Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Meaning of "Namaste"

I still remember the first time I heard someone explain to me the meaning of the phrase "na-mas-te." I was told this Eastern phrase essentially means, "The light in me salutes the light in you." What a beautiful statement that is! And how powerful it is to honor the light that shines within another each time we greet them or say goodbye until we meet again.

I've pondered namaste and its meaning many times since, and every time it amazes me with its clarity, beauty, simplicity and glittering depth. To me it's become like a linguistic diamond, a rare jewel I can gift to others over and over again, and yet never run out of the beauty it has to offer.

If we break down its meaning what we discover is a conscious acknowledgment, on the deepest level of soul, that those identifying things we so often believe ourselves to be - our species, race, creed, nationality, sex, social status, talents, limitations and personal life experiences - are but temporary costumes and trappings that infinite, eternal Spirit is presently wearing while we act out our given roles on this stage we call "the world."

How beautiful is that? To look at another being - REALLY look - and to consciously notice that under whatever bizarre or alien costume Spirit is presently hiding beneath is the clear and brilliant essence of life itself, peering back at us through its radically altered appearance and winking at us. "Here I am," says Spirit, from inside the body of a homeless, muttering woman. "Can you see me?"

"Here I am," Spirit whispers, huddled in the form of a cancer-riddled, dying child. "Can you see me still?"

"Pssst...over here!" From in the prison around the corner, crouched in the form of an angry, violent and broken shell of a man. "Can you see me now? Can you love me no matter what form I take, or even when I've completely forgotten the game we're here to play?"

Namaste. Indeed I can, at least when I remember to look; when I'm not too busy hiding myself from everybody else, losing myself so thoroughly in my own costume and so busily playing my own role that I've forgotten who I am and where I'm supposed to look.

Shakespeare was right; all the world IS a stage. That means the script we've all been working from - the belief we're all separate and isolated from each other by our differences - CAN be changed. That makes sense, since the stage and its living props are constantly rearranging themselves to move us along in our remembrance of that truth. Once we grasp our deep connectivity - genuinely see it - we realize we can change our role in the story and act out something completely new without being driven by a sense of desperation, or the fear of failure. So what if the rest of the world doesn't want to act out the story of love and connectivity I'm now consciously choosing for myself? So what if so many "others" have become so attached to their roles, so lost in the seriousness and weightiness of it all, that they've forgotten they're wearing costumes, or who they are? Why not peek up their heavy skirts now and again and giggle, pointing at Spirit hiding inside them and cry out, "Namaste!"

And so...namaste to you, my friends, whatever costume you may be wearing and wherever you may be on the stage of life. I invite you to remind me - as I will continue to remind you - that this IS a game, a temporary reality, and that on our soul level we're here to play together in harmony.

The light in me salutes the light in you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Beauty of the Bubble

If pressed to explain my thoughts on life and why I believe it's eternal, I often draw upon the metaphor of a soap bubble. As we all know, when we blow a soap bubble we temporarily encapsulate a bit of air inside a delicate, rainbow-like membrane. That membrane then floats through the air, carrying the contained air with it.

If the air inside the bubble were somehow capable of experiencing consciousness the way we humans do, the first thing it might notice is how pretty the world looks when viewed through the prism of the membrane that contains it. It might spend most of its time gazing out at reality through the beautiful rainbow window of its shell, enraptured to be observing such exotic splendors as birds, trees and clouds. Like a child, the bubble would admire the world around it and exclaim with delight whenever it noticed something new appearing outside its fragile window. Occasionally a few air molecules would cross the bubble's permeable membrane and enter it from without, while some would also leak outside from within, but the bulk of the air inside the bubble would be so entranced by its experiences it wouldn't even notice what was happening.

Later on, if that air bubble developed a sense of self-awareness, it might suddenly begin to realize that some of the other bubbles around it were bumping into each other and exploding. Whenever they popped, the air bubble would notice that they disappeared...seemingly forever. It might then begin to fear that it too could disappear if somehow another bubble (or a bird, or a plane or a butterfly) bumped into it. Worrying about what that meant might begin to constrict the joy the air bubble felt from simply being present, aware enough to experience the world through the prism of its fragile rainbow. The bubble might even become aggressive due to its fear, bumping into other bubbles on purpose to try and pop them before they had the chance to damage it. Whole bubble wars might eventually evolve, with the younger, bigger bubbles working together to attack and destroy the smaller, weaker ones until the whole sky was filled with the fury and energy of smashing bubbles.

The irony, of course, is that those of us who exist outside the limited perspective of the soap bubble know something the bubbles don't yet realize: when they pop, the airy part inside them doesn't just vanish. It expands back into the larger atmosphere, where it mixes with all the rest of the air outside. While there it picks up some new characteristics based on whatever combination of molecules the outside air contains, then eventually it enters some other form. Perhaps it enters another bubble, or perhaps it flows into a living creature by way of an animated in-breath. Who's to say? But whatever happens, the atmosphere relates to all the temporary forms it encases by entering them and suffusing them with life.

To compare life to the air inside a soap bubble is to let go of the profound fear of disappearing when we die. To recognize one's conscious self-awareness as similar to the air inside a soap bubble is to realize the idea of "self" is an illusion. At bottom it's all the same air; it's just that some of it is having a temporary soap bubble experience.

Our bodies are like the membrane of a soap bubble. Each one of us is beautiful, unique and amazing, as well as fragile. The world we think we understand is the world we see, feel, touch, smell and taste and interpret as experienced through the prism of the bubble (human form) that contains our awareness. It's not necessarily the truth of what the world outside of us is, so much as a magical reflection of what the bubble we occupy is, as we gaze through the bubble into the vastness of the totality that contains us. The AIR - not the bubble - represents the deeper truth of what we really are.

Sadly, too many of us go through life fearing that all those other bubbles are dangerous, because they have the power to destroy the very air inside our bubble, when all they really have the power to do is pop our fragile bubble shell which is temporary anyway. When our bubble shell does inevitably pop - whether it pops by itself or is bumped by something else - all that really happens is we're released from the temporary - albeit beautiful - constriction that has been our human form. Death does not destroy us; it only ends our capacity to experience the rest of the world as perceived from within the bubble. The harm in that isn't in our destruction; it's that the greater world has been denied the opportunity to fully experience, observe, enjoy and delight in the magnificent bubble we each have the power to be!

It helps us anchor this metaphor if we consider the formation of the bubble (birth) as similar to the constriction that is an in-breath, and the inevitable dissolution of the bubble (death) as the expansion that is an out-breath. What we call "our" life then, is really only the infinitesimal pause between the in-breath and the out-breath. True life can be found in the endless flow of the atmosphere between the forms and the formless.

To "fight" to the death to preserve and protect that infinitesimal pause - to attack others and exist in constant fear that they will perhaps attack us - is to miss out on the entire reason the atmosphere energetically created and occupied the bubble in the first place. Its underlying purpose is to enjoy, explore and experience itself through energizing an infinite variety of temporary forms and by playing with a variety of senses and experiences, because it CAN. Since the atmosphere that fills up your bubble is the same atmosphere that fills up my own, for me to attack your bubble or try to destroy it means I'm essentially attacking myself in another form. Far better then for me to honor the air inside of you as the same air I hold within me, and to do my best to support your bubble while you become the most beautiful and amazing bubble you can possibly be! When that happens, hopefully I'll be around to enjoy the show you give. If not, the atmosphere that contains your bubble will also contain what was me, so I'll surely be there anyhow; just not in a physical form.

The beauty of this bubble metaphor is that when we embrace it we're able to let go of our fear of death as a form of self-destruction. We come to view the formation of the bubble and its eventual dissolution as inevitable as the contraction and expansion of breathing and not something to be feared. We understand that the experience of being inside the bubble is but a brief, joyful, exhilarating ride we're here to enjoy and share. When our bubble pops, at it eventually must, we'll get to carry back to the larger atmosphere all the experiences, observations and wisdom we've gained from having been on this amazing ride. Our individual feedback will blend with the contents from all the other bubbles that have burst, just like our atmosphere blends a variety of molecules to form a unified field. That blend determines what forms the atmosphere will occupy next: more bubbles, or perhaps something completely different. It's important to note here that the atmosphere doesn't wish to have mainly painful or bad experiences for very long, because every bit of air inside the bubble that experiences mostly pain and suffering eventually feeds those negative experiences back to the whole and makes the entirety of the atmosphere that much sadder.

None of this is personal. Humanity may or may not continue to survive as a life form, but truly it doesn't much matter. Whatever we collectively learn from this temporary human experience will inform the larger atmosphere what works and what doesn't work, so it can figure out how to create more love for the totality of itself. It will then respond to our input by choosing to animate forms that bring it more joy.

