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This Man’s Work Is Incredibly Important But Gets Lost Due To Controversy

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gurdjieffThe book Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff – The Man, The Teaching, His Mission is a work of immense power and love by William Patrick Patterson, a teacher of “the Work,” as Gurdjieff’s teaching is called and the author/ producer of several books and videos on the subject.

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It is over 600 pages long (over 400 narrative with 200 supplementary) and is a painstakingly precise account of two figures little known in the mass media, almost overlooked in popular history, and yet who may have been among the greatest thinkers of their time.

Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (G) appeared in St. Petersburg in 1916; P.D. Uspenskii (as Patterson refers to him) met him shortly thereafter and it later turned out that Gurdjieff had sought him out for his writing ability and notoriety in intellectual circles to help build his following.

Patterson has gone through the personal papers and books of Gurdjieff’s students and G’s own writings to piece together his early years, including his brush with death and his apparent teachers, as well as the society of seekers of which he was a member before he appeared in St. Petersburg. Patterson himself has written extensively about the teaching and some of the material, for example the section on the women who studied with Gurdjieff in Paris (a group called the “Rope”) presumably echoes his earlier work.

Patterson has also pieced together the early life of P.D. Uspenskii, including his own searches for ancient wisdom and personal relationships, and brings the two men together in the strange circumstances that were pre-revolution Russia, circa 1916.

But what is extraordinary is how Patterson describes Gurdjieff’s method, wonderfully echoing Uspenskii’s own description of how he was exposed to the teaching which is the spine of Uspenskii’s great work, In Search of the Miraculous.  Prospective students were introduced mysteriously and led to a strange space with Persian carpets and strange artifacts, where they met a man they each described as unique, powerful, insightful and with the capacity to see right through them.

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Everything was kept secretive and private. You had to know someone who knew someone to meet Gurdjieff and become a follower in St. Petersburg, and also later. It was also made clear that if one did not sieze the opportunity to take advantage of the moment, one might never get another chance.

One who did seize the opportunity was a particularly impressive young man, Paul Dukes, whose encounter Patterson describes in some detail. It is also worth noting that Dukes wrote about the encounter as well in his own biography, “Unending Quest.” As Patterson writes, Dukes was known as the ‘Man of a Hundred Faces.’  He assumed a number of identities and disguises and infiltrated numerous Bolshevik organizations, including the Communist Party, the Comintern and the Cheka, the Soviet security organizations. In 1920, he was knighted by King George V who called him the “greatest of all soldiers.”

He was presumably the first James Bond, spying on the Bolsheviks when he met Gurdjieff in one of his many roles or identities. Another of Patterson’s immense skills is recreating the effect of how Gurdjieff was a completely different personage, and elicited completely different responses, from those he encountered and taught.

For Dukes, for example, Gurdjieff was the strange Prince Ozay who was beguiled by the young Englishman’s sincere search for truth and his work with yoga, breath and the deeper hidden (esoteric) meaning of The Lord’s Prayer.

ASIDE: Another current student of Gurdjieff’s work and author is Dennis Lewis, whose book about breath work, Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help You Live More Fully, was recently reviewed by Michael Jeffreys here on CE, you can read that review by clicking HERE.

Patterson is scrupulously objective in his narrative, but there is magic in the footnotes where he ventures some commentary and speculates about the players’ intentions and real motivations. Here he provides a true taste of the “friction” between students and teacher, and particularly the uncanny allure of Gurdjieff’s magnetic personal style. Here is a sample Footnote from page 7:

“That Ozay plays chess and Gurdjieff once said that playing chess was ‘pouring the empty into the void’ actually supports Gurdjieff being the Prince, as this is a favorite saying of those who have seriously played ‘the Royal game’ and given it up…. “

Patterson describes how taken with Gurdjieff Dukes was, and how he became one of his many followers before the Russian Revolution, along with Uspenskii and other Russian intellectuals and artists. The narrative follows the growth of the groups and Gurdjieff’s methods for ferreting out the insincere by making prospective students jump through many hoops, and the teaching was veiled in secrecy.

Man Is Never The Same

Uspenskii became convinced that Gurdjieff had access to ancient wisdom and wanted it for himself—but Patterson describes how at various turns Gurdjieff “played” with his individualistic personality to try to make him see his own habitual tendency – that is, to live in his head and not his heart.

The Gurdjieff/Uspenskii groups fled the Bolsheviks and survived many hardships, often through luck and more often through Gurdjieff’s cunning understanding of human nature. Eventually Uspenskii could not continue to accept many of Gurdjieff’s methods and peculiarities and broke away, although his wife continued on with Gurdjieff for some time.

Patterson weaves both the history and the psychological studies of these two men together beautifully with a sense of a time that few of us can comprehend; he intersperses the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany as he alludes to the larger forces that influence the various individuals and their struggle to discover their own capacities with this teacher. Later Gurdjieff suggests that he anticipated the rise of Fascism and wanted to see how the world would react before writing his final work, ‘All And Everything.’

