Thursday, January 26, 2012

KNOW THYSELF! UNCHAIN THYSELF! RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW!


T O
Desi Arnaz Jr
Who Also Knows


Do you live in bondage? Are you a slave? To yourself?

I 'lived' a big part of my life in bondage to addictions of various kinds. I have known the loss of freedom---indeed, the horrible self-slavery, self-loathing and suffering---that is always the result of unhealthy, life-destroying attachments, cravings and obsessions. I am free now, and I intend to stay that way. I choose to live differently now---and I am very much alive!

It is said that we are born free. Well, never entirely free. However, part of the ‘price’ we pay for Spirit descending into matter, for the Word becoming flesh, so to speak, is that we invariably find ourselves caught up, indeed trapped, in a time-bound, self-centred prison which is not entirely of our own making but which becomes more and more escape-proof as we choose, hundreds and thousands of times, to identify with our false sense of ‘self.’

Yet, as the great spiritual leader and author Norman Vincent Peale (pictured left) once wrote, ‘There is a spiritual giant within us, which is always struggling to burst its way out of the prison we have made for it.’ How I love those words! The words are themselves bursting with life-changing power. Even if what Peale said were not the case, I think those words of his are nevertheless so powerful that they still could move mountains---perhaps even literally! Yes, the word goes forth from the mouth, and shall not return empty, but shall accomplish its purpose (cf Is 55:11).

Even though we tend to cling to our attachments, cravings and obsessions, deep down we know we are not free. Deep down inside ourselves, we know we were not meant to live that way. We know---or at least suspect---that things might perhaps be different---if only … . Well, listen to these oft-cited words from author and ‘disciple’ P D Ouspensky (In Search of the Miraculous) as he quotes his ‘master’, the sometimes questionable ‘guru’ George Gurdjieff (pictured below right):

Freedom, liberation, this must be the aim of man. To become free, to be liberated from slavery: this is what a man ought to strive for when he becomes even a little conscious of his position. There is nothing else for him, and nothing else is possible so long as he remains a slave both inwardly and outwardly. But he cannot cease to be a slave outwardly while he remains a slave inwardly. Therefore in order to become free, man must gain inner freedom.

The first reason for man's inner slavery is his ignorance, and above all, his ignorance of himself. Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave, and the plaything of the forces acting upon him.

This is why in all ancient teachings the first demand at the beginning of the way to liberation was: ‘Know thyself.’

Know thyself. That has always been the message of the great teachers, mystics, saints and holy ones. In the words of Dr Peale, 'Self-knowledge leads to a cure. Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-correction. The first step toward being what you can be is to know what you are.' Yes, until we know we are in bondage---and until we acknowledge that fact---there is really no hope for us. However, as soon as we admit to ourselves that we are in bondage, that there is something seriously 'wrong' with us, there is hope for us. Further, when we say to ourselves, ‘I want to be free, more than anything else in the world,’ then our walk to freedom begins, but we must be prepared to go to any length to get it.

Do you really want to be free? Well, then, ask yourself this question, ‘Who has bound me?’ No voice answers back … except perhaps your own … and if you are in touch with the truth of your being---the truth that can and will set you free if you let it---you will come to realize that, in truth, you, the person that you are, have always been free and unlimited. In the words of a song I like:

I Am free, I Am unlimited,
There are no chains that bind me.
I Am free, I Am unlimited, Right now! Right now!

True, you may have attached your ‘self’ to all kinds of things and persons---for it is a fact that the 'self' always wants opportunities for gratification of various kinds---but once you lose the illusion of self your mental states will no longer revert to negativity. Know this: you are not a 'self,' but a person among persons in the All-in-All of Life. (If you have trouble accepting the fact that there is no 'self,' I suspect the reason for that is this---your attachment to 'self' is very strong. If so, get rid of your 'self.' Drop it---now! You don't need it, and it only gets in the way of your true Being.)

Yes, the person that you are is part of Life’s Self-Expression, and the life of you is always free and unlimited. Life, which is forever engaged in a timeless renewal of itself from one moment to the next, is never in bondage or slavery, but we can and so often do make a veritable prison for ourselves … out of our ‘selves’. Never forget that. But we can still assert our innate spiritual freedom---at any time! Indeed, right now! Listen to what the spiritual teacher Vernon Howard, whose writings and tapes on the subject of spiritual psychology have meant so much to me over the years, has to say about how to be free---right now!




