Sunday, June 28, 2009

T-Shirt Of The Month Club

Shocking Nature

"Inability to accept the mystic experience is more than an intellectual handicap. The lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination." Alan Watts

How we respond to real life shocks often determines the degree our experience turns negative or positive, painful or joyous, destructive or creative, good or bad. Is it possible that shocks are neither bad nor good by nature, but neutral? To assume that shocks are not neutral but always negative or positive suggests that the universe is either out to get us and burn us - the negatively inflated paranoid bias - or that the universe is out to bless us - the positively inflated messianic bias. Both biases express self-delusion. If we value a choice-centered life of increasing autonomy and self-responsibility, how we respond to shock may have more lasting value than any initial shock itself. Here, responsibility is revisioned as our response-ability, our ability to respond.

Shocks are only "shocking" to the degree of our naïveté around the objective truths of ecstacy, uncertainty, indivisibility and impermanence. Ecstasy expresses our most natural state of being when unburdened by over-identification with the anxiety, guilt and suffering resulting from unsolved survival problems. Uncertainty refers to the truly unpredictable nature of life, of not knowing what will happen next, as a liberating and highly creative state. Indivisibility expresses the dissolution of arbitrary divisions revealing the basic unity of all life forms. Impermanence means all things pass; everything once alive eventually dies.

Real life shocks can happen anywhere, anytime and to anybody; nobody is exempt. Examples: sudden housing eviction, getting fired from work, marriage, divorce, childbirth, parenthood, loss of loved ones, natural disasters, sudden kundalini activations, death of parents, death of children, falling in love, unexpected financial windfalls, terrorist attacks, any move of residence, police arrest, incarceration, big employment promotions, social betrayals, family disintegrations, automobile accidents, hospitalization, surgery, spiritual epiphanies, cardiac arrests, strokes, epistemological crisis, heroic doses of magic mushrooms; the list goes on and on and on...

Shocks act as turning points for Self-initiation, of engaging the separatist ego in a confrontation with the archetype of the Self. And, as Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung suggests, "The experience of the Self is almost always a defeat for the ego." As more outside shocks are absorbed and integrated, we become initiated as human shock absorbers transmitting initiatic shock to others. We become as initiates, men and women of power; if that is what we want. Some of us undergo this Self-initiation process instinctively without any conscious plan or knowledge, while others approach it on purpose; either way, when outside shocks are absorbed and integrated, we are transformed by the transmission of their presence to the world.

Shocks come in basically two forms: inside and outside. Inside shocks are shocks we can administer ourselves. For example. By choosing to intentionally inconvenience ourselves amid daily activities, we can administer small shocks to our habitual routines by going against the grain of habit and altering the expected. Any way we are able to shock ourselves constitutes an "inside shock." However, there is only so much we can do by our own efforts alone. Armenian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff called "outside shocks" those event arriving from any place beyond our personal control and comprehension.

Outside shocks tend to be far more effective in transforming and shaking things up than any self-created inside shock. Implementing inside shocks can, however, encourage enough flexibility to help us navigate and manage the greater forces of outside shocks when they arrive. Any state of shock naturally manifests some kind of an internal emergency state where, as a survival reflex, our senses open up to get more information. This escalation of awareness can also occur on small scales such as whenever we become emotionally upset, or lose our physical balance and fall, or are mentally thrown into bewilderment.

In these instances the ego wobbles as our awareness of uncertainty increases. We experience ourselves as more fluid, volatile and unstable. In this marginal state, we may be more open to taking on new directives and values. If the new direction takes and holds, it can be maintained with applied effort and a supportive environment. It can be strengthened by a series of challenges designed to test the integrity of our new patterns. In this way, the state of shock can initiate a creative state given the commitment and will of the individual.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Am That I Am

Delight is the secret. And the secret is this: to grow quiet and listen; to stop thinking, stop moving, almost to stop breathing; to create an inner stillness in which, like mice in a deserted house, capacities and awarenesses too wayward and too fugitive for everyday use may delicately emerge. Alan McGlashan

The mind thinks of the future; the heart mourns the past. But the body always is. Rooted in its present experience, it frees the self from the mind. It calls attention back to what is actually happening, with sensitivity as subtle as one is able to cultivate. As attention sharpens in its acuity, the body gradually reveals that concepts ordinarily assumed to be real are illusory: "walking" is a composite of a thousand gradations of movement, "joy" is but a summary; "consciousness" merely the illusion produced by a well functioning machine, like the images at the cinema which seem to be so whole.

