Who are you?

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From the Book of Dreams– RJ Cole

An old man tired and at the end of a very long day lay his head upon a rock and soon fell fast asleep.

In his sleep the Other came to him and hovered quietly until noticed.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“Who are you?” Was the reply in turn.

“Awake I am known as Robert. And you?”

“I am the same as you. In sleep I am what I am when awake.”

“What is your purpose here?” asked the old man.

“What is your purpose?” Asked the Other.

“I’m not sure. What is my purpose? I’ve searched my life over to find my purpose. Are you here to show me?”

“It’s not about searching for purpose, in that you cannot find it. Your purpose will find you. When it does you’ll be it.”

“How will I know when it’s found me?” asked the old man.

“When you’re being it.”

And he woke up.

 

 

A trinity within us: The awesome prayer of the three-way conversation.

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Most prayer is for things we want and need such as relief from suffering or for forgiveness, peace, justice, love or health. But the prayer of mindfulness, of just observing and being with what is, is a prayer of communion. In this we are taking care of the God we find within us. In this way we bring the conscious mind and the unconscious mind closer together.

The following is a prayer that came to me in a half-awake reverie that called me to crawl out of my dozing recliner and get it down before it turned to the dust of consciousness. It went something like this…

“Musing on what’s going on in and around me I talk to my familiar, he whom I don’t share with any other.

Sometimes it’s as a prayer, deep, fervent, grateful or pleading and it is then that the third in me joins in.

We three are always talking though all too often I think that only the two of us closest to the outside are in private discourse.

But the third is always there, noticed or not, and always informing the conversation.

It is not the third who joins, but I as first and second who joins it. It is the primordial me that continuously touches but is often hidden by the chatter of the other two.

Lost in our incessant conversation and removed from immediate experience. Number one and number two going on and on in abstraction are often brought to kneel by the true touch experience of the third.

We treat our third as Other, apart as though outside but in prayer we hear it coming from within and as part of. When it comes to our table it is as though it’s always been there though we hadn’t noticed. We can only see this when we pay attention and are not lost in our own thoughts.

We are always in relationship, never alone, though it most often seems so when we are running amok and aren’t being quiet sort of like perennial kindergarten school children.

Afraid to look beyond the me of one and two all my energy goes into how I look to myself and to others and I ignore the void within me shunning the contribution of the third.

Nearly always lost in the meaningless conversation of the first two it’s only when he and I include the third that we touch real meaning. In the three-way conversation what seems like me and what seems like not me join together and no longer need perform as though we’ve got it altogether and I begin to see wholeness without the void.

It is the aware conversation of the three in relationship that creates the existence of fully being.”

Two more synchronistic events

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I tend to think that the world or the soul of the world– God, spirit, Gaia, is always talking to me through what events it puts before me. I call these events synchronicities– or as stated in the dictionary, “The simultaneous occurrence of causally unrelated events and the belief that the simultaneity has meaning beyond mere coincidence.”

Have you ever been thinking of someone you haven’t seen for quite a while and the phone rings and it’s them? How about a couple who have almost identical thoughts at the same time or when you’re looking for a thing to pry something and there on the ground is the perfect tool? That’s synchronicity.

Carl Jung called them “meaningful coincidences” i.e. some kind of spooky connecting principle and something that takes place in the field of energy that surrounds us all. He thought of life as having a deeper order and not just a jumble of random events and that we are imbedded in this deeper order. He suggested that sensitivity to this might be part of the process of awakening to this deeper aspect of the universe. Religious people might label these events as “grace”. This awareness might also show up in our dreams. If one were to imagine that we are always at some level “dreaming” then it is possible that some focused attention to both sides of our consciousness, awake and sleeping, might be useful to understanding what’s going on in this phenomenon called reality.

To this end I share the following two synchronistic events as an illustration.

 

1) One morning I walked into my favorite coffee shop wearing all blue and one of the Baristas playfully exclaimed, “It’s Blue Bob”. I then told her the story of a student I once met when volunteering some years back who had painted her face blue and wore a blue bob haircut. They laughed and at that very moment in walked a girl with blue hair cut in a Bob and everyone nodded at her to get my attention. Was this coincidence or a synchronistic event? I don’t know. The meaning? Who knows, but I am now programmed to notice how many things seem to be blue in my environment and the effect that the color has on me e.g. energizing.

