Archive for September, 2006
The meandering path
to our destiny is
like a butterfly
here, there, everywhere
until depth and higher meaning is
discovered from within
then with wings open
guided to one glorious Daffodil
a soul fulfilled with purpose
passion over rationality
heart before head
faith over reason
by Deborah Morrison
Of set phrases
At the sacrifice
Of their inner spiritual meaning
Superiority of one creed
Over another, Power plays
Of one religion waging war
Spiritual brothers and sisters
Fighting with each other
Because there are differences of opinion
About what is the Truth
War, falsehood, hatred, and intolerance
Often preached in the name of religion
With the honour of God
And the compassionate service of
Love has vanished altogether
To a mere profession of creeds and dogmas
A “profitable” mega-business
Words replace deeds
Religion, no longer concerned with
Knowledge of one’s Self
And union with Divine origin
They seek God in the observance
Of outward means
Repetition of verbal formula
Pilgrimages, Temples, Churches,
Amidst unfeeling hearts
Reveal the depth to which
Religion may descend
Many God-gifted ones of the past
Have turned away from
And ritualistically encoded “Truth”
It is a sorrowful spectacle
And I ask
“Where is love? Where is Truth?”
Slavery is not the aim of religion
Not to bind, but to set humanity
Free from its slavery
Nature does not distinguish
Between one’s race or religion
All belong to one humanity on earth
All are equal
We learn the same lessons
From the only true teacher
Where no distinctions are observed
Such is the true essence of Spirituality
Care for One and All
Love each other and
Learn that all faiths are to be
From the perspective that
There is no religion without a
Spark of Truth in it
The essence of Spirituality
Is radiant throughout
The teachings of all the
The Master-Souls teach
There is One Being
One Divine Light of Truth
That guides humanity
Such is spirituality
The quintessential reality
Of Love and Truth
And I know that
“Here” is Love, here…
Where the sound of silence is heard
And the soul is carried across
This Ocean of nescience
At the pre-writing stage, Debby and I contemplated whether to write a work of fiction novel or to write a contemplative non-fiction book. Our decision to select fiction is both fascinating and revealing of deeper motivations.
Either way we knew that our writing would delve into spiritual insights and mysteries, since that focus intrigues us. If we wrote in a non-fiction, contemplative style we felt that would hinder our creative muse. We would likely slip into essay style writing based on our numerous university papers written over the years but we wanted to write with creativity and imaginative play. This was the primary reason for our final decision to select a narrative style. Some early attempts to express our ideas in non-fiction were limiting to our creative expression on this subject. So we soon turned to the fiction narrative.
The only problem is that most books related to our genre of mind-body-spirit are written in non-fiction. Authors such as Deepak Chopra, Thomas Moore, Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, Shakti Gawain and others have written many non-fiction books, which is why we first thought of writing in this style. The combination of spiritual wisdom combined with a narrative voice is not too common, though some writers have been highly successful in it such as Dan Millman, James Redfield, Carlos Castañeda and Robin Sharma. Having read these authors, we realized narration and spiritual wisdom can work together to create an enjoyable story with insights for our readers.
The two styles also tend to give preference for either the head or the heart. A contemplative work requires a logical construction and proper reasoning in order for it to be effective. On the other hand, with fiction you can delve into emotions and the heart with your imagination having freedom. We soon also realized our message involved the human heart and it was more suitable within a narrative instead of a contemplative style. What was our message and how could it be best communicated in fiction than non-fiction?
Non-fiction is better suited for exploration of the meaning of life but it is not an experience of life. It can discuss what it means to be human, though it is more difficult to offer human experiences like those found through the journey of characters in a novel. The problem is that we can write to awake consciousness in another person, yet words can illuminate and they can also distract from direct experience. We can get caught up in the words instead of the reality expressed through them.
