Posts tagged #spirituality

Exploring Religion and Free Will - a guest post by Tonya Vrba

Debating with my father is never a good idea. The traditional man leans towards a ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy and tends to only believe ideas he already supports. Yet, as I sat in the living room with my parents and my grandmother, we began to discuss religion. Religion is, and perhaps always has been, a hot button issue. Setting aside controversies, religion is often very personal to believers. No one likes to have their beliefs and values contradicted. As we watch politicians debate and wars wage, all in the name of religion, it is no wonder we should find ourselves saddened.

Whatever God you happen to believe in, I’m sure they did not intend for their presence to divide humanity. Happiness and joy can be found in religion. Acceptance and peace with others different from you can also be achieved.

  1. Separate religion from God. God, in most cases, is a divine being who is believed to be responsible for the creation of the world. Religions are human creations aimed at celebrating God(s). It is important to take time and reflect upon this. What are you worshiping? Are you worshiping God or religion? Understand that anything created by human hands has the ability to be flawed. The religions of our world today have changed over time. They change because they are not perfect. Like any individual, a religion grows, learns and changes as time goes on. This continuing change proves that no religion is perfect.
  2. Retain your free will. The God of Abraham is believed to have given humanity free will. This free will allows us to question everything. It also allows us the amazing ability to make mistakes and learn from them. We were not meant to regret and lament our sins. Instead, we can learn from our mistakes and evolve into a fuller person. When you retain your free will and reject being completely controlled by religion, you will also find yourself accepting of more people. Those of different religions are simply worshiping God in their own way. Those whose values are different from your own have simply exercised their own free will to find what lifestyle is right for them.
  3. Separate values from religion. My father made the argument that religion is necessary to form values. Without religion, what is stopping us from stealing all we see and murdering whomever we wish? I happen to know a few atheists who believe these actions are wrong, and religion certainly plays no part in their decision. If religion is so against killing others, why then do people still wage war in the name of religion? You do not need to be controlled by religion in order to be a good person. Instead, think about how you wish to be treated. Think about what you hope for the future of humanity. The qualities and goals you come up with are your values. I can’t image you would hope for a future where murder is rampant, nor for one where everyone is exactly the same. It’s unlikely you wish to be discriminated against or condemned by others. You have now formed values without religion.
  4. Search for and embrace religion. In a discussion with a friend of mine about religion, she revealed she was searching. Not only was she still searching for truth, she preferred it that way. In this way, she would continue to learn and grow throughout her life. Whatever religion you grew up with, you are under no divine obligation to remain there. In fact, if you remain in a religion which you don’t fully believe, you may find yourself unhappy and even doubtful of the existence of God. With an open mind and free will, you will realize you are completely free to be a part of any religion. Don’t let doubt in your current religion cause you to doubt God. Instead, do some research on religions and find one that closely matches your personal values. Exercise your free will to worship as you choose.

The choice is yours. Religion does not have to be a controlling part of your life that separates you from the rest of humanity. Those very qualities control and separation can make us feel isolated from the rest of the world. Diversity is beautiful and free will is essential. Don’t let anything control you. Instead of following a religion blindly, seek to question and grow like a person. It may be true that in your search for a personal truth, you will make mistakes, but through those mistakes you will become a greater person. Above all, remember you are the only one who can define the personal relationship between yourself and your God.

About the author: Tonya Vrba is a passionate writer. Her work has been published in newspapers and blogs. She is currently an active writer for Online Dating Sites. Learn more about Tonya and her work at her personal website.

Posted on February 28, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The poetics of occupation: pressing reasons we need to "occupy" our own cities

The Poetics of Occupation

I've been thrilled and privileged to participate in the Occupy movement via Occupy Pittsburgh. While sitting out in the cold and rain, I got to having some deep thoughts about the poetics of the occupation and I figured I'd share them here with you.

 

 

The term "occupy" has obvious military connotations.  The poetic use of the term as a metaphor to describe a peaceful protest demands some reflection.

 

Currently, the U.S. military is just winding down a massive, costly and controversial occupation of Iraq. This occupation of Iraq is the  prominent cultural back drop in the minds of most Americans when we hear the term "occupy." "Occupy" in this sense suggests going on to foreign soil where we're not particularly wanted or welcome and ensuring that our interests are protected there.

 

Thus, the notion that we would need to Occupy Wall Street, for example, frames "Wall Street" as a kind of hostile foreign nation, a place where we need to send "troops" (of peaceful protesters) in order to control the situation there and to protect our interests.

 

But Wall Street IS American soil, right? Why should we feel we need to "occupy" it?

 

How Wall Street Made Itself a Foreign Land: Usury

The answer to this, I believe, lies in the spiritual dimension of our financial institutions and failing economy. The spiritual malaise of Wall Street, the banking industry, and the corporations has created a sense of alienation and violation so potent that those institutions can no longer be perceived by Americans as even belonging to their country. There's a sense of these institutions and corporations as alien and hostile.  This sense is not imaginary or paranoid.  It's completely correct, and it has its root in the alienating and hostile actions of those institutions towards the American people.

 

In order to make my point clear, I need to explain a few rather arcane (but fascinating!) points which I first learned from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

 

To begin, the banking industry's practice of usury is a practice that was recognized in spiritual traditions throughout the ancient world as an act which promoted division, suspicion, and alienation within a community. I think we need to reconsider ancient and indigenous attitudes towards usury in order to understand the extent to the unity and spiritual virtue of the United States has been violated by Wall Street.

 

Today, "usury" means "lending at unbearably high interest." In the ancient world, usury just meant charging any interest at all on a loan.

 

Lending at interest itself is now widely accepted and taken for granted as perfectly acceptable and normal.  Loan-sharking, or lending at really high and outrageous interest, is the only stuff that raises eyebrows now.  Loan-sharking on the part of the banks is a large part of what created the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

 

We can keep in mind that the banks have practiced the intense form of usury-as-loan-sharking and that this practice has led to the current widespread poverty and outrage, but in order to understand the severity of loan-sharking, I want to start by discussing the problematic spiritual dimensions of usury, period.

 

In order to understand why usury (which is now so widely accepted) would be seen as a spiritual problem, we first need to understand a little bit about the way gifts work.

 

The Increase of the Gift

An interest-free loan is a form of a gift. For example: if I give you an interest-free loan of $1000 dollars, and you are able to use that loan to invest in a business which then makes you money. A year later, you return to me $1000, but you've still been able to create an "increase" out of the loan that I gave you, an increase that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy if I hadn't loaned you the $1000 to begin with.  So the increase that you make on account of me loaning you $1000 is a kind of gift from me to you.  Theoretically, if I had held on to my $1000 and not given it to you, I could have used the $1000 to invest and thereby enjoyed the increase myself.

 

Gifts are really cool because they create relationships of community and connection.  There's something magical and in harmony with the natural growth and decay of nature in the increase that properly treated gifts can create.

