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Friday, May 25, 2012

What Consciousness Is

Here is a simple way to think about consciousness:

Imagine holding a four inch length of electrical wire in your hand. Picture about an inch of the outer coating stripped away so that you can clearly see all of its components at a glance: the metal, any insulating material between the metal and the outer cover, and the outer cover itself.

Consciousness is every component of the wire and every aspect of its manufacture. It is the elements that evolved into the base metal; it is all of the knowledge that went into designing and building the machines that dug and hauled the metal and that is used in the wire factory; it is the science of metallurgy; it is the human intelligence that put this all together; and it is the current that flows over the wire once it is put into use. (Of course, it is also the “you” who is reading and thinking about this piece.)

You get the idea. The point is that consciousness is everything and everything is consciousness. It is the physical, the mental and the spiritual. And from an evolutionary perspective, because the physical predates the mental, and both of these are necessary to perceive the spiritual, the common conception of “spiritual” consciousness being somehow superior to the others is just not correct.

It is my hope that having a more unified idea about what consciousness is will add to everyone’s appreciation of how the universe is put together and what it means that we are all one.

Living Like a Window

There are several ways of describing and prescribing escaping the pull of Ego and the self that have been popular over the years. One that we use to epitomize gracefully letting life take its course is “going with the flow.” To go with the flow means not fighting the inevitable and always attempting to be at peace with the way things happen to be.

      Thus, when you encounter someone who seems to be just living life without overly planning it or trying to control the outcome of a lot of it, you might describe him or her as “going with the flow.”

     A somewhat more religious version of this attitude is “let go and let God.” This phrase suggests eliminating any attempts at controlling circumstances by allowing a more powerful being to take over. Since you cannot literally hand your cares to anyone, this phrase mainly requires just what the previous one does, which is to relax your conscious grip on things that seem beyond you and trust that you will be cared for.

     A comparable popular Asian expression of the letting-go sentiment that is fairly unfamiliar to westerners is “wei wu wei,” which translates as “doing not-doing.” This phrase refers to the practice of being so elegantly at-one with whatever it is you are involved with that it seems as effortless as just laying back and being still. As with going with the flow or turning things over to a higher power, the serenity implied in such a way of being is compelling.

     One more way of describing mentally stepping away from trying to be in control that may sum up what the effect of all such efforts might look like is the reflection “deeds are done, yet no doer can be found.” With this, the actor disappears in the action so that the outcome appears to have achieved itself. Such an experience is one that a participant may be aware of afterward as if coming out of a trance to discover that a certain feat has been accomplished and asking, “Was that me doing that?”

     In a sense, even if none of them actually recognize it, each of these phrases represents a prescription for disconnecting with Ego and suspending the self so that the evolutionary progression of awareness is unhindered. As all of them have great appeal to anyone who seeks a more peaceful way to go, any of them would make a great bumper sticker or would rate a place on the refrigerator door as a daily reminder of changing one’s approach to life.

     But, in truth, even with the best of intentions, for most of us a concept such as really letting go or doing not-doing represents an elusive ideal. There are two important reasons for this. One is that, like sound bites, they all contain an important truth in a compressed and manageable form which makes it seem familiar and eminently accessible.

     However, regardless of being able to handily bounce them around in our minds or in conversations about becoming mellower, they are not so readily transferred into action. As with most popular prescriptions, there are no instructions included. While it may seem as natural as falling asleep, if you really stop to consider it, there is nothing easy about visualizing the merger of deed and doer much less really turning our lives over to another being to sort out.

     The second reason is that an instruction such as “just let go” is basically at odds with Ego, and is therefore the target of all manner of resistance. Ego’s job is affirming and perpetuating the existence of the self. Therefore, it is only comfortable when it is running the whole show. If it had a slogan it would certainly be “let go and let Ego,” which means that, until we are really conscious of its workings, we are more likely to be in its control while thinking that we have control.

     There is something called the “wing-walkers’ axiom” that cautions: do not let go of what you are holding onto until you are holding onto something else. This is how Ego normally works. It just seems naturally unwise for us to not try to have control. So, when we do try to just give things over our minds fill with distracting thoughts and fears and what-ifs, and we find that as soon as we try to back away from one concern, we seem to latch onto another.

     Therefore, we find it hard not to watch the news, or check the weather. We keep praying that we receive help and release. We light candles and say incantations. We feel eerily superstitious about maintaining rituals and routines. We check and recheck, plan and go over the plans again. We resist delegating even when it would be more efficient.

     In the end, the basic functioning of the self makes truly letting go the most demanding of tasks. And there is a hidden irony, which is that the act of letting go keeps control where it has always been: we are the ones who control giving up control.

     We are in charge of the “letting” in the letting go. Even doing not-doing suggests the action of engaging in a process. And as we have seen, any supernatural being that we imagine who might take charge is also a function of Ego. We are trying to make something happen that really needs to just happen all on its own.

