Thursday, December 7, 2023

Power Tolerance

    Ultimately, we know that matter, including our own body, is a form or expression of energy. Each of us operates at, and thus is able to safely handle, benefit from, understand & resonate with, a specific level of energy or power. Too far above one's level feels unpleasant, disorienting, dangerous; too far below feels uninteresting, has little benefit. And the power or energy level at which each of us operates is somewhere along the spectrum, from brutishly greedy & destructive, to sublimely nurturing & creative.
    Spiritual evolution appears aimed towards progressively increasing our vibrational energy, ultimately to perfect harmony with the Divine nurturing, creative source.

    There are some who, for example, dogmatically believe that the earth is flat; that science is just one of many conspiracies of the intellectual elite, etc. Most of us (in a generous moment) would consider such beliefs to be caused by lack of education, resulting in scientific naivete.

    "Knowledge is power" has long been the mantra for those hoping to get rich & powerful ASAP. Materialism is exclusively concerned with this base level of knowledge. According to materialism, nothing exists beyond the physical. Again according to materialism, the spiritual or metaphysical are nothing more than irrational wishes like children's belief in Santa Clause. 
    So many materialists dogmatically believe that if something can't be measured / counted, then it can't exist, can't be 'real.' Not only spirituality, but all the other most meaningful aspects of life fit this category: love, empathy, generosity, beauty, inspiration, creativity, all of the arts, etc. No problem, because materialists consider life itself to be completely meaningless. Many of us simply have not had any education in even the social sciences, never mind spiritual matters, so our society as a whole, lacks basic knowledge & understanding in these fundamentally important matters - we are stunningly naive spiritually
    Scientism's dogmatic exclusivist claim (if science can't prove it's existence, then it doesn't & can't exist. Anyone who says otherwise is childish, irrational, or delusional.) is a reaction to theistic religions' equally problematic dogmatic claims of religious exclusivism (every religious sect asserting exclusive claims on their one & only true 'God.' All other 'Gods' being labelled heretical, wrong, evil).  
    Legitimate science has nothing to do with dogma. Spirituality has nothing to do with dogma or religious exclusivism. Science clearly has a very important role to help us survive in comfort & safety. Spirituality is crucially important, allowing us to understand our true nature, the meaning of life, and how to live together in love & harmony.
    BOTH science & spirituality are absolutely necessary for a wholesome, healthy, balanced life

    Our almost exclusive reliance on the left hemisphere's narrow materialistic perspective, while disparaging the broadly inclusive perspective of the right hemisphere of our brain is our present global blind spot & the ultimate cause of our present global crises, that Iain McGilchrist has researched, written & spoken about most intelligently & eloquently:
    Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.” Omar N. Bradley, General US Army

    “Although the final breakthrough is not in our power, yet we move toward this end when we strive for the open mind. Striving for this objectivity is a difficult movement, it means leaving behind mental constructs & security blankets that, until now, we never knew we had… I know of no other path than that of the open mind which leads to this end.”
Bernadette Roberts, “The Path to No Self”

     Many are only capable of resonating with their own sect which is personally & tribally self-serving ("spiritual materialism"). We build up a lot of creds in our tribe over a lifetime. So thinking & especially speaking & behaving outside of our tribe's narrow little box requires a lot of strength & bravery. One identifies with & depends more than one realizes on one's public persona: 'respected church elder,' 'respected man of science,' 'secular atheist cynic,' etc. The thought of being being excluded from & shunned by one's tribe, being labelled 'heretic,' 'fallen' or 'irrational,' 'soft in the head' or 'senile' is often considered too high a price to pay for becoming authentic - true to oneself.

    Mystics & rapidly increasing numbers of spiritually-independent seekers of Truth  - like Rami Shapiro - are sufficiently open mind-hearted to clearly see what mystics of all traditions & ages have been pointing to.
    “A Judaism without tribalism accepts as true only those Torah teachings that promote justice & compassion. Everything else we understand to be the pronouncements of tribal leaders in search of (self-serving) power.
    Both, however, are worthy of study. We study the Torah of justice & compassion to see the best that we are capable of. We study the Torah of power to see the worst.”

