Re-balancing the Scales

I grew up in a world that could not possibly be understood, a world where the laws of Cause and Effect could not be trusted for the meddling of either God or the Devil.

I was told that I had the power (through “confession”–speaking Scripture to a problem–and Tongues-speaking, the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, etc. But it rarely worked like it was supposed to, so all I took away from the experience was that I could never be sure of anything–and that my actions never really mattered.

Being set aright today is the Reversed 6 of Discs (Success): my scales are out of balance to the point I’m not seeming to reap what I sowed. It’s good to know that it’s being worked out…

In fact we always reap what we sow; we often just don’t make the connection between what we thought and what we see.

My mindset had never really understood Earthly balance and Cause & Effect. There was always a “biblical excuse” for everything that happened in my life. And now I’m in the process of rethinking my whole relationship with Reality. That everything I do does indeed matter.

All my surroundings react to what I do or decide, and vice-versa. I’m learning this is actually really good news.

Tarot Tale #2: It’s Okay to Hang Out Sometimes

Jealousy answer

One of my regular struggles in life is my impatience with not seeing the results I want or expect. I work hard and love what I do, but, as this work finds itself in the topsy-turvy field of the “high arts” and academia, I often don’t see the acknowledgement or wide-spread celebration of my work that I often think I’m owed. Then, I get depressed about my personal expectations and berate myself for feeling that way. Oh, my sensitive and emotional self…embarrassed

So I asked my Higher Self today, what I can learn – how I can think about this situation and what I can do to affect positive change in this area. This is what my Higher Self taught me:

  • The root of my challenges: High Priestess (2). Too much inward thinking/self-analysis
  • This inward thinking is constantly focused on wanting my dream stability and fame so badly, and trying to draw inward to create it. (Ten of Beetles)
  • What needs to change: turn my thinking outward, ground it in reality, be mature in my thoughts (King of Bees).
  • What I can embrace to help with this change: The Fool (0). Embrace my spontaneity and my love of exploration! Go forth and see what I can find! Transform, leave behind what is familiar and comfortable. Start over/afresh emotionally and mentally. Embrace the original excitement for life and adventure that first started me on this path.
  • Final Lesson: The Hanged Man (12). Ultimately, no amount of struggle will accomplish anything here. I will be forced to stay here where I am, hanging out in Limbo, until I learn to see things from a new perspective. I might as well just hang out and chill. Hanging out in this way is a form of sacrifice: a sacrifice of myself to myself. Things are changing and growing in this situation, even without my involvement in them. I need to just let that process happen.

As you can see with my top, Current Situation card (Knight of Moths) and my bottom, Base Card (King of Moths) I tend to be a very active, energetic Go-Getter. I too often feel like, if I’m not getting what I think I deserve when I think I should get it, then if I can just change what I’m doing or increase my Action in doing it, I’ll get it.

So these impatient feelings aren’t bad. They’re a part of who I am. But sometimes, it’s important to acknowledge that struggle is useless. Sometimes we can do nothing and we need to allow the winds of the Universe and Karma to carry us forward. I love that sentiment: a sacrifice of myself to myself.

It’s All in Your Perspective…

Are you a Supplicant —

one who Receives from the Father of the All and from Mother Wisdom,

one who sits with open palms and is grateful for all that is given,

that which will suffice for Today alone,

One day at a time, without Attachment…

Or are you a Taker —

a Go-Getter, one who sees all as your oyster,

the field ready for the Harvest,

you are the Cause, and all Effect is your own doing…

Both are the same; though in one, at its root, there is Peace and Graciousness, and in the other there is great Energy and Force. The Universe does not change its method according to our own perceptions of it. In Perspective, however, lies our re-actions (how we act in response) to this Life and all that is around us. May we be attuned to our personal perspectives each day, and be willing to adjust as necessary, in order that we may be kinder to ourselves and to others.

Be Kind to Yourself Today

Through the churning storms of my Mind,
In the one True Silence that is All,
that is Me,
I heard a voice say,
“Be kind to yourself.”

