In the midst of a crisis, big or small, you may find yourself feeling afraid of what’s next because things seem uncertain. What if rather than becoming wrapped in the fear of uncertainty, you use these moments as an opportunity to grow in love?
When events of global impact occur, you may feel confronted by the limitations of your control in the physical world. You may find yourself questioning your power or feeling uncertain about your future. The vacation trips you planned, conferences you scheduled, playdates/events you arranged—everything suddenly halts, and it is as if time itself has come to a sudden stop.
It is within this in-between state of things that is precisely the right time to turn inward and plant seeds with the lessons you’re learning. It’s a time to learn so much about what is important to you and who you might become.
A Lesson from Improv Comedy
In 2016, I was living in Washington, D.C., and effectively experiencing a quarter-life crisis while working at an environmentalist organization. I felt as if I let life fly by while being too afraid to chase my dream of being a professional artist and entertainer. My job sent me to a content marketing conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where I sat in on a session about creativity in business. In the session, a comedian explained to us the difference between someone who is incredible at improv and someone who struggles with it. He told us, “The comedian who is incredible at improv silences the fear in their mind.” Improv is all about stepping into the unknown with curiosity and enthusiasm; the game asks its players to agree to whatever is happening in the scene and to build on top of that.
The comedian who is great at improv has an idea and they bypass their fear of, “Will this be funny? Does this make sense?” They simply move into the idea on stage and perform their next action, whatever their comedic contribution is to the scene. A great improv comedian makes a choice to transform that moment of uncertainty into an opportunity to explore and create. A pro at improv answers the question of “What will happen next?” with a determination through humorous thought and action.
Moments in your life may sometimes feel like improv scenes because you share this world with others, almost like characters in a story, and you impact others but you don’t always know what’s coming next. I left that conference session with a lot of questions about the future of my career. The truth is, I had been afraid to ask myself, “What do you want?” There was a fear of failure and the uncertainty of success that made my heart pound. But there, in Cleveland, I found myself listening to the comedian daring me to be courageous.
3 Questions for Self-Transformation
In the session, I scribbled in my notebook as much as I could about the advice he gave us. When I got home, I meditated using lavender oil and cosmic music. I breathed naturally and closed my eyes. I asked myself, “What do I want? Who am I? Who do I want to become?” Images of a joyous me, a secure me, a me that is reassured about who she is and where she is in life—that’s what I saw before my eyes. I cried and asked myself aloud why I didn’t feel that way already—and I wrote it down. Then I began journaling regularly, “How do I feel right now? How do I want to feel a year from now? What experiences will create that feeling? What can I do right now?”
I followed the answers to these questions. They included things like wanting to feel at peace and whole, seeking experiences of community and support. I discovered that I needed to pour my love into the world if I wanted the world to pour love into me. I wrote poems to my loved ones, words of affirmation for the universe and myself, I took the time to listen to strangers. And while I quit my job and left D.C. without any certain idea about what would happen next, I still found myself in places filled with care and among people who received me with love as I made my way to living in California.
From Chaos to Peace
Now when I come across any defining moment in my life—a crisis, major transition, or advancement—I ask myself these same questions. I breathe. I visualize. I dream.
And it feels as if in an instant, the uneasiness of uncertainty dissipates. I return to my higher self, back to wholeness, and back to love. If you seek beauty, love, abundance, and peace, you will find it. Even in turmoil.
There is no doubt that suffering is happening as people seek appropriate healthcare, children are out of school, and people make ends meet to feed their families. There is also a great awakening happening inside of us. We are awakening our power of compassion, gratitude, and creation. Over the last month, air pollution in Los Angeles has cleared up, fashion designers have shifted their production from couture gowns to facemasks, and even certain CEOs have forfeited their salaries to make sure that their employees are supported.
In Portland, where housing costs have been trending upward for years, a landlord has elected not to collect rent from his tenants for the month of April. And in fact, when he discovered that one of his tenants was in need of food to feed her family, he surprised her with groceries on the front porch. In New York City, an advocacy group called Transportation Alternatives encourages people to donate unused bikes to essential workers. These are just a few of many stories that have emerged through this time of uncertainty.
It is easy to look at today’s circumstances and simply see what is lacking. But these people have seen the situation for what it is, and they visualized ways to contribute something meaningful, something that would make a difference. What they’re doing is something that you have the capability to do. You have the power to transform chaos into balance, it simply requires intention and practice.
The next time you become aware of uncertainty, ask yourself, “How can I help? How can I contribute? What gifts may I offer?” Watch what happens next. Soon you’ll find yourself creating ideas and giving support, feeling empowered. The uncertainty will dissipate, and a vision of love will arise in its place that will help you rediscover who you are meant to be.
‘We are dreaming a symbolic world, only briefly waking to what is real’ Arthur Deikman, M.D.
