The Roots of Our Global Crisis: Psychology, Ecology, and Human Survival

Roger is interviewed on Thinking Allowed about his book “Human Survival.”

Blocks and Barriers on the Spiritual Path and Practices to Release Them

An Interview with author, professor and researcher, Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.

What is Spirituality and What is a Spiritual Life?

Dr Roger Walsh is interviewed about the universal practices found in all the world’s spiritual and religious traditions such meditation, purification and so forth.

Excerpt from One Taste: A Spirituality That Transforms ~ Ken Wilber

The following is an excerpt from One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber.

Hal Blacker, consulting editor of What is Enlightenment?, has described the topic of this special issue of the magazine in the following way (although this repeats statements made elsewhere in this issue, it is nonetheless worth quoting at length, simply because of its eloquence, straightforwardness, and unerring good sense):

We intend to explore a sensitive question, but one which needs to be addressed the superficiality which pervades so much of the current spiritual exploration and discourse in the West, particularly in the United States. All too often, in the translation of the mystical traditions from the East (and elsewhere) into the American idiom, their profound depth is flattened out, their radical demand is diluted, and their potential for revolutionary transformation is squelched. How this occurs often seems to be subtle, since the words of the teachings are often the same. Yet through an apparent sleight of hand involving, perhaps, their context and therefore ultimately their meaning, the message of the greatest teachings often seems to become transmuted from the roar of the fire of liberation into something more closely resembling the soothing burble of a California hot tub. While there are exceptions, the radical implications of the greatest teachings are thereby often lost. We wish to investigate this dilution of spirituality in the West, and inquire into its causes and consequences.

I would like to take that statement and unpack its basic points, commenting on them as best I can, because taken together, those points highlight the very heart and soul of a crisis in American spirituality.

Translation Versus Transformation

In a series of books (e.g., A Sociable God, Up from Eden, and The Eye of Spirit), I have tried to show that religion itself has always performed two very important, but very different, functions. One, it acts as a way of creating meaning for the separate self: it offers myths and stories and tales and narratives and rituals and revivals that, taken together, help the separate self make sense of, and endure, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. This function of religion does not usually or necessarily change the level of consciousness in a person; it does not deliver radical transformation. Nor does it deliver a shattering liberation from the separate self altogether. Rather, it consoles the self, fortifies the self, defends the self, promotes the self. As long as the separate self believes the myths, performs the rituals, mouths the prayers, or embraces the dogma, then the self, it is fervently believed, will be “saved”—either now in the glory of being God-saved or Goddess-favored, or in an after-life that insures eternal wonderment.

But two, religion has also served—in a usually very, very small minority—the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function of religion does not fortify the separate self, but utterly shatters it—not consolation but devastation, not entrenchment but emptiness, not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution—in short, not a conventional bolstering of consciousness but a radical transmutation and transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.

There are several different ways that we can state these two important functions of religion. The first function—that of creating meaning for the self—is a type of horizontal movement; the second function—that of transcending the self—is a type of vertical movement (higher or deeper, depending on your metaphor). The first I have named translation; the second, transformation.

With translation, the self is simply given a new way to think or feel about reality. The self is given a new belief—perhaps holistic instead of atomistic, perhaps forgiveness instead of blame, perhaps relational instead of analytic. The self then learns to translate its world and its being in the terms of this new belief or new language or new paradigm, and this new and enchanting translation acts, at least temporarily, to alleviate or diminish the terror inherent in the heart of the separate self.

But with transformation, the very process of translation itself is challenged, witnessed, undermined, and eventually dismantled. With typical translation, the self (or subject) is given a new way to think about the world (or objects); but with radical transformation, the self itself is inquired into, looked into, grabbed by its throat and literally throttled to death.

Put it one last way: with horizontal translation—which is by far the most prevalent, wide-spread, and widely-shared function of religion—the self is, at least temporarily, made happy in its grasping, made content in its enslavement, made complacent in the face of the screaming terror that is in fact its innermost condition. With translation, the self goes sleepy into the world, stumbles numbed and near-sighted into the nightmare of samsara, is given a map laced with morphine with which to face the world. And this, indeed, is the common condition of a religious humanity, precisely the condition that the radical or transformative spiritual realizers have come to challenge and to finally undo.

For authentic transformation is not a matter of belief but of the death of the believer; not a matter of translating the world but of transforming the world; not a matter of finding solace but of finding infinity on the other side of death. The self is not made content; the self is made toast.

Now, although I have obviously been favoring transformation and belittling translation, the fact is that, on the whole, both of these functions are incredibly important and altogether indispensable. Individuals are not, for the most part, born enlightened. They are born in a world of sin and suffering, hope and fear, desire and despair. They are born as a self ready and eager to contract; a self rife with hunger, thirst, tears and terror. And they begin, quite early on, to learn various ways to translate their world, to make sense of it, to give meaning to it, and to defend themselves against the terror and the torture never lurking far beneath the happy surface of the separate self.