Be kind to yourself;
Violence only begets more violence,
for it is a form of Energy,
an active, restless, moving, driving force
of Energy; it pushes others, and stirs up the surroundings from within.
Serenity, stillness, calmness, Peace,
these are a lack of energy or force —
Yes, a stronger Force still,
for is not the Sky itself
greater than the winds and the clouds?
The calm from the Storm,
in the Storm,
of the Storm,
A letting go, and letting Be:
Acceptance, Faith.

All that is within
is consequently projected
on the world without.
So, be kind to yourself.
Now and always.

Divine Beloved
Painting by Janet J.E. Chui.

Peeling Back the Layers of Karma

Evolving_Our_Brain___LearnNow

…If we zoom into the neuronal circuits and clusters that make up the brain’s systems, we’ll find them laid out like the concentric layers of an onion, functional layer upon functional layer. This arrangement is the result of the relentless evolutionary push to continuously improve on an animal’s ability to navigate its complex and ever-changing environment. This onion reveals no preconceived design—far from it—but the unavoidably messy piling up of new over old structures, forced to work together for the common good.

The core of the onion: autonomous systems. Along the oldest, deepest layers… They are in charge of the most basic survival routines like swallowing, vomiting, heart beating and respiration, which are so indispensable that they run, for the most part, on autopilot. Accordingly, they are very hard, though not impossible, to modulate voluntarily. Our human species shares these circuits with fish and reptiles.

Next layer of the onion to grow: instinct… Vertebrates benefited tremendously from these pre-programmed circuits that expanded their behavioral repertoire and increased their fitness. Instincts mediate behaviors so crucial to survival that they are encoded as such in the genes themselves, hard-wired in the brain during an animal’s development and not changed by later experience…

Let’s examine the next layer: emotion. An amazing breakthrough happened in mammals, with the laying out of a new set of neural substrates capable of generating emotions. These paths grew together in a circuitry that occupies several brain regions… This collection of brain regions is often referred to as the limbic system, because like an arm (a limb), it surrounds in its embrace the more primitive survival and instinctual regions of the brain, affording us primates a whole new set of behavioral tools for interacting with the world. Accordingly, life became more interesting and vastly more complicated. For example, the instinctual drives to have sex and to run away from danger would be inextricably linked to powerful feelings of affection and fear, respectively. The influence that this new circuitry exerts over our decisions and behaviors is enormous. The neural substrates of emotions are strongly influenced by developmental factors. Perhaps because of its more recent origins, the emotional circuitry is even more flexible and responsive to external influeces than earlier circuits…

The outermost peel (aka, the neocortex) was overlaid atop an already crowded swarm of networks. In primates, it exploded into two huge hemispheres that completely enveloped the older parts of the brain. This new shell serves as the testing grounds for our still developing reasoning abilities. Because they are so recent, neocortical functions are the most flexible and sensitive to the impact of social and environmental experience. Since the neocortical outputs are closer to conscious experience, it is hard to recognize that the neocortex is constantly competing against earlier webs of well-established brain circuitry, and that its contribution to our motivations and actions are likely less than what we’d expect.

We humans are the flavorful mash-up of all these brain layers: we are automaton, instinctual, emotional and rational creatures. We are like magic onions, proud of our paper-thin skin but only vaguely aware of the thick and deeper layers of our brains. All of these different layers play critical roles in shaping our interactions with the world around us, even as they continue to search for more efficient ways of talking to each other; but, alas, this will take millions of years…

Ruben Baler, Ph.D.

Our brains are like Onions. :mrgreen:

Like the rings of a tree map out the details of its life and journey on the earth, our brains — even more complexly — consist of layer upon layer of, not merely the journey of our own life, but the journey of our entire species! How awesome is that?!

