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Consciousness

The Benefits Of Doing Nothing

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We live in a society where sitting in stillness and silence, void of any stimuli, is seen as doing nothing – a view polluted with a negative stigma, with the implication that doing nothing is synonymous with being nothing. However, this could not be further from the truth. To sit in stillness is not actually to do “nothing,” in the sense that time is wasted and there is no gain. It is, in reality, closer to doing everything, as being in touch with our inner stillness, or consciousness, has a powerful ripple effect on every single aspect of our lives in one way or another. Of course, failing to wake up to this truth also effects everything, but only by ensuring that what we consider to be “everything” in our lives has little substance and limited depth.

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The type of downtime I am referring to is one in which we quiet our minds and do not work to acheive any particular goals, execute any task on our to do lists, or engage in external stimuli. It is not one and the same with leisurely downtime such as vacationing with friends, watching TV, or reading a book. That indulging in downtime – the kind in which we enter a state of idleness, quieting our mind – is unproductive and lazy is not merely an idea, but more of a belief a large portion of society has adopted as an absolute truth. However, concrete evidence proving it to be true is grotesquely lacking, leaving statements implying that always being on the go and doing something equates with a successful and meaningful life as nothing more than that: statements. semantics. words with no depth to penetrate.

As it turns out, neuroscientists are now finding the exact opposite to be true, and a new stance on how we expend our time is gaining momentum: always busying ourselves with something diminishes the quality of our lives. When we do not carve time out of our lives to be idle and create empty space in our heads for new ideas to arise, the areas most essential to living a productive, creative, and vibrant life are negatively impacted – or, in the least, brought to either an outright standstill in progress or complete and utter chaos. The reality is, when we “empty” our minds we are not wasting time. On the contrary, we are actually greatly reducing the odds that the time we spend engaging in external activities – whether work related, personal, or social – is wasted or of little substance.

Continuously busying ourselves and filling every waking minute with something to check off our to do lists allots little to no room in our minds for fresh ideas and renewal to arise. You don’t have to become a monk or go on a retreat where you sit in isolation in a room and meditate for months in order to reap the benefits of doing nothing in the manner I am referring to. You only need to silence your mind, to devote yourself to idleness, for five to ten minutes a day, preferrably a few times throughout the day. If you are thinking you do not have so much as one increment of five to ten minutes to dedicate to doing nothing every day, much less various ones, all hope is not lost. You can still enter a state of idleness in which you are not focused on doing anything and your interior world is not swayed by stimuli of any kind while performing mundane, habitual tasks such as household chores like laundry or the dishes, since “doing nothing” in this case essentially means to make space in your head – to quiet the mind, to do nothing mentally, to be conscious, to enter a state of heightened present moment awareness. There are simple strategies to do so even with a schedule full of activities, and adopting them can result in significant health benefits.

The Health Benefits Of Doing Nothing

When we are constantly doing something, we are simultaneously constantly stimulating our nervous systems to the point of exhaustion – and an overexerted, depleted nervous system can most certainly give birth to an array of health problems, as well as make it all but impossible to overcome them. For optimal health and healing, we need our nervous systems on board and rooted in our bodies with expendable energy to place towards any problematic areas that may arise which need excess nourishment to be replinished. Otherwise, acheiving a state of homeostasis and living a balanced, healthy life is highly unlikely.

Regularly carving out time to devote to doing nothing, to sitting in idleness and dropping into a conscious state of being, produces many health benefits including, but not limited to, reduced heart rate, better digestion, improvements in mood, and a boost in overall emotional well-being – which, of course, affects everything on a biochemical and physiological level, thereby serving as a major deciding factor on whether or not we fall ill, and/or remain ill. Mental downtime also replenishes glucose and oxygen levels in the brain, and allows our brains to process and file things, which leaves us feeling more rested and clear headed, promotes a stronger sense of self-confidence, and enstills within us a deep trust in life. When we trust in the unfolding of life, we trust change. We do not resist it, or any experience for that matter. It is then that we are able to transmute even the worst types of pain – physical, mental, or spiritual – into meaningful experiences that change us on deep, fundamental levels for the better. It may seem as though such changes only impact us or those directly associated with us in some way; but collectively, they impact the world, both shaping and embodying the form that defines the nature of humanity.

