The Blessing of Impermanence

An advantage in seeing impermanence as the nature of existence is in the knowing that all things pass. lightning While we often grieve over this passing, there are many blessings to knowing that we are in movement, life is in movement, so even the difficult problems of our culture are in movement.

Many people are stressed by the choices being made by the US, and especially the President, at this time in history.  They seem to be permanently destructive to the future of our country and the world environment.  And yet there have been many dark turning points in this country – beginning with the Indian massacres, forcing Mexico out of California, slavery, the civil war, the depression and the dust bowl, two world wars, Vietnam– to name just a few. Our ancestors have all been through events similar to those that cause us fear.  Nothing has ever been permanent.

 

As a country we are often in turmoil because of the push for power, greed, and the division of minds. Yet there have been gradual improvements in human care and responsibility – freeing slaves, laws against child labor, allowing women the vote, social security, education,  easier transportation and communication,  etc. etc.  Historically, most other countries have known the same or worse turmoil  over centuries (e.g. Germany, Japan, China), but experienced gradual movement to support their people.

It is paradoxical that most of the individuals we know personally long for peace and love within themselves and the world, and are generally kind to one another. They value families and friends. And yet as a collective this is rarely reflected, and positive change seems to be so slow.

We live in a world of opposites, continually shifting and emerging with new perspectives.  An awakened mind can see a larger picture – an expansive, never-ending but always changing movement through time.  We are the movement, the life that brings transformation.  Our pain forces us to see what is needed, and brings many into positive action.  Just as when we are wounded physically we must seek help for the body, when we are a wounded culture we must seek solutions.  It does not serve us when our minds only bring us to despair, and our thinking is clouded with anger and fear.  It does not serve us personally or serve our culture when our hearts close down with bitterness.

Negative thoughts are rarely real and true – they are based on emotional reactions and our accumulated convictions of what ought to be.  They are neurons firing stored information interwoven with our discomfort.  Our awareness becomes entangled with thought, and limited by it.

This is why awakened people often stress living in the now. Now is what is in front of you this moment, and is always present as Now. It may be a beautiful garden. Today for me it is a smoky sky in Oregon hovering over a pond and garden. It is difficulty breathing outdoors. It is the computer before me.  It is also good neighbors and a safe house and good health. Tomorrow it may change.

For you today it may be work that needs to be done, or a child that needs to be fed and dressed, or a piece of art you are inclined to create, or a desire to help in a political campaign. We each stand in a unique place in the Now.  Look around and define what is here for you in this moment. Your presence is part of this Now. Your True Nature is always Now!

We are always in motion in this Now-ness.  The question to ask yourself is will you move from your own center and for the greatest good (either your own inner peace or to assist another) or be contracted by a fearful mind? Will you be what you are fully in this moment, or be entangled by thoughts that bring you down? Yes, you are impermanent, but change can be positive and where you are Now has a big impact on what happens next..

We cannot afford to let the world issues, even those created by our own government, block our freedom to love, enjoy and create a meaningful life.  In our choices and movement we can respond in a way that feels authentic to us, and trust that slowly, since all is impermanent, change will come. When there is smoke in the skies remember that it will be clear again. Be like those firefighters who meet it in service to all of us.

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What is Awakening?

Do you know that when you “awaken” personal identifications shift from the foreground to the background of awareness, and there is a realization that pure consciousness is what you are? Many may have other interpretations of what an awakening might be, but in non-dual teachings it is simply the ground of our being arising to be seen.

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Momentarily, or perhaps permanently in a few rare cases, this consciousness that is omnipresent and universal and eternal feels itself to be what is lighting up your senses, causing the mind to function, and underlying all the appearances of creation. This is what Oneness alludes too – that there simply is only this.

While such a moment can be a catalyst to positive life changes, because the dramas of living seem to recede as if they are a dream, this event of seeing clearly can also be a trauma to the mind that has organized itself according to the beliefs it has assumed were true throughout our life. So after a glimpse of what it feels like to be unattached to our history and life circumstances, we usually find ourselves in confusion as old patterns and beliefs arise again to take over projecting how we should behave and what we are to believe. People may find themselves gravitating for years from one perspective to another —  caught in the “I’ve got it –I’ve lost it” syndrome.

