To Fear or Not to Fear

– That is a Very Good Question

Living beings NEED fear. One of nature’s great gifts, its purpose ensures the continuation of life. Fear, like pain, is not pleasant, but it let’s us know something is wrong. Spontaneous, natural fear is healthy, such as the cat’s instinctive reaction to the cucumber (mistaking it probably for a snake). It may seem funny to us—and many practical jokes are played like this on humans as well—but it’s actually a very important and serious gift that keeps the cat safe.

Your brain stem works well when it protects you from dangers to ensure your survival. The fear response is perhaps the most basic and oldest wisdom of physical existence. Even a single cell amoeba has an “irritability” factor that causes it to withdraw from danger.

However, when you allow yourself to be stirred up into a state of fear by politicians, pundits, the media, social media, or your friends and family, so that you are reacting as if you are in actual, present, in-the-moment danger, you are being hoodwinked. You are terrorizing yourself for no good reason, because in that moment you are not in actual life or death danger. Nevertheless, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and stress chemicals cascade through you, altering your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, muscle tone, and thinking ability, as if you were currently being threatened.

Somebody or something has put a cucumber in your path.

And you let that happen over and over again, to your own detriment.

We humans have, like the cat above, instinctive fear reactions, one being the startle reflex. When something suddenly appears in the field of vision, or unexpectedly touches from behind, or there is a nearby, sudden, loud sound, these sensory (informational) stimuli, if intense, may cause a heightened response in which we jump, shriek, run away. Or if it is a milder surprise, less dramatically, the reaction is to freeze, withdraw (contract) and often touch the center of the chest, and focus attention. If we are mature, we quickly assess the danger, decide if it is real and how to react: to stay put (freeze); to engage the danger (fight); or to get the heck out of there (flee). Or, in the case of the cucumber, or someone playing a practical joke on us, relax or even laugh as we realize there is no danger here. A less evolved animal (like the cat) or an infant will react without immediately assessing the danger. But even the cat will eventually figure it out and might even start eating the cucumber.

Don’t let a cat be smarter than you!

Stop jumping every time somebody tries to manipulate you.

In cases of real—rather than imagined danger—fear is your friend. Your reflexes are designed by nature to respond to immediate, in-the-moment threats (or a perceived threat until it can be evaluated). When the proprioceptive system (literally “perception of self” or body in space) and the vestibular (balance) system are functioning well, and reflexes are well integrated, there is generally a physiological sense of safety—enough comfort in the body to go about daily routines without giving them a second thought. In the present moment there is no need for fear. The unconscious or subconscious awareness effectively says, “I’m OK. I know how to take care of myself.”

When we feel safe, life is generally easier, healthier, and more pleasant.

Sometimes, when we are bored or want an adrenaline rush, we seek fear, perhaps in order to feel more alive. Halloween scary houses, practical jokes, or watching horror movies are examples of our desire to experience fear as a thrill. That’s OK if it is not routine. But putting ourselves into a steady fear state May be likened to addiction. Adrenaline and cortisol might be natural drugs, but they are not meant by nature to be used so much so often.

Ask yourself: Do you experience real fear—leading to positive, natural reaction responses—or unhealthy states that mimic fear (bad fear)? In the case of bad fear, the word “fear” is actually used inaccurately, and covers up or clouds the real, underlying condition. There are many better words to use to distinguish between fear (the unconditioned, innate, mechanism built into our neurophysiology) versus learned, and usually dysfunctional, conditioned states that come from memories or projections about the future.

The Importance of Developing an Emotional Vocabulary

Let’s call “bad fear” what it is: insecurity, worry, anxiety, preoccupation, trepidation, nervousness, dread, distress, dismay, unease, foreboding, angst, apprehension, unrest, perturbation, disquiet, discomposure, concern, malaise, or even, in the extreme, paranoia, etc. And, even though anxiety, as an example of one of these, like the others is usually considered an emotion, it is not. It is a repeating thought that becomes a state of sensation that masquerades as emotion.

The above conditions cause sensations such as shivering, twitching, trembling, shuddering, quavering, quivering, jerking, fluttering, “butterflies in the stomach”, etc. None of these sensations function to protect us. They are not healthy reflex reactions, but rather symptoms of an uncomfortable state and are not natural or healthy responses to actual situations.

