Friday, October 26, 2018

REFLECTIONS ON THE SOUL




THE SOULCRAFT WAY





INTRODUCTION

This blog is a reflection for everyone interested in seeking the meaning and the WAY of the SOUL. Bill Plotking’s book mentions the word “Soulcraft”. This is a description of what I call “Soulwork”. I found that very few people really know about the part of us called The Soul. Therefore, I am offering here a summary of Bill’s book: Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche.  New World Library. Kindle Edition.

So, what is this phenomenon called SOUL? We can easily identify with our body and our mind, but the soul is an enigma for many. Here is a definition of what Bill is describing as SOUL and then followed by his process of working with the craft that helps us to discover our soul.

SOUL.

“The Soul is a person’s unique purpose or identity, a mythopoetic identity, something much deeper than personality or social-vocational role, an identity revealed and expressed through symbol and metaphor, image and dream, archetype and myth. Some other ways to say this: Soul is the ecological niche, or place, a person was born to occupy but may or may not ever discover or consciously embody”.
Plotkin, Bill. Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (p. 13). New World Library. Kindle Edition.

SOUL POETRY, MUSIC, CHANTING, AND THE BARDIC TRADITION

Given that the soul prefers to speak in images and symbols, poetry — our own and others — is a natural pathway to soul. Poetry, “soul speech,” brings together the linguistic, linear part of the psyche with the imaginal, holistic part, enlisting the thinking mind in the service of soul, image, and feeling. By immersing ourselves in the rich symbols of verse, we enhance the ego’s ability to converse with soul. The subject matter and style of some poets resonate more with the spiritual descent than do others.  David Whyte, Rainer Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver, Jelaluddin Rumi, T. S. Eliot, and others, are extraordinarily soulful. The soul is enlivened and emboldened by poetry such as theirs.

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there.
 When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. RUMI

Poetry, dreams, nature, and soul weave through one another. Dreams are the poems of our souls. Soul is our deepest human nature, the under-dream stream of our lives. Wild nature is the ongoing dream of the earth, and our souls are essential components of that dream. Our individual night dreams are strands of the earth’s dream, just as our bodies are part of earth’s body. Nature offers herself to our senses in images, and poetry conveys those images. Immersion in nature is as effective a way as any to uncover and recover the soul. Soul-resonant poets are visionaries, people who have recovered their soul’s desires and strive to make those desires visible to others. Each one of us has this visionary capacity to sing the song of our souls.








BODY PRACTICES

There are several body practices, found in cultures the world over, that alter consciousness by shifting the body’s physiological state. These, too, can serve as pathways to soul. Consciousness-altering breathing techniques — from ancient practices such as yogic pranayama to modern disciplines like holotropic breathwork as developed by the transpersonal psychiatrist Stanislav Grof — act literally to inspire us. As we breathe in fully and rapidly, our biochemistry shifts, and we take in and join with the essence of the world. By altering the depth and rhythm of our breath, we can alter our relationship to the world and to ourselves. In addition to their use of breathing techniques, the many schools of yoga offer a great variety of physical postures (asanas) and movement (vinyasa) that not only stretch our bodies but also alter consciousness, thereby providing a doorway to soul.

FASTING

Fasting, as part of a vision quest or not, is another ancient and common method for altering consciousness. Literally emptying ourselves, we become a more receptive vessel for the gifts of soul. There are at least three ways that fasting works its magic on us. First, fasting (with or without water) for three days or more profoundly affects our nervous system and thus our consciousness. Most people report by the third day an astonishing clarity of perception, thought, feeling, and imagination. For many, hunger disappears, and a refined physical energy and alertness arise. Second, frequent hunger pangs remind our wandering minds to refocus attention on soulful intent. Third, as we grow weaker physically, our ego defences weaken as well. It becomes more difficult to maintain those everyday boundaries separating us from the vast mysteries within and without, the mysteries through which the soul might speak.

THE POWER OF SOULCENTRIC RITUAL

 Vision quests are grand and complex rituals. Much of their transformative power arises simply from the fact that they are rituals. Several features of rituals support the encounter with soul. Rituals are bodily enactments in real time and space, engaging us not only verbally, cognitively, imaginatively, and emotionally but also through our bodies, by way of symbolically rich gestures. As ritual participants, we are thoroughly active, not just listening, observing, or imagining but also living our deepest questions and truths, embodying our sacred symbols and life themes, and physically interacting with the archetypal qualities of the earth and the universal human experience.

Immersion in the ritual process draws from us more than we anticipate. The vision quester, for example, is not sitting in a room, feeling, imagining, and thinking. He is out on the land, in the wind, heat, and cold, exposed to the storm and the cries in the night. He is setting stones in the four directions. He is dancing her prayers, singing her heart out, crying to the earth and shouting at the sky for a vision, talking to the trees, the hawks, the moon, and the mountain. He is dressed in sacred robes, tying prayers into cloth bundles, adorning himself with flowers or thorns or mud, all in accord with the counsel of nature and her own soul. He is out on the land and fully embodied there. He is as fully present to his body and the breaking wave of his life as he has ever been.

Rituals are rooted in deeply meaningful symbols and the sacred objects that embody those symbols. The quester is in conversation with the quadrated circle, the wounded heart, images of the butterfly or dragonfly, the broken stick, the prayer arrow or God’s eye, the ancestor’s blessing, the parent’s ashes, the family’s coat of arms, the religious icon, the wedding ring, the medicine bag, the mask, the drum, the sacrificial fire. These symbols arouse the deepest desires of his heart, his greatest griefs and fears, the archetypal possibilities of the collective human unconscious, and his religious and spiritual yearnings. Through numinous power absorbed and emanated, they uncover sacred layers of his humanity. And they effectively awaken suppressed feeling, often provoking a profound healing crisis.

