Mirror, Mirror

mirrorAs a teenager, obsessed with her appearance, I spent many hours in front of the mirror. It was during those years when I first heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” I remember leaning forward toward the mirror to look more closely into my eyes thinking I might be able to catch a glimpse of my soul.  I began to wonder, “Who am I?” Was I my body, my soul or something else?

Spiritual searching often takes many forms, but defining the goal of a spiritual search can be tricky. I never really knew what I was looking for all those years of doing yoga, meditation, reading numerous books, attending many lectures. All I knew was that I wanted ‘Truth’ beyond what society puts out there for mass consumption. Actually, I’m a little amazed at how clueless I was in my searching. I wanted answers, but what exactly were the questions? If I had to be specific it would’ve been, “What is the meaning of life?”  I didn’t expect to realize that spiritual searching is essentially a search for Self.  I didn’t realize that all those years ago as a teenager I actually asked the right question, “Who am I?”

As it is now, society is structured to perpetuate the identity crisis in which we are all stuck. Everywhere there are distractions keeping us from indulging in any meaningful introspection.  The world is noisy, shallow, and divisive.  Any type of reflection is relegated to prayer on Sundays; however, even that is directed externally since we pray to something outside of ourselves. No wonder we don’t know the right questions to ask. When it’s all said and done, the struggle in life usually culminates with the question, “what was it all for?” since death appears to be the end. Impermanence abounds.  We are never taught that the continuity of the Self is the only constant.

Surprisingly, there are hints of truth from the mainstream media that you can catch. In the 1946 movie, “The Razor’s Edge,” Tyrone Power’s character is asked what he did during his time in India. He remarks, “I learned something about myself.”  As her time in India comes to a close in “Eat Pray Love,” Julia Roberts, portraying Elizabeth Gilbert, sums up her experience with the insight, “God dwells in me – as me.”

You probably think that once you discover who you really are you will find the answers to the rest of the questions. And you do, but really what you realize is that the rest of the questions don’t matter anymore. The struggle of finding your place in the world disappears when you discover your true identity. In fact, all struggles disappear once you become aware that there is no need to ‘strive’ for anything. You are already everything. It is the ego (personality) that is never satisfied, always doubts, and continuously struggles. It is the ego that believes society when it is told that it needs to do this or that to be considered successful or even acceptable.

It is the ego you see in the mirror.  It has nothing to do with who you really are.  In fact, the ego is the biggest obstacle to discovering the truth about yourself.  Next time you look into a mirror, try looking past the image. If you find yourself wondering, “Who am I?” congratulations, the quest has begun.

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Alchemy

William Fettes Douglas - The Alchemist

When we hear the word ‘alchemy’ we probably think of chemists trying to turn simple metals into gold during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But, in truth, alchemy has a fascinating history. Dating back to centuries BC, many famous people, including Einstein, have studied this subject. Alchemy or transmutation (a modern word for alchemy) is more common than we think. It occurs in the physical world and in the metaphysical realm of the transcendental.

We are all aware of nuclear alchemy (transmutation) when radioactive elements, because of their unstable nuclei, literally change into different elements. One way is through alpha decay – or the loss of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. You see, it the number of protons in the nucleus of any atom that identifies what that element is. The number of protons is the ‘DNA,’ so to speak, of that element. So, for example, Radium will become Radon. Lately, however, I’ve been drawn to the deeper meanings of alchemy.

Alchemy for people can happen in an interesting variety of ways. Sometimes the change is sudden. Something unexpected, usually unpleasant, happens and we are changed forever. Some who have experienced NDEs find that their approach to life changes. They can never look at anything in the same way ever again. They disregard the scientific need for proof, because as far as they are concerned they have all the proof they need – their own direct experience. And that direct experience has brought them closer to understanding their own true nature.

photo by cincooldesigns

A more gradual experience of alchemy includes those with a spiritual practice. They understand this process of change as they undergo their own metamorphosis leaving the chrysalis of their ego behind to embrace a freer, truer experience of Self.

I feel humanity is on the brink of alchemical change. There is no doubt that life on this planet today is changing  – at its very core. The old paradigms do not work anymore and even though massive efforts are being made to keep the world as it has been, it is becoming more and more clear that these efforts are futile. We are jumping down the rabbit hole. We have taken the red pill. And nothing will ever be the same again.

So, it’s time we release any notion or attachment we have about how things ‘should’ be. It’s time to release outdated notions or attachments about who we think we are. There is an old saying in the metaphysical genre, “We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences.” As we break free of the limiting structures of ignorance that encase and enslave our egos, alchemy begins.

So release the old patterns, habits, and thoughts. Free your mind.

