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Novel Insights & Wisdom
Page Two

January 29, 2016

Just mention the word "weather" and responses might cause one to categorize it with "religion" and "politics". Be that as it may, I want to offer one lesson for your enjoyment taught to me by nature in the last El Nino through a poem it inspired me to write.


Limbs of tree-friends
Bowed, snow-bound
Brought to ground
Flouting winds

Bird feeders buried
Brave snowbirds poke
Hunger's no joke
Finches flurried

Great broken frond
Spruce on ice
Creates a nice
Tree-friend wand

Release the weight
Sweep clear the mounds
To free of pounds
Pine needles straight

Throw seeds across
The snowfield's crust
Winged creatures must
Watch every toss

Return inside
Peer out to see
Tree-friends set free
Birds fortified

Storm teaches me
As I help them
Through earth's mayhem
So will I be

By Lily G. Stephen
February 21, 1998

The other half of this posting results from my discovery of a weighty volume among the huge book collection at Blooming Rose Press -- The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, who was granted the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. Originally written in German, the English translation was rendered by H. T. Lowe-Porter. The title, of course, tempted me, and so I began to turn the pages and found myself intrigued by an intellectual roller-coaster ride -- more relevant than most adventure stories of present time. The translator's note speaks to a highlight of the story: "...it can be said in a special sense that he has looked into the seeds of time."

One aspect of Mann's primary character bears this out: "For he was by nature and temperament passive, could sit without occupation hours on end, and loved, as we know, to see time spacious before him, and not to have the sense of its passing banished, wiped out or eaten up by prosaic activity." (p. 103)

These excerpts will probably ring true for any who have recognized the varied flows of time. "In general it is thought that the interestingness and novelty of the time-content are what 'make the time pass'; that is to say, shorten it; whereas monotony and emptiness check and restrain its flow....when one day is like all the others, then they are all like one; complete uniformity would make the longest life seem short, and as though it had stolen away from us unawares. Habituation is a falling asleep or fatiguing of the sense of time; which explains why young years pass slowly, while later life flings itself faster and faster upon its course. We are aware that the intercalation of periods of change and novelty is the only means by which we can refresh our sense of time, strengthen, retard, and rejeuvenate it, and therewith renew our perception of life itself. Such is the purpose of our changes of air and scene, of all our sojourns at cures and bathing resorts; it is the secret of the healing power of change and incident." (pp 104, 105)

There is considerably more written about time, in this fashion of writing a hundred years ago. What really got my attention is a contemporary piece of writing that even goes further than Thomas Mann's observations, from an organization website for The Mind Unleashed, and that it came my way at the same TIME as I had read the above:

"In Ancient Greece, they had a way to explain the difference between our perception of time speeding up and slowing down (Kairos), and regular chronological time. Kairos time was also known as gods time because it feels as though you are outside of the matrix of regular time. In Kairos time life just flows around you, you perceive it at a very fast rate, respond quickly, follow coincidences and feel as though no time has passed or energy was spent on the task at hand.

"This type of time perception has also been termed being ‘in flow’ or ‘in the zone’. Sports athletes and spiritualists seek after and study this state in order to maximize their performance.

"Time dilation is a concept that is largely based on the spatial relativity theory from Einstein. This theory basically states that the faster something is moving the slower time appears to move. This relative experience reminds me of videos that show life from the perspective of a fly. The fly moves at ‘normal’ speed relative to himself but large animals and humans appear to be moving very slowly. All a scientist would need to do in order to slow down the perception of time is to speed up physically. Since flys can move very quickly they can get a small dose of what it is like to slow down time.

"Another theory about the slowing down of time isn’t physical, however, it is mental. Until we can learn to move our physical bodies at a superhuman speed we can instead train our minds to do the speeding up for us.

