Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Spiritual Battle Ground

Why do you look so depressed? You should feel like a soldier who finally goes to battle!
(Wife of a colleague investor on the eve of the Global Financial Crisis)

The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most beautiful spiritual treasures ever written, starts on the eve of the bloodiest battle India has ever fought. In it, Lord Krishna tells general Arjun that he has a war to fight, whether he likes it or not. Being a strategist in the financial industry often feels like a battle, to me anyway. I am sure that many other professions have their points of reckoning. I had to smile when I heard the words of encouragement the wife of one of my colleagues gave when he was shell-shocked by the seriousness of the Global Financial crisis. I actually couldn't remember how I felt during these depressing days when our personal livelihood, and the fate of the world economies was on the line. If anything, I remember more the spiritual awakening symptoms that I experienced around the time and that I later shared in my first book, "The Magnificent Experiment". At the time it seemed then to me that the Blue Lord's prophecy "whenever righteousness falters and chaos threatens to prevail, I take on a human body and manifest MYSELF on earth" had come true for me personally in the dark days of 2008.

I had my professional soul searching moments years later, when I asked myself why exactly am I was in the, what seemed to me anyway, meaningless financial industry and not out creating something useful instead. The reason was simple, I had bills to pay for my two boys, and I had no vision for making it as a spiritual writer either. It was in this time of darkness when I had the same moment of truth on the battle field called life, just as Arjun had thousands of years earlier. The Blue Lord's message seemed loud and clear to me: "You have a role to play in the life of people you care for, you have karma to burn, and you have suppressed desires that can be worked off here. You also have a book to write that will help others to do the same. Just do your job!'

I am not sure that my message will be that well received in the spiritual community, but I want to make it anyway. I have hung out with many in the spiritual community and most of them are really nice, and many have special talents that are quite remarkable, but there is also a degree of escapism and arrogance. It is the old-familiar us versus them theme, which in the end is also the ego talking, only wrapped in spiritual clothes this time. When the Blue Lord asks us to jump into the messiness of life we start understanding what our ego is truly all about, and we start recognizing ourselves in the struggling sibling across the table."Do your job and then walk away" is the he message of the Bhagavad Gita,  I did that for a few years and have beautiful spiritual insights to show for it that I will share in my upcoming book "The Way of the Meister." So if you find yourself in the battle field called life, know that you are not alone. Roll up your sleeves and get your job done just as many other spiritual warriors have done before you.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ego Shifts

You sometimes hear in the spiritual community how some travelers want to take on their ego, and I always cringe when I hear that. The ego is a fancy latin word for "I". Why would I consciously fight with myself? Cancer and and auto-immune diseases do exactly that on a subconscious level and the outcome isn't pretty as we all know.

If you asked me whether I am enlightened, I would answer that I have my lucid moments in special situations, like right now when we talk. But I reserve the state of "enlightenment" for people and situations where folks step outside of the "I" for a while and consciously choose to come back. In "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" we learn about a nineteenth century Indian sage who routinely slips in and out of these samadhi experiences where he is for a while with his Holy Mother and then returns as if nothing ever happened. Jed McKenna in "Spiritual Enlightenment the damnedest Thing" explained this samadhi experience perhaps the best when he said, I saw myself drifting away, free to choose whoever I wanted to be but then I saw that Jed McKenna guy and decided I might as well be him again.

Our own psychological understanding of the "I" changes all the time, this process is just too subtle to be aware of. Essentially the "I" is nothing but a story we are telling, and that story defines who we think we are, as well as our interplay with the rest of the world. The reason why for us spiritual travelers this process of awakening appears to be a bit more discrete and messy is because we open up to a magical world that we have never quite perceived this way before, and in this adjustment of our perspective many things have to be changed as well. My big adjustment started in 2008 when I perceived the world differently, but it took years to rearrange conflicts, uncover hidden agendas, and find wholeness. The big shift I would describe to you is that I now perceive holiness that normally is only reserved to children and many women. But it took years to get to this stage and find a new balance of yin and yang energies. As I said, It has been a journey and a process that lasted a few years but these days I again feel as if I am back to my old stable self where I feel comfortable in my skin again.