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Strategies For Creating Downtime To Do Nothing

In the morning: Immediatly upon opening our eyes every morning, many of us do the same thing, as there is a relatively limited selection of actions to choose from. Options range from hitting snooze on our alarms, getting up to brush our teeth, yelling at anyone who is brave enough to talk way too loud for 6 AM (or to talk, period), eating breakfast, or making coffee. There really aren’t many other options than that, at least not ones not deemed significant enough to make the list of the most common things people do when they first wake up. Except, there is one undoubtedly more significant thing that should be added to the list, as it is more essential to life than anything else we can do to start the day: the most powerful thing we can do upon waking is nothing. To remain idle and quiet our minds, and enter the present fully into a state of conscious being.

Choosing to start the day consciously, to clear our heads before new stimulus bombards it, profoundly changes everything that happens throughout the day ahead of us. While it may not so much change what happens on an external physical, aesthetic level, delving into the day consciously changes what happens on an internal level. This indirectly changes the feeling sense of all that happens around us, giving greater depth, meaning, and a sense of aliveness to every moment of the day not only for us, but for everyone connected to our daily activities both directly and indirectly.

If you find it hard to take five to ten minutes to do nothing but sit or lay still, for five to ten minutes while quieting your mind (falling back sleep doesn’t count), then the following practice may help: Starting at your feet and working your way up, scan your body for any areas that feel tense or uneasy. When you run into one, focus your attention, which is to say your energy, on it and imagine you are breathing into it, with each rise and fall of your chest relaxing it more and more. Doing so not only quiets the mind, it balances the mind-body connection, making way for a more grounded state of being throughout the day.

At work: Although sitting at your desk – or whatever your workplace environment entails – and staring out the window is infamously hailed as lazy, unproductive, and a general indicator that someone is either unmotivated or incompetent to work, research conducted by The Energy Project paints a different picture. The Energy Project, a consulting firm specializing in engagement and productivity among workers, vehemently begs to differ. According to their Vice President of business development, Andrew Deutscher, the longer people work without taking breaks to rest and replinish their minds, “the worse they feel and the less engaged they become.” [1]

The Energy Project’s research results on workplace productivity and idleness found that individuals who took five to ten minute breaks from work to do nothing a few times a day displayed an approximately 50% increase in their ability to think clearly and creatively, thus rendering their work far more productive. Results like these are what prompt the firm to advocate for the allowance of employee breaks and short, restorative naps while on the clock. This, of course, benefits everyone involved -employees, employers, and the people using their services.

When Tackling Daily Chores: When we execute daily household chores like dishes or laundry, we feel like we are doing nothing – in the sense that we are not doing anything significant, which is actually quite perfect. Rather than turning on the TV, radio, or calling someone to escape the uncomfortable feeling of doing nothing important, we can instead free fall into that feeling. Rather than resist the feeling of doing nothing significant when performing repetitive tasks and chores, we can instead make the conscious choice to fully enter it, and in doing so give it great significance.

Daily chores like washing the dishes and folding laundry become so habitual due to their repetitive nature that our physical actions are basically on cruise control when executing them. This can either be a really boring or really rewarding reality – we get to choose which. Since we do these tasks automatically without much thought, our minds are already quieted to a significant degree, making them great tools rather than burdens. Since our minds are already quieted more than usual, we have an advantage – the only effort we have to place towards doing nothing is to simply be aware that our mind is quieted more than usual and choose to tune into it without implementing any external stimuli to busy our mind.

In the space that external stimuli would have otherwise filled, there is consciousness. And where there is consciousness, there is deep peace, even when external factors are unsatisfactory. And where there is deep peace, there is a love whose existence could never be threatened by any external source or event. And where there is love such as this, there is the richest source of what we call life.

Sources:

1. Experience Life Magazine, May 2015 Issue

2. www.theenergyproject.com

3. www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html?_r=0

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Consciousness

A Description of the Lost Land of Atlantis & The Reason For Its Downfall – According To Plato

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, provides a description of Atlantis in his dialogue Critias, which was never completed.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do we know about ancient history? How much are we missing? How much has been buried in order to protect what we believe?

Advanced ancient civilizations are a big topic of interest among researchers, historians, archaeologists, and scientists. Every single year we are gifted with a mysterious find that has us questioning the origins of the human race and imagining the cultures which roamed the our planet before us. We have found much evidence to suggest that there may have been civilizations in existence before us which were intellectually, and even technologically superior. That being said, this theory is still thought to be quite fantastical; despite all of the evidence which has been brought to light in recent years to support this notion, it is still largely ignored by the mainstream. If you are interested in looking at some of this evidence, a great place to start is with author Graham Hancock, in his book titled The Magicians of The Gods.

