If one follows what is in one's heart (let's leave out mind for the moment), one ends up with what one truly values and loves in life-and one acts accordingly. One's own private indulgent cyclic habitual reactive subjective transitory feelings are, hopefully, not at the head of that list.
On the high-end spectrum of emotions, which are innately connected to intuition and direct comprehension as well as imagination and creativity, meaning true empathy and knowledge, appreciative realization, transformation and invention, one finds a richer and more voluptuous combination of experience. Unfortunately, to 'get there,' one has to be willing to sacrifice what is known for what is not.
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It's highly refined stuff-holding to one's purpose and focus, but also intuiting the value of being a piece in a larger design and evolution. The balance between these two rhythms is where and when true harmony is achieved and magic happens. Often, just the release of the obsession for personal preferences and to personally gain opens the door.
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If I were to make a list of focus for well-being, I would begin with lifestyle (the totality of one's circumstance and how that is engaged, including job and relationships, and proximity to nature), attending to the physical functions correctly (posture, breathing, exercise, food, rest, etc.), consistent expression of your natural range of qualities, working and playing well and hard, and designing things so that you are doing what compels you. Obviously, you can't give this list out as a prescription for physical problems and diseases, but then again, it is probably the correct prescription. If one were to follow it, any specific problem, even extreme, would almost certainly resolve itself.
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As I've mentioned too often before, we are governed, and specifically our physicality is governed, by fairly strict rules, which are easily observable in nature. We have some freedom to manipulate some of these, but really not by very much. Everyone knows, or at least has the information, about the horrors of ignoring health issues and expecting your body to do what you want it to do with the least investment in it. Another 'authority' telling you what you should do is not the answer.
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Ironically, many of the institutions that run the economy, such as medicine, education, law and even psychology are largely dependent upon failing health. If you add up the amounts of money exchanged in the control, anticipation and reaction to failing health (insurance, pharmaceutical research and products, reactive or compensatory medicine, related legal issues, consultation and therapy for those who are unwilling to improve their physical health and claim or believe the problem is elsewhere, etc.), you end up with an enormous chunk. To keep that moving, we need people to be sick. Then we have the extreme social emphasis placed on the pursuit and maintenance of a lifestyle based on making money at any cost, often at the sacrifice of health, sanity and well-being.
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No one will improve his health significantly without accurately perceiving priorities, knowing clearly what is at stake if those are not attended to and what is to be gained if acted on correctly. That's the basic homework before any change can come about. Then that knowledge has to be transformed into a sustainable motivation.
The typical image of a depressed, lazy and tired person is someone hunched over and inert. Often, the assumption is that if one had more enthusiasm and inspiration, he would then stand up straight and move. In many cases, this equation is backward. But, as with everything related to one's physicality, balance is the key. An overly erect and rigid posture may convey confidence and power to some, but it also causes a subtle accumulation of tension and rigidity on various levels, including psychological and emotional.
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If you, one, loves something or someone, that means that one is willing to, and does, sacrifice for it. That is, one chooses to do and give what is better to the being or thing one loves than to sacrifice the loved one for the personal emotion that is unrelated to or even hinders the giving. In other words, the way to transform an emotion is with a deeper one. This involves discernment and, yes, discipline, which are both frowned upon and seen as emotionless and less important. Which is immaturity, plain and simple, and is the fundamental aspect of human growth from child to adolescence to adult.
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The essential dynamic underlying almost every elite and esoteric physical art is work with the breath, so there's information available. I would only add that it's unfortunate that so much work is done with it, and not much play. Laughter has got to be the single healthiest activity one can perform. Just think how healthy you would be if you could sincerely laugh at that which now oppresses you. I've mentioned before that one good measure of someone's depth of spirituality is how long it takes before they become offended. Imagine laughing hysterically at the criticisms, complaints and impositions you receive. At the least, you'd be breathing well.
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The human body, like the human mind, is best at versatility and adaptability. This is our greatest skill and our greatest chance to unlock natural potential. What that means in terms of physical movement is that a fairly equal amount of time and effort should be allocated to the widest possible range of activity. That includes strength, flexibility, precision and endurance, but it certainly doesn't stop there.
