Archive for October, 2007

Día de los Muertos – A Day for Living

Posted on October 30, 2007. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Spirituality |

There are several religious and secular holidays at this time of year: All Souls Day, Hallow’een, All Saints Day, Día de Los Muertos.

I shall focus on the latter, as many Día celebrations take place nearby. I live in the beautiful Sonoran desert, which encompasses parts of California, Baja California, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. Although I am a United States citizen and resident, I also like think of myself as a “Sonoran” as this desert spreads itself across four states in two countries, and does not recognize human-made borders. There are a lot of border issues in US/Mexico news these days, and living in the region, I would hear about them constantly if I listened to the news, which I mostly don’t.

The celebration of Día brings us closer together at this time of year. It sometimes seems a bit ghoulish and strange to those from a western-European background. I hope to show its positive aspects!

“More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. A ritual known today as Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.”

With these words, Carlos Miller begins to describe how the rituals of parading with skulls can be seen to celebrate life. The rituals are meant to honor the dead. Many religious practices have a special day to honor those family members who have passed on, such as within Yom Kippur in the Jewish tradition, and All Saints’ or All Soul’s day in the Christian. In fact, the Spanish conquistadors attempted to blend the old Aztec practices with Christian tradition, and moved the holiday to coinside with All Saints’.

This holiday also celebrates our own mortality. By tending to the graves of our departed, and telling stories, marching in processions, and preparing and eating special sweet cakes, participants acknowledge that physical life is short, but that we are always connected to the next life and the spirits who come back from there to interact with us. It is a time of reflection on our place in life, and as such reminds us to care deeply about the impact we have on the earth and each other.

What is the difference between Halloween and the Day of the Dead? Halloween is based on a medieval European concept of death, and is populated by demons, witches (usually women) and other images of terror — all of them negative. The Day of the Dead, in contrast, is distinctly different. It is a uniquely Indo-Hispanic custom that demonstrates a strong sense of love and respect for one’s ancestors; celebrates the continuance of life, family relationships, community solidarity and even finds humor after death — all positive concepts! — Bobbi Salinas-Norman

While I would take issue with Salinas-Norman that “all” images of Hallow’een are “negative”, I think the author makes a statement about death not needing to be either scary or final. Greetings on this Day for Living; día feliz.

A good illustrated article on the history and practice of Día is here:

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Am I authentic? Who will judge?

Posted on October 29, 2007. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

A thought-provoking discussion on “living an authentic life” occurs in this 7-minute video from Monday9am. Waiting to be Found Out describes the state in which many of us find ourselves, working or living a life not congruent with our real selves. I was inspired by this man who cannot stop grinning and can’t imagine retiring. He lives the teaching that “the journey is the destination”. Happy viewing!

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Being of Service?

Posted on October 28, 2007. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

Most of the spiritual and religious teachings I’ve encountered, as well as many of the secular/humanist ones admonish their adherents to “be of service” to some portion of humanity. There are many ways and definitions of “being of service”. I’ll discuss the most prominent ones I was taught.

There’s the one that goes: We should help those less fortunate than ourselves. There’s also this: Give back, to acknowledge the blessings you have received. Finally, there’s the one that’s a bit more obscure, but goes something like: The world is a circle (I dub this the “musical play philosophy” a la Lost Horizon or The Lion King) and in order to allow “energy to flow” rather than stagnate, you must give and receive, just as you must breathe in and out. OK. I’ll tackle these one at a time:

1. You must give to those less fortunate than you. My first reaction to statements like this is “Oh yeah, who says so?”, but I’ll try to be a bit mature, here, and state that I don’t believe there is anyone less fortunate than me. This could be interpreted as me being insultingly egocentric, or else a very sad sack, but I mean neither thing by it. I just don’t believe that fortune “smiles upon one and not another”. I consider myself to be enormously blessed in many ways. I have my cranky days, and my disappointing moments. But I also have all the resources of the Universe at my disposal, and I believe we all do, too. Moods, likes, dislikes and priorities are creative ways I and other humans have found to mold ideas into concepts, and then to create the reality around us. If we’re inspired to want to work for or give to an organization, cause, or person, I’m all for that. It’s just the sense of obligation I object to. For me, seeing someone as “less fortunate” creates a separation. If I start to see someone as less fortunate, it’s not a great leap to then start to see them as less deserving, less worthy, just “less” in so many ways. I do not want to relate to my fellow humans in that way.

