Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CHILL OUT


Chillin' American Gothic, Chicago,IL

I always thought something was missing
from the soundtrack of my life...
as it turns out all I needed was
a little more cowbell...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

THE TAPESTRY OF CONSCIOUSNESS



Fluid Spirits, Greensboro, NC & Chicago, IL

Consciousness can be defined as being mindful or aware of oneself as a thinking, feeling being. We realize with awe the miracle of a body that is informed by this extraordinary thing we call life that we take for granted almost every day. The fateful day we realize this eternal truth is the beginning of a lifelong spiritual journey.

God is a conscious spiritual being and we are conscious earthly beings. We were created in his image, so we can expect parallels in our existence. His being occupies the universe like our consciousness occupies our body. By liberating the spaces in our lives and minds that are filled with clutter and chatter, we allow the presence of God to more easily occupy that space!

J. P. Moreland reasons that, “Consciousness cannot be reduced merely to the physical brain. Our consciousness came from a greater consciousness. You see, the Christian worldview begins with thought and feeling and desire and choice. That is, God is conscious. God has thoughts. He has beliefs, he has desires, he has awareness, he’s alive, he acts with a purpose. We start there and because we start with the mind of God, we don’t have a problem explaining the origin of our mind. …he’s invisible because that’s the way conscious beings are….I have no inclination to doubt that this very room is teeming with the very presence of God.”

The particles of atoms consist of a nucleus surrounded by electrons that revolve in extremely vast regions of empty space. Man has now determined that there are no solid objects at the subatomic level. A subatomic particle is a set of relationships that reach out and interconnect, not with objects, but with other interconnections. Light travels in waves and as particles (photons) at the speed of light. The photons collide with the air, in a cosmic dance of continuous creation and destruction, a ceaseless flow of energy going through a multiplicity of patterns. The waves are abstract patterns of probabilities or relationships. At the subatomic level there is a continual exchange of matter and energy between us and everything around us. We're all part of one inseparable web of relationships.
Daniel J. Siegel writes in The Mindful Brain that “we have an additional sense of relationships and connections that enables us to feel a part of the larger whole… Our mind has been defined as a process that regulates the flow of energy and information. The embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information—the mind—is exactly what mindfulness shapes. This state of being, this particular form of being aware, is all about regulating the flow of energy and information—in our bodies, and in our relationships with others.”

Jill Bolte Taylor writing in My Stroke of Insight perceived life through the restricted lens of only her right brain after a stroke incapacitated her left hemisphere. She observed that her self-concept was no longer a solid with boundaries, but a fluid. Operating without the constant "brain chatter" from her left hemisphere left her feeling one with the universe. Mystics and serious practitioners can also reach that ultimate present moment state of nirvana. Could it be that we are all in fact continuously in that state, but we simply do not generally experience that awareness? Perhaps that is why God has informed us in the Psalms to be still and know that he is God. Then we can experience that sense of relationship with our creator who is omniscient and omnipresent in the interconnected fluid tapestry of all creation.

Taylor writes, “The innate differences we each experience...to stimulation contributes greatly to how we perceive the world…When I lost my left hemisphere and its language centers, I also lost the clock that would break my moments into consecutive brief instances. Instead of having my moments prematurely stunted, they became open-ended, and I felt no rush to do anything. Like walking along the beach, or just hanging out in the beauty of nature, I shifted from the doing-consciousness of my left brain to the being-consciousness of my right brain. I morphed from feeling small and isolated to feeling enormous and expansive. I stopped thinking in language and shifted to taking new pictures of what was going on in the present moment. I was not capable of deliberating about past and future-related ideas because those cells were incapacitated. All I could perceive was right here, right now, and it was beautiful.

My entire self-concept shifted as I no longer perceived myself as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me. I understood that at the most elementary level, I am a fluid. Of course I am a fluid! Everything around us, about us, among us, within us, and between us is made up of atoms and molecules vibrating in space. Although the ego center of our language center prefers defining our self as individual and solid, most of us are aware that we are made up of trillions of cells, gallons of water, and ultimately everything about us exists in a constant and dynamic state of activity. My left hemisphere had been trained to perceive myself as a solid, separate from others. Now, released from that restrictive circuitry, my right hemisphere relished in its attachment to the eternal flow. I was no longer isolated and alone. My soul was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in a boundless sea… Our right brain perceives the big picture and recognizes that everything around us, about us, among us, and within us is made up of energy particles that are woven together into a universal tapestry. Since everything is connected, there is an intimate relationship between the atomic space around and within me, and the atomic space around and within you—regardless of where we are.

