Category Archives: Philosophy

Out of Bounds

Boundary issues are everywhere. How we define our boundaries is one thing; how we defend them is quite another. In this modern age we are seeking to break the boundaries that keep us from living in space. In this world, we find all kind of political turmoil over national boundaries, border disputes, and of course Trump’s Wall. The movement of people displaced by violence has the whole world questioning their cultural boundaries.

Those of us on a spiritual path (a healing path) also have to face this question of boundaries as we work with our students and teachers; and most importantly, with ourselves. Every social interaction faces this question of boundaries.

We typically think of strong boundaries as way to keep people from getting in, but they keep us from getting out. The boundary we put up defines the relationship we have with the other.

As Yogis we are often coached to look in the space between two things. We often call this space “the relationship,” but we could just as easily call it the boundary. I have my boundaries and you have your boundaries; the type and quality of relationship we have depends on how open or closed our boundaries are, as well as on how we approach or cross each other boundaries and the behaviour we exhibit once someone lets us in.

When we speak of boundaries in the healing community we typically use words and phrases like “surrender,” “let go,” “let yourself be vulnerable,” “be open to what the universe has to give;” in other words: “drop all your boundaries!”

From the other side we are told that we are boundless, we should forget everything we think we know and just follow our heart. There is often the assumption that acting like an idiot is acceptable if we are following our hearts (or “living in the moment” as we say). Since it was the divine voice of God commanded, go forth and act like an idiot, we expect to be absolved of personal responsibility.

Modern Tantra is especially vocal about dropping boundaries and the beauty of living spontaneously. It’s also known to be very dangerous since the mix of openness and spontaneity on one persons part is an opportunity for the other to conquer new territory unimpeded and later say that is way given to me them.

This is how the CIA and George Soros “make democracy” and spheres of influence and ultimately destroy countries, cultures and peoples lives. Even when they are preaching peace, love and belonging they are really only looking out for themselves.

It’s not so different from the toxic addictions that seem to alleviate our suffering but really only cast us more deeply into it.

We hear similar stories of toxic healers, Yogis and others who use their position and their skill to drop peoples boundaries so that they can manipulate them for their own benefit.

Manipulation is an ugly word, but it’s not the problem. We stay alive thru this manipulation. Just think of the baby screaming to make momma change the diaper or give some food. That’s emotional manipulation at its finest. The problem is when one acts for their own benefit without consideration or concern for how it will truly affect the other.

Manipulation is just an ugly way of talking about the diplomacy and negotiation that is on going between people and our numerous light bodies; each with their own boundaries and border controls. These boundaries maybe undergoing subtle changes moment to moment; person to person. Mostly we don’t notice this going on, it all happens fairly naturally and most people respect each other’s boundaries. But of course it’s not a perfect world.

Most of us are still fighting battles with this world, blaming others, pointing always at the other as a source of our misery when it’s our personal patterns, habits, mental narratives, and expectations that are the root causes of our suffering. All of these little things build up and define our boundaries.

Boundaries in themselves are not bad. Healthy boundaries actually empower us; it’s the unhealthy, unconscious, unrealistic boundaries that cause problems in our lives that leads us to seek healing.

Almost every human what’s more from life somehow. We want to expand our boundaries to include more land (more material prosperity), as well as our emotional boundaries to feel more vividly this life, and spiritual boundaries to feel more connected to the universe.

The key to such expansion is awareness. First we have to be aware of who we are. This will take us towards our innermost core. It’s a journey that takes us thru the fields of numerous personal identities. As we stare out the train window we see so many selves passing by: I am this, I am that, this I am, I am until we get to that “I” without a second.

After we have merged with the ultimate (or gone as deep as we can) we come back to a personal identity which has been reborn from a spiritual seed. Every breath cycle is an opportunity to realize such merger with the absolute followed by the rebirth of the individual.

Both sides of this coin represent truth, beauty and an expression of the divine. This is why Tantra says that liberation (moksha) is not a separate matter from enjoyment. Our enjoyment should be liberating in itself and liberation itself should be enjoyable. This does not mean decadent. It means that we want all parts of our universal self to enjoy equally. It means that nothing is isolated.

This is where boundaries get tricky. If the truth is that I am one with the universe; completely unbound then any harm at all that I cause to any part of nature will cause direct harm to myself. This is a spiritual truth suggest a greater degree of personal responsibility rather than the sort of careless way we treat objects and that are easily replaceable.

Such a grand sense of spiritual wonder actually suggest that we respect the boundaries between ourselves and the other to an even greater degree, as a way of respecting ourselves.

When we objectify our external experience, we typically see ourselves in this same way. We typically find some version of the conflicted mental narrative that sets man against nature. This boundary is an illusion and sows the seeds of war, pollution and toxicity. This war has been unleashed against the women of society as much as against Mother Nature herself.

Part 2

Truth and reality represent a similar energy applies to different experiences. You could say that both are representative of the absolute. Truth is The expression of transcendental experience and reality is an expression of immanent experience.

To experience transcendence we must realize ourselves as without boundaries. To experience reality we must realize the individual experience that necessarily occurs within the boundaries of time and space; the individual soul, the human body and the body of nature.

We need to know ourselves both ways: we are timeless, but we have also chosen to experience time by thru various limitations.

