Igor Kufayev – Flowing Wakefulness
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Hello and welcome to conscious.tv. My name is Renate McNay and my guest today is Igor Kufayev. Hello Igor.
Igor: Hello Renate.
Renate: Igor is from Uzbekistan; he is an artist and an Advaita Tantric teacher. He just finished a book, Flowing Wakefulness: Essays on the Nature of Consciousness and Realization. Do you know when the book is coming out?
Igor: Well, we don’t have a date, but the book is basically a selection of my essays and it is being edited at the moment. It is going to be very easy to read; it is only a slim little book to address key points in this whole business of self-realization, based on my own direct experience and some scriptural knowledge.
Renate: Wonderful, I am looking forward to that! I guess we can buy it through Amazon?
Igor: It will be available hopefully by the middle of next year, or autumn of the next year at the latest.
Renate: Wonderful. I met Igor this year at the Science and Nonduality Conference I attended with Iain and I was fascinated by his clarity and by his wisdom on the biological process of the body in awakening. We will talk about that during the interview. I am particularly interested, as I have never had anybody talking on that subject before, so it should be great.
My first question, Igor, is what is your view on awakening - on enlightenment? Is enlightenment the end of a path, or is it the beginning of a path? You know there are so many different views out there – how do you see it?
Igor: Well, I think one of the main aspects, or main issues associated with this whole phenomena of what goes under various names - from awakening to self-realization to enlightenment, emancipation, attainment of one’s essence, becoming One with Reality, all according to the various traditions - I think what we are coming up against, is that there is a limitation of language. In this case, limitation of the language as many of the western languages do not have an uninterrupted record of experiences of individuals and beings who have been on a path and left that as a gift to greater humanity. Not that this does not exist in the western hemisphere - there are plenty of examples, plenty of traditions – one could say the whole concept of enlightenment is the epitome of the essence of the perennial traditions. If you take any perennial tradition, what they speak about is attaining one’s selfhood based on the true notion of being, rather than that which is experienced temporarily as this living body, as this organism, as these thoughts, impressions, feelings, and emotions.
So already at the start, there is this limitation there, because for many people it means different things, and even when we speak about spiritual community – highly evolved, highly developed spiritual community – on various different levels, there is no consensus as of yet. Some people just use the word ‘awakening’ to denote almost a state of Buddhahood. When others speak of awakening, they only speak of that kind of shift in perception; yet some people speak about self-realization. As realization of what? Which self realizes what? And yet that third term, enlightenment, which presupposes something which is innate – it is almost like returning to our own light, of realization of the light that we are – simply Beings of light. Light of what? Light of our own Consciousness, light of our own Awareness?
All of these different terms, often denote phases in the process – in my view. And it is not just my view, it could be traced again through various esoteric traditions. In today’s climate for example, there is this understanding that it is enough to have that direct recognition of one’s essential nature to then live life in freedom. Although it could certainly be a very liberating event, it still falls short in any case in terms of actually living that reality – other than constantly referring to something which was experienced at any given moment in time, as something which could then be referred to as the moment of shift, awakening and what have you. Because, by its very nature, awakening is not necessarily a progressive event; it is not always a progressive experience.
Someone may have a glimpse of awakening – what I call just a stir – and live for the rest of his or her life based on the experiences psycho-physiologically digested, integrated on whatever level, but always with reference to something that has happened. “Something has happened to me, and I have experienced that I am more than this body and mind, and I carry on living my life” …but is it a continuous experience? Are you in a stream of that experience? Are you in a stream of awareness, in terms of constant awareness that you are Awareness? Just like using all this phraseology; then again, Awareness doesn’t need to be aware of itself in terms of Awareness itself. It is all knowing, all encompassing …
Renate: Sorry [for interrupting], I just want to add that Ramana Maharshi - who I was a big fan of – said, “The only thing you have to do is be aware that you are aware – and that’s all you have to do.”
Igor: Yes, he said a lot of things throughout his life, and a lot of these things came through in translations and interpretations. I personally feel that we have to be very, very aware – inevitably we use that word – of how these messages were spoken. In what circumstances, to whom they were addressed, to what stage of evolution of Being they were addressed, because very often, especially with the existence of all of the technology we use today, you have this Facebook quote from Ramana Maharshi, and below another quote from someone else which completely refutes the previous note. On one hand, Ramana Maharshi advises that there are no practices needed – only that recognition. And yet, immediately after, you would read another note which would say that it is actually an ardent process, so be steadfast and be really present with all your might, with all of your dedication, with all your ardor; the actual word ‘ardor’ means something which requires a certain effort. So you see, this is what we are up against when we try to interpret certain straightforward messages.
