Archive for November, 2009

Meditation: What it is and what it is not

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: How Spirituality Works | Tags: , , , |

Meditation is mostly misunderstood. I was taken to a Shirley MacLaine event several years ago. At the event she conducted what those who had come to see her termed a meditation. It used guided imagery in an attempt to shift the way that the audience related to life. While some may find this beneficial, it is not meditation. Similarly Yogi Bhajan taught thousands of kriyas that were called meditations. Practicing those kriyas/meditations is not meditating. He used to say that the reason that he specified that a “meditation” be practiced for 31 minutes (which was one of the most common time specifications given) was so that when we had completed the 31 minutes we would have actually meditated for one minute. Practicing a kriya is not meditating.

The reason that meditation is so misunderstood is that the real “how to” of how to meditate must be learned in the second side of the teachings. If a person has not learned or understood the second side of the teachings, they do not know how to meditate. In an elaborate demonstration of how the vast majority of his students had not learned the second side of the teachings, and did not know how to meditate, Yogi Bhajan allowed IKYTA certification to be marketed to his students. Yogi Bhajan did this because there was/is so much posturing and competition between his students. Yogi Bhajan allowed the IKYTA certification to be marketed because students that buy into this certification program demonstrate that they do not understand the second side of the teachings or how to meditate. They demonstrate that having a competitive edge by posturing is more important. Yogi Bhajan did this so elaborately because he came to realize that competitive posturing is a major obstacle to shifting from religious to spiritual that there needed to be a dramatic demonstration of how corrupting it is.

Becoming certified by IKYTA is supposed to validate the credibility of a student to lead Kundalini Yoga classes, but instead it demonstrates a corruption of personal integrity. This corruption happens gradually. A person practices Kundalini Yoga and experiences something profound. Each time they continue to practice they “tune in” at the beginning of their session. They begin their practice with the chant Ong Namo; Guru Dev Namo, which means I humble myself to the Infinite Creativity; I humble myself to the Angelic Light that dispels all darkness. We who have practiced Kundalini Yoga have been taught that this chant is essential to begin every session. We have also been taught that performing this chant establishes our link to the lineage of Spiritual Teachers that have produced what we are practicing. When leading a Kundalini Yoga session for other students we have been taught that practicing this chant at the beginning is the way to humble ourselves and tune in and become a pure channel for the teachings. If we are experiencing this tuning in, if we are experiencing a humility that produces the insight of what to teach, then this is an extremely profound and valuable thing that needs to be validated above all else. It is the only thing that validates us to teach not from our own egos. If we do not have this experience then it must be questioned why we are sharing something that we do not know to be valid.

IKYTA certification allows the student to avoid the soul searching that is necessary to validate “tuning in”. A person that truly experiences humility when they tune in perceives a shift in themselves that produces a purer channel for the teachings. The second side of the teachings teaches us that a shift of this kind is always a product of humility. A  person that experiences this then understands that what is essential for sharing the teachings as a pure channel is this humility. The second side of the teachings also establishes that those that experience this transformation through humility must live to examplify it as a reality, to be living examples of that purity. Rather than validating that purity, the IKYTA certification discredits it by indicating that there is something more valid, the accreditation that they sell. IKYTA certification is a clear statement by those that participate that what really matters is not the broadening of humility and the purity that “tuning in” produces but being connected by becoming certified.

The process of producing purity through humility is exactly what meditation entails. Meditation requires the development humility so that we can become aware of a deeper purity. We deepen this purity evolves until at a certain point humility produces the experience of the Soul. The Soul is then understood to be the ultimate reality to be used to bring clarification to all things through humility. Utilizing the Soul in this way for clarification is meditation. As a true Spiritual Teacher, Yogi Bhajan understood how competitive posturing disallows us from work together to produce sustainability. He had recognized this as a major corrupter of all religions, the Sikh religion in particular. (His attitudes on this and confrontations of it are the reason the Punjabi Sikhs disliked Yogi Bhajan so much.) Yogi Bhajan decided that the process of producing purity through humility had to be demonstrated as a vital reality in order to validate the Soul and meditation. We either buy into social certification or remain true to something that is more true for us, our own experience of spiritual reality. This is the requirement to become a Spiritual Teacher. This is what the world needs more of, and what fulfills the mission of Yogi Bhajan to produce Spiritual Teachers.

Getting back to guided visualizations, the experience of the Soul is beyond words or images or imaginings. The Soul is the ultimate reality where we understand that all our imaginings are distractions from that purity. Visualizations distract from the experience of reality. Visualizations are not meditation. More distractions are not needed. What is needed is more humility. Humility is the path to meditation.