Perhaps if enough of us wake up to the truth of the beauty of experiencing the world from inside the amazing bubble that is our temporary body (which may be what the atmosphere is encouraging us to do now) we can collectively rediscover the unfettered joy of being human without experiencing the fear that this temporary form is the only thing we really are. The key seems to be to let go and perceive yourself as the air and not merely the bubble, so you can discover within you the truly exquisite lightness and joy of being!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pitting Life Against Money - Who Wins?

Lately the public conversation has revolved almost entirely around what we can afford to do versus what we cannot afford to do as a species. Conservatives attempt to help individuals by directing wealth toward business enterprise, while liberals attempt to offer direct financial aid to those in need. On the surface it appears to be the ideological equivalent of teaching a man to fish versus feeding him daily fish; except what we're coming to understand is that the conservative approach does not teach men to fish for themselves at all. Instead, it reduces them to the equivalent of tying countless fishhooks onto endless lines to catch millions of fish for the benefit of the captain, so they can go home with half a fish to feed their entire family. This approach is no more helpful in the long run than is offering people abundant free fish and encouraging them to give nothing in return. One creates a slave-like dependency that benefits a wealthy few; the other creates a child-like dependency that burdens a working few.

What makes it tough to balance wealth and human need is that we've chartered our economic institutions to profit monetarily, and have made that their primary reason to exist. We've ASSUMED, without much evidence to support the assumption, that businesses will only profit if they're creating and providing real, tangible benefits for living human beings.

What's become apparent, particularly over the past hundred or so years, is that any connection between what benefits human (and natural) life and what's profitable for business is far more tenuous than we've traditionally believed it to be.

There is often a HUGE difference between what's good for business in the short term and what's good and healthy for life (and our planet) in the long run. There's also a huge difference between the productive life span of a corporation (granting it the power to overwhelm and outlast the needs and desires of individuals) and the productive life span of a human being.

Then there's the problem of externalized business costs. It behooves business to externalize their costs (to not pay for certain things and to not price those costs into their goods and services) as much as possible to maximize their declared profits. However, it harms society to have to absorb all the externalized costs of doing business. Externalized costs are items like the costs of building and enhancing private business roads and infrastructure, which often gets picked up by the towns and states that are soliciting corporate investment and hoping for new jobs to support their communities. They also include the costs of cleaning up industrial waste, the costs of replenishing or restoring depleted natural resources, the costs of artificially low wages that don't enable people to survive without public assistance, and so forth. Externalized costs are borne by all citizens and taxpayers, and they amount to some $2.4 TRILLION dollars per year in the United States alone - enough to balance the federal budget if we eliminated them and placed those costs squarely where they belonged - on the shoulders of the private business community. Instead we allow our governments to go broke so our companies can continue to report solid "earnings" and maintain the illusion that all is well with how we're managing industry.

There's also an emergent global corporatism with which we must contend, in which the corporations and their owners no longer reside in the towns (or even the nations) where their harmful policies damage local environments and indigenous populations. Under Adam Smith's capitalistic paradigm, we embraced the assumption that businesses would behave well and concern themselves with caring for the public commons and supporting the well being of the local population, because any damage a business caused would lead to direct harm for the owners' families.

Capitalism - which pools money to invest in those businesses that look potentially profitable or have existing profits - also punishes corporations for being honest about their mistakes and missteps, instead of rewarding them for coming clean about the potential harms their products or policies may be causing. This leads to extended cover-ups that damage the health and welfare of untold millions.

Last but not least, the endless growth model that demands continual profitability as a measure of success does not reward businesses for providing higher quality products for less money - OR for finding ways to reduce the financial burdens being placed on individuals. Businesses are instead rewarded for commoditizing and monetizing every conceivable human need and desire, then turning those needs into consistent cash flow streams for themselves rather than designing their products as one-time investments that will free individuals from ongoing expenses. This creates a continued (and ever-expanding) human dependency on money for survival, and since our primary way to attain money is to work for corporations, we're becoming ever more deeply enslaved to our own economic paradigm. Meanwhile corporations do better when they ruthlessly reduce their labor force and cut human wages to the bone. The result is increased human stress and the constant fear of lack and loss of livelihood. We've all become beholden to and MUST SERVE our corporations - no matter how poorly they opt to serve us - if we hope to survive, instead of having it the other way around.

The capacity to determine the future direction of humanity, to promote the shared values we espouse and to pursue our highest and greatest dreams as a species has shifted AWAY from we the people and our vision of what constitutes a beautiful, moral and worthwhile life; ONTO corporations, who make their decisions based upon what will maximize their short-term profitability regardless of how harmful those decisions may be to life.

This is ultimately an anti-life paradigm. We need to notice and accept the truth of that, unless we wish to collapse beneath the ongoing destruction and impoverishment of life in favor of money.

What needs to happen now is that the CONTEXT of our national diologue must expand WAY beyond simply discussing whether our governmental and economic policies are financially profitable. We need to - first and foremost - discuss whether what we are doing is harmful, and cease doing that. Second, we need to institute a global discussion around what work needs doing to benefit all of humanity and our living planet (instead of focusing on what make-work jobs we can create so people can get paid to survive) and DO that work. Last but not least, we must begin to envision a new future for ourselves. We must look to a world in which our corporations serve and honor the needs of living people, and in which their primary charter is to FREE humanity from the burden of the 40 hour work week and the steady onslaught of bills and stress and need. Freeing the individual from enslavement to a make-work job for the sake of wages and profits will allow us to instead maximize our capacity to learn, to grow in wisdom, to explore and unveil the secrets of our cosmos, to express our artistic creativity and to BECOME the best we can be - both as individuals and as a species.

Anything less than that is running in place, spinning the hamster wheel to try and survive. Why settle for that?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Collapsing...and What to Do About It

What's become clear after the recent election is that asking politicians to solve the current mess we're in is like asking a dog to attack the master that feeds it. The corporate money that flowed into campaigns to beat the Democrats (courtesy of the recent Supreme Court decision) because the Democrats' anti-corporate policies were upending the financial profitability of the economic system for the benefit of living people made this mid-term election the most expensive national campaign in modern history. More money was spent to ensure congressional gridlock than ever before. We must therefore ask ourselves, who does a gridlocked congress benefit, and why would they invest so much to ensure our congress was neutered?

The answer is NOT the American people, though some were deluded into believing that by supporting the corporate agenda their personal life situation would improve. While that may be true in the short run, the collapse of the larger civilization in the longer run will destroy any short-term advantage they might gain. The real answer is the global corporatist structure, the mega-corporations that no longer have any serious national loyalties and whose primary concern is making more and more money by consuming more and more global resources and exploiting more and more human workers - forevermore.

Global corporate managers don't have to live in the towns where they're closing down factories, causing pollution, destroying delicate ecosystems, pillaging limited resources, triggering competition for wages that reduces the local standard of living, eliminating human benefits, etc. They're part of a rarefied community known as the "uber-wealthy." Membership in that elite community buys them the freedom to isolate themselves from the public and ignore the massive amount of human misery they're creating in the name of corporate profits.

Unfortunately President Obama, in the wake of the recent Democratic drubbing, has NOT turned his aim toward this true cause of human suffering - the anti-life policies of our mega corporations - but has instead stated he needs to be more clear about his support for business and its cancerous global agenda. After tentatively biting the hand that feeds him, Obama's experienced the angry lashing that inevitably comes and now feels chastened enough to slink back into an uneasy truce with his master. His problem was that not enough pack members stood by him and rebelled with enough force to do more than irritate the master, while the more loyal dogs - eagerly anticipating their sweet rewards - surrounded the master and successfully defended him against further attack.

Still, what gives me hope is the realization that such a system cannot survive much longer, especially now that the only power group with the ability to take a principled stand against its oppression and destructiveness has been neutered. As global corporatism's anti-life policies expand unchecked it MUST collapse, because any organic system where the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts (which empowers it to contribute something valuable to EACH of its cooperative parts) cannot survive. Eventually enough parts will refuse to cooperate with a system that does not serve them but only abuses them. Disintegration thus becomes the logical outcome of excessive tyranny. Nature, it seems, has wisely built resistance to the tyranny of concentrated power into the very fabric of life to ensure life is not oppressed too long by those with delusions of grandiosity. Some however, doggedly ignore this truth at their own peril. History is replete with lessons about unchecked tyranny, and the unhappy results for those who would lord it over others with an iron fist.

In this case the tyrant that dominates modern society is not a petty political dictator; it's a belief system infused into a nonliving enterprise. While that may make it difficult to kill global corporatism, it certainly makes it easier to overthrow. All we need do is change our collective beliefs about the wisdom of valuing monetary profits over honoring and nurturing life itself, and we render the present for-profit system irrelevant. What makes shifting our belief system easier is the growing realization - one person at a time - that the for-profit paradigm is NOT making life better for us or for our loved ones, but is in fact making the entire world poorer, more fearful, less beautiful and far less regenerative than ever. At some point enough of us will have had enough and will let go of our beliefs to embrace the truth: we cannot survive by destroying our only host planet, or by crippling the creative capacity of most of our fellow humans so a few can live large.

