Octopushood -- Doing the Eights
Ramon (Ray) Sender Barayon
Eight occurs as an important number on various spiritual paths, Yoga and Buddhism being the most prominent. In the classic Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks of 'The Eight Limbs of Yoga,' which can be defined briefly as "right action, right attitude, right postures, breath control, sensory transcendence, concentration, meditation and samadhi." Buddhism enumerates the Eightfold Path as: "Right View, Thought, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Contemplation."
On a personal level, the document that describes the Morningstar Faith of our communal tribe in the Sixties names and defines the eight points of the Native American symbol for the Dawn Star: the four directional lines as One (up), Thy (inside), Love (around), Oceanic Beingness (everywhere); and the four diagonal lines as the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. The directional lines are explained further as:
The One (The Beloved) can be identified further by an expanded set of eight aspects: the physical characteristics (already named) -- Naked, Nameless, Homeless, Harmless. On the spiritual planes we add (and these correlate well with the four highest of the Buddhist jhana levels): Formless, Ineffable, Infinite, Free. All of these could be expanded into lengthy commentaries, which I will save for another time.
Now that we have mentioned a few of the traditional 'eights,' I would like to turn to my own cross-country stroll up Mount Meru, because these days I seem to perambulate on eight useful 'feet.' This gives me something in common not only with the 'eights' above but also with members of the Octopodidae genus, although I tend towards land-based activities. If only my disappearing act could be equally 'squiddy,' but I only squirt ink via the computer printer! My journey can be described as unique in various ways (as I am sure yours can be also), but nowadays via the Internet I have begun to discover fellow-seekers who have at least one foot planted near one of mine. I do not experience the heat and fierce energies of the kundalini contingent, but instead enjoy a gentle flow of en-static ('in the body' rather than ec-static 'out of the body') chi. This I can evoke with just a slight application of will, sometimes with a upward wrinkle of the chin or just raising my eyes to the window. To those who question my interest in bliss states (or what I call 'eudaemony' to avoid two very abused words, 'ecstasy' and 'bliss') as overly hedonic, I answer that "before you can launch yourself further into the unknown, you must feed your baby." By that latter phrase I mean, "find the connection to Source that ends all yearning for completion, a feeling of fulfillment that erases the feeling of emptiness in the lower belly."
According to the "wet" Therevadan Buddhist teacher Jeff Brooks, whose attainment of the jhana absorption states (eudaemony) I acknowledge, the Buddha himself stated:
I thoroughly believe that Mother Nature intended the eudaemony connection to remain easy and constant for all of us throughout our lives. In the womb, we experienced our throbbing umbilicus as our center and source of light and energy. I am sure it radiated a feeling of "Oceanic Beingness" that a theologian might term "Union with the Godhead." After we were born, this radiation widened to include the mouth and heart via our early nursing experiences. Suckling triggered a rising energy from the solar plexus to the heart to the throat and head, connecting us through our open fontanelle to a cataract of energies pouring down from the higher realms. Because of this, we naturally fell in overwhelming love with our feeding source, our mother -- or whomever else became our caregiver on the material plane.
Gradually -- or traumatically sudden in many cases -- we lost that 'inner glow,' that sense of a blazing, indestructible inner sun. Through deprivations, abandonments and betrayals, we learned that we were completely dependent upon the care and caring of others for fulfillment of our basic needs. Our little glowing sun-self could not continue to thrive without both physical and emotional nourishment. This dependency, this 'hanging' on the whims of others for our well-being, our eudaemony, triggered our first insecurities. If our basic needs were ignored or only met sporadically, darkening shadows of fear and mistrust dimmed our contact with our inner sun. Further acculturations and 'educations' buried our light under accruing layers of pain and trauma, finally eclipsing that all-important truth: we ourselves are the Shining Source!
The three most destructive forces in children's lives, deprivation, abandonment and betrayal, teach us all, to a greater or lesser degree, the lie that we have been born on a love-starved planet where everyone must 'earn' love to 'get' love. No one ever reminds us that our basic true nature is love=light=consciousness, unless we are one of the lucky few to encounter an awakened individual during our growing-up. Actually that realization is not encouraged in our society, because it undercuts the assumption so necessary to our consumer economy, based as it is on our titillated desires for better and more, that we 'need' things, and even are encouraged to view others as things -- as objects. Instead of allowing our innate loving-kindness to burst forth in golden splendor, we go seeking love 'in all the wrong places,' or try to earn or steal what we can only truly find in our own hearts.
