Snapshots

Just some quick notes on what’s going on now:

  • Peaceful Warrior was great. My teacher’s Zen and martial classes saw it together on Sunday. Everyone loved it. The audience as a whole seemed very appreciative. Hopefully, it will stay in theaters a few more weeks and the word-of-mouth approach will bring more people to see it.
  • I’m doing fairly well in Spanish, now. I can make myself understood on a variety of topics, although I make tons of mistakes, and understanding spoken Spanish is still pretty difficult. I can read simple books, like The Alchemist (El alquimista, en español) fairly easily. On the other hand, books like El arrecife, are still quite intimidating.
  • I’ve begun studying Catalan as well. Catalan is the everyday language of most people in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands of Spain, as well as of Andorra, a small part of France, and one city in Sardinia, Italy. Catalan is very cool! It sounds something like French, but without the nasalized vowels. It’s almost a cross between Spanish and French. Pronunciation rules are regular, though more complicated than in Spanish, but actually pronouncing words seems to be easier to me. Catalan uses an L like the English L after vowels, single S’s are voiced between vowels just as in English, and it has plenty of schwa sounds so you can relax a bit instead of having to keep every single vowel pure. Also, Catalan words are amazingly short for a Romance language, and often even shorter than words in English. Consider: bo (good), vi (wine), (hand), nu (naked), xei (lamb), mòn (world), net (clean).
  • I got a press kit and CD in the mail today to review a movie called “Simple Things.” I might not have time to do it till the weekend, but I’m looking forward to it. When I was in college, a friend of mine said I should become a movie reviewer. Well, after doing a number of reviews on this site, I guess I am one of sorts… still, WTG is just a modest personal site and blog; I never thought I’d be contacted by a media company to do a review! Move over, Ebert! 🙂
  • My car is in the body-repair shop for a few days. (It got hit while parked a little while back.) So some more opportunity for car-pooling or bike-riding to work.
  • I am happy. I am very happy. I hope you are, too.

See Peaceful Warrior Free

Peaceful Warrior posterAnyone who knows me well knows that in my opinion, far and away the best movie of 2006 was Peaceful Warrior, based on Dan Millman’s beloved autobiographical novel Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which has been a portal to the inner path for many. Simply put, there is no movie I am aware of that more honestly and movingly shows what learning with an authentic spiritual teacher is like, capturing the traps, lessons, pains, and joys experienced upon the way.

I paid to watch Peaceful Warrior three times in theaters last year. This weekend, I’m going to see it for free. Universal Studios is offering $15 million dollars worth of free tickets to see the movie in the first weekend of its general release, starting from today through Sunday.

Claim your tickets here!

The Swimming Pool

swimmingpool1.jpgIn January, 2006, I had an experience that I sometimes think of as “the empty holodeck.” It was jolting and mildly disorienting, but I consider it one of the most important spiritual experiences of my life. This last January, I had another, very brief feeling of a something in that no-thing. And as I’ve written some of these later posts on love and the “law of attraction,” there’s been a metaphor in my mind that I haven’t shared yet: the swimming pool. The “holodeck” appears to be empty to the mind that seeks to know. Although every manner of experience is possible in the holodeck, investigation reveals it to be nothing more than an interactive program that changes patterns of light in mesmerizing ways.

But there remains a medium. So another analogy might be that of a swimming pool. In a swimming pool, the medium is very, very obvious: water. Experiencing water is the whole point. Water is fluid—it parts to accommodate whatever comes into it.

What people are calling the “law of attraction” seems to me to be the recognition of the responsiveness of the medium we are in. Receiving water, when you’re in water, is as simple as opening your hand. All you have to do is make a space. Space for receiving has to be created, and in this medium in which we “live, and move, and have our being,” everything we do has some effect… thoughts, feelings, and actions all are felt, all move the water.

Whatever motion you make is felt to some degree throughout the pool. Smooth, gentle motions create smooth, gentle waves. Harsh, choppy motions create harsh, choppy waves. And whatever waves you create will come back to you.

Also note that the water cannot be controlled. People want the water to assume this shape or that. Creating the manifestation of something particular requires energy and action. Having water is effortless—more than you have it, it has you. Even though you are mostly water, you’ve been given a shape of your own for a while, and cannot breathe it directly. You can’t support the water. You must let it support you.

Like all metaphors, this is terribly imperfect. But when you consciously love others, you feel the love you send, not as something leaving you, but as something coming to you. This is because it is just there. Love is there, as God is there, as the water in the swimming pool is there. The water itself hardly moves at all. Waves are energy moving through the water.

Note that “pushing-against” actions are very inefficient in the pool. Try to push the water away, and it does more than instantly refill the gap, it prevents a gap from ever being created. And when the wave you make hits the edge of the pool, it will bounce back to you.

