Saturday, March 27, 2021

Healing - Slow and Fast

     Different circumstances can profoundly change life for the better:
     1) Awakening;
     2) Near death experiences (NDEs);
     3) Post-traumatic growth (PTG); and
     4) Entheogens.

     1) Those who practice meditation seriously, seamlessly incorporate a mindful way of being into the fabric of daily life. The more wisely one practices meditation, the more one progressively awakens to a qualitatively different, wiser, kinder, more joyous relationship to oneself, others, life itself, that is independent of society's usual markers of happiness such as wealth, power, fame, and even physical health. This transformation - like becoming a parent - cannot be fully appreciated intellectually, only directly experienced.
     We tend not to notice the negative influences our culture has on us, and so most people simply follow the herd and avoid thinking outside the box - watch the short video (bottom of this page).
     Rodney Smith. "Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart." Shambhala, 2014.

     2) “A near death experience (NDE) is a profound event that (10-20% of) people experience when they are near death, on the threshold of death, or sometimes are afraid they’re about to die. They include such things as a sense of leaving the physical body; going through some type of tunnel to another realm of light where they encounter a loving beam of light; they often go through a life review; & at some point may see other entities such as deceased loved ones; & then at some point they choose to come back to their bodies or are told to come back. But the entire experience is infused by a sense of peace & well-being, which is in stark contrast to the near-death state where they’re terrified usually, & in a lot of pain.” Bruce Greyson 

     3) "Post-traumatic growth (PTG) typically refers to enduring positive psychological changes experienced as a result of adversity, trauma, or highly challenging life circumstances."
     Eranda Jayawickreme et al. “Post‐traumatic Growth as Positive Personality Change: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations.” Personality 89; 1: 145-165, 2021.
     Elizabeth Lesser. “Broken Open. How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.” Villard, 2005.

      4) Entheogens are psychoactive substances that alter perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior for spiritual development or other sacred contexts There are increasing reports in scientific journals of agents such as ketamine, which when administered by trained medical personnel in supportive, controlled settings, can elicit remarkable alleviation of severe, previously treatment-resistant depression; lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin can eliminate extreme fear of death (thanatophobia) among the dying, etc.
     The powerful healing effect of these drugs is highly dependent on "set & setting": safe, supportive healing environment, medical expertise & healing intention.
     Krystal JH et al. "Ketamine: A Paradigm Shift for Depression Research and Treatment." Neuron 2019
     Mackenzie Blomstrom, Andrew Burns, Daniel Larriviere & Jennifer Kim Penberthy (2020): "Addressing fear of death and dying: traditional and innovative interventions." Mortality, DOI: 10.1080/13576275.2020.1810649

Pollan's book “How to Change Your Mind. What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” Penguin, 2018. - AND - his 2022 (4-part) Documentary “How to Change Your Mind" on Netflix both EXCELLENT & HIGHLY recommended!

     Of these four, meditation-facilitated awakening is the most gradual, gentle, and most directly under the participant's own guidance. This is an alternative life path, chosen by those who seek a more deeply meaningful, heart-centered quality of life than the mainstream egocentric competitive / adversarial materialistic lifestyle. Serious, long-time meditation practice markedly reduces fear of aging, sickness & death, which in turn allows us to appreciate & enjoy life more deeply.
     The other three tend to involve recent or impending severe trauma as a potential wake-up call.
     All four can result in a radically positive, stable change in the participant's personality, self-concept, worldview, and overall quality of life. All this happens WHILE clearly facing & lovingly embracing ALL of "life's 10,000 joys AND 10,000 sorrows" - THIS is radical intimacy! THIS is "healing into wholeness." THIS is what is meant when a person is healed, despite not being cured. THIS is the BEST a mortal human can be.

     To our ego (the role of which is our physical survival & passing on of our DNA), physical death is "unacceptable." Yet, the most basic law of nature is that everything changes constantly, we all become sick, grow old and die. So, if we are ready & able to prioritize our sanity & happiness, we prioritize maturing well beyond basic egocentricity.

     "Suffering is caused by identification with egoic consciousness." Adyashanti

     "the ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow." D.T. Suzuki

     Especially if you fear death - and most of us do - I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful book - you will feel much better about death AND about life!:
     Bruce Greyson. “After. A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond.” St. Martin’s, 2021.

     "The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.” Thich Nhat Hanh


Bud Light 2010 Ad - Crashed Plane "We're gonna be okay!!!!" 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Vital Shift

     Our usual way of doing things is obviously NOT working. Despite our wealth & scientific advances, quality of life continues to decline as seen by rising rates of depression, anxiety, misogyny, divorce, racism, antisemitism, trauma, burnout, addictions, homelessness, suicide, violence, incarceration, wars, hunger, climate change, populism, partisanship, white nationalism, extinction of species, etc etc etc. Life, as we know it, is UNSUSTAINABLE!
     So we must change for our own sake, but especially for the sake of our children & grandchildren. A part of us resists change, even a change we all know is urgently essential. One bright fellow's thoughts on this:

