Monday, September 29, 2008

A Satisfying Life Of the Mind

For some time now I have found my attention returning to the idea of “Weltschmerz”1 that I wrote about in a former blog entry in July of this year. I continue to feel a deep sense of empathy with many conditions present in our world. This was triggered again by word of the passing of a truly great human being of our time, Paul Newman. As reports were shared, not only about his acting, which he often felt was below the level of perfection he desired, but also his generosity in giving richly to many charitable causes, I found myself sadly missing his presence, as though he were a personal friend. I also felt a sense of general loss in that humanity often fails to comprehend the contributions so many make behind the scenes. I watched Casablanca the other night and found the same emotions surfacing as I thought about Bogart, Bergman and the other great actors in the film, all gone now. These people have enriched our lives—individually and collectively.

Today I received news from a list that I am on about a book by Kathleen Norris2. It was a review in the Seattle Times by Portland author, Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett. The word “acedia” was new to me, perhaps because, according to reviewer, it has been dropped from dictionaries. We may be more accustomed to the word “sloth,” which is a synonym most associated with the seven deadly sins of Christendom. Sloth suffocates a satisfying life of the mind or a sustaining spirituality. I like the definition given in Wikipedia: “Acedia is a Latin word, from Greek akedia, literally meaning ‘absence of caring’."

These two words: Weltschmerz and acedia came together for me. Feeling world pain can come about because a person recognizes there is an absence of caring in the minds of many on the planet. We tend to care when our needs are not met or we are personally challenged in some way. I believe that a satisfying life of the mind is developed as we begin to reconnect with our spirituality and notice the little things in our world. As we reach beyond our own needs, our vision will embrace the contributions made by so many people doing so many things to make our world better for everyone. Hopefully, this broader vision will also move us past the judgments we tend to make of others we feel fall short of what we expect of them. Finally, I must examine my own life of mind to make certain my thoughts are postive and supportive of the highest and best in myself and in others with whom I have interaction.

As the emotions of concern and positive caring surface in my daily experiences, I will remember the satisfying life of the mind that results as I give of myself wherever I am able and through whatever talents I may have to share.

1 Weltschmerz (VELT-shmerts): German, from Welt (world) and Schmerz (pain). It refers to world-weariness or sadness felt at observing the difference between physical reality and the ideal state.
2 Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life (Riverhead, 334 pp., $25.99).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Comment to Confluence of Coincidence

This comment exceeded the space allotment so I have posted it as a separate item.-- Dan

Yep, the 'coincidence' conversation is an interesting one. Here's my theory: I think that because on a fundamental level of existence we have the wiring that connects us to the vast fields of intelligence and information around us that we have unconscious access to incredible volumes of potential experiences and that we get 'clues' or 'signs' through what we call coincidences that tell us what our particular system is tuned to picking up. I mean, we usually pick up the signal of someone about to contact us or such because it has relevance and potentially can either improve our lives or give us a heads up.

Two stories. I have a friend whose father had been in a nursing home for many months. She had an intuition that her dad's friend Larry would die before he did. She had not heard of or seen Larry in years. Then, four months later, she read in an obit that Larry died and within a week her father took a sudden turn and died one week after Larry. She felt that even though she thought her dad would outlast Larry by several weeks, the intuition gave her enough time to prepare and get things in order.

Another friend had decided to close his business on Sept 15th but then, against his better judgment, decided to stay open until the end of the year. On Sept 15th we had a storm and all the power went out, forcing him to move all his produce to his other store. I said. " Yo dude, that's a memo!" But, after the lights came back on and he moved everything back, he got served with a 72 hour eviction notice because the building got sold and the new owners wanted him out. I call that one Brick To The Head Enlightenment. I do believe my friend will be more willing to act on his gut feelings henceforth.

Raven Dana, Life Coach
Stress Wizard Coaching
PO Box 32265Euclid, Ohio 44132

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Confluence of Coincidence

I am sure you have had an experience of several events happening almost simultaneously or close together that seem coincidental. For example, you may be thinking of someone and “out of the blue” they call you or drop by for a visit. Or maybe your friend starts to share a story with you and you acknowledge, “I had just been thinking about that, too!”

