Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Retold in the Boardroom

I was sitting in a conference room with some colleagues the other day participating in a video conference with a remote location that was exceedingly boring. I saw people shifting in their chairs, making faces, rolling their eyes and I thought to myself, there must be a more creative way to spend this hour. So I looked around and studied the seating order of the 8 people who were in the room. Believe it or not, the Law of Attraction always lines up people who have some connection. So I thought for a moment what the two colleagues in the front had in common and I concluded that they were both intellectuals. Then I had a look at the two women facing each other and I scribbled down female power. The couple sitting next to them was a little harder to figure out, but in the end I wrote down "European" and "nice". I left myself and the colleague I was sitting next to out and decided to ask someone else instead about what we had in common. So here is what I got up to this point:

                                                 i
                                                fp
                                                en

When I looked at it, I rearranged the order to "fpeni" and thought to myself - perhaps inspired by the fact that I had just written a note about Adam and Eve - "wow, it isn't this amazing, you take away the "f" in the beginning and you add an s at the end and you are left with the phallus. Symbolically, by adding the "s" for snake you have to take away the "f" for freedom. As we fall in love with our creative force we lose a degree of freedom. In the beginning, that is before the snake came on the stage, we had "fin pe". Fin is French for completion while p and e stand in my vocabulary for peace and enlightenment. In the beginning there was peace and there as knowledge; a state that we can unfortunately only aspire as long as the snake is doing its creation.

Wow, the greatest story ever retold right here in the board room with the help of a little creative alphabet soup! Later I bumped into a colleague who attended this meeting and remarked how engaged I was in this boring meeting. I replied, "Oh, I actually was working on something else." But then I asked her what she thought I and the colleague I was sitting next to had in common and she said, "You are both mellow and hard working." Yes, that made sense to me but by then my story was already written. So I leave it up to discover a new story with the addition of m and h :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

How Old is Your Soul?

Heart beats fast, colors and promises. How to be brave?
How can I love when I'm afraid to fall?
But watching you stand alone,
all of my doubts suddenly go away, somehow.

I have died every day waiting for you. 
Darling, don't be afraid, 
I have loved you for a thousand years;
I will love you for a thousand more.
(Christina Perri, A Thousand Years)

It strikes me as odd that a concept that is key for our spiritual advancement - our soul - is so poorly defined. The Hindus - as always - have the purest and highest notion of the Soul: it is our God connection. The spark that God implanted when we decided to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and fell in a self-imposed slumber. This is how the Gita describes the divinity in us:

The sharpest sword will not pierce it,
the hottest flame will not singe it.
It is perfect, all-pervading,
calm, immovable, timeless.

But the Hindus have other expressions that are missing in our vocabulary: the concepts of vasana and dharma - a tendency, an idiosyncratic desire, a mission statement; something meaningful that we have to fulfill and burn off. I would argue that we - more in the spirit of the ancient Greeks than in the Judaic-Christian tradition - could use the expression soul in contrast to the True Self that already encompasses this notion of God-connection. 

So what exactly does it mean to have a soul-longing? Well. It is something we have been after over many lifetimes; a homework we may not have quite completed, a lesson not yet learned; some residual homework that our parents left behind; a karma that somehow sticks to the soil of the country we are born in or where we now live. In short, we have a human mission with a divine purpose that is ours to discover.

The beauty of this insight is that once we have reached this stage of illumination, we are already Home. When we remember the longings of our soul we will always find a way to express it in a spiritually kosher way. Our feet are on the ground while our eyes gaze at the stars. We put our heart and soul into whatever is meaningful to us just like we did before, yet, for the first time we 
remember God's Golden Rule: choose love every step of the Way. Our spiritual journey is already complete even though our body and mind are still at it.

Soul of a thousand years, we bow to Thee. The journey is finally over!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Day When the Snake Found its Way

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
"You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband,who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(The Story of Adam and Eve)

If our consciousness is the force that is aware of what is happening to us, as well as the decision what to do next, then what exactly is the ego? Is it the voice in our head? Is it the feeling of the "I"? Could it be the snake that whispers to step away from God's Path? I have never found a convincing way of setting up this question. What exactly is it when we talk about the ego? Is this force just deluded or is there a desire inside of us that wants to deliberately walk away from God? 

