How to Achieve Inner Stability –mastering mindfulness

Quieting the monkey mind is key to achieving inner stability.

Imagine the most peaceful state you have ever been in. Perhaps it was sitting on a beach while on vacation, far away from pressing concerns of work and daily routines. Vacations are wonderful because everyone grants their permission for you to be absent. What would it be like if you could grant yourself that permission once or twice a day, whether at work, at the dinner table, in bed with your favorite person? If you could do that, really do it, it would be like sitting on that beach.

A quiet mind usually comes spontaneously when you’re least expecting it. Perhaps your body reaches a moment of homeostasis and your brain shifts into neutral. For a brief time, you experience the no-thought state. Did you notice that it was just your thoughts that stopped and not your awareness? Losing awareness is called unconsciousness. Your thoughts stopping is called mindfulness.

When Buddha’s students asked him, “What are you?” He answered them, “I am awake!” To be fully awake, you cannot be thinking. Thoughts take you out of wakefulness. The second you start to think, mindfulness stops. Mindfulness and being awake! are the same thing. Achieving this level of awareness puts you immediately into the flow state.

Imagine that—having the ability to enter the flow state at will!

This is not as difficult as you might think. Many years ago, I was taking TaeKwonDo lessons at a prestigious school led by a 7th-degree blackbelt who had twice been the national champion of South Korea. This guy was the real deal. Whenever I had to spar with him, believe me, I was IN THE MOMENT. No thoughts were coming in. My attention was focused 100% on him. “Eye—always look eye!” as Mr. Myagi would say in Karate Kid. Nothing stabilizes your attention like an intense confrontation.

Many years before that, I was an alpine ski racer. Same thing. Pushing out of the starting gate, all thoughts left my mind. Only focused awareness. No thinking. All of the thinking had already been done during course inspection—here’s where I’m going to initiate my turn, here’s where I’m getting into my tuck position, here’s where I’m going to take a high line. But during the race, no thinking, only awareness of the snow under my skis and going as fast as possible.

The difference between awareness and thinking is that awareness is being present to what’s happening and thinking is thinking about what’s happening. Two different things. One is mindfulness, the other is not. One puts you into the flow state and the other pulls you out of it.

Does this mean we never have to think? Of course not. We have to plan our lives. But once our plans are made, executing them requires being in the moment. The better our plans, the better able we can enter the flow state. If something comes up that’s inconsistent with our plans, then and only then do we start thinking. We adjust. We pivot. We plan again.

This also doesn’t mean that we can never let our minds run free. Have a delightful conversation. Tell jokes. Speculate about the markets with a co-worker. Daydream. All of these are the stuff of an interesting, enjoyable life. But when Mr. 7th-degree blackbelt shows up, you better be on your game! Get in the moment. FAST. And to do that, you will have to start practicing. Like, now.

Here’s how you do it.

Pick a time when you are most relaxed. Relaxation is very important in this. Maybe on a Sunday morning when you don’t have to get out of bed. Your day hasn’t started yet, so you haven’t started planning. You haven’t started thinking. Get a sense of the room and then close your eyes. Pick a spot on the wall or the foot of your bed and fix your gaze upon it through your eyelids. Feel the spatial dimension between you and it.

Next, deliberately make yourself stop thinking. As Patanjali said, “Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of the mind-stuff.” The keyword here is “intentional.” YOU have to do it. Your thoughts aren’t going to stop themselves. Is this difficult? It can be. But if your timing is right and you practice it often enough, it gets easier. A lot easier. Pick those times when you are most relaxed and slip into it.

The most important thing to remember is that mindfulness is about awareness, and to be aware, you have to be aware of something. There are other states of mind where you turn awareness back upon itself, where you empty it of all content. But that’s a different exercise. In this practice, we’re interested in the application of awareness, how to use it to stabilize your mind so that you can fully engage with your life.

The more you do this, the easier it will get, and you will soon be able to call upon it on demand. You will be able to enter the flow state at will.

– Michael Maciel, The Urban Mystic

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We Are Vertical Beings

by Michael Maciel

In the earliest stages of the human embryo, one of the first things to form is the spinal cord. When you look at it under a microscope, it’s like a lightning bolt—a squiggly little burst of energy not unlike the tail of a sperm cell with all of its intensity and purpose. 

