Prayer—How to Conquer the World

trio

by Michael Maciel

Alexander the Great once said that anyone who can concentrate on one thing for three minutes could conquer the world. He would know. Anyone who has ever attempted to see a vision to fruition knows that nothing saps effectiveness like inconsistent thinking. Those who know what they want tend to get it. Nothing metaphysical about that.

Imagine what would happen if you sat down once a day and held a single thought for three minutes straight—not a static thought, not the repetition of a statement, like an affirmation, but a living thought, one that you actively think about. For example, instead of repeating a phrase, such as “let there be world peace,” you actually entertain the concept of world peace. You think about what world peace would look like, what it would feel like, and what the overall effects of world peace would be.

worldSuch a visualization—or vision—would have a profound effect on your mood, would it not? And what is your mood but your vibration, your statement to the world? It would be like saying, “I SAY that there IS world peace.” You don’t say that there will be world peace, because the only feeling that produces is a feeling of hope, and hoping never changed anything. But when people turn themselves into broadcasting stations, pumping out the vision of world peace with all of its feeling and descriptions of what it would look like, then that has power. That has the ability to change the way people think and believe.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know that big changes happen in your life as a result of something that changes the way you see the world, right? People experience that all the time. Big changes don’t come because of new ideas, but because of new perspectives. They happen when people see the same old world through new eyes. And people who walk around with new eyes firmly in place have a tremendous effect on those around them. Their vision becomes contagious. And visions that become contagious have a name. They’re called MOVEMENTS.

Prayer is our statement to the world. It’s what we tell reality to be. The world, by its very nature, is plastic—it molds itself to our thoughts. If you doubt this, look at the world and ask yourself whose thoughts are you looking at? Whose worldview are you seeing? What beliefs have shaped the world you live in? When you go to work, who created the mindset of that environment? And what effect does that mindset have on the way you experience your job? We’re talking about real things here, not some quack ideas.

When we see prayer as our statement to the world, we begin to take it seriously. One meme currently circulating through the Internet is that prayer is not enough. Rightly so, especially if prayer is defined as petitioning a non-existent god, or simply expressing one’s hopes and wishes. Hopes and wishes never accomplish anything. But major changes in the world come about as a result of visions, visions that become contagious and then become a movement. And what is a movement if not a statement, a collective statement powered by consistent thought?

blossomBut, it all begins with you. Your first job is to hold the vision; your second job is to speak that vision into reality. You talk about it, and you broadcast it mentally out into the greater mind of your community. Like a cell phone, you connect with other people through the network—the higher network of MIND.

The more established a vision is in mind, the easier it is for people to talk about it openly, and the harder it is for opposing visions to appear credible, to be blindly accepted as the way things are. Your statement, your speaking your vision into the world, telling it what it’s going to be, changes the way things “are,” because mass-assumptions support prevailing conditions. Undermine a mass-assumption, and people begin to ask questions. If your vision is already in place, it will be the first thing they see when they start to imagine alternatives.

VictoryBe the alternative. Don’t just lament the problems of the world—actions without vision never succeed. Hold the vision, speak the vision, radiate the vision. Invest it with your feeling. And what is the most powerful feeling known to humanity? Victory. It’s the feeling of victory. It’s the feeling you have when justice prevails, when goodness prevails, when compassion and empathy prevails, along with the desire to heal the world and not just wait for it to end. The survival instinct is the most powerful instinct we have. As human beings—as spiritual beings—we have the ability to raise that instinct up, so that it’s not just an individual concern, but one that encompasses the entire planet and every living thing upon it.

Be a spiritual being.

guardian

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Science is inching towards a theory of universal consciousness:

by Michael Maciel

Scientists have come up with a new theory of consciousness, the CEMI field theory. (See the link below.) Publishing his theory in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness, Professor Johnjoe McFadden posits that consciousness is in fact the brain’s energy field. This theory could pave the way toward the development of conscious AI, enabling robots to be aware and have the ability to think.

This theory is fascinating but at the same time feels desperate. Not that it isn’t true, just that it’s not true enough. It illustrates the long-standing battle between the bottom-up theorists and the top-down theorists—those who favor complexity arising out of the primordial and those who favor the primordial “reaching” for a pre-existing field of intelligence.

