Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Dying Sun

A blood red sun hangs just over the horizon, her light spilling copiously into the sky like a rupturing wound, as my car races along the country road to win me a clearer glimpse.  Reaching a vantage point, I finally stop just in time to watch her slow, haunting descent into oblivion . With naked eyes, I behold her in her fullness, her light raw yet soothing to my gaze.  And I am struck with a certain unwavering sentiment: that pain is the wavelength of life that reveals the totality of who we are in spirit. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

SoulExplore : My Latest Venture

Dear Readers,
After a year of blogging via the existential funk hole, I feel it is time for me to strike out in a new creative direction.
SoulExplore is my new venture which I invite each of you to partake in. Please check out the website, subscribe to my updates and forward it to anyone you feel may benefit from it. Thanks to all of you for your support and readership over the past year. I will be moving my blogging from the Existential Funk Hole to this new site from now on. See you there!
Shiv Sengupta

Friday, April 12, 2013

Life is a House

Your life is a house. You are the space in which it exists.
At first the space has no name to go by.
No one to claim, "this is mine."
You are this space of infinite possibility.
Empty of all but imagination.
The dream of the whole world exists in this space.

And then one day, the space is claimed.
It is portioned and sectioned and marked : "private property".
People will think twice before treading here now.
All will know that they are only welcome with your consent.

Here, in this space, you must build your house.
Take the time to dig deep and lay your foundations well.
It may seem slow and tedious work,
But you will only know its value when
The brutal storms of circumstance come knocking at your door.

As you lay your foundation,
The weather can be both a friend and a foe.
Cracks in the earth may appear from the heat of the scorching sun.
Or the ground may be softened by torrential rain.
You cannot control the circumstances of your foundation years.
You can only do your best to keep true to your purpose.

As you erect the frame of your house,
Ensure that the structure is sound,
And aesthetically true to who you are.
Don't worry about how big, small, grand or ordinary it is
Nor what the neighbors might whisper and think
This is your house and yours alone
It does you no benefit to alter its designs to please the sensitivities of others

Build your windows wide and in every direction
These are the windows of your mind
They will welcome the light of wisdom and patience on bleak winter days
And the winds of fresh possibility when spring emerges
Keep them open as often as you can
So that you are never a stranger to the chirping of sparrows
The laughter of children
Or the aromas of freshly baked apple pie

Keep the furnace of your heart always lit
Even if you do not need its warmth in the moment
Even if the matters of the world require your urgent attention
Attend to your furnace often
Watch the flames childishly play and dance about
No matter how many years roll on by
No matter how the world changes just as your body changes
The flame in your furnace will never age
It is just as it was the day your house was built

Keep your basement free of clutter,
This basement that is your subconscious mind
Where the secret cracks and fissures of your childhood years
Remain hidden and forgotten even to you
Endeavour to spend time here often
Attending to each crack, each fracture of your foundation
You can only heal it with your own awareness
Compassion is the only sealant which works after the fact

Furnish your home sparsely yet tastefully
Occupy it with the experiences and events you love
Rather than those that you think you want or the world says you need
Let space, not things, be your primary focus
Because it will always be a reminder of your original self
This space was here before anything else
Treat it with consideration and above all respect

Attend to your house diligently and often
Make repairs when necessary and renovate once in a while
This house is the deepest expression of yourself
Have fun with it and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty!
But don't get so fixated that it becomes your obsession
Don't struggle to make it flawless or perfect
The imperfections are half the charm
It is what makes it recognizable to passersby on the street

Above all, keep the door to your house always open
Welcome friend and stranger alike to come share in its warmth
This house is a living, breathing thing
Not some inanimate structure of wood and stone
The walls have ears and the windows have eyes
Let the sound of laughter echo through them often
And gestures of kindness be a commonplace sight
Your house will learn from you and respond in kind
Don't blame it for your misfortunes or credit it with your joys
It is only a faithful companion that always follows your cue

The day will come when this house must fall
Either from the onset of a terrible storm
Or from the natural consequence of wear and tear
Great sadness will accompany this event
As will joy at the memories that were created within its walls
The neighbors will be reminded of what once was
Each time they gaze at the empty space in which your house once stood

And yet, from the little windows of their own perception
They are unable to recognize what they see
Only you are aware that nothing has happened
Nothing has been lost and nothing gained
You continue to exist unchanged, unaltered
To remain as the space that you always were
Free once again to dream and imagine 
You ponder upon the next house that you will build.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Purpose of Your Life

The purpose of your life is being satisfied already. You are the purpose of your Life. You grow up being taught to define yourself according to the various roles you play, the various functions you serve. Society values everything according to its usefulness. And this extends to human life as well. You are taught to value yourself based on your ability to contribute, to make a difference, to be of use. And for most people, the existential question of what the purpose of their existence is, really translates into questions : what value do I represent? What greater use am I to serve?

