Category Archives: Consciousness
According to a news report on CCTV in China, a traffic camera shot footage of an otherworldly salvation for a rikshwala and it’s driver that was crossing the street in front of an oncoming truck that apparently didn’t see him in time to stop. Instead, something or someone steps in and seemingly transports the rikshwala, driver and all, to safety on the other side of the street in what is literally a flash. With today’s modern technology and editing techniques, it is hard to say if this is a hoaxed, edited event. That is certainly a more “likely” truth than the idea that something unknown saved this man’s life. What do you think? Is it faked? Is it real? And if you think it IS real, what or who do you think happened here? Is it an angel? And alien? Time travel? Or something called “lightening technology”, which some have claimed. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I thought this treatise was so well done and so thought-provoking that it was worth sharing. Sigrun has taken principles learned in the Ordination training and the principles learned in the Kybalion (as taught in the Principles of Metaphysics class) and integrated them into a fascinating thread of understanding. It was so well done that I just had to share.
by IMU student Sigrun R. Hornberger, 09-23-2013
Many ancient cultures from around the world have a history of allowing many levels of meaning placed within sacred poems, songs, and prayers for the consideration of those who would be drawn to take a deeper look. The ancients of the Middle East where no different. In fact, Arabic and Hebrew profits or mystics had such a mindset with regards to the words they used and the wisdom they imparted. The Semitic tongue of Aramaic, while common among the ancient Palestinian people at least two-hundred years before the birth of Jesus, was also ripe with such deeper meanings and hidden understandings. While I am no scholar of the Aramaic language and have only written this paper from the perspective of the translated works of Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos, as presented by IMU instructor Janet Decker, I see this work as being closely related to the teachings of The Kybalion by Three Initiates.
To me, The Kybalion approaches the wisdom of co-creativity from a modern Western secular perspective giving the individual an opportunity to explore what this information means to him or her as well as how it may be utilized in their individual lives. While the ancient Aramaic peoples seemed to present this wisdom in a way that instructed individuals on how they may live this information from a mindset that does not separate ones spiritual life from his or her daily routines. A living wisdom if you like.
Of the seven principles presented in The Kybalion, the first is The Principle of Mentalism. It discusses the paradox of “The All” in All. This explains that while everything is held in the mind of The All, it is equally true that everything has The All residing within. In other words, even though everything seems to function as a separate creative expression of The All, everything is in fact not separate. As this principle sets the stage for our understanding of our interconnectedness with all things so does the first line of The Lords Prayers, “Abwoon d’bwashmaya”. The subtle nuances of this non-gender specific line speak to “our birth in unity” within the cosmos; that the breath of Spirit breathed in us is what we exhale in reciprocation. It even goes as far to suggest that if we truly understand the all-encompassing nature of this phenomenon, we will then see that “even darkness shines when we remember.” In other words, It is merely our perceptions that delineate the differences and degrees between things (chair and stone; good and evil; God and man).
The second principle is The Principle of Correspondence. It explains that there is harmony and agreement between all the many planes of manifestation. It tells us that while these various forms of existents may seem to be divided, they all emanate from the same source and are bound by the same laws. It also gives us clues as to how we might access the higher planes to effect real changes on the lower planes. The axiom of “As above, so below. As below, so above” speaks to this agreement. In the second line of The Lord’s Prayer it reads, “Nethqadash shmakh.” This line seems to instruct us to go to a higher place that has been set aside and made holy so that we may make “a place where seeds are sown”; a place where the “light” mentioned in the first line “may become usable.” In other words, we are ask come to a place of agreement where we understand we are one; having access to the same creative energy for utilization.
The third principle mentioned in The Kybalion is The Principle of Vibration. This principle informs us that nothing is ever at rest; that all things vibrate at a given frequency. This lends itself to the law of attraction… ”like attracts like”. So by altering one’s degree of vibrational frequency, we can control what it is we call to ourselves. Likewise in the third line of The Lord’s Prayer, “Teytey malkuthankh” we are reminded to “unite our ‘I can’ with yours (The All) so that we may walk as kings and queens with every creature”, or that “from this divine union, let us birth new images of this new world of peace.” Basically, we are asking for inwardly alignment so that we can acquire outward manifestations.