This is the power of LIFE! Who knows where it comes from. It just seems to appear out of nowhere, as though it spurts out of a tiny wormhole, out of another dimension. All of a sudden, it’s just there, ignited by the Divine Spark!

The Divine Spark

I have a camper van. I call it the Sagecoach. It has a catalytic heater that runs off of propane, and it comes in real handy on cold desert nights. This little heater has three main components: a “blanket” impregnated with platinum, a fuel source (propane), and a spark igniter. I open the gas valve and press the igniter button and a spark lights up the gas. The only flame is the pilot light that gets it going. After a minute or two, the blanket starts to glow red and a wonderful radiant heat warms up everything it lands on. It’s like sitting in front of a fireplace. I really love it. 

The interesting thing about it is the way it produces heat. It pulls oxygen out of the air, which chemically interacts with the platinum in the blanket. Don’t ask me how, but the chemical reaction produces a surprising amount of heat. Somehow, the elements involved know exactly what to do. They have a built-in intelligence. But the elements themselves can’t do anything without the spark. The spark is the initiator. Without it, nothing happens. The elements just sit there—inert —waiting for the word, my word, to ignite it.

That word is GO! 

This word seems to come straight down out of the heaven worlds. It hits us right in our solar plexus, and from there shoots straight out of us into the world of matter. But by itself, it doesn’t do anything. All it does is get things going. It says, “GO,” and the impetus of it causes the intelligence inherent in matter to spring into life. Matter already knows what to do. The energy to do it is already wrapped up inside of it ready to spring into action. But it can do nothing until the Word tells it WHAT to do.

This is what the Taoists mean when they say we do by not doing. All we do is say the Word, and the thing to which we speak it takes it from there. It’s not our power. It’s just our word. We say GO and it goes. No effort, just the Word. 

The Magician

The Magician in Key 1 of the Major Arcana of the Tarot holds a wand up to heaven while he points to the earth. The Four Elements of Creation are lying on the altar in front of him. The wand is hollow, signifying that power comes through it, not from it. The four elements symbolize the intelligence inherent within matter. They are not substances but principles. 

The wand symbolizes thought. Our thought. It’s directed at heaven and to earth—not at the material elements but to the intelligence within them. When theologians say that God is omniscient (all-knowing), it’s this inherent intelligence that they are referring to. But they’ve been saying this for so long that they’ve forgotten what it means. They think it means that God sees everything, as though he were separate from matter and looking at it from a distance. It would be more correct to say that God sees himself from the inside out. 

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

But there’s an interesting thing about this intelligence. It knows how to do everything but it doesn’t know what to do or when. For that, it needs its Son—the conscious, directive intelligence that speaks the Word. The “Father” is the authority. He’s the structure—the ruler of the kingdom—which is just another way of saying how the Whole Thing is set up. 

The Father is Reality itself. The Son is the active, conscious agent that makes it all happen. If reality were a corporation, the company—its history, its mission, its board of directors, and its by-laws—would be the Father. The Son would be its CEO. 

The CEO runs the business, but he or she has to do it within the scope of the by-laws and the needs of the stockholders, the customers, his employees, and (if he’s socially responsible) the needs of the environment. His purpose is to execute the will of the company—its mission—which was the determining factor in how the company was set up. 

The energy or “spirit” of the company—its vitality, its attentiveness and responsiveness to the market it serves (its cash flow and profitability), and the motivational verve that runs through everyone involved—is the Holy Spirit. 

The philosophy behind this explication is that God is everywhere. Everywhere, including within matter itself. He/She/It is in my catalytic heater, in The Magician Key of the Tarot, and in the legal structure of corporations. Everywhere. Especially in YOU. 

Top-down, Bottom-up

Reality is a top-down and bottom-up affair. It is the original vertical integration model, which is why in Judaism they say, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE.” One, not two, not three. However, if we consider the triune nature of how reality works, then the Holy Trinity starts to make sense, too. The Thing Itself, How It Works, and What It Does. (Holmes)

It’s the “bottom-up” part of this equation that places Man at the center of it all. We are the directive intelligence. God knows how to do everything. We know the what. This is why God created us. As Meister Eckhart said, “God needs me.” Also, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” Reality is an inside-out affair, and WE are at the center of it. 

