Thursday, April 23, 2009


I've just been skimming the fat off my blog aggregator, Net News Wire. You know how sometimes you do things because you think you should be doing them, rather than because you actually enjoy and derive sustenance from them?

I labored through Breaking Open the Head and 2012 by Daniel Pinchbeck, and I attended an appearance he made at Powell's Books. I think I may've posted about it, too, or else I wrote the post but declined to publish it because, you know, if you can't say something good ...

Anyways, I just axed my sub to Pinchbeck's blog as well as that other bullshit site he curates, Reality Sandwich. Reality Sandwich seemed like it had the potential to be great, and on occasion I'd slog through postings that seemed interesting because occasionally they'd run yoga-related stories or posts or whatever. But it's bullshit and I'm done with it.

You know what? You can't get "it" by drinking ayahuasca. Whether or not there are tribes of hyper-dimensional machine-elves attempting to communicate with us via DMT and "spirit molecules" is not something that can either be affirmed or denied with any sort of certainty.

And congratulations, you now require a drug as an intermediary, which at best further externalizes Source and reinforces a sense of separation, and at worst deifies another omnipotent supernatural figure.

I guess when I was younger, Terence McKenna seemed kinda cool. But then, I was more occupied with chemically stretching the confines of consciouness. Maybe I've mellowed as I've aged, but really, any state of consciousness that refuses to stay "stretched" without some substance, and in fact, any technique or substance that induces days of depression or anxiety, or any substance that induces a state of consciouness in which I can't piss straight, tie my own shoes, or feed myself, let alone my daughter, is worthless.

Well, maybe not worthless, but let's call it for what it is — fantasy wish-fulfillment. You want to get wasted? Fine, get wasted — there are times when the radical reduction or expansion of consciousness is called for.

This sort of dovetails with my lack of use for mystic union in general. I mean, it's great to experience when it arises, and I'm not saying we need to run Rumi out of town — psychedelic cosmonauts can tell us a lot about the outer fringes of consciousness. Problems arise, though, when those fringes become enshrined as goals or end-states to be reached.

What's that bullshit book fobbed off to every aspiring yoga student, the Parahamsa Yogananda one? It's the one you can find a dozen copies of at any book swap in India. Diary of a Yogi? Confessions of a Yogi? Autobiography of a Yogi? The book in which Yogananda repeats stories of instances of mystic rapture so great, so deep, that he couldn't be bothered to talk or wipe his ass.

That pretty much covers a broad range of books, by the way — the field of pop yoga literature is filled with books by guys from India describing bouts of mystic rapture and union. Sai Baba and the Krishnamurthis, J. and U.G., the crabby one.

I just caught a book on Papaji at the local Goodwill; Papaji's the guy behind Gangaji, Eli Jaxon Bear, I think Andrew Cohen? He's got some interesting things to say about the state of non-dual consciousness or awakening. As for how he "achieved" it — his description of states of bliss sound a lot like the nitrous room in early-90's raves — rapturous, wide-eyed, drooling, insensate. I'm not kidding, either — they sound exactly like chillout rooms on day two of a three-day rave. In which case — hey! I've been there, too!

So what good is bliss? This is the Twenny-first Century, after all. I can get MDMA, ibogaine, DMT, ayahuasca: anything Burroughs, McKenna, RA Wilson wrote about, all that bliss is available on the Internets.

In addition to the inevitable hangovers the bliss powders provide — my favorite is the "chucha," or explosive projectile "sacred diarhhea" that ayahuasca causes during the experience — I'm highly skeptical about anyone or anything that glorifies some great, bliss-filled ecstatic condition. If only because life contains so much more than that.

Life is great and wondrous, sure, but it's ordinary, too, and it's shitty, and people can be mean and small-minded, and there's sadness, and despair, and all that. Plus it's just ordinary — terrifyingly, achingly ordinary. You get to wait in line at the DMV, you get to clean up cat barf off the rug, you get to hang out on hold when you call your cable company. All is ordinary bullshit is the package, too. It is not separate from all the wonder and awe, it's not separate from the suffering and pain.

We practice the yoga not to suppress or eliminate any of this — the good, the bad, the ugly — but to recognize them for what they are — momentary thoughts, emotions and evaluations that arise and pass away, and that can never touch what we really are.

Some oft-hoped-for "return" to an Edenic, pre-lapsarian relationship with machine-elves, Mother Earth, or the aliens who make crop circles smacks of Idealism, in which we attempt, through sheer force of will, to turn the Universe into what we desire or hope it to be.

This seems to only cause, at least in me, a ton of dukkha. Suffering. Ever try to make a 4-year-old do something you want? What actually causes stress and anxiety? Generally not her behavior (I'm talking to you, Rowan), but your own attempt to make the situation something other than what it is.

This doesn't mean I'm letting the kid run rampant through the Goodwill, mind you. It's just that it's hard to remain open, flexible, and spontaneous when you're rigidly trying to stick to your Saturday morning agenda, right?

So back to Pinchbeck: I don't know how sustained use of ayahuasca will help with anything more than momentary flashes of mystic union, which, if we take a moment to use the Ashtanga yoga structure, is but one of the eight limbs, samadhi. Samadhi being but one of the tools used to allow kaivalya to arise.

I know Patanjali suggests that ausadhi, or "herbs," can be one of the tools to use to remove the veils ... but he also lists "vyadhi," or sickness, as the first obstacle to practice. If one's use of "herbs" is causing sickness, it's no good. If one's use of herbs is causing any of the subsequent barriers to practice — doubt, "stuck"ness, langour, etc, etc — then it's not bloody well working, is it?

Sort of a long-winded way of saying I'm done with Reality Sandwich, and with thinking that one day I'll get around to reading it.