Author: Martin Morrison
An unquenchable thirst for knowledge
“Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” are possibly the two oldest questions that human beings have ever asked. We have been grappling with life, the universe and everything almost since the beginning of our time.
Our hunger to understand the movements of the planets, the changes of the seasons and whether or not the body and soul are one or two separate entities are just some of the questions that have kept scientists, philosophers and mystics busy researching, experimenting, discussing and debating.
What is knowledge?
“I think. Therefore, I am.” Right? If it’s good enough for Descartes, it’s good enough for me. Sometimes we are adamant we know something, but we can’t prove it to anybody else. We have dreams that seem so real while we are in them, but no trace of them remains once we have woken up. Does that mean dreams are not true? Surely, they represent some kind of truth. What is true is that we experience them.
The scientific method has brought us a long way. Not only have we gained greater understanding of the way the world is, we have learnt to harness its forces and to create all kinds of things. But in the end, the answers we gain from our scientific endeavours only lead to more questions. And that’s where we go full circle. We end up back where we started: who am I, and why am I here?
At the centre of the big questions is consciousness. We cannot see consciousness, and yet we are conscious. We cannot see other people’s consciousness, but they can share their experiences. Therefore, whereas any serious discussion around the nature of gravity or heat or energy will revolve around the things we can observe – the apple falling from the tree, water coming to the boil, or steam driving a turbine – any proper conversation about consciousness needs to be concerned with experience.
One collective consciousness, many individual souls or none of the above?
This is a key question. When we hear the language of spiritualists and many of the world’s religions, there is an assumption that each of us is a self-contained unit of consciousness, a soul, which is accountable for its actions. However, when we try to pin down the self, we come across obstacles.
Our bodies are in a constant state of change and eventually all bodies die, so clearly, none of us can say we are the body. Likewise, our minds can be changed significantly because of life events that have a major impact on our psyche or because of brain injury. Head injuries often bring about profound changes in personality. So, it is fair to say we are not the mind.
If we are not the mind and we are not the body, what are we?
Practitioners of meditation often report feelings of being part of something much bigger than themselves while they are meditating and of feeling more connected and in harmony with other living beings after a meditation session. Buddhists speak of a state of no-mind, a purer state of awareness which transcends our thoughts, memories, habits and emotions. And they speak of a concept of no-self – again pointing to a state of being aware without being attached to any particular sense of identity.
Biologists tell us that consciousness is a phenomenon which arises from brain activity, that when the brain dies, so does consciousness – there is no separate soul that inhabits the body or moves on after the body’s death. Advocates of artificial intelligence believe that programming will advance to the level that machines will develop consciousness.
Human experience: spirits, mediums and psychics
Human experience is the stuff of consciousness. If we are to explore the nature of consciousness, then we need to look at experience. Those who support the idea of individual souls will point to well-documented psychic phenomena as evidence.
While the majority of stories about ghosts, poltergeists, mediums and psychics are usually easy to pull apart, there are isolated yet profound exceptions that leave even the most cynical scientists scratching their heads and wondering what’s gone on. Therefore, for the sake of discussion, let’s suppose that some of these incidents are genuine.
How would we explain some of the more mystical psychic experiences within the wider context of consciousness, and do these phenomena lead us to conclude that the psychical world comprises countless individual souls or are we all reflections of one collective consciousness?
Can a cloth cap have a ghost?
Many reports of spirits include beings from another time or place being fully clothed or having other objects with them such as walking sticks or cloth caps, and some even report seeing other aspects of the ghost’s environment coming through – horse and cart, steam trains or other indications of bygone days. How can we explain this?
Although many teachers would rightfully say that mindfulness and meditation ultimately do not have any goal, let us be honest: the basic aim of these practices is entering the state of Presence. It is a thoughtless state of mind, which we could also call Pure Consciousness or Awareness. Meditation and mindfulness practitioners aspire not only to remain in this state but to deepen and expand it as much as possible.
However, it is not an easy task, especially for beginners. This time we will focus on entering the thoughtless state. Here are a few pieces of advice on how to do this quickly and efficiently.
1, Focus on here and now.
This is the most obvious and very simple way of entering the state of Presence. You have to become aware of yourself, the surroundings, and everything that is happening in you and around you at this moment. Be here. Become aware of the present moment, enter the now. You will dive into the thoughtless state of Pure Consciousness immediately. If any thoughts, emotions, or external events distract you, just return to the here and now.
Focusing on the present moment is the essence of mindfulness practice.
