The River of Feelings

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“There is a river of feelings within us, and every drop of water in that river is a feeling. To observe our feelings, we sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it flows by. It may be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. One feeling lasts for a while, and then another comes. Meditation is to be aware of each feeling. Recognize it, smile to it, look deeply into it, and embrace it with all our heart. If we continue to look deeply, we discover the true nature of that feeling, and we are no longer afraid, even of a painful feeling. We know we are more than our feelings, and we are able to embrace each feeling and take good care of it.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo: © Yvonne D. Williams

For some reason this Thich Nhat Hanh quote stuck in my head when I read it because I know what he is referring to—I’ve felt it myself—the stepping out of intense feeling, no matter how painful it may be, and simply watching it flow over us as we remain sitting on the bank in silence before the enormity of the water passing through on its journey elsewhere.

If you aren’t sitting a part from it on the bank, that “River of Feelings” is a flow we continually ride—sometimes in a kayak gliding above the water and sometimes in an inner-tube with half our body immersed into it.kayakriverswirl67.jpg

So for us to say that we do not “feel” something emotionally is to say that we are riding the kayak as we skim the waves while still feeling the froth of turbulence. We may bob around a bit with emotion, but we’ve elevated our heads above the water and as long as we remain upright, we know that we won’t drown.

Inversely, when we are immersed in the feeling, we become the feeling and may struggle for our lives; clinging tightly to our inner-tube to keep our heads above water—for fear it drowns us with wave after wave of intense, gut-clenching emotion.

tube on river67Grief is an inner-tube type feeling. So is rage. It’s easy to be swamped when you immerse yourself in those feelings.

Some would say depression is such a feeling, but I believe that depression isn’t really a feeling as much as it is the result of losing the inner-tube completely and accumulating body fatigue from continually treading water without relief in sight.

So what is the difference between riding the kayak and sitting on the bank?

The kayak provides an experiential option for riding the feelings we naturally have during the course of our lives. It gives us buoyancy and distance from the worst of the emotional waves sloshing about us.

The bank is an entirely different perspective on emotional impaction. From the bank you do not participate in the feeling, you only observe it as it comes and goes, and try not to judge its rightness or wrongness; its power or onriverbank45.jpgaffectation on you.  You acknowledge it as it impacts you and note what is being felt, but you let it go—you let it move on and away without clinging to it—without wallowing in it or calling it back to re-experience, over and over.

It’s not easy sitting on the bank and observing your own river of feelings; and sometimes it’s hard to even find a kayak from which to navigate the powerful river of emotions that we feel.  At times when life takes a tumultuous turn for us, we feel fortunate enough to simply have that inner-tube to help keep our heads above the overwhelming waves.

What I think Thick Nhat Hanh was saying in this quote is that observing from the bank (meditation) is the far safer option for dealing with intense feelings, because it allows the greatest perspective on the river of emotion itself that we must experience over the course of our lives.

As humans, we will have good days and bad ones—people will come to us and then leave us through disagreements, grievances or death.

During the course of our lives, we make efforts to achieve or acquire what we do not have, and those efforts are sometimes successful and sometimes not.

We love and we lose love.

We agree and disagree with others, and feel both great joy and great fear at many aspects of life, including our own mortality.

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But during the course of our lives, that river of feelings flows on and on, over familiar ground or new ground—but it keeps moving onward until we individually feel no more and merge again with the Great Ocean of Consciousness that logs “all feelings” as simply a part of the living experience.

So keep your inner-tube always handy, and find a kayak when you can do so to keep your head higher above the waves; but if possible, try instead the view from the bank for its safer, broader perspective, and simply allow that emotional river to flow on by without judgment or clinging.

I know—easier said than done—but it IS possible to do it. Trust me on this one.

 

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The VICTIM or the WORLD

“So the question is fundamentally, do you define yourself as a victim of the world, or the world?”  – Alan Watts watts meaing oflife56.jpg

Here in this short video narrated by Alan Watts,  he asks “What does it mean to spiritually awaken?”