And as much as we, as you and I, might wish to transcend mere translation and find an authentic transformation, nonetheless translation itself is an absolutely necessary and crucial function for the greater part of our lives. Those who cannot translate adequately, with a fair amount of integrity and accuracy, fall quickly into severe neurosis or even psychosis: the world ceases to make sense—the boundaries between the self and the world are not transcended but instead begin to crumble. This is not breakthrough but breakdown; not transcendence but disaster.

But at some point in our maturation process, translation itself, no matter how adequate or confident, simply ceases to console. No new beliefs, no new paradigm, no new myths, no new ideas, will staunch the encroaching anguish. Not a new belief for the self, but the transcendence of the self altogether, is the only path that avails.

Still, the number of individuals who are ready for such a path is, always has been, and likely always will be, a very small minority. For most people, any sort of religious belief will fall instead into the category of consolation: it will be a new horizontal translation that fashions some sort of meaning in the midst of the monstrous world. And religion has always served, for the most part, this first function, and served it well.

I therefore also use the word legitimacy to describe this first function (the horizontal translation and creation of meaning for the separate self). And much of religion’s important service is to provide legitimacy to the self—legitimacy to its beliefs, its paradigms, its worldviews, and its way in the world. This function of religion to provide a legitimacy for the self and its beliefs—no matter how temporary, relative, nontransformative, or illusory—has nonetheless been the single greatest and most important function of the world’s religious traditions. The capacity of a religion to provide horizontal meaning, legitimacy, and sanction for the self and its beliefs—that function of religion has historically been the single greatest “social glue” that any culture has.

And one does not tamper easily, or lightly, with the basic glue that holds societies together. Because more often than not, when that glue dissolves—when that translation dissolves—the result, as we were saying, is not breakthrough but breakdown, not liberation but social chaos. (We will return to this crucial point in a moment.)

Where translative religion offers legitimacy, transformative religion offers authenticity. For those few individuals who are ready—that is, sick with the suffering of the separate self, and no longer able to embrace the legitimate worldview—then a transformative opening to true authenticity, true enlightenment, true liberation, calls more and more insistently. And, depending upon your capacity for suffering, you will sooner or later answer the call of authenticity, of transformation, of liberation on the lost horizon of infinity.

Transformative spirituality does not seek to bolster or legitimate any present worldview at all, but rather to provide true authenticity by shattering what the world takes as legitimate. Legitimate consciousness is sanctioned by the consensus, adopted by the herd mentality, embraced by the culture and the counter-culture both, promoted by the separate self as the way to make sense of this world. But authentic consciousness quickly shakes all of that off of its back, and settles instead into a glance that sees only a radiant infinity in the heart of all souls, and breathes into its lungs only the atmosphere of an eternity too simple to believe.

Transformative spirituality, authentic spirituality, is therefore revolutionary. It does not legitimate the world, it breaks the world; it does not console the world, it shatters it. And it does not render the self content, it renders it undone.

And those facts lead to several conclusions.

Who Actually Wants to Transform?

It is a fairly common belief that the East is simply awash in transformative and authentic spirituality, but that the West—both historically and in today’s “new age”—has nothing much more than various types of horizontal, translative, merely legitimate and therefore tepid spirituality. And while there is some truth to that, the actual situation is much gloomier, for both the East and the West alike.

First, although it is generally true that the East has produced a greater number of authentic realizers, nonetheless, the actual percentage of the Eastern population that is engaged in authentic transformative spirituality is, and always has been, pitifully small. I once asked Katigiri Roshi, with whom I had my first breakthrough (hopefully, not a breakdown), how many truly great Ch’an and Zen masters there have historically been. Without hesitating, he said “Maybe one thousand altogether.” I asked another Zen master how many truly enlightened—deeply enlightened—Japanese Zen masters there were alive today, and he said “Not more than a dozen.”

Let us simply assume, for the sake of argument, that those are vaguely accurate answers. Run the numbers. Even if we say there were only one billion Chinese over the course of its history (an extremely low estimate), that still means that only one thousand out of one billion had graduated into an authentic, transformative spirituality. For those of you without a calculator, that’s 0.0000001 of the total population.

And that means, unmistakably, that the rest of the population were (and are) involved in, at best, various types of horizontal, translative, merely legitimate religion: they were involved in magical practices, mythical beliefs, egoic petitionary prayer, magical rituals, and so on—in other words, translative ways to give meaning to the separate self, a translative function that was, as we were saying, the major social glue of the Chinese (and all other) cultures to date.

Thus, without in any way belittling the truly stunning contributions of the glorious Eastern traditions, the point is fairly straightforward: radical transformative spirituality is extremely rare, anywhere in history, and anywhere in the world. (The numbers for the West are even more depressing. I rest my case.)

So, although we can very rightly lament the very few number of individuals in the West who are today involved in a truly authentic and radically transformative spiritual realization, let us not make the false argument of claiming that it has otherwise been dramatically different in earlier times or in different cultures. It has on occasion been a little better than we see here, now, in the West, but the fact remains: authentic spirituality is an incredibly rare bird, anywhere, at any time, at any place. So let us start from the unarguable fact that vertical, transformative, authentic spirituality is one of the most precious jewels in the entire human tradition—precisely because, like all precious jewels, it is incredibly rare.

