Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Christmas Present: Presence

The beginning of the New Year is traditionally a time of renewal and reassessment.  For some of us that goes deeper than boxing up old things to make way for the new, or wrapping up financial figures to prepare our taxes and budget the upcoming year.  Taking a step back to witness ourselves, who we are, and how we relate, is also in order.  From the position of the witness, I can see a faceted triad of self - my self-image: my mental self portrait; my identity: the part of self formed in relation to others; and my presence: the dynamic, infinite self connecting the internal and external, beyond form yet recognizing forms such as thought and feeling as they arise and all other complexities of self that identity and self image assign.  All parts of the triad are developmentally important to me, all integral to who I am.

As I contemplate this triad, I consider that self image and identity can, but don’t always, give way to doubt.  Presence does not.  Presence unifies.  It does not hold me in separation of anyone or any event or any time because there is a flow in presence that unites the many and One.  When I view myself from the position of presence, there is no need to place a value on one aspect over another because all is experienced as constant, unified flow.  From the position of my self-image or identity, I find myself assigning values of good, bad, true, untrue, self, not self…and in a reassessment, doubt may arise – did “I” make a mistake?

Another observation is that the relationship between cause and effect changes when I witness myself from the position of presence.  Internal cause from the dynamic presence takes precedence, and external cause, like that from my worldly experience, others or even my own mental constructs of self image, become the effect.  My world does not change me, I change my world by changing my view to that of presence.  My DNA does not define me from birth, but changes as my consciousness changes.

It must be said that this is nothing new.  Mystics as old as written history have relayed these ideas to us.  They can be found it all the sacred texts.  But as I enter the New Year 2011, I feel an infinite gratitude, for entering in presence, surrounded by people that read what I write here, and enter with me, a large part of my smile.

What do YOU think?
Artwork by Alejandro Silveira Bruno.  Many thanks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Family Constellation Within Us

Within each one of us is a family constellation, mother, father, and child.  We are all members of our own family, and when the members are communicating with each other, respecting each other and loving each other, we are free to love ourselves.  The father in us protects and provides, the mother in us nurtures and creates, and the child (the integration of the parents) accepts, forgives and loves unconditionally.   Some believe that an imbalance in our father/mother aspects is what creates duality, or opposition in our lives.  Because each opposing side has the seed of the other side (sickness the seed of health, hate the seed of love, sorrow the seed of joy), finding ourselves in opposition is simply a reflection of this imbalance, and an invitation to restore balance by recognizing both aspects within us equally, thus giving birth to the child, and unconditionality (nonduality).

With the divine feminine and masculine in balance, the human self becomes and feels healed, whole, and complete.  The harmonized human is one who has integrated, feels, and experiences the divine aspects of its true identity --- that of its attached divine, eternal, God-created soul with its Spark of God Within --- into its human self. 

Our physical bodies reflect this model with our right and left polarity physiology.  Several holistic medical models across the globe that are widely used today are based on the interplay of polarity.  Left and right brain function,  Polarity Therapy,  Acupuncture, Naturopathy and the Chiropractic premise of Innate intelligence are just a few.  In the Shamanic tradition, the archetypal wisdom of the inner landscape is paramount to understanding the wisdom of the soul. For when we begin to conceptualize the inner marriage of the masculine and feminine within, we begin to work in concert with the energetic laws of nature. What emerges is the essence of our true harmony, which, in the Shamanic tradition, mirrors where our personality (male) is in relationship to our soul’s (female) journey.

Why is it important for us to consider these things?  Now more than ever we are barraged with stressors and data that distract us, confuse us, outrage us and pull us off balance.  We have a struggling global economy, constantly changing technology, and medical and scientific paradigms shifting in ways that challenge everything we have ever been taught.  These worldly influences change our workplace, our family dynamics, our relationships, our daily routines and our ability to think and feel our way through our days.  Taking the time to contemplate the depth and simplicity of our own inner nature can be a spontaneous life changer.

Joseph Campbell tells us:  “A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.” Consider the Osiris/Isis/Horus within you.  If you look, the father/mother/child constellation can be found in every mythological tradition.  But the best place to find it is within you. Create your own myth of reconciling opposites and creating trinity. 