Atlantis

If you start talking about the lost, ancient city of Atlantis, most people will probably think that you’re living in ‘la la’ land. Many people are unaware that this city has been seriously studied for hundreds of years. For example, we can see that it was a subject of significant importance for researchers at the Smithsonian Institution, as emphasized by their Annual Report of the Board of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution for the year ending June 30th, 1915.

In the report, author M. Pierre Termeir, a member of the Academy of Sciences and Director of Service of the Geologic Chart of France, gives a lecture regarding the Atlantean civilization.  He makes a compelling case for further study of this lost city:

After a long period of disdainful indifference, observe how in the last few years science is returning to the study of Atlantis. How many naturalists, geologists, zoologists, or botanists are asking one another today whether Plato has not transmitted to us, with slight amplification, a page from the actual history of mankind. No affirmation is yet permissible; but it seems more and more evident that a vast region, continental  or made up of great islands, has collapsed west of the Pillars of Hercules, otherwise called the Straight of Gibraltar, and that its collapse occurred in the not far distant past. In any event, the question of Atlantis is placed anew before men of science; and since I do not believe that it can ever be solved without the aid of oceanography, I have thought it natural to discuss it here, in this temple of maritime science, and to call to such a problem, long scorned but now being revived, the attention of oceanographers, as well as the attention of those who, though immersed in the tumult of cities, lend an ear to the distant murmur of the sea.

You can read this full report here, starting on page 219.

In his lecture, M. Termeir goes on to present zoologic, geographic, and geologic data to support the existence of the lost Atlantean civilization.Not only that, archaeological discoveries on the ocean floor have also raised some questions…

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Plato’s Description of Atlantis

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, provides a description of Atlantis in his dialogue Critias, which was never completed. The following is a summary of his depiction, these are a few of many points I am taking from Manly P. Halls, The Secret Teachings of All Ages

  • Atlantis was inhabited by ‘earth-born’ and ‘primitive’ human beings. One of them was wooed by the god Poseidon, who interbred with the human beings, and they eventually bore five children. This interbreeding between gods and humans is a common theme in many historical texts found throughout the world.
  • The land was divided into concentric zones of land and water. Two zones of land and three zones of water surrounded the central island, which had warm springs of water and cold springs of water.
  • Atlantis became an established country, with a wise government and an industry that sprung them to advanced technological heights — beyond even what we have reached today.
  • Atlantis had limitless resources, wild animals, and precious metals, and was heavily populated.
  • Atlantis was full of large and beautiful palaces, temples, docks, and a network of various bridges and canals that united different sections of the kingdom.
  • White, black and red stones were used in the construction of public buildings. “They circumscribed each of the land zones with a wall, the outer wall being covered with brass, the middle with tin, and the inner, which encompassed the citadel, with orichalch. The citadel, on the central island, contained the palaces, temples, and other public buildings. In its center, surrounded by a wall of gold, was a sanctuary dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon.” (source)
  • Atlantis had a number of gardens, full of hot and cold springs. There were countless temples, public baths, and exercise facilities for both man and animal.
  • “The part of Atlantis facing the sea was described as lofty and precipitous, but about the central city was a plain sheltered by mountains renowned for their size, number, and beauty. The plain yielded two crops each year, in the winter being watered by rains and in the summer by immense irrigation canals, which were also used for transportation. The plain was divided into sections and in time of war each section supplied its quota of fighting men and chariots.” (source)
  • Atlantis was massive, ruled by multiple kings who all had control over their land. Their relationships with the other kings were governed by an original code of ethics that was engraved by the first ten kings. “The chief laws of the Atlantean kings were that they should not take up arms against each other and that they should come to the assistance of any of their number who was attacked.” (source)

The Downfall of Atlantis

These are the essential points Plato makes about Atlantis. He described it as a great and powerful empire, almost magical, and said that this was the same empire which attacked the Hellenic states. He attributes the power and glory they tasted after this venture to their eventual demise, writing that the love for these ego-driven desires that soon developed among Atlantean kings “lured” them from “the pathway of wisdom and virtue.” 

