Saturday, October 12, 2019

Full Moon in Aries: I Am That

This Sunday, we welcome a full moon in the fiery, cardinal sign of Aries, the headstrong Ram. The motto for Aries is “I Am.” Here, we find ourselves potentially facing themes involving personal identity. Here, in the First House, we experience Consciousness emerging from the Piscean depths once again. The I Am, spontaneously arising and aware of itself as a separate entity – the self with a small ‘s.’ This is the self that plays in the cosmic lila of daily life. It is never separate from the plenum, the whole, the Self.


At this Full Moon in Aries, I highlight here an Aries teacher in my non-dual lineage – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a passionate, fiery Ram known for heated outbursts in transmitting fierce clarity. His teachings were compiled in the classic collection of Maharaj’s talks, appropriately called I Am That.

Here is a passage that nicely depicts the theme of “Living is Life’s Only Purpose.”

There is no question of failure, neither in the short run nor in the long.
It is like traveling a long and arduous road in an unknown country.
Of all the innumerable steps, there is only the last which brings you to your destination.
Yet you will consider all previous steps as failures. Each brought you nearer to your goal, even when you had to turn back to bypass an obstacle. In reality, each step brings you to your goal, because to be always on the move – learning, discovering, unfolding – is your eternal destiny.

Living is life’s only purpose. The Self does not identify itself with success or failure – the very idea of becoming this or that is unthinkable. The Self understands that success and failure are relative and related, that they are the very warp and weft of life.

Learn from both and go beyond. If you have not learnt, repeat.

I Am That, p. 107
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (April 18, 1897 - September 8, 1981) is an Advaita (non-dual) sage from Bombay. He was my Teacher Ramesh Balsekar’s direct Guru, so that makes him my ‘grand-guru’ so to speak. I’m so happy I’m a part of his lineage, because he was an embodiment of fierce Grace. Plus, his story is unconventional – on the surface, nothing special, and that's what makes it so special.

Nisargadatta lived in a dodgy part of town, close to the red-light district. (In fact, unbeknownst to me until later, the very first night I landed in Mumbai, I actually stayed in a cheap hotel that not-coincidentally lay just around the corner from his family house!) He was a simple shopkeeper. He actually was a corner bidi walla – he sold hand-rolled cigarettes and other variety items in a local corner kiosk. He smoked. He ate meat. He had a family. And… he was wide awake.

Nisargadatta (nisarga = natural) was largely illiterate. He wasn't a scholar of the scriptures. He did love bhajans, however, and continued to sing and revel in the music of the Divine until his end. He 'woke up' pretty much on the spot after a friend brought him to a Bombay guru. The guru told Nisargadatta that all he needed to do is unwaveringly remember that his true nature was the Entire Universe – Brahman. Nisargadatta, with his simple nature and uncomplicated mind, clung to that truth with all his might and all his being. As a result, without any sadhana besides total faith and trust, he merged into complete Oneness and absolute realization.

Over the years, Nisargadatta continued his householder duties and maintained his cigarette shop, but in a totally non-attached manner. He still conducted the same actions as before – he never gave up bidis or meat, stating that, “yes, the body has retained some habits.” But now, the true knowledge of j├▒ana was the constant flow. All sense of personal doer-ship had been uprooted. Nisargadatta was fully immersed in Consciousness. The ego had been reduced to a speck – just enough to keep the personality on the planet…

And, his personality is one of his claims to fame in the spiritual hall of sages: Nisargadatta is known for his angry outbursts and unpredictable spouts. If anger was necessary to drive home a point to a disciple, he wouldn’t mince words. The thing is, he was fully unattached: as soon as the point was made, full release of the anger also happened, just as quickly as it came. He might laugh at a disciple's joke in the very next instant. This is because ‘no one was there’ – there was absolutely no involvement or identification. He was a true 'gunatita,' flowing like water between tamas, rajas, and sattva qualities. This dispels the illusion that a sage has to exhibit a particular behavior to be a sage: a true sage is beyond qualification. Nisargadatta was as natural as an ocean that ranges from placid to torrential, depending on the energies afoot.

I Am That: Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj is mind-blowing. I first came across this book in Rishikesh in 2002, my first visit to India. At the time, it went right over my head. I couldn’t understand it at all. It took several trips down the non-dual rabbit hole and a bit more spiritual maturing before I’d be able to absorb the teachings therein. After I met my Teacher, Ramesh, I got 'it' - 'it' meaning an intellectual understanding of nonduality - and then, Nisargadatta’s words flowed like sheer poetry.