As with the Magician of the Tarot, the CEO of a corporation, and the igniter in my catalytic heater, as long as our intention is within the scope of the ONE THING, whatever we choose—and ask for—is granted to us. As I like to say: God’s will is that we get our prayers answered. That’s it in a nutshell. As long as we do it in the spirit of God, our prayers will be answered. They have to be, because that’s how the Whole Thing is set up. It’s how it works. And WE are the agency by which it happens. 

Our Divine Human Nature

That’s our nature. That’s why we were created. That’s why Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Jesus is our elder brother, which implies that we are Jesus, too. “Jesus” is the human part of us, Christ is the Divine in each and every one of us. God is within us, not somewhere up in the sky directing our lives from afar. The only law is “Thy Word shall not return unto thee void.” That’s it. What we do with that is the learning curve. 

Welcome to Earth.

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For more like this, visit The Urban Mystic. Be sure to subscribe!

Interested in taking classes? Check out the Holy Order of MANS website.

Are you in need of healing or interested in becoming a healer? See Spiritual Matters with Mark Earlix and Spirit Gate with Suzanne Clegg.

For a deep dive into Kabbalistic Symbolism, visit Gates of Light by Margot Whitney.

LINKS:

The Urban Mystic

YouTube – The Mystical Christ

YouTube – Lectures and Interviews

Patreon


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What Is the Soul?

by Michael Maciel

There are lots of computer analogies for the way we experience reality—hardware, software, RAM, ROM, WiFi. They’re all descriptive of how we function both physically and spiritually.

The one I like is “cloud computing.” When I write, I use Google Drive, which saves my drafts as I write them. There isn’t even a save button. It just saves everything instantaneously and automatically. It’s great. That way, whether I’m on my computer at home or on my phone while I’m out and about, I can access my documents right where I left off. My words exist independently of the device I happen to be using at the moment.

Google Drive is, however, linked to my Google account. I cannot access anyone else’s documents without knowing their password. My account is mine and no one else’s. In this way, I “own” it, even though it’s actually Google that owns it. But Google has given me exclusive rights to my account, even though they mine the data from it for their own purposes, but that’s another analogy.

Think of the way psychics are able to access people by knowing only their name and their birthday. The way I see it, they have at least a couple of things that enable them to do this. One, they have a connection with the network provided by the person giving them that information about the person in question. And two, they have a broader connection with the entire human database, which is what makes them psychic, right? So, with this minimal baseline, they can reduce the degree of separation to zero and hone in on what’s going on with that person. I have witnessed this kind of thing firsthand too many times to doubt its authenticity.

No matter what we call it, the soul is that which functions similarly to the way the “cloud” functions. No matter where we are or what kind of vehicle we are inhabiting, our soul maintains its connection with us. It has all of our data, all of the information that comprises who we are as a personality and an individual. And not just for this lifetime or even multiple lifetimes, but also for those parts of us that transcend us as individuals, such as our biology, our physiology, and our anatomy. These really don’t belong to us, since they were here long before we showed up.

But they do belong to the human race. After all, no matter which continent you were born on, you have the same biology as everyone else, fundamentally speaking. Human Being is pretty much the same wherever or whenever it occurs. That information, the data that makes that sameness a reality, can’t possibly be restricted to physical DNA. There are simply too many permutations taking place all the time. No, there has to be a source code, and that code has to exist in much the same way that the cloud exists—non-locally, non-physically, and non-temporally. This non-local aspect of soul is why religions call it eternal and divine.

The way I’m describing this doesn’t mean that it’s true or accurate. But it is logical to assume that in order for us to survive the multiple transitions we experience, not just in terms of reincarnation but also the way our cells are constantly recycling and replacing themselves, there has to be a source code. There has to be a blueprint, a template, a configuration, and an operating system that exists independently of us, one that we tune into with our own unique “password” and that informs both who we are as an individual and who we are as a member of our species.