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I look at the idea of rest as rotating one's qualitative focus, not just doing less or changing activity. The role of rest is recovery. If you keep pushing the same quality button (fast or slow, concentrated or dispersed, hard-working or lazy...) for the same component all the time, of course it's going to become depleted, just like if you keep working a single muscle in the same fashion or don't use it at all.
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Recovery through sleep isn't going to happen if the majority of the components of your being aren't getting enough stimulation or resistance to work against. Your brain may be tired after work, but if your body and emotions haven't been challenged through the day, they're going to keep irritating you even if you're asleep. They don't need rest; they need work for real recovery to take place.
If you're ignoring a high percentage of the elements of your entire being, and the range of qualities they can naturally engage, there will be no real recovery or progress until you do. The typical relentless worker is just as lazy as the typical indulgent idler; they're both just going through the habitual motions. To break the repetitive pattern, and discover more energy and effectiveness, one simply must stretch out in all directions, rotating focus and application of the qualities that make up one's natural versatility.
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Truth, or mystery basically, seeks the expression of itself. That is, evolution exists to create more mystery, not to answer or end the existing mysteries. This is why with every 'truth' revealed, or every answer given, all that actually occurs is the creation of yet a more complex and mysterious question.
Nothing stands still, even if it looks as though it does. Look at a light in the room you are in right now. It appears to be stationary, while the fact is that millions of rays are moving towards you at the speed of light (299,792,458 kilometres per second). Even in every 'inanimate' object, particles are moving rapidly and constantly. Nothing within or outside of you remains completely still.
The experience of yearning is a composite of Nature's purest impulse in you (the need for radical movement; think of all the analogies in all the religions and philosophies concerning the truth and beauty of light; if you take it literally, that means to become truth, beauty, light, get moving at 299,792,458 kilometres per second) combined with your unique qualities and talents of past/present/future (experiences, potentials, attractions and distractions, imagination, etc.). Simply put: need for radical movement in a definite direction.
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There exists a direct link, or harmony, between the past, the present and the future. This has been misinterpreted, or exaggerated in both directions, either by the assumption that everything is random, or that there is already a predetermined destiny. There is an actual link, and there is a lot of mystery or room to play and invent.
Every brilliant theory in physics, for example, has been proven mainly wrong, except for the most recent ones, which will be. The big players, like Newton and Copernicus, gave us answers that were later proved more wrong than right. What they did-and why they are valued-is direct our attention to more piercing and compelling questions or possibilities. (I'd suggest the same holds true for the big spiritual players, but that's a different letter.)
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As we move through time, we age, with the general speed of everything and the chaos that that produces in us in the form of anxiety, fear, confusion and negotiating an already-existing war, there is little time and space left to adjust to our developing relationship to yearning. In other words, as our needs are met, the question answered, we don't then move on to the next question.
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The experience of frustration comes from the separation we impose between our yearning and our fear. Generally, we yearn for that which we fear, or at least fear the unknown (mystery, and therefore and paradoxically, truth) that will be caused through the pursuit of yearning. The more the separation between these two, yearning and fear, the more frustration if you are conscious, or the more neurosis if you are not (literally, 'I can't stand the frustration, I'm going crazy').
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Like all things organically formed, there does exist a harmony, interrelated patterns, intuitive logic, and purpose, but these are subtle and you can't find them exclusively by emotional or intellectual analysis. At first glance it's all too complex and liquid-like, and our minds and emotions look for control and relief. To know water, you have to get wet; you can't just sit back and analyze its components. So, do try to enjoy the swim, and don't be afraid to just sit back and drink now and then-the water's clean.
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Traditionally, true contemplation involves an act of devotion, wherein self-consciousness is removed by transferring consciousness onto the thing at hand. The better you perceive it, the less you observe yourself doing that. In other words, you could say that, at least for the extended moments of engaging it, you love it more than yourself.
On a psychological and physiological level, the habits of contraction are often caused by the desire to control or acquire, even to acquire generosity or devotion or emptiness. These are subtle and take time to identify and release. Under this is the desire for self-gain or improvement, to win something or better something. Those intentions are healthy enough up to a point, but to really see and engage what you have in front of you, you have to intend that it gains or wins.