“Filled with false ambition, the rulers of Atlantis determined to conquer the gods into his holy habitation and addressed them. Here Plato’s narrative comes to an abrupt end, for the Critias was never finished.” (source)

Plato also tackles the subject of Atlantis in his Timaeus, writing of a story told by Solon — who himself is said to have heard the story in Egypt, passed on to him by a priest via hieroglyphic inscriptions in a temple in Sais — in which a violent cataclysm sank the continent. Thus, the  Island of Atlantis completely disappeared. (source)

“A technologically sophisticated but morally bankrupt evil empire – Atlantis – attempts world domination by force. The only thing standing it its way is a relatively small group of spiritually pure, morally principled and incorruptible people – the ancient Athenians. Overcoming overwhelming odds . . . the Athenians are able to defeat their far more powerful adversary simply through the force of their spirit. Sound familiar? Plato’s Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient greek version of ‘Star Wars.’ ” – Ken Feder, professor of archaeology, taken from his book “Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.”

The Egyptian connection is also interesting to bring up here because Crantor, another ancient Greek philosopher, asserted that the Egyptian priests declared the story of Atlantis to be written upon pillars which were still preserved circa 300 B.C.

Manly P. Hall has noted that, before this cataclysm, a portion of the population left and did not succumb to the egoistic tendencies which apparently led to the downfall of Atlantis. Was the philosophic, religious, and scientific knowledge of Atlantis passed on? There are many similarities between the reported teachings of Atlantis and those of other cultures, such as the Mayas of Central America.

According to Manly P. Hall, from the Atlanteans, “the world received not only the heritage of arts and crafts, philosophies, and sciences, ethics and religions, but also the heritage of hate, strife, and perversion. The Atlanteans instigated the first war; and it has been said that all subsequent wars were fought in a fruitless effort to justify the first one and right the wrong which it caused.” (source)

Before Atlantis sank, its spiritually illuminated Initiates, who realized that their land was doomed because it had departed from the Path of Light, withdrew from the ill fated continent. Carrying with them the sacred and secret doctrine, these Atlanteans established themselves in Egypt, where they became its first divine rulers. Nearly all the great cosmologic myths forming the foundation of the various sacred books of the world are based upon the Atlantean Mystery Rituals.” (source)

One of the most interesting parts of this story, to me, is the fact that this place is often remembered as a place of glory, light, and abundance, which it was. But they were not immune to the dangers of avarice, either, as H.P. Blavatsky makes clear: “Under the evil insinuations of their demon, Thevatat, the Atlantis race became a nation of wicked magicians. In consequence of this, war was declared, the story of which would be too long to narrate; its substance may be found in the disfigured allegories of the race of Cain, the giants, and that of Noah and his righteous family. The conflict came to an end by the submersion of the Atlantis, which finds its imitation in the stories of the Babylonian and Mosaic flood.” (source)

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 22: The Dragon)

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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.”

22. The Dragon

On the Western side of the island of Allandon the poet and his son journeyed deep into the forest until they came upon a hidden cave at the foot of the mountain.

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“This is the lair of the dragon of a thousand and one heads,” said the poet.

“Does it ever come out?” asked the son.

“Indeed. Each person on the island confronts it at some time. You will too.”

“What if I just leave it alone?” the son asked.

“Eventually it will come after you, heads screaming and breathing fire. The question is, what will you do when it does?”

“I will run away,” said the son.

“If you do, you will find that it will follow you until the end of your days, keeping you in fear and anxiety.”

“I understand,” the son said. “I must stand up to it and kill it.”

“You can try. You could wield a mighty sword high and slice off one of its fearsome heads. But you would see that where one head falls off, two heads grow in its place.”

“Then it is invincible!”

“In a way—but you should be happy about it. For killing the dragon would end your life also.”

“So what am I to do?” the boy asked.

“Your life is designed to teach you that,” said the poet.

The son looked into the blackness of the cave. “Has anyone ever tried to kill the dragon?” he asked.

The poet smiled. “How do you think it became the dragon of a thousand and one heads?”

They say that the first step to recovery is admitting that there’s a problem, being willing to face the truth. After many years of denial, I declare myself ready for healing. My name is Richard, and I am an egocentric. I would like to say reformed egocentric, but I know I have not fully kicked the habit. And thankfully, I am no longer putting myself under the gun to do so.

