February 2019

"René Girard and Mimetic Theory" by Mark Anspach


René Girard (photo credit: Elizabeth Bailie)

René Girard (1923-2015) is recognized worldwide for his theory of human behavior and human culture. In 2005 he was inducted into the Académie française, and in 2008 he received the Modern Language Association's award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement. He was Professor Emeritus at Stanford University.

Back more than 50 years ago, René Girard started teaching French literature because he needed a job. He hadn't even read many of the books he was assigned to teach. Then, as he studied the classic novels of Stendhal and Proust with a fresh mind, staying one step ahead of his students, he was struck by a series of similarities from novel to novel. Unbound by any narrow research agenda, Girard discovered a simple but powerful pattern that had eluded sophisticated critics before him: imitation is the fundamental mechanism of human behavior.

Stories thrive on conflict between characters. By reading the great writers against the grain of conventional wisdom, Girard realized that people don't fight over their differences. They fight because they are the same, and they want the same things. Not because they need the same things (food, sex, scarce material goods), but because they want what will earn others' envy. Humans, with a planning intelligence that sets them apart from all other animals, are free to choose. With freedom comes risk and uncertainty: humans don't know in advance what to choose, so they look to others for cues. People can desire anything, as long as other people seem to desire it, too: that is the meaning of Girard's concept of "mimetic desire." Since people tend toward the same objects of desire, jealousy and rivalry are inevitable sources of social tension -- and perfect themes for the great novelists.


Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.
— René Girard

After his successful writings on modern literature, curious to find out how well his "mimetic theory" of imitative behavior might explain the human past, Girard studied anthropology and myths from around the world. He was struck by another series of similarities: myth after myth told a story of collective violence. Only one man can be king, the most enviable individual, but everyone can share in the persecution of a victim. Societies unify themselves by focusing their imitative desires on the destruction of a scapegoat. Girard hypothesized that the violent persecution of scapegoats is at the origin of the ubiquitous human institution of ritual sacrifice, the foundation of archaic religions.

Girard then turned to the relationship between rituals of sacrifice and the many acts of violence recorded in the founding documents of the religions of the modern West (including the secular religion known as the Enlightenment): the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospels. Girard interpreted the Bible as a gradual revelation of the injustice of human violence. The culmination, Jesus's crucifixion, is unprecedented not because it pays a debt humans owe to God, but because it reveals the truth of all sacrifice: the victim of a mob is always innocent, and collective violence is unjust.

An outsider in every field, René Girard has changed scholars' thinking in literature, anthropology, and religion. But you don't have to be a scholar or an insider of mimetic theory to understand it. Imitation is constant, scapegoating is an ever-present temptation, and violence is wrong. These simple insights have unlocked the meaning of modern novels, ancient myths, religious traditions, and the behavior of each and every one of us in our daily lives.

Today a global community of scholars is building on Girard's work to better understand our world. Imitatio is a non-profit program devoted to aiding in this ongoing development and critique of René Girard's mimetic theory. Here at the Imitatio web site, you can read Girard's writings, peruse scholars' work, learn about upcoming events and watch video from past events. Sign up for our email newsletter to stay current with news, events, publications, and discussions in mimetic theory from São Paulo to Paris, Tokyo to San Francisco.

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"René Girard’s Legacy" by Mark Anspach by Mark Anspach


René Girard (photo credit: Elizabeth Bailie)

Sometimes the greatest ideas appear to be simple ones. The famed critic and cultural theorist René Girard, who passed away at his Stanford home on November 4, 2015, gave the world a set of deceptively simple ideas that have changed the way we think about desire, violence, religion, and human nature itself.

What do people really want? Why do they fight? What is religion all about? And how did human culture get started in the first place? Girard tackled such bedrock questions head-on, offering boldly original answers expressed in admirably clear language. The last of the Grand Theorists, he was a sophisticated Continental thinker who always kept his feet planted firmly on the ground. His ideas are never purely theoretical. They help make sense of everyday life.

Take the familiar plight of a teenage girl who falls for her best friend's boyfriend. She doesn't mean to hurt her friend, but there's just something about this boy that draws her to him irresistibly. Can she help it if he happens to be so much more desirable than all the other boys?

Situations of that type crop up again and again. They are a staple of classic literature as well as high school melodrama. Are they produced by bad luck or fate? Girard suggests that something else is involved: what he calls mimetic desire.

A mimetic desire is a desire imitated from a person who serves as a model. If two girls are best friends, they probably imitate each other's taste in clothes and music. Why wouldn't they end up sharing the same taste in boys? Alas, some things are more easily shared than others. Singing along to the same pop song makes for harmony, but not lusting after the same guy.

