I was delighted and honored to have the following article posted in the Pathways to Family Wellness magazine Spring 2012 issue. The article, as printed in the New Edge Science section of the magazine, is available in pdf format.
Pathways to Family Wellness is a non-profit quarterly print and digital magazine with a mission to support you and your family’s quest for wellness.
I call it “quantum consciousness”: the consciousness we access when we use the potential of our quantum-computer brains. The brain is a macroscopic quantum system, yet we use it as if it were exclusively a classical biochemical system. With its quantum-system functions, our brain can receive information not only from our eyes and ears, but directly from the wider world with which we are “entangled”–nonlocally connected. Insightful people throughout history, whether shamans or scientists, poets or prophets, have extensively used this capacity, innate to all human beings. Today it is widely neglected. This impoverishes our world picture, and causes a nagging sense that we are separate from the world around us.
I believe that quantum consciousness could be the next stage in the evolution of our consciousness–and that this evolution could be our salvation. Let me explain.
The first thing I ask you to note is that human consciousness is not static, fixed once and for all. It’s the product of a long evolutionary development, and is capable of further development. In the 50 thousand–year history of the species we proudly call homo sapien, the human body didn’t change significantly, but human consciousness did. And it can change again.
In a variety of “alternative cultures,” a new consciousness is already emerging. The members of these cultures–the green movement, the peace movement, the sustainable living movement, the movement of cultural creatives, and others–share similar social values and are open and interactive with the larger society; they don’t seek isolation or indulge in promiscuous sex.
They aim to rethink accepted beliefs and values, and adopt a more responsible style of living. They shift from matter- and energy-wasteful ostentation toward voluntary simplicity and the search for sustainability and harmony with nature.
A new consciousness is now struggling to be born. Does this mean that the consciousness of humanity itself is evolving? Some famous thinkers have said so. The Indian sage Sri Aurobindo spoke of the emergence of superconsciousness in ever more people, and this, he said, is the harbinger of the next evolution of human consciousness. In a similar vein, the Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser spoke of the coming of four-dimensional integral consciousness, rising from the prior stages of archaic, magical and mythical consciousness. The Canadian mystic Richard Bucke called the new consciousness “cosmic,” and in the colorful spiral dynamics developed by Chris Cowan and Don Beck, it’s the turquoise stage of collective individualism, cosmic spirituality and Earth changes. For philosopher Ken Wilber, these developments signify an evolutionary transition from the mental consciousness characteristic of both animals and humans, to subtle consciousness, which is archetypal, transindividual and intuitive, to causal consciousness, and then, ultimately, to “consciousness as such.”
Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof summed up the characteristics of the emerging consciousness as “transpersonal.”
There is remarkable agreement among these visionary concepts. Superconsciousness, integral consciousness, cosmic consciousness, turquoise-stage consciousness, and consciousness as such are all forms of consciousness that transcend the divide between you and me, the individual and the world, the human being and nature. If these thinkers are right, this kind of consciousness will be the next stage in the evolution of the consciousness of our species.
Quantum consciousness–QC–could perhaps be the next stage in the evolution of the mind of humanity, but why would it be our salvation?
The answer is simple common sense: because QC is a consciousness of directly intuited, felt connection to the world. It inspires empathy with people and with nature; it brings an experience of oneness and belonging. Quantum consciousness makes us realize that, being one with others and with nature, what we do to them, we do to ourselves.
Not only will QC make us behave more responsibly toward other people and the planet, it will also encourage us to join together to cope with the problems we face.
Most of us cooperate with members of our own families and communities. But cooperation has now become vitally necessary on the global level: It’s in all our best interest to cooperate with our fellows in the global community. Without such cooperation we’ll be hard put to overcome the global threats and problems that face us. Without cooperation we risk joining the countless species that became extinct because they couldn’t adjust to changed circumstances.
