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#1566 - Wednesday, September 24, 2003

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    Free Will - Photo by Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh Music: Allusions-pond.mid from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Panhala/ ... #1566 - Wednesday, September 24,
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              Free Will - Photo by Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh

              Music: Allusions-pond.mid from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Panhala/




      #1566 - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - Editor: Joyce (Know_Mystery)


      What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone,
      in the forest, at night, cherished by this
      wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech,
      the most comforting speech in the world,
      the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges,
      and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
      Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.
      It will talk as long as it wants, this rain.
      As long as it talks I am going to listen.
      ~ Thomas Merton ~

       Bruce Reid ~ Nasrudin (archives) & Alan Larus ~ TrueVision



      Photograph by Alan Larus


      It has not rained in the past nine months.

      The other day Liz�s children slept over and during the night it began to rain.
      Sasha, Liz�s youngest, though he has seen rain before, it had been so long ago
      no record of rain�s possibility remained in his mind.

      At breakfast we spoke of the rain. Sasha may have used the word himself and when
      he did I am sure he believed he knew what he was talking about.

      As we stepped out of our flat, out from under the roof, Sasha stopped, an
      intense expression crosses his face and he looks to the sky transfixed. He
      extends his arms up, fingers outstretched, palms facing the sky.

      "Water is coming from the sky!" he declared, laughing the joy of rapport.

      He looks around and then begins to skip down the path, hands and face
      reaching up through the rain to the sky.

      "Water is coming from the sky!" he repeated over and over, in between peels
      of joyous laughter. A reality had entered his consciousness in a very special
      way that only the innocent and humble can know. A camel completed a passage
      through the eye of a needle.


      COGNITION AND EMOTION, 2003, 17(2), 297-314

      Approaching Awe, A Moral, Spiritual, and Aesthetic Emotion

      Dacher Keltner, University of California, Berkeley
      Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia, Charlottsville

      "In the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear is a
      little-studied emotion - awe. Awe is felt about diverse events and
      objects, from waterfalls to childbirth to scenes of devastation. Awe
      is central to the experience of religion, politics, nature, and art.
      Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can chart the course of a life
      in profound and permanent ways..."


      "Songs, symphonies, movies, plays, and paintings move people, and even
      change the way they look at the world. The same can be true of human
      creations, such as skyscrapers, cathedrals, stadiums, large dams, or
      even oddities, such as the world's largest ball of string. When do art
      and human creation elicit awe? First, size matters. Awe is more likely
      to occur in response to viewing art of artifact when the object is larger
      than the viewer is accustomed to seeing. The object itself may be large
      (e.g., Michelangelo's David) or it may exemplify powerful or heroic forces
      and figures (as in Greek Myths). In more subtle ways, art can produce
      awe by rendering exceptional movements in time that are signs of vast,
      powerful forces, as when seemingly trivial elements foreshadow larger
      developments in the narrative. When art has these properties it should
      be more likely to produce awe, as opposed to, for example, aesthetic

      The authors discuss Awe in Religion, Sociology, Philosophy, and Psychology,
      and elaborate the notion of Primordial awe along dimensions of awe toward
      power, nature, human art, and to the epiphanic experience, among others.

      [The full paper is available in pdf format here:
      http://wsrv.clas.virginia.edu/~jdh6n/keltner.approaching-awe.pdf ]

       Joyce ~ Spiritual-Friends


      Selfishness, Happiness And Benefiting Others

      Magic Keys

      With the world awash with poverty, injustice,
      environmental crises, imposed confusion and toxic
      propaganda, we at Media Lens nevertheless regularly
      receive emails from people asking: "What should I

      It's an interesting question - one that we have
      ourselves asked many times in the past - because it
      is often a kind of polite euphemism for other,
      rather more bashful, questions, such as: `How can I
      find the motivation to sacrifice my own free time,
      energy, money, and perhaps even career prospects, to
      take action and get involved in some kind of
      dissident activity, without feeling it's all a
      futile drop in the ocean?'

      Noam Chomsky, in his usual no-nonsense manner,
      discussed the issue in conversation with David
      Barsamian of Alternative Radio:

      David Barsamian: "Often at the talks you give, there
      is a question that's always asked, and that is,
      `What should I do?' This is what you hear in
      American audiences."