What do people want? The great secret is that, at the deepest level, none of us truly knows what to want. Human nature is not fixed. Our desires are open-ended and malleable. That is why we so often resort to following the lead of those around us. More than any other animal, humans learn through imitation. Girard shows what happens when imitation extends to the realm of desire.

Mimetic desire leads pell-mell to rivalry. “Two desires converging on the same object are bound to clash,” Girard writes. Here the seemingly simple idea of an imitated desire produces an unexpected result. Rather than bringing people together, convergence gives rise to hostility. Conflict is less a result of differences than of a fateful lack of difference. Why do people fight? Because, Girard says, we are so much alike.

René Girard's vision is at once optimistic and tragic. Optimistic, in that violence is not chalked up to innate aggressive or antisocial impulses. Humans aren't violent by nature. Our nature is social. We rely on others to show us how to live. Yet the same social impulses put us on a collision course when each wants what the other wants. The tragedy is that, even without deliberate evil on anyone's part, our social nature constantly pits us against each other.

The earliest human groups could not have survived without some means of keeping rivalry in check. Before any authorities existed to maintain order, how was violence controlled? Girard sought an answer to this riddle in Greek tragedy and the myths and rituals of pre-state societies. For a scholar who had built his reputation on a study of desire in the European novel, it was an audacious move. It soon led him to a revolutionary hypothesis: human culture began with religion, and religion arose from our species' need to master its own violence.

The key to Girard's anthropological theory is what he calls the scapegoat mechanism. Just as desires tend to converge on the same object, violence tends to converge on the same victim. The violence of all against all gives way to the violence of all against one. When the crowd vents its violence on a common scapegoat, unity is restored. Sacrificial rites the world over are rooted in this mechanism.

One big idea is enough to insure any thinker's place in history. With mimetic desire and the scapegoat mechanism, René Girard had come up with two. Then he went for three by proposing a radical new interpretation of the Bible.

The Hebrew scriptures and the Gospels break with previous religions, he argued, by progressively demystifying and rejecting the scapegoat mechanism. Joseph triumphs over attempts to persecute or slander him. Job refuses to accept blame for his own suffering. Jesus stops the stoning of a woman accused of adultery. His crucifixion stands as the ultimate symbol of the murder of innocent victims.

Girard's Biblical turn won him new followers while alienating some old ones. In the peculiar intellectual climate of our time, it would have been safer to proclaim the virtues of paganism. The reflexive defense of the Other, a uniquely Western phenomenon, is itself a product of the resistance to scapegoating that Girard sees as distinguishing our culture. Not that scapegoating has gone away–it just takes on new forms.

Though his books sometimes hit bestseller lists in France, Girard has always exercised his influence from the margins. He was never a fashionable thinker, but he lived long enough to see his ideas come into their own. Archeologists have been finding ever earlier evidence for the role of religion and sacrifice in prehistory. Developmental psychologists have been proving the importance of imitation in newborn infants. Economists are studying the way technology multiplies the effects of imitation on financial markets. Writers for the Harvard Business Review have even called this the Age of Imitation.
René Girard was always ahead of his time. The world has just started catching up to him.
————————————

René Girard and Mimetic Theory
 


René Girard (photo credit: Elizabeth Bailie)
René Girard (1923-2015) is recognized worldwide for his theory of human behavior and human culture. In 2005 he was inducted into the Académie française, and in 2008 he received the Modern Language Association's award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement. He was Professor Emeritus at Stanford University.

Back more than 50 years ago, René Girard started teaching French literature because he needed a job. He hadn't even read many of the books he was assigned to teach. Then, as he studied the classic novels of Stendhal and Proust with a fresh mind, staying one step ahead of his students, he was struck by a series of similarities from novel to novel. Unbound by any narrow research agenda, Girard discovered a simple but powerful pattern that had eluded sophisticated critics before him: imitation is the fundamental mechanism of human behavior.

Stories thrive on conflict between characters. By reading the great writers against the grain of conventional wisdom, Girard realized that people don't fight over their differences. They fight because they are the same, and they want the same things. Not because they need the same things (food, sex, scarce material goods), but because they want what will earn others' envy. Humans, with a planning intelligence that sets them apart from all other animals, are free to choose. With freedom comes risk and uncertainty: humans don't know in advance what to choose, so they look to others for cues. People can desire anything, as long as other people seem to desire it, too: that is the meaning of Girard's concept of "mimetic desire." Since people tend toward the same objects of desire, jealousy and rivalry are inevitable sources of social tension -- and perfect themes for the great novelists.


Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.
— René Girard

After his successful writings on modern literature, curious to find out how well his "mimetic theory" of imitative behavior might explain the human past, Girard studied anthropology and myths from around the world. He was struck by another series of similarities: myth after myth told a story of collective violence. Only one man can be king, the most enviable individual, but everyone can share in the persecution of a victim. Societies unify themselves by focusing their imitative desires on the destruction of a scapegoat. Girard hypothesized that the violent persecution of scapegoats is at the origin of the ubiquitous human institution of ritual sacrifice, the foundation of archaic religions.
Girard then turned to the relationship between rituals of sacrifice and the many acts of violence recorded in the founding documents of the religions of the modern West (including the secular religion known as the Enlightenment): the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospels. Girard interpreted the Bible as a gradual revelation of the injustice of human violence. The culmination, Jesus's crucifixion, is unprecedented not because it pays a debt humans owe to God, but because it reveals the truth of all sacrifice: the victim of a mob is always innocent, and collective violence is unjust.

An outsider in every field, René Girard has changed scholars' thinking in literature, anthropology, and religion. But you don't have to be a scholar or an insider of mimetic theory to understand it. Imitation is constant, scapegoating is an ever-present temptation, and violence is wrong. These simple insights have unlocked the meaning of modern novels, ancient myths, religious traditions, and the behavior of each and every one of us in our daily lives.

Today a global community of scholars is building on Girard's work to better understand our world. Imitatio is a non-profit program devoted to aiding in this ongoing development and critique of René Girard's mimetic theory. Here at the Imitatio web site, you can read Girard's writings, peruse scholars' work, learn about upcoming events and watch video from past events. Sign up for our email newsletter to stay current with news, events, publications, and discussions in mimetic theory from São Paulo to Paris, Tokyo to San Francisco.

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"The Evolution of Consciousness as Recorded in Ancient Times " by JC Tefft


The Monk, Rheims Cathedral, France
"The Monk, Rheims Cathedral, France" by Rebecca Tindall
Order Print:
http://www.rebeccatindall.com/sketches_of_monk.htm

When considering the underlying meaning and message of ancient scripture from the standpoint of evolving Consciousness, biblical stories reveal that the flowering of conscious Awareness amidst the Hebrew tribes was less about a ‘chosen people’ searching for their ‘promised land’ and more about a transformational progression within certain personages in Hebrew society from lower to higher ‘levels’ of conscious Awareness in their lifetime and in generations that followed. First one, then two, then four, and so on down the line, as an ever-growing number began to awaken unto the Light until at one point, in an instant, a sort of ‘grand mal’ awakening occurred in the person of Jesus wherein attachments to mental constructs of Mind collapsed entirely. Two others that we know of, the Buddha in India and Lao Tzu in China, were similarly transformed more than five centuries before.

These earliest of genuinely enlightened beings were the forerunners of a new human race that populate the planet in ever-growing numbers to today. And these initial few pointed the way, as best they could in their day, for others to follow: not follow personally, like sheep following a shepherd, but follow inwardly, intelligently, transformationally into greater Awareness in Consciousness in this life now, not in a life hereafter.  
 
The essential problem that enlightened beings inevitably face, however, when communicating their teachings to others – especially in ancient times – is that only a rare few are prepared to receive it, and even then, to varying degrees. At worst, the majority remain unenlightened, therefore blind to the living Truth of which they speak or at best, are considerably less enlightened than the awakened ones pointing the way. Consequently, the majority – especially in ancient times – rarely understand, if they understand at all, what enlightened beings truly mean when they speak of the ending of sorrow, denying self, realizing Nirvana, or of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Most, even today, remain in the dark in this regard. The relative few who are drawn to such teachings, however, likely sense something of the underlying Truth, even though the Absolute Reality of what they are about has yet to awaken from within.  

If we trace the history of certain milestones in the evolution of conscious Awareness, as revealed in scripture, we might come to realize that just as the material world evolved from the simple to the more complex, so also conscious Awareness evolved from the simple Awareness of the Animal to
conceptual awareness in early Man, followed by awakenings unto Pure Awareness within what Jesus called the ‘Son of man,’ which is to say, within those ‘ … blessed of my Father [to] inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’

According to biblical lore, the first humans to experience the arising of conceptual awareness are pointed to in the story of Adam (which interpreted means
‘mankind&rsquoWinking in whom the capacity to think first emerged. This milestone occurs when Adam begins to ‘name’ that which he perceives, conceptualizes, and articulates, as evermore concepts of Mind arise. Thus, the grunt, bark, and growl of the Animal evolves into the language of humankind.   Later in in the story, Noah appears, who is said to have lived ‘five hundred years … and was perfect in his generations,’ for he ‘found grace in God’s eyes.’ This is to say that ‘generations’ of ‘Noah’ were inwardly sensitive to and thereby inspired by a ‘level’ of conscious Awareness beyond that of early Man. Unlike Adam, Noah is less entangled in concepts of Mind and more attuned to the Heart, therefore less focused on himself and more compassionate toward others. God ‘speaks’ to Noah and Noah obeys in ways that Adam did not. The generations of Noah represent kindness, compassion, and Love coming to Light in humankind.   After Noah, another milestone is revealed in the story of Abraham, which interpreted means ‘exalted father of many.’ God, in this story, declares to Abraham that if he maintains his  faith, which is to say, maintains his patience in the evolutionary process then, even though Abraham will not likely realize (be made Aware of) the unseen evolutionary work of the Holy Spirit maturing within him, God will nevertheless create future ‘nations out of thee,’ as Consciousness evolves. And sure enough, generations later, out of Abraham arises Jacob, later known as ‘Israel’ or ‘those who struggle with God,’ which is to say, those who ‘struggle’ to understand the true nature of God-Consciousness or Pure Consciousness in themselves. 

