Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time.... it can take a bit.....

It took humans 500 years to figure out the circulatory system in the body. And over the course of those 500 years corpses and live humans bore the brunt of our scientific research. From the idea that the body was divided into “good” and “bad” humors and their imbalance caused illnesses. Then on to the idea that blood was digested food moving throughout the body. The misunderstanding became medicine of the times and leeches or other tools were used to bleed or restrict the flow of blood with dire consequences. The big breakthrough was the discovery of capillaries and it took a lot of seeming random discoveries and technologies over time to get there. I bring this up in order to illustrate the notion of research, discovery and the duration of journeying to a deeper understanding of something. To know something takes time, observation, patience, experiment, the willingness to make mistakes and great discoveries.

In the last 40 years of my life the telephone has changed. It has gone from hanging on the kitchen wall central to everyone and allowing for no privacy to something in your pocket that completely disregards privacy. Computers were large monsters that crunched equations at university campuses and now we can hold one in the palm of our hand. Photography was once dominated by light, film and the potions of developer, stop and fix baths. It now creates images in an instant with tiny pixels and software.

All this evolution in 40 years got me thinking about how we learn over time.

The ancient Egyptians were mud brick builders for a long time. And at some point they turned to building with stone. This was no small task and it took great effort to learn and acquire the skills to create giant works that we now visit as sacred sites. Yet it appears they grasped these skills in about 200 years and then perfected theses skills to create beautiful temples, pyramids and other wondrous things. Now, there are some who look at this and say it was impossible for them to have learned in such a short time these skills…. They must have had help from unseen forces or aliens or whatever. It fact we cannot replicate the engineering it took to move the large blocks of stone.

Yet if we think about it, if we focus our mind with a strong will we can do about anything. When President Kennedy started the space program he said we would have a man on the moon in 10 years… and we did. We have searched for an inoculation for Polio and Small pox and have succeeded in keeping these diseases from taking so many lives. We can now perform surgeries with minimal entry into the body.

Because of our understanding of the world we are moving into another wave or era. Some might call it the “Plastic” Age considering this is the material of the time and in keeping with the labeling such as Bronze Age or Industrial Age. Some might call it the “Technology” Age or if your of a darker more depressed mind set the Age of Destruction because we’re struggling with the by-products of our technology.

To give it some perspective… the ancient Egyptians had to figure out how to feed, water, remove human waste and manage millions of workers. It hasn’t changed much in fact it remain pretty much the same. We now have some different more enduring waste to figure out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Have we become.....

Are we the ones?
We live in a body that is amazing! 30 trillion cells…. 90 trillion bits, parasites and flora combine to create an individual that can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around it with an awareness of doing such things. This makes us conscious! We are systems of extreme cooperation that must function to survive. This has taken billions of years to perfect…. And where it goes from here is up to our growing needs in navigating our environment.

Not to burst the bubble of my love-fest with the human being yet it has a few limitations. These are challenges that we are overcoming with the technology of the day. The question I asked myself several weeks ago was: Have we become what we are so hard looking to find and cannot see it? For instance, we long to communicate over thousands of miles to connect with loved ones, teachers… new information etc and now we can via the internet. Or, I can use my voice dial feature on my phone and simply speak someone’s name and I can have a conversation with someone halfway around the world. This happens because we have learned a few things about waves and wavelengths and how to put signals on these waves. Most of these waves we cannot perceive directly yet we can experience their ability to carry information form one receiver to another that transforms these signals in to light and sound which we can perceive with our senses. Magic… or so it seems.

Now, our ancestors observed the world and recognized that things happen and there was no perceivable phenomenon to connect cause with affect. They might have watched food cook in a pot over a fire yet their understanding of fire was one of a spirit, being or elemental. This fire gave a lot… heat… light… the ability to transform wood to ash… cook food… melt metal etc… They knew it had to be fed and need to have air in order to burn properly. Water destroyed it. Fire would destroy if it was not respected or managed properly. Fire was given names to show its power and properties. Fire became personified and deified.

This form of discovery is what our ancestors did with almost the entire nature world… Wind/air, Water/Rain/Oceans, Earth/Plants/Stones… etc…. and we haven't stopped since!!

Things began to change when we wanted to looked at smaller things and further out into the stars. Our eyes for all their beauty and complexity cannot see that far or that small… We humans are clever and imaginative so we create tools to do these things like microscopes and telescopes. And with this comes a new understanding of tiny things and the movement of stars and planets. All to the dismay of the church and less forward thinkers of the time. One of the greatest achievements of looking at tiny things is hygiene… We now know that viruses and bacteria can cause illnesses and the simple act of washing our hands can prevent so much sickness in the world. I’m sure all those who were bled to death in the era of “bad” humors are looking down on us and happy for the progress.

Now, back to the question: Have we become who we are looking for?
As humans we want to explore beyond what we seem to be. We look at the stars and dream of ways to visit or understand their movements. We want to be in several locations at once and be aware of all that is happening. we spend endless hours meditating and seeking ways to find our limits....
And over the last 50 years we have accomplished a lot in the area of long distance communication.
If you subscribe to the computer phone service Skype and you can use the video feature then you can be in one place and aware, communicating, and viewing another world at the same time you are at your computer sipping tea. Of course you are limited in your view by the ability of the equipment on both ends of the conversation. Is it not the same thing as remote viewing and taking a shamanic journey? The more you practice the better you get. And I’m sure with more research we will develop better gadgets to expand our perception of other places.
So, we are not limited by the limits of our bodies.... we create.... we imagine... we explore... we build....etc...

