I AM THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
In our quest to understand the nature of the universe and our place in it, we direct vast amounts of attention and energy toward things outside of ourselves. NASA, a program, which focuses prodigious sums on exploration, sending probes to the far reaches of space, seeking to map the infinite, is a prime example.
In an attempt to comprehend the inner workings of the human body and mind, the mainstream medical community directs the vast majority of its resources toward research and development of new technologies and drugs to “cure” an ever-widening array of disease, rather than attempting to discover the source of the illness.
This is not to say that such work does not have its merits or is unworthy of exploration. It is to suggest, however, that the answers to these profound and perplexing questions are ultimately not to be found in the external world.
The “final frontier” is not space, but the inner life. When we direct the focus of our inquiries as to the nature of life and the universe inwardly, the vast complexities of the cosmos and our own bodies are revealed to us in all their simplicity.
The Ancients were well aware that all we perceive as our external environment, including our physical bodies, are merely mirrors, reflections of the infinite, inner landscape. So many wise ones have journeyed before and returned to tell the tale, illuminating, what may more aptly be called, the “Lightscape” of our in-most Self.
Their discoveries were written in the research journals of their times, scribed in the scriptures and sacred texts of every Wisdom Tradition, by saints and sages, whose methods of exploration were as exacting as those of contemporary men and women of Science. As we forge ahead into the unfolding Age of Aquarius, we will see the great minds of the Age coming more often to consensus, understanding that there are many paths to the same destination.
There is an Hermetic maxim that states: As above, so below. This phrase expresses the fundamental spiritual truth that the macrocosm is the microcosm, and so its corollary. The answers we seek and see revealed in the external always have their source within.
There was a time when the general belief was that the Earth was the center of the universe. This was known as geocentricism, and espoused by the expansive thinkers of the earliest civilizations. The theory was later replaced by heliocentric cosmology, as our awareness broadened to encompass a different model. This theory held that the Sun was the center of the universe.
We have since evolved to the understanding that the Sun is merely the center of our solar system, part of a larger galaxy, one of myriad galaxies in an infinitely expanding universe. As we come to experience the limitlessness of our consciousness, we will see that reflected in our concept of the Cosmos.
This progression of awareness mirrors our own spiritual path of awakening. Whether this unfolding occurs in one lifetime, or over billions of incarnations, it is the path we all travel, consciously or not. It is only through incarnation that we can come to understand and experience our full potential as co-creative forces in the universe.
In what we might consider the “geocentric” phase of our spiritual evolution, we first must awaken into matter, through the development of the ego. The ego mind is limited, however, and should we not seek to rise any higher, we become bound to the 3-dimensional world, to the material plane. The ego, a tool of the mind, is fueled by our desire body, which becomes stimulated by our perceptions, causing us to believe that the impulses we receive, via the physical sense organs, projected onto the movie screen of the mind is reality.
Our vision becomes clouded by the mists of maya, an illusion created by ego mind that what we perceive is static, stable, real, when truly it is all vibration, all Light. Many of us are so enmeshed in the material we begin to believe it is the cause of our state of being, rather than the effect.
As a child, we may have been told, on occasion, when behaving in ways our parents perceived as selfish, “You know… you’re not the center of the universe.” Perhaps we have repeated this to others, our own children even, in an effort to get them to consider the needs or feelings of others.
In our early development, when we begin to establish our sense of autonomy and identity, it is believed that the ego limits us from seeing the bigger picture, as we are caught up in our own little world, attempting to satisfy our immediate desires. This is considered self-centered, and therefore frowned upon.
Yet, ironically, we adults are the ones whose view is limited. Most of us have forgotten what we as young children instinctively knew: that we are Genius Source Creators, individualized aspects of the One Mind, sparks of the Divine Flame, perpetually incarnating to expand our Soul awareness, and balance our Karma.
We are taught from a very young age, if we want to get along well in the world, we need to sublimate our own needs to those of others. If we are to be rewarded and not punished, we must give up our own will, in order to please our parents, our teachers, our religious leaders, our God. We cannot give up something we have not yet established.
What those around us have forgotten is that our Soul comes in with a master plan. It knows what it needs to accomplish and what it needs to learn. The ego or personality, in its balanced state, is the vehicle through which the soul enacts the human drama we call life.
Though we may not consciously be aware of this contract, our Higher Self has guided us to incarnate within the exact conditions that will allow us to play out this script. We, like a director for a play, select the cast of characters, our family. We, as a soul, choose the environment in which the plot line of our experience will unfold. All the given circumstances, of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, socio-economic condition, etc., are choices we authored before birth in conjunction with our guides, those beings who have progressed further in their evolutionary process.
We are the true architects of our destiny. Yet, those around us, who have lost sight of their own original contracts, are forever pulling us off course. They believe they “know what is best for us.” We are made to perform in ways designed to make them happy or to make their lives easier, and if we don’t, well watch out! And they call us selfish!? A dear friend of mine was wont to say when she observed someone being overly selfish, “I’m on fire! I’m on fire! No, put me out, put me out.”