As I’m sure you’re aware, mystics have known about the magnetic field generated by the human body (and all life forms) forever. They just used different names for it. This new theory seems to fall short in that it doesn’t take into account (at least not in this article) the fact that electromagnetic fields are everywhere and at all scales. Knowing this, why would it be hard to conclude complex interactions between them? And not just interactions but induction—one field, more complex and more potentialized, affecting and even forming another?

We already know that the brain is mostly a reducing valve designed to make sense of an infinitely large dataset, meaning in this case the intricate matrix of electromagnetic information the universe is awash in. Most of what we call “us” is entirely and perhaps irretrievably below the threshold of our awareness, such as the autonomic functions of our bodies. Thank God for that! If I had to consciously control my metabolism or my calcium balance, I’d be dead in seconds. 

Mystics have always said that consciousness is universal and that the body is a result of it, not the other way around. This CEMI field theory seems like a preliminary step in that direction.

Researcher proposes new theory of consciousness

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Find Victory in Failure

UFC 207: Nunes v Rousey

by Michael Maciel

Most of us are trying to make something of our lives. We have values, and we want to realize those values in our living—to make them real, to manifest them in the world. Having values is the same as saying that your life is oriented towards the good—the ideal you envision for yourself, your family, and for the society you live in. It’s the same because it’s impossible to want anything unless you value it. “Where your treasure [value] is, there will your heart [desire] be also.” The heart wants what the mind deems worthy.

We define setbacks in our life as those instances where we fail to reach our goals. We miss an opportunity, we reach but fall short, or we fail to meet an expectation, either of others or our own. This is the source of our anxiety—the ever-present possibility of failure. This fear is simultaneously our nemesis and our strongest ally, because it keeps us alert, and it goads us to try our best in all of our endeavors. But when our anxiety supersedes our desire to succeed, we take fewer risks. We cease trying. We tend to hunker down in the safety of the known, the tried and true. Too much fear stops us moving forward altogether. And since life never stands still, it leaves us behind, until we are cut off from our own vitality and die. In the face of our greatest challenges, it is fear that we need to conquer—“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”—not some external foe, real or imagined.

No one is perfect. “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” This is the number-one reason why Jesus told us not to judge. “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” If you are a person of good will, you naturally want to do your best to expunge the world of evil. And evil is everywhere! But it’s not so easy to reconcile our own evil, the malevolence we carry around in our hearts, the desire to correct the extraordinary evil in others. We would do anything to eliminate the atrocities we see on an everyday basis. We might, if given the chance, murder those who commit them, because our zeal to do good can easily flip and become its own kind of atrocity.

Recognizing that we ourselves are capable of doing evil is in itself a horrendous failure. That’s why we don’t go there. We don’t sit with our evil propensities and acknowledge their existence, because to do so would show us that we aren’t good at all, at least not as good as we pretend to be. So we try to bury it, we keep it under lock and key, like Pandora’s Box hidden away in the cellar of our psyche. But what we conceal in darkness has its way of oozing through the cracks, and we find ourselves doing strange things that we cannot control, things that we believe only strangers are capable of committing. And when we do them, we become strangers to ourselves. And that, dear friend, is our downfall. It’s when we surprise ourselves with our capacity to do evil that our lives are upended, sometimes catastrophically.

So, imagine what power there might be in getting to know the contents of the darker corners of our hearts, to go into each contest, whether external or internal, knowing that the evils we hate have already taken up residence within us. In fact, they have been there so long that we can hardly regard them as other. On the one hand, knowing that we can just as easily be bad as good can make us more compassionate. We’re not as quick to condemn others because we’ve “been there.” But, on the other hand, since knowing this about ourselves is a failure in itself, we might want to simply give up, to write off the whole human endeavor, to see the world as hopelessly flawed and unworthy of our efforts to change it, since we ourselves are the problem we seek to solve.

This, however, is the greatest failure of all. It’s what keeps good people doing nothing, because there’s no better way to psyche out your opponent than to get inside his head and make him doubt himself. And those who are unabashedly evil-minded do not hesitate to do that every chance they get—to make you feel guilty, shameful, inept, and powerless.

True heroes, however, already know that about themselves and enter the battle anyway. In a way, they know they don’t have anything to lose and are therefore the most dangerous. They have no badges of honor to defend, no purity to preserve, no inviolable standards to uphold, because they know that they have themselves violated all these values. They themselves have been untrue. They themselves have done the evil they seek to overthrow. Honestly accepting this eliminates any pretense in the combat.