Gurdjieff admired  the energy and power of America and also satirized the materialism of the United States, and used his visits to raise capital by “shearing” the wealthy to subsidize the work and the lessons of the less fortunate. Patterson spans decades as he follows Gurdjieff to his Prieure (institute) in Paris and describes his methods of hard work to break the conditioning of students—intelligentsia would clean toilets and garden—and his conversations over meals and in cafes where students would toast themselves as various kinds of “idiots.” Here is a Toast to Compassionate Idiots:

“Everyone an idiot, even God.  But when these idiots see another who is another kind of idiot from themselves, they become angry and curse him.  This is very characteristic of these idiots.  No compassionate means that among this company exist idiots who know that all are idiots together, so that pity all and not become angry.  These are compassionate.  I am unique idiot so I am no more this idiot compassionate.”  (369)

A major part of being an “idiot” is believing in the imaginary concepts of the mind as opposed to what one has gotten for oneself. At one point he hears Gurdjieff’s voice in his head with nothing being said verbally. This is precisely the sort of “miracle” Upsenskii had been seeking and yet he needed to analyze it and could not simply accept it as a clear indication of his position under his teacher and his need to sublimate his own formative mind and the “need to know.”

Was this “real?” Was this telepathy -our scientific term of a phenomenon not proven by conventional science? Perhaps it was hypnotism– suggestion –Mesmerism or some other magical ability? Was it “super” natural or a part of nature that he had learned in Egypt as an initiate, in Tibet, in the Caucasus…  Was this how Gurdjieff understood his “clients” and “sheared” them of funds—and perhaps worked as a secret agent in his own right?

All of these mysterious aspects are hinted at and yet not posited authoritatively by Patterson, the consummate researcher and observer. What is posited is simply that such events occurred –the meaning and interpretation (the knowing) remains a mystery. Finally Uspenskii broke completely with Gurdjieff and founded his own school, first in England during the Second World War and then in the United States.

As Patterson calls the teaching a “sacred science,” what Gurdjieff saw in Uspenskii was the ability to convey his “system” scientifically, due to his great intelligence. This would make it a bridge between East and West and comprehensible in terms of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in the West. Where Uspenskii fell short, apparently, was his own egoism and coldness—he did not seem to manifest Gurdjieff’s own capacity for kindness and compassion. He did not live the Work as much as he seemed to relish the role of revered and admired teacher/ writer.

Gurdjieff, on the other hand, for all of his acerbic nature and generalizations meant to tweak the “corns” of his students, and expose their vanities and conditioning. He did this by living as suggested, with a general manner of a man of courage and “being” towards how one ought to behave.

For example, as Patterson describes Hitler’s rise he also mentions Gurdjieff’s assessment of racial characteristics of Jews; their tendency to remain apart and not “assimilate.” Yet on pg. 406 we learn that in the midst of the Nazi occupation of France– “Gurdjieff tells pupils to hide Jewish pupils who could not escape.” This is testimony to Gurdjieff’s ability to model both aspects of the teaching –knowledge he seemingly alone possessed of the historical context of what is taught –and BEING – and how it could be lived and applied in “organic life.”

gurdjieff pentlandSomehow many of the exchanges between Gurdjieff and students are retold, with the singular acerbic humor that Gurdjieff employed to strip the veneer of conditioned beliefs from his students and expose them to the truths of Life -including their own inevitable deaths and their petty personal prejudices. No one who took themselves seriously in his presence was spared his barbs, not even the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose young wife was a student of Gurdjieff’s.

Patterson follows both Uspenskii and Gurdjieff’s personal journeys and describes the work of many of their followers, some self-appointed or anointed and others viable. One such personage is Lord John Pentland, who studied with both Uspenskii and Gurdjieff and later led the Work in the U.S., becoming the beloved teacher of the author, Dennis Lewis and also Jacob Needleman, all of whom describe him in their respective works.

What is gathered about Lord Pentland was his objective ability to impartially provide conditions for the modern students to grow and see through the conditioning of the time. While Lord Pentland was originally a student of Upsenskii, upon Uspenskii’s death Lord Pentland was sent by his widow to seek out Gurdjieff himself, and he was selected to spread the teaching to America. There is a nice story of Lord Pentland’s daughter Mary, who is asked by Gurdjieff “who is the greatest man she knows,” and when the young girl replies “her daddy,” Gurdjieff roars with approval because he deems the following of the commandment to honor your parents as a sign of great inner “being.”

From Jacob Needleman’s account it is clear the Lord Pentland was a successful businessman who kept his association with the groups private, but in fact lived the tenets of “The Fourth Way” by employing the teaching in his direct contact with both the commerce of “the world” and of course his students. The effects were far reaching.

As you read through the dialogues and studies you can’t help but see the threads of modern New Age thought as well as teachings like Advaita and Nonduality, along with the historical motifs of Theosophy and mysticism that were concurrent with Gurdjieff’s arrival on the scene.

