Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Keyless Entry of Self Image

Self-image is the personal view we have of ourselves. It is our mental image or self portrait. Self-image is an internal dictionary that describes the characteristics of the self, including concepts like intelligence, beauty, kindness, selfishness or insensitivity. These characteristics form a collective representation of our assets and liabilities as we see them. Relationships reinforce what we think and feel about ourselves. Self-image is important because how we think about ourselves directly affects how we feel about ourselves and how we respond to life.

How we think and feel about ourselves influences the way we react or respond to life stressors. A hopeless self-image can lead to suicide. Self-image possessing body strength and health can lead to wellness. A loving self-image can lead to a life full of loving relationships. An angry self-image can lead to a life of isolation. A fearful self-image can lead to a life of suffering. In these ways, self-image can determine the quality of our relationships with others.

How we imagine ourselves to be can be different from how we witness ourselves to be, but ultimately the two will become the same if our desire to be as we imagine is unwavering. Depending on the beliefs we gather throughout our life, our self-image can bring us success and happiness, or, on the other hand, failure and misery. But this image can change, if we start questioning our beliefs about our selves and our lives. When our belief system falls apart, we are ready to receive a greater truth, and resurrect belief, born anew with possibility.

What do YOU think?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Unlimited Golden Shadow

In order to understand repetitive patterns in relationships, Dr. Carl Jung suggested what we understand the psychological rule: “The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.”

This acting out involves projecting our shadow aspects, or our belief in our own limitations. The more we know about ourselves, the more choices we have, and our limitations fall away. We can then choose not to behave in a certain way. When we don’t know about something, then it will take on a compulsive, autonomous element to it. Projection is an unconscious psychological mechanism. We all project onto other people parts of ourselves that we disown, that we deny. We will usually not identify with the projected quality or characteristic at all. It’s them. It’s not us. Until we accept our own shadow.

One of Carl Jung's real contributions, was to point out that our shadow, or the rejected aspects of ourselves or undeveloped potential, contains all sorts of creative, positive content. If you were a musically gifted child, for instance, and you dreamed about playing guitar or composing a symphony but your parents felt that they wanted you to perform academically and go to law school and join the family law firm, your musical ability went into the shadow.

Rudolph Steiner's take on shadow is the Guardians of the Threshold - there are two. You cannot cross the threshold into integration until you know that you can illuminate darkness yourself. The first Guardian, contains all of our fears in aspects of good and evil. These fears prohibit our crossing the Threshold until we reconcile all good and evil within and see them interwoven into whole being. The unseen then becomes seen.

The second Guardian is a sublime, luminous beauty impossible to describe. It holds our highest potential, and our low self image and our perceived limits keep us from embracing this Guardian and crossing the Threshold. To embrace the second Guardian we must realize that invisible forces within our selves create our character and that our world of sense is a seed ground for the higher world. By embracing the second Guardian, everyone is redeemed and all are connected. We cannot cross the threshold in separation.

Once we can cross the threshold, according to Steiner, divine protection envelops us. Evil that was once part of our experience will no longer enter our experience. Because we have integrated evil and no longer hold it in separation, the greater is joined to the lesser and proceeds from us in love for all.

What do YOU think?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Do We Do Now?

It was Will Rogers that said: If you want to be successful, know what you are doing, love what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing.

But what does it mean “to do.” Why do we so often feel compelled to do something? Merriam Webster tells us that do means to cause, to make, to bring to pass, to perform, to execute and to conduct oneself. But how do we know what to do? When is it better to do nothing?

The concept of self-efficacy is the focal point of Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory. Self-efficacy plays the central role in the cognitive regulation of motivation, because people regulate the level and the distribution of effort they will expend in accordance with the effects they are expecting.

So there is a necessary confidence in doing because doing is expressed in the perception of the principal aim of life as accomplishing things mainly for the good of both the individual and society. When is it right to do nothing, to just let it be? Being is mainly directed at the individual’s cultivation and development of his personality (Erich Fromm). Perhaps the answer is not to choose, but to recognize being in the midst of doing. This requires the understanding that Doing and Being are a profound pair of complementary qualities in human existence.

The Christian mystic Neville Goddard believed that the only thing to do is imagine: “If you imagine a state, remain faithful to it, and it externalizes itself, you have found the creator of the world for by him all things are made and without imagination is not anything made that is made. When you discover how to make something, you have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, your own wonderful human imagination, the Everlasting Sustainer of all life. (Neville Goddard No Other God 5.10.1968) This discovery of imagination, Neville called God’s “Promise. There is nothing any person can do to earn it. It is sheer Grace and comes in its own good time.”

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Do You Know About Healing?

The new focus of energy medicine is based on the belief that our "life force" creates energy fields that are unbalanced during emotional or physical disease. Because our energy fields are part of an interconnected whole, the use of focused intention by one individual can aid in the health and well being of another. What do you know about healing? What practices do you have to maintain health and wellness?
Artwork by Susan Seddon Boulet. Many thanks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Dance of Truth and Fact

Is there a difference between something factual and something true? If so, what? How do you decide whether or not something is true?

