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Saturday, August 13, 2016


My email inbox attracts lots of messages that I don't want or need. Most of it is from people or websites that I may have visited once, or from online vendors I have patronized in the past. Periodically, in order to prevent these unsolicited messages from flooding my mailbox and overwhelming the few that I actually want to read, I go through and click on the tiny "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the message. In that way I am able to reduce the distracting clutter and focus on the messages that are really important.

Life these days is a lot like my email inbox. I am constantly bombarded by messages from people I may know slightly, or from people I don't recall ever knowing, wanting my attention for their political cause, their candidate, their product or service, or their particular approach to spirituality and healing. These messages come over the television, on the phone, in newspapers and magazines, and of course over the Internet in emails or popup ads. 

In addition to external messages, I hear ego's many voices calling on me to be concerned about this or that perceived problem, or so-and-so's personal attitude. Ego whispers in my ear that I can't rest until I have solved the problem or dealt with the interpersonal situation in a way that gratifies ego's need for protection and self-aggrandizement. 

Just as I need to periodically cleanse my inbox, I realize now that I can perform a similar cleansing on my personal space. While I can't stop people from broadcasting their appeals, or ego from nagging, I can manage my own attention so as to minimize the effect of these distracting voices. By the following affirmations, I renounce giving any attention to things that would distract me or divert me from the Path of Love and Joy. I invite others to add their own suggestions:

  • I renounce the need to judge the thoughts, speech, actions, or beliefs of others, however different they may be from my own. I affirm my own commitment to express Love and Joy in all that I say or do.
  • I renounce the need to worry about my health or that of my loved ones. I affirm that the Universe will restore any temporary physical imbalance in its own time and its own way.
  • I renounce the need to be concerned about the financial security of my family. I affirm that all our needs will be provided for and that we will have the opportunity to earn a generous living.
  • I renounce any belief that the key to happiness lies outside my own heart and mind. I affirm that the source of Joy and Love is within me and is accessible at all times, and in all places.
And so it is.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Love Always Wins

A friend asks, "Why haven't we as a society made more spiritual progress?" There are at least two ways of interpreting current events in light of that question, but to begin with the more obvious one, our progress can't be measured by the things we see in the news - lives and property damaged or destroyed, hateful messages and deeds - but by the extent to which our (individual and societal) response is sourced in love and compassion rather than violence and hatred. By that measure it may well be that we as a society haven't progressed since we baby boomers were young adults, or indeed have regressed, but we must look beyond the news to find out. Each of us is responsible to look into our own soul and ask whether we are contributing to the problem or to the solution through the energies we resonate to and broadcast. If we collectively have not raised the level of our energy, our vibration, beyond the negativity that ego generates, then we cannot expect love and compassion to manifest in our world. The necessary response from people of good will is not to despair, but to redouble the effort to broadcast love and forsake hatred. This is an imperative for individuals, but it must also become a goal of society that is implemented in the ways we relate to ourselves and others and, above all, the ways we teach our children. This is not a goal for a day, a year, or an individual lifetime, but for the future of life on this planet.

There is a sense in the spiritual community that a wave of compassionate connection is sweeping across our society. This is not because spiritual people don't read the papers, but because their awareness reaches the deeper level of the collective soul. If indeed the imperative to "choose love" is taking root and spreading, then it is predictable that the collective ego will react violently to prevent it. This leads to the second interpretation mentioned above, which is that an upturn in the level of violence actually is a positive sign because it shows that the forces of hatred are threatened by the increasing influence of compassionate teachings, and are reacting in ways calculated to generate anger and violence. 

I'm not a big fan of apocalyptic good versus evil theories, nor do I believe that there is a devil or some other intelligence behind the swing toward xenophobia and hatred in some areas of popular culture. The knowledge that each individual has an ego that will fight desperately to protect its grip on individual consciousness is sufficient to explain the mass effects of many egos pulling in the same direction. But I do choose to believe that an increase in violence is at the very least not inconsistent with the spreading influence of love and compassion (as, for example, racial or gender-based violence can be triggered by new expressions of societal commitment to racial or gender equality). 

For this reason, I encourage you not to despair, to stay the course, teach love and compassion, and make the effort to cultivate the lotus that grows from the garbage heap. If we allow ourselves to be guided by our own egoic impulses rather than the teachings of Spirit, we can't expect better from others or from society.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Recognizing guidance

There are inflection points in life where individuals become aware of the many messages of support and guidance that the Universe sends them. Those messages are always there. What makes them stand out in one's experience is that they seem responsive to the internal questioning that is rising closer to the surface of consciousness. Uncertainty and meditation in combination attract guidance. This is an interactive phenomenon between the individual consciousness and Spirit. Since individual consciousness is only an imperfect manifestation of Spirit, one could see this as Spirit refining consciousness to be more in alignment with itself. Uncertainty is only a surface condition; the Spirit within always knows the correct course to follow. What is necessary is to bring this knowledge to the light of everyday awareness so that it can guide action. When the clouds of uncertainty begin to dispel, like the calming of ripples on the surface of a clear pool, the Spirit within recognizes its manifestation on the other side of the looking glass and draws to itself the guidance it has formulated for itself in the words of other individuals. Spirit knows just which guidance to pick out of the stream of information flowing around and above it. So it is when you read something that speaks directly to your present condition: it seems as though the Universe has sent this guidance to you, when in fact it is Spirit within that has recognized the concrete truth that crystallizes its own inchoate longing. This is the formula: meditate, wait patiently, examine all the guidance that is offered, recognize that which is right for this moment, and then act.