How Mind Interferes with Knowing

 It has been the mind’s focus (its job we might say) to help us know what to do, and divide our options into right and wrong, good and bad, and all the other opposites that make up our world. The sense of “me” , beginning with the body, forms a framework that causes us to feel ourselves to be a separate identity. To form opinions mind relies on our past experiences and how we’ve been conditioned by our families and cultures, our education, reading and everything to which we are exposed. We may identify either with or against what others have taught us. These thoughts have clouded our ability to know this pure and unchanging ground of consciousness, which is completely aware but neutral. It is like the ocean that holds a teaming variety of life and rises and falls in intensity, but has no opinion about it.

Our human structure is designed to keep us in separation. Probably it is this underlying existence of one consciousness that drives us to seek love and relationship within the dynamics of human development, and to never feel quite complete when we find it. (We can feel this temporarily, but a person cannot fill this gap entirely, because it is within us we must make the discovery of wholeness.)

Eastern spiritual practices are designed to nudge us toward an awakened consciousness. But few people realize what this means, and are surprised at the challenges it brings at the emotional and physical levels. Our subtle body energies intensify as they become rewired with this new perspective, many of our old attachments change or fall away, past traumas may arise to be seen and released from our programming, and the mind may want to discard its brief perception of being “no-one”. Of course in time we must still appear to live as “some-one” even if in our hearts we feel this deeper connection to another reality. And after the clearing of old patterns and emotional reactions are cleared away, people who awaken usually express a uniqueness through service or creative action that seems to move through them without any attachment. If you have seen the oxherding pictures of Zen – this is the final return down the mountain. On the surface life is ordinary again. One does what needs to be done. Awakening is not an escape.

All of Us live With Awakeness

 All of us, spiritually “awakened” or not, are enlivened and aware because of pure consciousness, because this is our true nature and it produces the life force within us. We are its expression and movement in the world. The only difference in someone who awakens is that they realize this not as a thought or because of a teaching, but as a direct internal knowing that permeates every cell; this makes them willing to face and release old patterns that block their ability to feel this freedom and transcend the suffering the mind produces. It often allows them to let awareness move through the heart so that action comes from love rather than conditioned fear or anger. This does not mean there is no pain when there is loss, or no need to face an uncomfortable emotion at times, because there is still a human body/mind that feels these things. But such pain does not become a fixed world view or a limitation. To be in oneness the human must be included in the whole – nothing is left out. When freedom is known however, one is no longer so liable to be trapped in suffering or to allow their perspective in life to exclude the wonder and beauty that is ever-present by its side.

If you are inclined to spiritual texts, and would like the inspiration of an Advaita text that emphasizes this perspective, I recommend The Supreme Yoga: a new translation of Yoga Vasistha. By Swami Venkatesandanda published by the Divine Life Society. If you would like to understanding the process that evolves following an
awakening I suggest my book  The Awakening Guide , available on Amazon and Kindle.

Wisdom Without Dogma

Wisdom Without Dogma

Here is an opportunity to receive a free e-book “Wisdom Without Dogma” that includes an excerpt from my upcoming book “When Spirit Leaps: Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening”, to be released in April  My publisher, New Harbinger and Nonduality Press, is offering this collection of selected excerpts from several of their authors.

As New Harbinger writes “With these essential teachings, insights, reflections, practices, and real-life examples—written by renowned spiritual teachers and authors who speak from direct experience—you’re sure to find the guidance and support you seek on your own spiritual journey.”

I am honored and  excited to be part of this wonderful collection and encourage you to go to www.newharbinger.com where you can download for free this remarkable collection, and join their email list to get the first announcements when my book is released.  The sampling includes selections from:

  • Being Aware of Being Aware by Rupert Spira
  • White Fire by Mooji
  • Shakti Rising by Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan
  • The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
  • Yoga and the Pursuit of Happiness by Sam Chase
  • Kabalah Yoga by Audi Gozlan
  • The Kindness Cure by Tara Cousineau
  • Boundless Awareness by Michael A. Rodriguez
  • The Courage Habit by Kate Swoboda
  • When Spirit Leaps by Bonnie L. Greenwell
  • Suffering Is Optional by Gail Brenner
  • The Heartfulness Way by Kamlesh D. Patel and Joshua Pollock
  • Undivided Love by Lynn Marie Lumiere
  • Living the Life That You Are by Nic Higham

We invite you to explore all of these books, and wish you true well-being, peace, and joy.