      Noam Chomsky: "You're right, it's American
      audiences. You never hear it in the Third World."

      DB: "Why not?"

      NC: "Because when you go to Turkey or Colombia or
      Brazil or somewhere else, they don't ask you, `What
      should I do?' They tell you what they're doing. It's
      only in highly privileged cultures that people ask,
      `What should I do?' We have every option open to us.
      None of the problems that are faced by intellectuals
      in Turkey or campesinos in Brazil or anything like
      that. We can do anything. But what people here are
      trained to believe is, we have to have something we
      can do that will be easy, that will work very fast,
      and then we can go back to our ordinary lives. And
      it doesn't work that way.

      "You want to do something, you're going to have to
      be dedicated, committed, at it day after day. You
      know exactly what it is: it's educational programs,
      it's organizing, it's activism. That's the way
      things change. You want something that's going to be
      a magic key that will enable you to go back to
      watching television tomorrow? It's not there."
      (Chomsky, `Collateral Damage, an Interview with
      David Barsamian', Z Magazine, July/August, 2003)

      In Chomsky's interview, as in so many progressive
      analyses, the discussion ends there. The remedy,
      then, would appear to be for us to pull ourselves up
      by our moral bootstraps: Be less selfish! Just do

      But the problem is precisely that our fingers
      tugging at our moral bootstraps are enfeebled by the
      deep conviction that we have to do everything in our
      power to make +ourselves+ as happy as possible in
      the short time we are alive. This seems particularly
      to be the case given that, at present, we are not
      doing a very great job of it.

      Ours, after all, is a notoriously unhappy society.
      In 2001, the Observer reported that despite the
      highest British income levels ever, researchers had
      found that most people interviewed were profoundly
      unhappy: 55 per cent said they had felt depressed in
      the previous year. (Ben Summerskill, `Retail therapy
      makes you depressed', The Observer, May 6, 2001) In
      2002, it was reported that around one-third of
      British people suffer from serious depression at any
      one time. A 25-year-old today is between three and
      ten times more likely to suffer a major depression
      than one in 1950. It seems that young people with
      the highest living standards since records began are
      deeply miserable during "the best years of their
      lives". Two-thirds of Britons aged between 15 and 35
      feel depressed or unhappy.

      The hamster-wheel repetition of our commute to work,
      the endless drudgery of our jobs, the perpetual
      burden of marital and parental responsibilities, the
      self-doubts, irretrievable losses, depressions,
      illnesses and frustration, all mean that many of us
      feel we are doing all we can to keep our heads above
      water, never mind helping anyone else. Even as we
      are asking "What should I do?" we are lamenting with
      Shantideva from the 8th century: "Alas, our sorrows
      fall in endless streams!"

      How can it be sensible or reasonable for us to give
      up our spare time, money or energy to help others
      when our lives are already crowded with so much

      If there is to be a helpful response to the
      question: "What should I do?" it must lie in a
      credible answer to another question: Is there a
      response that satisfies both our need for happiness
      and the needs of the world around us?

      We believe that people devote themselves to a
      self-centred life in pursuit of several perceived
      sources of happiness: pleasure, comfort, praise and
      status. We will propose, here, however, that not
      only do these goals not deliver happiness, but that
      they are themselves the direct cause of many of our
      problems. This realisation can progressively lead to
      a response that is as beneficial to us personally,
      as it is to the world around us. The answer to the
      question of how best to look after "number one" is
      not at all what we might expect.

      The Pitfalls Of Personal Happiness - How Pleasure
      Chews and Grinds

      One section of Aryadeva's classic 3rd century work
      on philosophy, Four Hundred Stanzas, is entitled,
      remarkably: "Abandoning Belief In Pleasure".