Renate: Yes, and yet when we go back to your own process of enlightenment or awakening - you just finished the interview with Iain at the point [were] you woke up, everything woke up in you. What came after that? What is happening after the realization of the knowing of who you are? What happens after that?
Igor: As I said to Iain, that initial impact of awakening was the portal, was the entrance, was the beginning I could say. Everything prior to that was of course important. Everything, every moment, every step, every breath up to that moment was leading to that. There is no doubt about it, it is very clear. Actually the definition of awakening itself, and the very experiential dynamics of it, is that you recognize that the life that you lived prior to that - some people often call it a story, a personal story in much greater light, because obviously there is much more light of Awareness that is allowed to reflect upon what even happened in the past. Although there is this contempt for the past, future, and there is this fetishization of the now which contemporary spirituality is dominating at the moment, this awakening brings about greater retrospect in understanding the drama of life including everything.
As you know yourself from your own experiences, when awakening happens there are profound glimpses of your own future; profound glimpses of what happened to you - in weeks, years, months, it doesn’t matter - as well as profound glimpses of how your own life, this biological life was conceived. For example, I was almost a witness of the direct forming of myself in Mommy’s tummy. This was granted as a direct experience to reconcile certain aspects of this evolutionary flow; and it went further back, transgressing all of this complex evolutionary process that Consciousness vibrated with on the way to become this human body, including transgressing the state of an animal, the state of plant formation, mineral formations. All of this was like an unfolding, ongoing film unfolding on an internal screen while you are in meditation or reposing, resting or walking, it doesn’t matter. From the moment that radical shift, that radical awakening took place, it carried on in greater degrees of unfoldment, because as one layer will be peeled, yet another layer is ready to be peeled. So layer upon layer, reality was stripping itself bare, to reveal what is the innermost kernel of this whole process – but that is not an overnight process.
This is something that I often find myself talking and relating, that enlightenment – if we are ever to talk about it – because let’s face it, there is also this notion that enlightenment is a bogus, some teachers say that enlightenment doesn’t exist. We are Awareness, there is not one being who is not aware, because everything is empowered by Awareness. And there is truth to that, that in order to function in this world, there has to be Awareness as a given. So obviously it is only Awareness that is aware and functions through this physiology, through this body as this temporal expression of Consciousness. However, I am not very keen to go into this, because I simply believe that this is a very simplistic and a downright primitive view of what enlightenment is. Also, by declaring that, we are disregarding thousands of years of profound civilizations, profound cultures that were actually built upon these very premises, where that process of self-realization and enlightenment was the most cherished concept of that particular culture. Just saying, “Enlightenment doesn’t exist,” is almost taking the mickey out of Buddha, or Christ if you will. To me, that is just how disrespectful it sounds in terms of our own being at this present moment in time, when we are culturally still deeply connected to our own ancestors.
I stand on a platform of enlightenment as an ongoing process; an ongoing process where Awareness reveals itself in its self-expansiveness. This is why the title of my book is Flowing Wakefulness; it is the very quality of Consciousness. It is ever-awake and ever-flowing. It is that uninterrupted stream of Awareness that throbs and flows through your veins, through your heartbeat, through your eyes into the world, out of the world. It is not just expressing itself, it is also experiencing, it is also perception – expression, perception – it is a very complex, beautiful process of being alive. Consciousness utilizing this vehicle of this body, this instrumentality, to experience itself ever-anew.
This is why I actually decided to agree to be called a Tantric teacher, because for years I denied any association with any kind of pigeonholing or boxing, because let’s face it, when true profound realization takes place, it transcends the shell, or the form of whatever formal practice was prior to that. It transcends the entire body of the spiritual tradition that you were standing on or using as your spiritual practice. Not that you are transcending it and disregarding it; by transcending it you are enriching it. This is what I firmly believe: each time this happens, the tradition itself which gave birth to that, is being enriched. It is a mutual process, a very beautiful, complex, and mutual process.