Self-Inquiry and the I Am

A student has asked about self-inquiry and whether he needs continually to remind himself to question “Who am I” and remember the “I am”.  His sense is that only in deep stillness is he present as the  “I am”.
One way of thinking of this awareness of “I am”, often emphasized in non-dual literature and approached in various ways by teachers, is that no matter what you are doing or thinking awareness is present. It is awareness noting your thoughts, emotions, stillness, sensations.  The way I think of self-inquiry is to just become curious about awareness itself, what is this awareness?  Where is it coming from in me?
Sometimes you are distracted by thoughts and when you notice this , you can step back out of your busy thoughts and inquire  what noticed these thoughts and distraction? How I am aware of what is happening here?

IMG_1390 Be very curious! But do not ask the mind for an answer. It is like tuning into a felt sense, and there is no mental answer — it is more like feeling into the unknown.  I think of it as turning awareness into itself and sinking into that.  Of course you can’t do this in the middle of a conversation, but you can take a breath and drop awareness into the gut and ask if what you are saying is true or authentic. Eventually when there is enough clearing so that  awakening is more consciously present you will discover how there is a felt intuitive sense in your gut .

 This intuitive knowing can guide our actions more authentically than our thoughts, and we can lean into this to establish what is true in the moment. It is like a compass connected to Source. If we go against it we usually feel uncomfortable.
However, we  can also go for years after awakening with occasionally getting entangled in an old pattern or emotion and this is not a problem, as long as we do not give up facing it.  As Adya says when these old parts of us arise, they are just old patterns that have not awakened yet. They arise for us to face them. We can then either write about them, or sit down and meet them fully and inquire about them seeking to know their source and release them or question if they are true(Byron Katie’s style) .  It is best not to be concerned about their arriving — we will always be in a human form and there can always be some old piece of work to do.  When there is, consciousness will let us know by bringing up division, confusion or emotion that doesn’t pass quickly. (We can always feel a wave of emotion but usually after a somewhat stable awakening it passes through quickly because there is no one here to hang on to it.) If it is sticky then we know it is an edge of our old identifications.  We need to accept it and meet it and see what it has to show us.

 

Eventually there is no need to feel into the I am — it is always there without words, like a relaxation into life.The one who is working to stay there falls away. Awareness can be engaged or it can be resting in spaciousness or stillness and it is all the same because no one objects or tries to change either experience.
There is a meditation on http://www.kundaliniguide.com that blends balancing energy with tuning into awareness. You might want to try it and see how it feels.

The Transformative Power of Mind

Awakened living happens when we have the courage to live in the present moment, and give up our attraction to the divisive thoughts of our minds. It is the freedom to try something new here and now – look at our lives from a fresh perspective, unburdened by our history or old habits. It is greeting the unknown without the weight of anxiety.

All of us have baggage from our past – it is carried in our emotional and thought patterns and spills out whenever we have to face a problem or a challenge in our life. Whenever we fall into a rage, or a depressive perspective about our future, or self-criticism or judgment about the actions of someone else it is as if this baggage has tumbled down at our feet and is slowing us down, blocking us from clarity about our next obvious move.

Neuroscientists are now telling us that when anything negative happens to us it stays entangled in the neuronal pathways much more readily than a positive event. Then when something similar happens we respond with all the intensity of the backed-up emotion from earlier events. This is why you can feel overwhelmed when a colleague yells at you the way your dad once did, or you feel crushed by losingan argument, or fall into fear and depression when you hear negative political news.

How do we find a way to enjoy the vitality of living despite the negative energies so easy to encounter in our world? We cannot live an awakened life if we are dragged down by conflict, depression, anger or confusion. Awakeness requires holding a fidelity to the awakening we have glimpsed, remembering that underneath the surface of human contradiction is an innate happiness and pleasure that the incarnated spirit knows, even when the mind is doing its characteristic division and worry. These self-defeating tendencies are the reason that thought is disparaged in non-dual teachings – we must get liberated from the fear and catastrophic patterns of thinking humans are so prone to. We must learn our thoughts are rarely true.

IMG_1868Imagine for a moment you could erase all thought – all influences of the outside world, and all doubts in your inner world. Take a deep breath and look up at the sky. What if mind was as vast and clear and open as this? What if mind has the depth and expansive potential of the boundless skies above us?

