Saturday, October 26, 2013


Do you haul the corpse of your past around with you? So many people do, you know.

Elmer Rice [pictured left], in his play Dream Girl, says, through the character Clark Redfield, ‘If you can make a dream come to life, grab hold of it. But if it dies on you, roll up your sleeves and give it a decent burial, instead of trying to haul the corpse around with you.’

I often hear someone say in AA meetings, ‘Let the past stay in the past.’ That’s very sound, spiritual advice. I think that is what Jesus really meant when he said, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead’ (Mt 8:22).

Albert Einstein [pictured below right] wrote, ‘We live in a society that forgets the present.’ One of the reasons we forget the present is that we are still haunted by the past, especially our own past. We relive old hurts, failures and other negativities, and for so long as we are obsessing or ruminating about the past, we are not living in the present. We must let go of the past---and let it stay in the past. For better or for worse, the past is over. It no longer exists, except perhaps as a present memory.

There is something odd about all of us. We often cling to our hurts and failures more than we do to the good times. We must forget both---yes, both the ‘bad’ stuff as well as the ‘good’ stuff. Both prevent us from seeing things-as-they-really-are right now. 

In many ways holding on to the so-called ‘good’ stuff is even more dangerous than holding on to the ‘bad,’ for it deludes us into thinking that the best times are in the past and are unlikely to be repeated. We fear ever having that sort of experience again, so we cling to the memory of it lest we forget it. We fear that if the latter happens, there will be no joy, happiness or excitement left in our life. Rubbish! That’s a cop-out. Please see it for what it is.

The good news is that you can be totally free of the past---at any moment. It’s entirely up to you. No one else can do ‘it’ for you. Yes, there can indeed be that ‘total revolution’ (or psychological mutation or transformation) of which J.Krishnamurti constantly spoke. 

Now, I am not talking here about change as a result of intellectual analysis or any form of traditional psychology including psychoanalysis. You---yes, you---can instantaneously liberate yourself from the past and from past conditioning (including beliefs and misbeliefs of all kinds), provided you refuse to analyse or dissect the content of your consciousness and choose to see things as they really are, without judgment or evaluation of any kind. 

So, stop looking back. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife? She looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt---with no life in her. Don’t let that happen to you.


Saturday, October 19, 2013


Hypertension, as everyone knows, is a serious problem. For starters, it is a major risk factor for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.  

A new study has found that blood pressure is effectively lowered by mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for patients with borderline high blood pressure (BP) or ‘prehypertension.’ The finding is reported in the October 2013 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.

‘Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range,’ writes Dr Joel W Hughes [pictured left] of Kent State (Ohio) University and colleagues.

The study included 56 women and men diagnosed with prehypertension (systolic [the first, higher number] BP of 120-139 or diastolic [the second, lower number] BP of 80-89)---blood pressure that was higher than desirable--- but not yet so high that antihypertensive drugs would be prescribed. Prehypertension receives increasing attention from doctors because it is associated with a wide range of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. About 30 per cent of Americans---and probably a simple percentage of Australians---have prehypertension and may be prescribed medications for this condition.

One group of patients was assigned to a program of MBSR: 8 group sessions of 2.5 hours per week. Led by an experienced instructor, the sessions included three main types of mindfulness skills: body scan exercises, sitting meditation, and yoga exercises. Patients were also encouraged to perform mindfulness exercises at home.

The other ‘comparison’ group received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. This ‘active control’ treatment group was not expected to have lasting effects on blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements were compared between groups to determine whether the mindfulness-based intervention reduced blood pressure in this group of people at risk of cardiovascular problems.

Patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements. Systolic BP decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention. Diastolic BP was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group.

‘Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions,’ according to Dr Hughes and his coauthors. It has been suggested that MBSR and other types of meditation may be useful in lowering blood pressure. Previous studies have reported small but significant reductions in blood pressure with transcendental meditation; this new study is the first to specifically evaluate the blood pressure effects of mindfulness-based intervention in patients with prehypertension.