While I can't get my arms around the problem statement, the solution to the problem is actually quite simple. We are in charge - we are holding the reigns despite our thoughts and emotions. When the cart is drifting away from the Way, we can counter-balance. If the insight of the snake is to create, to become artists and scientists, to be "like God" as the snake puts it, then why not? Isn't that what our world was made for?

We are creators, so let's create something, but let's do it according to God rules. We can step away from competition, mistrust, scheming, and fear. We can embrace love every step of the Way. While we perhaps will never be able to shut up the voice in our head, and likely will never be able to leave behind some negative emotions, it is very much in our power to line up our ego drive with the Way. That's what it means to be a Tao travelers.

Re-read the story of Adam and Eve. Couldn't the snake's advice be an invite to become business men, professors, doctors, politicians, parents, teachers, scientists, spiritual travelers, artists or story tellers, or whatever else it is you consider your mission? The world that you and I perceive was created as a virtual reality show with the sole purpose to express our soul longings out of the way and return Home. Create, design, teach and invent to your heart's desire just make sure that love follows you every step of the Way. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Biased by Love

The common-sense views of a normal, i.e., socially adapted, citizen were supposed to be rational and not in need of depth analysis. But this is not true at all. Our conscious motivations, ideas, and beliefs are a blend of false information, biases, irrational passions, rationalizations, prejudices, in which morsels of truth swim around and give the reassurance, albeit false, that the whole mixture is real and true. The thinking process attempts to organize this whole cesspool of illusions according to the laws of logic and plausibility. This level of consciousness is supposed to reflect reality; it is the map we use for organizing our life. This false map is not repressed. What is repressed is the knowledge of reality, the knowledge of what is true.
(Erich Fromm, To Have or to Be)

Can we be without a bias and free of ego? Can we really view reality as is just as psychologists and philosophers once aspired? Well, we can observe the agenda of our ego. Yes, we can stand up to it and - with enormous use of psychic energy - keep the fellow at bay. Yet, "reality" - the thing itself, as the German philosopher Kant once called it - we will never grasp. We are just not wired for it; we don't even have the sensory equipment to grasp it. "Reality" does not exist from our perspective, yet, we have to deal with what we perceive. So what really exists is a choice: ego or love, right perception or fear. The choice is ours, moment by moment.

A spiritual path is not about becoming unbiased. We leave one bias behind and embrace its opposite. This world of ours has been set up just like a virtual reality show to help us find our Self. The rules are simple, ego or love with nothing in between. Misery or peace, passion or serenity; fear or love. The choice is entirely ours. The ego is not something that you can fight or leave behind. But you can make friends with your personality blanked; you can head in a direction that equally excites ego and Soul.  Along the Way every step is meaningful and love can be discovered in every situation. Go for it, teach the stubborn fellow called ego that choosing love is always in your best interest. We will always be biased so we might as well chose love.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Having to Being

The Tao is like a well: 
used but never used up. 
It is like the eternal void: 
filled with infinite possibilities.
(Lao Tzu; Tao Te Ting)

Walking the Tao is a journey of finding ourselves. Before our journey started we thought happiness was about "having" instead - having a prestigious job, a hot partner, stuff, money, a big house. But then we didn't find peace even though we objectively had what others would lust after. So we started looking for something more meaningful. A journey of finding the truth started.

It was not hard to find our peace and joy in religion or in spiritual communities. We finally understood what happiness and serenity is all about  and wanted to be in that state every day. However, even then our struggles and restlessness return. Spirituality is not a panacea. We can even lose our freedom when we join a network and we find that interpersonal conflict can be as rampant in a spiritual community as in the worldly world. We were looking for peace but we did experience struggles and conflicts here as well. So we ended up realizing that we have always have been looking for peace, love and joy in the external world in vain.  Finally we realized that we have to look within. It is the light that we are after - a bush that burns without ever being consumed. 

This fountain of energy has to be discovered within. Nothing external - no guru, no fancy house or job title -can help us with it. We have everything we ever needed and then some at our disposal. We have all the strength and skills we need to dance with life. The never-ceasing well that Lao Tzu discovered many thousands of years ago is still with us. Life is about being, not having. "I Am That I Am" - Yahweh - is the burning bush that is never consumed by the fire. When you have found the Source, share the light freely by just being yourself. Joy, peace, love, wisdom, strength, spring all over you and you are Home, finally.

