Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stream of Consciousness...

Nested here,
On my pirch in the city,
I watch the world spin around.
Rested here,
On my city step,
I listen to the sound of Heaven and Hell,
And all that is forgotten,
In Between.

The school life is like a daze, where you can lose yourself in books and social activities. A few steps out the door and the world still plays the game of "becoming," with everyone busily working on one thing or another. At times it seems silly to watch everyone buzz around like bees going somewhere. Going, going, always going - but where? And why? I follow nonetheless, for a delicious flower to suckle life from, the act of becoming. I wonder sometimes if this is our grand myth, this act of becoming. If I write, it is in that state of wonder. That subtle watching we are all capable of doing, the eye that sees a life unfold over the years, is the eye that can most dispassionately, yet most fully and completely observe the act of becoming, without becoming itself. More and more these days, there has been a sense of "watching" my life instead of becoming lost in the story. The habit crystallizes, will it shatter?

Come come,
Play pretend for a little longer,
Your laughter,
Your hatred,
Your tears,
Your drama,
Let it unfurl most obviously,
So that I,
That little Witness,
can play Audience.
Come come!

The show must go on!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Of Monkeys and Typewriters


I was just reading Alan Watts on the train today with my girlfriend, who we will call Siamese Dream. We were talking about how, no matter who you are reading, it seems that many of these teachers resonate with the same meaning, from Wilber, to Krishnamurti, to U.G. Krishnamurti, to Thich Nhat Hanh, to even Eckhart Tolle. Even those who disagree, who may have metaphysical or intellectual disparities, resonate the same understanding; that there is more than bickering, that there is a greater awareness, consciousness - or all pervading spirit in all things.

"Why is it that, with all of these teachers, nothing has truly shifted? You'd think that with all of these individuals, something would have changed by now in the general culture."

"True," she said as the Brooklyn train came to the next stop, "But it gets no coverage. The media chooses to ignore it."

She brought up a good point. No matter who we read, and how we read it, it is often very difficult to bring about change without the assistance of media coverage. Especially today. A minute later, after the train picked up again, I looked up to find a lady reading Eckhart Tolle. We smiled at the synchronicity, and continued reading.

"What's that?" My Siamese Dream asked, looking at a picture in the Watt's book. It was a picture of, literally, squiggly lines, or as Watts calls them "Wiggles." The universe, he points out, is just a bunch of wiggles. You don't know where it starts, where it ends, and nothing is outright cut and dry. 

It is the "Net" or "Web" or "Grid" which we have imposed on the world which allows it to start to make "prickles" or straight edges. The wiggles are made sense of. Yet, even this "grid" is another image imposed on the world. The stars, he notes, are not perfect geometric shapes, but rather like drops of water splashed randomly across the sky. It is our minds that creates and maps out the universe, making "start charts" and grids to help us navigate. I looked around, at the subway train, at the buildings outside, the tracks, the cars, the roads, and didn't find one wiggle at all. The only wiggly parts, it seems, are the people themselves. We're quite Wiggly, as Watts points out, and with our minds we make "prickles" to shape the world and make sense of it. That's all right of course. Our brains are developed in such a way as to promote this. But if we are to truly transform, or at least be able to get along better, we have to understand inter-dependence on everything, and the very nature of "prickly" making vs. the natural wiggly world.

So that all really means - self knowledge. Understand your own being, how you come into being, who you are, and how you "are." Part of this is questioning and openly exploring your own nature, and your own assumptions about the world.

As we got off the train, we discussed the last lines read in Watts. One being - given infinity, all random things will happen. This myth explains away all 'meaning' behind life, existence, love, beauty, etc. And the bleakness of this theory is meant to be embraced, toughed out. We both eyed this scientific myth with a skeptical eye. I feel that it is better to be skeptical, to be open to the possibility of "randomness" being wrong, just as much as we are open to it being right. 

Given enough time, would a monkey on a typewriter create Shakespeare? Even if they did, what would the gibberish be after it is finished? There seems to be more "consistency" in our consciousness, for me to outright embrace this example.

As we walked toward the school, we entertained one last thought: Although the theologians defend the faith in deeper, more meaningful ways - it is the stereotypical images of faith, it is the general mentalities that people embrace and utilize. As much as we like to look to the defenders of the faith, or any belief or system in general - we must not forget the general, surface levels, because they are what effect the culture, the consciousness, the collective, perhaps at an ironically deeper level than the deepest of theologies.

Bringing it to light, "Perhaps that's why these great sages haven't deeply affected us - because every shallow surface is shinier and more attractive, and the public takes the bait." They dare not take off the swimmies and dive deep. This doesn't make any kind of superiority in anyone who does, it just shows that, generally speaking, if we want change, it has to affect people on a massive, surface level - the media. A look at Kucinich is a great example. He is an excellent thinker, politician and has great plans for the U.S. Yet, the media willingly chose to discredit him, and then outright reject him. The effect? No coverage, no mass support, no voice.

To end on a good note, I have hope for the future, and am excited to see more sages getting a louder voice in a world that is increasingly filled with "white noise."

