The Two Great Stories of the World ~ Michael Meade, D.H.L.

Recently, I have been on panels where people lament how the troubles of the world seem increasingly intractable. I’ve heard environmentalists suggest that evolution may have reached a dead end with regard to the human species. I’ve heard pained audiences decry political parties as well as social movements. I have found myself responding with ancient proverbs such as: “The great person allows universal imagination to work through them.”

It’s as if something quite old and truly resilient is required to face the dire array of modern problems, for most of modern life is arranged to take us away from ourselves. Not just from advertising suggesting that what we lack can be purchased, nor from the ever-growing number of clever distractions, but we also learn to abandon ourselves amidst expectations that the answers to crucial problems and solutions to great dilemmas must come from the world outside us.

Amidst radical environmental problems and massive changes throughout culture, it becomes easy to forget that there are two great and enduring stories found on Earth. One is the tale of the world writ large, the ongoing drama of creation and of destruction. The other involves the continuous and surprising story that arises from the dreams and longings, the inborn gifts and necessary frailties hidden within each individual soul.

We are not accidental citizens of a world gone wrong, not merely faceless members of an age group or statistical, biological blips without inherent meaning. Humans are living stories, each imbued with an inherent message and a meaning trying to find its way into the world. Each soul a living thread in the tale being woven as we speak, being shaped as we dream, being made anew each time we step more fully into the story trying to live through us.

No new idea and no old belief system can simply solve the dilemmas currently facing both nature and culture. Things have gone too far for that. Yet we abandon ourselves unnecessarily when we turn away from the stories already woven within us. We rescind the ancient and immediate heritage of living imagination that is laced into the body, cell by cell, and set within the bones of our collective memories. Neither wisdom nor genius, neither heroism nor love can be found except where the individual soul awakens.

Humans inherit a “narrative intelligence” capable of grasping the great dramas of this world. It can be only found by awakening to an inner story trying to live through us. As the world around us becomes more uncertain and less predictable, the inner story may be the only place to turn for any hint of security. The word security shares roots with “secret” as well as “cure.” The way to affect the great drama of this world is to discover and live the story secretly seeded within one’s soul.

The answers that sustain life and reveal meaning amidst the confusion come from within. The essential cure for what ails us hides within us. Until we know what story we came to life to live, we can’t know how to aid the ongoing story of the world. This world is made of stories, each individual tale a part of an eternal drama being told from beginning to end, over and over again. As long as all the stories don’t end at once, the world will continue.

In this highly anticipated book, renowned mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade explores the complex and mysterious territories of the human soul with daring and hard-won wisdom. Drawing on folktales and myths from many cultures and spiritual ideas from the East and West, he leads us to an undeniable truth: that the only story we came here to live is our own.

Meade shows how the limitations of family and fate form the inner threads from which our individual destiny must emerge. He explains how our wounds can become doorways to our deepest gifts, and how our greatest efforts in the world are intended to lead us to a treasure divinely seeded within us before birth.

Fate and Destiny speaks directly to young people looking to find a genuine path in life and trying to awaken to the dream they carry inside. It offers penetrating insights for those caught in life’s inevitable struggles and shows how the wisdom of elders depends upon re-membering the spirit of eternal youth. As one story puts it, god has only one question to ask you at the end of life: did you become yourself?

Weaving stories within stories, lacing pertinent psychology within cultural analysis, and mixing autobiography with myth, Meade opens the territory of fate and destiny to new interpretations and deeper meanings.

This World is Made of Stories

Storyteller and mythologist, Michael Meade explains how this world is made of stories. Michael is the founder and director of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultural healing through story, mythology, and poetry via work with at-risk youth, veterans, gang youth, prisoners, the homeless, and the culture at large.

The Dream and the Dreamer by Swami Amar Jyoti

According to the Vedas, Brahma first created ego, which is the root, the sense of “I”-ness with nothing beyond it. This level of I-ness can be compared to deep, dreamless sleep. There you and I exist, with nothing beyond it. In deep sleep we are not even aware of being “I,” unless we come to another level of consciousness such as dreaming or waking. And this “I” has a will–not Supreme Will but limited will–percolating from the total Will of God. As God willed first, ego then wills. But when ego wills, we call it desire. This desire is the first vibration we create from the unit called “I.” It expands and creates a wave, a vibration, what we call astral or subtle personalization of consciousness. The basis is Consciousness.

In that waveless ocean of Consciousness, the ego wills or desires. This produces motion in Consciousness and is the beginning of the dream. The total picture of any dream, whether complex or simple, vivid or indistinct, is due to many vibrations–meaning: wills and desires–being released by the ego simultaneously. Then the dream, which actualizes on the astral plane, becomes a physical materialization. It becomes grosser, more thickened and sensual, meaning: perceivable by the senses. But the dreamer who dreams is you and me, that unit called I-ness, the first creation.

The sense of I-ness, the ego or root, holds all these worlds together. I is controlling all your worlds, the dreamlands as well as the physical lands. Where you finish, your dreams finish. You may ask why dreams continue if we do not want them. Simply out of habit or karma already recorded. The recording has become so embedded in the fabric of our minds that the dreams just go on playing. If we could direct and control our dreams, they could be channeled or stopped, as with any other kind of recording when we know how to use the equipment.

There is a beautiful point in this: not only are these dreams, created by waves in the ocean of Consciousness, seemingly outside you, but the scriptures have gone so far as to say, “You are dreaming within you.” Within you does not refer only to your body, it means that ego unit. Within this one microscopic unit of I or ego–one dot or atom only–you have the universe inside you. It is very difficult to visualize this point, but if you concentrate, it can be very clearly understood. That is why the famous Vedantic aphorism: You perceive only what you are, which means: everything is within you. Not only within you, inside your heart or soul, but within that you or I unit, that nucleus, the whole phenomenon is taking shape. The formulation is within you, the waves on the ocean.

When you come back to your Self, when you Know Thyself, all this becomes synonymous. There you will find that this manifestation, this radiation out of you, is not outside you. When you enter that tiny door of your Self, when you truly go within, you will find that God is within you. In other words, the dream and the dreamer are not two. Subject, object and relationship–the trinity–join into one. Everything is within you. When you reach this realization, you will see that we are visualizing and seeing a creation of our own desires, nothing else. And “me” is the dreamer of those dreams, the creator of that creation. Not only so. Me is that creation.

When we say to be detached to this world, this dream, we are just telling you to be detached from the unreal. You are dreaming and your pain and miseries are within the dream. Why not go to the root cause of the problem? The root cause of miseries is satiety, running after fleeting mirages of changeful phenomena. Looking to transitoriness for satisfaction makes us miserable because it is not permanent. When we awaken, we come back to our Absolute Truth: I am. And that unlimited Consciousness is blissful.

Satsang cover Excerpted from The Dream and the Dreamer
given by Swami Amar Jyoti in May 1976

Thich Nhat Hanh and David Suzuki in Conversation About the Health of the Planet

Despair and anger are contributing to a feeling that people have no power to stop the destructive forces behind climate change, but the feeling can be reversed through personal hope and inner peace, an audience in Vancouver was told earlier this week by Buddhist monk, poet, peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.

In Vancouver for a week of teaching and lectures, Thich Nhat Hanh, sat down with Canada’s David Suzuki, a world-renowned authority on sustainable ecology, to discuss the path forward to a more sustainable way of living.

Their conversation, based on the premise that it is well-known that humans are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate, focused on how to bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put the world on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for future generations.

With contributions to the discussion from Vancouver’s mayor, Gregor Robertson, the audience listened for an hour to a thoughtful dialogue on tackling attitudes to climate change. The following clips provide a snapshot of the discussion. They will also be featured on the David Suzuki Foundation website and Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s website. A full version of the event is available for viewing here.

