Friday, November 4, 2016

Sad truth about Native Americans

Writing about Native Americans now for me is almost a reciprocity for my own ignorance. In my childhood in Russia I used to watch the movie about Indeizi, Native American Indians in Russian. That is the only knowledge about Indeizi I had - from the movies where cowboys always win. 25 years living in New York City did not add to my knowledge even a bit, as if Natives were un-existed like Santa Claus from my childhood's innocent illusion. That is how suppressed the information about Native Americans is here, in United States. The only association I could make to Natives is through the sweat lodges I attended, still as I was not open to SEE them. I have heard about Indian reservations, but it was an empty concept to me. 
Sometime ago I drove through Apache land in Arizona, and I remember peering in the car window in hope to see Apache man from the movies, almost naked, with feathers on his head, and on a horse! The land was so unbelievable in it's pristine untouched beauty, I noticed no electric wires, which is an element that present almost everywhere in the US. Driving for long time through the land brought my memories of fascination with Indeizi, their strength of body and spirit.

My oblivion lasted until I met my partner, Native American from Amah Mutsun tribe that populated the vast land, just north of Monterey, California.  it's not only stories I heard, there are boxes and boxes of documented truth, including birth certificates and all the documents pertaining his tribe's origin, the photographs, the maps of the land, the names and all, that exists, but the government still postpone with the recognition of this tribe.  It has been many years, and he is afraid that they will postpone the recognition until the blood is diluted to the point that their tribe will be pronounced an extinct and no recognition will ever be granted. As they never existed here in a first place. 
Smithsonian Institute documented all about this tribe, and it is in archives, but US government doesn't care about all that, and people don't know about sorrow of Natives who are loosing their identity, when they already lost their land and their ways of living.  

One day me and my partner went to the grave of his great grandmother, who was a Noble woman, an elder, a medicine woman of the tribe.  We call such people enlightened.  She is buried behind San Juan Bautista mission that spaniards built when they took the land and tried to convert everyone to Christianity.  The entrance clerk tried to charge us money to enter the mission.  Even though I explained to him we are going to the grave of my partner's great grandmother, he said: "Everyone pays to enter, its a museum".  My partner was counting money to pay 12$ to visit the grave of his grandma on his ancestors land! Seriously?! I started to be so laud and created a commotion, people present there all turn to us to see what's going on, and the clerk decided to get us in, just to get rid of me.  This encounter, though it shook me to the core, was just a drop what Native people have to live with. 

Thanks to Standing Rock couple of years ago that brought attention to Native people and the injustices that they are encountering from the times of Columbus. Thank you every one for attention to this matter.

My partner at the grave of his great grandma Ascension:

Ascension. Pictures from the mission museum:

J.P. Harrington from Smithsonian Institute that documented the ways of Amah Mutsun tribe:

Mutsun tribe land:

The personal account of my partner. Spontaneous Awakening:

Articles on Amah Mutsun tribe:

California bishop apologize to Mutsun tribe:

Mutsun return to their sacred mountain:

Open Letter to Pope Francis:

Friday, October 21, 2016

About Conceit - Spiritual Pride

When I hear “I have been 40 years on a path”, “I have been meditating for 35 years”, “I sat in satsangs for 25 years”,  In most cases it does not evoke in me a feeling of reverence and respect, what one, who exclaims, probably secretly expect.

I have been seeking intensely for 15 years prior to waking up, first through Gurgieff way, and then through Vipassana meditation, and how long it took for me to let go of every wrong expectation, ideas and beliefs, and finally let it all go, don’t bring pride of being a special, in a contrary, I feel like a fool. 

The path with all it’s twists and turns seems so clear now: why I turn this way, why I went this direction.  For me every turn and every backroad was absolutely necessary to let go of those beliefs. Something needed to be seeing and cleared, and the only way that I saw at that moment was exactly the way I took.

If someone took 40 years to walk the path, it was absolutely necessary for them to take 40 years, and if someone walked the path in no time at all, it is just right for them. No pride should be attached to the years walked on the path. What to be proud of? Of 15 years crawling on backroads in a mud of the mind’s constructed bullshit?

Buddhist believe that one of the 10 fetters, translated as the chains that keeps us bound to this plane of existence and force to be reborn, is conceit - the spiritual pride. I was guilty myself of it, so I can write about it in a clear way for others not to fall into this trap, and if you happened to fall, look at it in a new perspective.

