Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Perspective - Absolute stillness, or Becoming?

Today I was reading some book reviews on Amazon. I will not say what the book was because I have not yet read the book and do have some doubts about it, but I read a very interesting comment in the reviews. The criticism was that the book talked both about the Absolute Stillness and unchanging non-duality of the Universe, but in the next few chapters it started describing how things evolve, and that there is an unfolding to the Universe. The commenter exclaimed that the book must be nonsense because it contradicted itself. How can the Universe be this stillness and at the same time be evolving?

My immediate thought was, "This is a criticism?"

It really all depends on what perspective you are talking about. Physicists rely on perspective all the time to talk about relativity. Is there any problem doing that with spiritual matters? I think it's essential.

The Universe contains everything and exists everywhere so it exists both inside and outside of time. So I can think about the Universe from both of those perspectives. If I think about it from outside of time, the Universe is Absolute Stillness/non-duality. That non-duality contains everything there is. This includes time. Granted, ALL of time, from beginning to end exists in this non-duality as one eternal moment. Perhaps when thinking about it like this, it's more apt to call time a dimension, just like length, height, and depth. It's all there, all at once. It doesn't move. When I'm standing in the Absolute Stillness, that is Reality regarding time and the Universe. There is no change. There is no evolution. Everything just is.

Now shift perspective to inside of time. Naturally, this is a much narrower perspective because it can only contain things that exist in time: things with beginnings and endings. Nevertheless, our minds live in this perspective so it's the easiest one for us to grasp. Within the perspective of time, the Universe DOES change and evolve. There is Becoming. There is an unexplainable urge to go somewhere and do something, to Become, to Change.... or to fight against those changes, depending on where you are. Movement through time is an effect. It is not an absolute. Our perspective creates the movement.

Look up the Doppler Effect. You have experienced this when a car in oncoming traffic beeps its horn. As the car moves toward you, the pitch of the horn seems to go higher, and as the car moves away, the pitch of the horn drops. Is the pitch of the horn REALLY doing this? It depends. For you, from your perspective, it is. From the perspective of the person beeping the horn, it is not, because they are moving with the sound waves and they experience no change in pitch. Reality can look very different from different perspectives, even scientifically.

The same is true about the nature of the Universe.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Musings from an Integral novice

Wow I haven't mused since April! Haven't been in the musing sort of mood since then. For me, it's been what they call in certain circles a mini "Dark Night of The Soul" these past few months. That's a term actually coined by St. John of the Cross in the 16th century to talk about a time when you've completely lost touch with the deeper parts of your own divine parts along your way toward self-discovery, almost like a regression, except instead it's a natural part of the cycle of growth. These "dark nights" occur periodically. Luckily, like all other things, they pass, and generally for me it passes when I get fed up with it (and tired of hearing myself) and seek help from people I trust with these sorts of things. So having been through that, I now have cause to muse once more. :)

So here is what I've brought back from that mythic journey this time: Reality has no story.

The mind makes stories and I can prove it to you. Let's say your dog died. You give it a doggie funeral. You cry. You look at pictures. You share memories of poor Lassie. You cry some more. We've all done it with something, probably even a dog. Then maybe that night (or the next) you fall asleep. After sleeping for however many hours it is, could be one, could be twelve, you wake up. Now, think about the FIRST three seconds after you open your eyes, before any thought has come into your head....

You look around the room. The sun might be shining, or not. The clock is ticking, if you still have one of those old things. Maybe you feel the cool air in the room making your nose crinkle, unless you are a freak like me who needs to sleep in a room that's 80 degrees or more. OH but wait! You haven't thought about the dog yet! But then you do. All of a sudden, those emotions you had before you fell asleep come flooding back because of that thought, and that thought brings on more stories about the dog and how you miss it. Well, damn.

Isn't it interesting how right before that happened everything was fine?

It was fine because it WAS. Nothing was actually wrong until you started to think that first thought. Reality was that you were blissfully relaxing in a bed in a room, waking up. Now you're a mess. All because of that thought which you latched onto.

I'm going to make a bold statement: ALL suffering is due to thoughts that we latch onto.

