understanding suffering and its cessation.

One of the Buddha’s great insights is that the sources of suffering is the duality fear and desire. Tantra’s addition or development to that is that these two are cooperative that running after one thing can be running away from something else. He also said it wasn’t enough to know that you are suffering and the sources of suffering.

Get your feet You have to know change is possible only then would find the path to change. Knowing that change is possible is the feet that allow you to walk the path to change. Whether it is to correct a problem or to improve the good to make it great.

The Path and Walking it Mindfulness is generally taught as a solo practice but Tantra is about a shared interactive mindful exchange of power through intimacy. Tantra allows that your existence is a marriage of the external and the internal, of what you embraced and what you resist through the many dimensions symbolized by the Chakras.

Who you are is the product of both what you embraced and what you resist

Formless Tantra

How to prepare for a magical relationship
By Christopher Michaels

All relationships are Tantric, in a sense, or at least can be. ‘Formless Tantra’ was coined by a friend to describe the way I approach facilitating the experience of Tantra using everyday relationships and life. When she came to me she expected training in various rituals, techniques and exercises pointing to sexual ecstasy and from there to spiritual bliss or vice versa. She expected various intense multi-sensory meditations, the invocation of Goddesses and Gods might be involved, setting the space, possibly various magical tools might also be used and maybe initiation into secret knowledge. And maybe sex. All of which she was already an expert at, it seemed repetitive to go over what she already knew. i wanted to take her somewhere new and towards the essence.

Instead I listened and we talked about her life, we exchanged energy and power and explored its dynamics in our relationship as we lived it in our gatherings together. That relationship came to an end some time ago but lasted eight years. For a long time I didn’t use this term or another term we played with the “Zen of Tantra” because well I thought it was a little cliché and seeking undeserved authority from going along for the ride as so many do. But recently I did a series of mini-workshops under the name Formless Tantra and it made sense.

The essence of Tantra is what I’m trying to get at. There is secret knowledge but it is that Tantra, its energy and power, are not exotic and occult, it is here and now in everyday ecstasies. It is in the simple realisations that whether we experience the spirit in everyday life is a matter of point of view. Like so many insights it is secret because it is too obvious. Tantra is how we are made up of our relationships both internally and externally. Its rituals, the breathing, spiritual and physical awareness and control are great and useful, I teach them, but it is the mindfulness shared in relationship that is the core. It is the centre in the sense that all the other games we play are given meaning by it.

The ecstatic sexual and spiritual experiences of Tantra, so many people focus on, are natural outgrowths of profound honest deep connections when you share your spiritual journey with your partners. Those partners maybe lovers, friends, mentors, gurus and even workmates.

When people teach mindfulness they usually teach it as an individual practice, not a shared one. Tantra at its core is about shared mindfulness where each partner undertakes to acknowledge the prominent role they play in each other’s life, both inner and outer. They accept and experience each other as real, not just teachers, not just reflections but real partners living both inside you and outside.

Many people will have values, often expressed in the form of emotional reactions, that decide this or that response and/or event is negative or positive. Mindfulness is a process of intentional awareness of the sensations, emotions, thoughts and feelings and their affects on your experiences and actions as an act of loving acceptance, respect and care. It is greater than tolerance because that can mean just putting up with the bits of you that are uncomfortable for you rather than truly embracing all of who you are.

All the traditions, with a few exceptions, start the great journey from the earth plane of our existence. The earth plane is the here-and-now daily life, not just the simple sensations but also the emotional connections. If you are to be trusted with a direct relationship with yours and/or other people’s spirits, their whole point of view on the world, then how you conduct yourself in the mundane ordinary world is the test, and training ground. How you love your romantic partners in everyday ordinary life points to how you love yourself internally. How you negotiate, share and create energy and power at work, with friendships and in your intimate relationships points to the way you’ll relate to the spirit, to the Goddesses and Gods, to other kinds of power.

