Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Spiritualist Declaration of Principles

One of several major non-coincidences in my life which have pointed my way along what I must call (for want of better words) a “spiritual path” is my happening to live within 10 minutes of Cassadaga, Florida for the past 15 years or so. Raised a hundred miles north, I had heard of Cassadaga since youth because people would drive to the tiny community even over long distances for readings by the psychics and mediums who lived there. I never imagined that I would live next door to it.

It is a very old town, with old wooden houses, old moss-hung trees, and old ponds, reached by winding country roads. It has been the quiet home of the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp for over 100 years. You can read all about it at the linked site if you want to. I intend to refer to it in more than one blog entry.

My purpose for now is to print the Spiritualist Declaration of Principles.

I do not call myself a Spiritualist and I have not joined any Spiritualist group, but I have benefited a great deal from attending Cassadaga Lyceum lectures and discussions. I found their no-rules, free-choice approach a refreshing liberation from the Christian church encounters that litter my past, as did many others I met at Lyceum. In almost every discussion, someone talks about his or her upbringing and contrasts the freedom of Spiritualism with the dogmatic, paternalistic atmosphere of Christian denominations. One of the great points of pride with Spiritualism is that it does not lay down rules. Its members tend to portray Christian churches as ruling by fear: "Believe what we tell you to believe, and do what we tell you to do, and you will not be punished."

I will tell you about my own experiences in Cassadaga elsewhere, but I do want to dispel any preconceptions that psychics and mediums are often charlatans, or demented. The teachers, psychics, and mediums I’ve met in Cassadaga over time are honest, sincere, and usually well above average intelligence. Quite a few have professional degrees; a number have taught (or teach) in universities or public schools. If there is anything obvious that distinguishes them from people you might meet at a Baptist or Methodist or Catholic Church, other than their sometimes individualistic clothing, it is that they are independent-minded seekers rather than believers looking for answers from a priest or a holy book.

Here is the closest thing to a “credo” that they have:


DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES
Adopted by Spiritualists of America

We believe in Infinite Intelligence.
We believe that the phenomena of nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.
We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith constitute true religion.
We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death.
We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism
We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: "Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you, do ye also unto them."
We affirm the moral responsibility of the individual, and that he makes his own happiness or unhappiness as he obeys or disobeys Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.
We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any human soul, here or hereafter.
We affirm that the Precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A New Guest

A Comment by Yves:

“Well, I may be too much of a spoilt kid to believe in God but I have recently come to the conclusion that the monotheistic idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God is off the mark, for me at any rate. Putting it theologically, I would say that divinity is completely immanent and not transcendent. Putting it primitively I would say that there is divinity in every tree, every blade of grass, every insect and so on. Prayer doesn't have to be in words, it doesn't need to be begging or commanding except in extremity. It can be a continuous stream of thanks---appreciation for life. But I would not want to get into any preaching, that is we do harm by trying to prescribe anything to anyone. We can just learn to enjoy.”

I “met” Yves yesterday, when my wife for the first time tried her hand at a “Next Blog” button and brought up Yves’ AS IN LIFE. . .. She was amazed by the similarity of many of his topics and views to mine. I was equally astonished, and even more so because his location in England is just a few miles from where I lived in Beaconsfield. The scenes he photographs and beautifully describes in his blog are familiar to me.

I posted a Comment on his blog, he kindly posted a number of Comments on FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS, we exchanged an email, and my life has been enriched not only by reading AS IN LIFE. . . but also by receiving his comments.

I began this entry with one of his comments because I agree that the idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God is off the mark. From our human viewpoint – which is all we have – God cannot be all those things because such a God would have prevented the extreme sufferings and fears that His creatures endure. God cannot be both loving and all-powerful.

The big question that remains for me is to what extent, if any, God takes an ACTIVE role in influencing human and other events. There is divinity in everything – immanent, inherent -- but is there also an aspect of divinity which actively intervenes in the universe, which deliberately causes things to go in certain ways and not in others? Is God bound up in the manifested universe and unable to act upon it, or can God perform an act of “grace” to help someone. Even if the Source does not act of Its own volition, if Its power can be channeled and focused to some purpose by human Will, is not human Will the Source in action?

("The living entities are superior energy of the Supreme because the quality of their existence is one and the same with the Supreme, but they are never equal to the Supreme in quantity of power." Bhagavad-Gita 7. Commentary on 7.5)

Maybe it is simply futile to ask such questions, but all of us who have experienced what we feel is some kind of helpful intervention in our lives must feel curiosity about where it came from. Is it done by a higher aspect of my Self? Is it done by the Source spontaneously or in answer to a prayer of request, or in response to purposeful visualization powered by desire and Will? Or is it all done by some “agent” of God delegated with such responsibilities?

In spite of some of the things I’ve written in this blog, and in spite of my skepticism about “begging” prayers, I find myself still sometimes wanting to pray for help. I feel that there have been helpful interventions in my life, and I sense – correctly or incorrectly -- that there is some sort of helper or helping force involved.

I would list my making contact with Yves and AS IN LIFE as an example. Just two days ago I prayed, consciously deciding to ASK my unidentified “helper” to bring into my life a new source of knowledge or inspiration, a teacher perhaps, or a book that would lead me in a good direction. I believe that my extraordinary meeting with Yves and his inspiring blog, so similar to my own thinking, was a fulfillment of that request.

I hope I don’t embarrass Yves by implying that he is an answer to a prayer! I would be dishonoring this "coincidence" if I didn't acknowledge it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking at FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS

When I began this blog a little over a month ago my theme was, “Beliefs which were not put into our heads by other people.” My personal list of such beliefs was short, and I’ve exhausted it unless I think of some more. Now I find myself wishing that this were a dialogue instead of a monologue. I think of a lot more questions than I do answers.

But . . . as I write this I realize that I’m falling back once more on the idea that other people have the answers, that if I could just talk to the right people I would find out what the Source, consciousness, life and life after life, and all the weirdness of the universe is about.

In a way that is a productive thought: If I have attained a few beliefs and realizations on my own, there must be other people who have independently attained some valid self-originated beliefs which go beyond mine. In fact it would be amazing if there were not people whose independently originated insights greatly outnumber my own.

While the thought of looking to others for their direct and original knowledge is productive, it also has its dangers. For one thing, if an individual’s directly intuited knowledge contradicts another’s, there is probably no proof (other than evidence of insanity) as to who is right and who is wrong. (I would say, for example, that the author of the biblical book of “Revelation” was a raving lunatic, and yet his craziness is still providing fodder for sermons and movies and television documentaries.) For another thing – illustrated by “Revelation” and elsewhere – relying on other people’s presumed direct inspiration from God has produced the very “holy books” and “scriptures” which muddle our heads with second-hand nonsense when were are young. Right in this one paragraph we have the recipe for religious wars.

In spite of the hazards of looking to others for truths, I continue to wish that this blog were a dialogue among individuals, restricted to things they learned which did not come from other people.

I can’t remember ever hearing of such a dialogue. If we watch television or listen to radio or read “news and opinion”, we are constantly assailed with reports and comments by one set of people about what another set of people has done, said, or written.

In fact I might have listed among my “independent insights” the one which suddenly came to me one day: Humans are incredibly interested in humans.

Most people are almost constantly preoccupied with what other people are doing. Think about it. Analyze what your news and entertainment providers are giving you in an unending stream of words and images, and it is really amazing. You don’t even need to look that far: Just listen to what is said at lunch, around the water cooler, over coffee, and on the telephone. People are endlessly interested in people, and the shallower they are as thinkers, the more other people’s doings fill their lives.

To round this post out with some semblance of a unified topic, I’ll say that it is sad that for my other blog, VIEW FROM THE MOON -- in which I look at world events and dwell on injustice, hypocrisy, and in particular lies by omission – I’m never at a loss for a subject. In fact each morning I have to choose among competing topics for VIEW FROM THE MOON. But for FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS I often sit looking out the window and wishing something would come to me. What does this tell us about the world – or is it just about me? All the more reason I wish this were a dialogue.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tomorrow will be 0m 18s longer.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Cinemas of Past and Future

The only reality is in Now. Within the individual human stream of consciousness Past and future exist only in imagination. What we remember is only a mental fantasy, and what we plan and hope and fear will happen in the future remains forever in the imagined future. Even when we are able to foresee a future event through precognition, it makes its appearance as an imagined thing because as an event it is not yet Now.

The future is a theater in the mind, an cinema of the imagination. My attention, my consciousness, turns inward to watch the dramas in the darkened room of my skull instead of outward to focus on Now. It’s like spending a beautiful afternoon in a dim movie theater where many of the shows are scary or distressing. And when what was imagined as "the future” is actually happening, my attention is most likely absorbed in watching a movie about yet another imagined future.

As for what has been stored in memory, if you are lucky the cinema of the past will show a lot of nostalgic, feel-good movies and tales of triumphs and pleasures, but all too often the stored reels contain a jumble of regrets, resentments, and angry scenes. Unfortunately the distressing movies may clamor more regularly for attention than the happy ones.

I liked the movie theater analogy so much that I christened the decrepit and odiferous Lyric Theater (scornfully called “The Arm Pit”) in my home town as the cinema of the past, while the modern Florida Theater showed movies about my imagined future.