What do YOU think?
Artwork by Sacha.  Many thanks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Jon Stewart Concerted Effort to Restore Sanity

Last weekend, Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity drew millions of participants in cities all over the world while Stewart himself, led the effort in Washington DC with a few hundred thousand in attendance, asking everyone to “take it down a notch for America.”  He did so with the hope for an end to the partisan bickering and oppositional rhetoric that prevents collaboration necessary for the efficacy and success of the nation.

Stewart’s colleague, Steven Colbert, provided the counterpoint with his “Rally to Restore Fear,” providing the comic (if not juvenile) relief.  Stewart’s closing remarks were a plea for prevailing sanity:  “This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.  But we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies. .. If we amplify everything we hear nothing. “

Fear is the core issue behind violence, jealousy, bigotry, anger, depression, greed, hatred, lies, insecurity or obsessive worry, just to name a few. When fear is managed it is a vital, effective life saving response which is critical to self preservation.  It is vitally important to discern what appropriate and inappropriate fear is, as well managed fear can and will protect us, and unmanaged fear can destroy us.

What is our tendency to seek experience that amplifies our emotion, especially fear?  Why do we keep feeding this tendency while knowing that it takes us beyond the parameters of sanity?

Sociologist  Tim Hallett of Indiana University  asks: “How does an inkling of anger develop into a blind rage?  How does a little happiness evolve into bliss?...I argue that interaction serves both as a stimulus to evoke emotional responses, and as a conduit for emotional feedback and amplification. ” Emotional interactions left unmanaged seek the further interaction needed for further arousal and emotional amplification.  What becomes unmanaged emotion blinds us from possibility, and takes us beyond sane mental states.  In the words of Jon Stewart, “Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you."

Why do we succumb to self seeking insanity?  How do we resolve the conflicting, amplified emotions within us to restore sanity?

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Evolving Role of the Artist

Rupert Spira, twenty first century mystic and teacher of nonduality, sees the “mystic’s job is to explore the nature of reality, but more is required of the artist. He or she has to simultaneously make manifest the ongoing results of this enquiry in form. So the role of the artist is to provide a way that this presence can be approached and experienced through the senses. The artist has to re-present our world of conceptualised objects, separated and extended in space and time, as it really is. He has to reinterpret our model of reality in line with direct experience and to convey this ‘taste of eternity’. We could call this twofold activity contemplation and creativity. Contemplation is the passive aspect; creativity is the dynamic aspect. These are two inseparable aspects of consciousness.”

The fourteenth century German mystic, Meister Eckhart, believed that “God dwells within you - as you,” or “I can only be fully known by becoming God.”  Eckhart wrote prolifically on the subject and was charged but never convicted of heresy for his writings.  His direct identification with the divine can also be seen in the works of Shankara, James, Blake, Rumi and many great saints and sages of the wisdom traditions.  Author Aldous Huxley  believed that most enlightened beings also practice this philosophy. Within the God space in us peace can be found, and here, mystical and aesthetic experiences and transformational events can unfold.

The nineteenth century artist and philosopher, Benedetto Croce, believed this peaceful God space to be the spirit within us from which we draw our inspiration.  He tells us that the externalization of intuition is secondary to its appearance in the consciousness of the artist, and that the expression of intuition is meaningful apart from the projection or form it takes in a work of art.  With art as the embodiment of spirit through intuition, we symbolize feelings, Nature, soul, God.

The role of the artist, then, is to bring the other, or viewer, to that place in consciousness through the form presented – into Nature, soul, feelings, God, where we can be, ourselves, inspired, and feel ourselves a complete microcosm of life’s macrocosm.  In this way, we connect with and become our own aesthetic holon, nesting with all others in unity consciousness.

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Ron Isom  Many thanks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Nonduality and Creativity of Silence

According to twentieth century philosopher of Advaita (Nondualism), Jean Klein, it is only in a "spontaneous state of interior silence that we can open ourselves to our true nature: the 'I Am' of pure consciousness." Klein goes on to define this silence as “the natural state is a non-state of not-knowing, non-concluding. When there is knowing, there is a state. But your real nature is not-knowing. It is a total absence of all that you think you are, which is all that you are not. In this total absence of what you are not, there is presence. But this presence is not yours. It is the presence of all living beings. You must not try to be open. You are open.” 

