WHAT IS THE MIND ? — THE SOUL ?

I am revisiting this topic that I wrote on in September of last year because it returned to me in that semi-awake state we all experience in which some truths rise to the level of awareness.

Of course it assumes that there is a soul.  This is the spiritual element of our human nature.  My own acceptance of the soul as reality is derived not from religious teachings but from the experiences of those I have described previously.

There is no other way to explain these highly credible experiences.

When I asked about the distinction between the soul  and mind  to a highly talented medium his response (after some time of meditation) was  the soul manifests and observes, the mind creates and reacts.

I still find this to be a fascinating distinction.  The immortal soul manifests in us.  It's exact nature is certainly debatable, and probably unknowable.  It likely "merges" to some extent with our physical brains to create the mind we live in.  But essentially the soul is the witness of all what the mind creates.

This is similar to the Vipassana / Insight meditation of Buddhism which asks us to "witness" our thoughts and feelings and come to the awareness that "we" are not them.

It is the method for achieving the nonattachment perspective which allows us to heal through our dark, painful emotions.

So we are therefore assuming the perspective of our soul–the witness of our minds.  It is a way of relieving suffering.

Our minds are clearly the playing field upon which we exist.  Our minds create our perceptions based upon how it reacts to circumstance.  All is perception.  All changes from moment to moment.

Training and gaining some degree of control of our minds is the goal of meditation.

By understanding the distinction between mind and soul we may gain some sense of serenity in the midst of chaos.  By realizing we ARE a soul we can witness our minds asthe emotional rollercoaster we often experience as reality.

The content of our minds is where we live.  But it is helpful to come to realize that it is a creation itself.   Our goal should be to reach the level of awareness in which can actively participate and mold that creation.  And more importantly, how we react to it. 

PSYCHIC READINGS & FREE WILL

Those who are familiar with my writings  know that I have been fascinated by the mental abilities of psychics and mediums.  I am keenly aware of the number of fakes and phonies who claim this ability but am personally convinced that this ability or "talent" is real.

Philosopher, psychologist and all-around American intellectual of the late 19th and early 20th century William James studies this phenomena.  While disputing and unmasking those who pretended to offer legitimate readings, he also concluded that some gifted mediums/psychics were real.

My own experiences confirm this conclusion.  A recent reading with a medium/psychic Lynn Milano from Metuchen NJ were extremely compelling. 

But regardless of their ability and regardless of how convinced someone is of their predictive gifts, the other factor which remains most predominant is free will–our choice.

I do believe such individuals can "see" tendencies or trends for the future.  But they do not "know" with complete certainty what will happen to us or our loved-ones. 

The future remains uncertain.  Even physics speaks of probabilities and possibilities for the  evolution of the physical universe.

Without our ability,  our necessity to make free will choices, there is literally no purpose to our lives.

On a deeply metaphysical plane, free will is the mechanism for spiritual development.

We come here with possibilities, opportunities and certain circumstances which may limit or facilitate these choices.

But…..how we deal with life's challenges remain the free will decisions which lead us down one path or another.

So I still find such readings fascinating.  They may confirm our belief in a deeper more complex universe in which we reside.  They may confirm our belief in a spiritual dimension to reality.  They may encourage us to pursue certain possibilities over others.  But they are not definite, not fixed.

We all know of individuals who transcended extreme difficulties and disappointments and reach high levels of satisfaction in their lives.  Likewise we know of others who squandered opportunities and possibilities.  How can we explain these two extremes?

Courage, determination, perseverance, making the most of opportunities, resisting pessimism and continuing to move towards a goal are real possibilities for us all.

Within reason our futures are in our own hands.

PRETTY IN PINK — A Spontaneous ADC (after-death communication)

Personally I never tire of hearing ADCs.  They add to the list of evidence for survival of consciousness after death. 

 The following was offered to me by a young Hispanic woman I'll call Carmen whose personal story involves her biologic mother dying shortly after her birth from Lupus.  Recently Carmen was also diagnosed with an early stage of Lupus and is quite worried about her own prognosis.

Carmen's half-sister Lydia had a different mother and is known to be quite psychic.  One morning she related the following —I was looking at myself in the mirror and saw standing behind me a young woman who looked very much like you but with short hair.  She was smiling at me.  She was wearing a pink dress.

Carmen believes that this was her own mother,  whom she resembles,  offering a message of support for her during these difficult times.  Lydia had no idea that her mother was buried in a pink dress.

It was also the anniversary of her mother's death.

Why would a departed loved-one appear to someone besides their closest relative?  This is not an uncommon experience. The reason may be to confirm to others that this is a true ADC.  If the close relative would report this, others might not believe it.  The other person would not be expected to have the ADC.  It could not be viewed as "wishful thinking" because they were not that close.

In this case Lydia was not even her daughter, did not know she had been  buried in a pink dress and definitely was unaware that this was the anniversary of her death.

This makes the ADC even more compelling.

ATTACH / DETACH / NONATTACH — The Challenging Choice

The Buddhist notion of Nonattachment deserves consideration.  It seems to me to be an ideal approach to emotional connection, but one which is hardly natural.