Spiritual growth

Our individual spiritual development is a continuous process. Religion, atheism, philosophy - these are not disconnected points between which we randomly jump. We are embedded in a continuum and each phase in our awareness prepares us for the next. Every belief system contains some learning, some truth that contributes to the emergence of the next. An atheist may believe she has completely rejected religion, but really she has rejected only the outer forms of religion. The internal seeking that led her to adopt religion is the same pattern that led her to reject it. 

Everyone has access to wisdom deep within.  Each of us is looking for a system that expresses that wisdom in a way that speaks to us. When we adopt a new set of beliefs, we are visualizing ourselves against a new background, but our fundamental nature doesn't change. Our perception evolves, but that which we seek to perceive is eternal and immutable. Truth is holographic, and the more perspectives we gain, the closer we come to understanding it holistically. Every experience of Spirit brings us closer to that perception, until eventually - for those who are aware - we see ourselves Incorporated in Truth and Truth embodied in us. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers Day

Today is a good day to celebrate the Divine Feminine principle, the current of Love that runs through our Universe and infuses it with purpose. Through this principle Spirit manifests as the loving energy that connects all beings in harmony. She is worshipped in many religions, as Devi, and Shakti, the Goddess, Kuan Yin, Mary, and under many other names. She embodies the highest aspirations of the human Spirit. As Mother, she is the giver of Life and the nurturer expressed in each of us at our best. As Sister, she is the source of power and of the energy that sustains and drives us. Without her our souls are drab and barren. As she manifests within beings of any gender, she completes us.

To meditate upon the Divine Feminine, chant a mantra or simply visualize  being suspended in the warmth and security of the loving womb of the Universe. 

Many mantras can be found on YouTube, including

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Simplicity In Healing

I have always felt intuitively that one measure of the authenticity of a spiritual experience is its simplicity. Spontaneous Beauty wrote several years ago that "Spirituality is not complex. What could be simpler than Oneness? It is the elaborate visions constructed by Mind to distract Spirit that are complex."

Religions are good examples of this. Nearly every religion began when a simple person of faith experienced Oneness with God (or Spirit). That person sought to share the great gift with others, who became disciples. Eventually the message attracted so many followers that institutions arose, and those institutions promulgated dogmas that then had to be defended against heresy. As the institutions drifted away from their simple origins, egos stepped in to demand the elaboration of doctrines and rituals that were designed to concentrate and maintain power in those holding positions of control. Sadly, a religion is defined at least as much by the beliefs and practices that it rejects, as by those it accepts.

I am attracted to Reiki by its simplicity. Administering Reiki to a subject requires only that the practitioner accept their connection to the Source of all energies, and direct the flow of healing energy to the subject. No rituals, incense, crystals, or special music are required, although most practitioners do use one or more of those to facilitate the exercise of healing intention. There is no need to identify different grades or flavors of healing energy; Reiki is simply Reiki. Reiki does not come in colors or intensities. Nor does the practitioner need to direct the energy to the part of the subject's body that requires healing. Reiki will seek out and remedy any imperfections that have erroneously manifested in the body. There are no Reiki incantations or prayers, other than the simple invocation of Spirit to share its healing power. A Reiki practitioner does not even need to touch the body of the subject to infuse the healing energies. The sole element of Reiki that can be regarded as ritualized is the use of Reiki symbols, but I have never regarded the symbols as necessary or as anything more than helpful guides to express the healer's intention.

There are other schools of energy healing that do classify energies according to color, intensity, frequency, or the like. Many make extensive use of crystals, sage, incense, incantations, and other trappings. I believe that whatever assists the healer in focusing and directing healing energy is an appropriate part of the energy treatment. What practitioners need to be wary of, however, is assigning special powers to the trappings themselves. These can never be regarded as more than aids to the only essential elements of healing, which are the healer's sense of oneness with the Divine, and their intention to share that divinity with the subject. No crystal, no incantation, no incense, no color has power in and of itself. The only power in the Universe is Spirit, and Spirit does not allow its power to be limited in such a fashion as to be available only through this or that material device.

Consider the authentic healers of the past. Did Jesus pronounce incantations over those he healed? 

I don't discourage the use of symbols, chants, crystals, or other aids if they help healers to visualize their Divine connection or to pass that connection along to their subjects. However, to the extent the symbols, chants, and crystals themselves are ascribed special powers, the healer is putting separation between him or herself and Spirit. That separation cannot make the healing process more effective; by definition, it can only interfere with the healing action of Spirit. This is why I choose to use such material aids only sparingly, and only in full awareness, and furtherance, of the central role of a direct connection - a Oneness - among Spirit, the subject, and myself.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Spirit and Politics

An audio recording of this blog can be heard at this link.

As readers know, Spontaneous Beauty seeks to be in the world, but not of it.  When it comes to politics, this means to be mindful of current events, but not to be so absorbed in them as to lose touch with Spirit. If we have an earthly persona, we must set it aside when we enter this temple of the soul.  Here we speak only from the higher Self, interpreting as best we can the guidance that comes from Spirit through meditation and contemplation. 

To be frank, Spirit does not concern itself with politics. Spirit's only concerns are love and compassion. While the reader may believe this should tilt Spirit in favor of one political position or another, or one candidate or another, Spontaneous Beauty does not find  this to be the case. Spirit allows its love to flow into and through the entire Universe. Moreover, that flow is not hindered by obstacles in the form of individual personalities that do not consciously accept love or compassion. Spiritual love flows around these obstacles like boulders in the stream, all the while seeking to erode and undermine them until they succumb to its irresistible pressure. Spirit is patient, knowing that all beings come home to it in the end. 