These thought-derived past memories or future projections run along as subconscious programs that can feel like emotions and then cause unnecessary stress resulting in biological and physiological reactions. These undercurrents of imagined or remembered dangers become dysfunctional patterns and habits that often hold the body in unnecessarily tight, protective postures. Such apprehensive states do not allow for the kind of ease and stillness from which peace, joy, and ease arise.

Think of the animal kingdom or even human infants. They exhibit innate fear, but not “bad fear.” For example, perhaps your dog hates thunderstorms and reacts with shaking, hiding, whining or other symptoms of distress; but when the thunderstorm is over, the behavior stops. It is very unlikely that your dog then spends any time or energy “thinking” about future thunderstorms or “remembering” past ones. The dog’s fear is bodily/sensory stimulation; but that human’s “bad fear” is from mental activity. Animals and infants have no vocabulary for their experience, only the experience itself in its raw form.

Just as the word “fear” is used inexactly, many of the above sensation words are mislabeled as emotions in mainstream psychology. Regardless, it’s truly important to have a highly developed vocabulary for these experiences, sensations, patterns and habits of thought and behavior. Imagine going to your doctor and saying, “I have a pain.” The doctor says, “Where.” You reply, “In my body.” “What part of your body?” “In my leg.” “Which leg?” “My right leg.” “Which part of your right leg?” “The lower part.” “Which lower part?” … until finally the area of the ankle is identified as the problem area. Then the doctor asks, “What kind of pain?” “Bad,” you answer. And so on and on. Being precise in definition requires a vocabulary that correctly isolates and accurately identifies and details the issue.

Please realize, however, that with an adequate understanding and vocabulary, these states masquerading as fear can serve—IN THE SHORT TERM—to accurately identify a problem and to be used consciously as a valuable protective mechanism.

If you have been threatened by a hurricane or tornado, for example, worry about future hurricanes or tornadoes would make you more likely to take necessary and beneficial precautions. Perhaps you need to buy insurance, to have fire drills, draw up an escape plan, or to check that tools and machinery are working properly.

If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness, worry or concern can make you change your behaviors, have regular health check ups, get your affairs in order. These kinds of thoughts and sensations can focus you.

However, continued worry without taking appropriate action, serves no purpose, other than to wreck havoc on well-being, depleting the intrinsic pleasures of being alive, and impeding personal growth. If we allow a concern to serve as an impetus towards positive action, it too can serve as a positive, so long as it does not linger beyond its functional value. Once we have taken whatever precautions we deem necessary, it is time to let the worry go. Once we have taken appropriate action, we have essentially trained our conscious mind to tell our subconscious mind and our neurophysiological system, “It’s OK. I know how to take care of myself.”

There are no guarantees. From the viewpoint of anxiety, none are strong enough. From the viewpoint of the natural state, none are necessary.

Is it possible to heal?

“To recognize one’s own insanity, is, of course, the rising of sanity…”

Eckhart Tolle

By the time I was old enough to deliberately choose to interact with my maternal grandmother, she already suffered from dementia. And if you had asked me why I adored spending my time with her above all my other “more interesting” conversant relatives, I could not have told you.

When I was older, at some family gathering, I heard someone tell a story about my grandmother. Apparently, during the depression, she was taking apart her own clothing and sewing it into garments for children. She was also secretly giving her food away to the street children; and her secret generosity might not have been discovered except she passed out one day. Upon discovery, the family made her eat her food.

Last year, I was visiting with family of dear friends. The male elder—father of my friend—was in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, seemingly oblivious to the content of the conversation, not remembering how anyone was related to him. His wife, my friend (his daughter), and I were making pleasant conversation, while he just sat there picking at scabs. Then my friend took a phone call from her husband that his mother, the matriarch of his family, had just died.

His mother was my original connection to all these people, the mother of a best friend I’d had 50 years before. We had bonded over the prolonged illness and death of her daughter. I admired and loved this woman—a woman who became a 2nd mother to me.

