Right meditation is not escapism; it is not meant to provide hiding-places for temporary oblivion. Realistic meditation has the purpose of training the mind to face, to understand, and to conquer this very world in which we live.
Since I seem to be incapable of writing anything original these days, I thought perhaps you’d at least care to hear what I’ve been thinking about (besides Harry Potter, that is: I seem to have become obsessed with HP. I started re-reading HP and the Order of the Phoenix in preparation for the upcoming movie, and now I’m re-reading HP and the Half-Blood Prince in preparation for the release of the final book in the series, HP and the Deathly Hallows).
So last night I found my little copy of Richard Bach’s Messiah’s Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul, buried in dust on the floor under my bed, and the first thing I turned to in it was this:
This is to certify that the bearer has been declared a Master of Spacetime, and is authorized to command absolute control over all personal life events and an indefinite number of simultaneous life experiences, to focus consciousness among them at will, to freely choose triumph or tragedy as she or he wishes, and to magnetize such like spirits as she or he desires for her or his personal education and entertainment. This certificate is subject to the following limits: [Self-imposed.]
It’s there, that certificate, in everybody’s pocket.
Then I turned to this page:
Like attracts like.
Be who you are,
calm and clear and bright,
asking yourself every minute
is this what I really want to do,
doing it only when you answer yes.
This turns away those who have
nothing to learn from who you are
and attracts those who do,
and from whom you have to learn as well.
Writer, psychologist, and medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo tells an interesting little story about a famous neurosurgeon who is talking with a shaman in a Peruvian jungle:
Neurosurgeon: And what do you do?
Shaman: Well, doctor, I have my flock of llamas, and I raise a little bit of corn, and I do a little bit of healing. What do you do, doctor?
Neurosurgeon: I can cut open a man’s head and cut through the bone and pull out a tumor the size of a walnut, Continue reading
Today is Ash Wednesday. Today you’ll see a strange sight: people walking around with smudges on their foreheads, like gray bindis over their third eyes, or like someone stubbed out a cigarette on them. These are people who have come from an Ash Wednesday service that begins the forty days of Lent.
Early in the service, ashes from burned palm fronds, leftovers from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration, are placed on the worshipers’ foreheads. Sometimes the smudge looks like a small cross, sometimes it’s just a smudge. As the ashes are imposed, the minister says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
I never went in for the whole Lenten penitential/self-abnegation thing. For me, Ash Wednesday was more existential. It was a meditation about mortality, about our connection to the earth, about our union with everything that lives, about impermanence. Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
I also like that it comes the day after Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” the day of feasting before the traditional Lenten fast. I like that it’s the last day of the Carnival season, a heady Bacchanalia in most parts of the world. I especially like that “Carnival” is derived from the Latin carne vale: “Farewell, flesh!”—as apt an adieu to physical existence as it is to meat during the fast. Continue reading
All sorrow comes from fear.
From nothing else.
When you know this,
You become free of it,
And desire melts away.
You become happy
Ashtavakra Gita 11:5
From The Heart of Awareness: A Translation of the Ashtavakra Gita, by Thomas Byrom
Ah, the flatlands! Driving east from Rockford, I’m finding the prairie very refreshing—all these wide vistas, this great expanse of sky. How I hated the plainness of it all (pun intended) when I went to college up here. Something in me is hungry for boundlessness. Today I’m heading back to my alma mater, Lake Forest College, for a visit with some old friends.
As I drove through McHenry County, farms were absolutely everywhere; the one other place I saw that wasn’t a farm was a tiny house that sold hay and straw.
But then things started changing. First I passed an ancient-looking stone silo right next to the road that was being used as a gatehouse for a large and rather grand home; a beautiful and intricately carved wooden door replaced whatever had been there originally. So strange to see this in the middle of farmland.
There were other oddities as well. A gigantic sign in front of an otherwise normal-looking farm proclaimed, “Mink Barn, Furs by Talledis, Fur Barn, 1/2 Mile.” (The sign depicted a woman wearing a fur coat. Not your normal farmer’s togs.) Then there was the sign for Illusion Farm, though the farm itself certainly seemed real enough. Continue reading
No problem. Try again.
Fail again. Fail better.
If at first you don’t succeed,
failure may be your style.
When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not guilty.’
Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek, the Fox would say, ‘Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean—that’s the whole art and joy of words.’ A glib saying! When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk of the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
Everything’s in the mind. That’s where it all starts. Knowing what you want is the first step toward getting it.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry, The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
Everyone knows that E=mc2. Shamanism is what dances on top of the equal sign.
Alberto Villoldo, Dance of the Four Winds
Shamanic ecstasy is the real “Old Time Religion,” of which modern churches are but pallid evocations. Shamanic, visionary ecstasy, the mysterium tremendum, the unio mystica, the eternally delightful experience of the universe as energy, is a sine qua non of religion, it is what religion is for! There is no need for faith; it is the ecstatic experience itself that gives one faith in the intrinsic unity and integrity of the universe, in ourselves as integral parts of the whole, that reveals to us the sublime majesty of our universe, and the fluctuant, scintillant, alchemical miracle that is quotidian consciousness. Any religion that requires faith and gives none, that defends against religious experiences, that promulgates the bizarre superstition that humankind is in some way separate, divorced from the rest of creation, that heals not the gaping wound between Body and Soul, but would tear them asunder…is no religion at all.
We stand on the threshold of a new millennium which will determine whether our species continues to grow and prosper, or destroys itself in a cataclysmic biological and cultural holocaust unprecedented in the last 65 million years of life on this planet. We suffer a crisis of faith in the modern world, we frightened somnambulists stumbling in a lethean, penumbral dream-world of materialistic delusion, and we desperately need the healing balm of shamanic ecstasy to salve the lesions of materialism.
Jonathan Ott, The Age of Entheogens & The Angels’ Dictionary
Touch the earth, love the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and the dawn seen over the ocean from the beach.
When the Pleiades and the wind in the grass are no longer a part of the human spirit, a part of very flesh and bone, man becomes, as it were, a kind of cosmic outlaw, having neither the completeness and integrity of the animal nor the birthright of a true humanity.
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.