The spirit within you

February 16, 2012


I forwarded this blog post to my children, suggesting that they cultivate their intuition because it is God within them. By quoting this post in my own blog, I forward this important message to my readers as well. Credit goes to fellow blogger Yogaleigh whose blog is listed in my blogroll as Journey to Higher Consciousness. Enjoy:

When I decided to try yoga in 1986 I was living in Chicago. Although there were a number of studios there wasn’t the plethora that now exists and I quickly realized that the long travel times to many studios would lead to skipping lots of classes. As soon as I decided I wanted to find someplace closer I parked across the alley from my apartment building and when I stepped up on the curb I found myself starting at a sign on the door in front of me: “Hatha Yoga, Tuesdays 6:30 p.m.”

Well, that was close enough! I didn’t know enough about yoga to know that there are different styles (less then than now) or how to distinguish whether one might suit me more than another and it didn’t occur to me to research the teacher (for you young ones, I couldn’t have googled it, most people didn’t even have a computer then and the internet barely existed).  It just felt right and I showed up the next Tuesday and began my love affair with yoga.

The teacher was Bill Hunt, who’d practiced for about a dozen years at the time and taught on the side from another job. He was studying with Goswami Kriyananda (Temple of Kriya Yoga) and became a swami while I studied with him.  I’ve taken other classes—including a then-famous Yoga Journal teacher (my least favorite ever)–and followed various TV teachers like Lilias and picked up many tapes and DVDs. Bill Hunt has remained the best yoga teacher I ever encountered.

I attended his classes faithfully for five years, even twice a week whenever he offered a second class, including through the nine months of teacher training at the Temple of Kriya Yoga (he taught some of that too).  If I hadn’t moved away I’d still be taking his classes. Bill is now the director of Oak Park Yoga in Oak Park, IL.

I feel the universe sent me the perfect teacher at the perfect time and place and it changed my life.  My instinct, when I saw that sign on the door was that I’d found the right class.  If I’d second-guessed myself and searched for more classes or hesitated I might have turned off to yoga or have never started.  When instinct and all the elements come together, magic happens if you pay attention and say yes.

 

Finally. The people are speaking out about corruption and abuse of power.  The “Occupy” movement is here.

To learn more about Occupy and to see how technology is facilitating this movement, check out the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together web sites.

In my “Time for a paradigm shift” post, I commented that individuals “must find a way to act that will change the course of our nation.” I hope that the Occupy movement is the beginning of that change.

To people who remember the protest movements of the ’60s and ’70s, Occupy may look familiar. A columnist in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Daily Tar Heel believes that is a misperception:

These “occupiers” are making a fundamentally different and more profound statement than has popularly been reported.

It is direct democracy. It is a new vision of change. It is community values in action.

It is also no wonder the media has had a hard time making sense of it. The “occupation” isn’t what we’re used to seeing. It doesn’t lend itself to the familiar narrative arc of a protest: “You meet these demands, and then we’ll go home.” Instead the occupiers are protesting our economic system by offering a direct alternative, by actively living out values of trust and representation and interdependence — values that the surrounding financial institutions obscure and repress.

Tea Partiers should take heart and journalists who don’t get what is going on should take note. The movement is not necessarily asking government to step in to solve all our problems. The corruption of government by monied interest groups is well understood to be part of the problem.

Instead, the movement is about “actively living out” what young people see as “new” values, and what older people should recognize is a return to individual responsibility, compromise, and consensus-building. The movement is promoting cultural change by acting it out in their people’s assemblies. Younger activists may not realize that the culture of greed and self-indulgence that became acceptable in the ’80s is very different from American mores of the preceding five decades.

Rapid technological change, government corruption, and consumer economy ethics are world-wide phenomena that have led to the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny elite. So the Occupy movement is part of a global movement that includes the Arab Spring and activism across Europe earlier this year.  American young people (are) collaborating with young people around the world to invent a future that embraces a common good.” 

Just when mainstream American politics seems to many to have reached new depths, the pendulum of history has begun its inevitable swing back from right-wing extremism. But the arc of history is more than the simple back-and-forth movement of a pendulum. The shape of history’s movement is a spiral, ever pushing its way upward toward a higher plane of consciousness.

The spiral is repeatedly expressed both in nature and in the religious symbolism of many cultures from ancient to present times. To understand history’s spiral-shaped trajectory is to glimpse the divine. To trust that the unseen future will be better than the past is to have faith.


Freedom evolves in Egypt

February 11, 2011

Today is historic. Thirty-two years to the day after the Iranian revolution deposing the Shah, the Egyptian people have successfully overthrown repressive dictator Hosni Mubarak.  The Iranian revolution resulted in the rise of fundamentalist Islam across the Arab world. Could today’s revolution mark the beginning of the end of that Islamic fundamentalism and all that it entails?

Today’s events are a celebration of the power of the individual spirit. The Eqyptians were inspired by the Tunisians, who were in turn inspired by the self-immolation of a frustrated fruit vendor in their country. Contemplate for a moment the unlikelihood that a fruit vendor in Tunisia of all places could change world events.

Have you seen the movie The Social Network? The movie may distort the truth in some ways. But Facebook, the social networking phenomenon that has spread around the world with breathtaking speed, is undoubtedly largely the product of another unlikely world hero, brilliant but socially inept Mark Zuckerberg. Today, the leader of the Eqyptian uprising asked on CNN that Mark Zuckerberg phone him, even as placards to Facebook are raised amidst the celebration in Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Young people may not know that CNN itself is the brainchild of another American innovator and misfit, Ted Turner.)