For example Krishnamurti’s teaching galvanized Americans, and Uspenskii is asked about him at one point:

“He says a system cannot awake a man.  Certainly it cannot.  Mathematics cannot build a bridge.   But if a bridge is built without mathematics, it collapses.  If Krishnamurti keeps to this point of view–he will not be alone.   Many people believe in spontaneous awakening, just be realization, and without a system and without following another man!”

ouspensky008aHere we can sense the immensity of Gurdjieff’s contribution in its effect on Uspenskii, a man who wants scientific proof of miracles but has been opened to the limitations of science by his teacher, Gurdjieff, who brought a system of “sacred science” that bridged the heart and formatory (left brain) mind (Ego).

It was no small feat that Gurdjieff attempted to introduce this system in the “Christian” west at a time when conventional religion ran the show. But as Jacob Needleman describes in his book Lost Christianity the ‘real’ teaching that preceded the human teacher that was Jesus was in fact “scientific” and impartial in its original form. True Christianity was a sacred science which attempted to confront life in its full grandeur and immensity from a position of awe. Such an impartially scientific view sees “what is” as what “could not be otherwise (as Eckhart Tolle writes),” and all suffering is simply viewed as the result of the human mind’s inability to accept and surrender to its Greatness.

This is reminiscent of the “neters” of Egypt, where deities represented the organic reality of natural forces like the wind, sun, tide and so on, in which man plays his part naturally and without the urge to “conquer” nature.  (Interested readers might look up Patterson’s DVD, “Gurdjieff in Egypt” which traces the author’s own journey to Cairo and his description of Gurdjieff’s sources and influences.)

For Gurdjieff there is indeed a notion of what is sin, in this pre-Christian context:

“If you acknowledge your sin,” Gurdjieff says, “and feel remorse of conscience for having done wrong, your sin is already forgiven.  If you continue to do wrong, knowing it to be so, you commit a sin that is difficult to forgive.”  (237)

This seems to be at the core of inner transformation –the capacity for some element of choice –paradoxically –within a natural framework sacred determinism shaped by greater energies and higher forces.  Such “right action” of true conscience is always a reflection of being, not knowledge. This is why our modern science can create genetically modified organisms that fight nature in a way that goes against the sacred order of natural Life.

But where Gurdjieff diverges with modern Western religion is in its anthropomorphism and personalization of a “God.”  God and all of the vital life forces exist for Gurdjieff but at a level beyond man’s scientific and logical comprehension. All is impersonal and impartial, even sex.

“It is not necessary to mingle the acts of sex with sentiment.  It is sometimes abnormal to make them coincide.  The sexual act is a function.  One can regard it as external to him, although love is internal.  Love is love.  It has no need of sex.  It can be felt for a person of the same sex, for an animal even, and the sexual function is not mixed up here.  Sometimes it is normal to unite them; this corresponds to one of the aspects of love.  It is easier to love this way.  But, at the same time, it is then difficult to remain impartial as love demands.”   (409 – Gurdjieff answering a Group question).

This goes against much of modern pop culture, psychology, conventional thought and religion and also rubs against parts of our interior conditioning— since we are committed to notions of romantic love. Gurdjieff’s “love” is seemingly an impersonal and objective love of What Is –the Great System that he brings to light and tries to convey to his students both through his lectures and perhaps more importantly, through the drama that was his own Life.

In Patterson’s enormous breadth of research and narration he truly delivers the reader into the full context of the historical period that is no more –before computers and the Internet –where these two men in fact anticipated such scientific wonders and saw the vast intelligence that is inherent in what Gurdjieff referred to as “Great Nature.”

What also comes through is the respective humanity of both Gurdjieff and Uspenskii – how they struggled intellectually and personally with one another and their own demons of alcohol and the need for the company and charms of women. Patterson describes the rift between them which deems to have been the result of Uspenskii’s “chief feature, his need for intellectual validation and recognition, and the author makes it clear that those who saw them together, and to the author himself, the level of being was palpable: Gurdjieff was the teacher and Uspenskii forever would be his most famous student.

Many kinds of reader will profit immeasurably from Patterson’s work. Interested seekers like me, who never fully committed to a “school” but were intrigued by the legend of both men and their system will gain a profound understanding of the meaning and sense of “the Work” including its historical context and the unique individuals who came in and out of the teaching. The tenor of the time is illustrated with wonderful photographs of the surroundings in early 20th Century France, Russia and the United States, and portraits the main players, along with the pithy commentary.

I am sure that direct students of the disciples of Lord Pentland’s line to Uspenskii and Gurdjieff will gain a great deal more in terms of both historical context and insight to the machinations and methodologies of their teachers and fellow students. Again this amazing biography is a work of great tribute and love by a truly devoted student and teacher.

* * *

My Interest in Gurdjieff/Ouspensky
When I was in my twenties I worked in resort areas and one day a friend gave me a copy of The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin by P.D. Ouspensky (same man, different spelling).  I was intrigued by this short novel about a seeker who meets a strange magician whom he beseeches to allow him to go back and change some of his life choices.  The magician says he can send him back but it will all play out the same way—and it does.

The man goes back to his youth and confronts the same pivotal choice with a woman he loves at a train station, determines to alter the course of his life, and ultimately life conspires to make it play out as it always had. Eternal recurrence… Determinism –Fate.

