This is a great article about balance in a fast-paced world.
Archives For February 2013
John B. Wells welcomed neuropsychologist Mario Beauregard for a discussion on his research into the relationship between the mind and brain. According to the materialist view of mainstream biology, humans are simply sophisticated biological machines, and mind and consciousness merely electrical and chemical activity in the brain, Beauregard explained. He credited quantum physics with ‘dematerializing’ scientific thought, and pointed to near death experiences (NDEs) as evidence that mind and consciousness are more than electrochemical brain signals. Dr. Beauregard has done some interesting work in this area and others, but all the research aside, he his curious and asks good questions. I think this is the main value of this interesting video.
For what we seek in orgies, at parties, on journeys, in movie theaters and bars is simply God, who is all the time only to be found within ourselves.
Ernesto Cardenal in
Abide in Love
This is a great quote and I think it is particularly applicable to our times and contemporary society. At the foundation of our various ways of acting out is a yearning for a divine union or transcendence of the self. Often, we this acted out in the sexual arena, but what we really seek is intimacy with that which is most authentically self and at the same time utterly beyond what we think of as our everyday identities.
The article above contains a succinct summary of some of the major players in Western Mysticism. These original thinkers are often neglected, but they have a lot of say about the rich, lived experience of meeting the divine. I actually think the inspiration and underlying experience is the same across religion, but the interpretation differs. It is seen and interpreted through the lens of developmental level, religious tradition and culture. What are your thoughts?
Today, interestingly enough is my birthday… February 22, 2013 and I am now officially 50 years old. I hadn’t planned on writing an article, but I had an interesting dream that others might benefit from. Rather than a philosophical treatise or academic type article, I categorized this piece of writing as a personal reflection. However, I believe there are insights that might be gleaned by others that could be useful in their own spiritual path within whatever tradition they practice. In the spirit of loving-kindness, I offer you my reflections and welcome your feedback.
I was lucid dreaming last night and for at least part of the time watching various phenomenon arise and fall away in my consciousness very closely. What occurred to me in a different way is how thoughts seemingly come out of nothing and go back to nothing. Ultimately, they all arise becoming more solid in a sense like a cloud that’s observable in the sky, but also like a cloud not something you can really grab a hold of or that hangs together for any length of time.
In a similar fashion, but following a different time table, subpersonalities arise. Constellations of various types of complexes held together loosely by perhaps an archetypal energy center. Like thoughts, these are observable by a larger consciousness and I could certainly hold them as objects in my mind rather than identifying with them as me.
As my insight deepened still further, I realized at another level that my personality or better self-identity is really no different although it is a phenomenon that persists for a longer period of time. However, like a river or other flowing body of water it’s actually constantly changing and not nearly as solid as we imagine it to be.
In all the cases that I mentioned, the worldview of Buddhism would advise to hold all phenomenon as a dream. While it can seem solid, unchanging and persisting, it isn’t really like that. Also, it has no inherent existence, but rather it’s existence is interdependent. It appears separate from other things in the world, but that is largely a matter of the mind drawing boundaries, categorizing sensory information, etc.
To put this another way, something like a house sitting on a street, what makes it a house? If we were to deconstruct it into the boards, nails and other pieces would we find something we can call a house? No, the house actually exists as a construct in our mind. Apart from our mind, there really isn’t an entity of a house. There are boards, nails and other parts arranged in some way for a period of time.
Similarly, in a stream their may be an eddy, but the water within the eddy is constantly changing. What stays the same is the structure or pattern in the water. However, where is the boundary between the stream and the eddy? In reality, there is only the flowing body of water. The eddy is something that we have separated from the stream in our mind. It’s existence is dependent upon the stream and is not separate from it in any way.
This is how I hold all the phenomenon that I spoke of above. It rises out of some kind of ground that it’s really not separate from. We give it a name and when different times of streams arise together, we assign that a name too. For example, the collection of emotions, thoughts and other experiences that I call “I” is not necessarily more solid than the eddy above. It’s certainly more complicated, but the self is constantly changing and when conditions change it will cease to exist as an observable phenomenon on the planet Earth.
What does seem to remain constant is the background substrate consciousness, the ground out of which all of these phenomenon are arising. In a Western context, I would equate this with the ground of Being and with Emptiness in Buddhism. It’s an emptiness that is not really empty, but undifferentiated pure potential. Perhaps a good way to imagine it is that which was prior to the Big Bang. The One with no other and therefore, prior to categories and thought.