Nor does Spirit find greater comfort in one form of government over another. We must be mindful that our mission in this physical universe is not to create Heaven on Earth, but to connect with Spirit at all times and in all places. Spirit is present in democracies and dictatorships, in freedom and oppression. Circumstances that bring out the worst in some, bring out the best in others. The power of Spirit is often demonstrated most brilliantly where it is challenged. Our task is to accept Spirit into our consciousness regardless of circumstances, but it seems sometimes that Spirit flourishes most in those who are subjected to merciless treatment at the hands of oppressive governments. This is not to say that we should seek out oppression, but only that we should be mindful of the lessons to be learned from it.

Does this mean that those who seek the path of Spirit should acquiesce to political trends that appear antithetical to love and compassion?  It does not. We are called upon to act lovingly in all aspects of our lives, and that includes the choices between political philosophies and candidates. But it does mean that we must follow the compassionate path consistently and without prejudice. Even if government becomes cold and selfish, we must remain loving and compassionate, even redoubling our efforts. We must maintain an attitude of love, not only for those whom society rejects, but for those who lead by appeals to selfishness or hatred.  In other words, we must not be corrupted by the politics of ego to behave in egoic ways.  One has only to think of the examples of Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King to understand the meaning of this.  We must not withhold our love and compassion from those who seem to have none, for they are the ones in greatest need.  At the same time, our devotion to Spirit may require us to refuse cooperation with, and to work to resist, negative powers.

Spirit is the only irresistible force in the Universe.  In adverse times it whispers to us, Everything will be alright in the end if you follow me. Assured of the eventual triumph of Spirit, we can endure the depradations of egoic forces even as we work to eliminate them. We can feel compassion for souls oppressed by ego even as we strive to free them from it. The more comfortable we are in that assurance - gained by communion with Spirit in meditation - the greater our equanimity in the face of turmoil. And it is that equanimity, in the end, that will deny ego the victory. Armed with love, we can give the lie to the belief in the power of selfishness and hatred; and a tidal wave of compassion can sweep away the ill-formed foundations of distrust and fear on which ego seeks to build its fortress. 

Spontaneous Beauty believes that even this testing ground of a universe is trending toward greater love and compassion, despite setbacks. It is possible to believe that it is the general, if gradual, increase in the vibrational level of the world that makes the appearance of negative, base vibrations so startling. As much power as hatred and fear wield in the world today, they wielded more in the past. Whether or not Heaven on Earth is attainable, it is still a worthy goal.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Source of Healing

The question many people ask is, why are only some people healers if healing comes from Spirit?  This is a conundrum, but it's helpful to recognize that healing manifests spontaneously in the presence of a deep connection with Spirit.  This is why rishis such as Buddha, Jesus, and others were healers. Anyone who is aware of Spiritual connection can heal. Any disturbance of mind or body is merely the result of separation and misperception. A healer perceives the presence of Spirit at all times and in all places, including the mind and body of the subject. By cleansing both of the accretion of egoic beliefs in separation and illness, the healer removes the false perception and the subject perceives himself or herself as no longer ill.

In order to accept healing, the subject must rid himself or herself of attachments to illness. This is not as easy as it sounds, and all of us find something in illness to become attached to. Some use illness as an excuse, others use it to attract attention. Ego will fight bitterly to protect these privileges, against the notion that healing is merely the release of attachments and acceptance of Oneness.

How many times did Jesus say, "Your faith has made you well"?  By faith, he meant the unconditional acceptance of divine Love. Even he was only the catalyst, it was the subject who healed himself or herself. 

Eventually one has to do away altogether with the concept of the small self as an entity separate from Spirit.  This is what happens temporarily on a Spirit level when Love is accepted unconditionally. Healing is a manifestation of Oneness. In most people it is only momentary, and ego will fight back to re-establish separation. But the teachings say it grows easier with practice to remain in Oneness (samahdi) for longer periods.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ending Xenophobia

Humans seem to have an innate distrust of others who are different. I believe this distrust - called xenophobia - is instinctive and has an evolutionary basis. I also believe that it is a threat to the survival of humanity, and can only be addressed by spiritual means.

Evolution consists of organisms finding new ways to survive and adapt to their environment. These methods are tested by competition, both between species and between members of the same species. Intra-species competition can be just as bloody and brutal as competition between species. For example, males of some species may fight to the death to secure the ability to mate with females. The stronger male will pass his DNA in this way to his offspring, ensuring that the traits that allowed him to defeat his opponent will be available to future generations. I have heard that a male lion who takes over a pride by battle will kill the male cubs sired by the opponent. This seems odd at first if we think of natural selection as occurring at the level of competition between species, but makes sense if evolution is seen as including a competition between individual DNA strains for dominance within a particular species.

Similarly, throughout human history and prehistory there has been war between different tribes or groups. It is no stretch to conclude that strangers - particularly groups of strangers - were seen in prehistoric times as threats to be expelled or destroyed. Xenophobia actually was a survival characteristic then, and it would be no surprise to find that a tendency to xenophobia is incorporated in our DNA as a tribal instinct. Moreover, it must be accepted as a possibility that the emergence of the thinking mind has permitted ego to bootstrap this instinct into a generalized fear and hatred of any people or groups that are different from those with which the individual identifies. This would help explain violence between adherents of different religions, for example.

