One aspect of my spiritual practice that is becoming very real to me as of late is that of "The Witness."
As I sit here and try to put this experience to words, I find it very difficult. I will, however, do my best to capture this experience with language... although I'm sure that the text will fall short of the complete reality.
The Witness, in contemporary American language, might best be described as "The Soul." It is who I really am. It is the part of me that never dies, was never born, cannot be hurt or harmed. It is Light - and Peace - and Love. It is that which merges with God. It is my Spirit, my Soul, my Atman, my Buddha-consciousness, my Christ-consciousness ("It is not I, but Christ that lives in me."). It is I AM. Direct knowledge of this Witness is the experience that saints and sages have had throughout all of history.
The ramifications of this are astounding!
Most of us identify with our bodies or our minds - "I am Trevor Harden, born May 6th, 1979... I prefer this and am repelled by that." And what is the state of our bodies and minds? It is like choppy water - never completely at peace - a restless, drunk monkey. To make things worse, when we get angry, we become our anger. When we are suffering, it overwhelms us and we identify ourselves as: SUFFERER. If only we knew! Behind the scenes of our life - our Drama - is the Witness. Silent and Quiet. Experiencing life. Watching the whole sha-bang play itself out. Wow! Yes! When we identify ourselves as The Witness, life becomes a kind of Film or Movie. We watch the drama unfold. And when our "self" suffers, we observe. And when our "self" enjoys pleasure, we observe. This doesn't mean that there is not a place for pleasure or pain, but rather that we can be free of it if we so desire! We know that this body, this story, this drama will someday end, and yet "I" will go on!!
This means that in all times and all situations, under any circumstance, there is a part of us that is always at peace - always still - always in perfect joy. The question is: Will we turn inward and find that place? This is what meditation is for. What contemplative prayer is for. What yoga is for. What a spiritual practice is for. And those that have "mastered" their practice, identify completely with the Witness to the point where their internal water or lake is always perfectly still so that you can see straight through to the bottom. They are free from the constant feeling of restlessness and disconent that each of us are troubled by in life. Their personality/ego ceases to exist and they become basically a servant of God in the world - acting only from a place of love, peace, and purity. Most of us will never reach that place completely, but we head in that direction - using the examples of those who have gone before us as our inspiration.
I've got a long way to go, no doubt. But that's partly what life is for - the act of Becoming. And when things get screwy along that path, I know I have a place to turn: Om Mani Padme Hum (Loose Translation: "God, who is like the most precious jewel, lives in the center of my heart.")
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
One aspect of my spiritual practice that is becoming very real to me as of late is that of "The Witness."
Sunday, November 28, 2004
There's a place on this planet where I get the opportunity to practice patience and acceptance unlike any other place on earth.
That place is the mall.
The place simply drives me batty - especially this time of year. Let me count the ways:
1.) I very much dislike crowds. Standing shoulder to shoulder with pushy and "gotta-get-it" obsessed people for hours on end is not my idea of fun.
2.) People always walk down the "wrong" side of the aisles. It's just like the road, people: Stick to the right side as you walk and no collisions occur.
3.) It reminds me of humanity's apparent "need" of exterior things to make us happy.
4.) Maybe I'm getting old, but 12 year old girls shouldn't feel the need to dress like 22-year old college chicks going to a house party.
5.) I walk by Abercrombie yesterday, and what to my wandering eyes did appear: A man... actually an Abercrombie model... standing in the doorway to the store, greeting people WITH HIS DAMN SHIRT OFF! It was like they were saying: "Buy our shirts and trousers and you too will have rippling, tanned abs." Haha, it was so ... funny. And sad. And it made me think of sausage.
I know I should work on my attitude. I know that whatever I dislike in my mall experiences is probably a reaction to something I dislike in myself. But until I figure out what that is, I think I'll stick with Goodwill.
at 11:17 AM
Saturday, November 27, 2004
1.) Do not attempt to make nationally authentic food for a person who is authentically from that country. Case in point: I had my friend Srinivas over Wednesday Night. Srini is from Bangalore, India and he is now doing his extended studies at Purdue University. Anyway, I attempted to make Bhaji, an indian dish which is basically a potato-cauliflower-pea stew with a myriad of spices. About halfway through the process, he graciously took over my cooking job and spent an extended period of time getting the mixture of spices (turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, salt, etc.) and the consistency JUST RIGHT. He even taught me that his family added a bit of sugar to the mix to enhance the taste. He was super cool about it and had a lot of fun cooking (and I, a lot of fun learning...). It was just kind of funny, that's all. It'd be like me living in Tibet and having people invite ME over to their house where they graciously cook me a gourmet pizza without having a damn clue how to do it.
2.) Babies who consistently sleep through the night apparently also have the capability of waking up 4 times in one evening. Maybe it was the Indian food?