SOLITUDE

Through the practice of solitude, you, too, will discover the ways you are alienated from yourself and the world. You will come to grips with one of the most profound and implacable facts of the human condition: that in an essential way you are, in fact, alone. You were born alone and will die alone. In solitude you will learn how to live as a mortal human. You will learn to more deeply comfort yourself. You will learn how to move your attention from one place to another, neither avoiding nor indulging in the painful places. As a Wanderer, you must develop a relationship with your aloneness that is as profound and sacred as any other relationship in your life. You will come to belong to your aloneness as much as to any place, job, or community. “Solitudo” is Latin for nature. In true solitude, you remember yourself as a part of everything, a part of nature. You rediscover ease, inspiration, belonging, and wisdom in your own company.

ARCHETYPES

Archetypal forms and patterns exist not only in the human psyche but also in the outer world of nature. Wind, water, fire, mountain, rain, rainbow, bird, bat, butterfly, fish, snake, bear: earth archetypes. In the shamanic traditions, the apprentice learns his craft by using the refined powers of his imagination to become the various animals and qualities of nature, by merging with the earth archetypes and “re-membering” as he remembers he has always been nature. Moving from one archetypal nature identity to another: this is the genius of the shape-shifter within each of us. By becoming earth, through her forms and forces, we regain our souls.

The earth archetypes illuminate the edges of our understanding. We see the rainbow, and if we allow our imaginations to be generous, we discover the possibility of realizing our fondest dreams, the longing for treasure, the enchantment of the world, the thinness of the shimmering veil that separates us from the sacred, or the bridge to this world for the gods. We experience earth archetypes as significant, evocative, emotionally captivating, enchanting. Why are different individuals drawn to different elements of nature? Why those? Possibly these are the earth archetypes to which our (unconscious) psyches already attribute meaning, that resonate with the deepest possibilities within us. In its attempt to be made manifest, the soul takes every opportunity to resonate with any element of nature that stirs it. As we offer our attention to the world, we discover the beings to which we are most drawn. Our fascination with a facet of nature is how our souls say “Yes!” to an earth archetype that we, as individuals, especially tune to. As we open ourselves to that element of wildness, we discover a quality of our own soul that longs to be embodied in the world, sung to the world, danced, cried, celebrated. The earth provides us with not only the means to be physically born into this world but also the spiritual means to recognize our deeper identities.




THE ART OF BEING LOST

The art of being lost is not a matter of merely getting lost, but rather being lost and enthusiastically surrendering to the unlimited potential of it. In fact, using it to your advantage. The shift from being lost to being found (in a new, unpredictable way) is a gradual and indirect one. The way to encourage that shift is to first accept that you don’t know how to get to the place you want to be and then opening fully to the place you are until the old goals fall away and you discover more soulful goals emerging. Then you are no longer lost, but you have benefited immensely from having been so.

 Consider for example being lost in the woods, something few people can imagine enjoying. Suddenly, the world has shrunk; here you are, sitting beside a stream in a forest. You don’t know which way home is. You call out. No one answers; or, only the stream, the wind, and the ravens answer. Maybe you panic, maybe you don’t. It sinks in that you are really lost. Gradually, you become aware that everything you can count on now is right here, within reach, and there’s no guarantee there will ever again be anything else. You could have spent your entire life on a meditation cushion to get to this radical place of present-centeredness, and now you are here courtesy of dislocation! Like a shipwrecked sailor on a tropical island, this is your world. What will you do with it? You’ve lost nearly everything you thought was important; the old goals are irrelevant, and yet, here you are. Now what?

This is precisely where you must eventually arrive, psycho-spiritually, for soul initiation: you must be willing to release your previous agendas and embrace the soul’s passion as you find it here and now. By arriving more fully in the present, through being lost and accepting it, your life suddenly suffers a radical simplification. Old agendas, beliefs and desires fall away. You quiet down inside and it becomes easier to hear the voice of the soul.

CONFRONTING YOUR OWN DEATH

 In order to bring your soul into the world, you must continuously loosen your beliefs about who you are. The realities of death will help with that loosening. Shadow work will help as well; in the process of reclaiming your wholeness, you will find many fragments of soul in the shadow, where the unconscious has hidden them to keep you from accidentally stumbling upon dangerous secrets. Romance, too, if you take it deep enough, will surely shatter the restrictive yet fragile shell of the ego. Discovering the mysterious core of your consciousness will do the same. And certainly, spirit has some things to say about your true identity. When it’s over, you’ll want to be confident you made your life something truly real.

You will, therefore, look Death in the face before IT comes calling for you. You will reach your trembling hand into the dark shadow behind you. You will say yes to the dying that is as much a part of romance as its joys. You will discover what remains of consciousness after the mind is quieted. And you will forge your own intimate relationship with the Divine.

Confronting your own mortality, intimately and bravely, imagined or vicariously witnessed in graphic detail, is a powerful soulcraft practice, possibly an essential one. The embodiment of soul that you seek is not going to go far if you are living as if your ego is immortal. Put more positively, your soul initiation will be rich to the extent you can ground yourself in the sober but liberating awareness of limited time. (this very moment may be your last). The confrontation with death is an unrivalled perspective enhancer. In the company of death, most desires of adolescence and the first adulthood fall away. What are the deepest longings that remain? What are the surviving intentions with which you might enter your second adulthood? The confrontation with death will empty you of everything but that kernel of love in your heart and your sincerest questions.

As Carlos Castaneda was taught by his teacher, the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan: “ask death to be your ally, to remind you, especially at times of difficult choices, what is important in the face of your mortality. Imagine death as ever present, accompanying you everywhere just out of sight behind your left shoulder”.

In these ways, make peace with your mortality. One day you will find you are not so attached to your life being just one certain way. Then you will be better prepared to converse with soul and its outrageous requests for radical change.





