Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Growing Pains of Transcendence

I recently read a friend's thoughts on the recent overturning of the Utah ban on gay marriage, which I think make a really good point in this whole discussion. He represents a significant number of folks who see this topic as important, but not as an "Us vs. Them" scenario. Simply, he wants to be free to vote 'yea' or 'nay' without his motives or demeanor bring presumed, one way or another (and I intentionally have not said which side of the issue he falls on). I think it is completely valid, and not an entirely hopeless quandary. We don't have to agree to disagree, or agree to stop at nothing til the opposition fails. Believe it or not, it IS possible for both parties to be satisfied (given, of course, there's always that other demographic which just wants to see the world burn...).

Many devoutly religious, kind- and tender-hearted people are accused of being bigots, or homophobes, simply because they understand "marriage" to refer to a man and woman knitting their souls in the sight of almighty God...
 Many equality advocates are accused by the religious community of defying God, attacking the sanctity/making a mockery of a religious institution, etc. When the reality is that these individuals never wanted to have to choose between loving God, or loving their fellow man.

Notice that one doesn't have to be gay, atheist, apostate, or antagonistic to be an advocate for gay rights. Really though, trust me, it's possible.
Likewise, one doesn't have to be homophobic, violent, bigoted, or closed-minded to vote 'yes' on a proposition with a definition of 'marriage' which aligns with their own.
Really though, trust me. It's possible.
Unfortunately, at this point in history—in which you and I join the debate—things have already started down a certain course, and the myopic approach that worked (or only seemed to work) in the past, no longer suffices to resolve these issues. If we're going to find long-term solutions, we have to all take a(t last one) BIG step back, and reassess the big picture. What we begin to see is a history of folks who can't see past the end of their nose presuming to have a grasp of, and solution for, the issues we're facing now.

This generation is experiencing the growing pains of transcendence, and we are not quite able to move past the modes and methodologies of our predecessors. Astigmatism is a persistent, recessive gene. Our caveman ancestors had to make due with what they had. If one had bad eyes, it essentially led to removal from the gene pool. Our recent forefathers had eyeglasses. Not only that, but they also enjoyed the benefits of a more hospitable culture and environment, where bad eyesight didn't necessarily ensure an early death. Eyeglasses had to suffice for a couple hundred years from the time of Benjamin Franklin and the Founding Fathers, til contact lenses came around... and that has been it for the past few generations. But times are changing. We now have laser eye treatments which correct the eye itself. We may not be able to chose the genes we inherit, but we don't have to be stuck with bad vision for the rest of our lives. We no longer rely on the existence of outside accessories to augment our optics to put things in perspective. We have reached that point where we can admit to ourselves that we are not perfect, and we might not see things the same as others, and that perhaps—perhaps—our neighbor's perspective can shed a little more light on the human condition than we are able to see from our vantage point. Our generation is learning to adapt, and adjust, the world is changing so rapidly that we absolutely must go forward with eyes wide open, taking nothing for granted.  Can we agree that we no longer need to rely primarily on tradition or convention to navigate and construct our social lives? How different would our perspectives on the world be even just 50 or 60 years ago? Our generation is able to see past superficial differences, and co-exist with people of different color and cultures, religion. etc. We can answer to the inkling inside us that says everyone deserves to be treated equally, regardless of their appearance or their salary... but we cannot do so with two different definitions of "equal". Is it a bad thing to think that eventually we may not even see such distinctions as relevant? Perhaps in the future individuals will not be labelled and categorized before their needs are assessed. Everyone will be entitled to equal treatment simply for existing.
But that's not where we are. We are stuck. Bogged down by politicking and protesting. Where one wrong approach led to another wrong approach. Now there's no getting back on track without major overhauling of the system. If I may borrow a term from Bruce Lipton, we need a "spontaneous evolution" to solve this perplexing problem to the satisfaction of everyone. That is, every single--or married ;)--person on the planet, now or in the future. 

The traditional "religiopolitical" process (and it has been a long, drawn out process indeed... Make no mistake) has thus far failed to appease either side of the issue. And from where we stand, it doesn't seem possible at this point. But it is solvable, and it is actually pretty straightforward. We just have to live and let live. This means that we no longer seek to be in a position of favor over any other person or demographic in the eyes of our legal system. If Marriage is, as many would argue, the domain of religion, then I think we have found common ground. Let religion have marriage. Do away with all legal recognition of the religious rite of marriage. Does this mean an end to tax breaks for married couples? an end to visitation rights in the hospital based on marital status? and all the other little incentives that government has developed for married folks? Perhaps so... But then again, perhaps that is the price to pay in order to retain (indeed, to re-claim) the so-called "sanctity of marriage"... What does government know of 'sanctity' anyway? Why have we allowed government to dabble in affairs of 'sanctity', in the first place?
So, once Marriage is stricken from the vocabulary of government. What is to say that it can't be replaced with the term 'civil union', across the board? 'Civil Union' is a pretty darn good descriptor for a family unit formally recognized by the government for tax purposes, and paperwork. Being 'civilly united' would be one thing, and being 'married' would be another, and never the twain shall meet, As a religious rite, marriage would not be recognized by government, But, if you would like such recognition (and the government perks, and legal obligations which go along with it) then you may file the paperwork for a civil union. Nothing would prevent a couple from doing both. This seems to me to be the only solution to maintaining the religious definition of marriage, while allowing all civil unions equal recognition under the law. This scenario seems to meet the needs of the religious crowd, the equal rights crowd, and the religious, equal rights crowd. It seems reasonable enough to me. It would be the proposition to end all propositions. It would also do away with "common law marriage", replacing it with "Common Law Civil Union". Makes sense. No one should "accidentally" become married through prolonged cohabitation... That seems to be the most glaring travesty in regards to the Sanctity of Marriage, in my opinion.

Prop. 8 and its similes, have not been geared toward removing government from the jurisdiction of marriage regulation (reserving it as a religious rite and term) which would look something like... "We the people propose that government cease all legal regulation and recognition of "marriage", and forthwith to cease using this term, as it is (we believe) a religious term, for a religious rite, to be defined and addressed by our various respective religious communities..." .
 Instead, these propositions have done kinda the opposite. Soliciting further "official" government interpretation of what the prop. supporters believe to be a purely religious rite/concept. In other words, presenting for a vote a legally enforceable definition of a religious rite. It looks something like "We the people propose that henceforth, government shall issue no official license or recognition to any couple who do not meet this definition of marriage: one man, and one woman..."

See how the the first example would permit freedom of religion for ALL folks, and the other seeks to legally constrict the religious and legal rights of folks who's god/religion may not have any such criteria?
This is where the boundaries of church and state are being pushed. Those who feel strong religious convictions on the matter are not looking to tell government to butt out, they are instead asking government to get involved, and to take their side.This is simply not a feasible approach to resolving the issue. It begins to be seen as elitist, and folks begin to presume that the religious community wishes to reap exclusive government benefits for their respective brand of human relationship.
When a law is found to infringe on the constitutional rights of any citizen, it is to be stricken from the books. The constitution is the law by which laws must abide. Therefore it is irrelevant how many people voted to enforce such a law.
It is similar the process which revoked/overturned the "extermination order" in Missouri, which allowed anyone who killed a Mormon to be exempted from murder charges. In other words, the measure reduced Mormons to lower value than human life. Once it was passed, it was completely irrelevant how people felt about Mormons... the fact was, that whether deliberate or accidental, maliciously or mistakenly, killing a Mormon was an excusable offense. For a long while--much, much too long-- this law was on the books. It was simply passed and enforced by the majority/popular vote of that particular geographical area at that time (1838), and though attitudes toward Mormons became much more tolerant in the generations that followed, the law was never rescinded until the mid-1970s—nearly 140 years later. Not that it was ever constitutional... It was never a constitutional law. Overturning it did not fly in the face of democracy. It also never meant that folks who rejected Mormonism as being offensive (to their definition of Christianity, or whathaveyou) while that law was in place were murderous and/or intolerant. Nor did it mean that overturning that law was an attack on the traditional/Christian definition of the Holy Trinity, or the Atonement, or any other. It meant that a certain group of citizens (Mormons) were no longer excluded from exercising their constitutional rights in the state of Missouri. Just as the recent ruling in Utah will allow gay couples the rights they have as US citizens to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." With equal rights to recognition and due process of law.

Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.... Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

James 1

Today I read James 1. And I had a few impressions come to me that I can honestly say I have never had before.