(In Gainesville, where I grew up, the Florida Theater showed first run “A” films. The secondary cinema, the State Theater showed a lot of reruns and also-rans, and was of value to me primarily because it showed a western movie, a “B” suspense movie, and serials like Flash Gordon on Saturday afternoons.)

In contrast to the “A” and “B” movies of the Florida and State theaters, the Lyric Theater covered the lower end of the alphabet. I can’t even recall what movies were shown there, but the atmosphere was so bad and the ancient seats so broken down and uncomfortable that no one went to the Lyric except out of extreme necessity. The Lyric Theater was therefore the perfect candidate for my “Theater of the Past”, where I viewed and reviewed endlessly all the things that had happened to me.

My mental trick was to say, “The Florida Theater and the Lyric Theater are closed.”

I have definitely torn down the Lyric Theater, and now on the vacant lot between a music store and a magazine store I see a fat telescope pointed at the stars. If I start to brood about the past I say to myself, “No, the Lyric Theater is gone.”

I manage to attend the Florida Theater a lot less often than I used to, reminding myself if I start to be concerned about the future that “it’s only a movie” and that the Florida Theater is no longer showing those movies.

To me these analogies brought into bright light the situation they represent. My Being is only in Now. Realized and awake, I can be in the Present and I can, at will, deliberately visualize a desired future situation and so encourage it to come into Now. This too turns attention from the Now, but at least it creates an enjoyable show with a happy ending.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hooray for Boxing Day!

Why are Americans so stingy with holidays?

At most liberal count we have nine (9), and some of those are hardly honored. In a “land of plenty” we are starved for holidays.

Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, but the obvious logic and desirability – nay, necessity -- of making Thanksgiving Friday a national holiday has eluded the states’ hardnosed holiday authorities.

And what could be more dreary than getting up the morning after Christmas with the thought, “Well, that was it till next year”, and going off to work? In England the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is a holiday almost as festive as Christmas itself.

No less than 119 nations are observing a holiday today, December 26, 2006.

Russia’s New Year’s Holiday alone lasts six (6) days. The United States hasn't managed to create even a two day holiday.

A look at Japanese national holidays puts us to shame. I count 15 national holidays, not including various festival days . . . and popular but not officially recognized Christmas. What do we have to compare to Japan’s Golden Week, when four national holidays fall within a seven day period? And then there is The Obon week in mid August, one of Japan's three major holiday seasons, accompanied by intense domestic and international travel activities.

Do I hear you say, “But Americans can use part of their two week annual vacations to lengthen Christmas?”

Right. Two measly weeks. Typical.

France has not only eleven (11) holidays but five (5) weeks of paid vacation each year. In Sweden, Germany, Denmark, France, Austria, and Spain, workers have an average of six weeks of vacation per year. In Spain there is even an employment law allowing three weeks of paid honeymoon leave for the bride and the groom.

Each year Europeans work an average of up to twelve (12) weeks less than Americans.

What went wrong in America? There’s a saying that Americans live to work , while Europeans work to live. For a real explanation we’d have to look to historians who’ve devoted themselves to the subject, but in this personal blog I’ll just mention that in the course of my education I frequently heard the phrase, “Protestant work ethic”, or “Puritan work ethic”, a Calvinist value emphasizing the necessity of constant labor in a person's occupation as a sign of personal salvation.

Wherever the idea came from, the “God punishes idleness and rewards endless hard work” mentality has cursed Americans for generations. It is illustrated by the success stories of our pantheon of 19th and 20th Century industrial and financial heroes, whose proud boast was likely to include leaving school at the age of nine to work 17 hours a day, and not having taken a day off work for 29 years. The reward of becoming a multi-millionaire was assumed to include a guaranteed trip to Heaven as long as some philanthropy was thrown in at the last minute as a safety measure.

(Andrew Carnegie, born in Scotland, son of a weaver, at age thirteen went to work as a bobbin boy in an American cotton mill. Henry Ford left his farm home at age sixteen to work as an apprentice machinist in Detroit. )

As I’ve said, there are people who are actually qualified to talk about differences in national attitudes, but in my own blog I can do as I please, and I will speculate that growing up in a country with people like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller as the idealized highest stratum encourages a very different attitude from one inspired by growing up in a country in which monarchy and a traditional aristocracy comprised the highest stratum.

It is the very hallmark of kings and aristocrats that they do NOT have to work. Indeed, most of the aristocrats of the world have sneered at work in order to enhance their conspicuous displays of superiority. I suspect, then, that those not fortunate enough to share in the wealth and idleness of their native aristocracies nevertheless envy idleness, and go to their jobs only out of necessity rather than in the American belief that God loves and rewards those who work and punishes those who do not.

Hooray for Boxing Day and Golden Week!

Monday, December 25, 2006

GOD JUL!



I hope Jultomten was generous and that your Yule is all happiness!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Different View of the Winter Solstice

The following is a Comment that contrasts with my own remarks about the season:

"I feel compelled to write something positive about Winter and the time of Darkness. In Northern cultures, Winter traditionally was the time when labour ceased to be unremitting, when the fields lay blanketed by snow and families were kept at home. In the warmth of a fire, stories would be told and crafts would be undertaken to keep minds and bodies occupied during the time of 'rest'. Winter is a season when Nature slumbers. It is a season when the light of the Sun is supplanted by the light and warmth of the hearth. I love Winter in the North. It is a season of small lights and warm fires rather than a season of suffocating heat. It is traditionally a season of rest and meditation. Unfortunately, Western consumerism has robbed the season of most of its tranquillity. Instead of shopping compulsively or desperately in many cases, people should spend quiet time with their families and loved ones, honouring old rituals and traditions and creating new ones. The celebration of the Winter Solstice is the promise of rebirth and the celebration of Christmas is an actual celebration of rebirth. The birth of the Divine Child in a cave symbolises the rebirth of life in the womb of the Earth. The presence of the Animal Guardians, the shepherds (representing the old pastoral cultures) and the Magi (representing the urban culture as well as being the guardians of arcane knowledge) bring all elements of this world together in a celebration of rebirth. The 'Lord of Light' is reborn at the darkest hour of Winter. One needn't be Christian to enjoy the beauty of this ancient tale. After all, it is a tale that predates Christianity and is found in many ancient mystery religions. One of the most beautiful traditions of Yuletide is the Christmas tree. To bring an Evergreen into the house, decorating it with lights and ornaments, placing gifts beneath it, is to perform an ancient and powerful ritual of faith in eternal life and light. The Tree is the symbol of the World Tree itself. The Christmas tree bedecked with hundreds of tiny lights, bearing 'fruit' in the form of ornaments symbolising everything that is treasured and cherished by humanity as well as gifts for loved ones, is a glorious tradition. Again, it is an ancient tradition that has been incorporated into Christianity but one that belongs to all of humanity. The World Tree is the ladder to heaven, a connection between Heaven and Earth. Its roots are underground, its branches are steps that ascend from Earth to Heaven and its tip pierces the sky in a sacred marriage between Heaven and Earth. I do not fear the Darkness of Winter. Without the presence of Darkness, Light would remain undefined. It is in contrast that creation is found. I always thought it would be terrible to live in a place where night never arrived. Night and Darkness are kind. They allow us to sleep, to rest from our cares and labours. The Night is a blanket that surrounds us and cradles us as we regain strength to greet the new Dawn. That is my own feeling about the Winter Solstice and Yuletide.

Freyashawk, on the occasion of the Winter Solstice"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Celebrating the Victory of Light

Tomorrow will be 0m 4s LONGER.

Evergreen trees are covered with lights. Candles brighten windows.

As my grandmother used to say, "Christmas on the hill!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thought Control

At last! “Tomorrow will be 0m 0s shorter.”

It’s interesting that today’s Winter Solstice coincides with the New Moon. The Moon will begin to grow as daylight begins to grow.

-----

On December 18 I listed some helpful truths. I want to add the most useful psychological technique I ever learned. It was taught to me by the only psychologist I’ve known who actually helped people change for the better – Dr. Leo Walder of Maryland. I sought him out because he was a behaviorist rather than a “talk forever” therapist. I felt behaviorism was a valid tool, and I wanted to get myself over something that was bothering me.

Dr. Walder said, “I’m going to teach you something called ‘thought control’. I know it sounds awful, but it really works. You close your eyes and picture what it is that’s bothering you – the thought that you don’t want. Hold it in your mind. Close your eyes. Hold it in your mind. . .”

When I was sitting there with my eyes shut, completely focused on what I did not want to think about, I jumped about two inches out of my chair when Dr. Walder shouted in a loud, sharp voice, “STOP!”

“There,” he said. “You do that every time you find yourself dwelling on what makes you unhappy, and you’ll stop thinking about it. You don’t have to yell out loud, but at least yell to yourself.”

It works. If you’re being nagged by something from the past – some resentment or jealousy or anger – or by some worry or fear about the future – confront it with a blast of “thought control” every time it raises its head and it will show up less and less often and eventually should go away completely.

It’s not a bad idea to actually shout out loud, but just a strong inner shout of “Stop!” will do. I find that it also helps simultaneously to visualize an explosion, or a “No Entry” sign – anything to dramatically disrupt the undesirable train of thought.

I’m sure one reason thought control works is that attention can’t be on two things at the same time. (“Another Unexpected Meditation”, Dec. 2, 2006.) If you stop the undesired thought, it will be replaced by another thought or image. (If the bad thought comes back, blast it again.) Shopping for a desirable replacement thought before you blow the bad out of existence is a good idea.

