Sunday, January 31, 2010

Embracing the return movement

There are two basic movements in life; the outward movement and the return movement. I believe Eckhart Tolle speaks of this in “A New Earth”. The outward movement roughly equates with the ‘morning’ of our lives and is characterised by growth, learning, expansion, development, acquisition and an ever-widening sphere of influence. We grow to physical maturity, learning all the time, until we enter the ‘adult world’ and embark on a quest of accumulating; gradually increasing our possessions and money, progressing in our chosen field of endeavour, finding a spouse, maybe even physically multiplying by having children. There comes a point, however, when this cycle naturally comes to an end. The diminishment of all that we’ve spent a lifetime acquiring and accumulating begins to set in. Our career begins to wind down as we head toward retirement, the children we spent many years rearing leave home, our bodies begin to age, our health perhaps deteriorates, we find our sphere of influence significantly lessening and this diminishment manifests most starkly as our friends and loved ones begin to pass over.

Is that a depressing thought?

It needn’t be, for it’s simply the natural rhythm and flow of life. Look outside your window and you’ll see this rhythmic cycle unfold as the seasons pass in natural succession. You can’t avoid it: although humankind spends a lot of time and money trying to prolong and extend the outward movement, clinging on like grasping beggars. Ultimately all such efforts prove fruitless. The resistance to embracing and accepting the return movement is the cause of so much needless suffering in our culture and undoubtedly stems from our retarded attitude to death. As a species, we’re out of balance with life. We try to cling to the summer months and refute the winter, refusing to accept that it’s a normal, necessary part of the cycle. We become fearful, dysfunctional little beings locked in a state of misery and desperate clinging, causing so much suffering for ourselves and the world at large. We block the flow of life and in so doing all kinds of gunge gets clogged up around us.

On a personal level, I experienced the premature cessation of the outward movement when I lost my health and all the things that were previously important to me (though frequently taken for granted and unacknowledged) were stripped away: health, job, social life, many friends (the sad fact is that when you stop going ‘out’ as once you did many people rapidly lose interest in you). All the old ideas I had of who I thought I was, what I was doing and what was important were stripped away. I was forced into the return movement. Everything started to dissipate and slip away.

What remains when that happens? What remains indeed! The return movement is not something to be feared and avoided. In fact, it’s one of life’s greatest gifts and a true portal to spiritual awakening. When all the outer props are gone, when all the old images you have of yourself stand revealed as empty and hollow, all the remains is...yourself. By ‘yourself’ I don’t necessarily mean a ‘person’. I’ve come to see the ‘person’ as something wholly arbitrary; a collection of habits, memories, beliefs and behavioural patterns, none of which has any solidity or permanence, and which shift and alter all the time. What always remains? What is the one changeless aspect of self that will always be there, no matter how much our outward experience may shift, no matter how much our beliefs and concepts and self-images alter? This is not an easy question to answer, and I encourage everyone to ask this question of themselves. It is perhaps the most powerful line of enquiry in the universe!

Let go of everything you possess, and everything you think you are or ‘ought’ to be and see what remains. This is an excellent question which just popped in my mind and which I’ve found remarkably powerful: “If I let go of ______, what remains?” Insert whatever you like there. It’s helpful to explore what you would be without the concepts you have of yourself. For instance: “If I let go of my need to be a ‘good’ person, what remains?” “If I let go of my religious or spiritual beliefs, what remains?” “If I let go of all my judgements about myself and others, what remains?” “If I let go of my need to be a good mother/father/teacher/astronaut, what remains?” “If I let go of my fear of death, what remains?” “If I let go of my need to liked by everyone, what remains?” Try it! Try letting go of all your hopes and fears and all your most cherished concepts about yourself and the world. And really be open to exploring the answer. Don’t try to answer with words or concepts, just be open to an actual experience of what remains. If you let go of all memories, all perceptions, all beliefs, all hopes and dreams, all fears and doubts and judgements, what remains?? When all of that is stripped away, what is left?