Every child is born essentially worthless by these standards. However, each child represents a potential for future worth, an investment which, if properly fostered and attended to, may reap great benefit in the future. This is the mindset with which each one is raised. You are encouraged to accumulate knowledge, experience and build relationships with the single prerogative of becoming a fully functioning, continuing member of society. From a practical perspective there is nothing particularly wrong with this picture because in order for a society to function coherently it is important that each member contributes in an organized fashion in order to perpetuate and evolve its existence. However, the function you perform within society is just a small aspect of who you are. It is a role, a part you play in this drama that we have all agreed to participate in. By no means is it the whole of what you are. It barely scratches the surface.

Each one of you plays a number of roles. You are simultaneously a father/mother, a son/ daughter, an employee, an employer, a citizen, a leader, a celebrity, an artist, a teacher, a friend, a guide, a student, an adviser  a customer, a driver, a pedestrian, a philanthropist, a businessman, a husband/wife the roles that you play are layered and each connects to the other in a seamless web. This web is the costume of your identity that you have painstakingly fashioned for yourself over the years. And within each of these roles, there is a purpose you serve. Each of these roles is useful within the particular frame of experience that it operates within.

You experience your life as a ceaseless transition from one role to another. One minute you are a wife/husband, the next an employee, the next an adviser  the next a citizen. Sometimes the roles make conflicting demands on your attention, sometimes playing the part seems overwhelming. Each one of you is essentially a juggler, juggling an increasing  number of balls in the air until the act of juggling itself takes over and becomes the dominant essence of your whole experience of life. At a certain point, when this act of juggling becomes so painful and tiresome and the fruits of your labors begin to taste less sweet no matter what you do and what you achieve, you begin to ask yourself : is there more to life then all this? What is the purpose of my existence? Is it merely to be a good wife/husband, an inspiring teacher, a model employee, a responsible parent, a law abiding citizen, a devoted child?

You sense that there is a depth to you that you are unable to become cognizant of, that you have no language to express. You turn to your religion or your god for answers and for some of you these answers will satisfy you for a while. But for others they seem to fall short somehow, providing a lot of feel good recipes and reasons for your existence but ultimately failing to touch upon that most intimate experience of your self.

You have fallen prey to the very mechanisms that you unwittingly adopted in your innocence. Unaware of what you were sacrificing you chose from one moment to the next to be told who you were by a world that hadn't the faintest clue to begin with. You placed your faith in others who in turn placed their faith in others who in turn placed their faith in others, in an endless loop of misunderstanding. You traded in the only certainty you ever had for an entire universe of doubt. That was your choice. And that is the choice each one makes from the perspective of innocence. It is the natural progression.

But, having lived like this for so many years, having experienced the fruits of all your choices and having seen the inherent hollowness of it all, you are driven to frustration, suffering and even despair as you begin to sense that none of it holds any real value. That the value all have agreed to attribute to it is entirely a figment of the human imagination. That your life is, in its most fundamental sense, absolutely valueless, absolutely meaningless and absolutely purposeless. Here, as you stand on the brink of this giant void, you are more closely yourself that you ever have been.

As you glimpse into this void, you experience the massive withdrawal of your mind recoiling from its own inevitable fate  After an entire lifetime of being subject to its iron rule, you have received your first taste of a realm within yourself that the mind cannot enter. The void you are perceiving is only the image that the mind conjures up for what lies beyond the limits of what it is able to conceive. What the mind cannot comprehend it sees as void. Yet that void is your own most essential self.