Although the blood pressure reductions associated with mindfulness-based interventions are modest, they are similar to many drug interventions and potentially large enough to lead to reductions in the risk of heart attack or stroke. Further studies are needed to see if the blood pressure-lowering effects are sustained over time.

The researchers argue that mindfulness-based interventions may provide a useful alternative to help ‘prevent or delay’ the need for antihypertensive medications in patients with borderline high blood pressure.

Resource: Hughes J W, Fresco D M, Myerscough R, van Dulmen M H M, Carlson L E, and Josephson R, Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Prehypertension’, Psychosomatic MedicineOctober 2013 vol. 75 no. 8 721-728. doi: 10.1097/​PSY.0b013e3182a3e4e5.




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Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The essence of the mystical experience is this---to see, feel, or otherwise know that you are or have become one with all that is. One with the ‘wholly other.’ The mystical experience involves more than just feeling. It usually takes the form of some direct and immediate and unsolicited apprehension of something wonderfully immanent or transcendent (or both) that is both self-sufficient and of ultimate significance (at least to the recipient of the experience if not others as well).

Plotinus [pictured left], that great Neoplatonist philosopher of the ancient world, expressed it this way:

For how can one describe as other than oneself that which, when one saw it, seemed to be one with oneself.

It is not possible to see it or to be in harmony with it, while one is occupied with anything else. The soul must remove from itself, good and evil, and everything else, that it may receive the One alone, as the One is alone. When the soul is so blessed and is come to it, or rather when it manifests its presence, when the soul turns away from visible things … and becomes like the One … And seeing the One suddenly appearing in itself, for there is nothing between, nor are they any longer two, but one, for you cannot distinguish between them, while the vision lasts. … When is this state, the soul would exchange its present condition for nothing, no, not for the very heaven of heavens … . 

Rudolf Otto (1868-1937) [pictured below right] was one of the most influential and original thinkers and writers about religion in the first half of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known for his analysis of what he saw as the underlying experience of all religion, namely, a sense of the ‘numinous’ or ‘holy’. In his wonderful book The Idea of the Holy Otto expressed his opinion that, at the heart of the so-called mystical experience, there was this sense of the numinous or the holy. The numinous experience was, according to Otto, ‘inexpressible, ineffable’. Otto saw the numinous or holy as a mysterium tremens et fascinans, that is, a ‘tremendous’ (read, awe- and fear-inspiring) and ‘fascinating’ mystery. The experience of the numinous or holy is, according to Otto:

a unique experience of confrontation with a power … ‘Wholly Other,’ outside of normal experience and indescribable in its terms; terrifying, ranging from sheer demonic dread through awe to sublime majesty; and fascinating, with irresistible attraction, demanding unconditional allegiance. 

Further, the experience, writes Otto:

grips or stirs the human mind. … The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its ‘profane,’ non-religious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strongest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy.  It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering.

Conversion experiences and so-called mystical experiences often involve one or more of the elements identified by Otto. In a similar vein, Carl Jung [pictured left] wrote that religion involves ‘a careful and scrupulous observation of what Rudolf Otto aptly termed the “numinosum,” that is, a dynamic existence or effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will.’ He went on to say, ‘The numinosum is either a quality of a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence causing a peculiar alteration of consciousness.’

Mindfulness involves or requires, or at least generally results in, a certain reverence for life that carries with it an emotional intensity that can only be described as spiritual. Now, I am not talking about anything supposedly ‘supernatural’, whatever that word means. (I ask you, how could there be higher or lower levels of reality? As the Scottish-Australian philosopher John Anderson used to say, any talk of such things is simply ‘unspeakable.’) I am talking about an experience that transcends the intellect, the emotions, and the will---indeed, it is other than those three things, although the feelings, as well as elements of cognition, are involved. This experience is transformative, as you come to see all things of life differently. All things become new and fresh as if you were seeing them for the very first time. ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5). Suddenly, and increasingly so over time, the so-called ordinary things of life seem ‘extraordinary.’ No, they remain ordinary, but you see them in a new light---the light of mindfulness. You have undergone a psychological mutation.

