Monday, 31 March 2014

THE YOGA OF JUICE FASTING



The conventional medical profession is pretty stiff-necked about juice fasting (of course it would be!) but spiritual practitioners of every faith sooner or later come to realise that a truly vital part of sadhana or living a spiritualised life is cleaning your own bodily temple. And juice fasting has become one of the unlikely stars of the cleansing progress.

It's a subject dear to my heart because right now I'm on a long juice fast (hopefully stretching up to the great Guru Purnimah festival in mid-July), after reluctantly realising that my body needed the downtime desperately and that aches and pains were pretty much mostly there after a dodgy diet and a lot of travel. I decided some time ago to give my body this gift, and also staying mindful of one intriguing thing that Jesus is reported to have said about particular negative tendencies (well, he put it as "demons"), that some will only shift by fasting.  

The yogic benefits of fasting in this way are many and varied. Imagine feeling clean and clear from the inside out. Imagine feeling as bright as a sunny morning, as light as a feather, and with poise and serenity like the most beautiful person on earth. Imagine simply feeling years younger! Truly if we are filled up with toxins, fat, chemicals, how can we know our own positive potential, let alone recognise the spark of divinity which is ours to nurture?

For me, this kind of imaginative visualisation is actually a memory. There was a period in my life of about a year and a half where I worked in ashrams as a cook, but ONLY ate one meal a day (at 2pm before cooking for 220 people), month in and month out. This was enough for me. I was living in a pure place, doing a pure thing, imbibing food full of goodness, of prana. It was a regime that saw weight drop off and the mind became immensely calm, and life turned into this graceful song and dance, edged with a deep inner satisfaction and serenity. But karma is karma, and for various reasons I had to reenter the world and WHAM that was hard! At first, all that food did not tempt me. But as fatigue, responsibilities, stress, financial duties, families, all followed, food became a go-to source of comfort. My downfall? Sandwiches, cheese, pickle...




The Wall

Often when we resolve to practice spiritual discipline, whatever our faith, we run up against what seems to be a giant wall, a barrier to further progress. In Yogic terms we could see the wall as the accumulation of past samskaras, tendencies from impressions accumulated over many lives, turned into what are called vasanas, powerful subconscious urges or mental habits (mental programmes, unhelpful behaviour patterns triggered by particular events) that contract us, defeat us again and again. In the terms of other religions, we could call these sinful tendencies - but one way they manifest in a society where food is all too plentiful is in the tendency to grab, accumulate, and store everything.

When we think about this clearly, it's kind of insane! It is like we have an inner robot dedicated to one programme and one programme only, and that is the command "accumulate and store." often this may be because of scarcity of nourishment at a vital developmental age in infancy, especially at the very early oral stage of development. So that is pre-speech, pre-walking, but absolutely vital and a lack of love or nourishment at that stage has an effect on the rest of our life. I know what I'm talking about because I endured a strange mother, who - an aged aunt only recently revealed to us brothers - used to strap us down, line us up and shovel food in our mouths whether we wanted to eat or not, all at a set time. I'm still scratching my head at the karma of this kind of thing.

But from a Yogic point of view it may too exist as a samskara from a previous lifetime of poverty and deprivation. But this urge to store easily gets translated into "let me store food in my stomach, just in case..." and once this vasana is embedded, the result eventually manifests in piling on weight.

Piling on weight is another sign of unhappiness, too, especially if you are trapped in a relationship which does not meet any need, or you are alone, or lonely, or in a job you hate.

So... the wall. And how to dismantle it? Unfortunately there is really only one way, if you are going to do the job properly: and that is brick by brick. So, it takes time, but do you really want to live your whole spiritual life always feeling excluded, feeling you are not even good enough to feel God, feeling cut off from that burning sun of brilliant light inside you? Of course not! The irony is that too much weight robs you of energy, and you need energy to dismantle the wall.

So... pray! Here's a wonderful verse from the Bhagavad Gita that has inspired me over the years:

Even if a man of the most sinful conduct
worships Me with undeviating devotion
He must be reckoned as righteous
For he has rightly resolved
9.30

How great is that beautiful promise! How wonderful! And juice fasting really helps create that undeviating devotion. It clears away the mental cobwebs. It sharpens you. It unveils the heart.

Modern food, processed food, is laden with so little nutritional value and so much nastiness, it's no wonder that our societies are plagued by bad health. And all this helps build the wall.

I will try and keep posting results of the fast as I go, down at the bottom half of the post.





The Fat Sick and Nearly Dead movie

Proponents of a juice fast are many and varied, and have a media star in the inspirational documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, which is available on Netflix and probably You Tube, and you can access here:

http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/about/fat-sick-and-nearly-dead. 