Your mind began in your innocence as the simple interpreter of experience. It did what it was constructed to do. To accumulate information, to analyze it and to reformat it. But there was no filter on what it accumulated and what it did not. Like a sponge it soaked up everything within its environment, wholeheartedly adopting everything it was told. Your name, your beliefs, your wants and desires, your pains and miseries, your roles and ambitions. Your mind became the voice of the world, instructing you every step of the way about who you are and what your purpose was. Like a regent that governs until the king comes of age, it perpetuated its own agendas on your behalf while you came to believe that its agendas were your own.

The first glimpse into the void catalyzed by your own doubt and despair is the sign of your coming to age. the regent has served its purpose and now it is time for the king to rule. As you begin to see through the hollowness of all the roles you play, become aware of that aspect of yourself that remained constant through all the experiences and all the functions. That sense of "you", that has never changed, that has never aged even as your mind has changed and your body has aged. Become aware of that most essential 'you' that has witnessed it all, been privy to it all and yet remains whole, intact and unaffected.

This is the real you. This is your most essential nature. This is the self that has no value because it is priceless. This is the you that is, and has always been, perfect. Realize the reality of yourself and you will simultaneously have discovered your purpose. Because the purpose of your Life is simply to live. It is your only true contribution and the greatest gift you could ever give to this world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Story of Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand the experience of another in a very visceral way. It is a capacity each person has. And yet it is a capacity that lies dormant to a great degree in most, expressed only in flashes here and there given an appropriate catalyst. For most people, empathy is a conditioned response to circumstances that their minds deem appropriate or worthy of such response. In other words, empathy is closely tied into your mind's most fundamental value systems. You are more likely to empathize with people and circumstances that mirror your own ideals than those that do not. As a result, your ability to express empathy becomes a function of how you tend to classify yourself. The limits and conditions you place on yourself translate into the selective manner in which you empathize with your environment. And so, empathy extends beyond just the capacity to understand another. It is more fundamentally a reflection of your capacity to understand yourself.  As you deepen and expand your understanding of yourself, so also does your capacity to feel empathy deepen and expand.

We are empathetic beings by nature. As children, our capacity for empathy is vast and largely unconditioned. Children are sensitive to their environments and function primarily using intuition. They have an innate ability to connect with people, creatures and objects in a far more direct way than do adults. That is because the filter of their cognitive-interpretive mind has yet to be fully lodged into place. When a three year old navigates its environment, it does so instinctively, whereas an adult is conditioned to take a much more calculated and measured approach. Morality, ethics, facts, opinions, value judgments and other means of classification that we are taught to use in order to analyze and segregate our experiences, are as of yet unavailable to the three year old. The child simply operates according to what piques its curiosity in the moment and, as a result, has a much more direct experience of the elements within its environment. Its awareness is unburdened by mental processes.

Conditioned Empathy

As an adult, you empathize as a result of your mental and emotional conditioning. You draw comparisons between the objects of your empathy and yourself and the more common ground you are able to find, the more your capacity to empathize increases. For example, you may feel more connected to someone who has experienced a circumstance of tragedy that you yourself had experienced. You may feel moved to share your experience with them because you have this sense of feeling their pain. As a result, you may feel united, or brought together, by the similarities in your circumstances. However, the sense of feeling the other person's pain is simply a projection of your imagination. Your mind, recognizing some of the similarities in circumstances, merely triggers memories of your own experience of pain or grief and projects it onto the other. On the other end, the recipient of your empathy is doing something similar. This person's mind, having drawn a similar comparison, projects his/her own experience of grief and imagines it to be yours. This mutual projection between the two parties seals the illusion of a shared experience whereas in reality there has been no such experience. The illusion becomes more apparent through the passage of time when circumstances begin to change and the things you once shared in common begin to gradually become less relevant. As the common ground between you and the other begins to shrink, so does your empathy. No longer are you able to feel the other person the way you once did. No longer are they able to feel you as they once did. As the circumstances that unified you slowly begin to fade, so does the unity. 

This mechanism of conditional empathy operates within all facets of human experience and relationships. Friendships are largely circumstantial, based on the commonalities people share. You often feel closer to friends that are going through the same experiences as you are than those that are not. Friends, who were once close in their youth, begin to drift apart when one gets married and has children while the other remains single and career driven. Marriages fall apart when the mutual interests and romantic drives that first created the sense of being united and in love, begin to fade into the mundane repetition of daily life, with each spouse finding the other increasingly incapable of satisfying their needs. Members of a community once united in a common political or religious ideology become polarized and conflicted when these ideologies or beliefs begin to change. Nations that were once faithful allies become sworn enemies when their interests begin to diverge.  