It’s known as a ‘modern spiritual classic.’ I used to read one of the short chapters each morning, sitting on my balcony in south India, birds chirping as the Sun rose. Sometimes, tears would stream down my face as my heart opened with awareness. It’s impossible to put the absolute truth of consciousness into words. This is why poets and fantasy writers and artists are so important: we can understand indirectly.

It’s like the Buddha said when it comes to teachings, “the finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon,” but it at least shows us the way. Ultimately, we have to experience it directly, for ourselves, and in the Heart.

Usually, if the experience brings you to tears of joy or – in some cases – bittersweet pain, you’ve hit the right spot.

Go there 
New Podcast: Listen to Erin’s October non-dual satsang 20-minute intro, now up on YouTube: “Never Not Here

In this intro talk to the monthly in-person Oakland satsang, Erin discusses that which is never not here, that which does not come and go. All there is, is Consciousness. That is your True Nature. We are not separate...

Erin Reese, M.S. is a transpersonal spiritual teacher, author, and modern psychic based in the SF Bay Area. Erin is deeply rooted in the Divine Feminine and a channel of Kundalini energy. She spent many years studying yoga and non-dual philosophies in India, receiving transmission from sacred sites and spiritual masters. Erin works with clients all over the world.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Venus enters Scorpio: The "V" Word is Vulnerability

Today, Venus entered the sign of Scorpio, sign of transformation, power, death, and intimacy. The goddess-planet of relationship, romance, art, finance, and pleasure will remain in the sign of the serpent-eagle-scorpion throughout the rest of October. We are asked to deepen in intimacy toward ourselves and others. This means that uncomfortable conversations might be the norm.

Remember that vulnerability yields intimacy. A lot of folks wonder about vulnerability. It is the “V” word.

“Isn’t ‘vulnerability’ a bad thing? Doesn’t it mean that I can get hurt?”
“Why would I want to show someone my soft spots, my weaknesses?”

These are questions that naturally arise. True, there are times in relationships when we want to be more superficial, protective, and reserved. But eventually, Life Itself draws us in deeper, in order to grow and to heal. If we want to truly be seen, we have to REVEAL ourselves

When Venus enters Scorpio, get ready for a Truth-telling adventure. There are two sides to this coin. On one hand, apropos of Halloween’s month, there are bound to be things that go bump in the night. Telling the truth can be scary! Skeletons may fall out of the closet. We may accidentally bruise someone’s ego in the process of exposing our deepest heart’s desires or feelings. We have to face our fears of rejection and abandonment, requiring courage. 

On the other hand, there is a gift, a golden treasure chest, hidden in the wings of Scorpio’s serpent eagle, the Phoenix rising from the ashes. This gift is INTIMACY, which leads to passion, fulfillment, and tremendous trust in self and other. If we can breathe and hold ourselves, and our inner child, tightly, we have the courage to say, “Hey, this doesn’t work for me at all!” or, “I want you, I love you, I need you!” or “I am in pain!” or “THIS is how I really feel!” We have the guts, the chutzpah, to speak up and out, clear and strong.

Scorpio - Eagle and Serpent by
Practice. You may need to reveal yourself to your partner, your child, your parent, your best friend. But you may also need to practice vulnerability and truth-telling with your therapist, your doctor, your boss, your greater community. Sometimes, speaking up to authority figures (those recognized as such in our society, regardless of whether they have earned said notoriety on an embodied-wisdom level) is even more potent, and can yield even bigger returns.

Whether or not the other person receives your truth-telling, vulnerable exposure is the most important thing. Remember, you are protected by the Divine, by your inner parent, your inner warrior, and your Truth. Ideally, they will hear you, drop in deeper with you, and stay very present with you when you’re sharing your heart. Yet, sometimes we get flack, or even gaslighting, or defensiveness in return. If that happens, stay present – vulnerable and awake – to your SELF. In such moments when the other person rejects our truth, or shames us, they are in fact revealing something about themselves right then and there as well! They are showing you their own fear by needing to control or squelch your spirit. We can have compassion, yes, but first priority is taking care of your own heart, body-mind, and soul by affirming your own truth to your own self.

When Venus enters Scorpio, we are given the sometimes uncomfortable opportunity to heal hidden traumas within our bodies, psyches, societies. We are asked to not shun the secret parts of ourselves, our partners, our collective consciousness. Remember: there is gold in the shadows. We only need to be willing to face everything. 

Not much to ask, right? Just… everything.

Therein lies true power. And true power does not turn away from the truth, which sets us free.
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Erin Reese is an author, spiritual guide, astrologer, and modern psychic reader based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works with clients all over the world. For readings and spiritual counseling by Skype, phone or email, contact her directly. She can be reached at