Most every photograph I take is from my same bedroom window. How the view touches my heart in the moment determines the time to capture the scene.
Weather, like life, covers a full spectrum of possibilities. Sometimes the sun shines brightly over the beautiful landscape. Sometimes the stormy winds blow.
After each photo is taken, it never seems to adequately convey the personal experience with the feel of the weather against my skin, the scent in the air, the flow of the clouds and the motion of the wind. Yet months later, each photo acts as a portal that carries me through space and time to an appreciation of the moment somehow more poignant than the moment itself.
Perhaps it is all in the context of the greater whole. Perhaps it is when we take a step back to reflect upon the numerous scenes and episodes of life that our experiences gain their deepest meaning.
Everyone, it seems, loves wise quotes. When we hear wisdom, it touches a place deep within us that is one with the Divine, that is eternally wise. Though that inner wisdom calls to us, so few are able to live wisely. People are behaving foolishly and lashing out everywhere. Let’s consider why this is so.
Though deep inside we are eternally one with the Divine, there are many psychological, intellectual, and emotional distortions on the more superficial levels of our being. When we are calm, settled, and reflective, those more superficial levels are still. So, at those times, the wisdom within shines forth and permeates all levels of our lives. At those times, wise quotes resonate with our depth and well up through our being. To experience this is to experience Bliss, Divinity.
However, when in life we are disturbed, that deeper wisdom level of life is overshadowed. At those times, when we need wisdom most, we are unable to embrace it. We act instead from the superficial distortions. Sadly then, all too often, it is the superficial distortions that determine the course we follow as we navigate the waters of life.
This can be likened to the ocean. In the depth of the ocean, everything is still, quiet, and serene. Nothing is agitated. Yet on the surface of the ocean, storms rage. As we navigate those waters, we take on water, tip, churn, and perhaps even crash upon the rocks off-shore. Yet, when we are anchored to the depth, we weather the storms.
As we meditate, we become more and more fully anchored to the depth, the wisdom within us. Through proper meditation, the spiritual, mental, emotional, energetic, and physical levels of life are purified, as the distortions are healed. We more and more live in harmony with the Divinity and wisdom that eternally dwells at the depth of our being.
But do take note: Living in harmony with the Divine does not look the way we may think it should look! People identify with their distortions, mistake them for the Truth, and thereby judge the wise as unwise or worse. History tells us that quite clearly. After all, they crucified Jesus. Some hated Lord Krishna (by which it is said some attained liberation because all they thought about was the Lord!). But I digress.
Contemplation, inner reflection, is also a valuable tool along the path to living wisely. That has a purifying value. However, it is a highly elusive path. You can justify anything with the intellect, and people do. Often, our reflections can simply be justifications of poor behavior: rationalizations. Few are willing to contemplate their behavior, other than to seek a way to justify it. So, we do well to be humble in our reflections. Humility is the flip side of wisdom. With the loss of humility comes the loss of wisdom.
When the waters on the ocean of life are undisturbed, people generally behave quite honorably, quite wisely. But only the truly wise behave honorably when the daily disturbances of life arise. So, we do well to pick our friends based upon how they behave in troubled times, not how they behave when everything is calm and serene. But, after all, we are all human. As illustrated in the Ramayana, even the wise may behave improperly from time to it. Yet, it is the wise who are able to acknowledge their imperfect behavior to themselves and to others. Only the wise can acknowledge, regain their balance, and move forward wisely. We will all act out from time to time. How we deal with that makes all the difference.
So, please do more than relish wise quotes in your quiet moments. Look beyond the mountains of judgement and negativity that consume you and your world. Look beyond that mountainous horizon to the light of the Sun, to the Divine. Meditate. Reflect and ponder. Strive to live a life of wisdom.
You can afford to believe in yourself. I mean really, really believe in who you are, deep inside. And, you can learn to come from that place within you. All too often people do not do that. There is an underlying doubt that undermines people’s confidence in themselves.
If the underlying doubt is there, it will manifest and compromise your life in every arena. Life will reflect that doubt back to you as a confirmation, a validation, that such doubt is the truth. Of course, we all have doubts. The trick is to not allow it to overcome the deeper reality, which is that you can believe in yourself. Sure, you will make mistakes. Sure, you will have failures. But those things do not say who you are. Who and what your are is much deeper and more exquisite. It is only when you give in to the doubt that you compromise your life. Believing in, and coming from, that deeper place of inner knowing, that deep inside you are more than just okay, more than just good, is a key to life. Mistakes and failures do not determine who you are. Do not lose yourself to the doubts those things try to tell you about who you are. That deeper place inside is who you are. Stay loyal to it. Believe in it. Maintain your allegiance to it.