While I urge everyone to seek the answer for themselves, I will also offer what I have discovered. All that remains for me when all else is stripped away is...a sense of being. This isn’t something new, but is something that has always been there, buried under an ocean of thoughts, beliefs, props, concepts and mental noise. I could lose everything in my life, every belief and I could have my entire memory wiped and I would still experience a sense of being.

When everything else is gone, all I know for certain is that...I am. There is awareness. This awareness is not a person, and it’s not limited despite seemingly being enclosed in a locked physical receptacle. That awareness - or consciousness - is the only constant in my life. It’s the only unchanging facet of my existence, whereas everything else in my life has been in a continual and continuing process of change and dissolution, like clouds in the sky, ever shifting, disappearing and reforming.

In this dream-like reality of ours in which even the seemingly solid and immutable is forever changing and dissolving, what is the single changeless element? What never changes? What always remains? The great masters and awakened souls have told us that to know the changeless amid the ever-changing is to know the difference between truth and illusion and to be grounded and rooted in that realisation of Self (or ‘being’, ‘awareness’, ‘consciousness’, or whatever words you care to use as pointers) is the key to being liberated. Like when you’re dreaming at night and occasionally while still immersed in the dream you become conscious that it’s just a dream and with that realisation the dream suddenly loses its ability to scare you and grip you. Rooted in that lucidity, you see the dream for what it is and can actually begin to enjoy it and consciously mould it with your intent, just for the sheer fun of it.

That’s what I wanted to share. Maybe it will mean something to you, maybe it won’t. The outward movement of life comes with tremendous energy and excitement, but it also tends to move us further and further away from our original undifferentiated state. We lose ourselves in the dream and give reality and solidity to what is ultimately transient and hollow. By all means have fun in this state, but don’t resist the return movement when it comes. It’s a portal back to our self, our true nature, if we chose to see it as such. In this way, the more we seem to lose, the more we gain, the more we remember and realise what we truly are, the more conscious we become of what always remains.

I believe this is what authentic spiritual awakening is; not adopting a certain set of beliefs and rituals and clothing the personality in new garments, but a conscious dropping away of all that is transient and false and a realisation of the one, changeless reality that underlies all form. It’s an invitation that’s open to all of us, at any point in our life. Alas, it seems that many of us need to experience great sorrow and suffering and loss in order to be forcibly shoved toward this awakening. But that’s another discussion. All we really need to do is accept and embrace the limitations we face in our lives and use them to go beyond and find that within us which is, and ever has been, beyond all limitation. This is the invitation to freedom.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wake up, wake up, wherever you are

More words from Nisargadatta's "I Am That":

“All effort leads to more effort; whatever was built up must be maintained, whatever was acquired must be protected against decay or loss. Whatever can be lost is not really one’s own; and what is not your own of what use can it be to you? In my world, nothing is pushed about, all happens by itself.”

“Without knowledge of the knower there can be no peace.”

“I can only tell you what I know from my own experience. When I met my guru, he told me: “You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense ‘I am’, find your real self.” I obeyed him, because I trusted him. I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence. And what a difference it made, and how soon. It took me only three years to realise my true nature.”

“The way to truth lies through destruction of the false. To destroy the false, you must question your most inveterate beliefs. Of these the idea that you are the body is the worst. With the body comes the world, with the world - God, who is supposed to have created the world and thus it starts - fears, religions, prayers, sacrifices, all sorts of systems - all to protect and support the child-man, frightened out of his wits by monsters of his own making. Realise that what you are cannot be born nor die and with the fear gone, all suffering ends.”

“What the mind invents, the mind destroys. But the real is not invented and cannot be destroyed. Hold on to that over which the mind has no power.”

“Cease to be the object and become the subject of all that happens; once having turned within, you will find yourself beyond the object. When you have found yourself, you will find that you are also beyond the subject, that both the subject and the object exist within you, but you are neither.”

“Renounce all lesser desires. As long as you are satisfied with the lesser, you cannot have the highest. Whatever pleases you keeps you back. Until you realise the unsatisfactoriness of everything, its transiency and limitation, and collect your energies in one great longing, even the first step is not made...Nothing physical or mental can give you freedom. You are free once you understand that your bondage is of your own making and you cease forging the chains that bind you.”