Being aware of different ways that we perceive time will help us to understand our limitations and who we are in this life and what is our path.

The linear experience of time allows us to logically understand our life: where we came from and where we are going. This allows us to make sense of our experience, and set expectations. When our expectations are too high we find much disappointment; when they are too low, we sabotage our own growth. We should work hard to find the balance in this so that what happens in the future in pretty much what we expect. This sort of time we experience in short duration. Today I have one story about who I am and tomorrow that story has changed, even just a little bit. The experience of time on this level is not absolute truth, but it should be more or less in accord with reality. This works thru our short term. This is one way of knowing the self.

We also experience time thru timeless emotional impressions. This is just the opposite of the mundane stories we are constantly changing and revising and telling ourselves in order to understand reality. These emotional impression have a very strong influence on our linear understanding of ourselves but the impression is often from a different time, maybe a different life-time. Mostly we recognize this thru our subtle gestures we make with our body (the way we hold ourselves) as well as thru the emotional boundaries and defensive (or offensive) strategies that shapes the story of who we are (linear time).

This is where much most deep transformative healing arts work. We seek to tap into that timeless side of ourselves to find the impressions affecting our present life that are holding us back or are simply inappropriate in some way. Typically it’s merely an inappropriate response to some particular subject. Physically we feel it as allergy; emotionally we feel it as trauma. In either case, the reaction is disproportionate with action; the trigger.

This kind of healing is very delicate since to access this memory with awareness and direct intention we need to drop all our guards despite the feeling of impending threat. We need to do this in a safe environment where there is no actual threat. One needs to follow a deep sense of trust and have that trust reinforced.

Just talking or thinking about a traumatic memory will take us into the past, and despite being no actual stimulus being present the nervous system along with the endocrine system will react to trigger some kind of inappropriate stress response (which brings all of our resources to defend against an enemy from another time).

Talking about these traumas and sharing stories, understanding it all as a part of our story is necessary, but as things fade into the past, we also have to be open to changing the story of who we are. It’s not that we lie, but for simple understanding a single traumatic event is lumped into a broader time frame in life thru which we faced learned from the trauma.

When fire burns us it does no good to try to put our every fire. We learn to place certain boundaries between fire and ourselves so that we can still enjoy the warmth and light of fire without getting burnt.

Many people actually find their life paths thru their traumas by turning them into wisdom. This is transformation; turning poison into nectar.

We also experience time thru change. This is where we measure time and our boundaries are measured by resources: life force, energy levels, moods, physical form, the seasons and all these thing we can see changing from day to day; year to year. We might even measure this time by how for we’ve walked or how much we’ve completed. If we are following our life path, we are typically comfortable here as we focus and meditate thru our work. If we love what we won’t actually think of the time here; we will only see time when we look back at the change or are considering some future actions.

A very important concept of time actually combines our awareness of change with a kind of timelessness that we cannot imagine. When we recognize that we are connected to a whole lineage of universal archetypes going back to some unimaginable beginning of time and stretching into some unimaginable future. Here, we find ourselves repeating the the same archetypical patters expressing themselves in a new time and place. Though this sense of time is eternal here, we are capable of making a plan to change the future. This is where we understand ourselves in our connection with the whole. This is our dharma, our truth, our path in life; that path we have be on since the beginning of time; our universal purpose and how we employ that in society.

This is where we need meditation, silence, deep relaxation and contemplation because nobody can tell us who we are or what is our purpose; we can only feel it and know it for ourselves.

This bring me to the final concept it time. Present time; just being here and now. For this we have to be capable of dropping all other concepts of time. We have to have great trust in God in nature. No thought of the past or the future perfectly at peace until some spontaneous activity is provoked. To reach this state we have to know who we are, what our purpose is and have the necessary skills and health to complete our destiny.

We are beings bound by time. By understanding our place in time and how each concept of time binds is in a different way forming different relationships with each other we can then begin a focused course in self realization that will allow us to empower us with healthy boundaries rather than victimizing us they our subconscious patterns.

I am Shiva this world is Shakti

When we say that our true self is Shiva, we are not talking about this self that is body, mind; limiter and ceaselessly changing. This I who is Shiva is the unchanging universal soul which is being expressed not just in this body, but in all bodies as an individual soul. This “I” is the eternal subject. We cannot change what is not subject to change; we cannot purify that which is already pure. There is light, we can see, we are and we exist; this is only subject to acceptance, not change. This topic is hardly even amenable to contemplation. If we can’t even imagine it, it’s best we don’t even consider changing it.

Everything outside of the scope of the Shiva soul is Shakti: our mind and body and all that can be perceived by the senses at any moment. This is the eternal other. Many of us would like to change this. We think we are the body and have control over our body and mind and seek to make changes here, but the truth is that we are all fools. This coming together of soul (Shiva), body and mind (Shakti) is the divine play that we are advised to approach as a witness. This is the field of karma; the interplay between subject and object. We have no freedom here.

But where are we free? Where can we affect change?

In our relationship between the subject and object; in the way we relate not only to the world, but to our own bodies. How do we use what we have to reach out to the world?! This starts with how we relate without own body, our own mind.

