To the Soul

Journal of a Departed Friend, Part 1

journal

An antique journal (Renaissance?)

Sister Alma Rose recently received part of a journal from the year 1985 that was bequeathed to her by an old friend. Here is an excerpt:

natdingbat2

Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain
or freed a human soul.
—Mark Twain

Blackeyed Susan growing wild along a country road

Blackeyed Susan growing wild along a country road

Where is it, then, this human soul 
(if, indeed, there is such a place,
a spring of pure motives and selfless love,
a sanctuary of rest from struggle and anxiety)?

“I can’t explain myself,
I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice,
“because I’m not myself, you see.”

 

I control what I wear and what I eat,
when I rake leaves and how I set my
house in order. The soul is a place of uncontrol (I believe) where yet is not chaos but cosmic arrangement. It is
a place of selflessness from which
emanates the genuine Self, and it is
THIS Self that I fear and that I
hide from, behind activity and blind
allegiances and alcohol and
organization and television… that I
bury and cover with the borrowed
skins of the souls of others,
calling them Identity.

Rainbow (photo source unknown)

Rainbow (photo source unknown)

But this Soul, this Self, will not be
denied; it draws one irresistibly. 
I have found demons and have
unmasked them, and at each turn I
wonder if there are more-fearsome
demons and angrier fiends. I have
seen the sun disarm them and the
rain dissolve them, and I believe a little
less in the strength of demons and
more in the power of the sun and the rain.

Glasswing butterfly

Glasswing butterfly

It doesn’t do any good to run away,
after all. It is like the man whose
suspenders are caught on the doorknob: The faster he runs, the suddener his return. “No matter where you go,” it is truly said, “there you are.” 

 

 

 

O, Power, embolden my encounter with the soul.

natdingbat

The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete

Nirvana

Krisha with the goddess Radha (18th-century painting)

Krisha with the goddess Radha (18th-century painting)

Sister Alma Rose’s Prescription for a Sore Throat

Sister Alma Rose is advancing my “meditation education.” Yesterday, I had a sore throat, and she had me lie still in her wonderful pink attic bedroom and listen to readings by Dr. Deepak Chopra from the Bhagavad-Gita [Sacred Verses, Healing Sounds, Volumes I and II: The Bhagavad Gita, Hymns of the Rig Veda (Chopra, Deepak)].

Sister Alma Rose said I would find these readings to be “very healing.” What I found them to be was “very confusing.” They were all about a conversation between Krishna, who, I think, represents God, and a guy named Arjuna, who is about to go into a battle, and among his enemies are his cousins, people he cares about. Krishna tells him that the souls of the people who die on the battlefield will live on — I think he means that they will be reincarnated or else they will go into the Supreme Realm.

Arjuna is not buying it, so Krishna goes on to explain about the paths of yoga, which doesn’t mean the postures and exercises that Mrs. McCallister teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays down at the library, it means harmony, union, integration, and balance. Anyway, these paths are (1) unselfish service devoted to God, (2) action without being concerned about “fruitage,” which means you’re not supposed to be “attached to” the outcomes of your actions, (3) meditation, and (4) knowledge — which comes from “transcending the ego, or ‘false self,’ and discovering the soul, the ‘true self,’” which is called Atman, which sounds like a superhero, and in a way I guess it is.

Krishna with Arjun

Krishna with Arjuna

Okay, so first of all I have to tell you, my sore throat went away, and I don’t know if it had anything to do with the Bhagavad-Gita or not. But then, since my throat didn’t hurt any more, I pestered Sister Alma Rose with a bunch of questions, which mainly amounted to, What’s In It for Me? I thought I was supposed to love myself, not lose myself. Sister Alma Rose has told me before that I can’t truly love others unless I first love myself.

The joy of unity and the pain of separation

So here’s what Sister Alma Rose said yesterday, in summary, and I’m still trying to sort it out, but I think it makes sense:

Arjuna and his fourth wife, Subhadra

Arjuna and his fourth wife, Subhadra

My ego, or false self, is limited by what I and other people believe about it, whereas the true self, the soul, experiences unlimited potential. The soul can’t help but share itself, because it’s where love resides in us mortals — it has a direct connection to God — and we become spontaneously loving when we experience our true selves. Love, and “action” that springs from love, is its own reward.