“By themselves neither pleasure nor pain enlighten. Only understanding does. Once you have grasped the truth that the world is full of suffering you will find the urge and energy to go beyond it. Pleasure puts you to sleep and pain wakes you up. If you do not want to suffer, don’t go to sleep. You cannot know yourself through bliss alone, for bliss is your very nature. You must face the opposite, what you are not, to find enlightenment.”

“When the mind is kept away from its preoccupations, it becomes quiet. If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it, you find that it is permeated with a light and a love you have never known and yet you recognise it as your own nature. Once you have passed through this experience, you will never be the same again; the unruly mind may break its peace and obliterate its vision; but it is bound to return, provided the effort is sustained; until the day when all bonds are broken, delusions and attachments end and life becomes supremely concentrated in the present. The mind is no more. There is only love in action. There will be no fear.”

“The entire universe is your body and you need not be afraid of it. You may say that you have two bodies; the personal and the universal. The personal comes and goes, but the universal is always with you.”

“Begin by realising that the world is in you, not you in the world.”

“Realise yourself as the ocean of consciousness in which all happens. This is not difficult. A little of attentiveness, of close observation of oneself, and you will see that no event is outside your consciousness.”

“It is your mind that has separated the world outside your skin from the world inside and put them in opposition. This created fear and hatred and all the miseries of living.”

“There is a state beyond consciousness, which is not unconsciousness. Some call it super-consciousness, or pure consciousness, or supreme consciousness. It is pure awareness free from the subject-object nexus.”

“Look at your mind dispassionately; this is enough to calm it. When it is quiet, you can go beyond it. Do not keep it busy all the time. Stop it - and just BE. If you give it rest, it will settle down and recover its purity and strength. Constant thinking makes it decay.”

“Understand that you are destined for enlightenment. Co-operate with your destiny, don’t go against it, don’t thwart it. Allow it to fulfil itself.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

More Nisargadatta

Here are some more powerful, challenging words of wisdom from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, who had a way of expressing the ultimate truth so succinctly and uncompromisingly that it's like a slap across the face. Sometimes we need that slap in order to wake up!

“All that lives, works for protecting, perpetuating and expanding consciousness. This is the world’s sole meaning and purpose.”

“The personal self by its very nature is constantly pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. The ending of this pattern is the ending of the self. The ending of the self with its desires and fears enables you to return to your real nature, the source of all happiness and peace.”

“The very fact of observation alters the observer and the observed. After all, what prevents the insight into one’s true nature is the weakness and obtuseness of the mind and its tendency to skip the subtle and focus on the gross only. When you follow my advice and try to keep your mind on the notion of “I am” only, you become fully aware of your mind and its vagaries. Awareness, being lucid harmony (sattva) in action, dissolves the dullness and quietens the restlessness of the mind and gently but steadily changes its very substance. This change need not be spectacular; it may be hardly noticeable, yet it is a deep and fundamental shift from darkness to light, from inadvertence to awareness.”

“Keep steadily in the focus of consciousness the only clue you have: your certainty of being. Be with it, play with it, ponder it, delve deeply into it, till the shell of ignorance breaks open and you emerge into the realm of reality.”

“All happiness comes from awareness. The more we are conscious, the deeper the joy. Acceptance of pain, non-resistance, courage and endurance - these open deep and perennial sources of real happiness, true bliss.”

“When the mind takes over, remembers and anticipates, it exaggerates, it distorts, it overlooks. The past is projected into the future and the future betrays the expectations.”

“There is no good and evil. In every concrete situation, there is only the necessary and the unnecessary. The needful is right, the needless is wrong.”

“Every situation is a challenge which demands the right response. When the response is right, the challenge is met and the problem ceases.”

“In my world even what you call evil is the servant of the good. It is like boils and fevers that clear the body of impurities. Disease is painful, even dangerous, but if dealt with rightly, it heals.”