 

In indigenous cultures which maintained gift economies, it was always considered imperative that the increase generated by a gift  be passed on or used up, and never hoarded or used as capital itself. This passing-on or "paying it forward" was thought to be necessary in order to keep the "spirit of the gift" moving. So, for example, if you were able to make $2000 out of the $1000 interest-free loan I had given you, it would be good form for you to spend that $2000 on necessities for you and your family or to throw a big party and share the wealth. It would be very bad form for you to keep that $2000 to invest as capital or to hoard in savings.

 

The idea behind this is that gifts in a community should be kept in circulation and not used to unduly benefit or to create an unfair advantage for any one individual. When gifts are hoarded or used to create only private benefit, the spirit of the gift dies and the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness and isolation arises. This nihilism of separation creates a general atmosphere of cruelty. It's the atmosphere we're living in now.  It's the atmosphere that the Occupy movement has arisen to protest.

 

The Spirit of the Gift

We can think of the "spirit of the gift" as a sense of gratitude that puts human beings in an attitude of reverence and love for each other, nature, and divinity.  When gifts are kept moving and circulating, no one person has giant storehouses of money or goods to use as "security." The "security" and "prosperity" of an individual is instead intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the community, and thus to relationships of good will, love, and interdependency. Furthermore, a person who is living in the spirit of the gift, rather than seeking to extract and hoard the riches of the earth in warehouses instead respectfully fosters and tends for the earth so as to continue to enjoy the bounty of her gifts in a sustainable fashion.

 

Living in the spirit of the gift is an act of faith.  It involves a surrender of control.  This surrender entails two spiritual attitudes that are largely unknown to our control-obsessed modern world: 1) A general trust that the community / nature / divinity will continue to provide and 2) A graceful willingness to accept death and suffering in the event that the community / nature / divinity does not provide.

 

The act of living in the spirit of the gift is something which my favorite poet and all-around-awesome dude, Jesus, pointed to many times, perhaps most memorably in his Sermon on the Mount, when he suggested that everyone live "like the lilies of the field."  The lilies of the field, J.C. pointed out, don't do any work or save for rainy days, and yet they're gorgeous and happy. The lilies live in the spirit of the gift, accepting the nourishment of the sun and earth and giving forth radiant beauty.  Then they gracefully die when it gets cold and they don't whine about it. They don't control or hoard anything.

 

The Nihilism of Usury and the Control Freaks of Wall Street

Usury, in essence, is an expression of fear and clinging to material existence.  It's a refusal to surrender control. Usury hears about the notion of living like the lilies of the field and says "screw that!"

 

Usury seeks to maintain control over the increase generated by a gift.  It thus kills the spirit of the gift and creates disconnection.

 

When I give you that $1000 interest-free loan, I'm letting go of my say over that money. I'm letting you "use" it.  In turn, in our little gift society, I trust that you will put your "use" of the gift (the increase you accrue from investing it) to benefit all of us.  But I'm trusting. I've surrendered control of the "use" of the gift.  Through my trust, I'm making space for the spirit of the gift to live and breathe.

 

When I give you a $1000 dollar loan with 20% interest, I'm not letting go of my say over that money. I'm not trusting that you will use the increase of the gift to ultimately benefit our community and thus me. I'm demanding that you put the increase that you generate through your "use" of the gift back in my pocket. Thus I am controlling the "use-stuff" or "use-ury" or of the gift. In my control, I don't trust you and I certainly don't love you.

 

Usury = commerce between foreigners

Lewis Hyde explains:

 To ask for interest on loaned wealth is to reckon, articulate, and charge its increase.  The idea of usury therefore appears when spiritual, moral, and economic life begins to be separated from one another, probably at the time when foreign trade, exchange with strangers, begins. As we saw in an earlier chapter, wherever property circulates as a gift, the increase that accompanies that circulation is simultaneously material, social, and spiritual; where wealth moves as a gift, any increase in material wealth is automatically accompanied by the increased conviviality of the group and the strengthening of the hau, the spirit of the gift.  But when foreign trade begins, the tendency is to differentiate the material increase from the social and spiritual increase, and a commercial language appears to articulate the difference.  When exchange no longer connects one person to another, when the spirit of the gift is absent, then increase does not appear between gift partners, usury appears between debtors and creditors. (144-145 The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)

 

The key point that Hyde makes here is that usury begins when foreign trade begins.  It's an economic relationship forged between groups of people who have no necessary bonds to each other communally or spiritually and who do not trust each other.  It's a relationship of outsider to outsider.

 

Think about this: usury now colors every exchange in our financial institutions.  The banks lend to us, the people, at interest-- and in the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis at insanely high, loan-sharking interest.  They might call themselves things like "Bank of America" but to them, we, their debtors, are obviously foreigners.

 

The Occupy Movement as a Gift Society

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the movement against the banks, against our financial institutions and corrupt government and corporations calls itself an "Occupation" and takes the form of physical encampments.

 

We are occupying Wall Street and occupying symbolic squares and parks in our hometowns because the banks have made themselves foreigners to us through their usury.  We have no fellow-feeling and good-will for them because we have no trace of a gift relationship with them. They've destroyed the spirit of the gift through their rapacious lust to control and their absolute unwillingness to trust.

 

They've treated us, the people, their fellow citizens, like strangers.

 

To speak in biblical terms, our financial institutions have committed grave sins and the consequences of those sins are alienation and disunity.

 

It is absolutely no accident that the Occupy encampments in NYC and throughout the world are operating as communal gift economies with free healthcare (in the form of medic tents), free education (in the form of teach-ins, speakers, and lending libraries), free food, free shelter (in the form of donated tents, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.), and free entertainment (as people share their musical and artistic skills).

 

The Occupy encampments are modeling the living power of the spirit of the gift which the banks, corporations, and corrupt government of the United States had sought to destroy through usury, among other means.

 

Debts create suspicion, scarcity, distrust and death.  Gifts create love, abundance, trust and life.

 

Why doesn't Occupy need to articulate demands?

In the Occupy movement, the spirit of the gift is rising up and roaring through the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. This is what makes it enormously powerful and wonderful.

 

This is why it doesn't need to "articulate demands." The demand of the movement is implicit in its very existence.  The medium is the message.  Gifts, not debts. Consensus, not tyranny. Community, not commodity. The time has come. The spirit will prevail.

 

Check out this tour of the gift community at the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment, given by yours truly:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTMvFWhjNq8

 

Love!

Carolyn

The Gift World vs. the Mad World

Dear Reader, As I began discussing in my last post, the gift world is a subjective experience of life in which your genius is fully supported and welcomed in its expression, and in which your needs and authentic preferences are joyously met by a provident universe.

I might elaborate on that by saying it's also a condition in which you don't need to control or manipulate anything, nor are you subject to any control or manipulation.  It's a state wherein you offer yourself fully as a gift and experience yourself likewise fully supplied with everything-- also as a gift.  The gifts which supply you come to you through a variety of people and circumstances, but they simply come.  There's no struggling and striving involved, no need to force yourself to do work you don't want to do, no sense of barrier or disconnection between you and other people.  In other words, the gift world is a lot different than the mad world we currently live in.