The fourth principle is The Principle of Polarity. This is the principle that state all things express duality. The difference can only be determined by degree. This is the scale by which we adjust our vibrational frequency to the desired setting. And while at first glance the fourth line of The Lord’s Prayer, “Nehwey sebyanach aykanna d’washmaya aph b’arah”, seems to speak more to The Principle of Vibration, this line goes further to suggest the action of achieving the desired degree of the scale. It asks “that all wheels move together in vortex as stars and planets swirl through the sky.” The fourth line can also be translated as asking for help to “unite the crowned within in a vision of passionate purpose.” In addition, it suggest that by actively changing ones vibration in thought and discipline, we continue consistently and harmoniously within the degree of our desires as well as aligning ourselves with our soul’s purpose.
The Principle of Rhythm is the fifth principle outlined in The Kybalion. It speaks to the tide-like ebb and flow of all things. So while this principle cannot be discarded, from a Hermetic perspective one can learn to “escape its activities by Transmutation.” In other words, by acting on the knowledge of the previously mentioned principles, one can sidestep the preordained effects of this rhythm. Likewise the fifth line of The Lord’s Prayer, “Hawvlan lachma d’sunqananyaoana” suggest how we might do this. It instructs us to get a greater sense of our divine unity so that we might better “…for fill lives within the circle of our life”. It implores us to seek only the “bread” we need at a given moment to “animate the earth within us to reveal the wisdom underneath supporting all.” Again, I see this as asking us to step outside the energetic pattern of the rhythm and see things for what they are. This gives us the ability to control our reaction in a more appropriate manner by “illuminating any movement…” This then sets the stage for transmutation to occur toward what can otherwise be considered a more desirable outcome.
The Principle of Causation is the sixth and it states that every cause has an effect, and every effect has a cause. It continues to highlight the fact that there is no such thing as chance; that even though we may not be aware of the variables that preceded an event, it did not happen as an event unto itself. This is brought to our attention so that we realize we can be more than pawns; we can be our own directors. As seems to be the pattern, the sixth line of The Lord’s Prayer speaks to this concept. It goes on to say “Washboqlan khaubayn (wakhtahyn) aykana daph kknan Shbwoqan I’khayyabayn”, “Lighten our load of secret debt as we release others of their need to repay.” It speak to the practical advice of releasing our attachment to any given effect that a thing might normally have so that we may proceed from a new perspective. It shows us that by loosening our personal expectations of the outcome gives us greater control to direct the creation of a new and different reality. As further emphasized in The Kybalion, “by serving on a higher plane, we rule on the material plane.” This speaks to the idea that a problem cannot be remedied from the level at which it was created.
The seventh principle is The Principle of Gender. It simply states that everything has a masculine and a feminine aspect and this is pervasive in all things on all planes. The masculine aspects gathers and directs the energy and the feminine aspect receives and starts into the activity of creating. This principle tells us that we need both aspects in their required measures to induce the desired manifestation. To me the seventh line of The Lord’s Prayer encourages us to avoid getting stuck at the masculine level and allow the process to be seen all the way through its feminine process. It encourages us to see masculine and feminine as holistic. It says “Wela tahlan I’nesyuna, Ela patzan min bisha.” In other words, “Help us not forget our Source, yet free us from not being in the Present.” It can also be translated as “Break the hold of unripness, the inner stagnation that prevents good fruit”, or “Becoming ripe and in tuned with sacred unity; including all and excluding nothing.”
The Kybalion does not offer an eighth principle. But it does continue to speak on the importance of Mental Gender. Mental Gender discusses the “I” and the “me” in psychological terms. The “I” being the masculine conscious mind and the “Me” being the feminine unconscious mind, and the importance of integrating them effectively to better create a harmoniously working “Self” (I AM). It continues to illustrate the seven principles and how they can be used to employ this integration process so that one may experience the full desired manifestations according to his or her will. And interestingly, the last line of The Lord’s Prayer seems to speak to this as well. It says “Metol dilakhie malkutha wayhayla wateshbukhta I’ahlam almin. Ameyn.” Or, “From you arises every vision, power, and song from gathering to gathering. May our future actions grow from here!” It can also be translated as “Out of you the king and queenship ruling principles the ‘I can’ of the cosmos,” or “Truly, power to these statements, may they be the ground from whist all my actions grow sealed in trust and faith, Amen.”
