What is Meditation?

CCRAlogosmallThere are many conflicting ideas about what meditation is.

Western culture has adopted meditation as another form of self-improvement. The cultural assumption is that meditation is about stilling the mind or entering altered states of consciousness. There is a common belief that the goal of meditation is to get rid of thoughts, kill the ego, or enter an otherworldly blissful trance.

Such ideas are erroneous and misleading. They expose a worldview based in the cosmology of insufficiency. There is a fundamental assumption—primarily informed by the Judeo-Christian notion of original sin and subsequent need for salvation—that something is innately wrong with us. Theism postulates God and his ordained instruments as the answer to the supposed problem. But what if no such problem exists to begin with?

Popular understanding of meditation often removes the orthodox notion of God and religion from the equation, but fails to investigate the insidious assumption that one is in need of saving. In the core teachings of spiritual traditions where meditation is foremost, no such idea arises. In fact, Buddhism, Daoism, and Vedanta postulate the exact opposite: that everything is just fine.

All things are faultless from the beginning.

The central teaching proposes that it is through mental projection and error of perception that we find flaw with the world and ourselves. Ignorance is the root cause of suffering. A verse from the Pali Canon reads, “The heart’s nature is intrinsically radiant, defilements are only visitors.”

Meditation, then, is not a tool for fixing what is wrong or attaining what is absent. It is a way of directly realizing the truth, of savoring reality as-it-is. Meditation is not something esoteric. It is not an Asian aesthetic hinting at transcendence. It has very little to do with stone Buddha statues and lotus flowers.

Plain and simple: meditation is an immediate relationship with what is right in front of you. Uncolored by culture, religion, or politics, true meditation exists only in the context of your direct experience.

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What is Meditation?

Good Digestion is the Foundation of Radiant Health

CCRAlogosmallEvery cell in the body relies on the digestive system for its supply of essential minerals, nutrients and energy. These are derived mostly from the food we eat and the air we breathe. The cells of every tissue in the body also rely heavily on the digestive system for the management of cellular waste. When the body digests, assimilates and eliminates efficiently, your health flourishes. You have more energy, sharper brain function, better sleep and a renewed sense of youthfulness. Good digestion is the cornerstone of long-term health and vitality.

Digestion is a three-part process: digestion, assimilation, and elimination. Digestion is the breaking down of ingested foods into smaller and smaller particles that the body can use. This starts in the mouth (with proper chewing), and then moves to the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Absorption is the process of distributing digested food to the cells through the blood. Elimination starts at the cell site as individual cells evacuate the byproducts of cellular function. Cellular waste enters the blood stream — passes through the liver, lungs, and kidneys — and is eliminated from the body through urine, feces and sweat.

ANatomy of human digestive systemThese three components — digestion, absorption and elimination — form a interdependent loop. If there is malfunction at one level, the whole system is adversely affected. For example, if elimination of waste is compromised due to constipation, then assimilation of vital nutrients will diminish as well. This causes a back up of waste at the cell site, which reduces the volume of nutrients that the cell can absorb. Constipation doesn’t just affect the colon, it affects the whole body. Cells easily become clogged with toxic waste and therefore malnourished. This can happen to brain cells, thyroid cells, nerve cells, and muscle cells. Systemic balance at every level of human physiology is dependent on good digestion.

This is one reason we talk about the Vital Center as the hub of all Nine Spheres of life. Wherever you go, there your belly is. And when all is well in your Vital Center, it shows in every aspect of your life.

Simply put, to digest is to thrive.

Unfortunately, digestive-related health ailments, such as acid reflux, gas and bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease are extremely common. In addition, there are many frequent illnesses related to malfunction of the digestive system: arthritis, hypertension, low back pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, chronic yeast infections, and sexual dysfunction.

A large portion of the Radiant Awakening self-care and self-healing practices specifically benefit digestion and elimination. Here are a few examples of essential daily self-care for the improved digestive health:

  •  Drink 20 oz (620ml) of plain warm water upon waking.
  •  Practice at least 20 minutes of gentle movement before breakfast.
  •  Practice at least 5 – 10 minutes of abdominal self-massage daily.
  •  Eat a whole food plant-based diet.
  •  Reduce your intake of wheat, dairy and meat.
  •  Stop eating all highly processed foods, especially sugar and flour!
  •  Eat only until you are 80% full.
  •  Finish your last meal 3 hours before bed (don’t snack in the evening).