As The Secret briefly mentioned to its credit, “anti-” activities are not very productive. Anti-war movements often have the effect of prolonging wars. Wars on poverty, drugs, and terrorism are “pushing-against” actions which ultimately have no effect on poverty, drugs, or terrorism except to give these forces even more energy. And wars in general usually have little effect except to plant the seeds of resentment that spring future wars.

Yes, you can push against another person in the pool, but the result will be that you move away from them more than you make them move in any intended direction. You can not change another person. You can only move yourself. Learning to move efficiently in the water is a skill that takes practice. Fortunately there are teachers who not only know the water intimately, but who also live in the awareness of what is beyond the pool.

The edge of the pool is the only thing that you can really push against. When you’re in contact with it, you can launch yourself and move rapidly through the water. Even though you live out this life in the pool, what’s beyond the pool remains important. As the pool holds you, there is That which holds the pool. It is the foundation of the universe.

Punctuate this.

Add the missing punctuation to Jesus’ saying:

take heed that no one deceives you for many shall come in my name saying I am the Christ and will deceive many

If you’re like most people familiar with the verse, you probably punctuated it in the way that’s been traditional in most translations of Matt. 24: 4b-5, something like:

Take heed that no one deceives you, for many shall come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.

However, of course, the original Greek had no punctuation except (occasionally) for the ends of sentences. The King James Version, in fact renders it without quotation marks:

Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Are you beginning to get a different feel for the verse yet? What if the best translation were actually like this:

Take heed that no one deceives you, for many shall come in my name, saying that I am the Christ, and will deceive many.

Could Jesus have meant that the deception would be from future people coming in his name, saying that he is the Christ? I think this might well be what he meant. Consider the traditional translation again. “Many shall come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ.'” There’s a disconnect between the fact that Jesus says the deceivers come in his name, very plainly, and that they’re apparently claiming themselves, not him, to be the Christ. That sounds unlikely for the “many” who come in his name, and not their own.

In contrast, the simple translation “come in my name, saying I am the Christ,” implies that the deception comes from people coming in Jesus’ name, saying that he is the Christ.

What’s wrong with this picture? Maybe nothing. The traditional translation seems right because in Matt. 16, Peter recognizes Jesus as the Christ, and Jesus congratulates and blesses him for receiving the grace to see it.

Yet the canonical gospels also record that Jesus’ deepest prayer was that all of his disciples would attain the same unity with God, him, and each other, that he had, (John 17.21-23), and that they would do greater things than he (John 14.12).

The deception is that Jesus is the only one who is to be Christ. Paul went to great pains to show that all of us are to be Christ with him. Every master intends for his disciples to learn what he teaches, and to be able to do what he does. Let’s get on with it. Take away the sins of the world. Forgive. Heal. Love radically. It’s your turn to be the Christ.

Steve Pavlina on the Law of Attraction

The “Law of Attraction” is definitely buzzing around the memosphere now. The movie and book The Secret deal with the idea, although rather superficially, almost conveying the idea of magical wish fulfullment. That approach has been roundly and properly criticized, and by none other than my friend Kay.

Yet there’s something there, something about it. I can’t put it into words, for two reasons: I don’t understand it myself, and I also have done little conscious work with it. Yet, my recent posts on love and the Golden Path seem to me to be directly related to the subject, whether or not they have any overt resemblance to Napoleon Hill’s get-rich formula.

In his recent posts, Steve Pavlina is writing about the subject in great depth, and from a more universal, general perspective, than either the self-help gurus or my “feel love” posts, although the terminology he uses is unique and takes some getting used to. One point he makes is that the “Law of Attraction” becomes activated by what he calls “polarization,” essentially the decision to commit one’s entire being into either the direction of a lightworker or a “darkworker:

The decision to polarize is a decision you make with every fiber of your being. For some people it may be a natural choice, felt as a type of calling. Others have to spend a lot of time exploring both polarities to make the polarization commitment very consciously and deliberately. But most people never polarize.

If you polarize as a lightworker, you are dedicating your life to serving the greater good.

If you polarize as a darkworker, you are dedicating your life to serving yourself.

To use a Star Wars analogy, it is similar to deciding whether or not to become a Jedi or a Sith. It should be rather obvious that most people never make this kind of commitment in their entire lives. Hence, most people are neither lightworkers or darkworkers. The two extremes of committing one’s life to serving the greater good or to serving one’s own self-interest are not attractive to most people. It is simply not for them.

This makes sense to me. The real “secret” isn’t imagining or feeling or projecting thus-and-such, but the commitment to one path or the other. Then, thoughts, feelings, actions are bound to be congruent and harmonious with one’s goals.