I have been able to read the bible with new eyes after a hiatus, and this chapter actually gave me a lot of new insights. It is actually really interesting to see what terms stand out to me now that never did before. I especially like the imagery of the flower of grass "passing away". It actually reminded me of a nature documentary on the great plains. Grassland fires appear to completely devastate the plains. It seems nothing remains. But, whereas the stems and flowers of the grass are all burned up, the roots are protected, and "rise again". The symbolism of roots is a strong one, and a fitting analogy for the cycle of life. I have recently been studying the beliefs, and symbolism of agriculture-based societies as far back as the neolithic period, around 10,000 BC in comparison to hunter-gatherer societies and their regard for life and how it manifested in their rituals. It actually draws out the mindset—literally, the "lifestyle"—of living for a greater cause, as opposed to living for the moment. For instance, hunter gatherers regarded death as a certainty, and lived a 'kill or be killed' lifestyle: living for the moment. Whereas agriculture-based societies focused on LIFE as a certainty, and lived a 'live and let live' lifestyle, celebrating birth as triumph over death. celebrating the seasons and their associations with planting and harvest with the process of birth (new crops) life (harvest, feasting) death (planting) and the repetition of this cycle. Their rituals of internment mirrored those of their crops: Just as they retained some seeds for planting so their crops would grow from year to year, they 'planted' their dead in the earth, and regarding new births as the return of those dearly departed.  Whereas the hunter-gatherers were inclined to violence, to pillaging, to using up all the resources they accrued. They worshiped the animals they hunted, but only inasmuch as their own 'selfish' needs (food, tools, clothing, etc.) were met. Their lifestyle consisted of using every inch of hide, and bone from the animals they preyed upon, or collecting and consuming every edible berry they could forage, or taking over every tool and resource from a conquered tribe, often burning whatever they couldn't use. It struck me that these two regards for life persist even today, and often both perspectives exist in a single individual. Such is the state of the "double-minded" man.

I should mention also that, in looking elsewhere (from biblical texts) for truth, I have come to find that Kabbalah seems to be the grandfather (that is to say, the unwitting predecessor) of almost all modern Abrahamic religion, as well as many eastern religions. If nothing else, it is the origin of much of the religious symbolism I was raised with. But don't let's get me started on that. I only mention it to say that, through studying Kabbalah, I have begun to see hidden esoteric truths in the words of the bible, especially once I stopped trying to take every word literally, as an explicit instruction manual written and translated from many different languages to the point that it literally takes divine intervention to make use of it.

 It actually speaks to me in a deeper way when I allow it to be poetic. After all, much of it is imagery, and little of it is clear instruction. I used to look for clear instruction, in an effort to "lean not unto my own understanding", and I got little more than frustration for my effort. But I find now I have begun to see terms like that in a different light, focusing on the words "lean not" as opposed to the words "own understanding". Or, in other words, focusing on being in balance, as opposed to denying, or relying wholly on, something in my own nature. One's own understanding is crucial to comprehension of God, or His word, and personal meaning. However, "leaning unto one's own understanding" seems a lot like "staying in one's comfort zone"... If you cling to comfort, or certainty, or a certain level of understanding, then it never expands, never grows. And if it does grow, you most certainly don't want it to be "leaning", or it will only grow so far before collapsing. Like a ladder on soft or uneven ground, you risk a fall the higher you climb; you will never reach that "Crown of life". Or , like the wise man says, you must have a sure foundation to build upon. You must have strong roots in order to grow.

What else stood out to me this time around was the term "superfluity of naughtiness", or more specifically the word "naughty". I am not sure, but it seems as though this word "naughty", is one of the stronger synonyms of 'Sin'.To have 'Naught' = nothing, zero, goose egg.

Sin, translated from its greek origin means "to miss the mark", as in an archer missing the bull's eye. It doesn't matter if it is by an inch, or a foot, or a mile, missing the bull's eye is missing the bull's eye. Some might argue that missing by an inch is better than missing by a mile, but ultimately, it comes down to hit, or miss. You either get a point, or you get a zero.

"Naughtiness" then, is a state of having, or deserving no reward. Scoring a zero. Think of a "naughty" child; they are behaving in such a way that would not deserve reward, or praise. Their behavior or effort is deemed
unsatisfactory.

The same with sin. We strive to be like God, but invariably we miss our mark, we sin. We "fall short of the glory of God". We strive for perfection, but sinning is sinning. Though we seem to measure sin in terms of severity, ultimately we are either perfect, or we are sinners. We all "miss the mark". We all get "bad marks" for our unsatisfactory performance. But if the goal (perfection) remains our focus, we find that we become more and more consistent. Perhaps we may hit the mark from time to time, though we may miss again on our next shot. But only in having a goal of perfection are we able to improve toward it.

"Superfluity of naughtiness" I suppose, would then be unmindful, or deliberate, missing of the mark. Simply not putting forth an effort. Not caring, not trying. After all, It is 'easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle...' Or perhaps it is like threading a needle from 100 yards away with a string on an arrow... It seems so beyond us, and perhaps downright unreasonable, so we decide it's not worth the effort. All we have to tell ourselves is that we will never be perfect, we'll never make that one-in-a-billion shot, so why even try? Why beat ourselves up about it? It is easier to not care. So we become the archer who doesn't work on his aim, and blames the target. He simply fires away til he's out of arrows, playing the odds. And when his arrows are gone, he consoles himself that it was simply a matter of luck anyway.

A wise archer knows that he will miss the mark. He knows he is fallible, he is mortal, he is not perfect. But he knows that he can improve himself. He knows that the "bull's eye" represents perfection, but that his personal value is not determined in any single shot. He also knows that without such a goal there can be no measure of improvement. He teaches his hands, and his heart, how to do the best they can, always. Perhaps he'll never thread a needle from 100 yards, but he becomes a dead-eye on a larger target, or on the hunt, where his efforts are rewarded "in kind". It is not enough to know the principles of archery. One may know the physics involved, or the calculations of perfection, but be unable to even nock an arrow. Only practice—consistent practice—makes perfect.

Mindfully practicing being patient, humble, slow to anger, exercising faith, grace, resisting temptation... only with these goals in our hearts and minds do we become this person. Only when we are 'tried' do we receive that 'crown of life'. It is in consistently striving for perfection in these aspects of our lives that we begin to see improvement on our "larger" or "closer" targets. We may never be perfectly patient, or humble, etc. But we do become much more practiced at those traits. We begin to see our rewards "in kind", as we bring these developing skills and qualities into our daily lives, our relationships, or our interactions with complete strangers. I happen to work a job that is continuously trying my patience and humility, and even my physical stamina, but it is an opportunity for me each day to stretch myself, to not let myself resent the job. I want to learn these qualities almost more than I want an income. I am fortunate to have the ability to get both. I am putting into practice what I value. I want to be Christ-like, but I'm not going to just wake up one day with Christ-like qualities.

I actually was thinking about this very thing last night, before I went to bed. Perhaps not in terms of scripture study, but of meditation, or prayer. It occurred to me how in my reading spiritual texts, but not taking adequate time to exercise and develop my personal spirituality, I was a "hearer only", and not so much of a "Doer" (though not consciously in those terms).

 I have been defaulting to that reasoning of "I'll try tomorrow; I'm too exhausted tonight..." And it seems almost inevitably I feel the same way the next night. Again, I seem to apply this in my life in ways that I never would have thought to be relevant before. I am not currently seeking redemption from a savior, but I am seeking to build a stronger sense of, and connection to, a higher power. The concept of Faith has taken on a whole new meaning. 'Faith without works' is like "striving" to hit the bull's eye without ever actually picking up a bow. Or, being a "hearer only", and not a 'doer', is simply thinking about what the words mean (if even that), but not incorporating them into your life. Like reading a phone book, but never making a call. It does nothing for you if you do not acknowledge, and utilize, the connection we each personally have with our Creator. I don't want to get into my personal belief of who God is, but I do recognize a higher power in my life, and when I am able to tap into that higher power, I feel fulfilled, energized, peaceful, compassionate, charitable, patient. I imagine if I were able to be continuously in this place, to have an "eye single to the glory of God", that I would not suffer the doubts of being "double minded". It is what Christ meant when he counseled us to "consider the lilies of the field"... That we draw on our higher power for everything, and don't give way to doubt or worry.

All of that to say, I have recently fallen out of the habit of dedicating my attention to my higher power when I am meditating. I have felt the effects of faltering in my commitment, and I am taking the opportunity to rededicating myself, and a portion of my time, to getting to know myself through meditation, and my higher power through supplication.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kundalini Awakening

Tonight, I am a satellite.
I am a solitary drifter.
Observing. Searching the cosmos.
Embarking on a quest for knowledge.

I sit and gaze steadily at the pine cone in front of me. A perfect specimen of the Fibonacci spiral.I stare intently at the center of its crown, even as the natural spiral tries to draw my attention outward like a spiraling corkscrew. My focus is fixed. After a few minutes, it seems as though the center of the pine cone is becoming a white-hot pinpoint. After a few minutes more, this pinpoint seems to be an entire galaxy. Still, my focus is steady, as if my life depends on describing all the stars, and their planets, contained in this minuscule galaxy.

When I first began this style of meditation, I would have described it as a process of "peeling a hole in the universe" through pure conscious. The idea is that, when you find yourself with a moment to spare, you may look around you and find any blemish or imperfection on any object or surface... And if you are able to focus on this point, you will find that it is a gaping passage into another world. The blemish, pattern, or imperfection is simply "a glitch in the matrix". Once you peel the hole, you may pass through it into another dimension. It doesn't have to be a pine cone. I have used a dime, placed at arm's length, and focusing on the mint mark on the face of it. I have used a grain of salt on my fingertip... the first time I did it, I was staring intently at a string cheese wrapper. Later, I found that this meditative process I thought I had developed was simply the serendipitous discovery of an ancient meditation technique called "Trataka", translated as "Fixed gaze" or "Steady focus", and it is traditionally practiced by looking into a candle flame.

