Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Secrets: A Poem

I rose early today and after reading for awhile and watching morning rise outside my window I began to write whatever came to mind. Purging my consciousness of stray thoughts that have been curled up tight in its corners dark and hidden.  I scribbled six pages of what most would probably consider contradictory nonsense. That's inconsequential to me, however, because when words and thoughts seem to flow out like that I feel so alive and it causes my consciousness to greet the day with appreciation and wonder. I hold my kids that much longer, drink in their beauty that much deeper.

After dropping my daughter off at school I thought I'd try to take what I wrote and make a philosophical kind of poem with it which would attempt to reveal a snapshot of  some of the ideas that took form during my moments of contemplation this morning. But it just didn't happen that way. Instead I wrote down what preceded that time altogether.

This is a poem which had a spontaneous birth. I hope you enjoy it. I'd love your thoughts. Thank you!


Morning Secrets

Morning spills her secrets outside my window.
The narrow branches splitting off like fingers
from the thick outstretched arms of trees
are laced with the brilliant translucence

of newly birthed frost.  They take in with glee
what her loose tongue has to share-
jewels of miraculous vibration.
And shine their remnants right back out at the world.

To the old man, shuffling with intention up the sidewalk,
bent over and stooped, bundled in warm wool,

breath preceding his figure in vaporous clouds.
To the woman driving by, too distracted to look out and wonder,

her windshield slowly melting away the beauty of the morn.
And below my steady hand,  poised with anticipation,
Is a blank sheet of copy paper the children use to draw on,
Inviting me to spill my own secrets.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turning Point: Heading in a New Direction (My Response to Recent Questions from Readers)

Throughout the last couple of months a number of my readers have asked me to write a post clarifying my position as to what my beliefs are. Such a clarification, some have said, would help them and other readers understand the perspective I come from when writing my posts.  

I think my last post alluded somewhat to the perspective I have been gravitating to spiritually. However, what I think those who have expressed inquiries into my beliefs really want to know is what I would label myself as. Am I still a Christian? Am I a pantheist, a Hindu? For I have spoken fondly and reverently of Sri Krishna as expressed through the Bhagavad Gita and have quoted numerous times in the past from the Upanishads, stating that I get much spiritual direction reading from them as well as from works like the Tao te Ching. I have also expressed my belief that all of life is interconnected and have shared my slow turning away from the idea in a personal God. And yet my mentioning of religions that do express a personal belief of God tends to leave some of my readers perplexed as to where I personally stand.

I can only say that at this point  my beliefs are fluid and continually evolving. I readily admit that I simply don't have everything figured out yet and am unable to put myself in one camp or another, subscribing to this or that label.  Though it can be uncomfortable to proceed from the ever-shifting vantage point of fluidity, it is the only way I seem to be able to proceed spiritually with any genuine sense of authenticity and certainty. Yes, what a paradox; I find a degree of certainty in the very state of uncertainty! Maybe that can be compared to finding permanence in impermanence.

Never before have I been able to relate more to these words of Alan Watts, found in his book "The Wisdom of Insecurity" on page 24.

"But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To "have" running water you must let go of it and let it run. The same is true of life and of God. "

While I can see beauty in what many religions and spiritual paths have to offer, especially the Eastern ones,  I think that trying to subscribe to any one of them would make it only a matter of time before I was branded a heretic by followers in whichever one I tried to follow. So deeply is skepticism woven into my very nature. As soon as I think I have found a path that perhaps I can align myself with, doubts and questions taunt me and I find what I perceive as flaws in the presuppositions that define them. I think my days of subscribing to any organized religion may be over.

I believe to pursue the truth with any sense of integrity means to do away with all presuppositions. I can't help but feel restricted spiritually by the artificial boundaries that  religions seem to erect.  I immediately feel compelled to test them and eventually go beyond them.  Some seem to find comfort with recognizing and accepting these boundaries and I respect, honor and sometimes envy that. I, on the other hand, find myself feeling rather claustrophobic at the idea of them.  