Extracts from:






Thursday, September 27, 2018

REFLECTIONS FOR OCTOBER 2018





THE PAST AND THE PRESENT ARE THE PARENTS OF THE FUTURE




DEAR READERS

This is the birthday month for me and I want to celebrate the future of young men. I have two lovely sons – one will be 40 next year and we are celebrating his birthday next July in Lviv Ukraine, the other son will be 11 next year and will finish his middle school and enter grade 7 in a high school.

As the old sages say: “the past and present are the parents of the future”. So, in the past, for the young men the future was mainly entering the military and die for your country and then the future of these men ended on the “Flanders Fields”. The present political correctness or what I call war on men because it is mainly focusing on men and it has created an environment of blame that is leading to a possible victimhood culture where young me are heading to escape from this “witch hunt”.

The writer Lisa Marchiano states: “Personal or collective attitudes that create an invitation to victimhood and infirmity can alter what we expect for ourselves. Embracing a status of oppression or affliction can be helpful, as it marshals needed care. However, when held onto too long, it can invite disengagement from life, and an avoidance of one’s fate. Worryingly, it also has negative implications for personal mental health, as it may foster a sense of helplessness." She adds that:

“Some current cultural trends award increased social status to those perceived as victims. Sociologists have posited that a new moral culture of victimhood is developing on college campuses. In such a culture, being a victim raises one’s standing and confers virtue, in part because it mobilizes protection and support from powerful third parties. The increased status of victimhood may account for the rise in “digital self-harm” that researchers have identified when teens cyber-bully themselves.

Victimhood culture rewards us when we are aggrieved, helpless, and weak. It therefore encourages us to experience ourselves as being at the mercy of external forces beyond our control, which, as we have seen, may have negative consequences for mental well-being”.

How can a free society like Australia and Canada stop this so called ‘cultural wars’ against men of all backgrounds? For example; Last week in Australia illiberal censors tried to stop Nigel Farange (a British politician) from speaking at a popular gathering by describing him as a racist. They failed. They attacked cartoonist Mark Knight depicting the angry Serena Willimas giving a big temper tantrum and blaming the umpire Carlos Ramos for her loss to the Japanese player Naomi Osaka. Much negativity is depicted in the social media about Dr. Jordan Peterson, the Canadian professor for openly challenging the self-appointed ‘culture warriors’. This virulent movement is creating a bad future in the minds of young men and as early as 12-year-old boys are suffering of extreme anxiety.

An October 2017 New York Times article entitled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering from Extreme Anxiety?” looked at the rising tide of teen anxiety in the United States. Increasing academic pressures, the advent of smart phones, and ubiquitous social media use were explored as potential contributors to increasing teen anxiety, but the article implicated another factor as well – school cultures that enable young people to avoid those things that make them uncomfortable. Special educational plans address student anxieties by allowing kids to leave class early, use special entrances, and seek out 'safe spaces' when they are feeling overwhelmed. A therapist interviewed for the Times article worries that these kinds of “avoidance-based” accommodations only make anxiety worse by sending the message to kids that they are too fragile to handle things that make them uncomfortable.

That is the ‘solution’ that children are adopting not only by feeling outside the flow but also unconsciously registering the general hate of the anti-male culture today.

What is the actual clear choice for a better future? Jonathan David Haidt, an American political psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business offers ideas for resolving this crisis of youth today: He suggests that we need to open young minds to the wonder of new and challenging ideas that support and help counteract against the many ‘false news’ and blaming games. He developed the OPEN MIND app to stop the victim mentality that creates so much anxiety in the young men. He is behind the Heterodox Academy that has called upon 1,400 academics that are standing for free thinking and positive psychology.

Such projects are aiming at developing greater resiliency in the young people thus allowing them to navigate the present world more freely. I recommend the LetGrow.org web page set up by Lenore Skenazy to connect free thinking parents and teachers to the possible new future for our world.

Creating a society in which we are encouraged to confront anxiety and face difficult realities matters not just for the mental health of individuals, but also for our collective well-being. In the world that soon awaits us, humankind will desperately need those individuals willing to rise from their beds. The challenges that loom ahead will require us to set aside timidity, weakness, and victimhood and claim instead agency and boldness, no matter how grim the odds.
Lisa Marchiano

See youtube speech by Dr. Jonathan David Haidt

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H20jwYq8WI




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

SEPTEMBER 2018 BLOG



WHERE TO ADAM? -  ON MEN’S LIBERATION



“Men's liberation has not happened yet. Not only women, but men also need a great liberation movement – liberation from the past, from the slavery of life-negating values and social conditionings that have been imposed upon humankind by all the religions for thousands of years. Priests and politicians have created a guilt-ridden man who is alienated from himself, fighting a permanent inner war that pervades all areas of his life – a conflict between body and soul, matter and mind, materialism and spirituality, science and religion, man and woman, West and East. Every man, from his early childhood, is being conditioned to function and survive in an efficiency-oriented, competitive world, and he is pressured from the moment he enters school to join the ambitious struggle and race for money, success, fame, power, respectability, and social status. As a small child he learns to adopt the goals and values of his parents and teachers, his peers and those set up by the society as “role models,” without ever questioning them. Thus, he becomes distracted from his true nature, his original being, and he loses the capacity for unmotivated joy, childlike innocence, and playful creativity. He is cut off from his creative potential, his ability to love, his laughter, his lust for life. Before long, his senses are deadened, and his emotional life is repressed. He loses access to his own innate feminine qualities of feeling, gentleness, love, and intuition, and becomes a head-oriented, efficient, unfeeling robot. Society teaches boys to grow up to become “strong men,” to suppress their feminine qualities of softness and receptivity, love and compassion.” OSHO

The First Man Adam is the mythical man, and every man is Adam-like. Every childhood is in the Garden of Eden. Every child is as happy as the animals, as happy as the primitive, as happy as the trees. Have you watched a child running in the trees, on the beach? – he is not yet evolved as a human. His eyes are still clear, but unconscious. He will have to come out of the Garden of Eden. That is the meaning of Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden – he is no longer part of the unconscious bliss. He has become conscious by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He has become man. It is not that Adam that was once expelled; every Adam must be expelled, again and again. Every child must be thrown out of God's garden; it Is not a sin,  it is part of growth. The pain is that of growth. One must lose it to gain it again, to gain it consciously. That is man's burden and his destiny, his anguish and his freedom, man's problem and man's grandeur both.