At first, the eyes want to wander. They seem impossible to control; fidgeting and flitting about. After just a few moments of staring at a stationary object, their attention is drawn by any movement, any sound, any color that may promise to be more stimulating. The Mind must master the eyes. Eventually the eyes become disciplined, and a steady gaze is possible. Even still, the eyes crave to be active. They try to adjust focus on the stationary object. Again, the mind must command the eyes to be singular in purpose. Once a steady gaze, and a fixed focus is established, the mind is free to relax. Upon relaxing the mind, there is often felt a sensation of leaving the body. For me, it is the sensation of "falling into my own head". This is the rabbit hole. The wormhole leading out of this world.

Once this sensation sets in, I close my eyes. At first, it seems as if there is a wall of darkness just beyond my reach, but this is simply due to the fact that the brain is accustomed to observing the world outside of headspace, and had some difficulty with the concept of self-observation. In the day-to-day, it is used to operating in a proximity (usually the cushion of space arms' length from oneself) that we usually term as a "personal bubble". But the mind now must master itself. The brain must become introspective, and confront its own delusions: consciousness—the processing of all sensory experience and thought— occurs within the brain, not within the cushion of space surrounding the body.
Did you know that the eyes are technically an outgrowth of the brain? Our brains are literally bulging out of our skulls. Exposed. Protected only by a thin fold of skin, and the brain's ability to observe, interpret and avoid threats through reflex.

I meditate on the absolute zero clearance between my eyes and my eye lids. I struggle to reach a conscious level of awareness that this blackness—this almost tangible void— is not outside of me, it is within me. If I am able to come to terms with the fact that my entire existence is emanating from my conscious and subconscious mind, I continue to freefall into my own head, and experience nothingness: Zen masters call it "No Thought". I soften my gaze at the seemly expansive black void of my quiet headspace, and try to conceive of the vastness of my universe. Yet again, I must remind myself of the fact that my eye lids pose a physical barrier to the outside world, resting on the surface of my eyes. Again, my eyes revolt in a fit of self-importance, insisting that this is trickery. But the real trickery is every day life. In everyday wakefulness, the eyelids are only allowed to cover the eyes for a few hundredths of a second at a time. Because the brain places such value in the function of vision, it has hardwired, autonomic commands, which cause the blink to become nearly imperceptible to the conscious mind. But now the conscious mind is attempting to acknowledge the very presence and position of the eyelids. My poor, weary eyes are conditioned to believe that they are the gateway to my reality. That through them, I am able to perceive my world. This is why they are so eager to perform, and so anxious at the thought of relaxation... Through habit, they try to see beyond my eyelids but they are unable. Unable to focus on my eyelids, they ache, twitch, spasm. My eyes seem to have a will of their own, which my mind must struggle to tame. They seem to suffer from claustrophobia; They can't handle the proximity of my eyelids. Flashes of light, and electric white circles dance in my head as my brain receives a frantic neural feed through quivering optic nerves. I must calm my eyes with my mind: 'you are not needed at this time, I can see just fine without you...'. Eventually, my eyes relax, and my brain activates an eye of its own.

My third eye stirs in the recesses of my reptilian brain. I am entering the realm of pure conscious. From this realm emanate the esoteric abstractions of universal knowledge and energies, the concept of Nirvana, transcendence, or absolution through communion with the divine self found therein. The Chakras and their various domains, the flow of Yin and Yang energy throughout the universe, the Sephirot and the rungs of Jacob's Ladder-- All consciously perceived only by those who have a sense of this dimension. There are worlds within worlds. The physical realm lies on the surface of all human experience. In order to get below the surface, one must venture inward. On this inward journey, one may encounter the true self.  But to reach this depth of self-knowledge, one must be disciplined, with singleness of purpose: to navigate the precipice between physical stimulation of the senses, and a welling chasm of thought which reflects the outer world, and the outer self.

Within me—within the confines of my skull—there is boundless space, unexplored territory... ever expanding, yet my conscious is coalescing and condensing as my mind becomes centered. Now that my eyes have submitted to my intentions, I am able to begin drawing my other senses inward. My body awareness becomes more keen as I "scan" its surface in a microcosmic orbit. I situate my skeleton on the axis of my spine, and feel the flow of chi, serpentine, rhythmic. This is Kundalini energy. Ancient mystics describe it as "the serpent coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine". it is represented in the symbol of the Caduceus; the symbol of medicine. The two intertwined serpents represent positive and negative energy, or active and passive, yin and yang. The light serpent is known as Ida, and is the essence of masculine, or Yang force. Pingala is the dark, and represents receptive or passive energy. Like terminals on a battery, winds on an electromagnet, these two channels run along the spine. The spine is the staff represented in the Caduceus. The wings of the Caduceus represent the soul or human spirit, and its potential to "ascend". Kundalini energy is latent in the human organism, and is roused and cultivated by yogic practice, and meditation. Though it is said that some Gurus are able to waken Kundalini in others with a simple touch, or even with their voice. Kundalini is cosmic energy, and the spine is a veritable superconductor of this energy. The human brain the quintessential node between the two.

Ida, the active force of Yang energy, elongates and straightens my spine and stretches my neck. Pingala, the passive energy of Yin, flows behind, soothing my body in waves of relaxation and healing. They follow the path of the microcosmic orbit. Up the spine, over the head, down the throat to the navel, and around again. This energy slithers and weaves between the chakras, drawing vital energy from the extremities and channeling it up to the crown. My toes find repose. slowly my ankles release all tension, and I feel my conscious pull away from my feet altogether. I relax my calves, my knees, my thighs, my haunches.... each region that relaxes releases more awareness, which is drawn in by the black hole forming in my mind. The single goal of this process is to direct all conscious thought, all sense, all awareness, into that void in my head. The void becomes more dense, more energized. Blue-white energy is building. Deeper still, the vortex of this wormhole is opening. At last, the third eye looks up along the axis of the spine, beyond the crown chakra...

Kundalini is awakening.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reflections

"It seems like the universe is an hourglass, filled with people as innumerable as the sands of countless beaches. We pass from one orb to the other, we are shifting sands that count the time in eternity, my life is a single grain of sand, rough-edged in its own way, but indiscernible from the lives of those countless others... maybe the grain of sand that represents my existence is born from the same stone as those I feel an affinity with, some who have already dropped and landed, and are buried under yesterday. I'm just now joining the eddy of sand, the churning swell that channels me to my moment of freedom—falling. I only get that moment to glimmer, as we all get our chance to join the heap below. But, when I pass through that calculated orifice of fate, that keeps order to everything... I want to stand out from the rest. I want to be the crystalline silicone among the dull brown, I want to fall away from the rest and have my glory with the few who have the rough edge that catches on the spout, who spin away from the predictable stream of life. So while we're all together, with the gravity of destiny pulling at the sands of time, I'm just waiting my turn...." Gypsy Kid: Finding my niche July, 2007

I was recalling the essence of the above post today at work, and wondering to myself  '
...How did I get here? What series of choices led me so far off track from such worthy aspirations?' I feel as though I neglected a part of my soul, and let it die... I am not this person. 

This year I have been backtracking in my mind through all the philosophies I have embraced in the past 7 or 8 years, and how they have shaped my world view. Certain experiences have left me bitter and resentful, vengeful... afraid. I made excuses which, through repetition, have become thought patterns. These contrived patterns have shaped how I see the world at large, and they have certainly served to form my warped, myopic, self-centered views, and how I have viewed those around me.

 It seems to me now, looking back, that somewhere along my journey down the mid-way of life, perhaps in a dizzy daze from some wild ride that left my head spinning, I entered a house of mirrors: A maze full of smoke and illusions... my friends, who came along, have either passed me up and found their own way, or they have stayed with me, and shared in my experience... or I have left them behind. But I am only now realizing that I am still inside this so-called "Fun House". Stuck.

As I have tried to navigate through the the hall of false doors and rippled glass, I have seen my friends in a bad light, I have seen them as grotesque, I have mistaken them for circus freaks, I have fled and abandoned many of them. Some of those who were 
closest to me have tried to talk sense into me, and lead me out of my circles of confusion, but have been unable. I was too despondent. Either I ignored them and plowed ahead, convinced that I knew the right way... or I was so hopeless and afraid that I wouldn't budge, or follow their beckoning calls. It feels like I fell asleep in that place. As I awaken to this surreality, and try to remember who and where and what I have been. I am all the more perplexed at the task of navigating my way out. I have been looking at skewed reflections of myself for so long, I always wonder if I will ever see my true self again. Will I forget who I used to be? I am afraid that I will emerge from this experience  permanently disfigured. Afraid that if I ever find my way out, my friends wont recognize me. That, if I ever find my way back to the comfort and safety of my long-lost home... as I scrub and wash away the stink and grime of all those years lost in the carnival... as I step up and wipe away the steam from a familiar mirror, I am afraid that I will not recognize myself. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Power of Intent


Tonight has been a tightrope walk between existential anguish for opportunities lost or squandered, and the pure transcendental ecstasy of realizing that I don't have to let my past define me. I have been drug free for two months. I am currently free falling through the infinite space of the timeless now, into a net of unmitigated self-actualization. What a rush it is to be alive. Each heartbeat confirming to me that my existence is validated.