Thich Nhat Hanh said we have to accept that our civilization can be destroyed, not by an outside force, but by ourselves, just as many civilizations before ours have been destroyed. If we allow despair to take over, we will lose the strength to do anything to protect and preserve our civilization. Personal hope and inner peace will help build the strength we need to become instruments to protect the environment.

The conversation was structured around the following questions:

1. I would like your reaction to this economic advice a Lehman Brothers banker, named Paul Mazer, gave American business in 1930 when the age of consumerism was beginning: “People need to be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed… Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

2. What gives you hope that we can bring about the collective awakening needed to restore health to the planet? Most of us know we are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate. But we act as if it is not happening. How do we bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put us on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren?

3. Oil industry groups over the past few decades have financed misinformation campaigns to cast doubt on climate science. Today 45 per cent of Americans mistakenly believe there is disagreement among climate scientists that global warming is even happening, this number is up 12 percent since 2008. The number climate scientists saying Climate Change isn’t happening is actually closer to zero. It seems to be very easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, why are we so gullible? What do you think we can we do to change from deniers of the environmental problems we face to responsible stewards of the environment?

4. What responsibility does government have for solving these problems? How do we motivate government to do the right thing?

5. Social science research in Canada and the U.S. shows that public mistrust is at an all-time high. People believe Government and business say one thing and do another. They don’t trust Government; they don’t trust business and wonder about each other. This is particularly true when it comes to the environment. This mistrust has led to a kind of social paralysis where people believe their own actions won’t make a difference. How do we overcome this mistrust?

Here are two short clips from the conversation:

David Suzuki & Thich Nhat Hanh

David Suzuki, Zen Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and David Suzuki Foundation Chair Jim Hoggan sat down to discuss mindfulness, climate change and how to bring about the collective public awakening needed to restore health to the planet.

David Suzuki & Thich Nhat Hanh: Despair

David Suzuki, Zen Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and David Suzuki Foundation Chair Jim Hoggan in conversation about mindfulness, climate change and how to bring about the collective public awakening needed to restore health to the planet.

In this video, Thich Nhat Hanh and David Suzuki discuss the challenges faced in protecting the environment and the importance of not letting despair cloud our ability to affect change.

What’s True, and Not, About Stress (Part 3) ~ Deepak Chopra

In two earlier posts (which I hope you will go back and read) we found that stress is a complicated matter that intertwines body and mind. Mechanical stress is simple. If you put pressure on a car engine or airplane wing long enough, it will weaken and eventually break down. But human beings are set up differently. The more we use our muscles, for example, the stronger they become, and if we fail to use the heart or brain enough, they atrophy. The damage caused by stress requires a deeper look than any mechanistic model can provide.

I proposed that the world’s wisdom traditions fill the gap. This doesn’t mean that ancient views of karma, although they have a lot to say about how stress works, should be adopted wholesale. Spirituality evolves along with everything else, and it’s up to us to find our own path. In the ancient world most people were ground down by excessive physical demands, and their lives brought primal suffering in the form of starvation, exposure to the elements, lack of basic sanitation and so on. By comparison, the stress we face today is different but not milder, since every life still contains pain, suffering, anxiety, doubt, insecurity and the other woes that were confronted by the great spiritual guides of the past. At the very least, spirituality contends that human existence is meant to be free of such suffering.

Karmic impressions (vasanas in Sanskrit) are basically the same as stress. Something sticks to us — a memory, a fear, a trauma — and keeps coming back in repetitive ways. Long-term depression and anxiety are repetitive; so are stress disorders, addictions and obsessive-compulsive behavior. The reason that modern therapies have not solved these maladies is that they don’t easily fit a medical model. No one is infected with an addiction; there is no vaccine or surgery for depression. Attempts are made to squeeze stress-related symptoms into a manageable scheme so that a patient can be handed the right pill after a fifteen-minute consultation. I won’t discount that some relief is offered, but for the most part drug therapy only masks the symptom without touching the cause of distress.

How do we get stress to stop sticking to us? How do we erase karmic impressions? How can we let go of past pain? These are profound questions, and they give ordinary people a strong reason to look into spirituality (and into therapies where the medical model has merged with the findings of wisdom). Personally, I don’t find that the kind of spiritual answers involved in prayer, faith, patience, hope and reliance on God work very well, much less those beliefs that deem suffering to be spiritually valuable for its own sake. Far more workable, I think, is the kind of spirituality that focuses directly on consciousness. Meditation, mindfulness, self-reflection, focused intention, energy work, hands-on healing and yoga all have their part to play. Karma or stress — call it what you will — is rooted in consciousness. We know this because karma and stress are unique with each person, forming patterns that no two people exactly duplicate.

If there is a state of consciousness that frees us from stress and the repetitive behavior that keeps us bound to the past, it should be a first priority to seek such a state. In the Indian tradition suffering is born of duality; healing is the end result of attaining unity. Duality comes down to the divided self, caught up in desires, thoughts, drives and impulses that form a confused and conflicting inner landscape. Unity is a self that is intact, clear, without contradictory impulses and present in the moment. Unity consciousness may be much more than this — it could be a state of grace that brings a person into intimacy with God — but without the basics, higher consciousness does us no good, in terms of freeing us from distress.

I’ve laid out a worldview rather than going into details, even though people always want how-to advice. The reason for being so general is that accepting a new worldview is the most important thing you can do. What is more basic than the decision to leave the battlefield rather than continuing to fight? Internal conflict is the problem, and doing more of the same, warring against yourself, judging against your bad impulses, suffering over your mistakes, projecting blame on others, finding that your highest expectations keep falling short — these are all forms of inner conflict. If you keep repeating them, you will persist in duality and the suffering it brings.

I almost never refer readers to my own writings, but two books, “How to Know God” and “The Book of Secrets,” lay out the big picture of how higher consciousness works, while a practical manual, “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul,” gives the details.

Here, in three posts, I’ve tried to show that stress is, in fact, a spiritual issue. Materialism with its mechanistic explanations and conventional medicine are not complete enough to solve this huge problem, and in many ways they point in the wrong direction. It takes a shift in consciousness to end suffering. Such a shift is possible. The way to accomplish it is known and has been laid out in the world’s wisdom traditions. With that knowledge in hand, we can direct our lives in an evolutionary direction that was all but unknown a few decades ago. The solution to stress is inside each of us, waiting to be discovered.

Emptiness is the Potential of Everything – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Emptiness is the Potential of Everything, explains Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Transcendental Meditation is the direct means to realize this truth.

Eckhart on Karma

Q: You talk about Presence and Being as the keys to enjoying form, and creating positive circumstances, or softening circumstances. How does karma fit into all of that?

ET: Everybody is born into a certain external environment. Also, everyone is born with certain predispositions – they may be partly genetic, they may be other things. A person is born with certain patterns, in other words. We don’t need to examine where they come from, but the fact is that a human being is born into a certain environment. It may be violent, or it may be relatively peaceful. A person is born with inner patterns that you inherit. Even painbody is partly inherited.

There’s a whole set of conditioning that happens when you come into an environment. The environment conditions you further, and there’s no choice involved – it’s just influences. You find yourself in this world with certain unconscious patterns that have become the conditioning of who the person is. Karma, as I see it, is the unconscious conditioning that runs your life. Karma is partly collective, and partly personal. You can only understand karma not as an abstract subject external to yourself, you can only understand it by observing yourself, and then you know many other things. If you want to understand karma, you need to look at yourself.

I began to understand what karma is when something arose that was not part of karma at all. Here is the key – the arising of consciousness, or Presence, or spiritual awakening, is not part of karma. It is another dimension that breaks into the karmic realm. You do not become awakened by accumulating, as they sometimes say in the East, “good karma”. That’s fine on this level, you can make the walls or furniture in your prison a little more comfortable, but there’s something totally from beyond karma, that can come into your life at any point.