Later again, out of 
‘Israel,' standing on the shoulders of those who had come before, Moses, the first acknowledged prophet of the Hebrew people, appears. Unlike his storied predecessors – Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the like – rather than a metaphorical reference to ‘generations’ of people, Moses seems to have been an actual, historical personage who was designated the first Hebrew prophet (meaning, ‘seer&rsquoWinking of his time. In him, insights arose, which he shared with others in the form of behavioral teachings for them to follow with the expectation that they might one day awaken unto the Light within. Even so, he was not the first prophet the world had ever known, for inspired ‘seers’ had appeared in other cultures in other parts of the world prior to Moses’s time, as well. First one, then two, then four, and so on; all proclaiming a similar, if not identical message, rendered in different languages and different metaphors, but pointing to the same cosmic Reality in conscious Awareness that was just then awakening in humankind. Those early few began to ‘see,’ if only dimly, that over the horizon from where they stood (consciously speaking) something wonderful was about to occur, even though they knew not what that cosmic Reality might actually be.    Following Moses in the Israelite tradition, a series of enlightened souls the likes of Saul, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah later arose, many proclaiming a new Kingdom yet to come; a Kingdom unlike any they had known before. And lo and behold, some hundreds of years after their time, a person by the name of Jesus was born, who, at about age thirty underwent a sudden transformation in Pure Conscious Awareness in which ‘the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.’ This transformational moment that occurred within the embodiment of Jesus fulfilled ancient, Jewish prophesy that foretold of a new Kingdom yet to come, even though it was not known exactly what that meant or when or how it would appear or unfold. Then, lo and behold, in an instant, the new Kingdom, as proclaimed by Jesus, turned out to be a Kingdom in Heaven, rather than on Earth, that is within Man, rather than ‘out there’ somewhere, that is realized when one awakens unto the present moment in this life now, not in a life hereafter.   But Jesus was not the first to fully awaken unto the Light, nor would he be the last. In India, some five hundred years before, another by the name of Siddhartha Gautama was born, who, like Jesus, awakened unto the Light. Following his transformation, this newly enlightened sage (known as the Buddha, ‘the awakened one&rsquoWinking proclaimed the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. In essence, the Buddha taught that to realize enlightenment is to end the sorrow of humankind. This realization of Pure Awareness that he called Nirvana is the same realization that Jesus proclaimed is the Kingdom of Heaven through which the sorrow of humankind ends.

At about the same time as the Buddha, Lao Tzu, in China, was yet another who awakened unto the Light. But unlike the Buddha and Jesus, rather than offering a teaching via the oral traditions of his day, Lao Tzu authored a book entitled,
Tao Te Ching, in which he pointed to ‘the way’ of awakening unto Pure Awareness, absent attachments to constructs of Mind that was beginning to bud and flower within humankind. While these three proved preeminent in their day, they were not the only ones to awaken unto the Light, for others were also revered as enlightened sages of their day, albeit to a lesser degree than they.  

Not long after the crucifixion of Jesus, a zealous Pharisee and persecutor of Jesus’ followers named Saul, while on his way to Damascus, experienced a sudden and thoroughly unexpected awakening of his own. Years later, the Apostle Paul, as he was then called, spread the word throughout the ancient Mediterranean world that a new dispensation, which he called the Christ, was not only coming, but is now here. And those who eschewed traditional systems of belief in favor of new possibilities in conscious Awareness might likewise awaken unto the Light, just as had happened in him some years before. 