With dedicated and purposeful cooperation we can meet the challenges of human survival: We can have 7 billion or more people living peacefully and sustainably on the planet. We have the technologies, the skills and the necessary financial and human resources. Abject forms of poverty can be eliminated, energy- and resource-efficient technologies can be made widely available, water can be recycled and seawater desalinized, and sustainable forms of agriculture adopted. We can be more efficient and effective in harvesting the vast stream of energy that flows from the sun to our planet. And to finance these projects we would only need a small part of the enormous sums of money that we now commit to speculative, self-serving or downright destructive ends.
Cooperation on the global level is a new requirement in the history of our civilization, and we are not prepared for it. Our institutions and organizations were designed to protect their own interests in competition with others; the need for them to join together in the shared interest has been limited to territorial aspirations and defense, and to economic gain in selected domains. The will to cooperate in globally cooperative projects that subordinate immediate self-interest to the vital interests of a wider community is still lacking in the political and economic domains.
When all is said and done, the fundamental need of our time, the precondition of creating a peaceful and sustainable world, is the spread of a new and more evolutionarily adaptive consciousness—the quantum consciousness of oneness and belonging.
Forms and intimations of the new consciousness are already emerging in the world, but they haven’t yet reached the mainstream. When QC becomes mainstream, humanity will have reached a higher stage of maturity. It will have become a species that has not only the technologies and the skills, but also the wisdom and the will, to survive in the world it has itself created.
You know, I do get fed up with all the stories of gloom and doom and more doom. The truth is that I actually love Nature, and especially animals. You know, the other creatures we share the planet with and ignore, or use?
We must organize at the planetary level. How do we do this? We have never been able, as a species, to co-habitat together peacefully at any time really. Are the religions right? Are we tainted? Or do we accept the challenge and evolve?
You first need to have an ego in order to be aware that it doesn’t exist.
by Maria Popova
“To understand the Dalai Lama … perhaps it’s most useful to see him as a doctor of the soul.”
I think a great deal about the difference between routine and ritual as a special case of our more general and generally trying quest for balance — ripped asunder by the contrary longings for control and whimsy, we routinize daily life in order to make its inherent chaos more manageable, then ritualize it in order to imbue its mundanity with magic, which by definition violates the predictable laws of the universe. I suspect that our voracious appetite for the daily routines of cultural icons is fueled by a deep yearning to glean some insight on and practical help with this impossible balancing act, from people who seem to have mastered it well enough to lead happy, productive, creatively fruitful, and altogether remarkable lives.
Perhaps the most unexpected yet brilliant master of this elusive modern equilibrium is the Dalai Lama.
In the altogether magnificent The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (public library), writer Pico Iyer — who has known the beloved spiritual leader since adolescence and, by the time he began writing this book, had visited him in his exile home for nearly thirty years — describes how the Dalai Lama begins each day:
[By] nine a.m. … the Dalai Lama himself had already been up for more than five hours, awakening, as he always does, at three-thirty a.m., to spend his first four hours of the day meditating on the roots of compassion and what he can do for his people, the “Chinese brothers and sisters” who are holding his people hostage, and the rest of us, while also preparing himself for his death.
Compressed into this humble and humbling morning routine is the entire Buddhist belief that life is a “joyful participation in a world of sorrows.” This daily rite of body and spirit is the building block of the Dalai Lama’s quiet and steadfast mission to, as Iyer elegantly puts it, “explore the world closely, so as to make out its laws, and then to see what can and cannot be done within those laws.” He writes:
To understand the Dalai Lama … especially if (as in my case) you come from some other tradition, perhaps it’s most useful to see him as a doctor of the soul.
As someone deeply invested in the crucial difference between information and wisdom, I was particularly fascinated by the Dalai Lama’s information diet — that is, what daily facts he chooses to fuse with ancient wisdom in his dedication to unraveling the nature of reality and making use of it in fortifying the soul. Iyer writes:
As a longtime student of real life, ruler of his people before the age of five, he listens every morning to the Voice of America, to the BBC East Asian broadcast, to the BBC World Service — even while meditating — and devours Time and Newsweek and many other news sources (I think of how the Buddha is often depicted with one hand touching the earth, in what Buddhists call the “witnessing the earth” gesture).
