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20 Mar

What is a Chakra?

An excerpt from Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy by Michelle S. Fondin

Chakras are energy centers within the body. The word chakra means “wheel” or “disk.” Think of the chakras as spinning vortices of energy. Everything is composed of energy and information. Every object emanates from movement and vibration. The seven main chakras align along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and moving up to the crown of the head.

 

In the ancient Indian texts called the Vedas, we learn that the physical body is made up of the five great elements called the mahabhutas. Those five elements are space (akasha), air (vayu), water (jala), fire (tejas), and earth (prithivi). The elements are the building blocks of nature and therefore build our bodies as well.

 

Ancient texts go on to explain that we also have a subtle body. This subtle body is nonphysical and energetic in nature. The subtle body is governed by prana, or vital life force. Prana circulates throughout the body and mind. It is responsible for the flow of energy and information. In the subtle body, prana travels through channels called nadis. Nadis are circulatory channels within the body such as veins, arteries, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the excretory system, and the reproductive system. Think of nadis as the information highway to your mind, body, soul, and spirit, just as the internet is the information highway that brings information to your browser.

 

If you have a difficult time grasping the concept of the subtle body, reflect on your mind and thoughts. Thoughts are nonphysical entities. Yet ask anyone who thinks (and that would include all of us), and they will tell you that thoughts are quite real. Scientists have been able to pinpoint areas in the brain where thoughts originate or take place, but slice open a human head and you won’t find one thought in there. According to Vedic texts, the mind, intellect, and ego also reside within the subtle body.

 

Now let’s go back to the example of the internet. When you want information, you want it fast, right? You’re doing research for a work project or a school report, or getting the scoop on a guy you want to date, and you don’t want to wait forever. In the infancy of the internet, with dial-up modems, you could log on, go get a cup of coffee, use the restroom, do your nails, and then the AOL voice of “You’ve got mail” would finally vibrate in your ever-so-waiting ears. But today, in the world of fiber-optic cables and Wi-Fi, information comes pretty much as quickly as you can type in your question. And when it doesn’t come that fast you get frustrated.

 

For your body to work at an optimal level, the channels through which information travels must be open for that information to get quickly to its destination. If they’re blocked, or if there is an abnormality where the information pools in a given area, you won’t receive the information you need when you need it. So the nadis are the highways or the fiber-optic cables, and prana is the package of information that needs to be carried.

 

In total, we have around 88,000 chakras in the body, and the seven main chakras are the information hubs. They gather information on certain aspects of your body, mind, spirit, health, and life. When adequate energy flows to these chakras, that energy fills the area with the information each chakra needs to perform its unique specialty.

 

Like a highway, your body is constantly moving, changing, growing, and being modified by outside influences. While you may intend to keep the energy and information flowing throughout your body at all times, your lifestyle choices, life experiences, and outside influences may hinder the flow. Fortunately, certain practices can help keep these channels open and information flowing freely, and in this book you will learn what you need to do to achieve this goal quickly and easily.

The Philosophy of the Chakras

The concept of the chakras comes from ancient Indian texts of the Tantric tradition. Tantra is a complicated and important nonreligious philosophy. The Tantric texts are separate from the famously known Indian texts, the Vedas, from whence Ayurveda came.

 

In the West we tend to associate the word Tantra with sex. While sex is mentioned in the Tantric texts, it’s meant to be reserved as a practice for only the most advanced yoga practitioners. The main goal of Tantra is to explore the deep mysteries of life and to become liberated within the confines of this world.

 

The word Tantra means “to weave.” Tantra is the process of weaving together the body, which has great wisdom, and the mind, which has immense power. By heeding the wisdom of the body and by harnessing the power of the mind you can find the enormous beauty in life on this planet and achieve self-mastery.

 

The symbolism and stories of the chakras, including their deities and mysticism, are beautiful, colorful, complex, and certainly worth exploring. For the sake of brevity, I will teach you the basics of the chakra system. The foreign words I present come from Sanskrit. For the most part, Sanskrit is no longer spoken but is rich in the roots of language, as many modern English words stem from Sanskrit root words.

 

# # #

 

Michelle S. Fondin, author of Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy and The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda is owner of the Ayurvedic Path Yoga and Wellness Studio, where she practices as an Ayurvedic lifestyle counselor and as a yoga and meditation teacher. She holds a Vedic Master certificate from the Chopra Center and has worked with Dr. Deepak Chopra teaching yoga and meditation. Find out more about her work at www.michellefondinauthor.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy: Exploring Your 7 Energy Centers with Mindfulness, Yoga, and Ayurveda. Copyright © 2018 by Michelle S. Fondin. Printed with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com

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24 Dec

Christmas, Christ, and Krishna

Two of the world’s greatest teachers, Jesus Christ of  Nazareth and Krishna of Northern India, come from different times and different places, yet share the same poignant and profound mission: the salvation of humanity. They brought with them messages of love and peace, and provided a human form and living example from which we could learn.

 

JESUS CHRIST

 

Every year we celebrate Christmas as a glorious and sacred day – filled with love. But the very first Christmas, though it brought light to the world, was actually surrounded with darkness. And the Christmas story is filled with symbolism and messages for living a good life.

 

The world at that time was a dark place. Some of the writers of the day described it as filled with gloom, anguish, and contempt. Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, was written four centuries prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. Rome was in power, and the people of Israel were oppressed. Herod, a descendent of Edom, ruled in the Davidic city of Jerusalem, and soldiers walked the streets. The citizens felt like exiles in their own country. The nation of Israel was fractured as four opposing groups fought for leadership. This led to constant friction, and many riots.

 

The Virgin Mary, just 15 or 16 years old, was engaged to a much-older Joseph in an arranged marriage. Joseph was a highly skilled carpenter, but he was also poor, which is probably why he had not married earlier and had no children of his own. When they discovered that Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to “divorce” her quietly. But one night Joseph had a dream in which an angel came to him and said, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit: she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Mary also had a vision, the angel Gabriel came to her and said she was “highly favored,” and that “the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

 

Adding more stress into the mix, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census, the first of its kind, be taken so that the Roman government could be sure that everyone paid their taxes. In Palestine, families were required to register in their tribal town, rather than where they lived. Joseph’s family was from the lineage of David, which meant that he and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a journey of about 100 miles. It was an arduous task on foot, and it took them three days to reach their destination. By the time they got to Bethlehem, Mary was ready to give birth. Since it was a mandatory census, many travelers were in town. There were no hotels back then, people generally stayed with family or friends in one of their guest rooms. When the bible says there was “no room at the inn” it likely means that there was no guest room available for the couple.