Artwork by Cindy Hesse. Many thanks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Dark Night Brings Commitment to Life

Many of us, because of a critical illness, suicidal depression or life threatening accident, have been faced with having to recommit to life to go on living. Sometimes the road back is long and arduous. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. What brings us to this point? At what point do we decide, YES, I choose life! How do we go about putting our lives back together after reaching this point?

This process, along with a physical crisis, also includes what has been called through the ages, “the dark night of the soul,” which refers to purifying the soul of worldly attachments in preparation for illumination. As psychologist, Carl Jung reminds us, "when the soul embraces and accepts suffering, the pain reveals itself as the birth pangs of a new inner being." As Jung points out "the birth of the Self is always a defeat for the ego."

Author Gregg Braden presents the dark night of the soul as one of the Essene Seven Mirrors of Relationship, allowing us a deeper understanding of our relationship with ourselves and others, and an opportunity to explore the our relationship with the Divine. The "dark night" might clinically or secularly be described as the letting go of one's ego as it holds back the psyche, thus making room for some form of transformation, perhaps in one's way of defining oneself or one's relationship to God. This interim period can be frightening, hence the perceived "darkness."

During this dark night, which Kierkegaard labeled "despair," we, as an ego, experience our utter impotence and powerlessness. We seem to be caught in an infinite double-bind, and might be afraid that we are going crazy. At times it even feels like we have fallen into the depths of hell. Suicide seems the only way out. To quote the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, who, in the 16th century coined the term the dark night: "the soul can do so little in this state; like a prisoner in a gloomy dungeon, bound hand and foot, it cannot stir, neither can it see or feel any relief, either from above or below…"

The Egyptian Hermetic teachings tell us the first step in the process of getting through a “dark night” is letting go of our ego’s hold on life brings about a complete transformation in our psyche. The second step, immersion into pure Being, brings about the revelation that our ego is itself just a limited projection of pure existence and being. Certainly from here, we begin to put our lives back together. But we will never be the same.

What do YOU think?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I AM What I Am and That's All That I Am

"All Fords are exactly alike, but no two men are just alike. Every new life is a new thing under the sun; there has never been anything just like it before, never will be again. A young man ought to get that idea about himself; he should look for the single spark of individuality that makes him different from other folks, and develop that for all he is worth. Society and schools may try to iron it out of him; their tendency is to put it all in the same mold, but I say don't let that spark be lost; it is your only real claim to importance." - Henry Ford

Albert Einstein seemed to be in agreement, when he said: "The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime. . ."

An individual being is defined by St. Thomas as "quod est in se indivisum, ab aliis vero divisum" (a being undivided in itself but separated from other beings). It implies therefore unity and separateness or distinctness. Individuality in general may be defined or described as the property or collection of properties by which the individual possesses this unity and is separated off from other beings. What is it that constitutes an individual, or individuality?

Everyone who is alive, explores and expresses their identity. What makes us individuals? Is being an individual the same as being different? When we enjoy our commonalities with others, do we lose our individuality? What do YOU think?
Artwork by Ralaf Olbinski Many thanks.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Life Within the Paradox is Non Dual

"Not effort or
the absence of effort,
neither choice nor the impossibility of choice,
neither self nor not self,
neither nothing nor something,
neither emptiness nor form,
neither unborn nor born,
the third thing..." - John Astin

The embrace of third alternative does not blot out any part of reality, or substitute it with a new shiny version - it very simply completes the picture. Nothing seems wrong anymore. When we are presented by the two opposites in a story, no longer do either of them scare or titillate us quite as much, as we naturally choose the third alternative.

The third alternative has its own flavor - it tastes like wholeness, and smells of paradox. It is a dimension of being that holds all paradox snugly in its unicity. It is not the solution to all our problems, we find out, but the inclusion of all our problems into that greater wholeness. This third alternative, according to Dr. John Astin, is non dual reality.

It is nothing you can take hold of conceptually, and it's not any particular experience (as opposed to any other experience). It is the awaring presence, the beingness, the IS-ness of this moment -- this that is undeniably present beyond all doubt, requiring no proof or belief, impossible to deny -- before and after and even during all the grasping and searching and experience-mongering. The words (presence, beingness, awareness, IS-ness) are only pointers. What they point to is nothing you can get hold of as an object. What is, is thorough-going flux, and yet it is always right here, right now. This awaring presence (or emptiness, or no-thing-ness) is pure subjectivity, your true nature. This is all there really is.

From here, there is no inside/outside, you/me, right/wrong distinction, there is only unity and perfection of all there is. Everything that comes into our experience leads us here, and from here, the beginning is the end which is the flow. Is this possible? Can we live from here?

What do YOU think?

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ...

Knock, knock. Who's there? What is humor? What is funny? Why do we want to laugh? Many researchers believe that the purpose of humor is related to making and strengthening human connections. "Laughter occurs when people are comfortable with one another, when they feel open and free. And the more laughter [there is], the more bonding [occurs] within the group," says cultural anthropologist Mahadev Apte. This feedback "loop" of bonding-laughter-more bonding, combined with the common desire not to be singled out from the group, may be another reason why laughter is often contagious.