This truly isn’t far off the mark. When we forget our master plan, it’s because the fire of our desires has gotten out of control. We become caught up in the trappings of our material existence, lured by the siren call of the senses. So we reach for the tantalizing temptation before us, believing that if we get our hands on the focus of our desire, the fire will be quenched. Too late, we discover it was all an illusion, a fantasy; the mermaid is really a monster. We are pulled under by the weight of disillusionment. Caught in the murky depths of our emotions, we get disoriented and cannot tell which way is up. We struggle and we drown.
We are an acquisitive race of beings. We like our “gear”. We started out as hunter-gatherers, and have progressed over the millennia into a race of hoarders. We Americans are particularly pathological when it comes to acquisition. We like to regard ourselves as “collectors” and “connoisseurs”, but really we are just packrats, no better than crows and ferrets, intrigued and delighted by bright, shiny baubles.
When we become overrun with stuff, mired down by our excess baggage, whether material, emotional or mental, there is no possibility for higher aspiration. Why would we want to seek something more elevated? We’ve got everything we need right here! If it’s not in the house, it’s in the garage, if not in the garage, then the shed out back, if not there, then the self-storage unit on the other side of town.
What do we do with all this stuff? What purpose does it serve? Our material possessions, our thoughts and concepts merely serve as the brick and mortar we use to erect the walls of our self-made prisons. Locked within the walls of our homes, or in the cages of our minds and bodies, we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters, and ultimately from God, our Source and Sustainer, the essence of all we truly are.
When we begin to let go of our attachments to what we perceive as our outer reality, taking control of the ego mind and the emotions, we can begin to direct our focus inwardly. When we relinquish our grasp on the material, we open our hands and hearts to receive the outpouring of Divine Love that is flowing to us in all ways, surrounding us in its nurturing embrace.
This Divine Grace, like the sun’s rays, is continually flowing to us. Love is Energy, Vibration, Light. It moves out in waves from the Heart of the Divine, unconditionally, to all its creation. Yet we cannot sense it, we cannot know the enormity of this Infinite Blessing, while hunkered down in our mental and physical fortresses, braced for the onslaught of our lives.
Energy must move in a circuit, between two poles, the positive and the negative, the outgo and the inflow, the inhalation and the exhalation. In order to feel God’s Love, we must be willing to accept it, and then return it with the same force.
The Master, Jesus, taught us to Love God with all our heart, mind and soul. In order to practice this teaching, the heart must be free of hate, the mind of fear, and the soul of doubt…and the garage? Well… let’s not go there. It’s time to do some spring-cleaning!
If an honored guest were coming over for a meal, wouldn’t we spend some time and energy tiding up a bit? Let’s just say President Obama wanted to stop by to discuss how we could reshape the consciousness of the nation toward greater human rights, or the Dalai Lama wanted to hear our thoughts on the nature of silence. Would we make an effort to clear the dining room table of the 4 loads of laundry and the unpaid bills? I rather think so.
When we begin to make space for God to enter our lives, an interesting thing happens. We begin to realize that the Divine has been there all along. The Supreme Self has been waiting patiently, beneath all the clutter, secure in the knowledge that we will eventually come to this realization ourselves. This is Self-Consciousness, that moment when we awaken to the Presence of God within us. When we are fully conscious of the limitlessness of our being, we might say we have progressed into our heliocentric phase.
The Self is the Christ Light, which dwells within our hearts. This is the Son/Sun of God. We are all a part of this Sonship, each with the seed of the Christ Light sown in our hearts, forever striving toward the surface, making it’s way back to its Source. This upward trajectory we make may not be conscious, but; never the less, it is the path we all are on.
Just as not every bud blossoms at the same time on the dogwood tree, each of us opens to the fullness of our potential at a different time. This is why we must not judge others, for we were once at that very same stage of unfoldment. We are asked to help our brothers and sisters along with encouragement, offering compassionate support and guidance. When we point our fingers and criticize another’s behavior, we only bring all of humanity down. When we lift up our brother or sister, we all are lifted. We must see the good in all; give our energy and focus to the positive aspects of ourselves, and others.
Each of us is making the upward climb in search of truth. When we stop trying to beat the other guy to the top, when we let go of the illusion that our limited view of the truth is right and the other’s must be eradicated, we begin to see beyond the illusion, to grasp the bigger picture: that we all emanate from the same Source. We are all cells in the body of the One.
When we can rise above the illusion, we begin to see that the entire universe is merely a projection, a reflection of our fears and desires, our beliefs and our concepts, and it changes and evolves in direct proportion to our expanding consciousness. Just as we are all thoughts in the One Mind, all that we perceive and experience emanates from our consciousness.
We are the One manifesting as the many. Each of us is an individualized center of expression of the Cosmic Consciousness. As such, we are all centers of the Universe. That Vortex of Creation, the Supreme Self, is the I AM Presence. God is the Cosmic Center. The All is present in that singularity. There is no separation. No me, no you, no us, no them. No here, no there. All that ever was, is, or will be, is here now. Regardless of where I am on the face of the Earth, the center remains the same. So when we say, “ I AM the center of the Universe,” we speak truth.
