Sunday, August 13, 2017

How Progress is Made



A friend of mine shared a meme on facebook the other day that said we're reliving the 60s: high-waisted pants, A-line dresses, and skinny ties are in style, along with, oh yeah, the threat of nuclear war. Many people are shocked and surprised, saying things like, “I can't believe this is happening in 2017.” Until about a year ago, I would have been one of those people, but today, current events do not surprise me.

Part of the reason current events do not surprise me is due to astrology. At the moment, we are undergoing similar transits to the ones of the 60s, meaning we're seeing similar issues resurface: feminism, civil rights, the threat of nuclear war, and also the fashion. As if to confirm this, on Saturday, a man boarded my bus sporting a beard, longer hair, and a tie-dye t-shirt. The whole day I kept seeing references to the 60s – an ad celebrating the 50th anniversary of the summer of love, another using the word “groovy” with the image of a person wearing round, red-colored glasses. History repeats itself.

Progress is like a mountain range with peaks and valleys. Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash.

I've heard the expression “history repeats itself” approximately a billion times, yet whenever history repeats itself, I used to meet the circumstance with disbelief. “What? No! How could this be?” These days I recognize not only does history repeat itself, but this is how progress is made – it's not a straight line, it's not an elegant steady slope, it's more like a mountain range with peaks and valleys. We ascend the mountaintop and then we descend into the valley, and just because we're back in the valley doesn't mean we aren't marching forward.

I have to keep this in mind not only on a societal level but a personal one. A common complaint of mine recently is some areas of my life are not better than a year ago, in fact, they're worse. I'm not scaling the mountain, I'm sliding into the valley. My brain interprets this to mean I'm not progressing, I'm not advancing, and instead I can expect parts of my life to stay crappy forever and always, which is of course not true – something my spiritual teacher substantiates.

He said motion is never linear, rather it is always systoltic, or pulsative. “All kinds of movement in this expressed universe are linked with the state of pause … Pause is only a temporary state of inertness,” he said. “Full expression of action occurs only after attaining momentum for movement from the state of inertness. No action is possible without momentum attained from the state of inertness, and thus every action (also called movement) must be systoltic, or pulsative, by nature.”

Perhaps then my slide into the valley is my pause to gather strength, to regain my energy before climbing the next mountain. Also, perhaps this period we're undergoing as a society is a pause of sorts that allows us to ferret out injustice, examine the unexamined, and clear out the cobwebs in order for us to keep moving forward. Instead of viewing our societal events as regression, maybe they're important, albeit terrifying and horrific, milestones on our path to progress.

I dream of a world where we recognize progress on a personal and societal level takes the shape of a mountain range with peaks and valleys. A world where we understand descent is an important part of moving forward. A world where we remember motion is pulsative – it starts and stops with a pause in between. A world where we keep in mind how progress is made.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Forever One


The unexpected death of my colleague nearly a month ago unsettled me. I have a need for security and stability (we all do), and his death reminded me the world is not stable; it's always changing. I want to know the people in my life will always be around, and if they're dying, I want advanced notice so I can say a proper goodbye. But life doesn't work like that, and Eric's death reminds me a person can die at any time.

Goodness, even writing that I feel my anxiety levels rising. Let's talk about solutions. Some of the messages I say to myself are, “I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not ever going anywhere.” On Saturday, I reminded myself those messages are true. I'm not going anywhere because when I die, all parts of me die. We'll die together – my inner child, my inner parent, my higher self. I'm not ever going anywhere because every part of me is inextricably linked.

I like to think of our eternal companion as an audience member. Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash. 

I talk about “parts” a lot, but this is not New Age mumbo jumbo. In yoga philosophy, there are three parts of the mind. One of the parts, the mahatattva, is the observer. This is the part that's like an audience member of a play – they see everything transpiring on the stage, but they're not actively doing anything. That audience member, that eternal observer, if you will, is the one who has the best perspective because they literally see more than the actor on the stage.

When I self-soothe, when I remind myself I'm here and I'm not going anywhere, I connect with my observer self, which is where security and stability lies. That which is eternal is beyond spatial, temporal, and personal factors; it never changes and is always there.

My spiritual teacher says, “The unchangeable witnessing consciousness that lies behind the manifested, externalized states of consciousness, or behind these apparently conscious entities is Puruśa.” Puruśa is how I define God. Puruśa is the forever entity, the forever one who is inside of me, watching my every act. The point of my meditation practice is to realize Puruśa and I are the same. That I am it and it is me.

To quote an Indian sage, “Those of calm intellect who see Him within themselves alone attain eternal bliss. To them alone belongs abiding peace.” Over and over again I learn true security, stability, bliss, and peace cannot be found in the external world. It can only be found internally. My anxious self will never be satisfied with the constant presence of a person because people die or leave unexpectedly. They cannot be my eternal companions, but that doesn't mean I don't have one. Because I do. We all do. Our eternal companion, our forever one, is the witnessing entity within us and around us. The more I remember that, the better off I'll be.

I dream of a world where we realize true security, stability, bliss, and peace comes from within. A world where we recognize we each have an internal observer, watching the drama of life unfold objectively. An observer who is with us always. A witness who is our forever companion.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.