“In some cases death is the best cure. A life may be worse than death, which is but rarely an unpleasant experience, whatever the appearances. Therefore, pity the living, never the dead.”

“It is one of the peculiarities of a gnani (awakened one) that he is not concerned with the future. Your concern with the future is due to fear of pain and desire for pleasure, to the gnani all is bliss: he is happy with whatever happens.”

“There is nothing wrong with the world. What is wrong is in the way you look at it. It is your own imagination that misleads you. Without imagination there is no world. Your conviction that you are conscious of a world is the world. What you perceive is made of consciousness; what you call matter is consciousness itself. You are the space in which it moves, the time in which it lasts, the love that gives it life. Cut the imagination and attachment, and what remains?”

“When the mind is intensely interested, it becomes one with the object of interest - the seer and the seen become one in seeing, the hearer and the heard become one in hearing, the lover and the loved become one in loving. Every experience can be the ground for samadhi.”

“The main hindrance lies in our idea of, and addiction to, time, in our habit of anticipating a future in the light of the past. The sum total of the past becomes “I was”, the hoped for future becomes “I shall be” and life is a constant effort of crossing over from what “I was” to what “I shall be”. The present moment, the ‘now’, is lost sight of.”

“The present “I am” is as false as the “I was” and “I shall be”. It is merely an idea in the mind, an impression left by memory, and the separate identity it creates is false. This habit of referring to a false centre must be done away with; the notion “I see”, “I feel”, “I think”, “I do”, must disappear from the field of consciousness; what remains when the false is no more, is real.”

“The union of the seer with the seen happens when the seer becomes conscious of himself as the seer.”

“There is only life. There is nobody who lives a life.”

“Life is desireless. But the false self wants to continue - pleasantly. Therefore, it is always engaged in ensuring one’s continuity. Life is unafraid and free. As long as you have the idea of influencing events, liberation is not for you; the very notion of doership, of being a cause, is bondage.”

“Contemplate life as infinite, undivided, ever present, ever active, until, you realise yourself as one with it. It is not even very difficult, for you will be returning to your own natural condition. Once you realise that all comes from within, that the world in which you live has not been projected onto you but by you, your fear comes to an end.”

“Ask yourself such questions as: “Was I really born?” “Am I really so-and-so?” “How do I know that I exist?” “Who are my parents?” “Have they created me, or have I created them?” “Must I believe all I am told about myself?” “Who am I, anyhow?””

“You have put so much energy into building a prison for yourself. Now spend as much on demolishing it. In fact, demolition is easy, for the false dissolves when it is discovered. All hangs on the idea “I am” (ego). Examine it very thoroughly. It lies at the root of every trouble. It is a sort of skin that separates you from the reality.”

“It is because “I am” is false that it wants to continue. Reality need not continue - knowing itself indestructible, it is indifferent to the destruction of forms and expressions. To strengthen, and stabilise the “I am” we do all sorts of things - all in vain, for the “I am” is being rebuilt from moment to moment. It is unceasing work and the only radical solution is to dissolve the separative sense of “I-am-such-and-such” once and for good. Being remains, but not self-being.”

“No ambition is spiritual. All ambitions are for the sake of the “I am”. If you want to make real progress, you must give up all idea of personal attainment.”

Friday, January 08, 2010

The more we have, the less we become

This article was so good I had to share. It's from New Internationalist and it summarises what some of us have long known....having more wealth and more lavish lifestyles is NOT making us happier as people. In fact quite the reverse. It's time we woke up to this and decided to stop looking for happiness and fulfilment in the place we'll never ever find it (which is to say, outside of ourselves in money and possessions).

Pass the article or link on to whoever you think might like it. Let's expedite the awakening. This particular dream/delusion has gone on long enough and the cost has been so drastically, devastatingly high.

By John McMurtry

Free markets are often presented as the sole solution to poverty and human development. But the global market is inefficient and life-destructive, writes John McMurtry.

