Why We Need a Teacher

Before the Internet Age, I would borrow books from the University library on the Eastern Wisdom Traditions. I remember being so angry as I read book after book. They would discuss the free states of awareness and bliss I inherently knew existed but did not know how to access. They would allude to secret techniques and tell of the beautiful metaphor called the Transmission of Light. I could follow much of what they said, up until a certain point when it began to sound like double-speak, with phrases like “awareness aware of awareness” or “voidness void of voidness”. When the discourse reached this point, no matter the tradition, it invariably ended with something like: Words are meaningless; you must have a Teacher to show you the Path.

My Protestant Christian upbringing taught me we can access God directly – no middleman needed. I practiced the focusing techniques I could find on my own, and found beautiful realms that made me feel happy and high. But the experiences were fleeting, and not the life-changing spiritual metamorphosis the books revealed. I knew there was more, if only I could find the secret method in some obscure book. Or perhaps I needed to decode the metaphors to find the right breathing technique, and the doors to Infinite Awareness would snap open for me. Deep inside my heart, I knew it was possible, and that the way was within me.

The idea I needed to bow down to some teacher like a sycophant was abhorrent. It all sounded so cultish, this guru worship and devotion to some person who would decide if someone like me could hear the magic teachings. With each new book, I would get excited feeling this must be the one with the secret code, but each time as it stopped just short of revelation, I would yell at the book, “Oh come on, just tell me already!” Out of frustration I wanted to throw the books against the wall, but many were old and borrowed, so I restrained myself.

Then one day, after I had decided those exalted states described in the books were mere stories and exaggerations, I met my Teacher. He did not offer any special breathing exercises or meditation methods. He invited us to sit up straight. As we sat, my mind opened beyond the confines of myself. There was Light – a tangible golden Light – filling the room despite my efforts to blink it away. My mind dissolved in silence, and I was forever changed.

How this process works exactly, I cannot say. All I know is it does, and it has for thousands of years. Even if I had left and never saw him again, I was irrevocably changed with that one meditation. Fortunately, he was entertaining enough that I stuck around to learn how to share this secret teaching with others. While I may never reach the level of intensity he was able to transmit the teaching, I’ve watched students blossom before my eyes.

It is not a “shhh, don’t tell” kind of secret. Secret means hidden in plain sight from those who are not yet open. When a teacher goes into the silent state, something is transmitted that is beyond all of our senses. The meditative state is shown to the student, and the student opens to it, and then learns how to access that state beyond the mind. This silence is already within each of us; it’s really a matter of access, of finding the door.

The best analogy I can come up with is swimming. We can talk about swimming, we can watch videos about swimming, and we can imagine swimming. But until we actually get in the water, we have not been swimming. A Teacher takes you swimming beyond the Mind. This is how we learn to meditate. This is what it means when the books say we need a Teacher.

Now I wish I could walk up to any random person, stop my thoughts and transmit this teaching so they can experience the innate bliss of being. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we all have the free will to control the focal point of our attention. It is through this focus of attention that a student becomes receptive to the Transmission of Light. No teacher can force this on another person.

Hence, all the preliminary techniques in countless books and now on countless websites exist to prepare you for that meeting. Even before you find a teacher or even if you have no interest in finding a teacher, you can benefit from the exoteric methods you find widely available. At a purely physical level, they can help with relaxation and anxiety and be wonderful tools for building a happy life. Mentally, focusing techniques can help make your mind stronger and provide a level of balance, allowing you to bounce back quickly when life events knock you down. Insight techniques can help you make sense of the wanderings of your mind so you don’t feel so trapped by it. These are powerful tools anyone can benefit from using, and ones that can be taught by anyone who uses them.

For the rare individual who wants more, who craves that life-changing spiritual metamorphosis, a qualified Teacher is required. The teacher cannot do it for you; rather, they show you what is already there. If this is something you are drawn to explore, make your mind ready by strengthening it. Then open your eyes, let your body move into action, and you will find your Teacher. We are sometimes in the most unlikely places, so be open and trust yourself. And of course, it will most likely not be what you expected!

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Money and Vibration

Money is a form of energy. How we spend our energy – our capacity for physical and mental activity, our time, and our money – reveals where we focus our attention. There is not a right or wrong way to utilize our energy, but how we spend our energy affects how fast or slow we vibrate.

When our vibration is fast, we are sensitive to the non-physical elements of existence. Our senses become sharper, we become aware of more opportunities, and this translates into a happier, brighter life. On the other hand, when our vibration slows, we become more entrenched in the physical. Life loses some of the magic, and we become easily trapped by our own ponderous thoughts. We start to believe we are these fragile bodies.