While it should be little surprise that I should discover the teachings of the Kybalion hidden away in the original Aramaic version of The Lord’s Prayer because the teachings of The Kybalion and the wisdom of the Gnostics both share roots in ancient Egyptian technologies, I am pleasantly awe inspired. And while I am sure many will argue that the Gnostics imparted this knowledge with the intent of spiritual growth, I would have to point out that Jesus, himself, used this very wisdom to create the materialistic manifestations of fish, wine and miraculous healing; not to mention his own ascension. All these things and more are still the ultimate goal of those who study and employ the teachings of the Kybalion.
IMU professor Leslie Zehr is now producing a weekly Webcast program called ‘Contemplating the Universe (and everything in it…)’. The program is a spin off from her blog ‘Contemplating the Universe’. This is a free weekly webcast in which she will be interviewing people from around the world. Over the years, at the Centre for Sacred Arts in Cairo and through her journeys, many interesting people have crossed her path. People whose work often remains obscure; people who have a lot to offer others and need to be heard. It is her hope to introduce their valuable work to a wider audience.
The idea of this new project, to present webinars, was born out of a need to connect over distances, some near some far. Over the last 10 years she has been traveling and teaching workshops abroad as well as at the Centre in Cairo. It worked fairly well. In the past year it has become more challenging, for many reasons. She is now traveling more and that means more one on one contact with new groups but it also means less contact with the already established groups.
The second obstacle has been shifting trends. Many people are both moving around and not able to commit to workshops or not able to move at all. The final confirmation that something needed to change came with the recent situation in Egypt. The unrest created a need and an opportunity to be more dynamic and find new ways to connect and communicate. It became increasingly difficult to gather together at the Centre because of curfews and protests. Also in the past few years Cairo has grown, more people live out of the city and traveling from one area to another has become very difficult, sometime impossible. Moving our bodies from place to place has become challenging but we can still connect virtually through the internet, allowing us to transcend space and time.
The third reason is that for Leslie writing is no longer the way for her to communicate. She feels the need to move to the spoken word and something visual. ‘The medium is the message’. Writing has become too fixed and concrete. People are so over communicated that they no longer read clearly. Send an email and no one reads the whole thing, or they read it incorrectly. The voice is easier to understand and connect to. It brings in another dimension to communication.
Webcasts will be schedules late evenings in Egypt, after the curfew when people are at home, which will be daytime to the west in the USA. Participants are encouraged to listen in during the webcast in order to participate and ask questions. However most of the webcasts will be recorded so that listeners can access them later if they are not able to attend the live broadcast.
The next Webcast is on October 9th, 10:00pm GMT. Leslie’s guest is Dan Furst, Astrocartographer, the topic is ‘Astrocartography: How to Find Your Personal Planet Energy Lines
For more information contact Leslie: leslie@UniversalDancer.com
To be added to her Webinars mailing list go to: http://eepurl.com/Fft4L
I sat in glow of my computer screen to review, for the hundredth time, a blog I was about to publish.
I hovered, paused, and then walked away only to return a few minutes later. I had been dancing around the dreaded “send” button for hours.
My hands shook… I felt nauseous… and then…
I got up to check the mail.
There is a peculiar agony to being an introvert.
Wait!? You’re an introvert? You speak in front of hundreds of people all the time! You were once the head of The Monroe Institute! You’re an author! You talk to strangers even though your mom warned you not to!
Yes, all that is true… and…deep inside I am still the kid who died a thousand deaths if I was called on in class. Words were so scarce for me that I found it all but impossible to wedge into the oncoming traffic of a speeding conversation.