Check out what Alan Watts says about "Prickles and Goo"


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Paranormal Journal, Part 2



The first blog entry here, not so long ago (last fall) talked about the possibilities of the paranormal. I guess this is just a continuation. UFO's, crop circles, alien abduction, exorcisms; all of these things used to tickle my imagination. Don't get me wrong! They still do. It's just that they no longer captivate me for hours on end anymore. I remember finding a quiet place at the library in elementary school. Beside me lay a pile of UFO, alien, and bigfoot books. Isaac Asimov also remained close to my side as I learned about each planet, each solar system and the future of space travel. I'd often tell other 2nd graders horror stories, alien abduction accounts and warned them that spirits could be everywhere, so watch out! Naturally, I didn't have too many friends after scaring half of them off. Those who stuck with me also seemed to share a flare for adventure and mystery. But anyways, all of this is really just me rambling about how much the paranormal genre has permeated through my life. 
So this blog, every once in a while, will poke at that genre and see what happens. Take this for instance:



It's a little compilation of different crop circles. The intricacy is truly remarkable, and these things pop up quietly over night. On occasion, the owners of the property report seeing strange "Lights" dancing over the field, only to find massive and perfectly formed geometric shapes on their farm the next morning.  According to Wikipedia, crop circles date as far back as the 17th century. Here is the story and the picture of the infamous "Mowing Devil."

Although some men have confessed to making these,

Doug Bower and Dave Chorley made their crop circles using planks, rope, hats and wire as their only tools: using a four-foot-long plank attached to a rope, they easily created circles eight feet in diameter. The two men were able to make a 40-foot (12 m) circle in 15 minutes.



The phenomenon itself can't be discredited so easily, as weird evidence begins to pile up that just doesn't make sense conventionally. For instance, the amazing intricacy of the crop circles, with perfectly formed geometric shapes, suggest that a simple wooden plank would not do the trick. If you take a look at the first image in the blog, of the alien holding a disc up towards the viewer - this is a real crop circle! Appeared overnight. There is something bizarre about this one, as it appears to have a "3D" effect. Considering the scale and the detail in creating this, either the hoaxers have created a new and elaborate system in which every shape is created in perfect geometric harmony, or something equally as strange is going on. To add to the mystery, many of these detailed crop circles, when examined under a microscope, have shown signs of microwave energy. That's right, as if the plants were pushed down by a microwave blast. Bizarre, no? I'm trying to find the source for this information. I saw it on T.V. a few years ago, and more recently it was noted in Daniel Pinchbeck's "2012; The Return of Quetzalcoatl"

So what does it all mean? Who knows. The crop circle phenomenon is not so much a problem as it is a mystery. Whoever creates these has mastered an art form, creating complex geometric symbols, meaning and mathematics in these works. They inspire thousands to wonder, and perhaps, for now, that is at least a start. If only the media would cease turning a stubborn eye from the mystery, and dabble in true blindness of the unknown. That's the great thing about all of these mysteries, they test our arrogance, and reveal to us our ignorance. They invite us to accept the unknown as something that we cannot necessarily master or know. They tempt us not to create new ideologies, but to reflect on how we often become trapped in them. At any rate, that's it for this paranormal journal. See you next time!

BLank


Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's Official!

This is it folks! Fordham University has officially accepted KOSMOS as a club! We are now funded by the school to pay for our publishing. Awesome! Now calls for the heavy task of advertising. Fliers, fliers fliers, I say. We already have a few up in the main building. More to come. Any ideas for design? Any concepts for the journal? For anyone who just started reading or has been reading this blog, suggestions are welcome. Our first issue comes out in March. Our mission? Generally speaking, to bring each of the academic departments together under one magazine. Science, religion, philosophy, art, journalism, creative writing - whatever genre, whatever department, you are welcome here. We will also be exploring the edges of academia, and beyond. We are offering students a chance to learn about alternative knowledge, integral philosophy, and a creative and intellectual outlet. For those who are particularly spiritually oriented, we offer a channel for their voice. Come one, come all, you are already a part of the KOSMOS. As a bonus, we are designing the magazine itself after integral models. We're even having a Zen event this spring! Look forward to hearing more updates... 

