Emerging Integral Consciousness
Science, Spirituality and Yoga
in personal and societal transformation
Arlington, MA 02474
Instructions for living a life:
tell about it!
from "Sometimes", a poem by Mary Oliver
yogash citta-vrtti nirodhah
tada drashtuh sva-rupe'vasthanam
vrtti saryupyam itaratra
Now begins the exposition of yoga.
Yoga is the resolution of the (dysfunctional) mind states.
Then "I am Wholeness" awakens
and this knowing remains as a stable state.
At other times, (in dysfunctional mind states),
the self sense is con-fused with transient phenomena,
(believes itself to be separate, limited and suffers.)
Patanjali Yoga Sutra, I-1,2,3,4
Atha, the opening word of Patanjali's seminal work, the Yoga Sutras, carries many layers of meaning. Now, at this very auspicious moment; now, that the preparatory studies and training have been done; now, here and always now, this moment, the only moment, the holy moment, in a state of open, non-judgmental, spacious awareness, yoga unfolds within and without us.
What is yoga? Yoga referes to both the process of awakening and the state of being continuously awakening. Neurobiologists might call this the process of integration and the state of continuous integrating. The yoga process involves the transformation from a life dominated by dysfunctional mind states and an alienated self sense, to a life with a mature and integrated self sense knowing the infinite depths of Being and the infinite possibilities of our life's unfolding. When the "knowing of Being" stabilizes in an unwavering and clear awakening, igniting the fullness of the human potential, this is known as enlightenment or moksha. Here, life flows as the masculine wisdom of the mind, clearly seeing/knowing the infinite, the absolute as Self, uniting with the the feminine compassion of the heart, feeling / knowing that all forms throughout time, space and eternity are Self, in the non-dual realization of wholeness and oneness.
Our 'Now' is a unique and auspicious moment in history. We are blessed to be living at a time of an unprecedented accelerating of awakening, as the depths of human consciousness are being stirred by the cosmic evolutionary forces responding to the devastating effects unconscious human activity is having on the life forms and life supporting systems of the planet. The great wisdom teachings and traditions of human spiritual practice, carefully embodied, preserved and handed down as the light of divine aliveness through history, are now intermingling with the emerging revelations of modern science in an unprecedented cross-pollinating of insight and practices, helping mobilize the awakening process and opening up the possibility of radically changing our social structures, belief systems, and our relationships to each other, planet earth and the universe.
Simultaneously, as the 21st century moves forward, all cultures of the planet with their value systems, belief systems and perspectives are being tossed and turned together in the pressure cooker of the modern world. Sri Aurobindo, writing back in the early 20th century in "The Insight of Yoga" foresaw this coming and compared this intermingling of philosophies and cultures to the cauldron of Medea, the Greek sorceress who cooked up a rejuventing brew for her propective father -in -law after gathering plants and other ingredients from many far-off lands.
Although as humans we experience this awakening directly, the awakening is not a strictly human phenomenon. Rather what is awakening is an emergent new expression or dimension of universe power or universe intelligence expressing itself through the new possibilities of a human species that can learn from the innate wisdom expressed in each of the unique life forms accompanying the human on this planet in this moment. Or, as spiritual teacher Adyashanti says, "awakening is awakening! Our spiritual ancestors have been pioneers in discovering, exploring and nurturing this process. It is up to us in this historical moment to accelerate the process by unfolding deeper dimensions of our own awakening and by initiating more and more people into this flow.
As auspicious as our moment is, it is also one fraught with great dangers. As we enter the new millennium, the need for a major transformation in human consciousness has become essential for survival. The individual and collective insanity of the human mind has always created suffering for ourselves, fellow humans and other life forms. Today this madness, combined with modern technology, adds a new level of suffering; the very conditions that allowed life on Earth to come into being and flourish are being seriously threatened. The destruction of the rain forests and other natural habitats, disruption of the oceans, global warming, air, water and topsoil pollution are all accelerating under the onslaught of the human. The threats of nuclear and chemical weapons, of terrorism, of viral pandemics strike fear in the collective heart/mind of humanity. Geologian and spiritual philosopher Thomas Berry describes the modern human being as having macrophase power and microphase intelligence. This needs to change.