‘He not busy being born, is busy dying’ Bob Dylan
Something is not quite right…you feel it…you may have experienced this feeling, this nagging, for a long time. So you most probably just try to ignore it and hope that it goes away; but sooner or later the persistent nagging finally brings an idea to your mind – there’s something very odd about the way the world is. Maybe you feel like you are at the cinema watching a film and yet you sense there must be something wrong about the film you are seeing. The images are all there, but there’s a feeling that something is out of sequence, or the frames are running out of ‘normal’ time. However, after a while you get used to the style of the film, and your senses adjust to its rhythm and you lose the sense of strangeness and you get pulled into the show and you go along with the ride…
…the film tells you that the world has no grand meaning, that human life is an accidental anomaly – but as you walk down the street, engage with friends, fall in love, follow your dreams, you experience meaning and significance…wait, there’s that glitch in the film again – something about its ‘randomness’ and ‘meaninglessness’ doesn’t make sense…your personal experience has shown you something different…and then there’s that nagging feeling again…somewhere – wasn’t there?
Life is life, and most people go through it with trial, joy, adventure, challenge, love, and all the rest. This is the same for all of us, yet it doesn’t always occur on the same playing field. There is a different perspective we can take – a different position vis-à-vis the world. We can see the world in which we live as solely an exterior phenomenon; or we can choose to view it as also an expression of our interior life.
I have come to regard the cosmos as not just the expression of mathematical equations, but as the play of lyrical forces that, like a living being, is intoxicated with love and wonder, and the joyful curiosity of adventure. And I often wonder what it would be like to live with the view that human life is the result of random, accidental forces; as a meaningless happening forced to live out its years on the back of a dead rock hurtling through a lifeless universe. I am reminded of the ‘Myth of Sisyphus,’ a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat for eternity the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again – and then to push it up again, ad infinitum. For me, this lifeless exterior view of life is truly absurd[i]. And yet the physical demands of a normal life compel us to focus our gaze continually on the external where our daily waking consciousness has to deal with all the impacts and noise coming from the outside – it is very physical work and can, and often does, occupy the whole consciousness and conscious awareness of a person. Yet for some people another gaze peers out onto the world – a gaze from within. I refer to this as the interior life, whereby a person deeply feels, intuitively knows, that there is another perspective upon life, one that is far richer, pervasive, subtle; and yet one that must be sought with effort.
There are many people – in fact, they may be the majority – who have never sought or felt an urge toward the interior life. They never stop to ask themselves not only ‘why am I here?’, but also ‘how did I get here?’ This is a fundamental question that appears to bother few people. It is not unfair to say that some people only know themselves by the name they wear through life. If pushed, they would find it difficult to truly distinguish themselves from others who bear similar conditioned attitudes and opinions. And yet this realization is often hidden from us. Perhaps the shock of such recognition would greatly disturb our mental and emotional balance. And so a majority of people continue to identify and individualize themselves through the given name they bear, or the job they have elected to perform. This is evident on the occasion when someone is asked who they are, they reply either with their name or their occupation. It’s a most unsettling question and for many people they can only answer this by their work function or their given name. It’s also true that most of the time this socially accepted question is only asked and directed to a person on the most superficial and banal level. And so who a person actually is remains a lifelong mystery. And this is a condition common to most of us.
…There’s that film again, and it’s telling you that your conscious experience is just a consequence of chemical brain functioning – I do this, I do that, I see this, I feel that, I think this – …but the ‘I’ is just a state of awareness that comes as a by-product from a complex of neurons…but wait a minute – haven’t I just been observing my own thoughts and feelings…standing back from the ‘I’? Is this then the real me? Or is this observer of my thoughts just another neuronal by-product observing the workings of another random by-product?…ah, here’s the film again, the glitch is gone…
It’s also the case that many people rebel against their essential nature, whether they know it or not. People may say a thousand things – or only one thing – and yet in each spoken moment they move away from the essential. Again, what is it to know oneself? To grow, to develop, to attain understanding and self-awareness – what do these things mean to the everyday person? At best, society has rendered them as abstract concepts, or as wishful thinking. Within our specific cultures we are so used to living at a primary, basic level – a survival level – that we spend very little time and attention upon the interior level. In fact, the notion of an interior world often remains a luxury for the few. The rest of us have to get on with managing and coping with our normal lives.
And so we live with many unrecognized questions, failing to notice them or awake them from their slumber within us. Do we ever wonder why events have turned out this way? Or is it that the forces of division, polarity, and ignorance that drive our world are so convincing that we seek no other reason (or excuse?) for the oddities of our world and its incongruous reality? Perhaps we find no compelling need to want to see things in a different way. In fact, some people actively seek to forget.
The compulsion to forget is likely to be rationalized by calling it by another name. Through the seeking of pleasurable diversions and distractions through entertainment, challenges, or addictive pursuits, people are actually seeking to forget. Greek mythology tells of how before the human soul incarnates into this world it drinks from Lethe, the river of Forgetfulness – one of the five rivers of the underworld – so that it cannot remember its divine origins. Similarly, there is a Jewish legend that speaks of how we are struck on the mouth by an angel before birth so that we cannot speak of our pre-birth divine origins. We may come from inspired and sacred origins, yet when we arrive in this earthly reality we come dumbstruck and needy. Or rather, perhaps it is only that we lack the key, the crucial guide, to unlock our memories and unleash our interior gaze and soulful longing. The truth may be that rather than to forget we are in fact here to remember.
