Sunday, 11 December 2011

Wisdom of the Elders, The Time is Now

from youtube

The Celtic Twilight -- a longing to express the sublime

I think I’ve found a bit of the origins of my heart. 

I've been dipping into The Celtic Twilight, by W.B. Yeats, and found a snippet I feel I can relate to completely and utterly.  Yeats is describing a situation with two different guys, both of whom are striving to encapsulate a sense of something they can't quite reach:

" Celtic!  How full of striving after a something never to be completely expressed in word or deed. [...] This old man always rises before me when I think of X__.  Both seek – one in wandering sentences, the other in symbolic pictures and subtle allegorical poetry – to express a something that lies beyond the range of expression; and both, if X__ will forgive me, have within them the vast and vague extravagances that lies at the bottom of the Celtic heart.  The peasant visionaries that are, the landlord duelists that were, and the whole hurly-burly of legends – Cuchulain fighting the sea for two days until the waves pass over him and he dies, Caolte storming the palace of the gods, Oisin seeking in vain for three hundred years to appease his insatiable heart with all the pleasures of faeryland, these two mystics walking up and down the mountains uttering the central dreams of their souls in no less dream-laden sentences, and this mind that finds them so interesting – are all a portion of that great Celtic phantasmagoria whose meaning no man has discovered, nor any angel revealed."  

 book cover from Better World Books

Munay-Ki rites: my experience

Intro from:

"Known by cultures all over the world, the 9 Great Rites--or Munay-Ki to the Q’ero Shaman of Peru--are energetic initiations traditionally reserved for those training as medicine workers.  They connect us to the ancient wisdom of those who have come before us and lived consciously.  We are called from within, from our own inner wisdom, to blossom and grow deeply. We awaken our indigenous selves.  The rites are given in seed form, for the receiver to grow into a beautiful garden of gifts.  As we evolve personally, we become more available to play a part in the great change of consciousness which is already under way in the world."

Floral divider

I received the Munay-Ki rites over a two day course in February 2010, from Skie and Red Hummingbird in EssexMy getting there on day 1 was sheer luck (or fate?) as I had incorrectly set my alarm clock and having gone to bed very late my waking up at 7.30am was a blessing!

I arrived to the “Self Centre” a house in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, to be greeted warmly by Red Hummingbird, Skie’s partner.  I was excited, but nervous. I’d already cancelled receiving the rites a few months previously, but was to find this the perfect time to receive them. 

There were 3 other girls there on day one, we were told another would be arriving the following day to receive the second set of rites (although during my time there we had an all-female group, these rites are open to both males and females).  I walked into the living room where everyone was sitting on blankets in a semi circle around Skie and Red; in front of me lay a Munay-Ki booklet, a registration form and a rattle. 

First of all we opened Sacred Space, a ceremony that I found to be exciting and beautiful as energy began to surge through me; I felt as though I were taking part in something wild and extra-ordinary.  Instead of smudging the room with sage, Skie used a bottle of fiery liquid from Peru, which she held in her mouth briefly while she called in the spirit energies, and then spat a fine spray in the direction we were facing.  (Peruvian Agua de Florida.)  Skie had printed us a prayer for opening the sacred space:  we called the great serpent to the south, Mother Jaguar to the west, Hummingbird to the north, great Eagle to the south and Mother Earth and Father Sky.  We each took a bit of the drink while Skie intoned the prayer.

We were laughing and joking quite a bit during the ceremony, but there were also tears.  It is a very powerful ceremony.  What I hadn’t expected were messages from Spirit that came after we had received each rite -- these were deeply personal and touching.  We received the Harmony rites which were seven archetypes into our chakras, and had a fire ceremony to begin to grow the seeds that had been planted.  Next we received the Seer rites.  Again I felt peaceful energy.  The other women were already experiencing visions at this point.  Sadly that didn’t happen to me!  The first day ended peacefully, but that night I was energized and unable to sleep for several hours. 