Second, even though you and I might deeply believe that the most important function we can perform is to offer authentic transformative spirituality, the fact is, much of what we have to do, in our capacity to bring decent spirituality into the world, is actually to offer more benign and helpful modes of translation. In other words, even if we ourselves are practicing, or offering, authentic transformative spirituality, nonetheless much of what we must first do is provide most people with a more adequate way to translate their condition. We must start with helpful translations, before we can effectively offer authentic transformations.

The reason is that if translation is too quickly, or too abruptly, or too ineptly taken away from an individual (or a culture), the result, once again, is not breakthrough but breakdown, not release but collapse. Let me give two quick examples here.

When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a great (though controversial) Tibetan master, first came to this country, he was renown for always saying, when asked the meaning of Vajrayana, “There is only Ati.” In other words, there is only the enlightened mind wherever you look. The ego, samsara, maya and illusion—all of them do not have to be gotten rid of, because none of them actually exist: There is only Ati, there is only Spirit, there is only God, there is only nondual Consciousness anywhere in existence.

Virtually nobody got it—nobody was ready for this radical and authentic realization of always-already truth—and so Trungpa eventually introduced a whole series of “lesser” practices leading up to this radical and ultimate “no practice.” He introduced the Nine Yanas as the foundation of practice—in other words, he introduced nine stages or levels of practice, culminating in the ultimate “no practice” of always-already Ati.

Many of these practices were simply translative, and some were what we might call “lesser transformative” practices: miniature transformations that made the bodymind more susceptible to radical, already-accomplished enlightenment. These translative and lesser practices issued forth in the “perfect practice” of no-practice—or the radical, instantaneous, authentic realization that, from the very beginning, there is only Ati. So even though ultimate transformation was the prior goal and ever-present ground, Trungpa had to introduce translative and lesser practices in order to prepare people for the obviousness of what is.

Exactly the same thing happened with Adi Da, another influential (and equally controversial) adept (although this time, American-born). He originally taught nothing but “the path of understanding”: not a way to attain enlightenment, but an inquiry into why you want to attain enlightenment in the first place. The very desire to seek enlightenment is in fact nothing but the grasping tendency of the ego itself, and thus the very search for enlightenment prevents it. The “perfect practice” is therefore not to search for enlightenment, but to inquire into the motive for seeking itself. You obviously seek in order to avoid the present, and yet the present alone holds the answer: to seek forever is to miss the point forever. You always already ARE enlightened Spirit, and therefore to seek Spirit is simply to deny Spirit. You can no more attain Spirit than you can attain your feet or acquire your lungs.

Nobody got it. And so Adi Da, exactly like Trungpa, introduced a whole series of translative and lesser transformative practices—seven stages of practice, in fact—leading up to the point that you could dispense with seeking altogether, there to stand open to the always-already truth of your own eternal and timeless condition, which was completely and totally present from the start, but which was brutally ignored in the frenzied desire to seek.

Now, whatever you might think of those two Adepts, the fact remains: they performed perhaps the first two great experiments in this country on how to introduce the notion that “There is only Ati”—there is only Spirit—and thus seeking Spirit is exactly that which prevents realization. And they both found that, however much we might be alive to Ati, alive to the radical transformative truth of this moment, nonetheless translative and lesser transformative practices are almost always a prerequisite for that final and ultimate transformation.

My second point, then, is that in addition to offering authentic and radical transformation, we must still be sensitive to, and caring of, the numerous beneficial modes of lesser and translative practices. This more generous stance therefore calls for an “integral approach” to overall transformation, an approach that honors and incorporates many lesser transformative and translative practices—covering the physical, emotional, mental, cultural, and communal aspects of the human being—in preparation for, and as an expression of, the ultimate transformation into the always already present state.

And so, even as we rightly criticize merely translative religion (and all the lesser forms of transformation), let us also realize that an integral approach to spirituality combines the best of horizontal and vertical, translative and transformative, legitimate and authentic—and thus let us focus our efforts on a balanced and sane overview of the human situation.

Wisdom and Compassion

But isn’t this view of mine terribly elitist? Good heavens, I hope so. When you go to a basketball game, do you want to see me or Michael Jordan play basketball? When you listen to pop music, who are you willing to pay money in order to hear? Me or Bruce Springsteen? When you read great literature, who would you rather spend an evening reading, me or Tolstoy? When you pay sixty-four million dollars for a painting, will that be a painting by me or by Van Gogh?

All excellence is elitist. And that includes spiritual excellence as well. But spiritual excellence is an elitism to which all are invited. We go first to the great masters—to Padmasambhava, to St. Teresa of Avila, to Gautama Buddha, to Lady Tsogyal, to Emerson, Eckhart, Maimonides, Shankara, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Bodhidharma, Garab Dorje. But their message is always the same: let this consciousness be in you which is in me. You start elitist, always; you end up egalitarian, always.