I am not speaking of denial here. Lack of self-confidence is often shrouded under the cloak of arrogance and ego. That is just denial. People do not want to admit to their lack of self-confidence, and put on a facade of arrogance. They pretend to be smart, tough, wise, or powerful in an attempt to convince not only others, but also themselves.
Confidence has no need for that sort of denial. Confidence in one’s self has no fear of weakness, foolish mistakes, etc. Confidence knows full well that those things are superficial and can be surmounted by coming from a deeper place inside. Now, for some practical examples:
Some overweight people feel that they can simply not lose weight. Some people feel they can simply not gain muscle. Some people feel they cannot succeed in school or in business. They convince themselves that there is something wrong with their physiology or psyche… or perhaps resign to the idea that it is just ‘their Karma’. More often than not, the problem is lack of confidence. With confidence, we find a way. We do not accept that we are failures. We just realize that we may have failed at something, but it does not define us. We find a way. It is self-confidence that leads. Believe in yourself. Again, that is not denial in the form of arrogance. It is, in fact, a humble commitment to finding a way that is true to and consistent with the Divinity within. That lies far deeper than petty ego. It is not faith either. It is an inner knowing of the nature of life, your life, and all life. Deep inside we are all Divine. Stay loyal to that goodness within. You rest into that place when you do the Surya Ram Meditation. As you awaken to it, you live it more and more.
This does not mean that anyone can succeed at anything. True self-confidence is not that limited. True self-confidence knows that you do not need to succeed at everything to be great. True self-confidence keeps on going until one finds their greatness, and lives it.
To find your greatness, overcome arrogance, overcome petty ego, know that greatness is who you really are, and remain committed to that. It is an exquisite reality of existence that everyone, in their essence, is great, Divine. Regardless of what may occur in life, regardless of what may be reflected back to you through life experiences, stay loyal to that greatness, to that Divinity within. That, in and of itself, is the key to greatness.
I was recently chatting with someone about a situation they found themselves in, when they said they were committed to “not attaching negative stories to it all.” I was instantly impressed with that phrase. For me, the implications were vast regarding the human mentality: how we think and function.
Everything in relationships tends to be about the story we attach to it. This applies to our personal relationships as well as how we view relationships between others. It all becomes about the story we assign to the relationship. That is simply how we think. Even television shows and movies are all framed in terms of the story we create around the happenings. The story creates white knights and villains, good guys and bad guys, the noble and the evil, the victims and the perpetrators. Conflicts, disagreements, and judgements arise, not so much as a result of the occurrence of events, but rather due to the stories attached to those events. Even our legal system is more about the story we can paint the events with, rather than the events themselves. Opposing sides paint the events with contradicting stories. Individuals then cling to, and impose upon others, the story, the bias, of their choosing.
Imagine a world where events were not framed in stories. Opposing viewpoints were not etched in the stone of opposing stories. People were not defined in terms of a story. Stories tend to assign black and white absolutes to the shades, hues, and perspectives that life is composed of. Imagine a mentality that is free from the imposition of the confining, defining, and crucifying limitations of a story. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is good? Who is bad? Opposing groups each cling to the story they lose themselves to. Remarkably, that is the way people function. It is the way this world compels people to function.
To understand one another is to see beyond the stories. For there to be peace in this world, good versus bad must be replaced with love and understanding. Needless to say there are extreme cases that can be considered black and white. However, in the case of our lives, such things are very rare, if they occur at all. Yet we tend to frame things in a story that assign black and white to our ongoing interactions. We then try to convince others to believe our story. Alliances are thusly created. An ‘us against them’ world becomes the global consciousness we immerse ourselves in. Animals attack one another and fight to the death. Chickens select the weakest in the pen and peck it to death. We humans must learn to see and live beyond that.
Imagine a world free from such narrow vision. I have said this in so many ways throughout the years:
Simultaneous, yet contradictory realities
The only true knowing is knowing you know nothing
To understand is to stand under, not to over-stand
The flip side of wisdom is humility
Freedom from identity with perspective
This means freedom from the stories we attach to our lives, to others, to everything. “Not attaching negative stories to it all” means emancipation, freedom, and peace. Peace and wisdom is something that happens within us as we see beyond the stories.
A challenging time is coming up from May 7 – June 22. Jyotishis are attributing what happened in Sri Lanka to the beginning of that influence. Take care to stay calm and avoid heated discussions.