I have very much respect for the path and anyone who walks on it for long time, for anyone who crawls and grinds every obstacle to the dust, before proceeding further. I have just the same respect for anyone who walks, skipping and whistling joyfully with a flower in their hair, gently caressed by the wind.  Just like I have respect for 20 y.o or 60 y.o - respect for the being itself, for life, not how long and in what way one particularly lived. Everyone will live their share of life in their unique way, and every life has a deepest respect.

My 15 years serving my time on the path didn’t make me any better, maybe it imprinted in me more pride that I had to deal with later.  I noticed how I perceived myself as a “hard core” meditator, who sat hundreds hours in meditation, if not 1000 or more. I didn’t count, but it is easy to count, since I was so consistent for years in my daily 2 hours meditation and sat particular number of retreats each of 12-14 hours meditation a day.  At some point I meditated around the clock, in any state, walking or sleeping. I don't want to count, what’s the point?  What's difference it makes now, when I know that from the seeking on the path to enlightenment it can only take one breath? I can only laugh at myself for being so stubborn in my ways, and laugh at the whole notion of the path.

In fact, when I finally let go of seeking, it was a time when I was in a retreat meditating around the clock. Luckily, at that particular retreat I had a little book of a the nine century zen master Huang Po, who relentlessly was telling me on every page:  “Let go of the conceptual thought, and the Enlightenment is there”. He was saying nothing about meditating for half a century. He was repeating again and again on almost every page that Enlightenment is a sudden event.  So one of those days I gave up. All and Everything. And then I laughed innerly in so much freedom! What a fool! What a beautiful fool! What an amazing hide and seek game it is! Why is to be proud for going through the game 15, 25, 40 years instead of seeing the way out of the game in 2 clear turns!  This along can cure the conceit fetter of being overly proud of your “serving the time”!

People find stories from the path so fascinating - mind likes to be entertained. The more epic story - the more attention you can get. I remember watching one of the teachers on “Buddha at a Gas Pump” website, it took him the whole interview to go through his story, clearly he was himself fascinated by it. He also sounded as he recited it numerous times, it was polished to every detail to produce a strong impression on the listener, the seeker. The whole story screamed: “I am very special!”, almost “I am a chosen one!”.  I was disappointed to spend nearly 2 hours listening to the story that easily could evoke doubt, one of the the other fetters/chains, if that wouldn’t be completely eliminated by my own knowing of reality by that time.  Only in his second interview he started to lay out his understanding and suggested practices to achieve it, projecting the authority of the almost only one who knows the right path. I thought it was very misleading set of interviews, though I understand that for every teacher there is a student, and vice versa.  In my early years of integration I did many mistakes, and gave some interviews in the times when I should kept my mouth shut and look further. I can just smile at the whole game of waking up and the whole game of wrapping the mind around what comes after that. Hold on to the rails and have a joyful ride! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The value of a gradual spiritual path

Enlightenment is a sudden, spontaneous event. It can happen in any moment to anyone. Then why most people who experience this event are long term seekers on the path? 

In nowadays it is very popular to say that practice is unnecessary, the path to Enlightenment is not gradual, but sudden, and this alone leaves many of us totally confused in relation to our practice. 

I want to say some words to point the value of a spiritual practice, the gradual path, in regards to Enlightenment.

1. Traditional spiritual path always includes ethics, morality in the foundation. Though it has nothing to do with enlightenment, the ethics must be laid out firmly before the mind wakes up to it’s nature. It will be effortless for awaken one to operate within the ethical framework that established already.  And those who skip the sila (in Pali for ethics, morality) - may find themselves fall into unhealthy habits, attachments, indulge in destructive behaviors.

2. Practicing concentration in any form trains the mind to single pointedness, so in the moment of sudden enlightenment mind is able to hold the view for longer period, giving more time for the brain re-wire, dropping karmic imprints.

3. Practicing inquiry has a tremendous benefit. Seems like we go for years with “Who am I?” question, or similar, or a perpetual prayer with just a little benefit of calming the mind, but at the ripe moment, the self-churning question will be a catalyst to a spontaneous enlightenment. It is very important to keep the question, your burning question alive, at some moment the only what will remain - is a question itself, and it will be answered in the state of enlightenment.

It is true that Enlightenment is a Grace, a Revelation, and it dawn on us not for our efforts or attainments. There are no guarantees, but there is always a possibility.  

Until then, keep your practice and question alive!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I am not a native English language speaker, and I don’t take words as labels for granted. I feel, resonate with words. From all the words like “greed”, “attachment”, “holding to”, sound of “grasping” feels right for the action of holding on to something when the life asks us strongly for releasing the grip. 

