This is Post 33 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. It continues the theme of the previous article, which you can read here. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found by clicking here.
In this article we are once again in the territory of the Northern Quadrant – if we use the traditional directions of the Buddhist mandalas – so we are also addressing what Jung called the perceptual function of Intuition. Intuition is probably the most difficult of the four cognitive-perceptual functions to define, but as a starting point we can say that Intuition is that function of Consciousness by which we perceive dynamics, patterns, processes, and motivations – in the world; in the people in our lives; and in ourselves.
Intuition is the function by which we recognise volitional processes. These include our needs, desires, wishes and wants – and also our fears and the energies of aversion and of ‘not-wanting’ that arise in connection with fear. Volitional, in this context, means pertaining to the Will, and to the energies of desire and motivation – energies that can be unconscious or conscious; egoic or suprapersonal. The highest form of intuition is empathy – our responsive, unflinching, and compassionate recognition of the needs and desires of others, and of ourselves. Empathy and Compassion can therefore be seen as two sides of the same experience. They are closely related and are in many ways interchangeable – indeed they are related in exactly the same way that Intuition and Volition are related.
To rest as Consciousness and to recognise, through Intuition, that an energetic reflection of the compassionate and creative energies of Consciousness are always present in the field of the body, has a profoundly transformative effect on our experience of volition – the fearful Egoic Will begins to undergo a healing process. This blissful self-surrender into effortless and fearless compassionate connection, is a key feature of all the genuine spiritual paths.
But while this will begin to arise naturally as we rest as Consciousness, it requires an expansion of our vision of what it is to be human being. We need to acknowledge the mysterious and benevolent energetic dimensions of the universe, which are always present in our lives – and inherent in the ever-present experience of Consciousness.
Intuition and Volition – Empathy and Compassion
When we learn to rest as Consciousness, and become familiar with the somatic experience of the Volitional Body – the deepest of the four surface bodies, and the one associated with the Heart Chakra – we come to recognise, usually with some surprise that, at core, our motivations are always compassionate and life serving.
As we realise that the life energy of our deepest motivations are always moving us towards the healing; the evolution; and the fulfilment of ourselves and others, we become even more keenly aware that our egoic parts, which we are unconsciously identified with much of the time, have completely opposite motivations – that they are fearful, aversive, manipulative and conflictual, and they always express themselves in the impulse to gain control and personal power. The strange dichotomy, by which an inherently positive Life Energy – the volitional aspect of Consciousness – finds expression in such dark and negative ways, is a deep and mysterious problem for those of us who would practice Compassion. The tension between these seemingly incongruous realities must be held, so that both poles are fully acknowledged – if we are to avoid either the all-too-common extremes naivety or subtle nihilism.
So this reflective engagement with the function of Intuition; with the Volitional component of Consciousness; with Life Energy; with the Volitional Body and the Heart Chakra; and with the nature of the egoic will, is necessary for our understanding – and necessary if our meditation practice is to be deeply transformative. Of the four brahmavihāras, we are now addressing mahakarunā (the ‘great’ karunā , or ‘great’ Compassion), which is that ‘attitude’ of the transpersonal field of Consciousness, whose reflection in the Volitional Body we come to recognise as Empathy and Compassion, as we familiarise ourselves with that reality in meditation.
I shall be talking more about the notion of Life Energy – a notion that I find extremely helpful in connection with the empty samskaras skandha (volitional energies) and with the inherently compassionate and evolutionary aspect of Consciousness. I find it useful and important because it gives us a deeper way of talking about Empathy that is more akin the All-Accomplishing Wisdom of Buddhist tradition – a perspective which recognises that compassionate forces (i.e. Life Energy) are, paradoxically, always present. When we go even deeper in our investigation of the Buddhist mandala with its ten Buddhas (five male and five female) we find the All-Accomplishing Wisdom represented by the male Buddha Amoghasiddhi and the female Buddha Green Tara. Of these two it Green Tara who represents Compassion, and Amoghasiddhi who represents the visionary recognition of, and understanding of, the beneficial Life Energy which finds expression as Compassion.