The good news is we always have a choice of where to place our attention. Of course, the first step is to become aware of where our attention currently resides.

Take some time to sit quietly and observe where you have been spending your energy. What have you been doing physically? What occupies your time, both physically and mentally? Where do you spend your money?

We all need to spend a certain amount of energy – activity, time, and money – on self-care. When we spend money on a rejuvenating home, nutritious food, clothing and transportation suitable to our work and play, and on all the things that support our lifestyle, we are practicing self-love and this causes us to vibrate at a higher level. This higher vibration creates more energy, which we can then put into the things that are important to us. If we try to skimp, or if we refuse to take care of our basic needs appropriately, it will be reflected in our vibration level.

The next level up, where we spend the extra energy we have on pursuits beyond our self-care, determines the direction in which we will grow. Many people become lost once they have achieved the self-care level and make unconscious decisions that often deplete their energy. This can cause a cycle of desperation, where we lose energy and then must scramble to obtain what we need for our lifestyle, then we lose it again, and this game plays out over and over. It can also make us susceptible to greed sickness, where we have what we need, but we always feel it is never enough. With greed sickness, we collect more money and more physical items in a futile attempt to feel fulfilled, and often see others as competitors or enemies. Either way, life is difficult and miserable.

If we bring our attention to where we are spending our energy, we can make shifts that are in alignment with what we truly wish to experience. As with all spiritual practice, we begin with our own being. Once we are stable, we can begin to utilize the extra energy in wonderful way. We can be generous and open to new opportunities, which increase our vibration and thus the amount of energy we have access to expands once again. We can make every large and small expenditure a conscious choice that leads to a higher, happier life. Eventually, an understanding develops which shows us we do not actually own anything; rather we are stewards or caretakers who are here to enjoy all that life has to offer.

 

 

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Joshua Tree Joint Venture

With great excitement, I learned one of my spiritual brothers accepted my invitation to join us at our Joshua Tree Retreat with some of his students. Excitement shifted to curiosity, and then I realized I had no idea of what to expect, so I dropped all ideation and settled into the unknowing of what was going to happen. As I planned the final touches of the retreat, I made certain there were opportunities for him to bow out gracefully if things started going sideways between us or our students. While I love all of my spiritual brothers and sisters, sometimes when those of us who studied with Rama get together things can be weird, and not always the good kind of weird.

 

Since I began teaching, I’ve made it part of my practice and continuing education to visit other teachers of all traditions to learn how they offer teachings. However, I don’t know if others do this or if it’s just an outgrowth of my natural curiosity. I admit part of my motivation for making the invitation was in the hopes of being invited on one of his trips so I could see how he creates the desert experience for his students. It seemed only fair to show him how I do desert first.

 

For my students, I searched extensively and found an almost perfect retreat house for my group – the only downside being we could not entertain visitors. I recommended a hotel close by for his group so he could make their lodging arrangements. I confirmed all the reservations, and bought tickets for our sound bath at the Integratron for those who had registered. I sent out several emails in preparation for the trip, and coordinated with fellow Dharma Center teacher Teresa, who would give us a short presentation with the history of the Integratron and take us to a nearby place of power. Finally, I dug out my Joshua Tree maps and scoped out our route and planned the final details of our adventure using Google maps to ensure we had plenty of time to meet up with the other group and move from place to place.

 

The energy before the trip hit us hard in the form of various types of opposition. Most of my students were able to push through, but a few could not and had to drop out. Because of the opening in the retreat house, one student who had not planned to attend experienced a series of small miracles that allowed him to fly into town and join us at the last minute.

 

Two weeks before the trip, the physical therapist who had been helping my body gain strength moved away, and her replacement did not know the same technique. I let the new therapist work on me, but found myself  physically exhausted and in severe pain from the treatment, and I was couch bound for the remainder of the week that I had planned to do all of my pre-packing.

 

As students continued to call me with their oppositional issues, I wondered if I needed to make some changes to our plans and decided to move up the meeting time of our night time outing so we would not be out as late as I originally thought.

 

Fortunately, my massage therapist had a cancellation and was able to fit me in and stabilize my body. This allowed me to keep my commitment to teach a workplace meditation class on Tuesday. It was a risk scheduling the workshop just two days before our trip because I knew driving in early morning rush hour traffic would wipe me out for the rest of the day, but I felt the call of Eternity to sit with this group. The class was powerful and fun; they even set up a beautiful meditation area for us in the hotel’s conference room with zafus and a Tibetan singing bowl!  As expected, although happy and high from the meditation, I spent the remainder of the day resting and had to put off packing until Wednesday, just one day before the trip. I organized every detail on Wednesday so I could have a relaxing morning before making the long drive.