"If we can train our minds to move much faster then it could appear to us that time has slowed down. Although it is technically a perception and not reality it would still give us very fast reflexes and the ability to absorb grand amounts of detail all at once. This superhuman trait would be like the Jedi powers of the star wars universe or the mind powers of Sherlock Holmes."

These observations and concepts should be perceived within the context of the true nature of reality as, for example, how Andrew Olendzki shares Paradox with us - click here. My wish for us all is that our time here on earth is used in the best possible ways to bring about compassionate behavior and to evolve into the realms of wisdom.

Quotations from The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg), Alfred A. Knopf, Third Printing 1946 (Originally copyright 1924 by S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin.)
Quotations from The Mind Unleashed at http://themindunleashed.org/2016/01/how-we-fast-forward-memories-and-learn-to-slow-time.html

March 2, 2015

How are we ever going to make profound leaps in the essential core of our being - in other words, evolve - in this sea of distraction and delusion that surrounds us? This question does not meet with shrugs or trendy quips from the serious and devoted spiritual practitioner who passes from one day to the next painfully conscious that the classic symbol of sand in the hourglass cannot be ignored.

We are not left wanting. Any call for help meets with that helping hand if our hearts are true and we tune in. There is a word that doesn't resemble present-day catchwords. That word is "recollection."

A spiritual master who may be considered by some to be a radical voice in his day, while by others a powerful master and teacher of esoteric practices, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche is quoted in the March, 2015 issue of Shambhala Sun:

"The practice of recollecting awareness throughout the day is the main way that we can prevent ourselves from sowing these further seeds of habitual cause and effect. In the present moment we can disrupt these chain reactions. The memory or recollection of awareness creates a gap, because awareness cuts through the continuity of our struggle to survive. The practice of recollecting our awareness shortens the life of that fixation. That seems to be one of the basic but powerful points of meditation practice....In the midst of enormous chaos, recollection is a simple action. There may be problems, but you can simplify the situation rather than focusing on the problems. Natural gaps in our experience are there all the time."

He recommends "cultivating that jerk of awareness." The entire article details this process in deeply understandable terms. It is excerpted from a book to be released in April, 2015: Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

February 14, 2015

Do we see how illusory everything is? We look out the window in the night and see the clouded moon peering through tree branches, seeming the ever-cycling night visitor through its trustworthy phases.

We look later, and it has broken free of cloud and tree to blaze. In truth, it is not an orb of light; it is a mirror of light cast from the sun. It has not always been there, either. It is just there for its short time in the greater time scheme of the universe.

The moon draws us out through the door, across to the river where its reflection ripples upon the water's surface. We know this is not the moon. We know now that we see a mirror of a mirror.

This is an easy-to-understand illustration of the reminder by Kalu Rinpoche that leads into each volume of The Third Verse Trilogy: "We live in illusion and the appearance of things."

March 17, 2015

Why is it important to give up attachment?

"Jack Kornfield said it really well in a recent tweet: 'Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.' The Buddha taught that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, that all meeting ends in parting. A Zen master put it simply: Everything breaks. Attachment is our unwillingness to face that reality. We suffer, and make others suffer, when we try to hold onto things after their time, whether it's relationships, experiences, or just the previous moment. Accepting their true, transient nature eases our fears, opens our hearts, and benefits ourselves and others. Non-attachment is neither indifference nor self-denial. Ironically, letting go of attachment is the secret to really enjoying life and loving others. It is freedom." Excerpted from Shambhala Sun FAQs, March, 2015, p. 17.

November 3, 2015

For a long time, the existence of multiple layers of consciousness and existence, and my awareness of this, has not only intrigued me - this recognition has vastly aided my behavioral growth. When I fall into old patterns of seeing others through judgmental eyes, such vision segues into understanding of how we develop upward (sometimes downward) through these levels of behavioral - and thus spiritual - evolution. Judgment disintegrates into compassion.