 

The homes in Bethlehem were mostly built to have two levels. The upper level was where the family slept, and the lower level was like a stable where the animals slept, and the family lived during the day. The warmth of the animals kept the upper level heated at night. Joseph and Mary, having no money to pay for a room, and no other place to stay, were probably offered this area of someone’s home. It was there, amongst the animals and the hay, that Mary gave birth. The stable is representative of the earth plane, and here they were very connected with Mother Earth. There were no walls, no people – it was quiet, still and pure. This represents how we are connected with the Divine through silence, and through nature.

 

Since there was no crib, the baby was placed in a manger, a food trough for animals. The manger represents humbleness and simplicity, that we don’t need anything fancy. Baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, limiting mobility, which is used to soothe a baby. This represents the confinement and limitations that are imposed on us by a physical body.

 

A bright star appeared in the sky when Jesus was born. Wise men from the east, also called Magi (coming from the Greek word “magos,” or magic), educated in the sciences of astronomy and astrology, could follow the patterns of the stars. They knew this star was new and special, representing a great change in the Universe. They were guided to follow the star that would lead them to the king of kings. They first arrived in Jerusalem, and asked around: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” King Herod caught wind of this and felt that his power was threatened. He called for his top advisors, who explained that it was foreseen that this child born in Bethlehem would be a leader of the people, a king. King Herod then secretly contacted the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem saying: “As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

 

The three wise men followed the star and found Mary and baby Jesus in the stable. The baby Jesus glowed from the light within him. They could feel the divine energy. They bowed down to Jesus and offered precious gifts. Gold, associated with Kings, was given in recognition of Jesus as the King of Kings. Gold is also symbolic of love, as in gold wedding bands, and showed an offering of spiritual love for him. Frankincense, used in worship rituals in churches, showed that others would worship Jesus and learn from his teachings. Myrrh, a resin used in sacred oils, perfumes and medicines, was given to symbolize a willingness to actively serve Jesus Christ by living according to the truth that he teaches.

 

The three magi were warned through a dream that King Herod had a horrible plan, so they decided to not tell Herod of the baby’s location. Instead they left for their homes in another direction so that Herod would be thrown off. When Herod learned that the men did not comply with his scheme, he ordered the execution of all the male children in and around Bethlehem.

 

It was tradition in those times to name a son after his father. Naming the baby Jesus, rather than Joseph, broke with tradition, and symbolized a new beginning. Both Joseph and Mary knew that it was their role to protect this child, he needed time to grow up so he could fulfill his destiny. They left for Egypt so that Jesus could grow up out of the public eye and away from the wrath of King Herod. When Herod died in 4 AD the family returned to Nazareth.

 

 

KRISHNA

 

Flash back to more than 3000 years earlier, before the birth of Jesus Christ. This is when Lord Krishna was born in northern India. Krishna is known as the eighth avatar, or incarnation, of Lord Vishnu.

 

The situation at that time in India was dire. Mother Earth was unable to bear the sins and cruelty of the many evil rulers and kings. She prayed to the creator of the Universe, Brahma, to help unburden her of this problem. Lord Brahma then prayed to the supreme Lord Vishnu to reincarnate and free Mother Earth from the evil rulers.

 

One of the evil kings was Kansa, ruler of Mathura. His sister, Devaki, was married to Vasudeva. On Devaki and Vasudeva’s wedding day a voice from above stated that Devaki’s eighth son would bring an end to Kansa’s rule and Kansa would be killed. Kansa, shaken by this, held the couple hostage, and then killed all seven of the children they gave birth to. Devaki and Vasudeva were afraid to have another child and made no effort to conceive.

 

One night, Lord Vishnu came to them, and said that he would appear as their son, and rescue them from Kansa. Devaki miraculously became pregnant. The day the divine baby Krishna was born, Vasudeva was magically freed from his prison. As he ran away with the infant, Lord Vishnu removed all the obstacles from Vasudeva’s path.

 

Vasudeva came to a home in Gokul, where he exchanged baby Lord Krishna with the newborn girl of another couple. He then returned to prison with the baby girl. When Kansa found out about this child, he tried to kill her, but she ascended to the heavens and transformed into the goddess Yogamaya. Yogamaya said: “O foolish Kansa! What will you get by killing me? Your nemesis is already born.”

 

Krishna was raised by his foster parents as a cowherd in Gokul and he learned to play the flute. When he returned to Mathura, he killed Kansa and restored his father Vasudeva to power.

 

THE PARALLELS

 

As you can see, there are many parallels in these two stories.

 

-Both Krishna and Jesus were born in difficult times. They came to take us from darkness to light, to awaken us.

-Both were born in non-traditional environments, Krishna in a jail cell, Jesus in a stable.

-Both were threatened by evil kings.

-Both fled their homes to be safe while growing up.

-Both provided a form for us to love and worship. It is difficult to imagine or worship the Absolute, but we recognize and have experience with form. We can worship the Divine in man.

-Both sets of parents had dreams or visions.

 

Their names are similar. Christ comes from the Greek word “Christos” meaning “the anointed one.” Krishna in Greek is the same as Christos. In Bengali Krishna is “Kristo” which is the same as the Spanish word for Christ, “Cristo.” Swami Prabhupada says: “Whether you call God Christ, Krsta or Krishna, ultimately you are addressing the same Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

 

In addition, as they grew up, they both attracted students. Krishna in the fields with the gopis and cows, and Jesus in the Temples. When Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph thought he was lost until they eventually they found him in a Temple, amidst elders and pundits discussing scripture. Jesus looked unfazed – he asked his parents: “Why look for me? Don’t you know I must be about my father’s business?”

 

They both had an awareness about their divinity, and their followers recognized them as divine.

Krishna: “Think of Me.”

Jesus: “Follow Me.”

 

Krishna: “I am the light of the world – the light of all lights.”

Jesus: “I am the light over all things. I am the light of consciousness through which all things shine. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others.”

 

They provided a refuge:

Krishna: “I am the way, come to Me.”

Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well…”

 

Both were known as both sons of God and God incarnate:

Krishna: “I am birthless, I am deathless, Beyond this time and space. When goodness grows weak on earth, Then I am needed in this place. I come to deliver the holy, to re-establish what is right. Those who understand my role here Are guided to the light.”

Jesus: “If God were your Father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself but He sent me.”

 

Both advised in their teachings to work for the welfare of the state:

Krishna: “That man attains peace who lives devoid of longing, free from all desires and without the feeling of “I” and “mine.”

Jesus: “Him that overcometh “I” will make a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go no more out.”

 

Both were called saviors, and were the second person of the Trinity.

Krishna: “Brahma, Vishnu, Siva (Creator, Sustainer, Destroyer.)”

Jesus: “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

 

Both emphasized the message of love and peace in their teachings.

Krishna: “Be friendly to all living beings. Show compassion to everyone. Be free from delusions of “I” and “mine.” Accept pleasure and pain as if one.”

Jesus: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

 

Krishna’s birthday, Janmashtami, is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm in India.

