THE MAJESTY OF SIMPLE BEINGS — The Paramecium

One cell, two orifices, Bio 101.  The 'lowly' paramecium.  Yet in a recent Discover Magazine article (May 2011) we learn how amazingly complex this simple creature is.

1) It can swim 10 times the length of its body in one second

2) has 40,000 genes, twice that of a human cell

3) epigenetic potential–in which environmental facts influence gene expression

4) periodic sexual reproduction in which genetic material is exchanged between organism which reinvigorates their offspring

5) thousands of cilia which can change direction

6) symbiotic relationship with chlorella algae providing them with photosynthetic (light) energy

Even the most "primitive" of living things is mindblowingly complex.  We still don't really understand how it all happens

RUMINATION = RUINATION — Let Go of the Past & Be in the Present

Rumination is for cows.  Literally it refers to the "chewing of cud" which in similar animals is necessary for the digestive process.  Rumination for us implies a fixation on distressing events and thoughts and repeatedly examining them. 

It is similar to worry which is more concerned with future possibilities than those of the past.

In either case the time and energy spent on neurotically re-living past failures or obsessing over future possibilities does nothing to promote health or optimism for the future. 

It also robs us of the precious present moment.  We literally walk past natural beauty around us, ignore acts of kindness, are oblivious to our own opportunities to relate to others, and generally exacerbate our own suffering.

Now it can be useful to examine our own lives in an effort reduce our weaknesses and help ourselves to evolve.  But many cross the line.  Examination becomes obsessive.  We ruminate.

Rumination can lead to depression when it is allowed to fester.

So by all means examine our lives, identify mistakes for their ability to teach us how to cope in a healthier manner.  Then let it go.

Rumination is for cow, not people.

 

METAPHYSICAL QUOTES — The Death Series — # 5

my real job is to tell people that death does not exist.  It is very important that mankind knows this, learns not to be afraid…knows that death does not exist.  That everything in this life has a positive purpose—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD

 

 The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life's joy.  One can experience an unconditional affirmation of life only when one has accepted death, not as contrary to life but as an aspect of life—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

 

Like last year's vegetation our human life dies down to its root and still puts forth its green blade into eternity—Henry David Thoreau

 

The fear of death haunts the mind of even the bravest of people…..but in fact there is not such thing as death.  So called "death" is nothing but a natural corollary of the phenomenon of birth……Actually, the individual Self, living in the body, is immortal.  I give up an old body in order to put on a new body….We fear death because, under the influence of ignorance, we have forgotten our real Selves—H.H. Shantanand Saraswati

Birth is not a beginning, death is not an end—Chuang Tzu

ENVY– The Unnamed Monster — Addendum

There is another small but significant aspect to the envy experience.  It is time sensitive.  It latches on to  a moment in time when the fortunes of another seem greater than our own. 

Also, envy contains the belief that we are at least as deserving (if not more so) of the good fortune of another as they are.

 Rarely do we acknowledge that perhaps the events in the lives of another were the result of hard work, perseverance and talent.

Envy regards the accomplishment or reward of someone else as somehow having eternal consequences.  Certainly, someone who wins an award, has been recognized for their accomplishments, wins the lottery etc. is clearly experiencing considerable joy in the moment.

Yet a lifetime is a series of moments.  What their future holds is as uncertain for them as for us.  Success in the present moment does not always guarantee future success.  A hard fall hurts more when it comes from a high point.

So, once again, avoid envying the lives of others.  As I noted in the previous posting–a life is a package deal.  One aspect may seem remarkable and desirable, another more negative aspect may lurk just around the bend.

ENVY — Taming the “Monster” Without A Name

Shakespeare referred to jealousy as the "green-eyed monster" in Othello.  Envy is  its cousin–the unnamed beast. 

The two emotions are related but different.  Jealousy involves at least three individuals where there is competition for affection or attention.  Envy only requires two–you and someone else

As envy is likely more common, it can be more damaging.  Religious traditions have spoken of it as one of the "deadly sins.  And it is so ingrained into our consciousness that it must be recognized in order to deal with it. 

It is clearly connected to the competitive nature of existence.  We all feel insecure about our position in life, be it professional, financial or personal.  There are "issues" we have with all of the above.  When we encounter someone who seems to have resolved an issue that bothers us we reflexively feel envious–why not us?  Why didn't we get that job?  Why isn't our spouse as attractive or successful?  What about our children?  Why couldn't they be like their kids?  Why I am I suffering from physical or emotional issues and they seem so healthy and content?