Despite who and what I may have been, I am who I choose to be. The collaboration of the hundred trillion cells which make up my physical body is like a petition to my conscious to rise to each moment.  The concerted exertion of my organs is a demonstration of confidence in my potential—an aggregated, reverberating testimony of my inherent worth. A pledge of allegiance to my cause. Until the very fibers of my being are finally expended in the discovery and pursuit of my purpose.

If my next breath should be my last, then I cannot let this moment pass without manifesting my intention to begin my ascension to a higher dimension. I will aim to find, define and align with divine source; to refine my character; to excel in this shell. I will find the Tao in the timeless now—Today. It is my goal to temper my soul; to channel love from above. Today I will start to impart of my heart.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The "Traditional" Female

As strange, and even abusive as this may seem.... these women actually derive validation, pride, and even their very sense of identity from their respective "tradition".

I for one am glad that I wasn't raised in such a culture. Though if I was, it would seem normal, and even attractive to me.  I find it disturbing that, as a "suitor" I might even do my part (however subtle, or overt) to make some young woman —who is trying her hardest to meet my (conditioned) expectations so that her appearance is pleasing to me— feel inadequate and unattractive.

I see many correlations to this sort of senseless, arbitrary behavior in my own given society. It is mind-boggling to think that tradition is what we do to feel "comfortable" simply because it's all we know...
Is it a bad thing to want a world where things like neck rings, or lip plates, and plastic surgery, no longer imply social status, or attractiveness?

I think there is a bigger picture to all of these varying traditions. I haven't spent a whole lot of time learning about the given cultures and origins of these practices, but I have an inkling of their commonality. I'm not sure I even know how to explain it. It is the suppression, exploitation, and desecration of the "sacred feminine". Making women feel that they are a commodity by insisting on certain behaviors in order for certain "rewards", like marriage, or care taking. This is done systematically, and systemically within cultures, and the various ways range from the banal to the bizarre. But all forms have the same effect: eliciting a voluntary display of their desire to be accepted. Usually, on patently masculine terms. Men participate in similar behaviors on some level to, but these examples tend to pale in comparison to those of women, and many hardly bear mentioning (though some compulsory traditions like circumcision do deserve a discussion of their own...).

The above examples are modes which are physical augmentations, and are therefore visually perceptible. The psychological modes are so nuanced and varied that I don't feel I'm able to even delve into that aspect of social conditioning. While the physical manifestations of women's subjugation to male-dominant culture can be seen around the world, and around us each day, I don't think most of us really acknowledge the full implications of what we see. It is so common place to see women trying to be "10"s, trying to adhere to fashion "do's" and social "musts", that we forget that it is arbitrary, and senseless.

 So, are these traditions wrong? They do seem unnatural... But does "natural" necessarily mean "right"? In the context of tradition—and especially in long-held traditions passed down through many many generations of practitioners—what does "unnatural", even mean?  It seems almost like a case study in Darwinian evolutionary theory, except that the individual is accountable to either augment themselves, or else essentially become "less fit" than those who do. The individual must "evolve" themselves. If individuals cease to do so, then the species/culture at large "devolves", and these arbitrary traditions are lost, for better or for worse.

This is both a beautiful fact, and a perplexing one. On the one hand, it means that each of us is free to define ourselves. On the other, it means that we must *allow* each individual to make that choice.  We must each be free to choose to define ourselves as "one of the herd" if that is what we truly desire (whether that desire stems from familiarity, or sense of duty, etc.) Perhaps that "herd" happens to be the one that says that a woman's desirability is directly proportionate to how large a hole she can create in her lower lip. Perhaps we choose to go against tradition, and miss out on all the comfort/familiarity, status and protection afforded to those who keep up the tradition. It may seem unjust for a woman to be cast out of her tribe for refusing to mutilate her face. But then again, if she chooses it, who are we to say that the consequences of that choice are not just, and natural? Non-compliance is, after all, anti-social behavior....

What's so fascinating about tradition, to me at least, is that it seems to not only elicit compliance, but even a fervent, zealous commitment.... no matter how bizarre or appalling it may seem to an outsider.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Transforming Thoughts

I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to write here, but I have already picked the title, so here goes.

I guess I have been thinking a lot about where my life experiences have led me, and how they have culminated in the person I am today. I have been kind of regretting my passive role in many of these experiences, wishing that I had been a little more thoughtful, a little more motivated, a little more judicious, in my decision making. I have pondered on this sort of thing before, but most usually I conclude that I am more introspective, more judicious, more thoughtful than most people. I guess lately, I have stopped comparing myself to "most people" in a lot of different ways. I have developed my self-identity to the point that I get to shelf my insecurities and simply exist in my mind, sometimes for hours out of the week. I have recently been told that a new acquaintance considers me one of the most spiritual people they have ever met. That surprised the heck out of me, because not only do I not generally identify as a 'spiritual' person, I have a long history of skepticism (to say the least) of what most people call 'spirituality'. However, at the same time, I can accept it as a compliment.

In the past 9 months or so, I have had so many mind-boggling spiritual experiences that if I shared them with most folks, they would be less interested in my stories, and more concerned with my psychological profile. But I don't share them with most folks, I share them with people who I trust, whether I think they will understand or not. Even so, nearly all of them not only believe me, but support me in the path I am on. Essentially every single person I interact with—and certainly those I interact with on a daily basis— I have known for a year or less, give or take a month or two. Most of these people have no idea how I was raised, or what I have been through in my life. That's because it's irrelevant. I guess it might be nice for them to know something of my background, but in the end, I have taken a lot of opportunity to reinvent myself, after going through a life-changing year 2012. I moved somewhere that I didn't know anyone, and I got a fresh start. It has been great to be able to start a new path, where I am not constantly reminded of, or beckoned to return to, a path I stopped following. I don't mean to be vague, but I assume that my readership is at least somewhat familiar with what I'm referring to. I am no longer living with people with whom I shared a common background of Mormonism, or the same college, or even the same pastimes. This being the case, I get to represent myself to my new friends in a much more immediate, and relevant way. I guess what I have been saying for the past half a paragraph, is that my relationships now consist of much less BSing, and much more exploration of widely varied concepts, since I have left so much routine and familiarity behind.

One thing that I have been spending a lot of time with is my inner self. I have been able to tune in with my spiritual side, and I have had by far the most rewarding spiritual experiences in my life. I have gotten more in tune with my own energetic frequency, and my intuition has become so reliable that I often surprise myself with my ability to foresee various situations, or others' needs. I am not completely at peace with who I am. I know I have many habits and patterns in my life that I would like to eradicate and replace with healthy, loving behaviors. I know I'm moving in the right direction, because of all the opportunities that have presented themselves to me through changing my attitude and adjusting my lifestyle. Yet, parts of me that I would like to leave behind linger still, and just like old habits, these tendencies die hard. I wish I could see the future, but the present will have to do. I am grateful for great friends who are always ready to really, truly listen and give thoughtful feedback. This has been quite a year for new experiences and new perspectives.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Digital Age

Facebook is a really great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family all across the globe. It's a great platform for discussing myriad topics and issues in near-real time, It's a convenient place for finding and relaying information and creativity...

But I feel like it has taken over my life, in the same way that TV seems to take over people's lives. I want to spend more time in my own head, getting to know myself, getting to explore my own thoughts and psyche, experiencing real time.. But with a massive distraction like Facebook, I am continuously drawn outside of my own mind. I am bombarded with new and often personally irrelevant information that I can be so fascinated and obsessed with, that I will sit for hours reading about things that I will never actually utilize in my life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Facebook for my love of learning (at least for entertainment value), but I have come to realize the extent to which I am simply distracting myself. Like watching MTV (or even the History channel) I am just spending my mental energy observing others as they produce, instead of digging deep into my own mental resources and producing something of my own. I have always kept up my creative writing as a hobby. But I am realizing how many books I could have written by now if I had spent anywhere NEAR the amount of time writing that I do on facebook.

I think I'm going to take a hiatus. I have said I would before, but I've never done it for any significant amount of time. I am still not sure how long I will do it for (something I will figure out before I start, so I have a clear goal). Perhaps it will be based on completing a work of some sort (screenplay, book, etc.) instead of a time frame. Maybe a good combination of both. I have a sneaky suspicion that after a month or two of not using it, I won't even have an interest in using it. I have given up a few other things in my life recently (smoking, drinking, etc), and I feel that this will be one of the more difficult ones for me, but perhaps one of the more significant ones, in terms of becoming a new/better person. Information is like a drug to my mind, and I need to break the cycle.

I have been second guessing this inkling that I should "log off" for a while, mostly because it makes me feel weak to have to go to such extremes to manage control over my compulsions, but habits are hard to break. They say that it takes at least as long to break a habit as it does to establish one, and I've been an FB'er for about 5 years.... ;)

I just need a healthy routine. I need to kick my laptop out of my bed, and sleep. I need to wake up in to morning and not roll over to log on. Even though I am fairly productive (okay, maybe not this past week) during the day, I feel like I waste my 'me' time doing absolutely nothing. I am pretty sure that the development of digital interfacing will soon be considered an essential part of being human. Perhaps in my lifetime, we will become what sci-fi has termed "Cyborgs". But I want to have a solid foundation in my biology before I make that step, and an essential part of that is being able to control my thoughts and actions, not simply to veg out and go with the flow.