I tend to view God/reality as something bearing a lot more depth than religions generally express. I believe that throughout the various  wisdom traditions  there have been mystics who have had deep revelations into the true nature of man and the universe. These revelations have undoubtedly been the inspiration to truths that many religions have found ways of turning superficial. Perhaps my current perspective is a strength,  maybe it will lead to my ultimate spiritual demise. More than a few have voiced the idea that it will lead to my eternal separation from God, even to hell.  Those are repercussions, though, that I do not fear. For God, whom I equate with reality, is closer to me than my very self. Separation from God is impossible for "He" is found at our nature's core.  That, I do believe whole-heartedly. And I no longer believe in hell. So, that is also not a concern as I move forward.

So, after all of this, where exactly am I at? I am at the point where I am merely enjoying the act of learning as much as I can about different religions and philosophies for the sake of exploring the underlying parallels that can be found between them. I am concentrating my studies more on the various Eastern philosophies and religions, particularly Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism.  I see all of reality as being interconnected; as an ever changing and infinite organism of interrelated parts.

I am enjoying the spiritual disciplines of chanting, meditation and mindfulness. I believe that the truth can be revealed to us experientially in the present moment and that we can train our minds to become more and more aware of the presen through spiritual disciplines but we need not be bound to them. I view them as tools; sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they can be a hindrance. Oftentimes what is needed is the letting go of all effort. It is then that understanding breaks upon one's consciousness. Sort of like how when you are looking for something you end up finding it when you stop looking for it. I have found immense value and inspiration in the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the writings of Alan Watts and Eknath Easwaran as well as philosophers like Ken Wilber whose philosophy of spiral dynamics in particular has helped me understand the direction my journey is taking me.

I know this blog started off as one that held a strictly Christian theme. That has certainly changed! I hope that readers will bear with this change as my perspective continually evolves and my understanding hopefully deepens.
As a result of my changing views, this blog has now reached a turning point in terms of the material it will cover and is heading in a new direction. I plan on continuing to write about different religions and philosophies even though I might not subscribe to them because I believe it's important for all of us to develop a deeper understanding and empathy into what people believe in order to begin to not only see the similarities that we all have with one another but also to have a healthy appreciation for the differences. 

 I also am looking forward to introducing some new content into this blog from other fields of study other than just religion and philosophy like, for example, neuroscience, psychology and astrophysics.  I think these areas of study are also essential in exploring when trying to ascertain a more complete view of reality.

I look forward to sharing my next post which will relate the experience I recently had of attending a Shin Buddhist meditation meeting.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section! Thank you!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment

"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Abandoning Pursuit

"On the one hand there must be the understanding that there is nothing, nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing that you can do to improve, transform, or better yourself. If you understand this completely you will realize that there is no such entity as 'you'. Then, if you have totally abandoned this ambition, you will be in the state of true meditation which comes over you spontaneously in wave after wave after wave of amazing light and bliss."
~ Alan Watts' paraphrasing words of wisdom from Krishnamurti, spoken in a private conversation
    (In My Own Way, p. 118)

I could not have come across this passage at a more spiritually ripe time. I read it this morning after the day in which I had the realization that to receive true understanding into the reality and nature of things what is needed is for me is to abandon the pursuit for it entirely. That to be filled with revelation and insight, it is necessary to be empty of any preconceived ideas as to how to attain it. For we are already full of what we need to know. It is merely a matter of flicking the light switch on.

One has to just find the switch, located somewhere on the walls lining the interior that lays within the corridors of one's consciousness. If the walls are covered with so many maps, pictures and mirrors reflecting shifting illusions resembling those of which can be found inside the fun house of a carnival, then one's inner eye can canvass its surface until , as the saying goes, "the cows come home" and still be lost as to its whereabouts. What is needed is to take down even that which appears beautiful, to strip all adornments mercilessly off the walls, so that all that is left is the switch itself. When turned on what appears makes what once lined those walls seem amusingly dull and artificial anyways.

