The Most Exciting Thing

What is the most exciting thing about being here, on this Earth, as a free agent of life—a human being with intelligence, awareness, and various faculties and personal gifts?

Before answering that question, I would ask you to consider your past. Consider especially the things that you’ve done that were very special, or interesting, or inspiring. Perhaps they required courage, or commitment, or a willingness to be uncomfortable.

Notice that, while other people were likely involved in those things in some way, you were in large part the creator, the initiator, the innovator, and the way-maker of those happenings. Without your desire to have made it happen, it would not have been. Without your willingness to see it through, it could not have been completed. Without the faculties of your mind, to imagine the end-result, understand the process to get there, and make the cost vs. benefits of taking that course, there would’ve been no motivation to pursue it. Add to that whatever other qualities you may have needed to call upon; maybe the courage to proceed in spite of the parts of you that were afraid.

Looking back, we can see that, while the people and environment around us may have influenced our thinking and decisions, above all, we are responsible for the course of our life, and we are the creators of our lives.

Every action that we take is preceded by some process of rationalization, analysis, imagination, intuition, or instinct that happens within us, within our consciousness. No one else can be held responsible for our relationship to these inner processes but us. Because we determine our relationship with these inner processes, and we decide which one we will act on (and which ones we won’t), we are the creators of our lives in a way that no one else can be.

No one else can hear our thoughts, or see the workings of our imagination, or feel the pull of our intuition, or trust the instinct coming from or gut. Only we can do these things, and only we can choose which of these will influence our actions.

We can also put more attention on these different processes and create different experiences. Putting more attention on our thinking-mind makes visible a “train of logic.” Paying attention to the imagination vivifies amazing inner imagery; and if we take it even deeper, the imagination can lead us through whole dreams, stories, and journeys within our consciousness. Likewise heeding our intuition or gut instinct reveals even more possibilities of life that we may not have considered, if we had just stayed in our head.

Now, instead of looking to the past, project into the future. With all these faculties available to us, so much is available… so much is possible.

Endowed with so much power, we realize our whole life is a canvas for painting the colors of our dreams and creative impulses. Noticing that we have what we need—and perhaps even that there is nothing to lose!—frees us to assume our identity as conscious creators. At our best, we create from joy, from desire, from a childlike excitement to explore and experience—to dance rapturously in the mystery of life.

What, then, is the most exciting thing? Not just that we are the creators of our lives, but the taken-for-granted fact that our life is, truly, ours to create.

Recognizing this fact—recognizing our creative potential—fuels the process of stepping out of our ego and into our true Self, from which we can intuit, pursue, and manifest the life our heart longs for.

Perhaps we’ll end with this, then… Can you imagine what your life can be like? Can you imagine your relationships overflowing with connection, respect, and love? Can you imagine your career being not only fun and satisfying, but helpful to others in a meaningful way? Can you imagine your monetary life being not only stable, but providing you with the resources to live where you want to, travel, and maintain a style of life that you are deeply grateful for? Can you imagine coming fully alive with your mind wide open, your heart dancing, your body grounded firmly in the beauty of this amazing Earth? Can you imagine your soul liberated and gleeful as it explores the endless spiritual dimensions of life?

We all deserve that kind of life, and we can all have it. As Matt Kahn once said, “We can all shine together.”

May you be blessed with the life of your dreams.

The Power of Your LightSight

In Quantum Mechanics the most well-known experiment is called the “double slit.” It is well-known because of its paradoxical and startling conclusions.

It goes like this. Shoot some photons through two slits. On the other side of the slits are receiver-plates, on which the photons make patterns. Run the experiment twice—first while observing and collecting the data; second while not observing or collecting data—and you actually get two different results. When you don’t observe the photons and collect data, the photons make an “interference pattern” on the plate; that is, they make the same patterns as waves would. When you do observe the photons and collect data, the photons make a different pattern—a pattern in which they behave like particles would.

Physicists call this “wave-particle duality” because the photons can behave both like waves and like particles, in terms of the pattern they make on the receiver-plates. It just depends on whether there is observation and data collection, or not.

Another way of saying that is, consciousness, the observing variable, alters the result of the experiment. The presence of consciousness changes the behavior of physical matter. This is why Max Planck said, “we ourselves [as observers] are part of the mystery [‘ultimate mystery of nature’] we are trying to solve.”

If we interpret the results of the double-slit experiment this way, in which physicists discovered the influence, the power, of consciousness on what it is aware of, then we could say they were discovering the power of your LightSight. Allow me to explain.

In spirituality and mindfulness practice, we reach similar conclusions as physicists but from a different method and route. Rather than deal with the physical, spiritual practitioners become expert in dealing with the metaphysical—thoughts, emotions, subtle energies, etc.

In mindfulness practice, for example, one practice involves just being aware of thoughts and emotions as they arise; just to hold them in the light of consciousness without thinking about them or doing anything with them. Pure consciousness is integral to the practice.

What we find in this practice, which, because it’s a subjective experience, can only be verified subjectively, is that thoughts, emotions, and subtle energies mutate just by virtue of their being ‘shined on’ by consciousness. But they do not just mutate randomly. Thoughts tend to first lose their emotional charge before falling away altogether. Emotions, on the other hand, tend to mutate in the way of becoming more pleasant, or “high vibration,” as we say.

David Hawkins described this in his Map of Consciousness. Just being present with the emotion of guilt (vibration of 30), say, allows it over time to morph into apathy (50)  or maybe fear (100); then fear becomes anger (150). Eventually we spill into the positive side of the chart when we reach courage (200), and staying with the phenomenon even then creates, after a while, acceptance (300), gratitude, and peace (600).

I can see how people would be skeptical of this. And yet only our own experience will reveal the Truth to us. For me, I find the Map of Consciousness to be a conceptual scheme that explains my own subjective experience of staying with a phenomenon, surrounding it with my consciousness, and watching my emotional states change into higher vibrational states.

Specifically, I had a physical ailment that caused a lot of pain in… a very uncomfortable place to have pain, on my body. I actually didn’t seek out a cure or surgery for this cause of intense pain, but trusted in the power of my own consciousness to heal, by using the technique Hawkins described in his book, Letting Go. The technique is based in the power of your consciousness: just putting your attention on something (nothing else!) causes it to change in a positive way.

In the early stages of letting go of my resistance to this pain, and just being with it as the consciousness I am, and being totally honest about my experience, I absolutely hated the pain. I said “I hate this fucking pain so much!” Soon thereafter, I found out I was actually afraid of the pain. Then it became “I am angry that this pain is here and that this is happening to me.” Then that became courage to be with the pain and sit through it. Then there was acceptance that “this is my life right now, and I can deal with it.” Eventually it came to a point of profound gratitude: “this pain was given to me as a gift, to teach me how powerful I am.” When I had this thought my body had an energetic response, which I have come to associate with coming into alignment with Truth.