I read Ouspenky’s seminal work shortly thereafter, ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ and was forever changed. In my travels I had long suspected that there were secrets of wisdom and ways to transform my consciousness, and this book told the story of Ouspenky’s own search in ashrams and the far east, only to return to his native Russia (during the days before the revolution where he encountered a strange mystical figure (the magician of Ivan Osokin).

Ouspensky (author of Search for the Miraculous) described G’s teaching and cosmology in a way that completely  sold me.  While I could “understand” only a fraction of the “science,” the main concept of most people behaving as automatons and unaware of their habitual conditioning struck me as truth even then. Gurdjieff also hinted that his teaching came from “Pre-Sand” Egypt –that he had found a map that showed the Sphinx at a time when the Sahara was fertile, and described the birth and death of many civilizations because of humans’ propensity to go insane and destroy each other due to influences that came far beyond Earth –from the galaxy and universe.

I would read ‘In Search for the Miraculous’ as I dealt with the mundane needs of tourists who seemed completely brainwashed and unable to enjoy their vacations unless they played rounds of golf, ate in expensive restaurants or went on expensive shopping sprees.  Meanwhile the “natives” in the resorts, while mostly poverty stricken, were better adjusted and emotionally happier than my clients.

As I read the material it resonated deeply and I had the sense that it was deeply connected to the true sources of ancient wisdom and also comprehended man’s real nature and his relationship to the cosmos, and to Life, in a way modern science and my formal education failed to achieve. When I returned to the States I tried to find an esoteric school of the sort Ouspensky described, and first ran across one in San Francisco. I thought it was an amazing coincidence that I saw a young woman carrying his book at the St. Francis Hotel, and after we talked, I eagerly went to several meetings. But I learned later that there were “scouts” like her with books trolling San Francisco for prospects–and I had a ticket for Hawaii, so I left.

ASIDE: For many the teaching has the flavor of a “cult” and I am sure that many cult leaders have appropriated some of Gurdjieff’s methods and ideas; however my experience is that those with a direct connection with the teaching are sincere in their beliefs and completely private with no need to proselytize. In fact, finding and being accepted in a true “school” is still both arduous and difficult.

Fortunately there is now a great deal of material online, and books by authors like Patterson, Dennis Lewis and Jacob Needleman have made it into the mainstream. Much of my own reading and teaching stayed with me and informed my relationships and personal journey, for better or worse.  When articulated, the ideas of man’s sleep and the conditioned state of most institutions are viewed as unconventional at best and often as subversive.

It is impossible to take in this teaching without coming into conflict and friction with conventional reality and society. One loses interest in much of what many people take for granted as important goals and strivings as one tries to connect with what one senses is a higher intelligence and meaning to life. But the teaching intrigued me and I bought books by Gurdjieff and other students up until recently when I fell in love with the work of Jacob Needleman, who wrote a series of books including ‘Lost Christianity’ – which echoed the teaching and made it more modern. For an introduction I would recommend reading Why Can’t We Be Good (2007) which in many ways triggered my current search for truth.

I eventually met Dr. Needleman and attended some classes and lectures and approached a group in Los Angeles. Even today the teaching is well guarded and kept separate from “ordinary life” so I went my separate way, almost as Uspenskii did with Gurdjieff. But fortunately through the current openness of the Internet much of the teaching (both real and distorted versions) is now available online.

For myself, I see so much of it reflected in my work with Michael Jeffreys, the teaching of Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie (who also calls her material “The Work”) and even the more popular psychologies of Wayne Dyer, along with people like Anthony Robbins, Werner Erhard and Deepak Chopra, among others. What I have discovered is that the teacher is important but it is the openness of the student that is paramount. For example, Gurdjieff suggested that his task was to create “the conditions for growth.”  In his time this was seen as arduous labor and “intentional suffering.” For me, perhaps as a result of rationalization (my “chief feature”?) I believe that deliberate mindfulness and acute self observation need not require construction work and cleaning toilets. However, as Eckhart Tolle suggests, some personal suffering and often hitting rock bottom is most often the stimulus for a new, serious attitude toward life.

Patterson’s immense contribution is crystalizing the many diverse aspects of Gurdjieff’s contribution to humanity’s comprehension of its true nature and station in the cosmos. His stated aim was to understand the “significance and purpose of Organic Life on Earth.” To me there can be no greater goal of wisdom.

Gurdjieff anticipated, among other things, the Hubble telescope’s findings, perhaps black holes, quarks, dark matter and energy and certainly much of modern neuroscience and quantum physics. As I’ve written in previous blogs, the search for the “real self” has evaded those neuroscientists who have searched it in the neurons and synapses – it is apparently a “virtual” entity or entities that exist in the space and energy within complex networks. Perhaps Gurdjieff’s greatest admonition, however, was to accept nothing at face value or on hearsay.

Investigate for yourself. Validate or reject for yourself.  Be the scientist in your own life.  That is the essence of what he brought.

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 26: The Banker)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

26. The Banker

In the banker’s office at the village bank on the island of Allandon, the glassblower was just completing a loan application for renovations to his glass shop. He was about to sign when he noticed something peculiar about the final sentence.

