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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lessons in Impermanence

I ascended the narrow staircase holding a plastic cup filled about three quarters of the way with cold iced tea. I warmly complimented the room’s view of our town’s lake while wiping the condensation that had already formed on its exterior off before placing it in his outstretched hand.

It was my second visit to his place. A man I had started seeing but would only see for a few times as I was a “fill in” for another worker that needed the time off. I have recently taken on another part time job. For this one I visit people who live at home but need extra assistance with everyday chores that they are no longer able to do. Also, some just need good company; someone to talk to, someone to listen to them.

He drank deep then put it down with a thud on the windowsill that lined the wall on his left side. Eagerly taking up his brush again he dipped it in the small pile of acrylic paint that rested on a sheet of cardboard in front of him. Paint he had squeezed out of a tube that now found its home in a haphhazard pile of similar looking tubes all bedecked with caked layers of  various colored hues. His arms appeared bruised and I looked twice with concern before realizing that it was just a dark layer of greyish brown paint that had come to adorn his upper limbs like garish sleeves.

He was a painter, though he had done many thing in his lifetime up until now. Along his hallways and in every room his paintings ornamented the walls. Sailboats and fighter jets. Portraits of John Wayne and other celebrities stared back at me as I would raise my head to meet their airy glances upon rising after unplugging the vaccum cleaner. Probably his most favorite thing to paint was scenes from the shore. Sailboats, harbors and piers. I could almost hear the flutter of the flags atop a ship in one of his paintings he had managed to make it come to life so vividly and masterfully. Some of his paintings had sold and were for sale for thousands of dollars.

I looked down at the painting he now worked on. A crude outline of an airplane with little details dully met my gaze. He looked up at me and our eyes met.

“I don’t paint like I used to. But I still love it. And will keep doing it no matter what. Until I can’t pick up my brush any longer. My eyes, you see, they have a degenerative disease. I’ve already had cataract surgery and they fixed that. But nobody can fix my eyesight from slowly going away.”.

I tried to change the subject by complimenting on a painting that was behind him of an attractive blonde girl smiling radiantly.

“That’s my daughter. She died a year ago of cancer. She fought hard for four long years but she just couldn’t keep up with it. Went through chemo and everything.”

Shaking his head sadly he went on.

"My wife died 36 years ago and now my daughter. You just never know when someone will leave you. When they will be taken. Everything is fine and normal one day and it’s like they are just plucked right out of your life the next. You just aren’t ever the same after that. Never the same.”

My heart cringed and all the faces of those I have lost came flooding forward in my consciousness.  My paternal Grandmother I lost in middle school. My high school friend Erin who died of cancer. Another high school friend Katie who died unexpectedly from an undetected congenital heart defect. And yet another high school friend Brendan who, after his car had broken down on the side of the road and he walked on the shoulder to get help, got struck by a drunk driver and died shortly after being rushed to the hospital. My good friend Jim who was like a brother to me who died of a drug overdose in college. My grandmother who died last May. What to speak of all the close animal companions I have lost along the way. What he said was so true and reminded me of the impermanence of life and how it is so important to savor each moment with those we love and to make the most of our time here.
Later that night, too exhausted to read, I thought I’d peruse some videos of Radhanath Swami’s lectures and came across a short one that made that afternoon with my client immediately come to mind.
The video is of a story Radhanath Swami tells in his book, The Journey Home. Conveniently, I recognized that I had taken down a quote from the story and had it already on my quotes page devoted to quotes from his book. This is the quote I have that is the main theme of the video, one of which is undoubtedly very beneficial to reflect on. I encourage you to watch the video in its entirety as well.

“The unsuspecting fish, who knew nothing but life in the river, went about its routine like any other day, but in an instant was ripped out of its reality to meet with death. Like that fish, we routinely live our lives hardly aware that, at the very least expected moment, the yellow-eyed hawk of fate in the form of crises, tragedy, or even death, may wrench us out of our comfortable environment. We regularly hear of it in the news or see it around us but rarely take seriously that it could happen to us. Perhaps the lesson here is to guard against complacency and give higher priority to our spiritual needs. If the fish swam deeper, the hawk would not be able to reach it. Similarly, if we go deeper into our connection to God, we will find an inner reality so deep and so satisfying that it lifts the consciousness to a place where we could deal with the effects of unforeseeable fate with a stable, detached mind.”
 ~ Radhanath Swami, The Journey Home, p. 291-92

Nothing in this material world lasts. I try to teach my children that as I find them getting unnecessarily distressed when even the smallest of their trinkets break. Not only do inanimate objects rust and decay, but so do our bodies and with them our abilities, just like my client’s ability to paint. Our eyesight eventually gets less keen and our bodies age as well as those of our loved ones. Impermanence is a sad fact of living in this material world but our impression of it doesn’t necessarily have to end leaving us with a lingering sadness. For our  misery while experiencing the impermanent can be a catalyst in prompting us to dig deeper spiritually and seek a peace and love that is everlasting.