The movie details the candid progress of Joe Cross, an Australian businessman who decided to cure himself of obesity and health ailments by juice fasting, going all over America on a road trip at the same time. He's a funny, honest and inspirational guy with no axe to grind apart from his own common sense to approach. And he went on a 60 day juice fast, lost over 60kg  and ended up looking years younger, with bundles of energy and a committment to promote juice fasting.

Juice fasting is the extraction of juice from fruit and vegetables, using an efficient juicer that leaves the dry pulp and gives us the very pranic essence of food. It is very different from blending (ie mashing everything up into a puree or smoothies) and with the right zing to it - ginger, garlic, lemon and so forth, can be really surprisingly delicious.






Why do it?

The upside to the progress is cleansing. The spiritual dimension is the conscious process of shutting down so much in the mind that might hinder meditation and disciplined spiritual practice. I've fasted many times before, but a juice fast is different: you don't starve yourself, and the micro-nutrients you get from the juices which you make are immensely satisfying. Truly a good self-made juice seems like drinking the nourishing blood stream of Mother Earth.

So spiritually you are reconnecting with something very primal.

Medical Check up

Joe advises everyone to get a medical check-up before attempting a juice fast. This is sensible. If you are badly anaemic for example, juice fasting may not be for you. Likewise diabetes. But check out the facts and form your own opinion. I would advise you give it a go, if you have the means and the access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Having said that, I'm a kidney donor so only have one kidney left, but that doesn't stop the juice fast. I have a huge respect for what doctors have decided to label "alternative" medicine and take no pills unless absolutely necessary. And, as you can tell, I have little time for conventional medicine and its judgements on what is right or wrong. Not that long ago the medical establishment struck a perfectly good Doctor from the medical register in the UK for daring to practice Ayurveda, and their case hung on the fact that some Ayurvedic preparations are made with cow's urine (gasp) and thus "quack medicine". Yes, that is Ayurveda practiced since time immemorial. So when Doctors say there are no benefits from juice fasting, I laugh.

Downsides

The main downside to juice fasting is the cost and the time of preparation. The biggest capital outlay is a juicer itself. These can be expensive, but a good juicer is worth the money. The time of preparation becomes a wonderful meditation in its own right, an object of contemplation of exactly why your body has become so out of shape. But both imply a commitment, and this kind of commitment can only come if you feel ready to take this drastic step, because the alternative is a life of headaches, pains, swelling, discomfort, skin conditions, ulcers, heart attacks, early death... Joe felt he had no choice. His documentary introduces us to an extremely unhealthy and morbidly obese truck driver in the US who turned his life around through fasting. Its a genuinely moving story.

Another downside: monotony of taste, and not enough salt. The way I balance this is drink Miso Soup, as the Miso has plenty of salt in it and this also contains seaweed, which contains vital alkyline input to stop stomach from veering to to much acidity.


The Doshas

The principles of Ayurveda and the three Doshas are also something to take into account. There are many ways to test your basic consitutional make-up, but basically our bodies in their natural state are dominated by one of three doshas (or a mix of them):

Vata: equivalent to wind/air
Pitta: equivalent to fire, hot and dry
Kapha: equivalent to earth, cold and moist

But given that most people wanting a prolonged juice fast are overbalanced with Kapha, then a juice fast really helps remove kapha from the system and the Ama, the toxic poisons lurking round the gut.

Water!

No juice fast is complete without water, which is absolutely vital and necessary to help shift the weight and help the body break down and flush out the fat. Best way to drink the water is hot... hot water is a brilliant healer. Some alternative health practitioners also swear by distilled water. Of course society tampers with our water supply in so many ways, adding chemicals, transporting through aged toxic pipes etc. Bottled water seems a better option.

The Natural Way

Natural fasting has been around a long, long time. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Yogis subsist on very little. Buddhist monks eat once a day, Jains have formidable dietary restrictions. Ramadan cleanses Muslim devotees. Hindus have Ekadashi. Wherever you look, there is an instrinsic recognition that spiritual life involves some kind of gentle restraint. And The Bhagavad Gita famously tells us "Yoga is not for one who eats too much or too little". 

Overeating dulls our connection to the astral body and the realms of the spirit. It construct blubbery walls between us and life, walls we may have felt were necessary to protect us, for all sorts of reasons - often dating back to early childhood. And yet, we need to eat to survive. A few years ago there was a dreadful incident of a mistaken spiritual practitioner who thought they could live without any food as a "breatharian", and basically starved herself to death. An enlightened Yogi could indeed do such a thing, but ordinary mortals have to survive by eating.