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The transitory and random quality of emotions ('Well, that's just the way I feel about it') is deeply connected to, and largely the cause of, random engagement of one's values and priorities. This very randomness and inconsistency is actually the cause of deeper suffering, primarily through the accumulation of addictions and the indulgence in reactions that are disproportionately small in comparison to what is really being sacrificed for them. Curiously-and a major theme in my own work over decades-the casual association of emotions to love is part of the insanity in all this.
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Virtually everyone defines their identity-or constructs their belief of who they are-through their specific combination of desires and suffering. Or, desires obtained (apparent subjective success at the sacrifice of something else), desires unobtained (suffering), and desires still left as questions (to be obtained or not). And... most of the desires, and the suffering, are themselves by-products of others, established by society and the rules of each sect of society.
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Like everyone on the planet, one identifies and looks toward a vision of improvement or refinement, but/and one has to find a way to engage both of those-what is so, and what can be-with an appropriate harmony that is itself the hallmark of wholeness. In essence, we are looking to create a harmony between the existing elements, not a more severe dichotomy between what we want and what we should be doing.
Think clearly here-desire does not produce fun, but yearning does. To identify the transition point between these two, look at desire as accumulating or consuming, and yearning as letting go of or giving. You don't collect truth or love, for example, you give them, and in the giving they come into being. And you have fun. Real fun, guilt-free fun, resentment-free fun, doubt-free fun; you experience and become the questions you engage-discipline and strength, imagination, independence, fearlessness, trust and freedom, knowledge, truth.
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We live in a dimension where it is necessary to find a balance between wants and needs, or desires and yearning, or answers and questions. The totality of these makes up what we know as reality or truth, at least adolescent truth-facts. The fact of the matter is, you have to live in society one way or another, and there's a reason for that, so the base of engagement begins with acceptance of the variables as they actually are.
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Now, if you open the treasure chest of desire, what do you find there? What do all the desires have in common? You. Go ahead and stop here and test it for a few days if you are really serious about the question. After you get past the first thousand, you begin to enter into a subtle territory, known as the border between desire and yearning. Or, if you want, between answers and questions. The defining quality, or essence, of desire is that it is engaged as if it were an answer.
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This pace and rhythm I speak of is constantly adjusting through discernment and sensitivity to all aspects of our life and being. As you notice more joy and resolution in your life through the movement toward what you yearn for, you naturally adjust in such a way that you invest more in that direction. If the idea of yearning and acting on what you yearn for causes more aggravation and suffering, you're not looking at the elements accurately, or the idler is fighting against it.
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The question under all this: How to get the idler to accept and engage the yearning? And that, my friends, is a deep and subtle question that will take a while to master, and the mastering of it will require redefining the presumption of what mastery even is. It is certainly not control. Mastery of anything is, more than anything else, the transformation of work into play. Giving orders and answers, never making mistakes, and having around you others with the opinion that you are great has nothing at all to do with it. Read carefully: to yearn for, to be compelled by, is being called to play.
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Mastery of anything is, more than anything else, the transformation of work into play. Giving orders and answers, never making mistakes, and having around you others with the opinion that you are great has nothing at all to do with it. Read carefully: to yearn for, to be compelled by, is being called to play.
The temptations and reactions that can cause non-creativity, imbalance and distraction are many. Let's start with the prejudice everyone has against imposed challenges. It's a concept that people associate with an accusation, a kind of guilty until proven innocent. Or, you're not good enough until you prove it, with the implication behind this that you will probably fail or are unworthy. If you settle for this association at the expense of perceiving the actuality and necessity of challenge, or Creative Resistance, in hundreds or thousands of situations in every day of your life, and in anything worthy of your attention, you bought into the illusion sold basically to keep you small, in control, like those and safe for those who sell it.