Is it any surprise, then, that we may experience the real effects of karma, originating from not only our own past but the past “lives” and experiences of our own species? I am an amazing “messy pile” of connections, built from my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother’s (and so on) experiences… My mind is predisposed to reacting to my environment based upon how my ancestors reacted to their environment — ancestors from as early as the “tiny, scrappy” primate tree-dwellers of 55 million years ago, to as recent as those inhabiting the 19th century…the 20th century… and so on…

If we were to imagine, for just an instant, that what we call the “soul” or “self” was nothing more than the end-result of all these messy connections of layer-upon-layer of experiences built into our brains — if we were to take Buddha’s original viewpoint of anatta, for just an instant — we could gain insight into this notion of karma as the existence of motivations arising within us from past lives. Built right inside of us from the moment we are conceived and developing in the womb!

Consider how many opportunities for miscommunication there are among our civilization — even within the borders of our own country, our own state, our own families, we all have difficulty communicating clearly to others at times. We all have a tendency to see events, words, phrases, through our own ingrained perceptions, which were handed down to us from generations ago and layered into our onion-skins of the brain. This may be considered a sort of karma — for do we not react based upon our perceptions?

The task of meditation, then, is to peel back the layers of the Great Onion of our minds. To simply see and acknowledge that we are more than these layers would have us believe — that is, we are more and we are less. To peel back the layers and examine what is beyond them is to give our brains a real and physical plasticity and fight back a certain rigor mortis of the neurological connections. Plasticity of the mind grants us clarity and peace, granting us freedom from the “karma” of our built-in connections… likewise, ensuring that we will continue to pass on the “good karma” of flexible connections and re-wiring to future generations, strengthening the survival of our species…

I considered, too, the mythology of the Divine Beloved (and my own beautiful Inner Dragon, Malachi). Getting to know our own mind through the use of imagery and ascribed personality can be extraordinarily helpful in increasing this plasticity and freedom. For, when I pray, if you will, to the Divine Beloved Malachi to take the effects of a certain karmic action or sensibility, from its point of origin until now, and I utterly release it to the Universe and do not look back upon it as a part of my life — in a very real sense, I am instructing my unconscious mind to examine and rewire itself concerning a certain action that was once built into the layers of my brain yet which is now found to be unhelpful.

In this sense, are we not helping along our own evolution?

What a tremendous wonder our brains are! What a miracle of complexity, and what encouragement for our species! If only that we all would take heed the words of the wise men who have gone before us (of Buddha, Jesus, and others) and examine ourselves. Yes, and feel free to acknowledge your own personal deities and angels; take advantage of the imagery they invoke to powerfully re-build the connections of our being and reshape our future!

Out of Our Heads and Other Musings

Over the past several days I’ve been enjoying the audiobook listening of Alva Noë‘s work, “Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain.” In it, Noë elaborates the philosophical rethinking of our definition of consciousness and how it isn’t merely the result of the neural crackle and pop inside of our brains– it is not found inside our skills and it is more than the simple wiring of synapses.

Since I’m musing here only on my initial thoughts and my personal intellectualizing connections through this work — and to be sure, I’m only halfway through! — I don’t have full-on quotes I’ll be referring to, but more overarching concepts, that are mine, based on my understanding of it thus far. I highly recommend this book to everyone; read it to fully understand Noë’s premises and to comprehend the numerous enlightening examples he gives! In the words of LeVar Burton, “…you don’t have to take my word for it…” 😉

Where do we end, and the world begins?