Human beings love to laugh, and the average adult laughs 17 times a day. Humans love to laugh so much that there are actually industries built around laughter. Jokes, sitcoms and comedians are all designed to get us laughing, because laughing feels good. For us it seems so natural, but the funny thing is that humans are one of the only species that laughs. Laughter is actually a complex response that involves many of the same skills used in solving problems.

Research has shown health benefits of laughter ranging from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings to increasing one's threshold for pain. There's even an emerging therapeutic field known as humor therapy to help people heal more quickly, among other things. Humor also has several important stress relieving benefits.

We know laughter is powerful, because we feel good when we laugh. And we know it is contagious; when a person laughs, everyone else lightens up, too. Even when it feels as if your life has spun into chaos, you can put yourself in another state that connects you with who you are and what you desire to create. No one can take away your consciousness. When you know that, you also know you can change your circumstances. The cloud covering the sun is about to move, as you remember who you are. Laughter is a quick route to remembrance.

What do YOU think?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Die Daily

There is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist saying: "When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices. When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries".

What is death, exactly, and what does it mean to us as we are living? Throughout the world, death and the rituals that surround it are steeped in taboos. Death is celebrated, embraced and feared. Around death and the dead, cultures put in place diverse restrictions and practices associated with clothing, food and ritual.

For the Roman Catholic Church death is the "complete and final separation of the soul from the body". However the Vatican has conceded that diagnosing death is a subject for medicine, not the Church. In 1957 Pope Pius XII raised the concerns over whether doctors might be "continuing the resuscitation process, despite the fact that the soul may already have left the body."

Some Orthodox Jews, Native Americans, Muslims and fundamentalist Christians believe that as long as a heart is beating--even artificially, you are still alive. Followers of religions like Zen Buddhism, and Shintoism believe that the mind and body are integrated and have trouble accepting the brain death criteria to determine death.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, whose actual title is "The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State" or "Bardo Thodol", is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. The Bardo Thodol is a guide that is read aloud to the dead while they are in the state between death and reincarnation in order for them to recognize the nature of their mind and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Some think, however, this book is merely the esoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning is that it is death and rebirth of the ego that is described, not of the body. Either way, or perhaps for both, the death/rebirth process is examined.

A graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School, Brian L. Weiss M.D. is Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. He has written many books on reincarnation, and maintains that we have all lived past lives. All of us will live future ones but at some level time probably does not exist. All lives might be occurring simultaneously. He thinks that what we do in this life will influence our lives to come as we evolve toward immortality. This would make death more of a marker between lives.

What do YOU think?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our Global Village as a Single Consciousness

The first person to popularize the concept of a global village and to consider its social effects, was Marshall McLuhan. His insights were revolutionary at the time, and fundamentally changed how everyone has thought about media, technology, and communications ever since. McLuhan chose the insightful phrase "global village" to highlight his observation that an electronic nervous system (the media) was rapidly integrating the planet -- events in one part of the world could be experienced from other parts in real-time.

Marshall McLuhan believed that the media is the message: change the media, change your mind. His idea that our medias are extensions of who we are, made us wonder, how does television, internet and cell phone technology change who I am? He believed that the extension of any one sense alters the other senses and changes our world. Our many technologies change many of our senses. How does that effect our lives?

McLuhan once remarked that the one thing a fish is not aware of is water. The water determines everything the fish does yet the fish is blissfully unaware. The point is that we are the fish and technology our water.

Concerning the new status of man in technological, and media-dominated society, he said: "If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?"

What do YOU think?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Let It Be

To be or not to be, that is the question. What does that mean - being? It is something most of us take for granted. We don't have to know or even question the nature of our being to be. Popeye's famous saying, "I am what I am and that's all that I am," may be the quintessential statement on being. What more is needed?

Contemporary philosophers tell us that the term "I am" has no meaning by itself; it must have an action or relation appended to it. Hegel distinguished between the being of objects and the being of people, but thought being stripped of all predicates is nothing.

Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) exploits the version of Husserlian intentionality by insisting that human reality (Heidegger's Dasein or human way of being) is "in the world" primarily via its practical concerns and not its epistemic relationships.

Emmanuel Levinas (1923 - 1995) in his ethical phenomenology, asks the question, why is there Being instead of simply nothing? His "first philosophy" is responsibility that unfolds into dialogical sociality and is based on our transcendence through relation with other. His "being" is the exploration of sensibility as the locus at which "inside" and "outside" merge. The exploration of the self, minus the intentional ego, through an affective complex, unfolds in a language that is best communicated through enactment. It can be likened to prophetic witness. It is as though Levinas were describing the affective investiture of a subject called to witness.

Levinas' study brings us closer to the theological view of being, like Hermetic philosophy, which relates man as microcosm to the macrocosm in a direct covenant with the Creator of life, who is defined as God. This is seemingly an abstract definition, if we take the word as it is. Its effectiveness, however, changes entirely if we see it as Creation and as force, indeed as energy in which and through which all aspects of life come into being, and man, the very crown upon Creation, is brought into being.

