This is Post 32 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series.
In this ‘Meditation Guidance’ series, I have frequently drawn on the wisdom that Carl Jung articulated in his mandala-form psychological model of the ‘Four Functions of Consciousness’, and on the corresponding mandala of the brahmavihāras – the ancient Indian ‘attitudes’ of Consciousness that were adopted so enthusiastically by the Buddha. Also, drawing on the Tibetan Buddhist form of the mandala, I have, in recent months been looking in detail at the polarities within each of the first three Quadrants of the mandala: first the opposition of the egoic Thinking function and Equanimity in the East; then the opposition of the egoic Sensation function and Appreciative Joy in the South; and most recently the opposition of the egoic Feeling function and Loving Kindness in the West.
In each of these polarities I have been highlighting the apparent spiritual choices that are always presented to us in life, between the ‘attitudes of Consciousness’ that we experience when we rest naturally as Consciousness, and the egoic expressions of the same archetypal principles, that we experience when we fall into identification with psychological parts. And by exploring the imagery of the Buddha’s Six Realms, we have seen that the extreme of egoic Thinking is expressed in the archetypal psychology of the Hell Realms, or Narakas (here); that the extreme of egoic Sensation is expressed in the archetypal psychology of the Human Realm (here); and that the extreme of egoic Feeling is expressed in the archetypal psychology of the Preta Realms (here).
The Northern Quadrant – Compassion versus the Egoic Will
I would like now to move on clockwise round this mandala, to the Northern Quadrant, where we shall be looking at the egoic function of Intuition / Volition and the corresponding Volitional aspect Consciousness, which expresses itself in the brahmavihāra of Compassion.
In the next few articles I will be addressing the core of the egoic will, that deep volitional aspect of the egoic mind, which the Buddha personified, in an extreme but very illuminating way, in the archetypal imagery of the Asura Realm – a realm of demonic, power-seeking anti-gods, or ‘Jealous Gods’. It is extremely valuable to have a familiarity with, and an acceptance of, these fear-based drives for control, so that we can learn to let them go, and thus reveal the universally present and universally benevolent spiritual energies that are hidden by them.
The Four Surface Bodies – Four Energetic Layers in our Experience of Presence
The mindset of scientific materialism has taught us to be sceptical – to be suspicious of spiritual dogmas, and of things that cannot be concretely known and measured. It has done this to point where it has itself become a dogma and a superstition. Thankfully, the new science of Quantum Mechanics has now, it seems, brought the realm of ‘spirit’, and of metaphysics, and of ‘subtle energies’ into the domain of biology and psychology. Indeed it is now clear that there is very little in our everyday experience as human beings that can be adequately explained without the expanded perspective that the new science of Quantum Physics brings.
For anyone engaged with meditation practice, or any form of psychotherapeutic innerwork, it is enormously helpful to explore the bodily-felt experience of the somatic energies of the internal fields of the body. Especially relevant to our mandala framework for self-enquiry, are the four surface bodies – the first four subtle bodies, which correspond to the Quadrants of the mandala, and whose presence is keenly felt in the four lower chakras.
The Volitional Body – Egoic Control versus Compassionate Self-Surrender
An important part of the exploration in the next few articles will be in regard to the importance of recognising the Volitional Body in meditation. Of the four surface bodies, this is the deepest and most fundamental – but least understood. We can think of it as the energy body in which we carry our fear of lack; the energy of not-wanting; and the fear-based egoic motivations by which want to control, dominate, and manipulate our world.
As we learn to rest as Consciousness however, the underlying energy of this subtle body, is revealed to be quite the opposite – an evolutionary and healing energy; our innately Compassionate nature; and our intuitive awareness of the benevolent life energy of the desire for true fulfilment, in ourselves and and others. Those who are deeply familiar with Consciousness gain a deep trust in life, and learn to surrender to the creative and compassionate energies that are flowing through all of us at all times.
21st Century Spirituality – the Reality of Consciousness and Energy
Those who teach meditation from a rationalist or scientific materialist perspective that denies the objective reality of Consciousness and energetic resonances of Consciousness in the field of the body, do their students a great dis-service, in my view – and are in effect denying centuries of experience of the great meditation traditions. Unfortunately those who do acknowledge the subtle bodies, also frequently mislead their students – by the superficiality and inaccuracy of their explanations. The time is ripe for humanity in general, and for meditation practitioners in particular, to respond to the challenge of Quantum Mechanics, and to recognise that Consciousness is no less real than matter – and in fact is more fundamental.
Since returning to meditation practice in 2016, I have consistently experienced powerfully healing states of samadhi, or somatic integration – every time I sit to meditate. I attribute this to several factors. In part this was due to my new understanding at that time, of the Quantum Biology of the brain. It was also due to the fact that I started to consistently apply the traditional Tibetan Buddhist ‘subtle body’ teachings in the context of a non-dual and mandala-wisdom-based approach to meditation and self-enquiry – but with additional information that is not widely known, which I shall be explaining below.
This consistent stability in my mediation practice, has given me the conviction to strongly encourage other meditators to study this information and to explore these energetic phenomena in their own practice. Those who would like to read my previous articles of this subject can read them here, here, here, here , and here.
Sexual Polarity – within Consciousness and within our experience of Presence
These understandings about the subtle bodies are of enormous value for people who wish to understand the nature of the feminine and the masculine, and the play of these different ways of being in our relationships, in our creative lives, and in the subtle dimensions of experience that we refer to with the words ‘Energy’ and ‘Presence’ – the words we use (in English) to describe the bodily-felt and intuitively perceived experience of energetic embodiment. This is a huge subject, and one that I have touched on before (here, and here) – and I will need to return to this theme many more times in this series of articles.