    Rami Shapiro. “Judaism Without Tribalism: A Guide to Being a Blessing to All the Peoples of the Earth” Monkfish, 2022.

    "Once we have died to the false self, we have a hope of getting out of our own way and meeting the Holy One face to face.”
    Mirabai Starr. “Caravan of No Despair. A Memoir of Loss and Transformation.” Sounds True, 2015.


Within each of us, in the ground of our being, powers reside for the healing of our world. These powers do not arise from any ideology, access to the occult, or passion for social activism. They are inevitable powers.
Because we are part of the web of life,
we can draw on the strength — and the pain — of every creature.
This interconnection constitutes our ‘deep ecology’:
it is the source of our pain for the world
as well as our love and appetite for life.”
Joanna Macy 

    "These grace moments that happen to all of us are very powerful. Sometimes there’s a moment of oneness, in the aftermath of which we’re never quite the same. But almost always these moments are extremely delicate, very subtle. And we can’t make them happen. The thing is, we can freely choose to assume the stance that offers the least resistance to being overtaken by the oneness we can’t attain."

    James Finley:

    “In Presence, you are One with all life. And from this place of fullness, completeness, wholeness, you create - or rather, you allow creation to happen. You manifest – or rather, you allow manifestation to move through you - with a spirit of playfulness, ease, lightness. You let go of goals, comparisons, all ideas of success, even the idea of manifestation itself!
    Manifestation through relaxation. Creation through surrender. Building up through letting go. Power through effortlessness. These are the wonderful paradoxes of your creative heart.”
Jeff Foster


    Surrender – what an amazingly powerful word. It often engenders the thought of weakness and cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown.
    Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart & soul without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itself – because it was.
    By now, I had become thoroughly convinced that the constant act of letting go of one’s self-centered thoughts & emotions was all that was needed for profound personal, professional, & spiritual growth.”

    Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.

"The beautiful thing about compassion
is that when it spontaneously arises in you,
an inner door opens into an experience of love,
which is our part of fundamental reality....
When the inner door opens,
it becomes effortless
to reach out & connect with others.
This is why the greatest antidote to insecurity
and sense of fear is compassion.
It brings one back to the basis of one's inner strength.
A truly compassionate person embodies a carefree spirit
of fearlessness, born of the freedom
egoistic self concern
The Dalai Lama

    “‘Alo’ means ‘in the presence of’,
    ‘ha’ is the ‘breath.’
    The power of the breath is identified by Hawaiian people as more than the air one                draws in and expels from the lungs -
    It is the impulse to breathe,
    the very life force itself,
    the divine spirit in us."
Alice Holokai


    And now, a simple yet powerful breathing practice for you. With each in breath, feel the nurturing energy you attract. With each, much slower exhalation, feel the warm energy rising from the base of your belly (hara / dantien), up your spine, further warmed up by your heart center, spreading outward to all the rest of your body, and finally up to and outwards from between your eyebrows (third eye).
repeating gently, patiently, effortlessly, nurturing your entire body, and the world.


Make Your Own Music - by Molly Hahn

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Finding True Self, Peace & Joy

    Advanced spiritual practitioners are well aware that we all have two, very different operating systems. The egoic separate self is one most of us habitually contract into under stress & tend to stabilize in, even without stress. The other is the open, spacious, peaceful, timeless, silent, unitive state of awareness or true self that is always there, but for most is usually hidden, veiled over by our egoic self's fearful striving to control our lives for survival & reproduction.
    "When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished." Mihály Csíkszentmihályi PhD

     Our small, egoic self (& it's constant, very loud spokesperson, "ordinary mind's self talk") can only see consensual dualistic relative reality - of adversarial relationships, competition to get to the top, which even includes war (rape, plunder & murder). Small self's / ordinary mind's natural byproduct is dualism & rigid materialism - where ego can, or soon will be able to control everything ("promissory materialism" - a joke for everyone, except materialists).
    Our true self, when we don't drown it out by setting off our alarms, experiences ultimate reality. We all experience this occasionally, at least fleetingly. We are most likely to experience our innate authenticity & ultimate reality when we feel relaxed, open to & engaged with the flow of life.