As for myself, I’m really hoping for more to join the Jedi team.

The Sweet Pain

In 1998, I began writing a long poem, an epic poem, on the life of Christ. After about six weeks, I stopped writing it (though it didn’t leave me). What I was unprepared for was the intensity of his Presence as I wrote. Writing was prayer, and prayer was writing.

But it was more than that. I wrote about his love, and it was my love, and it burned so strongly that burned me. I truly felt like I couldn’t take it. It was just too much.
I never forgot it, though, and a year after I made my Bodhisattva vow, I also vowed to finish it. But I still couldn’t return to it. It was just too much.

Then over the next few years, all of my conceptions of God were destroyed. Yet, tonight, I find my thoughts again turning to writing this poem. I believe now I can return to it, and now I can relax in the Presence that burned me with his love a few years earlier. I don’t know how I have changed, and why I have that confidence. But it’s time to start writing again. (And a big thank you to Trev, for recommending Pronoia).

The Golden Path has been shortened

Every now and then, I see a message in something objectively ordinary and meaningless, but subjectively a divine message. Today, as I walked away from work to my car, I took a shortcut through a Dillard’s store. There, on what must have been at least a dozen signs, written just for me, was the message:

The Golden Path has been shortened.

Bam! It had my attention. Although I still haven’t written about it yet, Children of Dune is one of my favorite sci-fi and spi-fi (spiritual fiction) films. The theme is the “Golden Path” that the protagonist must discover to become a bodhisattva and save humanity from disintegration and self-destruction, a path that demands he undergo an unprecedented transformation.

I often call my practice “the Path.” If “the Golden Path” has been shortened for me, I believe it’s largely due to my discovery of the power of consciously loving people, rather than the usual substitutes, unconsciously unloving, or (at best) consciously acting as though I did love people. My friend Julie and some others rightly questioned why feeling is a necessary part of love… isn’t the action of love (acting for the good of another) most important?

Let me clear up one thing. The feeling of love I’m talking about isn’t the needy, “oh, you make me feel so wonderful,” or “I need you,” romantic love. It’s agape, a perception of the inherent worth of each person as person, as the image of God, no matter how tarnished that image may be. It’s a felt desire to act (or not) in such a way that benefits those you love. To the extent that this love is a feeling (what a vague word!) it’s outward, a willing motion of the heart to see things as they are. If a return feeling of bliss or “being loved” is felt, that’s just frosting on the cake.

I no longer think that actions without feeling are quite on a par with those that are. Loving actions without loving feelings are inherently conflicted. There’s something that at best dilutes, and more likely, contaminates the “love” that’s being expressed. It may be a sense of duty… “Of course I love you, you’re my (fill in the blank). Or it can be an external reference (What Would Jesus Do?), which isn’t “bad” by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s an only an entry point.

Practicing “WWJD love” should naturally dissolve because, like Jesus, we are “moved by compassion” to act with love, as the Gospels describe his motivation repeatedly. When compassion becomes second nature, the motor of one’s being, one is becoming like Jesus in that regard. And one’s actions, whether or not they seem “compassionate” on the surface will be rooted in the medium as love demands.

The love that lacks feeling gives rise to all sorts of ego-boosting structures. (I didn’t want to, but I gave a coin to that beggar on the street. Hey, guess I’m loving after all!) Evil conflicts can easily be justified when felt love isn’t present. “Security,” “Freedom,” “The RIGHT thing to do” and other abstractions are easily adopted to dress up the ego’s actions. I don’t think the war on Iraq could’ve begun if our leaders felt unconditional love for all people. You don’t readily bomb people whom you feel love for.

But why this message, for me, today? It sure wasn’t because I was on the top of my game. Rather, it was a reminder. I had spent the workday feeling ill, put upon, and sometimes quite consciously unloving. I need to remember that the Golden Path has been shortened.

(Oh, and what did Dillard’s think they were telling me? To buy socks!)

Love your neighbor

Yesterday at work, I felt love for everyone around me. Friends, strangers, and even those whom I sometime don’t get along with so much. It’s a wonderful feeling.

It was partially a conscious decision—I want to love them. It was also grace.

And the only thing that was strange was how rare it is in my life, and I suspect, the lives of most others, to consciously feel love towards others unconditionally, outside of the safe circles of friends and family.

As a Christian, I remember being told that love isn’t a feeling, but willingness to help, and wanting the best for everyone. While that’s true, I think it’s more a starting point than anything else, or maybe even a cop-out.

Feeling love is possible! It’s fun! Yes, I had some moments of anger and frustration yesterday too, but they popped out of existence in seconds, like bubbles. Love your neighbor. It’s simpler than I thought.

I love you, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!