Free Will….Part Two: Go With The Flow

Laguz - Rune meaning "Flow"

In my first posting of the question of free will, I talk about how, as students of non-duality, we are taught that we cannot be the doer of anything. Some points previously made:

  • Spiritual and religious traditions stress the notion that everything that happens is a result of the will of God.
  • It seems that it is only when we think we can’t ‘do’ anything about a situation do we relinquish our imagined control.
  • We do have the free will to choose where to put our awareness (attention).

This suggests that events in our lives (or the world) happen exactly the way they’re supposed to happen. Which, taken a step further, suggests that the future is set. That said, let’s indulge our ego’s need to analyze and dig a little deeper into the idea that everything happens just as it’s supposed to. If people on some level didn’t already believe this, nobody would be interested in consulting psychics. People go to them in order to know what is going to happen – doesn’t that suggest that they think the future just might be set? So what does free will have to do with anything? How can we separate free will and predetermination? That’s like saying, “I choose what I’m having for dinner, but the trip to Europe that the psychic saw is predestined.”

When we pay attention to the present moment and accept that moment and not let our awareness dwell on the past or worry about the future, we go with the flow. I know, I know – easier said than done. I have found that everyone has his or her own threshold of pain. Eventually we get tired of beating our heads against a wall by trying to control everything in our lives, and once we sit back exhausted, we throw up our hands and say, “Whatever….” That’s when we surrender to ‘what is’ and go with the flow. But honestly – it doesn’t have to be so painful.

Years ago, during a particularly difficult time in my life, I was obsessed with the need to make things happen a certain way. And of course, nothing (and I mean nothing) was happening the way I wanted it to during that period. I was tense, nervous and miserable most of the time. Finally, a friend told me, “You’re not flowing. You need to learn how to flow.” I resisted, not having a clue on how to do that. It happened that I recently had purchased a set of Runes. For those unfamiliar with the Runes, they are a set of stones carved with letters of Scandinavian origin and intended to be used, not so much for divination, but as guidance for the Spiritual Warrior. I can’t remember why, but I checked all of the Runes in the set and noticed that one was missing. The missing Rune was the one meaning “Flow.”

Not quite a watershed moment but a useful and interesting one for me, since my  awareness in that moment did expand beyond the horizon of my mundane life, serving to remind me of the bigger picture. Perhaps if we can do that, not just in challenging situations but everyday ones, remember that we are a part of an interconnected Whole and not apart from that Whole, going with the flow will become an easier and even natural way to live.

Your Inner Life

In my Catch-22 post of June28th, I suggested a couple of ways one can begin to experience non-dualism. Cultivating tolerance and compassion along with a desire to serve others, without seeking recognition or compensation, are all ways that will help break down the wall of separation (duality) that is threatening our world today.  These suggestions will help in changing perceptions, but there is another piece to this I’d like to address.

This may be a kind of ‘chicken and the egg’ scenario, but some people will need to connect to themselves before seeing their connection to everyone and everything else.  This is where meditation comes in. Spending time in quiet contemplation or meditation helps us to better understand ourselves; not in terms of the external world, which is shallow and ultimately meaningless, but in terms of who we really are – at our core.  Meditation cultivates our inner life and it’s important to remember that the outer is the reflection of the inner.  The only focus in the world today is on our outer life. We go to school to learn science, math, history etc., so we can get a good job, compete in the world, make money, and enjoy the material comforts of life.  We learn and assimilate what society deems important and useful, so all of our energy is projected outside of ourselves.  We live in fear and anxiety over protecting what we have.  Consequently, we become lost in our lives, remaining blind and ignorant to the truth about who we really are and our connection to everyone and everything in the universe. We are lost as a society and we need to find ourselves again.  Cultivating our inner lives through meditation can be an important first step to accomplishing this.

The physical and emotional benefits of meditation are many: lowered blood pressure, reduced stress and anxiety, better concentration, management of chronic pain, to name a few. The spiritual benefits include the discovery of one’s true self beyond the ego and the body.  All these benefits (and there are more of them) will naturally lead to a more compassionate worldview.  Fear will be replaced with tolerance, compassion and love. The outer is the reflection of the inner.

I remember a time when science debated the mind-body connection, if you can imagine.  Well, at least we’ve come this far. Now it’s time to take a greater leap. Times are changing and whether we like it or not we are facing a crisis of perception. We are seeing the old societal structures being challenged and broken down. Unable to sustain the old forms, we are being given a unique opportunity to move into a more unified perception of our world. Whether it starts with cultivating our inner life through a meditation practice, or it starts with looking for ways to be of service through changing our mindset (which can lead to the cultivation of a richer inner life) it doesn’t matter. It just needs to start.

“….I saw two birds on a limb this morning laughing with the sun. They reminded me of how we will one day exist….” Hafiz