My friend, still with the phone in her hand, was crying. I was crying. My friend’s mother teared up. And though he had no cognitive awareness of the people involved or what any of the details were, the field of love and empathy that emanated from this man’s heart was palpable not only to me, but when I asked my friend, it was just as clear to her.

It was not until I grew old enough that I understood it was this quality of presence that was so appealing about my grandmother; and that this kind of presence has nothing to do with what a person knows or does. It is like the cherubic state of the newborn. In the case of my friend’s father, his presence was not actually gone, it was just transferred or transmuted into something different.

I witnessed another, stranger experience of divergent consciousness—not a delightful presence—during my college years, which was when I was in my 30s. One of the students had a schizophrenic break. (All were more mature than most college students in this small, alternative program than in a typical college setting). Because I worked part-time as secretary for the director of the school on a work scholarship, I participated in a very uncomfortable phone call to her family and learned that this was not her first schizophrenic episode and they wanted no part of her. They coldly said to put her in the local mental institution. Unfortunately, that institution had a reputation as something of a “snake pit.”

I suggested to my boss, who was also my professor, that a small group that included me, two other students, and the two instructors in the curative studies field, could form a round-the-clock care group. Incredibly, he agreed given certain conditions. A psychiatrist was called in for medication and supervision of the troubled student; and the students in the care group had to accept free psychological counseling sessions twice a week.

It was during these sessions that I learned the great value of bringing up the sewage of the subconscious mind. A lot of treasures lived in that sludge. I also learned that while living in her schizophrenic world the woman was keenly, seemingly supernaturally, aware of every way to push very specific and very different buttons of everyone in her environment. It was as if she could see their weaknesses as clearly as you and I can see physical forms.

Many years later one of my former elementary school students who was a wonderful artist and the most dyslexic person I had ever met, suffered a schizophrenic break as a young adult. His untimely death was tragic and some community members chose to commemorate him with an exhibit of his art and pottery. In exhibit were some of the childhood paintings he had done in my classroom. Also on display were black and white sketches he had recently done, while in prison, of notable figures in the news. They looked like ink portraits that could easily have illustrated Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The external aspects made the portraits recognizable as who they were, but he also managed to convey the inner soul, distorted energy field and certain unholy images. I knew then that he too was seeing somehow into the deepest crevices of their subterranean consciousness.

Not long after my profound near-death-experience (NDE), I consulted a psychiatrist because I was convinced I was crazy. At the time I could hear what people were thinking (telepathy) and feel what people were feeling (empathy) and even share their experiences. He told me that crazy people generally don’t voluntarily go to psychiatrists, that “all my buffers were blown” and it would take about seven years to develop those buffers again; and, that he hoped I would eventually go into a helping profession.

In Chapter 10 of Carl Jung’s memoir, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, he describes what it was like for him to return from his NDE:

The view of city and mountains from my sickbed seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it, or a tattered sheet of newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing. Disappointed, I thought, “Now I must return to the ‘box system’ again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I along with everyone else would again be hung up in a box by a thread. While I floated in space, I had been weightless, and there had been nothing tugging at me. And now all that was to be a thing of the past!

If we can look at and recognize the insanity of the current world around us, perhaps as Eckhart Tolle suggests, we might begin to become sane, to begin to heal, to become whole, to realize our potential.

Ann Frank famously said,

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

I don’t know that all people are truly good at heart, or why we are born into a “box system,” but I believe that the source that built that human heart and this “box system” is good and that there is deep and valuable meaning to the human experience. I can’t say that I know this or that I know anything in the mental sense of knowledge. I speak of a knowing, a conviction, that is not of the brain but lives in some divergent reality. It is a reality, a consciousness, that generally is glimpsed only when what is commonly known as “reality”— the reality of the five senses—has somehow had its edges removed and the veil it creates is rendered torn and tattered.

I have come to comprehend that somehow our instruments—our bodies, personalities, perhaps even our souls—can be, and usually are, to a greater or lesser degree, damaged. That essence of who we are—LOVE—that grand cosmic symphony of beauty and truth—coming through these damaged, dinged, twisted, broken instruments, comes out distorted and we lose our potential for what life could truly be. If we could but go in and repair the damage what joy and happiness we could experience, what peace there could be on this pretty little planet, in this limited, but adorable field of consciousness in which we could, if we would, simply laugh, sing and play.

