Apprenticeship of The Soul

Dedicated to The Blue Star Mother
Immortal Master of the Solar Lineage


Apprenticeship of The Soul

Read an excerpt from the book

Sonjan Meets the Solar Lineage

The Mother wants paradise, not dissolution.

The story goes back to meeting Babaji in 1969. I was in flight training in Pensacola when the Navy decided it had too many pilots. Their solution was to empty out the training program, yet I was only halfway through flight training. I left Pensacola with the others and headed home, still subject to military service.

The US Army was actively drafting for Vietnam at the time and my draft-lottery number was 24—meaning I was guaranteed to be drafted.

A vision led me to read The Autobiography of a Yogi. In the autobiography, Babaji vows, “Anyone who sincerely prays in my name will have their prayer answered.” I took him at his word! I opened the book to Babaji’s picture, put it under my pillow and prayed night after night: “I don’t want to go to war. I don’t want to kill people. I want to find God. If you keep me out of this war, I will sincerely seek for God.”

And that is exactly what happened. Within a month, a draft notice arrived—I had been re-classified physically unfit for service. I didn’t ask how one of the Navy’s own young pilots could be classified “unfit”. Babaji had simply answered my prayer. I did not go to war. I began kriya meditation with Self Realization Fellowship using Babaji’s techniques passed down through Yogananda. Three years later, I was in India at the foot of the Himalayas.

That was my first encounter with the Solar Lineage.

In 1992 Ramana Maharshi found me through the returning luminaries from Papaji’s satsang hall. I was on fire with inquiry and sat with everyone who was teaching. I studied with Bartholomew from ’92 to ’96; it was pure Ramana Maharshi.

In June of ‘97 something happened, an epiphany. At the time, I called it a foreground/background shift. The identity that had been running in the foreground faded into the background and what had been running silently in the background came forward as Silence. Awareness had recognized Itself. I came to understand this as the core recognition underlying the first realization. A mild bliss now flowed through me most of the time.

I began working with Gangaji who skillfully put language to what is essentially unspeakable. Her talent was amazing. Yet as the years passed, I started to feel that there was more to spiritual life than silence, more to it than dissolving in Essential Nature—there was something more.

From within the stillness emerged the impulse, “Now that you are awake, WHAT IS POSSIBLE?” Self-Inquiry had born its fruit and carried me far. But as delicious as silence was, there was more.

The call became so loud that I actually began to feel stuck in silence.   I know that sounds crazy, but the Mother was whispering in my ear, saying that there was more to life than silence. I was being called back into life. This was Vishnu’s call. I was being asked to pick up the power of creation and actualize.

I saw that the Shiva model, the ‘consciousness only’ model of dissolution in one’s Essential Nature, was not entirely complete. In reality, we do NOT lose our individuality; we gain our universality. The drop does not dissolve in the Ocean; the Ocean enters the drop. Advaita’s no-self approach was not a life-oriented path and didn’t lead to deep fulfillment—that was my experience.

Dissolution was not the goal … and neither was silence. Consciousness is only half the adventure. It is the combination of both consciousness and energy that creates Life; both need embracing.

The path is expression, not dissolution. Joy, Love and Eternal Life are the principles seeking expression. The satsang circuit was full of lovely luminous teachers, but everyone was speaking of silence, dissolution, ‘no-self’. So, I began working with my friend Aaravindha. I would find out later that he was the voice of Vishnu and the Divine Mother … and he was about to set off on the journey of a lifetime.

He had been etherically invited to Amarpura—the Valley of the Masters. In the summer of 2006, he gathered his trekking gear and flew to Delhi. Magically, the immortals dropped off a linen envelope at his hotel with handwritten directions to the Valley. It took him a month of trekking through unbelievably treacherous terrain to arrive at the Valley. He stayed there almost a month with the oldest human beings on the planet.

After returning from the Himalayas, Aaravindha shared his experiences with his Sambodha friends, family and sangha. He told us the story of his journey and his time with the masters of the Solar Lineage (Surah Parampara). He was radiant with their power and the heart connection was profound.

I silently reached out to these masters and said “I am ready” and they reached across time and space and connected with me–silently.

Aaravindha was the only teacher I knew who was addressing the unfulfilling aspect of silence and I wanted to devour his teaching. He was speaking with authority about the deepest levels of consciousness. He wasn’t just passing on lineage curriculum. He was looking directly into Divine Mind. He was staring into eternity.

I wanted to know if his teachings were congruent with the understanding that had matured within me. I went to Europe and entered the Sambodha teacher training where the core knowledge is taught. Over the course of a year, I discovered that he indeed understood everything I knew; yet the depth of his understanding just kept going.