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Contemplation is purer still, yet more sophisticated. This comes from a strongly developed base of concentration-basically, constancy-through any temptation, including altered states of consciousness, that leads one to meditation (effortless engagement), from which is born an intuitive connection to that which is being focused upon (often, the nature of being in the moment, which is the default 'focus'). Some people can attain this state accidentally through some combination of surprising events, which is sometimes called revelation. Fewer still can cause this to happen intentionally, mainly because you have to surprise yourself to have it occur. In any case, it requires a real sense of the value of paradox. One leaves a single position behind (such as 'I like this' or 'I don't like this') and expands in comprehension to simultaneously experience its opposite as well. From there, one rises above the two through a creative burst of intuition, and looks down on them both. What you might call transcendence, although I prefer mildly amused.
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We have been trained to feel shame and guilt basically as a means to cause fear and hesitation, to control behavior, or to oppress real freedom and joy. The origins of that are communal fear, jealousy and the desire for power over others. Consequently, many people have the addiction of using shame or guilt simply to avoid possibilities in life, and have, at the same time, a reason to avoid them-if you act spontaneously or feel joy, the result will eventually bring suffering, so you had better watch out, and don't ever forget the past shame and guilt.
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In the construction of one's life, we define ourselves largely by the problems we engage and the debts we incur. The greater and more sophisticated the problems, the greater and more sophisticated the person. True resolution, or transcendence of endless dichotomy, is rare indeed. To truly make a debt vanish requires, in a way, a certain kind of magic. In all traditions, this is looked upon as one of the great mystical tricks. It is not forgotten, fixed, or hidden perfectly; it disappears. To have this occur, one must do more than simply forgive (another or oneself), although in action that's an important step. One intuits the value of the problem as the birth of possibility.
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The simple, external acts in which you resolve shame and guilt, and set right a debt, by passing by them all and giving something grander even so and instead of. You end the circle by leaving it behind. Conscience brings awareness of the need to change something, but the source of your actions must become inspiration and devotion. You're not doing it to get out of debt; you are doing it because you know it to be the thing to do.
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Through the realization of the potentials and possibilities within and outside of you, one connects imagination with reality. What could be becomes so. You transform what exists, causing not only its evolution, but determining to a large part the course of its evolution. It's a kind of alchemy in that what you create has not existed before, you give birth to other potentials and possibilities, which continues and expands the program. Perhaps more importantly, the very core of existence is touched and celebrated, that being creation itself.
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Transcendence is a word I don't use often; I prefer transformation. Why? Because the essential game is about using what is in front of you and in you exactly as it is, but finding a way to do something with that that is surprising and an expression of inspiration and intuition. You engage reality and make something out of it that only you can, alchemizing limitation, conflict or what appears to be bad into something else.
True strength. There is no conflict with vulnerability or humility. Indeed, vulnerability and humility are essential here, and ultimately what makes strength true. One does not don the mask of strength in response to fear, which is a con, like those crazy small reptiles that stand up on their hind legs and spread useless wings to intimidate as a last resort. You stand there in self-respect for Christ's sake and take it with some courage, responding in accordance with your honest values, taking sincere responsibility for them. Stand up for who you truly are, not the image you would like to sell, nor shrink to fit into the false harmony around you.
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In the quest for a functional and direct interaction between imagination and reality, and the evolution of them both, there is in place a natural resistance, which I have referred to as Creative Resistance, because it demands just that: creativity. Much of this calls for redefining, or refining, one's relationship with time, and all the qualities and skills that will only come from engaging time more creatively and effectively. As such, part of the bargain is about acquiescing to a rhythm that is subtler and has more definite purpose to it than one's subjective preferences.
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Your purpose, and its specific expressions, expands and accelerates as it becomes more similar to Nature's purpose. The tools you need to apply it you collect along the path in discovering what that is. Time is there to provide you with the 'opportunities' to find more creative responses to things like frustration, confusion and self-righteousness. As you gently, oh so gently and delicately, adjust to the requirements that exist in your actual circumstance, you are given the tools needed to surpass them.
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The seed of all this is imagination. But when you think of imagination, it helps to view it more as it exists in the rest of nature, rather than as we tend to see it in humans. That is, that imagination is actual and a need, immediately searches for expression, and con- sequently, is intimately connected to yearning and its instantaneous application. This is also the case in human beings, but we generally associate it with unnecessary, or extra, expression, such as an ability to make something more attractive or stimulating (the current view of art, for example), or the creative use of 'free time' (time left over after you have done what you had to do).