And yet the Dalai Lama approaches his information diet like he does his meditation — as a deliberate practice. In that sense, “meaning diet” is far more accurate a term, for he is remarkably deliberate about which aspects of the Information Age to fold into his meaning-making mission and which to sidestep. He chooses, for instance, to avoid one of the most perilous byproducts of our era, which Susan Sontag presaged in 1977 in her famous admonition against “aesthetic consumerism.” Iyer writes:
In the Age of the Image, when screens are so much our rulers, anyone who wishes to grab our attention — and to hold it — does so by converting himself into a “human-interest story,” translating his life into a kind of fable…. Those who long to be entrusted with real consequences in our lives acquire that power increasingly by presenting themselves as fairy tales.
The Dalai Lama, by nature and training, is in the odd position of trying to do the opposite: he comes to us to tell us that he is real, as real as his country, bleeding and oppressed, and that he lives in a world far more complex than a two-year-old’s cries of “Good Tibetans, bad Chinese” (the Dalai Lama would more likely say, “Potentially good Tibetans, potentially good Chinese”).
At the heart of this message is a larger testament to the most essential characteristic of reality — something Alan Watts, who began popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West when the Dalai Lama was still a teenager, captured memorably when he wrote: “Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others.”
Indeed, contacting this interconnectedness of all beings and all lives is the very impetus for the Dalai Lama’s morning routine and his information diet — a beautiful assurance that beneath our obsession with routine and ritual lies a deeper, more expansive longing for meaning, for orienting ourselves in this vibrating universe of interconnectedness that we call reality.
Iyer articulates this elegantly:
Imagine, for a moment, that you are a body (not difficult to do, since in part that is what you are). You have eyes, ears, legs, hands, and, if you are lucky, all of them are in good working order. You never, if you are sane, think of your finger as an independent entity (though you may occasionally say, “My toe seems to have a mind of its own”). You are never, in your right mind, moved to hit your own foot, let alone sever it; the only loser in such an exercise would be yourself.
This is all simplistic to the point of self-evidence. But when the Buddhist speaks of “interdependence” (the central Buddhist concept of shunyata, often rendered as “emptiness,” the Dalai Lama has translated as “empty of independent identity”), all he is really saying is that we are all a part of a single body, and to think of “I” and “you,” of the right hand’s interests being different from the left’s, makes no sense at all. It’s crazy to impede your neighbor, because he is as intrinsic to your welfare as your thumb is. It’s almost absurd to say you wish to get ahead of your colleague — it’s like your right toe saying it longs to be ahead of the left.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is famous for his laughter, the sudden eruption of almost helpless giggles or a high-pitched shaking of the body. Seen from the vantage point of one who meditates several hours a day, traveling to the place where everything is connected, much of our fascination with surface or with division seems truly hilarious… Talking about friends and enemies is a little like holding on to this hair on your arm and claiming it as a friend, because you see it daily, and calling the hair on your back an enemy, because you never see it at all. Talking of how you are a Buddhist and therefore opposed to the Judeo-Christian teaching is like solemnly asserting that your right nostril is the source of everything good, and your left nostril a place of evil. The doctrine of “universal responsibility” is not only universal but obvious: it’s like saying that every part of us longs for our legs, our eyes, our lungs to be healthy. If one part suffers, we all do.
Suddenly, the Dalai Lama’s morning routine and his information diet are revealed in a whole new light of meaning — they are a form of self-empowerment in the journey toward shedding self-centeredness. (Lest we forget, as another great Buddhist teacher has put it, “you first need to have an ego in order to be aware that it doesn’t exist.”)