Again, since all of this was coming up in a dream state, I am simply reporting observations and not defending what I observed. Indeed, I’m writing this as much for myself as for my audience because it allows the experience to penetrate more deeply and perhaps by sharing we will deepen our experience of reality together. At least, that is what I have in mind.
So… returning to my dream
I have choices about what I will identify with as me in any particular moment. It could be a strong emotion, subpersonality or some larger identity. What appears most constant, however, is the deeper awareness that is a witness to all of this and even this seems to have various layers to it as it is experienced from the inside. I have had everything that I call me “blink off” at times and surprisingly, “I am.” In other words, I didn’t experience annihilation, but was rather startled and even a bit frightened that… “Wow, I don’t exist!” In other words, I don’t exist in the way I thought, standing apart or above a ground of Being. The actual experience is an identity with the underlying ground. I realize this can be interpreted in many ways, but I’m just someone reporting an experience, I’m not laying any particular interpretation upon it.
In my dream, I had deeper awareness of the coming and going of various types of phenomenon in the field of mind, consciousness or whatever name you want to give it. However, I also saw my identity disappearing into the void and then arising again. In other words, like we have a stream of thoughts, I sensed or felt a stream of “identities” dissolving and arising again. One might say this was in the realm of the subtle and touching the causal. It wasn’t exactly a dream, but it wasn’t a full-blown samadhi outside of time. I guess the best description for purposes of discussion is a lucid dream experience that reflects a higher experience and that reveals some information about the self and how it could disappear and reappear like a subatomic particle in the field of Being.
The insights here for both myself and others is:
Thoughts seem to come and go largely unbidden according to causes we may or may not be aware of. What appear to be personalities within a larger personality, they constellate according to conditions and dissolve just as easily within the larger framework of a more persistent identity. What’s a little different is that even our larger identity is constantly changing like a flowing river, but it is contingent upon everything else in a larger river like the eddy I mention above.
Therefore, it is very conceivable to me that what I call “me” can disappear, but arise again according to causes that are unknown to me. As there is an impulse within the ocean for a wave to arise, so it is with this thing we call “identity” or the “self-structure.” I like the term self-structure because it connotes an organizing principle or causes. While the individual molecules in a wave on the ocean changes, the energy that gives rise to the wave follows cause and effect connections and it’s all very fluid. Is there really a dividing line between the wave and the ocean? Absolutely, not the action on the surface is interdependent. Calling something on the surface a wave is just as arbitrary as drawing a boundary on a tree that we call a branch. In reality, that boundary only exists in the mind.
What appears much more constant is what we call witness consciousness. From this observing space, I’m watching emotions, thoughts and even self and holding them as object. Therefore, they are subsumed in a larger subject and from this space I can label them as phenomenon rather than self. So that leaves the question of so, what is this witness consciousness. In other words, what is the sky that the clouds seem to pass through?
My sense is that as one goes deeper into the witness, one comes closer to a deeper more profound sense of individuality. I would identify the last frontier of individuality on a very subtle level of what is called soul in the West. However, beyond that is a point where the soul appears to open up into Spirit. The point where they touch, I would name spirit (lowercase). In reality, I think these distinctions are largely convenient for conversation purposes, the reality is a plunge into the ALL. One might think of it as a vast interconnected network where each deep point of what from one perspective appears to be individuality reflects the larger whole in it’s entirety.
At different points in my development, I have experienced this ultimately wordless reality in different ways. That is to say that I made sense of the raw experience differently or overlaid it with a somewhat different interpretation. Two popular and somewhat different ways to look at it are represented by Eastern and Western Mysticism.
In the East, the tendency is to say that Atman equals Brahman or that fundamentally your deepest self is God. Jesus suggested as much when he said, “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” This is a Hindu orientation, but more simple to relate to than a Buddhist one.
The Buddhists would be inclined to say that the self is “empty” of inherent or non-contingent Being. The self is like a ghost or the house above. The ultimate nature of reality would be Emptiness in the sense of phenomenon being empty of actually standing apart in any meaningful way from the all. Beyond that, Emptiness would not be a void, but rather an infinite field of one without a second beyond all comparisons. Nondual would imply that the phenomenological world and the Ground of Being are the same. In other words, “Emptiness equals form and form equals emptiness.”
The main purpose of this reflection is not to explain the ineffable, but rather invite the reader to do thought experiments, augment the reader’s individual experience in meditation or invite wonder and inquiry into the exploration of consciousness from the inside. I am not deeply committed to any particular interpretation, but rather prefer to leave the inquiry open-ended and not kill the dream or experiences by neatly classifying them.