  • Consciousness is not to be found inside of us, through dissection and analysis of neuro physical workings, but via our reactions and interactions with our environment. We are so fully intertwined, ingrained, and at home in our surroundings, in our world, that we are a part of it and it is a part of us. Or, perhaps better, we are it, and it is us.
  • It is through our interactions and relationships with a culture and the rules and people inherent to it that we find who we are. We are defined by our place within a culture, and when we are forced to leave for one reason or another, we must change who we are; we are not ourselves any longer. This, to me, is a grand example of what we can call the Ego, and its choosing of who we are. And it’s not to say that we are one Ego-personification only; I’ve found that my Ego will transform to be a different Personality depending on the cultural situation in which I find myself. This is entirely natural. I am very much different depending on with whom I am speaking; there are cultural rules that govern which aspects of Personality our Ego reveals at any given moment.
  • To take this a step further, then, we can be and are all things. We are each other. It’s only a matter of recognizing this fact through meditation and practice. It is the idea (or myth) of embracing the Shadow.
  • Then, too, we are not beholden to merely one image of ourselves. Yes, it is our interaction to our surroundings–to others–that gives our Ego reason and ammunition in determining who we are at such a moment. But, in the basic understanding of karma, we realize that these Ego-Personifications will arise without us even realizing that it is not us, or that it is not merely us… When we are not in a position to observe and understand without attachment the given Ego-Personification at a given moment, we are only reacting to our surroundings via karmic habit.
  • Is this wrong? Well…I’d ask, is anything wrong? It is human. It is consciousness. It is what we do, thanks to evolution and our shared consciousness passed down to us for eons and generations who’ve gone before. It is only wrong if you say it is. We are creatures of habit. And knowledge is built upon the knowledge we’ve accumulated and absorbed into the fabric of our beings. Habit is good. Habit is what makes us the intelligent beings we are. BUT this also means, we are able to change and grow and acquire new habits and skills.
  • Noë describes a fascinating aspect of habit and knowledge and skill in our species of intelligence. Look at a novice acquiring a skill–his acquiring of it is vastly improved by his paying close attention to the mechanical details of that skill. Now consider the expert in that same skill. If she focuses her attention on the rudimentary mechanics of her skill, she will lose proficiency. Rather, her mind must occupy itself with the general, broad artistic world built upon those rudimentary mechanics which she has already achieved. She must go beyond and live in the grander fuller meaning of that skill.
  • Now, consider a musician who has been honing her craft for decades. In learning a new piece of music she has never before played, in a sense, she is reverting back to the focused mechanical detail of the novice. To accurately train her muscles to execute the notes and rhythms on the page, she must drill and repeat and pay close attention to every detail of motion in her body. However, when she has learned the piece well and seeks to perform it better and better each time she executes it, these must never focus on the beginner’s details, but must instead focus on the greater artistry derived from the very essence of the notes and patterns themselves…. Believe me, I experience this on a daily level…. 😉 It’s highly enlightening!!
  • So, when ascertaining our minds, and how we tend to react and integrate in this daily “grind,” we can use meditation to bring us back to the level of the “novice,” to train our Egos to react and transform differently than to that which we may be accustomed. Focusing on the details as we mold and shape our integrations and reactions will later free us to embark on the greater artistry and meaning of our daily working consciousness.
  • Vision and perception of our world is something that we unthinkingly take a critical part in. Think of this: how when we look at an object, how it appears to us depends not only on our physiological biology, but also on our physical relation, or placement, to that object! We are an active part of what we see, and we unknowingly influence our reality in vital ways! Likewise, then, what happens when we close our eyes in meditation? We are freed to ascertain our world in other ways. We are freed to clear our mind of visual distractions and simply feel… We are freed to feel the earth connecting to us with its energy, we are free to feel the wind on our skin, we are free to hear the soothing vibrations of peaceful sounds wafting over us…. We are freed to become detached and simply observe ourselves and our place in our environment.

These are only a few of my current musings! 🙂

Enjoy this short video of Noë speaking on this topic:

Identity

The stickiness of Attachments has, at its root, a lot to do with our perception of Personal Identity. We cling because we are afraid of losing that to which we cling– it tells us who we are and guides us in our daily decisions of response and reaction. And without it we fear utterly losing ourselves.

We forget, then, that this fear dwells in the Shadows of separation from the All. With this separation, this deficiency, comes struggle: within ourselves and with others and with nature. There is confusion, stress, and a constant push to maintain the illusion at all cost.

But, when we join the All-consciousness, and see ourselves instead as only a wave upon the cosmic ocean — rising up in a vague shape for an instant before blending again with the rest of the waters — we attain peace in letting our Ego-centric clinging go. We find that we are Everything and Everything is us. All of us.