But in between, there is the angry wisdom that shouts from the heart: we must, all of us, keep our eye on the radical and ultimate transformative goal. And so any sort of integral or authentic spirituality will also, always, involve a critical, intense, and occasionally polemical shout from the transformative camp to the merely translative camp.

If we use the percentages of Chinese Ch’an as a simple blanket example, this means that if 0.0000001 of the population is actually involved in genuine or authentic spirituality, then .99999999 of the population is involved in nontransformative, nonauthentic, merely translative or horizontal belief systems. And that means, yes, that the vast, vast majority of “spiritual seekers” in this country (as elsewhere) are involved in much less than authentic occasions. It has always been so; it is still so now. This country is no exception.

But in today’s America, this is much more disturbing, because this vast majority of horizontal spiritual adherents often claim to be representing the leading edge of spiritual transformation, the “new paradigm” that will change the world, the “great transformation” of which they are the vanguard. But more often than not, they are not deeply transformative at all; they are merely but aggressively translative—they do not offer effective means to utterly dismantle the self, but merely ways for the self to think differently. Not ways to transform, but merely new ways to translate. In fact, what most of them offer is not a practice or a series of practices; not sadhana or satsang or shikan-taza or yoga. What most of them offer is simply the suggestion: read my book on the new paradigm. This is deeply disturbed, and deeply disturbing.

Thus, the authentic spiritual camps have the heart and soul of the great transformative traditions, and yet they will always do two things at once: appreciate and engage the lesser and translative practices (upon which their own successes usually depend), but also issue a thundering shout from the heart that translation alone is not enough.

And therefore, all of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart—perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakeable public example—but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.

Alas, if you fail to do so, you are betraying your own authenticity. You are hiding your true estate. You don’t want to upset others because you don’t want to upset your self. You are acting in bad faith, the taste of a bad infinity.

Because, you see, the alarming fact is that any realization of depth carries a terrible burden: Those who are allowed to see are simultaneously saddled with the obligation to communicate that vision in no uncertain terms: that is the bargain. You were allowed to see the truth under the agreement that you would communicate it to others (that is the ultimate meaning of the bodhisattva vow). And therefore, if you have seen, you simply must speak out. Speak out with compassion, or speak out with angry wisdom, or speak out with skillful means, but speak out you must.

And this is truly a terrible burden, a horrible burden, because in any case there is no room for timidity. The fact that you might be wrong is simply no excuse: You might be right in your communication, and you might be wrong, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter, as Kierkegaard so rudely reminded us, is that only by investing and speaking your vision with passion, can the truth, one way or another, finally penetrate the reluctance of the world. If you are right, or if you are wrong, it is only your passion that will force either to be discovered. It is your duty to promote that discovery—either way—and therefore it is your duty to speak your truth with whatever passion and courage you can find in your heart. You must shout, in whatever way you can.

The vulgar world is already shouting, and with such a raucous rancor that truer voices can scarcely be heard at all. The materialistic world is already full of advertisements and allure, screams of enticement and cries of commerce, wails of welcome and whoops of come hither. I don’t mean to be harsh here, and we must honor all lesser engagements. Nonetheless, you must have noticed that the word “soul” is now the hottest item in the title of book sales—but all “soul” really means, in most of these books, is simply the ego in drag. “Soul” has come to denote, in this feeding frenzy of translative grasping, not that which is timeless in you but that which most loudly thrashes around in time, and thus “care of the soul” incomprehensibly means nothing much more than focusing intensely on your ardently separate self. Likewise, “Spiritual” is on everybody’s lips, but usually all it really means is any intense egoic feeling, just as “Heart” has come to mean any sincere sentiment of the self-contraction.

All of this, truly, is just the same old translative game, dressed up and gone to town. And even that would be more than acceptable were it not for the alarming fact that all of that translative jockeying is aggressively called “transformation,” when all it is, of course, is a new series of frisky translations. In other words, there seems to be, alas, a deep hypocrisy hidden in the game of taking any new translation and calling it the great transformation. And the world at large—East or West, North or South—is, and always has been, for the most part, perfectly deaf to this calamity.

And so: given the measure of your own authentic realization, you were actually thinking about gently whispering into the ear of that near-deaf world? No, my friend, you must shout. Shout from the heart of what you have seen, shout however you can.

But not indiscriminately. Let us proceed carefully with this transformative shout. Let small pockets of radically transformative spirituality, authentic spirituality, focus their efforts, and transform their students. And let these pockets slowly, carefully, responsibly, humbly, begin to spread their influence, embracing an absolute tolerance for all views, but attempting nonetheless to advocate a true and authentic and integral spirituality—by example, by radiance, by obvious release, by unmistakable liberation. Let those pockets of transformation gently persuade the world and its reluctant selves, and challenge their legitimacy, and challenge their limiting translations, and offer an awakening in the face of the numbness that haunts the world at large.

