The Four Mantras of True Presence by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Drawing by Michael Volpicelle

These simple mantras can help us overcome suffering

When you love someone, you have to be truly present for him or for her. A ten-year-old boy I know was asked by his father what he wanted for his birthday, and he didn’t know how to answer. His father is quite wealthy and could afford to buy almost anything he might want. But the young man only said, “Daddy, I want you!” His father is too busy – he has no time for his wife or his children. To demonstrate true love, we have to make ourselves available. If that father learns to breathe in and out consciously and be present for his son, he can say, “My son, I am really here for you.”

The greatest gift we can make to others is our true presence. “I am here for you” is a mantra to be uttered in perfect concentration.
When you are concentrated – mind and body together – you produce your true presence, and anything you say is a mantra.

1st mantra: “Darling, I am here for you.”
It does not have to be in Sanskrit or Tibetan. A mantra can be spoken in your own language: “Darling, I am here for you.” And if you are truly present, this mantra will produce a miracle. You become real, the other person becomes real, and life is real in that moment. You bring happiness to yourself and to the other person.

“Darling, I am here for you”

2nd mantra: “I know you are there, and I am very happy.”
“I know you are there, and I am very happy” is the second mantra. When I look at the moon, I breathe in and out deeply and say, “Full moon, I know you are there, and I am very happy.” I do the same with the morning star. Last spring in Korea, walking mindfully among magnolia trees, I looked at the magnolia flowers and said, “I know you are there and I am very happy.” To be really present and know that the other is also there is a miracle. When you contemplate a beautiful sunset, if you are really there, you will recognize and appreciate it deeply. Looking at the sunset, you feel very happy. Whenever you are really there, you are able to recognize and appreciate the presence of the other – the full moon, the North Star, the magnolia flowers, or the person you love the most.

These mantras can be practiced in our daily life
First you practice breathing in and out deeply to recover yourself, and then you sit close to the one you love and, in that state of deep concentration, pronounce the second mantra. You are happy, and the person you love is happy at the same time. These mantras can be practiced in our daily life. To be a true lover, you have to practice mindfulness of breathing, sitting, and walking in order to produce your true presence.

3rd mantra: “Darling, I know you suffer.”
The third mantra is: “Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you.” When you are mindful, you notice when the person you love suffers. If we suffer and if the person we love is not aware of our suffering, we will suffer even more. Just practice deep breathing, then sit close to the one you love and say, “Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you.” Your presence alone will relieve a lot of his or her suffering. No matter how old or young you are, you can do it.

4th mantra: “Darling, I suffer. Please help.”
The fourth mantra is the most difficult. It is practiced when you yourself suffer and you believe that the person you love is the one who has caused you to suffer. The mantra is, “Darling, I suffer. Please help.” Only five words, but many people cannot say it because of the pride in their heart. If anyone else had said or done that to you, you would not suffer so much, but because it was the person you love, you feel deeply hurt. You want to go to your room and weep. But if you really love him or her, when you suffer like that you have to ask for help. You must overcome your pride.

Your presence alone will relieve a lot of his or her suffering

Home-coming
There is a story that is well-known in my country about a husband who had to go off to war, and he left his wife behind, pregnant. Three years later, when he was released from the army, he returned home. His wife came to the village gate to welcome him, and she brought along their little boy. When husband and wife saw each other, they could not hold back their tears of joy. They were so thankful to their ancestors for protecting them that the young man asked his wife to go to the marketplace to buy some fruit, flowers, and other offerings to place on the ancestors’ altar.

While she was shopping, the young father asked his son to call him “daddy,” but the little boy refused. “Sir, you are not my daddy! My daddy used to come every night, and my mother would talk to him and cry. When mother sat down, daddy also sat down. When mother lay down, he also lay down.” Hearing these words, the young father’s heart turned to stone.

When his wife came home, he couldn’t even look at her. The young man offered fruit, flowers, and incense to the ancestors, made prostrations, and then rolled up the bowing mat and did not allow his wife to do the same. He believed that she was not worthy to present herself in front of the ancestors. His wife was deeply hurt. She could not understand why he was acting like that. He did not stay home. He spent his days at the liquor shop in the village and did not come back until very late at night. Finally, after three days, she could no longer bear it, and she jumped into the river and drowned.

That evening after the funeral, when the young father lit the kerosene lamp, his little boy shouted, “There is my daddy.” He pointed to his father’s shadow projected on the wall and said, “My daddy used to come every night like that and my mother would talk to him and cry a lot. When my mother sat down, he sat down. When my mother lay down, he lay down.” “Darling, you have been away for too long. How can I raise our child alone? She cried to her shadow.” One night the child asked her who and where his father was. She pointed to her shadow on the wall and said, “This is your father.” She missed him so much.

Suddenly, the young father understood, but it was too late. If he had gone to his wife even yesterday and asked, “Darling, I suffer so much. Our little boy said a man used to come every night and you would talk to him and cry with him, and every time you sat down, he also sat down. Who is that person?” she would have had an opportunity to explain and avert the tragedy. But he did not because of the pride in him.

The fourth mantra: “Darling, I suffer. Please help.”
The lady behaved the same. She was deeply hurt because of her husband’s behavior, but she did not ask for his help. She should have practiced the fourth mantra, “Darling, I suffer so much. Please help. I do not understand why you will not look at me or talk with me. Why didn’t you allow me to prostrate before the ancestors? Have I done anything wrong?” If she had done that, her husband could have told her what the little boy had said. But she did not, because she was also caught in pride.

In true love, there is no place for pride. Please do not fall into the same trap. When you are hurt by the person you love, when you suffer and believe that your suffering has been caused by the person you love the most, remember this story. Do not act like the father or the mother of the little boy. Do not let pride stand in the way. Practice the fourth mantra, “Darling, I suffer. Please help.” If you really consider her to be the one you love the most in this life, you have to do that. When the other person hears your words, she will come back to herself and practice looking deeply. Then the two of you will be able to sort things out, reconcile, and dissolve the wrong perception.

SOURCE:
https://upliftconnect.com/four-mantras/
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John Butler - Discovering Stillness (Part Two) Interview by Iain McNay


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Interview by Iain McNay

Iain: Hello, this is Conscious TV.  I am Iain McNay.  Welcome back to Part Two of the John Butler story. John has four books out - "Wonders of Spiritual Unfoldment", "Mystic Approaches" and two smaller volumes of poetry. We have been going through his story and realisations … the ups and downs of his life in Part One, so do seek that out if you possibly can. Most of what we are talking about now is based on this book here [Wonders of Spiritual Unfoldment].  So, at the age of fifty-three, you, in Nottingham, decided to study Russian. 
John: Yes.
Iain:  Because you had a Russian mother...
John:  Yes.
Iain:  ...and you already talked in Part One about this enormity of a Russian heart.
John:  Yes, well, what a thing to do.  Why should I, a farmer, lover of open spaces, want to study Russian?  Well, I was that desperate, I'd been homeless, jobless, loveless and alone for a long time and I was really desperate for direction and something worth while to do.  Not just aimless wandering.  So, I was only too grateful when I was given this opportunity.  Yes, Mum was Russian, from Siberia, born in 1904. When the Revolution broke out in 1917, the family was dispersed and she found herself a refugee, sent to England in her late teens. Speaking no English, she had a difficult life until she met and married Dad. Anyway, I'd always felt that I wasn't really English – but some sort of a misfit.  I suppose that's why I was more at home with nature than with other people. School tried to make me into an Englishman and it didn't really work.  I didn't fit that mode, I didn't think that way.  And I didn't know why.  I suppose it gave me a sense of guilt and failure throughout life as I just felt I was different, I didn't belong.  And when I began to study Russian, in very little ways at first, something seemed to come together in me.  Even the language books, particularly those with illustrations, seemed to go just straight to my heart.  Something seemed to be happening ...
Mum never taught us Russian as children.  She was so traumatised by her own dreadful experiences as a young woman that she only wanted to protect us from it, she didn't want us to carry the weight of all those terrible events that happened in Russia, so she shielded us.  But especially as I grew older I wanted to know more and more, and when I went to university I really was hungry to discover all I could about where I came from.
Iain:  And you actually ended up teaching in Russian schools.
John:  I went to Russia … and that is another long story. Yes, I went there at the end of Perestroika, in Spring 1991. The Iron Curtain had just come down and I found myself in a small town in provincial Russia. Being the only Englishman there, the first most of them had ever met, I soon became a novelty.  The children wanted to learn English and so naturally I found myself drawn into schools and teaching. I had never taught before.  I had no experience of children but it wasn't difficult.  I loved it.  All I had to do basically was speak English.  
Iain:  And what was happening with your meditation, at this point? Didn’t it become more like prayer?
John:  Yes, well, but not for a while.  Not for several years.
Iain:  Did Russian - your learning Russian, influence you in terms of your meditation?
John:  Well, that also came later but, to begin with, you may remember, I had gone through a long period of depression - a really awful period of depression until, thank God, being busy and having something else to think about at University, pulled me out of it.  When I went to Russia, again it was very difficult at first, for my ability to speak the language was abysmal.  I was alone, with no reliable connections, nowhere to live.  But eventually I found my feet and really loved it.  I couldn't help loving it even when lost and lonely because … I remember very soon after I went there, standing at a bus queue on a cold miserable day with a wretched cold myself, and people all huddled up in their overcoats and I felt such happiness.  Again, I am going to cry, because I knew I was among my own people and these were people who thought and felt as I did.
Iain:  Yes.
John:  And I was no longer alone.  I was among my own people.  I can't tell you what that meant to me.  It was a journey of such great discovery for me.  Love is not really a big enough word to describe it.  
Iain:  Yes, I'm just thinking of how this can help people.  So, you found your own people and it was to do, actually, partly with your, I guess genetics, your history with your mother. And that was a heart-full connection which you had never really found in England.
John:  No.  No, but again that was at the human level.  So, it was important at that level, at the level of my personality but that’s of minor consequence compared to the spiritual work.  I suppose at that time, my spiritual work had rather gone into the background.  I was absorbed in the discovery of Russia, but after several years in Russia it began to re-emerge.  When I first went into Russian churches, and discovered Russian Orthodoxy, it seemed very strange to me and alien - quite different from the Church of England - at least in the way it's presented.  And I had to learn another language, not even ordinary Russian but what’s called Old Church Slavonic, to read the prayers and that.  But I did it, I plodded on and figured it out and learned to read these simple children's books at first.  It was like rediscovering Christianity for the first time, really, rediscovering it …in a much deeper and more meaningful way.
Iain:  Okay, so I understand now.  So, it was almost like a letting go of everywhere you'd got to, even with your spiritual experiences and understanding and … restarting.
John:  No, it wasn't a restarting … but extending.  An extending and ... [pauses] ... an extending of the background, rather than the actual experience of Spirit.  The spiritual work was not noticeably increased or improved but the ... sorry ... let me tell you, quite soon after ... I told you that when I started to meditate, the Church greeted it with suspicion and to some extent still does.  I think for most Church people, meditation is something they don't understand … they feel a bit uncomfortable with it really.  Even here in Bakewell Church, I feel that it's something they can’t quite understand.  I sit there with eyes closed and feel them thinking ‘What on earth is he doing? Why doesn't he do something?’  But when I went to Russia and started studying Orthodoxy, I understood that what's called the Jesus Prayer, which is the Orthodox version of meditation, is very alive and part of the Orthodox tradition.  Through Communism, for three generations, Christianity was virtually abolished in Russia – they had three generations of persecution.  99% of Russian churches were closed, desecrated or destroyed. Millions of Christians were martyred for their faith.  Then I saw with my own eyes the miraculous resurrection of faith in Russia and I was right there at the beginning of it, and my own discovery of this tradition of inner prayer meant so much to me because I was no longer an alien from the faith that I'd been brought up in.  It brought Christianity and meditation together.
Iain:  So, what is the Jesus Prayer?
John:  Well, the Jesus Prayer uses - some people will be cross with me for saying this - but basically the Jesus Prayer uses the name of Jesus as a mantra.  
Iain:  Yes, okay.
John:  Now, do you want me to explain what a mantra is?  
Iain:  I know what a mantra is, explain very briefly what it is.
John:  Very briefly, I've explained how we live in this sort of bubble of thought.  The human condition is basically 99% of the time, lost in thought.  You have your bubble of thought and I have my bubble of thought and so we think we are separate.  And, to find freedom, or Spirit, we need to discover what is beyond thought. It's a bit like when, on a cloudy day we live under a blanket of cloud, and then what happens? You get in an aeroplane and go up through the cloud, and beyond the cloud you discover the beautiful open sky.  Now, that's what meditation is.  In meditation, a mantra is like an aeroplane. You get in, you sound a mantra,  and this sound in your mind acts like a mental handrail which leads you through the world of thought, of subjective thought up to the open sky.
Iain:  Yes.
John:  Now, there are all sorts of mantras and methods of meditation, people have their choices but if you are brought up in the faith, if you have a love of Jesus, if you have any sort of connection with Jesus, it's a very comforting thing to use the name of Jesus.  Of course, we all grow in faith, starting from what may be really very childish concepts of what it is all about, But we go on growing all our life, we never stop growing in faith and in understanding what it's all about, and what Jesus actually is.  My understanding of Jesus has expanded enormously from what I understood when I was being taught in scripture lessons at school.  So, anyway, at this time, for me, meditation and Christianity came together.
Iain:  You see again, picking out some quotes from your book, which I think you did touch on but I'd like to maybe explore more.  You say "Beyond our active mind lies another faculty; quiet and reflective and beyond that again, an indefinable heart or soul. This is the innermost essence of what we really are."
John:  That's right.
Iain: "A quiet mind may have aspects of eternity but for fuller access to spirit it’s necessary to discover and work with the heart."
John:  That's right.
Iain:  I suspect with the Jesus Prayer, you are talking about working with the heart?
John:  The Jesus Prayer, like any other deeply effective meditation can also be described as prayer of the heart.
Iain:  Okay.
John:  Yes, that's another word for it and in Russia certainly, the phrase Prayer of the Heart is often used.
Iain:  Yes, but you almost talk about three levels here, there's the active mind, beyond the active mind is the quiet and reflective...
John:  ...the reflective mind yes.
Iain:  Which could perhaps be called the observer in some traditions.  Maybe not?
John:  Well...
Iain:  ...anyway, just to stick with what you are talking about here; and then beyond that again, there's the indefinable heart or soul.  So, it seems to me that there's almost three levels of us before we get to the Influencer.
John:  Well, there are many levels of consciousness, aren't there?  There's unconsciousness, there's consciousness of the body, of appetites, of desires, there are states of dreaming, states of awaking, there's day-dreaming. Most of us go through the day half asleep.  We are not awake at all.  Occasionally, something, some noise disturbs you and you wake up and think‚ Good God, what was that?  And you wake up to a higher level of consciousness.  Where was I before?  Oh, I was half asleep.  Now, we go up and down like a yoyo throughout our day, between these different levels of consciousness all the time, and spiritual development is really moving to higher levels of consciousness.  Just like an aeoplane, it goes up, it starts on the ground and it goes up through thick clouds, then more wispy clouds to where there are no clouds at all.  It goes up through clouds of the mind. You can describe thoughts as clouds of the mind because they are limited, they all have a boundary and you can describe them and the practice of meditation takes you through to the Indescribable.  To the Unlimited.  Which is Spirit.  From Spirit we may ask ...  what is God?  God is Spirit.  
Iain:  [laughs] 
John:  And it is all right here.  All these states of consciousness are here ... here in you and I, sitting in bodies, talking and it's all within this [raises arms up in an arc] context here and now.
Iain:  Okay, I'm just trying to look at my notes to try and use you while I have got you here and other things that I wrote down from your book ... there's so much in it.  "In order to purify one's self, associated ideas of me need to be let go..."
John:  Yes.
Iain:  "...left behind," and you call that repentance.
John:  Yes, well, whether it is political correctness or what, I don't know but for some reason the word sin has been largely missed out of common, modern life, but I'd like to give you a very simple understanding of sin.  Now look, if I turn like that [faces left towards the daylight] and I look at the light, my face is lit, isn't it?  I am in the light.  Now, if I turn around like that [faces his right, which is dimly lit] my face is in shadow.  I'm in darkness.  And what I see is in shadow; the works of darkness.  Now, there is the light and there is darkness.  This is the Presence [turns to the light], the presence of the light, the presence of God and this [turns to the shade] is absence.  And our human  condition is absence.  Adam fell from the Garden of Eden, from paradise, he fell in consciousness, to a lower state of consciousness, of absence from the presence of God, and this is the human condition ... and this is what's called sin.  This is where The blind lead the blind, so we think we need education.  We turn away from the source of life so we get ill and, of course, the wages of sin is death.  Everything that dies is sin.  That's what sin is.  Sin is death.  Now real life is what Jesus says "I am the light ... he who walks in light, does not walk in darkness but has the light of life."  [Turns to face the daylight] This is eternal life, that's what man really is. In Spirit, enlightenment, he lives in light, he lives with God, he walks with God, [then turns to face the dark] and this is absence, and all human shortages, poverty, and desire, is because we are trying to make up for what we've lost.  And so we try to fill ourselves up with other bits of darkness and, of course, nothing works, it all has an end.  It comes to an end.  And then we are disappointed.  So, we look for more things but we are just playing with darkness, when all we've got to do is this [turns to the light]. And what is repentance?  That's repentance, it's turning to the light.  It's so simple.  
Iain:  But who is turning back to the light?
John:  Well, man has a choice.  In order to be what we are, we have to come out of what we are not.  Now then, here, you and I are sitting in our bodies. But in a few years these bodies will die, go back to dust.  Am I the body?  Is this what I am?  I live in it.  If I raise my hand ... look, I raise my hand, but am I the body?  What am I?  Well, let's take it a bit further.  I think these thoughts, but my thoughts change from day to day.  There's nothing consistent about thoughts.  My emotions are like a seesaw up and down, this way and that. The changing conditions of my life are here today and gone tomorrow.  So, what's left?  If I eliminate what I'm not, what's left?  Now you are looking at me and deep in your eyes is some sort of recognition, I can call it light.  Well, the trouble is if we put a name to it we limit it, but there is that Unlimited and that is what I am.  What is the name of God?  I Am that I Am.  How did Jesus describe himself when Pilate said "Who are you?" Before Abraham was, I Am.  Timeless, spaceless, indescribable, pure being, being oneself, I Am.  That's what it's all about, discovering one's self.  Discovering what we are and when we discover what we are then we can begin to be of use.
Iain:  And your journey through its ups and downs, through life, your human journey has been taking you towards I Am.
John:  Towards that, yes.
Iain:  Yes, and in a way, all our journeys are taking us towards I Am.
John:  Of course.  That's right.
Iain:  But it's not always easy to see as there are so many distractions.
John:  Well, at the beginning of course, we don't see it.  We may read it in the Bible but we don't really know what it means.  
Iain:  And you describe yourself now as a quiet old man of regular habits, going up and down the hill to church everyday, and you sit just there [points to his left] from five o'clock in the morning for two or three hours - you were there at five o'clock this morning.  When it's warm you sit on a bench outside - you don't speak much, except in interviews with Conscious TV.  And your adventures are on the inside.  What adventures do you have on the inside?
John:  Oh, my dear, it never ends [laughs].  Well, I suppose that could bring me on to the great subject of prayer.  Would you like me to go on to that?
Iain:  Yes, absolutely.  
John:  Can I take you back to that sitting on a mountainside in South America, when I felt I received a message, To make whole, be whole?  
Iain:  Yes, when the voice - you felt a voice spoke to you, that we spoke about in Part One.
John:  Yes, To make whole, be whole.  If you laid a blanket on the ground and then took hold of the centre and lifted it up, it pulls up the rest of the blanket with it, doesn't it?  Now, whatever we do affects the world around us, doesn't it?  Smile and the world smiles with you.  And with the raising of consciousness, which is really what we are talking about ... though you may not see the effect, though other people around you may think you are just a silly old fool sitting there ... the raising of consciousness inevitably raises consciousness of what's around you.  Just like when the sun comes out in spring, you can't help that every part, every blade of grass, every little bug responds.  Well, really, effective prayer is the raising of consciousness to where, of course, in Spirit there’s no problem.  Nobody dies, nobody is ill, nobody's hungry.
Iain:  But what's the primary difference for you between prayer and meditation, is there a difference?
John:  Oh, there isn't any at all.  But to begin with, like at the bottom of a mountain everything seems different, doesn't it, with lots of different paths.  Prayer is generally taken to mean, at least in the Western Church, an appeal from someone who is separate, to God, who's over there as another separate entity.  So, we say "Lord have mercy," or something like this; I'm the sinner and there's God.  So, we start off from separation and we usually pray for some object, some other item of separation, "Make Mummy better," or something.  So, we are playing with separation, we are still in the world of separation.  Now, as long as we stay in these verbal expressions of separation, that's how it is.  Wishful thinking, may or may not have an effect. Does it influence God? Well, how can I answer that?  How do I know?  But eventually, you may say fewer words and do a bit more listening, or just sitting there and feeling the presence of God, or maybe not.  Now, meditation starts from a slightly different place because instead of using words to express thought, or desires, or even faith, you don't use words, apart from a mantra word, which is really a symbolic word. You let go, which actually lets go of separation.  The aim of meditation is union.  So, both methods, prayer and meditation, pursued  ... but when I say pursued, it takes much practice, time and faith ... will bring you to union, will bring you closer to God.  So, really they merge, they become the same thing, but I know it's very confusing at the beginning because prayer ... well, people think of prayer and meditation as two different things. It's really just two different approaches to the same thing.  
Iain:  Just reading my notes again; "I used to consider myself rather unhappy, a sort of misfit exile in the wrong place, which I was not able to explain.  Lately, though, I know what I am, and where I belong and even though outer circumstances sometimes pale, I often feel the happiest, most blessed man alive.
John:  Amen.
Iain:  Must be wonderful.  You feel the "happiest, most blessed man alive."  
John:  And, best of all, I know now what to do … the answer to that awful question, What should I do?  I found the work. This is work, real WORK.  Somebody dies, you know he doesn't die. Somebody's ill, you feel the wholeness.  Someone's poor, they’re not, for abundance is all around. Everything’s made whole.  Now, people may not believe you, well … that's the human condition, isn't it.  But this is what wise men have always said.  It's all given to you.  It's a gift!  The Kingdom of God is total, there's no need at all, nothing dies, nothing's ill, nothing's unhappy … it’s all light.  
Iain:  And I think the wonderful thing is, for me, that you never gave up.  You had your ups and downs, you are seventy-nine now, it wasn't always easy but there was a determination, a motivation, a discipline to your meditation and prayer.
John:  And the wonderful thing is that all that I as man have failed to do, I now realise, is done by God, by Spirit.  You know, I write books and most people of course don't read them but Spirit penetrates everywhere.  In a way, even more so than sunshine, the real Spirit enters every heart, you don't have to do anything, all you have to do is remove the obstacle of 'me', my own blindness.  You just have to come out of this blot upon creation, which is John Butler, this darkness with which I infect the world and create the works of dark.  When you let that go, which is full repentance and totally accept Thy will, not mine, abandon the ego, the demon within you, the devil within you … then everything that we try inadequately to do as people, is done automatically by God. 
Iain:  Okay, I think that's...
John:  Perfection is achieved.
Iain:  I think that's a wonderful place to finish.  Thank you John very much, for coming along and talking to us at Conscious TV.  I am just going to show your books briefly again.  Wonders of Spiritual Unfoldment, Mystic Approaches and two you've just given me, Destined to Joy and Do you Pray for Me?  And maybe we will take a couple of shots of the church so people can see the context from which we've done the interview but more importantly, where you spend four-to-five hours a day, meditating.  Thank you again.
John:  Thank you.
Iain:  And thank you for watching Conscious TV.

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John Butler – Discovering Stillness Part Two

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John Butler - Discovering Stillness (Part One) Interview by Iain McNay

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Growing from a country childhood, John’s natural mysticism developed into organic farming and meditation. Much later, when life fell apart, it took him through depression and years of wandering in deserts of different sorts before gradually coming to realize that all appearing to be lost on earth is spiritually found.
Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers

Iain:  Hello and welcome once more to Conscious TV.  I’m Iain McNay and today my guest is John Butler and we are not in London in our usual studios, we’re up in Bakewell in Derbyshire.  John wasn’t able to come to London.  So, we are actually, in a very special location; we are in All Saints Church in Bakewell and we are here because John comes to meditate and pray here at five o’clock every morning for two hours and also later on in the afternoon for two or three hours.  So, he spends a lot of time here, just in the corner there [points to his left] just off camera.  So, we heard about John because someone wrote in and told us about him and he’s written two books; Wonders of Spiritual Unfoldment which is four hundred pages and it is a very interesting read and Mystic Approaches and he also has two books of poetry, which he has just given me and I have not looked at yet, Destined to Joy: Mystic Verses Part One and Do You Pray For Me: Mystic Verses Part Two.  So, if you want to read more about John there’s plenty out there to read.  So, John, welcome to Conscious TV, and I am going to ask you first of all about your father because he taught you some great things in life, didn’t he?
John:  John:  [Nods head], mmm, he was a quiet man, an artist, a craftsman.  Very conscious of his surroundings. A landscape artist mostly at that time.  So, he taught me to observe nature, to see the beauty of what was in front of me.  Nothing elaborate, just the hedges, the trees, the grass, to notice the sky.  He was also very conscious of good work.  He loved carpentry, he taught me how to use tools and I remember so well him saying “pay attention, keep your eye on what you are doing.  When you are sewing a piece of wood, listen to and watch the movement of the saw, watch the hammer so that you hit the nail straight.   And these two lessons of 100% giving attention and observing what was around me have stood me in good stead all my life.

Iain:   They’re wonderful qualities which are probably quite rare these days which is sad but that is the way the world is…and what did you get from your mother?
John:  Mum was Russian.  Well, she was also an artist in her way.  She was a housewife of course, which is what women were then they called themselves that and were proud of it.   Mum was always, when Women’s Lib[eration] came in she said there is nothing wrong with being a mother and a housewife.  Anyway, what I got from mum was primarily a Russian heart and Russian hearts they just spill out all over the place.   And I was always told as a child that I wear my heart on my sleeve, well, people laughed at me but it is one of the best things, to have a great heart.   To work from the heart, to recognise the existence of the heart and the whole household shone with that tender loving care that emanates from someone that loves their work and gives themselves to it; the way the table was laid, the way she knitted our clothes for us, did the mending, did the washing up, everything was a work of art and done with love. 
Iain: And I know at seven years of age you were sent to boarding school and that was a little bit of a shock but you escaped to the chapel and pray when you needed didn’t you, to find your solitude and balance again. 
John:  [Laughs] It was a shock because up till then we had lived in the deep country and I hardly knew what another little boy was.  My companions were nature and animals.  And I was suddenly thrown into this world of other little boys and I was completely lost and for the first time in my life I knew what it was to feel isolated and lonely.  And God the school was in a rural setting so there were big gardens where I could go and, also in my little childish way I remember so well just burying my little head in my hands and closing my eyes and saying God bless mummy and daddy and my sister and our dog and what a haven of home and security that was for me.
Iain:  It seems even at an early age you had a way of going inside and finding somewhere you could rest, as you used the word haven just now.
John:  Yes, I think that probably was so, if not inside, at least to stillness and quietness.  In nature, it is outside, isn’t it?  You look at a tree and put your arms around a tree and you’re held in stillness, in quietness, in that reassurance of simply being itself.  And what a contrast it is to the noise and the agitation that you get from most people.
Iain:  And you talk about, I don’t know if you remember, at the beginning of this book [Wonders of Spiritual Unfoldment] you talk about, it’s a book about [being] committed to discovering stillness.
John:  Well I wouldn’t say that, no, it is really a book committed to discovering…well, I don’t really know what really…if I use clever words like the Infinite, or even God it, as a young man I wasn’t, I still don’t know really what they are, who does know what God is [laughs]?  Nobody knows what God is, but there’s, how can I put it?  Perhaps one longs for the unlimited, for freedom and for love and any worldly experience, all these things are finite; they have an end.  You go out, you discover freedom, go out and climb a mountain but then you have to come home again.  Love is wonderful in its flowering but then sooner or later it says “no”, it has an end.  All the things you love, the happiness, it all comes and goes, doesn’t it?  I think that perhaps I was just greedy, I wanted that which didn’t end.
Iain:  but sometimes we need that, you call it greed, that commitment to find, otherwise we never find it.
John:  Well, absolutely, that’s the motivation, isn’t it? 
Iain:  We will come on to that a bit litter, I just want to go through your story a little bit sequentially and just discover these important pointers in your life.  So, there’s so much we could do because you are now seventy-nine years old, there’s so much we could talk about but I’m going to summarise it to some extent:
You were an army officer, which I guess was National Service, involved with the family business and then in 1963 you went to South America…
John:  Yes.
Iain:  What’s the reason you went to South America? 
John:  Oh, I wanted to make the world a better place [laughs].
Iain:  What was your vision of making the world a better place?
John:  Well, I was a farmer, I’d loved farming since my first breath, I was soaked in farming.  I wanted to be a farmer, it was my overriding dream really.  And I had spent some time, I had studied the subject and it was the time when these charities like OXFAM were just beginning, so it was the fashionable thing really, I suppose.  I had another mate and we were going out to Bolivia, we were going to take a…they were giving grants of a thousand hectares to new settlers who would go out and grow food for the hungry, so we thought we would go out and do that.  We were young and strong but my mate didn’t come, he met a girl who stayed in England and I met a Peruvian girl and her father invited me to go and work for him in Peru, so I did that on a big sheep hacienda.  But that was my Socialist time of life and I wanted to do good so I ended up working as a volunteer agriculturalist in the mountains of Peru. 
Iain:  Which must have been beautiful, actually. 
John: Uh huh [nods head]. 
John:  Well I wouldn’t say it was easy but there was plenty of space up there and I loved that, I loved the donkeys and the oxen.  And yes it was a good year but I think like most people who had done voluntary service, I learnt, it gave me much more than I gave to it really and I learnt probably the greatest lesson of my life: I remember sitting on a mountainside one day, I had done a lot of work and a little bit of work planting trees on eroded mountainsides and of course the local sheep and goats had come and eaten them all off, so I was sitting there a bit depressed.   And it seemed, a little voice said to me “make whole, be whole.”
Iain:  Make whole, be whole.
John:  To make whole, be whole.  Well I hardly understood what that was then but I had read a little bit about meditation, not that I really understood it.  But I saw myself as a mixed-up young man trying to help people, the local Indians, who were older and wiser than myself and more able to live.  And I realised I had to do something about sorting out myself before I could be much use to others.  So, having read a bit about meditation, when I came home to England, I looked for and I found a school of meditation.
Iain:  I wanted to just point out one more thing that I thought was important in your book was, there was a situation, you were in the mountains, in the jungle I think in Peru and you felt the only way was to surrender
John:  Ah, yes [laughs].
Iain:  Do you remember that?  That was quite important I think.
John:  Yes, I had a pal and we’d found an Indian who would take us, and we had several days in the jungle, just walking through the jungle which was…
Iain:  …it must have been an incredible experience. 
John:  It was an incredible experience, it was absolutely wonderful.  The jungle is very thick it is quite difficult to walk through, with great trees above us, very little sunlight comes down to the forest floor, you creep along over the fallen leaves, these huge lizards, snails and snakes, you see monkeys up in the trees and at one point we came to a little creek with sandy banks and there was a great sought of furrow gouged out of the sand as though someone had dragged a big oil barrow through it.  And we looked at the guide and it was a huge snake, an anaconda and I wanted to follow up and find it but he wouldn’t let me, he said it would be lying curled up ready to grab us.  And then it started to rain and we camped just near there, just beside it and we made a little fire, just sleeping on the ground there and I didn’t sleep very well, I think maybe I woke up in the middle of the night and the rain had cleared, and you know the jungle’s full of shrieks and funny sounds, rustlings at night, all the animals come out and move around and I sat there by the campfire, in this little circle of light and I thought of this great snake, I could reach out and touch it probably for all I knew. And I began to feel fear and we were alone in this jungle and if the Indian deserted us God knows what we would have done.  And then quite inexplicably I just, perhaps I had stopped fighting, I gave up the struggle, I surrendered.   I just relaxed into the situation as it was, into the unknown and I suddenly felt peace, such as that I’d never felt before.  Just total peace, in which all the threats that surrounded us were contained and alright.  And I look back on that as one of my first great spiritual experiences.
Iain:  Yes, you say in the book “I put my trust in forces greater than me.” 
John:  Yes.
Iain:  Yes, which we all have to do, don’t we sometimes, if not all the time?
John:  Yes, in a way, I’ve been doing it all my life.  That is the essence.
Iain:  [Reading from the book] “putting your trust in forces greater than you.”
John:  That’s right.
Iain:  Yes.  Do you feel that peace now?
John:  Absolutely.
Iain:  Yes
John:  Of course.  I am nervous before an interview but what do I do?  I find that stillness and I feel confident, it’s like an invisible hand to hold, a rock.
Iain:  So how do you find the stillness?
John:  How do I find it?  Well it can’t be described.
Iain:  Yes and you said you were nervous before the interview and you find that stillness…
John:  …yes, how do I find it?  I’ve had many years of practice, it is second nature to me now.  Probably my first nature.  It is so obvious, we are sitting in it like fishes in the sea.  You can never not be still but the trouble is we just don’t see it.   We look down and we just live in this cocoon of mental agitation [covers his eyes with his hands], lost in thought; that’s the human condition.  At least what we call the human condition, but actually it’s lost, it is not reality at all, what we are, and that is the cause of all of our problems.  We are absent from the presence of God. 
Iain:  And this in a way, the groundwork is what your father was teaching you, about watching the now…
John:  yes, to be present, to be present.  The present is such an important word, now, the present moment here and now.  The present moment…[the church bells begin to chime]…you can hear the church clock chiming, can’t you? 
Iain:  I can.
John:  It is sounding in stillness, isn’t it?
Iain:  It’s one o’clock…
John:  …in stillness and in timelessness.  Time goes round, round and round in eternal presence, the peace of God that passeth understanding, right here and now, you can never be closer to God than right here and now.
Iain:  Okay, so I am going to keep going with your story, see what else comes out of that.  You were starting to say that when you got back from South America you were twenty-seven and you discovered this school of mediation.
John:  Yes.
Iain:  Tell us about that, about how you discovered it, not so much how you discovered it but how it was important to you.
John:  Well, it certainly was very important.  Yes, I had to go to London to be taught, I was taught.  My first farm was at Bakewell then, so I had to get the late night train back from London to look after my animals the next morning and I was sitting in St Pancreas station waiting room, among all the rubbish and the unfortunate drunks and homeless that used it and I sat and closed my eyes and meditated as I had been told and there and then in that seemingly uncongenial situation it opened up, like that [raises his arms high] and I realised that all the space, the freedom that I had longed for and that I had been travelling the world to find, the deserts and the mountains of this world where within me, and that discovery, that discovery, well it has been going on ever since.  Bigger and bigger, greater and greater, better and better. 
Iain:  So the discovery was the beginning of something in a way.
John:  It was the beginning of realisation.  Of course, I had the theory, I was brought up in a Christian school, I had ten years of compulsory chapel and scripture lessons, I knew a lot of the Bible by heart and the old prayer book; “The kingdom of God is within you,” you know I’d learnt that but what did it mean?  I didn’t really know but very soon in those first few periods of meditation I had realised there was this dimension that was not of this…not what we call…this world.  There was a further dimension that could be realised.  That’s the word realisation.  The Biblical phrase comes alive The Kingdom of God, what does that mean, I don’t know it’s difficult to say even now but it’s within you, it really is within.  And the peace of God that passes understanding, it is beyond the thinking mind.  You don’t get it by substituting one thought for another but by opening-up to this dimension of spirit really, that’s what it is.  Invisible.  You can’t describe it.  Everybody knows what silence is but no one can describe it.  Who knows what silence is?
Iain:  I’m not sure that everyone knows what silence is actually.  They think it’s just not hearing any noise.
John:  Well, exactly.
Iain:  We will go into more detail later but I think there is almost an art to silence somehow.  I know you had some, again, important experiences which helped deepen your realisation, there was one time when you were on the underground train in London and you saw everyone as Jesus, is that right?
John:  Well I know I used the word when I described it, but I’m not sure really what I meant by it.  I think the words Jesus and Christ so often get used with very nebulous meaning and different people of course mean it in different ways but I think how I would describe it now as far as I remember, it was this realisation of this stillness, that there in this underground carriage was full of this stillness and within this stillness the bodies, the sounds, the personalities took place and actually pervaded everybody.
Iain:  Whether they realised it or not.
John:  Oh absolutely, I mean if you look at people’s eyes, everybody every eye shines with more or less light even if the eye is very dull, it is the same light isn’t it, how many lights are there?  There is only one light isn’t there?  And so, it is, there is only one stillness, there’s only one stillness.  And I think these first experiences of mine were like that.
Iain:  You had another time when I think you were also in London where even you saw the garbage as beautiful, everything was shining.
John:  Yes, well again it depends what you’re focussed on.  There are levels of consciousness, if your heart is light, if your heart is full of light, you see light.  And everything that is in it is light, you know beauty is in the eye of the beholder isn’t it, if your eye is full of beauty that’s what you see.
Iain:  Yes but I think it was also important from what you explained in the book about that realisation, I am just trying to find the words here [from the book] that forced you to review some deeply negative attitudes towards civilisation’s city life.
John:  Absolutely, yes, well I think I said, being a country boy I was at that time very negative about city life as a sort of worst of the worst [laughs], you know we used words like Townies to describe those not fortunate enough to live in the country and civilisation was the very antithesis of nature.  Unnatural wasn’t it, and so these were some of the great lessons I had to overcome and certainly meditation did help to clear-out some of those negative thoughts from my mind but unfortunately there were many, many more of them deeply buried inside, it is a long process.
Iain:  It is a long process and I think that one of the things that comes across, certainly in your book and your story is this motivation, this determination to keep going somehow, you didn’t give up.  Let’s go through the story and we’ll come to some examples of this, so in your thirties you were, you actually thought of becoming a monk at one point, you were in and out of monasteries, you were searching still in the Christian tradition I guess there.
John:  Mmm, yes, I don’t remember too clearly what my motivation was, I think perhaps it was a reaction you know I didn’t want to be what most of my contemporaries were, I didn’t want to go into business, I didn’t want to go into the professions.  Monastic life seemed to offer an alternative but that was about the same time as I learned to meditate and it certainly raised the question do I follow this way or the way of meditation?  I don’t see any conflict now but then I did it seemed an either/or situation.  At that time…things have changed a lot in that last fifty or sixty years, the Church was really, quite suspicious of meditation it, it regarded it as something Eastern which is very odd, but anyway it did and I guess I was caught up in that but anyway I decided to stay with meditation, because even in those early months I realised, or I felt it was, at least for me a more effective way of spiritual work.
Iain: You say more than once in the book that your two loves at that point were meditation, farming and animals and there's a lovely example you gave, one point you had to sell your farm and you were quite sad about that and you were just sitting, feeling it and this ram came over to you.  Just talk us through what happened there.
John:  Excuse me, may I just jump back for a moment to make a little comment about that decision about meditation?
Iain:  Of course.
John:  The accusation is often made that meditation is a withdrawal from this world but absolutely on the contrary, the key principle of the method that I taught was that you practise it while living in the world.  A monk's life may possibly be considered a withdrawal from worldly life but meditation, absolutely not.  It is the art of finding the eternal, in the midst of the marketplace, the stillness in the movement.  
Iain:  To be, I forget the exact phrase, but to be in the world but not of the world.
John:  Absolutely, that's the good phrase in the world but not of the world. Yes.
Iain:  I understand that.
John:  Yes, and it is utterly practical.  It is absolutely not a withdrawal, an opting out, it is a completely different understanding.  
Iain:  I have read many things over the years about monks that have spent years meditating in very confined places, like a cave or a monastery and they come to the city and they are lost.
John:  Yes.  
Iain:  And what you're saying is that, that stillness, that presence it's right in the marketplace, in the city.
John:  Yes, in the most chaotic imaginable situation.  Yes.
Iain:  Yes.
John:  God is with us.  
Iain:  Yes.  I am going to insist on the story about the ram because I love the story.
John:  Yes, so do I [laughs].  I think it is one of those wonderful things that I have got no explanation for but at that time...one of the great loves of my life are sheep...I can tell you a lot about my understanding of the lamb of God [laughs] anyway, at that time I had quite a considerable flock of sheep; about one hundred and fifty sheep, and five rams I think and one of these rams was an old warrior, where through much fighting he'd split his skull and was...old soldier [laughs].  And just before things happened; I had to move on from my first farm.  I was sitting on one side of the field, I'm not sure if I'd been crying, but I was very unhappy about it all, losing my beloved animals and these rams were lying under a hedge at the other side of the field about, I suppose, a hundred yards or so away.  And to my amazement, one of these rams; this old warrior, he stood up, he left the others, slowly and deliberately he walked across the field, he laid his head in my lap and just stood there for a minute or two, or three.  And he turned away and went back and laid back with his companions.  It brings tears to my eyes to tell you.  Well, what do you make of that?
Iain:  That extraordinary connection that you have had with nature, which is everyone's potential in a way.
John:  Well, maybe that was it.  I did consider that [to be] one of the greatest honours of my life.  I couldn't ask for more.
Iain:  One of the greatest honours of your life [nodding].  Yes, wonderful.
John:  See, [this] Russian heart brings tears to my eyes [wipes his eyes dry] even in front of a camera, I'm sorry.  
Iain:  Well, you have had a bit of an up-and-down story in some ways and I'm going to now move on because in your late forties, your life fell apart and you had quite bad depression.  How did that start?
John:  Well, I had a second farm then, it was a lovely little farm and that is really another little story.  I was happy as a farmer, I was married by then and had a good wife...but we had many meditation students at that time who used to come to the farm.  I was quite well known, as one of the first organic farmers.  There was a woman that came to meditate and on one occasion...we meditate with closed eyes by the way...we were sitting together and we'd just come to stillness and I saw our two souls rise from our bodies and merge as one.  She was a woman with very open clear eyes and when I looked at her, I saw right through to the infinite beyond.  
Iain:  So, what does that mean?
John:  What does that mean?  
Iain:  The "infinite beyond."  What did you actually see?
John:  Well you have got to realise there are two sorts of sight; there's the eyes of flesh and there's what's called insight...seeing with the eyes of the heart.  [smiles].  Flesh sight is always limited; it has a boundary, flesh sees flesh.  But we all have to some extent a sense of indescribable beauty, or indescribable peace...something like that.  What did I see?  I saw the indescribable, right there.  I saw the infinite indescribable.  But it is the realest of the real when you see it.  And what really tipped me back, tipped me into depression was that I was still a young man, a hot-blooded young man, still very much living in my physical body and my human emotion.  How do you reconcile the two?  There was that spiritual union, if you like, the mystical marriage, contrasted with two people living lives both with their own marriages, their homes, their jobs that were separate.  How do you reconcile unity with separation?  Well, I couldn't at that time.  It was beyond my ability, my experience.  I couldn't go back into that old life.  Of course, I couldn't escape it either, really, I was sort of, imprisoned in it.  
Iain:  So it was an experience that took you out [raises arms in a wide arc above his head] of your world.
John:  Yes, that's right.  I suppose in modern jargon, it blew my mind.  I'm not sure if that is accurate or not.  It's not a phrase I normally use.
Iain:  Sounds very accurate!  It blew your mind [laughs].
John:  But, I went back home and there was my dear wife but somehow it was all too small, I couldn't...I had been shown something...well anyway, the gist of it was it threw me into a turmoil of emotions and I left.  I had to really break away. 
Iain:  You had to leave your marriage.
John:  I left my farm, I left my home.
Iain:  Wow.
John:  I had one of the little motor caravans of that time and I drifted around for some years homeless, jobless, loveless and alone.  And it was a wretched time of life. I just picked through it, I did what I could.
Iain:  But you'd had that experience.  So, had that given you a reference point, had it given you an opening?
John:  Yes it did because how can one access it?  Well, meditation of course does just that.  Because in meditation you...if I can give you a demonstration, the beautiful demonstration of meditation, I hope the camera can see my hands, is just that; [unfolds clenched fingers into open palms].
Iain:  It's just an opening.
John:  It's letting go.
Iain:  letting go.
John:  Now this is how we live [tightens fingers again], forgetting, forgetful of the One.
Iain:  Trying to hold on.
John:  ...trying to hold on.  We hold on to our personal life and so we are imprisoned with our ego, which is our sense of separation.  And in meditation, it starts very gently at first, so it is not frightening or anything but very gently it helps you to do that [unfolds fingers to open palms again].  Now when you let go, you discover that you are not actually separate at all.  You are united.  You are in that which is undivided.  Indescribable but undivided.  There's not two at all, there's just One.  One love.  One person.  Singular.  Adam in the paradise was singular, one I Am.  Now that's what I had been shown in this dramatic episode with this woman; the Oneness.  Well, you could say, that then the work, the real work began because the two polarities had been clearly identified to me.  I was too muddled really to put it as clearly as I am saying to you now but that's what gradually dawned on me.  At one time in the motor caravan I went to spend a winter in Spain, alone of course and I spent hour after hour after hour just meditating.  I moved from doing the standard half-hour morning and night and meditation became salvation because in salvation you are taken out of this imprisonment and [unfolds arms] you are shown what's real.  You're saved from drowning in this world, just like Saint Peter was walking on water; he was drowning in the world, [and] there was Jesus free beside him.  Peter was drowning, he reached, he said, "help me."  Jesus said "what were you frightened about? What were you drowning for?  Have faith."  
Iain:  Have faith.
John:  That's what it's all about.  
Iain:  And you never stopped having faith even though it was a difficult time?
John:  I don't think I ever did because I had this wonderful practice and this practice [meditation] is such a wonderful way of putting it into practice.  So twice every day without fail and for increasing lengths of time.  I was just surrendering to that total presence and to that love that has no end.  That love that never says no.  To pure, total love which is, which I'd seen in her eyes you see?  And yet the body of course said no...
Iain:  ...in a way it wasn't to do with her...
John:  ...well...
Iain:  ...she was a portal somehow...
John:  well the body was a portal because that isn't really what we are.  And this is the great discovery; that man is not limited to the flesh, the flesh as the Bible tells us is prophet of nothing.  
Iain:  Yes.
John:  The flesh is just...look, anything that dies, mortality, the whole world [that] comes to pass is not what we are.  Man, is eternal being.  
Iain:  Okay.  I am going to go back to your story a little bit because I think it is important for people to see that your path wasn't always smooth, it had ups and downs, and how you dealt with the downs I think is so important and people somehow, they get stuck in having the highs, as they see them; the experiences but these practicalities.
John:  Yes of course, well, it's discipline that pulls you through.  You have just got to keep on practising.  Practise, practise, practise.  
Iain:  This discipline, in the motor-home, you kept the discipline of meditation.
John:  Yes, but in a way, it isn't difficult because it is a way, in a way it is like, well it is being described as a trail of grains of sugar, you know?  You follow it because it's always leading you from better, to better, to better.
Iain:   From better, to better, to better.  
John:  Yes, it's described as a trail of sugar, you see, leading to the sugar mountain, which is of course the Kingdom of God.
Iain:  Yes but unfortunately in our society there's so many false trails, trying to take you from better, to better, to better and all you end up with is an unhealthy body and an overdraft and credit card bills [laughs] and...
John:  Well that's why it's...well I think one of the impediments, one of the things that stops us setting out on the spiritual life is that we are not sufficiently unhappy.  We are too content with this sort of compromise with life, with all the little sandwich bars and baubles that life offers to us; that comfort of a teddy bear and you know for some people that's not good enough, you want more, you want the real thing.  And I guess I was one of those people.
Iain:  Yes but you also had what I would call, the taste, not the taste, as it is not a strong enough word but you had visions, in one way, you had big, big, clues and not everyone has that.
John:  Well yes, that's also true and am I not blessed?  
Iain:  There is a blessing in that, you are absolutely right.
John:  Absolutely, you know they say, the Bible tells us we are saved by grace.  What is grace?  It is something that comes unseen, unknown, you know, it is like memory, where does memory come from?  It just comes, doesn't it?
Iain:  I think what we are going to do is a part two of this interview because we have about ten minutes left and I am only...so we will keep going and there will be a part two.  So, what happened next was in 1998 you went to Africa for a time.
John:  Yes, I was offered a job out in Africa, South Africa.  I went out there, the job didn't work out, so after some time I hired a little car and I just drove off.  I didn't really have a plan, I didn't really have a proper map but I just followed the road and it all unfolded in front of me.  I slept in the back of the car or out on the ground under the stars, oh I actually loved it.  The space, the glorious space.  And I never went to any big towns only little ones, I just bought what I had to and got out into the open again [laughs].  I just found the big empty spaces on the map and I went there.  
Iain:  It comes across in the book that you are always drawn to wide-open, preferably wild places.
John:  Yes.
Iain:  and but for the wind there was [were] utter silences that you'd never known before.
John:  Yes.
Iain:  There was no place for your depression anymore.
John:  No, I suppose, out there...I was so thrilled by it, so...
Iain:  Utter silence.
John:  Yes, so I just couldn't get enough of space and silence.  I have always loved space and silence, they're just natural to me, I belong there.  That's where I feel at home.  
Iain:  But it seems to me that it is kind of, what you've told us so far about your life, it's almost like there is this dance of space and you are drawn to this space on the outside, you recognise the real space is primarily on the inside.  And you are in Africa and of course you are completely attracted to the stillness of the space, nothing around for miles and miles.
John:  Yes, I actually loved that.  When I was a boy at school, my favourite picture was of a cowboy riding up to the crest of a hill with the caption "don't fence me in" I loved that phrase.  And Africa was in that sense...yes and then I went on, I was in the Kalahari and the Namibian desert and that...oh I just loved it.  It always seemed to me [to be] obvious why the early Christians, why men of prayer went to the desert and I experienced it for myself and it is just all so obvious there, it is all just before you; the Infinite.  You are nothing.  You are taken into the immensity of what's there.
Iain:  Because you talk in the book about there, when you are in Africa about the absence of subject/object relationships.  It's not you and the other, it's just the One.
John:  No, that's right.  All that dies away.  All the personality is, is nothing.  
Iain:  Yes.
John:  The 'me', the John Butler is just...you forget about it...it's just nothing.  
Iain:  Yes, and of course you came back from Africa to England...
John:  Yes, [laughs] where you can imagine that is the opposite, getting back to [England]...well I'd get back into John Butler again [laughs].  Or what the world considered that to be.  
Iain:  And you found it tough again, didn't you?
John:  Well, I, you know, I had lost my job as a farmer.  I was desperate to find some sort of work and what on earth could I do?  I wrote a CV [curriculum vitae] at that time and I remember more-or-less what I wrote.  I wrote I knew something about freedom and therefore I could help others to freedom.  And of course, freedom is love.  Love is freedom.  The two are really the same thing, spiritually speaking.  And if someone could give me a channel for my love, I would give my all.  That was what I was looking for.  And of course, who answered my CV?  Nobody [laughs]!   I was looking for freedom in the world of bondage.  
Iain:  But you'd also had the realisations before when you were in London and you saw the garbage as beautiful in the underground [tube station] and somehow, you'd had those experiences but something...it is hard isn't it?  I'm just pointing out that you had had these reference points but you had this openness in Africa, this stillness.  John Butler has almost disappeared and you get back to England, and the reality of day-to-day life hits you again.
John:  Well, I suppose, I hadn't...I was still...we are such spiritual infants, you know, even now as an old man I am still a spiritual child.  It's a long journey and one is learning all the time.  You learn something every day.  And at that time, I was still grappling with questions that I, that now, I no longer have these problems.  But at that time, I did.  
Iain:  I just wanted people to understand where you really were.  You said again, [that] you fell into personal desire.  You had to deal with what you call the cancerous root of egoism by exposing it bit-by-bit.  How did you expose it bit-by-bit? The cancerous root of egoism.
John:  Yes, that's a good phrase [laughs].  How did I deal with it?  Well, how indeed.  I'm not sure that we can deal with it because you see we, I am the ego, so it is the ego trying to deal with the ego.  It's the pot calling the kettle black.  The blind leading the blind.  We are saved by grace.  Well, I meditated.  At that time, I met a teacher, a young man and I looked into his eyes and I had that same experience of seeing the infinite beyond.
Iain:  That you'd had with that woman.
John:  Freedom, yes.  And I followed him out to America, to San Francisco.  I was that desperate.  I knew that's what I wanted, I didn't want anything else.  So, as it were, I jumped off the precipice to him and while I was in America after I had been with him a few days...I remember it was a big meeting, and he looked at me and he pointed out my pride, my arrogance and my egoism, which completely crushed me.  I was exposed in this room of, I suppose, a couple of hundred people.  I'd been called in the room and I felt within me a monstrous, almost like a worm and I didn't know what to do with it at all.  I was absolutely terrified, and I fled.  Where did I flee to?  I fled into the wilderness.  I got a car and I just drove into the desert.  And I thought I was going mad at that time.  I had such a sense of evil within me and I didn't know how to deal with it at all.  I meditated but somehow even meditation didn't deal with it and fearing I was really going to lose my wits [mind/ability to think] I took a job as a cook in a funny little motel/gas station, I worked in the kitchen there, frying eggs and things...and it was in the Maharvi desert, which is just on the border of Arizona.  Surrounded by desert-country.  One day after work, I walked up the side of the valley, there was this little motel, this little spot at the side of the valley, I sat on a rock and I think I put my head in my hands and I think I just was finished then.  And someone came and stood beside me.  I didn't see anybody, I didn't hear anybody, no man was involved at all but I felt there was a presence beside me.  I suppose it was Jesus.  I never doubted it.  It was nothing to do with the church, nothing to do with religion at all.  And I didn't really notice any difference, the depression didn't end but I wrote a poem, that's right "depression didn't end but from then on I had a friend."  I certainly didn't have any human friend at that time.  And then a few more months passed and I ended this job with a pocket full of money, so once more I hired a car and had a wonderful time exploring the western states, the cowboy country and more animals and more beloved prairie, then I came home and once again in this awful abyss of not knowing what to do.
Iain:  I just want to...so, we have to finish...let's call this part one...so what the breakthrough was for you was the appearance of what you felt might have been, could be Jesus.  It was about having a companion, a friend, a support, a guide...am I using the right words?
John:  I think you are making too much of it.  I wouldn't use any of those words, it was less defined.  It was very undefined.  Soon after I got back, I had some friends then that did healing and I remember they prayed over me and it was extraordinary, I felt like, I found myself screaming, I was thrown into the ground and something was expelled, some revolting thing came out of my mouth, it opened my mouth so wide that my mouth split but what came out?  I never saw it.  I suppose, one idea expelled by another.  And just before that happened, I had gone into a job centre and I was invited to an open day and I was invited to go to Nottingham University to study Russian as a very mature student.  
Iain:  Okay, we're going to stop there because that's a great start for part two.  So, thank you very much for doing part one.  Thank you everyone for watching part one, here with John and we will see you again for part two.

End of Part One

SOURCE: http://conscious.tv/text/122.htm
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"Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are" by Jack Kornfield

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Learning takes place only in a mind that is innocent and vulnerable.
—Krishna Murti


RAIN is a useful acronym for the four key principles of mindful transformation of difficulties. RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Nonidentification. A line from Zen poetry reminds us, “the rain falls equally on all things.” Like the nourishment of outer rain, the inner principles of RAIN can be applied to all our experience, and can transform our difficulties.

Recognition
Recognition is the first step of mindfulness. When we feel stuck, we must begin with a willingness to see what is so. It is as if someone asks us gently, “What is happening now?” Do we rely brusquely, “Nothing”? Or do we pause and acknowledge the reality of our experience, here and now? With recognition we step out of denial. Denial undermines our freedom. The diabetic who denies his body is sick and ignores its needs is not free. Neither is the driven, stressed-out executive who denies the cost of her lifestyle, or the self-critical would-be painter who denies his love of making art. The society that denies its poverty and injustice has lost a part of its freedom as well. If we deny our dissatisfaction, our anger, our pain, our ambition, we will suffer. If we deny our values, our beliefs, our longings, or our goodness, we will suffer.

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any outer tradition,” observes Zen teacher Toni Packer. “It happens completely on its own when a human being questions, wonders, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

With recognition our awareness becomes like the dignified host. We name and inwardly bow to our experience: “Ah, sorrow. Now excitement. Hmm, yes, conflict; and yes, tension. Oh, now pain, yes and now, ah, the judging mind.” Recognition moves us from delusion and ignorance toward freedom. “We can light a lamp in the darkness,” says the Buddha. We can see what is so.


Acceptance
The next step of RAIN is acceptance. Acceptance allows us to relax and open to the facts before us. It is necessary because with recognition there can come a subtle aversion, a resistance, a wish it weren’t so. Acceptance does not mean that we cannot work to improve things. But just now, this is what is so. In Zen they say, “If you understand, things are just are they are. And if you don’t understand, things are still just as they are.”

Acceptance is not passivity. It is a courageous step in the process of transformation. “Trouble? Life is trouble. Only death is nice,” Zorba the Greek declares. “To live is to roll up your sleeves and embrace trouble.” Acceptance is a willing movement of the heart to include whatever is before it. In individual transformation we have to acknowledge the reality of our own suffering. For social transformation we have to start with the reality of collective suffering, of injustice, racism, greed, and hate. We can transform the world just as we learn to transform ourselves. As Carl Jung comments, “Perhaps I myself am the enemy who must be loved.”

With acceptance and respect, problems that seem intractable often become workable. A man began to give large doses of cod liver oil to his Doberman because he had been told that the stuff was good for dogs. Each day he would hold the head of the protesting dog between his knees, forces its jaws open, and pour the liquid down its throat. One day the dog broke loose and the fish oil spilled on the floor. Then, to the man’s great surprise, the dog returned to lick the puddle. That is when the man discovered that what the dog had been fighting was not the oil but his lack of respect in administering it. With acceptance and respect, surprising transformations can occur.

Investigation
Recognition and acceptance lead to the third step of RAIN, investigation. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls this “seeing deeply.” In recognition and acceptance we recognize our dilemma and accept the truth of the whole situation. Now we must investigate more fully. Buddhism teaches that whenever we are stuck, it is because we have not looked deeply enough into the nature of the experience.

Buddhist practice systematically directs our investigation to four areas that are critical for understanding and freedom. These are called the four foundations of mindfulness—body, feelings, mind, and dharma—the underlying principles of experience.

Here is how we can apply them when working with a difficult experience. Staring with investigation in the body, we mindfully locate where our difficulties are held. Sometimes we find sensations of heat, contraction, hardness, or vibration. Sometimes we notice throbbing, numbness, a certain shape or color. We can investigate whether we are meeting this with resistance or with mindfulness. We notice what happens as we hold these sensations with mindfulness and kindness. Do they open? Are there other layers? Is there a center? Do they intensify, move, expand, change, repeat, dissolve or transform?

In the second foundation of mindfulness, we can investigate what feelings are part of this difficulty. Is the primary feeling tone pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? Are we meeting this feeling with mindfulness? And what are the secondary feelings associated with it? Often we discover a constellation of feelings.

A man remembering his divorce may feel sadness, anger, jealousy, loss, fear, and loneliness. A woman who was unable to help her addicted nephew can feel longing, aversion, guilt, desire, emptiness, and unworthiness. With mindfulness, each feeling is recognized and accepted. We investigate how each emotion feels, whether it is pleasant or painful, contracted or relaxed, tense or sad. We notice where we feel the emotion in our body and what happens to it as it is held in mindfulness.

Next comes the mind. What thoughts and images are associated with this difficulty? What stories, judgments, and beliefs are we holding? When we look more closely, we often discover that many of them are one-sided, fixed points of view or outmoded, habitual perspectives. When we see that they are only stories, they loosen their hold on us. We cling less to them.

The fourth foundation to investigate is called mindfulness of the dharma. Dharma is an important and multifaceted word that can mean “the teachings and the path of Buddhism.” It can also mean “the truth, the elements and patterns that make up experience.” In mindfulness of the dharma we look into the principles and laws that are operating. We can notice if an experience is actually as solid as it appears. Is it unchanging or is it impermanent, moving, shifting, re-creating itself? We notice if the difficulty expands or contracts the space in our mind, if it is in our control or if it has its own life. We notice if it is self-constructed. We investigate whether we are clinging to it, struggling with it, or simply letting it be. We see whether our relationship to it is a source of suffering or happiness. And finally, we notice how much we identify with it. This leads us to the last step of RAIN, nonidentification.

Nonidentification
In nonidentification we stop taking the experience as “mine” or part of “me.” We see how identification creates dependence, anxiety, and inauthenticity. In practicing nonidentification, we inquire of every state, experience, and story, is this who I really am? We see the tentativeness of this identity. Instead of identification with this difficulty, we let go and rest in awareness itself. This is the culmination of releasing difficulty through RAIN.

One Buddhist practitioner, David, identified himself as a failure. His life had many disappointments, and after a few years of Buddhist practice, he was disappointed by his meditation too. He became calmer but that was all. He was still plagued by unrelenting critical thoughts and self-judgments, leftovers from a harsh and painful past. He identified with these thoughts and his wounded history. Even the practice of compassion for himself brought little relief.

Then, during a ten-day mindfulness retreat, he was inspired by the teachings on nonidentification. He was touched by the stories of those who faced their demons and freed themselves. He remembered the account of the Buddha, who on the night of his enlightenment faced the armies and temptations of Mara, a powerful demon of Buddhist folklore who personifies our difficulties and obstacles on the path. David decided to stay up all night and directly face his own demons. For many hours, he tried to be mindful of his breath and body.

In between sittings, he took periods of walking meditation. At each sitting, he was washed over by familiar waves of sleepiness, body pains, and critical thoughts. Then he began to notice that each changing experience was met by one common element, awareness itself. In the middle of the night, he had an “aha” moment. He realized that awareness was not affected by any of these experiences, that it was open and untouched, like space itself. All his struggles, the painful feelings and thoughts, came and went without the slightest disturbance to awareness itself.

Awareness became his refuge. David decided to test his realization. The meditation hall was empty so he rolled on the floor. Awareness just noticed. He stood up, shouted, laughed, made funny animal noises. Awareness just noticed. He ran around the room, he lay down quietly, he went outside to the edge of the forest, he picked up a stone and threw it, jumped up and down, laughed, came back and sat. Awareness just noticed it all. Finding this, he felt free. He watched the sun rise softly over the hills. Then he went back to sleep for a time. And when he reawakened, his day was fully of joy. Even when his doubts came back, awareness just noticed. Like the rain, his awareness allowed all things equally.

It would be too rosy to end this story here. Later in the retreat David again fell into periods of doubt, self-judgement, and depression. But now, even in the middle of it, he could recognize that it was just doubt, just judgment, just depression. He could not take it fully as his identity anymore. Awareness noticed this too. And was silent, free.

Buddhism calls nonidentification the abode of awakening, the end of clinging, true peace, nirvana. Without identification we can live with care, yet we are no longer bound by the fears and illusions of the small sense of self. We see the secret beauty behind all that we meet. Mindfulness and fearless presence bring true protection. When we meet the world with recognition, acceptance, investigation, and nonidentification, we discovery that wherever we are, freedom is possible, just as the rain falls on and nurtures all things equally.

Excerpted from Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are by Jack Kornfield. Copyright (c) 2011 by Jack Kornfield. By permission of Shambhala Productions. Available wherever books are sold.

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"Get Thee to a Nunnery: Relating and the Sanctuary of Being" by Jeannie Zandi

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Below the mind there is a beautiful, inarguable, direct experience that you are. I invite you to notice this fact: the felt sense of presence and all the flavors of what it is like to be, right now, going nowhere. When we are invited here, when we land in this moment, we find the simplicity and nourishment that emanate from the core of our being as we rest from the outer world. To the extent we can drop our attention away from the content of thought and open ourselves to this holy dimension of life, to presence, we are fed. We are zeroed and soothed in this stillness, resting from all of the things we've created, all the messes we've made and the victories we've had. For a time, we can just rest in a dimension deeper than thought, below the particulars, and drop into raw being.

Anything that arises to draw us away from noticing this moment, any struggles or suffering, are the essential arguments we have with our existence and places where our pain obscures the truth. None of these will be mended or addressed outside ourselves. No matter what we look for outside of ourselves in relating with others, these essential issues are ours to become conscious of, own and resolve or we will export the responsibility for it onto others and create messes.

The fact of our human predicament is underscored when relating to other human beings. How do we stay close to each other and clear in ourselves when we are faced with the simultaneous combination of our timeless depth of presence, and our shadowy collection of misguided creature motivations? We can feel pretty peaceful and perfect sitting on our cushions, but in a split second, even the tiniest little exchanges with others can take us away from this perfection into confusion. We must reclaim this ground of being as our sanctuary and resource for returning to sanity, especially in the presence of other beings. Centering in grounded presence isn’t just for the meditation hall but for every breath we take.

There are few places in life where we are more invested than in our relationships and thus relating intimately combines both love and challenge. The love makes it difficult to blow off what arises in the context of relating, which brings us closer to the inner conflicts we’d rather not face. This is one of the beauties of relationship: when we love someone, when we really value the connection we have with them, we tend to be more willing to look into what we are carrying — the things that flummox us or that we are unconscious of — in order to keep the channel between us clear. When something or someone truly matters to us, when there is something we deeply know we are for or is for us, it creates a cauldron that holds a fire. If we face the fire, it has the power to deconstruct the false in us.

Relationship is the end of spiritual bypassing. We can get by for a while on the high of romance and make a life out of avoiding things, but deep relating inevitably brings us to the heart of what matters. Rumi has a poem where he asks, “My darling, how can I love you more?” In this poem, he is constantly asking his love, “Help me refine my heart, help me refine my approach so that I may spill my devotion in a way that is useful to you.” This can be both thrilling and horrifying because when we ask, “How can I love you more?” or “Can you tell me about another little piece of my shadow that affects you?” your partner might just answer!

There is nothing sweeter than sitting with another human being or beings in the full realization of the Holy, looking into their eyes, simply and fully here. I invite you for a moment to picture and invoke the highest beauty you have experienced in the company of another being. To seed yourself with the possibility of this deep sweetness, whether it’s invoked by a cat, a child, a friend, a lover or a teacher. In my experience, the deepest beauty in relating occurs when we stop and rest in presence, and the two-ness is dissolved in the light of shared being. With this taste of sweetness, let yourself rest into the ground and abide in being, allowing your system to picture this sweet otherness as you directly experience grounding in your own sovereign, felt existence.

Now, I invite you to imagine a challenging moment you have experienced while relating with another being. Imagine resting in the same way in the middle of it, allowing whatever is triggered to coexist with breath and ground and a sense of your own sovereign being. When things start to get rough, at the soonest opportunity, it serves us to do what Shakespeare’s Hamlet tells Ophelia: “Get thee to a nunnery.” In other words, get thee to zero, to virginity, to virgin-land, to sovereignty — just here, resting as simple being. Before taking one more step or uttering one more word, stop and soak in the Holy.