A TV commercial that ran on CNBC summed up my life:
Boss to Ted and Alice: “Ted, I’m sending Alice to the sales conference because she thinks faster on her feet than you.”
Boss: “So Alice, we’ll send you on Thursday –“
Ted: “She does not!”*
But my problem is even worse than mere introversion. I am an introvert with mystical inclinations.
It would be hard to imagine a more pathetic combination.
I might as well blurt out, “I see dead people!” in a crowded room and watch the trampling hoard storming for the exits. (Actually I have seen dead people, but please don’t tell anyone.)
In our society there is precious little room for introversion. But an introverted mystic? Aren’t people institutionalized people for that?
Many will swear up and down with red-faced, vein-popping conviction that mystical inquiry is nonsense. Those who don’t agree are self-absorbed, magical-thinking, airy-fairy fools. In a society where LOUD!!! has become the norm, introversion is considered to be a pathology.
And so it is little wonder that the mystical life is virtually dismissed, for it springs from the very introversion that is so ridiculed. Investigating the inner landscape requires something our society has in very short supply: quiet. Only by turning down the volume of external stimuli can you turn attention to the interior spectacle.
That doesn’t mean that being an introvert is a prerequisite for mystical investigation. But it does give you a leg up because your natural inclination is toward silence – unless, of course, authority figures in your life sense your disturbing proclivities and try to cure your dysfunction. In that case you will spend a lot of energy assuming an alternate, ill-fitting persona, while tamping down your essential nature.
That’s why I found Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, to be so refreshing. This is a book that tells the story of introverts and their gift to society. It is a story that has been sorely lacking because introverts tend not to tell their story. Cain’s book demonstrates our extreme cultural bias toward extroversion, while also providing a place for the softer spoken among us to appreciate their genuine value.
There is so much I could say about this book, but the best advice I can give you is, if you are on the quiet side of the continuum, just go buy it. You will learn more about yourself than almost anything else you could read. You will understand why living in this a society can be so painful while also discovering the unique wonder of your own being.
There’s a great line in an old Jefferson Airplane song that, after listing all the recriminations leveled at that generation, goes on to say, “Everything they say we are, we are. And we are very proud of ourselves.” There is great freedom in embracing our true nature no matter how underappreciated that nature may be.
But in order for you to know about this book, I would need to push…. this button…. that one… right there…. hmmm…. maybe after dinner….
The need to tell a different story is also the reason why we are starting the online magazine Inner Story. The first issue will be published by the end of October. It will tell the tales of ordinary people encountering transcendence and chronicle their efforts to integrate the mystical life.
But more than story, this will be a magazine of great writing, artistic expression and scintillating research that seeks to find a balance between the inner and outer worlds.
* I borrowed this snippet from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. If you would like to order the book, this link will take you there.
by Deborah Lindsey
So today was filled with new experiences. Of course I, as many others, have HEARD about the famous elongated skulls but until today I have never SEEN them. Apparently several hundred of these skulls have been discovered around the world. Having struck out in finding the skulls at Coricancha, we signed up and toured the Incan Museum in the heart of Cuzco, Peru in search of a view of the elongated skulls. Most the museum was the usual drivel. Lots of pottery and assertions presented as facts as to what the world was like in the past.
And then the time came and there we were, face to face with the elongated skulls. It was a profound experience and I would have given a lot to be able to reach out and touch one of them. Not surprisingly though they are ensconced in glass.
The first thing I noticed was that they are smaller than I expected. For some reason I expected they would be much larger than a traditional human head. It was also notable that they looked a lot like the other skulls to the untrained eye, expect for the extended cranium. To think that these might indeed be the skulls of ETs who have been here on the planet with us was a mind blowing thought. I don’t have anything profound to offer regarding these skulls, but it was one of those experiences that leaves you changed somehow. And so I wanted to share it.
By Tenzin Gyatso (New York Times Op-Ed) 1107 words
DHARAMSALA, India – These are times when destructive emotions like anger, fear and hatred are giving rise to devastating problems throughout the world. While the daily news offers grim reminders of the destructive power of such emotions, the question we must ask is this: What can we do, person by person, to overcome them?
