From the beginning there never was a secret, every mystery you have ever wondered about has been hidden in plain sight.

We are the Ātmeśvara Mārga School, and if we took ourselves seriously enough to have an "official" voice, this would be it. We are dedicated to the process of human integration, of moving from the segregated, mechanistic, conditioned state, to the Integrated, unconditioned state of the awake, adult human.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Diminishing Returns

Awakening is often likened to subtraction. Peeling away layer upon layer of un-Truth so as to find the pearl of Truth in the center. The initial motivation for most in this process is to find relief of pain or depression, or to gain peace of mind, unity with the divine, or enduring joy. These desires for an outcome, or some sort of return, keep Seekers seeking, doing the work to "get something."

While seeking the awakened state we are asked to let go of so many things. One of the most difficult may be attachment to a guaranteed outcome. The price of awakening is everything. The outcome is nothing.

So when in the awakening process the time comes that it seems like all the work is for nothing, this is a moment of Truth- and one which may be incredibly uncomfortable. But rather than cling to pylons of belief about what we may "get" out of it- out of anything for that matter- let go and drift out into the open sea of the unknown.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Doing the Five Tibetans

Here is a brief Instructional video on how to do the Five Tibetans along with some of the modifications we use for people with physical challenges.

It might be a little difficult to learn the Tibetans from a video alone (though not impossible) but if you have attended a class this will be a good reminder of the process.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Space: The Final Frontier

In the journey to be awake, much time is spent in looking for what is real. Noticing feelings, reactions and stories. But when you get right down to it, what is this reality we seek to dance with? How much of it is based on assumptions? Is there a solid foundation anywhere on which to stand?

Quantum physics teaches that in spite of our perceptions of a solid world, emptiness takes up the vast majority of "space". The deeper into space we go, the harder it shakes established beliefs- about Self and the Universe. Stare long enough into the void, and precious stories dissolve. Some very primal fears must be confronted. Fear of no center. Fear of no meaning. And ultimately, fear of no Self.

Exploration of this frontier of vast and unknown space can be approached as an adventure or as a dreaded mission. Or it may refused as well. Consider beginning with small spaces. Notice the empty places inside your own body. Notice the space outside yourself.

This is the beginning of contact with reality.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mechanics of Giving

In the quest to be an awakened being, recognition of mechanical patterns is a vital step. Where it can get sneaky is where the habit is a "good" one. Exercise. Teaching. Volunteering.These are good habits.

For example, how could generosity be a problem? We "should" be giving human beings, right? It's important to help others when they need it, right? Taking the should out of the equation is the first step. Removing value judgments from our actions is essential, and oh-so-challenging for most people.

The term Enlightened Self-Interest is one which may be appropriate in being honest about why we do our acts of service. Examine the motivations behind giving. Do I give to get? Do I give to feel good about myself? Do I give so I won't feel bad about my own good fortune? Generosity in itself is a lovely thing if we can be conscious about it, are willing to root out expectations and be in clarity with why we do what we do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shen Haung Chi Kung

We are very excited to introduce this rarely taught health and longevity art, developed in the Taoist temples of the Hubei region, China.

Shen Haung Chi Kung works to develop “chansiijing” (reel-ing silk energy) and to free the spine through “string of pearls” and “swimming dragon” exercises. Shen Haung Chi Kung creates a strong and supple core, floods the joints with Synovial fluid to remove toxins and bring nutrients, thereby helping to fight the process of aging.

Shen Haung Chi Kung practice strengthens both “post-birth” and “pre-birth” Chi. The practice consists of four distinct elements, the warm up, the standing set, the moving set, and the cool down. The Warm up takes the body’s joints through various “range of motion” and complex rotation exercises to prepare the body for the next two sets. The Standing set is designed to help the individual gather chi in preparation for the next set. The moving set circulates the gathered chi, flushing the system of stagnant energy while revitalizing body and mind.