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7blUYJm6i-c

“So then, here’s the drama. My metaphysics, let me be perfectly frank with you, are that there is the central Self, you could call it God you could call it anything you like. And it’s all of us. It’s playing all the parts of all beings whatsoever everywhere and anywhere. And it’s playing the game of hide and seek with itself. It gets lost, it gets involved in the farthest out adventures but in the end it always wakes up, and comes back to itself. And when you’re ready to wake up, you’re gonna wake up. And if you’re not ready, you’re gonna stay pretending that you’re poor little me.”   – Alan Watts

Alan Watts is always interesting to hear; and his take on enlightenment is more direct and sometimes more cutting than the often gentle approaches of Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra.  But Watts is usually pretty clear and concise in his talks.

watts univers quote.jpgHe gets to the point quickly, but with more ‘attitude,’ I guess you could call it, than the others. (Some might call it an ‘entertainer’s ego’. Others might say he simply loved to poke fun at others who claimed to be “enlightened,” as well as poking fun at himself for his “polished spokesmanship” on the many subjects that he discussed.)

His online biography is interesting and quite colorful. He died in 1973 at the age of 58, but his influence lives on in all the YouTube videos that are broadly shared throughout social media. He has presently entered a resurgence of popularity for his sharp frankness and critique of religious institutions in general.

His second video listed here is called “How to Wake Up”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAQ4FuKlY9g

I personally find it helpful to sample all the flavors of enlightenment that others offer to us. Perhaps our own personalities respond best to one over the others.

To me as an energy worker, the feel of listening to Watts is not as peace-inducing as Tolle’s more soft and gentle approach.  Watts affect is more like stepping naked onto the shower floor and then turning on the water—where the first blast sprayed from the showerhead is cold and shocking before the warmer water rises through the pipes.

But in the 1960’s and 70’s—during the rise of the ‘Flower Children,’ he was the man to hear.

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On Jiddu Krishnamurti

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In my previous post, Chopra mentioned how influenced he was by Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was quite an interesting character in early 20th century philosophy and religious circles. As an adolescent in India he was “discovered” by Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society who was searching for the group‘s “world teacher.”

While Krishnamurti’s greatest thought and influence extended far beyond the limits of the TheJiddu_Krishnamurti_01.jpgosophical Society, the society itself was pretty amazing for the time period that it influenced:

(From Wikipedia) “The Theosophical Society was officially formed in New York City, United States, on 17 November 1875 by blavatskipicHelena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others. It was self-described as ‘an unsectarian body of seekers after Truth, who endeavour to promote Brotherhood and strive to serve humanity.’ Olcott was its first president, and remained president until his demise in 1907. In the early months of 1875, Olcott and Judge had come to realize that, if Blavatsky was a spiritualist, she was no ordinary one.[2] The society’s initial objective was the ‘study and elucidation of Occultism, the Cabala etc.’[3] After a few years Olcott and Blavatsky moved to India and established the International Headquarters at Adyar, in Madras (now Chennai). They were also interested in studying Eastern religions, and these were included in the Society’s agenda.[4] After several iterations the Society’s objectives evolved to be:

  1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
  2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science.
  3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man. …”

So back when Krishnamurti was still in his teens, these folks from this theology-philosophy cult adopted him to represent their beliefs and teachings about spirituality and life in general; and to share those thoughts—including his direct-connection abilities to Higher Truth—with the rest of the world. They helped him further cultivate his existing knowledgebase, and encouraged him to reach deeper to decipher the meaning and purpose to life; which he definitely did, and much of what he later wrote about or spoke about, was first encouraged and supported by the Theosophical Society itself.

Theosophical Society post card front 001.jpgNow my personal connection to all of this is as strange as it gets.

My grandmother grew up in a little town best known from Walt Disney’s early childhood: Marceline, Missouri.  And evidently Walt wasn’t the only artist or illustrator near that tiny town in the early 20th century.  Evidently an A. Theo Bondy also resided near my grandmother who was named Alice, or often called “Allie.” And she must have been early friends with Mr. Bondy because in 1949 he sent her a Christmas postcard that I found many years after my grandmother’s death. (See the front and back for details)

That little postcard that I found in my grandmother’s hidden-treasure drawer, began my quest to find out more about the Theosophical Society,  and during that research, I discovered Jiddu Krishnamurti for myself and read his extensive philosophical contributions at that time.Theosophical Society postcard back 001.jpg

So there you go.  How strange is life itself?