Re-birth is of course part of karma. The deeper meaning of re-birth is identification with form. We don’t need to even believe in transmigration, or whatever, you can look at re-birth in your own life. Every time you identify with a thought that arises, which is form, you are born into that thought. Your identity, your sense of self is in it. That’s karma. Your karma is the unconscious identification with these patterns that you have inherited – the conditioned. It is complete identification of consciousness with the conditioned patterns. Consciousness is dreaming, one could say. That is why we use the word “awakening” in many spiritual traditions. Consciousness is awakening, consciousness is in a dream-like state, when you are identified with the unconscious patterns. Many times a day, you are re-born into an emotional or mental reaction, into thoughts that arise.

Karma creates, in the external, confirmation that it is correct. So if you think the world is full of evil people, you will meet many evil people – in other words, unconscious people. Even people who are halfway between being conscious and unconscious, your belief will pull them into unconsciousness. Karma is the complete absence of conscious Presence. It is automatic. It plays itself out.

Time does not free you of karma. That is a misperception, that if you only spend enough time, eventually you can become free of karma. Karma renews itself and repeats itself. The only thing that can free you of karma is the arising of Presence. At any point in the wheel of karma, Presence can come in. It can happen to a criminal in prison, condemned to death. It can happen to somebody who’s never heard of anything spiritual. It can happen to somebody who’s been meditating for thirty years.

Presence frees you from karma. Not all at once. Karma has an enormous momentum. The thought patterns, the emotional patterns, the reactive patterns. As Presence arises, gradually karma diminishes and you will experience a fading out of those patterns. Not that it matters that much anymore, because once you are present, those thought patterns may still arise, but it is no longer problematic. They no longer cause the suffering that they would have caused before, because they are seen in the light of awareness. In the light of awareness, the patterns no longer dominate your life.

Painbody is part of karma, which may be strong in some and not so in others. As Presence arises, you are freed from karma. Then you have another completely different factor coming into your life. For example, for a person to become free of collective karma, you need a considerable amount of Presence for that to come in. It then will remove you, either internally or you may find yourself somewhere else.

For a person who is born into vast collective karma, it requires considerable Presence for one not to be drawn into that. When Hitler came into power, not many people were able to remove themselves. Some were, and they left. They could see what was happening and they were strong enough not to be identified with the collective. To take yourself out of that collective karma requires considerable Presence – and some people had it. It is our destiny, then, to go beyond karma by being the receptacles for Presence.

Everyone who is awakening will find that sooner or later that they become a kind of teacher to others. What a spiritual teacher does is point out the possibility of awakening out of identification with unconscious patterns. The spiritual teacher teaches you to go beyond karma. That is your function, and will become increasingly so, whether you become a formal teacher, or an informal teacher.

Spiritual awakening and stepping out of karma are the same thing. Many people will be drawn to you. Anybody who is going through the awakening process is already a teacher. Teaching means you find yourself listening from spaciousness, when somebody speaks or asks a question, or tells you about their problems. You may find that the answer comes out from that Stillness in which you listen. You don’t have a sense that “I’m going to teach this person now”. You will find that teaching is spontaneous. You will help people to step out of identification with unconsciousness, which means going beyond karma. This applies to everybody who is awakening.

As you teach, Consciousness is becoming aligned with your mind. Your mind is able to tune in to the deeper Consciousness and can be used as an instrument. Then the words come out of your mouth. There is ultimately really only one teacher, the awakened Consciousness is the teacher. It can only teach those in whom there is a degree of readiness. The teaching needs to be received. If there is only a density of mind, the teaching won’t happen.

You will be amazed when people are drawn to you – people who are ready – and you find yourself saying something that you didn’t even know yourself. It’s only when the question was asked, that the Consciousness responded. As you teach, you learn. Realizations come. Teaching and learning is the same process. A deepening happens, as you teach. You are here to help people go beyond karma.

The important thing to know is that time does not free you of karma. The egoic mind says “I need more time to become free”. The only thing that people may need more time for is that they need time to realize that they do not need time”. It may be another twenty years of suffering for them to realize that they do not need time. They may need to suffer a bit more before they realize the power of the timeless. The timeless is of course the end of karma.

Japanese Spring ~ Karunesh

Music from the heart and soul, new age electronic sounds, Japanese spring by Karunesh.

Another awesome New Age musician of ‘Kitaro”s contemporary. For more of Karunesh’s music go to Resource Center/Tag at the bottom right hand column and click Karunesh.


The Quickening

“The Quickening” was produced by Awakening As One

All around the planet hundreds of millions of people are waiting for events to unfold in the year 2012, that they… believe will bring either the birth of a harmonious new reality… or ‘the end of the world.

But what if those events were actually to take place THIS YEAR, in 2011?

In Awakening As One’s new film “The Quickening” we will explain why so many people have been experiencing the sensation that “Time is Speeding Up”; particularly since the Earthquake in Japan.

And we will also show how research indicates that this accelerated experience of reality could peak sometime around October 28th, 2011; culminating in a global experience of Unity Consciousness, which would then lead to the experience of a harmonious new way of being.

“The Quickening” will also take a look at the unfolding of current events and how they directly relate to Hopi and Mayan Prophecies, indicating that we are on the Cusp of Great Changes, which signify the shifting of the Age… and the Birth of a New World.


We wish to acknowledge that without the work of these incredible filmmakers, and music producers it would not have been possible for Awakening As One to share its message of Peace and Unity with such beauty, heart and soul.

We invite you to support the filmmakers by visiting their webpages, and viewing their films. We extend our deepest gratitude and respect to the following films, and to all those who assisted in their creation.

All Else is bondage ~ Wei Wu Wei

These thirty-four powerful essays, based on Taoist and Buddhist thought, constitute a guide to what the author calls “non-volitional living”—the ancient understanding that our efforts to grasp our true nature are futile. Wei Wu Wei explains these venerable spiritual traditions in the context of modern experience, using wit and considerable precision to convey their profound insight into the very nature of existence. This essential Zen Buddhist classic, reissued after decades of unavailability, completes the collection of eight volumes by the masterful, elusive Wei Wu Wei.


The identity of Wei Wu Wei was not revealed at the time of the publication of his first book. This well-considered anonymity will be respected here, though a few background details may help to put the writings into context. “Wei Wu Wei” was born in 1895 into a well-established Irish family, was raised on an estate outside Cambridge, England, and received a thorough education, including studies at Oxford University. Early in life he pursued an interest in Egyptology, which culminated in the publication of two books on ancient Egyptian history and culture in 1923.

This was followed by a period of involvement in the arts in Britain in the 20’s and 30’s as a theorist, theatrical producer, creator of radical “dance-dramas,” publisher of several related magazines, and author of two related books. He was a major influence on many noted dramatists, poets, and dancers of the day, including his cousin Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet (which in fact had its origins in his own dance troupe at the Cambridge Festival Theatre which he leased from 1926-33).

After he had apparently exhausted his interest in this field to a large extent, his thoughts turned towards philosophy and metaphysics. This led to a period of travel throughout Asia, including time spent at Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, India. In 1958, at the age of 63, he saw the first of the Wei Wu Wei titles published. The next 16 years saw the appearance of seven subsequent books, including his final work under the further pseudonym O.O.O. in 1974. During most of this later period he maintained a residence with his wife in Monaco. He is believed to have known, among others, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Dr. Hubert Benoit, John Blofeld, Douglas Harding, Robert Linssen, Arthur Osborne, Robert Powell, and Dr. D. T. Suzuki. He died in 1986 at the age of 90.

—Matt Errey

8 Expressions of Simplicity for Healthy Living – Duane Elgin

To portray the richness of simplicity as a theme for healthy living, here are eight different flowerings that I see growing consciously in the “garden of simplicity.” Although there is overlap among them, each expression of simplicity seems sufficiently distinct to warrant a separate category. These are presented in no particular order, as all are important.