 

Early Thursday morning, I picked up my phone so my husband could show me a certain setting and noticed an email from the rental house company. Our retreat house had been cancelled due to a plumbing issue!

 

October is high season in Joshua Tree, so most rentals had been booked months in advance. I knew it would be a challenge, and immediately started to look for options. Then I caught myself and realized it would take some energy to pull off the near impossible task of finding 9 beds available in either a house or hotel the same day for the full weekend. I sent out a quick email to my students to let them know about the change in lodging, and that I would update them soon with our new destination. My first task was to have breakfast.

 

After fueling my body, I dove into the travel sites hunting for options. The only large houses available were two hours away from where we planned to be, making them unappealing options. The hotel our brother group was staying at was fully booked. Finally I found a hotel with rooms, but the area had a spacey, astral vibe. It definitely was not the environment I had meticulously planned for my group to have the highest brightest experience. However, I knew driving two extra hours each day would have a negative effect on the group, so I took the plunge and booked three hotel rooms, plus the “presidential suite” which offered a large living room area where we could gather for group meditation.

 

This change in lodging, of course, altered all the details I had planned for the trip. During my initial planning, I kept trying to find a way for us to see the park during the day, but the timing was not working out, so I had given up the idea. With our new location, however, the distance to Joshua Tree was too far for us to go out for lunch on Friday and return to rest before our evening adventure. Instead, we changed course and went to Joshua Tree during the day for a couple of hours before meeting with the other group. We found a wonderful trail that meandered between the rocks, allowing us to each walk and sit on our own, and embrace the energy of Joshua Tree. As I walked, I found an impression of a Buddha meditating in the rocks high above on a cliff!

 

We gathered back at the car and arrived at our meeting spot to find our brother group. The separation between the two groups was apparent. Since I had given a teaching to his students, they recognized me and made me feel welcome. I watched as the students from the two groups eyed each other from a distance and wondered if they would come together. Because I was the leader for the trip, I gave final instructions to all the students present before heading into the desert.

 

As we sat under the stars, I felt the pressure of people expecting some kind of a performance. It would have been easy to cave in and start giving a long dharma talk. But that would not have been authentic. Since this way my turn to lead, I had no choice but to commit 100% to following my own practice. I go to the desert to feel the desert, and let her teach me. I bring others with me so they can also learn from the desert the way I do. So instead, I ate my sandwich and encouraged others to eat whenever they felt hungry. Most of the students did not eat, and instead waited expectantly. Remnants of self-consciousness dissolved with every bite I took on the imaginary stage.

 

After meditating in silence, a feeling of separation among the students remained. To alleviate this, I requested everyone share a moment of personal power. I began by sharing my experience meditating in front of them: My back radiated heat and out of the corners of my eyes I could see gold light, as if someone was shining a bright flashlight on the rock towering behind me. When I turned my head to see the light directly, it would disappear. Once I went back into silence, the light would grow brighter.

 

The outpouring of truth blew me away. In the dark, people were free to share openly experiences they would normally guard as precious memories. One person shared that they also saw the gold light on the rock behind me. Another talked about how she felt like she was waiting for the show to begin, only to realize she was seeing light radiating out in front of her, and that what she was waiting for was already happening. Some shared private, profound moments, and others told stories that caused us to burst into laughter. As each person shared their moment of power, I watched them unite with all the others who had told their stories. By the end, we all merged into one field of Light.

 

We sat again in silence, letting the desert wash through us as the stars danced. The temperature dropped drastically, and although my back was warm, my front was icy cold. I visualized the heat from my back wrapping around me like a blanket and I felt comfortably warm. The inner fire is like having a pot belly stove in the third chakra. If you can keep the hot coals inside the chakra, the heat naturally rises through the central channel and gently warms everything with a soft light.

 

As the night wore on, I could feel a dark heavy energy approaching. When I bring people to the desert, sometimes we sit through the heaviness and laugh, letting it purify any dark corners within our own being. Other times we get out of the way. Knowing we had more to experience together the next day, I signaled that it was time to go.

 

In our hotel suite, my group gathered for a morning meditation. Using the previous night’s energy as a springboard, we dove deep into the Light. My heart burst open wider than ever before, sending a ring of white light around group. It spun in a circle, joining us in our hearts.