Is it a mystical experience? It can be. The experience can certainly ‘grip’ or ‘stir’ the mind, to use Otto’s words, and, yes, the feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide or burst in sudden eruption. The important thing we learn from our practice of mindfulness is this---whatever happens, we simply note and observe. If we stop to analyse the experience, it dies on us---instantly. All momentary experiences do, of course, whether we stop to analyse them or not. Our experience of life will always be moment-to-moment and somewhat fragmentary. It is always ‘new’ and ‘fresh,’ and only becomes stale and dead when we step back from the experience and start to analyse it, judge it, and evaluate it.

Now, the ‘One’ of which Plotinus wrote is comprised of the ‘many,’ and our experience of the many can be, and is, an experience of the ‘One’ (and the ‘Other’) when we really ‘see’ it and are ‘in harmony with’ the very livingness of life as it unfolds from one moment to the next. I like Plotinus’ words---‘The soul must remove from itself, good and evil, and everything else.’ As I see it, we must stop judging (as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ or whatever) the content of our moment-to-moment experience of consciousness and simply ‘know’ and ‘feel’ that we are ‘one’ with that experience. Not one in the sense that what is happening is ‘us’ or that we own it, but one in the sense that there is no separation in time or space between the happening of some occurrence and our direct and immediate apprehension of that occurrence. The moment we stop to analyse, judge, condemn, or evaluate the occurrence there is something between us and the experience, something that puts an impenetrable wall or barrier between us and the experience such that the experience dies on us. Worse still, for so long as we are engaged in the process of analysis, judgment and evaluation we cease to be aware of what is now before us in consciousness. It’s a fate worse than death.

The bottom line? You are one with the ‘Wholly Other,’ whether or not you are aware of that fact. In a very profound sense, there is no ‘Wholly Other,’ rather it is the direct and immediate but heightened experience of choiceless awareness of the very livingness and oneness of life as it unfolds from one moment to the next. Know it. Thrill to it. It is a tremendous and fascinating mystery.

Note. Here's a link to a short paper I've written on Christian mysticism.



Sunday, October 13, 2013


now the taste of this flavour which consists in absence of knowledge.
Those who recite commentaries do not know how to cleanse the world.

Listen, my son; this taste cannot be told by its various parts.
For it is free from conceits, a state of perfect bliss, in which existence has its origin.

It is the very last segment that remains of the creation of illusion,
Where intellect is destroyed, where mind dies and self-centeredness is lost.
Why encumber yourself there with meditation?

A thing appears in the world and then goes to destruction.
If it has no true existence, how may it appear again?
If it is free from both manifestation and destruction, what then arises?
Stay! Your master has spoken.

Look and listen, touch and eat,
Smell, wander, sit and stand,
Renounce the vanity of discussion,
Abandon thought and be not moved from singleness.

From Saraha’s Treasury of Songs.
Translated from the Tibetan by David Snellgrove.

Saraha is credited with being considered to be one of the founders of Buddhist Vajrayana, particularly of the Mahamudra tradition, and was one of the first practitioners of Mahamudra meditation. He probably lived in the 8th century CE in India. He had a wife who was an arrow-maker who actually first taught him Mahamudra. He wrote three spiritual 'songs of realization' (dohas) on Mahamudra.

The verses set out above, which I first read many years ago in that wonderful anthology The Rider Book of Mystical Verse, encapsulate the essence of mindful living. The ‘taste’ of anything---and we are not just talking about food---can only be known in the absence of knowledge. Further, the ‘taste’ of a thing cannot be told, or known, by its various parts. The thing---whatever it may be---must be tasted in its entirely, in its wholeness. The moment you try to break it down into its supposed component parts, the appreciation of the thing is lost. Gone. The essence of a thing lies in its no-thing-ness, that ‘state of perfect bliss, in which existence has its origin.’ In the words of Swami Vivekananda, 'All the differentiation in substance is made by name and form.' Name and form are constantly chaging, but substance---the self-livingness of life itself---ever remains.