Hafiz says to make a list of your top three priorities, and then follows that by saying, if they are not “God, God, God,” then you’re in trouble. Nowhere is this more useful to remember than in challenging moments of relating. This right here, this being, this zero is a foundation, a haven, a sanctuary. This is the portable phone’s charging base. We need to return to it regularly when we are relating to other people. It gives us the capacity to snip anything strange that is growing between us, to cut any malignancy or falseness in a moment with the willingness to go nowhere, to get nothing, to humble ourselves, to lose everything, to return to zero. When our relationships are ruled by this commitment to the ground of being, it can only contribute to relating from what is true in an enduring and fulfilling way.

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"Jesus and the Tao" by Francis Ritchie

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If you have an aversion to Eastern philosophy (even though Christianity is, by origin, an Eastern religion), bear with me, I think you’ll find this interesting anyway. I’ve been trying to find a cohesive way of expressing what I believe the person of Jesus calls us towards that steps into something much deeper than just a conversion to a codified religion and its accompanying world-view (Christianity). The Tao (Dao) offers something into this space. With that in mind, here I want to explore Jesus and the Tao.

Many will be aware of the Tao through a writing called the
Tao Te Ching – a philosophical piece. We could have some amazing and lengthy discussions about the Tao Te Ching, but underpinning it is the idea of the Tao. It’s important to understand that the Tao is not a thing to be grasped. The Tao is most easily understood as the underlying natural order of the universe. It could be said to be the essence that underpins everything. Translations of the word ‘Tao’ give us English words like ‘way’, ‘route’, and ‘path’. Thus it’s not a thing to be grasped, but more a mode of existence that underpins everything.

C.S Lewis in his work,
The Abolition of Man, talks of the Tao as a natural law and as unchanging (his dystopian future in which the grounded reality of the Tao is done away with among humans is fascinating and places power in the hands of an elite group who come to resemble something that is not human). He noted that new systems that spring up and new ideologies that are born are merely fragments of the Tao and that they owe the Tao any sense of validity they may have. It’s important to note that the Tao is different from the Christian concept of God where God is a personal entity (though such a description falls well short of the reality) whereas the Tao is an impersonal, universal way of being – it simply is. To understand it in Christian thinking (as much as it could possibly be understood), if God is the Creator then the Tao is the underlying law at work in the created universe and the intended ‘way’ for all of creation (though, as we shall see, in Christian thinking the two are brought together in a person).

All of this is an extremely superficial way of understanding these concepts – which is why the Tao Te Ching uses various forms of writing to draw one towards harmony with the Tao – much of it causes a certain amount of cognitive dissonance for the average western reader. The pursuit of much Chinese religion and various philosophies and ways of living that connect with the Tao, is harmony with it – this way of being is known as ‘De’ – cultivation of the way. Harmony with the Tao, for many, is the chief mode of life, but there isn’t a set of ‘dos and don’ts’ to such a way of life. Of course, as with any of humanity’s philosophical approaches to life there are more rigid forms of ‘De’ such as Confucianism, but I’m intrigued by the idea of our lives being about cultivating ‘the way’ (De). It is along this line and the implied natural form of ‘being’ both for us and the universe that I want to focus.

In many Chinese versions of the Bible, the Greek word ‘Logos’ is translated as ‘Dao’ (Tao). Knowing that, read John 1 and where it says ‘Word’, replace it with ‘Dao’ with the understanding that we’ve been talking about. I don’t want to try and make connections that aren’t there but there is some clarity to be found in drawing it all together that strips away some of the baggage we have placed on Christian thinking. Also, I would caution trying to make John say something that he may not be saying by drawing on Greek and Chinese philosophy and then placing the words of those concepts into what he says. This is more about connections that I find interesting and that take my faith into the language of another’s way of seeing and understanding the world.

In the thinking of Greek Stoic philosophers who followed in the footsteps of Heraclitus, ‘Logos’, most often translated as ‘word’, was a principle of order and knowledge; they saw it as a divine principle that pervaded the universe – hence the translation to ‘Dao’. Therefore Jesus could be said to be the Tao, or the Logos of the Stoics, embodied. Where Christianity differs from most thinking around the Tao is that we believe Jesus is God – is Divine. So in Jesus we have the embodiment of the Creator (“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9) and we have the embodiment of the intended natural order of the universe (the Logos or Tao from which everything comes – “through him all things were made” John 1:3). Thus Jesus and the Tao can be talked of in the same sentence.

So here’s the kicker – when we look to the person of Jesus (and His Divine form) we do not see the call to a religion (though the practice of said religion can be useful for what we are being called to) and we do not see the call to adhere to a predetermined list of beliefs. Rather than these things, we see the call to something much deeper – harmonization with the Tao and therefore the very intention for our humanity. We are called to be fully human; nothing more and nothing less. The language of sin then isn’t simply about breaking a predetermined set of moral rules, it’s about that which inhibits our intended life in the Tao/Logos and therefore creates conflict; establishing something other than the intended reality.

The ‘rules’ of Christianity and all the dos and don’ts it’s turned into are, at best, a derivative and a shadow of the Tao – where Christianity is too often reduced to a moral and ethical code to live by. Rather than this, Christianity is the rules stripped away and the spotlight put on the transformation God works in us to recreate us to our true state as part of the Tao or Logos – His intended order for the universe/creation. Our role is to simply open our lives up to that transformation and to walk ‘the way’. Christ as both God and the Tao/Logos is the gateway [“I am the way”] to us being a new creation shaped towards that intended reality – the reality that underpins the universe – Jesus.

There is something formlessly created
Born before Heaven and Earth
So silent! So ethereal!
Independent and changeless
Circulating and ceaseless
It can be regarded as the mother of the world
I do not know its name
Identifying it, I call it “Tao

– Tao Te Ching Chapter 25

Identifying it, I call it Jesus the Christ – not merely a principle but a person. Food for thought and if you continue with it there are many many head-trips in there when Jesus, our journey, and many popular Christian concepts are considered.

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"What Is the Sacred Feminine? An excerpt from Voices of the Sacred Feminine" edited by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate by Amy Peck

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The Sacred Feminine is a concept that recognizes that “God” ultimately is neither anthropomorphically male or female but a Divine Essence (Goddessence) beyond form and duality – an essence that is in balance and unification of masculine and feminine principles – a dynamic interdependent  “Immanence”  that pervades all life. The Asian Yin Yang icon is a good representation of this idea.

However, seeing the divine as an abstract concept of omnipresent consciousness, or immanence, is a challenge for most humans. We all have a basic human need to put the inexplicable into a tangible form in order to explore our relationship to it. Thus we tend to anthropomorphize or attribute human characteristics to the unknowable. In other words, we name and assign form to an abstract concept in order to relate to it at our level of ability. So the Divine Essence or Absolute has become a “Father” God figure that we were taught to visualize, pray to and imagine having a personal relationship with.

Unfortunately, seeing the vast, infinite, absolute and indescribable Goddessence only in the form of masculine metaphor and symbol has severely limited our human spiritual potential and greatly hindered our ability to live in peace and balance on this earth.

For the last several thousand years the dominant religious belief systems of our world have been patriarchal which sanctioned societal ethics that elevated God the Father over Mother Earth, and man over woman.

But it hasn’t always been this way! It is vital to remember that for eons before patriarchy, throughout the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages of pre “his-story,”  there were worldwide “Mother/Female and Earth” honoring societies that lived in a more egalitarian, sustainable and peaceful culture that thrived without war for thousands of years. It is urgent to rediscover and exhume the lost memory of those cultures to inform us and inspire us to construct a more stable foundation for society’s future.

Remembering these lost matrifocal civilizations authenticates and validates the significance of the Sacred Feminine and the importance of women and female values as we rebuild a healthier global unity.

It is time to balance the masculine and feminine principles within our belief systems, our religious doctrines, our cultural ethos, and within ourselves. To gain this equilibrium, we must shift our focus for a while to the idea of Universal Motherhood – we need to explore the metaphor of the Mother, the symbol of the Goddess and the model of Priestess. We need to bring to light the archaeological evidence of ancient Goddesses and their stories. We need to emphasize “Motherly” love, wisdom, compassion and creativity as well as respect sexuality as natural and sacred. We must empower women and celebrate their contribution to spirituality, culture and society. And we must awaken ourselves, teach our children and educate our men.

Awareness of the Sacred Feminine will aid us to appreciate the feminine nature in women and men. Awareness of a Universal Motherhood will help us to respect the earth and Mother Nature. Awareness of the Feminine Principle will help us honor women’s bio-physical and emotional passages through life, and to help all people (women particularly) to attain healthy self-esteem. And this awareness will encourage all persons to find inner balance and peace, thereby increasing respect and tolerance of each other – which ultimately will promote greater world harmony.

It is time to honor the Sacred Feminine. “Honoring the Sacred Feminine”, in the spiritual sense, means valuing the feminine principle, along with the masculine principle, as equal and fundamental aspects of the Divine. From a planetary level, it means respecting and healing our Mother Earth. From a cultural standpoint, it means revivifying the archetype of the Goddess through entertainment and the arts and using language that gives equal emphasis to the pronouns “she” and “her”. In the societal sense, it means re-creating the role of Priestess, and respecting the contribution of women in business, science, art and politics, as well as the home and community. In a religious view, it means offering ceremony and service that reaffirms our connection to the divine, the Goddess, the earth and each other. In the human sense, honoring the Sacred Feminine means especially valuing the innate worth of woman’s mind, body and soul, as well as appreciating the “feminine” qualities in the male character.

SOURCE:
https://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/2014/12/07/what-sacred-feminine
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Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate is being published by Changemakers Books in November 2014. ISBN: 978-1-78279-510-0 (Paperback) £13.99 $24.95, EISBN: 978-1-78279-509-4 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99.
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"Myth and the Bible" by Jeffery Small

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When you hear the word “myth” associated with the Bible, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Do you define the word “myth” to mean that the stories described are not factually true?

My reading of the Bible has undergone an evolution over the years. As a child, I was taught the various stories as if they were actual historical events. As my understanding of science and the world began to broaden, I saw that a literal reading of many of these stories was impossible. I came to view the Bible as myth, by which I meant non-historical stories that contained a moral message. Today, my understanding of the Bible as myth has taken another step. Although I still do not believe that many of the stories are historically or factually accurate (although they may be anchored in historical events), I view “myth” in a broader and more meaningful sense. Mythology is a form of literature that expresses
fundamental truths in a way that ordinary discourse is inadequate to describe. Mythology adds a richness of detail and a concreteness to metaphorical language. Now when I refer to the stories in the Bible as mythology, I do not intend to do so pejoratively. Reading these stories as myths gives me the freedom to understand their underlying meaning in a way I never could before.

Why specifically did I abandon the historical view of many of the writings in the Bible I was taught as a child?

1.   From a scientific standpoint, many of the “facts” in the Bible were simply wrong. One of many examples: according to Genesis, the universe is just over 6000 years old. According to physics, the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago.

2.   Also from a scientific perspective, many of the stories were impossible. Within this category, I put most of the miracles. The story of Joshua stopping the sun moving across the sky is an example. First, the story assumes (as was the thinking then) that the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe. We simply know this to be false. Second, for the sun to stop would mean that the earth would have to cease rotating on its axis—an event which would destroy the planet.

3.   For many of the miracle stories, natural explanations exist, especially considering they were written in a time when the authors believed that solar eclipses were divine omens, disease was divine punishment, and mental illness was caused by demon possession. In the case of Jesus, I do believe that he was a faith healer and that healing was an important part of his ministry. However, today we can find faith healers in Haiti who practice voodoo and in tribal Africa who practice witchcraft. Many of these modern-day faith healers have patients who are actually healed by these practices. Doctors call this the placebo effect, an effect so powerful that drugs must undergo double blind experiments.

4.   Some of the mythological stories in the Bible are not original, but were borrowed from other traditions. The Epic of Gilgamesh—a Sumerian poem detailing the creation of the universe that predates the writings of Genesis by many centuries—contains a flood story whose plot points are almost identical to the story of Noah.

5.   The other world religions also contain rich histories of mythology and fantastical sounding (to us) stories. On what basis can we Christians claim that our miracle stories are legitimate, yet theirs are flights of fancy? The mythology surrounding the Buddha, who lived 500 years
before Jesus, includes tales of how he healed the sick, walked on water, and flew through the air. His birth was foretold by a spirit (a white elephant rather than the angel Gabriel) who then entered his mother’s womb! At his birth, wise men predicted that he would become a great religious leader.

6.   The Bible itself is full of inconsistencies. How can it be an accurate historical record, when the various books contradict each other? Here is UNC Religion Professor Bart Ehrman: “Just take the death of Jesus. What day did Jesus die on and what time of day? Did he die on the day before the Passover meal was eaten, as John explicitly says, or did he die after it was eaten, as Mark explicitly says? Did he die at noon, as in John, or at 9 a.m., as in Mark? Did Jesus carry his cross the entire way himself or did Simon of Cyrene carry his cross? It depends which Gospel you read. Did both robbers mock Jesus on the cross or did only one of them mock him and the other come to his defense? It depends which Gospel you read. Did the curtain in the temple rip in half before Jesus died or after he died? It depends which Gospel you read…Or take the accounts of the resurrection. Who went to the tomb on the third day? Was it Mary alone or was it Mary with other women? If it was Mary with other women, how many other women were there, which ones were they, and what were their names? Was the stone rolled away before they got there or not? What did they see in the tomb? Did they see a man, did they see two men, or did they see an angel? It depends which account you read.” (
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p96.htm)

Despite the above points, millions of people still read the Bible literally. Other than the inherent problems associated with closing our minds to science and the reality of the world, I see other problems in literal interpretations of the Bible. I believe that such a reading limits the Bible. Rather, than expressing universal truths, a literal interpretation limits the actions of God to certain events in history. Yes, there are many rules articulated and lessons expressed, but God’s actions on the world become finite, confined to certain historical events: like the chess master making individual moves on a chessboard frozen in time two thousand years ago. Reading these same stories mythologically, however, can bring forth their universal qualities.

Second, encouraging a literal reading of the Bible alienates much of our society. In an age of science and technology, too much of the Bible is simply unbelievable to today’s mind and can turn people away from the underlying messages. I fear that an insistence on a literal or historical view will ultimately lead to the irrelevance of Christianity. Furthermore, because the stories were written in a different age with very different views on social justice—an age in which slavery was legitimate, an age when discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation was the norm—the Bible can also be used to justify intolerance today.

Reading the Bible as mythology is not a new concept. Two of the early Church Fathers, Origen (185-254) and Augustine (354-430), both interpreted Genesis metaphorically, rejecting literal interpretations. Early in the 20
th century, German theologian Rudolf Bultmann called for a “demythologizing” of the New Testament for many of the reasons I have given above. Rather, the movement in many fundamentalist circles today to read the Bible as inerrant (an extreme form of literalism, in which every word of Bible is viewed as true) is a late development from the 19th century as a response to the chipping away at the historicity of the stories since the Enlightenment.

By throwing off the shackles of having to believe in the historicity of the Bible, we are free to interpret the stories as a testament to the religious experiences of people from a different age—a testament that communicates a meaning about their experiences of Ultimate Reality, of God. I understand that their experiences of the divine ground were interpreted through the lens of a pre-modern view of the world, and my own religious experiences will take on a different form today. In my next post, I will examine how I interpret a few of the key Biblical stories in a metaphorical way that helps me to understand the meaning of God.

SOURCE:
http://www.jeffreysmall.com/JeffreySmall.com/Blog/Entries/2009/12/19_The_Bible_as_Mythology%2C_Part_I.html

_____

THE BIBLE AS MYTHOLOGY, PART 2: GENESIS
What can the stories of the Bible teach us about our own experiences of the divine? In my last post, The Bible as Mythology, I discussed my problems with a literal interpretation of the Bible. Reading the Bible as mythology, however, does not mean that all of the stories are historically untrue. Many are, in fact, based on real historical events and people. Others are purely fictional, and yet others are a blend of history and imagination. In this post, I will demonstrate how unlocking the handcuffs of historical truth from the Bible can free us to experience the universal themes present in the stories.

Let’s start at the beginning: Genesis. A source of ongoing debate, this story is often read by creationists as a literal description of how God created the world in 6 days 6000 years ago, forming man from the dust as a potter might create a pot. Atheists like Oxford Biology Professor Richard Dawkins see the story as not much more than a primitive people’s attempt to explain the workings of the universe without the benefit of modern science. On the other hand, I (along with many others, including the early second century church father Origen) read it as a metaphorical commentary on the relationship between God, humankind, and existence itself.

Whether the original authors of these stories believed in the accounts literally or not is irrelevant to how we read them (Chapters 1 and 2 actually present two different accounts of creation, written not by Moses but by at least two authors during the 6
th century BCE—one of the later texts of the Torah—who borrowed imagery and themes from the much older Mesopotamian creation story, the Enuma Elish). If we read the Bible as the encounter of a pre-modern people with the divine, we would expect their interpretations to be written in a way that conformed to their cultures and their understanding of the workings of the world, which is a very different understanding than we have today. But the underlying thematic message of the stories can still contain universal truths that hold just as much meaning for us. Just as our scientific laws change over time as we gain knowledge of the universe, why shouldn’t our theological interpretations of scripture likewise evolve?

From the opening lines of Genesis, we can thus see God as
creator. But today we might choose to interpret God not as a supernatural being sitting outside the universe commanding it into existence, but rather understand God as the source of existence itself—an existence that flows forth from God. We can understand God as the creative power that supports existence. This creative power was not a one-time event, but it occurs continuously—underlying the space-time framework of the universe, the matter and energy that make up its content, and the physical laws which govern its actions. This creative power is also that which animates life itself as we see with the image of God breathing the breath of life into Adam. The Hebrew word for “breath,” nephesh, also means “soul.” God is thus the center of our being. (For more on this view of God, see two of my earlier posts: Rethinking God and Symbols.)

Similarly, we can read the Garden of Eden as representing an ideal: the essential underlying connection between God, nature, and humanity. However, we do not live our lives in this ideal essence.  Instead, our actual existence is characterized by a distance between us and the divine ground that is the power behind creation. This separation (the “Fall&rdquoWinking and our own further distancing from our divine centers in which we elevate our egos over God (“sin&rdquoWinking is what results in our suffering. (See my earlier post on
The Problem of Evil that explores this issue further.)

We also see in this story that although God is the creative source of existence, we have freedom—just as the theories of quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and evolution all posit the importance of randomness, probability, and freedom in the laws that govern existence. God creates, but a key mechanism in the process of creation is freedom of the created.

The metaphor of the Fall and the separation of humanity from our divine ground can also be seen in the metaphorical language of sexual awakening. Just as a child transitions through puberty to adulthood (symbolized by the recognition of Adam and Eve of their nudity and their sexual union) and this transition also coincides with both a loss of innocence and a corresponding increase in wisdom (symbolized by the eating of the fruit from the knowledge of good and evil), humanity has transitioned from our pure essence to our actual existence. The question then becomes how can we reconnect with the divine ground, with God?

Rereading Genesis in this way allows us to see both the creative role of God and the human existential situation within a framework that is consistent with modern science. In a later post, I will similarly address the mythological meaning behind the resurrection.

SOURCE:
http://www.jeffreysmall.com/JeffreySmall.com/Blog/Entries/2009/12/19_The_Bible_as_Mythology%2C_Part_I.html


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Jeffery Small Blog

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"Divine Feminine" by Jeannie Zandi

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Longing, Piercing and the Dark
“You cut me open and I keep on bleeding love.”
–Leona Lewis, Bleeding Love (modern pop song)
 
Not long ago I dreamed friends wanted me to come upstairs from a dark basement to meet some people. I ascended, realizing as I climbed that my pupils were fully dilated as if still in the dark. Reaching the people, my pupils had not changed and I could not see. Moreover, I had no active principle in me, receptively present to the depth of my being, which was bottomless night. At their mercy, I was unprotected even by the veil of a social face. Blind to the lit world and ecstatic, I turned toward them as an ambassador of the gorgeous dark, entirely open and given.

We are afraid of the dark. We are afraid of death, sickness, need, longing, grief, rotting, decaying and the void. What is hidden within us in darkness, and what we have grown to fear and loathe, is the realm of the Divine Feminine. To understand Her through linear methods is impossible: only through experience, through initiation, are we allowed to come close. Many are now being called to Her, through illness, tragedy or the draining of meaning from our lives, because her wisdom is critical to the healing and wholeness of our souls and our world.

The Divine Feminine doesn’t oppose the masculine, but embraces and blesses the whole of everything. Qualities of the Divine Feminine are present in both women and men, and are needed to draw us into our depths and thus our full spiritual potential. Speaking of the feminine clearly and freshly is challenging: she is hidden, many of her aspects have been so denigrated we believe they are valueless, and many concepts surrounding her have become cliches and linked with a wounding fury. Yes, there is pain where the feminine has been desecrated, burned and tortured, where her wisdom has been buried under derision and fear. This must be honored. Yet we cannot afford to splinter into dualistic battles when reclaiming these energies is so critical to the healing of the whole. We have all lost from her banishment and we all stand to gain when the energies of the Divine Feminine are rewoven into our lives.

Reclaiming this ground is not easy, much of it gunked up with dismissal, devaluation, and contempt, especially the pathways to Her transformative powers. The way is dark, guides are few and the harpies are loud and convincing — they live inside and outside us and therefore sound real. When we travel into these lands within ourselves, the conditioned negativity rises and we feel terrible about ourselves, which feels like a sure sign to turn back. However, the deep space of feminine receptivity and unknowing, her understanding of the interrelatedness of life, and her nourishing waters and sheltering dark are so vital for the healing of our world that it is worth traveling back through the territory of thou shalt not throw like a girl, cry like a girl, need like a girl or love like a girl.

Softening and opening is a big part of where we go when we journey to the feminine — what is softer and more open than an accepting vagina or the warm inside of a fluidfilled womb? We are meant to live open, and we must reclaim our way there. So many beautiful faces are hardened in stress, over-mentality, protection and separation. It is possible, without the world changing a bit, for us to re-inhabit these sacred waters and hold this shelter and healing out to each other as sanctuary.

I can hear the protests of all who carry the wounds of rape, abuse and humiliation. Soften, are you nuts??? It’s true we are vulnerable to forces that don’t know what to do with an open soft place other than colonize, plunder, poke and humiliate it. And it is possible to learn the ways of the warrior alongside the ways of the flower and restore what has been scared into hiding its rightful throne, manifested on this planet. The focus of reclamation seems to dance of its own accord back and forth between the poles of heart and warrior, reweaving a tapestry of wholeness — the stronger and clearer I get, the softer and more open I can be. As I explore the strength of my physicality and groundedness, the clarity of seeing what is true, and a right to my voice, I witness a shift then to softening, receptivity, and the ability to open to interdependence.

Denying the soft depth of the feminine mystery affects all of life – when we separate life from its holy essence we cut the world off from energy that can nourish, heal and transform it. A disembodied god and a world in which matter is unholy is devastating to the feminine. It is injurious to cast a whole realm of human experience, much of which is native to women, into a dark cavern of banishment. We are so confused about reality that we see our instinctive wisdom as pathology, attack ourselves for it and try to rid ourselves of it, leaving us with a deep mistrust of ourselves that makes us vulnerable to manipulation and control.

Here I will describe a couple vital initiatory aspects of the Divine Feminine as they have been coming to consciousness in my experience: longing (opening to a burning ache for something it seems we need) and piercing (meeting an experience wholly and allowing it to penetrate us to the core). These are aspects that have been somewhat vilified in a culture obsessed with mastery. To reclaim wholeness is not only to reclaim the sword of clarity and strength, it is also then to use what we have learned to set a throne for a kind of vulnerable softening and opening that replenishes our souls, relationships and world from within.

Longing
In an auditorium, face wet with tears, I watch my friend Ty passionately play tablas, and listen to Krishna Das sing from his heart devoted to God. A burning ache in my heart, for Man, for Masculine, for God, opens a well inside that I have grown to adore in its bittersweet mindless black depth. I have experienced it many times: as a child trying to kiss my brother’s coat fast enough to avoid his punch, longing to be invited into the mysterious world of his boy room, games, and friends; lying in bed, my mother ironing in the hall, wanting her without a way to reach in my emotionally distant family; sobbing when the distance between my heart and my boyfriend’s seemed impossible to cross; home from college locked in an embrace with my soon-to-leave father who was divorcing my mom; and on mushrooms facing a terrifying darkness no one else seemed to notice that filled the bar.

Our culture calls this something to get over. We keep ourselves from these doorways to the dark, and with derision born of fear or in the name of “helping,” encourage others not to go either. Discomfort (the first sign of impending transformation) is seen as something to control: figure it out, fix it and thereby eliminate it. Mind and will partner in brutalizing this soft underbelly, hardening to keep it away, making ourselves less affect-able and above reproach from the wandering police of the hyper-masculine within us and without.
Anything but soften, open and allow it.

But we are affect-able. The web of wedded creation uses us to long through for itself. Women are wired for this softening and opening and it has everything to do with our longing for the Holy. We don’t need more therapy to eradicate this. No matter how many sessions we have on our dads, brothers or boyfriends, the Feminine will ALWAYS long for the Masculine, and we are not wounded or whacked or missing something because of it. Just as the iron filing is drawn to the magnet, the electron is drawn to the proton and the gravity of the earth holds our sweet bodies to her, we were born to long. Longing is the Feminine expression of divine love.

In all this pining I found why Hafiz wrote: “Let your loneliness cut more deeply.” In early experiences of burning for what I could not have, a fullness rose out of my emptied cup to fill it to the brim. Out of the fertile void, shaky young places would become sturdy. What worked on a small scale might be magnificent if I were completely denied satisfaction! So I prayed arrogantly, “Give me nothing that I want.” An unimaginable dark night ensued. Surrounded by and filled with desolation, I felt separate from God and was forced to plumb my own bottomless well. Longing is a guide that leads us into a potent purification for the heart wanting to be emptied of all but gold.

Through longing, the interconnected web of life expresses relatedness. Not only are there young places to burn off and a divine alchemy that fills the empty heart, but longing has a vital role in our relationships. We ARE inextricably related. Where we know this, we relate in an interlaced and interdependent way. When one acts as though he or she is separate, the whole web feels it, and we feel it in our bodies as longing. We are wired to call each other back into connectedness. We might not know how yet, but we have the wiring.

Piercing
Pain (emotional, physical or spiritual) is a piercing for those of us willing to open to being divinely mastered. We have been taught the opposite — that we are to master with mind and will. Granted this can be useful when a greater need is present, such as saving a life, or defending a village. After the battle though, returning to a tender human heartfulness serves the return to the community. We have overdone this hardening to our detriment and forgotten the rituals of a softening return. A valuable skill during times of great challenge has become a way of life. We harden and cut off the energetic exchange with the matrix of life, sealing ourselves into cells of separateness as our unhealed pain throbs inside, creating illness, violence, dullness and misery.

To be pierced is to allow the shell of protection to break, exposing and drinking the elixir of our innermost. Last year I had some work done on a frozen shoulder which entailed the doctor sticking a 5″ needle into the joint, poking around and injecting fluid. I had witnessed the progress in my shoulder and was committed to the process. Yet as I lay on her table during the final treatment, tears streaming down my face from the pain, I considered for a moment clocking her and running out of the room. Instead I yielded beyond my concept of an ability to do so, allowing this piercing to have me. I let it take and tenderize me until I was powdered. Never had I felt so given, so crushed, and so filled with Beauty.

After I told this story during a talk, someone brought me a copy of a photograph of Bernini’s sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.” St. Teresa reclines in a totally blissful swoon, mouth open, head back, eyelids half-mast, hands and feet limp while a curlyheaded young angel with a loving smile stands above her, holding the spear of God. Divinity piercing the human body, heaven piercing earth, spirit piercing matter. St. Teresa describes her experience as follows:

“I
saw in his hand a long spear of gold and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails. When he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God that I pray God of his goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.”

This was the experience of that hour on the table and the same experience during the birth of my daughter, when the pain of contraction came minutes apart, and I crouched howling like a dog. Arrogant about my ability to handle pain, I yielded to the contractions. However, I was unprepared for the final moment when Sophia’s head dropped and a force like the muzzle-loading of a musket moved through my body from the top down. Until then there had been some illusion of control. Feeling the power of the force that would birth my child, I instinctively bowed the lowest internal bow I could imagine, knowing I had come in contact with the terrible power of the Lady (I was going to write “Lord” but it’s fun to play in here — we have stripped ladies of this terrible power, though anyone who has been in relationship with one surely knows it.). Pierced and mastered, I was a portal through which delicious clouds of revitalizing, nourishing feminine energy bathed the room.

To long and to be pierced, to open to the dark and be mastered, to take the doors offered to Her mysteries and to fling them wide open in a passionate embrace with the Holy, spilling divine healing juicy energy to the four corners of the earth. We can bring this wisdom back if we are willing.
——–
(c) Copyright 2010, Jeannie Zandi, all rights reserved.
Originally published in The Sun Monthly, May, 2010.

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"The Age of We Need Each Other" by Charles Eisenstein

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July 5th, 2017

Fifteen years ago when I began writing books, I had high hopes that someday I would be “discovered” and that “my message” would thereby reach millions of people and change the world for the better.

That ambition began to disintegrate soon after when after years of labor
The Ascent of Humanity found no takers in the publishing world. So I self-published, still hoping that word-of-mouth would propel it to best-seller status. That would show all those publishers! I remember looking at the sales numbers in August 2007 – its fifth month, about the time it should have been gaining momentum. Total sales that month: five copies. Around the same time I was evicted from my apartment (having pinned all my hopes and income on the book) and spent the next half year living temporarily in other people’s houses, children in tow.

It was a painful yet beautiful clarifying experience that asked me, “Why are you doing this work? Is it because you hope to become a celebrated intellectual? Or do you really care about serving the healing of the world?” The experience of failure revealed my secret hopes and motivations.

I had to admit there was some of both motivations, self and service. OK, well, a lot of both. I realized I had to let go of the first motive, or it would occlude the second. Around that time I had a vision of a spiritual being that came to me and said, “Charles, is it really your wish that the work you do fulfill its potential and exercise its right role in the evolution of all things?”

“Yes,” I said, “that is my wish.”
“OK then,” said the being. “I can make that happen, but you will have to pay a price. The price is that you will never be recognized for your role. The story you are speaking will change the world, but you will never get credit for it. You will never get wealth, fame, or prestige. Do you agree to pay that price?”

I tried to worm my way out of it, but the being was unyielding. If it was going to be either-or, how could I live with myself knowing in my heart of hearts I’d betrayed my purpose? So I consented to its offer.
Of course, time would tell that it wasn’t actually either-or. What was important in that clarifying moment was that I declare my ultimate loyalty. Once that happened, recognition and prestige might or might not come as a byproduct, but it wouldn’t be the goal. After all, the work I do isn’t “my” work. These are ideas whose time has come and they need capable scribes. Our true wages in life consist of the satisfaction we get from a job well done. Aside from that, well, the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

That was part one of the disintegration of my ambition. The first part was the disintegration of personal ambition. The second part was the disintegration of the ambition to do big things to change the world. I began to understand that our concepts of big impact versus small impact are part of what needs to be healed. Our culture validates and celebrates those who are out there with big platforms speaking to millions of people, while ignoring those who do humble, quiet work, taking care of just one sick person, one child, or one small place on this earth.

When I meet one of these people, I know that their impact doesn’t depend on their kind action going viral on the internet and reaching millions of people. Even if no one ever knows and no one ever thanks them for taking in that old woman with dementia and sacrificing a normal life to care for her, that choice sends ripples outward through the fabric of causality. On a five hundred or five thousand year timescale, the impact is no smaller than anything a President does.
Certain choices feel significant to us, unreasonably. The heart calls us to actions that the mind cannot justify in the face of global problems. The logic of bigness can drag us into feelings of irrelevance, leading us to project importance onto the people we see on our screens. But knowing how much harm has been done by those very people in the name of bettering the world, I became wary of playing that game.

The calculating mind thinks that just helping one person has a smaller impact on the world than helping a thousand. It wants to scale up, to get big. That is not necessary in a different causal logic, the logic that knows, “God sees everything,” or the logic of morphic resonance that knows that any change that happens in one place creates a field that allows the same kind of change to happen elsewhere. Acts of kindness strengthen the field of kindness, acts of love strengthen the field of love, acts of hate strengthen the field of hate.

Nor is scaling up necessary when we trust that the tasks life sets before us are part of a larger tapestry, woven by an intelligence that puts us in exactly the right place at the right time.

I attended a funeral recently for a central Pennsylvania farmer, Roy Brubaker, among several hundred mourners. One of the testimonials came from a young farmer who said something like this: “Roy is the one who taught me what success really is. Success is having the capacity to always be there for your neighbors. Any time someone called with a problem, Roy would put down what he was doing and be right over to help.”

This farmer had been Roy’s intern. When he went into business for himself and became Roy’s competitor, Roy helped him along with advice and material aid, and even announced his new competitor’s farm share program to his own mailing list. At the end of his speech, the young farmer said, “I used to think Roy was able to help so many people because he was a successful farmer who had it made. But now I think he was probably more like me, with fifty vegetable crops all crying for attention and a million things to do. He was there for people anyway.”

Roy didn’t wait until he had it made to start being generous.
This is the kind of person that holds the world together. On a practical level, they are the reason society hangs together despite its pervasive injustice, poverty, trauma, and so on. They also anchor the field of love that helps the rest of us serve our purpose rather than our personal ambition.

As I run into more such people and hear their stories, I realize that I don’t need to worry about the size of my audience or about reaching “people of influence.” My job is just to do my work with as much love and sincerity as I can. I can trust that the right people will read it. I am awed and humbled by people like Roy whom I meet in my travels and in my community. They live in service, in love, with great faith and courage, and unlike me they don’t have thousands of people telling them how important their work is. In fact, quite often the system and culture we live in discourages them, telling them that they are foolish, naïve, irresponsible, impractical, and giving them little financial reward. How many times have you been told a life dedicated to beauty or nurture or healing is unrealistic? Maybe after everything on your farm is all ship-shape, maybe after you are personally secure with a solid career and secure investments, maybe then you can afford a little generosity. So I admire people who are generous first, generous with their precious lives. They are my teachers. They are the ones who have eroded my ambition to make it big – even with the excuse of serving the cause.
I am reminded of a Zen teaching story in which the Zen master is approached by a messenger from the emperor. “The emperor has heard of your teaching and wants you to come to court to be the official imperial teacher.”

The Zen master declined the invitation.
A year later the invitation was repeated. This time the master agreed to come. When asked why, he said, “When I first got the invitation, I knew I wasn’t ready because I felt the stirring of excitement. I thought this would be a great chance to spread the Dharma throughout the realm. Then I realized that this ambition, which sees one student as more important than another, disqualified me from being his teacher. I had to wait until I could see the emperor as I would any other person.”
Thanks to the humble people who hold the world together, I am learning no longer to favor the emperor over any other person. What guides me is a certain feeling of resonance, curiosity, or rightness.
Ironically, having lost my careerist ambitions, this year Oprah Winfrey invited me to tape an interview with her for (even more ironically) the show
Super Soul Sunday. Five years ago my heart would have been thumping with excitement at the prospect of making it big, but now the feeling was one of curiosity and adventure. From the God’s-eye perspective, was that hour to be more important than the hour I spent with a friend in need? Or the hour you spent taking a stranger to the emergency room?

Yet my response was an immediate yes, accompanied by feelings of wonderment that my world was intersecting with hers. You see, Oprah occupies nearly a different universe from my own countercultural fringe. Could it be, I think with leaping heart, that the gulf between our worlds is narrowing? That the ideas I serve and the consciousness I speak to are ready to penetrate the mainstream?
I think the conversation with Oprah is a marker of changing times. I was amazed that someone in her position would even take notice of my writing, since it lies quite outside any familiar discourse within the mainstream. (At least I’ve never seen anything in mainstream media remotely similar to
my election article that attracted her attention.) Our meeting is perhaps a sign that our country’s familiar, polarized social discourse is broken, and that her people – the vast and fairly mainstream audience she serves – are willing to look outside it.
By this I do not mean to diminish her extraordinary personal qualities. I experienced her as astute, perceptive, sincere, expansive, and even humble, a master of her art. But I think her reaching out reflects more than these personal qualities.

I sometimes see myself as a kind of receiving antenna for information that a certain segment of humanity is asking for. A use has been found for the weird kid in high school! On a much larger scale, Oprah is something akin to that as well: not just herself, she is an avatar of the collective mind. Deeply attuned to her audience, when she brings something into their view it is probably because she knows they are ready to see it.
During our conversation I sometimes had the feeling that she personally would have liked to geek out and dive much deeper, but that she disciplined herself to remain the antenna of her audience and stay within the format of the program, which doesn’t lend itself to my usual long disquisitions. I meanwhile was trying to frame ideas for a mainstream audience that I expect isn’t familiar with some of my basic operating concepts. Our conversation felt a bit awkward at times, groping for a structure, as if we were trying to furnish a very large house with a motley mix of beautiful but odd furniture. Nonetheless I think we created a habitable enough corner to welcome people into a new perspective.

In the years since my encounter with the spiritual being, I’ve become comfortable in the cultural fringes where my work has found its home. I have scaled back on traveling and speaking in order to spend more time with my precious loved ones and to connect with the source of knowledge in nature, silence, and intimate connections. I’m with my family at my brother’s farm right now, doing farm labor part of the day and writing during the other part. The flurry of publicity that might follow the Oprah appearance (or might not – it could just be a blip on the radar) poses me with another question, the complement of the one my initial “failure” posed. If it serves the work, am I willing to sacrifice the reclusiveness I am coming to love? If it serves, am I willing to be on other programs where the host may not be as gracious as Oprah? Am I willing to be more of a public figure and deal with the attendant projections, positive and negative? Do I have the strength to remember who the real super souls are – the Roy Brubakers, the dolphin rescuers, the hospice workers, the care givers, the peace witnesses, the unpaid healers, the humble grandfathers taking a child berry-picking, the single moms struggling to hold it all together not imagining that their monumental efforts at patience have an impact on the whole world?

Let me be honest with you: if I hadn’t been facing the total collapse of my success fantasies already, I probably wouldn’t have accepted the spiritual being’s offer. And by the way, it is an offer that is constantly renewed. Every day we are asked, “What will you serve?” I had not the strength on my own to say yes to a life of service. Nor do I now, save for the help I receive from others who hold the field, the people who humble me every day with their generosity, sincerity, and selflessness. To the extent I am effective at what I do, it is because of you.

If I am right that my Oprah appearance is a marker (however small) of the unraveling of once-dominant worldviews, then it only happened because the emerging worldview I speak for is being held so strongly now by so many. Take it then as an encouraging sign. Whether or not it proves to be a breakthrough moment for the concepts of empathy and interbeing we discussed, it suggests that they are coming closer toward consensus reality. We will not be alone here much longer. I thank all who have held the field of knowledge I speak from, who believe my words even more than I do myself, and who therefore uphold me in the work that upholds you. That is how we transition from the Age of Separation to the age of We Need Each Other.
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The God of Many Tongues by Sister Joan Chittister

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Each great spiritual tradition, in its own way, suggests a model of what it means to be a holy person. Each of them shines a light on the human ideal. Each of them talks about what it takes to grow, to endure, to develop, to live a spiritual life in a world calculatingly material and sometimes maddeningly unclear.

Every major spiritual tradition—Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam—brings a special gift to the art of living the spiritual life. Each of them refracts the light of its own spiritual wisdom texts in particularly sharp and distinct ways. Each of them strikes a different tone in giving the great truths of life that form a chord, a symphony of truth.

It is an enlightening excursion, this wandering into the spiritual insights of other whole cultures, other whole intuitions of the spiritual life. It depends for its fruitfulness on openness of heart and awareness of mind. But the journey is well worth the exertion it takes to see old ideas in new ways because it can bring us to the very height and depth of ourselves. It can even bring fresh hear¬ing, new meaning to the stories that come down to us through our own tradition. A Sufi story defines the process clearly:

“Tell us what you got from enlightenment,” the seeker said. “Did you become divine?” “No, not divine,” the holy one said. “Did you become a saint?” “Oh dear, no,” the holy one said. “Then what did you become?” the seeker asked. And the holy one answered, “I became awake.”

It is the task of becoming awake to our God, to our world, to the wisdom that even now lies within us, waiting only to be tapped, that is the real meaning of our questions. It is, more than that, the one great task of life.

May your journey through these questions bring you a new moment of awareness. May it be an enlightening one. May you find embedded in the wisdom of the past, like all students of life before you, the answers you yourself are seeking now. May they waken that in you which is deeper than fact, truer than fiction, full of faith. May you come to know that in every human event is a particle of the Divine to which we turn to meaning here, to which we tend for fullness of life hereafter.

God speaks in many tongues, glows in many colors, calls to us in many voices, is beyond any puny little parochial image we make of God. It is this great cosmic God we seek.

Dogmas are signposts along the road of the soul on the way to God. They are meant to open our minds to mystery. They are not meant to keep us from learning about God in other places and ways.
Religion is meant to lead us to the center and source of creation. The aberration of religion, then lies in spending so much time as religious people claiming our truth and condemning everybody else’s. When theology is used to condemn another person’s path to God, it not only distracts us from the purpose of religion but it distorts it, as well.

What is the deepest meaning of Buddhism, Master?” the disciple asked. And in answer the Zen masters tell us, the teacher only bowed. It is in being able to find the sacred in everything that a person finally discovers God.

“God is the East and the West and wherever you turn, there is God's face,” the Koran teaches. “Behold I am with you all days,” the evangelist Matthew says, “even to the end of time.”

The Hindus teach, “May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.” Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” The overall message is clear: the abiding presence of God is a universal revelation.

The Buddha said there is an Eightfold Path to inner peace: right view, right aim, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, right contemplation. Jesus says there are eight beatitudes: mercy, poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger for righteousness, purity of heart, peacemaking and witness.” Do you think they decided on these together?

“In this world aspirants may find enlightenment by two different paths,” we learn in the Bhagavad Gita.“For the contemplative is the path of knowledge; for the active is the path of selfless action.” The Christian tradition teaches that both contemplation and a commitment to social justice are essential parts of the Christian life.
“Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is One,” we learn in Deuteronomy. And the Hindu prays, “He is the one God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the Self within all beings.” And the Sikh says in the Mul Mantra, “He is the Sole Supreme Being, of eternal manifestation.” Clearly, the whole world knows that our God is their God, too. So how can we be more loved than they?

“I have breathed into humans My spirit,” The Koran says. “Let us always consider ourselves as if the Holy One dwells within,” the Talmud teaches. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” Christianity says. But if we are all vessels of the divine, how can we use religion to justify destruction of other human beings?
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience and compassion,” the TaoTe Ching teaches. “There are only three things that matter: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” Wouldn't the world be different if we all loved what God loves–the other?

How do I know if I’m finally becoming closer to God? It’s when I see God in everyone I meet and touch God in everything that is.

—from
Joan Chittister::Essential Writings, selected by Mary Lou Kownacki and Mary Hembrow Snyder (Orbis)

SOURCE:
http://www.joanchittister.org/articles/god-many-tongues

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Facing Loneliness on the Spiritual Path by Russell Scott

Facing Loneliness on the Spiritual Path

One of the things that independent seekers face on the spiritual path is loneliness.It’s inevitable if we are committed to avoid taking on other’s belief systems and yearn to experience what is true for ourselves.

In fact, succumbing to loneliness and trying to relieve it is sometimes the reason people become blind followers. They would rather trade in the comfort of being in the crowd of religious homogeneity than the insecurity of the solitary quest. There is a certain value of joining a sanga or community but when we give up our own discernment of what is true and not true to avoid loneliness we can become a perpetual student of dogma rather than the source of our own realization. Its often a requirement of the committed spiritual seeker to leave the pack for awhile to achieve this.

Even if we are not on a spiritual path,
the experience of loneliness is part of the fabric of life. It can happen when we move to a different city, lose a job, experience the loss of a loved one, leave a relationship and break-up with a friend. In the grief a part of ourselves can go with that person, location or job and we can feel like that piece is missing. Or we can judge an aspect of ourselves harshly and push it aside and then feel an emptiness inside.
 
So when we spend some solitary time either on an organized silent retreat or just time by ourselves this loneliness can arise. We can feel like we miss our loved ones and want to reach out to them. And if that doesn’t happen we may try other ways to avoid the loneliness like eating junk food, smoking weed, watching a lot of TV, going to bars, etc . But the activity does not relieve the emotion. No amount of doingness can solve something that is in our beingness. It may be useful in these times to ask ourselves:

“What is happening here? Am I trying to bi-pass my loneliness, or trying to get others to complete me and make me feel whole or hoping that when others love me, I will feel love for myself?” What is it I am missing? What it is I am really yearning for?”

I have been through this and what I have found is that that there is no way to get over or through or around loneliness. There is only getting it...being with it. The way to resolve it is to let the loneliness arise and go into it and not resist it. We need to feel the yearning deeply in our heart and soul.

The Yearning for Self
We may experience the essential painful individuality of our being in the universe. We may cry out to God to relieve the suffering of it all, to comfort our lonely heart. It may last a long time. It may feel like forever. But eventually it will burn itself out. We may come to realize we have been trying to get others to fill us and all attempts to do this are futile because no other can fill the empty hole inside.

We will see that the cry for another is essentially the cry for our true self and the part of us that was missing will start to return . Gradually a deeper peace will arrive and we will feel more complete and whole. We will enjoy spending time with ourselves because we will have become our own best friends.

And when we do spend time with our loved ones or friends it will be more natural relaxed and less co-dependent. No longer will there be the puzzling neediness of trying to grab a piece of another to force fit it into the  missing space of ourselves and all the attendant unconscious wheeling, dealing and stealing of psychic energy that goes with the attempt: “Well if you do this for me, I’ll this for you” “If you ignore this about me, I’ll ignore this about you” etc.

You will notice when you are alone you are no longer lonely. In fact you will feel like you are gathering more of yourself to yourself so that when you are in the company of others you will have more of youself to share. Solitary time will be soul-itary time. Aloneness will be experienced as all-oneness.
And is this not what others really want from us: the fullness of who we really are?

Russell Scott www.awakentheguruinyou.com

SOURCE:
https://www.awakentheguruinyou.com/blog/facing-loneliness-on-the-spiritual-path.html
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"Anthony de Mello" by Joan Chittister

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Anthony DeMello, the Jesuit spiritual teacher and psychotherapist, died suddenly of a heart attack on June 2nd in 1987 at the age of 56. In memory of his life, printed below is a piece Sister Joan wrote about him for an article entitled "The Spiritual Art of Three Modern Masters" that appeared in the U.S.Catholic magazine in June, 1994. The other two masters were Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

I never met the man and I never made one of his retreats. I never read anything he wrote and I never studied his curriculum vitae. I've never talked to anyone who talked to him and I've never heard one of his tapes. But few people have had a greater impact on my life. DeMello was not a designer of spiritual systems. He was not a lawgiver. He was not a cheerleader for a collection of esoteric spiritual exercises. No, Anthony DeMello was a teller of ancient stories whose stories rearranged the human landscape. It is in the stories that he told that I met Anthony DeMello and knew at once that he was unforgettable.

Anthony DeMello, the Jesuit psychologist-spiritual director, is a spiritual figure of our time who will not soon be forgotten in ages to come. DeMello brought something to Western spirituality that had been mightily absent. DeMello brought all of us back into contact with the East, a treasure too long forgotten by too many. What I found in Anthony DeMello's stories that enrich contemporary spirituality is the quality of timelessness.

In the mechanistic West, it is not our style to look for wisdom. What we want in life is far more likely to be fixes than insights. Let others philosophize if they will; we push buttons and "make adjustments" and act. Consequently, we do not sit comfortably with the idea that pain is protective, that suffering is meant to be a symptom of a basic disorder in us, not an irritating inconvenience meant for quick cures and total elimination. We do not tolerate headaches; we do not brook opposition. We know what we want and we get what we go for. The name of the game is "The World According to Me."
Into that world view, as religious with its exercises as it is secular with its technology, DeMello brought a completely different attitude toward life. DeMello dedicated his work to the teaching of four basic principles: consciousness, wholeness, faith rather than belief, and spirituality.

For DeMello, presence and consciousness are the keys to life. In one of his stories, disciples ask the Holy One to teach them the secret of life. Because it was the Day of Silence, the master took a piece of paper and wrote just one word in reply, "Awareness." The disciples read the word and looked at one another in consternation. "Master," they continued, "Could you explain this a little more?" The Holy One took another piece of paper and this time wrote two words, "Awareness. Awareness." The disciples were clearly perturbed. "Holy One, "they persisted. "Can't you please explain more about what you mean by 'awareness?" The Holy One looked up from the prayer rug exasperated and this time wrote clearly and distinctly. "When I say 'awareness,' I mean Awareness! Awareness! Awareness!"

Clearly, coming to see the holy in the daily was, for DeMello, one of the essentials of life. It was awareness, he taught, that made us capable of growth, able to understand others, willing to be made new again. A capacity for the present, DeMello made clear, was the secret to happiness because it saved us from the hurts of the past and the tyranny of a fearful future.

Second, DeMello taught that we lose happiness when we make it dependent on anyone or anything else. "Holy One," the disciple pleaded. "Help me to be free." And the elder said to the disciple, "First find out who has put you in chains?" A week later, the disciple returned. "Holy One," the disciple reported, "no one has bound me." "Then," the Holy One said, "from what do you need to be liberated?" At that moment of enlightenment, the disciple suddenly became free.

The point is made. DeMello was clear about the fact that the secret to happiness is that it lies within us. Happiness, he taught, is measured not by what happens to us but by our ability to find satisfaction within ourselves. The fact that we attach happiness to things outside ourselves, outside our own control, in other words—this house, that job, these clothes, those friends, that recognition—is precisely what makes happiness impossible.

Third, DeMello maintained that we must be open to unlearning everything we have ever known in life if we are going to be able to grow from one place to another. "How shall I attain Eternal Life," the disciple asked the Holy One. "Eternal life is now. Come into the present," the Holy One replied. "But I am in the present now, am I not?" the puzzled disciple persisted. "No," said the Holy One, "You are not." "But why not?" The disciple demanded. "Because you haven't dropped your past," the Holy One said. "But why should I drop my past? Not all of it is bad," the disciple insisted. And the Holy One replied clearly and firmly, "The past is to be dropped not because it is bad. The past is to be dropped because it is past.”

Obviously DeMello was no conserver of a pious and plastic religiosity. To go through life with an open mind, challenging the truisms in the light of new questions is a sign that our faith is greater than our beliefs. Beliefs, Anthony DeMello taught, trap us into close-minded positions but faith assures us that it is God who is really the faithful One. Faith tells us that God will once again and always see us through.

Finally, DeMello taught that if we are really going to be spiritual people that we will have to stop seeking "perfection" and start seeking enlightenment, an awareness of the sacredness of the most mundane. "Help us to find God," the disciples begged the Holy One. "No one can help you there," the Holy One said. "But why not?" the disciples demanded to know. "For the same reason that no one can help the fish to find the ocean," the Holy One said.

God is, indeed, everywhere for Anthony DeMello—in darkness as well as in light, in the ordinary life lived with extraordinarily consciousness, in the sacred center of a creation that is secular to its marrow. It is in the separation of life into categories of the holy and the unholy, the spiritual and the material, the earthly and the heavenly that the human soul gets divided as well. It is the loss of a holy viewpoint that turns my rag-tag, messy, disorganized, judgmental life unholy. DeMello brings us back to the secret: life is enough for us. It is not something to be endured on the way to something better. It is the stuff of which the transformation is made. Life itself, not religion, is the substance of spirituality.

Awareness, unlearning, faith and spirituality are rarefied perspectives in a culture that prizes being out of its senses and in control and being right and being religious. Religion, DeMello pointed out in clear and unequivocal terms, "is not necessarily connected with spirituality." Clearly, spirituality for DeMello is the ability to live whole and happy in the now, expecting nothing, demanding nothing, grasping nothing and so becoming open to all things.

The very thought of going through life open-handed is chilling to the western mind, which may, of course, be precisely why we need it so much, consider it so difficult and find it so unforgettable.

Anthony DeMello brought to a mechanistic world a commitment to a contemplative heart, a passionate soul, and a conscious mind, qualities that change a world, attributes that never die. And to do it, he told us stories.

He told us stories that made us wiser than ourselves. He told us stories that broke down the barriers of our souls. He told us stories that cast light into dark and realized the simple for its profundity and the pompous—even in religion—for its calculating attempt to turn the sacred into a product rather than a prophetic presence.

It is precisely these qualities that flamed out of him with consummate conviction and disarming humor to become a living light that is far beyond who he was as a person, where he lived, what he did, where he went in life. It is in those things that his life will live on, even for those of us who never met him, never heard him, never followed his life's particular meanderings.

DeMello said once, "You are never so good as when you have no consciousness that you're good. A good is never so good as when you have no awareness that you're doing it." By his own measure then, as unaware of us as we were of the person of him, Anthony DeMello may well have done his best work on those, like myself, who never knew him.
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"The Surrender to Transformation" by Rev. Emily Wright-Magoon

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April 2, 2017

OPENING WORDS
Come into this space, where today we consider the surprise, the surrender, the gift… that is part of the process of transformation.

Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for an unknown God. – Swiss philosopher and poet Henri-Frederic Ariel

STORY
Once upon a time, a stream, from its course in far-off mountains, passing through every kind of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert.

Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to flow across the sand, yet as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.

It was convinced its destiny was to cross the desert, and yet there appeared to be no way.

And then it heard a murmuring from the desert itself. A whisper: “The wind can cross the desert, and so can the stream.”

The stream replied that it was flowing into the sand, and only being swallowed: that the wind could fly, and this was why it could cross a desert.

“By trusting in your usual methods, you will never get across. You will either disappear or become a quagmire. You must allow the wind to carry you to your destination.”

“But how is this possible?” the stream asked…

“Ah…By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind” came the answer.

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. It had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality because, if it lost it, would it be able to get it back?

“The wind,” said the sand, “performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water becomes a river once more.”

“But can I not remain the same stream I am today?”

“You cannot remain so,” the whisper said.

“Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You only think you are what you are now because you have forgotten the essential part of yourself.”

When it heard this, certain echoes began to arise in the thoughts of the stream. It vaguely remembered a state in which it — or some part of it? — had been held in the arms of the wind. It also felt that somehow this was the right thing to do, even if it didn’t seem to make any sense at all.

So, with yet some hesitation, the stream raised itself into the welcoming arms of the wind, which gently and easily bore it upward and along, letting it fall softly on the roof of a mountain, many, many miles away.

And because it had such grave doubts, the stream was able to remember and record more strongly in its mind the details of the experience.

“Yes, of course,” it said as if waking from a dream… “now I know who I am.”
– A Sufi story

SERMON
Transformation is in our church mission statement. We seek to transform lives.

Many religions would say they are about transformation.

But the Catholic priest and teacher Richard Rohr says that too often on the religious or spiritual path, we get stalled in what should just be the first phase. In this first phase, he says, we find stories, practices, and beliefs that give us meaning and a sense of identity as moral, enlightened, or whatever our preferred sense of worth may be. He says:
This [first phase] is good and needed. That’s how you get started. As psychology would say, you have to have an ego to let go of an ego. You have to have a self to move beyond the self. But most religion stops [there.]1

Religion of transformation isn’t just about saying the right things, or believing the most enlightened ideas, or being informed and articulate. We may just be going through the motions.

True: sometimes going through the motions can help us get there. “Fake it until you make it,” as they say. But we won’t make it if we do not allow those practices and beliefs to transform us.

Richard Rohr quotes the philosopher Ken Wilber:
Religion has also served — in a usually very, very small minority — the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function does not fortify the separate self, but utterly shatters it – …not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution — in short, … a radical transmutation and transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.2

Think of the analogy of starting an exercise regimen, or any new habit.

I know that, for me, in the early stages I am usually having to push myself into new behaviors – drag myself out the door, resisting at every step. But if I keep at it, and if I’ve chosen some kind of exercise that I might enjoy once my healthier lungs and strengthened muscles can support it

…I begin to enjoy it. I even crave it. I start to prioritize it.

That’s not just behavior change; that’s transformation.

And I don’t mean a transformation of our physical bodies into sculpted physiques, but a transformation of our desires and our will.
Similarly, I’ve heard of people who love sugar but then cut it out of their diet. At first it’s excruciatingly difficult, but then they say they don’t even like sugar anymore. Personally, I can’t imagine that for myself! But I trust that, for them, their transformation is real.
But leaving behind the metaphors of diet and exercise, let’s return to that deeper transformation.

AN UPSET
Richard Rohr says:
The [transformative] experience occurs when God or life destabilizes your private ego, usually through some form of suffering. It will feel like dying because it is the death of the false self. …The True Self is all about right relationship, not requirements. It’s not about being correct; it’s about being connected, which you always were — you just didn’t realize it.3

This is what happens to the stream in the Sufi parable I told. The stream has to die to what it was. It must open itself to something beyond itself. It must trust and surrender.

…And then in the process of transformation, it discovers – it becomes – a fuller, realer self beyond the small self.

WAVING THE WHITE FLAG
Most of us only surrender – only finally wave that white flag – if and when we “hit bottom.”

My brother hit bottom two years ago. He had to drink while my dad drove him to rehab because the doctor said if he didn’t drink, his body would start to fail. When I showed up for family week, and in the months that followed, I saw someone who had surrendered in ways that at first felt jarring to me: uncomfortable. He had changed so much, I didn’t know where I fit.

But eventually, I, too, let go, stopped being the older sister trying to fix him, and surrendered to his process. In the many conversations that have followed, he’s told me that it’s not just about not drinking, it’s not just about doing the 12 steps and going to meetings – although all of those are necessary. It’s about a spiritual transformation – not once and for all, but daily. Over and over again.

Perhaps that sounds grueling…?

WE WORK SO HARD
But that’s where most of us get it wrong – me included! We make it grueling. We get perfectionistic; we work at it. But listen to these words by the theologian Frederick Buechner:

…to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst — is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own.
We cannot transform on our own.

The stream needs the wind to cross the desert and return to the mountain. The caterpillar needs the workings of nature, and time, to transform into a butterfly. My brother needs what he understands as the love and power of God.

To what do you surrender in order to reach transformation?

A GREATER POWER, A DEEP YES
What greater power helps you do what you alone cannot?

If not God, is it the power of community and right relationship that demand we transcend our individual selves? Is it the power of Mystery to which you surrender, that gifts you with humility, an appreciation for doubt? Or is it the workings of nature and time to which you let go and come into alignment?

It may be more than one of these – or all of these. It may be some power I have not named. You may still be searching for it.

We are probably all still searching for it.

The truth is we do not cross our own deserts by continuing to trudge through in the same old ways that we are accustomed.

We need to find what Richard Rohr calls our own “deep yeses” to carry us through – something we absolutely believe in, something to which we can commit. Something in which we can trust, even when the process is painful or frightening, like when the stream lets itself be taken up…

May we find our own “deep yeses” to which we can surrender, so that we, too, can relax into the arms of the wind and transform time and again into our truest, freest forms.

May it be so.

– Rev. Emily Wright-Magoon

SOURCE:
http://www.uumidland.org/blog/2017/04/07/surrender-to-transformation/
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"Oh, Wonder of Wonders" by Sister Joan Chittister

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The Sufi tell stories that say all I think I'll ever know about finding God.

The first story is a disarming and compelling one. It is also, I think, a troublesome one, a fascinating one, a chastening one: “Help us to find God,” the seeker begged the Elder. “No one can help you there,” the Elder answered. “But why not?” the seeker insisted. “For the same reason that no one can help a fish to find the ocean.” The answer is clear: There is no one who can help us find what we already have.

The second story is even more challenging. “Once upon a time," the Sufi say, “a seeker ran through the streets shouting over and over again, We must put God into our lives. We must put God into our lives. "Ah, poor soul,” an Elder smiled wanly. “If only we realized the truth: God is always in our lives. The spiritual task is simply to recognize that.”

As a Benedictine, a disciple of an order historically devoted to the Sacrament of the Ordinary, I know how disappointing, how exhilarating that kind of advice can be. The neophyte seeks to pass the test of spiritual heroics; the wise seek to accomplish only the testimony of integrity. The young think the task is to buy God by their good efforts; the insightful know that the task is to want God beyond the lure of lesser ends, including even the trappings of spirituality.

For my own part, I entered religious life intent on being spiritually intrepid. I wanted something far more romantic than the Sacrament of the Ordinary. I expected to find formulas tried and true, ideas that were esoteric, a life that was mystical, a regimen that was at least duly demanding, if not momentously ascetic. What I found were spiritual manuals that were convoluted and academic, at best, and a community that was simple and centered in God always. The writers had missed the mark; the women were living the life. It was very disappointing. And it was very right.

God is not in the whirlwind, not in blustering and show, Scripture teaches us. God is in the breeze, in the very atmosphere around us, in the little things that shape our lives. God is in the contradictions that assail us, in the circumstances that challenge us, in the attitudes that impel us, in the motives that drive us, in the life goals that demonstrate our real aspirations, in the burdens that wear us down, in the actions that give witness to the values in our hearts. God is in the stuff of life, not in the airy-fairy of fertile imaginations bent on the pursuit of the preternatural. God is where we are, including in the very weaknesses that vie for our souls.

Benedictine spirituality attends to those things, not to tricks and trials designed to make spiritual athletes out of spiritual weaklings. Finding God depends on finding what determines our own lives and realizing in them the power and transcendence that is God.

I learned from holy women before me that finding God depends on four things: a conscious awareness of the presence of God; the sacralization of life; an atunement to the Holy Spirit and a sense of place in the universe.

A conscious awareness of the presence of God requires the development of a sincere and serious prayer life that is more reflective, thoughtful, and contemplative than it is mere rote and ritual. “Going to church’" is not a substitute for putting myself in the presence of God. Turning our minds and hearts over to the God of the universe puts us in the place of That Which we seek. The purpose of prayer is not to make God conscious of us; it is to make us conscious of God. It is to attend to the God in whom we live and whose presence we either ignore or expect to find somewhere else.

The sacralization of life requires us, in the words of Benedict of Nursia’s fifteen- century-old Rule, to “treat all things as vessels of the altar”–to hold every isolated thing in high regard whatever their use, to treat them gently, to take care of them well whatever their age. It leads us to become part of the holiness of the universe by recognizing each and every element of it as a spark of the Divine. It nurtures in us that sense of the sacred in all things so that the presence of God becomes a fact of life, not a myth to be fabricated. It leads us to save and care and preserve and respect the goods of material creation so that we can come to respect the spiritual energy that underlies each of them. It is learning to live in sacred space again so that we can be surprised by God. We are part of a holy universe, not its creators and not its rulers. God has done the creating, God does the judging and God waits for us to realize that.

An atunement to the Holy Spirit enables us to hear the Word of God in those around us and in the circumstances of our lives–in our culture, in our sexuality, and in the racial makeup that is the raw material of our being. It lies in bringing each of those things to fulfillment--whatever the obstacles to each. Everything we are, everything that is said to us, everything that happens to us is some kind of call from God. In fact, everything that happens is God’s call to us either to accept what we should not change or to change what we should not accept so that the Presence of God can flourish where we are. Until we learn to listen to these manifestations of divine presence all around us in life, we need not expect visions.

A sense of our place in the universe is what Chapter Seven of the Rule of Benedict calls “The Twelve Degrees of Humility.” In one of the earliest pieces of Western spiritual literature, Benedict is very clear that the beginning of a spiritual life depends on the realization that we live in the womb of God, that we need to admit our struggles, that we need to accept the inconsequential circumstances of life with equanimity and that we need to cultivate the kind of internal peace that leads us to live gently with the rest of creation, to tread lightly through the universe and to deal tenderly with both ourselves and others.

Finding God is a matter of seeing God where God is, of seeing the God who is in us to sustain us, around us to touch us, before us to beckon us onward in life. Finding God is a matter, not of learning to become something we are not but of learning to see what we already know, to touch what we already contain, to recognize what we already have. Finding God is a matter of living every minute of life to its ultimate. “Oh, wonder of wonders,” the Zen teacher teaches, “I chop wood. I draw water from the well.” Finding God has little to do with church and more to do with becoming the best of everything we are every moment we breathe.

God is not a mystery to be sought in strange places and arcane ways. God is a mystery to be discovered within us and around us. And savored.
—from
How Can I Find God? ed. James Martin, SJ, Triumph Books, 1997

SOURC:
http://www.joanchittister.org/articles/oh-wonder-wonders
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"Heaven on Earth" by Jeannie Zandi

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As the Holy creates the world in each moment, the ground level of its expression is the field of vibration. Everything that you can see, everything that is, is made of vibration. Step back from thought, step back from seeing things as objects, and let yourself notice the hum, the vibration, the sensation of existing, of being. Without definition, without evaluation. It is impossible to be wrong. You just are.
It’s a given. It’s the gift of life. It’s the gift of existence. When we stay very close to this ground of being, this simple ground of presence and sensation, the Holy can create through us of its own accord rather than through our preconceived concepts.

We’ve often been confused, searching for a sense of “I” through thought’s eyes. But the sense of being is not in the head; it is directly experienced through your sense of felt existence. When you drop into the vibrating ground of being, into the most fundamental level of existence, the world of the Holy sings to you through the vibration in your cells. And beneath and all around, everything is rising out of and shot through with empty space.

Let yourself sink below the object level of things, toward this felt field. You’ll notice it feels three-dimensional. You’ll notice that attention can move to different parts of the body and you can sense the texture there. You may barely be able to tell that some parts of the body exist at all. They will feel spacious and open. Others will be asserting themselves through tension, often in the belly or the heart, but that tension can be anywhere. And throughout the body you may notice a kind of a felt hum, a hum of life energy, a hum of shakti.

Most of us have been conditioned to have our attention fused to the content of thought, to the reality that the mind creates. We look to thought to define us, to define others, and to define the world. But thought is delusional because it’s a representation of what is, and often many steps away from actual reality.

To allow attention to sink into felt experience is to say goodbye to the world of thought. At first we might take short trips to the realm of felt experience because we’re tired of the land of concept, and we’re willing to take a chance on something new. At some point we may be willing to say goodbye to the past, to the future, to our identity, to where we are, to what we are, to where we’re going or where we’ve been. We may be willing to experiment, to see what exists outside of thought.

Because of the strength of conditioning, we may think we are attending to felt sense when we are actually attending to some combination of felt sense and thought. Notice if any evaluation is happening: “Wow, I’m doing it. That’s my breath.” If there’s anything like that, a kind of reporting from your mind, it will sound like a sports announcer, up in the bleachers, reporting on rather than being immersed in actual experience.