What modern global corporatism seems to have lost touch with is the organic nature of humanity. It's reduced reality to a conceptual theory: If you can pay for it, you can have it - no matter how outrageous, wasteful, immoral or destructive "it" may be. If you can't pay for it, you must suffer or die - no matter how unfair or heinous that may be. By starving and enslaving the bulk of the human social body and degrading our shared planetary environment in order to reap more financial benefits for themselves, the corporate plutocracy is systematically destroying the very social fabric that supports and sustains it.

This ego-based approach won't survive because it violates the deep inter-connectivity and feedback loop of nature. In nature, all unique life forms are gifted the freedom to attain maturity as best as they are able, given the basic resources in their locale. They're then invited to gift the fruits of their adult abundance freely into the larger ecosystem. In turn, they draw from the ecosystem whatever they may need to survive and thrive - but only that; no more. We humans though, in the name of capitalism, are denying far too many of our young people the ability to discover and blossom into their full creative capacities. We next cripple them with social debts before they've begun to produce. We then force them into mechanized production slots that don't tap their highest and greatest talents and creative abilities, but provide us with what we "believe" we need instead. And we wonder why we're experiencing scarcity!

Many of us also take much more from the planetary ecosystem than we truly need to thrive. We hoard the excess for future generations - namely our immediate blood relatives - at the expense of too many others. Our fears for the survival of our own families has caused us to lose sight of our innately tribal nature, as well as the fact that our personal blood lines cannot survive unless other blood lines also manage to thrive. (Incest, as the blue bloods of medieval Europe belatedly discovered, does not make for a hearty human species.)

The recent Fed action (announced yesterday) to infuse nearly a trillion dollars of new debt into the American economic system is likely to crash the dollar globally, and since the dollar is already worthless (which is publicly unacknowledged but privately understood by the global financial community) all those who BELIEVE they've accumulated great financial wealth will suffer much more than those who have already given up their lust for money and instead learned to recognize and appreciate genuine assets. Genuine assets include food and the ability to grow it; clean water; personal skills, talents and creative abilities; companionship; love; trust; shelter; passion and wisdom - to name but a few. Money, we must come to realize, is only a "greater fool" game. The fact is, it's only as valuable as our capacity to convince someone else (the greater fool) to accept it in exchange for something we can actually use. Cut out the middleman that is money - which is hindering our freedom to exchange our gifts and talents - and we level the playing field immediately.

If collapse is indeed imminent, how are we navigate what seems to be a very chaotic time in human history? For starters, I recommend everyone get intimate with their genuine internal and external resources. Reconnect with nature and how it functions in your area. Figure out how to care for yourself and your family without the need for money to acquire necessities. Discover your personal skills and passions, and develop them. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and reconnect with people on your local community level. Get strong within your spirit and know that all is collapsing because the old must always disintegrate to make way for what is evolving. Nature is a relentless recycler, and she needs the ashes of the old to give birth to the rising phoenix. Above all, revel in the mystery and wonder of every day. Teach yourself to prize LIFE, to embrace her natural rhythms, to cherish what really matters.

And don't forget to be grateful. To live in "interesting" times means it's on us to shift our reality to a new way of being in relationship to each other and our planet. That you're here now means you're part of the larger plan. Do your part as best you can, and life will take care of itself. You can trust in that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Humanity Is Perfect Just As It Is.

We are not broken; we do not require redemption or salvation from ourselves. We are wondrous, brilliant, capable, insightful, deeply feeling and deeply appreciative beings. We are an exquisitely unfolding evolutionary movement in the grand and beautiful scheme of cosmic life, waking up to and discovering ourselves mid-purpose. As perfectly evolving aspects of the Divine Creative Process, we have been gifted the virtually unlimited capacity to be more, do more and know more than what we now are. We are not wrong so much as like ignorant children, just now learning how to behave in the larger classroom of life.

Because we are capable of it all - from acts of profound evil to unconditional love for all that is - nothing is inherently our "human nature." We are absolutely free to choose which aspects of the full gamut of living possibilities we want to manifest, and to become that. We have been fully empowered to become our highest vision of our greatest selves in service to all that is. The only things preventing us from achieving that high goal are the limiting and negative stories we tell about ourselves.

What is evolving within us now is not our physiology, but our higher consciousness. The functionality of our minds is expanding exponentially at this time, enabling us to realize just how much we are capable of imagining and creating. The cosmos, by unstintingly revealing to us the consequences of our past actions and by not buffering us from the negative results, is sending us clear messages that invite us to consciously CHOOSE how we wish to be. It has gifted us road maps to success in the form of our emotions and innermost feelings, which joyfully inform us when we are in alignment with the higher cosmic purpose, and painfully prod us whenever we wander off course.

It has birthed us into a wondrous field of abundance - a garden of beauty that feeds and supports us like babies, while we slowly mature into the fullness of our capacities. It has showered us with amazing diversity and a full spectrum of talents, skills and abilities we can use to great advantage once we stop viewing those who are different as threatening and learn to collaborate with them instead. The cosmos has laid for us the widest, brightest footpath to success that it knows how to create, and every morning it shines a new light on that path.

There is no right or wrong answer for what we become. No crime or eternal punishment for missing the mark in our youth and from our confusion. We ARE the universe, in person. We are here to test, explore and play with our own capacities. Whatever happens to our species, whether we continue to advance or eventually are replaced by some other higher life form, we all remain part of the ongoing cosmic process, ever learning, ever growing, ever evolving. We ARE the stuff out of which tomorrow will spring.

No mistakes then; only lessons well learned and new opportunities for growth and advancement in wisdom. We cannot fail; we can only leave some work undone, awaiting the energetic commitment of future generations of cosmic life.

Since we ARE those future generations, here and now - why wait? Why not begin now, and see how far we can get?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Honoring Our Messengers

Recently on my Facebook page I've been involved in some highly intelligent and stimulating discussions around whether it's more important to understand how a thing works or to learn by experience how to use a thing.

I've been noticing that this seems to be the same question behind the underlying tension that exists between science and religion. Scientists are most interested in explaining exactly HOW a thing like human consciousness works. They want to explore the mechanics of the body, the brain, evolution, mathematics, quantum physics - all the fascinating components and moving parts - that make up the larger mystery we call life. Meanwhile spiritualists - particularly those who have been exploring the depths and capacities of human consciousnesses for many, many years - believe they already know the meaning of life. They've figured out how to use their minds by asking why life exists, and then following that question to a destination that revealed to them a truth. They're not really interested (or only mildly interested) in grasping the mechanics and learning how they work. Their passion is to support others in taking the journey into inner revelation, so they too can know WHY we've got these tools we've been gifted.

What seems to be happening then, is that scientifically oriented individuals find themselves defending their line of inquiry against what seems on occasion to be an almost condescending attitude from those who already consider themselves experts on the meaning and purpose of life. Likewise, spiritualists are often condescended to by modern scientists, who can't imagine that someone who doesn't understand the mechanical workings of a tool could really understand how best to use it.

That's because explaining where a thing came from and how it works isn't the same as developing an expertise around knowing when to use it and why it exists at all. Scientists - who ironically are using the subjective nature of their own consciousnesses to the best of their abilities when they make their inquiries into life's objective form and function - don't attempt to explain why consciousness exists so much as to explain precisely how the vehicle that has allowed for its existence creates opportunities for it to self-express. Spiritualists, who ironically are activating the highly mechanical objective structures and technical operations that the scientists are so busily defining, don't attempt to explain how the mechanics of consciousness works so much as why it's important to use it, and for what purpose.

We all know that to be able to put together and take apart a television set tells us nothing about the ins and outs of network broadcasting. Even so, it helps to understand as much as possible about how a TV set actually works before we start fiddling with the buttons on the machine. For help with that we don't turn to the experts who create our TV programming. They may hold wonderfully deep wisdom around the broadcasting feed that flows into our sets, but if our TV breaks they can't tell us how to repair it. Likewise, TV repair people may be very good at fixing a broken set, but they have no idea how broadcasting works or which channels we can access from our location.

I therefore believe that if we are to honor the form (not to mention the absolute brilliance!) of this living universe that has created, contains and activates us all, we need to immerse ourselves in both being life and in applying ourselves to understanding more completely who/what we are and why we're here.

If we stubbornly claim we don't need to understand all the buttons and functions on a home power tool in order to skillfully use it, we're bound to miss realizing some of its potential. At the very least it may take us an entire lifetime to become an expert with a particular tool and discover all its hidden capacities. Likewise, if we don't turn on a power tool and diligently practice using it in a safe and controlled environment, the odds increase that the more we assume we know about it because we've studied a manual, the more arrogant we'll be about using it in a way that damages our surroundings or causes injury to others - or to ourselves.