The story of Mahakasyapa and the Golden Lotus Flower illustrates direct experience versus mental filters. On Vulture Peak, monks had gathered to hear a sermon by the Buddha but he remained in silence, holding a Golden Lotus in his hand. All the monks sat with dour faces. The silence and intellectual seriousness was broken by Mahakasyapa who merely smiled at the beauty of the flower. In his smile, he expressed a direct realization, unfiltered by his mind attaching values or meanings to the flower before him.
Through the narrative format, we wanted the audience to be engaged through direct experience of each character’s journey, including their pain, struggle and even doubts. A novel has the great capacity to arouse empathy through our connection with its central figures. Since our writing dealt with pain, suffering and the connectedness at the core of our being, narration would best allow our readers to be placed in these experiences.
Our writing explores the central mystery of what connects all life. That mystery is beyond thoughts. We can try to point to it with metaphors, yet it is about the journey to the centre, to our own centre within. The journey can be presented convincingly in a narrative. We also wanted our readers to draw their own conclusions from experiences presented to them, instead of delineating those experiences through our own understanding.
The journey of the characters in our novel shows that life is at times sorrowful, full of pain, loss and even death. Yet the central problem is how to accept this sorrow instead of trying to resist it. For Logan Andrews, our protagonist, it’s even a more fundamental question: Can I accept my pain and hurt in life? This requires great courage since you then accept the world as it is, including the pain in your own life.
In Eastern thought, we have the ideals of Jivanmukt, a liberated person engaged in life, or the Bodhisattva, an enlightened person alleviating suffering in the world, which demonstrate that a transcendent experience can be lived out in real life. A jivanmukt and Bodhisattva have both experienced suffering and in many cases at the core of life.
Physical existence is temporal and that creates a kind of suffering, yet to recognize this condition can be an acceptance of life that goes beyond pessimism of earlier stages of our growth. Yet to get to this point is not easy and some like Logan may seek to escape from the suffering in different ways. For Logan that escape is through death, yet he also wants to renew his life, and find peace and love within his heart. That struggle can be magnified in a work of fiction, which would be difficult to capture in non-fiction writing.
The journey highlighted in our novel gives the reader an experiential understanding of wisdom expressed throughout our story. Lived experience can be discussed in non-fiction writing, yet it becomes most real through the story of each individual character in Nexus.
In literature as in life, heroic qualities are found not in a perfect human being, rather they can lie hidden in a person who on the surface does not exhibit obvious heroic qualities. The anti-hero is a troubled individual who can be filled with fears expressed in frailties and anxieties, unlike a traditional hero who stands resolute with clear conviction, idealism or courage. In this way, an anti-hero is more true to life than an exalted hero. A hero emerges through the conquest of fears, no matter what the outcome. We often confuse public success with being a hero when in fact the heroic act started with overcoming personal fears.
We may dream of emulating heroic virtues in our lives, yet most of us can more readily relate to the anti-hero figure, since s/he is a figure not on a pedestal but walks among us. Yet the anti-hero can turn out to be a hero through death and resurrection of the self.
Logan Andrews, the anti-hero of Nexus, is conflicted after the loss of important relationships in his life. He is an awkward, alienated, passive and in some ways pitiful character, whose journey shows the conflict between self-destruction and a disordered attempt to reclaim life.
His journey can end in one of two ways: either in death or in final resurrection. His journey through many initiations makes him a hero because he struggles within himself. In this way, he evolves into a pathetic hero, not a hero in the traditional sense but a hero fit for a postmodern understanding.
Logan’s primary journey is to lose himself and the self-protection he has built up around him to guard against possible hurt and pain. Of course, such walls also disconnect him from life and human connections. So a transformation is needed at the level of conscious awareness, if he is to succeed in reconnecting and breaking the walls around his heart.
Even as a anti-hero, Logan commits some heroic acts. The most important being to trust his intuition and begin his journey to a spiritual retreat. There he meets his ex, Sarah McMaster, and old passions are ignited with potential to destroy or to fulfil the destiny of the two soul mates.
