Tag Archive | New Age

Why?

StarsWhat is it about humans that makes us unique? Although we are very much like a more ‘intelligent’ version of our ape cousins, we also have an awareness that there is something about humans that is distinct, beyond just having bigger brains. Scientists and anthropologists have grappled with this question. Each time we think we have the answer it proves false. We used to think it was our ability to make and use tools, but then it was discovered that apes make and use tools. We thought it might be our capacity for language, but it was discovered that apes can learn language easily, showing their brains are wired for language as well. Finally, scientists found something humans do that apes do not, and it was rather surprising: Humans ask why. In an experiment conducted at the Cognitive Evolution Group Research Center, apes were given a simple task – they had to set two L shaped blocks upright, standing them on the long end, and they would get a treat. After learning this task, the scientists then gave them a trick block which was weighted on one end so that it would always fall over. The apes would then enter the experiment room, try to set the block upright in anticipation of a treat, and the block would fall over. They would try again, and again and again until they eventually gave up. When human children were given the same experiment, they would set up the weighted block and it would fall over. After a couple more tries, the children would begin to examine the block, turning it over, observing it, shaking it, hitting it, doing various things to it to try and understand why it was falling over. They were looking for evidence of the unseen force which caused the block to fall. They were trying to find the why behind it. This is something the apes do not do, it is a human trait.

This desire to understand why has driven humans to discover many things about the world and the universe, looking for the unseen force behind what we see has driven both religion and science to try and explain our existence. It has driven us to discover the science of physics, to understand gravity, to find everything from quarks to other galaxies. It is also what makes us search for some reason behind our very existence. The animal does not question its own existence, it simply is. This is a beautiful state of being and one which allows the animal to be in present moment, and we have a lot to learn from them in this way. In spite of the fact that the animal’s life may be one survival struggle after another, the animal does not question why, they simply experience what they experience in the moment – good, bad or ugly. We, on the other hand, need to know why. Why are we here? Is there some deeper reason, some unseen force which drives my existence? From this line of questioning we discover the soul, and from the soul we re-discover our connection to all things. We are a kind of consciousness which questions itself, it questions why it is conscious in the first place. What is my purpose? Is there a reason for my existence or is it just random and meaningless? Why are things this way, and not some other way?

If you find yourself on a spiritual quest, it is usually driven by these types of questions. These questions are powerful catalysts for growth. In many cases the journey of the wondering soul begins with questions that come from a place of deep pain – questions such as “Why is there suffering? Why is there death?” These were the questions which drove the Buddha, among others. This type of question comes from the child within, the joyful and playful spirit which simply wants to Be, who has been suddenly confronted with a paradox it cannot sort out and cannot ignore. This paradox is the dissonance between what the person feels and ‘knows’ from some deep intuitive place inside themselves – that the universe is a good place – and the apparent evidence before them which seems to show the opposite. Confronted with this paradox, it is human nature to ask – why?

Sometimes as the ego gradually matures it will leave the childlike innocence behind in favor of a more dour view of the world; a view where life, meaninglessness and suffering are part and parcel to one another. From this point of view, nothing has meaning. Since the pain one experiences seems to have no meaning, then by extension nothing else does either. With no meaning, all appears random, nothing seems to connect and there appears to be no God. In other words, there appears to be no ‘why’ behind one’s existence. Because thinking creates reality, things keep showing up in one’s life which further confirm this ‘truth’ that it is all meaningless and disconnected. This is the dark night of the soul, the place where connection to the whole is lost. But, as the Persian mystic and poet Rumi so eloquently says: “Many have died searching for You as You hide behind the scenes, but this pain is not for those who come as Lovers.” The lover is the one who is not in resistance, and seeks beauty. Beauty opens the heart chakra which allows unconditional love to return, and from there you return to the joy of being. The answers to the why questions then become less important than the truth of love and connection. It is true many become lost in the dark night on the journey of life, but the key is maintaining the child-like innocence, the connection to unconditional love and joy of being that we all come into the world with. The pain is not for those who come as lovers. As we resolve this paradox, as we follow beauty through the jungle of ‘why?’, the way will become clear.

