“You pass through life like early morning…”

Sakura Blossom

Dreaming, not waking 

Early morning breezes tickle,

Dandelions dance.

       Amidst many changes in my life I am called to write. There is a certain kind of feeling experienced when you leave everything behind for a completely new path. It’s a feeling like floating on a wave – not quite awake, not quite asleep, dreaming, not waking. Every moment is full of endless potential. But, then again, isn’t it anyway? It is in these times of transition that we find ourselves – our real, true, unbiased, no-illusions, self. We tend to find that the Self is completely unlimited. That, in fact, there isn’t a Self, definable as such, but a series of comings-and-goings. A kind of desperate plea for uncertainty. At first, it feels liberating. You have no responsibilities, nothing in your name, no job to get to, no school, or family, or friends calling for your attention. Everything is just space. Everything is limitless. Driving over the mountains, clearly endless blue skies above us, we felt as though we were on top of the world. We had 14 hours of homelessness, in one of the most beautiful parts of this country. The air is so much fresher all these miles above the busy cities and refineries. It’s almost too easy to forget all of this modern world.

       Forgetting is what our minds want to do. It is the easy way out of responsibility. Caring is difficult. Caring takes time and attention and energy, none of which are easily replenished as every action takes time to see the result. Caring can be overwhelming. Up here, on top of the world, there is nothing to care about. It is here where I experience true release, true happiness. You see children smiling for no reason at all, smiling at the smell of the flowers and the songs of the birds and the feel of the air against their skin. It is up here that I can truly say I understand what they are smiling for. The sun feels so close and so warm, and time slows down.

       It has been one full week since we experienced that. It didn’t take long for the 14 hours to pass and for us to take the seemingly short descent into the valley that we now call home. You see the city before you see the ocean, all lights and busy people. It is like waking from an existential dream of non-duality. The experience is much like taking that first step out of a retreat hall and onto a busy street. It’s a bit overwhelming, but you’re lucky, because you have all this stored up happy energy from the experience of release. This stored-up energy allows you to see the new landscape with fresh eyes, non-judging and compassionate. You make it through the busy city, as your new home lies on the far side, only blocks away from the vast, free ocean. You get here unscathed, still holding that happy, light energy close to your heart. This energy had permeated your whole body, and it lifted you to a lightness that was like you had become a cloud. The flowing and pulsing dance of wind and life-energy still coursed through you, with you, as you.

       As you enter your new home and proceed with all the formalities, you take a deep breath, and feel suddenly dizzy with realization. The search you have been on for your whole life, this search to be happy and free like you feel on top of the mountains, you feel it now too. It hasn’t left. The only thing that changed is your perception. Rather than seeing it for what it is, always present, you see it as something only attainable in certain environments. You close your eyes, letting your other senses experience the moment, and you feel this dreamlike happiness. Opening your eyes, it’s still there. You take a step, and still, it’s with you. A smile spreads on your soft lips and your eyes brim with tears. Regardless of what life calls on you for, you are there, completely present, and it is okay. Everything is okay. Everything is okay because inherently, you are free. You are expansive and huge, infinite. You are potential. Everything is potential.

       Cherry blossoms line the streets, mingling with flowers you don’t recognize. You can pick up probably a dozen different bird songs. You tell yourself that the steady thrum and vibration is the sound of the nearby ocean, though you’re probably kidding yourself. The tides pull at you as the pulse closer and further, grasping and releasing. Even the concrete buildings squished into city-blocks pulse and vibrate with life. Everything exists in meditation. Everything meditates.

       Abandoning your few possessions, the first stop is the bay, the soft sand squishing between your toes, the smell of salt-water and fish a welcome reminder that you are home, and you are safe.

Photo Copyright (c) April 2014, Chraeloos

Loving-kindness, Metta, Vulnerability, Compassion, and Bravery.

Or, in other words, how to love yourself and others.

Any being who’s experienced emotions knows that, instead of you experiencing the emotions, sometime your emotions are experiencing you. Many religions and philosophies throughout history have taught that we should learn to be a witness, stepping back and not letting our emotions get in the way of rational thinking. Some even go so far as to say that we should become friendly with our emotions, get to know them, and therefore come to know when they are arising, recognize what it is, and stop yourself from feeling it. What I’m wondering, is what happens if you stop yourself from feeling emotions? Despite the fact that it must be extremely hard if not impossible to not feel any emotions, if we have evolved as the only beings that can recognize that we are feeling an emotion, should we embrace this? I’m not saying that we should let ourselves become overwhelmed with our emotions, but be able to step aside and let them coexist with us.

One of the most basic emotions I can think of is fear. For millennia fear has warned prey that there is a predator close by. These days, humans tend to be the predators more often then not, but in many cases fear has saved lives. It is a basic instinct. I’d go so far as to say that it is necessary to the survival of any living being. So, if a negative emotion such as fear can be such a good thing, what other emotions are necessary? I’d argue that love is necessary, as without love we couldn’t exist together peacefully. (Some would argue here that you can’t feel love without having felt hate, but I’d like to politely disagree. In my studies of metta meditation (loving-kindness), I’ve come to learn that even in hate there can exist a certain kind of love. I could go into this in detail, but that’s a whole other entry). But, there are three other emotions that I think are also necessary (among, likely, others) that I’d like to go into here: vulnerability, bravery, and compassion.