Such experiences are common and we often give them little thought after the fact. There are, however, other “coincidences” that offer the possibility of gaining greater insight regarding what is going on in our lives. As you regular readers will remember, I have been referring to several books I have read recently and sharing some of the insights they provided me. Today I was reading for the third time from a chapter in The Matter of Mind1 having to do with Karma. When I finished the chapter, I opened my email and had a nice item about Karma sent to me from a good friend. Just a “coincidence.” No need to give it any greater importance, one might think. Several days before as I randomly chose a chapter in the book it turned out to address another issue I had been thinking about. That led to connecting with a friend about the “coincidence.”

In The Matter of Mind Karma, as it appears in our life, is presented as an ego projection based on past experiences. (Simplified here.) We have built up a reservoir of experiences through lifetimes and our ego uses those experiences to form our responses to our current events. For example we may go through lifetimes of experiencing a relationship with someone, without consciously realizing it. Yet whenever we are around that person we get certain feelings about them, or seem to “remember” something about them that we know did not happen in this lifetime. This recall is Karma offering an opportunity to perhaps resolve some issue or complete some aspect of the relationship. It really is not coincidental that we have come together again. My belief system concludes that there are no coincidences, that everything is interrelated and is for a purpose. It is our responsibility to get beyond what appears to be the facts of a matter to the essence of the potential for creating a new reality. In short, we are to learn, to grow and to transform our lives.

As I was reading and thought about this, “coincidentally” a person I have known for quite some time came to mind. I am sure we have experienced other lifetimes together. He had what he considers a difficult childhood. His parents divorced and as a result he moved quite often and never got to establish the roots he wanted. As I observed his life in retrospect it seemed that it was unraveling in some ways. I wondered why that was occurring, since he had obvious skills and was very intelligent. Then it seemed to me that he had never seen himself as whole cloth. I felt he saw himself as loose threads, not yet woven into the potential that he knew was possible for his life. He felt disadvantaged by the influence of adults who made decisions he did not like. One could believe this was all an “accident” of fate. But is it really? Is it random coincidence that his particular life events came about or that he was involved with his particular family, friends and associates? Further, is it a coincidence that he came to my mind at this particular time?

One thing is certain, for me. The coincidences that appear in our lives do have a way of coming together with meaning. If we react to life as though it were happening to us instead of through us we will miss the opportunity for transformation. Also, if we choose to feel we are at the mercy of decisions others make, we have abdicated our responsibility to fulfill our own potential for change within those situations. Our ego, acting mainly out of past experience, will constantly find reasons to blame others or circumstances for our problems. This will never lift us beyond our limitations. People, conditions, and events are in our experience in order to provide us with the opportunity to see through any apparent limitations they present. Remember, Karma is seeing a projection from the past. It is overcome by seeing these projections as an opportunity to use our talents to transform the experience and bring about healing. As we get beyond feeling that circumstances are against us, we will see a confluence of opportunity, things are coming together to strengthen us and call forth from us the spiritual insight to see all things working together for our highest good.

1 The Matter of Mind, by Djwhal Khul through Kathlyn Kingdon, Light Technology Publishing

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Coming Home

As I prepared for a time of meditation almost instantly one of those inner dialogues that sometimes occur began to take place. I found myself talking, as though to an old friend, about how I felt I was like the Prodigal Son. I had wandered far from home and squandered my talents and my spiritual inheritance. My friend responded, “But, how?” I said that I now realized that while I thought that I was operating beyond the ego, in fact, my fear of success and my fear of failure were ego fears. I see now that thinking one is not egocentric is one of the first clues that one may be. It is not necessary to go into all the details surrounding that realization and I hasten to point out that I am not condemning myself for now seeing how things might have been different.

The question that came to the front of my awareness in this meditative dialogue was: “How do I get back home?” I can feel the open arms of Spirit welcoming me, but I am still far off. My feet are moving but the landscape passes so slowly. It is like walking on the mud flats as I did as a child gathering crawfish at night at low tide along the Columbia River. I fell that night, flat into the mud. I almost lost the crawfish I had collected. Then, I got up and returned on home. I have fallen a number of times in my life. So far I have managed to get up each time. I am not sure, however, that I always returned “home.”