Animals, when sick, refuse to eat. They cure themselves in this way. Our own body's healing powers are amazing, awe-inspiring, and juice fasting allows us to heal ourselves. Such a simple thing, but amazingly society has made us forget we can even do this.

Preyas and Sreyas

In Vedic scripture there are two paths, Margas, we can take in most situations. One, Preyas, we could call as the path of instant gratification, the thing that gives you the instant hit but will have less positive long-term consequences. The other, Sreyas, maybe difficult at first, but leads to much greater pleasure in the end. Most of us, for most of the time, opt for the former and indeed our whole modern society is dedicated to the lure of the instant buzz. When this gets translated into food, you can follow the logic... fast food, sweet food, comfort food yields preyas but the consequences pile up in terms of weight and health issues. JUicing seems to me the very essence of Sreyas. It seems difficult at first, it takes definite will-power and endurance in the beginning. But the results are more than worth it.

So: do you have the courage to opt for the path less travelled? To choose the difficult thing, not the immediately easy? Maybe so, maybe this is that precise moment reading these words when you draw the line in the sand and say "Enough is enough!".

The lure of Sugar: the Yogic twist

I remember working as a storeman in an ashram in 1976, on a 6 months meditation course for women, which was awkward in itself. I had to be hidden away from view at all times, but even so, a steady stream of women used to come down to the store-room to ask for sugar. In my innonence (I was only 22 at the time) I thought that's what they really wanted, but with the benefit of hindsight I can see that actually they were mostly there to check me out, as there was no other stimulus on the course! Even so, I vividly remember one of the "star" meditators patiently explaining to me that an ingestion of sugar on a long meditation course "would guarantee flashy experiences".

Flash forward 20 years in another ashram, and a side room where meditators with out of control "kriyas"  or involuntary de-stressing movements being fed bananas by Swamis until they calmed down - not a bad life.

Sugar is always seen as the ultimate baddie, and the presence of both refined sugar and salt in commercially processed food products is indeed a scandal. Sugar pervades absolutely everything and its presence in our life has an inevitable effect on our blood chemistry and brain functioning. Much of what we might think is normal - lustful urges, tantrums, depression, fatigue, comes from the pervasive impact of too much sugar in our systems.

Nevertheless, there is also a strange link with sugar and the ability to perceive the ananda kosha, one of the subtle sheaths which surround the embodied jiva or soul. The sheath of bliss is, as the title suggests, intensely blissful. I'd be very interested to know if in the future humanity works out just why sugar ingestion on a long meditation course can indeed open a gateway. And why just so many saints are diabetic.

Practical tips from the Internet

Here's some tips on juicing someone sent me, not my words so don't shoot the messenger, but they seem eminently sensible to me:

Getting the Most from juicing:
Sip it quickly. Once the fruit or vegetable goes through the juicer, natural enzymes in the food begin to break down the nutrients. Juice loses nutritional value quickly. For Optimal benefits, drinks juices within 30 minutes of making them.

Focus on vegetables. While a tall glass of fruit juice can be a sweet summer treat, it’s better to concentrate on vegetable juices. Fruits juices are too high in sugar and too acidic to drink in large quantities. Vegetable juices are better nutritionally, and they have a higher alkaline (meaning not acidic) content.

Enjoy a variety 
For maximum healing benefits, drink juices from a variety of vegetables. The more the variety you can work in your diets, the better. This is easy with juices, because you can combine several vegetables into one drink.

Scrub it 
While not all fruits and vegetables require peeling, many do, for a variety of reasons. The skins of oranges and grapefruits, for example, contain chemicals that can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Waxed produce should be peeled before juicing, as should tropical fruits, which often are grow in countries where the use of pesticides isn’t well regulated.

Remove the pits and seeds 
Apple seeds, which contain trace amounts of cyanide, would be removed before juicing. Seeds in melon, lemons, and limes and pits from peaches and plum, and other stone fruits should also be removed. Grape seeds are safe, however, and can be placed in the juicer along with the fruit.

Use the whole vegetable
Most vegetables can be juiced in their entirety-leaves, stems, and all. Two exceptions are rhubarb leaves and carrot tops both contain toxic compounds.

Chunk it
The openings of most juicers are quite small, so you should cut your produce into manageable pieces. Also, small chunks put less strain on the motor, which will help your juicer last longer.

Bland your bananas 
When juicing with fruits that contain little water, like bananas and avocados, it’s helpful to juice the other items first, then add their drier produce to produce a thick, smooth drink.

Drink it quickly 
Just as juice gives up their nutritional benefits soon after they are made, their flavour is also fleeting. Some juice, such as cabbage, becomes rancid in a few hours. Sot it’s a good idea to make only as much as you plan to drink right away.