To refuse to more fully explore the tool of human consciousness because our ancestors passed down to us an ancient manual written for a similar tool they used a couple of thousand years ago leaves us reliant on faith that we truly know what we're doing. That's a self-limiting approach, because the human mind - like all other complex technological systems that have developed over time - has made enormous strides in capacity and function. If we fearfully cling to the comfort zone of what we've been told to believe about older, outmoded versions of ourselves, we risk missing out on the greatest advances in human evolution. Science, by shining a light on the mind's physical evolution and mechanical complexity, is helping us recognize that human consciousness - like a modern electric chainsaw - has vastly improved from the time of our great, great, great grandfather's flint axe. Still, as spiritualists so often remind us, oohing and aahing over the "coolness" of new technology, or studying a manual so we gain a better understanding of the chainsaw's many capacities is NOT the same thing as hitting the "on" switch and figuring out how best to cut down a tree.

How we learn is a very interesting topic in itself. For those who are mechanically inclined by nature to work with their hands, picking up a tool and playing with it seems the most efficient way to learn how to use it. They may glance at the manual now and again if a question or two arises; but they learn by subjecting themselves to the physical experience of practice, not by reading or listening to lectures about the process. This path to higher learning is the one taken by all the great sages who have ever lived in our world - those who have fearlessly wielded the tool of Mind to explore the innermost reaches of themselves. These are the early Jewish prophets who - despite their fears - asked searing questions of God; and who received answers that spoke to humanity at its level of understanding at that time. They then shared those answers with the many millions who didn't yet know they had the power to create their own subjective experience of God. This describes Jesus, who - because he sensed the ancient manuals referred to an outmoded version of who and what he believed he had the capacity to become - stepped beyond those texts and plunged into the abyss of the unknown, on a wondrous journey of self-discovery. This also describes the radical subjectivity of Muhammad, the Shamans, the Pagan High Priestesses, Buddha, Krishna, the Vedics, the Sufi mystics.

For others of us, following objective lines of rational inquiry is the way we prefer to learn. Many of us thrive by applying our external senses to what we observe and by determining how a given system functions. These are the great scholars of the world, the scientists and mathematicians who work tirelessly to bring greater clarity to the history, structural evolution and present day workings and functions of this amazing tool of life we've all been gifted. They dissect, explore and reveal the inner workings of the atom and the farthest reaches of accessible space, using tools they've created to expand the limitations of our bodily senses. This describes Socrates, Pythagoras, Euclid, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein, along with countless others who have made their contribution to our storehouse of knowledge.

What I believe we're just now collectively coming to realize is that the subjective and the objective are not separate realities at all, nor are they innately hostile modes of realization. They are, in fact, highly complementary ways for us to get at our deepest truths. Our eternally ongoing subjective experience, synthesized with our infinitely expanding objective knowledge, advances the total wisdom of the whole being.

Why, you may be wondering, am I so excited by this line of inquiry? Perhaps it's because I was VERY slow to set out on my own journey of self-discovery. Perhaps I'm not quite as intelligent as some or perhaps I'm a bit more fearful; almost certainly I'd been religiously indoctrinated into believing that I risked entering hell if I left behind the comfort zone of faith into which I'd been birthed. For me to make the journey then, to actually hit the "on" button and begin my self-exploration, I needed to both study the manuals and test the methods that had been espoused by the first Jews and early Christians. I also studied the teachings and explored the practices of Wicca, Shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, theoretical physics, biology, evolutionary theory, quantum physics, mathematics, philosophy and so forth. Continually I merged all that information with my personal experiences and explorations, so that along the way I could feel confident I was moving in the right direction. For many years I stumbled about, traversing first this side then that side of the mountain of self-realization, wandering from ancient path to modern path and back across again, until one day (today perhaps!) I suddenly realized I'd created my very OWN path - the perfect trail that has led me to be the beautiful, grateful and loving being I am at this very moment.

Along the way, whenever I felt lost or afraid or beset upon by the demons of my own imaginings, I regularly consulted whichever manuals or sages spoke loudest to me at that particular stage of my inner journey. Eventually I discovered that virtually all the manuals and all the sages - both the ancients and the modern day versions - pointed to the same thing, only from different social, cultural, historical, experiential and rational perspectives. What I especially love about my own journey is that because I have flailed about in ways that have caused me to literally stumble on all of these paths in my struggles up the mountain, I can honor them all for having been there to provide me with a much-needed boost of courage and support whenever I felt too dispirited to continue.

I therefore salute ALL the manual designers and sages from every era and walk of life. It seems to me that - rather than continue to argue over who's produced the most up to date manual or which sage got it "more right" than all the others - we ought not to throw away any of the fruits of all our human efforts. We never know when some poor, lost soul may find something we personally don't feel is important to be exactly what he or she needs to get back on course. May we instead begin to more fully honor our own evolutionary progress by thoughtfully updating our ancient manuals with grace, instead of worshiping them or the tools they describe as the apex of human advancement. May we continue to broaden our trails, to groom and light the many paths that lead the way to human self-realization. May we also begin to more compassionately - instead of through judgment, intimidation or impatience - kindly and lovingly take the hands of those who feel ready to make the journey alongside us. May we also develop the wisdom to redirect those who don't feel called to our path toward other paths that may speak more clearly to their own way of learning.

In this fashion it will continue to get easier for each of us to continue our quest to understand and explore the infinite nature of the eternal "I AM," and to bring back our personal wisdom in greater service to the highest good.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Design a Regenerative Social System

Frankly, despite all the chatter and fears today about the "New World Order" and its concurrent conspiracy theories, I don't happen to believe that the systematic elimination of most of the human race is the conscious mission of our capitalistic/governing system or any of the people in it. While some people seem to believe that a massive human extinction event may be necessary to achieve a new level of social sustainability, I don't believe they actively strive to create that disastrous outcome.

I do believe what we've experienced has been a slow evolution of the entire human species, until we've reached a point where the system we designed initially to serve the needs of a burgeoning, evolving and mentally developing population has become one that we've outgrown. Clearly our "growth at any cost" model no longer serves the needs of a species that has already reached the upper limits of planetary expansion. Like a baby in the womb at the very end of its gestation, we're now confronting the twin challenges caused by the rising need for consumption and the upper limits of vital supportive structures. Even so, our fundamental belief in and emotional attachment to the only system we know remains comfortably ensconced in our collective psyche. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, we humans sit stubbornly in our too-warm water, even as the temperature climbs and our skin begins to burn.

My aim here isn't to tear down our social system. It's to turn down the heat by reframing things so our motivation mirrors our highest priority: to support and honor ALL life forms on our home planet. In a very real sense it's high time we give birth to ourselves as a species, and give our mother planet a much needed break.

The first step will be for us to reach a shared agreement that this IS our highest priority. At the moment we seem to be arguing over whether our highest priority is to preserve and protect our personal selves and our own immediate needs, OR to steward and honor the larger collective so it can meet the needs of its many individuals. What's important to notice is that this sets up either/or choice that triggers a win/lose game. And since we already know that both our individual well being and our community's health are required for our survival, for us to continue to play that game can only lead to destruction no matter who wins. Destroy the mother and we all know that the infant cannot survive, but the mother's desire to nurture her child must not be underestimated here.

To therefore reframe our discussions around the concept of honoring ALL life forms - BOTH in their unique individual capacities and talents AND as larger organic collectives - changes the nature of the game we're playing to a win/win paradigm. Instead of choosing up sides and pitting both crucial elements for our survival against each other in a battle to all our deaths, we honor the truth that supporting the one is how we support the other.

Our next step is to determine how to balance the needs of all individuals with the needs of the many planetary communities we've created. My suggestion is that we do all we can to design and embody a new system that produces new goods and offers new services only in humane, regenerative and thoughtful ways with our primary motivation being what serves and supports all life. Such a society would gift whatever it produces to all its members in such abundance they would be freed from the demands of "make work" and could realize their highest vision of themselves. Fully self-actualized individuals, having been freed from the necessity of earning their daily bread and expending energy in the stressful quest for survival, would then be empowered to gift of their skills and creative abundance into the system that allowed them to flourish and honored their dream of becoming the best they can be. Here we must note that when we love and feel gratitude for our system - be it our family, our community, our nation or our entire universe - to serve it becomes an honor instead of something we resent and try to avoid.

We can begin this social redesign process by forgiving all debts and ending the practice of charging each other money in exchange for the skill sets, talents and energy we have to offer. Just as we don't charge our family members for the work we do in the home, there's no need for us to charge for the labor we do for our greater home, this planet. We'll also need to take inventory of what we've created so far, and notice where the most pressing needs are arising. We can then gather the energy we've free up from the "make work" we're creating to earn our paychecks, and apply it to meeting everyone's basic needs as quickly as possible. That in turn will empower many more of us to contribute even more talent and energy to meeting our future desires. That extra energy will naturally focus itself on designing and producing what needs to be created based on what we collectively aspire to produce. Here it's important to remind ourselves that nature has proven to us over and over again that abundance produces in ever more abundance, while impoverishment only creates more suffering and lack. This means we can't look at this process through our existing lens of lack, which generates fear; but must instead peer through the expanded lens of our desire for greater abundance, which generates hope.

