Sunday, August 23, 2015

How "Polishing the Mirror" Helps You Reflect the Miraculous


Although I'm an avowedly non-violent kind of guy, it's not beyond me to ruthlessly torture a metaphor along with the best (or worst) of 'em, and seeing as this is a session that requires lots of spiritual elbow grease–nearly everyday–you have my permission to cover your eyes. You won't need them to look into this mirror.

"Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think."
                    Buddha, The Dhammapada 1:1

In Zen Buddhism, where meditation is called sitting zazen, they use this marvelous house-cleaning metaphor of "polishing the mirror" when they talk about how to think about not-thinking. It's like this: If the way we think is just an incomplete reflection of a greater, more blissful consciousness (based solely on how well-connected we are to it), then the best way to perceive more of that blissful Source is to do some housecleaning, so to speak – starting with the "inner mirror" that serves as our doorway into the unimaginable potential of Life.

That mirror stands for the surface of something unfathomably deep, that we can only reach into through the center of our imaginations. In the reflection that we are, we see ourself only on its surface. We wish to feel ourselves more a part of it, to become more a part of it, and sometimes we can momentarily reach down into it, but we, ourselves, are what's reflecting that profound reality so poorly. All of the fogginess and flaws are a result of own conscious, and subconscious designs. The obscurities are of our own making.
 So, it stands to reason, that if we can improve the quality of the reflector, we'll improve the reflection.

To start that process, we need to sit in stillness and roll up our 'inner sleeves' to ready ourselves for housecleaning. Everything goes better when it's picked up a bit – straightened, inventoried, and organized. Most–if not all–of the mess on the surface of the mirror are simply our thoughts. Thoughts about who we are, about what we don't have, or what we think we should have – what we think we need to be happy, and to feel whole. We need to stand back a bit, and clean up our streaky, smudgy thoughts.

"The deluded, imagining trivial things to be vital to life, follow their vain fantasies and never attain [bliss]; but the wise, knowing what is trivial and what is vital, set their thoughts on the goal, and attain [bliss]."
                     Buddha, The Dhammapada, 1:11, 12

In a recent article ("Sitting in the Wilderness," at The Mindful Word.org) I tried to simplify the three "temptations," met and overcome, by both Jesus and The Buddha as they sat and faced their 'devils' – temptations that can stand in quite nicely for the substance that clouds our internal mirrors – the content of most of those surface-obscuring thoughts. Simply, they are: 
1) The deep wish to control things to be just the way we want them to be.
2) The superficial, or material, or physical desires we desire to have gratified, and 
3) Our fears – usually having to do with numbers one and two.

 Our fears are the basic filmy schmutz (that's Yiddish) that "as through a glass darkly" obscure the perceptions of our brightest potential – and they should be the easiest to simply wipe away, seeing as how most of our fears aren't even real. The shadows they cast over the way things appear to us are largely the product of our own negative imaginations. Most of what we fear comes and goes with little or no real consequence, and even when it does impact on our life, it is still just life – doing what it will do. Usually, we learn our greatest lessons that way.

Polishing that inner mirror puts us directly, 'palm-to-palm' in touch with the surface of a magical ocean of underlying support and serenity. There's a quality of contact with the depth of all that potential that allows us to see through the fears to the calm sanity and intelligence that stands behind them, and beneath everything. You gain a purpose that lets you patiently wipe away the default negative thoughts that obscure your underlying potential – feelings that you don't measure up, or resentments against others (who are simply doing their best to reflect consciousness too). A crumpled-up newspaper, and ammonia works well.

And then, as long as you're making things up, make up something wonderful; visualize the miraculous for yourself and others. That ought to lighten up your life quite a bit, and allow you to reflect the sanity that lies at your true Source.

There, in the clarity of that improved reflection, we realize the funhouse mirror distortions our ego causes us to see – the illusion that we're much taller or broader, that our head is so much bigger than everyone elses (when really, we're all just about the same size). It's not the mirror that causes the distortions, it's our pride, our ego. Smooth that surface out flat with a calm, deliberate, repetitive circular motion, until the reflection invites you in – beyond your ego illusions. Feel the freedom of becoming that truth that lives beneath your projections.