Sometimes it is a tragedy or catastrophe that triggers a person to remember and to seek answers. On a larger scale, perhaps it is necessary for humanity to reach a crisis point – in its materialism, commercialism, and social systems – for there to arise within people the need for something else. The interior life recognizes that it is the essential nature of being human to seek for something more, something beyond. This need for communion with something greater has largely been fed by the role of religious, and/or spiritual, traditions. However, the human being’s need for a meaningful, developmental life has still not been met by our societies, especially so among the highly industrialized cultures. We have developed our faith, our reason, our mental pursuits; we have established industry and created marvellous technologies – yet we have failed to work on ourselves. We have failed to grow our souls.
Soul-making as well as taking care of one’s soul are not specifically introverted or monastic pursuits – they do not require steadfast introspection or a dramatic withdrawal from the world. The Romantic Poet Keats said – “Call the world if you please, ‘the vale of Soul-making.’ Then you will find out the use of the world.” It is my opinion that ‘soul-making’ needs to be re-imagined and reintegrated into our societies. We need not go back to animism or alchemy to find soul-making. We can find it here, in the everyday Now. The genuine expression of a truth takes no fixed form. Self-development, or self-refinement if you prefer, is not an ideology or a fixed science. It is a basic human right. The interior life should be recognized as an inherent human need, and it should be socially acceptable and encouraged to direct part of our gaze in its direction. After all, if the outer sun rises but the inner sun does not, then nothing has been gained.
‘One is an architect of the interior – who works on interior architecture’ Anon
[i] No wonder then that the absurdist French philosopher Albert Camus wrote an essay titled ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ (1942) describing man’s useless search for meaning in an unintelligible world.
Anyone may go through a period of sadness or challenge that is so deep-seated and tenacious that it qualifies as a dark night of the soul. Not long ago I was giving a talk at a university when a man shouted at me from back in the crowd: “I’m terribly depressed. It’s been years. Help me.” I shouted back my email address. In his voice and body language I could see that this man was not caught in some passing depression. His life was broken by some loss, failure, or long-forgotten emotional wound that left him in a desperately dark place.
I reserve the expression ‘dark night of the soul’ for a dark mood that is truly life-shaking and touches the foundations of experience, the soul itself. But sometimes a seemingly insignificant event can give rise to a dark night: You may miss a train and not attend a reunion that meant much to you. Often a dark night has a strong symbolic quality in that it points to a deeper level of emotion and perhaps a deeper memory that gives it extra meaning. With dark nights you always have to be alert for the invisible memories, narratives, and concerns that may not be apparent on the surface.
Faced with a dark night, many people treat it like an illness, like depression. They may take medication or go into counseling looking for a cause. It can be useful to search for the roots of a dark night, but in my experience the best way to deal with it is to find the concrete action or decision that it is asking for.
Engaging the Night
A dark night of the soul is a kind of initiation, taking you from one phase of life into another. You may have several dark nights in the course of your life because you are always becoming more of a person and entering life more fully. At least, that is the hope.
One simple rule is that a truly deep dark night requires an extraordinary development in life. One outstanding example is Abraham Lincoln. With his early life surrounded by death and loneliness and his adult life weighed down by a war in which thousands of young men died, he was a seriously melancholic man who, in spite of or through his dark night, became an icon of wisdom and leadership. One theory is that he escaped his melancholy in his efforts for his country, but another possibility is that the very darkness of his life—he once said, “If there’s a worse place than hell, I’m in it.”—was the ground out of which his leadership grew.
As a therapist, I have worked with people profoundly sad and discouraged, and I join with them in looking for ways to transform that heavy mood into a weighty life. Contemporary people often don’t take their lives seriously enough. This tendency might be an aspect of the cult of celebrity, where we lose sight of our own importance by making too much of it in others.
In the archetypal psychotherapy that I practice, we always say: Go with the symptom. I don’t look for quick escapes from the pain or good distracting alternatives. I try to imagine how a symptom, like a long-standing dark night, might be re-imagined and even lived out in a way that is not literally depressive. As far back as the Middle Ages at least, dark moods were considered to be the work of Saturn, a spirit symbolized by a planet far out in the solar system. He was cold, lonely, and heavy, but he was also the source of wisdom and artistic genius. Look through history and you will find a great number of creative men and women who have struggled with the Saturnine humor.
This ancient idea that a dark night may be connected with genius and inspiration could help us today as we try to be constructive with a Saturnine disposition, like Lincoln’s, or a period of smoky moodiness. We might imagine it as the root and basis of an engagement with life that could give meaning and purpose. This doesn’t necessarily mean that eventually the dark spirit will go away, but it may have a counterweight—some extraordinary creative activity and involvement in life—that will make it more than bearable and may diminish it.