My mother lived happily and independently in her own home into her 90’s, and I’m sure she used a technique like “thought control” even if she never heard Dr. Walder’s term. She simply refused to entertain negative ideas. One of her own mother’s favorite sayings was, “The evil of the day is sufficient thereto” . . . meaning to me, “Never worry about the past or future.”

My mother often said to me when I told her about an upcoming trip or other pleasant plan, “Oh, good! That’ll give me something nice to think about for hours.” Her mind was always filled with happy news and happy anticipation, outings, plants and flowers, painting, music, decorating for every holiday on the calendar . . . even Florida Gators football games, when her driveway would fill up with the cars of guests who would walk to the stadium a few blocks away.

If something unpleasant came up in conversation, Mother would quickly change the subject. You might see her frown for a moment, and then the cloud would go away.

Some would label her a Pollyanna . My sister-in-law said (as a compliment, I think) that Mother was one person who could stand up and look reality square in the face . . . and ignore it completely.

“Pollyannaish” or not, I think my mother’s refusal to dwell on negativism, and her ability to keep beauty and fun in her consciousness, helped her enjoy a long and happy life. What alternative could have been better?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Victory of Light

The precise moment of the 2006 winter solstice will be December 21, 2006 at 7:22 P.M. EST.

For some reason I am very attuned to the winter solstice, that moment when the days cease to become shorter, and daylight at last overcomes darkness and begins to gain on it. Maybe it’s because I was born only a couple of days before the solstice, and maybe because my moods are so affected by light – but I look forward to the last of the shortening days and the first of the lengthening days as a child looks forward to Christmas.

Of course the winter solstice IS Christmas and has been the occasion for a multitude of other human rituals and celebrations for thousands of years. It is also, by any logical symbolism, the beginning of the new year, even though our calendar starts the fresh year a few days late.

For weeks I’ve been watching Weather Underground (“Astronomy”) to see just how much shorter each tomorrow will be. As we have gradually moved from “tomorrow will be 1m 24s shorter” than today to the current “tomorrow will be 2s shorter”, I can hardly wait to see “longer” replace “shorter”. It feels as if a great stone pivot is slowing as it reaches an extreme point, balancing, and getting ready to swing back, bringing earlier sunrises, later sunsets, more and more light, and the promise of warmth and budding plants.

It’s hard for me to imagine that ancient humans – the more intelligent of whom were at least as intelligent as our best – really believed that they needed to HELP the Sun or its representative deity overcome the growing darkness, as we’re told they did. But ancient societies did put a lot of skill and effort and heavy construction into measuring the precise time of the winter solstice, and they did not have our knowledge of the cyclical astronomical causes of solstices to use as a basis of prediction. It would have been at least as satisfying to them as it is to me to be assured that once more the withdrawing Sun had decided not to keep moving away and let darkness reign forever, but instead is beginning a renewed journey toward the peak of the sky.

Celebrate, all! Let’s put Sol back into Solstice.

Light the fires, deck the halls, carry evergreens and mistletoe from the forests, fill our tables with fragrant feasts, let our music rise above the clouds. The blazing visible embodiment of God is returning. Only two more days!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some Helpful Truths

Yesterday I mentioned some "self help" books which actually helped me. Of course I've also been helped by writings which readers would consider more profound, and I've often referred to such writings in this blog. For now, though, I just want to list some of the truths -- or truisms -- which came to my mind after I wrote yesterday's post.


You become what you think and imagine and believe.

What you encounter in your universe is affected by what you think and imagine and believe.

Some say that your universe itself, and your afterlife, are literally a result of what you think, imagine, and believe. YOU create your universe and your afterlife.


What you say to yourself about yourself and your abilities can free you or chain you.

If you believe that you are worthy of something, you can achieve it; if you believe that you are unworthy of something, you will not get it.

You will have no more than you are deeply convinced you are worthy of having.

What you say you believe may not be what you really believe.


If you avoid negative words and emphasize positive words, you will benefit, although words are less important than mental images and deep beliefs.


Even pretending that you are another person – even an actor in a movie role – who appears to embody what you aspire to be, can have a positive effect. Pretending you are "the kind of person who" enables you to step outside the self that you do not want to be, and to feel, if only momentarily, what it is like to be the person you want to be.


Imaging and Will and Belief create your future. To receive or achieve what you desire, imagine yourself already surrounded by the conditions you desire.

To ask for things is to admit that you don’t have them. Do not say, “I want,” or “I would like to have,” but rather “I have.”

Imagine that you already have the thing you desire, and see it in vivid detail while applying your Will. Then, with a feeling of confidence and faith in the workings of the universe, step out of the way and leave the method of materializing your desires to the Source.

There is no such thing as a coincidence. Be alert for clues in “coincidences”.

Always accept and act on your first impulse or psychic flash. The second thought is almost always misleading.

You attract what you expect.

Like attracts like. What is within you comes into your environment. Your anger attracts anger into your life. Your happiness attracts happiness into your life.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Losing the Chains

The following is from an emailed brochure I received from the College of Metaphysical Studies, Clearwater, Florida. I am unfamiliar with the College of Metaphysical Studies, and I’m skeptical of places with names like that, but I enjoyed the title and description of this course:

"RELIGION – THE CULTURAL BASIS FOR STUPIDITY (CT-109/1.0 CH): Starting Monday, January 22. Instructor is Dr. Paul F. Daniele. As a cultural constant, stupidity is routinely transmitted from one generation to the next by the time-honored mechanism of the vicious cycle. Poorly adjusted children mature into maladjusted adults, and then using the same techniques their parents used on them to raise yet another generation of misinformed conformists or malcontented sociopaths. If there is some selection pressure acting to weed stupidity out of each generation, it is, apparently, easily offset by a willing disposition of people to spread it and encourage its continual, spontaneous synthesis."

There’s no doubt that one of the most difficult things facing any individual is to break the vicious cycle of “stupidity” (ignorance, second-hand beliefs) and to find some footing beyond what was passed down by previous generations.

We all know that we are victims of negative ideas about ourselves and the world which we gleaned from the words and example of those who raised and taught us. Probably the most difficult thing in my life has been to shake off such ideas, especially after experience reinforced some of them, even though my parents were very well-meaning and provided what most would consider an unusually benign environment. While I complain about my father’s negative attitudes and the contagious insanity of the Bible according to the Baptists, there very well may be something in me, in my genes, in my other lives, which made me inclined to accumulate negative thoughts in childhood and adolescence.

Environment is not a good predictive factor. One of the things which makes humans so unpredictable is that of two brothers raised in the same circumstances by the same parents – say in a slum – one will blame his endless failures and degeneracy on his environment, while his brother will become a dynamic and creative “success”, which he credits to the stimulation of rebelling against the same circumstances which crushed his brother.

If there were one way I could choose to help other people, it would be to give them a key to freeing themselves from the bondage of their pasts. I haven’t been granted that key. All I can say is that rather than giving in to severe defeatist notions (some of which I creatively invented for myself), I was driven on by desire and enthusiasm and ambition, so that I was never willing to accept the deprivations that surrender would have brought.

The only method of solution I can offer to anyone, based on personal experience, is to keep trying and trying and trying, and although many years of effort may be required, some freedom from the past is gradually achieved.

I was helped not only by luck and a strong life force, but by books such as PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who realized that the self-image held by his patients was more important than their physical appearance. CREATIVE VISUALIZATION, by Shakti Gawain, while not dealing particularly with freeing oneself from the past, was a great help to me, showing the power of imagination and will to bring the results one wants.

I realize that “self-help” books offer no magical cure, and that currently popular authors like Chopra and Wayne Dyer have supplanted those who first helped me, but there is only a small core of truths, and it emerges repetitiously, with minor variations, generation after generation. There is never a time when the “self help” sections of the bookstores don’t carry the same old ideas wearing new cosmetics.

From the 1920’s my mother remembered Emile Coue, of “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” fame – and I saw it pop up in a new incarnation in the Silva Method. I scoffed at Norman Vincent Peale, but some of the same core of truths made THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING a best-seller as did Napoleon Hill’s staple of comic book advertising –THINK AND GROW RICH. Say what you will about those messages being simplistic, I think that over a long time they had the cumulative effect of eroding stones that kept my river from flowing.

And the truth about consciousness and Self, as far as we humans can know it, IS simple. . . maybe because we’re capable of grasping so little. The best book I’ve ever read on consciousness and self-transformation is THE POWER OF NOW, by Eckhart Tolle, and his message is so simple that I suspect he had trouble filling a whole book . . . and what he has written and spoken since then is essentially a repetition of what he said in the first place. Rather than a criticism, this is actually a tribute.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Detective Inspector Lovey





After I posted “Surfaces” I was asked about Detective Inspector Lovey. Well, here he is.

Lovey earned his rank and title through diligent effort, working his way up from a scrawny, starving stray kitten with an almost hairless tail to the magnificent fully-furred specimen you see today.

It wasn’t easy for him to find time in his busy schedule to sharpen his inspecting skills to their current high level. His constitution requires him to sleep at least 20 hours out of 24, which leaves little time for inspecting or anything else, especially considering that during his waking hours he must eat and take a nap occasionally.

Within his screened domain he inspects not only mysterious sounds under surfaces, but also the movements of pool water, the jungle-like recesses of fern beds, the interiors of potted plants (especially those with “Do Not Disturb” signs), the depths of rainwater reservoirs (requiring him to insert his entire head into a metal pitcher), and above all, lizards and frogs.