The ways in which you empathize with other organisms is also subject to this mechanism. You have a greater empathy towards more complex life-forms than towards simpler ones, since intelligence is one of the parameters by which you are taught to value yourself. The killing of dolphin evokes greater emotion than the killing of tuna, because people identify dolphins as being of a higher order of sentience, in other words "more human like" in their ability to emote. Eating horse meat is more horrifying than eating beef, because the horse is an animal associated with strength, beauty and grace - all prized virtues within the human experience. People are far more likely to be in an uproar over the government euthanizing stray dogs than rats, because they feel a greater sense of kinship with dogs. Witnessing a rabbit being hit by a car causes more distress than watching a fly being mashed against the windshield. Your empathy extends to a greater extent towards those beings with which your mind can imagine some sort of bond of identification. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines empathy as "the imaginative projection of a subjective state onto an object so that the object appears to be infused with it". The more complex the organism, the more room your mind has for imagination 

Within society, people find it easier to feel empathy for the poor, the unfortunate, the victim than they do for the greedy, the fortunate and the exploiter. The public hero's untimely demise is met with widespread grief and vigilance whereas that of the despised dictator is marked with celebration. It is far easier to feel empathy for the misfortunes of a law-abiding citizen than it is for those of a convicted felon. The same voice that demands for freedom for the oppressed, demands for the imprisonment of the oppressor. The empathy you feel for members within society is contingent on how closely they uphold the principles on which society is based. Because, the principles of society are to a large extent your own principles. You have acquired and assimilated them over the years. Your whole sense of identity is based upon it. 

Unconditioned Empathy     

The empathy that an infant or toddler feels on the other hand is not yet subject to this mechanism and is, as a result, largely uncontrived. The child does not know the difference between a citizen and a convict, a Catholic and a Muslim, a democrat and a republican, a celebrity and a bum. The child experiences its environment spontaneously and responds with an equal spontaneity. Its mind has yet to fully develop the faculties of self-awareness. What the child experiences as "himself" is essentially different from what you identify as your Self. The child has no opinions to express, no ideologies to believe in, no facts to reference. Even its emotions are experienced more as energetic sensations and are as yet unclassified by the mind as happy, sad, angry, jealous etc. The child feels what it feels from one moment to the next. With little material with which to define itself, it experiences less of a separation from its environment. The boundary between where its own self ends and where the rest of the world begins is somewhat blurred. The result is that the child experiences itself more seamlessly in relation to its environment. The sense of ownership that most adults feel about their experiences is virtually non-existent. 

As a result, the empathy a child feels is of a more constant and consistent nature. As long as its attention is directed outwards into its environment, its natural response to everything it interacts with is one of empathy. This is why infants tend to be so liberal with their affection. Unless it feels threatened in any way, a child will smile as easily for a stranger as it would for someone familiar. Children have an innate ability to form instinctive bonds with animals and even insects that most adults would find repulsive. They are far more eager to touch, taste or otherwise interact with the world they live in. They would much rather get dirty than stay clean, engage than retreat, roll around and absorb as much as they can of the world around them than attempt to stay removed and unaffected.  All these are marks of empathy.

It is only in moments when fear or hunger strikes that the child becomes suddenly aware of itself as a needy, individual identity, and its attention shifts away from the world and onto itself. In this moment it is consumed with its own body's cravings and it becomes a separate isolated entity struggling to survive. And yet, the moment its needs are met it goes right back to immersing itself in the world again, unconcerned. 

And so even the child's empathy is not entirely unconditioned. Rather the conditions are basic and fundamental to its survival and in most cases easily met. However, as the child grows and its faculties of self-awareness develop and sophisticate, so to do the number of ways in which it chooses to identify itself. Previously, where hunger and fear were the only mechanisms by which it became aware of its own separate existence, it now begins to use its name, its gender, its family, its school, its religion, its nationality, its talents, its desires, its dislikes, its frustrations as means by which to define itself, all of which are inherited, none of which are inherent. Its capacity to lose itself or become absorbed into its environment gradually diminishes as its capacity to lose itself and become absorbed in its own mind gradually increases. Even in moments of distraction or daydreaming, it is reminded by the society that rears it, that there is greater value in concentration and focus. At a certain point, its capacity to become self-aware from time to time begins to take over until it finally becomes pathological.   