We are born from a mother and a father. We had and have no control over this time and place we find ourselves. Even our will is the will of god. If I trace back the origin of this yoga or astrology I practice, or even this writing I am doing now, it all comes back to a will, an innate propensity towards these things. In other words, I didn’t do anything to have any of this; it was freely given to me at birth (all the benefits and all the defects).

This is one of the primary mistakes that most western yogis are making. They think they are the yogi and they pat themselves on the back for the good job they are doing. They do not accept the gift of their body and physical conditioning; they think they are the architect. Small “i” with small minds; they have not even begun to imagine what truth might be. They go around saying how blessed they are without recognizing that every sentient being is equally blessed. They base their blessing on the ever changing material reality; their blessing is not likely to get them thru bad weather as they begin to ask why such a curse. ‘To be’ is to be blessed; to not recognize this is the curse.

When we focus on our relationships with things there is little outward change to be recognized, but inside we will feel it just like we feel anger or sadness or frustration; we will feel peace; we will feel the blessing of existence in every moment thru good times and bad. And this is the sort of change people are really looking for; this is the sort of change that changes everything.

 

 

Ideology

4a1f5-dsc_1055-version2-2009-12-20at09-55-19The main project of yoga is to ground us in reality so that we might be aware of the experience of truth. The truth is now; in the present moment. There is not other reality. The past and the future are merely mirages in the distance. We cannot be sure of either, though on some level, everything that takes form in nature or in our minds has some level of truth to it. As yogis our task is to recognize the truth and keep our awareness fixed there.

This is one of the primary differences between what I would call authentic yoga and and inauthentic yoga; between modern branded yoga and traditional lineage yoga. This is the difference between idealism and reality. You cannot get to reality thru idealism; that’s the first thing that needs to be dropped. Ideology is the mask we hide behind; a popular belief we profess in order to avoid the real work of unmasking ourselves so that we might recognize reality. We cannot even begin to see ourselves thru ideology for it only reflects our fears.

Reality is here and now, naked and vulnerable; a lamb before god. Once one understands that we are always and everywhere at the mercy of time and space, then we can rise above the fear and trembling that keeps so many cowering and gasping to their ideals like a tattered security blanket unable to face the natural rhythms of life and death.

Pilgrimage to the Heart of India 2018

19 day pilgrimage to Varanasi, Omkareshwar, Ellora & Ajanta Caves, Maheshwar, Mandu and Indore

20 November – 8 December 2018

Dear Friends,

It’s about time I bring a group of friends to see some of my favorite pilgrimage places in India: Varanasi, Shiva city, the spiritual centre of India famous for tantra and pilgrimage; Omkareshwar and Maheshwar on the Narmada river are major centres of the 3.5 year pilgrimage that sees a steady stream of devotion. Ellora and Ajanta are both ancient monuments of devotion and wonder. We will make a stop by Mandu for a day of cycling, frivolity and wandering thru villages and Mugul ruins scattered across the country side. The final stop will be in Indore to visit a couple important tantric temples and enjoy the comforts of the city before going our separate ways.

The trip will include:

  • Land travel within India, most meals, room, guided tours, yoga & astrology
  • Traditional Hatha Yoga practice including asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation. Bhakti, Raja, Hatha, Jnana, Tantra  and Kundalini yogas will all find expression over the course of this trip.
  • A detailed Vedic Astrology reading and remedy coaching.
  • Six nights in a simple, traditional forest ashram over-looking the  holy Narmada river
  • Five nights in Varanasi over looking the Holy Ganges river
  • A small group of six allows for deep integration of the practices and teachings.
  • Excellent introduction to India for those who wish to continue traveling the country
  • A unique yoga pilgrimage
  • Deep introduction to yogic philosophy and Vedic way of life.
  • Suitable for anyone who is a pilgrim at heart. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary. Sincerity towards the method is the most important attribute.

Basic Itinerary

20 November – 8 December 2018

20 November 2018: Arrival in Varanasi, rest, short evening yoga and meditation next to the river.

While in Varanasi: Morning yoga, site-seeing tours, boat rides, lots of free time, meeting Shiva devotees, astrology charts will be completed for each person.

25 November: Train to Khandwa; bus to Omkareshwar, take rest and get settled at the Gayatri Forest Ashram, easy evening yoga and meditation.

While in Omkareshwar: Two yoga classes per day. Learning traditional stories, parikrama (walk) around the island,  visiting important pilgrimage sites, pilgrims and sadhus. Spending time in nature, swimming, enjoying.

02 December: Jeep to Ajanta. While in Ellora/Ajanta trip we will take our yoga where we can get it. There is often an opportunity to practice among the caves.

03 December: Jeep to Ellora and then to Maheshwar, take rest, get settled in the guest house.

While in Maheshwar: One to two yoga classes per day, visiting special holy sites, boating, swimming, meeting pilgrims, singing, & enjoying nature.

07 December: Jeep to Mandu, cycling/site-seeing, and then jeep to Indore.

08 December: Visit Mahakala and Bhairava temple before departure. The tour will end on this day and departures will go from Indore.

  • Note: let us know if we can help to arrange transport and lodging before and after the trip.

By the end of this trip participants will have gained deep knowledge of Yogic, Vedic and Tantric practice and lifestyle. One will have gained an appreciation for simple, prayerful living and will have a good foundation to continue a personal sadhana (spiritual practice). You will also gain valuable travel experience and a deep humanistic education as we travel on and off the tourist trail thru the heart of India.