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“What’s this?” he asked as he read the final line: “Warning: late payments will not lead to prosecution.

“Yes, what about it?”

“Well, it must be a typo. Surely you meant ‘…will lead to prosecution.’”

The banker smiled to himself for a moment. Then he said, “Do you want me to let you in on a little secret?”

“Sure,” said the glassblower.

“A while back many people were not making their monthly payments on time. They had every excuse in the book. So I had that line added to the bottom of the contract to prevent them from taking advantage of me. And so you’re right, it is a typo. The printer put in the ‘not’ by mistake.”

“Well, don’t you think you should change it right away?” asked the glassblower.

“Well, I was going to when it first came to my attention,” said the banker. “The first customer that saw the new contract pointed it out. But he thought it was my way of showing my trust in him. He promised that he wouldn’t let me down. I was too embarrassed to tell him it was a typo.”

“But then you didn’t change it.”

“I was planning to, but before I could get in touch with the printer, another customer also noticed it. She was amazed at the way I was willing to do business. She made quite a big fuss about it.”

“Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. What if the word got out that you were doing this?”

“Well, long story short—it did. She told a lot of people and suddenly they were coming to me, calling me ‘the trusting banker,’ and ‘the caring banker’. And certainly they would all be looking for that line in their contracts when they came to me for loans.”

“And so you were stuck.”

“You could say that—but I promised myself that I would fix it the next time someone was late with a payment.” After a slight pause the banker added, “That was twenty years ago.”

Whenever we want to ensure right action, whether it be in a business deal, teaching our kids, or holding a vision for humanity, we tend to automatically resort to discouraging wrong action. This is the persistent temptation we face living in a world of duality.

Proclaiming ‘Thou shalt not…’ followed by a threat of retribution has long purported to be what is required to maintain an orderly and harmonious community and world. The underlying assumption here is that there are universal ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ actions, an absolute code of what is good and what is evil. In many religious traditions, there exists a supreme Being who is the author and enforcer of an absolute code of moral conduct, the rules and commandments that we must follow in order to be saved. This supreme Being presides on our ‘day of judgment’ after our death, to determine if our cumulative actions in the world merit either eternal salvation or eternal damnation.

Ahem.

I’m not saying this state of affairs is impossible, but it has long puzzled me how an all-powerful and omniscient Being could ever find the motivation or desire to judge good acts from evil acts, since this Being is ultimately the source of all acts. The idea that this Being would somehow have a need for our obedience, or have any needs whatsoever in fact, doesn’t make any sense to me. It smacks of anthropomorphism—our tendency to give human attributes to something that is not human.

This ‘supreme Judger’ appears to me as a projection of our Ego Self onto the Being that I have called the Dao. When we come from the perspective of the Ego Self, then we tend to be deeply involved in matters of right and wrong, judgment and retribution. We are likely to believe that some among us are basically evil, not to be trusted, and if given the freedom to act from an inner compass will undoubtedly seek to harm others. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because in coming from an environment of mistrust and fear we continue to create mistrust and fear.

This perspective is only reinforced by the media, which sells copy and maintains ratings by clearly distinguishing the heroes from the villains in our society. It is easy to buy into it, as it can be comforting to know who the good people are and who the bad people are—especially since we consider ourselves to be on the side of good. And so naturally it appears more than obvious that we need to have some common form of morality to contain the potential damage coming from the bad guys.

The idea that we will be considered good if and only if we follow some universal code of moral responsibility towards others is very tempting, as it saves us the work of figuring out from the inside how we should act. But therein lies my firm objection, and why I take the opposite tack: I believe we have absolutely no moral responsibility to others. We do not ‘owe’ people respect, compassion, or charity. Of higher importance is that we actually feel that we have a choice.

Our true moral obligation, our path, our destiny, and also not coincidentally our greatest bliss, is to endeavor to find and be our true self. But this is not even a real obligation, it’s a choice we made that we have forgotten about, the choice to come into this world. If we owe other people anything it is to get to know ourselves better so that we can act from our connectedness while sharing the gift of our unique perspective. The closer we move to the center of our being, the more we become aligned with our freedom of choice, of real choice, not of choice based on compulsion or command. My experience of life has shown me that when I am free to act in accordance with my true self, my Dao Self, I act out of love. The love flows easily, and is genuine and empowering. When I am ‘loving’ as a result of some outwardly proscribed moral directive, the expression is always dry, stunted, and unenthusiastic.

What is morality but one person’s idea thrust upon another? No system of morality ever sponsored great love, compassion or true acceptance. All commands, orders, rules and imperatives come from the fear of the Ego Self. Even the greatest commandment of all, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ loses its essential power if it is taken as a commandment rather than as a proposal freely offered to consider. Enlightened masters who spoke powerfully about love such as Jesus understood that real love is a natural expression of our true self. Throughout our history the tendency of humans has been to misinterpret this call to love as a ‘you must do this’ rather than a ‘try this on’. I don’t believe it has ever been the intention of the truly enlightened masters to have their offerings hardened into mandatory moral codes.