Let it start right here, right now, with us—with you and with me—and with our commitment to breathe into infinity until infinity alone is the only statement that the world will recognize. Let a radical realization shine from our faces, and roar from our hearts, and thunder from our brains—this simple fact, this obvious fact: that you, in the very immediateness of your present awareness, are in fact the entire world, in all its frost and fever, in all its glories and its grace, in all its triumphs and its tears. You do not see the sun, you are the sun; you do not hear the rain, you are the rain; you do not feel the earth, you are the earth. And in that simple, clear, unmistakable regard, translation has ceased in all domains, and you have transformed into the very Heart of the Kosmos itself—and there, right there, very simply, very quietly, it is all undone. Wonder and remorse will then be alien to you, and self and others will be alien to you, and outside and inside will have no meaning at all. And in at obvious shock of recognition—where my Master is my Self, and that Self is the Kosmos at large, and the Kosmos is my Soul—you will walk very gently into the fog of this world, and transform it entirely by doing nothing at all.

And then, and then, and only then—you will finally, clearly, carefully and with compassion, write on the tombstone of a self that never even existed: There is only Ati.

Ken Wilber is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages, and is the first philosopher-psychologist to have his Collected Works published while still alive. Wilber is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development, which continues to gather momentum around the world. His many books, all of which are still in print, can be found at Ken Wilber is the founder of Integral Institute, Inc., the co-founder of Integral Life, Inc., and the Senior Fellow of Integral Life Spiritual Center.

Karmic Footprints

Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.
~Native American Wisdom

Reducing your Karmic footprint:
4 ways to Re-Think and Recycle the Fruits of your actions

by Liane Legey

What is Karmic Footprint?

Karma is a Spiritual concept usually applied by Eastern religions; for some, Karma is the Law of Retribution in action. As a Law, it does not necessarily represent a bad thing, but the need for balance in nature. It allows us to learn and understand diverse points of view, through experiencing the different aspects and perspectives of life.

But the truth is how can one balance one’s lives in such a chaotic world?

If you share the common belief that we are all One and we are all related, we realize that the minimum actions and dealings can ripple in our lives, out to other’s lives and on to our entire Planet.

So, how can we grow as Individuals, help Mother Earth and reduce our Karmic footprint on our already overloaded planet?
There are many different types of Karma, but the one type we are going to concentrate on here is the Kriyamana Karma, which corresponds to the result of the gathering of all our actions (good or bad) in this current life. We can say that our Karmic Footprint is the aggregation of our daily actions that can create a wave and influence and touch other’s lives. As a result, if we are able to change, transmute and reduce most of our impact, at least the bad aspects of it in our present situation, much can be done for the good of our Earthly community.

There are no miraculous keys or definite solutions, but there are suggestions that may help you actively reduce your negative influence and consciously contribute to the clearing of the energy of the collective, not only spiritually but physically.

The Lavoisier’s Law
If we understand clearly that everything around us is energy, including matter, we can use a little of the concept of Lavoisier Law of Conservation, where he states: “nothing is lost, everything transforms itself”. He proved this when he established that although matter can change its state in a chemical reaction, the total mass of matter is the same at the end as at the beginning of every chemical change. So our Goal is not to necessarily eliminate collective Karmic residues, but our main challenge would be recycling our collective Global Karma to another level of energy, releasing negativity through Alchemy of Intentions + Actions.

Using Ethical Judgment as a Soul Compass.

We all have needs, that is undeniable, but what is the true measure of our needs? Do you know how to define Necessity? Do you really need a convertible red car; is this going to be the guarantee that you are going to be fully satisfied and happy? What do you need to be happy?

Amazingly enough, joy does not come with the complete satisfaction of your material desires; because to find happiness, you should start to search from inside out. So, here are some personal tips in how to help consistently in the transmutation of the energies of Mother Earth:

1. Reduce the excess in your life: Simplify
You need a give a hard look at the clutter in your home and life. Do you really need all those things you have? Aren’t you creating more work and stress for yourself and holding onto memories (not necessarily good ones) because you are afraid to let go? Here is how to deal with this: Ask yourself, did I use this item the last six months, or will I use this item in the next six months? If the answer is no for both questions, it is time to let go.

Spiritual tip: Select all the items you intend to get rid of, clear them with blessings from your heart, and make an intention that these items will find someone that will benefit from and find joy with them. This is an intention that will ripple good vibes to whoever receives or acquires each item.

As you clear the clutter in your life (and I mean life, not only home), you create space for the new to happen, opportunities to manifest; and if you are sending good vides, you are actually planting happiness.

2. Conserve Resources
When we speak of conserving resources, we are not only speaking of nature resources, as we assume that you are already doing this like everyone with a holistic ecological vision, and can understand and practice this. We can do that by using alternative ways like the use of solar power, reducing carbon emissions by having carpools instead of driving alone, and reducing the amount of electricity you use on regular basis. Nevertheless, we can go further, and deepen our contribution to this planet.

Have you ever considered Compacting as a spiritual practice? Compacting is a commitment, like a vow one can make in reducing buying new things that are not really necessary for a period of time, let’s say one whole year? Of course this practice does not include food or material items you need to replace others in your daily activities. But think, why not by a good used car, maybe more affordable, and that have everything you really want, instead of getting on the Merry-go-round of credit and debt? What about a used book instead of the same brand new one for almost 30-40% more?

