Sunday, January 27, 2013

Feeling Humbled, Feeling You

I declare to myself that "I am equal to the beggar" and that "I am no more special than anyone."  It is an ultimate feeling of humility and it enables me to see and feel life in a deeply humbling way.  It is this feeling of humility that helps me observe my selfish and narcissistic qualities with understanding and compassion.  For in the process I naturally forgive myself for having a sense of self that I falsely believed was "better" than anyone else.

I observe that any sense of narcissism I employ is a psychological defense in attempts to protect my ego from some real or unreal threat to my sense of self worth.  It is a sense of selfishness that I observe exists in relationships until I grasp a greater awareness of it.  It has its roots deep in the notion that I cannot be less then another, or that I cannot be weak,  and that I must be better than another if I am going to be a "success."

Any feeling that allows us to feel superior to another has a myriad of consequences.  Any self proclaimed sense of superiority over another gives one a short term (albeit superficial) sense of power.  This is a psychological quality that is pervasive within our culture.  It is seen in our overly ambitious, competitive, and self centered culture.  When we claim we are "better" than others we attempt to gain strength and advantage [however illusory].  Yet, these self proclamations have inter-personal consequences that keeps us less aware and out of touch with each other.

Intimate relationships, especially those with a romantic partner, give us great opportunity into witnessing acts of selfishness.  Compromise is a vital part of a healthy relationship and selfishness and or narcissism disables us from being fully present so that we can be aware of the aspects of self that we should put aside for the sake of another's feeling or concerns.  The other consequence of declaring yourself as better than another, in any sense, pushes you from connecting with others in a deep heartfelt way.

I humbly admit that during times of my life I felt as if I "knew more" or "felt more" or "was more connected."  I admit I have not always been completely and utterly aware of all of my narcissistic and selfish qualities.  At times I have not allowed myself to see how my actions have affected others.  Although these thoughts and feeling protected me in ways [because I thought they allowed me to feel greater and "more equipped to deal with life" than others], they also debilitated me from knowing and understanding my greatest strength... That is the ability to be here with you now... All of you... And see you for exactly who you are...divine without adjustment or a need for comparison.
In this realization I see the beauty of the divine in all, the oneness in everything, and the gift of understanding myself through you.  Understanding oneself deeply is only possible by being fully present with the other.
So I must remind myself that I am not more special or better than anyone else.  It helps me be with life in a profound and compassionate way.  And in that feeling, in that connection I realize how special we really are at the root of our nature.  Because we are ultimately one organism and narcissism is the antithesis of this realization for it pushes us further away from feeling our inherent connection.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Distant Memories

I woke up this morning and for whatever reason I became flooded with images from my past.  Cherished memories keep crossing my mind.  Times of childhood fun and laughter, the heart felt feelings of intimate connection with old lovers, the smile of my best friend who had past away a decade ago, and special times with family.  As children, when it snowed, my brother and I would always go out and play.  I remember we would stand underneath a particular bush in our yard and shake the limbs.  The snowflakes shimmered in the shinning sun and we laughed as snow feel all over our faces and down our backs.

The experiences of the past shapes who we are as we walk forward into the future.  They point to the corners of our hearts and remind us of what is important; shared love.  At certain points in our lives we may look back at it all to know where we came from and to know how others have touched our lives.
We may not remember what they said to us, we may not remember what we did with them, but we will certainly remember how they made us feel.
Distant memories remind us how fleeting and fragile life is, yet they show us that nothing ever dies.  Our heart contains the treasures of our experience and our soul reminds us that we are never alone.

The thought of what I am about to write makes my emotions churn, but one day, if I am lucky to live to be an old man, I will think about all that has passed me.  But at that juncture, most of those whom I have shared this special life with may no longer be here in this physical world.  And I bring this idea to my awareness now to remind myself of how lucky I am to share this life with those whom I currently share it with. 

Upon the passing of a loved one I know that the wind and the sun will kiss my face and bring me back in touch with their essence.  But there are no words to describe how beautiful life is to share it with those whom you love.  Over 10 years ago I embarked on a journey.  My best friend Matthew passed away in his sleep.  A year later, 3 of my other good friends drowned.  I do not write this for sympathy, but rather to remind myself how important these people where to me and of how fleeting life can be.

It is a humbling realization that we all pass as well as those with whom we share this life.  So I suggest in this time that we all share together to be brave and express love and gratitude to those whom we love.  For we will not always have this chance.  I feel these distant memories all the time.  And I know they are with me...and as I write this from 3,000 miles away, I cherish all those who are still alive with me although you may not be present in my current vicinity.  I have not taken you for granted.  And I thank you for all that you have brought to my heart.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nourishing the Soul: The Awareness of Presence

Its a sense of aliveness in everything we see.  Its knowing that what you feel is unaltered by thought.  Its feeling sure, unafraid, and awestruck.  Acknowledging the presence of life is an act of grateful amazement.  And it can set you free...even if just for a moment!