The following day, the energies became extraordinarily powerful and deep beyond anything I’ve experienced before.  The fourth girl joined us and immediately put me at ease.  I had been unable to sleep much of the night before, and so began the day pretty tired.  However, as the day’s rites began, I had a feeling of powerful nurturing, of connecting to something so beautiful I felt it was an absolute privilege to be there.  We began with the Daykeepers rite.  We sat around, again in a semicircle, crushing herbs into a large bowl, while connecting with deep feminine energy.  Then Skie brought the bowl round and we each placed our hands in it, feeling a connection with wise and powerful medicine women throughout the ages; allowing ourselves to be female.  We then dowsed ourselves with the water and herb mixture.  My messages from this rite included a message that I needed to seek healing (Skie and Red were able to give me some healing but had been instructed by Spirit that I was to seek the rest.)  I was told I’d be given help to find my path, it was noted I’d wandered off it a fair bit up until that point!  I felt beautiful energy as Skie came round.  She placed her hands on my shoulders and then placed her forehead next to mine.  I felt held and blessed. The depth of both days was just out of this world, it was like being in the womb and being stripped back to my core, without the many facades I usually functioned behind. 

The Starkeepers rite was to anchor us to the energy of 2012 and the changes to come.  For this we lay down underneath blankets, while Skie passed us the rites and then drummed the energy into us.  She drummed around me and I felt a huge surge of powerful energy coursing through my whole body – the drumming felt incredible.  She had felt compelled to drum by me a fair bit and I felt taken back to a previous time.   By this time energy was still pulsing through me; I especially felt it in my crown chakra; it was almost as though I had taken drugs, the effect was almost palpable. 

For the final rite we sat in chairs, spaced quite far apart in the room, while Skie came around and delivered the rite.  She blew all 9 rites into a Pi stone, a stone that dates back to the Incas, which has a hole in the centre.  I felt such incredible, deep energy, I felt held, warm, loved and blessed.  Skie whispered my message to me and  it was exactly what I'd needed to hear.  I had a deep feeling of release. The word Munay means:  "I love you" or "be as thou art" and I certainly felt loved and accepted during my two days with Skie, Red and the other brilliant women in the group.

We performed the closing ceremony to close the sacred space.  I felt a bit lost when I got home; as though I had been part of something profoundly deep and beautiful and womblike, and suddenly it was back home and back to normal again!  But I’m so grateful I did this.  I felt like my path had now truly begun.  Thank you, amazing universe! (And Skie and Red!)  I had been given several messages which themselves were beautifully healing, and this and the ceremonies gave me a sense of trust in the universe, something I had been lacking for a while.

If this taught me anything it’s that the beautiful spiritual journeys and feelings I’ve been reading about for so long do very much exist.  There is so much beauty, joy and depth to the world, and it’s a world unseen and unknown by so many.  No wonder people turn to drugs, sex and alcohol.  We yearn for something intangible, perhaps a memory lingers of a time when we had a deeper, primal, connection. Our healing nowadays often consists of healing only physical symptoms without any deeper soul work that I believe is so necessary, not only for our survival but also for the health of communities, and therefore the planet. Learning that love and openness are our natural states of being, and that we must embrace life fully, not hide from it.  We're not here to accumulate masses of material wealth and hide behind our masks which our egos think we need, such as job title.  We need to come back to a nurturing love we’ve become cynical about; not eros love which our society has become so fixated upon, but to allow a gentle loving-kindness to permeate all that we do.  Through increasing our love for all life, we might connect with something more powerful and beautiful than we could ever give voice to.

Floral divider

If you would like to book either a Munay-Ki course or check out other events and healing sessions from Skie Humminbird, her website is here: 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

If you should own only one spiritual book...

...then get hold of this one! Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.  Peace Pilrim (1908 – 1981), or Mildred Lisette Norman, was a deeply inspirational woman who gave up all her possessions and began a pilgrimage, walking across American in the name of peace.

From the website
"I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the ways of peace..." 
She walked more than 25,000 miles, carrying in her blue tunic her only possessions. She crossed America for nearly three decades, bearing the simplest of messages: This is the way of peace-overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.
Peace Pilgrim talked about peace among nations, between people, and the most important Inner Peace.
Penniless, walking with no organizational backing, Peace Pilgrim touched the lives and hearts of countless thousands of Americans. Some were charmed by her simple but cheerful presence; many others were profoundly inspired by her message and her remarkable lifestyle.
Mildred began her pilgrimage at the head of the 1953 Rose Parade in Pasadena. She walked ahead along the line of march, talking to people and handing her little peace leaflet to those interested. She later said,
" was the proper time for a pilgrim to step forth. The war in Korea was raging and the McCarthy era was at its height ....There was a great fear at that time and it was safest to be apathetic. Yes, it was most certainly a time for a pilgrim to step forward, because a pilgrim's job is to rouse people from apathy and make them think."(Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p.24)
She carried with her three peace petitions: one requesting immediate peace in Korea, one pleading for the establishment of a national Peace Department, and the third, directed to the U.N., seeking freedom for the world from the burden of armaments and, in its stead, the furthering of world prosperity. Signatures for these petitions that she and others collected were presented to the White House and the U.N. upon her arrival in the East Coast 11 months later.
She didn't stop there. She kept on walking, criss-crossing the United States six times, walking for the rest of her life."