Why can you say Compacting is a spiritual practice?

Compacting is a practice that will help to induce yourself to a point of balance, stability, self-sufficiency, and will tame your ego and prevent the “brilliance of glamour” to take over your Spiritual Path. It is one way to practice detachment to what is the standard philosophy of a commercially-geared society.

As you do this, you are saving a lot in resources used in the making of new products. When you decelerate the rate of planned obsolesce of a good, when you “freecycle” items you no longer need; you are helping Mother Earth and empowering many little communities and business thriving to insert themselves into a new economic paradigm. Never throw away, instead “GIVE” it away!

Think about it.

3. Alchemize and transmute what you no longer need
Alchemy is both an ancient philosophy and practice which aimed for the achievement of ultimate wisdom as well as immortality. I prefer to think of alchemy as a spiritual way to deal with stagnated energies and transform them into something good. Of course, the concept of good cannot always be translated into monetary compensation, but it can be rewarding in joy, satisfaction and beauty.

From Trash to Treasure
There are many things that may no longer serve you but would benefit other people. For instance, formal clothing, like a formal suite that you have outgrown, can be a key factor to facilitate someone in getting their first job; a heavy coat your kids do not use anymore can bring relief to a less fortunate Mother’s heart in knowing that their child will be comfortable and healthy during winter. There are things in life that are priceless, not only in the intention but also in the act. Always see if you can be the vehicle of a blessing to someone!

Plantings the Seeds of Goodness
So you recycled all your cans and plastic and paper. What do you do with the residual money you gathered from it?

For many years, I lived in the countryside in California. I had an old Pumpkin jar (instead of a piggy bank) where I gathered all the money acquired with the recycling practices of my household. As an alchemy practice, I believed that it was possible to transform Trash into Treasure. I used that Energy (the money) to buy seeds: I bought seeds of wild flowers, vegetables (the easy ones to grow) and more trees to plant. The money generated by my trash was now used to give gifts back to Mother Earth. Our family grew vegetables and we feed all the neighbors, and there was always plenty to donate to our little town food bank. We spread seeds of wildflowers on the highway sides, so the next season they would make a pretty comforting landscape for those who would pass that point, they would enjoy them with happy eyes.

You can also use the recycle jar to collect money that is no longer in your budget to donate to causes you support (like Humanity Healing Foundation). I remember breaking the recycle jar to send a donation to the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina. It was a big decision for us because we had decided that year that all the collection of money would go to sponsor some wolfs in Canada on a sanctuary, but it was worth it.

4. Practice Emotional Recycling
We sensitive people often feel the impact of others’ feelings in our collective lives: their sadness and their lack of hope, one way or another interferes in our lives. Knowing and being aware that all of us are under the auspices of the Law of One, we know that when one is helped, all are healed. But how can we help each other?
If you bring the possibility of relief, or the beginning of resurgence of hope into someone’s life; you are also cooperating with the combined cleansing of our collective minds and souls.
Dedicate every single random act of kindness you do as blessings, and purposely dedicate this energy for the general cleansing of humanity’s emotional wounds.

As you place yourself as an active member of this Human Community, you realize that we are all responsible, directly or indirectly, for all the challenges we are facing as a Collective Race. Our shadow side (made by our collective projections of fear and rejections) must be healed, and we can mindfully practice this philosophy as we chose to be aware, act and live in the present moment.

Here are some personal suggestions:

1.Refuse to be part of negative or less then positive activities; decline to be involved in gossip and any conversation that would demise someone. Practice the wisdom of the three monkeys: “See no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil”

2. Make a practice to include in your daily prayers, a prayer and/or a benediction for those that have no one to pray for them. Remember that we are a result of a collaboration of many actions, thoughts and cares of many different people. We are never alone. We can heal others with our goodness of heart and loving energy, even when they do not know. This is the real material that miracles are made off.

3. Create something beautiful as a gift to kindness.
Plant a tree: create little oasis in your garden (no matter how small it may be) and dedicate it to the increase of goodness, healing, love or any other virtue you may chose.
This is something I embrace as my personal gift to kindness and for the increase of hope, faith and integrity in the world: as a project I built a section in my yard where I hung a diversity of wind chimes of different formats, colors and materials. I cleared the space, consecrated the pieces and blessed every single one with a different prayer and wish. As the winds blow in all the different directions, they carry all the prayers for those in need. From time to time, I recharge them with new prayers, replace some crystals and meditate in gratitude to all the elementals that are joining me in this quest of diminishing our Karmic Footprint.

Last reminder: In order to actively reduce the impact of your actions and help create a new moment for all, you need to work not just with the intention, but always follow up your intention with ACTIONS.

The Way of the Bodhisattva ~ C. Clinton Sidle

Bodhisattva is a term Buddhists use to describe someone who is on the path to enlightenment but postpones the ultimate goal for the sake of helping others arrive there first. Bodhi generally means awakened, and Sattva most often means being, essence or spirit. I have also known Sattva to mean warrior. I like “awakened warrior” best.

What might this mean to us in our daily lives?