Jesus’ birthday is celebrated worldwide as Christmas.

——-

My new book is Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita

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06 Dec

Krishna and the Peacock Feather

Some of you have asked about the significance of the peacock feather on the cover of my new book Song Divine. You know how I love symbolism – so here it goes:

 

When studying the Bhagavad Gita it is easy to become enamored with Krishna, the God incarnate who speaks throughout much of the story. Krishna acts as a guide, a friend, an advisor and a mentor to Arjuna, who stands in as an “everyman,” representative of you and me.

 

Krishna is quickly recognizable. His blueish skin represents the infinitude of the sky. He plays a flute, fashioned out of a piece of bamboo. The reed is empty, yet when Krishna, the god of love, breathes life into it, the flute sings. This represents how the heart can also become an instrument of God, if we allow it. Our suffering and pain are like the holes in the bamboo flute. We can offer our heart to God, and allow beautiful music to be played.

 

Krishna always wears peacock feathers in his crown. There are many different stories for the reasons behind this. One is that the music of the heart can be expressed through the head. In the Gita Krishna makes references to how knowledge and love, or head and heart, are needed together to fully express the divine. The peacock feather throughout the ages has been considered a sign of both beauty and knowledge. Beauty because it is indeed beautiful with its iridescent colors, and knowledge because it is in the form of an eye. Knowledge is acquired through observation, yet knowledge without love is cold and lifeless.

 

The peacock feather is rare in that it contains all of the seven colors. Krishna wears the feather to signify that this range of colors, as the range of colors of people in the world, is also in him. There’s a sweet story about how Krishna was playing his flute, and the peacocks circled around him and began dancing joyfully, carried away by the beautiful music. When Krishna stopped, the King of the peacocks presented feathers at Krishna’s feet in gratitude. Krishna accepted the feathers graciously and put them in his hair, and from then on he always wore a peacock feather on his head.

 

Some say that the peacock feather represents the extravagant beauty of Lord Krishna. Although Krishna has many ornaments of gold and jewels, he chooses to wear peacock feathers, flowers and leaves. Others say that peacock feathers represent purity. They believe that the peacock is the only animal in nature that observes complete chastity in life, with no lust in his heart. When a peacock is happy, he dances with his wings aflutter, and his eyes fill with tears. The Peahen drinks those tears to conceive.

 

In nature, it is very rare for a feather to look the same on both sides, but this is the case with the peacock feather. It is said that the eye of the feather protects a person from the “evil eye” and destroys all negativity, anger, greed, and jealousy. The dark colors represent sorrow and sadness, and the bright colors represent happiness. This symbolizes that life comes with both happiness and sorrow, and that when one follows Krishna we can attain equanimity of mind and accept all life has to offer.

 

The peacock is an important figure in many cultures, and it is the national bird of India, fully protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.                                            .Song Divine cover

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02 Dec

DOGEN: THE LOST GENIUS OF ZEN

Guest post by Brad Warner, author of IT CAME FROM BEYOND ZEN!

 

I first heard of Dogen when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I am 53 now. So, I’ve been acquainted with Dogen for most of my life. Dogen was a Japanese Buddhist monk and writer who lived around 800 years ago, from the year 1200 to 1254. He was barely older than I am now when he died.

 

When I first heard of Dogen, I assumed I was a latecomer. I figured that the people of Japan had read and studied Dogen’s philosophy for the past 800 years. I assumed that Dogen’s ideas were part of Japan’s national philosophical identity.

 

Nope. For about 700 years, Dogen’s writings were barely known even in Japan. A few very scholarly monks and historians read and studied his writings. But most people had no idea what he wrote. Oh, they knew he wrote stuff. It’s just that very few people had read any of it.

 

However, Dogen also started a temple and monks from that temple started other temples. After a while, there were a lot of temples associated with Dogen. These temples became very popular and influential.

 

Dogen also taught a style of meditation called “just sitting” or shikantza in Japanese.

 

The “just” in “just sitting” isn’t like the “just” in “just sitting around.” The Chinese character used to represent the word I’m translating as “just” also means “to hit,” like “to hit a nail right at the center of its head.” So, when Dogen said “just sitting” he meant doing nothing else when sitting meditation except sitting. You weren’t supposed to meditate on anything. You weren’t supposed to try to gain anything through your meditation. You weren’t trying to become calm, or centered, or mindful. You were supposed to completely devote yourself to the simple act of sitting, completely absorb yourself in doing nothing at all but sitting.

 

And a lot of people in Japan took his advice and sat for the sake of sitting alone. It wasn’t exactly a popular activity. But enough people did it that we can say that Dogen’s style of practice became an important aspect of Japanese culture.

 

Still, even though some of them sat, very few people in Japan read what Dogen wrote. And no one outside of Japan had any idea he even existed.

 

In 1633, about 400 years after Dogen died, Japan closed its borders to outsiders. Very few people could come in or out of Japan. The nation deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the world. In 1865, the American Commodore Perry forced Japan to open itself to international trade. This began what is called the Meiji Restoration. The film The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, is about this time. It’s a fairly accurate movie, but Tom Cruise was not actually there.

 

Japan suddenly realized it was very much behind the rest of the world. Those Americans had weapons that were way beyond anything most Japanese people had ever seen. They realized that, in this age of colonization, they were incredibly vulnerable to being taken over by a more advanced foreign power. They knew that they needed to modernize fast.

 

This also led Japanese people to try to find Japanese things that were as good as similar things in Europe and America, so that they could prove that Japan was worthy to stand with the mighty powers of Europe and the Americas.  So, they started to look more closely at their own art and literature, as well as at Japanese philosophy and religion. There was a nationwide push to discover the best that Japan had to offer to the outside world.

 

In 1925 a scholar named Tetsuro Watsuji published a book called Shamon Dogen (the Monk Dogen). In this book, he presented Dogen as one of Japan’s most important philosophers. This led to a widespread rediscovery of Dogen’s work in Japan. For the first time in 700 years earlier, ordinary Japanese people started to read Dogen’s writings. And for the first time ever, they began presenting Dogen to the rest of the world.

 

What they discovered in Dogen’s writings surprised many people. Here are a couple of examples of interesting ideas from Dogen’s writings.

 

 

Dogen did not believe in miracles, but he did not deny them either.

 

Many religions are based on the idea that miracles can sometimes occur. For example, Jesus changed water into wine, walked on water, and was raised from the dead. Christians believe these miracles are evidence that Jesus was divine. Because Jesus was divine, they say, his words must be true.

 

You might have heard that Buddha was originally not considered to be a prophet or a god or any kind of divine being. That’s true. But, as Buddha’s legend grew and his teachings were translated into new languages and introduced to new cultures, many Buddhists came to believe Buddha performed miracles.