      Aryadeva argued that the idea of positive pleasure
      free from suffering is an illusion - what we label
      `pleasurable' is actually a moment of relief from
      one discomfort before the arising of another
      discomfort has become noticeable. Aryadeva gave an
      example as a template for understanding all
      `pleasurable' experiences:

      "When the discomfort of carrying a load on the right
      shoulder for a long time becomes intense and one
      moves it on to the left one, it is merely that a
      slight pain which is beginning stops the intense
      pain already produced, not that there is no
      discomfort at all. How can there be pleasure while a
      new and different pain is beginning or while intense
      pain is stopping?" (Aryadeva and Gyel-tsap, Yogic
      Deeds of Bodhisattvas, Snow Lion, 1994, p.93)

      What we experience as `pleasure' in eating,
      drinking, sitting after standing, coming in from the
      cold, winning money and applause, and so on,
      involves relief from one discomfort as another
      begins (itself soon becoming uncomfortable).
      Although we are merely caught between one decreasing
      and one increasing form of suffering, we label the
      feeling `pleasurable', and believe the label.
      Aryadeva presents a vivid analogy:

      "When a rich man, vomiting into a gold pot, sees his
      servant vomit into a clay one, though vomiting is
      equally unpleasant for both, he thinks how
      prosperous he is. Like the rich man who feels
      delighted, one mistakes for real pleasure the
      feeling of satisfaction when pain has been
      alleviated and becomes less acute; but there is no
      real pleasure." (p.92)

      That this is the case becomes clear when we continue
      the `pleasurable' action, for example of eating,
      which soon becomes uncomfortable: "With the
      intensification of pleasure, its opposite is seen to
      occur." (p.88)

      Perhaps this `pleasurable' cycling between
      constantly diminishing and increasing discomforts
      explains why, as the French philosopher Montaigne
      observed, "Pleasure chews and grinds us." And as for
      a pleasurable activity relentlessly pursued,
      Aryadeva paints a grim picture:

      "It is like King Asoka's prison called `Pleasant
      Abode' where one could first choose one's favourite
      form of behaviour, but since no other could then be
      adopted, this eventually became painful." (p.89)

      And it does indeed seem that when individuals fill
      their lives with all the pleasures money can buy,
      they find themselves, oddly, no closer to happiness.
      Researchers surveying Illinois state lottery winners
      and British pool winners found that the initial
      happiness at winning eventually wore off and the
      winner returned to their usual range of happiness.
      Likewise, a recent sample of 49 super-rich people
      found that 37% were less happy than the national
      average (See: Howard Cutler and The Dalai Lama, The
      Art of Happiness, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998, p.10) In
      another study, there was no difference between the
      happiness level of 22 lottery winners and comparison
      samples of average people or paraplegics.

      In his book, Man's Search For Meaning, psychiatrist
      Victor Frankl discussed this remarkable relativity
      of happiness and suffering based on his experience
      as a survivor of the Nazi death camps. Frankl
      explains how, after a train journey under appalling
      conditions, he and his fellow prisoners expected to
      arrive at Auschwitz to face imminent death. When
      they did arrive, however, they found that they were
      in fact at a much smaller camp where they were not
      in imminent danger of being killed. Disinterred from
      their train, the prisoners were forced to endure a
      murderous all-night punishment parade in freezing
      conditions. The results were remarkable:

      "All through the night and late into the next
      morning, we had to stand outside, frozen and soaked
      to the skin after the strain of our long journey.
      And yet we were all very pleased! There was no
      chimney in this camp and Auschwitz was a long way
      off." (Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning, Pocket
      Books, 1985, pp.65-66)

      Whether rich or poor, no matter how comfortable or
      distressing our condition, we apply the label
      `pleasure' to an experience that involves a mere
      decrease in suffering. No matter how much we try,
      `pleasure' of this kind must involve discomfort and
      its temporary reduction; it must grind us with its
      inherent suffering. This is why Buddhist sages have
      argued that a life spent in pursuit of pleasure is
      like sitting on a pin - every move you makes leads
      to suffering.

      The Search For Status - Bogus Celebrity

      How many writers, including dissident writers, are
      motivated by the desire `to be someone' - to achieve
      praise, status and reputation, even fame? We at
      Media Lens have received supportive emails from some
      of the writers we respect and admire most, and also
      from many of our readers. What is so remarkable is
      the capacity of the egotistical mind to quickly lose
      the initial sense of satisfaction gained from this.