There are essentially two dimensions that it will be very useful for us to explore. Eventually I would like to address the larger background phenomena of the way that the non-dual Consciousness is often experienced as itself containing a feminine-masculine polarity, as we see in Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, and various other traditions. But first we need to understand, from an energetic point of view, why women and men are so different in their emotional lives, and why the meditative experience of the energetic fields of the body is subtly but significantly different for women and men.
The Differently-Alternating Polarity of the Chakras
I have previously introduced the strikingly obvious, but rarely acknowledged phenomena of the way the polarities of the subtle bodies, and their corresponding chakras, alternate – and alternate in the opposite way in women and men.
In those previous articles we were focusing on the first two, or bottom two, chakras, and it was acknowledged that in women, the Physical Body (and the Base Chakra) is yin, or receptive, and the Mental Body (and the Hara, or Second Chakra) is yang, or expansive; and conversely in men, the Physical Body (and the Base Chakra) is yang, or expansive, and the Mental Body (and the Hara, or Second Chakra) is yin, or receptive.
We need now to look at the same differently-alternating-polarity phenomena in regard to the Emotional Body (and the Solar Plexus, or manipura chakra, which I described previously – here), and the Volitional Body (and the Heart Chakra). Of the four surface bodies these are the deepest two, and an understanding of their different polarities and modes of functioning in women and men is extremely helpful for meditation.
Essentially, it needs to be understood that in women, the Emotional Body (and the Solar Plexus Chakra) is yin or receptive, and the Volitional Body (and the Heart Chakra) is yang, or expansive; and conversely in men the Emotional Body (and the Solar Plexus Chakra) is yang, or expansive, and the Volitional Body (and the Heart Chakra) is yin, or receptive.
The implications of this energetic difference are enormous. I shall be introducing this theme in this article, and then going into more detail in the next.
The Yin and Yang of Energetic Presence
Understanding these different polarities leads to profound insights into the nature of the masculine-feminine erotic bond – in both heterosexual and gay relationships. But perhaps even more importantly, it shows us important differences in the way the brahmavihāras are embodied in women and men, as we learn to rest as Consciousness.
I have, in some of my earlier posts, shied away from the apparent dualism of distinguishing Consciousness as the boundless field in which everything rests, on one side, from the experience of embodied Consciousness, or Presence, on the other. This is a necessary distinction to make however, because Consciousness is ever present and does not ever have to be cultivated, whereas Presence is a resonance, or reflection, of Consciousness in the field of the body, and certainly can be cultivated, through the practice of resting as Consciousness in meditation, or in the midst of activities.
Waking Up, Cleaning Up, and Growing Up
Because the reflection of Consciousness in the fields of the body is obscured by egoic patterning, Presence appears to develop over time as we make the choice to rest as Consciousness whenever we remember to do so. This apparent ‘development’ is more accurately understood as a process of revealing what has always been present, but was previously obscured. The ‘waking up’ process of recognising Consciousness, needs to be followed up and integrated, by engagement in processes of ‘cleaning up’, and ‘growing up’ (to use the terminology of Ken Wilber) – processes by which we heal the accumulation of egoic patterning in our surface bodies, and start to move towards a state of psychological and ethical integrity that reflects our essential nature as Consciousness.
One of the distinctive features of the experience of ‘resting as Consciousness’ is the keen sense, or recognition, that Consciousness itself is utterly still and and unchanging. Paradoxically however, as we rest in that place in which we recognise that, in our primordial true nature, there is nothing that needs changing – and that nothing ever does change – something in the surface of us does indeed change. In fact a very profound transformation begins to happen – seemly without effort.
What changes, and what gradually emerges and progressively deepens, is our experience of Presence – and this is our experience in meditation if we approach it as resting as Consciousness. As we rest as Consciousness, our identification with the egoic energies is progressively broken. Our disidentification from the egoic energies, which normally fill our surface bodies, allows them to self-release – in a ongoing process that gets easier and easier.
Love and Compassion – Value and Volition
It is natural that Love and Compassion should be used synonymously, but it is helpful to distinguish them, as ancient Indian tradition does so well, when it distinguishes mettā (Loving Kindness) from karunā (Compassion).
Essentially mettā is the attitude of unconditionally valuing our experience; the ability to be unconditionally present; and to love what is. As I have endeavoured to explain in previous posts, mettā brings with it an ability to discern, through the function of Feeling, that which is good, beautiful, and truly of value. Mettā is the basis of our capacity to love, our capacity to be warmly and unconditionally present with others – connecting deeply with people, and holding them naturally and instinctively in our valuing attention.
Karunā, or Compassion, on the other hand, is about volition, motivation, and a desire for the good, and is that generous, open and energised state in which the personal will finds itself attenuated and called willingly and powerfully into the service of the needs of others – especially for the alleviation of suffering. Karunā is about empathy – an intuitive recognition of the needs of others – in such a way that the needs of others and the needs of ourselves arise together in the heart in perfect balance.
In my next post I shall be exploring this distinction more deeply. I shall also be making important distinctions between love and compassion as they manifest in women, on one hand; and love and compassion as they manifest in men on the other. These are distinctions that are universally recognised, but whose implications are insufficiently acknowledged. These distinctions are of great interest, or course, to anyone who is interested in the mysterious energetic nature of the erotic bond between lovers – but they are also essential in my view, for those of us who love to rest as Consciousness, and cultivate Presence.