Or freeze it 
Carrot, apple, and orange juice are quite hardy and will keep for three to four weeks when frozen in a sealed plastic container.
There’s virtually no limit to the tastes and textures that you can create by mixing a variety of fruits and vegetables in your juicer. Here are a few simple combinations you may want to try.

Carrots and celery
Which often combined, are considered universal mixers, which means that they combine well with other vegetable. Try juicing three carrots for every stalk of celery.

Combining the juice
From a couple of tomatoes with juice from few slices of sweet green peppers make a refreshing, sodium-free alternative to salt-laden store bought tomato juice.

For a surprisingly refreshing drink, 
Combine one large peeled cucumber and a small onion. Using different varieties of onions, from sweet to hot whites, will create a range of interesting flavours.











THE RAMA REBOOT

MY OWN JUICE FAST (begun March 28 2014)

Results so far

Just before the juice fast, on business in Geneva

Week 1

I finally went ahead and bought a juicer, then the enormous amount of vegetables needed to kick start the process. 

All fine, even though in the middle of all this I was cooking a full meal for my step-daughter and her mother. The juicer works best with apples, ginger, celery, cucumber and beetroot. It can't cope that well with loose kale or spinach, but the green element of a juice fast is very important, so I persist with juicing mounds of spinach and cleaning the juicer time and time again.

Results are too early for major transformation, but the waist has shrunk already, and my mind is far more clear, and heart more open. For me, the whole experience began with a calling of the spirit. There are very few Hindu shrines in London, UK, but I decided to visit the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre which is about 20 miles from London and usually deserted, with the most fantastic mediation room. I prayed for success in this epic venture.

Afterwards, driving back, a wonderful omen. What looked like an eagle (there are no wild eagles in the south of England) swooped down from the sky and hovered above the car! It was such a bizarre sight, so unexpected, and I fully expect to read "local eagle escapes zoo" but I took this as a fantastic approbation by Mother Divine that I would indeed find the support.

Drinking the juices, no problem. Feeling of accomplishment? Worth the price of the juicer!

Had a few headaches on day 4, but they cleared up with morning recitation of the Sandhya Vandanam.

The week has ended with no real practical problems at work in terms of juicing. Not sleeping too well, but each morning seems to be just that tad brighter and lighter. Lots of bodily things that maybe only I can notice. Some practicalities, too: too much juicing of fruits ends up with too much sugar, not enough salt. The key to juicing is persistence and if you are doing it in a Yogic way, it's reverence.

Now this sounds a bit sappy, but preparing the vegetables and juicing them allows you very directly to actually interact with the plant kingdom, to extract the liquid light, and to pause while you juice to reflect on the thousand different steps which have brought this apple, this celery stalk to your table. We are so divorced from the growing and harvesting of food, we take it for granted that we pay X in cash and get Y in food as a right... but in Vedic terms, food is the gift of Annapurna, the Great Shakti, our Divine Mother. Food depends on harvests, and food is a gift, a miracle, a wonder. I think this week I reminded myself of this simple truth: the Mother of us all feeds us all.


Week 2

The main challenge for this week was how to cope with a business trip, 3 days to St Petersburg, Russia. The flight itself was tiring, just the traipsing round airports, rushes to gates, waiting in line... the kind of thing my day job involves a lot of. In Russia, a problem: no juice beyond commercially sugar laden lifeless orange juice! And also business cocktail parties (I had to give a speech there as well as chair sessions in the conference) and lunches with colleagues. In the end I did the sensible thing and stuck to soup as a form of hot juice.

On return to UK, back to the juice fasting, gardening and juice fasting again. One thing I would recommend if your budget is up to it is not just a juicer but a blender too, which gets you the soft fruits like bananas and strawberries.

Weight loss? I'm not going to weigh myself until a month is done, but my waist size has shrunk by at least 4-5 inches and that cumbersome, heavy, sheen of tiredness is hugely reduced. I can move easier, life is very much cleaner and clearer and abundant energy is returning... and it's spring.

My spiritual intent: summed up in something I say a lot inwardly to Divine Mother: "For Thee Alone by Me Alone." And thus the long days pass...

Week 3&4

Juicing has become a habit, but I added a blender as well, to be able to use soft fruit as the weather got warmer.... and meanwhile foreign business travel continued to pile up. Had a weekend off as I was on holiday, and then slipped back into the groove again. Also found that hot soups were needed to counteract a certain spaciness. Weight loss slowed, and that burst of sattva and determination at the start slightly eased. But still going...