Anytime you notice your attention floating up into thought, I invite you to return it to your felt experience. Let the body have breath. On the felt level of things, breath is a constant, incredibly multi-faceted experience, from the time it enters the body, fills the lungs, fills the belly, to its movement out. And let the body have ground through noticing your weight, softening and sinking. Notice where the body touches the chair, the earth, and soften there. Ground nourishes the creature and allows it to settle.

In your imagination or in your direct experience, let the boundary between body and atmosphere dissolve. Let attention and your felt experience start to feel a like an ocean, or a field, or like a spacious, vibrating cloud. See if you can simply allow yourself to sit there as a cloud of noticing space. Let all that rises come to this awareness that you are, from the feel of breath, to the sounds, to the sensation where your body touches your chair or your hands touch each other. Notice that sounds in the distance arise in your awareness just the same as the sensations in the body arise. When you sit as noticing space, all sensations are equal, though varied in texture. Let yourself not call any of it “you.” Or let yourself call ALL of it you. Sink all your attention into the feel of now, into the immediacy of breath and existence.

One of the biggest perceived obstacles we find when we explore this felt moment is pain, tension, and pent-up emotion. It is basically stopped-up, pressurized and repressed life energy. The potency and power of our life energy can feel uncomfortable, because we have been taught to distract from that intensity. When we take attention off of the mind-created world and sink it into this elemental hum, this creative matrix, we open ourselves to transformation. We say, “Here I am Holy power and potency, have me, have my life, have my creations. Remake me. Dissolve me. Live through me.”

This is not something that upper management would approve of. Wired into your survival system is the belief that your life depends on the continuation of your pseudo-reality and the energy management system that supports it. But your life does not depend on that. This system is obsolete and your life is right here, right now. Not down the road, not yesterday, and it’s not a continuum or a thread. It is a vibrating hall of present mystery–a masterpiece of immediacy, of the unknown, of utter possibility.

Exploring felt experience without the mind’s two cents starts to loosen the sense of ownership which is at the base of perceiving oneself as separate, and is the root of suffering. As identification with a particular “me” defined by particular thoughts loosens, the possibility of stepping into raw being can emerge, a way of being which is apart from having to be defined. To step completely away from identification is called freedom. It’s freedom from the dictates of mind, from the dictates of conditioning. You simply are.

In our culture, we think of knowing as a mental process. We think of knowing our name, our address, how old we are, and what our plan for the future is. Conditioning and that kind of knowing are in cahoots. Conditioning relies on you being divorced from your deeper embodied knowing of this moment, this life, this immediacy here and now.

There is a certain kind of knowledge that we have in our bones for having gone through an experience. Most of this knowledge is unspeakable, but it fuels deep grounded wisdom. What does a woman know in her body after she’s given birth? What does a veteran know from living through war? What do we know in our bodies after we’ve been through a dark time and come through to the light? The holy informs us through this field. This is why they call sages wise. Sages are beings who have plunged their attention away from the external world, away from the mind, and deeply into nowhere, into the felt hum where presence and sensation meet, and hover around the heart of the paradox of existence. There is an intelligence to this field, and we are, in reality, simply this field expressing itself.

Our life energy through conditioning has been distorted. It does not run in natural ways. Western white culture largely does not respect the intelligence and sovereignty of an infant’s cry, or of a child’s exuberance in the middle of church. We respect an externally created, fear- based order over the organic movements of nature, over things as they are, and over things in their wholeness and in their naturalness. Sages through time have talked about being simple and natural. They themselves have been described as being as simple as children, uncomplicated, and not moving from fear. Their responses in the moment are tailored to the moment, uninterrupted, and undistorted by conditioned ideas. There are layers and layers of falseness and delusion that keep us in prison and keep us using our life energy for something other than the simple expression of the Holy through our bodies.

Returning our attention to felt experience shines a light of love on the body and funds the creature with the treasure of our conscious awareness. The creature of the body takes on the brunt of conditioning–the brunt of stress, of harsh words and insensitive treatment. On top of this disregard for the creature, we attempt to get somewhere other than here that will be “better.” Thus our bodies tense and get sick over time because the queen has left the queendom; the king has left the kingdom. Attention and the rich backdrop of the vibrating Beloved has been abandoned for the god of our conditioning: mentation. The creature has been abandoned for a system of ideas. The body within conditioning is ailing. It is not seen for the amazing instrument that it is.

The body is a treasure to anyone who wants to live from what’s true. As the grosser energies of pain start to be digested, the body can begin to discern the subtle orders of the Beloved through a sense of aliveness. Attention returned to felt experience allows the body’s undigested, gummed-up emotional and energetic systems to be cleared out. When we put our attention on the body, it will tell us what it needs to do in order to untie a knot. The body will tell us how to move, when to curl up, when to dance, paint, stretch, run or weep.

Turning toward the body with tender attention is not for the faint of heart, and is often the last place we will turn. Usually we like the idea of fleeing the body to transcend this human mess. We hope that we can jump out of this humanness and simply be light. I invite the kindness and regard of turning toward and embracing, rather than turning away and fleeing.

This embrace is a way of transcendence through wholeness with nothing left out. In the end, we must be willing to mirror the unseen’s love for the seen by being willing to meet whatever is given at the body level. As we befriend the creature of the body, we discover a sane, felt capacity to open and soften. We can download light into flesh, and feel in the body the worlds of unseen and seen dancing together. This is a sweet way to be here on the planet. It is called the body of God. It is called wholeness. It is called heaven on earth.

SOURCE:
"Heaven on Earth" by Jeannie Zandi

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"The Cost and Benefits of Emotional Honesty" by Linda and Charlie Bloom

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Posted Dec 12, 2011

"He who dares not offend cannot be honest." -Thomas Paine

"Most of us feel that others will not tolerate emotional honesty. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others; and having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships." from Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? by John Powell.

One of the main factors that sets great relationships apart from merely good ones is the depth of emotional
intimacy. There are, of course other factors that contribute but authenticity, vulnerability and deep emotional connectedness are right up there at the top of the list. When two people commit themselves to the process of deep diving (into the soul or the psyche) they become, in the words of our friend Sam Keen, "psychonauts", who unlike astronauts who explore the outer reaches of space, choose rather to explore the inner reaches of the heart and mind. Both types of exploration require courage, curiosity, motivation, and a spirit of adventure.

The process requires not only a desire to be aware of and in touch with our emotions and perceptions, but a willingness to reveal and share what we are experiencing with others who we trust to accept and honor our inner truth without judgment. Given the fact that most of us have a tendency to be somewhat judgmental towards others and to ourselves as well, this is no small consideration. Becoming a more tolerant and accepting person is not only a possibility even for those of us who are world-class judgment machines, but it is actually one of the greatest outcomes of the deep-diving process.

Connecting to ourselves on a feeling level is for many of us, much easier said than done, but with practice, we can learn the language of emotions and become skilled at recognizing feelings when they arise, identifying them, experiencing them, and ultimately, honoring them through our communications and /or actions. This process not only generates intimacy, depth and genuineness in our relationships, but it also enables us to create the feeling of being complete and whole within ourselves. When we choose instead to deny or repress feelings, as John Powell points out, our relationships and our lives in general begin to feel dry, flat, and superficial. This is the price that we pay when we are more committed to avoiding upsets than we are to living and interacting with authenticity and integrity.

Controlling our feelings is a form of self-manipulation that we perform in an effort to control others' responses to us in the hopes of winning their approval or minimizing the chances of them feeling hurt, angry, or displeased with us. Those couples who share the greatest degree of intimacy and fulfillment together are not the ones who experience the least conflict or the fewest upsets, but are rather those who are the most willing to relate with both honesty and sensitivity. They have developed the skills of good communication and learned how to deal respectfully with the differences that inevitably arise in even the best relationships. They are, as Daniel Goleman would say, "emotionally intelligent”.

It's a package plan; there is no way that we can thrive in the bliss of affection,
empathy, tenderness, sexual excitement, peace, joy, and love without being open to our anger, fear, jealousy, guilt, embarrassment, frustration, grief and even hatred. If we want a life in which we thrive rather than whither, we must be willing to accept, as Zorba the Greek says, the "full catastrophe". As we see it, the real catastrophe is to come to the end of your life only to realize that by playing it safe and trying to avoid risk, you took the biggest risk of all, and lost the most valuable thing that you could lose: a life that was rich with meaning, feeling, and joy, one that not only filled your own cup to the brim, but spilled over to fill the cups of others who were moved and inspired by you.

Living an inauthentic life also denies us the possibility of ever feeling truly loved for who we are, and consequently we inevitably find ourselves caught in a relentless quest for love that can never be satisfied or sustained. How can I trust that anyone really loves me when I haven't shown them who I really am? So when my partner tells me that he or she loves me, that little voice in the back of my mind says, "you love who you THINK I am. But if you really knew who I was, you wouldn't love me", thus the title of John Powell's book.

It's only when we both reveal ourselves fully that the deepest, purest, most soul-nourishing love can be exchanged. The remedy for coming back to engage more fully is to first be in touch with what we are feeling and then to express, rather than repress, connect rather than protect, and reveal rather than conceal.

Like any new skill we are acquiring, it may take a while to learn to live open-heartedly. Old habits, particularly protective ones, often take a while to break. We are not going to be graceful and accomplished right away. At first we might feel awkward and clumsy. It helps to keep this in mind, so that we can each be more patient and
forgiving with each other and with ourselves as we stumble towards enlightenment. It's not about doing it right; it's about what the Buddhists refer to as making "right effort". As we become more skilled at emotional honesty we come to know ourselves and each other more deeply. Not just ABOUT each other, but all that is within each of us: the wounds and sensitive areas, feelings of inadequacy, our mistakes and magnificent failures, the guilt, shame and fears, and our tragedies and triumphs, as well as our greatest dreams, our successes, hopes, accomplishments, and our unique and extraordinary gifts.

The joys of connection, satisfaction and fulfillment are beyond measure. It's a small price to pay to feel like a blundering idiot while we are learning the skills of emotional honesty. But be careful, because once you get started on this path you can't stop. You can't go back the superficial life again. Not because you shouldn't, but because the benefits and joys of being real, even on a bad day, so greatly outweigh the prices that authenticity requires that there's just no contest.

SOURCE: Psychology Today:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201112/the-cost-and-benefits-emotional-honesty
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"Love and Honesty: What We Hide and Why We Lie" by Sarah May Bates

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April 18, 2016

Sarah May Bates - Founder of Yay With Me a hub of practical tools to create change in yourself, from Podcaster/Author, Sarah May Bates, @sarahmaybee

If you prefer to listen here’s the podcast version of this post on iTunes and Soundcloud.
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Why sometimes people aren’t honest with us and sometimes we’re not honest with ourselves.

This one’s written for a person who contacted me who’s newly single and dating quite a bit. He has a few different partners and has had a lot of difficulty saying he is doing so because it goes against everything he wants in the moment.

I want to talk about honesty and dishonesty and how it comes into play in relationships. So if you’re the type of person who dates and doesn’t tell the other person where you’re really at – or if you’re super jealous and suspicious about your partner and it drives you mad, this is for you.

Just to be clear – this is not about the trivial niceness lies that don’t come up often – like telling someone you love the pie they made, or saying you have to cancel plans because of work when it’s really because you don’t feel like going out. This is about emotional honesty – the habits and ways of being that seem small, but actually create who you are and how you form bonds with others. Because the simple act of being honest can change your life in awesome earth-shattering ways.

I am not covering sociopaths and pathological liars – you’ll see that pathological liars lie incessantly to exaggerate their own importance. But if you are wondering if you’re with a pathological liar or a sociopath, please buy the book, “
Women Who Love Psychopaths.” Even if you’re a man or your situation is different, this book will be highly educational.

What I’m talking about is kind of like emotional lying – it’s subtler and therefore insidious in how it hurts your life – and it’s tied a struggle with acceptance. What I hope to offer is insight into why either you are “shielding” others from the truth or why others are doing this to you. I’d also like to sell you on the amazing and powerful benefits of being honest and letting go of control. Because that practice has amazing benefits in your life. Without further ado – three parts: what why and how!

Part 1: The What
Emotional Honesty – with yourself and with others. Meaning, authenticity in your way of being. When it comes to relationships – honesty is a sign of wholeness, confidence and self-love. I think of honesty as a synonym for trust and intimacy. It’s powerful in what it does because when you’re totally honest, it immediately makes you closer to others – you show up as all of yourself. A lack of honesty can taint your relationship just as powerfully. Some refer to lying as ‘relationship termites.’

In my opinion, the importance of emotional honesty isn’t quantified by the individual instances or the specifics of one lie, it’s all about the connection you have to your inner compass. It relates to the hierarchy that’s guiding you and your decision-making throughout your life. Everything in life down to a character choice you make as you live now, today in your present moment. Emotional honesty can be tackled by thinking of it as a simple way of BEING. It’s not the individual instances that you must address, it’s your approach to being yourself – who you choose to be and the values you decide to embody. Your values are like the decoder ring for every individual instance you might encounter. Once you practice owning your own truth and values, everything in your life will arrange itself perfectly. You don’t have to try to fix a situation or struggle with how to make things work, anymore. The fear evaporates and everything just gets super simple. It’s a relief – because there’s only ever one truth. It just is, and you don’t have to do anything about it but move through it.

Once you approach your life with honesty, you will begin to confront things as they arise. They won’t be pushed to the side or “managed,” they will just be. You’ll know that things will be difficult or they’ll hurt, and that will just be what it is. Without the make-shift solutions, what happens is your life becomes a purer expression of your truth. Guided by who you are and what you want: in love and all your relationships. Just by confronting things as you need to vs in two years from now when you can’t fix them any longer, you become empowered as the author of your life. That’s the only change that needs to get made: your approach to your present day. Today, right now.

Part 2: The Why
We usually lie or hide from our emotions for one of five reasons:
  1. To protect someone
  2. A fear of abandonment
  3. Control what someone else does
  4. Control how others perceive us
  5. To avoid conflict or punishment

When we’re dishonest in our relationships, often it’s a sign of something bigger at play – it comes from a lack of acceptance: of yourself, or what you’re feeling, of what you might need to confront. It’s a way to avoid the truth. A way to CONTROL and ALTER what must be done, so we don’t have to face it.

Dishonesty is the system of controlling what scares us. A fear of loss, a fear of betrayal, a fear of being hurt, of being seen, of being controlled and owned.

When it comes to love, the fears and ties are very primal because they’re linked to our first intimate relationships: those of our family. The fears we feel are encoded by the bonds we formed with our parents. They also change based on the stage we’re at in a relationship because each stage triggers a different element of how we learned ‘couples’ exchange love.  I will go through some of the lies we tend to tell during courtship, committed relationships, and marriage.

In Courtship and Dating
  • When courting, people aren’t honest when they’re afraid others are not going to like their truth. People might compartmentalize their relationships and the information they give others so that they can maintain control over them and how they’re perceived. It’s a way of maintaining control over the source of love and or pain: they get to choose whether or not they’re liked. It can also be because a person wants to maintain autonomy – not be fully controlled or known.

  • However –it’s bad to do that because when you control the experience someone else has of you and the truth, you create a separate reality. Suddenly it’s a bond created in a separate world. In doing this, you remove your intimate experience of that bond, and you remove your trust in someone else and their ability to love accept you. You also put something between the two of you – so you remove some aspect of your own participation in your relationships. It is this effect that keeps you from fully participating in your relationships and enjoying them to the utmost. So not being honest is like a tiny death. You remove some access you have to your full participation in the simple act of choosing to control it. It’s also a way to stay “outside the ring” and protected from being hurt.

Why would someone be afraid to be honest? Here’s a short that my friend Steve Moore made that speaks to this idea nicely. (It pertains to men and women, alike.)

  • Sometimes emotional dishonesty comes from a lack of trust in oneself – that what you want is wrong and won’t be accepted. When we think what we want is wrong, it’s usually unconscious and therefore guides us without us knowing.

  • Sometimes the dishonesty is simply self protective: a person is so vulnerable and sensitive, the anxiety is unbearable.

  • Pervasively dishonest people are usually detached from what they are thinking and feeling altogether. If you find yourself lying often, check in with yourself to see if maybe you have NO idea how you feel – at all. I was like this in high school – I had no idea how I felt about anything because I was totally numb. If this sounds like you, then I believe you have some unaddressed experiences that are painful and scary. It means the connection you have to your inner compass is blocked off from something unaddressed, like an old trauma. You might even remember your trauma and think it’s not affecting you at all – but it actually is working beneath the surface of your subconscious. It’s all a subterranean cycle of running from a secret truth. I highly recommend you investigate further with a therapist!

  • We lie about our story to control others, but ironically we are also doing it for ourselves. We want to believe what we’re saying because part of us wants the false reality to be true. So what happens over time is your brain has a natural inclination to believe the lies you’ve told, and eventually you can’t tell where the truth ends and the lie begins. Your own memory gets hazy. This is something you might have done as a child: made up an alternate version of a story and now it’s a blur because your brain has paved over the true history. Lying distorts your view of reality – burying is something your brain is trained to do.

Everyone rationalizes their own dishonest behavior –most of us lie “just a little bit” – just enough to feel like we’re still good people. It’s when those rationalizations take over the majority of your behavior that you get into trouble. It’s in that grey area that we lose sight of what we truly want. We just “become” this cycle of behavior. Instead of choosing in favor of the highest goals, life is built by what we’re afraid to accept or too sad to know. It’s a path that goes in circles, forged by a resistance to what is.

Emotional Honesty is vital to dating for several reasons:
  • Misleading people makes you feel like a bad person who has to hide their true self. Not to mention, it makes other people feel like they’re going crazy – and it’s cruel and unfair to remove someone’s ability to make choice in the situation.

  • The contrast inherent in your person is what makes you beautiful and sexy. Your darkness and your light. Polarity is the prime ingredient for passion – so to “middle” yourself or react to someone else’s ideals is a waste of your personal gold. To experience a rich relationship, you need someone real: who knows who they are and who they aren’t. Who can push and pull you – who loves and hates. The more someone who will say and be whoever you want them to be, the less of anything you will feel, in return. You need contrast and friction, in love especially – you want someone complete so you can share your full self with them, too. So you can both play different parts and learn from one another. Otherwise, what you get is neutral: a platonic friendship.

In Relationships
Relationships are built around simultaneous and yet opposite needs to be autonomous and intimate, and therefore this is where all couple-conflicts arise. It’s a power struggle between these two needs, hashed out and decided for the first time between two individuals, with two separate ideas of the world, as they come together to form a bond. In a relationship, there’s a constant power struggle between these two ideas and these two opposing needs, as they merge into one story, that is, their relationship.

  • Common lies are to gain power in the relationship, for example – you might lie to a partner to support your rightness.
  • Emotional dishonesty is also a tool that people use to control behavior of the partner, often these acts are borrowed from their parents. Like withholding information to milk a certain emotional reaction.
  • Other common lies are ways to retain autonomy in the face of someone demanding more intimacy. If one person wants to know every intimate detail of your mind and your emotions and you withhold that and intentionally keep it mysterious or confusing – this would be a tactic to protect yourself from being “owned” by this other person. You don’t want to be seen because part of you thinks you’ll lose autonomy and/or that you’ll be revealed as a disappointment. You might intentionally keep your private experiences vague and unknown. On the other hand it might be experienced as a very uncomfortable and confusing communication from your partner – if you can sense that they are not wanting to be seen and known. This might trigger a feeling of deception and a lack of trust.

In Marriage
  • Often dishonesty comes into play when a couple goes through a life-stage shift that triggers a conflict in one or both individuals: the roles must change with the state of their life. Some life stages trigger old family dynamics, almost like picking up a parent’s script from an old play. If someone had a family conflict at a certain age, they too might replay the parent’s actions when they reach the same age. Weird, right? Sometimes the person won’t even know their parent did the same thing – it’s almost like it’s encoded in their DNA.

In a marriage, there are some major changes cause the dynamic to change – here are a few, roughly: the end of the fantasy, which is within the first few years of marriage, the beginning of child-rearing, and the end of child-rearing.  So these are times when a couple might be most vulnerable to affairs because this is when they experience the most stress – change is traumatic because relationships have to organize around them

  • Often a lie will be a way of distracting focus from the real problem: the anxieties over the relationship. The real problem is a threat to the emotional bond itself, which is too scary to examine for both parties, so a lie is a way for a person to lessen the tension. A lie will be a point to focus on that’s removed, and therefore less intense. And the lie can be about anything, not just an affair. It could be a secret habit – like smoking, or having secret pass times, a secret purchase. What matters is it’s a thing that this person can fixate on as separate – it takes on the label of “the problem,” to obsess about or even fight about, without looking at the relationship. BTW! This is all inside the book, “Intimate Partners” by Maggie Scarf – I highly recommend it. It’s all about family dynamics that repeat. Writing another blog about it – coming soon!

  • Cheating is a way to avoid facing a potential problem with the bond of the relationship – it often comes about as an attempt to relieve the tension one person feels around the relationship. It’s an unconscious strategy of coping with overwhelming anxieties that the partner cannot face. The reason this would ever become the most viable solution is because all they feel is the relief that comes from the affair. They don’t see it as tied to the fear or even know the fear exists. When we bring someone else outside of the relationship in, it’s a way to triangulate our problems to something outside of the bond – even if that’s a focus on how they’re raising the kids, or conflicts with money. You have terms to fight and therefore vent.

  • When people in committed long-term relationships find connections in others spontaneously, the “emotional affairs,” it likely relates to the role they have cast themselves in and their partner in – based on their upbringing. They look for this other cast member to help they define their identity, to themselves. The role they’re casting for is their ideal match: the person who can see them and complete them, who embodies all their ideals. All relationships start with the fantasy stage – when you don’t quite know each other yet, but you view the other person through your imagined ideals. When the stage is over, the person finally sees the reality of who the person is, and sometimes that causes them to feel betrayed or disappointed – like they were somehow sold a raw deal. “You duped me into falling for you!” When in reality, it’s their perception of an ideal that has finally worn off.

A person can perceive their role so strongly that they seek out another person to help them validate it. This is when a person seeks out an emotional affair or suddenly falls in love with someone they barely know. If their role is “rational, strong and emotionally mysterious” and they seek someone “emotionally bountiful, free-spirited, fawning,” they will resent a partner that suddenly has other facets that aren’t affirming to them. We seek others who can reaffirm our parts.  When a person goes through a “mid-life crisis” they often seek to buffer their self-image by casting an opposite role.

Often with affairs, people are seeking to replace the first stage of a relationship: the fantasy stage. This is their golden standard of a person, whom likely doesn’t exist because they are an ideal manifested in their mind. It’s the fantasy that they perceive – not the reality of the human being, so falling in love becomes a very short loop.  Meet a person, see their ideal, get to know the reality, freak out and break up. The neediness is tied to childhood, so they’ll feel so angry and resentful and cannot reconcile that this ideal doesn’t exist.

In all committed relationships there’s a period of getting to know the truth of a person minus your idealizations. It’s just like when you grow up and you realize how far it is to the store. That’s just a part of growth – growing to know and going deeper than the surface. A relationship based on what you want and they want and what you’re both capable of is what you build together, with love as your glue. The bond evolves between two people, together: you write it as you go, define it as best you can while battling old ghosts of your family relationships. We all choose people based on our fabric, almost via telepathy: we sense in the other a missing piece of ourselves.  When we feel comfortable with our partner, we work out our remaining childhood issues. It’s our path to return to ourselves.

Part 3: The How – The Tools!
There’s a little bit of everything in here – for dating, for a relationship, for trying to be more honest.

TOOL 1: Hear Between the Words

Listen for what someone is not saying. This is a tool for those of you who are dating. A lot of the time we get clues and signs from people, but we don’t interpret their meaning accurately because we don’t want the truth to be so. As a habit, listen to what people are NOT saying. Everything is usually pretty evident when we’re not on the path that leads to our happiness, but we just can’t look at the answer. Ask yourself: are there statements that you want to hear that this person is not saying? Are there basic understandings that are not being spelled out? Are you confused but hopeful? Are there terms that you think are implied, but have never been made explicit?

Often when we don’t like the truth, we don’t read to the signs – the body language, the subtle avoidance of certain topics, the gaps in what we know. We want to hear the answer that we are not hearing, so we blind ourselves to the truth by highlighting what gives us hope. All that habit does is cheat you out of years of time that could be spent getting closer to what you want.

When people don’t want to say the truth because it threatens what they have, they usually avoid talking about it. Omission is a way of passively lying. A way to not upset you and also keep you where they want you, knowing that they’re far from stating their truth. It’s the same as lying but it’s much more tolerable because it requires doing nothing: a person can simply avoid taking action vs. actively creating the deception. Also, they can rationalize the sin as not their fault. A lot of people choose to omit/avoid the truth because it’s a way to deny that they’re controlling others – therefore it keeps the guilt at bay.

Push yourself to look at what you don’t want to see, especially when you’re dating. Assume nothing and remain open to all possible outcomes, for better or worse. Don’t wish things to be different or hold out hope that someone will change: this is just a temporary way to avoid pain that causes you a thousand times more pain later on. If a person isn’t where you are and they don’t want what you want, move on and cut your losses. When someone shows you who they aren’t, listen.

TOOL 2: Jealous of a Ghost
The ghost is a metaphor for an ex who still lingers in the mind of your partner that makes you feel threatened. The ghost isn’t active in your lives, yet somehow this topic inspires all kinds of feelings of jealousy and insecurity.  If you’re the jealous type and feel constantly threatened by your partner’s ex’s, even though they don’t hang out with them anymore, this is a tool for you and your significant other to use. It’s to help you create a safety zone in your relationship so these kinds of not-so-fun topics don’t destroy what’s great about your bond.

It might be awkward to facilitate, but if you can both commit to trying this, it works! Make this one issue into a “Task” – basically, reserve a weekly hour of time that you use to focus solely on this icky topic. For example, let’s say it’s Sunday nights at 8 pm: each Sunday, you and your partner sit down and for one full hour you say everything that’s on your mind related to this issue. Your partner must sit and listen to you intently and not say a word back. For the rest of the week outside of this one hour, you are not allowed to bring up this issue in any shape or form.

Here’s why this works: one person gets to be heard completely, the other gets to feel safe from attack while you both go about your romantic life. Tasking also works because it removes the issue from play – therefore it can’t exacerbate a random fight.  Again, this issue truly represents the push/pull needs dance that is intimacy and autonomy. In other words, it’s not about what it’s about. It’s a power struggle that has taken on a face and a name.

TOOL 3: Listen to the Baby Ouch
This is a tool for those of you who are currently not honest in your relationships and that bothers you, because you can’t seem to see why you’re doing it. This tool is really about starting to be honest with yourself. Right now, you likely can’t tell what is right or wrong in any given relationship, because the terms are confusing. Maybe you don’t really want to deal with someone else’s emotions, so in your mind, dishonesty is easier for everyone.

There is such a thing as having your private self, and you don’t have to bear that to everyone as soon as you meet them. That’s not what this is about. This is about the part of you that feels guilty when you’re misleading someone you like. It doesn’t feel good – it hurts.  What is the rule for when you should be honest with someone? It’s defined only by you – an inner compass of sorts, but right now you’re unable to read it because the feelings you have are conflicting and therefore confusing. The emotions are vague because you haven’t been able to identify them inside yourself, therefore you can’t read your own emotions. This is a tool to help you begin to understand what you feel good about, and what makes you happy.

When something conflicts you, and you get that inner voice that fights with something, rationalizing it back and forth – like, “Maybe I should say something.. but no, I didn’t lie – I like this person, I hope they don’t find out that I’m xyz…” That inner conflict – when something doesn’t quite sit right – let’s call that The Baby Ouch. That tiny, uncomfortable, fearful feeling is a sign that something in your actions is hurting YOU. Your acting out of alignment with who you really are.  The discomfort is something in your own being is saying, “This doesn’t feel like me.” THAT Baby Ouch is what you have to start acknowledging, respecting and aligning your actions with – because it means you are betraying yourself and your true values. When you’re not acting in alignment with WHO YOU TRULY ARE, you are abusing yourself.  When you abuse yourself, your confidence is lowered and you create feelings of depression. Plus, it perpetuates the behavior that’s not really you. 

In closing…

I briefly want to say thank you to my latest sponsors! Liz on Patreon! You are awesome and I love you! It’s amazing to me that I can create something from my own mind – and books, and post it and then real people like you give me donations. That sounds weird but it’s very humbling to me. A part of me thought that it’d be crazy to post a donate link or make a Patreon page. But I feel very valued and it inspires me to make more content and always give you my best. So thank you so, so much. Back to the blog…

In order to really be the person you aspire to be, you must act according to what you know are your issues. Meaning – you have to take control of them and build the paths you need, so that you can always act from the right place. I think a lot of the most successful personal growth is about seeing your big bad issue and choosing to build a staircase around it so that you can be kind and loving to others. When it comes to emotional baggage, sometimes you have to override what’s built in so that you can grow in the direction of your choosing. Like you’re building an Ewok village of new systems that are healthy and positive around the trees and triggers of the past. Honesty is how we own where we are and confront our truth– and it leads to understanding what we truly want.

When you can see that there’s a misalignment in your life– between your actions and your values, or what you want and what you have – that misalignment highlights the place you have to grow. This is how you spot a change that’s meant to grow you.  As soon as you keep your eyes open and accept that sometimes you’re going to have to hurt, you grow into a Super You.  As you practice being honest about where you are and what you want, and say no to what isn’t in alignment with that truth, you begin to get good at moving through the pain and fear.  Suddenly you realize it’s all going to be okay, and you’re handling it like a champ. You also grow and change each time you move through a challenge or a loss, and each time you gain a new muscle.  Very soon after practicing this brave honesty, you become supremely confident – because you know you can and will survive anything, and you will take care of yourself. You also let go of what is not in your cards, and everything becomes so simple – the resistance is what makes life hard. Not the truth.

Best of all, what happens when you choose to accept things honestly, and not hide from them – no matter what – is your life is guided to what it is you’re truly looking for. You take your need to control your fate, out of the equation and you allow yourself to change and hurt and grow where you need to. And that’s when life gets AMAZING.

I send you my love and I hope that this registered and that it helped somehow. I’ll put the related reading on the blog version of this post. Smile lovely friends!! I also wanted to let everyone know about my new podcast with
Ellen Huerta of Mend– Love is Like a Plant, our teaser episode is up so hit subscribe if you’re interested in checking it out. Here it is on Soundcloud and iTunes.

SOURCE:
https://hellogiggles.com/love-sex/love-and-honesty-what-we-hide-and-why-we-lie/
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"Compassion and the Individual" Tenzin Gyatso; The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

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Photo by Denise Applewhite

His Holiness the Dalai Lama poses for photos after his interactive session with students at Princeton University's Chancellor Green Library in Princeton, New Jersey on October 28, 2014. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

The purpose of life
ONE GREAT QUESTION underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life?  I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

How to achieve happiness
For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical.  Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us.  Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life.  If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.
 
From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.
 
The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.
 
As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but every one who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind!
 
Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, that is we can develop both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.
 
Our need for love
Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama comforting a young survivor during his visit to the Tsunami devastated region of Sendai, Japan on November 5, 2011. (Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)
Inter-dependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay.
 
It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.
 
We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects. If we are merely mechanical entities, then machines themselves could alleviate all of our sufferings and fulfill our needs.
 
However, since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require.
 
Leaving aside the complex question of the creation and evolution of our universe, we can at least agree that each of us is the product of our own parents. In general, our conception took place not just in the context of sexual desire but from our parents' decision to have a child. Such decisions are founded on responsibility and altruism - the parents compassionate commitment to care of their child until it is able to take care of itself. Thus, from the very moment of our conception, our parents' love is directly in our creation.
 
Moreover, we are completely dependent upon our mothers' care from the earliest stages of our growth. According to some scientists, a pregnant woman's mental state, be it calm or agitated, has a direct physical effect on her unborn child.
 
The expression of love is also very important at the time of birth. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mothers' breast, we naturally feel close to her, and she must feel love for us in order to feed us properly; if she feels anger or resentment her milk may not flow freely.
 
Then there is the critical period of brain development from the time of birth up to at least the age of three or four, during which time loving physical contact is the single most important factor for the normal growth of the child. If the child is not held, hugged, cuddled, or loved, its development will be impaired and its brain will not mature properly.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessing an expectant mother as he leaves his hotel in Narita on his way to Osaka, Japan on May 9, 2016. (Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)
Since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is its most important nourishment. The happiness of childhood, the allaying of the child's many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence all depend directly upon love.
 
Nowadays, many children grow up in unhappy homes. If they do not receive proper affection, in later life they will rarely love their parents and, not infrequently, will find it hard to love others. This is very sad.
 
As children grow older and enter school, their need for support must be met by their teachers. If a teacher not only imparts academic education but also assumes responsibility for preparing students for life, his or her pupils will feel trust and respect and what has been taught will leave an indelible impression on their minds. On the other hand, subjects taught by a teacher who does not show true concern for his or her students' overall well-being will be regarded as temporary and not retained for long.
 
Similarly, if one is sick and being treated in hospital by a doctor who evinces a warm human feeling, one feels at ease and the doctors' desire to give the best possible care is itself curative, irrespective of the degree of his or her technical skill. On the other hand, if one's doctor lacks human feeling and displays an unfriendly expression, impatience or casual disregard, one will feel anxious, even if he or she is the most highly qualified doctor and the disease has been correctly diagnosed and the right medication prescribed. Inevitably, patients' feelings make a difference to the quality and completeness of their recovery.
 
Even when we engage in ordinary conversation in everyday life, if someone speaks with human feeling we enjoy listening, and respond accordingly; the whole conversation becomes interesting, however unimportant the topic may be. On the other hand, if a person speaks coldly or harshly, we feel uneasy and wish for a quick end to the interaction. From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others are vital for our happiness.
 
Recently I met a group of scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high-around twelve percent of the population. It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of the others.
 
So, as you can see from everything I have written so far, one thing seems clear to me: whether or not we are consciously aware of it, from the day we are born, the need for human affection is in our very blood. Even if the affection comes from an animal or someone we would normally consider an enemy, both children and adults will naturally gravitate towards it.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama stops to talk to a group of school children on his way to the Provincial Offices in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy, on April 10, 2013.(Photo by Jeremy Russell/OHHDL)
I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that, although some modern schools of thought seek to do so, human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.
 
Developing compassion
Some of my friends have told me that, while love and compassion are marvelous and good, they are not really very relevant. Our world, they say, is not a place where such beliefs have much influence or power. They claim that anger and hatred are so much a part of human nature that humanity will always be dominated by them. I do not agree.
 
We humans have existed in our present form for about a hundred-thousand years. I believe that if during this time the human mind had been primarily controlled by anger and hatred, our overall population would have decreased. But today, despite all our wars, we find that the human population is greater than ever. This clearly indicates to me that love and compassion predominate in the world. And this is why unpleasant events are news, compassionate activities are so much part of daily life that they are taken for granted and, therefore, largely ignored.
 
So far I have been discussing mainly the mental benefits of compassion, but it contributes to good physical health as well, According to my personal experience, mental stability and physical well-being are directly related. Without question, anger and agitation make us more susceptible to illness. On the other hand, if the mind is tranquil and occupied with positive thoughts, the body will not easily fall prey to disease.
 
But of course it is also true that we all have an innate self-centeredness that inhibits our love for others. So, since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by only a calm mind, and since such peace of mind is brought about by only a compassionate attitude, how can we develop this? Obviously, it is not enough for us simply to think about how nice compassion is! We need to make a concerted effort to develop it; we must use all the events of our daily life to transform our thoughts and behavior.
 
First of all, we must be clear about what we mean by compassion. Many forms of compassionate feeling are mixed with desire and attachment. For instance, the love parents feel of their child is often strongly associated with their own emotional needs, so it is not fully compassionate. Again, in marriage, the love between husband and wife -  particularly at the beginning, when each partner still may not know the other's deeper character very well - depends more on attachment than genuine love. Our desire can be so strong that the person to whom we are attached appears to be good, when in fact he or she is very negative. In addition, we have a tendency to exaggerate small positive qualities. Thus when one partner's attitude changes, the other partner is often disappointed and his or her attitude changes too. This is an indication that love has been motivated more by personal need than by genuine care for the other individual.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting a young girl during his visit to Vancouver, BC, Canada on October 22, 2014. (Photo by Jeremy Russell/OHHDL)
True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively.
 
Of course, developing this kind of compassion is not at all easy! As a start, let us consider the following facts:

Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one's own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all. As long as they are human beings experiencing pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them or to alter your concern for them if they behave negatively.
 
Let me emphasize that it is within your power, given patience and time, to develop this kind of compassion. Of course, our self-centeredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of an independent, self-existent �I�, works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self- grasping is eliminated. But this does not mean that we cannot start and make progress now.
 
How can we start
We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled. If, however, they are not, these negative emotions will plague us - with no extra effort on their part! - and impede our quest for the happiness of a loving mind.
 
So as a start, it is useful to investigate whether or not anger is of value. Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring with it more energy, confidence and determination.
 
Here, though, we must examine our mental state carefully. While it is true that anger brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind: we cannot be sure whether its result will be positive or negative. This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior. Moreover, if anger increases to the extreme, one becomes like a mad person, acting in ways that are as damaging to oneself as they are to others.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama joining students in a exercise talking about gratitude at John Oliver School in Vancouver, Canada on October 21, 2014. (Photo by Jeremy Russell/OHHDL)
It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy with which to handle difficult situations.
 
This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as signs of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: that they are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful and soft, but it is very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness.
 
So, when a problem first arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand, This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill-intent.
You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts.
 
Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits the target.
 
Friends and enemies
I must emphasize again that merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them.
 
And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble, So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teacher!
 
For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind! Also, itis often the case in both personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends.
 
So anger and hatred are always harmful, and unless we train our minds and work to reduce their negative force, they will continue to disturb us and disrupt our attempts to develop a calm mind. Anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary enemies who appear intermittently throughout life.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama exchanging greetings with his old friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the Archbishop's arrival at the airport in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 18, 2015. (Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)
Of course, it is natural and right that we all want friends. I often joke that if you really want to be selfish, you should be very altruistic! You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles, The result? When you yourself need help, you find plenty of helpers! If, on the other hand, you neglect the happiness of others, in the long term you will be the loser. And is friendship produced through quarrels and anger, jealousy and intense competitiveness? I do not think so. Only affection brings us genuine close friends.
 
In today's materialistic society, if you have money and power, you seem to have many friends. But they are not friends of yours; they are the friends of your money and power. When you lose your wealth and influence, you will find it very difficult to track these people down.
 
The trouble is that when things in the world go well for us, we become confident that we can manage by ourselves and feel we do not need friends, but as our status and health decline, we quickly realize how wrong we were. That is the moment when we learn who is really helpful and who is completely useless. So to prepare for that moment, to make genuine friends who will help us when the need arises, we ourselves must cultivate altruism!
Though sometimes people laugh when I say it, I myself always want more friends. I love smiles. Because of this I have the problem of knowing how to make more friends and how to get more smiles, in particular, genuine smiles. For there are many kinds of smile, such as sarcastic, artificial or diplomatic smiles. Many smiles produce no feeling of satisfaction, and sometimes they can even create suspicion or fear, can't they? But a genuine smile really gives us a feeling of freshness and is, I believe, unique to human beings. If these are the smiles we want, then we ourselves must create the reasons for them to appear.
 
Compassion and the world
In conclusion, I would like briefly to expand my thoughts beyond the topic of this short piece and make a wider point: individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community.
 
Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.
 
Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home, If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another.
 
If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.
 
I believe that at every level of society - familial, tribal, national and international - the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.
 
I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness.  It is the practice of compassion.

SOURCE:
https://www.dalailama.com/messages/compassion-and-human-values/compassion


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"Atonement" by Richard Rohr

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BUY: https://www.amazon.com/Eager-Love-Alternative-Francis-Assisi/dp/1632531402

Two generations ago, the landmark theologian in our tradition (Nazarene), H. Orton Wiley, wrote that the penal substitution theory of the atonement was inconsistent with Wesleyan (Nazarene) theological commitments, and therefore could not be our atonement theory. Franciscan priest and thinker Richard Rohr is also concerned that penal substitution has led western Christianity down very negative pathways. He writes,

“For the sake of simplicity and brevity here, let me say that the common Christian reading of the Bible is that Jesus “died for our sins”— either to pay a debt to the devil (common in the first millennium) or to pay a debt to God the Father [proposed by Anselm of Canterbury [1033– 1109] and has often been called “the most unfortunately successful piece of theology ever written”. Scotus agreed with neither of these readings. He was not guided by the Temple language of debt, atonement, blood sacrifice, or necessary satisfaction, but by the cosmic hymns of Colossians and Ephesians. If Scotus’s understanding of the “how” and meaning of redemption [his “atonement theory”] had been taught, we would have had a much more positive understanding of Jesus, and even more of God the Father. Christian people have paid a huge price for what theologians after Anselm called “substitutionary atonement theory”: the idea that, before God could love his creation, God needed and demanded Jesus to be a blood sacrifice to atone for a sin-drenched humanity. Please think about the impossible, shackled, and even petty God that such a theory implies and presents.  Christ is not the first idea in the mind of God, as Scotus taught, but a mere problem solver after the sad fact of our radical unworthiness….

We have had enough trouble helping people to love, trust, and like God to begin with, without creating even further obstacles. Except for striking fear in the hearts of those we sought to convert, substitutionary atonement theories did not help our evangelization of the world. It made Christianity seem mercantile and mythological to many sincere people. The Eternal God was presented as driving a very hard bargain, as though he were just like many people we don’t like. As if God could need payment, and even a very violent transaction, to be able to love and forgive his own children— a message that those with an angry, distant, absent, or abusive father were already far too programmed to believe….

Scotus, however, insisted on the absolute and perfect freedom of God to love and forgive as God chooses, which is the core meaning of grace. Such a God could not be bound by some supposedly offended justice. For Scotus, the incarnation of God and the redemption of the world could not be a mere reaction to human sinfulness, but in fact the exact, free, and proactive work of God from the very beginning. We were “chosen in Christ before the world was made,” as Paul says in Ephesians (1: 4). Sin or problems could not be the motive for divine incarnation, but only perfect love! The Christ Mystery was the very blueprint of reality from the very start (John 1: 1)….

It is no wonder that Christianity did not produce more mystics and saints over the centuries. Unconsciously, and often consciously, many people did not trust or even like this Father God, much less want to be in union with him. He had to be paid in blood to love us and to care for his own creation, which seems rather petty and punitive, and we ended up with both an incoherent message and universe. Paul told us that “love takes no offense” (1 Corinthians 13: 5), but apparently God was the big exception to this rule. Jesus tells us to love unconditionally, but God apparently does not. This just will not work for the soul or mature spirituality. Basically when you lose the understanding of God’s perfect and absolute freedom and eagerness to love, which Scotus insisted on, humanity is relegated to the world of counting! Everything has to be measured, accounted for, doled out, earned, and paid back. That is the effect on the psyche of any notion of heroic sacrifice or necessary atonement. 9 It is also why Jesus said Temple religion had to go, including all of its attempts at the “buying and selling” of divine favor (John 2: 13– 22). In that scenario, God has to be placated and defused; and reparation has to be paid to a moody, angry, and very distant deity. This is no longer the message Jesus came to bring.

This wrongheaded worldview has tragically influenced much of our entire spirituality for the last millennium, and is still implied in most of the Catholic Eucharistic prayers. It gave lay Catholics and most clergy an impossible and utterly false notion of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness— which are, in fact, at the heart of our message. The best short summary I can give of how Scotus tried to change the equation is this: Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. Christ was Plan A for Scotus, the hologram of the whole, the Alpha— and therefore also the Omega— Point of cosmic history.”

Rohr, Richard (2014-07-27).
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (pp. 183-187). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.
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The Spiritual Purpose of Loneliness During Ascension by Kelly Ashley

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Ah loneliness. There may be a multitude of varying signs or symptoms that anyone could have during awakening – and no two would ever be the same – but one symptom that I see universally throughout my clients is loneliness. Ironically, we are united in that. I went through it too, and for the most part, I spent my awakening cursing that loneliness, reflecting on the complexity of my experience and wondering how anyone could ever possibly understand what I was going through. I thought somehow I was flawed. I thought that I was entirely alone,  and I had no idea that so many others were going through the exact same thing. It wasn’t until long after the intensity of my awakening had calmed that I began to see how this loneliness had served me. I began to recognize that the loneliness that I had experienced actually had a purpose, and it had benefited me in numerous ways (however, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer it, but more on that later).

Lets take a look at the spiritual purpose of loneliness during awakening, and how I’ve found it is actually assisting us further along the path to enlightenment:
 
Loneliness shifts our relationships
In a weird way, loneliness starts it all. In fact, it is this sense of loneliness, and feeling that no one else could possibly understand that adjusts our social circles and life conditions. It is that pervading sense of loneliness and not fitting in that calls for us to examine our relationships with friends, lovers, or work mates and recognize who no longer resonates with us. This empowers us to move away from negative influences and toxic relationship patterns to make room for supportive, loving, compassionate people in our lives. It creates the space for the universe to fill the vacuum with someone much more compatible and in alignment with who we truly are. It brings our relationships into the 5D reality. If those kind of folks haven’t turned up in your life just yet, don’t lose hope, as you clear your vibration and become more aligned, they’ll start showing up.
 
Loneliness brings our focus inward
Generally, we’ve spent most of our lives looking outward. Initially we may have lived from ego with focus on more physical things – how we look, how much money we have, social status etc. but these things all fade eventually (or uncontrollably crumble as is sometimes the case during spiritual awakening). We’ve also been raised to look outward for guidance on which path to take, or to consistently look to others for our decision making. That all changes when we experience loneliness. All of the crutches we have clung to throughout our lives get whipped away from us – be it the big house, your job, or the people in your life who you’ve become emotionally dependent on. It might sound cruel, but it really has a wonderful purpose. When we can no longer rely on sources outside of ourselves, and when there really is nowhere else to turn, we finally turn inward. And that, my friends, is where the real transformation begins. That is what takes us from meek and mild mannered to fully independent, standing in our power, fully expressing our gifts and fulfilling our greatest passion and purpose. That can’t happen unless you search inward enough to find yourself and unearth all the amazing strengths you have within you (don’t worry, if those virtues haven’t shown up yet, they will!)
 
Loneliness awakens the truth of our divinity
How ironic that this all consuming sense of loneliness is actually the very thing that awakens us most. You see, when you finally release all of these ‘crutches’ that you used to lean on, you finally go inward, and when you go inward, you begin to remember the truth of who you really are. That in itself can unearth a different sense of loneliness – a loneliness of the soul. This is where we begin to realize that earth is not our true home. We get a sense that home is somewhere else. Sometimes we get a feeling, or we may just be lucky enough to experience remembrance of where home is, and who we were with. We begin to miss ‘home’ purely because our souls have awakened enough to come to consciousness on THIS physical level. This awareness has our soul questioning, ‘why did I come here’ and ‘how can I get home’. We might even get a sense of a mission or life purpose that we just don’t want anymore. This longing makes us more aware that we are not of this world at all, and it can bring up some real soul level pain or grief – and it really does hurt. I know I spent many hours in tears, sensing my soul family and longing to go home, but it is that very awareness that should enlighten you to the fact that your soul is awake now. You are accessing other, much deeper parts of YOU. In order to be fully awakened you need to fully know you, and you cannot fully know you without becoming aware of all of those wonderful divine parts that make up the whole. Rest assured that the pain will dissipate and eventually be replaced by a strong sense of purpose, wisdom and empowerment here on earth.
 
Loneliness reconnects us to spirit
This is my favourite. Like I mentioned before, after you’re left feeling lonely, misunderstood, and unable to connect with the people around you, you start to go inward, and when you go inward you find connections on an entirely different plane. It is this very loneliness that withdraws you from the physical world and forces you to awaken your intuition and reconnect to spirit. Sometimes when life is too comfortable we are reluctant to change. If we have plenty of resources in the physical world, we tend not to feel the NEED to connect so much to the spiritual world. But when it begins to feel that no one here in the physical world can help us, we start searching for help on other planes. This happens automatically and is often the time when we begin noticing meaningful synchronicities, getting signs and messages, feeling presences, connecting to spirit guides or simply that feeling of oneness.
 
Loneliness releases limiting belief systems and past life issues
Lastly, it helps us to release limiting 3D belief systems (which is exactly what we need to let go of in order to experience 5D reality). Naturally, being present on earth throughout the ages, the energy has been extremely dense. We have been traumatized through lifetimes where we came to conclusions like ‘I’ll be cast out for my gifts’, ‘I’ll be killed for being a healer,’ or ‘I need to be alone in order to embrace my gifts’. These are common belief systems that are a result of lifetimes when using our psychic gifts or healing abilities really was truly dangerous. We learned that we would be rejected (or killed) for showing them, sharing them, or helping others with them. Its natural that we should come to those conclusions, and they absolutely were relevant – back then. But they are no longer our reality, and they often perpetuate issues like being afraid to be a healer, being unable to access our gifts, or isolating ourselves in order to keep ourselves safe.

The good news is that these limiting belief systems are being released. Simply by being aware of these feelings or thoughts we are in the process of acknowledging, realizing and releasing them once and for all. Eventually they will be replaced with our 5D truths – that our abilities truly are a gift, and that it is safe to share them for the benefit of those around us.
 
Is loneliness necessary in order to awaken?
Ok, so now we know the purpose of loneliness as part of ascension. We can all see the specific ways that it benefits us and catalyzes vital changes that transform us internally. However, now comes the secret truth that most people don’t realize until they are out the other end of awakening fully…
 
Its not actually necessary.
Yep. Seriously. Loneliness may catalyze many powerful changes as we move along the awakening path, but you’ll be relieved to know that it really
isn’t necessary to feel that way, at all.

Let me explain why. Remember when we discussed how loneliness helps us to release limiting belief systems that stop us from experiencing our true divinity? Well the good news is, that loneliness is just a perception. In itself, it is a belief system, and it is one that we all inherently carry (otherwise we’d breeze through awakening feeling connected and united – but of course, then there wouldn’t be any need for awakening anyway). The reason we are experiencing loneliness (or any other awful feeling) is because somewhere deep down in our souls, we believe in it. And we believe in it because we’ve experienced it in past lives. It is the accumulation of all of the times we’ve been rejected, cast out or ridiculed, and it is the fact that we are still carrying those past life wounds that keep it in our vibration now. We feel lonely because we felt lonely back then, and we are still carrying that loneliness with us now, everywhere we go, and in everything we do.
 
You’re right on track!
Fortunately, the very fact that you are experiencing loneliness at all means you are healing it. It means that old issues are rising to the surface to be felt. It means that you are tapping into your past lives. It means, (although it hurts) that you are healing your soul. It means that you are right on track in your awakening journey, no matter how lonely or challenging it may be. It means you’re doing just fine…

SOURCE:
http://www.spiritualawakeningsigns.com/spiritualawakening/spiritual-purpose-loneliness-ascension/
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"Aging Is Life’s Way of Helping" by Jeannie Zandi

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"The Almond Trees in Blossom"

Endlessly I gaze at you in wonder, blessed ones, at your composure,
at how in eternal delight you bear your vanishing beauty.
Ah, if only we knew how to blossom:
our heart would pass beyond every small danger,
and would find peace in the greatest danger of all.
——————————————————-— Rainer Maria Rilke

At a public gathering in my town’s plaza, two women pass me. The elder, who seems about 85 to 90, walks slowly, unsteadily, on sensible shoes. One of her slender, thin-skinned legs, bruised and dotted with age spots, is partially covered in knee-high panty hose, while the other is bare, the stocking fallen and gathered around her ankle. Her sparse white hair, somewhat disheveled, is loosely gathered at the back of her neck. Her frail arm stretches out, with her bony hand firmly grasping the arm of the other woman, who I assume is her daughter. The younger woman takes in the scene around her, while making herself wholly available to the older woman, putting aside any agenda she might have for herself. The mother relies utterly on her daughter’s strength, kindness and slowed pace. A tender closeness between them is palpable in the willingness of the daughter and the dependency of the mother as she clings to her daughter’s arm in much the same way the daughter must have clung to hers when she was too young to walk on her own.

Only a week before, my 7-year-old daughter, Sophia, brought up the topic of aging while we were walking. “Mama,” she observed, “old people are kind of like babies.” I asked her why. “Because they need help like babies. They cannot do things on their own. Sometimes they need help walking, some need helping eating, and some have to lie in bed and be changed like babies. It’s so sweet.” I asked her what she thought that would be like, and she replied, “I think it would be nice — like having servants.”

Most people experience being dependent as a humiliation rather than a treat, like my daughter does. Sophia’s innocent and positive view stands in marked contrast to the response of many people I know to the prospect of getting older and becoming dependent: “Shoot me first!” they exclaim. It’s as if the idea of becoming dependent on other human beings is so abhorrent that one would rather die a violent death than consider it.

How we value our independence, our strength and capability! How we prize our ability to do things for ourselves on our own, thank you very much. How we fear the fact that aging requires us to let down our walls, our protections, our pride, our privacy, and ask for and accept assistance. It lays wide open and bare the simple fact that we are not perfect islands unto ourselves, but fallible, sweet, interdependent beings in need. Aging asks us to open, to trust, to let go. It asks us to let others into our most private worlds and see us in our naked humanity.

Aging is life’s way of saying, “Last chance to realize what this is all about!” If one hasn’t been lucky enough to be humbled, softened and opened to one’s place in the interconnectedness of all things by parenthood, midlife crisis, illness, a failed relationship or two, or some other of life ’s challenges, aging certainly offers the opportunity in spades. Aging asks us to radically redefine who we take ourselves to be, after a lifetime perhaps of defining ourselves by what we can do. It invites us either to start defining ourselves by what we cannot do or to drop the defining altogether and allow ourselves to explore what it means to exist outside of definition, within the whole rather than separate from it.

Why should I write about aging? While I have not yet hit the deeper parts of aging that others around me have, despite my 44 years of experience in getting older, I have tasted enough to be intrigued by the rub of loss of youth that is just beginning for me. I felt like I was just about to find my groove until I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 36. Over the next few years it slowly dawned on me — as the soft saggy skin from my pregnant belly hung during yoga class, as I dropped into bed at the end of a working-mother day, as I glimpsed the chicken skin and wrinkles in the sunlit rearview mirror, as my child grew up and I grew tired — that gravity was calling me. Age spots like my grandmother’s started to appear on my face. The skin on my shoulders is turning from soft to dry and rough from the years of sun exposure. Now, I hold small print away from my eyes and have just purchased my first pair of “old lady” glasses, marking my entry into the realm of the aged. I started to hear inside my head something I ’d never anticipated: “You are too old to do that . . . to wear that . . . to say that . . .” When I ride my bike to work, I feel more like the Toto-hating Miss Gulch than I do a soaring bird or fit athlete.

I can feel the field of limitless possibility that is youth slipping away. The baseball players and movie stars on TV are starting to look like babies; the newscasters were born after my baby brother. The world is being taken over by the next generation, and I am not part of it. I am slipping out of it. I will not be world famous, I will probably not be much more of anything than what I am now. I am as beautiful as I will ever be, as strong as I will ever be, as capable as I will ever be. And I am fading into the past, while my daughter rises to greet the world. The world is going on without me — it does not need me to function, and I will likely disappear without having made much of a mark on it at all.

Oh, the small person in me does not like this. She was unconsciously betting on some future glory that would prove her excellence and importance. She doesn’t want to be one of the many unknown faces, one of the multitudes that live and die with little trace. She wants to be bigger than life, someone to take note of, making history. She wants superlatives: biggest, best, strongest, most beautiful. Life is a continual assault and insult to this one because unless we are lucky or delusional, we do not get to be the best at much of anything, or at least not for long. And aging is the final and most definitive insult. If we held out until now — either by large amounts of external success, achievement and prowess, or by ignoring the obvious fact that we as persons are insignificant grains of sand among the many — age and death will certainly rectify that. At some point there is no ignoring this, and the final settling with reality begins.

Do I need cheering up? An exercise program? A list of the pros of aging? Examples of women playing basketball, running marathons, looking smashing in their 70s? A lecture on rejoicing in my cronehood? Not at all. I want to face the gritty details of being in an aging body and touch that reality with tenderness. I have not found it useful to wave the flag of the bright side when darkness looms; darkness doesn’t go away by patting it on the head and telling it to go to its room, and the brightness of cheer is not the deep light for which I live. Aging is loss. Anything that I hold dearly that passes will invite my loosened grip. Aging is about getting weaker, saggier and wrinklier, losing faculties, and eventually dying and one ’s body rotting. I want to embrace this darkness; I want to hear the voice of loss, weakness and dying. I want to hear what it has to say and be reborn as a light that is not birthed of reassurance, but of synchronizing myself with what is real and surrendering to it. I want to be it all and know it all and kiss it all.

Aging is not a stranger, it is simply a more dramatic version of the same old friend whose face returns to us all throughout life in little and big ways — loss, death and resurrection. Rainer Maria Rilke advised: “Be ahead of all parting.” The more one has kept pace with the invitations that life offers along the way to grieve, open, be humbled and let go, the less settling of accounts must occur in order to meet the greatest invitation of all: to lose one ’s strength, prowess, capability and, finally, life. And to open and soften one’s heart in the face of it. Old age lays bare our vulnerability, our longing, our fear of each other, of ourselves. We cannot run, we cannot delude ourselves; we have to sit still and wrestle with and come to terms with the great mystery that this life is.

One invitation of being infirm is to be tender with ourselves. Not impatient, rejecting and judgmental, but tender. Aging invites us to learn self-acceptance and, with that, acceptance of all the parts of life as holy and worthy of our love. We are not worthy of love only for what we do and contribute, but worthy of love and tenderness because we are. Another invitation is to be humbled: we return to beginners, to not knowing. There is nothing we can use as a crutch to prop ourselves up and say, “See? I am worthy because I…” And we find ourselves worthy, as Sophia says, “Just because.”
We lose it all. If life let us keep it, we would not soften. We soften into the arms of life, into the arms of our caretakers. We let them love us. We let them have us. We let ourselves return to what we belong to, though we walled ourselves off from ever knowing that all along it owned us, this life, this clock ticking, this symphony of birth, death, living, dying, crying and loving.

We let it go, we open our hands, we let the bird fly away, we find the heart that lives through us, we find that we do belong, that we always did, that we are part of it, that it is OK. We are not special. We are not gods. We did not win a gold medal, write a famous novel; we will not go down in history. And it’s enough to have lived, to have done the best we could do, to have loved the best we could love, to be part of it all. Aging invites us to open to the truth that we are one, we belong to each other, we are here to be loved and to love.

Sophia and I play a game, where we take turns closing our eyes and leading each other around the neighborhood, up hills, through vacant lots, up onto the curb, down off the curb. She observed once during the game, “Mama, I trust you more than you trust me.” May I surrender and grow in this trust as I grow in years.
——–
(c) Copyright 2006, Jeannie Zandi, all rights reserved.
Originally published in The Eldorado Sun, August, 2006.

SOURCE: http://jeanniezandi.com/teachings/creature/
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"Fear and Anger" by Jack Kornfield

Anxiety
Aversion, anger, and hatred are states of mind that strike against experience, pushing it away, rejecting what is presented in the moment. They do not come from without. This insight is a reversal of the ordinary way we perceive life. “Usually,” says Ajahn Chah, “we believe outer problems attack us.” Things are wrong and people misbehave, causing our hatred and suffering to arise. But however painful our experiences may be, they are just painful experiences until we add the response of aversion or hatred. Only then does suffering arise. If we react with hatred and aversion, these qualities become habitual. Like a distorted autoimmune response, our misguided reaction of hatred does not protect us; rather, it becomes the cause of our continued unhappiness.

The Buddha declares, “Enraged with hate, with mind ensnared, humans aim at their own ruin and at the ruin of others.” How do we break this tragic legacy—both in our own lives and in every blood-soaked corner of the globe? Only through a deep understanding of anger, hatred, and aggression. They are universal energies, archetypal forces that cause immense suffering in the world. Their source must be traced in the depths of our human hearts. And then we will discover an amazing truth: that with compassion, with courage and dedicated effort, we, like the Buddha, can meet the aggressive forces of our own mind and of others, and these energies can be transformed.

Freud and his followers believed the aggressive instincts to be primary. Culture’s “commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself…is really justified by the fact that nothing else runs so strongly counter to original human nature as this.” Later, in the aftermath of World War II, sociobiologists such as Konrad Lorenz and Robert Ardrey hypothesized that our species, like our predecessor apes and many other animals, had necessary and inevitable instincts of territoriality and aggression.Today, evolutionary biology and neuroscience are carefully charting the genetic function and neural mechanisms of aggression.

But the fact that aggression, anger, and aversion are built into our universal heritage is only the starting point in Buddhist psychology. After we learn how to face them directly, to see how they arise and function in our life, we must take a revolutionary step. Through the profound practice of insight, through nonidentification and compassion, we reach below the very synapses and cells and free ourselves from the grasp of these instinctive forces.With dedication, we discover it is possible to do so.

Aversion and anger almost always arise as a direct reaction to a threatening or painful situation. If they are not understood they grow into hatred. As we have seen, pain and loss are undeniable parts of human life. Buddhist texts speak of a mountain of pain. They tell us our tears of grief could fill all four great oceans. When our experience is one of pain, hurt, loss, or frustration, our usual habit is to draw back in aversion or strike out in anger, to blame or run away.

Like pain, fear is the other common predecessor to anger and hate—fear of loss, of hurt, of embarrassment, of shame, of weakness, of not knowing. When fear arises, anger and aversion function as strategies to help us feel safe, to declare our strength and security. In fact, we actually feel insecure and vulnerable, but we cover this fear and vulnerability with anger and aggression. We do this at work, in marriage, on the road, in politics. A fearful situation turns to anger when we can’t admit we are afraid. As the poet Hafiz writes, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d rather see you in better living conditions.” Without insight, we are doomed to live our lives in this cheap room.

Fortunately, we can train ourselves to live with mindfulness, to meet fear and pain with wisdom instead of with the habits of aversion and anger. When a painful or threatening event arises, we can open our eyes to it. When we learn to bear our own pain and face our own fears, we will no longer blame and inflict it on others, neither family members nor other tribes. With mindfulness, instead of reacting, we can respond with spacious clarity, purpose, firmness, and compassion. A wise response includes whatever action, fierce at times, is the most caring toward life, our own and others’.

Imagine a healthy mind as one that is free from entanglement in any level of hatred. At first this might seem impossible, an idealistic attempt to impose decorum on our innately aggressive human nature. But freedom from hatred is not spiritual repression, it is wisdom in the face of pain and fear.

In a healthy response to pain and fear, we establish awareness before it becomes anger. We can train ourselves to notice the gap between the moments of sense experience and the subsequent response. Because of the particle-like nature of consciousness, we can enter the space between instinct and action, between impulse and reaction.To do so we must learn to tolerate our pain and fear. This is not easy. As James Baldwin put it, “Most people discover that when hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.”

That’s why we start by paying attention to small things, small pains and disappointments. When I start to get into an argument with my wife, if I pay attention I notice that I usually feel hurt or afraid. If I speak to her angrily, she will become defensive and the argument will grow. But if I’m mindful, I can talk about the hurt or fears instead of being lost in anger and blame.Then my wife becomes interested and concerned. Out of this a different and more honest conversation occurs.

SOURCE:
https://jackkornfield.com/fear-and-anger/

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"Let it Have You" by Jeannie Zandi

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SOURCE: https://art-catalog.org/love-images-black-and-white-drawings/

Potentially, through Ms. Zandi's personal struggle we can all find that radiant seat deep within, where Love shines, soothes and abides within us forever. But first you must follow her through a journey of mental exhaustion, heart wrenching pain and utter defeat. It was only then, physically and mentally exhausted that she hears Love's call, tastes Loves presence, and comes forth from her self-imposed tomb.

How profoundly her words ring true, her aching heart is felt, and her liberation a hope for so many.
—Bei Kuan-tu
————————————

In the year that I was pregnant with my daughter and planning on marrying her father, I was plunged into an inexplicable darkness that ruled my life for four years. During that time, much of what had characterized me became eclipsed – I was no longer sociable, brilliant or on top of anything. My sole focus was a gnawing discomfort, a total loss of meaning and my inability to find what was “true” in order to right my life.

Why, as a well-adjusted woman who had kept up with her emotional work and led workshops on the topic, was I plagued to such depths? Was it a hormonal issue? A psychological issue? Had I made a wrong choice that resulted in my living a lie? Between working, mothering and doing the basics of daily life, I searched inwardly and outwardly, and mostly mentally, to find clues to this mysterious stalker who had performed a hostile takeover of my psyche.

As the months and years passed, as possible causes were exhausted (pregnancy hormones, postpartum depression, some early birth trauma of my own, some lie I was living, some way I had been bad that I was being punished for by a wrathful God), I entered into a sort of resigned despair. Many times I wished my life would simply end. I had fantasies of wandering out into the wilderness of Taos Mountain and being devoured by mountain lions. I would look up at the stars and long to disappear among them. The state of agony and anxiety was so acute, deep and constant that it hardly left my attention during my waking hours.

No matter what relative truth I would adopt in any given moment as the solution to my woes – keep the child, don’t keep the child, stay with the man, leave the man, live alone – nothing held the promise of righting things. In retrospect, while I was searching for the truth that I could voice that would correct something “off” in my personal life, a much bigger truth was stalking me, one that could not be told, but only lived.

I could not light on this truth with my mind, but had to be born into it through watching who I had been wear down and pass away. As I was no longer performing the self I had been and as my mind struggled with and was bested by this conundrum, I watched the “good partner” die, the “contributing community member” die, the “one who knows” and the “one who can find the truth” die. More and more I was simply left in the present with no plan or strategy with which to approach anything.

I would go to a nearby river and lay on its banks. I noticed the anxiety that pervaded my body most of the day; I noticed the hell my mind was in, scurrying this way and that, trying to save me by finding the truth about the anxiety; and I noticed the way the wind blew, unconcerned, through the trees by the river and the way the ripples danced, unperturbed, in the water. At some point I discovered that if my attention was buried in the unconcerned wind and the unperturbed ripples, my body would relax just a little bit. Over time I saw that things-as-they-are were complicated by my thoughts and plans, which obscured actuality and created a hell if I paid attention to them. Out of exhaustion and despite a certainty that this was not in “my” best interest, I watched the “one who could figure it out” and the “one with a clue” die too.

I began finding my attention immersed in my senses in the present and in simple being. My mind faded as the central navigational instrument for my life, and I watched its incessant chattering fade as the thoughtless realm of things-as-they-are took the foreground. My mind could not offer a rationale for the shift – this new way simply took over as the only way to be that did not create misery.
Two years into it I wrote to an acquaintance, author and teacher, Steven Harrison: “It has been a good teacher in that I now know that I don’t have a clue about anything, whereas before I was quite smug about having lots of clues about lots of things. I used to refer grandly to the “Great Mystery.” I think I thought that someone named God was my pet. Or at least that whatever that presence was, I was certainly among its chosen ones. Now I’ve seen the underside of that mystery and have referred often to it as the “fucking Mystery.” I really want to understand, and the more I try, the more I’m sat down on my butt. When I’m present these days it’s not because I’m groovy or have a practice or think it’s a good idea, but because anywhere else is painful.”