A famous expression that I often bring to mind is that – “that which you are seeking, is causing you to seek.” That’s where I would like to leave this article, in a mysterious state of suspension, wonder, aliveness, fluidity and hope. In other words, rather than struggling to find yourself, meaning, love… I recommend abiding in “not knowing, surrender, awe and letting insight emerge from that place beyond you and I. A deep place of love, wisdom and spaciousness.
Those who have no mental vigilance,
Though they may hear the teachings, ponder them or meditate,
With minds like water seeping from a leaking jug,
Their learning will not settle in their memories.
Learning is consolidated and embodied through meaningful action. If you don’t tame the mind and point it toward worthwhile goals at best you will churn in place or get off course. However, you will almost certainly suffer more and increase the probability of getting caught in the net of your own delusions about life and reality. A disciplined mind is like a compass that points to true north. Since you can’t escape your own thinking, why not dedicate yourself to a worthy purpose and commit yourself to staying aware of it during your waking moments? When you are witnessing the mind rather than identifying with it, you have a choices. When you are acting out of your conditioning without awareness, you lose your freedom. Don’t let you mind put you on autopilot… associate coming back to awareness of mind with something you do regularly like washing your hands, picking up a phone, hearing a certain sound or turning on a light switch. In this way, you take your practice off the mat and into your daily life.
By: Patrick D. Goonan
I had just landed in Dallas on my first leg of a journey back to California. I had been visiting Guatemala to see the principles of Integral Theory popularized by Ken Wilber applied on the ground to complex social problems in Guatemala. After landing, I knew I had a layover of several hours, so I decided to go outside and have a smoke. Yes, this not a socially acceptable habit in some circles, but it is a vice that I still hold onto along with enjoying a coffee. Some would say the two go together and once outside the airport, I looked around for the nearest coffee shop.
I happened to find a Starbucks back inside the airport a few gates down. I ordered a latte and while I waiting for them to make it, I looked over the list of beverages and their prices. The largest sized latte was $4.23 about one day’s wages for picking approximately 200 lbs. of coffee beans in Guatemala. Those wages will get you something like a place pictured on the left usually without running water, electricity or even real walls!
Often 4-6 or more people share conditions like this out of necessity to supply our coffee habit and in order to survive. Of course, some companies, countries and conditions are better than others. However, in general it is rare to make more than $8.00 a day harvesting coffee in a Central American Country. These numbers are according to the statistics found in the book UNCOMMON GROUNDS – A History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World.
Coffee was initially discovered in Ethiopia and from there spread to the Arab world. Eventually it caught on in Europe and with the demands placed on working class in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, it became increasing in demand. In fact, coffee is an international commodity that drives the economy, politics and social structures of entire countries. This is certainly true of Guatemala and it has lead to an uneven distribution of wealth and the exploitation of the indigenous Mayan people.
In general, coffee is grown between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn at altitudes between about 4,5000 and 6,000 feet. After the Spanish Conquest, the Mayans were pushed up the slopes of the volcanoes onto what was considered inferior quality land. However, coffee grows best in this type of volcanic soil at about this altitude. As a result, this land became valuable, but the Mayans were displaced and subjugated into cultivating this very same land by new landlords, companies and an often corrupt government. Currently in Guatemala, it is my understanding that 10 families hold about 70% of the wealth. That is a very telling statistic.
This economic system evolved slowly and as we all know, these types of complex social inequities are difficult to resolve in practice. Indeed, various governments including the United States have intervened in Central and South America often with terrible results. Guatemala specifically, has also been wracked by civil war and other political problems. It also a place where drugs are cultivated and possesses trade routes between countries that grow and distribute various types of drugs.
At the same time, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries on the face of the earth. It blessed with beautiful weather, volcanoes, rainforests, etc. Almost anywhere you look, there is an abundance of natural beauty. However, beneath this natural beauty and the veneer of civilization that is presented to tourists in places like Antigua lies enormous poverty.
Several years ago, Mick Quinn the Irish-born author of the Uncommon Path came to Guatemala with his wife Deborah Prieto on vacation. After visiting Antigua and other areas, they were moved by the contrast between the physical beauty of Antigua and and the lives of many of the people struggling to survive. To make a long story short, they ended up staying and created a foundation called the Integral Heart Foundation http://www.integralheartfoundation.org
Having my Masters in Integral Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, I was intrigued by the application of the principles of Integral Theory to the social problems in Guatemala along with those found in Mick’s wonderful book the Uncommon Path. I wanted to talk to them, so I pursued my intuition!