Renate: So what is the biological process involved? You say in the notes I was reading, “Awakening happens on cellular levels, there are glands involved, and hormones, and decalcification needs to happen to all of the cells.” It sounds like an endless job! It is not something we can actually do – what is it that we can do?
Igor: To answer the first part of your question, this process indeed will only be partial, will always be partial if it does not involve the body. So this is very clear. This is very clear; anybody who has ever gone through it fully knows that this is an energetic transformation. An energetic transformation encompasses a being in its entirety. Very often when we say body – I should say this very quickly – is that we only have in mind the corporal reality of the cells: Consciousness which expresses itself on the level of cells and tissues, formation of cells and tissues. But that is not even half of the picture, it is only let’s say one fifth of the picture, or one third of the picture, one fourth – it doesn’t matter. It is only a part of what the body really consists of, because this body also has breath, this body has the energetic field - or auric field as it is known as in the new age - this body also has a mental layer, which scientists are capable of measuring today. There is literally like in a Russian doll, one inside of the other, ultimately connecting us altogether through that final layer – that layer of pure bliss or the layer of the finest, the fabric of Consciousness itself – which Indian spirituality aptly named satchidananda – ever-conscious, ever-blissful, ever-knowing, this aspect of Consciousness as [the] very fabric of existence.
This is why I am never comfortable when people say, “body-mind.” Let us establish first, what is the body? Where do we draw the line? How can we actually begin to draw the line between the body and the mind, if this body is the reflection and manifestation of this mind? So it is much more mutual, much more integral and much more inter-connected, inter-connective, inter-relating, inter-relative, so that in itself breaks that conditioning of thinking of ourselves as just the body; even in terms of spiritual realization, thinking, “Okay, now we are just talking about the body, and then we will be talking just about the mind.”
Very often, awakening especially as I am observing in the western hemisphere, it first happens indeed on the level of the mind. First it is understood that, “I am not just this,” and that understanding generates energy. If enough energy is generated, that would lead to great internalization, which will then include greater spheres of this being, greater layers of this being. Some teachers draw parallels like, then your heart is being encompassed, and then your greater being is encompassed, even your very vital, the instincts and what have you, all are encompassed in that process.
So when we speak about awakening and self-realization, it is a gradual process and it is unique to each individual, because each individual has a uniquely designed nervous system. This nervous system connects us all; we all have this unique nervous system, but not all of us have that unique capacity to reflect Consciousness in its full measure. When I say full measure, some traditions even forbid saying that full enlightenment can happen in the physical body, because this body is not yet perfect enough to carry the magnanimity of what is the Absolute. However, those traditions that allow a greater degree of that, like Tantra for instance speaks of that: this soul is jiva; this soul is pure Shiva, this soul is Consciousness, pure Absolute, pure Awareness…
Renate: I found it intriguing when you said, “The enlightened is one whose nervous system can no longer be swept away by the chemical storm inside.”
Igor: I am very happy you brought that quote, because this is also a reflection of what is really happening. I always measure the process - when working with people - in terms of the degree to which this body has integrated the awakened states that were brought by the initial impact of awakening and its progressive unfoldment. Because Awakening itself - if it is not followed by progressive expansion to the next level, the next territory - the body cannot hold it, it cannot carry it; it is like it miscarries it. So the body is not ready. When we say the body is not ready, we mean the nervous system is not ready; the nervous system cannot vibrate on par with the vibrations of much, much finer frequencies – so much finer frequencies that these frequencies would simply burst this body to pieces. The contemporary world is full of very, very dramatic cases of awakening. However, specific to what we are now talking about in terms of the importance of the complete reorganization of the endocrine system - which is reflected in that quote that you just read - is that all of our functioning, whether we like it not, whether we agree with it or not, all our thinking, feelings, emotions are conditioned or pre-conditioned by previous experiences. Take it or leave it… this is the truth.
