Capturing a Slice of Life. Freezing a Moment in Time

I am still wondering how I landed in Maui, Paradise Island. Among many adventures I was on a tour bus to Hana. They say that the road has about six hundred curves and sixty bridges. We were told at the onset that this trip was all about the journey not the destination. One of our stops was at a waterfall and some of the group got out to swim in the big waterfall; I was alone at the lower, smaller waterfall. I waded knee deep through the freezing water. I sat on the rock to dry my legs and enjoy the revitalizing experience when a young woman came to the waterfall. She asked me if the water was cold; I said it was freezing but very refreshing.

She came out of the water after a very invigorating swim and playfully splashed some cold water on me. We then stood and talked for a bit. She said that she had attended a course in Taoism in San Francisco and was into yoga. I realized that this woman was on a spiritual quest. I mentioned one of my father’s wisdom sayings, “Enough is Abundance,” when she became very still and reverently repeated a few times, “Enough is Abundance.” She was deeply moved and I was touched. She said she felt like she was Siddartha who had just found the Buddha. We said goodbye and she pointed to the camper she had rented and was driving without any particular destination. Yes, she was on a spiritual quest.

Within an hour I had forgotten what this woman looked like but I had captured a slice of life; that moment in time is now frozen forever. As I continued on the tour bus I was in a daze; I wasn’t sure if this person was real or had come to visit me from the Spirit world. Later I began to recall the amazing sunsets, the full moon and its reflection on the ocean and so many other moments I may not remember after some time but the effect still lingers in me.

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From being an individual to becoming Universal

In many ancient cultures, individuals were known by their tribal or clan name. Their individuality melds into the group identity. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu expressed this reality through their Ubuntu philosophy: “I am because we are!” They took Ubuntu beyond the boundaries of South Africa and invited people from all over the world to embrace Ubuntu.

We find Ubuntu in the Quran, “O Mankind, we created you from a single pair of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another” (Sura 49:13). We realize our interconnectedness by recognizing our single source. In other words, “I am because we are.” The Quran goes further in revealing our individual and collective identity in the Divine Essence. “We have created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein” (Sura 50:16). And Jesus revealed his mission when he prayed for all of humanity, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 21:20).

How do we realize our Universal identity?

When we see the Divine in us we are individuals; when we see ourselves in the Divine we become universal. Being a drop in the ocean we are individuals, when we see ourselves as the entire ocean in the drop we become Universal. The more we live in the now and here the more we realize oneness with the Universal Divine Essence. This present moment now is part of every moment from the beginning and the end of time; therefore, this present moment is part of eternal time; and the place where we are at any moment is part of the entire universe.


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Realizing Bliss

We all want to live meaningful and happy lives. The mystics, like St. Ignatius of Loyola, give us a simple and effective way. Pay attention to the last thing at night and the first moments in the morning (Spiritual Exercises 73 -74).

In the first waking moments we lay out the script for the rest of the day. If our first conscious moments have a positive feel then the rest of the day we will unconsciously find ways to sustain that feeling. The experience of the first thing in the morning is contingent with the last thing that we do at night.

Here’s one simple way of doing this. Fall asleep every night with gratitude for the blessings of the day and spend the first two minutes of the day in meditation. As soon as you wake up, sit on your bed and focus on your breathing. See yourself as a flute and your breath as the Divine Essence or Divine energy passing through every pore of your being, channeling blissful music the rest of the day and every day for the rest of your life.

There is no right way of doing this. Just do it and you will realize the difference! Gratitude is the memory of the heart; the unconscious continues to reveal myriads of gifts while we are asleep and is attuned to the gifts that the new day offers. Also, if the first two waking minutes are significant to us then the unconscious begins the meditation exercise long before we wake up; the Divine Energy or Music flows through our being without our knowing it the rest of our day until it becomes a way of life.

“The morning breeze has secrets to tell you. Do not go back to sleep” Rumi.


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Intuition, Key to Living your Life Purpose

Intuition is unlearned knowledge and innate wisdom. It is the manifestation of Divine Consciousness within us. In the ancient spiritual traditions intuition is a direct and spontaneous connection with the mind of the Universe. Mystics, like St. Ignatius of Loyola, believe that intuition is the most common and surest way of realizing our true path at every moment of our lives (Spiritual Exercises 175). However, the knowledge of the mind and the feelings in our heart are learned and can often muddle the flow of our authentic lives.