It's been awhile since I've last posted. I plan on posting hopefully at least a couple of times a month here. A lot of things are happening in my personal life. For years I have stayed home with my children and now find myself back to work having not one, but two jobs!  I also have become more spiritually focused and now am chanting my mantra (the mahamantra) 16 rounds a day, which also takes up quite a bit of my time. I hope, though, when I do post, my readers will enjoy what I continue to write. And please feel free to leave your reflections in the comments section. Thank you!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Andrew Newberg: Think Like the CIA

                                                                   Courtesy of Google Images

In his book, "Why We Believe What We Believe", author Andrew Newberg lists eight strategies that the CIA uses to teach its intelligence gathering anaylsts to think more wisely and open-mindedly. This allows them to analyze situations more critically and thus be able to construct more effective solutions to problems.

As much as I shy away from taking advice from our government I consider these strategies, which Newberg gleaned from a CIA handbook, ones that are beneficial for everyone to keep in mind as we navigate our way through everyday circumstances as well as try to make sense of some of the events in the world, both local and global. Some of the suggestions might seem like common sense while others might be new ideas to be considered for implementation. Some of the ideas listed seem to be very similar, yet if you read them closely, there are distinctions between them.

I hope you find them useful!

 8 Strategies to Think More Critically

(1) Become proficient in developing alternative points of view.

(2) Do not assume that the other person will think or act like you.

(3) Think backward. Instead of thinking about what might happen, put yourself into the future and try to explain how a potential situation could have occurred.

(4) Imagine that the belief you are currently holding is wrong, and then develop a scenario to explain how that could be true. This helps you to see the limitations of your beliefs.

(5) Try out the other person's beliefs by actually acting out the role. This breaks you out of seeing the world through the habitual patters of your own beliefs.

(6) Play "devil's advocate" by taking the minority point of view. This helps you see how alternative assumptions make the world look different.

(7) Brainstorm. A quantity of ideas leads to quality because the first ones that come to mind are those that reflect old beliefs. New ideas help you to break free of emotional blocks and social norms.

(8) Interact with people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

From: "Why We  Believe What We Believe", Andrew Newberg, p. 259

Which strategy do you find most useful? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sam Harris: Spirituality and Mysticism

In a recent post I expressed my dissatisfaction regarding the seemingly subjective nature of spirituality and announced my resolve to focus on investigating and exploring areas that at least offer the chance of obtaining some clarity into the nature of things.  I figured I would turn to science, whose scalpel of reason appears to quite effectively slice away at misconceptions and whose systematic approach focuses on objectively finding answers.Since then I have read a couple of books that have really made me reflect more deeply on my decision to forgo spirituality in its entirety and I'm starting to see that perhaps in my frustration over what seems an unending battle between intellect and heart, and my apparent thirst for some sort of clear direction in which to proceed in my pursuit of truth, that I might have entered into the mindset Ken Wilber would label as "flatland". A tunnel vision way of thinking that focuses completely on that which can be scientifically measured and analyzed.

The two books I have read recently and that really started making me re-think my approach was Andrew Newberg's book, "Why We Believe What We Believe" and Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith". I would like to mostly focus on what Sam Harris has to say regarding spirituality in the last chapter of his book, so I will only briefly note that in Newberg's book it became clear to me that science can also be laden with a level of subjectivity has well.

"...personal experience is subject to numerous perceptional, emotional, and cognitive distortions that occur at every stage of neural processing. What is finally summoned forth into consciousness turns out to be a very limited and subjective view of the world.

Science tries systematically to utilize subjective experience to measure objective reality, but even scientific views of reality differ. Every hypothesis finds dissenting views, so scientists themselves are challenged to choose who or what to believe. Furthermore a scientist's belief system can influence the outcome of a study as much as a theologian's belief system can influence his or her perception of the world."  ~ p. 280

It seems like everywhere I turn subjectivism is glaring me in the face! From science to spirituality. Though, I do think spirituality is given more of a free ticket in allowing the imagination to take flight and encouraging one's mind to lift off of the foundation of reason and into the open skies of ambiguity and subjective speculation which, to me, is no way of going about trying to ascertain any sense of clarity into the nature of the Absolute. So, is it possible to wed reason with spirituality and erect a meaningful yet logical platform in which to proceed on one's journey towards understanding? Sam Harris seems to think so.

In his book Harris points out that spirituality has been a source of transformation for man since our very beginning and that it certainly can provide one with a deep sense of meaning, clarity, inspiration and depth. Spirituality itself is not necessarily the culprit that battles reason and plunges seekers headfirst into delusion, but more so religion. Harris points out that there is an underlying essence that carries much truth and lives at the heart of all religions and spiritual traditions. These truths were  most easily recognized and espoused by their mystics but covered up by false layers of dogma and doctrine; religion's sweltering blanket smothering their fragile lights.