Our human "default" position is to be highly emotionally Attached to those we love and care for.  As a result we suffer the emotional rollercoaster that is typical–we empathize so deeply that we suffer with them.  In truth we often suffer more than they do.  We worry incessantly about possible outcomes.  Most of these scenarios will never occur, yet we suffer in the present moment anyway.

I personally know individuals who believe that if they do not worry sufficiently about a loved-one some misfortune may occur.  This is clearly a superstitious approach to life and guaranteed to burden the individual unnecessarily.

Detachment occurs as a reaction to someone or something that we consciously decide to abandon emotionally.  This may come as a consequence of being emotionally traumatized by that individual or event.  It may actually represent a form of attachment itself because it may require an obsessional focus in order to retain the desired withdrawal.

Nonattachment involves an attitude of loving concern towards the individual but a release of expectations as to their future.  It does not mean abandoning or ignoring the needs of a loved-one.  It emphasizes maintaining positive thoughts as well as any necessary help and assistance.  It just does not attach to the outcome.  As a result we do not suffer in the present moment regarding what may or may not occur in the future.

As mentioned, this is not a natural or easily maintained state of mind.  It requires meditative techniques to emphasize being present in the moment.  Training is necessary but the outcome may be a reduction in unecessary suffering.

HEREAFTER– A Film Well Done

Last night I saw the  new film Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood.  Matt Damon and Cecile de France were excellent as were the supporting actors.  The screenplay was by Peter Morgan.

I thought it was a  fair and well balanced approach to the subject matter of the near-death experience, mediumship and the notion of an afterlife.

It was actually brought together the experiences of three different characters and tied them nicely together at the end.

Damon's character was the most interesting to me because it revealed a deeply conflicted and reluctant psychic/medium.  His words echoed those of others who I've met–it is a curse not a blessing.

Eastwood, whatever his personal beliefs, treats the subject matter with the respect it deserves.  He leaves the audience curious about the metaphysical nature of reality.

That in itself deserves kudos.

THE SIMCHA / SIMHA! MEDITATION — Part Two of the Serenity Duo ( + Shalom)

The Shalom meditation has been a frequently visited blog posting.  It is done silently and is a mantra type. " Sha" occurs on the in-breath, "Om" on the outbreath.  It is Hebrew for peace and the meditation carries with it awareness of personal peace as well as that for the universe.

Peace is a powerful component of serenity.

Another aspect of serenity is an underlying joy which is not dependent upon the minute to minute life experiences.

In Hebrew Simcha means joy.  It can be used as a mantra as well.  Silently say "Sim" on the inbreath and "Cha" on the outbreath.

The gutteral sound "cha" is not easy for everyone.  Like the spelling of Hanakah/Chanakah it might be useful to use "Ha" on the outbreath.

Of course it might even be preferable.  "Ha" is ha!  The association with laughter is not coincidental here.  It can even be emphasized as noted with the exclamation point.

More importantly– try it and enjoy it.  Both peace and joy are necessary ingredients in serenity.

THE PRESENT MOMENT # 2 — Our Greatest Healer

This posting takes the present moment concept and expands upon it.

Not only is the present moment our greatest teacher, it is the source of our healing.

In our culture's obsession for multitasking we find ourselves not even experiencing the full content of our senses.  We feel the need to eat and read, eat and talk,  view a beautiful sunset or a patch of clouds  and text message someone about something else.  We dilute the experiences, the joy of living, by not being fully present in the moment.

Most suffering arises from our mind's incessant obsession with both the past and the future.  We worry about what someone said or did to us.  We cannot forgive others or ourselves over mistakes made or failures.  Likewise we worry constantly about our futures and those of our loved ones.

Worry offers us little.   There is no doubt that we can learn much from our past mistakes.   It is foolish to ignore the lessons of the past or the challenges of the future.  We need to acknowledge them, make plans and then LET THEM GO. 

 The problem is that WE SUFFER IN THE PRESENT MOMENT for that which has already occurred in the past or that which may never occur in the future.

By taking time out to be in the present moment both past and future are suspended.  Meditate on the breath.  Feel your body and mind relax as you let go of all thoughts and feelings.  When you find that your mind has wandered into a field of worry and distress, gently back away and return to the simple experience of breathing.  Techniques vary.  What is important is the act of doing it.

There will be nearly immediate improvement.  The reason is quite simple.  In that moment of meditation suffering ceases. In bringing focus to the simple act of breathing, the mind and body begin to heal.

We should become aware that nothing of substance has changed in our lives.  Our "history" is the same.  Our circumstances haven't changed.  Our futures remain uncertain.  

We should become aware that what determines our state of happiness or despair, of distress or healing is the content of our minds.   It is the place where we exist.  And we can choose to change that content  through a simple act of meditation.

Even when we leave that state of being present and our thoughts and feelings return to surround us, to torment us, recall that moment of serenity.  Remember being at peace.  Recall that we can return there at will.

The present moment is our greatest healer. Being aware of this truth is essential as well.

