Monday, November 24, 2008

New Name - Same Story

As you can probably see, we've changed the name from Atma Enlightenment Blog to The Freedom Blog. The reasons for this are several:

1. To far too many people, the term enlightenment has too much charge or meaning associated with it. In India, the term is referred to as mukti or moksha, which literally mean to be free, released... i.e. freedom.
2. Enlightenment (or the concept of it) has an either/or quality to it - you are or you aren't, and while there is some truth to that, it is more involved than a simple dichotomy, and again goes back to that charge or association of the concept.
3. Freedom entails much more. The basic principle of freedom (or enlightenment) is letting go of ALL concepts, habitual patterns, beliefs, etc. and that includes those associated with living in the world via body, mind, intellect, and so forth.

Enlightenment, in concept, generally means a non-dual REALization, a true recognition that there is only ONE thing going on here. By it's nature, the belief in enlightenment, often includes a kind of escapism which means transcend the body/mind stuff permanently, as opposed to seeing the all-one nature of it all. Recently I've been meditating on the Yin/Yang sign (not literally) and the Reality it represents - One thing which is so obvious, and yet is obviously also apparently two things. Consciousness/Awareness is one thing in which everything arises - the you that is aware, the things in awareness and the being aware. Where is the division between those things? So what is happening in the world is just as important as the one that is aware. It's all a part of the One thing and it is all perfect. However, the recognition of the "wrong-ness" of what is going on is also perfect.

Right now, a lot is happening, and much of it is being tuned out. First, the general "powers that be" are tuning much of it out, since they don't want you to know about it, and secondly, our own tendency to fear change is also (and mostly) tuning it out. We desperately want to hold on to what we know. We desperately want to feel safe. We desperately want to protect our sense of individuality or ego. But what we are going through now is, in fact, glorious. It absolutely requires that we either let go of our old ways of thinking OR we suffer.

Let me give you an example. On the day of 9/11 when the twin towers came down, we watched the enitre thing on television. A couple hours later I had to drive my kids into town to go to school and the youngest (who was about 17 at the time) says, "What's the big deal? In two weeks everyone will have forgotten about this anyway!"

My response, of course, was to point out that this was a huge, virtually unprecedented event, and that, in many ways, life as we knew it would never be the same. The same is happening now. "Normal" is OVER!!! The collapse of Empire is happening. The economy is collapsing all over the world, unemployment is going up, foot shortages are beginning to happen all over the world, the environment is being destroyed, animals are being made extinct at an alarming rate, and on and on and on. What we can see is only the tip of the iceberg. (We live in the country and there's an old saying - If you see one mouse in your home, it means you have at least 50 living there.) If you can see any evidence of collapse, there is probably a hundred other things you're missing. The key point is not that it is good or bad, but rather, the inability to recognize it is the illusion. Our tendency to hold onto the old, or to try to maintain the old status quo is ridiculous. While it may not be totally obvious as yet, it will be increasingly clear as the next few weeks, months and years roll on. Much of it is the slow turning up of the heat (as in how to cook a frog), so it probably will not be as obvious as the twin towers, but certain things should be obvious - like the 700 billion dollar "bailout" that helps no one but the bankers. The possibility of the automotive bailout, etc. Think of it as the looters getting their last chance at every penny before it all falls apart.

The question is, do you do something to prepare, or do you just let it catch you by surprise when suddenly your job is gone, there's no money coming in, no one to give you food (already many of the food banks have virtually no food), you can't pay or car payments, your house payment, your power is in jeoparody of being shut off, and so forth. Many of these things are occurrences you can't just wish or will or hope out of existence. They will happen eventually. And our present 'civilization' is so based on a credit/monetary system that most people won't have a clue what to do.

The big upside here is that the circumstances are giving us a huge opportunity to let go of ego. It allows us to recognize the beliefs about ourselves and society that are just not true. It forces us to either go into resistance or to let go of our wrong assumptions of what is and see/recognize reality - to honestly question how much we can depend on things remaining the same and our resistance to change.