The Buddhist terms it Nirvana; and the period of which it is the termination is called by the Hindus, Kalpa, a word signifying Form. And they hold that the universe undergoes a succession of Kalpas, being at the end of each reabsorbed into Deity, Who then rests awhile prior to the next manifestation, reposing upon Sesha, the celestial serpent, or living circle of Eternity, the symbol of essential Being, as opposed to existence in its strict sense of manifested Being.

The Hindu Vedanta gives a spiritual interpretation of the Ultimate Reality, the meaning of creation, and the human individual. Its view of the cosmos is one of organic wholeness that includes all beings and things. Things and beings in the realm of maya are not non-existent, though they are illusory. The beings and things of the relative universe appear real because they reflect the light of the Absolute.

The Essenes believe that consciousness is being, and there is no mode of matter in which the potentiality of personality, and therein of man, does not subsist. For every molecule is a mode of the universal consciousness. Without consciousness there is no being.

What do YOU think?

Monday, June 2, 2008

More Courage With Each Breath

I have discovered, over the past year or so of blogging, that it takes me great courage to post some of my comments in these dialogues. There is something about putting yourself out there, your ideas and beliefs, that sometimes takes an act of courage. This begs the question, what is courage? Why do we need it? How do we find it?

Sean Hannah and colleagues (Hannah, Sweeney & Lester, 2007) from the United States Military Academy, writing in The Journal of Positive Psychology, provide a new model of courage. In it they set out a web of interrelated factors thought to feed into the subjective experience of courage.

Broadly, they suggest that levels of courage are influenced by character traits, particular states of mind and the values, beliefs and social forces acting on a person. Being courageous, then, is all about having options, and in order to generate those options you need to be creative.

There are those with very personal ideas of courage like Winston Churchill: "Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." Or W. Clement Stone: "Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity." Or Maya Angelou: "Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage."

Throughout his political career, President John F. Kennedy inspired people to follow their conscience and to work for the benefit of their communities, their country, and their world. He believed that each person can make a difference, and that everyone should try.

"In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience, the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men, each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." - John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

What do YOU think?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Truth of the Matter IS

What is truth? How do we find truth? If we find it, can we communicate it?

According to Plato: When the mind's eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence. (Plato, Republic)

To Spinoza, ultimate truth is the ultimate reality of a rationally ordered system that is God. To Hegel, truth is a rationally integrated system in which everything is contained. To Einstein, the truth of the Universe is human truth.

Modern day philosopher, Ken Wilber, believes that there is a nondual, absolute truth, that can only be accessed by Satori, and a relative or conventional truth, that is formed by our place in the nested hierarchy of being (each higher of which includes the ones beneath it, creating a series of nested holons.) Each holon has its own validity claim, its own relative partial, but still totally authentic truth. Because as a group, we are in different levels of awareness, or different holons in the great nest, we have different relative truths.

According to Wilber, the absolute is known only by a direct realization involving a transformation in consciousness (satori, sahaj, metanoia), and "what" is seen in satori cannot be stated in ordinary dualistic words, other than metaphors, poetry, and hints (if you want to know God, you must awaken, not merely theorize).

What do YOU think?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trust Lost, Earned and Achieved

What is trust, and why is it important to us? We all know people who can't trust, who often expect things to go bad, ignore what they know, leap quickly into action without accessing the risk, and push others away. What can we do to develop trust?

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."
- Golda Meir

Trusting yourself can be a matter of listening to your own inner voice as a source of wisdom and strength. We can do this as long as doubt and fear do not get in the way, with questions like: what if I am making a mistake? What was I thinking? Why would anyone listen to me? Developing self trust can take a great deal of patience and self-forgiveness. We first must learn to minimize our regrets and see our mistakes as opportunities. We need to rely on confidence instead of approval.

"Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances" Ralph Waldo Emerson

By advising us to trust the ideas of men, not the events in their lives, Emerson expresses his belief that history was biography. This is a form of trusting others outside of convention, namely, trusting in the ideas of men and how they shape our lives.

"No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence." TS Eliot

Trust between people is the most widely studied form of trust. Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines trust as: an attitude that we have towards people whom we hope will be trustworthy, where trustworthiness is a property, not an attitude. For trust to be warranted (i.e. plausible) in a relationship, the parties to that relationship must have attitudes toward one another that are conducive to trusting one another. Moreover, for trust to be warranted (i.e. well-grounded), both parties ought to be trustworthy.

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." Mother Teresa

We see from this statement by Mother Teresa, that trust in something greater than ourselves, in a divine organization to life, or in God can work both ways. Having faith that everything will be alright, that tomorrow will come or that the Lord provides, are all examples of trust in creation.

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Drive Your Intuition Like a Muscle Car

Have you ever known who was calling before you picked up the phone, or known what you needed to do even though it defied logical explanation? Have you ever had a dream about an event before it occurred? Or dreamt the answer to a problem you could not solve while awake? What is intuition? Why is it important to us?

