Wednesday, August 27, 2008
We have all had spiritual experiences of varying intensities and recognition in our lives and have dismissed them, pondered them afterwards for a time, or actually been "shocked" into a life-changing awakened state of being. One such story of a spiritual event that awakened an individual follows.
A Profound Spiritual Experience
By Alexander Imich, Ph.D.
I was a second year student at the IM School of Healing Arts. And although our school did not have a grading system, I considered myself to be the No 1 student from the bottom. I was known to my teachers and colleagues as the most difficult and incurable disbeliever who always had to explain that I could not feel anything. The report about what I learned, how it changed me ,and so on, that I prepared for the last day of this academic year was totally negative and stated that I did not learn anything and did not see any change in my personality. When asked by the teacher to comment on this report, I declined to talk about it.
At the end of the third day - the monthly sessions took place for three days each - we were performing an exercise of lifting one of the students from the floor after the student had dared to fall backwards off of a table, the group catching this student, then cradling and rocking him, lowering him slowly to the floor, and later helping him to stand up. 11 people formed a group. 10 of them lifting consecutively each member of the group. After each lifting, the person who experienced this supportive and quite profound experience allowed themselves to receive a tender embrace, receiving loving and caring from the group, sometimes even hugging and kissing, obviously with deep feelings from the entire group, spontaneously swaying in the rhythm of Albioni's beautiful piece of old music that was played during this exercise.
While lifting one of the colleagues, I was suddenly struck by a powerful feeling of infinite love. It pervaded all my body. At once it became entirely clear to me that it is not enough to love people because they are members of my family, or they are wise or beautiful, or they like or love you. It is overwhelmingly right to love the ugly, the stupid, the nasty; it is right to love everybody and everything, and love is the most important entity in the universe. I experienced bliss, a state of absolute happiness…Tears were flowing from my eyes; I was crying from happiness.
All this was, of course, noticed by my classmates and by the head of the school (an amazing healer and teacher ). Because of my notorious obstinacy and constant inability to allow myself to let go of my resistance to really feeling and being vulnerable it became a sensation, a kind of victory for the school and an important step in my spiritual development. I was enthusiastically congratulated, hugged and kissed by everybody.
I realized that the great illuminati like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Aurobinda and many others must have lived in a state of such permanent bliss. I also understood that love, the desire to be one with the beloved is so powerful because in reality we all are ONE, and love is a masked desire to restore the unity.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I have been writing about the importance and the benefits of living in the moment for a long time. The Present is really the only time and place when we are truly living, alive, with all of the wonderful benefits that arise from living in the moment. Here is a short but clear example of how and why one would chose to do this. Please use this example to work "living in the moment" into your lives. It's Magic!
A Matter of Choice
I was out at a play the other week; I had gone along with my mother and her friend on the promise of going out for dinner after. It was a small thing and the play was interesting enough, I was told it would only be about an hour long which was good because I was very hungry as I had been working out with my clubbells not too long before. When it finished, however, there was an announcement that there would be a short break and then we would return for some music…
Upon returning to my seat I found myself feeling a little frustrated as it was getting late and I was getting really hungry, and thoughts wondering just how long it was going to take were entering my head. It was at this point I realised something.
I had a choice!
I could choose to sit there and grumble, and feel bored and frustrated, wishing it would all hurry up and end so I could feed my grumbling belly. Or I could relax and enjoy the music. The first option is a little pointless as it doesn't make time go any faster, and all it serves to do is lessen my ability to enjoy what turned out to be some beautiful music. So, as I have been finding I am doing with increasing regularity, I chose the second option and I enjoyed every moment of the amazing Turkish flute and weird bagpipes and so on that followed.
It's an amazing thing, this choice. For myself, the more I choose to be in the moment and to just enjoy wherever I am and whatever I am doing for the simple reason that I am currently there and it's not possible to be anywhere else, the more I find that negative emotions and feelings of the past have been disappearing. It is less and less that I ever find myself bored, or depressed, or angry, or frustrated. I have also found that my work ethic has improved (I was a very slack worker in the past) along with my ability to listen to and have successful interactions with others. In general my enjoyment of life has improved out of sight!
