Monday, 13 July 2020

Soul of a woman, soul of a man

Following in James's footsteps, I take spirituality to revolve around expansive emotional moments like these. Consistent with the idea that words fail to capture the essence of spirituality, in his 1902 classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, James wrote: Feeling is the deeper source of religion, and . More than a century after James equated spirituality with emotions, Karen Armstrong opened her 2009 article, The Case for God, with a vivid and harrowing description of what it feels like to make your way down some sixty-five feet below ground level--at times crawling on your hands and knees in complete darkness--to explore the ancient caves on the border of France and Spain where you can view the elaborate paintings created by our Stone Age ancestors some seventeen thousand years ago. She concludes: Like art, the truths of religion require the disciplined cultivation of a different mode of consciousness. The cave experience always began with the disorientation of utter darkness, which annihilated normal habits of mind. Human beings are so constituted that periodically they seek out [what the Greeks called] ekstasis, a stepping outside the norm. Today people who no longer find it in a religious setting resort to other outlets: music, dance, art, sex, drugs, or sport. We make a point of seeking out those experiences that touch us deeply within and lift us momentarily beyond ourselves. At such times, we feel that we inhabit our humanity more fully than usual and experience an enhancement of being. In these islands you meet people of every ethnic group and of diverse religious beliefs living together harmoniously, peacefully, and enjoying the sunshine of God's love. The native who drove me from the airport to Maui Hilton Hotel told me that his antecedents were a mixture of Irish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, and Chinese. He pointed out that the people here have intermarried for generations and that racial problems are unknown. How to Get Along with Others One of the chief reasons some men and women do not get ahead in life is their inability to get along with others. They seem to rub others the wrong way. Often their attitude of pomposity is tactless and offensive. The best way to get along with others is to salute the Divinity in the other person and to realize that every man and woman is an epitome or example of the entire human race. Every person who walks the earth is a son or daughter of the Living God; How a Waiter Promoted Himself

Several bone breakers in Eastern Friesland (the traditional name for bone setters in that area) still use this method with horses that require treatment. Originally this widely spread method was also used on humans. Another custom said that to banish an illness, a sick person should hammer three nails (into a wood block, for example) with all their might. Back when people used to use fire strikers or fire steels to start a fire, they were used for inflammations, in keeping with the belief that an item that has a specific effect (in this case to start a fire) also has the ability to take it away (here: the fire of the inflammation). Fire strikers seem to have been a very popular remedy. They were also placed on tumors, broken bones, and headaches. It is obvious that we should reasonably go to the doctor in cases like this today, although the additional application can't hurt. Fire strikers can be purchased at Renaissance fairs and via the internet. Charles Godfrey Leland gives this translation of the charm in his Gypsy Sorcery and Fortunetelling: Be thou, be thou, be thou weak (ie, soft) To Armstrong, religion is doing, not belief. It's the effort you put into repeatedly cultivating such peak, unbounded epiphanies that stretch open your heart and mind, and make you more attuned to boundless possibilities. As Armstrong notes, religion isn't the only path to expanded modes of consciousness. Back in article 4 I drew on that age-old metaphor about swinging open the doors of perception, first used by William Blake, and then more than 160 years later by Aldous Huxley. Your own commonplace experiences of positive emotions can open those doors as well, expanding your outlook on life and setting off spiritual experiences. At times that expanded outlook is hardly noticeable at all, whereas at other times it can take you by surprise, like a powerful gust of wind that clears away debris and allows you to see things with fresh eyes. The point I wish to make here is that your experiences of love and connection need not overwhelm you to open your perceptual gates. Scientific evidence now documents that far less intense positive emotional experiences reliably open those same doors and raise spirituality. By regularly engaging in the kinds of formal and informal practices I offer throughout part II of this article, you can learn to infuse your day and your life with more of the expanded and spiritual modes of consciousness of which James, Armstrong, Huxley, and countless others write. Toward this end, consider the spiritual lessons from Buddhism.