With our contemporary view of anything that looks like depression, we think: I’ll never be happy, never have a good relationship, never accomplish anything. But with the medieval image of Saturn, we might instead tell ourselves: A dark night is the sign of a high calling. My pain and loneliness will prepare me for my destiny.
Finding the Gift in Darkness
There are many examples of men and women who endured unimaginable ordeals and yet contributed in a striking way to humanity’s progress. Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years under harsh conditions, yet he never lost his vision and sense of destiny. One of his younger fellow prisoners said of him: “The point about Nelson, of course, is that he has a tremendous presence, apart from his bearing, his deportment and so on. He’s a person who’s got real control over his behavior. He is also quite conscious of the kind of seriousness he radiates.” This is dark night talk—presence and seriousness, the key gifts of Saturn—as a long tradition holds. Mandela’s dark night was an actual imprisonment, not a mood. Still, he teaches how to deal with a dark night. Don’t waste time in illusions and wishes. Take it on. Keep your sense of worth and power. Keep your vision intact. Let your darkness speak and give its tone to your bearing and expression.
The regenerative power of nature grows more beautiful after a devastating forest fire at Yellowstone Park in 1988. photography | Wikimedia Commons, Jim Peaco
As strange as it may sound, there is a temptation in a dark night to slip into enjoyment of the pain and to identify with your emotions and moods. “I’m a lonely person. I’m depressed. Help me.” One striking quality we see in men and women who are dealing with their dark nights effectively is a lack of masochistic surrender to the mood, which can be forceful and dominating.
Mandela had “control over his behavior.” He didn’t succumb. It’s important to live through the dark night, acknowledge it, notice its qualities, and be affected by it. At the same time, it is not useful to be too attached to it or to let it dominate. You don’t want to be the hero who slays dragons and tries to obliterate the darkness, but you do need all the strength of heart you can muster.
While giving a dark night its due, you can also cultivate a love of life and joy in living that doesn’t contradict the darkness. You can be dedicated to your work and your vision for humanity and also feel overwhelmed by the suffering in the world. To do this it helps to have a philosophy of life that understands the creative coming together of conflicting moods. The rule is simple: Human beings can do more than one thing at a time. You can acknowledge your darkness and still find some joy.
An example of the dark night leading to a transformative presence in the world is Maya Angelou, who went from not speaking for five or six years as a child out of guilt and the wounds of abuse to reciting the inaugural poem for Bill Clinton and inspiring millions to make something of their own dark nights. In all her public appearances, Angelou showed both the pain and the joy that shaped her mission in life. She carried her pain throughout her life and yet her joy seemed to increase with her impact on men and especially women around the world.
Angelou’s experience demonstrates in an intriguing way how a dark night might take away your ‘voice’ and then give it back with added power. The question is, how do you go from a dark night to having a positive impact on the world, thus giving your own life purpose?
The first step is to embrace the darkness, take it to heart, winnow out any subtle innuendos of resistance. Then find any images that are trapped in the thick dark mood or situation. Those images may hold the clue to your release and future service. Angelou lost her voice, a fascinating symptom and a strong image, and then became known worldwide for her voice. The cure lies in the illness, the hint at future activity within the symptom. If you tone down the dark elements because they are painful and discouraging, you may also hide the gifts that are there for you.
The Return of Aliveness: The Dark Night of the Soul
By Eckhart Tolle
The ‘dark night of the soul’ is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life… an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event—some disaster perhaps. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death—for example, if your child dies. Or the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.
It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster, which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life. That results in a dark place.
There is the possibility that you emerge out of it into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.
They awaken into something deeper. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died—only an illusory identity. Now, it is probably the case that some people who’ve gone through this transformation realize that they had to go through that in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.
You arrive at a place of conceptual meaninglessness. Or one could say a state of ignorance—where things lose the meaning that you had given them, which was all conditioned and cultural and so on.
Then you can look upon the world without imposing a mind-made framework of meaning. It looks, of course, as if you no longer understand anything. That’s why it’s so scary when it happens to you, instead of you actually consciously embracing it. It can bring about the dark night of the soul. You now go around the Universe without any longer interpreting it compulsively, as an innocent presence. You look upon events, people, and so on with a deep sense of aliveness. You sense the aliveness through your own sense of aliveness, but you are not trying to ﬁt your experience into a conceptual framework anymore.
Another important strategy is to avoid making the dark night too personal, too focused on yourself. Yes, you feel it intimately and alone. But it could still have more to do with the suffering of the world than with yourself. Maybe dark nights are generally less personal than they feel. At any one time, beings on the planet are suffering. The planet itself is suffering; it is going through a dark night constantly. If you live in a place where children are hungry and dying in wars and in domestic violence, you are within the realm of the world’s dark night. Listen to political leaders deny climate change and you worry about the future, not of the planet on which you live but the planetary being of which you are a living part. If you can stretch your moral imagination to perceive this suffering, then you will have the energy and focus to work toward a transformation.
By definition, visionary people imagine utopia, a word that means both ‘no-place’ and ‘good-place.’ It is an imagined state of the world in which people are free of their struggle, where at least the basic insecurities and inequalities have been dealt with. But oddly, it takes the pain and despair of a dark night to envision utopia.