After a month

I had lost about 4 inches round the waste, and about a stone in weight, but as a spiritual practice the juice fast had immeasurable benefits in terms of increased clarity, inner brightness and equipoise... a sense of the system being indeed rebooted and reset, in a simple but beautiful way. The kicker for me was how to deal with extensive business trips, most of which involved lunches or dinners with clients, and this proved a serious challenge.

I'm going to continue as far as I can, buit also using soups to heat up the system and provide a little bit of extra nourishment, as juices alone make it hard to face the difficulties of travel - the airport waits, the long walks to planes, the meetings etc etc. My karma unfortunately. But, a noble endeavour and I have really enjoyed the process!


More to follow, many weeks to go until 108 day target:










Tuesday, 25 March 2014

SADHANA: THE 12 TYPES OF SEEKER - WHICH ONE ARE YOU?



There are many ways to look at the common patterns of human behaviour, and when it comes to the practice of spiritual discipline, or sadhana, we tend to approach our search for the Divine along very broadly similar paths. This post looks at 12 basic spiritual types. So which one are you? There is no right or wrong or highest or lowest... each type has its own hidden treasure and we all have a mix of different types, but check it out and do some self-inquiry! 

Some say these broad similarities are down to astrology, others point to ways of assessing personality like the Enneagram or even the Myers-Briggs personality test. But this particular blog post looks at our shared characteristics and draws on Vedic scripture and the author's own experience on the spiritual path going back 40 years.

Each broad type in turn can express itself through the interplay of what in Yoga philosophy are called the Gunas, the three basic forces of nature determining the flow of life in its purest, noblest or sattvic form, or more energetically and ruthlessly (rajas), or damagingly for ourselves and others (tamas). To simplify things, we will be looking at the Bright side of the type, and its less helpful Shadow side, with the Blessings to all who read this and study it of the Divine Saraswati.

THE CHARACTER TYPES
  1. The Impulsive
  2. The Steward
  3. The Celebrator
  4. The Complainer
  5. The Hypocrite
  6. The Collector
  7. The Lover
  8. The Hero
  9. The Lukewarm
  10. The Servant
  11. The Adept
  12. The Hermit

1. THE IMPULSIVE

Bright
The impulsive seeker leaps into spiritual practice with great enthusiasm and without a backward glance. A new teaching, a new Guru, a gleam or flash of the Divine or bright and the impulsive seeker will run and leap towards it. The key words are enthusiasm, the ability to move quickly, to make big decisions in an instant, and to express great and overwhelming passion. All this creates a picture a little like the card the Fool in the Tarot card pack, which shows a young man dressed in high fashion with an equally enthusiastic dog, heedless of where he is going - and about to fall off a precipice. 

This is the common characteristic of young seekers, who want to get everything done, signed, sealed in a big rush. Wild emotions and spectacle are the order of the day, and the path of Bhakti is particularly suited to such a type. The impulsive seeker can indeed astonish everyone, can even give up their lives for a cause and a teaching. So, they like to dive deep off a cliff... but without checking how deep the ocean is. 

Shadow
The problem with the impulsive seeker is overconfidence, lack of understanding of the ways of the world, and inability to deal with the snares and pitfalls of life - which inevitably appear. The impulsive seeker is very taken with making big bold statements and great life shattering vows but does not actually carefully or reasonably consider such actions. So, efforts tend to begin with a blast of trumpets, only to die away rapidly.

This type of seeker is also vulnerable to rigid dogma, and charismatic but abusive and bogus teachers with glittering personalities - the type who proclaim themselves as world saviours and cheat their disciples. The good news is that life itself tends to be the great teacher of the impulsive seeker, and wisdom reluctantly comes with age and experience. But beware the come down from the spiritual high, and the constant need for the flash of bright joyfulness which can become addictive and lead this seeker to restlessly wander from teacher to teacher. 


Best spiritual practice
Restraint, setting a limit between impulse and action. Thus, meditation.
2. THE STEWARD
Bright
The steward is a far more careful seeker - and leaping into spiritual practice, or anything to that matter, is alien to their nature. This seeker is a careful judge and extremely good and knowledgable about allocating resources, time management, schedules and so forth. They will carefully weigh the truths of life and of a particular spiritual path before making decisions. They are ruled by the head and can see matters clearly, and are very suited to the path of  jnana, or self-inquiry or Vedanta. They often have awesome powers of one-pointed concentration, but as teachers themselves can be as dull as ditchwater.

These kinds of seekers are responsible, sober, good judges of people. They make excellent managers of ashrams, or authority figures in a spiritual organisation, as long as they unshakably tied to a noble path. Such seekers are also very often prosperous or shoulder large worldly responsibilities through which they have created a natural dignity about them. All is orderly for them, and spirituality often becomes an interest simply because it ultimately makes logical sense. There is very little of the child about them.