"As I lived up to the highest light I had, higher and higher light came to me."

Inner Paths to Outer Space

Another book I'm reading about awakening experiences, is called Inner Paths to Outer Space.  It's interesting, outlandish, and rather wonderful.  Drawing upon different accounts from ingesting psychedelics such as DMT, Ayahuasca, and magic mushrooms and drawing upon shamanic experiences, the authors weave fantastical tales of connecting with the mystical.  One woman having taken DMT, recalls being watched by friendly beings, and recalls  this:

[...] 'At that point, it opened, and I was very much someplace else, being, dancing, with a star system.  I asked myself, "why am I am doing this to myself?" And there was "This is what you've always been searching for.  This is what all of you has always been searching for."

(image from

Reading about the Ayahuasca experiences and studies, it's becoming apparent just how important a book this is.  There is a great deal of respect for the sacred, the numinous, and how no-one should ever engage with a sacred medicine such as Ayahuasca, lightly (if you were thinking of ingesting for frivolous reasons, perhaps the account in the book of one person's alien abduction while under the influence of Ayahuasca might give you pause for thought.  People have reported many different types of experience after taking Ayahuasca, it can bring you beautiful experiences but also you may have to confront some painful ones along the way.  However, from most reports I've read or heard, of participating in an Ayahuasca tea-drinking ceremony, people seem intensely grateful to have had the experience and it can be literally life-changing).

People undertake experiences like this to find deeper meaning, a sense of touching the divine, or to bring healing into their lives.  As the author notes, in our increasingly fragmented and postmodern world, the need to find connection and meaning is increasingly important.  I also believe the need to touch the mysterious is important, to connect with the wild parts within ourselves that often get neglected in our increasingly materialistic world.  When we try to govern ourselves from a rational standpoint only, we often can fail to appreciate the depths within us that don't wish to conform simply because something appears to 'make sense'.  The journey the soul wishes to take might differ wildly from what our ego wants for us.  Using a sacred plants or meditating can offer us a way to find and connect with hidden parts of ourselves as well as offering a glimpse of communion with Divinity.  

Waking from Sleep

I’ve finished reading Waking From Sleep, and it’s a great book.  Presenting lots of different awakening experiences from all walks of life, Percy Bysse Shelley is quoted in there, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Jill Bolte-Taylor, are just some of the examples of people who have been able to see beyond the narrow world-view we are presented with, to have a deep insight into the richness and 'oneness' of everything.

The author, Stephen Taylor, describes two different common experiences, one, which he has abbreviated to the ISLE state, is an intensification and stillness of life energy.  As it suggests, this is a low key experience, often brought about through meditation or quiet periods of solitude.  His high intensity awakening experiences are the more volatile kind, such as with raising kundalini energy.

The author describes his own mild awakening experiences and the routes he took in order to facilitate them.  He explores different reasons for ‘waking up’ at the end of book, and discusses how it might benefit us from an evolutionary perspective.  And he quotes a native Sioux Indian.  ‘We believe that land and people are one.  We believe that only people with an integral relationship to the land can survive.’  And he notes that some contemporary indigenous peoples such as the U’wa people of Colombia or the Kaiowa of Brazil have threatened to commit collective suicide if their land is taken from them.  One Aboriginal elder said:  ‘unless whiteman learns to enter the dreaming of the countryside, the plants, and animals before he uses or eats them, he will become sick and insane and destroy himself’.

It does seem to me that in these times where we are so dependent upon materialism to the point where we’ve forgotten where we truly begin and end, where we place great value upon meaningless things and place self-interest above our fellow human being, that we are in urgent need of change.  There is a beautiful force at the heart of everything, of this I am sure.  And we do need to pursue ways in which to ‘wake up’ to become balanced again, remind ourselves of our place in this wonderful universe.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Some of my favourite books

I've talked a bit about books that might help us in a spiritual quest.  And for this, everyone has to find their own.  I feel very much that sometimes in life, we can find ourselves in synchronicities, in finding the right book at just the right time, for instance.  And the spiritual search is an intensely personal thing.