When Buddhists and Hindus use the word ‘illusion,’ they are not talking about something that does not exist. Rather, the word refers to the absence of any separate, permanent, and independent reality. So, when we talk about the ‘illusory self,’ we are talking about a self---or rather a myriad of selves---that we internally generate but which have no separate, permanent, and independent reality. Now, I place great value on the intellect and reason, but I have come to the sad, yet blessed, realization that intellect and reason are ‘conceits’ that veil reality. To again quote Swami Vivekananda: 'To reach truth by reason alone is impossible. ... Reason can go only to a certain extent, beyond that it cannot reach.' When it comes to problem-solving of a legal or business kind, intellect and reason are, for me at least, paramount. However, when it comes to the appreciation of life, wisdom and understanding come when ‘intellect is destroyed, [when] mind dies and self-centeredness is lost.’ One other thing---'illusion' refers to name and form, into which everything is cast. 'Reason is differentiation,' that is, 'limiting something by our own minds' (Vivekananda). Differentiation---just another word for ignorance and belief in duality---is the result of 'egoism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life' (Vivekananda).

The line ‘Why encumber yourself there with meditation?’ is an interesting one. There are different types of meditation. Only one type---mindfulness or insight meditation---affords insight into things-as-they-really-are. (Note. Mahamudra meditation involves both śamatha ('tranquility', and 'calm abiding') and vipaśyanā [vipassana] ('special insight').) Other types of meditation involve concentration of some kind, that is, concentration, whether by way of repetition or the focus of the eyes or mind, on some object, image, sound or whatever. Those types of meditation have their place, and can assist in calming the mind and relaxing the body, and possibly also in developing one’s powers of concentration. 

Mindfulness is quite different---the presence of choiceless awareness of, and bare attention to, the action of the present moment as it unfolds from one moment to the next. Mindfulness requires just enough attention (‘bare’ attention, it is called) to stay alert, open, deliberate, and curious. The essence of mindfulness is captured in these words:

Look and listen, touch and eat,
Smell, wander, sit and stand,
Renounce the vanity of discussion,
Abandon thought and be not moved from singleness.

The ideas expressed in the very last line are most important. Mindfulness involves a non-critical, non-analytical, non-judgmental, diffused state of mind. You look, you watch, you see, you observe, but you do not ‘stay’ with any one thought, feeling, image, bodily sensation, or external input. You remain---immoveable---not moving or being moved from your mental station of singleness. In so doing, you dis-identify and dis-relate your mind, and your moment-to-moment awareness, from every thought, feeling, image, bodily sensation, or external input, all of those things being 'fetters of self-interest' (Swami Paramananda). None of those things are you---the person among persons that you are. So, 'be unattached, let things work, let brain-centres work ... but let not a ripple conquer the mind ... do not bind yourselves; bondage is terrible' (Vivekananda).

The true essence of life lies not in its arising or vanishing, nor in its ‘manifestation [or] destruction,’ but in its be-ing-ness. The be-ing-ness of a thing---indeed, of existence in its totality---lies not in its form, which is forever changing. ‘A thing appears in the world and then goes to destruction.’ The be-ing-ness of a thing is something that goes beyond time and space. It just is.

'Abandon thought and be not moved from singleness.'

Thursday, October 10, 2013


‘The world is a demon. It is a kingdom of which the puny ego
is king. Put it away and stand firm.’ – Swami Vivekananda.

'The truth simply is. It cannot be voted into existence.
It must be perceived by every individual in the
changeless Self within.'  Paramahansa Yogananda.

There really is only one spiritual teaching. It is taught, in various ways, and in different words and imagery, by all of the world’s religions. Some adherents of one religion or another will deny that the teaching to which I refer is taught in their particular religion but that is immaterial for present purposes. It would take some time for me to establish that the teaching to which I refer is indeed part-and-parcel of every religion, but even if I were able to demonstrate that fact there would still be many people who would not want to agree with me, largely because they erroneously think theirs is the one, true religion.

So, what is this teaching? It is this---all life is one. Now, I am not saying that all things are one in some monistic sense. That may or may not be the case, and I tend to the view that it is not the case. What I do say is this---there is only one way of being, and that way is common to all persons and all things. There is only one order or level of reality---an Omnipresence (call it 'God,' if you wish) expresing Itself through and as all persons and things---and all such persons and things have their one and common existence and being in or on that plane or level of reality. In addition, a single logic---in the sense of 'law' and 'principle'---applies to, regulates, and governs all persons and things. Here’s another reason why we must insist on oneness---there cannot be two ‘causes’ of the universe … assuming for the moment that the universe was anything other than self-caused or uncaused.