Buddhists do not (or need not) seek solutions from outside themselves, but merely awakening within; the minute we come to see that our destinies or well-being are all mutually dependent, they say, the rest naturally follows (meditation sometimes seems the way we come to this perception, reasoning the way we consolidate it). If you believe this, human life offers you many more belly laughs daily, as the Dalai Lama exemplifies.
And there, with a good-humored smirk, Iyer reminds us that his perspective isn’t perched on a holier-than-thou branch in the tree of life but grounded in his reality as a Westerner and a writer, and thus a creature of ego trying to learn the very lesson he is channeling:
Why despair, indeed, when you can change the world at any moment by choosing to see that the person who gave your last book a bad review is as intrinsic to your well-being as your thumb is?
The Open Road is an illuminating read in its totality, propelled by Iyer’s deeply pleasurable prose. Complement it with Iyer on what Leonard Cohen knows about the art of stillness and his superb On Being conversation with Krista Tippett, in which he recounts the experience of shadowing the Dalai Lama in order to capture his inner light:
The Global Elite’s Crimes Against Humanity
For thousands of years, people have been writing about happiness. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristippus concluded that happiness lies in the pursuit of external pleasure. Others, from Antisthenes to Buddha, have stressed that looking inwards and leading an ascetic life based on virtue, simplicity and inner peace is the route to happiness. And then there are those like Schopenhauer who seem to think that we can only be occasionally happy in what is essentially a miserable world: life only oscillates like a pendulum, back and forth between pain and boredom.
Happiness is, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a state of well-being and contentment: a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
For some, happiness runs much deeper than merely being content. Aristotle held that being virtuous was only one aspect of happiness. In the absence of say wealth and intelligence, virtue could only bring about a form of contentment.
But sometimes that’s not enough. Certain people strive to achieve an ongoing state of bliss, of feeling at one with the universe and everything in it. Through years of meditation, self-reflective practice or consciousness development, they can learn to transcend the illusion of existence and live life on a higher reality. A case of ignoring reality while striving to live out an illusion?
However, let’s not get too caught up in cynicism here. Illusion is all around us – both on a personal level and on a wider political level. The type of society we live in has a huge bearing on happiness or well-being.
From Bernays to Albright: ‘their’ happiness, our misery
Virtually every government in the world creates an illusion for its people. Take economic policy. Government policies might hurt us in the short term, but we are all on a one way route to the ‘promised land’ of happiness, or so we are told by the politicians, the corporate media and spokespersons for the ones who make us suffer to ensure they never have to – the privileged elite, the ruling class.
Western governments set out to con ordinary working folk by bringing us war in the name of peace, austerity in order to achieve prosperity and suffering to eventually make us happy. Is there any room for truth? Politicians never like to tell the public the truth. The feel-bad factor is never a vote winner. Best to keep the public in the dark and rely on positive spin. If people knew the truth, they just wouldn’t be happy.
And selling the feel-good factor is all pervasive. In this age of irretrievable materialism, the route to happiness is more goods, better goods, newer goods. A never-ending smorgasbord of commodities to be craved for. In league with private corporations, governments have learnt to play on our desires to create a one-dimensional type of happiness based on consumerism.
In part, Edward Bernays is responsible for this. The father of modern public relations and propaganda, he was expert in manipulating human perceptions of pain and pleasure, misery and happiness. Tap into or shape people’s desires in a certain way, and you can sell virtually any notion of happiness (or reality), regardless of how bogus it may be.
Whether it was whipping up mass fear in the US about the bogeyman of communism or selling the ‘American Dream’ of happiness through consuming goods, Bernays and the advertising industry, which took its cue from him, were able to marry misery and happiness together – if you do not buy into consumer capitalism, the alternative will be misery; if you do not buy this or that product, life will be terrible; if you do not join in the celebration of capitalism, those awful Soviets will take over and impose a fundamentally unhappy system of equality on each and every one of us.
Under US capitalism, the lie was that everyone would all live happily ever after because of, not in spite of, gross inequality, massive privileges and disadvantages and exploitation of labour, which all went under the notion of meritocracy and a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
Bernays’ propaganda techniques set the stage for con-trick of ‘liberal democracy’.