He wrote back: “What you described is to me the breakdown of the mythology of life and the emergence of life-as-it-is. . . . From the vantage of the breakdown, it looks dark. From the vantage of the broken-down it looks fresh and full of potential and possibility. This is the beginning of new creativity in which the myth is transparent and perhaps something inherently integrated is possible in the forms we bring about. This is, after all, the creativity that we are born into but conditioned to forget, the creativity that is your daughter, that is life itself. To explore this requires the ongoing abandonment of the known and the attention to the movement of life-as-it-is, which is always new.”

Not by my will, I had left the known and all my strategies for how to keep myself safe and moving forward. It is a feeling of being constantly naked and living by the seat of my pants as I watch life unfold and reveal itself a moment at a time instead of attempting to direct it. I find myself an explorer in the realm of what’s actual, what is here now, outside of the mind’s commentary about it. And outside of any plan for progress, improvement or goal attainment. It’s amazing how simple life has become, and how full and luscious. Transformation happens within me and around me as I give myself to the present and leave the mind’s commentary behind, as something essentially meaningless, like static on a radio.

What I have stumbled upon is the ground of being, who we are essentially, our birthright, and what is true about us in every moment, regardless of circumstance. This reality is Love, surpassing and dissolving all concepts of love – it is an alive, immediate experience of oneness that moves unpredictably and outside of concepts and social conditioning. Instead of something that is given or received, it is a basic fact of existence – not only mine, but existence in its entirety.

I can report on my findings from my explorations and elaborate on my experience of this Love. I can talk about how the past and future have faded as realities from my experience, how my life is pervaded by a sense of contentment, how full of radiance and mystery the moment is, and how this looks in my relationships and in my parenting. But that would move away from what is actual, now, for you, for me. And so what I really want to say is this:

To all those who struggle, to all those who wonder if there is something wrong with them, to all those who do not feel at home, at peace, whole and fine just as you are now, please know: You are Love. Your being is a mystery beyond comprehension. Each moment contains a miraculous myriad of sensations to breathe into and explore. Something greater than this you-with-a-plan is running your life and always has been. Let it have you.

Streaming Beggars
Now that you have moved into my heart,
taken the doors off their hinges and
removed the windows, glass, sash and all,
beggars are coming from everywhere
for your sweet embrace.

The beggars stream in from every direction
walking, running, crawling, rolling and being …carried.
The neighbors have stopped screaming about it.
At first they had plenty to say but after weeks … … and weeks of this
they know there is no helping it.
This is beyond city ordinances.
Soon they will be coming themselves,
dropping rakes, dog leashes, clothespins,
leaving cars running in the street,
for a glimpse of your holy face.

What am I to do but

watch in awe at the blessed variety
… of your creation,
the myriad wounds, the incredible stories,
the way they gather around the door
quivering with the certain knowledge
that finally no one will be turned away,

and stay in the house making meals,
and carrying sheets up and down the stairs.

J.Z.
——–
(c) Copyright 2004, Jeannie Zandi, all rights reserved.
Originally published in The Eldorado Sun, February, 2004.

SOURCE/Ms, Zandi's website: http://jeanniezandi.com/let-it-have-you/





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"At-One-Ment, Not Atonement" by Fr. Richard Rohr

Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas
Image credit: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (detail), by Caravaggio, 1601-02

The common reading of the Bible is that Jesus “died for our sins”—either to pay a debt to the devil (common in the first millennium) or to pay a debt to God (proposed by Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109). Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) agreed with neither of these understandings.

Duns Scotus was not guided by the Temple language of debt, atonement, or blood sacrifice (understandably used by the Gospel writers and by Paul). He was inspired by the cosmic hymns in the first chapters of Colossians and Ephesians and the Prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18) and gave a theological and philosophical base to St. Francis’ deep intuitions of God’s love. While the Church has not rejected the Franciscan position, it has been a minority view.

The many “substitutionary atonement theories”—which have dominated the last 800 years of Christianity—suggest that God demanded Jesus to be a blood sacrifice to “atone” for our sin-drenched humanity. The terrible and un-critiqued premise is that God could need payment, and even a very violent transaction, to be able to love and accept God’s own children! These theories are based on
retributive justice rather than the restorative justice that the prophets and Jesus taught.

For Duns Scotus, the incarnation of God and the redemption of the world could never be a mere mop-up exercise in response to human sinfulness, but had to be the proactive work of God from the very beginning. We were “chosen in Christ before the world was made” (Ephesians 1:4). Our sin could not possibly be the motive for the incarnation—or we were steering the cosmic ship! Only perfect love and divine self-revelation could inspire God to come in human form. God never merely reacts, but supremely and freely 
acts—out of love.

Salvation is much more about
at-one-ment from God’s side than any needed atonement from our side. Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God!

God in Jesus moved people beyond the counting, weighing, and punishing model—which the ego prefers—to a world in which God’s mercy makes any economy of merit, sacrifice, reparation, or atonement both unhelpful and unnecessary. Jesus undid “once and for all” (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10) notions of human and animal sacrifice (common in most ancient religions) and replaced them with an economy of grace and love.

Jesus was meant to be a game-changer for the human psyche and for religion itself. But when we begin negatively, or focused on a problem, we never get off the hamster wheel of shame, separation, and violence. Rather than focusing on sin, Jesus—“the crucified One”—pointed us toward
a primal solidarity with the very suffering of God and thus of all creation. This changes everything. Change the starting point, and you change the trajectory, and even the final goal! Love is the beginning, the way itself, and the final consummation.

God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. Nothing we can do will either decrease or increase God’s eternal and infinite eagerness to love!

Reference: Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 183-188.

SOURCE:
https://cac.org/at-one-ment-not-atonement-2018-01-21/
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"Saved From God? Alternatives to Penal Substitution Atonement Theory" - Matthew Distefano

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Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Heretic-Lgbtq-Affirming-Violence-Denying-Universalists-Christianitys/dp/1938480309
 
“We are saved from God! And more precisely, we are sparred [sic] the wrath of God . .  . Without your trusting in Christ, the wrath of God that was placed on Jesus will then be placed on you.” ~ Jack Wellman, answering the question “What are we really saved from?

In so many words, this is the Gospel according to Western Christianity. Over the details we may quibble, but we are often told that Jesus died in order to save sinners from the wrath of God. In other words, he was a substitutionary sacrifice—he died in our place—to appease the Father’s justice, honor, and wrath. The story of how we get to such a place where we need such a sacrifice basically goes like this:

God created humankind in his image and saw that it was good. Then, humanity sinned and experienced a “fall.” This created a huge problem, one that finite creatures simply could not make up for. Why? Because God’s justice and honor are such that only a payment of infinite proportions could make atonement. So, God, in his infinite wisdom, sent himself in the form of a Son—one truly human—in order to be sacrificed to himself so that his justice and honor could be upheld. Thus, he fills the conundrum of needing an infinite payment from finite humans. Now, those who accept the blood sacrifice could be forgiven their sins. The rest? The wrath of the infinite Father forever abides on them.

I understand the propensity to mock and scorn such a view. “New atheists” in particular have a field day with it. However, we are not going to take part in the mockery here (as much as I would like to). Doing so would not be helpful though. What we are going to do is simply touch on some of the initial problems penal substitution (PSA) creates so that, in the following blog post, we can introduce some healthier—as well as more orthodox—views of how the Cross saves us, and what, exactly, it saves us from (hint: it’s not God!).

Problem I: The Debt-Collecting God
The first issue this view creates is that it basically depicts God as a debt collector. A debt was accrued and payment has to be made in order for the Father’s forgiveness and mercy to flow forth into the world. Contrary to the Pauline claim that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5), the sins that are accrued are kept on the books until the spilt blood of Jesus covers them. Then, and only then, is the debt paid. And so, then and only then can the wrongs be taken off the books.

Problem II: The Retributive God
The second issue is the way in which original sin gets interpreted by folks in the PSA camp. Indeed, their understanding of humanity’s fall exposes God as a retributive punisher. What I mean is that our sin is just so damn disgusting that God must have blood in order to be appeased. To that end, the punishment Jesus took was the punishment we deserve. The lashings, the flogging, the mocking, all of it something God would do to us or have done to us if Jesus hadn’t taken the beating for us. That, or something similar. Those of us who accept the transaction are spared. Those that don’t get their just deserts in the end—infinitely re-tributed for their finite sins.

Problem III: The Archaic-Minded God
If history has taught us anything, it is that the gods we create demand blood sacrifices in order for their wrath to be appeased. Rene Girard has helped elucidate this more so than anyone. Think of all the virgins that were thrown into volcanoes throughout the eons. The penal substitutionary model of the atonement paints the Father in a similar light; the only difference being that God is both the one demanding the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself. So, while it is not surprising that we would sort of see Jesus as the “virgin we throw into a volcano to appease an angry god,” it is rather ironic, especially given that our Jewish forefathers (and mothers!) had already taken humanity away from such a view of “at-one-ment.” As James Alison reminds us:


The Jewish priestly rite was already . . . way ahead of the “Aztec” version we attribute to it. Even at that time [pre-exilic], it was understood that it was not about humans trying desperately to satisfy God, but God taking the initiative of breaking through towards us. In other words, atonement was something of which we were the beneficiaries. (From Alison’s essay “God’s Self-Substitution” in the book Stricken by God?, pp. 168 – 69)

Problem IV: The Janus-Faced God
Another issue we run into with this view is that two manifestations of the Trinity are pitted against one another. In one corner, you have the wrath of God, which needs the shedding of blood in order to forgive sins (Hebrews 9:22). In the other corner, you have Jesus, who forgave freely (Matthew 9:2; 18:22; Luke 23:34; John 8:11; 20:19–23). In other words, Jesus forgave even though blood hadn’t been spilled. One major issue with this is that the New Testament is fairly clear that both the Father and the Son are, in nature, eternally the same (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; 4:34; 5:19–20; 6:38, 46; 10:29; 12:49; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 13:8). In later creedal formulations, it is said that they are homoousios, or “of one substance.” To put is simply, then, Jesus reveals what the Father is like and what he has always been like. Yet, in the PSA model, this hardly seems so.

Problem V: The Unfollowable God
When the Father and the Son are pitted against each other, choosing the correct one to follow becomes quite a conundrum. If we forgive like Jesus, for example, then forgiveness will precede repentance (Matthew 9:2; 18:22; Luke 23:34; John 8:11; 20:19–23). However, if we choose to forgive like the Father, we will only forgive those that show repentance, or after they make a payment of some kind. But did Jesus not command that we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is (Matthew 5:48)? And is that perfection not displayed as pure mercy (Luke 6:36)? It seems rather dubious, then, if the way in which the Son and Father forgive is as dissimilar as East is from the West.

What Are The Alternatives?
Over the course of its history, Christianity has put forth alternatives to the penal substitutionary view. In fact, many theories predate PSA (a theory not even formalized until John Calvin, a lawyer, put it together during the Reformation. Essentially, with some slight alterations, it’s just like Anselm’s eleventh-century “Satisfaction Theory,” which posits that Christ died in order to satisfy God’s honor. Calvin took that idea and emphasized God’s wrath rather than his honor.)

So, if this way of thinking about the atonement has not always been the norm, what were Christian theologians saying about the cross prior to the Middle Ages? Interestingly, something much different than we commonly hear today in the West. However, that is going to have to wait until my next entry. (I know, I’m such a tease!)

Until then, feel free to comment below and let me know what problems you have with penal substitution. Or, if you affirm it, feel free to make a defense for your case. I’ll do my best to follow along.
~Peace.

If atonement theology is not best understood in penal substitutionary ways—as I contend it’s not—then what are some healthier, more orthodox ways of understanding the cross? Well, that’s what we’re going to get into.

Moral Influence
From the beginning, Christians have talked about the life and death of Christ as a model for our own lives. Clement of Alexandria (150–215 CE) was one of these:

For [Christ] came down, for this he assumed human nature, for this he willingly endured the sufferings of humanity, that he being reduced to the measure of our weakness, he might raise us to the measure of his power. And just before he poured out his offering, when he gave himself as ransom, he left us a new testament: “I give you my love.” What is the nature and extent of this love? For each of us he laid down his life, the life which was worth the whole universe, and he requires in return that we should do the same for each other.[1]

Later, however, Christ’s moral influence would be broadened into a way of talking about atonement more specifically. (Peter Abelard, a twelfth-century French theologian, is the one who gets credit for the development of the theory.) And, while it has its strengths, both biblically and ethically, it suffers only in that it simply doesn’t say enough about what happened in the life and death of Jesus. In other words, while the theory isn’t necessarily wrong—that is, Jesus Christ is the model of what it means to be “at-one” with the Father (John 5:19–20; 6:38; 8:28; 10:29; 12:49)—it leaves us wanting a more robust explanation as to how Jesus, and most specifically, the cross, saves us.

Christus Victor
That is where Christus Victor—the dominant theory of the Eastern Orthodox Church—can help lend a hand. In A Journey with Two Mystics, my best friend, Michael Machuga, sums up the theory with this beautiful catena of Scripture:

Satan has enslaved humanity with the fear of death (Heb 2:14–15). All manners of evil arise from this bondage. But Christ comes to set humanity free from Satan’s power, that is, “to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Pet 5:8). He does so by enduring the cross and by then being raised to life by God (Acts 2:23–25). In doing so, Christ “disarmed the rulers and authorities, exposing them to public disgrace by leading them in a triumphal parade” (Col 2:15). Christ is made Lord (Rom 14:11; Phil 2:11), given the Name above all names (Phil 2:9), and will reign until death, the last enemy, is destroyed (1 Cor 15:24–26). Death will then be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10, 14) so that “God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).[2]

Needless to say, an atonement theology such as this takes us much further than “moral influence.” Here, Christ is indeed our model for “moral living,” but he’s much more than that.
Christus Victor proclaims that because of him, everything that stands in our way from being “at-one” with God has been defeated, including sin and death. And, excitingly, we can apply it in such a way that doesn’t necessitate a “traditionally sacrificial” interpretation of the cross, while at the same time taking sin seriously (a charge PSA folks tend to make against their non-PSA interlocutors).

In the following section, we are going to unpack what this may mean for us. Our goal, most specifically, will be to answer the question: How, exactly, does Christ’s death save us from “sin” and “death?”

The Victory of Christ

Death is Put to Death
Clearly, death is a problem. Allow me to rephrase. According to the writer of Hebrews, it is the problem: “So that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” (Heb 2:14–15, emphasis mine). The writer of 1 John also emphasizes that “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Put these together, and we can easily say that humanity’s greatest problem is that the devil and his works have enslaved humanity through the fear of death.

Incidentally, this fear of death is what cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker posited is the primary source of human-initiated suffering. That is to say, the neurosis death brings is the underlying cause of most of our violence (i.e., sin). What happens is that because we can think abstractly about our own death, we build these so-called “hero systems”—cultures, religions, political ideologies, and so on—that must be defended against all alternative systems. Psychologist Richard Beck explains how this mechanism works, and why it’s such a problem:

In short, alternative hero systems—other values, worldviews, and ways of life—threaten to undo everything that has made our lives feel significant, meaningful, and secure in the face of death. The ideological Other—usually some out-group member who has different values and beliefs from our own—presents us with an implicit critique of our personal hero system. This threatens us to the core, attacks the very source of our self-esteem. This means that the ideological Other—the out-group member who is simply different from us—doesn’t really have to do anything particularly threatening. His or her mere existence is enough to menace us. Outgroup members represent, on the edges of our awareness, a dissenting voice that suggest that the way we’ve constructed our identities and the criteria we’ve used to manage our self-esteem are not eternal and transcendent but are instead arbitrary human fictions.

So, what do we do in the face of that threat? Simply stated, we demonize these people. Rather than endure existential discomfort, it’s easier to double down on our worldview and to see those different from us as malevolent agents. We aggress against these “others.” In mild forms, we view them as confused or mistaken. More severely, they grow to become enemies we have to forcibly eliminate.
[3]

All we have to do to see this play out in real-time is open our eyes. Look around and you will constantly see shots fired at one another. Not only do the Christians fight the Muslims (and vice-versa), but the Catholics fight the Protestants, and Protestants demonize the Anabaptists; Sunnis attack the Shias, and both go after the Sufis. More “secularly-speaking,” Capitalists demonize Socialists, while Socialists blame Capitalists for the world’s problems; but “New Atheists” know better and point to religion and its adherents as the true cause. And on and on it goes.

Regardless of who’s to blame, the answer to this dilemma, according to the earliest Christians, is in the person of Christ Jesus, who conquered death and the fear it brings. What Christ’s Victory emphasizes is that because of his death and subsequent resurrection, Christ triumphed over, among other things, not only the fear of death, but death itself. He died and went to Hades, conquered it, and now holds the keys (Rev 1:18). Whereas the devil once had the power to wield death as a way to keep humanity in bondage, Christ now has that power. But, with that power, he does the opposite of the devil; he comes to us, in all our confusion and misery, to show us that new life awaits us. He shatters our fear of death by showing us his hands and his side, and by forgiving us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:8; John 20:19–20).

This is how we are saved from the bondage that our fear of death holds us under. By affirming the Resurrection—and as such, our own future resurrection—we open up new possibilities for our love to flow forth in the present. In other words, because we have nothing to hold onto any longer—now that the sting of death has been taken away—we are free to give ourselves in love for the other (the Greek term for this is
kenosis). As the writer of 1 John tells us: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another” (1 John 3:14). To put it in the simplest way I can, the dynamic duo of fear and death are undone by an even more dynamic duo: Love and Resurrection.[4]

The Subversion of Sacrifice
A second major problem Christ’s death saves us from is this business of sacrificing to the gods. For as long as humans have been around, we have been engaging in this practice. The greatest of the sacrifices have always been the purest: firstborn sons, virgin daughters, unblemished lambs, and so on. And while the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement keeps in line with this sacrificial thinking—the virgin Son is sacrificed to appease the wrath of the Father—the true message of the New Testament actually seems to be quite the opposite. In other words, the sacrifice of Jesus is not to be thought of as something that changes God and his mind, it is something that God does through Jesus that changes us and our ways of thinking. Thus, it saves us.

So, how exactly does God do this?

In two ways.

First, notice how the New Testament message flips the common way of sacrificial thinking on its head:
God puts forth the Lamb, we receive him, yet God raises him up again. To put it this way, God offers the sacrifice to humans who cannot help but do what they do best. Yet God also gets the last word—the word of life. The writer of Acts repeatedly makes this point:

  • Acts 2:23–24: “This man . . . you crucified . . . but God raised him up.”
  • Acts 3:15: “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.”
  • Acts 4:10: “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.”

In doing this, we are shown two things at the same time: what God is truly like and, consequently, what we are like. What I mean is that when the Father puts forth the Son (and, also, when he raises him up), it is to show how the whole sacrificial system is not something he desires, for he never desires death (Ezek 33:11), but rather, we do. I love how the writer of Hebrews drives home this very point:

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins . . . [however] when, Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” (Heb 9:22; 10:5–8, emphasis mine)

Notice the contrast:
sacrifice and doing God’s will. On the one hand, the desire for sacrifice, while historically something we can’t help but project onto the entire pantheon of gods, is shown to be purely a human desire: “These are offered according to the law.” On the other hand, the one who perfectly does God’s will is the one who allows this law-based system to fall onto him while forgiving it all. Hence, Jesus shows us how the Father, rather than being just another god who demands sacrifice, is actually the one true God who becomes the sacrifice on our behalf. That is what we mean by “Christ died for us.” (Rom 4:25; 8:32) He dies for our benefit. Why? To expose the system for what it is—a system predicated on more and more blood and death (Luke 11:49–51)—while yet showing pure grace in the face of it.

The second point I want to make is that God takes humanity’s practice of ritualistic sacrifice and gives us a new ritual: the Eucharist. As Robert Hamerton-Kelly points out
The Gospel and the Sacred, pretty much everything Jesus does during the Last Supper is subversive in nature:

The institution of the Eucharist is an inversion of the temple sacrifices. The usual direction of the sacrificial offering is reversed; instead of the worshiper giving to the god, the god is giving to the worshiper. Jesus “gives” (didomi) his body and blood, symbolized by bread and wine, to them instead of their giving their bodies and blood, symbolized by money, to the temple. Just as money symbolizes life given to the temple, so bread and wine symbolize the divine life given to the worshiper. Bruce Chilton suggests plausibly that the words of institution, “This is my body . . . this is my blood” (Mark 14:22–24) intend to present the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine as substitutes for the killing of victims in the temple. The room substitutes for the temple, the table for the altar, and the sharing of food for the killing of the victim. Normally, the worshiper brings the offering into sacred space; here, the upper room is the nonsacred counterpart of the holy of holies, and so the offering is made outside of sacred space. Thus, the sacrificial system is subverted by the reversal of the direction of its ritual logic.[5]

The beautiful thing about this whole event is that Jesus doesn’t simply tell his disciples what
not to do, he gives us something to do. We are ritualistic creatures, after all, and as such, need rituals in order to get along in life. But these rituals demand blood. They demand victims. Not the Eucharist, however. This new ritual that leads to new community centers on a table, not an altar. It centers on bread and wine, not bodies and blood. It centers, even, on sharing this meal with one’s enemies. Remember, even Judas—the man Jesus knew would betray him—was present and had his feet washed by the Lord (John 13:1–5). Such is the inclusivity of the Eucharistic meal.

In Closing
At the end of the day, what matters most when it comes to atonement is whether we hold to a healing doctrine or not. Does our atonement theory bring peace or not? What I have discovered is that, while the nonviolent atonement theology I now affirm has done just that, my former views, ripe with penal language, never did. In fact, penal substitutionary atonement theory did just the opposite; it caused me great grief and confusion. For a time, it even played its part in driving me to atheism (and I know I’m not the only one).

That said, could PSA still be the most correct understanding of the Cross? Sure. One can find substitutionary language all throughout the Scriptures. One can read about God’s wrath and judicial nature as well. This cannot be disputed. But, what
can be disputed is whether the sacrifice of Jesus is something that changes God’s mind about us, or whether it is to change our minds about God. To ask it this way: Does the cross save us from God or from something else (e.g. the Principalities and Powers, the practice of sacrifice, the fear of death, the devil, sin, and so on)? Throughout this series, I hope I did my job in showing that those who affirm the latter should be afforded a seat at the table with the majority of Western Christians who conclude the former; that we can offer some critique and pushback against their idea that, on the cross, the wrath of God was being poured out on a broken and bloody Jesus. A greater hope is that I did a bit more than that; namely that I put forth an understanding of the cross that actually subverts the “traditional” violent one that has troubled so many Christians and non-Christians alike.
 
[1] Clement, The Exhortation to the Greeks, 346.
[2] Distefano and Machuga,
Journey, 43–44.
[3] Beck,
Slavery of Death, 41–42.
[4] Ibid., xii.
[5] Hamerton-Kelly,
The Gospel, 44.

SOURCE:
PART 1:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allsetfree/2018/01/saved-god-5-problems-penal-substitution-atonement-theory/
PART 2:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allsetfree/2018/01/saved-god-alternatives-penal-substitution-atonement-theory/
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MATTHEW DISTEFANO
7 COMMENTS
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The RobCast - Rob Bell Episode 86 | Richard Rohr and the Alternative Orthodoxy

Wonderful discussion on the essence of a Gospel long lost in dualistic/fear-based theologies.
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Richard Rohr is a beautiful troubadour of Christ, a Franciscan spiritual teacher who has so often inspired my "inner-most-person" to leap with joy! Happy


YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82hzhb3qzT0

Alternative Orthodoxy

  • Methodology: Scripture as validated by experience, and experience as validated by tradition, are good scales for one’s spiritual worldview.

  • Foundation: If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side.

  • Frame: There is only one Reality. Any distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane is a bogus one.

  • Ecumenism: Everything belongs and no one needs to be scapegoated or excluded. Evil and illusion only need to be named and exposed truthfully, and they die in exposure to the light.

  • Transformation: The separate self is the problem, whereas most religion and most people make the “shadow self” the problem. This leads to denial, pretending, and projecting instead of real transformation into the Divine.

  • Process: The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.

  • Goal: Reality is paradoxical and complementary. Non-dual thinking is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion. 

ROB BELL'S WEBSITE:
https://robbell.com
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"Utterly Humbled by Mystery" by Fr. Richard Rohr

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I believe in mystery and multiplicity. To religious believers this may sound almost pagan. But I don’t think so. My very belief and experience of a loving and endlessly creative God has led me to trust in both.

I’ve had the good fortune of teaching and preaching across much of the globe, while also struggling to
make sense of my experience in my own tiny world. This life journey has led me to love mystery and not feel the need to change it or make it un-mysterious. This has put me at odds with many other believers I know who seem to need explanations for everything.

Religious belief has made me comfortable with ambiguity. “Hints and guesses,”
as T.S. Eliot would say. I often spend the season of Lent in a hermitage, where I live alone for the whole 40 days. The more I am alone with the Alone, the more I surrender to ambivalence, to happy contradictions and seeming inconsistencies in myself and almost everything else, including God. Paradoxes don’t scare me anymore.

When I was young, I couldn’t tolerate such ambiguity. My education had trained me to have a lust for answers and explanations. Now, at age 63,
it’s all quite different. I no longer believe this is a quid pro quo universe — I’ve counseled too many prisoners, worked with too many failed marriages, faced my own dilemmas too many times and been loved gratuitously after too many failures.

Whenever I think there’s a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say “only” or “always,” someone or something proves me wrong. My scientist friends have come up with things like “principles of uncertainty” and dark holes. They’re willing
to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and, clarity, while thinking that we are people of “faith”! How strange that the very word “faith” has come to mean its exact opposite.

People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It’s the people who don’t know who usually pretend that they do. People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know they
don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is — quite sadly — absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.

SOURCE:
https://onbeing.org/blog/richard-rohr-utterly-humbled-by-mystery/

FR. RICHARD ROHR is founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His many books include Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, and most recently, Divine Dance. You can sign up to receive his daily meditations here.
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"The Two Loves and the Wisdom of Heartbreak" by Michael A. Rodriguez

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Let’s be honest: Our hearts are breaking at the individual and collective levels. What is the meaning and significance of heartbreak? I’d like to begin by distinguishing between two kinds of love.

In my experience, there are two main kinds of love at play in our lives. The first is what I would call “human love”; it is relational and conditional. It’s a two-way street in the sense that it’s transactional. It says, either consciously or unconsciously, “I will love you if you fulfill these criteria.” It also says, “If you hurt me, I will close my heart and stop loving you.” Human love is messy, painful, vulnerable, dualistic, full of contradictions, and terribly confusing. It expands and contracts beyond our control, and it is based on fear. We yearn to love and to be loved, yet we fear and even sabotage it at the same time. Yet human love contains a truth and, with the aid of wisdom, is a portal to something much deeper.

The second kind is what in the Christian tradition is called “Agape Love,” which is a field of boundless, unconditional Love that is always here–eternally. It is the omnipresent source and substance of everything that arises; in other words, everything you experience is made out of unconditional Love. I often call it “boundless Awareness,” “Consciousness,” or the “Self.” I even sometimes call it “God.” For me, all of these terms are synonyms for the ultimate truth at the core of everyone’s being. While human love wants and even expects to be loved in return, suffering hell when it does not get its way, unconditional Love does not want or expect anything in return, as its nature is simply to Love, to share itself out of pure and innocent joy. While human love is a two-way street, unconditional Love is one-directional like the sun. The sun’s nature is to shine outward; it does not require the returning of its rays to be what it is. Its nature is just to radiate from the inside out. And so it is with unconditional Love.

When we’re identified with an egoic state of consciousness, we cannot perceive or access the field of unconditional Love underlying our human love, and we consequently long for it. When we are empty of self (and hence of the division and conflict it creates), we are not only capable of perceiving and accessing the Presence of unconditional Love in which we are always cradled like a child in a mother’s arms, but we come eventually to discover that we are not separate from it and, what’s more, that our broken humanity is the vessel for its manifestation in our conscious experience.

In other words, we come eventually to discover that these two loves, rather than being mutually exclusive, co-exist and in some mystical sense depend on one another. Human love arises in and is an expression of unconditional Love—and without either, neither would be possible. Heartbreak is the link. Heartbreak is clearly inevitable in the human experience, and that is not a mistake. This realization is enough to explain and justify our relative presence here in this world of painful heartbreak. That is, bringing both loves into harmony and eventual unison requires heartbreak; the philosopher’s stone in this alchemical process is the willingness to soften one’s heart in the midst of heartbreak, over and over again. This gesture of softening transmutes common human love into something divine and altogether miraculous.

The tendency for us humans when we are shrouded in ignorance is to seal off and harden the heart when it has been broken, which we misperceive as a gesture of strength, but guarding and hardening the heart is actually a form of weakness and is not wise (though it is a completely understandable and innocent mistake). In fact, it takes great strength and wisdom to remain innocent, vulnerable, and softened in the midst of heartbreak. 
A true Lover does not seek to deny or mend a broken heart but to accept and soften into it as a way of life. That way, we retain the innocence of our childhood but with the added strength of wisdom that comes with Awakening. This does not mean that we do not exercise common sense when it comes to setting up relative boundaries and saying no to injustice and abuse, but the great myth is that we have to harden our heart and compromise our innocence to do those things.

I have always loved this line by Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” However, in this context and with the deepest respect, I would change one word: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets OUT.” The light of unconditional Love is already in you; in fact, it IS you. When you let your human heart crack or even break wide open, softening into the heartbreak you experience rather than hardening against it and refusing to feel it, the unconditional Love that you truly are shines out of that crack and may even burst forth like rays from the center of the sun. It is through heartbreak that the Love of God or the Self or Consciousness breaks into the world of experience. Without the gift of heartbreak, God’s unconditional Love would remain unconscious. Human heartbreak turns the infinite and eternal potentiality of God’s unconditional Love into a lived actuality in space and time. With this perspective, we might be able to understand something Father Thomas Keating once said: “Vulnerability means to be hurt over and over again without seeking to love less, but more.” You could never “do” this from an egoic perspective; it’s only when you surrender the resistance that constitutes your ego, soften into the heartbreak that is there in you, and discover your essence as unconditional Love itself that you are capable of loving in this way.

So, are you up to the task? More than you think. In the stunning words of Zelda Fitzgerald, “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”
With Boundless Love,
Michael

SOURCE:
https://boundlessawareness.tumblr.com/post/164370539288/the-two-loves-and-the-wisdom-of-heartbreak

Michael A. Rodriguez is a spiritual teacher who works with people in meetings, retreats, and private sessions on a full-time basis in the United States and abroad. He holds four academic degrees, including a master’s degree in comparative religion from Harvard and a PhD in English literature from Florida State University; taught at the university level for well over a decade; and has lived long-term in two monasteries. Drawing always from his direct experience, Michael illuminates the undivided nature of Life or Consciousness with great clarity and compassion, pointing to reality in a way that is free from dogma, ritual, or adherence to any particular tradition. He draws skillfully from the world’s wisdom traditions and also integrates Jungian psychology, literature, music, and art into his work to address the full range of human potential. All his work, including his interviews, can be accessed via his website at www.boundlessawareness.org.

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"Awakening to Delusion" by Joseph Bobrow Roshi

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Nov 08, 2011

Why do we suffer?
Why do we cause others to suffer?
What can we do about it?

Why do we suffer? From a Buddhist perspective, it is due to greed, hatred and delusion, the three poisons. These create suffering, these are our suffering. But we need to add a word to the Buddhist formula: unbridled. It is unbridled greed, hatred, and delusion that amp up suffering exponentially. The secret sauce in this toxic mix is
self-deception. The road to hell is paved with the finest intentions; we think our motivations are pure and our stuff does not smell. "When will we ever learn?" Pete Seeger asked. This is my question, this is all of our question. It seems impossible for us to realize that our individual good is intimately woven together with the collective good. That what benefits me most deeply benefits others; and when the other thrives, I blossom. Take three parts narrow self-interest, throw in a hearty dose of self-deception, harness unbridled greed as propellant, and voila! Bring down our planet while smelling like a rose!

The antidote in Classical
Buddhism is mustering up the four awakened qualities: loving kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others, and equanimity. These are preceded by the word boundless. So, boundless compassion. Boundless and Unbridled. They seem alike but they are not. Jessie Colin Young sang "Just one key unlocks them both, it's there at your command. Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody come together and love one another right now." We must spring free from our self-absorption, our self-deception, right now, and see, as my old teacher Robert Aitken Roshi would often say, that "we are all in this together and time is short." Our boats rise and fall in concert. 

But first we must awaken to delusion, face our own short sightedness and self-serving thinking and behavior masquerading as righteousness. We must see, or at least entertain the possibility, that we are ignorant of what is really going on, and ignorant of the impacts of our actions. This is the most gnarly element: for us to awaken from delusion, we must be willing to face our own pig-headed, willful ignorance and the deleteripous ripples it has generated. Let me finish by quoting the great 1950's philosopher Neil Sedaka: "Waking Up Is Hard To Do.”

So let's have at it.

SOURCE:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/comment/926036#comment-926036
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"When We Walked with God" by Galen Pearl

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The Garden of Eden story fascinates me. I’m going to ask you, just for purposes of this post, to take the story out of Biblical context. Put aside all the theology, all your beliefs and opinions, whatever they are, about the Bible and religion. Just for a few minutes, consider this story without any preconceived notions. Disregard for the moment issues about obedience, sin, and punishment. Please understand that I am not challenging or disrespecting anyone’s beliefs. And I’m not asking anyone to change what they believe. This is just an invitation to look at the story itself without any additional context to see what we notice.

Okay, so you have the first people living in this beautiful place, where they have a life of ease, with plenty of food. The weather must have been pleasant because they were without clothing. They walked in the garden with God, in whose image they were created.

There are many trees in this garden paradise, but only two are named – the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The people are free to eat the fruit of any tree, presumably including the tree of life, but they are warned not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for if they do, they will “surely die.”

Let’s pause right here. One of my first questions is why, if a tree is forbidden, would it be in the garden in the first place? Is that entrapment? When you tell a child “Whatever you do, DON’T do that!” what is the first thing that child wants to do?

And why do these two trees, the only two named trees in the garden, stand in contrast to each other? The tree of life gives immortality, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil gives death. What is it about the knowledge of good and evil that is incompatible with life? It might be easier to understand if the forbidden tree was the tree of evil. But it seems like knowing the difference between good and evil would be a good thing. Why isn’t it?

One way to think about it might be that knowledge of good and evil created duality. Before this knowledge, there was un-self conscious harmony with God.

What is the first thing that happens after they eat the fruit? They become aware that they are naked and they are ashamed. They try to cover themselves up literally with leaves. And figuratively, they try to cover up what they have done by hiding from God.

So in effect, they become self conscious in a way they weren’t before, and separate from God. They are afraid.

The
Tao Te Ching says that we only know goodness because of evil, and that goodness only comes into existence when we have lost Tao. So when we are living in harmony with Tao, concepts of goodness/evil, kindness/cruelty, and justice/injustice are meaningless, because Tao transcends duality. Everything happens naturally and without effort. There is nothing to fear because there is acceptance of what is without struggle.

Putting this back in the context of the Eden story, good and evil had no existence or meaning when we walked in harmony with God. By introducing the duality of good and evil, we also created the cycle of life and death. We separated unity into conflicting opposites. We labeled them good and bad. We tried to hold onto the good and reject the bad. We began to struggle with
what is. And we suffered.

So what do we do now? How do we restore unity and harmony? Again, leaving aside religious doctrine for the moment, the generic answer is that we repair the breach in our own selves. Where do I struggle in my life against
what is? What do I judge as good or bad? What do I desire or reject? In what ways do I separate myself from others through judgment, unforgiveness, fear?

We might have specific answers to these questions, but we can go deeper by contemplating the nature of what creates the breach. If I am angry, for example, I can get stuck in the story I’m telling myself about why I’m angry. Of course, my story will justify my anger, and will probably blame someone else or some outside circumstances for causing the anger. I will be right and the other person will be wrong.

But what if I put the story aside and just observe the nature of this anger? What does it feel like in my body? How does it shape my experience of myself, my relationships with others, my view of the world? What can I learn from anger? How can it lead me back to harmony?

In contemplating this in my own life recently, I realized that I was judging myself for being angry. As I offered myself compassion instead of judgment, the anger softened and I could see that under the anger was pain, pain that I blamed someone else for. When I looked closer, I could acknowledge that what I was blaming the other person for was something that I either had done or was capable of doing myself. I could see that the other person was in pain too. My compassion expanded to include the other person.

My breathing slowed and sank into my belly. I felt lighter. Free. Without forcing anything, I easily released the anger I had been holding onto. I accepted what had happened as well as my reaction to it. I let it all go.

And I went for a stroll with God in the garden.

[Note: The painting above is by my awesomely talented sister, Susan E. Inman.]

SOURCE:
http://galenpearl.blogspot.com
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"Selling Water by the River" by Adyashanti

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Many seekers do not take full responsibility for their own liberation, but wait for one big, final spiritual experience which will catapult them fully into it. It is this search for the final liberating experience which gives rise to a rampant form of spiritual consumerism in which seekers go from one teacher to another, shopping for enlightenment as if shopping for sweets in a candy store. This spiritual promiscuity is rapidly turning the search for enlightenment into a cult of experience seekers. And, while many people indeed have powerful experiences, in most cases these do not lead to the profound transformation of the individual, which is the expression of enlightenment.

In speaking regularly with spiritual seekers, it dawned on me one day how addicted so many of them are to the power of charisma. They swap stories about how powerful this or that teacher is and compare experiences. They get a charge from it, many mistaking charisma for enlightenment. Charisma attracts at all levels: political, sexual, spiritual, etc., and it feeds the ego's desire to feel special. The ego loves getting hits of power—it's like a form of spiritual candy. The candy may be sweet but can you live on it? Does it make you free?

Freedom is not necessarily exciting; it's just free. Very peaceful and quiet, so very quiet. Of course, it is also filled with joy and wonder, but it is not what you imagine. It is much, much less. Many mistake the intoxicating power of otherworldly charisma for enlightenment. More often than not it is simply otherworldly, and not necessarily free or enlightened. In order to be truly free, you must desire to know the truth more than you want to feel good. Because if feeling good is your goal, then as soon as you feel better you will lose interest in what is true. This does not mean that feeling good or experiencing love and bliss is a bad thing. Given the choice, anyone would choose to feel bliss rather than sorrow. It simply means that if this desire to feel good is stronger than the yearning to see, know, and experience Truth, then this desire will always be distorting the perception of what is Real, while corrupting one's deepest integrity.

In my experience, everyone will say they want to discover the Truth, right up until they realize that the Truth will rob them of their deepest held ideas, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. The freedom of enlightenment means much more than the experience of love and peace. It means discovering a Truth that will turn your view of self and life upside-down. For one who is truly ready, this will be unimaginably liberating. But for one who is still clinging in any way, this will be extremely challenging indeed. How does one know if they are ready? One is ready when they are willing to be absolutely consumed, when they are willing to be fuel for a fire without end.

If you start playing the game of being an "enlightened somebody," the true teacher is going to call you on it. He or she is going to expose you, and that exposure is going to hurt. Because the ego will be there, standing in the light of Truth, exposed and humiliated. Of course, the ego will cry "foul!" It will claim that the teacher made a mistake and begin to justify itself in an effort to put its protective clothing back on. It will begin to spin justifications with incredible subtlety and deceptiveness. This is where real spiritual sadhana (practice) begins. This is where it all becomes very real and the student discovers whether he or she truly wants to be free, or merely wants to remain as a false, separate, and self-justifying ego. This crossroad inevitably comes and is always challenging. It separates the true seeker from the false one. The true seeker will be willing to bare the grace of humility, whereas the false seeker will run from it. Thus begins the true path to enlightenment, granted only to those willing to be nobody. Discovering your "nobodyness" opens the door to awakening as beingness, and beyond that to the Source of all beingness.

Do not think that enlightenment is going to make you special—it's not. If you feel special in any way, then enlightenment has not occurred. I meet a lot of people who think they are enlightened and awake simply because they have had a very moving spiritual experience. They wear their enlightenment on their sleeve like a badge of honor. They sit among friends and talk about how awake they are while sipping coffee at a cafe.

The funny thing about enlightenment is that when it is authentic, there is no one to claim it. Enlightenment is very ordinary; it is nothing special. Rather than making you more special, it is going to make you less special. It plants you right in the center of a wonderful humility and innocence. Everyone else may or may not call you enlightened, but when you are enlightened the whole notion of enlightenment and someone who is enlightened is a big joke. I use the word enlightenment all the time—not to point you toward it but to point you beyond it. Do not get stuck in enlightenment.

Ego is the movement of the mind toward objects of perception in the form of grasping, and away from objects in the form of aversion. This fundamentally is all the ego is. This movement of grasping and aversion gives rise to a sense of a separate "me," and in turn the sense of "me" strengthens itself this way. It is this continuous loop of causation that tricks consciousness into a trance of identification. Identification with what? Identification with the continuous loop of suffering. After all, who is suffering? The "me" is suffering. And who is this me? It is nothing more than a sense of self caused by identification with grasping and aversion. You see, it's all a creation of the mind, an endless movie, a terrible dream. Don't try to change the dream, because trying to change it is just another movement in the dream. Look at the dream. Be aware of the dream. That awareness is It. Become more interested in the awareness of the dream than in the dream itself. What is that awareness? Who is that awareness? Don't go spouting out an answer, just be the answer. Be It.

Enlightenment means the end of all division. It is not simply having an occasional experience of unity beyond all division, it is actually being undivided. This is what nonduality truly means. It means there is just one Self, without a difference or gap between the profound revelation of Oneness and the way it is perceived and lived every moment of life. Nonduality means that the inner revelation and the outer expression of the personality are one and the same. So few seem to be interested in the greater implication contained within profound spiritual experiences, because it is the contemplation of these implications which quickly brings to awareness the inner divisions existing within most seekers.

Spiritual people can be some of the most violent people you will ever meet. Mostly, they are violent to themselves. They violently try to control their minds, their emotions, and their bodies. They become upset with themselves and beat themselves up for not rising up to the conditioned mind's idea of what it believes enlightenment to be. No one ever became free through such violence. Why is it that so few people are truly free? Because they try to conform to ideas, concepts, and beliefs in their heads. They try to concentrate their way to heaven. But Freedom is about the natural state, the spontaneous and unselfconscious expression of beingness. If you want to find it, see that the very idea of a someone who is in control is a concept created by the mind. Take one step backward into the unknown.

There is nothing more insidiously destructive to the attainment of liberation than self-doubt and cynicism. Doubt is a movement of the conditioned mind that always claims that “It's not possible,” that “Freedom is not possible for me.” Doubt always knows; it "knows" that nothing is possible. And in this knowing, doubt robs you of the possibility of anything truly new or transformative from happening. Furthermore, doubt is always accompanied by a pervasive cynicism that unconsciously puts a negative spin on whatever it touches. Cynicism is a world view which protects the ego from scrutiny by maintaining a negative stance in relationship to what it does not know, does not want to know, or cannot know. Many spiritual seekers have no idea how cynical and doubt-laden they actually are. It is this blindness and denial of the presence of doubt and cynicism that makes the birth of a profound trust impossible, a trust without which final liberation will always remain simply a dream.

All fear comes from thought in the form of memory (past) or projection (future). Thought creates time: past, present, and future. So fear exists and comes from the perceived existence of time. To be free of fear is to be free of time. Since time is a creation of thought, to be free of fear you must be free of thought. Consequently, it is important to awaken and experience your Self outside of thought, existing as eternity. So question all notions of yourself that are creations of thought and of time—of past, present, and future. Experience your eternalness, your holiness, your awakeness until you are convinced that you are never subject to the movement of thought, of fear, or of time. To be free of fear is to be full of Love.

Many spiritual seekers get "stuck in emptiness,” in the absolute, in transcendence. They cling to bliss, or peace, or indifference. When the self-centered motivation for living disappears, many seekers become indifferent. They see the perfection of all existence and find no reason for doing anything, including caring for themselves or others. I call this "taking a false refuge." It is a very subtle egoic trap; it's a fixation in the absolute and all unconscious form of attachment that masquerades as liberation. It can be very difficult to wake someone up from this deceptive fixation because they literally have no motivation to let go of it. Stuck in a form of divine indifference, such people believe they have reached the top of the mountain when actually they are hiding out halfway up its slope.

Enlightenment does not mean one should disappear into the realm of transcendence. To be fixated in the absolute is simply the polar opposite of being fixated in the relative. With the dawning of true enlightenment, there is a tremendous birthing of impersonal Love and wisdom that never fixates in any realm of experience. To awaken to the absolute view is profound and transformative, but to awaken from all fixed points of view is the birth of true nonduality. If emptiness cannot dance, it is not true emptiness. If moonlight does not flood the empty night sky and reflect in every drop of water, on every blade of grass, then you are only looking at your own empty dream. I say, “Wake up!” Then your heart will be flooded with a Love that you cannot contain.

Maybe I can point you to the great Reality within you. Maybe you will awaken to the direct experience of Self-realization. Maybe you will catch the fire of transmission. But there is one thing that no one can give you: the honesty and integrity that alone will bring you completely to the other shore. No one can give you the strength of character necessary for profound spiritual experience to become the catalyst for the evolutionary transformation called "enlightenment." Only you can find that passion within that burns with an integrity that will not settle for anything less than the Truth.

Enlightenment has nothing to do with states of consciousness. Whether you are in ego consciousness or unity consciousness is not really the point. I have met many people who have easy access to advanced states of consciousness. Though for some people this may come very easily, I also notice that many of these people are no freer than anyone else. If you don't believe that the ego can exist in very advanced states of consciousness, think again. The point isn't the state of consciousness, even very advanced ones, but an awake mystery that is the source of all states of consciousness. It is even the source of presence and beingness. It is beyond all perception and all experience. I call it "awakeness." To find out that you are empty of emptiness is to die into an aware mystery, which is the source of all existence. It just so happens that that mystery is in love with all of its manifestation and non-manifestation. You find your Self by stepping back out of yourself.

Ramana Maharshi's gift to the world was not that he realized the Self. Many people have had a deep realization of the Self. Ramana's real gift was that he embodied that realization so thoroughly. It is one thing to realize the Self; it is something else altogether to embody that realization to the extent that there is no gap between inner revelation and its outer expression. Many have glimpsed the realization of Oneness; few consistently express that realization through their humanness. It is one thing to touch a flame and know it is hot, but quite another to jump into that flame and be consumed by it.

First published in the Inner Directions Journal, Fall/Winter 1999.
© 1999 Adyashanti.

SOURCE:
Adyashanti-homebanner
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Adyashanti, author of The Way of Liberation, Falling into Grace, True Meditation, and The End of Your World, is an American-born spiritual teacher devoted to serving the awakening of all beings. His teachings are an open invitation to stop, inquire, and recognize what is true and liberating at the core of all existence. 
Asked to teach in 1996 by his Zen teacher of 14 years, Adyashanti offers teachings that are free of any tradition or ideology. “The Truth I point to is not confined within any religious point of view, belief system, or doctrine, but is open to all and found within all.”

Based in California, Adyashanti lives with his wife, Mukti, Associate Teacher of Open Gate Sangha. He teaches throughout North America and Europe, offering satsangs, weekend intensives, silent retreats, and a live internet radio broadcast.
“Adyashanti” means primordial peace.
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"Bishop John Shelby Spong On: The Resurrection"

Garden Tomb Sketch

The Christian Faith was born in the experience that we have come to call Easter. It was this Easter experience that invested Jesus with a sense of ultimacy. It caused his followers to regard his teaching as worthy of being preserved. It was the reason that Saint Paul could write, “if Christ has not been raised then your faith is in vain.” Clearly without Easter there would be no Christianity. That assertion hardly seems debatable. At this point I discover that I am at one with the most literal fundamentalists.

What is debatable, however, is the question of what the experience of Easter really was. Here the distance between the Christianity of biblical scholarship and the Christianity of the fundamentalists opens and begins to widen. Fundamentalists are quite sure of their truth. On Easter the crucified Jesus, who was laid in the grave as a deceased man on Good Friday, was by the mighty act of God, restored to life on Easter. He had thus broken the power of death for all people. If the body of Jesus was not physically restored to life, the fundamentalists claim, then Easter is fraudulent. There can be no compromise here. Those who waver on this foundational truth of Christianity have, according to this perspective, abandoned the essential core of their faith tradition. Well, my only comment on this would be to borrow the words from an old song and say, “It ain’t necessarily so!”

When one reads the New Testament in the order in which these books were written, a fascinating progression is revealed. Paul, for example, writing between the years 50 and 64 or some 20 to 34 years after the earthly life of Jesus came to an end, never describes the resurrection of Jesus as a physical body resuscitated after death. There is no hint in the Pauline corpus that one, who had died, later walked out of his grave clothes, emerged from the tomb and was seen by his disciples.

What Paul does suggest is that Easter meant that God had acted to reverse the verdict that the world had pronounced on Jesus by raising Jesus from death into God. It was, therefore, out of God in a transforming kind of heavenly vision that this Jesus then appeared to certain chosen witnesses. Paul enumerates these witnesses and, in a telling detail, says that this was the same Jesus that Paul himself had seen. No one suggests that Paul ever saw a resuscitated body. The Pauline corpus later says, “If you then have been raised with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Please note that the story of the Ascension had not been written when these Pauline words were formed. Paul did not envision the Resurrection as Jesus being restored to life in this world but as Jesus being raised into God. It was not an event in time but a transcendent and transforming truth.

Paul died, according to our best estimates, around the year 64 C.E. The first Gospel was not written until the early 70’s. Paul never had a chance to read the Easter story in any Gospel. The tragedy of later Christian history is that we read Paul through the lens of the Gospels. Thus we have both distorted Paul and also confused theology.

When Mark, the first Gospel, was written the Risen Christ never appears. The last time Jesus is seen comes when his deceased body is taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. Mark’s account of the Resurrection presents us with the narrative of mourning women confronting an empty tomb, meeting a messenger who tells them that Jesus has been raised and asking these women to convey to the disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Mark then concludes his Gospel with a picture of these women fleeing in fear, saying nothing to anyone (16:1-8). So abrupt was this ending that people began to write new endings to what they thought was Mark’s incomplete story. Two of those endings are actually reproduced in the King James Version of the Bible as verses 9-20. But thankfully, these later creations have been removed from the text of Mark in recent Bibles and placed into footnotes. The sure fact of New Testament scholarship is that Mark’s Gospel ended without the Risen Christ ever being seen by anyone.

Both Matthew, who wrote between 80-85, and Luke, who wrote between 88-92, had Mark to guide their compositions. Both changed, heightened and expanded Mark. It is fascinating to lift those changes into consciousness and to ask what was it that motivated Matthew and Luke to transform Mark’s narrative. Did they have new sources of information? Had the story grown over the years in the retelling?

The first thing to note is that Matthew changes Mark’s story about the women at the tomb. First, the messenger in Mark becomes a supernatural angel in Matthew’s story. Next Matthew says the women do see Jesus in the garden. They grasp him by the feet and worship him. This is the first time in Christian history that the Resurrection is presented as physical resuscitation. It occurs in the 9th decade of the Christian era. It should be noted that it took more than 50 years to begin to interpret the Easter experience as the resuscitated body of the deceased Jesus. When Matthew presents the story of the risen Jesus to the disciples, it is on a mountaintop in Galilee where he appears out of the sky armed with heavenly power. Recall once again that when Matthew wrote this narrative the story of Jesus’ ascension had not yet entered the tradition.
Luke follows Mark’s story line about the women at the tomb, stating that they do not see Jesus in the garden on Easter morning. Luke, however, has turned Mark’s messenger into two angelic beings. He has also transferred the locale of Easter to Jerusalem specifically denying Mark’s words spoken through the messenger that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Luke has heightened dramatically the physicality of Jesus’ resuscitated body. In Luke, the resuscitated Jesus walks, talks, eats, teaches and interprets. He also appears and disappears at will. He invites the disciples to handle his flesh. He asserts that he is not a ghost. Finally in order to remove this physically resuscitated Jesus from the earth, Luke develops the story of Jesus’ Ascension.

Even in the Ascension narrative, however, Luke is not consistent. In the last chapter of his Gospel the Ascension takes place on Easter Sunday afternoon. In the first chapter of Acts, which Luke also writes, the Ascension takes place 40 days after Easter. Whereas the messenger in Mark, who becomes an angel in Matthew, directs the disciples to Galilee for a meeting with the risen Christ, Luke specifically denies any Galilean resurrection tradition. He orders the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are endowed with power from on high. The narrative is clearly growing.

In John, the Fourth Gospel (95-100), the physicality of the Resurrection is even more enhanced. In the 20th chapter of this Gospel Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene in the garden and says to her, “Mary do not cling to me.” One cannot cling to something that is non-physical. Then John suggests that Jesus ascends immediately into heaven before appearing, presumably out of heaven, that night to the disciples, who are missing Thomas. Though Jesus appears able to enter an upper room in which the windows have been closed and the doors locked, he is once again portrayed as being quite physical. This physical quality is further enhanced a week later when Jesus makes a second appearance to the disciples, this time with Thomas present. It is in this narrative that Thomas is invited to touch the nail prints and to examine the place in his side into which the spear had been hurled. All of these appearances take place in Jerusalem.

Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel portrays a Galilean appearance much later in time after the disciples have actually returned to their fishing trade. Here Jesus directs them to a great catch of fish, 153 of them to be specific. Then he eats with them. Finally he restores Peter after his three-fold denial.

The Easter story appears to have grown rather dramatically over the years. Something happened after the crucifixion of Jesus that convinced the disciples that Jesus shared in the eternal life of God and was thus available to them as a living presence. This experience was so profound that the disciples, who at his arrest had fled in fear, were now reconstituted and empowered even to die for the truth of their vision. This experience had the power to force the Jewish disciples to redefine the God of the Jews so that Jesus could be seen as part of who God is. Finally this experience was so profound that it ultimately created, on the first day of the week, a new holy day that was quite different from the Sabbath, to enable Christians to mark this transforming moment with a liturgical act called “the breaking of bread.”

When these biblical data are assembled and examined closely, two things become clear. First something of enormous power gripped the disciples following the crucifixion that transformed their lives. Second, it was some fifty years before that transforming experience was interpreted as the resuscitation of a three days dead Jesus to the life of the world. Our conversation about the meaning of Easter must begin where these two realities meet.

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The Dance of Yin & Yang: Cultivating Feminine Flow and Masculine Presence" by Marilynne Chophel Cultivating Feminine Flow and Masculine Presence

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The ancient paths of meditation and yoga are about wholeness, awakening, and embracing all that life has to offer. Every situation, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is an opportunity to become more aware of who we are, what we respond to, and how we experience life. Everything we experience can be seen as an opportunity to open and expand our consciousness, and to integrate the seemingly opposing aspects of our self. We can embrace opposites, seeing them not as contradictions but as the dynamic polarities of our aliveness, our whole selves. We can recognize that every person, whether man or woman, has both masculine (Yang) and feminine (Yin) qualities. These qualities arise from the lifeforce energy that manifests uniquely in each of us.

Yang, your masculine essence, is the active expression of your self – from which you manifest presence, strength, direction, and purpose. Yang energy is the quality you call upon to take initiative, establish leadership, and achieve goals. Yang energy also creates structure and a safe container for Yin to open and express its aliveness.
Yin, your feminine essence, is the receptive, open, and flowing expression of your self - that dreams and surrenders to the magic and wonder of life and love. When you call upon your inner Yin, you become more alive, expansive, and permeable to everything around you. Yin energy is devotional love, playful joy, and spontaneous creativity. Yin sees beauty everywhere and appreciates the details in everything. Yin energy also follows or yields – especially to Yang's active energy.

We can explore what happens when our Yin and Yang energies are in a harmonious dance, or out of balance. "Balanced and integrated, these energies guide us through life as a dynamic whole. We move forward with clear vision, yet we are willing to trust and flow with whatever life brings us. As we become more whole, our need to look outside of ourselves for love falls away. We experience the sweetness of union of our inner man and inner woman. From this place, we can create more harmonious relationships and more joy in our lives," according to Margot Anand.

We invite you to play with your inner feminine and masculine, by yourself and with a friend. First, take a personal assessment of where in your life you are more Yin or Yang, including at work, at home, in intimacy, and in relationship to others. Can you quantify how developed Yin and Yang are in the different aspects of your life?
With a friend, practice embodying and expressing Yin and Yang energies. Taking turns, decide who first will be Yang as the leader, and who will be Yin as the follower. During this experience, Yang leads Yin in creatively inspired movement, or in a number of other activities, and Yin simply follows, surrendering to whatever initiative or direction Yang offers. After a while, switch roles. In this playful game, Yang becomes inventive, challenging, generous, and risk-taking. Yin becomes open, receptive, and responsive. This practice builds trust and intimacy between partners, as well as spontaneity and sincerity, love, and playfulness. It challenges your inhibitions about asking for what you want, and cultivates the art of fully giving and receiving. The changes and reversals in roles will enrich your experience of the masculine and feminine qualities present within yourself and in others.
By Marilynne Chophel
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"Turning the World right side up: The Feminine Remedy" by Marilyn Nyborg

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YIN SYMBOL

The concept of the Sacred Feminine begins with the obvious but neglected truth that everything on Earth is born of the Feminine. The Feminine Principle of life is characterized by qualities that have been identified culturally as the domain of women, but in truth are an aspect of wholeness, in humanity and in life.

These qualities of the Feminine Principle are typically described as interconnection, unconditional love, nurturing, heart, inclusion, cooperation, receptivity, being, allowing, relatedness, intuition, oneness, and compassion. These qualities of wholeness have been at risk, being undervalued and nearly lost, under centuries of culture characterized by the unbalanced masculine love of power.

The qualities of the Feminine Principle have increasingly been recognized as urgently needed to address the imbalances and global crises threatening our survival on the planet at this time in history. But this cannot be done by women alone. Men must also revalue, reclaim and integrate the Feminine qualities of wholeness within themselves. Many men of heart have already done so.

Why call the Feminine “sacred?” Many are choosing to call the Feminine Principle “sacred”– i.e., the “Sacred Feminine”– to indicate the multiple life-affirming dimensions of the Feminine and its inherent essence of seeing all life as sacred, as interconnected and as unique expressions of one vast wholeness. The essence of the sacred feminine is about birthing and nurturing life. If we are to survive on the planet, this essence must be given fuller respect expression, and integration.

Daughters of the Patriarch and the daughters of evolution.
A patriarch is a man who exercises autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. This is a Greek word, a composition of πατήρ (pater) meaning “father” and ρχων (archon) meaning “leader”, “chief”, “ruler”, “king”, etc.

Feminism comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies concerned with gender inequalities and equal rights for women. How do we define ourselves as women? I think the Sarah Palin phenomenon has really brought this into question!!

Men and women cannot be simply defined by their assigned gender apparatus. We know for example, that men and women DO think and act differently. Viva le difference!!

The psychological and emotional differences are at a deeper level than the physical. We are all or most of us, born as either the son or daughter of the patriarch.

What does that mean? It means we have either taken on the roles assigned to us by eons of male domination OR we have through self introspection chosen to identify ourselves with values outside of those handed down though cultural and religious doctrine.

Both son’s and daughters of the dominator model have been restricted in their emotional and social responses to life. Following rigid traditions, rules AND roles men will be men…..and women have their place. Even as our culture has progressed we find daughters of the patriarch still play within the lines of what is expected of a woman and or, we see really powerful women, strong bright women like Sarah Palin following the male model for success. First rule: play like one of the boys.

Then there are the evolved men and women, who play outside the lines that were drawn for them. They are not confined to developing only one side or the other of their brains, personalities and emotions.

But have explored and begun to honor the fullness of their beings. What does that look like? They are not locked in to roles….like “my better half” which implies we are only living from half of ourselves.

Instead they have explored and embraced a sense of wholeness. For men it is the freedom to explore and express their sensitivities and feelings. Often teased or beaten out of them growing up in a man’s world, or being sent off to war where the sensitive is replaced by insensitivity causing them to close down anything at the feeling level.

A recent study showed in corporations that men ARE embracing feminine responses in their management styles quite successfully. While at the same time women continue to be seen as weak when they come from their innate modes of operating.

Women who break from the mole they were expected to live value their emotions and do not hold them as a sign of weakness. They trust their intuition and by embracing their inner masculine bring these qualities into action. Oprah demonstrates this integration in which her deepest feminine qualities are powered by her masculine thrust and manifestation.

There are extremes on both sides: Those who live only by rules from outside of themselves and those who have thrown out all tradition putting themselves first in everything. Somewhere in moderation we can respectfully connect and grow in our wholeness while maintaining the best of both.

In doing so, we can come together in partnership and can contribute so much more to building a world of peace.

HER STORY
From Thom Hartmann’s book The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

“We have now traced the history of women from Paradise to the nineteenth century and have heard nothing through the long roll of the ages but the clink of their fetters.” – Lady Jane Wilde l821 to l896

A friend who’s a psychiatrist with training in neutrochemistry once joked to me, “The most dangerous drug in the world is testosterone.” History suggests he is right.

Exhaustive analysis of “pre-historic” cultures, such as done by Riane Eisler and others, indicates that in virtually all Older Cultures the women were of equal status with the men, and in a few they were even in charge. One theory for why this was is that women uniquely bring life into the world, and it may not have been until humans moved from hunting//gathering to herding/agriculture that they began to understand genetics. The women ran the show because they controlled life itself, producing life from their bodies.

When everybody figured out that the men had a role to play in the process, however, during the early herding times, some of the men pulled off a power grab, converting the gods that were worshipped from female to male, and asserting control over the fertility of women the same way they controlled the fertility of a field or a flock of sheep. The men took over.

At the same time, testosterone-driven behaviors came to dominate the beginnings of our Younger Culture: aggression, competition, domination, warfare.

When European missionaries taught Australia Aborigine hunter/gatherers how to play “football” back in the early 1900’s , the Aboriginal children played until both sides had equal scores; that was when the game was over, in their mind, and it boggled the British missionaries who taught them the game. The missionaries worked for over a year to convince the children that there should be winners and losers. The children lived in a matrilineal society that valued cooperation; the Englishmen came from a patriarchal
society, which valued domination.

The Iroquois had figured this out a thousand years or more ago; only women in the tribe could vote on most issues. As a result, decisions regarding relations with other tribes were more often made in the context of “what will work for our children?” rather than “who wins/” or considerations of pride, power or conquest.

Similarly, we find that populations are exploding in virtually every nation of the world where women are dominated, treated like cattle or goods, or exploited and controlled. The men in such countries are making the decisions, and one of the male values is “have many sons to build the biggest army” [and, of course, another common one is “have sex whenever you want, with whomever you want”].

On the other hand, in those nations where women have relatively equal position and power with men, there are lower birth rates, often even to the point of zero population growth, as has been achieved in many of the countries of Northern Europe. In virtually every country of the world we can see this equation demonstrated: male domination equals population explosion; relative male-female equality equals sustainable populations.

In this regard, you could say that the women’s rights movement is truly a HUMAN rights movement.

So another solution to this mess we find ourselves in is to give power back to women in all realms, including the social, familial, religious, military and business worlds.”

SOURCE:
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ABOUT MARILYN NYBORG
http://womenwakingtheworld.com/marilyn-rosenbrock-nyborg-bio/
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"Richard Wilhelm: Bringing East to West" - Biography" by Carl Jung

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Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching and the Secret of the Golden Flower was one of the major influences in this cultural shift; both of these works had an introduction by Carl Jung.

From
The School of Wisdom:
Richard Wilhelm is the Marco Polo of the inner world of China.
He, more than any other, is responsible for opening up to the West the vast spiritual heritage of China and thus all of Asia. He translated the great philosophical works from Chinese into German, where they have in turn been translated into the other major languages of the world, including English. To this day, among the dozens of translations of the I Ching now available, his 1923 translation stands head and shoulders above the rest. He introduced the I Ching, and Chinese philosophy, to the School of Wisdom when it first opened in 1920. These ideas have been a integral part of its program ever since. Richard Wilhelm, and the ancient Chinese Sages he came to know so well, are key Ancestors of the School of Wisdom.

Another student of the School of Wisdom, Carl Jung, wrote an interesting sketch of the inner world of Richard Wilhelm, as part of his Jung’s autobiography.

More than just a linguist and scholar, Wilhelm was a spiritual seeker who penetrated to the very depths of Chinese spirituality without losing his European frame of reference. Living in China for over twenty years he saw first hand the great cultural and spiritual differences between East and West. At the time, the Europeans were conquering colonial powers in China and had little or no respect of Chinese culture. The Chinese in turn considered the Europeans to be barbarians and closed their spiritual traditions to Westerners. Richard Wilhelm was one of the first to realize the value of Chinese thinking, to bridge the great divide between the two cultures. This division was internalized in his own soul after he moved to China in 1899 and began to penetrate its spiritual secrets. As he integrated Chinese thinking and world views into his own life, the gap between Western and Oriental culture split his very being in two. The new Chinese part of himself did not take over, he did not lose his European identity. He was able to translate the Chinese ideas back into the European gestalt. But the effort required was tremendous and he struggled his whole adult life to try to merge the two divergent spiritual traditions in his soul.

This struggle manifested itself physically in 1910 when Wilhelm contracted amoebic dysentery from Chinese food and lay seriously ill for months. The next year he met Lao Nai-hsuan, the Chinese sage who helped him through the internal conflict and Wilhelm recovered. With Lao’s help he bridged the gap and found inner tranquility, at least for a time. But many years later upon his final return to Germany in 1924, the tranquility lapsed, and the fight between the European and Chinese sides of Wilhelm renewed. After only four years in Europe, at age fifty five, Wilhelm suffered a relapse of his amoebic dysentery. The long-dormant microscopic organism that had invaded his system and triggered his illness in China in 1910 led to his premature death in 1930. Carl Jung saw in his relapse and early death an inability to integrate the two sides of himself. Although not completely successful in this personal struggle to merge the two cultures in his psyche, his writings, especially his translations of the I Ching: the Book of Changes and the Secret of the Golden Flower, certainly create a strong bridge for people in the West to approach and understand the unique spiritual and cultural insights of the East.

Richard Wilhelm was born far from China, in Germany, in 1873. As a student in a prestigious school, Tubinger Slift, he had broad cultural interests with a special love for the works of the great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He was by nature a deeply spiritual person and his studies naturally turned to theology. In 1895 at the age of 22 he was ordained as a protestant minister and served briefly as a parish minister. Young Richard was idealistic and yearned for broader horizons and adventure. At age 26 he joined the Allgemein Protestantischer Missionsverein and agreed to serve as a missionary in China in the German colonial city of Tsingtao.