Of course such disturbing emotions have always been part of the human condition. Some – those who tend to believe nothing will ”cure” our impulses to hate or oppress one another – might say that this is simply the price of being human. But this view can create apathy in the face of destructive emotions, leading us to conclude that destructiveness is beyond our control.
I believe that there are practical ways for us as individuals to curb our dangerous impulses – impulses that collectively can lead to war and mass violence. As evidence I have not only my spiritual practice, but now also the work of scientists.
For the last 15 years I have engaged in a series of conversations with Western scientists. We have exchanged views on topics ranging from quantum physics and cosmology to compassion and destructive emotions. It may seem odd that a religious leader is so involved with science, but Buddhist teachings stress the importance of understanding reality, and so we should pay attention to what scientists have learned about our world through experimentation and measurement.
It is for this reason that I visited the neuroscience laboratory of Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin. Using imaging devices that show what occurs in the brain during meditation, Dr. Davidson has been able to study the effects of Buddhist practices for cultivating compassion, equanimity or mindfulness. For centuries Buddhists have believed that pursuing such practices seems to make people calmer, happier and more loving. At the same time they are less and less prone to destructive emotions.
According to Dr. Davidson, there is now science to underscore this belief. Dr. Davidson tells me that the emergence of positive emotions may be due to this: Mindfulness meditation strengthens the neurological circuits that calm a part of the brain that acts as a trigger for fear and anger. This raises the possibility that we have a way to create a kind of buffer between the brain’s violent impulses and our actions.
Experiments have already been carried out that show some practitioners can achieve a state of inner peace, even when facing extremely disturbing circumstances. Dr. Paul Ekman of the University of California at San Francisco told me that jarring noises (one as loud as a gunshot) failed to startle the Buddhist monk he was testing. Dr. Ekman said he had never seen anyone stay so calm in the presence of such a disturbance.
Another monk, the abbot of one of our monasteries in India, was tested by Dr. Davidson using electroencephalographs to measure brain waves. According to Dr. Davidson, the abbot had the highest amount of activity in the brain centers associated with positive emotions that had ever been measured by his laboratory.
Of course, the benefits of these practices are not just for monks who spend months at a time in meditation retreat. Dr. Davidson told me about his research with people working in highly stressful jobs. These people – non-Buddhists – were taught mindfulness, a state of alertness in which the mind does not get caught up in thoughts or sensations, but lets them come and go, much like watching a river flow by. After eight weeks, Dr. Davidson found that in these people, the parts of their brains that help to form positive emotions became increasingly active.
The implications of all this are clear: the world today needs citizens and leaders who can work toward ensuring stability and engage in dialogue with the ”enemy” – no matter what kind of aggression or assault they may have endured.
It’s worth noting that these methods are not just useful, but inexpensive. You don’t need a drug or an injection. You don’t have to become a Buddhist, or adopt any particular religious faith. Everybody has the potential to lead a peaceful, meaningful life. We must explore as far as we can how that can be brought about.
The calamity of 9/11 demonstrated that modern technology and human intelligence guided by hatred can lead to immense destruction. Such terrible acts are a violent symptom of an afflicted mental state. To respond wisely and effectively, we need to be guided by more healthy states of mind, not just to avoid feeding the flames of hatred, but to respond skillfully. We would do well to remember that the war against hatred and terror can be waged on this, the internal front, too.
I try to put these methods into effect in my own life. When I hear bad news, especially the tragic stories I often hear from my fellow Tibetans, naturally my own response is sadness. However, by placing it in context, I find I can cope reasonably well. And feelings of helpless anger, which simply poison the mind and embitter the heart, seldom arise, even following the worst news.
If humanity is to survive, happiness and inner balance are crucial. Otherwise the lives of our children and their children are more likely to be unhappy, desperate and short. Material development certainly contributes to happiness – to some extent – and a comfortable way of life. But this is not sufficient. To achieve a deeper level of happiness we cannot neglect our inner development.