Think about it, you wouldn’t be compelled to imagine a perfected life unless you were steeped in its imperfection. The emptiness of the dark night transforms into the no-place of a wonderful world. If you don’t feel the hopelessness of a dark night, you will probably float through life identifying unconsciously with the values and expectations of the culture. You won’t know that there is something wrong, something that calls for a response from you. Personally, you may not feel your being. You may eventually decide that you’re a nobody, for you become a somebody by identifying with the world outside you. Self-realization is not a private psychological achievement managed by a strong will and a hygienic attitude. A strong sense of self emerges when you own and activate the awareness that you are your world. A mystical sensibility and social action go together. Through an essential shift in imagination you realize that you are not the one suffering; the world is.
The real stunner is that when you begin to serve the world, your darkness changes. It doesn’t go away completely; nor should it. It continues to feed your vision of utopia and your frustration at the imperfection of it all. But your personal darkness converts into anger at injustice and then into compassionate vision and effective action. The darkness and the vision are two parts of one flowing movement.
Maybe it isn’t that your darkness eases but that your ego investment in it diminishes. It feels as though it goes away because you’ve been grasping it. There may be a degree of love for the darkness and a disdain for hope. You don’t want the challenge of being alive and engaging the world. It may be easier to sink into the pit. Some people resist participating in the transformation of the world because they glimpse the challenge in it. They will have to give up a long-held philosophy of easy, comfortable pragmatism and, maybe for the first time in their lives, feel the world’s suffering.
You see this pattern of waking up from pleasant unconsciousness to awareness of suffering in the story of the Buddha, and one of the key words Jesus uses in his teaching, not often pointed out by his followers, is ‘wake up.’ But waking up is also entering your dark night instead of remaining in the oblivion of avoidance. You do wake up to a joyful message, the meaning of the word ‘Gospel,’ but the dark night is always part of the picture, the other side of the coin.
The best source in classical spiritual literature for describing the paradox of darkness and vision is the Tao Te Ching, where on every page you are invited to live without polarization. Chapter 14 is a good example: “Above, it is not bright. Below, it is not dark.” ‘It’ is everything. Below, where you might expect darkness, it’s bright. Above, where you think you’d find light, it’s dark. Keep this paradox in mind and you will be neither a sentimental idealist nor a cynical pessimist. You will be part of the transformation of it all because it is happening in you.
Study Suggests That Spirituality Is Key To Kids’ Happiness
A professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and his colleagues Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace have conducted a study which suggests that spirituality is key to children’s happiness.(1) Over the past few years, scientists have been able to measure the affect of positive emotions and feelings of joy within our biology, so it is key to find out what best produces these feelings within us.
Just to be clear, they define spirituality as internal characteristics, an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort. Understanding happiness has been subjected to large amounts of research for a number of years. This particular one suggests that the processes that influence happiness are not guided by external factors, but internal characteristics and qualities.
320 children aged 8-12 were assessed to examine the relationship between spirituality and happiness, from both public and private schools. You can read the full abstract and study for methods used here. The study concluded that children’s spirituality, not their religious practices (e.g., attending church, praying, and meditating), was strongly linked to their happiness. The results parallel studies of adult happiness and suggest strategies to enhance happiness in children.
The authors found that the children who said they were more spiritual were happier. In particular, the personal (i.e. meaning and value in one’s own life) and communal (i.e. quality and depth of inter-personal relationships) aspects of spirituality were strong predictors of children’s happiness. Spirituality explained up to 27 percent of the differences in happiness levels among children.
Researchers have identified many ways in which spirituality enhances and promotes subjective well-being. One of these ways of enhancing well-being is to increase personal meaning in one’s life. Spirituality may produce a sense of meaning that is worth living or dying for.
“If spirituality enhances happiness by increasing personal meaning, this may suggest strategies to enhance happiness. For example, strategies aimed at enhancing personal meaning in children’s lives may promote happiness. Future studies could have children engage in activities that might promote personal meaning. For example, children might volunteer to help others or record their contributions to the community in a journal. Then changes in happiness and personal meaning before and after these activities could be compared. If personal meaning is critical to happiness, one might see that these activities particularly enhances happiness for those children who showed increases in personal meaning” (1)
Again, spirituality is not just another ‘thing’ to latch on to, in the context of this article it refers to an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort.
If we look at the planet today, from the day we are born we are bombarded with marketing, advertising, television and more; our wants and desires are literally programmed into us. We constantly seek external factors for self satisfaction and happiness (i.e., money), but after we acquire these external characteristics we instantly move on to something else outside of us in order to feel happy or fulfilled. This is a result of the mass conditioning we are exposed to throughout our lives.
Have you ever wondered why a majority of people on the planet want and desire the same thing? They want money, cars, clothes and a big house. What happens when nobody wants these things anymore? What happens when nobody truly has a desire to acquire materialistic gains? What happens to an individual when they come to the understanding that nothing external can bring us joy? It’s a process of great transformation, awakening and realization. It’s a path towards true fulfillment. It forces one to look within themselves for a feeling they could once only receive temporarily, from ‘things’ outside of themselves. It also forces one to create a new experience, one that can provide a better experience, one that resonates more with our internal being.