The realization came to me that to simply be is all that one needs to do in order to realize the mysteries of life. In this state, intuition flows freely and  sadhana (spiritual disciplines), take whatever form is needed in that moment. I have often been perplexed and torn regarding which technique of mediation or contemplation I should be practicing for I am often drawn to different ones yet feel as if I should choose just one particular path. Enough worrying about technique, enough fretting about form. Form shapes itself from the space we create by simply allowing life to flow as it will in each eternal moment.  It is then one may be led to chant, to dance, to draw, to simply breathe or become a mirror reflecting the love and light that fills every crevice of one's consciousness.

I am realizing that there is no right or wrong way. There just, "is". And it is in this state that I can emphasize with the phrase from the old hymn, "All is Well with my Soul", with the exception that there is no soul. All is well with my Self, for it is finally allowed to simply be its Self. It's simply allowed to be, simply be, unfiltered. The thick and grimy film covering the mirror within is scraped clean and what is left is pure awareness.  And I realize that that is my true nature.

What a relief it is to simply witness life, this vast and infinite web of existence filled with shifting illusions that dance and flirt with one another. Taking center stage they playfully dart behind folds in a curtain that continually opens and closes much to the audience's delight and dismay, entirely dismissive of their cheers and sighs. It all makes me want to laugh. Laugh at how simple and obvious it all is and yet how complicated and artificial we tend to make it and how seriously we consider our  interpretations of it. We take them so seriously that we wage wars and impose death on others to hold fast to the illusions we choose to cling to. We hate others for selecting different illusions because it threatens our own sense of security because deep down we know that it is all bunk but we so desperately seek something permanent to give us hope and security.  That fact doesn't make me laugh though. The fact that our near obsession with our egos and investment in our own self-made delusions leads to so much misery and suffering. That makes me want to mourn and fiercely shake the slumbering world awake.

When listening to a beautiful song, or playing an instrument, you don't over-analyze what you are doing at that moment. You merely feel and allow your creativity to flow in that moment. In that moment you just are. Creating. In every moment, consciousness just is, creating. Filtering itself through the lenses of our varied egos and having fun with it. I'm beginning to realize that there is no point in over analyzing our deepest questions in order to extract the answers. That is just mere mental speculation based on our own presuppositions of the truth. That is our ego playing around with different variables, projecting interesting patterns into our awareness that might or might not have any relevance to the answers of our deepest inquiries. I'm starting to realize that the answer is simply found in allowing oneself to embrace fully each and every moment. It is then that we begin to, "know" the answers-not through means of the intellect but through experience. Not through words, but through revelation.

Words limit the expression of spiritual truths. That's why so many, from Alan Watts to Thomas Merton and countless of others, merely had fun with words and never took them too seriously. Words are symbols for concepts that define realities based on other people's or group's interpretations of reality and therefore are highly subjective.

I abhor hunting. I believe taking any life does injustice to the sacred nature of life itself. One illustration, however, that comes to mind right now is a hunter perched high above the forest floor atop a tree stand. He sits still, hears the sounds of nature reverberating through wood and brush, waiting patiently for his prey to come into view. Deer are smart and perceptive. Their senses and intuition finely tuned for survival. There is no point in noisily bumbling about blazing a trail through the wilderness in search of one. Try that and the closest deer will be miles off and you will never even see a glimpse of its sleek brown coat. There is no path that will lead you to one and there is no point in making your own path. All you need to do is sit and wait and the object you so desire will eventually appear.

I am discovering this is true with spiritual truths and knowing. It is our first instinct to go off in hungry pursuit for the answers we so desperately seek.  To locate and bring down the truth as if taking down a wild stag, pouncing upon it and savagely feasting upon the flesh of knowledge, sucking the marrow clean from revelation's bones. The seeker becomes wild in his pursuit for truth. But I am finding there is a much more dignified and effective way of coming about it rather than feverishly pursuing it like a rabid animal frothing at the mouth. Like the hunter in the tree stand, we merely need to tuck ourselves up in the tree of contemplation and wait. Patiently. Being ever mindful and allowing the truth to come and rise above the horizon and, in its light and almost painful in its brilliance, flood us with knowing.