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

Blogs about Shirley MacLaine and spirituality: New Age Spiritualities, Are We Just Good At Imagining God?, Worldview & Basic Beliefs Review

Blogs about meditation: Simple Breathing and Relaxation Techniques, Devotional Commentary of the 23rd Psalm, “Saving” Christmas, Grace, Mercy and Favor, Improve your Personal Life in Awareness

Blogs about humility: Life’s A Blog & A Symphony, Hwp8j’s Weblog, Possessing the Treasure, Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, Amitabhm’s Blog

Blogs about Kundalini Yoga/IKYTA: Eat Pray Love, Kundalininow’s Blog, What is Kundalini Yoga?, the grateful phoenix, Kundalini Yoga Room, Take a Breather with Kundalini Yoga

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The Shift From Religious to Spiritual is Happening Too Slowly

Posted on November 10, 2009. Filed under: Spiritual Teachers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Over the weekend I was involved in several diverse and lengthy discussions about the needed shift from religious to spiritual (Shifting trom Religious to Spiritual). During these discussions there were two themes that had general agreement. The first was that this shift is imperative because the lack of this shift is producing severe threats that are imminent to humanity and even the environment of life on our planet. The second was that making the necessary shift is very difficult to do and is happening much too slowly to address the dire problems that we face. Everybody in these discussions agreed on these main issues. I am happy to establish why these points are true and to deal with disagreement to them in the comments section. This post will address the question of how to effect this change more quickly.

Change comes from within. When change is attempted only externally it does not work. This is why dealing with global climate change is so difficult to deal with. It requires us to each change how we relate to ourselves and the way we each live our lives. It requires us each to change to become more ethical in our own lives when it is easier not to do the right thing. This requires internal change. When this problem is approached with from an external solution point of view it is not even clear what to do to solve the problem. There are some general ideas, maybe even some general agreement on a good day, but no clear path out of the mess. This paradigm can be applied to any of the imminent problems facing humanity. This is because the solutions that are proposed for these problems attempt to impose change from outside on the problem, rather than approaching the issue as needing deeper spiritual responsibility and development from within. These exterior solutions have the effect of medicating the symptoms of the problems but never getting to or dealing with the root of the problem.

Blogs about global climate change: Top 10 worst effects of global warming, Vancouver Unitarians for Climate Change, Eating and Climate Change, Pachauri claims Indian scientific position arrogant, A World War II-Scale Effort

The war in Afghanistan is a prime example of how solutions that are imposed from outside do not fix the problems within. There are huge problems with the way that the folks within Afghanistan have in dealing with each other involving everything from violence to corruption. Until those issues are dealt with by them, no solution that is applied from an exterior source will work. Where they are not taking responsibility for their own problems no outside aid or force will work. David Rohde is very articulate on this topic also (Spiritual Conflict Resolution).

Blogs about David Rohde: A war reporter’s story, One Journalist’s Capture and Escape from the Taliban, An Element of Danger, A Taliban haven inside Pakistan?, Are we there yet?

How to develop the spiritual growth needed in these cases is the realm of expertise of Spiritual Teachers. Spiritual Teachers are those rare individuals among us that have learned to address their own internal corruption and manipulative behaviors and understand that serving this spiritual growth in others is the path of their lives. In this day and age Spiritual Teachers tend to be objects of suspicion and mistrust. This is because  no distinction is made between them and religious leaders and they are therefore considered to be as corrupt as their religious counterparts. The big distinction betwen the two is that the job of a Spiritual Teacher is to take the student to the point of spiritual independence while the religious leader is continually tries to increase their own authority and that of their religion. While Spiritual Teachers can be affiliated with a religion, they recognize that religion is just a vehicle to present spirituality. The Spiritual Teacher’s responsibility is to the development of spiritual understanding and not to the religious participation of the students.

Another misconception is that Spiritual Teachers are considered to have lived long ago and are not thought to be around today. Religions revere Spiritual Teachers like Moses, Buddha, Yeshua (Jesus), the Prophet Mohammad, and the Sikh Gurus religiously and mostly ignore the presence of Spiritual Teachers in our own time. To confuse things even worse, posers promote themselves as Spiritual Teachers which makes it seems as if true Spiritual Teachers are the same as these posers. They are not.

What makes Spiritual Teachers so vital for us at this time is that they alone have the understanding of the spiritual changes that we each need to go through individually, and teaching others who are then capable of teaching others is the only feasible way to multiply the numbers needed to have sufficient impact on our most serious problems.