Nowadays I honor where I am now. I enjoy my journey and find that every moment is a new moment, it's never the same and I'm always growing. It's really very exciting.
All great spiritual teachers have spoken about this sense of presence in some way or another. But it's not something mystical, it's not something unattainable. It's merely a matter of choice.
Each moment of every day we are faced with this. We can be caught in our fantasies and daydreams of the future and be dissatisfied with where we are now, we can be lost in the past and constantly wishing we had done things differently, or we can be right here right now.
It's a choice we all have.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Following one's path with heart, living in the Present, being one with Tao represent living one's life in harmony with our true nature. Whether one lives their life rarely in line with their true nature or completely in line, the benefits can not be overlooked. The wonderful thing about being awakened to one's true nature is that one is compelled to continue their journey because of the infinite wonders and unbelievable experiences one encounters. Life unfolds before one in ways never conceived of while asleep. Life, each moment, is changed forever in indescribable ways. Never a dull moment, always joy in the Present, life changes for the better the more one lives in the Present, one with Tao. Here is something to ponder and wrap your mind around as the simpleness and power of being one with Tao, your true nature, is illuminated in this story.
Half Empty or Half Full?
by Derek Lin
The study of Tao often leads to what I call eureka moments. "Eureka" is an expression of triumph upon discovering a startling truth. Archimedes, one of the greatest intellects of antiquity, used this expression (literally "I have found it!") when he figured out how to determine the purity of gold objects. We get closer to this eureka moment when the study of Tao changes us and gives us a new way to examine the world. This transformed perspective lets us take something ordinary and familiar, and suddenly see in it all sorts of interesting new insights. For example, let's take a glass and fill it with water to the halfway point. We then ask the customary, time-honored question, "Is the glass half empty or half full?" Haven't we all seen this a zillion times? What new insights can we possibly squeeze out of this tired old platitude? As we all know, the glass serves as a metaphor for life, and water represents the good things in it. So, seeing the glass as half empty means you're a pessimist, because you dwell on the lack in your life. Seeing it as half full means you're optimistic, because you focus on the good things in life. Most people choose the latter and describe themselves as optimists. In all likelihood, this means you, too. Notice an interesting social phenomenon here. Most people want to be seen as optimists, even those who are usually morose and glum. Aren't we just a planet full of upbeat, sunny cheerleaders? How interesting! Why do we have such a social pressure to be relentlessly optimistic? Let's look at it from a completely different angle and turn this paradigm upside down. Is it always a negative thing to see the glass as half empty? Suppose such a perception motivates you to fill the glass - so to speak - whereas seeing it as half full leads to complacency. Focusing on the lack in one's life can then be a driving force for success. Not so negative now, is it? Look at the overachievers who accomplish great things in any field. They probably started out life with the idea that there wasn't enough water in their glass to suit them, so they worked to fill it up. On the other hand, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the underachievers who dawdle away their lives in torpid passivity. Perhaps they do so because their focus is on what they already possess, rather than the areas of life that can use some improvement. Another similar idea is to recognize the inherent usefulness of emptiness. In chapter 11 of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu makes the point that the emptiness of a cup gives it utility and function. The lower part of the glass that is already filled with water cannot accept another drop, and if we remind ourselves that this represents life, we quickly see that the empty portion is where all the action can take place. The Tao concept of emptiness is not a vacuous state of nothingness; rather, it is a pregnant void bursting with potentialities. Now we can see how this makes perfect sense. The blank pages in the book of your life are where the continuing tale of your adventures will be written. These empty pages are the place where unlimited possibilities exist. It's where the excitement and the joie de vivre reside. The emptiness is the part that can hold more water (good things). It is what makes the glass (life) useful and functional. So why wouldn't we want to focus on it? When you think of it this way, doesn't it seem a little odd that most people choose to see the glass as half full instead of half empty? See what's going on here? Even though most of us have heard about the glass half filled with water many, many times, in all likelihood it has never occurred to us that we can switch the positive and negative perceptions around so easily. Evidently there's more to the glass than meets the eyes. We also need to examine the unspoken assumptions and see how valid they really are. For instance, we start out with the unwritten, assumed rule that we