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Monday, December 07, 2009

The Direction of Causation

It's funny when you really think about it. We go through our lives thinking this event or that thought is causing us to feel a certain way, when in fact every emotional experience is coursing through us in every moment. A certain feeling emerges from the pack to dominate our awareness, and our ingenious ego mind instantly finds a justification for that feeling within our present experience or most recent thought. Then we think the event or thought actually caused the feeling, when it simply is not so.

If you sit in meditation enough to settle into the depths of what is present within you, if you can keenly watch the many layers of your present experience and witness the endless shifting of random emotions, all while you just sit there, thinking about nothing except "what am I feeling right now?" -- if you can do this, you will see that it is as I describe. First comes the feeling. Then comes the justification for the feeling, unless you are sufficiently aware to see that there is no justification for the feeling. It is just the way you feel. And then this is. And then this. No reason.

It is a common statement of psychotherapy that no one can make you feel anything. They act, you have thoughts about their action, and then you react emotionally to those thoughts. But I would go further to specify that it isn't even just about other people's actions. Even your thoughts have very little to do with causing your emotions. You may habitually associate certain thoughts with certain emotions, but that is a matter of correlation, not causation. You feel every way within an endless ocean of wavering emotions. And the only meaning any of it has is the meaning you decide to give to it.

My take on this is, if I'm going to feel all the joy, sorrow, anger, frustration, and amusement without regard to what I am thinking, doing or experiencing, what the heck. Why not just enjoy the show and stop caring so much what's on the screen? Whatever it is, it will assuredly change in another moment. Fundamentally, it is all just the play of consciousness. And what is true and unchanging, that is so beneath this shifting emotional experience. So I sit and watch with amused curiosity, and occasionally catch a glimpse of that beloved, glowing eternity beneath it all.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Spontaneous Freedom: When the Wall Was Brought Down

In 1989 I was a college student majoring in International Relations. I had taken several classes on the politics of Eastern Europe and the general consensus among experts in the field was that change in the Soviet Union would be slow, but was certainly happening. My professors, many leaders in the field who had gained tenure at an Ivy League university, saw a gradual trajectory of change. They predicted that as government wanted more economic power in the world, it would have to grant greater freedoms to the people to stimulate productivity, and that as people tasted minor freedoms they would want more. Politicians would seek to appease them by carefully satisfying that tentative call of the people, but without granting any real freedom that would diminish the power of the state. Being a student, I tended to accept their predictions as likely to be true.

We were just as surprised as anyone else when suddenly one day the newspapers announced that the Berlin wall had just come down. News footage showed joyous people celebrating atop the remnants of what had separated them from the free world. I don’t think there was anyone in the U.S. State department or any political office within East Germany itself that was any less surprised. How is this possible, within a nation in which there was no right to freedom of speech nor freedom of association? How did such a huge group of people dedicated to bringing down the Soviet government manage to rise to such power without being stamped out long before they reached a critical mass? The answer will probably shock and fortify you, as it did me, when a friend told me his friend’s story of how he and a group of meditators served as the final straw that broke the back of communist oppression in E. Berlin one evening in November.


About 7 weeks before the wall came down, a small group of meditation practitioners decided to start a meditation group in one of theirs East Berlin apartment where people would come and sit in silent reflection, envisioning their hopes for their country. That first week about 8 people came. They all found it to be a worthwhile experience, so invited more people to join them the next week. That next week the group more than doubled in size. Each week people would come to sit in silence, meditating together and envisioning East Germany as they believed it could and should be. Each week they brought more people with them to peacefully sit together with hope and faith. After a few weeks the group had grown to be too large for the apartment, so they requested permission to use a public café. That worked for a couple more weeks, but then the group became too large for the café. Eventually they had to get permission to meditate in a public square.

One day, while sitting together in silence in the public square, by now a group numbering into the hundreds, someone stood up and began walking towards the wall. Others stood also and began following. One by one, they each stood and walked towards the wall. As they walked, people they passed silently joined the procession. By the time they reached the wall, which was about 4 kilometers from where they had begun in the square, their numbers had reached the thousands. The people at the front of the procession instructed the guards at the wall to open the gates. They refused. The meditators insisted, “Open the gates.” Overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, the guards decided to call their superiors to report what was happening and request instruction. Were they to open fire and shoot so many people? What options did they have? After explaining the situation fitfully, the instruction came back, “Open the gates.”

The gates were opened, the people flooded through, and piece by piece, they dismantled the wall that had separated their vision of what could and should be from the reality of what was. I share this story with you so that you will know irrefutably that what separates us can never be as powerful as what brings us together. If you wish to find that ecstatic connection to all within your life and unleash its unlimited potential, you must only sit in silence with hope and faith until the time comes to get up and walk into the future you have evoked. Namaste (I bow to the Infinite within you).

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Singing for Your Freedom

"You are forever pure.
You are forever true
and the dream of this world
can never touch you.
So give up your attachment
and give up your confusion
and fly to that space that's beyond
all illusion."

~ Shimshai from the song "Suddhosi Buddhosi" off the album "Live on Maui"

I love the sound of silence so much that sometimes I forget how transformative a blessing music can be. Of course, it can always be entertainment, and such distractions can be fun, but when I'm not looking for distraction, when instead I'm looking to deepen my intimacy with the present moment, I generally surround myself with silence. And then there comes a day where I brew the very best oolong tea I have been able to find, open up the French doors to the garden, and turn up the volume on my favorite acoustic musicians.