Shadow
The steward can, almost without knowing it, begin to reduce life's mysteries into just an element of calculation and also find it very difficult to lose control or lose a subtle sense of superiority. This can place this type of seeker in his own mind above God, because secretly he or she deplores the chaotic nature of the world and its dramas. Another problem with this seeker is rigidity of approach, caution in all things and thus missing the brightness, the spontaneous and the humorous. This seeker is, therefore a little like the tortoise in Aesop's fable compared with the hare, the impulsive seeker. This seeker needs to dance and needs to joke. A classic expression of this type of seeker were the Puritans who came to America.

Best spiritual practice
Sankirtana, group chanting which helps free their self-restraint in a safe way..



3. THE CELEBRATOR
Bright
The celebrator is bright and joy-filled and naturally extrovert. He or she is a networking personality who radiates the warmth of life, who is a nourisher of all around. They spontaneously flourish in groups and add a laughter and sparkle wherever they go, and they are always busy. They work well in shared endeavours, in linked groups, and will have many friends on the spiritual path, and not necessarily on the same path. They are great encouragers of others, full of sympathy for the distressed, and will often gravitate in spiritual groups to positions of nourishment, such as a cook or provider of resources. They, too, make excellent spiritual leaders and at their best and brightest give any spiritual group a lightness and laughter that is truly beautiful. Spiritual movements tend to attract introverts, which is what makes the extrovert celebrator stand out.

Shadow
The shadow side of the celebrator is two edged: everything can be trivialised and socialised, and there is a fear of being alone and not being needed. This is the type of seeker who will chatter all day and night in an ashram over a cup of chai, who does not like things to get too serious - and who will do anything to avoid a solitary retreat. If a woman, she will find it impossible to be without make-up or grooming even on a retreat. If a man, he will want to remain connected with the outside world even when meditating. The big lesson for the celebrator is death and the way death stalks all of us throughout our life. Often such personalities have a strong but secret fear of death, and of abandonment which a true Guru will compassionately realise - and test. The other problem is time. Such seekers often sign up to causes or movements or items that need their time and attention and consequently overload themselves and on occasion break down. Many have difficult relations with one particular child of theirs, who unconsciously expresses the shadow side for them.

Best spiritual practice
Meditation, to allow access to inner solitariness.

4. THE COMPLAINER
Bright
There is one in every ashram, a personality that is either constantly ill, or constantly critical or others and who has experienced an unlucky life which has soured them to the ways of the world. At their brightest, complainers can achieve true dispassion about life because it holds no real charms for them. Even the teaching or the Guru are the subject of much complaint and mistrust, and often it seems that the complainer ends up creating the very conditions they dislike, time and time again. 

Illness and the need for special treatment by an ashram in terms of special meals, special seats etc are a manifestation of a chronic inability to see value in either the self, others or the teachings. Yet when the inner clouds do lift, this seeker has a surprising determination and endurance because their inner journeys are so full of secret pain, which enables them, like pine trees on a mountain side, to outlast all conditions.  And when the sunshine breaks in their lives, it is awe inspiring. Often these types of seekers, shunned and avoided by others, who turn out to be the saviours of a spiritual movement. They may rarely if ever smile, but when they do, other seekers see a remarkable transformation.

Shadow
The shadow side of the complainer is the endless litany of complaints and illnesses and the sheer dreariness of their auric presence. In a room full of silent meditators, they will be the ones who cough. If put in any kind of outreach role by a spiritual organisation, they will put off others because their faults are all too easy to spot. They can grab energy from others, they can nurse malevolent feelings to the teacher, the teachings and to God - and yet still belong to a group because their life is bare otherwise. 

Another negative impact of such a seeker is their cynical and sarcastic tongue, which can act as a subtle poison on a group as it leads others to encourage their own ngeativities. They may be the unconscious portal through which hostile astral forces will come to tear down a group or a teaching.

Best spiritual practice
Viveka, deep discrimination and thus a look into repeated patterns and tendencies.

5. THE HYPOCRITE
Bright
The hypocrite pretends to be far more holy than might actually be the case, but is usually unaware of what is so plainly obvious to others. They will delight often in pointing out the faults of others and be convinced that they are humble truth-speakers doing everyone a service. But when a hypocrite realises their own false facade, true progress can often quickly result - and Gurus can be expert at winkling out hypocrites and showing them exactly how mistaken they are.