At the end of 2006, the UK-based journal of world economic affairs, The Economist, produced a banner issue on ‘Happiness and Economics’. Not surprisingly, the magazine concluded that human happiness and market economies are closely linked. But in arguing the case the lead article unwittingly revealed the market’s Achilles heel. Orthodox economics has no means of separating the universal needs of human beings from junk commodities for the masses, or gold toilet-seats for the rich.

Not even consumers in the developed world are made happier by ever more market commodities. Robert Lane’s study The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies shows that
human satisfaction actually declines as income and commodity consumption rise beyond need. But the message does not compute to mainstream economists or policymakers.

Neoclassical economics is based on the premise that market growth produces more happiness as more commodities are bought. If this baseline assumption is false, the paradigm collapses. So the ground shifts to other claims. The Economist, for example, explains that many ‘goods’ can be ‘only enjoyed if others don’t’ [have them]. The falsehood of the first premise is diverted to the nasty fact that some can only enjoy what they have at the expense of others. In the end all that matters is the willingness to pay if you can afford it. This is the only measure of human welfare that exists in market and neoclassical doctrine.

A logical person might think that equating what you pay for something with happiness is inane. But the problem is ignored. Instead, supporters argue that the global market is both ‘productive and efficient’. This assumption does not hold up either. The global market system produces many times more waste than any economic order in history. In his world-renowned text Economics, Paul Samuelson defines economic efficiency as ‘absence of waste’. But, like all economists of the dominant paradigm, Samuelson includes only wastes that cost private enterprises money. So as long as pollution and damages to others can be externalized, it is ‘more efficient’ – even if gluttonously wasteful. These ‘externalities’ are kept off the books. That is why depredation of the most basic means of human life – breathable air, water aquifers, the oceans, soil fertility – are ignored by both governments and corporations, both of which operate within the same life-blind model.

Such an economic calculus is fatal but unquestioned. No principle of business or economics has been developed to distinguish commodities that cause disease from goods that enable people’s lives. After 25 years of corporate-led market deregulation, the fall-out is evident. Diseases like cancer increase as chemical carcinogens poison the environment, but are ignored by government food-and-drug overseers, cancer institutes and economists.

Cigarettes, for example, were recognized as a cause of lung cancer by 1950. Big tobacco steadfastly denied the charge for over 40 years while 160,000 Americans a year died from the disease. Historian Allan Brandt’s definitive study, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America, records the long-term strategy of industry to avoid public intervention at all costs.

The poisoning of fellow citizens by deregulated water-testing agencies in 1999 shocked Canadians. Yet if the market is free of regulation from the start, the problem may not come to public notice. For example, in 2004 the US derailed a UN Food and Agriculture Organization campaign to educate consumers about healthy and unhealthy foods. The media subsequently ignored a warning by the US Surgeon-General in March 2006 that ‘the obesity epidemic is a bigger world problem than terrorism’. Recently corporate food producers in Britain have been campaigning against colour-coded warnings on cereals laden with sugar, salt and fat.

The market also discriminates against healthful products unless they promise more profits. The British Medical Journal reported in July 2003 that a daily low-cost pill made up of six known drugs resulted in an 80-per-cent reduction of heart attacks in everyone over 55 – ‘a greater impact on the prevention of disease in the Western world than any known intervention’. Pharmaceutical corporations had little interest because the drugs involved were inexpensive and out of patent. Governments fail to produce the pills themselves because they would be pilloried by corporate PR campaigns for ‘undermining the free market’ – just as public healthcare is still demonized in the US as ‘socialist’.

A tragic macro-spiral unfolds. The more the global market is unregulated, the more it cumulatively despoils and destroys human life and ecological systems. Even the eminent UN Scientific Panel on Climate Change does not connect climate destabilization to global market growth producing ever more industrial gases. Instead, new markets in ‘carbon trading’ are prescribed – exchangeable rights to pollute for polluting corporations. So the life-blind market mechanisms are extended further. The global spiral downwards continues as long as the public accepts it.

The global market is driven by private capital – money which competitively seeks to maximize returns to its owners. But these money-stocks are not tangible goods like ‘fish stocks’ or ‘forest stocks’. Money grows by consuming human and natural resources as part of its feeding cycle. So the ‘life capital’ of society is eroded as private capital accumulates.