In order to help validate that real Spiritual Teachers are with us today there is a page on this blog entitled “How I Met My Teacher” that contains real life experiences of people meeting Spiritual Teachers. This page is for everyone to post in the comment box their own story of how they recognized their Teacher as a Spiritual Master. It is also OK to challenge the validity of these experiences and the Spiritual Teachers associated with them in the spirit of investigating and actually defining what a Spiritual Teacher really is and is not.

Spiritual Teachers that I have personally identified in this lifetime are:

Yogi Bhajan

blogs: Kundalini Connection, Kundalininow’s Blog, Who is Yogi Bhajan?, Recipe by Yogi Bhajan, Be the Lighthouse

Sant Guru Dev Singh

blogs: Sat Nam Rasayan Canada, Guru Dev is in Town!, Healing and Shuniya,

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

blogs: Tibetreport’s Blog, The most important thing we can do, Chinese angry on India, Pay it Forward, The Buddhist Tradition, Khamerlogue

Thich Nhat Hanh

blogs: On Technology as the Solution, Meditations on Anger, my time?, Crossing A Channel, A Gift of Dharma for 11.9.09

Preah Maha Ghosananda

blogs: The Gods Drink Whiskey, Making Peace, The rising of the light, Democratic Peace

Eckhart Tolle

blogs: JasonGarcia’s Blog, I smoke, Christianity vs. Islam, I Totally Blame Eckhart Tolle

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Self-deception and Redemption, a True Story

Posted on November 6, 2009. Filed under: How Spirituality Works | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I moved to Houston in 1980 and was living in the Sikh Ashram there. I needed money for rent and talked one of the other single men that lived in the ashram to let me hang the sheet rock for a remodel project that he was in charge of. I had never hung sheet rock before. I recruited a non-English speaking Hispanic man to help me at the lowest hourly wage that I could get him to work for. If I remember correctly the job paid $700. I thought it would take 3-4 days, 2 if we worked extra hard. The truth was that I didn’t know what I was doing, and I think it actually took two weeks to get all the sheet rock hung. By the time the job was finished the Hispanic man that I hired was owed $500 of the $700. I told the guy that I had underbid the job, I was sorry but I couldn’t pay him what we had agreed on. I told him that we had worked together equally and I would split the money equally with him, $350 each (the rent I owed just happened to be $350 also). He would have none of it. He said he had agreed to work at an agreed upon wage and that he was owed $500 and it wasn’t his fault that the job took longer than I expected. I am ashamed to say that I told him that all I would pay him was the $350, take it or leave it. I knew he was an illegal immigrant and knew that he could not complain to any authority. He was just an illegal immigrant. I justified my actions by telling myself that I had worked just as hard as he had and I was entitled to just as much of the money as he was, that I was a spiritual person that did my spiritual practice every day and deserved that money. Inside myself though, I felt that what I was doing was wrong. I knew that I was ripping the guy off. I had calculated previously how much the guy’s wages were adding up to. I added them up daily in fact as I stressed about getting in over my head. I could have told him at any point that I could not afford to pay him for any more of his time, but I didn’t. I intentionally misused him and had decided on this plan to complete the job and still make my rent. Despite any rationalization I could come up with I knew in my gut that it was wrong. I knew that it was my own stupidity that had taken on a job to hang sheet rock when I knew nothing about it. Talk about delusions.

The money discussion with the guy turned into an argument, and I eventually gave him only $350 and told him to get lost. I remember the look he gave me when he left. It was a look of disbelief that I could treat him so unfairly after he had worked so hard every day to help me finish that job. It had truly been hell humping those sheets of sheet rock up scaffolding, holding them in place on the two story ceiling while one or the other of us got a nail in the stuff. It had been truly awful but he had given his all every step of the process and I had misused him for it. Although he couldn’t speak English that parting look said, “I can’t believe you can treat me like this. I actually thought you were a good person. You intentionally cheated me. I don’t see how you can live with yourself.”