Most people see results fairly quickly after starting a self-care practice. However, consistency and patience are key. It takes about 100 days to fully transform the way that your digestive system functions. After you complete 100 days of healing, keep going with the program. Practice the exercise 3 – 4 times per week. Self-care is a life-long habit. Think long-term. By supporting optimal digestion, you are securing a foundation of health and vitality for years to come.

My Digestive Power DVD teaches you easy-to-learn postures, movements, and breathing exercises that will improve your digestion radically, along with 15 must-know secrets for superior digestive health. If you suffer from constipation, acid reflux, gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, or any other common digestive challenge, this program is for you.

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Good Digestion is the Foundation of Radiant Health

The Great Disillusionment

CCRAlogosmallAll methods of spiritual practice eventually lead to the same place: complete failure of the ego-driven search, disappointment with your ability to produce satisfactory results (fruition). This is because what you are seeking cannot be produced. Fulfillment is not the effect of a prior cause. It is not currently missing and later found. It is not originally flawed, then fixed by personal effort. It is not a product of the busy-work of self-improvement. Nor can it be given to you by a teacher, deity or god. Your true original nature is always totally pristine. It is perfect all the time. The constancy of this natural perfection is what is actually going on. This is the only thing that is ultimately true about you. All other so-called truths are relative, dependent and temporary.

Like a fish in water, you are always home. Like a star in the sky, you are always shining. Like the unending expanse of open space, you are always free. Your innate enlightenment is flawless and incorruptible. Even now.

What are you seeking, then? What is it you hope to find through spiritual practice?

To act as if you are not originally whole is a blasphemy. Seeking and grasping are blatant acts of disrespect toward primordial truth, nature, and your own self. The ego-driven spiritual search is a child’s tantrum.

Mature spiritual life begins after you experience the total failure of your anxious efforts to attain peace, fulfillment, enlightenment. The very intent behind this effort denies what is always the case. Only once you pass through the genuine experience of this total failure can you begin to undergo the process of authentic self-cultivation in all Nine Spheres. If you are still seeking a cure for your discomfort — a source of adequate intoxication and distraction — you will only feel frustrated by the teachings I present here. For at the very core of everything I teach is an undermining of this game of seeking and self-delusion, and a dismantling of the Cosmology of Insufficiency (that you unconsciously allow to dictate your life).

Each of us come to spiritual practice with the same desperation and unreasonable expectations we bring to everything else (relationship, sex, work, child rearing, etc). We want a situation that will make us happy, once and for all. We want things to go our way, all the time. Disenchanted with the “material world”, we hope that through the spiritual search we will finally be successful; that yoga, meditation, mindfulness, mantra, or the guru’s magic hug will take away our pain and transport us into heavenly bliss. It never happens. No one has ever succeeded in securing fulfillment this way. The plan is faulty from the onset. The secret agenda behind spiritual seeking is ill-founded. It denies the very truth that is already fully operative. It contradicts what you truly are in your deepest essence.

The game of seeking is nothing but a glorified act of denial.

Let me be totally transparent here: the purpose of these teachings is to end your game, to show you how to cut the knot of suffering, for good.

That is why you will not find temporary satisfaction in what I offer. You will not even find lasting symptomatic relief. You will not find intoxication, lofty ideals, or uplifting affirmations to sedate your gut-level pain.

None of this is what the Radiant Awakening is about.

More than anything in the world, I want you to be free of the inner affliction that torments you. I want you to be radiant and vital in all Nine Spheres of your life. But temporary relief is like giving drugs to an addict to ease the pain of their craving. Each hit is but a moment’s diversion from the root cause. I will not feed your Cycle of Affliction with dishonest promises about spiritual transcendence. I will not participate in your endless seeking. This game of grasping is a great act of disrespect toward yourself. It denies the truth of your intrinsic wholeness and contradicts universal law. I will not be a part of it.