Compassion is rightly recognised as the very highest of spiritual qualities. This is perhaps because we intuitively understand that it is fundamentally opposed by the fear-based volitional components that are at the core of each of our egoic parts. The recognition of the fear-based volitional impulses of not-wanting, in ourselves and others, and the recognition of the positive life-serving desires that paradoxically exist alongside them, but hidden by them, is the gift of self-empathy and empathy, if we take the practice deep enough – and is the very basis of the cultivation of Compassion.
Feminine and Masculine – Anima and Animus
The process by which our energetic true nature emerges, appears to be a gendered one. Indeed from an energetic point of view, both the journey and the destination are markedly different for women and men. The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) gave us a perspective on these different processes, which is based in the idea of the archetypes of the collective unconscious – the profound reality of our myths and symbols of the masculine and feminine. While evolutionary biology also shapes our gendered experience, no less concretely do the masculine and feminine archetypes. Jung was writing for a society in which men and women were subject to very different social expectations than those we experience in the Western world today, but he was far ahead of his time – and we would do well to take heed of his insights.
I shall be returning to Carl Jung’s understandings of the Animus archetype (the inner masculine in a woman) and Anima archetype (the inner feminine in a man), partly because they appear to be a very natural way to personify the complementary aspects of Consciousness – the aspects that we are less conscious of. Most people are aware of the yin-yang symbol of the ultimate reality in Taoism, but the Tibetan Buddhist imagination takes us even further, and symbolises Consciousness as mandala arrangement of ‘Buddha couples’, all of them in sexual union – images of what Jung would call the Divine Marriage archetype.
Many find this sort of personification and archetypal imagery to be a very accurate reflection of their experience of energetic integration and unity in meditation. It is probably best however, at least at first, to approach these phenomena from a more personal, energetic, and somatic point of view – by recognising the different feminine and masculine ‘styles’ or energetic patterns, in the way we experience the embodiment of Consciousness in the subtle somatic fields of the body. I am hoping that readers will find that this exploration brings clarity to their process of meditative self-enquiry as they learn to rest as Consciousness – especially in sitting meditation.
I ask, as I have done before, if you would please bear with me, as we make this exploration. I would like to emphasise that I am talking here about archetypal feminine and archetypal masculine principles, and about archetypal feminine and archetypal masculine styles of embodiment. I am not intending to make any statements about what constitutes ‘normal’ female or male functioning, and certainly not meaning to apply any value judgements in this regard. On the journey of sexual identity and sexual relationship, we are diverse and unique, and the only possible attitude to that diversity and uniqueness is the inclusivity that Consciousness always calls us back to. Please forgive me if I do not clarify each one of the following reflections with qualifying statements to emphasise this inclusive intention.
Love and Compassion for Women
In a woman, both the Volitional Body and the associated Heart Chakra, generally have a yang or expansive polarity. This means that, to the extent that she learns to rest as Consciousness, and develops an embodied energetic reflection of Consciousness in her surface bodies, she naturally experiences a keen sense of the brahmavihāra of karunā or Compassion – a powerful empathetic responsiveness in the heart; an intuitive recognition of the needs of others; and a natural wish to respond, especially to those in her intimate life.
In a woman, the Emotional Body and the Solar Plexus Chakra are yin, or receptive – and to the extent that she learns to rest as Consciousness, she undergoes an alignment and a healing of the Feeling dimension of her being, in which she comes to know that Consciousness is unconditionally loving, and though impersonal, appears to ‘relate’ to her with an unconditionally accepting warmth and an affirmation of her unconditional value. As she allows herself to receive the energy of the brahmavihāra of mettā, or Loving Kindness, in this way, it becomes energetically embodied in her as a self-valuing, self-assured quality of presence – and she naturally gravitates toward relationships that are an embodiment and an outer reflection of what she has recognised in her experience of Consciousness.
