July 2010


Ok, friends, listen up, as this is seriously interesting stuff.

A couple of years ago, I got introduced to a supplement (that’s capsules in a bottle, like at the health food store) by my friend John Gray.  The effects have been remarkable over this time, and the implications for the relationship of brain chemistry and consciousness are off the charts.  I got in touch with Brian Cunningham,  the inventor of the capsules in the bottle, and learned a lot about how the brain works.

Wanna know more?  Well, I’m no scientist, but I’ve been experimenting, so I’ll do my best to explain.

For as long as we can remember back, we know that human beings have been affected by different moods, or states of consciousness.  Excitement is a state of consciousness.  Boredom is a state.  So is depression, anxiety, grief.  At the other end of the spectrum is elation, oneness with God, insight and clarity.  For most of our human history there has been a very foggy understanding of the relationship between states of consciousness and the biochemistry of the brain.

As you know, in the last few decades, scientists have begun to understand what is going on in the brain when, for example, someone is depressed.  There is a neurochemical imbalance.

Brian Cunningham explains to me that our brains have an array of neurochemicals that need to be in a specific balance.  To create a symphony, to make beautiful music, you want to have every instrument working in harmony. It’s the same thing with neurochemistry in your brain. When there is an imbalance, we experience negative states like anxiety, stress, and depression. Depression, for example, is characterized by a deficiency of serotonin. Anxiety could be too much elevation of cortisol and adrenaline hormones, or also an imbalance of serotonin. Everything has to be in balance.   We have, in recent years come to understand how to treat pathological states with chemicals.  When someone is depressed, they do not have enough serotonin. It is being created, but reabsorbed too quickly.  So by inhibiting the process of “uptaking” serotonin, we can reduce symptoms of depression.  An equivalent understanding applies to anxiety, and even more severe states like schizophrenia.

Now here is the really interesting part.  Ready?  Sure?  Ok.  Here goes! (more…)

A few days ago, after a particularly exquisite evening with my wife Chameli, I put this post up on Facebook before going to bed:

“I have had many, many great teachers in my life. A super abundance. No one and nothing comes close to the woman who is now asleep in the bedroom. My marriage has become the guru, the salvation, the muse, the crack through which the divine shines through.”

When I woke up the next morning, there were the usual offerings of people who liked the post as well as comments. One man had the vulnerability and courage to post this on facebook:

“Thank you Arjuna for this sharing, I feel like [I’m] in front of a choice which is between feeling envious of what you have and I don’t, or instead to decide that ‘I want that too,’ and, as you show, it is possible…”

I was touched.

Over the next days, I got several more messages like this from men: vulnerable men, honest men, rare and courageous men. They came in as private messages on Facebook or through our website, and they all said basically the same thing:

“I read your Facebook post. I want what you have. Show me how to get it.”

So, friends, here it is. The short guide on how to worship a woman, and why it’s the wisest thing that a man can do. First of all, lets pop a few very understandable doubts that you might have. I’m familiar with all of them.

1.    “I’m wounded and damaged in my relationships to the feminine.”
So am I, dear brother, so am I. My parents divorced in a messy way when I was four. I grew up alone with my mother. She did her very best to provide for me, but she was unhappy and insecure. By the time I started to have relationships with women myself in my early teens, I discovered that I had a mountain of resentments, fears, and separation in my relation to the feminine.  The conscious practice of worship can become a part of healing the wounds. (more…)

Here’s a practice from my book Leap Before You Look.

Over family dinner,
With your spouse and children, or your parents and siblings or even a group of your friends,
Swap personalities among yourselves.
Have everyone write their name down on a small piece of paper,
And place all the names in a bowl.
Mix them up, and have everyone pick a name.
For five minutes, you will become that person completely,
Not as a caricature, but with totality.
Feel what it is like to have their body, their feelings, their thoughts.
Relate to the others at the table authentically from this place.
If you get your own name, take on your own personality
As if for the first time.
After five minutes, you can switch, until you have all become everyone else at the table.

A family can be a place of confinement or of liberation. Many of us have come to see the dynamics within the family as restrictive habits of restraint handed down from one generation to the next, and so we come to see our kin as the opposite of freedom. Fortunately, it does not take much to reverse that and allow those closest to us to become our allies in freedom. Families become restrictive to the degree that everyone is allocated a strict role to which they must conform. “Go wash your hands.” “Why, Mummy?” “Because I say so.” She says it with tension in her voice, like she is about to burst. The teenage son rolls his eyes at the ceiling. The father glances at his BlackBerry, hoping it will not be noticed. Even our pets go on automatic pilot. Everyone ends up living in a small and well-defined box. A parent is expected to be responsible, serious, hardworking, and at times, dictatorial. The youngest child is cute, adoring, carefree, sometimes irresponsible. The oldest child is expected to be independent, a leader, and to sometimes reject authority.

These are all roles we perform, and they can easily be confused with who we really are. As soon as you slip out of the automation of the role, however, even for just a moment, there is an explosion of freedom and creativity that is suddenly available. The youngest child also has the seeds of parenthood: just see her with her dolls or a puppy. The mother carries with her still the seeds of carefree enjoyment: just look at her on the rare vacation without the kids.