This must be like one of those ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ things.

 

The Pretender

Sure, I could SO go there!

The obvious reference to this title would be the brooding hulk occupying the oval-office desk chair; when he’s not on the golf course, that is.anatomymiraclebookcov.jpg

But I was actually referring to a Jonathan Miles book I had just completed called Anatomy of a Miracle: A Novel*—The True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace (with TRUE being the questionable descriptor in this story because it is, after all, a novel—meaning a work of fiction).

So my biggest question at the end of the story was is the book actually based on verified facts or is it simply fabrication pretending to be based on actual accounts?  I still can’t determine that, but I’m guessing it is fiction that reads like fact because we want it to do so.

jonmilesauthor.jpgAs the NY Times review suggested:  “…the genre that Miles is aping applies fiction’s methods to real-life stories, “Anatomy of a Miracle” offers the Victor-Victoria frisson of watching a novel impersonate a work of journalism impersonating a novel. It’s a difficult balancing act that Miles for the most part pulls off, and his book is best appreciated as a highly entertaining literary performance.”

Personally, I thought it was an astounding character study exploring the ulterior motives of everyone involved in the telling of a paralyzed vet’s miracle of suddenly rising from parkinglotstorefronthis wheelchair after four years of confinement to it–and doing so in the parking lot of the Biz-E-Bee convenience store in Biloxi, Mississippi while he waited for his helicoptering sister, Tanya, to purchase their daily smokes, beer, and Cap’n Crunch.

I’m always in awe of a skilled writer, and Miles is so gifted: intellectually, philosophically, and linguistically. He makes me want to study his techniques for topic exposition and subject exploration—how he carefully weaves the plotline into the unraveling research directions of the phenomenon; not to mention what an amazing perceiver/recorder of human nature that he is.

Then I went to the Amazon reviews of his book and was astounded by the depth or more appropriately, lack thereof, in the reviewer’s comments on it, and thought can people really be that shallow that they missed the point entirely?

biloximisscar.jpgA novel is far more than plotline. This was social comment all the way. Anatomy of a Miracle was an astute observation on what makes an unexplainable, sudden change in the human condition considered a miracle—with the word “miracle” implying an intervention by a force greater than ourselves.  Even the Vatican gets involved in considering the incident as such primarily because of reasons far too shadow-dependent to call it a holy vindication of God’s possible hand in the healing process.

But what does this sudden life change mean to the protagonist who has supposedly received this amazing proof of God’s Divine grace now bestowed upon him? And how vetchairflag.jpgdoes it likewise affect all those closest to him? As the camera pans out from the now-standing vet with the twitching legs, to how everyone around him interprets what has happened to him, and most importantly—how each proximal character determines in their own way what this supposed miracle means to each of them—how others try to use this strange phenomenon for their own personal motivations—use it as their own vehicles to a personal lifestyle change for themselves also—use it to substantiate their own faith or belief in the possibility of miracles existing; and how this phenomenal  situation benefits/affects individuals, institutions, and cultural trends in general as it becomes simply the commercializing of miraculousness.

money god miracles.jpgOne of those key questions seems to be:  “What’s the quantity of dollars you can make from a miracle, directly or peripherally?

The other key question seems to be “How can I personally cash in on that guy’s ‘miracle’?”

I called this post “The Pretender” not because the protagonist faked the miraculous regrowth of his spinal cord that allowed him to stand up out of that wheelchair in the Biz-E-Bee parking lot, but because during the process of all those people so closely scrutinizing his life, he finally stood up for the person that he was pretending NOT to be all those years prior.

He simply stopped pretending to be something other than who and what he was. That was a miracle in itself.