When I was young, I discovered something about my father; he never drove the same way twice, or at least that’s what it seemed to me. Whether driving with him to Tully or Vermont to go skiing, or through the city to one hospital or another, accompanying him on his “rounds,” he was always seeking a new route.
I think my father would chalk this propensity up to his right-brained tendencies for adventurousness, spontaneity and curiosity. As a result, I learned a lot about how to get around Central New York, and in the process developed a pretty dependable sense of direction that has served well to get me where I want to go.
Keenly observing the lay of the land, and committing landmarks to memory as my dad drove, and noting that his awareness of the bigger picture aided him in creative problem solving when an accident or road construction would block our path, I learned there are multiple routes to the same destination.
However, sometimes we meet with an obstacle on our path, a lane closure due to construction, or a car wreck that has yet to be cleared, and there is only one way through. There are no exit ramps, no backcountry roads to detour onto, we simply must move straight toward what is in our path.
During these times of great transformation, the obstacles, or what we perceive as obstacles, acting as hindrances to our progress, become more amplified. We may feel as though everything and everyone is plotting to thwart our dreams and desires.
What appear to be the evil plots and machinations of others to deter us from reaching our goals, are simply the lessons we have chosen to learn in this incarnation, surfacing with more urgency and intensity. Again and again we are given the opportunity to expand.
They are not arising as punishment. The Universal Justice is only balancing itself, without judgment. These impediments are always and only based on our karma, or the Law of Cosmic Retribution, which we incurred as a result of our previous actions in past lives. Retribution simply means repayment. As we sow, so shall we reap.
We are now being summoned, called by our Souls to look squarely at what is in front of us. We are being challenged to drop all judgment, accusation, and blame of others, and to take sole responsibility for our own actions. From this place of awareness and acknowledgement we have the ability to respond and transform our circumstance.
“An action continuing through time and space, performed by human beings and perceived by human beings, all of whom are in the same space.” It sounds like a definition for “Life,” right? Well, according to David Ball, in his book A Sense of Direction, I am describing a Play.
Now, it is a given, in the world of Theatre, that conflict creates drama, or more specifically, dramatic action. It is a necessity in the structure of most genres of dramatic literature.
In the world of life, we can certainly see this same convention at work, or should I say, “play?” Shakespeare truly knew from whence he spoke, when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players….”
Dramatic conflict, in a play, is created when a character is prevented from getting something he or she wants. “The specific, limited thing the character is trying to accomplish, at this moment in the play, what the character wants right now, is referred to as his or her objective. And the specific, limited, thing, at this moment in the play that prevents the character getting what he or she wants is the obstacle.”
Dramatic Action is “the result of conflict: I want, I cannot have; therefore, I act. All action is rooted in desire. I try to remove the obstacle, so I can get what I want.”
“A play’s arc traces the resolution of a central conflict; that is, the conflicting desires of two or more characters. Each character’s desire prevents the other(s) from accomplishing his or her desire. The play is over when the conflict is resolved.” Are we still talking about a play, or does this sound remarkably like a description of life?
Action, in a play, is described as “the tactic the character takes, or the strategy the character uses to overcome his or her obstacle.”
Most often, as we can see, it is the means by which “one character tries to manipulate other characters into removing the obstacle to his or her objective.” Doesn’t this sound exhausting? But this is how many of us are living our lives.
In the theatre there are four types of dramatic conflict where a character is at cross-purposes with something or someone, which poses as an obstacle to his/her objective:
Now, you might say these categories could be applied to any of our lives, as well. I would say that is as much an illusion as any play you would see in the theatre. We are under the illusion that life is happening to us, and people and events are often serving as deterrents to our achieving what we want. But only one of these forces is at play in the “real” world. The only obstacle we ever face, and the cause of all the drama and conflict in our lives, emanates from within.
Anything that we perceive as an obstacle to our goals is just a mirror reflecting back to us our own handiwork. From my limited ego perspective, it may very well appear that my husband is impeding my desire to go back to school, because he hasn’t tried hard enough to find work after his lay-off, so I have to work two jobs to support the family.
It all appears very cut and dry on the surface, doesn’t it? He’s a lazy, good for nothing…while I’m working my tail off to support this family…. It’s not an unreasonable complaint is it? Not if we are only looking at appearances. But what may be hidden deeper under the surface?
Fear is always at the root of anything that appears to be an obstacle in our lives. If I look at my hypothetical husband’s situation a bit more closely, or, better yet, ask him to speak plainly about his reticence, I might learn that he is afraid to get back out in the job market for fear of rejection. He feels he’s been out too long and the tide has moved on without him. Younger applicants have far more knowledge of what’s new in the field, etc., etc.
From this vantage point, I may view his seeming resistance with a bit more compassion. Now, if I am brave enough to delve a little deeper, I may be willing to see that my husband’s predicament is a mirror for my own stuff.