The point of this discussion is that, whatever its origin, xenophobia is no longer a survival trait. Humanity has evolved beyond the ability to sustain tribalism, and survival is no longer tied to the ability to defend a narrow tract of ground. The instinct to attack and destroy others of our own species who look different, sound different, identify with different groups, or hold different beliefs, has become a liability. Our scientific knowledge has expanded far more rapidly than the spiritual tools that we need in order to use that knowledge responsibly. Our ability to destroy others (and ourselves in the process) has grown to the extent that there is a plausible argument that human intelligence will turn out to be a mistake of Nature, a self-destructive evolutionary dead end. 

It has become increasingly clear over the last several decades that humanity will not survive much longer as a species unless all of our disparate members are able to live peaceably together. It is doubtful that we will be able to rid ourselves of the xenophobic instinct by evolutionary processes in the amount of time remaining to us. This is why a spiritual shift is needed.

A necessary step in the move away from being ruled by outmoded instinct is to be mindful of its expression in our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. If you hear yourself express a xenophobic sentiment, examine your reaction: Does that sentiment really express what you believe? Or is it a knee-jerk emotional response to an imaginary danger? When a negative feeling is triggered by the presence or even the mention of another race, religion, or nationality, choose the appropriate response by reference to your well-thought-out values and principles, not to the visceral response of your animal brain. 

Few if any of us actually believe that every member of a different religion or social group is a threat to us or to our society. It is only because of the defensive reaction of our prehistoric DNA that we fear these differences. If we are mindful of what we say and think - take time to pause before speaking or acting - and examine our propensities in the light of what we know to be true, rather than the fears of our lizard brains, we will learn quickly to control our own xenophobic reactions. If we control the reactions, then disarming the fear that triggers them is a simple and inevitable next step.

Many spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama and Eckhart Tolle, to name only two, have called for children to be educated in mindfulness, meditation, and compassion. To take that a step further, those of us who are already adults must also train ourselves to be guided by principles of Love and compassion in every aspect of life. This does not mean we need to change the form of our society; compassionate principles are fully compatible with all forms of democratic societies. It does mean that we should act with due regard for the effects of our actions on others; and that we should realize that, in today's world, the good of one is the good of all. Humanity needs a sea change, if not overnight, then over the course of a generation. Each of us has the responsibility to initiate that change in our own lives, the lives of our children, and, by example, the lives of those around us. This is the new survival imperative. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Love and spiritual growth

We are all connected by our fundamental Oneness in Spirit. Together we form an intricate web of life energy, and what happens to one part of the web affects other parts. As sentient nodes with free will, each of us can use our connectedness for the benefit or detriment of all.  In particular, we can either support or block the free flow of the healing energy of Love through the channels that connect us to others. Becoming a source and conduit of loving energy benefits the sender and the receiver. Love nourishes the growth of Spirit in the individual, and the more freely it flows, the greater its power to cleanse and brighten the dark corners of the small self and remove obstacles to the flowering of the soul. Love strengthens the bonds between us and helps us understand the importance of the well-being of each individual to the well-being of all.

Ego tries to block the flow of Love because Love is antithetical to its goals. Ego seeks to direct attention to itself to the exclusion of others by denying our connectedness. Ego erects barriers of pride, distrust, and hatred to keep the small self from recognizing that it exists only as a part of the web of life. The closer the individual comes to realizing the infinite and intimate connectedness of that web, the closer that individual comes to accepting Oneness as the principle of its existence. Accepting Oneness means recognizing the welfare and happiness of others as equivalent to the welfare and happiness of the self. Indeed, those qualities exist in the self only as reflections of their presence in the whole.  To the extent ego succeeds in cutting the individual off from the web of life, that individual's development is stunted by the lack of access to spiritual nourishment and to the realization of Oneness.

All of us have egos that, left unchecked, will try to keep us from sharing in the flow of Love. The antidote is, first of all, to meditate on Love and compassion so as to raise the awareness of loving connection. Second, to be mindful of the influence of ego on attitudes and behavior. Third, to direct loving consciousness into the web of life, breaking down ego's barriers and seeking out the connections that lead ultimately to the realization of Oneness.


Monday, August 17, 2015

A Visit From Elvis

I dreamed I met the spirit of Elvis and he greeted me like a brother. “Man,” he said, “it’s good to see you.”

“I’m honored to see you,” I said, “but please tell me where you have been? What is it like there? Do you know how many people there are on Earth who love you and would like to have you back?”

He laughed an Elvis laugh, throwing back his head with a grin. “I am there, just not in the same way. I never left! It’s just that I am everywhere else too. Everywhere, everywhen – it’s impossible to describe. The Universe is a big, exciting, vibrant state of being.”

I was blown away. Elvis clearly had transitioned to a higher plane. My head swam with visions of flying through space and time, communing with other spirits and with the Divine. What unfathomable mysteries had he experienced since leaving our planet behind? What wisdom could he teach me? What questions could I even ask to begin to tap this unexpected source of spiritual knowledge?

“But can you tell me at least a little about what it’s like? Was there a hard transition? Did you meet God, or Jesus, or Krishna? Or your parents?”

He looked at me and his eyes were full of love. There was no derision or superiority in his voice when he said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but there is no explanation you could understand. To begin with, I am not ‘Elvis’ in the way you think.”

Images of space zombies sprang involuntarily into my consciousness. He saw the look on my face and laughed again. “Nothing like that!” He reassured me. “It’s just that the notion of ‘me’ as an individual separate or different from others, or from the fabric of the Universe, doesn’t exist outside your plane. You’re not just seeing Elvis; you're seeing yourself in another form. And Elvis. And every other manifestation of the Universe.”