Another example would be, I use a satellite GPS to navigate from place to place. One day while I was looking at it I realized that I was watching myself in my car driving from above while I was driving my car in that moment. It’s a form of bi-locating. It’s a kind of being awake in reality and at the same time watching myself in my reality from a distance. We can now experience Lucid dreaming unfolding in real time… a dream within a dream?

When I was in my early shaman training I was taught to journey with my eyes open. I would stand in my New Haven apartment and shake my rattle focusing my attention about 18 inches from the tip of my nose. As I did this I began to experience my perception separating, one part stayed fixed on the focal point the other wandered to other realities. My teachers said I needed to learn how to be here and also somewhere else at the same time. The more I practiced the more I could expand my perceptions into multiple realities at the same time.

The cry of "fear" we hear with this thinking and developing is that because of all these gadgets and technologies that we are becoming less human. We have bad “B” movies, science fiction, Star Trek to thank for these fears and the seemingly persistent glitch humans have to resist change. These gadgets are our creations. They are based on our observations and understanding of the world around us. We create them because we want to solve problems. Some of these things have unexpected results and consequences yet we are always looking for a better solution. This is the flexibility and adaptability of the human being in all aspects.... Body, mind, and spirit.

We don’t call the runner who has two artificial legs and monster. We admire his ability to embrace the means to follow his dreams. The runner was able to see beyond his limits. We have scientists and researchers looking a materials and designs to build better artificial legs for all kinds of sports and day to day life to aid folks who need them.
Humans evolve. We are the most complex being on the planet. Designed to imagine and create. These “gifts” are the mark of a long evolutionary journey. We are not perfect yet we are progressive, curious, and adaptable. What we create is the means for us to explore ourselves and the world around us. What we glean from this knowledge can serve a greater purpose.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Applying Spiritual Principles for our contemprary world....

Spiritual intitation is the journey one takes to discover their interconnected awareness of who they are in the universe. It has its roots in the social and cultural traditions found all over the world. Each facilitating the path of the initiate as they grow to become a full member of the society and beyond. These many paths and traditions make for a large and diverse map to navigate the “self” to discovering one’s place in the universe.

One of the difficulties of spiritual development is initiation. These are the places where the “self” is ushered through a series of trials to emerge on the other side fully changed by the experience. These are sometimes called “Rites of Passage”. In certain cultures this involves the mutilation of the body or shedding of particular behaviors. It can also take the form of a quest or journey. What is most important is that the self/individual is forever changed by the experience.

As a teacher practicing and facilitating rites of passage, it has been challenging to develop a formula for the western spiritual mind set. Most seekers want to pay for the exchange of knowledge and avoid the deep and sometimes painful process of initiation. In the contemporary western world we have for the most part stopped honoring the points of change in the journey to develop the “self”. The rites of passage have been moved to the place of trivial or symbolic ritual. The result of this spiritual formula has caused more harm than good. When the self does not know where youth ends and adulthood begins they stay forever a child emotionally. When an adult who is emotionally immature seeks a partner they will choose based on their childish needs and not the needs of an adult seeking to share a life journey with another. These are a few examples and there is also the way this retards the mental and social growth of the individual as they wander through life. There is also the challenge of starting the “awakening” process later in life after one have raised the children and worked until retirement.

In the last few decades there have been movements to reclaim these rites yet they seem to fall short in nurturing a fully initiatory experience. In fact, some have the design of a fraternity or sorority hazing. This tends to move the individual to become a member of a group which has its benefits yet is not bringing the individual to an “awakening”.

There has also been the movement by individuals to seek other spiritual practices or cultural models in an attempt to bring the individual to deeper understanding of self. These would include Indigenous/Native Peoples practices, Eastern Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and more traditional/fundamental practices of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. What makes taking this path or journey challenging is the lack of the individuals socio-cultural up bringing in these traditions. Language, Cosmology, Science, Family ties, etc… are all things that must be mastered in a tradition if one is to glean the deeper substances of its teachings. Some succeed and some move from one tradition to the next never really finding the self. This can sometimes be seen as a way to hide or run from the self too.

From this understanding of how spiritual initiation has floundered we can begin to outline some principles that can become the structure for creating contemporary practices that are authentic to the time we live in and reflect the true nature of who we are.

To begin the journey of Initiation the community needs to recognize the need to create rites of passage that facilitate the individuals’ growth through life stages. These stages are in alignment with birth, childhood, youth, young adult, adulthood, marriage, child birth, elder wisdom, and death. These would have sub classifications such as Healer/Herbalist/Medicine, Artist/Craft/Trade, Sciences/Mathematics, Spiritual/Priest/Priestess, etc… which further enrich the individual to participate in the fabric of the community. True spiritual awakening happens when the awakened “self” is fully engaged in the richness of humanity and in serving the community.

The journey asks”Who am I?” and that takes one inside to find the self yet ultimately what one finds must have its place in the working of their community. If this does not occur then the individual becomes lost in the madness of isolation. Humans are social creatures. We need the interactions of our multi leveled language, Family, and community structures to fully feel loved and nourished.

The community must support the process of initiation from the start to finish. They are the container for the individual to safely become vulnerable in. They (the community) must know and believe that what is happening to the initiate(s) is a powerful and transformative experience that strengthens the overall dynamic of the community.

We live in a time of technologies, cell phones, computers and all manner of gadgets to help make our lives easier. Some have created amazing advances in how we do things and some have challenged the nature of our humanness. This technological world brings its challenges to spiritual development also. Most people spend their day isolated from others due to work, poor social structures, poverty, lack of family etc…

This new social order requires that a structure be put in place that mends the loss of the nurturing social community and begins to weave a future out of the pieces that are who we are today.

This post will be added to as time goes on.....