By Christian and Su Zhen

Monday, October 20, 2014

Be Ye as Little Children

The greatest advantage of speaking the truth is that you don't have to remember what you said.
(Anonymous)

I saw a fascinating documentary the other day. It pointed out that lying can be discovered neurally. When you lie all kinds of areas in your brain light up. Apparently you have to use lots of mental energy to overwrite what you know is true. Well, it turns out being a spiritual traveler gives you a big energy advantage since discovering and telling the truth is our mission. 

When I saw that documentary I was wondering, what happens then when we fool ourself with something that we subconsciously know is not true? Does our system lose energy in this state as well? I would think so. I have discovered often - even in myself - when we say something but our body language is telling the opposite. That must cut into our energy supply. Actually, I would be surprised if we spiritual folks fare any better than others in that dimension. While we certainly aspire to tell the truth, we probably also wear rose-colored glasses at times. We aspire to be truthful, enlightened, peaceful, loving and happy while our body language and the events point to the contrary.

Being on a spiritual journey is a process. It may take a while until we have aligned all parts of our being, but eventually we are getting there. We accept who we are, we accept what comes our way, and we speak the truth to the best of our abilities. Sure we fool ourselves on occasion but when reality stacks up against what we believe we change course as well. After all, going after the truth is what this journey is all about. We humans are multi-dimensional and conflicted on many levels but when our mission is a sound one we can line up subconscious, conscious and the spiritual as the years go by. Eventually all the neural paths line up in the same direction, in unison will all subconscious programs and our spiritual belief sets. With little baggage to carry, with clear thinking and a straight-forward purpose, we spiritual travelers have a big energy advantage over others.

Jesus often emphasized that a spiritual journey is all about regaining our lost innocence. "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). A spiritual path is all about decluttering our life - "not this, not that" becomes our mantra. We face our life and live our mission until we have squared the circle with a little divine help. Keep the faith my friend, the going might be tough at times but your face, your heart, your neural pathways and your energy level will thank you for it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hanging Out with the Unknown

We have the tendency to find a solution as fast as possible whenever we come across a difficult situation. It literally hurts us not to know what lies ahead so we press to find a solution as quickly as possible; yet, experience tells us that certain problems need stewing over, hard as it is. Same with taking medication when we fall sick. Being slow, aching and being vulnerable is unacceptable so we demand the magic pill that restores our health immediately.  Seldom are we are willing to face this pain, find the root cause, and take necessary action to fix the underlying issues.

We have the restlessness and impatience when we face some unfamiliar or challenging issues. Too often do we just want to grab the first solution at hand and try to put the issues to rest. Observe how you feel when you take this approach. Do you really feel peaceful or do you perhaps still struggle even after you have made your choice?
When we face an unfamiliar situation or confront a difficult issue, we have to allow ourselves to be there with the insecurity and the unknown. We have to give ourselves time to digest the issues and let the answer arise in us.  It takes courage to face the unknown and be friend with Her.  When we take a fast solution we certainly can be in conflict with the present moment.  

A spiritual path is an encounter with the unknown. We mostly feel at peace but we do not know which step will be next. We may feel panic in the beginning but can get used to the creative power of the unknown pretty soon and fall in love with Her. But not every phase is rosy; there are also stretches when lingering tensions and conflicts come to the surface. It would be tempting to do what we used to, go for a drink, go shopping, have steamy sex, watch a movie or drown in work. But no, for the first time ever, we just accept the darkness. We take it in and just be with the fear, with the greed, with the restlessness. We don't take drugs, we don't run, we just hang out with the scary unknown and then magic happens. The conflict dissolves.

The secret of spirituality is always the same. No matter whether you have to make important decisions, face conflicts of the past or face your daily life. Center yourself, stay in the unknown, and suddenly, a way is shown to you. You know exactly what to do.  The words and answers are given to you, all you have to do is to show up and face whatever it is that comes your way.  You know it is the Way. The Tao is walking with you wherever you turn. Hang out with what is and joy, love, creativity and peace will be with you. Holding Her hand you meditate every step of the Way. Enjoy!

By Christian and Su Zhen