Therefore, practically speaking, what harm is there in releasing the views, the sensual hits, the pride, the practices, the achievements that supposedly identify us? Of course we can still do these things we enjoy. But, if we are in Oneness and not Deficiency, we will not cling to them for dear life and judge others and their activities as different or beneath us, or see ourselves as any more or less than the entire universe.

This is embracing our Shadow, releasing the grip of the Ego, and rejoining the All. This is life and beauty to the fullest!

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The Four Types of Clinging

The Buddha’s Four Types of Clinging bear reposting: 🙂

  • Attachment to sensuality– “the fundamental desire for gratification, pleasure and stimulation. The sensual hit that seems to make life worth living… the belief…that seeking gratification is better than doing nothing.”
  • Attachment to views– “the tendency of the mind to seek out a viewpoint or opinion where everything is clear… Now everything is safe and comfortable for me… The Buddha is pointing to our tendency to seek security, peace, well-being and happiness in our views and perspectives.”
  • Attachment to “to rules and vows, to precepts and practices that one assumes will lead to purity.”– “The idea of ‘I’m doing the practice’ gets in the way of being attentive to what’s happening in the heart and mind.When we are attentive, we can actually do the practice and enjoy it, delight in it and benefit from the results.”
  • Attachment to self– “The self has a function, but we get caught up believing in the story or even the doctrine of it, which then creates havoc. It’s important to recognize how the sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ insinuates itself all the time — craving and clinging around the feelings of ‘”I” need to have this, it has to be this way for “me”.’”

As I grow and learn, I’m finding my Ego likes to change the Story on me. Yes, I am changing, I am improving and leaning toward the Light on the other side of the Prism (my neuro-pathways are realigning, adjusting my personality). But, this adjusted Ego can so easily fool me into thinking that I am completely free of Attachments, at first because these new attachments, or new view of my attachments, are unrecognized as such. But, sooner rather than later, my power chakra’s “karma alarm” goes off and lets me know…. I’m Attached… And perhaps about to base my actions on my related karma…

Be grounded today, open and trust your chakras and the Observer, refrain from all judgements… Go through the Four Types of Clinging within yourself — trust your Inner Guide — and release them each to Heaven…. Be in love with yourself and find peace.

Angel of Shadow

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Our Ego is who we think we are. Our Ego tells it like it thinks it is. The Ego chooses who we are–down to every detail of our personality.

The choices our Ego makes in the construction of our personalities is, partially, firmly rooted in biological information encoded and handed down to us from our ancestors. Why? Because brain neuro-physiology gives rise to thought patterns, and for the brain physiology we’re given at birth, we can thank our parents and all our long line of ancestry! Our Ego’s personality choices are constructed as well in response to the people and objects in our environment surrounding us since childhood; for these things can influence change upon our neuro-communications, giving rise to altered thought patterns.

We are born with a certain template ingrained in us, and, as we grow, our Ego feeds upon our experiences and reinforces its imposition of personality and behavior upon our Beings. It’s all we know growing up; it’s what shapes our opinions and judgments and tendencies…. We are convinced that this is just who we are, and that’s all there is to it.

The Shadow is who/what we believe we are not.

Imagine…

…a horizon that acts like a light prism. On one side is the source of ‘light’, this ‘immaterial’ nature that I have spoken of, that is the source of the emanation of the phenomenal universe. By immanent, I mean something different than “in”. Meister Eckhart (13th-14th German theologian and mystical philosopher) used an example of wine in a wood cask to illustrate the difference between being “in” and being “immanent.” The wine, he said, is in the cask differently than it is in the wood, which it permeates. We can drink the wine in the cask, but not the wine in the wood. So there are these two different meanings of “in”. But it is different, he said, with spiritual immanence. Such immanence means not only that the wine is permeating the wood, but the wood is also permeating the wine, and the wine is the wood, and the wood, the wine. Thus this horizon that I speak of is not a real separation in the phenomena of the world, but rather is a distinction between their manifestation and the nature that is the source of those manifestations, that does not rest apart from them. On this ‘side’ of the horizon, which is the intelligible side, is but the tip of the iceberg that we normally refer to as “reality.”