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In an animal's or a plant's expression of imagination (let's leave out the rest for now, so we don't have to deal with the question of consciousness in, for example, minerals), there is always purity in the connection between need and evolution. That which is created is a response to reality and very specific, essential concerns. This then is the origin of the union between what is so and mysterious harmony-truth and beauty. The bridge between them is inspired intuition and the actions it causes. Or, imagination causes inspiration causes intuition causes beauty, which then causes imagination again...
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Preceding the birth of every religion, there was someone who was an incarnation of this process: imagination causes inspiration causes intuition causes beauty, which causes imagination... the dynamic that takes place in the dimension of spirit. That is, for whatever reasons that will remain mysterious, although they are suggested in various schools of thought, someone got the cause thing down right, and the rest flowed. After the fact, an effort was made, almost always by others, to control both the impact of this and the possible benefits from it. Ambition and desire took over. Where you had an exact presentation, or manifestation, of beauty and truth, somebody began using it for other purposes.
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If your curiosity reaches a breaking point (compelled actually means that you only have the remaining choice to act on it, having tried all the other options before), and becomes fascination with mystery or truth, you find what you need. Maybe it's a person, maybe it's a tragedy, maybe it's an explosive recognition that, 'My God, I'm still alive.
Life will give you what you need once you will do something with it. It may not give you what you want so as to be as comfortable as you want, as Nature's concern is need as it relates to evolution. In my humble opinion, Nature is too kind, but, as I say, the game is big, and the challenges and temptations absolute. And this is a fascinating aspect of the totality of beauty; it gives more than is only necessary. The generosity is mind- and heart boggling.
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Sometimes I wonder how much of our suffering we allow or impose on ourselves simply in search of our worthiness to accept our own respect and appreciation. I'd written before some years ago that we often cause suffering in another so that we can then love them, as in, 'You have suffered for me, so I can love you now.' The eventual shock of realizing the sacrifice made for you destroys the walls of self-righteousness and protection. The suffering sacrifice of another creates the willingness and capacity to do the same. Finally, love and respect (respect is part of the body of love) come from the recognition of something else already given up for them. Within the individual, you or me, a similar process takes place toward oneself. It is as if we know some- where that we are not worthy of our own love or respect until we have earned the right to it, and that is mainly through some kind of suffering. That suffering may be generic, as in a life lived in which tragedy after tragedy accumulate, or it may be specific, as in the constant sacrifice of other easier things for a being or vision. Or, perhaps more correctly, it is either consciously chosen or not.
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Of course, the self-righteous demand and expectation for love, and exactly how it should be expressed, is not the most streamlined method for producing it in another for you. That is, it does not compel or create the love itself. You're neither loving nor producing that which would compel the love toward you. You're compressed between them both and incapable of accepting either. And rightly so. Which then accelerates the accumulating suffering.
The composite of what you know to do-that which compels you, that which you are naturally already drawn to, that which exploits the unique potentials inside you, that which you know you are capable of doing, that which will build a bridge between imagination and reality-causes a relationship that obliges sacrifice.
One of the great images to come down to us through Zen Buddhism is the encounter between an enlightened master and an advanced apprentice during the course of a shared meal. The apprentice, becoming fed up with the stress and waiting and the master's apparent disregard for him, demands an explanation without complication of exactly how to become enlightened. The master asks, 'Have you finished your rice?' 'Yes,' says the apprentice. 'Then go wash your bowl.
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My take on personal evolution is largely about the spirit of connecting and disconnecting things, relating to what I call 'the gap' or time and space between things. It is also about becoming practical in all this, developing the power and precision to simply bring the grand ideas home, to compress the paradigm of perception/choice/action/result into a single gesture.
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The ability to remain constant, whole and playful, even while working technically, concentrating and upholding urgency, is essential to achieve a state of balance that will allow for this to happen. This has to come to life, and cannot stay just an idea or hope or intention or imitation, or ignored. The guarantee and proof that this balance and power is real is in its actualization. That is, that it manifests in functional reality. As in any intention, whether that be vague or specific, an ambition or desire, a goal or state of being, a question or hope, a curiosity or purpose, there exist natural and unnatural obstacles to its realization.