1. Uncluttered Simplicity. Simplicity means taking charge of lives that are too busy, too stressed and too fragmented. Simplicity means cutting back on clutter, complications and trivial distractions, both material and non-material, and focusing on the essentials — whatever those may be for each of our unique lives. As Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify.” Or, as Plato wrote, “In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.”

2. Ecological Simplicity. Simplicity means choosing ways of living that touch the Earth more lightly and reduce our ecological impact on the web of life. This life-path remembers our deep roots with the soil, air and water. It encourages us to connect with nature, the seasons and the cosmos. An ecological simplicity feels a deep reverence for the community of life on Earth and accepts that the non-human realms of plants and animals have their dignity and rights as well as the human.

3. Family Simplicity. Simplicity means to place the well-being of one’s family ahead of materialism and the acquisition of things. This expression of green living puts an emphasis on giving children healthy role models of a balanced life that are not distorted by consumerism. Family simplicity affirms that what matters most in life is often invisible — the quality and integrity of our relationships with one another and the rest of life. Family simplicity is also intergenerational — it looks ahead and seeks to live with restraint so as to leave a healthy earth for future generations.

4. Compassionate Simplicity. Simplicity means to feel such a strong sense of kinship with others that, as Gandhi said, we “choose to live simply so that others may simply live.” A compassionate simplicity means feeling a bond with the community of life and being drawn toward a path of cooperation and fairness that seeks a future of mutually assured development in all areas of life for everyone.

5. Soulful Simplicity. Simplicity means to approach life as a meditation and to cultivate our experience of direct connection with all that exists. By living simply, we can more easily awaken to the living universe that surrounds and sustains us, moment by moment. Soulful simplicity consciously tastes life in its unadorned richness rather than being concerned with a particular standard or manner of material living. In cultivating a soulful connection with life, we tend to look beyond surface appearances and bring our interior aliveness into relationships of all kinds.

6. Business Simplicity.
Simplicity means a new kind of economy is growing in the world, with healthy and sustainable products and services of all kinds (such as home-building materials, energy systems, food production and transportation systems). As the need for a sustainable infrastructure in developing nations is combined with the need to retrofit and redesign the homes, cities, workplaces and transportation systems of developed nations, it is generating an enormous wave of green business innovation and employment.

7. Civic Simplicity.
Simplicity means living more lightly and sustainably on the earth, and this requires, in turn, changes in many areas of public life — from public transportation and education to the design of our cities and workplaces. To develop policies of civic simplicity involves giving close and sustained attention to media politics, as the mass media are the primary vehicle for reinforcing — or transforming — the social norms of consumerism. To realize the magnitude of changes required in such a brief time requires new approaches to communicating with ourselves as different communities of citizens.

8. Frugal Simplicity. Simplicity means that, by cutting back on spending that is not truly serving our lives, and by practicing skillful management of our personal finances we can achieve greater financial independence. Frugality and careful financial management bring increased financial freedom and the opportunity to more consciously choose our path through life. Living with less also decreases the impact of our consumption upon the earth and frees resources for others.

As these eight approaches illustrate, the growing culture of simplicity contains a flourishing garden of expressions whose great diversity — and intertwined unity — are creating a resilient and hardy ecology of learning about how to live more sustainable and meaningful lives. As with other ecosystems, it is the diversity of expressions that fosters flexibility, adaptability and resilience. Because there are so many pathways into the garden of simplicity, this self-organizing movement has enormous potential to grow.

Duane Elgin is a speaker, author and non-partisan activist for media accountability. He is the author of “Voluntary Simplicity,” “The Living Universe,” “Promise Ahead,” and other books. Please visit his website, for free articles and videos on thriving in these challenging times. Your comments and suggestions are much appreciated.

Where the Two Seas Meet ~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

A 2 min clip from the event series “The Sufi Path of Love & the Secrets of Mystical Oneness” with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Jed McKenna – Spiritual Enlightenment The Damnedest Thing

AUTHOR, TEACHER AND SPIRITUAL MASTER Jed McKenna tells it like it’s never been told before. A true American original, Jed succeeds where countless others have failed by reducing this highest of attainments — Spiritual Enlightenment — to the simplest of terms.

Effectively demystifying the mystical, Jed astonishes the reader not by adding to the world’s collected spiritual wisdom, but by taking the spirituality out of spiritual enlightenment. Never before has this elusive topic been treated in so engaging and accessible a manner.

A masterpiece of illuminative writing, Spiritual Enlightenment is mandatory reading for anyone following a spiritual path. Part exposé and part how-to manual, this is the first book to explain why failure seems to be the rule in the search for enlightenment — and how the rule can be broken.

Says Jed:

The truth is that enlightenment is neither remote nor unattainable.
It is closer than your skin and more immediate than your next breath.
If we wonder why so few seem able to find that which can never be lost,
we might recall the child who was looking in the light for a coin he dropped
in the dark because “the light is better over here”.

Mankind has spent ages looking in the light for a coin that awaits us not in light and not in dark, but beyond all opposites. That is the message of this book: Spiritual Enlightenment, pure and simple.

The Buddha’s Meditation. ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein

A puzzled man asked the Buddha: I have heard that some monks meditate with expectations, others meditate with no expectations, and yet others are indifferent to the result. What is the best?

The Buddha answered: Whether they meditate with or without expectations, if they have the wrong ideas and the wrong methods, they will not get any fruit from their meditation.

Think about it. Suppose a man wants to have some oil and he puts sand into a bowl and then sprinkles it with salt. However much he presses it, he will not get oil, for that is not the method.

Another man is in need of milk. He starts pulling the horns of a young cow. Whether he has any expectations or not, he will not get any milk out of the horn, for that’s not the method. Or if a man fills a jar with water and churns it in order to get butter, he will be left only with water.

It’s like filling a bowl with oil seeds and pressing them or milking a cow by pulling the udder or filling a jar with cream and churning it. It’s the right method. ~ Majjhima Nikaya

What kind of meditation did the Buddha teach?

Truthfully speaking, no one clearly knows; however, we have a few good hints about the nature of the practice he might have taught from some of the Buddhist scriptures. From the above scripture, it is clear Buddha felt that unless one was using a correct method, one could not expect to gain Nirvana—the fully awakened state of absolute freedom and enlightenment.

Buddha also spoke of two qualities that he thought were fundamental to the fully-awakened state:

Tranquility and Insight.

Two things will lead you to supreme understanding. What are those two?

Tranquility and Insight.

If you develop tranquility, what benefit can you expect?

Your mind will develop.

The benefit of a developed mind is that you are no longer a slave to your impulses.

If you develop insight, what benefit will it bring? You will find wisdom.

And the point of developing wisdom is that it brings you freedom from the blindness of ignorance.

A mind held bound by unconsidered impulse and ignorance can never develop true understanding. But by way of tranquility and insight the mind will find freedom.~ Anguttara Nikaya

It is interesting that the two most popular forms of Buddhist meditation that are taught today are called Samatha and Vipassana.

Samatha meditation is based on the intention and persistent effort on the part of the meditator to concentrate the mind on some specific object of meditation: the goal being to develop the ability of the mind to concentrate because when the mind is in a highly concentrated state, it is known to be tranquil and such a mind, it is thought, would make deep insight possible.

Since Buddha explained that only the right method would bring the fruit, it would be valuable to explore whether Samatha meditation, as it’s understood and practiced today, is the right method to bring tranquility to the mind. The term Samatha actually means calmness or tranquility: an integrated state where the mind is not in any way excited or active. It is directly related to the term Samadhi, the state in which the mind is completely settled and unwavering and is effortlessly held in a fully concentrated state.

What creates this tranquil state of mind? In its fully developed state, tranquility is produced by the unbounded peace, freedom and wakefulness that are experienced in the unconditioned, infinite state of Nirvana. It is the total freedom and absolute happiness of Nirvana that automatically and spontaneously absorbs and concentrates the mind.