Neuroscience and neurophysiology are making amazing discoveries in this field as we speak. This is a very exciting time we live in, because the body is suddenly being given a very different look from the scientific community. That which is known as the gut-brain reaction holds the secret of all of our longings, wanting of everything we experience in this world, all our identifications. Our patterns, our behaviors are all being recorded somewhere deep within, registered deep within, on that level where it expresses itself through qualitative issuing of the juices into the body which then, through that process of firing, where the brain recognizes these impulses that come from the body, and then through the process of - it’s all electrical obviously and I am not going to go through the scientific explanation of that process. But this connectivity happens in the brain, and as soon as that connectivity happens because it recognizes that experience that was previously experienced and which left sediment in the subconscious, and is now coming up in the form of wanting – a desire…
Renate: Like say a trauma…
Igor: A trauma… but it is joyful and sorrowful experiences - everything. It then triggers a certain electrical reaction in the brain, when it produces a qualitative hormone responsible for a particular reaction in our body towards what we have experienced before. In a way, it is like a catch-22. That is a biological view of samsara. There is no other samsara in terms of the mythology and lore – that is samsara on the internal level - the samsara on the level of the internal alchemy.
In awakening and self-realization, if there is enough energy – if awakening is powerful enough – these whole mechanics are being shattered; literally shattered to a degree where they dissociate. For a time, the brain cannot provide that usual connectivity. It is very important, because this is why newly awakened spiritual aspirants are often thrown into the stages known as dissociative disorders of all kinds. Why? Because simply what they used to know, is no longer functioning. What I mean by that [is] even a reaction… for instance, there is a joke and everyone is laughing, but you are not laughing, because it does not make that connection in the brain. It doesn’t register. It has been witnessed – yes – but it does not provoke any reaction. It is not because you are not funny anymore, but it is because something more important has happened. Likewise, those experiences that were held dearly, or the traumatic experiences that were sitting there and not allowing us to experience life fully, in the same way, the connectivity is being shattered. So whenever there is re-experiencing of something which ought to give you pain, it fails to do so. So you see, that is why many spiritually awakened beings, live in that state where they are almost withdrawn from the world of emotions, feelings and thoughts, because nothing makes sense anymore.
Renate: No motivations.
Igor: No motivations – exactly!
Renate: So how do you help these people? What do you do with them?
Igor: Well before we start helping them, we need to understand that this is part of a very healthy process. Why healthy? Because this is almost like wiping the canvas clean, or wiping the board clean – or clearing the windows of perception. Up until this sediment is brought up to the surface, up until all this is being shattered within, up until this, we are caught in the vicious circle of this intent, desire, then action, reaction, experience, again seed of desire, intent, and so on… for the next cycle. Up until that circle is broken, we will continue doing the same things; if not in this life, it will be passed through into the next life and so forth. So that process itself is very healthy, because that process allows the nervous system to free itself from all of these experiences, positive and negative alike, because what we call positive and negative at this moment - in a referential scale which we are applying at the moment - is losing its acuity.
Renate: And that happens because the neurotransmitters don’t connect anymore?
Igor: Yes, because the information is failing to produce the hormones which will ignite that cycle again.
Renate: Fascinating! And therefore, the nervous system is freed?
Igor: Yes, the nervous system is freed, and it is just left to its own to vibrate; it is a very good state, very healthy. However, when you said, “What do we do to help them?” It does become unhealthy when these beings want to, or ought to, or have to come back and function in the world. When we say come back, there are many scenarios - not just come back from the ashram where you were doing your duty, let’s say washing your dishes in the profound state of bliss and you don’t care about what is happening - I am talking about awakening which can happen anywhere; and it does. It happens in the midst of Broadway and in the midst of Hampstead Heats, in the midst of …
Renate: I interviewed somebody [few years ago] and it happened to her while she was washing dishes.
Igor: Well, there are many, many different awakenings. Sometimes people are in a position where they don’t even have that luxury of allowing the integration to take place, and it could be quite dramatic. Their family could be involved, children are often involved - so what do you do? All of these are very, very important aspects to consider. However, in terms of how do we help, what can be done, it is very important that there is greater integration for the individual who - at the moment we are referring to that condition – is being caught, or finds himself or herself in a state of spiritual bypass, in that dissociated disorder. Because, in that state, you are coalesced by that beatitude - it is actually good if you have that beatitude and bliss, because some people don’t experience that yet; we can also address that, because sometimes awakening could happen and throw one into the so-to-speak stratospheres of the much more refined layers of Consciousness where there is no wanting, there are no desires… but also there is not much happiness, not much light, not much bliss.