 

 2) Today I’ve been worried about my rather passionate, and somewhat aggressive, response to a friend claiming that autism was caused by the vaccine given to children. Knowing that all studies claiming this have been unequivocally discredited and rejected I argued most loudly. Later feeling bad that I tried to bully his position into submission and yet still trying to support what I considered a reasoned position I wanted to apologize for my behavior, but how to do this without looking like I as weakening the position?

As I sat in the coffee shop I struggled with what I would say to my friend when a young boy perhaps 9 or 10 years old walked up to me and while making no eye contact he reached out and ran an index finger across the length of my mustache. Satisfied, he then walked off. “Must be autistic.” I thought to myself, which I confirmed later with his parent. What was he trying to tell me? Was it that it was all right to have been upset with the person I’d been talking to about the causes of Autism and that my approach of apologizing for my type of behavior without apologizing for what I was defending would work out? When I later approached my friend I shared my apology and then calmly reinforced my position through reason at which my friend said that he understood and took no offense to my earlier behavior. He said that I had given him something to think about.

 

Enough said?

 

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”

Through the Looking-Glass– Lewis Carroll

The feminine soul comes to me through my sleeping dream bringing with her the secret alchemy of wholeness

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Traditionally it is thought that the soul of a woman is masculine and the soul of a man is feminine and that it is this interesting opposition that is trying to be reconciled through our dreams and relationships.

 

Seeking I am lead to a place from which I cannot return.

 I am reminded that I am but a visitor here from a place I never left.

 

 She came to me by dream urging me toward distant hills.

 She opened me that I may give birth to the creative.

 Though I sought comfort in ideas, she led me to the song of my heart.

 

 My desire for her is but her desire for me.

 I draw her unto me as she draws me unto her.

 I dream her with every breath

 as she is the breath that dreams me.

–RJ Cole 2017

 

Who is the ‘she’ of whom I speak? She is my soul who animates me– the spirit guide who comes to me as a means of bringing balance to the archetypal dueling forces of the masculine and feminine within me. She came to me in a dream to help my conscious self unite with my spiritual self and invite me to leave the diversions of both my adult and childhood selves behind and scale the mountains beyond where my true self lay. She is the connection with my soul that I yearn for.

The Dark Matter and energy of the universe

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I was reading an article on Dark Matter the other evening. This is the hypothetical matter that many astrophysicists believe may account for the majority of the total mass of the universe. It’s the matter that seems to be missing when we add up all the mass that we can see and deduce. They suggest that we can’t see it, but it’s there! It is in all of us, just as are the physical building blocks of the galaxies.

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Physicists also suggest that this matter is not like the matter we see, that it is comprised of something quite different than the usual protons and electrons whose conglomerates we see in the stars and our everyday world.

As I read I was reminded that the “dark matter” of the mind is what is known as the unconscious and that the unconscious as it is expressed in our dreams, visions, musings, and meditations is also not ordinary in form–it doesn’t seem to be cohesive or linear, appearing fragmented and unwilling to follow the conscious world’s physics i.e. it defies, or functions in opposition to, the physical realities of the waking world.

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The unconscious is a realm of all manner of magic where one can render objects to do any bidding without fear of failure e.g. where the dead can be resurrected, and we can breathe underwater, fly, and cause all manner of levitation. In the mind beneath our consciousness time itself can be without either cause or effect, be non-sequential, and even run in reverse. People and animals become interchangeable and often morph into one another.

In the waking world, this world at the bottom of Alice’s rabbit hole would seem irrational and chaotic and yet there’s just a hint of common sense that can lead us to make greater sense of the waking world at the top of the hole.

The dream world is I believe very much like the so-called Dark Matter that makes up most of the universe. Is it a coincidence that both the unconscious mind and dark matter account for approximately 70- 95% + of their respective totals e.g. for the total psyche* or the total physical universe?

 

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All of our myths, creation stories, fiction, poetry, art, and wondrous inventions are allegories of the observable universe. Anything that we find within ourselves may only reflect what is found in nature.