 

Dogen believed that all things in the universe are subject to the law of cause and effect. So, even if something that seems like a miracle occurred, Dogen believed it was the result of some cause. He did not believe in supernatural forces that can make things happen without any cause.

 

However, when he talked to his students about this, he did not deny the supposed miracles of the Buddha. Instead, he said these were “small stuff miracles.” The bigger miracle is that there is a universe in which small miracles can occur. The existence of the universe itself is the great miracle. All other miracles are insignificant by comparison.

 

In my new book It Came from Beyond Zen, I try to express what Dogen says about Buddhist miracles by describing Christian miracles the way Dogen talks about Buddhist miracles. I write, “Jesus fed a multitude with two fishes and five loaves of bread, he raised Lazarus from the dead, and was himself raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion. These are indeed great accomplishments. But they are examples of small-stuff miracles, not the big-time miracle. It is only because of the big-time miracle that such small-stuff miracles as the ones Jesus performed exist. Without the big-time miracle, even the most spectacular of small-stuff miracles could not occur. Jesus worked great wonders. But the greater wonder is that there is a world in which Jesus could have been born, that there is a universe in which that world exists, that you and I are alive to hear about his miracles. It is only the big-time miracle of existence itself that allows smaller miracles to occur.”

 

Dogen believed compassion is intuitive.

 

Dogen said that compassionate action is like someone reaching back for a pillow in the night.

 

It’s a very strange expression. Most of us think of compassion as a deliberate. We see a situation. We think about what is the compassionate thing to do about that situation. Then we do that thing.

 

To Dogen, compassion was not like that. Dogen thought that compassion was spontaneous. We don’t need to think about what to do. We follow our intuition and automatically do what is necessary.

 

Dogen also warned us against judging what others do as “not compassionate.”

 

Dogen said, “There’s a difference between nighttime as conceived of by a person during the day and the reality of the darkness on an actual night. You should also look into times that aren’t quite day but aren’t quite night, either.”

 

Day means times when it’s easy to see what the compassionate thing to do is. Like when you see a turtle on its back. The compassionate thing to do is turn it over. Easy.

 

Night in this case would mean times when you have no idea what the best thing to do is. Sometimes there is no clear-cut, easily identifiable way to be compassionate.

 

Then there are times that are neither day nor night. That means times when you might not know which among several options is really the compassionate one.

 

When Dogen says “nighttime as conceived by a person during the day,” I believe he ’s talking about the kinds of things where folks think they can see what somebody else ought to have done in a certain situation.

 

Sometimes we look at history and we think, “If I was alive at that time, I would have been better than those people!” Or we look at people in faraway countries and think, “If I was over there, I would do better things than those people!”

 

It’s easy for those of us in the “daylight” of a world at peace (at least our corner of it) to speculate about what those in the dark night of war ought to have done or what we would have done if we were there. But we weren’t there. So we have no idea what we would have done. In fact, our assumption that we know what we’d do in such a situation is the height of ignorance and arrogance.

 

It’s totally pointless to claim moral superiority in these kinds of speculative matters. It’s better to listen to what people who were actually in those situations have to say about it. Sometimes you can learn a lot by listening, even if you don’t always believe everything you’re hearing.

 

There is a big difference between real night and night as imagined by someone during the day.

 

In the end, we are not other people. We can only try to listen to our own intuition in the real situations that we encounter for ourselves. If we meditate every day, we will be able to listen to our own intuition more clearly. Then we can act with genuine compassion. And, when we do that, compassionate action is spontaneous like when you reach for a pillow in the night.

 

# # #

 

About the author
Brad Warner
is the author of It Came from Beyond Zen! and numerous other titles including Don’t Be a Jerk, Sit Down & Shut Up, and Hardcore Zen. A Soto Zen priest, he is a punk bassist, filmmaker, Japanese-monster-movie marketer, and popular blogger based in Los Angeles. Visit him online at www.hardcorezen.info.

 

Based on the book It Came from Beyond Zen! Copyright ©2017 by Brad Warner.  Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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11 Nov

Know What You are by What You Know

You can never know anything outside of yourself directly. Even when you think you know something outside, you really just know an interpretation of it within yourself. You gather information from outside and it gets interpreted within you and the only thing you ever know about the outside world is that internal interpretation.

For instance, when you are seeing something and you know its there, you are not actually seeing it directly. Light waves reflect off different objects, enter your eyes, get converted into neuro-signals that travel to your brain through the nerves, and get interpreted as images full of colors, brightness, etc. And the only thing you ever see are these interpreted images within you. You never see any of the objects outside of you directly. Because if you were able to see them directly, you would have probably seen a vast of ocean of particles and waves and not colors, etc. These colors don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretation of different wavelengths of light falling on your retina. If your eyes had the capability of detecting a different spectrum of light (like some animals do), you would have seen something quite different. Same thing happens when you are hearing or touching or smelling or tasting something. Information just enters through your various sense organs, get converted into neuro-signals according to the capability of these organs, travel to your brain and get interpreted variously. The sounds and sensations you experience don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretations of different neuro-signals generated by your eardrums, skin, nose, tongue, etc. The only thing you ever know about the outside world is this interpreted information within.

There are two important implications of this:

  1. You can know yourself and the interpreted information within yourself directly. You don’t need a way of gathering information about yourself and interpreting it to know yourself. Because, otherwise, such a process would go ad-infinitum and you would never be able to know anything.
  2. If a mechanism is required to gather information about something in order for you to know it, that something cannot be you. Because if it was you, you would have known it directly.

Let’s apply this understanding:

Since you need a way to gather information about the outside world and interpret it within yourself, you cannot be the outside world. This is easy to agree with. But now consider your own body. Information about your body is gathered through the peripheral nervous system and delivered to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All the pains, aches, itches, temperature and pressure sensations, etc. of the body that you feel are nothing but interpretation of information that reaches the central nervous system. Whatever you know about your body is through this information. If you were the body, you would have known it directly and there would have been no need for a mechanism to gather information in order to know it. Moreover, If you were the body, you would have known each and every little part and function of it directly. But that’s not the case either as you do not know things that are out of reach of the peripheral nervous system like the flowing blood, insides of your bones and many of the organs, etc. (unless of course you cut open the body and actually see them or touch them, which again is information gathered through the peripheral nervous system). This clearly indicates that you cannot be the body.

So are you the central nervous system? If you were the central nervous system i.e. the brain and spinal cord, you would have known yourself as slushy gray matter through which bio-electro-chemical signals keep whizzing from time to time. But that’s not the case. What you experience is a crisp clear world full for sights, sounds and sensations. Some of the experiences are gross and more tangible, and some are subtle and less tangible. The information gathered from the body and the outside world tends to result in a more gross experience and certain activities of the brain like thoughts, emotions, etc. tend to be more subtle. This indicates that you are not the central nervous system but something quite different.