The US government quickly learned that angels and demons could be manufactured out of thin air and, from Guatemala, Congo and Vietnam to Iraq wars and destabilisations could be built on packs of lies – lies about evil-doers about to kick down the door, lies about the impending misery they would inflict on the US and on far away countries and lies about the government delivering us from impending doom.
Of course, it is best to arm ourselves to the teeth with nuclear weapons to ensure no one imposes their miserable regimes or awful ways of life on us. And to prevent us all shuddering with the fear of the threat of nuclear Armageddon on a daily basis, it’s a case of don’t worry, be happy, forget about it and watch TV. Even the very real danger of near-instant annihilation of the species is shoved to one side for the sake of a feel-good culture.
And the best way to instill that feeling is to have us endlessly treading around a wheel in a cage. Millions are locked into the pursuit of the Bernay’s model of happiness. They are locked into addiction. Addicted to the pursuit of acquisition, of hedonism, of chasing the dream. Addicted to the belief that there is a point to it all, where happiness is achieved by acquisitive materialism.
But, to paraphrase a sentiment from Buddhism: someone, somewhere, may well be suffering on our behalf for this happiness, this hedonism. There is no ‘may be’ about it.
So much blood has been spilled by those unfortunate enough to have been born in certain parts of the world on behalf of people in other parts of the world who deem the need to possess resources to be more worthy than the lives destroyed in order to grab them. Recall Madelaine Albright saying the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was a price worth paying for furthering the geo-political interests of US corporations. And yes, a drone attack here, some ‘collateral damage’ there, and those boys in the US control centres are happy with a hard days killing.
In the US Declaration of Independence, there is the phrase “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Freedom and happiness (or the pursuit of it) is central, albeit built on the misery of others.
‘Life’, ‘liberty’ and ‘happiness’ have become debased. Fed to the masses, happiness has been confused with excessive individualism and the never-ending pursuit of material goods. It became hijacked by the likes of Bernays. With his knowledge of psycho-analysis (Sigmund Freud was his uncle), he knew it was relatively easy to manipulate desires and get people hooked on indulging in certain behaviour, even if ultimately they don’t really want or need those consumer products, those ‘false needs’, they strive to acquire. Getting them hooked is what really counts.
You have no time to think about the disillusionment because you are all too busy buying the next quick-fix for happiness product. It’s called retail ‘therapy’ for good reason. A therapy that has no long-term benefit. It’s a feel-bad, feel-good then feel bad again spiral.
But who needs this form of ‘happiness’, this type of ‘liberty’, ultimately underpinned by an Albright-esque view of life and death? No one. Yet the masses are encouraged to swallow the lies. The propaganda is pervasive.
Look no further than all those feel-good Hollywood trash films, passed off as ‘blockbusters’, that gloss over or usually ignore all the mundane, miserable aspects of life in working class ‘America’. Little wonder half the world seems to want to live in the US. The need to portray a bogus notion of happiness has served to kick reality into touch. The Hollywood propaganda machine has seen to that.
The ‘wealth creators’ and their crimes against humanity
The great ‘American Dream’ was built on craving and propaganda. It was built on stripping the environment bare, on the unsustainable raping of nature to fuel profits, perpetual war and misery and suffering. The sociologist C.Wright Mills noted the existence of a post-war power elite in the US back in 1956. An integrated power elite of big corporations, the military and the political establishment. Fast forward 57 years and it is responsible for a body count of ten million dead and counting, a statistic, a dirty secret that Hollywood will never tell. Ten million slaughtered in US-backed wars and by death squads, covert ops and destabilisations (see this). Drug-running and the exporting of terror and murder, glorified by countless Hollywood icons, commentators and politicians under the banner of championing freedom and democracy.
