Tips to Free Your Mind in 2015

Free Your Mind
This past year has pushed up the emotional underbelly of our society, showing us that we still have a lot of work to do on ourselves if we are going to achieve the peace, joy and goodwill that each of us wishes for humankind. We are all victims of cultural conditioning, but the time has come to break away from the limitations of thought that have been imposed on us by society.

“You have to understand....most people are not ready to be unplugged and many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” ~Morpheus

“You have to understand….most people are not ready to be unplugged and many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” ~Morpheus

I have assembled, in no particular order, some tips on how we might unplug from the matrix and free our minds in 2015:

ॐ An ancient Buddhist proverb says, “All suffering exists because of our attachment to an untrue self-image.” This untrue self-image is the one imposed on us from the day we are born.  It keeps us stuck in the ego-driven world and encourages the “us against them” mentality. Rumi said, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”  By contemplating this, you will begin to discover your true nature and come to understand that no differences exist between us. But be warned: Asking “who am I” may eventually lead to enlightenment (aka permanent freedom from the ego).

ॐ Jiddu Krishnamurti’s most famous speech was delivered in Ojai, CA in 1929 and is called “Truth is a Pathless Land.” Krishnamurti was referring to religion and spirituality in this speech and said, “Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.”  He observed that once you organize a belief system into a religion you give it form, which then crystallizes and deadens it as it becomes entrenched in dogma. Dogma fits nicely into our 3D world, but religious intolerance has become the result. The challenges we face are forcing us to break free of the 3d matrix structure in which we’ve been living, transcend dogma, and expand our consciousness to include the whole of the manifest and unmanifest. Recognize the common thread that runs through all faiths; the Golden Rule is the same for all religious philosophies.

ॐ Look closely at the people whose words you take as truth and watch the thoughts you have as a result of what they say. This can be anyone from mainstream media pundits to politicians to religious leaders who limit, confine, point the finger, and manipulate through fear. An all-inclusive, compassionate way of living is rejected as these people keep serving up the blue pill. You can put your attention anywhere you want. If you ever have thoughts that in any way exclude, label, or polarize, then you need to reject these people and their weapons of mass delusion. Accept only love.

ॐ Meditate, or at least start to practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness, aka being present, will show you that a space exists through which you can escape the mundane. Meditation keeps you in that space. It is imperative to set aside that time to allow yourself to know yourSelf. Magic happens in the quiet.

Peace, Shanti, Paz, Paco, Pax, Paix, Hasti, Rukun, Shalom, Amani, Ukuthula, …and TLGO

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Born-Again!?

256px-Born-again_atheist_badge,_c.1987There are polls suggesting that atheism is on the rise. I just read through a list of ‘famous atheists’ and noticed that many of these people (there are a lot of celebrities on this particular list) consider themselves atheists because they equate God with organized religion. Heck, I’d probably be one too if I made that connection. I wish more people realized that God and organized religion (as it is today) are about as mutually exclusive as you can get.  And although Pope Francis tried to bridge the gap between believers and non-believers, the Vatican still holds that if you don’t follow the Church’s teachings you are going to hell. Talk about lousy public relations. And to dare contradict what the Pope said shows how afraid the Vatican is of losing control over the masses. The interesting thing, though, is that atheism, organized religion, and the material world share a common bond; they are all born and live in duality.

Organized religions attempt to take something that is formless and give it form or structure. To believe that God, the Absolute, which is pure Consciousness, has no form is a tough concept to get, so religions give God a form or face. The form that people use as their personal God is called their Ishwara.  There is nothing wrong with having an Ishwara – it certainly helps with bhakti (devotion) – but there will come a time when all form needs to be discarded. Form perpetuates duality (God is separate from who I am) and to be stuck in form will keep you stuck in duality (separation).

A major reason atheists reject the notion of the Divine, is their assumption that religions contradict each other with the assertion that theirs embody the only true God. Sri Ramakrishna, probably the greatest saint India has ever produced, studied all religions, including Christianity and Islam (yes, Islam) and found they all lead to the same God, having truth at their heart. Unfortunately, that truth gets lost under the layers of dogma, rules, control, and fear mongering, which bastardize the teachings and give rise to the divisive right-wing fanaticism we see today. And while I understand the reasoning behind rejecting organized religion, I don’t get rejecting the notion of the Sacred because of it. That’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, if you ask me.