Blessings on your journey,
Rhea Jamil

Limiting the Infinite

  

The Adoration of the Golden Calf

The Adoration of the Golden Calf

The divine has no limits. The more limits one tries to put on the divine, the farther they are from the whole truth. Those who tend to cling to narrow, dogmatic or fanatic belief systems are putting strict limits on something that is limitless. In some ways this is necessary. It is hard for the human mind to grasp something infinite, so putting some boundary conditions on the divine helps us. However the stricter those boundaries are, the more they constrict the whole infinite truth, and then it begins to look like something that is not divine at all. It can turn into something intolerant. One is only seeing a tiny point of the whole and is convinced that tiny point is the whole, insisting that anyone seeing something different is wrong. Since they have captured the whole of the divine inside a tiny, narrow point of view, they can tolerate very little opposition to that. One who sees a bigger picture will be less likely to be offended if something in their perspective is challenged, in fact they may welcome the challenge because they can see how it might help them expand. Someone who sees only the narrow view of the divine will cling to it since any challenge could be the final blow to their entire belief system. It is like having a house of cards instead of a house made of bricks. The slightest wind will blow down the house of cards, so the owner of that house feels a desperate need to defend it against all potential opposition, even a gentle breeze. The one in the brick house has no need to fear a gentle breeze. I believe this is the true message behind the much miss-interpreted meaning of the prohibition against idol worship in Judeo-Christian religion. It is not that one should never try and express the divine through symbols, for that in and of itself is basic to human nature and poses no problem. The problem is when you limit the totality of the divine within something that is too small or narrow to contain it. If all the power of the divine resides inside a golden calf for you, then you are in trouble. What happens if someone destroys the golden calf? If you truly believe the divine resides there, you will easily become terrified that anything will happen to it. That fear then becomes your driver, it becomes the place that you react from instead of love. Even though your original motivation, to protect what you perceive as divine, is not inherently evil. Most of the more orthodox traditions are meant to create peace and harmony within a group. This is a noble cause. It backfires only because the narrow point of view becomes difficult to defend. The traditions that take a broader view, or the individuals who choose a broader view of the divine are less likely to react from fear. The divine encompasses so much they do not feel the defensiveness. They can see the divine in the pages of a book as well as the tree, the sky, the love in their partners’ eyes, the song of the sea, the vastness of space, the laughter of their child. It is not contained in a small, narrow place where it needs defending.