What's the mad world? It's the state in which we apparently need to strive and do drudge work in order to support ourselves, or, conversely, we need to manipulate, lie to, and exploit others in order to spare ourselves from drudgery (i.e., do business).  It's a world in which we must exert control and force over ourselves (how else do you get yourself to go to work in an ugly office other than through forcing?), where we feel painfully alone and disconnected from our own vital souls and from the other people that surround us.  It's something wrought upon us from the time we're very young and made to go to school in a thoroughly corrupt and increasingly pointless educational system. I think Gary Jules' cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" in Donnie Darko sums it up pretty well. But then again, the original Tears for Fears version is way easier to dance to:

 

The mad world is a condition in which we're desperately trying to control ourselves, other people, and all the factors which surround us out of an intense survival anxiety.  Charles Eisenstein sums it up very well, blow by blow, in his book The Ascent of Humanity (which is available online in its entirety-- as a gift, because Mr. Eisenstein knows what's up). The mad world is a world in which technology and science, surveillance and laws, discipline and punishment are used to maximum effect in order to produce a very tenuous and unsustainable version of security in which we're not only not actually safe, but we're also now bored and depressed.

In the gift world, since you have no need to control, there's no fear.  As the teacher Adyashanti has observed, fear is just a by-product of frustrated control. In the gift world, you do things, but nothing you do is "work" in the sense that we've come to think of it, because your security and your identity don't come from what you accumulate as a result of your effort.  Instead, you give your efforts freely, accruing no obvious security or bolstering to your seperate ego-self.  As you give in this manner, your wants and needs are subsequently mysteriously met in delightful and miraculous ways by the universe.

This miraculous movement happens because, as Lewis Hyde observed in his seminal work The Gift, when gifts received are consumed or passed on, the spiritual power at work in the gift grows-- more is drawn forth, more gifts flow to you. When gifts received are hoarded, stored up, or used only to accrue individual gain, the spiritual power at work in the gift departs-- it dries up, and no more gifts come to you. The gift spirit as it moves creates connection and joy, satisfaction and fulfillment among a circle of givers and receivers.  The gift as it is hoarded creates disconnection and ennui, alienation and discontent.

Our genius (talent, intelligence, creativity, soul-- whatever you want to call it) is clearly a gift given to us by the source.  We didn't manufacture our genius deliberately, of our own clever device.  We didn't make it out of duct-tape and cardboard. It came to us freely, from outside our own will and effort. When we use our gift of genius only promote ourselves, only to make ourselves as individual egos more secure and safe in a seemingly threatening universe-- we then betray the spirit of the gift. We become hoarders. The genius then stops giving us ideas and inspirations and means to carry those out because we've proven ourselves ungrateful.  When we wrongly use gifts graciously bestowed upon us as possessions to which we are entitled,  the spirit of the gift dies.

It was a revelation to me when I learned from Lewis Hyde about the need of the gift to move.  While it made deep sense to me on one level, on another it contradicted the perverse notions of gift reception that I'd learned in childhood: gifts are given to me on my birthday and at Christmas and they are MINE all MINE.  I was taught that to give away a gift that I received as a birthday or a Christmas present was rude. Not only this, but I was prevented from actually formally reciprocating the gifts given to me. When I was invited as a guest to the birthday parties of other children,  the birthday gifts bestowed on my friends by "me"  were toys bought by my mother. I was not allowed to give the pine cones and twigs, the flowers and quartz pebbles I really wanted to give.  The toys my mother presented did not come from me-- they had nothing to do with me. I was deluged with gifts and yet kept out of the circle of giving-- and perhaps unsurprisingly, the gifts I was given in this fashion meant nothing to me on a deep level. They represented nothing to me but a hoard of "my" toys.  The ethos of giving and receiving taught to me thus denied the  actual spirit of the gift.

As I practice the path of virtualizing a great universe and surrendering into my innocence, I can more and more clearly perceive that what I'm virtualizing is the gift world-- and as the gift world is more and more  coming to be my reality,I'm growing increasingly excited.  In the coming days, I'll be sharing more regarding what it takes to move from the mad world to the gift world.

 

Love, Carolyn

Image Attribution: Photo "Presents under the tree" by VancityAllie, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

5 Minutes Toward Beauty

Dear Reader, 5 Minutes Toward Beauty is one of the 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life which we haven't yet discussed much. Today I want to talk about these 5 Minutes and their power.

What Is It?

With the 5 Minutes Towards Beauty tool, we just decide to take 5 minutes of our life each day and devote them towards creating something that's not practical or expedient.  What we create doesn't have to be "beautiful" in the classic sense of "wow, that's lovely" but it does have to be beautiful in the sense that it exists for no other reason than to give delight.

In this sense, anything we create that's just fun or extravagant counts for the 5 Minutes Towards Beauty.  In other words, you don't have to paint the Mona Lisa.  It works just as well to make up a song about your socks as you get dressed in the morning.

Why Do It?

Devoting 5 Minutes Toward Beauty each day has the effect of aligning you with a central operating principle of the universe-- extravagant creativity.  I don't know if you've noticed, but whatever forces there are whipping up this world, they are not stingy with creating things that are gorgeous, fun, and weird.

When we decide to be very grown up and just limit ourselves to creating things that serve our little grown up identities and our purely practical concerns, we cut ourselves off from this central operating principle. And we suffer for it-- we feel bored, dead, lifeless, depressed.  We might develop neuroses-- being overly concerned about what other people think about us, feeling like our only value lies in how much money we have or how dazzling our career looks.

Those troubles are all symptoms of creative deficiency.  They come from not being aligned with a central principle of the universe.  Alignment with the spiritual principles that the world turns upon is necessary for us as human beings, because it connects us with positive forces much larger than ourselves that can awesome our lives far beyond our most daring hope.

How to Do It?

Aligning with spiritual principles is a matter of adjusting both attitude and action. Both of these adjustments happen through making small daily decisions.  In order to align with creativity, we need to adjust our attitudes by deciding to see ourselves as divine collaborators in the service of the greatest piece of installation art ever--  planet earth -- not just as self-interested agents out to stay afloat.  Similarly, we need to adjust our actions by deciding to make a small gesture each day that's in line with the spirit of our new decision about ourselves: 5 Minutes Toward Beauty.

Yeah, But What Can I Really Do In 5 Minutes?

More than you think! Here's a list of things that have worked for me and my associates:

1. Make up new song lyrics to your favorite tunes.

Lately I've been working up on coming up with new chants to chant to the Hare Krishna melodies I most enjoy.

2. Propagate tall tales about the unlikely and fantastic adventures of you heroic friends.

"Did you guys hear about the time Connor uncovered a lost treasure of Aztec coins at the bottom of the Highland Park Reservoir and distributed them to orphans in Lawrenceville after presenting his find at the London Archaelogical Society?"

3. Make up nick names for your friends. Keep going till you get one that sticks.

My friend Jon has  surprisingly blond hair which he vigorously denies he has ever dyed. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for me and all others to call him Peroxide Jonny.

My friend Terry has a natural gift for leadership and a penchant for pants which are so close-fitting they remind me of super-hero tights.  Therefore: Boy Wonder.