Today the cause of that pain is all but entirely gone. I never sought treatment outside myself. My own experience leads me to believe that it was a form of self-healing—a testament to the power of pure consciousness. But, again, everyone must form conclusions from their own experience.

Thus, on the one hand, we have the physicists reporting that, based on their experiments, consciousness affects the behavior of physical matter. On the other hand, we have the “spiritualists” reporting that, based on their spiritual practices, consciousness affects non-physical phenomena in a positive way. What are these people pointing to?

It’s the power of your LightSight. When you look at something, just look at it, just see it, then the rays of your consciousness go out to that aspect of existence, and that aspect of existence receives the rays of what you are, like plants receive the sunshine and turn their leaves toward the sun. Existence is changed just be being ‘shined on.’ Thus it has been written:

You do not understand the true power of your consciousness. Your consciousness is made of Light. When you hold something in your consciousness, it changes because of that. Your consciousness is a healing force, if you do not bind it by your thinking and your addiction to “doing.” – Jeshua / Pamela Kribbe

Now we can understand why the spiritual teachings point to the practice of “not doing.” You do not have to do anything in order to change experience; just by being conscious, by putting the Light of your consciousness, your “LightSight,” on what you will, you transform reality.

So it is inevitable that you, as consciousness, will change things. You won’t stop being consciousness. But you can bind pure, crystal consciousness with thinking and ‘muddy it up.’ This robs it of its transformative power, temporarily. And yet, free of overthinking, we are empowered to direct our LightSight, at will, to all things wanting illumination, within and without.

It’s as if the Light of consciousness calls forth the Light in all of existence. It’s as if existence is transformed into higher vibrations, alchemically, through the power of presence.

“The Sparrow” and The Meaning of Suffering

Mary Doria Russell published The Sparrow, a science fiction novel about Earth’s first contact with intelligent life on another planet, and especially the theological implications of that encounter, in 1996. The main character of the book, Emilio Sandoz, is a Jesuit priest and linguist who is secretly harboring a skepticism about God’s existence. With a team of brilliant and widely experienced friends, as dear as family to him, he makes the trip to Rakhat, the alien planet, and interprets the events that transpire there as, basically, message-carriers from God. He is, as the book says more than once, a “soul searching for God,” and endeavors to make sense of what happens on the journey—the causes for amazement, wonder, and gratitude, as well as the incredible heartbreak and soul-crushing tragedies—in terms of his personal faith in a good and loving God.

Emilio’s mind is fixated on these questions: If other intelligent species exist in the universe, how must our understanding of God be modified? If it is God’s will that the people from Earth meet the people from Rakhat, must it also be his will that the mission is essentially a miserable, nightmarish failure? For once you admit that God created the world or directs its events in a meaningful way, then you have to assume that God allows the seemingly meaningless and horrible suffering that transpires—but why? As the author herself says in the book’s afterword, “you realize that God has a lot to answer for.” This is, essentially, the kind of theological problem she investigates through the unfolding of the plot and characters’ lives in The Sparrow: what do we make God answer for?

Without spoiling all of the plot, we can say that Sandoz endures a suffering on Rakhat that few humans will ever know the depths of, or be able to imagine. Russell, who at the time of writing the book, was working out her own faith questions in converting to Judaism, writes a personal Holocaust into Sandoz’ life. And how do you keep faith when you go through that? Why would a good God ever make anyone endure that?

At the end of the book, she leaves Sandoz as an uncertain man. He is not sure of anything anymore—which leaves the reader, perhaps, with as many questions as he has.

However, before leaving our main character, Russell seems to offer a possible solution to the theological problems that may satisfy our curiosity and quell our anxieties. The scene in which this solution is presented also gives the book its title:

‘There’s an old Jewish story that says in the beginning God was everywhere and everything, a totality. But to make creation, God had to remove Himself from some part of the universe, so something besides Himself could exist. So He breathed in, and in the places where God withdrew, there creation exists.’

‘So God just leaves?’ John asked, angry where Emilio had been desolate. ‘Abandons creation? You’re on your own, apes. Good luck!’

‘No. He watches. He rejoices. He weeps. He observes the moral drama of human life and gives meaning to it by caring passionately about us, and remembering.’

‘Matthew ten, verse twenty-nine,’ Vincenzo Giuliani said quietly. ‘Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.’

‘But the sparrow still falls,’ Felipe said.

From the point of view of this theology, suffering is meaningful because God is caring about us even as He does not intervene. He is present even when we are in complete despair.

I don’t think that Russell is under the illusion that this is the kind of answer that we want, if we want there to be some kind of “light at the end of the tunnel.” Maybe to her it is telling the “hard Truth,” with emphasis on the hard—that God allows even our deepest despair because intervening in the world he created detracts from the free will of the inhabitants. It is our ability to choose “good” or “bad,” light or darkness, that makes life in this world truly unpredictable and suffused with a kind of meaning that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

On Russell’s view—if hers is the same as the theological statement at the end of the book—then sentient beings really do choose whether they inflict suffering on others, which God allows, but again, God is there watching, knowing, and weeping, even as he allows the sparrow to fall; and they do fall. (Setting the problem of free will aside, here.)

Now, if I may interject my own thoughts here, I agree with Russell on some key points, but I think this theology could be improved, too. From my point of view, the Abrahamic religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam—when they talk about a Love ‘underneath’ all of existence, in the form of an all-loving God, are tuning into something real. But then they run into some immediate problems: ‘If Love [God] underies all of this, what is all of this ‘evil’ and suffering about?’ (The Problem of Evil, it’s called.)

I think that Christian and Jewish theology may be improved by integrating the knowledge and experience harvested by the Eastern traditions into its own underestanding of God. For in them, too, you will find the manifestation of “God.”

For example, what did the Buddha say about suffering? That it comes from our attachments which are based in ignorance. If you accept this truth, there’s a kind of empowerment that comes with it, the likes of which you just don’t get in most (but not all) modern Christian understandings. You can create your happiness or misery insofar as you are aware of your ignorance and able to let go of your attachments.

See, the Eastern religions have the advantage of pointing us to real, transcendent experiences through which we behold the nature of reality in our own direct experience and gain insight. It’s extremely direct, whereas in the Christian tradition, by and large, there’s a lot more “guesswork.”

As a meditation teacher once said to me, in practicing meditation, you learn to not attach yourself to experience like you learn to not touch the stove when it’s hot. You put your hand on the stovetop and it burns; then you know not to touch it again.