It does not take much to reverse all that, to allow those closest to us to become our allies in freedom. Slip out of your tight role as you might pull a T-shirt over your head. Pass the roles around. You will expand beyond who you thought you were, and laugh out loud at the same time.

You can discover 72 practices like this in Leap Before You Look.

Buy it now from our online store.

I was ten years old when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a little known Indian teacher who had founded the “Spiritual Rejuvenation Movement” back in 1959, gave a retreat in Bangor, Wales. That retreat, with its usual attendees from the metaphysical sub-sub-culture, would have gone completely unnoticed by the rest of the world were it not for the surprising attendance of four very influential people: John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

The Beatles had already been setting trends in fashion, music, haircut, and lifestyle since the early 1960’s. When they grew their hair longer into the “mop cut,” it became the signature of the Beat generation in 1962. When they started to experiment with psychedelics, it took only a few months for many others to do the same, and it spawned the summer of love in 1967.

So when the Beatles went off to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, first in Wales and then in Rishikesh, India, the number of people learning transcendental meditation went from a few hundred to millions within a year. When the Beatles went to India they were joined by Donovan, Mia Farrow, and a handful of other cultural icons. The Beatles got disillusioned with Maharishi within a year.  Their song “Sexy Sadie” on The White Album ridicules their ex teacher. George quickly hooked up with Swami Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, and developed a devotion to Krishna which was unbroken until he died. Swami Muktananda set up shop in South Fallsberg, New York, and also drew in a torrent of celebrities. Werner Erhard created EST. By the early 1970’s, the question on everyone’s lips had shifted from “what’s a guru?” to “who’s your guru?” It seemed like everyone young and hip enough had a spiritual teacher they were following, and there were literally hundreds to choose from.

Many of those teachers were from India, Tibet, Japan, or China, and came from traditions where business and spirituality had no common ground. In the early 1970’s, however, many of them developed huge organizations, quite commonly with assets in the millions, and generally with a burgeoning feudal structure, not dissimilar from the very Catholic Church many of them had only recently shunned.

The attraction to having a teacher at that time was extremely clear. Many of us were born in the years following the second world war. Our parents were obviously confused about many things: gender roles, how to raise children, the purpose of being alive, to name just a few. They were, for the most part, adrift and unhappy. The religious traditions in which we grew up: Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism, seemed to offer only the possibility that we could become like the generation that had reared us. So an India teacher, promising the giddy heights of enlightenment, appearing to be completely relaxed and confident, with an unambiguous and strong position around sexuality, money, and how to look after your body, often with a strict regimen of practices to follow, made life simple and easy. Back in the 70’s, everyone thought their guru was The Way, and that Nirvana and Utopia were just a few years of meditation away. (more…)

Over the July 4th long weekend, I went on a trip with my oldest son, Abhi. We drove down south through the gold country to the old mining town of Auburn, and from there  even further south to the remote town of Foresthill. I’ve heard Foresthill sometimes called the “armpit of the Sierras,” which is, I’d say, a little unfair. It’s not really on the way to anywhere, so you might possibly get the sense that it’s where you end up when you get lost. We only stopped in Foresthill long enough to get ourselves a fire permit, and then we drove another 40 miles on a tiny road that clung to the side of the steep American River ravine. We passed across the French Meadow Reservoir dam, and kept driving. During the entire 40 mile journey from Forest Hill, I don’t remember passing a single dwelling. The road turned to dirt after about 28 miles.

We parked our car at the end of the dirt road, a place called Talbot crossing. A ranger had been stationed there to perform a survey that is conducted once every five years. His job was to monitor how many people hike in from the crossing into the Granite Chief wilderness area. “There have only been five,” he told us, “the entire day. And that will probably be it for the holiday weekend.”  Although this is one of the most popular weekends of the year to get outside, there was only one party parking at the campground where the road ends. From here, Abhi and I hiked in another 4 hours with everything we needed in our backpacks.

I’ve given you this build-up to emphasize that where we were going was REMOTE. Even on the busiest weekend of the year, there was nobody here. We set up our small tent next to a fast-moving creek.

And for the next 2 days, we focused on doing… absolutely nothing.

Sure, we cooked some food now and then. We talked a little. On the second day we took a long hike. We were back on the earth exactly, I mean exactly, the way that it was naturally occurring before the human mind imposed its ideas on it.

We call an experience like this going into “nature” or “the wilderness.” But actually, if you think about it, these words are quite unnecessary. We should really just have a word for “not nature,” meaning roads and cities and towns and trains and factories. Everything else doesn’t really need a name because it’s what the Earth is like already. We didn’t go “into nature,” we just took a break from “not nature.” We left behind physical structures and schedules and electronics, and we also left behind all of the habits associated with those things. (more…)

Here is a practice from my 2008 book Leap Before You Look.

When you notice yourself caught up in a feeling,
Like resentment, rejection, or despair,

Cradle that feeling as though it were a small baby.
It may even help you to take a cushion
And physically cradle the feeling in your arms.
Sing to it.
Soothe it.
Let that feeling know that it is accepted, loved, and welcomed.
In fully accepting grief,
You become acceptance itself,
Which is none other than your natural state. (more…)