4. Dream up a rad party to throw. I'm excited about the upcoming Genius Gathering and the Lavender Picnic Tea-Time Fantasia.

5. Draw a stick-figure comic strip about you, your pals and your latest adventure.

6. Open an inspiring cookbook, choose a recipe and decide on your own special twist to add to it.

From recent experience, I suggest Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

7. Invent a new kind of yoga.

The glorious Jane Bullard and I are working on something called Bhakti Flow-- stay tuned for more details!  But there's a whole world out there of innovation for you to still innovate. Like, who's gonna teach me Gardening Yoga? Or Big Fat Doggy Power Style? Perhaps you?

8. Start a blog and write a post.

Then make sure you tell me about it so I can read it, link to it, and love it.

Image Credit: Pink Flowering Gum by Tatters, found on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Innocence amid the Zombie Apocalypse

Dear Reader, In a post on The Absent Narrative from way back in December, my deep-thinking friend Tait McKenzie Johnson reflects upon his life-long sense that there's something amiss in our modern world.

Johnson considers that this something amiss is a set of actions and values which colludes to either steal our souls or, if we ascribe to the romantic Coleridgean / Keatsian idea that individual souls are not inborn but rather made as we go through life, that these actions and values collude to prevent our souls from taking shape.

I do, by the way, ascribe to romantic notion that individual souls are made rather than born.  As Keats suggested in his letters, I think we're all born with sparks of divinity, and then by means of poetic inquiry (aka alchemy) we learn to read the world through our hearts and thus forge our own individual souls as distinct aspects of the divine.

And I think that Johnson is on to something when he offers that there are anti-soul actions and values at work in the world.  He writes:

Granted, I’m not entirely sure what a soul is or where it resides – this has been contended for centuries – but I do know from experience that there is some part of ourselves that, if intact or developed, enables the only honest, free, and responsible response to the totality of life beyond our most immediate animal interests. Without this, life grows meaningless and absurd, and we bury our heads in the sand avoiding anything beyond the struggle to pleasurably survive from day to day, and even that with far less pleasure than we would like.

Johnson is right to suggest that the soul is the part of ourselves which "enables the only honest, free, and responsible response to the totality of life beyond our most immediate animal interests." I never thought of it that way before, but it sure rings true. It's a definition that also coincides with my experience about how the soul is made through a process of contemplative truth-seeking and the subsequent creative expression of those truths discovered-- a process which might likewise be described as the "honest, free, and responsible response to the totality of life."

Wherein Zombies Devour Our Brains

Johnson goes on to offer that the symbolic weight of the soul is made legible in our culture through the representation of its absence in images of zombie apocalypse, images which continue to grow in popularity. And of course, he's right: what better depicts soul-lessness than a glassy-eyed ghoul trying to eat your brains? Heck, what's a better metaphor for our American consumerism than a ghoul trying to eat your brains?

Finally, Johnson offers what is for me a very thought-provoking list of the actions and values present in the world which deny or suppress the soul. Here I offer just a selection of items that resonate especially powerfully with me from the full list:

- The objectification of our own bodies and desires

- The quantatative monetization of all ideas/values/objects

- The exploitation of the natural material world as something corrupt and given to our dominion

- The dogmatic demand for a literal and singular Truth

- The glorification of violence as a problem solver and form of entertainment

- The embarrassment of sincerity and engagement leading to an ironic, belittling emotional detachment

- The giving away of personal choice to corporations whose options for us don’t fill our best interests

- The denial of imagination and myth as having real world validity and effect

- The insistence that the way the world is now is the way it will always be, despite all evidence otherwise

- And if the world does change, it can only do so through an outside cataclysm rather than by our choice toward a new positive future

Yes, we've got soul-threatening problems, and Johnson sums it up very well.

So what can we do to defend ourselves against the soulless zombie apocalypse?

I suggest practicing innocence.

Cultivating Innocence

Innocence, like optimism, gets a bad rap these days.  We tend to think of it as something exclusively belonging to children or to the developmentally different.  For an adult in full possession of all her faculties to cultivate innocence sounds like a weird notion.

I went to pre-school at a Roman Catholic elementary called Holy Innocents. Lovely title for an elementary school, right? Yeah, it was named after the hundreds of infants whom King Herod had slaughtered in his efforts to prevent the prophesied birth of Jesus.

The day they told me this I started crying and wouldn't stop until my mother came to pick me up.

I got the idea pretty well that day that innocence is a liability-- it means you're vulnerable and unprotected, available to be slaughtered by any unscrupulous authority that comes along.

We tend to not value innocence as a virtue because we associate it with the extreme vulnerability of childhood.  In the process of becoming adults, we all suffered various blows to our innocence which woke us up to the fact that the world isn't always kind, and we ourselves can harbor motives and desires which are significantly less than pure. Within this process, we learn to value sophistication above innocence.

The Problem with Sophistication

There's a bit of a problem with loving sophistication-- namely, that "sophistication" is word which describes the process of becoming sophistic -- i.e., like a sophist. Let's consider for a few minutes if we want to be like sophists.  The sophists were travelling teachers of rhetoric in Ancient Greece who charged students lots of money in order to learn the art of rhetoric, namely,  persuasion.  Rhetorical persuasion is, of course, a perennially valuable skill, useful in the market place, in law, and in politics-- in pretty much everything.

The philosopher Socrates had a major problem with the sophists: why? Because the sophists weren't interested in teaching their students to discern truth through their arguments-- just in teaching their students to sound really great.  The sophists offered that it wasn't their concern whether their students used their rhetorical skills for good or for ill, for truth or for falsehood-- rhetoric was just a skill like any other, able to be used for any ends.

Socrates insisted that the art of rhetoric, of argumentation and persuasion, should be used to direct people toward the true and the beautiful.

So how did things play out? Well, the sophists got richer and the people of Athens forced Socrates to drink hemlock and die.

Hmmmm. Maybe I'm not yet offering a very convincing case for innocence.

Why Socrates Rocked

My point, though, is this.  Probably all of you dear readers recognize the name Socrates. Probably very few of you recognize the name Gorgias, who was the most famous sophist in Socrates' time.

In the short term, the world rewards sophistry because it's an efficient means of achieving results which society already thinks useful (start a war, win a law suit) or producing complex arguments which make you look super-smart. Sophistry can be incredibly subtle and fascinating. Most all of modern humanities study, for example, is sophistic.

But over time, the world celebrates radical innocence because it's a means of arriving at truly new thoughts -- ideas which reveal something genuinely fresh and valuable, which don't just achieve an already-known and desired end within the socially established game of life but which alter the whole game itself by revealing new facets of the imaginative and spiritual principles which underlie reality.

The new thoughts which emerge from radical innocence are valued across time and throughout the world because they're genuinely liberating, and there is nothing so exhilarating as liberation.

Genuine new thought is always threatening to the social world in which it immediately emerges, because it's not bound by that social game.  Therefore, the radically innocent people who bring forth liberating new thoughts can be seen as villains and dangers by the societies in which they live.  This is what happened to Socrates.