So a woman’s development of mettā, as well as giving her a natural kindness, is energetically magnetic – it draws love towards her and is very attractive. Indeed the subtle combination of her flowing self-assurance as she heals her Emotional Body; the fully conscious recognition of the receptive character of the energies of love as she carries them within her as a woman; and the expansive, sensitive and responsive qualities of her heart as she heals her Volitional Body, together make her a powerful force for good in the world – and extremely attractive to men.
The Relational Wisdom of the Feminine
Luckily, the healing of her Emotional Body as she rests as Consciousness, also gives a woman natural self-valuing boundaries in her relationships with men, and she becomes very discriminating in her choice of sexual partners. As she comes to know the source of love within, she is no longer compulsively drawn to seek it outside herself, but clearly recognises the outward reflections of that love within, when she sees them in the people in her outer life.
A woman’s wise receptive evaluation of male partners is a great social asset. And if she can also apply the same wise receptive evaluation of her own thoughts, she will also have great relationship and communication skills – if not wisdom. We can even say that a woman’s thoughts are like the men in her life. When she learns to discern which ones are trustworthy and truly loving, and which are not, she has found the secret of a happy life. Indeed when she learns to recognise true love as an aspect of herself, it functions within her and goes before her as a guide in life, like an inner Buddha or Christ. Her meditative sense of inner relationship with the loving Divine Masculine, her wise spiritual animus, confirms her in her identification with the Divine Feminine – the benevolent energies of life itself.
The healing of a woman’s Volitional Body through resting as Consciousness supports a wise intuitive nature that recognises a greatly expanded range of needs – especially the deeper needs that serve her personal growth and spiritual development, and the same needs in the people in her life. The healing of the Volitional Body is associated with Compassion – an expansive motivation to respond to and nurture life; to live open-heartedly; to serve the evolutionary principle; and to alleviate suffering. And when this impulse arises from a place of resting as Consciousness, it has grace and naturalness and is completely unforced. It is as if great creative forces – the benevolent energies of Consciousness that have been animating the universe and drawing life forward since the beginning – are flowing through her.
Love and Compassion for Men
In a man, the Volitional Body and the Heart Chakra have a yin, or receptive polarity. Unfortunately this is little known and understood, so that many meditation teachers will urge their male students who a learning the mettābhāvana practice, or ‘Cultivation of Loving Kindness’ meditation, to imagine mettā as a radiation from the heart. This can actually be unhelpful and unsustainable for men – and may even contribute to gender de-polarisation.
The things we say when we talk very generally and poetically about ‘the heart’, are usually making reference to the Emotional Body, and do not apply to the somatic reality of the Heart Chakra and the Volitional Body in men. At higher levels of practice it is essential therefore, that we learn to distinguish between the evaluative (samjñā skandha), or Feeling dimension of love, which is most keenly felt in the Solar Plexus Chakra, and which in Indian tradition is called mettā; from the heart-centred, volitional (samskaras skandha) dimension of love, which we usually call Compassion – or karunā in Indian tradition.
Mettā is a Men’s Practice
Since this incorrect instruction to radiate mettā from the heart actually reverses the natural energetic polarity of a man’s Heart Chakra and Volitional Body, it may even cause a man to de-polarise – so that he adopts a feminine style of energetic presence. It may also cause him to give up the practice of mettā because it does not feel natural to him. This would be a tragic outcome, because the recognition of mettā through self-enquiry, and the correct cultivation of it in meditation, is so very natural for men. Indeed, mettā is so powerfully transformative of the psychological problems that men are prone to (depression, low self-worth, sex addiction, for example), that it should perhaps be thought of as a men’s practice.
It is easier for a man to recognise mettā in his experience, if he understands it as a distinctively masculine energy of unconditional valuing, and a normal part of male psychology – an energy that is naturally present in his yang, or expansive Emotional Body, and which is most keenly felt in his Solar Plexus Chakra. When I say that mettā is a men’s practice, I am of course, being deliberately provocative – in order to break, perhaps, the stereotypical and tragically incorrect thinking that tells us that love is not the domain of the male gender.