Video above by cottonbro from Pexels
Infant Video by Renjini Renjini from Pexels
Images from Pexels

Meditation – 6 Questions

Who? What? Where? Why? When? & How?

WHO? is easy…. it’s YOU! There. Step 1 complete.

WHAT? is meditation, of course; but this is not so easy because even the word “meditation” means different things to different people. Definitions include:

Merriam Webster:

  • to engage in contemplation or reflection
  • to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.

Wikipedia:

“Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.”

The list and variations could go on and on, but this only complicates the issue. We shall return to this in the HOW section.

WHERE? is also easy. Wherever you are. You could be sitting, standing, lying down. All you need is your presence. How to get to “presence” is where the “what” and “how” both come in. What meditation practice will you choose? How does one best meditate? Again, hold on… we’ll get to that.

Find someplace soothing, even if it’s only in your imagination.

WHEN? has a cute answer, which is, of course, NOW. The real answer is whenever you can. But practically speaking, it’s a good idea to build it into your schedule at a regular time—a time of day or even time of week —) if once a week is all you can manage) when you aren’t crazy busy, or when you aren’t most stressed. We each have natural rhythms. Find yours.

WHY? The health benefits of meditation and meditative techniques are evidence based and well documented. They include:

The list could go on and on to include productivity, creativity, prevention of disease, etc. etc. So, assuming you are already convinced that meditation is worthwhile, let’s get on with the HOW.

HOW? Here are some suggestions until you figure out what’s easiest and best for you. Lots of people, as discussed in last month’s blog, have a hard time turning off their thoughts. So what’s a person to do?

Make it up if you have to. That’s what I do. Don’t think there’s a “right way” to do it. Be easy on yourself. Practice self-kindness. Take it slowly—a few minutes a day; and if you can’t manage every day, that’s OK too. Just start. Take tiny baby steps. You can time yourself of not. This is your meditation. I usually do my “meditating” sitting down. I tell myself that the everyday, temporal me has done all the thinking necessary for one day.

Then I wait for the “bigger” me, the one that lives in my sub-conscious or super-conscious or perhaps permeates the cosmos, that connected-to-all-that-is-Self to take over. In other words, I “let go and let God.”

I get really, really quiet and show up to whatever state that follows.

I push a  mental button to switch off my everyday, taking-care-of-business thoughts

Sometimes I start by consciously breathing deeply, with long inhale, a short holding of the in-breath, long exhale, and then short holding of the out-breath. Sometimes I hum or tone. There is some evidence that toning is even more effective than meditating.

You can try a scanning technique. Close your eyes and look into your body. Find the tense places and imagine that you are soothing, massaging them. Imagine your body as filled with warm sand, or bright light, or beautiful waves of water. You may prefer to breathe naturally. An infant knows how to breathe without effort. Follow your breathing. Breathe in your favorite incense or diffuse essential oil. Listen to meditative music. Doodle if you are restless and must keep busy. The possibilities for relaxing are endless. You need to relax first so you can enter the meditative state.

Choose your favorite incense. Or gaze at a candle.

Use biofeedback equipment if you must.

Read books, watch videos, or listen to podcasts about different kinds of meditation and try out one that attracts you. This is not unlike trying on new shoes. If it’s comfortable continue. If not, try something else.

Use basic “mindfulness”. Take one step back from your thoughts and just watch them as if they are clouds floating by. If you get “caught” into a thought, as soon as you realize this, go back to a distance from it. IF you catch yourself completely drifting away, call yourself back to the present moment.

Walking meditation. With each step, breathe. You might want to think, “Here I am now.” Every now and then stand still for a moment. Open your senses to the colors, sounds, movement of the air, the clouds, aromas. Take another step. “Here I am now.”

Some people need a mantra. You don’t need someone to create one for you. Create your own. Make is simple. For years I have repeated to myself, “Thank you.” – or “Thank you God.” To keep myself awake, I sometimes count my mantra, “Thank you 1, thank you 2, thank you 3…..”