So how do we go about this? First we explore the power of the senses, and develop awareness of our experience of the moment and our relationships with games that come from many different traditions. Though I call it “formless” we still use the Chakras as a structure because they allow us to be sure we explore all the dimensions of who we are. For example, we start by exploring the very fact that we are strangers rather than try to artificially creating trust and intimacy. This is the first chakra. How are you with strange situations and setting, with people you don’t know? We exaggerate those feelings so as to clarify and demonstrate what mindfulness is by using the real experience of the moment we are all living. We help you be aware of the way you draw your boundaries, and your changing experiences moment to moment. This helps you develop choice in the way you attract and push people away in drawing those boundaries. By the end of this very first exercise, paradoxically, you are actually really close to everyone.

We use psychodrama and ritual, shamanic dance, multi-sensory imagination, sensitivity games and experiences from yoga and esoteric (inner) martial arts, and discussion circles in an atmosphere of growing trust. As we get to know each other we track our changing feelings and the whole experience we are sharing. The aim is to have a direct experience of the transformative power of loving mindfulness. Through these we reframe your experience of your relationship with yourself and through this all your other relationships.

Just a reminder on the upcoming workshop on the 5th of February, 2011.

power of the mind

This is a great interview about a very interest book on the scientific basis of mind/body effects like placebo, attitudes and various practices both positively and negatively on health and quality of life. really worth the listen –

Sex Magic

The alchemy of Tantra, the magic of love and sex
Is the marriage of conflict and harmony, the lover and warrior,
Communing the inner and outer,
The resistance of your skin, the boundary of your being
Is the source of your sensuality, of your pleasures and pains, in all its forms
The fire of desire, desperation and fear distills the reality of you
It’s how you can give vision body
Transforming your relationships with yourself and your world
Manifesting your highest and darkest dreams
As expressions of your greatness, your power
The structure of ritual is the ground that frees inspiration
Intimacy brings reality inside you
Exploding sacred passion up your back
Leaving you boundless
The Goddess and God breathing the universe into existence

A Tantric solution to War

The very essence of Tantra is how to create a beautiful and ongoing harmony that brings peace, security, fulfillment, intimacy and contentment allowing bliss and ecstasy to be normal easy parts of your life. The Tantric way, unlike many other traditions is to accept opposites as part of the whole. So conflict is embraced as part of harmony, because a harmony based on avoiding or resisting conflict, will be overpowered by it. Rather if conflict is embraced in the right way it fuels, enhances harmony making it deeper and more beautiful.

The solutions to wars and other widespread social conflicts are the same as those used for a failing marriage, the most intimate war, but massively larger because politics is a marriage of millions. Essentially you have to build the right sort of trust. There is trust in a system based on violence and fear. It is trust that there will be violence and fear, thus it is self perpetuating.

Politics is about relationships, it is the social dynamics that govern the human cultural environment. The obvious version is the formal systems for distributing power and authority, leadership, through rituals like elections and crowning monarchs and presidents. And it is also the less obvious informal group dynamics of power, status and authority by which relationships are organized so that groups small and large can make decisions, choose roles and achieve goals for mutual and not so mutual benefit. It is an interactive product of a top-down AND bottom-up processes. When it is imposed it means the whole system is violent. Simply destroying ISIS just continues that culture of violence.

The very bottom of the bottom-up part of the process is the way individuals organise and cope with the inner conflicts between different desires and fears, the inner war they must work with to carry on living. Many say this is the real, deeper mean of “jihad” in the Muslim teachings. The process and culture of politics give a model to people about how they participate in this inner war.

The challenge is building trust in a state of war.

Then finding ways to let that process of building spread out into peace, security, wealth for all and finally a beautiful moral life. This process is extremely hard when the whole society is suffering from generations of trauma from an ongoing state of war. It is easier if, as it was in 20th century Europe, war was no longer the normal state; as it had been until say the 17th century. It was an extraordinary event, and therefore the recovery from the 2nd world war actually boosted their whole economy. This was helped by binding war to rhetoric, secret operations, small proxies away from home and strengthening exercises (that actually resulted in covert healing). This putting of boundaries around wars, by making it a “cold war”, points to a solution.

One way of solving war is if all sides agree to rules of war.