This is what makes the wounded warrior a formidable foe.

If you are serious about doing good in the world, understand one thing: there is no virtue in naïveté. None. It does not give you strength. It doesn’t make you pure. It doesn’t mean that you are better than the evildoers you hate. It only means that you are naive. And realize this, too: If you are hellbent for justice, you are potentially the most hateful, malicious, and genocidal person in town. History is full of such do-gooders. And millions have died as a result of their self-righteous schemes to set other people straight. Don’t be one of them. Not on any scale.

Let’s call it the vehemence of justice. Its tools are the flaming social-media posts, the student rallies at universities, the riots of tear gas, rocks, and broken glass, and, finally, the guillotine, the firing squad, the forced marches, and the death camps—all in the name of righting wrongs, of casting out the beams from the eyes of others, of ridding the world of evil. What we repress, we project. And God help those upon whom we project the things we are unwilling to look at within ourselves!

Justice—real justice—never froths at the mouth. Real justice knows how to restrain itself, to make the punishment fit the crime, not gouge out the eyes of those who only knocked out a few teeth. Real justice doesn’t force anyone to do anything but instead deals with the present moment without imposing a utopian vision that only has room for conformists.

“Judge not that ye be not judged” doesn’t mean to let everything slide. It means
stop condemning other people for displaying in broad daylight the things you are hiding in the dark. Stop that. Stop it now. If you see something you don’t like, something you wish other people would do differently, imagine yourself in their shoes. Chances are that if you do, they will fit your feet perfectly.

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The Problem with Really Smart People

by Michael Maciel

I once knew a man, brilliant and highly educated, who was also a spiritual teacher, and a good one, but he tried to tell me that God created Adam out of the dust of the earth – literally. His reasoning was that “God can do anything.” He also believed that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, a white cloud surrounded her and poof – Jesus was born. No labor, no pain, no placenta, nothing. Just a ready-made baby magically in her arms, as though she had no vagina. And this man, so smart, so educated, so knowledgeable about so many things, taught his students (who were also well-educated) that this is how these things happened. And they believed him.

Here is something that I have noticed: the smarter a person is, whenever they embrace God, they throw rationality out of the window and cozy up to the most superstitious, childlike forms of religion they can find. As though faith and reason were antithetical to each other. In the face of the unexplainable, they opt for a laws of physics-defying miracle.

You have to admit that some of the smartest people in the world are atheists. At least eighty-five percent of the world’s scientists are. And they have good reason to be, given the stranglehold that the Church had on free thought only three hundred years ago. I would be a little over-reactive, too, wouldn’t you? But why is it that when those few, for whom the numinous overtakes in a moment of spiritual breakthrough, suddenly throw all of their hard-earned science out the window and adopt this golden book form of religion? Can they not at least try to integrate the two?

Neil deGrasse Tyson pits reason against revelation, as though the two were mutually exclusive, when in reality you cannot have one without the other. Reason alone leads to the belief that complexity arises from the simple; revelation proclaims that it comes from above, that complexity asserts itself on matter and forms it into aliveness. Revelation says that perfection precedes the rudimentary, that matter struggles to realize the multi-faceted range of its own unformed potential. Reason tries to explain away that potential by saying that the whole thing is just random, like a pinball trying to find the hole at the bottom. But, you cannot have a coherent theory of reality without first discovering how these two aspects of mind, reason and revelation, work together. Bad-mouthing one out of defense of the other is simply a bad marriage.

To the moon, Alice!

In all fairness, Tyson’s view of “revelation” IS superstition. But, that’s his problem. He points out that Islam lost its preeminence in science in the Twelfth Century when an imam declared that mathematics was the “work of the devil.” Up until that time, Baghdad was the scientific and cultural center of the world. But now, not so much. Tyson, along with much of the rest of the scientific community, mistakenly equates revelation with anti-intellectualism. Such a shame.

Revelation is, by definition, information from the universal mind. But if you stubbornly insist that consciousness is unique to the human brain and is the product thereof, you are…well, how shall I put it? Stupid. Why stupid? Because everywhere you look, either in the super-microcosmic world of quantum physics to the ultra-macrocosmic world of galactic super clusters, all you see is intelligence in action. And it’s all connected. If that’s not the very definition of universal mind, I don’t know what is. And yet scientists say that it all “just happens.”

