Friday, December 08, 2006

Meditation: Connecting to the Present Moment Through the Power of Now

Andre and Judy de Zanger sent me the meditation Judy read at the Creativity Weekend. I don't know what book it comes from, so we'll credit an "Author Unknown" until I find out. It has a lovely rhythm that I have found useful since I first heard it over bowls of breakfast oatmeal and fruits.

Connecting to the Present Moment Through the Power of Now

Take a breath; take a break.
Cultivate the power of the present moment by entering into the holy now.
To do this meditation, just make yourself comfortable. Lie, sit, stand. It doesn’t matter.
Breathe in slowly through your nostrils.
As you breathe in, repeat this inner mantra to yourself: “Just this, here now.”
As you breathe out, repeat again: “Just this. Here now.”

Use this mantra as an inner form of prayer or chant of contemplation and meditation.
Inhale….Just this, here now.
Exhale….Just this, here now.

There is nothing but this moment.
This sacred moment. Just this, here now.
Let everything else subside, and just go with the natural flow of things, left just as they are. Trust it.
There is no greater miracle than this. Just this. Here now.
There is nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be than just this, here now.
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.
This is the great crossroads of past and future.
This is the goal of our journey. Just this, here now.

There is nothing extra to get rid of and nothing missing that we need to find ­ just this glorious, radiant, abundant here….now.

Right here is how we find ourselves, just as we are. Just this.
Right here is where eternity and infinity converge in the present moment.
Right here is the gateway to infinity, to the timeless. Just this, here now.

This is the eternal moment, the mystical instant, the timeless time beyond time and space ­ yet totally, precisely present. Just this, here now.

Don’t miss it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Belief System: The Most Fundamental System of All

LOOKING AT BELIEF

Over the summer, my pal, Rebecca Stack (the other Rebecca), saw that I was stuck in a pattern of suffering and meaninglessness. My husband and I were quarrelling about the same old things -- over and over. She introduced me to A Course in Miracles, a self-study guide on erasing erroneous, unhelpful, unhealthy beliefs and instilling and employing more truthful, useful and positive beliefs. That sounded pretty good.

So, I bought the book. I flipped through each of the lessons, reading only the main idea in each lesson, which is in bold at the top of the lesson. I shook my head here and there, but mostly nodded to myself and decided that I could see where the ideas went and then I put the book down. I thought that was enough. I "got" it. The direction it takes the student is from suffering to a belief that the world is full of love -- and therefore is filled with miracles. Brilliant! Has some holes, but on the whole, great!

Well, what I "got" was the main idea, the essence -- but it turns out I did not "get" the real substance. Rebecca said, "Beck, you need to practice these lessons, not just read them."

"Oh, of course," I thought. This is the difference between thinking and doing -- the difference between book learning and experience -- or the difference between reading about a Law of Physics and conducting an experiment. So why not conduct a little experiment...


PRACTICING BELIEF

My first attempt at study was rocky. I found myself reading a lesson though and arguing the concept. For example, in reading the first lesson,



Nothing I see in this room [on this street,
from this window, in this place] means anything.

"What can the author possibly mean that nothing means anything?! That isn't true!" I began writing comments in the margins: "What about ___ or _____!" I felt very passionate while writing these notes. I took the ideas to others, and they seemed to think I certainly made some pretty good points to the contrary.

I couldn't get past the feeling that what the author wanted me to do was ignore truth. I continued to write notes in the margin until I finally grew tired of it and put the book down. I proceeded to lose the book among papers and other miscellany. My expiriment failed.

Naturally, Rebecca asked for a report. "How's the Course coming?" she asked.

"It's not," I confessed.


BELIEFS UPON BELIEFS

What I can see today is that I approached A Course in Miracles with Free Will -- a belief in itself. Without this belief, there would be nothing I can do to change anything. That's not very appealing. Whether or not my belief in free will contains complete truth (1), it serves me in being able to explore the ideas and lessons in A Course in Miracles.

Beliving in Free Will precedes the belief that I can choose how I experience life, and that I could choose a life that contained more meaning and less suffering -- not just for me, but for others as well. I would very much like to take Ghandi's advice and be the change I want to see in the world. However, the idea of Free Will was what made it sensible for me to even buy the book, let alone read it.


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION

For months, Rebecca shared her own story, and illustrated the patterns she saw and how the lessons in A Course in Miracles applied. The more examples I had of these lessons working, the more I came to believe that there was something missing.

And there was something missing. My behavior exhibited how, by scribbling notes in the margins about my disagreements, I was diving immediately into skepticism. It wasn't that there was something missing in the book. Turns out I was missing something.

It wasn't until Rebecca and I shared one of life's mysterious misunderstandings between us, and she applied a lesson. I got to see a real life example applied -- in action and my own behavior resulting -- an experience. I got to see how quickly peace can come about from the work she's done. She was later able to tell me the story of that experience we shared and what lesson she applied. So I knew for a fact that the results of the experiment favored The Course as Rebecca calls it. It works. What was I missing?