If there’s something to add to The Sparrow‘s theology, it would be this: that what befalls Sandoz on Rakhat, all the suffering that constitutes his personal Holocaust, is caused by his own ignorance and the ignorance of the sentient beings he encounters. When he loses his friends, there is authentic grief. But he need not have lost his friends in unnatural ways were it not for ignorant acts. And when he is basically tortured, it was because, from a Buddhist point of view, the beings inflicting the suffering were swimming in ignorance and not only doing a great disservice to Sandoz but an even greater disservice to themselves.

When we are in deep states of suffering, we may feel that we want to blame life or blame people or blame God for the misery we have survived, and we may want to take a pessimistic and cynical view of life. If there is someone reading this article who wants to do that, don’t let me stop you.

But when we are open to the idea that we create our own suffering through ignorance, and other beings can inflict great pain and even devastation upon us, but not suffering, then that may be the beginning of the end of suffering. That was what Buddha called Enlightenment: “the end of suffering.” The fight with life is off.

And from this point of view, too, literally all of life becomes learning experience. But you may be thinking… this still doesn’t solve the problem of having suffering in the first place; it just explains how suffering came into existence—through ignorance. Then why does suffering exist, really?

For that question, the best answer I have come across is found in the channeled material of Pamela Kribbe. It speaks to something deep within us:

First, God was entirely GOOD. There was goodness everywhere and all around. In fact because there was nothing else, things were kind of static. His creation lacked aliveness; it lacked the possibility of growth and expansion. You might say it was stuck.

To create change, to create an opportunity for movement and expansion, God had to introduce an Element in his creation that was different from the Goodness that pervaded everything. This was very hard for God, for how can you create something that is not-you? How can Goodness create Badness? It can’t. So, God had to come up with a trick, so to speak. This trick is called ignorance.

Ignorance is the element that opposes Goodness. It creates the illusion of being outside Goodness, of being separated from God. “Not knowing who you are” is the incentive behind change, growth and expansion in your universe. Ignorance breeds fear, fear breeds the need to control, the need to control breeds the struggle for power and there you have all the conditions for “Evil” to flourish. The stage has been set for the battle between Good and Bad.

God needed the dynamics of opposites to get his creation “un-stuck.” It may be very hard for you to comprehend in view of all the suffering caused by ignorance and fear, but God put great value on these energies, since they provided him with a way to go beyond Him/Herself.

God asked you, the ones that belong to the most creative, advanced and courageous part of herself, to take the veil of Ignorance. In order to experience the dynamics of opposites as thoroughly as possible, you were temporarily soaked in forgetfulness about your true nature. You consented to take this plunge into ignorance, but this fact was overlaid by the veil of forgetfulness as well. So now you often curse God for being in the situation you’re in: the hardships, the ignorance – and we understand. In essence though: you are God, God is you.

You may notice in this “theology” that there are strong similarities to Russell’s view. There is a fundamental Goodness or Love that underlies existence, which again is being called “God.” And, like in the Jewish story in The Sparrow, God creates the universe out of love and the novelty of creation–the experience it makes possible.

But here is the great point of divergence: it is God that is having the experience, and not merely watching it or knowing it, as in Russell’s book. The explanation for the universe is the same: Why does it exist? Because it allows for experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible! However here, in the channeled material, we have a new answer to the question of suffering. Whereas in The Sparrow the answer to ‘what makes suffering meaningful?’ was that God was watching and present for it, in this view, God is again present but as the experience itself, and suffering comes about through the mechanism of ignorance—i.e., when God forgets itself.

By the way, this is also how Alan Watts explained the Universe. The Universe is God playing “hide and seek” with itself.

Then when we have experiences of suffering we are actually the Divine having an experience of itself through the filter of “ignorance” or “illusion” or “self-forgetting”–call it what you will. We are still serving the greater God that we are One with by having this unprecedented, novel experience that is, in the whole universe, totally unique. We are giving God a learning experience as God.

Then the way out of suffering is just to remember that you are not “a soul searching for God,” as Emilio Sandoz believes himself to be, as if God were something Other than your true nature… but to realize that, in essence, you are God looking for itself, and this world and everything in it is but a temporary appearance in your eternal presence.

To summarize, we have considered two points of view, both theologically oriented. In both views, the universe exists for similar reasons; it exists because it makes new experiences possible, which is another way of saying experience exists for its own sake. In the view presented in The Sparrow, suffering is allowed within the universe by God but made meaningful by virtue of the fact that God is present for, and cares about our suffering. In this  view God is “outside” the world. In the other view, suffering is made meaningful by virtue of being a “learning experience” of complete novelty for God, in which God is both the experiencer and what is being experienced. In this view, contrary to the first view, there is reason to believe that an end to suffering is possible in this life.

So it boils down to the difference between monotheism and pantheism.

Transforming on All Levels

We need to understand that enlightenment is not only a shift in perception and consciousness. It is an existential metamorphosis at all levels, which radically transforms the vibration of our energy system and the delicate balance of various elements in our brain and the subtle bodies. A sudden and complete enlightenment that skips all the intermediate steps would undoubtedly lead to a mental and emotional collapse, if not the physical death. Such a radical transformation as enlightenment requires adequate time for the body and mind to adapt to the dramatic change of energy and identity.Anadi

I used to think of the spiritual journey into higher consciousness as a process in which your point of view changes in a very powerful way, such that you see everything through new eyes. From there, you feel a lot better than you used to–you feel good all the time–and you share that with others.

This is not totally misleading, and yet, an unexamined part of this concept is the disembodied nature of it; and what goes along with that idea of disembodiment, is making the spiritual process less radical and less connected to the Earthy parts of us than it actually is.

The research of Francesca McCartney, the Dharma talks of Reggie Ray, and Pamela Kribbe’s channelings of Jeshua all point, from different angles, to the deeply embodied nature of spiritual evolution. McCartney, a life-long scholar of kundalini energy and kundalini awakening, argues that the kundalini energy is stored in the cells of our body, programmed by DNA, before it amasses at the base of the spine and travels up the spine affecting the chakras and their associated organ systems. Reggie Ray, another scholar but also a meditation master in the Mahamudra tradition, insists on the hugely important but overlooked role of the soma in the Buddha’s teachings, and teaches meditative practice that is deeply somatic and connected to the Earth. Finally, Jeshua, through the medium of Pamela Kribbe, transmits the idea that rather than retreat to the higher chakras (5-7), inner work must go down to the lower chakras (1-3; the sacral, navel, and solar plexus chakras) for the deepest transformation to occur.

Spiritual evolution is, from these points of view, a very embodied and grounded thing, in terms of practice and inner work. But even beyond that, testimonies suggest that in undergoing the process the body changes in deep structural ways. The brain re-structures; the nervous system unravels out of overstimulation. In Dzogchen, too, there is the idea of an advanced practitioner’s body transforming into the Sambhogakaya light body at a certain stage.