Superstition knows no bounds. It’s not solely the affliction of fundamentalists. It occurs whenever and wherever we get too defensive of our own take on things. It’s rare to find a person who can integrate reason with revelation without making a complete fool of themselves. Of course, the remedy is simply admitting that we don’t know. But saying, “I don’t know” is vastly different from saying, “I CAN’T know.” Revelation makes knowing possible. Reason is the process of making sure we’re not just seeing what we want to see.

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Whose Truth Is True?

sphinx

by Michael Maciel

We live in an age of relativism. Once it was discovered that any experience can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways, all beliefs in “universal truths” were dismissed as irrelevant. Context became the sole determinator of meaning. What’s more, any attempt to assert a universal truth became merely a way to dominate others. Truth systems began to be seen as tools of the oppressor. Religion became the “opiate of the masses” designed to make them more controllable. The old value systems were thrown out and people were left to formulate their own values. Welcome to the 21st Century.

One of the most misinterpreted quotes in history is Nietzsche’s “God is dead.” This wasn’t a victory cry; it was a warning. He predicted almost fifty years in advance that relativistic thinking would dominate Western philosophy, and he was right. He also predicted that the result of such thinking would result in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. In this, he was also right, because Marxist Ideology (and its offspring, Postmodernism) would decimate the world with two global wars, the Maoist Revolution, and Stalin’s genocidal purge of Soviet Russia. Millions of people—hundreds of millions—died!

Nietzsche’s prediction prompted the poet, Yeats, to proclaim:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And to Yeats’ question, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” the answer is clear: postmodern, relativistic, truth-less thinking.

The Postmodernist’s rationale seems to suggest that there are an infinite number of word combinations, therefore none of them can be privileged over any others. But not all combinations have meaning, and of those that do have meaning, not all of them are meaning-ful.

So, when I hear otherwise spiritually intelligent people try to equate various spiritual philosophies in the name of “fairness” or egalitarianism, I have to say something, because I know that they have come under the sway of relativistic, postmodern thinking. And what I have to say is this:

In the science of spiritual development, there are certain rules and methods that have been proven—over vast periods of time—to work. These rules and methods are used in every spiritual discipline, regardless of religion or locale:

Attention
Concentration
Meditation
Contemplation
Realization

These DO NOT vary and they are always taught in the order listed here. They are so fundamental that they can easily apply to almost any other discipline as well, such as archery or music.

During the process of learning these skills, certain experiences will inevitably occur. These, too, are universal and come in a definite order. They are referred to as “initiations.” But they’re not the type of initiations commonly used in fraternities or Masonic Lodges. They are not merely rites of passage.

The initiations I’m talking about are transition points from one evolutionary stage of consciousness to another.

They are as solid and predictable as the bodily changes we go through—losing our baby teeth, going through puberty, reaching the age of majority, becoming an adult, etc. Just as every human being goes through these stages of development, so does every person on the spiritual path go through a definite series of initiations, known to mystics as “The Way.”

These transition events can only occur when a person is ready, but the skills listed above hasten the process of development (along with learning to overcome challenges, studying sacred symbols and texts, and developing a sensitivity to the sacred and to the arts).

As an example of what these transitions look like, the first is when a person suddenly feels that the world he is accustomed to living in is somehow false, that there is something more to it, that what she perceives with her five senses is but the veneer of a deeper reality. This is the experience that sets people on the spiritual path.

If you have read my description of these things this far, you have almost certainly experienced this first initiation. However, it’s not too difficult to find people in your life who have not. Many people are strict scientific materialists and regard this kind of discussion as inherently meaningless.

Other transition events follow. The next is traditionally called “The First Threshold” where the seeker begins to venture into the world beyond the senses. This world “calls” to him. There, he or she will experience phenomena that will attest to the reality of this strange new world. In mystic circles, these phenomena are called the “illumination” and “Self-realization.” They are the direct encounter with the light of life and the underlying oneness of all Creation.

But before the aspirant crosses this threshold, there is a point of resistance—a dweller—which is the mundane part of his consciousness that tries to persuade him not to go any further. In mythology, this dweller is depicted in many forms, but always as a demon of some sort or a dragon, which must be overcome. It’s a universal archetype. In reality, the dweller is not a being but our own mind that resists losing itself to something greater than itself.