Time passed. I never saw the guy again. I never told anybody about it, I was too ashamed. I pretended like it had never happened. I forgot about the whole nasty affair. Fast forward seven years to 1987.  I’m married with two kids and Houston is in the midst of a recession. I’m unemployed and decide to start my own painting/sheet rock business so our family can survive. I had three or four jobs going at the same time, one of them being a very large job on a wealthy person’s country home on their ranch outside Sealy, TX, more than an hour east of Houston. Things were not going well on my jobs. I was stretched too thin to attend to all of them properly. Consequently the money was not coming in fast enough to cover expenses. Luckily I had a large chunk of money that I was supposed to receive on the Sealy job the next day as long as the required amount of work was complete. I needed to purchase materials for the jobs I had going in Houston and I did so with a check that I did not have funds in my account to cover. I figured I could have the draw on the Sealy job deposited the next day and that would cover everything before the materials check hit my bank. I had a real bad feeling when I wrote out that materials check but I kept telling myself that the Sealy draw would cover it.

I was supposed to pick up that draw at 11 the next morning. The work that was supposed to be complete in order to pick up that draw was not finished but we were close. I told myself that I could get our crew out there really early and maybe get everything done before 11 and schmooze it with the owner lady if it was not. The next morning I was loading the truck at 5:30. The phone started ringing. Problems with one of the Houston jobs. As I was dealing with that, problems with the workers on my crew had to be dealt with. At 7:00 I was racing off to deal with an unhappy customer at one of the Houston jobs. I still had to deliver materials to the other sites. The customer kept me waiting at the first site, then when he finally showed up he had a whole line of contractors there that he had to deal with. I had to wait in line for my turn. All morning I was racing from one job site in Houston to the next. I had told my Sealy crew to be at my house at 7:00 so I could drive us out to that job. At 10:30 I was still racing to another one of the Houston jobs and I hadn’t even picked up the crew for Sealy yet. On top of that EVERY traffic light I came to was red. I was about to explode. I started cussing out loud at God when there was another red light. I seriously considered running it and every other red light until I was on the road to Sealy. It was such a perfect storm that I had no doubt that it was being divinely generated.  I asked God why EVERY traffic light had to be red. I felt like I was about to have an emotional outburst of rage and frustration. Then it dawned on me that it was just a test of whether God could reduce me to a screaming lunatic. I decided there was no way that I would give God the satisfaction.

As I had these thoughts I noticed that I had I was feeling intense anxiety that felt like it would overwhelm me. I associated this overwhelming anxiety with God pushing my buttons and decided, “Bring it on. Give it your best shot. I am not afraid of this anxiety and to prove it I am going to allow it to overwhelm me.” I then consciously allowed the most intense feelings I was having to happen to me. My fear mounted similar to the way it does when you slowly climb that first hill on a roller coaster, crest that hill and begin hurtling to certain death. Surprisingly, at the point where the intensity seemed like it was going to overwhelm me it began to subside. I asked myself what was the worst that could happen. The materials check would hit my bank and cause an avalanche of checks to bounce causing my account to be closed, forcing me out of business? I hated this business. I had never enjoyed it. It was just what I did when I had to survive. Let the check bounce. Then an insight occurred. What I was afraid of hadn’t happened yet and just like the morning I was having had been completely unpredicted by me, something beyond what I could imagine was possible. It was even possible that the Sealy owner lady might be a little late herself and I could distract her from noticing that there wasn’t enough work completed for our draw.

At that instant I realized that the intense anxiety I was feeling was all about my impatience at being where I was and wanting to be someplace else. The anxiety conveyed the thought that where I was, doing what I was doing was not good enough, that I was just a worthless piece of shit that was never good enough and never going to be. I realized that I was actually doing everything I possibly could in that moment to live up to my obligations to my customers and my family. I realized that I actually was at exactly the right place at that exact time doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing to the best of my ability. I was still sitting at that red light. It hadn’t even changed yet. I looked around and noticed that it was a very beautiful fall day in Houston. There was a magnificent large oak tree to my right that canopied my vehicle with shade. It was superb and I had been so self involved that I hadn’t even noticed.

The light changed to green and I completed what business I needed to attend to and was soon on the road to Sealy with the crew. When I came to a red light I noticed the anxiety begin to build and I would allow it to wash through me as I had learned that morning. Each time I did, there was further resolution that I was at the right place at the right time. When we got to the Sealy job it was well past noon and there was only one other vehicle there. It belonged to one of the carpenters. I got the crew lined out doing what we needed for the draw. Then I hunted down the carpenter and asked him if the owner lady had been by. He said he hadn’t seen her, but that he had just gotten there himself and there wasn’t anyone there when he pulled in, no work crews at all. This was not good news, but I figured we needed to finish our work to get the draw anyway, we were all the way out in Sealy now, we just needed to do our work. Less than a half hour later I saw the owner lady’s car pulling onto the ranch. I thought, “Here it comes. She’s pissed because she was here earlier and saw that we hadn’t completed the work for our draw, and she’s doubly pissed because there wasn’t anybody working there that morning, and I am going to catch her anger for all of it.” I decided to walk out to her car and take it like a man, expecting to get fired.