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For more like this, visit The Urban Mystic. Be sure to subscribe!

Interested in taking classes? Check out the Holy Order of MANS website.

Are you in need of healing or interested in becoming a healer? See Spiritual Matters with Mark Earlix and Spirit Gate with Suzanne Clegg.

For a deep dive into Kabbalistic Symbolism, visit Gates of Light by Margot Whitney.

LINKS:

The Urban Mystic

YouTube – The Mystical Christ

YouTube – Lectures and Interviews

Patreon

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Logic and the Non-Rational

by Michael Maciel

Logic is a tool, a very, very powerful tool. But if you make it your only tool, then it limits the scope of your understanding. It would be like a carpenter whose only tool is a hammer. You’d be great at nailing 2X4s together but terrible at cutting pieces to fit.

By restricting your understanding to logic, you’re depriving yourself of other powerful tools, such as imagination, parallel thinking, and symbolic representation.

Imagination: We have to be able to imagine the logically impossible. And not just imagine it, as in fantasy, but to hold it as a real possibility. Examples: anti-gravity, ESP (extrasensory perception), NDE (near-death experiences), and paranormal phenomena.

For instance, in order to delve into these logically impossible phenomena, we have to reject the logical assumption that consciousness is a product of the brain. But the only proof we have that consciousness is primary and the brain secondary is anecdotal. There are some convincing studies that have bordered on the empirical, but nothing conclusive so far.

Parallel thinking: This is the ability to spot similar patterns in unrelated fields of inquiry. It’s illogical, for instance, to compare ancient Hindu Philosophy to modern physics in any meaningful way. And yet, there are strong indications that parallels do exist (see physicist David Bohm’s book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order).

Symbolic representation: It’s impossible to overstate the importance of symbolism in the development of consciousness throughout the millennia. Out of alchemy came chemistry, out of astrology came astronomy, and out of mythology came psychology (see Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces).

Perhaps one of the most powerful analytical tools employed in psychology is dream interpretation—totally illogical but extremely accurate.

Example: A close friend of mine recently went through a tough breakup. She dreamed that she took some household items that she and her ex had shared out to the dumpster. When she got there, the three blue dumpsters in the alley were badly damaged, as though something heavy had been dropped on them.

Her analyst came up with this: you’re blue, you’re crushed, and you’ve been dumped. It was also the third time that this had happened.

The subconscious (or unconscious) is the mind’s supercomputer. Its primary vehicles are dreams, music, and art. It doesn’t use language. It uses images and symbols. Its logic is vastly more intricate than anything the conscious mind can comprehend, but to the conscious mind, the presentations of the subconscious are irrational and illogical, due to the fact, perhaps, that it uses the subcortical parts of the brain, its deepest and oldest regions. The neural connections in the cerebellum, for instance, far outnumber those in the cortex. These subcortical regions are much older, evolutionarily speaking, and are capable of utilizing memories that go all the way back to the dawn of life itself, passed down in an unbroken chain of genetic information..

To rely solely on the rational mind would be like trying to walk on one leg. It’s like day with no night, hot without cold, perception without reflection. The conscious mind deals in facts. The subconscious deals in meaning. The conscious mind sees layout. The subconscious mind sees patterns. The conscious mind sees the immediate—what is. The subconscious mind sees what has been and what is possible. The two work together. Either, without the other, is lame and blind. 

There are mental and spiritual exercises designed to develop both our rational and non-rational faculties. Soon, I will be launching my online course, Spiritual Exercises That Work. I will let you know when it goes live!

Michael Maciel

For more on this, read Carl Jung’s, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. Also, Iain McGilchrist’s, The Master and His Emissary–the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, the latest science on the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Also, subscribe to The Urban Mystic on Substack.

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Who’s to Blame?

by Michael Maciel

The evil of the world doesn’t fall out of the sky. It falls out of our back pockets.

Lent is the time for everyone to take responsibility for their own sins, not strap them on a scapegoat.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.”

This is not the time to blame others. It’s the time to come clean with ourselves. We MUST ask, what is MY part in all of this? What in me is contributing to the evil?

Unless we do this (and what better time to do it than Lent?) all of our thoughts and prayers do no good whatsoever. Nada. Zip.

When Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” wouldn’t that mean acknowledging the evil in ourselves? Isn’t that in keeping with “we are all one”?

What it doesn’t mean is doubling down on condemning the evil “out there.” Nope. That’s hypocrisy. That’s projection. That’s spiritual bypassing. We don’t become more spiritual by condemning others.

Lent is an inward time for us all. If Christ (the Son/Sun of God) is to rise from the dead (our ignorant, hateful, prejudiced selves), then we’re going to have to do better. Way better.

“Love your enemies” means nothing if we fail to recognize that our enemies are of “our own households.” They are not “out there.” Spiritual maturity begins with this awful truth.

It’s only when we are at peace with ourselves that there will be peace in the world. It’s what we hate about ourselves that creates wars and genocides.

The question then is, “how do we love the evil?” Both in ourselves and in the world. That’s a hard one. Hard but not impossible. It begins with how you define “love.” It doesn’t mean inclusion. We’re not talking about some kind of spiritual “multiculturalism” here. It’s about integration.

This is the great secret of spiritual work. How to integrate dark with light. Spoiler alert: neither obliterates the other. (Yin Yang, anyone?) It’s not easy, it’s not simple—it’s necessary. 

Want to know more? Check out my YouTube channel

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Aggression

by Michael Maciel

The word “aggression” has earned a bad reputation. It has been equated with “the intention to do harm.” But it also has a positive aspect. It is rooted in our will to survive, to achieve, to excel. In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, it is the essential nature of the Victory sephiroth. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is the words of Krishna to Arjuna as they are about to engage the battlefield. It is pivotal in Christ’s encounter with Satan in the desert and in Buddha’s faceoff with Mara at the moment of his enlightenment. 

My sports background centers around alpine ski racing and motorsports (car and motorcycle racing). In ski racing, especially in the downhill event where speeds can exceed 70 mph, it’s just you, the mountain, and the laws of physics. It’s unbelievably intimidating. People have died in this event. It can be, as they say, as serious as a heart attack.

This is an interesting figure of speech because it takes heart—courage—and unless you attack the course, it attacks you. And it will destroy you if you let it get the upper hand. You’re trying to defeat the other racers by going faster than they do, but your immediate opponents are fear, lack of confidence, and the limitations of your skills. A defensive skier won’t do well. He or she MUST go on the attack. But it’s a skillful attack—measured and competent. Anything else leads to disaster.

In spiritual symbolism, aggression is represented by the Sword—a weapon. And as it is with all weapons, it should never be drawn if one is not willing to use it. Swords are not defensive weapons. Those who fail to recognize this die by them. 

So, as a symbol, the sword represents an unconflicted commitment. In Kabbalistic terms, it is “the will to do.” Within its meaning is the understanding that action is both constructive and destructive—two-edged. In alchemical terms, it is “Solvae et coagulae”—to dissolve and reconstitute. And in speech, it is “yes” and “no”—not casual speech but speech as in your word. It must be resolute, “even unto death.” 

In other words, what are you willing to die for? What is more important to you than your physical safety? Unless you know what that is, your life will be ineffectual. At the crucial moment, your hesitancy will bring failure. There is either full-on engagement with life’s obstacles or the patient waiting for the right moment, the right place, and the right resources. Either way, it must always be action, never reaction.

And as Sri Ramakrishna said, “Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.” This might sound like desperation, but picture it—if your access to the pond was obstructed by a crowd of people, how polite would you be as you made your way to it? This resonates with Jesus’ saying, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” If you put anything between you and God, you will never find God.

It takes courage, perseverance, and a kind of ruthlessness to pierce the veil of matter, to slay your illusions when you meet them “in the road.” 


For more like this, visit The Urban Mystic. Be sure to subscribe!

Interested in taking classes? Check out the Holy Order of MANS website.

Are you in need of healing or interested in becoming a healer? See Spiritual Matters with Mark Earlix and Spirit Gate with Suzanne Clegg.

For a deep dive into Kabbalistic Symbolism, visit Gates of Light by Margot Whitney.