     Psychologist Csíkszentmihályi researched the "flow" state & summarized it as: "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, & thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." Mihály Csíkszentmihályi PhD
    An important component of "flow" was autotelicity - performing acts because they are intrinsically rewarding, rather than to achieve external goals; learning to enjoy situations that most others mind find miserable; associated with curiosity, persistence, & humility. 
    Despite the formality of scientific language, "flow" seems remarkably similar if not identical to a common experience shared by serious meditators, mystics, saints, extreme adventurers, surgeons, artists of every description, and all who intentionally spend time being intimately engaged with whatever the present moment holds for them
. A very impressive real-life example of this is detailed in the book :
Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.
    Intimacy is a direct, heart-to-heart expression of unconditional love (nothing to do with reward / personal gain ie not transactional.)

    The huge practical problem in our lives is that most of us live as if a fire alarm was constantly ringing, resulting in our small, separate mind running & ruining our lives, and completely obscuring our authentic, true self.

    “Once I stop shaping reality into a theatrical performance with myself at its center, mindfulness allows the world to surprise me. The universe becomes delightfully open-ended.” Belden C. Lane 

    "When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears.” Bodhidharma 

     So our small mind, by way of constant "self talk," is constantly telling us how uncomfortable we are, and reminding us of our preferences: all that we "must have", and all that we "must avoid", in order to survive & be happy. Fixating on these attachments keeps us constantly self-centered, stressed & striving to be somewhere else, do something else, become someone else RATHER THAN be intimately engaged with whatever the present moment presents us.
By giving up our attachments in life, we open ourselves up to more opportunities, more spontaneity, and more chances to cultivate deeper connections with others.” Lama Tsomo

    “The mind is a wonderful gift, but the voice inside our heads ("self-talk") can also be a never-ending source of suffering. That’s the last thing we need when we’ve already got so much of the outside world challenging us. We can spend our lives trying to change those external conditions to ‘be and feel OK’ — when the real problem is what’s going on inside.
    The solution? Surrender – the willingness to let go. To realize that ultimately, our thoughts, emotions, & even our body are not who we are. We are the indwelling consciousness witnessing it all.”
Michael A. Singer

    Much of our repetitive thinking is about escaping discomfort by getting some things & avoiding others. Our life experience has surely taught us by now that no amount of getting & avoiding can lift us out of "ordinary unhappiness." Buddhism teaches that this obsessive self-centered actually causes unnecessary suffering. Surely we're ready to start inhabiting our far more evolved, true self - often just referred to as "Self."
The thoughts change
     but not you.
     Let go of the passing thoughts and
     hold on to the unchanging Self."
Sri Ramana Maharshi

    So what am I learning, if ever so slowly? It's ridiculously easy & common to remain overwhelmed by our past traumas & resultant reactivities, which guarantees continuous unnecessary suffering. Though many assume that this is 'just the way life is,' and 'nothing can be done about it,' that's just a 'helplessness & hopelessness' slump we all need to get past, from time to time.
in the absolutely most horrible cases of suffering, it's been shown that it's best to let go of our 'hurt child' identity, and instead direct our energies toward embodying our 'wise elder' identity (
transpersonal Self or divine identity), and thereby nurture ourselves & others so we may all thrive ie be the best version of ourselves ie true self or Self.
authentic is our only way to peace & joy, that is independent of life's constant ups & downs, aging, sickness & death.

Finding the True Essence of You (Self) - Eckhart Tolle Explains (20min)


Friday, November 24, 2023

What is Trustworthy?

    "Einstein was asked what he thought the most important question was that a human being needed to answer. His reply was, ‘Is the universe a friendly place or not?
    Our answer to that question is the cornerstone on which many of our values & beliefs inevitably rest. If we believe that the universe is unfriendly & that our very souls are in danger, peace will be elusive at best."
    Joan Borysenko. “Fire in the Soul. A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism.” Warner Books, 1993.