Howard wrote, 'To change what we get we must change who we are.' We need to start living from and in that centre of life-consciousness which is the very ground of your being---the very livingness of your life---right now! You see, this ground of your being is nothing less than the individualised, personalised, condensed totality of Being Itself, and this ‘energy-base’ is closer to you than breathing and nearer than hands and feet.  Yes, Being indwells, infuses, animates and expresses all persons and all material creation – indeed, all life! Nothing, absolutely nothing, exists which is outside the orbit and presence of pure Being, and you are at all times immersed, indeed saturated, in that Being---that All-in-All---as It forever lives out Its livingness in and as you, the person that you are. Once you fully awaken to that fact, and start living that fact, you are---free! Yes, really!

Mystics refer to this awakening as a movement from the ‘false self’ to one’s ‘true self’ (or ‘Self’). Actually, there is nothing mystical at all about this awakening. It can happen to anyone and everyone---if they awaken to the truth of their Being, and if they really want change in their lives for the better. In the words of Vernon Howard (pictured left), 'Reflect often on the interesting idea of getting out of your own way. Healing finally comes to the sincere seeker, like a sick man who awakens in the morning to find himself cured.’ But first you must come, in the words of the actor, producer, musician and wellness spokesperson Desi Arnaz Jr, to the ‘realization that nothing out there is going to make you happy,' for there is only freedom when 'you are not dependent on people, places or things' for your happiness.

Those who are free are those who are not in trouble with themselves. They no longer react mechanically, that is, from conditioned thought. They live in awareness. They are not obsessed with the need to be happy. They do not care how others should treat them or behave toward them. They know that the answer to every problem lies within themselves. Further, they know that, for each of us, the only real problem is---ourself, that is, our 'self.' By the world's 'values,' 'standards' and 'ideals,' these people could be said to be out-of-step with the world---even failures. So be it, they have seen through all worldly values, standards and ideals, and they have concluded that it is really not all that worthwhile to be in step with the world. These people would rather be 'in tune with the infinite.' These people have heeded the good advice of Francis of Assisi, who said, 'Don't change the world, change worlds.' Yes, these people are---free!

Do you want to be free? Really? How greatly? Are you prepared to go to any length? Well, know this: you are free, you are unlimited. There are no chains that bind you. So, come alive! Now.

NOTE. For those who are interested in the writings and ideas of Dr Peale, I have compiled and edited a book entitled The Norman Vincent Peale Book of Quotations.

Vernon Howard Audio Clip
Courtesy New Life Foundation, Pine AZ.
All rights reserved.







YOUR MIND IS ITS OWN PRISON

SLAVES OF THE 'I'---EVEN UNTO DEATH

THE MINDFUL ART OF KNOWING ONESELF


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

DESTRESS YOURSELF WITH MINDFULNESS ... IN THE SILENCE



Professor Mark
Williams (Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the University of Oxford) and Dr Danny Penman are the authors of Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

The book uses a program based on mindfulness meditation developed by Williams and Penman at the University of Oxford to relieve anxiety, stress, exhaustion and depression.

In this CNN feature the authors discuss ‘10 easy steps’ to destress your life, and in this YouTube video clip Professor Williams, who is the Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, talks about the 'science of mindfulnesss':




Now, here’s something else which you can do, proactively, each day – something which, if done regularly, will help to desensitise yourself to stress. It’s called ‘entering the silence’ as well as 'practising the silence.'

Now, the silence is not a negative state of mind nor is it an inert state of mind. It is a place where you can hear interiorly what the Bible refers to as the ‘still small voice’ (1 Ki 19:12). Jesus, who taught that the 'kingdom of God' is within [Gk entos] us (see Lk 17:21), had some very good advice on this matter of 'entering the silence'. His instruction (cf Mt 6:6) was to enter into the closet (that is, the silence of your mind) and shut the door – that is, focus your attention on the experience of simply being without seeking to think, feel, analyse, and so forth.

When you enter the silence, you are approaching the very presence of being – that is, sheer existence … the very livingness of life itself. The state of mind experienced in the silence is not one of passivity or non-action. No, it is an awakened state of mind in which all things are experienced – as new – in the eternal now. Mental action may slow – indeed, it should – but the action of being fully present in the moment from one moment to the next will quicken and intensify.

Mystics of all faiths and none often refer to the experience of the silence as a period of conscious, wordless communion with the sacred or the divine. Indeed, it is, for what could be more sacred or divine than life itself … in all its fullness … experienced in the intensity of the moment? There is only one life manifesting itself in all things as all things. If you can truly know – not as book-knowledge – this life as one you will experience conscious communion with all life. Yes, you will come to know the ‘Self as One.’ Here's the 'secret': 'Be still, and know' (Ps 46:10). In the words of the poet John Keats, ‘that is all there is to know on earth and all you need to know.’