I think I've described here the delusion that befuddles most people, i.e. that love is a rationed commodity only attainable in measured amounts outside of oneself through socially predefined and acceptable channels. Does this resonate with your experience, or should I only apply this to myself? During my seventy-plus years of my planetary adventure, I've experienced some truly major befuddlements regarding the need to 'give' and 'get' that which all the time existed within my innermost self. Occasionally an insight descended from above, sometimes a gentle light-filled opening, at other times some major occlusion required a lightning stroke to shatter it. Looking back, I can see how now and then a glimmer of that inner love shone through obstacles, struggling to emerge despite everything placed in its way.
Elsewhere (http://www.raysender/light.html ) I have listed a chronology of important spiritual awakenings, and how in my early thirties I finally discovered the sun was a conscious being and the true source of our invisible abstractions of a divine creator. From that moment on, I have been graced with a special connection to Source that has taken me unerringly deeper and deeper, back to its own reflection in my innermost self. My intellectual understanding first was replaced by a constant I-Thou love relationship with the Solar Logos, and then in the past years by an increasingly strong cataract of unmistakable eudaemony from my own inner Sun. I discovered the volume control, and turned it up as loud as possible because they are playing our song. I've become truly one happy guy, and -- as mentioned earlier, I seem to travel these days as a land-based octopus on eight separate 'feet,' as I will now explain. WhataretheyImgladyouasked!
The first foot has to be the sun-adoration yoga that I've been doing for thirty-four years. This involves sungazing in semi-shade or in loving glances at our Watermelon Ripener whenever I'm outdoors, an ongoing I-Thou dialogue with the Solar Source, the Logos, the Christ, that self-sacrificing golden being who burns up in our heavens to allow all life to survive. I discovered early-on that my thought processes stop when I sungaze and my heartbeat increases into a thrilling wingbeat. I turned the phrase "Things seem brighter when you're in love" into, "When you gaze at the radiant Source of our light, your heart leaps in raptures of adoration."
Recently I read an article in www.sciencedaily.com that described a report in November, 2005, "Cell Metabolism," that revealed the powerful effects of light on the adrenal glands. Titled "Light-induced Hormone Surge Points To Benefits Of Light Therapy," ScienceDaily described how the hormonal response increased with light intensity. "Therefore, light-induced secretion of glucocorticoids may play a key role in physiological changes in the body and the brain evoked by light, reported study author Hitoshi Okamura of Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan." This may explain the sudden change in my heartbeat, as described above.Over the years, I felt caught in a dilemma regarding sharing this solar information because of the stories of people going blind by staring at the sun (my eyes always receive excellent reports on their checkups). It became a lonely vigil -- nothing to complain about, really, because after all, I was blessed by God's overwhelming presence every sunny day. While hefty theologians stroke their metaphoric beards and argue about whether God is dead or not, or when will Christ return, I actually see Christ return daily 'on clouds of glory,' peeking out at me behind every house and tree and thunderhead! With the advent of the Internet, I formed the habit of searching every year or so for other sungazers and, finally, in October of 2003, I was delighted to discover a newly formed list of sungazers under the tutelage of Hira Ratan Manek who claims he managed to live on water and light for 411 days under strict medical observation (see www.jsocf.org/sshrm.htm ). You can read about him further at www.newtreatments.org/fromweb/manekji.html . Sungazing yoga now has its own spiritual community of practitioners, and for this I am thrilled and grateful. It remains my Foot Number One -- 'One' also as defined in the Morningstar Faith as "Naked, Nameless, Homeless, Harmless, Formless, Ineffable, Infinite, and Free" -- the Beloved firing on all eight cylinders -- number eight again!
In December , 2003, I merged my heartbeat with David Spero, a spiritual teacher positioned in sahaja samadhi within the Divine Mother force, and whose only teaching has been to keep me in his heart. David deserves an essay of his own and will receive it because he has honored me with the request to write an introduction to his new book of teachings. Foot Number Two -- the 'Thy' in the Morningstar Points, points to David's living example and demonstration as the Truth that is Thy Own True Self. http://www.davidpsero.org
I also acknowledge the post-advaita-zen master Aziz Kristof whose meditation instructions I have found extremely clear and helpful. Master Aziz takes meditation practice beyond all traditional paths to new unexplored heights: Foot Number Three -- Love: the Sat-Chit-Ananda triangle of Presence in the center of the head, Being in the lower belly, and Bliss, meeting the Soul-Beloved in the heart. Currently Aziz is in seclusion and not offering satsang, but his books are available on Amazon and well worth reading.