"Mysticism is a rational enterprise. Religion is not. The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reasons for what he believes and these reasons are empirical. The roiling mystery of the world can be analyzed with concepts (this is science), or it can be experienced free of concepts (this is mysticism)...

A kernel of truth lurks at the heart of religion, because spiritual experience, ethical behavior and strong communities are essential for human happiness... While spiritual experience is clearly a natural propensity of the human mind, we need not believe anything on insufficient evidence to actualize it. Clearly, it must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world." (p. 221)

Harris points to the rational and systematic approach in empirically studying the nature of consciousness and reality that the philosophies in the East have and how they contain gems of wisdom derived from those who used their consciousness as laboratories. Those who chose not to superimpose fanciful false layers of myth but instead  dove straight into experience and extracted precious truths.

" Even the contemporary literature on consciousness, which spans philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience, cannot match the kind of precise, phenomenological studies that can be found throughout Buddhist canon."  Harris goes on to say, "Mysticism to be viable , requires explicit instructions, which need suffer no more ambiguity or artifice in their exposition than we find in a manual for operating a lawn mower. Some traditions realized this millennia ago." ( p. 217)

The "manual" like instructions that Harris is referring to are the similar techniques mystics and yogis the world over have discovered in which to allow oneself to enter into the state where "our sense of "self"-of subject/object dualism in perception and cognition-can be made to vanish, while consciousness remains vividly aware of the continuum of experience."( p. 217)

I found Harris' views on spirituality and mysticism refreshing. Overall what I got from the last chapter of his book, The End of Faith, is that spirituality can be approached in a rational manner implementing reason and logic. That any interpretation of what one experiences should be compared by, might we say a "peer review" of sorts, with other conclusions of those who have explored the nature of consciousness themselves. The mystics,  those who themselves have traversed the landscape of consciousness, are great examples of sources to draw from for they have provided maps for those who wish to make similar journeys in the form of texts like the Buddhist canons and the Vedas. Even the Western religions offer their own mystics for one to extract insight and direction from-Islam has Sufis like Rumi and no one need look any further than Jesus when looking at Christianity for an example of someone who attained to a self-realized state.

So, in closing, after some introspection, reading and insightful conversations lately I've decided that I would be rejecting the very reason I am attempting to implement in my pursuit of truth and understanding if I turned away from spirituality completely. Instead, I will proceed practicing the disciplines that I have found meaningful and inspirational. However, I will do so with caution as to not be led astray by interpreting any of my experiences with any undo sentimentalism and while simultaneously discovering the wonders of the natural world that have been revealed by science. By developing the widest lens in which to perceive things as they are I will hopefully progress in a fruitful direction that will at some point allow mind and heart to converge in a harmonious consensus. Okay...being completely optimistic. ;)

Your thoughts are always appreciated in the comments section. Thank you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

These Waters: A Poem

                                                       Picture taken last year on the bay side of Wellfleet,MA

Nearly every summer, since childhood to the present, I have returned annually to the shores of Cape Cod spending days walking along its sandy beaches and gazing at colorful kites pirouetting across its sun drenched skies.

As my family and I make preparations to have our senses once again inundated with the exhilarating combination of salt air and invigorating waters I couldn't help but reflect  on the fact that every time I come back to this place of abundant memories I return a different person. 

One year I remember going up to that most treasured peninsula jutting out from the eastern seaboard as a child dreaming of being an astronaut. Mesmerized by the heavens I sat, wide-eyed, gazing out at the view before me stretching out into infinity. Another summer I went up as a bright eyed dreamer envisioning that I would change the world and someday ride the ocean's waves on Greenpeace rafts and save whales from being murdered.

I've returned to the beaches of Cape Cod as a new Christian in my later teen years, hymns pouring out of my heart and out across the sea, lifting my praise towards a Creator whom I recognized through Jesus. I've gone up there in the summer of my first year of college, finding love and passion in the same places where I once dug holes to make swimming pools for dolls toted along in pails. Just last summer I arose while my family still slumbered to walk where wave meets sand, my lone foot prints trekking through damp sediment. I mindfully chanted my mantra on japa mala beads as fishermen prepared for their morning ventures.

What of this year? Where do I "find" myself now? I return to the place of my childhood feeling much like a blank slate in many ways, spiritually speaking. I've pretty much abandoned any notion of dogma or doctrine, any assumption into the spiritual. This time around I am seeking only to witness the life reverberating around me in a more complete way as I practice mindfulness and simply enjoy witnessing my children explore the wonders that once thrilled me as a child. Perhaps some new insight will come, or perhaps a poem will be born or an idea to pursue when I return home. I do have a collection of books I am bringing, my journal, and my japa mala bag. Such things I can't imagine traveling without!