That said, here are a few of my very favourite books from my Amazon lists, which I treasure:

Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman (Classic Edition)
4.  Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman (Classic Edition) by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The list author says:
"wise, deep -- find the wild woman within and prepare to have your perspective on life dramatically altered"
£7.66   Used & New from: £2.92
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World
12.  Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O'Donohue
The list author says:
"spiritual connection"
£6.99   Used & New from: £0.01
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
The Invitation
9.  The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
The list author says:
"this book will awaken the deep and wild part of your soul"

£5.54   Used & New from: £0.01
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life
6.  The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Zander
The list author says:
"One of the most inspirational books I have ever read.  A delight"
£14.63   Used & New from: £1.49
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion
Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals
16.  Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals by Thomas Moore
The list author says:
"for when you have nothing lighting your path"
£9.09   Used & New from: £4.49
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
The Complete Conversations with God (Boxed Set)
7.  The Complete Conversations with God (Boxed Set) by Neale Donald Walsch
The list author says:
"Achingly beautiful"
£20.31   Used & New from: £17.50
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion
The Shamanic Way of the Bee: Ancient Wisdom and Healing Practices of the Bee Masters
5.  The Shamanic Way of the Bee: Ancient Wisdom and Healing Practices of the Bee Masters by Simon Buxton
The list author says:
"a stunning rite of passage"
£7.36   Used & New from: £4.67
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self
3.  Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self by Suzanne Segal
The list author says:
Used & New from: £29.95
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
8.  The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self by Julia Cameron
The list author says:
"A must-have for every creative person out there!"
£7.94   Used & New from: £5.88
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

Black Butterfly: Invitation to Radical Aliveness
4.  Black Butterfly: Invitation to Radical Aliveness by Richard Moss
The list author says:
"A beautiful account of the author's own awakening, plus his thoughts on radical spiritual transformation"
Used & New from: £3.68
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
The Four Agreements: Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (Toltec Wisdom)
7.  The Four Agreements: Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (Toltec Wisdom) by Don Miguel Ruiz
The list author says:
"simple yet deep Toltec wisdom"
£6.26   Used & New from: £1.57
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

The Prophet's Way: A Guide to Living in the Now
17.  The Prophet's Way: A Guide to Living in the Now by Thom Hartmann
The list author says:
"love this"
£13.59   Used & New from: £8.01
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation
18.  The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation by Thom Hartmann
The list author says:
"waking up on how to clean up the mess we're making"
£6.24   Used & New from: £4.70
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New Age religion or Old Testament? The minefield of knowing where to turn

The spiritual pull might be calling, but then what?  Beginning the journey, trying to tease out what works for you and what doesn’t can feel pretty tricky.  In one corner the stern and often seemingly unforgiving religions, and they seem extra suspect these days.  You’ve got Old Testament flames and anger and and all that eye-for-an-eye stuff and the slippery perils of how Not To Fall into Hell.  Then in another corner, there’s the New Age movement, in which everyone seems to flutter about like hundreds of floaty Mary Poppins’, all breezy and happy, but it’s as though they’re living on another plane, because they seem keen to erase all that is dark and difficult in life.  And sometimes it can feel a bit weird.  Sometimes it can all feel a bit clannish, with the uniforms of the New Age, the earth-coloured clothes, mandatory dreadlocks, talk of permaculture and recycling and strict vegetarianism or veganism, and it can feel a bit like unless you adhere strictly to their ideas, you’re still on the outside a bit.

Good old Humanism is a solid and scientific, option.  It’s a way of being good towards your fellow man without needing to be self-aggrandising, without resorting to a rulebook allegedly written by a God some millennia ago.  It rejects blind faith, and that is definitely a good thing!  This is a good fall-back, option.  But what if you’re hovering around agnosticism, or want to explore notions of God?

It is my view that all religions lead to the same thing – for that reason I’m fairly closely affiliated towards the Bahai faith.  I remember one friend of mine, a Christian, who was one day the focus of a Muslim in a street in southeast London.  “Hey man,” said the Muslim, “we’re all the same, right?”  My friend could have replied in a myriad of different ways.  His response was to shrug and ignore, coming home and brimming with indignation, because:  “the Koran has changed a lot of the key Biblical stories around.” 