“The best that I can say – and it doesn't begin to express the full dimensionality of the experience – is that I met Love.”

There at least was a concept I could grasp. I decided to try another approach. “Can you see what’s happening on Earth from where you live? What advice can you give me about how to live a better life? To prepare? Or does meeting Love just solve everything?”

His manner was like a wise man speaking to a very small child. “I – or we – are aware of every aspect of the Universal vibration. Because we are not affected by time or distance, our consciousness includes everything in your world and everything else that is a part of that vibration. Naturally, we are indifferent to the objects that absorb most of the attention of beings on your plane. Your consciousness is dominated by separation; we know only Oneness.”

“But let me tell you this. You take your short time on Earth way too seriously. You all spend most of your time hoarding stuff that will be dust in the blink of an eye. You compete for material things as if they mattered, but they don’t. You behave as if Love and Joy were in limited supply, which they aren’t. You don’t really prepare for the end of your life, because you think existence ends when the body dies.”

“When you do meet Love, which you might also call 'God,' you are totally unprepared. So, many of you turn tail and run right back into the existence you just left. Some have done this thousands of times.”

“Elvis – ‘I’ – was a fortunate one. Even on Earth I knew somehow that the purpose of life was to love and to prepare for the greater, infinite Love. When the time came, I was ready. So I transitioned from your world of suffering and separation to the greater Universe that is Love. I stopped being just Elvis and became a part of Love itself. And yet, maybe because of my preparation, the self-awareness of Elvis continues on this plane.”

“So, my advice to you is just to stop concentrating on and worrying about temporary things. Your world, your very self will not last longer than this instant. There is only one thing that is eternal and real, and that is Love. Put your attention and energy into becoming pure Love. This will bring you bliss in your world, but more importantly, it will prepare you to surrender yourself to Universal Love at the end of this existence. That is the simple and essential truth that so few of your fellow beings understand, let alone accept. It is the path of escape from pain and separation.”

I woke with a start and the vision of Elvis vanished. I shook my head, dazed, and wondered whether it had been more than just a dream. But I realized the Truth in his words, which distilled the essence of every spiritual teaching I had ever heard. I vowed to make Love the center of my life forever.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Awareness of the Source of Attitudes

Jealousy and resentment stem entirely from ego and not the higher Self. Ego always seeks to aggrandize itself and belittle others. Self is aware that it and the other are One, and so does not covet what it already possesses through the other. Feelings of envy cause suffering, whether or not they are acted upon. If your consciousness is dominated by ego, then you will be in constant pain as you contemplate the achievements and pleasures enjoyed by others. Conversely, the Self takes satisfaction in the expansion of happiness and the diminution of suffering in the Universe, regardless of how localized or distant that phenomenon may be. Naturally, the ego and the Self also have opposite reactions to the suffering of others. Ego is smugly pleased by the misfortune that passes it by to strike another; Self empathizes with and seeks to ameliorate others'  pain. Observe whether you are acting from ego or from Self in response to the good or ill fortune of others. You must be mindful of the source of your conscious thoughts and deeds in order to be able to choose whether to continue as you are, or to change.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Meme #1

Ego is not the self

It is essential to accept that the ego is not the self. Only the self can realize this. Therefore, this realization is not possible until the self awakes. As long as the individual remains in the ego-controlled unconscious state, the self cannot be realized. This is the conundrum -- self must be realized in order to become conscious,  but how can the self struggle to escape the grip of ego while the individual is unconscious? The answer must be that self is already realized on some subconscious level, and that it can gain a toehold in conscious awareness that allows it to overcome the restraints of ego and manifest itself in individual awareness. Once the individual is aware of the existence of the genuine self and can compare it to the hollow manifestations of ego, there is no possibility of choosing the path of ego and returning to the unconscious state. While self may not be immediately dominant, it must eventually become so. The process can be encouraged by  the practices of mindfulness, compassion, and meditative surrender. As one internalizes these practices, awareness grows that they are the only sources of bliss and inner peace. The empty satisfaction attained by gratifying ego is revealed as a fraud. The  individual will turn more and more to the blessings of spiritual practice and away from worldliness. In this way positive karma evolves. 

Monday, January 12, 2015


The Teacher listened patiently to a woman while she poured out her troubles to him. She described a difficult situation with a certain family member about which she was deeply troubled, but which she felt helpless to change.

The Teacher said to the woman, "I see you are agitated about your relationship with this person. His behavior troubles you and you have no power to change it. You can achieve inner peace despite this situation. However, doing so will require an important change in the way you perceive yourself and the way you interact with the world. This may be difficult, but it is the only way to escape the controlling web of negative emotions in which you are entangled. Let me explain why this change is necessary."

"The first thing I want you to do is to take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then release it slowly. Focus on the sensation of air flowing into your nostrils, filling your lungs, and then escaping through your nose or mouth. Let this absorb all of your attention. If thoughts of your family situation or any other problem come to you, set them aside temporarily as you allow your breath to become the center of your awareness. Continue this breathing exercise until you feel that you have calmed yourself and re-established control over your attention."

"Now, expand your awareness to the rest of your body. If there are places in your body where the muscles are tense, try to relax those muscles and allow your awareness to flow through them in a calming fashion. Focus particularly on the muscles of your face, jaw, and neck; shoulders; and lower back. Draw a relaxing breath and allow any strain or tension that you find in your body to be expelled with the exhalation."