Bernard Haisch has proposed a mind bending theory about consciousness in his book, “The God Theory”. He contends that “ultimately it is consciousness that is the origin of matter, energy, and the laws of nature in this universe and all others that may exist. And the purpose is for God to experience his potential. God’s ideas and abilities become God’s experience in the life of every sentient being…God experiences the richness of his potential through us because we are the incarnations of him in the physical realm.” Frankly, I’m not convinced that God needs us to experience his potential, certainly not nearly as much as we need him for our well being. But Haisch at least seemed to be motivated to present a more scientific-spiritual theory as opposed to the majority view of science today. Many scientists are proponents of the universe of reductionism in which “everything can be reduced to the behavior of particles of matter and energy”, completely apart from any spiritual connection. As a learned astrophysicist Ph.D., he contends that our consciousness is the ultimate connection to God, the spiritual creative force in the universe and the source of all consciousness. While we are in our every day state of consciousness, we remain aware of our surroundings through the filter of the physical world. But mystics who are conditioned to enter the unfiltered state of ultimate consciousness or nirvana experience a state of peace, love and bliss, something Haisch defines as “a concentration point within a single universal consciousness”. Consciousness exists apart from the body and survives death. The temporary physical world was created for the development and evolution of human beings with a spirit. Our natural timeless home lies in the wider supernatural realm of the creator.

Aldous Huxley in his book, The Doors of Perception” theorizes that our brain possibly acts as a mental filter to help us survive on this planet. We’re only capable of perceiving the material world around us versus the infinite sea of consciousness. Autistic savants that can multiply 377 times 795 while carrying on a conversation indicate amazing potential, however. He sees the numbers as shapes that change and evolve into another shape, the answer. Haisch writes that “My inner life of thought and awareness utterly denies that my consciousness is nothing more than an inanimate, chemical creation. I know better, and so do you.”

We are not only IN this universe, but we are OF this universe. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians he writes, "There is one body and one spirit...one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all(4:4-5)."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

HAPPINESS AND JOY


My Spirit Has Wings, Jamestown, NC

If you pursue happiness, it will elude you.
But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your
work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can,
happiness will find you.


One of those seemingly eternal truths that I think I’ve finally discovered after living and struggling to the official age of social security retirement benefits is that there is a profound difference between happiness and joy in life. On the surface, they seem to be compatible synonyms. In fact, the Webster Thesaurus lists joyous as the first synonym of happy. Perhaps I'm just parsing words. So, what’s the big deal? Well, for one thing, I think you could also consider these two words as complete antonyms. Our culture considers the path to happiness strewn with all imaginable sorts of worldly stuff which the Mad Men of Madison Avenue subliminally and not so subliminally barrage us with over the course of almost every waking hour on the planet. Best Buy’s latest motto says it all; “I want it all and I want it now”! We’re definitely an “instant gratification” society.

We wish each other a "Happy Birthday" and a "Happy New Year". We close our writings with "Have a nice day", appended by a happy face icon. We expect to be happy and when life doesn't follow the script of a typical TV sitcom, we get depressed because it's not supposed to be like that--or is it? Our American culture has more wealth and stuff than any society that ever walked the planet and we’re not very happy. Maybe we need more joy in our lives.

One of the main purposes of our spiritual journey in this life is to develop our character. God did not create us for perpetual happiness. Happiness is temporary, lasting 30 seconds to an hour or two, because it is based on external circumstances, like buying stuff. But joy is a lasting, prolonged state of being because it is based on God’s presence within us which leads to contentment and an understanding of the future he has for us. Jesus teaches us in John 15: 9-11 that “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow”! The assurance of God’s presence within us is validated in Luke’s writing in Acts 13:52, “And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

We oftentimes reach a crossroads in life where our material demands and our spiritual growth are intersecting! We can maintain our momentum as long as we continue to align our time, talents and treasures (our will) with our best view of God’s will. A child of God has the assurance of eternal life and the faith to trust God to direct their lives to achieve that assurance. As Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Our intention should be to seek the fulfillment of God’s purposes in all we do, not merely what we do with our resources. Jesus taught that we should be mindful of where we find ourselves spending our time. That reveals where our heart resides. And that reveals what gods we worship in life.

As the Spirit continues to work in our lives, we find more joy in doing more selfless things than we ever did in doing things for ourselves. As Jesus said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” --Matthew 16:25

Life is a gift, and everything belongs to God. God owns it all. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1).” We do not inherit the earth from our parents. Rather, we borrow it from our grandchildren and our creator. God freely blesses us and expects us to take care of our earthly home, our needs and our children. He wants us to enjoy life, but not only focus on ourselves. And when we become vessels dispensing God’s grace to help others by returning a portion of our blessings, we are blessed with joy.