have two choices, half full or half empty, and we must choose one of them. But must we really? Does it really have to be one or the other? Why can it not be both, or neither? Indeed, a glass with water at the halfway point can be seen as both half empty and half full. Sometimes it is useful to think of it one way; other times it's better to see it the other way. This is a completely accurate description of reality, and probably a much better way to conceptualize it than to arbitrarily force it into one category or another. By recognizing that the glass can embody both descriptions simultaneously, we begin to deal with it from a holistic mindset, taking into account every aspect of the object. In this mindset, we can see that asking about the glass being half full or half empty is just like asking about the nature of light. Is light composed of particles or waves? Well, the true answer is that light embodies properties of both particles and waves. Sometimes it is useful to think of it one way; other times it's better to see it the other way. This is a completely accurate description of reality, and probably a much better way to conceptualize it than to arbitrarily force it into one category or another. Now let's look at the flip side. How can we say that the glass is neither half full nor half empty? First, we note that both descriptions can only be perfectly accurate in theory, and never in reality. When you pour water into the glass, no matter how careful you are and what precision tools you use, you will never hit the exact halfway mark. If you are very lucky, you can get to the point where you're only a few molecules off, over or under. Thus, the glass is never truly half full or half empty. Its state can only be described approximately. The second factor is the Taoist concept of constant change. Nothing remains static. Nothing. As soon as any water gets into the glass, evaporation begins. At any given moment, the glass is releasing water molecules into the air. In fact, if we wait long enough, the glass won't just be half empty - it will be empty, period! For some of us, the water goes away even more quickly, because we have imperfect glasses with hairline fractures, where water seeps out at an alarming rate. This means the good things in our lives never seem to last. You manage to get a great job, only to be downsized; you buy a new car, only to discover it's a lemon; and so on. In the face of this dynamism, where the only question is how quickly water goes away, we need to take action. If we remain inactive, then it's a certainty that the good things in life will soon disappear, never to return. What we want is a constant stream of incoming water to replenish the water lost to evaporation and possible leakage. Let's explore a little further. What does the glass look like from a Zen perspective? Zen Buddhism recognizes the illusory nature of reality and the ultimate emptiness of the material world. Thus, when confronted with the choice of half empty or half full, the Zen Buddhist may answer "neither," because the water doesn't really exist, nor does the glass. This may seem far out, but in at least two respects the Zen practitioner is right. First, both the glass and water are transient. We have already noted that the water will eventually be gone, either when the glass breaks (the end of your life) or before. The glass may last somewhat longer than the water, but we know it will eventually be shattered into pieces and no longer exist as a container. Like the ephemeral flame of a candle, life flickers into existence for a while, and then gets snuffed out without much fanfare. In truth, it can claim no more permanent reality than the candle flame. The second factor affirming the Zen perspective is our understanding of the most fundamental level of reality, as revealed through quantum physics. At the sub-atomic level, we see that what we think of as solid matter is mostly empty space. The solidity of matter that we perceive is merely the macroscopic manifestation of energy and information patterns. In this perspective, the water is indeed illusory, and so is the glass. Now that we have sampled the Zen perspective, we will naturally want to explore the Tao perspective as well. This is an interesting challenge in view of everything we have talked about so far. We seem to have left no stone unturned in discussing all the different ways we can approach the glass. What other insight can the Tao provide us that hasn't already been said? How can a true Tao sage answer the question in a way that transcends all other answers on the subject? The sage does not answer. Instead, he takes the glass, drinks from it, and relishes the thirst-quenching and refreshing water. He puts the glass back down and remains quiet, perhaps with a smile on his face, as others scramble to revise their estimation from half full to quarter full, or half empty to three-quarters empty. The sage knows that the essence of life is to be lived, not debated. The glass and water serve one purpose admirably well, and that is to slake thirst. Trying to decide if it is half full or half empty does absolutely nothing to further that purpose. If anything, it gets in the way and delays the ultimate objective of drinking fully and deeply. The Tao is beyond mere words. Discussing the glass can never replace the experience of drinking from it; describing the various perspectives will never get you closer to the actual act of savoring the water. Thus, the sage wastes no effort on intellectualism; he cuts to the chase. Eureka!
