Monday, April 20, 2015

Peace

Knowledge is not the motivation for learning this course. Peace is.
(A Course in Miracles)

You probably don't know Caroline Knapp; I have never met her myself, but I did read her two addiction stories, "Alcohol - A Love Story" and "Appetites - What Women Want". I feel an eery connection to her even though she passed away a while now. She was a writer, and a terrific one at that. We went to the same school and she lived in many of the same New England cities and towns as I did. Both of us spent a considerable amount of our writing career on the so-called dark side, and while I can't say that my demons have taken me on quite such a tour de force as she had to go through, I nevertheless feel that I understand many of the pressures she experienced.

Peace is something Caroline Knapp rarely experienced. There always seemed to be a demon in the background that chased her. Whether she was born a melancholic soul or simply caved under the heaviness of her parent's struggles that she seemed to be so sensitive to, I can't tell. Yet what a guilt trip she must have been on. She succumbed to alcoholism just like her father did and and died from the same disease as both her parents, cancer. I have no idea why she couldn't find peace and I doubt that I would have had any advice for her, had our paths ever crossed. Reading both her books, it becomes clear that she understood exactly what was going on inside her. Did she not have enough will-power to stand stand up to her demon? Or was the emptiness she felt inside simply too overpowering? 

Anorexia is a yin disease, it is inward-bound. Caroline wanted to punish herself for the tensions she felt at home so she sometimes literally starved herself into nothingness. My demon is outward bound; it is yang energy: it wants to expand, wants to conquer, wants to show off. The underlying restlessness, emptiness, or ego that drives us, however, is the same. Women and men simply express this force differently. What unites everyone though, is the desire to drink this dark feeling simply away. I actually don't drink myself much given that too often I have experienced how one big glass of wine turned into two which then opened flood gates I'd rather like to keep closed. I am not sure that I have more will-power than Caroline had; probably just less emotional turbulence that wants to come to the surface.

So can we in fact ever reach peace? Did Caroline perhaps find it when she saw her books gain fame, or when she married the love of her life shortly before she died? I would venture to say that everybody who starts a spiritual path looks for peace. The Course in Miracles sums it up well. Peace is the sudden realization that everything you ever looked for you already have. Darkness vanishes as you open the window that floods the basement of your soul with light. Never accuse the history, the tensions or the demons that want to pop to the surface. That only adds to the pressure cooker. Define your mission, work on it and let life heal you from your pain. Everything else is just an escape. May peace be with you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Finding Your Way

Stay out of the lime light Christian!", a portfolio manager once said to me. To that day I don't know why exactly, but somehow she hit the nail on the head. I operate below the radar screen at work in many ways, facilitating collaboration with my colleagues and keep the wheels spinning for our group behind the scenes. Occasionally though, I move up to the surface, and tend to be quite effective then as well. 

It is said the Tao traveler stays at the center, watching the wheels of life spinning wildly without getting involved. Spiritual traveler are everywhere, so I presume that some of us are also in the limelight. Yet, a spiritual traveler never gets entangled. Success or failure, we embrace whatever shows up, knowing that somehow no matter what, we always have a spot in the sun.

If I had to describe the professional path I have chosen, it would be that I surround myself with people I care for. Collaboration and connectivity explains my success at work. It is not that I am craving social life, I am in fact an introvert at heart, so I probably could do just fine just by myself; Yet, that is the path the Tao seems to have chosen for me. I understand all the nudges that come from my friends. It is as if they talk a secret language, unbeknown to themselves. Some call the mode of communication synchronicity, some call it the talk of angels. However you like to call it, it is a language from the Source hand-delivered to me. If it was just myself, the voice in my head would get the upper hand pretty soon. But it turns out that when you interact with anyone, you in fact listen to Her. Who would be running after the wild goose chase of your ego at that blessed moment?