Shortly after Wilhelm arrived in China in 1899 the Boxer Rebellion erupted. A large faction of radical Chinese began a violent revolution against European colonialism. All Westerners were targeted for attack, especially missionaries. Although the Boxer Rebellion was eventually crushed, the Europeans were sensitized to the need for better communication with their Chinese subjects. Against this background, Richard Wilhelm began studying the Chinese language as soon as he arrived in China. He quickly discovered that he had a natural gift for the language. Chinese, and the other languages of the East which are derived from it such as Japanese and Korean, are completely different from the languages of the West. They are based on thousands of characters or ideograms, rather than letters. Translation from Eastern languages into Western languages is extremely difficult. The few who can do it are highly prized, especially in missionary work. Recognizing the exceptional aptitude for translation, the missionary group allowed Richard Wilhelm to spend his time studying the language. In 1905, the year his son Helmut was born, he began to translate his first Chinese book into German. His study and translation of Chinese religious life continued until the day he died.

As Wilhelm learned the language he became intrigued with the Chinese religious texts he was studying. Wilhelm quickly developed a passion for Chinese culture, particularly their religious texts. In Tsingtao and in Peking where he studied at the University, he encountered many of the cultural leaders of China at the time. Described by his wife as a warm and gregarious person, Wilhelm was able to befriend many Chinese and learn their way of life. This association with the Chinese language and culture began to transform him into a new person. He began to see the world through the perspective of the Chinese. He was very impressed by the deep spirituality which he found. He came to China intending to convert the heathens to Christianity. But almost without realizing it, the missionary had himself become converted. Many years later Wilhelm would boast to Carl Jung that during his entire twenty-year stay in China he never baptized a single Chinese. He discovered instead that his true mission was to create a translation bridge between Western and Eastern spirituality.

In 1911 at age 38 Wilhelm met Lao Nai-hsuan, the Chinese sage and scholar who profoundly influence his life. After Lao helped Wilhelm recover from amoebic dysentery, Wilhelm founded the Confucius Society in Tsing Tao, and Lao Nai-hsuan became its head. Their relationship grew close. Lao lived from 1843 to 1921. Wilhelm described him as an eminent scholar of the old school, one of the last of his kind, and referred to him as his honored teacher. He was one of the few classic scholars then open to change. He realized that China’s isolation from the rest of the world had to end. Lao was a true Chinese sage, related to the family of Confucius, and trained in Confucian government and traditions. He was also adept at Chinese yoga and psychological methods from the Taoist traditions. His special expertise and passion was the I Ching, and this love quickly spread to Wilhelm. Lao came to trust the extraordinary missionary, and took Wilhelm as his pupil. For the first time the deep spiritual traditions and insights of China were shared with a European.

In 1913 Lao and Wilhelm began the monumental task of translating the I Ching from Chinese to German. The task continued for ten years. At the same time Wilhelm was translating the book into German, Lao was creating a new Chinese edition of the book entitled the Book of Changes According To The Ch’eng School. Lao directly assisted Wilhelm in understanding all aspects of the text. In Wilhelm’s words,
Lao first opened my mind to the wonders of the Book of Changes. Under his experienced guidance I wandered entranced through this strange yet familiar world. The translation of the text was made after detailed discussion. Then the German version was retranslated into Chinese and it was only after the meaning of the text had been fully brought out that we considered our version to be truly a translation.

In 1921, just as the last pages of the printer’s proofs of the finished translation were coming back, Lao Nai-hsuan died, his life’s work complete. Wilhelm continued to edit the work and to add his own comments over the next few years until he concluded the I Ching: Book of Changes, in 1923. The next year he was forced to return to Germany where he assumed a position as a Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Frankfurt. In 1925 he founded the China Institute and served as its director until his death.

From 1924, until his death in 1930, the focus of his work shifted from translation to lecturing and teaching. He tried to promote the great culture and spiritual insights of China. To do so effectively he had to personally serve as a kind of bridge of the great cultural divide between China and Europe. At first he encountered opposition and hostility to his efforts on many fronts. Europe was nationalistic and chauvinistic. The academic community distrusted him because of his missionary background, and the religious community distrusted him because of his transcendence of Christianity. But a few listened, including Count Keyserling, who was also opposed to the nationalists, academics and orthodox religions. Wilhelm participated in Keyserling’s book on marriage, writing the chapter on Chinese marriage and its spiritual significance. Wilhelm also participated in the School of Wisdom in Darmstadt. Due to his influence on Count Keyserling, and his son, Arnold Keyserling, Chinese philosophy, particularly the I Ching, became a central part of the School of Wisdom curriculum.

At the School of Wisdom Richard Wilhelm met Carl Jung, who became his good friend. Jung also realized the great significance of Wilhelm’s work, particularly the I Ching. Jung helped Wilhelm gain respectability in the German academic community, and wrote lengthy introductions to Wilhelm’s two most important translations, I Ching: Book of Changes and The Secret of the Golden Flower. These two books had a profound influence on Carl Jung.

With the help of Keyserling and Jung, Wilhelm’s work in Germany eventually met with some success. Wilhelm’s books were published, and he met and influenced other important cultural leaders, such as the writer Herman Hesse and the musician Joseph Hauer. But according to Jung, Wilhelm was not able to make a smooth psychological transition back to European life. Wilhelm began to cut himself off from his spiritual roots in China. In Jung’s words, Wilhelm “seemed to feel the pressure of the European spirit”. When Jung first met Wilhelm he seemed completely Chinese to Jung, in outward manner as well as way of writing and speaking. But a few years later this changed. Now Wilhelm’s lectures on China began to sound more like Christian sermons to Jung. The two sides of himself, the Chinese and the German, began to split apart, with the Chinese side going into the unconscious. As the Christian views and forms of thought moved into the foreground, his resistance to the Chinese bacteria living in his body weakened. Wilhelm relapsed into the amoebic dysentery he originally contracted in 1910. Carl Jung tried to treat him, but in the end the inner psychological conflict between east and West proved too strong, and Richard Wilhelm died at age 57. His grave is shown below. His great spiritual legacy, I Ching: Book of Changes and The Secret of the Golden Flower, and other books, will live forever.
(Note: a search of the Internet will reveal full text versions of some of his books, including the I Ching, most of which are of questionable copyright status, and thus not reproduced here.)

SOURCES:
http://jungcurrents.com/tag/richard-wilhelm

https://schoolofwisdom.com/about/richard-wilhelm-one-of-the-school-of-wisdoms-most-notable-teachers/
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"Relationship vs. Relating — Bringing Our Togetherness Back to Life" by Jeannie Zandi

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Click here to buy "Discovering Your Soul Nature "

By showing us who we are and how to live surrendered to what is, nondual wisdom can greatly minimize the suffering that is our common human affliction in a separation-based society.  This awareness as a psychotherapist throws a new light on the issues that a client brings to the session room.  Even the least “spiritual” client, who may not be interested in esoteric talk of one’s true nature as consciousness, is interested in suffering less, especially in the relationships that matter most.  Here, I will explore the difference between the concept of relationship, which is born of conditioning and can only perpetuate the isolation and distress we feel inside of identification with a “me,” and the actual experience of moment-to-moment relating, which is our birthright and an expression of our natural state.

Typically when we speak of relationship in our culture, we are referring to the concept of relationship, to an object.  We say “I have a relationship,” or “I’m in a relationship,” “I want a relationship,” or “My relationship sucks.”  And we grow up with the promise that if we find the right person and do the right things, that relationship will bring us happiness, joy, fulfillment, belonging and the end of loneliness.  We even bring this conditioning into our spiritual mythology as a belief that “manifesting our soul mate” will cause Nirvana to descend upon us.

The only thing that can deliver what we are seeking through relationship is contact with, and an ever-deepening living from, the Real.*  Thus relationship, as an object to pursue, acquire, get right and keep, becomes a false god, heaped with the hopes and dreams of our lost connection to our deepest Self. To the extent that the relating between any two people is pressured to deliver on the societal promise, we turn something that is natural and easeful (learning about and enjoying each other, negotiating and appreciating differences) into a stressful attempt to force the actual relating to adhere to an inner ideal so that we are not left feeling the things from which the relationship is supposed to save us.  A conditioned relationship gone bad simply becomes a competition to squeeze our sense of our own goodness out of the “other” by getting them to behave in the ways we need them to in order to feel good.

The concept of relationship isn’t simple, like the concept of a ball – something round that we can throw, kick or hit in a game.  It is a highly complex set of assumptions, expectations, beliefs, rules, and conditions that are widely shared in our culture, though some variation exists between groups, families and individuals.  In addition to the underlying assumptions, which are relatively static, there are dynamic learned strategies we use to attempt to evaluate, correct, solidify and nail down something that is meant to be beyond measurement, alive, changing and unpredictable – everything from pleasing to pouting to spying to working on our “stuff” to be good enough.

This complex conceptual system is largely held unconsciously – we don’t even know that this mutually bought-into system does not reflect reality.  In fact, we don’t even realize it’s a conceptual system.  And sometimes, neither does the therapist.  So the first step a therapist needs to take before offering couples therapy is to examine the conditioned assumptions, expectations, beliefs, rules and conditions, and the accompanying strategies that make up her own complex conceptual box called “relationship.”  This is no small feat.  The more open, clear and self-knowledgeable the therapist is about these, the freer the space she can offer to clients.  (A “couple” is another complex conceptual system, as is a “human being.”  Discovering the reality and actuality of what any of these words points to is a fascinating excavation of our true nature.)


In nondual circles we talk a lot about our “conditioning,” but what is it? In psychology, it is “a process of changing behavior by rewarding or punishing a subject each time an act is performed until the subject associates the action with pleasure or distress.”  (dictionary.reference.com)  What we are left with after the completion of our extensive social conditioning process are large areas where we are unconsciously seeking pleasure or avoiding distress instead of expressing the truth of our being.  And despite its occasional and generally short-term benefits (getting pats or avoiding whacks), it turns out the result of this behavior is suffering, as we get further and further away from leading simple, present-centered, truth-filled lives from our natural state, and become more and more unconsciously invested in our pleasure-seeking/distress-avoiding strategies.

We don’t suffer because of our relationships – we suffer because of our disconnection from the Real.  And there is nothing better to distract us from the search for the Real than the promise that some object out there is finally going to make us happy.  As long as we are living predominantly through unconscious concepts and seeking fulfillment through the acquisition of objects, we are putting our attention on conditioned pseudo-reality versus actual reality, and perpetuating our suffering.  Attempting to relate to another human being through one’s relationship concept is a dead-end street in terms of joy, fulfillment and intimacy.

Relationship built on conditioning is not sustainable, transformative, growthful or, in the long run, fun or good for anyone.  As we increasingly seek to solidify the other in order to feel good about ourselves, and find ourselves being solidified in order to evoke positivity from our partner, the life goes out of our togetherness.  And how could it not?  Instead of tending to alive relating, we are seeking to change living, breathing, dynamic expressions of God, and the mysterious space in which we meet, into solid, predictable objects.  It can be a relief for couples who come to therapy to realize that they are not failures at applying a wonderful system that works for everyone else, but rather are sane wonderful people who unknowingly have proven through their experience the obsolescence of our conditioned model.  They are actually healthy for the fact that they cannot make an insane strategy work on each other, and their seeking for help is more a sign of success than failure. 

The complete and utter failure of the conditioned relationship model produces the humility that is a prerequisite to relating from aliveness, just as the utter failure of the “me” model is a prerequisite to relating as a human being from our natural state.  So let’s raise a glass to the entry point to true living – total and unmitigated failure!  If love is involved, if the two people have discovered something real about their togetherness and kept in touch with it despite their difficulties, that channel for love can be the beckoning glint that leads them further into the cauldron of their own undoing.  So you now can see my bias as a spiritual teacher sitting with any two people on these issues – whosoever loves and enters into sustained relating opens the possibility of the death of “me.” 

At some point an ethical consideration presents itself – is it fair to foist one’s penchant for dying to God upon one’s clients, when they are simply coming in to save their relationship?  I tell people who I sit with that my emphasis is on the truth and alive relating, not on any particular structure of relationship, as the rigidified concept of their “relationship” might actually be what is getting in the way of satisfying relating!  If they run screaming from the room, I know they are someone else’s clients.  I think each true servant of humanity benefits from discovering and understanding her own approach and the perspective behind it.  Ideally this becomes explicit in the counseling room at some point as well.  The good news is that the benefit of nondual wisdom is not all about death and dismemberment – to relate simply from the present actually does serve our happiness, it’s just a deeper form than the pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding happiness on which we were betting the farm. 

What does relating look like outside of the concept of relationship?  If we allow our beloved dreams to collapse, along with all of our scheming and strategizing to obtain them, and rest here in the moment as clueless not-knowing, what happens to our relationships?  What are they?  If we check in with every breath to see if what we are saying and doing is in alignment with our highest and deepest truth, what aspects of what we call our relationships will survive and what aspects will need an overhaul?  What aspects of what we consider “me” will survive and how much will need to be discarded?
 
What is it like to function inside a relationship that is an object and what is it like to relate from aliveness and actuality without that concept?  What are the rules, the feel, and the quality of each?  If you saw a couple of humans relating from the first or the second, what would each look like?  We can use the two descriptions not only to understand what I’m trying to convey, but also to see ourselves reflected in these descriptions during a particularly free or a particularly challenged relational moment, and learn something about the place from which we are relating. 

The concept of relationship is a noun, an “it.”  It’s something to get, to have, to keep, to protect, to tell people about: “I have one.”  We are either “in” or “out;” it is either “on” or “off.”  This sort of relationship bolsters and supports the “me.”  In fact, a “me” is a prerequisite to living inside this sort of relationship, and the relationship can become an ornament on our “me” tree, another trinket that we use to prove that we are somebody.  Somebody good!  Each aspect of a highly conditioned and complex concept such as relationship has a good side and a bad side, depending on whether we have been conditioned to glean pleasure or distress from it. (In other words, neither “side” actually produces pleasure or distress – it is our conditioning that does so.) So within the conceptual system of relationship, generally if I have one, I’m good.  If I don’t have one, I’m bad.  If I have a bad one, I’m bad (or my partner is).  If I have a good one, I’m good (I’ll take the credit here).  It’s going well today, I’m good.  It’s not going well today, I’m bad (or my partner is).   The reality is our sense of well-being and connection to the Real is not actually predicated upon certain relational configurations, but it seems so within conditioning.

The 360-degree sphere of actual experience (what’s it actually like in this moment for everyone, below thought?) is shrunken down to a finite set of possibilities: good and bad.  We are nowhere near the actual experience of the moment – we are too busy evaluating it and scheming about how to get good and safe in the next moment.  With each aspect of the relationship concept, there’s a way to be good and a way to be bad, and unconsciously we’re working overtime to be good, which actually obscures our connection to our inherent goodness as being.  Once we discover our true being, the whole system of identification that keeps us enslaved to proving our goodness and minimizing our badness, is seen as a ridiculous waste of time.  [A short anecdote here – when my daughter was 7, she came home from school and asked, “Mama, what does ‘being fake’ mean?”  To which I replied, “That’s when you pretend you are different than you are, or you feel differently than you do, so that people will like you.”  She exclaimed with horror, “Why would anyone want to do that!?”]

Alive
relating, on the other hand, is a verb, and it requires no maintenance or evaluation.  There is nothing to be “in” or “out” of – it just IS and it is like this right now.  The quality of the relating in the moment is met, without distancing from it to evaluate it, manipulate it or manage it.  The emphasis is not so much on what it means, but on noticing that it is, and deeply receiving/feeling how it is, whatever the flavor.  Relating is happening all the time, for your enjoyment or excruciation, courtesy of the Beloved.  Within conditioning, we skip over the actual experience of relating in pursuit of the “it” of relationship (getting a good one, making sure it’s going well) because we think that achieving the “it” will get us somewhere good.  But any of us who have some years under our belts know that this approach to living doesn’t result in anything but suffering.  There’s something wrong with the program, not with you.

In addition to this goodness/badness game of conditioned relationship, there are also tracking systems – it’s important to keep track of who’s good, how good we are, how good we are in relation to this one, how good we are in relation to that one, and who owes whom.  We move toward the ones who make us feel good and away from the ones who make us feel bad.  Again, our relating in this case is steered by the unconscious habit to seek pleasure and avoid distress, not by the truth.  When we are conscious of this dynamic, we can willingly move toward pain and move through it, so as to start to develop a wider view of the possibilities in any moment.  When our vision has shrunk to see only good and bad, only short-term pleasure and pain, unconsciously we will move toward trying to get good every time, ignoring reality and possibility, like rats in a maze.

Relating through a concept has fear as its motivational energy, whereas relating from actuality is based on love.  Where conditioning lives, unconscious fear lives too.  In the absence of conditioning, love and freedom reign.  In fear-based me-centric relationship, our questions are, “How does this serve me?” and “What’s safe?”  In alive relating, our questions are, “How does this serve God?” and “What’s true?”

Within the paradigm of relationship as concept or as an ”it,” I need one to give me love and connection.  If I have one, I’ll have love.  If I behave properly inside of one, I’ll have love.  If you behave properly inside of it, I’ll have love.  So I need it and I need to control it, so that I have the good stuff.  When we are in this sort of acquire-and-protect mode it has the feel of going and getting something, of working to get it, to secure it, to nail it down.  This sort of togetherness is based on an underlying sense of lack and the need for control in order to guarantee love’s supply.  It requires at least one project manager, as we try to control things so our comfort is maximized, shutting down pieces of ourselves as necessary.  The project needs to be managed closely because if we did not stay on top of it, where would we be? 

In alive relating, I am love, I am connectedness itself, and the fact of love’s abundance is clear from the bubbling fountain of my being.  From alive relating and resting in the Real, it’s completely ludicrous to think that love comes from the outside.  Pats and kind words are nice, but our bread and butter come from within.  In alive relating, the sense is, the Holy has it handled.  So there is a giving over of anticipation, management, and figuring it out, for this right here.  Maybe it will end, maybe it won’t end, maybe you’ll like me today, and maybe you won’t – no management, just a meeting of what is. Alive relating invites a settling into the now, a settling into what we are, whatever the feel of it is in this moment.  

In the concept of relationship, separation reigns and objects seem very solid.  So there’s “me” and there’s “you” and there’s “the relationship.”  There are other discrete objects too, those who might threaten it, those who might take us away from it.  In alive relating, objects disappear as the background becomes the foreground.  Mistrust is met as it rises and dissolves as we rest as vibrating Being.  Objects become almost transparent, like waves.  There’s a sense of a you and a me, but what’s really primary is this vibrating field, this alive moment, to which everyone belongs.

Inside the relationship concept, you are a solid, predictable object, or at least you should be. Don’t surprise me, because a “me” doesn’t like to feel out of control, and I’ll blame those feelings on you for misbehaving.  When I come home, be home.  When I say “I love you,” say “I love you” back.  Don’t leave me out here in the sea without a paddle. You are my reassurance object, my reference point for my safety and you owe it to me to be that, according to the rules of the relationship concept.   The primary relating here is between conceptual images, and the alive flow of life is mistrusted and seen as a potential threat to the relationship.  The unknown is seen as dangerous and thus filled in with identification, definition and meaning.  Authentic impulses are seen as suspicious, potentially leading to the dissolution of the status quo, and therefore are ignored or downright discouraged, as we take solace in our predictable, defined togetherness.  Our focus is on how we need to be for the other to feel good and loved, or how we need our partner to be so we feel that way.

Within alive relating, you are an ever-changing miracle, and so am I.  You are a wonder!  An unpredictable, wild force of nature, and I love you to be that, because I love actuality.  I am not demanding anything of you because I see you as a gift to cherish and enjoy, a free being whose truth and path are not mine with which to meddle.  The primary relationship (if we can even call it that, as the sense of “two” dissolves) is between emptiness and the flow of experience.  There is a trust and love of the flow, and a sense that the unknown is enlivening.  Emphasis goes to what is happening now, whether it brings pleasure or causes distress, because we’re here for it, we love the truth, the actual flowing moment!  We are both expressions of this flow.  When we are dropped in and dissolved in this, the feeling is that everything is alive and new, nothing is ever the same.  Authentic impulses are celebrated, made room for, as possibilities for each of us and our togetherness expand.  This sort of relating can dismantle what’s left of the clinging “me.”  Our focus is on blessing and freeing the other to be the unique, organic, authentic expression that they are, leaving identification behind.

In the concept of relationship, time is important.  Our relationship has a past and a future.  Our past becomes very important either as a wellspring of inspiration [“Remember how in love we were?”], material for identification [“We’ve been married 56 years, longer than anyone we know!”], or as a database to draw upon when cross-blaming [“Well, why should you be mad at me for being attracted to him, you were attracted to her!”].  Our future as well becomes very important – we need constant reassurance that we have one together, to plug up our great fear of the unknown and unpredictable nature of being alive, and to cheer us up with promises of trips and goals that distract us from our current suffering. 

In relating, past and future fade and there is only the timeless immediacy of now.  There’s just this.  Right here.  All our eggs are in the basket of the present, not in saving anything for later but in fully experiencing this.  Memories from the past, whether pleasant or unpleasant, are met as they arise, when they arise, without fishing for them or using them to bolster good-me-ness.  Thoughts of the future are traded in for a complete immersion in the trust of the flow, no matter where it leads or how it feels.

Within the relationship concept, the structure and agreements of our partnership come from socially conditioned and unconsciously held rules and agreements, and these are seen as a standard that “everyone knows.”  These rigid rules and agreements are imposed like a template upon actuality rather than rising from it, and deviating from them (or wanting to) is seen as not loving the other or somehow betraying the relationship. 

The creative structure that arises through alive relating is birthed out of what’s alive and organically enduring for these two unique beings.  Contrary to belief, there is structure in God’s country – the Holy builds mountains that last eons and cells that are perfect for their function.  The structure here rises out of what is, rather than being imposed on it.  It is mutual, conscious, unique and revisable.  When the structure of relating is built from moment-to-moment abidance in the truth, it is a gift, but a gift that must be subject to new bulletins from the Holy in each moment.  Conscious agreements are forged as long as they are alive, mutual, and born of these unique beings at this time [rather than from rigid definitions of “should”], and they form what we are together.  Rather than relying on rigid rules to make sure things go well, we trust in our mutual integrity and respect, and our ability to stay in touch with each other in an ongoing way.  Sadly, most of our relational structures are built from unconscious encrusted ideas that we are trying to cram living, breathing beings into, rather than from Divine Will – and so turn out to be deadening prison cells.

Inside the concept of relationship, our idea of commitment is to a person and to an unconscious and rigidified form of relationship with that person.  We make efforts to preserve the structure and adhere to it, and follow its rules, as proof of our love.  The commitment from within alive relating is to the authentic expression of our highest and most tender Self, and regard for all beings is included in that – a strict adherence to what is true for us is combined with a constant awareness of the sensitive heart of the other.

One caveat – the concepts that rise out of talk of nonduality and freedom can be used to justify all kinds of shoddy behavior in relationship.  In the name of “no structure” we can be running a pattern of fear of intimacy.  In the name of our “freedom,” we can demand our narcissistic right to do whatever we want regardless of the effect on another.  It is important that we explore the bounds and possibilities of relating with people who share our own depth of integrity, self-responsibility and purity of intention. 

To journey from living within conditioning to living free is to land here, now, dropping everything and noticing what is.  It is the willingness to look, see and become aware of how conditioned complexes operate within our energetic systems, to take responsibility for them, and to find the infinite possibilities that lie outside their walls of right and wrong, good and bad.  It is to have passion for self-knowledge, a thirst for drinking the pure, clean water of our own authentic expression.  It is to find support for the things we have to face as we drop our conditioned patterns (they were born of pain and it’s pain we’ll get to feel as we stop using them to cope) and open to a radical vulnerability in the moment.  It is to free every human being we come in contact with to be who they are and to feel whatever in us has difficulty with that.  When things get confusing, it is to find sources of clarity in those who have carved out areas of sanity in themselves.  And by being a pioneer in her own discovery of Self-in-relating, the nondual therapist can become such a source of clarity, and a torchbearer for others.

SOURCE:
http://undividedjournal.com/2012/11/29/relationship-vs-relating/

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"What is the Sacred Feminine?" by Vikki Hanchin, LSW

ChineseCharacter-Female-Moon-Yin
YIN SYMBOL

Defining the Sacred Feminine means various things as it is expressed along several dimensions of life:

1. In the spiritual dimension, it means including and valuing the feminine as an equally fundamental dynamic of the creative life force and the Divine, along with the masculine. The yang cannot exist without the yin. It means remembering our interconnection and oneness: we are not separate from each other and creation.

2. In the religious dimension, it means including and honoring the Feminine face of God in religious expression, ritual and ceremony, with inclusive language (such as Mother/Father God). It means recognizing and honoring the female deities and archetypes of the Goddess across history and cultures.

3. In the planetary dimension, it means seeing Mother Earth as our Mother, respecting and healing her, cultivating right-relationship with her as our ground of survival.

4. In the cultural dimension, it means recognizing the sacredness of all life, our web of interconnection and community; and celebrating the stature and wisdom of the Feminine across cultures, in the arts and in creative expression.

5. In the psychological dimension, it means reclaiming the Feminine qualities as important interior qualities of wholeness and balance within each individual, male and female.

6. In the human dimension, it means valuing women as whole people–body, mind and spirit; and valuing females equally with males.

7. In the societal dimension, it means seeking the voices, visions and wisdom of women to be received and integrated in the service of social healing and balance. It means valuing the contributions of women at home as caregivers, as well as in the work place and community.

8. In the political dimension, it means using the authority of power to serve the greater good, to protect and serve life, not for domination, greed and self-interest. It means to protect the common wealth of planetary resources–such as water, food, air, soil, energy—and share for the greatest good of all, rather than hoarding, exploiting and commoditizing them.

9. In the historic dimension, it means acknowledging and teaching– in mainstream education– the archeological discoveries of the pervasive, pre-patriarchial partnership-based Goddess cultures, and learning from them a paradigm of society that uses power to serve life, not greed. It means including in the report of history the contributions of women, and the story of the Women’s Holocaust (600 years of the burning times).

10. In values of daily living it means welcoming, including and listening to one another, in the service of understanding. It means affirming and supporting one another and seeking the unique gifts that each individual has to offer. It means accepting and respecting differences. It means being slow to judge, and open to compassion. It means being grounded in the heart, using the head in the service of the greater good. It means including intuition in perceiving and decision making. It means being connected to the goodness, aliveness, sensuality and wisdom of the body. It means using personal power to serve and to create, not to dominate and exploit.

©Vikki Hanchin, LSW

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Vikki Hanchin
Clinical Social Work/Therapist, LCSW



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TAOISM by Huston Smith

tao3
Editor’s Note: Chapter 5 of The World’s Religions.

No civilization is monochrome. In China the classical tones of Confucianism have been balanced not only by the spiritual shades of Buddhism but also by the romantic hues of Taoism.

The Old Master
According to tradition Taoism (pronounced Dowism) originated with a man named Lao Tzu, said to have been born about 604 B.C. He is a shadowy figure. We know nothing for certain about him and scholars wonder if there ever was such a man. We do not even know his name, for Lao Tzu—which can be translated “the Old Boy,” “the Old Fellow,” or “the Grand Old Master”—is obviously a title of endearment and respect. All we really have is a mosaic of legends. Some of these are fantastic; that he was conceived by a shooting star, carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years, and born already a wise old man with white hair. Other parts of the story do not tax our credulity: that he kept the archives in his native western state, and that around this occupation he wove a simple and unassertive life. Inferences concerning his personality derive almost entirely from a single slim volume that is attributed to him. From this some conclude that he was probably a solitary recluse who was absorbed in occult meditations; others picture him as down to earth—a genial neighbor with a lively sense of humor.

The only purportedly contemporary portrait, reported by China’s first historian, Ssu-ma Ch’ien, speaks only of the enigmatic impression he left—the sense that he possessed depths of understanding that defied ready comprehension. According to this account Confucius, intrigued by what he had heard of Lao Tzu, once visited him. His description suggests that the strange man baffled him while leaving him respectful. “I know a bird can fly; I know a fish can swim; I know animals can run. Creatures that run can be caught in nets; those that swim can be caught in wicker traps; those that fly can be hit by arrows. But the dragon is beyond my knowledge; it ascends into heaven on the clouds and the wind. Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and he is like the dragon!”


The traditional portrait concludes with the report that Lao Tzu, saddened by his people’s disinclination to cultivate the natural goodness he advocated and seeking greater personal solitude for his closing years, climbed on a water buffalo and rode westward toward what is now Tibet. At the Hankao Pass a gatekeeper, sensing the unusual character of the truant, tried to persuade him to turn back. Failing this, he asked if the “Old Boy” would not at least leave a record of his beliefs to the civilization he was abandoning. This Lao Tzu consented to do. He retired for three days and returned with a slim volume of five thousand characters titled Tao Te Ching, or The Way and Its Power. A testament to humanity’s at-home-ness in the universe, it can be read in half an hour or a lifetime, and remains to this day the basic text of Taoist thought.

What a curious portrait this is for the supposed founder of a religion. The Old Boy didn’t preach. He didn’t organize or promote. He wrote a few pages on request, rode off on a water buffalo, and that was it as far as he was concerned. How unlike the Buddha, who trudged the dusty roads of India for forty-five years to make his point. How unlike Confucius, who pestered dukes and princes, trying to gain an administrative foothold (or at least a hearing) for his ideas. Here was a man so little concerned with the success of his surmises, to say nothing of fame and fortune, that he didn’t even stay around to answer questions. And yet, whether the story of his life is fact or fiction, it is so true to Taoist attitudes that it will remain a part of Taoism forever. Emperors would claim this shadowy figure as their ancestor, and even scholars—though they do not see the Tao Te Ching as having been written by a single hand and do not think it attained the form in which we have it until the second half of the third century B.C.—concede that its ideas cohere to the point where we must posit the existence of someone under whose influence the book took shape, and have no objection to our calling him Lao Tzu.

The Three Meanings of Tao
On opening Taoism’s bible, the Tao Te Ching, we sense at once that everything revolves around the pivotal concept of Tao itself. Literally, this word means path, or way. There are three senses, however, in which this “way” can be understood.

First, Tao is the way of ultimate reality. This Tao cannot be perceived or even clearly conceived, for it is too vast for human rationality to fathom. The Tao Te Ching announces in its opening line that words are not equal to it: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.” Nevertheless, this ineffable and transcendent Tao is the ground of all that follows. Above all, behind all, beneath all is the Womb from which all life springs and to which it returns. Awed by the thought of it, the author/editor of the Tao Te Ching bursts recurrently into praise, for this primal Tao confronts him with life’s basic mystery, the mystery of all mysteries. “How clear it is! How quiet it is! It must be something eternally existing!” “Of all great things, surely Tao is the greatest.” But its ineffability cannot be denied, so we are taunted, time and again, by Taoism’s teasing epigram: “Those who know don’t say. Those who say don’t know.”1

Though Tao is ultimately transcendent, it is also immanent. In this secondary sense it is the way of the universe, the norm, the rhythm, the driving power in all nature, the ordering principle behind all life. Behind, but also in the midst of all life, for when Tao enters this second mode it “assumes flesh” and informs all things. It “adapts its vivid essence, clarifies its manifold fullness, subdues its resplendent luster, and assumes the likeness of dust.” Basically spirit rather than matter, it cannot be exhausted; the more it is drawn upon, the more it flows, for it is “that fountain ever on,” as Plotinus said of his counterpart to the Tao, his One. There are about it marks of inevitability, for when autumn comes “no leaf is spared because of its beauty, no flower because of its fragrance.” Yet, ultimately, it is benign. Graceful instead of abrupt, flowing rather than hesitant, it is infinitely generous. Giving life to all things, it may be called “the Mother of the World.” As nature’s agent Tao in this second form resembles Bergson’s elan vital, as nature’s orderer, it resembles the lex aeterna of the Classical West, the eternal law that structures the world. Charles Darwin’s colleague, George Romanes, could have been speaking of it when he referred to “the integrating principle of the whole—the Spirit, as it were, of the universe—instinct without contrivance, which flows with purpose.”

In its third sense Tao refers to the way of human life when it meshes with the Tao of the universe as just described. Most of what follows in this chapter will detail what the Taoists propose that this way of life
should be. First, however, it is necessary to point out that there have been in China not one but three Taoisms.

Three Approaches to Power and the Taoisms That Follow
Tao Te Ching, the title of Taoism’s basic text, has been translated The Way and Its Power. We have seen that the first of these substantive terms, the Way, can be taken in three senses. Now we must add that this is also true of the second substantive term, power. Corresponding to the three ways te or power can be approached, there have arisen in China three species of Taoism so dissimilar that initially they seem to have no more in common than homonyms, like blew/blue or sun/ son, that sound alike but have different meanings. We shall find that this is not the case, but first the three species must be distinguished. Two have standard designations, Philosophical Taoism and Religious Taoism respectively; and because many more people were involved with Religious Taoism it is often called Popular Taoism as well. The third school (which will come second in our order of presentation) is too heterogeneous to have acquired a single title. Its population consti- tutes an identifiable cluster, however, by virtue of sharing a common objective. All were engaged in vitalizing programs that were intended to facilitate Tao’s power, its te, as it flows through human beings.

Efficient Power: Philosophical Taoism
Unlike Religious Taoism, which became a full-fledged church, Philosophical Taoism and the “vitalizing Taoisms,” as we shall clumsily refer to the second group, remain relatively unorganized. Philosophical Taoism is reflective and the vitalizing programs active, but no more than the Transcendentalist movement in New England or contemporary physical fitness programs are they formally institutionalized.

They share a second similarity in that both are self-help programs. Teachers are involved, but they are better thought of as coaches who train their students—guiding them in what they should understand, in the case of Philosophical Taoism, and in what they should do in the vitalizing regimens. In decided contrast to Religious Taoists, those in these first two camps work primarily on themselves.

The differences between them have to do with their respective stances toward the power of the Tao on which life feeds. To put the difference pointedly, Philosophical Taoists try to conserve their te by expending it efficiently, whereas “vitality” Taoists work to increase its available supply.

Because Philosophical Taoism is essentially an attitude toward life, it is the most “exportable” Taoism of the three, the one that has the most to say to the world at large, and as such will receive the longest treatment—not until the second half of this chapter, however. Here we shall only identify it to place it in its logical position before proceeding with its two sister Taoisms.

Called School Taoism in China, Philosophical Taoism is associated with the names of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the Tao Te Ching. We can connect it with power by remembering that philosophy seeks knowledge and, as Bacon told the world pointedly, “knowledge is power”; to know how to repair a car is to have power over it. Obviously, the Taoists’ eyes were not on machines; it was life that they wanted to repair. Knowledge that empowers life we call wisdom; and to live wisely, the Taoist philosophers argued, is to live in a way that conserves life’s vitality by not expending it in useless, draining ways, the chief of which are friction and conflict. We shall examine Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu’s prescriptions for avoiding such dissipations in the second half of this chapter, but we can anticipate a single point here. Their recommendations revolve around the concept of wu wei, a phrase that translates literally as inaction but in Taoism means pure effectiveness. Action in the mode of wu wei is action in which friction—in interpersonal relationships, in intra-psychic conflict, and in relation to nature—is reduced to the minimum. We turn now to the vitality cults as our second species of Taoism.

Augmented Power: Taoist Hygiene and Yoga
Taoist “adepts”—as we shall call the practitioners of this second kind of Taoism because all were engaged in training programs of some sort, many of them demanding—were not willing to settle for the philosophers’ goal of managing their allotments of the Tao efficiently. They wanted to go beyond conserving to increasing the quota of the Tao they had to work with. In accounting terms we can say that if Philosophical Taoists worked at increasing net profits by cutting costs (reducing needless energy expenditures), Taoist adepts wanted to increase gross income.

The word ch’i cries out to be recognized as the rightful entry to this second school, for though it literally means breath, it actually means vital energy. The Taoists used it to refer to the power of the Tao that they experienced coursing through them—or not coursing because it was blocked—and their main object was to further its flow. Ch’i fascinated these Taoists. Blake registered their feelings precisely when he exclaimed, “Energy is delight,” for energy is the life force and the Taoists loved life. To be alive is good; to be more alive is better; to be always alive is best, hence the Taoist immortality cults. To accomplish their end of maximizing ch’i, these Taoists worked with three things: matter, movement, and their minds.

Respecting matter, they tried eating things—virtually everything, it would seem—to see if ch’i could be augmented nutritionally. In the course of this experimentation, they developed a remarkable pharmacopia of medicinal herbs,2 but in a way this was incidental. What they really wanted was not cure but increase—increase and extension of the life force, the ultimate guarantor of which would be the much-sought elixir of life that would insure physical immortality.3 Sexual experiments were also performed. In one such experiment men hypothesized that if they retained their semen during intercourse by pressing the ball of the thumb against the base of the penis at the moment of ejaculation, thereby diverting the semen into their own bodies,4 they would absorb the yin of their female partners without dissipating their own yang energy. Breathing exercises were also developed. Working with air, the subtlest form of matter, they sought to draw ch’i from the atmosphere.

These efforts to extract ch’i from matter in its solid, liquid, and gaseous forms were supplemented by programs of bodily movement such as t’ai chi chuan, which gathers calisthenics, dance, meditation, yin/yang philosophy, and martial art into a synthesis that in this case was designed to draw ch’i from the cosmos and dislodge blocks to its internal flow. This last was the object of acupuncture as well.

2 “Any list of the drugs used by the ancient Chinese doctors, for many of which there is ample historical if not laboratory evidence of efficacy, leaves the entire Western world of medicine open to accusations of negligence and haughtiness” (Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987], p. 116).
3 Immortality had both crude and subtle readings in Taoism. Michael Saso writes that “a Taoist is by definition a man who seeks immortality in the present life,” but he goes on to add that for many this immortality “is not so much a longevity whereby man does not die but a state wherein he does not descend to the punishments of a fiery underworld after death” (Taoism and the Rite of Cosmic Renewal [Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1989], p. 3).
4 In actuality the semen then entered the bladder, where it was expelled with the urine, but the Chinese did not know this.


Finally, turning to the mind itself, contemplatives, many of them hermits, developed Taoist meditation. This practice involved shutting out distractions and emptying the mind to the point where the power of the Tao might bypass bodily filters and enter the self directly.

This third way of increasing ch’i is more abstract than the others, so more needs to be said about it. The quickest gateway to understanding meditational Taoism is via Hindu raja yoga, the way to God through psychophysical exercises. Whether or not China borrowed from India on this score, the physical postures and concentration techniques of Taoist meditation are so reminiscent of raja yoga that sinologists import the Sanskrit term and call it Taoist yoga. Still, the Chinese gave their yoga a distinctive twist. Their ubiquitous social concern led them to press the possibility that the ch’i that yogis accumulated through meditation could be transmitted psychically to the community to enhance its vitality and harmonize its affairs. Side by side with the Confucianists, who were working on the socializing te of moral example and ritualized etiquette, Taoist yogis sought to harness the Tao directly, drawing it first into their own heart-minds and then beaming it to others. Yogis who managed this feat would for the most part be unnoticed, but their life-giving enterprise did more for the community than the works of other benefactors.

We border on Philosophical Taoism here because animating this yogic Taoism was a dawning fascination in China with the inner as opposed to the outer self. Children do not separate these two sides of their being, and neither did early peoples. Yogic or meditational Taoism arose as the advancing self-consciousness of the Chinese brought subjective experience to full view. Novel, momentous, exciting, this world of the inner self invited exploration. So enthralling did it appear to its early explorers that matter suffered by comparison; it was mere shell and accretion. Still, the inner world housed a problem. Successive deposits of worry and distraction so silted the soul that their deposits had to be removed until “the self as it was meant to be” could surface. Pure consciousness would then appear, and the individual would see not merely “things perceived” but “that by which we perceive.”

To arrive at this inwardness it was necessary to reverse all self- seeking and cultivate perfect cleanliness of thought and body. Pure spirit can be known only in a life that is “garnished and swept.” Only where all is clean will it reveal itself; therefore “put self aside.” Perturbing emotions must likewise be quelled. Ruffling the surface of the mind, they prevent introspection from seeing past them to the springs of consciousness beneath. (The proximity to Philosophical Taoism is becoming strong.) Desire and revulsion, grief and joy, delight and annoyance—each must subside if the mind is to return to its original purity, for in the end only peace and stillness are good for it. Let anxiety be dispelled and harmony between the mind and its cosmic source will come unsought.

It is close at hand, stands indeed at our very side; yet is intangible, a thing that by reaching for cannot be got. Remote it seems as the furthest limit of the Infinite. Yet it is not far off, every day we use its power. For the Way of the Vital Spirit fills our whole frames, yet man cannot keep track of it. It goes, yet has not departed. It comes, yet is not here. It is muted, makes no note that can be heard, yet of a sudden we find that it is there in the mind. It is dim and dark, showing no outward form, yet in a great stream it flowed into us at our birth.5

Selflessness, cleanliness, and emotional calm are the preliminaries to arriving at full self-knowledge, but they must be climaxed by deep meditation. “Bide in silence, and the radiance of the spirit shall come in and make its home.” For this to happen all outward impressions must be stilled and the senses withdrawn to a completely interior point of focus. Postures paralleling the Indian asanas were recommended, and the breath must be similarly controlled; it must be as soft and light as that of an infant, or even an embryo in the womb. The result will be a condition of alert waiting known as “sitting with a blank mind.”

And when the realization arrives, what then? With it come truth, joy, and power. The climactic insight of meditational Taoism came with the impact of finality, everything at last having fallen into place. The condition could not be described as merely pleasurable. The direct perception of the source of one’s awareness as “serene and immovable, like a monarch on a throne,” brought joy unlike any hitherto known. The social utility of the condition, however, lay in the extraordinary power it provided over people and things, a power in fact which “could shift Heaven and Earth.” “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” We have spoken of India in connection with this psychic power, but St. John of the Cross offers an identical promise: “Without labor you shall subject the peoples, and things shall be subject to you.”

5 Quoted by Arthur Waley, The Way and Its Power, 1934, reprint (London: Allen & Unwin, 1958), pp. 48-49.

Without lifting a finger overtly, a ruler who was adept in “stillness” could order a whole people with his mystical-moral power. A ruler who is desireless himself and has this much psychic power automatically turns his subjects from their unruly desires. He rules without even being known to rule.

The sage relies on actionless activity;
Puts himself in the background; but is always to the fore.
Remains outside; but is always there.
Is it not just because he does not strive for any personal end
That all his personal ends are fulfilled?6

The Taoist yogis recognized that they could not hope for much understanding from the masses, and they made no attempt to publicize their position. When they did write their words tended to be veiled and cryptic, open to one interpretation by initiates and another by the general public. Part of the reason they wrote this way doubtless stemmed from their sensitivity to the lampooning that mysticism attracts from the uncongenial. We find even Chuang Tzu burlesquing their breathing exercises, reporting that these people “expel the used air with great energy and inhale the fresh air. Like bears, they climb trees in order to breathe with greater ease.” Mencius joined in the fun. He likened those who sought psychic short-cuts to social harmony to impatient farmers who tug gently on their crops each night to speed their growth. Despite such satire Taoist yoga had an appreciable core of practitioners. Some sinologists consider it the basic perspective from which the Tao Te Ching was written. If this is true it is a testament to the veiled language of the book, for it is usually read in the philosophical way we shall come to. Before we turn to that way, however, we must introduce the third major branch of Taoism, which is religious.

Vicarious Power: Religious Taoism
Philosophical Taoism sought to manage life’s normal quotient of the Tao efficiently, and energizing Taoism sought to boost its base supply, but something was lacking. Reflection and health programs take time, and the average Chinese lacked that commodity. Yet they too needed help; there were epidemics to be checked, marauding ghosts to be reckoned with, and rains to be induced or stopped as occasions demanded. Taoists responded to such problems. The measures they devised paralleled many of the doings of freelance soothsayers, psy- chics, shamans, and faith healers who came by their powers naturally and constituted the unchanging landscape of Chinese folk religion. Religious Taoism institutionalized such activities. Influenced by Bud- dhism, which entered China around the time of Christ, the Taoist church—in Chinese the Tao Chiao, “Church Taoism” or “Taoist Teachings” took shape in the second century A.D. It was anchored in a pantheon whose three originating deities included Lao Tzu. From these divinities sacred texts derived, which (by virtue of their divinely revealed origin) were accepted as true without reservation. The line of “papal” succession in the Taoist church continues down to the present in Taiwan.

6 Tao Te Ching, chapters 2 and 7, Arthur Waley’s translation. 103

Popular, Religious Taoism is a murky affair. Much of it looks— from the outside, we must always keep in mind—like crude supersti- tion; but we must remember that we have little idea what energy is, how it proceeds, or the means by which (and extent to which) it can be augmented. We do know that faith healing can import or release energies, as does faith itself, including faith in oneself. Placebos likewise have effects. When we add to these the energies that magnetic personalities, rabble-rousers, and even pep rallies can generate, to say nothing of mysterious reserves that hypnotists tap into, concerning which we haven’t an explanatory clue—if all this is borne in mind, it may temper our superciliousness and allow us to give Religious Taoism a fair hearing. In any case its intent is clear. “The Taoist priesthood made cosmic life-power available for ordinary villagers.”7

The texts of this school are crammed with descriptions of rituals that, if exactly performed, have magical effects, and the word magic here holds the key to sacerdotal, specifically religious, Taoism. The word must be freed, however, from the conventional meaning that has encrusted it. In its modern meaning, magic is trickery; it refers to performers who deceive audiences in ways that create the illusion that preternatural powers are at work. Traditionally, by contrast, magic was highly regarded. Jacob Boehme went so far as to assert that “magic is the best theology, for in it true faith is grounded. He is a fool that reviles it, for he knows it not and is more a juggler than a theologian of understanding.” Traditionally, magic was understood as the means by which higher, occult powers are tapped for use in the visible world. Proceeding on the assumption that higher powers exist—the subtle rules the dense; energy rules matter, consciousness rules energy, and superconsciousness rules consciousness—magic made these powers available. When a hypnotist tells a subject that when his shoulder is touched his body will become rigid, and that happens—assistants can then place the subject’s feet on one chair and his head on another without his body slumping—we come close to magic in the traditional sense, for the hypnotist calls into play powers that are not only astonishing but mysterious. Still, hypnotism falls short of magic in that the hypnotist is neither in an exceptional state of consciousness nor belongs to a sacerdotal order that is believed to be divinely empowered. For a genuine instance of magic in its traditional sense, we must turn to something like Peter’s healing of Aeneas as reported in Acts 9:32-34.

7 Daniel Overmyer, Religions of China (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), p. 39. 104

Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydia. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up.

Note that this was not a miracle. It would have been a miracle if Christ had empowered the paralytic Aeneas to climb out of bed without Peter’s help, effecting thereby an instance of what clinicians refer to as spontaneous remission. As it was, Peter had a role in the cure, a necessary role we may assume, and we are confronted with magic; sacred magic, as it happens, for if a demon had been invoked for malevolent purposes, sorcery would have been at work.

It was under the rubric of magic as thus traditionally conceived that the Taoist church—dividing the territory with freelance wizards, exorcists, and shamans—devised ways to harness higher powers for humane ends.

The Mingling of the Powers
Philosophical Taoism, vitalizing programs for increasing one’s indi- vidual ch’i, and the Taoist church: the three branches of Taoism, which at first seemed to have little in common, now show their family resemblances. All have the same concern—how to maximize the Tao’s animating te—and the specifics of their concerns fall on a continuum. The continuum begins with interest in how life’s normal allotment of ch’i can be deployed to best effect (Philosophical Taoism). From there it moves on to ask if that normal quotient can be increased (Taoist vitalizing programs). Finally, it asks if cosmic energies can be gathered, as if by a burning glass, to be deployed vicariously for the welfare of people who need help (popular or Religious Taoism).

The danger in this arrangement is that in the interest of clarity the lines between the three divisions have been drawn too sharply. No solid walls separate them; the three are better regarded as currents in a common river. Throughout history each has interacted with the other two, right down to Taoism in Hong Kong and Taiwan today. John Blofeld, who lived in China for the twenty years preceding the Communist revolution, reported that he had never met a Taoist who was not involved to some degree with all three schools.

We can summarize. To be something, to know something, and to be capable of something is to rise above the superficial. A life has substance to the degree that it incorporates the profundity of mysticism (Taoist yoga), the direct wisdom of gnosis (Philosophical Taoism), and the productive power of magic (Religious Taoism). Where these three things come together there is a “school,” and in China the school this chapter describes is Taoism. It is now time to return to Philosophical Taoism and give it its due hearing.


Creative Quietude
The object of Philosophical Taoism is to align one’s daily life to the Tao, to ride its boundless tide and delight in its flow. The basic way to do this, we earlier noted, is to perfect a life of wu wei. We have seen that wu wei should not be translated as do-nothingness or inaction, for those words suggest a vacant attitude of idleness or abstention. Better renderings are pure effectiveness and creative quietude.

Creative quietude combines within a single individual two seemingly incompatible conditions—supreme activity and supreme relaxation. These seeming incompatibles can coexist because human beings are not self-enclosed entities. They ride an unbounded sea of Tao that sustains them, as we would say, through their subliminal minds. One way to create is through following the calculated directives of the conscious mind. The results of this mode of action, however, are seldom impressive; they tend to smack more of sorting and arranging than of inspiration. Genuine creation, as every artist knows, comes when the more abundant resources of the subliminal self are somehow tapped. But for this to happen a certain dissociation from the surface self is needed. The conscious mind must relax, stop standing in its own light, let go. Only so is it possible to break through the law of reversed effort in which the more we try the more our efforts boomerang.

Wu wei is the supreme action, the precious suppleness, simplicity, and freedom that flows from us, or rather through us, when our private egos and conscious efforts yield to a power not their own. In a way it is virtue approached from a direction diametrically opposite to that of Confucius. Confucius turned every effort to building a pattern of ideal responses that might be consciously imitated. Taoism’s approach is the opposite—to get the foundations of the self in tune with Tao and let behavior flow spontaneously. Action follows being; new action will follow new being, wiser being, stronger being. The Tao Te Ching puts this point without wasting a word. “The way to do,” it says, “is to be.”

How are we to describe the action that flows from a life that is grounded directly in Tao? Nurtured by a force that is infinitely subtle, infinitely intricate, it is a consummate gracefulness born from an abundant vitality that has no need for abruptness or violence. One simply lets the Tao flow in and flow out again until all life becomes a dance in which there is neither feverishness nor imbalance. Wu wei is life lived above tension:

Keep stretching a bow
You repent of the pull,
A whetted saw
Grows thin and dull. (ch. 9)8

Far from inaction, however, it is the embodiment of suppleness, simplicity, and freedom—a kind of pure effectiveness in which no motion is wasted on bickering or outward show.

One may move so well that a footprint never shows,
Speak so well that the tongue never slips,
Reckon so well that no counter is needed. (ch.
27)

8 Unless otherwise specified, quotations in this section and the next are from the Tao Te Ching. Those from chapters 8, 15, 24, 31, and 78 are from Stephen Mitchell’s renderings in his Tao Te Ching (New York: Harper & Row, 1988); those from chapters 9, 12, 17, 23, 27, 29, and 30 are from Witter Bynner’s The Way of Life According to Laotzu, 1944, reprint (New York: Putnam, 1986).

Effectiveness of this order obviously requires an extraordinary skill, a point conveyed in the Taoist story of the fisherman who was able to land enormous fish with a thread because it was so delicately made that it had no weakest point at which to break. But Taoist skill is seldom noticed, for viewed externally wu wei—never forcing, never under strain—seems quite effortless. The secret here lies in the way it seeks out the empty spaces in life and nature and moves through these. Chuang Tzu, the greatest popularizer of Philosophical Taoism, makes this point with his story of Prince Wen Hui’s cook whose cleaver seemed never to lose its edge. When he cut up an ox, out went a hand, down went a shoulder. He planted a foot, he pressed with a knee, and the ox fell apart with a whisper. The bright cleaver murmured like a gentle wind. Rhythm! Timing! Like a sacred dance. Like “The Mulberry Grove,” like ancient harmonies! Pressed for his secret, the cook replied: “There are spaces in the joints; the blade is thin and keen. When this thinness finds that space, there is all the room you need! It goes like a breeze! Hence I have this cleaver nineteen years as if newly sharpened!”9

The natural phenomenon that the Taoists saw as bearing the closest resemblance to Tao was water. They were struck by the way it would support objects and carry them effortlessly on its tide. The Chinese characters for swimmer, deciphered, mean literally “one who knows the nature of water.” Similarly, one who understands the basic life force knows that it will sustain one if one stops thrashing and flailing and trusts oneself to its support.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself? (ch. 15)

Water, then, was the closest parallel to the Tao in the natural world. But it was also the prototype of wu wei. They noticed the way water adapts itself to its surroundings and seeks out the lowest places. So too,

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao. (ch. 8)

9 Adapted from Thomas Merton’s translation in his The Way of Chuang Tzu (New York: New Directions, 1965), pp. 45-47.

Yet despite its accommodation, water holds a power unknown to hard and brittle things. In a stream it follows the stones’ sharp edges, only to turn them into pebbles, rounded to conform to its streamlined flow. It works its way past frontiers and under dividing walls. Its gentle current melts rocks and carries away the proud hills we call eternal.

Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice. (ch. 78)

Infinitely supple, yet incomparably strong—these virtues of water are precisely those of wu wei as well. The person who embodies this condition, says the Tao Te Ching, “works without working.” Such a one acts without strain, persuades without argument, is eloquent without flourish, and achieves results without violence, coercion, or pressure. Though the agent may be scarcely noticed, his or her influence is in fact decisive.

A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists.
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.” (ch. 17)

A final characteristic of water that makes it an appropriate analogue to wu wei is the clarity it attains through being still. “Muddy water let stand,” says the Tao Te Ching, “will clear.” If you want to study the stars after being in a brightly lit room, you must wait twenty minutes for your eyes to dilate for their new assignment. There must be similar periods of waiting if the focal length of the mind is to readjust, withdrawing from the world’s glare to the internal recesses of the soul.

The five colors can blind,
The five tones deafen,
The five tastes cloy.
The race, the hunt, can drive men mad
And their booty leave them no peace. T
herefore a sensible man
Prefers the inner to the outer eye. (ch. 12)

Clarity can come to the inner eye, however, only insofar as life attains a quiet that equals that of a deep and silent pool.

Other Taoist Values
Still following the analogy of water, the Taoists rejected all forms of self-assertiveness and competition. The world is full of people who are determined to be somebody or give trouble. They want to get ahead, to stand out. Taoism has little use for such ambitions. “The ax falls first on the tallest tree.”

He who stands on tiptoe
Doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
Doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light. (ch. 24)

Their almost reverential attitude toward humility led the Taoists to honor hunchbacks and cripples because of the way they typified meekness and self-effacement. They were fond of pointing out that the value of cups, windows, and doorways lies in the parts of them that are not there. “Selfless as melting ice” is one of their descriptive figures. The Taoists’ refusal to clamber for position sprang from a profound disinterest in the things the world prizes. The point comes out in the story of Chuang Tzu’s visit to the minister of a neighboring state. Someone told the minister that Chuang Tzu was coming in the hope of replacing him. The minister was alarmed. But when Chuang Tzu heard of the rumor he said to the minister:

In the South there is a bird. It is called yuan-ch’u. Have you heard of it? This yuan-ch’u starts from the southern ocean and flies to the northern ocean. During its whole journey it perches on no tree save the sacred Wo-tung, eats no fruit save that of the Persian Lilac, drinks only at the Magic Well. It happened that an owl that had got hold of the rotting carcass of a rat looked up as this bird flew by, and terrified lest the yuan-ch’u should stop and snatch at the succulent morsel, it screamed, “Shoo! Shoo!” And now I am told that you are trying to “shoo” me off from this precious Ministry of yours.10

So it is with most of the world’s prides. They are not the true values they are thought to be. What is the point of competition or assertiveness? The Tao seems to get along very well without them.

Nature does not have to insist,
Can blow for only half a morning,
Rain for only half a day. (ch. 23)

People should avoid being strident and aggressive not only toward other people but also toward nature. On the whole, the modern Western attitude has been to regard nature as an antagonist, an object to be squared off against, dominated, controlled, conquered. Taoism’s attitude is the opposite of this. There is a profound naturalism in Taoist thought, but it is the naturalism of a Rousseau, a Wordsworth, a Thoreau, not that of a Galileo or Bacon.

Those who would take over the earth
And shape it to their will
Never, I notice, succeed.
The earth is like a vessel so sacred
That at the mere approach of the profane
It is marred
And when they reach out their fingers it is gone. (ch. 29)

Nature is to be befriended. When the British scaled earth’s highest peak, the exploit was widely hailed as “the conquest of Everest.” D. T. Suzuki remarked: “We orientals would have spoken of befriending Everest.” The Japanese team that scaled Anapurna, the second highest peak, climbed to within fifty feet of the summit and deliberately stopped, provoking a Western mountaineer to exclaim in disbelief, “That’s class!” Taoism seeks attunement with nature, not dominance. Its approach is ecological, a characteristic that led Joseph Needham to point out that despite China’s backwardness in scientific theory she early developed “an organic philosophy of nature closely resembling that which modern science has been forced to adopt after three centuries of mechanical materialism.” The ecological approach of Taoism has inspired many Western architects, most notably Frank Lloyd Wright. Taoist temples do not stand out from their surroundings. They nestle against the hills, back under the trees, blending in with the environment. At best, human beings do likewise. Their highest achievement is to identify themselves with the Tao and let it work its magic through them.
YIN-YANG JPG
10 Burton Watson (tr.), Chuang Tzu: The Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), pp. 109-10

This Taoist approach to nature deeply affected Chinese art. It is no accident that the greatest periods of Chinese art have coincided with upsurges of Taoist influence. Before assuming brush and silk, painters would go out to nature and lose themselves in it, to become, say, the bamboo that they would paint. They would sit for half a day or fourteen years before making a stroke. The Chinese word for landscape painting is composed of the radicals for mountain and water, one of which suggests vastness and solitude, the other pliability, endurance, and continuous movement. The human part in the vastness is small, so we have to look closely for human beings in the paintings if we find them at all. Usually, they are climbing with their bundles, riding a buffalo, or poling a boat—the self with its journey to make, its burden to carry, its hill to climb, but surrounded by beauty on every side. People are not as formidable as mountains; they do not live as long as the pines. Yet they too belong in the scheme of things as surely as do the birds and the clouds. And through them, as through the rest of the world, flows the everlasting Tao.

Taoist naturalism combined with a propensity for naturalness as well. Pomp and extravagance were regarded as silly. When Chuang Tzu’s followers asked permission to give him a grand funeral, he replied: “Heaven and earth are my inner and outer coffins. The sun, moon, and stars are my drapery, and the whole creation my funeral procession. What more do I want?” Civilization was ridiculed and the primitive idealized. “Let us have a small country with few inhabitants,” Lao Tzu proposed. “Let the people return to the use of knotted cords [for keeping records]. Let them obtain their food sweet, their clothing beautiful, their homes comfortable, their rustic tasks pleasurable.” Travel was discouraged as pointless and conducive to idle curiosity. “The neighboring state might be so near at hand that one could hear the cocks crowing in it and dogs barking. But the people would grow old and die without ever having been there.”11

11 Fung Yu-lan’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, chapter 80, in his A Short History of 112

It was this preference for naturalness and simplicity that most separated the Taoist from the Confucian. The basic objectives of the two schools did not differ widely, but the Taoists had small patience with the Confucian approach to them. All formalism, show, and ceremony left them cold. What could be hoped for from punctiliousness or the meticulous observance of propriety? The whole approach was artificial, a lacquered surface that was bound to prove brittle and repressive. Confucianism here was but one instance of the human tendency to approach life in regulated mode. All calculated systems, the very attempt to arrange life in shipshape order, is pointless. As different ways of slicing the same reality, none of them amounts to more than Three in the Morning. And what is Three in the Morning? Once, in the state of Sung, hard times forced a keeper of monkeys to reduce their rations. “From now on,” he announced, “it will be three in the morning and four in the evening.” Faced with howls of rebellion, the keeper agreed to negotiate, and eventually accepted his monkeys’ demand that it be four in the morning and three in the evening. The monkeys gloried in their triumph.

Another feature of Taoism is its notion of the relativity of all values and, as its correlative, the identity of opposites. Here Taoism tied in with the traditional Chinese yin/yang symbol, which is pictured thus:
This polarity sums up all of life’s basic oppositions: good/evil, active/ passive, positive/negative, light/dark, summer/winter, male/female. But though the halves are in tension, they are not flatly opposed; they complement and balance each other. Each invades the other’s hemi- sphere and takes up its abode in the deepest recess of its partner’s domain. And in the end both find themselves resolved by the circle that surrounds them, the Tao in its eternal wholeness. In the context of that wholeness, the opposites appear as no more than phases in an endless cycling process, for each turns incessantly into its opposite, exchanging places with it. Life does not move onward and upward toward a fixed pinnacle or pole. It bends back upon itself to come, full circle, to the realization that all is one and all is well.

Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953), p. 20.

Those who meditate on this profound symbol, Taoists maintain, will find that it affords better access to the world’s secrets than any length of words and discussion. Faithful to its import, Taoism eschews all sharp dichotomies. No perspective in this relative world can be considered as absolute. Who knows when the longest way ’round might not prove to be the shortest way home? Or consider the relativity of dream and wakefulness. Chuang Tzu dreamed that he was a butterfly, and during the dream had no notion that he had ever been anything else. When he awoke, however, he was astonished to find that he was Chuang Tzu. But this left him with a question. Was he really Chuang Tzu who had dreamed that he was a butterfly, or was he a butterfly that was now dreaming that it was Chuang Tzu?

All values and concepts, then, are ultimately relative to the mind that entertains them. When it was suggested to the wren and the cicada that there are birds that fly hundreds of miles without alighting, both quickly agreed that such a thing was impossible. “You and I know very well,” they nodded, “that the furthest one can ever get, even by the most tremendous effort, is to that elm tree over there, and even this one cannot be sure of reaching every time. Often one finds oneself dragged back to earth long before one gets there. All these stories about flying hundreds of miles at a stretch are sheer nonsense.”

In the Taoist perspective even good and evil are not head-on opposites. The West has tended to dichotomize the two, but Taoists are less categorical. They buttress their reserve with the story of a farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbor commiserated, only to be told, “Who knows what’s good or bad?” It was true, for the next day the horse returned, bringing with it a drove of wild horses it had befriended. The neighbor reappeared, this time with congratulations for the windfall. He received the same response: “Who knows what is good or bad?” Again this proved true, for the next day the farmer’s son tried to mount one of the wild horses and fell, breaking his leg. More commiserations from the neighbor, which elicited the question: “Who knows what is good or bad?” And for a fourth time the farmer’s point prevailed, for the following day soldiers came by commandeering for the army, and the son was exempted because of his injury. If this all sounds very much like Zen, it should; for Buddhism processed through Taoism became Zen.

Taoism follows its principle of relativity to its logical limit by positioning life and death as complementing cycles in the Tao’s rhythm. When Chuang Tzu’s wife died, his friend Hui-tzu visited him to express his condolences, only to find Chuang Tzu sitting on the ground with his legs spread wide apart, singing away and whacking out a tune on the back of a wooden bowl. “After all,” said his friend, “she lived with you devotedly all these years, watched your eldest son grow to manhood, and grew old along with you. For you not to have shed a tear over her remains would have been bad enough, but singing and drumming away on a bowl—this is just too much!” “You misjudge,” said Chuang Tzu. “When she died I was in despair, as any man well might be. But then I realized that before she was born she had no body, and it became clear to me that the same process of change that brought her to birth eventually brought her to death. If someone is tired and has gone to lie down, we do not pursue her with hooting and bawling. She whom I have lost has lain down to sleep for a while in the chamber between heaven and earth. To wail and groan while my wife is sleeping would be to deny nature’s sovereign law. So I refrain.”

Elsewhere Chuang Tzu expressed his confidence in the face of death directly:

There is the globe,
The foundation of my bodily existence.
It wears me out with work and duties,
It gives me rest in old age,
It gives me peace in death.
For the one who supplied me with what I needed in life
Will also give me what 1 need in death.12

It is no surprise to find an outlook as averse to violence as Taoism verging on pacifism. There are passages in the Tao Te Ching that read almost like the Sermon on the Mount.

One who would guide a leader of men in the uses of life
Will warn him against the use of arms for conquest.
Even the finest arms are an instrument of evil.
An army’s harvest is a waste of thorns. (ch. 30)
Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is the highest value. . . .
He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral. (ch. 31)

12 Quoted in K. L. Reichelt’s translation of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Tao Te Ching in his Meditation and Piety in the Far East (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954), p. 102.

That in China the scholar ranked at the top of the social scale may have been Confucius’ doing, but Taoism is fully as responsible for placing the soldier at the bottom. “The way for a vital person to go is not the way of a soldier.” Only one “who recognizes all people as members of his or her own body is qualified to guard them. . . . Heaven arms with compassion those whom she would not see destroyed.”

War is a somber matter, and Taoism spoke to life’s solemn, somber issues. Yet it always retained a quality of lightness verging on gaiety. There is a sophistication, an urbanity, a charm about the perspective that is infectious. “He who feels punctured,” notes the Tao Te Ching, “must once have been a bubble.” The economy, directness, and good humor in such a statement is typical of its entire outlook. In its freedom from a heavy-booted approach to life, Taoism is at one with the rest of China; but it is also, as we have seen, free of the Confucian tendency toward rigidity and formalism. Taoist literature is full of dialogues with Confucianists in which the latter come off as stuffy and pompous. An instance is the story of the Taoist Chuang Tzu and the Confucian Hui Tzu, who on an afternoon’s stroll came to a bridge over the Hao River. “Look how the minnows dart hither and thither at will. Such is the pleasure fish enjoy,” Chuang Tzu remarked. “You are not a fish,” responded Hui Tzu. “How do you know what gives pleasure to fish?” “You are not I,” said Chuang Tzu. “How do you know I don’t know what gives pleasure to fish?”

Conclusion
Circling around each other like yin and yang themselves, Taoism and Confucianism represent the two indigenous poles of the Chinese character. Confucius represents the classical, Lao Tzu the romantic. Confucius stresses social responsibility, Lao Tzu praises spontaneity and naturalness. Confucius’ focus is on the human, Lao Tzu’s on what transcends the human. As the Chinese themselves say, Confucius roams within society, Lao Tzu wanders beyond. Something in life reaches out in each of these directions, and Chinese civilization would certainly have been poorer if either had not appeared.
There are books whose first reading casts a spell that is never quite undone, the reason being that they speak to the deepest “me” in the reader. For all who quicken at the thought that anywhere, at every time, the Tao is within us, the Tao Te Ching is such a book. Mostly it has been so for the Chinese, but an American poet can equally find it “the straightest, most logical explanation as yet advanced for the continuance of life, the most logical use yet advised for enjoying it.”13 Though obviously never practiced to perfection, its lessons of simplicity, openness, and wisdom have been for millions of Chinese a joyful guide.