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

East Meets West; Psychology for A New Paradigm


The labeling power of psychology can be mishandled, not only by intention, but by the very nature of labels, diagnosis and categories themselves. On the other hand, the positive aspects of knowledge enable the "knower" to see into things that may have before been mystified. For instance, knowing the terminology of an organ and the technical knowledge to operate enables a surgeon to efficiently handle procedures. But, can this same type of approach be used for the treatment of the whole human being, beyond his or her physiological body? In other words, the classical psychological approach is to learn how to map out the mind like an organ, labeling each mental state, thought, emotion and experience to its appropriate category. The mind, abstractly, is a vast network of logical equations and variables, in which the psychologist, or psychiatrist maps out and diagnosis. Although well researched and carefully thought out through rigorous scientific investigation, it is only so useful. For, the inner experience of "who I am" is dramatically different than the objective operating table. To the "me" inside, the experience of self is dynamic, organic and very much alive. Every day we are flooded with emotions, ideas and experiences which call for an understanding of "innerness." So, to approach the human being as merely the "outer" organs in which the self is hidden within, like a ghost in the machine, automatically creates a gap between the psychologist and his patient. This distance is perhaps unnecessary, as the psychologist himself is a human being, with an "inner" too. Is it possible to thus use an inner science to compliment the outer? Perhaps it is an assumption of our time that, to be scientific one must view the world through steel microscopes, to reduce the world to "outers." This would leave the human being missing quite literally half of his being, and this forgotten "inner" is perhaps just as important as the "outer," for it animates existence with the experience of life, the mysterious awareness we all have. The body and brain, in this sense, is the seat of the soul, or the self which is the hidden observer within us all. Without this, we are merely empty bio bags without a self. In the medical world, such a description would be called brain-dead. What is trying to be emphasized here is the need for an integrated view of our inners and outers.

So the problem of the psychologist is also the benefit. Her labeling power enables a field to work with, operating on the "inners" from the outside with a neat map to navigate with. To make this more tangible, take the example of a patient and psychologist. He takes a seat in a comfortable chair, with wooden floors and a well-lit room.

Now, the patent is suffering from a stormy, emotional inner of ups and downs. The patient describes this as being out of control - extreme moments of excitement followed by crash and burn bouts of depression. There are no go betweens, the patient describes, and he loses "common sense," potentially able to harm himself and others. He has finally gone to see a psychologist in hopes to gain some peace and autonomy back into his life. Now, hypothetically, the man is not aware he is suffering the symptoms of what is commonly called bi-polar "disease." After listening carefully, the psychologist can infer that he is a classic "bi-polar."

She describes to him the diagnosis, the cause of which is often explained by chemical imbalances in the brain. This is a life long disease, she describes, you have to learn to live with it. She recommends him to a psychiatrist for medication.

Medications, such as Abilify, might be taken by this man, in order to regulate the ups and downs and smooth out their peaks. This diagnosis, classically, is the best they say they can do. Now, there is a limitation to this kind of treatment as much as there is a benefit. By labeling something, we give it a certain connotation. It shapes its reality for us. This can both serve to narrow something or to enrich our understanding of it. Writers in the west, such as Foucault, tell us of the empowering, and potentially containing power of knowledge. Jiddu Krishnamurti describe how once you give a title to something, all potential to truly understand has ceased. It has now become a dead thing, shelved, booked, recorded and stored away. What is required, he suggests, is the capacity to listen, to explore the territory before squaring it away in maps, systems and modes of thought. Only then is there potential to truly connect and understand, in the unlabeled, dynamic, organic nature that is the human being, and is life.

Suspending for a moment, this library of classical psychological criteria, "diagnosis" then becomes a less restricted move to connect with the individual in need. The lense of abstraction is lifted, and if we have let down our own boundaries for an instant, perhaps we would see a different view of the "bi-polar man." Perhaps, then, we will have a different explanation for what a mental illness actually is. Perhaps, the previous divide between the inner and outer is what has created such great mental stress and strain on the human being. Questions like this will be free to be explored in such a new paradigm of thought.

Let's say that after a lengthy description of his symptoms, the patient is then asked to explore the causes for them. Through a careful self-analysis with the psychologist, the patient discovers he is repressing emotional insecurities, tension, anger and anxiety - and these repressed aspects of his subconscious slowly bubbled up into the sever condition he is in now. The man gains inner-knowledge, or self knowledge, instead of just outer knowledge. He is thus dealing with an internal experience, learning to understand its sources, as well as an outward understanding of his physiological makeup. 

Good health is not just the intake of diet, exercise and proper sleep, it is also the inner health, the mental, emotional and psychological state. A good model for psychology, then,  would recognize the human being as a complex creature of both inners and outers, as intricate as the single flower, with biological systems that dance in dynamic, organic equilibrium.

It can be said that we would no longer treat the machine to get to the ghost inside, but see both as direct, experiential and tangible. William James knew this early on, beginning his own journey through "inner" world by stating, "We now begin the study of the mind from within."

Within and without, let us begin our study, and usher in the new paradigm of a psychology for a deeper, wider and more inclusive world.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Along the old Temple Path

I was reading an interesting website, Michael Teachings. It is generally considered a new-age revelation, where a being from a higher spiritual plain has 'channeled' its wisdom to us folks in the jungle. I know there is alot of criticism with New Age teachings, and I'm not sure if channeling is what they often describe it as, but I'm willing to be open to the possibility. While reading this site, I kept a healthy skepticism, but found some good teachings that truly resonated with Integral theory. For instance, the life of the soul, according to Michael, goes through levels. Five levels to be exact. In the beginning, "baby" souls are open to psychic powers, do not differentiate themselves much from their environment, and often are passive and cautious. It is even mentioned that "baby" souls resemble "old" souls in this way, but they are two very different stages of development. According to Michael, one must go through all the stages of development to get to the "old soul" stage, even though "baby" and "old" stages resemble each other. This struck me as a clear example of understanding the pre-trans fallacy. In this sense, the general philosophy of Michael is vertical. He also teaches a variety of 'horizontal' teachings. I find it interesting to note that the stages of the soul resemble spiral dynamics.