The empathy it expresses as an adult is less consistent, greatly distorted by its belief systems and for the most part contrived by a need to perpetuate its own self-image. 

Completing the Circle 

As adults many have experienced the disillusionment that results from the shattering of one's belief systems, yet few use this as an opportunity to embark on a journey of self-inquiry and investigation. The nature of life is such that no illusion can be sustained for long. Every mind-made ideology and institution must eventually collapse no matter how resilient it appears in the moment. This includes political, religious, scientific, social, moral, familial and individual ideology. No matter what you believe is true about yourself, the circumstances of your life will sooner or later bring it into question. The manner in which you choose to respond to this circumstance will determine how your understanding evolves. Most people are unable to let go of their definitions unless forced by circumstances to do so and even then most are likely to trade in one set of definitions for another, because the human mind craves and finds security in its own definitions. To live in a manner in which you use no parameters by which to define yourself is unfathomable to most people. And yet that is how each person was born. It is what comes most naturally to you.

Catalysed by the suffering which is an eventual and unavoidable aspect of any experience that the mind attempts to control, you move from one experience of life to the next growing increasingly disillusioned with the entire process. When you were younger the world seemed far more vibrant and full of possibility. Love, excitement, travel, adventure, family, friendships were the promises that spurred your journey forward. Yet as days turn into years, marriages fall apart or hold together by a thread, work becomes monotonous and stressful, friendships become dry and lacking sincerity, even religion and spirituality become a chore, you begin to question the point of it all, the reason why the whole journey happened in the first place. Far less than the capacity to empathize with another, you hardly have much empathy for yourself, so disconnected have you become from the image you have of yourself in your mind. There is an intense sense of living "someone else's life". That's because you are.

When you begin to turn the mind's attention back onto itself, you have the opportunity, to witness all the mechanisms that have been operating behind the scenes. As you watch and begin to grow familiar with each of them, you are slowly able to recognize how each mechanism, each belief structure, distorts your experience in some way and creates a separation between yourself and your experience. The process begins with some of the more overarching belief structures like religious ideology, ethnic identity, political affiliations, career ambitions, social relationships etc. With each one you gradually begin to see the ways in which you inherited and adopted it and how it plays itself out in your experience of life and in your relationships with others. One by one, as you reveal each of these beliefs as false and gradually release them from your mind's grasp, you move into the subtler and more fundamental mechanisms that continue to remain in place. These may appear in the form of your own morality, your principles and ethics, your loyalties, your close and cherished relationships. These are more difficult to recognize and trace, yet with a keen enough perception you are able to see how even these most intimate of identities are all mechanisms that you inherited during your upbringing. 

At any stage during this journey of inquiry you may feel that you have endured enough, because inquiry is not a leisurely process. It is disruptive and grossly discomforting to the mind which is accustomed to relying on the security of its own beliefs. And yet, the inquiry is not complete until there is nothing left to inquire. Drilling down into the very depths of your existence you are compelled to question even the most fundamental assumptions you made about yourself - about your identity as a man or woman, as a human, about life and about death. The inquiry process is not a constructive one, it is wholly destructive. Its only purpose is to consume each and every mechanism that you have ever used in order to define yourself. When even the most basic of definitions is found to be baseless, you are left with nothing more than a barely structured thought that "I exist". And yet, even this basic sense creates a seeming separation with your environment. The subjection of this most fundamental thought to the power of your inquiry reveals that even this most basic and primal assumption is no more than an abstraction of the mind. Free of your mind's compulsive need to qualify your experience, you are now able to experience yourself as the totality that you are rather than simply the fragment you represent. 