Renate: It’s a desolate land…
Igor: Yes, it is a very desolate land and it is not a very nice place to hang out. At least the one who is lost in bliss, at least there, [it] is a very, very nice place to be. These are very important phases where one should seek help in terms of guidance – and it is a very different guidance that we speak about for someone whose consciousness is still in the latent state – there has to be a tremendous amount of inner wisdom to drive that process further, to go without a preceptor or without a guide, because you don’t know where you are, you don’t know what is next. Very often people even mistake this for the completeness of self-realization, people think that this is it. And some people are disappointed. It is the stories of Zen masters being smacked back by the disciple, “Is this all there is?” But there is more to it. There is much more to it.
That whole phase is only in the term; it is the phase where the repose or the return will make all the difference. This is when, if the process has enough momentum – and I am not using Sanskrit or Tantric vocabulary today, so that we don’t lose that part of our audience that are not versed in that terminology, so I am using it in a very simple, basic language – when the energy is ready to move into its next stage, a much more refined stage, that is when the repose happens. And that coincides with the involvement of the whole entire physiology, all the cells in the body where literally the whole body produces a qualitatively new chemistry so new connections are being made. For that reason, spiritual practice is very important, and this is a reply to another part of your question. If prior to that, there was enough spiritual grounding, then one would have that possibility of refinement of perception.
Refinement of perception allows instantaneous tapping, intuitive tapping into the greater spheres, into greater areas of that process of self-realization. When all this so-called magic will be spoken within, unfolded within, the guidance and the direction would be offered, but very often we are not. Very often people awaken with not much preparation, with very little preparation so there is a lot of stirring, a lot of shattering taking place, but Consciousness and the nervous system has not been structured yet. There is very little to lean on; everything is in a state of havoc, and in that state you need to have that very careful guidance on how to integrate these awakening processes into its next qualitatively higher state, where it can grow again.
I am emphasizing again and again that awakening is moving from one plateau to another plateau, and there are distinctive states of Consciousness delineated by great masters to help, to map the process. Some teachers disregard it completely by saying, “All this is nonsense. Awareness is aware everywhere equally.” There is some truth to it, but the referential point is different. We are not speaking from the point of view of the Absolute; we are only speaking from the point of view of this very incarnated life right now. The difference is vast. It is the difference that makes all of the difference.
Renate: So my question, Igor, is with the alchemical process, some teachers out there… I am a student of the Diamond Approach and we use inquiry, and the inquiry I guess was the chemical process you were talking about, because you learn to take an emotion, and you do not react to that emotion, you sit with the emotion until it drops and something else releases. Is that what you are talking about?
Igor: I must confess, I am not intimately familiar with the Diamond Approach, but I have heard Almaas speaking about it at last year’s conference. I haven’t read his books, but I know he is a very, very credible master. I know people who are his followers and I have tremendous respect for those people. So that is already an indication of that approach being validated through direct application and results. It sounds very similar to what is being utilized in what is known, in many other traditions.
The tradition of Tantra for instance, and the one that I sometimes speak from just to give people a greater understanding, in particular the Kashmir Shaiva tradition where there are many, many different approaches, many, many different methodologies to supplement the main practice which is always rooted in meditation - because that is where the process of self-inquiry is the most refined. It is where the process of inquiry itself gets transcended, but there are other methodologies involved there. For instance there is a very great field, a great area of the quality and the nature of the aesthetic experience itself, how the actual experience of beauty itself is very transformative, which we know. In relation to the spiritual aspirant, in terms of someone who is awakened, that experience is what helps to connect to the inherent, [to] what is known under the name Platonic values. The Platonic values… let us say that the closer to the light of Awareness, the more spontaneous are our actions in coherence with the environment and in coherence with the rest of creation.
It is not acting upon the Ten Commandments, or any other internal or external codes of conduct; it is not about yogic yamas and niyamas – it is much more. It is actually invoking and evoking, enlivening that field within ourselves, within our own Consciousness, which is already structured through these Platonic values, through these fundamental qualities of Consciousness, as love, compassion, caring. All of this already exists within. When we speak of these qualities of Consciousness, of course we do not mean these much more emotionally oriented states. We are not talking about, “Love you today, hate you tomorrow.” Compassion here is the compassion of Buddha, compassion here is the compassion of Christ, it is irrespective of a situation of the one to whom compassion flows. It is not about how poor or how rich you are. The true compassion of Christ as we know, is the compassion towards the soul being caught in that drama. And being caught in that drama, it doesn’t matter what that worldly situation is, we are all caught in this drama.