You could sit with palms open. Imagine that one hand is giving up to the cosmos all that you have experienced, much as a fragrant flower gives its aroma to its surroundings, without effort. With the other hand, receive all that the cosmos has to offer, just as the flower receives the air, the wind, the rain and the sun.

Be present – a present – to yourself. Enjoy the silence of being just you. If you find something new that works really well, please share that with my readers.

BLESSINGS.

Gratitude to pexels.com for royalty free photos.

Thinking as Spiritual Activity

“Our brain is a spiritual instrument and the science of spirituality is the textbook of how to properly play it.”

Melvin Morse, M.D.
MONKEY MIND

Meditation is a way to stop the “monkey mind” (a Buddhist term for uncontrolled and confused thinking) and to learn how to “properly play” this great “spiritual instrument”: the brain. But, many people struggle with meditation (and its many forms) because if they try to stop thinking they crave thinking even more. Thinking then takes them over. Thinking controls them and not the other way around.

When we attempt to exert conscious control, a subconscious horde of arguments rise up fighting our resolve. This is why New Year’s resolutions are usually so short-lived and ineffective. Sometimes resolutions and affirmations backfire and make the habit or pattern worse. You intend to go on a diet and exercise and almost immediately become tired and hungry, thinking of all the “wrong” foods you want to eat. The fact is the 5% of the conscious identity is fighting the 95% subconscious, unconscious self that directs and thrives on repetitive thoughts. The conscious, full-of-itself-self (ego) thinks it’s the CEO but ideally would be the  perfect Administrative Assistant to the wiser, healthier Higher Self. But the ego hates and fights that demotion.

ROTE THINKING

My philosophy professor at university called the constant, non-stop chatter that generally passes for thinking, “grocery list thinking.” I understood that he meant by this the repetitive, rote nature of thoughts that deal with everyday “taking care of business” and the thoughts that are a bunch of already-been-thought thoughts. What we call thinking is often just repetition of thoughts already thought over and over again until they become thought habits, thought patterns, and thought belief systems. Ultimately they become thought addictions. To not think these thoughts or to have someone challenge them is painful and can cause strongly adverse reactions such as hurt, denial, anger, argument, aggression, or internal stress.

When I realized that thinking is probably the addiction that underlies all other addictions, I had a “Eureka!” moment, only to stumble onto Eckhart Tolle addressing the same condition of addictive thinking.

Repetitive, out-of-control thinking is stressful and impairs life because it fails to listen to anything but itself. It’s the thing that keeps people awake at night and causes knots in the stomach.

Stressful Thinking

To remedy this common problem, spiritual teachers and healers have over thousands of years created techniques to calm and master thinking and gain awareness of other ways of being. Some techniques are designed to stop thoughts. Others, because it is so difficult to stop thinking, are designed instead to give distance from thoughts. Centering Prayer for example works by witnessing thoughts. An example would be, “I am worthless.” [implied statement of fact, but really a belief]. In Centering Prayer, one might witness the thought and think, “I am having a thought that I am worthless.” (This begs the question who is thinking and who is observing the thinking).

[Next blog: different kinds of mediation and the subconscious saboteur.]

In my last blog I said, “I do NOT think—Therefore I am Aware” (boldly taking on Descartes’ proclamation, “I think, therefore I am.”).

Am I saying that thinking has no value? Of course, I’m not saying that. Of course, thinking has value. It is, along with the opposable thumb, one of the great gifts of humanity. But thinking has been elevated to an importance that exceeds its purpose; and now what often passes for thinking has fallen into a state that often renders it far less valuable than intended because it lacks insight, creativity and wisdom, and is merely a “laundry list.”

As I stated in the last blog, we do not need to think in order to BE. We do need to BE in order to think. The higher value goes to BEING. When I switch off my workaday thinking and enter into the silence then the thinking that follows is fresh, new and creative. The empty mind is open to inspiration—to creative thought. The brain becomes then the spiritual instrument it was always intended to be.

Nature is a constant process of creation and destruction only to create again and destroy again–an exquisite cycle of being. Empty becomes full only to empty – over and over.