"In this way, you will establish that it is you, and not your problems, that are in control of your self and your attention. Having done so, it will be possible for you to examine your life situation with greater objectivity. You can become aware of the source of your emotional anguish, which is the first and most important step toward escaping it."

"Consider this: no problem exists outside yourself. The actions of others or the existence of certain circumstances may create a situation, but that situation does not become a problem until you label it as such. It is your mind that observes a particular situation and decides that it represents a problem. What you perceive as a problem, others may not. So, for example, the behavior of your family member is a situation, but it does not create a problem for you until your mind observes the situation and is disturbed by it. It is that disturbance that causes the mind to label the situation a problem."

"What is the source of that disturbance? Most likely, it is your attachment to the notion that your family member must behave in a particular way in order for you to be happy. In other words, you have chosen to make your happiness hostage to the behavior of other persons. This may be because you feel that others must treat you with a certain amount of love, consideration, or respect; or because you are genuinely concerned that they may harm themselves or others. Either way, you can regain your ability to be happy by reclaiming control over your happiness independent of the actions of others. You can view the actions and life situations of family members with concern, any may even act compassionately to help minimize the damage that they do to themselves and others if you believe it is necessary to do so. But your actions will be more effective if carried out from a base sense of happiness and well-being that has its foundation within your own awareness and is not dependent upon any other person."

"It may surprise you to know that your awareness includes more than one sentient intelligence. Much of your day-to-day activity is carried on by the intelligence I call Ego. This is the awareness that is attached to your body and particularly your brain. It evolved along with the brain and its function is self-preservation. Originally a set of genetically programmed reflexes, Ego developed in tandem with the increasing complexity of the human brain, and eventually acquired the capacity for abstract thought. At that point, Ego was able to conceive of itself as an entity separate from the body and its environment. As a result, Ego's original beneficial purpose to maintain and protect the body - the existence of the individual as a physical entity - took on the additional purpose of preserving Ego itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Ego now believes it is the body's function to serve and protect Ego, and not the other way around. Ego therefore seeks to dominate and control your awareness, and to exclude from it other intelligences, including the intelligence I refer to as the higher Self."

"Unfortunately, because of its roots in the primitive centers of the brain and nervous system, Ego also is the channel of negative emotions. Many of these - anger, fear, and related emotions - have their origins in the fight-or-flight survival reflex. As long as Ego dominates the awareness of the individual, these negative emotions will have an important role in behavior. They are useful to Ego's pursuit of control over awareness, since their natural self-preservation purpose requires them to supplant other mental functions while they are active. These negative emotions are a primary source of the disturbance you are experiencing. Because Ego sees itself as the center of the universe, it seeks to control not only the individual in which it resides, but all other individuals with which it comes in contact. Any resistance to that control by others (or by the egos of others) is interpreted as a threat, and generates fear, anger, and aggressive behavior."

"Not all emotional disturbance has its origin in Ego; some may arise from love and compassion, which originate in the higher Self. Compassion can be distinguished from the egoic emotions by its external focus (on the well-being of others rather than the ego itself) as well as by the fact it does not employ the fight-or-flight bodily reflex to dominate awareness."

"What is necessary to inner peace is for you to learn to step outside Ego and consider your life situations objectively from the perspective of the higher Self. What makes this difficult is that Ego is continuously striving to exclude the higher Self from access to your consciousness through its control over the negative emotions. However, if the higher Self is once able to assert itself, your consciousness will naturally be drawn to it because the higher Self is the source of peace, love and happiness. Tapping that source will enable you to discover a peaceful space in the core of your being that cannot be disturbed by external events. This will allow you to forsake Ego's obsession (and corresponding frustration) with controlling those externalities."

"The higher Self is the core of your being as an immortal Spirit, rather than a transient physical body. It is the kernel of God-stuff that manifests in your awareness. As a part of God, it is the extension of universal love into the space that you occupy. It is something that you do not create, but rather discover through meditation and prayer. It is the part of you that knows that it exists. It sits behind the sense-awareness and world-awareness of more superficial elements of your being, observing without judging; expressing compassion rather than disapproval. When you can choose to live the larger part of your life from this aspect of the Self, you will exist in a state of greater equanimity, free from the need to judge and create conflict in your surroundings. You can relegate Ego and the other aspects of your physical being to their proper function of maintaining your physical existence, while reserving to the higher Self control over interactions with other individuals and the Universe itself."

"The idea that happiness is entirely internal to each individual may seem strange, and Ego will reject it. Few are aware of this inner Source of peace, and fewer still are able to live continuously in the state of awareness with equanimity that it confers. The Source is opposed by the egoic mind, which survives by creating disturbance. Ego seeks to control individual awareness through the distractions it creates. By extension, Ego is driven to attempt to control both internal and external circumstances.It cannot exercise that control if your awareness arises from the Source of peace. It tries to absorb your attention by creating problems and then obsessing over finding solutions to the problems that it itself creates. From Ego's perspective, the best problem is one that cannot be solved. As long as you allow your attention to be diverted to the irrational task of solving the unsolveable, Ego is guaranteed to thrive, feeding off the disturbance in your awareness."

"It should be clear, therefore, that there is no such thing as a problem that is external to yourself. Problems are created and nourished by Ego out of its misguided sense of self-preservation. However, you may choose to found your existence on a peaceful core that is rooted in the loving Spirit of the universe. From that core emanates the peace that passes understanding, that can only be disturbed if you allow it to be. By becoming aware of this core of your being, and focusing your consciousness on it, you are enabled to act compassionately in the world to alleviate the suffering of others, without unnecessarily taking that suffering upon yourself."