Anyone with a sincere desire for self knowledge thru yoga and traditional knowledge are welcome. Yoga classes are easily modified to be accessible to everyone as well as challenging for every level of fitness and concentration. Much of the philosophical content will be organic (arising from the circumstances and questions) so this too will be both accessible and challenging for most anyone.

India can be a challenging country and we will be living very simply as pilgrims ourselves for parts of trip. This simplicity of nature will hopefully counterbalance the sensory and emotional over-load that Delhi and Varanasi are known for in different ways. Travel can be slow and frustrating (most times) and there will a few arduous days of travel, lots of walking, and a group of eight people traveling and living together for 19 days (18 nights). We hope that lots of free time, optional tours and practices, and flexibility by everyone, will allow everyone to get the flavour they are seeking from life.


This package tour includes:

  1. 19 days/18 nights in various guest houses and ashrams may be shared occupancy
  2. Many meals, lots of chai and snacks
  3. Transportation
  4. Vedic Astrology consultation.
  5. Classical Hatha Yoga classes
  6. Guide fees
  7. Additional administrative fees, organization costs, booking fees, travel expenses, baksheesh & diksha donations to temples, pilgrims and ashrams in the name of the group

Total cost: 

  • $1950. A $600 deposit will hold this space for you

Stipulations

  • Limited to six people. Must have at least 4 people signed up by October 1 for the trip to proceed. Full refunds will be given if it’s cancelled for this reason. I expect it will sell out fast.
  • One place will have preference for someone with knowledge in Ayurveda and/or Jyotish and would like to do a mentorship in astrology over the 19 days of this pilgrimage.
  • Unless your seat can be sold to someone else we may only be able to refund 50% of the fee in case of cancellation. There will be an administrative fee retained in any case, but we look vary favorably upon those who find someone to fill their place for them.
  • Bring a friend and save $100 each (not available for early bird pricing). Bring two or more friends and save $200 while each of them save $100.

What is not included, and why?

  • Many meals, snacks and chai throughout the day since you will be on your own.
  • Baksheesh, diksha payments, tips to temples monks, sadhus and service people which are best given by your own heart & hand
  • Flight to India, travel insurance, immunizations are all your responsibility.
  • Souvenirs, personal items, personal travel or personal entertainment.
  • No certificates will be available as this pilgrimage is meant to be a personal healing, learning & potentially transformational journey. If you want a certificate, go to Rishikesh.
  • If you are unsure about what may or may not be included, please ask before departure.

Your host and guide:

Mike Holliday has had a deep spiritual and personal connection with Varanasi, Ganga & Narmada since 2007. He has been teaching yoga around the world for almost ten years and offering philosophical/spiritual coaching and counsel for over half that time. He has guided many people thru Varanasi and well as thru Indian culture and a few have even come to experience the magic of the Narmada river with him. He is an engaging teacher and story teller; a very knowledgeable guide thru the unknown; a sincere, grounded friend and adviser & he has a strong passion for sharing traditional knowledge. He is an off the beaten path teacher who mostly follows orthodoxy but does not not believe it is necessary.

For more information:

  • holliday.michael@gmail.com

Healing from Within

I was about 9 years old when I was walking thru a frozen forest, shouldered my pellet gun, and discovered the great transformative silence of death as a chickadee fell from the branch.  In 2003, my father was killed in a work accident. Later in life I came to live and practice in a holy place between the cremation grounds of Varanasi, India; the chosen abode of Lord Shiva. When my grandfather passed away, we shared our fear of death and brought peace to the whole family. That light and purity of a new born baby also shines in the eyes of those who burn for that final release from the wheels of time. All of our lives we seek the flavour that will quench our thirst, but eventually, we thirst for the most unthinkable mystery; death.

The movement of the breath is controlled by the Great Spirit in the Sky of Consciousness and it comes and goes; starts and stops only by that ultimate grace. The power of Great Spirit is raw and pure when we go thru the great transformations of birth and death. Between these two great moments lie all the smaller cycles of the breath and the days and the seasons and so much more that we can experience fully and deeply as we experience that great birth and death of the body. This is the experience of reality.

Yoga and spirituality suggest we can experience a deeper reality  if we look at life beyond our individual experience and experience life in relation to the universal expression of consciousness; of spirit; of spanda; Shiva’s self expression thru his powers; his Shaktis. We are so much more than these limited bodies and the experiences we have in this lifetime; we are intimately connected to the whole span of time and everything that has and will exist. We are not just a part of this universe, we are this universe. The truth is so mindbogglingly beautiful and wonderful that we can only experience it as that…… astonishing beauty, dazzling amazement and wonder. We’ve all felt this as some time in our lives. This is the experience of reality,

There is little difference between letting go of our egos so that we can transform ourselves in this life, or doing so so that we can prepare for the next life. In either case, we want to turn our awareness towards the truth of who we really are here and now releasing ourselves from the past and the future; releasing ourselves from our own stories. Each time we transform ourselves we seek to reach a higher consciousness; we want that positive growth which which will benefit not only ourselves, but our families and communities and the universe as a whole. It’s that universal connection and experience of non-difference that we seek, but which remains, for most of us, just out of reach. Like a shy damsel, ultimate reality casts only the most fleeting glimpse from the corner of her eye. And this is were we must also seek out that ultimate reality: in those dark corners of our mind and along the edges of our breath and our thoughts and between all things which seem distinct.

