Monday, October 31, 2016

Finding Spiritiual Gratitude and Joy in Every Moment

 Far to the north, or indeed in any direction,
strange mountains and creatures have always lurked—
elves, goblins, trolls, and spiders: —we
encounter them in dread and wonder,

But once we have tasted far streams, touched the gold,
found some limit beyond the waterfall,
a season changes, and we come back, changed
but safe, quiet, grateful.

We all experience moments of great well-being where we seem to come alive more than usual, in which it feels like something wonderful is filling us up within, filling us with joy, not yet articulate, to a point where the heart overflows until we break into song or say thank you to someone. Once in awhile, out in nature, out of nowhere, we get caught up in a moment where we feel this indescribable oneness with everything. Everyone has these times; for some of us they are all too fleeting, all too few. So how can we invite more of these times into our lives?

The answer is actually quite simple. Stop, Look, then Decide to Act. Attend to the moment. Listen. Behold the now. Breathe. Most of us are caught up in schedules, deadlines, rushing around; busy, busy, busy; the first thing we must do is pause..............really pause........... to appreciate the opportunity presented in each and every moment. Once you behold the opportunity you can make a decision to do something about it - to act. If you practice this, you cannot help but become happier moment to moment because such a purposeful response offers you the immediate reward of joy.

There is much to be thankful for, certainly, but there are many important experiences for which you cannot be grateful, as well. You cannot be grateful for war or violence or sickness. But you CAN be grateful in any moment if you pause to appreciate that you can learn something from even the most challenging experience. Gratitude is not just about living in the moment and saying thanks for the good things, but, just as importantly, seeing the opportunity every moment presents, whether good, bad, or ugly. If the experience causes you to grow or allows you the opportunity to protest and take a stand in a situation in which things are not the way they ought to be, there is good cause to be grateful. You may not be grateful for everything, but you can be grateful in every moment.

Gratitude is not a reaction to the present moment. That would be something automatic. It is a chosen response to not just what has happened in the moment, but also to the opportunity that has been presented. This secures the kind of joy that does not depend upon what happens. There are things that happen that can make us unhappy, yet we can still be joyful. There can be inner peace and joy in the midst of the worst sadness in each of our lives. For instance, there is a great sadness in the death of a family member or friend, yet there is a joy and comfort in appreciating the love you gave and received from that person. Happiness is not a steady condition in life, but joy can be a condition that lasts through the ups and downs.

Gratitude is inextricable from the notion of belonging. It implies belonging to not only one another, but belonging to an extensive order beyond ourselves. The grace that Buddhists pray before a meal: "Innumerable labors brought us this food, may we know how it comes to us. Let us receive this as a blessing." When practiced, before you partake of the food on your plate, you realize there is no end to our interconnectedness. Everything we take into our bodies originally is derived from the earth through the effort of others. When you consider the network of people involved in growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, delivering the foods we eat each day, there may be thousands of people involved who play a necessary role in bringing the food to your plate. There wouldn't be anything on your plate if not for these many gifts. Offering gratitude connects us back to the great mystery of which we are all a part.

Mysticism can be said to be the experience of limitless belonging. Mysticism is not something abstract. Everyone of us is a mystic when we have this experience of belonging, feeling a part of something larger than ourselves, however elusive and unexplainable. The great mystics differ only from the rest of us in that they let these special moments of oneness determine and shape every moment of their lives. They never forget it. They keep the moment ever present in their heart and mind. Most of us tend to forget it. If we could keep it in mind and give in to it, we too could find lasting joy from that single experience. Everyone is called to be a mystic. It is not a special calling, but the birthright of every human being. A mystic is not a special kind of human being. A human being is a special kind of mystic.

The divine mystery that you are confronted with and experience can never be grasped or adequately put into words, but you can understand it by going with it. You can understand music, for instance, but you really can't grasp it or even talk about it. You can let it take hold of you, but you cannot adequately put it into words. Whatever the great mystery of life that all of us confront we can understand by allowing it to do something to us. That silent openness to the mystery of life is a wonderful form of prayer. Prayer, after all, is simply whatever lifts your heart. When we experience gratitude it is because something lifts up our hearts. Joy is a form of prayer because we are lifted by it. If it is fishing that lifts up your heart, then fishing is your prayer. If it is dance that lifts your spirit, then dance is your prayer. If trail running lifts you to joy, then that is your prayer.