I will probably be redirecting much of my time toward writing, so you may even see an increase of activity on my blog.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Universal Love

Just over a week ago, I had a life-changing brush with Death and the Devil himself, or at least a couple of impersonators who held my life in their hands. In the moments that my life was suspended before my eyes, I awoke. I don't know how else to put it. The entirety of human existence flashed before my eyes, and I saw quite clearly how this world is very much 'black-and-white'. Sure, everyone and everything is some shade of grey, but that only means that there are varying levels of black and white in everyone and everything.

Consider the classic, esoteric symbol of the Yin-Yang...


Remember in the 90s when these were all the rage? I used to draw these constantly, but until the past couple of years, I never really knew the depth of its symbolism. Although the symbol is widely known, the profundity, purity, and depth of the concept it represents eludes the vast majority of people today. It is ancient knowledge, not to mention that it doesn't translate well from its native eastern hemisphere to our western hemisphere (perhaps the symbol offers insight into that, as well?) but I will explain to you my interpretation of this symbol, and then attempt to get back on track. 


For the longest time, I just understood the yin-yang as representing good and bad, or male and female. Or duality in general. Which is perhaps all most people really care to know about it. But so much more is represented in it. It represents a flow of energy—a life force. Sir Paul wrote "Ebony and ivory sit together in perfect harmony.... There is good and bad in everyone..." This symbol depicts the concrecence of the male/female relationship, but it also represents the time dynamic of societies and cultures, it represents the flow of time, the trend of the masculine ideals of active power, logic and rigidity giving way to the feminine qualities of passive power, intuitive knowledge, tenderness...



I say all that to say this: Ultimately this symbol represents the qualities of Fear and Love, and their universal forms: "God" and "Satan".



God is love. God is Good. God is life.
Satan is fear. Satan is evil. Satan is entropy. 


Whether you believe in these traditional characters or not, they may be considered icons of their two respective modi: Love and Fear, and those who exhibit these same characteristics will naturally sort into beings of either Light, or Dark.

When we are told in church (or war, or family feuds, or volleyball games) that we "must choose a side", it is quite literally an invitation to take on the qualities by which we will govern ourselves. This is, in turn, how we will see and treat others, and the world at large. 



To get back to my religious experience of being assaulted by demons (those who have chosen to live and operate on fear), I found myself suspended in the air, midway between a scaffold, and the ground, staring into the vicious glare of one of these demons, who was attempting to create an association between mortal fear, and his own persona by physically and psychologically dominating me. I realized that his expression was iconic of nearly any depiction of demons in classical art. 



Having been involved in 20-something car accidents (none of them with serious injury), I can say that I am pretty well familiar with the term "My life flashed before my eyes", but in this case, that high-speed, adrenaline-assisted review of the facts was hijacked, and overwhelmed with the image of someone ready to kill me. Thankfully I escaped this encounter without much physical injury, but the psychological aspect followed me for another 12+ hours. I had a strong sample of what exactly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder consists of each time my phone rang, and I thought it might be this Satanist, or as I rode my motorcycle across the valley, and was gripped with a fear that my attacker would be in on-coming traffic, and run me off the road... Or his voice in my head. It was absolutely terrifying.

I am grateful that I have spent so much of my energy lately getting to know my inner self, and I was able to talk sense to my traumatized spirit, and release my soul from whatever psychological bonds that had been forced upon me. I truly believe that meditation has saved my life twice in the past 12 months.

After going through this whole ordeal, I have concluded that I can no longer try to exist on the imaginary plane between dark and light. There is no middle ground of the yin-yang. I am either Black, or White; Good or Evil; Loving, or Fearful. If I am light, I must choose if I wish to be the sole light amid the enveloping darkness. If I am darkness, I must be an enemy of light. There is no reconciling that there is a duality in me, as there is in everyone, but there is a chance for me to choose a side.

As I walked away from that situation, I came to a realization that my life would never be the same. That I could never unlearn what I had learned. I prayed. I called my closest friend. I came home and thought long and hard about who and what I am, and eventually I got up the courage to begin expelling the darkness in me. I intend to continue this process until I am a person who radiates light and love.

I believe that our lives are engineered to teach us. I believe that when we have learned what we came to learn, we are released from this realm. I know that I will never be a being of complete and total light, because I am anchored to this plane of existence by certain fears, and delusions. But one day I will be set free of that, and I want to be able to go toward the light, not to cower away from it in the darkness of oblivion.

It seems so preposterous to say, but in the days after that experience, I took inventory of my spirit, and found that I have some major blockages in my heart. I have been learning about the physiological manifestations of consciousness. The direct correlation between physical health and emotional well-being. When I discovered that my new perspective on life was going to require a *conscious* change of heart, I began immediately working on it. First, I had to clear my mind. I knew this meant no more substances, and no more addictive behaviors. I have had a lot of success with self-treatment chakra therapy. I realized  that this major blockage that I have been experiencing is centered in my heart chakra. It is going to take a lot of work to cleanse this chakra, but I have already begun. One week clean and sober, and I already feel like a new person, even though my substance abuse was negligible, being clean and sober has cleared my mind and body to a tremendous degree.

The next step was to review and adjust my emotional mind. What is so difficult about it, is that sentiment, and the discomfort of growth are perhaps the most powerful reasons to resist the dissolution of these types of blockages. But I have been astounded at how quickly the universe sweeps in to heal the wounds once you begin the process of extracting poison from your heart. It is a hard thing to remove and dispose of desires, especially ones you've held onto for years. But already I am being soothed. Already I am finding reasons to hope beyond my dreams of yesterday.

Two days after this profound, life-changing experience began, I got a phone call. A job offer. This job offer has now evolved into full-time employment out of state, at $50k/year. All of this sounded too good to be true, but it's not. I have been feeling impelled toward apprenticeship in a craft, and I cannot think of any better craft to learn than hardwood flooring, and no better place to learn it, than in San Diego. I am intimidated by the pace at which I will be trained, but I will be being trained in a skillset that is internationally marketable. I will come away with all the knowledge that I need to do my job ingrained in my brain, and I will have it everywhere I go. I will be fully trained in two years, and at that point, if I so choose, I will be able to strike out on my own, get my own tools and clients, and potentially make a six-figure salary. I am about to be 28 years old, and I couldn't be more excited to leave my youth behind, and get started with adulthood.

Thanks for the love, my beautiful universe :)

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fear vs. Love

I have recently undertaken to reboot my life. I had an experience that completely shifted my worldview, and inspired me to do more than simply survive for the sake of existing, just to bellyache about the state of the world around me. I have decided to take on a fair share of the work that must be done to change this world to a place I can be proud to leave behind someday (and hopefully not too soon).

I realized that I have been putting off adulthood for far too long. I have always felt young at heart. Sometimes  actually think I'm still 23. Seriously. But I'm going on 28. When I was 23, I didn't even think about being 28, because my health was so bad that I didn't see myself living another 5 years. But that actually was the case when I was 18, looking ahead to 23. So, since my inkling of impending death seems to be off, I may as well live as if I were someday going to be 56. Who knows? maybe by some great fortune, I will manage to hold onto the miracle of life for that long, or longer.

I had a brush with a real-life Demon about a week ago, and over the next few days, I have contemplated the idea of being "scared straight". It is a difficult thing to wrap one's head around. In the end, I decided that I WAS being "scared straight", but had I allowed myself to be scared straight by this demon, I would be allowing myself to be "scared straight to hell", by continuing to associate with that type of person.

To me, Demons are people who understand the tactics and methods of Satanic power, and Satanic power is simply that which seeks to control through fear, whether that be violence, deception, coercion, or psychological domination, or all of the above. In my particular situation, it was all of the above. I was drugged and hazed on a construction site by my boss and co-worker. It rattled my brain (perhaps even a mild concussion) but I escaped the situation without major physical injury, and with a profound insight into the nature of fear, and how it has played a large part in my life, since my childhood. I didn't seek it out, but perhaps in not heretofore taking such things as demons, and Satan seriously, I inadvertently invited this person—this demon—into my life. At any rate, I have had a life-changing insight into human nature, spirituality, and those behaviors which traditionally sort into either 'good' or 'evil'. To use an age-old example to demonstrate this insight, I will revert to the religious teachings of my childhood to show what I have learned. After all, one's upbringing tends to be the lens through which they see the world. What better way than an epic tale of Love and Fear?

 Love is an attribute of God (and godly people). Fear is a tool of Satan, and his followers. Now, just to clear this up at the get-go, the term "god fearing" has never really resonated with me, because I have never understood an association with an all loving, all caring and all wise creator as being someone to fear. The word seems to have no place in a sentence (or place) with 'God'.

Satan, or "Lucifer" used fear of the unknown in order to coax Eve into partaking of the fruit of knowledge. It might be claimed that the *original* Original Sin, was giving into fear. Fear, and not faith, led Eve to make her choice.
It is my personal belief that Satan has permeated every aspect of humanity since that day at the dawn of human existence, including that of organized religion. One of the guiding principles of my spiritual journey has been to steer clear of fear. However, I had no idea how deep seated that fear actually was in my own life until very recently. Satan rules this realm through promises of destroying our souls if we wander from the "straight and narrow path"... perhaps, it could be reasoned that he puts us on straight and narrow paths of his own through giving us fear of wandering astray from it, or wondering about other ways of living. If we are possessed by fear, we are not likely to take risks, even the risk to look askance to see the beckoning of angels to leave the Satanic path we are on.