After this comes the Second Threshold. The aspirant has seen the true nature of her being but has not yet integrated it into her personality. Therefore, she feels like two people—a rather schizophrenic condition. There is “me” and then there is the “real me.” Since she still has the worldly patterns of thought within her, she will then enter into a period of purification, a trial by fire whereby the new consciousness will emerge out of the old (the Phoenix motif). But in the meantime, she will suffer greatly. Many who enter this stage will experience a terrible depression called the “dark night of the soul.” It is the great darkness before the dawn that always comes at this point in the process of spiritual awakening.

This process is as old as humanity itself. It has left its footprints in the symbolism and mythologies of the most ancient civilizations. From the Sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid to the caves of the Greek Mystery Schools, the theme of death and rebirth repeats itself, echoing the Mystery of the Sun and its diurnal cycle of death and renewal and its rebirth out of the three days of darkness at the Winter Solstice. Everywhere the cycle is represented, from a seed dying so that new life can emerge from the chaos of the soil to the mysteries of gestation and birth. All point to the same archetypal experience, beginning with the call to venture into the unknown—enduring trials and the ultimate death of the old self—and culminating in the victory of resurrection into the light. It has always been and will always be the same path—the Path of Initiation, the Hero’s Journey, The Way.

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Right Action in the Time of Coronavirus

coronavirus_1000x413

by Michael Maciel

The problem with being a future-oriented society is that when the future disappears, everything falls apart. Our horizons have been too broad and too far-flung. It’s time to bring them closer to home. Because when we use the future (which is always fictitious) to anchor our reality, and it is suddenly obliterated, not just by changing into something different but by being replaced altogether by uncertainty, we lose direction. And that can be unsettling if not downright disturbing.

Now is the time to practice mindfulness, but in a way that’s a little different from the way we might practice it in meditation. By bringing our horizons closer in, so that our future is no more than a day or two out, we can focus on what needs to be done right now.

We all have a certain amount of chaos in our lives, but we manage to put off fixing it by constantly focusing on the future. We have goals, and they are usually long-term. Now those goals have…disappeared. And we don’t know how to live without them. 

Ever notice how young parents can be too distracted to be in the present moment with their kids? It’s because they have goals. Big goals. Important goals. And those goals rob them of the most precious years of their life. Now we’re in a time where there are no goals. Goals have been preempted by a huge cloud of uncertainty. For many of us, the farthest out we can see is fourteen days. After that, who knows? Maybe another fourteen? 

Being overly future-oriented has its dubious payoffs. It allows us to falsely prioritize. Instead of tending to the things right under our nose, we put them off, because there are much more important things to attend to. Even if we’re not actually doing anything concrete to realize our goals, we justify putting off the small stuff by believing that if we don’t stay focused on the future, it will drift away from us, as though thinking about it holds it in place. That’s called magical thinking.

Having goals isn’t the problem. Having goals that are just beyond our horizon is. We need to bring our horizons in. Way in. What am I going to do today? What has to be done by tomorrow? That’s it. That’s as far as our concerns should extend right now. Why? Because no one knows what lies beyond that. But we do know what needs attention right now.

Our lives are a continual balancing act between order and chaos. We work and plan as a way of projecting order into our world, so that we can feel confident that our actions will produce predictable results. Our actions, then, become our prayers. We tailor them to produce the world we want to live in. This is how we speak order into chaos, just as God did in the beginning when He spoke into the formless void and brought a habitable world into being. Our actions are our Word. 

There is a Zen saying: “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” Just as having a well-defined long-term goal can positively affect the way we take care of the little things, so can the way we take care of the little things positively affect how our future will turn out. There are two reasons for this. One is practical and understandable. The other is profoundly esoteric. Let’s take the first one:

As we attend to problems as they arise, we prevent them from accumulating beyond our ability to control. If we fail to attend to them now, they will overwhelm us in the future. Procrastination sets in. We worry — a lot. We get depressed, and our ability to respond to the exigencies of our lives deteriorates. If we ignore our problems long enough, they will sink us, sometimes catastrophically. 

Problems are the evils we face everyday. There are enough of them, big and small, to completely occupy our attention. Unless, of course, we’re too busy thinking about the problems that might occur in the future. Those problems are fictitious. They haven’t happened yet. They might not ever happen. But we spend more time worrying about those than the real ones lying at our feet. 

