Thursday, July 27, 2006

Finding peace in difficult times

It's very hard to find or see or experience peace in times like we are having today. Today, as I write this, Israel has engaged in a war with the Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and is bombing large parts of Lebanon. It is in retaliation for attacks by Hezbollah, but if you wind yourself back through the years you find a repeated series of attacks, one attacking the other, back and forth, as they each sought retribution for previous grievances done by the other.

How can we have peace with this fighting?

Okay, we can kick back another six pack and ignore the significance of the fighting. It doesn't have to be a six pack, as there are a zillion ways for someone to numb out such horrors. But suppose one is paying attention to the horrors, that they are aware of the significance of them, and they want to find a path to peace?

Oh, and just what is the potential significance of these events? Well, I see the clear possibility that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Lebanon will merge with the greater conflict involving Iraq, Iran and Syria, and become a region-wide war. Already several world leaders are calling this the opening stage of World War III.

With that in mind let us get back to peace.

First, let me ask you just what peace is? Is peace the cessation of war or conflict? I don't think so.

I heard a wise man once speak about peace. He works with inner city gangs and in Kosovo with peacemaking work, and what he pointed out is that peace is not simply the cessation of conflict. To explain what peace is, he asked us to think about the woods, the feeling, the peace, that woods imbue upon an area. A lot of conflict occurs within woods, trees fall down, all sorts of life and death conflict happens between hunter and prey, but the woods remain a haven of peace.

After four years of pondering this idea I can best define peace as a force weaving throughout lives that creates a wholeness that contains those lives.

Now lets start talking about how we can find peace in difficult times like we have today.

The difficult times I'm talking of need not be just in the outer world, like wars or rape or robberies. We have difficult times in our inner world as well. Our job may be stressful, or our spouse might be angry at us, or we might not know how to handle our rambunctious kids, etc. Difficulties abound and it is part of living and being human to strive to learn how to handle difficulties in a wholesome and healthy way.

The method to dealing with difficult times begins with another observation about how the woods embody peace.

Think about some woods next to a busy highway. If you are in those woods, isn't it hard to feel that feeling, the peacefulness, that imbues the woods? Then think about woods that are not next to a highway, and isn't it easy to feel that peacefulness in those woods? The idea to share is that woods have a sort of capacity to imbue peace into their surroundings. The size of one disturbance might be within the capacity of the woods to encompass, but other disturbances might blow right past that capacity.

Like someone with a bulldozer wanting to clear some land by knocking down trees. That is clearly beyond the capacity of woods to imbue with peace. The busy highway is, as well, beyond the capacity of woods to imbue with peace.

That shows a route to finding peace in difficult times. One must carefully and purposely nurture peace, especially in difficult times. As you nurture peace within yourself, your capacity to remain peaceful in the face of difficulties will grow. Your capacity to encompass all your difficulties will grow as you purposely nurture peace.

It's best to first practice with finding peace for yourself. Later you can practice sending peace to others.

There are many practices that will help to find peace. A very simple one is to simply walk in the woods and see for yourself the example I have given. When you're in the woods, pay attention to what is going on. Notice how things happen, and then are quickly swallowed up by the woods.

The one I want to suggest is a meditation upon peace. Begin by breathing, and as you breath in and out speak "Peace" as you breath. As you speak "Peace", do it as a way of calling "Peace" from inside you. Have the intention that "Peace" will reveal itself to you as you breath in and out, speaking "Peace".

Keep breathing in and out speaking "Peace" and watch what happens inside you.

As you practice breathing in and out speaking "Peace" your inner turmoil is likely to rise up. You might suddenly remember an argument with a lover from 20 years ago, or you might remember an argument at work, or you might remember some small slight done to you in the past. This is your inner turmoil. As you call "Peace" from inside yourself, do not get caught up in this turmoil but instead allow the "Peace" to embrace the turmoil.

