Or, how to make love to life...
When I first began my spiritual journey as an adult, I have to admit didn’t actually have ecstasy as a goal. Ascension - yes, mastery, definitely, wisdom - absolutely, but ecstasy wasn’t really something I had on my list, because I would have defined mastery etc. more in terms of absence - absence of pain and suffering, feeling good and whole, experiencing flow, peace etc.
But I hadn’t really been led, by anyone I’d learned from, to expect states of extreme pleasure, communion and totality.
I hadn’t been led either, to think that ecstasy could be a tool to experience more of those other good things. Tantra for me has become an attitude to life. When I experience resistance in certain areas, I feel in and let the ecstasy do the work in healing and unblocking so that bit by bit more of life becomes ‘ecstasy-compatible’.
When I first opened to ecstasy, many of the elements were familiar, whereas others were completely new. I think it is helpful, if the concept of ecstasy resonates with you, to know what you are aiming for, and which states and experiences to develop. It is like joining the dots. You start with isolated incidents, then they ripple out, joining into each other to create a state which you can dip into at any time.
Ecstasy is a state of non duality where you can observe polarity but simultaneously hold two poles, understandings, opinions, in your consciousness, with appreciation but without judgement. You reach a point where the one enhances the other and you understand that both are a part of the whole, of what is divine. You can feel this rippling through your body.
Ecstasy has infinite moods and layers. It is literally all of existence, every feeling, every experience, transmuted into divine pleasure and communion. The more of yourself you can allow, can open to, the greater your capacity for the many ‘threads’ and harmonics of ecstasy.
So, these are some of the elements of ecstasy. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start...
Joy without boundaries. Childlike. Just because you are IT and this is IT. Touching joy in another at being alive and observing the primal nature that brings you together.
For ecstasy this is a key element. It is much more important than ‘love’, which is an overused term to the point of being meaningless for many. Compassion for another opens you to the depths and layers of feeling that will melt you at your core and bridge the polarity that separates you.
The more complex a situation, relationship, an appreciation, the greater its potential to teach you ecstasy. The fact that you need to hold awareness of many different appreciations at once which may seem impossible to resolve into black and white, right and wrong, forces you simultaneously into simplicity - checking out your mind and seeing only with your presence.
Dipping into your emotional reservoir - the feelings you’ve healed, those which are unresolved, those that others are going through to which you can relate. The songs we sing, the stories we tell. The histories. What it means to be human AND divine.
Not necessarily sexy, just alive and full of creative power. Power to heal, power to be vulnerable, power to surrender, power to explore the shadow, power to accept. Appreciating everything in its finest, many layered potential. Not judging.
A quieter state on which to build. Do you attain this in meditation? Where else does this crop up in your life? Talking to animals, after a yoga class, massage or Reiki treatment? For me, for years, inexplicably, this was induced by sitting with a cup of tea and my favourite catalogue. Practice imagining yourself in that state until you can tap into it just by focus.
Accepting your place in it all. Your childlike self, your divinity. Being humble yet curious. Infinite yet finite. Primal yet harmless.
Humour and delight
The kind of humour where someone adores you but can’t help teasing. A precocious child who says something gorgeous and you are not sure whether to weep or giggle. When you see a kitten and want to give it’s tail a tweak...
Especially this. You need to allow yourself to look at pain and surrender to it. If you try to shut yourself off from pain or other difficult emotions, if you resist them, you are also shutting yourself off from ecstasy and higher states. We need to own what it means to be human. This is the hardest element for the ego to swallow. When Babaji first showed me this it made part of me very uneasy. But if you want to own your birthright, you need to be able to look at pain with the perspective of deity, of everything being ultimately ok from the perspective of eternity, not of the individual stuck in illusion. Feel into pain, don’t resist it, express it, then access that higher perspective and work on transmuting it into one or more of the other elements.
If you do not feel this is ‘you’ (I didn’t used to), try starting with love and compassion. Think about it. Are there certain tasks you devote yourself to easily? Do you feel this more easily around certain people? A lover? A child? A mentor? Start where you find it, then spread it outwards. The goal of devotion is not to put the ‘other’ on a pedestal and make yourself wretched, but is in fact an act of enormous self esteem (big Self), which allows you to dissolve into communion with the other and puts you in a receptive state (also try my Divine Lover Bhakti playlist for more on this).