The quest for serenity/happiness is completely tied in with envy.  Our lack of either makes us vulnerable to envy.

The problem is that envy is a completely negative emotion.  By its very nature when we feel envy we feel other negative emotions–sadness, anger, frustration.  These emotions have physical consequences (as do all feelings).  We may feel a facial flush, our pulse and blood pressure rise, our intestines churn. The very happiness we seek is pushed further away which only makes us more envious.  It is truly a monster in its own right.

The irony is that envy makes very little sense.  We usually pick and choose one element of the life of someone else which we would choose for ourselves.  We fail to realize that every life is a package deal.   You might envy one aspect of Joe's life but not another.  Even if you could trade for that one aspect, you would get it all!   How foolish to even "go there".

Besides, from a spiritual perspective each life experience is unique.  Each element of adversity is an opportunity to evolve and grow by how we deal with it.,  Each life has its share of joy and sorrow, success and failure.  Some seem disproportionate to other lives.  Who says life has to be "fair"?   There may likely be past-life and karmic issues that each life must face which are unique to that individual.  So it makes no sense to make comparisons with others.

Facing the success of another and how we deal with it is another challenge.  Do we share in the joy of others or prefer to compare our suffering with those who have lost more?  Do we actually enjoy the pain of others?

How we deal with the "monster-without-a name" says much about our spiritual state of being.

We can all learn to handle the beast better.

THE ELUSIVE AMERICAN DREAM — The Buddha & HAPPINESS

Why are Americans less happy today than in past generations?  Haven't we achieved more of the so-called "American Dream" of    1) Marriage 2) kids 3) suburban living ?   A fascinating article in this months Psychology Today by  Lauren Sandler http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201103/the-american-nightmare addresses these issues directly.

The bottom line seems to be our misguided expectations of what makes us happy.  And by "happy" I'm referring to a general sense of contentment as opposed to the low level hum of existential angst and worry many of us experience. 

 Researchers such as Martin Seligman have built an entire branch of psychology on studying this phenomena. 

Interestingly enough the solution to the problem may have been offered by SIddhartha Gautama, the Buddha more than 2500 years ago.

He wrote about the universality of suffering and the ways by which suffering could be alleviated.  He wrote about the folly of adopting materialism as the ultimate goal of life.  He emphasized that it was our attachment to the physical world, our expectations which led us to suffer.  He reminded us that life continuously changes, that death is not to be denied but to be acknowledged as universal.  He would have laughed at our desire and struggle to control our lives and our fates.  Happiness might just be what is left over when we let go of these expectations and attachments.

As in the Sandler article it seems as if suffering ensues when our expectations exceed our reality.  Of course our choice of what we believe to be important sets up these expectations.

If we expect that a larger home, bigger car, smarter more beautiful children, more prestigious country club address, more desired vacations, larger stock portfolio will make us happier, then we will be disappointed.

When our goals are to be continuously stimulated, sexually turned-on, constantly admired, working 24/7…..then when we get there,  more miserable than ever…..we are certainly not happy.

Americans are less happy than our European counterparts.  The American dream has become a nightmare for many.  We have forgotten what is really important and what is not. 

We have sacrificed time with friends and loved-ones for work and scheduled "play".  We have adopted continuously frenetic lifestyles which leave no time to be still–with nature and ourselves.  We have filled the present moment with sounds and distractions rather than being alone with our minds.  We have forgotten the simple pleasure of doing an act of kindness for a stranger or friend, of making time to show affection, to have a pleasant smile, to hold the elevator or door for another.  We have forgotten how great it feels not to be constantly on edge, to let down our guard when we are in public, to not respond in anger or self-defensiveness when we feel challenged. We have forgotten how a slow deep breath in the presence of the sea can put our problems in perspective.

In essence we need to re-evaluate our own expectations about what is important in life.  We need to give ourselves and our loved-ones a break when we or they don't quite live up to our fantasized dreams.

Read the article, read Buddha, sit back and relax.  Don't expect life to be perfect.  In fact don't even expect to be happy.  That might just allow it to happen on its own.

METAPHYSICAL QUOTES — The Death Series — # 4

Death is nothing at all. 

I have only slipped away into the next room–I am I and you are you. 

 Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. 

 Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always use. 

Put no difference in your tone, wear no iced air of solemnity or sorrow….

What is death but negligible accident? 

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? 

I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near just around the corner. 

 All is well.

                                      Henry Scott Holland, Anglican priest