You may find it difficult at first to stay with your "Peace" while your turmoil bubbles up. Simply stay with the practice. Watch how you embrace your turmoil with "Peace". Do you smother the turmoil trying to extinguish it? Or is it a comforting embrace? It is the latter which I recommend you to do.

May peace be with you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Deepak Chopra on "Who Owns Christianity"

There is a wave of Fundamentalism that has swept through many religions. Primarily Christianity and Islam are the ones we know about, because it is fundamental Christian and Islam that is fighting each other so strenuously.

In Who owns Christianity? he makes some interesting points. Such as: Who are we to condemn gays if Christ didn't? In fact, who are we to condemn any sinner, since Christ didn't? Yet, the fundamentalists seem to thrive on condemnation, preaching how God is standing over us ready to damn us to Hell for our Sins.

Is that what is taught to us? Is damnation the act of infinite loving??

Just who created this God who Damns Us To Hell? And why are they forcing that God down our throats?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion"

Todays fortune cookie thought: "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion"

There's many ways to take this, so let's try this one on for size.

It's said that we are each powerful beings, we are each representatives of the divine. In the New Testament it is said that we will do all the things Jesus did, and more. So, why do we not each live the potential it is said we have? Is that saying false? Or is there some way to explain it?

It's well understood that we each have self limiting beliefs. We may be eminently successful but inside us is a voice that nags with self doubt. The voice may or may be weak or it might even be unknown consciously, but it's there. It might not even be self doubt, explicitly, but each of us have beliefs inside us that act to limit us.

Some examples are:

  • "He's gotten too big for his britches",
  • "Don't get a swelled head",
  • "I can't do that",
  • "Nobody likes/trusts/etc me",
  • "They'll just laugh at me",
  • "They won't like that idea",
  • "They always reject me",
  • afraid of the limelight,
  • ...etc...

It may seem that each one of those beliefs are small and insignificant. Not unlike a strand of a spider web.

It's known that such beliefs have a source from some event, usually during childhood. In the source event some decision was made. For example you might have tried to make a joke, and all your friends laughed at you instead, which helped you form a belief they'll just laugh at you. You could easily have decided from that belief that you wouldn't try to make jokes again, or you might even be quiet all the time, all in an attempt to avoid having them laugh at you, again. The belief then gets carried forward through your life and you might have other events that reinforce the belief.

There are dozens of these beliefs inside each of us. Each are formed in the same way, and each are like a strand of a spider web. Each acts to bind or limit what you can do in order to avoid some unwanted result.

While each of these beliefs might be weak, they work together. The effect is that, together, they have the force to hold in check the awesome power it is said each of us have.

What can be done about this? How can we break free of these limits?

I think the first step is awareness, as always. Awareness that this is happening, that you are doing this to yourself. How can you prove to yourself that what I'm saying is true? Meditation.

One purpose the Buddhists have for meditation is so that you can learn to compassionately see your inner process. While sitting in meditation the instruction is to stay with the breath and not be attached to any chatter that happens. In effect you're learning to watch your inner chatter without being tied up in believing that it is true. It is the inner chatter which carries those beliefs, the more your inner chatter cycles around a given belief the stronger that belief is. It is said that by witnessing your inner chatter you can begin to have freedom from it.

For most people these processes of self limiting beliefs happens below the level of conscious awareness. It happens in what psychologists call our shadow self, the part of us we are not consciously aware of. Through meditation we learn to witness more of our inner self allowing more of our inner self to emerge from the shadow.

A concept to consider is: "What you give attention to grows"

If this shadow self is given free reign to focus on these self limiting beliefs, then it is those beliefs which will grow. Through meditation you can become aware of the habitual focus on these self limiting beliefs, and begin to choose to focus on other beliefs.

It's not just that we learn to see how we hold habitual self limiting beliefs which keep us from achieving our dreams and life purpose. There's another thing we can learn to focus on and give attention to.

It's said that we are each powerful beings, we are each representatives of the divine. If we learned to give attention to that part of ourself what might happen? Psychologists call this part of ourself the Golden Shadow, or the part of us we aren't aware of which has no limiting beliefs and is quite capable, beautiful and powerful.