When we stand behind a moral code we can become righteous about our own moral superiority. From on high, it is easy to condemn and judge others for what we have determined are ‘evil’ acts. But this judgment and condemnation is actually the lynchpin of the entire problem. Someone might say, “I believe that everyone should respect each other,” but in saying so they might feel justified in closing the door to respecting people who do not respect them. And so the person who most desperately needs respect and love—the one who cannot in a given moment respect and love others—does not receive it, and we all get stuck. It is only when we are able to move closer to our Dao Self that we get in touch with our authentic desire to respect others, out of the pure joy of expansion and expression of love. This respect is afforded even when—especially when—the other has no respect for us, because this is where the respect is most pressingly needed.

Consider the possibility that right and wrong are never absolute, and in fact we are all continually making it up as we go along, to create dramatic effect in the unfolding of the play called human life. In the old Spaghetti Westerns, we could tell the good guys and the bad guys apart, since the good guys wore the white hats and the bad guys wore the black hats. The difference in real life is that everybody thinks that they are the good guy. They really do. And do you know why they think so? Because they are. We are all good. Wars and fighting only occur between some good guys who have one idea of what is good and other good guys who have a different idea about what is good.

The sooner we see that good and evil is really a fabrication of the Ego Self, the sooner we will be able to take the next leap in consciousness, and come more fully from our Dao Self. When we do, we will gain an understanding that we are all fundamentally good, and when we are able to act authentically we can be trusted to exercise our free will in ways that will benefit others. It stands to reason: from the perspective of the Dao Self, we and others are the same. Coming from our Dao Self we would never harm the world because our Dao Self is the world.

No matter how ‘moral’ we consider ourselves to be, if we are still judging others for being less ‘moral’, then we are instantly pulled by our judgment out of the realm of our Dao Self and back into our Ego Self. For the time being, I think the best we can do to move things along is to realize that those who do ‘wrong’—that is to say, detrimental to others—are simply acting out of fear, and are unaware of their true nature. Rather than being condemned and castigated they need to be understood and accepted. The condemnation of evil should not be confused with the celebration of good. The emotional need to exact revenge by condemning people who have perpetrated crimes is the same as the emotional need behind the crime itself. We actually circulate divisive energy by overtly demonstrating our opposition to ignorance of self. And so to me, whenever I see on the news the hordes of people standing outside a prison, vilifying a man or woman who is to be executed for a heinous crime, I can only think that those people are projecting the very darkness that they are condemning.

The attempt to legitimize the separation of people as good and evil, worthy and unworthy is itself a denial of our unity and connectedness as human beings. As Khalil Gibran says,

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you, so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf does not turn yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden knowledge of you all.

When we come from a place of oneness, judgment is pointless. We are captured by the joyful feeling that we are all in this together. Eventually it is possible to see that all acts, those we call good and those we call evil, are really on a continuum of actions all motivated by the same basic human desire—the desire for unity. The low point of this continuum is total ignorance of who we are and the high point is fully embodied knowledge of our true nature—as One. The acts that emerge from a knowledge of self try to arrive at unity by embracing diversity. Acts of charity, humility, and compassion are obvious attempts to unite with others. The acts that emerge from an ignorance of self tend to try to arrive at unity by suppressing or destroying diversity. The need to conform is a good example. So is jealousy, which stems from the desire to be united with another. Even the act of genocide is founded on an attempt to unify one’s race or culture—by killing people who are different.

Easy now. Let’s not misunderstand what is being said here. The assertion that there is no absolute good and evil does not mean that we need to consider all acts as the same. When we let go of judgment we are still left with the power of discernment. We know an act of kindness has a significantly different effect from an act of violence. We know from experience that the kind of unity that the Ego Self seeks inevitably tears us farther apart. But if we as witnesses of such acts can frame them not as evil but rather as simply ignorant, then it helps us to maintain a vision of ourselves and the other as One. From there we can see that if people knew more about who they were and what they were doing that they would be seeking to unify not out of a fear of being alone but out of a love of being One.

Of course as individuals we are not there yet. We are all at various stages or levels of awareness of our true self. And that is all well and good. Being at one place on the continuum of awareness is no better than being at another. Being self-aware is not ‘better’ than being ignorant. It simply is what is. For each of us I believe a time will come in our evolution when we will realize that our diversity is our greatest gift. It is actually what makes any worthwhile experience possible. And the easiest way to achieve unity without rejecting diversity is to act with the belief that there is already a unity underneath our differences. This, in all its shades and nuances, is what it means to act out of love.

I am not saying we ought to act this way. There is no ‘should’ in love. Love flows naturally. So rather than enforcing moral standards, informing each other what is right and wrong, we are better off trying to be gentle and accepting, creating a space that is big enough to allow each person to think, speak, and act in accordance with what they believe is good. The new conversation honors your personal morality based on your unique set of values and experiences. It does not support a fixed and universal morality since this can actually serve to hide you from your true nature. After all, if you follow rules that oppose your desires, how will you ever learn about your true nature? How will you ever come to face your own ignorance? It is only in a space where we feel we are allowed to show our ignorance, our darkness, that we become capable of dissolving our ignorance and seeing who we truly are. And as we go forward we become more able to help others discover the same thing about themselves—not out of some moral imperative, but out of the joy of expressing and expanding ourselves into the world.