Between you and me is some chemistry which brings us into perfect and blissful union because it allows both of us to taste the ripened fruits of our individual karma while contributing, each in our own special way, to the collective karma that ties us all together. We call activity karma when we experience it a force of limitation that separates; but when we experience activity as a force of freedom and play arising and falling away from the same place, bringing everything together, activity is then called Kriya (the spontaneous activity of one who experiences life as universal agency (the actor) and preceiving subjectivity (the witness)).  This is the experience of life; reality; divinity.  ​

We are all on this path of healing together. Together we will grow and evolve; find the courage to face our fears and overcome the false limitations we put on ourselves. To do this we practice being open and honest to the reality of the moment while applying our most sincere efforts to whatever activity is at hand. This sincerity is especially important for healing and spirituality, since it provides us with the impulse and the will to gather the necessary knowledge and put it into a meaningful action. Tapping into this personal sincerity for healing is what we mean by healing from within.

Prana: The Most Essential Quality

 What is Prana Vayu?

hanuman, bhima, madhvaPrana is life force or vital essence. Vayu is air and movement. Pranavayu is the movement of vital energy. Western Yogis have been talking about prana for many years already and it’s a relatively common term now. Modern Sanskrit scholars now tell us that we may have misunderstood the meaning of this word (see Wallis or Dyczkowski for confirmation).

Yoga teachers will commonly cue student to “inhale the prana” and “to visualize prana coming down into the body to give it energy. Ayurveda has followed with this classification of prana being a downward movement connected with the inhalation. Prana vayu is actually a bit of an awkward arrangement of terms since anything with prana moves and anything that moves has prana. This means we can refer to all five movements of the prana  vayus as movements of ‘prana;’ we can also drop the use of prana and just call these movements the vayus.

What modern scholars tell us is that the word ‘prana’ actually refers to the upward outward movement of our exhalation rather than the downward inward movement of our inhalations. The implications of this research is just starting get filtered down to us ordinary yogi and even very respected Ayurveda Institutes have still not taken the time to consider their own teachings and understanding of this topic.

I have written elsewhere about the ignorance of the colonial mindset so I won’t talk about it here. Most ordinary yogis in the west are so far removed from the yogic scriptures that such finely tuned understanding of the terms they use is of little importance. The larger institutes and colleges are typically more concerned with reputation and profits they have little incentive to seek after the truth. It almost seem to be a kind of “little mans syndrome” of academia. Only the the great scholars care about such things and nobody listens to them since we can find the (wrong) definition of of prana anywhere on google.

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So, getting back to exhalation which is connected with prana vayu. When we exhale, our vital force goes out thru our breath and the five senses to illuminate the world much like the Sun as it follows it’s daytime course thru the heavens. It’s rises with the beginning of our exhalation and moves thru the sky (of consciousness) until setting in the 12 finger space above the crown of the head to give way to the movement of the moon which rises full when the sun sets. This is where the exhalation has ended. As we inhale to passively and graciously receive the gift of life one nitya (goddess) leaves the Moon and enters into our bodies to nourish us and give life to the soul (the Sun) thru the body until she is herself drained of life, dark and dry as the Sun gains exaltation begins to penetrate the cold darkness of death with heat of life and the illumination of consciousness.

This is also the meaning of pranayama (prana + ayama): the life force which defeats death bringing life to the sense, allowing them to move. Prana brings movement and warmth to whatever is inert, cold and dead. (I have also seen the opposite interpretation (prana + yama) suggesting that we do the breathing practices in order to still the breath, slow all the vital functions, an ultimately ride the breath to the heavens leaving the duality of earthly existence behind. Of course we continue on with our life, but without attachment, free of the limitations of the three gunas and they individual vital breath. One moves instead in perfect harmony with the universal flow of consciousness.

Kal Bhairava takes over for Yama in Varanasi.

When we exhale prana, that life force which was given to us by god, reaches out to the world through our senses to colour and flavour the objects with whatever flavour we might crave; whatever we have inside of ourselves at the moment reaches out to the world to create a counterpart. When we inhale and bring back all of that sensory material we generally forget that we have just created it, so we react. We forget that we always get back whatever we give. As long as we have forgotten this fundamental rule we will suffer from our karma; once we learn it, life becomes a spontaneous play whatever might be your circumstances.

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“The vital breath is essentially a state of consciousness which manifests as the movement of two breaths; prana and apana (exhale and inhale).” This is a major theme of Tantra: that one thing  appears to be two separate things; or, as is the case in waking life, as a multiplicity of distinct objects. As we look at things more and more closely and understand them for their subtleties rather than accepting them at face value, they begin to merge together as though they were never separate. As it says in the Stanzas on Vibration:

“Whatever else may exist apart from you, if subjected to sound reflection, simply disappears like the fables palace of celestial musicians and you alone, changeless remain….” Stanza 10 goes on to say that , “then the soul realizes that his true nature (dharma) is universal agency and perceiving subjectivity, and so he knows and does whatever he desires.” ~Stanzas on Vibration~

In yoga we often talk about the body, mind and soul. We can think of this as three worlds or three layer of our being. The vayus live in the intermediate region of our highest intelligence but they move between the heaven and earth; the soul and the body; the subject and the object. Vayu is Air and Ether, which allows it pervade and move between all 36 tattva.