So those, for me, are the key elements of ecstasy.
Add to these a healthy dose of surrender, gratitude and inner connection, and you’re on the right track.
I’ve been working through a lot of issues of victimhood that I didn’t know I had. I started to realise that in the regime the guru guided me to, he wants the victim well and truly knocked out of me. It’s like bootcamp. I’ve never done everything on the list before, all at the SAME TIME. One by one I’ve come off all of my stimulants : coffee, then black tea, then green tea. I haven’t had a drink in several weeks. Sugar went by the wayside. I started a fitness regime. I started taking all my supplements religiously. I started cleaning my house top to bottom, sorting and deep cleaning.
Even though I’m not done yet, I’ve been able to make certain observations along the way.
When I gave something up, I felt like a victim.
The guru banned me from fasting for a time, saying he wanted me to nourish myself. I felt as if I was force feeding, and cue feeling like a victim.
I was told to fast again. I found myself feeling like a victim.
The guru told me to join a choir. I joined two.
They are great. Uplifting, balancing, bonding, but part of me felt like a victim as I am now so busy I don’t know where to look.
The guru said that’s how he wanted me: busy, so that I didn’t have time to think.
I still had time to feel like a victim.
This is not about poor me. I am having a great time, and my sense of assurance is increasing with each week that passes, but this is about the bits in between. Someone doesn’t acknowledge me, I feel like a victim. I learn to love my daughters more deeply and instead of enjoying it, I start worrying more about their wellbeing = victim.
Someone else is down or having a hard time...I’m an empath so part of me feels like a victim.
If you don’t like my social post, I’ll feel like a victim. If too many of you do I’ll also make myself a victim.
When I studied Health Kinesiology a few years back, I came across an energy correction called ‘being / not being’. These corrections deal with the phenomenon of people not being able to find a state which is safe for them. For example ‘being angry’ is stressful, and ‘not being angry’ is also stressful. ‘Being healthy’ is stressful and ‘not being healthy’ is also stressful. It’s very common. If you are stressed, on some level you are being a victim. There is more than one way to tackle just about anything, but it makes you think, doesn’t it? You are overweight and take action to reduce it, then suddenly everyone around you without fail is concerned you will ‘overdo it’. Where can you find your balance if you are not ‘safe’ anywhere?
When I empower, none of this happens. It is like flicking a switch. Nothing has changed in my life, but ‘too busy’ becomes ‘abundant’. ‘Demanding’ people become people I can serve and empower. ‘Annoying’ people become people with whom I can guide, teach or share wisdom. ‘Threatening’ people become people with whom I can co-create. I find my quiet in my centre.
The ‘victim’ is getting really boring. I don’t like false deadlines, yet I have given myself until the end of the year to finish off all the half-finished jobs I’ve started, even if I have to stay up half the night. The uplift will be worth it. Osho defines karma as incompleted action, and when I first read that some years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure I could relate. But now, yes.
I still need to be at ONE with my humanity and limitations. Nothing is ever done. There will always be something undone, so it’s a balance between taking control, and surrendering to the moment and how things are, in itself a form of completion.
How to find this balance?
For me it’s about listening to the moment, feeling it in the body, feet on the ground and energising. Not trying to be in the future where the job is ‘done’, but enjoying the DOING as an act of BEING. This is completion. This is grace and peace and gratitude and all the good things. In this state I float effortlessly from one task to the next knowing that I’ll be empowered to deal effectively with it.
I like this place. I hope the 'victim' is listening.
What do I mean by these?
For me these are moments that really caused me to re-evaluate my view of the world and kick start some internal re-wiring. Defining moments are those you use to shore up your idea of what you are and what you are not in the world. Un-defining moments make the world bigger, force you to throw off pieces of your ‘self’ and find more at-one-ment.