So this process of evolution not only creates great change at the psychological and emotional levels, but the body too, is inextricably part of the unfolding. Additionally, shifts happen within the energetic body and on the soul and consciousness levels. We are thus transforming on all levels.

. . . The remainder of this article will present an outline of the different dimensions of our individuated being (a single body-mind with localized consciousness), and how these dimensions may change in this process. It is not exhaustive of all our dimensions, and it does not include the “world of relationship,” but it’s still useful, or better yet, provocative. A more comprehensive discussion of this outline could, I think, run on to book length (which is why I am leaving it as just an outline). But I hope that by listing these phenomena, with sources, the reader will be encouraged to draw their own conclusions about what this could mean for undergoing a spiritual journey. At the very least, our conception of what is possible may be expanded.

Sometimes just acknowledging that something is possible can be… life-changing.

Physical

  • Physical body becomes a “light body.”   (Source: Jasmuheen)
  • Illnesses manifest to purge energies and deepen the process. (Jeshua)
  • Dietary, sleep, and sexual habits change at the level of need and desire, often towards a more vegan diet, less sleep needed, and less sexual desire but more pleasant sexual experiences. (See Letting Go by David Hawkins)
  • Visual field widens. (Adyashanti, The End of Your World)

Neurological

  • Two brain hemispheres find a new balance and harmony. (Matt Kahn interview series: “Now is the time.”) Adyashanti has also talked about a feeling of structural changes happening within the brain, after awakening.
    • The changes that meditation causes in the brain are now well known in neuroscience.
    • See also Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk “My Stoke of Insight” and Sam Harris’ argument in Waking Up that the self is an illusory construction of the left hemisphere.
  • The nervous system unravels out of a state of overstimulation that began, for everyone, in childhood. (Matt Kahn, Whatever Arises Love That)

Psychological

  • Detachment or dis-identification from belief system. (many sources)
  • Great shift in perception from ego to egolessness: “death” of identification with ego. From me-consciousness to we-consciousness.  (many sources)
  • Shift to silent mind. Thought processes decrease greatly in quantity. (Eckhart Tolle put the figure at 80% for himself.)
  • Habits of craving and aversion give way to equanimity of mind. (Buddhist meditation teachings)
  • Fragmented aspects of oneself re-align or integrate with Self or central consciousness. (Theories of IFS therapy (intro), Teal Swan, Matt Kahn (integration teachings))
  • “Inspired thinking” arises from a deeper source within consciousness. (Adyashanti, Falling into Grace)
  • Judgmental mind to non-judgmental mind. (many sources)

Emotional

  • Fear as the predominating “state” of the ego gives way to love, kindness, and compassion which arise from true nature. (many sources)
  • Repression of emotional states is replaced by acceptance. (many sources)
  • Increased quantity of “high vibration” emotional states–peace, love, joy, happiness, acceptance, willingness–and less of the “low vibration” states like guilt, shame, apathy, fear, anger. (See “Map of Consciousness” of David Hawkins)
  • Unconscious fear of emotions is replaced by conscious intimacy with emotions. (Robert Augustus Masters, Emotional Intimacy)
  • Overall shift from mind- (or conditioning-) generated emotions to more authentic emotions based in natural responses and direct perception. (I believe Adyashanti puts the mind-based emotions figure at 90% of all emotions, in Falling into Grace.)

Energetic

  • Kundalini energy amasses at the base of the spine and rises up through the energy channel near the spine. (Research of Francesca McCartney)
  • Seven basic chakras open, and their associated abilities come online. For example: clairvoyant and clairsentient abilities associated with the 6th/7th chakras. (many sources)
  • Auric field expands. (Marie Manuchehri said in a recent talk that one’s auric field may extend 3 city blocks, at most.)
  • The individual being’s vibration rises. (many sources)
  • Mind and heart become one integrated consciousness. (Matt Kahn, Whatever arises Love That)

Soul, Consciousness, Spirit

  • Neurotic personality becomes “sane” and reveals its unique gifts. (Russ Hudson and Enneagram teachings concerning the “Enneagram of the virtues.”)
  • Realization of enlightenment. (many sources)
  • Personal will of the individual being is surrendered to divine will, which seems to coincide with the transition from ego-based to heart-based consciousness. (Adyashanti’s talks, Matt Kahn’s talks (“surrender to love”))
  • Individual being comes “into alignment” with Spirit. (many sources)
  • Consciousness awakens! (many sources)

May these ideas inspire new realizations, explorations, and expansions of consciousness on your journey. We are all meant to live in the happiness and joy that is our inheritance and true nature.

Peace.

 

 

Both/and thinking

When considering whether something is true, we almost always follow the rule of either/or. Either this is true or that is true, but both can’t be true at the same time. It is not possible that A and ~A coexist. Law of non-contradiction.

However, while this Law can hold true for our reasoning mind, it comes with some limitations. For one, it can lead to a kind of black-and-white thinking in which, if one point of view is true, then there is no truth whatsoever in the alternative. And yet as Ken Wilber likes to point out, “no one can be wrong all the time.” So even if the competing point of view turns out to be false by most measures, even then there is some way to explain how it came about as a point of view in the first place.

For example, if someone believes in the conspiracy theory that Americans didn’t land on the moon in 1969, even if that specific claim turns out to be false, there may be some valid judgments hiding explaining their position: that other conspiracy theories are true or have a degree of truth, that propaganda is real and manipulative, that there were nationalistic motives to land on the moon by the end of the 60’s (in the context of the Cold War), et cetera.

Another limitation of Law of non-contradiction is that it doesn’t necessarily hold true when claims are being made with respect to “trans-rational” states of consciousness. So this would apply to spiritual discourse in particular. The reasoning mind always works within the realm of duality. To define one thing is to enter the mind of duality, because that one thing has been separated from everything else at a conceptual level. Yet “non-duality” is so named because it has to do with non-conceptual awareness. No distinctions!—no duality!

In entering the consciousness of non-dual mind and beyond, we have to allow that the normal constraints on our reasoning mind may not apply in the same way or even apply at all. At this level, contradictions can exist. Things that cannot be conceptualized exist and unfold. What Buddhists call “emptiness”—the underlying reality of everything—cannot be conceived or imagined. But it can be experienced.

Oddly, intellectual discernment can be used to our advantage on a spiritual path, but at the same time it is not directly related to evolving consciousness beyond perceptions of the ego-mind and duality-mind. Ego doesn’t go beyond ego; reason doesn’t transcend reason; duality doesn’t collapse duality.

Which brings us to the takeaway point: when considering points of view, may we open our minds to “both/and” thinking rather than the either/or we are used to. Sometimes, it is both this and that simultaneously! With respect to normal discussions, this helps us to avoid black-and-white thinking in favor of more considerate, wider points of view that see truth (be it hidden or self-evident) on both sides. With respect to spiritual discourse, we allow our minds to open to the infinite possibilities of the Universe by not attaching to the preconceived idea that “reality must conform to the rules of our reason.” It doesn’t, it won’t, and by keeping that attachment, we are the ones who have a less pleasant and less profound experience of life; it’s our choice.