You are actually that crisp clear part-less unbroken entity within which all the information gathered at the central nervous system gets interpreted. The term for it is consciousness. This consciousness and all the interpreted information within it, or the absence of interpretations while you are in deep sleep or in a state of trance, is all that you ever know directly. You do not know anything else directly.

Many people mistake it for the mind. The mind is a collection of thoughts, emotions, memories, desires, tendencies, etc. These are activities of the brain that are interpreted within consciousness as subtle sights, sounds and sensations. You are not anything that is being interpreted, you are that within which all of this is being interpreted and that is consciousness. The only thing you ever know directly is consciousness and within it you experience the various interpretations of information gathered from outside (brain, body and the world).

A very important point to note here is that its not your consciousness, you are the consciousness. Because if consciousness was something that was yours but it wasn’t you, you would have needed another way of gathering information from your consciousness and interpreting it within yourself – just like you have to gather information about your body and your brain. And this chain would have continued endlessly. But thankfully thats not the case and the buck stops at consciousness and that is what you actually are.

So what really is this consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it generated by the brain or is it something independent? How does information gathered by the brain appear within consciousness? If I am consciousness, why does it feel like I am a body-mind complex? Why does the consciousness seem to be attached to the body and mind? Does consciousness continue to exist after the body perishes? What benefit is it to me by knowing that I am consciousness?

If these and more such questions are occurring to you, you are on the right track to knowing what you really are. These questions are very important and there are very clear answers to all of them. My recent articles have dealt with some of them and can provide a good overall understanding. Please feel free to reach out to me (npabuwal at gmail) if you would like to know more. I ll gladly share further insights and references.

But here’s a brain-teaser to leave you with: If consciousness has this innate capability of creating appearances of various gross and subtle things within it and that is all you ever experience, what’s the need of a real external world? Why can’t the whole universe just be an appearance within a universal consciousness?

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/167379908570/know-what-you-are-by-what-you-know)

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09 Nov

The Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita

Song Divine coverI’m very happy to announce that my new book is now available:  Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita. Check it out at www.SongDivine.com. This book is very close to my heart. I have learned so much from the Bhagavad Gita. It contains everything we really need to know to live a purposeful, spiritual life filled with meaning.

I feel very fortunate that Swami Sarvadevananda, my teacher, and the head minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California (vedanta.org) wrote the foreword to Song Divine.

As a sneak peek of the book – please enjoy the Foreword by Swami Sarvadevananda:

FOREWORD

The Bhagavad Gita is a holy book for all times, places and cultures. It doesn’t belong to one person, nor does it address any one group of people. It is a scripture for all the world and everyone in it, wherever they are in their spiritual quest.

The Bhagavad Gita has inspired many people with its powerful teachings and profound truths. It draws from the wisdom of the Upanishads, and wraps up all the essence of this wisdom as a practical guide to living. The deep spiritual lessons are as applicable in today’s modern world as they were back in the time of Krishna, more than 5,000 years ago.

It’s no wonder that the Bhagavad Gita, originally written in Sanskrit, is the second-most translated book in the world after the Bible. There are countless versions, in many different languages, and with a variety of commentaries on the verses. And now Lissa Coffey, or “Parama” as she is known to us here at the Vedanta Society, has brought us her own very special version of the Gita. This Gita is ideal for the western seeker in that the verses have rhythm, and they rhyme, making them very easy to both understand and memorize. Keeping the words of the Gita in the mind helps us to focus on what really matters in this life, and to remember the vital teachings that Krishna imparts to his friend Arjuna during their intense discussion on the battlefield.

The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata, a great epic filled with stories and philosophy. The Mahabharata contains 97,400 verses, while the Gita comes in at 700 verses. The Gita is said to be the spiritual core of the Mahabharata, expressing the same concepts in a much shorter narrative. Adi Sankaracharya, who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, was the first to recognize the greatness of the Bhagavad Gita, and wrote his wonderful commentary on it, thereby establishing the Gita as one of the fundamental texts of Vedanta.

The one theme that runs through the entire Bhagavad Gita is that the purpose of life is to realize our essential Being. In other words, to know and understand who we are, and why we are here on this earth. It may be called Enlightenment, Nirvana, Self-Realization, Awareness, Oneness – there are many different terms for this experience. But when we achieve it, we recognize that the experience, by any name, is the same for each of us.

I first met Lissa at the Vedanta Society in Santa Barbara. She quickly started attending our weekly Bhagavad Gita classes at the Hollywood Temple. Lissa, through her many books, has been able to bring some very big spiritual concepts to a mainstream audience by explaining them in a way that is easy to understand and also easy to apply to the modern day lifestyle. I’m very pleased that Lissa has embraced the Gita in this way, and I know that many more people will be blessed with Krishna’s valuable teachings because of her loving efforts in creating this book.

~Swami Sarvadevananda, Head Minister, The Vedanta Society of Southern California

 

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03 Nov

Stand Your Ground: How Grounding Promotes Vibrant Health (and Protects You from Your Cell Phone’s Harmful Energy)

“Grounding,” also known as “earthing,” is a technique rooted in ancient wisdom that has a powerful healing effect on your body. Dr. Stephen Sinatra and coauthor Tommy Rosa explain how it works—and why it’s especially needed in the era of electronic devices.

          New York, NY (November 2017)—When was the last time you lingered barefoot in the grass, in the garden, or at the edge of the ocean? If you’re like many people, it’s probably been a while. Most of us live artificial, climate-controlled, indoor lives, and the time we spend connected (literally) to the Earth is fairly negligible. That’s not good, say Stephen Sinatra, MD, and Tommy Rosa. They say we should be spending at least half an hour each day with our feet touching the Earth—a practice known as “grounding.”

“Staying more connected to the Earth is especially important now that we’re constantly exposed to electromagnetic fields generated by electrical and wireless devices,” notes Dr. Sinatra, coauthor along with Tommy Rosa of Health Revelations from Heaven: 8 Divine Teachings from a Near-Death Experience (Rodale Books, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-635-65066-2, $14.99). “This radiation causes all sorts of health problems, likely including cancer. Grounding can help protect the body from it and in general promotes vibrant health.”

Grounding, also known as earthing, simply means connecting yourself physically to the energetic fields of the Earth. Healers in many cultures throughout history have realized the connection between the natural energy of our planet and the natural energy of the human body. Today, the concept is enjoying a revival of sorts.

Dr. Sinatra has written extensively on the subject of grounding over the years. That’s why he was so astounded when he met Mr. Rosa and discovered that he had been taught about the benefits of grounding during his life-altering near-death experience (NDE) following a serious car accident. In fact, grounding was one of the eight “health revelations” Mr. Rosa received from his otherworldly Teacher.