April 26, 2003, Saturday
New York Times
by IMU instructor Richard Sutphen
In fact all your current suffering is the result of situations you have refused to confront. You’ve refused to act, repressing your thoughts, feelings and emotions until they are like a rubber life raft held just below the surface of the water.
You can stand on the emotional raft, forcing it down, but when you run out of energy to do that, or when you are not guarded, the repressed emotions surface and you experience the effects.
The only way to resolve the conflicts in your life and attain peace of mind is to deal with them as directly, honestly and efficiently as possible. There are four steps to end suffering and to attain peace of mind:
1) ACCEPT SELF-RESPONSIBILITY: In accepting karma as your philosophical basis of reality, you accept self responsibility. Your problems are karmic situations you need to experience to learn and grow. There is no one to blame for anything you’ve ever experienced. And remember, wisdom erases karma, and the law of grace supersedes the law of karma (if you give love and mercy and grace in your life, you will receive the same in return).
2) ACCEPT THAT WHAT IS, IS: Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can and have the wisdom to know the difference. Remember, you cannot change another human being.
3) DEVELOP DETACHED MIND: The goal is to enjoy all the good stuff life has to offer, but when outside conditions change, refrain from sinking into the basement of emotions (anger, hatred, desire for revenge). Allow negativity to flow through you without affecting you.
4) HARMONIOUS VIEWPOINT: The way you experience life is based on the way you choose to view what happens to you. Your viewpoint is the deciding factor in whether you perceive life as a troublesome journey or a harmonious experience.
Four steps to end suffering and obtain peace of mind! I’ve been working on these four wisdom points for 30 years and I’m still not there. But I can’t imagine living my life without this philosophical back up.
Peace and Light,
by IMU President, Deborah Lindsey
You gotta admit, something amazing has happened here.
I mean, has anyone else ever seen the United States back down from a war once it decided to go in? Especially a war that is so obviously manipulated as this one?
When I look at this, I see a flicker of hope that the Light is finally taking over. We all watched with baited breath as the shift in consciousness so quietly took place at the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2011/2012. We KNEW it happened but had no PROOF. We also knew that it would take a while for this new level of awakening to ground onto the earth.
And so here we stand, today, on the the 12th-year anniversary of the the horrific false flag event at the World Trade Center in NYC which ushered us oh-so-easily into the last TWO unending wars, only a year or so later, asking ourselves, “do we really want to do this again?” Amazingly, Americans saw through the parade of lies that were set before us! And American’s stood up and said NO! And that NEVER HAPPENS! Usually Americans are so caught up in the hype of the corporate and government owned media that it can’t see truth if it hit them on the head. So this is AMAZING!
Even more amazingly it wasn’t a minority of Americans who saw through the lies, as it so often has been in the past, but a MAJORITY of Americans! This is huge!
For me the big indicator was when the military people started saying no. You have to understand…the military are the most deeply hypnotized of all. They MUST believe in the government agenda, fueled by propaganda and patriotism, if they are going to be able to do what they have signed up to do. (That always amazes me that people sign up to do this. If they only understood that if they REALLY wanted to protect the American way of life they would STOP signing up!)
You also have to understand that patriotism, government, and military all live in the first chakra. The first chakra is the house of group beliefs. The first chakra is the key to this whole game of awakening. While most people think it is the seventh chakra (spirituality) or the fourth chakra (heart) which are the keys (and they are absolutely critical), I personally think it all hinges on the first chakra, mass consciousness. But the first chakra, which contains things like space and time, is the absolute freaking hardest and slowest one to change. This is because it moves at the speed of the GROUP. So if the media is influencing a significant part of the group to believe something and they buy it hook, line, and sinker, it doesn’t matter much what the others think. It isn’t until a critical mass of awakening has happened that anything changes in the first chakra.
But when these changes happen, look out! The idea that women were inferior changed and in came women’s rights. The idea that polio was incurable changed and in came a cure. Etc. Etc. So if we can get the masses to awaken to an idea, we can change everything. The hundredth monkey effect will then take hold and then nothing the dark can say will matter. We will have truly won.
Perhaps the the idea of “terror” as an enemy is beginning to fade. We have seen the boogyman and it fades in the Light!