Recently while getting an eye exam, the small calendar on the counter caught my attention with a quotation: "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it." -Marshall McLuhan

If you are a returning visitor to this website page, specifically Page 2 now, you will resonate along with me to Marshall McLuhan, an insightful author I discovered in 1970. This single statement took me to my collection of notes from dharma teachings of recent years. There it was, so I share with you another statement harmonious with McLuhan's: "So many things are invisible because they aren't in your belief system, your paradigm." -Lama Lena's Dzogchen Teachings, September 28, 29, 2013.

So let us not wonder why we can perceive what others cannot, or we can't recognize what others do. Instead, we can be inspired into discovery of expanded consciousness.

Apologies for taking so long to get back to this growing collection of insights; other demands in these past months called for concentrated effort. It could be that this El Nino winter will slow down some of these matters, opening up the early morning hours of quiet to explore the pages of notes and shelves of wisdom books that wait in patience.

November 19, 2015

Multidimensional realization could help so many to expand consciousness, fine-tune perspectives, and purify harmful behavior. It's a term that keeps arising for me, though it's probably not original.

In fact, when I lacked a story for the fictional work I wanted to write fifteen years ago, I  "asked for it." When the core concept came through, it definitely rocked me with a vision of parallel planets, parallel universes, and higher realms.

Did writing The Third Verse Trilogy change my life? Oh yes. It helped me to recognize how interconnected we are in a macrocosmic sense. On my personal spiritual path, I have gotten deeper into understanding the highly symbolic forms of relationship with the unseen through the Vajrayana practices.

Taming of the ego is a significant side of spiritual evolution, for the ego, as we know, is not only capable of driving us into directions that interfere with our true purpose -- it is quite likely to. So as we go about necessary activities in daily life, a simultaneous relationship with higher dimensional realms and archetypes takes us out of our small selves to interconnect with dynamic energies, and insights into the true nature of reality.

We know that one of the most dynamic statements that came from Jesus the Christ is, "The kingdom of the heavens is within you." So here is supreme interconnection. Also, the historic Buddha's dharma teachings are parallel. Each of us have the buddha-nature. To realize that, we must remove obscurations. We ordinary ones hope to become extraordinary, even while we embody the potential right now.

So during our moments of difficulty, confusion, emotion and affliction, we can accept these circumstances as training to recognize our true nature; recognize our innermost connection with the highest realms that provide refuge to us; and thus find help in multidimensional realization.

November 26, 2015

What follows is an excerpt from our Buddhist Traditions page, and qualifies for inclusion here at Insight Commentaries. That the quotation originates with John Blofeld is personally significant. His Tantric Mysticism of Tibet was published in 1970. Only a couple of years later I followed another interconnection after reading Ralph Metzner's Maps of Consciousness, which led me to Blofeld's practical translation of the I Ching (The Book of Change). From there I acquired his book on Tantric Mysticism which I still have, much fortified with tape and bookmarked in several places. So here, the excerpt, in part from P. 45 of that illustrious book:

-Vajrayana - Sanskrit, meaning "Diamond Vehicle," the Vajrayana is termed by the late Buddhist scholar John Blofeld "the ultimate flowering of Mahayana doctrine;" he goes on to say that "the Vajrayana caters to people who find it easier to use symbols and concepts as the very weapons with which to do away with concepts, instead of trying to banish them from the first. With Zen we start, so to speak, at the Ph.D. level; with the Vajrayana, we may enter the path at any level from kindergarten to professor." (-The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet) This Buddhist school is defined by psychological methods based on highly developed ritual practices.

January 28, 2015

Accumulation of wisdom is recognized as the bright side of aging. Here's another advantage that coincides with my recent curiosity about how my immune system has become so strong that I haven't had a cold or the flu for so many years that I've lost count. (The only flu shot I ever had almost 40 years ago made me so ill that I've never had another.)

