Welcome to a New Year (Feb 2009)

This month’s front cover depicts the wintry entrance to the Johnson’s Landing Retreat Center. The huge cedar tree loves our backyard, the amethyst geode under the sign welcomes all for a visit, and our garden shed has a fairy door for all our little friends. This edition of Musings tells of the latest books I have been reading. It is not easy for me to put into words what I often sense is important information, so here are some quotes that resonated with my winter contemplation time.

No one man can go beyond his own knowledge, no thought can reach beyond contemporary thought, and it is impossible for us to guess or foretell how many generations of humanity may have to live in war and waste and insecurity and misery before the dawn of the great peace to which all history seems to be pointing, peace in our heart and peace in the world, ends our night of wasteful and aimless living. Our proposed solutions are still vague and crude, passion and suspicion surround them. A great task of intellectual reconstruction is going on, it is still incomplete, and our conceptions grow clearer and more exact – slowly, rapidly, it is hard to tell which. But as they grow clearer they will gather power over the minds and imaginations of men. Their present lack of grip is due to their lack of assurance and exact rightness. They are misunderstood because they are variously and confusingly presented. But with precision and certainty the new vision of the world will gain compelling power. It may presently gain power very rapidly. And a great work of educational reconstruction will follow logically and necessarily upon that clearer understanding.

This quote was written in 1933 by H. G. Wells of London, England. It is on page 223 of the original edition of his book entitled A Short History of the World. The first 200 pages is a condensed history of who killed whom because of this attitude or belief system prevailing since about 1,000 BC.

The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Inner Peace is the one Richard and I chose to read on December 21, a day of contemplation and the winter solstice. The Dalai Lama asks the question, “Who created the universe?” His answer… “If evolution has a cause, there are two possible explanations for it. You could accept that the universe was created by God, but this will entail many contradictions such as that suffering and evil were also necessarily created by God. The other possibility is to say that there are an infinite number of living beings whose karmic potential has collectively created the whole of this universe, as a fitting environment. The universe in which we live is created by our own aspirations and actions. At least this argument has the advantage of being logical.”

According to the Dalai Lama, space or ether is not a total void or nothingness but is composed of emptiness particles, going from the subtlest matter to gross matter (air, fire, water and earth), and this process is called generation. When these particles dissolve back from gross matter into subtle matter, it is called dissolution. Space or universal emptiness is the basis of the entire process. Emptiness corresponds to the idea of zero, to the total absence of intrinsic existence. A zero, in itself, is nothing, yet without zero, counting is impossible. Therefore, zero is something and nothing at the same time. The same goes for emptiness. Emptiness is empty, and at the same time, it is the basis of everything. He also asks the question, “What brings about happiness?” His reply is… “Happiness is related to the way we think,” and continues onward …that human beings are not capable of living in isolation. Our nature requires we live cooperatively. Indeed, it is natural to love, as a parent loves their child. We all have a deep desire for peace even if it is hidden, thwarted by our upbringing. That is why the Buddha advises us to search deeply to satisfy our craving for peace, and that often takes many life times.

Since I usually have several books on the go, it is interesting for me to note the similarities, each one adding understanding. In his book, The Different Drum, Scott Peck describes emptiness as… “An exercise of discipline and always the most difficult part of process that a group must undergo if it is to become a community.” He continues, ”There are few among us who do not have great difficulty in tolerating the emptiness of not knowing. After all, knowledge of the past, the present and even the future – and above all, self-knowledge – are touted as the ultimate goals of the human experience.” He then talks about a few situations and then asks “What would happen if each of us said, ‘I don’t know‘ and allowed answers to present themselves.” He then talks of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote the classic book, On Death and Dying. She says there are five stages people go through as they face death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She says most people are unable to ‘work through’ their depression to find the peace they so desire.

Scott Peck suggests that to get through a depression, we must go through a kind of death, a letting go of our ego so that change can affect us. Feelings of irritability are our body’s way of saying it wants time alone so it can talk with us. If this does not happen, the body has no choice but to increase the ante, and soon we have migraines or weight gain. If we sedate the messenger and use drugs, we will feel better but the body will stay unheard: we become unbalanced, our ‘dis-ease’ get louder, and the need for medications become stronger. Christiane Northrup in her book The Wisdom of Menopause, a must-read for people who wish to understand why hormones create moodiness, describes emotions as containing the word ‘motion’ and says our feelings are meant to move us.

In yet another book entitled Journeying East, Conversations on Aging and Dying, Victoria Jean Dimidjian interviews Michael Eigen, who talks about the need to strengthen our emotional muscles. He does not believe that people’s feelings have enough time to get digested. Instead, we allow powerful drugs so that our feelings can be used for gain by the powers that be, including the media. He continues to explain that the children he sees in his professional capacity as a psychologist are given medications much too quickly. He says, “If we are to evolve, our feelings for ourselves and for each other will evolve, but first we have to learn to use our internal resources so that as a world group process, we gradually correct and add to each other’s knowledge. It’s part of the paradox of living that keeping the long view in mind enables one to be in the here and now. “

May this New Year bring moments of celebration as you discover the wonder that you are. If you need help discovering this, please join us at the Spring Festival of Awareness or attend a workshop at our Retreat Center in Johnson’s Landing, visit one of the many Holistic Health Shows that happen every spring or contact an advertiser that resonates with you.