If you are ‘new’ to the practice of the silence, I suggest that you do not make the period of silence too long in the beginning. Start with, say, 2 or 3 minutes. The important thing is to have a regular period of silence each day, preferably at the same time (eg first thing in the morning).

Return to the silence throughout the day as and when necessary and when you simply want to commune with the divine. It is written, 'My presence will go with you, and ... give you rest' (Ex 33:14), and 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while' (Mk 6:31). Yes, the experience of the silence is akin to the calm that precedes or follows the proverbial storm, but it is much more than that. Much more. You see, the silence is calm. The silence knows no storms. The silence is also peace. Not just peace, but that peace that passes all understanding (cf Phil 4:7) which abides in the minds of those who consciously dwell in the eternal now. Another thing. The silence is a power – indeed, the Power – for good which makes all things new. The silence is also a presence – indeed, the Presence – in which we, along with all other persons and things, live and move and have our being (cf Acts 17:28). One Presence. One Power. One Life.

You need not call It 'God,' but you can if you wish. The important thing, as I see it, is this – this Presence is 'our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' (Ps 46:1), and this Power, well, 'There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.' The Presence is a Power – the only Power (despite there being both 'good' and 'bad' forces at work in life). The Power is also a Presence – that very same Presence – indeed Omnipresence ... for the Presence of Life fills all, and is all, and empowers all, for everything is truly an individualised expression of life. (It is written, 'Of His fulness have all we received' [Jn 1:16].) And this Presence and Power –  this All-in-All – is most fully and personally experienced in the silence. It is experienced as peace, calmness, tranquility, equanimity, wisdom, love and compassion – indeed, as all those things which we ordinarily associate with the sacred or the divine.

Here is some very good advice on 'entering the silence' from the New Thought leader, writer and historian Horatio W Dresser. It's from his book The Power of Silence:

[S]ome devotees of the ‘silence’ have thought that there was some sort of mysterious power or feeling which one might enter into by opening the mind in what they called a ‘spiritual’ direction. Hence they have entered the silence with no particular idea in mind. Now, it is desirable to help people out of the thought of ‘mysteries,’ not into them. It is the clear-cut, the intelligible idea, that is the desirable. To set out upon a vague search for the mysterious is to open the door to all sorts of abnormal mental experiences. It is because of this that so many have found it altogether imprudent to try to enter the silence at all. But the trouble lay in themselves. We find what we look for. If you believe in the occult, you will invite it. If you are in search of the sane, the quicker you cut loose from all vague groping after the mysterious the better.

So, practise the silence ... and make today – indeed, every moment – count. Angels can do no better.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NEW THOUGHT---BUDDHIST STYLE

DEDICATION
This blog is lovingly dedicated to the memory of
H Geo Paul (1902-2002)
[pictured below]
whose thoughts were
forever new.


Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. 
                           - Frank Outlaw, attrib.


One of the most important religious movements in the United States of America in the 20th century was the non-creedal and very liberal
New Thought movement, which developed throughout the United States and, shortly thereafter, Great Britain towards the end of the 19th century in the form of a revival of Neoplatonism.


'New Thought' is not to be confused with the 'New Age' movement, with which it has some features in common. (I have a fair bit of respect for New Thought because it has a strong, solid philosophical underpinning. I have almost total disrespect for the New Age movement because it contains so much irrational silliness and superstition. Some of its silliness is little better, and may even be worse, than that of traditional religion.) 

Now, the term 'New Thought' came into vogue in 1895 and was used as the title of a magazine published for a time in Melrose MA to describe a 'new thought' about life. Finding the space for ‘alternative religion’ the New Thought movement was particularly strong in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and had an enormous influence on religion and religious thinking in the United States. Indeed, there are still lots of New Thought churches and centres in many countries including Australia. (I was for a time a chaplain and the president of a Unity centre in metropolitan Sydney and I have also been a member of other New Thought groups.)

New Thought, which has no creed or dogma, has been defined by one of its leading exponents Dr Ernest Holmes (a Divine Science minister and the founder of Religious Science) as ‘a system of thought which affirms the unity of God with man, the perfection of all life, and the immortality and eternity of the individual soul forever expanding.’ New Thought constantly re-invents itself, thus remaining forever 'new,' even if its message remains substantially the same. New Thought author and attorney Abel Leighton Allen had this to say in his book The Message of New Thought:

New Thought is not, as many believe, a name or expression employed to define any fixed system of thought, philosophy, or religion, but is a term used to convey the idea of growing or developing thought. In considering this subject, the word 'New' should be duly and freely emphasized, because the expression 'New Thought' relates only to what is new and progressive.

