Transmutation Tool

February 12, 2020 § 21 Comments

philip.rubinov.jacobson.art[ Philip Rubinov-Jacobson]

In a culture created to make us want more of what we don’t have, gratitude for what we have is a radical act.

Three months into a deep winter depression, I knew I needed a new tool. A way to dissolve the psychic film that had formed over my eyes, separating me from myself, the world and the truth.

I know how to pick myself up, one piece at a time. I’ve had a lot of practice. But none of my old transmutation tools were working. And this was beginning to scare me.

Around this time, my trusted friend Grace told me she was halfway through  “28 days of gratitude”—part of a book by Rhonda Byrne, called “The Magic.”  The book’s practices had elevated her daily feeling-state so much, she wanted to share it. Would I, and several friends, be interested in joining her? I found a free PDF version online and said yes! I would commit to 28 consecutive days of gratitude practices.

lotus.in.themuck[Artist unknown]

I wasn’t without resistance. “Gratitude, rhymes with platitude” chimed my inner cynic. I told myself I was doing it for Grace, for solidarity. I associated the word gratitude with sunset beach photos on Instagram and the caption #grateful—to which the inner cynic would think, “Yeah, I’d be grateful, too, if I were there.”

But I trusted my friend, and I had nothing to lose. So I gave it a shot.

I began my first gratitude list in a morning fog of grump and grog—I am one of those “not a morning person” people—and finished…feeling downright upbeat. The shift was remarkable. I felt alive again, present, awake; the film burned from my eyes.

The next day I approached the practice with more interest. Again, the perspective shift was uncanny.

The third day, I actually woke up excited to make my list because of the fix of positive feelings it created.

undone[“Undone”]

By the fourth or fifth day I found myself transforming. I noticed every little joy around me. The fact that each chapter in the book highlights different areas of focus for one’s gratitude acted as added support and inspiration.

How could I have taken so much for granted? The food in my fridge. The clean water at my disposal. The fact that I live during a time when the entire archive of the world’s collected knowledge exists at our literal fingertips. The roof over my head. The peaceful existence and beauty of trees. The use of my legs. The feeling of my cat’s fur and the sound of her purr. The fact that I have eyes, hands, taste; the gift of sentience, of consciousness, of having a body—the opportunity of a day, the gift of my life.

I felt moved to tears. Humbled and awash with reignited appreciation for the world around me.

uta_barth_002[Uta Barth]

Intentional gratitude interrupts the trance state of complacency we fall into when we see the same things every day, rebooting our perception to see the world through fresh eyes.

I think no matter what or how little we have, focusing on what one does have breeds empowerment, uplift, joy—is medicine. I think of Nina Simone’s iconic and triumphant song “Ain’t Got No – I Got Life,” from the musical, “Hair”:

I ain’t got no home, ain’t got no shoes
Ain’t got no money, ain’t got no class
Ain’t got no skirts, ain’t got no sweater
Ain’t got no perfume, ain’t got no bed
Ain’t got no man

Ain’t got no mother, ain’t got no culture
Ain’t got no friends, ain’t got no schoolin’
Ain’t got no love, ain’t got no name
Ain’t got no ticket, ain’t got no token
Ain’t got no god

Hey, what have I got?
Why am I alive , anyway?
Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away?

Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobies
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex

I got my arms, got my hands
Got my fingers, got my legs
Got my feet, got my toes
Got my liver, got my blood

I’ve got life, I’ve got my freedom
I’ve got life
I’ve got the life
And I’m going to keep it
I’ve got the life

[The High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone]

The 28 consecutive days of various gratitude practices presented in “The Magic” banished my months-long depression and forever changed my perspective. I’m not saying depression is as simple as a negative outlook, but state of mind does effect mood, and I think having a gratitude practice is a powerful tool to help manage depression.

I can’t recommend a daily gratitude practice enough. If you want to jump-start your joy try the 28 day challenge.

If the inner landscape can be likened to a wild and sometimes dark wood, then gratitude is my sacred fire—it warms me, lights my way and keeps back the predators.

lightinthedark[BaxiaArt]

I want to hear from you! What are your thoughts and experiences on this subject? Comments will automatically be entered into a raffle held on the last day of February 2020. The winner will receive a gifted copy of the book, “The Magic.”

 

What Is Consciousness?

May 1, 2017 § 6 Comments

“Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. We form friendships so that we can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. We eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. We read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts.’‘ – Sam Harris

”The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” Lao Tzu

“As we grow in our consciousness, there will be more compassion and more love, and then the barriers between people, between religions, between nations will begin to fall. Yes, we have to beat down the separateness.” Ram Dass

Consciousness is awareness of our own existence; the mind contemplating itself & its place in the world.

It gets a little trickier when we try to elaborate.

Article Image

”The human brain contains about one hundred billion interacting neurons,” relates science writer Michael S. Graziano. ”Neuroscientists know, at least in general, how that network of neurons can compute information. But how does a brain become aware of information? What is sentience itself?”