When Jesus told his followers not to worry about tomorrow, he wasn’t telling them how to be hippies. He wasn’t telling them not to plan for the future. He said, “Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof.” He was telling them that if they attended to everyday problems as they arose, the future would be a far better place to live in when it arrived. But if they did not attend to the everyday problems as they arose, the future would likely be a living hell. 

Now for the esoteric part of this: We are not born a blank slate, but…we live into one. There is no fate. The future is not written in stone, or, as Lawrence of Arabia said, “Nothing is written.” We write our futures as we live. Our actions are our prayers. If we speak order into our lives now, the order we create will extend into the future, and the future will take care of itself.

How do we implement this? Since most of us are in isolation right now, due to the public health crisis, we have the time and the stage upon which to conduct our experiment. Our home is like a miniature solar system. It is in constant flux, and as conditions change, so do its needs. All we have to do is ask ourselves, “What needs to be done today?” Our home will tell us, if we listen. Maybe the refrigerator needs to be emptied and cleaned. Maybe we need to order food from Amazon. Maybe we need to call a family member or friend. Whatever it is, it is a bit of chaos that needs to be put in order. Chaotic conditions—unattended problems—make us vulnerable.

Sufficient unto the day are the problems thereof. Don’t allow yourself to get obsessed with speculations about the future as a way to avoid what needs to be done now.

By bringing our horizons in and living consciously in the present moment, we live in a state of continual preparedness. When conditions change suddenly and unpredictably, we will be as ready as we can be, which is better than feeling crushed by regrets. And, most importantly, when we order our present, we simultaneously order our future. The developer of the Alexander Method, F. Matthias Alexander, said, “People do not decide their futures; they decide their habits, and their habits decide their futures.” Get in the habit of attending to real needs as they present themselves. Bring your horizons in. Way in.

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What Is Truth?

pilot and jesus

by Michael Maciel

If we blanketly assume that our favorite beliefs are true, then we’re no better than the average fundamentalist. And being convinced that we have the corner on the market in the reality department renders us completely incapable of thinking critically.

It’s tempting to slide into fundamentalism when we are confronted with injustice, which the world seems to offer up in a mandatory, all-you-can-eat buffet. When we see injustice, we just want it to stop. And we’re not too interested in figuring out WHY it’s happening. All we know is that something has gone terribly off the rails and that lots of innocent people are suffering because of it.

But, both Buddhism and Christianity have said that suffering is what we can expect. The fundamental truth of reality, Buddha asserts, is that all life is suffering, and Jesus voluntarily submitting to torture and death on the Cross reiterates that claim in excruciating detail. His voluntary submission to that ordeal was a dramatic restatement of the Buddhist ideal of the “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.”

As an archetype, the Crucifixion represents the worst possible thing happening to the best possible person—a limit case, as it were. Jesus has done nothing wrong, and yet he suffers betrayal, condemnation, and a record-breaking, messy death. The message is clear: we will all suffer and die, regardless of what we do. The best option we have in the face of life’s brutality is to bear up under it nobly and with an unwavering commitment to the highest ideal we can conceive.

However, the immediacy of the problem of injustice warrants immediate action, or so it seems. But, the sheer amount of the world’s suffering elicits more of an emotional reaction than rational analysis. All we know is that something has to be done NOW—we can talk about it later. So, we fly into action before we really know what the problem is. We want to fix the effect without understanding its cause. Therefore, we are more likely to make the problem worse than make it better.

All too often, our vehement response to injustice and suffering is little more than an attempt to refute what Buddha and Jesus told us—a message simply too bleak to accept. But, we, in our techno-pride, think that we can fix the evils of the world and bring about a Heaven on Earth—a utopian dream where everyone is equal and deserves to have as much prosperity as anyone else, where we should all contribute as much as we can and only take what we absolutely need. The drawback of this utopian vision is that not everyone will agree on it, nor will they ever. The only way utopia is possible, then, is to kill everyone who disagrees with its version of the Truth. Dissent, and you die.

Acquiring real truth, therefore, depends on a diversity of opinions, a plurality of worldviews, and an open society in which they can contend with each other in the public forum, without the threat of retaliatory violence. The irony is that both sides believe they’re right, while at the same time, they share essentially the same values as their opponents. We all want a better world, one in which we suffer the least and achieve the most; we want to belong, but we also want to excel—to go where no one has gone before; we want to fit in, and yet we want to stand out.