Even those who are not familiar with the words 'New Thought' or the 'New Thought Movement' as such have generally had some exposure to its ideas and teachings in one form or another. Recent bestselling books such as The Secret [also a DVD] and The Power, as well as the continued popularity of self-help authors and personalities such as Louise Hay and Dr Wayne Dyerprove that there is still quite a strong interest in the ideas promulgated by the ‘New Thoughters.’ Yes, there is something eternal in the thought, 'What we think, we become [or are]' (cf Prov 23:7). Even actor Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher offers us some New Thought wisdom (more-or-less the words set out above attributed to Frank Outlaw) in the recent film The Iron Lady:




Ralph Waldo Emerson, Unitarian and Transcendentalist, who wrote, 'A man is what he thinks all day long,' is regarded by many as the spiritual father of New Thought, although the roots of New Thought go way back to Buddha and Plato. (It was the latter who said, 'Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.' I will get back to the Buddha later on.) Actually, New Thought is as old as humanity. In the words of New Thought poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, ‘This is the "new" religion; yet it is older than the universe. It is God's own thought put into practical form.’

Idealism asserts that everything exists in or to minds ... or as 'Mind.' New Thought, at least in most of its incarnations, is a form of what is known as 'objective idealism.' The latter postulates the existence of an objective world (so-called ‘matter’) but which is mental (that is, non-materialistic). Unlike ‘subjective idealism,’ objective idealism asserts that the objective world is independent of the human knower, because it belongs (for want of a better word) to one Absolute Mind (‘Mind’), the absolute knower. All individual minds are simply manifestations of the one 'Master Mind.' In the words of Ernest Holmes, 'Man lives in a mind that presses in upon him from all sides with infinite possibilities, with infinite creative power.' That being the case, says Holmes, 'To think is to create.' (New Thoughters assert that 'the Word' (in the form of our thoughts and images) is always 'made flesh' (that is, made manifest in our daily lives) [cf Jn 1:14].)

The system of religious thought known as Christian Science  – which has a fair bit in common with New Thought (having a more-or-less common origin) – is a form of subjective idealism. Most of the New Thought denominations and systems of thought have their philosophical underpinning in objective idealism.
 

However, if any one person may be said to have been the founder of the movement it was Phineas P Quimby (pictured left), a Maine clockmaker, inventor and hypnotist. Yes, Quimby is generally recognized as the ‘Father of New Thought.’

Known as a metaphysical healer, Quimby's experiences and practices of mental healing were the real beginnings of and foundation for New Thought. Perhaps even more importantly, Quimby was, in the words of the nondenominational New Thought minister and renowned Quimby scholar Dr Ervin Seale, 'the modern world's first true psychoanalyst.'

Some 150 years ago Quimby, who was not a formally educated man, taught that 'the explanation is the cure,' and he demonstrated that the human body moves as it is moved upon by the mind. That is, the body acts as it is acted upon, and becomes, in effect, a mirror of one's mind – a most important discovery. Quimby's system of healing was, at least in part, a metaphysical form of insight-oriented psychotherapy (together with autosuggestion), and he paved the way for the whole field of modern psychosomatic medicine.

As a sidelight, Quimby used the phrase ‘Christian Science’ as early as 1863. In fact, a Presbyterian minister by the name of William Adams had previously used the term ‘Christian Science’ before Quimby in his book The Elements of Christian Science (1st ed, 1850; later ed, 1857). Mary Baker Eddy [pictured right] (of Christian Science fame) claimed to have ‘discovered’ Christian Science in 1866---by a strange coincidence less than a month after Quimby's death. The matter went to the courts, the suit being won by Eddy but only because Quimby’s son George would not permit what were later published as The Quimby Manuscripts to be taken to court because the other party to the proceedings (a former student of Eddy’s) was impecunious. However, when the Quimby manuscripts were eventually published it became perfectly clear – to almost everyone except Christian Scientists – that Eddy not only got all of her essential ideas from Quimby (a 'very unlearned man,' in her later revised assessment of the man) she was also guilty of ... (gulp) plagiarism. Eddy also copied extensively from the writings of the German idealist philosopher Hegel. In fact, in the 1875 edition of Eddy's Science and Health there are 33 pages verbatim and 100 pages in substance from Dr Francis Leiber's manuscript entitled ‘The Metaphysical Religion of Hegel’ (written in November 1865, and copied in April 1866) to which Eddy had access.