What he perhaps hadn't realised was, that just for a second, the Muslim had been able to zoom out of the minutae of it all, realise the lesson of love for everyone which is inherent in every religion.  Realise that love, compassion, understanding, gratitude, these are the messages we need to take on board.  And that they cover all people, all life, no-one excluded because they happen to have joined a different ‘club’.
Not that I blame my friend; he’s the product of his religious upbringing, after all, which tells him firmly there can be only one religion.  He cannot think otherwise, that all religions lead to the same place, because well, who is God if not a Christian God?  His framework of belief, so carefully constructed over the years is reliant upon his faith being the Only One.  To allow in even a fraction of something different might cause his world to implode, as it might for many others. I can empathise with that.  It's the biggest concept we're talking about -- God, and if people find their beliefs shaken, it must feel as though the world is crumbling under their feet.

But this is the way it is for many religions.  People get so caught up in intellectualising the stories, parables.  They have to be truths and there can be only one set of truths!  Jesus said, “love your neighbour” he didn’t say, “only love your Christian neighbour”, or “only love that person who lives at no. 23 because they happen to believe in me”.  It was simply, to love and embrace, everyone.  Religion can often be worn, heavily, like a comfort blanket by people, who get lost in dogma or snippets from the Bible, who think that going to church and mingling with likeminded folk is enough.  We all have work to do, on recognising our own faults, and wearing a cloak of religious virtue doesn’t exclude anyone from this.

I don’t think it’s our duty on this planet to absorb ourselves 100% in material things, I think the soul needs replenishment through periods of contemplation, of silence.  Of noticing the tiny things.  Feeling gratitude for merely being alive, because that’s a pretty big deal. In Buddhism, we begin loving kindness meditation by choosing a neutral person to feel warm towards, then someone you find more difficult.  Because just plunging in and attempting to feel love for everyone is hard work!  Starting with smaller aims then working your way up is a good idea. 

If you are struggling on your own path, if you are experiencing a dark night of the soul, perhaps, not quite sure where to turn, then I would say the beginning is probably with an increase in awareness through meditation, through paying attention, increased gratitude and acts of kindness.  Allowing love – not eros love, but agape love – to permeate every corner of your life where possible.  I don’t think you necessarily need to follow a religion.  But I do think it important to follow your intuition.  If your intuition says you need a religion, then read about religions until you find one that fits.  I think finding out what is missing is as vital as breathing.  And I don’t feel we need only call ourselves one thing – if you want to worship God in a church, dance in a field and worship Gaia I think that must be fine, too!

Often a well-meaning New Ager may say ‘there is nothing you have to do’ or ‘you can wake up others just by finding your own enlightenment, you don’t have to do anything or heal anyone else, just be you’.  But I believe this is misleading.  The path we each have will unfold for us all in its own time.  It may be we cannot see the wood for the trees, that we are so embroiled in our crises that we don’t think we’re making any progress at all.  It’s not until you then zoom out a bit and look at your life from a different perspective that you are able to see the progress you’ve made.  It may be there is nothing specific you have to do, or it may be, without a doubt, that you feel a path unfurl before you.  And this is what is often difficult because it may fly in the face of the materialistic culture in which we operate.  I also believe the universe wakes us all up when it’s time to awaken.  You might be immersed fully in your life and resent the intrusion!  But I do believe once we step into a more spiritual path, that in itself will bring its own reward, as anyone who has had deep, joyful, awakening experiences will testify.  It isn’t all easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe it’s worth it; it’s the soul’s expression of longing to find its way back home.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Awakening Experiences

I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Waking from Sleep’ by Steve Taylor.  It’s a look at different types of spiritual experience and ways to achieve them. Apparently the Victorian poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson practised a form of mantra meditation by silently repeating his name to himself.  'This act frequently induced high-intensity awakening experiences in which he lost all sense of seperateness, and became part of the formless spiritual ‘ground’ of the universe.  As he describes it:
"Individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this was not a confused state but the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond words – where death was an almost laughable impossibility – the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction but the only true life."
Taylor discusses how dancing, meditation, listening to music, contemplating poetry or painting, running, or simply sitting contemplating in silence, can all induce either high-intensity awakening experiences, or something calmer and more peaceful.  I know from my own small experience of meditating how I can lose a sense of boundaries within my body, and I have experienced a great sense of love and peace.  And some people experience transcendent sex -- when you have a mystical experience during the act of sex, without necessarily having any interest in or knowledge of, mysticism or religion.