The middle stages are more violent, defensive, meme-war like and karma-collecting. "Young" souls thrive in "I do what I want" environments, and "Adult" souls thrive in mythical, rule-role environment. Interestingly, it seems that the "Mature" soul is one who is tied between worlds, who is beginning to think in new perspectives, to shake loose the bondage of mythic structure and embrace pioneering fields. They are the troubled geniuses, Michael says, who are disillusioned and attempt to make sense of the 'unknown' without just translating it into meme-wars. Sounds almost like 2nd tier structures in spiral dynamics, no? The beginnings of integral, the existential self, etc. To sum it up, 'Mature' souls are finally clearing out their karma, and letting go of the burdens accumulated from past lives. They are also beginning to be the 'self reflexive' type, understanding their own psychological issues.

At last, the "Old Soul," is one who has at last dropped a majority of the karmic bondage and emotional baggage. The old soul is described as one who resembles a physiological old person. They tend not to be noticed much, as their development is extending beyond this 'plain,' or in integralist language, resonating with transpersonal states. Because of this, they seem to resonate less and less with those who are still grounded in the more earthly, physical domain, and mental domains. That is, personal and pre personal. Because of this they are, in the most direct sense, in the spirit of Taoism, one who is simply content to just be, and let things occur naturally. There is less 'doing' and more 'being,' but an acceptance and understanding of both. The previous 'stages' may not like this, or even pay attention to 'Old' souls because they seem to embody the spirit of action through non-action.

So, what 'stage' do you see yourself in? They can of course be intermingled, intertwined, or transitory. Personally, I see myself as dancing between the Mature and the Old soul. Often I find myself attempting projects, trying to 'connect' or 'resonate' if you will with many communities. The Integral community, Zaadz, Gaia, Tribe.net, as some examples. Yet, it seems almost natural for me and my blogs to go under the radar, hardly noticed. I think after reading Michael's teachings on Old Souls, a part of me has come to accept that aspect as natural and possibly even good. A constant struggle for me, it seems, was getting involved and noticed in these communities. I always seemed to disappear between the cracks. Not to complain, but it definitely was a downer for me. Maybe if I accept the quiet that's around me, I can learn a thing or two from the silence and find a better way to resonate with others. 

So, in that sense, I'll walk the old temple path, and not try to set up shop in market yet. Who knows who or what I will stumble upon. The stones are ancient here, and the temple falls gently into the forest's embrace. I have no dazzling community, nor podium to speak to many and with many, but that's alright. Every breath and leaf, flower and tree, being and non-being that is both seen and unseen, has a lesson to teach.



"This Is It," Alan Watts on Integral


"Psychologists with a slant to materialism therefore argue that mysticism is nothing more but sublimate sexuality and frustrated fleshliness, whereas the spiritists maintain that the love-imagery is nothing but allegory and symbolism never to be taken in its gross and animal sense. But is it not possible that both parties are right and wrong, and that the love of nature and the love of spirit are paths upon a circle which meet at their extremes? Perhaps the meeting is discovered only by those who follow both at once. Such a course seems impossible and inconsistent only if it can be held that love is a matter between alternatives, if, in other words, love is an exclusive attitude of mind which cleaves to on object and rejects all others. If so, it must be quite other than what is said to be God's own love, 'who maketh his sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and sendeth his rain upon the just and the unjust.' Love is surely a disposition of the heart which radiates on all sides like light."
-
This is It, Alan Watts pg 119

Yeah! That's what I've been thinking. It's an excellent metaphor for what it means to be 'integral.'  We simply observe any side, extreme, point of view in our awareness without demonizing it or rejecting it out right. It's accepted for what it is, just like when light shines, it does not shy away from the shadows, nor build fences to defend itself against the dark places. It simply resonates. We can do our best to reflect this ability in our lives. Applying this practically, Alan Watts was describing mysticism and the opposing views it had with his contemporaries. It still holds true today, however, when we look at magazines like Psychology Today, which typically reduce all spiritual and 'inner' experience to outer, empirical phenomenon. In that sense, and as Watts says, both sides are right and wrong. 



Monday, January 14, 2008

Th-eism, Ath-eism, Trans-eism

 I guess you could call it a rant of sorts. Definitely fits that description. It's also my intake on the atheism/theism debate that's going on in our culture right now, and a heartfelt attempt to dig little integral bits from the ideological wreckage that's going on between both sides. I wrote this after watching a debate between Hitchens and D'Souza. No matter how this fight will turn out, I think we need a call for integralists to start offering, if only subtly, a 'third' way of sorts.Posing a question to everyone: Should I attempt to host a 'debate' at my university, in which an integral "side" (hehe) would also be represented? What do you think?