Next we can begin to prioritize our dreams as a species. What DO we want to accomplish for ourselves, and what legacy do we wish to leave for future generations? Do we want to clean up the planetary messes we've made so far? Do we wish to more rapidly advance our technological capacities and eliminate the laborious jobs that nobody likes to do? Do we concentrate on improving infrastructure, converting our systems to renewable energy and designing lower impact dwellings using sustainable energy sources? Do we advance our knowledge of science and expand the arts? Do we focus on educating our children in ways that set free their highest capacities? Do we lovingly hospice our elders in gratitude for all they've done? Do we set our sights on exploring the oceans and thrusting ourselves into the wilds of space?

My suspicion is that if we get it right we can do ALL these things, and more. What seems to be required of us here is a shift in human awareness. We each need to begin to trust what we already know - that collaborating with each other makes more sense and benefits us all far more than does competing, fighting and destroying one another. We need to look inside ourselves and honor the fact that we are personally hardwired at birth to want to be more, do more, know more and love more, and that the only reason we've fallen short is that we haven't yet built a society that nourishes our desires to full fruition. We must begin to accept the fact that we don't need to prod each other any more than we ourselves wish to be prodded into working though forced labor contracts and the imposition of bills and emotional stressors. We must accept the truth that just as we ourselves function much better when we come from a place of love and feel joy for our work, so do others. We also need to embrace the fact that just as we don't necessarily what everyone else has or wish to do all the same things as everyone else, not everybody is going to want what we have or choose to do what we do. Because we're all so amazingly, uniquely different in our desires there will always be enough to go around.

It helps to note that it feels much better to live and behave this way toward our fellow man, so that's a gentle hint from the Cosmic Mind that holds and supports us all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Getting to Zero

My dear friend Makasha is one of the permanent residents at Hummingbird Ranch, the intentional community where I'm spending the week in spiritual retreat. This morning, as I was walking through the community's five hundred acres of pristine mountain wilderness, feeling the first rays of the morning sun warm my face and tapping into the sounds of the nearby bubbling stream, I contemplated the meaning behind one of Makasha's favorite phrases, "getting to zero."

It occurred to me that whenever we're headed in the wrong direction, the first thing we need to do is cease going forward before we can even begin to consider turning around. That's what Makasha means when he speaks of the importance of getting to zero. When we grant ourselves the time to be still we find ourselves in position to select a brand new action from a whole range of possibilities; possibilities that aren't open to us when we're focused too intently on forging ahead.

It also occurred to me that perhaps what modern society needs most at this point in time is to rest for even a short while at its own zero point. For some time now we've been rushing forward in a highly focused manner: exploring, expanding, designing, competing and creating new products and processes. While our inclination may be to continue to forge ahead because stopping might feel a lot like admitting defeat, what we seem to be missing out on is a crucial opportunity to evaluate what we're doing, how we're doing it, and - most importantly - why.

What we're invested in these days isn't so much the stock market, or the housing market or even the consumer marketplace. What we're invested in is maintaining the structure and integrity of our basic social system - whatever that structure looks like and no matter which culture we're in. Every adult alive today has already invested a tremendous amount of personal energy learning about, adopting and adhering to our many shared social agreements. To therefore drop the agreements that no longer serve us can feel threatening to our sense of who we are. Those who have succeeded within the system feel they've earned the right to profit from their efforts. They also tend to blame those for whom the system isn't working for their inability to succeed. Likewise, those for whom the system isn't working still hope to find some way to make it work, and blame those for whom it is working for creating problems that make it hard for them to succeed.

Order - even the kind that is destructive and causes suffering to the human spirit - feels comfortable, because it's known. To accept responsibility for the chaos that may ensue, knowing full well the risks we may be taking by stepping into the abyss of the unknown can be terrifying.

But is it any more terrifying than plunging heedlessly forward when we haven't stopped to consider whether we're headed for nirvana or disaster? If the system we're invested in, the beliefs we've been trained to accept without question and the rules we've been taught to obey cause harm to life, isn't the more reasonable choice to practice moral disobedience? For instance, since we have literally millions of foreclosed homes and empty hotels in this nation, why are we still embracing the belief that just because someone can't afford to pay for shelter they don't deserve a safe place to sleep at night? Why, when thirty percent of the world is either overweight or grossly obese, are we still clinging to the belief that because people can't pay for food they have to to starve? Why, when our oceans and lakes and streams and rivers are choking from pollution and overfishing, are we still shrugging our shoulders and accepting that it's just the way it is, the unavoidable result of for-profit enterprises? Why are we content to watch the destruction of delicate ecosystems, species being driven to extinction, our air fouled, our topsoil eroded and our resources consumed to the point of vanishing, and call that "business as usual?"

Insanity has often been defined as doing more of the same thing and expecting different results. The only way out of insanity then, is to first STOP doing more of the same thing. Getting to zero therefore becomes the first sane step toward reversing any state of affairs when that state of affairs is detrimental to our health, our emotions and our spiritual well-being.

The nice thing about getting to zero is that it doesn't require immediate (fearful or reactive) decision making around what we need to do next. By definition, zero is the still point, the silence, the state of inaction out of which intelligent choices and creative new responses are free to begin to emerge. That very stillness allows for the rising of an intelligence far greater than what is available for us to draw upon when our panicked mind has begun to doubt its own capacities or our body - frightened for its very survival - reacts out of instinct. When accessing that deeper dimension some people call it the heart centered choice, others call it tapping into intuition; but whatever we call it we all know that when we shut down our internal chatter, take a few deep breaths and stop to notice - genuinely notice - what's going on all around us our receptive apertures open wide enough to gather the necessary input to enable us to make much wiser and emotionally satisfying choices.

Some people have died of hypothermia in the wilderness while carrying a pack of matches in their pockets. Others have gotten lost and pushed themselves deeper into the wild instead of waiting for help to arrive. What all such people had in common was a fatal inability to "get to zero." For whatever reason they stubbornly clung to beliefs that didn't serve them, and acted them out. We can learn much from these cautionary tales, or we can collectively act them out on a larger scale. My suggestion is that we take a lesson from my very wise friend Makasha, and grant ourselves the gift of time to rethink what we're doing and why.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Universe-Project: From Polarity to Harmony: The Win/Win Way Through

Universe-Project: From Polarity to Harmony: The Win/Win Way Through: "I'm noticing how polarized humanity seems these days, across virtually all aspects of human life. Meanwhile, our challenges grow more pressi..."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

From Polarity to Harmony: The Win/Win Way Through

I'm noticing how polarized humanity seems these days, across virtually all aspects of human life. Meanwhile, our challenges grow more pressing every day. That's generating more fear, along with a greater willingness to implement new ideas. While it doesn't seem we have a shortage of new ideas, we do seem to be lacking any that offer a new solution. Instead, we're proposing more radicalized versions of the same old, tired solutions we've already tried and that haven't worked before.

An either/or approach to anything sets up a win/lose game. And when faced with a win/lose challenge, humanity's position (because we can be VERY stubborn creatures where our competing values and beliefs are concerned!) is to dig in our heels and fight to win the battle for our side, no matter the cost. While there are shades of gray in this present battle and nuances involved in every issue, when we distill down the fight to its fundamental polarity, the essence of it is an all out, no holds barred ideological war between the "no self other than god" camp and the "self is all there is" camp - which, ironically, will collectively leave us with a sense of loss no matter which side wins.

The question we must ask ourselves before this battle progresses much further is this: might we be fighting so strenuously because there are relative aspects of truth to BOTH these sides? What if the deeper truth is we are a both/and species, living in a both/and world? Might there truly BE a unified field that is indeed greater than us all (a higher cosmic intelligence, if you will) AND an existential material reality that is urging us, as uniquely individuated expressions, to be more, do more and know more as we intelligently evolve?

Having "tried on" that theory to see how it fits, I've been delighted to find that a great deal of peace, joy and opportunity for higher self-expression and self-actualization has arisen as I've deepened into the experience of myself as both/and being. As an individuated being, I have increasingly come to know myself as a highly creative, loving and talented person. That awareness feels both marvelous and joyful - when I direct my creative energy in service to other people, and encourage them to express their own genius in service to others as well. It feels awful - because it creates in me a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety - if I use my gifts to enrich myself at the expense of others. Knowing myself to be an inextricable part of a unified field has helped me understand why life works that way.