"The way to develop awareness of the higher Self for most people is meditation. The breathing exercise you performed earlier is one form of meditation. By focusing all your attention on the breath, you were able to protect your center of awareness temporarily from the strident domination of ego. Other forms of meditation exist, but the key aspect of meditation that will allow your higher Self to emerge is the determination to keep your awareness peacefully focused on a neutral or positive object, turning aside all distractions. As the clouds of negativity are dispersed by this focus, the bright light of the higher Self can emerge. Once you have experienced the deep contentment of living from the source of peace, love, and happiness that is the higher Self, you will find yourself returning to it again and again. Eventually, you will develop the ability to see the world through its loving eyes, and the more you do so, the more you will choose to reject the negative lens that is ego."

"Finally, as you learn to perceive your life situations from the perspective of the higher Self, you will be able to act - or not act - out of compassion for the benefit of yourself and others, rather than out of ego's need to defend itself. With peace, love, and happiness as your base condition, you will find yourself reaching out to share these benefits with others in the way most suited to their well-being. You will be free of self-centered emotional disturbance, which may go a long way to a peaceful and harmonious resolution of any remaining negative aspects of the life situation, and in any case will bring you greater peace."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wayne Dyer's "I Can See Clearly Now"

On a flight from Las Vegas to Chicago, I started reading Wayne Dyer’s latest book, "I Can See Clearly Now". I often don’t finish the books that I start, because it’s hard to set aside the uninterrupted time to do so.  Dr. Dyer is a great believer in synchronicity, and so am I. For that reason I believe that it is no coincidence that on this Southwest Airlines flight, the WiFi is not working. Instead of breaking out my work laptop to keep up with email traffic, I read through several chapters of this inspiring book. This happened just five days before I was to fly to Ft. Lauderdale to participate in a writing seminar led by Dr. Dyer, among others.

Unlike his other books, "I Can See Clearly Now" is autobiographical, a memoir crafted with hindsight applying a lifetime of learning to the events that made Dr. Dyer the author, teacher, and spiritual luminary that he is today. His theme is that anyone can become a “self-actualized” individual, one who reaches his or her highest potential in this life. He pays tribute to the many teachers who inspired his own personal growth, including Dr. Abraham Maslow, who coined the term “self-actualized”.  But Dr. Dyer also credits  his own highest self – the portion of himself that represents the source energy of universal Love – with guiding his personal dharma. Continuing the theme of his recent Living the Wisdom of the Tao, Dr. Dyer describes himself as one with the flow of energy that comprises all of time, and space, and spirit. In such a Universe, there can be no coincidence, for every moment that arises represents the synthesis of the intention of all that is.

The more I read of Dr. Dyer’s work, the more I find myself wanting to be like him. He describes himself as a teacher who wants everyone to learn and apply the principle at the core of his writings: that self-actualization is available to anyone who can become mindful of Love as the motivating principle of life, and learn to ignore the voice of ego.  I know this principle is authentic, because I recognize that the same truth has been revealed to me and embodied in Spontaneous Beauty. I cannot claim to have lived by this principle for as long or as faithfully as he, but I know that the same voice is speaking through us. We are spiritual brothers, or rather two manifestations of the same Spirit.

The question arises in my mind whether I should abandon my own quest to become a published author, and devote myself to publicizing the works of this great teacher. I do not believe that it is only ego that urges me to continue on my chosen path. There are other great teachers who have inspired me – from Buddha to Eckhart Tolle – and each has his or her own way of conveying the same message that my own individuality is merely an expression of the Divine Love that manifests as All That Is. Steeped as I am in traditional and New Age spirituality, I am always surprised to learn how few of the people I encounter in daily life have even heard of my human teachers or their teachings. There is always room for another teacher.

I am mindful also that the most effective teaching is not in books. Dr. Dyer was a classroom teacher and public speaker before he became a popular author.  My own way of teaching is to try to live a life as free of ego as possible, to demonstrate to everyone around me that a life motivated by Love is not only possible, but the most fulfilling life there can be. I also want to show that it is quite possible to live a successful ordinary life in the world without succumbing to the  influence of the ego by focusing only on the demands of the small self.

So, I will continue living in Spirit to the best of my ability, with the guidance received through the higher Self in meditation as my support. If Spirit wills it, I will author another book, and I believe it will offer a fresh perspective on discovering the joy that lies just under the surface of our consciousness, obscured only by ego and its incessant demands. The message is so simple that it can be presented in one sentence, yet there are so few who have heard it, and fewer who have listened, that volumes can be (and have been)  written about what it means and how to apply it to daily life. I will be content if I can spread that message just a little wider in this ego-dominated world.


I finished "I Can See Clearly Now" on the plane to Ft. Lauderdale. Here is a man who has lived an astonishing life by learning from the great teachers, but following only his inner guidance. As I read his final words, a thought came to me that I have been wanting to put into words for a long time.

"There is just one all-encompassing Truth, and it cannot be taught. All that we can do is to tell what we know, and those who hear and are ready will recognize it. They in turn may be moved to share it with others. In this way may Truth ultimately come to all beings."