Being a spiritual traveler is not always an easy journey. You follow love, you look out for others, yet sometimes the demon needs a little convincing that you are not taken for a ride. Yet, over and over you experience that She takes care of you and that no one can let you down, only you can. A Tao traveler is one big magnet. Only meaningful relationships are attracted; people with a different wave-length will go their own merry way. While you are protected by a higher authority, I wouldn't ignore the demands of the the demon inside either. Find a way that equally excites the demon and the angel on your shoulder. For example, to go back to the career advice from the beginning, I enjoy recognition like everyone else. When the opportunity presents itself, I make sure that I rise to the surface with a splash.

It is said that we spiritual travelers are God's Co-Creators. This is true. You provide the mission and She will get you there. Yet, you have to adjust your game-plan along the Way. Do you truly understand the longings of your soul? When is the ego talking, what are authentic personal demands, and when do you abuse yourself in the name of spirituality? Make Her in charge and adjust your mission along the Way. Let Her present you a banquet beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is to show up and embrace life. It is an idiosyncratic journey Home, and it is a blessed one. Find it!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Use Your Will-Power only Sparingly

I once read one of these channeling books that claimed that the story of Adam and Eve was indeed true. It argued that Adam and Eve were highly developed souls when they were "planted" on planet earth and that they got a lot of divine help creating paradise on earth; but eventually, after hundreds of years, they just got bored with all that peace and happiness and started mis-creating the way it was recorded in the greatest story ever told. I don't lose much sleep over the question whether this story is true or not, but as the philosopher Count Keyserling once put it, even if it didn't happen, that doesn't mean it isn't true!

You can not will-power yourself into Heaven for the simple reason that a spiritual path is a marathon, not a sprint. Boredom or the lack of a mission will eventually wear you down.Will-power is there to get you over the hump, for everything else there is desire, passion and love. Please use your will-power for a specific task at hand that is important to you, but for all long-term goals, remind yourself why you do what you do when the going gets tough. Will-power is like a muscle, it gets fatigued if you overuse it. So do only stuff that you love doing, hang only out with people you really care for, and certainly marry only someone who you truly love. 

I remember a portfolio manager on a trip to Japan who was just out of the plane but he signed up for a dinner with his colleagues that night to force himself to stay up long enough to shake the jet lag that way. You should have seen his eyes. They looked like he had put teaspoons in them to keep them open. What an act of will-power indeed. You can use this technique to catapult yourself over the hump, but use this energy sparingly. Peace and joy get you to the goal. Strain and pain only send your ego into over-drive and give power to the demon within.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Last Temptation is an Energy Shift

I am going Home, to the place where I belong.
And where Your love has always been enough for me.
I am not running from; no I think you got me all wrong.
I don't regret what life chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old,
so I am going Home! (Daughtry, Home)

I have attached below three ideas I have developed over the years. First, the seemingly frustrating perspective that there can be conflicts inside that seem that you can't live with or without it, just as U2 put it so well in their song. So either way you go, whether you follow the advice of all the spiritual leaders, or give in to the whispers of the demon on your shoulder, you seem to be banging your head into a wall. Yet, in all that never forget that God always means well. Frustration can only be temporary as you travel the Tao. The fact that you don't see a way out only means that you have not yet found the right door to open.


This open door is passion! Find the stuff that really excites you and redirect your stuck energy that way. This brings me to the send idea, the notion of the lotus flower. This conflict inside not only leads you to your passion, it in fact brings out the spiritual gem you are. It is the suppressed energy of the conflict that powers your spiritual zest. The analogy, the beautiful lotus flower doesn't grow in luxury resorts, they need a little murky water to flourish.

This last idea is that of an energy shift. You don't will yourself out of stuck energy, you vibrate yourself out of it. We had often argued that along the Way there comes a time when the pain of running into walls simply becomes too hard to bear so you naturally stop. For example, see the note on the TINA principle - There is No Alternative!


Yet, this process of disentangling is more than an act of will power, it is an energy shift instead. As you accept your mission, your energy vibration rises and you are literally lifted out of the old conflicted energy cycle. When you engage with your spiritual passion, the light penetrates more and more areas of your life while the frustration leaves you. Out of the darkness into the light; it is all a natural progression along the Way. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Change, We Embrace You!