Epilepsy or other brain conditions can sometimes induce powerful states, too, such as the scientist, Jill Bolte-Taylor, who apparently experienced Nirvikalpa samadhi.

Jill says:
"I could no longer define the boundaries of my body.  I couldn’t define where I began and where I ended. […] My left hemisphere brain chatter went totally silent, just [as though] someone had taken a remote control and pressed the mute button.  At first I was shocked to find myself inside a silent mind.  But I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around  me… I felt enormous and expansive.  I felt at one with all the energy that was and it was beautiful there…
My spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.  Nirvana, I found nirvana…"

And a quote from the author and spiritual teacher Alan Watts, from his autobiography:
"Every morning when I first awaken, I have a feeling of total clarity as to the sense of life, a feeling of myself and the universe as a matter of the utmost simplicity.  “I” and “That which is” are the same.  Always have been and always will be.”
I read an article recently about how it’s common for astronauts to have deeply spiritual feelings or experiences.  Since then, a quick search on Google reveals just how common an experience this is and it even has a name, the overview effect.  It is said to be a similar effect that is experienced by Buddhist monks whilst meditating.

Here's an interesting article about the first 24 astronauts on the moon -- upon their return most of the astronauts found their perspective on life to be considerably changed.

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who rode on Apollo 16 in 1971 describes how a feeing of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He describes becoming instantly and profoundly aware that each of his constituent atoms were connected to the fragile planet he saw in the window and to every other atom in the Universe.
"What I do remember is the awesome experience of recognizing the universe was not simply random happenstance…that there was something more operating than just chance."

Astronaut James Irwin founded the religious organization, High Flight Foundation and Charles Duke formed the Duke Ministry for Christ.Mitchell founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences, a leading institute for consciousness studies, upon his return. He also maintains that UFOs are real, and that the US government has been covering them up for 60 years.

Some people say that these astronauts just went a bit crazy upon their return.  And it's a natural reaction, given the tiny constraints of the worldview we normally operate within, which has little time for spirituality and religions, and most view both with the highest degree of scepticism, especially given the recent trend of atheism with people like Richard Dawkins jumping into the fray.  Some might think it's just the physiological effect of being in space, and that the chemicals in the body produce euphoria-like effects which have us fooled into thinking there is something more mysterious out there.  But, in terms of evolution, humans are puny!  We have a small understanding of the world around us and are currently grappling with science to attempt to make Einstein's theory of relativity fit into the world of quantum physics. We can't discount the vast swathes of mystical experiences on account of not having proof for it yet. We don't have proof to entirely eliminate the possibilities these experiences present, either.  Personally, as a believer in God and a believer in a mysterious universe, I find these experiences continually fascinating.  And I hope one day they point us in the right direction for our own spiritual evolution towards a more peaceful world.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The New-Age Movement & 'the Secret': transforming the darkness within

I am friends with many New-Age people on one particular social networking site (as I adopt many 'New-Age' beliefs myself).  One woman in particular adopted a bit of a schizophrenic approach to her accounts.  Every day she updated her status with positive soundbites.  Then one day she erupted, spattering her facebook page with something altogether darker, and finishing her vitriolic outpourings with ‘if you all don’t like it you can ‘f*ck off, this is me!’  It transpired she had held two separate accounts, one to encompass the light side of her personality and one to encompass the 'normal' side, which she had long been using to contact her real-life friends.  The people she’d befriended on either side had no idea about this until the day she decided to merge both accounts under her New-Age persona.  What she’d done was really to repress her natural human responses and try to airbrush them from her life.  By allowing only one side of herself to be present to various different people at any given time, she wasn’t being honest about who she was, and finally, she exploded.

This is something I’ve noticed some New-Agers want to do, try to airbrush out the darker side of their humanity -- otherwise known as the shadow in Jungian psychoanalysis which is the denied aspect of the self.  But why?  These people often have the best intentions and want to write about positive human emotion.  They believe thoughts to be powerful entities in their own right, therefore allowing in chinks of darkness makes them wary. In addition, they may have had awakening experiences in which they felt overwhelming joy, love and interconnectedness. 