The journey of empathy has effectively come a full circle. Unfettered by your mind and its identifications, you once again experience life in a seamless and spontaneous fashion. Your attention remains naturally resting and absorbed in the moment to moment transitions of your experience. And yet you have not lost the power for abstraction, analysis and imagination. In fact, your ability to use them in a much more focused and positive manner is enhanced. You no longer turn towards your mind to provide you with a sense of self. Your Self is what you know yourself to be in each moment as the total experience of that moment. Any mechanisms you continue to use to separate the experience are simply practical skills in your repertoire, rather than actualities.    

You express empathy naturally and unconditionally through no effort on your part, but simply because to express empathy is what feels most natural to you. You are most wholly yourself and that is reason enough. Empathy unobstructed by conditions or limitations is Compassion. To feel compassion is to empathize with all of life without separation, bias or discrimination. It is only when the separation and bias within your own self has subsided that you can perceive from that same perspective. Only then can empathy can flow without restriction. Only then can the mirror reflect without distortion.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Transcending Conflict

You cannot resolve conflict; you can only rise above it. Conflict has no resolution. Nor is it meant to. Conflict is an inherent and necessary mechanism by which this Universe evolves and expands. Without conflict, change would be impossible.

Most creatures thrive on conflict. They are compelled towards it and are strengthened by it. If you witness nature at work, conflict is evident everywhere. Trees are in conflict with one another for sun and soil. The grass in your lawn is in constant conflict with the weeds that threaten to overrun them. Animals conflict with one another over territory and food. Even the elements are in perpetual conflict as water erodes rock, as the sun vaporizes the sea, as fire devours forest, as the ocean floods the land, as the ground swallows life.

Conflict is at the very basis of your body's vital functioning. The cells in your body are in conflict with one another for nutrients, neurons are in conflict with one another to transmit information to your brain, your immune system is in conflict with external agents attempting to penetrate your body as we speak. 

Even within the mechanics of physics, friction is the conflict by which these mechanics can even exist. Your arm is in conflict with the shopping bag as you carry it, your feet are in conflict with the ground as you move, your car is in conflict with the road as you accelerate, an airplane is in conflict with gravity as it ascends. Conflict is the mechanism by which movement can happen. Without conflict everything ceases to exist.

As a result, any talk about 'resolving' conflict is to misunderstand the purpose that conflict serves. Conflict is not a mistake, never a mistake. You can attempt to resolve the context in which the conflict exists, but it will just assume another context and the process perpetuates itself. For example, you may choose to end the conflict your feet have with the pavement by sitting down, but then you will experience the conflict of gravity preventing you from moving forward. You may choose to sit down instead in a moving train but then you will sense the conflict of the train rocking against the tracks.

Historically as well, human society has evolved from one context of conflict to another: from tribalism to monarchism, feudalism, imperialism, fascism, authoritarianism, communism, socialism, capitalism each with its own flavor of inherent conflict. Where socialism addresses the conflict of sharing of resources it creates the conflict of stunting individual growth, where capitalism addresses the conflict of individual expression it perpetuates the conflict of distribution of resources. Each endeavour to resolve one context of conflict gives rise to another context of conflict.

Just like cutting edge medication eradicates a disease causing virus, the same medication is also responsible for the virus's evolution and ability to mutate into a newer and more resistant strain. The resolution of one conflict creates the context for another.  A rebel may succeed in overthrowing an oppressive regime and thus ending that particular flavor of conflict it brought with it, but the new system brings with it a whole host of new challenges and new conflicts.

When you speak about resolving conflict what you are really speaking about then is changing the context in which the conflict is happening. And changing the context is necessary when the conflict has exhausted its purpose. The purpose has only been exhausted when the environment ceases to thrive from the conflict any longer.

The first few billion years of our galaxy were those of great cosmic conflict. This conflict allowed for the creation of a higher order of organization within the solar system. Once this organization was achieved in the form of our sun and the planets, the conflict was no longer necessary. The barbaric cultures of the past once thrived on conflict. Wars, scourges, invasions, conquering and pillaging were the necessary means by which the various cultures of the world made contact and assimilated. Civilization grew and thrived on the blood of the innocent, for centuries. As we entered the 20th century however, the collective consciousness of our species began to realize that physical conflict was no longer a necessary experience for our evolution as a species. Now in the 21st century, the growing distaste for this sort of conflict has rendered war and bloodshed (although it still occurs) more and more irrelevant and collectively unbeneficial. The modern world is far too inter-related and interdependent to resort to physical conflict except as a last resort. Physical conflict has served its purpose in globally connecting our species. Now, the new context of conflict has become a technological and fiscal one. 