Lovey lives in Now. I’m not sure that human evolution has done me any favors. When I can’t sleep at night, I think of Lovey. On the other hand, I can’t teach him anything.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Reflections

Writing about the ocean’s surface reflecting the sunlight and the stars brought to mind something that has tantalized me for weeks – something I noticed when I was trying focus on being in the Present but not trying to notice anything in particular.

Every morning I get up early – before sunrise at this time of year in Florida – and make coffee. I use one of those old Bodum vacuum coffeemakers that basically consists of two glass globes. When the stove heats the water in the lower globe it rises into the upper globe where the coffee grounds are waiting, stays up there long enough (after the stove is turned off) to brew the coffee, and then descends as coffee to the lower globe leaving the exhausted grounds in the top globe. I love the way the whole thing is done by Nature – that and there being no paper filter.

I was using the glass globes as my focal point for Now while the water heated, when I suddenly became aware that the shiny globes were reflecting things from all over the kitchen. They were like small kitchen universes – ceiling and counter lights, refrigerator, cupboard doors, knife rack – all there on the curved glass.

From there I waked up to the reflections all over the kitchen. It seemed that everything in my consciousness was a reflection. Many shiny surfaces reflected clear images of objects, but even the duller surfaces reflected light in one way or another. I could see my glass globes in the small handles of cupboards. Everything seemed to bounce from everything else, as if Reality were all reflections.

It surprised me that I’d never noticed or thought of reflections in that way before. I had taken them for granted in the way that one takes for granted and may overlook the most obvious thing in botany and biology – bilateral symmetry.

There seems to be some hidden, important, meaning in reflections as I newly perceived them. I’m still pondering what that meaning is, where it is leading me, where it might lead anyone. There is a secret here.

I have no answer, but I keep recalling the book, THE HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE, by Michael Talbot (1991). There may be some connection with the mystery in reflections. Leafing through the book I find these lines:

“Every cell in our body enfolds the entire cosmos. So does every leaf, every raindrop, and every dust mote. . .”


“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.”

William Blake, “Augeries of Innocence”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Surfaces

In a meditative state, I’m taken to a buoy far out in the calm ocean. The buoy is rocking gently in the sunshine, miles from any shore or boat. Occasionally it emits a soft bell sound.

Then I am miles beyond the buoy, the quietly undulating sea first under the sunlight, then under the stars and a half moon, liquid surface reflecting the lights of the night sky, and I realize that on this surface there is no way to know that just under that meeting place of air and water is a vast world of life, of beings of every size from smallest to largest on Earth, of coral reefs, multicolored, of swift currents, of differing temperatures, of mountains, of hot flows from the earth’s core.

Having known only the surface, the beautiful, reflecting surface of the ocean, there is no way for me to know what is below. And if I were told that creatures lived below the star-shining sheet, I would know it could not be true because creatures must have air in order to breathe. And I would be especially incredulous if whales and squids and barracuda and rays were described to me.

In “real life”, I’m in the swimming pool and our young cat, Detective Inspector Lovey, is on the deck, having never been in the pool, or in water, and never having seen below the surface of the deck. He is inspecting, as usual. We both hear gurgling, knocking sounds from the pool skimmer, and from my position in the water I can see the skimmer basket in its covered grotto, but the cat, attracted by the sounds, curious, careful, sees only the surface of the deck. He knows only, “on this spot are sounds.” Perhaps to a cat all things are alive.

So the lesson is, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. How foolish of me to think that the world my senses show me is all that there is. Other dimensions? I’m not equipped to know them or even imagine them. Other beings not within the reach of my physical senses? I’m no more able to experience their reality than I am to see radio waves, or than a radio is able to turn waves into television pictures. I am simply not designed with such perception, and the limits of my receiver should never be misconceived as the limits to what there is to be received.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Confession

I'm beginning to realize that writing an entry for two blogs every day is not always possible. If I don't do some Christmas shopping today it may not get done in time.

I did post on my other blog this morning, VIEW FROM THE MOON .

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Life as Discovery

The Comment on my aphorism of yesterday prompts a few thoughts.

"I suppose that is where the expression 'eternal child' comes into play. Those who cannot cope with life as mere repetition probably fail at the business of 'success' as well.

For a true artist, life is forever a voyage of discovery."

I agree, of course. To remain childlike is devoutly to be wished for the sake of joie de vivre as well as creativity. That -- in my opinion -- is precisely because life as discovery is exciting and full of freshness, while life as repetition obviously is not.

Life as repetition involves reliving the same familiar things over and over . . . which reminds me of what I wrote about my "observe where attention goes" meditation ("Another Unexpected Meditation", Dec. 2, 2006). When one relaxes attentively, consciousness is immediately drawn to whatever is new in the environment; it ignores what has been there long enough to become familiar and therefore to seem safe. The same applies to living life as repetition: The familiar -- having not killed you or seriously harmed you -- provides a sense of safety and security, but little else.

Life as a voyage of discovery, however, trades safety and security for excitement and inspiration. I suppose it is unavoidable that as one adds more and more years to one's life there is a tendency to fall into repetition to some extent, but as the Commentator wrote, "For a true artist, life is forever a voyage of discovery." I would not give anything in exchange for feeling that I've remained on my childhood voyage of discovery until the present day.

It was said that Goethe would observe and discover more in a half day's carriage ride in his own neighborhood than an ordinary man would observe and discover in his lifetime.

(Actually, I'm not sure who said it or even if it was said. Maybe I made the Goethe story up! A refined memory was not included among my gifts. Sometimes I must include a little story in this blog even though I can't recall it exactly and am unable to find the source. Forgive me.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Aphorism is Born

Childhood ends when life as discovery ends and life as repetition begins.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Changing Fashions in Belief

I began FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS with emphasis on distinguishing beliefs we acquired through our intuition or other immediate experience from those we learned from other people. I think that if most of us eliminated all of our beliefs which we could trace to another person’s mind there would be very few beliefs left.

Would you think that the world was flat, or that the Earth moved around the sun, unless someone had told you otherwise?

Would you think that democracy was the greatest form of government if you hadn’t been taught that it was? If you had been taught from kindergarten through college that an absolute monarchy is the finest and heaven-blessed form of government, what are the odds you would believe otherwise? If you were a happy and prosperous Italian under Mussolini, or a working person enjoying new opportunities and prosperity under Hitler, might you not think that Fascism or National Socialism was the ideal political philosophy? If you feel otherwise now, why is that?

What if you’d been born in the ancient world, where it was universally believed that slavery was a normal and proper institution? Would you automatically have condemned slavery as you probably do now?

Would you “believe in” Jesus or Mohammed or Jehovah or Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or Mormonism unless someone had taught you what to believe? Even when people change their religious beliefs they usually go from one “teaching” to another, do they not?

In science -- in physics and astronomy and geology - there are proofs available which help enable us to evaluate what is true and untrue . . . but what about religious, social, and political beliefs? What constitutes “acceptable” social, moral, racial, and sexual views has changed radically just in my lifetime within the United States. And you can multiply that by all the countries in the world, where a political essay which might win you a prize today in China or Russia would have resulted in your imprisonment not many years ago. American university presidents and college professors have been forced out of their positions in recent years for saying things which would have been considered bedrock fact in the 1940’s and 1950’s. They are not in trouble because what they say is contradicted by fact, but because they are going up against the latest fad in arbitrary preferences.

That is the most fascinating thing about all this: Virtually none of the old beliefs (say those dating from 1920-1960) have been contradicted, much less disproved by new evidence. Formerly acceptable and respectable beliefs – taught in universities, promulgated by national governments, regarded by the average person as normal and proper – on racial differences, segregation, eugenics, immigration, sexual behavior, sexual differences, sexual roles, and mores generally, have changed drastically since 1900 not because they have been “disproved” but because they have been “disapproved”. Indeed, genetics and intelligence testing and other areas of research have probably bolstered and affirmed “outmoded” beliefs more than torn them down.

What has changed is not what is true, but what is fashionable to believe.

For that reason among many others there is a welcome feeling of security in knowing something because you have experienced it yourself, as contrasted with “knowing” something you have been told by other people, whether in books, classrooms, sermons, newspapers, television shows, movies, or politically correct lunchtime chats among colleagues.

Saturday, December 9, 2006


by Ann Adamus, 2006

Friday, December 8, 2006

Guest Post

I think the Comment by Freyashawk on "A Reader's Excellent Comment on Prayer" can stand as a blog entry itself, and so it will be today's post. I'm very happy that two readers have left such interesting comments on prayer -- a subject which we obviously should continue to pursue.