In his treatise A Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, eighth century Buddhist master Shantideva said, “All the suffering in the world comes from seeking pleasure for oneself. All the happiness in the world comes from seeking pleasure for others.” That, I believe, captures the essence of how this might matter to you and me.

My last post to this side shared the basic Buddhist view of how we naturally suffer. Each and every one of us has a hungry spirit that constantly searches for success, love, belonging, freedom or whatever it is we do to find meaning in our lives. That search is based on the idea that the self, or “I” really exists, and we cling to it out of hope and with fear of never being good enough. So we make up for that insecurity by constantly manipulating our situation to look good and not look bad, and burying ourselves in chasing after beauty, wealth, possessions and other ideas and beliefs we have been socialized to want.

But having more and consuming more is never, ever enough. So like a mirage that fades as we approach, the satisfaction of achieving life goals quickly disappears because that fear is never sated, and like a child chasing a rainbow, we are constantly disappointed. Still we run after these things as if they are real, and the more we do, the more we spin a web of an ever tighter cocoon — a reality made of our projections, imaginations, hopes and fears — that smothers the possibilities of a greater, fuller and happier life. You get stuck in a small world. But this is not who you are, it is just your idea of who you are — an illusion based in fear.

So what? You may ask. In understanding the illusion, you develop an appreciation for all that appears to exist without clinging to it as if it were real. You suffer less. All the acquired trappings that society builds you up and tears you down with begin to loosen, and your world becomes more workable. You have plans but they are not solid and you do not follow them blindly. You adapt to shifting circumstances and are not hijacked by anger, pride or stress when things don’t go your way.

You also stop blaming and playing victim because you see there are so many different versions of the truth and stop getting locked into right and wrong. Steadfast rules are often just babysitting you anyway. Instead, you gain a greater sense of freedom, creativity, responsibility and compassion because you can see more than one way to go and more than one point of view. You become more adaptive, and as I have argued before, this makes you not only happier but also more successful. You become an adult.

What we most need to know is that there is both a lesser and greater hungry spirit. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are both self-preservation and self-actualizing aspects of our being. The lesser spirit is made up of negative emotions of anger, desire, jealousy and so on that are based in fear and on getting or not getting what you want from the world. It is a selfishness that is designed to protect and project you. It is a necessary function rooted in our survival instinct, but most of the time we just get stuck there by our vanity.

The greater spirit is made up of positive emotions such as love, joy, devotion, gratitude and enthusiasm and is much more open, inclusive and outward-oriented. These broaden your view, connect you to others, extend you into the world and help you grow. It is more of a selflessness that is designed to help us adapt and is rooted in our evolutionary instinct.

In the Buddhist world, these positive emotions are generally known as Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta literally means “awakened heart or mind,” but it is also known as loving kindness or basic goodness. Basic goodness is the highest expression of your hungry spirit and your most authentic self. It is the treasure of your existence but most often you are not even be aware of it. It is like having a gem in your pocket and mistaking it for an ordinary stone. The gem is not powerless, but failing to recognize it, makes it so. It is the inspiration and belief in that basic goodness that can transform your life, transmute your underlying fear, and give you confidence to be who you truly are.

Discovering and cultivating this basic goodness is the Way of the Bodhisattva, and awareness and compassion are the two primary practices of that way. They make up the two inseparable aspects of basic goodness — inseparable in the sense that with awareness you become more compassionate and with compassion you become more aware. Together they loosen the grip of the lesser spirit, suspend your ideas about yourself and open you up to allow the greater spirit to shine through into the world.

They are like two edges of a sword that cut and slice away the cocoon of self-clinging. They are also like muscles. In exercising them, the path toward basic goodness models the desired result of basic goodness. In practicing basic goodness, you develop basic goodness. In the process, you turn agitation into peace of mind and low self esteem into confidence.

How do you work them?

Meditation, of course, is at the center of all Buddhist methods and there are plenty ways to learn it in today’s world. Meditation slows down and even cuts the constant spinning mental chatter of your hungry spirit. In cultivating simple awareness, you learn to observe this chatter as a stream of thoughts and feelings that you just let pass by without grabbing, rejecting or reacting in any way. Just pay attention and relax in non-clinging. After a while the stream begins to slow down and gaps begin to appear. As you bring your awareness to them, the individual thoughts and feelings begin to pop like soap bubbles in the air. This brings a sense of relief like the silence that comes after dogs suddenly stop barking. It also gives perspective on the emptiness of the experiences you hold so solidly, and reveals a vast, vibrant and loving inner space. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Coming back to that space time and again is the basic practice.

But if not meditation, anything you can do to cultivate awareness through making reflection a habit helps. Reflection expands awareness, unhooks you from the past and creates the possibilities of the future. Exercising, prayer, walking, journaling, volunteering — anything that helps you break up the routine, step back, take stock and gain perspective will work. In my profession we call it retreat, renew and return — retreat from the daily spin, renew by reflecting on what is really going on, and return with new insight and vigor. This trains the mind to be more aware. It sheds light on experience, and that light creates a sense of optimism that comes with insight.