As if in answer to the bit of inquisitive mental activity, within one week two mutually confirming answers appeared. First, this paragraph in Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber: "I had learned in nurses' training that colds are caused by innumerable viruses, each distinct and ever-evolving. Once exposed to a particular virus, the instructor had explained, you became immune to it. You continued to catch cold as you encountered new and different viruses, but the chances of meeting something you hadn't been exposed to before became smaller as you got older. So, he had said, while children caught an average of six colds per year, people in middle age caught only two, and elderly folk might go for years between colds, only  because they had already met most of the common viruses and become immune." (Dell reprint, p. 716)

Elderly? If that doesn't feel appropriate yet, evidence begins to justify use of that term.

And then this, from everydayroots.com: "The common cold is a virus, or rather, lots of viruses-over 200, to be more specific. As a virus it is not curable, and since there are so many strains there’s not a way to make a vaccine like there is with the flu. When you catch a cold the virus attaches itself to the mucous membranes of the nose and throat and essentially hijacks the cells that live there, forcing them to replicate more virus cells."

There are articles written about home remedies at everydayroots.com that offer many options to make one more comfortable through a period of illness. Meanwhile, even if the term "elderly" has always felt like it applies to other very old people, it seems some of us need to get used to applying it to ourselves.

January 11, 2015

Spiritual evolution involves understanding of human nature and habitual tendencies, and then embracing methods to effectively work with them.

As a novelist, there are periods in my life when I read fiction by authors to absorb their skills and techniques. A paragraph from a novel I recently sampled, Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, impressed me as it relates to collective behavior.

"People are gregarious by necessity. Since the days of the first cave dwellers, humans - hairless, weak, and helpless save for cunning - have survived by joining together in groups; knowing, as so many other edible creatures have found, that there is protection in numbers. And that knowledge, bred in the bone, is what lies behind mob rule. Because to step outside the group, let alone to stand against it, was for uncounted thousands of years death to the creature who dared it. To stand against a crowd would take something more than ordinary courage; something that went beyond human instinct." (Dell reprint, p. 171)

The resonant power as we ponder her words will bring up names of ones famous for going beyond the group, some of whom were assassinated for doing so.

Might there be a tipping point which we can perceive - with more and more who are concerned about inner spiritual evolution  and its potential to change the world, and alter human behavior - creating a climate and culture of tolerance and respect? I hope that tipping point comes within our time; in fact, within this very moment of consideration.

December 27, 2014

At this focal time of Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Christmas and the New Year - a time of giving, joy, peace and love - it feels appropriate to focus on the various aspects of compassion to carry us through the seasons that follow. Any spiritual path follower knows that the power of higher wisdom and heart-based goodness conquers over barbaric, hate-filled actions that are daily thrust in our faces.

We express compassion in a multitude of ways. It is important to be focused, pay attention, to avoid being scattered and ineffectual. It is vital to bring compassion to bear with ourselves. A helpful quotation from Christina Feldman really brings this home: "...too many people find themselves directing levels of harshness, demand, and judgment inward that they would never dream of directing toward another person, knowing the harm that would be incurred. They are willing to do to themselves what they would not do to others. The path of compassion is altruistic but not idealistic. Walking this path we are not asked to lay down our life, find a solution for all of the struggles in this world, or immediately rescue all beings. The path of compassion is cultivated one step and one moment at a time. Each of those steps lessens mountains of sorrow in the world."

Another expression comes from Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa: "When we practice, we must bring our meditation on compassion to the deepest level possible. We must reflect on the intense suffering of sentient beings in all six realms of samsara. Reflecting on our connection to these beings, we must engender a compassion that cannot bear their suffering any longer. This great, unbearable compassion is extremely important. Without it we might feel a compassionate sensation from time to time, but this will not bring forth the full power of compassion. But when we witness with unbearable compassion the suffering of sentient beings, we immediately seek out ways to free them from that suffering. We are unfazed by complications and doubts; our actions for the benefit of others are effortless and free from doubt."