Klein redefines intelligence as “spontaneous behavior. It is creativity. When you are free from the person, from the “I-concept”, when you are free from psychological memory, then you are open to intelligence. This intelligence is in you, it is not outside. When you are intelligent, there is no quantity or quality to that intelligence. It is right acting…This spontaneity does not go through the discriminating mind. Spontaneous, intelligent acting occurs naturally the moment there is pure perception, perception without conceptualizing.” 

So thought and feeling arise in us, but we do not need to attach the “I-concept” to them. We, instead, take the viewpoint of ever present awareness of all living beings, with a quiet mind and open heart. We act, not based on ego or “I concept,” but on the creativity that comes with our pure perception. Is it possible to live our lives in this silent manner? 

What do YOU not think?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Understanding: Mind, Consciousness, Thought

Mind: All human beings share in being a part of, and connected to Mind, the universal Life energy and source of intelligence beyond the brain. Because of Mind, we share in an endless flow of wisdom—each of us equally capable of being wise.
Consciousness: All human beings share in the principle or fact of Consciousness. We experience life. We also experience life from different levels of consciousness—from truncated and fear-based, angry and insecure “levels” to grounded, secure, safe, wise and even enlightened states (Buddha Mind, Christ Consciousness, the “Father within,” the Kingdom of Heaven.) If humans lived even a little more often in this last state of mind, the impact on world peace, from a personal to a global level, would be significant.
The principle of Thought, as a universal function, guides humans either toward or away from non-violence, love and compassion. The existence of a personal thought system, or “ego”—which we see as simply being a sticky attachment to, or identification with thoughts—trips up our noble aspirations for peace. Yet we have found that teaching people about the neutral fact of Thought, and how it creates reality for each of us (rather than attempting to change “content”), allows people to shine the light of this principle on all their thinking. Levels of consciousness jump as people gain understanding about the formless source of all ideas, beliefs and opinions.
When humans understand that a thought is just a thought, just a creation from formless energy, the iron grip the ego can have on us begins to lessen. Lighter, gentler, more inspired feelings arising from impersonal, or universal thoughts create kind and selfless behaviors. We begin to realize we are so much more than our limited thoughts. So much more than we ever “thought”! While respecting our own and others’ traditions, cultures and preferences, we see beyond the forms that humans have created—and to the deeper truth of our common divinity, our shared existence in universal Mind, Consciousness and Thought … or in Life. From this vantage point, there is no reason to argue, to fight, to hurt another. When I hurt you, I diminish me.
So, our personal answer is to share with people these simple principles that govern their states of mind. Because, beneath it all, all humans are already wise, good, generous, kind and even enlightened. When the clouds of thought begin to part, they each take their unique and radiant place in being one in “six billion paths to peace."
What do YOU think?
Artwork:  Ronald D. Isom  Many thanks.
See also Sydney Banks, “The Missing Link: Reflections on Life and Philosophy” & other works.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Evolution of the Interior Universe

All aspects of human civilization—language, art, aesthetics, technology, architecture, organizations, governments—depend upon essential human relationships for their evolution and expression.

Question: What is actually evolving?

Answer: The quality and quantity of relationships between people, assuming the form of shared meanings, agreements, relationships and groups of relationships. The cultural domain is inter-subjective, because it exists between subjects, yet is often not objectively identifiable. But the fact that these shared spaces of meaning are not objectively identifiable does not hinder us from experiencing them as being real. As such, the subjective world includes not only individual consciousness but the inter-subjective domain of relationships as well, making the interior universe much more substantial. These relationships are real, yet they exist in the internal universe.

What do YOU think?

For more:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Joseph Campbell's Labyrinth of Life

There is a pattern in life that goes like this:  if we are confronted with a problem, want to know ourselves, or are looking for particular meaning in life – and we take this into the contemplative space, hold the question in our mind, dwell on it before sleep each night – however we ask and continue to ask in silence - the answers to our questions will eventually come to us.  This pattern is age old, found in ancient texts such as the bible “ask and ye shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened to you,” Luke 11:9
"We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us - the labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world." Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
I find these answers can come from anywhere, and often the most unexpected places: a spam email, a Facebook post, a passing remark from a stranger, and intimate disclosure from a loved one.  Whatever the source, the act of recognizing the answers we are given is recognition of enduring fulfillment.  We are recognizing spirit in action, energy in motion, Divine Action.  It can all occur in silence within us, or be expressed in creativity, but it is always the realization of the inner you.  And in this kind of heroic discovery you find that this inner you in fact is what governs your outer you.
What do YOU think?
Artwork by Cindy Hesse.  Many thanks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Rebel in YOU

"People are afraid, very much afraid of those who know themselves. They have a certain power, a certain aura and a certain magnetism, a charisma that can take out alive, young people from the traditional imprisonment....