Every master I knew, understood that self-recognition was not the end, but the beginning. All awakening leads to further deepening. This was my deepening.

Sonjan Meets the Solar Lineage
Sonjan & The Apprentice of the Soul

Notes on Apprenticeship of the Soul

An inspired poem or an inspired book writes itself. It comes from beyond the mind. It is transcendental. It arrives as a field of information embedded within energy that unfolds into impressions. Describing the process is difficult. Some have reached for words like channeling, others use terms like “vesseling the Spirit”. I simply call it inspiration. It just happens. It’s what creative artists do.

It is opening to the energy and letting it inform you. Perhaps it’s a dimensional opening or information portal or maybe the rational left brain opening to the intuitive right hemisphere. Whatever it is, it’s simple—a door opens and in comes an energy, rich in a non-rational, non-linear flow of information. You read the energy and unpack it, translating it into your craft.

Apprenticeship of the Soul started this way as poems emerging from meditation. In the mid 90’s, Bob Love had been given me a book of Rumi poems. The fusion of deep wisdom, intimacy with God and wild metaphor—broke me open. I read everything Coleman Barks had written. Then Hafiz arrived on the wings of Daniel Ladinsky’s gifted pen.

I knew these men. They were my Soul brothers, my teachers, my friends. They laid me wide open. I read and re-read until, one day during meditation, the pen found its way into my hand and began writing poems.

The portal simply opens; I stop everything and write. That’s how it happens for me.

My first two books were published in 2000 and a book of love poems followed 2 years later. My focus then shifted from poetry to home, garden and lover, in what I now call ‘the home and garden years’ — good for flowers, not so good for spiritual transmission. A poetic ice age settled in for the next five years as I grew roses.

Then in ’06, I began working with Aaravindha—an American born mystic—the poems spontaneously reappeared. The dharma doors flung open again and the words sprang to life as the book—Apprenticeship of the Soul. It wrote itself.

The words emerging in Apprenticeship represent the wisdom of the Solar Lineage, mixed with the spiritual wisdom of a lifetime, the fusion of a dozen traditions distilled in the fire of a human life. I hope you enjoy them.

Sonjan & The Apprentice of the Soul
What is Enlightenment?

What is enlightenment? There is deep misunderstanding on the topic. Is enlightenment the same as self-realization? Is it the same as self-recognition? Are there degrees of it? What are the attributes?

When I first heard of enlightenment, I assumed it to be the omega point of the human experience. My mind imagined that the individual nature improves and improves until some superlative state was achieved. As a seeker, I assumed it to be a point far off in the future, perhaps lifetimes away.

Does anyone get enlightened? Not in the sense that the question is asked. Enlightenment is not the separate self becoming the biggest, baddest, wisest, separate self on the block. That never happens. The separate self never gets enlightened. The mind never gets enlightened.

In enlightenment, the separate self opens to the larger transpersonal, unified Oneness that is its source and essence. The separate self opens and allows a larger pre-existing awareness that was always there but had gone unnoticed and unrecognized, to enter and become it, hence the name self-realization or self-recognition. What you thought in the beginning was separate turns out Y 26 not to be so separate, but that is a recognition that comes with realization.

I like the metaphor of “the point and the field”. The field is the unified transpersonal awareness that contains all the points with in It (God). All points exist within the field. Each point is a part of the field, not the entire field, but a valid perspective within the field. While the point and the field are distinct, are they separate? No, they are the same, and when the point opens to the field, that becomes self-evident.

When we start the journey towards enlightenment, many assume that the journey involves “who-wethink-we-are” to move from the alpha to the omega point. When we get there we are enlightened. But this is a false model. Enlightenment happens when the point finally opens to the field. The field floods in and the point is no longer separate from the field, yet it is still a distinct point of view within the field.

The metaphor has many wonderful subtleties, but the essence is that enlightenment is not an acquisition, a state or an improvement of the separate self, but the releasing of the identity as a separate self long enough for your colorless, odorless, tasteless, soundless unattributed essential consciousness to recognize Itself as who you really are. That takes OPENING. So, throughout the entire book, you hear the theme repeating: open, open, open.

People often ask their teachers “Are you enlightened?” My feeling is—that it’s the question you don’t ask. If you want to know, you are likely asking from a place of separation. A deeper question to ask yourself might be: “Who is asking?”

If the person claims, “I am enlightened. I am enlightened.” the odds are that they too are coming from the perspective of separate self. However, to say, “No, I am not enlightened,” affirms separation, which is also misleading. Ramana Maharshi is often quoted as saying, “The thought that you are not enlightened, is the biggest obstacle to your enlightenment.”