It was only after graduating from university that I came to a full awareness of what ego meant, and first made a semi-conscious effort to begin to walk a spiritual path. My early reading of ancient spiritual texts seemed to indicate that the ego was something that eventually needed to be killed off. After all, the literature suggested that the ego alienates us from other people, is the source of the attachments that lead us to misery, and at every turn prevents us from experiencing peace, love, and a permanent sense of belonging. I felt that all spiritual masters had been able to perpetrate their own ego death. So for me, following the spiritual path meant learning to smother the life out of any expressions of anger, prejudice, jealousy, and other ego-related vices.

At that time I may have already had the appearance of some kind of master to a few people: I seemed quite composed, rarely judged others, and could speak eloquently on matters of spirit. I thought I was moving down a spiritual path in leaps and bounds. In truth I wasn’t really going anywhere. I was still just a shy and serious kid with a tendency to think long and hard before speaking, a habit that was probably ingrained in me by my childhood fear of provoking my father’s anger. It was easy for me to censor most expressions of judgment and self-centeredness because I had been doing it all my life. And I continued doing it, only now with added pride because I felt I was banishing my spiritually improper inclinations.

However, trying to relieve ourselves of the burdens of the Ego Self with a well-placed magic bullet misses one important point. The desire to kill off anything, including the Ego Self, is inevitably sponsored by the Ego Self. So in trying to commit this act we are actually keeping the Ego Self in control. The unwanted desires and emotions simply get stuffed down inside of us and continue to be a force in our lives. And so not only do we maintain our ego-motivated behavior, but our habit of controlling, censoring, and suppressing our expression also causes us to lose touch with the practice of living freely, authentically and spontaneously.

In more recent years, I have begun to understand that the path to mastery of the Ego Self requires exactly the opposite of control—it requires surrender. There is such a skill and an art to surrendering that it has taken me an eternity just to grasp it, and I’m not sure that I’ve really been able to fully apply it yet. It’s like the lesson that keeps on teaching. The surrender of the Ego Self to the Dao Self is the quintessential act of courage, wisdom, and love. It is not a suicide but a succumbing. It is not a slaying of the dragon but a taming. It is not an excision of an unwanted part of ourselves but a healing.

While the Dao Self constantly bathes the Ego Self in love and acceptance, it is only when the Ego Self lets go of control that some of its hidden darkness can come into the light and, ultimately, be released. For the Dao Self all things are acceptable, even the desire of the Ego Self to lead and to control. The Dao Self will never impose itself since it has no ‘will’ as such, so what is required is for the Ego Self to will the Dao Self to be the leader and accept the designation of follower. Otherwise, we will by default be led by the Ego Self—which can only judge and condemn its own darkness and is incapable of healing it.

A spiritual master like Jesus was unwaveringly led by the Dao Self, which he called the Father. He was not without an Ego Self, for it was written that he could still feel the temptation of the Devil. But he never tried to destroy the source of this temptation, as he understood that the Ego Self—symbolized by the Devil—was an inextricable component of being human. Jesus had a choice, as we all do, and he consistently chose his Dao Self over his Ego Self. He had a clear vision that the larger plan for his life was more important than his pride, his safety, or any other ego-concern.

Like Jesus, we too have a larger plan for our lives. However, that does not mean we are all meant to live out the same plan as Jesus, nor can we be expected to follow our Dao Self as faithfully. There is no shame in seeing that Jesus was simply more conscious and more evolved than we are. That does not make him better. In fact he never thought he was better. He just was who he was. And very simply, that is all we need to do to follow our plan, and walk a spiritual path—be who we are.

This is not as easy as it sounds. This is because who we are as human beings is always in a state of becoming something greater. This means, paradoxically, that who we are is always in a state of moving away from aspects of who we are in any given moment. The way to see past this paradox is not to judge the parts of ourselves we are trying to move away from, for when we judge these parts of ourselves to be ‘wrong’ or ‘unacceptable’ they shrink back into the darkness and remain a part of us.

We all have darkness. But we are starting to find our way out of it. In the new conversation we have started to bridge the division of the spiritual and the material in our society. We no longer want to see spirituality as a separate domain of our lives, reserved for the hallowed halls of the church, the mosque, the synagogue, the monastery, the ashram. We also want it to encompass the office, the classroom, the sports arena, the restaurant, and any other place people get together in any human activity. Such a spirituality would not be about denial of ourselves and our selfish desires, and would not condemn the material focus of the Ego Self. Most importantly, it would not lead us into the seriousness of self-recrimination but out of it. It would help us all live according to a simple but fundamental idea: life is fun.