“I learned that Earth has a vibration that heals the body,” says Mr. Rosa. “In fact, I was specifically told that the more we ground ourselves to the planet, the more we heal ourselves from everyday radiation, toxicity, inflammation, stress, sleeping problems, and pain.”

Dr. Sinatra concurs. Based on research and his own observations as an integrative cardiologist, he says grounding has numerous health benefits. For example:

Grounding thins the blood. When blood thickens like ketchup, it can promote clotting and inflammation. Grounding has been found to cause red blood cells to achieve a consistency more like red wine. Since thick blood, with inflamed blood vessels, is the cardinal risk factor for heart disease, it makes sense to ground.

It disarms the free radicals that sicken and age us. Walking barefoot activates the KI 1 (Kidney 1) pressure point on the bottom of the foot. This activates the meridian that runs up your leg, over your back, through your kidneys, and up to your neck, ending in the roof of your mouth. This increases the flow of electrons through your body that work like antioxidants.

It restores the body’s healing potential. In 2012 Dr. Sinatra and other researchers published a review study on the health implications of grounding in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. This study concluded that, for many, daily grounding activity can:
– Decrease inflammation.
– Reduce or eliminate chronic pain.
– Improve sleep.
– Improve blood pressure.
– Relieve muscle tension and headaches.
– Lessen hormonal and menstrual symptoms.
– Speed healing after surgery and prevent bedsores.
– Protect against potentially health-disturbing environmental electromagnetic fields.
– Balance the autonomic nervous system by decreasing sympathetic and increasing parasympathetic nervous activity. When dealing with challenges and stressful situations, we use our sympathetic nervous system and expend energy. When we’re calm and relaxed, our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, so the body can repair and restore itself.

It lifts our spirits. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, did a study to determine if grounding could improve mood. The findings, published in the April 2015 issue of Psychological Reports, suggest the answer is yes.

Grounding isn’t difficult, of course. All you have to do is go outside, preferably barefoot, and stand on the Earth. The challenging part is to find the time to do so at least 150 minutes a week (although, admit it, you’re probably wasting that much time on Facebook or in front of the TV) and get in the habit of daily grounding. Dr. Sinatra offers the following tips:

Walk barefoot as often as possible. If you can’t go barefoot, wear thin-soled, plain leather shoes. Avoid rubber soles like tennis sneakers or the neoprene found in running shoes, as these will keep you disconnected from the Earth.

Stand on the grass, soil, sand, concrete, or brick at least half an hour daily. You might get in the habit of going outside to have your morning coffee. You can sit outside to do your daily meditation. You can lie under the stars.

Look for fun ways to immerse yourself in nature. You can ground while gardening, camping, hiking, walking on the beach, or swimming in the ocean, a lake, or a river.

Reduce the time you spend toggled to devices and electronic ways of communicating.Don’t be a slave to your smartphone (and turn it off when not in use). It’s better to use plug-in landlines than cordless phones. Also, turn off your router at night. And move your clock or radio away from the bed so EMFs aren’t directed at your head.

If you’re really serious about it, bring grounding indoors. You can sleep, work, or relax indoors on special conductive sheets or mats connected to the Earth with wires plugged into a grounded wall outlet or a ground rod outside.

When grounding, cultivate an appreciative relationship with Mother Earth. Notice the rhythm of life and feel a sense of belonging to the natural world. Feel gratitude.

“Grounding is one of the easiest and most uplifting ways to improve your health,” says Dr. Sinatra. “Through this simple and powerful method, we can remember our connection to nature and, in doing so, reclaim aspects of our health that need rejuvenation. Where there is Earth, there is healing.”

# # #

About the Authors:
Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Tommy Rosa are coauthors of Health Revelations from Heaven.

Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, FACC, is a cardiologist and psychotherapist with 40 years of clinical experience treating heart disease. He is the host of HeartMDInstitute.com and the creator of Vervana Marketplace (vervana.com), which offers wholesome, high-quality products from all over the world. He lives in St. Petersburg, FL.

Tommy Rosa is a spiritual counselor who helps people conquer their fear of death. He is also the founder of the Unicorn Foundation in Stuart, Florida, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to educational endeavors and community outreach projects. He lives in Stuart, FL.

About the Book: 
Health Revelations from Heaven: 8 Divine Teachings from a Near-Death Experience(Rodale Books, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-635-65066-2, $14.99) is available from major online booksellers. For more information, please visit www.healthrevelationsbook.com.

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27 Oct

The Magic of Vibration: 20 High-Frequency Acts and Mindsets to Change Your Life for the Better (and 20 Others to Avoid)

When negative thoughts and actions lead your life, bad health (and bad news!) follow close behind. The good news is you can avoid behaviors, attitudes, and circumstances that lower your vibration and embrace others that raise it. Stephen Sinatra, MD, FACC, and near-death-experience survivor Tommy Rosa explain how.

          New York, NY (October 2017)—When you’re stuck in negativity, nothing in life seems to work. Try as you might, you can’t seem to change the factors that are holding you back from what you really want. Over time, you get depressed and listless…maybe even sick. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you want to improve your health and well-being (not to mention your love life, finances, career, and more!), you’ve got to start vibrating on a higher level.

High vibrations are the key to bringing positive change and wellness into reality, say integrative cardiologist Stephen Sinatra and Tommy Rosa, a plumber-turned-spiritual-counselor whose near-death experience (NDE) left him with some divine insights on the subject.

“Everything in the human body, every cell, organ, system, thought, and even every emotion, vibrates to its own natural rhythm,” says Mr. Rosa, coauthor of Health Revelations from Heaven: 8 Divine Teachings from a Near-Death Experience (Rodale Books, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-635-65066-2, $14.99). “When our energy vibrates at a high level, we attract better health and improved life circumstances. When it vibrates at a low level, the opposite happens: Pathogens and toxins are more likely to enter the body and make us sick. Not only that, but low vibrations also attract other negative experiences and prevent us from thriving.”

During Mr. Rosa’s NDE, he visited Heaven, and there, eight revelations of good health were imprinted on his psyche. These revelations dovetailed with the knowledge that Dr. Sinatra had gained throughout his studies of scientifically and medically validated clinical research, as well as his own experiences as a cardiologist. One of their most powerful insights? Our positive or negative thoughts influence the circumstances of our lives, including our health and our happiness. And of course our thoughts are supported and generated by the actions we take.

The good news? You can change your life, often in dramatic ways. It starts with a simple choice to cultivate a positive outlook and reap the higher vibrations it brings. Keep reading for a list of high-vibration actions to embrace, followed by a list of low-vibration ones to avoid.