In short, the same life---the very self-livingness of life---runs through all our veins, bodies, and minds, and through the entire fabric of existence.

Now, what has mindfulness to do with all this? Well, a fair bit. You see, mindfulness is a knowing awareness of the flow of life as it unfolds from one moment to the next—an awareness that goes beyond ever-changing forms and rests quietly in the unchanging spirit of life itself.

The teachings of two famous Indians gurus of yesteryear---each a formidable master of world spirituality---have had an enormous impact for good on my spiritual life over many decades. The two spiritual leaders and teachers to which I refer are Swami Vivekananda ('Swamiji') [pictured above left] and Swami Paramahansa Yogananda ('Paramahansaji') [pictured below right]. For the benefit of the uninitiated, Swamiji was a brilliant exponent of Vedanta, having been the chief disciple of the great Indian saint Ramakrishna. Paramahansaji was the celebrated author of the widely acclaimed Autobiography of a Yogi, which has been printed in more than 20 languages, and which is one of the all-time landmark works of spiritual literature. I am very proud of the fact that the Unitarian Universalist denomination of which I am a minister---a denomination that stands for reason, freedom, and tolerance, as well as unconditional love for all---had a great deal to do with bringing these two giants of humanity to the United States of America, befriending them, and helping them to promulgate their teachings to the Western world. 

Both masters had a lot to say about mindfulness, even though the primary focus of each of them was on a quite different, albeit related, theme (Vedanta in the case of Swamiji, and Kriya Yoga in the case of Paramahansaji). Both masters, in their writings, teachings, lectures, and classes, made it unambiguously clear that direct communion with Divinity was possible through a direct, immediate and unmediated experience of life itself. That was not only possible, they said, it was the only real way to go. 

Why is that the case, you may ask? Well, truth---that is, life, reality, God---is very near, indeed it is all around us, and in us, and is us. 'The whole universe is one existence---objectified God,' wrote Swamiji. Problems arise, however, when we identify with the world, our bodies, and the mental imagery of our minds. Those things tend to become all-absorbing for us, and we lose sight of the eternal. Paramahansaji expressed it this way: 'We are hypnotized by our environment and we can't see beyond the horizon of our experience.'

Now, here's Swamiji on the subject of mindfulness. He wrote that the goal of Vedanta---and we might also say that it is the goal of life---is to achieve and maintain ‘an eternal calmness … which cannot be ruffled, the balance of mind which is never disturbed, no matter what happens.’ He also wrote, ‘Neither seek nor avoid; take what comes. This is freedom---to be affected by nothing. Do not merely endure; be unattached.’ So, a mindful mind is a balanced, unflappable and imperturbable state of mind; it does not react to what comes and goes from one moment to the next, but instead remains unattached and unaffected by what happens in or outside of us.

Paramahansaji's advice is as follows: ‘Live quietly in the moment. ... Be detached inwardly from whatever happens in your life and consciousness. ... No matter what happens, look at things with non-attachment.’ He also wrote, ‘Live each moment completely and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each moment. ... To live mechanically is to be dead inside though your body be still breathing!’ 

Then there’s this gem from Swamiji: ‘Retire to the centre of your being, which is calmness. … Remain clam, serene, always in command of yourself.’ And this one: ‘Stillness is the altar of spirit.’ So, as the Bible also says, ‘Be still, and know …’ (Ps 46:10). Note the connection---first, you get still, then you know. True knowledge---or wisdom---comes when we are still. Yogananda wrote, ‘Each minute of life should be a divine quest.’ Yes, a quest for stillness and spiritual knowledge.