3.) If the heater in your car isn't working, maybe there's something wrong with your radiator. Yeah, I got stranded on a "long stretch of nowhere" about 2.5 hours from home last week. Sure, I saw that the meter was pegged on HOT for a few miles, but I'm car ignorant, and thought something was wrong with my dash. When the radiator hose finally blew, it was like something out of Nascar... at least that's what they tell me (I dunno... I don't watch the stuff). Luckily, a man behind us knew about cars, knew what to do, and spend an hour out of his day to get us back on the road. Apparently God drives a pickup.
4.) Tonic Water, Gin, Limes, and Ice mixed together make a really dee-lish beverage. Enough said.
at 7:58 PM
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Monday, November 22, 2004
Have you ever seen a film that leaps off the screen into your heart and truly means something?
This has happened to me. First some background.
In the '60s, a Harvard Professor named Richard Alpert - along with the infamous Tim Leary - were part of the original guys experimenting with LSD in a professional setting to see what the effects of psychedelics were on the mind and/or in relation to one's spiritual self (soul). The experiences he had while under the influence of the drug were conscious-expanding and spiritually enlightening. There was one catch, however. He always "came down."
With that in mind, Richard went to India to be a part of a culture that understood and were experiencing the same kind of euphoric spiritual experiences that he was having - without the aid of a substance. There, he found his spiritual path and he found God. And there Richard Alpert became Baba Ram Dass.
Ram Dass then went on to be one of the forerunners of the spiritual angle of the hippie movement of the '60s and was and has been a very influential soul. He has since written the best-selling classic (and my favorite book of all time) "Be Here Now" and has been a part of many great causes including the SEVA Foundation.
Fast forward to today. Now, in the last stages of his life and the victim of stroke, he continues to touch the heart of many and to be an example of a man who loves God and loves people. His reflections on elderly living and on being "stroked" (as he puts it) - as well as a brief documentary of his life - is documented in a film entitled "Fierce Grace: Ram Dass."
Being that "Be Here Now" is indeed my favorite book, I was delighted to run across a film about Ram Dass. The stories in this beautifully woven work speak of love and truth and grace in a way that cuts straight to my heart. Hearing the testimonies of the lives that God has touched through him, seeing his servant heart, and experiencing a man who is stuggling with - and embracing - his aging body is inspiring.
I rented the VHS tape from the library and have already watched it three times this week. Beautiful film. Beautiful man. Hare Rama!
at 9:18 PM
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I've recently asked myself the question: "If I could do anything for a job regardless of what it would cost or entail, what would it be?" And after thinking quite a while, I think this is what I would choose:
I would love to run a retreat center. People would pay for a weekend stay to get away from the rigors of modern life - to have time to reflect, recreate, and relax. The center would be situated on a very large wooded lot, with 5-6 buildings spread out across the acerage for different purposes. Perhaps the people would even sleep in yurts (dome-shaped tents with a see-through roof).
On the Friday-night-through-Sunday-afternoon retreat, participants would be lead through various experiences based on the "style" of the retreat. Some weekends would be yoga retreats, some art retreats, some general relaxation retreats, spiritual/contemplative retreats, etc. All meals would be provided by us, so all of their needs are taken care of. Some of the amenities could be a fire ring, hottub(s), indoor and outdoor lounges, yoga rooms, meditation rooms, a chapel... and of course the natural surroundings.
I can just imagine the reward of seeing people after a 3-day retreat... fully de-stressed, refreshed, perhaps even more spiritually aware. How incredible would that be...
at 10:50 AM
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Seeing that I'm a musician and I work in a church, I've written a few "worship songs" throughout the years. After a recent bout of inspiration, I've decided to record those songs. My buddy Dave and myself have been working on the first track this past week and things are sounding great. The song should be available for download sometime within the week... details to come.
at 5:11 PM
Friday, November 12, 2004
I just got home from the Library with my daughter and while I was there I picked up a few books including Ray Kurzweil's "Age of Spiritual Machines."
This looks to be quite the challenging and potentially frightening read. Here is the summary:
In (Kurzweil's) utopian vision of the 21st century, our lives will change not merely incrementally but fundamentally....Along the way, he makes some bizarre predictions. If Kurzweil has it right, in the next few decades humans will download books directly into their brains, run off with virtual secretaries and exist "as software," as we become more like computers and computers become more like us. Other projections--e.g., that most diseases will be reversible or preventable--are less strange but seem similarly Panglossian. Still others are more realizable: human-embedded computers will track the location of practically anyone, at any time. More problematic is Kurzweil's self-congratulatory tone. Still, by addressing (if not quite satisfactorily) the overpowering distinction between intelligence and consciousness, and by addressing the difference between a giant database and an intuitive machine, this book serves as a very provocative, if not very persuasive, view of the future from a man who has studied and shaped it.
at 4:05 PM
Let's just take a moment to pause and give thanks for Samuel Adams OCTOBERFEST beer.