How do we know we are grasping? Because it doesn’t really feel good. It feels like effort, it feels like tension, it feels like control, like fear to loose something. And so

we tighten the grip.

Until it really hurts, and we forced to soften.

Then we see the gift of awareness and equanimity.

We are aware of grasping, and we fall into equanimity of letting go in any way it happens.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

for lighting up,

for releasing tension,

for softening,

for letting fear arise and pass,

and becoming freer.

One more breath came in and out unobstructed.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fascination with experience

How many times we have heard from someone, returning from a retreat or a quest, that this was the most profound experience of their life, that they know now?  I was a friend of many who were involved in a different spiritual circles, from meditation to shamanic, and I witnessed “The Return” many times. My own experience of years in retreats and many of my friends that I knew closely, only deepened my understanding of impermanence.

Impermanence is a Buddhist term, “anicca” in ancient language Sanskrit. It defines the material world in which we live and us, as a part of it, as ever changing. Seems like we all know about it, right?  Some of us keep throwing “Impermanence” word so often these days, it became a part of our life, just like “meditation”, “transformation”, or “awakening”.  We think we know what impermanence is, until we go to the next retreat or have next experience, next “journey”. Then we return all blissed out and absolutely sure that this is it, this is how we will be from now on.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, I often feel like I don’t know what to say when I am told the next story of being “Avatar”, “The Light”, having “total heart opening” and “complete transformation”. Actually I do know what I want to say, but I also know it will not work at the moment for the one who is in blissed out state, so I smile. I usually smile and continue to listen to the journey of the mind that took someone to be an Avatar, The Light, or Egyptian Goddess (these are only a few examples of the experiences I got to hear). I know that experiences of this sort are amazing grand show of the human mind, and surely, they transform to the certain degree the old brain patterns, but I also know that with time the experience fades, and the life continues. As we were coming back from the retreat together, my teacher from Gurgieff Way with a smirk in his eyes, once said: “Isn’t it life comes on us like a ton of bricks?”

I don’t want to underestimate the value of such experiences, it is definitely an opening, a new understanding, a new beginning. But I also don’t want to overemphasize it and add even more to the fascination. Fascination is a mind state in itself, and it is also impermanent, as any of the mind states. Fascination is a wonderful wondrous state, and can be very pleasurable, especially for someone who was absolutely sure of the world that he lives in as a certain material structure. I support fascination of the human mind, what I can’t support is the belief that any of the mind states, be as open and vast as space of consciousness itself or the opposite of it, are permanent. 

Even if I want to participate in the joy of others celebrating “enlightenment”, as they perceive the mind journey to be, I can’t really set aside the understanding of impermanence. I want to say that enlightenment is deep understanding/knowing of the impermanence of the apparent world phenomena, even in the transcendental experiences, and at the same time knowing the nature of the mind as boundless and beyond the transitory experiences. No wonder human life is duality that needs not to be rejected, but realized intimately. At this moment mind knows its true nature, and in the next moment mind is contracted to it's usual human busyness. Some experiences perceived by us to be a mystical, superhuman, transcending, but they too, come to an end, and we find ourselves back to very human, as we call it “mundane” states. 

So what the heck we are seeking then? If the wisdom of experience can’t stay here forever, if we come back to ourselves in the body and mind of one who lives here in this town, goes to work every day, and has a husband/wife and two kids, what to do? How to reconcile the Avatar and the wife, a mother? The Light and the Joe, the accountant, the plumber, or a doctor?

If we really study Impermanence, by the way of meditation, contemplation, or even life long observation, we will see that it is something that permeates every experience, so it is an ethereal fabric from which every experience is weaved, be that an experience of day to day life, or transcendent experience. The very base of any experience is Impermanence, and to learn that, notice it, and wonder on the  impermanence itself is more reliable and gratifying then the fascination with the transcendent mind states. They sooner or later change, leaving us in the restless state of wanting and longing for something more then it is present at this very moment, and it is in itself is the source of human suffering.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Fierce Grace of Arunachala

With the last drop of will, hot and exhausted, I opened a heavy metal gate and made a step outside of the compound where I am staying in Tiruvannamalai, India. I join the river of people who barefoot walking around the ancient mountain Arunachala. People regard Arunachala mountain as Shiva Lingam - the creative force of God.