As governments decline into ‘the best democracies that money can buy’ there is no public authority left to protect the common interest. Our political leaders assume market growth is essential to society’s development. So public welfare is sacrificed to ‘more global market competitiveness’ – and more life-system depredation. To name the causal links remains taboo.

For example, even long-standing precautionary standards are abandoned as governments hand over hazardous product testing to corporate ‘clients’. Business-led public-relations campaigns demand that social programmes be privatized and taxes cut so we can ‘compete in the global market’. More pollution, more waste and more unneeded goods? That’s just ‘giving consumers what they want’. Neoclassical economists tell us the ‘invisible hand’ of competition ensures the ‘social optimum’. This has become the grand narrative of our age. It even appears rigorous and scientific – until humanity is confronted by global climate destabilization and fossil-fuel exhaustion.

The fulcrum level of the great myth is that all commodities are ‘goods’, never ‘bads’. The rest is simple. Just add up the sales of the ‘goods’ and you have the sum of society’s happiness and well-being. Production of junk foods, violent video games and fossil-fuel leisure machines all count as much in the National Accounts as organic foods, clean water or solar-powered electricity. The macro-pattern is undeniable but unspeakable in economic, business and media discussions.

If we really want to steer out of the life-system meltdown, market controls are an economic imperative. But how best to do that if the universal necessities that people need are not yet defined? Professional economics sees only ‘market demand’, while liberals and postmodernists equate human needs to individual wants. But if the demand for a private weekend jet counts more than the need of millions of African villagers for clean water, then the market produces the weekend jet. The government might even subsidize the company that makes the jets and keep the price of jet fuel low. Meanwhile, thousands of children die daily from water-related illnesses. The truth is what sells.

The deepest confusion is the equation of private money stocks to ‘capital’. Real capital is wealth that produces more wealth – from ecological services and social infrastructures to scientific knowledge and technologies that produce life goods. All have been subjugated to money-capital which produces nothing. Few recognize that money-capital is not real capital, but demand on real capital, with no bounds. So every form of human, natural and social capital is sacrificed to the growth of money-capital – concentrated in the possession of about 2 per cent of the population who invariably have more than the bottom 90 per cent. This is waggishly called ‘wealth creation’. In fact, it is not even an economic order. It is a system of predatory waste.

Anthropologists talk of ‘cultural insanity’ but avoid the present form of it. Jared Diamond’s recent book Collapse is a case in point. He studiously blinkers out money-capital, which is the main driver of this predicted collapse. Even critics like Diamond fail to see that the most basic formations of life-capital are off the radar of the global market.

Life-capital is the wealth of human and ecological life that reproduces and grows in any sane economic order. A sustainable mantle of topsoil, the phytoplankton base of marine life, the biodiverse habitats of species reproduction, the biosphere itself – are all strata of life-capital. The human needs served are all recognized by one principle: whatever our life capacities are reduced without (whether clean air or healthcare) is a life necessity. Whatever does not enable and support these life capacities is not ‘economic’ in the most fundamental sense.

There is one set of life goods that is required by all peoples without which they suffer or die:

Atmospheric goods – breathable air, open space and light
Bodily goods – clean water, nourishing foods and waste disposal
Home and habitat – shelter and a life-enhancing environment
Care through time – love, safety and healthcare
Care through time – love, safety and healthcare
Human vocation – meaningful work of value to others

Economic justice – right to enjoy these life goods and obligation to help provide them
We conserve the conditions that make these possible or we die one step at a time. Past civilizations from the Sumerians, Khmers and Aztecs to Hitler’s ‘1,000-year Reich’ went extinct through life-blind worship of their own systems. We travel the same path. The difference is that we know what they did not. We have economic instruments like public infrastructures, life-protective laws and standards, green and social taxes and binding trade regulators. Above all, we have the world itself to lose.

