Ram Dass on Awareness

We as souls prepare our own births deaths and in between in such an exquisite mechanism. Can you imagine that you have picked mother and father? That you picked the time in history you were to live? That you even have picked the people you walk by on the street? And so have all the rest of us and so we interact. The best way to live life is as a soul dancing in and out of incarnation, as a witness of both internal and external things. We are awareness. You are an awareness and I am in awareness and we are not separate. Awareness is one name for God, and we are fingers of consciousness for the one consciousness. We first identify as separate fingers then we identify with the hand and then with the body and then with all bodies. When we are identified with all bodies then we are identified with awareness. You can hear, see, taste, feel doing something but awareness you can only be. You can’t look for awareness you can only be awareness. So you be your awareness and I will be my awareness, and in that awareness we can transcend 5000 miles. And so if you can go into your awareness and be aware, and I am here being aware we are one.

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Hatching Consciousness

Timmy was making his Batman toy fly all over the kitchen and living room as he narrated the whole event. “Look Dad batman is flying high! Look Dad he’s flying upside down! Look Dad he is flying fast!” He threw the naked figurine across the room almost hitting our dog Jolie. “Oh Timmy don’t throw that!” I said. Timmy didn’t understand the sudden change of rules. Why was flying upside down greeted with a “wow” and the flying fast part was greeted with a correctional blow?!?

And what is the point of my correction? It is important to know not to throw a stapler at your co-worker, for example, but was this really the moment to teach him not to throw things? Maybe it was, but I didn’t see how. There was no eminent danger and he did not break anything. So why not let Batman go for a fast fly too?

Children aren’t born, they hatch. Just as a baby chick comes out of its shell only when it is ready, children (including me) will learn important life lessons in the time they are ready, never a moment before. Timing is everything. 

All of us hatch into consciousness moment by moment, lesson by lesson, and expand ourselves into this big world, proudly announcing our arrival!

I am a late hatcher.

Gregg Braden

The last thing I expected to see on a late October afternoon hiking in a remote canyon of the Four Corners area in northwestern New Mexico was a Native American wisdom keeper walking toward me on the same trail. Yet there he was, standing at the top of the small incline that separated us as our paths converged that day. I’m not sure how long he’d been there. By the time I saw him, he was just waiting, watching me as I stepped carefully among the loose stones on the path. The low sun created a glow that cast a deep shadow across the man’s body. As I held my hand up to block the light from my eyes, I could seea few locks of shoulder-length hair blowing across his face.He seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see him.The wind carried the sound of his voice toward me as he cupped his hands on either side of his mouth.

“Hello!” he shouted.

“Hello,” I called back. “I didn’t expect to see anyone here this time of day.” Stepping a little closer, I asked, “How long have you been watching me?”

“Not long,” he replied. “I come here to listen to the voices of my ancestors in those caves,” he said, as one arm pointed toward the other side of the canyon.

The path we were following wound through a series of archaeological sites built nearly 11 centuries before by a mysterious clan of people. No one knows where they came from or who they were.

With no evidence of their skills evolving over time, the people that modern natives simply call “the ancient ones” showed up one day in history and brought with them the most advanced technology that would be seen in North America for another thousand years.

From the four-story-tall buildings and perfect stone kivas (round ceremonial structures) buried in the ground to the vast irrigation systems and the sophisticated crops that sustained the people, this place seems to have just appeared one day. And then those who built it were suddenly gone.

They just vanished.

The ancient ones left precious few clues to tell us who they were. With the exception of the rock art on the canyon walls, no written records have ever been found. There are no sites of mass burials or cremations, or weapons of war.

Yet the evidence of their existence is there: hundreds of ancient dwellings in an 11-mile-long, 1-mile-wide canyon in the remote corner of a desolate canyon in northwestern New Mexico.

I’ve gone to this place often to walk, immerse myself in the strange beauty of the open desolation, and feel the past. On that late October afternoon, both the wisdom keeper and I had come to the high desert on the same day for the same reason. As we exchanged our beliefs about the secrets still held there, my new friend shared a story.

“A long time ago, our world was very different from the way we see it today,” the wisdom keeper began.

