Absolute Balance

The Magic of Being Quantum



An Interview with Maat Barlow

By Colin Whitby

For some time now I have been interested in numbers and how they keep appearing in our lives (see my article 'stepping into the one'). Then the opportunity came to read Maat's book where I learned a really interesting and practical way of using numbers. Maat explains in her book Living by Numbers how numbers are everywhere, all around and connected to everything, they are always at hand, directing, guiding and recording everything we do through time and space. I hope you enjoy our interview.

How did you come to be interested in numbers, particularly how they express more than just numerical values?

Numbers have always been part of my life, like most people, but it was only when I started going to Kundalini Yoga classes given by Shiv Charan Singh that I began to see them in a different light. Shiv is an unusual man – a Scottish Sikh with a long, flowing red beard and turban, so that in itself was out of the ordinary. After the yoga class ended, he opened another space into the numbers where people sat in a circle and discussed different aspects of life in reference to the numbers. It was all very new and abstract. I couldn’t get a grip on much in the beginning and found it difficult and confronting. But there was a part of me that recognised something in this strange, new experience, and soon I became a regular at his classes.

Were you interested in numbers as a child?

Yes, simple arithmetic at that stage of life was fun, but the numbers also grabbed me in other ways that weren’t so obvious. One of my early memories was around the age of 3 at pre-school. I still vividly remember the counting book with its orange cover, white pages and big, black spots that represented the numbers. On my 6th birthday, my mind zoomed back to the page in that counting book with the two perfect columns of three black spots, and decided the time had come when I could do anything. Turning 6 seemed to be a very important birthday and an opportunity not to be missed. Like a vandal, I ran through the garden bashing down the flower heads on all the rose bushes, which of course, was very shocking for my parents, especially as I was a "good" child. It was definitely an act of rebellion. And all these years later I find that attack, shock and rebellion are expressions of 6, so the numbers had already begun to make themselves known in their own inimitable way.

What interested you in the teachings of Shiv Charan Singh and his approach to numbers?

The whole concept and conversations in those group meetings were unlike anything I’d met before. I liked the way Shiv let the numbers speak for themselves, rather than manipulating them into a system by stamping meanings or labels onto them. Each number has its own language that naturally unfolds, so everything can be related to them without someone else’s interpretation or judgement.

Since a child, I’ve always been interested is the hidden stuff behind the front that most of us put up. It was obvious that the unsaid was powerfully evident, but since no one seemed to want to go there or express it, it was difficult to find the language and bring those abstract thoughts and feelings to the surface. Shiv’s classes were an opportunity to practise finding the words, and with the spiritual teachings as the focal point through the numbers, things began to get a little clearer.

You explain how numbers, particularly 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, each have a significance and you take us through that journey in your book. How did the idea formulate for you, does it form part of the teachings of Shiv Charan Singh?

Yes, my book is based on Shiv’s teachings. From what he taught, I took a strand which I felt particularly drawn to. I focused on the fundamental elements and presented it through a simple equation: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10. Shiv uses this format to demonstrate the four-fold nature of life, and the neutral mind at 4 as a shortcut to transcendence at number 10. I found this equation to be a very logical and neat way to present the basics of life in an easy-to-remember visual, and so chose to open it out and based everything around it.

It’s easy to get fascinated by the colourful, interesting aspects of spirituality, but there has to be a point when all those teachings and techniques are embodied and lived. And that depends on a fundamental determination and willingness to move through any internal programmes of resistance, as well as a generosity of spirit to keep the energy flowing when meeting an external clash from someone else. It’s not an exciting or glamorous point of sale, but it is the bottom line. That’s the simple message I wanted to get across, and the equation, I think, lays it out so simply and effectively.

I’ve not seen numbers described in this way before, like personal and impersonal, but they make perfect sense the way you describe them. Was this your own idea for the book?

The personal and impersonal are two sides of the same coin; just another expression of duality. Shiv paired the numbers to represent this dynamic, and my contribution is, hopefully, to help promote these abstract points of interest. In the book, I often refer to the infinity symbol ∞, which is like an 8 on its side. One expression of number 8 is the vital life-force, which moves through the circuit of opposites – waking up in the morning and going to bed at night, charging up and emptying and charging up again. It’s a simple visual, which perfectly illustrates the polarized energy in which we all live and interact with everyone and everything; the personal and the impersonal.

You share many of your own personal lessons as illustrations for the book, which is really brave. How does this feel now the book has been published and you are ‘out there’?

It’s strange why we do things, but now that the book has been published, it becomes clearer. In the book, the basic message is to learn to listen to the voice of your soul at number 1 in the equation, and live by that directive. That means letting go of needy attachments at number 2 and the ego’s control at number 3. And that can only happen by taking the leap of faith to meet oneself without all the beliefs and illusions that cushion and buffer reality at number 4. It’s easy to say in words, but unbelievably hard to do, or even to know how to do it.

I set myself up for this leap by leaving Shiv’s group and writing the book, which for me was symbolic of stepping into number 4. The decision was very natural; it was just that’s what I had to do. As I wrote about the numbers, I started to weave in what I believed was the hidden stuff behind the front. Of course, that hidden stuff is personal, and now that the book is out, it’s no longer safely tucked away. The impact of that was the reality hit, and I saw myself clearly without the illusions that have shielded me in the past. It was shocking, but that’s what I wanted - the saying "be careful of what you wish for" springs to mind!

How has writing the book changed your life, will you continue with your other work interests or do you see yourself focusing more on the book and it’s teachings?

The whole point of studying the numbers was to change aspects of my life, and the experience of meeting myself in the raw through the book has done that; at least, it’s started the process. I’ve been in a phase of learning and introspection for the past few years, and now it’s time to come out of that. It’s like I’ve got the theory and now I’ve got to make it real. I can’t imagine abandoning the teachings of the numbers, but there are different ways to go forward. I’ve just moved, so everything is very new, and structures have to be built again. This time, I have the opportunity to build them consciously in the way that I want.

Like the experience with the rose bushes that I had as a child, the hit of reality is a time when number 6 is powerfully evident. Not only is it a chance to become clearer, but it also opens the way for other possibilities to shine through.

Do you see yourself doing workshops or talks about the teachings in your book?

In Kundalini Yoga, there’s a saying: "If you want to know something, read about it; if you want to learn something, write about it, and if you want to master something, teach it. So having followed the equation myself, I hope the process will help me develop a really worthwhile way to offer the teachings of the numbers, whether that’s a workshop, talks or something else altogether!

Maat Barlow has been studying the numbers since 1999. She also draws upon her experiences as a mother, yoga teacher and illustrator.

Maat Barlow -

Shiv Charan Singh -