 

At lunchtime, when we met with the others I felt the unity of our disparate groups. Although our main focus is on different outward forms of the practice, there was a deep respect and hunger to learn from each other. In the past, I’ve felt some teachers and students attempting to put forth their way and their structures as the best. This time there was only mutual respect. Teresa took us to a hill covered in quartz crystal and shared a sky and earth meditation that solidified our connection to the Path and each other.

 

During our informal discussions while waiting to attend the Integratron sound bath, I felt no competition. There was only a sense of discovery and mutual love of Light. We all wanted to spend more time with each other. Because the reservation for the retreat house was canceled and we wound up at the hotel suite, we could!

 

I invited everyone back to our hotel for a celebration of the magical blessing I felt reverberating throughout our entire Lineage at the meeting of our two sanghas as they merged into a maha-sangha.

 

During our evening group meditation in at the hotel suite, we felt the unification as one tribe, dissolving in Light. Once again my heart chakra exploded with light, and I felt the entire room shift. The love brought tears to my eyes as rings of light poured through my body. I’ve never felt so comfortable so quickly among a new group of people.

 

From behind the kitchen counter, Samvara and I watched as all the student intermingled in a natural and relaxed way. We were both delighted at the excitement in the room, and we could feel the significance of what we were witnessing. Since Rama left the body, we have been a fractured Lineage. It has been my wish since opening Dharma Center that we find a way to uplift and work with each other for the benefit of all beings. That night, watching the birth of new friendships, I saw the healing of our Lineage.

 

In the morning, our brother sangha had already begun their journey home when my group gathered for our final meditation. As we sat together in silence, my body dissolved into light. I felt it transform first into a crystal pyramid that grew to encompass the entire room, with an open top to the blue endless sky. Then it melted in rainbow light that pulsated from my heart and out into the world. The entire structure of my body dissolved in the rainbow. Tears of bliss filled my eyes and I felt completely renewed.

 

The experience of this weekend retreat at Joshua Tree has made me a more confident teacher, with deeper access to realms of light beyond description. It has also reaffirmed my trust in Eternity that my wish for all within the Rama Lineage to find their way home will be realized. I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to walk the Path with such wonderful friends, and I look forward to many more joint ventures among our Lineage into Light.

 

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THANK YOU!

Jenna (Turīya)

20 Second Meditation Technique

When I visited my family over Thanksgiving, my 12-year old niece wanted to learn how to meditate. The morning before our little class, she was having a rough day. Although she was feeling grumpy, she still was excited to learn. I shared with her this very simple 3 breath meditation technique. Her face lit up with a big smile and her mind was completely blown by the concept that she could shift so rapidly and with such ease. My wish is this technique do the same for you.

Enjoy the video!

Peace Within

Abandon ill-will and hate
Abandon envy and greed
Abandon anger and sorrow
Abandon ignorance and delusion
Abandon all these like a sinking ship
For that’s what they are
Bloated with self-importance
They will drag you down to
the depths of suffering.

Cultivate Gratitude and Loving-Kindness
Be neither attracted nor repulsed
And rest in equanimity
Develop altruistic joy and compassion
Move beyond pleasure and pain
And discover Peace within

buddhas-670573_1920

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Jenna

 

Meeting the Master – An Excerpt from Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light

On Friday night, I discovered the Mark Hopkins is one of San Francisco’s most glorious hotels. It sits on top of Nob Hill, rising above the city lights like a castle. The 19th century architecture, with the intricate carvings on the archways, appeared like an entrance to a fairy tale land. The grand doorway towered above me; never before had I been invited to a place so magnificent.

As Katey and I turned the corner into the banquet hall, my self-confidence dropped at the sight of hundreds of elegantly dressed people. None of the weddings or other dinner parties I had attended had ever been this fancy. My long flowered skirt and cheap blazer stood out in the crowd, but I was too confused to feel embarrassed. I couldn’t understand why a bunch of rich business people were attending a lecture on meditation. The overwhelming wealth of the hotel made me suspicious. I kept asking myself weren’t spiritual people supposed to use their money to help the poor, not on fancy dinners? Tara’s black ball gown seemed like a bit much even for this banquet room, but she was paying for my dinner, so what could I say?

Katey started off to meet the others, so I followed, listening to snatches of the conversations. I had expected to hear a roomful of miserable people looking for the answers to all of life’s problems. Instead, the business people in this room were discussing one exciting project or another, smiling as if they had touched ecstasy.

Katey and I met the other students from Tara’s class, and we sat down together at a table in the back of the room. I was disappointed that we were so far from the stage. I wanted to get a good look at Rama, since everyone was so excited to see him but refused to tell me anything about him when I asked. While eating dinner, we chatted about the weather and the classes some of us were taking at college. I couldn’t help noticing the tension in the room; it was like waiting for a bomb to go off.