 

The Quest for What We Lack

For some strange reason, the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” kept coming intotinmanwizoz5.jpg my head this morning, saying, “If I only had a heart…”    And I of course assumed my subconscious was referring to the large “Orange One” on stage with all his daily ranting and conspiratorial lunacy. Yes, if HE only had a heart instead of that huge black hole swirling in his voluminous body.

But, he doesn’t.

So then my mind continued the “Wiz of OZ” analogy with the Cowardly Lion, who must be Congress, right?  If Congress only had the courage to stand up for our democracy’s constitution.  Yes, if only.

wizoz70thannOkay by now I’m paying attention and trying to determine who the other main players are in this mind-game parody.  Who is left: the Scarecrow, Dorothy and Toto, the Wiz himself, besides the witches good and bad, and Auntie Em.   Cheering Munchkins and Flying Monkeys must be all the rest of us, I assume, maybe representing our good and bad angels.

To me the main message of “The Wizard of Oz” depicts the search for self-awareness—where all characters set out to find the qualities that they think they lack in themselveslike the quest for self-knowledge and self-actualization.  And if we were to carry this into our present situation, I’d have to say that I think the large “Orange One” is too self-consumed to ever be self-aware, so I’ll make the analogous connections for him.

Back to matching characters to our current situation, I think Toto—the little dog—is Dorothy’s subconscious trying to guide her back to safety and sanity.

The Scarecrow was looking for a brain, right?  Or did he just represent innocence and ignorance? Who could that be, eh?  I know who I think it represents but I hate to say it here, so you’ll just have to guess.sepiadorothy6.png

But who is Dorothy?  Dorothy who searches to find who she really is and to make her way back “HOME” –who does Dorothy represent?  I think Dorothy represents the American ideal of who we are as a people trying to find our way back to being compassionate human beings who believed in fairness, equality, and the right to self-determination.

Then what does the Wizard lack and who does he represent?  Hmmm.  Well, in the show he’s a con-man.  He’s a fraud.  He pretends to know all the answers.  He tricks people.  He wizbehindcurtain67.jpgruns a phony operation to gain respect and demand adulation, but he is basically insecure and impotent.  Hmmmm. Who could that be??????

Perhaps the Prez can play two parts in this mind-parody: Tin Man and Oz Wiz.

So that leaves the good and bad witches and Auntie Em left to assess.

The witch dichotomy is dependent on your political affiliation, so I’ll leave that for personal consideration, but Auntie Em, … the maternal figure who is Dorothy’s stand-in auntieemsymbol45mother during these harsh-life conditions—who represents the safety and security of a stable, can’t–be-blown-away-by-a-tornado HOME.

She could be the symbol of Lady Liberty—the American ideological standard bearer, don’t you think?  Auntie Em as Lady Liberty.  “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  Yes, I can see that.

So, let’s bring it home here ourselves:  What is it that we the citizens of this once great country lack here, that we keep searching for in all the wrong places, …with all the wrong characters?

That’s a really good question.

characterscartoonwizozWhat do we feel that we aren’twhat do we feel that we lack—that we are trying so hard to make up for by being so gullible and naïve to believe a guy who stands behind the curtain, pulling levers and pushing buttons to make as much chaos as possible for us in our world?

Maybe as a nation of people searching for true, wise leadership, we feel that we lack genuine moral character ourselves and keep trying to find it in others who only play facsimiles of those roles on television.

[Moral character: The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits.” ]

Yes, I think we fear that as individuals we do lack moral character and instead we look for quality leadership in others to help us make it through more challenging times, rather than believing in ourselves to rise above whatever difficulties we might face.

The main problem for many of us in today’s world is that we have no idea where the attributes of moral character and quality leadership can be found, but I’m pretty sure that they aren’t behind that curtain with the Wiz. youhadthepowerallalong6.png

Let’s look in the mirror instead, because I think the entire point of “The Wizard of Oz” show was to say that’s where genuine moral character and self-determination were to be found all along.

