Monday, March 28, 2011

There’s A Message Here Somewhere!

In 1973 the group, Pink Floyd, released a monumental album, Dark Side Of the Moon.  There was something about their music that I discovered in the early days of the Whole Life Learning Center.  It was part of what I thought of as message music similar to so much of the music in the 1960’s.  The lyrics of the song, Time, deal with Roger Waters's realization that life was not about preparing yourself for what happens next, but about grabbing control of your own destiny.

Here are the lyrics to “Time,” from that album.  It is the only song credited to all members of the band.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

So you may be wondering why I am writing about this song.  If not, I’ll tell you anyway!  In the last week Pink Floyd has come to my attention from three different sources all totally independent of each other.  That is more than coincidence!  There’s a message in here somewhere.  Time is always important to most of us, at least occasionally.  Our attitude about time and how we “spend” our allotment greatly determines the value we find in life. 

I am so grateful that early on in my adult life I came to realize the personal relativity of time.  Time is NOT same for everybody.  Time is an individual experience.  One person will say, “My, time has just flown by!” while another moans, “Why is the day just dragging along?”  Same day, same clock, different experience.  It may be an over-simplification to say time is ours to use in any way we choose, but I believe it to be so.  I do not always make the best use of my time, but that is a choice, wisely made or not.

As we age in this temporal body we inhabit on this earth plane, the effects of time march inexorably on, seemingly beyond our control.  Yet even here we are aware of how some of us age more gracefully than others.  Is understanding the reasons for this difference part of the message we might find in the words of the song?

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Let it not be said of me that I wasted my time here.  Who can judge that but me?  I echo the words of William Ernest Henley in his poem, “Invictus:”

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, March 21, 2011

From Agitation To Meditation

It is Saturday morning, 1974.  I am an Instructor at Casper College in Wyoming.  My wife Barbara is a Social Worker for the State of Wyoming in Casper.  We had planned to drive 300 miles to Denver that weekend to participate in one of Dan Perin's meditation classes at the Whole Life Learning Center. 

But I was half sick.  Tension in the chest, low energy, depression, typical onset of a nasty cold, or worse, the flu.   We debated and finally thought we would try the trip and see how we felt.  We could turn around and come back if I got worse.  So I fired up the 1965 primer-paint Corvair and off we went to Denver. 

In meditation class, we began by lying down and relaxing, our arms stretched out over our head, palms up and hands relaxed.  But my arms would not lie down flat.  There was so much tension in my shoulders that I could not lay my arms out flat on the floor, over my head, the biceps touching the ears.  So I fanned my arms down a bit to let them rest on the floor.

The breathing exercise started, a four count, which Dan explained he had adopted because "it does not mean anything."  Why get hung up on the trinity, the pentagon, the hexagon with all their religious and pagan associations, when four does fine as a breathing count.  I liked that common-sense approach.

Empty the mind and concentrate only on the breathing count, Dan said.  When the mind wanders from it, just come back to the count and start again.  Sirens outside?  Ignore them and come back to the count.  Sounds easy, doesn't it--tune out the outside world and your stray thoughts and just do the simple task of counting your breath.  Thoughts of your job come up?  Or a relationship?  That's okay, just tune it out and go back to the breathing and counting the breath.  Empty and still the mind.  That's all you are to do:  count the breath.  Sound easy?  Yes, but it is not.  And at first, seemingly impossible.

Later, or perhaps in a later session, we were to have a directed meditation.  We did the counting of the breath under Dan's direction, stilled the "random thought generator" that seems to want to run all of the time, then at his instruction, we began meditating on the issue we had predetermined would be the subject of the meditation for the session.  And there was the issue before us, without rancor, tension, anger, desire, just a peaceful contemplation of it and an addressing of what the issues were.  Just still the mind and then throw the problem up and look at it.  Just look.   That, of course, is the correct way to look at all personal problems, or any problem.  But again, easier said than done.  (And if everyone did that, it would put Judge Judy and Judge Mathis out of business, would it not?)

In the last session of the day I was suddenly aware that my arms and shoulders were completely relaxed, and my arms could lie on the floor above my head in perfect repose.  When in the evening we drove back to Casper, all of my symptoms of the morning had disappeared.  No tension and congestion in the chest, no depression, and my energy levels were up to any challenge.  It was unbelievable.  It was only at that point that I was fully aware of the toll that anxiety and tension takes on the body and how it is the mind that is creating it and that we do have control over our mind, should we exercise that control in a disciplined way.  I had let the conflicts, frustrations of work and city and relationship actually make me stiff and ill.