When one comes to the realization that time appears to have been wasted and talents never quite fully expressed, all might seem lost. Certainly the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable felt that way. He found himself eating husks meant for the swine, wishing to be home if only to be a servant in his father’s house. What courage and resolve it took to pick himself up and return to the roots of his being. Of course, those familiar with the story know the ending was a joyous reunion and full welcome home. All that was lost was restored. (Luke 15)

In a sense the journey for all of us is that of “coming home.” As manifest in human form we seemed to have forgotten who we are. In Genesis 1:27 we read: “So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him.” Forgetting this source of our being is how we left home. Remembering it is how we return home. This creation does not mean that God looks like us! It means that our true nature is spirit and transcends the physical self. The ego is concerned with taking credit for satisfying the needs of the physical self. Our spiritual nature is concerned with the expression of God through our talents. God as Spirit is infinite. Man as Spirit is unlimited and free to express the fullness of God in health, happiness and abundance.

There are many individual applications of this concept of “coming home.” This week marks the greatest shock to Wall Street and the financial markets in recent history. It is still uncertain how it will ultimately be resolved. There is plenty of blame to go around, but affixing blame is no better than the dissipation and abuse of talents that created the mess in the first place. In this case perhaps the “coming home” will consist of replacing the greed and riotous living with a return to serving our fellow citizens. Rightly applied our talents are capable of providing abundance and well-being for all. When we fail to use our talents for the good of all persons, we ultimately we find ourselves losing all that we have.

Jesus instructed His disciples:

What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self? Or what can he give that will buy that self back? Mat. 16:26 NEB
The Prodigal took what he believed was his inheritance and left his family thinking he could do better on his own. Having never recognized the source of his wealth, it did not take long for it to be exhausted. Sometimes we cut ourselves off from our families because we think we can do better without them. I believe our fate will be the same until we remember that it is our connection to our spiritual and human family, our roots, that connects us with our true source of abundance—in love, support and encouragement.

So, I am reflecting on my talents and the Source from which they spring and I am seeking to return home to my true inheritance. I am looking to understand how I can better apply myself to making my world happier, more secure and peace-filled for all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oneness Vs Duality

This is one of those articles that started out in my mind quite clear and concise and became somewhat obfuscated in the attempt to put it into words. It was a toss up as to whether or not to post it. Obviously, I opted to put it out there for your consideration. I hope it finds a resonance that is meaningful to you.

I have watched people struggle with the concept of duality ever since I first considered the subject many years ago. This dichotomy of separation inserts itself into every aspect of our lives--our philosophy, psychology and religion--to the point where we have come to accept it as the reality of our experience. It is, in fact, the basis for our problems and coming to understand oneness will be the solution to those problems, whatever they may be. One path to the realization of oneness is through meditation. The form and focus of meditation has to be correctly based on a belief system that embraces the concept of all is one—God and God is All.

Samadhi1, mental concentration2 in the Buddhist tradition, has as its purpose the notion of expansion into enlightenment rather than for the purpose of contraction. Rather than “excluding” in focus, we “expand” our awareness to the interrelationship of all things – All That Is.

Baird Spalding, in The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East3 discusses duality in which he points out there really is no such thing as duality. We consider the familiar examples often cited, such as black/white; good/evil; up/down; positive/negative. They ARE opposites, but not separate. Would anyone argue that the heads and tails of a coin are separate? No, they are two sides of ONE coin. What about “positive” and “negative?” Positive what? Negative what? We are talking about two observations of the same thing, one points out the “down” side while the other points out the “up” side. We have thought this way for so long that we now believe duality is real.

As I began to reconsider these questions there was a “click” in my consciousness and I suddenly saw Oneness and duality in their raw, true nature! Separation in every way that we might conceive of it only points out the variety of aspects of Oneness. We exhort the notion of “God is All,” and then go on to try to explain all the events and conditions that do not seem to be part of God. It seems to me this is how we arrived at the concept of the devil. There had to be someone to “blame” for everything that is not like our God. It seemed unnatural to think of God as having any part of evil, so we constructed an “alter-ego-god” in whom we placed the bad characteristics.

Either God IS all or there is NO God at all. All That Is, IS!

How much simpler life is for us when we can attribute all that is bad in the world to some force opposing God, which force is constantly vying for our attention and for our souls. Under these conditions we do not have to accept responsibility for the things that go wrong in our lives. “The Devil made me do it!” No, it is quite another thing to recognize that God is All and that any understanding of God that is less than all good is due to our failure to recognize God-Presence/Essence in All and through All as All.