Develop:
-Supple Joints
-Strong Core
-Dynamic Energy
-Flexible Spine
-Youthful Vigor

Dates: May 21- July 9th
Time: Thursday’s 7-8:30 pm
Location: The Armenta Studio
955 Wealthy Street SE Grand Rapids
Fee: $100

To register, email: atmesvara@gmail.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Falling Down

Things can be going along quite nicely, the path feeling smooth, the messages all thumbs up. We cannot help but dance for joy in the music of our lives. Suddenly something is in the way, the road no longer smooth. We trip. Maybe we fall. We look around, did anyone see that clumsiness? Possibly all those who moments ago were our cheerleaders. Possibly nobody at all.

One of the big challenges on the path of our lives is how to deal with these falls. If the stumble was caused by our own unawareness, do we stand accountable for our actions? Do we become discouraged and just sit on the side of the road pouting in self-pity over a skinned knee? If the fall was seemingly caused by another's action, do we waste energy in anger and blame?

Developing an ability to keep moving forward whether the road is smooth or bumpy is key to reaching our destination. A key in this is of course, holding the non-attached view of our journey. (Take advantage while down of noticing what things look like from below- there could be important information there). Another is remembering to continue both being accountable and being kind to our selves in doing so.

Look at babies becoming toddlers: they fall all the time. They may bump something in the landing. They may cry for a moment, but they don't blame someone else, or give themselves a hard time. And they get back up. Because the most important thing is their desire for mobility.

How strong is your desire for mobility? Are you willing to keep getting back up?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Rest of the Story

There is a story of Gautama that is usually only told in part. The part that is spoken of is often quoted by people who would like to make a spiritual path that is comfortable for them, one where they can pick and choose their lessons.

"The Buddha asked his disciples how they would get across a river. 'With a boat', they replied. The Buddha asked, 'When you arrived at the other shore, would you carry the boat with you or would you leave it on the margin?', The disciples replied,'We would leave it on the margin and go on without it'.The Buddha said,'In the same way, when you arrive at the other side of the river, you may leave the boat of doctrine and practice.'"



Here is the rest of the story:

Buddha and his disciples came to a river and taking a boat, crossed. The Buddha then delivered the parable given above. The disciples, understanding the meaning of the story, left the boat and followed Buddha on his journey. In a few hours they came to another river. Buddha sat under a tree laughing, and waited for his disciples to go back and fetch the boat they left on the shore of the first river.




It is not a "thing" that you get, it is a process.
It doesn't matter what poetry you quote
The poet means what he means,
not what you wish he meant.

No matter how often you call a weed a rose,
You will never change its scent.
And the only river that matters
Is the one that you find at the end of your life.

The question is, when you reach the banks,
Have you developed the strength and discipline
You will need to make it to the other side.
Or will you be swept away into oblivion.

Thinking about enlightenment
is not the same as being awake.
The map is not the territory,
but if you insist that you are in
Ifsfahan when you are in Shiraz,
you will never make it to Mecca,
no mater how good your map is.

The saddest ones of all Are the ones who,
thinking they see the shore,
Leave the boat in the middle of the river.
And then tell us that breathing water
Is enlightenment.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air

Ātmeśvara Mārga School is very pleased to announce a new class this Spring:

Introduction to Prāṇāyāma

अमृतप्राणायाम
Class: Introduction to Prāṇāyāma
Dates: March 26- April 30th
Time: Thursday’s 7-9 pm
Location: The Armenta Studio
Fee: $100

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Prāṇāyāma is one of the eight essential practices of Yoga. Prāṇāyāma (breath practice) offers profound benefits for body, mind and spirit, and is considered the premiere practice to begin stilling the chatter of the mind.

The method taught in this six week class is called Amṛta Prāṇāyāma
(Amṛta: “the nectar of immortality”. Prāṇāyāma: “breath practice”)
and comes from the Kashmir region of Northern India.