As I meditate on what appears to be in my way, with greater self-awareness arises the honest acknowledgment that I am feeling nervous about going back to school. It’s been so long since I cracked a book, I’m not even sure I would know how to study again. I’ll be the oldest one in the class. It’s going to be so hard… etc., etc.
Focusing on his “laziness” is a very convenient way for me to avoid looking at my own fears. It appears he is the cause of my suffering, but he is only a reflection of a more deeply rooted current of fear in me.
The teachings of Abraham-Hicks tell us that it is never true to say those around us have got a lot of “stuff” going on that we do not. You cannot say, “My co-workers are such a bunch of complainers!” We always attract to us others who are vibrating at the same frequency, though what they manifest may appear somewhat different, a slightly different melody, the underlying chord, however, is always the same. “If they’ve got it goin’ on, you’ve got it goin’ on.”
So, why do we judge and blame and complain? These are tactics (our actions) that we use to deflect the focus away from our own stuff, the issues that we have not yet resolved. Quite simply, we project our own unconscious patterns onto others, because it is so much easier than cleaning up our own mess.
There is a wonderful parable floating around cyberspace that goes like this:
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean; she doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: "Look, she's finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?" The husband replies, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."
And so it is with life... What we perceive, when observing others, depends on the clarity of the window through which we look. Our own eyes may be clouded with misapprehension, convoluted thinking, concepts and patterns of thought that have no basis in truth. We lose sight of what is happening, because we are distorting the lens with our own emotional baggage or misconception, and this fuels a thought that brings with it another emotion, and before we know it we have fabricated a very convincing story as to why we are not getting what we want.
More important to understand is that what seems to be in our way is always self-constructed. We are constantly creating karma, the by-product of our continual action. What we are experiencing is either the effect of a cause initiated in this life or a previous one, and we always, either consciously or not, choose these challenges as an opportunity for soul growth, or spiritual evolution.
It is always necessary for us to acknowledge the impediment, accept it, and welcome it fully into our lives, for resisting it will only magnify it.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion states:
When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.
Our resistance only feeds the obstruction.
According to the I-Ching, “when flowing water, the quintessence of the Tao, meets with an obstacle in its path, a blockage on its journey, it pauses. It increases in volume and strength, filling up in front of the obstacle and eventually flowing past it. The obstacles do not spring suddenly in the way of the rushing water but are, in fact, inherent in the chosen path.”
The path that we tread, we chose at a soul level. Our soul, which has a far broader perspective, unlimited by the physical body or ego mind, is drawing to us exactly what we need to balance our karma. Also, what our soul is drawing to us we are.
At a purely physical level, everything is merely energy. As such, so are we, and all that we perceive as physical has its source in the Spiritual. So, whenever we judge or blame or resist, we are actually only directing that energy back at ourselves.
Recall Newton’s 3rd Law again, for a moment. Our thoughts, which are energy, exert force, just like any physical body. When we direct them at another, there is an equal and opposite force pushing right back at us. It’s no wonder we get stuck. We will never get past what we think is in our way, until we acknowledge, and lovingly accept that we are its source.
Each time we incarnate we take on a new role so that we may move through the “human drama” of life to gain more experience and greater understanding. We, in collaboration with our guides, choose the ideal setting, cast of characters and plotlines to follow, in order that we may raise our consciousness to new levels of awareness, and thus our soul to a more expanded state of evolution.
These life lessons are the ones our parents may have told us “build character.” They are hard, they challenge us, and they always force us to surpass our current definition of who we think we are, but they are always offered to us with the greatest love and purest devotion to our greater good, and we are never given anything that is beyond our ability to endure.
If we want to limit the “drama” in our life, we must limit the conflict. The easiest way is to cease all self-serving desire, which removes our need to act. When we are not acting, we are not creating karma, and we become pure channels for the flow of the Divine Life Force. When we are conduits for Spirit, there is nothing that can hinder our creation.
But for many, this may seem a lofty endeavor and far beyond our current capabilities. So what other option is there, as we learn non-attachment, when we come up against an obstacle in our path?
The key, just as with the water meeting an obstruction, is to pause. In doing so, we no longer empower or perpetuate the life of what seems an obstacle through our resistance; here we are simply able to be.
This pause is like the space between thoughts that we cultivate through meditation, or the pause between the inhalation and exhalation. The space is where all striving ceases, where all resistance subsides. In the space, we discover the opening that becomes the way through. This gap, this void, this pause is the gateway to our Higher Self, that aspect of ourselves that already knows the answer to our questions before we even pose them, and knows that this seeming obstacle is an illusion we have created to encourage our growth and move us further along the path toward home.
As Albert Einstein says, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” so we must be willing, when we come upon something that appears to block our way, to raise our consciousness by raising our vibration, moving from a state of solidity to a fluid state and become non-resistant like water. We pause, build in power and strength, by entering the God Space, and gracefully move through.
And if our movement still remains blocked, as mystical poet, Mark Nepo, tells us, “Perhaps we are meant to be still.”