Even within your own personal life, you will notice the context continuously changes. The conflict you experienced as a child within the playground was dropped for a higher order of conflict that you experienced as an adolescent rebelling against the world which you then traded in for the conflict of being an adult struggling to pay the mortgage. The conflict of being single and lonely gives way to the conflict of being married and in a relationship. The conflict of being a low level career nobody transforms into the pressures of being a high level power player.

As long as you continue to define yourself within the context in which the conflict is happening, you will remain caught within the dynamics of the conflict and will experience the full brunt of it. But the moment you elevate your perception, you will find that although the conflict continues to exist on one level you have the ability to gain a deeper perspective on this conflict and can remain somewhat unaffected by it.

For example, a kindergarten teacher was a child herself once. As two kids scrapping with one another approach her bawling to resolve their differences, she is only able to do so because she is not relating to them from the same level of perception that they are operating from. She is able to see through the drama and yet knows at the same time that this kind of conflict is essential for the children’s evolution. However, she herself would find no benefit in getting into a scrap with another child over which toy to play with. Her perception has transcended that level of conflict a long time ago.

Wisdom can only function from a perspective that has transcended the circumstance. As long as the perception is subject to and dictated by the circumstance, wisdom cannot operate and as a result of which no true resolution to the context of conflict can be found. When you are 19 and madly in love, you do not have the capacity to see all the ways in which you are deluding yourself. It is only when you have experienced enough of that sort of drama in your life and have no more time or energy for it anymore can you witness it from a perspective that has transcended that conflict. Thus when you are a parent and witness your own child experiencing that sort of drama, you may guide them with a little wisdom. And yet any wise parent simultaneously knows, that belittling their child for experiencing that conflict is not productive either. Since the conflict is the necessary catalyst for the child's perception to transcend the circumstance. 

If you watch the close-up dynamics of the internal combustion engine of a luxury car, it feels like a tremendously violent experience. A camera lodged within the car's mechanics captures the explosion of fuel into flame, the deafening roar of the motor, the metallic screech of the brakes, the powerful hiss of the pistons, the frenzied movement of the tires, the stench of rubber burning against the asphalt. All this is a tremendously violent conflict happening as you drive and you are aware of it. And yet, from your elevated perception, the ride is the smoothest you have ever experienced. You have accepted that the conflict on the mechanical level is a necessary experience that facilitates the experience of pleasure from the human perspective. It’s all a choice.

Transcending conflict does not make you apathetic towards it, rather it makes you more effective in your ability to address it. No kindergarten child, no matter how enthusiastic, can resolve a kindergarten conflict as effectively as the teacher can. You can only dictate the conflict, when the conflict has lost its ability to dictate you.

If you are experiencing conflict right now, allow the experience to exist. Let go of the urge to resist it, because your resistance is what keeps it in place. Take a step back from your conflict and witness it. See all the ways in which it is necessary, all the ways in which it is not. Recognize that the conflict exists only for two reasons - the first is because you are able to thrive off it, the second is because you are meant to eventually transcend it. You cannot transcend until you have finished benefiting from it, you cannot benefit from it any longer when it’s time to transcend. Your own suffering is your indication of where you fall within that spectrum. When the experience of that conflict becomes so distasteful to you, you will begin to automatically reject it. Just like your body accepts water until its thirst is satiated. If you continue to feed it water it will begin to bloat and will finally vomit it up. 

Ultimately, all human experience is an experience of conflict within one context or another. The context is ever changing but the conflict is constant. When you no longer sense the need to define yourself by any of these contexts then your perspective becomes free to transcend the experience itself.  You are no longer motivated by human drama, personal or collective, and yet have the ability to perceive it in a whole new light. Even as you continue to be a part of, and to participate in its dynamics, you are not beholden to it. Free of the need to resolve anything, you have the capacity to channel the wisdom of a higher perspective into the conflict. Just like the kindergarten teacher is able guide the resolution of the child's conflict, you are able to more effectively guide a resolution to the human conflict.  Rather than with passion, which is an effect of being caught within the drama, you are able to respond with compassion which can only result from having transcended it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Playground of Imagination