In my understanding of vulnerability, which differs greatly from the common definition of ‘weakness’, it seems that a vulnerability is a place for growth, connection, and individuality. I’d go so far as to argue that without vulnerabilities we would all be the same. Most people think of a vulnerability as a potential for harm, either physical or emotional. But, it’s only a potential for harm if there is something to be harmed by. Some would argue here that death is a vulnerability – but this is not so, as we all die. There cannot be life without death – and this does not make us weak. If anything, this should make us stronger as we realize that our time on this plane is limited and that we should spend the time we have with our loved ones with as happy an outlook that we can. We all have suffering in our life that can either be caused from, or create vulnerabilities. But, suffering is inevitable as we live in physical bodies that manifest physical emotions that don’t always coincide with the emotions of others. In my own experience, all suffering that I’ve endured has taught me more, and opened me up to more than I ever would have experienced had I avoided the suffering. Because we are never the same people from one moment to the next, let alone one lifetime to the next, we can’t possibly avoid suffering. Our cells are continuously dying and birthing, rewriting itself and changing in minuscule ways. Our bodies are always aging, our minds always growing. If we can look at this cycle of life and death, suffering and growth, as a positive life experience, we can fully embrace ourselves and each other for the way we are – our true beings – without shame. In doing this, we are actually eliminating much of our suffering.

Which leads us to compassion. If all beings have even a slice of compassion in them, then there is no need for a vulnerability to be a weakness. Instead of being shameful of your vulnerabilities, let them show so that people can get to know who you are, and love you for who you are. A vulnerability could be a broken heart, a broken bone, a bullied soul, amongst various other things not even a fraction of which I could name here. All of these things do heal when given the proper environment. Compassion is that environment. To give compassion shows humbleness, selflessness, and empathy. To be able to receive compassion shows even greater strength and trust, as you are letting the person see your soul. With this connection, we are able to communicate clearly, have stronger relationships, and end suffering all over the world. And, when I say compassion, I don’t mean in the form of money. I mean, opening your heart to the suffering of others; realizing that they suffer just as you do, and allowing them to experience it however they may without judgement. Compassion is so strong an emotion, and an action, that even if you open if up to one person a day you’d be doing yourself a huge favor, and helping those around you, even if just by setting an example. You never know what people are going through, or why they are acting the way they are. Don’t take their actions personally, as most of the time they aren’t reacting to something you did, but rather projecting their feelings from something that happened earlier onto you.

This brings us to bravery. In order to surrender yourself to someone – showing them your vulnerabilities, sending out your compassion, and trusting them to treat you with compassion – shows great bravery and courage (I use these two words simultaneously, as I think that backing down from a battle shows just as great, if not greater bravery and courage than running into it head-first). By opening yourself to them you are placing trust into their hands and hoping they won’t throw it back at you or drop it to the ground to stomp on it. I can guarantee you that they will recognize this, even if they don’t know they do, and they will treat you with respect and trust in return. Now, everyone’s capacity for respect and trust is different, so it may not seem so obvious to you that they are reciprocating, but every time they are given the opportunity to grow into that compassion, vulnerable environment, they are given an extra pull up the mountain, where at the top lays true trust, respect, and friendship. An exercise I would like you to try in order to practice bravery is to look into the eyes of all the strangers that pass you with acceptance. Don’t judge them. Don’t assume that you know what they are going through or why they are acting the way they are. Don’t assume that they are judging you. Let there be a complete exchange of introductions – how you really want people to know you, “Hi, my name is _____ and I see the good in you, and accept you for who you are.” See what happens in return – how many people’s faces will soften, aura’s will shift, and how many true connections you can make. Now, this isn’t a contest – the number doesn’t matter – but you will be surprised how many people are looking desperately for that kind of acknowledgement and kindness. Be brave – stick your foot out first, and see how many people catch you.

If we can give and receive these three things we would have very strong, trusting, and safe relationships – be them love, friendship, family, or connections with complete strangers. If we can accept ourselves enough to let our vulnerabilities shine through, show compassion even when all we want to do is lash out, and do this all with courage – imagine how much happier we would be. If we embrace the practice of separating our selves from our emotions and stopping them from happening, how can we exist as a co-dependent species? If we can accept our emotions, recognize when they are arising and why, and learn to scoot over and let them have a seat on the pillow beside us, then we can have a conversation with them, instead of trying to become them.

What do you think?

On Unity, and the Internet

noun, plural -ties.