Before the inception of our universe, the All That Is existed as eternal, pure, positive, Source Energy - Infinite Light. Our universe as we know it, lay in potential, in a state of profound contraction, like a seed containing the unending cycle of birth, growth, death and decay. With the “Big Bang,” the cosmos is born, its never-ending cycle of expansion and contraction continuing, as it transforms into its next incarnation.
This Infinite Light, what some might call God- a self–contained whole- in order to know itself, had to expand, splintering off in myriad directions, like shards of a great cosmic mirror rent asunder. Evolving over countless millennia, as inseparably connected extensions of that Divine Self, we, and everything else in the universe, eventually contracted again to come into form. All that we can perceive with our five senses, and all that exists beyond the limited awareness of those faculties, every atom, every cloud, every rock, tree, whale, and human being is this God-Source Energy.
With each incarnation, through the process of involution, the Supreme Self lowers its vibration, condensing down to come into innumerable physical forms, our human bodies only one satellite in an infinite constellation.
From the moment of our conception, we begin to expand again, perpetuating the evolution of our species and our soul. The fetus grows exponentially in the mother’s womb, from a single cell to a multi-dimensional, dynamic, living, breathing bundle of Life Force Energy. Our entire birthing process is carried out in the same primordial dance of the universe. The uterus contracts to expel what has reached fruition, and the cervix expands to allow for the passage from inner to outer.
Just as we are connected to and nourished by our mothers through the life sustaining umbilical cord at our navel, we are linked to the Infinite Light through the Antahkarana, at the crown of the head. Though we are separated from our mothers at birth in the cutting of this tie, we are never severed from our Source. That cosmic connection is inextricably present.
As our bodies develop further they are in a constant state of growth and decay, as new cells replace those we cast off, with each inhalation we take, and each exhalation we release. The cycle continues, as we “shuffle off this mortal coil,” and merge back into non-physical, at the moment of our transition, or death, only to cycle back again, in the infinite cosmic rhythm of expansion and contraction.
As a practitioner and Instructor of Hatha Yoga, I am well acquainted with these terms, as they embody the external expression of the asana or poses that make up the physical component to the practice. In pranayama, we train our focus on the breath, riding the waves of the inhalation and exhalation. In dhyana or meditation we concentrate our awareness on a single point of focus, in order to transcend the physical form and the mind, expanding beyond them to ultimately merge into the Infinite Bliss of samadhi.
In the practice we cultivate a balance between these polarities. They play and work together, each containing the other by degrees. Hatha Yoga is yang and yin in motion. Ha, meaning Sun, is the active, outward or expansive principle, and Tha, which means Moon, represents the receptive, inward or contractive component. It is when we lose this equilibrium, through our habits of thought and behavior, throwing off the balance of nature, that disharmony results.
Very often I hear people say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible.” Or a student will say, “You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t do that pose.” My usual response to statements like those is, “If you believe you can’t, then you never will.”
In my work as a Yoga teacher, I am introducing my students to new experiences, new ways of engaging with their body, mind, breath, and soul. They are called upon to expand the boundaries of what they think they are capable, physically, mentally and spiritually, the ultimate goal being Self or God-Realization, simply put, coming to the awareness that we are, in fact, God.
Ironically, what is most critical to progress in the discipline is one’s willingness to unlearn. Yes, I instruct my students in various physical postures, forms of breath control, as well as philosophy, but more importantly, I assist them in recognizing where they are harboring blocks and resistances, and I offer them tools to begin to release them.
These blocks and resistances, what one might call contractions are built up over many years, and very often over many lifetimes. They are patterns of thought and behavior that have been laid over our true nature, this pure positive Source Energy, becoming veils that obscure our essential God Self, which is limitless. The most insidious and powerful cause of contraction is fear. When we operate from a place of fear it adversely affects us on multiple levels.
Psychologists describe fear as an emotional response to a known or definite threat, a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, or imminent danger that is perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.
The most common physiological responses associated with fear include: increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, contraction of the muscles, sharpened or redirected senses, dilation of the pupils (to let in more light), increased sweating, and constricted breathing. All of these effects throw off the normal balance of expansion and contraction in the body.
It is believed that these bodily changes are an inborn reaction, born out in the fight, flight or freeze response, necessary for our survival. These signals alert us to a potential or perceived danger and allow us to choose to stay and face the threat, flee to safety, or even freeze in fear induced paralysis.
Interestingly, we also experience similar physiological shifts during moments of anxiety, often erroneously labeled “fear,” which is more accurately described by authors Kaplan and Sadock, as “a diffuse, unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension…” often a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. These physical changes still occur even when we believe there is merely the possibility of a threat, as the mind conjures a vision of some unspecified danger that might potentially result in an imagined undesirable outcome.
Whether as a result of imminent danger or simply a perceived threat, at these times various parts of the body go into a state of extreme contraction on a cellular level; major muscle groups in the body tense, and the breathing becomes constricted, resulting in shortness of breath. While others expand beyond normal limits.