I was lucky.  I had found the right person, Dan Perin, at the right time, in the aftermath of the post-traumatic stress of three years of anti-war activity in Ohio, and in the right place, Denver  (though 300 miles from Casper, the distance was a blessing as the Casper tensions faded with the miles).  This was the beginning of my recovery from the traumatic stress of three years in the maelstrom of anti-Vietnam War protests at Kent State, and the recent year of coping with the chaos of an oil boom town in Wyoming, a recovery for which I am forever indebted to Dan.  My numerous encounters with Dan and with programs and personalities and workshops he brought to the Whole Life Learning Center--from meditation to acupressure to aura healing to past-life regression--enabled me some three years later to have the clarity and focus of mind and personal mental confidence to once again take up the graduate studies I had dropped out of two years previously.  But in 1974 I had no intention of completing them, for the toll of the stress had destroyed my confidence in the value any sustained intellectual endeavors.  I returned to Kent State in the 1977-78 school year and completed my dissertation and thus my doctoral studies in the Summer of 1980.  Thanks, Dan.

Written and Submitted by Lloyd Agte, Co-Administrator of our InsightandOutsight blog.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Set of the Sails

In 1916 Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote the poem in which she tells us:

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

I don’t know when I was first impressed with her thoughts, but I know it was in my early years, perhaps when I first started studying metaphysics.  I also seem to remember it being recited to me by my mother, who had also studied metaphysical thought.  It became a personal mantra as I began my ministerial career.

Today, the poem came to mind again, one of those “out of the blue” moments.  I found myself thinking about persons I have known who seem to have an inordinate number of crises in their lives, and who never had the opportunity to imbed the philosophy of self-direction.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to lead them to consider how they could take more control in their lives and thus have better outcomes during times of challenge.  Actually, unless one is a qualified psychologist or therapist, it is probably not your responsibility to point this out to anyone.

My point is that I have to continue to remind myself of this principle of self-determination.  It is not easy.  When something goes wrong it is much easier to place the blame on circumstances “beyond our control” or, worse, to blame another person.  I am reminded of a professor who used to take advantage of every opportunity to remind his students that, “when you point a finger at someone else, three are pointed back at you!”  After hearing this in many of his classes, I would find myself chuckling at it as if to simply dismiss it as a platitude, not really meant to make a difference in one’s life.

The truth is, for me at least, that it really does make a difference.  If we always find some way to make someone else responsible for our problems, it is unlikely we will ever come to a point of feeling we can change the way things are.  Conversely, if we accept that we have much more control over our lives than we may think, we can begin to see ways we can actually do something to bring about successful results.  One thing is for sure, as long as you feel you don’t have the power to change your life, you won’t.

We have all recently witnessed the tragic 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.  As if that was not enough terror “beyond their control,” then came the nuclear reactors failing endangering the populace with radiation poisoning.  News reports of how the people of Japan met these disasters ranges the whole gamut of emotions, but it was also clear that the Japanese culture is one that places personal responsibility high on their list of priorities.  This does not mean they are responsible for the challenges.  It is a case of their accepting the responsibility to choose how they react.  They worked together to assist others even when they had nothing left of their own.  Brave men chose to be on the front lines fighting the reactor melt down.  This is how you take responsibility for your life (while at the same time helping others).

Hopefully, we will not have to face such dramatic events where our actions become reactions based on the personal belief systems we have already developed.  Wherever each of us is right now, we can begin to build the “I Can” attitude about the simple events we experience, like hurt feelings, broken promises, unmet expectations.  In each of these cases we can decide how we will respond.  Each time we choose not to react and strike out at those we may have felt were responsible for the actions, we get stronger in our sense of self-reliance.  From that strength we can express love and forgiveness.

Tis the set of the sail.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A New Web Log Being Introduced

Over the past several months I have found myself becoming more and more disturbed by the political chaos created through manipulation and gamesmanship between the Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  I have watched with increasing frustration how the Republican Big Money Buddies have funded promotional ads that are complete fabrications with no resemblance to truth.  It seems that almost no one is paying attention while our government is slowly, but more and more quickly, being wrested from the hands of the common person and given away to those who already control 95% of the wealth of America.

A long-time friend, Lloyd Agte, and I have exchanged numerous emails discussing what we see happening.  We each have resources we depend upon for information we can trust to be accurate.  Out of these discussions I found myself once again feeling the need to be even more outspoken about the political, policy and social/economic issues facing all of us.  I did NOT want LifeCentering to be a blog about politics.  I started it as a place where I could share how a person might deal with the variety of personal issues we all face,  using as examples the personal ones I was working on in hopes of arriving at a better understanding and resolution. As those of you who follow my blog know, I have used it to express my political frustration.  It has become clear that I needed another vehicle to express those opinions and allow LifeCentering to remain a vehicle for articles related to consciousness development and personal growth issues.

Lloyd and I are launching a new blog to serve as our voice about ongoing issues.  Insight & Outsight can be found at:
It is in early development but will soon have several beginning articles posted.  We hope you will subscribe and follow our conversations.  Better yet, we hope you will share your comments.  Not everyone will agree with us, but as long as it is honest content we can all benefit from the exchange.

See you on Insight & Outsight!