Thus, Consciousness has evolved – from Atoms to Molecules to Minerals to Plants to Animals to Humans – from early Man (Adam) in whom conceptual awareness emerged to and through the Prophets, followed by the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Paul, and others in ancient times in whom
Pure Conscious Awareness awakened, flowered, and bore fruit. And as Consciousness evolved in humankind, so also allegorical stories and parables were told, all pointing to the same, fundamental Reality – that a new ‘level’ of conscious Awareness is coming to life in humankind. Follow the Eightfold Path, declared the Buddha, and you will be transformed unto Nirvana wherein the sorrow of the world ends. ‘If you open yourself to the Tao,’ wrote Lao Tzu, ‘you are at one with the Tao and you can embody it completely.’ Follow me, proclaimed Christ Jesus. Love God with all your heart, obey the Commandments (as inwardly prescribed) and enter the Kingdom of Heaven where the sorrow of the world ends. Trust this that I say, proclaimed Paul, ‘for now (prior to transformation) we see through a glass, darkly; but then (following transformation) [we see] face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’ And why Love? Because Love transforms humankind. Over the past few thousand years, personages in ever-greater numbers from all cultures and walks of life have been transformed and thereby liberated from attachments to constructs of Mind by means of awakening unto Pure Conscious Awareness within. This being so, it can now be said with a high degree of certainty that Consciousness has likely been working toward this evolutionary goal since time began. And humans, as of this moment in evolutionary time, are the principal instruments in whom conscious Awareness is currently advancing toward the ultimate goal. The breakthrough that established the foundation upon which humans would ultimately evolve from the simple consciousness of the Animal unto self-conscious awareness in Man, and later Pure Conscious Awareness in what Jesus called the Son of Man, is metaphorically pointed to in the book of Genesis when ‘the Lord God … breathed into [Man’s] nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.’  The initial evolutionary milestone (from simple consciousness of the Animal to self-consciousness in Man) noted in the story of Creation commenced with the emergence of conceptual awareness in Adamic Man about four million years ago. At that moment in time, this newest of capabilities emerging within humankind was beyond all that had come before. Even so, Man’s unique capacity to think was clearly not intended as the end game of the evolution of Consciousness. Rather, conceptual awareness was apparently intended to be a springboard upon which Pure Awareness, which is not limited to thought, would ultimately bud and flower in humankind. The fulfillment of this higher ‘level’ of Awareness coming to Light in human beings is what enlightened Beings have been pointing to since ancient times as the ultimate destiny of humankind. And this evolutionary unfolding from conceptual awareness of self unto Pure Awareness Other than self is dramatically portrayed, rather than scientifically presented, in numerous parts of ancient scripture and is a story that continues to play out on the world stage to this day. The idea of an evolutionary progression had not yet been formulated in ancient times. This being so, the earliest of enlightened beings were at a significant disadvantage when it came to articulating and communicating the nature of an evolutionary progression from conceptual awareness to Pure Conscious Awareness of the Whole that was coming to Light within them. Thus the story of Creation, while luminously inspired and beautifully written, lacks a description of the origin and evolution of the universe and of life in terms of the evolution of Consciousness, which we now know, based on scientific inquiry, occurred through billions of years of evolutionary time, rather than seven days, followed by ‘generations’ of Adamic man. Accordingly, the Creation story dramatically and metaphorically portrays (rather than scientifically presents) the advent of the universe and of Man absent any real notion of an evolutionary unfolding through time. Even so, the authors seem to have recognized that conceptual awareness was the single most significant factor that differentiated Man from his Animal ancestors. But, as also evidenced by ancient scripture, the evolution of Consciousness did not end with the advent of mental constructs of Mind, for the capacity to think proved to be the forerunner for an even greater degree of Awareness yet to be revealed. Consequently, in more recent times, measured in thousands, rather than millions or billions of years, an ever-growing number of enlightened beings have experienced, and continue to experience, realizations of Pure Awareness, and as a result, are quick to recognize that Pure Awareness is quite Other than thought. They are also quick to realize that Man’s ultimate purpose in Life is to rise above previously established, self-centered ideas and behavioral tendencies unto a cosmic Reality that is above and beyond the limitations of a world created by thought.  As regards the evolution of conscious Awareness, the authors of the Creation story dramatically and metaphorically point out that Adamic Man was so enamored with the capacity to think that he fell (as in the ‘fall’ of Adam) out of alignment, so-to-speak, with the intended evolutionary goal. He fell into the trap of believing that his thoughts encompassed the totality of who he was, as in Descartes,’ erroneous declaration, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ This declaration fails to recognize the Truth of I AM, as rightly expressed in other teachings of scripture. The images and thoughts that arose in Adamic Man’s newly thinking brain thus became the false gods that he worshiped and adored. As a result, humans developed an inordinate degree of identification with, and dependency on, the overall thinking process. More than a mere distraction, it led Man astray, which continues to this day. Man was no longer righteous in God’s eyes, which is to say, no longer rightly aligned with the intended goal. To think is not to Be – it is not I AM. The present moment of Creative Energy (which is I AM) cannot be conceived by thought. Conscious Awareness of thought is not the same as Pure Awareness of I AM in the Present Moment - Now. Man’s ultimate destiny, as regards conscious Awareness it turns out, is forever linked to the actualization of Pure Conscious Awareness, which is not limited to thought. But to realize this (which is to say, for this to be real in you) the self must come into service to, and thereby be aligned with the Whole. Laws that govern the evolution of Consciousness are as applicable today as they were in ancient times. It was never intended that Man be bound to the world, as conceived of Mind. It has always been intended that conscious Awareness be liberated from attachment to all aspects of Mind and thereby be in righteous alignment with the Whole.   The fact that the majority of ancient people lacked enlightenment made the teachings of a few enlightened souls seem all the more incomprehensible, mysterious, otherworldly, and unclear. To compound the problem, lesser lights, failing to understand the deeper meaning of profound teachings, added their own spin to the original meaning and message long after the enlightened ones were gone. Consequently, as such teachings were passed down through tradition, what was originally powerful and profound tended to be corrupted over time. Accordingly, instead of pointing to living Truth, unenlightened followers eventually established doctrines, rituals, and systems of belief to inadequately transmit to others what they did not rightly understand in themselves. This, in turn, tended to entrap others in the snare of mental constructs of Mind all the more. Regardless of obstacles that lead to ‘darkness’ (absent Light), Pure Consciousness continues to bud and flower, as evidenced by an ever-growing number who are awakening unto the Light. The earliest of these tend to be revered, even worshipped beyond the rest, as the forerunners of a new race who were resurrected out of an egoic sense of self unto a cosmic Reality that is above and beyond self and thereby discover what Jesus called, ‘Eternal Life.’ Those who fail to respond to the call devolve into what the ancients called ‘hell,’ and are thus ‘cast out into outer darkness’ where ‘there [is] weeping and gnashing of the teeth,’ for they do not ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness,’ as they are called to do. As human beings, then and now, we either support the evolution of Consciousness in the present moment (which is ‘good&rsquoWinking and thereby awaken unto the Light or resist the evolution of Consciousness in the present moment (which is ‘evil&rsquoWinking and thus are ‘cast into outer darkness’ unable to ‘see’ the Light.   The teachings of enlightened sages, both ancient and new, point to the same fundamental Reality; an evolutionary unfolding unto Pure Conscious Awareness that is just now budding and flowering within humankind. And humankind’s primary role in this ongoing evolutionary movement is to patiently allow this most recent evolutionary development to unfold and mature from within. They point to the way, ‘the Tao’ that allows transformations in conscious Awareness to occur, as in, not ‘my will,’ but ‘THY WILL BE DONE.’ They encourage us to ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart … all thy soul, and … all thy mind’ and to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ as the means by which sorrow ends, which in turn encourages Peace, Love, and Joy to arise and come forth in us and thereby into the world of human affairs. The flowering of Pure Conscious Awareness is the story of the evolution of Consciousness bearing fruit, ‘some an hundred, some sixty, some thirty fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear…. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.’ The death of the old allows for the birth of the new, which is a birth ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of [the will of] God.’ ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ ‘He that findeth his Life shall lose [his life in self]: and he that loseth his life [in self] for [the sake of Christ] shall find it.’ One day ‘ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with … but it shall [only] be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father,’ which is in Heaven. ‘Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ 
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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.