Q: The Universe is too perfect, too intricately constructed to simply just "appear" out of nowhere. Where do you, a non-believer, think it came from?

A: Why are you so sure that the absence my reason is the presence of yours? Are you sure that your interpretation is correct? Couldn't it be man's attempt to interpret the apparent void we came from? The mythic god in the bible is no different than the mythic deities of Ancient greece, in that they were both imagined to explain spiritual experiences and the world.  Emerging from a patriarchal civilization and thus bearing such royal names such as "King of Kings," "Lord of Lords," with such honorary titles and reverence are common in Judeo-Christian culture. This made monarchal society reflected in their own view of the universe, kingly, divine and monotheistic. Is it any wonder that a culture ruled by a single, dominant male figure who is the king of all the realm, divinely appointed, would create a religion which also has a monarchy on top? This is not some ultimate truth, but a reflection of monarchal worldview. Other cultures of the east, north, south, shamanic, oriental - have dramatically different worldviews and their religious beliefs were effected in a dramatically different way.

If we must pose the question: What did all this come from, then? If not from God?

I would ask to first define which interpretation of God you have?

A monotheistic, biblical deity?
A non-dual, "Big-Mind?"
"Suchness?"
"Noumenon?"
"Witness?"
"Great Spirit?"
"Brahman?"
"Void?"

What interpretation, what level? What depth? To answer you directly,

I denounce the reality of the mythical, Biblical God
I reject the atheist vs. theist war of ideologies
I embrace the possibility of spirituality, but only question the interpretation of it by religious groups.

We attempt to understand the divine, but we interpret it depending on our own background and conditioning. Can we appreciate this? Can we sort through, beyond the boundaries of conditioning, to touch the divine without claiming it for our culture? 

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Manipulation of Media

I was browsing Digg.com a few days ago, and I came across a video from a Fox News Republican Debate. There was a certain piece of the debate that was actually cut out from the re-broadcast. This piece features an aggressive question against Ron Paul: Are you electable? Shortly after the youtube video began to gain attention, it was removed from Youtube due to "user term violation." In other words, was this Fox trying to cover it's tracks? Either way, it's up again, at least for now. If you have a chance, please check it out here. This video may vanish soon, and if it does I will leave the broken link up for everyone to see. Freedom of information? Public representation? Fox news appears to daringly abuse it's journalistic power, and manipulate what information is and is not represented.




Another video. This one is from PBS, detailing the level of corruption that is going on in the current election... Thankfully, PBS is not owned by the major power holders in mainstream media, and bless them for it:

Dreams; From Myth, to Reduction, to Transcendence

While browsing Psychology Today magazine, I read the article "Dreams: Night School." The author, Jay Dixit, begins with the description of a lab test on rodents. The experiment deprived rats of REM sleep for a number of days, and then subjected them to go through a series of "survival" tests. Instead of exhibiting typical behavior that would ensure a rat's survival in the wild, they acted abnormally, and perhaps even dangerously, seeming to lack the natural cautious instinct (Grooming in the open instead of hiding, etc). The final stage of this experiment was to give the rat's amphetamines to compensate for the lack of good sleep. To no avail. What the scientists came to conclude was that a rat needed to dream, or go through the normal cycles of REM sleep, in order to function normally.

Dixit goes on to describe the function of dreams themselves, the why and not just the what. Two basic concepts are described: 

The Freudian: Wish fulfillment, sexual or forbidden desires masked as nightmares, working out emotional conflicts.


The second and more modern interpretation tosses out anything that in depth, and merely describes dreams as random thoughts that arise while the body recovers and goes through the cycles of sleep. As Deirdre Barret is quoted in this article saying, "the noise the brain makes while doing its homework."

The author then asserts that these basic descriptions were the final say about dreaming until the latest discovery. The psychologist Antti Revonsuo interprets dreams as a sort of testing ground, where nightmares are a school of sorts in which the dreamer is put through obstacle course for survival. Or, as Jay Dixit calls it, "A Theater of Threats." Multiple scenarios play out, and your skills are tested in the abstract playground in order to prepare you for waking life encounters. This is why, Revonsuo believes, when actually going through dangerous experiences, they actually can be described as "dream-like" and automatic. It is because we have gone through similar scenarios in our dreaming life, and are in some sense trained to handle the situation while awake.

When Revonsuo began studying dreams, he asked his students to start keeping logs of their own nocturnal escapades. He noticed something striking. The dreams were filled with dangerous events, negative emotions, monsters, chases, escapes, fights, and near-death experiences. The dream world was a hellscape of danger, teeming with threatening events far more sinister than in waking life.



Antti explains this through an evolutionary perspective; our ancestors must have dealt with constant danger, always struggling for survival, whether we were fending of animals or being chased by prehistoric predators - the human brain developed a nighttime training ground in order to prepare us for the toils ahead. In theory, the brain uses emotions, particularly the negative ones, and traces them back to what caused the fear. It uses these memories to construct a hazardous scenario that we thus struggle through.