2. Become aware of yourself.
Ask yourself: "Who is watching this?" or "What is watching this?" This is a variation of the practice of self-inquiry, which can ultimately lead you to spiritual liberation, but meanwhile, among many other benefits, it will always anchor you into the present moment. It is thoroughly described here.
3. Verbal interruption.
This is the quickest way of discontinuing the stream of thoughts. Just say swiftly and decisively to yourself: “NOW!” and feel the Now, which consists of the totality of your experience at this moment, here and now, including the feeling of your body, your whole being, and auditory and visual sensing of your environment. Or, for example, say “STOP!” and become aware of stopping every activity, including your thinking process.
Feel free to use any other word or phrase that might work fine for you. For example, “ENOUGH!” “HERE AND NOW,” “SILENCE,” “STILLNESS,” “I AM,” “I EXIST,” “WHERE AM I?” “ATTENTION!” “I DON’T KNOW” …
You may speak these words out loud to yourself, or say them in your head.
4. Dissolving the Temporary I (DTI).
Being one of the basic Reintegration techniques, the DTI is certainly one of the most efficient methods for entering the state of pure consciousness. This method will not only bring you into the thoughtless state for a while, but it'll do a more useful thing - removal of your unwanted mind content (thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations).
5. Conscious breathing.
There are several variations of the mindfulness of breath. In all of them, you should consciously follow the movement of air into your body and out of it, along with any sensations that the movement produces. However, you could focus on other areas of your body.
For example, you might prefer concentrating on the sensation of flowing air, moving in and out of your body in its entirety, however you feel it. Personally, I prefer this variant because it takes me more easily into a state of self-awareness. In this approach, you are trying to be fully conscious of your chest’s motions during inhaling and exhaling, of the whole volume of air going in and out from you, and of the entire feeling of its gentle contact with your inner organs—nostrils, throat, and lungs.
You may also practice breath mindfulness by focusing only on the sensations within your nostrils during inhale and exhale circles. Alternatively, you could orient your attention to the sensation of the air filling and emptying the interior of your lungs.
Try out all these approaches. Use whichever one is most suitable for you and enjoy mindfulness on many occasions—immediately after waking up, during driving, walking, working on the computer, while doing various daily errands, in the midst of emotional bursts, before sleep, or many other situations, at your will. Mindfulness of breath can bring you deep peace in every situation, help you in releasing stress and raise your overall level of consciousness.
6. Become aware of space.
The perception of space or nothingness generates deep peace and tranquility in our being. Some people even call the sensing of space the "shortcut to enlightenment."
Become aware of space (or nothingness) within you, the room you are in, in the background of everything you see. Imagine space extending from you in all directions, infinitely. Sense its vastness. This will quickly bring your mind into the so-called alpha state, in which your brain functions at a lower frequency of neural waves. It is a deeply relaxing, tranquil, and creative state of being, in which you will feel the present moment easily.
 Excerpt from Inner Peace, Outer Success.
Author: Larry Mager
Readybrain.net | email@example.com
Travel is not something you should put off until retirement. It is one of the only real ways to open your mind to other cultures and to experience all the world has to offer. Traveling can serve as emotional therapy and may even help you better appreciate your profession. If you’re considering walking away from it all for a spiritual, mental, and physical sabbatical, here are a few things you can do to prepare for your extended absence.
Let go of fear
The first thing you have to do is learn to let go of the fear that taking time away will hurt your career. Chances are, it won’t, and when you return, you will have an interesting story about your “pretirement.” If you’re worried about returning to your industry after a sabbatical, Monster.com offers tips on how to explain your sabbatical during the interview process.
There is no doubt about it, if you want to get the most out of your personal retreat, you will need to plan ahead, and that means planning for how you’ll afford your journeys. Obviously, you need to have money saved up, but it does not hurt to have a source of income while you’re away. One great way to do that is to set your own home up as a rental property. This starts by getting it ready. You will need to stage it, stock it, and secure it. Angie’s List recently published a guide on rental property preparation, it’s a five-minute read with plenty of great tips. Also, don’t forget to plan for your pets, let your neighbors know what’s going on, and alert the Post Office.
Know when to go
Timing is everything. There are a couple of considerations here, and it starts with talking to your boss well ahead of your planned departure. The more notice, the better, especially if you are working on a crucial project. Give your employer at least a six month’s heads up so that you can coordinate your leave for a time when it will not be harmful to the company. Even if you are not a full-time employee (such as a freelancer or consultant), this is necessary if you do not want to part ways on bad terms.