This ability to be in Silence and Stillness was made easy for me by a profound near-death experience when I was 27. During that experience I lost my identity as a temporal being (and consequently returned with partial amnesia). Admittedly, it left me ill-prepared for daily life. It took me years to remember words, personal biography and to be able to read and write again. The challenge also contained a gift. The gift that has remained is being able to be at one with all that is. Despite the practical necessity of a persona (which took me years to re-establish), I did not and I do not possess a spiritual, emotional or intellectual desire for a separate ego identity. My persona (ego) is an instrument that serves me.

Close your mouth, block off your senses, blunt your sharpness, untie your knots, soften your glare, settle your dust. This is the primal identity.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (56)

In my “meditation” (which is really just showing up to Being) the result goes way beyond watching the thoughts drift by like clouds. My experience informs me that we are meant to transcend the clouds—the appearance of forms—to emptiness where Silence and Stillness resides, to Rumi’s field (see last blog). To say it another way, at the point between light and dark, true and false, good and bad, there is nothing to judge or interpret and therefore no need to think.

He who defines himself can’t know who he really is.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (24)

I Do NOT Think – Therefore I AM (Aware)

“Stop thinking, and end your problems….I drift like a wave on the ocean,

I blow as aimless as the wind.”

[excerpt Lao Tzu, Tao Te Chin, verse 20]

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

How often have you experienced a revelation, had an “aha” moment or had a new or startling thought? It is absolutely necessary to empty the mind (take out the trash?) regularly in order to create space, most importantly, to just be a being. A being doesn’t need thought to be. It simply is. An infant doesn’t need to learn how to be or to think about being.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about

Rumi

Sharon’s NDE presentation 2005 – Chicago IANDS

In May 2019 I visited Chicago IANDS again and became aware that there was a video of my presentation there. Although it is 14 years old, it stands the test of time.

……(but not sure so much about the dress)

Illumined Human (Part 2)

Becoming: Feet of Clay

Genesis 2 says that God created Adam out of the dust of the earth. World myths (Greek, Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese, Babylonian, Hindu, Maori, Inca, etc.) depict people, male and/or female made from clay. Even Wonder Woman was sculpted out of clay by her mother Hyppolita! A Jewish  Talmudic legend portrays Adam as a golem (clay figure–a body without a soul) for the first 12 hours of his existence.

Egyptian god Khum creating man from clay

               It is safe to say that we all have proverbial “feet of clay” even before we left the Garden of Eden. If we were already clay or dust were we of heaven or of earth?

A long time ago I surmised that the reason we Earth beings left the Garden of Eden was because the divine actually wanted us to go—a reason and a purpose. Perhaps we had developed enough that it was time; or perhaps we hadn’t developed enough and needed a challenge course for growth.

So, as the Genesis 2& 3 goes, an apple tree was planted in the midst of other fruit trees in Eden and the young’uns were told you can eat the fruit of any tree except the fruit of the tree of knowledge. As any parent knows, if you put something where the child will regularly encounter it and then say, “don’t touch”, the temptation is irresistible. But even then Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit, so a serpent had to be devised to seduce them. And, voila! Success! Humans who lived in an eternal state of BEING fell into BECOMING. Birth, biography, death.

“What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good?” 

A Course in Miracles

Not knowing its source, I kept  that quote on my refrigerator for years so that I would see it often. And, because I am aware that BEING is “One”, I concluded that I was an integral part of the planning.

“Is willing to accept that she creates her own reality except for some of the parts where she can’t help but wonder what the hell she was thinking.”

Story People, Almost New Age

Is our world is a virtual reality of our own design? This idea is closely aligned with the ancient spiritual tradition of India that we are living in “maya” (roughly translated as “illusion”). There is the beautiful maya of the natural world that is there to appreciate it and to meditate on its many mysteries, to teach us and help us grow spiritually. But it is the human maya that becomes our role play—our charade–and leads us into believing that this Earth life is our only true identity. However, it is not. It is a merely temporary reality.

: “Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

Albert Einstein

Any cursory exploration of quantum mechanics reveals that modern Western science has met ancient Eastern tradition.