I do have a few problems with this theory. First and foremost, not all dreams are about mere survival. The author does mention this towards the end of the article, describing stunning scientific revelations while in dreams, or even the fact that Paul Mccartney heard the song Yesterday in his dream, woke up, and wrote it down.

It is because of experiences like this, and a variety of others that I feel that the "Dream School" theory is a partial truth.

For instance, I had been meditating consistently last summer, and at one point I actually began to meditate in a dream. It started out normally, and perhaps typical of the dreams mentioned in this article: Survival, every-day life. I was running through a mall trying to beat the clock. For what? Who knows. Physical objects confronted me. I jumped, leaped, ducked, darted through, eventually finding some small wing that lead outdoors. This was it. I looked at a clock to note the time, and then something profoundly different shifted the dream.

I left the mall and found myself in the woods. Breathing, relaxing, letting go, I suddenly found myself surrounded by animals. There was something unique about them though. I felt connected, as if I were a part of them, as if I were ingrained into the environment. A piece of a dynamic and organic unity. The "flowing" open and boundless state of consciousness began to pervade the dream. The forest was vivid, alive, always moving, and the animals began to communicate with me. At first, it was not in language, but emotion, basic thought, and simply "awareness" of each other. Then, the animals began to snarl, growl, and fight each other. I felt somewhat threatened, but the meditative state pervaded over the danger, leaving me relaxed and aware.

A small animal, perhaps a dear or large rodent, looked at me and began to speak, "There's no need to worry," it said, "You see how everything simply is, and this is true even in nature, you know. We are all simply being." I suddenly became aware of the "Witnessing" state described in meditation, but curiously I was aware of it in every animal, every tree, every rock in the forest. I understood this was what the animal meant.

Suddenly, a bear charged across a stream, directly at the animal that spoke to me. It simply looked up, calm, poised and in some mental sense, giving me the 'half smile' in Buddha pictures. "Even now," it said, as the bear came down on the animal and killed it. Throughout this apparent viciousness, there still was a calming, changeless, nameless presence. I awoke from the dream lucid and awake, and profoundly moved.

Dreams like this one convince me that the dreaming state has a multitude of purposes, each existing at different levels. The survival school scenarios I am sure are a part of the dreaming reality - the subsistence, the instinct. Going deeper, dreams appear to have an emotional aspect. They are also as Freud described, emotional-based, confrontation with issues and hidden desires. From instinct, to emotion, to ego. They are also spiritual, transcendent and mystical in purpose. A dynamic dance between our instinctual and spiritual nature, giving us lessons, training grounds and transcendent opportunities. They need not be reduced to mere "survival" school scenarios, but embraced and transcended.

As a side note, I'd be interested to hear what supporters of the Dream School theory would think about the effects of
Iboga, a powerful african psychoactive. After taking this potent shamanic drug, users reported needing a mere few hours of sleep. Daniel Pinchbeck, in his book "Breaking Open the Head," explores this curious drug and its affects. He describes his own experience as a transformative one, likening it to years of psychoanalysis wrapped up in one evening. He reported needing little sleep, and little dreams for months afterward. Pinchbeck suggested this might have something to do with Iboga's balancing affect, somehow healing the rift between left and right brain hemispheres. I'd be very interested to learn more about this.

At any rate, this just goes to show the world of dreams has multiple levels of meaning we have barely began to touch. But what is more apparent now is quite striking: They touch each level of the human experience - from pre-personal, personal and transpersonal. In that sense, I can understand why Tibetan Dream Yoga has such an appeal. Dreaming life, like waking life, has the potential for mystical transformation

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Hacking Democracy"

I just finished watching the HBO Documentary, Hacking Democracy. And, let me tell you, this video really made me wonder if our votes really count anymore. The video's premise is this: Do our votes really count? Are they being manipulated to sway elections in one direction or another? The voting machines themselves are owned by private companies that do not even allow those in charge of elections to understand the technology. They are supposed to be secretive, and only to be repaired and managed by the private companies. Yet, in this documentary, a number of individuals easily obtain program data from one of the larger corporations - Diebold. Diebold is harshly criticized for its negligence and conservative favoritism. Yet, as only the truly corrupt can do - it is not removed from its voting contract! Only the flawed machines were banned. The corruption within Diebold was scolded publicly, but embraced out of the spotlight. 

There are a variety of voting issues raised in this documentary. For instance, in areas with struggling economy and lower class citizens, very few polling machines were even given to them. One or two machines were expected to handle hundreds of voters, standing out in the rain for hours. This negligence is an issue all to itself. 

As a final blow to Diebold, a number of computer scientists manipulate Diebold electronics to rig a test election. The question was a matter of whether or not it could be hacked, and whether or not the hack could be detected.  Sure enough, it was successfully hacked, and sure enough, the hack was not detected! Diebold insisted that this was because it wasn't tested by their own technicians. Fortunately, this excuse does not hold sway, as a growing number of scholars and computer scientists have confirmed Diebold's nearly pathetic lack of security. This raises the very disturbing question for many citizens: How much do our votes count? In the 2004 presidential election, one district even managed to get negative votes! After a thorough analysis, it was determined that this was a very unusual problem that had never occurred before, and could only occur if someone was deliberately attempting to manipulate the votes. What's going on here? As a partial nihilist (I admit sometimes I really am), I'd say that this is nothing new. We know the government is corrupt, we know many Americans don't vote anymore, so is it such a surprise that private interests have begun to become more important than public?

