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Where are we with who we are ?

Discussion in 'Meditation Chatter Box' started by oneflewover, May 1, 2010.

  1. oneflewover

    oneflewover Member

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    I've meditated for almost 40 years now and when I look back there was little in mainstream publishing for the aspiring meditator to draw inspiration from at that time. Except of course for the classical books such as the Tibetan Book of The Dead and the Tao Te Ching etc, which to somebody just starting out seemed pretty impenetrable. The early TM books were just beginning to become available. The Beatles had had their brief flirtation with the Maharishi in India and Western consciousness was exposed to this strange practice of sitting down and doing 'nothing' ! Totally alien to many Occidental minds and viewed with great suspicion by the established religious faiths, to the extent of being seen as heretical and blasphemous in some quarters.

    People began meditating initially I guess for various reasons. The main one probably, to hopefully experience this mystical enlightenment that they we were hearing so much about. Time moved on and so did the research into the neuroscience and the findings became ever more clear that meditation was an effective way to manage stress. Life has certainly speeded up in the past 40 years ! This research has manifested in the advent of such useful tools as Lifeflow. So many people have now started to meditate for this very reason, managing lifes pressures and are finding that other areas of their lives also begin to change for the better. Relationships etc. If meditation is anything of course its about relationship, with 'ourselves',with other people and as importantly with the environment. This becomes evident as these relationships subtly shift to a more refined level of functioning that is far less material.

    So I come to my main point, is this higher level of functioning an evolutionary impulse that has been brought about by our over materialistic dependency and the threat it is posing to our very existence ? Is it too late or is it happening at just the right time ? Some might argue that its timing could be nothing other than perfect.

    I feel the Project Meditation site would be a good place to open this subject up for discussion. There are it seems some pretty evolved individuals here. Thank you.

    Graham
     
  2. Panthau

    Panthau Member

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    I believe this evolution in the last 150 years, in relation to the last few thousand years where so little changed, has to be an impuls from "inside" somehow. Thats just a logical point of view.

    I could imagine, that for some on this planet, its time to move on beyond the body, as the brain has some limited functionality. Of course, no one could ever tell about the sense behind that. Probably just a game for the bored self.
     
  3. Ta-tsu-wa

    Ta-tsu-wa Member

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    What an intriguing topic for discussion. Have you ever read Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"? He writes of two mindsets: the romantics, and the nuts-and-bolts.

    In his book he takes a long, cross country trip by motorcycle with his son and another couple named the Sutherlands. The Sutherlands represent all the people who see the world in romantic terms, and for that group of people Pirsig writes that the nuts-and-bolts world; the world of hard facts, of technological advances, and so forth, appears ugly, threatening, and is to be rejected.

    On the other hand, for someone living in the nuts-and-bolts world, the view of the romantics would seem too airy-fairy, too artsy, too idealistic and unrealistic, as if they are trying to avoid the practicalities of reality.

    Pirsig himself, in the form of the story's narrator, seeks to find an ecumenical approach that incorporates both artistry and technology, so to speak.

    Graham, you and I were young at a time when those emerging into the adult world were largely all the way over on the spectrum to the romantic side of the picture. I suspect that those of us in this age bracket have more of a tendency to fall into the romantic world view because of our exposure at a relatively young age to the 60s mentality. Even if you didn't join peace marches, burn your bra, wear love beads and peace signs around your neck, or have hair down to the middle of your back (I do!), you probably still absorbed a good deal of that mentality that interprets the nuts-and-bolts mindset as somehow threatening, or at least as something not completely desirable.

    In terms of your question, it seems to me that meditation and other related practices would have a different meaning depending on which of these two mindsets you most adhere to. For the nuts-and-bolts folks I'm guessing it has more of a therapeutic value; it serves as a tool for stress relief and for increased efficiency and productivity. It's a way to coax a little more performance out of yourself and at the same time provides for a bit of R&R.

    For the romantics my guess would be we practice more as a holistic expression of who we are, what we are, and who and what our ideals and philosophies suggest we are in the process of becoming. I look at research neuroscience has performed on the practice of meditation and I see its conclusions as being interesting and somewhat supportive of the experiences I have had over the course of nearly four decades of consistent meditation practice. At the same time, while it is interesting, it also seems (for me personally) largely superfluous. I would and have practiced regardless of what science and technology has to say about the matter, or even if they had nothing to say at all. For me, meditation isn't a practice I hold to because the world has become more frantic and busy, it's just a natural extension of who I am. It doesn't seem to be here "just at the moment it's most needed" because it has always been needed.