I believe that there are many, many "straight and narrow paths". The fact that a path is straight and narrow doesn't imply that it is right. It certainly seems audacious to me to claim that it is the only path. In fact, I don't know that God ever used the term 'straight and narrow path', I believe the line is "Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way..." If someone claims their "path" to be the only one that will get you into heaven (or cerain of its kingdoms), it seems more an indication to me that it is of the devil than of God. After all, Satan's plan was one where we had no choices. We were not able to wander about and explore in his plan, we were all to be set on a path, and none were to be lost. In his plan, there was ONE way. The most efficient way to envision this, would be a like a straight, narrow corridor. No twists and turns. Perhaps even the presence of light is not even an indication of Godliness. I used to associate such a light with the so-called 'straight and narrow path'—a well-lit path that led to the gates of heaven— but Satan never wanted us to be groping around in the dark. He wanted us to *see him* as the only one way to heaven.

Bear with me, I know this sounds like I am embracing Satanism. I am not. I am suggesting that Satan has embraced organized religion, as an efficient set of precepts into which he is able to inject fear, and thereby defeat the practitioners of that religion who absorb his fear-mongering teachings. Through long held traditions (not limited to, but certainly including, religion) he has coaxed our understanding of the world to align with his own: That there is only ONE way—his way. A dictatorship. It makes sense that he would spell it all out for us, and deny us our choices. In fact, I believe that God's plan was, indeed, one of "forgiveness", simply for the fact that He wanted us to have a choice. Forgiveness implies that we are able to make choices, and naturally make mistakes in the first place, and then be forgiven for it. This is kinda the concept behind blessings, as well. We are blessed because we try and fail, and are given another chance, or a different opportunity and tool to succeed. In Satan's plan for humanity, "forgiveness" was not in his vocabulary.  "Not one soul will be lost," he said "I wont allow it." We weren't allowed to make choices which would prevent us from returning to God.

However, according to the story, God refused that plan and the word "forgiveness" became part of the human vocabulary. Satan's recourse was to play upon the meaning of the word, and thereby play on our fears that we would not be forgiven; that we were not worth forgiving. He perverted the teaching of forgiveness with a deep-set fear. he has convinced us that deep down, that forgiveness has its limits. 'Yes, it's for everyone, and yes, God will forgive you... but he will *not* be mocked. He forgives everyone, but not forever. He will forgive you a dozen times—perhaps a trillion—but eventually, he will draw the line...'

While this isn't true of an all-loving God, we begin to believe it. We are convinced by our shame, that surely God isn't as freely forgiving the hundredth time around as he was the first. We doubt ourselves; 'Surely others don't falter as often as me...'  We think we must be the only one in the world who needs forgiveness this much, this often. We begin to feel ashamed that we have to be forgiven so often, because we "know better" and do it anyway. After all, that was exactly Eve's mistake; she knew better, but she did it anyway... We feel fear of being punished by God, for not "walking uprightly" every day, for not keeping our covenants made in His holy presence. We fear that we have fallen from his grace, and under the power of Satan. And truly, we are under the power of Satan when such fear rules our minds. Satan, not God, not Christ, is the one who utilizes a "Scared Straight" program. Satan's fear-mongering has absolutely no place in a "religious experience", God would not allow threats to be made toward His followers by Satan in Godly, sacred space. As the adage goes "if you can't see God from where you are, who moved? You, or God?" Unfortunately, for all the well-meaning and truly good work that religion does in this world, religion is susceptible to corruption. We have seen it in the news, where holy men do damnable things to innocent children. We live in a world where wars from time immemorial have been driven by fundamentally misguided ideas of God's love, or justice... God gave Satan power over this world, but he gave us each power over Satan. He is unable to take our power from us, by virtue of our having mortal bodies. But that doesn't mean that we cannot give our power to him. They say that Satan cannot abide in holy places, and that God cannot abide in unholy places. But it is up to the individual if their head space will be pure and holy. If we attend church out of fear, we bring fear into the church. Chapels may be sacred space, but they cannot purge the human mind of unholiness. Through establishing a religious tradition of "scaring straight", Satan has sneaked into spirituality. I am not a fan of religion, because it blurs the concepts of spirituality. When one simply deals in terms of spirituality, it is not so hard to discern between good and bad spirits. But when one tries to observe even their own spirituality through the lens of religion, things become much more unclear and convoluted.

Fear can be propagated very subtly. Satan's tactics have not been so much one of word choice, but of word re-definition. 'Worthiness' becomes a pursuit, because we have a fear of being unworthy. I hate those words, because the root of them is "worth". We all have worth. Religion (or Satan, through religion) has simply redefined in our minds what it must mean to be "worth" heaven, or blessings, or temples... "Worthiness" is a scale of measure for the imparting of conditional love, and God's love is NOT conditional. Again, fear drives us away from God. It causes us to hide from his love. This is the fear that Satan taught Adam and Eve when they heard God coming, and hid their nakedness. Shame is fear. Satan gives Adam and Eve an idea of obscuring themselves before God, in order to hide their guilt. But of course, God knew. God knew because he *created* them, and their impromtu invention of clothing could not fool him. Likewise, our feelings of "unworthiness" established through feeling judged by others, or by our church leaders, who want to know if we are "temple worthy", has nothing to do with our worthiness to speak to, and be spoken to by God. We are told by any given religion that we need that particular religion in order to gain access to God. As if God is helpless (or, much more disturbing, that he is unwilling) to embrace us with his love until we have ascribed to a very particular religion, and its dogma. This is why I believe that Satan has a stronghold on organized religion. Because, though they are quite adept at showing conditional love, religion is propagated through fear of damnation. But, paradoxically enough, we actually "dam" ourselves from progress when we allow others to give us laundry lists of what God demands before he will show his love. God's love is unconditional. Only WE can place conditions on it. When we do, we no longer feel God's unconditional love.

I know I haven't spoken hardly at all about the experience that led to this insight, so I will try to be as succinct as possible here, and wrap up my long-winded entry.

I was thrown from a scaffold by my employer. He did so in a mad rage, and it was so sudden and unexpected that I was put in mortal fear. I didn't know if there was a bolder behind me, and my brains were going to be dashed out, I just knew that I had absolutely no control over the situation. I was flying backward through the air, and all I could see was the look of a drug induced rage and contempt on my attacker's face. It epitomized every artistic depiction of Satan, or Demons in classic art: furrowed brow, bared teeth, glaring eyes. I realized this all as I was still in mid-air, wondering if this would be the last image I would ever see. I was simultaneously associating this fearful image with the fear of death, and as this was happening, my mind was reeling with what I could possibly have done to avoid it. The answers that I came up with were (understandably) rooted in fear: "I shouldn't have done that" "If I survive this, I'll never make that mistake again" "please please please don't kill me"... etc. It was as if he had taken control not only of my physical body (his hands gripped around my throat), but had actually injected himself into my brain, and usurped all my thoughts. I have been in quite a number of life threatening situations, the kind where they say your life flashes before your eyes (it does, in a very real sense) but none in which I was so completely unable to have any sense of peace. I have always been able to come to terms with my impending death, even in the milliseconds preceding a car crash.. but this time, I was tortured with the thoughts of how I might have behaved differently (not raised my voice to him, checked my ego, chosen my words more carefully, etc.). In short, those moments in which I was anticipating the impact, and possible mortal wounds, I was experiencing hell. It took what felt like an eternity, and for that eternity, I was racked with regret, and torment of how my choices had led me to this. I and landed flat on my back, in relatively soft dirt. He and and my co-worker pinned me down for perhaps 30-seconds, and continued to physically and psychologically dominate me. It was a very methodical way of asserting their dominance through fear. I was so shocked by the violent outburst that I my 'fight or flight' instinct didn't even kick in. The whole point was to put me in mortal fear, and to associate it with blind obedience, subservience, submission. It was a ploy to take my power from me by frightening me into giving it away. The 'deal' that I was supposed to make, in my head, was one where I would never question or contend his authority again. This is the core concept of the type of discipline I was raised with. I don't think that requires much explanation on my part, though it may require more reflection and pondering on the reader's part...

They said it was like an "initiation" and that they had never let it get out of control. 10 minutes later they were acting like nothing happened.  But as I walked away in a daze, I was already making plans to take back control of my own life. To never allow myself to be in such a situation again, to never allow myself to so mistreat another human being. I walked away with a certainty of the reality of 'Good' and 'Evil', and I committed myself to purging myself of the fear that had just been injected into me. Over the next few days I have realized that I have many more fears, that have been with me much longer. And I am committed to seeking out love, and replacing these fears with love and Godliness as well.

Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Song Ever Written


FIRST SONG EVER WRITTEN

I walked along, I talked with God
none to call my own, alone I trod
I sang a tune, no one was listening
under the moon the dew was glistening

'I'm calling you
can you hear me?
I'm calling you
I need you near me'

Then there was you, God said he made you
I needed love, and so he gave you
I only knew of you... and you knew of me
until I met you beneath that tree

I smelled your skin... passed close by you
but our innocence you kept inside you
I spoke to you: 'Did you hear me
when I called to you "I need you near me"?'