The Purpose of the Universe

I did remember there was one quote in Chopra’s book that I wanted to salvage before shoving it onto the “oblivion shelf”:

“We participate in the universe by finding order and figuring out where the patterns come from. Einstein hit upon a deep truth when he said,I want to know the mind of God; everything else is just details.’  Substitute ‘the purpose of the universe’ for tolledivinepurposeof universe‘the mind of God’ and you have a goal worth pursuing for a lifetime.” (p73, You Are the Universe, etc.)

I’m pretty sure that is the very thing I said not long ago that I am pursuing in this blog: I want to know the purpose of the universe. I want to know the why’s, and how’s and where’s, and when’s of it all. So if I ever had a doubt that this is the right path for me to follow, I guess Deepak just confirmed for me that it is.

Thank you, Deepak!  Maybe that quote alone will move you from the “oblivion shelf” to the “think-about-it shelf” .

He also further described the ‘all choice possibilities’ being explored in M-theory and multiverses, which were favorite subjects of Stephen Hawking and Max multidefinition4.jpgTegmark, besides being one of my favorite subjects in this blog.

But rather than seriously considering the “multiverse” concept, Chopra/Kafatos said they prefer the concept that “the universe is self-organizing, driven by its own working processes. In a self-organizing system, each new layer of creation must regulate the prior layer. So the generation of every new layer in the universe, from particle to star to galaxy to black hole, cannot be considered random, given that it was created from a pre-existing layer that in turn was regulating the layer that produced it.” (p 71)

Hmmm.  Who said the multiverse was random, Deepak?  wattsquote76

I consider the multiverse intentional and more self-educating by whatever choice is made.  Isn’t “self-educating” how they train AI (artificial intelligence) systems? They learn from their previous choices and the results obtained from them, as to how successful those choices were to achieving their end goal?  And doesn’t that parallel how humans learn through our species-inherited rewards/punishment behavior motivators—just exponentially faster?

Anyway, those were a few quotes I did mark for further consideration from the You Are the Universe book.

True, one can find substantiating evidence no matter where one looks for any personally-held theory, but that also is a contributing aspect of the expanding human universe we daily live through our own unique perspectives and interpretations.

“It isn’t what we look at that is important, but what we see that makes it so.”

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How People Think

I saw this graphic and smiled because I liked the image of a person with similar hair style as the tree top trying to understand the tree’s perspective on LIFE given its growth situation.howpeoplethink.png

Left to your own without the text, you can interpret the image itself in many ways, as I just did.

Then the text under the image may lead you in a direction that you hadn’t initially considered, and your mind then decides to settle on something in between the text meaning and your first impression of the image.

Is the text saying that we think the tree should be growing straight and true, but instead it is leaning leftward before reaching for the sky?  Is the person trying to understand that directional shift? It may not be growing as straight as we think that it should be but it is still growing and functioning. Does that mean that nature functions differently than we think that it should?

thoreau quote.jpgThese are all speculative interpretations. Much of life as we perceive it is due to our own interpretation of what we see around us. That personal interpretation is built on so many factors, like how safe we feel at the time, what kind of history we might have with a similar situation, who we are with, why we are in that particular location viewing what we are viewing, not to mention what we were once told about how we should view everything we see around us; i.e., are we tied to certain beliefs about our existence and our place in this wild and crazy world?

Personal attitude means everything in how we interpret our world. What are we looking to understand about our world? How much do we really want to know anything beyond how it directly affects us?

What is our attitude toward being in that particular situation or encountering something similar to it?

Why would we care or not care how the tree grows? Is that leaning a natural aspect of that particular tree’s upward growth? Is the tree overcoming a serious wound near its base that stunted the growth cells on one side but allowed full growth on the other side of it so that it grew abnormally stronger on one side than the other before self correcting a few feet  from the ground? Is this some metaphor on overcoming personal difficulties?

Again, why would we care?

To me, if the person in the image did NOT care, she would NOT be mimicking the tree lean. But that is also just my interpretation.

And if we, the perceivers of the situation did not care, we would ignore it completely and not give it a second thought. But to “ignore” the setting and situation refers again to the meaningful-silencetext message of the image: “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”

So what did you think? Did you try to understand anything about the graphic itself, or did you just blow it off? Was it meaningless or meaningful to you?

And does it matter which it was?