The modern man is not suffering from his own sins, as the so-called religious preachers go on saying. He is suffering from centuries of cultural and religious dogmas stating what is the “truth”. Family, school, and the human environment mould the child into a reflection of their own beliefs.

FATHER

The father is trying to mould his son in a certain way that is not natural to him. The father is making him according to his own image, just as we say God did – he made man in his own image. Every father is doing that. But who wants to be made by somebody else in his own image? Everybody wants to be an individual. That is a very deep longing and desire in every being, to be himself, and the father is not allowing him to be himself. And the son is helpless because he is dependent for everything on the father; hence, he must suppress himself, be obedient.
  
MOTHER

How to love a mother? A mother must be loved in a totally different way. She is not your lover – and cannot be. If you become too attached to your mother, you will not be able to find a lover. Because of mother, a man couldn't move to another woman. So, it is part of growth that one must move away from the parents.

A mother must encourage the man to go away – that's what makes it delicate. A mother must make him strong so that he can go away from her. That’s her love. Then she is fulfilling her duty. If he is attached to the mother, then he is going against nature.

That’s why there is a very subtle antagonism between the mother and the wife of her son. All over the world It must be so, because the mother feels somehow that this woman has taken her son away from her. And that’s natural in a way – natural, but ignorant. The mother should be happy that some other woman has been found. Now her child is no longer a child; he has become a mature, grown-up person.  Based on: Osho. What Now, Adam?: The Book of Men

MEN

Where are the men – particularly the young men today? What identity are they seeking? Is there a need for a new ADAM?

Psychological research indicates that being highly identified with one’d gender role (as masculine or feminine) is detrimental to one’s health and wellbeing. This is especially true for men. Because of the old image of strong self-sufficiency, outer orientation, and body strength, men are reluctant to seek therapy, especially if the nature of their difficulties is psychological. It is evident that more men are likely to die of heart attack than women, suicide of men is almost twice as that of women and alcoholism kills men more frequently than women.

Traditional, programmed early belief systems inherited by many centuries, produce patterns that are no longer relevant today. In a study where men were required to conduct tasks that were considered specifically a traditional female task (like rolling a yarn into a ball), reported confusion, lack of self esteem and rejected the task. One suggestion by one researcher is to adopt the idea of ANDROGYNY. That may be the new Adam of the future.

Androgyny is the ability to experience the attributes that are ‘normally’ considered “masculine’ and “feminine” without regard for their association to a sexual category. This view of oneself is accompanied by a greater maturity in one’s moral judgement, a higher level of self-esteem, and a greater flexibility in adapting to a variety of social situations. Because Androgynous self-definition is neither masculine nor feminine, one is better able to remain sensitive and aware of changing constraints or social behaviours and adapt to those changes in a positive manner. However, to become fully human (whole), we must help young men to be able to synthesize both sets of characteristics masculine and feminine. It is evident that for both men and women to live as evolved-mature human beings is healthier and we trust that this is the future of humanity.

The responsibility of parents is to be able to raise their sons with an appreciation of the social values but also, it is equally important to raise sons who can stand against the collective attitudes and develop a strong sense of their masculinity.

Your reflections are welcome.




Sunday, July 22, 2018

BLOG POST FOR AUGUST 2018










PESSIMISM AND OPTIMISM: TWO WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD TODAY


PESSIMISM

In the last few blog posts, I reflected on the idea of DYING. As we all know, there are many “little deaths” throughout our lives and we react to them according to our character or beliefs.

Dr. Irvin Yalom, in his book “selections from the Yalom reader” (Basic Books, 1998), devotes a whole chapter to the notion of Death, Anxiety and Psychotherapy. When we explore death, he states, we encounter four basic postulates:


  1. The fear of death plays a major role in our internal experience; it haunts us as does nothing else; it rumbles continuously under the surface; it is a ‘dark ’unsettling presence at the rim of consciousness
  2. The child, at an early age, is pervasively preoccupied with death, and his or her major developmental task is to deal with terrifying fears of obliteration.
  3. To cope with these fears, we erect defences against death awareness, defences that are based on denial (as learned from parents) and that shape our character structure and that, if maladaptive, result in clinical syndromes. In other words, psychopathology is the result of ineffective modes of death transcendence.
  4.  Lastly, a robust and effective approach to psychopathology may be constructed on death awareness.       

 My own reflections on death awareness was noted in the past blog post describing how different cultures understand and teach death awareness. Here the conclusion emerged is that most, if not all, cultures explain that: a) Life and death are interdependent; they exist simultaneously, not consecutively; death whirls continuously beneath the life’s consciousness and exerts a vast influence upon our experience and a constant as we go on living. b) Death is a primordial source of anxiety and as such, is the primary cause of psychopathology.

My own personal reflections on the reality of death is that we all may choose to practice Death Awareness from a positive or optimistic perspective or from a negative or pessimistic one. Like Dr. Yalom stated: Most people live with anxiety regarding death. To move from the anxiety (pessimistic notion) we need to develop exercises that will give us support with the positive or optimistic death awareness.

For example: The Sufi have a concept of ADAB. It refers to the idea of a “good and positive” attitude to life. The importance to acting beautifully. It is developing an inner sense of genuine respect and service to all. This must be in place in order to reflect our inner beauty that is based on LOVE.