PURCHASE THE BOOK: https://www.amazon.com/Bringing-Home-Dharma-Awakening-Right/dp/1611800501/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528072905&sr=8-1&keywords=Bringing+Home+the+Dharma
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"The Sacred Feminine Today" by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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Artwork: Shiloh Sophia McCloud, visionary artist,
—-http://www.shilohsophiastudios.com

Published online on The Huffington Post

Today there is a resurgence of interest in the sacred feminine. The immense popularity a few years ago of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code spoke not just to our enjoyment of a good thriller but also to the mystery of the divine feminine in Western culture, which is the real thread of the book’s chase, from the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa to the search for the grail and the heritage of Mary Magdalene. We know now how the feminine mysteries were present in Greek culture and myth, as imaged in the story of Persephone, and enacted for more than 2,000 years in the initiations at Eleusis. In the early Christianity women had spiritual equality, and the significance of Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved more than others, being the first to see the risen Christ, points to the esoteric significance of the feminine. We have also learned how the power of the sacred feminine was repressed by the Church fathers, and Mary Magdalene purposely misidentified as a prostitute.

As we awaken from the repressions of the patriarchy we need to reclaim the sacred feminine both for our individual spirituality and for the well being of the planet. Our ecological devastation points to a culture that has forgotten the sacredness of the earth and the divine mother, as well as denied the feminine’s deep understanding of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all of life. And our individual life, so often caught in addictions and starved of real meaning, has a hunger to reconnect with the soul, which has always had a feminine quality. And linking our own journey and that of the world is the ancient feminine figure of the World Soul, the Anima Mundi, the spiritual presence within creation.