Working with these teachings will provoke you. It will likely ruffle your feathers (and probably piss you off). It will feel confronting. It will undermine all that you have worked to create; the many faces of your facade. It will strip you of your capacity to lie to yourself (and everyone else) about who you truly are. It will flush you out from your hiding place. It will render you utterly naked, and bring you into unguarded relationship with life. It will free you from what you never were; a contracted separate self, riddled with problems, desperately grasping for happiness.

Please do not misunderstand my directness for judgement. I totally accept you as you are. I love you as you are. I am simply making an invitation here. This invitation has no expiration date. But if you prefer to stay curled up in the familiar blanket of your egoic dream, I will not think less of you for that (just don’t come sniffing around hoping to get your spiritual ego stroked).

If you’re genuinely interested, the door is always open. The lamp is always lit.

And if the yearning for freedom is starting to supersede your attachment to the comfort of familiar pain, then you are on the brink of something revolutionary. Change is in the air. With commitment,  guidance, and some sincere practice, you will soon ignite the Cycle of Awakening.

If you are willing to stop resisting life and meet me in unguarded intimacy, I guarantee that your radiant awakening is imminent. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

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The Great Disillusionment

Heal Neck & Shoulder Pain

CCRAlogosmall A large portion of the population lives with a nagging feeling of chronic discomfort in the neck, shoulders and jaw (ask any massage therapist, chiropractor or acupuncturist). Many people are in such pain that their normal everyday function is significantly compromised. Reliance on pain medicine, whether prescription or over the counter, is more common than any health practitioner would like to admit. Pain in the neck and shoulders is pandemic.

The main causes of chronic neck and shoulder pain are improper alignment of the joints, poor body mechanics during repetitive motion (typing, driving, texting, working), unnatural breathing, and accumulated stress. These three forces combineShoulder Pain to form a powerful vector, a perfect storm. Together they cause immense strain on the delicate joints and connective tissue of the upper carriage, which reduces circulation of blood (oxygen / nutrients) to the brain and important endocrine glands — such as the thyroid, pituitary, and pineal — not to mention the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Unhappy tissues convey their dissatisfaction the only way they know how. Pain!

Pain in the neck and shoulders is not simply a musculoskeletal phenomenon, or a simple case of nagging inconvenience. The negative effects of chronic pain in the neck and shoulders have broader reaching implications.

Over time, chronic pain changes the anatomy and physiology which places the body into a mode of systemic inflammation. This affects mood, sleep, work performance, and vital organ function. The cascade of interrelated symptoms has implications in all Nine Spheres. Needless to say, for overall well-being, it is imperative to break the pain-cycle and allow the body to heal.

In many cases, the application of a self-healing protocol of gentle stretching, mindful movement, and awareness training (of posture and body mechanics) addresses root causes and helps the body to restore balance.  Mobility exercises restore pain-free range of motion. Fluidity exercises improve the functional strength of the neck and shoulders. Awareness training teaches you how to recognize harmful patterns of posture and movement that aggravate the neck and shoulders, and how to self-correct these on the fly.

Here’s what a typical self-healing routine looks like:

Practice short 20-minute sessions once a day, 4 – 6 days per week. Most people see results fairly quickly after starting a self-care practice. However, consistency and patience are key. It takes about 100 days to fully transform the way your neck and shoulders function and completely route out old patterns of chronic pain and tension. After you complete 100 days of healing, keep going with the exercises 3 – 4 times per week. This is the maintenance dose.

Throughout your day, always do your best to maintain correct alignment, proper body mechanics, and natural breathing in everything you do. This type of body-based awareness is a powerful practice of mindfulness in and of itself, and will continue deepen and yield additional benefits the more you practice.

My DVD on healing neck and shoulder pain teaches you how to heal your own neck and shoulder pain naturally, using gentle restorative exercises, breathing techniques, self-massage, and important adjustments to your everyday posture and body mechanics that will reduce repetitive stress and relieve chronic tension.