These are just two quotations from a Shambhala Sun feature in their January, 2015 issue. It gave me a moment of bliss to realize that I felt called to write an update to this page about compassion, and then I picked up the latest Shambhala Sun with the statement on its cover, "Compassion Changes Everything."

I encourage you, no matter whether or not you have a professed religion, to recite with all your heart every day: "May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness. May all beings not have suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings never be without the supreme bliss which is free from all suffering. May all beings live in the great equanimity which is free from all attachment and aversion."

Our hearts become one as we advance higher in our awareness of how to work within ourselves, and how to join with each other in helping all beings be ultimately liberated from suffering.

November 10, 2014

For the multi-faith explorer, the novels of Susan Howatch - especially her Church of England series - provide entertainment that delves into many sides of Christian spirituality. One more recent find, The High Flyer, begins each chapter with a quotation from either of two authors: John Habgood's Confessions of a Conservative Liberal, and David F. Ford's The Shape of Living. Samples of these quotes offer unique ways to express some of the common threads that interconnect many religious/spiritual systems, such as:

"Communication in intimacy takes on a great urgency and even risk. When and how should I say what I feel? What questions should I ask? What are the limits, in physical or emotional intimacy, or in commitment? What should be shared with others? But surrounding and underlying all those is the central mystery of the other person and what is happening between us." David F. Ford, The Shape of Living

"The wounds which most cruelly disfigure the heart are given and received between lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, long-term colleagues and partners - any relationship where deep trust and loyalty create potentially tragic vulnerability." David F. Ford, The Shape of Living

"The open door; and the closed door. It is a profoundly religious theme, because religion has always dealt with what anthropologists call 'thresholds,' those periods of significant transitions in life, the passing throgh a new door into the unknown ... They are potentially dangerous moments ... And the question of who stands at the door, and whether doors are perceived as open or closed, and what we expect to find on the other side of them, is more than a nice piece of religious imagery. It has to do with our capacity to change, and with the kind of security needed to cross some major threshold." John Habgood, Confessions of a Conservative Liberal

"When someone has compassion on us we find ourselves really seen, heard, attended to ... If someone's attention is genuinely compassionate it does not stop at attentiveness: he or she is willing to speak, act and even suffer with us and for us. It is in such passivity, as we receive their compassion, that the most powerful dynamics of our own feeling and activity are shaped. Amazed gratitude for such compassion can last a lifetime." David F. Ford, The Shape of Living

Throughout the past 18 years I often referred to a book that has been called, by Larry Dossey, M.D., "a spellbinding spiritual walkabout." What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, by Tony Schwartz, was published in 1995. Since almost 20 years have passed, of course, he may already have written a sequel to this fascinating account of explorations in fields of mysticism, psychology, philosophy, medicine, and science; nevertheless, his book is a gathering of in-depth reports on the work of some of the most famous names in American fields of wisdom.

One of the highest recommendations I can offer for What Really Matters is what he writes in the conclusion of the book called "The Point Is to Be Real": "What I'm most committed to is searching for my own truth. Like most people, I still often avoid, or deny, or rationalize, or act out of habit, or look to blame others in an effort to avoid truths that I find unpleasant or threatening.

"This capacity for self-deception sometimes seems infinite. Being honest with myself now strikes me less as an end - something I'll finally achieve after enough work - than an ongoing challenge every day. Over time, the attempt to be more broadly aware has enlarged my life. I spend less of my energy defensively, and that frees me to reach out to others more positively and to work more productively. Seeking the truth in the face of my fears has given shape and passion to my search. In turn, I'm convinced that the planet's survival - and evolution - depends on our collective capacity to look within more honestly, and to act more consciously and less defensively in every sphere of our lives.

"I've grown less hungry for absolute answers and more skeptical of those who claim to have them..."

Given this taste of Mr. Schwartz's approach, if you've ever been curious about meditation in various systems, biofeedback, enneagrams, the mind/body connection, psychic work, transpersonal psychology - to name a few areas covered - you will find this book worth spending time with.

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