This is the energy field of life.  It pours through each element.  From the largest conglomerate of stardust to the smallest unknown measurement of matter.  Its the energy behind the movement in your mind to the contraction and explosion of universes.  Its the energy that bridges the physical manifestation of life with the boundless and infinite non-physical realm.  To me this is "God."  Its "the everything" that surrounds us and flows through us.  Let is be aware that this is were our source of power and inspiration.  Lets nourish our souls by going into this place of awareness.

If we just step aside from our thoughts for a while we can feel this presence.  It is only doubt that keeps it away from us.  And doubt is nothing more than a creation of the mind.  We can touch this "presence" I speak of only in the present.  For it is something that always is.  Time is only a measurement of movement, whether that movement be in our minds or "out there" in the physical reality, so tune into what is happening right now.  Because that is the "real" reality.  Why not step aside thought for a moment and feel what you feel, see what you see, and hear what you hear.  You may be amazed...even if just for a moment.

If you have lost someone close to you and you want to connect with them, bravely go into this place.  If you are seeking to know yourself, go into this awareness.  If you are seeking a sense of peace, experience the timeless now by being aware without thought.  Awareness of this energy is feeling the source that fuels all of life.  This is were we came from, exist now, and will always be.  And in this presence we begin to understand how unified we all are to everything, to everyone, and to everything that was and shall be.  An existence without end...amen.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Genetic Argument: Understanding that Social Advancement is our Collective Responsibility

American neuroscientist, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, states that there is a widespread and dangerous notion that has taken root in our dominant scientific understanding of human behavior.  The notion is we believe that human behavior is genetically determined.  This deterministic view of life suggests life is rooted in biology and genetics, that we are our genes, and that genes cannot be changed.  This notion is used to support the view that human nature is governed by an innate self-interest, a trait we developed through evolution.  This notion suggests that mental health conditions, addictions, most of our physical disease, and or violence could be explained in respect to our genetic inheritance.  This is a dangerous notion because if we suppose this to be true we do not have to worry about changing the social pre-conditions that fosters social dysfunction.

Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician and addiction specialist, states that this is the "genetic argument."  It allows us the luxury of ignoring past and present historical and social factors as they relate to our modern day social ills.  Dr. Mate, Dr. Sapolsky, and others, believe that the genetic argument is a cop out.
"Most complex conditions might have a predisposition that has a genetic component, but a predisposition is not the same as a per-determination." - Dr. Gabor Mate
Gabor Mate suggests that no condition is solely genetically determined.  He understands that there is a genetic influence, but his claim is that the environment in which we live in and take part in determines, ultimately, which genes will express themselves and which will not.  In support of this claim he highlighted a breast cancer study that found that for every 100 women with breast cancer, only 7 of these women will carry the breast cancer gene.  And out of all the women who do have the breast cancer gene, not all of them will get breast cancer.  It would seem logical then to state that the stressful and toxic environment in which we live has a greater influence over the development of breast cancer than the genetic influence itself.

Given our stressful way of life we allow our genetic predispositions for violence, apathy, and greed to explode into epidemic proportion.  I will go into the social institutional influences in a latter post, but as we start to explore this topic I suggest we start looking at the importance of childhood.  British researcher, Richard Wilkinson, states that child rearing strongly effects gene expression.  I feel that Dr. Mate and Dr. Sapolsky would agree.  It is scientific fact that within the first five years of life most of our neuronal connections undergo development [source].  Childhood is the point in the human lifespan where we are most susceptible to the ills of our society.

There is a term in neuroscience called Neural Darwinism.  The term suggests that the brain circuits that get the appropriate input from the environment will develop optimally, and if these neural circuits do not get the proper input they will not develop properly or at all.  So for example, if you put a child with perfectly good eyesight at birth in a dark room for five years this child will be blind for the remainder of his or her life.  This is because the circuits for vision require light waves for their development.  Without this light the vision circuits become weak and eventually die [source].

In a significant way our early experiences shape our adult behavior and dispositions.  Note that physical input, as well as emotional input, from the environment influences neuronal development and gene expression within children.  So therefore, if children are not raised in a way where they are safe and compassionately engaged they grow up to see the world as an insecure and untrusting place.  They become "wired" this way.