Things That Raise Your Vibration

· Having faith
· Loving yourself and others
· Forgiving yourself and others
· Gratitude
· Creating biological and spiritual family connections and building romantic relationships
· Letting go of anger, fear, ego, grief, and selfishness
· Spending time with children and animals
· Praying and/or meditating
· Mind/body interactions like tai chi, qigong, and yoga
· Positive thinking
· Volunteering
· Not using illegal drugs and limiting alcohol intake
· Pursuing a favorite hobby
· Listening to music
· Being flexible and fluid
· Drinking clean water with minerals, preferably out of glass containers
· Eating a clean, non-GMO, organic foods-based, non-inflammatory diet
· Detoxifying your body and surrounding environment
· “Grounding” by walking barefoot on sand, grass, or even concrete as often as possible
· Taking targeted nutritional supplements that support Vital Force energy

Things That Lower Your Vibration

· Telling a lie (or knowingly not telling the truth)
· Thinking negatively, pessimistically
· Lacking love
· Remaining isolated and being lonely
· Lacking faith
· Having aggressive behavior
· Being selfish
· Staying angry
· Lacking a purpose
· Unresolved grief or sadness
· Not forgiving self or others
· Envy
· Greed
· Laziness
· Lacking activity and physical movement
· Drug use
· Drinking alcohol
· Eating GMO (genetically modified organism) foods
· Consuming excess sugars
· Overexposing yourself to the chaotic, unseen frequencies of cordless and cellular phones, Bluetooth monitors, cell phone towers, computers, and other wireless technologies that create the invisible toxicity surrounding the Earth

Whether you are seeking health, wealth, or happiness, keep in mind the state of your thoughts and actions and the vibrations they create. Once you begin observing how your actions and general outlook affect your life, it becomes easier to drop negativity for good.

“Remember that negative thoughts are toxic to the body and that whatever you dwell on most expands,” says Dr. Sinatra. “So talk back to your negative thoughts and avoid actions that will lower your vibration and attract more illness and struggle. Instead, dwell on the good in your life, as well as what you want from life. When you do this, goodness expands, you raise your vibrations, and your desires will manifest themselves. It’s not magic, but the transformation it can bring about is magical.”

# # #

About the Authors:
Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Tommy Rosa are coauthors of Health Revelations from Heaven.

Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, FACC, is a cardiologist and psychotherapist with 40 years of clinical experience treating heart disease. He is the host of HeartMDInstitute.com and the creator of Vervana Marketplace (vervana.com), which offers wholesome, high-quality products from all over the world. He lives in St. Petersburg, FL.

Tommy Rosa is a spiritual counselor who helps people conquer their fear of death. He is also the founder of the Unicorn Foundation in Stuart, Florida, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to educational endeavors and community outreach projects. He lives in Stuart, FL.

About the Book: 
Health Revelations from Heaven: 8 Divine Teachings from a Near-Death Experience(Rodale Books, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-635-65066-2, $14.99) is available from major online booksellers. For more information, please visit www.healthrevelationsbook.com.

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01 Aug

God is not a Four-Letter Word

Recently I purchased a Time (magazine) Special Edition: Mindfulness, The New Science of Health and Happiness. The front cover boasted a lovely young blond woman; closed-eyed, pouty-lipped, and looking on-so-serene. On the back was a montage of photos ranging from a food journal, a young hip black male sitting in pseudo-meditation posture amidst sidewalk strollers, an ocean-side book-reader, and a walk-in-the-woods gamboler. In big bold print was the theme of the issue: How To Be Mindful – Discover why slowing down and staying present leads to a happier, less stressed life.

As a meditation teacher I am only too happy when people begin exploring their inner dimensions. After all, for centuries the world’s major religions – at least the mystical components of same – have advocated harnessing meditation to search for God and the realization that one’s essential nature is part of God. This quest for understanding is fundamentally the deepest purpose of life and reveals the truth of Being through direct intuitive experience, not intellectual theory or speculative philosophy.

Unfortunately, there’s an existential disconnect between the core purpose of meditation and its modernized cousin, Mindfulness. According to Wikipedia, “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training. The term “mindfulness” is a translation of the Pali term sati, which is a significant element of Buddhist traditions. In Buddhist teachings, mindfulness is utilized to develop self-knowledge and wisdom that gradually lead to what is described as enlightenment or the complete freedom from suffering.” For Buddhists, the method used for this purpose is called Vipassana or Insight meditation. Sincere practitioners are committed to consciously observing experiences in order to deepen insight into reality and attain spiritual liberation. Hindus and other meditative traditions may use different modalities but the endgame is identical, unity with God. The current Mindfulness model has eviscerated a profoundly esoteric practice to become a far lighter tool harnessed to therapeutically manage stress, cultivate emotional resiliency, and foster creativity.

This downgrade has come about for multiple reasons one of which is that the medical and psychological communities find non-theistic Buddhist thought complementary to secular science. Spirituality doesn’t ‘measure up’ in laboratory settings. In addition, there is an ever-increasing, world-wide shift away from traditional religion. Various news sources report this but according to a May, 2016 Huffpost ‘The Blog’ article, “An ongoing spate of recent studies – looking at various countries around the world – all show the same thing: religion is in decline. From Scandinavia to South America, and from Vancouver to Seoul, the world is experiencing an unprecedented wave of secularization. Indeed, as a recent National Geographic report confirms, the world’s newest religion is: No Religion.” In short, God has become fashionably unfashionable. Instead, terms like Consciousness have become favorable replacements because they don’t trigger sensitive ideological trip wires. Another boon for the Mindfulness trend.

Evolving times give rise to necessary change. With greater understanding of the universe comes the need to rethink modes of belief. What was once deemed ‘gospel’ is often seen now as political doctrine crafted by hierarchical systems to wield power over those they were allegedly tasked to serve.  I get it; down with misinformation and those who abuse it. That said, disregarding terms like God in favor of ‘Consciousness’ or other neutral language, while temporarily mollifying, doesn’t solve anything. It’s just putting lipstick on a pig, i.e. glamorizing what shouldn’t be. The problem isn’t about God, it’s about our limited understanding. Efforts to stamp out God or related verbiage is not enlightened, it’s ignorant. We strive to reformulate language to avoid being reminded of unpleasant human tendencies. We isolate ancient practices that conveyed transcendent experiences and repurpose them to accommodate mundane values and lives antithetical to realizing a greater existence. And this is done with a hubristic sense of self-satisfaction that revels in its smug smallness.

Clever spiritual synonyms, or the lack thereof, are meant to display freedom from archaic belief systems yet more accurately reveal an astounding absence of inner awareness or perception of higher realities. The term God simply refers to “the supreme or ultimate reality” (Merriam Webster) and is not something riddled with boogeymen or an antiseptic praise hunter sitting in a remote corner of the universe. More, the term implies there is an ultimate and supreme state of being versus lessor ones. Why then, in this world so bent on discovering new, advanced modes of technology, do we find the perennial pursuit of ultimate reality so undeserving of our time and inquiry? Why do we dilute opportunities to tune into higher states by focusing on bland pulpits that venerate the meaningless? Breathe, be in the moment, return to your breath, watch your thoughts, observe your feelings, your food, whatever. REALLY?! Is that the new form of spirituality? What does it actually do for you aside from distracting you from your smart phone, job, or romantic problems for a bit? Does it provide deep insight into the meaning of life or how to attain union with the Ultimate? No. For as much value as there is concentrating the mind and regrouping from sundry distractions, none of that is spiritually significant unless there is an accompanying purposeful transcendent agenda and means to attain it. Why? Because, simply put, we are in the world but not of it. Never have been, never will be. And there is no way one can realize this truth until they turn within in a meaningful way.