Now, these physical responses developed early in our evolution as a species, as we were faced with many conditions that threatened our very survival, like being eaten by a large predator, for example. Over the millennia, those circumstances have lessened considerably, unless of course you live in a war zone of one sort or other. Yet, even in the most benign of conditions, we continue to create phantom threats based on what we think might possibly happen to us. We have conditioned ourselves into a constant state of “red alert,” what is now generally termed “stress.” Continually operating at this level negatively impacts us in many ways. We are ravaging our bodies, and wreaking havoc on our minds. The pharmaceutical companies and medical industry are the only ones benefiting!
The Greek, Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus eloquently and succinctly described our condition as follows:
Men are not worried by things,
but by their idea about things.
When we meet with difficulties,
become anxious or troubled,
let us not blame others,
but rather ourselves,
that is: our ideas about things.
We are adversely affected by our over identification with fear, not only physically and mentally, but spiritually, as well. I see my students come up against their fears and anxieties frequently in Yoga class, when faced with the prospect of trying a challenging new pose. Inversions like head and handstands can bring up some pretty heavy stuff.
The same sorts of reactions arise in us multiple times a day when we get caught in the “what if’s” of our lives. We send ourselves into tizzies, imagining a variety of unpleasant outcomes that might befall us should we attempt something new. We are afraid of failing, afraid of embarrassing ourselves, afraid of being judged, or ridiculed. So, very often, we say, “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “I shouldn’t.” Instead of boldly treading into the unknown, we stay firmly rooted, or stuck in our present condition, whether it is of benefit to us or not.
Consider the words can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t for a moment. What do we call these words grammatically? Contractions. When we use any of these words we contract, effectively cutting ourselves off from any possibility of growth, restricting our essential nature, which is one of eternal expansion or evolution.
When we say “I can’t,” we are saying “ I cannot.” In these moments, we place a strangle hold on the cosmic umbilical cord, tieing a metaphoric knot in the Antahkarana, that radiant Light connection to our Infinite Source. The stream of Inspiration and Energy that is continually flowing to us is pinched off. Every time we utter “I wont’” or “I shouldn’t” we block the Divine conduit, like plaque clogging an artery.
So how do we remedy this? We are in need of a Cosmic Roto-Rooter, something to flush the system, to open the gate allowing the free flow of the Divine to flood us, to embolden us into expanding into the greater potential we hold captive in our fear.
We might call fear a negative emotion, for lack of a better term. It isn’t really good or bad, but it does serve a useful purpose. It let’s us know that we have created a state in our minds that is counter to who we truly are. It is a signal that we are presently placing false limitations on our capabilities, based on our beliefs about ourselves, our belief that we are “only human,” that we are “mortal”, and “fallible,” or, perhaps, that we are “sinners.”
Signals are beneficial. They serve to get our attention and help us to recognize that something needs addressing. It is only when we get caught in an habitual mode of fear that it becomes debilitating. When we become stuck in these patterns of thought and behavior, they lead to stagnation, further contraction, and ultimately to decay and death. This is only our fate if we choose it to be. There is another way…
If everything is God, then nothing is imperfect. What is perhaps imperfect or at least distorted is our concept of who we are, a misrepresentation of the mind. When we understand that we are the Limitless Light, that we are God, the Eternal, I Am Presence, we let go of our false self, the ego self, the little “I am” that holds the limited vision of separation from Source and everything else firmly in its clutches, “afraid” of being “annihilated.”
There is no need to eradicate the ego; more accurately, we only need to rein it in. We do this by releasing the resistance and the blockages, the false concepts and impressions we cling to of who we think we are. Developing a practice that clears out the static, that quiets the cling and clatter in our heads is the first step toward Self-Realization - Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are but a few.
When we become the masters of our minds, we become the masters of our own realities. When we release the fear and limitations we place on ourselves, and divinize the mind, by expanding the consciousness to encompass the All That Is that we are, we finally come to know the deep peace we are all seeking, and the joy of bringing into form all we wish to create. When we still the turbulence in the sea of our minds, we can once again see our true reflection, the Infinite Face of God.
We have become a society of “multi-taskers.” As technology continues to evolve, we are being given tools and actively encouraged to split our focus even more, in order to be productive and remain on the leading edge of whatever we are told is the next hot trend.
Innovations in technology have offered us many advantages, no doubt, but we are also seeing all sorts of issues arise affecting our physical, emotion and mental health. At the root of these woes is our neglect of our spiritual well-being.
Is it possible to be the “Servant of Two Masters”? The media would have us believe that it is essential to our social and fiscal wellbeing. In the 16th c. Carlo Goldoni play of the same name, a comedy of errors, in which the quirky Truffaldino, servant to the miserly Pantalone, aligns himself with yet another master, in order to further satisfy his insatiable hunger.
The Italian Commedia D’ellarte grew out of the Medieval Morality plays. In Jesus the Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we find the inspiration for this classic tale.
One of the central themes of the play is Truffaldino’s all-consuming appetite. This hunger, like a ravenous wolf that can never be satisfied, is almost his undoing. His main intention or action in the play is to fill his belly. Dividing his attention between two masters ensures that this hunger will never be sated, as the web of lies and deceit he weaves, in trying to satisfy both, becomes his greatest obstacle.