The fourth foot involves my discovery in 2003 of salvia divinorum, the plant teacher from Mexico that I ate and smoked for some months to map my spiritual coordinates after a 22-year fast from all entheogens. My mention of this discovery got me excommunicated from a kundalini guru's list, but I do love the manner in which plant teachers destroy any accruing spiritual inflations. Whatever levels of Buddha / bodhisattvahood you experience you cannot claim as uniquely yours because they are equally accessible to others. Of course the same egoistic tendencies haunt all aspirants, but the plant paths are inherently so democratic. You just get thoroughly 'killed' if you try to own anything. The mother-goddess ally of salvia also showed me how the deeper I surrendered to dissolution in Her, the deeper the level of eudaemony that arose. Death is truly a melting-back into Oceanic Beingness, the fourth point of the Dawn Star, and nothing ever to be feared.
Recently I discovered two more feet via the Internet, that most useful of instruments: a 'less dry' version of Buddhism as displayed in the Theravada tradition. A description of the various 'jhana' states, and the means to access them that I found very useful can be accesesd via http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Ecstatic_Buddhism/. I'm going to assign this Foot Number Five to "Everything" under Ocean Beingness. Don't ask me why, except that focusing awareness 'anterior to the in-out breath' -- or what I also refer to as "before where breath arises every instant" -- seems to melt me into everything. It's not a 'place' in the body so much as a niche in the Now. Surfing works as an excellent metaphor.
Add to that my renewed interest in Patanjali's Yoga because of an 'Advanced Yoga' list whose step-by-step journey through selected pranayamas, bandhas, mantras and mudras resonate very well with some of my own personal experiences. (Foot Six then becomes "Everyone" under Ocean Being -- okay, this is a stretch, but I'm going to meditate further on it.) This list is now available as a website at http://www.aypsite.com
With yoga I definitely should include the Taoist yoga movements of that I found in 2002 and have been extremely helpful. I tried some of the Qi Gong exercises for a while, but then discovered that if I practiced the "Orgasmic Upward Draw" while standing, knees slightly bent, I naturally began a series of spontaneous T'ai Chi-like movements. This exercise involves the following: inhale while pulling earth energy up through the spread toes, spread the fingers and raise the hands slowly, squeeeeze the buttocks and sphincters, draw in on the diaphragm so as to inflate the upper chest area, suck on the uvula or the tongue, and roll the eyes up so they lock in the forehead. I have added the 'chin up' (pull the front chin muscle up) and a smile and slight frown that helps lock the gaze. On the exhale, relax everything and start over. Important: all of this should be done subtly and gently. Do not force it!
Traveling so far on six limbs defines me as something other than human, but doesn't my Integral Yoga contain other feet as well?
Foot Seven must be "Everywhere" under "Oceanic Beingness," and this must stand for my belief that only one type of 'religion' exists and it can only be nature worship, a watershed-specific dialogue with local tree and water spirits, species archetypes, and elementals such as the wind, fire, water and earth spirits (shown also as the diagonal lines in the Morning Star). This also deserves an essay of its own because it involves various communication experiments I have conducted somewhat along the lines of those in the book The Secret Life of Plants
Some of Master Mantak Chia's exercises merge very well with my ongoing sharing with my partner. Our twenty-two-year love relationship, coupled with fresh insights on the dyadic aspects from the various paths, definitely qualify as the eighth and perhaps most important foot of all because a lover keeps you on that tightrope of spiritual sanity when you teeter on various brinks. That ties in well with the Morningstar's "god/goddess united" paradigm, again under "Oceanic Beingness." It seems to imply that Feet 5 + 6 + 7 -- that is, Yoga, Taoist Qi Gong and Nature Worship ultimately combine into some sort of cosmic god/goddess tantric exercise. Anyway, I look forward with gratitude to discovering new insights about the dyadic aspects of the various paths!
Regarding the dyadic path, I highly recommend my dear friend Stuart Sovatsky's ecstatic tantric love poetry in his "Your Perfect Lips: A Spiritual Erotic Memoir." As one reviewer wrote,"Your Perfect Lips" is an ode to devotional sexuality inspiring, poetic, and hot!" Sovatsky holds degrees in Religion from Princeton and in Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). A psychotherapist for 30 years, he is also the chantmaster for the trance- dancing performing group Axis Mundi.
And with that, at last I have achieved full octopus-hood! And their eye is single, is it not? Well, not really, except in my fevered imaginings and in animated Walt Disney versions of giant squids.
And for an ongoing account of my adventures in simple methods to melt into overwhelming blissful nothingness, do check my blog at www.raysender.com/blog-1.html.
From your Beloved in me who is the same as my Beloved in you, and from under the overwhelming Niagara Falls of blessings from She Who Manifests First From The Unmanifest, And Will Clean Up Last.