Mr. Spalding also shares an excellent example of how this fits together in Oneness. He mentions that a point when extended becomes a line. The line has opposite ends, but it is one line. If we connect the two ends we have a circle. There is no beginning or end to a circle and it is still a line that began as a point. We can continue this example thusly. If we spin the circle on its diameter, we produce a sphere. The sphere encompasses all, especially when you extend the circumference indefinitely.

Undoubtedly, some will ask, “But what about what lies outside the sphere?” The point is, there IS NO OUTSIDE THE SPHERE! It is our limited perception that fails to include everything as One by drawing the spherical circumference in the first place. As a very young child I can remember looking up at the sky, and influenced by the teaching of my Fundamentalist Sunday School that placed God “out there” in the heavens, wondered where the separation took place. Where did our sky end and God’s heaven begin? I imagined a fence of boards nailed together. We were on one side. God was on the other. It didn’t make sense then, and it sure doesn’t make sense now!

God has been defined as a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. Do you get the picture? Edwin Markham says it another way:

He drew a circle that shut me out —

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in.

Edwin Markham, "Outwitted", from The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)

With expanded vision we draw all persons and all that is into that increasingly larger sphere of All That Is! For some persons, I imagine, it will simply be too difficult to change from a belief in duality—good and evil, God and the devil. For those who can begin to change their understanding and recognize that there is One Presence, One Power--God only--their lives will change. By accepting responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, the condition of our consciousness will change for the better and our world will reflect that change in health, happiness and well-being.

1 Samadhi reference (paraphrased) from Baird Spalding in Vol 4, Chapter 3, Life and Teachings…
2 In Buddhism, samādhi (Pali; Skt.) is mental concentration. (From Wikipedia)
3 Life and Teachings, Vol. 4, Chapter 3

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Families and Societies

The following article was written and originally published in July 2006 in my former ezine, Whole Life Development. I was reviewing items I posted on my Author’s Den page ( ) and as I reread this article, it seemed just as appropriate today as when I wrote it, so I am offering it again.


I am somewhat amazed when I realize that an extended family is a kind of microcosm of society as a whole. Within the family there is diversity of interests, skills, talents and behavior, ranging from the creative and positive to the destructive and negative. What we find of interest and fulfilling or challenging in society, we might also find within our own families were we only to look. Indeed, society is but the reflection of our collective family units.

In a short few months I have progressed through the personal drama that is mirrored in the society in which I live. I have experienced the deep sorrows and emotions of loss, the relief of fears resolved and the exciting prospects of new adventures through the exercise of a regained sense of purpose and meaning. As I look at society I see these things every day. Certainly there is the struggle of sorrow and loss as we see the destruction of wars—between individuals as well as nations—and the personal loss of loved ones. Yet we also see within the process of overcoming the fears of loss a new courage and resolve emerging. Out of this resolve comes a new sense of purpose and meaning that empowers us to move forward rather than to stay bogged down in the loss or fear of loss.

Families experience struggles every day. Some are of little long-term consequence. Some have a deeper, more sinister effect upon us, often unknown to us consciously. A family with unhealthy and destructive tendencies imparts to their children through the very environment in the home a sense of fear and uncertainty. The reverse is also true when the home environment is truly positive and constructive. Children will often bury their fears deep within their psyche by expressing excessive bravado and recklessness. They demonstrate for all to see that they are strong and forceful persons with no fear by constantly subjecting themselves to unnecessary risks in their adventurous lives. Others may live timid, withdrawn existences, afraid to rock the boat or risk failure.

Any time there is a lack of mutual respect and support, an absence of constructive guidelines, or a tendency to express disdain for our neighbors, we set about the construction of separateness, arrogance and mistrust. Just as this is destructive to the family, it becomes a destructive contribution—by the family members—to the society in which they live. Instead of building a sense of belonging, a sense of togetherness, we build walls of separation, in our minds as well as physically. We see strong evidence of this today in the cry for building a fence to separate us physically from Mexico, our neighbor to our south. I am not making a “political” statement here, only an observation as to what can happen as we forget mutual respect, have few if any constructive guidelines (self-limitations to exploitation), and feel superior to our neighbors.