    Many years later, one of the world's foremost PTSD experts expanded on the same topic:
    If you feel safe & loved, your brain (is) specialized in exploration, play, & cooperation; if you are frightened & unwanted, it (is) specialized in managing feelings of fear & abandonment.
    Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015.

    "The Great Way is not difficult
     for those who have no preferences..."

    We all have many, perfectly harmless preferences, like enjoying one flavor of ice cream more than another.
    But why does not getting what we want so powerfully grab our attention? Perhaps it's because many of us live under the (mostly subconscious) assumption that survival & safety depends entirely on our ability to control our environment. We live in fear that failing this, will quickly bring chaos, sickness, starvation & death.
No wonder we're triggered every time life appears indifferent to our personal preferences.
    Yet realistically, how often does our every wish (preference) come true? Rarely, & then only briefly. So most of us spend our lives striving mightily against 
reason & reality by trying to capture & sustain personal preferences. We cling to our preferences like drowning people cling to bits of wood floating by. This is how we create most of our suffering, and it's completely unnecessary!

    Life rarely unfolds exactly as we want it to. And if we stop and think about it, that makes perfect sense. The scope of life is universal, and the fact that we are not actually in control of life’s events should be self-evident. The universe has been around for 13.8 billion years, and the processes that determine the flow of life around us did not begin when we were born, nor will they end when we die. What manifests in front of us at any given moment is actually something truly extraordinary – it is the end result of all the forces that have been interacting together for billions of years. We are not responsible for even the tiniest fraction of what is manifesting around us. Nonetheless, we walk around constantly trying to control and determine what will happen in our lives. No wonder there’s so much tension, anxiety & fear. Each of us actually believes that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation.
    Every day, we give precedence to our mind’s thoughts over the reality unfolding before us. We regularly say things like, ‘It better not rain today because I’m going camping’ or ‘I better get that raise because I really need the money.’ Notice that these bold claims about what should and shouldn’t be happening are not based on scientific evidence; they’re based solely on personal preferences made up in our minds. Without realizing it, we do this with everything in our lives – it’s as though we actually believe that the world around us is supposed to manifest in accordance to our own likes & dislikes. If it doesn’t, surely something is very wrong. This is an extremely difficult way to live, and it is the reason we feel that we are always struggling with life.
    The question is, does it have to be this way? There is so much evidence that life does quite well on its own. The planets stay in orbit, tiny seeds grow into giant trees, weather patterns have kept forests across the globe watered for millions of years, and a single fertilized cell grows into a beautiful baby. We are not doing any of these things as conscious acts of will; they are all being done by the incomprehensible perfection of life itself. All these amazing events, and countless more, are being carried out by forces of life that have been around for billions of years – the very same forces of life that we are consciously pitting our will against on a daily basis. If natural unfolding of the process of life can create and take care of the entire universe, is it really reasonable for us to assume that nothing good will happen unless we force it to?
    There must be another, more sane way to approach life. For example, what would happen if we respected the flow of life and used our free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it?

    Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.

    A few more insights from Singer - a meditator & businessman, who maintained a very deep meditation & yoga practice WHILE creating & running highly successful companies:

    “the personal mind (with it’s neurotic chatter) always returned once I got up (from sitting Zen meditation) and became active. … one day in a flash of realization it dawned on me that perhaps I’d been going about this in the wrong way. Instead of trying to free myself by constantly quieting the mind, perhaps I should be asking why the mind is so active. What is the motivation behind all the mental chatter? If the motivation were to be removed, the struggle would be over.
    This realization opened the door for an entirely new & exciting dimension to my practices. As I explored it inwardly, the first thing I noticed was that most of the mental activity revolved around my likes & dislikes. If my mind had a preference toward or against something, it actively talked about it. … it was these mental preferences that were creating much of the ongoing dialogue about how to control everything in my life. In a bold attempt to free myself from all that, I decided to just stop listening to all the chatter about my personal preferences, and instead, start the willful practice of accepting what the flow of life was presenting me.
    I would let go of my preferences and let life be in charge. … If life brought events in front of me, I would treat them as if they came to take me beyond myself. If my personal self complained, I would use each opportunity to simply let him go and surrender to what life was presenting me. This was the birth of what I came to call ‘the surrender experiment.’
    Surrender – what an amazingly powerful word. It often engenders the thought of weakness & cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown."