The benefits of this practice include a calming of emotion and quieting of mind, strengthening the core of the body, increase in energy and endurance, more suppleness of the spine, and a positive effect on overall health. Many people report better digestion, lower blood pressure,
and a boost to the immune system as well.

The class teaches both the sitting and the moving methods of Amṛta Prāṇāyāma as well as the skills to integrate the practice into everyday life.

Come join us in exploring this essential yogic skill!





Thursday, February 5, 2009

Windows of Opportunity

Clear intention, effective action, and appropriate timing work together to create success. If any one of these is off, we're unlikely to achieve our goals.

The Universe breathes in and breathes out. Windows open and windows close. There are some things which do not operate on a time line, and many which are "available for a limited time only". If you want that certain job, you must submit your resume before the decision of who to interview is made. If an August tomato harvest is your heart's desire, you must start seeds in early spring and pay attention to when the weather turns warm enough to put the plants in the ground. Developing awareness of when the window is open requires sensitivity and attentiveness to the moment.

Sometimes we struggle with goals because we were busy looking somewhere else while the window was open. Distractions can smear the glass and distort perception of what actually lies on the other side. Devoting too much energy to something that is not responsive is like continuously bumping against a closed window. Push too hard and the glass breaks. Stand gazing through the window and remain forever in a state of separation from your goal.

Picking up on the clues dropped by the Universe requires paying attention to where there is a return on expended energy. What is the view of the universe you wish to see? When you find the window that provides that view, watch for it to open and act accordingly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More About Yoga: Advanced Breath Techniques for the Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation

The following is instruction for those practicing the Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation, referred to here, as simply the 5 Tibetans:

While the basic movements of the 5 Tibetans are easily found online, in books or videos, the effectiveness of the practice is greatly enhanced by inclusion of the Bandhas*. As far as I have seen, the Bandhas, or locks, are not commonly taught. These are coordinated with the breath and movements to create a greater ease as well as stronger energetic impact. The three locks are a little tricky to learn and take some concentration. But once integrated, they just feel like a natural extension of the breath and movement. In fact, to me, they are what really brings them together. Use of the bandhas while doing the 5 Tibetans is what will begin to increase the impact of doing this practice, and shift from restorative to regenerative benefits.
(*Bandha names a technique which works like a valve for Prana, or Energy. To engage the bandha is to lock the specific interior spaces of the body and therefore contain the energy at that point.)

Mula Bandha or the root lock (first chakra) is basically a Kegel (for women), or contracting the pubbococcygeal (PC) muscle. Squeeze and pull up the pelvic floor and begin your exhalation at the same time.

Uddiyana Bandha or the core lock (third chakra) is diaphragmatic, or pulling the abdominal muscles up and inward. This continues to squeeze the air out.

Jalandhara Bandha or the throat lock (fifth chakra) is a lengthening of the neck and dropping the chin forward towards the chest. Remember to slide the head forward before dropping your chin down. It should not block the air-flow at all. Most air is already out by then and this is your "control pause" or the space between breaths.

When all three locks are engaged sequentially, this is called the Maha Bandha or the Great Lock.

What follows is an explanation of how to include use of the Bandhas or locks in each of the exercises of the 5 Tibetan Rites.

1st Tibetan:
Only the root and core lock are engaged during the spinning. Begin with the root lock and exhale and slightly engage the diaphragm as you begin the spin. Relax the lock as you reach 180 and let air come back in.

2nd Tibetan:
Begin with the root lock and exhale. This will engage the abdominal muscle and core lock. Bring the head up and engage the chin lock. You can watch your feet go up. All the air is squeezed out and as you slowly lower your legs, allow air to seep back into your lungs, relaxing the root, the core and last the throat.