In the Hermetic  tradition of the druids, and Wiccans, there is a saying, “As above, so below”– that which is below corresponds to that which is above**. In this case the ‘above’ is represented by all that is conscious and seen while the ‘below’ is manifest in the unconscious or unseen. It would seem that both the physical and mental realities follow this dictum as well.

It also appears that there is movement toward bringing seeming opposites together to form a whole e.g. visible and dark matter, the conscious and unconscious mind. Both the physics world and the world of human psychology are working toward a Grand Unified Model of reality. Researchers such as James Hillman, Carl Jung, and other Depth Psychologists might also suggest that that’s what all humans are doing i.e. developing toward a unified whole–a process known as Individuation–the recognition of differences and then their reconciliation toward being fully human.

Like with Dark Matter, whether you know of it, or see it, the unconscious is there and a part of you.

 

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

 –T. S. Eliot

 

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*The psyche is the individual’s perceived and perceivable universe and is comprised of both the conscious and unconscious.

**From the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. It’s also preceded by a Vedic philosophy. The Hermetic philosophy portrays God as a transcendent God i.e. absolute in which we all participate.

The difference between objective reality and spiritual reality

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What defines the parts of ourselves? Take the hand for example, what defines a hand? Is it the five digits radiating from an elongated palm configuration? Is it its color, its ‘jointedness’, its purpose or usefulness? Or is it defined by what it isn’t– the empty space around it? The emptiness surrounding anything creates the essence of the experience. There is the objective reality of the hand and the ineffable experience of the space within which it exists. The content of hand exists within the context of not hand, emptiness. For me this is the spiritual, the context for the objective.

The spiritual is what defines, makes room for, the existence of everything.

Without nothing there would be no things. From the emptiness arises beauty. And beauty enlivens the soul. Within the beauty of an object there is the experience of impermanence, silence and if just experienced as is, meditation. All three are spiritual truths– an expression of the soul.

Each of us are also defined by what we are not i.e. the context created by all the things, nature and people around us create room for what we’re being. But that only makes us a proper noun within reality. Its only when these conditions interrelate that we become context for our lives. It’s only when we are creating that we become something other than mere objects. For example, when we consciously create beauty we create a portal to the soul, the unknown and unknowable.

When we get lost in that space between objects we are confronted with the mystical, the ineffable. But it is these spaces in our consciousness that can be vivifying i.e. enlivening. It can be the empty spaces that connect us with all there is and highlight the soul within. The rational mind cannot perceive what lies within the empty space for there is nothing rational in there. But there is a presence that defies definition though when sensed can cause the conscious mind to transcend its objectivity and enter the realm of the spirit.

That same presence exists between the sounds we hear, it is in the silence between words, it is Turiya, the fourth state of consciousness– that which follows the sound of the universe.

So what gets between us and our divinity? There are consequences for letting fear run our lives.

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In today’s news media we hear about all kinds of mayhem i.e. murder, war, oppression, financial meltdown, high unemployment, ethnic strife, and extreme political partisanship. I’ve also noticed that the more I read, the more anxious and fearful I become and I grow more defensive.

What, I wondered, was causing the seemingly escalating chaos? Could it be something as simple as unchecked fear and was this fear then feeding upon itself? As human beings attempt to deal with their fears, they show up as images in their dreams that sometimes morph into dark and frightening chimera–nightmares. In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert is constantly reacting to his fears and doesn’t know how to effectively deal with them as they come fast and furious and threaten to overwhelm him.

Alas, our typical human response for dealing with that which scares us is to shove it down into the hidden realms of our subconscious mind. In the short run this seems to work and allows us to get through yet another day, but over the long haul the fears become too large to hide and too difficult to manage and we begin to function through our fears as though they were real.

When people operate out of fear their ability to see reality becomes compromised–everything becomes a threat. For those who live in fear, defense–self-protection–becomes the overriding theme of their lives. This posture then fuels their response to their medical needs, leadership, virtually every aspect of public safety, and sometimes even dictates what foods are eaten.