When she saw me she said that she was very sorry to have not made it out there that morning as she had promised, that she knew I was relying on that draw and so even though unimaginable hassles had kept her from making our appointment on time she had come out there regardless of the lateness to make sure I got my money. She went on to tell me that she knew that she had promised to walk through our work with me so that I could have her decide on the incidentals that had come up but that there were things that she absolutely needed to attend to back in Houston. She apologized but we would just have to reschedule the walk through for another day. I graciously accepted her apology and her check. Five minutes after I saw her car leave the ranch I told my guys to pack it in because I needed to make a deposit before the end of new business at 2:30. I made that deposit at 2:25. I am completely convinced that had I not learned to relax there would have been a very different outcome with the owner lady at her ranch. I think that her circumstances would have changed so that she would not have missed that appointment. The depth of me knows that she and I were affecting what was happening in each other’s lives that day.

Some of the anxiety that I felt at the stop light was a shame that I carried around with me from my first sheet rock experience. As long as we carry around unresolved shame, or anything that causes us to feel that we are basically flawed, we never feel that we are at the right place at the right time, and we cannot truly appreciate life. When I allowed those intense anxieties to wash over me and do their damnedest I was relaxing my control complex, and as soon as I did this I was able to notice and appreciate the panorama of life that surrounded me, most notably the wonderful canopy of the tree that was shading me (which has its own symbolism as well). Despite my best efforts to present myself to the world as if I were a good person I had issues of shame that I. I tried to pretend like I  did not have those issues, but they were always there. I claimed that I wanted equality and justice and a new spiritual understanding to develop in the world and all the time I carried the burden of my own hypocrisy around until a situation developed where I could no longer maintain that facade.

On that day at the stop light I  began to crack away at my facade because I started to deal with my self-deceit. I did not remember the incident from 1980 on that day at the stop light. I still had no idea the depth of the guilt that I carried. That came later as I continued to delve deeper into what I learned under that tree’s canopy. Shortly after this was when I met Sant Guru Dev Singh and he healed my broken rib (The Healing of Sat Nam Rasayan). Later it was learning Sat Nam Rasayan, the second side of the teachings, where I learned to systematically delve deeply into these issues and understand the connections. I found that in order to get beyond my shame I needed to learn to forgive myself.

In order to alleviate the feelings of shame and guilt that we carry around we first have to become completely honest with ourselves in order to admit what we are feeling guilty and ashamed about. We have to investigate within ourselves how we learned to react in the way that causes us this suffering. Inevitably this leads to a discovery that when we learned this self-destructive behavior it was at an earlier time in our lives when it seemed the only course to follow. Many times we find that this developed because we were embroiled in intense situations of fear and degradation. Developing the habit pattern that had become the source of our suffering was the best we could come up with at the time. It was just the way we had learned to survive. Delving deep into ourselves in this way develops the understanding that is necessary for us to forgive ourselves for learning to behave in the ways that cause us shame. In such a state of self-honesty we also realize the suffering that we have caused others and it becomes clear that in order to be truly responsible for what we have done me must not only renounce that behavior from that moment forward, we must commit ourselves to addressing the issues involved to make amends for our contribution to the moral decay. If we do not address the issues we now know so thoroughly, who will?

That was the pledge that I made to myself as I learned to face my own personal corruption, the issues that I was a slave to when I decided it was OK to not pay the guy I hired to help me hang sheet rock. It was because of this pledge that I am outspoken against the certification that IKYTA does. I know that this seems like a petty issue, but I know differently. I know that what I went through in learning to redeem myself, everyone must go through. I know that Yogi Bhajan had the structure of Sat Nam Rasayan developed so that it could be learned openly and safely. I know it works because I experienced the miracle of it. I know because learning it I learned to redeem myself, and I know that this is the true path that leads to becoming a Spiritual Teacher as Yogi Bhajan intended all along.

I also know that the IKYTA certification is only a way to pose as someone that knows something spiritual. There are no requirements beyond the ability to pose well in front of a class of yoga students. Having gone through the hell of confronting my own inner corruption I know that as long as there is an easy out we will not face that corruption. If there is any excuse available we will avoid dealing with our shame. This ties in with IKYTA because not only does the IKYTA certification process not teach what is necessary to produce Spiritual Teachers, it facilitates the corruption of all that participate in that process. It condones posing as spiritual as more important than being spiritual. For me not to speak out against this institutionalized corruption of the teachings violates my commitment to my own redemption.