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Heal Neck & Shoulder Pain

There is No Spiritual Path

CCRAlogosmallThe spiritual path is not a spiritual path. It is an integrated process of illuminating all Nine Spheres of life, of which the spiritual dimension is one. We use the term “spiritual practice”, but this is misleading. It feeds the fantasy that emphasizing the more subtle aspects of your experience will somehow magically help you transcend the discomfort of your personal situation. Yet no matter how deep you go into the subtle realm of spirit-energy, you always find yourself pulled back into the mundane affairs of ordinary life. There are always dishes. The rent is due. Relationships push your buttons. Your mother is calling.

As it turns out, the path is all-inclusive.

You can convince yourself that mundane life no longer affects you, that you have mastered detachment, but this gives rise to a spiritually caused pathology: disassociation. You see, the erroneous notion of a spiritual path validates the habit of self-abandon. It has you chasing mirages: gurus, bliss, secret teachings, strange postures, esoteric states, special abilities.

Yoga, meditation, chanting, satsang; these can easily serve as forms of distraction. Spiritual escapism. The practices themselves are not at fault. The traditions are time-tested and the potential for profound transformation is there. It is the lack of contextualization, view, and self-honesty that cause seekers to be mislead by spiritualism.

Authentic awakening is about immediacy with every aspect of life, not only the spiritual. It is about total and undiminished intimacy with everything that arises in the Nine Spheres. Awakening does not transform you into something beyond ordinary. It does not get rid of your worldly problems. It does not fix what you unconsciously assume is broken (your imperfect self). Quite the contrary!

Awakening reveals what is universally true.

Once the fundamental predicament of self-obsession is fully understood, a new type of practice occurs. We call this the birth of the radiant self. Yet no birth at all has taken place. The game of upholding a fictitious self-projection simply ends. When you stop this game, reality becomes self-evident. The un-fabricated truth of what you actually are shines forth spontaneously. You are able to meet life with openness and immediacy on every level.

The whole enterprise of spiritual practice hinges on self-honesty. Without self-honesty — full acknowledgement of your direct experience — nothing of value can be gained from spiritual practice. Without self-honesty, the study and practice of spiritual teachings will serve mostly to adorn your collection of mental distractions and egoic identifications. These function as toys you use to distract yourself from the naked experience of your own situation.

The reason it is so important to fully embrace your unmodified direct experience is that, although it is painful, it is real. Deep inside, you are suffering. This is a fact you are usually reluctant to admit. You cover this up with all sorts of spiritual rhetoric and idealized behavior, things you have read and heard. You begin to spiritualize suffering, confusion, and fear of intimacy. It’s an act of self-protection. You’re hiding. You know it, and so do I.

Why do you play this game?

You can deceive yourself and others, but this does not change the fact: there is something uncomfortable about being you. Most of the time you are running from this discomfort. And you are not the only one. Self-deception is the main obstacle for all seekers. I’ve been there, too.

The good news is: your fully acknowledged suffering is the very foundation of genuine awakening. The clincher is that you have become more interested in waking up than you are in remaining safe and comfortable in your dream.

In other words, the prerequisite for awakening is to cease avoiding the predicament self-contraction. If you understand this, you have received the core teaching. This is what is meant by the axiom, “start where you are.” Strange as it may sound, your turmoil contains the key to your freedom.

This is the root practice: Face your life in all Nine Spheres. Feel the full effect of your human embodiment. Release your reluctance to be vulnerable. Find out what it’s really like to be you. Become greatly interested in what your immediate experience is really like — at the gut-level — without getting hooked by the promise of self-improvement.

Apply absolute loving acceptance to what is right in front of you.

The very act of doing this is the true meaning of surrender and the true heart of devotion. This is yoga. This is meditation. This is mindfulness.

This is the path.

If you can muster the courage to practice like this, to walk the all-inclusive path, a door will open inside you.

Grace will rush in.

Suffering will come to an end, forever.

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There is No Spiritual Path

The Sacredness of Everyday Life

CCRAlogosmallQuietly I sit before dawn, before anything needs to be done, before birds sing, before bustle begins. In that silent stillness, I soften and surrender to the Great Respiration. I can feel life pulsing within me.