(John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, Ontario.)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Year, New Questions

While many people start their New Year with what are invariably ill-fated resolutions, I have found that one of the most powerful ways to start the year is to ask yourself some powerful questions...and then be brutally honest about the answers! Powerful questions can yield powerful questions and whenever you find yourself floundering in life it’s usually because you aren’t asking yourself the right questions...or because you’ve already kidded yourself into believing that you already have all the answers and therefore have no need for questions. Either way, stopping for a moment with an open mind and an open heart and considering the following, might serve as a catalyst for getting your new year off to a positive start. And, as they say - start as you mean to go on.

I’ve also come to realise that the real focus need not be on all the things we want to do, be or achieve in the future. The future has an uncanny way of being ever-elusive...due in large part to the simple fact that it’s an illusion of the mind. The future never comes, all we ever have is the now! So, why not choose to be happy right here, right NOW? Being happy NOW makes it far more likely that you will continue to be happy and when we’re happy it’s amazing how life has a remarkable way of unfolding just perfectly independently of our frenzied efforts to mould and manipulate it into what the mind deems it ‘should’ be.

The desire for happiness is never wrong...but our tendency to seek it outside of ourselves in other people, circumstances and events is most certainly wrong and is the cause of so much suffering in the world. I truly believe that happiness is not something we acquire; but is actually our natural state. All we have to do is clear the obstructions that prevent us from seeing that. Such obstructions might include our pathological dissatisfaction with what we already have and our compulsion to seek more, more, MORE, our own habitually negative thoughts and beliefs and self-image and our tendency to dwell almost exclusively in past and future, paying only brief visits to the present moment. These obstructions can be cleared, first by becoming aware of them and recognising them and then consciously deciding to move beyond them and make different choices.

These questions might help you do that. They have certainly helped me.

What is your theme for 2010? Is it personal healing, creative expression, spiritual awakening, finding new work, improving relationships, writing a book or serving others? Being clear on your focus for the year can help keep you on track. You don’t need to be rigid about it...approach it with fun and lightness. Think of the ways you can express your intent and LIVE your chosen focus. Don’t choose things you think you ‘should’ be doing...this has to come from a place of aliveness and passion within. You need to find that spark of inner joy because that, and only that, will give you the fuel to rise beyond any existing limitations and truly reach for the stars.

What tends to hold you back in life? How, specifically, can you overcome these perceived obstacles/limitations? There is always a way, if not to remove the obstacle, then to navigate around it.

Is there a gulf between what you truly are and what you are choosing to be in your daily life? If so, how can you bridge that gap and be more authentic?

What are your motivations, both surface and hidden?

How can you LOVE more, and express that love more readily?

In what ways are you still focussed on getting, acquiring and achieving and in what ways can you shift into a mode where you live to GIVE?

What blind-spots and unconscious patterns have been holding you back? What areas within you are crying out to be brought into the light of consciousness and healed?

In what ways do you waste your time, when you could be doing (or simply being) something more important of benefit to self and others?

Are you spending too much time hooked up to technology, internet, games consoles, television and mobile phones?

Do you have any addictions or compulsive behavioural patterns that need addressing?

Who or what do you need to make peace with?

Who or what do you really need to let go of?

What ways do you get caught in the illusions of past and future and lose the present moment? How can you be more alive and present in the NOW?

Are you readily able (and willing) to step into your natural state of peace, expansiveness and stillness? Do you allow yourself frequent immersion in this natural state that is free of compulsive thinking and compulsive doing?

Are you doing what you love? If not, how might you do more of what you love (bearing in mind that the energy of love and enthusiasm is of tremendous importance to healing the world)?

What are your deepest aspirations and noblest intentions for 2010?

Can you be at peace right NOW, in this moment, accepting all with love...simply because what is, IS and resistance to this brings suffering?

I hope these questions are of some help and inspiration. The answers may not always be what you’d like and this is not an exercise in beating yourself up, simply in being honest with yourself, accepting what is and knowing that you can move on from there if you so choose.

Happy 2010 - hope you have a great year!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fight or Flow

In each moment we have the choice to fight with life or flow with life. One brings suffering, the other brings peace. So choose wisely (and never forget, it's ALWAYS a choice!).