2. You have received much, therefore it is your obligation to give back. There’s something to be said for “ebb and flow”; “yin and yang”. What’s prevalent for me here is “obligation”, again. I think the ebb and flow naturally takes care of itself if I try to stay congruent with myself. I will then express kindness, helpfulness, and a host of other qualities, but I’ll do so because they come from who I truly am. After all, if all I do is receive, people will get tired of giving to me, and eventually go away, and therefore that excess or imbalance will stop. It seems to work a bit differently the other way around. There are those who give and give and give, and sometimes it stops for them only when they’ve worn themselves into a breakdown or ill health. And then what “good” are they? If I give from myself, not because I’ve “decided” to, but because that’s who I am, I will not feel depleted. I’ll allow renewal and receiving, too. I have also experienced receiving ‘help” out of obligation, and it seems that no matter what good face is put upon it, on some level I “know” the giver’s heart is not in it, and that they know that I know. It doesn’t feel good to me to receive reluctant help, and I don’t want to treat others that way either.

3. You must continue the “circle of life” by passing on a blessing to someone else, if you’ve received one. Well, the word “must” is very like “obligated”, isn’t it? I do think this is another “spiritual truth” that takes care of itself naturally if we stay true to ourselves, and stop “efforting” so much about it. Relax, and let go, and it will come ’round again in its own time.

I don’t want to close without saying a few words about selfless service If “selfless” means I will get my ego-self out of the way, and not do “charitable works” to get recognition, or to help myself feel “better than”, than I agree with the term. I notice it so often gets interpreted, though as “Others are more important than you. You must give to them, even if it denies you what you desire.” I’m not on that bandwagon, brothers and sisters! I am the most important person there is, to me, and I’m of no use to myself or anyone if I don’t recognize this.

I like some of what some Buddhists say about service, and here’s a quote from that perspective from a good article by Darryl Pokea “One of the deepest acts of service can be to let another person face the consequences of their own actions…It is important to keep in mind that we must not interfere and not give in to the illusions of…apparent helpfulness, rationalized as service…Being of service to one another does not mean we are to rescue and deprive the other person of…experience.”

As I was compiling ideas for this post, I came upon BlogBud Richard’s, Siren Song, and was much struck by a poem of Margaret Atwood’s he quoted there. Do read it if you will. Richard’s own words gave me much to think about and applaud: “It is vitally important that we each think calmly and clearly before giving our personal power to anyone. It is our responsibility to ourselves and to the entirety of existence, and we should not take this responsibility lightly.”

I wish you peace and good service.

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Update on “Intention”

Posted on October 24, 2007. Filed under: Spirituality |

I’ve attended two sessions of my book group now, and I’m starting to think I and others engage more in talking about reaching a level of satisfaction rather than just being satisfied. Our book is The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, and in my first post on this book, I talked about why I don’t understand Dr. Dyer’s use of the word “intention” to mean a ‘creative force’ or ‘connection with the divine’. I think the book has some great suggestions and techniques, but I’m beginning to understand that whenever I read a book like this, that the techniques belong to the author, and are what he’s found works best for him.

In books such as Intention the author distills wisdom found in his research, and parcels it out to us in neat lists of practices and anecdotes. There’s nothing wrong with this at all–I’ve learned from them and added to whatever wisdom I’ve been able to accumulate. But I have yet to find even one that has a recipe for life that I would follow even, say, 80% of the time. And yet, because of marketing practices, or because the authors really believe the things they write about, they produce the book as “the answer”.

The above probably sounds like I disapprove of such books. I don’t. While I bristle at being told, “…This is the way…at last you have found it!” these topics generate discussion. What I do like about my group is that they are willing to hear me say that a particular technique doesn’t feel congruent for me-and then they’ll let me describe what resonates better.

This is different that a class or workshop in which the absorption of a practice is a given, and it’s all about how to learn the practice and use it “better”. If I’m not feeling in harmony with an aspect of a practice, it doesn’t always feel appropriate to challenge the assumptions of the host. Even some book groups are like that. There’s a feeling of “we’re here to learn this, the latest, greatest thing, and we only want to know how to ‘get it’ better.”