I hope we all have some of these. Here is my list. It is not exhaustive and these are not ‘favourite moments’ or ‘time of my life moments’ (although some were that too). For some people these moments would be ‘so what?’ - that’s fine. These are some of the ones that I was fortunate enough to have that made me grow.
1. When I was 13 and went on my first French exchange to Dijon. Tipped off the coach and picked up by my penfriend’s family, we arrived at her home. The garage had automatic gates down to a basement garage. We walked up through a games room to the ground floor where staircases curved up on both sides of the hallway to the second floor landing. My room was the size of my whole upstairs at home. There were so many rooms that I forgot which one was the toilet and had to go in my ensuite shower in the night. In the morning we had breakfast outside (truly exotic - Frosties with yoghurt and raspberries) in the sunshine next to the huge swimming pool. We had pool parties after school. I secretly fell in love with her cousin. One weekend we drove down to their flat in the Alps for a spot of tobogganing, views of Mont Blanc and Raclettes. Hot chocolate and brioche before brioche was a supermarket staple. Bloody meat presented for lunch (just eat it - no one else is dying). Mind blown.
2. First visit to Camden Market as a teenager when my friend’s mum drove us there. I felt as if I’d entered an alternative universe of dreadlocks and joss sticks and other funny smells. Trinkets and memorabilia and tie-dyed clothing. Cue lots of saving of pennies and return visits. Happy days.
3. First term at Cambridge. Getting a ‘D’ in my first piece of Use of French homework and the soulful look from our lecturer. Never knowing the answer in the Russian grammar workshop. Vaguely wondering how other people did but also wondering why it was scheduled at 9.00 the night after the student club night. Busting a gut just trying to keep up. Not being able to define myself by ‘doing well’.
4. Arriving in Beijing on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1996. (It does something to you to see the same country go past for seven days, the same lake (Baikal) for one whole day.) But specifically, the journey ended one morning at dawn as we pulled into Beijing. The parks we passed were full of older people practising Tai Chi. Before I had any idea what Tai Chi was. Before working out in parks was a thing. Beijing itself, The Great Wall. Wondering if we needed to go home at all.
5. Short and sweet - first night in Istanbul age 20. Being woken at dawn by the call to prayer from the three nearest mosques. (Argh. Do you have to? I like my sleep). Roll on a few (ahem) years. If you can't beat 'em....you marry them (or something). Nowadays when in Turkey I pass my mother-in-law in the dark on the way to the bathroom as she gets up to pray, me to meditate.
6. Living in Russia in the late ‘90s. Different rules. Not worrying about it.
7. Hmmm. Still not sure I want to talk about this. Breaking off an engagement because I fell for someone else. (I guess settling down at 24 was a little optimistic). The genuine horror of not being a ‘good girl’. Trying out the mantle of ‘scarlet woman’. Not being struck by lightning. And finally, most terrifyingly, not being sure why I had wanted to marry the guy I finished with in the first place.
8. Giving birth. Nothing prepared me for the way my body behaved in labour (and yes I did do the class - I'm thorough I did two). My experience was of my body transforming into an enormous pump over which I had little control, designed to expel a wee babe in super quick time. I learned fast that I needed to ham it up to get the midwives to pay me attention. My first daughter was nearly born in a corridor, the second not quite in the toilet. Neither one was ultimately fazed by the experience. Mild trauma and over excitement.
9. Early motherhood. Major identity crisis. Where did ‘I’ go? Who is that puffy face looking back at me in the mirror? Why is the weight not ‘falling off’? My ‘little sister’ is awesome but how do I come to terms with myself as ‘mother’? Am I the only one who feels like this?
10. Babaji. Beginning, middle and end. The ultimate love-hustler. In his presence everything is forgotten. All that matters is the joy that comes with it. Not being. Just love.
This is the quote that is keeping me centred right now, from Hindu saint Sri Anandamayi Ma:
"Before I came on this earth, Father, 'I was the same'. As a little girl, 'I was the same'. I grew into womanhood, but still 'I was the same'. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, 'I was the same'... And, Father, in front of you now, 'I am the same'. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity, 'I shall be the same’.”
'I am the same'. Everything else is illusion.
confidence - freedom - passion