There is a being, wonderful, perfect;
It existed before heaven and earth.
How quiet it is!
How spiritual it is!
It stands alone and it does not change.
It moves around and around, but does not on this account suffer.
All life comes from it.
It wraps everything with its love as in a garment, and
yet it claims no honor, it does not demand to be Lord.
I do not know its name, and so I call it Tao, the Way,
and I rejoice in its power.14


SOURCE
: http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/viewpdf/default.aspx?article-title=Taoism_by_Huston_Smith.pdf

“Taoism” by Huston Smith Features in
Light from the East: Eastern Wisdom for the Modern West
© 2007 World Wisdom, Inc.
Edited by Harry Oldmeadow
All Rights Reserved. For Personal Usage Only www.worldwisdom.com
13 Bynner, The Way of Life, pp. 12-13.
14 Adapted from K. L. Reichelt’s translation of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Tao Te
Ching in his Meditation and Piety, 41.

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"The Law of Attraction: Does It Grant Us an Evolutionary Edge?" by Michael Bernard Beckwith

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Why is it that just by walking into a room some people light up the atmosphere with their presence? Why, when certain individuals speak, do their listeners become spellbound, while someone talking about the same subject is met with yawns? What I’m describing are those individuals whose magnetism is so potent they effortlessly make a dynamic impact. No form of social networking, marketing, or résumé reveals more about us than the vibratory frequency that radiates from our being.

Did you know that you have a magnetic field that draws to you the people, experiences and things that mirror the vibratory equivalent of your thoughts, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, insights — in short, your overall state of consciousness? Consciousness determines most of what unfolds in our life. How we interpret, integrate and respond to that evolutionary process determines the rest. We are all — consciously or unconsciously — evolutionists, constantly co-creating, regenerating, transforming and emerging through application of the laws governing the universe.

Before I describe the evolutionary progression of the law of attraction, let’s pause to consider vibration itself. Vibration is the motion, the movement of energy. Modern science reveals that our universe is made up of electronic vibrations, cosmic currents of invisible, intelligent energy. To understand this at the kitchen sink level of every day life, in the 60s it became commonplace to describe how we did or didn’t vibe with another person. How is such a determination made? When we meet someone there is an energetic exchange that occurs: we receive an energetic current from them, and we send one out to them. How the vibrational blend of our individual energies is interpreted determines the chemistry we sense we do or don’t share with another person (or a group of people). Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly radiating energy into the atmosphere we inhabit.

“Spiritual magnetism,” says Paramahansa Yogananda, “... is the power of the soul to attract or create whatever it needs for all-round happiness and well-being.” He is describing our inherent soul-capacity to consciously operate the law of attraction and draw into our magnetic field whatever is required to support our fundamental life structures as we grow, develop, and expand in consciousness with an “all needs met” awareness and gratitude.

To accelerate your magnetic frequency and manifest your vision for your life, you must enter the laboratory of your own mind and soul and evolve through three domains:

Discovering, activating, expressing and promoting your gifts, talents and skills, which attunes you to the law of divine right action;

Moving into a deeper spiritual understanding and practice of working with the laws governing the universe through affirmative prayer, Life Visioning, and visualization, which attune you to the law of attraction;

Practicing meditation and surrender at such a depth that you no longer need to attract anything because you live in alignment with the law of radiance which automatically provides all that is required to sustain you and cause you to flourish.

Living in the first domain provides an entry into the understanding that you have come on the planet with a purpose, that you are an “on purpose” being endowed with tremendous capacities, powers, and qualities. Living in the second domain provides factual evidence that you can indeed consciously participate in the co-creation of your life in attunement with the law of attraction. The third domain, living in attunement with the law of radiance, causes the emergence of your essential self, which is to say that you live from the inside out.

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake said that a thought held in mind manifests when conditions are right. Now he’s not suggesting that we passively wait for the right conditions to finally, magically show up. It is up to us to actively participate, to consciously contribute to the process of co-creating the right conditions for our inner vision to outwardly manifest. We do this by first cultivating an intention to educate ourselves on the universal laws governing the planet, how they function and how we may consciously apply them to the various aspects of our life.

Next, we begin to experiment with these laws in the laboratory of our consciousness, not in a big serious way, but in a playful, trusting mindset of wonder and appreciation. We then discover that we live in a realm of infinite possibilities, that we have been fully equipped to live our highest potential. We radiate compassion, unconditional love, peace, joy. We begin to consciously realize our oneness with source, our interconnectedness to all life. We no longer consider our life as a problem to be solved but rather as a mystery to be lived and celebrated. We realize that we are spiritual beings having a human incarnation in which we are the writer, actor, producer, and director of the part we play on the stage of life.

Living in harmony with the laws governing the universe fulfills the mandate of your soul-call, not by words, but by proof.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-law-of-attraction-doe_b_783718.html


The Life Visioning Process (LVP), originated and trademarked by Michael Bernard Beckwith, is available in a six-CD set, a Life Visioning Kit, and book to be released in 2011. Please visit www.agapelive.com for these and other Beckwith products.
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"What I Wish People Knew About My Depression" by Emma Rabinowitz

The Mighty-520227582-1-1280x427

It is more than sleeping in when you’re not tired.

It is more than turning down plans with friends.

It is more than just a feeling that comes and goes.

It is a constant feeling of your heart in your stomach.

It is being unresponsive to loved ones who reach out to you.

It is staring out the window for hours on end.

It is having every thought imaginable while still having a blank mind.


I wish people knew that, when I turned down trips to farmer’s markets or walks downtown, or dinner in the dining hall, it wasn’t because I’m an antisocial person.

I wish they knew I genuinely wanted to go and had every intention of going, but the second my right foot stepped out the door my 
depression said “today’s not the day” and made me go back inside.

I wish they knew I wasn’t a flaky person and I didn’t mean to snap at them when they questioned me. I wish they knew depression had a harness and leash on me and was yanking me back every time I tried to run away.

I wish people knew that when I don’t have much to say, it isn’t because I don’t enjoy their company.

I wish they knew I had this feeling deep within my gut that felt like an empty hole where laughter and joy should belong, but for some reason, depression kicked them out.

I wish they knew I wanted to speak and have a great, genuine conversation, but I couldn’t find the words and depression was holding my tongue.

I wish people knew I’m not going to let depression win. My story has only begun, and I am ready to take on the battle of my life. With a sword and shield in hand, I plant my feet in the ground and hold my breath.

I wish people knew I can laugh, and love, and live. I can carry on, and care, and cope. I am an individual. I walk my own walk and take on every challenge depression throws at me.

SOURCE:
https://themighty.com/2017/09/what-i-wish-people-knew-about-my-depression/
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"The Practice of Forgiveness" (excerpt from THE WISE HEART) by Jack Kornfield

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Chinese character for "Forgiveness"

Buddhist psychology offers specific teachings and practices for the development of forgiveness.  Like the practice of compassion, forgiveness does not ignore the truth of our suffering.  Forgiveness is not weak.  It demands courage and integrity.  Yet only forgiveness and love can bring about the peace we long for.  As the Indian sage Meher Baba explains, “True love is not for the faint-hearted.”

We have all betrayed and hurt others, just as we have knowingly or unknowingly been harmed by them.  It is inevitable in this human realm. Sometimes our betrayals are small, sometimes terrible.  Extending and receiving forgiveness is essential for redemption from our past.  To forgive does not mean we condone the misdeeds of another. We can dedicate ourselves to make sure they never happen again. But without forgiveness the world can never be released from the sorrows of the past.  Someone quipped, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Forgiveness is a way to move on.

In Buddhist psychology, forgiveness is not presented as a moral commandment; thou shalt forgive. It is understood as a way to end suffering, to bring dignity and harmony to our life. Forgiveness is fundamentally for our own sake, for our own mental health. It is a way to let go of the pain we carry.  This is illustrated by the story of two ex-prisoners of war who meet after many years. When the first one asks, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” the second man answers, “No, never.”  “Well then,” the first man replies, “they still have you in prison.”  For most people, the work of forgiveness is a process. Practicing forgiveness, we may go through stages of grief, rage, sorrow, fear and confusion.  As we let ourself feel the pain we still hold, forgiveness comes as a relief, a release for our heart in the end.  Forgiveness acknowledges that no matter how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart.

The practice of forgiveness grows through generosity and repetition. One of my teachers instructed me to practice five minutes of forgiveness for myself and others, twice a day for six months, which meant 360 times. Practicing with small misdeeds, such as my uncaring treatment of a friend, I repeatedly asked her forgiveness and gradually forgave myself. That experience encouraged me, but when I turned to my father, the process was much more difficult. Forgiveness took many years. It was only when he lay dying that I could look back and reflect on what had released me from our family suffering.  When, at age 75, ten years after his first heart attack, my father was near death from congestive heart failure, frightened and in pain. I sat with him over long days and late nights. He kept asking me to stay. Because I had sat with my own pain and fear in meditation, I was not afraid. Because I had sat in the charnel grounds and with others as they died, I was able to offer the steady presence he needed. By now I also knew enough not to blurt out that I loved him, but I also knew that he could feel that I did.

Years of meditation, therapy and forgiveness practices had come with me into that room. I’d worked with my rage at my father and my sorrow and frustration as a frightened, impotent child. One day I pictured the yellow linoleum floor in the backroom where my father was beating my mother. I wanted to beat him and to rescue her. I felt sorry for and angry at my mother for her weakness, and for her collusion with his brutal arrogance. I struggled to release my father and all his rigid, paranoid violence. I relived the nighttime scenes where his eyes would become glazed and crazed looking, and the old bastard would curse and hit and hurt us, his family.

As I meditated and wept, I felt the pain of my own closed heart and wondered how I could forgive him. I breathed and practiced forgiveness and got inside his own wretched history, and my mother’s paralyzing fear. I saw him as a young teen when his father died. My father and his father were both caught between two women who hated each other. His coldly polished and controlling mother and his tight-fisted and iron-willed grandmother who lived just across the street and ran the family business.  I saw his paranoia and fear and how hard his uncontrollable rage must have been for him. I saw his inexcusable acts and his unmanageable pain. . It helped when I discovered that my own rage was not so different from his. I learned to respect the anger, depression, cynicism and humor that my brothers and I had used to survive.  I saw that we were not alone. I felt connected to a million fathers and estranged sons, to generations of family wounds, many greater than my own.  Then I gradually saw, too, his creative and loving side, along with his capacity to hurt those he loved, and finally his humanity, all our humanity. And in the last days in the hospital, I could sit with him in all his complexity and forgive.

When students come to Buddhist practice, they learn the blessings of the path of forgiveness. Josh’s half brothers had legally cheated him out of part of his inheritance. He knew that through his own inattention he was complicit as well. Over five years he had tried to straighten things out with them, with only a little success. Still he carried the suffering and betrayal like a weight in his body. He had not been a regular meditator but to release his suffering, he undertook a systematic forgiveness practice. He knew that finding compassion and forgiveness were crucial for his well being. At first he struggled, and whenever his bitterness arose, I suggested he pay attention to his body. He could feel a familiar block of rigid tension in his shoulders and upper arms and a constricted pain in his chest.  The clenched hurt and anger were a painful sign. He didn’t want to live this way. Even though he didn’t get the money, he did not want to live hating his brothers. Josh knew he had to release them. Over several months of repeated practice, the spirit of forgiveness came in, and little by little he learned to let go.

Forgiveness was also important for Julie, a college biosciences professor who worked as an ecological activist in Brazil and Guatemala.  On retreat she told me how she had recently seduced a graduate student, and two young women in the field.  She had mixed her love needs with the good work she was doing and her activism became a kind of self justification for these relationships.  It all came up in her meditation. Julie was not sorry for her attempts at love and connection, but she deeply regretted the pain and betrayal she had caused.
I suggested that Julie write the whole set of stories down.  They poured out of her.  Then I asked her permission to read them.  She gave them to me, and when I had done so we met together.  I asked her what she felt we should do next.  Her eyes watered and she said she wanted to ask forgiveness.  I offered her my own, and told her that she had to consciously understand and feel the impact of her actions to commit to not harming.  She thought she would write to these women. Then she had to find a way to forgive herself so she could be released from the past and let it go.

Even in extreme cases, the Buddhist teachings counsel forgiveness. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha gives an instruction that is both fierce and compassionate. “If someone has abused you, beat you, robbed you, abandon your thoughts of anger. Soon you will die. Life is too short to live with hatred.”  With forgiveness we become unwilling to wish harm to another.  Whenever we forgive, in small ways at home, or in great ways between nations, we free ourselves from the past.  This is necessary for the Bosnians and Serbs, the Irish Catholics and Protestants, the Hutus and Tutsis.  It is necessary to us all to find ways to forgive.

Laura grew up with a lot of shame about being poor.  Outwardly she tied to overcome this by hard work.  Laura was the first in her extended family to go to college, struggling with feeling insecure, like an outcast. After she graduated, she worked in the city for the Department of Public Safety. Sixteen years later she transferred to a farming community just in from the coast near Oxnard.  She said, “Now that I’ve lived in the city, when I go into the coffee shop and see the old clothes, the uneducated farmers, it’s so easy to judge them and feel myself as different.  We may be different in education and politics, but these are false ways we separate ourselves.  Then when I really look, I just want to drop my judgments and be with them, with us.”

“My father was like them. He drank too much. He berated us, his daughters.  He was terrible to his sons.  I was desperate to get free of him, of our family.  But my shame, anger and resentment stayed with me.  When I began Buddhist practice, it was hard to sit still.  After awhile I realized how sad I was, how much hurt was in my body.  I was just trying to cope.  I was grateful to be taught the loving-kindness and forgiveness practices. I did them twice a day for two years.  I needed to forgive myself for being so angry and ashamed, as much as to forgive my father.  Practicing forgiveness was like learning to stand and walk and feel good about myself.  Then I was able to go home, to see my family, even my father, without hurting so much.  Seven years later when my father got sick, it wasn’t hard to go back.  I saw his slow decline until finally he was a weak old man on his bed.  I knew that I loved him.  I had forgiven us all.”  With virtue and forgiveness we repair the world.
 
This excerpt is taken from the book, “
The Wise Heart

SOURCE:
Jack_Logo4
https://jackkornfield.com/the-practice-of-forgiveness-2/
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“The Divine Feminine - Reclaiming the Feminine Mystery of Creation” by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Divine Feminine Pic
Then creation recognized its Creator 
in its own forms and appearances. 
For in the beginning, when God said, "Let it be!"
and it came to pass, the means and the Matrix of creation was Love,
because all creation was formed through Her as in the twinkling of an eye.

                                                                                            
—The Holy Spirit as Sapientia St. Hildegard von Bingen
 
THE MATRIX OF CREATION
The feminine is the matrix of creation.  This truth is something profound and elemental, and every woman knows it in the cells of her body, in her instinctual depths.  Out of the substance of her very being life comes forth.  She can conceive and give birth, participate in the greatest mystery of bringing a soul into life.  And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born.  Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love.

What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself.  When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.  We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation.  We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish and transform it.  The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.

Because humanity has a central function in the whole of creation, what we deny to ourself we deny to all of life.  In denying the feminine her sacred power and purpose we have impoverished life in ways we do not understand.  We have denied life its sacred source of meaning and divine purpose, which was understood by the ancient priestesses.  We may think that their fertility rites and other ceremonies belonged only to the need for procreation or a successful harvest.  In our contemporary culture we cannot understand how a deeper mystery was enacted, one that consciously connected life to its source in the inner worlds, a source that held the wholeness of life as an embodiment of the divine, allowing the wonder of the divine to be present in every moment.

The days of the priestesses, their temples and ceremonies are over, and because the wisdom of the feminine was not written down but transmitted orally (logos is a masculine principle), this sacred knowledge is lost.  We cannot reclaim the past, but we can witness a world without her presence, a world which we exploit for greed and power, which we rape and pollute without real concern.  And then we can begin the work of welcoming her back, of reconnecting with the divine that is at the core of creation, and learning once again how to work with the sacred principles of life.  Without the intercession of the divine feminine we will remain in this physical and spiritual wasteland we have created, passing on to our children a diseased and desecrated world.

The choice is simple.  Can we remember the wholeness that is within us, the wholeness that unites spirit and matter?  Or will we continue walking down this road that has abandoned the divine feminine, that has cut women off from their sacred power and knowledge?  If we choose the former we can begin to reclaim the world, not with masculine plans, but with the wisdom of the feminine, the wisdom that belongs to life itself.  If we choose the latter we may attempt some surface solutions with new technology.  We may combat global warming and pollution with scientific plans.  But there will be no real change.  A world that is not connected to its soul cannot heal.  Without the participation of the divine feminine nothing new can be born.

RECLAIMING HER SACRED WISDOM
If the knowledge of the sacred feminine has been lost how can we know what to do?  Part of the wisdom of the feminine is to wait, to listen, to be receptive.  A woman does not consciously know how to bring the light of a soul into her womb and help it to form a body.  And yet this mystery takes place within her.  Nor does she consciously know how to nourish this light with her own light, in the same way that she gives her blood to help the body to grow.  She 
is the mystery of light being born into matter, and her pregnancy is a time of receptivity, waiting, listening and feeling what is happening within her.  She and the Great Mother are one being, and if she listens within she is given the knowledge she needs.

We may have forsaken this simple feminine wisdom of listening, and in this information age awash with so many words it is easy to undervalue an instinctual knowledge that comes from within.  But the sacred principles of life have never been written down: they belong to the heartbeat, to the rhythm of the breath and the flow of blood.  They are alive like the rain and the rivers, the waxing and waning of the moon.  If we learn to listen we will discover that life, the Great Mother, is speaking to us, telling us what we need to know.  We are present at a time when the world is dying and waiting to be reborn, and all the words in our libraries and on the internet will not tell us what to do.  But the sacred feminine can share with us her secrets, tell us how to be, how to midwife her rebirth.  And because we are her children she can speak to each of us, if we have the humility to listen.

How can we listen to what we do not know?  How can we reclaim what we have lost so long ago?  Every moment is new.  The present moment is not just a progression of past moments, but is alive in its own way, complete and perfect.  And it is the moment that demands our attention.  Only in the moment can we be fully awake and respond to the real need.  Only in the present moment can we be fully attentive.  Only in the present moment can the divine come into existence.  Men may make plans, but a mother attentive to her children knows the real need of the moment.  She feels in her being the interconnectedness of all of life in a way that is veiled from the masculine.  She knows one cannot make plans when there are so many variables, but one can respond with the wisdom that includes the whole and all of its connections.  The divine feminine is asking us to be present in life in all of its wholeness, without judgment or plans.  Then she can speak to us, reveal the mystery of her rebirth.

And because this is a birth, the feminine has to be present, not just as an idea but as a living presence within us, within both men and women; because although woman most fully embodies the divine feminine, part of her secret is also shared with men, just as a son carries part of his mother in a way hidden from her daughters.  Yet to live the feminine is something we have almost forgotten: our patriarchal culture has denied her power and real wisdom, has sanitized her as much as it has divorced her from her magic that belongs to the rhythms of creation.  But we need her, more than we dare realize.

However, to fully encounter the divine feminine, the creative principle of life, we must be prepared for her anger, for the pain that has come from her abuse.  For centuries our masculine culture has repressed her natural power, has burnt her temples, killed her priestesses.  Through his drive for mastery, and his fear of the feminine, of what he cannot understand or control, the patriarchy has not just neglected her, but deliberately tortured and destroyed.  He has not just raped her, but torn the very fabric of life, the primal wholeness of which she is always the guardian.  And the feminine is angry, even if her anger has been repressed along with her magic.

To welcome the feminine is to acknowledge and accept her pain and anger, and the part we have played in this desecration.  Women too have often colluded with the masculine, denied their own power and natural magic, instead accepted masculine values, ways of thinking.  They have betrayed their own deepest self.  But we must also be careful not to become caught in this darkness, in the dynamics of abuse, the anger and betrayal.

It is especially easy for women to become identified with the suffering of the feminine, her treatment by the masculine, to project one’s own pain and anger onto men.  Then we are caught even more securely in this web that denies us any transformation.  If we identify with the pain of the feminine we easily become an agent of her anger, rather than going deeper into the mystery of suffering, into the light that is always hidden in the darkness.  Because in the depths of the feminine there is a deep knowledge that the abuse is also part of the cycle of creation.  The Great Mother embodies a wholeness that contains even the denial of herself, and we need her wholeness if we are to survive and be reborn. 

Real transformation, like any birth, needs the darkness as much as the light.  We know that the feminine has been abused, just as the planet continues to be polluted.  But the woman who has experienced the pain of childbirth, who knows the blood that belongs to birth, is always initiated in the darkness; she knows the cycles of creation in ways that are hidden to the masculine.  She needs to give herself and her knowing to this present cycle of death and rebirth, and in so doing honor the pain she has suffered.  Then she will discover that her magic and power is also being reborn in a new way, is being returned to her in ways that can no longer be contaminated by the masculine and its power drive.  But without her full participation there is the danger of a still birth; then this present cycle of creation will not realize its potential.

First we need to acknowledge the suffering of the feminine, of the earth itself, or the light within the feminine will be hidden from us.  We have to pay the price of our desires to dominate nature, of our acts of hubris.  We are not separate from life, from the winds and the weather.  We are a part of creation and we have to ask her forgiveness, to take responsibility for our attitudes and actions.  We need to go consciously into the next era, recognizing our mistakes.  Only then can we fully honor and hear her.  But there is always the possibility that we will not take this step.  That like defiant children we will not acknowledge the pain we have done to our mother, and will not reclaim the wholeness that she embodies.  Then we will remain within the darkness that is beginning to devour our souls: the empty promises of materialism, the fractured world of fanaticism.  To take a step into maturity is always to acknowledge our mistakes, the wrongs we have done.
 
GIVING BIRTH TO OUR OWN WHOLENESS
It is a real challenge to step into this matrix of the feminine, to honor something so sacred and simple as the real wisdom of life.  But as we stand at the edge of our present global abyss we need this wisdom more than we realize.  How many times has this world been brought to the edge of extinction, how many times in its millions of years has it faced disaster?  Now we have created our own disaster with our ignorance and greed, and the first step is to ask for the help of our mother and to listen to her wisdom.  Then we will find ourselves in a very different environment than that which we presently imagine.  We will discover that there are changes happening in the depths of creation of which we are a part, and that the pollution and pain we have caused are part of a cycle of life that involves its own apparent destruction.  We are not isolated, even in our mistakes.  We are part of the whole of creation even as we have denied the whole.  In our hubris we have separated ourselves from life, and yet we can never be separate.  That is just an illusion of masculine thinking.  There is no such thing as separation.  It is just a myth created by the ego.

Everything is part of the whole, even in its mistakes and disasters.  Once we return to this simple awareness we will discover that there are changes taking place that demand our participation, that need us to be present.  We will see that the axis of creation is shifting and something is coming alive in a new way.  We are being reborn, not in any separate sense but as a complete whole.  We do not have images in our masculine consciousness to think what this could be like, but this does not mean it is not happening.  Something within us 
knows that the present era is over, that our time of separation is coming to an end.  At present we sense it most apparently in the negative, knowing that the images of life no longer sustain us, that consumerism is killing our soul as well as the planet.  And yet there is also something just beyond the horizon, like a dawn that we can sense even if we cannot see.

And this dawn carries a light, and this light is calling to us, calling to our souls if not yet to our minds.  And it is asking for us to welcome it, to bring it into being.  And if we dare to do this, to say “yes” to this dawn, we will discover that this light is within us, and that something within each of us is being brought into being.  We are part of a shared mystery: we are the light hidden within matter that is being awakened.

For too many centuries we have been caught in the myth of separation, until we have become isolated from each other and from the energies of creation that sustain us.  But now there is a growing light that carries the knowing of oneness, the oneness that is alive with the imprint of the divine.  This is what is being given back to us.  This is the light that is awakening.  The light of oneness is a reflection of the divine oneness of life, and we are each a direct expression of this oneness.  And this oneness is not a metaphysical idea but something so simple and ordinary.  It is in every breath, in the wing beat of every butterfly, in every piece of garbage left on city streets.  This oneness is life, life no longer experienced solely through the fragmented vision of the ego, but known within the heart, felt in the soul.  This oneness is the heartbeat of life.  It is creation’s recognition of its Creator.  In this oneness life celebrates itself and its divine origin.

The feminine knows this oneness.  She feels it in her body, in her instinctual wisdom.  She knows its interconnectedness just as she knows how to nourish her own children.  And yet until now this knowing has not carried the bright light of masculine consciousness.  It has remained hidden within her, in the darkness of her instinctual self.  And part of her pain has been that she has not known how to use her knowing in the rational and scientific world we inhabit.  Instead of valuing her own knowledge she has played the games of the masculine, imitating his thinking, putting aside her knowledge of relationships and her sense of the patterns that belong to creation.

Now it is time for this wisdom of the feminine to be combined with masculine consciousness, so that a new understanding of the wholeness of life can be used to help us to heal our world.  Our present scientific solutions come from the masculine tools of analysis, the very mind set of separation that has caused the problems.  We cannot afford to isolate ourself from the whole any more, and the fact that our problems are global illustrate this.  Global warming is not just a scientific image but a dramatic reality.  Combining masculine and feminine wisdom we can come to understand the relationships between the parts and the whole, and if we listen we can hear life telling us how to redress this imbalance.

There is a light within life, known to the alchemists as the 
lumen naturae, that can speak to us, speak to the light of our own awareness.  There is a primal dialogue of light to light, which is known to every healer as she listens to the body of her patient and allows it to communicate with her, allows its light to speak to the light within her.  Through this dialogue of light she comes to know where to place her hands, the herbs that are needed, the pressure points to be touched.  This direct communication is combined with the knowledge of healing she has learned, allowing an alchemy to take place that can reawaken energy within the patient, realign the body and soul.  This is how real healing happens, and what is true for the individual is also true for the world, except that we are both the patient and the healer.  The world’s wounds and imbalance are our wounds and imbalance, and we have within us the knowledge and understanding to realign ourselves and the world.  This is part of the mystery of life’s wholeness.

The feminine can give us an understanding of how all the diverse parts of life relate together, their patterns of relationship, the interconnections that nourish life.  She can help us to see consciously what she knows instinctively, that all is part of a living, organic whole, in which all the parts of creation communicate together, and how each cell of creation expresses the whole in a unique way.  An understanding of the organic wholeness of life belongs to the instinctual knowing of the feminine, but combined with masculine consciousness this can be communicated in words, not just feelings.  We can combine the science of the mind and the senses with inner knowing.  We can be given a blueprint of the planet that will enable us to live in creative harmony with all of life.
 
A NEW MAGIC IS PRESENT
What does it mean to reclaim the feminine?  It means to honor our sacred connection to life that is present in every moment.  It means to realize that life is one whole and begin to recognize the interconnections that form the web of life.  It means to realize that 
everything, every act, even every thought, affects the whole.  And it also means to allow life to speak to us.  We are constantly bombarded by so many impressions, by so much media and advertising, that it is not easy to hear the simple voice of life itself.  But it is present, even within the mirage of our fears and desires, our anxieties and expectations.  And life is waiting for us to listen: it just needs us to be present and attentive.  It is trying to communicate to us the secrets of creation so that we can participate in the wonder that is being born.

We have been exiled from our own home, sold a barren landscape full of soulless fantasies.  It is time to return home, to claim what belongs to us, the sacred life of which we are a part.  This is what is waiting for us, and its signs are appearing around us.  They are not just in our discontent, in our sense that we have been exploited and lied to.  They are in a quality of magic that is beginning to appear, like the wing beats of angels we cannot see but can feel.  We are being reminded of what we really are, of the divine presence that is within ourself and within life.  We long for this magic, for a life that unites the inner and outer worlds.  And this other is already with us in ways we would not expect.  We just have to be open and receptive, to say yes to what we cannot see or touch, but can feel and respond to.  And for each of us this meeting of the worlds will be different, unique, because we are each different, unique.  It is the sacred within life speaking to us in our own language.  Maybe for the gardener it speaks in the magic of plants, for the mother in something unexpected in the ways of her children—always it is something glimpsed but not yet known—a promise we know we have been waiting for.  Children themselves feel it first, but for them it is not so unusual; it is part of the air they breathe, the light they live in.  They have not yet been completely banished, and maybe they will grow into a world in which this magic remains.

The mystery of the divine feminine speaks to us from within her creation.  She is not a distant god in heaven, but a presence that is here with us, needing our response.  She is the divine returning to claim her creation, the real wonder of what it means to be alive.  We have forgotten her, just as we have forgotten so much of what is sacred, and yet she is always part of us.  But now she needs to be known again, not just as a myth, as a spiritual image, but as something that belongs to the blood and the breath.  She can awaken us to an expectancy in the air, to an ancient memory coming alive in a new way.  She can help us to give birth to the divine that is within us, to the oneness that is all around us.  She can help us to remember our real nature.

© 2007 The Golden Sufi Center
 
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher and author. In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness (see www.workingwithoneness.org). He has also specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The Golden Sufi Center (http://www.goldensufi.org/). His most recent books are Alchemy of Light, Working with the Primal Energies of Life, and Spiritual Power, How It Works.
For further writings about the divine feminine by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee please visit:
Teachings on the Feminine and the World Soul

SOURCE:
AWNE-header
http://whenthesoulawakens.org/the-divine-feminine_275.html
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"The Divine Feminine" by Sunyata Satchitananda

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Art by Adolphe Bouguereau “L’Aurore”

The Divine Feminine is experiencing a re-emergence—a rebirth into the collective consciousness. For centuries she has been downplayed, demeaned, removed from her place of honor and reverence by the dominant patriarchal culture. We are now in a time when the Divine Feminine is the subject of intense interest and many conversations and she is beginning to receive the veneration and devotion she deserves. The Divine Feminine represents the supreme level of feminine expression and manifestation in the universe. She comprises the best of the feminine in all its measure.

Women subjugated to male thinking and ideals can lack examples and models to nurture their inherent connection to the divine. By considering the stellar qualities of positive, “divine,” archetypes women will find models of thinking and behavior that nurtures spiritual and psychological advancement.

As multifaceted, spirit-embodied beings, we each have a complex psychological and emotional constitution that produces one’s inner health and outer reality. Each one of us, male and female, carries within our psyche both
Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine archetype energies. From these archetypes come our conscious thoughts, plans, desires, goals and agendas.

These archetype energies intertwine and cooperate to produce a uniquely personal expression and experience of life. Sexuality is just one expression in which this confluence of energies distinctly manifests. A female gendered person does not mean that only feminine energy is present. Also, a person’s sex (chromosomes) and the archetypal energies present in the psyche are not dependent on each other.

Developing a harmonious relationship of “inner” masculine and feminine is humanity’s evolutionary challenge and a process of spiritual advancement. It is through the integration and harmonization of one’s inner masculine and feminine that we reach higher, integrated, holistic consciousness.
For Men: it is advantageous to contemplate and integrate the “feminine” archetype qualities listed here into their inner feminine —or “anima.”

By developing healthy, integrated aspects of the divine masculine and feminine within the psyche real progress can be made in gender reconciliation and establishing an egalitarian society.

Goddess, Queen, Priestess, Warrioress, Lover, Wise Woman
The Divine Feminine comprises a group of archetypal energies that drive and inspire one’s consciousness and felt sense of being. SHE is “anima,” the spark of inspiration, catalyst of change, siren of desire. There are many “feminine” archetypes present in the psyche—six have been chosen to represent those with the strongest influence on conducive psychological functioning and one’s psycho-spiritual evolution. By regular conscious feeding of these archetypal energies—weaker aspects are nurtured to fullness.

A Suggested Practice
Those seeking to discover and nurture their expression of the Divine Feminine will want to:
1 Contemplate what the “fullness” of each archetype expression means to you.
2 How do these archetypes currently show up in your life. Look for areas and ways you are already embodying #1. Don’t look for the places you are deficient or lack in the fullness of the archetype. Only look for what you ARE doing.

As you acknowledge and accept what you are already doing, you will notice more places where you already are, or are beginning to, embody the fullness of the archetype. Its like seeing in a dark room, after some time your sight “adjusts,” or expands, and you see more of what was already there. As you contemplate each archetype, you will notice more and more areas where it already exists in your awareness and behavior. This is due to radiation of the archetype energy spreading out in a “blossoming” or unfolding effect within the psyche and happens whenever archetype energy is accessed and stimulated.

Contemplation also strengthens the awareness. Two things are accomplished—you see what is already there, reinforcing what is presently integrated, and you strengthen what is beginning to emerge in your awareness, behavior, and ability.

Any aspects of the archetype that seem “new” can be integrated by imagining:
“what it would feel like?” —to think or behave in this new way and see what shifts of thinking and behaving that produces. As you do, look for circumstances or opportunities that could be positively affected by adopting these higher concepts, principles and motivations and seek to enable their presence.
The Archetypes
 
Goddess
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Artist: Zeng Hao “Kuan Yin”

The Goddess is the archetype that provides transcendent experience, a re-connecting with source, and nurturing of divine essence. Here is a mystery, an incalculable delving into the void—out of which all things come—the unknowable deep abyss that is Love.

The Goddess is the spark of life, the inspirational, dynamic, flowing energy of creation and evolution. She is the primordial first cause, originator, progenitor -Creatrix. Her wisdom is unfathomable, intuitive, untraceable and ever-evolving. Representing the mystery of the unknown and unknowable she ignites Eros, desire and vital force seeking new experience, new associations, new possibilities, new connection out of stagnating, old, technologies and processes.

The Goddess connects one to a constantly elevating transcendent flow of possibility and newness. She inspires one’s soul to new heights of expression and connection with life in its magnitude and fullness. SHE resonates transpersonal, harmonious love for everyone and all beings. The Goddess archetype is the domain of spirituality, mystical experience and intuition.
ParamaShakti-BrahmaVishnuShiva
A woman in the fullness of her Goddess archetype feels like this: She emanates dynamic energy, flowing, ever changing with boundless intuitive wisdom and creativity. Her presence is inspiring and causes one to feel renewed—stimulated and revitalized. She is “immanence” (divine presence) personified, spiritually balanced, transcendentally driven, and emanates love to all without distinction or prejudice. While she is the originator of ideas and solutions she seeks collaboration and consensus in their outworking and manifestation.

Queen (Mother)
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Perhaps the strongest archetype, yet most overwhelmed with expectation and duty is the Queen (Mother). It is she who is the authority and stewardess of the “living space” and primary care-giver of progeny. To give birth is the most profound accomplishment one may experience, life giving life, nurturing and guiding this life into self-sufficiency and fullness of being is the selfless goal of the mother. The most significant relationship one has is with the mother of one’s birth. No other bond experiences such connection, attachment, and enmeshment.
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It is the Queen who brings order and blessing, benevolence, fertility, balance, compassion, fairness and unconditional love. While the Goddess archetype is the Creatrix -inspiring vision and imagination, the Queen births these into being and actively looks to their growth and prospering. The Queen archetype is the domain of material manifestation, family, “kingdom” (sphere of life influence), also material wealth and abundance.

A woman expressing the fullness of the Queen archetype feels like this: She is concerned with the well-being and happiness of her “household,” and all in her domain of benevolent loving care.


She is a nurturing, stabilizing and calming influence in all circumstances and supports the highest good and soul aligned fulfillment of those in her “household.”
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Her demeanor is “seasoned” and carries wisdom with it, not adolescent, fickle impulsiveness. She is compassionate, benevolent, deeply caring, expansively loving, evenhanded, calm, persistent, caring, present, and rejoices in the success and happiness of those who enjoy her care and selfless loving.

Priestess
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The Priestess archetype is possibly the least known and understood, especially in the present patriarchal culture which dominates and subjugates women‘s spirituality. The Priestess archetype is the domain of intuitive awareness and insight, of secret or “occult” (that which is hidden) knowledge of the unknown, spirit realm.

The Priestess has a magical connection to the great mystery, the pregnant void, mother of all creation, source energy. She is a connector, a facilitator between the material and the spiritual, a mediator of powerful spiritual, psychological and emotional energies that make up who we are. The Priestess calls forth and directs energies between unconscious and conscious awareness, affecting our material and spiritual sense of well being.

A woman in the fullness of the Priestess archetype feels like this: She is the master of her spiritual and material realities showing a confidence of bearing that knows how to call forth from spiritual storehouses what is needed to transmute, transduce, and transform energies that would overtake or topple other women not in this fullness.

She is thoughtful and reflective having depth to her presence and intellect. She knows how to detach from inner and outer storms and how to connect deep inner truths and resources with her grounded experience of life. She sees a higher possibility and attunes to its resonance. She is not easily influenced by faddish impulses and brings power and confidence to difficult situations requiring change or shifting - with grace and insight.
 
Warrioress
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Pallas Athene by Klimt

The Warrioress archetype is the least represented and understood archetype for women—distorted and misunderstood by the dominant patriarchal culture. Any expression of warrioress is met with condemnation and judgment—belittled by immature males.

Warrioress qualities are: decisiveness and clarity of thought, selfless service, genuine humility, strength of experiential “knowing,” courage to do what is “right” even when it is a personal challenge to do so, maintaining and supporting established systems and forms without rigidity, loyal to a greater good beyond personal gain.
She is selfless and maintains a warm, compassionate, appreciative and generous connection to whom she serves. She fights “the good fight” in favor of benefiting the greater good and making life more fulfilling for everyone.

A woman in the fullness of her Warrioress feels like this:

Her grounded confidence, calm demeanor, and strength of stature is evident and unheralded. She contributes without fanfare or directing—or requiring attention. She promptly responds to requests of service showing respect to all, especially to those “elder” to her, as well as other men, women, and children, animals and the earth.

She “knows herself” and finds her place in collaborative projects, finding fulfillment and contentment participating without ambition and competition. The woman in the fullness of the Warrioress makes you feel “safe” while not being oppressed by her support. She is decisive, easily responding from the heart without Ego-personality selfishness.
 
Lover
ichingdao
© Art by Richard Stodart

The Divine Feminine Lover archetype is perhaps the most polarized and distorted by modern society. There is a “Madonna/Whore” dyadic opposition associated with the feminine expression of Eros Love. She is either idealized and set beyond the reach of men in worshipful ignorance or is debased and exploited as wanton in her lust and salaciousness. And yet, the fullness of the Divine Feminine Lover archetype can encompass and surmount both of these immature distinctions.

The Lover archetype has been contorted into a selfish and dense expression that lacks breadth or spirit. Yet the Lover is the meeting and combining of sex and spirit, Eros, the universal urge to bond and unite.

Woman naturally, organically, comprise the alchemy that infuses spirit into flesh with desire—prompting sensual engagement and erotic expression. While most commonly expressed in romantic and sexual form, the Lover archetype also contains a much fuller, divine, expression.

The Lover archetype in its fullness is the primal energy of passion, exquisite engagement with life and ecstatic being: an alive and vivid world view. The domain of the Lover archetype are the primal urges of being: sex, food, well-being, procreation—and is manifested in creative adaptation and initiatory experience.

The Lover is the epitome of Sensual. She exudes sensuality in her mood, look, walk, bearing, and engagement. She is intimately interested in all forms of sensory contact, experiencing the world in all its splendor. She is the archetype of play and healthy erotic embodiment without shame.

A woman in the fullness of the Lover archetype feels like this:
She is sensual. She is open and invites you to touch—her mind, body and soul. She relishes connection with others, specifically the connecting aspect—beyond Ego’s fulfillment needs. She appreciates beauty in all its forms, seeing and feeling beauty in herself, realizing her intrinsic connection and possession of such. She is “in her body” animating it with vital energy through dance, or yoga, or movement. She brings, eros and sensuality and a “joy of life” to any engagement or conversation.
 
Wise Woman
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The Wise Woman elicits visions of the Shaman, one who not only accesses the spiritual realms but brings practical “technology” to those in her “household.” She mines her fathomless intuitive wisdom and miraculously produces solutions and applications that forward advancement and resolution of opposites, challenges, and disparate circumstances. The Wise Woman has been an essential archetype for the survival of her “clan,” community, family and our human species.

The Wise Woman brings an aspect of advocating “right action,” dharma. She is the expression of the Ego in service to, and “right-relationship” with, the higher Self’s power. The Wise Woman observes, tracks, scans, monitors data from all sources (within and without) and channels wisdom leading to “right action.”

The Wise Woman archetype in her fullness feels like this:

She quietly and deftly orchestrates and imparts wise counsel and intuitive direction that shifts the receiver into new possibilities and pathways that reflect “right action” for their life path. She unobtrusively supports the wisdom of others, not seeking acclaim or notice for her contribution. She is thoughtful and reflective and rests in her felt connection with spirit and grounded connection with the earth, Gaia, the source of her wisdom and intuition.

The Wise Woman’s importance of contribution comes to the fore during crisis and intense need. Through the uniquely formed conduit that the Wise Woman embodies, wisdom and “right action” become clear. With the Wise Woman’s contribution we feel confident and assured that our path is the “right” one for us, we respond to life with a calm easefulness that transitions crisis and change with grace and wisdom.
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"Living From the Heart: Demoting Your Brain as CEO" by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

LFTH-Unknown
We all have a thought that can slip in and become our one worst enemy. Sometimes it’s “I can’t,” and other times it’s “I tried.” Either way, these simple thoughts can sabotage our best intentions. I see the “I can’t” and “I tried” people in my office often. They start a diet, and fail; begin an exercise program, then quit; make a vow to do something positive for themselves, but get deterred in one way or another and get off course. We all have a little bit of this in us, but the truth is that there is nothing more powerful than knowing exactly who you are, and that includes getting to know those dark little voices in your head.

And where do they come from? Your overactive brain, that’s where. And guess where they don’t stand a chance? Your under-utilized heart.

Is it time to demote your brain as CEO of your life?
As women, multi-tasking and doing it all, we have allowed our brains to take over and run the show. In many ways, this has been necessary to get us where we are today, but at some point, our brains got a little bit power-happy. We’ve got checklists for our checklists. Our phones and other devices are constantly beeping and dinging and vibrating to remind us that we are continuously consumed with obligations and many of us have the idea that we need to take care of everyone and do everything perfectly.
It’s simply not true. It’s also not worth the price.

I see women in their 30s, 40s, 50s — women in the prime of their lives — in my office with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and dizziness all stemming from the stress hormones released in the body due to overactive perseverating brains that so often can sabotage success and happiness.

After seeing these patterns repeatedly, I decided it was time to share what I’ve learned about how to help women stop living entirely from their heads and remember how to live from their hearts. I want to help women understand their hearts, prioritize their hearts, and know exactly what it means to care for their hearts on every level, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious, from direct physical heart health to managing the emotional repercussions of life in the 21st century. I want you know how your heart works, and how your heart can work for you.

Coming out January 24, 2013, is Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Women’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life. With this book, every woman can come into my office and let herself be transformed. Learn what it really means to live from the heart. Here’s an excerpt:

Living from the heart feels much different than living from the head. When you live from your heart, you feel at peace, at ease, and in control of yourself because of a deep inner knowing. You lead with love. You learn how to care for yourself and love yourself. You relax because you know that everything is going to be okay. Living from the heart coaxes your body back into balance. When the heart is in control, your body finds optimum health and starts acting like a well-oiled machine instead of a broken-down car.

We are so used to letting our heads be in charge of our lives that when we start reacting with our hearts instead, it feels like a miracle, like a whole new existence. And it is! The heart is the center of our body’s universe and the center of our feelings. This is as it should be. Your head is way off at the edge of your body. You can’t balance when you are living from there. Your head isn’t grounded in the reality of your body. Let your heart be the center and watch your whole life transform.

When we compartmentalize our lives and forget what matters most to us, we tend to listen to those critical voices in our heads — those nefarious “I can’ts” and “I trieds,” and suddenly we are less than we could be. Every aspect of your life can and will influence your heart, and it is simply a matter of meticulously figuring out exactly who you are.

For example, is “I can’t exercise” true? Or is the truth actually, “I can’t exercise in the morning because I’m not a morning person.” If that’s you, then that’s you — and that’s okay. But there is a way exercise can work in your life. Is “I tried to be an artist but I’ll have to settle for a job I don’t like” the truth? Or is the real truth, “My previous attempts at making a living as an artist didn’t work, but I can still find a way to channel that part of me and call myself an artist”? Both “I can’t” and “I tried” statements are actually indicators of behavior patterns that you can observe and change. When you see them this way, then you can make different choices. When you empower yourself with your own personal handbook for your heart, your own personal Heart Book, then suddenly you have taken over the wheel of your life. You will be the one in the driver’s seat.

Living from the heart means really knowing who you are, knowing what makes you happy, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing what makes you tick, and understanding that while you are not perfect, you can be as perfect as possible. That is my wish and challenge for you: Live truthfully, authentically, and honestly, drawing strength and consolation from work, family, love, and health. Cultivate and nurture those things, not from your head, where logic always rules, but from your heart, where you can feel what is right and real for you. Live that way, and chances are things are going to be just fine.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-suzanne-steinbaum/living-from-the-heart_b_2528372.html
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“You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” by Galen Pearl

jon snow2
Game of Thrones fans will recognize this line, spoken to Jon Snow repeatedly by the wildling woman he fell in love with, and who died in his arms with these words on her lips.

The universe has conspired lately to remind me that, like Jon Snow, everything I think I know ... I don’t. No matter where I turn – to family, to friends old and new, to martial arts, to life in general – I am confronted by my absolute ignorance of, well, everything. It is disorienting and decidedly uncomfortable. Sometimes scary. At the same time, it is intriguing, exciting, and occasionally even fun.

It is, spiritually speaking, where the action is. Outside of my comfort zone, on the razor’s edge. It is where I see most clearly, if I’m willing to look, my habitual patterns, my stories, my insecurities and fear. It is where I’m given the opportunity to experience the raw beauty and fierce grace of reality, to taste the nectar of truth, to be stripped of all my defenses and emerge pure and powerful. If only for a moment....

It sounds sublime, and it is, but it is also messy, like diving beneath the lotus blossom to its roots in the muck. The muck is where the flower grows. And so it is with us. When we embrace all life offers, excluding nothing, seeing the sacred in every moment, no matter what, then our true nature grows rooted in the depths of darkness to bloom brilliant in the light.

The following poem was written a couple of years ago to support a friend going through a hard time. But today, it speaks to me to give me courage to step into the mystery.

The ground beneath our feet
That we think strong
Is but an icy crust
Lightning cracks race
Pop and thunder
We dare not move
It matters not
We will fall through into our destiny
And remember once again
That what dies 
Was never real
And we are 
                    laughing
                                     free

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"Sweep Out the Chamber of Your Heart" by Jeannie Zandi

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--Sacred Heart by Cristie Henry

Go sweep out the chamber of your heart.
Make it ready to be the dwelling place of the Beloved.
— Mahmud Shabistari, 13th-century Sufi

When I was 10, I was in love with Miss Walker. After a series of wrinkly and stern grandma types who had been teaching for decades, in fourth grade there was twenty-something Miss Walker. Miss Walker at the chalkboard. Miss Walker in short skirts that showed her beautiful legs, Miss Walker with her electric-curler-created brown curls bouncing as she walked briskly down the hall. I would sign her name as if it was mine: Miss Nancy J. Walker. It was the first year I got straight As, and that was out of my deep adoration which demanded expression — I wanted to give something to she who seemed to lack nothing.

According to the dictionary, to adore is to “worship as God or a god” from the Latin
adorare, which means “to pray to.” It is a deep, often rapturous regard that pours from the heart without concern for social custom or convention and, in its pure form, looks for nothing for itself but to love and pay homage to the beloved.

For the 13th-century mystic and poet Rumi, the adoration of his beloved teacher Shams of Tabriz led him into the wilderness of his heart, taking him through the depths of its dark pockets of longing and pain, and ultimately opening into the wide vista of his love for God and for all that is. The human heart, hung heavy with disappointments and sorrows, complete with sealed-off passages and hidden lonely caverns, longs to be known, to express itself fully in this world. It desires to bring the love that we are, beneath our accumulated pain and confusion, to this earthly plane through our eyes and our hands. For some, the yearning to live as love is so acute that there is no other choice but to travel this seemingly dangerous road of Rumi.

Traveling this road may mean wholeheartedly devoting one’s life to knowing the oneness of God. For others, it may mean a simple practice of allowing what we feel to be experienced and touched, without distraction or minimization so that we may come to know the depths of who we are. The shining truth and beauty of our hearts leaping at the sights or sounds that touch us can act as a tractor beam, drawing us onward as we explore and touch every desolate corner that stands between us and our inner beloved, and therefore also between us and all of creation.

In India, ashrams exist where a pilgrim can fall completely in love with an embodiment of God and seek shelter and solace in the haven of regular food, regular lodging and regular contact with the beloved while undertaking the heart’s journey. Given that the teacher is one of integrity and clarity, he/she can hold a space for temporarily allowing the devotee to see the teacher as God on the way to knowing him- or herself as God. The guru holds the space for the exploration of the longing, desperation, self-loathing, doubt and sorrow that come from living a human life. This way is revered in India, so a God-crazed love dog is generally treated by others within and without the ashram with tenderness and understanding.
The following poem by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, sheds light on the idea of a love dog:

Love Dogs
One night a man was crying,
Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
”So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of the souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
”Why did you stop praising?”
”Because I never heard anything back.”
”This longing you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of the dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.

In our country, it is rare to find a circle where this tenderness and understanding are extended to one who deeply hungers for God and expresses it through great devotion, nor are there many socially accepted containers for traveling the path of adoration all the way to its end. We Americans tend to sexualize all adoration (that is, assume that it must be sexual), becoming suspicious of the man who adores the girl, the woman who adores the woman, the man who adores the man, etc. Gurus are widely suspected, seen as megalomaniacs or manipulators, and their followers are viewed as naive sheep. (This is not to say that there aren’t examples of men who adore girls that we should be suspicious of or gurus who are megalomaniacs.) The only widely accepted forms for expressing adoration are within a heterosexual couple or between parents/grandparents and children. The therapist/client relationship can also be an accepted container for this adoration to flourish and find its true home in the client’s own heart.

I remember the first teacher I met who allowed others to praise him and it felt clean. He came from a tradition in India, though he was American, and devotees were encouraged to write him poetry, to extol his virtues, and as far as I could tell, he was simply standing in for the Holy while we sang the reverence that was in our hearts. How wonderful to let loose the devotion I had felt for so many, but had held inside out of fear of being laughed at, rejected or rushed to bed, or used to fill someone else’s bottomless pit. For most, our egos are so hungry for validation that we can’t hold space for another to adore us — we are too interested in it, too starved for it ourselves to invite and hold space for its expression. We think it means something, and something about us, rather than seeing it as the natural expression of the holy through a human being.

The heart ideally needs a laboratory, in a sense, in its rocky course toward freedom, where many conditions are held consistent, such as (a) the adored and the one who is adoring are mutually aware of the holy context — in other words, that this is about God, and the adored holds that container if the adoring one gets confused; (b) the adored is willing to stay with the process (as opposed to lovers who sometimes leave); (c) the adored does not contaminate the container with his or her own personal needs; (d) the adoration doesn’t lead to anything concrete happening in the everyday world (such as dating, marriage, etc.); and (e) the adored is able (because he/she knows the territory) and willing (because he/she loves attending the birth of light) to witness and offer company through the gnarly parts of the journey without freaking out. Then the longing heart is free to adore, drool, blither, blather, be foolish; try its hand at poetry, at praising, at singing; descend into deep sorrow, feel jealous, try its wings.

Most of us know what it’s like to adore the average human and how much space he or she has for all of this. We have a certain amount of adoration we can tolerate before our “stuff” comes up, and we want to shoo the loving fan away, make fun of them, be mean to them, assume they are lying, assume they don’t know us, assume it’s all about us, assume perhaps the person is not “right” for us, etc. The task requires someone who has carved out her/his own heart to have space for another to play, and for that someone to create and maintain a clear laboratory for the exploration to proceed untainted.

Though we may not be aware of it at the time, when we are adoring another human being we are seeing God reflected in an earthly face, and our hearts call to plumb their depths. What we adore is the reflection of our own divine inner beauty — in a landscape, a flower, a serene face, a gentle manner. When we allow ourselves to adore, we become acquainted with the depths of our own hearts, allow ourselves to approach the grandeur within our own selves, and realize ourselves as love. When our hearts are still cluttered with old pain and fear, love moves only where it seems safe to move, only under certain conditions. The swept-clean heart is an indiscriminate lover: its nature is to love. It loves in every direction; it is love. It knows itself as love, and its joy is to love. It no longer is seeking fulfillment from the outside, looking with hungry eyes toward the false gods through which it was promised fulfillment. Instead, it has burrowed down through the rubble to the fresh wellspring of the Source and drinks there, overflowing outward.

What if we let ourselves love what we love? What if, at least within the privacy of our own solitude, we let ourselves notice what we adore? We have deadened ourselves out of not knowing what to do with the wealth of feelings inside. I recently met with a man in my travels who realized he unconsciously had stopped noticing that half the human race was made up of women. For him, acknowledging the presence of females almost always had ended in disappointment, discouragement, desperation and longing, and so on a subconscious level he had given it up. No wonder so many men gaze at images of women in the privacy of their own solitude: exposing that vulnerability to another human being even in the best of conditions can feel daunting, never mind the possibility of freshly eliciting scorn, fear or the unloading of years of a woman’s pain.

The simple invitation I gave this man was to walk around and notice that some people are women and to feel whatever was there. The point was not for him to get a woman, which is what men are taught will bring them salvation. The point was for him to reclaim the wilds of his own heart, to touch and explore them, and to return to a place where no woman could rival the internal love affair between him and his Source. Then we drink from our own inner spring, and relationship becomes a celebration of that rather than yet another attempt to squeeze a drop of love out of an external source that never will satisfy like the inner one.

When we adore, we tend to measure ourselves against our projected deity and we come up short. We are human, wanting, full of flaws, life-size, and the adored one seems larger than life. If we take the whole journey to reclaim our divinity, this is a temporary condition: painting our own holiness on another. Often, instead of honoring this opportunity to feel reverence and experience what is touched in our hearts, many of us use this flooding of insecurity to flee. Until the last decade, if I was attracted to someone, my strategy was to look at that person as little as possible and bury any sign of my attraction. What if the intensity of my adoration was seen, and right alongside, the squirming and writhing intensity of my self-loathing? What if the person decided it was something in particular — sexual attraction or an interest in dating or a supply to fill the black hole within — before I myself had the opportunity and space to explore it? It was better to stay safe and below the radar, doing damage control on those feelings, right?

Yet the key to plumbing the whole depth of the heart is precisely to dare to walk through this uncharted territory of squirmy things that rise when our hearts are drawn out beyond where we can maintain our cool. For many of us, that territory is gnarly enough to hobble us to the point of hiding forever, resulting in crowds of people walking around trying not to notice the beauty of their neighbors — throngs of hearts in hiding. However, the journey through this wild land is precisely what lets our hearts sing on this sweet Earth.

We can notice where we are drawn, where we love, consenting to have whatever feelings that come with it flood our bodies as we sit with them and let them sift and work themselves out. This willingness washes our hearts little by little until the full blaze that knows no fear is reclaimed, and we walk this Earth as love instead of looking for it. As Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky) writes, “Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?”
——–
(c) Copyright 2007, Jeannie Zandi, all rights reserved.
Originally published in The Eldorado Sun, November, 2007.

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"The Way of the Heart" by Cynthia Bourgeault

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From the Christian esoteric tradition, a path beyond the mind

Put the mind in the heart…. Put the mind in the heart…. Stand before the Lord with the mind in the heart.” From page after page in the Philokalia, that hallowed collection of spiritual writings from the Christian East, this same refrain emerges. It is striking in both its insistence and its specificity. Whatever that exalted level of spiritual attainment is conceived to be—whether you call it “salvation,” “enlightenment,” “contemplation,” or “divine union”—this is the inner configuration in which it is found. This and no other.

It leaves one wondering what these old spiritual masters actually knew and—if it’s even remotely as precise and anatomically grounded as it sounds—why this knowledge has not factored more prominently in contemporary typologies of consciousness.

Part of the problem as this ancient teaching falls on contemporary ears is that we will inevitably be hearing it through a modern filter that does not serve it well. In our own times the word “heart” has come to be associated primarily with the emotions (as opposed to the mental operations of the mind), and so the instruction will be inevitably heard as “get out of your mind and into your emotions”—which is, alas, pretty close to 180 degrees from what the instruction is actually saying.

Yes, it is certainly true that the heart’s native language is affectivity—perception through deep feelingness. But it may come as a shock to contemporary seekers to learn that the things we nowadays identify with the feeling life—passion, drama, intensity, compelling emotion—are qualities that in the ancient anatomical treatises were associated not with the heart but with the liver! They are signs of agitation and turbidity (an excess of bile!) rather than authentic feelingness. In fact, they are traditionally seen as the roadblocks to the authentic feeling life, the saboteurs that steal its energy and distort its true nature.

And so before we can even begin to unlock the wisdom of these ancient texts, we need to gently set aside our contemporary fascination with emotivity as the royal road to spiritual authenticity and return to the classic understanding from which these teachings emerge, which features the heart in a far more spacious and luminous role.

According to the great wisdom traditions of the West (Christian, Jewish, Islamic), the heart is first and foremost an organ of spiritual perception. Its primary function is to look beyond the obvious, the boundaried surface of things, and see into a deeper reality, emerging from some unknown profundity, which plays lightly upon the surface of this life without being caught there: a world where meaning, insight, and clarity come together in a whole different way. Saint Paul talked about this other kind of perceptivity with the term “faith” (“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen&rdquoWinking, but the word “faith” is itself often misunderstood by the linear mind. What it really designates is not a leaping into the dark (as so often misconstrued) but a subtle seeing in the dark, a kind of spiritual night vision that allows one to see with inner certainty that the elusive golden thread glimpsed from within actually does lead somewhere.

Perhaps the most comprehensive definition of this wider spiritual perceptivity is from Kabir Helminski, a modern Sufi master. I realize that I quote it in nearly every book I have written, but I do so because it is so fundamental to the wisdom tradition that I have come to know as the authentic heart of Christianity. Here it is yet again:

We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using. Beyond the limited analytic intellect is a vast realm of mind that includes psychic and extrasensory abilities; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative and creative faculties; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name with some justification for they are working best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection to the cosmic mind. This total mind we call “heart.”1

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The purification of Muhammad’s heart by three Divine messengers. Bal’ami. Early fourteenth century

“The heart,” Helminski continues, is the antenna that receives the emanations of subtler levels of existence. The human heart has its proper field of function beyond the limits of the superficial, reactive ego-self. Awakening the heart, or the spiritualized mind, is an unlimited process of making the mind more sensitive, focused, energized, subtle, and refined, of joining it to its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love.2
Now it may concern some of you that you’re hearing Islamic teaching here, not Christian. And it may well be true that this understanding of the heart as “spiritualized mind”— “the organ prepared by God for contemplation”3—has been brought to its subtlest and most comprehensive articulation in the great Islamic Sufi masters. As early as the tenth century, Al-Hakîm al Tirmidhî’s masterful Treatise on the Heart laid the foundations for an elaborate Sufi understanding of the heart as a tripartite physical, emotional, and spiritual organ.4 On this foundation would gradually rise an expansive repertory of spiritual practices supporting this increasingly “sensitive, focused, energized, subtle, and refined” heart attunement.

But it’s right there in Christianity as well. Aside from the incomparable Orthodox teachings on Prayer of the Heart collected in the Philokalia, it’s completely scriptural. Simply open your Bible to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:8) and read the words straight from Jesus himself: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

We will return to what “pure in heart” means in due course. But clearly Jesus had a foundational grasp on the heart as an organ of spiritual perception, and he had his own highly specific method for catalyzing this quantum leap in human consciousness. I have written extensively about this in my book The Wisdom Jesus, in which I lay out the principles of his kenotic [“letting go”] spirituality as a pathway of conscious transformation leading to nondual awakening. You will see there how this goal formed the core of his teaching, hidden in plain sight for twenty centuries now. I will be drawing on this material from time to time as it becomes pertinent to our present exploration. For now, the essential point is simply to realize that the teaching on the heart is not intrinsically an “Islamic” revelation, any more than it is a “Christian” one. If anything, its headwaters lie in that great evolutionary incubator of Judaism, in which more and more in those final centuries before the Common Era, the great Israelite prophets begin to sense a new evolutionary star rising on the horizon of consciousness. Yahweh is about to do something new, about to up the ante in the continuing journey of mutual self-disclosure that has formed the basis of the covenant with Israel. The prophet Ezekiel gets it the most directly, as the following words of revelation tumble from his mouth, directly from the heart of God:

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land I gave to your ancestors, and you shall be my people and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24–28)

A new interiority is dawning on the horizon, a new capacity to read the pattern from within: to live the covenant without a need for external forms and regulations, simply by living it from an inner integrity. And for the first time in Western history, this capacity to see from within is explicitly linked to the heart, and specifically to a “heart of flesh.”

Without any attempt to end-run the massive theological and historical parameters that have grown up around this issue, my bare-bones take on Jesus is that he comes as the “master cardiologist,” the next in the great succession of Hebrew prophets, to do that “heart surgery” first announced by Ezekiel. And his powerfully original (at least in terms of anything heretofore seen in the Semitic lands) method of awakening heart perceptivity—through a radical nonclinging or “letting go”—will in fact reveal itself as the tie rod connecting everything I am talking about in this book.

Do I Really Mean the Physical Heart?
Not to be naive here, but yes. We are indeed talking about the physical heart, at least insofar as it furnishes our bodily anchor for all those wondrous voyages into far-flung spiritual realms.

Again, the Eastern Orthodox tradition is not in the least equivocal on this point. Lest there be any tendency to hear the word as merely symbolic of some “innermost essence” of a person, the texts direct us immediately to the chest, where the sign that prayer is progressing will be a palpable physical warmth:

To stand guard over the heart, to stand with the mind in the heart, to descend from the head to the heart—all these are one and the same thing. The core of the work lies in concentrating the attention and the standing before the invisible Lord, not in the head but in the chest, close to the heart and in the heart. When the divine warmth comes, all this will be clear.5

The following instruction is even more specific:

When we read in the writings of the Fathers about the place of the heart which the mind finds by way of prayer, we must understand by this the spiritual faculty that exists in the heart. Placed by the creator in the upper part of the heart, this spiritual faculty distinguishes the human heart from the heart of animals…. The intellectual faculty in man’s soul, though spiritual, dwells in the brain, that is to say in the head: in the same way, the spiritual faculty which we term the spirit of man, though spiritual, dwells in the upper part of the heart, close to the left nipple of the chest and a little above it.6
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Mosaic, Jungholz, Austria

While the sheer physicality of this may make some readers squirm, the contemporary phenomenologist Robert Sardello is another strong advocate for a full inclusion of the physical heart in any serious consideration of the spirituality of the heart. When he speaks of the heart, as he makes clear in his remarkable book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, he is always referring to “the physical organ of the heart,” which merits this special consideration precisely because “it functions simultaneously as a physical, psychic, and spiritual organ.”7 It is this seamlessly tripartite nature of the heart’s field of activity that bestows its unusual transformative powers. While there are many spiritual traditions that focus on “the heart as the instrument through which religious practices take place,” Sardello feels that “these traditions do not focus on the inherent activity of the heart, which is already an act of a spiritual nature.”8

To demonstrate what this “inherently spiritual nature” of the heart might feel like, Sardello leads his readers on a profound voyage of discovery into the inner chambers of their own heart. Wielding those two classic tools of inner work, attention and sensation, he teaches us how to access the heart through concentrated sensation (rather than visualization or emotion) and there discover its inherent vibrational signature as “pure intimacy…intimacy without something or someone attached to that intimacy.”9

I have to say I followed that exercise several times and was astonished by the results. I had experienced something of that “pure intimacy” before, as that sort of golden tenderness that sometimes surrounds a period of Centering Prayer. But never had I experienced it with such force or clarity, as a distinct inner bandwidth resonating in perfect synchrony with (in Kabir Helminski’s words) “its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love.” No wonder the embodied aspect of heart spirituality is so important! For it is only through sensation—that is, “attention concentrated in the heart”—that this experience of utter fullness and belonging becomes accessible.10

Sardello is not the only voice in the field. There is now a substantial and growing body of “bridge literature” linking classic spiritual teachings on the heart with emerging discoveries in the field of neurobiology. I have already mentioned the pioneering work of the HeartMath Institute, but I want to call attention to two other fascinating and useful books for the spiritually adventurous nonspecialist: The Biology of Transcendence by Joseph Chilton Pearce11 and The Secret Teaching of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner.12 Marshaling considerable scientific data in a format easily accessible to a lay reader, each of these books demonstrates how contemporary science has taken us far beyond the notion of the heart as a mechanical pump to revision it as “an electromagnetic generator,”13 working simultaneously across a range of vibrational frequencies to perform its various tasks of internal and external self-regulation and information exchange. (An “organ of spiritual perception,” after all, can be understood in this context as simply an electromagnetic generator picking up information at far subtler vibrational bandwidths.) Both books call attention, as does the HeartMath Institute, to the intricate feedback loops between heart and brain—almost as if the human being were expressly wired to facilitate this exchange, which Pearce sees as fundamentally between the universal (carried in the heart) and the particular (carried in the brain). As he expresses it, “The heart takes on the subtle individual colors of a person without losing its essential universality. It seems to mediate between our individual self and a universal process while being representative of that universal process.”14 While such bold statements may make hard-core scientists writhe, from the spiritual side of the bridge it is easily comprehensible and brings additional confirmation that “putting the mind in the heart” is not merely a quaint spiritual metaphor but contains precise and essential information on the physiological undergirding of conscious transformation.
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The Weighing of the Heart from the Book of the Dead of Ani. c. 1300 B.C. British Museum

What Gets in the Way?
According to Western understanding, the heart does not need to be “grown” or “evolved.” Every heart is already a perfect holograph of the divine heart, carrying within itself full access to the information of the whole. But it does need to be purified, as Jesus himself observed. In its spiritual capacity, the heart is fundamentally a homing beacon, allowing us to stay aligned with those “emanations from more subtle levels of existence” Helminski refers to, and hence to follow the authentic path of our own unfolding. But when the signals get jammed by the interference of lower-level noise, then it is no longer able to do its beaconing work.

Unanimously, the Christian wisdom tradition proclaims that the source of this lower-level noise is “the passions.” As the Philokalia repeatedly emphasizes, the problem with the passions is that they divide the heart.15 A heart that is divided, pulled this way and that by competing inner agendas, is like a wind-tossed sea: unable to reflect on its surface the clear image of the moon.

Here again is a teaching that tends to set contemporary people’s teeth on edge. I know this from personal experience, because the issue comes up at nearly every workshop I give. To our modern Western way of hearing, “passion” is a good thing: something akin to élan vital, the source of our aliveness and motivation. It is to be encouraged, not discouraged. At a recent workshop I led, a bishop approached me with some concern and explained that in his diocese, following the recommendations of a church consultant, he had managed to boost morale and productivity by significant percentages simply by encouraging his clergy “to follow their passions.”