THE PRESENT MOMENT # 1– OUR GREATEST TEACHER

What if you viewed your life as a spiritual journey in which each and every experience of thought and action were learning opportunities?

Of course this may be a practical impossibility and clearly not applicable to "every" thought and experience.  But in general it is so.

The metaphor is appropriate and a useful one. 

We can view our experiences as "teachable" moments.  We can regard the Universe / Spirit as a benevolent educator. 

Even our experiences during our formal education has demonstrated that some of our most demanding teachers were interested in our intellectual growth and development. Their insistence that we reach for our highest potential may have seemed excessive and uncomfortable.  But the consequences of having done so were worthwhile.  We learned. We grew.

I don't believe that viewing life's adversities as punishment is helpful at all.  If we are burdenned by a religious perspective that insists we are innately sinners and destined to suffer–then we need to reject that now! It is a human interpretation and clearly harmful to our spiritual journey.

Whether we believe that karma rules or not–the difficult times in our lives can be viewed as opportunities.

Mistakes, poor judgment, angry moments, hurtful interactions with others are all opportunities for growth on both sides of the experience.  Those who have "received"  can react with anger and feelings of retribution or regard the perpetrator as struggling with their own unevolved issues.  Likewise the aggressor can stop justifying their actions, explore the roots of their own reactive behavior  and recognize their need for change and growth.

Even joyous occasions, when we experience success in some measure need to be placed in the perspective of an overall life.  This is not to diminish the  pleasure of this wonderful feeling  at all. Be in that moment as fully as possible.  Giving thanks and acknowledging the contribution of others to this moment of joy is a valuable lesson in awareness.

Viewing the present moment as a learning experience is not easy.  We are habitually reactive to what happens to us.  Our emotional selves seem to be like a marionette, jumping  from moment to moment and dependent upon what life brings to us.

Meditate on the nature of experience.  Allow yourself to view this life's journey as a series of unique moments.  Each offers us the gift of its unique nature.  We can learn from them if we are aware.

MINDFUL EATING & WEIGHT LOSS

Although I have touched upon this subject in the past I have not specifically addressed the topic of of diet and weight loss in one posting.  I believe it is important because weight issues often dominate our personal and societal psyche.

Mindfulness, adopted from Eastern spiritual traditions, is simply based on paying attention to what we are doing, thinking, feeling.

I speak from personal experience–we all multitask and believe that is the only way we can survive.  Not only are we deluding ourselves, when we multitask and eat–we gain weight.

Eating while reading, watching TV, doing emails, scanning the Internet etc, etc, is a virtually guaranteed to result in overeating. Even eating socially –talking, drinking takes our attention away from the experience of eating.

The related issue is that multitasking is actually an illusion.  We actually just rapidly jump back and forth from task to task.  The results appear to be simply this–our performance with each task suffers.

When we pay attention to every mouthful, when we savor the taste, consistency, aroma—when we enjoy the experience–we become satisfied with less food.

The result is simply less calories consumed, a gradual and natural loss of weight and a heightened experience of being alive.

This is not a speculative statement.  It works.  Now if I could only follow my own advise! 

METAPHYSICAL TIME TRAVELERS—Where Are We ?

We are all metaphysical time travelers.  And that is not always to our benefit.

We ponder the past, worry about the future and rarely are present in the moment.

As a consequence of this time jumping we face frustration, anxiety and general suffering.  What do we do with the past?  We cannot undo what we have done or what has been done to us.  Yet we continue to visit there and suffer each time.  Our awareness lingers in the past, questioning our actions or the actions of others.  Intellectually we understand that the past cannot be undone.  But it doesn't stop us from being there.

Re-interpreting the past can be helpful.  Applying techniques of cognitive / behavioral therapy can be healing. But we need to move our consciousness into the present moment.

Likewise, we conjure different complex scenarios regarding the future. We worry about every possible negative outcome.  We worry about the future of loved-ones and ourselves.  We worry about terrorism, the weather,  the future of the planet.

If we consider what we worry about we may discover that it usually doesn't occur.  Ironically our suffering often arises from sources we did not expect.  So did worrying help at all? The answer is clearly no.

Now no one should disregard either the past or the future.  There are valuable lessons we need to learn from our past failures and successes.  Likewise we would be foolish not to plan and prepare for the future.  Vigilance of the real dangers that surrounds us allowed our ancestors to survive as well.

Yet when we obsessively jump from past to future we risk missing the present moment. 

The present has no real measure yet it is where all doing occurs.  It constantly flows as we experience it.  But we need to try to capture it, to savor it. 

When we focus on being present in the moment we become aware of much more that surrounds us.  Life gains an added element of meaning.  We actually experience what is happening to us.  Time slows down for us, for once.  We come to realize that only being in the now can we feel safe.  It is a refuge in which we can reach some degree of serenity and contentment.

Only by being present in the moment can we truly connect to another human being.  Only in this way can we come to understand the content of our own minds.  Only in the present moment can we possibly appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. 

It is what makes the practice of meditation, contemplation, yoga, prayer etc so valuable.  In those moments we cease being time travelers.  We actually reside in that ephemeral moment in which everything occurs.