"To identify consciousness with that which merely reflects consciousness, this is egoism."
                      Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras, II.3

There will always be little surface smudges, and underlying distortions, but the more you experience the sense of transcendent being – that expansion of consciousness into our deeper dimension of being that occurs when we lose "our self" in the act of polishing, the greater ease you'll experience in every other moment too, and the better you'll feel about how well you can reflect your true potential.

With the mirror cleaner, you need never obsess on the flaws again, because you'll see, clearly at last, that your reflection is something of unimaginably great beauty. You are a perfect expression of the greatest, deepest, and most beautiful mystery of all…a perfect expression of Life's Consciousness that all of this world can only merely reflect. 

Sit, and if you "polish the mirror" patiently, soon you'll be able to step right into it, and into a whole new world, where all you need is to simply be who, and what you really are – a beautiful reflection of the miraculous.  


  
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!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are Women (Spiritually) Superior To Men? A Call To Action!




In a recent article for Gaia about the Gnostic myth of Sophia, I explored the ancient ascendence of the "Feminine Divine," and was reminded of a piece from a while back that managed to ruffle a few feathers. It was this particularly touchy question I asked back then, that still begs to be asked, I believe – especially when we consider the worsening conditions of our embattled planet, and their causes and propagators.

In posing a provocative question like this, I realized that I needed to be more careful and considerate–gentle, in fact–in order not to evoke con-frontational reactions. Asking it in a more appropriate way requires that I get in touch with my feminine side, the part of me that's more conscious to the sensitivities of other people (in this case, mostly men). And as it turns out for me, getting in touch with my feminine side is the best way to do a lot of things.

It probably comes as no surprise that the question in question is the title of this piece, namely: Are women spiritually superior to men? And if so, why? 

Most feathers are ruffled by my answer, both then and now, which is simply: Yes, they are. I believe women are generally superior to men in terms of their spiritual alignment, so to speak, and that there's plenty of evidence to support that belief – and that the spiritual inferiorities of men implied are the subject of continual denial, at tremendous cost and consequence to all of life on our planet.

The clear-cutting of virgin rainforests, dumping toxins into the environment, commercial eradication of endangered species, conscious obstruction in developing clean energy sources, and profiteering from war and acts of terror are pretty exclusively–with very few exceptions–in the domain and by the designs of men. Approximately 90% of murders are committed by men. If any other single group of people were responsible for such mayhem, there'd be quite an uproar.

Denial is the acceptance of ignorance as truth, through the force of will.

Take note, I'm speaking in patently general terms, because there clearly are, and always have been, amazing male spiritual leaders through-out human history; and there are many men everywhere, full of Love, who possess expansive, compassionate consciousness. Still, in the broad context of the damage done to our planet (and our potential) that predominantly male intellect and energy causes, we really need to consider what it is that's missing in so many men, and what we can possibly do about it, before it's just plain too late. 

Exploring these attitudes, one has to become infuriatingly anecdotal. I don't like having to parade out a bunch of stereotypical characteristics as defined by "evolution" and history to make the point, but I trust that the shared experiences of Life (and honest intentions) will justify the effort at increasing some awareness about this issue that just isn't talked about enough.

So here goes: The average man's psychic concerns often tend to be of a less conscious, and more physical or material nature. Forgive the clichés, but (as usual, clichés often exist largely to soften the painful reality of our spiritual faults) men are traditionally regarded to be more dominant, forceful, willful, proud, stubborn, ingenious, competitive, emotionally unavailable, and willfully dismissive than women. They often have a persistent need to be right (even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary) as well as the need to feel "in charge." Unfortunately, most of these characteristics run directly counter to human spiritual perception.

Women (by the same stereotypical turn) possess those same qualities, but at a far lower volume. Instead, they tend to be more gentle, nurturing, acquiescent, considerate, cooperative, tenacious, empathetic, emotional, intuitive, and engaging – all characteristics of a greater spiritual connection. Characteristics of a higher consciousness.