As we grow up, we pay no attention to our inner voice, neglecting it and pushing it to the side. We seem to always be following instructions. This internal voice is the key to joy, it’s your intuition, your belief systems, your heart. Many of us haven’t even had the time to develop or listen to it, many of us don’t even know how because we are told what to believe, how to live our lives and what makes us happy. We are not given the opportunity to examine and explore these things on our own, through our own inner guidance.
Constantly looking for happiness and fulfillment outside of ourselves, or having a certain external criteria for achieving a state of happiness keeps us in a cycle of depression, and sadness because these things can never provide us with real feelings of fulfillment and joy. We are always feeling that something is lacking, and that we need to acquire something to make it better. Sure, they may provide something temporary, but in order to vibe in the energetic frequency of joy more often you will have to find it within yourself, something many of us continue to do, and something that is not easy.
I do not believe that one needs to be, or even can be in a constant joyful state. There is also a neutral state of peace which can be perceived as a state of sadness by some. This is our natural state, an observer state.
Because we’ve been programmed and conditioned to seek fulfillment outside of ourselves for most of our lives, this process is extremely difficult and hard. A while ago now, I realized that nothing external on the planet could really make me ‘happy,’ that I would have to find joy in just being, existing, and having the opportunity to experience this life on this planet at this time. When nothing truly outside of yourself can provide you with joy, you will be hurled towards self discovery, but only when truly nothing outside of yourself does the trick anymore. It can be a dark place at first, but if you find yourself going through this process remember that nothing is wrong with you, and you are on the correct path. It’s perfectly normal to not be able to find joy from anything in the external world, it doesn’t mean you are depressed or not ‘normal.’ Pretty soon you will learn to find joy from the simple gift of being able to experience life. It just means that you have outgrown this experience, and you seek something new, something different, and something that fulfills your soul as apposed to your mind.
I don’t want to make it seem like completely nothing outside of myself provides me with joy. There is love, relationships with other individuals, friends, beautiful planet Earth, sports and more. But these are all feelings that come from within, and cannot be produced by materialistic gains. These are empirical experiences producing these feelings, the joy that comes from the simplicity of EXPERIENCING life, rather than acquiring. These are indeed spiritual experiences.
Next time you are feeling down ask yourself, is this feeling coming from a place where you feel you are lacking something? Because the truth is, all you need is within you, and it has been there all along.
Everyone in the world is seeking truth, because our whole purpose in life is revealed through our experience with ‘what is.’ What is, is what is true. How could it be otherwise? To experience truth all we have to do is be willing to recognize and accept it for what it is. Belief is not required to know the truth, because beliefs are simply opinions, not facts, and are subject to a lot of variables.
Quite frankly, most of us can barely agree on anything. Beliefs are actually stumbling blocks towards truth and hinder our collective search. This, in turn, is due largely in part to the notion that most of us believe it is much more important to be right than happy, because we view being wrong as a defeat. If this is not the case, then to what can we attribute all the conflict in the world? For it is certain if there is an ultimate truth, it must be aware of itself, and we must be a part of it.
If truth has no meaning, is devoid of being, and has no essence, then there’s no point in even pondering this enormous question, and we should all move on and just do the best we can for the brief time we are here. For in the end, we’ll have come from nothing and end up as nothing. The truth is, we can believe in nothing, but we can never make it true. So let’s scratch this off our list: Truth is not nothingness! This means we can start our list with: Truth is everything that is real. Illusions, on the other hand, are nothing, are totally unreal, and do not exist
To help simplify our search, let’s start with the understanding that there is only one fact, and that is what is true. There’ is not one part of truth that is truer than another part, since all truth is one and the same and completely true. The concept of ‘different truths’ is meaningless and false. This is one of the first steps in recognizing the Oneness of Love.
Truth goes beyond words to experience. We can make an attempt to describe it in words, but like all experiences, truth transcends all symbols and forms, and is ultimately going to be experienced as peace of mind. This is quite literal and simply means that reality has nothing to do with the body. Most of us will find this a tough pill to swallow, but again, belief is not required, only acceptance. Peace of body makes no sense because the desire for peace is pure thought.
A note of interest is that a lot of people in the world believe that the truth changes all the time, and that change is the only constant. This seems to be a very popular point of view. Is it any wonder there is so much chaos and mass confusion in the world with this idea as an anchor in life? With a little right thinking, and our willingness to question illusions, it would become perfectly clear to us that truth is a changeless reality. If truth changed, it was never true.
Let us remember that we came from what is true, and none of us created the truth. Therefore, regardless of what it is, the truth about us is the same because of the fact that everyone and everything came from one source. Our choices will always be narrowed down to choosing between nothing and everything. Seen in the light of reason, this makes our decision simple and easy.