“There were fewer people, and we lived closer to the land. People knew the language of the rain, the crops, and the Great Creator. They even knew how to speak to the stars and the sky people.

“They were aware that life is sacred and comes from the marriage between Mother Earth and Father Sky. In this time, there was balance and people were happy.”

I felt something very ancient well up inside of me as I heard the man’s peaceful voice echo against the sandstone cliffs that surrounded us. Suddenly, his voice changed to a tone of sadness.

“Then something happened,” he said. “No one really knows why, but people started to forget who they were. In their forgetting, they began to feel separate—separate from the earth, from each other, and even from the one who created them. They were lost and wandered through life with no direction or connection.

In their separation, they believed that they had to fight to survive in this world and defend themselves against the same forces that gave them the life they had learned to live in harmony with and trust. Soon all of their energy was used to protect themselves from the world around them, instead of making peace with the world within them.”

Immediately, the man’s story resonated with me. As I listened to what he was telling me, it sounded as if he were describing human beings today! With the few exceptions of isolated cultures and remote pockets of tradition that remain, our civilization certainly places its focus more on the world around us and less on the world within us.

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year defending ourselves from disease and trying to control nature. In doing so, we have perhaps strayed further from our balance with the natural world than ever before. The wisdom keeper had my attention—now the question was, where was he going with his story?

From the four-story-tall buildings and perfect stone kivas (round ceremonial structures) buried in the ground to the vast irrigation systems and the sophisticated crops that sustained the people, this place seems to have just appeared one day. And then those who built it were suddenly gone—they just vanished.

“Even though they had forgotten who they were, somewhere inside of them the gift of their ancestors remained,” he continued. “There was still a memory that lived within them. In their dreams at night they knew that they held the power to heal their bodies, bring rain when they needed to, and speak with their ancestors. They knew that somehow they could find their place in the natural world once again.

“As they tried to remember who they were, they began to build the things outside of their bodies that reminded them of who they were on the inside. As time went on, they even built machines to do their healing, made chemicals to grow their crops, and stretched wires to communicate over long distances. The farther they wandered from their inner power, the more cluttered their outer lives became with the things that they believed would make them happy.”

As I listened, I saw the unmistakable parallels between the people I was hearing about and our civilization today. Our civilization has become steeped in feelings of being powerless to help ourselves or make a better world. So often we feel helpless as we watch our loved ones slip away from us into the clutches of pain and addictions.

We think that we’re powerless to ease the suffering from the horrible diseases that no living thing should ever have to endure. We can only hope for the peace that will bring those we care about safely from the terror of foreign battlefields. And together, we feel insignificant in the presence of a growing nuclear threat as the world aligns itself along the divisions of religious beliefs, bloodlines, and borders.

It seems that the farther we stray from our natural relationship with the earth, our bodies, one another, and God, the emptier we become. In our emptiness, we strive to fill our inner void with “things.”

When we look at the world from this perspective, I cannot help but think of a similar dilemma portrayed in the science-fiction movie Contact. The President’s science advisor (played by Matthew McConaughey) explores the fundamental question that faces every technological society. During a television interview, he asks if we are a better society because of our technology—has it brought us closer together or made us feel more separate?

The question is never really answered in the movie, and the topic could fill an entire book unto itself. However, the point that the advisor is making—when he asks how much of our power we give away to our diversions—is a good one. When we feel that video games, movies, virtual online relationships, and voiceless communication are necessities and they become substitutes for real life and face-to-face contact, this may be signs of a society in trouble.

While electronics and entertainment media certainly seem to make life more interesting, they could also be red flags telling us how far we’ve strayed from our power to live rich, healthy, and meaningful lives.

Additionally, when the focus of our lives becomes how to avoid disease rather than how to live in a healthy way, how to stay out of war rather than how to cooperate in peace, and how to create new weapons rather than how to live in a world where armed conflict has become obsolete, clearly the path we’re on has become one of survival.

In such a mode, no one is truly happy—nobody really “wins.”

When we find ourselves living this way, the obvious thing to do would be to look for another route. And that’s precisely what the divine matrix is about and why I’m sharing this story.

“How does the story end?” I asked the wisdom keeper. “Did the people ever find their power and remember who they were?”