The structure to redeem ourselves exists. Sant Guru Dev Singh teaches it, masterfully. If it works for someone like me, it will work for anyone.

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

Blogs about Kundalini Yoga instruction: Catalyst Yogi, Kundalini Yoga-FAQ, Eyes Wide Open, Breakthrough healing, Savitree

Blogs about Sat Nam Rasayan: Darsana Wellness, Healing with Lea, The Yoga Cafe,

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The Spirituality of Knowing What We Feel

Posted on November 3, 2009. Filed under: How Spirituality Works | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

This is a very intense subject and requires a word of caution. We all have feelings that we have blocked ourselves from being aware of. In order to become more complete these blocked feelings need to become unblocked and the fear, guilt and shame that we associate with those feelings must be redeemed through forgiveness. This is not a light subject, and those that feel terrified at the thought of unleashing pent up emotions please consider waiting until you are ready to proceed. In addition, anyone taking medication for depression MUST continue to take their medication until that requirement is changed by their doctor.

In the intro of his book The Power of Now (pp. 1-2) Eckhart Tolle describes the intensity that he went through as he learned to unlock what he had blocked. It is highly recommended that this be read in order to understand the level of intensity that we are dealing with and also to be familiar with what someone else did that was healing when they found they could no longer block their most intense feelings.

Recent Eckhart Tolle blogs: On Being Yourself, PAIN BODY OR POSSESSION, Witness Self, Words, Climbing ladders vs. building bridges

I read a post yesterday of a piece of prose entitled Cafe News, Volume 2. In its seven brief paragraphs it describes the Hell that we create and maintain for our lives. The piece’s honesty describes internal thoughts and emotions that we all have and have learned to avoid. In fact we have become expert at avoiding them because the survival of our psyche has depended on it. This survival has become our persona, and this piece of prose accurately conveys how we do this to ourselves.

Cafe News, Volume 2: Actually, I don’t even know anymore, what’s true and what’s not.  I don’t even know if I care.  Mostly, I just sit around, wishing for some life other than the one I have.  Wishing something external would change me into what I want to be.

We are sensory beings. We see, we hear, we touch, we feel. We have a sense of everything that is so complex that we cannot fully understand anything. There is always a deeper understanding. We are connected to and part of infinity. We experience infinity as always more complexity because each experience is a part of our experience of the infinite interconnectedness of the Universe. Every experience also contains uniqueness that gives every moment in every life unpredictability. While it is predictable that the Sun will rise in the morning, the exact experience of tomorrow morning is always beyond anyone’s ability to predict. These qualities that every  experience is infinite and beyond our ability to ever fully comprehend it and at the same time unique can be referred to as infinite-creativity/God. We are always in this experience of infinite-creativity/God to the point that we cannot even conceive of ever having the same two exact experiences or meeting the same two people.

This continuous experience of infinite-creativity maintains constant uncertainty, and uncertainty causes us to question ourselves and our connection to everything (Actually, I don’t even know anymore, what’s true and what’s not.). Whatever else life may be it is always an experience of constant uncertainty, and as former two year-olds we have all developed behavior patterns to in some way to control the uncomfortable feelings of our constant uncertainty. When we try to hold onto our control instead of humbling ourselves to expand our concepts it causes us the pain of the Cafe News quote above. We are clinging to a delusional sense of control. At the same time we are aware that this is not working and is in fact causing us unhappiness, yet we resist that awareness because we do not know how to act other than our control pattern so that clinging to our fantasy of control only causes the intensity of the uncertainty to increase. In this way we maintain our ignorance. We ignore that our delusions of control do not work and are the source of our suffering.

If all life is, is a continuum of the unique experience of uncertainty in each moment, there would be no redemption and no such thing as spirituality. This is not the case because within our suffering there is always a delusion that we are holding onto. When we surrender our control of this delusion we are able to consider possibilities beyond those of our delusion, and when we relax our attitude in this way something beyond the outcomes that our delusion of control predicts manifests. (There is always this cause and effect relationship. This is one of the proofs that spirituality exists.) The tension of our uncertainty is therefore constantly teaching us how to recognize our control issues, and experience a reality beyond our delusions. This is the path of our redemption. It doesn’t matter what religion we belong to we must all redeem our delusions.