The new conversation is a call to heal our darkness together. There is no one we need to look to but ourselves. There is no guru, no expert, no savior, because all of us have darkness. All of us need healing. As imperfect beings we will create the space as best we can, a space without right and wrong. We only need to be authentic, and speak the truth of our desires. In an environment where we no longer feel the need to suppress our true desires in favor of the ‘right’ way to think, speak and act, we are likely to enjoy a far more empowering sense of ourselves as beings of pure love.

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Consciousness

How To Deal With Society Pressuring You To Get Married

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When I was younger, I would think about the concept of marriage and get overwhelmed with emotions: excitement for the potential to find my soulmate and to share my life with that person, fear of knowing that this may never happen, and panic in considering what legally binding myself to another person truly means. As a child, I simply assumed I’d get married, because that’s what society considers “normal.” As I got older, my perception changed and I started noticing that most of my peers shared one thing in common: All of them wanted to get married. This seemed backwards to me, as I couldn’t possibly know if I wanted to get married before I met someone I wanted to be with forever. Marriage has become a social norm; society expects you to get married and to do so before the age of 30 (sometimes even younger depending on what culture you’re from). This belief system puts significant pressure on couples, creating “the marriage trap.”

How Marriage Became a Social Norm

When it all boils down, marriage is a legal contract. By choosing to marry your partner, you are legally required to be committed to that individual and typically to share your assets. Contracts are usually made for a limited time period and designed with an “if you do this… then I will do this…” mentality. If your relationship is so strong that you know, deep down, that you will be with your partner for the rest of your life, then why should you require a binding contract to verify your bond?

According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of people in Western societies get married before the age of 50. A shocking 86% of young people in the U.S. believe that when they get married, it will be for life (literally, “until death do us part”). Many may view this number as high, but I perceive it to be surprisingly low. If you’re about to commit to being in a relationship for your entire life, shouldn’t you be 100% positive it will last forever? In Western societies, people between the ages of 25 and 35 are heavily pressured to get married and have kids. People seem to be more concerned about accomplishing this goal than they are about potentially marrying the wrong person. It’s no wonder approximately half of the married couples in the U.S. end up divorced.

What is the Marriage Trap? 

If you’ve already decided that you will get married in the future, you’re willingly creating expectations about your present and/or future partner. You could currently be with the “right person,” but because you’ve constructed a timeline for your relationship (when and if you want to get married, have kids, etc.), you’re putting added stress on your partner and yourself. Society will also pressure you into marrying your partner after you’ve been together for a certain length of time. If you’re not married within that timeframe, people assume there’s something wrong with your relationship. The weight of all of these expectations can make couples feel like they’re approaching an ultimatum, forcing them to choose between getting married or breaking up. If you’ve felt these societal pressures or you’re struggling to decide whether or not to marry your partner, you may have been sucked into the marriage trap.

How People Typically Decide Whether or Not to Get Married:

  1. Allowing your partner to make the decision: the easiest way to avoid your feelings.
  2. Letting love guide you: If you’re referring to self love, then that’s perfect. However, if you’re assuming that your love for an individual will fix all of your problems, you have a problem.
  3. Fear: of losing that person if you decide you don’t want to get married, of what others will think of you if you don’t get married, or of eventually growing apart from your partner instead of together.
  4. Ego: Your ego says you need to get married because society tells you to do so, allowing societal pressures to force you into an unwanted relationship.
  5. Physical attraction: A strong sex drive doesn’t always equate to love.
  6. Intuition: Following your gut can often provide incredible insights; however, if you’re not self-aware it may be difficult for you to listen to guidance from your Higher Self.
  7. Brain: Your brain may convince you you’re in love with someone, when you’re actually in love with the idea of that person. Just because your partner checks off all of the appropriate “boxes” you used to theorize your ideal partner, doesn’t mean you’re in love with them either.
  8. Biological clock: It’s typically easier for women to conceive before the age of 40, so they’ll often have biological children with the wrong mate instead of adopting children or taking the risk of not having children with the right person.
  9. Comparing your partner to other people: One study found that our dating choices are “98% a response to market conditions and just 2% immutable desires. Proposals to date tall, short, fat, thin, professional, clerical, educated, educated, uneducated people are all more than nine-tenths governed by what’s on offer that night.” This essentially means that most people will choose a partner by comparing them to other potential partners instead of truly following their heart.

What We Can Learn From the Marriage Trap

One study found that being married is 20 times more important to a person’s well-being than their income and 13 times more important than owning a house. That same study found that marriage makes people happier than religion and money. Although marriage has the power to form a strong, loving bond between two people and provide them with happiness, I don’t think that’s the underlying message we should take from these studies.