Intuition is the highest and purest form of consciousness. It is still and quiet; it is experienced in the silence between thoughts, words and deeds. Mahatma Gandhi called intuition the ‘Little Voice’ that speaks in silence. While he led the country in the struggle for Independence, he observed every Monday as a day of silence. He wanted to be attuned to the Little Voice, his intuition. It was this experience that he reflects when he wrote: “There come to us moments in life when about some things we need no proof from without. A little voice within us tells us, ‘You are on the right track, move neither to your left nor right, but keep to the straight and narrow way’.”

Pause to think about the relationships and careers that we chose that we now regret. Through honest introspection, we will recognize that our intuition had raised red flags that were smothered by the logic of the mind and the feelings of the heart. The mind and the heart are both very seductive and hypnotic. One of the common regrets of the dying is that they wished they lived the life they were destined to live. Reboot your life NOW without any regret about the past or anxiety of the future. It is never too late to claim your personal destiny. The past influences your present but it cannot control your present and determine your future; those controls are in your hands! Step into the natural flow of life.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao-Tzu

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The Purpose of Life

Many religious and cultural traditions understand the mystery or the myth of the Incarnation as Emmanuel or God with us. The mystics in many traditions realize that the Divine Essence is present in every part of creation. St. Ignatius of Loyola believes that “the more mature in the spiritual life due to constant contemplation and the enlightenment of the understanding, consider, meditate and ponder more that God our Lord is in every creature by His essence, power and presence” (Spiritual Exercises #39). Therefore, Creation and Incarnation happened at one and the same time. Redemption is the realization of this dynamic mystery and is experienced through “constant contemplation and the enlightenment of the understanding.” And contemplation is to open ourselves to the mystery and allow the mystery to fill us and transform us into that mystery. We realize that God and I are not one but God and I are not two. At the moment of our creation God was incarnated in us. God breathe into us God’s own breath and we became a living being (Genesis 2). This is the way of the Buddha and every enlightened person.

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Am I Divine or a Sinner?

A funeral or a wake often invites us to reflect on the existential questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? What happens after I die?

In the Bible we discover that we are the Divine Breath or made in God’s image and likeness; Hinduism teaches that we find out identity in the Divine Essence, the Divine and I are not one, but the Divine and I are not two; the Quran is clear that God is closer to us than our jugular vein.

While the Scriptures are clear about our Divine identity, religion on the other hand teaches us that humans are basically sinful needing redemption. They invent the myth of Original Sin and develop the theology of Salvation.

The myth that God breathe the Divine Breath into dust and we became living beings reflects all the other myths. Science tells us that our bodies are made from star dust. So when we die our bodies will continue to be star dust while our life giving breath will become one with the Divine Essence that is present in every part of Creation.

Ronald Eyre, a British journalist, once interviewed a man in India. He began by asking, “How old are you?” to which the old man replied, “About 80.” Eyre was amused and said, “About 80?” and the man replied that he did not know his exact age. About 75% of people in India at that time did not have birth certificates. What an amazing way to live life! Eyre continued, “Are you afraid of dying?” The old man said, “Yes. But something tells me that when the time comes for me to die, then I will not be afraid.” To Eyre’s final question, “What will happen to you after you die?” he responded, “Now I am an individual; after I die I will become universal. That is my belief.”

The challenge of our present life is to realize our identity in the Divine Essence and experience the interconnectedness of all of Creation.

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If You Meet the Buddha on the Road…

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” This title of Sheldon Kopp’s book reflects the last words of the Buddha to his “beloved disciple.” “Therefore, O Ananda, be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.” (Mahaparinibbana Sutta).

The ‘road’ is our spiritual journey, ‘the Buddha’ represents all teachers and teachings and ‘Truth’ is the awareness that the Divine Essence is in the whole of Creation and in every part of it. The Buddha is like the finger pointing to the moon. Once we have become aware of the moon we do not depend on teachers and we do not need any teaching.

Any true spiritual path culminates in the mystical life where we find ourselves in the ocean of Divine Essence. A mystic cannot belong to or be contained by any religion. Religion is a raft that takes us to this ocean and once we are in this ocean do we still need the raft?

For Mahatma Gandhi, Truth was God. He explained Truth, as realizing our identity in the Divine Essence and experiencing the interconnectedness of all of life. The source of Truth was his inner voice. “I shall lose my usefulness the moment I stifle the still small voice within” (December 3, 1925)

Personal experience was paramount for Ignatius of Loyola. He was convinced that “when the eyes of his understanding were opened” that is, when he experienced awareness and consciousness of the Essence of life, he did not need the Holy Scriptures anymore nor would he need any external authority.

The prophet Jeremiah invites us to live by a Divine inner and personal covenant.

This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31: 33-34).

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Forbidden Thought

To question is to be alive otherwise we merely exist. Most of us have experiences in our past that we have suppressed, skeletons in our closets that we guard with our lives. We also have teachings, customs, rituals and practice that have been passed down to us with an implicit or even explicit command that we should not question. This is reflected by Carl Jung’s “forbidden thought.”