Older people often voice wonder at where the explosion in technology is leading us, as the world they knew and felt comfortable in disappears before their eyes. But this is the way of the world, and always has been, that for every new thing something old must fall away. Even in our discomfort with the new technologies, the power of these technologies to bring about positive change must be acknowledged and embraced.

Lastly, we are reminded that young people lead revolutions. Just as the young men and women of the 1940s earned the designation “The Greatest Generation” for making the world safe for democracy, so young people today have unprecedented power to bring about positive change in the world. To those who worry about the decline of America, remember that Zuckerberg and Facebook were made in America, the birthplace of political freedom and enduring hotbed of innovation of all kinds.

Going forward though, expect to see American young people collaborating with young people around the world to invent a future that embraces a common good. Today is a powerful example that history is indeed the story of  unfolding human spirit.

A recent Google search of “spiritual evolution quotes” led me to a brilliant mind who spoke specifically about the focal point of this blog, the intersection of spirituality and history. I was led to the words of none other than Albert Einstein. Einstein believed in following his intuition (the spirit moving in the individual), and he understood our interconnectedness with one another and with the universe.

Many people believe that Einstein was an atheist, but this is far from the truth. Rather, he saw the Divine in the order, rationality, and harmony that he found while searching for the underlying principles of the universe. After making his ground-breaking discoveries, including the general theory of relativity, he spent the remaining decades of his life trying to discern what he called “unified field theory, a single law that would encompass all the fundamental forces of nature. Einstein himself had this to say about his unfulfilled quest, which many of his contemporaries considered foolish:

“Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us closer to the secret of the ‘Old One.’ I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice.”

The search for a unified theory continues. I can profess to only the most superficial understanding of  Einstein’s work and of quantum mechanics. No matter (no pun intended!). It is Einstein’s thoughts about society that interest me:

“When considering the actual living conditions of present day civilised humanity from the standpoint of even the most elementary religious commands, one is bound to experience a feeling of deep and painful disappointment at what one sees. For while religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. Everywhere, in economic as well as in political life, the guiding principle is one of ruthless striving for success at the expense of one’s fellow men. This competitive spirit prevails even in the school and, destroying all feelings of human fraternity and cooperation, conceives of achievement not as derived from the love for productive and thoughtful work, but as springing from personal ambition and fear of rejection.”

Einstein made this statement in 1948, but it seems to me that it describes today’s political and economic scene rather well.

I am repeatedly disheartened when hate- and fear-mongering political dialogue comes from people who cloak themselves in the garb of religiosity, and who apparently believe that we are incapable of rising above greed as a motivating principle to live by.

Einstein had similar sentiments in his day:

“There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that the religious teachings are utopian ideals and are unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs.”

I believe that humans are destined for more, for better than this, and that in time we will learn to support, rather than break down one another. It will not be religious dogma, but the human spirit, harbored within each individual soul, that will take the world to this better place. All in good time…

Why “free for all?”

April 27, 2010

Why did I name my blog “free for all?” Because I believe that it was destiny that led to the unfurling of individual freedom, starting in America. Going forward, people are destined to consciously, explicitly, and freely choose to live in ways that will benefit the good of all people.

Here’s the back story. Aboriginal people nurtured our continent in pristine condition for millenia, no doubt awaiting our arrival. Western civilization stumbled upon these shores, claiming to have discovered them, and soon appropriated a wide swath of the land. In time, our country gained political independence, and our Founding Fathers devised a brilliant new political system that allowed unprecedented freedom for the individual in this “new” land.

It has taken a few centuries, but we have now largely succeeded in extending basic human rights to all subsets of people in our country. The question now becomes “what are we to use this freedom for?”

Many people seem to believe that America was founded in order that the world might have “capitalism.” Was it not destiny that Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, the year that America became an independent nation?

Smith’s work, in fact, referred to a free market economy–the term “capitalism” was not used until the 1850s. Smith believed that when individuals independently pursue their own selfish good, it is as if an “invisible hand” operates to bring about the greatest common good.

Undeniably, the partnership of free people and free markets has led to unprecedented innovation and wealth creation. But our country’s history is also a tale of exploitation of both human beings and natural resources. Repeatedly, the American people have chosen to limit the exercise of free markets by law in order to achieve what they perceived as a greater common good.

For better or for worse, the “invisible hand” has caused wealth to accrue disproportionately to the United States, and Americans consume a highly disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources. But as people and markets are freed around the world, other countries’ demands for their share of natural resources will increase. As predicted decades ago, the world now faces the limits of sustainable growth on our planet. Now that we have reached this barrier,  I don’t think we can expect the unguided “invisible hand” to automatically deliver the greatest “common good.”

Where do we go from here? I do not claim to know.

But what I believe, and what I plan to write about, is that history is the tapestry of the evolution of the human spirit. The circuitous path of history inevitably led to a world where an increasing number of individuals are free to live as they choose. Freedom allows the human spirit to grow and to soar. But freedom entails a requirement for self-management and self-control. Just as inevitably, destiny will allow the human spirit to continue its upward spiral, and free people around the world will learn to cooperatively manage market power to achieve the common good.

The alternatives are self-annihilation with the weapons humans have devised in the last century, as the world’s people continue the eternal battle over natural resources. Or the planet itself could bring a cataclysmic end to human existence.

What is the evidence supporting my faith in humanity’s future?

Visit my blog often to explore this question with me.

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