Three Precious Book Gems
from Open Heart
By Arwen Jayne
Copied with permission from:
I'm a doing person so I don't get around as much to reading as you'd expect from an author. This week a five hour up and five hour back trip, as a passenger, gave me ample time to finish rereading Kim Katami's first book "Awake! Handbook of Awakening" and read his latest "What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice" and "Open Heart Preliminary Practices" (linked below).
So what are they all about?
Waking up means awakening to the fact that we are more than our mentally constructed and heavily labelled selves, bound by skin and bone. We are beyond the limits of time, space and self. You can understand this conceptually or philosophically and there are certainly many on youtube and other places where people do discuss non-dual reality and experiences. The idea, however, has little meaning until it is experienced. Back in 2012 I was frustrated by all the secrecy that surrounded how to get to having experience. Many fobbed it off as something that would take many lifetimes, in the meantime just lead an ethical life and have compassion for others (not even pointing out that compassion for your own situation was important too.
Not willing to take many lifetimes I'd spent much of my life up to that point looking for practical know how. I found hints of it in the gnostic christian teachings, pagan connection to the oneness of nature, quaker teachings of listening within. Toltec shamanism teachings on love and relationship to others. I attended Satyananda yoga and learned to stare at a flame, learning to witness life as an observer. I learned Kriya yoga, pranayama, breath control etc. Tai Chi was a wonder that taught me the dance of movement and stillness. Shivasim hinted at an absolute. Buddhism entranced but seemed buried in layers, limited in its accessibility to the empowered and the ordained. Always cautious of giving my power away to others I stayed away. At least until I found Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's Bon teachings relating to dzogchen and dream yoga. Then I found Lama Yeshe's book on the clear light of bliss and authors such as Anam Thubten. But by then I'd had my first awakening. That falling away of self and the realisation of the boundless absolute. Connection to everything and beyond thing. Wanting the happiness of all the parts (people animal and things) sharing my physical existence. Wondering at the craziness of the world that chased after so much 'us and them' stuff, competing, striving, setting goals, only to fade and die leaving all at the so called end. But there was no end. Post that first wakening I chucked a heap of books from my esoteric library as they were a bunch of nonsense.
Fast forward to about three years ago. Youtube, its algorithms knowning my interest in dzogchen and the non-dual, started suggesting I watch videos from Open Heart Yoga. It was exactly what I needed at the time to deepen my practice. One of the problems of awakening is that you form an attachment to the experience you've had. You don't want to lose the insights. Yet the world starts to close in on you again. Work, family illness, world events all try to drag you back into that closed awareness of self as the only reality. For me, my way to stop that happening was to write. To journal my ideas, on this blog or hiding them in novels, hoping that most might enjoy the novels but others would see more. It is that sharing and connecting, developing a sanga of sorts of like minded souls that gives refuge from the pervasive illusion around us.
So, Kim's books.
Possibly one should start with "Open Heart: Preliminary Practices" to lay some ground work. I never did. I came to preliminary practices rather late in the piece, long after my first awakening experience. All good commensense, which I do practise daily now. At least my own version, coloured by the teachings I have followed over time.
"Awake! Handbook of Awakening" - this is the book I wish I'd had fall in my lap much earlier in life. It would have saved so much time and work. It's all there in two easy steps. First: Scan the body and release the tension. In the space where the tension was find, well the space. Allow such spaces to connect up. Rest in that space. Marinate in it. Kim uses this term marinate quite eloquently throughout his teachings. Like what's the use of saying a mantra if you don't take time to accept its blessing, by marinating in it. The second step - well I want give any spoiler here - read it. It's free. There are youtubes by Open Heart Fi that will explain the same if you prefer an auditory-visual approach.
The last book goes into something that isn't unique to Open Heart Yoga but rarely explained by other traditions. To be honest I initially dismissed this Bhumi model, or explaination of the degree of opening of the chakras and higher chakras as unnecessary to my path. It seemed a bit hierarchical and at danger of being a grading system for practitioners. I hate grades. But finally reading this book I realised that what it was about was extending the awareness of openness one feels upon awakening. Extending that awareness outward and upward, as well as downward, like ripples in a pond. I gave it ago. I felt it. When I looked again at the photos in the book I had an aha moment. Not crazy selfies afterall. You could really look at the change in the amount of openness in the individual as they grew in the path. I looked back through my old license photos. Greyer in the hair yes but there was no missing the inner peace that shone back at me in my latest. Having enjoyed a number of Shinzen Young's videos I appreciated the tale about him seeing a photo book and knowing what the theme of the book was, awakening in the face of great odds, from simply seeing the faces. On a practical level this can be a useful way for us to look at teachers who claim awakening, not to judge them as good or bad (we all have our worthwhile stories to tell) but as an indicator of where they're at, context perhaps.
The day after I read this book something interesting happened. I was visiting family when I met an energy healer. When she told me she practised reiki and theta healing I didn't dismiss her. I've experienced reiki a time or two but stayed away from it because it was either one extreme or the other, ineffectual or so damn strong it left me jittery for days. She made an interesting offer, to apply some reiki symbols to a ring I wear that has great meaning to me. I had no expectations. After using some water from the tap to loosen the ring off my finger I handed it two her and then ... well! While she was working I felt something strange happening between my heart chakra and my throat chakra, a tingling, a coming to life or something. I looked up later and found that this is the location of something called the thymus chakra or higher heart chakra. The website below has this to say on it "Opening our thymus chakra enhances our willingness to forgive and to show compassion." and that "Reiki can be applied to the client’s entire energetic network or concentrated on selected chakras in spot treatments." All this seemed entirely synchronous. The day before I was exploring the higher chakras and then bam! this. So I am encompassing this chakra in my bhumi practise.
- Awake! Handbook
Next? On Post-Awakening Practice
Heart Preliminary Practices
The Seat of the Human Soul