Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Can't Have it All I really miss those sunny Californian days, the cool breeze off the San Francisco bay, the golden hills, and the smell of lavender after a winter rain.  Yet, despite how good it was sometimes there I also felt at other times very dull.  Being a native New Yorker you become accustomed to a deep sense of cultural diversity and immense change all the time.  I am not writing this to justify my move back to New York City.  Believe me, there are days here in New York City that I feel more tense than alive and more angry than joyous.  When you live in a place where millions of people are literally living on top of each other, with all of their differences and unique ways in which they are inconsiderate, you can become over taken with a sense of unyielding anxiety.

In New York City you feel even more intensely how you have no control as to what is going on around you.  There is no place to run and "hide."  Every park is loud.  Even my bedroom is filled with the loud sounds of automobiles and clanking metal.  I realize that the only salvation is found within {and this is true where ever you are}.  Yet, sometimes this frustrates me {and also inspires me} because I realize I have so much maturing to undergo.  Yet, this is the beauty of New York City.  For the reward of living here, if we let it, is a heightened sense of internal control {as well as having access to to world}.  On the flip side though, its peril is less control, anger, and a feeling of helplessness.

All those living in New York City say that they that they both love and hate it here.  It's an intense place that breeds intense people.  And although this may be the thing that has us frustrated with each other, this is also the same thing that makes is very interested in each other.

With every choice in life there is a consequence.  I left the relaxed and beautiful environment of California for the intensely interesting and tense environment of New York City.  I realize that I can't have everything I want in one place or situation.  None of us can.  I realize that my constant striving to "have it all" only leaves me unsatisfied.  Chasing the illusion of the "perfect life" is like chasing the dangling carrot in front of our faces that is and always will be out of reach.  No amount of money or power changes this.

It seems that there will always be a fire burning within all of us that wants more or something different.  Yet chasing the dangling carrot has exhausted me.  And now I attempt to no longer chase the perfect life, but instead to work at making it beautiful with what is going on, right here, and right now.

Life is bittersweet I suppose.  Even when we feel knocked down we are still left with a choice.  We can either be grateful or resentful.  Even in our darkest moments there is a feeling within us that knows what is best for ourselves.  I believe that this is the gift of life.  I believe, that this is where the essence of God lay within us.  So that no matter what, no matter where we are or what we are doing we may feel that we are living a life on purpose and in control...even if just that purpose and sense of control is only found within us through our feelings...

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Beautiful Evening

Sometimes life is just beyond my ability to understand it through thinking.  Essentially, life is always more than what I think it is or perceive it to be, but only sometimes do I remember this.  When I humbly admit this to myself I feel a sense of beauty that has no way in which I know how to describe.

As I let go of the attachment of needing to know I move into a state of curiosity.  For in these precious moments even the mundane aspects of life seem profound.  The aspects of life that I come into contact with daily seem to come alive.  The inanimate aspects of life, the steel buildings, the stop sighs, the wind, the moon, and the streets seem to be more than what they actually are.
Although I cannot put this all together and tell myself what this all means...I can say with confidence that all seems to be alive and interconnected in some way beyond measure.  All of life seems to belong to something so amazing...  I ask myself, "is this what it feels like to feel God?"  Even if this is just a quick glimpse into her beauty I am sure made more alive.  Tonight I become reinvigorated to connect with life in deeper and more humbling ways.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Towards a More Responsible Spirituality