This is not possible if we continue to see ourselves as sinners needing redemption, compelled to pass the tests of an Almighty Judge in order to be worthy of Heaven, one who looks down upon us and is pleased when his rules are followed and offended when they are not. It is dawning on us that such a Judge cannot really be the One but is rather a projection of our own Ego Self.

We want to be allowed—nay, encouraged—to be our unique selves with all our flaws, to follow our inner voice of desire. The greatest times of our lives were not spent being obedient to the rules of others, but rather when we found a way to be who we are. In the new conversation we are encouraged to be who we love to be, not told to deny who we are afraid to be. As important as it is not to identify with the Ego Self, and not to let the Ego Self lead us in our lives, it is equally important to understand that the Ego Self is and will continue to be a part of who we are as individuals. Indeed it is the foundation of our uniqueness. One of the great triumphs of Western society has been the elevation of the individual and the blossoming of the expression of individual talents, gifts, and abilities.

Now we have to take the next step, and find a way to express our individuality while still moving together, hand in hand, towards unity. When we push for unity but ignore our individual needs, what some people would call a nobler path, we actually get farther from authenticity because we try to take a shortcut to unity. We suppress our dark side rather than honoring it and, perish forbid, let it be revealed to ourselves and the world. More often than not, this path of sacrifice and denial leads us to moral elitism and the sense that we are better than others who do not sacrifice as much or work as hard on being ‘spiritual’.

What we really need today is for the spiritual path and the material path to come together, and pave the way for truly feeling alive in the world. The main requirement is for us to be authentic. For some of us that’s exactly where the roadblock occurs. The proposition of being authentic itself is scary. We are tempted to act in a way that is more acceptable to others, that garners us some approval and status. But while choosing to act other than who we are may get us somewhere in the short term, it’s never where we’re actually going. It’s like rushing to get on the first bus that arrives at our stop, even though it isn’t the one that takes us home. No wonder we so often feel lost in our lives.

I always found it instructive to think very deeply about the following question: What is the worst thing that could happen by being authentic? Are we afraid of not fitting in, of being embarrassed, of being laughed at? So let’s look at being laughed at. If, like me, you are on a mission to be less serious, there may be no better experience to go through than allowing yourself to be laughed at for being who you are. And if you have the courage you can laugh at yourself as well. As Milton Berle said, “If you can’t laugh at yourself you’re probably missing the joke of the century.” Taking ourselves seriously keeps us in the domain of the Ego Self. If we are able to freely show to the world who we are and in the same spirit we are able to laugh at ourselves, then we give permission for others to live freely as well.

I believe the real spiritual masters understood this. They developed unlimited compassion for the egocentricities of others because they discovered how to have compassion for their own shortcomings. They are the ones whose facial wrinkles are forged by a peaceful smile, a sign of their constant amusement with their own fallibility and humanity.

When I started writing this book, I worked hard to make sure that people did not detect a hint of egocentricity when I spoke about it. After all, if I was going to present ideas about how to move away from one’s Ego Self, the least I could do is show that I’ve mastered it successfully in my life. But as I got further into the writing, and more deeply into self-examination, I realized that this was not completely honest. I was just being cautious. If I was to be authentic I would have to admit that I have not evolved beyond all self-centered desires when it came to this book. In some moments I was captured by the prospects of gaining some fame and recognition. Sometimes I got caught up in how much money I might be able to make. I cannot in all fairness assert that my motivation to get this book written has come purely from selflessness and unconditional love.

At the same time, I can say that I have learned a lot since I started writing. I have seen that when I come from a place of self-interest it is much more difficult to write, to get good ideas, to be in a flow with the process. I am more prone to feel fearful of failure, to be worried about how people will react to what I am saying and to be doubtful that I actually have something of value to say. On the other hand, when I have been able to get more centered on this book being a contribution to others, suddenly the words and ideas come more easily, the process is less burdensome. So certainly I have tangible experience of the value of trying to move into my Dao Self.

But an even more profound lesson, one that brings me great peace and happiness, was learning to accept myself when I am not coming from my Dao Self. This is my highest experience of authenticity. I can be who I am and speak about what is true for me in a given moment without worrying that I might sometimes not be seen as such an ‘evolved’ person. Trying to be conscious does not mean having to be cautious. I recognize that I need to live at my current level of spiritual understanding, rather than pretending to be more ‘holy’, more ‘spiritual’ than I actually am.