     “Of course I’m romanticizing prehistory here, but we went from a matriarchal society: Nature-honoring society, mother-honoring society – both actual biological mothers, but also The Mother as our archetype of reality, and probably with the onset of agriculture, everything shifted to a patriarchal religion. And Judaism is at the pinnacle of patriarchy, as is Christianity & Islam. But we moved to this patriarchal & parochial kind of religion, and that has brought us ecological devastation, pandemics, “storms of the century” recurring yearly, fires and all this stuff – the earth is trying to shake us off. But all of this I think is because we’ve lost the wisdom of the Divine Mother in Jungian archetypal terms. And that wisdom is the wisdom of interconnectedness, the wisdom of interdependence, the wisdom of cooperation, mutuality. All those things are in patriarchal religions, but they’re just not emphasized. And that devolution into patriarchy is, I think, the root cause of 90% of our problems. And the solution is going to be a radical shift, but it’s not going to be comfortable, it’s not going to be graceful, it’s not going to be slow. It’s going to entail a collapse of the norms that we have lived by for centuries. And the questions we have to ask ourselves are: ‘Are we going to collapse mindfully or mindlessly?’ ‘Are we going to collapse compassionately or cruelly?’ and ‘Are we going to collapse with a sense of grace, or just a sense of horror?’ And I think it’s all about horror, cruelty and mindlessness. That’s what it looks like to me, but it doesn’t have to be that way. But I think that’s where we’re at at the moment.
      If you asked me what would be part of playing our cards right, it would be for individuals to take on a kind of spiritual practice that would, in Hebrew terms they talk about being of two minds: one is narrow or egoic mind, where it’s us against them, me against you, and I’m apart from nature, God & everything else; and the other is spacious mind, where I’m a part of the whole. And spiritual practices - every religion has them, and I’m not talking about formal liturgical, go to church, go to mosque, go to temple, go to synagogue. I’m talking about meditative practices, which doesn’t have to be silent sitting cross-legged on a mat, but contemplative practices that allow the egoic mind to drop of its own accord, and for you to experience something greater – that direct experience of the vastness of which we are a part. I think that has got to be a part of the mix. And if it is, I think that shifts us (out of our current downward spiral) and toward a more ideal future.”
     Rami Shapiro March 14, 2021 EXCELLENT
(2hr) interview:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dealing Wisely & Effectively with Anxiety, Upset, Tension

     After being racially-profiled, Sebene Selassie “went to the airport restroom alone. Hot tears streamed down my face while I sat in the stall waiting for the sensations to dissipate. They did not. The tension and upset only perpetuated the feeling of not belonging. Anxiety and tension persisted in me for another five minutes. But I meditated with it, meaning I simply observed and allowed all my feelings and sensations. Eventually, I was able to reconnect to the felt sense that I do belong. Everywhere. Even to the agent (who 'randomly' chose her for a pat down). I returned to belonging. … We, each of us, need our own ways back to our belonging.”
     Sebene Selassie. “You Belong: A Call for Connection.” HarperOne, 2020. - a wonderfully wise book

     Meditation during emotional crises is infinitely more effective when it is based on a deep meditation practice established under relatively peaceful conditions! As our meditation practice deepens, we tend to delve deeper into its roots.
     While meditation or contemplation can be found in all wisdom traditions, it is the core & central practice of Buddhism. The Buddha never claimed to be a god, never told people to abandon their current religion, and repeatedly advised people to be skeptical, & only follow teachings & practices, including his own, when these actually helped them ie decreased suffering & increased joy. Buddhism, at least for people in the West, is 'a science of the mind,' deeply practiced by a wide variety of people, from skeptical atheists to devout Roman Catholic nuns, monks, & Jewish rabbis.
     Many of us have powerful love-hate relationships with specific religions, religion in general, specific races, all those we judge to be "different," etc. Xenophobia, beside causing senseless suffering to those around us, powerfully blocks our own healing, maturation & wholeness, and cries out to be addressed & healed.

      “While religion at its best calls us to a community of the curious and a unity beyond dogma & tribalism; religion at its worst calls us to worship the very things that divide us and to pit people against one another in the name of one fantasy or other.”
       Rami Shapiro. “Holy Rascals. Advice for Spiritual Revolutionaries.” Sounds True, 2017.

      “Spiritual practices are methods that can begin to soften our stance toward our self, toward life in general, and to open us to what transcends the habitual. They are invitations to become intimate with the wisdom of silence and stillness.”
      Dorothy Hunt. “Ending the Search. From Spiritual Ambition to the Heart of Awareness.” Sounds True, 2018.

     “The most profound practice in Buddhism (and MBSR) is ‘resting in awareness’ — simply being here without thinking or doing anything. All of the Buddha’s teachings emerge from this. ‘That you are here right now is the ultimate fact,’ said Suzuki Roshi. This truth can sustain us even in the midst of great suffering. Even in great pain, even at the moment of death, simply resting here is liberation.
     Lewis Richmond

     The term 'perennial philosophy' was coined by Agostino Steuco (1497-1548) and refers to a fourfold realization
          (1) there is only one Reality (call it, among other names, God, Mother, Tao, Allah, Dharmakaya, Brahman, or Great Spirit) that is the source and substance of all creation; 
          (2) that while each of us is a manifestation of this Reality, most of us identify with something much smaller, that is, our culturally conditioned individual ego; 
          (3) that this identification with the smaller self gives rise to needless anxiety, unnecessary suffering, and cross-cultural competition and violence; and 
          (4) that peace, compassion, and justice naturally replace anxiety, needless suffering, competition, and violence when we realize our true nature as a manifestation of this singular Reality. 
     The great sages and mystics of every civilization throughout human history have taught these truths in the language of their time and culture. It is the universality and timelessness of this wisdom that makes it the perfect focus for the spiritually independent seeker."

       Rami Shapiro. “Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent.” SkyLight Paths, 2013.