Renate: So is what you are saying, in your own awakening, you never had to look at your emotions, or your lack of clarity [and] that all got cleared out in the moment [you woke up]?
Igor: If I speak personally, there were definitely moments of clearance; absolutely it is impossible, it is inevitable - unless you are born a saint – and there are beings like that. I am absolutely convinced of that. There are beings who came here with such a pure, refined nervous system - what it means is they are pure souls - they don’t carry much luggage, but they are usually put immediately in the service of humanity. The rest of us have to work. The rest of us have to apply some effort. The rest of us have to be disciplined towards getting to the bottom of it all and peeling the layers.
So yes, it was happening. On the wake of awakening, the territories that were unleashed were really deep, something which I didn’t even know existed, but thankfully and gratefully once the Grace does its work, Grace is all there is, and it is done very gracefully. It literally frees you from the burden of doing it yourself. This is why personally - I don’t want to sound skeptical, it is just the limitation of the language and I might come across like that - I prefer the methodologies which are based on energetic transformation through that process of surrender, rather than more psychological applications. It doesn’t mean that they are not valid; they are valid in their own right. It is just in my experience, it is much more integral and also conducive to this whole process when you surrender…
Renate: Surrender to what?
Igor: It doesn’t matter to what. You decide what you surrender to, because there is always some kind of – even the formless has form – you have a teacher, you have a teaching, one always has something that one cherishes as the focal point of one’s sadhana, spiritual practice. So once you surrender, it could be a Godhead in a very abstract form; very often it is not easy to surrender to the abstract formless, because many, many teachers actually try to implement that. Funny enough, it happens mostly in the western hemisphere with western teachers and a western audience, but I see immediate limitations there, because it often creates mood-making and attitudes, rather than true surrender.
Renate: Can you tell us what true surrender means? I am not sure if I know that. How did you surrender?
Igor: I had no choice, because that which was resisting surrender was absolved by that process. So that which could have put up a fight was powerless. If I were to put it in that allegorical metaphor: that which could have picked the fight, was powerless.
Renate: So it is like, “Thy will, be done.”
Renate: That is the ultimate surrender?
Igor: Yes, the ultimate surrender is basically that you die before you die, and that total acceptance of everything; and not just acceptance itself, that I am accepting or not accepting – it is the fact that there is nothing that one can accept or not. That is the true nature of acceptance, it is not even up to us to accept or reject. The ultimate nature of acceptance is much, much more subtle. You can accept this, but that presupposes that you may object to accepting that, but true acceptance is that when you are not even the one who is accepting or surrendering. This is what I call the total surrender. It has no choice; it is a choiceless choice, and it is an act of Grace. It happens on its own, so there is not even effort on the part of the individual. It is only required to drop certain resistances, because when that energy is awakened, the only thing that stands in the way are those resistances; that which still resists that. But then, when realization dawns that [that] which resists is also part of that process, it is also part of that energy. Maybe the waves that bound to the furthest shores are coming back and they become counter waves, but they are still part of that process.
What is there to surrender? What is there to fight against? That is where the truth comes and the true quietude and peace descends and is revealed within. Again, so that it doesn’t sound too abstract, it is a byproduct of awakening of that energy which does its work by an act of Grace, and the only thing that we can do is to allow that process to unfold. And when I say allow, I don’t want to be misunderstood here. It is a participation, a willing participation in that process. All that I did - I sat as much as I could. All I did was I sat, and I gave myself to this fire; I gave myself to this fire repeatedly. If there is anything left unburned, let it burn, let it be digested, let it be completely… because if it is not, if one seed is left unroasted, it will sprout – and from one seed, the tree can grow. This is the Advaitic metaphor of samsara - the tree of samsara can grow from one seed.
Renate: Is there still something in life which can knock you off?
Igor: It remains to be seen. I am being knocked off every day, in small and big ways, but it is different. When you understand that the knocking is my own doing as Consciousness, then how can it knock you off? Because in order to be knocked off, you have to have a point of reference. All references are being dissolved.
Renate. Yes. So then in enlightenment, what happens is that identification is shifting…
Igor: One could say that that is one of the phases, because when we speak of the process of enlightenment - self-realization - I regularly give that kind of triadic perspective. If we are pushed to summarize it, or narrow it down, we can say that there are three distinctive stages. Those who will see this in the light of their own traditions, I am almost certain will recognize it despite the fact that maybe traditions are far apart.