Here's a short YouTube video, containing some wonderful archival footage from 1936, in which Paramahansaji gives some advice on how to sleep correctly:

Both gurus made it perfectly clear that true spiritual knowledge was costly. ‘Until we give up the world manufactured by the ego, never can we enter the Kingdom of Heaven,’ wrote Swamiji. ‘None ever did, none ever will.’ In a similar vein, Paramahansaji wrote, ‘To humble the ego or false self is to discover one’s eternal identity.’ He also spoke of the 'old habit-bound self' and ‘false identifications’ with body sensations as well as thoughts, feelings, and other mental images. Elsewhere Paramahansaji referred to these things as ‘false egoistic limitations’---those ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’ that we mistakenly and unthinkingly believe are the ‘real’ person each one of us is. Yes, the ego or false self—which we tend to generate almost every moment of the day when we are not living mindfully---stands in the way of our seeing things-as-they-really-are

What, then, are we to do? Well, the ego or false self needs to be crucified, with deep humility, on the altar of mindfulness. In the words of Swamiji, ‘Put out self, forget it. … Get rid of the little “I” and let only the great “I” live. … The little separate self must die.’ Or, in the words of Paramahansaji: 'Your beliefs won't save you. ... Salvation means freedom from ego-limitation, which is imposed on the soul [mind] through attachment to body-consciousness. ... Stop dwelling on the thought of "I", "I".' In short, let go.

Of course, the same truth is contained in all sacred scripture. Here's one I like: 'The person of self-control, roaming among material objects with subjugated senses, and devoid of attraction and replusion, attains an unshakable inner calmness' (Bhagavad-Gita 2:64). Here's another---this one from the Bible: 'Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus' (Phil 2:5). And I love this prayer of Swamiji: 'May the Lord ever protect you from illusion and delusion!' That just about says it all.

So, stop holding on to your little separate selves. Let them go. Let them die on you---mindfully.


Saturday, October 5, 2013


For once, a relatively short post.

We all want to be happy, but most of us regularly engage in certain self-defeating behaviour (including self-sabotaging subconscious programming) that prevents us from being happy ... as well as from seeing things-as-they-really-are.

I recently came across this gem from the Indian mystic and spiritual leader Maharaj Charan Singh [pictured left]:

‘There is something wrong with us. We never want to be happy at the present moment. Either we are worried about what we have done or about what is going to happen to us. We don’t want to make the best use of the present moment. If we make this moment happy, our past automatically becomes happy, and we have no time to worry about the future. So we must take life as it comes and spend it happily. Every moment should be spent happily. …’

Dr Emmet Fox [pictured right], the famous New Thought minister, lecturer, and author, made a similar point when he wrote:

‘Has it ever occurred to you that the only time you ever have is the present moment? … What that means is that you can only live in the present. It means you can only act in the present. It means you can only experience in the present. Above all, it means that the only thing you have to heal is the present thought. … All that you can know is your present thought, and all that you can experience is the outer expression of all the thoughts and beliefs that you are holding at the present time. 

'What you call the past can only be your memory of the past. The seeming consequences of past events, be they good or bad, are still but the expression of your present state of mind (including, of course, the subconscious). What are all the future things that you may be planning, or things that you may be dreading? All this is still but a present state of mind. This is the real meaning of the traditional phrase, "The Eternal Now." The only joy you can experience is the joy you experience now. A happy memory is a present joy. The only pain you can experience is the pain of the present moment. Sad memories are present pain. Get the present moment right. …’

There is no 'way,' as such, to happiness; rather, happiness is the way. Things do not 'make' you happy. Happiness depends upon 'no-thing,' and 'no-thing-ness'---the latter being a munificent state of consciousness---is synonymous with happiness, peace of mind, and serenity. So, choose to be happy---now! (Yes, it is a choice.) In this very present moment. Make the most of the present moment---and make every moment count! If you do that properly, your past, as well as any fears you might hold about the future, will disappear---instantaneously! Forever! Make a decision to do only this---heal the present thought. Get that right. Get the present moment right.

That’s all you have to do. Simple, isn't it? Well, get to 'it.'

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


‘In life, all good things come hard,
but wisdom is the hardest to come by.’