What I've come to believe we're being called to do as a species, as well as to personally experience and integrate at this stage of our evolution, is to SYNTHESIZE two apparent polarities: the cosmos as "all thing" and the cosmos as "no thing." All-thing (a material expression) and No-thing (a non-material field of infinite potential) are not competing truths or realities. Together they form a unified system; one that creatively self-expresses as an ever-changing collection of unique forms. It seems likely that what we are in fact part of is an infinite field of ideas, feelings and perspectives, eternally expressing and perfecting itself through its creative use of form and self-perception. That field both objectively experiences and subjectively knows itself as something greater than the simple sum of its parts across space and time.

That lives; therefore we live.

Interestingly enough, any simple study of biology teaches us that for any organism to thrive, no matter its size or complexity, the whole must be greater than the sum of its many parts. Otherwise there would be no reason for those previously independent units, which were already wholes unto themselves, to form a larger unit and dedicate part of their energy to the maintenance and support of that larger structure. Each one of us is an amazing example of how such smaller unique wholes (in the form of the 100,000,000,000 cells in your own body) come together to create a living human being, which - because we have been gifted the power of self-awareness - we KNOW without any doubt is greater than the simple sum of its many cellular parts.

If we apply this objectively experienced and subjectively known truth to the universe that created and contains us all, it becomes apparent that everything is based on that one fundamental principal. Everywhere we turn, we find smaller wholes that have come together to create something finer than a simple addition of parts. If that's true for a water molecule, a rock, an orchid, a beaver, a person and a planet, why wouldn't it also be true for the cosmos that in turn contains all these things, including us?

What's amazing is that this rational (mind-based explanation) yet gnostic (able to be experienced) synthesis of the all-thing and the no-thing, when embraced as the truth about ourselves and applied to all else, generates enough energy to resolve all our current conflicts by moving us not to one side or the other of the self versus no-self battlefield, but by transporting us beyond that battlefield to a brand new playground ripe with possibilities.

Once we accept there is truth on both sides of the debate, and that neither was ever entirely right or wrong, we understand the only way for this war to end well for any of us is for us all to fuse the two half-truths into a much grander understanding of life, out of which solutions to our challenges will naturally emerge.

For example, the bitter political debate we're engaged in exposes the fundamental conflict between a form of collective (no-self) totalitarianism - appearing in its benevolent form as a disempowering nanny socialist state, and in its malevolent form as a murderously fear-based fascist state; and a form of supreme individual (all-self) chaos - appearing in its benevolent state as an inequitable and socially irresponsible libertarianism, and in its malevolent state as destructive and deadly anarchy. While each side has been promoting the most benevolent form of its preferred system for quite some time, what we're most likely to end up with, presuming this war continues unabated, is the most malevolent form of one or the other. That's because all attempts at compromise will be overrun by increasing violence and fear, creating an environment that sets people up to embrace the extremes for the sake of simple survival.

Any of the approaches outlined above generate a few positives and a whole host of problems for humanity down the line, because they are all half-systems. Since problems expand over time unless they're corrected, embracing a half-system will inevitably trigger a need for us to either legislate away personal freedoms over time through some form of externally imposed governance (a shift toward totalitarianism) or to forcibly overturn the collective half by force to provide more personal freedom (a shift toward chaos.)

The fact is, we've already seen all four of these models in action, yet none has managed to succeed well enough to convince its own citizens it's the ultimate social solution. If none can convince a majority of their own citizens they work, they surely won't be successful in convincing others to adopt their ideology over the long haul. Additionally, what we're just now learning is that tweaking a model that has already failed at its core only causes that model to fail in a different fashion, but in a more spectacular way because the tweaking keeps it afloat for a longer time.

We can synthesize our political polarities by acknowledging that an individual can't thrive without belonging to a healthy collective that offers ALL its members - no matter the circumstances of their birth or their physical gifts, challenges or intellect - a wide open pathway to self-fulfillment and joy. Nor can we create a healthy collective unless a majority of its members are healthy, self-actualized and willing to contribute some reasonable amount of time and energy to the support and ongoing nourishment of the collective.

Combining the needs of the individual with the needs of the collective is what's required to develop a whole-system model. While modern culture has, over time, left behind the old economic models in which a person was either born into wealth or poverty and basically stayed there forever (peerage and caste systems) the new paths to success we've created have been mainly offered to the children of the wealthy, members of the social majority and the most enterprising and talented spirits born among us. The paths to success narrow considerably for poor and middle class children, the culturally or racially disenfranchised and those born with mental, emotional or physical challenges. They disappear almost entirely for those who have the great misfortune to be born under violent totalitarian regimes or in desperately poor nations that lack infrastructure.

Even when these pathways DO lead a person to success - as they often do for the children of the wealthy and the middle class - they typically end before most children self-actualize. Our capitalistic system is designed to train us how to become adequate enough to enter the economic workplace and do okay in life. It doesn't encourage each of us to discover his or her own inner genius and nurture that to fruition, because our present half-system, which promotes the individual and neglects the larger collective has already grown so impoverished it needs the merely adequate energy of most of the able-bodied just to survive. To convince young people to cease aiming for self-actualization, we reward their bare bones development by training them to leverage adequacy to serve themselves and their family first, their close friends and the community second, and the larger society last - if they serve it at all. What we've failed to do is set any expectation that people have an ethical responsibility to gift of themselves back to the society that enabled them to achieve some measure of success. Perhaps that's because when we stunt a tree by starving it or forcing it to mature before its time, the limited fruit it produces won't be nearly enough to feed the animal kingdom.

That capitalistic nations don't ethically guide citizens toward serving the larger collective, combined with the way they reward selfishness, duplicity and greed, leads to a concentration of wealth in the hands of those few who manage to fully leverage their personal talents. The wealthy then hoard their money to protect themselves and to ensure a comfortable future for their offspring. Hoarding creates scarcity, which chokes off the pathways to success for the multitudes. That reduces the odds that our society as a whole will thrive. When only a few in a living system are happy while the majority are miserable, the system - as we know from biology - must either transform or collapse.

The global economic suffering we're observing today is symptomatic of the fact that a majority of people feel disenfranchised by their present system, which explains why they don't like to vote and don't want to pay taxes. In the West, that's the result of systems that originally placed too much emphasis on individuation and material success, and not enough on creating a healthy, sustainable society out of which enlightened, self-actualized people can consistently emerge.

The opposite approach, a system that inhibits personal self-actualization for the sake of the collective leads to totalitarianism applied through militarily enforced socialism, fascism and oppressive theocracies. We've witnessed how those forms of governance decimate free thought, hinder the exchange of knowledge and destroy artistic creativity. Enslaved people can't be stripped of their ability to think or imagine because that's an inherent aspect of human nature. Instead they must be made to fear using their innate abilities. That's because any capacity to imagine radical new ways of being and doing makes people dangerous to a state that depends on conformity for its survival. When imagination and freedom are suppressed too long however, the society loses its capacity to innovate, which means it can't address new challenges. The collapse of the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes testifies to the cancerous nature of a system that subverts individuation.

When we grasp that to date all our competing systems have been only half a design, it's becomes apparent that this endless war between the supporters of self-annihilation and the proponents of unfettered self-interest can't solve humanity's problems, no matter who wins. What's called for is a collective awakening to the realization that we are a both/and species, living in a both/and world. We are, by nature, imaginative, creative and unique life expressions, operating within a grander unified field; one whose abundance we are entitled to freely and fully draw upon in order to awaken our individual genius. Because we are entitled to draw upon its abundance, we are also beholden to gratefully pledge to it the excess fruits of our genius if we hope to thrive in a place of peace and prosperity.

That we've never before implemented a whole systems approach which supports the freedom of the individual while at the same time fostering our individual commitment to serve the unified field - and thus serve ourselves - is GOOD news! It points us in a radical new direction and offers a vision of what we might become if a majority (or even a large minority) of us discover the joy of becoming fully ourselves and then direct all our unleashed genius toward making life better for everyone and everything else around us - because that includes and benefits us over time.

The spiritual underpinning for all of this, the groundswell pulse of energy that is urging us to transform our failing economies, our governments, our educational systems, our judicial systems, our religious institutions and the way we interface with our planet and all other life forms, is flowing into humanity now in the form of a cosmic invitation to evolve. We're each being pressed by life itself to discover, hone and express ourselves as a beautifully unique note; then to express that note in human harmony. Achieve that, and what will be asked of us next is to play humanity's harmonic in concert with the rest of the living orchestra, in a way that renders the whole cosmic symphony grander and more beautiful than it was when we were playing out of tune in search of ourselves.

I, for one, can hardly wait to hear the melody.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Embracing The Heart/Mind/Body Connection

Duality seems to be the greatest challenge humanity is facing at this stage of our evolution. Whatever side of whichever fence we presently find ourselves on, what we can all agree upon is that we're collectively suffering from paralysis caused by our conflicting approaches to governmental power; our ongoing social clashes between men and women; our disagreements over what's profitable for individuals versus what's beneficial for life; our raging conflicts between what our minds want to explore versus what's healthy for our planet to experience; our wars over which religion is supporting the "truest" God...and so on down the line of our disagreements.