The rest of the people on the list of “famous atheists” are either scientists or some other sort of academic, which use curiosity as the driving force.  Curiosity is important; it is the spark that propels the search for truth, but scientific research is limited and words are limited, as they attempt to explain something that essentially defies explanation in the material world. It’s not that they’re useless in searching, but the seeker should not pin his or her hopes of finding Truth on either.

When you engage in philosophical discussion, even if the discussion is about non-duality, eventually you get caught up in the illusion of the ego as it becomes buried under a mountain of thoughts. When you engage in scientific research, you are bound by a methodology that also keeps you stuck in the illusion. So, a laboratory or philosophical debate can never yield Truth because the medium used to find the answers is based in duality – the unreal. You’re either stuck in a lab or in the mind and you can never find the real in the unreal. In these scenarios, the best you can hope for is a direction for your seeking or an intellectual understanding of some sort, which is not entirely a bad thing because it keeps you asking questions. Also, let me add that science is beginning to recognize that there may be more to what we see as the ‘material’ world, which leads me to the next point.

As I see it, the basic problem with atheism is the unwillingness to consider the idea  that anything exists outside of the material world. And even though science is making some headway in this area, i.e. the world as a hologram, it will be a bitter pill for many to swallow. Not only because old habits (beliefs) die hard, but also because it will be difficult to fully comprehend the ramifications such discoveries have on our perception of the world and our lives in it.  This would mean bridging the gap between duality and non-duality, acknowledging that the idea of a world with form (duality) will need to be discarded in favor of the idea of a world composed of One Consciousness (non-duality).  Shifting paradigms is no easy task – just ask Copernicus.

I found it interesting that some of the atheists listed said (I’m paraphrasing here) that what is important is that we be kind to each other.  If they only realize that we should be kind to each other because we are each other, then they will have captured Truth – without following any dogma or doctrine. Imagine that!

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Devotion is a tricky thing, especially for a Westerner.  Displays of spiritual/religious fervor are supposed to be confined to church on Sunday or inside the privacy of our homes. In other words, kept behind closed doors. Those of you who are of Italian heritage, like myself, will remember the crucifixes that hung in every room of the house, including the basement. I could never figure out if they were there as displays of reverence or to ward off evil spirits.

Unfortunately, where there is still that element in society where might makes right, devotion is neither admired nor taken seriously at any level of consideration. I remember back in the 60’s, when the peace sign first became popular.  It was considered, by some, to be the sign of the chicken since the symbol resembled a chicken’s foot. People who wanted peace instead of war were branded as cowards. Devotion has gotten an equally bad rap.

The West’s discomfort with displays of devotion could just be a cultural thing, as it doesn’t seem to be an issue in other parts of the world. Or, it could go deeper than that. Devotion is love. That could be where the problem is. Maybe we don’t know how to love. Be it loving others or ourselves, maybe we just don’t know how. As it is generally understood, love revolves around the ego, so that love is completely conditional. The real thing is unconditional. Love with no strings, no expectations  – love that is totally free of the demands of the ego – is not a familiar concept to most people.

As a result, spirituality/religion tend to be more a mental exercise rather than an emotional one, like having to memorize the catechism in school, the emphasis being on dogma rather than devotion. Early in my sadhana, as now, my teacher would read us works by and about Indian masters such as Ramakrishna (probably the greatest saint India has ever produced), Swami Ramdas, Shivom Tirth, among others.  Their words were filled with love for the Sacred.  They stressed the importance of keeping our awareness on the Divine so that we may experience that love. Remember, what we think we become, so by keeping our thoughts on the Absolute we become the embodiment of love, which projects outward into world, which, let’s face it, could use a lot more of it.

Devotion is love. When you open yourself to the possibility of letting love into your life everything changes. You become filled with the love that you are expressing. Japa, kirtan, and contemplation are all tools to help the sadhan along the bhakti (devotional) path. The bliss that is felt during and after kirtan or contemplation is unsurpassed by anything the material world has to offer.  It is not to be found in any book. You do not have to be in a church or temple – love is within. It needs to be felt, but, just like direct spiritual experience, you can’t make it happen. It has to evolve. And as you progress in your sadhana, it will.