Of course, when you’re feeling angry or negative, your perspective and attitude always feel perfectly justifiable, not just intellectually, but probably more importantly, emotionally. That’s the time when it’s most important to stop and think about the Jyotish. But be cautioned that that’s the time when people are least inclined to think about the Jyotish. So, a good rule of thumb during that time might be to just keep to yourself.
I hope the previous blog, “Mindsets vs Belief Systems,” offers a sense of the all-pervading depth and breadth of the concept of ‘mindset.’ Through the years, we continue to explore the nature of life from more and more different angles. The foundational understanding was given in the very first weekend class I ever offered. It can even be summarized in a single sentence. However, there is no end to the exploration. Indeed, life is not so much about learning new facts, as it is about gaining an ever-deepening understanding of the facts we already know. The concept of ‘mindset’ is a powerful example, pointing in the direction of that principle.
Everything can be condensed down to a buzzword or a quote. Yet in doing so, the deeper meaning is lost. That we have referred to as the “I-get-it Syndrome.” As we continue to explore anything from additional angles of view, wisdom grows. True Knowledge dwells not in facts, but deep within our souls. There we under-stand everything. There, with humility, we stand under everything and over-stand nothing. Nothing is fully graspable. The essence of everything expands to infinity… to Oneness… to the transcendental Ishwara.
I have been teaching, on average, eight long-weekend classes plus retreats, and giving multiple lectures every year, for twenty-five years now. I do not plan my classes or lectures with any detail. I prefer to get a feeling for the group and go from there. I do, however, have thoughts on my mind the few days or morning before the lecture, and start with that. Because Knowledge with a capital ‘K’ permeates all aspects of life and existence, any topic will open the door, connect with, and shed light on universal (transcendental) Knowledge. Perhaps illustrating that by talking about whatever comes up demonstrates that truth more convincingly than a canned or preplanned lecture.
Though I have employed that principle for over two decades now, this last class illustrated the principle even more fully. As I write this, I am flying home to Asheville from San Francisco, and sharing my reflections on the recent long weekend. I walked into the classroom the first day, Friday, as a blank slate. None of my thoughts that morning felt right to start with, whereas usually I have so many things to share that I do not know where to even begin.
We usually save ‘personal process day’ for Sunday. But Friday morning, I sat down in the classroom and before class even began, I asked a woman in the group how she was doing. What ensued determined the topic of the entire three-day weekend. I would like now to share some aspects of the weekend that I feel are most valuable.
Firstly, language and definitions are flexible. The meaning of words change over time. We are free, then, to use words. Otherwise, they use us—they force us to speak and think within the bounds of tiny definitions that limit and narrow our awareness and stifle our creativity. After all, who has the right to evolve the meaning of words? There is no overlord with such authority. Yet, meanings do change. When need be, we must have the boldness and confidence to mold and contour words to fit our insights and progressive understandings. We are free to do so. We must do so. Otherwise, life itself stagnates.
As the woman explained what was going on in her life, she opened the door to an arena we have not spoken of. Perhaps it is an arena others have discussed and defined with a word—perhaps not. So, in the moment, I defined the term “mindset” to generalize her experience into something universally applicable and not only valuable, but tremendously important and profoundly healing.
A mindset is a mode of function of the physiology of the brain. It is the ‘infrastructure’ or circuitry of the manner in which all life experiences are processed intellectually, as well as emotionally. A mindset determines not just what a person thinks or feels, but more importantly, how one thinks and feels. It is deeply foundational to everything one thinks, feels, and experiences. Every mindset has multiple facets—some positive, some negative. Anger, kindness, self-doubt, reflectiveness, etc. can all be facets of a mindset. Mindset goes far beyond attitude, temperament, belief systems, mood, or personality. It defines the very mode of function, the vessel, that holds all of those things and more. In the past, we have spoken of how the color of the glasses one is wearing determines what is seen and experienced: rose-colored glasses, grey-colored, etc. That points in the direction of mindset, but mindset is far more complex and multifaceted. It reaches deeply into the hidden channels of the heart and mind.
The churning waves of the ocean of life are indeed tempestuous. The conflict of opposing opinions is the warp and woof of worldly life. It plays out not only in the marketplace, not only in governmental affairs, but also as the inner heart and mind dynamic of the individual.