Hypocrites will apparently rigidly adhere to spiritual disciplines as long as anyone is watching, but often evade any shared work, any real labour. They can be unquestioning supporters of cruel dogma and enthusiasts of punishment of others, and are deeply narcissistic. But their very brittleness means they can break easily and with genuine remorse change their characters. Humility is the key here, and events normally create a great downfall for a hypocrite and public humiliation. After that, the real seeking begins.

Shadow
The shadow side of the hypocrite is a lack of love for others, a lack of empathy and even contempt for fellow seekers that can create upsets in others by a few carefully chosen words. They are the self-appointed guardians of rigid laws and their ascension to power in a spiritual group can be disastrous for themselves and others. 

The hypocrite will also only make elaborate prayers or promises to God to obtain powers, or worldly blessings. They simply want God to give them things and can get very angry when their childish desires are not met, and have embarrassing tantrums against God.


The hypocrite is ruthlessly ambitious in spiritual groups and can keenly sense the hypocrisy in others, so believes everyone is putting on an act. 

Best spiritual practice
Japa, recitation of the Lord's name.

6. THE COLLECTOR
Bright
The collector is mostly intellectual and has a real enthusiasm for the deeper roots of spirituality in all its manifestations. They will be the learned members of any groups and love intellectual debate and the apprehension of new knowledge about spirituality. But they tend not to be tied to any one way for long, or any one dogma. At their best they are universalists and have wide-ranging interests and contacts. They are on the search for the "Aha!" moment of mental coherence, some item of knowledge, some hidden mantra or yantra or formula or secret saying that will "reveal" the truth in one go, but they will never find this and tend to miss the simple reality that sticking to one path be it ever so humble is the way to spiritual progress. But they can rise to be very wise, very learned, without being disillusioned by the world. They make excellent pundits, experts and writers.

Shadow
The shadow side of the collector is the tendency to not know when to stop accumulating spiritual possessions, mantras, Gurus, teachers, but this tendency to accumulate can mask a deep sense of emptiness that can lead to breakdowns, often through poor digestion - because digestion of teachings is the key. Collecting does not bring nourishment, so a collector can truly feel like that famous adage "a fish in the water that's always thirsty". 

Best spiritual practice
Seva, selfless service.
7. THE LOVER
Bright
The lover has a genuine opening of the heart towards God, or the dharma, or the Guru and is spiritually very advanced and the most blessed of all seekers. They aim to see God in everything, accepting even the bad as a gift, filled with gratitude even in very tough situations. They are truly inspired and inspiring, and oddly tend to have by far the most difficult times in a spiritual movement or under a Guru, because the true Guru will recognise their quality and test them again and again. They are like a beautiful rose flowering in a rubbish dump. They will keep silent about their profound experiences and will irresistably attract God or their chosen DEva towards them because they exude a subtle beautiful perfume. They can unconsciously become the living heart of a spiritual movement, and their qualities will be recognised by a true Guru, and they may become a Guru themselves. They are without pride. They are a true blessing on this earth plane.

Shadow
There is very little shadow side to the lover but it is true to say that they will be misunderstood especially by their family, and face often very difficult circumstances in their life which would sour most people. If they are not led to spiritual practice then even such a character as this will have a wasted incarnation. But God does not waste such souls, but carefully burnish and refine them.

Best spiritual practice
Ajapa Japa.

8. THE HERO
Bright
The heroic seeker will face many often extraordinary ups and downs in life, and may have startling character flaws, an artistic and emotional temperament but enormous courage to face 1,000 trials. This is the incarnation of drama, or challenges and dangers with often little rest. Events of life can be difficult and dangerous, but through this exceptional courage and often light heartedness the heroic seeker will defeat all eventually. Their relationship with a guru may be both passionate and difficult, but their lives may be saved by the Guru or the teachings. They may for a while live excessively worldly lives, know extremes of wealth and poverty, face the loss of loved ones, but still with courage rise and fight another day. They are the saviours of dharma, the warriors of righteousness and fearless enemies of cant and hypocrisy. They can inspire the world by their brave acts. But will they wash the dishes? They may be entrusted with a unique and special mission.Their spiritual practice could lead them to unique new artistic expressions of their love for the divine.

Shadow
There shadow side of the heroic seeker is large, but unlike the hypocrite, the hero will be all too aware of their own flaws, but despite their own natures stick to the path of righteousness. Their shadow side can come out as despair, chronic fatigue, bad temper and at times even the lion can become a cowardly lion, and they can run from battle. Deep shame will bring them back again to dharma. The biblical figure of Elijah is a classic hero of a seeker and lover of God.