What is it about duality, we must therefore ask ourselves, that causes us to experience so much social dissonance? Certainly if everyone in the world felt, thought and acted exactly the same as everyone else we'd have far fewer battles and problems to resolve. Yet we don't all view life from a singular perspective, nor do we wish to, although we've all sprung from a singular source. So why are we experiencing these polarizing struggles, why all the pain and suffering we're going through as a species?

Duality, we're learning, can be destructive. At one time or another we've all joined or identified with a particular group and embraced its ideology, which in turn may have led us to fear the members of an opposing group. If we're Christians, we identify with the teachings and stories of Jesus Christ, which causes us to grow suspicious of those who don't embrace Jesus as the son of God. If we're Muslim, we identify with the teachings and writings of the Prophet Muhammed, which causes us to grow suspicious of those who don't embrace Muhammed's teachings. Two different ideologies, two belief systems, two seemingly intractable views on life and how it should be led by human beings. Is there any way through this tangled web that can leave both sides satisfied, both intact, both free to self-express without fear of oppression?

Whenever we're dealing with two opposing sides, the ability to solve a problem depends on both sides agreeing to a single shared solution. When those two sides are naturally divided both by philosophy and by approach, a disagreement more often than not leads to a no/no or a yes/no failure to agree than it does to a yes/yes agreement on a mutually satisfying solution. Consider how the Republicans and Democrats are approaching our political and economic challenges these days, and you'll recognize the controlling power of "no." The ability of the naysayers to stall any attempt - even by those in the majority - to solve a problem means that at least two-thirds of the time we can expect to fail to resolve our conflicts. The likelihood of any conflict that stems from human behavior resolving itself is quite small, while the likelihood it will worsen if we do nothing is substantial. Entrenched duality systems therefore create recipes for social disaster, as fewer and fewer human conflicts get resolved and more and more conflicts worsen in severity.

We're only just now experiencing the consequences of many years of duality thoughts and behaviors. The planet itself is letting us know that duality is not the right format for us to follow, because our problems are worsening even as our interpersonal conflicts grow more acute. So if duality isn't the answer we'd hoped for, what is?

All I have to go by, when proposing a social solution to this challenge, is my own internal experience of duality and how I resolved it. For years I suffered from painful experiences of dissonance between the inner workings of my own mind and the emotional responses of my physical body. At times it felt like a war was raging inside me. My body, speaking the primary language it knows, tended to constrict around my unconventional thoughts, sending signals of danger, fear and anxiety to my brain. Meanwhile my mind, speaking the primary language it knows, angrily disparaged my body's painful intrusions into the passionate explorations of what it considered to be important personal questions. Only recently have I discovered a way to move beyond that mutual hostility, to empower my mind to feel free to explore appropriate questions while encouraging my body to relax and trust that my mind won't push it in a dangerous direction that will threaten its future existence.

The solution, I've discovered, is not to forcefully try to unify my mind and body - either by getting angry with my mind for exploring perturbing thoughts, or by growing frustrated with my body for feeling the legitimate emotions that arise. Both of those methods have proven counterproductive. If I chastise myself for having negative thoughts, my internal lecturing only increases the number of negative, judgmental thoughts I begin to think. If I grow angry or fearful because my body is expressing fear and anxiety, that only increases the level of fear and anxiety I experience. Clearly then, increasing the power of something doesn't make it go away!

The process that lately seems to be working is to invite a third party - my heart's loving energy - into each dissonant conversation that takes place between my body and my mind. When I invite my heart into the mix and create a "trialogue," what I discover is the gridlock caused by polarity collapses. My heart, by virtue of its intrinsically loving nature (which is its primary language) holds the power to bring a healing, trusting energy to the battlefield where previously my body and mind were engaged in their war of wills. On the field of love, true synergy becomes possible. My heart sends waves of love and gratitude through my body for all its support, which immediately relaxes my body. It simultaneously sends waves of loving, heartfelt appreciation to my mind for all of its efforts, which shifts my thoughts from the negative to a happier energetic.

It isn't as if my heart takes sides or votes with one or the other; the experience goes a good deal deeper than that. My heart, simply by changing the tone of the inner debate that has been raging, raises the level of exchange beyond what feels good to the body versus what sounds right to the mind to what feels loving and supportive of that which they both are - life itself. On that level, love renders moot the delusion that there are differences between my mind's objectives and those of my physical body. When my body trusts that my mind's work is being done out of love for life, and when my mind trusts that my body's responses are offered out of love for life, they quickly realign themselves and begin to work together to address whatever challenge I am facing. Gradually my mind has been learning to pay closer attention to my body's responses, and to move slower and more gently through its thoughts. Likewise, my body has been learning to relax and allow my mind the necessary space and freedom to explore disconcerting ideas so it can find a way to resolve its own deep questions. The key to success seems to be maintaining an inner vigilance so that I notice when the dissonance first begins. That way I can quickly call upon my heart to intervene as the tension starts to rise, before the inner war takes over and causes more suffering.

I suspect this simple learning process that's been taking place within me is an illustration of what humanity has the potential to create on a much broader social scale. We can continue to focus on our surface differences, concentrate on our fears and suspicions, feed our mistrust and perceive "the other" as speaking a foreign language we don't understand. In doing so, we add power to those feelings and make more real the prospect we won't be able to solve our shared social problems. Or we can, by changing the context in which we perceive our problems, move beyond the duality of "us versus them" to a trialogue systems approach to problem solving. When we open our hearts and go beyond our fears for our physical safety, our competing mental ideologies, our cultural clashes and our external sexual differences, what we find - on the field of love - is that we are all unique and fractal creations of life itself. In life we are unified, and as life we can embrace, without a doubt, that what is good for one of us is good for us all. To begin to create solutions that emerge from love's field, rather than from where we presently stand entrenched in our mental and physical differences, makes it far more likely we will reach a yes/yes solution supportive of life.

And isn't life, when we get right down to it, what we're all here to be and do and know? Without life, and without love, what does any of what we think or do actually mean? To start there then - to perceive love as our shared compass and view life as our shared experience - allows for the emergence of a solution in which we can trust. How life unfolds may be a continual mystery, but the vision we hold of where we're going grows clearer when lit by love. When we love life in all its infinite forms and many creative expressions, there is no challenge we can't rise above.

Friday, September 3, 2010

No Self? No Problem!

Sometimes, when we notice others receiving public accolades for all their hard work, we feel slighted that we too have not been noticed or fully appreciated by a larger audience for our own good works and personal contributions. We want to feel the power of that same limelight under which we see our own heroes basking, and experience the same public gratitude for the amount of energy we're expending on behalf of other people. It doesn't seem "fair" that one person should suddenly be elevated to the status of public hero when we ourselves are working just as hard as they are to do the right thing, yet nobody's noticed our efforts.

The human ego (the mind-based sense of self) seems to endlessly crave external validation. It needs constant affirmation that it's done the right thing or is better at what it does than everyone else. When it doesn't get enough positive feedback the ego starts to feel deflated, even angry that the rest of the world hasn't noticed or honored its true worth. Occasionally an ego grows so enraged over being ignored that it lashes out at the world and inflicts incredible violence and suffering on innocent people.

The need for external validation is what drives much of human behavior - both the constructive and the destructive kind. For many of us, that need springs in part from having been raised in religious faiths that taught us from an early age we were inherently unworthy. The message behind original sin that many children internalize is that they were born bad, and that their sin can only be washed away by someone in a position of authority. According to most Christian traditions, nothing a person can do in this life has the power to absolve his or her sinfulness and bestow the grace of forgiveness. Absolution from sin requires the approval of an appointed external source. The disempowering nature of that belief and its deleterious effect on the ego's capacity to love and heal itself (and by extension, others) cannot be overstated.

Traditional religions focus intensely on the evils of sin and the hedonism of fleshly pleasures, potential temptations by Satan and the risk to our immortal soul if we fail to follow the dogmatic rules of our faith. That too places a tremendous amount of stress on the human ego. On some level the ego knows it can't possibly make the ideal choice in every situation, because often it can't know beforehand which was the right choice until after it's learned a lesson from its own mistakes. The unspoken, mostly unconscious, but ever-present suspicion that the ego may inadvertently make a bad choice that could cost the immortal soul a ticket to heaven leads to an anxious, fearful ego that doesn't dare trust its own judgment - especially considering it's already been taught it can never be good enough. So the ego turns to others to soothe it and make it feel better about itself, to affirm that it's okay, is doing well and is deserving of reward. It's like a well that can only be filled from the outside instead of filling up from within. Such a well is in constant danger of running dry, and its lack of inner abundance inhibits its capacity to give.