Wordsworth captured this knowledge and the inevitable destiny of ego development in Ode on Intimations of Immortality.  An excerpt:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

          Hath had elsewhere its setting

               And cometh from afar;

          Not in entire forgetfulness,

          And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

               From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

               Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

               He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

     Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,

          And by the vision splendid

          Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.

The Illumined Human (Part 1)

From Being to Becoming: Time & Space

“Being is always there; it is what we are in the most fundamental way”. –


A. H. Almaas,
The Pearl Beyond Price

I see no reason why spiritual awareness or self-realization must be incompatible with a personal human life or that being an ordinary human, flaws and all, must be a hindrance to self-realization as an illumined human. Embracing humanness may very well be essential to spiritual awakening.

There was three year old child who kept insisting that she had to be alone with her newborn sibling. The parents, concerned that the older child through sibling rivalry or just lacking awareness might harm the infant, refused the request. But the child kept asking, insisting over and over again on time alone with the infant. Finally, relenting, the parents stationed themselves outside the closed door, having set up video and sound monitors in the room. Not being a religious family, imagine their surprise when they saw their daughter lean over the crib, put her head close to the infant’s head, and say:


“Please tell me about God. I’m starting to forget.”

Most people cannot remember anything prior to age three. Sense of self, or self-concept, is something that develops with time and experience. Children become self-conscious (showing signs of embarrassment or shyness) around age two to three. Also until around the age of three the child often doesn’t understand the concept of “I” and speaks in the third person (e.g. “Sharon want toy”).

The splendid innocence of the infant is that physical birth marks only its bodily separateness but not its differentiated psychological self. Over time the personality evolves through enculturation, experience and increasing levels of choice into a separate sense of itself—a self-concept.  Self is constructed. As that self continues to grow and become stronger, it creates a kind of amnesia of the Essential Being, its spiritual home. Veils descend that allow the ego to assert and sustain itself.

Time & Space: Relative Existence

Many who have experienced a near-death experience report that time does not seem to apply to reality. As one experiencer, Jeanie Dicus, put it, “Before we’re born, we have to take an oath that we will pretend time and space are real so we can come here and advance our spirit. If you don’t promise, you can’t be born.”


greekmytholog.wikia.com/wiki/Lethe

The tale of Er in Plato’s Republic gives us the image of souls returning to Earth drinking from the River Lethe (Lee-thee), the “River of Forgetfulness” that ran through the caves of Hypnos, so that they would forget from whence they came. The implication of the Greek myth is that we are hypnotized out of remembering our true nature so that we can adopt a new human identity. This would suggest that developing that identity is actually important.

Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explains that time is subjective. An amusing anecdote, wrongly attributed to him, is supposed to explain this theory:

“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”


While this is relatable and generally subjectively true, in this case time has not changed at all, only the perception of it is different, as can be measured by a clock.


The actual theory is that in the space-time continuum time does not move or flow. All of time is now. Time just IS; and passage of time is a result of limited human awareness.


People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”.


Albert Einstein, 1955

If the spiritual world is timeless, the physical world is not. Not only is time called into question but so is space or locality. We have an awareness of solidity, and yet we are both wave and particle. We occupy a location, but exist in a quantum state of non-local entanglement.  Another way to say this is that we merely appear to be here. There are fundamental contradictions between what are scientifically understood as proven realities. The cognitive dissonance that this creates—that existence itself is a paradox—can only be resolved by accepting that two (or more) contradictory realities can and do exist simultaneously.

  1. The material/spatial/temporal world is real. Deal with it. Study it. Understand its laws. Be in it, grow and learn with it. Embrace the experience of being fully human. Later, you will be mature enough to learn that it does not define you.
  2. The spiritual/non-local/timeless world is real. Deal with it. Be with it. Understand that this is a larger, truer you. Your earthly biography, like a story, has a beginning and an end. Don’t believe that the story of you is you. But don’t allow that awareness to prevent you from having a human life.
  3. Be at peace with both realities.

Coddiwomple

It’s something you might expect to happen in a favorite children’s story or perhaps a cartoon. I can imagine Winnie the Pooh doing it, wandering the 100 acre wood, or maybe Calvin with Hobbs.

“Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”                              –The House at Pooh Corner

One can do it on foot, in a car, or any other form of transportation. I imagine one could even do it in a dream or a daydream—to coddiwomple that is.