Thus the body awakens one not only to the facticity of present experience, but also to its unity. As we closely raise, inspect, and drop the phenomena of the body, each reveals itself to be a concept only, a useful label without separate reality, existing only according to the level of abstract seeing. What, then, is real, in the sensation of a breeze gently caressing your face? If "the body" and all its constituent parts are real only as labels, what is?

Beginning as they do from the premise of divinity, the sages of Kabbalah often speak in a language moderns cannot understand. They start with what we would deem the conclusion, if the proofs were satisfactory: that God exists, and is Infinite. From there they proceed down the chain of being, through the emanations of the One to the Many, and then back again. Thus they ask, if God is infinite, then what is your body, your heart, and your mind, but God itself? What are joy and terror, open fields and pits of darkness, other than the skin of the Infinite?

We meet - rabbis beginning from the transcendent, and contemplatives from the immanent - in Being itself. The label of "God" makes no factual difference, for God is not a figure within the ground of the universe; the universe is a figure within the ground of God. What is, is; Being, not separate selves; truth, not superstition. We cannot help but divide perception into pieces: we see a tree, not God; feel our fingers, not God; experience pain and bliss, not God. Yet in a sense, there is only one thing in the universe.

"Just Being" is a subtractive aspect of ordinary consciousness, a gradual loosening of the grip of concepts. In the body, it is becoming mindful of experiences too subtle to note ordinarily. Pressure on the back, sounds being heard, the expansion and contraction of the chest. And then: just pressure, just sound, just expansion and contraction. Slowly the mind quiets, the body rests in repose, and there is a cessation - first of the most gross of desires, later from subtle ones, and at the culmination of the spiritual path, even from consciousness itself.

Only upon relinquishment of the will to arrange the conditions of the world to enable our maximum happiness does true happiness appear. As Byron Katie says, what we really want is to want what we have. Or, in the words of the Jewish text known as the "Ethics of the Fathers": who is rich? He who is happy with his share. Not doing, not changing, not thinking or talking or arguing - just being.

And then the boundaries of self slowly become transparent, for without purposefulness, the self loses its definition. Not to regress - but to transcend the slavish delusions of need. Ending, for once, the competition.

Nonduality includes both doing and non-doing, but is best known through the latter. At some later time, there can be the return of the monk to the marketplace; the descent of Moses from Sinai; a return to the material, where the Infinite puts on masks of distinction. But practice is required to ensure that our return is not a regression, that it maintains an almost transparent knowing -- that all this is real, that none of this is real. Ironically, it is the most physical, the most separate-seeming part of the material world, which is the greatest vehicle for remembering. Spiritual states may come and go, but the body endures for a lifetime.

One cannot get beyond the body except through the body, in the body itself. Otherwise there is still something to be denied, or utilized, as if "we" are merely inhabiting our bodies, trapped souls waiting for release into paradise. The pious will argue that some desires are loftier than others; hedonists will reply in kind. But all the while, Being will be unfolding, just out of range of periphery, in the shape and form of the ordinary. It is, in a way, a solitary path, for there is, in the truest possible way, no one else here. But then again, you aren't either.

There is only Me, God or Spirit says. You are not alone, because this ego, this "you," is not what is ultimately real. These sensations that are happening to the body - who are they happening to, if consciousness is but a phenomenon of the brain? Who is really here? And how do "you" know anything? In the end, the solitude of the nondual path is only as temporary as the intimacies of the alternative - because when the true Self is known, suddenly there is love within the fabric of being itself. Not beyond, not denying, not leaving behind the substantial; but in it, as it, inviting you to join heaven and earth. And promising, in a silent and intimate vow: Be faithful to Me, and I will show You love.

Seeing Into The Unseen

Dolphins perceive sound up to 200,000 Hz, whereas the limit of human hearing is a mere 20,000 Hz. Dr. John C. Lilly’s research has led him to calculate that a dolphin’s sense apparatus works from 10 to 20 times faster than ours. I recall the first time I witnessed dolphin telepathy firsthand, standing waist-deep in the bay at Ponta do Ouro and wondering just how long it would take for a dolphin to cover the intervening distance between us. It wasn’t simply the dolphin’s telepathic sensitivity, but the extraordinary speed of its response, that astonished me. It was almost too fast to be noticed.

Since dolphins use a sound-based echolocation to literally “see”, it could be said that dolphins “see into the unseen”, at least as far as our limited human sensorium is concerned. However, the implications of this are more profound than merely the speed of their senses. It’s been my own experience, and that of many others who have been open to it, that dolphins possess some form of telepathic ability. How they do it remains a mystery and it is impossible to pin down, let alone replicate, since almost all the evidence is anecdotal. Besides, if it were true it would fly in the face of the contemporary scientific paradigm.