Notice that in Cafe News, Volume 2 the dissatisfaction that is felt indicates what is causing the suffering. Mostly, I just sit around, wishing for some life other than the one I have.  Wishing something external would change me into what I want to be. . . . I always told myself I was a cut above the rest.  Unfortunately, this is true.  I am clearly capable of achieving absolutely exceptional examples of self-deception. We know when we are deceiving ourselves we even know how we are doing it. We always feel it. We try to avoid our feelings of self-deception but this only causes our suffering to intensify because it is only more self-deception, and we know it. Even our attempts at self-honesty are deceptive: Basically, I’ve come to realize I’m full of shit. Rather than using this honesty to redeem ourselves we find a way to diminish it and sustain what we are ignoring: Not that it matters, because everyone is.

We feel all of this because we have awareness of all of this. We have feelings of how we are maintaining our state of self-deception in every moment. This awareness of our self-deception is something that we are always aware of even in our dreams at night as Cafe News describes so eloquently. Correspondingly, we always know when we are being honest with ourselves. Always. Just as our self-deception happens incrementally, builds on itself, and becomes habitual, self-honesty can grow from the seemingly insignificant honesty of identifying what we feel (How we deepen what we know is true). In this state of honesty we can then also identify what our reaction to what we are feeling is, what our preconception is about that feeling, and then evaluate the validity of our reactions and preconceptions. This is all included in what Eckhart Tolle relates [The Power of Now (pp. 1-2)].

Ultimately it is important for us to develop our self-honesty in order to understand what it was that sparked us to develop our patterns of self-deception in the first place. This is necessary in order to completely redeem ourselves and establish a new behavior pattern. I will relate a personal experience of this in the next post (Self-deception and Redemption, a True Story).

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

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Spiritual Conflict Resolution

Posted on November 2, 2009. Filed under: How Spirituality Works | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Over the weekend I heard part of a Fresh Air interview by Terry Gross of David Rohde (broadcast, transcript) on NPR  that was rebroadcast from last Tuesday. David Rohde is a NYT reporter that was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for 7 months before he escaped (blogs about: Politics, Religion, and Family, Suz says: Read This, Therearenosunglasses, Open Doors, Loosen Chains, Stranger’s Words, What Motivates the Taliban, Sylvia’s Journal, David Rohde’s series on being held by the Taliban, Held by the Taliban). Things I found remarkable about his story were how well he was treated by his captors, and the discussions that he had with them.

At the end of the Fresh Air interview Terry Gross asked Rohde about how to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan:

‘GROSS: My impression is that you don’t like to give opinions about policy. You want to report of not being an opinion person. But I am wondering how this experience changed your sense of what’s going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and what the U.S. might do – I mean, and what the U.S. can do and what maybe it can’t do.

Mr. ROHDE: I think the vital thing remains to empower moderate Afghans and Pakistanis to confront this threat. I mean, Americans can’t solve these problems. We also can’t just sort of walk away from the region. One of the main things that shouldn’t happen, I think – I mean, is to -you know, the United States and moderate Muslims cannot sort of cede Islam to the Taliban. I mean, the Islam they practiced that I saw, you know, is a just completely distorted version of the religion. And they shouldn’t be allowed to sort of portray themselves as the true defenders of that faith.

I mean, constant statements and reactions I had from Afghan and Pakistani friends was we’re so sorry you were kidnapped. You know, kidnapping civilians, you know, and sending suicide bombers into mosques, you know, that is not jihad. That is not Islam. And so it’s vital to sort of, you know, for the United States to remain committed in the region, but to let, you know, Afghans and Pakistanis to take the lead in confronting this problem politically and militarily and in other ways. And another big take away was the sense that corruption is just a cancer on particularly the Afghan government, but also the Pakistani government.

The Taliban sort of promise rule of law and a lack of corruption among local police and officials, and that’s, in a sense, why they’re popular in some areas. I think average Afghans just want for stability and an effective government, and whoever produces that, in the sense, will win their loyalties. And again, I – there is a base. A vast majority of Afghans and Pakistanis are moderates. It’s not too late to stabilize both countries, but it is going to take time. And I – you know, I think a tremendous amount of training and support to the Afghans, who – and Pakistanis who so desperately oppose the Taliban, as well.’

This is a very valid and important concept that demonstrates the spiritual approach to conflict resolution.