Here is Freyashawk's Comment:

"This is a fascinating discussion. 'Prayer' can consist of any act from meditation to a plea to a higher power. It is interesting to feel that one must 'command' rather than 'beg' but in my opinion, prayer is any act that seeks 'nearness to God' or 'qurbatan ilallah' as it is stated in Islam. To believe that one's desires should be fulfilled by a Higher Being is to be egocentric in the extreme. I think that in this sense, the ultimate prayer of the Christian Christ is to be lauded: 'Thy Will be done'. One needn't perceive God as the Old Testament entity or even as anthropomorphic in order to believe in and communicate with the Deity. The idea that one is small and God is infinite, that therefore one is less even than an eyelash upon the face of God and yet intrinsically an integral part of this incredible, unknowable Being provides endless subjects for meditation. 'Thy Will be done' in this sense would mean that our own tiny insignificant selfish desires should not be fulfilled automatically. That would be tantamount to making us into spoiled little brats. A parent who loves his/her child nonetheless should not satisfy that child's every desire. Instant gratification is not love. There are those who say that suffering and pain are a means to greater wisdom and this has been demonstrated in many lives. It is not pleasant but it can be akin to the tempering of steel. As human beings, we are born in a state of transition. We spend our lives growing and learning. Where does that leave God? I think that if God is infinite, we cannot begin to comprehend that infinity. Like spoiled children, some of us often rebel against the entire notion of God, either in rage, frustration or a desire to feel superior. Many people and even most religions have tried to reduce God to human terms, an error that is almost as great as that of denying the existence of any higher being. All these motivations stem from our insecurity. Is it not sufficient simply to know that the universe is far greater than our wildest dreams and imaginings but that we are a part of this immense magnificence? As far as ritual prayer is concerned, I do believe that ritual serves a vital purpose. It is a matter of creating a 'sacred space', a place that is outside of our ordinary busy lives and all the problems and distractions that besiege us. The prayer mat is one such sacred space. The Sacred Circle is another. Churches and mosques are communal sacred spaces. The act of repetitious ritual prayer is a door to another consciousness. It calms the heart and mind and allows us to achieve the state of being necessary to touch the divine. It is interesting to note that beads, sometimes known as 'worry beads' are an almost universal praying device. They are used by Christians (the rosary), by Muslims (the tasbih) and by Buddhists as well as by adherents to other religions. The act of moving one's fingers from bead to bead while repeating a mantra is both a means of relaxation and a 'focus'. Time becomes a necklace to be manipulated, and one's universe becomes at once encapsulated within the circle of the beads and yet expands to embrace the divine. The mistake that people make with respect to prayer is in regarding it as an end in itself when it should be perceived as a means to an end. It is AFTER the prayer that one reaches the state of 'nearness' to the Deity..."

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Please look tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A Reader's Excellent Comment on Prayer

The anonymous Comment on my December 4 entry is very wise:

“Perhaps ‘prayer’ is actually simply acknowledging the Source and Its power, and seeking to align oneself with that.”

Those words suggest to me that in my analogy of the individual acting as a lens to focus the power of the Source, the individual must be in some sense aligned with the Source. The words also bring to mind the phrase often used in the “I Ching” – that the “superior person” must be “in harmony with Heaven”. It also calls up the idea of “centering”.

The Source and the natural laws of “Heaven” are superior to all human endeavors and cannot be evaded or defied, and yet our chattering monkey-minds regularly scamper far from the path of harmony with Heaven and make it impossible to focus the Source until there is realignment.

The Source can never NOT be where we are, but we can obscure it and become unatuned to it in the same way that clouds can hide the sun, or a puddle which reflects the Moon can be muddied so that the Moon seems to disappear. The Source, the Sun, and the Moon are always there, but our own perceptions can be obscured. That is the greatest sadness and challenge of our human state.

I’m sure I’ve gone beyond what the author of the Comment intended, but I think it all fits together. The subject was prayer, and the Comment suggested “that prayer is simply acknowledging the Source and Its power, and seeking to align oneself with that.” Prayer means many things to many people, but the Comment describes the highest form of prayer, which is probably completely wordless.

I like the saying that prayer is a state of mind rather than a monologue. That also fits with the Comment, in which prayer is a process of seeking change in ourselves which will bring us into alignment with the Source.

Thank you for the Comment, Anonymous .

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Cures and Motivation

In response to an email I’ve received about my “self cure” story, I want to clarify that I’ve never thought of myself as having a special gift for curing myself or other people. My point in yesterday’s post was that it might benefit ANYONE to take the same attitude I did, and use the same method – commanding rather than begging.

I picked the example of my sudden cure on the ship because it was spectacular and remarkable, and because it was a turning point in which I was convinced that I had found a new path I should follow.

I wish I could say that every other time I felt an illness coming on (generally a cold or occasional flu) I had been able to banish it instantly. It’s not that easy for me, although I am convinced that I’ve stopped some illnesses and shortened and mitigated the symptoms of others by using the method of command rather than request.

Commanding the cells or your body to kill or throw out the invaders and end the illness quickly is certainly preferable to lying around feeling sorry for yourself. Also, the mere act of taking command, of identifying with that higher part of yourself which is a spark of the immortal and all-powerful, is a source of healing strength. If you think of yourself as a mere helpless blob you are less likely to draw on infinite power to help you than if you consider yourself a blob enlivened by a soul which is never separated from the Source of all power.

As for my success on the ship, I was unusually highly motivated. I was looking forward tremendously to all the pleasures of the voyage. I love the ocean and boats of all kinds, and I loved the lavish variety of beautiful food served on those last great ocean liners (all included in the price of the ticket, remember), and I could think of no holiday more exciting than a week on the “France” or the “Rotterdam” with the companionship of strangers suddenly transformed into best friends as only the alchemy of an ocean voyage is able to do. To exchange all that for a week of coughing and wheezing in a little cabin – no thank you!

So, I’m sure that immense motivation had a lot to do with my cure, and I expect the same was true of the man who stalled the tsunami wave. I don’t imagine that he would have the same success if, on an ordinary day when he wanted to go out fishing and didn’t like the height of the waves, he commanded the wind to drop. On the other hand, who knows?

Monday, December 4, 2006

Commanding versus Begging

If I had to pick one message from my personal experience which might be of the most practical help to people who haven’t already discovered it for themselves, it would be, “You’re in charge.”

That sounds unnatural because from the beginning we are encouraged to feel just the opposite. Our parents are in charge, our teachers, our bosses, our government are in charge – not even to mention the buffetings of “fate” and “chance” which knock us here and there. Even in an apparently equal friendship or marriage one of the pair usually seems more “in charge” than the other, and not because either person intends it or is even conscious of it.

For now I’m going to address how “You’re in charge” relates to prayer.

My religious indoctrination was in the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Florida. There was a great deal of bowing down and begging in prayers, which occured from the beginning of Sunday School to the end of the main service. There was even a small clique of creaky men in the “Amen Corner” in some front pews who didn’t feel that Preacher McCall’s long prayers were sufficient in length or in pleas for forgiveness or in reminders of the threat of damnation, and my child’s heart sank when one of those old scarecrows rose to address the Lord because I knew it would take at least ten minutes for the Lord to be fully informed of what presumably He knew in the first place. Meanwhile I would start a counter-prayer to make the Amen Corner's prayer shorter.

I learned that the purpose of prayer was to ask God for things, usually a long list of things, and to thank God for giving you things that you had asked for before. God apparently didn’t have a very good memory because every Sunday he had to be reminded again to bless and guide the church, the entire congregation, our missionaries, the Southern Baptist Convention, our President, our House of Representatives, our Senate, and of course to open the hearts of the heathens to salvation.

I noted that something like this was going on all over the world, all the time. How could God possibly pay attention to those millions upon millions of requests, and how did He decide which favors to grant?

I paid a lot of attention to prayer, and I prayed a lot myself, and after years I was forced to recognize that prayer did not work. Prayer as I’d learned it simply did not accomplish its purpose. A whole congregation praying for Brother Jones’ swift recovery resulted in his promptly dying. Hurricanes and tsunamis and bombs destroyed churches filled with people praying for divine deliverance. My prayers for material things proved less effective than my Santa Claus wish list.

To make it worse, it seemed that in prayer contests between conflicting nations and their armies, the side of justice lost the war at least as often as the unjust. I knew that many prayers surrounded sports events, but someone always lost.

Then, one day, it came to me: Don’t ask. Command.

I was on an ocean liner returning alone from Europe, looking forward to the voyage and the delicious food, when I was suddenly hit with all the symptoms of flu. Here I am, eager for the joys of the ocean and a reunion on the far shore, and I’m sentenced to at least a week of misery. For the first hour of fever and weakness I could hardly bring myself to stand up, but as I thought about all that I would miss -- not least the midnight buffets -- I became irrationally defiant.

I sat up and began to give orders to my body. Instead of praying to Somebody out there, I commanded all the cells of my body to bring an immediate cure. I ordered that the fever be gone, all the symptoms be gone, and that I be healthy and filled with energy.

Within minutes those things were true. Incredibly the illness lifted like fog giving way to bright sun. I felt wonderful relief. I was soon walking happily and gratefully on the deck looking forward to dinner. I was entirely well.

(I think it helped that I also tried to identify what might be going on below the surface of my mind to cause an illness. I identified something touchy I was worrying about which would need resolving after I disembarked. I didn’t need to try to get rid of it. Just recognizing it as a possible cause of illness was enough. Seeing it bob to the surface sapped its harmful power.)

Since then I have believed that an impulse to beg God for anything should be handled by strong commands rather than beseeching prayer. I now see each of us as a kind of lens which can focus the infinite power of the Source, of God, to satisfy a particular desire – whether it be for health, for love, for a job, for a home, or for safety from some catastrophe.

There is a lot more to be said on this subject, particularly because many people feel that at times an important “beseeching” prayer actually has been answered, but for now I want to conclude with a story that confirms my belief.