Ego is the enemy; Compassion is the cure.

Men often operate primarily by ego and intellect, which have their place, but can be very problematic, as many of the most impulsive, violent, and destructive courses of action are demanded as spontaneous responses by ego, or are otherwise extremely "well reasoned" – that is, relying entirely on intellect. Peculiarly, many of the most destructive ideas are very well thought out.

Women are more often guided by compassionate identification, and what may be called intuitive intelligence – both of which are solid bedrocks of spirituality, so much so that they are the two essential components most men need to acquire to ever hope to become whole. You may say they're the dot in the Yang side of the Tao symbol.

We also tend to suffer from patriarchal definitions of human progress, whether  culturally, like in our financial system, resource management, energy produc-tion, and political structures; or scienti-fically, like the [largely male] misconcep-tion of Darwinism as a "survival of the fittest" that can mean survival of the most selfishly impulsive, instead of as the evolutionary reality that it demonstrates, that is: survival of the most cooperatively adaptable.

From health and biomedical sciences, to the search for a Unifying Theory, man (men) consistently ignores the single most important factor in humanity's true successes – spiritual consciousness – especially critical since it's the actual answer to all of the world's emerging crises; as well as questions of origin, overall well-being, direction, and purpose.

Is it because women are really interdimensional portals, so to speak – mediums of divine passage and actual living channels to the Source of Life? Is it this completely different wiring – a more intuitive, Right Brain connection to our shared spiritual reality that women come by naturally, and the collective male ego's inability to recognize, respect, and utilize it that's led the world into it's present chaotic state? The answers seem painfully obvious, but haven't always been so overlooked. 

Here's where the Gnostic myth of Sophia (Wisdom) becomes so meaningful. In the past, The Divine Feminine has been recognized as the key to our collective story; and the feminine [Mother] nature has been respected and served, with more balanced results for all.

In Sophia's search for greater union with the Source of light, she accidentally gets stuck in the chaotic realm of macho earthly demigods she inadvertently brought to life (especially Yahweh, "God" of The Bible fame), and she must slowly and painfully climb her way back up through layers of destructive, arrogant self-will, surrender, and renewed purpose to reunite with her higher self, and become whole again in heaven. There, after leaving consciousness on earth in the form of Eve, she is reunited with her male twin in a kind of sacred, balanced androgyny. In this sense, like all of us in a way, she becomes an exile in this chaotic world, seeking reunion with her true Source and direction, that can only be found by the merging of our opposites.

So the answer is both hard, and easy. Men, who possess the compassionate consciousness of Sophia, must work on instigating a psychic shift in their less conscious brothers, and ally themselves with women who are already there, so to speak. Women must gather in the sanity and clarity of their own Feminine Divine, truly emerge from the shadow of unconscious men (particularly those who tend to seek wealth and power), and assert that divine energy and connection they possess, in remaking more spiritually-based ethics. To start changing hearts and minds. 

The growing understanding of a kind of sacredness of transgenderism, increased discrimination in health and purity of food and water sources, a more equal distribution of the earth's resources to all of "God's Children" – even petty cultural realizations like the rejection of social media hook-ups as spiritually degrading – all of these are the purview of Mother Nature, and at the heart of a new Feminism, where women can shine their light on the darker corners of modern maleness. 

The recipe for saving the world lies in this "Sacred Androgyny." Women must locate more of their "macho" insistence, and willfully assert the power inherent in their true, divine direction (Wisdom); and men must learn to concede to the compassion of intuitive intelligence, and educate less conscious men about their blindness to their own destructive tendencies. This is a call for real unity, within each and every man and woman.

And here's the thing – we gotta start right now! To merge those two sides into one, and dramatically expand spiritual consciousness, if we want to save the world as we know it. 

"When you make the two into One…and say: Mountain move! It will move."
                         The [Gnostic] Gospel of Thomas, Logion 106



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!