A PATH WITH HEART: Take the One Seat

To take the one seat in the center is to commit to meditation as your central spiritual practice. Kornfield warns against the practice of trying many different spiritual practices which move you left and right, forward and backward without ever drilling deep into the depths of your being. In this blog post, rather than, re-capping the chapter, which I hope you read, or recapping my audio comments, to which I hope you listen, I am bringing in another Buddhist book I often recommend — Wake Up to your Life: Discovering the Buddhist Path of Attention by Ken McLeod.

In Chapter 3, “Cultivating Attention”, McLeod describes in great detail the practice of attention which is a critical precursor to meditation¹. McLeod distinguishes two types of attention: active and passive. He wrote,

When an experience absorbs emotional energy, whether the experience is a flower, a thought, a feeling, or a belief, attention goes passive and we are less present with what’s going on. Emotional energy shifts to a lower level. We are, in effect, passive participants in the experience.

In contrast, active attention occurs, “when attention remains directed at an object and there is a shift in clarity and vividness.” He goes on to say,

Active attention is volitional, stable, and inclusive. We choose to direct attention; we aren’t simply reacting to stimulus. Active attention is not disrupted by sounds, thoughts, sights, or other events in our experience…. Because active attention is not disrupted by habitual patterns, the more we live in attention, the less we fall victim to the reactive processes that are operating us.

With out further adieu, here is the visual/audio portion for Chapter 3, Take the One Seat!

Footnote:

¹ In the audio portion of this blog Lucia René in Unplugging the Patriarchy: A Mystical Journey into the Heart of a New Age tells us the practice of attention (or concentration) precedes the experience of meditation.

A PATH WITH HEART: Stopping the War

In this chapter (chapter two) Kornfield likens the war in our head between all the ego voices to the wars in the world. He suggests the way to have peace in the world is to stop the war inside. He suggests that adapting to our society leads one into denial and addiction saying

We use addictions to support out denials.

To wake up to these voices can be overwhelming and depressing, but if you persist you will eventually find peace inside. The most important thing to remember when you begin to pay attention to the voices inside is to simply notice without judging. It’s important to NOTstart a war with these voices for that only exacerbates the war.

In Jungian terms the process of paying attention and accepting “what is” is called taking back one’s shadow because what gets denied gets repressed into our unconscious. It distorts reality. So to take back one’s shadow is to see wholly.

Another important point in this process of “stopping the war” is to NOT identify with the voices. You are the observer of the voices; that is your true self. The voices have created the false self or what Jung called the persona.

Here is the audio portion for chapter two.

Waking up to Love

From a spiritual perspective the entire point of life on this planet is to further our spiritual development by coming to know that all is love. Now, if you read the newspaper or turn on the news channel it is easy to see that the idea of love is not represented. In fact, one could easily say that humanity is expressing the exact opposite of love with its obsession with war, technology, and capital.

Over the last two or three thousand years humanity has lost its way by becoming enthralled with the “ten thousand things,” what the Buddhist call the physical world, forgetting along the way that our true nature is eternal, that we are a soul having an earthly experience.

From a psychological perspective to become enthralled with the physical world means we believe ourselves to be a perishable ego — the identity vehicle of our physical being (body). Most have lost contact with their eternal identity vehicle, the soul.

When we survey the world in the 21st century, we see humanity is now faced with its physical limitations. Population growth is out of control and natural resources are reaching their peaks soon to be falling fast into extinction.

Over the last hundred years the guardians of our commons (the government) has transferred power and control of our natural resources to the monied elite. Not only in North America, but through extortion these entities have taken hold of most of the natural resources in South America. These people are godless believing the end game is about the physical world. Unfortunately, they have many of us engaged in their worldview where they always win.

I believe we are facing these physical limitations so that humanity wakes up to its true nature. Are we just reptiles with big brains? Or are we something more beautiful and brilliant capable of feats beyond these physical limitations?

Waking up to the possibility that we may be more than just physical entities, we may be more than just an ego, is not easy in a world obsessed with the physical. However, it is possible. For me it began the day I decided to take my nighttime dreams seriously. What were these peculiar images and symbols from my unconscious saying about me and my life? Who was this internal entity caring for my well-being? That’s when I began to wake to love.

When will you begin to wake up to love?

I leave you with this beautiful song about Wakin’ up to Love by Shanna Crooks.

A Cure for the Midlife Crisis

The Midlife Crisis

How to recognize a midlife crisis?

  1. You have the desire to start over.
  2. Your marriage is stale.
  3. Your career is less than adequate.
  4. Your life seems rudderless.
  5. You feel more impulsive than ever.
  6. You just bought a brand new red convertible.

The midlife crisis has less to do with the passage of time than it has to do with psychological experience. That is, the ego achievements of the first half of life have been accomplished: you have a wife/husband, children, pets, home, career, car, Ipad, etc. But what you don’t have is happiness. It is at this specific moment in your life that you begin to wonder about your legacy – what impact will you have on the world?

The midlife crisis is a wakeup call sent from your alienated soul. The first half of life is the domain of ego. Childhood patterns developed to protect the ego unconsciously run your life. Up until now you have been living what I would call a societal egoic life. The rules and roles that run your life, unconsciously, are not your own. To say to someone — you are a chip off the old block — is very true. Until you consciously choose the values, roles, and rules you will live by, you are simply a chip off the old societal block. Who you think you are is what Jung called the persona, the mask you show the world. Midlife is the time to emerge as a unique individual soul.

It could be said that acting out the midlife crisis — having the affair, changing careers, buying the red convertible — is a defense against the reality of death. Said differently, the existential task of midlife is to make sense of your life before you die. This means a transfer of power from the unconscious ego, to the conscious soul. Death is a reality that is easy to deny in the first part of life, but cannot be denied in the second part of life, although there are huge industries — plastic surgery for one — built around helping you continue to deny death. That aside, death creeps in with every wrinkle, every gray hair, the flabby belly, the hormonal changes, and aging children.

So what is the cure for the midlife crisis?

SOUL CONSCIOUSNESS!

The consciousness I am referring to is a state of being. It is not your identity (social persona); it is not your ego-consciousness; it is not your shadow (the part of your self you deny and repress). It is your ever-present self-awareness. Ego is focused on objects, obsessed with the past and the future, and leary of the present moment. Soul, on the other hand, is eternally present, alive and moving towards wholeness — its evolutionary purpose. Ego speaks in language; Soul speaks in symbols. Ego’s purpose is to protect the self from harm, and propagate the species. Soul’s purpose is to create, to love and move towards wholeness.

Jung outlined several steps in the project of one’s soul journey, a process he named individuation. They are:

  1. Encounter with the Shadow
  2. Encounter with your Soul-Image
  3. Encounter with your God-Image
  4. Emergence of the Self

I will talk more about these stages of individuation in another post. For now here is James Hollis, the author of The Middle Passage, identifying the end of the midlife crisis:

We know we have survived the midlife crisis when we no longer cling to who we were, no longer seek fame or fortune or the appearance of youth. The sense of life as a slow taking away, the inexorable exeperience of irreplaceable loss, is transformed by relinguishing the old ego attachments and affirming one’s deepening descent into the mystery. (Hollis, 1993, p. 113)