     Singer's experiment was very successful. His suggestion?

    “Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart & soul without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itselfbecause it was.”
    Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.

    It's understandable, especially if we've had a rough childhood & a harsh life in general, for us to be flailing frantically for control. And yes, it's almost impossible to teach more effective swimming techniques to someone WHILE they're drowning. Nevertheless, there ARE MUCH wiser ways of being in the world than remaining trapped, identified with our neuroses.


Monday, November 13, 2023

What Do I Stand For - No Matter What?

    We live in wildly tumultuous, perilous times, even the very fortunate living in the relative safety & sanity of Canada. The war in Palestine / Israel, like all conflicts, demands infinitely more than knowing how to defeat 'the enemy.' The level of thinking which builds & sustains colonial empires, multi-national corporations, & billionaires; also estroys the air, water, land, plant & animal species, human relationships, quality of life; & promotes conflict & war. This reptilian 'rape, pillage & plunder' mentality favors only the short-sighted ultra-rich & puppet politicians. Jem Bendell PhD
, we've been conditioned to at least partially believe the 'American dream' sales pitch: owning stuff IS happiness. Otherwise, we're repeatedly told that life is supposed to be meaningless. Immediately after 9/11, then US President George W. Bush told New Yorkers, "go show those terrorists what we're made of - and shop!"
Einstein suggested we NEED a qualitatively higher level of intelligence THAN the one that got us into this mess

     The current Palestinian / Israeli war provides a pressing opportunity to decide WHICH MENTALITY we take - the old reptilian 'eye for an eye' reaction - OR - our evolved wise loving nurturing intelligence

    "The personal experience of suffering unites us with other people: it is the dynamo that generates compassion, which, by its nature, is transpersonal." Dean Rolston

    Below Jack Kornfield - former Buddhist monk, beloved meditation teacher, retired clinical psychologist, parent, husband & senior citizen - reminding us of our true nature & what we stand for (transcribed from his EXCELLENT 61min YouTube video bottom of page) :

    “From Yuval Harari, one of our great thinkers & historians,
    For right now, most Israelis are psychologically incapable, at this moment, of empathizing with the Palestinians. The mind is filled to the brim with our own pain, and no space is left to even acknowledge the pain of others. And most Palestinians are in a similar situation. Their minds too are so filled with pain and loss that they cannot see our pain. But outsiders like you, who are not themselves immersed in pain, should make an effort to empathize with all suffering humans, rather than lazily seeing only one side of this terrible reality. It is the job of outsiders to help maintain a space for peace. We here in Israel and Palestine deposit this peaceful space with you, because we cannot hold it right now. Take good care of it, for us, so that one day, when the pains begin to heal, Israelis and Palestinians and you too might inhabit the space of peace together.'

    If you go into certain Zen temples in Japan or elsewhere, there’s this weird thing, they have little, low doors. We find them in Tibetan temples too, & other places. You have to bow to go into the temple. You can’t stride in. You actually have to lower yourself, with a certain sense of reverence & humility. And often by the gates of the temple are (statues of) the demons, that represent all that keep us from that place of peace & stillness. And you have to pass through them & acknowledge them. You can’t just ignore them. They’re part of the price of admission: to face the demons, to bow low. And then when you enter, you’re invited into a timeless reality. In Zen they say, ‘This is the reality of who you were, before your parents were born.’ That’s one of the great koans: ‘Show me, tell me, who were you before your parents were born?’
    There’s a liberation amidst birth & death, joy & sorrow, war & peace, that is beyond it all. And this is the sacred openness of love & awareness itself. And you know this. You know this as sure as you know your own name – even if you forget it – you do know that there is something bigger & majestic & timeless. And this is the opening to the cosmic dance
    Remember the famous poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘Call Me by My True Names’?