So what does it mean to reclaim the sacred feminine? How can we feel it in our bodies and in our daily life? Every woman knows this mystery in the cycles of her body, which are linked to the greater rhythms of life, the cycles of the moon. And she feels it in a calling to reconnect with the power and wisdom she carries within her, a deep knowing that is not found in books but belongs to her very nature.

The feminine carries a natural understanding of the interconnectedness of life, how all the parts belong together. She instinctively knows how to respond to the needs of her children, how she feels for their well being even when they are not physically present. And in her body she carries the greatest mystery, the potential to give birth: to bring the light of a soul into this world.

The feminine is the matrix of creation. 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. Regardless of whether an individual woman has the physical experience of giving birth, she shares in this primal mystery and is empowered by it. Yet 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 return us to a relationship with the wholeness of life.

Of course men also have a need to relate to the sacred feminine, to be nourished by her inner and outer presence. Without the sacred feminine nothing new can be born, and we see around us the sad plight of a masculine culture destroying its own ecosystem, unable to even agree on the steps needed to limit global warming. We all need to reclaim the living power and transformative potential of the sacred feminine, to feel her connection to the soul and the earth. And we desperately need the ancient wisdom of the soul of the world to help us at this time of global crisis. Many times before the world has been through an ecological crisis, and the world soul carries within her the memories and wisdom we need. But if we remain cut off in a mindset that sees this a problem that we need to fix with the same masculine attitude that has caused the problem, we will just compound the crisis. Only through working together with the sacred feminine can we heal and transform the world. And this means to honor her presence within our bodies and our soul, in the ground we walk on and the air we breathe.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/llewellyn-vaughanlee/international-womens-day_b_1327637.html


Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has written about the feminine and the role of women in our present time in The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has written about the feminine and the role of women in our present time in “The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul.”
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"110: Rob Bell on Creating a Life Worth Living, Creativity, and Writing" by Jeff Goins


Your life is like an ongoing work of art. It is filled with characteristics from your family. It is brought to life by your experiences, triumphs, and setbacks. And as long as you live, it will continue to be a form of artistic creation.

Creativity is often defined by creative works, such as books, paintings, and movies. But creativity encompasses more than the works we create. Living a creative life also involves the thought, energy, and time we devote to creating the life we’ve been given to live.

This week on
The Portfolio Life, Rob Bell and I discuss creating a life worth living, and how you have the ability, choice, and power to pursue your calling. During this conversation, you will also have the opportunity to peer into Rob’s creative rhythms and writing process, and how he balances life and work.

Listen in as Rob shares what he learned going through a difficult season of life, the power of making small changes, and when you know you’re on the right path to creating great work.

Listen to the podcast
To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here.)
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SOURCE: https://goinswriter.com/rob-bell/

Show highlights
In this episode, Rob and I discuss:
  • What Rob learned about life after experiencing his worst fear.
  • Why creativity is working with the material life gives you.
  • What it means to live a creative life.
  • How small changes can lead you to live an empowered life.
  • Why Rob expresses his ideas in the least amount of words as possible.
  • The elements of a good story.
  • Rob’s life and work rhythms.
  • Taking daily strides toward accomplishing big goals.

Quotes and takeaways
  • “What kind of life are we going to create and what kind of world are we going to create together?”—Rob Bell.
  • You know you’re on the right path toward creating great work when the good material doesn’t fit in.
  • “It’s not hard to fill pages. The hardest work is in what to eliminate.”—Rob Bell.
  • Saying less with words is far more difficult than saying something with many words.

Resources

  • Download the full interview transcript here.

Jeff Goins
I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

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The Seven Blessings That Come With Aging" by Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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Sister Joan Chittister is offering an online course on the blessings behind every aspect of growing older. Learn more about this opportunity here.

The one certain dimension of US demographics these days is that the fastest growing segment of the American population is comprised of people above the age of 65. We, and all our institutions, as a result, are a greying breed. At the same time, we are, in fact, the healthiest, longest lived, most educated, most active body of elders the world has ever known. The only real problem with that is that we are doing it in the face of a youth culture left to drive a capitalist economy that thrives on sales.

So, what we sell is either to youth, about youth, or for the sake of affecting youth. But after all the pictures of 60-looking 80 year olds going by on their bikes fade off the screen, the world is left with, at best, a very partial look at what it means to be an elder.
Especially for those who never did like biking much to begin with.
The truth of the matter is that all of life, at any age, is about ripening. Life is about doing every age well, learning what we are meant to learn from it and giving to it what we are meant to give back to it.

The young give energy and wonder and enthusiasm and heart-breaking effort to becoming an accomplished, respected, recognized adult. And for their efforts they reap achievement and identity and self-determination.

The middle-aged give commitment and leadership, imagination and generativity. They build and rebuild the world from one age to another. And for their efforts they get status, and some kind of power, however slight, and the satisfaction that comes from a sense of accomplishment.