In order to remember what truth is, we first need to be willing to admit we don’t have a clue, and stop filling our mind with our own ideas of what we believe it is or think it should be. For it will be an experience that is not of this world, and when it happens for anyone, they will simply know and cease to ask questions. As long as we are seeking for truth, or asking questions, we do not know. How then can we possibly hope to provide the answer to the question we are asking if we do not know? Guesswork is not an option here.
Amazingly enough, truth, like love, will be known in its fullness when we have recognized everything that it is not. It will be our desire to overcome the obstacles to peace that will set us free, because truth, like love, is peace.
The first and only obstacle to peace is our desire to get rid of it. This is the result of thinking that our grievances are justified without recognizing the full cost to us. Undoing illusions, or conflict, in our mind will be mandatory, for truth is not an illusion, simply because there is no conflict in Love.
What are illusions? Nothing! Illusions can seem real, seem very active, and appear to keep us from knowledge, but only because of the power of our mind and the notion that we can turn our back on love. Even so, we will never have the power to turn love into nothing, or make it untrue. Understanding this reveals why illusions, which are always fear-based and fed through scarcity-consciousness, will be undone in our minds.
Each of us has the complete power to reverse our thinking in a heartbeat, penetrate the thin veil of illusion, and see the Light of Truth shining behind the veil. We can do it now. How is this different than suggesting that we not wait for happiness? The only requirement is that we must value the truth, or happiness, above all the conflict in our mind, and be willing to let strife go in favor of joy.
In reality we don’t need to seek truth, for it is here with each of us at this very moment. The only thing that prevents us from the full-blown experience of reality is our desire to get rid of peace, hold grievances, and to seemingly suffer as a result.
How much do you want peace? Doesn’t it sound like a long, cool drink of water after our trek on the planet, which has depleted us, makes us uncomfortable, unhappy, and always wanting for more or something else? Desire happiness with the full power of the mind, and the truth will come rushing in and fill our heart with joy. None of us will know this unless we are willing to overcome illusions in our mind. The means to accomplish this is called forgiveness.
Make a decision for yourself and the world, at this moment, to be willing to uphold the truth and remember it for everyone. When we have accepted peace of mind as the only thing of value to us, we will see peace reflected everywhere. Take these words to heart, and use them to free the world from the devastating results of conflict and fear, which are totally unreal and do not exist. Love is the Answer.
Psychotherapist, interfaith minister, writer and public speaker
Virtual Community: Can We Survive It?
Posted: 01/31/2012 2:20 pm
Community is a hot topic these days. Many people now complain that they feel isolated, that community has disappeared, and with it, the experience that community offers — belonging, inclusion, grounding, shared goals, connection, etc. The institutions that used to provide us with the experience of community — our schools, neighborhoods, spiritual organizations, etc. are not bringing us the same sense of connection that they used to. So what’s changed?
I recently asked a young woman why she spent so much time playing The Sims 3, the virtual character video game. Her answer: she liked the sense of community that it offered her. She could go out into the neighborhood, walk around and see other people in their houses and get a real sense of the community. As a result, she felt less cooped up in her own home and more a part of the world. The world she was talking about of course was a virtual world. When I reminded her that the people she was looking at in the other homes were not real, and the neighborhood she was wandering around in, also fake, she laughed and said she knew all that, but it didn’t bother her.
While people may still be participating in real-world communities, they are not engaging in them in the same way as they used to. Because we now rely on social media for our sense of connection and belonging, for community, we have removed ourselves to some degree from our interaction in the physical world. We are still there but in a less intimate way. At a recent visit to a local café, I noticed the so-called community table, a long wooden farm table that conspicuously evoked the sense of warmth from an earlier time, when generations of families convened over day-long meals. On this day in 2012, nine of the 10 people seated at the community table were staring into a personal screen of some kind. I laughed out loud, imagining the day when ten iPhones will occupy those community seats, sharing stories about the humans that they have to put up with.
Because we know that we can always get on Facebook, or tweet or text, the very manner in which we are interacting in the physical world has changed. We are less engaged and less committed, less dependent upon this moment of being together for our sense of connection and emotional nourishment. Physical interaction has become an impediment to our engaging with technology. We have to hurry up and finish with the people in front of us so that we can get back to tweeting and texting to people who are somewhere else. The system has flipped: People are now the distraction and our on-line world, the main stage.
It used to be that the time we spent together had an inherent importance to it. We could reach each other by telephone, but being together physically was special and an opportunity of sorts. If we were not visiting with each other, we were at home and apart. Now, together and not-together time is blurred. We are living in a continually together space, interacting constantly with no separation between the private and public experience. Sadly however, the more virtually together we are, the less genuinely together we seem to become.
The problem is not that we are shifting our sources of community, but rather that online communities cannot offer the same emotional nourishment that physical communities can. After hours of participating in virtual communities, people report feeling empty and isolated, just the opposite of the experience that physical communities provide. “But the online communities are just launching pads for people to meet in person,” supporters argue. In my research however, I have not found this to be the case. Social media is an end unto itself with its community experience remaining primarily in the online world
Since the beginning of time, humans have come together to create communities — because they are important to our well-being. We need them, to feel grounded and a part of something larger than just ourselves. The young woman who is deriving her sense of community by wandering through a virtual neighborhood, walking her virtual dog, looking into the houses of other virtual characters, is not, in my estimation, receiving the benefits that real community offers.