Of course this means they have to talk to each other first. If the traumas are deep then just getting people talk is no easy task. But once talking then some of the first things they could seek agreement on is defining who are fighters and who are not; putting boundaries around the violence, like what are acceptable ways of fighting – an honour code that all agree to without imposing a solution. This is not a fast project the Christians in Europe started putting boundaries around war in the 5th century and it has taken 1500 years for us to get to the situation that war is no longer the normal state of social relations. Now at least there are models of how it can be done and what results can come from it.

But this achievement has made the beneficiaries, like the USA, arrogant. They think they can impose the European solution. Europe and its best children, the USA and Australia, and its best copycats Japan etc show what can be achieved if war is no long the norm. And what can happen when trust that desires can be fulfilled in safety replaces trust in fear and violence.

Out of this system of trust created by negotiating boundaries on war can come a healing process with “civilians” being left alone to heal. Slowly the number of civilians will grow until they outnumber fighters and victims. It has to be based on consent and choice with the power elite and the ordinary people realizing they all can heal. Then mutual security will lead to everyone getting richer and more powerful. The whole society benefits from people choosing to participate in producing goods and services for living, rather than being forced by trauma into producing goods and services for defending against pain and death. With all the creative and productive energy eaten up by revenge scenarios inspired by widespread feelings helplessness and powerlessness, and post-traumatic stress.

As the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel prove overwhelming force coming from outside (or even inside) doesn’t work. People bow in surrender then use anything available to fight back first as individuals then in gangs and finally in armies. The current situation in Israel where a few people using knives against guns has become a movement is a model for the failure of overwhelming force.

Trance etc

Is anyone be interested in a meetup (or 3) focusing on trance and altered states in paganism, shamanism, magic and witchcraft? The focus for me is non-drug altered states of consciousness using Tantra, fetish, ritual, music, dance, hypnosis and meditation techniques. Join this group and come along for the ride –

Our consciousness is in continual flux, so in the broadest sense it is continuously altering. But there are specific states that we experience as stable enough to name. The most obvious being awake and asleep. Within these two big categories there are subsets like REM or dream states, lucid dreaming, deep dreamless sleep. In daylight consciousness or being awake there are different states of stress, emotion and focus which we experience in different ways.

Then there are the in-between states, where sleep and wakefulness cross over. We in the West don’t have a great variety of words to measure and talk about the rainbow of consciousness that is put under the term “Trance” or “Altered States”. These are the states where the world of dreams meets the daily world and where in many traditions magic happens.

Brain waves studies have shown some of the variety of states but the numbers don’t come close to the real life experience we have on our consciousness in flux. Mindfulness and contemplation are practices that simply non-judgmentally follow the flow of consciousness without getting attached or excited or worried about any particular experience of consciousness, an attempt to be objective about the subjective. If that paradox is not going to send you to your High Priest, High Priestess, Magus, Guru or Master in confusion.

Television, advertising and other media use principles of hypnosis, ritual and Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) to induce some types of trance to try to get passed our critical, intellectual mind so we can enjoy their storytelling with full imaginative involvement and coincidentally buy their shit and placidly go along with their interpretation of reality.

Meditation with it’s development of concentration and full sensory imagination, dance, music tantra, fetish play, ritual and surrender of bhakti yoga (which has some kinship with the submission in Dominance ans submission games in BDSM, a subject for another post) can help us develop deeper understandings of how consciousness works so that we choose how it flows, alters so as to allow us to reshape our reality, so we can wake up from the trances that sneak up on us in the hands of others and help others in the process.

One of my teachers suggested we should consciously participate in the trances created by the media because they give us the opportunity to, not only use the energy of all those minds focusing in the same direction, experiencing the same emotions at the same moment, but if we do it awake then they will learn to wake up from us. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the power/energy of all those minds. That’s why we work together in groups, covens, ashrams, magic circles so we can support each other, be a boat with crew on the ocean of the mind/spirit, rather than a solo swimmer.

If you are interested in exploring non-drug Trance and Altered States let me know.

If there is interest I have a new contraption, a head band and app for my smart phone, that lets me do readings of brain wave patterns. I also have experience with ritual and hypnosis, and of course Tantra, meditation and Bhakti so you can experience trance and altered states in safe ways. This is about a respectful experience of the spirit, not hypno showmanship at the expense of anyone’s dignity.



choosing a spiritual teacher

One Zen student says: “My teacher is incredible.
He can go days without eating.”