Rising from the cushion — stillness begets movement — gently I open the joints, revitalize muscles and sinews, and invigorate my skin with vigorous rubbing (chi bathing). The daily routine of self-healing feels wholesome.

Morning practice comes to a close. I offer incense and heartfelt wishes for the welfare of all beings. I renew my commitment to self-cultivation, shake off laziness and doubt, and express sincere gratitude to my teachers for giving me back to myself.

On to the kitchen; the sound of boiling water, the smell of porridge, steamed vegetables and kim chee.

tea session
Swirls of steam rise from a pot of freshly brewed oolong tea. I fill my favorite cup with green ambrosia. Ahh, the smell! For a moment, I am transported to the misty mountains of Taiwan.

It’s time to begin the day’s work: writing, teaching, seeing students for sessions of healing and guidance on the path of awakening. Doing what I love, the hours fly by.

It’s an hour before sunset. I pry my hands from the keyboard and head outside. I walk up into the nearby hills to commune with Heaven and Earth, to practice moving with nature once more. I climb up into an old oak tree and sit in its branches. Peering off into the distance, I ponder questions that have no answers. A woodpecker beats her rhythm against an adjacent tree. I watch the sun dip behind the mountain; a reminder of time’s passing. I miss my mother, her wise words, her smile. I think of my own mortality, about the moment I, too, will pass beyond the dark mountain.

It’s getting late. I can feel Revital wondering where I am.  Was I supposed to cook dinner tonight?

Back home, family converges around the table. A bowl of hot soup, stories of our day, sharing “highs and lows.” Laughter and tears tell their own version of the ups and downs of each of our lives.

Dishes. There are always more dishes. Whoever cooked the meal gets off free; that’s our house rule. It’s my teenage daughter’s turn tonight. We squabble over the fairness of it. “Life’s not fair”, I bark. “For as long as you eat food, there will be dishes”, my parental lecture spouts on. Sigh. Eye-roll. “What. Ever.”, she retorts.

A moment later, Miley Cyrus appears in my kitchen at full volume (or is it another tongue wagging pop star?). Music makes the chores more fun. Before long, we’re all dancing. “Mom, not like thaaaat!” It seems the inevitable act of parents unabashedly embarrassing teens is as proverbial as dishes after dinner.

The evening settles in and a conversation with Dogen, Zhuangzi, Ashtavakra, and Laozi gets rolling. Longchenpa chimes in. We meet in the space between pages, in the gap between thoughts. In the sagely presence of these old masters, I feel humbled and inspired.

Bucket bathing: First, hot water, then cold. Vigorous drying with a rough towel. My skin turns pink and tingles (activation of wei chi / vyana vayu). Warm all over. It’s time for bed.

I snuggle in to my beloved; two spoons in night’s drawer. I reflect on the day. I feel gratitude for all that I have. Falling asleep, all cares dissolve. Myriad dreams paint a rainbow spectrum. In the dreamless space, there is no self at all. Gone. Utterly gone, every last trace of “I.” Until morning once again ignites the dream of being awake. Amazing! This no-self-no-form appears to emerge from emptiness.

A new day stretches its limbs. The ever-running stream of freshness carries on.

To fully participate in Life’s procession, to offer something of value back to humanity, to see if I can indeed reach my true potential today; these are my heart’s deepest ambitions, the very things that pull me from the comfort of my warm safe bed to meet the great unknown on this brave new day. Or is it, perhaps, the bladder’s urgent need that moves me from slumber? That is certainly real.

Either way, it’s a glorious morning. It’s a Radiant Awakening.

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The Sacredness of Everyday Life

The Body-Mind

CCRAlogosmallIn the English language, we refer to body and mind as two separate entities. We have been taught to value the importance of the mind over that of the body. Sayings like “mind over matter” imply that somehow the body is subservient to the mind (or at least in those we admire, we assume it ought to be). We impose this idea on the youth by forcing children to sit still in school all day while their bodies yearn to move and play. We punish the ones who fidget too much. Those who struggle most with our unnatural imposition are “diagnosed”, their supposed pathology “treated” with pharmaceutical drugs. We can’t have a society of people connected to their primal wild power, now can we?