      As with other desires, the 'pleasure' experienced
      involves relief from an uncomfortable situation -
      doubts and anxieties about our ability to do what we
      are doing effectively, for example. But as these
      doubts are partially reduced, positive comments -
      like food to a full stomach - rapidly lose their
      power to give the original pleasure. This is not at
      all to say, by the way, that supportive emails are
      irrelevant to us - they remain highly valued and
      important to us, regardless of the titillation they
      may or may not give our egos.

      There are other problems with the pursuit of praise
      and status. It is easy to reflect on the fact that
      many writers, for example - no matter how
      incompetent and hateful their work - receive
      positive comments from readers. Hitler, after all,
      was adored by millions - positive comments proved
      nothing at all about him, so what do they prove
      about us? Shantideva writes:

      "Why should I be pleased when people praise me?
      Others there will be who scorn and criticise.
      And why despondent when I'm blamed,
      Since there'll be others who think well of me?"
      (Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambhala,
      1997, p.113)

      Like all desires, praise and fame seem to promise
      much, but the actual experience surely comes fraught
      with unexpected dissatisfaction, disappointments and

      The comedian Charlie Chaplin said of his fame:

      "I wanted to enjoy it all without reservation, but I
      kept thinking the world had gone crazy. If a few
      slapstick comedies could arouse such excitement, was
      there not something bogus about all celebrity? I had
      always thought I would like the public's attention,
      and here it was - paradoxically isolating me with a
      depressing sense of loneliness." (Quoted, David
      Giles, Illusions of Immortality - A Psychology Of
      Fame And Celebrity, Macmillan Press, 2000, p.91)

      Who would have guessed that achieving unprecedented
      success as a comedian would leave someone like
      Chaplin, not delighted by his triumph, but in
      despair at the superficiality of his fellow man? And
      who would believe that the adoration of millions
      could result, not in endless delight, but in
      loneliness and depression?

      In his book, Illusions of Immortality, David Giles
      describes some of the adverse consequences of fame:

      "Probably the single most important cause of
      unhappiness reported by celebrities is the effect of
      having to deal with so many people all the time. The
      loss of privacy is one aspect of this... The more
      social interactions we have, the more we have to
      compromise our `true' selves - eventually something
      snaps." (Giles, p.92)

      In 60 BC, Cicero complained that, despite the
      "droves of friends" surrounding him, he was unable
      to find one with whom he could "fetch a private
      sigh". Rousseau wrote: "As soon as I had a name, I
      ceased to have friends." (p.95)

      Giles comments:

      "On meeting each new acquaintance, the question
      becomes not so much, `Does this person like me for
      who I am?' but `Does this person like me for what I
      am?'" (p.95)

      We might think the rich and powerful live contented
      and happy lives - but high-ranking politicians and
      business moguls are slaves to their positions.
      Aryadeva examines the issue in discussion with an
      imaginary king:

      "Assertion: Pride is appropriate because a king is
      free to enjoy all objects.

      "Answer: It is not appropriate. What wrongly appears
      as a cause for superlative happiness to you, king,
      is seen as a source of suffering by those with
      discriminating wisdom and disciplined sense. Since
      you experience uninterrupted suffering in the
      process of protecting large communities of people
      and must live by working for others, it is not a
      cause only for happiness." (p.119)

      In other words, status and power come with ten
      thousand Lilliputian ropes of stressful
      responsibility and commitment, which take us very
      far from a sense of individual freedom and perfect

      Dependent Arising - The Curious Nature Of Problems

      The difficulty that underlies the entire attempt to
      achieve personal happiness through self-centred
      goals relates to the whole nature of what it is to
      have a `problem'.

      A problem does not exist in splendid isolation as a
      concrete fact in the real world. Instead, problems
      arise in dependence on our definition of happiness.
      If, for example, we have set our heart on a
      particular person or object, anything that
      interferes with the attainment of that goal will
      obviously be labelled `a problem'.

      We are not angry with a romantic rival simply
      because he or she exists, but because he or she
      threatens to take away what we believe will make us
      happy - he or she is therefore `a problem'. In
      response, we may become irate, frustrated, jealous,
      furiously angry and even violent. If, on the other
      hand, we do not believe that a particular person is
      an important source of happiness, then the person
      who might otherwise have been a rival is no longer
      an obstacle - the problem has literally ceased to
      exist in the same way that a rainbow disappears when
      a cloud obscures the sun.