The second student says: “My teacher has so much
self-control he can go days without sleeping.”

The third student says: “My teacher is so wise
that he eats when he’s hungry and sleeps when
he’s tired.” heard from – Clifford Mee from Hypnosis Training Academy

my friend Penny – “be impressed by a teacher philosopher who can bring cosmic philosophy and beautiful wisdom down to a baking a loaf of bread and educating children”

You can choose teachers in a number of ways. There are the miracle workers, the charismatic speakers and storytellers, the coaches or consultants who stands back gives advice and targets for ordinary everyday situations and tells you how to get there, there are the explorers, those that stand back even further and quietly support you in finding your own way to your own solutions, and there are the lovers who simply love you as you are and given time may get through to you with the simple honest responses to who you are now based on respect and deeply connecting with you in beauty reminding you of how big you are in your ecology.

The miracle workers gives us models for power, but that model is one of the primacy of the extraordinary, and is about ecstasy, power and control.

The Charismatic speakers and storytellers are also about the special, the impressive, the outstanding.

For both of these the focus is on the teacher and almost all of them use battleground metaphors to talk about the shape of life, the universe and everything. The language will be particularly about spiritual development as self improvement, empowerment and goal orientation, modeling success.

Coaches and consultants also work with a map to take you to your goals. Without necessarily questioning whether the goals might be reasonable for you. They’ll talk about formulae, laws and rules for achieving results, invoke science to as to convince to of the righteousness of their guidance. They are not on the journey with you, they are cheering for you on the side.

The explorers will assume that you are going to change and grow that you are unique and even you don’t know all of you. You are a jungle inside. They know how to use a compass and a telescope, can test for poisons and nourishment of the plants and animals you meet, so you can discover your own path. That you will emerge as a new and exciting being. They learn from and with you and so are growing with you if not traveling with you.

Lovers will partner you on a mutually experienced journey. This relationship may or may not be sexual but must necessarily be intimate. Both of you are explorers of each other and the world of relationships, You are going to evolve together and be transformed by the shared experiences. One partner can be more experienced and be a leader in love, offering a model for loving but the focus remains shared and mutual.

dangers and limitations of mindfulness

This is an extract from a my upcoming introductory short ebook on applying Buddhist Practice to daily life

Whatever your feeling now, whatever your opinion of yourself and others mindfulness can, at first, exaggerate it. Paying intense attention to what is going on for you will mean increased awareness of it all – positive and negative.

But over time, and usually a short time, if you’re honest with yourself in the effort you make, your perception of yourself will become more realistic, balanced. You will over time come to realise you can rely on that old cliché “this too will pass” – not only for all bad situations and feelings but also for the good ones too. You will come to know yourself in a different way, you will have feelings not be them. Our language makes it hard; we say – “I AM sad” or “I AM happy” so you are defined by your feelings, rather than “I have or do sad” or “I have or do happy”. I know the grammar is all wrong but that’s the point.

At first there can be a sense of passivity where the feelings are more intense and can be overwhelming and you can feel out of control, like they are happening to you. But if you continue to bravely give attention you will see that change is always happening. Change in your body which you notice in the simple movement of sensations. Even paying attention changes the sensations. Then there is your continuously changing your emotions and thoughts. These are expressed and caused by your internal dialogue as it happens in discrete words which have different levels of loudness, tones and qualities, and as pictures, which are colour or black and white, have an angle of view, a size relationship with you. Then you notice that feelings are in different parts of your body, have different temperatures, pressures and the pain and pleasure change in intensity with different situations and with different way you think about them. Even your sense of strength, shape and size is continuously changing as you relate your surroundings, other people and even your thoughts and feelings.

The result is that you move first from experiences and life happening to you, to you being the experience, to you having the experience, to you doing the experiences and life, meaning from the passive to the active and finally to the interactive.

It takes time, and this can be frustrating. You will always be yourself, which can be even more frustrating. It is that your relationship with you will change. It may go from you being a painful battleground based on shame and hatred, to you only feeling discomfort with yourself, to tolerance and respect, to romantic love (meaning exaggerated and overblown positivity ignoring the flaws), to a real love, embracing all of who you are even the bits you don’t like. This could be imagined as the love of a good parent for a wayward child who knows them clearly, is honest about their qualities, accepts and tolerates the difficult parts of them without it affecting the love.