Well-nigh universally today, the notion of “passionlessness” (a quality eagerly sought after in the ancient teachings of the desert fathers and mothers) equates to “emotionally brain dead.” If you take away passion, what is left?
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Madonna and child. Saint Augustinus Church, Miguel Hidalgo, Federal District, Mexico

So once again we have to begin with some decoding.

If you consult any English dictionary, you will discover that the word “passion” comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer” (passio is the first-person singular). But this still doesn’t get us all the way, because the literal, now largely archaic, meaning of the verb “to suffer” (to “undergo or experience&rdquoWinking is literally to be acted upon. The chief operative here is the involuntary and mechanical aspect of the transaction. And according to the traditional wisdom teachings, it is precisely that involuntary and mechanical aspect of being “grabbed” that leads to suffering in the sense of how we use the term today. Thus, in the ancient insights on which this spiritual teaching rests, passion did not mean élan vital, energy, or aliveness. It designated being stuck, grabbed, and blindly reactive.

This original meaning is clearly uppermost in the powerful teaching of the fourth-century desert father Evagrius Ponticus. Sometimes credited with being the first spiritual psychologist in the Christian West, Evagrius developed a marvelously subtle teaching on the progressive nature of emotional entanglement, a teaching that would eventually bear fruit in the fully articulated doctrine of the seven deadly sins. His core realization was that when the first stirrings of what will eventually become full-fledged passionate outbursts appear on the screen of consciousness, they begin as “thoughts”—logismoi, in his words—streams of associative logic following well-conditioned inner tracks. At first they are merely that—“thought-loops,” mere flotsam on the endlessly moving river of the mind. But at some point a thought-loop will entrain with one’s sense of identity—an emotional value or point of view is suddenly at stake—and then one is hooked. A passion is born, and the emotions spew forth. Thomas Keating has marvelously repackaged this ancient teaching in his diagram of the life cycle of an emotion,16 a core part of his Centering Prayer teaching. This diagram makes clear that once the emotion is engaged, once that sense of “I” locks in, what follows is a full-scale emotional uproar—which then, as Father Keating points out, simply drives the syndrome deeper and deeper into the unconscious, where it becomes even more involuntary and mechanically triggered.

What breaks the syndrome? For Evagrius, liberation lies in an increasingly developed inner capacity to notice when a thought is beginning to take on emotional coloration and to nip it in the bud before it becomes a passion by dis-identifying or disengaging from it. This is the essence of the teaching that has held sway in our tradition for more than a thousand years.

Now, of course, there are various ways of going about this disengaging. Contemporary psychology has added the important qualifier that disengaging is not the same thing as repressing (which is simply sweeping the issue under the psychological rug) and has developed important methodologies for allowing people to become consciously present to and “own” the stew fermenting within them. But it must also be stated that “owning” does not automatically entail either “acting out” or verbally “expressing” that emotional uproar. Rather, the genius of the earlier tradition has been to insist that if one can merely back the identification out—that sense of “me,” stuck to a fixed frame of reference or value—then the energy being co-opted and squandered in useless emotional turmoil can be recaptured at a higher level to strengthen the intensity and clarity of heart perceptivity. Rather than fueling the “reactive ego-self,” the energy can be “rejoined to its cosmic milieu, the infinity of love.” And that, essentially, constitutes the goal of purification—at least as it has been understood in service of conscious transformation.
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Gravestone, Jewish Cemetery, Olesno, Poland

Emotion versus Feeling
Here again, we have an important clarification contributed by Robert Sardello. Echoing the classic understanding of the Christian Inner tradition (I first encountered this teaching in the Gurdjieff Work), Sardello points out that most of us use the terms “feeling” and “emotion” interchangeably, as if they are synonyms. They are not. Emotion is technically “stuck” feeling, feeling bound to a fixed point of view or fixed reference point. “We are not free in our emotional life,” he points out, since emotion always “occurs quite automatically as a reaction to something that happens to us.”17 It would correspond to what Helminski calls “the heart in service to the reactive ego-self.”

Beyond this limited sphere opens up a vast reservoir of feelingness. Here the currents run hard and strong, always tinged with a kind of multivalence in which the hard-and-fast boundaries distinguishing one emotion from another begin to blend together. Happiness is tinged with sadness, grief touches at its bottomless depths the mysterious upwelling of comfort, loneliness is suffused with intimacy, and the deep ache of yearning for the absent beloved becomes the paradoxical sacrament of presence. “For beauty is only the beginning of a terror we can just scarcely bear,” observes Rilke, “and the reason we adore it so is that it serenely disdains to destroy us.”18

Such is the sensation of the heart beginning to swim in those deeper waters, awakening to its birthright as an organ of spiritual perception. And it would stand to reason, of course, that the experience is feeling-ful because that is the heart’s modus operandi; it gains information by entering the inside of things and coming into resonance with them. But this is feeling of an entirely different order, no longer affixed to a personal self-center, but flowing in holographic union with that which can always and only flow, the great dynamism of love. “Feeling as a form of knowing”19 becomes the pathway of this other mode of perceptivity, more intense, but strangely familiar and effortless.

The great wager around which the Western Inner tradition has encamped is that as one is able to release the heart from its enslavement to the passions, this other heart emerges: this “organ of contemplation,” of luminous sight and compassionate action. For what one “sees” and entrains with is none other than this higher order of divine coherence and compassion, which can be verified as objectively real, but becomes accessible only when the heart is able to rise to this highest level and assume its cosmically appointed function. Then grace upon grace flows through this vibrating reed and on out into a transfigured world: transfigured by the very grace of being bathed in this undivided light.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In this one sentence, the whole of the teaching is conveyed. What remains is for us to come to a greater understanding of how this purification is actually accomplished: a critical issue on which Christian tradition is by no means unanimous. This will be the subject of our next chapter. ♦
 
1 Kabir Helminski, Living Presence: A Sufi Guide to Mindfulness and the Essential Self (New York: Tarcher/Perigree Books, 1992), 157.
2 Ibid., 158.
3 Sidney H. Griffith, “Merton, Massignon, and the Challenge of Islam,” in Rob Barker and Gray Henry, eds., Merton and Sufism: The Untold Story (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), 65.
4 For extensive bibliographical information on this work, see “A Treatise on the Heart,” trans. Nicholas Heer, (ibid., 79–88).
5 E. Kadloubovsky and E. M. Palmer, eds., The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology (London: Faber and Faber, 1966), 194.
6 Ibid., 190.
7 Robert Sardello, Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness (Benson, NC: Goldenstone Press, 2006), 82.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid., 86.
10 No wonder the embodied aspect of heart spirituality is so important! For if Sardello is right here (and my own work confirms that he is), then the stunning conclusion is that there is no lack. That primordial hunger for intimacy and belonging we so frantically project onto others in our attempt to find fulfillment is fulfilled already, there in the “infinity of love” already residing holographically in our own hearts, once we have truly learned to attune to its frequency and trust that with which it reverberates. In this sense, our physical heart is the quintessential “treasure buried in the field.”
11 Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence:A Blueprint of the Human Spirit (Rochester, VT: Park Street Place, 2002).
12 Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature (Rochester, VT: Bear and Company, 2004).
13 Ibid., 71.
14 Pearce, 64–65.
15 For a particularly clear and forceful discussion of this point, see E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, trans., Unseen Warfare, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987), 241–44.
16 Reproduced in Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2004), 136.
17 Sardello, 72.
18 Rainer Maria Rilke,  Duino Elegies, trans. J. B. Leishman and Stephen Spender (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1939), 21.
19 Sardello, 72.
From The Heart of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault © 2016.  Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.
From our current issue Parabola Volume 42, No. 1, “The Search for Meaning,” Spring 2017. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.
 
About the Author

Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat leader. Among her many books are The Meaning of Mary Magdalene and The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three.

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"Yin: Beloved Dark" by Jeannie Zandi

YIN Space
While your eyes are closed, I want to invite you to let your whole body soften. Let your attention sink into your felt experience. You might take a few long breaths. Focusing on the exhale, just to let the whole body settle. And gentle. Noticing the weight of the body sinking into your chair, into the earth. Letting your root soften open to the earth, as much as it can. Letting your belly be fat. Inviting the solar plexus to soften with breath. The heart to soften. The hands. The face. Let every expression just droop off of your face. Just here. Softy. Letting breath travel around your body. Softening as it goes. Softening all around the things that are tight, letting them be here. Letting them float along in our soft pool of being. Little nuggets of tenseness floating in this soup of being. And this is the voice of yin. The voice that invites softening, the voice that invites sinking, the voice that invites receptivity, availability. The voice that calls us to soften and dissolve. Give into gravity.

In that dark privacy of having your eyes closed, I want to invite you to imagine that you are surrounded by the walls of a womb, so this darkness is a fluid inside of a womb and you float there. Nothing you have to do. Held in every direction by warmth, by protection, by space, receptive, love-filled space. And I invite you to imagine that you aren’t formed yet, that you are tiny. A tiny cord of light from your bellybutton to the heart of Holy yin at the center of everything, tracking you, tethering you. As you float in sweet, warm, dark. No harm, no harshness. Nothing to protect from. Nothing to do. And softening open.

When I first put my new baby into a bath in a candlelit room, she unfurled herself in the water. And so that’s my invitation: an unfurling, an uncurling, an unwinding. Like a fern unwinding. Like a flower blooming open, falling open, sinking open, softening. And whatever it is that you are experiencing in response to my words is just perfect. The words are meant to evoke your experience, not for you to have to completely mimic what I’m saying. Because the call to yin, the call to soften, the call to open, the call to melt into the unity of all things will potentially bring up arguments with that. And they are welcome. Fear is welcome. Tightening is welcome. Holding on is welcome. Numbness is welcome. These are all love’s children. All blessedly welcome to float in the same womb of being held.

I would invite you as you float there, to notice your weightlessness. To imagine warmth. To imagine a kind of attentive holding, not a left-alone holding, but an embracing holding. By an intelligent heart that knows you, blesses you. Stands sentry for you while you float and unfurl. Really letting every struggle be given over to this water. Everything you carry, for the moment allowing it to float. And I want to invite you to imagine that every cell in your tiny floating body has its mouth open, its heart open, its arms open, soaking up the ions of love in the fluid. You are in a brine, marinating in a brine of love pickling. Let the aliveness you feel in the flesh of your body be that charged water coming into your cells, blessing you. Just soaked. I invite you to soak. To even let the gentleness in my voice into your cells. Softening, softening, softening, softening, open.

Receiving. Like the ground receives the rain. Soaking. Like the open flower receives the sunlight. Soaking, absorbing, filling. Uncurling your tiny fingers.

Space. Water. Darkness. Dissolving, yielding, softening, gentling. Taking in Nourishment. Protected by this womb that surrounds you from anything that is not utterly nourishing and made just for you. Just for you, the temperature, the weightlessness, the size of the womb, the love that you are soaking in. For you. Tailored to you. So that there’s nothing you have to do, but absorb. And you might consider in your posture as you sit there or lie there to open your hands or tip back your face. Like let the body be as an open cup. And please be so tender, so patient with yourself, whatever experience you’re having. Slowness. Patience. Space. Abiding. Merging.

We lose touch with yin to the extent that our environment doesn’t nourish and feed us in just the right way. When we have to protect against things, when we have to lean out our effort further than what’s easy as young beings to get something that we need. We leave the yin rest. And we learn not to trust yin. When there’s no company to soften open again in our tears, in our trusting, we forget yin and we harden. And we create a kind of rigid strength, shielding ourselves, and pushing ourselves.

Yin is healing, deep, deep healing. The waters of yin, of rest, of death, of gravity, call us down and call us open. To be rocked, to be renewed, to rest. For some of us the closest we get to yin is exhaustion, and we will finally stop, and we will finally soften when we have run the active aspect of ourselves, until we run ourselves into the ground. And if you notice any exhaustion in your body right now, I want to invite you to really tune into it, the feel of heaviness. Let yourself not hold anything up. Let yourself really just float. A core part of what I teach is the restoration of yin, of being, of softening, of sinking to zero, to inactivity, to receptivity. And as much as I can talk about it, to talk to you from it, to talk to you from tenderness, to talk to you from stillness, to talk to you from resting, from dissolution, to me is far more instructive than anything we could read. That you could feel in your body a softening, a mercy, a warm touch of loving company, an invitation out of alienation into a sweet welcoming embrace that needs nothing from you. And that you could be energetically rocked in that.

We need to know that someone has our back, that someone has the door, that someone has the yang aspect covered so that we can soften open. We need to be able to lean into another being’s energy, whether it’s a tree or a human being, and feel that place where we feel weak, feel soft, feel like a flower petal, like a slender waif, to lean into something solid. And I would invite you to feel the walls of this womb solid, solid for you. So that you are not going to be dropped, you are not going to be poked, you are not going to be left, you are not going to be forgotten, but held in such conscious, deep, tender regard. Love it.

There is a sweetness to softening, to tenderizing. A relaxation, this is in a way, the first level of coming out of a grip, coming out of an over-yang position of rigidity and over-activity. And just to ease the system to soften is no small thing in this culture. Sometimes we need help: massage, cranial-sacral, being floated in a hot spring, a cozy bed, a heavy fuzzy cat, someone to hold us, a conscious, sinking our felt experience into every inch of our bodies. Tears soften, shaking the fear out of the body softens. And this act, that is bodily, to soften, can be reflected inside, and the physical act of softening is just a metaphor for the entire apparatus of the human doing to soften open into being. To soften and dissolve in unity, in our mother so to speak. And as we soften, deeper and deeper, I invite you to soften your organs. Invite your organs to soften, your heart, your liver, your stomach, your intestines, your kidneys. Let them all soften. Our body becomes energetically porous. And then the exchange with the energies we are surrounded by can resume. The Holy can find us and soak our bodies in Love. You can even picture each of your organs being rocked in the arms of a Beloved. Your heart rocked and sung to, your belly, to soften out of the grip of fear and harshness into a reflection of Beloved-ness, of preciousness.

We need yang, we need strength, we need the capacity to act and to move. To stand for things. But we need that to grow out of this yin base, the ground of being. So that when yang is gathered up, it’s gathered up like sparkling energies from the roots of a tree, rising from this great ground of being, tiny roots through the whole body collecting Divine energy, so that it might travel up the roots into our bodies and express itself as clear, zeroed action. And I hesitate to even talk much about that because we have so much overdue yin homework. So much softening to do, so much uncurling to do. So much finding the ground, finding safety, finding what’s dependable, finding what’s simple, finding zero. Reclaiming being.

Yin by nature is utterly present. The minute that our attention moves ahead of just here, the body starts to tighten. Something starts to assert itself and tighten. And so in this softening, in this call to return here, soft, open, I am calling you to yin. I am calling you to dissolve in this amniotic fluid of the Beloved that you are surrounded by. To give yourself back, to return whatever you have built, whatever you think you are, whatever has formed, to the dissolving sweetness of this darkness.

Some of you have heard this story and some of you have not. It’s a yin dream that I had, and it was clearly for all of us. I was in the basement of, some of you know Tecumseh, in the dream I was in the basement of her house where I have given some events. I was in a room that was black, pitch black. And I was meditating so to speak. I was dissolved in this blackness. I was sitting in stillness with my eyes open just dissolved in this luminous beautiful darkness, floating, no thought to any action, just dissolved and blissful. And I heard Tecumseh up on the landing. There was a landing halfway up to the upstairs in this dream, and she was there with a professor and his wife, who were very dear to her. They were old and wise, very dear to her. And my love for her had me leave the darkness to meet these people. She wanted me to meet these people and so I started to ascend the stairs, my eyes still focused as though in the dark. And so I couldn’t see, all I could see was darkness. My pupils were so dilated and I was still looking into that beautiful dark as I walked.

And as I walked up the stairs I thought, “Well, surely my eyes will become accustomed to the light, so that when I meet them, there is someone-ness here to meet them. I will be able to see them. I will have enough of an active principle to meet them.” But as I went up the stairs, my pupils didn’t narrow. They stayed absolutely widely dilated. I stayed absolutely blind, just looking into the darkness. Utterly receptive. Not even the yang of a personhood, not even the yang of sight. I couldn’t see outward. Just this huge, my eyes were like a huge threshold into the dark, and this is how I met these people at the landing. I met them, I held their hands. They could look into me. I was darkness, I could not look out. I was looking into darkness.

And there was a sense in the dream, and it is my experience that, it’s time for this level of receptivity, of blissful dissolution in the dark Beloved. It is time for it to re-enter from the basement up to the landing where the front door is, to meet people as no one, as nothing, as darkness, as utter receptivity.

And the only thing that helps us to feel strong enough, protected enough, safe enough to show ourselves in this yin, is the Holy, is the embodiment of the Holy, is the reclaiming of Holy ground, of Holy breath, of Holy love infiltrating every cell of the body, to return to the places that are crying out in us, and to bring the Holy’s tenderness there. Whether we borrow another being or a tree to seek out every tight fist that lives inside of us and let it feel ground and let it feel warmth and let it feel a regard that lets it know it’s precious, it’s safe, it’s wanted, it’s lovely, it’s alright. It’s alright to come out.

And yin has this beautiful capacity to tailor itself to the needs of a particular moment, a particular creature in a particular moment. And so this is the beauty of the healing property of yin is that it will leave nothing behind. It will require nothing to leap over or out of its developmental cocoon or womb until it’s fully formed and drops out on its own accord. This deep, deep, organic wisdom is the domain of yin. So that everything is seen without judgment, whether it’s just born on wobbly legs, learning and loud, and extra awkward in its teenagerhood, fully formed, aging, rotting, falling to the ground, or utterly still as a seed.

Yin and yang are meant to be dancing, like they are in that beautiful Asian image of the black Yin and the white Yang, with an eye of each other’s color, spinning. But first yin. First Yin. When a being is born, it’s first yin. For nine months, it rests in dark liquid, resting, resting, being. Not a single active thing required of it. First yin. And for any of the places that we want to reclaim our strength or our capacities, first yin. We fall to the ground, we find our ground there, our no-one-ness there. We’re rocked and dissolved, and allowed simply to be. So that things can be birthed through us and strengthened through us.

Yin absolutely needs her partner yang in a human being. Because we have not had a balance or been held in a balance, our beautiful receptivity feels like something that we can’t show. And instead of an active, empowered, charged, alive and nourished receptivity, instead we have passivity or we have exhaustion. And then instead of a beautiful strength that serves this deep knowing and this deep being and this deep surrender and connectedness, we have fear-based action, we have action that preempts this beautiful organic flow of things. And we have a rigidity inside of our bodies in the place of strength. I want to invite you as you soften here to keep sinking and if you notice any place that’s numb, any place that’s held tightly, I want to invite you to surround it with an imaginary womb. Surround it with tender, dark, holding embrace. Let it float there as it is. No harm.

I had a meeting today with someone who wants me to take on a certain role in relation to a conference and co-facilitate with someone who I don’t know, who’s a man. I am percolating on this invitation. But in speaking what rose for me there, there was this beautiful exposition about how yin requires protection and authority granted to her for her gifts to be given. And part of the maturing of yin, because at first yin is something that has no words, it’s something that we are barely aware of because in our culture it’s largely, we’re largely encouraged away from it and so we can have gut feelings, we can hear someone else speak something and say, “Yes, that’s it!” But when yin is newborn or young, it doesn’t have words yet. And this way that words come to yin and it starts to become conscious and able to be expressed, is a really vital part of stepping into an integrated being here.

And in most situations, I notice in the yin aspect of my role, a container is set. A yang container is set for the yin to appear, and the yin to open, and the yin to download its energy from a kind of open portal to the whole. So if you could imagine the pupil of an eye or the heart of a flower opening, opening, opening, being this utter soft portal and sweetness pouring through there. That power, it’s a raw power, the raw power of life. It’s the raw power of love. It’s deeply Transformational. It’s deeply challenging for beings who are frightened of the gap. If it is not carried with a kind of an awareness and a respect and a wisdom, imbalances, harm, disruptions can occur. To open the high beams in an environment where that hasn’t been invited, either explicitly or energetically, is potentially to drop a catalyst into an unpredictable wilderness. So I notice that the way that yin moves here is that it has a certain requirement of containment in order to even bother. And many of you can see the various aspects of containment that are involved in this work. The way that we quiet ourselves at the beginning of things, the way that there’s a guided meditation to invite people to soften. The way that these things aren’t drop-in, and they aren’t open to anyone, and they have a certain start time —this is all to create a cup within which yin can be glorified for all of us, to come through all of us as portals.

And so it was very sweet to be of this age…when I was 25, I didn’t really know what yin was. When I was 35 I had some ideas. In my younger life, I might not have been able to say, “If you would like me to show up in this kind of role, I need to know that I have the authority, the respect, the support, to lead from the heart of softness.” Because the heart of softness does not compete with loud things. It does not argue with arguments. It simply will fold up its circus tent and go where it’s invited. And this is why the heart of spirituality is a heart of surrendering, not a heart of accomplishing. That in its essence, being is yin.

(Pause.) It wanted me to pause for itself there so it could assert its yin-ness. You see if we don’t have a bit of awareness about the beauty of yin, we will miss the way that it peeks out of the cave and spills its light. If we are looking for objects, if we are looking for discrete things, for actions, for content, for stuff, for reference points, we will miss the energetic, quiet revealing of yin in a child’s face, in a loved one who is about to tell us something vulnerable. In a quiet moment.

I remember my daughter when she was young, her most wise utterances would be preceded by a kind of a yin silence. You could feel the energy of it. She got very quiet, she got very sparkly and deep in her eyes, and there would be this quiet. Like you would want to whisper. You would know that church was starting. And then she would say something from that depth, as though it was just born from the depths. And the earth needs beings who can feel, see, know, and embody yin, being, the vibration of things, the sea of things. Even before things are born they arrive as energies. And when we are softened open, we can feel these energies and we can step into them, step away from them, direct them, redirect them for the good of the whole.

The whole way that I teach, I should say the whole way that I speak because there are yang aspects to this teaching. But the whole way that I speak, that I deliver through this portal of my being something for us, is yin. I have no preconceived thought. I give everything that I am to the dissolving waters of the moment, allow it to reclaim every cell of this body. Turn it into a soft, open, downloading station and if it has nothing for me, if it has no words, so be it, no words. If it has outrageous words, so be it, outrageous words. If it takes an hour to give birth to the beauty that it has prepared, so be it. And what’s beautiful is that in between the bits of content and actually sewn throughout, but in between when there is a pause, the dark looks out. The dark invites you into your own depth. The dark invites the things that are scared of the dark to talk to it, to cry to it, to be seen, and embraced and welcomed back.

I would invite you, if you like, to gaze at me with your eyes looking into my eyes. But I want to invite you to have your felt experience be paramount so that your eyes are soft and relaxed and your attention is buried in your felt experience. What happens then is that it invites the eyes to be receptive, to receive. So you can feel your breath, your weight, the vibration in the body. And let the eyes be soft, let them not be focused hard, but just kind of receiving. Imagine the world falling into your eyes, falling into your heart, and let my words fall into your heart. Let this energy fall into you. This way we meet each other as being, as emissaries, wide, open portals of the Beloved’s love. This is to me the most beautiful thing about yin. The dark, yielding openness charged with love. Anything that’s brought before it is blessed. And you can play with grounding, feeling weight, feeling your feet on the floor, opening your root. Softening the body. It’s sweet here because I’m just on a screen, and so it’s all the more safe. For just simply being in the privacy of your own nest there where you are, letting the body soften and if it’s numb or if it’s tight, just bring some womb to it. Soften all around it. Let it be here. We have been terrorized, many of us have been brutalized and terrorized in this softest of places. Softening. Being here together. No harm. Warmth. Embrace. Invitation. Goodness. Love. Quiet.

What if our planet, and the planets of our solar system, and all of the stars and the planets that we can see, are held in a dark womb? I would invite you again to picture every cell in your body like a mouth or an open hand, drinking, drinking the quiet, drinking the tenderness. And I would invite you to use my eyes with anything in you that has forgotten that it’s precious. Let it look at me. Let it look at me in the safety of your own nest. Let it show itself with only tenderness to greet it. And feel free if you are just rocking the dark yin right now to just join me here. That we would be a single field of invitation and embrace to whatever has hidden, whatever has been banished. Among us and among anyone who is called to utilize this energy, this energy of loving emptiness to reveal itself, welcome. Welcome to the dark, deep, womb heart of the Beloved: travelers, aliens, derelicts, homeless, desperate, in pain, terrified, agonized, stalked, raw, helpless.

From the heart of the universe, there, there, precious children. We are all her children.

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Jeannie Zandi
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"False Hope and Beauty in an Anthropomorphic God" by Sam Alexander

AngryGod.2jpg
We speak of a conscious god, one with feelings like sorrow, anger, and joy. We speak of a just god, one who demands moral behavior and forgives moral breaches, one who speaks and gets His way. But is that true? Is there really a god like that or do we simply want that to be true?

Is there for instance, a god who has established justice, one who balances the cosmic scales of justice? Let me quote scripture to answer that one. Qoheleth says, “In my own vaporous life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evil doing” [Ecclesiastes 7:15].

Is there a god with consciousness, one who has feelings like anger, sorrow, and joy? We are talking about the creator of the universe, and who knows, maybe multiple universes. We are talking about the driving force that has guided creation’s evolutionary story from hydrogen atoms to Shakespeare. Is this god a Father, Judge, or Healer? Of course not. I believe I have support from the mother’s milk of reformed theology, the Westminster Confession of Faith. “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him, as their blessedness and reward . . . ,” [Book of Confessions: 6.037]. The starting point of theology is necessarily a god that stretches beyond human categories and concepts.

Why is that important now, in this day and age? It is important, because an anthropomorphic god inevitably disappoints. There is enough disease, war, injustice and loneliness in the world to warrant such a claim. To suggest that such a god is ontologically real is a lie, one that violates the second commandment to boot. Let’s face it, we desire a god who is just and so we project that god onto our imagination. We desire a god who forgives, creates peace and heals and so we project such a god onto our imagination. This god, as Feuerbach so famously said is, “humanity writ large across the cosmos.” The scriptures will have none of it. “What is your name?” Moses asked. Is it father, mother, warrior, judge, Lord, peacemaker, or perhaps even non-dual presence? No, “I AM, I will be what I will be, I have caused what I have caused and I will cause to be what I cause to be.” We cannot know God in God’s being.

Such is the false hope garnered from an anthropomorphic god and yet here I stand, a believer, one who stakes his life on a God who “by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, is pleased to [offer some fruition of God’s self,] by way of covenant” [Book of Confessions: 6.037]. God, the God who for 13.7 billion years has guided creation’s evolutionary story, makes God’s self known through the very projections that obscure the being of God. How do I know? I don’t. I believe and bear witness to the reality that, in the living of a life of faith, the truth of that statement becomes crystal clear.

Living such a life of faith, does
not begin with an intellectual assent to ideas and constructs which are but a distorted reflection of what is real. Rather it involves a commitment to critically engage what is real . . . to you.

And for the modern mind that cannot begin with the ancient picture of a Lord up in a place called heaven from where He rules the cosmos according to His inscrutable purpose; it cannot begin with a God who has His Son killed because the magical life force imbued in blood must be released to correct a moral imbalance; it cannot begin with a God who has the kind of control over the process of creation that allows or disallows suffering and evil to exist. The cognitive dissonance between that view of God and our modern understanding of creation’s evolutionary process makes we Christians sound ridiculous when we talk about what we know to be real.

It is a travesty to do so when a life of faith, formed by the 4000 year old conversation of Scripture is pointing us even now, towards an astonishingly beautiful truth permeating creation. Without trying to lay hold of an exclusive claim on truth we can tell the world that we have come to know God who moves from death to new life. Cross and resurrection are realities whether or not the physical resurrection happened. We can tell of a God we have come to know in three ways.

I have come to know God in the third person. For when I stare into the night sky, or watch my surrogate grandson trying to walk, the immensity and complexity of this bewildering universe. looms before me and I begin to see Spirit shimmering behind and within it. I see a river of grace with all its eddies and currents, turmoil and twists carrying us into the future.

As I contemplate this extraordinary beauty I begin to encounter that shimmer as “other,” and a mystical, I-Thou, second person relationship begins to emerge. In that “relationship” I come to know something of God’s character; I come to know that I am an expression of the love of God, an integral part of God’s creative purpose. In that sense I can speak of God
metaphorically as having human like emotions and motivations. But we can never let those metaphors domesticate and obscure the reality that stretches beyond human apprehension.

Then there are those moments, moments I myself have barely glimpsed, when we have an experiential dawning, when we know that God has “brought all things together in perfect harmony” and we glimpse God in first person. I AM.

I am so very tired of a church that hangs onto its mythic , anthropomorphic language of God so tightly, a church so myopically focused on how truth
was expressed that we fail to call people into covenant relationship with the creative love now driving creation forward.

Change is on the horizon – seismic change. It is being met by fear; the resulting violence threatens to overtake us. Most of us are asleep, anesthetized with everything from TV to Bud Light. Growth is required of us at a time when more and more of us are turning our collective back on the presence of God. And why? Because when we say the word “God” people think of that anthropomorphic god who inevitably lets us down.

We have one thing to offer and that is our belief that a life of faith, one that engages what is real, enables us to live into the future, knowing that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God. We can no longer afford to obscure that message with fairy tales.

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"Kiss Everything" by Jeannie Zandi

Kiss Abstract

The more aware we become, the more sensitized and softened we get, the more we see how harsh we are, and it kills us. We don’t want to look at it, nor the pain underneath. And if we’re lucky, this slowing down crucifies us on our humanness, and we have to howl and open, open to the love that we are.

Nobody wants to go into these places where things are gristly, unkempt, unresolved, bedsprings sticking out all over, you know, where gum sticks to our shoe. You’ll notice that everything inside says “Get out, solve it, quick hide, do something!” And if it’s a really good one, everything outside is saying that too, where the walls themselves are reverberating with “Danger, danger Will Robinson! Don’t feel THAT! Get outta there!”
I love to sail in there and have us all take one long slow breath, and let the sunshine of Presence in. If we slow it all down, this is the place where we have to feel the very thing that the spiritual path was supposed to eliminate, the very heart of separation: something here deserves to be banished.

These places are not places to get away from. That’s just what’s in there from the moment we got overwhelmed and instead of staying open and breathing, we had to shut down and start to cope in separation. We had to flee. And this whole emphasis on getting perfect and getting better and on “some day when all my shit is gone” is not where it’s at–it’s a fantasy. Freedom doesn’t happen because we get perfect; freedom happens because we so utterly embrace what’s here, exactly as it is.

I don’t care if we call it my shit, your shit, their shit–it’s OUR shit. As long as any one of us believes we’re shit, that’s OUR shit. And the most hilarious part is that every one of these ones that appears to be locked in a jail cell is just another face of God. Here’s God, pretending she’s locked in a jail cell–feels really real, can’t get out of it with just that insight. We have to climb down the stairs, get on our knees into the black gook with that face of God like she is our very own self and kiss her on the mouth or we’re not free there. It’s the embodied part of the paradox. You either kiss everything or you don’t, and you can’t fake it.
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Re-imagining God in the 21st Century by Jeffery Small

Unlike the age of the Biblical writers, we live in a world ruled by science, technology and secular thought — a world that is interconnected in ways that a few decades ago was unimagined. Today we understand that our world is governed by physical laws from the subatomic realm to the cosmic, so where do we find room for God to act? Is God still relevant? How can we conceive of God today in a way that is honest to our intellects while satisfying to our hearts?

In my previous post,
Moving Beyond a Human Image of God, I set forth the problems of the classical picture of God as a supernatural being. God as the potter, the watchmaker or the chess master has lost its relevance for many in our post-modern world. The response to this critique by some is to close their eyes to science and the realities of existence. Such a strategy is not sustainable in a society in which almost everything we touch and encounter during our daily lives depends on the laws of physics, chemistry and biology working. Others take the atheistic approach, one I also do not find satisfying because I sense in the core of my being that there is meaning to existence and that the daily physical reality of our world is not the end of the story.

In this post, however, I will not debate the existence of God because I do not think that the argument is winnable by either side. Instead, I will outline ways in which we can start to understand God in the modern world. For me, God must not just be consistent with scientific and rational thought but must embrace it.

I have come to understand God, not as a transcendent Zeus-like figure, but instead as the infinite creative source of existence.

By “creative source” here, I do not mean to say that I think of God as creating existence by waving a magic wand from afar, but rather that all of existence — matter, energy, the physical laws which govern the universe, even our consciousness — comes out of God. This understanding of God is rooted not in Creationism, Intelligent Design or a desire for a father figure, but rather comes from this simple question posed first by the ancient Greek philosopher Parminedes (b. 510 BCE): Why is there existence in the first place, instead of nothing?

I do not see this “coming from” God as just happening at one particular time in history, whether this was 6,000 years ago according to Genesis or 13.7 billion years ago according to the Big Bang theory, but it happens continually. I do not see God as a separate being, but rather God is the center of being within me and everything around me. God did not form my distant ancestors out of clay as mythological tales might suggest if taken literally; rather, God is what gives me life and gives existence its very structure. This power is infinite and indescribable because it lies behind all that is. God is not to be found “out there” but deep within existence.

My conception of God is not new but is derived from 20th-century Christian theologian Paul Tillich’s description of God as “the ground of being.” Tillich himself was influenced by centuries of theologians and philosophers before him who thought of God in similar existential terms: Friedrich Schelling (b. 1775) considered God as “the Power of Being”; Georg Hegel (b.1770 ) referred to God simply as “Being”; Meister Eckhart (b. 1260) “being itself”; Francis of Assisi (b. 1182) “the ground of all reality”; and Plotinus (b. 205), drawing on Plato, described God as “the One” — the source out of which all being emanates, including the human soul.

My view of God was also influenced by another 20th century philosopher-theologian, Alfred North Whitehead, the founder of process theology. For Whitehead, God is not a static supernatural creature but is the essence of the creative process of the universe. God does not sit in a different dimensional heaven and watch us go about our daily lives, occasionally intervening for good measure. But God is immanent within the universe as its creative power.

Whitehead insists that the traditional image of God as unchanging must be reconsidered. A God truly immanent within existence means that as the universe expands and evolves, so does God. This view of God also does not mean that God is directing and determining every creative act, but only that the power for existence comes out of God. Essential to the creative power that God bestows on the universe is the ability of its constituent parts (including us) to self-create. The scientific laws that govern the universe — the randomness and uncertainty inherent in both quantum mechanics and evolution, for example — are then not contrary to God but become crucial elements of the divine creative process.

How does one even conceive of such a God that is not an exalted deity? Here, I will leave you with one example. This metaphor for God as the creative source of being does not come from a Christian theologian or a philosopher, but from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who imagined the relationship between God and human as that between the ocean and the wave.

The ocean and the wave are related in two important ways. The ocean is the “ground” of the wave in the sense that the water molecules of the ocean make up the essence of the wave. From a creative and dynamic perspective, the power of the ocean creates the individual existence of the wave. The wave (like us) has its own individuality, but its lifespan is relatively short. The wave emanates from the infinite ocean, and at the end of its existence, it returns to the ocean. Each individual wave is connected to all other waves because they share the ocean as their ground. Existence is finite, individualized and unique, yet underlying existence is a connection to the infinite.

To me, this understanding of God can not only work within the confines of modern science (since all scientific laws come from God as part of the creative existence of the universe), but it also provides a powerful direction for how we experience God. What I may have lost from the illusory “comfort” of believing in a supernatural father figure who may or may not intervene on my behalf, I have more than made up for with a new realization: I can touch and experience a God that is the ground of my being (though I’ll never fully understand or see God) at a much more intimate level, because God is the spark of light within me. This view of God also leads to a more embracing view of morality because I share this power of being with each of my fellow humans in true brother and sisterhood, and I share it with the natural world as well.

One challenge we face when thinking about God in this way is how do we talk about, much less worship, such a philosophical sounding God? It is easy to picture Michelangelo’s God as the grandfatherly figure on the Sistine Chapel, but how do we relate to the God of Tillich and Whitehead? In a future post, I will examine how we can rethink our traditional symbols of God as Father or Lord, but for now I’ll pose the question to you:
What symbols or metaphors might we use to open our minds to a new way of thinking about God that works in the 21st century?

SOURCE:
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-small/reimagining-god-in-the-21_b_822776.html


Follow Jeffrey Small on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffreysmalljr
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"Mercy to the Body of God" by Jeannie Zandi

Nesso-e-Deianira
I invite you to bring mercy to your body, to this interesting vehicle of embodiment, this amazing instrument of openness that’s been so harshed on.  First by the outside and then we take over and mimic it.  When we rest our hand on a place in our body that is in pain or tense, we put our hand on the whole of humanity.  The whole body of humanity needs to hear the message from Presence, “It’s all right, it’s all right.”  The message that is delivered in the moment, through the air, through the feel, through weight of your body in the chair, this benevolence here, right now.  Not a fancy benevolence, a very basic, simple, is-ness.

There isn’t anything in creation that is not the body of the holy.  There isn’t any difference between putting your hands on your flesh and putting your hands into God’s heart.  There is nothing here but this, and there is nothing to hate or love but this.  It’s not there’s the body and there’s the spirit and there’s this and there’s that.  It is just one collage of holiness.  Anything you hate or turn away from becomes your jail cell of separation.  And so that hate and the feel of it has to be directly met, the feel of the killer in yourself, the feel of the curser in yourself.  We’re so conditioned not even to notice it in our tones as we curse ourselves, as we curse objects, people.  The feel of separation is one of tremendous harshness, tremendous casting out, and we’ve gotten used to that as a culture–that’s how we converse with each other, that’s how we treat each other on the road, that’s how we treat our bodies.  We are all looking for a justifiable place to land this hate rather than actually turning around and feeling the harsh edge of it as it lives in us.

It’s like when Jesus said, “Forgive them father they know not what they do.”  Our conditioning has it so that we are absolutely unaware of what we carry and what we perpetrate because we don’t know what we carry and we’re not conscious when we’re perpetrating.  Those guys nailing Jesus to the cross had no idea they were doing wrong.  So numb, and so appropriate an enemy—they probably felt like they were doing good, every hammer strike, sending the bad person away.  And there’s probably no where that we are so harsh as on our own flesh, driving ourselves, denying ourselves, denying ourselves breath, pause, rest, time outside the incessant wheel of the mind.  And it’s not like we can be blamed for it, we’ve been trained well.  So first we just get to notice that we have a pet, a very dear loyal pet, that cries out in various ways we call suffering.  Let our attention go to its cries, let it move the way it wants to, be kind to it.  Just to notice that and drop out of the mind in this culture is revolutionary.

SOURCE:
http://jeanniezandi.com
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The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi - Summary from Arunachala Ashrama

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Happiness
All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one. Further that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry, 'Who am I?' is the chief means. 1

Consciousness 
Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it. 2

Mind 
Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self.
That which arises in this body as 'I' is the mind.
When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart names and forms disappear... If the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I' or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal 'I' alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self. 3

"Who Am I?" - Enquiry 
For all thoughts the source is the 'I' thought.
The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry 'Who am I?' The thought 'Who am l?' will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be 'to me'. If you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased. 4

Surrender 
There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling 'I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful and except throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me', and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone. exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation. 5

The Three States: Waking,Dream and Sleep 
There is no difference between the dream and the waking state except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states, called turiya. 6

GRACE AND GURU
I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him 'That God is within yourself. Dive within and realize'. God, Guru and the Self are the same. 7

Self-Realization 
The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course we loosely talk of self-realization for want of a better term.

That which 'Is' is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet. Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it. 8

Heart 
In the centre of the cavity of the Heart the sole Brahman shines by itself as the atman (Self) in the feeling of 'I'-'I'. Reach the Heart by diving within yourself, either with control of breath, or with thought concentrated on the quest of Self. You will thus get fixed in the Self. 9

Renunciation 
Asked 'How does a grihastha (householder) fare in the scheme of Moksha (liberation)?' Bhagavan said, 'Why do you think you are a grihastha? If you go out as sanyasi (ascetic), a similar thought that you are a sanyasi will haunt you. Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind goes with you. The ego is the source of all thought. It creates the body and the world and makes you think you are a grihastha . If you renounce the world it will only substitute the thought sanyasi for grihastha and the environments in the forest for those of the household. But the mental obstacles will still be there. They even increase in the new surroundings. There is no help in change of environment. The obstacle is the mind. It must be got over whether at home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not at home? Therefore, why change your environment? Your efforts can be made even now - in whatever environment you are now. The environment will never change according to your desire'. 10

Fate and Freewill
Freewill and destiny are ever existent. Destiny is the result of past action; it concerns the body. Let the body act as may suit it. Why are you concerned about it? Why do you pay attention to it. Freewill and destiny last as long as the body lasts. But jnana transcends both. The Self is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Whatever happens, happens as the result of one's past actions, of divine will and of other factors.

There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self and that the ego is non-existent.

The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one's helplessness and saying all the time, 'Not I, but Thou oh Lord' and giving up all sense of 'I' and mine, and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through self-enquiry or bhakti marga (Path). 11

Jnani 
A jnani has attained Liberation even while alive, here and now. It is immaterial to him as to how, where and when he leaves the body. Some jnanis may appear to suffer, others may be in samadhi; still others may disappear from sight before death. But that makes no difference to their jnana. Such suffering is apparent, seems real to the onlooker, but not felt by the jnani, for he has already transcended the mistaken identity of the Self with the body.
The jnani does not think he is the body. He does not even see the body. He sees only the Self in the body.  If the body is not there, but only the Self, the question of its disappearing in any form does not arise. 12
 
Practice, Dedication and Devotion
In the light of the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the devotees of Arunachala Ashrama believe that spiritual practice (sadhana) is essential. Peace, joy and immortality are available to those aspirants who dedicate themselves to the practice of meditation and Self-enquiry, devotion and dedication. The Grace of the Guru is always present, but this Grace is only fully experienced by those few sincere sadhakas (spiritual aspirants) who devote their lives to the practice of the teachings.

We believe that Sri Ramana Maharshi did not live for his time alone. His presence and guidance can be experienced now just as when he was physically present. Those who turn to him with sincere aspiration and longing, those who try their best to apply his teachings, will feel his Grace and guidance. There is no doubt about this.

In Arunachala Ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi remains the teacher and Guru. Lectures and discussions may have a place in an aspirant's life, but Arunachala Ashrama is maintained in a manner that allows visitors and residents to absorb the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi through silence.  His teachings are always being disseminated in Silence, and to hear them we must silence our mind. Lectures and discussions can obscure His silent teaching in the Heart.

"Silence is the ocean in which all the rivers of all the religions discharge themselves."
— Thayumanavar
 
Guru
Sri Maharshi did say that a Guru was necessary. He also said that the Guru may not be external, as in his case. Again, upon his physical demise he said that he was not leaving, as he was never identified with the body; meaning, he is present even now.

The truth is that no one can give us liberation. The way can be pointed out, directions can be given. Our intense earnestness and total dedication to the goal is the most essential factor. If we become obsessed with this one thing - realizing Truth Truth, a physical Guru (if necessary) and all else will be drawn to us automatically. The Guru will come to us when we are ready. We simply need to attend to making ourselves ready and the rest is automatic. For those with faith in the Maharshi's living presence there are no doubts in this matter.

Footnotes:
1   Gems from Bhagavan by Devaraja Mudaliar,
     from Chapter 1
2   idem; from Chapter 2
3   idem; from Chapter 3
4   idem; from Chapter 4
5   idem; from Chapter 5
6   idem; from Chapter 6
7   idem; from Chapter 7
8   idem; from Chapter 8
9   idem; from Chapter 9
10  idem; from Chapter 10
11  idem; from Chapter 11
12  idem; from Chapter 12

VISIT theBOOKSTORE:
http://bookstore.arunachala.org
Bookstore-Sri Ramana Maharshi
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"Nothing Between You and I" by Jeannie Zandi

threegraces
There is nothing between you and I. My heart is tenderized to the extent that when your pain rises, I feel it in my chest, and there’s simply this love that doesn’t have a two. Because that extra one, that ‘me’ and ‘mine’, is over, it went when the will was broken by life’s refusal to do it ‘my’ way. So there’s no longer anything between us.

In that, this love rises that knows the beauty and the heartbreak of our shared humanness, the heights we can soar to, the depths we can sink to, the heartbreak that we must bear because we often cannot embody what our hearts wish to embody in all its beauty and perfection, the love that we are and have the potential to express. We long to be love in every cell and we fail so miserably, and it hurts us to the core. We’re so beautiful, and so brave, and so screwed. We can’t get away from the unconscious aspects of ourselves and we can’t commit ourselves entirely to the dungeon. We are all crucified on that cross of humanness.

And for this there is such a rising of compassion and mercy in the empty heart that has taken that crucifixion to the end, such a sweetness and a desire to give whatever kindness or assistance one can to these brave and beautiful creatures – you as a servant are born. And then God moves us deeply to see that everyone is not only Her creation for me to give myself to, everyone is actually Her. The feeling rises that says anything I have I will give you, oh brave children of God, oh sweet faces of Her.

I could never repay the debt I have to the Beloved for the gift of being allowed to see Her face, to see that everyone has always been Her, and that I’ve spent years treating them and myself, which is Her, as objects or enemies, or merely walked by so many in need or failed to look upon Her face with the love that is so obviously due Her. What was I doing? What was I thinking? As Donovan sang in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, ‘preoccupied with selfish misery’. That’s what I was doing.

And an awareness of every moment of this selfish obliviousness is there, alongside the clear sight that all are so worthy of our love and kindness. We know there just aren’t enough years to praise Her name, to love Her tender face in the faces of our brothers and sisters. There is no bad guy! There is only the embodiment of Her, on the cross of heaven and earth, angel and creature, struggling to live up to Her heavenly gift under the weight of this unconscious conflict and self-hate. There is nothing so compelling as that and to offer whatever we have to that.

This is something that rises when you get broken. There’s this wealth of gratitude, this feeling that the debt can never be repaid for the beauty of Her in every being. I couldn’t possibly give any of you enough to serve the liberation of the love that is hidden in your heart. Ammachi says I want to die comforting someone – she’s hugging herself to death and it’s her joy, because everything in her says I am here to be given to You who I am as well. That is the feeling when we’re emptied out. It’s what we are underneath the conflict.
And it keeps getting deeper. We keep getting more sensitive, more transparent. Pretty soon we might as well sit inside everybody’s pants, it’s so intimate. You have a feeling across the room and I feel you. And it’s my joy to have you guys fill my body with your angst. I’m dying to help you with that. I’ll meet anything you have. You have a cold? Give it to me. I can’t even imagine the joy Christ must have felt to die for his God in the form of his brothers and sisters. What else can I give? All I’ve got is my life, sure. What a joy it is to love you, to be this love, to know you as love, to break the bread of love with each other, to give you, my most precious, whatever it is I have to give, which is never enough to glorify your beauty and Her name, and to liberate the dove of gorgeous tender love that lives in your heart.

And guess what? All the while She is loving Herself through you. THROUGH you. So you get loved as it moves through your body. Your entire body is radiated by God’s love as you apparently love. There’s only Her radiant love.

So, yes, that’s the only thing worth longing for. If you have the longing for this love, yeah! Stoke that fire, burn in that place where you want it so bad. Don’t calm that down! It’s worth it.
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"A Rendering by Mooji

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These words are rendered from the transcript of a dialogue with Mooji that occurred in the spring of 2011.

There are clearly some people whose intellect can readily grasp Advaita Vedanta teachings, and even though the grasping is merely at an intellectual level, behind that there will already have been a subconscious search for something deeper. When this search first opens up through the intellect so that there is a looking for oneself as a separate, private, autonomous entity, and then nothing is found, that seeing or discovery can be the first taste liberating at some level, it's not enough, it's not quite there.

It will maybe be the first perforation through the screen or personal facade, but it has to continue deepening and refining itself in the heart. It must do this. Otherwise, you find people who are quite content to push Advaita about with words - the 'talk school' folks. Conversation with them will not feel in harmony with what is actually present in your heart. You may even find such an interaction irritating, because it doesn't feel like it is coming from authentic seeing; but rather it appears like a boasting or a kind of subtle superiority.

There are many banana skins on this way, you know, because it's not like a snap of the fingers - one day I am like this and then suddenly, I am the Buddha, absolutely perfect! It's not like that. It takes time for the mind to stabilize, to settle into this final understanding. There will continue to be a pushing up of 'weeds' because most often, after the impact of real seeing occurs, what are called i/asanas come up to the surface of mind. Vasanas are deep rooted tendencies that have been dormant, or at least lay hidden from our conscious knowing. Through the power of enquiring into the Self, these tendencies are brought to the surface so they can by grace be expelled.

Very often there arises in the personalized consciousness, or ego, fierce resistance to feeling the force and presence of these vasanas, for they arise with much emotional charge and personal discomfort. Because of this, it is not uncommon for many seekers to suppress, create distractions from or cynically dismiss them as the mere play of consciousness/mind stuff, rather than bringing them fully into the light of enquiry. Subsequently, at a deeper level, identity often remains in the form of a personal self, and the chance to move beyond ego fixation is missed. In such cases, the 'person' will
continue to seem more real than ‘Presence-Self'

Initially, if one steps fully into all of this, there is a breaking open, a liberation from the influence and grip of the mindset, the mind state or mind culture. Now, even the body-mind is felt as a phenomenon that is observable; it's no longer the mind-self that is witnessing me, it is the 'formless', the 'V/hat Is', that is witnessing the mind.

We are troubled mostly by thoughts that are personal. Many thought movements happen that don't register, they don't linger, because we don't have any real interest in them. And if you don't have any interest in a thing, you don't need to transcend it. It's only if something is 'biting-in' that a struggle ensues and the question 'who am / and what is this?' can come to life for a genuine seeker of truth. Only then will the process of transcendence begin and be experienced.

So mostly we are not troubled by thoughts we have no interest in; it is only when there is interest and desire that we become troubled. So therein lies the secret: finding the one to whom the thoughts are occurring, who has some relationship with those thoughts, a belief that there is some reality to them. Such cannot be said of the pure observer, who must be impersonal, beyond all content. So if and when that is seen, it will be a very important point of seeing because it releases one from the sense that there is a 'me' as an actual, tangible entity being attacked by life, memory, thought, or emotion.

That 'me', although it feels intimate, is now recognized to be a phenomenon because it is observable. When this is recognized profoundly, what remains as the observing is non-personal, a sort of impersonal beingness/state. And it's that place of the impersonal observing that is called the state of liberation.

However, even after a state of awakening occurs, there often continues to linger the habit of identifying oneself as a person. If this delusion is not checked it will tend to sprout seeds that distract or hypnotize the beingness back into the state of mortality. The only way out of that is to abide as the witness-Self rather than the 'I-me'. Like this, those seeds will reduce in power for lack of fuel and will wither and pass way.

So, after the first stage where one comes to an understanding that I am not this phenomenal body, the vasana energies are released with heightened power. Prior to that, it is almost as if the vasanas themselves don't need to release their power, because we are already co-operating nicely under a spell, the sleep-waking state. It is as if the conditioning, the belief that I am a person, I am this body-mind, is sufficient to keep us unaware of the Self, and in a state of sludge-like delusion. It is only when you are waking up out of the sleep of the body-mind identity that you begin to feel the glue and contractions of the body-mind state in its play as vasanas.

So when we are coming out of that sleep state (ignorance), through the grace and power of satsang, we start to feel, discern and recognize the dormant, egoic energies and impressions that were hidden while we remained identified as persons. As they come into the light of recognition, they will create the sense of a tsunami inside the body mind.

But even then, there is the power within you to keep observing them, to know that they too are phenomenal. It will not be easy, initially, because here is where the stored power of identity has fermented and they will arise with much force.

It will take some effort In the beginning to observe them with detachment, without being pulled into the spell of identity with them. But that season also passes.

At a certain point everything comes and goes in the field of perception. Their apparent presence is dependent on your being able to witness them. All of them are reporting to you at some level and are only in accordance with what your consciousness accepts.

There is a sense of the seeing or perceiving of the phenomenal world - both the personal and the outer world - which is being reported to some intelligence that is right here, which is synonymous with the feeling 7 am'. So the information can keep on appearing, from one to ten thousand sensations a day, but the perceiver is still only one.

If I am the perceiver of all this, then ask another question: can this perceiver itself be perceived? This is really the question we want to arrive at, genuinely: VZho i am? Who is perceiving this sense I am,' this storyteller of the world that is 'having' experiences and reporting them. With this question, 'Who is perceiving even this?', something may occur.

This question when it is put merely in a verbal or mental way will be seen immediately to be insufficient, that it is just having the effect of another concept. So if the question cannot be answered by a mental or intellectual answer to any satisfaction, what is the purpose of the question? The question must be to trigger a genuine introspection that brings you to seeing/being, if you actually clarify, verify and grasp its intention. You must become fully inside your seeing and trust your observing and discerning power.


So that is the question. In fact, this is putting Self-Enquiry in a nutshell. To find out if the seer is seeable - is it only another phenomenon and if it is another phenomenon, what is witnessing that phenomenon? This is not an endless riddle or an infinite regress, which is one way the mind may present it in order to avoid the impact of real finding, real discovery.

When you know who you are, you are no longer full of desires; you begin to see that without personal intention, there is an order, there is a spontaneous and benevolent power behind the unfolding play of the world. There is a recognition of the Supreme power that cares for life and is life.

You will see that whatever you were pushing against flows in an effortless harmony, a harmony unrecognized by most, who, out of fear and ignorance pull their ‘parachute' cords too soon. You begin to see: 'My God, look at that!' It's still the same Earth - the sky, the flowers, the trees, the cars, the people - and that the perceiver who was reacting from a personal standpoint was getting in the way of a deeper seeing, which is full of grace, full of beauty, and full of harmony and peace.

The very nature of the person/personal is full of angst, impatience, desire, and a compulsion to acquire things to suit their projections. But it just doesn't work. It never really worked.

Having a teacher is vital. It's only arrogance to feel one is not needed. Make use of a teacher until you go beyond the need for help, until you are helpfulness itself. A true teacher doesn't want anything from you, even your devotion. They are just satisfied that you come with an authentic attitude or approach and are searching only for what is true.

In that way, they have power and are fully available because there is sheer joy in imparting true guidance to an authentic seeker. To believe a teacher is not necessary is a mistake a lot of people in the West make, because they have so many ill-conceived ideas about teachers and gurus. But this is often the posing of arrogance.
There is a lot of 'non-genuineness' on the part of some teachers just as there is a lot of 'non-genuineness' on the part of some students. If you want to have a great answer you need to have a great question. People have a lot of hidden agendas. They come very sheepishly, appear very humbly, but in many there is a wolf behind such appearances. So life will take them to that guru who reflects a little bit of 'who' they are, until they eventually step onto the true path of recognition.

It's perfect, actually. One gets the exact guru you need in that moment. If there's a lot of funny business going on in your ego mind, you're going to find a guru with at least little funny business going on in them too.

Papaji was so great, his presence and dharma, so unsparing. Many Westerners would come with full-on egos and somehow, in his presence, they got crushed, vaporized. I don't think he saw egos. Beings with the clean, clear eyes do not see impurity, they just see that you are the Self. But in their light, because there is a sense of impurity in your own mind, that impurity is pulled out into view, and this exposure can make you feel very vulnerable.

In the presence of a true teacher the process of healing is enabled by the sheer power and presence of their clarity, which will allow what is hidden to be brought into the light and burnt. A true teacher has real love for you; not a personal love, but an impersonal intimacy because he knows you are the Self.

—Mooji

SOURCE:
http://www.spiritawake.net/mooji-non-dual/
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"Names of God" by Matthew Fox

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Ancient Buddhist texts claim that "God has a million faces." This perspective is just one of many among different religions and cultures that describe a diverse array of names given to God.
Credit: Davi Barker sell1234.wix.com/eccentric-circle and Tikkun Daily Gallery.

Fourteenth-century mystic and activist Meister Eckhart says
“all the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves.” If he is correct, then as humanity’s self-understanding and understanding of the cosmos evolve, then clearly our God-names will evolve in response.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow reminds us that the Book of Exodus is also known as the Book of Names because God goes through two name changes within its pages. Why is this? In his article “When the World Turns Upside-Down, Do We Need to Rename God,” Waskow suggests it is because “the old Name cannot inspire a new sense of reality … God
is different when the world is different.”

So where do we go for new names for God? The ancient texts of Buddhism say: “God has a million faces,” and ancient Hindu texts discuss “the one Being the wise call by many names.” Thirteenth-century Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas is much wilder—he says that every creature is a name for God—and no creature is. He observes that apostles and prophets praise God in the Scriptures in this way:

As the Cause of all things, as good, as beautiful; as wise; as beloved; as God of gods; as holy of holies; as eternal; as wisdom; as reason; as justice; as virtue; as in spirits, as in bodies, as in heaven and on earth, at the same time in the same place, in the world, involved in the world, above the world, supercelestial or above the heavens, supersubstantial; as the sun, as a star; fire; water; air; and dew; as cloud; stone; rock and all the other beings attributed to God as cause. And the Divine One is none of these beings insofar as God surpasses all things.

Is Aquinas in this passage revealing himself to be an unabashed polytheist? Or has he merged polytheism with monotheism like no one ever has, urging us to find the One God in all things? The Jewish and Muslim mantra of the One God finds a radical application in this powerful and unprecedented passage. It opens us to a new practice: Find God in one being, any being—a leaf, a flower, a star, a galaxy, a person, an animal, a musical piece, a poem, a bridge. Here lies a challenge for the ages.

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The author writes, "People of all faiths can draw inspiration from the Muslim practice of reciting the '99 most beautiful names' for God," and thus be encouraged to seek their own names or build upon those from Islam. 99 Names of God - Al Wadud (Most Loving) by Kelly Crosby. Credit: Kelly Crosby (izzymo.myshopify.com).

I recommend that we each pray on this profoundly meditative passage and let it pass through our open hearts. If every creature is a name for God, then all of us need to loosen up and breathe in multiple names for the Divine and be stuck on none.
People of all faiths can draw inspiration from the Muslim practice of reciting the “99 most beautiful names for God”—we can seek our own names or we can build upon the list of ninety-nine names from Islam.

The practice of seeking to rename God is not for dilettantes or pious preachers. This is serious stuff. The names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves and our world. It is our responsibility at this critical time in human and planetary history, this tipping time, this turning time, to rename God. We cannot sit around idly living off the fumes of worn out, trite names and images of God that are failing to move anyone to save our species and the planet. Time is running out for us. We cannot hide in our comfortable religious (or anti-religious) boxes anymore.

When Eckhart dares to pray, “I pray God to rid me of God,” he is warning that we do not take on the new and necessary names of God without a sacrifice, without a letting go of the old. Clearly we have our inner work to do. And from that work “God” by whatever name will be reborn.

In what follows I wish to touch on six areas where I feel God-talk emerging freshly in our time: discussions of the Divine Feminine, science, light, dark matter, transformative action, and the idea of God as life.

The Divine Feminine
The recovery (rather than discovery) of the Divine Feminine in our time opens up multiple avenues for inspiring our God-talk. To name and image God as Gaia, Goddess, Kuan Yin, Shechinah, Ochun, Tara, the Black Madonna, or Kali puts the Divine into a whole larger context with tremendous implications for ourselves and the institutions we give birth to whether of law, politics, education, economics or religion. Consider for example the ecological implications of what anthropologist Marija Gimbutas says of the Goddess: She is “in all her manifestations a symbol of the unity of all life in Nature. Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hills, trees, and flowers. Hence the holistic and mythopoeic perception of the sacredness and mystery of all there is on Earth.” The Goddess calls us back to the sacredness of creation all about us.

Consider the virtues that are extolled in this ancient Tibetan prayer to Tara: “Homage to Tara our mother: great compassion! Homage to Tara our mother: queen of physicians! Homage to Tara our mother: conquering disease like medicine! Homage to Tara our mother: knowing the means of compassion! Homage to Tara our mother: Spreading like the wind! Homage to Tara our mother: pervading like space!” Consider this commentary on the Tao who is called “The Great Mother, Mother of the universe” who “gives birth to all beings, / nourishes them, maintains them, / cares for them, comforts them, protects them, / takes them back to herself.”

Medieval Christian mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Mechtild of Magdeburg and Julian of Norwich also explored the Divine Feminine in their writings. According to Hildegard, we are “surrounded with the roundness of divine compassion” and we are “encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.” For Mechtild, “God is not only fatherly. God is also mother who lifts her beloved child from the ground to her knee” and the Trinity is “like a mother’s cloak wherein the child finds a home and lays its head on the maternal breast.” Julian says: “God is delighted to be our Mother.”

Naming of the feminine side of Divinity gives inspiration and support to women struggling with their womanhood and sisterhood while simultaneously challenging men to get more in touch with their maternal and compassionate capacities.

The Divine Feminine is not at all about softness or passivity but about a passion
with instead of a passion over. Feminist theologian Dorothee Soelle has argued that we need mysticism to access this Divine Feminine. “Mysticism comes closest to overcoming the hierarchical masculine concept of God,” she writes. “In feminist theology therefore, the issue is not about exchanging pronouns, but about another way of thinking of transcendence … as being bound up in the web of life…. We move from God-above-us to God-within-us and overcome false transcendence hierarchically conceived.”
The return of the Divine Feminine is a sign of our times. It assists profoundly in renaming Divinity and in the process, ourselves.

Names Drawn from Science
The second realm that inspires new forms of God-talk and offers important insights about names for God is science. Science has exploded into human consciousness in a special way within the last 100 years, during which so much of our view of the world and our knowledge of the history of our planet and the universe, its age and scope, has emerged. Science’s new creation story tells us that our universe began 13.8 billion years ago with the “big bang” (which was in fact utterly silent). Science has also unleashed powers of technology in our midst that like everything else can be used for constructive or destructive purposes since they carry both light and shadow.
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As scientific discoveries continue to shape our view of the world, new names for God emerge corresponding to these shifts. Credit: Creative Commons.

Where is God in all this? Are new names for God emerging from science? Thomas Aquinas says, “A mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.” Mistaken science of the past has surely distorted our God talk and God imaging. But let us turn Aquinas’s words around: insight about creation results in insight about Divinity.
I would like to offer a few names for God that derive from today’s science and that seem germane to our time. One new name—offered by physicist Erich Jantsch in
The Self-Organizing Universe—describes God as “the mind of the universe.” Jantsch defines “mind” as “self-organization dynamics at many levels, as a dynamics which itself evolves.” He compares the paradigm of self-organization in science with the experience of the mystics over the ages, writing, “This connectedness of our own life processes with the dynamics of an all embracing universe has so far been accessible only to mystic experience.” He goes on to describe natural history as the evolution of consciousness.

Where is God in all this? Jantsch argues that the divine “becomes manifest … in the total evolutionary dynamics of a multilevel reality…. The God-idea does not stand above and outside of evolution as an ethical norm, but in true mysticism is placed into the unfolding and self-realization of evolution.” In other words, God evolves and “God
is evolution.”

Astrophysicist Arne A. Wyller takes a similar approach to science and God, describing God as a “Planetary Mind Field” that “is itself evolving in its creativity” and is restrained to conform to existing physical laws in its biological creations. Wyller also argues that there is a biological aspect of evil in human behavior and that this evil derives from the imperfect coupling between the rational part of the human brain and the emotive and reptilian parts. The Mind Field itself is all about love. In his book
The Planetary Mind he writes:

The idea that humans create evil by their imperfect mastery of the evolutionary gifts of the Mind Field, the rational brains, the emotive brain, and the reptilian brain, one on top of the other, in no way needs to reflect on the attributes of the Mind Field. In contrast, Nature around us bespeaks of its love.

Wyller predicts that our evolution will move us toward a community based wholly on the principle of love in a new unstructured religion that is “more global, less ritualistic, and less dogmatic.”

Light and Matter
A third area in which contemporary God-talk is flourishing is in the area of light. As I pointed out in my study One River, Many Wells, I find that light is the most universal image of God among the known religions of the planet. Whether one considers African or Celtic religions, or the Buddha saying “become a light unto yourself,” or Christ saying “I am the light of the world,” or Judaism teaching about Shechinah, the name of God as Light is found most everywhere. It is also found in contemporary science. Light is far more present than matter in the universe. As Wyller points out, “No matter what scenario we envision for the details of the creation of the Universe, we are left with the incontrovertible observations that a flood of light dominates our Universe…. For every particle of matter there are 1 billion particles of light.”

With the discovery that, in David Bohm’s words, “matter is frozen light,” science allows us to put to rest the horrific dualisms of spirit vs. matter that have haunted western consciousness at least since Plato. Matter may be frozen or very slow-moving light, but light is the name for God world over! What does that mean? Matter is incarnated spirit—
and it is far rarer than light! We who are incarnated light (i.e., material) are rare in the universe. Rejoice!

Darkness: The Apophatic Divinity
Midwestern_USA_at_Night_with_Aurora_Borealis_-_NASA_Earth_Observatory
A fourth way to name and approach God is through a discussion of darkness. In a universe we now understand to hold 97 percent more darkness than light, Darkness becomes more than ever an operable name for the Divine. The Double Dark theory of the universe calls for an explosion in our time of an apophatic Divinity that, as Meister Eckhart put it, “has no name and will never be given a name,” the Divinity of “superessential darkness.” Says Eckhart: “The final goal of being is the darkness of Divinity.” He reminds us that “God is nothing; but God is also something.” In other words, Nothingness is another name for God.

One reason for the rise of the apophatic Divinity in our time are the multiple stories emerging about dark matter and dark energy. As astrophysicists Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams have pointed out in their book
The New Universe and the Human Future, one gift of today’s science is to have discovered that we ride in a sea of darkness. If over 97 percent of the matter of the universe is dark matter or dark energy, we ought to synchronize our theologies and spiritualities with these facts (otherwise we fall into  Aquinas’s “mistake about creation [that] results in a mistake about God&rdquoWinking.

Primack and Abrams invite us to imagine the entire universe as an ocean of dark energy, explaining that “the larger the universe expands, the faster more dark energy gets created.” This sounds like mother power if I have ever heard it: creativity generates more creativity, expansion generates more expansion. This is the Cosmic Mary, the Black Madonna, at work in the universe. The darkness that characterizes dark energy, dark matter, and black holes finds its human counterpart in the mystery of the unconscious. Eckhart tells us God is “a being beyond being and a nothingness beyond being” and “the ground of our souls is dark.” Ours are a time for learning to dwell in that nothingness and that beyondness—a time for silent receptivity in “the cave of our hearts.” In meditation we discover these truths.

Transformative Action: God as Creativity, Justice, and Compassion
A fifth area in which contemporary God-talk comes alive concerns creativity and compassion. Thomas Aquinas calls God “the Artist of artists.” God or the Holy Spirit is the implicit power of creativity itself, the urge to beget, the urge to make, the urge to give birth. What does God desire us to give birth to? To justice, compassion, and love—for God is described as constituting all of these things.