I’m thankful that my group is about finding and facilitating the most authentic congruent experience for each of us. Namasté

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Monday Morning Philosophy

Posted on October 22, 2007. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

If you have a spare six minutes, here’s an opportunity to take a step back from “running around and thinking we know what’s going on.” The video is a perfect complement to my last few posts and comments. It gives a fresh perspective on the question of what or who is the intent behind our intentions.

It gave me pause, and a quiet contemplative way to being my week. Enjoy, if you will: What is going on? Peace.

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Observations about Observations on Observation

Posted on October 20, 2007. Filed under: Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

Well, this is turning out to be quite a topic for me. This latest post is a response to fellow blogger Stonehead‘s response to my previous post! Whew! His detailed comment generated an idea explosion in my head, so it seemed prudent to create a whole new post about it. If you haven’t already, I invite you to read Stonehead’s comment here, then come back and we’ll chat.

Stonehead, I’m taking this opportunity to comment on several of your points. I am enthralled by your descriptions of “us”, namely humanoid earth-dwellers, as “unreliable instruments”. I don’t know if that term is original with you, but I hadn’t heard it before. I find it tremendously liberating: “Don’t blame me, I’m an unreliable instrument.” Seriously, though, I do know it’s a technical term, as well as a fascinating concept. Compared to a machine, manufactured to collect data but not interpret it, we are unreliable. I never thought of this being the reason that scientists argue about interpretation. I’d thought in their world, most of the time, anyway, it could be established that ‘data x’ plunked into ‘equation y’ yields ‘result z’. Shows you what I know. (NON-engineer, here, in case there was any question).

You believe that the recorded data doesn’t change, but you throw in “leaving aside the issue of built in distortion due to human error or deliberate intent.” Now I must ask for further clarification here. I suspect you mean deliberate intent by an ‘unreliable instrument’ to sabotage the device or experiment? Or do you use the word “intent” to mean something quite else? In which case, please see the next paragraphs:

Are electrical apparati really completely invulnerable to conscious influence? I think of the example of biofeedback devices. I know these measure a person’s heart-rate or breath-rate or some other voluntary or “involuntary” physiological system, which do alter according to the subject’s stress level. But why is it apparently more effective for a subject to watch a real-time graph of her/his skin galvanic response, say, than to just be told to relax and take deep breaths, in order to get his/her heart rate down? Does the machine affect the human, or the human the machine? Or both? It could be argued that all the device is doing is measuring what it has been designed to measure. But I’d add that the human is engaged in relationship with the machine during these events. The human response in turn changes the data being measured.

Then, there is the controversial use of random number generators. Among experiments and studies about whether conscious intention can affect mechanical output, those at Princeton University’s labs are among the better known. There is a lot of argument about whether the “Princeton EGGs” have indeed produced either statistically significant or important results, but in my opinion the fact that they produced any results at all which deviate from the expected at least causes me to want to study them further.

You use the good example of a video camera recording a mugging. I would agree with you that those images would generally be reliable. In most cases, even though there would be a spike in emotional activity nearby during the mugging, the camera is not likely to have a preference for how things turn out, nor is it likely that a surveillance professional is consciously attempting to direct her/his thoughts and preferences towards the camera at all times.

So, a video camera is usually a great eye-witness. I’ve watched enough cop shows to know that even if a completely objective and perfectly observant human were standing next to the camera, the video might be better because images are stored, they can be enhanced, sped up, slowed down, and they capture events in the background that humans wouldn’t notice. So, within the parameters of this agreed-upon reality, camera is king.

I can’t comment on your paragraphs 8, 9, & 10 without repeating them here, but I’ll just say they’re brilliant! What a fascinating way to conceptualize the differences in outlook between us humanoids. I will carry your comments into the world with me, particularly your moving and personal observation that “…understanding the nature of observation is fundamental to being more tolerant of others.”

My conscious inquiry still stretches into as yet undiscovered systems. I sometimes envision that inquiry as a long narrow stream, but your comments have helped me expand the stream into a river in places, and I thank you for that.