Because the Emotional Body and the Solar Plexus Chakra are generally yang, or expansive, in men, mettā is, for them, a natural strength and a gift. There is a very real sense in which men are the natural ‘givers’ of mettā, and women are the natural ‘receivers’ of it. If we want to think about love being radiated into the world in meditation, it is best to think of men radiating love as the unconditionally valuing attitude of mettā, from the Emotional Body and the Solar Plexus Chakra; and to think of women radiating love as karunā, or Compassion – an energetic sensitivity to the needs of self and other, and an outpouring responsiveness from the Volitional Body felt most keenly in the Heart Chakra – back and front.
Once again, I am deliberately being a little provocative with this idea that men, in their archetypal masculine nature, are the natural givers of love (and that women are the natural receivers). I need to qualify this reflection be referring the reader back to things that I have said previously in regard to the cultivation of mettā – things that are especially relevant to men in this context. I am referring to my previous emphasis that the cultivation of mettā is best understood in the context of resting receptively as Consciousness, and best thought of firstly as a process of receiving mettā, and being nourished and soothed by a receptivity to mettā. When our meditation is well established in this devotional-receptive attitude, introverted processes of healing and Integration will take place, which then allow us to love others in our outer lives, in spontaneous and uncontrived way.
I have also spoken previously (here) about how Buddhist tradition came to personify this receptivity to mettā in the archetypal female Buddha Pandaravārsini – who is the female counterpart of the red Amitabha, and rests in his love. I believe that a man’s recognition of Pandaravārsini as an image of his inner feminine receptivity to mahamaitri, the ‘Great’ Loving Kindness, can be one of the important keys to his Integration – and a foundational factor in the development of his capacity to love.
A Man’s Mystical Heart
The fact that a man’s Volitional Body and Heart Chakra are yin, or receptive, certainly does not make the man’s heart any less important in his emotional life. On the contrary, a man’s heart is spacious and deep, and is a source of volitional energy that is capable of sustaining him long after his physical strength and muscular heroic wilfulness have started to fail him. When a man learns to rest as Consciousness, and becomes familiar with the receptive nature of his Volitional Body and Heart Chakra, he may feel that he has plugged into a mysterious and humbling source of transpersonal power that he had previously been entirely unaware of.
When a man commits himself to the journey of learning to rest as Consciousness, and begins to gain familiarity with the Volitional Body and the Heart Chakra, he finds himself in a deeply paradoxical and mystical territory, because he finds, to his surprise, that the universe is fundamentally benevolent – at least on the inside. If he is of a temperament that naturally personifies the process he is going through, he may come to recognise the sense in which Consciousness stands behind him, ever present, like a supportive woman, and Consciousness goes before him like a fearless and reassuring male mentor. We see this in the imagery of Tibetan Buddhist tradition, where the ‘Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo’ puts it this way:
When, through envy, I wander in samsara,
on the luminous light-path of All-Accomplishing Wisdom,
may Blessed Amoghasiddhi go before me,
and Samaya-Tara behind me;
help me to cross the bardo’s dangerous pathway
and bring me to the perfect buddha state.
(Read more Bardo Thodol verses here)
Recognising the energies of the Divine Marriage with himself, and resting as Consciousness in a benevolent universe, a man comes to experience the energies of desire within him, but has no fear of them, knowing that there is no absolute lack – only creative potentiality. Recognising the compassionate nature of Consciousness, and recognising that the purpose of desire is to bring fulfilment, he finds a new trust in the processes of life – and in releasing control, he finds himself in a vortex of creative opportunities and of synchronistic and serendipitous events, that appear to be conspiring to support his evolution, and urging him to give his gift. He finds himself willingly in service to the energies of healing, evolution and compassion, which are always there behind him and always there within him – perhaps like an enchanting woman, the archetype of the Divine Feminine, his inner anima and spiritual guide.
These articles are best read in sequence. To go to the next article in the series just click the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of the page. For an overview of the whole sequence of articles, with short summaries of each one, click here.