Best spiritual practice
Meditation.
9. THE LUKEWARM
Bright
The slow but steady lukewarm seeker will hang back from most things, dislikes being made to speak or appear in public, and is generally tongue tied in spiritual groups. They will have little apparent zest for life and can be deeply conventional and often appear older than their years or in a position of looking after an aged parent or relative. Worldly concerns, often silly ones, assume a great importance and spiritual practice is best achieved relatively simply with conventional prayer, but anything unconventional or new is not for them. They will adopt the faith of their culture and upbringing and not deviate from it. But they will also have a genuine humility born from their constant self-effacement. The Guru will treat such seekers with extraordinary gentleness and courtesy, bringing out the sunshine in their souls.

Shadow
There shadow side of the lukewarm seeker is lack of zest, lack of imagination,. They will not want to stand up and be counted. They will not volunteer. They will not take any bold steps or revolutionary paths. They let others make fools of themselves and will be the last to join in group chanting. 

Best spiritual practice
Seva and sankirtan.

10. THE SERVANT
Bright
The servant seeker works best in service to an aim or ideal or organisation. They will work tirelessly and will have steady energy to perform all the necessary acts which enable a spiritual organisation to keep going. They take out the trash, sweep the floors, make the beds, clean the carpets. They will perform service for the Guru often for most of their lives and will obey the gurus command. They may work in the health industry serving others. At the highest expression the servant will serve the Lord in incredible ways mostly unseen by others and yet by their very dedication act as a tremendous inspiration. Calm, dignified, focused, these servants will follow the instructions of the Guru with a glad and soft heart. They are the backbone of all spiritual movements.

Shadow
The problem of a servant seeker is burn-out and exhaustion, and learning to take care of their own physical and emotional needs along the way. They can get seriously ill and se exhausted that spiritual practice can ultimately collapse. So, the inability to say No is a big problem for a servant. 

Best spiritual practice
Meditation.

11. THE ADEPT
Bright
The adept seeker is a most unusual type, to whom spiritual experiences come easily, but mostly as unbidden psychic visions, impulses of intuition, visitations by spirit entities and so forth. They carry over gifts from previous lifetimes of intense spiritual practice and their first meetings with genuine Gurus or wisdom streams can be very explosive and dramatic. This can especially happen when a Guru is gathering together the key disciples who have agreed to incarnate in the current lifetime to serve the Guru’s mission.

The awakening of Sri Mata Kundalini is responsible for their unusual psychic turbulence, but it may be that until such experiences begin, spirituality is unknown to such seekers - and they never easily learn the language and terminology of spiritual movements because their own experiences don't seem to fit into conventional descriptions.

The adept will attract much envy from other spiritual seekers, because their range of experiences will be exalted – but also exhausting and seemingly without any progression or development.

This type of seeker will have rare gifts, such as the ability to discern characters, moods, atmospheres, and can channel higher wisdom. If without much ego, as many adepts are, then their spiritual development will happen in a rush, like freeing up a mountain torrent. If pride and ego get involved, then trouble can develop because the adept will have partial development and the temptation of access into astral realms could be a hindrance. These adepts will have an unusual sensitivity to the Moon and be able to give messages to others from the transpersonal. Longing for a half-remembered blissful spiritual home is always part of their make-up, which drives on their sadhana.

Shadow
The problem for an adept is that their bodies, mind and spirit can come under attack from disembodied entities and create many health problems. The other is the pervasive feeling of being misunderstood and not fitting into any particular group or dogma, leading to a lonely independence. Their longing for union with another world is intense and the world’s pleasures will hold very little attraction for them. But this non-attachment can also become a chronic indifference and lack of initiative. Again, exhaustion can stalk the adept at every turn. They are naturally secretive.


12. THE HERMIT
Bright
The hermit seeker, like the adept, is much misunderstood but will have had many previous lifetimes experience of solitary life, and will always stand apart from a group, a school of wisdom or a Guru. They will always prefer their own company, always tend to the path least trodden, and find it hard to deal with the gritty realities of normal life. Their life can at its best be made totally golden by a love of God or the Guru and the Guru’s teachings. They are neither leaders or followers, but in solitude they will have a strong sense of communion with nature, and indeed wilt and grow ill living in urban areas. They are often extremely poor in this incarnation. They will have an artist’s sensitivity to God’s creation in both its beautiful and harsh sides. They make perfect sannyasins.

Shadow
The hermit’s basic problem is lack of relationship with humanity. These types of seekers find groups, crowds and other disciples a source of anxiety, fatigue and distraction.  They would prefer to visit the Guru late at night when others are not around. They would prefer to live out of the world. They can be very attached to their solitary ways. But the problems of relationship in this current age are one of the crucial tests of an incarnation. Relationships with others will therefore be the challenge to meet.