'I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.'

    I am them all. I am the joys & the sorrows. I am born again & again. This is the cosmic dance. And from this perspective, fear & ignorance & hate are seen in the vast ocean of love & understanding because we are part of creation unfolding itself. And if you take a Bodhisattva vow, as I’ve done, ‘O nobly born,’ it reminds you, ‘may you remember this freedom, and may you commit yourself, o nobly born, to alleviate the ignorance and suffering and fear in beings, the suffering of beings wherever you are.’ And then you say, ‘How long?’ As long as it takes.

    So this is a shift of consciousness for refuge. This is the timeless refuge.
‘Who is your enemy?’ it says in the Buddhist texts. Mind is your enemy. No one can harm you more than your own mind untamed, filled with greed, fear, confusion & ignorance. Who is your friend? Mind is your friend. No one can help you. Even the most loving parents & friends, as much as your own mind, tamed & trained & filled with goodness.’ So then you sense the outer refuge and the sacred refuge and it becomes your refuge inside.

    What else is a refuge for us in these times? Ethics, virtue, whatever language you want to give it, morality. Here from a Buddhist text that I love:

‘Others will be cruel. We shall not be cruel. Thus we shall incline our hearts. Others will kill beings. We shall not kill beings. Thus we shall incline our hearts. Others will be violent. We shall not be violent. Thus we shall incline our hearts. Others will take what is not given and steal. We will abstain from taking what is not ours. Thus we shall incline our hearts. Others will speak falsely. We will abstain from false speech and speak that which is true. Thus we will train our hearts. Others will be envious. We shall not be envious but respectful of all others. Thus we shall incline our hearts. Others will be fraudulent. We will be honest. Thus we will train our hearts. Others will be arrogant. We shall be open-minded with humility. Thus we will train our hearts. Others will be harsh without compassion. We will be established in compassion. Thus should we incline our hearts.’

    That’s a really powerful call isn’t it? To say no matter what happens, what is your refuge? What do you stand for, no matter what? Integrity, honesty, non-harming, respect, and in it there’s so much truth & mercy, because it knows that ‘hatred never ends by hatred, but by love alone is healed
    And you look at Palestine and Israel, and it’s one traumatized people traumatizing another traumatized people from the displacement of the Palestinians and the Holocaust. And we may weep, and stand with others, and understand the cycles of trauma, and see with the eyes of wisdom, tenderness, and tears, and courage.
Longfellow who says,
    ‘If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.’
    A deep forgiveness, allowing the heart to break, and opening to this dance of joy & sorrow that is given to you, it is who you are, is who we are

    And I think of these lines from Ellen Bass in her poem, ‘If You Knew,’
‘What would people look like
if we could see them as they really are
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?’
    How could we not see, with the eyes of love, everybody?

    So what supports you in living your values? Reflect for a moment, and sense what it feels like to stand up for what matters. Others will do other things, we shall not.”

Jack Kornfield on the Heart of Refuge - Heart Wisdom Ep. 211


Friday, November 10, 2023

What Can We Do?

    Imagine shortly after your birth, you were cold, hungry, thirsty, wet, uncomfortable & unhappy. So you cried as loudly as you could for help. You had no way of knowing or comprehending why you were no longer being held in safety & unconditional love like you (more or less) were for your timeless 'eternity' in the womb.
    What went through your completely innocent mind? Overwhelmed by the primal fear of abandonment & death - attachment trauma.      
    “Children can be traumatized, not just by terrible things happening to them, but just by not having their needs met – by not being seen, not being heard, not being held. Those are wounding for a child.” Gabor Maté MD