11TH_Rudra_Shiva_HanumanThe prana vayus are known as the vehicle of Rudra, an ancient name for lord Shiva that means “the Howler.” Rudra is known as the “Lord of Beasts.”  He is often associated with the 11 Mahurts which signifies his rulership of the mind and the 10 indriyas (5 sensory and 5 motor functions).

There are 5 Prana-vayu (movements of essential vital force), the sacred spaces associated with them. I have described them both in Tantric terms as well as in terms of Ayurveda

  1. Prana: Represented by the Sun. Prana is moving when we exhale; this is a movement upward & outward from the body, when the vital force of the senses reach out to their object. This is the expression of our life force to penetrate the world and forever leaving our mark up it (which will come back to us again thru the 5 fold cycle of the vayus). Prana also represent what we give to the world. Many people who belong to traditional cultures will begin a deep breath with an exhalation whereas modern people are much more likely to inhale straight away when told to take a deep breath. In the later Tantras, this movement became associated with the pingala channel of the nadi system.

  2. Apaana: Represented by the Moon.  Apana vayu is the inward & downward movement which first comes to us thru the crown of our head in the form of grace or shaktipat as we receive the gift of life. In Ayurveda it’s the downward movement that aids elimination.  and moved down the body Ayurveda they say move downward and outward. Like for the elimination of bodily waste. In later Tantras this became associated with the Ida channel of the nadis system.

  3. Samaana: According to Ayurveda, it moves inwards, spinning towards a centre point like meditation. In the waking and dream state, prana-apana is active, however in states of deep-sleep samaana (the Equalizing breath) balances the inhalation and exhalation. The call it the equinox

  4. Udaana: The Ascending breath. This is the central channel; the shushumna. This is the upwards rising force. According to Ayurveda, it also moves outwards like speech.

  5. Vyaana: expansion in all directions radiating from the navel outward in all directions. Often considered as the nadis energy system similar to the meridians of Chinese Medicine.

What is the most essential quality?

The first story

The Trio Brahma vishnu mahesh cute picturesOnce upon a time all of the organs and functions of the body got into a debate about who was most essential. Many were praising the the way the skeletal system gave shape and standing to the body, or how the blood carried nutrients to maintain the body, others marveled the how the heart pumped blood and how the lung found it’s own way to pump air, then pranavayu came along and everyone silent, for they knew that without the warmth of prana and the movement of the vayus that all life would stop. The hearth would not beat, the blood would pool and go stagnant, and the breath stops; the body becomes cold and inert.    

The second story

Once upon a time, the Gods entered into a timeless argument over who was most powerful and essential for the functioning of life and this universe. Shiva happened to be moving about rather than sitting peacefully upon the peak of Mount Kailash. Something always seemed to be happening whenever Shiva was moving about. When Shiva came across this childish argument he sought to quell it by simply pointing out that none were as powerful as him and they should all just go home and forget this pettiness. Of course some of the big gods who were standing around took offense to this; namely Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu, the preserver. To their protests, Shiva merely revealed his true form as a mystical shaft (lingam) of light and said, “see if you can find where I end.”

shiva1The two who remained standing there laughed at the challenge and quickly set off in opposite directions to find those loose ends, finish off the argument, and, for once, make Shiva look live the fool; because after all, everything has to come to an end. But after eons searching thru the vastness of Shiva’s light they finally decided to meet back in Kashi where it all began. When they got there, Vishnu immediately fell to his feet to offer his most respectful pranam to Shiva. But Brahma, who, despite his capacity for creation, has no eye for consequences, lied and said that he had found an end. It was just over the horizon not so far and it had only taken so long to return because he had decided to rest there for a while and fell asleep. 

Almost nothing enrages Shiva like arrogance and upon this insult all of his his most fearsome aspects rose to the surface and with an upsurge of impulse he chopped of one of Brahma’s five heads. The greatest crimes in India are those that go against pure knowledge and wisdom; they call this killing a Brahmin. Even the Gods are subject to karma so this fierce form of Shiva, whom they call Bhairava, took up the skull and walked the four corners of India for the next 12 years. This is the version of Shiva most emulated by modern Naga babas and Aghore: naked, fearsome to behold, covered in the ashes of the funeral pyre where he makes his bed. Every part of his external image brings fear and revulsion. But if we take the time to get to know a true aghore we will get to know and over come our own fears. For that’s the social role of the Aghore, to show us that this is the worst it can get; this is our greatest fear; but actually, it’s not so bad. 

Aghore
Aghore

After 12 years of wandering like this, Bharava returned to Kashi, and not far from the train station washed himself in a small pond. All of his impurities (malas) dropped away along with the skull which had been his companion for 12 years. He once again brought balance to the three gunas within himself, overcoming their excess and deficiencies freeing himself from the wheel of time and the cycle of cause and effect. In short, even the most fearsome evil was able to overcome the inner turmoil of self and social recrimination and realize himself as that same light of the universe that is in all things without distinction of good or bad or any of the other opposites.