I was once conducting interviews and collecting footage for a documentary (that I never finished) to compare religious and spiritual concepts and perceptions. Actually that is not really honest. What I was really trying to do with the documentary was to expose how beliefs are too rigid and inflexible to be wide enough and open enough to include the spirituality of the interconnected Universe. At this time I attended a press conference that the Dalai Lama gave. (blogs about the Dalai Lama: Nonduality blog, Burma Review, Culture Broker’s Musings, A critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Mr S N Goenka, Violence and Fearlessness, Losing my religion, China censors beyond its borders) Rather than speaking about any political agenda that he might have, the Dalai Lama took it as an opportunity to speak to the press about the way that news is presented and broadcast in our time. He tried to teach the assembled press how to cover the news more spiritually. He said it was understandable that when some shocking event takes place that the press needs to report it but they also need to report the motivation for the shocking behavior so that there can be understanding. He said that it was this understanding is what is needed to develop the correct response to the shocking behavior. Since it is the motivation that causes the shocking behavior, that behavior cannot be controlled until what motivated it has been addressed. He pointed out that there is a lack of media coverage of the motivation behind shocking behavior, and this deprived the general public from developing needed understanding. He also made it quite clear that profit driven news cycles that only go from one shocking event to the next without ever reporting on motivation created a public appetite for this kind of stimulation that actually prevents the understanding necessary to actually resolve conflict from ever developing. The Dalai Lama gave that press conference in the early 90’s, before suicide bombers and 9/11.

When what motivates a conflict is not understood the conflict cannot be resolved. Conflicts that are not resolved worsen until the issues behind the conflict are dealt with.

When the motivations of the support of the Taliban that David Rohde articulates are examined, it is clear that some of these motivations are based on misconceptions and a lack of understanding. The obvious question is how can the misunderstanding be addressed. Mr. Rohde gives at least part of that answer in his response to Terri Gross. He points out that much of the misunderstanding that exists within the forces that support the Taliban is based on religious misinterpretations of the spiritual teaching of Islam. Although he does not make the point in this interview Mr. Rohde alludes to the fact that because folks that hold extreme religious points of view interpret everything in terms of their own religious framework it is not possible for those outside those religious beliefs to address them. A religious extremist that is Christian interprets information in the context of their Christian beliefs. A Muslim religious extremist does the same thing. When we interpret information only in our religious terms it becomes easier to marginalize those that do not share our religious views.

This is the reason that religious extremists do not listen to those who are outside their religions. Religious extremism puts everything into religious context and anyone that does not understand that context and is unable to speak in that understanding is marginalized as not important enough for their opinion to matter. A Christian that believes that abortion is murder and therefore condones the murder of doctors that perform abortions has a religious framework of thought that is used to justify the murder of these doctors. In order to alter this justification it is necessary to communicate in the terms of the framework of the Christian belief. Only people that practice the same religion can speak to spiritual misinterpretations within a religion. Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu can speak to a lack of Christian spirituality in Christian religious extremism and have a validity that those who are not Christian or religious cannot.

(blogs about Jimmy Carter: Hey The South, Come Join The Rest Of Us In 2009, Voting and Christian Citizenship, Listen to your Elders, O Solo Mama, Patrick Buchanan is an Idiot-Part 2, )

(recent blogs about Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Either/Or, Freemuse, All Saints, MCC Church, Aung San Suu Kyi, What is wrong with the church?, The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Program)

In dealing with religious extremism and violence the value of validating what more spiritually oriented members of religions have to say has been overlooked. David Rohde says there is a need for these religious moderates to take the lead in confronting religious extremism in their own religions. I point out that among those that are called moderates are people that have a more developed spiritual concept of religion. I feel it is a spiritual duty to confront the spiritual corruption of the religions that we participate in for if those who have spiritual insight do not confront religious extremism in our own religions, no one else can and continued escalation of violence is inevitable.

Just as  vocal Americans are demonstrating that the views of extremists like Rush Limbaugh (Sarah Palin says, “Twick or Tweat”, The Problem, As I See It, Limbaugh Plays Politics With War Dead) and Dick Cheney (Telling Dick Cheney to Shut the Hell Up, Cheney Displays All the Integrity of a Gutter Rat, Build your bunker) are not the true voice of America. It is possible to combat the violence that is justified within religious extremism by increasing the scope of those who speak from those religions with a deeper spiritual understanding.

The interconnectedness of all things is real. Conflict resolution begins from within. It cannot be forced from an exterior source because there is no outside force that is greater than that which connects us. To deny this connection with each other is therefore a self-destructive act because when we deny our connection with each other we are ultimately denying a part of ourselves. Expanding the awareness of our interconnectedness is the key to dealing with our self-destructive tendencies. Using more moderate spiritual voices to address those of  religious extremism within the same religion is an example of how to promote change from within.

It’s not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.

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