Who among us lives strong in such a world? What does it even mean to be strong? Does strength mean clinging to a perspective as truth and ramrodding through life in allegiance to that perspective? Is truth made of clay that is molded and contorted to support a perspective? Are the strong among us nothing more than the most vocal perpetrators of perspective? Do the strong turn their back and move on when challenges arise or perspective is blurred? When they make a mistake? When the going gets tough? When they become upset or confused? Do the strong erase and start over when the inevitable churning tides of life overwhelm them? Do the strong fight for their perspective disregarding all else? Where is strength to be found?
From time to time, we have all been wounded in life. The sun does not shine every day. When wounded, we are not at our best. Or are we? At those times, what does “being our best” even look like? At those times, what does “strength” even look like? Surely, it cannot be conformity to some superficial Hollywood notion of strength. Yet, is such conformity what we strive for at those times? Do we live in service to such idealized preconceived perspectives of life? Can we learn, or does our notion of strength preclude learning? Only the strong can truly sit with their weakness.
While the street mentality might believe that strength is unswerving allegiance to perspective, doesn’t strength include the ability to overcome current perspective? To acknowledge mistakes? To not walk away, but rather clean up the damage one perpetrated?
Whatever one’s perspective, these words can be used or abused. They can fuel one’s adherence to a current perspective, or they can facilitate one’s ability to evolve one’s relationship with situations, large and small. For strength is not concrete. Strength is fluid—open, dynamic, and movable. Strength can be yielding, transformed, powerful, noncommittal, or even ambivalent. Ultimately, strength is wisdom. Strength does not judge, yet can act decisively. Strength is not rickety, yet can rest with not knowing. Strength is righteous, but not self-righteous. Strength is not meek, but is humble. Strength resigns not to the unknown, but salutes it.
Find strength not in the surface of worldly convictions. Find strength in the ungraspable depth of the soul.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde
Seems everybody is looking for the bottom line or decides they have already found it. This applies to everything from the deepest most profound issues, like the purpose of life, to the most mundane like, “What should we have for dinner?”
This is the world of opinion. Opinions are just perspectives. Even the ‘laws’ of physics are not really true. Newton’s laws are ultimately just approximations. That is what special relativity is all about! Even mathematics is just an approximation. One plus one equals two? Show me a perfect ‘one’ of anything. Plato got that right a long time ago with the notion of Plato’s Theory of Forms.
But let’s take it down to the grassroots, real world, daily life, practical level. Who has the real story on anything? We are all juggling between this and that: Pragmatic vs. idealistic, what you saw vs. what they saw, half empty vs. half full, the endless paradoxes of this vs. that. There is no end to it.
Wisdom just isn’t black and white. Yet, we are all faced with ‘this or that’ decisions from moment to moment. For every decision you make, there is someone out there who would judge it as wrong. Chances are, given enough time, you too will end up judging yourself.
Wisdom is really a fascinating thing. What is it really? What is its basis? Where does it come from? What perspective does it hold? Does it ever have a solid conviction about anything? Or are the ‘wise’ just a wishy-washy benign and nebulous cloud of ‘not knowing’ anything for absolute certain?
If we insist upon the notion of ‘Truth,’ then we must understand that Truth is not concrete. Why? Because Truth transcends perspective. Truth transcends relativity. “Truth,” by its very definition, is Absolute. It is an abstraction. It is not of this material world. It is unbounded by opinion or perspective.
Yet we live in a world that is relative. So, even the wise must act in a relative world, even though they see beyond it… even though they know better! Oscar Wilde said that truth is rarely pure. He got that right. Truth is only pure (Absolute) when it is not relative, not of this world. The wise live that. It is not just a notion for them. It is a living reality. Yet, even for them, life is an ongoing sequence of one decision after another. Often those decisions come with great conviction and commitment. But more often, they come with the understanding of multiple perspectives. They do not over-stand life. They under-stand life. Humility is built right into the word ‘understanding’.
Now, it is easy enough to comprehend this notion of Truth and wisdom. But to understand it is quite another thing. To understand it is to live it. To live it is to understand it. To live it is far more than to just comprehend it as a concept. And to live it? That is not so easy to do. In fact, it cannot be simply comprehended and then done. If it could, we would all have been enlightened many years ago. Living Truth, while living in this world of relativity, is a state of being. It is a state of physiology. It is a state that is not understood by those who are of this relative world. In fact, those who are of this world judge Truth as just another relative perspective. To live Truth is to “be in this world but not of it”. Truth lies beyond this world. Find Truth within the depth of your being. Over time, integrate the polar opposites of the Absolute and the relative. To do so is to see beyond the horizon. To do so is to become wise.