Besides, the Ministry of Magic does not send you a Certificate of Enlightenment by owl mail when self-realization occurs. Eckhart sat on a park bench for two years. Byron Katie had to develop “the work” to heal her crazy mind. Susan Segal reported in Collision With The Infinite that she wandered around for ten years after her awakening not knowing what happened to her as she stepped on that bus.

And, by the way, if you do get a letter by owl after your awakening, please contact me; maybe I got that wrong.

Sonjan – What’s in a name?

For years I avoided spiritual names. I didn’t want an India-sounding name. I had friends who took Sanskrit names and they always felt contrived. Besides, my existing names were beautiful. David meant beloved of God and Christopher meant the bearer of Christ. Those were first-class spiritual names in my book. And I had always liked last name of McCombs. It was a strong Scottish name.

Then I met Steve Gray at the Inner Dimensions Conference in 2001. I felt an immediate affinity with his luminous heart. He was the unknown speaker at the conference. He shared his personal story with me of studying Zen Buddhism for years and at the request of his teacher, began to teach. His teachings were well attended locally. Then he gave himself a spiritual name — Adyashanti — and the rest is history.

In that moment I released my judgment of spiritual names. Names carry vibration. Spiritual names are meant to express a “quality of being” and draw us towards their essence. Spiritual names can change as we deepen and mature or stay for a lifetime. Padmasambhava was said to have nine names before the Tibetans honored him as the lotus born.

During a healing seminar in ‘06, my friend and mentor Aaravindha offered to enter Divine Mind through his gift of Saumedhika sight and pull out a spiritual name from the Mother’s heart for me.

That name is Sonjan. It means gentle heart. This book is the collected teachings of Sonjan. It embodies forty years of study, meditation and spiritual practice. It is the knowledge of a lifetime. I offer it to you

Not That Kind of Poet

I am not the “remembering” kind of poet

I can’t quote Yeats or Shelley

Or the brilliance of Shakespeare

I can’t even remember my own material

But there is wildness afoot

A madness that comes visiting … when you let go

Rumi’s heart fell to the ground when he lost Shams

Then the Divine came and danced

Until his mouth became a blessing

God wrote a thousand poems to Himself on his tongue

The wildness that ripped Hafiz apart

Comes visiting –

She rips me open — grabs a pen

And starts scribbling Divine madness

I am not the remembering kind of poet

I’m not really a poet at all

I’m just crazy about kissing God


Sonjan reveals the keys to enlightenment, the nature of mind, how to flood the body with Light, and the profound realization of Yogata-union is!!! Sonjan proposes that Emptiness wants to dance, that Shiva (consciousness) summons Shakti (energy) to create the worlds, that the purpose of spiritual life is not dissolution in the Absolute Silent Self, but the glorious crafting of paradise.

Tears of recognition flow while reading the mystical truth embedded in poems reminiscent of Hafiz and Rumi around which commentary is built that fully explains and satisfies the inquiring mind. Sonjan [Chris McCombs] is a wisdom teacher in the Solar Lineage of Sambodha.
His masterful teachings are full of deep spiritual insight and ancient truths that reflect over 40 years of meditation. He teaches the Yoga of Light and pavana meditation as an elegant path of self realization and healing the mind.
He embodies the ancient wisdom brought forth by his beloved teacher and Saumedhika seer, Aaravindha Himadra

Sonjan Book

“Sonjan’s [Chris McCombs] wonderful book of prose, Apprenticeship of the Soul gives us channeling at its best. I highly recommend this beautiful and insightful work. It will relax you, inspire you, and bring you to a place you’ve never been before.”

Gary Renard, author of The Disappearance of the Universe

«Sonian offers a taste of the sweetness of Truth. All beings thirst for a knowledge that sets them free. Sonjan’s book is a step in that direction, offering many of the most important eye-opening moments that lead to realization.”

Aaravindha, author of The Undefended Heart

„Sonjan’s book Apprenticeship of the Soul offers a direct, simple, clear, insightful realisation of the Truth. Just reading these modern Haikus, we are drawn to satori: the explosive acknowledgement of our soul’s radiance. The longing to open the door to the mystery of divine guidance.

The joy of tasting the blissful life when we do. Read this book and be enchanted.”

Margot Anand, author of The Art of Everyday Ecstasy

Letter to the Reader

That is what the ‚crushing‘ is all about: your unwillingness to let your Divine Nature run the show.

– Sonjan –

Broken Oben

The pathway to God Is the heart. Broken open The shell is needed for the chick to grow.

But then – it must crack open.

– Sonjan –