Meditate, and in your wisdom realize Nirvana, the highest happiness. ~ Dhammapada

The misunderstanding regarding Samatha meditation, as it is understood and practiced today, is simply that the mind does not need to be trained to gain the ability to concentrate through the application of strenuous concentration practices.

The mind will automatically and spontaneously achieve this highly tranquil and concentrated state simply by the meditator knowing the technique of how to allow the mind to be effortlessly drawn in to the Bliss of Nirvana.

It is a common experience that the mind will naturally stay concentrated on anything that provides it with peace and contentment; this is an inherent capacity of the mind, so no training or practices of concentration are required.

It is the fulfillment naturally produced by of the state of Nirvana that concentrates the mind and this happens without any effort on the part of the meditator if he or she is using a right method of meditation.

Through the regular and effortless practice of a right method, the vital quality of tranquility will become stabilized in the life of the meditator and, as Buddha said, one will then no longer be a slave to one’s impulses.

In addition, because it is the natural tendency of the mind to move on to a field of stable peace and contentment in a spontaneous manner, the individual’s effort to try to control the mind to remain only on one limited object of attention, as is done with Samatha meditation today, actually obstructs the mind from rushing on to the ever-constant infinity and happiness it so much needs and desires.

However, it is not Samatha meditation that is the most popular type of Buddhist meditation; the most widely used form today is Vipassana or Mindfulness meditation. Vipassana is also referred to as Insight meditation, because through its practice one is supposed to develop penetrating insight into the true nature of reality. Buddha explained that through Vipassana, which literally means through insight, one should gain the wisdom that brings you freedom from the blindness of ignorance.

These days, Vipassana/Mindfulness meditation is practiced by the practitioner having the intention to be an impartial observer of some natural process occurring within his or her body, mind or emotions. For example, one is asked to just observe or be mindful of the rising and falling of the abdomen during the process of breathing, or to just impartially observe the incoming and outgoing of the breath itself.

Another popular form of this meditation is to mindfully observe the body in the natural act of walking or during the process of standing up or sitting down. The key element is to try to be continuously aware of whatever process is taking place without in any way interfering with or reacting to, either positively or negatively, the process that is occurring in the moment.

The idea is to try to be fully aware of the raw experience that is always happening and transforming by noting and letting go of each arising and subsiding sensation. This practice is supposed to bring one deep insight, perfect wisdom, into the ultimate reality of the true nature of existence in both its conditioned and unconditioned states.

Unfortunately, this attempt to develop and obtain Insight through the practice of trying to be an impartial observer is not a right method. The reason for this is that the impartial observer, which alone is capable of right mindfulness and genuine Insight, is the fully-awakened state of Nirvana Itself.

The true impartial observer is never the attention or mind that is attempting to watch a process. The reason for this is that this very attempt is a part of the process itself; it is not outside the process.

In stark contrast to this, the genuine impartial observer is completely outside any and every process of the rising and falling of any conditioned state of existence; it is completely beyond the mind and any human intention or effort to observe anything.

Buddha asked the question: ‘What is right mindfulness?’ And, he answered in the following way:

When going, the monk knows ‘I am going’, or, when standing, he knows ‘I am standing’, or, when lying down, he knows ‘I am lying down’. Or in whatever position his body is placed, he is aware of it….Whether he goes, stands or sits, sleeps or is awake, speaks or is silent, he is acting with full attention. ~ Digha Nikaya

In this above quote, it is vital to note that Mindfulness should be present even when one is sleeping. In other words, the process of sleep should be able to be witnessed or observed as it is naturally occurring.

At first glance, the impartial observation of sleep would seem to be impossible because if one is asleep how could one observe anything? The key to understanding this is that it is not the mind that is observing; in the state of sleep, the mind is sleeping and is not aware of the sleeping process or anything else.

However, it is possible for the Absolute state of consciousness, the state of Nirvana, to impartially witness the sleeping process. It is the unconditioned, transcendental, Absolute state of consciousness that is the true impartial observer of all the ever-changing values of the conditioned aspects of life, including the mind and its intentions.

It is this supreme value of life alone that is capable of being impartial because only It is without any lack and nothing can be subtracted or added to Its eternal status. Consequently, it is only the Absolute existence of the fully-awakened state that is capable of totally penetrating into the true nature of life and gaining the supreme Insight lived, embodied and expressed by a Buddha.

How then can one develop true Insight, Perfect Wisdom, into the ultimate reality of life? If the human attempt to be an impartial observer of natural processes is not the appropriate method, what would be the right method? It is clear that the right method would need to result in the cultivation and integration of the transcendental state of Absolute Wakefulness, the state of Nirvana. The Buddhist Shurangama Sutra offers the following deep insight:

Through which sense organ should I cultivate? You ask. Don’t be nervous. It is the very organ of the ear which Gwan Yin Bodhisattva used that is best for you.

Gwan Yin Bodhisattva perfected his cultivation through the organ of the ear, and Ananda will follow him in cultivating the same method. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of former times have left us such a wonderful Dharma-door that we should also follow the method of cultivating the organ of the ear to perfect penetration. This is the easiest method.

The method suggested in the Shurangama Sutra is referred to as the easiest method because it involves the simple and effortless act of allowing one’s attention to be with a sound in order to achieve perfect penetration. Perfect penetration means that one has been able to penetrate beyond all the temporal, ever-changing values of all the conditioned states of existence and become at one with the Absolute, unconditioned, eternal, never born and never dying peace and fulfillment, which is the infinite all-knowing state of Nirvana, the end of all suffering.

But, how should one be with a sound? What is the right method? The Shurangama Sutra offers further explanation in the following verses:

Ananda, and everyone in the great assembly,
Turn around your mechanism for hearing.
Return the hearing to hear your own nature
The nature will become the supreme Way.
That is what perfect penetration really means.
That is the gateway entered by Buddhas as many as dust motes.
That is the one path leading to Nirvana.
Tathagatas of the past perfected this method.
Bodhisattvas now merge with this total brightness.
People of the future who study and practice
Will also rely on this Dharma. ~ Shurangama Sutra

One is instructed to turn around your mechanism for hearing. What does this mean? Usually, one hears a sound when one is speaking or hearing someone else speak, or hears a sound produced by something in the environment—a bird, thunder, the rushing of a river, anything.

Our mind is usually outwardly directed into the environment. However, with a right method of meditation, one can learn how to effortlessly use a sound to follow it in the inward direction to its ultimate source.

The right method here is in knowing how to spontaneously appreciate a sound in the inward direction within the mind.

It seems that this was a technique of meditation taught by the Buddha when he would give specific mantras or sounds (a mantra is a specific sound used during meditation) to his disciples.

The following sutra illustrates this point:

‘There’s no need for you to give up’, said the Buddha. ‘You should not abandon your search for liberation just because you seem to yourself to be thick witted. You can drop all philosophy you’ve been given and repeat a mantra instead—one that I will now give you’. ~ Majjhima Nikaya

The sound of the mantra is innocently and effortlessly experienced in its increasingly subtle values until the sound fades away completely and the meditator is left in the completely calm yet full awakened state of Samadhi. This natural process is what is referred to in the above verses quoted from the Shurangama Sutra: Return the hearing to hear your own nature; the nature will become the supreme Way. That is what perfect penetration really means.

It is clear from these verses that the process that resulted in supreme insight or perfect penetration was a process that was conducted by nature itself: nature will become the supreme Way. It was not a process conducted by individual control or efforts to concentrate, or to try to be an impartial observer.

In our time, one natural process of turning around the “mechanism for hearing” is known as the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM). It is an effortless practice that does not require belief in any doctrine or the following of any particular way of life. People of all religions practice it, as do people of no religion. Its practical benefits have been scientifically researched and documented for 40 years and it has been taught world- wide to over 6 million people of every race and culture.