May you see Truth in infinite things, from infinite angles. And in that spirit: “To infinity and beyond!”

“It’s all the Mind”

We often assume that most of our experience is “set in stone” in some way—that it’s basically unchangeable. Yet realizing that a lot of our experience is manufactured by mind shows us that it actually is changeable; very fluid and malleable, indeed! Experience is as changeable as our mind is.

Again we have to distinguish “mind” from “awareness,” for only from the point of view of awareness, or silent witnessing, can we see clearly how thoughts trigger emotions, structure perceptions, and underlie the basic push-pull dynamics in our life.

“Mind” is not an entity. It’s not an entity because it’s nowhere to be found. You cannot point out your mind like you can point out your hand and say “there it is!” Rather, “mind” is more like water that flows in a space that is not-physical, or metaphysical. Thought-streams are the “water” that flows without necessarily affecting physical reality.

In other words, we can observe thought-streams and notice both that they do not affect physical reality and also that they are not graspable. You cannot hold onto a thought; the best you can do is write it down or think it over again.

Now when we believe thought-streams it’s as if they crystallize into ice; this ice may have an impact on reality. The process of “believing thought” is hard to describe but it can be felt. When a thought is being invested with our faith, our agreement, our “Yes,” then it is being believed; there’s a feeling of giving thought importance. “Yes that’s the way it is!”—followed by crystallization.

Depending on what the thought is saying, the consequences of this crystallizing will be different. In some cases an emotion is triggered. (“I shouldn’t have done that” triggers guilt or shame.) In a lot of cases perception is altered, however slightly. According to teachings of non-duality, perceptions in subject-object “format” itself are structured by thought. (“I am here; that [sound] is there.”) At the level of self-consciousness, thoughts form self-images and motivate behaviors. (“I am a mean person, trying to be a nice person.”) (“I am ‘not good enough’ trying to get people to like me.”) And on and on it goes.

In short: you believe it, you accept the consequences of believing it.

After all, when you think about it, believing in something is like granting reality within your private consciousness, within your “world.” It doesn’t make it into objective fact, but it’s like saying “this is real to me.” Believing or not believing, then, directly relates to the world you perceive and, in a sense, live within.

Once I attended a meditation retreat serving as a manager of students, and would sit in the back of the meditation room as students had their interviews with the meditation teacher. One student came into the room to interview as I sat in the back and listened. He talked to the teacher about all the things he was experiencing and problems he was encountering just sitting in meditation. There was discomfort, reaction to the discomfort; craving, aversion; imagination, projections—all of these things arising. And the teacher said to him, “It’s all the mind,” and she meant that all that phenomena was being generated by the mind and the mind reacting to its own creations. But of course she knew that she was not that mind, he was not that mind; no one is their mind and with practice we can step back from its incessant producing and just allow it to go by.

Paradoxically, that “permission to be,” which awareness gives to mind, is a gateway to peace and freedom. You could say experience changes when we do not try to change it.

“It’s all the mind” means that a lot of our experience is contingent on mind; it depends on our faith in, our investment in, our attachment to mental realities which become reflected on various levels of our experience (emotion, perception, self, body). IN THIS MOMENT the quality and depth of our experience is being created by our mind’s movements and our relationship, as awareness, to them.

Standing before all these movements, silent witnessing transpires without any effort or thought.

Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. – Walden

Near Enemies on the Path

If we could practice perfect presence and perfect love without any effort, spiritual growth would be easy. Happiness would be easy, too.

But that doesn’t normally happen. The reason we set out on a path in the first place is because, at the root level, we have cultivated a consciousness that breeds discontent. This consciousness then sabotages our efforts to be free of it. (Here I am using the word “consciousness” in a loose way, to refer to predominating dispositions and habits of our mind, of our psyche, which have a momentum and “life of their own.”)

The best explanation for this self-sabotage or “corruption” is that “The mind is a dynamic and living entity that has an agenda of its own survival ahead of your emotional well being” (qtd. Gary van Warmerdam). Gary uses the word “mind” here because he is writing for a general audience, but in other audios and articles he is more specific that the part of the mind furthering an agenda for its own survival is the ego-mind. After all, “mind” can also refer to thoughts, imagination, memory, intellect, subconscious mind, etc; but these aren’t fighting for survival. The ego’s the fighter.

It’s also a shapeshifter; it stays alive by disguising itself in different forms. (But that’s another story…)

It’s important to know that the ego creates this sabotage and corruption in the form of “near enemies,” because otherwise a helpful, liberating practice can become corrupted into something that is being used against you.

Examples

A near enemy of meditation is using meditation to shield ourselves from the world in a self-absorbed way.

A near enemy of prayer is to pray from a victimized point of view, reinforcing the Victim part of the ego.

A near enemy of inquiry is to ask a question hoping to get someone else’s answer or looking for answers that support a point of view we already have.

A near enemy of intellectual discernment is to cling to the intellectual conclusions we’ve reached in a rigid way or mistake them for the Truth only experience can reveal.

A near enemy of service is to get righteous and prideful about the good you are doing for others, and reinforce the Judge or Righteous part of the ego.

A near enemy of love is to love while expecting to get something back for your love or to say that what you are expressing is “love” when it really is, in a relationship context, attachment or co-dependency.

. . . Those are just a few examples, and with respect to those practices, those are not the only ways that those practices can be corrupted. We can corrupt in all sorts of ways! Woohoo!

So basically any of our practices can be corrupted and this happens when the ego shapeshifts into a form that reinforces part of itself as we assume its identity. The example of being prideful about giving service is a good example. First, the ego shapeshifts into the Righteous Judge; then we believe in that thought-identity and assume it (like putting on clothes); then that assumption of identity trickles down into our behaviors, emotions, and subsequent thoughts. With practice, you can recognize it not only in yourself but in others as well.

What’s the good news here? An intellectual awareness of “near enemies” paves the way for an experiential awareness. This article lays out the intellectual awareness, which prepares the mind to recognize the shapeshifting when it happens in actual experience. From the Witness Observer point of view comes the possibility of just seeing the shapeshifting happening, and when we are in the Observer point of view, we are not in the ego identity—whichever form it has taken.

Then, as the Observer, we are not “feeding” the ego with our energy by believing and assuming the identities (like the Judge and Victim) that it shapeshifts into. Not only do we not create our reality from ego-based energy in that moment, but we refrain from corrupting our practice through judgment, victimization, attachment, etc.