No matter where my heart or head is at, the one thing I love about Cape Cod is that I always feel I've come home when I return. It's as if the deepest part within me sighs, loosening up parts wound tight to open and receive a new found joy as brilliant as the sparks that seem to dance atop the waters.

Reflecting on all of this I wrote a short poem today between folding clothes and sorting socks. I hope you enjoy it. I haven't really edited it yet, so I am posted it as it is.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

These Waters

I've entered these waters with various dress
as a child of God these waves caressed
my self once ignited with passion and zeal
For a God in my heart I once held real.

I've entered a dreamer, a poet, a child-
a mother, a lover, with dreams running wild.
I've walked along where water meets shore churning white,
Reciting my mantra, my heart taking swift flight.

I've met these waters with pen in hand
Sketching out thoughts as numbered as the sands.
This time I come, my slate nearly wiped clean,
Only seeking to breathe deep these waters blue and green.

Longing to watch the seagulls circling high,
Reeds bending neath Atlantic's steady sigh
The boats drifting as boats often do
across a seascape of caerulean blue.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Turning Point: Embracing Skepticism


One needs only to scroll down the titles and peruse the content of my recent posts to know that I have been really struggling to make sense of things lately. Battling between mind and heart and trying to find clarity amidst two different paths that seem to call me both to them with nearly equal strength.

The following I wrote a few days ago in my online journal. I believe I have  been really battling with my skepticism  for some time now. It has been an aid for me for sure in the past. It has helped slough off layers of misconceptions that clouded my perception of things and was key in bringing me into awareness of the attachments that I needed to let go of at the time in order to pursue the truth more rationally. But then I believe it kept taking off layers that were perhaps just as necessary to remove as the previous ones but the difference being with these was that I started to feel uncomfortable when they were threatening to come off. So I found myself struggling mightily to resist skepticism and maintain that which preserved my sense of security. Now, after considerable reading and reflection and angst, I am deciding to embrace my skepticism and endure what is hopefully temporary discomfort in order to pursue the truth less tethered by illusions.

Well, I don't want to write too much because I believe my entry will speak for itself. I just want to note beforehand that I hope none of my readers are offended at some of the conclusions I have been coming too. It is not my intention to offend but to be genuinely honest in revealing, stage by stage, what I am encountering and experiencing in my search for the truth into the nature of reality.


It started to occur to me  lately that I have potentially been caught up in a futile endeavor.  I've been looking only into the areas of spirituality and religion in my pursuit for truth into the nature of reality. Thinking that within ancient texts, within the teachings of saints and yogis, there can be precious jewels of realization into the Absolute to be found. In exclusively looking to those sources  I contradicted my own rule of not using presuppositions while digging for the truth. It was like at the beginning of my journey I set off knowing whereabouts my destination would be-in the region of the Divine somewhere.  I presupposed that wherever my journey would take me it would lead me closer to God, whatever or whoever He is. That even if He wasn't personal that there were  transcendental realities that existed. I also naturally assumed from the very start that within every living being there was an eternal essence which came from something Divine, that is something that I have always maintained.

All of my presuppositions could very well be true and for sure there are seemingly intuitive moments of clarity where they most definitely seem true. But, what I'm coming to find is that really nothing into the transcendental nature of things can truly be known with any substantial certainty and the plain fact is that they could also be false. It doesn't mean that there aren't realities that we cannot perceive that do exist. Certainly there's lots of things that we have not been able to detect  in the past that we can now-like radio waves, waves of light, etc.  via new technology. And we are sure to discover more as time goes on. But when it comes to  questions of whether or not there is a soul, maybe there is no real point in asking such questions because there's no real way of finding an answer. Or, maybe before considering such questions and looking for religion/spirituality to provide an answer, we should first look at what can be known and after that re-assess the question and see if it still  has merit.

I'm finding that religions and spiritual philosophies fall exceedingly short if not impede greatly in any potential glimpse or experience one can have of what really Is. When I really think about things objectively I am finding myself agreeing  with many philosophers and great thinkers that I have come across in their conclusion that religion and even God are artificial constructs. Simple as that.

Even though reality in its entirety seems nearly inconceivable to ever truly "know", there are things that we can know and discover. We might not be able to "know" the nature of things in their entirety but we can come to know a lot and in the process come to realize and appreciate reality in a deeper way than we wouldn't have otherwise  because we are coming to understand different and very real facets of it, rather than ascribing to  speculations and conjectures towards it.

So, I guess the theme of this stream of consciousness entry is that I'm starting to wonder what the point is of chasing after what really can never be known with any measure of certainty when one can discover what can be known?...Is the former merely akin to chasing a mirage while the latter can be perceived as plunging into the roaring ocean's tide , tasting and feeling, truly experiencing, a tiny fraction  of its greatness for oneself? Yes, we might not be able to canvass the whole ocean for example (yet), knowing intimately its depths. But we can learn to understand as much as we can, and find ourselves in a reverent sense of awe while doing so, digesting the fact that  there are even more untold treasures teeming beneath its waves. So, true, of reality as a whole and all the mysteries it holds.