In addition, this technique does not involve any form of concentration, contemplation, or any controlled effort on the part of the mind, intellect or emotions to distance oneself from one’s experiences by trying to remain unmoved, detached and impartial. This is a vital point because the Tranquility and Insight that Buddha spoke of were never meant to be practices.

One cannot practice Tranquility or Insight, but one can easily gain and develop them by regularly transcending to the state of Nirvana and becoming at one with It. It is the state of Nirvana that is perfectly tranquil and the state of perfect Insight, Perfect Wisdom.

The right method of meditation would be one that is capable of bringing us beyond all the impermanent, ever-changing, conditioned states of existence to the state of Nirvana. It would be a method that is capable of completely transcending its own process and leaving us at one with the Absolute, freed from the illusion of a limited and separate self-existence.

Then, through its regular effortless practice, this method would allow us to fully integrate and stabilize this unwavering, Absolute state of Nirvana into all activities and experiences of daily life allowing us to achieve the goal of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas—a world without suffering.

To conclude, the main point of this essay on Buddha and Meditation is that to gain the Tranquility and Insight that are the qualities of full enlightenment, to realize the Perfect Wisdom that blossoms into infinite compassion, one has to learn and use the right method of turning within.

It’s like filling a bowl with oil seeds and pressing them or milking a cow by pulling the udder or filling a jar with cream and churning it. It’s the right method. ~ Majjhima Nikaya


Dr. Finkelstein is professor of Comparative Religion and Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management. He has written articles that identify the common ground inherent in many of the ancient wisdom traditions. He has taught numerous courses on the universal principles that can be located in Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Teacher Finds You ~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

A 7 min clip from the event series “The Sufi Path of Love & the Secrets of Mystical Oneness” with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Be the Dog ~Dennis Merritt Jones

“Be alert as you watch a dog at play or at rest. Let the animal teach you to feel at home in the now, to celebrate life by being completely present. You just watch the tail … with some dogs you just look at them — just a little look is enough — and their tail goes …’Life is good! Life is good!’ And they are not telling themselves a story of why life is good. It’s a direct realization.” ~Eckhart Tolle

The philosophy of Zen comes to mind when I witness dogs “being” themselves. My understanding of Zen (in part) is that it is the practice of “be-ing” 100 percent present and one with what is in the field of my awareness, or whatever I am doing. Given that meaning, it’s safe to say I have a new Zen master in my life. His name is Mac Doodle, aka, “Master Mac.” He is an 18 month old, half Goldendoodle and half Labradoodle. I receive new teachings from him daily. Today he taught me the importance of spontaneously taking a time-out from my usual busyness to play a little, which I did because he wouldn’t leave me alone until I did. This was a win/win for both of us. I was a bit tired and losing my focus anyway. Now I feel twice as alive, energized and connected to what needs to be done … and he is taking a snooze so I can get my work done.

It’s interesting how the universe knows how to balance the energy for all living things when they are willing to “be” in the moment. Mac naturally knows when to play and when to take a time-out to rest his mind and his body. We, on the other hand, are not always that in touch with our true nature. Being present in the moment seems to take much work for us because we exist on a linear pathway of doing. Regardless of whether it’s work related or walking through the supermarket, while our bodies are always present in the moment, quite often our minds are either out in front of us or behind us doing something else. It would seem the practice to master would be to successfully integrate our doing with our “present moment being” 24/7. Would you like to know how to achieve that? Just “be” the dog!

As an example, see if you can relate with this: Master Mac is so much in the present moment that he will walk from one room into another, then stand there with a curious look on his face. My human interpretation of his look is, “Humm, now … why did I walk in here?” Have you ever done that? I have. When that happens it’s because I am usually on a mission for something my mind has instructed my body to fetch, and my mind has decided to do something else while waiting for my body to return. The only difference between Mac and you and me is, when we do that, it’s because we failed to consciously keep our mind and body in sync and, as a result, we think we are experiencing a senior moment.

When Mac does it he has no agenda; his thinking mind hasn’t gotten in the way — he is simply experiencing the moment and where it takes him, period. It doesn’t matter what mission he may appear to be on, whether it’s fetching the ball or just running wildly through the yard, his mind and body are so much in sync in the present moment that he will often stop on a dime, turn, and begin intensely sniffing the scent of some “mysterious” creature, chase an errant wind blown leaf or follow the sound of something into the bushes. Mac’s ability to be open to the present comes naturally, and as a result the “direct realization” that life is good is always at hand. Is it possible that we too could have that direct realization more often? Perhaps so.

Granted, dogs may find it easier to be in the moment because they don’t have to go to work, pay taxes or change the baby’s diaper, but then again, that is not why they were sent here. Tolle refers to dogs as the “Guardians of Being” — I like that a lot. If we are open to it, having a dog in one’s life can be a sacred experience, always reflecting back to us our own spiritual nature. (We all know what we get when we spell DOG backwards.) Master Mac’s “soul” puppy-purpose is to help me remember that every moment of my life is good, if for no other reason than I am alive; it’s up to me to “be” in the present moment long enough to realize that it’s good. Mac faithfully reminds me of this every day.

So, the next time you are around a pooch, invite him or her to teach you about the art of being a dog. If you pay attention you’ll discover that life isn’t nearly as “rufff” as you might think.

Be the dog, indeed.

Book Reviews
“From the day we are born—when we enter into the mystery of not knowing—until the day we leave the planet, the only way to grow is to step into the unknown time after time.”

Uncertainty wears many faces. It can be thrust upon us by external forces beyond our control, such as losing a job, or it can be something we worry about that might happen in the future, or it can be something we shy away from, such as letting go of familiar but unhealthy habits. Jones points out that most of our uncertainty anxieties are based upon a fear of loss. But what we perceive or project as loss also cracks us open to newness, to unforeseen gifts, to the richness of life. Driving this point home, the author asks readers to imagine themselves ten years ago and notice the ways in which life has changed in that time, how many uncertainties were faced, overcome, and embraced. How we respond to uncertainty, to life, is a matter of choice—or “the altitude of our attitude,” as Jones says, as well as ample doses of faith, consciousness, intention, patience, and mindfulness—and more.

Life is a glorious mystery and The Art of Uncertainty is like having a spiritual primer for gracefully leaving behind our coveted, safe—but stifled—comfort zones and being liberated to love the ride of our life.

Julie Clayton
New Consciousness Review

Do you approach changes in your life with fear and trepidation or with joy and enthusiasm? As we face life’s challenges, one thing is certain—we must navigate a sea of uncertainty. In The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It, Dennis Merritt Jones offers tools to become wise mariners of that sea and know, “Every action you take moves you one step closer to either evolution and expansion or redundancy and a reduction of your life force.” Each beautifully written chapter draws on the wisdom of the sages, both past and present, and contains straight-forward, practical strategies illustrated with real-life examples that are relevant to readers. Jones addresses our fears, potential, habits, intentions, patience, and perseverance, reminding us, “The only thing we can control is our next thought.”

A “Points to Ponder” section at the end of each chapter clearly summarizes the concepts presented and offers questions to help one personalize the information. Also at the end of each chapter, Jones’s “Mindfulness Practices” guide one in anchoring the learning and stepping into an awareness of our oneness with source. When we are centered in that knowing, living in the mystery of what is yet to be becomes a joyous adventure.

With The Art of Uncertainty, readers can chart a course for learning how to live in the “I don’t know” while maintaining a sense of inner-peace and optimism. This simple but beautifully wise and practical book is a gem. Don’t step into the unknown without it.

Claudia Abbott
Editor, Science of Mind Magazine

Praying for the Earth ~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Prayer is a way to be with the divine — from the prayer born from need, where we use words to express our needs, to the deeper prayer that takes us beyond any words into the oneness and silence within the heart. This video is about the simplicity of the “Prayer of the Heart”:
PRAYER – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Prayer is a way to be with the Divine—from the prayer born from need, where we tell God our needs, to the deeper prayer which takes us beyond any words into the oneness and silence within the heart. This video is about the simplicity of the Prayer of the Heart.