     The instruction to “live like a window” is a step up from all of these approaches. A window is simply an opening through which things flow. With glass in place, light, color, and all other visual phenomena pass. With glass removed, potentially anything can pass. Whatever might be present will just go by on its own.

    Living like a window is perfectly attuned to the evolution of consciousness. It allows the practitioner to separate from the grip of Ego in a manner that does not set off its alarms or cause it to automatically institute countermeasures. This is because there is no direct assault on Ego; in fact, there is no potentially disturbing activity of any kind at all.

     Being window-like allows the self to continue completely unchanged. It uses the self and Ego as contextual elements to play off of as a means to further growth.

     Window-ness suggests continuous, unimpeded movement; what happens to come our way is free to transit through. To live like a window means allowing the “flow” to pass through you. No having to let go; no turning things over to anyone; no doing anything. You are just an opening through which all things stream.

     The practitioner is free to participate fully in life while his or her conscious awareness remains independent of all activity.

(Adapted from “Live Like a Window, Work Like a MIrror: Enlightenment and the Practice of Eternity Consciousness”)

Recreation as a Psychic Development Tool

Here are just four of the many reasons why recreation is so important for psychic development. Read them, think about them and never feel guilty about having fun again.

1. Energy circulation: Any form of healthy recreation, such as playing a sport or a musical instrument, dancing, taking a walk, cooking, drawing, singing or taking a leisure drive, allows your body, mind and spirit to relax. As you relax, you loosen the aura and open the chakras. Energy begins to freely circulate in and around the body faster and more rhythmically.

2. “Re-creating” yourself: When you are engaged in recreation, you are literally “re-creating” yourself by purposely changing your thoughts from worry and work to focusing on fun.

3. Short term healing affect: The stresses of work and personal concerns are put on hold for a bit, allowing the mind, body and spirit a self-imposed short term healing and regrouping.

4. Shift in Chakras: Focusing on just work, sustains the energy in the lower chakra area. By engaging in recreation, you balance the lower chakras thus taking the energetic focus away from the lower chakras and shifting the energy to the higher chakras.

Think about the place recreation has in your life. Do you include recreation as a constant in your life, prioritizing it as important as work? If not, make some changes by including recreation as a requirement in your life.

Psychic Development Made Quick and Easy- Through Energy Adjustment

All you need do, is take a moment to assess how your energy feels. Close your eyes. Does your energy feel strong, weak, chaotic or balanced? If your energy feels strong, really alive and balanced, you’re doing well and psychic development should progress nicely on its own with little direction and focus. But, if your energy feels sluggish, chaotic or generally dull, you need to change it because negative energy is downward flowing energy. Few positive accomplishments, including psychic development, can happen with a negative energy flow.

Sometimes our energy can feel slow, because we may not be feeling well or we’re not sleeping as much as we should. Energy can be sluggish due to outside changes, changes that we have no control over, such as change of seasons. The transition from spring to summer, summer to winter can be hard on us energetically. Remember, as nature is changing, so are we. But if your energy is not in sync with the seasons you’ll feel energetically drained.

So how do you fix your energy and feel the vigorous and strong to take on newness in all parts of your life? A very simple way is by using utilizing the four F’s: flora/fauna, fun, focus and food.

1.Flora/Fauna: Getting close to nature is usually the simplest and easiest way to combat negative energy that is weighing you down energetically. Try to incorporate a brisk outside walk. The contact with nature is enough to change the negativity. Maybe try gardening. The direct contact with the earth helps to ground you and relax you adjusting a negative vibe to a more positive one.

2. Fun: Just smiling or laughing is enough to transform energy from negative to positive. Even a forced smile or laugh can change a negative outlook to a positive one.

3. Focus: Try closing your eyes, focus on the 7th chakra, visualizing that it’s open and receiving positive, healthy energy.

4. Food: The energy of meat and dairy are heavy, weighing down the body’s energy system. Simply by incorporating a natural diet of vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and fruit will lighten the energy making it more positive.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How To Deal With Criticism

“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle

At the end of the day, when I feel completely exhausted, oftentimes it has nothing to do with all the things I’ve done.

It’s not a consequence of juggling multiple responsibilities and projects. It’s not my body’s way of punishing me for becoming a late-life jogger after a period of cardiovascular laziness. It’s not even about getting too little sleep.

When I’m exhausted, you can be sure I’ve bent over backwards trying to win everyone’s approval. I’ve obsessed over what people think of me, I’ve assigned speculative and usually inaccurate meanings to feedback I’ve received, and I’ve lost myself in negative thoughts about criticism and its merit.

I work at minimizing this type of behavior—and I’ve had success for the most part—but admittedly it’s not easy.

I remember back in college, taking a summer acting class, when I actually made the people around me uncomfortable with my defensiveness. This one time, the teacher was giving me feedback after a scene in front of the whole class. She couldn’t get through a single sentence without me offering some type of argument.