There are two other essential ways for deepening this basic practice of awareness and compassion that we often conveniently choose to ignore. The ego is a tricky manipulator and will do almost anything to get off the hook.

The first is to follow and lean into your fear. When things go wrong, the first thing we want to do is retreat into our lesser spirit, hide behind our image, blame and play victim. We will take any exit we can from the squeeze. We escape through seeking pleasure, judging others, defending ourselves and blowing our view out of proportion. In doing so, we shut down and totally kill anything we have to learn from the moment.

You may feel criticized at work by one of your colleagues, for instance, so you go have a drink at lunch with your friends to cool down, then you defend yourself by rationalizing your colleague’s ineptitude and finally vent how this job just sucks anyway and is not worth it. So you wall yourself off behind your self image to shield yourself from the misery.

When things fall apart or go wrong like this, instead of hiding, lean into it and investigate. At these moments you can come face to face with who you really are and find out what is really going on.

Fear and suffering often exist at the edge of your self-image. They are signs that your ego is under attack and can serve as points for breakthrough. So stay on that edge and do not concretize it by fantasizing, rationalizing, justifying, blaming, manipulating or doing whatever you tend to do to feel better about yourself. Instead, relax in the discomfort, uncertainty and fear, and just simply be aware without rejecting. As you do, eventually they pop like the soap bubbles, and just underneath you find a soft spot — a tenderness.

That tenderness is your broken heart that comes from your broken image. In your suffering lies that jewel of your existence: your basic goodness. In discovering this, the drama collapses.

Your girlfriend may break up with you for instance. So the first thing you do is to launch into a self-defense and spin your truth out of proportion. If instead you just relax into the feelings of the melodrama, the façade begins to crumble because it is not real to begin with, and your soft, compassionate underbelly is revealed. With that softening you open, appreciate, forgive, adapt and learn. This is the way life becomes a good teacher. Your butt is kicked into being receptive if you stay with that broken heartedness, that groundlessness, that uncertainty. That is the path to awakening.

So lean into that discomfort, that discontent. Allow the quality of what you are feeling to penetrate your heart. Then the acquired you begins to fall apart and the greater, truly indestructible you begins to emerge.

The second essential way is to just give of yourself in some way to others. The Dalai Lama once said that there is an unwise selfishness and a wise selfishness. Unwise selfishness is when you only think of yourself and the result is self-absorption, confusion and suffering. Wise selfishness is to know it is in your best interest to be more selfless, and as a result, you experience happiness, joy and success.

I am sure you have heard of some of the following simple truths before: “If you want to be interesting be interested,” “What you appreciate appreciates,” “In giving you receive” and finally, “To get a smile give one away.” In being more generous with our time, focus and attention, we begin to think bigger. A warmhearted feeling for others puts our mind at ease and we stop cultivating our own life pattern. Our sense of well being grows and that gives us strength for coping with whatever obstacles come our way.

Just a week ago, I was standing in a crowded bus. At a stop, a woman enters on crutches. A pale, frowning man absorbed in his thoughts and troubles, spots her predicament and spontaneously offers her his seat. She was delighted at the favor, and he glowed at the small difference he was just able to make.

Giving is not magic, but it can be magical.

The mistake that many of us make is to believe that simple awareness or reflection is enough to break out of our cocoon — it is not. We also have to act. As the Buddhists say and as today’s research in emotional intelligence shows, we just don’t think our way into new behaviors, we also behave our way into new ways of thinking. Acting with kindness evokes feelings of kindness, expressing gratitude evokes feelings of gratitude and acting with confidence evokes feelings of confidence. We can rewire ourselves through our actions, and those actions can lead to changes in our being. As the poet John Dryden said, “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.”

When you are generous, you are often the one who feels best. Your basic goodness shines through your self-clinging. You just don’t drop your issues and hang-ups through simple awareness — you also burn through them with your actions like the sun burning through the clouds. It is also like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon where everything opens: the impossible suddenly becomes possible. Your full beauty is revealed and you become a happier, freer and a more effective human being.

In these practices, we are simply discovering what is already there. We are riding that greater spirit to bring forth our highest qualities. There still remains a clinging on this path, but as these inner qualities grow, that clinging of the greater spirit also begins to fade away. In the end any sense of path is also discarded. Like a boat taking you to the other side of the river, it is left behind once you have arrived. The ultimate goal of course is non-attachment or total freedom. But even if you never achieve that, you become more sane, adaptive and well-adjusted on the path.

What might that ultimate freedom really be like? I do not really know personally, I have only tasted it here and there. But I bet the 18th century English poet William Blake did:

He who binds himself to joy Does the winged life destroy But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sun rise

In these two posts I have tried to share my understanding of the four noble truths of Buddhism. I believe this to be the Way of the Bodhisattva, and I hope you have found some practical wisdom in it.

C. Clinton Sidle directs the prestigious Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows Program in the Johnson School of Graduate Management at Cornell University and has developed an award-winning approach for developing leaders who succeed while also making a positive contribution to the world. He is also a top consultant working with Fortune 500 companies and various other organizations in strategic change, leadership, executive coaching, and developing human potential.

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