So, those are some of the reasons for the name change. Freedom entails letting go of all concepts and moving into pure awareness, and it requires examining and releasing all of our old beliefs. Not easy to do.

Imagine that you are a goldfish born in a fish tank. You live relatively freely in this tank, swimming, eating, loving, doing all those fish things, but every once in a while, you run into the glass. Now, in many ways, everything seems normal, but there is just this weird feeling that 'something' is not quite 'right'. You can't put your finger (or fin) on it, because this is what you were born into. That glass has always been there, and your life revolves around the other stuff that you're doing that seems way more important than worrying about the glass (which you can't even see - just sense, sort of). But inherently, there is a recognition that real freedom would mean being in the vast lakes, rivers or oceans, not in a one foot by two foot glass box. (This is, in part, why the movie The Matrix was so profound.)

Similarly, we have been born into this western civilization and unfortunately, the younger you are, the less you generally recognize how bad it has gotten - like the glass is getting thicker and the walls are getting closer. But you just assume that all will continue to be fine and dandy. This is called illusion. So freedom is about seeing through all the illusions. In some cases, depending on the individual personality, that will mean trying to escape; for others, breaking the glass; for others - simply surrendering to what is happening, recognizing that it probably means a "pre-mature" death. There is ultimately no right or wrong in that, but there is a benefit in not being blind to the truth of the situation.

Speaking of the sitution - I would like to point you toward a wonderful blog I read by Carolyn Baker. She has a wonderful website called "Speaking Truth to Power" and this particular blog is called "Abdicating the 'A' word - Frantically Fighting for the Familiar". It is somewhat long, but I highly encourage you to read it!

Take care - Aja

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How Do We Live

"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off. "
Gloria Steinem

Since the last email/blog I have received quite a lot of responses. - in fact, probably the most responses I've ever received. And rather than being negative, or people asking to be taken off the list (only received 1 of those), people were very supportive. If anything, I felt that people were and are angry, confused, or feeling hopeless, but in many cases, perhaps felt badly about that anger, and wondered what benefit it had, and what they could do. So first, I'd like to reprint something which just came in my mail in the most recent issue of LA Yoga Magazine, Andrew Harvey (author of The Divine Feminine, Teachings of Rumi, etc.) said in an interview:
"The patriarchal mystical systems have demonized anger, because they are terrified of the potential deranging force that it can unleash. But they're also terrified of the ways in which outrage can lead to a fundamental readjustment of society. At this core, the demonization of anger is a refusal of the transformational powers of the dark feminine since true holy outrage can unleash in a way that restores balance and transforms society.

"If you aren't angry at how the environment is being destroyed and how we're beging governed by corrupt gangsters, how the corporations have no controls on their greed-inspired actions, if you aren't angry at the fact that billions of people are living on less than $1 a day, you aren't human. If your anger masters you and drives you into hatred, you aren't human either. What is needed is what the Tantric feminine mysttical traditions give us, and which Jesus exemplifies: a way of using the energy of outrage, transmuting it by dedicating it to the divine for purification into fierce compassionate energy that sustains constant action."

So, first of all, it's not the anger that is bad. Many people (particularly of the neo-advaita and new age persuasion) hold this view and want everything to be loving and light, but it generally comes off superficial, and is an excuse to close their eyes to the suffering and the pain and pretend everything is going to be all right. It will not be all right if people don't do anything about it.

Now, what CAN be done? I can ONLY offer the thoughts and ideas that arise or come across this personality (obviously) but I will share what I can, and would encourage you to share as well. First, I promised a number of people that I would mention a book I've come across - Depletion and Abundance by Sharon Astyk. She also has a website (or two), one of which is The basic premise of her book is based on the concept of peak oil and probably collapse of civilization and what can be done to prepare for that. In her case, her husband and small children moved to land and started working toward self sufficiency. While including statistical data and laying out very clearly some of the obvious problems and the extent of those problems, she offers very positive solutions on how to change one's life, primarily with the idea of beginning to lower one's impact and reducing one's footprint by the required 90% necessary for sustainability in 7 different areas such as food, energy, garbage, etc. Although many people may feel that she is going to far, I don't feel that she goes far enough, which means that many of you may find some of her suggestions about right. Plus she is speaking as a woman and mother, which makes her voice and perspective somewhat unique from the usual collapse of civilization viewpoints. In any case, I highly recommend the book and her website. (Many of the comments to her blog by readers are just as valuable as her writings.)