The enlightened man cannot be enslaved - that is the difficulty - and he cannot be imprisoned.... Every genius who has known something of the inner is bound to be a little difficult to be absorbed; he is going to be an upsetting force. The masses don't want to be disturbed, even though they may be in misery; they are in misery, but they are accustomed to the misery. And anybody who is not miserable looks like a stranger.

The enlightened man is the greatest stranger in the world; he does not seem to belong to anybody. No organization confines him, no community, no society, no nation." -- Osho The Zen Manifesto: Freedom from Oneself Chapter 9

Have you known rebels that make you uncomfortable? Is there a rebel in you that makes others uncomfortable? Is the rebel in you able to break barriers (especially internal?) With what results?

What do YOU think?

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Difference One Person Can Make

In 2004, Jeremy Gilley launched his Peace One Day movement with his documentary movie of the same name:

What difference, do YOU think, one person can make?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Unites Us is Greater than What Divides Us

There is a phrase that I think is important, but is overused and well on its way to becoming a cliché and that is: “What unites us is greater than what divides us!”  President John F. Kennedy used it in his 1961 address to Canadian Parliament: “Geography has made us neighbors.  History has made us friends.  Economics has made us partners.  And necessity has made us allies.  Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.  What unites us is far greater than what divides us."
The current US President, Barack Obama also used the idea in his speech this past Martin Luther King Junior Day: “through times of great challenge and great change, we have remembered that fundamental American truth - that what unites us is always more powerful than what divides us.”
But the idea is not strictly American, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon has recently used it in two different speeches.  First, in April of 2009, in his address to the Alliance of Civilizations forum in Istanbul, “What unites is so powerful it could easily overcome what divides us.”  Next, in November of 2009 in his speech to the Summit of Religious and Secular Leaders on Climate Change in London, “We are united by the belief that what unites us as human beings is stronger than what divides us.”  
What is it that unites us all?  Is it greater than what divides us?  What do YOU think?
Artwork by Cindy Hesse.  Many thanks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What is Human Nature?

"All studies of man, from history to linguistics and psychology, are faced with the question of whether, in the last instance, we are the product of all kinds of external factors, or if, in spite of our differences, we have something we could call a common human nature, by which we can recognise each other as human beings."

What is human nature?
This link will lead you to an excellent dialogue between Noam Chomsky, who believes that we are born with our human nature, and our learning is defined by it, and Michael Foucault, who believes that what we consider to be human nature is only learned, consensus behavior.

What do YOU think?
Artwork by Rachelle Donahoe   Many thanks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Is Imagination and How Do You Use It?

What is imagination? Is it useful and if so, how do you use it and/or can it be a hindrance?
In a brief discussion dedicated to imagination (De Anima iii 3), Aristotle identifies it as “that in virtue of which an image occurs in us” (De Anima iii 3, 428aa1-2), where this is evidently given a broad range of application to the activities involved in thoughts, dreams, and memories.   Both Husserl  and Sartre theorized imagination as picture consciousness, and Sartre wrote two books on the imagination early in his career, defining imagination as the synthesis of our knowledge of  and our intention, and imaginary objects as a "melange of past impressions and recent knowledge" (The Imaginary 90)
Dr. Carl G. Jung said, “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.”  His psychology emphasized Active Imagination as a method for visualizing unconscious issues by letting them act themselves out.   Active Imagination personifies the "parts" of us that are talking -- to create more clarity or even resolution that might not be possible with ordinary linear problem-solving. 
Cognitive psychology focused on mental imagery in the 1970s. Great claims continue to be made, by some, for the healing powers of guided imagery, whereby clients (or patients) are encouraged to visualize particular scenes or scenarios thought to have therapeutic value (e.g., Rossman, 2000). Guided imagery techniques have been claimed to be effective for purposes ranging from chronic pain relief (e.g., Fontaine, 2000) to breast enlargement and global spiritual renewal (Willard, 1977; Ekstein, 2001)  Currently, Noetic Science (the study of how thoughts interact with the physical world) continues these studies. 
Imagination is not limited to only seeing pictures in the mind, it includes all the five senses and the feelings.  Imagination makes it possible to experience a whole world inside the mind. It gives the ability to look at any situation from a different point of view, and enables one to mentally explore the past and the future.  Is imagination the common thread that unites creative endeavors?
According to the Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind : “despite being a familiar word of everyday language, imagination is a very complex, contested, and evaluatively loaded concept. It, like many cognate terms, often appears to have radically different senses and connotations when used in different contexts.” 
What do YOU think?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Landscape of Facing Death