Yet Truffaldino’s hunger is a metaphor for a deeper yearning, which, in the play, is represented by his beloved, Smeraldina. On the larger stage of our lives, the empty void we continually seek to fill can only be satisfied by Divine Love.
There is an underlying and insidious pattern of belief in the mass consciousness of humanity that life is hard. We are brought up to believe we are meant to suffer, that nothing good ever comes without sacrifice and hard work, and we need every “trick in the book” in order to get ahead. Most of us accept this, because it is what we have been taught, and all we have ever experienced.
The only reason our experience of life is hard is because we are operating under a series of false premises. Life is only hard, because we make it so.
The first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths states that Life means suffering. If we just stop here, this could be a rather daunting concept. It seems to support the mindset from which most of us approach our lives. We have all heard the pessimist proclaim, “Life’s a bitch, and then you die.“
If we explore a bit further, we discover that Buddha doesn’t leave us hanging there. In the second Noble Truth he expresses that the origin of suffering is attachment.
What is meant by attachment? The earliest use of the word attach in the west derives from the 11th century French, atachier, which means to fix; stake up, or support, to fasten, or connect. Later, it appeared in Anglo-Latin use, meaning to take or seize by law.
Attachment, arising from this root word, means to arrest a person on judicial warrant. It’s more contemporary meaning of a show of devotion or sympathy was not in use until the early 18th c., and of course the word is now ubiquitous in this day of email and texting.
We can see the earliest uses of the root word implied connection, and attachment itself, meaning a seizure of person, property or wages, was actually not something to be desired.
An attachment, quite unromantically, was an experience of bondage or imprisonment. It is this bondage and imprisonment to which the Buddha refers, as the cause of all suffering.
We continually witness the impermanence of life, in the cycles of nature. The shoot springs forth from the earth; blossoms explode, wilt and decay. Pods drop their seeds, which are buried in the earth and then rise again to continue the rhythmic dance of expansion and contraction.
We so willingly accept the evanescence of nature, sure in the knowledge that the passage from day to night will yet again reveal the rising sun, the snow will recede to usher in the new growth of spring. Yet, when a loved one dies or leaves, the security of a job dissolves, or the physical body no longer functions at peak performance, our sense of security is shaken. The seemingly solid foundation, on which we stood, has shifted, and we may feel a sense of powerlessness or fear.
We might ask, “How could what had seemed so sure, so secure, have fallen away so quickly and without warning?” Why are we so unwilling to view the ebb and flow of our personal seasons as being any different from the greater cycles of nature?
It is because we are often confused by what we perceive as the nature of our reality, and in our confusion we become attached to it, believing that what we perceive is real, and essential to our greater wellbeing.
We engage with the world, and make sense of it, by the use of our 5 senses. By all appearances, what we perceive seems quite permanent, solid, and “real.” In actuality, the solid platform on which we seem to stand so firmly, and everything that surrounds us, is not at all static. It is moving, morphing, changing in the ever-shifting cosmic dance of transformation.
The scientists are finally confirming what the sages have been communicating all along: everything in the Universe is energy in vibration. Research shows what adepts have known intuitively. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it can only change form.
All that we ever perceive is an interpretation of energy in vibration. The 5 senses are receptors, the central nervous system is the means of transmission that carries the vibrational signal to the brain, which then interprets that vibration into a particular visual picture, a sound, a smell, a taste or a feeling.
We become attached to the material plane through the 5 senses. The senses don’t deceive us, but our interpretation of what is perceived can very often be flawed as a result of our chronic habits of thought or belief structures. It is never the thing or person that causes suffering, but misinterpretation of it and our subsequent attachment to it.
We can find some relief in the third Noble Truth, which expresses that the cessation of suffering is attainable, through the practice of the Eightfold Path. Buddha then goes on to lay it out for us, revealing that through mental development and ethical conduct, we can illuminate our higher consciousness. In so doing we allow for the blossoming of wisdom, which points us toward understanding and acceptance of the impermanence of existence.
The Buddhist Eightfold Path begins with Right View. Our view of the world shapes our thoughts, and our actions, and vice versa. Therefore, it is essential that we see things as they really are, in order to view the world correctly. We can begin this process by releasing all of our expectations. Expectation is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Life can never be anything but what we expect. When we expect someone or something to be a particular way, we can only view it through the lens of our expectation and therefore will never see what truly is.
Expectations are always based on past experience. They are a reflection of our own hopes and fears, and closely linked to our samskaras, deep-seated mental and emotional habits of thought and behavior regarding particular people and events that have occurred in our present or past lives that distort our observations.
As we are always creating our own reality, if we want to create the reality we truly desire, we need the self-discipline to purify our samskaras. This requires discovering and uprooting the underlying emotions and thought patterns that color our ability to see what really is.
Right Intention quite naturally follows Right View. When our view is no longer distorted, and we see the world as it really is, we can let go of any need to change others, or what is occurring around us.