During the tsunami of the day after Christmas, 2004, which took thousands of lives, there must have been thousands of unfulfilled prayers offered up. But one man, a minister, tells of his experience as he was strove to escape the tsunami waves in a small boat with children from his orphanage: Instead of kneeling down and praying, he held up his arms and commanded in the name of his God, in a spirit of determination and strong confidence. . .

“With every second, the wall of sea-water came closer and closer. Something miraculous had to happen if we were going to get out of this alive. It was at that moment, faced with certain death, that a Scripture verse from the Bible popped into my mind.
And I just stretched my hands and I said (based on the strength of the Scriptures where it says that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it), ‘I command you [wave] in the name of Jesus, stop!'

“The wall of water that was seconds away from engulfing us began to slow down. It became sluggish, it was straining against what I thought at the moment was some invisible wall. It was trying to break free, but something was holding it back. The only force or power that could have stopped it was the power of God. And God, with His power slowed it down and stopped the wave for us, and gave us the time to get away."

Witnesses from a distance confirmed the story.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Small and Large

The Bhagavad Gita has helped me to a fascinating new way of conceptualizing something. It says: “Your soul, your self, is too small to be harmed by any weapon.” “The individual soul is smaller than a tiny fraction of the size of the end of a hair, but God/Source/Creator is the smallest of all, and can easily enter into the heart of the individual soul.”

The Bhagavad Gita also compares the smallness of the Creator to the gigantic material universe which came from that smallness. I’m exhilarated and inspired by the idea that creation is from the smallest to the largest, from inside out. That makes sense to me. Crystals grow that way. Even when I stir my coffee, my instinct is to make an expanding spiral which begins in its center.


My mind was conditioned, probably because of the way the Bible was interpreted to me, to think of the Creator/God as outside myself, and very large. On the other hand, when I thought of something “within” I could visualize only the dark inside of the body. Thousands of creaky old teachings gave me the idea that to “face God” in some way, I should look up and lift my hands.

The Old Testament creation stories caused me to imagine a gigantic Being fashioning the earth, the sun, humans, animals, like a big potter at a wheel, or a child making mud pies. Biblical language leads to that. This naturally caused me to conceive of myself as a small creature on a big stage created by the Biggest of all, looking down on me.

For that reason I’ve always had trouble with statements like, “look within for God,” and “The Source is within you.” Now, with the idea that God/The Source is the smallest of the small, and is within my own very small (relative to the size of the body) Soul, I finally am able to conceptualize, if only in a crude way, God as within.

I can’t help immediately thinking of quantum physics’ ”string theory” -- that everything in the universe is made up of vibrating bits of energy, possibly the smallest of the small, from which all the physical universe is constructed -- the vibrations of the smallest creating and sustaining the components of sub-atomic particles, then atoms, then structures made of atoms, molecules -- sphere expanding outside sphere -- and on out to humans and elephants and cars and stars and galaxies.

I realize that the Source is inconceivable by my human mind, that non-physical things like the Soul can’t be compared in size to physical things, and that Creation is perhaps what we’d describe as a grand illusion in which nothing is really smaller or larger, but a new way of conceptualizing nevertheless has helped me to entertain the feeling of God “within” instead of outside and above.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Another Unexpected Meditation

There was another happening in my life – in addition to the one when I photographed wildflowers -- which I decided later had been a form of meditation.

I was interested at that time in analyzing the dynamics of consciousness, and particularly in understanding “attention” and “paying attention”. I realized that whatever is “Now Playing” in that home theater watched by the ultimate Consciousness is determined by what an individual is “paying attention to” at the time.

What an individual experiences at a given moment – among all the possible different ways of experiencing the environment at that time -- is determined by the focus of attention. One woman who remembers a moment in a field might recall only the song of a bird, while another woman who stood next to her might recall only the discomfort of the hot sun on her skin.

I was curious to know what determined the movement of the focus of attention, and so I decided to try an experiment. I lay down on my back on the livingroom floor, closed my eyes, and observed what “came to my attention.” I tried to do nothing. I did not direct my attention anywhere. I just concentrated entirely on where my attention went.

Many things claimed attention in turn: A passing car, a popping sound in a wall, a barking dog, a tickling on my left ear, the faint smell of smoke, a child’s shout down the block, a moment of distant music.

I was fascinated, completely absorbed, to the point that I lay there concentrating for almost an hour, taking in every sound, smell, and sensation as my attention jumped here and there like the beam of a searchlight. My degree of concentration drove most verbal thoughts from my mind.

I began to realize that for some reason this was a very pleasant experience, profoundly relaxing emotionally and physically, bringing a sense of unusual peacefulness, but only later would it occur to me call the experience meditation. As with my wildflower photography meditation, I remember it much more clearly and more frequently than most days of my life.

Because the purpose of my lying on the floor was not to meditate, but rather to learn something about attention, I’ll mention some things that I observed.

Attention is immediately drawn to whatever is new in the environment. When a sound is heard for the first time, it gets top priority. On the other hand, a sound that is continual, or almost continual, in your surroundings gets almost no attention. . . unless it stops, in which case the sudden absence of something gets a flash of immediate attention.

A useful question to ask about most behaviors is, “How does this promote survival?” The explanation in this case must be that something that is familiar generally poses no threat; if it did, you would not have remained in that setting long enough for the thing to become familiar

Of course attention is likely to remain focused for quite a while on something new which persists, but even then attention tends to jump rapidly around from one thing to another – almost as if not wanting to lose track of the items that make up the rest of the picture. Then, if the new phenomenon stays around long enough, it ceases to be new and eventually goes into “safely familiar" status.

I asked, based on my observation, if attention can be placed on more than one thing at the same time, and my answer was that it cannot. Even though you may feel that you are listening to your spouse and the television set at the same time, or that you are listening to music and reading a book simultaneously, I think that your attention is hopping back and forth between the two. Just as the individual frames in a moving picture aren’t distinguishable, the sense of paying attention to two things at once is an illusion.

When I lay down to observe attention, it turned out – as often happens – that what I thought I was going to accomplish was not the most important result of what I did. I observed some interesting things about attention, but I learned more about the meaning of meditation.

Friday, December 1, 2006

A Story for Children and Adults

A children's story to brighten the day.





THE LAST FIREFLY


by

Fleming Lee


Early one spring, late one morning, a firefly was born.

The sun shone brightly all around the tiny firefly. But the firefly did not know what the sun was because he had never seen sunshine before. He did not even know that he was a firefly. He just knew that he was here.

He did not know that he was sitting on a leaf on a bush by a lake because he had never seen a leaf or water before. He did not know what anything was, because he had never seen anything before. There was no one to tell him or teach him. He found himself all alone in a place he knew nothing about.

He stood on his leaf for a long time, looking around, wondering. He had wings, and he moved them slowly up and down, but at first he did not know what they were for. Then, when he moved them faster, he rose above the bush and flew into the air.
"This is fun," he thought, "but where am I supposed to fly? What am I supposed to do?"

Soon he saw that he was not the only creature flying around. He saw lots of birds, but he did not know what a bird was. Some were large and some were small, but none were as little as he was. He was no bigger than a grain of rice.

Some ducks flew over the lake. The firefly tried to catch up with them so he could find out if he was also a bird, but they were much too fast. A family of cranes flew over with loud, rattling cries. They did not fly as fast as the ducks, but they were much too big and noisy.

Then the firefly saw a robin hopping around on the ground looking for food. The firefly landed on the ground in front of the bird.

"Please, what are you?" the firefly asked.

"I'm a bird, of course," the robin replied.

"Am I a bird?" the firefly asked.

The robin thought that was funny.

"Of course you aren't a bird. You look like a beetle to me."

"What's a beetle?"

"It's a little bug, like you. Often very tasty."

"Tasty?"

The robin hopped closer to the firefly and said, "Yes, tasty. Delicious, in fact. Do you know what 'delicious' means?"

"I don't know what anything means. I was just born."

"'Delicious' means 'very good to eat'," the robin said.

The firefly did not like the way the robin turned its head to one side and stared at him with a big bright eye. The firefly decided to fly away. He left the ground just as the robin's beak pecked into the spot where the firefly had been sitting. The robin got a beak full of dirt instead of a beak full of firefly.

When the firefly flew back to his bush he saw two young rabbits eating sweet grass. They had very nice, furry faces. The firefly flew over and said to the little rabbits, "Excuse me, but may I ask you two questions?"

"Yes," one of the rabbits said, "but I may as well tell you that we don't know the answers to much of anything."

"Well," said the firefly, keeping a safe distance, "the first question is, do you think I look delicious?"

Both rabbits wrinkled their noses and laughed.

"Not at all!" they answered.

The firefly moved a little closer to the small rabbits.

"The second question is, do you know what I am?"

The young rabbits wiggled their whiskers while they thought about the question.

"I'm pretty sure you're not an alligator," one said. "Your nose isn't long enough and you don’t have wrinkly skin. Or a snake. Definitely not a snake. You aren’t long enough."

"Of course he isn't a snake or an alligator!" the little rabbit’s sister said. "You don't have any idea what he is, and I don't either. Daddy would know. He's very old. He has been alive for a whole year."

"What's a Daddy?" the firefly asked.

The little rabbits laughed again.

"Daddy is our father. Don't you have a father?"

"I don't have anything," the firefly replied. "Can we ask Daddy?"

"Yes, when he comes this way."

"When will that be?" asked the firefly.

"Sometimes he comes out late in the afternoon, and sometimes early in the morning. Just watch for a big brown rabbit and ask him your question."