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Raw Mysticism

by Michael Maciel

You’ve heard the story. The young fish asks the wise old fish, “What is water?” It’s meant to make us ask the same question: in what do we live, move, and have our being?”

The Bible tells us that it’s God.

But what is THAT?

Whatever it is, it is IN us and all around us. Even in the cells of our bodies. It sustains us at our deepest level of being. 

Here’s a way to access the FEELING of this.

Imagine you’re staring into a giant eye, one like ours with an iris and a pupil, and you approach it, as though in a dream, and you go into the pupil until you are surrounded by its awareness, suffused by it until there is nothing left but that awareness. 

No thought, no judgment, just pure awareness. 

(I like to picture the Eye (I) behind me. I don’t move “into” it as much as I back into it.)

Until it becomes ALL THERE IS.

And like a wind (perhaps a hurricane?) it sweeps us clean. No thought, no beliefs, no identity. Just pure awareness. 

The mind rebels. How can I function in such a place??? 

The answer is to function FROM that place, not in it. The world needs you. You have to be able to do what you do HERE. 

But your spirit draws its beingness from there, not here. It’s like fuel. It’s like the place behind your forehead, the driver’s seat we all imagine ourselves to be in. Only IT is powering the car. All we do is tell it when to go, when to stop, and in which direction. 

That’s all. 

Since we can’t meditate while we drive, we have to “go into our closet” to do this. Alone. In a safe environment. No distractions. Completely surrendering to it. After a while, it replaces our sense of self. We begin to realize that what/who we are is way bigger than anything we can comprehend.

Like the ocean for the young fish. 

The “self” is replaced with the Self. We begin to realize that we are at once insignificant and hugely significant, depending on whether we identify with an eye or the act of SEEING.

Reality is not a thing. Reality is a LIVING BEING. Reality is nothing if not alive.

Usefulness?

Whatever the Self—the Eye (I)—looks at grows. It emerges into reality, becomes more real. It manifests. It drops out of the ideational into the physical. Mind becomes matter. It doesn’t create new matter, it just re-forms what’s already there. It pushes it in the direction of the idea that captures our attention. 

But the idea always presents itself as a story. We are storytellers. Facts aren’t enough. They only have meaning within a story. That’s how we role…uh, roll.

The raw awareness of the Eye (I) gets translated into a story. That’s what we are—translators. Storytellers. We create stories out of the wholecloth of awareness. Awareness guided by attention.

Creative storytelling. That’s what we DO. What we ARE is pure awareness. And the best stories come from that place. They don’t get bogged down in the plot. Or the grammar. Or the names of the characters. 

Stories come to life when the characters come alive. And a good writer knows when to listen to her characters. 

They have a story, too.

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Faith is NOT belief. Here’s why:

by Michael Maciel

Faith is actually a technical term and has nothing at all to do with belief. Let me give an example:

Robert Heinlein once wrote a novel called “Orphans of the Sky,” in which a huge, cylindrical spaceship was sent to a distant star system light-years away.

Being cylindrical, there were “upper decks” and “lower” decks. “Up” was towards the central axis of the ship and “down” was towards the outer walls—the bulkhead.

The trip was to last hundreds of years, meaning that entire generations of passengers would live out their lives before the ship would reach its final destination. The knowledge of their mission was handed down from generation to generation, and a kind of religion formed around the narrative. When someone died, for instance, they were said to have “made the trip.”

But an insurrection occurred, and all the intelligentsia were killed. The insurrectionists retreated to the upper decks while the general population remained below. The decks in between were no-man-lands.

I’m painting a picture here of the background of the story so that two relevant points regarding faith can hopefully become obvious.

What began as a quasi-religion became a full-blown superstition as the original knowledge of the ship’s mission was lost over time. Everyone forgot that they were on a spaceship traveling to a distant star. Instead, they came to believe that the interior of the ship was the full extent of reality. The upper decks were mythic regions of mortal danger, and the bulkhead—the last barrier between the lowest deck and outer space wasn’t a “bulkhead,” it was simply the end of reality.

The question as to what was beyond the bulkhead did not exist in the minds of the passengers. As a concept, it was simply inconceivable. There was no frame of reference for it to arise in their thinking. The question itself did not, in fact, could not exist in their collective consciousness.