 Another example, from the Buddhist tradition is the compassionate contact with the process of dying. Paul Lansburg states that: “We have constituted an “us” with the dying person. And it is “us”; it is through this specific power of this new and utterly personal contact that we are led toward the living awareness of our own having to die”.

Another way to work at death awareness is to examine the daily news media. How the media describes the “death: of a culture” (by wars); the slow death of a nation-state (you name one); the fall of a leader 'on his own sword' and so on. We need to pay attention to optimistic writers and news reporters and seek them out, so we can develop a balance between the optimistic view and the pessimistic one.


“Pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. By believing that the world is getting worse, Pessimism may even answer to our spiritual needs”.
“Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress", by Steven Pinker


OPTIMISM

In the book “Enlightenment Now,” Pinker hopes to return us to reality. During five hundred pages, he presents statistics and charts showing that, despite our dark imaginings, life has been getting better in pretty much every way. Around the globe, improved health care has dramatically reduced infant and maternal mortality, and children are now better fed, better educated, and less abused. Workers make more money, are injured less frequently, and retire earlier. In the United States, fewer people are poor, while elsewhere in the world, and especially in Asia, billions fewer live in extreme poverty, defined as an income of less than a dollar and ninety cents per day. Statistics show that the world is growing less polluted and has more parks and protected wilderness. “Carbon intensity”- the amount of carbon released per dollar of G.D.P.- has also been falling almost everywhere, a sign that we may be capable of addressing our two biggest challenges, poverty and climate change, simultaneously.

Pinker’s message is simple: progress is real, meaningful, and widespread. The mystery is why we have so much trouble acknowledging it. Pinker mentions various sources of pessimism - the “progress phobia” of liberal-arts professors, for instance - but directs most of his opprobrium toward the news media, which focus almost entirely on of-the-moment crises and systematically underreport positive, long-term trends. (Citing the German economist Max Roser, Pinker argues that a truly even-handed newspaper “could have run the headline number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday every day for the last twenty-five years.”) He consults the work of Kalev Leetaru, a data scientist who uses “sentiment mining,” a word-analysis technique, to track the mood of the news; Leetaru finds that, globally, journalism has grown substantially more negative.

The power of bad news is magnified, Pinker writes, by a mental habit that psychologists call the “availability heuristic”: because people tend to estimate the probability of an event by means of “the ease with which instances come to mind,” they get the impression that mass shootings are more common than medical breakthroughs. We’re also guilty of “the sin of ingratitude.” We like to complain, and we don’t know much about the heroic problem-solvers of the past. “How much thought have you given lately to Karl Landsteiner?” Pinker asks. “Karl who? He only saved a billion lives by his discovery of blood groups.” This is also written in Yalom’s Death Anxiety article as stated early.

SUMMARY

The set - point theory of happiness:

Many psychologists now subscribe to the “set point” theory of happiness, according to which mood is, to some extent, homeostatic: at first, our new cars, houses, or jobs make us happy, but eventually we adapt to them, returning to our “set points” and ending up roughly as happy or unhappy as we were before. Researchers say that we run on “hedonic treadmills”- we chase new sources of happiness as the old ones expire - and that our set points are largely immovable and determined by disposition. Some fundamental changes can affect our happiness in a lasting way - getting married, immigrating to a wealthy country, developing a drug addiction - but many life improvements are impermanent in character. Although food quality may have been worse in 1967, the pleasure of today’s better meals is intrinsically fleeting. More people survive heart attacks than in the past, but the relief of surviving wears off as one returns to the daily grind.

Anxiety story:

“A Bedouin was travelling through the desert, carrying a filled skin of water over his shoulder and weeping bitterly. When another traveller asked him why he was crying, the man replied that his dog was suffering terribly from thirst. The traveller asked why he didn’t give the dog a drink from his water skin, and the Bedouin said: “I couldn’t do that. I might need this water for myself”.
A Sufi story





Thursday, June 28, 2018

JULY 2018 BLOG









EMASCULATION OF MEN


In the last Blog Post I reflected on the art of dying stating that there are many ‘little deaths’ during our lifespan: Divorce, accidents, death of a loved one etc. Now this reflection is about the ‘death of masculinity’ in our current culture.

Just examining the daily press or news on the internet (see the TIME magazine recent cover), you will find many attacks on the current male identity by way of denouncing men as the cause of all the problems. An example is the activities at many of the Australian Universities (the seats of freedom of speech and higher learning) is the so called “Culture Wars”. University professors are fired just because they are advocating rational western values and freedom of speech and debate.

We read about ‘Gender Activists’ that distort the English language by advocating the elimination of “He” for men and “SHE” for women offering pronouns that have no relevance to human identity. In the Australian newspaper of June 5th, 2018, Kevin Donnell, author of the book “How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia” states: “Gender activists responsible for Marxist-inspired programs such as Safe Schools, argue that those who defend heterosexuality are guilty of being “heteronormative” and that gender-specific descriptions such as Husband and Wife must be replaced by Partner.” The fact that 98% of Australians (and most world free democracies) self-identify as male and female and argue that the natural order of things (life) is for men and women to procreate to ensure humanity’s survival is totally ignored. Also, they ignore the biology of all species where all living nature needs male and female to ensure the survival of this planet. 

Therefore, culture wars, PC and other attacks are creating an environment where men and particularly young men are losing a sense of Self and seek answers to how to behave as a man. To add to the trauma in masculinity, we are now reading scientific reports about the impact of biotechnology on men. Biotechnology is defined, as the “exploitation of biochemical processes, especially genetic manipulation of microorganisms for the production of antibiotics, hormones, etc.” Here are some facts related to the US research.

Here we have statistics on male sexual and reproductive system health that indicate the changes that have taken place so far:

* 30 Million men experience impotence in the United States, that is 25% of the adult male population of 120 Million.

* The erectile dysfunction drug market is expected to reach $3.4 Billion in 2019.

* Between 1973 and 2011, sperm count decreased by a whopping 60%. There are no stats available for the current date, but it is likely higher.