Fear comes from thinking that you are vulnerable to your circumstances and to the events of your life. It is spawned from the animal part of us that reacts instinctively and without thought–the little archaic lizard, or reptilian, brain that hides at the base of the skull. In humans it is incorporated into the ego-self, a construct that imagines itself to be small and isolated and thus vulnerable to the world. The reality is anything but–we are immensely bigger than our image of ourselves.

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However, in a world where the inhabitants are blind to their reality, they build walls around themselves and “things” become important to their defense. How many things and of what kind becomes a preoccupation. As the inhabitants strive to gather more and more things so as to feel safe and secure they themselves become a thing as well and separate themselves even further from each other. And the separation results in each person exploiting the others for what they think will be their personal gain–what they think will quiet the fear.

When you are separated and alone you begin to feel vulnerable and helpless and the fear grows. It is out of that fear that dictators are born, that institutional and religious dogma is created to control the hoards of unpredictable “others,” and where people create points-of-view designed to protect their selves against what is not them. What was born powerful becomes fragile.

In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert leaves behind the fragile ego of his being world and discovers that he is something much more than he ever dreamed of. As he confronts the real cause of his fears, an awareness grows regarding the cost of self-protection–greed, pride, usury, hate, anger, lust, envy, and the ubiquitous self-righteous points-of-view and all of this resulting in overwhelming disruption in both the personal and collective order. The land is raped of its abundant resources and people become objects toward self-centered ends as the bankers, moneylenders, merchants and political leaders use them for their personal lust for safety.

Eventually the scale that is the world tips too far and everything slides off leaving bankrupt institutions and philosophies, wars, political gridlock, and oppression. And the people rail, and wail, and blame, and build their walls even higher. The walls become so high and fortified that the people lose sight of the soul of the world, what the great American Psychologist, James Hillman called the Anima Mundi, and their own soul as well.

It is from this dysfunctional world that Robert comes to the bigger world of the Spirit that we all come from and will all return to. It is in this world that Robert has been tasked to aid in the reconciliation that must take place within a human being in order for mankind to reunite with his soul and his bigger Self, his Spirit Self.

We were meant to be the light of the world and yet we embraced much too much of the shadow. Robert must find a way to reconnect his lost self, our lost selves. But as he learns all too quickly, this will not be easy and much evil conspires to maintain the status quo and to protect the separation. He had to find something within him that he was sure didn’t exist, and he had to find it fast because time was not a friend there, and it didn’t flow in only one direction.

Do you know what reality is? I’ll bet you don’t!

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“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

 –Henri Bergson French philosopher, 1927 Nobelist

Where the optic nerve enters the retina of the eye there is a blind spot that registers nothing. But the mind, the brain, makes up for this empty space by filling in what it thinks ought to be there, not what’s actually there, but what it creates. When seeing in low light there’s an additional blind spot, the Fovea Centralis, that is unable to see color and the objects that are seen are indistinct. As with the optic nerve the brain also fills in the fovea “blindness”.

Don’t believe the blind spot exists? Close your left eye and cast your right eye on the black “cross” sign of the figure below. Move your head close to the screen until the black dot on the right suddenly disappears. The “missing” information will be “patched in” using the surrounding parts of the picture and you see only a white area.

 

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The brain also estimates the size of things by contrasting with surrounding objects. Ever notice how the moon looks at least twice the size when it first rises above the horizon than it does high in the sky? Actually they’re both the same size 1. Also if you were to stand in front of a mirror looking at your face, all looks normal or what you’re normally used to seeing, right? But have you noticed that regardless of how close you are the reflection is only half the size of your real head (measure the mirror image then your head)?

Notice the illusion below: Two different tables right? No, they are actually the same table if you measure them with a ruler.

 

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The above illusion, moon, and mirrored face visuals are all a part of unconscious processes going on in our minds.

And every time we shift our visual attention, the attention of the mind shifts as well. This is part of the bag of tricks wielded by a magician, or even a con artist e.g. shifting your visual attention so as to do something outside your minds focus.

With only a few exceptions in so-called eye-witness testimony people are drastically affected by their level of stress i.e. efficiency of memory goes down with higher stress and then what was seen is stored into recall in a way that makes the most sense to the witness. This is highly dependent on past experiences and prejudices and/or social values. People often will add meaning to their observations that of course affects the observation. For example, the mind will often edit any puzzling or incongruent observations.