The hero of the story wanders into the upper decks and is captured by the descendants of the original insurrectionists who know the true nature of the ship and where it is in space. They have access to the observation deck at the far end of the cylinder, so their concept of space far exceeds the spatial awareness of the passengers below who have no windows and thus no perspective.

The insurrectionists decide to “initiate” their captive to the reality of the ship and its mission by taking him to the observation deck. When he sees for the first time the immensity of outer space, which is not only spatially greater than the cramped quarters he grew up in but conceptually greater as well.

The experience overwhelms him. His head spins, he becomes violently nauseous and comes close to going insane. But eventually, he acclimatizes and begins to grasp the true nature of reality.

Now, here’s the metaphor. Where in your life is there a “bulkhead”? What for you is simply the “end of reality”? Logic alone would demand that there is such a limit to your understanding. The physicist, Arthur Eddington, said, “The universe is not only stranger than we think, it’s stranger than we CAN think.” Today’s physicists are coming face-to-face with that conundrum. What they’re seeing goes against all conceptions of reality as we know it. But they’re starting to prod and poke the bulkhead and little by little, points of light are beginning to appear.

They’re starting to suspect that consciousness itself is not epiphenomenal to the brain but rather part of the fundamental structure of reality itself. It’s still a hypothesis but it’s a plausible hypothesis. They don’t know WHAT is on the other side of the bulkhead, but they do know that SOMETHING exists there. It HAS to. Everything they know points to that conclusion.

That “knowing” is faith.

Faith is the understanding that “what we don’t know what we don’t know” is a reality we cannot dismiss. It’s what lies beyond the circumference of our capacity to conceive. It’s the X-factor.

Now, the more sophisticated scientists, like Eddington, know this. It informs their thinking. And, it allows them to think outside of the box or, in this case, outside the circumference of human knowledge. But, they don’t teach this to their students—their acolytes—because they know that in order for these young minds to learn anything at all, they have to have a set of “knowns” that they can “believe” in. Otherwise, their entire pursuit of scientific knowledge would become unmoored. Thus, a hierarchy develops, a hierarchy of the initiated.

Science is no different from religion in this regard. In fact, they borrowed it from religion. Whenever we’re confronted with the unquestioning belief of a true believer, this is what we’re dealing with—the uninitiated understanding of a neophyte. For them, their beliefs are the solid ground they need in order to survive in a vast expanse of unknowable unknowns. 

And if we try to “enlighten” them, they have the same reaction as the hero of the lower decks in Orphans of the Sky. The cognitive dissonance would simply be more than they could tolerate. Their psyches would implode. The “truth” is literally a threat to their sanity, which is why true believers are willing to die for their beliefs. 

This dilemma, of course, exists on many different levels. We all have a system of beliefs that acts like a scaffolding upon which we can safely stand as we struggle to open up to greater and greater vistas of the real world. Our systems of beliefs can be sophisticated or they can be superstitions. What makes them one or the other is the humility of mind that allows for the X-factor. Knowing of the X-factor’s inevitable and omnipresent existence enables us to advance in our quest for knowledge in ways that certainty—about anything—cannot. 

The X-factor is and always will be greater than our minds can comprehend, just as Eddington stated. We can only regard it with awe, knowing that whatever more there is to life, reality, and the knowledge of such things can only come from there. It is, so to speak, the Source of All. Over time, if we are “faithful” to it—meaning that we always include the X-factor in our equations—the circumference of our tiny circle of understanding will grow, just as it has throughout the millennia of our existence. 

This, in a nutshell, is the logos of both science and religion, both of which, in the final analysis, are our attempts to find the true nature of reality itself. Both disciplines, when practiced intelligently, are our best hope of “making the trip.”

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Have a Mystical Christmas!


Virgin of The Lilies By William-Adolphe Bouguereau

by Michael Maciel

Christmas is the story about Christ being born within us, within each of us as individuals. It’s a personal event, not a cultural one. And it happens every year, each time making the event more real, each one of us experiencing it to the exact degree that we open up to it. 