According to Diana Whitmore, in her book, Psychosynthesis in Education a working hypothesis is that the Self is at the core of the superconscious, just as the 'I' or personal self is at the core of the personality and its various functions (physical, emotional and mental). Interaction between the Self and the 'I' can occur or flow in either direction. When the contents of the superconscious descend into our conscious experience, we receive inspiration, intuition, insight and or peak experiences. These moments happen to us, particularly when we least expect them or have not been actively seeking them. However, the flow may also occur in the other direction, through elevating our personality, through consciously aspiring, in a realistic, grounded and purposeful way, towards the heights or depths of our being.

Frances E. Vaughan, in her book, Awakening Intuition, believes that if you are willing to confront the fears that arise when you are faced with letting go of some cherished illusion, then intuition allows you to know things as they are. At this point, when you have made commitment to your own inner truth, you may be increasingly willing to follow the guidance of intuition rather than try to use it to fulfill egotistical desires. The steady pursuit of self-knowledge leads eventually to a self-transcendence in which personal needs and desires are seen in a larger perspective. The intuitive realization that one is part of a larger whole, inseparable from the environment in which one lives, and that being is essentially the same in everyone, albeit in an infinite variety of patterns and forms, allows one to see oneself and the universe as an interdependent unit.

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Developing Generosity of Spirit

Have you ever been a victim of circumstance? Or do you get what's coming to you every single time?

"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," Galatians VI. It is said that this means that your thoughts and deeds, good or bad, will repay you in kind. What you give, you get back. The thoughts and feelings that occupy your mind, will attract circumstances to your life of the same quality.

Another example: You may love some people and dislike others. You are, therefore, sowing mixed seeds. Therefore, what you reap will be equally mixed, blessings and suffering. Can you see this law of cause and effect in your life? If you can find a way to see everyone in their highest potential, to see the good in all, would you reach the abundance in life that for many, represents heaven on earth? By seeing the good in all, would all good come your way?

Without question, the world can be an unfriendly and cold place to live. Encouraging others around us so that they can shine is a gift that we all can offer each other. In fact, is there really a better gift to extend? When we remember that it is more important to extend love than to be number one or front and center, we express our belief in the importance of being generous of spirit.

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Nancy Standlee. Many thanks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Torch of Our Passions

Much has been said about passion by many of the world's finest thinkers:

"The will to overcome a passion is in the end merely the will of another or several other passions." - Friedrich Nietzsche

"Our passions are the true phoenixes; when the old one is burnt out, a new one rises from its ashes." - Goethe

"Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafairing soul, if either your sails or your redder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in the mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction." - Kahlil Gibran

Passion is the fire that burns inside you. It is the driving force that keeps you going. It is a high! It is contagious! We are multi-faceted beings. Most people have many passions. What are YOU passionate about? Take a moment, daydream, tell us what sparks your passion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Success is Always Best When Shared

The future is bright. Because the future is created by positive people.

Those who are negative make a lot of noise about how bad things are. Those who are positive quietly and steadily make a lot of real improvements and contributions to life.

There are always problems and there are always challenges. And there are always people willing to transform those challenges into great opportunities.

Those who have the courage, commitment and discipline to follow their own best dreams, bring the rest of the world along with them. Those who choose to do the best they can with what they have, create a better life for everyone.

For every high-profile guru of doom who wails about how hopeless and unfair life is, there are millions of others working tirelessly to make life better than ever. For every frightening crisis that is breathlessly reported, there are millions of real, meaningful success stories that don't get noticed, but that do have enormous positive influence.

Negative people obsess over the past while positive people work their way eagerly toward the future. Life gets better and better when you choose to make it so, and the future is bright indeed. - Ralph Marston

What is YOUR latest success story?

Artwork by Cindy Hesse - Many thanks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Understanding Acceptance and Resistance

In a world filled with war, crime, violence and anger, how do we act when confronted with it? It is easy enough to aspire to peace, but how can we actually live peacefully when the world presents otherwise? Is a peaceful action always the best response? If not, are war and violence in perfect order?

In words of the Hindu sage Vivekananda, two ways are left open to us--the way of the ignorant, who think that there is only one way to truth and that all the rest are wrong, and the way of the wise, who admit that, according to our mental constitution or the different planes of existence in which we are, duty and morality may vary. The important thing is to know that there are gradations of duty and of morality--that the duty of one state of life, in one set of circumstances, will not and cannot be that of another.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna calls Arjuna a hypocrite and a coward because of his refusal to fight. This is a great lesson for us all to learn, that in all matters the two extremes are alike. The extreme positive and the extreme negative are always similar.

The story tells us that one man does not resist because he is weak, lazy, and cannot, not because he will not; the other man knows that he can strike a fatal blow if he likes; yet he not only does not strike, but blesses his enemies. The one who from weakness resists not commits a sin, and as such cannot receive any benefit from the non-resistance; while the other would commit a sin by offering resistance.