Namely, the first phase, or first stage is the actual shift which happens from realignment of all the energies, all the pranic flows in the body where what is known as body-mind-consciousness - consciousness which identifies with this particular individual - sometimes in American spirituality it is called egoic consciousness. I don’t particularly like that term, I think it doesn’t really portray it fully, but we’ll get away from this, for a moment. So first it is the shift from the ego-oriented consciousness to the consciousness of the self – not from [the self with] the capital ‘S’. In Indian spirituality there is a term known as Atman, individual self; in Christianity it is the soul. It is the recognition that you are not just this body, you are also soul – and it is a very important recognition. So in the energetic transformation, you actually live that. You become [the] living proof of that realization, but it is not a conclusive state by any standards, although many people think that it is. And that is where development could often get arrested, because if you identify this, as that is what it is, “I am the soul,” as opposed to the body, then it is as if the momentum, as if the energy is getting deflated. There is not enough force, but if there is, then that force takes that recognition of Atman or that soul toward greater recognition, and that is recognition with Supreme Identity, or known in Indian spirituality as Brahman, hence this line which encapsulates it, “Atman is Brahman.”
Before that recognition can take place, there has to first be a shift from what is known as ego-oriented consciousness toward Atman. And I find that in modern spirituality, many teachers insist on expecting the seekers to jump from the space of egoic identification straight to Brahman, and you cannot bypass that territory because then you are in danger of a lot of undesirable events - namely depersonalization - because you think you are this formless Absolute Awareness, uncontainable…
Renate: You think …
Igor: You think, exactly! You know, you might have glimpses and momentary experiences, and you already disregarded that plateau of Atman; you are already disregarding your individuality, the unique flavor of each soul. In the Sufi tradition it is beautifully expressed over and over; it is that Lover and Beloved. It is that relationship, it is that dance of the Lover and the Beloved and that dance continues for as long as it has to continue, before the mergence will take place.
So rushing that process often results in deep, unresolved psychological tensions, tendencies, and spiritual bypassing, which these people when they are put to the test of real life, they cannot stand it because that is not the real fruit of self-realization, that is not the real self-realization, it is only an aspect of it. If it happened in that way of bypassing, then you will still be asked to return and do your homework. So this is why I never demand and never advocate this kind of complete disregard of your individuality. Your individuality has a purpose; it is another face of Shiva, it is another face of Awareness. It is a face of Awareness for this world. It is not up to you to say that it doesn’t exist and smudge it. You did not paint it in the first place.
Renate: [laughing] I like that. So those are all the three stages?
Igor: If we cyclically put them, there are three stages. In terms of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Science of Creative Intelligence, they are correlative to the three highest states of consciousness: the Cosmic Consciousness, the God Consciousness, and the Unity Consciousness. In many other traditions you will find the parallels. It is that move, it is that transformation, ever-expansive process and this contracted - from the Tantric perspective now - this contracted state of pure Awareness [transforms] into its expansive state; but it happens in stages. In fact it contracts and expands at all times, we are just not aware of it.
Renate: I think we have to stop now Igor. I think it is a beautiful place to stop.
Igor: Yes, because we can only touch, and we can only introduce this thing; this thing is vast.
Renate: I hope you come back to conscious.tv, there are so many more things I would like to talk with you about.
Igor: I would love to. I would be more than happy to do that.
Renate: Well, thank you for coming to London.
Igor: Thank you very much for inviting me, I am very honored to be here. It is a very humbling experience.
Renate: Thank you and thank you for watching conscious.tv I would just like to say the title of Igor’s book again, which is coming out soon, Flowing Wakefulness: Essays on the Nature of Consciousness and Realization. Thank you for watching conscious.tv and I hope to see you again soon. Bye-bye.
Guided Meditation - Basic Meditation Principles and Practices
Greetings to everyone. My name is Igor Kufayev, and I am here today just to show some very, very basic principles and very basic exercises which might help you in your meditative practices. It is based on some of the Tantric traditionally explored experiences, and one can find these exercises as part of the overall tradition from Tibetan Buddhism to many other Tantric traditions where it is still alive.