Bringing this topic to the current presidential race, Kucinich has asked for a recount:

 Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the most outspoken advocate in the Presidential field and in Congress for election integrity, paper-ballot elections, and campaign finance reform, has sent a letter to the New Hampshire Secretary of State asking for a recount of Tuesday's election because of "unexplained disparities between hand-counted ballots and machine-counted ballots."

Quoted on the issue, Kucinich says,

"I am not making this request in the expectation that a recount will significantly affect the number of votes that were cast on my behalf... Serious and credible reports, allegations, and rumors have surfaced in the past few days... It is imperative that these questions be addressed in the interests of public confidence in the integrity of the election process and the election machinery - not just in New Hampshire, but in every other state that conducts a primary election."

Kucinich raises a critical point that I feel may fall on deaf ears. The goals of those interest groups, those government officials are set and charged. They have their eyes on the prize, sitting comfortably in subtle thrones of power. Why would they want to give up their cushioned thrones of bureaucracy? This is something that the American people will need to continually keep tabs on, and consistently battle over. It's a fact of life that powers corrupts, no? It's something we all crave, yet I hope that our nation has not completely lost power in its ability to do checks and balances.

For anyone who's interested, here is an article describing Diebolds machines and elections:


You can watch the documentary in full here: HBO: Hacking Democracy

Or in parts 1-9, here: Hacking Democracy 1 of 9


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Presidential Debates - A Review

Hey everyone. Just finished watching the Republican and Democratic Debates in New Hampshire. The actual numbers aside, I'd like to just take a few minutes to review and summarize the general mentality of each party, what was said, what was not said, and who was left out. 

The Democratic Debate

To bring this up because it needs mentioning: Dennis Kucinich was excluded from this debate by ABC, raising a great deal of controversy and an official file of complaint by Kucinich. He argues that such an act is unfair, and not in the best interest of the people. I'm going to have to agree with him here - It's not surprise that ABC, like any other major news corporation acts with a bias and utilizes its power to hold sway on how an election, or for the moment this race, will turn out. It's a shame that Kucinich was excluded, as he missed valuable airtime and the chance to discuss his values with the American public. He has proven to be more than a worthy candidate in the previous debates. I guess we'll see how this ends up - but for now here is a video by Kucinich's news site concerning the ABC exclusion.




Moving along, and taking a look at the actual debate.... There were quite alot of accusations. Obama accused Hillary, Hillary accused Obama. Edwards made a call for a crusade against interest groups. They were kept in the spotlight for the majority of the debate. Issues centered around healthcare, terrorism and more worldcentric policies. This, generally speaking, is good. Unfortunately it seems alot of the debate was kept on trivial differences - each candidate attempting to one-up the other in, "I'm more progressive than you are." This is a major turn off to me, and perhaps my sharpest criticism. We want individuals who will can lay specific plans on the table without constant bickering with other candidates - an individual who can make his or her own stand without needing to attack others in desperation. Unfortunately, it seems one of the few who were able to do this - Kucinich, was excluded. There's more to my rant on Kucinich's exclusion, but I think that one deserves another blog. My apologies to the readers if they've heard enough. Please, feel free to skip that future blog.

Republican Debate

There is a stark contrast between this debate and the Democratic one. First off, I don't see the appeal in any of the candidates - except Ron Paul. A majority of the candidates agreed on some central issues: That Bush had the right idea, but didn't execute it completely correctly. They believe that the primary issues are security, border control and nostalgic principles of honor, duty, military background and loyalty. Candidates like Huckabee also seemed to support a strongly religious undertone.  One of the most shocking statements in this debates was Giuliani's, "We have the best health care system in the world." I nearly choked up a mouthful of chinese food at this point. It seems the majority of the candidates support sentimentality and ideals over realities and facts. If they merely looked at some of the facts, such as this one on digg.com : 10 Myths About Iraq - They might have something more valuable to say. I hope that the American people can see through these general myth-based beliefs and sentimentalities, and realize it takes true courage to embrace the issues of the modern age- and the responsibility to take on new perspectives. 



Friday, January 4, 2008

The One Place,

The One Place,

 

One question I must ask you is: Must it be a physical place, or can we start with the mind? In other words, I’d like to pose the idea that many of the major issues we are facing in today’s civilization begin inwardly, and not the other way around. This is not to deny many of the physical world problems; disasters, weather, disease, poverty, famine, etc. It’s only to acknowledge that perhaps humanity would be more prone to assisting the areas of the world that are in need of great help, if on the “inside” we were more prone to do so. It seems to me that there lacks a certain capacity for compassion. We are not sure of ourselves, and the world we live in is already so terrifying, that so many of us seem to be more interested in our own psychological security before anything else. There are varying degrees of this, from your neighbor buying a Hummer to military dictators slaughtering the innocent in the name of power and control. Although the gap between these two examples is great, inwardly – it might seem that they both stand in common ground.