The elderly have different tasks entirely. The elderly come to this stage of life largely finished with a building block mentality. They have built all they want to build. It is their task in life now to evaluate what has become of it, what it did to them, what of good they can leave behind them. They bring to life the wisdom that comes from having failed as often as they succeeded, relinquished as much as they accumulated. And this stage of life comes with its own very clear blessings.

PERSPECTIVE:
Given the luxury of years, the elders in a society bring a perspective on life that is not possible to the young and of even less interest to the middle aged whose life is consumed with concern for security and achievement. Instead the elders look back on the twists and turns of life with a more measured gaze. Some things, they know now, which they thought had great value at one age, they see little value in later. The elders know that what lasts in life, what counts in life, what remains in life after all the work has been completed are the relationships that sustained us, not the trophies we collected on the way.
The Elders are blessed with insight

TIME
For the first time in life, the elderly have time to enjoy the present. The morning air becomes the kind of elixir again that they have not known since childhood. The park has become an observation deck on the world. The library is now the crossroads of the world. The coffee shop becomes the social center of their lives. And small children a new delight and a companion, if not leaders, as they explore their way through life again.

The blessing of this time is appreciation of the moment.

FREEDOM:There is a kind of liberation that comes with being an elder. All the old expectations go to mist. The competition and stress that comes with trying to find a place in today’s highly impersonal economy fade away and I can do what I like, wear what I like, say what I like without bartering my very survival for it. For the first time in years it is possible simply to be a person in search of a life rather than an economic pawn in search of a high-toned livelihood. The need to reek of competence and approval gives way to the need to enjoy life.
The awareness of life as liberating rather than burdensome is the most refreshing blessing a soul can have.

NEWNESS: The truism prevails that it is the young, that part of the social spectrum who stand on the brink of adulthood who have the opportunity to make the great choices of life: where to go, how to live, what to do with our one precious and fragile life. But if truth were told it is really the elderly who have the option to become new again. With the children on t heir own and the house paid for, with our dues paid to the social system and our identities stripped away from what we do to what we are, we have the world at our feet again. We can do all the things we’ve put aside for years: learn to play the guitar, go back to school, volunteer in areas we have always wanted to do more of like become a tour guide or a museum aid, go backpacking or become a children’s reader at the local library. We can now get up every morning to begin life all over again.

The blessing of life now lies in the realization that life is not over but beginning again in a whole new way.

TALE TELLING: The elders in a society are its living history, its balladeers who tell the history of a people and the lessons of growth that come with them. The war veteran can talk now about the hell of war that belies its so-called glory. The mothers know what it means to raise children with less money than the process demands. The old couples know that marriage is a process not an event and that what draws people into marriage will not be what keeps them there. These are the ones who raise for the rest of us the beacons of hope that tell us the truth we need, on our own dark days, to hear: If these others could survive the depression, the losses, the breakups and breakdowns of life, we have living proof now, so can we.
The process of past reflection is one of the major blessings an elder can have because it crystallizes the value of one’s own life and blesses the rest of the world with wisdom at the same time.

RELATIONSHIPS: In the lexicon of elders, all too often and all too late, a new event begins to take front and center where once work and the social whirl had held sway. Elders wake up in the morning aware that the only thing really left in life after all the schedules have disappeared are the people that have been left out of them for far too long: the adult children they haven’t talked to for weeks—no, months—now. They remember the last old friend they met in the market who said “We really have to have coffee together some day” and begin to look around for the phone number. They recall with a pang the grandchildren they promised to take to the zoo and wonder with a pang whether or not the zoo is still open for the season—and whether the children still remember grandpa and the promise. Elders have the luxury of attending to people now rather than to things. And out of that attention comes a new sense of being really important to the world.

One of the great blessings of being elderly is not that it isolates us but that, ironically, it ties us more tightly to the people around us

TRANSCENDENCE: Finally, it is the elders in a society who distill for the rest of it the real meaning of life—and right before our eyes. The quality of their reflections on life are so different than ours, they must certainly be listened to. The serenity of their souls in the face of total change—both physical and social—give promise that behind all the hurly-burly lies a deep pool of peace. The devotion they bring to the transcendentals of life—to solitude, to prayer, to reading, to the arts, to the simple work of gardening, to the great questions of the age, to their continuing commitment to building a city, a country, a world that will be better for us when they move on, may be the greatest spiritual lesson of life a younger generation may ever get as well as the greatest insight they every have.

Indeed, to find ourselves on the edge of elderhood, is to find ourselves in an entirely new and exciting point in life. It is blessing upon blessing and it invites those around them to live more thoughtfully themselves by listening to them carefully now—while we all still have time.

If you are interested in learning how aging is really a great adventure and are looking for an online retreat, this just might be the thing for you.

SOURCE:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/blessings-of-aging_b_4016821.html
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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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