When Jung was about 12 years old he had what might be called his foundational experience. He walked by the Cathedral of Basle on his way to school. One day he looked up and saw a beautiful sky and God sitting on his throne, looking down on the Cathedral. As a bolt from out of the blue he was plagued by “a forbidden thought.” He was convinced that if he succumbed to this thought he would be punished and something terrible would happen to him. He could not talk to his father or his 9 uncles who were part of the clergy in the Swiss Reform Church. Every time Jung asked a question, he was told that it was in the Bible and that was the end of conversation.

He was tormented by the “forbidden thought” and knew that he would have to deal with it by himself. On the third day he began to think that this challenge came from the all-powerful and all-knowing God. Giving in to this temptation would go against the teachings of religion and apparently go against God’s own commandment! But the intensity of the “forbidden thought” overpowered him. Jung turned his gaze to God sitting on his golden throne, high above the world, and from under the throne an enormous turd fell upon the sparkling new roof of the cathedral, shattering it and breaking the solid walls. At that moment he experienced unutterable bliss such as he had never known and spiritual freedom that would be the foundation of the rest of his life. Following this experience Jung deliberated long about what God’s will might be, and why on earth he would attack his own cathedral.

The forbidden thought is like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die” (Gen 3:2b). Not only did they touch the fruit but ate it. They experienced enlightenment when their eyes were opened and through their nakedness they became conscious of their true essence, namely, the Divine image and likeness or the Divine Breath. And Eve became the mother of all the living or the source of life (Gen 3:20).

How about reflecting on this quote?

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It will transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology.” Albert Einstein.

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Forgiving (nasa) Ourselves

We only forgive when there is nothing to forgive; when we let go of the hurts and resentment and receive the gifts in the painful experiences of our lives. When we forgive, we break the fetters that have not allowed us to enjoy the fullness of life, affected our self-worth or blocked our vision of our true essence. It opens a window that offers a glimpse of the Divine Essence and Power within us.

One of the words for forgiveness in Hebrew is nasa; it means to carry away. Just as NASA develops shuttles that carry people and cargo to outer space, when we forgive we surrender our resentments, hurts and pains to the Universe.

Forgiving others is easier than receiving forgiveness or forgiving ourselves. But forgiving ourselves for those things that we were not responsible for is something we seldom think about.

Imagine the movie of your life from the time you were born and forgive (nasa) yourself at every stage from the trauma of being born, family dysfunctions that affected you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; the experiences of the first six years of our lives that seem to have had an impactful influence of how we lived our lives; those teenage years when we felt lost trying to find ourselves; relationships that were hurtful through no fault of ours or the times when we fell sick. Lovingly nasa yourself at every stage, away to the Cosmic world where we break up into stardust and experience healing and wholeness once again.

It is good to forgive and not to forget!  As long as we remember the people and life experiences we have forgiven, we will protect ourselves from not getting hurt in similar situations, secondly, we will not hurt others because we remember the pain it will cause them and above all, as long as we remember, we will continue to empower ourselves and others.


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Reality: Illusion, Liberation or Bondage?

Carl Jung believed that anything that affects us becomes our reality. Dreams, imagination and fantasies, cultural and religious myths are a manifestation of our inner reality. Self-talk creates our reality and influences the way we respond to it. This self-talk is the expression of our personal unconsciousness that is formed by our life experiences, especially those of the first six years of our lives. Collective unconsciousness also affects our world view and the way we respond to people and situations. Our ethnic heritage, allegiance to a religious group and nationality determines our collective unconsciousness.

This is My Reality which is very subjective and personal. A reality that I guard with strong emotions. Then there is Objective Reality which belongs to science. This one is based on proven facts and universal principles. While we know a lot about this reality and how it works, My Reality often blinds us to it and we see the world not as it is but as we are.

At the first Parliament of World Religions in 1893, Swami Vivekananda invited people to leave their personal wells and come to the ocean where we experience oneness in the Divine Essence. He believed that, “All differences in this world are of degree and not of kind because oneness is the secret of everything.” He shared a hymn that he and millions have been praying for centuries, “As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

Swami Vivekananda’s clarion call is so relevant for us today, “Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.”

The way to end all fanaticism, especially that which is driven by religion and politics is to awaken to Mystical Reality. When we experience Oneness in the Divine Essence that overflows into every part of Creation, we realize that whatever happens to one part affects the whole. This state of being does not come from chasing after gurus, socio-political ideologies or Sacred Scriptures. The source of the Mystical Life springs forth from the depth of being.

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