The system in place exists to benefit not the majority, but small a minority of just 6,000 to 7,000 people, according to David Rothkopf. These are the extremely wealthy of the world who have cemented their position on the back of their ancestors and hundreds of years of capitalism. These are the people setting the globalisation and war agendas at the G8, G20, NATO, the World Bank, and the WTO. They are from the highest levels of finance capital and transnational corporations. These billionaires, this transnational capitalist class, dictate global economic policies and decide on who lives and who dies and which wars are fought and inflicted on which people. Although they are having a bit of difficulty in kick-starting it right now, with their see-through lies and hypocrisy, Syria is a case in point.
Their crimes against humanity are never mentioned as such. Instead, these people are called ‘wealth creators’. They are the self-anointed role models and captains of industry. The high flyers who have stolen ordinary people’s wealth, who have stashed it away in tax havens, who have bankrupted economies because of their reckless gambling and greed and who have imposed a form of globalisation that results in devastating destruction and war for those who attempt to remain independent from them, or structurally adjusted violence via privatisation and economic neo-liberalism for millions in countries that have acquiesced.
Little wonder then that attempts to redress the balance, to snatch control away from this criminal class, have been brutally suppressed over the decades. From democratic leftist organisations to any government pursuing a socialist alternative, this class has used intelligence agencies or military might to attempt to subvert or annihilate any opposition.
From El Salvador and Chile to Egypt and India’s tribal belt, ordinary folk across the world have been subjected to policies that have resulted in oppression, poverty and conflict. But this is all passed off by politicians and the corrupt mainstream media as the way things must be. And anyone who stands up to this lie is ridiculed at best or spied upon, tortured and killed at worst in order to prevent the truth from emerging. And that truth is that many of us know what ‘happiness’ really is, the type of society necessary to establish it – based on communality and economic equality – and that the immensely wealthy people who stand in its way do all things necessary to prevent us from having it. Socialism is not a dirty word.
Various well-being surveys indicate that happier societies invest heavily in health, welfare and education, are more equal and live within the limits imposed by the environment. Many less wealthy countries (and wealthy) do well in such surveys because cultural priority is placed on family and friends, on social capital rather than financial capital, on social equity rather than corporate power. It’s no coincidence that people in places like Britain and the US appear to be less happy than they were 40 years ago.
Karl Marx knew that self-actualisation was to be truly achieved in a society that makes it possible for someone to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as he has a mind. Being ‘happy’ is state of being, a state of worthwhile endeavour freely chosen and not imposed. It is not achieved through the pursuit of an ultimate unattainable elusive goal on a never ending treadmill of drudgery, a never ending treadmill of control. Not a fixed end point to be achieved by possessing a hundred latest, cutting edge consumer gadgets and indulging in the individualised competition of conspicuous consumption that proclaims ‘look at me, I’m better than you, I’m elevated from the crowd’. And by elevating oneself in such a way, the gregarious human animal is cut off from the wider group and may ultimately become rather unhappy.
And yet it is ordinary working class men (and women) who sign up to join the military and support this system on behalf of these immensely wealthy people. Such people have however always been adept in manipulating the masses to rally around flag and nation, evoking an emotive misplaced sense of patriotism to pursue their militarism or justify their exploitation.
In his book ‘A People’s History of England’, The Marxist academic AL Morton documented how ordinary people, over many hundreds of years, set out to challenge these rulers and often paid with their lives. Nothing ever came for free and ordinary working people fought tooth and nail for any rights that they managed to obtain
Such a travesty then, that today, ordinary people are denied economic opportunities because this class has sold their jobs to the lowest bidder in India, China or elsewhere. This class and its ‘think tanks’ were determined to shatter the post-war Keynesian consensus based on a robust welfare state and government intervention in the economy to help secure full employment. Any notions of ‘fairness’ and the benefits to be derived from the welfare state were to be substituted for positive notions about the free market and individual responsibility in order to justify the real intention of shifting the balance of power towards elite interests.