Most importantly, and more to the point of this article, what we see is determined by context. A simple proof of this is how we use visual context clues in order to read e.g. You and I can rad this sntnc vn though w hav lft out th ee’s.

Context is also what makes a movie, well… move. In reality it’s just 24 pictures shown per second that when the mind stitches them into a sequence makes it look as though something is moving. 2

 But notice it’s not the context of the external reality that I am referring to. It’s our internal reality that provides the context for what it is we see.

And that brings me back to Bergson’s quote from the beginning of this article. What our minds are ready to comprehend is determined by our beliefs, our past experiences, our prejudices, and expectations. In short, our experience of reality is determined by something other than reality–we see what we believe, not the other way around as the popular quotation goes, “seeing is believing”.

Our mind is conditioned to seeing what it thinks that it should and anything outside that conditioning is just not seen.

In order to open ourselves to new possibilities we must first look at the contexts we have created to see what we are currently looking at. We might also be willing to question what it is we are seeing and what about our own minds may be affecting that vision.

So what really is reality?

Are you sure?

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1See Emmert’s Law to explain this phenomenon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmert’s_law
2 There are some theoretical physicists who have asked the question as to whether there is any movement other than several moments of time stitched by the mind into what appears to be a moving sequence.

 

 

Embodied Cognition: The enlivened Dream

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Not too long ago I was reading an article in the Jan/Feb 2011 Scientific American Mind Magazine. The subject was how body movements and fleeting sensations affect our thinking. This is called “Embodied Cognition.” It reminded me how when I used to give seminars and workshops in the 70’s and 80’s I used to always wear a light colored pastel sweater with audiences that I thought might be resistant, or even hostile to my message. My own research, though narrow, seemed to reinforce the calming and trust inducing effect this had on the audience. Mr. Rogers and his blue cardigan seemed to have it right.

In the article, researchers at Yale University found that rough textures in the environment tend to make social interactions go roughly and that while touching hard/cold objects in the environment would affect the perception of rigidity. The article implied that drinking something warm on a first meeting between people would increase the feeling of warmth toward each other vs. the drinking of something cold.

Physicality has always played an important role on our perceptions and our learning. Educators have known for years that children learn their letters and words easier when they use large arm movements to ‘draw’ the letter, or word in the air.

Using “manipulatives” while learning math principles has also proven effective in elementary learning situations. Adults build models of chemical reactions to extend their learning and to enhance the discovery process.

We also know that simulating an action while reading a story increases the comprehension of that story. This concept is one of the generating principles behind the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy and Active Imagining, both of which I’ve mentioned in earlier Blogs. Mentally simulating body movements has been a technique to help embody a routine in gymnastics or on the field of various sporting activities. When I was in community theater the director would have us go through all our movements mentally before the play so as to help build the action into the body’s memory.

Re-embodying a dream after you have awakened by selecting a prominent image from the dream and bringing it back into the imagination while quietly meditating can allow one to interact with the image and gain greater insight as to why it has visited the dream.

The embodied cognition effect also shows up when you journal a dream. The mere act of writing a dream down immediately after waking stimulates and reinforces the recall of that dream and in many cases the recall of many subsequent dreams.

Causes of world unrest: Thinking that only your point-of-view is the right one.

 

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There seems to be so much unrest in the world and intolerance of each others points-of-interest appears to be at an all time high.

Some of my dreams express my own intolerance, points-of-view, and how resistant I can be sometimes to those points-of-view that don’t agree with mine (of course there is a remote possibility that I’m right).

First a few definitions might be in order before we dive into the factors that may be energizing the world’s current unrest.

Self-questioning

noun

  1. examination of one’s own actions and motives, self-contemplation, self-examination, self-questioning, self-reflection, soul-searching.

Intolerance

noun

  1. unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own. “a struggle against religious intolerance” Bigotry, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, bias, partiality, inequality, partisan

Literalism:

noun

  1. adherence to the explicit substance of an idea or expression. Adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense, as in translation or interpretation: as in biblical or religious literalism.