After a couple minutes of verbal sparring, one of my peers actually said, “Stop talking. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

Looking back, I cut myself a little slack. You’re vulnerable in the spotlight and the student’s reaction was kind of harsh. But I know I needed to hear it. Because I was desperately afraid of being judged, I took everything, from everyone as condemnation.

I realize criticism doesn’t always come gently from someone legitimately trying to help. A lot of the feedback we receive is unsolicited and doesn’t come from teachers—or maybe all of it does.

We can’t control what other people will say to us, whether they’ll approve or form opinions and share them. But we can control how we internalize it, respond to it, and learn from it, and when we release it and move on.

If you’ve been having a hard time dealing with criticism lately, it may help to remember the following:

The Benefits of Criticism:

Personal Growth:
1. Looking for seeds of truth in criticism encourages humility. It’s not easy to take an honest look at yourself and your weaknesses, but you can only grow if you’re willing to try.

2. Learning from criticism allows you to improve. Almost every critique gives you a tool to more effectively create the tomorrow you visualize.

3. Criticism opens you up to new perspectives and new ideas you may not have considered. Whenever someone challenges you, they help expand your thinking.

4. Your critics give you an opportunity to practice active listening. This means you resist the urge to analyze in your head, planning your rebuttal, and simply consider what the other person is saying.

5. You have the chance to practice forgiveness when you come up against harsh critics. Most of us carry around stress and frustration that we unintentionally misdirect from time to time.

Emotional Benefits:

6. It’s helpful to learn how to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or retaliating. All too often we want to do something with our feelings—generally not a great idea!

7. Criticism gives you the chance to foster problem solving skills, which isn’t always easy when you’re feeling sensitive, self-critical, or annoyed with your critic.

8. Receiving criticism that hits a sensitive spot helps you explore unresolved issues.Maybe you’re sensitive about your intelligence because you’re holding onto something someone said to you years ago—something you need to release.

9. Interpreting someone else’s feedback is an opportunity for rational thinking—sometimes, despite a negative tone, criticism is incredibly useful.

10. Criticism encourages you to question your instinctive associations and feelings; praise is good, criticism is bad. If we recondition ourselves to see things in less black and white terms, there’s no stop to how far we can go!

Improved Relationships:

11. Criticism presents an opportunity to choose peace over conflict. Oftentimes, when criticized our instinct is to fight, creating unnecessary drama. The people around us generally want to help us, not judge us.

12. Fielding criticism well helps you mitigate the need to be right. Nothing closes an open mind like ego—bad for your personal growth, and damaging for relationships.

13. Your critics give you an opportunity to challenge any people-pleasing tendencies.Relationships based on a constant need for approval can be draining for everyone involved. It’s liberating to let people think whatever they want—they’re going to do it anyway.

14. Criticism gives you the chance to teach people how to treat you. If someone delivers it poorly, you can take this opportunity to tell them, “I think you make some valid points, but I would receive them better if you didn’t raise your voice.”

15. Certain pieces of criticism teach you not to sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that your boyfriend thinks you load the dishwasher “wrong.”

Time Efficiency:

16. The more time you spend dwelling about what someone said, the less time you have to do something with it.

17. If you improve how you operate after receiving criticism, this will save time and energy in the future. When you think about from that perspective—criticism as a time saver—it’s hard not to appreciate it!

18. Fostering the ability to let go of your feelings and thoughts about being critiqued can help you let go in other areas of your life. Letting go of worries, regrets, stresses, fears, and even positive feelings helps you root yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness is always the most efficient use of time.

19. Criticism reinforces the power of personal space. Taking 10 minutes to process your emotions, perhaps by writing in a journal, will ensure you respond well. And responding the well the first time prevents one critical comment from dominating your day.

20. In some cases, criticism teaches you how to interact with a person, if they’re negative or hostile, for example. Knowing this can save you a lot of time and stress in the future.

Self Confidence:

21. Learning to receive false criticism—feedback that has no constructive value—without losing your confidence is a must if you want to do big things in life. The more attention your work receives, the more criticism you’ll have to field.

22. When someone criticizes you, it shines a light on your own insecurities. If you secretly agree that you’re lazy, you should get to the root of that. Why do you believe that—and what can you do about it?

23. Learning to move forward after criticism, even if you don’t feel incredibly confident, ensures no isolated comment prevents you from seizing your dreams.Think of it as separating the wheat from the chaff; takes what’s useful, leave the rest, and keep going!

24. When someone else appraises your harshly, you have an opportunity to monitor your internal self-talk. Research indicates up to 80% of our thoughts are negative. Take this opportunity to monitor and change your thought processes so you don’t drain and sabotage yourself!

25. Receiving feedback well reminds you it’s OK to have flaws—imperfection is part of being human. If you can admit weakness and work on them without getting down on yourself, you’ll experience far more happiness, peace, enjoyment, and success.

We are all perfectly imperfect, and other people may notice that from time to time. We may even notice in it each other.