Certainly it will appear to some that this is an over-simplification of the problems we face. This kind of response is evidence of our subtle fall into the excuse response rather than the let’s discuss what we can do response. Think about the meaning of the words you use to convey your state of mind. They are indications of your belief system, which is the foundation for the way you act and react to life. If the effort to resolve a situation is over simplified, what can you offer that deals with at least some of the specifics within the greater situation? What positive and constructive effort can you make?

As family members work with each other out of mutual respect and seek constructive ways of dealing with the specifics of the variety of issues they face, positive results are assured. Strengths are discovered within each other that may not have been seen were it not for beginning with respect and acceptance of each other as persons of worth and value. Family members that feel the only way to be respected is to prove they are stronger, smarter or more forceful, will suffer the result of continuous conflict and struggle for power and recognition in other relationships.

Does this struggle for power and recognition sound familiar? Look at the U.S. foreign policy today. We will not speak to some nations because we do not approve of what they are doing. So, in order to prove their own importance on the world scene, they act even more belligerent, demanding even more attention. This spirals into an even stronger resolve to not talk with them. You can see where this leads.

Why, oh why do we continue to walk this path in our family life and in our societies? Why, when families seem to be breaking apart, do we try even harder to maintain our own position of power—as a parent or as a rebellious youth? It is in our basic nature to have self-respect. When self-respect is demeaned or threatened we will do whatever seems necessary for survival. When a parent seeks to control the youth simply because he or she is the parent, at the expense of recognizing the self-worth of the youth, there will be an irreconcilable break. It is only through knowing our own strengths and expressing them constructively that we will give our children the courage to constructively engage us in conversation that will lead to learning and resolution. Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet says of children:
Your children are not your children . . .
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts. . . .
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. . .
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Families are so important to the structure of our society and our world. It is in the family, ideally, that true nurturing begins, that support for individuality is established, and that courage to offer our most positive influence to our world is instilled. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your family—each member—for their diversity, talent and courage to bring forth the best that can be. Let your children go forth as living arrows representing the best you have to offer as their proud parents. Encourage them to take up their positions as the next powerful, constructive and caring leaders of our society. If they are not empowered in your home, it will be difficult for them to find the sense of empowerment that they need to do the job we leave them to be done.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Follow Your Own Counsel

Since I began reading the five volumes of The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, by Baird T. Spalding, I have found a resonance to the concepts he presents. They are so much like the metaphysical teachings I learned from childhood and studied at Unity School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I also did some research on Mr. Spalding and found there was much skepticism about the portrayal of his journeys in the Far East. Much of the skepticism was based on the fact that the copious notes he reported taking were never presented for review. I am only pointing this out so none of my readers will think I have not done my due diligence to determine the veracity of his writings.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t care about whether his stories are literally true or not. You may recall that in a previous posting I mentioned that rather than be concerned about so-called historical accuracy of such writings, we would be better advised to examine the message contained and how it might be applied to make our lives and our world better.

Ultimately, our spiritual, mental and emotional well-being are up to us. Each of us is responsible for the attitudes and belief systems we develop and for the results those systems deliver in our lives. We must come to the point where we can trust our insights for the Truth that will guide our lives. We must come to the point where we follow our own counsel by trusting the Spirit of Truth within us.

Mr. Spalding comments:

The gathering of thoughts from teachers and books, building them into the conscious nature of one’s being, is to establish a false determination which is largely hypnotic. . . . Instruction received from the without must be taken into the mentality and assimilated, analyzed, checked with the deepest facts of one’s own inner nature, in order to determine if it be true to the Self. One best consult the Self first and gain his outer knowledge thus at first hand -- Vol. 4, page 199
It is a great step in faith to trust the Self, but remember, that Self is God within you that has always been there and always will be there. We gain our trust in God within not from teachers, books and organizations, as helpful as they may be, but rather from sitting in the true silence with ourselves. In Buddhism this is Samadhi or concentration. This practice few of us undertake because it is difficult. It is well to remember that resolving problems that develop because we have not learned to listen to the True Inner Spirit is often difficult as well. Certainly we will study and learn from teachers and books, but our true understanding always comes from within. If we have developed the capacity to trust that inner Self, all external learning will make a lot more sense a lot more quickly.