Today I immersed myself in Shimshai, and what a soul opening choice it was. As I listened to his music today, I found my heart opening with a keen awareness of one aspect of the suffering in this world. Recently I have been troubled by the rise in gang violence, and particularly in the growing tension between the races and an increase in gang related race wars. As I sat listening to the music, I felt a deep connection to the false beliefs that were controlling the minds and eclipsing the hearts of all those young people, causing them to live in rage, hatred and fear -- some as victims and some as victimizers, but all as suffering souls. The more I felt the pain of their delusion, the more my heart opened and I began to cry for them. Every inch of my heart cried out for their release, as I prayed that the light of the Truth of their perfection, and indeed the perfection of their imagined enemies, might pierce the darkness and reveal itself to them.

Earlier today I began my morning meditation the way I always do, with the Buddhist Four Immeasurables prayer:

"May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never part from the happiness that is beyond suffering.
May they dwell in equanimity, without attachment or aversion."

I have long known that the one cause of suffering this prayer points to is the suffering caused by the delusion that we ARE these limited, separate, physical devices that we use to move through this physical realm. This false belief is the only true source of suffering that exists. Once we know that we are infinite beings having a localized experience, everything falls into perspective. Group identity is just an idea. Pride, respect, power -- all just ideas, none of which hold the power to cause or prevent our inner peace and outward demonstration of love. But in the presence of false identification with the illusion of these separate bodies and their separate life stories that we call "me," well then no happiness can possibly be a lasting one, for it is all frail and threatened, needing constant defense and shoring up.

Ending each meditation, there is the prayer that the merit gained by the practice be used to free all beings from suffering:

"Rising above all forces of negativity,
going beyond the turbulence of [belief in] birth, old age, sickness, and death,
from the ocean of samsara,
may I free all beings."

This is always meaningful to me, yet rarely does it reach into the depths of my emotions and empower itself as a creative prayer. Yet our thoughts and words have the power to create within this manufactured realm. We can take action upon the physical using our physical bodies and their efforts, but as Divine creators who manufactured this realm ourselves, we can also act upon this physical realm from a non-physical level. Yet in order for us to do this, we must "move" from the locus of our spiritual self, which is heart-centered. Emotion can be one of the widest paths to that center of connectedness with all life. And today it was music that allowed me to follow that path home, and re-energize my commitment to using my life to help as many people as I can to find freedom from the tyranny of their mental confusion, and to remember who they are.

"Pure, pure like the water,
let it run forever more,
to be clean, clean as the waves
come crashing to the shore.
It leaves me
smooth, smooth as a pebble,
polished in the depth of love
carried by the winds of grace
on the wings of a dove.
...
Arise and awake from your slumber
Kindle ancient flame
as witness to the waves of what's to change
though the essence remains the same."

~ Shimshai from the song "Pure" off the album "Deliverance"

Let yourself rise from the depths of your slumber. Remember who you are. You have lived a life from within a limited perspective, but you are not a limited being. You are Christ. You are Krishna. You are Buddha. Remember, and shine your light so that it might enlighten others as you pass through this world. You are not alone. You were never alone. There is only one of us.

"I know that Jah
is forever beside me.
I know the love
will forever remind me.
I know that Jah
is the light in a darkened world.
I must live in Thy way and Thy will."

~ Shimshai from the song "We Give Thanks" off the album "Live on Maui"

May you see the Truth in yourself, and find it again reflected back to you within every face you see.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

PeacePrayer on Twitter

I left out the opening hashtag in the above title because my blogging software makes a url out of the title and browsers don't handled hashtags in urls properly (unless they are there to signify a location on the page). Really this article is about #PeacePrayer which is a Twitter meme that could make a real difference in your life and in our world.

The idea is this: every day each of us committed to fostering peace within our lives and within our world will make our first tweet of the day one that comes out of a vision of peace. We will then tweet whatever we think of and include the #PeacePrayer tag within it.

Method for Generating a Vision of Peace

Some people can just sit down and see a world at peace at will, but for most people that is an elusive vision. We know we like the idea of peace, but don't know what that would actually look like. By a vision of peace I don't mean a theory on the features of peace; I mean a clear mental image of people existing in a state of peace and going about their lives in that state.

In just 9 breaths you can generate a clear vision of peace like so: Sit quietly and focus your attention on your breath. Once you have that focus, imagine a light surrounding the entire planet, but invisible to everyone. See all the pain, fear, anger and sorrow that millions carry within them every day as if it were clouds within their hearts and minds. Then as you breathe in, watch as the all-pervading light sucks the clouds out of every heart and mind around the world. By your third breath, see each person completely cleared.

Then for 3 breaths, as you breathe out watch as the light pours itself into each person's heart. By your third breath, see that this light has radiated out from each person's heart to fill their entire being.

Now sit for three breaths simply witnessing the world at peace, filled with the light of love and surrounded by a world of well-being. Do you see many smiling faces? What are people doing? Watch and enjoy. Then open your eyes and write whatever comes out, adding #peaceprayer at the very beginning or very end.

Three breaths with visualization on the in-breath, three breaths with visualization on the out-breath, three breaths with steady visualization of peace on both in and out-breath, then write. That's it.

Timeframe

I would like to start by working on simply the remainder of this summer. If you feel you can commit to being a part of this meme for the rest of this summer, please retweet (RT) the original tweet that brought you to this page. That will be your affirmation of your participation.

At the end of the summer we can converse about whether we want to continue, and if so for what period of time.

I look forward to reading your #peaceprayer tweets. I know there is great wisdom within you. I also know that you cannot create what you cannot first envision. We must all be able to imagine a world at peace if we are ever to live in one. Let this be one step we take together in that direction.

Update 10/4/09 - Though summer has ended, consider taking the time each day to clarify your vision of the world you would like to contribute towards building. We don't have to tweet about it, but let us keep clarifying and empowering our visions.

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