    Now imagine as an adult, waking up alone, in great pain, lying helplessly in the recovery room, immediately following major surgery. So you ring the button to call for help - even start yelling, and wait, and wait ... You have no way of comprehending why nobody comes to help.
goes through your mind? Fear, anger, frustration - abandonment, dying alone.
Trauma is not so much what happened to us, but rather what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic mutually connected witness." Peter Levine PhD

    Imagine watching the evening news: escalating war in the Gaza / Israel; endless war in the Ukraine; enthusiastic "proxy" participation by most of the world's dictatorships & "friendlies" - with repeated threats of nuclear weapons; thousands killed by yet another earthquake in Nepal. Meanwhile, in the world's most privileged countries, escalating numbers of homeless "living rough" in severe winter conditions; rapidly increasing deaths by drug-overdose, direct suicide even of children & insane levels of "gun violence". Then, 'in other news': much faster-than-anticipated global warming, rise in sea levels, rise in CO2 levels, extinction of species, toxic air pollution, etc etc. Reptilian world leaders continue playing colonialist 'rape, murder & plunder' games, as they confidently destroy our one-and-only earth.
goes through your mind? Fear, anger, frustration, disgust, cynicism - am I alone in a hostile, meaningless universe?

    Indeed, what can we do?
    Many refuse to watch or listen to the news - "It's too depressing!" Well yes, but immature & unhelpful.
    Then some aspire to at least be "well adjusted." However,
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society" Krishnamurti

    Which brings to mind a scene from the Viet Nam war movie, Apocalypse Now, showing Lt. Col. Kilgore, shirtless, cigar in mouth, practicing golf drives into the South China sea, surrounded by his young soldiers in uniform. Behind him, American fighter jets rain down bombs, evaporating countless Vietnamese in the jungle below. With great gusto Kilgore says, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
This timely topic: The Myth of Normal. Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture.” is carefully examined by Gabor Maté MD & Daniel Maté, in their excellent 2022 book.

    How, one might wonder, does a sweet, innocent, loving & lovable little baby turn into a Kilgore? None of us are born to ideal parents who are able to make us feel consistently safe & unconditionally loved. Therefore, very early in life, most of us experience some degree of attachment trauma, and learn to escape the present moment by dissociating whenever we find situations unbearable. Many other forms of trauma occur later in life.
Pathological dissociation generally results from being psychically overwhelmed by trauma. Trauma is everywhere & highly prevalent." Elizabeth F. Howell. “The Dissociative Mind.” Routledge, 2008.

    Dissociation is almost universal. However, while dissociating we can't be intimately engaged with whomever we're with, or whatever we're doing, because we divert attention elsewhere - from urgent self-preservation to mere distraction. For many, dissociation becomes habitual, occuring even in the absence of triggers.
    "… studies on attentiveness show that people are only briefly & unpredictably attentive. Attention habitually diverts to unrelated thoughts & feelings, leaving any task at hand to be managed 'on autopilot.' These studies suggest that mindlessness ('mind wandering,' 'zoning out,' 'task-unrelated thought') is 'one of the most ubiquitous & pervasive of all cognitive phenomena' and that it often occurs unintentionally, without awareness, occupies a substantial proportion of our day, and leads to failures in task performance."
    Lovas JG, Lovas DA, Lovas PM. “Mindfulness and Professionalism in Dentistry.” J Dent Educ 2008; 72(9): 998-1009.

    Dissociation due to fear is a fundamental problem - the precise opposite of intimacy arising from love. All wisdom traditions, through their saints & mystics, as well as artists (intermediaries between spirituality & materialism) have been trying to tell us this for thousands of years. 

    As infants & children, numbing / being closed down can be more important than feeling / opening up.
now, as adults, "it's time to pull up our big boy pants" and have
“the spaciousness to allow any quality of mind, any thought or feeling, to arise without closing around it, without eliminating the pure witness of being. It is an active receptivity to life.” Stephen Levine

    We get into & easily remain stuck in adversarial relationships - involving even siblings, parents vs children, intimate partners, co-workers, ideologies, races, religions, countries. Our conflicts can & do lead to horrific, prolonged, unnecessary blood-baths 


    A short excerpt of Gabor Maté MD from a wise, compassionate recent interview:  

    So what’s the way out? Self-examination is the first step.
    Krishnamurti said that action has meaning only in relationship. And without understanding relationship, action on any level will only breathe conflict. The understanding of relationship is infinitely more important than the search for any plan of action.
    It's so true, if we want to understand something, let's at least begin with the willingness to look at our role and our own contribution to that relationship in which we're suffering.