While visiting one of the chain of hotels in the Koanapali Beach district of Maui, I had an interesting conversation with a waiter. He told me that every year an eccentric millionaire from the mainland visited the hotel. This visitor proved to be a miserly type who hated to give a waiter or a bellboy a tip. He was churlish, ill-mannered, rude, and just plain ornery. Nothing satisfied him, and he was constantly complaining about the food and the service, and he snarled at the waiter whenever he served him. This waiter said to me, I realized he was a sick man. Our Kahuna (a native Hawaiian priest) says that when men are like that there is something eating their insides, so I decided to kill him with kindness. How the special technique worked wonders This waiter consistently treated this man with courtesy, kindness and respect, silently affirming, God loves him. I see God in him and he sees God in me. And very soon perish! Go thou into the earth, May I see thee never more Bring knives, knives, Give (ie, put) into the earth. The principle for healing work of any kind is this: as much as necessary, but as little as possible. You should also stick to this rule when it comes to magical healing work, since body, mind, and soul should be nudged to do their own job rather than weakened, which can result if we ease their burden too much. Use it or lose it. This work is not about spinning a soft healing cocoon around ourselves, but about getting fit again, so we can stand up to our daily lives as well as possible. Sometimes relief is the first and most important goal.

In his acclaimed 1995 article, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that he resonated with how a Catholic priest once described to him the Holy Spirit as energy sent by God. Nhat Hanh shared that this phrasing both pleased him and deepened his conviction that the most reliable way to approach the Christian Trinity was through the doorway of the Holy Spirit. Integrating this with his Buddhist perspective, he likened the Holy Spirit to mindfulness and its fruits: understanding, love, and compassion. When you purposely tune in to the present moment, this view holds, and see and listen deeply in an open, accepting manner, you open a door to divine oneness. As does Armstrong, then, Nhat Hanh sees both Christian and Buddhist spirituality in the doing. From this vantage point, love, compassion, and other deeply moving spiritual experiences become holy states that you can cultivate through your own intentional efforts to be present, grounded, and mindfully aware of both yourself and others. Learning to trust that your deepest emotions can lead you somewhere good is what my collaborator and American Buddhist writer Sharon Salzberg calls faith in her 2002 spiritual memoir by the same name. Faith, or alternatively trust or confidence, is the usual translation of the ancient Pali word saddha, which Salzberg points out literally means to place the heart upon. Like Armstrong and Nhat Hanh, Salzberg emphasizes that faith is a verb, an action--something you do--not a received definition of reality or belief system that explains away life's mysteries. In Buddhism, to have faith is to open your heart to your experiences, or as Salzberg puts it, to be willing to take the next step, to see the unknown as an adventure, to launch a journey. He practiced this technique for about a month, at the end of which time this eccentric millionaire for the first time said, Good morning, Toni. How's the weather? You're the best waiter I have ever had. Toni told me, I almost fainted; I expected a growl and I got a compliment. He gave me a five hundred dollar bill. This was a parting tip from this difficult guest, who at the same time arranged for Toni to be made an assistant manager eventually of a large hotel in Honolulu, in which he was financially interested. And a word spoken in due season, how good is it! A word is a thought expressed. This waiter's words (thoughts) were addressed to the soul (subconscious mind) of the cranky, cantankerous guest, they gradually melted the ice in his heart, and he responded in love and kindness.

Not everything can be healed completely, even if the trend of believing everything is possible spins fine yarns in this regard. A friend who is a physical therapist developed a system for her work which you can use or adapt as needed. Since many patients come to her with the expectation now fix me right away and like to announce their displeasure when decades of stress or strain fail to disappear in a single session, she asks patients to estimate how they are feeling before the session on a scale from one (really bad) to ten (excellent). She asks them after the session which point of the scale they see themselves at now. This shows much more realistic results. Don't try to collect every available method, but rather concentrate on that which truly moves you forward, and polish it over time. We often subscribe to the erroneous belief that everyone has to know as many methods as possible. The old healers viewed that very differently. They had their pet subjects, but there were also areas in which they deferred to other people because it was simply not their area of expertise. They knew their limitations and knew that it is normal to have some limitations. Faith is a way of leaning in toward your feelings of love and oneness, trusting that--somehow--they will nourish you and lead you closer to your spiritual higher ground. Faith, according to Salzberg, is an active, open state that makes us willing to explore. It draws you out of the safe and familiar territory of labels and constructs, and into the more challenging and always changing flux of your own inner experience. From what I've highlighted so far, you won't be surprised to learn that I especially resonate with how my friend and Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, an expert in adult development, defines spirituality. In his 2009 article, Spiritual Evolution, he equates spirituality with positive emotions, noting that these states are what connect you to others, to the divine, and over time help you attain wisdom and maturity. Succinctly, he concludes, Love is the shortest definition of spirituality I know. I see no need to improve upon this definition. To be sure, casting spirituality as an altered state of consciousness is hardly new. Viewed one way, it's simply another description of the human practices that yield exalted emotional states in the first place. Descriptions like these didn't take us very far in the past precisely because they remained on the same soft side of the opposition between subjective and objective ways of knowing.

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