By this time, the sun had disappeared behind the canyon walls, and for the first time I could actually see who I was talking to. The sun-darkened man standing in front of me smiled broadly upon hearing my question. He was quiet for just a moment, and then he whispered, “No one knows because the story isn’t finished. The people who got lost are our ancestors, and we are the ones who are writing the ending. What do you think . . . ?”

By Gregg Braden

Mirrors

This morning I bought a drawing app for Maya. It records the drawing she makes so that she can replay or even post it online. She sat and recorded her drawing for five minutes or so as I made breakfast for Timmy.

When she played the recording back I was shocked to hear myself! I had no idea it was recording sound. My first thought was, “Man, I sound weird.” Then I heard myself talk to Timmy, and respond to Maya’s questions. My second thought was, “Why do I sound so annoyed when I talk?” My tone was harsh and blunt. There was no tenderness or love behind the words I spoke. “Do I always sound like that?” I think the honest answer is yes. When I speak it sounds like I am annoyed and bothered by my children. Is that the message I am sending my children? If so that’s awful! I’m sorry Maya and Timmy, I love you and you are never a bother to me!

I cannot see myself. In my mind I am perfectly justified in all my actions, I do no wrong. But I wonder, what if I could see myself in third person? What if I could see my character in someone else? Would I be so forgiving of his faults? Would I even like him? Would I love him?

I see myself on video, or I hear myself on audio and I shrink into a ball of embarrassment. Why? Because the justification lies I tell myself dissolve into nothing, exposing my bare self to my eyes for the first time, and it makes me feel naked. If I cannot love myself in the third person, I really cannot love myself in the first person either, and if I cannot love myself how can I expect others to love me? Those people in my life that do love me do so despite my glaring faults, that up to now I have been blind to. I am grateful for their mercy, forgiveness, and generosity, and for loving me while I am still broken.

“I was a much better chess player before I started taking lessons.” My students say. The truth is that their consciousness of their chess skill has been expanded, showing to them the  rather large gaps of chess understanding! It hurts their perfect image of themselves. Then they have to make a choice. One, turn their gaze away from their shortcomings and tell themselves a newer more convincing lie regarding their state of being, or humbly accept their deficiencies and begin the courageous work of change.

I could say, “I was a much better person before I started to try to expand my consciousness!” as if my expansion is causing me to become a bad person instead of revealing to me the gaps in my ability to love that were already there. I too have a choice. I can either turn my gaze away from my lack and stunt my growth out of fear, or I may humbly embrace my deficiencies and begin the courageous work of change. Today I choose change.

I have also discovered that this change is extremely mine, and innately practical. When I think of spiritual growth I often imagine a white light glowing down on me from a place infinitely far away that will automatically and magically change me because I have finally granted it permission to do so. Nope! The work is extremely mine and I must find practical ways to supply the lacking “love materials” to fill the gaps that my growing consciousness shows to me. It is real work. Sometimes the supernatural feels intensely natural.

No one, absolutely no one can do this work for me. There is no contracting this work out to the lowest bidder. What is more, when I do this work, I am finally doing exactly what I am here to do in this world. This painful, quite, humble and unrecognized work of change and growth is why I live here, and the work will be incomplete for as long as I draw breath. With my last exhale I will say, “It is finished.”

Mirrors do not lie. I lie to myself. I lie about who I am and what I need and what is my fault. The most honest mirrors in my life are those people in my life that love me and reflect back to me my own behavior. I choose to pay more attention to the mirrors in my life so that I may finally learn to love myself, and others, perfectly.

Chess Consciousness

When I was a kid my little brother taught me the rules of chess. The first time we played he won. I made a resolution never to let that happen again, so I started to learn chess by reading books and playing at school. Twenty eight years later I’m still playing and I’m rather good at it. Now I teach chess at Mullen High School and at elementary schools to make some extra cash.

Chess has always been used as a metaphor for war and life. Today I am proposing that chess is also a great metaphor for growth in consciousness.

I’ve studied thousands of chess games played by professional grandmasters. When I first started doing this every move from start to finish seemed like magic, miraculous even. I just couldn’t understand how they used the same wooden pieces so differently. I attributed to these players powers that they just never had, and I imagined their skills far out of my reach.