Throughout our education, we are taught to memorize the names of muscles, organs, hormones, and chemical reactions; but never how to feel the function of these in our own flesh. We are molded to regurgitate disparate facts on command; to build a great repository of information that we parrot back to those with red pens at exam time. Yet tragically, we know very little about our own embodied experience. Many among us scarcely feel their bodies at all, save for times of illness and pain.

Through this unbalanced development of the intellect, our heads have become so inflated that we collectively believe we have out-smarted nature. Yet the state of our physical health as a society proves the opposite. Of the top-ten leading causes of death, nine are related to personal conduct. We would be hard pressed to find here on Earth another organism that, of its own free will, makes choices that secure its own demise. It just isn’t natural.

As it turns out, we are not as smart as we thought.

All of this is indicative of a cosmology that has separation, and therefore conflict, at its very foundation. We are in conflict with ourselves, with each other, and with our own habitat. We learned this through religion, politics, academia, and by the misuse of the scientific process (as a validation mechanism for self-serving agendas, instead of as an instrument in the pursuit of truth). The notion of separation is woven into the substratum of our cultural world view. It is built in to the structure of our language (and most Euro-centric languages). The basic structure of an English sentence exposes our unconscious assumption of separation. Grammar dictates that there must be a clear break between the subject and the object, such that the subject may demonstrate its power by acting upon the object. Take the case of body and mind. Clearly body is the object, mind the subject. “I hate my body”, the teen girl says. This type of thinking and speaking persists even though modern science has proven that no such separation exists whatsoever between body and mind. Who is hating whom?

Body-MindAll of this is based in an erroneous understanding of basic physics. Even an elementary look at the natural world quickly exposes the undeniable realization that everything is intrinsically interwoven. Ancient people from all corners of the globe understood: It is not separation that is the ruling principle, it is interdependence.

We have known full-well, since in inception of quantum thinking, that all things are literally interrelating as a vast spectrum of energy-consciousness. Einstein proved it (E = mc2), and every great thinker since has followed suit. Mass and energy are the same entity. Mind and matter are a continuum. And of course, all of the world’s ancient wisdom traditions share this basic understanding. We see traces of this inclusive thinking in languages still connected to the cosmology of wholeness — such as classical Chinese, Japanese and Sanskrit — where words often include a vast spectrum of interrelated meanings.

Take the Chinese ideogram xin (心), for example.  Xin can mean heart, mind, center, intention, core, feeling, emotion, and more. Here the notion of mind as separate from body does not exist. Hence, the English word mind does not translate perfectly into Chinese.  People usually say “heart-mind” to more accurately convey the classical Chinese idea of body-mind as a interrelated web. In classical Japanese, the word hara (Vital Center) is often used when talking about a person’s mind state. Hara is located in the belly and denotes the spiritual-visceral essence of a person. Here mind is literally thought to originate inside the abdomen.

In the same way that every coin has “heads” and “tails”, body and mind form two parts of one whole. Day and night. Winter and summer. Life and death. Emptiness and form. The web of life cannot be separated into parts. To attempt to do so causes a deep division in the human heart. This conceptual insistence on separation is the cause of great suffering to ourselves and the planet we live on. This is what perpetuates the Cycle of Affliction.

Anytime I use the term body-mind, I am referring to the natural law of interdependence. I am pointing to the fundamental unity of all things. This is not a lofty spiritual concept. It is the very basis of your own direct experience.  If I say body, I also imply mind. If I speak of the mind, I am referring equally to consciousness and physical matter.

With all of this, I am asking you to cut through the habit of dualistic fixation. This habit has been conditioned into you without your consent. It serves the agendas of those interested only in control of people and resources.

For the sincere spiritual seeker (or anyone interested in freedom), the notion of separation must be severed at its root, at the level of self-contraction, self-protection and fear of intimacy. The fictitious boundary between self and other, between us and them, must be dissolved.