”What is the essence of awareness, the spark that makes us us? Something lovely apparently buried inside us is aware of ourselves and of our world. Without that awareness, zombie-like, we would presumably have no basis for curiosity, no realization that there is a world about which to be curious, no impetus to seek insight, whether emotional, artistic, religious, or scientific. Consciousness is the window through which we understand.” (‘What Is Consciousness? Neuroscience May Have Answer To The Big Questions.”)

Fajar P. Domingo[Fajar P. Domingo]

“Consider an analogy from physics,” adds psychologist Kristian Marlow, “knowing every equation predicting how mass and gravity interact does not tell us why they interact in the way they do. To understand why mass and gravity interact, we must appeal to highly esoteric explanations involving relativity, quantum mechanics or string theory. ”

Graziano offers a simpler metaphor: a child and his father watch as a magician saws a woman in half. “How do you think he does that?” asks the father. “Dad,” says the kid. “It’s obvious!” “Really?” asks the father, intrigued. “How?” The child replies: “The magician does it.”

Neuroscience, at this stage, Graziano asserts, is merely pointing at the magician; not explaining the trick.

how to become a magician[image source]

In philosophy, the study of consciousness is called phenomenology.

The mind–body problem examines the relationship between mind and matter, specifically the relationship between consciousness and the brain. The issue was addressed by René Descartes in the 17th century, resulting in Cartesian dualism. Descartes asserted that the the seat of intelligence & sentience was distinct from the brain, “a ghost in the machine.”

[ Fajar P. Domingo]

In the world of philosophy, physicalists maintain that consciousness is entirely physical,  while dualists think we are dealing with a two part system in which mental phenomena are, in some respect, non physical.

The philosopher Spinoza apposed Descartes’ theory of dualism, asserting that all matter was in fact made up of a single substance: an impersonal God with infinite attributes.

Spinoza’s theory represents a monist worldview, in which the distinctions we perceive are not ultimately indications of separation—a view which quantum physics appears to confirm & the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta established thousands of years ago.

How To Shoot Stellar Milky Way Double Exposure Portraits[image source]

Pioneering writer & philosopher Starhawk comments that the dualist way of thinking has created a culture of estrangement in modern life in which people feel “as strangers in the world,” disconnected from nature, each other & themselves.

Within this stock narrative of dualism in Western culture, Starhawk observes that “all qualities can be broken down into pairs of opposites—one is good, idealized, and the other is bad, devalued. Psychologists call this thought process “splitting”—the inability to see people or things as wholes containing both desired and undesired elements. In the split world, spirit wars with flesh, culture with nature, the sacred with the profane, the light with the dark.” (“Dreaming The Dark: Magic, Sex, Politics.”)

Forgive me folks if this post is something weird for you. What you read is totally my own. I respect your ideas about this.: [image source]

Starhawk observes that the split narrative becomes a metaphor for hierarchy. The fact that the “good guy versus bad guy” theme is the most dominant story line in Western culture is no accident, she asserts: it implants the message that in order for some to be good, others must be bad. A mental program that keeps us eternally divided, from each other & within ourselves.

Although we are technically all conscious as long as we are living, sometimes, although we are operating in the world, we may feel dull, uninspired, disconnected, apathetic. We encounter people who seem checked out as well.

This state has been dubbed in the parlance of modern spirituality “unconsciousness”: that trance-like state when you’re technically alive but don’t feel particularly vital or connected with your environment, yourself, a sense of purpose, etc—when, as Starhawk would say, we feel “as strangers in the world.”

Julian Pacaud:

[Julian Pacaud]

Contrast this with the experience we have all had at certain times of feeling intensely present, conscious & vital—in which we feel awakened to a sense of possibility & connection.

But words fail, because this “awakeness” is an extra, internal layer of awareness & alertness beyond the physical mechanism of simply not being asleep. This experience is universally typified by a sense of peace & uplift. Insights, which seem to recede into the background in “the trance, ” re-emerge as self-evident truths.

[Fajar P. Domingo]

Spiritual practice could be defined as the conscious cultivation of accessing this experience of “awakeness”—as one often seems to stumble into it and out of it. But tools like meditation, mindfulness & gratitude practices can help us access this feeling at will. This sense of deepened awakeness is often referred to as higher consciousness, and connecting with this state is the goal of spiritual practice.

We might define higher consciousness & its pursuit as: consciousness being conscious of itself as consciousness, and seeking to refine that awareness.

[Fajar P. Domingo]

What are your thoughts on consciousness? Which camp do you fall in (dualist or monist) & why? What is your experience of the awake/unconscious scenario?

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If you enjoyed this post, try:

“Dreaming The Dark: Technologies of Immanence”

“Stardust Contemplating Stardust: Inner Space & The Science of Illumination.”

“The Human Soul & The Floating Man”

“Polarity & Paradox, Black & White Thinking In A Rainbow World.”

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