Your thoughts are always welcome. Please consider leaving them in the comments section. Thank you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Human Problem (Excerpt from The Wisdom of Insecurity)

My last post delved into describing the current state of skepticism I have now found myself in, yet again. Though there is a spiritual path  within the Vedas that I have investigated and have been pursuing for some time now I have realized that skepticism is part of my nature and I must step back and assess my motives for pursuing the path that seems to call out to me. Might I return to it? I very well might. It's a beautiful path that promises hope and peace and certainly elicits positive changes in one's life. However, I have also realized that the heart can be misleading at times and I have to allow my intellect more latitude. For it will not rest, it seems, until every stone is unturned.

A book that I found really illuminating during a past state of spiritual transition, The Wisdom of Insecurity, I have returned to once again in hopes of perhaps extracting new gems of insights from its pages. I want to be actively challenged right now in testing the way in which reality should properly be perceived. I want to see things as they are. To try to find a direction in which to orient my compass that, though it might bring me off this plateau of indecision and into dark forests that seem perilous with snares, will lead me closer to the truth. Might the needle turn me around to retrace my prior steps back towards the beautiful sense of spirituality I had discovered? It very well might. Might it instead lead me in another direction, towards the more unknown and unchartered waters of agnosticism in which I dipped my toes in, in the past, and after doing so decided the water was too cold and unruly and headed for the safety of the shore? It very well might. Time will tell I suppose.

I'd like to share an excerpt from the book I'm reading. I emphasized some parts that I found particularly thought provoking and most likely will take some of them individually and write separate posts on them. I hope you enjoy it even if you don't agree with it.

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid in every increase of consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. But the ability to plan for pleasure is offset by the "ability" to dread pain and to fear the unknown. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of past and the future gives us a correspondingly dim sense of the present. In other words, we seem to reach a point where the advantages of being conscious are outweighed by its disadvantages, where extreme sensitivity makes us unadaptable.

Under these circumstances we feel in conflict with our own bodies and the world around them, and it is consoling to be able to think that in this contradictory world we are but "strangers and pilgrims." For if our desires are out of accord with anything that the finite world can offer, it might seem that our nature is not of this world, but for infinity. The discontent of our souls would appear to be the sign and seal of their divinity.

But does the desire for something prove that the thing exists?  We know that it does not necessarily do so at all. It may be consoling to think that we are citizens of another world than this, and that after our exile upon earth we may return to the true home of our heart's desire. But if we are citizens of this world , and if there can be no final satisfaction of the soul's discontent, has not nature, in bringing forth man, made a serious mistake?

For it would seem that, in man, life is hopeless conflict with itself. To be happy, we must have what we cannot have. In man, nature has conceived desires which it is impossible to satisfy. To drink more fully of the fountain of pleasure, it has brought forth capacities which make man the more susceptible to pain. It has given us the power to control the future but a little- the price of which is the frustration of knowing that we must at last go down in defeat. If we find this absurd, this is only to say that nature has conceived intelligence in us to berate itself for absurdity. Consciousness seems to be nature's ingenious mode of self-torture.

Of course we do not want to think that this is true. But it would be easy to show that most reasoning to the contrary is but wishful thinking-nature's method of putting off suicide so that the idiocy can continue. Reasoning, then, is not enough. We must go deeper. We must look into this life, this nature, which has become aware within us, and find out whether it is really in conflict with itself, whether it actually desires the security and the painlessness which its individual forms can never enjoy.

~ Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity, p. 36-38

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Skepticism's Spiral

My soul awoke parched and longing this morning. An emptiness calling out to be filled emanated from deep within me. Words rang hollow in Smith's book, further deepening my perceived drought, and all the sources I have cherished for so long seem tasteless and dull to my interior's palate.

I feel naked this morning, stripped of belief, stripped of the hope of ever knowing anything. I feel like an agnostic, or even worse, maybe an atheist, and that leaves an emptiness so vast it is like a bottomless abyss.

 Where is this fresh feeling of being alive with wonder? Of thinking anything is possible? And if all that there is , is all that there is, why does the thought of that leave me with such a feeling of despair? Is there some credibility to the transcendental in that my heart rejects the idea of reality as being almost like a mechanical web, of constantly shifting and interrelated parts, (though my mind draws me towards that idea), and instead craves for more depth, more meaning, a nourishment that is lost to me this morning? Or is this longing more some kind of deficiency in my sense of reason? Some weakness on my part of conjuring up artificial constructs in the guise of spirituality, which seem so real sometimes, and yet in a moment of lucidity seem so created: self-induced delusions?