Each parental experience is the gateway into future, not only for their offspring, but for their community and beyond.  I understand we live a stressful life, but our adversity as parents is passed onto children.  Our emotional disposition, after a stressful day, gets passed onto our children.  How nurturing or how apathetic we our towards our children paints the picture of how children will develop to see, experience, and relate to the world.  Our genomes can be expressed in a multitude of ways.  Some genes become activated while others stay dormant.  Yet this process depends on how we develop within our environment after birth [as well as while we are in the womb].  That is why parenting is one of the most important social responsibilities.

We need to understand that our societies most violent criminals were victims of forms of substantial child abuse.  Violent people are not just violent because they are "wired" that way.  Society breeds violence.  Communities breed violent people.  People breed violent people.  And if we are going to progress socially we need to all become responsible for the way in which our society operates.

We need to realize that we pattern our social and political arrangements according to the dominant vision of our physical reality.  And as it stands now our dominant view of reality is that people are "the way god made them," or that "they just are the way they are," or that a person is mentally ill because their "disease" is "genetically determined."  For how long are we going to stay in denial and stay stubborn?  Isn't it time to observe and question our dominant views of reality?  If we are going to create a great society we need to.
The Buddha argued that everything depends on everything else.  The "leaf contains the sun, the sky, and the Earth." And in terms of human development and progress everything is connected.  The same goes with genetic expression.  Our genetic expression changes in tandem with the evolution of our collective social ideologies.
There is undoubtedly a genetic contribution as to how we respond to our environment, but there is also something about the human experience that gives us power over inheritance.  That power exist in the form of awareness and choice.  Herein lies our ability to influence the evolution of our species.  I feel that this is a moral dilemma because it has to do with our collective will and intention.

Essentially, we are one human community and if we do not take individual and communal responsibility for the ills we see in society we will never progress and move forward out of this violent and cruel dog eat dog world.  It is not our inherent nature to be purely self interested.  So I ask all of us, myself included, can we expand our perceptions and take responsibility for what we see?  At this critical juncture in human civilization it is of utmost importance to do the best we can to create supportive, nurturing, and symbiotic environmental structures if we want the prosperous future we really desire

Links to the researchers in this post:
Dr. Gabor Mate
Dr. Robert Sapolsky
Dr. Richard G. Wilkinson

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Spiritual Dilemma of Epic Proportion: Reconstructing a New Relationship with the Divine

Given the current state of the world it is clear we face a spiritual problem of epic proportion.  If we are going to heal the ills of the world and create equality between peoples we must start to observe our belief structures and question whether or not they are serving society as a whole.  If peace and equality is our goal it would bode well to question and make aware any belief structure that blocks us from fulfilling compassion and tolerance between all beings.  This is a spiritual dilemma becuase it is a call to our conscience. 

Belief shapes how we experience life.

Our belief structures have become so static and exclusive that we have created a world of equal stagnation and separation.  We have become intolerant of our differing philosophical and religious views.  In our collective stubbornness we remain unaware of how our belief structures underlay the brutality we see within our civilization.  All of this becuase we claim that "our way is the right way."

We are rushing around trying to fix the symptoms, rather than the cause, of our worldwide problems.   We are addressing everything but our most basic beliefs.  The problems we see within our political and economic systems ultimately arise becuase we do not live by a spiritual ethic that unites all people and sentient beings.  It seems to me that it would serve us to understand and refine our individual and collective relationship with God if we are going to transcend our destructive ways.

It was hoped that organized religion would bring people closer to each other, producing a sense of community and integration.  But our collective society has experienced exactly the opposite.  In some cases organized religion preaches against community integration, claiming that God never intended people of varying races, cultures, and nationalities to intermix, much less marry and procreate.  It was hoped that religion would bring our world a greater sense of joy and freedom, but in too many cases it has only restricted the human spirit by presenting long lists of how one should live.

Each respective religion, or most of them, teach that their scripture is infallible.  Each religion is incapable of being wrong.  Thus the infallibility of differing religious doctrine is what breeds intolerance.  This intolerance, which sustains fear and hate, has condoned war, brutality, and the exploitation of fellow humans for thousands of years.  Remember of the crusades (1095 - 1291) where an estimated 1 - 5 million people were brutally murdered in the name of Christ?  Or how about the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were tortured and killed due to a perverse intolerance.  Or the modern hell on Earth that we see today in Palestine and Israel.  All of this death and stoic barbarism over the word of God?!  No longer can our differences condone any sort of murder.

Creating a New Perspective Requires Understanding Old Ones

We compound our spiritual crisis when we bestow supreme authority of the interpretation of our scriptures to individuals. We elect religious professionals to interpret the "word of god" and in doing so we unconsciously declare that we are not as close to god as a few righteous others.  Albeit we are looking for guidance and inspiration, but I suggest that when we are taught to adopt the interpretations from the "more holy among us" we lose a critical sense of intellectual and spiritual autonomy.  We become "less than" and further away from God than others.  Herein lies one of the central pillars of the power that organized religion has over people.