When the vibrations of light are too slow, we do not see them, nor do we see them when they are too rapid. So with sound; when very low in pitch, we do not hear it; when very high, we do not hear it either. The difference between resistance and non-resistance is of like nature.

What do YOU think?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finding Peace in the Midst of Change

Both for individuals and for organizations, the skills that we most need to learn in order to survive and thrive are the skills of dealing with change. When we look at the trends underlying the rate of change - trends within society, demographic forces, technological shifts - nothing suggests that this is going to get easier. In fact, as we look forward into the new century, every indication is that the ride will get much wilder. Do you feel that you have the capacity for more change? Can you find peace in the midst of it?

The more variables there are that are changing and interacting, the more turbulent our future, and the less we can predict it. So we have to prepare for it in a different way. Surviving and thriving in a turbulent environment calls for a particular skill set. These skills are more than a certain philosophical bent, or a quirk of personality. They are actual methods, tools, ways of seeing that work in turbulent environments. Some of the less obvious skills needed to facilitate change in our lives are:

Capacity For Paradox: The skill of entertaining two opposing ideas at the same time, as the raftsman maintains his balance in the midst of the rushing river - not because of the river or in spite of the river, but with it. Here as elsewhere, the answer is not in the answer, but in the question. The question here is: "What would happen if I did not try to resolve this, but just let it be a paradox?"

Zanshin: the skill of sustaining relationships. Sustaining relationships strengthens your network before you need it, gives you an "early warning system," and generates ideas you could never have thought up yourself. The question here is, "Who am I talking to these days? Who could I call?"

Anamnesis: The skill of keeping touch with what is deep and constant in the midst of change. This allows you to maintain your balance and keep contact with your true goals. The question, for individuals, families and organizations, is: What are your deepest values? How do those deep values inform the way you react to change?

What do YOU think?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Artist, The Art and YOU

What is the role of the artist in 2008? Is there one beyond personal expression? Is there a social role for an artist to play, and if he does, does it even matter to anyone other than to those to whom the artwork speaks? Or is art holographic in nature, bringing us to a different state of being each time we enter, and the artist's only role: creator?

The writer (Lolita) Vladimir Nabokov said, "A work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual."

Fredrich Nietzsche felt that art had a broader value: "Art is essentially the affirmation, the blessing, and the deification of existence."

Andy Warhol disrupted the common views of the role each artist should play in their art. With Warhol's Brillo there is absolutely no sign of the artist's hand or that this piece was even made by an artist. Since he uses different techniques than traditional artists, at times he may never touch the piece at all and it still will be credited to him. This is a complete turn around from what was once expected from the artist. Skill is no longer involved, it is much more about content, appearance, and processes. Now many artists, such as Chihuly and Oldenburg follow in the footsteps of Warhol, by acting as designer, and letting the actual making of their art work be the job of their hired contractors, laborers and apprentices.

Artist such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt are thought to have especially personal art because the "artist's hand" or brushstrokes are visible throughout their pieces, showing their inner emotions. This personal quality of is often said to be why their paintings sell at such high prices. The same can be said of Jackson Pollock's work.

There are those that believe the artist has a higher calling. Carl Jung believed, "Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being."

Joseph Campbell said, "The role of the artist I now understood as that of revealing through the world-surfaces the implicit forms of the soul."

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Nancy Standlee Many thanks.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Do you find yourself speechless because the communication around you is edgy or hostile? Do you often think of things that could have been said afterward? How do you talk to others whose only concern is their own agenda?

Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg is founder and director of educational services for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international, non-profit organization, and has been developing his practices for compassionate communication since the 1960s. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps connect us with what is alive in ourselves and in others moment-to-moment, with what we or others could do to make life more wonderful, and with an awareness of what gets in the way of natural giving and receiving.

Whenever we become disconnected from our compassionate nature, whenever our hearts are not devoid of hatred in all of its forms, we have a tendency to act in ways that can cause pain for everyone in our lives, including ourselves.

Nonviolence, Dr. Rosenberg tells us, does not refer to the mere absence of physical harm. It is a way of life that takes its lead from a compassionate and connected heart, and can guide us toward a more complete and happy way of being. It is a practice rooted in understanding, in living honestly, and in acting empathically with all beings. It requires nonjudgmental observation, separating feeling from thought, assessing and meeting need, and making clear and concrete requests for action.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being."

What do YOU think?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sharing a Laugh and a Smile

Some say laughter is the quickest way to change our mood or thinking. How often do you laugh? Can you laugh at yourself? Do you intentionally seek laughter to change your mood? Is laughter of value in your life, or just a natural reaction to stimuli?

Marshall Brain has studied laughter and tells us that the average adult laughs 17 times a day. When we laugh heartily, changes occur in many parts of the body, even the arm, leg and trunk muscles. Laughter seems to be produced via a circuit that runs through many regions of the brain. (This means that damage to any of these regions can impair one's sense of humor and response to humor, experts say.)