3rd Tibetan:
Begin on your knees with hands positioned for support on the upper buttocks. Root lock/squeeze/begin exhalation. Engage the core/pull the abs up and in/to push more air out. Slide head forward and drop chin towards chest. Relax the throat, then the core and last the root as you extend your backward movement. From the arched and relaxed position, begin again with the root lock/exhale. Then tighten the abs and keep exhaling as this pulls you forward. Finish with the throat lock and chin drop.

4th Tibetan:
Begin in the upright seated position. Begin with the root lock. Exhale, tighten abs/core lock. Drop chin/ throat lock. Relax throat as your head comes up. Relax the core, and then the root as you push up into the Table. Begin with root lock/exhale. Then core lock/ pull up abs/diaphragm as you swing back down into the seated position. And complete with the sliding head forward and dropping the chin forward for the throat lock.

5th Tibetan:
Begin in Upward Facing Dog with lungs open and relaxed. Exhale/root lock. Tighten abs/core lock and push up into Downward Facing Dog. Do Not engage the throat lock, as in the 5th Tibetan we want to allow the energy to move into the head. Relax the diaphragm and then the root lock as you move back into Upward Facing Dog.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Something to think about

"Understanding is acquired, as I have already said, from the totality of
information intentionally learned and from personal experiencings; whereas
knowledge is only the automatic rememberence of words in a certain
sequence.....

I must tell you that in our brotherhood there are two very old brethren;
one is called Brother Ahl and the other Brother Sez. These brethren have
undertaken the obligation of periodically visiting of all the monasteries of
our order and explaining various aspects of the essence of divinity....

The sermons of these two brethren, who are to an almost equal degree holy
men and who speak the same truths, have nevertheless a different effect on
all our brethren and on me in particular.

When Brother Sez speaks it is indeed like the song of the birds in Paradise;
from what he says one is quite, so to say, turned inside out; one becomes as
though entranced. His speech 'purls' like a stream and one no longer wishes
anything else in life but to listen to the voice of Brother Sez.

But Brother Ahl's speech has almost the opposite effect. He speaks badly and
indistinctly, evidently because of his age. No one knows how old he is.
Brother Sez is also very old - it said three hundred years old - but he is
still a hale old man, whereas in Brother Ahl the weakness of old age is
clearly evident.

The stronger the impression made at the moment by the words of Brother Sez,
the more this impression evaporates, until there ultimately remains in the
hearer nothing at all.

But in the case of Brother Ahl, although at first what he says makes almost
no impression, later, the gist of it takes on a different form, more and
more each day, and is instilled as a whole into the heart and remains there
for ever.

When we became aware of this and tried to discover why it was so, we came to
the unanimous conclusion that the sermons of Brother Sez proceeded only from
his mind and therefore acted on our minds, whereas those of Brother Ahl
proceeded from his being and acted on our being."

G. I. Gurdjieff "Meetings With Remarkable Men"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Just a thought

Many years ago I ran across a book in a store somewhere.

The title was "101 Zen Koans, with their answers"

This was back in the day when America was first discovering "Eastern" though. Allen Watts was publishing his books on Tao and Zen, Esalen was still a novelty rather than a cliché and everyone wanted to get enlightened just as quickly as possible. EST seminars were just getting popular. (If you are too young to remember those days see if you can find a movie called "Serial", it captured the feel of the time quite nicely).

Of course the problem here is that even if you are given the "answer" to a koan, or a Sufi story, or one of the tales of the Baal Shem Tov, you don't have the answer.

The whole point of such stories is not the answer per se, but the realization of the answer, which is not something that you can get from another person (ever).

I will pass on the advice that was given me when I was trying to riddle out the answer to the Dance of the New Moon.

"If you want to understand the mystery of the dance, you must do as Yorge did, sit for an hour each day and 'watch the dance' just as he did"

There is a "right answer" in the sense of the answer that will "get you admitted to the monastery".