    Again, that doesn't justify any particular action but at least it provides a context and it's not about taking the wrong path.

    Robert Sapolsky talks about the absurdity of hating any person for anything they have done, given that in his view, everything we do is determined by the past. And he also says there's no such thing as free will, and blame & punishment are without ethical justification.
    No, I don't I don't agree with him. I think it is possible to get to a position of free will, but I don't think most of us have free will most of the time.
    To get to free will, it takes extraordinary effort to become conscious. To be conscious means you're aware of what's inside you.
    So there might be rage inside you, perfectly understandable. There might be hatred inside you, perfectly understandable. There might be a desire for revenge inside you, perfectly understandable. Understandable? Absolutely. But they're not guides for action.
    The only guide for action is when we're in a non-defensive state. An emotionally non-defensive state is where the prefrontal cortex, the mid-frontal cortex, whose job is to have insight, empathy, self-regulation, compassion, is online THEN we might talk about free will.
    But when we're regulated by our emotional reactions
, collective or personal, there's no free will.

    The Buddha never told his followers ‘not to feel’ hate, or not to feel angry, or not to feel grief, not to feel sadness, or fear. He said you will notice when there's fear in you; you will notice when there's hatred in you; you will notice when there's grief; you'll be aware of it, so that it doesn't rule you.
    Those are just human emotions. They're going to happen. The question is, what's going to govern our actions?

    Dan Siegel a psychiatrist, and Stephen Porges a psychologist, both point out that at times of pressure & fear, our perspective narrows. And the part of our brain that takes over, is more the fear-based & defensive-based, fight-or-flight, so we lose the governance of our pre-frontal cortex, which is capable of taking a broader view.
    An Israeli friend with a daughter, who lives in the North of Israel, where as a result of recent events, they had to evacuate some communities, owing to the threat of further violence not just in the South, but also in the North of Israel
    And she wrote to me very honestly, she says, ‘Dear Gabor, I really appreciate the things you wrote. The days here are unbearable. We moved in with friends because we live in an unprotected ground floor, surrounded by gardens so beautiful usually, but home no longer feels like a safe place for millions right now.’ And she’s talking about Israelis. She’s well aware, by the way, of the Palestinian situation. But she’s describing her own situation
    ‘The rest of the time I work at a mental health center, and we collapse under the referrals, and the meetings, and the frantic courses we take to treat ongoing trauma. I’m exhausted. The 
(words of support) you wrote are beautiful, but perspective expands when people are not under physical threat. And so, those close to me, and my point of view is very narrow.
    That’s a very honest statement. She’s making no apology. She’s not taking a political stance. She’s saying, right now my perspective is very narrow. She doesn’t want to identify with that narrow perspective, but she understands that under the pressure, that’s what happens. Now most people are not that self-aware. Peoples’ perspective narrows of course, and it becomes subsumed in group identification, and thoughts of revenge, and thoughts of hurting the other.
    Under threat, or what we perceive as being under threat, we go into this narrow place. That’s a place of slavery – when we’re enslaved to our unconscious. Where we’re governed by our emotions and where the heart closes down

    And if there was ever a time for people to actually open their hearts, to not get stuck in a narrow place, to not repeat the past, to not perceive themselves only as victims, but in relationship with the other, and have the willingness to examine my role in that relationship, which is all we ask for in any marriage or in any relationship. ..."
A Call for Healing: Gabor Maté on Palestine / Israel : 

“The words of the Buddha offer this truth:
Hatred never ceases by hatred
but by love alone is healed.
This is an ancient and eternal law.’ ”

Jack Kornfield

A Walk to the Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith