Articles and Thoughts
From time to time this page will contain articles relating to yoga and meditation. I always like to look back over time at articles I've written as this so clearly shows us that our understanding is always changing and that we can never rest in too much certainty about what we think we know.

Being without a “me”                                      Nick Edge 7/4/14

 Earlier this month I was at work doing what had to be done. I walked off the shop floor into the warehouse, with a degree of tension and disquiet in my mind (which is nothing remotely unusual), and….bang!

 I almost stopped dead in my tracks as the realisation arose that there is no-one in here, in reality there is no me. This has come many times before, as it does for many, however this felt almost cellular – deep down. It was so abundantly clear that this ‘me’ is a collection of experiences, conditioning, attitudes, concepts etc. The effects of this ‘knowing’ seemed to blast outwards, almost instantaneously, into so many other concepts, assumptions – into ignorance.

 And in that moment it shattered them.

 I realised that there is no reincarnation, no afterlife. What do these concepts depend upon? – a “me”! This may sound nihilistic and depressing. Far from it. There was an incredible sense of relief – as though the correct order of things was seen. It was the truth and it was clear, again there was this wonderful sense of relief.

 If we are honest, in this light, we can see how so many of our concepts and theories are so egocentric. They are created to protect, to perpetuate, the very idea of me. We have created God in own our image or maybe more accurately we have created God to serve and protect our own image. If we see the ‘me’ for what it is, the “ghost in the machine” where is the need for re-birth, for karma? The need doesn’t even arise.

 Again this is in no way nihilistic. It’s honest.

 Yet not all concepts perpetuate illusion – many are crucial to undoing the rigidity of our minds. As Ramana Maharshi so famously said a concept can be used as like a thorn to remove another thorn (after which we discard both). What is this other thorn that needs removing? – the notion of an autonomous, volitional, separate me!

 After doing a fair bit of concept bashing we can now explore another concept which helps to more accurately illustrate the nature of our being.

 We are vritti.

 In his commentary on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Swami Venkatesananda[1] describes vritti as being “thought wave, mental modification, or the ripples on the mind lake”.[2]

 Movement or modification of what? Citta[3]

 Citta is Consciousness. The Luminosity in which all that appears to be, the entire manifest universe, arises. All is movement, modification of Consciousness.

The whole manifest Universe is vritti – you, me, all living things, the planets, ‘our’ solar system, every"thing". All vritti. I like the concept of fractals[4] in helping to feel into this.

 A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. In the same way the entire manifest can be seen as vritti within vritti, repeating and unfolding endlessly. The endless play or dance of Consciousness, of Mind.[5]

 And we are That. There is nothing else.

 

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on….”[6]

 



[1] This fabulous commentary is available in pdf form from www.swamivenkatesananda.org

[2] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with commentary by Swami Venkatesananda, p.4

[3] I am using Swami Venkatesananda's spelling as I don’t know any better

[4]  “A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales.” www.fractalfoundation.org

[5] The upper case ‘M’ is important here.

[6] The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1 by William Shakespeare



The Great Leveller – Nick Edge Mar 2013

 “In the summer of 2000  I went for a long weekend camping in North Devon with my girlfriend of the time. Before heading home we went to have fish and chips at Woolacombe and sat on a low headland looking out over the beach (for those who haven’t been the beach stretches for miles until the next headland). It was a glorious summer day and the beach was full of people enjoying the sun.

 As I sat and looked out over the beach I became more and more absorbed in the scene – the bright light, the sheer number of people, the sounds of children playing, the movement of the waves. I then became aware of something changing in my experience of this moment – more and more it was as though the whole scene was unfolding within me. As though I was now the space in which all of this was happening. This sense continued to expand taking in the entire landscape and the sense of me as Nick Edge became weaker and weaker.”

 

 I don’t mind admitting to you I nearly crapped myself and was quite shaken by the whole experience. (This is before I’d began practising Yoga however I had starting dabbling with meditation on my own from some books I’d bought on Buddhism). It is only during the last few years that this experience has begun to become integrated into my understanding (begun is the important word as it appears that insight and understanding takes time to become established in the personality and for the personality to adjust to these changes in understanding).

 This luminous space, this Awareness, is the space in which all phenomena arise and pass. This you, this me and all the 10,000 created things[1] all happen within, and of, this Consciousness. It shines through all that is – that which we like and that we don’t, through times of peace and harmony and through times of war and natural disaster. Slowly this can lead to the arising of humility – our thoughts, concepts, likes and dislikes, beliefs, attitudes, lives are no more or less important than any others. All arise in this Light.

 In the process of becoming, this Awareness ‘forgets’ itself and identifies itself as a separate, individual entity and therefore creates the appearance of the ‘other’. This is Maya[2]. In the ashram[3] chanting is an important part of the daily practice and a popular chant is Nache Bholenath, which translates as Shiva (Consciousness) is Dancing. And this is how Shiva dances – through the process of Maya, through the experience of the 10,000 things.

 The aim of Yoga, and all mystical paths, seems to be to trigger a process whereby the limitations of identification begin to loosen – ‘we’ become less solid so that what we arise in can be realised and experienced. To use the language of the Samkhya[4] system, it is as though Purusha (Consciousness) releases it’s idenitification with Prakriti (phenomenal existence – you, me and the 10,000 things) and rests more and more in itSelf.

  We do not awaken – Consciouness begins to re-awaken to itself[5].

 

“I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One.”[6]



[1] In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu uses the term “the 10,000 things” to describe phenomenal reality.

[2] The Cosmic Illusion that creates the feeling of individuality and separation. I don’t for a moment believe this is a mistake or something to fight against yet it is something that those on the spiritual path and compelled to try and see beyond.

[3] Mandala Yoga Ashram in Wales where I was a resident for just over 5 years.

[4] Samkhya – the conceptual system that describes the nature of reality as being the interplay of Purusha (Consciouness) and Prakriti (the entire manifestation of energy)

[5] And in this there is the possibility of great freedom. Instead of struggling away wondering “what should I be indentified as?” we recognise that which is that has indentified as us. We don’t have to do anything – in essence there never was anyone doing anything.

[6] Revelation 1:8 NLT 2nd Edition


You are the Process by Nick Edge            8th Nov 2012

  In 2010 I was idly thumbing through a few books in the library at Mandala Yoga Ashram. I happened upon a book, of which there are many, describing the concept of the chakra system and kundalini (unfortunately I can’t recall either the name, or the author, of the book).

 The brief passage I read in this book had an instant impact, triggering an insight that felt so obvious, so clear (as all insight does in the moment – that almost shocking “new-ness” of the knowing, so different to that arrived at by reason or thought).

 So getting to the point, the author described the imagery of the kundalini as a serpent coiled around the lingam at Mooladhara chakra and that this coiled kundalini is you.

 The light went on and I could see how kundalini is not separate from you or me. You are it, defined and held in place. If we wish we can define kundalini as boundless Awake energy and that we are definitions within and of this energy.

  The aim of yoga and meditation is to loosen how defined this energy is. In effect it is not us that awaken, rather it is the kundalini that awakens from its slumber as us. For some this dissolution seems to move at quite a pace and with some force however I often wonder if this is only a reflection of how tightly “coiled” we were in the first place, who knows? I do know that I haven’t read a record where this awakening was all sweetness and light, in fact often the opposite.

 Slowly we start to surrender[i] to our self as a state of flux rather than as a fixed and clear ‘me’. As this happens the process is no longer felt as something separate to this me – it is me. This can feel very unnerving yet also exciting at the same time. We also realise that if this applies to this 'me' it also describes every other created thing – it is all definitions within and of this Awake energy. There is only One medium in which all this happens, one raw material – in several of the Upanishads there is the reference to gold rings, bracelets, necklaces etc yet in essence they are all gold, the raw material is the same.

 Yet at the same time we can’t deny our sense of being a separate embodiment – it’s not a mistake, it’s part of the play of life. This is something I’ve wrestled with for a long, long time. We hear often of “wholeness” and no separation however from the majority of our day-to-day experience it looks that way, feels that way and tastes that way - this solid, separate me feels very real indeed. So a few days ago I started thumbing through Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit if Evolution by Ken Wilber………and again just what I needed.

 He mentions the concept of holons very early in the book, which is as far as I’ve got so far (it’s a big book).

 “Wholes that are parts of other wholes, indefinitely. Whole atoms are parts of molecules; whole molecules are parts of cells; whole cells are parts of organisms, and so on”[ii]

 Again like flicking a switch – each and everyone of us, each blade of grass, every living thing is a whole and yet a part of other wholes, indefinitely. Again our individuality, our uniqueness is not a mistake – it’s not wrong, it’s whole.

 And as we begin to feel this wholeness in ourself and in all around us we will open to greater wholes to which we all belong.

 

 

 

 



[i] We are so very limited by our language. Surrender is a verb – a doing word. Yet the more we experience of this process we recognise it is something that is happening in it’s own good time. It’s not so much something we do – we just become more and more aware of changes that are happening within us.

[ii] Introduction viii

(I haven’t really got past the introduction however sometimes it just takes a few lines to open up new vistas and to take us of in new directions of understanding – great really because the whole book is over 500 pages long)

 

The Elephant in the Room by Nick Edge      11th Jan 2012

  All spiritual practice is about the search, the need for God. There I’ve said it and we’re no longer denying the elephant in the room.

  I understand that the word God may have negative connotations for many however maybe it’s time that we release God from our concepts of judgement, fear and shame. It’s time we reclaim the wonder and the mystery that the word God symbolises. It’s time to free ourselves from our cleverness and certainty so that we can be open once again to that which we need the most.

 “Abandon all that you now think you know about yourself and the world, and explore what you do not know.” [1]

  Like so many I clearly remember the pain and fear, the ache, that I felt when I became aware that people didn’t believe in God and that God was seen as an outdated and fanciful concept invented to sooth fundamental human fears. We have to be honest and accept that this is very much the case when we look at some of the beliefs and attitudes we have about God – however this doesn’t mean that God isn’t.

  As I mentioned above, fundamentally this is the purpose of Yoga and all spiritual practice – to awaken our hearts and minds to a deeper level of reality, to God (I’m not going to stop using that word.) A number of years ago I was working in a job that I wasn’t very inspired by and a colleague jokingly said, “You’ve got to want it!” and he was right. This is also very true on the spiritual path – there must be this need. In fact we have to come to terms with, and accept, the most incredible need. This will lead the ego into a place of such vulnerability and helplessness that can be so very challenging. There is nothing left that we can do except feel this need. Yet this need acts like a fuel that keeps us searching when we endure the hard times that inevitably come on the path. When it feels as though the whole being is crying out for it to stop and that we can bear no more this aspiration, which if we’re honest we can’t control, is still there – like a unquenchable flame.

  I’ve always been touched by a quote from Paul Brunton.

 “In the end he will have to confess, as the English hermit Richard Rolle confessed six hundred years ago, despite his deep mystical experiences, that it is not possible to know what God is but only that he is.[2]

  Yet it is possible to know qualities of God. We can come to know from our own experience that God IS love – literally.* (Those of you that know me will realise that I wouldn’t use these words lightly). We can feel as though we are literally in love with all that is – we can’t help it, it pours from and through us. We don’t have to create it, or imagine it – it’s not for anyone or thing in particular. It just IS.


  And it is for this that we suffer. That within us that blocks this unconditional love has to be burned through. There may be very good reasons why are hearts are held and blocked and that we resist being so vulnerable. However we will slowly come to terms with our pain and our fear. This isn’t something we can force. Like an apple falling from a tree, it neither jumps nor does it cling – it’s just time for it to fall. I know from my own experience that this isn’t a one-off event either (and we can’t hold onto this feeling either – we can only be open to the possibility and to recognise this when it arises). Slowly but surely we are unravelled and opened to the unthinkable – to that which we dared not believe was true.

  “Perfect love banishes fear (I John 4:18), but overwhelming fear must be experienced and accepted before perfect love may be known.[3]

 

 



[1] Uddhava Gita

[2] The Notebooks of Paul Brunton Vol.16 Part 4, p.26

[3] The Pain That Heals by Martin Israel p.69



* However we must always be careful of speaking in absolutes when describing the Absolute - we will always fall down if we state emphatically "It is THIS, it is THAT". That which we seek can not be encapsulated by our words and definitions. We are taken back again to the quote from Paul Brunton above.