The waiters were clearing the dessert dishes when Rama strolled in, with a briefcase in one hand and a long leather coat draped over the other. Although Tara had not mentioned what he looked like, I had expected an elderly Japanese man wearing an ocher robe. Instead Rama turned out to be a middle-aged Caucasian man, just over six feet tall, with blond curly hair and dressed in an Armani suit. As he stepped onto the platform stage set up at the far end of the banquet hall, everyone turned their chairs to face him. When I turned towards him, there was a clear aisle from my chair straight to center stage.

I watched Rama closely as he crossed his legs into the lotus position. A grace and ease accompanied his motions, as if he had performed this ritual thousands of times. My gaze kept returning to his eyes. I was positive I had never seen him before, but there was something about him that was strangely familiar.

“Tonight I’d like to talk with you about reincarnation,” said Rama, as a mischievous grin crossed his face, reminding me of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. “The good news is we live forever. And the bad news is, we live forever.” Rama looked around at the smiles in the audience, and began again with a more serious tone.

“Life is the joining of the infinite and the finite. The eternal part of us appears in the physical world, has experiences, and then the physical part falls away when we die. While in the body, the spirit plays out its karma. That is, it continues to follow the patterns of its previous lives, changing and growing until the body dies.

“At death, the material world falls away and the spirit takes a break. The spirit takes with it the awareness it has gained during the life experience. Whatever we become conscious of becomes embedded into our nature, and those skills carry from life to life.”

I relaxed in my chair, forgetting about my appearance for the first time that evening. I took a sip of my coffee as I concentrated on his words.

“For example, if you studied karate in a past life, you would probably be drawn to study it in this life. In the beginning, you would have to relearn the basics. Once you had the basics down, you would tap into your past life knowledge and you would progress much faster than someone who was new to the study of karate.

“The same is true in the study of self-discovery,” he continued, closing his eyes as his melodious voice spread through the room. “When you increase your awareness through meditation, or expand your consciousness through self-discovery, that knowledge travels with you from life to life. Karma propels us to continue with the actions we began in the previous moments. So most of you here have studied meditation in previous lives. By picking up the study again in this life, you can very quickly get back to where you left off and start exploring new areas.

“The process of reincarnation is very similar to going to school,” explained Rama, glancing around the banquet hall. “Someone in eighth grade is not any better than someone in third grade. It just means the student in eighth grade has had more experiences and hopefully knows more. In time, the third-grader will be in eighth grade. And also like school, there is a summer vacation, when the body dies and the spirit takes a break until it is born again.

“When you meditate, you may begin to remember your past lives. This generally happens to people in their twenties, but sometimes people are younger or older. It really depends on how open and aware you are. However, remembering the particulars of who you were or what you did in a previous life really isn’t very important.

“Buddhists use these recollections as a way to learn how to live better today. You can’t change the past; it doesn’t exist anymore. So it’s important not to get hung up on remembering your past lives. If you see stuff when you meditate, it’s best just to ignore it. Don’t let anything distract you from silencing your mind and seeking light.”

Rama pulled out a pair of sunglasses from his jacket and asked us to sit up straight so we could meditate. He put on a CD by Zazen, a band he had created with some of his students, and asked everyone to focus on him.

I gazed at him with half-closed eyes, letting the music fill my ears. The people in the room disappeared, and I could feel Rama’s energy inside my mind as if he was behind my forehead, in my third eye. At first, I tried to shut him out because I was afraid. I didn’t really like the idea of someone in my head, even if he was a respected spiritual teacher. Rama was persistent but not intrusive; instead he became like a vapor and slipped in through the cracks. I could feel him communicating with me telepathically. There were no words, only a soothing feeling, letting me know I was not in any danger. His energy, soft and delicate like a rose petal, shone before me like a rainbow. I knew this feeling of meditation with him, and felt a deeper love for this being, this essence, than I had ever felt for anything else in life.

We bowed after the meditation, and when I looked up, directly at Rama, he smiled back at me. From across the room his eyes sparkled like diamonds as they met mine, and I knew I would see him again as my teacher.

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can read more about my adventures with Rama and the study of meditation in my book, Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light.

Worlds_of_Power,_Wor_Cover_for_Kindle

Always More in Arches and Enlightenment

 

Enlightenment goes on forever. There is always more to explore in the endless play of consciousness. During my second trip to Arches National Park, this became even more evident.