Possibly that is why an article which I recall appearing briefly in the late eighties, disappeared just as quickly. It was an account of a US Naval research project in which two dolphins were held in separate laboratories many miles apart. The labs were linked electronically and tests were devised and given which demonstrated the two dolphins were reacting, in the moment, to one another. There’s a tone of reserved astonishment in the statements of the scientists quoted. The final paragraph has the scientists speculating about a matrix of some sort, perhaps telepathic, that links up all intelligent sea creatures, no matter the distances involved.

Even within our own human sensorium events occur in the course of a life that appear to happen at the edge of our ability to perceive them. No one can say with any degree of evidential certainty how the mysterious unseen worlds actually function, or even how they come to be. All that has really emerged from the probing and testing is that human potential is far more substantial than anyone had thought. Scientists risk the derision of their peers and a sudden dearth of funding if they attempt to seriously research these enigmatic areas of human reality.

I suspect that this level of excessive skepticism cloaks not only a terror of ridicule, but perhaps a more legitimate fear that there might be something to it. If angels actually exist, if mediums really do talk to the dead, if dolphins are telepathic, if extraterrestrials are visiting our planet, if Midwayers are actively involved in shaping our lives - if all these things are true, then what ever would it mean for the way scientists conduct their research?

Consider the research of the celebrated professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, Gary E. Schwartz, and his associates. Reported in The Afterlife Experiments, they have demonstrated in double-blind studies, that selected mediums can often achieve an 80% to 90% accuracy rate when passing on messages from deceased relatives or friends, or describing their personalities to the subject. Yet, however consoling it might be for a person to know that Granny lives on and still loves them, almost nothing of general, or lasting, value has been communicated through the mouths of mediums. For researchers, what little information has surfaced over the years has been rendered arbitrary by its very unproveability.

To compress a great deal of hard-won experiential information into a series of bullet-points risks their being dismissed merely as New Age clichés. So hopefully these words will resonate with the reader’s experience sufficiently to reaffirm the authenticity of their own glimpses into the unseen world. Bearing in mind that all true knowledge has to be experienced personally, these are some of the things, and in no particular order, that have been learned through personal encounters with other realms of being:

• To deepen and enliven the quality of a terrestrial life to know - to really know - that life continues after death.
• To understand the mechanics of belief and to know that belief systems - to paraphrase Dr. Lilly - are but rungs in the ladder of knowledge.
• To know what it feels like to step outside the ego-centered structure of my personal mind and step into the collective mind.
• To know that all matter is to some degree animate at its most basic subatomic level.
• To know that the Multiverse is teeming with intelligent life, both on the inner and outer realms.
• To know I can heal myself by the focused intention to communicate with the organizing principle of my body - my body deva - that which knows intimately how my physical vehicle works.
• To trust my intuition. It’s not always right but at least I make my own mistakes.
• To take into account that in general the world appears to be upside down. Almost everything the world believes is opposite to the truth. This is a convenient formula for deconstructing the many confusions of consensus reality.
• To realize that most of what is forbidden contains essential truths.
• To realize that trusting in the authenticity of a transcendent experience encourages further synchronicities.
• That doubt is healthy in its place; yet to know how to leave it behind in the heat of the moment; doubt can always be picked up later.
• To understand that emotional intelligence is distributed throughout the natural world, each species possessing it to the extent of its needs.
• To appreciate viscerally that in consensus reality we are all swimming in a sea of fear. To know that every moment presents each of us with the choice of responding to life with fear or with love.
• To know that we get what we deserve if we don’t listen; and we get what we need, if we do.
• To know that, in spite of appearances, all is deeply well; that what appears to be the chaos of a frantic world is well-understood and guided by unseen hands towards a truly extraordinary destiny.
• To know that for reasons that have little to do with humans, this planet is regarded as being of extreme importance to the larger universe context.
• To know to take the time and attention to delve as deeply as possible into the true nature of dolphins and whales; that they are a key to the nature of non-human intelligences.

Without knowing all the implications of this, it seems that the veils separating the worlds are already disappearing. More and more of us are being drawn to the dolphins and environmentalism is opening people to the nature spirits. The unseen realms are there for the seeing. With a little focused intention on our part, and an open heart and mind, they are as close as a heartbeat.

Kinetic Evolution

Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist who builds walking kinetic sculptures that he calls a new form of life, as featured in a BMW television commercial. His "Strandbeests" walk the coastline of Holland, feeding on wind and fleeing from water. Here the artist demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles. His creatures are designed to move - and even survive - on their own.