But of course there is more than one monastery. But no matter which one you go to, you won't get in without finding the answers you are looking for by your own effort.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Context

One of the problems with dealing with a story like "Dance of the New Moon" is that such stories come from a particular cultural milieu, and without proper context some important aspects of such a story can remain opaque.

Here in the west, when someone says "Dervish exercise" or "Sufi Dance" the most common understanding is the "Turn" of the Mevlevi dervishes or the "Dances of Universal Peace" created by Sam Louis (ra).

In Central Asia, before the take-over by the USSR, Dervish exercises and Dances had a much broader context.

One of the things I noticed in reading the responses in the various places that "The Dance of the New Moon" has been published is that there is little understanding of Sufi exercises or the culture in which they developed.

To help with this very understandable problem I wanted to help give some context to the story, or at least around it.


Here is a video clip of Dervish Practice that shows very common pattern of movement.
....

....

Here is a clip of one of G. I. Gurdjieff's exercises that is also to the point
....

....

For those who like hunting mysteries I can also say that the monetary where the story took place was founded by the Tariqa (path) that took its lineage from Ahmet Yesevi.

Perhaps this will help just a bit.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Dance of the New Moon

A Sufi Tale

There has been a great deal of discussion of this particular story lately, so I thought it might be fun to post it here and see what people might have to say about it.

The story is a "Legominism", which is to say. it is a method of preserving and transmitting information of a special sort down through time.

There is a correct answer to the riddle of the story and discovering this answer is said to impart a very special teaching.

================

There was once a seeker who had heard of a Dervish monastery hidden somewhere deep in the Caucasus mountains, where certain secrets were kept in trust for those few people who found their way to the sanctuary and proved themselves worthy. Having heard, he set his heart on finding this monastery and acquiring the treasure that it held.

After a long a perilous search lasting many months the seeker, whose name was Yorge, found himself in front of a pair of large iron bound doors set into the wall surrounding a convent built on the saddleback between two peaks. There was an old copper bell hanging beside the door, Yorge reached out and rang it.

A short while later the doors swung slowly open, and Yorge’s gaze was met by the smiling eyes of an old man. Or at least at first glance the man appeared to be old, with white hair and beard, but this outward sign of age was contradicted by a quality of vital energy that emanated from the man like subtle perfume.

“Good afternoon.” The old man said. “I am Brother Sohs. How may I be of service to you?”

Yorge explained that he had come to petition for admission to the fraternity of this monastery.

“You are blessed young sir.” Brother Sohs replied with a smile. “Two days hence is the Hilal al Akbar, the first new moon of Spring. It is at this time that we test new applicants for admission to our mysteries.”

The old man led Yorge into the monastery and took him to a small, but clean and surprisingly comfortable cell. He instructed Yorge to await the evening meal in meditation, and with a smile and a nod, departed.

At the hour of sunset the old man returned with two bowls of rice and vegetables. Brother Sohs invited Yorge out onto a terrace to relax and eat while watching the beautiful mountain sunset. After their meal, the old man said, “Tomorrow you will spend your day in meditation and fasting as preparation for your challenge.” “During your time of testing you must speak to no one save me and you may as no questions, even of me, about your test. I will meet you again to break our fast in two day’s time and give you your instructions.”

On the morning of the second day Brother Sohs arrived with food at Yorge’s cell door. They ate in silence, the old man beckoned Yorge to follow him.

They went to a low building that was separated from the main body of the monastery called a Semakhanah or “house of attention”.

Yorge was led in and Brother Sohs motioned him to sit. The room was of exceptional size, and in its center was a large octagonal space lowered three feet into the floor. In the lowered area was a group of people, men and women; each dressed in a long white shirt and pants with a sash tied about their waists. Each was standing in a different pose and all of them appeared to be perfectly still. There were several other people sitting around the periphery of the octagon, each of them watching the individuals standing in their poses. Though the room was silent and all of the occupants were motionless there was an electric feeling to the air that was quite stimulating, like a strong cup of Turkish coffee on a cold morning.