Am I unable to face reality fully? A reality that might entirely be devoid of anything transcendental? I'd make a crappy atheist as I am always seeking for spiritual depth, yet I am hopeless as any kind of believer as I am continually doubting, questioning, and turning away from every ideology that seems, at least for a time, to call me to it. At the end of the day, even if there are transcendental realities, perhaps the fact is that our human minds and hearts haven't a clue as to their scope or form and any attempts at conceiving them are  but grasps in the dark, futile reaching for  revelations which will always be partial at best.

I find myself in a situation I've never been in before and it almost leaves me in somewhat of a mild panic. I can't find anything satisfying to read! Spiritual texts no longer resonate, more academic texts seem dry and lifeless. I am in a quandary. It is like the needle in my internal compass is broken.  I felt I was on a path that was right for me, I was finding inspiration and resonance in the Vedas, but I just haven't had any inclination to read them the last few days. Perhaps I will re-investigate the Tao to Ching, or Buddhism, which seem mostly atheistic but afford some sort of spiritual depth to the practitioner. Perhaps I should bypass spirituality altogether for some time and immerse myself in the wonder of the natural world-of what science has and is discovering. For sure there is an infinite material available for doing that. But can that bring about a sense of fulfillment, of nourishment, that I am craving right now? I'm not sure. If it would at least distract me from this aching and hollow despair that is creeping in, it would prove helpful and no doubt illuminating as I would learn new things. But I still don't think it would fill this emptiness that I feel. I have to ask myself, why not?

Is it because my consciousness perceives my soul and knows there is something more to things, or is it because I am inherently biased, perhaps sentimentally attached, to the idea of there being transcendental realities and truths?

Should I embrace my apparent attachment to spirituality or attempt to understand why I have it and move beyond it? To embrace it right now seems impossible. For when I try to cling to one particular path and grow roots in it, like a tree on the side of a cliff my doubts, in the form of rain and wind, sweep my newly formed foundation away, uprooting me and causing me to fall.  I keep trying to attach my roots once again but it proves a cyclical reaction, repeating itself over and over to no avail.

Will I ever feel conviction? Is that possible for someone so infected with skepticism? I seem to recoil inwardly from the side of me that presents itself as a skeptic, yet that side rises up and conquers anytime I feel like any sort of belief is settling in. It's as if I get caught up in skepticism's spiral...I'm not sure if it is leading me upwards or downwards. It's as if that part of my nature seeks to cleanse me from any ambiguities keeping me from seeing clearly...and yet I am seeing nothing at all right now but uncertainty. Thanks a lot skepticism, you have served me well, digging me a pathway to seemingly nowhere at all but a dark bottomless void. Is there hope to be found, meaning, peace, fulfillment, without a sense of conviction? If there is, I haven't found it yet.

The one thing that I can say is that if this is all there is...If this is our one chance at a life and we no longer continue to exist in any autonomous way after our heart ceases to beat and we breathe our last, then for sure it makes this one life that we are living all that more precious and to be revered. That's the only positive thought that I can squeeze out of any sort of atheistic view of things.

There is a series by Dawkins where he explores sex, ,the meaning of life, ,etc. from an atheistic perspective. In it, he gives an account of one man who went from being a believer to entering into an agnostic state, a stage of deep doubt and disbelief. Feeling such despair over what he was discovering he reverted back to religion. It was like the other side, the side of uncertainty, of doubt, of what really  might be the truth, was too much for him and he went into a contemplative monastic order to live out his days in religious fervor. I found myself understanding why he would do that. Religion, belief in something, provides a salve for our aching soul that seems to break open and threatens to die without some kind of intervention-some kind of hope, some kind of dogma to bind it and allow it to be whole. But while binding our souls with such a  poultice are we perhaps restricting the flow of truth to enter into our consciousness? Could injecting religion to satisfy our hunger and our desperate thirst for answers more be likened to administering a tourniquet on a damaged limb ,cutting off the blood supply, allowing the tissues and that part of the body to eventually become lifeless? Perhaps clinging to religion or a spiritual path could potentially be a way of forever subverting oneself from experiencing and knowing some real truths that, if really taken in and digested, have the power to breathe life into one's spirit, so to speak, to allow one to see life in a new and enlivened way.

I know I just wrote a lot about feeling despair and I do feel a sense of that today as I contemplate the direction I am heading spiritually. I don't want to sound too negative though for running concurrently alongside such despair is an underlying sense of hope. I know that any truth worth comprehending requires critical thinking and discernment and that sometimes we have to cross the desert to come to the oasis.

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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Afternoon Reflections: A Poem

While I waited on our front step this afternoon for my son to come home from school I felt like I needed to get some thoughts and reflections out and onto paper. Feeling the breeze mingled with the warm rays of sun playfully pass through my hair, I began to scribble this short poem. I wrote it in a matter of a few minutes and really haven't edited it yet. Like most of my poems, though,  I feel if I don't share it now it probably will be one, among many, that ends up  tucked away in the confines of some obscure book or folder whose words will most likely never be read again. So, instead, I will share it here in hopes that some of you might enjoy it and perhaps even relate to some parts of it.