As Dr. Dyer tells of his japa practice, I am moved to perform my own by chanting:

"Aum mane padme hum"

"Aum eim hrim shrim klim sah sat chit ekam Brahma"


Monday, October 14, 2013

Thinking about violence

I recently came across this quotation from the Buddha:

"Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with sensuality, abandoning thinking imbued with renunciation, his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with sensuality. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with ill will, abandoning thinking imbued with non-ill will, his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with ill will. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with harmfulness, abandoning thinking imbued with harmlessness, his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with harmfulness."

In other words, thinking negative or unwholesome thoughts of any kind has the effect of inclining your future thoughts in the direction of that kind of unwholesomeness or negativity. This should not be a surprise to us, because the mind, like the body, has a tendency to follow the "groove" left by  experience. 
 This is a reason that I am concerned with young people (or anyone) watching violent movies and television, playing violent video games, or for that matter watching TV news about real-world violence. The more we integrate violence into our daily experience, the more we will come to regard it as natural and, in some sense, acceptable. I believe this is particularly true about games and movies in which the individual is intended to identify with the violent protagonist. Because such "entertainment" appeals to the ego - which thrives on pain and destruction - it is very difficult to persuade people of the harm it can cause. Ego will cause one to shrug off this concern, with such comments as "Oh, it's just a game" or "I know the difference between fantasy and reality". Yet beneath the surface, the violent experience is working its way into the viewer's subconscious, wearing a groove that will influence that person's future attitudes and behavior. 

Even popular comedy has its violent aspects. Most of the comedy shows on television today rely on belittling or humiliating their characters to garner a laugh from the audience. This may be even more dangerous than violent drama, because these programs supposedly reflect everyday interpersonal relationships. While this is not new - ego has used comic techniques of sarcasm and humiliation to promote itself at the expense of others for thousands of years - there seems to be a sharper edge to the contemporary genre. When I can't get through a popular show without repeatedly cringing at the psychological violence the characters inflict on each other, I worry even more about the harmful effect on society if this is presented as an acceptable form of social interaction.

I don't advocate banning these or any other forms of entertainment. But I do encourage individuals, and parents on behalf of their children, to be mindful of the amount of physical and emotional violence they are exposed to, and to take steps to minimize the damage. Steps may include limiting the exposure; openly discussing whether the behavior depicted on screen is acceptable or desirable; engaging in non-violent forms of entertainment; meditation on nonviolence; and, perhaps best of all, seeking out opportunities to have real-life experiences of compassionate and loving behavior, such as volunteering.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thoughts on the passing of a friend

Whenever someone we know leaves this life, we feel grief. It is difficult to remember at such times that passing is a natural step in our existence as immortal spiritual beings. The human part of us, the body-centered ego, clings to this existence as if it were the only existence we will ever have. Because it cannot see beyond the point at which we separate ourselves from the physical body, it fears death and mourns the loss of others who have passed on as if they had completely ceased to exist.

Poets and seers may describe physical death as discarding a worn garment, but that metaphor is not always helpful to those of us left behind who struggle to accept the immediacy of the inevitable. We know that life is temporary, yet we submerge that knowledge in the busyness of daily existence. Aware in our moments of full consciousness that change is constant - that everything changes in every instant - we nevertheless attach our happiness, our hopes, our very sense of self to people and things as if they will be with us unchanged forever. When faced with the rupture of these attachments, we feel as if a part of ourselves has been ripped away.

There is a risk that we may succumb to ego's inevitable attempts to take advantage of our pain for its own purposes. Ego will do what it can to magnify that pain by trying to focus our attention on suffering and loss. It will raise questions about how we will survive without the love, comfort, and security that the physical presence of a loved one provided. It will dwell on the past and make dire predictions for the future in order to increase our suffering in the present.

There is no way to escape feeling the pain of separation, and it would be a mistake to try to do so. (My sister-in-law, Ann Dubes, has written a book entitled "Give Yourself Permission to Grieve".) Denying the pain simply buries it under layers of emotional scar tissue that will eventually need to be dealt with before the wound can fully heal. But we must be mindful also that ego will try to leverage our grief into an obsession. It is not necessary to fight back against this attack; it is enough to be aware that it will come, and that it is not truly a part of our higher self. That mindfulness will enable us to brush ego aside as we deal with the genuine damage that has been done to our world.

When the immediate shock of loss has passed, the opportunity for reflection may arise. The passing of a friend or loved one is a reminder that we, too, will be on this Earth in this form for only a limited time. Other reminders of this same truth surround us - at least those of us who look into a mirror from time to time - but it is in our human nature to ignore this aspect of reality until the departure of a beloved soul provides a slap in the face. At this time, we may ponder the meaning of life; examine the uses we are making of our own window of opportunity as spiritual beings sharing a physical existence; or prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually for our own passing to come. 

Eventually, perhaps with the aid of study and meditation, we may take comfort in the realization that physical death is a transition rather than a termination. The Universe is an infinite, living, energetic tapestry extending throughout time and space. What we perceive as our separate existence is just a thread woven into that tapestry; now visible, now submerged, but continuous and never-ending. We cross the threads of others' existence again and again within the fabric of the whole. Whomever we meet in the here and now, is also with us in an infinite number of other heres and nows within the infinite Now. 

Our highest purpose is not to cling to what we currently perceive as our place in the tapestry, but to be aware of and participate in the flow of Life that is the energetic whole. When we are aware that all of us - all fragments of existence throughout all dimensions - are perpetually engaged in the process of creating a harmonious, loving Universe, then we can accept our part in that harmony. Acceptance can help bring full awareness of our continuous Oneness with all other souls, and of the continuity of our own Selves through the transitions that connect us to other states of being through eternity. In this awareness, we can find peace.

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