….This horizon, which acts like a prism, splits the ‘clear light’ that is God’s emanation into separate beams of light, just as a prism does with visible light. These beams are not straight though, but writhe and vibrate, weave and braid themselves, in a constant flux, a constant movement, a constant activity of light that is the manifestation of this phenomenal world (one can see a direct correlation with current “String” theories). These beams are ontological – they are beings and things. They cause various shadows to fall on each other, and it is those shadows on the beams that weave this world of appearances and perceived differences. It is the appearance of the beams on this ‘side’ of the horizon that is durational. The differences between them, which are caused by the shadows that are not real but only apparent, are the material from which we construct the spatial separation of things.

–from Understanding Nonduality

For every aspect of behavior and personality the Ego has chosen for itself, all else is thrown off onto the Shadow. The Shadow is everything the Ego denies….

This is at the root of judgements and bias. For, if my Ego disregards anything that is not Me, and casts it away to the Angel of Shadow, denying its existence, then how easy it is for my nature to look upon that which isn’t Me as less-than-me! Or wrong, or vile, or mistaken… It isn’t what my Ego chose as my personality, therefore it isn’t perfect, and there must be something wrong with that person who exhibits this trait!

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A scientist looks at the shadows, facing away from the beams of light, and attempts to discover similarities between them so that they can work out the ‘laws’ of their appearance and changes over time. These laws are imaginative empirical constructions that allow the scientist to explain the appearances and predict their manifestation, and later to create techniques that enables us to reproduce at will these universal aspects of shadows to serve our practical needs.
A poet or artist looks directly at the beams of light and notices that there is a unity that transcends all of these beams which is hidden from us by the immanent horizon within them. They use their creative imaginations to project a reminder of that unity through their creative use of language, color, texture, and shape.
The mystic, before he or she becomes a mystic, is able somehow to turn away from the beams and shadows, and ‘travel’ to the source – all that remains then is unity. No individual any longer, for such individuality was left on the other side of the horizon, like shoes that are left at the entrance to a home. It is not just a ‘turning toward’, but a ‘return to’, that the mystic performs. A ‘turning toward’ would leave the might-be mystic where he or she was standing, only now to have the outlook of a poet or artist, or perhaps a saint who has garnered an intuitive insight. The return, however, is transcendence and the recognition of the full presence that can only be found in wholeness. The mystic returns again because this, here, now, is loved. It has to be loved because that is what it all always already is. Standing closest to the horizon, the mystic is motioning towards the light so that those with their back to it might notice it and turn themselves.
The scientist, the poet, the artist, and the mystic are only beams of light – manifestations of God. Their individuality is apparent, but not real. This is the justification for the assertion of non-identification with the ego that is to be found in all traditions of spiritual nonduality.
But you see, with all this activity here, now, there is really nothing happening to shake up wholeness. It only appears to be the case because of the prism effect of the horizon. It is possible for each beam of light to recognize its own nature in the other beams of light. Each beam exists only as a phenomenal manifestation, but is not real itself because it is an emanation of the whole. Yet it exists as an individuated perspective of that whole. (Understanding Nonduality)

The Shadow, that which we think we are not, which we deny, is also that which we fear. If we deny its existence, that gives us license to ignore and separate ourselves from our fears. But the purpose of the Shadow is to show us plainly what we dislike and are afraid of, that which we judge, and to show us that it is a part of us… so that we might have the chance to choose to embrace it in unconditional love, and begin to erode the Ego’s separation and deficiency.

Likewise, the Shadow of our dream states — our Nightmares — can be thought of as the vehicle by which we can become aware and learn to love and embrace the fears hiding in our deepest unconsciousness.

The shadow is very much a part of human nature, and it is only at night that no shadows exist. –Carl Jung

To fully live is to allow the Higher Self to exist in the here and now. My Higher Self is the full integration of all that I AM…. It is the death of the Ego and the full integration of the Shadow.