      The point is that this is true of all problems.
      Belief in happiness through the satisfaction of
      self-centred desires automatically creates
      conditions in which thousands of problem `rainbows'
      can arise. As we identify a must-have partner, job,
      car, house, level of success, we thereby instantly
      generate vast numbers of `problems' in relation to

      If we realise that none of these things actually can
      give rise to lasting happiness - that they tie us to
      an endlessly rotating wheel of suffering,
      diminishing discomfort (pleasure), and arising
      discomfort - then our problems begin to diminish in
      number and intensity.

      To the extent that we lose faith in the power of
      desired objects to provide happiness, we dismantle
      the conditions that lead us to define certain events
      as `problems'. And just this, according to the
      world's major spiritual traditions, is a state of
      genuine peace and happiness.

      How can we test this remarkable claim? We might
      argue, after all, that a life without desire would
      be a life of unrelenting boredom. But, on
      reflection, we can realise that boredom is precisely
      what we feel when we are blocked from satisfying a
      desire - from talking to a prospective partner
      chatting to our friends at the next table, from
      moving to a better job in some fantastic place.
      Boredom is not a condition without desire; it is a
      condition in which desire is both present and

      So how can we experience a condition, perhaps only
      temporarily, in which our normal focus on selfish
      concerns giving rise to `problems' is temporarily
      `switched off' or diverted in a way that tests the
      truth of the proposition being made here?

      The answer is that we can `switch off' our normal
      focus on our own problems and happiness by focusing
      on the problems and happiness of someone else.
      Victor Frankl described this brilliantly. In a
      situation of deep despair on a work team in a frozen
      death camp, a casual comment from a fellow prisoner
      caused Frankl to remember the face of his wife who
      was also imprisoned. He writes that his mind
      imagined her face "with an uncanny acuteness":

      "Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret
      that human poetry and human thought and belief have
      to impart: The salvation of man is through love and
      in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left
      in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a
      brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.
      In a position of utter desolation... in such a
      position man can, through loving contemplation of
      the image he carries of his beloved, achieve
      fulfilment." (Frankl, op.cit., p.57)

      By focusing concern away from our own welfare, a
      loving and compassionate mind has the power to
      annihilate problems even in the most extreme
      conditions. Problems exist in dependence on a
      self-centred focus, and so feelings of love or
      compassion free the mind from problems.

      Psychologists often tell us that much modern
      depression results from people comparing themselves
      to others who are better off. As Montesquieu wrote:

      "If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy;
      but we want to be happier than other people, and
      that is almost always difficult, since we think them
      happier than they are."

      It also makes sense, then, that deep reflection on
      the infinitely worse suffering of others - a
      standard practice in many cultures - gives rise to a
      stable feeling of contentment and well-being. Thus
      one Buddhist meditation recommends:

      "On seeing a wretched man, unlucky, unfortunate, in
      every way a fit object for compassion, unsightly,
      reduced to utter misery with hands and feet cut off,
      sitting in the shelter for the helpless with a pot
      placed before him, with a mass of maggots oozing
      from his arms and legs, and moaning, compassion
      should be felt for him in this way: `This being has
      indeed been reduced to misery; if only he could be
      freed from his suffering!'"

      Again, our problems are not concrete realities -
      they literally shrink in our minds when set
      alongside, even imaginatively, the far worse
      sufferings of others. Science is beginning to
      support the idea that compassion of this kind is
      indeed a powerful antidote to personal unhappiness.

      On September 14, the New York Times reported from
      the University of Wisconsin, where Richard Davidson,
      director of the Laboratory for Affective
      Neuroscience, is currently studying brain activity
      found in Buddhist monks meditating on compassion.
      Davidson says:

      "It's something they do every day, and they have
      special exercises where they envision negative
      events, something that causes anger or irritability,
      and then transform it and infuse it with an
      antidote, which is compassion. They say they are
      able to do it just like that." (Stephen S. Hall `Is
      Buddhism Good for Your Health?', The New York Times,
      September 14, 2003)