Is it possible that this is the turning point? Has the awakening truly begun?
I’ve got my fingers crossed. How about you?
I’m so excited about this! IMU student Nanda Kumar put together this video in conjunction with his paper for his capstone project to earn his MA from IMU. The documentary is fantastic and is a culmination of his learning and research from his life and from his time at IMU.
This is well worth the time. Put down the remote and click Go instead. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve always been fascinated that, in the Bible, angels often introduced themselves with the words, “Fear not.” As a child, I thought this meant that the person being visited could stop fretting about their life because the angels were taking over and they would put everything right. So I prayed for the angels to visit me, too.
But they seldom appeared in the way I had hoped for. Nor did they stoop to clean up the toxic dump of my life.
Later on, I began to suspect that the words, “Fear not,” were for another reason: the shock of an unexpected encounter with ethereal beings can be down right confounding and disorienting. The one receiving the angelic visitation was probably stricken with terror over the intrusion and needed to be calmed down.
Though we may long for it, when the non-ordinary breaks in unexpectedly, our first impulse is to become unhinged. Our reptilian brain prefers an existence that is set on rails with no surprises or deviations, and hence nothing to fear. In such a life there is no room for angels with their awkward and shattering pronouncements.
Yet, when I look at the issue even more closely, I realize that when I have had an unearthly encounter, it has sometimes been preceded by an intense period of anxiety that fractured the shell of my expectations. I would find myself in an impossible situation, wanting desperately to run away from a wall of dread. But in the end, going through the fear seemed to be my only option, and sometimes that led to an awakening. So it became a mantra for me: if it scared me, I should do it.
When I was in my early 20’s I read a book in which one of the characters confessed that he was terrified of sharks. He would tell this to his friends just before scampering across the beach and plunging into the surf. I thought that was really cool, so I decided that I should always move toward my fear. It was my heroic stance to the world – my way of dope-slapping terror.
But I also found that moving toward fear is a very difficult way to live. It’s not only intense. It’s also just plain tense. And since I was prone to compulsive worrying anyway, I was miserable. Despite my attempts to “lean into my fear,” the angst never really dissipated.
That had a lot to do with my upbringing. My parents had drummed into me that if I wasn’t worrying, I wasn’t doing my job. Worry was a pre-emptive strike against the travails of this world – a lesson I learned well.
I had to worry about what other people thought of me, “Let other people do the talking about you.” I had to anticipate and sidestep their rage, “You don’t want people yelling at you!” I had to worry about making a living, “You should always have something to fall back on.” I had to worry about having expectations that were too high, “Always expect the worst and you will never be disappointed.” I had to worry about being average, “You used to get all A’s and then some B’s started creeping in. And now THIS… a ‘C’ on your report card!” I had to worry about speaking in front of people, the fate of my soul, getting a good education so I could get a good job, talking to girls when I couldn’t think of anything to say, not fumbling the football, going to the Vietnam war, whether or not to wear bell-bottoms, being cool when I wasn’t, and a host of other tribulations real and imagined.
Life was terrifying, and also exhausting.
It never occurred to me that there might be another way…until I met the woman who would become my wife. Jacquie is the first person I have ever known who lives without fear. Nothing fazes her. It isn’t that she works at being brave. Fear is just not a part of her system – one mark of an old soul.
Over the years I have gradually assimilated her stance. Mind you, it doesn’t come naturally to me. But I have begun to understand that it is possible to engage life from a very different perspective than the habitual anxiety that so many of us have been taught. If it weren’t for Jacquie’s unwavering faith in the future, in grace, and in me, I couldn’t have accomplished half the things I have.
It seems to me that moving beyond fear is central to following our essential calling. It may seem impossible to let go of fear because it has become such a habit for many of us – a habit that is constantly reinforced by news, politics and advertising.
But the angels tell us a different story. “Fear not,” they whisper, and that is good advice. It’s also good to remember while lamenting the rarity of their visitations, that angels come in many disguises. They don’t always have visible wings. Sometimes they look very much like my wife, Jacquie.