Even if you rent your home while you’re gone, you probably will not have the same amount of money coming in as you did when you were getting a regular paycheck. Transunion recommends saving the equivalent of one year’s salary for a sabbatical lasting six to nine months. This will keep you from running up your credit and give you a small cushion of funds to live off of when you return.
Have a purpose
Finally, and most importantly, know what you expect to get out of your time away. This is an excellent opportunity to connect with your higher power and make your trip a meaningful travel experience. Plan to do things that put you in touch with your inner self and remain mindful at all times of the beauty of your surroundings. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling alone or with your closest friends or family, make it purposeful and you’ll take away more than memories. You will gain a new perspective and may find out who you really are along the way.
If the idea of taking an extended vacation is intimidating, keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more entwined you become with your current surroundings. The last thing you want is to become so involved that you can’t break away.
Many people have a problem of succumbing to the demands of others repeatedly and are afraid of saying no. They feel that it may hurt the other person and provoke revenge. Or, they are afraid of themselves and their own reactions in a possible conflict.
On the other hand, saying yes to others seems to be ingrained in our nature as an effective evolutionary strategy. It allowed our ancestors to support each other and jointly defend themselves from various threats. Also, a genuine yes to people and circumstances generally is a good thing, which means accepting the present moment as it is.
However, agreeing with all external requests would have been the perfect strategy if all people were genuine and honest. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Often burdened with heavy negative emotions, many individuals may behave egotistically and even cunningly toward us. If we are always naively open to their demands, they will inevitably hurt us. I am sure you are familiar with that feeling, unfortunately. Many times, all of us were betrayed or hurt unexpectedly, even by our close friends or relatives. Our life experience tells us that we should always be alert and cautious to avoid such unpleasant surprises.
The problem is that we habitually say no out from fear or anger. Also, we say yes frequently from fear or desire. So, the root of our reactions, whether “positive” or “negative” ones, is at least very questionable.
The underlying source of our reactions is our ego. Typically, we don’t respond. We react. That’s a big difference.
Saying No and Saying Yes
Therefore, if we want to learn how to genuinely say no to other people’s demands, we should examine the complementary action – saying yes. Those are the two opposites that are inseparable. Acceptance and denial, submission and refusal, agreement and dissent, yes and no; they are two sides of the coin. They must be taken into consideration together.
Only from the state of Pure Consciousness, we can respond genuinely to every challenge. Pure Consciousness, or Presence, will truly enable us to either accept or refuse the requests of others. On the other hand, if we are burdened by thoughts and emotions, our choices will be clouded and distorted. The genuine decisions are made only from the state of Presence, the thoughtless state of mind.
However, even if we learn to live in the here and now, to be mindful most of the time, we still could react improperly in numerous circumstances. Some persons or occasions may easily kick us out from the state of Presence. Their actions or mere appearance could trigger our previously suppressed emotions such as anger, fear, or sorrow, so our reaction to their requirements will not be genuine. Whether that reaction is submission or refusal, it will not be authentic. In the long run, its consequences will be suffering.
The genuine decisions are made only from the state of Presence, the thoughtless state of mind.
Importance of forgiveness is immense. Whenever we are stuck in the mud of anger, resentment, blame, or guilt, we deeply suffer, as well as people around us. Although these feelings are not negative per se, they are conveyors of some vital messages to our conscious being. If neglected, they will severely undermine our health and overall well-being.
To forgive means to release anger and resentment, lastingly.
So, together with love, forgiveness is the ultimate healing tool on Earth. It liberates us directly from these unpleasant feelings, while, indirectly, it heals many diseases caused by them.
To forgive means to release anger and resentment, lastingly.
Also, it does not involve excusing or condoning the person’s actions. Forgiveness does not deny crime, atrocity, or injustice. However, it clears up our hearts and minds, making the path to justice completely smooth. It brings relief from pain and injury.
Forgiveness does not necessarily lead to reconciliation, nor we have to feel obliged to reconcile with the person we are forgiving. Nevertheless, if we truly forgive the person, some sort of reconciliation with them is likely to spontaneously occur, sooner or later.
True forgiveness cannot be achieved from a lofty, righteous position. This implies feeling superior upon the other person, which could easily turn into disdain. And that would be very dangerous for our spiritual growth.
How to forgive?
Of course, to us ordinary mortals, forgiveness is not easy at all. The feelings that we intend to release are usually deeply rooted and most often for a long time present in our psyche. Anyway, if we want to continue with our personal development and spiritual growth, we must reintegrate these feelings with the rest of our being. Therefore, forgiveness should be done step-by-step, thoroughly, with true dedication and honesty.
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