Why don't I feel that it goes far enough? Perhaps it's simply that I'm crazy. But, it occurred to me the other day that one of our biggest problems is money, the almighty dollar. I remember when I was a youth, in our philosophical musings, one person would point out to another that "Money is the root of all evil," at which point someone else would correct them to the real quote which is "Love of money is the root of all evil." I realized it had been years and years since I heard anyone say that. Why? Because our cilization now IS money. That's virtually all it is. How to make more, why are we losing so much, the economic problems, buy this, save that, advertising and marketing so ubiquitous in our lives, on television, radio, and, yes, the internet, that we can't help but simply accept it. But money is an artificiality. It's not real, it's not needed. Oh yes, in THIS civilization it is virtually imperative. But it is NOT one of the requirements for life, for happy life, for peaceful a peaceful life. In fact, if anything it does the exact opposite.

I have my own trinity of what is needed - Community, Simplicity and Spirituality (of course, food, water, shelter is a given). Our culture has deified money to the extreme. The other day I googled "Cashless society" thinking I would get 'hits' on a world without money. Instead, I got websites about the pros and cons of a civilization based on plastic money and credit only - i.e. the elimination of any kind of hold in your hand dollars and cents. Stupid me. Politically and economically this is the next stage. I already know plenty of people who never carry money, and commercials poo-poo the idea of it, showing how plastic is so much better. Believe it or not (I almost crapped my pants), there is a new version of the game Monopoly in which there is no money, but only an ATM/bank machine and each player has a platic credit card.

Although paper money isn't worth much either, particularly since it came off the gold standard, when civilization collapses, the paper will at least be of benefit for perhaps bathroom tasks. What we need is to recognize the real essentials and create those in our life. Anyone who is looking with untarnished eyes sees that this current way of living is in NO WAY sustainable. It's like the old pyramid scheme. Somebody always gets screwed in the end. We all want to live at the highest material standard, and hope that for others as well. It is an impossibility. It cannot happen, no matter how much wishing you do. And to try to live at that standard is to deny others the possibility of living AT ALL. For the entire world to live at the so-called standards of western civilization would require four more planets just like Earth. Anyone got one or two hanging around?

A number of people and movements have been exploring total moratoriums on buying anything new (other than food). I think this is an excellent start. (This all falls under the category of Simplicity). There are many books on voluntary simplicity, and groups involved in this. Research those. Before you buy anything, ask yourself, WHY? What is the difference between need and want. And don't let anyone tell you that you have 'Poverty Consciousness'. Poverty or abundance has NOTHING to do with money or things! It has to do with quality of life, and a life based on owning a bunch of crap or on 'retail therapy' is not quality. A quality life comes primarily from 'community' and 'spirituality'. These are huge topics themselves, so I won't go into any detail here, but suffice it to say that community is that sense of belonging, being a part of a group, a tribe, a family. This society advocates strong individuality, meaning, go it alone. What you end up with is a lot of individuals who are miserable and suicideal. Do what you can to find, create, be part of a community - other living, breathing humans - not an online community (though that's better than nothing). And spirituality is another HUGE category and will look different for different people. It might be as simply as the asking of some philosophical questions, pondering the nature of the Universe and the Self. It may mean studying various religious texts, or spirituality may mean something as simple as the word implies (coming from the root 'spire' to breathe, and point you toward the quiet act of meditating on the in and out-going breath.

I encourage your thoughts on these matters, (yes, both positive and negative), your comments and realizations. Remember:

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator.
And above all, that shalt not be a bystander."
(Inscription on the holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.)

With Love,