It is very simple, nothing is required from you except a place where you can sit calmly and quietly, preferably where you can sit with your spine erect like I am sitting now on this sofa and not slouching back too much. You can sit with your legs crossed; if you cannot sit like that, if it is not comfortable, you can even sit on the floor and back yourself up with cushions and stretch your legs forward. You can sit in a normal chair – it is all acceptable, it is perfectly fine as long as the posture is steady, comfortable, and allows you to experience this very subtle process of transcending.
Now just a couple of words; meditation is not something that we do. Meditation is just as natural as breathing. In fact, meditation, truly speaking, is what empowers all other processes in the body, it is just that we have forgotten about it a little bit. So for that reason, these very practices were reintroduced into our life, so that we can reconnect to the very essence of our being.
Once you are seated comfortably, before going into meditation I would like to ask you to close your eyes gently, and for a moment just observe that inner space of your own body. I would like you to pay attention to the very solidity of your body; how this body is connected to a place where you are sitting, so that you feel that sheer gravity that the body is being in that very motionless state. It is a very pleasant state, very relaxing. Let’s just sit like that for one or two minutes.
Keep observing how your awareness gently becomes internalized. Pay attention if there is any discomfort in the body; if there is any tension. As soon as you discover that, ease it up, relax into it; maybe adjust your trousers, if you are wearing a belt, undo that. Whatever may be causing discomfort in terms of your clothing, make sure that you adjust that. If tension is based in any particular part of the body that is tired, perhaps you have been standing all day, walking and your spine feels a bit tense, just breathe deeply into it. Inhale, and exhale through that place where you feel the tension. Visualize as if the breath goes all through your body, and exits the place where the tension is.
Now today we are going to be doing little exercises, locating where the incoming breath is confluencing and mixing with the outward breath before it will be drawn in again and goes in to sustain the life force. In fact, this very breath is the life force that is sustaining us, just as the cosmic life force - as soon as it enters the body, it becomes individualized – so here is the point of connection.
As you draw in the breath of air, just gently follow it up and see where it fills the cavities of your lungs, just before it will be expelled again. Don’t pay attention to any particular point, let’s just follow the breath. Inhale and exhale. Again, inhale and exhale.
Now, what I would like you to do is just as you are drawing in a breath, notice a place right below your ribcage - somewhere where the diaphragm is between the ribcage and your belly button - there is this place where the diaphragm goes spontaneously in and out, because that is what happens naturally. When our breathing subsides, when our breathing becomes natural, the diaphragm moves by itself. There, in that place, deep within, there is a place where the breath subsides for a moment just before it will be exiting the body. It is known as the “internal point.” Don’t worry if you cannot locate it right away; suffice that you feel that diaphragmatic expansion and contraction, it moves in and it moves out.
Somewhere there when the breath goes in, it stops and just before it is expelled, that point is where I would like you to drop your awareness. Let’s do it for a few minutes; just a few incoming and outgoing breaths. And as I said, do not try to strain, do not tense for a moment - suffice you roughly locate that point somewhere below the ribcage where the diaphragm goes out before it contracts spontaneously in. And again [demonstrates slow inhalations and exhalations].
Now just very gently, shift your awareness, move your awareness from the internal, from the body that just prior to that was focused on this point and inwardly into the outer space – literally, suddenly aware that this very body, this very solid organism, this very steady organism, your body beautiful sitting here in silence, is surrounded by this outer space – utter transparency of this space that the body is suspended in. Just bring your awareness there – forget about the solidity of the body. Feel the space around – see, that very same awareness that was just a moment ago dwelling in the body internally, is effortlessly witnessing that spaciousness around the body. It is the same awareness - just shift. Don’t worry about external sounds, don’t worry if thoughts come and go; this is all part of that natural and spontaneous process. No resistance.
Now, as we continue in this simple exercise as our breathing becomes more and more natural, I want you to notice that place where you exhale - preferably through your nostrils - and before you draw in a fresh breath, fresh air, there is a point where the exhaled air literally touches a point before it becomes the inhaled air. Somewhere, roughly five to seven inches from our nostrils - drop your awareness there.
So these two points - the internal and the external points - they are aids in meditation, regardless of what tradition you practice; you can always utilize them as the entry to your meditation. It helps to pacify and create a very steady ground for your continued practice of meditation, whatever chosen form or format of meditation, or methodologies you use. Do not try too hard to locate these points; with time, you will recognize them as the very essence of your own being, because this is where Consciousness literally becomes your physiology.
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