I view each of us resting in a continuum of personalities in a multi-dimensional space where everyone somehow makes peace with what is. It might be a continued journey for a few years, it might be a multi-year rest period only to see another big shift again. Whatever it is, know that you are "enlightened" here and now as you become aware of the energy field that you used to call "I". And if you were to drift outside of yourself just as Jed McKenna did in a special satori movement, rest assured that you would pick your own avatar again to express the rest of your life story. We are all beautiful in our unique life expression, be proud of who you are!

Friday, December 2, 2016

54 Percent (Revised)

If he spoke not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him.
(A Course in Miracles)

Portfolio managers and analysts often report that - on average - they just manage to come up with 54 names out of 100 stocks in their portfolio that beat the benchmark. So in other words, the investors accept that in 46 of all cases they don't get their case right. Yet, the winners in their portfolios bails them out so that over the life-time of the investment, they end up making money for their clients.

I was reflecting on all this when I thought about my spiritual track record in my interactions with the people I work with. I am in the somewhat unique position that I mostly only have to deal with friends. But even in my shoes, some interactions appear more spiritual than others. Sometimes when we do strike a spiritual note, I am reminded why I am working in my profession in the first place, but often our conversations seem mundane and, in some cases even soul-less.

I sometimes hear in our spiritual community the view that it is our job to cut all transactional, soul-less and hostile exchanges out. True, over time we should be headed in that direction since it is us who let go of baggage along the WAY. Yet, until we reach that blissful state, we need to listen, we need to adjust, not judge. They say, "do what you have to do until you can do what you love to." That is my motto as well. Maybe my friend had a bad day, or maybe its me. Who knows! We light workers aren't saints either, there are days when our own fears and prejudices get the upper hand. Should we blame our conversation partner for it? 

Just as a portfolio manager only has himself to blame for picking the wrong stock, I never consciously cut out any of my conversations partner unless I get some very clear signals that they prefer to head in a different direction that does not include me. Often I don't even need to cut people out, they just disappear naturally from my life, and I always accept that without trying to fight the unavoidable. 

So never mind a wrong tone, a missed step or an annoying conversation as long as you promise to try to do better the next day around. Work on yourself instead. Cut out all the conflicting energies that are running through you, and  focus on your spiritual homework. The environment you are operating in only mirrors back to you what you are all about. You are not here to change the world, you are here to change your mind about the world, as the Course in Miracles puts it so well. The world is here to show you the WAY. Who knows what the right percentage is. There will always be days when we are more human than divine for that's our biological heritage that we can't deny either. What I have learned from my job is that sometimes we just have to lay low for a while and let the storm clouds or the unfavorable star constellations pass.

Discover your FUNCTION in life and see for yourself that all interactions get deeper and more meaningful all the time. I can't tell you what the right percentage of having spiritually rewarding interactions in the end will be, but I can tell you that by with GOD, the odds will always be on your side. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Spiraling towards our Destiny

It is an amazing privilege to stay in a profession, not to mention a company, for decades. When I entered my forth seven year cycle at the same company, I had a realization. They say that "the more things change, the more they stay the same". There is certainly some truth in that, but I would change it into the equally well-known proverb, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." I suddenly recognized the workings of the universe as a spiral that happens in 4-9 year intervals. They can be ever-repeating cycles if learning doesn't take place, but normally these cycles occur as spirals that are either outward-bound as we get increasingly more connected with the people who surround us and your mission, or inward-bound, when we are encouraged to move on to something bigger and better.

New faces and situations would always come, but I suddenly started recognizing the symbols and events they stood for. Just imagine, we can try again to make much better choices with so much more information and with much less angst. We can't be sent on wild goose chases any longer. Learning takes place in days and weeks, not months and years as in the prior episodes. We can in fact perceive everyone as the mirror image of our intentions rather than some external force we have no control over. The Course in Miracles famously states, "Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world."

I learned for myself that connectivity and cooperation is the way. Sure, it looked on occasions as if people were out to eat my lunch, but I remembered all the old cases of people who were competing with me, and how they all over the decades either disappeared or changed their attitude towards me. Early in my career I was fighting these so-perceived foes, but eventually I just kept my nose on the project I was working on and left them to themselves. I can't say that this approach has to work for everyone and every situation, but it worked for me over the years. The bolder my attitude to choose cooperation over conflict, the quicker other colleagues became my friends. 