 

 

Living awakened is not about transcending or pretending there is no darkness in our world; it is acknowledging the world is not only darkness, but is also infused with great light, great potential and great love. It is bringing balance into the overly negative mind, and recognizing that we personally each can bring in some light, some new consciousness, some love even if only to our small corner of the world. We can refuse to indulge in watching programs or hanging out in systems (external or internal) that promote anger, conflict , suffering and isolation. We can seek time in nature where the ions bathe us in a calming presence. We can be present and take note of our immediate surroundings, recognize that we are likely ok here and now.   We know if we move into the middle of an emergency we can simply respond and do what is obvious. It is not the rare physical emergencies that get us down so much as the thoughts about past and future. Rarely are we, in this moment, in a crisis. When we are, then courage and action arises. It is the psychological and imaginative crisis that most debilitate us. These are promoted by thoughts that stir our emotions and cloud our capacitiy for clarity and freedom. Like smoke hovering over us after a fire, they must be cleared away if we are to know our true nature.

Being awake is standing free of limiting thoughts and being present in the moment, doing what is obvious in the moment, listening to the intuition of heart or gut or spirit, and taking care of ourselves and others in a loving way. It is the natural state of Being, bringing us the potential to redesign the way we live based on our authentic moment-to-moment understanding of what is needed now.

 

The Golden Flower of Awakening

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The ancient Taoists understood spiritual awakening and used poetic symbolism as a transmission to those who were ready for it, and some westerners have discovered the potency of these teachings.  It is clear in “The Secret of the Golden Flower” that an inward turning of the light of awareness leads to the realization of the original Self , or primal Consciousness, from which the awakened life can flow.  “The Golden Flower’ as translated by Thomas Cleary describes this process.

In Chinese practice this inward turning is accompanied by a practice of circulating the breath, which awakens and moves subtle energy, while paradoxically containing and expanding it.  This eventually activates the primal energy of the life force, generally in a more harmonious balance than the typical kundalini practices. The emphasis is on living from the center of  rather than entering expanded transcendent states of Samadhi. Some of those who have contacted me over the years have used these ancient practices to enter into the awakening process.

            Although some non-dual teachers will say that awakening is sudden and thorough, either complete or non-existent (only an experience), I have seen thousands of people who are in and out, or half way through, what I can only call a process or an unfolding  into Truth and Self-realization.

            From a non-dual perspective mystical moments, flashes of light, deep insight, rising energies, opening the heart and many other phenomena attributed to a spiritual encounter are not what awakening is.  Instead, Awakening is the time when everything falls away and you realize yourself to be no-body separate and yet unified with all and emerging from One source. It is a ground-level switch from personal to impersonal identity and an opening into the possibility of living from this realization rather than from the separation and identifications of the so-called ego.  When one has only a moment of this realization and then gets entangled again in separation the realization is called a glimpse.  When one can live totally from this place of beingness, and yet function as their own unique expression in the world, it is called enlightenment.  It may, but does not invariably, include extraordinary gifts, as some people believe.  More commonly, awakening expands compassion and an impulse to aide others to awaken.

          All the other phenomena attributed to awakening are preparatory, related to the clearing of blocks in the energy field, the opening of brain centers, or shifting into dimensional frequencies and states of consciousness not often understood by the rational mind.  Most who awaken will have some of these non-ordinary experiences either before or following awakening.

            Far more people have glimpses of awakening than live as enlightened. This is why i think of awakening as a process that evolves and deepens over time.  It is not surprising that this is so – after all, our body/mind is constructed to live as separation, to create unique and individualized structures in the brain that move us through our life.  Consciousness is trained to identify with these structures and they are woven through our energy field impacting patterns of thinking, feeling, moving and sensing.  Consciousness lives in our bodies and enlivens the patterns that are intrinsic to our DNA and imprinted by our conditioning.  Although when we awaken we feel the freedom of consciousness, and realize the conditioned irrelevance of many of our patterns of thought, our old patterns are like magnets that keep drawing back the expansion and reorienting us in familiar ways.    The thinking mind may even feel alarmed by this expanded vibration and generate anxiety that holds us in a cul-de-sac of consciousness, aware of awakened primal consciousness but unable to function consistently from an awakened place.