Any expression of gratitude presents us the opportunity to appreciate our connectedness and dependency on the rest of the world. There really is no independence, from any point of view. Gratitude is saying yes to being embedded in this network of all things. It offers a way of re-seeding the joy that you receive back into the universe to its source. The more gratitude you give back, the more gifts you receive to be grateful for. What goes around comes around. It is simply how the universe works.

Concluding with an affirmation from Maya Angelou: "This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before." With it you celebrate the uniqueness of every single day, every single moment. Another day! We can't take it for granted. Begin with this. Look in the mirror upon rising. Smile and remind yourself that you have arrived at the doorstep of adventure into a new day, no matter how it unfolds. There is always great cause for wonder and celebration. Be grateful for the opportunity to continue another day on your learning journey. Give thanks to all things and advance confidently with great expectation. Begin by just being thankful for your next breath. Take nothing for granted. Find joy in every moment, for to miss the joy is to miss all.

 * Poem from “Allegiances” by William Stafford

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Opening the Doors of Perception pour atteindre a la verite


          Pour atteindre a la verite, il faut une foix dans sa vie
       se defaire de toute les opinions que l'on a recues et
    reconstruire de nouveau, et des le fondement, tous les
                        systemes de ses connaisances.

Early in my sojourn with formal academia I found myself butting heads with Rene Descartes over the deductive assumption underlying his fundamental assertion: "Cogito Ergo Sum". Nonetheless, I have continued to respect his lasting impact on the evolving modern world view. The rough translation of his quote above is: "To arrive at what is ultimately the truth, for once in your life you have to get rid of all the opinions you have heretofore amassed, and reconstruct anew, from the foundation, all the systems of your knowledge." One characteristic of a healthy mind is that it appreciates that nothing is ever settled; all assumptions need to be questioned, again and again, with the ultimate aim to ferret out the elusive truth of all things. Wonder and awe should perennially refresh our outlook on the world.

The cosmological Big Bang Theory has always been suspect to me, despite an overwhelming strong consensus in the general scientific community that it explains the origin of our universe. Science seems anemic in its explanation of how a manifestly diverse universe with the kind of order that we experience in our everyday lives could emerge from a singular enormous explosion some 15 billion years ago. The world just doesn't seem to be what one would expect to remain from an incredible fireball of billions of degrees. It does not seem likely that the organization of galaxies and solar systems could occur without the influence of some ordering principle, yet science straight out rejects any implication of purpose or intelligent design as unscientific. It seems, however, that by officially limiting its inquiry to exclude indications of purpose, it has capped any continued search for the truth, deviating strongly from the likes of Descartes, Newton, Kepler, Einstein, and many other innovative scientific pioneers.

Theories of modern cosmology and physics are built around the observation that essentially everything looks the same no matter which way you look out into the universe. This has certainly simplified mathematical explanation, but are there other models to describe the overall structure and behavior of the universe at large??? While the Big Bang has increasingly been viewed as settled science or proven as fact, one must not forget that it is still no more than theory based on assumptions. Data are increasingly accumulating, however, that point to a finding that the Big Bang may not hold true as the Unified Field Theory is now applied. Not only is cosmological science heading for a re-set, but a real revolution is astir that may go far beyond a mere paradigm shift, possibly even leading to a redefinition of what science is all about.

It now appears that the cosmos may be more like a meatball on a toothpick than the ever-expanding result of a primal explosion. A Central Axis of an unfathomably large super-galactic scale now appears to be the center of the universe as well as the organizing principle behind it. As a whole, the universe may be a spinning vortex generated by the Central Axis which acts as a fundamental space-time organizer. A polarized axis from the beginning would offer a credible explanation as to why the universe has turned out to be so ordered, leading us to conclude that nothing is independent, but everything is connected and synchronized. A theory of this sort not only overturns the Big Bang assumptions, but may knock out the underpinnings of both the general and special theories of relativity and the unified field theory. Einstein's theories have yet to be invalidated, but there is now reason to question relativity theory as the fundamental theory of space-time.