Awareness, then, is the key to being free of the near enemies created by ego-mind. However, only practicing over time can make us masters in expressing love and presence without corrupting them. (“Practice makes the master.”) It’s just not realistic to expect someone to get it right off the bat. In any field of endeavor, you don’t expect a novice to perform like an adept from the get-go.

This is why, I think, in the Toltec tradition there are three masteries: Awareness, Transformation, and Love—in that order! Love is the “greatest mastery of the Toltecs”—perhaps because it is the most powerful—but awareness is the first mastery. Love, without awareness, can be corrupted into something that is not actually love. Awareness is the foundation.

Yet when the masteries come together in consciousness, the power of love is unbounded, and love, in all its glory, is free to awaken, heal and revitalize its vehicles. This comes about by being real, true, and trusting what we already know in our hearts.

Synthesis of Spiritual Research 2.0

What is this? What is actually true? What is the point of this world? How do all the puzzle pieces fit together? What is this feeling inside me? And “is any of this even real? . . . or not?”

These are some of the questions that drive and fuel philosophical and spiritual quests. These are the kind of questions that live us. They live us, lead us to new frontiers, new questions, and less answers, perhaps, than we began with.

This post is a synthesis of much “spiritual research” done by the author, concerning inquiries of enlightenment and transcendent human experiences, which have the best chance of furnishing answers to our deepest questions.

Spiritual Teachers: Do you believe them?

If you do research in academia, you can check if your sources are credible by checking their credentials (level of degree, associated institutions, past publications and acclamations), and you can assess their arguments and claims against your own knowledge, logic, and primary sources. In academia, experts are people who have spent a lot of time reading and writing.

In spirituality the situation is quite different. Since the “goal” (if it can be said to exist) is not definite knowledge but exploration of states of consciousness, everything is much more subjective. The “experts,” here, are spiritual teachers and–good heavens!–they may not even have Doctorates!

The spiritual journey is marked by, sparked by, inner feelings and inner knowings. Also, one’s relationship with Life, and with spiritual teachers, must come to be based in trust. But not all teachers are trustworthy, and not all offer the same caliber of teaching and presence to their students.

How do you determine, in this context, who is a “credible source”? Contrary to common assumptions, there are some things we can look at:

  1. Inclusion of information you already know. Does a teacher say things that you already know to be true in your own experience? Can you be sure that at least some of the things that are being said are true? If you can, then you have a reason to listen to the things that are being said that you do not yet understand. It is possible that those things lie, at present, beyond your scope of judgment (to borrow a term from philosopher Michael McGhee); but your scope may very well expand, as life goes on.
  2. Attentional capacity and “Way of Engaging.” An increased ability to concentrate and be present are marks of higher states of consciousness. Having experience with presence yourself helps you to pick up on the degree of presence in a teacher. Their “way of engaging” is also telling. Beings in whom the egoic state of consciousness (ego) has diminished will be less reactive to other people and more focussed on listening and responding compassionately.
  3. Expressions of Emotion and Energy. Another mark of higher states of consciousness is the presence of peace, joy, and love—positive emotions. Conversely, “negative” emotional expressions would be a tip-off that perhaps this person doesn’t have much to teach. (The exception here is where expressions like anger and “wrath” are used in service of teaching, as in the case of masters G.I. Gurdjieff and Chogyam Trungpa. These exceptions call for holistic evaluations of a teacher.) Relatedly, presentation of teachings are sometimes called “transmissions” because of the communication that happens on the energetic level rather than just the intellectual level. Many people, it seems, have positive and profound experiences on the receiving end of transmitters such as Matt Kahn and “channels” of spiritual beings not physically present on Earth.

These are some of the most important criteria we can use to establish credibility vis-a-vis spiritual teachers and teachings. It involves a combination of intellect, intuition and open-heartedness that functions to dissolve doubt and listen more deeply.

Results of Research

Listening, watching, reading and compiling information from many different sources shows that the fundamental shift within the “spiritual journey” is the same for everyone. For humans at this time, the  spiritual journey centers on evolving from ego to heart. It’s about letting go of the egoic state of consciousness—which can be described from many different angles; in terms of attachments, mind-chatter, resistance to life, psychological time, fear-based expression, contracted consciousness, etc.—and “falling” into a way of being, and new expression of consciousness, characterized by compassion and understanding. It’s less noisy, more quiet.

On parallel lines, the Enlightened State has been described by many teachers as egoless perception. Eckhart Tolle calls it the “egoless state.” Adyashanti says “enlightenment is not seeing life through the lens of the egoic mind.” Ramana Maharishi, too, said that “Reality is simply the loss of the ego.”

(Now of course this can easily turn into the ego reacting to itself: “I’m going to get rid of ‘my’ ego!” If we just saw that it’s merely reacting to an idea, then there’s no identification with it, and no problem… This is a tangential point.)

Everyone must come to see, in their own experience, what lies beyond the ego. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself. Yet this can lead to a kind of dogmatism in which inquiry stops, with respect to why practices work, and restricts itself to what to practice–“how to get there.” How do we get there, and why does that work?

Basically, the way to “get there,” no matter who you talk to, involves “being conscious;” that is, accepting or not resisting what is and expressing love. Universally, the recommended practices are mindful, meditative, and/or heart-centered. With the exception of the ancient Western philosophical schools, the practices are not intellectual or head-centered. As Sara Beak once said, “[the journey] can’t come out of the head.”  So if it can’t come out of the head, it has to come from something else.

In a way, there are not many more options: body? heart? awareness itself? All of these are significantly involved, but the most important one is the heart. For it is from the heart that love, acceptance and forgiveness flow; from the heart that the longing for Unity is born; from the heart that our true knowing arises. Reggie Ray, a modern master in the tradition of Tibetan meditation, calls the heart the “first expression of our basic natural unborn awareness.” (We will circle back to discussing the heart soon.)

Now the spiritual practices have the same core elements of letting go and expressing love, even as there are variations in their presentation and the forms they might take between teachers and teachings. So these core elements are the keys, if you will, in terms of what to do to transform consciousness, manifest enlightenment and go the journey. But here again, focussing on what to do, or “how to get there,” to the exclusion of why we are practicing what we are practicing, is a little bit like a dog following its trainer around without knowing where it’s going or for what purpose.