Arunachala is a conical mountain that can be seen from almost everywhere in this area. Even a view of this mountain said to bring deep transformation. It has magnetic qualities and pull people from all other the world to its foothills, and that is how I got here too.

I was called by Arunachala in a vision, very unexpectedly.  I never even had any desire to visit India, I thought It was a hype, and me being a rebel, I rebel even against the idea to go to India where all the “spiritual people” go. I studied yoga many years ago, then was a meditator for many years, and all that time, when people were making their journey to “mother India”, as they would call it, I felt as my journey is not really geographical.  I had no inclination to travel thousand of miles to search for truth, I felt the search is in me, as someone I heard once said: “It is only 12 inches journey from the head to the heart”. But time came, and I too was called strongly by this mysterious mountain.

It’s December,30 2015, just passed full moon. I am in Esalen Institute in California, floating  in the tub in their famous spring water baths. Its a nighttime. I am looking at the starry sky. This I would write just a moment before. The moment after - the naked body floats in the dark of the night with the stars on the cupola of the sky. I AM. The first experience where the Grace brought this realization upon me came into awareness, and the line that came to the mind at that time is here now again: “From the closest blade of grass, to the furthest star, I AM”

Time stops. I AM. There is no looking through the eyes - it’s all encompassing looking - Seeing. Seeing is a mind state that includes the act of looking and the arising imagery without commentary of the mind. It is a state of a pure natural being, unedited by a conceptual thinking.

Suddenly the sky that was above Esalen became the sky above Mt. Arunachala. I found myself sitting and staring at the sky at the foothill of the holy mountain in India. Prayer came from me spontaneously: “Esalen Land, thank you! You gave me a place to be. You gave me a lover to whom I will return. But for now, please release me. I shall go the the land of India and walk the holy mountain. It is calling me with this vision and a feeling that I finally ready to start to write my book”.

A month and a half later I am here, at the foothills of Arunachala. The first week pass by in mental and physical turmoil. There is a certain level of acceptance here of anything that arising, even difficult emotions or physical pain, I know it is all impermanent phenomena that will pass just how it arise. There is no pushing away from it, just experiencing pain and waiting. The strength and the content of the thoughts and corresponding emotions only point to some deep release that is going on here. The mind jumps like a million monkeys and the body engulfed in a strong heat. Even though it is hot here, but the heat and burning that the body going through, is not because of the weather, I know it. I sat too many Vipassana retreats burning vasanas, mind conditioning, not to recognize what is going on.

The whole place is a retreat here. It isolated me well with the house far from the center of the town. I don’t feel desire to meet with people here, even though meeting with people over chai is one of the usual activity among pilgrims and tourists in this town. I don’t feel like going out to eat, I cook myself simple meals. I don’t read, I can’t pass through the first page of anything. I can’t write, mind is too disturbed to even think clearly. I can’t even meditate for the same very reason. So I am slowly going crazy here, that’s how it feels, except I know that this will pass, and upheaval of the thinking is some detoxification process, as I can call it.

On the February, 21 2016, a night of full moon, Girivalam starts here. It is is a spiritual practice that brings hundreds thousands people here from all over India and all over the world. It’s a walk of 14 km around the Arunachala mountain. It said that this walk burns the karma of ten thousand lifetimes, and it recommended by enlightened beings to make the journey even once in a lifetime. It is also done barefoot, mostly on the hard asphalt road, it’s not easy, especially for westerners, so many can’t complete the walk, or have to wear shoes. 

Girivalam translates as “giri” - the mountain, and “valam” - circling. Thousands of people day and night walk this path on a full moon, its a 24 hours window for this practice. Some people start it earlier, and some start later, so overall it's a river of people around the mountain for 3 days.

In a way, the mountain tricked me. It called me from hundred thousand miles away here to walk around it, and then it sent several people my way to tell me not to walk alone, because it is not safe. I usually feel safe everywhere I go, and I didn’t make much of a deal from the suggestions, so on the first day of a full moon I walked by myself only to stop into 3km of the path, because I didn’t feel comfortable suddenly with young Indian men peering at me. The warnings came to my mind, I succumbed to the fear, and stopped walking as I reached my place.

The place I am staying is called Golden Song. It is a beautiful garden compound with several houses for rent. It is right on the Girivalam pilgrim path, so I hear and feel the current of a human river encircling the mountain day and night, and it only intensifies my state. I already feel burning in my whole being, and the presence of even more stronger energies in the last couple of days with people flooding the town and starting walking in a circle, sends me into the fewer. 98.8, my thermometer says. It is probably the same temperature outside. I feel hot, weak and I am sweating profusely. I feel absolutly let down. Why did she call me in a first place if it does not let me write, meditate, does not let me walk, just like all other people doing it right now? Heck with the karma, let me just be here, simply just be, without sending me into sickness and craziness. But for some reason I can’t relax and write, as I was planning to do here, instead I feel as I am on a hardcore retreat that I didn’t sign up for!