Consistent with their peculiar system of mental practice, adherents of Christian Science simply refuse to accept as reality the objective truth of the foregoing, for even to speculate about the matters---the bona fides of Mrs Eddy and the authenticity of Science and Health---would be to attribute to 'error' an authority which, for Christian Scientists, it does not actually possess. Know this. Christian Science is dying, but its followers, not believing in death, will never admit it---at least not publicly. However, more than a few of them have acknowledged it privately to me in conversations I've had with them about their system of healing and their Church. That reminds me of a joke of sorts ...

The First Reader in a Christian Science church was talking to a member of his church. ‘And how is your husband today?’ ‘I'm afraid he's very ill.’ ‘No, no,’ corrected the First Reader, ‘You really shouldn't say that - you should say that he's under the impression that he's very ill.’ The woman nods in agreement, ‘Yes, I'll remember next time.’ A few weeks later the First Reader saw the woman again. ‘And how is your husband at the moment?’ ‘Well’, she replied, ‘he's under the impression that he's dead.’

All jokes aside, there is a very real connection between Mrs Eddy (whose wise admonition to 'stand porter at the door of thought' is worth remembering forever) and the New Thought movement in that much of New Thought filtered down through Eddy by reason that one of her former pupils, Emma Curtis Hopkins [pictured left] (known as the ‘Teacher of Teachers’), after breaking from Eddy, then transmitted her ideas and methods to certain students who would later become the founders (and 'teachers') of all of the major New Thought denominations, centres and schools. Hopkins wrote, 'When we are spiritual, we do not try to bring great things to pass, yet they come to pass. The most wonderful achievements of mankind have been brought to pass by confidence in some wonder-working unseen power.'

New Thought affirms the 'original goodness' of human beings as opposed to the traditional Christian ideas of 'original sin' and 'total depravity.' Yes, each one of us is the 'Son,' or the manifestation of God, and as God is All-Good, we cannot be otherwise. New Thought also affirms that the mental conditions ('state of Mind') always precedes the material order. Heaven, then earth. 'Mind before matter.' That is said to be the 'Law of the Universe' ... a universe founded by Divine Intelligence upon Principle (Law, Order and System) ... and the Divine Life is the power and energy that sustains and maintains the universe's boundless, amazing operation.

I love these words of Dr Ernest Holmes: 'There is a Power for Good in the Universe greater than you are and you can use it!' He would say those words in every one of his radio and TV broadcasts. For me, those words capture the essence and wonder of New Thought. The 'power for good' is a 'power-not-oneself' ... and it is a power which makes all things new! Here is a YouTube video of Dr Ernest Holmes taken from a 1956 episode of his program This Thing Called Life:




New Thought is not
so much an organization as it is a point of view. As such, New Thought is a practically oriented metaphysical spirituality that promotes fullness of all aspects of living, through constructive thinking, meditation and various other ways of
practising or realizing the presence of God, whilst affirming the possibility of curing disease by purely mental means. (Unlike Christian Science, New Thought does not renounce the very existence of disease. Also, whereas Christian Science has a central authority and is absolute in doctrinal form, New Thought has no central authority and is of a free and individualistic spirit.)

As respects the idea of ‘God,’ H Emilie Cady (pictured right), a Unity writer and teacher of great renown, writes:

God is not a being or person having life, intelligence, love, power.  God is that invisible, intangible, but very real, something we call life. God is perfect love and infinite power. God is the total of these, the total of all good, whether manifested or unexpressed.

Then there's this. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore said, 'God is the silent voice that speaks into visibility all the life there is.' Well, I don’t know about you, but these ideas certainly make a lot more sense to me than the traditional theism of the three major Abrahamic religions. As mentioned, New Thought has no creed, but if it had one, it would be this: 'There is only One Presence and One Power active in the universe and in my life – God, the Good, Omnipotent.' Powerful words ... with life-changing power!

Now, the essence of mindfulness is stay fully awake and fully present from one moment to the next. New Thought (Divine Science) minister, Dr Joseph Murphy (pictured left), saw God as the ‘Eternal Now’ – a concept which I find very appealing. Another famous New Thought (also Divine Science) minister, Dr Emmet Fox, referred to that loving and strengthening Presence as the ‘All-ness of God.’ Again, that makes sense to me, as does the idea that each one of us – indeed, every thing – is a channel of Divine expression. There is only Life, and all things are interconnected parts of Life's Self-Expression. Yes, New Thought affirms the unity of all life.

Call it what you will, there is only One Presence, and that Presence is forever manifesting itself as your life experience. So, the action of the present moment, from one moment to the next, is the very Ground of Being in which we all life and move and have our being (cf Acts 17:28). In addition, there is a 'Pattern' (or 'Divine Ideal') in every person – yes, hid in every man, woman and child – a Pattern woven in wisdom, its threads ages old, its life lying in the eternal. This Pattern is ... the 'Perfect Me.'

