We Are Not What We Appear To Be

“Nothing is as it appears to be; neither is it otherwise.”

                        -Zen Koan

 The fact of physical temporariness and the inevitable end of material life is often experienced as an underlying anxiety. In the words of Dr. Hora “the human condition is an unceasing state of existential dread; a doubting fearfulness about whether or not we really exist.”

We seem to be physical, material persons made of flesh and blood; with mental, physiological, and psychological functions. We seem to be urges, desires, needs and wants, inclinations, habits and traits. And yet, all of these are temporary. They change many times during a lifetime and then disappear completely.

There is also a sense of timelessness. There is an awareness of being eternal and indestructible. How can it be that we seem to be temporary, yet, also seem to be timeless? Which one is real? Psychology might suggest that “timelessness” is merely a coping fantasy to the truth of “temporariness.”

In Metapsychiatry the experience of temporariness and the awareness of eternality are both recognized as meaningful. They point to a truth about who and what we are, as well to the purpose of our lives.

An underlying experience of anxiety may be the awareness that the physical form is temporary. Clinging to the physical form does not alleviate the anxiety, nor will it stop the inevitable dissolution of it.

Instead of fighting or subduing the anxiety it can be seen as information. It may be an invitation to open to another perception of our selves. Like caterpillars that evolve into butterflies, we are seeded with the inspiration to evolve into an ever more enlightened expression of what is infinite and eternal.

This places the study of consciousness and its content as essential to living an anxiety-free, happy life. The experience of life in a temporary form is an opportunity and a means to awaken to the eternal reality. All of the suffering, longing, pleasures and urges are meaningful. They reveal the content of consciousness. Awareness makes it possible to wake up to this content and discern the healthy from the unhealthy, the temporary from the eternal.

“Nothing is as it appears to be. .”

What we experience with our senses is symbolic of what is really real and what is not.

“And, neither is it otherwise.”

The physical appearance of life is neither something nor is it nothing – it is meaningful. Like a map to a trail, once we understand it, it can help guide us to a fuller understanding of who we are and our purpose in life.

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No “shoulds” in the recipe for Good Living

A recent episode in the American Masters series on PBS focused on the life of Julia Child. Julia’s life path wended its way slowly through many obstacles culminating in the blossoming of her talents in her mature years. The following entry from her diary at a particularly low point in her life expresses beautifully a premature conclusion that is often made about our lives when “things” do not seem to be going anywhere good.

 

When I was in school I felt I had unique spiritual gifts; that I was meant for something; that I was like no one else. Today it has gone out and I am sadly an ordinary person with talents I do not use.

-Julia Child, 1941

Within Julia’s diary entry there seem to be two things going on: the awareness of unique spiritual gifts and the awareness that those gifts are not expressing themselves in her life in a way she thought they might, would, or should.

It seems a cruel twist of human life to have a sense of unique spiritual, intellectual and creative gifts that remain out of reach and unused.

Julia’s suffering was a result of judging her circumstances. Something else should have been happening and her conclusion was that her intuitive glimpse of giftedness must have been wrong.

We have a tendency to focus solely on the physical and emotional circumstances happening right now and judge our lives through the narrow lens of “what is happening to Me Now!” If life experiences are not unfolding the way we think they should, any previous inspiration must be wrong, damaged, lost or missed.

The second principle of Metapsychiatry states: Take no thought for what should be or should not be, but seek to know the good of God that already is.

Spiritual gifts cannot possibly be expressed within the limits of how we’ve been influenced and educated to think of our selves. They are gifts of the spirit and are of a wholly different nature than the human personality.

The self that is evaluating current circumstances is a self based solely on thoughts about what should be and what should not be.

The “glimpse” of spiritual gifts, points to the truth of being, a source of guidance and inspiration that it is possible to actually rely on. Julia’s feelings about her life were not reliable even though they “seemed” real at the time.