Sam, I salute you for making such a yummy blend of Autumny goodness. I thank you for making it a "seasonal" beer and making me wait for it. It's so worth the wait. And finally, thank you to Kevin for introducing me to the bottled glory that is OCTOBERFEST.
My autumnal equinox is complete.
at 8:45 AM
Thursday, November 11, 2004
The reasons I do yoga are legion. Some are lofty and spiritual, others physical or mental. Here's an initial list in no particular order:
- Pantanjali defines yoga as "the intentional stilling of the mind-stuff." In other words, it's "turning off your mind" for a while. Try to sit in stillness or hold your concentration on one point for an extended period and see how your hyperactive, ticker-tape Monkey Mind jumps from one subject to another, to and fro, all the live-long-day. Yoga is a "breather" from the madness.
- To allow prana - or life energy - to come awake and move in my body. Like a closed-shut, overgrown jungle are our unused and atrophied joints, muscles, sinews, and inner-squishy-parts. Yoga helps clear away the build-up like a machete through that jungle, leaving your body absolutely revitalized and refreshed post-yoga.
- It's a time of centering and stillness from the modern, break-neck, always-on-the-go world.
- Builds muscle
- Improves flexibility
- In the silence, I find the silence of God. In the stillness, I experience the stillness of God. Turned inward, I feel the presence of God within. Yoga literally means "to yoke" - or to bind oneself... to God.
- To stay present in the Now. To fully experience the moment. To not wish things were different. To not wish things would speed along and end sooner. To fully grasp the beauty of the present.
- To awaken myself to the subtleties of life. To notice small sensations in my body. To notice the quietness of my breath. To perceive that which normal goes unnoticed. All this in turn helps me to do the same in day-to-day living.
- It's practical and real. Yoga is a "spiritual science" that is experienced... not just talked about.
YOUR TURN: a.) What do you do to stay centered? b.) How do you connect with something bigger than yourself? c.) What do you do to "turn off" for a while? (answer one or all three)
at 6:22 PM
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
For the time being, I have pulled the Post that I posted yesterday regarding a cousin of mine and mishaps that ensued. For those of you who got to read it yesterday, congratulations. For those of you who did not get to read it, maybe that's all for the better.
'Twas simply a story that I told my wife while we were dating, and although we find it rather funny, I'm not sure the world is ready to hear it. Perhaps I will repost it soon....
If you'd really like to read it and aren't offended by Butt Humor, shoot me an email to email@example.com and I'll send it to ya - no problemo.
at 5:14 AM
Thursday, November 04, 2004
This will be my last post on our political situation.... due in part to my wife's very wise and mature words HERE.
I simply wanted to say that after a 2 hour conversation with my mother - an enthusiastic Bush supporter - I am beginning to see where such people are coming from. I do not agree with them on many, many levels, but it is no longer as inconcevable as I once arrogantly thought.
Perhaps as in the wisdom of my wife's blog post, we can indeed cease the belief that we've got it all figured out. Each side needs to loosen its grip just enough to have conversation. I know I most certainly benefited from it tonight.
This article helped as well. Read it any time you get worked up about the state of affairs in politics.
Consider the subject exhausted on "The Sound of Diesel Musing."
at 9:04 PM
Dear Citizens of the Global Community,
I cannot express enough to you how sorry I am that we failed you.
I'm ashamed that our country is becoming the textbook example of Empire and that we have willingly reelected the Emperor. I apologize that our leadership feels that they don't need to listen to you and has the unapologetic right to bully you when they see fit. It is regretful that those who are supposed to represent us have put agenda over allies and ostentation over unity.
I'm embarrassed we let moral fear dictate our decisions... fear of homosexuals... fear of Muslims... fear of being wrong. I'm remorseful that the people of our country think that "being moral" means 'no gay marriage' and 'being pro-life' rather than heralding the eternal moral truths of justice, mercy, compassion, love and peace. I'm also deeply regretful that you have been led to believe that our nation's recent actions in the global community are the extensions of Christian values from a Christian nation. Please don't judge the path of Jesus by our deeds.
Today, I'm telling you "I'm sorry" because apparently no one in our administration is willing to do so. Perhaps the occasional apology or admittance of error from the US leadership would ease the tension, open channels of dialogue, and promote unity between our countries... but they unfortunately don't see the need to do so.
Please forgive us. Know that the administration does not represent our citizens as a whole. Try your best to be patient with us until we learn the values of humility and restraint.
May God show mercy to your countries and to ours.
at 8:50 AM
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I am so completely disappointed with our Country.
I can generally see the "other side" in life. I'm usually pretty good at knowing where other people are coming from. But how the citizens of the United States can overlook the loss of allies, the unapologetic and bullheaded arrogance of this administration, and the calamity overseas absolutely astonishes me.
at 11:52 AM
"Friend, hope for the Guest while you're alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think... and think... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you are alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten-
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire."
at 8:55 AM