She reminded me of experiences I have had with the joy of unity and the pain of separation. Once I sang with a large regional chorus in a performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Creation oratorio, and it was such a beautiful thing that I got lost in it and totally forgot about whether I messed up the notes, which I knew I wouldn’t anyway because we had practiced it a thousand-million times. I felt, at the same time, completely and personally joyful and completely one with the chorus and orchestra and audience. That, Sister Alma Rose said, was a fleeting experience of the “perfect peace” of Nirvana — where everyone is totally in unity and totally their “authentic selves.” I am quoting Sister Alma Rose here, who also reminded me of how I felt when my daddy was in a bad car accident and how lost I felt when I thought he was going to die, because I loved him so much. Real love, says Sister Alma Rose, comes from the soul, and in the soul we can never be separated from another.

I thought about a woman who came to see Sister Alma Rose one summer afternoon, and in the warm breeze in the shade of Sister Alma Rose’s grass-green porch, on a halcyon day that just makes you want to run and shout for the joy of being in the world, this woman was weeping because her son was a heroin addict, and she said she would gladly die if it would mean her son could have been spared the torment he was going through. I got a little glimpse of “selflessness” then, and I thought of all the promises I had made to God about how good I would be, even mucking out the barn and other stuff I hate, if my daddy could get well after his accident, though I don’t think that actually dying was on the list of sacrifices I was willing to make.

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

Sister Alma Rose said that our false selves take a lot of beating up before we realize how fragile and undependable they are, and that it can require many lifetimes before a person evolves to the place where she is willing to surrender her ego and embrace God, but that when you’re ready, you’re ready, and then you find indestructible happiness in harmony with the universe.

She said that people who go around “doing good” because it’s, like, a rule, don’t have their hearts in it, but that we all will evolve to where “good” is all we want to do, it flows from us like a river. And I thought about all the stuff I’m attached to, stuff that seems to be necessary to my happiness, and I said, that’s okay, I can wait. And Sister Alma Rose gave me a big suffocating hug and told me I had a beautiful aura that shines like the sun.

* * *

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http://www.echoes.org/graphics/Kitaro.jpg
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The essence of meditation is also the essence of art. —Claudio Naranjo

Meditation and music cannot be separated.Sri Chinmoy

The essence of sound healing is the re-tuning of the human instrument, correcting at whatever level those frequencies, which have become weakened or gone out of tune. This is done on the basis of resonance, be it sympathetic vibrations or the power of forced resonance. Basically, whatever part of us that is ailing can be awakened by harmonious sound sources and remember at what frequency it should be vibrating. This can occur at the physical level (from cells to muscles to organs), the subtle level (changing negative psychology), and the causal level (create permanent positive changes in one’s nature). James D’Angelo, in “Healing Vibrations”

Meditate with Frequency

Dear Sister Alma Rose – My meditation teacher says that we should not listen to music while meditating. Yet there are hundreds of “meditation music” CDs out there. I do not have a quiet place to meditate – I live in a noisy part of a noisy city – so I like to listen to music when I meditate. What do you think? -Musically Inclined in Muskegon

Dear MIM – Sister Alma Rose has found that meditation, with all its meanings and misleadings, can seem exceedingly complicated. But it is very simple, actually. When y’all meditate, y’all are surrendering yourself to the flow of the river of life, the waters from the divine Source.

Kobe Bryant — In a Zone

Kobe Bryant — In a Zone

Whatever the reason for meditating – to relax, to reduce blood pressure, to quit smoking or using strong drink – the meditation itself is supposed to be done without expectation. Y’all are not to be thinking, oh, goody, I’m lowering my blood pressure, I’m making myself healthier, and et cetera. In meditation, we let go of all thought, and simply ride on the breath; or, in some traditions, we watch our thoughts and feelings drift by, observe them, and know that they are not us. They are, as Eckhart Tolle explains, “content,” not “essence,” and deep meditation reveals to us the secret, essential self, the soul, the inner light.

Y’all’s meditation teacher might suggest that y’all get yourself some of them fancy headphones that block out sound or play “white noise,” or that y’all listen to recorded nature sounds (rain, birdsong, the surf, and et cetera) while meditating.