As I grew in my understanding and my skills matured I began to understand the principles that ruled the game and I began to see common patterns emerging from the scattered pieces on the board. I began to have “magical” games of my own creation and the game became more natural and less mysterious, less supernatural.

Today I play chess against strong coffee house players and I join a tournament every now and then. Whenever I repeatedly lose to an opponent I gain a renewed sense of magic and miracle. “How did he do that? What just happened here? How did I lose?” I feel like a novice again. It’s quite humbling.

But I know now that this player has no magic, performs no miracle, and does not possess a secret formula for winning. He has more chess consciousness. Chess is a game that is played with awareness, NOT the mind. It is not really a game of the mind at all, it’s a game of the soul played through intuition and memory not thought and logic. Well at least good chess players play that way. 

It is possible to play chess with the mind/ego but most people who play that way don’t play it for very long, since their ego swells at the slightest error,  which leads to bigger mistakes, then anger, and then a loss, and then more anger. You see it all the time at chess clubs.

People that play chess better than me on a consistent basis have better chess awareness. Let me explain with a non-chess example.

One day I was out for a walk with my kids. A pizza delivery car drove by and Timmy, then only two and a half said, “Look! Car!” and we all said, “Very good Timmy! That IS a car!” As the car pulled into our neighbors driveway my daughter Maya, then five years old said, “Looks like Cody and Imana are having pizza for dinner tonight.” I laughed and said, “Looks as though, Maya!”

Timmy was correct, and Maya was correct. The difference in their statement was their level of consciousness. I could take it a step further and say, “I know that one of those pizzas is gluten free.” Cody and Imana’s mom has an allergy.

We grow in consciousness all the time, but this is not to be confused with knowledge. Some people read a thousand chess books and have all kinds of chess knowledge but they are terrible players. These players are always on chess websites asking which books to read next, as if there is one magic book out there that will make the click in their brain and they will become masters of the game. So how does one grow in chess consciousness? Here’s how:

When I beat a student at chess I hear this comment a lot: “I play much better when I’m not playing you. I think I’m nervous.” My reply is usually, “You may be nervous, but that’s not why you lost. You lost because you made poor moves and I know how to take advantage of them. The weaker opponents you play let you get away with your mistakes, I do not.” By their loss they feel like they are getting worse at chess, not better, but the opposite is true. I am showing them their chess unconsciousness, and now they have a choice to make. One, give up their growth in egoic sadness or, two, learn from the loss, even if it is painful.

So in chess, as in life, we Have the choice to grow in consciousness with every failure and loss. Let me say that again.

In chess, as in life, we have the choice to grow in consciousness with every failure and loss.

That is why there really aren’t any good or bad situations, in life or in chess. If I win or succeed I find satisfaction and pleasure but learn nothing. If I lose or fail I find dissatisfaction and displeasure but I learn everything. Life cannot be always one or the other, so I have to learn to accept the gift life (and chess) offers me in the moment. 

The key to playing chess well is never to hope for one outcome over another. I must learn that a painful loss is a success in growth and a win is a pleasurable success in the game. I have to find a way to be sincerely happy with either outcome and play the game just because I love it, because it is beautiful, because it is!

The key to living well is the same. I must never hope for happiness all the time, or I will cease to grow. I must never hope to grow all the time, I will miss the pleasures in life. I need to find a way to be sincerely happy with either outcome, pleasurable or painful, and just play the game of life because I love it, because it is beautiful, because it is!

Here’s an odd thought. Imagine giving the latest Apple device to a ninety year old. At first, perhaps, they would fear it, or at least fear breaking it. Then they would accept it but assure you that they have no use for it. After a short while they may be able to use it as a phone and that’s it. They are satisfied. No more growth.

What if Steve Jobs himself resurrected from the dead to teach them how to use the phone. Imagine how strange he would sound to them at first! “What do you mean I can watch TV on this thing! Gertrude get this, Steve here is telling me I can watch TV on my phone!” says Bill, a WWII vet. “You watch TV on a TV Steve, not on a phone. Who’d want to watch TV on that tiny screen anyway.” says Gertrude, Bills girlfriend from the south wing. “He also says it can take pictures and you can send them through the air to anyone with a phone or computer Gertrude.” “You take pictures with cameras Steve, and I’ve been sending pictures through the air for sixty years Bill, it’s called the U.S. Post office.”