The good news is that there’s at least one good explanation uniting the themes of the journey from ego to heart, enlightenment, and the recommended practices. But it requires that we put the puzzle pieces together. First, these pieces:

“Everything in the universe is made of energy that vibrates, and everything that vibrates imparts or impacts information. The amplitude and frequency of energy is what determines how (in what form) that energy will express itself. We call this a ‘vibration.'” – Teal Swan

“If you understand that everything is energy, you can also understand that everything you think, believe and feel consists of energy. Your attitude–or focus–vibrates, and those vibrations affect the quantum fields that underly, constitute and determine the outcome of physical matter.” – Bentinho Massaro

“…it is helpful to know that everything in the Universe is energy vibrating at a certain frequency. Every person, animal, plant, object, word, thought, feeling, belief (whether conscious or subconscious), and action has its own unique vibration” – Robert Schwartz, Your Soul’s Gift

Without going into too much detail, these three sources pass the tests for credibility (at least  in my view). Although The Secret, the 2006 movie, may have turned people off of the Law of Attraction and its underlying metaphysics (“everything is energy”), there’s still a truth to be acknowledged in this which doesn’t have to be presented in the sort of self-centering, manipulative way it was in the movie. There is a reality not only to ‘everything being energy’ but to the Law of Attraction, as well, and that this knowledge can be used in a heartful, rather than self-centered, way.

The perspective of everything being energy, which we are taking here, redefines our experience in terms of vibration and frequencies, and relates those vibrations to the expansion or contraction of our consciousness, through what we are believing and focussing on. Naturally, we have the same kind of experiences as before, but now we have a sense of the consequences of our attitudes, beliefs, and emotional expressions in terms of vibration, and, thus, consciousness contraction/expansion. The great David Hawkins correlated emotional expressions to an arbitrary, numerical scale of consciousness levels. If we expect that higher consciousness equates to more positive emotional expressions (love, joy, peace), then the map confirms our expectations:

map-of-consciousness

The total picture becomes more concrete. We go from “Everything is energy” to “Energy vibrates at different frequencies” to “Positive emotional expressions vibrate at higher frequencies.” But how does this relate to the spiritual journey “from ego to heart”? The final piece of the puzzle comes from material channeled by Pamela Kribbe—another source that satisfies the criteria of credibility, especially in light of the quality of the channeled information. The channeled spirit, Jeshua, identifies the third stage of the evolution from ego to heart as such:

Letting the old ego-based energies inside you die, throwing off the cocoon, becoming your new self: the end of the end.

This helps put everything together. If it makes sense that enlightenment is a shift of consciousness ‘out of ego,’ as it has been described many-a-time, and we add Jeshua’s description that it is also an energetic shift (how could it not be, if everything is energy?), then we have an explanation for what is happening within us, on the level of energy, and why the recommended practices are so widely recommended: the release of ego-based energies and growth of heart-based energies transforms consciousness

Really, the language of “energy” is a metaphor to describe what is real. So another, simplified way of describing what is happening is: some real things are diminishing or vanishing (ego-based energies) and some other real things are growing or multiplying (heart-based energies) within us, which has the effect of changing consciousness and, thus, our experience.

A related point about meditation. As teacher Teal Swan describes in this video, feeling and expressing love raises our vibration such that we are able to understand and comprehend the universe more; we get more insight. David Hawkins also writes in his book “Letting Go” that the technique of surrender (the central technique described in the book) breaks our old habit patterns, which frees up our ability to concentrate easily and enter samadhi, or a state of focussed concentration. Therefore, the technique of surrender supports and nurtures “good” meditation. So love and letting go foster the same results we would hope to get from meditation (insight and samadhi). From this point of view, it makes less sense to try and attain enlightenment merely through meditative practice. It also makes less sense to have a meditative practice but make no effort to let go of ego-based energies and live from the heart, if the goal is, still, higher consciousness and greater well-being. From an energetic point of view, it would be wiser to balance meditation with heart-centeredness and letting go. This approach is easier and kinder to oneself than a more austere spiritual path based heavily or exclusively on meditation.

So, where does this leave us? –better yet, where does this lead us? Not to more spiritual knowledge and teachings, but to a more profound experience of our own hearts. To quote Eli Jaxon-Bear, when he was remarking on spiritual teachings, “It’s all a trap… And you know it. I’m just confirming what you already know in your heart…. There are lots of things you can understand… but you can’t grasp Love…. [The teaching] is only for your heart.”

In the end, the journey doesn’t come out of the head. Instead, we are being invited to surrender to the heart. For heart knows the way Home.

Notes

  1. Link to “sequel” post: Loving the Ego
  2. Suggestions about how to improve the presentation of this information are gratefully welcomed. (I am often blind to how things are coming across–haha.)

Mediums for Truth: Storytelling versus Logic

Have you ever been saying something that wasn’t true, and caught yourself in the middle of saying it? “No…no, everything I’ve ever said in my life has been factual and accurate.” Thank you, honest reader.

On my first attempt at this post I wanted to make the point that stories are a better medium for conveying spiritual truth, for the reason that they can impart powerful feelings, and speak to the heart in a way that more logic-based teachings cannot.

Well, the second half of that may be accurate. Just think of one of the best fiction books you’ve ever read. Think of a moment in that book that really spoke to you, that really evoked something deep within you. Perhaps it was a big moment in the story, but it doesn’t have to be. In any case, the reason that moment spoke to you so deeply was because it was based in truth—a truth about life. But the story didn’t explicitly tell you “here’s the truth I’m communicating to you.” No, you just felt it in the imaginative experience of the story itself.

I experienced something like this in reading Marquez’s masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. There’s something that happens towards at the very end of the book (I won’t spoil what it is) that kind of brings the whole 400-pages of magical realism together. At that point in the story I felt “uplifted” in gaining a new vision of the miraculous unfolding of time, the interconnection of so many human lives, and the magical, mysterious way life sweeps us up. If you asked me, I couldn’t articulate very well what this “vision” consists in, or what truth I learnt, exactly, but I was left with a sense of gratitude just to be participating in life, and a more open mind with respect to my place in this incomprehensibly vast existence.

That was something that no logical argument or teaching could’ve imparted. It had to come through a story—through putting yourself in those characters’ shoes; being transported to a fictional world; being witness to the heartbreaks and triumphs; and seeing the story build on itself so that the meaning accumulates through the story and imbues the climactic events with immense communicative power…. The resurrection of Christ, for example, affects us so deeply because we were there, in a sense, for all that came before: the telling of the parables, the miracles, the last supper, the crucifixion.

So storytelling speaks to the heart. It bypasses the reasoning mind and resistance to life as we let the characters and their lives into our intimate experience. That way, stories give the feel for something that would be very, very difficult to convey in plain prose or logic.

But to say that that makes stories a “better” medium for truth is a tad misleading. Stories awaken the heart and inspire us to move in a positive direction. Hell, they may even trigger a shift in consciousness. And yet, at some point, we’re going to want—or probably need—a more precise understanding with which to orient ourselves, spiritually or otherwise.

That’s where logic and clear conceptual formulations enter the fray. An accurate mental model of what’s happening in our lives can do wonders. Not only does it direct the mind away from delusional suggestions (which further obscure things), but actually gives some concrete advice on “what’s the next step to take;” what will work, what won’t, and why.