To interpret the words of the scriptures literally, rather than to seek to understand the underlying principle that they reveal has lead, at the very least to misunderstanding, and in the worst case, to a loss of oriningal wisdom in which religion was grounded.  Our religious leaders claim their are "laws of God" and that they "should not be abandoned."  We may be banned to ever lasting punishment in hell if we disobey the Lord.  Do not question!  But why would God, the creator of all, be so judgmental and demanding of "his" creations.  Furthermore why would God give us free will just so that God could take it away from us by declaring we must worship "her" in the way that the scripture demands?  Why do we interpret God to be so petty, egotistical, and wrathful?

Those who attempt to control the "word of God" attempt to hold power.  And it is this psychological and spiritual power that has controlled people into certain modes of thinking for thousands of years.  I will take a stand here, not to offend, but to offer an alternative perspective.  I see that most scriptures of organized religions are based in fear.  Fear is what holds the hierarchy in place.  Fear is what makes us interpret god to be a judgmental being.  And it is this fear, of which that has become so normal, that has us fearing, judging, and killing each other.  Even if just in our minds...

The bible would state that we were created in the image and likeness of god, but it seems we have depicted a god in the image and likeness of what we have become: judgmental, intolerant, vengeful, and full of wrath. 

The establishment fears that if people understood full-freedom they would astray from the path that organized religions offer.  The fact that an overwhelming majority of people are good "god fearing people" enables the establishment to sustain their power and its dominant influence as to how we view ourselves, each other, and the workings of life.

In our believed "inherent" separation from "God," we live without a strong sense of internal guidance for we seek outside of ourselves for answers.  Because we live primarily from the mind we do not truly listen to the callings of our heart.  In doing so we live "out of ouch" and destructive lives.  We fear each other and the Earth herself.

Moving Forward in the Awareness of Our Unity

To bring peace to the world we need to change our visions, our ethics, and our beliefs.

The Golden Age could be upon us, but we need to work for it.  Understanding life and God is not something that happens by accepting ideas without discernment.  We need to start relying on our own God given internal systems of divine intelligence.  I am not asking you to completely throw away your ideology.  I am asking you to think for yourself and go into your heart space.  See if you can make larger and expand your religious beliefs to be more empowering, unifying, and compassionate between the all that is.

Ask yourself, "can I sustain my connection to my religious beliefs while learning to have compassion for others even though their belief structure is different"?  "Can I see all other people as my equal?" "Can I accept the belief that there are multiple ways to God?"

I would love to sit and talk with a cardinal priest or some high religious authority figure so I could ask them a few questions.  I would ask, "what do you think about the idea that Jesus is equal to Budda, to Muhhammed, and to every messenger this planet has ever seen?  I would ask if he believed there to be an inherent equality between all living things?  Are we not elements of the same consciousness...

Think about the consequences if the Pope announced that all religions are "ways to God," and that all spiritual paths are equal...

Our perception of God as an entity outside of us is the belief that is at the root of all of our troubles.  This idea separates the observer [you and I] from the essence of creation herself.  This adopted belief diminishes our creative power to make manifest our ideals and hopes.  We ignore an aspect of our personal autonomy becuase we deny what we inherently are. 

Reconstructing a New Relationship with God

There is no one true religion.  There are no "chosen people."  No prophet is the greatest prophet.  YOU are the prophet of your life.  You are the chosen one for YOUR journey. 

God has been communicating with, and through, ALL people since the beginning of time.  This connection fuels our intuition, our sense of profound humility, and the knowingness that we are all apart of the "god matrix" living in oneness.  If we want world peace we need to be brave and reassess our relationship with God.

It is time to listen to all of each other, feel each other, and realize that we are one collective organism, one collective culture of peoples.  Our differences become illusory and petty in comparison to the profound realization of our likeness.  If we can open our heart and tolerate others while respecting the fact that their belief is divine to them and it brings them a sense of their own self worth we have made larger our belief structures.  This sense of acceptance and tolerance is of ultimate importance if we are to create a more peaceful society.

It does not matter whether you have a "religious" out look or an "atheistic" one, we all believe in something.  And if we want harmony we must be humble and ask ourselves " Is my vision of reality really better than anyone else's vision?  In response to the question we are given the opportunity to observe how influential our ego has become in the experience of our life.  But more importantly, we are given the opportunity to heal ourselves through our humbling and awesome awareness.  Recalibrating ourselves to the vibrations of Earth awareness, communal sensitivity, and compassion for all, brings us in touch with the godliness that is within each one of us.

Creating the new age requires radically changing our way of life.  I say we start by observing our beliefs.