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Observations on Observation

Posted on October 19, 2007. Filed under: Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

I got into a mini discussion over on Anthony‘s blog the other day, during which the question “What is observation?” came up. I really wanted to know the answer, as science appears to base many of its theories upon observation. I would love to wholeheartedly embrace science because it is just so much fun, but my beliefs often counter its premises.

“Empirical Evidence”; “The Scientific Method“; and “Double-Blind Studies”; are all terms used by scientists to form theories. An experiment must be verifiable and reproducible if we are to trust its results.

I see “Science” and all its sub-specialties as one of the games we can play–should we choose to do so–during our time on earth. The supposed “conflicts” between scientific and spiritual theory are best left to another discussion, but what the “Scientific Methodists” believe (for the most part) about reality is that the rules made up and/or agreed to in the game translate to ultimate reality.

There is as much belief and faith involved in the practice of science as there is in the practice of religion. Again, another discussion, but I often ask myself to conceptualize a universe or reality that is “beyond the game”. Where the “rules” don’t apply. The place where we make up, or at least read, the rules before we begin the game.

A few closing words about observation. I link to a short video here. There are literally hundreds of “optical illusion” videos “out there on the web”–an ethereal concept indeed–but this one caught my interest regarding observation. I watched it about seven times, and could not talk myself into seeing the inside of the mask as concave rather than convex. So, what does that say about my “power” of observation? Granted, I’m only able to use one of my senses here. If I were in the same room with the mask, and allowed to touch it, “obviously” it would become “just a mask”.

But the striking thing in this film, for me, is that the narrator does insist we “know better” than that there is a fully formed face on the underside of the mask. The only way I would “know better” is from having had experience with handling a mask in the past, and assuming what I’m seeing on the video is in fact a similar mask. That, or I could decide that I trust this man implicitly, and he would not lie. Therefore, I am not seeing what I am seeing.

All I can “know”, at this point, is that there is something I trust more than observation to define my reality.

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Environment of the Self

Posted on October 16, 2007. Filed under: Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

I and thousands of others took up the challenge to write about the environment on Blog Action Day. I read lots of uplifting, inspiring, and a few complaining posts, and during the day I began to notice that most of us see “The Environment” as something outside ourselves. Now that the official day has come and gone, I find myself reexamining the word, the concept, and the deeper meaning of Environment from a holographic perspective.

I’ll start first with the definition I used for the original action day (Oct.15): “the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded“.

There are lots of other definitions, but the word “surrounded” would seem to indicate separation. I don’t think it does, though. We are surrounded by air, but is the air separate from that in our lungs? We are surrounded by earth (minerals) but we are in fact made of them. It is accepted that our bodies are mostly water. So, where do “I” end and the “environment” begin?

This may sound at first like “merely” a metaphysical question, but, from the examples above, it is clearly physical, too.

So, the environment starts with ourselves. If we are “right” with ourselves, I believe, we will naturally gravitate towards wanting a beautiful, fertile place to live. We will want abundant resources for everyone. We will want to live lightly and peacefully upon our lovely planet.

I, like many, look around me and don’t always see these things in manifest reality. The only, basic, reason I can see pollution, for instance, or limited resources, or overpopulation, is that these things exist in some form in my own mind. When I speak of “cleaning up the environment”, for me, anyway, I must start with the environment I hold in mind. That’s where there is a “mental equivalent” for pollution, or limited resources, or overpopulation.

While I sincerely believe that it would be helpful if we would all look to our belief systems for the answers to outer events, it’s not my work to decide what is right for others. It IS my work, (and and I am thankful I have some tools I’m using to whittle away the old, out-of-fashion, used-up beliefs), to “clean up” my own mind. It’s only then, from a cleaner perspective, that I can go ahead and attempt to aid the world around me.

Or perhaps, if there is another environmental blogging day, next time I’ll have nothing “bad” to report. Peace, shalom, salaam.

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Blog Action Day: The Environment!

Posted on October 14, 2007. Filed under: Science, Spirituality |

It’s Here !!!

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

October 15 is the first annual Blog Action Day. We’re told the ‘action issue’ is THE ENVIRONMENT. So here is my one voice of thousands:

As I am wont to do, I’ll start with a definition.

the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded.