* Testosterone levels dropped by 20% in just 20 years. Testosterone is the primary male hormone, it plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues and also in muscle and bone mass and general health.

* The number of prescriptions for low testosterone supplements increased fivefold since 2002.
40% of men have low libido, or premature ejaculation. More men suffer from testicular cancer and enlarged prostates.  Gynecomastia, or “man boobs” affects up to 40% of young men.

* Many of the chemicals and toxins that are taken into the body with food, water and air have been designed for a specific biological effect:

They are endocrine disruptors, they mimic hormones in the body. They cause changes of the male reproductive system, making men more feminine.

Due to the bioaccumulation of these chemicals through the food chain, the public is exposed to high concentrations of these harmful substances. They are passed from the mother to the foetus and the process begins in the mother’s womb. In addition, men experience psychological problems like:

- men have gotten the worst deal psychologically in the USA and maybe elsewhere as well

- most therapists in US now are women that could have a blind spot in working with men

- women have had to learn to be assertive and men to be compassionate or passive

-  effects of circumcision on men is another study urgently needed today

- Genital developments are also influenced in boys by these endocrine disruptors, resulting in early puberty and smaller penises. This traumatises many young men

- concerns about men and women using porn to learn about sex is increasing

- the effects of the exposure of paedophilia worldwide now (including Hollywood, US Congress, Big Business elites, etc)….Most don’t know that this movement is worldwide and  has women involved as well as men.

 Here is a clear analysis of the emasculation of men in the USA as described by Paul Joseph Watson:

Whereas 50 years ago, advertising, Hollywood and television was filled with examples of positive masculine role models that young men could look up to, today’s entertainment industry routinely portrays men as clueless and bumbling oafs at best (think Homer Simpson, Everybody Loves Raymond, Married with Children) or at worst as aggressive sexual predators. Since advertising is primarily aimed at women, men in commercials are also now routinely depicted as either being emasculated losers or stupefied morons. Young men consuming this content grow up thinking that it is acceptable and even encouraged to aspire to these character traits. In doing so, they are robbed of their natural masculinity and find it extremely difficult to attract well-rounded women, who are rightly disgusted by such behaviour.

Second wave feminism was a creation of the establishment itself and at its core has little whatsoever to do with genuine concern about women’s rights. Radical feminism deliberately confuses gender roles and makes young men apprehensive about exercising their masculinity for fear of being seen as overbearing or aggressive towards women. This has contributed to an entire generation of “metrosexual” men who are promiscuous, unwilling to commit to a relationship and unable to fulfil a women’s basic needs for healthy companionship, destabilizing society and making it more difficult for women to find suitable long-term partners with whom to have children.

The radical feminist establishment promulgates the myth that men are paid more than women because of discrimination, feeding into feminist doctrines about patriarchal systems oppressing women in the workplace. In reality, the “wage gap” of around 19 per cent between the two sexes in the United States is explained by several reasons that have nothing to do with discrimination. The fact is that men work more hours and men seek less desirable jobs that pay higher. As a result, men account for 93% of workplace deaths despite being only 54% of the workforce. 94% of workplace suicides every year are also men.

Statists, collectivists and their mouthpieces in the media and the establishment claim that western men (in particular white men) cannot express a valid opinion on any issue related in any way to a “minority” (such as feminism or immigration) because they have “privilege”. The “privilege” talking point is a stunt through which Marxist liberals and feminists attempt to shut down free speech. They are asserting the ludicrous notion that a man’s viewpoint has no value because of the colour of his skin, his gender or his country of origin. This is an inherently racist position, yet it is routinely used by leftists to shout down their ideological adversaries and silence male voices.

In both divorce and child custody proceedings, it is widely acknowledged that courts heavily favour women and discriminate against men. Men are routinely hit with onerous alimony payments even if women can work and earn a good pay check. Men only receive custody of their children in around 10 per cent of divorce cases in the United States. The ironic thing about this system is that it has primarily been instituted by other men, emphasizing again how the war on men is being waged not by women, but by the primarily male-dominated establishment.

Dissident feminist Camille Paglia recently wrote a Wall Street Journal piece in which she warned:

 “What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide.” Paglia was referring to how the emancipation of masculine virtues by the establishment threatens to create massive destabilization in society due to less and less men being able to fill traditionally “masculine” roles in the jobs market. Paglia points to schools cutting recess, the effort to deny the biological distinctions between men and women, and the left’s characterization of controversial opinions as “hate speech” as examples of how masculinity is being deliberately eroded. “Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now,” warns Paglia, adding that young men have, “no models of manhood.”

Whereas women have numerous safety nets to turn to if they become victims of domestic abuse, men have virtually none, even though domestic abuse against men is a huge and growing problem. In the UK for example, 44 per cent of domestic abuse victims are male, while more married men suffer abuse at the hands of their spouse than married women. While domestic abuse against women is constantly highlighted by the mass media, domestic abuse against men is a complete non-issue.

Conclusion – welcome the totalitarian society

A totalitarian society can only survive if the male population has been gelded, emasculated and disenfranchised. With this natural bulwark against tyranny removed, the elite can centralize power and pursue collectivist tyranny unopposed. Therefore, men and masculinity are under assault on every level – and why both men and women should join forces to fight back against this common enemy.

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of “Order Out of Chaos”.

Rodin: The fall of Man

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

REFLECTIONS JUNE 2018



LIBERATION AND THE ART OF DYING





INTRODUCTION

Is dying an art? Most if not all people are afraid of death. Yet, there are many ‘death’ moments in life. Little deaths like divorce, loss of business, failing a task or duty etc. If we could open our minds and seek solutions in other cultures (outside the Western), we can find that they have developed a “form” of understanding what it is the meaning of going beyond this life. For this purpose, we can define this form as an Art Form.