Experiences, feelings and reactions to circumstances are extremely fluid and changeable. They are not a reliable source of wisdom and guidance. Julia’s story is a perfect example. In the moment described above she felt hopeless, not knowing how her life would unfold, and doubting that it would be good. Yet unfold it did in ways she could never have planned, envisioned or hoped for.

With the wisdom of Metapsychiatry’s second principle it is possible to face moments of doubt and uncertainty without suppressing what is being experienced nor negating the awareness of spiritual gifts.

It’s not one or the other – it’s both and. One is the constant backdrop – the context that is what always Is. Circumstances are meaningful. They shed light on the point of view in the present moment. With wise guidance there can be discernment, clarity and good direction revealed that can bring us closer to realizing a deeper truth about who we are and the purpose of our lives.

Julia’s lifework brought clarity and playfulness to the art of cooking good food, making it more easily available to those who followed her. Although, it is not enough just to know about the tools for good cooking. Even the best instruction requires the student to get into the kitchen and use the tools – learning through attentive trial and error.

The possibility of living with spiritual awareness can also be clarified. There are tools that help expand the capacity for joy and fulfillment in human life. Each interested student can to open to the possibility of a spiritual view and then test the truth of that view in the midst of life experiences. Our lives can become a banquet of learning, and like Julia, we can look at what unfolds in our lives with amazed gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

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Beyond the Dream of a White Christmas

Fantasies of “White Christmases, just like the ones we used to know,” are everywhere. Each of us raised in and around the climate of Christmas Celebrations is susceptible to feeling harassed by the memories, both good and bad, of Christmas past. The urges to do it right, do it better, or don’t do it, are all based on the idea that there is something we have to do (or not do) in order to have the Christmas we want.

A spiritual solution to this psychological problem* is to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. While the story of the birth of Jesus is the source of Christmas celebrations, it is still a story and requires religious belief for it to be meaningful.

For the meaning of Christmas to be more universally meaningful it needs to transcend all religious, scientific, philosophical and ideological points of view until a truth is revealed that is truly a truth. A truth that applies now and always to everyone. A truth that is self-evident and accessible to all.

The meaning of Christmas is the awakening of what is Truly Good in the midst of the human condition. The Christmas story celebrates that it happened once. And yet, in each moment of every life it is possible for the awareness of what is good, loving and joyful to awaken within any individual.

And what greater symbol of this truth than the birth of a child? Anyone who has been around a newborn can’t help but be aware of the presence of pure love and good radiating through that baby, regardless of the circumstances of the birth. Everyone one of us has been born – so each of us has that essence in us. Let’s celebrate it!

If this meaning of Christmas is understood and placed front and center of all our thoughts, responses and activities, everything that unfolds in the holiday season and throughout the year can be a celebration of joy. We no longer have to do something in order to have something because joy, love and true goodness is within us. We give birth to it – in other words – we manifest it – by awakening to its presence. Joy is not something we do, it is a gift of life that can be rejoiced in, shared and celebrated.

So, have yourself a merry little (or big) Christmas, deck the halls (or not), and enjoy a silent, holy night being grateful for what truly is.

 

* “All problems are psychological and all solutions spiritual.”

– is a core idea of Metapsychiatry

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Kindness Begins with a Thought

A movement encouraging “random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” began in the 1980’s in response to a series of events that were characterized as “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty.”

Suddenly it was “hip” and “legitimate” to consider a response of kindness and to express beauty over the more common habit of mere indifference and self-centeredness. There was a wave of inspired acts of kindness and creativity in unusual and unexpected ways to both strangers and friends. Many are still being inspired by this idea.

This demonstrates that a transformation in consciousness can come from a simple concept, received and recognized by a receptive individual. The process is quite simple. A good idea meets fertile mental ground and new possibilities are inspired where before there was only a habit of thought.

Certainly, the idea of “kindness” has been available as part of the human vocabulary of values forever. But, ho-hum, it’s just one of those abstract values anyone could define on a test, without really considering it as a value to turn to. When a specific application of “kindness” as a response in the face of frightening current issues brought it into public awareness, it became an obvious ” I could be kind!” awakening moment to many.