New Thought affirms the so-called ‘Law of Cause and Effect’ – that is, as we sow, so shall we reap (cf Gal:6:7) – and, in that regard, asserts that ‘thoughts are things’ which manifest as our experience. In the words of the great New Thought writer James Allen (As a Man Thinketh), 'Every thought you think is a force sent out.' Further, 'Mind is the arbiter of life; it is the creator and shaper of conditions, and the recipient of its own results.' Personally, I think that can be taken too far. I would like very much to think that we are made or unmade entirely by ourselves, but I think the late Allen Saunders made a valid point when he (allegedly) said, 'Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.' (Yes, John Lennon later wrote almost the very same words.)


In other words, despite what New Thoughters assert, our 'environment' is not entirely – or even substantially – of our own making. Bad things still happen ... even to the 'best' New Thoughters. Take, for example, the Divine Science minister, teacher, international lecturer and writer Dr Harry Gaze (pictured right). Now, Dr Gaze had written a book called How to Live Forever, which states, 'There's no mystery about long life in the flesh – only ignorance.' Well, Dr Gaze lectured frequently on his favourite subject – that is, living forever. The apocryphal story concerning Dr Gaze's passing goes something like this. In 1959 he agreed to give two lectures on physical immortality at Robert H Bitzer's Hollywood Church of Religious Science. He didn’t show up for the second lecture. The attendees were all waiting and wondering where their esteemed lecturer was. Unfortunately, there had been a motor vehicle accident, and Dr Gaze, who had been a passenger en route to the church, would die in the aftermath of that accident. He never gave that second lecture. Quite ironic ... but still very sad. 

The true position is slightly different, but not that much different. So far as I can ascertain, Dr Gaze's last talks at the Church were on Sunday, August 30, 1959 (on the topic of 'Living Youthfully Forever') and Sunday, September 6, 1959 (on the topic of 'Concentration, Meditation and the Silence'). At the time of the automobile accident on October 25, 1959 -- he died on November 4, 1959 as a result of the injuries he had sustained -- he was being driven to the Church where he was to talk on the subject of 'Mind--Medicine and Spiritual Vitamins'. His talk had been advertised in the Los Angeles Times the day before, but it never took place. Despite the sad circumstances of Dr Gaze's passing, I do not disagree with this statement from his book How to Live Forever:

'Given proper care in the proper environment and the body should maintain perpetual youth. There's no mystery about long life in the flesh -- only ignorance.' 

No matter what happens to us, we are still the sovereign of our own thoughts, and we can control our thoughts. Further, our thoughts need not control us. Also, I agree with the old Oriental maxim, 'What we think upon grows.' In other words, it is, in the words of James Allen, 'in the nature of mind to create its own conditions, and to choose the states in which it shall dwell.' Yes, we are powerless over much that happens to us in life ... but we can still choose our mental states. Never forget that!

Now, I embrace what I refer to as ‘Buddhist New Thought.’ New Thought is an idealism. Buddhism is realism. I think you need both. At its cheery best (or worst), New Thought has an air of unreality about it. When I read something to the effect that evil, sickness and disease 'have no reality in Ultimate Reality' or 'have no reality, in reality, but have an existence in unreality' (the latter being the choice words of the English New Thoughter and mystic Henry Thomas Hamblin), I cringe---indeed, I despair---and I am reminded of what Shopenhauer thought of optimism – 'not merely absurd, but also [a] bitter mockery of the unspeakable suffering of humanity.' Hmmm. At least Shakyamuni Buddha recognised, as the very First Noble Truth, that unsatisfactoriness (or suffering) is part - and often a very big part - of our lives. New Thought has one foot on the ground. Christian Science has none. It can't even admit the real existence of ground ... or feet!

What, you may ask, is ‘Buddhist New Thought’? Well, the Buddha was quite a New Thoughter himself---perhaps its first leading exponent and apologist. He said, 'We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world.' (Very much New Thought!) More specifically, the Buddha also said this:

Whatever suffering arises
Has a reaction as its cause.
If all reactions cease to be
Then there is no more suffering.

It’s like this. We experience a ‘sensation,’ which may be physical or mental. If we react to that sensation with ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ – that is, with craving, attachment or aversion – that is karma. The word karma means 'action' – in this case, mental action in the form of a mindless, involuntary reaction to some input. The result? Pain, suffering or distress. However, if, on the other hand, we simply allow ourselves to be dispassionately and choicelessly aware of the sensation, then there is no ‘cause’ to produce any pain, suffering or distress. In other words, no reaction, no cause … and no effect. 'Like attracts like.'