A profound liberation happens through the constant application of self-observation and self-honesty. Through this practice, the erroneous world view you have been force fed will break down. Something deep inside you will finally relax. You will realize that you are innately whole and free. And, as you wipe the dust from the mirror of your own body-mind, you will discover a brilliant reflection looking at itself.

Your true Original Nature.

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The Body-Mind

The Cycle of Awakening

CCRAlogosmall Waking up is a profound transformation — a wild fire that consumes disappointment, illness, struggle and affliction. The Cycle of Awakening is set in motion by the courageous act of releasing your reluctance to feel. It begins the moment you stop avoiding your own discomfort, the moment you enter into total loving acceptance of your current situation. In essence, waking up is a process of losing what you are not.

cycleofawakeningThis is the spark: the choice to honestly face yourself with naked awareness. Complete self-acceptance is a gentle bellows that nurtures the inner fire of awakening. A brightness grows in you.

All of this happens at the level of deep feeling in the Vital Center. Here, inside your belly, is the common origin of all Nine Spheres of your life.  And for authentic awakening to come about, all Nine Spheres must be illuminated.

Once set in motion, the Cycle of Awakening is self-fulfilling. If you attend to it diligently through the time-tested practices of self-observation and self-healing, the Cycle will completely transform the cause of your suffering into the seed of enlightenment.

When all that you are not is transformed in the fire of relentless loving awareness, what remains is your pristine Original Nature.

Vital.

Radiant.

Free.

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The Cycle of Awakening

The Cycle of Affliction

CCRAlogosmallThe Cycle of Affliction is an unconscious chain of mental-physical reactions. It begins in early childhood with a traumatic experience, or a series of them, that create a pattern of visceral-emotional pain and contraction in the Vital Center. This pattern becomes a constant strain on your life. It is a deep-rooted self-defense mechanism, a type of bracing. Until resolved, it is always there at the gut-level in everything you do. It’s like a painful cramp that affects your ability to be who you truly are. Since the discomfort of it is constant, you are unconsciously fighting for relief all the time.

cycleofaffliction

The experience of trauma and conditioning leave a type of psycho-physical debris inside the human body-mind. If this debris is not fully digested and eliminated it clogs the Vital Center and blocks the flow of life-force. This diminishes your capacity to thrive in the Nine Spheres. Over time, without knowing it’s happening, you can become a refugee inside your own skin. There is a kind of constriction at the core-level of your being. You start subtly resisting life. You begin contracting in on yourself. Vitality constantly tries to flow into you, to nourish and fulfill you, but you resist.

Yet the thrive reflex is always operative. Your natural unconditioned state is persistently shining like the sun behind a wall of clouds. Radiant health is your birthright and life is one hundred percent supportive. However, when you are constantly contracting, the potency of life can not flow through you smoothly. You experience this as a reduced sense of joy and ease. Things seem more difficult than they ought to.

As you attempt to secure satisfaction in any Sphere, a feeling of anxious discomfort is always getting in the way. You try to alleviate the discomfort, but nothing seems to work. You are forever trying to make it go away. You are always, in one way or another, in conflict with this primary discomfort. Because this is not your original state. It is not who you truly are.

This is what I mean when I talk about self-contraction. It is an act of withdrawing into yourself. An act of self-protection. This survive reflex is an inborn way of coping with emergency situations. It certainly has its place; to get you through life-threatening challenges.

But life in not an emergency!

The self-protection response easily gets stuck in the “on” position. This affects your physiology on every level and compromises the function of all body systems: digestive, nervous, endocrine, cardiorespiratory, etc. Since the Vital Center is the origin of all Nine Spheres, self-contraction distorts your innate capacity to thrive and experience fulfillment on every level.

This is why I implore you to practice self-observation. You cannot release the cause of your suffering until you understand it. Please take a close look at yourself, an honest and compassionate look. Full acceptance. Free of judgment. Notice how you constantly seek comfort and satisfaction. See how you abandon yourself in work, food, drugs, social media, sexual fantasy, narcissism, video games, shopping . . . you fill in the blank. The results of this strategy of distraction—in terms of moments when you actually feel genuine contentment—are deplorable. I don’t at all mean to diminish the experiences you’ve had, the knowledge and possessions you’ve amassed, and the things you’ve accomplished. But doesn’t it strike you as odd, that even with all of this, fulfillment somehow keeps sliping through your fingers.