When waiting, if we empty ourselves of expectations, a miraculous happening begins to occur. Thoughts, emotions and feelings arise and we realize we can objectively witness these elements that we once perceived as being "us". Because we can witness them, we are not them. Our reality cannot be bound and indeed transcends these superficial and illusory variables that define our ego. We are emptiness and emptiness is full.  Bursting with potential and energy-to create, to love, to heal, to transform. Our bodies and our egos are merely instruments in which the universe is playing itself out. Reinforced within me at this time is the very notion that we all, truly are, One.

In this context the ego need not be rejected as if it were something ugly and something needing to be discarded. As long as it is seen for what it truly is it can be appreciated. It is what gives our existence texture, flavor and color but should never be taken too seriously. The trick, I believe, is to have fun with the ego, but to not allow it to "stick" to our interior which reflects our true nature. To not buy into  and become attached to the illusion that it defines us. To let it work for us and not against us. Spiritual disciplines can be instrumental at this point in helping us maintain this  perspective.  As already mentioned, I have come to accept that whatever discipline we take on, at any given moment, should not be done because we feel we have a duty or obligation towards it but instead should merely be done because it is the best instrument at that given moment in time to be used to redirect our internal compasses back towards pointing itself to our true Self. 

I could write more but will end this post for now for it is already longer than most people would probably prefer a blog post to be. Greatly appreciated are your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Teaching Children the Gift of Not Knowing

The world manifests itself in majestic displays of colors and complex patterns. Creatures that compete with scenes found in the depths of our wildest imaginations already known and yet to be discovered creep, slither and swim through the realms of earth and sky. 

Even the most simplest of displays, a leaf in a child's outstretched hand, holds within it amazing wonders in terms of what lies deep within on a microcosmic molecular level.

Reality itself is a complex web of factors constantly interacting with one another and it is a marvel to behold. Oftentimes, our children can come to us with questions in regards to how things work and why things are the way they are. As parents, we wish to give them the answers they seek.  Sometimes it's difficult as a parent to concede to not knowing the answers to our children's most pressing questions. We feel as if we should. Many of us, instead of admitting to not knowing the answer, will make up overly simplistic responses in order to momentarily assuage their curiosities and redirect them towards other pursuits that don't challenge our sense of comfort. This approach, however, does not give them the actual answers and hinders the cultivation of critical thinking which our world so desperately needs its inhabitants to develop in order to solve the many problems it faces.

As I've wrestled with my own questions lately I have realized that admitting to myself that I don't know the answer to something does not produce within me the sense of self-defeat but rather it elicits a sense of liberation and hope that further intensifies my curiosity and intrigue. It also magnifies my appreciation of the infinite mysteries reality has to offer us. 

There's a sense of freedom in not knowing all the answers to life's questions. Freedom because by admitting we don't know something we are refusing to be bound by artificial answers which create the false illusion of knowing that keeps us confined within our own self-made prisons of ignorance.  By admitting that we don't know an answer we create the space in which we are given the freedom to earnestly seek for it and the hope of actually one day finding it.

My children, like most, are full of questions and one of our favorite activities lately is to have them nestle beside me in bed, laptop before us. I beckon them to ask anything that they have been wondering about and assure them that we will try to find out the answers together.  We've had lots of fun together and this pursuit has proven to be one of mutual discovery for all involved. Even when I do know the answers to questions posed, by looking deeper into the subjects at hand with them I have found my own understanding of such subjects broadening. 

I have been teaching my children that there are things that are simply not discovered yet, answers that aren't known, and that that is okay and actually a very exciting thing. If we knew everything there was to life there would be no mysteries. And there is truly a joy in discovering the mysteries of life. Not knowing is a gift because it opens the doorway to discovery.

I think it's important to admit to our children that there are things we don't know because this reinforces the fact that learning is a lifelong process. We are always students and our classroom is reality itself. 

Annika Harris is working on a new book that covers this very subject-of not knowing. I absolutely love the premise for this book and invite all of you to watch this short video describing it. Her publication,  I Wonder, will hopefully come out sometime soon. This is one book I plan on buying and reading with my children.