 

We are terribly afraid. And let me propose this common phrase as the reason behind that fear: “We are afraid of the unknown.” If you really look at this phrase, you will see it is impossible to be true. Who can fear the unknown? If we don’t know what it is, how is it that we are afraid of it? It would seem that we do not fear what may lie in the darkness, but rather we conjure our imagination to create monsters in the darkness – and we mask the darkness with a boogey-man so that we at least have something labeled, known, squared away. Concepts help us, at a psychological level, control our reality. And control is safety. Fence by fence, wall by wall, we build fortresses of ideology in order to transform the world into a place we can feel secure. If our inward sphere of reality somehow became physical, we would see vast castles around individuals, cultures and people, all attempting to round everything up into the realm of the known. Come to think of it, if we look at our civilization today, this may not be so abstract after all.

 

But that just goes to show what I am trying to convey here – We crave and act upon anything and everything that allows us to feel secure with ourselves. And this, it seems, has been the driving force of civilization. The security of power, the security of ideology – war and politics, conquer and divide – these things have been churning the gears of our societal juggernaut for ages, and it seems there is no stopping it until it destroys itself.

 

What can we as individuals do, then, to help? Do we start at the grassroots, and work our way up? Do we help the poor, the needy, the hungry? Or do we engage the realm of ideologies and attempt to settle disputes and transcend idea-wars? I would argue that both are necessary, but must stem from one authentic part of ourselves – our compassion for the world, for all life. We must have it in us to lay down our own burden of issues, to face our own issues with compassion and boldness. There is no other way to bring about change that is lasting and ageless. This compassion itself invokes a higher state of consciousness, or level if you will. One in which the human being is no longer merely concerned with both physical and psychological subsistence. The capacity to connect with others, to open up, to listen, to understand human nature because they understand themselves. If we could only do this, we may begin to see major shifts in the way civilization handles its problems.

 

As much as we would like to say, the majority of the world is not doing this. Embracing this fact and accepting its reality is as vital as carrying out a mission to help the world – otherwise we are simply following yet another ideal, i.e. everyone is compassionate. Instead, we have to recognize everyone has the potential within them for compassion and wisdom. What we must do then, is to discover it in ourselves, and help others discover it too. We can do nothing more, nothing less than this. No change can be forced, and no revolution in its truest sense is done by any measure of aggression. In the end, it is the human being who must awaken, and it is a realization only he can achieve. We can merely point the way, help guide them as we guide ourselves to recognizing our true nature, our innermost potential. Ultimately it is not what we must do, but how we must be.

 

The action will flow naturally from the being. So many of us are trying to “become” greater or achieve something at an end point somewhere – but it is in the living, the being, between the end points that true life and vitality is. We must learn this playful awareness of the present, for by doing so a great psychological burden is dropped. We do not need to live in fortresses of security, in memories and ideals – for they will take us away from this ever-living and organic state of being. Instead, we must learn to slowly, surely let the castles crumble, and embrace the present.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

On the State of Awareness

It is perhaps at first very arrogant to assume that there is a "state" in which one has primordial awareness. This may be so. Just as likely, however, is to assume that there isn't - and so we are faced with a false dilemna. To believe? To not to believe? What would happen if someone approached you, or even me - and stated that there was no believing or unbelieving. There simply "is." All at once, we may find ourselves questioning rational thought. Not to believe or unbelieve - then is it simply apathy? To this, the imposter would simply reply, "No, that is itself another term and condition of reality - I offer you none but reality itself."

Logic has constructed for us a rather perfect world of order. Where there is disorder? A sufficient understanding simply hasn't been discovered yet. Yet, the strange questionaire might ask us this: What happens when the mind is silent? There is no room for logic then. What is there when silence pervades? And perhaps, as a means to deepen our understanding of what it means to be quiet, we should attempt this. What is it to be utterly and profoundly quiet, as deeply so as the silence after the first snow of winter, of the ice cold plains of the arctic, or the deep quiet of a forest untouched by humanity except by your own breath?

Indeed, what good would such a quiet mind do?

Unfortunately, I must end this masquerade and reveal myself as the madman, the imposter. What this book will attempt to do, and hopefully is doing as you read these pages, is to openly play with your own concepts of reality. To lightly push and pull, untie the knots of preconceived notion so that you may also explore what it is to be human, what is to be without labels and conditions - what it is to roam freely in a land where the only fences are the ones we have built nail by driven nail. I invite you to explore further, with me, with all other readers who are intrigued by this notion. We are all too often caught in the humdrum of everyday life, of distractions, interests, falling in and out of our own awareness. What I propose with this book is absolutely nothing special, elitist, arrogant or idealistic in any way. I simply ask the reader to join me in self-awareness - to attempt to "just be," and see what may or may not come out of it. I write with this in mind, and this only. That being said, let us begin.

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