Socrates was said to have claimed that the only thing he knew for sure was that he didn't know-- a statement of radical innocence if there ever was one. Some folks have suggested that that claim was just a wily fake-out on Socrates' part, and that he actually thought himself quite clever.

I'm inclined to think that Plato, Socrates' student who wrote dialogues depicting Socrates at work  (dialogues which constitute most of our lore about Socrates) was indeed a wily guy who thought himself quite clever-- but that Socrates, the historical figure who was Plato's actual teacher and not just the character depicted in Plato's dialogues, was genuinely a radical innocent. If he wasn't, I don't think he could have elicited so much fresh new thought among the youth of Athens that the authorities would have seen the need to put him to death.

Why Only Innocence Can Defeat the Zombie Apocalypse

Okay, so there are all these zombies.  They're intent on eating human brains, so the general human impulse is to fight back: blow off the zombies' heads with double-barrel shotguns, for example. Trouble is, that's not really a long-term solution, is it? There are far more zombies than bullets.  And building better anti-zombie weapons won't really help either. Zombies are a kind of self-renewing violent parasite: they can reproduce by attacking humans as long as humans continue to reproduce.

Furthermore, they're very single-minded in their goal. Unlike human opponents, zombies don't get demoralized and just give up when they feel outnumbered.  They already are dead, so they don't mourn their dead.  They're going to come after our brains indefinitely. Regular ingenuity, the kind which produces more and more sophisticated weapons and strategies is not going to solve this problem.

In other words, shooting zombies is a video-game type activity that can go on endlessly. It's no way to live.

In order to halt the onslaught of soulless brain-eaters, we need a new game altogether.  We need to see things from a completely different point of view, and change the field of play. We don't need sophisticated weapons and fighting strategies-- we need a truly new thought, a fresh perception of the nature of reality that will alter what we know to be possible.

The zombies are our own dead, our own past which has risen up from where we buried it and become poisonous, aggressive and malignant.  Zombies are the legacy of our old paradigms, a relentless hoard bent on consumption.

In order to defeat them, we need radical innocence.  Zombies don't really just want to eat our brains. They want us to truly use them.

So what's the new insight? What's the new game? Man, I don't quite know.  But we'll continue to see representations of zombies in our popular culture and we'll continue to be assaulted by all the troubling actions and values that Johnson lists until we're able to stretch ourselves wide open and find another way.

Love,

Carolyn

 

Raise Your Resonance with Loving-kindness

Dear Reader, One of the most potent means I've found for improving the resonance of my being so that I'm more open to love and happiness and all the good things of life is to practice loving-kindness virtualization.

About Loving-kindness Virtualization

Loving-kindness virtualization is like traditional Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, except instead of just verbally wishing others well, you take time to vividly imagine and feel the happiness and well-being that you wish for them.

I notice that when I practice this form of virtualization it gives me a big energetic boost and enhances my awareness of my connectedness to all other people. When I vividly imagine another person feeling happy and loved --  sometimes especially if I don't like that person or have a grudge against them -- I feel the happiness and love that I'm imagining on their behalf.

This clues me in that my happiness really isn't separate from theirs. It's all one big field, available to be shared.

How to Practice Loving-kindness Virtualization

1. Find some place to be relatively alone and relaxed.

2. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself in the intention to extend your love and drop your grievances.

3. Bring to mind someone you're a little bit irritated with-- a friend, a colleague, someone you see on the bus every day.

4. Imagine that person in a place where they're tremendously happy, doing what they most love.  This can be tough if you don't know the person all that well or you've never seen them really happy. Nonetheless, make something up.

Example: See your colleague who likes to bake standing in the midst of a totally gorgeous kitchen with glossy blue walls and a high stamped-tin ceiling: she has graceful cake plates stacked with luscious cupcakes all around her; her heart is full with joy and peace; she's stirring a bowl of golden batter; she's surrounded by people she loves who are sharing in her bounty. She's radiant, her face is beaming. The room smells like swiss cocoa and cinnamon. Someone makes a joke and the happy baker bursts out with a delighted, full-bodied laugh.

This virtualization might take some work to come up with because you usually encounter your colleague looking bored across the table from you at meetings, quibbling with your ideas, rushing past you in the hallways.

The Benefits for Another

To invest your time imagining her gloriously happy and fulfilled is a real act of generosity on your part.  Since all of us human beings are connected by a morphic field, your kind vision for your colleague actually has the effect of improving the probabilities in the field directly surrounding her.  The altered condition of the field can then draw forth from her new manifestations of joy.

The Benefits for You

While practicing this loving-kindness virtualization for your colleague, you'll immediately start to feel more of your own love and generosity. Even if you begin from a place of resentment or irritation, you'll discover after awhile that you really would like to see this person being completely fulfilled and relaxed. Just realizing this brings you to some important knowledge: you're a kind person who can take real pleasure in the happiness of others.

You'll also start to feel happier and lighter yourself.  It's impossible to vividly imagine anyone feeling really great without you also starting to feel really great.  You've not just improved the field surrounding your colleague-- you've improved the whole field surrounding you.

You may notice that after doing this meditation you feel more alert, more interested in your life, more inclined to do things, more glad to listen closely to other people when they talk.

The next time you see your colleague after you've practiced the loving-kindness virtualization on her behalf, you'll feel more inclined to be soft towards her and less inclined to judge her.

You'll sympathize with her own best wishes for herself, and you'll be able to intuitively grasp how her irritating actions (quibbling, rushing) are part of her means of coping with life's difficulties and defending her tenuous sense of self.  You'll see she can't help it. You'll feel more compassionate, and interested in helping her.

We human beings are all extremely perceptive. Because we're connected by the field, we can feel when someone genuinely wishes well for us, and we respond to this positively.

Over time, your colleague will pick up on your altered resonance. She'll notice that you don't put out vibes of irritation or disapproval when she brushes by you.  She'll be able to relax more when she's in your presence. She might ask you how you're doing. She might support one of your ideas brought up at a meeting.

One day she might bring you some rad cinnamon cupcakes with cocoa-custard icing, and then you'll know the magic is really working.

Love,

Carolyn

Image Credit: Photo of cupcakes from Little Cupcakes, Desgraves St., Melbourne by dootsiez on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Shift to Poetic Perception

Dear Reader, Today, let's continue to consider what it takes to be honest with ourselves and ditch our kitsch.

The Eye Altering, Alters All: Poetic Perception

It can be difficult, if not entirely impossible, to ditch our kitsch when we are in the midst of it, because it doesn’t look like kitsch to us—it looks like the unassailable way things need to be in order for us to be okay.

This is true even if that dubious “okay” is really miserable.  Our calculating minds would still like to call that misery “okay” because at least it’s known, and what we know we think we can control.  Actually, we can’t, but the illusion that we can is hypnotic.  In order to break out of it, we have to be willing to alter our perception.

One of my favorite mad poet-prophets, William Blake, observed that “the eye altering, alters all.”  In other words, when we change our perception, the whole world around us changes.

Abandon the Brain that Divides

I suggest that our ability to cling to shit and live in kitsch arises from the fact that we’ve learned to use the opposite of poetic perception: fragmented perception.  We all come into the world as perfectly honest and expressive young poets, but school and society beat that out of us right quick.

Our culture is dominated by “the brain that divides.” We learn to see ourselves as isolated little egos who have to fight and scrap and scrape in order to hold on to our little drops of comfort or pleasure or power.

We feel threatened by the other isolated little egos outside of us who might try to take these things away. We have to push ourselves harder and harder to continue to win, to protect what we have, to get more.

Within this perception of fragmentation, we see everything, including our own bodies and talents and the natural world, as objects to be manipulated in order to attain some end.

It’s only in this fragmented perception that a life of kitsch can spring up, because kitsch seeks to manipulate the vast and messy unfolding of our lives into a neat and pretty picture that we’re confident will gain the approval of others and thus secure us our comfort, pleasure and power.

Poetic Perception Sees Wholeness

In order to end the reign of kitsch in our lives and see our shit for what it is, we need to begin cultivating poetic perception, a mode of seeing from the heart which acknowledges connectedness and interrelation amongst ourselves and everything in existence.

When we are able to see ourselves and life from the poetic perspective of wholeness, we are better able to recognize our shit, to stop telling ourselves and the world that it’s gold, and instead allow it to be simple fertilizer for awesomeness.

This recognition is enabled by the wholeness of poetic perception because we create our shit in the first place in an attempt to deal with the fragmentation and alienation we perceive.

I clung to my lousy boyfriend and my socially respectable position as an academic because I felt lacking, estranged from the flow of life.  I didn’t trust that the world might have better things in store for me because I felt as if the world and me were two separate things, and why should the world care what happened to me?

As long as I saw myself primarily as an isolated little ego and not as an integral part of life’s unfolding who could be uplifted and blossomed by the same force that blossoms flowers, I was unwilling to ditch my kitsch; I still felt I needed it to survive.

A Very High Sort of Seeing

In his essay “The Poet” Emerson describes in great detail someone who has a solid grasp on poetic perception—namely, the ideal poet. According to Emerson, the ideal poet has an intuition of unity which is so total that it constitutes a kind of dramatic enlightenment, a state of higher realization. Emerson refers to this unitive insight as Imagination. He tells us that Imagination is

a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees; by sharing the path or circuit of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others.

Yet in order to start on a project of poetic inquiry, I don’t think it’s necessary to be fully possessed of this realization of underlying oneness, and certainly not necessary to “believe” in it—I think it’s only necessary to be willing to move towards it.

In other words, I think it's necessary to soften one’s sense of oneself as a limited, isolated entity, as a thinking subject for whom the world (including your talents and your body) is merely a mess of objects to be manipulated for socially approved ends.

Dwell in Possibility

The shift to poetic perception requires the willingness to enter, at least temporarily, the condition which I call “Possibility," after a poem by Emily Dickinson.  Dickinson wrote:

I dwell in Possibility—

A fairer House than Prose—

More numerous of Windows—

Superior—for Doors—

 

Of Chambers as the Cedars—

Impregnable of eye—

And for an everlasting Roof

The Gambrels of the Sky—

 

Of Visitors—the fairest—

For Occupation—This—

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise—

The house of Possibility is a symbol of a  condition of profound openness: it’s a  a house which abounds in thresholds (More numerous of Windows-- / Superior for Doors—“) and it’s also a house which declines to provide shelter from the elements (“And for an everlasting Roof-- / The Gambrels of the Sky”).

Yet for the very reason that the house of Possibility gives so little shelter, it leaves its inhabitant open to receive the fairest visitors and to practice the gathering of Paradise. And that's what we do in poetic perception.

It’s of course significant also that the house of Possibility is one which Dickinson compares to the house of Prose—implying that Possibility is identified with Prose’s opposite—poetry.

Possibility vs. Imagination

I find the term “Possibility” to be a useful word to describe the condition which it’s necessary to enter in order to begin seeking and creatively expressing truth, even more useful than Emerson's term, Imagination.

Possibility, perhaps because Dickinson figures it as a house, suggests to me a state which one can readily enter or depart without undergoing a complete transcendental enlightenment-- which is a connotation that Imagination carries for Emerson and his friends, the British romantic poets and German idealists.

This distinction is important to me, given that complete transcendental enlightenment is notoriously tough to come by.

I envision my work as a teacher of awesoming not as a project of leading you into the life of  a realized sage but rather as one of inviting you to experiment with an alternative mode of being, perceiving, and expressing truth.

The ultimate end of such experimentation could be that you decide to commit to “dwell[ing]” full-time in Possibility as Dickinson herself did, but I’m pleased if it simply lets you admit your shit, to live more compassionately and bravely.

Though I envision Possibility as a state which can be easily entered or exited, to enter it at all nonetheless requires accepting a risk, because it is a condition not only of enlarged receptivity but also of increased vulnerability.

It's a condition of increased vulnerability because when we open ourselves wide to the fairest of visitors -- truth and beauty -- we are simultaneously loosening our grip on our defenses-- namely, our kitsch.

Stay tuned for our next post, in which I discuss explicit instructions for entering Possibility.

Love, Carolyn

 

 

How to Say it Straight

Dear Reader, This past week we've been working with the power of optimism. Now I want to move us into thinking about and working with the power of honesty.

Admit Your Shit

Please excuse my French. I know the title of this section has an earthy tang, and there was a time when such terms offended my own delicate sensibility—but I had to get over it. Because, you see, I love my mother.

My mother swears—not all the time, not at work—but with her family she uses the phrases she requires to drive home her points. Liberally. For much of my life, I passionately wished that I could halt the colorful flow of my mother’s mouth.  Somewhere along the line I developed a desire for our family to be classy—and my mother’s swearing, along with her habit of lighting her Menthol Ligget Lights directly in the gas flames of our kitchen stove assaulted and undermined the aristocratic aspirations I cherished for the Elliott clan.

Out of love for my mother, I came to forgive her—and my father, and my brother, and all the rest of our relatives—to dooming us to less-than-lordly status.  I tolerated her linguistic stylings. Yet it wasn’t until one revelatory day that I came to actually embrace and celebrate them.

I called my mother crying, bemoaning the hard fact that I had just been done wrong yet again, by another boyfriend. Why? I wanted to know. Why had this happened? What had I done?

The Colorful Truth

“Carolyn,” my mother said, speaking slowly so I would understand, “he’s an asshole.”

I stopped crying for a moment. I had really heard her. The words brought about a kind of open spaciousness and clarity.  It began to dawn on me: that young man had treated me poorly not because I deserved it, not because there was anything wrong with me, but because he was – ontologically speaking—an asshole—meaning that he would have treated me that way no matter how beautiful or fun or cool I was—none of my part even mattered, because the way he acted was just his method of operation: assholery. For him to have behaved otherwise would have violated his very nature.

Since attaining this liberating insight from the sage woman who birthed me, I’ve developed an increasing fondness for telling it like it is, a fondness which means I have worse and worse foul mouth, and a more and more awesome life.