But then once the people saw Steve use the phone for a while they might think he was a miracle worker, but really he just has more consciousness regarding the phone. They could do those amazing things too if they only took the time to learn.

What if Jesus is like Steve Jobs in my little story, and he came to teach us about our true nature, and all its powers. We thought him crazy but then we saw his works and called them miracles, but really the only difference between us is his level of consciousness regarding our nature. We could do those amazing miracles too if we only took the time to learn. Now I really want to kill my ego!

Eckhart Tolle on the Ego

“Ego is the unobserved mind that runs your life when you are not present as the witnessing consciousness, the watcher. The ego perceives itself as a separate fragment in a hostile universe, with no real inner connection to any other being, surrounded by other egos which it either sees as a potential threat or which it will attempt to use for its own ends. The basic ego patterns are designed to combat its own deep-seated fear and sense of lack. They are resistance, control, power, greed, defense, attack. Some of the ego’s strategies are extremely clever, yet they never truly solve any of its problems, simply because the ego itself is the problem.

When egos come together, whether in personal relationships or in organizations or institutions, “bad” things happen sooner or later: drama of one kind or another, in the form of conflict, problems, power struggles, emotional or physical violence, and so on. This includes collective evils such as war, genocide, and exploitation — all due to massed unconsciousness. Furthermore, many types of illness are caused by the ego’s continuous resistance, which creates restrictions and blockages in the flow of energy through the body. When you reconnect with Being and are no longer run by your mind, you cease to create those things. You do not create or participate in drama anymore.

Whenever two or more egos come together, drama of one kind or another ensues. But even if you live totally alone, you still create your own drama. When you feel sorry for yourself, that’s drama. When you feel guilty or anxious, that’s drama. When you let the past or future obscure the present, you are creating time, psychological time — the stuff out of which drama is made. Whenever you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.

Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their — usually unsuccessful — search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it. What they fear and resist most is the end of their drama. As long as they are their mind, what they fear and resist most is their own awakening.

When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries. You cannot have an argument with a fully conscious person. An argument implies identification with your mind and a mental position, as well as resistance and reaction to the other person’s position. The result is that the polar opposites become mutually energized. These are the mechanics of unconsciousness. “You can still make your point clearly and firmly, but there will be no reactive force behind it, no defense or attack. So it won’t turn into drama. When you are fully conscious, you cease to be in conflict. “No one who is at one with himself can even conceive of conflict,” states A Course in Miracles. This refers not only to conflict with other people but more fundamentally to conflict within you, which ceases when there is no longer any clash between the demands and expectations of your mind and what is.”

Excerpt From: Tolle, Eckhart. “The Power of Now.” New World Library and Namaste Publishing. 

Outcast

Middle school was weird. 

My experience in Middle School was a mixture of positive and negative. The positives had to do with a sense of expanding freedom and experiences, as well as a coming of age. 

The negatives were more numerous and came from a sense of loss with regard to social behavior, and my place/role within the social group. Awkwardness in social behavior was matched by the awkwardness of body. The varying degrees of physical maturity never tilted in my favor (I didn’t hit puberty until after many of my friends, and I was never tall or strong or extremely athletic). My personal situation didn’t help much; being from a large Catholic family I wore eight year old hand-me-downs from my brothers, and had to explain why my family went to church every Sunday, why I wore a scapular, and why I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances. 

As I look back on this now I can laugh for two reasons. One, the situations and circumstances are actually quite funny! Two, I survived (even thrived) in middle school because I never cared about what others thought. I somehow was innauculated to the judgments and discrimination of my peers. This allowed me to “float” from group to group and be friends with everyone rather than be accepted or rejected by one “monarch” or another.