I went to pray, to plead for more
all night and day, fraught to the core
'I'm asking you, why must you test me?
I'm begging you, please come and bless me'
God said the fruit, it was forbidden
'but what's the use?' ...no reason given.



I woke at dawn, I heard you crying
'My God is gone! I think I'm dying....'
I pulled you close, I tried to kiss you
you ran away, and how I miss you!

I'm calling you
please forgive me.
what will I do
without you with me?




Saturday, July 6, 2013

Frank Thoughts on Religion, Science and Faith

It may not be abundantly apparent, but I have come to a considerable level of peace about my religious background, toward which I have been guilty of directing quite a lot of anger, animosity, poison, bitterness and resentment.

At this point, I regard those years lost to a rigid mindset founded upon years of indoctrination that I was part of a select group privy to the only truth worth knowing, and see that time essentially as a catalyst which sparked within me an unquenchable inferno of curiosity about the world around me. For so long, even the mention of "science" put me on the alert for "untruth". For so long, I believed that the world was 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs were just remnants from "God's failed worlds"... For so long, I closed my ears to empirical evidence because it conflicted with the narrative of a book I was assured held not only the truth of the matter, but the very keys of my salvation. I wasn't ready to challenge the tenets of my religion, and risk the fate of my eternal soul, in favor of "Man's ways" which are always lower than God's ways. I couldn't disappoint my fellow believers, I couldn't doubt. It wasn't worth it. It was, forgive the expression, a No-brainer.

But, along the road, something changed. I began to consult science. I began to actually engage with theories. I began to learn the history of science, and how very un-convoluted (albeit generally beyond my own realm of knowledge) these scientific explanations actually were. The world is not 6,000 years old. I once had considered science to be for the lesser mind, for those not up to the task of true Faith. It had seemed simply to be the wild imaginings of a few desperate minds who couldn't handle the truth.

I think what gave me such a dismal, fearful view of science, was that it had always tempted me. And during times of so-called "Faith-crises", I considered MYSELF to be one of those desperate, lesser minds. I felt stupid for not "getting it"; why wouldn't God answer my prayers as a 7, nearly-8 year-old child, pleading to know if I should get baptized? Why did this trend continue through every rite of passage as I became a Young Man and was told to pray about receiving various callings and priesthood offices? I always came to the same conclusion: that I already KNEW what the right thing to do was, and God was not going to be tempted by "sign-seekers".

 I had always been a little uncomfortable with the attention I was given in the weeks prior to such advancements in the church. I guess I just didn't care for the attention, but it also seemed a little vainglorious. We were asked to stand in front of the congregation to be given the ol' "those in favor, please indicate by the uplifted hand..." routine. the process gave me the feeling of something resembling a jury of my peers (but mostly of my Elders), and the Pollice Verso of ancient Rome. As the years went on, I also became uncomfortable with the very apparent, arbitrary regard, that I (and every other "worthy" boy) was entitled to in Sunday School, when we made such an advancement. When we were ordained, we were praised and patted on the back incessantly for the duration of the 3-hour block of church meetings. Not only had we passed judgement, we were something of a celebrity. Even when it wasn't "our day" as Young Men, we were often cited as gleaming examples of what it was to be faithful in our callings. Perhaps one Sunday it would be praise for performing the ordinances of the sacrament, or giving a talk, etc... I had a very doting Sunday School teacher as a priest, but she had a different tone when speaking to us "Young Men" as opposed to the "Young Women". It's something I can't ever really explain, except that we could all tell, and it was really awkward... She really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find praise for our female classmates, and it almost invariably fell along the lines of their modesty, always with a smack of hesitation that made us all cringe that we were about to hear another lecture on the topic of dating, modesty, etc. I was pretty well used to staring at my shoes to hide my red face during those years.

As a 10 or 11 year-old, I wrote a letter to God, after a lesson about how Joseph Smith did the same while in prison, asking why he was so persecuted. An answer had come to him in the form of scripture. I wrote my own letter. I didn't want scripture, I just wanted that 'burning in the bosom' that the Book of Mormon promised. To my mind, it was about the most sincere supplication I could compose. It was a demonstration of earnestness, and I wasn't seeking a sign-- Not one that I hadn't been promised, anyway.
I hid the letter beneath a box of stereo equipment in my dad's office area. I guess, at the end of writing it, I felt the process wasn't complete until it was "sent", but reasoned that the means of sending it were more gesture than anything, since God could see right over my shoulder as I wrote it, let alone that he knew my thoughts before I even penned them, possibly before I even thought them. I concluded that I would leave it under that box because I didn't recall it ever being moved in the years since it had been placed there, and surely it wouldn't move before I received my answer.

I'm not sure how long it was before my dad rearranged his office area, but I remember the day he did. I didn't want him to know I had been "futzing around" in there, because I would likely be in trouble. But I also didn't want him to read a letter that was not meant for human eyes. I dashed in with singularity of purpose, snatched the letter, and bolted back out. My dad didn't know what the heck was going on, but he didn't ask. Very uncharacteristic of him to let something like that slide without intervening. To be honest, I don't recall what burning woes I wrote it over, but they were every bit as eminent in my young mind as any mortal threat. I wish now that I had saved that letter instead of burning it, because it would have proved invaluable to me in assessing my religious experience as an adult, struggling with the same torment and anguish, likely over the same types of paradoxical dogma. It would certainly be worth at least a chuckle at this point.

After writing off the no-brainer approach to religion as a 18, or 19-year old, I began zen meditation and yoga. Not surprisingly, I got a lot out of it in terms of feeling peace, or "the spirit". I had acknowledged years before that I could not distinguish the "Holy Ghost" from the wave of emotion I felt while listening to instrumental rock music. and I had begun to believe that they were one and the same sensation. I also began to encounter and appreciate philosophy.

It called to me. I was eager to explore my own thoughts on my existence, and what I valued. I had come around to the idea that what I thought actually did matter more than unquestioning obedience, whether right or wrong. I knew I had morals independent of dogma, or doctrine, and I was interested in learning their root, or origin. This didn't mean that I couldn't find truth in the "gospel", but I was so burned out on the Sunday school answers, that I went into semi-retirement from all things to do with God for a couple of years. God, whether he existed or not, did not concern me. It had no bearing on my behavior. If I was going to make it into heaven, it would be because I was choosing— Nay, contemplating, reasoning, discovering— the right. I was participating in the process with my God-given mental facilities, and coming to my conclusions. I was done with outsourcing the process of deciding what I would do. I wanted nothing to do with the "low road" I wasn't just leaving the church to sow wild oats, or to 'eat, drink, and be merry'. Quite the contrary; I simply felt that I was betraying a sense of obligation by not seeking for the answers to my burning questions, wherever I may find them. Soon enough, I was calling myself a "Theistic Existentialist".

While it's not a science, per se Existentialism takes a devoutly empirical approach to life. All we know (as human beings) is what we see, touch, hear, taste, and smell.  We (as human beings) cannot account for what anyone else feels, or sees, et al. Because it is outside our own realm of experience. We know that we exist, and that is enough. "I think, therefore I am."

Existentialism takes the position that we cannot cite our human nature for our choices. We are all on a level playing field. No one human is any more human than any other human. We all make our own choices. And when I make a choice for myself, I am essentially casting a vote on acceptable human behavior for EVERYONE. I create the world I live in through my actions.  If I lie, cheat, laze, steal, litter, love, hate... I am condoning the same behavior in my neighbor, in my children, in my parents... I am demonstrating that I have thought it through, and acted in accordance with my values. And my values are not more or less important than any one else's. Not only that, but after the fact (say, lying, for example), if I regret my behavior I cannot say that I don't really hold that value, because my actions have demonstrated that I did indeed put value on that behavior. In fact, Jean Paul-Sartre goes so far as to state that it is impossible for us to act contrary to our values, because our behaviors are our values in action. I may have behaved in ignorance, but the choice was still mine. If I don't know what I am doing, then I can only do what feels right... But what if what feels right is wrong? I suppose that if it can be demonstrated that what I feel is right is actually wrong, then there will be some empirical basis, or some graph that will demonstrate it. Otherwise, I have done no more wrong than any other person who has done wrong, as long as I have not acted contrary to my sense of morality.

This is often indited as being a slippery slope of moral relativity. However, in my experience the existentialist is less concerned with the relativity of his moral decisions than the Christian, who can always "act now, and ask forgiveness later", or the age old approach of sinning during the week, and repenting on Sunday all the while with some self-righteous conviction that they could never be as bad of sinners as atheists, or rapists, or Brother/Sister So-and-So.... Moral relativism is alive and well in many a congregation, but generally in the form of relating others' morality to their church buddies, and taking pride in keeping their own lives out of the gossip circles.

While they may make amends, the Existentialist doesn't repent in any religious sense. The Atheistic Existentialist would say that this is because there is no one-- no God, no savior-- who can undo what has been done, and therefore what is done is done for time and all eternity. I cannot simply ask forgiveness of my local deity and absolve myself of a moment of indiscretion. "What we do in life, echos in the eternities..." No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Cards. The Theist Existentialist would say that, whether God exists or not, he should not have any bearing on our choices, because true morality comes from within, and not from external compulsion. If one is moral out of fear of punishment, or desire for reward, he is not moral at all.