The possibility of awakening from this dysfunctional mind state has been the foundation teaching of the great spiritual teachers and traditions in human history. With the integration of modern understandings and global communication, the possibility of millions of people awakening from the madness of the conditioned mind is vibrating right now in the collective consciousness. This is the Great Awakening and the core process of this course.
In awakening, we recognize ourselves as Universal Spirit coming into form as emergent beings in a mysteriously evolving and awakening universe. The human mind, recognizing it's own capacities for self-organizing and self integrating, through relationships as well as through more personal interoceptive contemplation, begins to unfold more complex and integral social systems, which themselves can begin to self organize, complexify and self integrate, within themselves, and also within the living and non-living communities that make up the earth, the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy and the universe. As our own awakening process deepens, we become more able to fully participate in the process of collective awakening rippling through the layers of human consciousness, cultures and the ecosystems that support us all.
For most the awakening process begins as a partial awakening, a temporary glimpse of universal truth, of unity, of our infinite unlimited existence and consciousness. Adyashanti, the modern spiritual teacher who is emerging as a clear and articulate voice of awakening, describes this as un-abiding awakening. Even though unresolved traumas and conflict still inhabit the mind field, there can be a breakthrough, an opening, a sudden and spontaneous awakening where the self-sense temporarily sheds its limitations and dissolves into the limitless. The Zen Buddhist term kensho refers to this preliminary glimpse of ones true nature. This is not to be mistaken with enlightenment or fully abiding awakening, as the unresolved issues in the unconscious can easily re-create a limited self sense, and actually use the kensho as food for its own nourishment and self-aggrandizement. A lot of disciplined practice is still needed to transform the un-integrated, dysfunctional mind states that often remain after the first glimpses of awakening, or even after many years of serious and sustained practice. In the Spiritual Foundation section we will explore the strategies and practices necessary at this stage of the process.
Thus, we might say the beginning of yoga is the realization of the potential to consciously integrate the aspects of our selves that were not integrated in the moment of their arising. This may be because we were too young, or because the experience was overwhelming, traumatizing, or debilitating. Here is where the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology offers brilliant insights into how the mind, brain and organism stores and perpetuates trauma and less than skillful patterns and strategies of behavior, but also can develop the capacity to self organize and heal itself. The section on the Scientific Foundation will guide us through some of these modern revelations and help us integrate them into our lives. Many classical spiritual practices also offer pathways and therapeutic modalities to heal, to integrate, to reclaim these lost aspects of ourselves and these will be explored in the Spiritual Foundation section.
The ancient art of yoga, especially revitalized in a modern context, is a powerful vehicle of the cosmos to help move the evolutionary journey along as it integrates both Spiritual and Scientific foundations and returns the human to its rightful place, in deep intimacy with the natural world. The physically demanding aspects of yoga are well known and appreciated these days, but the integral dimensions of yoga, the aspects that explore mind, emotions, relationships and wholeness, as well as the body, are less well articulated in the modern culture. Although the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali are often taught in conjunction with the yoga postures, their transcendent non-dual teachings are often missed if studied from a conceptual point of view. This course is offered as a guide for yoga students, yoga teachers and anyone ready for awakening to help broaden and deepen their understanding and experience of the yogic path of meditation, transformation, and liberation (moksha), and thus more fully participate in the transformation of human culture so urgently needed in our time.
In this course we will weave together classical spiritual teachings on unity, discipline and practice with modern scientific perspectives on the emergent evolution of forms. These will include the anatomy, physiology and neurobiology of the living organism, a look at how both personal and societal transformations arise, and some of the fundamental aspects of physics that underlie the emerging universe as a whole. Join us as we awaken to the unfolding mystery of the present moment as it emerges within us, within the various societies and communities of the planet, and the cosmos/Kosmos as a whole.