They are a funny thing, you know
The mind and the heart and the supposed soul.
They all seek a prominent role in our existence;
Continually clamoring for attention with great persistence.
It seems the one I choose to allow on stage
Is the one who directs my course,
While the others revolt in rage.
Is a peaceful co-existence possible at all?
Or will it always be that when one rises
The others will fall?
The only time they cease their droning,

their lamenting for satisfaction,
Their perpetual moaning,
Is when I allow my senses to take in all that is;
When my consciousness stands erect
On this moment's narrow precipice.
Then I am simply what I am, right there and right then
And all that is, just simply is that,
And my steady breath is a steady friend.
Ahh peace, take it where you can have it,
For if you don't, the world will try to grab it.
And truth, is as elusive and shifting as Wind's lilting song
Perhaps we've always had it in us all along.
Is it that we continue to surrender unknowingly
That very thing we seek so unceasingly?

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

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."


Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Unsettling Nature of Uncertainty

I'm currently reading Huston Smith's book, Why Religion Matters. I'm not quite sure what I expect to get out of it but I have to say that as of right now I'm finding it disappointing. It seems Smith's biggest argument for why religion really matters thus far, and I am still relatively early on in the book, is not necessarily because it's true but that it provides a panacea for the masses. It provides hope and inspiration, a sense of community, those sorts of things. One could easily respond  to that argument by asking a question of their own. If religion matters  because of  only those benefits what happens when an individual can find them via other avenues?  If our  personal longing for hope and meaning can be found without God or the sense of anything transcendental or spiritual to inspire us, doesn't that then render religion and spirituality irrelevant?

I suppose I shouldn't be too disappointed though. It's not as if the book was titled, "Why Religions are True" or "Why Religions are Real".

Religion claims the heart, science appeals to the intellect.  But is there a way, I wonder, how a purely scientific perspective can not only help satiate the intellect's hunger for answers but also appeal to the heart's longing for meaning? All of the world's religions would undoubtedly answer with a resounding no. The Gita, especially, asserts that hope and meaning can only be found in the eternal, not the impermanent, and the scientific worldview only addresses the material world which is by default impermanent.
Smith asserts that science can provide meaning more easily for the actual scientist, but not for the ordinary person. The reason being is that the scientist is actively involved in discovering the natural world as well as creating and innovating. The rest of us just bear witness to what is discovered and what is created, and there is a fundamental difference between the two experiences. Smith writes:
"...the creativeness of their vocation probably makes it easier for scientists than for most other people to create meaningful lives for themselves....[there is a] difference in fulfillment that comes from inventing the Polaroid camera, on the one hand, and buying one, on the other." p. 39

Smith quotes Ursala Goodenough in her book The Sacred Depths of Nature, when she discussed how her nature has "no Creator, no superordinate meaning of meaning, no purpose other than life's continuance. But regardless of that it still filled her with feelings of "awe and reverence".

He responds to this realization she made in her book by writing the following:

"We can be glad that it does, but how much comfort can we draw from that fact when the awe nature awakens in human beings is, like all emotions, no more than a Post-it note, so to speak, affixed to a nature that is unaware of being thus bedecked. Reverence and awe are human sentiments that extend no deeper into nature than human consciousness extends, and in a universe fifteen billion light-years across...To speak of nature's depths as sacred in themselves, without human beings imputing sanctity to those depths, is to be guilty of the anthropomorphic thinking that John Ruskin dubbed "the pathetic fallacy"-the fallacy of imputing feeling where there is none.

Goodenough's "sacredness" is in her eye, the eye of the beholder, and in the eyes of those who share her sensibilities. What is the depths of nature-its deep structure on which human sentience bobs like a rose petal on the sea-is insentient, quantifiable matter." p. 38-39

The words that immediately caught my attention in the above passage were, "but how much comfort can we draw". Those words are like a red flag that is instantly raised in my mind. Such an instinctual reaction sometimes makes me think that perhaps I'll always revert to a state of skepticism in which I cannot ultimately escape.  Whenever I come across the idea of pursuing comfort when it comes to areas of spirituality and considering reality as a whole it makes me pause and incredulously ask myself, "are we looking for comfort, or are we looking for truth"? I think comfort and truth very often do run concurrently with one another but that that isn't always so. And if it isn't always so then I suppose there comes a time when we have to make a choice. To choose that path that seems steady and bright offering an undercurrent of optimism and hope or a path that is much more uncertain where you only see the entrance and whatever else awaits is unknown. Instead of an undercurrent of hope and optimism this path sometimes brings feelings of foreboding and uncertainty.