            Our bodies are sensitive vibrational entities.  This is why powerful music impacts us, and sounds can either enliven or disturb us.  Ancient systems in many cultures realized the power of sound and devised practices such as drumming,  mantra, and chanting,  to open up our energy fields. On the other hand, sitting in deep silence and finding the still point within is the path of awakening.  Imagine yourself as radiating light vibrations out from a center of silent aware presence. Vibration is life itself; the still point is source. Vibration creates the molecular structures that allow the appearance of form. But some vibrational tones may carry you inward to stillness.  They block the distractions of thought and form.  The two creative aspects of energy and stillness are symbolized by Siva and Shakti in Kashmir Shaivism, and as yin and yang in Chinese Taoism. They are interwoven in all of life.  Awakening is knowing the center through becoming it, and enlightenment is this golden flower unfolding into the life force.IMG_4835

            In the ”The Secret of the Golden Flower” the practice is in turning the light that shines out through our eyes into the center, so that the source can be revealed and expressed, profoundly transforming how we live our lives.  This silent center is not empty, although the mind may have a time of seeing it that way.  It is the light and source of all, the vibration of wisdom and creation.

            The great Advaitic sage Ramana Maharshi called this center the Cave of the Heart.  In The Secret of the Golden Flower it is also called the “higher soul”. In Christianity it is the Christ within.  In Buddhism it is the True Nature.  Awakening is simply knowing this infinite and unbounded One Self, and releasing any attachments to a separate identity.

            If you want to be touched by a poetic expression of knowing the infinite and discover a powerful ancient practice,  I recommend Cleary’s beautiful translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower”. For an understanding of awakening as process check out my book “The Awakening Guide” available on amazon and kindle.  I am currently completing editing on a new book to be published by New Harbinger in the spring: “When Spirit Leaps” that explores all the nuances of this remarkable evolutionary process.

Meditation and Centering

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Heidi and Mark in Italy  who provide a you-tube program on Conscious Aging through The Wisdom Factory.  We talked about the value of meditation and I provided a brief meditative practice that I find centering and calming. If you would like to see this program here is the Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=kOQVtwXQZkA
Meditation is useful at stages of life for calming the mind and finding the still point within you, which is never in the head but more in the center or what is called the hara, a place just above or below the naval. You can learn to rest here or to move from this point and to be present with what is around you as you walk or sit in silence. This is nurturing for the spirit and in time provides a new perspective from which to view the world.  You will find an increase in mental clarity, greater peace and a more open heart if you follow a sincere meditation practice.  At first you may find it difficult to be still and quiet the mind, but one day you will find yourself drawn to it the way you are drawn to food when you feel hunger.  Meditation becomes  food for the spirit and the heart.
If your longing is for Self-realization meditation is also the most classic and ancient path to this knowing of the Truth of who you are — connecting you to the stillness of pure consciousness.  We cannot discover this realization through thought and belief because the Truth is beyond language and form and the world of thought is limited. Understanding is not the same as knowing, just as reading about water is not the same as drinking it. There are physiological changes that happen when we mediate for a long period of time that prepare the body for realization by calming the senses, clearing negative energies and opening up channels into brain centers that produce new possibilities.
There are many styles of meditation that suit various personality types and stages of practice.
There is a meditation available on each of my websites: http://www.kundaliniguide.com and http://www.awakeningguide.com.
You can also  access links on to my interview at the Wisdom Factory website: https://thewisdomfactory.net/bonnie-greenwell-meditation-and-centering/
I have also been invited to speak at the Science and Non-duality Conference in San Jose, CA next October.  This is a wonderful gathering of scientists and non-dual teachers from around the world with many talks and experiences and a great place to meet others who share a longing for or encounter with non-dual awakening. The SAND website is http://www.scienceandnonduality.org.  Look me up if you are there.

World in Chaos or World Awake?

We are, once again, living in chaotic times. Each generation seems to endure it’s own brand of chaos, with new issues arising but old patterns of violence and despair recurring over and over in our so-called “civilized” societies. Those who have spiritual inclinations, and those who simply wish to love, visualize a world without this strife and suffering, and imagine that if all would wake up we would be a kinder world, with all people thriving. Perhaps this was the way Jesus hoped things would go when he advised us to love our neighbor as our self, or Moses when he offered ten commandments that would greatly improve human conduct on the planet. (I have often wondeIMG_1375red how we can ignore the simple dictum ‘thou shalt not kill!’.)

Despite the efforts of many teachers, guides and compassionate leaders to suggest models for human compassion and cooperation, our patterns of human interaction continue to generate violence, hatred and insanity. For others they produce anxiety, depression, and despair. In some they are met with courage, caring and a renewal of the desire to contribute something hopeful and positive to our societies. In many others there is escape from these patterns through economic, sexual or family preoccupation or many other social distractions. As far as I can tell, these have always been human patterns on this planet and most minds are entangled in the energies they produce.