Kindness and violence both originate as thoughts in human consciousness. Thoughts are just thoughts. They underlie how we see: the world, ourselves, and others. They form the mental climate determining our perceptions and in turn our responses to situations. We’ve been educated to them whether we are aware of it or not.

Enlightened spiritual teachings suggest that we are not our thoughts, but that we are the capacity to be aware of thoughts.

The “kindness” movement demonstrates that we can awaken to what we are thinking and choose loving and kind thoughts over thoughts that are angry, violent and cruel.

This is not something that happens by accident. It is something we are educated to.

Thoughts that are motivating what we feel, what we do and what we experience can be examined. And thoughts of harmony, peace, kindness and love can be cultivated.

While the “fad” of the “random acts of kindness” movement has quieted down, the underlying value has gone “viral.” A cultural wave of increasing “kindness” as an actual practical response to situations can be seen in daily living. I’ve noticed it growing in customer service providers, the caring from health care professionals, even the DMV, banks and post office service. Kindness, compassion and gratitude are currently very popular concepts in psychological, spiritual and self-help circles. . Perhaps it can even be seen more nationally in the movement to reform our criminal justice system and provide basic health care for all.

Violence and cruelty also continue to be part of the human mental climate fed with fearful thoughts. While thoughts are just thoughts – they do have consequences. Our actions are expressions of the thoughts we’ve been influenced by whether habitual or inspired.

If living with kindness and beauty is more appealing than living in violence and cruelty, you might consider the possibility to respond more often with kindness and seek to let your life be an expression of beauty.

 

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Politics 2016: A Spiritual View

In this election year there is much talk about Big vs Little government, Liberal vs Conservative, bringing to the collective mind important questions such as: How do we structure healthy policies on immigration, healthcare, community safety, regulations of financial institutions, global and local prosperity?

While the following excerpt from Beyond the Dream, does not tell us “what to do” in the current political confusion, it does help us see where good, healthy ideas will come from:

. . .We can distinguish two types of order: sick order and healthy order.  In sick order there is tyranny and repression. It is based on human willfulness. It is a manifestation of “should” thinking. By this we mean thinking in terms of preconceived ideas of what should be or what should not be. . . .Another form of sick order is the result of permissiveness which results in licentious disorderliness, or chaotic conditions of confusion, neglect, and criminality both in individuals and society. . .

Thus we see that structure, while absolutely necessary, remains a constant problem, and it seems almost impossible to have just the right amount of it at all times and under all circumstances. If there is too much of it, it leads to strangulation; and if there is too little of it, it leads to disorganization, anxiety, and chaos.

. . .Thus we have to consider the possibility of healthy order. As was mentioned before, sick order or structure is based on human willfulness or human willlessness, over-concern or neglect, tyranny or permissiveness. Sick order is a disease of the human will.

. . .In contrast to this, healthy order is primarily characterized by principles of aesthetics. Here beauty, harmony, joy, intelligence, love, and the enhancement of the quality of life are the basic ingredients. For instance, a bouquet of flowers or a blossoming forsythia bush may be judged very unstructured, even haphazard; yet inherent in each is a higher type of order and structure signifying aesthetic value. Aesthetic structures are transcendent and independent of human volition and calculative thinking. . . .

Healthy order is spiritual**. Spiritual values and principles constitute the “infinite structure” which makes freedom and responsibility compatible with creativity and fulfillment. Healthy order is under the control of infinite creative Mind, cosmic Love-Intelligence.  (my emphasis)

-Dr. Hora, Beyond The Dream: Session  19, The Curtain of Fear

**: What is meant by “spiritual” is best illustrated in contrast to what is considered “material.” Spiritual is non- material substance – it refers to those qualities of existence that are non-dimensional, immutable and eternal. They are the context for healthy living. We recognize them when we see qualities such as beauty, harmony, joy, intelligence, wisdom, love, etc.