Why?

Because you don’t realize you are caught in the Cycle of Affliction.

Until this cycle is disrupted, you will go round and round grasping for what can never be found inside such a cycle. The cycle is self-perpetuating. It always produces exactly the same results: suffering. The purpose of the Radiant Awakening is to disrupt the pattern. To break the Cycle of Affliction. To bring you into lucid awareness of your actual situation. So that you can see. So that you can wake up.

Here’s the thing you must understand.

Suffering is an action you are choosing. It is a self-perpetuating sequence of choices you make moment by moment. These choices are not in harmony with universal workings of natural law and they are not congruent with who you really are. Contrary to common assumption, suffering is not something that happens to you. It is something you make happen.

This might sound harsh. It might seem confronting. But it’s true.

The good news is: you have free will. Action is a choice. It’s the one thing you can control; how you respond to the situation. And there is a radically different type of action you can take, one that breaks the Cycle of Affliction for good. This action is not something you do. It’s something you stop doing.

Avoidance.

Stop avoiding the most uncomfortable things in your life (you know exactly the ones I’m talking about). Stop running from yourself. Stop avoiding intimacy and vulnerability. Turn around and face yourself with total acceptance, with relentless honesty and love, in all Nine Spheres. Then bring this unguarded presence to all your relations.

This is the practice that breaks the Cycle of Affliction once and for all.

This is the practice that sets the Cycle of Awakening in motion.

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The Cycle of Affliction

The Vital Center

CCRAlogosmallDeep inside the abdomen exists our most profound source of feeling, intelligence and vigor. The Vital Center is called hara in Japanese, dantien in Chinese, and kanda in Sanskrit. In Eastern wisdom traditions, this important center is understood as the source of presence and potency in the human body. It is thought of as the meeting point of Heaven and Earth, the connection of past and future, and the origin of vital energy. In the field of biomechanics, it is referred to as the Center of Gravity (COG). In the study of physics, it is called the Center of Mass (COM).

vitalcenter

The Vital Center is the basis of human life; the root of our digestive, immune, and reproductive systems. In our earliest prenatal days, each of us grew from a few tiny cells into a fully formed fetus. We were nurtured in utero through the belly-to-belly connection with our mother; her Vital Center working for the development of ours. She performed the functions of eating, breathing, and eliminating for us, then transferred the benefits through the umbilical cord. Until birth, mother was our direct connection to Nature. After birth, once the umbilical cord was cut, we began a new and direct relationship with the natural world. With our first few breaths, the Vital Center in our own body became truly active and autonomous. And for the rest of our lives the Center serves as our direct tether to womb of Nature. It is where we digest food, experiences, and emotions, where we hold our most private sentiments, and where the face of our true character resides.

Colloquial sayings like “I hate your guts” and “I have a gut feeling” derive from our intuitive cultural understanding of the fundamental importance of the Vital Center. Phrases like “belly laughter”, “I can’t stomach it”, and “it’s gone belly up” convey the sense that the Center is not merely a physical cavity full of important organs, but something of much deeper significance.  When we say that a person is “centered and upstanding” we mean much more than the location of their Center of Mass, or the fact that they are merely situated in an upright position. What we mean to say is that such a person has themselves at hand, they know who they are; they are established in the truth of their own being and in contact with natural law.

The Vital Center is located about three finger widths below the navel. It sits directly on the vertical axis, halfway between the lower belly and the sacrum (closer to the spine than you might think).  The Vital Center is where you actually are. It is the present moment in flesh and blood. Your thoughts may wander to distant lands, and at times you may feel lost inside your self, but the Center is always right here.

The state of your Vital Center determines the state of every aspect of your life throughout all Nine Spheres. This is why the importance of working with the belly cannot be overemphasized. The primary function of Radiant Awakening practice is to illuminate the Vital Center. In other words, through self-healing and self-observation you remove accumulated psycho-physical tension from the belly and reset your connection to the primordial source of life.

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The Vital Center