The Jewish prophets remind us time and again that compassion and justice are one. Our striving for justice is a striving for God. God is the love we strive for and the love we learn to give and receive; God is the justice we work for; God is the compassion we grow into. God is the Holy Spirit of creativity that births the universe. We experience God when we too are in a creative state. In that sense we are, as Eckhart says, “the mothers of God,” ever birthing Divinity, participating fully in the divinizing of the universe and in the exponential increase of awe, wonder, and beauty. Of course, like any mother, we do not know what our progeny is until we give birth to it, so in this way, as Eckhart says, God is still “unborn and needing to be born.” In this way too we are without God until we start birthing compassion and justice.

God as Life

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Medieval Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen explored the Divine Feminine in her writing. Fox writes, "Naming the feminine side of Divinity gives inspiration and support to women struggling with their womanhood." Credit: Creative Commons.

A sixth area for contemporary God-talk is in the discussion of God as life. To speak of God as life is to recognize all of life—its awe and wonder, its beauty and grace, along with its pain—as God-experiences. The great mystic Howard Thurman, whose book Jesus and the Disinherited Dr. Martin Luther King carried with him to jail on thirty-nine separate occasions, says this about God and life: “The core of the analysis of Jesus is that man is a child of God, the God of life that sustains all of nature and guarantees all the intricacies of the life-process itself.” For Thurman, God is the “common center” that births life and what is at the heart of life itself?  “Life is alive; this is its abiding quality as long as it prevails at all. The word ‘life’ is synonymous with vitality.” I consider “life” and “spirituality” and “vitality” to be synonyms. Clearly Thurman does also. To be spiritual is to be fully alive. Yet Thurman alerts us to how we can be so focused on each individual expression of life that we can miss its deepest reality—“the fact that life itself is alive.” Not only Thurman but also other mystics including Hildegard, Aquinas, Eckhart, and Tolstoy talk about God as Life. In my very first book I defined prayer (and still do) as “a radical response to life.” Perhaps Arthur Rubenstein puts it best when he says:

I have noticed through experience and through my own observations that Providence, Nature, God, or what I would call the Power of Creation, seems to favor human beings who accept and love life unconditionally.  And I am certainly one who does, with all my heart.

Substitute “radical” for “unconditional” and you understand my definition and experience of prayer.

My Own Names for God
Thus far I have laid out some new (and often ancient) names for God, identifying deep experiences from which names for God can emerge—and have emerged for me in my own experience. In what follows, I’d like to share some more personal reflections on my own encounters with the Divine.

In so much of my work, reading, writing, liturgy, action, I experience God as Truth and God as Justice. I see Jesus as a rabbi or teacher
and I see teachers or rabbis and all beings as other Christs. I see the Cosmic Christ as the presence of glory and radiance, beauty and elegance, in all of creation from microcosm to macrocosm. (I also see this as the Buddha Nature present in all things and as the Shechinah reflecting the numinosity of things.) I see the Cosmic Christ as “present with God before the creation of the world” and present in all creative acts as Wisdom and glory (doxa in Greek). I also see the Cosmic Christ as the wounds in all things—and I see all things that suffer as being like the Christ on the cross. I experience God as Holy Spirit that, like the wind, is invisible but tangible and very real. Spirit is especially active in our creativity, intuition, and inspiration.

In short, I subscribe to R.D. Laing’s philosophy that “God is our experience of God” because I see experience as primary. As the psalmist says, we must “taste and see that God is good.” Tasting and wisdom are essentially the same words in both Hebrew and Latin. Spirituality is about tasting. No one can do it for us.

As a “spiritual” theologian, I believe it is my vocation to speak to the
experiential side of religion. I name the experiential side of religion as “mysticism” (our Yes and love of life) on the one hand and “prophecy” (our No to injustice) on the other. Our response to both is, I believe, our prayer. Our Yes and our No come from very deep places.

A Lifetime of Experiencing God
Over the course of my life, in addition to the names above I have encountered or listened to God in such ways as these:

In Nature: I encountered God early on in lightening storms when I was a child growing up in Wisconsin, in the tranquility and beauty of the snow, in the colors of leaves changing in the autumn and in the smells of leaves burning, in sunshine, in dark nights, in the stars, in the smell of newly cut grass.

In Sport: Playing outdoor sports like football and baseball has often brought together for me the spiritual experience of nature (sunshine, grass, wind, rain), body, and community (team awareness and “team-work&rdquoWinking in what have felt like God experiences. A certain spiritual intoxication happens. A mystical encounter with life at its best.

In Books and Ideas: Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” blew my soul wide open in high school. Since then, I have encountered God in the works of all kinds of authors—including Mary Oliver, Howard Thurman, Joanna Macy, Thich Naht Hahn, the Dalai Lama, Hildegard of Bingen, and countless more.

In Science: I encounter God in the works of scientists such as Arne Wyller, Erich Jantsch, Thomas Berry, Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, Brian Swimme, Albert Einstein, and many others.

In Music: I recall hearing Beethoven’s seventh symphony for the first time when I was in ninth grade—it made me want to dance. I have encountered God not only in classical music but also in the prophetic music of the sixties created by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and more—and of course more recently, Lenny Cohen.
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Fox encountered God in nature: in the beauty of snow, in the colors of changing leaves, and in sunshine. Credit: Creative Commons.

In Scripture: I read the Bible from cover to cover as a teenager, going at it daily for twenty minutes per day. I did my master’s thesis in theology on the “prayer of Jesus in the New Testament” and it was there that I learned the deep connection between prayer and culture and how to understand Jesus one must ground oneself in his Jewish roots. I continue to encounter God in the writings of the prophets and in the wisdom literature.

In Liturgy: I frequented daily mass as a teenager, even though I attended a public high school. I was especially inspired by the Saturday Mass, which was always dedicated to Mary or the feminine divine. In my nine years of Dominican training I continued to encounter God through spiritual practices such as mantras (i.e., praying the rosary), processions, Gregorian chant, stations of the cross, vows, and daily mass. Praying, vision quests, sweat lodges, and sundances have been a rich way of feeding my ceremonial soul since.

In Silence: I also encountered God in my many hours of silence and meditation during my training as a Dominican. I cherished the silence that we maintained at meals, at night, in the morning, and in our rooms, and it spoke deeply to me—so deeply that my confessor suggested I become a hermit. After thinking it over, I gave it a try for one summer, joining a hermit colony on the island of Vancouver. I have often felt that I ran on the energy from that rich experience for twenty years. Nature itself is a school of silence if we allow it to be.

In Study and In Writing: Study and writing bring together everything I have learned with everything I am striving to learn and share with others. A great flow of creativity and grace occurs often for me while learning. The same occurs sometimes when I am lecturing, teaching, or preaching and experience deep exchanges with students or other listeners.

In Social Action: In social action I experience God. I came of age during the Civil Rights movement and it had a deep effect on me. One of the gifts I received the day of my first mass as a new priest was a subscription to the NAACP. The anti–Vietnam War movement, the ecology movement, the women’s movement, and the gay and lesbian movement have all shaped my experience of God and resulted in my expulsion from the Dominican Order. My social commitments eventually led me to stand up to the Vatican for selling its soul to the CIA and to neofascist movements such as Opus Dei, Legion of Christ, and others, and I continue to encounter God in sacred activism and struggles for justice.

Creating the Cosmic Mass and Alternative Education
In the current moment I work to rebirth new forms of worship using postmodern art forms of DJ, VJ, rap, and much more in an interfaith context through birthing what we call the “Cosmic Mass.” I have committed myself to working with the young to birth postmodern forms of worship and became an Episcopalian in order to work with young people from the rave movement in England committed to reinvigorate liturgy.

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A woman sits at an altar at a Cosmic Mass. Credit: Andrew Young

I have been pursuing the idea of an alternative model of spiritual education since the 1970s, when I launched the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality, a master’s program in spirituality at Mundelein College in Chicago based on the idea that one cannot teach spirituality in an exclusively left-brain model of education. When Cardinal Ratzinger, having hounded this project for twelve years at Holy Names College in Oakland eventually succeeded in shutting it down, I started the University of Creation Spirituality, which offered a whole new kind of doctor of ministry program, seeking to bring spirituality and work together. Many professionals, from engineers to social workers, from therapists to doctors, from artists to activists of various stripes, joined the program to bring their professions more alive. I experience the God of Justice in these projects and struggles.

Years ago I was interviewed on Dutch television, and when the camera was off, the interviewer, a man in his early forties, said to me eagerly: “I have to ask you this one pressing question. Do you Americans really believe that we can still experience God?”
That may be the difference between pro forma religion and living religion: spiritual experience. The mystics are those who have tasted the Divine, and I believe that means all of us.

New names for God do not necessarily drop from the sky or arise from a book; they come from our experience of the living God in his/her living universe and from our own encounters with life. They emerge in our psyches and intuition and imagination. By listening more intently to the depth of our experience of Life in all its wonder and its pain, its fullness and its emptiness, God emerges often with fresh wording from a place of deep silence. It is our deep experiences of awe and amazement that gestate new names as we stammer to name the unnameable anew in each generation.

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(This web-only article is part of a special series associated with Tikkun’s Summer 2014 print issueThinking Anew About God. Subscribe now to read these subscriber-only articles online, and sign up for our free email newsletter to receive links to future web-only articles on this topic, as well! Visit tikkun.org/god-anew to read the other web-only articles associated with this issue.)

Matthew Fox is author of thirty-two books on spirituality and culture including
Original Blessing, A Spirituality Named Compassion, The Reinvention of Work, Letters to Pope Francis, The Pope’s War, and most recently Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times.
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"If There is No Self, Then Who’s Sitting Here?" by Sunada Takagi

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Does the Buddhist idea of “no self” strike you as bizarre or outrageous? Sunada has been reflecting on this difficult concept, and shares her thoughts on it so far. It isn’t just an obscure philosophical point for mental gymnasts, she says. Paradoxically, she thinks the ideas can help us in a very real way toward finding and becoming more of who we really are.

If I asked you who you are, what would you say? Many people might begin by telling me what they do for work – teacher, software engineer, accountant. But no, I’d say. That’s the work you do, not who you are. If you changed or lost your job, that identity would disappear. So who are you really?

OK, then next you might tell me something about your family and your people – perhaps you’re a mother or father, a person of African descent, an American citizen, and so on. But no, that’s you in relation to others. So who are YOU, independent of them?
“There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.”

So then you might bring up your personality or values – an introvert, a romantic, or that you have a deep love of beauty. But I’d say these are descriptors of ways you behave or what motivates you. They aren’t who you are.

The thing is, we can continue this exercise forever, but we’ll never find anything we can nail down as “who we are.” That’s because everything we come up with is superficial and impermanent. There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.

Let me be clear that this idea isn’t saying we don’t exist. If we walked into a wall, our bodies would bump against it and we’d feel pain. Yes we exist! Instead, what it’s really saying is that we’re constantly changing beings, always in flux. We’re not permanent, fixed entities. We’re more like rivers. If you stood on a bank and watched a river, the water molecules passing by now would be different from what passed by a moment ago. So then how can we say it’s the same river? Giving it a fixed name and identity is just a convention that humans came up with so we can talk about it. The whole idea is a fiction.

At this point, you might argue that there are core aspects of our character that don’t seem to change over our lifetimes. OK, now we’re getting into some tricky territory. The problem is that as soon as we attach labels and concepts onto something, our egos kick in and start objectifying it, nailing it down, and spinning off stories to make something permanent out of it. And that’s what can get us into trouble.

Let me illustrate with an example of my own. Some of the traits that emerged very early in my life were my hard-working and self-motivated nature, and that I enjoyed accomplishing goals I set for myself. The various labels I took on included “high achiever,” “Type A personality,” “motivated by excellence.”

But labels are traps. With every one of them comes a whole string of stories, assumptions, and beliefs. And for the most part, they don’t match with reality. I took my labels to mean I should go after a high-paying, high-status professional job, become part of a “respectable” (i.e. conventional) community … you get the idea. But more than that, I felt I had to do my absolute best at everything I did. I was driven to excel at everything I took on because it made my ego feel good.

Many of you know my life story, so I’ll keep it short here — but basically, my house of cards came tumbling down hard in my thirties. I had so taken in my own stories of what being excellent meant that I wasn’t seeing any of the signs around me that were telling me otherwise. My physical health collapsed and I fell into a depression. Then on top of that, 9/11 happened, which among other things, pretty much closed the door on my career.
“…look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment.”

So what did the idea of “no self” have to teach me about all this? First and foremost, drop the stories. In any given moment when I’m faced with a choice, look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment. Of course, this doesn’t mean I disregard everything from my past. I have all that I’ve learned from my life experiences, all the skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired, and all my personal strengths and talents. But the real question is, how are those things actually manifesting in me right now, and how do they apply to the situation at hand? It’s not about the degrees I have, or the idea that I strive toward excellence, or that I want to succeed. Those are my stories. What’s really present for me right now, and what’s the most positive choice I can make based on that?

The Buddha’s teaching of no-self is about letting go. Let go of our stories, or in short, our egos. Our egos think those stories bring us security, but in reality they act more like ill-fitting glasses that distort our vision. But at the same time, the teaching isn’t telling us to be passive and let the winds blow us around. It’s about being so completely immersed in and open to the present moment that we know clearly and fully what the situation is – including our own strengths and weaknesses. With that clarity of vision, we can choose to flow more in harmony with the way things really are by confidently relying on our known strengths, rather than fighting to hold up our version of a fool’s paradise.

This is where the practice of mindfulness is vitally important. At some point in our practice, we begin to let go of our grasping to uphold “me” as something opposed to “the world out there.” We start subtly shifting away from being dualistically MINDFUL OF various things to sensing that we are just awareness itself, inseparable from our surroundings. We stand naked just as we are, the pure potential present in us right now, and flow intimately with the world as it is. That’s the real gift of mindfulness — to feel so confident and in harmony with the world that we can trust and let go of our lives to it.


Back to that notion of character traits that don’t change much – yes, I still have many of those qualities that keep me motivated to do my best at everything I do. But my way of thinking about them has really changed. I now know I’m at my best when I stand back and let the world around me augment what talents and skills I have. I suppose it’s sort of like sailing. Rather than me doing a lot of rowing, I’m learning how to harness the wind so it propels me toward where I want to go.

So if there is no self, then who’s sitting here? I guess the answer is a growing, changing being. In my case, this being also wants to grow toward becoming wiser and more open-hearted, and so every moment, I try to make the best choice I can to point myself in that direction. Where am I going? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Because the more I make positive choices, the more strongly the flow of my life seems to move in the direction I aspire toward.

I find the Buddha’s teachings profoundly optimistic and hopeful, because it says that we can change, and we can choose how. And paradoxically, I’m finding that the more I take in the idea of no-self, the more I’m becoming who I really am.

SOURCE:
http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/if-there-is-no-self

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Sunada not only teaches the online meditation courses at Wildmind, she runs her own business, Mindful Purpose Life Coaching, through which she coaches people toward finding their inner wisdom and confidence. You can read about her explorations of mindfulness in her Mindful Living Blog or follow her on Twitter.
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"Buddha Nature" by Sharon Salzberg (from rebel buddha website)

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When asked about self hatred the Dalai Lama said, "Self hatred. What is that? But you have Buddha nature. How could you think of yourself that way?" How can Western Buddhists gain confidence in Buddha nature and nourish our capacity to offer lovingkindness to ourselves?

I went to Dharamsala, India in 1990 for a Mind and Life conference with the Dalai Lama. It was a small gathering of psychologists, scientists and meditators, exploring the topic of healing emotions. “What do you think about self-hatred?” I asked when it was my turn to bring up an issue for discussion. I was eager to get directly to the suffering I’d seen so often in my students, a suffering I was familiar with myself. The room went quiet as all of us awaited the answer of the Dalai Lama. Looking startled, he turned to his translator and asked pointedly in Tibetan again and again for an explanation. Finally, looking back at me, the Dalai Lama tilted his head, his eyes narrowed in confusion. “Self-hatred?” he repeated in English, as though trying out the words. “What is that?”
I think that encapsulates much of what we encounter as the teachings come from East to West. I don’t want to deify Asian culture, but the rock bottom belief that if we went to the core of our being, if we really knew who we were it would be pretty bad news, doesn’t seem to be there, certainly not in the way it exists in the West.
During the remainder of the session, the Dalai Lama repeatedly attempted to explore the contours of self-hatred with us. “Is that some kind of nervous disorder?” “Are people like that very violent?” “But you have Buddha nature. How could you think of yourself that way?” At the end he said, “I thought I had a very good acquaintance with the mind, but now I feel quite ignorant. I find this very, very strange.”
For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of this session took place during our tea break. Several of the Westerners who were old students of the Dalai Lama’s tried to convey some of how the teachings of the Buddha could sound if one was listening with the perspective of self doubt and chronic self condemnation instead of confidence in our Buddha nature, however obscured it might be. They related things like, “When I first heard, ‘Give up self-cherishing, this is what I heard…’” “All this emphasis on effort, when I secretly think I might not be capable of achievement, makes me feel…”
It was amazing. The fact that self-hatred was not a part of his worldview summed up the essence of what I first aspired to through the practice of meditation. And I’ve certainly witnessed in many years of teaching the burden that not really believing we deserve to be happy, not really feeling that we can actually achieve happiness, brings.
In the Theravada tradition when we do lovingkindness meditation, the instruction is to begin by offering lovingkindness to ourselves. The explanation is that this is easiest, that we can “search the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of our love and affection than ourselves and that we won’t find that person anywhere. We ourselves deserve our own love and affection more than anyone.” But for many, that’s not the easiest, by any stretch. It might in fact be the hardest. And so we need a creative approach to accommodate that.
We’re taught (and I teach) that lovingkindness for ourselves is a foundation for lovingkindness for others, so that our motivation in giving is generosity and not martyrdom, our efforts at morality are not guilty and repressive but claiming a slice of the great human compassionate potential as our own. We’re taught (and I teach) that our own happiness, when it goes beyond merely seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, is not born of the circumstance we find ourselves in. Instead, when it is real and stable happiness, it is the basis for our ability to be generous, kind, and compassionate. Not only do we deserve it, we need that kind of happiness.

Implied in all of this is a deep sense of our own worth. What I’ve seen over these years of bringing an Asian teaching to the West, is that this sense needs to be a lot more than implied: it needs to be stated, examined, and nourished; our fears, assumptions and hesitations need to be challenged; and our capacity for freedom and happiness needs to be continuously brought forth and celebrated.

SOURCE:
http://www.rebelbuddha.com/2011/01/buddha-nature/

WEBSITE:
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"The Ultimate Yin" by William Martin

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I have been asked (and I often ask myself) how a Taoist approach to life responds to the ultimate Yin of life - death. As I enter my 73rd year the question is anything but theoretical. It is a reality that insists on breaking through the walls of my culturally conditioned denial and avoidance. But let’s stick with philosophy for a moment. The folk Taoism of Chinese culture entertains various beliefs in reincarnation, rebirth, and multiple heavens and hells, but the philosophical school of Taoist thought - that of Lao-Tzu and The Tao Te Ching - does not speculate about an afterlife. It does not deny the possibility, but it is frustratingly consistent in its refusal to pretend to know the unknowable. Instead it recommends the wise practices of; “letting go,” and of “not knowing.” I’ll  “know” someday. In the meantime I want to practice the wonderful art of letting go and develop a relationship of gratitude with this ultimate Yin that is asking for my attention.


I am coming to understand that the presence of death breathes life into the too-easily shrugged off concept of letting go. The Tao Te Ching, repeatedly advises the practice of letting go - of opinions, beliefs, desires, things, and even of people. The Buddhist ideal of non-attachment fit well with Taoist thought when the two philosophies blended in China two millennia ago. Both continue to stress the importance of ceasing to cling. Yet it is all to easy to delude myself into thinking that I am not attached, while in the back of my conditioned mind the thought process is actually: “I’m not attached. I’m just confident that my life tomorrow will have the same perks and pleasures that it contains today. It’s always been that way and I don’t see it changing.” This thinking process is the essence of clinging, and clinging is the root of humanity’s stress, tension, and unhappiness no matter how much my conditioning tries to insist otherwise. 

I do not advocate a morbid preoccupation or obsession with death. I am finding, however, that the acknowledgement of its reality can enhance life in ways that the practice of denial and avoidance can never fathom. One of the changes that the growing awareness of the ultimate Yin has brought to my life is the joy of actually letting go, not just pretending to let go. I am now able to say, from experience rather than philosophy, that letting go increases joy and pleasure in events, things, and people. What I have believed for decades to be true, I now find actually is true!

I am healthy and take great pleasure in the elements of my life, but my physical energy and muscular strength is noticeably less than it was five, or even two, years ago. On the other hand, my pleasure is noticeably greater. My delight in the sights and sounds of the natural world is increasing almost daily. My gratitude for simple things has expanded - for the aroma and taste of morning coffee; for pasta sauce simmering on the stove; for the breeze that comes through the window touching even a mid-summer day with coolness; for Nancy’s loving presence on the patio in the early morning.

Those of you who have had this ultimate Yin enter your life suddenly rather than gradually know how wrenching the process of letting go can be when it is imposed upon you. One of my dear friends has recently discovered that he has a debilitating and terminal disease that will take his energy and his life, sooner rather than later. I can only imagine the fear and grief that he and his spouse must be facing, yet they both report the presence of a marvelous joy that comes from remembering their long years together, from sitting on their patio with evening tea, and from learning how to care for and to be cared for in new and tender ways. 

These friends have had a crash course in letting go. I am reminded that, for the moment, I can take this course a bit more leisurely but take it I must. It is a course we all must take. We can’t “test out of it” with our philosophical meanderings. We will, however, all surely graduate. In the meantime, I think that Taoist thought advises us to allow the mystery of death to teach us the true meaning letting go. This, I believe, will bring us greater joy and appreciation than any of the false promises our acquisitive culture has fostered will ever be able to do. As one of my folk heroes, Arlo Guthrie, says, “Die now, go later!” 

SOURCE:
Taoist Living
http://www.taoistliving.com/B/Entries/2017/7/the-ultimate-yin.html
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"Letter to a Christian Teacher on Biblical Inerrancy" by Bei Kuan-tu

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Dear Friend in Christ,

Often I think that our inescapable cultural baggage, meaning our fragile egos and the influence of all who've crossed our way, "make being certain a necessity." Clearly, this is a reality that can never be — thus an exclusive product of our own heads! 
 
What I have questioned for decades is that the scriptures, beautiful and inspiring as they may be, are simply the product of a theologically divided church (367AD), and a power hungry Emperor Constantine (which Luther and those who followed him viewed with anathema) who sought to bring political stability and power to the western Roman world.  

As I've come to understand the gift of scriptures, they are the "finger that points to the moon." That simple idea has become quite liberating for me.  Of course, the problem is (at least in the Protestant world) men choose to "suck the finger" rather than adore and embrace what it points to!  As a consequence, the Bible has become the infallible A thru Z textbook for Truth. Sadly, this has given rise to innumerable emotional and psychological problems for believers.
 
It's near impossible to deny the history and politics behind the scriptures.  This should be a warning that scripture is not absolute in any way, shape or form. Whenever I've witnessed teachers using scriptures beyond simple instruction or contemplation of faith and pushing holy writ as a "key to everything," inevitably students end up trapped in their own conceptual thoughts and bias'. From there a sense of alienation, incompleteness and self-righteousness grows.  As Laurence Bolt observes:
"…Struggle (alienation) brings resentment, ingratitude, and withholding, which rob “us of joy” and keep the energy from flowing freely in our lives. This leads us away from the path of our spiritual destinies. Instead of following our own paths, we crave the approval and attention of others. This craving for approval, in turn, produces competitive hostility and envy. Envy, in turn, provokes greed, which agitates our minds and sends us on the mad chase that today we call the "rat race." In the process, we lose the ability to appreciate the simple enjoyments that come with life in the spirit (BECAUSE WE ARE IN OUR MINDS!). Ultimately, this leads to a sense of chaos and confusion that obfuscates our innate intelligence and robs us of our capacity to appreciate the beauty in life" (NOW WE JUDGE EVERYTHING!)." 

No room for the Spirit there!  This is a large segment of Biblical Protestant Christianity — no longer walking by faith, but blindly embracing dogmatism that justifies all sort of religious nonsense'.   
 
What is even more stunning is Biblically trained fundamentalists teachers carry with them (secretly) an underlying distrust of the very God they preach.  How could they not?  Their fear based theologies subtly and sometimes overtly permeate their own hearts and thus those who follow them. This travesty is simply "off the charts!"  It's everywhere, particularly in the Christian fundamentalist world. Makes me sick!  And if anyone in the remotest sense questions biblical inerrancy they are immediately cast aside as a heretic.   For where one set of biblically based doctrines go, so too do their opposites.   One can make a pretty good biblical case for "conditional salvation" or "universal salvation" or "Jesus is God" or "Jesus is God/man" or "Jesus was a man who infused by some sort of "cosmic consciousness", etc, etc."  I'm sure you get my drift.

"The wind blows where it desires, and thou hearest the sound of it, but canst not tell from where it comes or where it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."  

What Christians end up with is a biblical message of grace inner-woven with a fear based theology, legislated by a sometimes angry, bi-polar, anthropomorphic god (male, about 6'6", ripped — a bit of Zeus-like character) — who stands ready to annihilate, yet on the turn of a dime can forgive unconditionally.  

Sad to say that annihilation wins out far too often!  No wonder Mariology (adoration of Mary)came into being!
 
You appear to be scholarly in your biblical efforts.  I'd encourage you to be the same as a historian with those early church centuries.  Consider your sources (not just evangelical, but consider other schools of scholarly research).  Objectivity is paramount.  Open mindedness is not a threat to your salvation. It takes you ever deeper into the mystery one's faith.
 
This whole divine walk is clothed in mystery, it is intuitive, beyond the conceptual mind and rooted deeply in the heart. We can speculate on all sorts of Biblical concepts, but there is "that which is beyond dissection and definition." Either the scriptures are inerrant, written by the hand of God, or they are a product of inspired hearts woven with/into the politics and worldliness of the time. And if the later is true how does that change your walk?  
 
Lastly, it is clear to me that the vast majority of Christians are not free. This whole religious show can be so disingenuous!  In fact, the fruit of this disingenuousness is emotional mayhem on the part of the believer. And why is this scenario so common today? Because scripture has become an end in itself, rather than a liberating pointer to the mystery we call faith.

—Bei Kuan-tu
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"Living and Dying with Dignity: A Buddhist View" by Dr. Yoichi Kawada

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In supporting people as they make difficult ethical decisions, Buddhism does not offer a set of fixed rules. In the case of medical-related decisions, such rules could be rendered outmoded or meaningless by further technological advances. Rather, it seeks to enable people to develop a deeper and clearer understanding of the nature of their own lives and the lives of others as a basis for such decisions. Specifically, it seeks to help people develop the wisdom and compassion that will enable them to experience a lasting sense of satisfaction and happiness. In this sense, Buddhist “precepts” are best understood as an internalized ethic of compassion that guides us toward becoming active, contributing participants in the creative evolution of the universe.

The Buddhist View of Life
As a philosophy, the starting point for Buddhism in ancient India was the effort by Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha) [literally, “the sage of the Shakya clan”] to resolve the question of human suffering, the “four sufferings” of birth, aging, sickness and death. (The inclusion of birth may be unexpected, but Buddhist tradition—confirmed by experience—holds that the transition from the warmth and safety of the womb to the cold outer world is an immensely painful one. Birth also symbolizes the suffering inherent in the very process of living.)

In order to resolve the question of human suffering, Shakyamuni
(Gautama Siddartha) engaged in various meditative practices, entering deeply into the inner realms of his own life. There he discovered a consciousness that transcended the purely individual, a layer of consciousness shared by all people. Beyond that, he was able to experience unity with all forms of life. Eventually, the expansion of his inner awareness enabled him to experience oneness with the Earth itself, and with the planets and stars which, like the individual human being, undergo cycles of life and death—forming and coming together, dissolving and ceasing to be. Finally, he was able to experience the dimension of what can be called a universal or cosmic life—the fundamental essence of wisdom and compassion that supports and underlies all existence. All life repeats cycles of birth and death supported by the compassionate functioning of the cosmic life force.

It was his awakening to this that earned Shakyamuni
(Gautama Siddartha) the title of “Buddha” or enlightened one. In the language of philosophy, he discovered an inner, immanent truth that is at the same time transcendent and universal. The inner cosmos he discovered could, in other words, also be observed in the world around him; perceiving a universal life of wisdom and compassion within, Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha) also recognized it in all people. He saw that all people were as capable as he of awakening to the true nature of their lives. From that time, his actions and teachings were dedicated to the work of awakening all people to the eternal, undefiled nature of their lives. These teachings formed the core and basis for the later development of Buddhism into a philosophical system and a movement of popular empowerment.
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The goal of Buddhism is happiness. Because Buddhism views all life as interconnected, our efforts to realize happiness for ourselves must include compassionate action for others. Buddhism denies the validity of any form of happiness that is built on the suffering or at the sacrifice of others, including wanton destruction of nature. In the early Buddhist scripture the Dhammapada, we find this passage: “All living beings tremble before violence. All living beings fear death. Placing yourself in the position of these other living beings, you must not kill others, nor must you allow them to kill others.” Protecting life from violence and degradation is a core objective of Buddhism.

The Continuum of Life
Human dignity is a key concern in any discussion of bioethics. It must be given full respect in all stages of life. Being able to concretely sense and experience one’s own dignity, to have that recognized and respected, are crucial aspects of happiness. In Buddhism, the basis of human dignity is our identity with the universal, cosmic life, and our capacity to awaken to the wisdom and compassion inherent in all life. It is the fundamental nature of life to evolve toward self-realization and self-perfection. This remains true even for people with extremely reduced capacities. In this sense, human dignity is essentially independent of such standards as the ability to make rational decisions or to contribute actively to society.

The unity of the individual self with the cosmos means that the physical and mental, the concrete and spiritual dimensions of experience are also a unity. (“Two but not two” is the term used in Buddhism to describe that which is distinct and separate on the phenomenal level but one on a deeper plane.) In the same way, our lives extend to and embrace our surroundings with which we are also “two but not two.” For caregivers, this means that careful and balanced attention must be given to both the physical and spiritual aspects of the human person—one cannot be radically prioritized over the other. It also means that medical practitioners, when treating individuals, are also working with and “treating” the family, friends and community that are an integral part of that individual’s life.

Central to Shakyamuni’s (Gautama Siddartha's) awakening was his grasp of the eternal nature of life. The insights of Buddhism into the experience of birth and death parallel central concerns of bioethics. In Buddhism, individual lives are seen as emerging from the universal, cosmic life (the process of birth) and returning to it in the process of death. Governed by the law of cause and effect, we repeat endless cycles of life and death, each of which is a unique opportunity to create value (happiness) for ourselves and for others.

In terms of the process of birth, Buddhism views parent and child as manifestations of cosmic life who share a profound connection from the past, as well as a shared purpose or mission to be realized in the present and future. In the simplest terms, a child does not belong to or exist as an extension of the parents. Nor, however, is the child the gift or possession of an external absolute agent. In the Buddhist view, the sperm and ovum of the parents provide the environment or opportunity for a third, autonomous life to become manifest, grow and develop its unique potential within the context of the profound bonds of interconnection they share. These bonds are not a cold, biological fact that conflates genetic identity with ownership. They are developed and deepened through the process of care and parenting, and it is against this backdrop that specific reproductive therapies can be considered and often difficult personal choices made.

Dignity in Dying
At the other end of the life continuum, Buddhism views the process of dying as an invaluable opportunity to manifest one’s human dignity fully. Because Buddhism does not view death as an intrinsically negative experience, it does not generally support the use of “heroic” interventions that only prolong the physical existence of a patient. Nor, on the other hand, does it support any intervention that deliberately shortens a person’s life.

As Shakyamuni’s
(Gautama Siddartha) experience in meditation would suggest, Buddhism views consciousness as something not limited to such superficial aspects as sensation, perception and rational thought. Rather, it assumes the existence of deep layers of consciousness that are shared by and connect individuals (that are “transpersonal,” to borrow a contemporary expression) and which are ultimately unified with all being.

Just as the process of conception, gestation, birth and subsequent growth can be understood as a continuum of emergence and development from the common sources of universal life, the process of dying can be viewed as the process by which individual consciousness recedes into deeper levels until it fully merges with the cosmic life. This is not marked by abruptly delineated stages, but is a continuum on which “death” can best be understood as the point at which the dying process has become irreversible. Current medical technology is incapable of reviving people who have reached the stage of “brain death,” and my understanding of Buddhism can accept this as the present-day meaning of death.
scriptures, of Buddhism.
This view of death requires that people in the process of dying be treated at all times with respect. Long after they have lost the ability to express themselves, it appears that people continue to hear and otherwise sense their surroundings. And even after the capacity to organize sensations into rational thoughts or impressions has been lost, the deepest levels of consciousness continue to function, directly sensing the love and concern of family members and friends. Some Buddhist texts offer quite specific guidelines for behavior around the dying—to avoid speaking loudly or about subjects that the dying person would find disturbing, for example. Because dying is seen as a process, these texts hold that these guidelines should be observed for some time after the time of “death.”

In this sense, the inner state of the individual is the key to the Buddhist idea of death with dignity. As physical function declines and consciousness recedes toward the point of irreversibility, what kind of resolve and drama are enacted within the inner realm of the individual? How does that person deal with the regrets and satisfactions, a final settlement with all that has been painful and bitter, good and rewarding, in this life? In the ideal Buddhism offers for the final stage of life, wisdom and compassion figure centrally. An ideal death is one in which, supported by others and compassionately engaged with them to the last moments, we are able to sense the bedrock reality of our dignity, and can respond to this life’s gifts with a profound sense of appreciation and gratitude. In this way, we can mark a new and hopeful departure toward the future.


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Dr. Yoichi Kawada has a Ph.D. in immunology and is author of several books on Buddhism and medicine. Since 1988 he has been director of the Tokyo-centered Institute of Oriental Philosophy, established by Daisaku Ikeda in 1962 to make Asia’s philosophical heritage accessible to the world.
[Courtesy April 2004 SGI Quarterly]
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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the World’s Religions by Laura E. Shulman

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The human pursuit of religion serves a function in our lives. There is a purpose or goal to being religious. Be it the goal of salvation or enlightenment, comfort and guidance for living a moral life, or any of a number of other “higher” purposes in life, religions clearly encourage us to move beyond a life motivated by self-centeredness and pure animal instincts for mere survival. This observation about the ultimate goals, purpose or function of religion can be related to the classic theory of a hierarchy of human needs proposed by Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). 1,2


Religion tends to fulfill the higher needs. Starting with a need for the comfort and camaraderie of community, religion also addresses our need to respect and be respected by others [the “Golden Rule”] and, ultimately, to be all that we can be as “God” created us to be or, in the case of many Eastern religions, to become “enlightened” – thus “self-actualized”.

Most people seem to live a life in pursuit of the lower or base needs of Maslow’s hierarchy. Maslow says that we do first have to fulfill these baser needs before we are free to aim for the higher (deeper) needs. If we are hungry and homeless, our need for food and shelter consumes our every waking moment. Similarly if we are ill, our need to feel better will outweigh any other pursuit. Once these personal and immediate needs are secured, we then turn to safe-guarding them through steady employment and the protection and support from family and friends. We will also seek long-term satisfaction through the personal relationships of friends and family – seeking out a mate and having children of our own. For most people, these lower level needs are the primary consuming drive in our lives.

In addition to the qualities noted in the above diagram, self-actualization is also often marked by “peak experiences.” Mystical or spiritual experience is most definitely an example of a “peak experience.” The need for self-actualization is described as the “desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” (Michelle, Inc.
4) This is a good description of the Confucian ideal of achieving Jen – human heartedness, becoming more fully human, reaching one’s full potential for what it means to be human. Hinduism teaches that who we really are goes well beyond our current form as a human being: “we are spiritual beings, having a human experience.” An “expanded” hierarchy adds cognitive and aesthetic needs between esteem and self-actualization and then goes beyond self-actualization to Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization (McLeod 5). This Transcendence level relates quite well to Mahayana Buddhism and the idea of the Bodhisattva who chooses to forgo his or her own entry into Nirvana in favor of helping others become enlightened.

The non-monastic religions like
Islam and Judaism, do tend to focus more on the lower as well as higher level needs. Islamic Shariah (religious law) is based around many of the needs identified by Maslow: preservation of life, family, education, property and ultimately of religion. The dietary laws of both Judaism and Islam would seem to protect health as well as morality (causing the least harm to the creatures we eat). Sikhism is a religion from India that is also non-monastic. It too values family and community, working in the world through honest and moral means, and giving back through charity to support those “in need” (of the lowest needs on Maslow’s hierarchy). The Eastern religions also guide with regard to what we eat: a vegetarian or vegan diet amongst the religions of India or the Taoist natural and organic dietary preferences that also avoid too much of the “bad” stuff (meat, spicy and stale foods).
Taoism seeks long life and good health though the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes proactive approaches such as acupuncture, herbal cures, as well as diet and exercise (Tai Chi, for instance). Taoism is also associated with the practice of Feng-Shui, the Chinese art of placement. The Ba-gua tool that is at the center of Feng-Shui practice identifies eight aspects of our life that Feng-Shui seeks to enhance. These eight aspects relate quite well to some of the needs identified by Maslow:

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It is interesting to note that none of the areas of concern to Feng Shui relate to the lowest of Maslow’s needs: physiological.

The non-monastic religions emphasize the higher level needs though family values and, of course, encourage us to aspire to the “higher calling” of morality in relation to others. Eating is one of the lowest level needs all living things have. Yet fasting from food is a common practice in many religions, both monastic and non-monastic forms.
Jews follow annual 25 hour fasts associated with several of their holy days. The Yom Kippur fast is the best known of these.  Islam, of course, has the month-long fast of Ramadan when they do not eat, drink water or have sexual relations from sun-up to sun-down for each day of the month (providing health conditions do not dictate otherwise). Baha’is also fast from sun-up to sun-down for one of their 19 day months. Mormons typically fast the first Sunday of every month. Buddhist monastics eat just one full meal a day, around noon time. To forgo this physiological need for basic sustenance as a spiritual pursuit is just one way that religions emphasize the higher needs. The reasons for fasting are many. Most common are to focus on prayer and to identify with and even help the needy who are hungry on a regular basis.

Hinduism is an interesting mix of monastic and more worldly pursuits. The four goals of life, or Hindu Dharma, relate quite nicely to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The lowest of the four goals is that of seeking pleasure in life (such as through the well-known Kama Sutra) – not just about sex, but about all things sensual. This goal would seem most closely aligned with the lowest level of needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. The second goal of Hinduism is that of seeking success in life, living for both yourself and the sake of your family. Here one is the dutiful “householder” – the “family man”, working in the world, supporting and raising a family. Clearly, this goal of life aligns with Maslow’s second and third level needs. Beyond this is the goal of Dharma, one’s duty to one’s society: serving the needs of those who have less (charity – another common theme in many religions), fulfilling one’s role in the larger society of which one and one’s family is a part. This goal might relate to one’s sense of esteem (Maslow’s fourth level of need). Finally, the Hindu goal of Moksha seeks to transcend worldly pursuits as one seeks out ultimate spiritual enlightenment. This is more closely related to what we see in the monastic pursuit of the “peak experience”. Hinduism even refers to this goal as “self-realization” and equates it to “God-realization” – Maslow’s highest need of “self-actualization”.

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Kundalini yoga and the chakras of Hindu philosophy also relate quite nicely to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There are seven chakras or energy centers identified that run up the spine from the lowest at the coxis 7 to the highest at the crown of the head. The lower two chakras relate to basic survival needs like food and sex (Maslow’s physiological needs). The chakras then proceed through successively higher needs. Self-esteem, love, and self-expression relate to the mid-range of Maslow’s hierarchy. The two highest chakras of wisdom/intuition and, ultimately, spirituality would relate to Maslow’s highest need of “self-actualization.”

References used:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
1 A.H. Maslow, "A theory of human motivation," Psychological Review, 1943-JUL, Vol. 50, #4. Pages 370-396. Abstract at: APA PsycNET. See: http://psycnet.apa.org/

2
maslow99Abraham Maslow, "Motivation and Personality," Martino Fine Books, (2013). Available in Kindle and Paperback formats (Cover images differ). Rated by Amazon customers with 4.4 out of 5 stars. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

3 This image was was copied from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. License notice:
Factoryjoe, Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs

4 Michelle DeAngelis, Tools & Tips: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Michelle, Inc., 2008, at:
http://www.michelleinc.com/

5 Saul McLeod, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs," Simply Psychology, 2007, at:
http://www.simplypsychology.org/

6 This image mpan (Own work, based on File:Czakry.png), from: Wikipedia creative commons at:
http://creativecommons.org/

7 The coxis is also kown as the coccyx or tailbone, the lower end of the spinal column.

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Why Buddhism and the West Need Each Other: On the Interdependence of Personal and Social Transformation by David Loy

Buddha Jesus
Abstract
The highest ideal of the Western tradition has been the concern to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and (to use the Zen phrase) realize one’s true nature, which puts an end to dukkha—especially that associated with the delusion of a separate self. Today it has become more obvious that we need both: not just because these ideals complement each other, but also because each project needs the other. The Western (now world- wide) ideal of a social transformation that institutionalizes social justice has achieved much, yet, I argue, is limited because a truly good society cannot be realized without the correlative realization that personal transformation is also necessary. On the other side, the traditional Buddhist emphasis on ending individual dukkha is insufficient in the face of what we now understand about the structural causes of dukkha. This does not mean simply adding a concern for social justice to Buddhist teachings. For example, applying a Buddhist perspective to structural dukkha implies an alternative evaluation of our economic situation. Instead of appealing for distributive justice, this approach focuses on the consequences of individual and institutionalized delusion: the dukkha of a sense of a self that feels separate from others, whose sense of lack consumerism exploits and institutionalizes into economic structures that assume a life (and motivations) of their own.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution. The mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both.
—Gary Snyder

Another way to put it: the highest ideal of the Western tradition has been the concern to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and (to use the Zen phrase) realize one’s true nature, which puts an end to dukkha—especially that associated with the delusion of a separate self. To- day it has become more obvious that we need both: not just because these ideals complement each other, but also because each project needs the other.

As far as I have been able to determine, the Western conception of justice largely originates with the Abrahamic traditions, particularly the Hebrew prophets, who fulminated against oppressive rulers for afflicting the poor and powerless. Describing Old Testament prophecy, Walter Kaufmann writes, “no other sacred scripture contains books that speak out against social injustice as eloquently, unequivocally, and sensitively as the books of Moses and some of the prophets” (186). Is there a Buddhist equivalent? The doctrine of karma understands something like justice as an impersonal moral law built into the fabric of the cosmos, but historically karma has functioned differently. Combined with the doctrine of rebirth (a necessary corollary, since evil people sometimes prosper this life) and the belief that each of us is now experiencing the consequences of actions in previous lifetimes, the implication seems to be that we do not need to be concerned about pursuing justice, because sooner or later everyone gets what they deserve. In practice, this has often encouraged passivity and acceptance of one’s situation, rather than a commitment to promote social justice.

Does the Buddhist emphasis on dukkha (suffering in the broad sense) provide a better parallel with the Western conception of justice? Dukkha is arguably Buddhism’s most important concept: according to the P
li Canon, Skyamuni Buddha said that what he had to teach was dukkha and how to end it. Historically, Asian Buddhism has focused on individual dukkha and personal karma, a limitation that may have been necessary in autocratic polities that could and sometimes did repress Buddhist institutions. Today, however, the globalization of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech opens the door to new ways of responding to social and institutional causes of dukkha.

On the other side, the Abrahamic emphasis on justice, in combination with the Greek realization that society can be restructured, has resulted in our modern concern to pursue social justice by reforming political and economic institutions. This has involved, most obviously, various human rights movements (the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, feminism, LGBT liberation, etc.), which have not been an important concern of traditional Asian Buddhism. As valuable as these reforms have been, the limitations of such an institutional approach, by itself, are becoming evident. Even the best possible economic and political system cannot be expected to function well if the people within that system are motivated by greed, aggression, and delusion—the “three fires” or “three poisons” that Buddhism identifies as unwholesome motivations that need to be transformed into their more positive counterparts: generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom.

Today, in our globalizing world, the traditional Western focus on social transformation encounters the traditional Buddhist focus on individual awakening. This essay addresses why they need each other in order to actualize their own ideals, and uses the example of our present economic situation to explore some of the implications of this interdependence.

Good vs. Evil
The difference in focus can be traced back to different paradigms. One way to draw the contrast between the Abrahamic and Buddhist traditions is to consider their dissimilar attitudes towards morality. The Abrahamic religions are (the primary) examples of “ethical monotheism” because they emphasize most of all ethical behavior. God’s main way of relating to us, His creatures, is instructing us how to live by giving us moral commandments. To be a good Jew, Christian, or Muslim is to follow His rules. The fundamental axis is good vs. evil: doing what God wants us to do (in which case we will be rewarded) and not doing what He does not want us to do (to avoid punishment). For many, perhaps most, of its adherents, this world is a battleground between God and Sa- tan, and the most important issue is whose side we are on.

Even the origins of human history in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve—which seems to me a myth about the development of self- consciousness—is understood as an act of disobedience against God: we suffer now because of an original sin by our ancestors. Later, God sends a great flood that destroys everyone except those in Noah’s ark, because people are not living in the way that He wants them to. Later, God formalizes His instructions by giving the Decalogue to Moses. Then Jesus (with some help from Paul) adds an emphasis on loving one another; still, this does not abrogate the emphasis on living according to God’s commands, on the importance of our will according with His will.

Although many people no longer believe in an Abrahamic God, the duality between good and evil arguably remains our favorite story, the main theme in most popular novels, films, and television shows (think of James Bond, Star Wars, Harry Potter, not to mention every detective novel and TV crime series). From a Buddhist perspective, however, our preoccupation with that theme is . . . well, both good and evil.

The duality between good and evil is a good example of the problem that often occurs with dualistic thinking—that is, conceptualizing with bipolar opposites such as high and low, big and small, light and dark, etc. Those particular examples are usually innocuous, but some other instances are more problematical because we want one pole and not the other. Yet we cannot have one without the other, because the meaning of each is the opposite of the other. (You do not really know what “high” means unless you know what “low” means.) This is important not only logically but also psychologically. If it is really important for you to live a pure life (however you understand purity), you will inevitably be preoccupied with (avoiding) impurity. That is why Chan master Hui Hai describes true purity of mind as “a state beyond purity and impurity” (in Blofeld 81).

The relationship between good and evil is perhaps the most problematical example of dualistic thinking, because their interdependence means that we do not know what good is until we determine what evil is. Good requires avoiding evil and we feel that we are good when we are struggling against that evil, preferably an evil outside us. This can be exemplified by inquisitions, witchcraft and heresy trials, and, most recently, the War on Terror. What was the difference between Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush? They were not only polar opposites but were mirror images of each other; both were fighting the same Holy War of Good against Evil, each leading the forces of goodness in a struggle against the forces of evil, because that is what the forces of good are supposed to do. Once something has been identified as evil, there is no need to under- stand it or accommodate it, only to destroy it.

The War on Terror illustrates a tragic paradox: historically, one of the main causes of evil has been our attempt to destroy (what we understand as) evil. What was Hitler trying to do? He was trying to eliminate the evil elements that pollute the world: Jews, homosexuals, Roma gypsies, etc. Stalin attempted to do the same with the kulaks, and Mao Zedong with Chinese landlords. Although the struggles of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were apparently “secular” in the sense that they were not motivated by what we normally consider to be religious belief, they were nonetheless identifying with the same basic duality, resulting in incalculable dukkha for many millions of people. (We shall return to the fact that traditional Buddhism explains such dukkha as the consequence of individual karma.)

That is the problematic aspect of the duality between good and evil, but there is also a beneficial side, which brings us back to the Hebrew prophets. Amos castigates those who “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” and “crush the needy” (2:7, 4:1). Isaiah complains about those “who write oppressive laws, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey” (10:2). Both speak on behalf of God, and both address themselves primarily to rulers who abuse their power. Of course, many more examples could be cited from the Bible: speaking truth to power, the prophets call for social justice for the oppressed, who suffer from what might be called social dukkha.

I am not aware of anything comparable in the history of Buddhism. There may have been a few counterexamples, but if so they did not influence the tradition in the way that the example of the prophets has influenced the West. According to the P
li Canon, the Buddha was consulted by kings and gave them advice, yet apparently he did not castigate or challenge them. Nor did the sangha do so after he died.

The other source of Western civilization is classical Greece, which discovered the momentous distinction between physis (the natural world) and nomos (social convention). Pre-Axial Age cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Aztecs generally assumed that their social structures were as “natural” (and therefore to be accepted) as the ecosystems they were embedded within. Realizing that human institutions are not pre-determined in the way that nature is—which means that we can restructure our society to make it better—the Greeks created a democracy that, although woefully inadequate by modern criteria, opened the door to new possibilities that modernity has developed.

Bringing together the Hebrew concern for social justice with the Greek realization that society can be restructured has resulted in what seems to me the highest ideal of the West, actualized in revolutions, reform movements, the development and spread of democracy, human rights, etc.—in short, social progress. We are all too aware of the shortcomings of this progress (see next paragraph) but our concern with those shortcomings itself testifies to our social justice principles, which we understand to be universal but are nonetheless historically conditioned and not to be taken for granted.

So, with such lofty ideals, everything is fine now, right? Well, not exactly, and I assume that I do not need to waste much time trying to persuade you of that. Even with the best ideals [what might be called our “collective intentions”], our societies have not become as socially just as most of us would like, and in some ways they are becoming more unjust. An obvious economic example is the gap between rich and poor in the United States, which today is not only obscenely large but is increasing. How shall we understand this disparity between ideal and reality? One obvious reply is that our economic system, as it presently operates, is still unjust because wealthy people and powerful corporations manipulate our political systems for their own self-centered and shortsighted benefit. So we need to keep working for a more equitable economic system, and for a democratic process free of such distortions.

I would not want to challenge that explanation, but is it sufficient? Is the basic difficulty that our economic and political institutions are not structured well enough to avoid such manipulations, or is it also the case that they cannot be structured well enough—in other words, that we cannot rely only on an institutional solution to structural injustice? Can we create a social order so perfect that it will function well regardless of the personal motivations of the people within it, or do we also need to find ways to address those motivations? In short, can the social transformations that our ideals seek be successful without also considering the challenge of personal transformation?

Perhaps we can now understand why so many political revolutions have ended up replacing one gang of thugs with another gang. Suppose, for example, that I am a revolutionary leader who successfully overthrows an oppressive regime. If I have not also worked on my own motivations—my own greed, aggression, and delusion—I will be sorely tempted to take personal advantage of my new situation, I will be inclined to see those who disagree with me as enemies to be eliminated, and (the number one ego problem?) I will be disposed to see the solution to social issues in my superior judgment and the imposition of my will. Unsurprisingly, the results of such motivations are unlikely to bring about a society that is truly just. And of course these distortions are not restricted only to authoritarian rulers. Beginning with the earliest Greek experience, and certainly supported by the contemporary U.S. experience, there is plenty of evidence that democracy does not work very well if it simply becomes a different system for certain individuals and groups to manipulate and exploit—again, usually motivated by the three poisons.

If we can never have a social structure so good that it obviates the need for people to be good (in Buddhist terms, to strive to not be motivated by greed, aggression, and delusion), then our modern emphasis on social transformation—restructuring institutions to make them more just—is necessary but not sufficient. That brings us to the Buddhist focus on personal transformation.

Ignorance vs. Awakening
Of course, moral behavior is also important in Buddhism, most obviously exemplified by the five precepts for laypeople and the hundreds of additional rules prescribed for monastics. But if we view them in an Abrahamic fashion we are liable to miss the main point: since there is no God telling us that we must live this way, they are important because living in accordance with them means that the circumstances and quality of our own lives will naturally improve. They can be understood as exercises in mindfulness, as ways to train ourselves.

The precepts can also be compared to the training wheels on the bicycle of a young child, which eventually can be removed because they are necessary only until the child knows how to ride a bike. In the Brahmaj
la Sutta—one of the most important Pli suttas, in fact the first sutta in the Dgha Nikya—the Buddha distinguishes between what he calls “elementary, inferior matters of moral practice” and “other matters, profound, hard to see, hard to understand . . . experienced by the wise” that he has realized (1.27-28). He speaks thus because for Buddhism the fundamental axis is not between good and evil, but between ignorance/delusion and awakening/wisdom. The primary challenge is not ethical but cognitive in the broad sense: becoming more aware. In principle, someone who has awakened to the true nature of the world (including the true nature of oneself) no longer needs to follow an external moral code because he or she naturally wants to behave in a way that does not violate the spirit of the precepts. (If only it worked so well in practice!)

The Buddha emphasized that he taught dukkha (suffering) and how to end it. Did he have in mind only individual dukkha—that resulting from our own thoughts and actions—or did he possibly have a wider social vision that encompassed structural dukkha—the suffering caused by oppressive rulers and unjust institutions? A few scholars such as Trevor Ling (1985) and Nalin Swaris (2011) have argued for the latter, that the Buddha may have intended to start a movement that would transform society, rather than merely establish a monastic order with alternative values to the mainstream. This possibility reminds us not to anachronistically project our enervated contemporary understanding of religion back onto his life and times. Certainly his attitudes toward women and caste were extraordinarily progressive for his day.

Regardless of what S
kyamuni Buddha may or may not have intended, what apparently happened after his parinibbna is that within a few generations much of the sangha settled down in monasteries and became relatively comfortable. Early Buddhism as an institution came to an accommodation with the state, relying to some extent on the support of kings and emperors, a development that may have been necessary for it to survive. And if you want to be supported by the powers-that-be, you’d better support the powers-that-be. That no Asian Buddhist society was democratic placed limits on what types of dukkha Buddhist teachers could emphasize. The tradition as it developed could not address structural dukkha—for example, the exploitative policies of many rulers—that ultimately could only be resolved by some institutional transformation. On the contrary, the karma-and-rebirth teaching could easily be used, and was used, to legitimate the power of kings and princes, who must be reaping the fruits of their benevolent actions in past lifetimes, and to rationalize the disempowerment of those born poor or disabled, who must also be experiencing the consequences of (unskillful) actions in previous lifetimes.

The result was that Buddhism survived and thrived, spreading throughout most of Asia and developing its extraordinary collection of contemplative practices that can help us transform ourselves. The emphasis, obviously, has been on the spiritual development of the individual. Whether or not that was completely faithful to the ideals of its founder, today globalizing Buddhism finds itself in a new situation. In most locales Buddhists are no longer subject to oppressive polities. We also have a much better understanding of the structural causes of dukkha. This opens the door to expanded possibilities for the tradition, which can now develop more freely the social implications of its basic perspective.

Admittedly, the implications of such a broader understanding of dukkha, and of a broader responsibility for addressing structural dukkha, are quite radical. They imply rethinking some cherished Buddhist teachings, beginning with karma itself. The conventional Buddhist understanding of one’s own karmic stream as individual and discrete is normally taken to mean that I myself am ultimately responsible for what happens to me: it is the result (vipaka) of my earlier (volitional) actions. What terrible personal karma must each of those European Jews have had to have been born into Nazi Germany! What terrible personal karma must the Dalit untouchables have who are oppressed in India today! If we are now dubious about this way of blaming the victim, we may find ourselves on a slippery slope that leads to questioning some other basic principles:
The influence of Axial traditions will continue to decline as it becomes ever more apparent that their resources are incommensurate with the moral challenges of the global problematique. In particular, to the extent that these traditions have stressed cosmological dualism and individual salvation we may say they have encouraged an attitude of indifference toward the integrity of natural and social systems. (Rue 37; emphasis added)

Buddhism is an Axial Age tradition, and both cosmological dualism and individual salvation have been important aspects of its Asian message. Yet in order for Buddhism to remain a living tradition relevant to the challenges we face now, it is necessary to interrogate how those teachings are to be understood today. Does nirv
āṇa refer to another reality, or to the śūnya (empty) nature of this world, where nothing has svabhva (self-existence)? If the latter, does awakening involve escaping sasra— this world of suffering, craving, and ignorance—or experiencing one’s nonduality with it? According to the Heart Stra, liberation is not only realizing that form is emptiness (śūnyat), but that emptiness is form. Insofar as śūnyat is not something that exists apart from form, all of us are interdependent, part of each other, and therefore responsible to each other. Needless to say, such reflections take us beyond the bounds of this essay; yet such issues are becoming crucial for the fate of contemporary Buddhism in a world very different from the pre-modern cultures of Asia.

Another way to express the interrelationship between the Western ideal of social transformation (social justice that addresses social dukkha) and the Buddhist goal of personal transformation (an awakening that addresses individual dukkha) is in terms of different types of freedom. The emphasis of the modern West has been on individual freedom from oppressive institutions, a prime example being the Bill of Rights appended to the U.S. Constitution. The emphasis of Buddhism (and many other Indian traditions) has been on what might be called psycho-spiritual freedom. Freedom for the self or freedom from the (ego)self? Today we can see more clearly the limitations of each freedom by itself. What have I gained if I am free from external control but I am still at the mercy of my own greed, aggression, and delusions? On the other hand, awakening from the delusion of a separate self will not by itself free me, or all those with whom I remain interdependent in so many ways, from the dukkha perpetuated by an exploitative economic system and an oppressive government. We need to actualize both ideals to be truly free.

The Suffering of Economic Injustice
From the above, one might conclude that contemporary Buddhism simply needs to incorporate a Western concern for social justice. Yet that would overlook the distinctive social consequences of the Buddhist understanding of dukkha. To draw out some of those implications, let us consider our economic situation today.

Until the modern era, economic theory was understood to be part of social philosophy, and in principle (at least) subordinate to religious authority [e.g., Church prohibitions of “usury”]. Today the academic profession of economics is concerned to model itself on the authority of the hard sciences and become a “social science” by discovering the fundamental laws of economic exchange and development, which are objectively true in the way that Newton’s laws of motion are.

What this has meant, in practice, is that such a focus tends to rationalize the kind of system we have today, including the increasing gap between rich and poor. Despite many optimistic new reports about economic recovery—for banks and investors, at least—in the U.S. that disparity is now the greatest it has been since the great depression of the 1930s. We have become familiar with claims that, for example, the wealthiest four hundred families in America now have the same total wealth as the poorest half of Americans—over 150 million people.
2 If, however, this is happening in accordance with the basic laws of economic science [which curiously echo pre-Axial understandings of social relations as “natural”], although we may not like this development and may try to limit it in some way, we would still fundamentally need to adapt to big disproportions. In this way such a disparity is “normalized,” with the implication that it should be accepted.

“But it’s not fair!” In opposition to such efforts to justify the present economic order, there are movements that call for social justice—in this case, for distributive justice. Why should the wealthy have so much and the poor so little? It is not difficult to imagine what the Hebrew prophets might say about this situation. For an economic system to be just, its benefits should be distributed much more equitably. And I would not disagree with that. But can the Buddhist emphasis on delusion vs. awakening provide an alternative perspective to supplement such a concern for social justice?

I conclude by offering what I believe to be two implications of Buddhist teachings. One of them focuses on our individual predicament— one’s personal role in our economic system—and the other implication considers the structural or institutional aspect of that system.

What I have to say about our personal economic predicament follows from what is perhaps the most important teaching of the Buddha: the relationship between dukkha and anatt
[“not-self” or “nonself”]. Anatt challenges our usual but delusive sense of being a separate self; it is the strange, counterintuitive claim that there is no such self. One way to understand this teaching is that there is a basic problem with the sense of a “me” inside that is separate from other people, and from the rest of the world, outside. In contemporary terms, this sense of self is a psychological and social construction. Although the development of a sense of self seems necessary in order to function in the world, Buddhism emphasizes the dukkha associated with it. Why?
Because the self is a construct, it does not have any svabh
va [“self-existence”], any reality of its own. The sense of self is composed of mostly habitual ways of thinking, feeling, acting, intending, remembering, and so forth; the ways these processes interact is what creates and sustains it. The important point is that such a construct is inevitably shadowed by dukkha. Because all those processes are impermanent and insubstantial, the self is not only ungrounded but is ungroundable and is thus inherently insecure.

One way to express this is to say that the sense of self is usually haunted by a sense of lack: the feeling that something is wrong with me, that something is missing or not quite right about my life. Normally, however, we misunderstand the source of our discomfort, and believe that what we are lacking is something outside ourselves. And this brings us back to our individual economic predicament, because in the “developed” world we often grow up conditioned to understand ourselves as consumers, and to understand the basic problematic of our lives as getting more money in order to acquire more things, because this is what will eventually fill up our sense of lack.

Thus, there is an almost perfect fit between this fundamental sense of lack that unenlightened beings have, according to Buddhism, and our present economic system, which uses advertising and other devices to condition us into believing that the next thing we buy will make us happy—which it never does, at least not for long. In other words, a consumerist economy exploits our sense of lack, and often aggravates it, rather than helping us resolve the root problem. The system generates profits by perpetuating our discontent in a way that leaves us always wanting more.

Such a critique of consumerism is consistent with some recent studies by psychologists, sociologists, and even economists, who have established that once one attains a certain minimum income—enough food and shelter at a pretty basic level—happiness does not increase in step with increasing wealth or consumerism. Rather, the most important determinate of how happy people are seems to be the quality of one’s relationships with other people.
3

Notice that this Buddhist perspective does not mention distributive justice or any other type of social justice, nor does it offer an ethical evaluation. The basic problem is delusion rather than injustice or immorality. Yet this approach does not deny the inequities of our economic system, nor is it inconsistent with an Abrahamic ethical critique. Although an alternative viewpoint has been added, the ideal of social justice
remains very important, necessary but not sufficient.

What does this imply about our economic institutions, the structural aspect? The Buddha had little to say about evil per se, but he had a lot to say about the three “roots of evil,” also known as the (previously mentioned) three poisons: greed, aggression, and delusion. When what we do is motivated by any of these three [and they tend to overlap), we create problems for ourselves (and often for others too, of course]. Given the Buddha’s emphasis on cetan
[“volition”] as the most important factor in generating karma, this may be the key to understanding karma: if you want to transform the quality of your life—how you experience other people, and how they relate to you—transform your motivations.

We not only have individual senses of self, we also have collective selves: I am a man not a woman, an American not a Chinese, and so forth. Do the problems with the three poisons apply to collective selves as well? To further complicate the issue, we also have much more powerful institutions than in the time of the Buddha, in which collective selves often assume a life of their own, in the sense that such institutions have their own motivations built into them. Elsewhere I have argued that our present economic system can be understood as institutionalized greed; that our militarism institutionalizes aggression; and that our (corporate) media institutionalize delusion, because their primary focus is profiting from advertising and consumerism, rather than educating or informing us about what is really happening (Loy 2003, 2008).

If greed, aggression and delusion are the main sources of evil, and if today they have been institutionalized in this fashion, you can draw your own conclusions. I finish with a few words on how our economic system promotes structural dukkha by institutionalizing greed.

What is greed? One definition is “never enough.” On the individual level, it is the next thing one buys that will fill up one’s sense of lack. But greed works just as well to describe what happens on an institutional level: corporations are never large enough or profitable enough, the value of their shares is never high enough, our national GDP is never big enough. In fact, we cannot imagine what “big enough” might be. It is built into these systems that they must keep growing, or else they tend to collapse. But why is more always better if it can never be enough?

Consider the stock market, the high temple of the economic process. On the one side are many millions of investors, most of whom are anonymous and unconcerned about the details of the corporations they invest in except for their profitability and its effects on share prices— that is, the return on their investments. In many cases, investors do not know where their money is invested, thanks to mutual funds. Such people are not evil, of course: on the contrary, investment is a highly respectable endeavor, something to do if you have some extra money, and successful investors are highly respected, even idolized (such as Warren Buffet, "the sage of Omaha."

On the other side of the market, however, the desires and expectations of those millions of investors become transformed into an impersonal and unremitting pressure for growth and increased profitability that every CEO must respond to, and preferably in the short run. If a CEO does not maximize profitability, he or she is likely to get into trouble. Consider, for example, the CEO of a large transnational corporation, who one morning suddenly wakes up to the imminent dangers of climate change and wants to do everything he (it is usually a he) can to address this challenge. But if what he tries to do threatens corporate profits, he is likely to lose his job. And if that is true for the CEO, how much more true it is for everyone else further down the corporate hierarchy? Corporations are legally chartered so that their first responsibility is not to their employees or customers, nor to the members of the societies they operate within, nor to the ecosystems of the earth, but to the individuals who own them, who with few exceptions are concerned only about return on investment—a preoccupation, again, that is not only socially acceptable but socially encouraged.

Who is responsible for this situation in which we have a collective fixation on growth? The important point is that the system has attained not only a life of its own but its own cetan
volitions, quite apart from the motivations of the individuals who work for it and who will be replaced if they do not serve that institutional motivation. And all of us participate in this process in one way or another, as workers, consumers, investors, pensioners, and so forth, although with very little if any sense of personal responsibility for the collective result. Any awareness of what is actually happening tends to be diffused in the impersonal anonymity of this economic process. Everyone is just doing their job, playing their role.

In short, any genuine solution to the economic crisis will not simply involve better redistribution of wealth, necessary as that is. We must also find ways to address the personal dukkha built into the delusions of consumerism, and the structural dukkha built into institutions that have attained a life of their own. It has become obvious that what is beneficial for those institutions (in the short run) is very different from what is beneficial for the rest of us and for the biosphere.

Concluding Remarks
The Western (now, worldwide) ideal of a social transformation that institutionalizes social justice has achieved much. Yet, I have argued, it is limited because a truly good society cannot be realized without the correlative realization that personal transformation is also necessary. In the present generation—thanks to globalization, widespread transportation and digital communications—these two world-views, with different but not conflicting ideals, are in conversation with each other. If I am correct, they need each other. Or more precisely, we need both.

This does not mean merely adding a concern for social justice to Buddhist teachings. Applying a Buddhist perspective to structural dukkha implies an alternative evaluation of our economic situation. Instead of appealing for distributive justice, this approach focuses on the consequences of individual and institutionalized delusion: the dukkha of a sense of a self that feels separate from others, whose sense of lack consumerism exploits and institutionalizes into economic structures that assume a life (and motivations) of their own. Although fairness remains important, in terms of equal opportunity and more equitable distribution, the Buddhist emphasis on greed as a motivation—“never enough”— implies that, when institutionalized, greed ends up subverting the purpose of any economic system, which is to promote widespread and sustainable human flourishing.

Here, the traditional Western concern for social justice is complemented by the Buddhist focus on ending dukkha. The role of greed must be addressed not only individually, in our personal lives, but also its structural forms.