With workers’ wages having been depressed over a period of decades, demand having thus been propped up by debt and bankers demanding to be bailed out, how convenient that the lie of ‘austerity’ is being used as a battering ram to finish off what the likes of Reagan and Thatcher did in the 80s with their pro-big business, pro-privatisation, anti-union, anti-welfare policies.
And we are supposed to thank ‘them’ for this? To vote for ‘their’ politicians, to join in a media circus to celebrate the birth of another royal parasite, to support their killing in Syria, in Libya, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere?
Yes, we are supposed to back them and take in the poisonous lie that ‘we are all in it together’. And ordinary young men (and women) are supposed to sign up to fight their wars.
The working classes, the great, great grandchildren of the cannon-fodder ‘heroes’ sacrificed en masse on the blood-soaked battlefields of countless other wars that have gone before can now join up to fight again. For what? Austerity, powerlessness, imperialism, propping up the US dollar. For whom? Monsanto, Occidental Petroleum, BP, JP Morgan, Black Rock, Boeing and the rest.
The US economy has been hollowed out. Much of manufacturing has been shipped abroad. For those who benefitted, the US can go to hell in a handbasket, and it has. Meanwhile, for them, record profits ensue. It’s the ability to maximise profit by shifting capital around the world that matters to them, whether on the back of distorted free trade agreements which open the gates for plunder, or through coercion and militarism which merely tear them down.
In places like India, it cuts both ways. ‘Free’ trade and a state enforced militarism that both result in countless deaths and the forced removals of hundreds of thousands of the nation’s poorest folk from their lands and villages for the benefit of powerful corporations and a bogus notion of development. “I love my India” well-off ordinary urban dwellers often say. Patriotism has always been a distraction, a tool to be ignited by the oppressors at will among the masses.
As societies become hollowed out, with empty echoes of patriotism ringing out, they increasingly resemble boxes. The only thing inside however is a giant, brutal mechanical hand. There is nothing else apart from it. And it’s only function is to pull the lid shut if anyone ever dares to tear it open and shed light into the box. If successful, they will see the immorality, the lies, the hypocrisies. The social control based on the subversion of life, liberty and happiness.
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.
by Robert Piper
May 18, 2015
When I was 18 years old, I suffered from anxiety and stomach problems.
A compassionate physician and practicing Buddhist referred me to a Taoist monk who specialized in meditation and martial arts. I ended up healing myself of anxiety and stomach issues by doing meditation, and went on a great journey of self-discovery.
Here are 9 lessons I learned while studying with a monk:
1. Keep trying until you get it right.
The most important life lesson I learned was trying something three times (maybe even four times) before you stop trying and move on. Also, this monk taught me that, even after multiple tries, you should work on different angles to approach things that are difficult.
If you keep trying, you’ll eventually get where you’re going.
2. The answer to your question is inside of you.
As part of the original monastery training, a monk didn’t answer direct questions from a student unless it was a well thought-out question. A Chinese proverb says, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”
Some forms of Zen Buddhism use a very similar style of training. An old saying (by Taoist monks) goes like this: “In making a four corner table, the teacher shows the student how to make one corner. It’s the student’s job to figure out how to make the other three.”
They did this because they were preparing a student to deal effectively with problems in the real world.
I traveled to South Korea one time, and I found it fascinating how much you have to rely on your intuition when you don’t speak the native language of a country. I remember one instance, I had trouble explaining to the cab driver where my hotel was, and he didn’t speak English.
So I had to get out of the cab and ask several people until I could find someone to tell the cab driver in Korean how to get to my hotel.
In life, whenever we try new things, we have to go into new places with only a small amount of information. The real world doesn’t give us all the answers. The greatest teacher is inside of us.
3. Real wisdom in life comes from doing something and failing.
Prior to starting meditation, I used to get upset when I’d try something and fail.
I’ve been in sales since I was sixteen. I remember going to work and getting so angry with myself because I didn’t get a sale. If I ever got rejected, I’d get upset with myself, and I’d want to quit my job. But I just keep failing over and over—until I became good at it.