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We survive largely because of the existence and recognition of high-end qualities-compassion, integrity, courage, humility, etc. These are how we perceive spirit. Even the most cynical and fatalistic bastard will snap out of self-absorption, abuse and hopelessness when confronted by an extreme expression of any one of these qualities. (Case studies show that this also applies even to rapists and murderers, not always, but more so than any other technique or therapy.) That is, beyond belief, the desire to feel good, or even hope or despair, there does exist an essential intuitive value system in each of us. This runs through and across every culture, and even every species. I don't believe that those intuitive values are there to fool us into occupying ourselves so as to feel good while waiting for the inevitable to happen. Nature is not so decadent. Or cynical.
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Whether or not we personally do impact some ultimate evolution beyond ourselves, we can definitely influence what happens today. To choose to waste a day, or a lifetime, is opposed to the essential spirit of life, expressed, sacrificed for, and upheld through every perceivable interaction in nature. It's also opposed to every human expression of spirit throughout history. We know to live up to our potential, to fulfill the trust of creation by moving forward, even if we don't believe it or feel like it or know why.
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The primary reason that I'm not a representative of specific groups or schools of thought is that that choice gives me the freedom to look at these groups and thoughts from the inside and the outside. I'm trying to be honest in that role-what really works here and what does not? That is, I have nothing to sell or win by any given position. I'm promoting a similar process for any person I interact with in my work, including toward me. Investment in a given idea or group tends to immediately shut down options for perception, and then choice. Prejudice, bigotry and arrogance breed from that. One is forced to think a certain way to stay within the group or thought, and then to defend against apparent opposition. This constructs and feeds the kinds of adamant separation and conflict we see so many manifestations of on every level. In many cases, it's also the cause of deep internal conflict in most individuals, yet it isn't really addressed.
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There are some things that don't function as one would assume. For example, the impulse and linear thinking associated with the search for happiness most often produce questions like, 'What's in it for me?' or 'How do I get what I want?' Paradoxically, if you will, that very question pushes authentic happiness away. Now, to try to explain that to someone in such a way that they hear and are interested by the idea is going to probably involve some paradox and non-linearity.
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Freedom and responsibility themselves are at stake. One does not find freedom or enact responsibility by surrendering to another's conceptualization of these ideas. Living out the rules of conscience laid down by someone else for the attainment of an unquestioned goal, a freedom designed and articulated by someone else, is the surrender of human imagination and intuition. In the more extreme versions of this, we end up with a collective momentum resulting in events such as Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, the Inquisition, or similar events recently in Africa and elsewhere. That comes from allocating one's conscience to someone else, not attending to one's own deeper intuitive sense of right and wrong.
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Each religion has provided a tremendous service in defining elements of conscience. They have made it possible for us to live together in a society, to work toward common goals, and to learn how to accept or tolerate relative opposition to our own opinions. I also think that this has been done much as a parent needs to provide a similar service for an adolescent. Internal and external conflict requires discipline to organize and structure some form of minimizing the chaos imposed on others.
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There is a pivot point, however, to become an adult. That transition comes from recognizing and acting in accordance with your own deepest impulses. On the responsibility front, that means acting in harmony with your conscience, not because you're going to be punished if you don't, or paid for it if you do (heaven, enlightenment, salvation, or whatever), but because you know it to be right. On the freedom front, that means acquiescing to your deepest inspirations, following what truly compels you, even when it's difficult to do so. These two principles brought together in the same time and space is what integrity is all about. And it is only through such integrity that you resolve conflict between the two of them: what you 'know to do' and what you 'want to do.
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Whether or not one believes in the accelerating dangers of the climate crisis, the end of fossil fuels, or the permanent annihilation of species of plants, insects and animals that essentially cover our ass by maintaining an inconceivably complex environment in which we have the freedom and responsibility to do pretty much whatever we'd like, it's not too difficult to at least perceive the dangers of heightened tensions between cultures that now, for the first time, have the power to annihilate each other or the entire planet.
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