And so I believe even our egocentric desires are not without purpose. Sometimes even if people who are rich and famous have told us that money and recognition don’t bring happiness—and we believe them—we still feel the need to find out for ourselves. I recognize that I continue to be driven by the Ego Self from time to time, but then again so are most of us. To deny this is a subtle form of egocentricity itself. Let’s all cut ourselves a little slack. In a way, we could say that if we were never driven by the Ego Self we wouldn’t be driven at all. It’s time we all got together to create a space in which we are free to make mistakes, do the wrong thing, play the fool. Even if our ego-desires lead to dead ends, we want the opportunity to play them out without being judged. Given the chance to find out we don’t want what we thought we wanted, we get closer to knowing what our true desires are and living from our true selves.

In the West we have lived too long under the burning image of a spirituality that is divorced from the material. We walk away in sadness just like the rich man when Jesus told him to sell off all his possessions, saying to his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” We fear that spiritual mastery looks upon our materialistic strivings with disdain and disapproval. It seems that if we are to fully engage in spiritual practice, it requires forsaking our material desires. And if we are to follow our inner urges for material abundance, we must in those moments look away from our spiritual teachings. We try to make our lives work as best we can, but we tire of leaping back and forth across the chasm between our spiritual lives and our material lives. Our deep longing for a spiritual life is thwarted by a fear that we will have to give up too much. At the same time our enjoyment of our material life is tempered by a niggling guilt that we are not doing enough for those less fortunate. And so with all we have, and with all we can be, we are afraid to truly live either aspect of life with vigor and enthusiasm. We fear that trying to integrate our spiritual and material desires will make us hypocrites.

In truth Jesus never said that being rich was bad, nor that we have to abandon the material for the spiritual. He did imply that it would be a complex matter for someone rich to experience the treasures of a spiritual life. If we are to have a lot of money and not give material life any more of our focus than is needed, we are required to become complex characters ourselves, in order to avoid the traps the Ego Self lays in our fields of material abundance.

I believe we are ready for it. I believe this is the true challenge of our time, to bring forth a spirituality in harmony with our growing capacity for material wealth. We have started to ask ourselves: Why would our souls have been delivered into this wondrous world of the material if not to enjoy its fruits? All we need is some guidance, not away from the material, but onto that fine line that balances our material needs with our spiritual needs.

Of course this is not an easy path. This is why we need to be in conversation with one another, ready to accept each other’s help. Since our consciousness has evolved, we have started to become able to guide one another through the pitfalls of an integrated life. In the new conversation we can condone our Ego-Self desires without being driven by them. We are able to witness our own egocentricity in the space that is provided, when we are most ready to see it. The new conversation is in service of allowing us to stand in a place where the spiritual is not a denial of the material and our human desires, but rather the material and spiritual are balanced in a whole and vital life. If we guide each other carefully, I believe it will indeed become possible for us to put a camel through the eye of a needle—while riding shotgun.

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Consciousness

15 Quotes From Alan Watts’ Book: ‘Out of Your Mind’

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In the middle of yoga class the other day, sweaty, exhausted, and holding a pose for what seemed an eternity, my teacher reminded me of the wisdom of Alan Watts with a single quote that would ultimately make me forget about the physical discomfort I was in, and allow me to fully connect to the beauty of the moment at hand.

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless,” she said.

The recitation reminded me in that moment that what I was feeling was not permanent, and I was choosing to be there to be enlivened, not lifeless. I wanted to feel, to sweat, to dig deeper mentally and physically. And so I let it happen, and suddenly the moment was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known for his interpretation and popularization of Asian philosophies for the Western minds. His more than 25 books and various articles spanned sensational subjects, including personal identity, higher consciousness, the true nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the pursuit of happiness without the desire for materialism.

Perhaps the most profound part of Watts was that he had the incredible ability of expressing complex thoughts in the simplest of ways.

Here is a glimpse into some of his most awakening quotes:

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1. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”

2. “We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”

3. “No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.”

4. “Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.”

5. “What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are ‘coins’ for real things.”

6. “The source of all light is in the eye.”

7. “Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.”

8. “Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”

9. “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

10. “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

11. “What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.”

12. “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

13. “There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.”

14. “To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

15. “Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.

Holographic 2020 Lunar Calendar

An art piece and lunar calendar all in one. This calendar features moon phases for every day of the month for the entirety of 2020.

Hologrpahic foil set on a dark 11" x 11" poster makes the moon's phases shimmer as light strikes them in this unique art piece.

Buy yours here!
Continue Reading
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