1. the state of being one; oneness.
2. a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.
3. the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.
4. absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.
5. oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number ofpersons; concord, harmony, or agreement.
In society today, we have unity in many ways. We have politics, corporations, cliques, rebels, and all kinds of groups that share unity. But, a kind of unity that we haven’t experienced as a society before is found in the internet. It’s a new generation of unity, a new way of feeling with someone or a group of people. As we’ve experienced in the past year, the internet gives way to easy unity between activists, rebels, hackers – people that are fighting for a bigger cause. The internet makes it easy for individuals to feel included, wanted, loved even.
I think I was about eight years old when my family got our first computer. In honesty, I don’t remember not having one. It was mid 90’s, and we were one of the first out of my friends to get one. It was very easy for me to grasp how it worked. I ended up doing all the repairs, getting rid of viruses, teaching my parents what to do when, etc. From then on I had accounts on the social networks, blogs, MSN Groups, etc. I saw Youtube emerge, Facebook, Twitter, Nexopia, Neopets, etc. I was always connected to other people through the internet. I made friends that way (some of them I still keep in contact with on a regular basis). I always felt more comfortable talking to people through the computer than face to face as it gave me time to process what they were saying and word my response properly. If I got talking to someone I didn’t like or couldn’t handle it was easy to just log off, or block them. When you’re face to face with people, it’s more complicated and awkward. I was part of the generation that didn’t learn proper social skills. Obviously, I still work, go to school, join book clubs, attend events, go for coffee – all the things that involve face-to-face social interactions. I’m not stunted socially, but many people my age, and younger, are.
Not to get into statistics, or deviate from the topic, but I find it interesting how people are complaining that the APA is changing their definition for autism. Maybe it’s because many of these children aren’t autistic, they just haven’t had ample social opportunity. I remember playing on the streets with all the other kids in the neighbourhood for hours on end every day. Now, you don’t see kids outside. Chances are likely that they are at home, playing video games, on Facebook, etc. They aren’t interacting with other children face-to-face.
But, I digress. Point being, people of the younger generation have different ways to find unity. We find it in virtual places (some of my best friends are online, I’ve never met them face-to-face). Most of us are more comfortable online. What this means for the future, I’m not sure. But it changes the direction of everything from politics and economics, to publishing, visiting grandparents, rebelling. It’s a different dynamic completely. Personally, I wouldn’t even know where to go to join a political group other than online. I do online banking, publish my writing online, hold events online, talk to my family online (rarely ever on the phone, and even less in person). If I want to know the news, I don’t buy a newspaper, I go online. If I’m feeling lonely, on goes Second Life. I work for a company online. I volunteer for things online (that includes signing up and doing the work). I keep in touch with friends online. I attended University online. Not a day goes by that I’m not online for some reason or other (unless I’m vacationing, but I’m sure if I had an iPhone or something it wouldn’t make a difference). I don’t like always being online, I think it probably does bad things to me physically and mentally. I love the outdoors: hiking, biking, walking, fishing, swimming, skating, travelling, etc. The mountains are about three hours away, and I visit them often. I read books on a daily basis (but even these are available online).
So, unity is changing. It’s not about physical togetherness anymore. It takes on a more virtual meaning now. It’s less about “standing up for the cause” than about rallying and protesting virtually. Look at the protests against SOPA and PIPA, and now ACTA. All opinions are voiced online. Websites went black to protest. I am shocked every day to hear that Occupy is still going. It’s the old fashioned kind of unity (even though it was brought about online). The Middle East protestors are still rallying, dying, suffering, fighting, which is the old sense of unity (even though it, too, was brought about online). Things like this are fading. People don’t stand outside of political buildings and protest as much as they once did. Why? Because they blog about it instead.
On one hand unity seems to be something that people invent as a convention by which they do politics and overcome antagonism, but on the other hand the imposing of unity on people seems to produce a new antagonism between those that are united (citizens) and those who don’t fit in the unity (criminals/discontents). So on one hand the idea of unity seems like a communist idea, radically inclusive and caring for everyone according to their needs, but on the other hand the idea of unity seems like an authoritarian idea, radically totalizing and granting exception to the ruling class.
-4inquiries ([info]4inquiries) wrote in [info]philosophy20120121 21:47:00
Nietzsche says,
“There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, the one in fear of intuition, the other with scorn for abstraction. The latter is just as irrational as the former is inartistic.”
In this time of human history the older generation are compelled to fight radical change. Even though our technological advances are moving so rapidly. The younger generation has left the older generation behind and taken things into their own hands – utilizing, all the while, the internet. The young people of today fight through a different kind of unity that takes the older generations by surprise. The governments are frightened by the power of this, which is why SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA are around. It’s the same reason China monitors all online activity. The same reason powers in the Middle East shut down the internet as soon as the protests started happening. The older generation can’t keep up with the speed of the young, and therefore wish nothing more than to slow them down. I strongly disagree with piracy. I think artists, musicians, journalists, actors, companies, and everyone else should get paid for what they do. But that does not change the fact that the internet is a very useful tool in the sense of unity, and that should not be compromised. It is a growing, changing entity every moment, but this should be embraced, not locked down.
As Caitlin R. Kiernan put it, “…[Y]ou do not burn down a house to kill a termite. You don’t risk wrecking the entire internet to stop internet crime. You move slowly and with great care. You address the actual problems. You don’t allow the megacorps to crush “fair use” and the like and pervert copyright law (the US was doing this well before the internet). You create the least inclusive legislation possible, not the most.”
Unity is found in different places now than before. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Evolution happens, embrace it.