Rhea Jamil

Taming the Ego

woman-horse-mystical   What is this Ego which creates the illusion of separateness?  Ego is multi-faceted, which makes it tricky to define. Eckart Tolle defines the Ego simply as an identification with the mind. I agree, but also I think this is just one aspect of the Ego. The identification with thought and with the mind is indeed the root of suffering. The mind always exists in the past, and can only predict future events based on past experiences. Identification with the mind keeps you stuck in loops, in cycles of self-destruction, in circular thinking. Releasing your identification with the mind is key in the process of enlightenment. The essential self (also referred to as the ‘higher self’), is the part of you that sees life from the highest perspective, is connected to the unified whole essence of creation, can see the biggest picture and knows without needing the mind.  This is what one should be identified with, not the mind. The mind should just be a tool, for the role of the mind should be exclusively to receive information from this essential self. Instead most of us have put the mind in the driver’s seat and thus we repeat the past over and over because that is all the mind can do. The essential self only exists in the now moment, not in the past or future. What you call your ‘intuition’ is a direct link to this essential self. When you have had moments of just ‘knowing’ something, without interference from the logical mind, at that moment you are connecting with your essential self and bypassing the logical mind. The key is to do this more often than not, to be connected to that knowing which is beyond the realm of mind and does not need the past to make decisions in the now. Everything we associate with clairvoyance stems from being in this state, and all humans are capable of it.
     Thus, ego is in one sense this identification with the mind. This is why the quickest way to enlightenment is to stop thinking. When you stop thought, your pure, essential self can be expressed. Most of us think that we are our thoughts. We subscribe to the philosophy “I think, therefore I am.” This is not the case. Thought is what gets in the way of who you are. Thought is what creates the illusion in the first place. Thought creates the idea of “you” which is separate from “me” and separate from the rest of the universe. When you get outside of thought, you are the universe. Thus, Tolle is not wrong, however there is another aspect to Ego which should also be acknowledged. Ego is also that which allows you to perceive yourself as a separate being. Without ego, we would be one unified wholeness, as we were in the beginning. For some, that is the goal. But there is a way in which the wholeness also longs for separateness, since it is only in being separate that we can share in love. It is only in separateness that we can experience the divine lover / beloved relationship. This is Ego’s gift. This is the aspect of Ego which can be maintained even when identification with mind is gone and connection with the essential self is achieved. As long as you are in a human body, you can never fully let go of this aspect of the Ego, except perhaps in moments, but this does not mean that enlightenment cannot be obtained, it is just the opposite. You can be fully aware of your essential self and how it is connected to the unified whole, and yet maintain a separate identity which allows you to continue to be human and to share in love. This is a beautiful state of being. As my Sufi teacher Alim Thompson once explained to me, the goal is not to get rid of the Ego, the goal is to tame the ego. I began to think of the ego as a horse. It can be a bucking bronco, completely in control of you and tossing you around in life. This is the scenario of being totally identified with the mind and unaware of your essential self. The goal is to take the bucking bronco and turn it into a well trained thoroughbred, one which willingly follows your direction out of love and respect for you. Riding such a thoroughbred through life will be exhilarating and fun.
-Rhea Jamil

Here is a video from Bashar lays out the role of the essential, or higher, self more clearly than anything else I’ve come across:

Illusion

 

Perception of a Reflection

Perception of a Reflection (Photo credit: AGrinberg)

How can this experience be illusion? How can something that seems so real not be real?  Think about looking in a mirror. Is your reflection real? In a sense it is, you can see it, you can make it move, so in a way it is real. But does it have any power? No. You have the power, you can make the reflection do what you want, but the reflection cannot make you do anything, it has no power over you. Now, imagine that you decide that your reflection is real, and you don’t recognize your “self” which is looking in the mirror, you identify completely with your reflection. You will see your reflection doing things, and you will wonder what is making it happen, it will feel like you have no control, it will feel like you are a passive victim, because you don’t realize that you are making the image in the mirror move. If the image in the mirror starts slapping itself, you will not realize that you have the power to stop it from doing that. This sounds insane, and yet this is the state most of us live in. We do not realize where our true power lies. We are focused on the illusion and think that the illusion is real, and in that state we feel powerless, because in that state we are powerless. It is the state of believing that your reflection is the real. Your true self, which has the power to create the reflection, is completely ignored. The reflection is ‘real’ in the sense that it is what we experience, but it is not real in the sense that it is all there is. There is much more going on ‘behind the scenes’ and that is where the true power lies. You will never have power in the illusion, in the reflection. Your true self, acting behind the scenes, behind the mirror, is the ultimate reality and where the power lies.

How do you access this true self? This true self is most easily accessed in the stillness. It is the part of you that does not need anything, it does not need to be fed with recognition or accomplishment as the ego does, it does not need to be right and is not worried about being wrong, it does not have an agenda. Its nature is pure love, and it simply is. This is why meditation is so powerful. When the mind is quieted the true self comes through, because it is beyond thought. The true self can communicate through thought, but so much of your thinking is obscured by the false ego self that it can be hard to sort it out. The easiest way to sort it out is to follow beauty. The true self is beauty, since all truth is beauty, so your true self is the most beautiful part of who you are. Everything else is part of your illusionary self. When the true self begins to take the helm of one’s life, things begin to change, and always for the better. True self will always bring you joy, bliss and freedom. The ego self will always have a dark side. The true self itself has no dark side, it is pure light, pure being, pure love. If you stay in touch with true self through everything, you will always be steered in the direction of joy.
-Rhea Jamil