In this article or reflection, I examine the various ancient ‘forms’ or beliefs that point the way to the journey of no return back here but a return to THE ONE. That is the place, the wise sages say: It is the place that all Nature is destined to return. Those cultures that have developed the Art Form of dying point this journey as one of joy and pleasure that each individual may find on this path to the Ultimate.

We are familiar about death in the “West” and feel it as a way of non-being and afraid of our eventual end. We feel a great deal of anxiety and try to avoid thinking of death. Even sexual orgasm has been identified as “the little death” in our culture.

However, in  India and Tibet, the whole concept of death is quite different. The Indian culture follows the great wisdom of elders or gurus like Ramana Maharshi. He spoke often about the confusion we experience between the Ego or the controlling aspect of our being and the Self that is infinite.
Ramana states that there is nothing beyond Self nor apart from it. Knowing (understanding) this, we will not be afraid nor desire anything. The Self brings contentment and therefore inner peace.

The Self is always REALISED (Aware). We cannot deny our Being as consciousness – the Self. Admitting that we exist as the Self, we are already Realised or Aware.

In gestalt therapy we are taught about the Self – that it is the centre of the transformed heart. We are at the centre of our true Nature and our knowledge is not complete unless we act in the here and now and understand the experience of the here and now.

To define our concept of death as a transformation of Being, we need to examine other cultures and how they interpret this deep idea. We will examine, briefly the Sufi tradition, the Hindu tradition and the Tibetan tradition.

SUFI
The Sufi masters consider the centre of the Self as located in the heart. They note four ‘layers’ of the heart:

-          The first layer is the Breast or the Locus of Action. It is the interaction between our Ego (personality) and our Soul.

-          The second layer is the heart proper. It is the centre of deeper knowledge and awareness.

-          The third layer is the inner heart that is closely related to the Heart proper. It is the place of deep and sacred knowledge. Here we feel the presence of Soul.

-          The fourth layer is the realm of the infinite Soul. It is beyond words, ideas, concepts, theories etc.

We may say that gestalt therapy works with all four layers while working with the Cycle of Awareness.

HIDUISM

Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or a way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE following the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE).

Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include (but are not restricted to) Dharma (ethics/duties), Samsāra (the continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth), Karma (action, intent and consequences), Moksha (liberation from samsara or liberation in this life), and the various Yogas (paths or practices).
Purusharthas (objectives of human life) - Classical Hindu thought accepts four proper goals or aims of human life: Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

-          Dharma is considered the foremost goal of a human being in Hinduism. The concept Dharma includes behaviours that are in accord with the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living". Hindu Dharma includes the religious duties, moral rights and duties of everyone, as well as behaviours that enable social order, right conduct, and those that are virtuous.

Artha (livelihood, wealth)

     Artha is objective and virtuous pursuit of wealth for livelihood, obligations and economic prosperity. It is inclusive of political life, diplomacy and material well-being. The Artha concept includes all "means of life", activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in, wealth, career and financial security. The proper pursuit of Artha is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.

         Kāma (sensual pleasure)

Kāma means desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. In Hinduism, Kama is considered an essential and healthy goal of human life when pursued without sacrificing the other three.

         Mokṣa (liberation, freedom from samsara)

Moksha is the ultimate, most important goal in Hinduism. In one sense, Moksha is a concept associated with liberation from sorrow, suffering and saṃsāra (birth-rebirth cycle). A release from this eschatological cycle, in after life, particularly in theistic schools of Hinduism is called Moksha. In other schools of Hinduism, such as monistic, Moksha is a goal achievable in current life, as a state of bliss through self-realization, of comprehending the nature of one's soul, of freedom and of "realizing the whole universe as the Self".

TIBETAN

The ancient Tibetan concept of life and death is called the BARDO.

Buddhism existed in Tibet at least from the time of king Thothori Nyantsen (.173-300? CE), especially in the eastern regions. The reign of Songtsen Gampo (ca.617-649/50) saw an expansion of Tibetan power, the adoption of a writing system and promotion of Buddhism.

Bardo is a concept of a transitional state of Ego to Self -  in Buddhism three are three Bardos:

The chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death", which features the experience of the "clear light of reality", or at least the nearest approximation of which one is spiritually capable.

The chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality", which features the experience of visions of various Buddha forms, or the nearest approximations of which one is capable.

The sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth", which features karmically impelled hallucinations which eventually result in rebirth, typically yab-yum imagery of men and women passionately entwined.
In the Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State also mentions three other Bardos:

-          "Life", or ordinary waking consciousness

-          "Dhyana" (meditation)

-          "Dream", the dream state during normal sleep.

Together these "six Bardos" form a classification of states of consciousness into six broad types. Any state of consciousness can form a type of "intermediate state", that is, intermediate between other states of consciousness. Indeed, one can consider any momentary state of consciousness a Bardo, since it lies between our past and future existences; it provides us with the opportunity to experience reality, which is always present but obscured by the projections and confusions that are due to our previous unskilful actions.

Used loosely, Bardo is the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one's next birth, when one's consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, and then proceeding to terrifying hallucinations that arise from the impulses of one's previous unskilful actions. For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals, the Bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality; for others, it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirable rebirth.

Metaphorically, Bardo can describe times when our usual way of life becomes suspended, as, for example, during a period of illness or during a meditation retreat. Such times can prove fruitful for spiritual progress because external constraints diminish.

Death and Rebirth
The concept of antarabhāva, an intervening state between death and rebirth, was brought into Buddhism from the Vedic-Upanishadic philosophical tradition which later developed into Hinduism.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Historically, Christian mysticism has taught that for Christians, the major emphasis of mysticism concerns is a spiritual transformation of the egoic self, the following of a path designed to produce more fully realized human persons, "created in the Image and Likeness of God" and as such, living in harmonious communion with God, the Church, the rest of world, and all creation, including oneself.