To not recognize the darkest aspects of our way of life disables us from being the greatness that we are. To claim we are wise and spiritual without acknowledging the darkest aspects of who we are is superficial. This does not mean we should dwell in the darkness. Rather it’s a call to the conscious to bravely witness the aspects of society that are destructive and inhumane.  In modern America we have conversations about spirituality yet all the while we ignore the suffering everywhere around us. This is not only superficial, but it actually diminishes the execution of our inherent spiritual power.
It’s the “11th hour” and as I write this 200 species go extinct daily on our planet. That is 10,000 times more than the natural extinction rate. If we do not acknowledge this and act now we lose any future hope of co-inhabiting this planet.
Last week I had the privilege to see Marianne Williamson speak at an event at UC Berkeley. It was a symposium about changing the world through introspection and social action. I admit, I went into the event skeptical. I had been very frustrated with the field of “spirituality” for quite some time now. I’ve seen spirituality influence people to see the light of love without pushing them to go deeply into the darkness of, what Marianne calls, our “shadow side.” Going deeply into the shadow side does not mean that we focus on self-pity and guilt, but, rather that we acknowledge how things really are, have compassion for the world and for ourselves, and do something about it.
It is this compassion that we need to hone in on and develop if we are going be truly “spiritual.” Dealing with our “shadow side” means taking responsibility. Developing compassion may not come easy.  It may have us on our knees in profound sadness when we actually see the shape of the world as it is. True spirituality has us, facing, not ignoring the desperation of a homeless person begging, the dangerous geo-engineering of our atmosphere, or the inherent brutality of our industrial way of life. True spirituality has us feel all of this deeply, even if hurts.
Ken Wilber states that “the more awakened we become the more we realize both the perfection of Saṃsāra, [the infinite and unalterable aspect of divinity within us and all things,] and the pain of our relative world.”  To me, this is the essence of an evolved spirituality, for we do not lose ourselves completely in the recognition of ultimate reality, but, we maintain a sensitivity to everything and we seek to undue the injustice and suffering of our world. It would mean that to see someone starving brings you compassionate pain, yet, all the while maintaining that this person whom is suffering is as divine and eternal as you are. It is a type of awakening that acknowledges the suffering of others as your own suffering.

Over 10 years ago there was a study done in East Africa assessing depression in chimpanzees. To sum it up, they found that on average, 10% of the chimpanzees in the wild showed signs of depression. These “depressed” chimps stationed themselves on the perimeter of their troop and seemed very socially disengaged, hyper-vigilant, and didn’t sleep well. The study had anthropologists remove the depressed chimps.  And what happened after was staggering. A year later after the removal the entire troop had died.  It was hypothesized that the depressed chimps were an “early warning system” for the troop. The “depressed” chimps where the ones who sounded alarms for the troop to warn them of situations of peril and decay. So without a warning system, without the most sensitive ones among them, the troop had succumbed to the dangers of their environment.

Humans are very similar to chimpanzees in this regard, yet, we deal with those most sensitive among us by ignoring them, prescribing them drugs that suppress their emotions, and by viewing them as “diseased,” “irrational,” or “weak.” Depression is endemic to modern culture and has been drastically rising. Eight times more young adults meet the criteria for major depression and anxiety disorders than they did only 50 years ago. The depressed are the most sensitive among us.  If we fail to see depression as a warning sign that our way of life is not working, then we are repressing our own emotions and giving self-destruction a chance to prevail.
All too often we distract ourselves from feeling the darkness because we feel helpless to be able to do anything.  Yet, I have faith in all of us that we are not damned to a destructive future because I sense a growing concern.  Yet we must acknowledge that our way of life must be drastically changed.  We must acknowledge the slavery of people both psychologically and economically.  We must become alive to the fact that we are the creators of this life.  We must take responsibility for our lives and realize that the act of love is power. 

Marianne Williamson reminds us that, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” My interpretation of her powerful words is that we are frightened to “be” this light, because, in order to do so, we must stand up to the darkness in our lives while being compassionately aware of everything. Within our light is where our responsibility exists. We fear this because we fear to be the people we actually need to become to restore peace and harmony on this planet.  It would mean that we would have to change our way of life and take a step into the unknown.

I feel we must all make a deep promise from the bottom of our souls to heed this call. We cannot turn away from this. Spirituality is becoming aware of the darkness around us and within us, then taking responsibility to turn that darkness into the light of love, so that we may live up to our highest calling.
Are we afraid to be who we are?  Are we afraid to break free from this way of life and to create something different… to create a world that exists of light, love, compassion, and unity?

The reality is that we are all in some way co-dependent on each other, and therefore, our existence intrinsically depends on cooperation. Ignoring this fact maintains our fear and greed motivated existence, yet fully acknowledging this truth will have us compassionately feeling the pain of the world and of others. In this feeling we will be forced to stand up to the darkness within us, as well as within our society.  If we do not heed this call we will not be capable of fulfilling our great destiny.

It is the 11th hour. It is now or never…  Let us be brave, let us be vocal, let us wake up, and let us end the corruption and greed within us and the world for the sake of justice, peace, and love.

I have faith that we can overcome the greatest challenges that face humanity today, because, I feel an arising compassion in all of your hearts. We must move into an era where repression is no longer possible. This is the era of acknowledging the great responsibility inherent to our spiritual awakening.