The tension within this opposition will create an environment where both sides will be compelled to question their own assumptions about reality and begin to imagine alternatives, perhaps even the alternative presented by the other side.

Faith isn’t believing that something is true, it’s believing that there is such a thing as truth and that that truth will always be more than our mind can comprehend. Yes, you can believe in truth without knowing what it is. That’s faith. And, living in that space, anything is possible. We begin to see the world not as an assortment of things but as an infinite field of creative possibilities—eternal life.

It would be foolish to say that we make up the truth as we go along. If that were true, then hell would be just as accessible as heaven, depending on how much mind control we possess. But having mind control includes being free of rule-bound, fundamentalist thinking. If science has taught us anything, it’s that reality is in a constant state of flux, that matter is actually bounded energy in continuous motion, and that nothing is solid at all. If we are to meet reality on its terms, we’re going to have to be flexible in our expectations.

A large part of our experience of reality occurs in our connections with each other, also by the way we intuitively know that at some level we all share the same mind. We are social beings, meaning, in a sense, that together we comprise one organism and that our minds have evolved as individualized extensions of it. We know this because connection sustains us but isolation makes us crazy. To deny another’s viewpoint is to sever your connection with him. You don’t have to agree with what he believes but you DO have to respect it—respect it for its own sake—because eventually your turn will come, and you will want precedence to work in your favor.

The connection between us is analogous to the brain and its billions of neurons, all of which have a distinct existence but live together in vast networks. Some say that it’s our connections that facilitate consciousness by means of their networks—no network, no consciousness. But, this is not to say that consciousness is the product of neural networking in the brain—no one really knows that for sure. But whether those networks act as a generator of mind or an antenna to receive it, reality seems to show up in and through our internal and external network connections. And if it’s reality we’re talking about, those connections are everywhere.

If this is true, it puts to rest the idea of “your truth, my truth,” which is a popular notion these days. I’m proposing a different model: Truth emerges. It comes from what opens up when we talk with each other about our differences. The tension between our polar oppositions forces open the door of possibility, and new solutions present themselves, solutions that could not have come any other way. Therefore, we should never try to eliminate diversity of opinion, lest we close the doors of opportunity on everyone. Stifle one person and you stifle everyone, including yourself.

It does no good to talk about “oneness” without first acknowledging and honoring differences. Any attempt at oneness made without first respecting the other can only be a zero-sum game. Someone will have to die. That was the lesson we were supposed to learn at the end of the Second World War, the lessons of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Both were attempting to create a utopia—one based on racial superiority and the other on social equity. They were different in their approaches but identical in their methods—they killed everyone who dared to criticize the utopian party line. In a world that demands that everyone be the same, those who are different must be eliminated.

So, it’s important that we understand the nature of truth. It emerges, it unfolds, it is always expanding beyond our capacity to understand it. What is it expanding into? Itself. As the poet, T.S. Elliot said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

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Gift of Light to the Planet Earth

 

As a gift to our planet, do the following visualization:

1. Close your eyes. Sit quietly in a chair with your hands in your lap. Take three
deep breaths through your nose and relax. Quiet your mind. Allow your thinking
to slow down; let your thoughts pass by. Raise your arms slightly and turn your
palms to face up. Place your attention on your palms. Your palms will begin to
tingle.

2. Now imagine each palm holding a ball of light. Be still, keeping your attention on
these two balls of light that you are holding. The light will feel like it’s growing,
getting brighter. Sit this way for a few moments.

3. Take three slow, deep breaths through your nose.

4. With your hands still facing upwards, imagine the planet earth is floating in front
of you between your hands. See the thin shell of the atmosphere, complete with
clouds and weather patterns. See the colors of the land and the sea.

5. Very slowly rotate your hands to face each other, with the planet earth still
floating between them. Now raise your hands just a few inches, with the earth
staying between them. See the balls of light that radiate from your palms begin to
merge into one light. You also see that the planet earth is now completely covered
with light.

6. Note that our ideas about space and size are very different than God’s. The
Creator is everywhere so for It the idea of size does not exist. So what you are
seeing is real. It IS the Earth.

7. Now as a gift to the planet earth and to all of the beings residing upon it, imagine
them receiving this light radiating from your palms into their hearts and the cells
of their bodies. See them relaxed and at peace. Poised and balanced. Sit for a few
minutes in silence imagining this.