I remember, when I first started doing meditation, I ran into several problems. For example, at first it was difficult to calm down; but if you stick with it, its gets easier and easier. I tried for only a few minutes, and then every day, I added more time onto my meditation.
When we struggle, we learn about ourselves and what we need to do to become stronger.
4. When you start to do meditation you recognize the egotistical mind.
Everything in the ego’s world is the result of comparing. I compared myself to other salesmen and would blame myself because I wasn’t making as much money as them.
When I started doing meditation, I began to build separation from this egoistical mind, which is consistently making these comparisons.
A lot of us try something and get rejected, so we give up. Even worse, we blame ourselves for a long time and get depressed. When I started to do meditation, I began to identify my ego and was able to build separation from it.
That’s what happens when we meditate: We separate from the part of ourselves that dwells on comparisons, and start learning to live a life that isn’t driven by our egos.
5. We must be both compassionate and resilient.
The monk wouldn’t meet with me to train unless I called him a minimum of three times. I hated this part. I used to call and call and he would never answer. But this is how life is. How many times do you have to call or email someone to get something done in the real world? It’s usually several times.
Most of us blame ourselves when we try once to do something and fail. At the time, I hated this part of the training, but now I think it was the most important life lesson.
There’s a Taoist proverb that says, “Cotton on the outside, steel on the inside.”
It reminds us to be compassionate, but not weak.
6. Patience is a virtue.
The monk always made me wait — and I dreaded this.
For example, when I got to his house to train, he’d make me wait for a minimum of a half-hour, sometimes longer. We’d go out to dinner on Friday nights and he’d show up at the restaurant an hour late.
He’d tell me to meet him at a particular restaurant at 7:00. I’d get there and find out that he wasn’t there. So I’d usually be sitting in the restaurant by myself fumbling with my phone, acting like I was texting someone, while worrying about what everyone at the restaurant was thinking about me.
Keep in mind, it’s not like I could call him; I don’t think the guy ever turned his cell phone on. Then he’d show up at about 8:15 and act like nothing happened.
His first question was always, “How’s your mother and father?” (Of course in my head I’m thinking, “What do you mean, ‘How’s my mother and father?’ I just waited here for an hour and fifteen minutes.”)
But after a few years of this, it never bothered me; and not only that, it spread to every area of my life. Because of this training, I can honestly say that I very rarely get upset about anything. I never get agitated anymore when I have to wait in a long line or when someone cuts me off on the highway.
Patience is the gift of inner calm.
7. Detach from your ego.
At first, it’s hard to sit at a restaurant by yourself. You’re constantly worrying, thinking that people probably think you’re a loser because you’re sitting by yourself. But the reality is, you will never be happy if you care about what people think you!
Prior to starting meditation, I’d get upset over just about anything. Now, nothing really bothers me. Recently, I was in the airport and there was a several hour delay on my flight. I just used that time to do meditation. Ten years ago, I would have become extremely upset. An airplane delay would have ruined my day.
When you let go of your ego needs, it’s easier to accept and even benefit from whatever comes at you.
8. In Taoism, they say, “No self, No enemy.”
It’s the enemy within that causes all of our fears, worries, and insecurities. If you come to terms with this enemy within, it will impact every area of your life. It’s the identification with the “self/ego” that causes all of life’s problems.
How many times do we not go for something because of fear? Think about all the fears that we have conjured up in our minds that stop us from being truly happy. If you can conquer the enemy within yourself, you won’t have an enemy outside yourself.
9. Happiness come from within, and also comes from outside.
I learned this from observing the Buddhist Physician I met. He used to do meditation in his office before he would interact with his patients. He was one of the happiest and most compassionate people I’ve ever met.
By creating happiness inside, he was able to increase that emotional state by spreading it to others.
We must cultivate happiness from within, and work to spread it around to everyone we interact with. The monk used say, “Everyone has a purpose or a mission in life.”
We have to find happiness within, and also find our purpose on the outside.