      Davidson's research has previously found that people
      who have high levels of brain activity in the left
      prefrontal cortex of the brain simultaneously report
      positive, happy states of mind, such as zeal,
      enthusiasm, joy, vigour and mental buoyancy. On the
      other hand, Davidson found that high levels of
      activity in a parallel site on the other side of the
      brain - in the right prefrontal areas - correlate
      with reports of distressing emotions such as
      sadness, anxiety and worry. Experiments on one monk,
      a "geshe", generated remarkable results. Davidson

      "Something very interesting and exciting emerged
      from this. We recorded the brain activity of the
      geshe and were able to compare his brain activity to
      the other individuals who participated in
      experiments in my laboratory over the last couple of
      years... The geshe had the most extreme positive
      value [indicating happiness] out of the entire
      hundred and seventy-five that we had ever tested at
      that point." (Daniel Goleman, Disturbing Emotions -
      And How We Can Overcome Them, Bloomsbury, 2003,

      Davidson describes the geshe as "an outlier" on the
      graph - his reading was "three standard deviations
      to the left", far beyond the rest of the bell curve
      for positive emotion and happiness.

      In the New York Times article describing these
      results, journalist Stephen Hall comments that "the
      fact that the brain can learn, adapt and molecularly
      restructure itself in response to experience and
      training suggests that meditation may leave a
      biological residue in the brain". Stephen Kosslyn, a
      Harvard neuroscientist comments:

      "This fits into the whole neuroscience literature of
      expertise where taxi drivers are studied for their
      spatial memory and concert musicians are studied for
      their sense of pitch. If you do something, anything,
      even play Ping-Pong, for 20 years, eight hours a
      day, there's going to be something in your brain
      that's different from someone who didn't do that.
      It's just got to be."

      Conclusion - Motivation For Dissent

      Possible options for all who ask "What should I do?"
      are clear. The first thing we can do is reflect on
      our own experience of life in considering the
      possibility that the self-centred pursuit of
      pleasurable experiences does not deliver on its

      Forever placing our needs, our problems, at the
      centre of our focus in this way ensures that they
      always seem enormous. By focusing with compassion
      and love on the (often far worse) problems of
      others, we can reduce our perception of the
      importance and severity of our own problems, even in
      the most difficult circumstances.

      We can consider, then, that compassionate thoughts
      and actions - working to relieve the suffering and
      increase the happiness of others - can be a powerful
      path, not an obstacle, to our own personal
      happiness; that these can act as an antidote to the
      catastrophic problems caused precisely +by+ our
      single-minded attempts to make just ourselves happy.

      The problem, then, is not that we already have too
      much on our plate to be concerned about others, but
      that we have too much on our plate +because+ we are
      not concerned about others. This need not be taken
      on anyone's advice - it is something we can consider
      in relation to our experiences of everyday life. As
      we reflect on these possibilities, and perhaps
      progressively erode our faith in the delusive
      happiness of self-centred living, we may well find
      ourselves naturally seeking out opportunities to
      benefit others.

      Motivation is not a problem for anyone who accepts
      the extraordinary truth contained in Yeshe Aro's
      ancient prescription for happiness:

      "On this depends my liberation: to assist others -
      nothing else."

      Feel free to respond to Media Lens alerts:

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      Graham Sutherland ~ OmniConscious
      It'll Be OK.

      When someone is down or in trouble , what is the most common thing that
      friends and loved ones say to help them thu it.
      It'll be OK
      This little sentence or a variation of it is probably the most common thing
      that is said with the aim of helping someone thru a difficult time.
      So often it is the little white lie that is told because we hope it will
      make them feel better. When we have it said to us we want to believe it, but
      mostly we know it is just said to make us feel better. When we say it we
      often know it is a lie, or at least that we can't know for sure that it
      actually will be OK. Is it really just wishful thinking? Is it really just
      words of support without real meaning?
      What if it really is the truth? The real truth. The whole truth and nothing
      but the truth? What if we really are immortal souls evolving towards
      something wonderful and unavoidable?
      What if we could actually believe it? Not just in out head, but right down
      thru our subconscious and unconscious mind, in the depths of our heart and
      the core of our being . Could we really really live it?
      Would it make a difference to your life?
      If it could really be proven to you that it WILL be OK, could you actually
      let go of fear and worry and depression? Would you be able to enjoy your
      life whatever happens?
      They are just a few little words, that no one really believes.

      It'll be OK.

