Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Involvement and the Three Levels of Living: A View From the Rock


In the time that I've been sitting on this rock, nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. Here's a bit of grumping that finds some grace in the moment:

1) I am a bit disappointed in President Obama. He has proven to be as disappointing as all presidents can be especially those under the threat of death, as all presidents have been since the brutally demonstrative demise of JFK. The "One Percent" just keeps accelerating their consolidation of the Earth's resources in the effort to create a fully controllable commercial mall of the world, a fully manageable permanent consumer underclass, and a fully maintainable and secure bubble of luxury that they can live in without conscience or consciousness entering– a world of endless entitlement. Oh, and I'm not always at peace with the purpose of my daily job...and my lower back hurts quite often. It's not easy being green...

2) Yet, better than ever, I understand the qualities of humanity that connect it to a pure, even divine source better than I ever have – despite the fact that we are heading willy-nilly towards a global catastrophe unimaginable in the history of mankind since the myths of The Great Flood or the destruction of Atlantis. Or perhaps as the inevitable re-enactment of each. I know there are millions of like-minded individuals out there, so many in fact that it's nearly like a single unified mind is realizing the severity of these greed-induced dramas unfolding. I am definitely not alone.

3) And then, wrapped within this whole experience is the intuitive knowledge of our profound oneness; the Love that enfolds and enlivens every moment of this particular being; the witness who bears out our greater reality – our unchanging heart of experience. The witness who watches all the expansion and destruction with an understanding wink and a nod to the unfathomable powers at play in this and every other Life we live here, or will ever live.

These are illustrations of the three levels at which we experience our beautiful, painful lives on Earth:

1) At the level of the senses and lower intellect, which describe and report directly to us about the delights, disappointments, and discomforts of the material world;
2) at the level of the soul, which is changeless – free of the cause and effect of the sensory life, profoundly aware of the results of that cause and effect, and able to utilize our higher intellect as a ladder to transcend the painful nature of material change; and
3) at the level of the spirit, where there lives the innate and eternal understanding of unity within and without, the acceptance and blissful surrender that only intense human faith can and will engender – if we're willing to explore ourselves that deeply.

In these terms, humanity, as all natural systems, evolves outward into it's most basic, fully realized manifest forms upon forms – replete with remarkable articulations and ever more inspired expressions, until atrophy and destruction set in. Then comes a kind of collapse back into a finer, less willfully formed state of being without being, something Vivekananda called involution – that state we're always aware of at the level of our souls. One day, everyday, it becomes possible to fully merge with the remarkable totality of the whole shebang and experience Heaven, or Nirvana, or whatever you want to call it. That Which Cannot be Named. It's always available if we involve ourselves.

This process happens to rocks, plants, people, markets, nations, species, planets, galaxies and universes, with no regard to scale or importance on the New York Stock Exchange or on the front page of The Times. This is the intense, immense wonder and mystery of it all.

Here comes my conveniently resorting to a natural metaphor, since that's what we, and everything else in our perception, is anyways: Like a small branch cut from a tree, our little cross-section reveals: 1) A rough outer layer, through which all the perilous natural events are weathered.  2) A pulpy soft body through which the fluid nutrients and essential energies necessary to our growth flow; and 3) A firm, pure, nearly colorless center that is the core connection to the underlying energy of all being. 

One is rough; two is growth; three is bliss. Be involved!


The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore! 


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friction, Freedom, and the Pearl Diver's Treasure



"The soul is causeless, and from this follow all the great ideas that we have... [The soul] is by it's nature free...that it cannot be acted upon by anything outside."
   Vivekananda


             Friction is a rather uncomfortable noun and even less comfortable as an effect. Simply put, it's resistance. It happens all on it's own in nature, usually the active part of a slow process that reshapes a feature, or an en-tire landscape. When you look up the word friction in a thesaurus, it seems to be everything difficult about life: the natural chafing, scraping, and drag; then comes the discord, strife, conflict, contention, argument, rivalry; hostility, animosity, resentment, bitterness, and on and on. It's a lot of human baggage for one little natural process. You'll notice all of these effects are the result of ruffled senses, external discomforts, and hurt feelings. It's the stuff that makes life a grind.

In that natural sense of it, the wear and tear of life will become uncomfortable it's unavoidably true. But a lot of those other synonyms for friction, the ones that describe friction between people and not just surfaces, are really only superficial as well. Psychologically superficial. So much of what means so much to us, of what hurts, only comes about as a result of the way we think about it. It only seems important for a little while – unless we repeat it over and over, and embellish upon it in our minds.

That's the (deeper) surface stuff Buddhists call selfish cravings – those feelings we hold on to in order to experience life's pleasures, or in this case life's anxieties. But like the bits of grass picked up off the river bank and carried along on the surface of the passing water, that stuff is always moving on. The rocks on the river bottom always stay right where they are, with just the shadows of our leaves, our bits of anxiety, passing over them. 

Our day to day lives are twisted and turned by the flow of time; our spirits can be tortured and stretched and tested; but our souls are always solid, steady, and smooth beneath the surface. The changing challenges of life, the spiritual lessons we all know we have to learn are a product of cause and effect, things we've done and places we've put ourselves in that have led us to where we are and what we've needed to pass through right now. That can be the rough stuff. But our souls aren't subject to cause and effect. They're grounded in our greater being, and the little (or big) abrasions of life pass right over them smoothly, with fluid ease.

 That ground where our souls firmly sit is always steady for us as we pass over, particularly if we make the effort to dive beneath the surface and take hold of  it, even for just a moment  and especially when life's a drag. It's a little like diving for pearls, that way. An irritation, a grain of sand can create that treasure to be discovered, if you are conscious of your breath, and your "selfish cravings" long enough.

"Where you stumble and fall, there you find your treasure."
Joseph Campbell

The shortest path between two points is a straight line, from our surface to our bottom – and that's what I recommend here, the straight, short line from your head directly to your heart. Don't give it too much thought, just move directly past all the surface stuff around you and make contact with the smooth solid ground beneath us all. Stop, relinquish the need to recycle that rough stuff, and re-link to the natural grounding and lubrication of your soul's connection. 

Coincidentally, that's what religion really means – re ligio – Latin for re-link.

Yes, the bottom of the river is subject to that long process of friction, of natural transformation. Growth requires destruction.  We are like that too – our spirits, that is. We're always being slowly transformed, our lives being shaped by the flowing story that carries us through this world.