But chances are, they’re still human beings who occasionally want to tell the world to ‘f*ck off’. You can have a flash of brilliant insight about humanity and being positive, but there will still involve some level of effort to see through on a daily basis; if you've not got to grips with your own demons there is work to be done!   And we certainly can’t do that vicariously, from simply reading about someone else who is transformed.  Both Byron Katie and Neale Donald Walsch underwent incredibly challenging times before they were able to experience a sense spiritual epiphany that allowed them to transform their negativity.  Their difficult years were the beginnings of the work they needed to do in their psyches in order to allow the transformation to take place.  Peace Pilgrim was able to turn pretty much most of her waking life into constant prayer, but it took her 12 years of discipline before this practise came easily to her.  

We can’t proclaim ourselves transformed until we fully know what our weak spots are.  Darkness is as integral to the human experience as light in this context. I believe that it's the attitude towards whatever lands in our paths that is important. When we first step on the spiritual path, it's only natural and arguably, necessary, to feel doubt. In this way, our path can often oscillate between becoming more awakened and then scurrying back towards the darkness for a bit while we try and figure it all out. Sometimes this process is necessary; far better for us to be able to finally embrace our path having worked through our doubts and our shadow-side.  

The Secret
‘ The Secret’, by Rhonda Byrne is the first New-Age book I've come across so far that I felt didn't quite get the emphasis right.  The key of the Secret is, apparently, to believing you already have what you want so the law of attraction will ensure the universe will serve it up.  If we desperately long for something,  the universe will oblige by bringing us the experience of desperate longing.  Whilst on some level it may be true that our thoughts might bring about *some* of our experiences, we can’t say for certain that they are responsible for everything that happens to us.  Athletes will attest to the power of positive thinking and creative visualisation.   Sometimes we might find we’re entrenched in old, habitual ways of thinking which aren’t accurate or serving us in a useful way.  But it’s knowing how to utilise our minds in a more healthy way while not allowing ourselves to get carried away in fantasy.

This book appears to say that, by following our goals, regardless of what they are, the universe will spring into action to assist us. I have ethical issues with this.  I think synchronicities do play a part in life when we're on the right path that is individual to all of us, not just when something shiny takes our fancy.  The focus in this book has done away with spiritual focus and cut to the shiny results, feeding into a materialistic culture.  

The Power of Positive Thinking
I do understand that a lot of people believe that 'thoughts are powerful entities in their own right (and I tend to believe this too).  So then it might become tempting to think if we just focus on what we want, or happy thoughts that will suffice in terms of spiritual development. The New-Age movement is still in its infancy, and so I guess there are going to be areas ripe for misunderstanding or misreading.  There is a book I’ve been meaning to read by David Tacey, called Jung and the New Age which sounds like a hugely interesting critique of the New Age phenomenon, and looks at the reasons the psychoanalyst, Carl Jung has been (apparently) so widely misappropriated by the movement, looking at innacuracies in the reading of his work. 

What I can say from my observations so far, is that people involved in the New Age movement have to be careful when choosing what to believe, and how they read certain texts (like everyone really!).  It's all-too easy to get swept up in a tide of well-meaning positivity, but it can lead to an almost fanatical belief based on very little of substance.  It just means when stepping a foot onto the path of deepening your spirituality, you should be as aware of your own failings as possible, and be willing to be honest about them.  I'm sure my New-Age friend has since found a middle path between her outburst and her 'whiter-than-white' persona, and probably learned something about her own nature along the way.

There is a wealth of beautiful information out there amongst New-Age reading (including Byron Katie, and Neale Donald Walsch, as well as the ACIM books).  I personally believe that we are all one, and that there is a very beautiful presence, or force, or God, that is able to guide us if we let it.  For most of us, there is work to be done.  Work to find out who we are and then live out our lives at the highest level of our potential. We all have unique gifts which we can bring to each other and to the world. The work involves staying very much heart-centred, making decisions from a place of love, kindness, gratitude.  Then our non-attachment will perhaps attract the right things into our lives!  (These might not be a huge paycheck or a shiny new car though, but they will be whatever it is our soul needs on its path at that moment.)  

Plenty of books out there will help you on your spiritual path, but it's vital that you find ways to stay true to yourself as much as possible; if you feel you've become lost you may need to disconnect from the world around for a time.  The answers will come.