Coddiewomple is reportedly an old English slang verb meaning to wander purposely but with no clear destination.

Often I used to get in my car (each car had a name, sometimes male or sometimes female); and I might say it even out loud, “Roger, take me somewhere.” And then I would let the car choose directions and turns. Of course, this was just a ruse to use my intuition. Though one time it brought me to the house of a colleague and when I started the drive I did not know where she lived. From that visit, we became friends (now 30 some years) and I am her daughter’s godmother.

So, because I’ve been coddiwompling for so long, forgive me that I convert the verb to a noun, and say that I love “to take a coddiwomple” much in the same way as someone might “take a cup of tea”. To take a coddiwomple is to allow the possibility of discovery, to explore the unknown. I do this very purposefully, especially when I have no idea of what I want to discover. Rather I want something (much like Pooh’s poetry and hum) to find me, so I must go somewhere.

Meditation is like this, too. I sit down and purposely get as quiet as I can and then some surprise usually shows up in this journey of silent attention.

As a frequent world traveler, I usually set out on foot and wander. My purpose is to explore the place and allow the surprise of what I find and the people and situations I meet. My first time is Paris, staying the Marais (near the 5th arrondisement), I set out on foot with a friend along the right bank of the Seine. 

Le Marais
Along the Seine

We had no special destination in mind, just to walk this so very walkable city with its amazing light, sights, sounds and food. At one point I needed to find a restroom and walked for quite a while in search of one and had begun to feel urgency about it. Finally, I saw what looked to be a large administrative building and I said, “Let’s go in there. Surely they will have a bathroom.” That building was the Louvre, and it was a Tuesday and it was closed.

Louvre
Louvre Pyramid

Fortunately, there are free and pay public restrooms sprinkled (pardon the pun) around Paris. So after a brief pit stop and resting on the steps of the Louvre gift shop to take in the scene, we turned left and continued walking. We found ourselves in the Tuileries Gardens. There we enjoyed the statues (and the birds sitting on them), the flowers that were in bloom at that season, and the people enjoying the park.

We continued walking in the same direction and found ourselves on the famed Champs-Elysées. I remembered thinking of this as such a romantic place when I was an elementary school student doing a report on it, and was disappointed to find that it was basically a very wide street with a lot of upscale shopping, including a Disney store.

At the end of the Champs-Elysées was an underground passageway to the base of the Arc de Triomphe which stands at the center of the Étoile (Star) roundabout. Circling around the Arc, we took a left and continued walking for quite a while, eventually and surprisingly finding ourselves viewing the Eiffel Tower. To get to it we crossed one of the many bridges over the Seine. 

There was no pre-determined destination to this journey. We simply coddiwompled—purposefully moving with only a vague destination. Unintentionally, we saw so many of the main tourist attractions and so much more that we might never have seen if we predetermined our journey.

Over the years I have coddiwompled in much of the U.S. (especially the mountains of Colorado), Madrid, Hanoi, Danang, Singapore, England and the Netherlands.

I highly recommend a good coddiwomple.

Resilience

                Have you ever wondered something your whole life only to discover there’s a word that answers the question?

For me, that word is resilience and it answers the lifelong question, “Why do some people overcome all obstacles while others fall apart at the smallest stressor? 

Are some people naturally resilient? My best guess is, yes.

Is there a resiliency gene? My best guess is, no.

Even raised in the same family with the same life lessons, some siblings are more resilient than others. Some see failures and challenges as opportunities for growth. Others see failures and challenges as a threat to their identity.

Can resiliency be learned? Probably.

Knowing a resilient person and watching her model resiliency does not guarantee that another will adopt resiliency as a lifestyle. However, knowing such a person who teaches a program that fosters resiliency increases the likelihood.

I have been blessed to know such a person, who has made it her life’s mission to “Choose Love” and to teach others how to do that through a proven step by step program of Social Emotional Learning.

Scarlett Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis who was one of 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012. I met her in February of 2013 when the trauma was freshly palpable. Over the years although her loss and pain will likely never pass, her resilience has increased manifold.

So, I present to you, Scarlett, the world servant.