Sick and exhausted I go to bed. I hear the sound of the human river passing by behind the wall, and I see it as one continuous movement of energy, as it is a copper wire around a transformer that creates a dynamo machine. At this point my mind goes into delirium, and I feel as I am in center of a ring of fire. “It is probably hell” -  the last thought in my mind before I fall into sleep.

Couple of hours later I wake up. The sound of a human river is constant, it didn't change a bit. Same intensity engulf me immediately. I drag myself to the kitchen to boil some tea. As I take a stainless steel cup with milk from the refrigerator, I feel an electric current shock. I am surprised, but I continue to manipulate with cup, pot and water, getting electric shock anytime I touch any of it. I think I might have some static, so I walk outside and stand on the ground for sometime. “This can take care of it”, I think. I am still exhausted and can’t think clearly, also I am all wet from sweating while sleeping, so I go to the shower under the cold water. As I am about to turn off the shower I get electrocuted from the shower knob so hard I lost the vision for a second. I manage to turn off the water by wrapping a dry towel around my hand. I stand there naked and delirious, I feel electric current through my body very strong, realizing that I don’t have another choice as to surrender to the call of the mountain.

I step outside the gate and merge into the human river.
“Just take me”, I whisper. Feverish and barefoot, I walk. People passing me by, talking, eating, families and individuals, hundreds of people around me. I don’t feel my feet, no I feel weak anymore, I don't know where I am going, I am a part of the river now, and I just simply walk.

I hear a chant in front of me, couple of women around a bold man who is smeared in ashes, softly repeat mantra with him. Naturally I join. I feel shy a bit at first, but by the time women leave to worship in one of the temples on the way, I am completely immersed in a chanting with the man. He doesn’t stop to worship anywhere, he pass by all the temples with a gesture of his hands together over his head, and continue to walk in a steady pace and chant. The young man, a boy about 16 y.o suddenly join us. We are perfectly aligned by the sound of our voices, all of us having the same pitch. Sometimes people join us, then they disappear, but three of us walk like a unit, and we sing.

“Om Nama Shivaya Shivaya Namaha”, we chant every couple of breaths, stepping on sharp stones, rough asphalt and navigating around the walking people, people selling stuff, siddhis, fortune tellers, fakirs with dancing cobras, disabled children laying on the side with begging bowls, some wheicles, wondering cows and flocks of stray dogs. “Om Nama Shivaya Sivaya Namaha” is the only what exist at this time for me, and a feeling of the mountain on my right side, even if it is blocked by houses or trees, I can feel the presence of a powerful Being.

As we start to approach the center of the town, the human river goes around some barriers, police cars and buses full of people leaving the town. My priest, as I named him, slows down, I feel he cares about another two from the unit not to be lost. Even though he barely looked at me for hours that we walked together, and I never saw his face, walking behind him, I feel so much love circulates between three of us. He cares about us making together to the finish line. I can feel he is surprised by me walking barefoot, he glanced at my white feet several times. Together we comprise a very uncommon unit: a half naked man in ashes, an Indian teenager, and me, a caucasian woman - apparently, perfect trinity to carry a chant together through hours of time and kilometers of the path, not pulled out to temples or vendors to stop.

We walk into the ancient Arunachaleshwar temple. “Om Nama Shivaya Shivaya Namaha! ”, by this time we sound like a professional trio. Its full of people, but the sound of the chant makes people part and give us a way. Suddenly the priest stops chanting, turns around and prostrate himself on the ground. I turn too, and I see the pyramid over my head: the temple, built from stones in a form of the pyramid is immense in the dark of the night. It towers over me in its magnitude. I put my hands over the head in respect. I feel that the size of the human being and the temple’s parameters are in a perfect harmony. I turn to the priest, he turns to me. This is the first time I see his face, with the ashes streaks of different colors on his forehead and his cheeks, and he sees me. He put his hands together in front of his chest, I do the same. Our eyes meet and we say goodbye silently to each other. I leave. He finished his Girivalam by the temple, since he started there, and for me it is another couple of kilometers chanting the mantra I was spontaneously initiated in.