The firefly sat on his bush and watched for the big rabbit until the sun was low in the sky, but Daddy Rabbit did not come.

The little firefly watched the daylight shrink into an orange ball which sank slowly into the earth. The earth swallowed the orange ball and drank up the light. The grass and trees and water which the firefly had seen around him disappeared with the sun.

Somehow the firefly felt better at night than in the sunshine. Then, as he sat there enjoying the darkness, he discovered something wonderful. Out of his own body came light. He glowed, and then he did not glow, and then he glowed again. He was like a tiny sun throwing light on the leaves around him. It was like breathing. When he pulled air in, the lower part of his body glowed brightly. When he pushed the air out he stopped glowing.

As he turned his light on and off, he felt that he was supposed to fly up into the air. Sometimes he flew as high as the treetops, sometimes low enough for his legs to brush the grass. It felt wonderful to sail above the dark earth. He knew that this was the right thing for him to do – to fly through the air while his body glowed with a flashing light.

But before long the firefly felt that something was missing. What was it? He looked at the ground below, looking for something that he felt should be there. But what?

Then he flew out over the marshy lake for the first time. The water was smooth and still. Looking down, the firefly was so surprised that he almost forgot to keep flying. He saw what he had been missing. Below him on the glassy dark water were many little lights. They were like the light of his own body. He felt very happy.

"I am not alone!" he thought.

He wanted to be with the lights on the lake. He flew down toward them. As he slowed his wings so he could land by one of the lights his legs felt cold. He was in the water! What he had thought were other fireflies became swirls of sparkles. He had broken the lights into tiny pieces when he hit the water.

Frightened, he moved his wings as fast as he could and zoomed above the water just as a big fish with a wide open mouth broke through the surface of the lake and tried to eat him.

The firefly sped once more up into the air, racing to get as far above the lake as he could. He was flying almost straight up when he saw that the dark sky above him was filled with the very same lights that he had seen on the lake. He was seeing the stars in the sky. The water had been like a big mirror which made him believe that the stars were on the lake.

He felt hope again. He thought the lights up in the sky there might be fireflies, like him. He decided to fly up to meet them.

Up and up he went, excited, flying as fast as he could. The lake became a small mirror below him, but still he had not reached the stars. No matter how high he flew he never seemed to get any closer to the lights. He began to wonder if they were really fireflies. They did not flash on and off like he did. Instead they gave off a cold light which never blinked. If they were fireflies, they were not very friendly.

The brave flyer was getting very tired. He began to dip and slip back toward the earth. Finally he had to give up. He had just enough strength to get safely back to the ground, where he fell into a bush and turned off his light and went to sleep.

When he woke up it was even darker than before. He could no longer see the stars because clouds had covered the sky. Wind shook his bed of leaves. Looking out through the trembling bush, the he saw a big light far away in the distance. The light flashed brightly and went out. There was a deep, rumbling sound. Then the light flashed again, and there was another rumbling sound.

To the firefly a flashing light meant one thing -- another firefly. He flew toward the light. Sometimes it would not be there for awhile, and the firefly would worry that it had gone away. Then it would flash again, and the firefly would flash an answer. The wind grew stronger. He could see that the flashes of light were much, much bigger than he was.

Then it began to rain. Big drops of water hit him. They were so heavy that they almost knocked him out of the air, but he kept on flying.

Suddenly there was a flash of light brighter than the daylight. A nearby tree split in half as a great crash of thunder roared through the night.

The firefly had flown into a thunderstorm. When the storm had been far away he had thought that the flashes of lightning were made by fireflies. Now that he was close to the lightning and thunder he knew that nothing so bright and loud could be part of his family.

He was very frightened. He turned and flew away as fast as he could, but the wind blew so hard that he had to hide in thick grass until the rain and lightning finally went away. Then he slowly made his way back to his bush beside the marshy lake where he had been born. There he lay down among the soft leaves and went to sleep.

When the firefly woke up, morning had come and the world was once more bright with sunlight. The dew made everything sparkle. Spider webs which the firefly had not seen before were now glistening with dew. So many spider webs everywhere – in the grass, in bushes, in trees! So many spiders, each in its own web!

"I do not even need to ask if I'm one of those," the firefly thought. "I don't have a web, and I have no idea how to make one."

The firefly looked around for Daddy Rabbit and did not see him.

He heard strange sounds from the marsh and wondered what they were. He drank some water from inside a red flower and listened to the sounds. Sometimes they were so soft that he could hardly hear them. Sometimes the sounds piled up like an ocean wave and made a loud noise that hurt his head. The firefly could tell that the noise came from many small sounds in many different places all around the side of the lake. When all the little sounds were put together, they made one giant sound.

Because the firefly did not know what anything was, how could he know that he was hearing the songs of thousands of frogs? Some sounded like spoons tapping on glass. Some made a sucking noise like a rubber boot being pulled out of wet mud. Some sounded like balloons being rubbed together. Some were like tiny tinkling bells, some like the plucking of stretched rubber bands, and some like the thumping of small drums. Underneath all the other sounds were the croaks of bullfrogs, as deep as big bass horns.

After a long time had passed and the rabbit did not appear, the firefly went to find out what was making the noise in the marsh. Flying low, he saw frogs, frogs, frogs, and more frogs – some big, some little, some with stripes, some with spots, all singing.

"How different from me!" the firefly thought. "There's only one of me, but there are is no end of frogs."

He flew down next to a very large frog which had a very deep voice.

"Good morning," the firefly said to the frog. "I would introduce myself, but I don't have a name. I don't even know what I am."

The frog turned opened his wide mouth and said, "You look like some kind of bug to me."

"Are you a bug?" the firefly asked.

"Of course not! I am a frog." The frog moved closer to the firefly and blinked. "I like bugs, though."

The firefly was glad he had found this friendly frog. He flashed his light.

"Can you light up your tail like this?"

"Of course I can't light up my tail!" the frog croaked. "I haven't even had a tail since I was a tadpole. In all the hundred days of my life I have never heard of anybody lighting up."

"Do you like my light?"

The frog sounded less friendly now.

"Last night I watched you flashing that light all over the place while I sat in the mud the way a normal person is supposed to, and I thought, 'What a show off!' And to make it worse, you fly around like a bird. I don't like birds. Birds eat frogs, you know."

"I don't think I'm a bird," the firefly said , "because you definitely do not look delicious to me. Besides, birds are much bigger than me, and they don't have lights."

"Well," the frog said, " for a bug with such a tiny brain you know a lot, don’t you?"

The firefly decided he did not like this frog, and he said proudly, “My head may be tiny, but my thoughts are just as big as yours."

"Well, know-it-all, I have a surprise for you." The frog slowly moved closer and closer to the firefly, until his wide mouth looked as big as a door. "Here’s something you don’t know. Frogs eat bugs!"

The frog's long tongue suddenly shot out at the firefly, who barely had time to zoom away before it hit him.

"That's the way I catch my food!" the frog laughed in his rough voice. "Come back here, you fire bug, and I'll give you a fast ride on my tongue. A fast ride to my stomach! Ha, ha, ha!"

The firefly was very glad to get away from the big mouthed frog and the loud froggy laugh that followed the firefly up into the air.

After awhile the firefly decided to fly all the way around the lake and see what he could see. He watched schools of fish swimming, and rows of turtles sleeping on logs, and yellow butterflies dancing by the edge of the water, and lines of ants carrying bits of food. Of all the creatures he saw, he was the only one who was alone. That could not be right. Where would he find others like himself?
He spent the whole day flying exploring the countryside, looking everywhere for others like himself, but he found none. He saw squirrels and horses and cows and pigs and sheep and cats and dogs and chickens and goats, but he did not see anything like himself.

At last, when the sun was not far from setting, the little firefly returned to his bush by the lake. There he saw something that made him happy. A large brown rabbit was sitting in the grass not far from the bush. The rabbit had the stem of a yellow flower in his mouth, and as he chewed on the stem the flower moved closer and closer to his mouth until it finally disappeared inside.

"Oh, please," the firefly called from the top of the busy, "are you Daddy Rabbit?"

"Yes, I am."

"I met your children," the firefly said, "and they told me that you are very old and know a lot. Would you answer a question for me?"

"I will be glad to answer if I can," the rabbit said. "But you're so little I can hardly see you."

"I'm just as big as you are, inside," the firefly said.

"What are you?" the rabbit asked.

"That's the question I want to ask you," the firefly said. "What am I?"

"Come over here so I can see you better," the rabbit replied.

The firefly started to leave his bush, then stopped.

"Do I by any chance look delicious to you?”

"Absolutely not!" the rabbit answered. "I think you would taste terrible."

"Good!" said the firefly.

He sailed over and landed right under the rabbit's soft nose.

"See," said the firefly, "I have wings and I light up."

He flew a little way into the air and flashed his light several times.

"Let me think," the rabbit said. He bit off another flower and started chewing his way to the yellow blossom. Then he said, "Yes, yes, I remember very well. It was a long time ago, when I was young, before the cold weather came. There were many like you. I saw them from the time I was born last summer."

"Wonderful!" the firefly cried.

"Oh, yes." The flower wiggled as the rabbit chewed. "They came out at night and flew among the trees and over the grass near the lake, all flashing their lights. There were so many that they looked like the sparks from a great forest fire swirling in the dark sky. Some called them fireflies, some called then lightning bugs. I called them star children. They were beautiful. I was very sorry when the winter came and all of the star children were gone."