The thing about reality is it's always kind, even when it sucks. When that asshole sideswipes you on an icy road and you are winging all over the place, you aren't suffering or thinking about how much of an asshole that person is. You aren't really thinking. You are trying to get the damned car under control, and there's really nothing behind that except cold hard reality. It's not good. It's not bad. It IS. In that moment when you are swerving on the ice, you are not judging it. You are acting. Judging it may even actually get you killed in that moment because it may cause you to zig when you should have zagged. In truth, while you are swerving, reality may suck, but you haven't suffered because you haven't created a thought about it and latched onto it.

Later, after you pull over, you start cursing and telling a story about it and you feel awful. The incident is done. Reality may show that you are on a beautiful road on a snowy sunny day, but you will miss out on that completely as you shut your eyes, plug your ears and curse.

Wouldn't it be nice to know how to not latch onto thoughts? You can't actively still your mind. It's an impossible task. It can be passively slowed and stopped by some people who meditate for years and years, but you don't have to be a meditator to teach yourself how to not latch onto thoughts that do come. If you can do that, you can enjoy reality for what it is, see the thoughts for the lies that they are, and be happy.

Coming out into this dawn, I still have thoughts, and some still fool me into hurting, but man, just being able to get this far with my efforts on not latching has made me happy lately, and glad to see all the stuff I'd been missing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Importance of Ritual

If the title of this post gives you visions of cauldrons and pentagrams surrounded by mysterious robed figures conjuring entities from beyond, don't misread it. Of course, for people ascribing to the Magic/Purple MEME level of thinking, that could be exactly what ritual is. However, in the perspective I'm talking about here, ritual is simply a set of actions that you tend to do at the same period of time, in mostly the same way every time.

For tribal organizations in Africa, that could mean a rain dance. For you, it could mean brushing your teeth at precisely 9:30pm at night.

So why is it important? Like anything, there is good news and bad news about ritual. The bad news is that you can use it to "check out", "zone out", or otherwise just not be here now. If the ultimate purpose of Life is to simply be cognizant of your union with all that is while integrating that with everything you do, then rituals can cut off that connection between you and knowing/being. In effect, they sever the connection between your mind and body by letting your body do one thing, and your mind another.

Let's say you go to the gym every day at noon and you get on the treadmill. In front of the treadmill are television sets that you can watch while you tread away. Your body is working out. Your mind is melting from watching The Price is Right. In that state, you might feel ok, but you are not being cognizant of your true self. Hence, the bad news of ritual.

However, there is good news. The good news is that ritual can provide momentum for you to overcome your ego at the earlier stages. If you do not want to go to the gym today, but you've been going every day for the last two years without fail, you are going to feel pretty miserable for not going. So you go. In a case like that, ritual has provided you the discipline you need to move.

Now, again, watch out. If you make it to the gym that day and then check out while you are on the tread mill, you have in effect negated the good news. Instead, you want to be on that treadmill feeling every single motion and breath you take. Be INSIDE your own body. Put your mind in what you are doing right here, right now. If ritual gave you the opportunity to do that, so much the better.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Giving back by teaching

If you have ever read Luke Cullen's book, Growing Up With Draja Mickaharic, about his escapades as a student of the famous spiritual teacher and cultist, definitely give it a try. It is a quick read. A long time ago, Luke was a friend and confidant of mine, and we were both fellow students of Draja. The difference between us is that Luke had the balls to write about it. I don't, mainly because of the lunacy of it all, or at least how I see it as lunacy looking back on it. Nevertheless, I learned an immense amount of things during those days that I still use as a foundation.... just not the things I thought I would be using today when asked about it back then.

In those days, things were quite hierarchical. Draja was the teacher. We were the students. Not only was this the physical arrangement, but in Draja's view this was ordained by God, if you will. He was a "Spiritual Teacher", meaning that was his divine Function in life. To be his student was to obey, because that was the Order of the Universe. If you obeyed, you would prosper or learn something. If you disobeyed, you would not gain the benefit of his teaching, and obey we did.

