FOLLOWING THE UPWARD SHIFT

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 I woke up this morning with a chant going through me again. It’s been like that for several days now. I feel like I’m riding on a wave of grace. I’m being carried by grace. 

 I don’t plan to get off this train of awareness at the next stop, or the one after that.  I think I’ll just go on as if I’m riding on a magic carpet.  

 There is a sense of ease and of limitlessness.  It’s not that I’ll levitate any time soon but you never know.  Perhaps like Sister Teresa, I’m on the edge of taking off. 

 I love the account given by the sister who testified: “Our holy Mother (Teresa) entered and knelt down ... As I was looking on, she was raised about half a yard from the ground without her feet touching it.  At this I was terrified and she, for her part, was trembling all over.  So I moved to where she was and I put my hands under her feet, over which I remained weeping for something like half an hour while the ecstasy lasted.”  

Well, unlike Teresa, I may be able to stay grounded but there is certainly a strong sense of energy rising.  It’s an upward shift of energy. 

 The great Yogis recommend that we notice these energy surges and follow them. As Dorothy and her companions were told to ‘follow the yellow brick road,’ the yogis say to ‘follow the upward shift.’    

 A morning prayer reads:  “From the night season my soul awakes early.”  Yes indeed!  I keep waking up early with a sense of upward flowing energy as the chant keeps repeating itself through me.   

 A friend of mine is a composer. Her newly created chant was recorded last weekend and it was my great joy to be a part of the recording session.  Before long a CD will be available. But I don’t have to wait for it. The chant is already embedded inside of me. It keeps playing over and over again as my spirit soars in response.

 Thus there is a sense of upward flowing energy.   My ever deepening conviction is that the most important thing I can do is to live my life in relation to this expansive energy.   

 I have felt this before.  Another occasion was an afternoon when, after having chanted every afternoon for two weeks an ancient East Indian chant called the Guru Gita, I got up to do something that dramatically changed my life.  

 I had come to the end of owning a Yoga studio in Calgary called the Calgary Yoga Academy.   I simply could no longer drum up the enthusiasm for it and had the clear sense that something else was longing to emerge.  The best resource I knew for how to take care of such a state was to chant the Guru Gita.  

 I have never come up empty after chanting the Guru Gita.  Something good always seems to come of it.  On that momentous afternoon, I got up from the chant with that sense of upward flowing energy and googled the words:  “B.C. teaching jobs.”  (British Columbia teaching jobs)  I learned quickly that there was a website called by that very name.  

 This was amazing to me because I was not at the time a ‘googler.’  I had always told my family that I was never going to use a computer.  Now enlightened, I tell people:  ‘Google and you will know.’  Google and you will know.’   

 The result of opening the website was to find immediately that the West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, a school I’d never heard of, was looking for an English Department Head.  I thought:  “They’re looking for Wendy.” (my wife)  The revelation was quite stunning.   

 Wendy had been teaching high school English, Philosophy and Comparative Religion for fifteen years at  West Island College in Calgary.  She was not looking for change.  At least not consciously! 

 When she came home from teaching two hours later I presented her with the WPGA job description. She said nothing but I’ll never forget the look of steely resolve on her face! She immediately applied.  

 Several weeks later, we were in Vancouver for, I believe it was her third and final interview. We were staying somewhere where she was in one room and I in another. 

 But in the wee hours of the morning, I had the feeling that I should check on my wife.  So at two or three in the morning I walked gently over to where I presumed she was sleeping to find that she was just sitting there.  And I felt somehow that I shouldn’t say anything.  

 I stood there for a moment. She then turned towards to me and uttered these words: “I didn’t think it was possible to be this happy.” 

 Well, Wendy, too, in a state of awe and wonder, was participating in that upward surging energy.   There was a shared clear sense of somehow being united with and participating in a mysterious force greater than ourselves.

 This sense of an upward surging energy appears to involve a kind of felt shift from a sense of separateness to participating in a vitalizing and energizing sense of union. And there’s actually a word for it in Yoga. It’s called 'unmesha.'

 A Yoga scripture reads: “Taking firm hold of That, the pulsating Shakti, the awakened yogi remains firm with the resolution, “I will surely carry out whatever it will tell me.” (Swami Shankarananda, Consciousness is Everything, The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism, p. 183)  

 It is said that if you live your life by following the upward shift that, you are living in the ‘unmesha condition.’   

 This sense of living in the ‘unmesha condition’ was Rabindranath Tagore’s experience.  Tagore was the first East Indian to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1913.  In lectures delivered at Oxford in 1930 he testified:  “I still remember the day in my childhood when I was made to struggle across my lessons in a first primer, strewn with isolated words smothered under the burden of spelling.”  (The Religion of Man, Rabindranath Tagore, p. 74)

Tagore had been a very unhappy school boy. Until one particular day: “The morning hour appeared to me like a once-illumined page, grown dusty and faded, discoloured into irrelevant marks, smudges and gaps, wearisome in its moth-eaten meaninglessness.”  

 Well, Tagore hated school but that morning he was in for a great surprise!  “Suddenly I came to a rhymed sentence of combined words:  “It rains, the leaves tremble.”

 It appears that these few words, “it rains, the leaves tremble,” were enough to shift Tagore from a sense of separateness and meaninglessness into a hitherto unperceived great harmony. 

 Tagore, in a state of exultation exclaimed: “At once I came to a world wherein I recovered my full meaning. My mind touched the creative realm of expression, and at that moment I was no longer a mere student with his mind muffled by spelling lessons, enclosed by a classroom.”  

“The rhythmic picture of the tremulous leaves beaten by the rain opened before my mind the world which does not merely carry information, but a harmony with my being.”

 “The unmeaning fragments lost their individual isolation and my mind revelled in the unity of the vision.”  

 Tagore felt his spirit soaring into a deep sense of Unity. “I felt sure that some being who comprehended me and my world was seeking his best expression in all my experiences, uniting them as a spiritual work of art.”   

 And that’s it exactly.  There is the sense at certain moments of inspiration when I am no longer existing as one object among other objects, stuck with a sense of separateness. 

 There are these moments of unity when we feel that we’re “being thought rather than thinking”, as  George MacDonald once put it.  These are moments when we feel that we are instruments or vehicles of a creating Divinity.  In such states of illumination we are in union with God’s creative energies and find that we might create poems, works of art, or a gorgeous chant.  

 Chanting at the recording session last weekend was one of the greatest experiences of my life. 

 I laughed while reading Gurumayi recently when she said that many people think of chanting as “old-fashioned, obsolete and irrelevant in the modern world.  It’s something toothless old folks do.  It doesn’t look good in the neighbourhood.  It doesn’t fit in with modern civilization.” (The Yoga of Discipline, Swami Chidvilasananda ‘Gurumayi’ p. 34) 

 Well, last weekend I didn’t notice any primitive, problem ridden, toothless people in the recording studio.  I did notice people who love God with all their hearts chanting with great devotion in a Shakti-saturated atmosphere.  These are great lovers of God who “follow the upward shift.” 

* Dedicated to Anne Leader, an extraordinary composer and a much loved new friend.