 

Intolerance leads to contraction (vs. growth), insularity (vs. openness), imbalance (unbalanced point-of-view, unbalanced behavior, psychological disturbance) and death. Basically, the soul embraces diversity and the ego does not.

Literalism can cause intolerance and intolerance can sustain literalism and that cuts off any further development and over time leads to a diversion from reality. When this diversion becomes too severe it becomes a psychosis, defined loosely as an “abnormal condition of the soul” characterized by a loss of contact with reality and exhibiting thought disorder. Some who show psychotic behavior exhibit an extraordinary belief in something that just isn’t true, that the facts will not support e.g. women are weak, men are strong therefor men must control and protect women for their own good.

What usually keeps a false belief (or bias) in place is that the mind that has it has been conditioned to not explore the truth or inner motivations and causations behind the belief. Literalism, again, trumps inner or outer questioning and the false belief remains entrenched. Anyone who begins to question thus becomes a danger to the prevailing dogma and has to be either brought back into the system or expunged from it. Many extremists and militants can be said to exhibit delusional qualities even though they themselves can’t recognize it.

So who’s reality are we talking about? Is the mystic psychotic? Is the fundamentalist psychotic? Is the zealot psychotic? How delusional does one have to be to qualify and when does the imbalance become a danger to themselves and/or others? Usually one needs to exhibit the symptoms over an extended period of time and to a great degree. When the delusions take on paranoid qualities and the person begins to act on or against them they can be injurious to others as well as themselves.

Some people experience momentary breaks with material reality when going through an epiphany or have been under prolonged stress or deprivation while some show only mild forms of delusion due to environmental and cultural influences. These don’t usually trigger the diagnosis of psychosis.

Some of the symptoms of psychoses, especially that of delusions, seem to reflect in those having a mystical experience. However, these are temporary. There’s a shift in awareness that persists over time but the disconnect from reality that the psychotic experiences is only temporary in the mystic. The mystic learns to work with the reality of the everyday through the shifted point-of-view whereas a person with psychosis becomes broadly, if not permanently if no intervention is available, delusional and unable to reliably work with reality in a balanced way.

Also under the right circumstances the psychosis of a few can generate a contagious reaction amongst the many and is usually reinforced and maintained through external psychological and sociocultural influences e.g. religious interpretation, regional cultural beliefs.

As I’ve suggested before reality is an expression of our level of consciousness, what we see is a reflection of our inner development or lack thereof i.e. if you only perceive variations of negative, guess where that’s coming from? And until we come to grips with that realization reality will run us ragged with fears and hatreds and resentments and harden our hearts and minds.

Essentially reality will support our level of development e.g. if we are prejudiced, intolerant, fearful and exclusive, the universe, aka reality, will present us with all kinds of experiences along these lines. In other words, if we say “fuck you” to the world the world will return it in kind– put out negative energy and that’s what you’ll get in return– often the energy is not out there it is within yourself. Without self-examination one is doomed to frequent failure (not total failure because even a broken clock is right twice a day).

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

–Socrates

 

Socrates’ statement here might be a little over the top. But he was suggesting that each of us in order to be fully human need to be self-examining otherwise we don’t rise above the level of the animals. I wouldn’t suggest that those who don’t internally question life shouldn’t continue to live or aren’t worth as much as might be implied by such a statement as Socrates’.

But life becomes so much richer and so much less fearful when one examines life while they’re living it. Being free to question life liberates the soul and keeps people balanced while an unexamined and unquestioned life restricts a person’s soul and creates imbalance. As I said at the beginning of this post, “The soul embraces diversity the ego does not.“ Another way of saying that is what rejects diversity is not of the soul, not of the divine that is boundless, but of the small bound-up “skin encapsulated ego” *.

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* A phrase attributed to Alan Watts (theologian and philosopher– 1915 to 1973, though some might say he was an Eastern Mystic in an Englishman’s body). I am suggesting that this socially conditioned “skin encapsulated ego” is the ultimate definition of separateness e.g. what is ‘me’ and what is ‘not me’ and is therefore the foundation for all exclusion, prejudice, intolerance, fear and bigotry.