So, Buddhism takes the cause-and-effect process back one step earlier. In traditional metaphysics (especially New Thought), the primary emphasis is on avoiding negative thinking and the like. In that regard, it is asserted by New Thoughters that as negative thoughts lead to negative results, so positive thoughts will inevitably lead to positive results – an obvious but debatable proposition. However, if we go back a step, and when something happens we simply do not allow a reaction (eg disliking) to arise in the first place – in other words, we simply let the sensation (input) be – then there will be no opportunity for any negative thought to arise at all.

That is the way the so-called 'law' of karma really works ... and Buddhism makes that very clear. That is the way to mindfully ‘work’ the Law of Cause and Effect (or 'sowing and reaping').

I call this system of thought and practice ‘Buddhist New Thought,’ but the same basic ideas can be found in 'mainstream' New Thought as well as in other spiritual and metaphysical philosophies. This, in the words of James Allen, is the truly important thing: 'Put away self-delusion; behold yourself as you are.' Both Buddhism and New Thought teach that happiness inheres in right conditions of mind, and unhappiness springs from a wrong condition of mind.

The 'good news' is that if you are painstaking about 'working' this system of mental cultivation you can, by virtue of your buddha nature (or innate potential), achieve enlightenment in this very lifetime.

Now, that is a 'new thought' ... even if it's not all that new.


P.S. For those who may be interested, there is a Japanese New Thought organisation Seicho-No-Ie, which has drawn from New Thought, Christianity, Buddhism and Shintoism. Here is its website. New Thought ideas and teachings (along with numerous other ideas from the above mentioned religions as well as elements of Theosophy) can also be found in the Happy Science movement which has also come out of Japan in recent years. Here is its Oceania website. IEJ.


Ernest Holmes Video Courtesy of United Centers for Spiritual Living
The Iron Lady Copyright The Weinstein Company
All Rights Reserved
 

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION FEATURES IN NEWSWEEK

Here's a link to a recent article in Newsweek on mindfulness meditation, which contains this good summary of the proven benefits of mindfulness meditation:

'
[Jon] Kabat-Zinn’s work has inspired a host of mindfulness-based therapies, with offshoots focusing on depression, addiction, eating and sleep disorders, and chronic pain. Mindfulness itself is being applied in psychotherapy—for treating cancer survivors, PTSD, sexual dysfunction—and is now so legit it’s taught around the world in medical centers, hospitals, schools (from primary school to medical school), prisons, and corporations.'


Who could ask for anything more? (Of course, always keep an open mind - when practising mindfulness and otherwise - for mindfulness meditation is not a panacea for all ills.)


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Friday, January 6, 2012

THE NATURE AND POWER OF MINDFUL PRAYER


There are many forms of prayer. In the words of an old hymn, ‘Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed.’ Thus, if you really want good health for yourself or some other person, that is your prayer. Simple as that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (pictured left), the great Unitarian and Transcendentalist, wrote, ‘All honest work is prayer.’ (I think the great Saint Benedict said something very similar.) So, all who do their work well, and honestly, are praying. I like that.

Mindfulness, being an awakened state of mind, is a form of prayer as well. Living mindfully from one moment to the next, that is, living fully in the action of the present moment, with calm acceptance of whatever arises, is about as 'spiritual' a practice as you can get. In the Christian tradition it is referred to as the 'practice of the presence of God' ... and it is prayer in action.

Now, I tend to eschew all forms of petitionary prayer, yet when I find myself in a seemingly hopeless situation I am often amazed to see myself ‘lapsing’ back to my old way of praying … to a personal Mother-Father God. However, most of the time I am more than content to sit in the Silence and feel a sense of at-one-ment with the One Presence and Power that is Life itself all things, as well as being the very life, indeed livingness, of all things.

Here's another form of prayer – clear thinking. One of my favourite novels and movies - it has also been the subject of at least two TV serials - is How Green Was My Valley. Richard Llewellyn (pictured below) wrote the book, which concerns a Welsh coal-mining family and life as seen in the village through the eyes of the youngest son Huw Morgan. (Many of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family were Welsh, and my name is very Welsh.)


In the following excerpt from the book Mr Gruffydd, the new parson, visits the young lad Huw who has been badly crippled in a mishap while trying to rescue his mother in an ice choked mountain creek. Huw, surrounded by good books, has nevertheless been treated, albeit lovingly, as an invalid by his beloved family. The parson encourages the boy to imagine - indeed know - that he will walk again. Let’s pick up on the conversation at this point:


‘Men who are born to dig coal,’ Mr Gruffydd said to me, ‘need strength and courage. But they have no need of spirit, any more than the mole or the blind worm. Keep up your spirit, Huw, for that is the heritage of a thousand generations of the great ones of the Earth. As your father cleans his lamps to have good light, so keep clean your spirit.’