    I think that if you're in the nut-and-bolts mindset, however, it may well appear to have come onto the scene at just the right moment to rescue us from the stress and pressures that advancing knowledge and technology inevitably produce. Those folks probably look at me and those like me and see someone who is in many ways not completely grasping what the world has become. Who knows. Perhaps they're right.
     
  4. Midnight

    Midnight Member

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    Wow, what an interesting thread.

    My interest in meditation has come from realizing myself and therefore being detached to thoughts. I don't want to find myself through anything I do, I want everything else I do to be done without an attachment to a result.

    Meditation has helped me tremendously looking back. Doing it daily and not expecting results to appear or be fixed right then and there helped. It sometimes doesn't seem like it on a day to day basis (other than the awesome feel of relaxation) that meditation is having a great effect, and other days I realize just how much more organized my mind is and how I can become present much more easily.

    The Western world (more specifically the USA and capitalism) works in a way that always has an agneda. They're always trying to get you to buy things. The only way they can do that though is by making you feel you have a sense of lack. Through advertising, sexploitation, and a myriad of other marketing schemes, that's what it all comes down to. Making you feel lacking.

    And if you sit down and watch TV with this awareness, you'll realize just how often this underlying message is bombarded into our brains that can take a toll on EVERYTHING in our lives.

    I was no different, and fell victim to this without even realizing it. I wanted to find myself, I was sick of feeling lacking. After getting into self-improvement (first to try and manifest material desires, but now the aim is transitioning to being the best man I can be) I started realizing myself more and more, but there is still much more to learn :)

    I guess at some point, EVERYONE will have to realize this. You have to wake up at some point. I just have this feeling that one day people will realize and have this awareness.

    Oh and to address a point Pan made, I believe we are only using a minscule amount of brainpower. More power than usual in meditation, but on average we aren't using too much of it. I truly believe there are secrets and mysteries we have yet to fully realize about our bodies and minds, and that we can be capable of things "superhuman" for lack of a better word (not flying or lifting cars...but something better)
     
  5. Bhavya

    Bhavya Member

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    Interesting discussion. Thanks to all who are contributing to it.

    There seem to be two questions here:
    What brings someone to the spiritual path? and
    If more people became spiritual, could our (human) existence be brought back from the brink of disaster?

    Some are born with a spiritual awareness from day one. I attribute that to past life spiritual living and lessons learned about what brings true happiness and fulfillment. Some 'wake up' sometime during their lifetime because of an illness or death or other forms of suffering so they reexamine their priorities. The old way of living no longer seems viable. They too may have done some real growing in past lives (or not) and just need a push to take up the spiritual path. Or perhaps the suffering is enough for them to seek a way out of it. This I think is what you, Graham, were pondering... and I truly hope that this will broaden now.

    Are we evolving as a species? If we're on the brink of major planetary changes ( and many would say its already begun) can we stop further disaster by becoming more spiritual and respecting the planet and all species? I think it's possible, especially if more and more people send out positive vibrations on a regular and frequent basis. But is this likely?

    I think we have cycles of existence. The rishis in ancient India were said to be highly evolved, living in harmony with the planet and each other. We've descended from that to what some call the Kali Yuga which is what we have now, materialism, self-absorption, greed, and so on. Buddhists too believe that we are in an age of decline. Not to be pessimistic, but .......

    We can do our part by meditating, praying, helping others and sending loving-kindness. We can set a good example for others by walking lightly on the earth and respecting all life forms, living ecologically. Essentially we can clean up our act (actions + mind). What effect that will have is unknown but at the very least, it will help us and improve our ability to react well whatever happens.

    As for me, my spiritual practices have changed my entire way of being in wonderfully positive ways. Lifeflow is of enormous help in this. Being more peaceful and aware, it's become much easier to cultivate positive traits: love, generosity, gratitude, sensitivity to others' needs, patience, etc. Not that I'm at all perfect, but I'm better than I was in my way of thinking and acting. Behind it all shines the Self but until I permanently live from there, it's a great thing to purify the mind.