There is a growing sub-culture of people seeking answers through  what is clearly an inward journey – an exploration of their own conditioning and a seeking for a calm center or a sense of connection with “god” or “Truth,” or the primal source deep within. When within this depth of self-exploration the primary and universal consciousness awakens itself, and it is clearly revealed and experienced how you are entangled in thoughts, emotions and beliefs not true but only generationally conditioned, then “awakening” occurs, and there is the possibility of becoming “free” of yourself, and ending  suffering. We each have a potential to “awaken” beyond the boundaries of the personal self and into a new perception of our universal connectedness, but very few access this realization consciously in their lifetime.

The search to awaken may emerge in the psyche as a way to end suffering, or the divisive thoughts of the mind that cannot understand the terrible things humans do to one another. It can be triggered by a trauma or by simply wondering why there is so much struggle in many lives. It feels very personal at first. For myself, it came when I recognized that I felt a hole inside related not only to my mother’s sudden death when I was a kid, but also because my faith in God had died along with her. I wanted to know what was True about life. Did something called god even exist?

Usually it is personal pain that propels us to ask these questions. But I have met people who simply fell into the vastness of pure consciousness for a short time due to a shock, injury or deep despair, and when they emerged they felt driven to understand more. Many who are drawn to the peace offered through meditation and self-inquiry go deeper, and find consciousness stirring itself into revelations that surprise them. There are many doorways into the transformation of perspective about who we are.

This searching for Truth is not the personal escape you may imagine it to be. When successful it cracks open the destructive collective patterns that trouble our world. There is a collective consciousness that allows the darkness on our planet to flourish – or we might say a collective un-consciousness. Each of us that can awaken ourselves to the universal collective field hold a potential for healing a small facet of it, bringing light in some degree into the whole. It makes clear the possibility of love and compassion to overrule hate, first within ourself and then in the greater collective. No authentic spiritual guide or teacher is in this work to further their own lives – they are driven to bring more light into the collective. They may not know how to do this effectively – they are ordinary beings after all – only awake – so they give pointers from their own experience to encourage awakening in those who are available to it. They may teach from heart or intuition or a process they have found transformative in their own lives.

It is unfortunate that in some systems the way to encourage Self realization is to discount the attractions of human relations with the world. This approach has a place in helping you to recognize the inner world may have something more fulfilling, lasting and joyful to offer. It helps you to release the addiction to form so that you can directly know the ecstatic essence prior to forms. But once that is felt then awakening will optimally be brought back through the heart and into the lived experience. Great poets. musicians and artists sometimes radiate this. Brilliant inventions may be birthed from this insight. Mental confusion, violence and suffering can be transformed into understanding and compassion, along with a profound appreciation of the beauty and the miracles of the ordinary life.

We may never have a world without some chaos and a percentage of wounded or misguided people striking out at others. But the hope for me is that awakening generates greater wisdom and an evolution of  a new perspective within humanity, so that we understand that we are One interdependent species, and it is to our benefit to accept and support our common human needs. Awakening is not for you alone – it is for all of us.

Standing Up for the World

How many people need to stand up in order to create positive change on our planet?  Change is usually initiated by one insight or action. Movements begin with one or a few who care about this change.

h042luminousearth-5x7s-1      I admit I have never been an activist. As someone who has spent most of my life caring for family, college and career, preoccupied with personal growth  and spiritual realization, while living in comfort, I can recognize easily how much effort it takes to let go of personal concerns long enough to become involved in the greater picture of planetary and political issues.  Most Americans are busy with daily challenges and experiences, both positive and negative, and feel they have little energy or interest left for the bigger needs of the collective, hoping somehow our political structures will support us, since that is felt to be their job. I believe the majority feel, as I have often felt, they can help a person one on one, to get what they need, but trying to support the overwhelming greater needs of the planet seems both exhausting and impossible.

            All the ordinary and self-serving activities of my own life have happened with the backdrop of WW2 (as an infant), Korea (as a college student), the Civil Rights Movement,  the women’s movement, and Vietnam (as a  young mother), the Gulf War , and invasion of Iraq, the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, the shooting of Martin Luther King, nuclear proliferation and numerous other tragedies of human interaction based on the delusion we are separate and must fight and eliminate one another.  I remember when we bought our first tv, and as an adolescent watching with horror films from WW2 showing the release of those few who survived the concentration camps. I remember watching the killing of Sirhan Sirhan iive on tv as I was ironing one morning shortly after JFK’s death.  I have watched the increase of violence – or at least our awareness of it – grow exponentially as our media became more sophisticated. And in the shadows of this most of us continue to lead ordinary lives.