This is the mystical meaning of the Christmas story. It’s not that Jesus wasn’t a real person or that he wasn’t hugely significant in the growth and evolution of everyone on the planet. It’s that the entire story is useless unless it also applies to you—Christ must be born in YOU if the story is to have a real effect in your life. 

Fortunately, we don’t have to understand the Christmas story to reap its benefits. Because it’s not really a story—it’s an experience. 

It’s not uncommon to hear a mystic say around this time of year that they feel pregnant. They sense another being growing inside of them—a personality, a spirit, a pure presence. And the relationship they have with that being is the same as an expectant mother has with the infant growing inside of her. Mother and unborn child get to know each other more and more the closer they get to term. So it is with the God Being growing inside you—IF you put your attention there. 

Mystics know the truth: every story about the life of Jesus Christ is actually a story about how we grow and evolve on the spiritual path. In the Christmas story, each one of us is Mary. Gabriel’s announcement resounds in the very core of our being. What we sense as the Christmas spirit is the joy, the awe, and the wonder that Mary felt when she received the Good News—Christ will be born in YOU. 

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What Can You Do for the World?

by Michael Maciel

Let’s say you’re a spiritual person. You believe in compassion. You believe that love is the most important quality anyone can have and that without it, nothing else really matters. You not only believe these things but you try to live them as much as you possibly can. And you meditate so that as you go about your life, you can be a source of peace in the world.

You’re firing on all cylinders. 

But then you turn on the news, or you go on Facebook, and you find yourself getting swept up in the drama of major events. It’s so upsetting. And before you know it, there goes your compassion, your love, and your peace—all of the things that made you feel spiritual. 

What do you do?

You’re tempted to drop out, to withdraw from contentious issues, to avoid conflict, and to only hang out with people who think like you. But this isn’t really dropping out, right? It’s retreating into a safe zone where conflict isn’t allowed. And you can tell it’s not really working because whenever someone says something that does produce conflict, you’re back to square one and all of your hard-won spirituality goes right out the window. 

So, you’re left with two choices. One, you can be more careful not to allow contentious people into your life, or two, you can turn away from the news and social media altogether. You might even retreat even further into yourself and become increasingly more isolated, which is easy these days in the lockdown era. If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we know that none of these things is going to happen. Maybe for a couple of days but then the urge to engage kicks in and overrides our best intentions. 

I’m sure you can see the dilemma here, can’t you?

The real question, then, is how to engage. But intuitively, you sense that anything you do from your safe zone is going to be neither spiritual nor effective, because you can’t love some people and not others, nor can you have compassion only for those who are like you. That’s not spiritual. And what good is peace if it’s only present when you’re in your safe zone with people who never question you?

In order to be in integrity with yourself and with God, you have to put your highest conception of the Good first in everything that you do. If it’s love, then you have to put love first. If compassion, then it comes first—in every situation. You don’t get the luxury of condemning people who don’t believe the same things you do. Why? Because your spirituality does not depend on your beliefs. It doesn’t even depend on what you do. It depends entirely on what you ARE. 

But, integrity comes with a price. 

You have to give up the drama. You have to give up belonging to your favorite group. Instead, ALL of humanity becomes your group, the group you identify with, regardless of what they believe or say. And that’s hard to do. It’s a huge sacrifice. You have to give up being right and start loving even those who you know for a certainty are wrong. 

Compassion? It’s not compassion if you’re feeling sorry for those poor, misled souls who don’t know any better. Condescension is not on the how-to-be-spiritual list. Instead, you have to give them the space to believe whatever they believe without breaking your connection with them. Believe me, they WILL notice because almost no one does that. 

Connection is the essence of spirituality. If you want to be a spiritual person, and you realize that you can’t simply retreat from the world and remain in integrity with yourself and God, then there’s only one thing you can do without separating yourself from others. You must remain connected with everyone you come in contact with. You have to know that they are a living human being just like you. They have a heart, they have feelings, they have things that are important to them. Just knowing that and giving them the space—in your heart and mind—to be who they are will guarantee your spiritual integrity.

That’s what the world needs right now—people with integrity. And if you can do that AND maintain a high level of spiritual consciousness, then you will be doing the most anyone can do for the world. 

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