How tragic are the consequences of such religious teachings. How painful they are for the ego to bear, and how much suffering they've caused to humanity over the eons. To end that suffering, to eliminate the pain and doubt and lack of trust in our own capacities is therefore a challenge worth tackling, because what it does for us personally - and by extension for all of humanity - is free us from the misery of fear. Self-validation and renewed self-confidence enables us to step into the fullness of our own perfection so we can learn to love ourselves just as we are.

The ego (mind-self) that has been taught to fear and even loathe itself for its many presumed imperfections has been lied to on multiple levels by society. Perhaps such teachings were initially designed to coerce people into doing the right thing, but what's become clear over time is that we humans respond much better to love and appreciation than to fear and intimidation. The truth is, the ego-mind that so fears it may err and cause the soul to be damned forever is but a temporary manifestation of a physical human body, and it will dissolve - along with all its thoughts, fears and beliefs - when the body dissolves. What remains after death then is not a mind-based, thinking entity at all, but pure awareness itself - the god-stuff that flows through every one of us. That god-stuff cannot be eternally damned, because it is not a separated self that can be isolated or punished by itself in any way. It's an integral part of the totality that IS the cosmic consciousness we sometimes refer to as God.

There IS no separate self after death; no entity who will see, feel, taste, touch or smell the world around it once the body dies. Such sensory qualities are pointless without the need for such sensory input to help a material body navigate the larger world. Instead, like air that was once temporarily trapped inside a soap bubble, when we die our human awareness will expand back into the vastness of everything that has always existed beyond our tiny, temporary personalized sense of self.

Every soap bubble is a beautiful manifestation in its own right, a brief wondrous creation in space and time. So too are each of us wondrous creations, gifted with the ability to be and do marvelous things during our temporary human lifetimes. To therefore become the most beautiful version of ourselves that we can imagine ourselves becoming, without fearing that how we choose to be or what we may choose to experience has the power to destroy the essence of who we are, is spiritual freedom. We are NOT our bodies, our senses, our thoughts, our fears or even our life experiences and stories. We are the witnessing presence within these human forms that are our bodies. When one day our own bubble bursts and the experience of being a human ends for us, as it inevitably must, our experience of being a separate human "self," which was in fact a mind-based exercise, will end along with it.

What this means for us, on a deeper level, is that cosmic awareness (what we call God) is like the air in which all soap bubbles briefly float. A wisp of that cosmic awareness exists within each one of us. That wisp will someday be reunited with all the other wisps of awareness that are presently contained by those we have loved - and those we have wronged - in our lifetimes. Let us therefore resolve to unconditionally love ourselves and do our best to love each other more deeply and fully during the brief amount of time we have to practice loving each other - because everyone we encounter in life is only ourself in a temporary disguise.

The self of the mind is an illusion created by thought. The only self that truly exists is the ONE awareness that lives within us all. And it is divinely perfect already, deserving of our love and gratitude as it explores its own infinite potential for the benefit of all the many wisps of awareness that are manifesting in this field of creation it has designed. The more we embrace that truth and learn to validate and love ourselves, the more love we have to send out to the rest of life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rebalancing our Masculine and Femine Energies

Lately it's becoming clearer to me that the work our society most desperately needs done - work for which not nearly enough paying jobs exist - is work that has traditionally been performed by women in the home. The reason behind the pay disparity for our respective roles, when we look at it logically, is clear. Since men designed our modern economic system, and since masculine energy and values have dominated most of human society for several millenia now, all things traditionally feminine have been neglected, ignored or relegated to a lower status than what has typically been viewed as the purview of the male. I don't believe this was intentional so much as accidental; men simply didn't think about the value of what women do when they designed our modern Western society.

For instance, our entire planet today is in dire need of a good spring cleaning, given the messes we've been making for such a long time. We've got whole plastic islands floating in our oceans, scorched earth where beautiful trees used to grow, filthy, stagnant waters where once clean rivers flowed and mounds of garbage stacking up in our planetary corners. Additionally, many other species with whom we share space are going extinct because no one is caring for or about their needs. In a well run home, it traditionally has been the women who take care of the pets, clean up the house and make sure things are in order. Because we don't pay women to do such "unproductive" work, by extension we haven't figured out how to pay business to do it either.

Basic home maintenance has also been neglected in our society, which is why our roads are crumbling, our water delivery systems are failing and our energy systems have become inadequate. Additionally, our limited natural resources are not being equitably divided, so many of us are going hungry and dying every night. How often does that happen in a well-run home? A loving mother feeds all her family members, and she doesn't permit the men to hoard the food. For countless centuries it was also the woman (along with the older children) who forged paths to the river each day to fetch the water and wood for the fireplace, tasks which today still fall on women in places that have not yet industrialized. Such tasks have long been taken for granted by men, who were either out hunting or farming and weren't present to witness the energy expended by their women to keep the home running, so the assumption that somehow those tasks will continue to "magically" get done persists in society.

We can also look to the sorry state of education, health and elder care for more insights. Raising, teaching and nurturing our children to reach their highest capacity has long been the province of women in the home. Caring for the sick too has been a feminine role. Though medicine men sometimes provided the necessary cure, it was the women who nursed the patient back to health. With our elders it has usually been the daughters who have reached out to care for their parents in their old age, and who have lovingly hospiced them to the end of life.

The challenge we humans face today is to accept the fact that this world we've primarily structured around masculine energy, competition, domination, power, productivity and control is NOT a whole system. It is an unbalanced half-world, one in which the softer qualities of love, compassion, kindness, nurturing and cooperation are not being valued. Yet we know, as members of our own families within our private homes, that for any of us to thrive we must first create a stable, loving, orderly environment out of which to successfully operate.

How do we begin to place appropriate value on feminine traits when they don't create marketable products, only environments (wombs) out of which success is birthed? Feminine energy clearly isn't as easily measured as are masculine enterprises, because feminine energy is hidden, obscure and internal while masculine energy is forceful, projected and highly visible. I suspect the shift in our awareness will come when we collectively embrace the fact that each of us contains both of these so-called "masculine" and "feminine" energies, and that we need to honor them both to thrive and feel whole.

Interestingly enough, many women today are growing more and more "masculinized" and are stepping into roles that have traditionally been held by men. Many men too, are discovering the joy and beauty that is their feminine side. As this trend toward greater internal balance continues, it will become ever more apparent to us all that we can't continue to do "business as usual" from an economic standpoint, because our economy - at least the way we've designed it - doesn't support the maintenance and care of a beautiful,loving home environment from which our species can continue to successfully create and thrive.

Our present options seem to be to incorporate the feminine aspects of home, hearth and community maintenance into our current male-dominated business model - most likely through increased taxation on masculine productivity - so we can afford to pay people well to perform our traditionally feminine tasks; OR we can change the way we're operating so that none of us get paid to do chores because everyone performs their chosen work out of love for and a sense of responsibility to our larger human family.

Is there a both/and solution to this dilemma? Can we incorporate a love for our planetary womb and a deep appreciation for all life forms - including children, the infirm and the elderly - into our present paradigm, still maintaining a for-profit economic system? I simply don't know. What I can say is that for us to make it through the current spate of crises that we face, we need to design a whole systems social order where everyone benefits from - and contributes fully to - the beautiful world we choose to build and share.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Am

I am everything that is...I am cloud and rain and earth and tree and flower. I am every fruit I have ever tasted, I am water and fowl and sheep and cattle and lamb. I am forged in the stars, I am sunlight and heat, I am wind and the slow, chill movement of icy glaciers. I am fish and bird and dinosaur...I am Jewish holocaust victim and the one who tormented and killed those innocents. I am crusader, I am warrior, I am heathen and lover of language...I am Jesus, nailed to the cross, and I am those who wielded the hammers that caused such pain. I am Vlad the Impaler and I am Buddha, who sits and smiles because the truth has chosen to make itself known. I am rocks and mountains and sand and oil and the effervescent sheen of a morning rainbow. I am ALL of the ALL; which means I am nothing special, yet everything true.

Every atom within my body is truly non-human. They have gathered together in a playful dance to temporarily sing me into existence. They carry within them the memories of all that has come before me; they hold in their infinite centers the dark, inspiring tales of life in all its mad glory. Death, love, sorrow, bliss...the eternal pleasures and sufferings of a thousand billion trillion infinite moments...all these are etched in atomic electrons that carve their immutable truths into my soul. Whatever I think I know, I know much more than I believe.

My umbilical cord to my mother is the every breath I take - it connects me to this world that holds and loves me. My exhales are a gift to my mother, an energetic offering that feeds my brothers and sisters in this world. Every beat of my heart, every thought in my head, every feeling and sensory perception I have does not belong to ME. It belongs to this world, through which I am temporarily passing in the form I label as "me." I am the gift that keeps on giving unto infinity and beyond, the miracle of the essence of life itself. I have no beginning, no end and no destination.

I AM the journey.

Walk with me?