When I first encountered the organization on Facebook I was intrigued and set up a Skype call with Deborah Prieto. I wasn’t quite sure what was calling me to Guatemala, but I arranged to visit in order to see the work they were doing. In a nutshell, they were applying sophisticated models that take into consideration the interior and exterior aspects of situations along with the systems that accompany and give rise to them. Their work is with individuals at a deep level, but also looks at the more complex relationships between various systems, developmental levels and even the interior of the society, which is to say the culture.
You can read more about Integral Theory on my blog, but what is unique about it is that it considers the external and interior, individual and collective aspects of reality as inseparable and irreducible. This gives this model tremendous transformational power and when I went to Guatemala, I saw their work in action in all of these domains e.g. education, direct social work, education and even a solar energy program. I also witnesses wonderful cooperation between other nonprofits and productive partnerships with every level of society. This can be an article in itself, but you can hear Mick Quinn talk about this work in more detail in about 7 minutes by following this link:
If you watched this video you get a sense of the work, people and synergy between the various projects they sponsor and how it all comes together to yield tangible life-changing results. Moreover, they run the organization on a tight budget and although U.S. dollars donated go further in Guatemala, they are still running on a low operating margin and without larger donors or corporations they may encounter challenges in scaling their work. Right now, they offer a sponsorship program for children and young adults and there are some companies and individuals who have been generous with their solar project.
I currently live in the midst of the wealth of Silicon Valley where the average person drinks a lot of good coffee from Guatemala and other similar countries around the world. Per capita, I can’t imagine a population that appreciates coffee as much as it fuels the often late nights of the software engineers and other technical innovators as it did the working class during the Industrial Revolution. I’m not sure exactly how many coffee shops are in the SF Bay Area, but it’s definitely in the hundreds if not thousands.
My thinking on this organization’s future is what if they partnered with coffee shops, coffee roasters and technical companies in Silicon Valley. They have a solar energy program, it would seem it would be conscientious capitalism to raise awareness of the social issues that accompany the coffee economy and at the same time promote green initiatives, their companies products and further the education and survival of the indigenous people who are living at a subsistence level to supply us with our morning latte. Again…. one latte is about a day’s wages for a healthy man working all day in the sun, walking long distances, etc.!
If that’s not bad enough because people are living at a subsistence level, they keep their kids out of school to pick coffee. This implies that to break the cycle of poverty, you need comprehensive programs that include education, other types of aid and accountability. This is exactly what the Integral Heart Foundation does and it works.
I have visited Integral Heart Foundations schools, witnessed the work of their programs and the wise use of their resources. If you are interested in learning more, you can visit their website and become a sponsor or look for them on Facebook. I am sure they would love to hear from you.
If you live in or near San Francisco or in Southern California, you can meet Mick and Deborah in person and see a presentation of their work, hear about their future plans and see pictures and video of their most recent work. If you are interested in corporate sponsorship, partnering or just supporting them through your communication network or whatever is within your means, I know they would be happy to see your face in the crowd at their upcoming fundraiser – http://www.integralheartfoundation.org/LA-SF-Fundraisers_Feb.2013.htm
I’m very proud I can play a small part in raising the visibility of this organization. If you come out to attend their fundraiser please share your perspective. Although the United States has hit some difficult times, we still are very fortunate compared to the rest of the world. If we all share a little, we can help a lot and even sharing your well wishes or communicating with your friends sets causes in motion that lead to results.
Here…. you can see me with the young woman who I sponsor, Dinora. After being in the program, she is self-confident and is planning on attending college for pre-law. I met her in person when I went to Guatemala and I hope to go again soon. If you are considering sponsoring a child through their organization, I would love to hear that in your comments. It only costs $35 a month to sponsor a kindergarten child for a month and that even includes nutritious meals.
I appreciate Mick and Deb’s hospitality while I was in Guatemala and I wish them success with their upcoming visit to the Bay Area and Southern California. You can see exact details below:
The first step is to join the INTEGRAL HEART FOUNDATION founders Deb and Mick for their perspective on poverty and
potential, but most importantly the SOLUTION in education and how you can help make a difference to many.
Sunday, February 17, 2013 – Los Angeles – Hosted by Malena Gamboa.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 – Berkeley – Hosted by our friends Terry, Valerie, Chris, Jeff, Lisa, Bill & Deborah at BAI
|Who we are:
Topic of events:
|Watch a 7-minute made-for-TV documentary on our humanitarian work in Guatemala
Learn about our four programs: Sponsorship, Integral Education, Kindergartens and Solar Power.
Talk and photo presentation by co-founders about our work with Q & A afterwards.
To raise funds for our work in Guatemala.
1.5 to 2 hours.
RSVP or questions to email@example.com