I watched my friend Chris Bernard face his eminent death with love, courage and dignity. While participating in this with him, I wondered, what is the state of mind that death requires of us?

What can we bring to it to ease our own suffering at the moment of death? Should we rage against the dying of the light like Dylan Thomas? Should we reach out for spiritual support, ask forgiveness, say farewell? What do YOU think?

Friday, January 8, 2010

What do we do? What do we do?

Merriam-Webster defines the word “do” as ways we act, behave, get alone, fare, manage, happen, finish and serve, among others.  Often our actions require our ability to rationally ascertain the context of our actions, the possible consequences of our actions and the ethics of our actions before we do anything.  Or do they?  Our actions, I think, like our words, are very clear indications of our state of mind.  Sociopaths would act differently than saints in the same circumstances, because they bring to the moment, a different frame of reference, different viewpoint and different foundation for action.
There are psychologies to both doing and doing nothing.   Yes, there are rational-emotional models of the factors that predispose humans to do nothing.   And there are theories of the psychology of action, which take into account reasoning abilities, emotion, attitude and other factors.
When our belief system holds God and Divine Action, our state of mind is very different than states that do not hold that belief, and our actions may reflect these differences.  To understand and bridge these differences, The Vatican Observatory (VO) and the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences (CTNS) jointly sponsor a series of conferences on divine action. The theme of each conference is an area of the natural sciences: quantum cosmology and the laws of nature (1992), chaos and complexity (1994), evolutionary and molecular biology (1996), neuroscience (1998), and quantum mechanics (2000). This brings specificity and precision to the discussions of divine action. In one of the papers from these conferences, along with summaries of many others, is posted on the CTNS website:  In “The Metaphysics of Divine Action,” John Polkinghorne notes that any discussion of agency requires the adoption of a metaphysical view of the nature of reality. He claims that there is no “deductive” way of going “from epistemology to ontology,” but the strategy of critical realism is to maximize the connection. This leads most physicists, he claims, to interpret Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as implying an actual indeterminacy in the physical world, rather than an ignorance of its detailed workings.  Polkinghorne’s summary on the nature of Divine Action includes the insight that divine agency has its own special characteristics and that God’s knowledge of the world of becoming will be truly temporal in character.
In his book, Religion in late Modernity   Robert C. Neville,  suggests that these inquires  “concerning divine action takes its rise from people who affirm as a supposition the belief that God is a personal being of some sort.”
In A Search for God In Ancient Egypt, by Jan Assmann, divine action and religious experience are part of the cosmic dimension of the mystic experience.  Here, divine action is implicit in all contact with the divine once transcendence into Divine Presence has been realized.  In other words, our actions become Divine Action, while in the presence of the One within.
To Bernard de Clairvaux, mysticism is the highest degree of the scale of love and “a perfect participation in the love which God has from Himself in the unity of the Spirit…to become thus is to be deified.”  Our actions are naturally inspired from this unity of the Spirit that pervades our state.
This idea is similar to the mystical divine action, our own action, taken as a result of our mystical union with the God with us.  The mystic Jan Ruysbroeck suggests in mystical union God “breathes us out from Himself that we may love and do good works; and again he draws us into Himself, that we may rest in fruition.”
Our efficacy and actions then, may be defined by whether or not we believe in God, and if we believe that God is external and personal, or a state of being within ourselves.  What do YOU think?

Artwork by Beth Nash.  Many thanks.