Our intention is the foundation of the creative process. This places us in complete control of what we experience, as no one else has the power to create in our reality. Right Intention is a volitional act of will. It requires the disciplined focus of our mental energy toward that which we want to create. It is only ever our intent that shapes the reality we experience, and only ever our doubt that keeps us from realizing it.
Right Intention, as described by the Buddha, is the commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions. The first is the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire. The second is the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion. Finally, he guides us toward the intention of harmlessness, to avoid thinking or acting cruelly, violently or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
Right Speech is the first of these ethical principles to which we must commit. Our words have the power to create or destroy. Words are made up of letters. Letters are symbols that represent sounds. Sounds are merely vibration. When a bomb explodes a building, it is the vibration that brings it down. It is also vibration that brings all things into manifestation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Our words are our thoughts made manifest, which are seeds we plant in the fertile soil of the subconscious, where they germinate, eventually to spring forth as our experience. Therefore it is essential we be mindful of what we say. Be careful what you wish for, you will always get it.
Right Speech, as explained by Buddha, encourages abstention from slanderous speech and using words maliciously to offend or hurt others, and to avoid idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. We are simply asked to tell the truth, to speak with kindness, and to speak only when necessary. Shirdi Sai Baba once said, "Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, does it improve upon the silence?"
The ethical principle of Right Action is the 4th step on the Eight Fold Path. It is expressed in deeds through the physical the body. Quite simply, unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind.
Again, the principle is explained in terms of renunciation. Through Right Action we are asked to abstain from doing harm intentionally or delinquently to all sentient beings. We are guided to refrain from taking what is not given freely, and to abstain from sexual misconduct. Living simply, life becomes less complicated.
Our society is such that most of us are required to work for our livelihood. Right Livelihood is the 5th stepping-stone in the Eightfold Path. It suggests we earn our living in a righteous way, and that wealth should be gained by legal and peaceful means.
The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and should avoid for this reason. They are dealing in weapons, dealing in living beings, including raising animals for slaughter, as well as the more obvious, human trafficking, and prostitution. We are encouraged to avoid work in meat production and butchery, and selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs.
Furthermore, any other occupation that would violate the principles of Right Speech and Right Action should be avoided. Joseph Campbell expressed that we should follow our bliss, but how many of us are living lives of “ quiet desperation” chained to jobs we dread?
The sixth tenet is Right Effort, which can be seen as the foundation for the other principles on the path. Without effort, or an act of will, nothing is achieved. When our effort is misguided it distracts the mind from its task, the consequence is confusion and chaos. Focused mental energy is the force behind all effort; it can be used for either productive or destructive ends. The energy that fuels hatred, envy, and deceit is the same as that which fuels compassion, self-discipline, and honesty, only the focus is different.
Right Effort is focused in four ways: preventing dormant or latent unwholesome states from emerging, abandoning negative states that have already arisen, stimulating beneficial states that have not yet surfaced, and preserving and perfecting positive states that have already appeared.
The 7th principle, Right Mindfulness, is the mental ability to see things as they are, in a consciousness of clarity. The cognitive process begins with a sensory impression or a thought. Rarely does it stop there. Rather, we almost always immediately conceptualize sense impressions and thoughts, interweaving them with a complex of other thoughts, emotions and experiences from our past, which naturally go way beyond the truth of the original impression. This all happens unconsciously, and as a result we view our world “as through a glass darkly.”
The foundation of Right Mindfulness is clarity of perception, enabling us to be aware of the tendency toward conceptualization, so we can actively observe, and consciously control the direction of our thoughts.
The final principle on the Eightfold Path, Right Concentration, refers to the development of the mental force of concentration. In this context, concentration is described as single pointed focus, a state in which all our mental faculties are unified and directed toward one particular object.
The disciplined practice of Meditation is viewed as the best method to develop Right Concentration. The mind in meditation first focuses on a selected object, sustains that focus in full absorption, until one finally merges with the object of meditation. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply heightened levels of concentration in our everyday lives.
In our attempt to be free of a life of suffering we must move from sense to non-sense. The bondage that attachment creates stems from the belief that what we are interpreting through the senses is “real.” The suffering comes from our belief that the world is the cause, the foundation from which all our experiences arise.
The harder we cling to the temporal the more elusive is the eternal. We must choose which master we want to serve, the one that will eternally bind us to the wheel of Karma, or the One who will set us free. We must decide where our “treasure is,” in the things of the earth that are illusive and pass away, or do we fix our hearts and minds on God, seeking first the Kingdom of the soul? When we deposit the gems of our thoughts, words and actions in the safety vaults of heaven, we are released from the chains of the 3rd dimension. It is then we transcend the corporeal, the temporal, and attain eternal life.
In order to experience eternal life, we must be willing to live fully in the now. This is the realm of heaven, not some distant place we pass onto after we die. It is a state of consciousness that resides within the gap between the past and the future. It is within this gap we align with the All That Is. It is within this gap we “Let Go and Let God.”
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.