Head Chopping in Hinduism

Ravan tapasya
Ravana offering his own head to Shiva.

In Kashi, whenever Shiva takes this fierce form and starts chopping off heads they call him Bhairava and have given him a rather bureaucratic job of welcoming and signing in all the pilgrims to give them access to the spiritual vision necessary “to cross the river that is so hard to cross.” You could say that he does this by metaphorically chopping off their heads. This head chopping metaphor is a relatively common one in Hinduism. Shiva chopped Ganesh’s head in Ujjain. They have built their own Bhairava temple there to commemorate the great event. Of course it was a little bloody and gruesome, but due to that Ganesha received blessings from all of the gods and was given guardianship over the directions. Kali is also famous for her necklace (mala) of heads. Ravana, the main antagonist of the Ramayana was given his great powers by Shiva when he cut off his own head in offering to Shiva. My teacher once told me that “only Ravana can cut off his own head and get away with it.” Due to his great power of penance his head grew back every time. Ravana was actually said to have ten heads due to the vastness of his knowledge and wisdom. All of this suggests that a jnana yogi needs to acquire, by penance and blessing, knowledge which faces in all ten directions.

kali maIn Jyotish we also have the story of Rahu and Ketu, the north and south nodes. This all happened in the very beginning when the gods and demons (the bureaucrats and bohemians) figured out that they had to work together to retrieve the elixir of immortality by churning the ocean of milk; pretty much all the divine being had to help in some way. In their greed to get the amrit, they didn’t think much about the side effects which was the creation of the physical universe and it’s cycles. Laxmi and Kamadenu came from this churning as did some great toxins that Shiva was able to swallow to save everyone. When the amrit arose and they were getting ready to pass it around a beautiful dancing girl appeared, seductive and scantily dressed. This was a ploy by the gods who knew the demons could be easily distracted by their senses. From the start, they never intended to share the amrit with the demons from. Swarbhanu was watching and saw all of this happening so he disguised himself as one of the gods and lined up with them for the amrit while the rest of the demons were being pushed to the back of the line. But just as Swarbhanu was taking a drink Sun and the Moon alerted Vishnu who swiftly cut off his head, but it was too late, the amrit had made it down his throat and both halves of him were immortal. The called the head Rahu and the body Ketu and gave them an abode in the starry heavens with the planets. The continue their vendetta against Sun and Moon whom they’ve never forgiven. At the time of the eclipse they get their chance to exact revenge thru various methods of disruption. Rahu brings intense desire while Ketu brings an almost equal intensity to his ambivalence. While Rahu brings our focus to the material world an ensures that the wheel of karma keeps turning; Ketu cuts us from our material ambitions allowing us to surrender to what is. 

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Vedic Astrology: What is it? Who benefits? How to get a reading?

Who can benefit most from Vedic Astrology?

A wide variety of people us Vedic astrology for many reasons, but most of the people who come to me are looking to deepen their spiritual practice; or understand their place in society thru wealth, marriage, career; or perhaps they are concerned about their health, or their state of mind, or their family. 

Astrology shows how everything and everyone is connected so there are always things we can do to strengthen what is good in us and loosen our attachments what is dark and draining.

For remedial measures to work, we have to understand how and why they work, and they have to be something we are likely to follow. 

Like everything astrological, remedial measures have to be suited for this time and place.

What is Vedic Astrology?

Commonly known as Vedic Astrology because of it’s connection with Ayurveda, the science of life, Jyotish is the science of light. This science, as it’s practiced today, has it’s base in the Hora Shastra by Sage Parashara. The original book was written over one thousand years ago and my teacher still tells me to consult it before asking him questions.

Vedic astrology is unique from western astrology in several ways. The most obvious is that Parashara teaches us to use the sidereal chart which locates the true position of the planets in relation to the the time and place of ones birth. This means that compared to Topical chart used for western astrology, all of the planets will shift about 24 degrees (almost a whole 30 degree sign, x 12 gives us 360 degrees)). For example, in western astrology my Sun is in Sagittarius, but in the Vedic sidereal my Sun is in Scorpio. My Moon, however, is well advanced in Gemini in the western topical chart so it remains in Gemini in the sidereal chart, but at very low degrees. 

One of the other major differences is that the position of the sun is generally considered of lesser importance in Jyotisha than that of the Moon or the ascendant (rising sign). The ascendant changes sign every 2 hours, the moon every two days and the sun once per month, so it’s obvious where we will find the most individual and personalized reading. 

Jyotisha also has a system of planetary cycles called dashas that is missing from Western astrology which uses progression of planets to time predictions which is more cumbersome and does not offer the consistency of results offered by the dasha system.  The dashas allow for precise prediction and greater understanding of the cycles of this incarnation. We are connected to the planets as existing within ourselves and we are within them. All of the light which shines to illumine this world before us shines and is directed from within. We are that Shankara who is the source of the power of the wheel of energies. When we praise that Shankara, we praise the highest expression of our own selves by whose contraction and expansion this whole world comes into being and goes out again. 