Another image the helps with perspective and the processes you’ll go through has a great and long tradition going back through the East and Middle East, including Christianity and Islam. The metaphor and reality of the master tradesman versus the apprentice. For a new apprentice every mistake is a catastrophe, a major threat to their sense of self and skill, their position in the job. Every achievement is a boost to the ego, a big emotional response, a source of ecstasy. For the master tradesman a mistake is something you fix and move on after a breath, you might learn something useful. An achievement is a nice moment, also worthy of a breath of appreciation, but you also then move on.


ABCRN Life Matter – Darkside of Mindfulness

Ritual is all around you

Some thoughts about ritual in everyday life.

Ritual is everywhere in every part of your life. It isn’t just something you do to invoke or channel a spirit or God to do magic or talk to the other side, or change your world or yourself. Ritual is the way you set yourself up for your day, set your mood with the things you do like brushing teeth and bathing, the other things of your morning routine. Ritual is the way you enter the space of your work, swiping the security card, the way you do your work, the boundaries you have in your work relationships. The little things you do regularly with, for and to your lovers and family to express and confirm your special connection.

When you watch a TV show you are entering a mythic journey that invokes archetypes that are manifestations of gods and spirits. The show will take place in a space, it will tell about its history with a montage so you get a connection with the characters and who they are. With music it will set you up emotionally to get into the right state to share the experience not just with your family but with everyone watching the show at the same time and who have ever watched it in the past and will watch it in the future. You are participating in thought-forms.

One of my magic teachers thought TV was a training ground for telepathy, for the New Age. The first step to telepathy is shared emotion. When you watch a TV show you are sharing emotions with millions of people empathizing with characters who represent the vital essence of human relationships. Some are hero’s journeys, like police stories, even many comedies and family dramas also follow that structure. They are direct descendants of the great stories of the gods and archetypes we use for ritual. What we, as conscious aware magicians, witches, yogis, wiccans and pagans can do is regulate our participation in and relationship with those thought-forms and transform them. You can use them to connect with everyone else participating in them changing their affect and meaning. Think about much how psychic energy is shared in the experience of Seinfeld or Friends or SVU or CSI, or the Voice. If you could channel that, direct it to your purpose what could you do with it.

These daily rituals might all seem mundane compared to talking to gods and spirits. The reason these rituals only transform life and the world in minor ways is the result of the combination of motivation for doing them and what’s at stake in them. For most ordinary people the motivation for daily rituals is maintenance of the current state of their life. So all these daily rituals are designed to keep life as they want it now, manage their shadows, hold back the chaos, keep control. TV shows and their stories are usually apart of that function. They let them experience emotions and alternative possibilities from a safe distant, impersonally helping them cleanse and manage emotions in safe ways. They help them to maintain their sense of themselves, their world as a security blanket.

Rituals that transform lives, that change your power relationships with the worlds must have serious parts of you at stake, must involve big parts of you. This may include the whole of you, your physical, your spiritual, your intellectual and your sense of who you are to yourself and in your society. This is what happens with tribal initiations where the whole society is involved in them. Other rituals are more personal where only your sense of identity, your sense of personal power and your experience of the world are affected. Some rituals only affect your intellectual understanding like the way most educational rituals work in our society. These can have big effects on your role in society and your sense of yourself, your identity and your understanding of the world and therefore your personal power and identity. But they like all initiations they indoctrinate participants in the ways on the society providing the education.

One of the insights that comes from magic and other spiritual traditions is that power and insight come from standing in more than one world, spiritual, material and view through the different lens of different cultures and traditions. For example having more than one language enhances your experience of all the languages. Being able to use different frameworks, points of view from different traditions – witchcraft, yoga, materialist science, wicca, magick – will give you insight and power in relation to any situation you face. Having a solid deep experience of one tradition with a wide understanding of others allows you to see passed symbolism to an intuitive relationship directly with biggest most beautiful reality at the core of all.