And then one day, Rebecca and I were sitting at my dinning room table. We were sharing stories about how we've each been "left out" in one way or another. And she said, "I know I'm fun and smart, but I couldn't get why [a particular crowd] couldn't see it in me."


AHA! WHAT WE LOOK FOR, WE WILL FIND

I was asking the wrong question all along. I was asking, "is this lesson true?" instead of "What is the truth in this lesson." Just like the [crowd] asked themselves, "Is Rebecca fun and smart?" instead of "What has Rebecca got that is fun and smart in her" and taken the time to be curious about her.

I was looking for holes to feed my skeptical mind. I wasn't looking for truth that would feed my spirit. I noticed how black-and-white the first question is -- you can only answer yes or no -- and how open the second is. A person could write a novel.


MY PROGRESS

I am currently challenging old beliefs that appear to serve me. Just because a belief serves me does not mean it is truthful or positive or healthy for me or others around me. For example, suppose I'm driving along the highway and a driver cuts me off, I might believe he is a self-centered asshole, which makes me comparitively thoughtful and conscientious. It makes me feel good about myself; and therefore, it serves me -- or at least it appears to.

In actually, no negative beliefs serve me. It limits the world I live in. It requires another opposing entity for me to express who I am. It doesn't serve the driver or anyone else in the world for me to carry around the belief that some people are just like that. Holding on to a negative belief makes the world more ridgid and more difficult for me and others to operate in.

Furthermore, the belief that the driver is a self-centered asshole is simply not true. Maybe he was rushing to the bedside of his dying wife. Maybe he just didn't see me there and made a mistake.

Or maybe he was being a self-centered asshole. Either way, to see someone in a certain way puts them in a box so that we are unable to see their true self: what wonder they might become.

So, I've made a total committment to examining my beliefs. And it is the most difficult, most rewarding work I've ever done.

Thanks, Rebecca [Stack]

(1) I actually have a sense that Determinism contains truth. It is certainly possible that I was created to believe in Free Will. My husband, a philosopher himself, has brought to my senses the differentiation between the possible and the probable. Science seems to be the key to the probable (what we can see, what is most simple) -- as in Ockham's razor -- and Spirit, the key to the possible (what we cannot see, what could be even simpler than what we first thought). All I need to do is watch, Contact, one of my favorite movies to see the Truth contained in both philosophies.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pet Rats

I met a woman via email from Freecycle.org who was looking for a safe, new home for her son's pet rat, and I jumped at the chance....a little too soon for everyone else in my life. In any case, the conversation that transpired was very interesting and informative. I thought I'd share it here:

---------------------------------
Wed, 29 Nov 2006

Laura (cc: Dianne),

I should have asked if a rat was okay...and unfortunately, despite my explaining how smart and cute they are, I received an absolute "no."

...I'll copy this message to a friend of mine, Dianne, who has been a rat owner in the past. Maybe she'll be interested.

Meanwhile, Good Luck!

Rebecca
---------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------------
07:34 AM 11/30/2006

Thank you Rebecca. People don't realize that rats are smart and very clean pets.

Laura
------------------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------
Thu, 30 Nov 2006

Laura,

Rats don't have a very good reputation, do they? Normally when I think of rats, my first thought turns to "rat-as-pest-infesting-dirty-house" or the Hollywood portrayal -- which is unfortunate. When you said rats were clean animals, I asked myself, "Are they?" (I suppose that's kind of anthropocentric of me) ...and then checked my experience. Dianne's ratswere not dirty at all. But of course, rats who have everything they need to live comfortably with care and love are clean animals.

We'd be kind of ishy too if we were outdoors all of the time, had to scrounge for our food and had to compete with lots of others just like us for the same stuff.

I crinkled my nose at them once upon a time, too. My first up close experience was a white rat with bright red eyes, long snouts and naked scaled tails kind of creeped me out. This one also had a history of biting.

So I completely understand anyone's hesitation...

Dianne introduced me to her pet rats (who have long since died). Her rats were much more attractive -- brown fur andfuzzy tails. I found them to be very fun, curious, adventurous creatures -- and not all that frightening. When I got up the nerve to pet one and then to hold it, my feelings changed. They are kind of like little monkeys....

Ever since, I've wanted one. But I've had cats, and I suspected there would be problems -- mostly from the cats' territorial perspectives.

Have you ever known cats and rats to get along?

Rebecca
---------------------------------

------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 12:40:02 -0800 (PST)

My son's rat Puffy will get nose-to-nose with the cats and ride on the dog's back. When my older son was little we had a pet hooded rat too, so when my youngest wanted one I didn't even hesitate...actually this is his second rat...he is 12 now. It is too bad that you can't take Poopsie, she needs someone and someplace less stressful.

Laura
------------------------------------------------------------------

The Wisdom of Birds and Mice


The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.