  • The left side of the cortex (the layer of cells that covers the entire surface of the forebrain) analyzed the words and structure of the joke.
  • The brain's large frontal lobe, which is involved in social emotional responses, became very active.
  • The right hemisphere of the cortex carried out the intellectual analysis required to "get" the joke.
  • Brainwave activity then spread to the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the area on the back of the head that contains the cells that process visual signals).
  • Stimulation of the motor sections evoked physical responses to the joke.

Behavioral neurobiologist and pioneering laughter researcher Robert Provine believes that laughter is a decidedly social signal, not an egocentric expression of emotion. In the absence of stimulating media (television, radio or books), people are about 30 times more likely to laugh when they are in a social situation than when they are alone. Humor that creates laughter in these situations may be:

The incongruity theory suggests that humor arises when logic and familiarity are replaced by things that don't normally go together.

The relief theory - an actual story or situation creates tension within us. As we try to cope with two sets of emotions and thoughts, we need a release and laughter is the way of cleansing our system of the built-up tension and incongruity.

In some respects laughter may be a signal of dominance/submission or acceptance/rejection. Consider the distinction between laughing with and laughing at someone.

The superiority theory comes into play when we laugh at jokes that focus on someone else's mistakes, stupidity or misfortune.

A speaker, in other cases, may buffer an aggressive comment with laughter or deliver a remark using "laugh-speak," a consciously controlled hybrid of laughter and speech. In this sense laughter may modify the behavior of others by shaping the emotional tone of a conversation.

Laughter, in its highest form, can also be intentionally used to uplift the spirits of others, as in the case of clowns and comedians who visit hospitals and hospices to bring smiles to those in most need of them. In the Presence of Humor: A Guide to the Humorous Life by Cy Eberhart is a systematic and comprehensive guide, written to increase your ability to find and achieve the humorous life by activating your comic viewpoint. It's designed to help you realize the spiritual strengths that come from experiencing the humor present in your living.

What do YOU think?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Marriage of Shiva and Neville's Imagination

When our world seems to fall apart and things start going wrong, what do we do? Do we blame ourselves or someone else? Do we start searching for causes and solutions? Do we hold on to our faith in Divine Will and believe that it will all work out?

The notion of the old dying and giving way for something new is as old as the ancient Hindu traditions, where Shiva is the destroyer of the world, following Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver, after which Brahma again creates the world and so on. Shiva is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction and in the positive sense of the shedding of old habits.

Modern theories of deconstruction include Phenomenology, the philosophy founded by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, who say that the method of defining phenomenon includes three steps -- reduction, construction, and deconstruction -- and they explain that these three are mutually pertinent to one another. In the deconstruction, every object shows itself as a set of possibilities, not merely as a determinate thing. To see a particular object is to see it in terms of possibilities.

So while it seems that our experience is falling apart, possibility is also arising. If we can focus on the new possibility coming into our experience, instead of focusing on the old that no longer serves us and will fall away with change if we allow, we can see that all experience is experience of more, of possibility.

Neville Goddard believes that once we recognize the possibility, imagination is the key to creating our best possible lives. In his book, Awakened Imagination, he says: "The world presents different appearances according as our states of consciousness differ. What we see when we are identified with a state cannot be seen when we are no longer fused with it. By state is meant all that man believes and consents to as true. The world is a revelation of the states with which imagination is fused. It is the state from which we think that determines the objective world in which we live. If we detach ourselves from a state, and we may at any moment, the conditions and circumstances to which that union gave being vanish. The imaginative man does not deny the reality of the sensuous outer world of Becoming, but he knows that it is the inner world of continuous Imagination that is the force by which the sensuous outer world of Becoming is brought to pass."

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Robert Parker Many thanks.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Follow Your Bliss Like Joseph Campbell

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. 'Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night's lodging. 'Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion." But just what is it that he suggests we scatter around? What role does joy play in our lives and what does it mean to you?

Hasidism emphasizes joy as a precondition to elevated spiritual awareness, and teaches the avoidance of melancholy at all costs. The consciousness of a loving, ever-present Creator should lead to a feeling of profound joy. Therefore the appropriate mood for worship is one of good cheer; whereas suffering impedes a proper relationship with God.

Joseph Campbell, contemporary theologian and best known for his study of mythology, tells his students, "Follow your bliss. Find where it is, and don't be afraid to follow it. Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chi" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture. I thought, 'I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.' I think it worked.

Bliss, joy and rapture seem to be interchangeable when they are associated with higher consciousness. The change in state of consciousness in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam is reported to be quite similar. The pursuit of yoga and the Buddhist Jhanas involve feelings of oneness with the world that give rise to a state of rapture. Christians also look at creation another way from the standpoint of Christ consciousness, rather than considering creation and life from a material perspective. Experiencing God through Christ enables the unit mind to arrive gracefully at the source of thought, the pure consciousness of God where everything is united and one.

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Aerten Caislean Many thanks.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Making the World a Better Place

Social responsibility is on the minds of many of us. How can we make the world a better place? Is this our duty, as Jean Paul Sarte and the existentialists believed? How can we fit our contribution to the greater community into our busy lives as we struggle with survival and self expression, daily?