Finding Truth Beyond Belief

As I’ve blogged before, I’m consumed with finding Truth.  I was raised Catholic – went to Catholic schools for the first 12 years of my education. That’s a lot of religion. Thinking back, I never really questioned my faith – my beliefs. There were loopholes in the dogma I was being taught – plenty of them – and I did question those as I got older, but I was stuck in blind belief. Also, I figured that science would eventually answer all of my questions. I was looking for that bridge between science and religion that I knew was there but was in no position to find.  I was trying to find the Truth through thought – through the manipulations of my mind.

I look around me and all I see is struggle. That struggle spurs some of us to seek what is real, what is true. But just like love, we end up searching for it in all the wrong places. When we think we find a piece of truth, usually in whatever religion we adopt, it is often shrouded so thickly in doctrine, dogma and ritual that we fail to recognize its essence. Don’t misunderstand me – at their core all religions contain truth. But you can make a choice between “blind belief of truth” or “truth beyond belief.”

Below is a quote that I found in my inbox. I subscribe to JKrishnamurti online and receive a quote from the Krishnamurti archives each day. This one particularly struck me so I wanted to share it with all of you.  Click here for more info: www.jkrishnamurti.org/

“We realize that life is ugly, painful, sorrowful; we want some kind of theory, some kind of speculation or satisfaction, some kind of doctrine, which will explain all this, and so we are caught in explanation, in words, in theories, and gradually, beliefs become deeply rooted and unshakable because behind those beliefs, behind those dogmas, there is the constant fear of the unknown. But we never look at that fear; we turn away from it. The stronger the beliefs, the stronger the dogmas. And when we examine these beliefs the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist we find that they divide people. Each dogma, each belief has a series of rituals, a series of compulsions which bind man and separate man. So, we start with an inquiry to find out what is true, what the significance is of this misery, this struggle, this pain; and we are soon caught up in beliefs, in rituals, in theories. Belief is corruption because, behind belief and morality lurks the mind, the self the self growing big, powerful and strong. We consider belief in God, the belief in something, as religion. We consider that to believe is to be religious. You understand? If you do not believe, you will be considered an atheist, you will be condemned by society. One society will condemn those who believe in God, and another society will condemn those who do not. They are both the same. So, religion becomes a matter of belief and belief acts and has a corresponding influence on the mind; the mind then can never be free. But it is only in freedom that you can find out what is true, what is God, not through any belief, because your very belief projects what you think ought to be God, what you think ought to be true.” – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

The Idea of Guru

People bristle when I tell them I have a spiritual teacher. They probably think I’m part of some cult and half expect me to talk about the flavor of Kool-aid I was given to drink. Can you imagine what people would think if I use the word ‘guru?’ Actually, I do use that word. What the heck, they think I’m over the edge anyway. Why disappoint them? And besides, I’m finding I like ruffling a few feathers.  I enjoy challenging people’s perspectives.  Nevertheless, the idea of a guru is a concept that many find disturbing.

There are valid points to this argument. Jiddu Krishnamurti strongly opposed the idea of a guru and he rejected organized religion and spirituality as well.  He did this most publicly in 1929, when he gave a speech in which he stated, “…Truth is a pathless land.”  Krishnamurti felt that the spiritual search for enlightenment can only be found in one self and if we follow a guru or church we become enslaved by the authority and power they wield over us.  And, of course, he is right.  You just have to look at the hypocrisy that is rampant these days among certain organized religions and so-called spiritual leaders. But there have been spiritual Masters through the ages, who have had gurus and have themselves acted in that role.  There have also been followers of organized religions, saints in the Catholic Church for example, who attained to realization (enlightenment). St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila both reached enlightenment and they endured great hardship because of people’s reactions to their experiences. So how do you know who or what to trust?

The guru/student relationship is demonstrated beautifully in the first (and best) Matrix movie, a film that is remarkable in its parallels to non-dualistic philosophies. Morpheus puts Neo through a series of difficult trainings with the purpose of showing Neo his true identity. “I’m trying to free your mind Neo,” Morpheus tells him, “but I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”  Morpheus never told Neo, “Do what I say or you’re going to hell.”

So, let’s take a look at the qualities of a true guru or teacher.  A true teacher doesn’t demand you ‘follow’ him/her. He/she doesn’t have ‘teachings’ but will help you know the Truth.  A true teacher is one who will help you navigate the unfamiliar territory of the spiritual landscape without an agenda, without judgment, and without demanding anything from you, until the veils of illusion are stripped away and you realize who you really are.  Remember, it’s your sadhana; you are the one who has to walk through the door.

There is the Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This is a true statement. I know this from personal experience, as do many people I know.