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.

I saw this quote at the gym the other day and thought to myself, "How true!" Sometimes when I talk to people about their problems,  I realize that they are not really interested in solving them; that would require change, which is painful. They are simply interested in letting off steam. Conveniently, these problems are associated with adversaries, so all the ill will is redirected towards them. If it wasn't for these enemies, life would apparently be just fine.

We spiritual travelers are certainly not immune to pain. Yes, walking a spiritual path can be an uphill struggle, but once we are invited to join, we simply have no choice but to follow. You can't help changing your perspective along the Way. We don't associate the pain with others, we zoom into the problem instead. Walking the Tao we know that every messenger, bearer of good news and bad, is here to help us. Change, we embrace you - problems, we welcome you as much as all moments of bliss!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Just Hold on to Her

The word religion is not so popular these days; many of us consider ourselves spiritual, not religious.  Yet, the meaning of the word religion simply is to hold on to.The spiritual seekers of the olden days held on to the Torah, Christ, or the Buddha. In the olden days, spiritual travelers didn't quite have the faith that they could make the journey Home without someone to look up to. 

It turns out, everyone holds on to something, religious or not!  It is simply our nature to make sense of the world with our desires, drives and belief sets. In fact, it is this holding on to that gives the world we live in  meaning. You can hold on to many things. There are some who need to be considered popular, beautiful, rich, or virile. Spiritual travelers try to step away from the ego drives and hold on to the Spirit instead. Yet, everyone, spiritual or not, will also have some notion of holiness.  It may be the sanctity of your family, the meaning of your job or enterprise, your spouse or the community or country you live in. Everyone has something sacred.

Our spiritual community maintains that the way of the Spirit can be experienced. What remains when you have stripped down all your desires. Is it nothingness, is it meaninglessness? Is is at all possible to let go of your desires? We argue that the Spirit can be perceived here and now. And when you perceive Her, all your desires naturally disappear. When you truly love someone, egotistic motives tend to fade into the background. And when you experience Spirit in real life, your natural instinct is to follow Her while the voice in your head becomes silent.

Vivekandanda once shared this story. He was struggling financially after his father died and he ask his guru Sri Ramakrishna for some divine intervention. Sri Ramakrishna responded, "Ask Her yourself!", touched him and he fell in a state of samadhi. But when faced with Durga Maa, Vivekanada found himself unable to ask for anything. Sri Ramakrishna repeated this two more times and each time Vivekananda was dumbfounded. In the end Sri Ramakrishna had to bless Vivekananda to get his family a little divine support, Vivekananda couldn't have asked for it in the bliss of the moment. 

So while few of us have the luxury of having a enlightened mystic next to us, all of us can discover Spirit in real life. When you meet Her, all ego drives naturally fade in the sanctity of the moment. Not everyone would call Her divine though, yet subconsciously at least, we all perceive Her at least in some areas of our life. Hold on to what is meaningful to you, and the ego will naturally melt. Religious or not, we are all on a subconscious journey Home.

Moving Towards the Light

Jesus faced three temptations in the desert, but when he finally declared with authority, "Move thee behind me satan!", they vanished into thin air. His struggles were more about power, while Buddha's temptations were more about sex; in each case, however, the experienced dark force were straight-forward ego manifestations. 

I have observed transcendence in me that were less a fight between good versus evil and more about gaining insight instead. These insights seemed more like a natural evolution in response to life's events. The mind knows the way to the light, but to truly make the jump, feelings have to follow along. You struggle with the tension but then one day someone opens a door and the light streams in. With the light, the darkness naturally dissolves.

Take Jesus' temptations as an example. He found no need in the desert to change stones into bread, yet, he changed water into wine when a wedding festival run out of it. He declined the invite of the dark voice to fly with the help of angels, yet he walked on water to show his disciples what faith is all about. He turned down the invite to conquer the world, yet, he transformed faith, societies and history for millennia. Every voice you hear inside always has an authentic justification. Just change your perspective a little, and the Spirit will rejoice as much as the demon inside as you take the next step towards the light.