By referring to my erstwhile boyfriend as an asshole, my mother did me the service of waking me out of a delusion within which I’d been suffering.  The nature of my delusion? That my boyfriend was not an asshole and therefore his actions were some kind of reflection upon my merit and worth.  When in the grips of this delusion, I wanted to defend him, idolize him, romanticize him.

The Pain of Delusion

For months I had rationalized his behavior and had stayed in denial about how bad things were because my mind had its laser-focus grip on the notion that that relationship was a solution to something.  This meant my mind was fully loathe to let that “solution” go, to see that it was doing me more harm than the perceived problem I had intended it to fix: namely, me and my feelings about life.

For months the dude treated me badly and for months I didn’t wish to allow that he was, indeed, an asshole. I preferred to torture myself, because to recognize the bare facts of the situation would have meant having to let go of my solution, you see.

Letting go of one of my pretend solutions is always incredibly hard because there’s a part of me that resolutely will not trust that a real solution can be found—a solution that would address the actual underlying problem: my distorted negative perception of myself and of the world.

Ditch Your Kitsch

The author Milan Kundera, in his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being writes about the phenomenon of kitsch, a mode of art in the Soviet Union which was all sweet and saccharine.

Kundera defined kitsch as the denial of shit, and said it was an aesthetic mode which was false because it refused to acknowledge an essential dimension of human experience and to deal with it.  The Soviet Union needed kitsch, of course, because it was clinging to a very untenable solution to its problems—Stalinism.

What I don’t realize when I’m in the midst of my clinging to a delusional solution is that I am busily perpetrating my own version of kitsch.  I make my life into a glossy work of very bad art. It looks good on the surface—hey, check me out, I’m normal! I’ve got a boyfriend! See? Smile! – but it lacks depth, and if you look at it for more than a second you feel annoyed.

When I’m doing this, I’m acting in what the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre would call “bad faith”—pretending as if I have no choice, as if the only solution is the one I’m currently clinging to.  I can end my reign of kitschy terror by ceasing to claim that my false solution has any merit to it at all, by no longer rationalizing my use of it.  In other words, I have to admit that it’s shit.

Admitting the presence of shit in my life has the tremendously frightening and useful effect of freeing space for the awesoming process to begin.  As long as I stay in the realm of kitsch, as long as I cling to my shit while calling it gold, there’s no room for the awesome to grow.

Shit as Wondrous Fertilizer

This isn’t to say that all shit must be absent from your life in order for the awesoming to start. It just means that as much shit as possible must be admitted, and clearly seen for what it is.  Shit, once discovered in its real and undenied glory, is actually excellent ground in which the roses of awesome may grow.

For example, I struggled for a long time to admit to myself that my initial choice of career path – university English professor – was actually shit.

I began noticing early on in my graduate school career that I thought an alarmingly high number of my professors were pompous ego monstrosities, that the academic journal articles I was supposed to be reading and admiring looked like sophistic exercises in rigorously avoiding truth, and that my peers in the program used their mighty intellects to systematically quash all errant interferences of joy and love in their lives and mine.

Despite these disturbing observations, I pressed ahead, submitting papers to academic conferences that I dreaded attending, trying to contort my writing into a shape that would be acceptable to the establishment.

Why was I doing this? Because I had hypnotized myself into believing that academia, though sucky and abusive to my spirit, was the only place that would welcome my high-octane intellect—so I needed to endure the pain of jumping through all the hoops laid before me and groveling for all the shreds of approval I might be able to eke out. This philosophy, the dear reader might notice, bore strong resemblances to my pattern of thought about my romantic relationships.

Yet on the day I finally admitted to myself that an academic career, for all the prestige and respectability it afforded, was actually a shit solution to the problem of being me, I did not immediately leave graduate school.

The Value of Remaining in One's Shit

I instead began the process of letting that shit become fertile ground for awesomeness. I decided to stay in the doctoral program, on my own terms. I let go of the idea of ever getting hired as a professor, so I stopped worrying about whether or not my dissertation would be viable on the academic market and let go of my relationship with a dissertation advisor who was very concerned that it should be so.

Since I realized that my choice to let my freak flag fly in my dissertation meant that my last year in graduate school might be my last opportunity to ever teach at a university, I decided to go all-out and teach my Reading Poetry courses in the weird, experimental way that I felt would best serve me and my students—rather than in the conventional way that I knew would get me the most approval from the professors above me.

As a result of admitting my shit and turning it into fertilizer, I was able to write my dissertation and teach my classes on poetic inquiry, the very process of awesoming on which this blog is based.

My classes gave me an opportunity to see that the far-out ideas which worked so well to awesome my life also worked for my students.

Some students wrote to me thanking me for completely changing their perspective on their lives and their dreams, for giving them a course which respected them as genius souls, opened them up to the poetry all around them and in them, and helped them to awaken creatively. When I told these students I was on my way out of the university and that I had no idea what I would do next, they begged me not to stop teaching.

It was only through this feedback from my students that I realized that I indeed needed to keep teaching— as a self-help author and life coach.  In the eyes of my grad school friends, the profession of “self-help author” ranks in prestige and respectability just a few notches below crack-addicted street prostitute, so I knew I was on to something good.

If I had left graduate school the first day I admitted that yes—indeed, it was shit that I was smelling— I may have eventually discovered my true calling as a street prostitute– er, I mean, self-help author—but I’m so grateful that I stayed right in the midst of my shit.  Because it’s blossomed up into such an amazing garden.

In Conclusion

All of this is to say—just because you realize that you’re clinging to a false solution—mine was the notion of becoming a university professor—doesn’t mean that you must immediately dismantle the framework of your whole life, even if that life has been built upon a shit premise.

In fact, the scary—and false—idea that owning up to the truth of your situation would demand that you immediately and decisively change everything about it might prevent you from ever confronting that truth.  So take heart—the very edifice you’ve built as a false solution to the difficult problem of existence may turn out to be an excellent ground upon which to commence allowing an authentic solution to emerge. You can risk admitting your shit.

 

Posted on March 8, 2011 and filed under Life Adventure, Poetic Inquiry.

Virtualize Your New Universe - Part 2

Dear Reader, Today I want to take you step-by-step through the virtualization process.

Yesterday I wrote about how through the virtualization of our authentic preferences, we can alter our resonance and take ourselves into the range of morphic fields which can powerfully shape and organize developments in our minds and in our lives for the better.

1. Pick a Preference, Any Preference

One of my authentic preferences (something I would still like to happen, even if I was completely blissed out) is to record a freak folk album. Actually, upon reflection, I might especially like this to happen if I was blissed out.

Please note-- this is not an especially "realistic" preference. I don't yet know how to play an instrument (I'm working on guitar- slooooowly).  I don't know how to read music. I don't have any ties to any aspect of the music industry. I've only yet "written" (i.e., recorded myself whistling on my phone's voice recorder) a few little tunes. My optimism surrounding this matter is, indeed, Extra-Rational.

Something that I find very important in this whole optimism process is not to limit the things I hope for to things that I think are realistic based upon my current skills and what's happened in the past.  Why? Because the morphic fields can handle all that stuff.  When I alter my resonance, I get swept into currents where I learn things rapidly and I find out I somehow have more resources and knowledge inside me than I realized.

For example-- at the time I started practicing the dating optimism which eventually resulted in me meeting the love of my life, Dey, I had a rotten track record with relationships.  Nothing in my past repertoire told me I had the chops to maintain a romantic interaction that was happy and healthy.  But I embarked on the process of awesoming my life in that dimension-- I virtualized, I was honest with myself, I surrendered (I'll have more to say about all these parts of the awesoming process, stay tuned)-- and then, not only did I meet my amazing partner, but as he and I spent more time together I discovered that somehow, I did have within me the necessary skills to consistently relate well with him.  Yikes! Where the heck did those come from?

Although I work hard to practice spiritual principles in my every day life and those principles are an essential part of any kind of good relationship, I didn't consciously cultivate romantic intimacy skills. The morphic field of successful romantic love which I entered into with my virtualization caused them to develop in me, drawing them out of the chaos of my heart.

2. See it, Feel it, Smell it, Hear It

This is the fun part. Let's say "you" share my preference to record a freak folk album-- and let's say you're recording it live.

Go somewhere that you can be alone and relax.  Take a few deep breaths.  Imagine yourself on a stage at a summer music festival. Feel the ruffled linen of your rad threads flutter on your skin as a breeze goes by. Feel the gentle weight of the guitar on your knee.  Breathe in deeply.  Smell the fresh sweat of the crowd; the inevitable fragrance of illegal herb smoke that rise up from their midst; the yummy summer smell of hot sun on green grass.  See your band mates wearing their quirky robes, fat flower garlands, carrying their handmade instruments.

Finally, hear yourself start to play and sing, and feel your heart opening and going out to all your audience and all your band members as you do it.  Hear what the music sounds like.  Hear yourself singing, feel your fingers on the guitar strings.  Breathe in the great energy from the crowd, the grins on their faces, the sight of all the dancing, swaying torsos.

There's music moving through you that's more than just the love in your mortal heart, it's the grace of a higher power that wants to come into the world and touch people through you. It's ecstatic-- your ego fades into the background and there's a oneness amongst you and everything around you.  You're right where you're supposed to be.

3. Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Now, future denizen of the folk realm-- keep that up.  If that vision were your authentic preference, I would recommend to you that you set aside ten minutes each day to virtualize it to the max. And when you virtualize it, make sure you imagine it happening in the greatest way possible for you and everyone else who's involved. In other worlds, don't virtualize yourself up there on stage, giving a so-so performance to a crowd that's more focussed on selling and buying acid than on listening to you play.  Focus on seeing a picture of dynamic harmony, with all elements working together to bring forth something that's just insultingly sublime (i.e., way bigger than your self).

Why? Because for some weird reason, life is just crazy about fulfilling expansive, gorgeous dreams like that.

Love,

Carolyn

Virtualize Your New Universe - Part 1

Dear Reader, Yesterday we talked about how it's possible to travel to a whole new universe through the power of Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism and hops.

Today I want to talk more about exactly how this travel is accomplished.

Why Virtualize

Virtualization is a process in which you vividly imagine the fulfillment of your authentic preferences, drawing upon all five senses and upon your emotions. Let's say that I'm working on manifesting some roly-poly pigs.  I would relax, lay back, and spend some time seeing myself hanging out in a pig pen, feel the soft squishing of the mud, hear the sweet grunts of porcine oinking, smell the fragrant shit, feel my heart swelling with joy. Why do this?

Because in order to jump to a better universe, you've got to get the feel for what it would be like.  This works because imagination, as my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson realized, is not just making stuff up. It's actually a kind of insight, or what Emerson called "a very high form of seeing." It feels like "making stuff up" at first because our imaginative light is dim to begin with.  As that light gets stronger and stronger, we begin to see that when we're imagining the fulfillment of our authentic preferences, we're actually not just making stuff up-- we're perceiving a possible world, and the act of vividly perceiving it with our imagination draws it into physical manifestation.

Virtualizing your new universe is itself a hop-- a hopeful optimistic practice -- and a very powerful one at that. When practiced regularly (every day is best) it alters your resonance.

On Morphic Resonance

What does that mean? Allow me to explain: the biologist Rupert Sheldrake posited that the development of life forms doesn't just depend on the information in their genes. The development of plants and animals also depends on something he called organizational fields, or morphic fields (meaning "fields that influence form").

Sheldrake offered that these fields work by creating order in otherwise chaotic or random patterns of gene-instructed activity. He said that these fields are not static, but constantly evolve:

The fields of afghan hounds and poodles have become different from those of their common ancestors, wolves. How are these fields inherited? I propose that they are transmitted from past members of the species through a kind of non-local resonance, called morphic resonance.

That is to say, morphic fields are a kind of collective memory which each individual of the species both draws upon and contributes to. Thus if one member of the species learns to do something unprecedented for the species as a whole (say, a cat in Pittsburgh learns to flush toilets), the rest of the species, due to an alteration in its morphic field caused by the advance of its individual member, thus instantly becomes more easily able to learn that same new thing (cats in Japan, unacquainted with the original Pittsburgh cat, are now figuring out how to flush toilets at a rapid rate).

Sheldrake proposed that religious rituals are a way in which "the past becomes present" because the people enacting the rituals, by the very act of the ritual, thereby enter into a morphic resonance with the people who in previous centuries performed the same rituals. Thus they partake of the wisdom and strength of all those ancestors. Also,

The morphic fields of social groups connect together members of the group even when they are many miles apart, and provide channels of communication through which organisms can stay in touch at a distance.

This phenomenon of non-local communication is very interesting for us folks on the path of awesoming our lives, because it implies that  through entering the morphic field of a certain group by adjusting one's resonance to match it, one can gain access to that group's implicit knowing and force of developmental organization.

In his book Power vs. Force, the psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins claims that Sheldrake's theory of morphic fields and morphic resonances offer an explanation for why 12-Step Recovery Fellowships work so well to heal members from life-threatening compulsions and addictions: the frequent meeting attendance and repeated ritual behaviors which these fellowships encourage align suffering newcomers with the morphic field of those who are already successfully recovering from the illness.  Through the morphic field of the group, the newcomer who on his own could not stop abusing substances becomes capable of getting time away from active addiction just by simple actions that align him with the sheer power of the group's non-local field of recovery.

So if your life is kind of sucky right now, you're a newcomer, in a sense, to awesomeness.  You need to get aligned with the morphic field of an awesomed life. And virtualization is one important way to do that.

By spending time virtualizing a universe in which your authentic preferences are fulfilled, you alter your own morphic resonance so that it's in harmony with the group of people who have previously achieved those preferences. In doing this, you thereby access not only the collective group knowledge of people who know how to achieve those preferences but you also come into an organizing field which shapes the whole landscape of your life (including factors well beyond your conscious control) into the morphic pattern held by that field-- into the pattern of success.

Stay tuned for How to Virtualize Your New Universe Part 2!