      If we could let go of the skeptical and the rational and the conditioned
      mind. If we could accept it as truth in the core of our being. It really
      would be OK, because that genuine belief would completely change our outlook
      on life.
      The load would be lifted from us such that we could be less serious about
      life. Enlightenment may not have much to do with seeing the light, it may
      instead be about feeling lighter because the load has been lifted.

      Kevin Large ~ OmniConscious

      Love without Condition
      I love you as you are, as you seek to find your own special way to relate to
      the world. I honor your choices to learn in the way you feel is right for you.
      I know it is important that you are the person you want to be and not someone
      that I, or others, think you ~should~ be. I realise that I cannot know what is
      best for you, although perhaps sometimes I think I do. I have not been where
      you have been, viewing life from the angle you have. I do not know what you
      have chosen to learn, how you have chosen to learn it, with whom or in what
      time period. I have not walked life looking through your eye, so how can I know
      what you need.
      I allow you to be in the world without a thought or word of judgment about the
      deeds you undertake. I see no error in the things you say and do. In this place
      where I am, I see that there are many ways to perceive and experience the
      different facets of our world. I allow without reservation the choices you make
      in each moment. I make no judgment of this, for if I would deny you your right
      to your evolution, then I would deny that right for all others and myself.
      To those who would choose a way I cannot walk, whilst I may not choose to add
      my power and my energy to this way, I will never deny you the gift of love. As
      I love you, so shall I be loved. As I sow, so shall I reap.
      I allow you the Universal right of Free Will to walk your own path, creating
      steps or to sit awhile if that is right for you. I will make no judgment that
      these steps are large or small, nor light or heavy or that they lead up or
      down, for this is just my viewpoint.
      I may see you do nothing and judge it to be unworthy and yet I cannot always
      see the higher picture of the order and oneness of things.
      For it is the inalienable right of all life to choose their own evolution and
      with great love, I acknowledge your right to determine your future. I bow to
      the realisation that the way I see as best for me does not have to mean it is
      also right for you. I know that you are led as ~I Am~, following the inner
      excitement to be ~your-self~.
      I know that the many races, religions, customs, nationalities and beliefs
      within our world, bring us great richness and allow us the benefit and
      teachings of such diverseness. I know we each learn in our own unique way in
      order to bring that love and wisdom back to the whole. I know that if there
      were only one way to do something, there would need only be one person.
      I will not only love you if you behave in a way I think you should or believe
      in those things I believe in.
      The love I feel is for ~all that is~. I know that every living thing is a part
      of ~all that is~ and I feel a deep love within for every person, animal, tree
      and flower, every bird, river and ocean and for all the creatures in the world.
      I live my life in loving service, being the best me I can, becoming wiser in
      the perfection of Truth, becoming happier in the joy of . . .
      ~Unconditional Love~

      Joseph Risch ~ Nasrudin (archives)


      Subject:  the end of a long loaf

      For 50 years of a fine marriage, Nasrudin made sandwiches for saturday
      lunches he and his wonderful wife shared. one day she said that she was
      angry "for years now you have given me the end slices of every loaf of bread
      we eat together. i hate them, they are the worst slices and you always give
      them to me."

      Nasrudin sat silently for a second and said "but they are my favorite

      Joyce ~ NDS & Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh



      If not...

      Come and stretch
      Your morning self,
      unlock Your nighttime's heart...

      The day anew
      has words for You,
      She's been saving all this time:

      "If not to touch the sky,
      why have wings at all?"






      Photo by Alan Larus

      "...Neurologist, Dr. James Austin...He was on the Underground, thinking about the Zen Buddhist
      retreat he was headed toward, when he suddenly felt a sense of
      enlightenment, This included the loss of his sense of individual
      seperateness from the physical world around him, the loss of the
      sense of "I me mine", and a sense of eternity. "I had been graced by
      a comprehension of the ultimate nature of things", said Austin.

      Rather than regard the experience as a spiritual epiphany, or in
      any way mystical, the experience inspired him to explore the
      neurological underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experiences.