Three years ago on my first visit to this special place of power, Enlightenment awakened and I was reborn as Isis. The energy of the Mother flowed through me and I dissolved, and along with it all doubt and any need for validation. The infinite Happiness and Peace I had chased for most of my life became a permanent state of being. Even when annoyed with the trials and tribulations of daily living, unreasonable joy permeates through my mind as if teasing my ego, constantly revealing the truth of non-dual Reality.

On this year’s retreat, a group of fellow students on the Path met me in Utah. Opposition greeted each of us on our journey; however we all made it to the little town of Moab by sunset. Over the course of the weekend, we explored Arches, discovering places I had not found on my first visit. Even now there are many more areas to visit; like Enlightenment, there is always more in Arches!

On our first walk to Broken Arch, dozens of blooming prickly pear cacti greeted us withBrokenArch yellow and ppurple-flower-cactusurple flowers. At the Arch, we sat on a shaded flat area as the wind began the first of many sand-blasting
purifications. The stress of the opposition we faced in our travels disappeared, leaving only shining joy. The world, with all of its worries and plans and schemes fell away from each of us. The energy of the Mother supported us, hugging and cradling us in her arms, fully accepting all aspects of our being.

That night, we visited what I call the Temple of the Eye. Steps lead up to a massive Arch overlooking the valley and facing another Arch, which appears like a portal with a river of pure creation pouring forth from its opening. As we began our walk up, I asked if the others were ready to see God. We meditated well past midnight as the clouds played with the moon and stars. At one point, the clouds parted, leaving a hole the same shape as the Arch we sat under. Stars twinkled through this sky eye like tiny pupils reacting to light.EyeSteps

As I focused on each chakra, I observed the movement from unity to individuality and back to unity. When I had trouble observing the third eye, I realized the eye cannot see itself. The earth, moon, and stars were my body and the wind my breath. Without a mirror, I could not see Myself, so I moved on to the crown. Waves of emotion pulsated through me, bringing tears of joy to my eyes as I felt all of this as me; I was being reborn thousands of times in an instant.

At some point during all of this, God appeared in the form of four women who were laughing and giggling at first, but grew quiet as they approached. Startled yet relieved, one of them spoke with me about how they were feeling some fear about being there alone in the dark. I told them we were meditating and enjoying the wind. One of them apologized for disturbing the peace and I laughed, saying “not at all.” We were one, and I loved the play of creation standing before me. Some in our party were a bit cranky about being disturbed, especially when the women started taking selfies around the one student who most wanted them to leave. Soon they went on their way and we returned to the silence within the roaring of the wind.

This new level of connection to this powerful place continued to grow within me the next day. We returned to the temple area, but this time we went to the portal arch. I sat outside, waiting for an invitation to enter this most holy space. When the time was right, I climbed up the rocks and passed through into another world. At the top, the most beautiful puddle puddleI have ever seen greeted me like a precious gift from God. A tourist walked by, so rather than let the emotion overpower me, I stifled a sob. I laughed at this new awareness of the exquisite beauty of this world that pulled such uncharacteristic sappiness from me.

Although I had visited this place three years before, it was completely different than I or my companion at the time remembered. Before, there had been only a large boulder with steep drop-offs on all sides. Now there was a path leading down to the valley and a stone bridge crossing to the huge formation marking the other side of the valley.

Despite a latent fear of heights, I was drawn to cross the narrow bridge. As I sat in meditation on the other side, I merged into the womb of the Mother. Energy flowed into my heart – everything: the light, the dark, the fear, the anguish and sorrow, and the joy of IMG_3876everyone and everything streamed into my chest. The energy passed through the channels and gathered at my second chakra, building and building until it connected with the kundalini in the first chakra and burst. It flowed up the central channel and exploded out my third eye as the river of creation I had seen the night before. At the same time, energy poured out the crown like a fountain, returning the energy to my heart keeping the cycle going. Ecstasy beyond bliss fails to express what it felt like to be that cycle of creation and destruction. The feeling remains with me even now as I write these words.

Later that day, we moved over to the Cathedral; a complex of Double Arches which creates the sense of being in an ancient church. We climbed over the rocks, as some of our party scaled a wall to perch inside a smaller Arch. Children scampered around, delighting us with their ability to pick the lines of travel up and down the rock walls without hesitation. As the sun set, we sat like Buddhas inside a mandala, each on our own private throne in the Cathedral, while the remaining tourists took pictures. With the descent of darkness, we meditated and waited for the moon.