But there were outcasts. Joey Boyle and Joe Lejewski are two names I will never forget. I don’t know much about either of their home lives as kids, but at school they each worked hard to recieve negative attention making themselves “weird” even by a middle schooler’s skewed definition. Teachers found them equally trying, finding punishments ineffective and motivation impossible. No one liked them, they were subject to insult and bullying, (even I had a hand in the bullying, physically and verbally), and never included in any social activity in school or out. 

Sounds awful doesn’t it. 

I have some bad new and some good news.

The Bad News

Middle School isn’t over. If anything the “spirit of middle school” rules much of our world today. There are more outcasts now than ever. Today’s outcasts are (see if you can find the contradictions) the poor (particularly those receiving monetary living assistance from the government), the homeless, divorcés, the abused, homosexuals, the mentally ill, addicts, “rebellious” teens, those in prison, ex convicts, the fat, the ugly, the sick, the dying, political liberals, atheists, the religious, homeschoolers, non-Christians, non-Americans, the virgin, the “slut”, the “too young mother,” the “too old mother”, the unemployed (especially men), teachers, the uneducated, the old, the walmart shopper, the walmart worker, the minimum wage worker, the stay-at-home mother, the dead beat dad, the introvert, women in general, the unfashionable, the non-English speaker, minorities… 

Wait a second, who is left? Nobody. We are ALL outcast. Almost every human on earth that has outgrown the innocence of youth to join the ranks of the “mature” adult world feels insufficient, wrong, dirty, ugly, unsuccessful, or just simply “outcast.” We all suffer from this to the varying degree we personally identify with this “outcast persona”. 

Wait another second, “outcast persona” is just a fancy name for ego!

The Good News

Jesus LOVED the outcasts. Here’s a short list of them,

All twelve of his apostles, the Gentiles, Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the divorced Samaritan woman at the well, the Samaritans in general, the syrophoenician woman, beggars, lepers, the dead, among many others.

He loved them so much that he even called them “mακάριοι” (makarioi). 
Makarioi is a Greek word found over and over in Matthew chapter five and is translated as “happy” or “blessed” as in “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” But “makarioi” has a stronger meaning. It describes a believer in an enviable position because he receives so much favor and grace from God. That changes everything!

Jesus was actually saying “You should envy the poor! You should envy the meek, and the rejected”. Or in my words, “You should envy the outcast…” But why? Yes, I know that “theirs is the kingdom of God…” but what does that mean?

Here’s what I think.  Outcasts are rejected by the world and by ego, so by identifying yourself as an outcast you are one step closer to shedding the ego. Imagine how difficult it would be to find the “Kingdom of Heaven within” if the world of ego loves you and accepts you! Accepting the rejection of the world and of ego puts you in an enviable position of favor with God because you are not buried deep in the mire of ego. Everything the ego hates is heavenly, so if the world rejects you, you are closer to heaven, that is closer to the “Kingdom of God” within you, the High Spirit that you are! Freedom, peace, love!

[addressed to the Scribes and Pharasees]
“…Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes [the outcasts] are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
(Matthew 21:31)

The Scribes and Pharasees were the egos, the outcasters, the separaters, the superiors. They were educated in the law, and loved the law with their minds and not their hearts, following only the “letter of the law” and never “the spirit”. They were hypocrites pretending to be wise and holy but only lived in their egos. Jesus and his preaching against them must have been quite irritating, to the point that they wanted to kill him.

Jesus was neither gentle with people’s egos, nor his own, he crucified his! He smashed people’s egos publically as if to say, “What will you do now? Will you use this ego pain to run towards your Heavenly Kingdom within, or go home angy and victimized growing ego stronger for another day?”

So why am I still so possessed by impressing the ego of the world? Isn’t that like looking back at middle school and wishing I fit in more with a group which rejected me? Wouldn’t it be wiser to look at middle school memories and say, “Look how powerless those foolish children’s judgments of me are today! They are meaningless noise and chatter in the distant past.”

Maybe it’s time I look at the world and say, “I do not value your treasure. It is meaningless noise and chatter and will soon be on the distant past.” Maybe it’s time I survived (even thrived) in life because I never care about what others think. I want to be innauculated to the judgments and discrimination of my peers. I want to “float” to my higher self rather than be accepted or rejected by the world of ego.

What ego loves is hell, and what ego hates is heaven. There is a devil, and his name is ego.