The inner world or spiritual domain does exist. However it doesn’t manifest unless one is privy to accessing it correctly. That is the basis for all the spiritual sciences. Yogic and Buddhist systems are perhaps best at having identified the Supreme Goal plus how to attain it. This isn’t a criticism against Judaeo-Christian traditions but an acknowledgement of older spiritual systems that have been refined over time. And, since Truth is One, what they realized can be found in all religions, albeit in less evident ways. Therefore, instead of strip-mining venerable higher sciences to attain better health or emotional equanimity, think about the far greater benefits realized when one follows the path these systems were designed for. Is it not better to grasp the deeper meaning of life and harvest its fruits than to frolic in the fleeting glamor of ignorant superficiality?

God is not a four-letter word. God is the supreme good, the Grand Ultimate. Choosing to not acknowledge this truth doesn’t change it but, rather, retards one’s ability to live life to its fullest. If you haven’t done so, reconsider your relationship with the Almighty. This is not a call to re-engage with faulty doctrine or meaningless rituals. Instead, it is an invitation to broaden your perceptions wisely. Study the lives of saints and mystics who have communed with the Supernal. Examine the quality of their lives; the joy, peace, and love they’ve gained and see if that’s not something worth pursuing. Investigate meditative practices derived from legitimate spiritual systems that have produced bona fide sages, venerable ones with direct experience of God. Follow a path proven valid by those who have used it to attain the Highest. Be a critical consumer but get away from superficiality and re-engage with God. Your version of the Divine may be personal, impersonal, or a mixture of both. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is pursuing a valid inner path because, ultimately, it’s what you’re meant to do. There is no greater fulfillment or enduring accomplishment than reuniting with your true Self. And that is God.

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03 Jul

Civility & Decency: Hallmarks of Personal & Social Cultivation

It takes little effort to notice the frequency of low-level behaviors demonstrated individually and societally these days. Regardless of whether they stem from matters of politics, social decorum, religion, gender, race, or innumerable kindred topics; all get rendered into a kind of perverse fuel that is disseminated through sensationalistic social media and press outlets. These, in turn, become converted to equally toxic reactive outrage. In fact, one can’t turn on a computer or read a news site without being inundated by an appalling glut of boorish anecdotes, deviant crimes, or sad demonstrations of humankind’s capacity for inhumanity; topics subsequently regurgitated by anyone boasting an opinion and means to express it. We’re almost conditioned to seek evidence of social/global improvement yet, upon finding so little, bemoan its lack and await the string of inflammatory responses sure to follow. Such behaviors, rather than being corrective or solution-oriented, merely promote cyclic patterns of negativity that generate further corrosive practices and incendiary attitudes.

Lamentably, the concept of leading by example appears to be losing valuable traction. Many fail to recognize how their actions impact others or, if they do grasp this, don’t care what kind of activities they put forward. People manifest base attributes when they suffer from cause-effect blindness, ethical ignorance, or when those wielding social influence fail to exhibit common courtesy or basic decency. Standards for such seem to lack relevance and are wistfully mourned by those yearning more civilized times. This engenders an almost rhetorical question: Why teach children self-control or rules of respectful engagement when adults in all strata of society increasingly fail to evince those qualities themselves? We’ve become afflicted by a dearth of high-minded deportment and substituted it with quasi neo-apocalyptic, Mad Max modes of violent expression. Devolution, not evolution appears to be the trend. Why? In part because our current President acts like a bad grade-school child. But his actions find significant resonance because mean-spirited, regressive attitudes are quick-fix, fear-based responses to the complexities that arise from an emerging global society. The challenges evoked by shifting populations and cultural diversity has rocked the foundation of previously familiar nationalistic stability. And not just in the USA. Multiple countries are pressed to address the repercussion of technological, environmental, and social changes. The world is in flux and people either expand to embrace it wisely or contract to contain it in a death throe. The truth is, however, this process can’t be denied. We are not going backwards.

No one person can stop wide-spread negativism by themselves; fortunately, everyone can do so individually and collectively. How? By being willing to behave correctly and doing so as often as possible. What does this entail? It means recognizing that each of us is empowered to create. What we do, say, and think does impact us and the world around us. We must be mindful, then, of our power and how to exercise it. The equation is not complicated: If you want a better society or world, then act, speak, and think in ways that beget harmony and uplifting benefit. Not doing so elicits the unenviable opposite. Sadly, we often fail to see how we unconsciously create the very things we wish to avoid. For instance, when we strive for peace angrily, or when we seek social equity through blame and shame, we foster the very adversity we sought to eradicate.  Therefore, we must exercise the universal precepts of doing no harm, being kind, and treating others as we’d wish to be treated. Sounds simplistic, but confronting base instincts is seldom easy.

Doing as suggested doesn’t require anything sophisticated. It can be done simply by shifting how you interact with others. If you aren’t doing so already, learn to pay attention, be kind, exercise courtesy, and engage thoughtfully. In other words, be respectful. Replace autopilot mode with sympathetic listening and amiable interchange. Develop the ability to commune with others, not just communicate. This can change the world one person at a time.  Consider this: Listening is more than just hearing words. It requires understanding; tuning in to the tones, expressions, thoughts or feelings that exist behind words. These must be weighed to grasp the full picture of what’s going on. Next, respond after considering how your thoughts, speech, or actions could be delivered and what their impact might be. Strive to speak when the time is right; act from a place of truthful benevolence. If this seems too unwieldy, just be kind; doing only that which won’t harm others or oneself. Like any skill, this becomes easier with practice and the results are so worthwhile.

Personal and cultural development have many features but, at their core, require embracing unity. We’re all in this together. Literally. There is no escaping the actuality that everyone, consciously or not, contributes to how the world is shaped. As mentioned before, if you wish to see a better society or planet, behave properly wherever you are. Refuse the influence of those who spread ignorance and defile virtue. Be a light in the world – even if it’s just a tiny corner. Model civility, demonstrate decency. Be polite, be kind, be thoughtful, be courteous, have manners. We each have the obligation to be mindful stewards of our lives as well as the planet. Since the divine dwells in all, your honorable behavior not only elevates yourself but make this world a finer place to live in and, subsequently, serves The Creator favorably.

 

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