Sliver light appeared behind a large rock formation that reminded me of a giant Ganesh. The clouds parted just behind his right ear as the moon began to shine. The wisps of cloud remaining took on ethereal shapes: a phoenix, a baby dinosaur, then a huge wolf with piercing eyes surveying us. The moon and clouds danced, revealing a peek of the silver orb, then hiding her in the shadows. She revealed her full light as we readied to leave, as a parting gift, before dark storm clouds swallowed her whole.

Following the path back to the cars, we walked in complete darkness with just flashlights to guide us. Only a few feet of the path could be seen in front of me, reminding me of how life is like that: we don’t usually get to see very far from where we are; all we are given is a light to show us where to step next.

At the retreat house we took a moment to express one thing we were thankful for during the trip. To my surprise, the student who had objected to the selfie-taking women said he was grateful for their presence. The experienced allowed him to shave off a bit more of the bondage to the ego, letting him be more at ease with things that disturb his peace. This change provided an excellent example of the sense of friendliness and openness I hoped we would all bring back to the world.  Each of the students grew a little deeper into Light over our short four day trip. I feel enormous gratitude to have been honored to be with these remarkable students of Light and share this beloved space.

While I have left Arches, Arches has not left me. The wind is my breath; the earth, moon, and stars are my body. As the play of consciousness continues, there is always more to explore. And for my next adventure, there’s a body to rest after all the over-exertion, dishes to wash and laundry to fold.

yellow-flower-cactus

 

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3 Reasons to Retreat

Many people in our society work themselves to the breaking point, and then they seek an escape from their stressful lives. This escape is usually in the form of a vacation. However,CathedralLight they often spend most of their getaway feeling just as stressed as when they were working. The only benefit seems to be the addition of pleasant memories that serve as a virtual means of escape until the next vacation.

On the path of spiritual practice, retreat does not mean running away. Rather, a retreat is a strategic withdrawal with the intent to return stronger. As we work in the world, we use our mindfulness practice to stay aware of how we are doing on all levels, and we plan our step back consciously so we avoid losing all perspective in what can quickly become a life and death struggle.

The practice of retreat has three reasons behind it, each one working in concert with the others.

Relaxation

The first part of any successful retreat is relaxation. We must be willing to detach from the world, from all of our struggles on the playing field, and from everything that defines us. There’s an assumption this happens automatically, hence the popularity of vacation. However, you’ve probably already noticed how when you step away from work and the struggles of daily life, they stay with you in your mind. When we plan a retreat, we factor in time to allow both the body and mind to relax. Part of this time is spent tying up loose ends before leaving – this is the strategic withdrawal. For example, making sure the bills are paid, putting up an out-of-town notice on your email, and making sure you have clean clothes ready for your return to work in your closet. Once you’ve arrived at your retreat destination, consciously let go of everything, trusting that your preparations will hold all the aspects of your life together while you are away. Relaxation purifies our being, creating within us a sense of inner detachment that allows us to see the path before us with clarity.

Rejuvenation

Once you’ve relaxed, rejuvenation is possible. For many people, this is the favorite part of a retreat, and they try to jump right into new experiences. Relaxing creates a space for those new experiences to be explored without the stress of the past getting in the way. Others get stuck in the relaxation phase. Instead of stopping with the clearing away, we can fill ourselves with Light by embracing all the present moment has to offer. On a retreat, we may visit new places, meet new people, push ourselves into higher brighter mind states through meditation – or do all of the above. Part of the fun of retreat is figuring out what will provide a sense of renewal, right now. Rejuvenation rebuilds our being from the inside, creating a sense of excitement about life and our place within it.

Reconnection

Rejuvenation gives us the energy required to reconnect with our highest, deepest Self. While living and working in the world, it’s easy to lose our way and become bogged down by material concerns. We start looking outward and attempt to fix the world, forgetting that all we experience is a reflection of our inner being. Our perception as a separate individual tricks us into thinking we are alone, and the world rests solely upon our shoulders. That weight can cause us to doubt ourselves and make us feel as if we can accomplish nothing. By communing with Spirit, God, Source, or whatever your Word of the day is, we remember what we are: pure Light. Reconnection with this wisdom provides the strength to return to our work in the world.

For those of us serious about our spiritual practice, making time to retreat is not an option, it’s a necessity. Even when we cannot disappear for several days, we can still create a retreat whenever the need arises. All we need to do is remember these three reasons – Relaxation, Rejuvenation, Reconnection – and carve out time to step away and experience all three. We may only be gone for a few minutes or an hour, but this conscious retreat can make all the difference in our inner life.EyeArch

If you would like to experience a longer retreat, join me in May 2016 at Arches National Park in Utah. Please visit DharmaCenter.com/power-trips to learn more.