‘And how shall it be kept clean, Mr Gruffydd?’ I asked him.

‘By prayer, my son,’ he said, ‘not mumbling, or shouting, or wallowing like a hog in religious sentiments. Prayer is only another name for good, clean, direct thinking. When you pray, think well what you are saying, and make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that manner, your prayer will have strength, and that strength shall become part of you, mind, body and spirit. Do you still want to see the first daffodil out up on the mountain, my son?’

‘Indeed, I do, Mr Gruffydd,’ I said.      
   
‘Pray, my son,’ he said, and left.


Here - courtesy of YouTube - is part of the 1941 film version containing this famous exchange between the worldly-wise but flawed Mr Gruffydd (played by Walter Pidgeon) and the young Huw Morgan (played by Roddy McDowall) [please go to 07:07-07:41 for the scene]:

 



So, prayer is ‘good, clean, direct thinking.’ You make your thoughts ‘into things that are solid.’ That way, your prayer will be strong, and you will become strong. Well, by that definition even the most militant atheist who engages in ‘good, clean, direct thinking’ is praying. They may not think they’re praying, and they would almost certainly resent the imputation or suggestion that they are actually engaged in praying, but (be that as it may) I think Llewellyn is onto something quite simple yet also very profound.

You see, there is only one ‘way of being’ – one order or level of reality. As I see it, all things exist on the same plane. There is nothing beyond us that is not otherwise in us … as us. When you have a problem, use ‘good, clean, direct thinking.’ Think honestly, work honestly, act honestly. Whatever is your strongest, most sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, will tend to actualize. Yes, we invariably do whatever is our strongest desire. For example, if 'part' of you wants to smoke, and 'part' of you doesn't, it is a psychological and metaphysical fact that the 'part' [that is, desire] which is strongest will always win out! (That reminds me of the Cherokee ‘object lesson’ story of the fight between two wolves – the two wolves inside each one of us. One wolf is evil, unhappy and ugly – representing anger, greed and delusion. The other wolf is beautiful and good. The two wolves are in more-or-less constant battle with each other. Which wolf wins? Whichever one we feed.)

It is written, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (Jn 3:16) [NKJV]. Is Jesus God’s ‘only begotten son’ in a unique and exclusive sense? Well, if you think that, I fear that you have literalized and carnalized a ‘myth’ (the latter being not something which is untrue but rather something which is supremely and universally true beyond all notions of literalness). Yes, the really ‘good news,’ as I see it, is that we are all ‘begotten’ of the Only One. There is Only One, and everyone and everything is the ‘only begotten son.’ We are all ‘sparks of the Divine.’ We are all part of Life’s Self-Expression. Never forget that. And here's another important truth from the Bible. Spiritually, the 'son' is your mind – the place where you pronounce judgment on yourself by the thoughts you entertain. That is the real meaning of the verse, 'For the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son' (Jn 5:22). So, watch your thoughts, for they become words, and 'by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned' (Mt 12:37).

Well, what does mindfulness have to do with this? Is not mindfulness about not thinking? No. Not at all. Mindfulness is not about not thinking. It is about allowing thoughts to be present but not letting them run, control or overpower you. By all means think. Indeed, thinking can be a very good thing ... at times ... within reason! (I'm being frivolous now.) However, when you do think, do so mindfully ... and not mindlessly.

The abovementioned verse from John’s Gospel (viz Jn 3:16) encapsulates an important metaphysical truth, namely, that one’s ‘only begotten son,’ creatively expressed, refers to a creative and saving thought, idea or desire, the ‘father’ being thinker or mind . If, for example, you are sick, your desire for health is the ‘son.’ Your mind – or you, the person who desires and thinks – is the ‘father.’ When your desire (prayer) is realized, you are saved.

So, we have mind ['Father'] - thought, idea or desire ['Son'] - and expression ['Holy Spirit'] – the metaphysical 'Holy Trinity'! That's the nature and mechanics of all 'inner' spiritual working. By the way, the English word 'salvation’ comes from the same Latin root as the word salve, and refers to a healthy kind of wholeness. Health, holiness and wholeness – three words, and they are all interrelated.

In short, think well, and make your thoughts into things that are solid … for such is the nature of reality. ‘Pray, my son.’



How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn, ©1939, 1940 by Richard Vivian Llewellyn 
Lloyd; copyright renewed 1967 by Richard Llewellyn.
Images and film footage courtesy of 20th Century Fox International.
All Rights Reserved.



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