    Thanks for 'listening.'

    Bhavya
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2010
  6. Itlandm

    Itlandm Member

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    While Asian styles of meditation were seen as heretical, Christianity has had a rich tradition of meditative practices ever since Jesus Christ first advised his followers to "not let your thoughts wander hither and yon". Whether there is more meditation in the West today than in the past, I am honestly not sure. Probably overall, but perhaps not as a proportion of the population. I can easily see how some people believe in reincarnation, for it looks like in every generation there are some people who "get it" and some who don't.

    There are two new things in the last few generations though. One is that the average life expectancy is much higher. The other is that we have new and more powerful tools for almost everything. Rather than travel for months to a rare cloister library to find answer to a certain question, we may find it in a minute on the Internet. We have grown to take this for granted, but this combination amounts to having a virtual lifetime of hundreds of years, if not more. It is like the mythical ancestors before Noah's Flood who lived for over 900 years each. What we can accomplish in a lifetime today is on that scale, but mostly we don't give it a second thought.

    With great power comes great responsibility. If we live this life carelessly with this kind of leverage, we destroy the environment outside us, and even worse, the environment inside us and between us. We become as monsters, to a neutral observer. But we could also become as angels, for we have the power to reach out and do good on a global scale. It is an awesome time to be alive, as if thousands of years of dreams have come alive - the dreams of the greedy and the dreams of the compassionate, side by side.
     
  7. oneflewover

    oneflewover Member

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    Thank You

    Thanks for your fascinating responses.

    Yes Pan I guess 150 years ago we were well into the industrial revolution and things were hotting up in many different ways. Psychologically we were having to adapt very rapidly to the demands of the machine and with the advent of 24 hr lighting we could work around the clock. Stopping to gaze at wild, green spaces whenever you chose to, as you pushed your cart to market was becoming a thing of the past :( Perhaps the gross materialism that has come about since has been the spur for the other side of our brains to gain the ascendancy for a while and regain some balance. The feminine or Yin reasserting itself in an extremely yang world.

    The 'nuts and bolts' aspect of life that you referred to Ta-tsu-wa had become very real and perhaps threatening by the 60's with Rachel Carsons book Silent Spring being published as a warning of the effects of artificial fertilizers. And Pirsigs' quest to rebalance the wild, natural places both internally and externally with the hard metal of industrialization (which some would argue had probably bred more 'nuts', than 'bolts') through the introduction of a Zen perspective. Yes I was very much of a romantic persuasion in those days and my hair flowed long and free, now it struggles to reach my ears and is a rather painful reminder of impermanence. I envy you Ta-tsu-wa.

    Thanks for your response Midnight you mentioned that you chose meditation initially for more material reasons but now it has become a spiritual quest. I would say it was the same for me but is there such a thing as choice, coincidence or chance or is there only circumstance ? It is something I often ponder :) Are circumstances the only real mother of change ?

    Thank you Bhavya for your thoughts. Suffering and loss seem to be at the root of all change I agree and it seems to me that it is those things that are driving these patches of consciousness that we call ourselves to full awareness at this time and paradoxically the greatest thing we can do to allow it to unfold is no-thing but work on ourselves and set the example! That of course can bring about conflict between the two groups that Ta-tsu-wa has so clearly defined but lack of reactivity to the drama of the 'nuts and bolts' by the 'romantics' is the example to set I guess. This middle way seems to be the answer and there are many groups that expound that approach , the Venus Project being one of them www.projectvenus.com

    Finally many thanks Itlandm. An amazing post ! I had not considered our access to information and our longer life expectancy being such a major factor in our development. The early Christian mystics you mention were of course living the true message of their religion as were the Zen Buddhists and the Sufis of Islam. As the various churches became more heavily institutionalized so the original message, essentially the same message, was forced to the periphery and in some cases individuals persecuted. Your final point regarding the responsibility that is inherent in our present situation must be recognised and accepted by individuals. Otherwise the old adage ' So within, so without' will be a perfect illustration of hell on earth. I'm quite optimistic really :):confused::rolleyes:. Couldnt find an emoticon to express all three.
     

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