Looking back on it, it seems so alien to me. With the framework of Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics that I have been reading about, I can see exactly what was going on. All of us involved in those teaching interactions back then were living out the Red and Blue vMemes or core value systems. In Red, someone has power and you don't, or maybe you do have power and you lord it over others. Either way, there's a power structure and a system of haves and have-nots. In Blue, there is some ultimate Absolute Truth ordained by a Higher Power, and when an agent of that Higher Power says something, that's it. No discussion. Also in Blue there exists a hierarchy and the notion of Functions. People have Functions that stay with them for their whole lives. This person is a "Teacher". That person is a "Merchant". That other person is a "Priest", and next to them stands a "Slave". Draja Mickaharic taught about these four types of Functions in particular, as if they were permanent divinely ordained things.

Years later, I have to say that my experience has shown the real world to be much more complex than this. I do think there are Functions, but not in the same vein that Draja taught Luke and I. Functions are dynamic and ever-changing. The important thing is the Present Moment and your consciousness of it and your Oneness with all things, and whatever you are doing in that Present Moment is your Function. It is the ultimate thing that you are put here to do. In another moment, past or future, you will have some other ultimate thing you are put here to do, but that does not matter: only Now matters.

Do not get me wrong: I am not saying we should throw out everything that Red and Blue teaches us, nor am I saying they are in some way bad or wrong. I am merely saying that they are not the whole picture, even though they have their time when they work well. I teach graduate students at the University level. In moments when I am doing that, I am the Teacher and they are the Students. That is my Function during class time, and yes, there is a hierarchy at that time. My Faculty ID Card from the University and my Adjunct Contract say so. In order for the Students to learn something in my classes, they need to acknowledge that I know something that I can teach them. That acknowledgement is not for ME, but it is for THEM. Without it, they probably won't learn. In cases like this, a Red-Blue scenario works, and is "real". However, to carry that notion through to every scenario in life is misguided and is not taking into account the rest of the bigger picture.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Response to "Why I hate religion, but love Jesus"

There is a viral video circulating right now on the Interwebs called "Why I hate religion, but love Jesus". Here is a link to it:

Why I hate Religion, but love Jesus

What struck me about this video was that it displayed a mature Blue vMeme outlook, as per Dr. Clare Graves' scheme on Spiral Dynamics. Briefly, the "Blue" core set of values says that life is ruled by some form of Absolute Truth, and all other things that profess to disagree with this Truth are evil or wrong. It also talks about the need for rules, hierarchies, and some form of system to enforce these.

Traditional religion is just that. The man in this video is professing what he sees as an Absolute Truth, versus something that is against that Truth. It is black and white.

Then there's this video:

I hate Religion, and Jesus too

Here we see an Orange vMeme. Orange is about hard logic. It points out the hypocrisy of blind belief and the failures of hierarchical systems and Absolute Truths based on Mythology. The man in this video does just that.

The next stage of complexity on the Spiral is Green, and here is an example of that:

Why I dislike your poem, but love God

Hard logic gives way to compassion. Green insists that all viewpoints are equally valid, and Truth is not Absolute, but Relative. "Why can't we all just get along, and believe what we believe but leave each other alone, or better yet, live together in peace?"

Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time finding a Yellow vMeme response. They are harder to come by because a smaller percentage of the population is at that stage.

But if there was one, here is what I think it would say to the video:

This debate is taking place exactly as it should be. The debate sparked by it is precisely what will lead to a communally derived outcome which will work out for the best. Religion has its drawbacks, as the original video said. However, Religion also serves a purpose for those who need to partake of it. That is not a bad thing. Similarly, "Non-Religion" or simply following Jesus in the manner described by the man in the video also serves a purpose. The two sides of the debate are SUPPOSED to interact because they comprise a SYSTEM, much like predator and prey, the sun and planets, and any other symbiotic entity. In the end, the conflict is what leads us to grow as the human race, not the winning or the losing, but the learning. That is the point.

So to the followers of Religion I say, you fight your good fight. Keep making your points and your arguments, but be open to the responses. I say the same to the other side of the debate as well. To both, I would warn this: do not lose site of empathy and compassion as you debate, for that will not help anyone.