            Today our world problems appear to be random terrorism, environmental degradation and threat, challenges to our educational opportunities and scientific integrity, the pressing needs of immigrants, corporate profits displacing human needs, challenges in healthcare, and the possible disappearance of jobs as technology advances.  And once again we are people in a cultural values division. Distrust of government, and fear of its impact on our personal lives is uprooting our peace of mind.  The challenges change but the cultural anxiety stays the same.

            Today we are more aware of what is happening everywhere, thanks to the web, and people are marching and writing, and pulling themselves away from their personal concerns to seek a voice in the larger collective.  Many average citizens are choosing to run for office. Sometimes those who speak up are met with harsh resistance, or the indifference of those who carry power.  But we humans are the web of society and we need to connect and interact for the good of the whole, and in many places this consciousness of our larger role in our society is starting to rise.

            Indigenous cultures thought and acted from a collective field for the welfare of the community.  Our great modern accomplishment of individualization has left in its shadow our capacity for awareness of and compassion for the whole.  Our inability to recognize that we are rooted in One consciousness, One source, no matter our intellectual theories about its nature, divides us into separate camps and identifications, and allows us to witness tragedy without much response, unless it is happening in our own neighborhood.

            But slowly we are beginning to recognize that what happens in one region of the world profoundly impacts all others.  We may still feel helpless at times to be a corrective force when greed and anger and violence emerge like a hurricane or volcanic eruption in the human experience, but it is harder to be unaffected and unmoved.

            It appears that every great movement or great invention arose through the insight of one person who inspired a small group and instigated a new perspective.

Every political, psychological, educational, spiritual theory,  and every new invention from the wheel to the automobile to the internet emerged from the smallest imaginative thought in one or a few creative minds or hearts.  Everything begins with one and expands (sometimes more slowly than we wish) into the world of thought and then into manifestation.  We think of it as genius when we like the ideas, and as horrors when they cause destruction.

            If you believe you are moved through spirit, what is the one thing you have to contribute to the world?  Is it an idea, a service, a movement from love, a potential that can help the life of a few or someday, perhaps many.  Find your own unique skill, something that moves you from the heart, and find a simple way to express it. If every one does one action for the good of the whole, the forces of good will outweigh the forces that cause suffering and pain.

Light and dark, joy and suffering, will always be part of this human experience, and the challenges bring many of us into personal searching for freedom and self-realization.  But this movement to awaken cannot be limited to the personal life – not if there is one consciousness under all experience or one source.  If you are clearing yourself from your personal suffering you are also clearing your lineage, opening new possibilities for the next generation.  If you will find the one thing for which you have the time and talent to contribute to the welfare of the whole, you will become part of  the future health and wellbeing of the planet.  We each need to release our self from fear and avoidance of the world, and bring the strength of our true nature , which holds love and creativity,  into the world we share.

Transcending the Inner Committee

I’ve always appreciated the concept that we humans have a committee in our heads, often with parts of us holding different perspectives and goals.  This analogy comes from a transpersonal therapeutic model called Psychosynthesis.  The collection of various ideas and positions we hold represent different aspects of our psyche that cause us to feel divided, undecided, impulsive, moody, and to make choices one day that we might regret the next. These parts of us are always jumping up and demanding our attention.

Perhaps you have a spiritual seeker on your committee that is trying to help you wake up out of the suffering in the world, and another character that turns on the news at night andIMG_0667 keeps you angry or frightened about world events.  Most of us have parental introjects – the part of us that responds the way our mom or dad responded in times of stress.  The inner mom might hold a belief in a god that is punishing and demanding, or a lifestyle you do not entirely enjoy.  The inner dad may be a critic telling you that you are never quite good enough, or successful enough. We often have a character that wants to lose weight, and another that says “Life is short. Eat sweets, Feel Better.” Addicts are taken over by a committee member that wants to escape emptiness, or be high one more time, while other committee members with better judgment are wasted in the background of the mind.  Take a minute to make a list of your personal committee members – perhaps a judge, a protector, a problem finder, a problem solver, a conflict avoider, a dreamer,  a poet, an activist – what attitudes are carried in your committee?  Those thoughts of yours are neurons firing. Their content reflects the committee.