Audio excerpt taken from “Prayer”: talks given by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, June 2011 at the Omega Institute. To listen to complete talks please visit:​audio.html#Omega_2011

Prayer is the simplest and most natural way to communicate with the divine. Prayer is the heart speaking. There are the prescribed prayers, the rituals of inner communion. But there are also our personal prayers, our way of being with the sacred that is our deepest nature and that of the world around us. In whatever way we are drawn to pray, there is a pressing need at this time to include the earth in our prayers.

We are living in a time of ecological devastation, in which our materialistic culture has had a catastrophic effect on the ecosystem. Our rivers are toxic, the rainforests slashed and burned, vast tracts of land made a wasteland due to our insatiable desires for oil, gas and minerals. We have raped and pillaged and polluted the earth until it is in a dangerous state of imbalance we call climate change. If we dare to listen, creation itself is now calling to us, sending us signs of its imbalance. We can see these signs in the increasing floods and droughts, feel it in a land that has been poisoned with pesticides, and those whose hearts are open may hear the cry of the world soul, of the spiritual being of our mother the earth. It is a cry of need and despair, that humanity who was supposed to be the guardian of the planet has forgotten its responsibility and instead desecrates and destroys the earth on a global scale.

The earth needs our prayers more than we know. It needs us to acknowledge its sacred nature, that it is not just something to use and dispose. Many of us know the effectiveness of prayers for others, how healing and help is given, even in the most unexpected ways. There are many ways to pray for the earth. It can be helpful first to acknowledge that it is not “unfeeling matter” but a living being that has given us life. And then we can sense its suffering: the physical suffering we see in the dying species and polluted waters, the deeper suffering of our collective disregard for its sacred nature. Would we like to be treated just as a physical object to be used and abused? Would we like our sacred nature, our soul, to be denied?

For centuries it was understood that the world was a living being with a soul, and that we are a part of this being. Once we remember this in our minds and in our hearts, once we hear the cry of our suffering, dying world, our prayers will flow more easily and naturally. We will be drawn to pray in our own way. There is the simple prayer of placing the world as a living being within our hearts when we inwardly offer our self to the divine. We remember the sorrow and suffering of the world in our hearts and ask that the world be remembered, that divine love and mercy flow where it is needed. That even though we continue to treat the world so badly, divine grace will help us and help the world — help to bring the earth back into balance. We need to remember that the power of the divine is more than that of all the global corporations that continue to make the world a wasteland, even more than the global forces of consumerism that demand the life-blood of the planet. We pray that the divine of which we are all a part can redeem and heal this beautiful and suffering world.

Sometimes it is easier to pray when we feel the earth in our hands, when we work in the garden tending our flowers or vegetables. Or when we cook, preparing the vegetables that the earth has given us, mixing in the herbs and spices that give us pleasure. Or making love, as we share our body and bliss with our lover, we may feel the tenderness and power of creation, how a single spark can give birth. Then our lovemaking can be an offering to life itself, a fully-felt remembrance of the ecstasy of creation.

The divine oneness of life is within and all around us. Sometimes walking alone in nature we can feel its heartbeat and its wonder, and our steps become steps of remembrance. The simple practice of “walking in a sacred manner,” in which with every step we take we feel the connection with the sacred earth, is one way to reconnect with the living spirit of the earth.

There are so many ways to pray for and with creation, to listen within and include the earth in our spiritual practice. Watching the simple wonder of a dawn can be a prayer in itself. Or when we hear the chorus of birds in the morning we may sense that deeper joy of life and awake to its divine nature. At night the stars can remind us of what is infinite and eternal within us and within the world. Whatever way we are drawn to wonder or pray, what matters is always the attitude we bring to this intimate exchange, whether our prayers are heartfelt rather than just a mental repetition.

It is always through the heart that our prayers are heard, even if we first make the connection in our feet or hands. Do we really feel the suffering of the earth, sense its need? Do we feel this connection with creation, how we are a part of this beautiful and suffering being? Then our prayers are alive, a living stream that flows from our heart. Then every step, every touch, will be a prayer for the earth, a remembrance of what is sacred. We are a part of the earth calling to its creator, crying in its time of need.

The video is an extract from a set of talks on prayer, given by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee June 2011, Omega Institute.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a Sufi teacher and author of a number of books, including “The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul.” In recent years the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition and the emerging global consciousness of oneness, and the subject of spiritual ecology. He is the founder of the Golden Sufi Center. His most recent book is “Fragments of a Love Story, Reflections on the Life of a Mystic.”

Deepak Chopra – What’s True, and Not, About Stress (Part Two)

In my first post I began to talk about the spiritual side of stress. It’s such an unusual approach that it might be good to review stress more conventionally first. Stress is made complicated because both mind and body are involved. The so-called stress response is a temporary event with physical markers, such as a rise in certain hormones.

Once the event that caused the response is over, the stress itself isn’t gone. Soldiers come home from battle with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, a lingering memory bringing back their stress even more powerfully and repeatedly than when it was first felt. Closer to home, sitting in a traffic snarl while commuting to and from work can create a low-level kind of stress that is constant and nagging.

In other words, physical signs aren’t enough to explain what stress is doing to us every day. You can’t simply “lower your stress” by avoiding pressured situations. A completely easy life, without pressure of any kind (if such a hypothetical life existed), needs only one deeply disturbing event, such as the death of a baby, to be scarred for years and change the course of a person’s existence. At the opposite extreme, stress can act like high blood pressure, which damages the body through a slight increase in stress on the cell walls, seemingly innocuous at first glance. The cell performs all of its functions without seeming distressed, and yet years later, a huge array of problems can arise.

So where does that leave us? Is life meant to be stressful by its very nature, full of events that send us into the stress response no matter what we do? Modern medical research has arrived at many partial answers that go part way to a complete answer. For example, three factors make stress more severe: repetition, unpredictability and lack of control.

These markers are observed in a classic experiment with laboratory mice in which a mouse is placed on a pad that delivers a mild electrical shock, not enough to hurt it but simply to startle. If these small shocks are measured individually, the stress they cause is not significant. However, if the shocks come randomly and the mouse cannot escape them, something remarkable happens. The overloaded stress response in the mouse causes severe damage in a short period of time, leading to illness and a quick death.

Humans are more complex than mice, and even though repetition will break down anyone’s resistance to stress (given enough time at the front lines under artillery bombardment, all soldiers suffer shell shock, for example), we are affected more severely if stresses arrive unpredictably and in a way that is out of our control. This helps explain why a child coming from a situation of abuse, with an unpredictable alcoholic parent, for example, can be feel the harm of this experience for life. When you can find no escape, and bad things happen out of the blue, stress takes a heavy toll.

So where does spirituality help us in this tangle of confusing facts?

In the Indian tradition there’s a term for events that make an impression: karma. Literally the word means “action” in Sanskrit, but karmas are actions that change us, for good or ill, by leaving a memory that causes action to change in the future. For the moment we won’t talk about the Law of Karma, which says that actions are balanced in the cosmos between good and evil, or as the New Testament states it, “as you sow so shall you reap.” Here, I’m only concerned with the stressful side of karma, by which certain life events make a deep impression while others don’t.

At first glance karma is far more complicated that stress. There’s the whole mystery of how a good action is rewarded by the universe and a bad action punished. There’s the personal side of karma, where two people go through the same event — a car crash, winning the lottery, getting married — but wind up with completely different results. This tangle of riddles and complexity cannot simply be wished away. Nor is it adequate to lump everything under the same simple rubric like the stress response. The ancient seers of India, the Vedic rishis, embraced the entire issue, but so did Jesus, Buddha, and other great spiritual guides.