We are not going to lose our online communities any time soon and in fact they are proliferating. But they are not and should not be a replacement for our real life communities. When we are in direct physical contact with one another, the people we see on a regular basis, we can remind ourselves that such moments matter, can remember to land there in the interaction. It is important to honor the importance of the physical community, and the profound nourishment that it offers — nourishment that we in fact need. Physical and emotional presence are the building blocks of community. Both require effort, but it is effort wisely invested and unmistakably rewarded.
The Spiral Petroglyph is found in every ancient culture throughout the world.
How is it that all of these ancient cultures craved into stone the exact same symbol in a time where there was no way to communicate with each other? There were no telephones, no TV and no mode of transport that would enable them to visit each other.
I believe that they all looked to the stars and saw the same spirals occurring in the night sky. This phenomenon has now been seen by millions of people around the globe in the past few years.
The Spiral, which is the oldest symbol known to be used in spiritual practices, reflects the universal pattern of growth and evolution. The spiral represents the goddess, the womb, fertility and life force energy. Reflected in the natural world, the Spiral is found in human physiology, plants, minerals, animals, energy patterns, weather, growth and death. The Spiral is a sacred symbol that reminds us of our evolving journey in life. When used as a personal talisman, the Spiral helps consciousness to accept the turnings and changes of life as it evolves. The acceptance of change is one of the greatest freedoms a human can experience, putting consciousness in the present moment where the power of creation is condensed. On a larger scale, using this symbol assures all beings are reminded of their inward and outward evolution, a balanced and centred state of mind. On water, it carries the power to flow and change.
“When birds fall from the sky and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the Earth from many colours, classes, creeds, who by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.”
Have you heard news reports over the past year where flocks of birds are mysteriously falling from the sky? Large groups of animals being found dead? There are over 1 million people around earth that have joined “the tribe of many colours”. It does appear the above Hopi Indian prophecy has already started to come true.
Kiesha Crowther, also known as “Little Grandmother,” was initiated as shaman at age 30 by a Native American elder and was told that her task was to be shaman and Wisdom Keeper of the “tribe of many colours.”
Last Sunday (5th June 2011) I had the privilege to spend a day with Kiesha, 2 Australian Aboriginal elders/custodians of this great land plus many like-minded souls. During this day we all spoke about the ancient spirals and also the spirals that millions of people have witnessed in the skies over the past few years. This wonderful and inspirational lady is the real deal who created the tribe of many colours, which I am so proud to be a part of. Anyone can join this this international tribe that was prophesised by the Hopi Indians by clickinghere.
The below video details many ancient spiral petroglyph found all over the world. A sound clip from a talk Kiesha conducted on spirals is incorporated into this video.
I highly recommend listening to Kiesha’s message below while watching the many photographs of ancient spirals. Towards the end of the video, the Norway Spiral is shown which occurred in December 2009 and was seen in the night skies my thousands of people. Since then millions around the world have watched this event via youtube.
Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.
1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
5. What is the one thing you would most like to change about the world?
6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
11. You are having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?
12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
15. What is something you know you do differently than most people?
16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
17. What is one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?
18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
21. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
22. Why are you, you?
23. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
24. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
25. What are you most grateful for?
26. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
27. Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
28. Has your greatest fear ever come true?
29. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?
30. What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?
31. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
32. If not now, then when?
33. If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
34. Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
35. Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
36. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
37. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
38. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
39. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
40. When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
41. If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
42. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
43. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
44. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
45. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
46. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
47. When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
48. What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
49. In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that?
50. Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?
Colors are imbued with great symbolic power. Even in the modern English-speaking world, wheresuperstitious beliefs have largely faded in the light of scientific knowledge, many colors have retained their ancient associations. Most people know that brides should wear white, that “seeing red” means being angry, and that one can feel “green with envy.” But learning why these connotations exist requires a look back to the beliefs and practices of the ancients
Is it at all possible that you are not yet aware of all the shifts and changes that are happening all around you, and at times, even within you? There is so much going on, and that is leading everyone ot feeling a bit unsettled, testy, and not quite with it. There can be times of intense distraction, when all of a sudden you will snap out of it and wonder where you were and what just happened. Your sense of what is important is shifting. Time seems out of whack. Pay attention to when these things happen, for there is meaning in it. You will begin to see in others certain patterns and behaviors that can either attract you or turn you off. People are shifting and changing, just as you are. This can lead to changes in friendships and relationships. There are many choices to be made at this time, and one of them is whether or not you wish to remain where you are, when, you are and with whom you are. This is not a time for precipitate action, . Slow and steady, in this case, will more than win the day, it will assist you in making the changes you have been wanting to make, and in becoming the WHO you chose to be at this time. Trust your intuition and do not let go. There is comfort and assistance if you will call upon it and accept it Continue reading →