            Our minds are full of opposites.  Our human experience is one of division and multiplicity.  We can feel paralyzed by indecision for weeks because of these committee members who argue about what we should or should not do, where we ought to go, what are our goals, what someone else thinks of us, and corresponding emotions of fear, anger, inadequacy, desire and failure.  (Isn’t this the outer world as well? )

            Is spiritual awakening simply the addition of a new committee member, discovered by the seeker inside of you, or could it be the locating of a witness, a neutral observer of  all these characters within the play of your life?  What if you could rest as the witness or become a centered peaceful presence that sees through these committee members as simply belief structures? What if you knew them to be irrelevant most of the time? Would you like to have the power to step out of the boardroom and into the sunlight where there is no chatter, no conflict, and new clarity? Awakening offers this chance.

When you have a glimpse of your awakened Self it seems as if everything else falls away, and you are standing with no objections, no needs and no defenses in the field of timeless existence. It is the consciousness that you essentially are – the I am — realizing its connection to Source, or seeing clearly that all is One and Whole. In this moment the world of human thought has fallen away, leaving a knowing presence that cannot be defined. It just is. You just are. You are free of following the demands of the apparent separate and conditioned little self you have always depended upon.

            These flashes of realization are not permanent.  You cannot stay transfixed
by this moment and function in the real world.  To the extent you are ready, the impact  of awakening can last indefinitely.  But most often there is a long period of slipping between ordinary functioning as you always have known it and moments of perception where you see the world in a new way.  IF you return over and over to trusting the Truth of what you have seen underneath the habitual veils of the human mind, gradually you will become able to live more and more from an awakened perspective.  This means you become less reactive, more light-hearted, more flexible, more compassionate and more intuitive than you were before the realization. The critical mind loses influence. You may find yourself to be more creative, more sensitive, more alive. These are signs of freedom taking hold in your psyche.

            Most of the committee members fade away once there is a strong awakening of pure consciousness.  But many of them put up a fight.  You may have the judge telling you how you should be more enlightened. You may have a doubter telling you that what was experienced was only imagination.  The inner striver may insist you have not accomplished enough, learned enough or earned enough money and you need to put your attention there.  The inner parent may say you cannot let go now because you might stop loving your kids,  Often there is a wanderer who shows up – a part of you that wants to give up everything and just float around the world or hide in a cave somewhere.  The adventurer may seek more dramatic ways of feeling high. The lover may seek a soul mate.

            Some eastern teachings suggest it is the belief in an “I” that holds all these parts of us together.  Instead of facing and releasing each character, one of them at a time, we can just release the sense of the I, the do-er, and be done with the whole scene. Like a house of cards the separate self will collapse.  Something new and more authentic  can then enter and direct our life choices, and there is no one in you to object to what arises.  This  is a greatly condensed description of how it is to lead an awakened life.  To most of us who have developed a workable life and functional mind this sounds crazy, until it happens.

            If you are honest with yourself, haven’t most of the major turns in your life begun with something you never planned, beginning with your birth, a random event caused by two other people? You didn’t plan the family, the place or  the time.  Didn’t your friends and your partner just show up in your life one day with no planning or expectation?  Someone was there and you recognized them!  Did you pre-plan your career and all the turns it took?

            Sometimes the committee members worry too much and take too much credit or blame.  In their efforts to protect you and guide you they create great unnecessary arguments and generate fear and contraction.  If by chance a part of you gets its way there can be great joy for a time, or if life calms down and a crisis has passed there can be great relief. Your committee members enjoy these times of agreement with what is, and may even feel a sense of accomplishment,

If you wake up and leave the committee behind you may have less intensity, less drama in your life.  Even the spiritual seeker part of you will fall away eventually, and you will wonder what to do with yourself. The deeper part of us is free of seeking,  anxiety, anger and demands.  As it becomes more of your “go-to” place life is
smoother, even though the same challenges may arise.  You still have to face whatever lands on your doorstep, and at times a committee member may arise to yell about it or weep. You may have to deal with sexual desire, or the emotional bonds of family and  other human conditions that are part of your DNA.  But you have found a home base, a quality of stillness, and a breadth of perspective and even unconditional love.  This can sustain you and bring light into the darkness you encounter.  This is why some non-dual teachers say there are no problems.  Situations arise. Response arises and action coming from the heart may move you.  But the perspective through which you see this dance of life IMG_4835unfold has changed.   This is what makes you free. This is, as far as I can tell, awakened living.

If you are drawn  toward awakening you will find support  in “The Awakening Guide”available on Amazon and Kindle and the website:

http://www.awakeningguide.com