      "In order to feel that time, fear and self-consciousness have
      dissolved, he reasoned, certain brain circuits must be
      interrupted...activity in the amygdala, which monitors the
      environment for threats and registers fear, must be damped. Parietal-
      lobe circuits, which orient you in space and mark the sharp
      distinction between self and world go quiet. Frontal and temporal-
      lobe circuits, which mark time and generate self-awareness, must

      He spun out these theories in his 844 page article - "Zen and the
      Brain" in 1998, and it was published - not by some "flaky New Age
      outfit, but by MIT Press."

      It has been since then, more and more scientists have begun the
      study of the neurobiology of religion and spirituality, aptly
      entitled "neurotheology".
      These studies differ markedly from the rudimentary research in the
      1950's and '60's which were able to differentiate - yeah brainwaves
      change when you meditate - because of the advent of neuro-imaging.
      Now researchers are able to identify the brain circuits which "surge
      with activity when we think we have encountered the divine, and when
      we feel transported by intense prayer, an uplifting ritual, or sacred

      Even though this field is brand new, one thing is clear - that
      spiritual experiences "are so consistent across cultures, across
      time, and across faiths", says David Wulff. a psychologist frpm
      Wheaton College in Massachusetts, "that it suggests a common core
      that is likely a reflection of structures and processes in the human
      There was a feeling of energy centered within me...going out to
      infinite space and returning...There was a relaxing of the dualistic
      mind, and an intense feeling of love. I felt a profound letting go of
      the boundaries around me, and a connection with some kind of energy
      and state of being that had a quality of clarity, transparency and
      joy. I felt a deep and profound sense of connection to everything,
      recognizing that there never was a true separation at all.
      This is how Dr. Michael J. Baine describes what he feels at the peak
      moment of transcendence when he practices Tibetan Buddhist
      meditation, as he has since he was 14 in 1969. He volunteered his
      brain as a subject to researchers at Penn, who used imaging
      techniques to detect what regions of the brain are active during
      spiritual experiences. The researchers recruited Baine, and seven
      other Tibetan Buddhists, all skilled meditators.
      In a typical research scenario, Baines sits in a room with only a
      few candles and jasmine incense. He concentrates and focuses on one
      mental image until something emerges known to him as his "true inner
      self". and he tugs on a piece of twine. Andrew Newburg - one
      researcher - huddled in another room, feels the pull and quickly
      injects a radioactive tracer into an IV line that runs into Baine's
      left arm. A few moments later, he hurries Baine off to a SPECT
      (single photon emission computed tomography machine. Detecting the
      tracer is the way the machine tracks blood flow to the brain, which
      correlates with neuronal activity.
      As was expected. the prefrontal cortex - the seat of attention -
      lit up. But it was the quieting of activity that stood out.
      A group of neurons in the superior parietal lobe - towards the top
      and back of the brain - went dark. This is the region associated with
      processing information about space and time, and the orientation of
      the body in space. "It determines where the body ends and the rest of
      the world begins." It's orientation requires sensory input to
      determine it's calculus. When you block sensory inputs to this
      region, as you do during intense meditation, "you prevent the brain
      from forming the distinction between self and not-self - normal
      boundaries. As a result the brain seems to have no choice but to
      perceive the self as "endless and intimately inter-woven with
      everyone and everything."


      Joyce ~ Spiritual Friends
      The Way of Chuang Tzu

      "Tao is obscured when men understand only one pair of opposites, or concentrate
      only on a partial aspect of being. Then clear expression also becomes muddled
      by mere wordplay, affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest.
      The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials
      converge. He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point from which all
      movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship.
      Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct

      ~ The Way of Chuang Tzu ~

      Lisbeth ~ Monks_Mystics   &  Alan Larus ~ HarshaSatsangh



      Strand I

      Photograph by Alan Larus




      An old man sits on a granite step.
      He plucks a treasured guitar.
      The strings throb with feeling;
      He needs no audience to open his heart.
      A boy enthusiastically wants to learn his style.
      "Style?" asks the man slowly. "My style is
      made of
      The long road of life, of heartbreak
      And joy, and people loved, and loneliness.
      Of war and its atrocities.
      Of a baby born.
      Of burying parents and friends.
      My scale is the seven stars of the dipper
      The hollow of my guitar is the space
      between heaven and earth.
      How can I show you my style?
      You have your own young life.


      (Message over 64 KB, truncated)

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