For Christians, this human potential is realized most perfectly in Jesus, precisely because he is both God and human, and is manifested in others through their association with him, whether conscious, as in the case of Christian mystics, or unconscious, about spiritual persons who follow other traditions, such as Gandhi. The Eastern Christian tradition speaks of this transformation in terms of theosis or divinization, perhaps best summed up by an ancient aphorism usually attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria: "God became human so that man might become god."

Threefold path

Going back to Evagrius Ponticus, Christian mystics have been described as pursuing a threefold path of purification, illumination and unification, corresponding to body (soma), soul (psyche), and spirit (pneuma). In 869, the 8th Ecumenical Council reduced the image of the human to only body and soul but within mystics a model of three aspects continued. A short description of the three paths will give us an idea of the support the Christian mystics have in dealing with death issues.

Purification
The first, purification is where aspiring traditionally Christian mystics start. This aspect focuses on discipline, particularly in terms of the human body; thus, it emphasizes prayer at certain times, either alone or with others, and in certain postures, often standing or kneeling. It also emphasizes the other disciplines of fasting and alms-giving, the latter including those activities called "the works of mercy," both spiritual and corporal, such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.

Illumination
The second phase, the path of illumination, has to do with the activity of the Holy Spirit enlightening the mind, giving insights into truths not only explicit in scripture and the rest of the Christian tradition, but also those implicit in nature, not in the scientific sense, but rather in terms of an illumination of the "depth" aspects of reality and natural happenings, such that the working of God is perceived in all that one experiences.

Unification
The third phase, usually called infused or higher contemplation (or Mystical Contemplative Prayer).  In the Western tradition, it refers to the experience of oneself as in some way united with God. The experience of union varies, but it is first and foremost always associated with a reuniting with Divine love, the underlying theme being that God, the perfect goodness  is known or experienced at least as much by the heart as by the intellect since, in the words 1 John 4:16: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him."

STAGES OF DEALING WITH DEATH FEARS

In his book of talks, OSHO describes the way existence and life are formed and how we keep taking life as a given and forget the eternal Soul. Here is his quote:

“Existence is given to you. Existence is a gift. Life must be earned. When existence turns upon itself, it becomes life. Existence has been given by the whole, you have not done anything for it. It is simply there, a given fact. When existence becomes life… The moment you start existing in a conscious way, immediately existence becomes life. Existence lived consciously is life. Life is a great challenge, an adventure into the unknown, an adventure into oneself, an adventure into that which is. If you live an unconscious life, if you simply exist, you will always remain afraid of death. Death will always be just somewhere near the corner, hanging around you. Only life goes beyond death.

Existence comes, disappears. It is given to you, taken away. It is a wave in the ocean – arises, falls back, disappears. But life is eternal. Once you have it, you have it forever. Life knows no death. Life is not afraid of death. Once you know what life is, death disappears. If you are still afraid of death, know well you have not known life yet. Death exists only in ignorance – in the ignorance of what life is. One goes on living. One goes on moving from one moment to another, from one action to another, completely unaware what one is doing, why one is doing, why one is drifting from this point to that point.

The body is a flux, like a river – continuously changing, moving. It has nothing of the eternal in it. Each moment the body is changing. In fact, the body is dying every moment. It is not that after seventy years suddenly one day you die. The body dies every day. Death continues for seventy years (or more), it is a process. Death is not an event, it is a long process.

If you are identified with the body, of course the fear will be constantly there that death is approaching. You can live, but you can live only in fear. And what type of life is possible when one’s foundations are constantly shaking, and one is sitting on a volcano and death is possible any moment? Only one thing is certain – that death is coming – and everything else is uncertain. How can one live? How can one celebrate? How can one dance and sing and be? Impossible. Death won’t allow it. Death is too much and too close.

So, there are those who are identified with the body. These are the materialists. They cannot live. Desperately they try, of course, but they cannot live. A materialist only pretends that he is living, he cannot live. His life cannot be very deep; it can only be superficial, shallow – because he is trying to live through the body which is continuously dying. He is living in a house which is on fire.”

Osho. Nirvana: The Last Nightmare: Learning to Trust in Life (p. 163). Osho Media International. Kindle Edition.

Stages in dealing with fear of death

Today most people are living in their body and do not connect with the eternal soul. This creates fear of ending the body and then nothing is left. Pema Chodron has a very good advice, in four stages, about dealing with fear of death. Do this exercise every day:

First Stage – Put yourself in a state of stillness and openness. Sit still and just feel everything. Remember that you are not starting empty, you are currently feeling the emotions that are already in you.

Second Stage – Slowly, be aware of your breath and visualize yourself exhaling dark and heavy energy and inhaling it as white, light and cool energy. Imagine, as you inhale, the feeling of tight spaces and proceed with exhaling while visualizing open spaces. Feel your body open, as if the air gushes out from all the pores on your body.

Third Stage – Feel the ‘energy” materialize as you picture your daily experiences. Breathe in your worries, your pain, or your grief and breathe it out as relief and confidence.

 Fourth Stage – Widen your visualization to include the world: all the nations who worry because of war, all beings who experience pain, and the world, which grieves for the loss and destruction that happens to it. It is in this stage where you acknowledge that the suffering of one is the suffering of all.

Pema Chodron: Lessons Learned from Pema Chodron Books


CONCLUSION

There are many roads to travel in this life and death issue. Many books, theories and teachings have been explaining about “the way”. However, we have not, (as yet), found anyone coming back from that dead place and giving us the real story. So, to end this reflection, I chose the poem of the great mystic and Sufi master, RUMI:

“If you want to learn theory
Talk with theoreticians. That way is oral.
When you learn a craft, practice it.
That learning comes through the hands.

If you want dervishhood (mysticism), spiritual poverty
And emptiness, you must be friends with a teacher.
Talking about it, reading books, and doing practices
Do not help. Soul receives from Soul that knowing.”