Now the imbalance, with respect to conceptual formulations, is to take them as reality rather than as descriptions of reality. Just a little observation reveals that the world isn’t divided up into bits, as our mind makes it seem, but there’s actually a wholeness and a unity that concepts don’t capture—can’t capture. You could say the mind’s “first move” in the chess-game is to divide; in effect, to make things in the world seem separate from one another.

Fixation on this mental version of reality or “virtual reality” leads to some other, undesirable effects (a point made in previous posts on Words Stand Still, like this one, and this one).

However, when used in a balanced way, the intellect can “discern and rift its way to the secret of things,” as Thoreau would say, and shed more than a little light on our situation.

Balance is the key. If we focus too heavily on the logical, conceptually precise version of reality created in our minds, then we may very well just stay there. If we just “follow and trust our heart”—as enlightening and powerful as that is—we may struggle unnecessarily or create suffering, unaware that a good conceptual map could change the way we look at something completely. But if we find a felt, intuitive balance between the mind and heart in our own experience, this translates to consciousness expansion. This, I believe, is how the masters do it.

So what of “mediums for truth”? It depends on what you want to communicate. Whatever medium is chosen, it will still be metaphor for truth—expressions, at best—and not truth itself. Only the truth is the truth. As a master once put it: truth “has never been spoken, never been written, never been imagined.”

Notes

  1. This post addresses essentially the same topic as “Paradox and Poetry” from another angle.
  1. The quote at the end of this post comes from here.
  1. Hopefully there will be some storytelling on Words Stand Still soon!

Cultures, Knowledges, and Global Consciousness

One of the blessings of living in the “Age of Information” is having almost all of the world’s cultures (their ways of thinking, living, and expertise) available to us “second-hand.” Through audio, video, and text formats we journey, vicariously, to the far reaches of the Earth and see what is to be seen there; to the canyons of northern Mexico; the mountains of Tibet; the polis of Ancient Greece.

Wherever we go, we find that in these autonomous “spheres” of culture, humans have cultivated special knowledges that may be relatively unknown in the other spheres. For example, in his book Born to Run, Christopher McDougall uncovers the secrets of the Tarahumara, who have hid themselves well in the Copper Canyons of northern Mexico–a culture centered on running as a ritualized sport, supporting a healthy community on many different levels. Building the culture around running has resulted in the Tarahumara attaining seemingly superhuman levels of physical fitness and achievement. They can run literally hundreds of miles in the desert heat, and it’s not a “big deal” for them. It’s just what they do all the time.

And yet, in the West, many of us bemoan running even a few miles consecutively. What’s more, we are, as McDougall points out, plagued by an endless list of problems related to physical health that are basically unknown to the Tarahumara running culture. So do we have something to learn from them?–obvious, isn’t it?

Take another example: the Tibetans. Tibet has a rich history of spirituality and meditative tradition that goes back thousands of years. In his audio course, Mahamudra for the Modern World, Reggie Ray presents the idea that in Tibet were perfected some practices of meditation originating with the Buddha’s teaching, collectively called the Mahamudra (“innermost heart of the Dharma,” says Ray). These techniques are a unique and powerful way to get in touch with, and unlock the powers of, our own inner capacities not only for presence and open-heartedness, but for a deep sense of peace, joy, love, and overall well-being–a sense of being ‘at home’ on the Earth and in a relationship of gratitude with the flow of life. An embodiment of this (and case in point) is the Dalai Lama.

And yet, once again, that kind of deep awareness, presence, and love is uncommon among Westerners. While the ‘mindfulness movement’ gains momentum, the underlying psychology in Western countries, from a mindful point of view, is the same as it has been: rushing, business, distractedness, self-absorption, image-obsession, etc., etc. It is often reported that people struggle to sit still for a few minutes at a time, doing nothing, or are perturbed by just being in silence. This is no one’s fault, and there’s not even anything wrong with this (and certainly not anything wrong with the people who have experienced this). It’s just an example of how different the Western psyche is from the psyche of some of the Tibetan population, with respect to mindfulness.

Well, what do we in the West have going for us that these other cultures don’t? Perhaps many things, but an external observer would have to say, if they were to get to the core of ‘Western excellence,’ that it involves our intellect, imagination, and mind-based creativity. It has to do with technology, art, literature, science, philosophy; critical analysis in general–all of these, and everything that stems from them.

It’s really our capacity to see things in different ways and create whole new paradigms, theories, and artistic expressions that is our great virtue, and simultaneously, our hubris. As Alan Watts pointed out in his lectures and writings, the concentration of our (Western) consciousness in the “head-space” (from which all these good things derive) leads us to feel separate from the world and to use our knowledge to try and control it.

Nevertheless, the mind-based creativities or expressions are, indeed, our unique expression of human flourishing–granted that, nowadays, countries like China and Japan, in the East, are also excelling technologically and scientifically in a way that exceeds their Western counterparts. Even still, one would have to admit of something special being expressed in, say, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings; a Beethoven symphony; the philosophy of Immanuel Kant; the scientific theories of Stephen Hawking. Call it ‘the crystallization of Western creative potential,’ or something less fancy; call it what you will. But the point is it’s real and it’s something that originates within the Western mind.

So we could carve up a philosophical picture that makes these observations: first, Western culture exhibits head-based brilliance, but other cultures have cultivated knowledges that ‘give life to’ physical vitality and spiritual awakening; second, our Western struggles pertaining to health on the physical, mental, and emotional levels are directly related to overlooking what these cultures have learned.

People have observed this before, but too often we may see ourselves, in the West, as fundamentally different from, say, the Tarahumara or Tibetans. The truth is that while our minds have been trained in a way that conforms to the people around us, on the genetic and spiritual levels there’s no fundamental difference between us. This basic unity provides a foundation for McDougall’s point that what the Tarahumara have achieved in physical health is available to us, too; we are born to run. Add to that Ray’s observations in Mahamudra that, actually, Westerners are, in some ways, perhaps better able to undergo the meditation training of the Mahamudra than people who have grown up in that culture.

So we don’t have to land on the almost self-chastising remark that “we ought to learn something from them!” “We” do have something to learn from “them,” but that really begins with the awareness that “we” and “they” are truly US, and they have something to learn from our culture as well. By trading knowledges and joyfully sharing what each culture has cultivated in their autonomous spheres, we create a Global Consciousness in which we gather and apply the secrets that allow for the actualization of human potential on all levels; true human flourishing. 

And because this Global Consciousness includes the self-awareness of the meditative and spiritual traditions of the East, it does not lead to the vain glorification of separate egos, but rather the celebration and community-based support of what humans can accomplish when they come together. We actually ascend to higher levels of consciousness, well-being and creativity when we are genuinely seeking to help others ascend as well, not when we are bent on self-improvement alone. “Everyone together”–that’s the way!