Personally, I find uncertainty unsettling and I think most people do. I feel like the uncertainty that creeps into my consciousness, whispering nagging questions that I cannot yet answer and producing doubts in areas where I finally thought I had found some conclusions, pollutes and threatens my sense of spirituality. As a defense mechanism there are times when I try to ignore these questions and thoughts that arise and loom over the castle of sand I have neatly erected by the shore, threatening to sweep it away. If only I had a stronger foundation like so many others seem to have. Those individuals I have met that are firm and convicted in their spiritual orientations. What is my problem? Am I just ultimately a hopeless skeptic?

I have found  meaning in the writings of the Gita and Upanishads as well as other Vedic literature and have experienced great spiritual satisfaction in reading them. I consider them inspired sources in which I can draw both tangible transcendental truths from regarding spiritual realities as well as practical truths regarding our existence in this material world. But then there are times when something inside me seems to force me to step back, right when it seems I am almost ready to find myself in a spiritual state of conviction and wonder,"How can any of us really know what is real?" I enter a place of uncertainty that threatens to knock me off my spiritual foundation.

I feel like such uncertainty is like entering a bottomless abyss. It is as if the human heart longs for something tangible to cling to, but it is in the letting go that it enters into genuine inquiry. This reminds me of the passage from Alan Watts' book, The Wisdom of Insecurity:

The believer will open his mind to the truth on condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.    p. 24

It seems like, no matter how hard I try, a battle is continually being waged between my heart and intellect deep within my subconscious. Sometimes one side seems to have claimed victory but then, like a phoenix, the other side rises out from seemingly nowhere and makes an appearance, casting its dark shadow on the battleground once again. No...the war isn't over...not yet!

But does any of this really have to do with the question of whether or not religion matters? I guess I do get side-tracked sometimes;continually concerning myself with whether or not I can feel or "know" with a shadow of a doubt if things are factually true which can sometimes be irrelevant as to whether or not they really matter. I do believe religion and spirituality do have their purpose and play an important role in many people's lives. Radhanath Swami, in a lecture you can view here, describes just how important of a role religion can have in  people's lives:

"In a very broad sense it is to transform our consciousness from arrogance to humility. From vengeance to forgiveness. From greed to generosity. And most of all, it is meant to connect us to the love within us so that we might be instruments of compassion in everything we do. This is the universal principle of religion. To absorb ourselves in the love of God and to be truly and genuinely compassionate to all living things..."

...And thinking about it that way, religion matters greatly.

Well, in the beginning of this post were some preliminary reactions I had to ideas shared early on in Huston Smith's  book, Why Religion Matters. The rest of the post consists of my own  personal reflections that I wrote this morning in a sort of "stream of consciousness" sort of way
towards those ideas.

I'd love your thoughts! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!

Friday, April 5, 2013

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."

Friday, March 8, 2013

6 Word Memoir

6 WORD MEMOIR 6 Word Memoir

I have been taking full advantage of all the hopping going around amongst my fellow bloggers! I haven't been writing much lately but have been investing more time in reading. Blogging can sometimes seem to eb and flow. So, it's nice to be inspired by blog hop's that catch my attention. It's a way of getting to know other bloggers and contributing new material. 

This week's blog hop was inspired by my friend Corinne.  Participants were to write a six word memoir. If you are unfamiliar with what a six word memoir is you can read about them here.

This is my six word memoir.


What would be yours?

If you think of one feel free to share it in the comments section!

Be sure to check out my friend Irene's post on March 9th by visiting her blog here!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

100 Words on Saturday

100WordsOnSaturdayEverydayGyaan1 100 Words On Saturday 4


I am participating with other bloggers today in, "100 Words on a Saturday",  an event hosted by my friend Corinne. The objective is to write 100 words based on a prompt. Today's prompt is "lasting memory/ies".

I have many memories I would love to write about but I chose one that happened earlier this week when my son and I picked my daughter up from school for an afternoon walk in the woods. It has been very cold the last few weeks so it had been quite awhile since we last visited the trail. It was nice to see my daughter enjoy some fresh air after a long day inside at school.

Accompanied by my 100 words are pictures from that afternoon. I hope you enjoy!

Please feel free to share a lasing memory that you have in the comments section as well as any thoughts. Thank you!

I watch my children's awkward gait as their feet find random places to tread, trying hard not to slide on the uneven and slick surface of the trail. They scurry up the hills to build tiny faerie houses.



We stop to see the animals on the farm that rests peacefully beside the trail. They playfully toss snowballs at one another.  A peculiar sight no doubt for the animals  looking on.


Beauty shimmers everywhere.


We find leaves, stripped of color, translucent relics of last year’s glory.


When we reach the gravel parking lot we catch glimpses of heaven in muddy puddles.

Please feel free to share a lasing memory that you have in the comments section as well as any thoughts. Thank you!