I would argue that it’s simply love that’s making these people happy and that they can find that same love within themselves, even if they’re single. Ultimately, it all comes down to self-awareness and self-love. You need to know yourself and love yourself before you can fully love another. Once you develop more self-love and a deeper understanding of your fundamental needs as an individual and in a partner, you’ll be prepared to choose a life partner (if you even want one).

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I’m not suggesting you should never get married, nor am I against monogamy. I’m simply saying you should avoid setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and others and that you need to look within instead of outwards before making “the marriage decision.” Many people view marriage and love as synonymous and they forget that they can fuel that same love within themselves; you don’t need to be married to be happy and feel love. However, more and more people are realizing this and choosing not to get married. This begs the question, are we meant to be with only one person for the rest of our lives? I don’t think there’s a clear answer to this question because it differs for every person. The only thing I believe to remain true is that regardless of whether you’re single or in a relationship, you have the ability to find everlasting love within yourself.

“The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

– Rumi

Inspired by: The Marriage Decision: Everything Forever or Nothing Ever Again on Wait But Why

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Awareness

A Potential Solution To Reduce Snoring & Sleep Apnea

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I’d like to share with you a convenient alternative remedy that has helped all of my clients to reduce snoring and sleep apnea, and that is by wearing a tape to keep your mouth closed during sleep. A new study published this year also showed the efficacy of this treatment.

Snoring and sleep apnea not only represent a holistic health risk to an individual, the irritating noise at night can often create conflict in a couple’s relationship. I’d like to share with you a convenient alternative remedy that has helped all of my clients to reduce snoring and sleep apnea, and that is by wearing a tape to keep your mouth closed during sleep. A new study published this year also showed the efficacy of this treatment.

Major Cause of Snoring & Sleep Apnea

One major cause of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is mouth breathing during sleep, especially when you sleep in the supine position. When you sleep in the supine position with an open mouth, gravity pulls down your jaw and tongue, which then compresses your throat. As a result, your airway gets suppressed and narrowed, leaving less space for the air to pass through.

Mouth breathing also introduces stronger air flow as you inhale and exhale, which exacerbates the airway soft tissue vibration, causing the loud snoring noise. Strong air flow during mouth breathing also induces strong negative pressure that sucks in the soft tissues around the throat area, further narrowing your airway and eventually causing it to collapse, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea.

The Quick Fix? Wear Tape To Keep Your Mouth Closed

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main causes of snoring and sleep apnea is mouth breathing. A quick fix to keep your mouth closed during the night is to apply a small piece of tape over it. When your mouth is closed and lips are together, it is harder for you jaw to fall back even when lying in a supine position. Keeping your mouth closed also forces you to breathe through your nose, which not only helps to regulate the airflow to reduce the negative pressure inside your airway, but also reduces soft tissue vibration

An otoralyngology study published this year in the American Academy of Otolaryngology Journal demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique, showing significant reduction in median AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index) score and snoring index [1].

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In the past few years, ENT specialist Dr. Hung Cheng Tseng and I have recommended wearing tape for all of our clients as part of our AirwayFit training program, and the feedback has been great. For some CPAP users, wearing tape on their mouth can help to eliminate the air leakage issue. In addition, if you often find yourself waking up with a dried mouth and throat, this method will also help you keep your mouth and throat moisturized throughout the night.

How To Apply?

In practice, wearing tape to sleep is actually a lot less daunting than it sounds.

Visit any drug store near you and pick up a small roll of medical grade paper tape. It should cost you no more than $10. I recommend ones that are hypoallergenic, porous, and non-waterproof. When you wear the tape, you want to roll your lips slightly inward so you don’t apply it directly onto your lips. Otherwise, your lips can really hurt when you remove it in the morning. Some people apply some lip balm or vaseline onto their lips first as a layer of protection.

You don’t have to wear the tape over your entire mouth. You can start by wearing it vertically, in the center, right beneath your nose, and that should suffice; as long as the tape keeps your jaw up, you should be fine. I also recommend you to pre-fold one of the corners of the tape, just so that there’s a corner you can grab onto easily in the morning to tear it off.  If you have sensitive skin and you find removing the tape hurts, you can wet it with water before you remove it in the morning. You could also reduce the stickiness of the tape prior to use by sticking it onto your forearm a couple of times before applying to your lips.

If you really are panicked by this idea, then as I mentioned before, you can try wearing it only at the center portion of your mouth. This will leave gaps on the two sides of your mouth but still keep your jaw in the upright position during sleep. Also, if it’s your first night trying this method, wearing the tape 30 minutes before you go to bed can help you adjust to the feeling.

Most people who have tried the tape method to keep their mouth closed find it convenient and more comfortable and cheaper than the alternative methods. However, I would caution against wearing tape to keep your mouth closed if you experience the following: nausea or epilepsy, or if you have consumed alcohol or any pill or medicine prior to sleep. Otherwise, give it a try today and you will find yourself waking up feeling much more energized and hydrated the next morning!

To learn more about your sleep trouble, visit www.AirwayFit.com

Source:

[1]    Huang TW., Young TH., “Novel Porous Oral Patches for Patients with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Mouth Breathing: A Pilot Study” American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery 152.2 (2015): 369-373. Print.

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