There is some music whose purveyors claim is scientifically engineered to produce alpha brain waves. The alpha state “is the state of brain activity characterized by waves ranging from 8 to 13 cycles per second. Resembling a light trance, it is the condition one experiences during meditation, daydreaming, just prior to sleep (hypnagogic), and just after waking (hypnopompic).” (New Age Glossary)

Alpha state brainwaves are slower then beta (our active state) and the frequency ranges from 8 to 14 cycles per second. It is a state of “aware relaxation” and it brings numerous advantages:

  • calms your body and mind while it maintains alertness
  • stimulates imagination, intuition and higher awareness
  • creates detachment from the outcome and increases dowsing accuracy
  • improves your mental processes – concentration, clarity of thinking, decision making, memory
  • frees up more of your potential and helps you achieve your goals in life
  • allows you to sleep better, fall asleep easily, stay asleep right through the night
    DiviningMind.com

Some meditation practitioners, in the Buddhist lineages particularly, might say that listening to music is antithetical to meditation… that music induces an “artificial” sense of well-being, freeing us from the need to peel off the layers of “content” to reach the “essence.”

So let’s not listen to them.

Buddhist Gardens

Buddhist Gardens

Sister Alma Rose is not saying that they are wrong. In fact, meditation is a means of being “present,” of “living in the moment,” that at some point becomes a way of life, so that y’all are at peace in any situation, and not all situations evolve in the presence of soul-stirring music. Sister Alma Rose is sure that Kobe Bryant is utterly and completely “present” — “in the zone,” Sister Alma Rose believes is the expression —when he is hitting three-pointers with ease and grace, but Kobe Bryant does not demonstrate ease and grace in every circumstance.

It was hypothesized, at one time, that LSD was a viable shortcut to ecstasy. Look how well that worked out. On the other hand,

peyote [has been] used for 10,000 years as an Indian religious sacrament.

Peyote–officially known to botanists as Lophophora williamsii–grows naturally only in… four counties [in Texas]…. For non-Indians, possession is illegal and punishable by stiff narcotics laws. But the religious use of peyote is allowed for members of the Native American Church, a pan-tribal religion derived from the practices of native peoples who inhabited what is now southern Texas and northern Mexico.

The peyote church, as it is sometimes called, began to spread through Indian country in the late 1870s. Adherents eat peyote in a powdery form or drink it in tea during communal sessions that last from evening until dawn. Members of the 400,000-member church do not report feeling a high–pharmacologists say actual hallucinations are uncommon–but rather a period of intense inward reflection. “To me it’s a medicine,” says Earl Arkinson, the church president, a Chippewa-Cree Indian from Montana who is a police chief in his other life. “It’s a spiritual feeling.”peyote.com

Peyote cactus in the wild

Peyote cactus in the wild

Sister Alma Rose is not – let’s be crystal clear, here – not advocating the use of LSD, peyote (members of the Native American Church excepted), or any other drug – natural or synthetic, legal or illegal. With LSD, y’all are more likely to see y’all’s eyeballs in the sink than to find peace and serenity. Sister Alma Rose knows of what she speaks. In fact, Sister Alma Rose has digressed egregiously from the original point, which was the use of music in meditation.

Sister Alma Rose agrees with James D’Angelo when he says that “if the universe is [a]… finely tuned multitude of vibration frequencies, then using the principle of ‘as above, so below,’ each of us is the same…. The essence of sound healing is the re-tuning of the human instrument, correcting at whatever level those frequencies which have become weakened or gone out of tune.”

So let us say that listening to certain types of music in a meditative way is form of meditation or an alternative to meditation. Sister Alma Rose enjoys meditating to the music of two composers in particular: Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla and Kitarō.

  • Get y’alls self comfortable and relax thoroughly. Sister Alma Rose relaxes her skin, muscles, internal organs, and bones, bit by bit, from the scalp down by imagining that she is lying in the sun and her body is like warm butter. This metaphor may bring to mind the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy throws water on her in the Wizard of Oz movie – “I’m melting, I’m melting.” Please do not think of Sister Alma Rose in those terms. Sister Alma Rose will know, and she will send flying monkeys after y’all.
  • Meditate in silence for a few minutes, focusing on your breathing and relaxing a little more with every “out” breath.
  • Turn on your music – Sister Alma Rose uses headphones – and tune y’all’s body to its vibrations. (See “Make a Habit of It.”)
  • Imagine y’all’s body as a big symphony hall, or, better yet, an outdoor amphitheater, that “contains” the music. Ideally, y’all will have a sense of your body expanding and growing lighter as the music fills it and merges with the “vibration frequencies” of the universe.
  • …Or simply inhale the harmony and beauty, and exhale discord….
Y’all might find that y’all have a tendency to breathe in rhythm with the music. If the music is very fast, y’all could just about hyperventilate, and if it’s too slow, y’all might turn blue. So choose music that isn’t veryveryfast or v-e-r-y s-l-o-w, and breathe naturally.

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