 

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Jenna

 

Masks We Wear

Sometimes it’s fun to don a mask and explore what it’s like to be a particular person or Fairy-2015-10-31_2creature. On Halloween, I had a great time as a fairy behind a feather mask and shiny wings that glistened in the sunlight. Although it was early in the day and not many others were in costume, expressing the whimsical, magical part of being, complete with a pink wand with lights and sound effects, felt freeing.

These are the most wonderful types of masks we wear; the ones that free us.

Other masks are not so obvious. Names are a mask. To some, I am Jenna Sundell, and with that name comes many sub-masks: an author, a teacher, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an aunt, and a chronic pain patient. The name is a mask of perfect humanness that allows others to easily relate and converse with me. To others, I am Isis – a spiritual teacher and expression of Enlightenment. This mask lets me shine Light into this world and acts as a mirror where students can see that they too are Light.

We also use causes and careers as a mask. Many years ago, I was a computer consultant. It served as a powerful mask that not only allowed me to earn an income, it also boosted my confidence and self-esteem. I’ve met many others who are wonderful crusaders for worthy causes, and they have created very detailed masks that help them succeed in their missions.

There are also masks we put on unintentionally, perhaps because we believed someone else’s opinion over our own. Or sometimes the mask provides a short term benefit by letting us get something we need. In wearing the mask, we become the victim who needs to be rescued, or the employee who has been taken advantage of, or the jilted lover, or the angry customer.

Whether the mask drowns us in misery or elevates us to ecstasy, it is still just a mask. And masks, like all things, are transitory. There is great power in a mask in that it allows us to interact with others, but at the same time there is great danger in that we easily forget we are wearing a mask.

The good news is we can choose what masks to wear, and when we tire of one or it no longer brings us joy, we can swap it out for a new one.

And when we’re ready, we can let go of all masks and dissolve into the pure Light. Ultimately, behind the mask, there is only Awareness aware of Awareness.

 

What masks do you wear?

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Please also share this website with others who may benefit.

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Enlightenment Is Our Natural State

There are no words to describe Enlightenment. We can use concepts to allude to the state of Awakening, to God-Realization, to Self-Realization. That last one, Self-Realization is rather ironic since it’s realizing there is no Self. We can say it is a state of Unity, of ultimate bliss and peace; that it is freedom from suffering. Enlightenment is the end of Ignorance, the end of attachment to senses, and the end of coming to any state of Being.

Liberation from suffering is probably the closest we can come in words. It does not mean pleasure and pain are no longer felt. In reality, they are felt more deeply since there is no resistance. But a particular sensation doesn’t hang around very long because there is no self to cling to it. Beneath all the waves that arise, there is that indescribable sense of peace, but even the word peace falls flat in reality.

Enlightenment does not mean everything in your life works out. It doesn’t mean that all money problems and relationship issues and health challenges suddenly disappear. What it does mean is that the human drama does not block the endless Bliss that is the play of existence. Even Gautama Buddha had to eat, manage relationships, and deal with back problems that would cause him pain. When the back pain became intense and his body could not sit up straight, he would ask one of his disciples to give the discourse while he laid down. You may have seen statues of him in a reclined posture; now you know why he was memorialized in that position.buddha-relaxing

Why didn’t Gautama just heal himself, or ask one of the many gods, goddesses, or healers who came to him to hear the Dharma to fix his body? Having a perfect physical body was unnecessary for him to accomplish his task of teaching. When you know you are the Dharma-kaya, what difference does the temporary physical vehicle make? On another level, his physical pain also served as a teaching for his students to let go of their attachment and worship of the body.

Enlightenment does not mean you are a Saint. There are Enlightened Saints, but not all Saints are Enlightened and not all of the Enlightened are Saints. As long as the body exists, there is a sliver of ego and a variable personality that interacts with the world, complete with its own quirks and eccentricities. The difference between one who is Awakened and one who is not is that there is no clinging to the ego or personality. The Awakened changes to fit the needs of those around her, to show them Light in a way that they have the possibility of seeing It, to aid in the Awakening of those they meet. Or, sometimes their job is simply to meditate alone and let the Light shine through them, so they may chase people away. Their actions don’t always make sense to those who are watching from the outside. To the average person, the Enlightened may appear aloof, fickle, sometimes cold, and sometimes extremely loving. None of these words adequately describe Enlightenment. It is everything and nothing all at once.

All I or anyone can really tell you is the struggle to Awaken is worth every moment. Each experience you have in this world contains within it the seed of realization. While it is certainly not easy to let go of every last attachment and lay yourself bare before the Light, it is what we were made for. Enlightenment is our Natural State.

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Jenna