 The current political conversation is revealing deep-seated cultural thoughts about what is needed and wanted now – some that are healthy and some that are unhealthy. From the infinite view what is needed is not condemnation of the individuals who are expressing views different from our own, as many are merely repeating what they have been taught and reacting to what they have experienced as a result of unhealthy order.  After all, some of the views that each of us adhere to may be unhealthy in ways we have not considered.

We can be interested in looking for good ideas from a diversity of sources, distinguishing them from political garbage. These good ideas along with statements clarifying the problems we are facing need to come to the surface of the political conversation – as messy as that may seem. 

Observing the political conversation with the eyes of aesthetic order we can see within the political night sky, specs of light appearing within the backdrop of dark, as we live in the expectancy of dawn. 

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The Soundless Music of Life

March 11 – 13, 2016, I’ll be facilitating a spiritual retreat at the Dancing Buffalo Gardens in Skiatook, Oklahoma.  Below is the retreat write-up.  If you are interested in registering, please contact me through this site and I’ll put you in touch with the organizers.

Life is continually guided by an underlying harmony where all things work together for good, even when we don’t hear or see it. This is the soundless music of life. The purpose of our lives is to wake up to this soundless harmony.

This weekend retreat is an opportunity to hear the soundless joy of life using the teachings of Metapsychiatry as our guide. Metapsychiatry is a spiritual teaching and a method of healing using dialogue, meditation and prayer as study tools. In this retreat we will review some of the core concepts of Metapsychiatry through reading the booklet: “The Soundless Music of Life,” and apply them to the current life issues of those present.

Metapsychiatry was brought forth by Dr. Thomas Hora(1914-1995), a psychiatrist, who had a lifetime interest in enlightenment and the alleviation of human suffering.

Testimonial: “Nancy is helping me see how it’s possible, day by day, to move out of self-limiting ideas.  The miracle of Metapsychiatry is how it fosters a new alertness to “The Good” in everyday life.  With this alertness, I’m aligning myself to potentials I’d previously ignored.  My interactions with people and situations feel quite new.  Following Nancy’s gentle guidance, I discover life unfolding in wonderful ways.  I’d recommend this program to anyone who’s sincerely interested in bettering their life.  Nancy’s leadership is relaxed and she’s a living example of the teachings she shares so naturally.”

-Pat Webb

 

 

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What Makes it a “New Year?” And Who Determines that it is “Happy?”

This thought was originally posted on January 10, 2014 and it still seems relevant.

While New Year’s Day is an arbitrarily agreed upon point in the calendar of days, the “meaning” of it was brought to mind by the many friendly smiles shared between strangers walking by each other declaring: “Happy New Year!”

The communication seemed to be “it’s a holiday (a holy day) and on this day we can be unburdened by our normal concerns.” And thus, the underlying truth of being slips into view.  Freed from the day-to-day habitual “shoulds,” openness, friendliness and goodwill took their place.

What is symbolized in the phrase “Happy New Year” that inspires such openness? Perhaps it is the recognition that all of the heavy burdens of human living can be transformed in a moment.  Our true identity of joyful lightness of being can be realized. It’s hidden in the words:

Happy: Happiness is an inner quality of being that becomes more and more available to us as we value joy. In the words of Dr. Hora, “Gratitude is the door to joy, seriousness is a killjoy.”

New: Each moment is an opportunity to realize that we do not need to be determined by our past experiences, present circumstances or future expectations.

Year: We are endowed with the capacity to manifest divine order and harmony as they unfold in the context of Joy. Everything everywhere is already all right, even when it does not seem that way.

While taking a break in the middle of writing this blog, I was confronted with a tension. Something I expected to happen did not happen. Blaming and being blamed filled the atmosphere.  Then came the awareness that expectations have no place in joy; gratitude was overshadowed by the presence of a “should” thought. With this illumination it became possible to let be, release the expectation and apologize for letting it in. Grateful to be able to see it, to humbly acknowledge it and then turn to the new, free moment.

Happy New Year.

In other words, Be grateful. We are not cement, we are consciousness with the capacity to be free moment-by-moment from our habits of thought.

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