One way I practice this is through chanting OM. This sound, OM, is said by Hindu mystics to be the seed sound of the universe. The idea I have is that through chanting OM it can serve as a portal which connects me with the divine plan for the universe, and that by having greater resonance with the divine plan of the universe all of my being can be in greater harmony and peace.

Another way I practice this is with a prayer taught by Ron Roth. It is very simply to, as you breath in and out, say to yourself "(breathing in) I am (breathing out) God breaths". In effect your prayer is "I am God, breath". In this practice it's not just the words, but it's the intention. For example you could experience being breathed by God. What is that like, to be breathed by God? Try it and find out.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Experiential knowledge versus head learning

The modern society we live in is thoroughly affected by Socratic and Aristotlean methods of reasoning. Science, reasoning, etc. The paradigm is that everything that all we can know we can find out only by means of our reason, and that truth is to be found by discussion and logical argument.

This is the essence of the scientific method. Clearly the scientific method has brought us wondrous toys and technologies, and great understanding of how the world works. But I feel it misses out on something important.

Let me start with an analogy ... does reading about or discussing sex give you a better or poorer understanding of sexual intercourse? I chose "sex" for this analogy because it's basically the ultimate in the experiential.

Theoretical reasoning about sex tells you nothing about satisfactorally engaging in sexual intercourse. Right?

In this post I'm contrasting between two ways of learning about the world: Experiential learning versus reasoning and discussion

Experiential learning involves, well, learning through experience. One goes into a situation, and in the act of being in the situation you learn from the experience of being in that situation. The reasoning and discussion route has you thinking or writing about the situation.

Practitioners of the scientific method seem to completely discount experiential learning. Scientists often brush off what they call subjective evidence, in other words experiential learning, and favor objective evidence. Objective evidence has the advantage of being independantly verifiable and measurable, allowing you to write about the evidence, make theories based on the evidence, etc.

But ... here's what objective evidence misses. It is not the real world. When you make some measurements of something, like an apple falling from a tree, you can only measure a tiny shadow of what's happening. Physicists from the time of Newton onward would say the apple has a certain mass, shape, size, hardness, density, and because it is falling from a tree on Earth it is subject to a known strength of gravitational attraction. All those attributes become mathematical equations that demonstrates the speed the apple falls from the tree, etc.

But ... the fact is they have not captured the event itself. Instead they have described the event. The description of the event is not the real world as it exists, it is a mathematical model for the world.

Having mathematical models and objective evidence is, as I've said, important if you want to build a theoretical model of the world with which you can reason about the world.

There is a very wise saying that comes to mind. One shouldn't confuse the map for the territory. When you look at a map of a city, do you understand the city? No. A city map is just lines for various things like streets, rivers, city boundries, etc. The map does not convey the human activity in that city, the work done there, the living, the play, the music, etc.

Similarly a mathematical model that describes how an apple falls from a tree is simply a map. Physics is simply a map of the current understanding by physicists of the functioning of the universe. It is a map, it is not the universe.

In particular scientists regularly discount any discussion about spiritual processes or practices. Energy healing, for example, is a spiritual process where one person is able to channel subtle energy, chi, to their client with the intent to help their client heal from a condition. All of the proof for energy healing or any other spiritual process is highly experiential. There is, to my knowledge, no machine or method for objectively measuring chi. This makes it rather difficult for scientists to use the scientific method to study spiritual processes like energy healing.

Yet energy healing proves itself to its practitioners. How? By the experience the practitioners have while giving healing.

When a healer waves their hands over a client, objective science would say there should be little or no effect. But, the healer knows through their experience of giving healings that effects do occur. The healer may sense a density in their client, and when they move their hands into that density the client begins sobbing and remembering a long forgotten memory. In healing after healing the healers experiential knowledge builds.

The map is not the territory. Relying on objective evidence, on reason and discussion, leaves one reliant soley on the map to find their way around.