Close your eyes. Immerse yourself in the darkness surrounding you. Allow everything to fall away. Forget yourself, who you are, what you are doing. Gradually, fall further and further into this abyss that is everywhere. Let your thoughts become no more than echoes fading into the distance. Let your breath be the only thing guiding you deeper and deeper. Nothing exists. Everything is forgotten. Sink into the depths of this emptiness. Become aware of the silence that grows as you descend. Silence is the sound of emptiness. Allow the silence to draw you in. Allow it to envelope you. Lost in emptiness, enveloped in silence the moment becomes a timeless experience of peace. Sense it. Know it. Become familiar with it. Allow yourself to feel this peace. Now become aware that you are not separate from this peace. The darkness, the emptiness, the silence, the echoes, the descent, the breath and the peace are all one seamless experience. It is all a flux. One transforms into the other, from moment to moment to moment. Now you are the darkness, now you are the fear, now you are the shallow breath, now you are the rapid heartbeat. Now you are the echoes in the mind, now you are the silence that envelopes, now you are the emptiness that surrounds, now you are the peace which remains. Become aware of every incarnation you assume. Watch it be born, watch it live a lifetime, watch it pass away. Rest in this abyss.

Open your eyes. Allow yourself to witness the world around you without comprehending. Witness your mind's impulse to rush into defining it. Like a fond mother gently restrains an overzealous child as they approach the playground - gently, fondly, compassionately restrain your mind from engaging right away. There will be plenty of time for play. First, you must learn to see that a game is all this really is. Remain aware of the silence, aware of the emptiness, aware of the breath as it continues to guide. Even with your eyes open, continue to linger in this perspective just a little bit longer. You are the peace which remains. Without comprehending the world, see the world. What do you see? Without comprehending the world, hear the world. What do you hear? Without comprehending the world, feel the world. What do you feel? Can you see the emptiness all around you, the emptiness within everything? Can hear the silence, the silence within the sounds? Can you feel the peace existing, the peace within the chaos? Just like the mother witnesses the playground drama unfold, with all the camaraderie, intrigue, friendship and betrayal that only children are capable of, with the same undifferentiated perspective of compassion; can you also witness the events of your world - with all the triumph, tragedy, heartbreak and celebration that only we humans are capable of, with the same undifferentiated perspective of compassion?

The mind is eager to play, I know. No need to restrain it any longer. You have arrived. Be gentle but firm with it, not strict. It was born to play. And play it will. Watch it take off the moment you let go of its hand - and suddenly you are once again you - this character that is your mind's creation, its prize possession, its favorite superhero doll. Allow the mind to use its child-like imagination to create new stories and new adventures for your character to embark upon. Witness its inexhaustible creativity at weaving thread after thread, story after story, adventure after adventure into an endless tapestry of a lifetime. Even when the story takes a darker or painful twist, don't worry too much. Children at play will sometimes get hurt. A wise parent is simply a guide, not an authoritarian. Pain is often the result of irresponsible play. Allow your mind to learn the hard way - that drama breeds suffering. The more freedom and autonomy you allow it the more it will learn to play responsibly.

No matter what costume you are being dressed in. No matter what role you are being asked to play. No matter what drama you are being asked to engage in, humor the mind but don't humiliate it. Let it know that you are choosing to play along out of love, not out of necessity. It will love and respect you all the more for it. If you scoff at the naiveté of your own mind, it may learn to respect you out of fear, but it will not love you. It will find a way to rebel. When the time for play is done, the eager mind will always want to remain at the playground a bit longer. It is energetic and enthusiastic and sometimes fails to recognize that the play, for the moment, is done. Gently remind it, that it needs its rest. That tomorrow is another day, another adventure on which you, its prized protagonist, will embark. 

As it slowly begins to rest, allow it to ease into your embrace. It may recount many of the adventures of the day: About the fantastical things it did and the not so great things that made it afraid. Give it your unconditional ear; listen to its every word as if it were the last. Trusting that it is safe in your embrace, allow it to gradually drift into silence. Slowly, surely let its rhythms become a more gentle flow.

Now, the mind is quiet again. Turn your attention inward. Close your eyes. Immerse yourself, once again into the darkness surrounding you. Allow everything to simply fall away. Forget yourself.