‘Not everything that is faced can be changed,
but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

In an article entitled ‘My Dearest Memories,’ published in the September 21, 1966 edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly, the legendary actress, comedienne and producer Lucille Ball [pictured left as well as below right] had this to say about God:

'To me, God is a hill, a cloud, a tree, a Christmas eve on top of a high bridge, my grandmother Hunt's backyard during a rainstorm. That backyard is where I sensed the presence of God. Every nook was utilised, beautifully arranged with flowers and rocks, young bushes and fruit trees. The seasons seemed holy---an incense of hyacinths each spring; oak golds and purples in autumn; a snow-covered stillness in winter with the hieroglyphic tracks of birds, rabbits, cats, and dogs in the drifts.

'Is it possible for a backyard to be a church for a child? It was for me---it was my sanctuary.'

That's pantheism, some will say, to which I say, ‘So what? Pantheism makes more sense than traditional theism.’ Actually, it’s not pantheism at all but a mindful appreciation of the innate sacredness and holiness of the eternal now---and that’s something very beautiful indeed.

Here's an even earlier memory of Miss Ball's---taken from her posthumously published autobiography
Love, Lucy---that once again reveals her incredible capacity for mindfulness:

'My father's condition never improved. His grippe turned into typhoid fever. He died not long after that storm. He was only twenty-eight and my mother was almost twenty-three. I was not yet four, but I remember vividly the moment she told me Daddy was gone. I could tell you where the tables were, where the windows were, what they looked out on, where the bed was. And I remember at that very moment, a picture suddenly fell from the wall. And I noticed on the kitchen windowsill some little gray sparrows feeding.'

Mindfulness is the presence---note that word presence---of bare attention to, and choiceless awareness of, the action (be it internal or external) of the present moment from one moment to the next. Presence refers to both physical and psychological presence---your presence, that is. Insofar as your psychological presence is concerned, we are talking about a curious, deliberate, intentional, and reflexive awareness of what is, but in an 'un-self-conscious' frame of mind such that you are and remain ever open to whatever happens.

Miss Ball’s memories of her Grandmother Hunt’s backyard, and of her father's untimely death in 1915, have all the key elements of mindfulness, namely, a remembering what is present, and a remembering to stay present in the present moment from one moment to the next (it’s demonstrably clear that Miss Ball did both of those things, given the meticulous detail of her memories), and, finally, a remembering in the present moment that which has already happened (the remembering of a past event is an experience in the present). As respects the detail of her memories, attention to detail was one of Miss Ball's hallmarks. She once said, 'Perfectionism has become a dirty word but I think it means attention to detail, and it is the secret of many successful people.' Including herself, I might add.

Your moment-to-moment experience of the action of life as it continually unfolds from one moment to the next---when ‘accompanied’ by your simultaneous and instantaneous mindful physical and psychological presence with that action---is your ‘church,’ your ‘sanctuary.’ You see,
worship has everything to do with ‘worthiness’ or ‘worth-ship,’ that is, ascribing worth to that which is worthy of the ascription, and very little to do with God or gods in the traditional, ‘church’ sense. Worship is a mindset that shows reverent love for the sacredness of the eternal now---and what could be more sacred or divine than that? 

However, a sense of the sacred or holy needs to be combined with what Miss Ball once referred to as 'that enchanting quality of being able to develop ... a "sense of play".' She noted that her old friend, film actor, comedian and producer Harold Lloyd, had that particular quality, along with 'authority and understanding ... vitality ... incomparable timing ... awareness of material ... [and an] ability to execute them all with a complete credibility.' Miss Ball had all those qualities, too---in spades.

Miss Ball was right to use the words ‘church’ and ‘sanctuary’ to refer to her childhood experiences and her later memories of the events in question. Hers was, in her own words, 'an everyday religon that works for me.' Although she was a close friend and 'disciple' of Dr Norman Vincent Peale and his spiritual philosophy ('I can talk to him on the phone for five minutes and feel I've been to church for a month,' she said in a 1974 interview), she was not into organized religion or dogma, didn't believe in an afterlife, and was fairly agnostic on most things 'religious' (despite saying, 'I regard myself as very religious without going to church'). 

Religious or not, there is no doubt that Miss Ball was very, very spiritual---and she understood what mindfulness is all about.

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