Have an eye out for these spirals that merely rhyme, and discover the upside by regarding colleagues as a mirror of your own intentions, and by giving cooperation and benefit of doubt a try. See for yourself that once these cooperative spirals take off, you will get far, both professionally and spiritually.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Story of the Scorpion and the Holy Man (Revised)

He who sees that all actions
are performed by nature alone
and thus that the self is not the doer -
that man sees truly
(Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita)

There was once a holy man who sat at a river bank. A passer-by observed how he lifted a drowning scorpion out of water, but before he could place it safely onto the river bank, the scorpion stung him. In pain, the holy man instinctively dropped the scorpion back into the water only to rescue it again. The passer-by watched that strange occurrence in amazement for a while and then asked the holy man why he always rescues that scorpion if he knows that he will only get stung. The holy man shrugged his shoulders and replied, "It is the nature of the scorpion to sting and it is my nature to save creatures in distress."

We do what we do, because we do what we do. I remember having once a philosophical discussion with an investor early in my career saying that all of us are 
conditioned in how we react to particular events so that the eventual outcome of our action is entirely pre-programmed. He laughed heartedly in response and said that few of my colleagues would quite see it that way.  I have long stopped having these "free-will" discussions since they don't seem to go anywhere. What I can say as a spiritual traveler though is that we just swap conditioning. As we let go of our own personal conditioning, we sign up to do HER WILL instead. So yes, along the WAY we may rescue the drowning scorpion just as the holy man did. It would be a strange end to the movie though, if it kept stinging us. 

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Let the movie unfold and don't worry, the ending will be a meaningful one. Once the SELF engages, serenity and love will be our travel companions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Carry On

It is the fulfillment of our life which should be our aim: 
not avoidance of defeat, nor victory, but only traveling on.
(E. Graham Howe)

I met a colleague at work who always brings two pens into a meeting. I asked him why and he remarked that once in a meeting his pen ran out of ink, so he couldn't write down what was being said. To avoid this ever happening to him he now always brought two. Actually, it got even weirder, he added that once someone asked him for a pen as he went into a meeting, so he now always carries three instead!

We like to protect ourselves from losses, that is, many of us do, not all. Some of us are risk loving instead of risk averse. Especially in the financial industry I am working in, I have met many  who have nothing but the upside in mind. We are all wired differently; I only found out late in life that I am in fact risk averse, but it also doesn't matter anymore. A spiritual traveler has a role to fulfill, whether he likes it or not. The WAY exposes me to the experiences that I need to live through.

We alternate between the cravings of the "I" and the fears of the "I", and as the decades accumulate we become ever more rigid to get what we want and to keep what we have already acquired. A spiritual path is the opposite, piece by piece it removes the armor that we once put up, until we face life naked and without any protection whatsoever. Just speaking for myself, while I may still be risk-averse, along the WAY there is no protecting, so you might as well close your eyes and enjoy the ride. You will travel light but everything you ever needed will be supplied on a as needed basis. It is not always easy, but you don't have any choice anyway. Simply carry on!

Monday, November 28, 2016

On Energy Vampires

Everything about other people that doesn’t satisfy us helps us to better understand ourselves.
(Carl Gustav Jung)

Certain people suck the energy right out of us, so we just may call them energy vampires. I am told that there are people out there who actively prey on others; obviously, these people have to be avoided at any cost. No, the people that I am referring to in this note are those that themselves don't know any better and who are simply a bad match for us.

Dependent on where we are in our spiritual journey, we may still need plenty of spiritual time-outs, and can only develop in a loving environment. So in these instances as well, it might be just best to avoid these interferers at arm's length. Maybe we can change jobs, assignments, or may just stay as far away from them as possible. We are here to awaken and to discover our SELF, and not to sacrifice ourselves in the name of love.

But then, at a higher level of spirituality, we might just realize that these energy vampires cannot harm us, and that they can only temporarily slow us down. It turns out, when we have the stamina to hang out with them we might in fact raise our spiritual vibrations over time. Energy vampires activate our pain-bodies, and by sticking it out with them we have a chance to let go of our past. Maybe we can re-ignite some passion in our life and bring the perceived trouble-makers to life as well.

Love heals. We can heal all parties involved when we get over the hump. When we bring back to life what has been slumbering inside, our former adversaries will have a present in hand for us. The world is our mirror, and when we adjust, the world we live in changes with us.