Clare W. Graves, Ph.D, was a visionary thinker who began laying the groundwork for the theory behind the Spiral Dynamics application in the 1950s. His theory suggests that every individual or collective consciousness falls somewhere in, between, or among these various levels of being which are not types of people but ways of thinking about a thing.

Graves breaks it into one of nine groups called MEMEs, and assigns a color to each. Beige is the first, this group is involved solely in survival and would have no time to consider social responsibility. The green MEME has the greatest involvement in social issues, as their survival needs are met and their main concerns are harmony/love; joining together for mutual growth; awareness; belonging. The last MEMEs up the spiral, turquoise and coral, go beyond the physical social involvement and contribute to society in ways that involve consciousness more than doing. According to Graves, all groups contribute to life as we know it in valuable and significant ways. It is the dynamic between that creates the life spiral known as evolutionary consciousness.

Future By Design, an organization dedicated to reformulating the operation definition of a better world by introducing coherent planning strategies that are applicable to global and small groups alike, is a good example of green MEME work. Their credo: To constantly maximize existing and future technologies with the sole purpose of enhancing all human life and protecting the environment.

A good example of the work of the turquoise MEME is Dr. Bruce Lipton, the biophysicist who identified the two way communication of unique signals from our cell membranes into our experiential awareness.

An example of the coral MEME would be Neville Goddard, twentieth century mystic, who taught self realization through recognition: "The ideal you seek and hope to attain will not manifest itself, will not be realized by you, until you have imagined that you are already that ideal." We hold the space, imagine the world of our desire, and live from our awakened imagination. What do YOU think?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Illness and Healing, What Do We Know?

Hippocrates , the father of modern medicine, tells us that, "healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity." We all know that when we are not feeling well, we want to heal, and there are myriad resources available to us for help. But what is healing? How do we choose the best resource from the overwhelming amount of information available?

Harvard Medical School online dictionary defines healing as:

1 : to make sound or whole especially in bodily condition
2 : to cure of disease or disorder <heal injured tissues>
intransitive verb
1 : to return to a sound state heals>
2 : to effect a cure

The National Cancer Institute online dictionary defines cure as: To heal or restore health; a treatment to restore health.

It may be that to understand healing, we need to understand illness. Dr. Bernie Siegal, MD and author of several books on health and healing says, "There is no incurable disease from which someone has not recovered, even at the threshold of death." If one person has the innate capability to overcome a particular disease, the all of us must have that same ability.

In his book, Healing Crisis, Dr. Bruce Fife tells us that the symptoms of the healing crisis are the same as those of an illness. For this reason, the healing crisis is greatly misunderstood and often believed to be an illness that must be treated to restore health. The healing crisis is a positive event, a sign of improving health. According to Fife, "when the body experiences dramatic symptoms of cleansing as a result of improved organ function and immune efficiency, it is referred to as a healing crisis - healing, because it expels toxins and brings about improvement in health, crisis because the symptoms associated with the toxic removal can be dramatic." What do YOU think?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Energy Healing and Western Medicine

The "life force," often called "energy" in Western culture, is the substance that permeates and bonds all. It is sometimes referred to as the "vital force." In China, it is called Qi; in India it is called prana. It is believed the "life force" extends throughout the universe and that the individual is part of an indivisible whole. The belief is that because the "life force" permeates everything, an individual is unavoidably affected by external events and energies. Thus, treatment of the individual should consider the mind/body/spirit interaction as well as an overall connection to the universe.

Energy healing is based on the belief that our "life force" creates energy fields that are unbalanced during emotional or physical disease. Because our energy fields are part of an interconnected whole, the use of focused intention by one individual can aid in the health and well being of another. Many individuals use their own individual means of directing their intention to heal.

An interesting feature of energy healing is that it may be performed over distances of thousands of miles. The "life force" claimed to be transmitted by energy healers does not have the properties of any known form of energy., comparable practice to energy healing that is used frequently in the West is prayer. A 1996 survey showed that 82 percent of Americans believed in the healing power of prayer. A survey of patients in American Cancer Society support groups for breast cancer found that 88 percent experienced beneficial effects of spiritual and religious practice.

In an effort to incorporate Western sciences' need for physical proof, studies have been performed on the impact of energy healing on living, isolated cells as opposed to human subjects. According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the U.S., many of the studies on isolated cells are inadequately controlled, are published as incomplete reports, or are published in non-reviewed journals. Of 23 clinical trials involving energy healing that did meet a rigorous criteria requiring adequate design, control and review procedures, 57 percent have shown a beneficial effect. This caused authors reviewing the studies to conclude that the "evidence thus far merits further study."

Indeed there is growing interest and evidence for alternative health exploration based on a "life force," wholeness, and interconnections. The National Institutes of Health has established a Center that is devoted to research in the area of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The budget is growing rapidly and research into areas such as energy healing and prayer is being encouraged. Several large clinical trials, especially on the effects of prayer, are now underway in major academic institutions across the U.S. Through science, researchers eventually hope to better understand how energy healing practices may be incorporated into Western medical practices. What do YOU think?