The most important feature of Vedic astrology is how it works with Yoga, Ayurveda and Tantra to offer numerous remedial measures that can be personally tailored for anyone depending on their own will to gain the Supreme knowledge that nourishes, heals all wounds, allows us to form a union with ourselves, freeing us of all limitation.

How does Vedic Astrology differ from Western Astrology?

Vedic Astrology, known as Jyotisha, is the science of light which has been followed since ancient times in and around India where astrologers are still considered teachers, guides and counselors. The Vedic system of Astrology differs from the western system of Astrology by using the sidereal chart that accurately charts the locations of the planets which means that the planets in your charts will be shifted by about 24 degree. Considering each sign takes up 30 degrees, this means that the western topical astrology charts are out by almost an entire sign. This why many people find that their moons, for example, are in different signs in the two systems.

Vedic Astrology uses the rising sign chart, the Moon chart, the Sun chart and the Navamsha chart to uncover the mysteries of an individuals universe. Western astrology uses only the sun chart. From the Vedic perspective the sun is the soul of man, this makes it more difficult for us to understand than our mind, represented by the moon, and our physical existence, represented by our rising sign chart. It’s only a few who are blessed to not only recognize their own, but to be able to articulate it as well. Our mind and our body we can generally have a coherent conversation about, this is why Vedic astrology generally discusses only these more manifest karmas.

Vedic Astrology has a dasha system that allows for accurate prediction of events on a time line. The dashas are the periods of our life that are ruled by the different planets. The Vedic system uses 9 planets: the seven main ones (Sun , Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn), and Rahu and Ketu (the north and south nodes), dark spots in the sky that cause eclipses whenever they come over the sun or moon. These nine plants each rule over a span of years which combines to 120 years. Saturn, for example, rules over 19 years. Within Saturn’s 19 years, each planet again rules a period of time so that the time periods of all nine planets equals 19. So the 19 year dasha period of Saturn has nine sub-periods, each sub-period again has nine sub-periods. The dasha‘s are used to understand more specifically what karmas are arising at different periods of your life.

The predictive capability allowed by the dasha system is how Vedic astrology proves itself. When the dasha periods are combined with the transiting planets, astrological prediction can be amazingly accurate. But making such predictions does not necessarily serve the client or the astrologer. The more specific an astrologer tries to be in their prediction, the more likelihood there is of making an error and leading a client down a wrong path. Also, in most cases, one cannot be sure of an exact birth time or location coordinates which will always have a subtle effect on a chart and a life. But more importantly, not all karmas are so fixed as to be certainties.

Free will plays a huge role in how we are affected by karma. One of the main jobs of an astrologer is to help people use their free will most effectively by pointing out the benefics and malefics in their life and suggesting subtle remedies based on the desires and abilities of the client. The predictive capabilities of Vedic astrology should not be taken to suggest that we are completely ruled over by fate, but rather we could be if we don’t maintain some kind of vigilant awareness of our mind, body and spirit.

Vedic astrology can be an excellent tool for such personal awareness, especially when combined with the complimentary tools such as yoga, Ayurveda, and other spiritual practices.

If you have any questions about Vedic astrology please contact me at holliday.michael@gmail.com

Om Namah Shivaya

How does a reading work? 

There are generally five parts to a reading. First, I take the birth data you give me and caste the chart. Next, I look into your past to find details about your life and family so that we might gain confidence in the data, and the client can be assured that astrology is a working science. The third step goes thru a broad array of past and future and personal characteristics. Vedic astrology loves specific questions that it can answer clearly and directly so we address these in the fourth part of the reading, as well as philosophical questions that this science often provokes from people. The last part is the most important part where we discuss remedial measures. 

What kinds of remedies are available?

The astrology chart is like a doctors pathology report. For the client, much of the karmic script is just meaningless data; what’s important is the medicine. “What can I do?” This is what is most important: what can we do to help ourselves, to help others, and to help this world. Thru the remedies, astrology shows us the ways we can connect to that universal energy in order be more effective in the three worlds.

Vedic astrology is supported by all of the remedial measures of yoga, tantra & ayurveda. Classical remedies include gem stones, metals, colours, weekdays, mantras, offering service, charity or donation, or actively harmonizing with some part of nature, giving worship to specific deities. I can also offer individual advice for meditation and asana practice. Some generalized health, diet and lifestyle advise is also possible.

Reading
Mike Holliday at his desk in Varanasi, India.

Astrological Services

Initial Consultation: 1.5 – 2 hours

  • Full chart assessment of the past, present and future karma

  • Evolution of consciousness

  • Major life themes

  • Remedial measures suited individuals in the modern world

  • Includes one Skype call (or detailed e-mail), one e-mail with basic information before the call and another follow up e-mail to address question afterwards.    

Follow-Up Consultations: 1 hour

  • To answer specific questions 

  • To give an annual report

  • These can be completed by call or e-mail.

Chart Matching to assess suitability for marriage and advise on relationship challenges that the individuals are likely to face, both as individuals and as a couple. Traditionally this is used for partner selection, but it can also be a great relationship tool for couples to understand what brings then together and the lessons they are here to learn thru their relationships. I also give advice on marriage gem stone selection since diamond is not always the most supportive gem stone for marriage.

Payments can be made by e-mail interact transfers or PayPal.

For information about astrology readings, courses and information sessions please contact me at holliday.michael@gmail.com