After a time Brother Sohs motioned Yorge to stand and accompany him from the building.

The old man offered Yorge a seat under a tree and then sat beside him. “What you have just seen,” Brother Sohs said, “was the Dance of the New Moon.” “This is your trial. Every day for the next twenty-eight days you will spend one hour in the Semakhanah observing the dance. You may attend any time after you break your fast in the morning until tenth hour of the day, you may not attend after sundown. You may not ask questions or discuss what you have seen with any other of the people attending. At the end of the twenty-eight days I will ask you to explain to me the meaning of the Dance. If you can answer the riddle of the Dance you will be accepted into our Brotherhood and initiated into our teachings. May your endeavor be blessed by The Real.”

With these words the old man stood up with remarkable energy and walked away.

The next morning Yorge returned to the Semakhanah and spent an hour watching the group of men and women standing, kneeling, sitting or laying in various postures.

He began to wonder why this was called a dance, as the participants were obviously not moving. Yorge also wondered why there was such a palpable feeling of kinetic energy in the room. After the allotted hour, Yorge returned to his cell to ponder what he had seen.

Day after day Yorge returned to the hall, but try as he might, he was unable to penetrate the mystery of the Dance.

He examined each of the dancers individually, trying to see a pattern. Each dancer was in a different posture from day to day but there seemed to be no sense to how they changed. No two dancers were ever in the same posture on any given day, but certain postures seemed to be held by different dancers on different days.

Yorge counted the number of dancers; there were twenty-eight, fourteen men and fourteen women. But other than the obvious symmetries, he could not see the pattern.

Day after day Yorge came and watched the dancers, and each day the dancers remained in seeming stillness. Other than the intense feeling of energy in the room, there was just a group of people in a seemingly random grouping of positions.

Yorge became more confused daily. As much as he tried to penetrate to the meaning of the dance, all he had for his effort was frustration.

Finally the last day came and went.

Yorge’s mind was in a panic, his thoughts ran through every teaching he had ever received hoping that something would help make the meaning of this so called dance become clear. He even began to wonder if this were some sort of trick that the members of this brotherhood played on seekers so that they would not be overwhelmed with new members. Sleep escaped him that night.

The next morning, Brother Sohs appeared at the door of Yorge’s cell with a pot of tea and two cups.

“Come sit with me young Sir, and enjoy the morning.” The old man requested.

Yorge accompanied Brother Sohs to the monastery garden with no little trepidation, dreading the moment when the question would be asked.

Brother Sohs gestured for Yorge to be seated on a bench under a magnificent mulberry tree, and pouring two cups of tea, asked “Young sir, have you penetrated the mystery of the dance?
================

Do feel free to answer the riddle of the dance for yourself and post it in the comments. Of course, unlike Yorge, you can also discuss the story there. If anyone finds the answer I will tell you privately (it is a secret after all, even if it is hidden in plain sight)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Smuggling

Smuggling

One day Mulla Nasruddin approached the border between Turkey and Iraq leading his donkeys loaded with bales of straw. The guards at the border stopped him and asked what he was doing. “I’m smuggling” was his response. He was subjected to a thorough search by the guards, who found no contraband or other suspicious items. Reluctantly, they allowed him to pass.
Next month, Mulla Nasruddin again approached the border with his donkeys. Again the guards inquired as to his reason for crossing. Again Mulla responded “I’m smuggling”. And again, he was thoroughly searched with nothing found. The guards were again left scratching their heads as they let him pass through.

Month after month, and year after year, this scenario played itself out at the border. Many years later, one of the guards was in Cairo and he encountered Mulla Nasruddin in the market. “Mulla” he said, “All those years, when you were crossing the border, you said you were smuggling, yet we never found anything in your packs. You are now beyond our laws, so please, I must know, what were you smuggling?”

Mulla Nasruddin smiled and said, “Donkeys”.