What this new core discovery points toward is that there was structure in the universe from the very beginning, drawing into question the philosophy of randomness and a universe without purpose. Our instincts want us to find an explanation for why the universe is not pointless in regard to the evolution of life, consciousness, and intelligence. Opening the doors of perception to let in the light of wonder and awe is leading scientists to imagine worlds anew right before our very eyes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Unconditional Love

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It's not 'I love you' for this or that reason, not 'I love you" if you love me. It's love for no reason, love without an object. - RAM DASS

Monday, October 24, 2016

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. - Buddha

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Diving into the Eternal Now with no plan to come up for air

While taking a week off from everything that normally holds my attention to purposefully reinvent myself, I seem to be increasingly detaching from my own personal history, the very narrative I use to distinguish myself from the rest.  The events and relationships that I have enjoyed even recently seem increasingly blurred and distant.  I have not forgotten them, certainly; I've simply stopped thinking about them, for they have no meaning or relevance in the life I am experiencing right now.  What is occurring is that I am again remembering how to live in the present moment.  It has been awhile since I looked at the world this way. Time seems completely outside of my experience.  I can stretch or diminish it at will; it is something to be used only in the moment, and I find myself in no hurry to see where it will lead.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The White Queen sends me a True Dream from the Gates of Horn

                          "Why, sometimes before breakfast, 
                I've believed as many as six impossible things."
                            - the White Queen, Through the Looking Glass, (Lewis Carroll)

From the time I was a young man encountering the mysteries of the world for the first time I have known about a certain portal into the dream world that never failed to yield exotic adventures that went far beyond anything in my normal awareness.  Upon laying down to sleep I merely have to mentally ask "Send me a True Dream from the Gates of Horn" and let the universe do the rest as I dream.

The origin of this request I have long since misplaced, but it likely derives from the Mystery Schools of antiquity in Egypt which I have always held a certain affinity for. So once again I made my request last night as I sought my repose, and once again I came away with an exotic dream loaded with meaning, always worth recording for subsequent examination.

I've had strange dreams over the years that seem to take me to some other world environment where nothing is familiar, but last night's dream was at least grounded somewhat in this reality.  It took place in a barrio, perhaps in interior Mexico, a simple community of single story adobe structures spread out as far as one could see, every building painted with murals or provincial (not gang) graffiti.  Very striking.  Very warm.
A young boy, perhaps thirteen, collected me from my casita in town and took me to his home, which appeared more like a community center, where he lived with his father and two brothers, a younger one who was rather fat and reticent and the older one who was obviously mentally disabled, requiring much of his father's attention.  No names were exchanged other than that I learned the father was a Don of some sort, at least the Don of this community center.  The thirteen-year-old was hungry for my attention in a longing sort of way, so much of my interaction with the family was centered on him, but his disabled brother captured my imagination with the glow of love around him and his expression of joy.  It was a dream, so I mostly recall my feelings and not as much of the minutiae.

It was the birthday of the disabled boy and the townspeople flowed in with simple gifts for the boy.  There must have been hundreds of people coming and going with contagious joyous energy.  Nobody had much, but they shared what meager offerings they had.  The boy who befriended me gave me two little candy suckers which he was selling for one peso apiece.  I told him I would give him some money when I saw him next.  The dream ended as I walked back to my casita admiring the wonderful art that decorated every building along the way.

Short and sweet, the dream came and went between 0400 and 0700 during obvious REM sleep.  While the dream appears to have been brief it seemed like I was immersed in it for two to three hours, corresponding to the time of my REM sleep. I awoke with ready recall as most of these dreams from the Gates of Horn allow.  Hours later it is still on my mind when I now have a moment to reflect on what it meant.

The dream was very real.  It seems to reflect a real part of my life that is not front and center during normal awareness. Do we have an expanded life when our brains dip into alpha and theta frequencies?  Is this other world of dreams out of time or in an alternative dream time?  What is reality, after all, other than a culturally agreed upon construct.  Take away the cultural influence and the rules that govern our assumptions and you are left with a world of freedom to go and do as you please in another world beyond the imagination.

So what do I take from the dream?  I believe there is a certain longing in my life to give more love to those in need.  The world I live in now is too often stacked in favor of rewarding service to self.  The sincerest pathway of integrity and sobriety lies in giving service to others.  Therein lies true freedom and happiness.  

Something far more vast exists from what we have culturally agreed is real and from what our everyday senses perceive.  Consensual reality is but a subset of the broader scope of things, the product of a long, cooperative, highly selective, highly developed, and last but not least, highly coercive process that culminates in an agreement that shields us from other possibilities. I want to unmask that which has been dictated to me.  I am interested in perceiving the full extent of the world in ways outside of what is culturally dictated.  I seek to break the frail blanket of human assumptions and increasingly leap into the unknown world that may otherwise be abstract.

 A dream of impossible things before breakfast?  Perhaps.  Instructive?  Absolutely. Certainly worthy of another trip back to the Gates of Horn!!!

The Spartan Warrior in Me

I must have been a Spartan warrior in a former life. It is a lifestyle and mindset that suits me, and maybe always has. Being a Spartan in...