"Gone?" the firefly exclaimed.

"Oh, yes, gone. Their lives ended. The lives of many insects ended when winter came. They were here when I was born, but when it was very cold their lives ended. They’ve been gone a long time."

The rabbit looked sad. His ears drooped, but suddenly he looked happy and his ears pointed up again.

"Well, not all gone!" he said. "You are here." Then the rabbit's ears wilted again.

"But you are the last of your kind. The last firefly."

The last firefly.

The words made the little firefly feel sad, but he thanked the rabbit and said, "I am sorry that I'm the last firefly, and all alone, but I'm glad that you could tell me what I am."

"I understand that you must be lonely," the rabbit replied. "You can come and visit me and my family any time."

"Thank you."

The rabbit started to leave, then turned back.

"I am very glad you are here," he told the firefly. "I will be watching for your light in the sky while I lie on my bed tonight.”

"Thank you," the firefly said.

The sun had turned into an orange ball which sank slowly behind the trees. The earth swallowed the orange ball and drank up the light. The rabbit slowly hopped away into the dark shadows of the forest. Night was coming again.

The firefly settled in a leafy bush to watch the golden glow turn into black. Then the stars began to appear – first one, then two, then many, until the sky was filled with twinkling lights.

"The last firefly," he thought. "I am the last firefly. There is nothing else like me except for those stars, and they are not fireflies – unless fireflies go up there when they leave this place."

Then the firefly saw something amazing. He saw one of the stars move. It left the other stars which were low in the night sky and floated through the air above the tall grass by the edge of the lake. The firefly could not believe what he was seeing. Stars did not move.

Then the floating light disappeared.

"Oh, no," the firefly sighed, feeling that he had lost something very important.

But the floating light soon appeared again close to where he had seen it a moment before. Then it disappeared again. Then it came back.

It was like his own light! It glowed, and then it did not glow, and then it glowed again!

The firefly was so excited that he rose slowly up into the air without even realizing that he was flying. Then he suddenly became even more excited because he saw another light moving among the dark trees, and then another. First one, then two, then many, until the air by the lake was as full of softly glowing, floating lights as the sky was filled with stars.

Fireflies! They were fireflies, just like him!

"We are so beautiful!" the firefly thought. He had never been able to think "we" before. If fireflies could sing, he would have been singing with joy.

He flew toward the other lights, and then he saw that they were not only up in the air but also down on the ground in the grass. Here and there, like tiny candles, like coals in a fireplace, they glowed in the grass. Those did not move around like the flying lights. Somehow the firefly knew that they were waiting for something. They were waiting for him.

One of the lights in the grass blinked three times, stopped, and blinked three more times. The firefly flew above it and blinked three times, then blinked three times again. The light in the grass blinked back at him three times, and then the light in the grass and the firefly in the air blinked three times together.

The firefly understood. He flew down to the light in the grass and stood in front of a beautiful female firefly glowing with her message of love.

"I am so happy to see you!" the firefly said. "I was all alone for a long time."

"I am very happy to see you," the female firefly said. "You will never be alone again."

He asked her where she and all the other fireflies had come from.
"We were all born today," she answered. "Except you. You must have been born before the rest of us. You were the very first. Now you can help teach the rest of us."

So, he was not the last firefly. He was the first firefly of the spring. That was much nicer than being the last firefly.

The firefly glowed happily.

The first firefly



THE END


© 2006 Fleming Lee

Thursday, November 30, 2006




I'm taking a day off from words.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Unexpected Meditation



As I’ve mentioned, I don’t have a natural gift for meditation. I find it harder than many people to sit still for long, and maybe because of habits formed as a writer I find it very difficult to stop the flow of verbalized thoughts through my head.

I’m speaking of sitting meditation, which is what we Americans are taught is the standard method of meditating. A very gifted psychic who is far more enlightened spiritually than I told an audience that she simply can’t sit and meditate. She has to be moving about. She meditates while walking in her garden.

I’m convinced of the importance of meditation, but for somebody like me -- whose mother remarked that he never stood in one place for one second while getting dressed for school – an alternative to sitting is desirable.

In the line of “things I discovered without being told” was something that startled me when I looked back and realized what had happened.

At the time of this episode I was going regularly on Sunday mornings to a spiritualist “Lyceum” at Cassadaga, a few miles from where I live. I’ll have a lot more to say about Cassadaga in the future, but for now I’ll just tell you that I found the teachers and discussions very interesting -- so interesting that I was surprised when, early one Sunday, my “inner voice” (that I attribute to my benevolent Higher Self) told me to stay home and do something I’d been planning for a long time – take close-up photographs of very small wildflowers.

I resisted missing Lyceum, but I’ve learned that when the voice speaks, always obey it. And so I took my little digital Kodak and set out on a walk along a quiet Lake Helen road next to a watery swamp, where many flowers of different varieties grew. I’ve always been fascinated by extremely close views of very small things, and I was soon lost in finding and focusing on tiny blossoms.

My all purpose inexpensive camera was poorly suited to that kind of photography, and so it took a tremendous amount of patience and concentration to get a flower centered in the picture, or even in the picture, much less get a sharp focus from a few inches away. I would often have to take half a dozen shots to get one decent one.

I was so lost in what I was doing under the sunny morning sky that I lost all sense of time and place. I knew nothing but the minute details of those beautiful little blossoms, white, gold, blue, and red.



Finally the camera memory was full, and I was amazed to find that I was standing unaware in the middle of the road (which did, after all, host an occasional car), and that three hours had gone by in what I would have judged to be an hour. All that time I had been unaware of my surroundings except for the little flowers that filled my eyes and camera screen.

Only later did it dawn on me that I had been unwittingly meditating. I had been totally focused on small motionless objects that filled my consciousness, the word-stream disappeared from my head, time ceased to exist, I was entirely absorbed in Now, and I felt peace when it was over.

I think it is valid to call that a meditation, and for a long time I continued to experience the benefits.

I recall that morning as a shining peak amid the scores of days on either side of it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Unchanging Self

I often recall something my grandfather said to me when I was five years old. He was telling me that he “and the boys” had gone to a baseball game. I laughed. “You said ‘boys’! Why do you say ‘boys” when you’re as old as you are?” He was probably about 60. His response was, “You never get any older. Your body gets older, but you stay just the same as you always were. Inside, I’m no older now than I was when I was your age.”

As I see it, he was describing the eternal and never-aging spark of the Source (the spark of God, if you prefer) which gives consciousness to our physical form. What shall we call that spark? Atman? The soul? The higher Self?

Words are inadequate here, especially since the same words are used in different senses by various schools of thought, but the point is that there is a part of us, the most important part, which is independent of our physical form. It is the observer, sometimes called the “enjoyer”, the passenger in the chariot we sense as our body. It is what watches the show on the television screen created by our senses, but there is nothing watching the Watcher because there is nothing beyond the Observer.

That brings to mind the Zen statement that to go searching for God is like searching for an ox while riding on the ox.

I believe that this atman, this higher Self, not only remains forever young, but also never moves. You are always in the same place. No matter where your body moves about in the illusion, maya, you are always in the same place. The only location of the Source, atman, is Now, the eternal Present. That part of you, if you were suddenly to find yourself on the other side of the planet, would be exactly where it is now. That is an inexpressible concept, but I draw the very crude analogy of a virtual reality computer game which seems to real that the player of the game becomes lost in it and forgets that he is playing a game. He believes he is traveling all over the world in the game, but he actually remains in the same place.

The spark of the divine in the individual never sleeps, never gets drunk, never is hurt. I think that L. Ron Hubbard was correct when he wrote that something in us records everything that happens, even when we are unconscious. It is also this Something which looks down at the body on the hospital bed in near death experiences. It is what tells the New Year’s Eve reveler, who is too intoxicated even to stand up for long, to “pull himself together” and drive safely home, even though he may not remember how he got there. (I know, I know, “Don’t drink and drive”, but it’s a good example.) “It” is also what makes a person become calm and efficient in a fast-moving, life-threatening crisis in spite of all the previous fear. It is, I think, what directs and enables an ordinary person to summon superhuman strength to lift an automobile to save a life.

I also believe based on personal experience, that the higher Self helpfully watches out for us. Some people believe in guardian angels, some in protective spirit guides, and I don’t dispute their beliefs, but my feeling has been that something of my “Self” is helping me avoid accidents and other bad experiences with those inner messages to “Turn left here, and never mind why!”, or “Get out right now”.

Saving experiences like those are reported so widely by so many people that there’s no question that they are real. The only question is, “Where do they come from?” Whether they come from your Self or an angel or guide, you receive even more helpful messages if you recognize and truly accept in your moment-to-moment daily life that at least a part of you exists in a spiritual domain in which future events and distant events can be perceived . . . things which our physical eyes and ears cannot detect any more than they can detect radio waves or rays from outer space.

That higher component of ourselves which remains always young, always awake, and never exhausted can be realized in Now, no matter how distracted or worried or busy we are. Tolle’s excellent book, THE POWER OF NOW, describes “gateways to Now”. My personal way is to find something in the Present to focus on – the sound of a fountain, the light on a quivering leaf, the feel of a fabric, or to use the well-known method of paying attention entirely to one’s own breathing.

A sense of peace comes from remembering who you really are.