That seems pretty straightforward. As I am me (metaphysical topic, next post 🙂 ), I’m looking for positive things to say about the circumstances which surround me. I look out the window and see mountains. I see beauty. I see birds. These are all signs that I have done well in imagining the environment. My feeling about “what to do about the environment”, if such doing is needed, is mainly to “let it be”. On those days when I feel inspired to take action, I think there are some good references at the International Earth Day website: What you can do right now.

As I was examining the site I was delighted to discover a project for any age group that enjoys amateur theatre. I’ve admired the North American author, poet, and wildlife advocate Henry David Thoreau for a long time. There is a new play about him and his life, available at no charge to those wanting to explore his life, philosophy, and friends (including my favorite of his friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson): Walden Play

Along with the play comes wonderful songs, newly composed but reminiscent of 60’s folk songs. They are available too, and samples can be heard here: Walden Songs

What really caught my attention at the Walden site, though was a stunning photo-journal of the grounds where Thoreau lived in a simple cabin in Concord, Massachusetts, and where he connected with nature in a profound way: Visit Walden Pond

We can tour the area, and get a pilgrim’s view of his first visit to this beautiful and inspiring land.

After leaving Walden, I discovered I admired the work of EarthCareCanada. Check them out if you will.

And finally, for all you AOL fans (yes, both of you) 😉 there is AOL’s Green Daily, actually a useful and friendly site with good tips for daily life. Happy Blog Action Day, everyone. 8)

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Talking of Intention…

Posted on October 13, 2007. Filed under: Spirituality |

I have, with some trepidation, joined a spiritual book discussion group. I generally like to be “left alone” when reading. It’s a highly personal thing to me, and I’d rather not have others “help” me to interpret literature. That goes double for English teachers. With apologies: I know any English teacher who happens to read this blog will not be like the teacher who wrote on a dear ones literary essay only one word: “No”. I’ll leave you to react to that as you will.

But I digress. The reason I chose to be a part of this group is that it will exist for only five weeks, and will discuss only one book, namely The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. This is the sort of book I might be inclined to read, anyway, and since it’s NOT FICTION (if it were, I’d run, run far away, fleet of foot, and unique of thought), I figured it would be a chance to connect up with some folks who interpret spiritual experience in a similar fashion.

I’ve watched Dr. Dyer mentally shape-shift through the years. I read his very first book, published in 1977 (Your Erroneous Zones–clever title) in which he discusses well-being from a psychological perspective. I’ve read through some of his other works, and he apparently has undergone a great spiritual evolution over the last three decades. But this is the first time I will be “studying” his work.

He starts right off defining the word intention for himself. I find this sort of fun. I enjoy finding out as many dictionary definitions as possible for a word I’m building an article around, and then I go ahead and make up a definition that pleases me, guided by my research.

Here are a couple of dictionary definitions from Merriam Webster:
noun Pronunciation: in-‘ten(t)-sh&n
1 : a determination to act in a certain way : Resolve
2 : Import, Significant
3 a : what one intends to do or bring about b : the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered.
4 : a process or manner of healing of incised wounds. (While I acknowledge and respect meaning #4, I’m hopeful it will not need to be demonstrated in our group).

Here’re a couple more definitions:
determination to do a specified thing or act in a specified manner. something that you want and plan to do.

OK, so far, so good.

Here is Dr. Dyer’s definition, at least for the purpose of the book in question: “Intention is a field of energy that flows invisibly beyond the reach of our normal, everyday habitual patterns.”

So, my first question for my book group members will be “hunh?” (See how intellectual I can be 🙂 ?). As I mentioned, I’m all in favor of finding new meaning in old words for ourselves. Yet, it seems to me, that there are already plenty of good words to be had for what Dyer is describing. At the outset of the book, I am confused by his use of the word “intention” in this way. He mentions a “field of energy”–why not call it that, as Lynne McTaggart did? (In fairness, he does refer us to McTaggart’s book). Other words are ‘source’, ‘universal substance’, ‘force’ (if I want to get StarWarsian), or, dare I say it, ‘God’. The book could easily be called “The Power of the Field”.

As I’m only in the middle of chapter one, I’ll report back in a week to let you know if he’s convinced me to use his word his way.

Peace, my brothers and sisters in Intention! 8)

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