Saturday, August 9, 2008
"If you wish to calm waves, when you try to make
this happen, they arise all the more. Likewise,
even if you apply antidotes to ideation, the waves
of thoughts will flow out again.
When you just leave them alone, after awhile the
waves of water will subside. Likewise, if you know
how to practice at ease, without exertion, the waves
of ideation will naturally be calmed."
- Rendawa Zhonnu Lodro
Monday, August 4, 2008
I had the pleasure and good fortune to stumble upon Andrea Bocelli Live in Tuscany last night on my favorite station, PBS. Anyone who has ever experienced one of his performances knows that when he sings he becomes one with his True Nature, Self, Source, God, or whatever you choose to call it. He has spent his entire life working hours every day to master his voice, and master, he has indeed! As soon as he started to sing, I stopped everything I was doing so I could be transported to a wonderful place of beauty, serenity, and bliss. His voice enveloped my very soul like a thick morning fog and did not let go until his performance was over. Simple words are truely inadequate to describe this feeling of exhilaration and connection. He found his 'Path with Heart" through his complete dedication to the discipline necessary to master his voice. One must find their path in something they love that grabs them by their soul and leads them to put their heart into the discipline required to master it. It is this mind-body discipline that introduces one to their "Path with Heart" that can eventually lead to the mastery of the self (ego). I found my path when I discovered traditional martial arts through an incredible teacher who showed me the mystery and the magic within this discipline. I fell in love with the intense training, the intricate details, the volumnous knowledge, and later, the infinite calmness and the absolute power that the oneness of mind and body created. I lived it, breathed it, dreampt it, and became it. It started me on my "Path with Heart". My point in writing this is to let everyone know that there are many disciplines that can lead one to their path - a path that brings mind and body together again. It is this oneness that lights up the journey we all must take to get back to our True Nature. This is our purpose here and there is a path for everyone. Find your love, put your heart completely into the discipline needed to master it, then you shall awake one day to realize you are on your "Path with Heart" - a path that can lead you to mastery of the self and take you home, back to the Oneness of Self.
" You can go anywhere, do anything, if you put your heart into it" - Shawn Johnson, Reigning World All-around Champion Female Gymnast, 2008
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." - Jesus of Nazareth
Saturday, August 2, 2008
The monk left his Master to ponder the meaning of the question - seemed so unimportant yet he knew better. This was not the first time he had confronted this lesson but the questions had been different. Each question, though, had been a test of his awareness. As all great wisdom presents itself, it came to him while his mind was calm and quiet - in a flash of clarity. Like seeing the whole picture as one adds one more piece to a large jigsaw puzzle, the power of the Present opened the realm of infinite possibilities. We all come into this world in a state of Perfection, Oneness, Magic, Love, and totally alive in the Present. We have no self because we are Self, one with the universe and everything in it. This is our natural state, our True Nature, that which we long for all of our lives as our ego-ridden self tries to control it's way in the material world, back to our True Nature, without ever realizing we never actually left. This is where Faith comes to bear - Not the faith you hear about all of the time in sermons about religion. The two have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The Faith I speak of is found in all great religions, spiritual teachings, and ancient beliefs yet most fail to realize the unfathomable implications that Faith represents . It is not the superficial part-time "yes, I am a believer" type of faith. It is "simply" the Faith to completely let go of this world by abandoning all attempts to control anything and everything by relaxing the body, clearing the mind of all thought, and living every moment this way. At this moment, you are one with Self, one with the universe, one with our Source or God, if you prefer, always in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, and experiencing pure Love. This is the Power of the Present!
"I Am." - Jesus of Nazarus
" "The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there." - Yasutani Roshi
"Ultimately, I believe the largest truths lie within our small frames. Our very corporeal vessels contain the answers we seek outside ourselves." - Michael Freed, 2007