Their diagnosis was surprisingly similar to the one accepted by stress researchers: Life delivers stress in very complicated ways and is inescapable. Memory stores deep impressions, and the body responds to these memories as strongly as it does to the original stressor. We can easily insert “karma” in the slots where the word “stress” appears. But here the world’s wisdom traditions sharply diverge from modern medicine by saying flatly that suffering is inescapable as long as karma exists.

In Buddhism and Vedanta there are no half measures. A person isn’t asked to increase the good experiences in his life and reduce the bad ones. The entire pursuit of pleasure is considered unworkable. This is bad news for anyone who tries to use stress reduction, yet I am not suggesting that embracing stress or increasing the pressure in your life is advisable. It was assumed in the Bible, the Vedas, and other scriptures that we all try to lead good moral lives by following the rules of decent behavior. Yet, this basic moral existence isn’t the same as solving karma, or stress, once and for all.

After offering such a dire diagnosis, the astonishing thing about the ancient spiritual teachings is that they offer a complete solution. They suggest that the world of karma, even though it surrounds us and ensnares us at every moment, is not fully real. Beyond it lies actual reality, which is reached by cultivating the subtler side of the human nervous system.

I’ve found it helpful to divide awareness into two kinds of attention: first attention and second attention. First attention keeps us attuned to the affairs of everyday life; second attention keeps us attuned to higher reality. If you remain fixated on first attention, karma and stress are unavoidable. Your focus will be tied to changes in the external world and your inner response to the ups and downs of existence.

Second attention, however, is rooted in the changeless, and thus it protects you from the impressions made by stress and karma. This isn’t the same as zoning out. In modern terminology, second attention is like being centered instead of scattered, calm instead of restless, at peace instead of agitated. Yet, these are secondary to the deeper realization that you are not what you seem to be. You seem to be a body and mind tossed about by the winds of change. In reality, you are a soul undergoing physical experiences for the purpose of evolving until you fully know who you are.

I realize that this conclusion seems like folly, hokum or nonsense to committed materialists; it fits into the skeptical scheme of those who ridicule all things spiritual. But this isn’t an issue that can be settled by arguing over it. Each person must go through the process of experiencing second attention and finding out personally if higher reality exists. The proof lies in many areas, but the most crucial is the area we’ve been discussing. If stress ceases to create illness, damage, anxiety and pressure, if impressions no longer haunt us, if memory loosens its grip, then we can say that the world’s wisdom traditions had something valid to say.

In the next post I’ll cover the practical side of shifting into second attention as the true solution to stress and therefore the solution to the baffling riddle of karma.

Chief Golden Light Eagle at the Topanga Canyon Film Festival

Chief Golden Light Eagle speaks at the Topanga Canyon Film Festival in California.

The Many Ways to Know Your True Self ~ Bob Lingvall

First, let’s see why we want to know our true self, and then let’s explore how we can do it.

Why do we want to know our true self? It brings us back into the beauty of each moment of our lives. You know yourself as the gift you have always been looking for — the love your heart desires. Knowing your true self does not answer all your questions, but instead makes them so much less important to ask. True enlightenment gives you back to yourself and to your loved ones in a fuller, deeper way. Your daily life, your ego, becomes more and more an expression of who you truly are, who we all are, each and every one of us — compassionate love, blissful awareness. That’s the “why” of it. Now, the “how.”

How do you come to know your true self? There are many varied methods and practices offered by various cultures and religious traditions. This can be confusing. Let’s look for the common thread beneath these practices. What makes each of them effective tools for enlightenment? What makes following your breath, the Jesus prayer or a Zen koan, all ways to realize your true self? Knowing this can help you use any religious tradition’s practice more effectively. It can help you avoid the distractions of the orthodoxies and cultural accidentals, allowing you to keep your focus fixed on the task of enlightenment — of knowing your true self.

The common element in all these practices is the temporary suspension of discursive thinking. This makes them tools for enlightenment. Why is suspending discursive thinking so important? Discursive thinking is the life-blood of the ego’s activity. Suspend your discursive thinking and you can begin to have a consciously lived experience without the ego. Without the ego’s activity engaging our attention we have a chance of knowing our true nature beneath our ego.

When looking for your true self there is nothing for us to create or fix, but rather to uncover and to discover. Any meditation practice, such as following your breath, engaging in a zen koan or simply being aware, gives you the lived experience of being conscious without the activity of the ego. We begin to know ourselves without the ego’s activity, allowing us to have a consciously lived moment of our true nature. Over time this process weakens your attachment to your ego as your true self.

So if we want to discover our true nature we need to give our self the experience of being awake and conscious without being engaged in our ego’s activity. Our attachment to our ego as ourself, as who we are, hides our true nature from us. This is the attachment that blinds us. Give yourself the experience of being awake and conscious without being engaged in the ego’s activity.

If you can be conscious and alive without the ego, then it cannot be your essence. It cannot be ultimately who you are, but only something you do or possess. Having the lived experience of being conscious without the ego’s activity, even for a moment, gives you a taste of your true nature beneath your ego.

So begin a practice of giving yourself the lived experience of being conscious without the ego’s activity. Pick any one you want. See what fits. What is comfortable for you? Simply do some type of practice that does not involve discursive thinking, such as following your breath in and out or exhausting your discursive thinking with a Zen koan, until it surrenders and you find rest. You can also disengage from discursive thinking by focusing on sensory awareness: colors, shapes, sounds, smells or perhaps some body awareness exercises — the touch of your shirt on your neck, your feet touching the floor or consciously tensing and relaxing the muscles of your body. There are many, many others. Just look for something that helps you stay awake and alert, but without engaging in discursive thinking.

Once you begin your practice you can start to have a new relationship with your ego, seeing it as a tool for the expression of your true nature. We are not trying to get rid of the ego. It is a very necessary, wonderful psychological structure, providing us with tools to function in society: building relationships, engaging in work and play, and on and on. Wonderful, yes, but for all its wonder it is not who we are. It is a tool for the expression of who we are. At its best, it is a tool for the expression of our true nature in our everyday life.

Seeing our ego as a tool for the expression of our true nature gives us a better chance to lay it aside for a few moments when it is not needed. We can simply be in our realized self. The ego is a necessary and effective tool for engaging in society. It has a very important purpose and function. Its joys and sorrows are not to be overlooked either. When you know the ego as a tool for the expression of your true self it can be a wonderful way to live a human life. The ego has a job to do. It has a purpose and function in our life, but it does not need all of our conscious, waking moments, 24/7.

There are times in everyone’s life when we can lay your ego aside for a few moments and live without it. We can all rest in our true self beneath the ego. It can be when you have a few minutes without any demands on you — no questions to answer, problems to solve, things to plan or do. There are moments when the ego is just not needed. Having the lived experience of letting go of the ego in your meditation practice, and knowing that the ego is not you, will allow you to more easily lay it aside for a few moments and just be. You can take a break and consciously be aware of being — nothing more, nothing less. You are loving, conscious awareness. Being awareness is satisfying in and of itself.

This direct experience of being awareness is the experience of your true nature. Your true self beneath your ego cannot be known as a fact or object, but only lived. Being is. Discursive thought will never get us here.

Again, why do we want to know our true self? It brings us back into the beauty of each moment of our life. You will know yourself as the gift you have always been looking for, the love your heart desires. Knowing your true self does not answer all your questions, but instead makes them so much less important to ask or answer. True enlightenment gives you back to yourself and to your loved ones, in a fuller, deeper way. Your daily life, your ego, becomes more and more an expression of who you are and who we all are, each and every one of us — compassionate love, blissful awareness

Bob’s studies of Buddhism and Hinduism began in 1969 and resulted in Bachelor’s Degree in American Religious Studies at Harpur College.

Taking a decidedly mystical turn, Bob has taught courses in meditation, Hindu mysticism, and Persian poetry, in particular finding inspiration in the writings of Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, family (especially his wife, Romina, and his five children), students, friends, self-inquiry and silence.

His ebooklet, There Is a Beauty Within You – “I am” Meditation Series can be found on

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