8. Take three slow, deep breaths through your nose.

9. Surround yourself to a distance of 2 to 3 feet with the light that is radiating in
front of you so that you are now sitting in the center of a ball of light. Draw all of
the light and the Earth into your heart.

10. Take three slow, deep breaths through your nose. You are now poised and
balanced. Open your eyes.

 

“There is no great and no small to the Mind that maketh all.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Karma

justice

by Michael Maciel

Our bodies are hundreds of millions of years old. We’re like walking repositories of the history of the evolution of life on this planet. Wouldn’t it make sense that many, if not all, of our deepest most ingrained beliefs are the products of that evolution?
Take the belief in karma, for example. What is it that makes us believe that if we do something wrong that we will have to pay for it at some point in the future? And I don’t mean believe it cognitively, but believe it in our bones, believe it precognitively as an existential fact. This goes beyond words and concepts.
The feeling comes from deep in our brain, from the part that predates our prefrontal cortex, back before we could even think. Or perhaps it stems from early tribal taboos, or maybe it’s part of the fabric of Being itself, woven into us when we were first created. Wherever it comes from, it seems to be an integral part of the way we relate to each other. Because if we see ourselves as products of our past deeds, we will certainly see others in the same way.
If we believe (and by “believe,” I mean hold as a precognitive presupposition) that the universe somehow judges us according to how well or how poorly we have lived our lives, we will surely think that of others. If we’re doing well, we will feel like we deserve it, but if we’re doing badly, we will see it as the universe’s way of punishing us for our sins. Then, when we see others who are suffering, we will believe that they deserve it, too.
But what happens when we don’t believe in karma? What happens when we believe that the universe is random and that whether we’re doing well or poorly, it’s only by chance? If we think like this, then we have no choice but to believe that no matter what we do, our actions will have no effect on how our lives turn out. We will have neither the incentive nor the desire to do good. And if, God forbid, we suffer a life-changing malady, how could we not fall into the deepest depression? How could we not believe that our disability was for nothing? And how could we not grow resentful, not only because of our condition but towards life itself?
But this kind of nihilistic attitude towards life is one that we have to talk ourselves into. We have to override the millions of years of genetic programming we carry with us in our body. We have to deliberately ignore our feelings and proceed with life as though they didn’t exist. And if they are, in fact, part of reality itself woven into us from the beginning, then denying them separates us from our very nature and from the world. By deadening one part of our being, we corrupt all of it, and those parts we still love, such as our intelligence, our intuition, and our ability to love, begin to fail, and life for us turns into a living hell.
It makes perfect sense that whatever connects us with the whole, whatever prompts us to cooperate with life, to further its evolutionary explorations, that this would constitute the Good, and that whatever separates us from ourselves also separates us from each other and from nature, taking us out of step with life, which is what causes us to suffer.
So don’t get suckered into believing that life is meaningless and that there are no universal truths. There is absolutely no evidence that that’s the case. In fact, everything that we have observed about life shows us that the universe is filled with intelligence and is motivated by love.
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The Problem of Polarization

politicians and cowboys

by Michael Maciel

The problem of polarization is probably THE problem of our age, so it’s really important to understand the underlying causes of why we’re at each other’s throats. And in typical fashion, we all tend to exteriorize our problems, projecting out onto the world and each other the unresolved conflicts within ourselves.
 
We all seem to have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong with other people and so little understanding of what’s wrong with ourselves, preferring to think that we’re basically okay but that those we disagree with are fundamentally flawed in some way. But, when we’re honest with ourselves, the reason people bother us so much is that they stir up the demons inside us, and we don’t know what to do about those, so we project them onto others and then try to deal with them out there.
 
The way out of this dilemma is to get past this idea of otherness and realize that we ARE that other person. They are the embodiment of the things within us that we haven’t figured out yet. And it’s not that those things are evil, necessarily, because we don’t know that. It’s far more likely that they are simply those things that are foreign to us — part of us but foreign — and that can be extremely upsetting.
 
This means that getting to know the other person is supremely important, especially those who bother us profoundly. It’s those profound disturbances within us, the ones that defy our understanding, that are being roused by the person who has either figured them out for themselves or who are farther along in the process of discovery than we are. Instead of a threat, that person is really our lifeline to wholeness, IF we allow them to be that.
 
The old aphorism is true: my enemy is my teacher. In order to fix the world, then, we have to become better students.
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