In fact, to be a liiiittle more scientific about it... according to a prominent developmental psychology theory, Lawrence Kohlberg's Progression of Moral Reasoning, these two reasons are the lowest stages of moral reasoning, and are generally observed in toddlers. "I'll do the right thing for fear of punishment" is the most basic  At some point, these toddlers are supposed to progress to the or "I'll do what is right, as long as I get a reward." sense of moral obligation, and remain there until (or throughout) adulthood. It might be a better example to say "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine". This back scratching approach is reason enough for many many people to never question their beliefs, because to jeopardize the status quo is simply not worth it. Take a look around the pews next time you're in church: Back-scratching is a MAJOR factor ;).

Most adults, through simple habit, or social conditioning, arrive at the stage of moral reasoning that "you do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do". This stage represents the bulk of everyone I have engaged with in a religious discussion. At least they consciously aspire to this stage of reasoning (there are still another 2-3 stages beyond this one, and Kohlberg asserts that everyone aims a little higher than they actually fall on the slide scale of moral reasoning, but that's a good thing any way you slice it, and it goes nicely with the whole theme of "repent now, try again next week"). I concluded that to truly be a principled, moral person, you cannot plagiarize your convictions out of a book, or from a conference talk. You have to be able to write and reason your own morality. At some point in my religious discussions, the question usually is posed (and usually by me) "How do we know what is right, or true?". Almost invariably, I am either given a scriptural reference, or a tearful testimony of what they "know beyond a shadow of a doubt".... But while these have always triggered emotional responses in me, they have not satisfied my query: how do you know? Or, if that is how you know; how do I know? Afterall, the existentialist cannot take another's experience as "Gospel truth", because for all the existentialist knows, the bearer of the testimony is as much a figment of their imagination as the God of which is being testified may reasonably be believed to be.... You can't just inject emotional knowledge into the equation and call it upper-case Truth.

I held onto the appellation of "Theist" in identifying as an Existentialist, not because I had spoken to God, or because God had spoken to me. Actually, to be frank, it was because I had very little concept of what God might be. I had grown up with a very black and white (yet with so many shades of grey) concepts of God, and who he was. He was He who always got an upper-case He, Him, His. He was still out there, I just couldn't let a fear of consequence govern my obedience to Him. I was not simply one of his children, following the rules to escape a beating, or eternal fire and brimstone, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth for that matter. I didn't know who He was, but I wasn't questioning His existence.

When I was about 22 or so, (after coming back into "full fellowship" in the church, yet again, for a year or so), I— yet again, and not for the last time— became disillusioned with the tenets and rituals of organized religion. I stopped going, this time with the full blessing of my Bishop, who was a real mentor for me at that time, and someone who I respected immensely and independently of his title (and alleged stewardship over me). I read a book published in the late 1700s by Thomas Paine titled "The Age of Reason". The book is a very methodical and logically argued rejection of the (King James Version) Holy Bible. After reading it, I shook off the title of Theist, and began to consider myself a Deist.

Up to this point, I didn't think you could do cease being Theist, without being Atheist (but really though, that may be more true that I should admit). I had never heard of Deism before. Paine made the case that the Bible is one of the most incoherent, outlandish and inconsistent writings in existence, and holds nothing of a knowledge of God.it is, indeed, blaspheming God by the use of his name. It has been a while since I have read that book (little more than a pamphlet really...) and I'm not going to brush up for the purpose of making his case for him here, but it rocked my world. It seemed to me unthinkable to challenge the Bible, and yet here was a man who had done so as a contemporary of the Founding Fathers of our country. Christianity is on trial in his book, and he is a ruthless and effective witness to the disjointed testimonies of the gospels. He is a Deist. Deism claims a belief in God, but that he doesn't interfere in the affairs of mankind. My ears perked up, or my mind was lit up... at any rate, this explained why I had never had a conversation with God. I could still believe that I was being tested by him, and be completely okay with the fact that he was not doling out answers to this veritable "Pop Quiz" of a life experience. He doesn't answer prayers, in the same way that teachers don't answer questions during an Exam. He doesn't interfere with the natural order of the universe in the same way that a toy maker doesn't start a top spinning on his workbench, before applying touch up paint. He doesn't interfere with the consequences and progression of our choices. Whether it's misplacing car keys, or sending a child off to war and then praying for his/her safety. We are responsible for our choices, and God loves us just the same! I was coming around the idea of being in a life-long IQ test on a spinning planet set in motion in time immemorial by a creator, not a conspirator.

After one more bout with the LDS faith, and yet another failure to pray, fast, and study myself into belief, or even contentment, I wrote off organized religion. I have been inactive for about 3 years now, and not even a miracle will bring me back; there are plenty of miracles to be had outside of organized religion.

I don't know what to call myself now. I have never felt a closer connection to God than I do now. Not the "Heavenly Father" that I grew up worshiping, mind you... but a completely separate deity, one that doesn't answer to the attributes heaped upon "him"(?) by the doctrine of any organized religion.

8 months ago, I was about as certain as one can be that almost every claim of interaction with God was simply a psycho-social conditioned interpretation of one's emotions. Now I am not so sure. I have had undeniable spiritual experiences that have been the most beautiful, healing, and affirming experiences of my entire existence. One thing I do know, is that I have found a faith that works for me, and it is unlike any faith I have heard before in my life. I grew up being taught that "Faith is a belief in things that are hoped for, but not seen". Yet this never rang true to me, any more than if I were to be told that "what you hope to be true, is true." (in many ways, I would say that that is a very good description of what I was taught). I was also taught that "Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things...", yet quite nearly every "Testimony" or "witness of truth" I heard in my time in the Mormon church began "...I know this church is true". I said it myself many times over, because I was also taught that "A testimony is found in the bearing [sharing] of it..."
and "fake it till you make it..." I am still haunted by my "experimenting upon the word" of those bits of lay-clergy advice. People still hold me accountable for a testimony that I have long since renounced. I know they don't mean it in a manipulative way, but that is the inherent nature of the process of indoctrination, and subsequent abdication. Those who redact their testimonies, or no longer believe, are painted as deceivers who never had the faith to gain a REAL testimony, and are therefore unqualified to make statements regarding the gospel, because they have not truly participated. Or else, they are told (with lots of love) "I KNOW you don't really believe what you say about the church: I have heard you bear your testimony of it...." It leaves me speechless, because I am being held accountable by my former Sunday school teachers for things my mother whispered in my ear at the pulpit on monthly Fast and Testimony Sunday... I don't know how to tell them that the gold star they gave me for that month just doesn't factor into my belief system anymore.

I have also redacted my opinions on science, but only because I have made claims that I no longer espouse. And that's what "good" scientists do: they apply the scientific theory to their theories on science. I used to consider science to be infallible, but science is actually keenly aware of its fallibility, and perpetually assesses the need to amend or replace a claim or theory. Science is obsessed with modifying its position to reflect progress toward Truth. Science is well acquainted with not having the answers, because that is where science lives. Science dwells on a precipice where only the pertinence and reliability of the knowledge it acquires keeps it from plummeting into the bottomless chasm of confusion, from which is is perpetually redeeming itself through the harrowing process of experience, and experiment.

The new faith that I have found is a comfortable balance upon the backs of the emotional, subjective, non-sense, high stakes world of Religion, and the empirical, logical, high-risk Mr. Spock-like world of Science.

I have meditated on my soul for nearly a decade now, and this year I had a tremendous breakthrough. I know I have a soul. I know that that soul exists because I can feel it, and I can hear it. Not only emotionally, but physically. And I have come to the conclusion that the energy flowing through my body, while it may simply manifest in scientific laboratories as an Electromagnetic field, is actually the flow of my soul. Call it chi, call it electricity, call it an Aura, call it my spirit... It is there. And it can be positive, and it can definitely be negative. It can even take the positive energy around me and turn it into negative energy, but it can also take the negative energy around me, and make it positive.

And in this EMF, I have a unique signal, or signature, which is what makes me a unique individual. My Self. It is in a constant state of flux. And when I am purely myself, it is a radiant, natural euphoria-educing energy field. I know this because I have experienced it.

What makes my EMF unique is the knots in it. Call them blocked Chakras, or demons, or interference... But I can feel them. They are physically there. There are knots in my soul, and while I cannot see them, I can feel them. Like a spelunker in a pitch black cave, I can feel the twists and binds. As soon as I have traced out the knot, I begin to untangle it. When it is untangled, I may continue going deeper and deeper into my soul, til I find another knot that impedes my progress. because I can feel them, I have a stubborn faith in my ability to untie those knots. I alone am responsible for that process. Even if it takes all the time I have in this world, I have that stubborn faith that I can do it. A great man is said to have said 'if you have as much faith as a mustard seed, you can move mountains'. My faith in my own potential--whether God-given, or strictly happenstance, is what allows me to tap into that potential. Faith has never worked for me when I put it outside of myself. Faith is confidence, faith is taking a second look at your qualities, not calling for a lifeline. I consider myself to have a leg up in being able to feel these knots, even if at times they seem impossible. At least I am not grasping in the dark for something that I have been told is there, but which I have no personal knowledge of. Touch is knowledge. And sometimes that's all the empirical evidence I need.