Subconscious forces are at play and conscious intentions cannot control energies unleashed, whether of sexual attraction or vengeful anger. Conscious intentions are not running events at the retreat, subconscious motivations have great powers.
The teachers offer guidance, yet they can only show the way. Each character makes their own journey. The greatest challenge for Logan is the struggle between his higher and lower consciousness. If he fails, he gives himself to the dark forces within himself and if he succeeds he experiences a glorious life free of doubts, anxieties and fears through a transcendent experience of a connection to all life.
He needs to find out what’s ticking inside him. If he can do so then he erases his fears and anxieties and in the process he can reclaim his life. Otherwise, he loses the gamble and is conquered by lower forces. Then he will go down the path of self-destruction.
He needs to know his centre, otherwise he will be torn apart in his psyche. Nirvana is a psychological state untouched by desire, fear or compulsion. So as one dies to the old states of mind, a new consciousness can emerge. If Logan succeeds then he transforms in his life from an anti-hero to a hero. Even if he fails, he still becomes a hero through his struggle with life no matter what the outcome.
Logan is a hero, since he took the journey and went through difficult initiations. Life can have many struggles, great or small, yet as anti-heros in our own lives, we cannot give up. We have to go through our own initiations and develop courage and confidence to live our lives with peace, love and centeredness.
In our novel NEXUS there are several situations where one of the characters will follow their higher guidance in order to take appropriate action in a situation. Also, to apply the process of following our higher guidance in our day to day lives will invariably result in increased non-violent approaches to resolve conflicts with more peaceful outcomes to experience.
The following is an excerpt from some of my relevant research about Gandhi and the inner voice, that may expand understanding about higher guidance.
|“The only tyrant that I accept in the world is the still small voice within me”|
Mahatma Gandhi, Spiritual leader who showed importance of non-violence. His ideas influenced the American Civil Rights Movement and various other non-violent movements throughout the world. At the core of non-violence is non-cooperation with an unjust system and to listen to the “still small voice within”
It must be stated at the outset that according to Gandhi, the inner voice cannot be fully defined in words. However, he attempts to describe the inner voice in order that our understanding of it may be somewhat enhanced. He explains that Truth is what the inner voice reveals. Furthermore, the inner voice may be described as one’s conscience. Gandhi refers to the inner voice as a Truth force or Soul force that has the power to elicit the Divine in us. He urges his fellow humans to follow the inner voice as opposed to following the dictates of modern civilization. This voice would affirm our commitment to non-violence, since its compassionate quality will lead us to peaceful solution to conflicts in life. So the purpose of listening and responding to the inner voice is for positive, progressive reality transformation.His response to the inner voice may be described as a kind of spiritual insight, that enhances one’s sense of discrimination; to know right from wrong, as well as when and if one should take action.
Gandhi’s most vivid description of the inner voice was given at the time of his decision to undertake a fast in 1933:
“For me the voice of God, of conscience, of Truth, or the inner voice, or the ‘Still Small Voice’ mean one and the same thing. I saw no form…what I did hear was like a voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice and definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the voice. The determination was made accordingly, the date and hour of the fast were fixed.”
With the above quote, we are provided with insight into the workings of Gandhi’s mind, especially in terms of his understanding and direct experience of the inner voice. The inner voice may further be described as not a message, but rather a compulsive self manifestation of Truth which has to be obeyed, as the only true way to act in a situation. Thus, one becomes impelled to action by the inner voice rather than compelled to action as a response to one’s external environment.
Gandhi feels that intuition (inner voice) is the heart of reason. Reason however, can become the crowning glory of the inner voice; for Gandhi advocates that one check (by means of reason) the actual results that are accomplished. He would, however, have us give primary attention to the means (a non-violent response led by the inner voice as “the mystery of all mysteries”). Gandhi says that “the inner voice does not suppress reason but rather sanctifies reason”. He described the inner voice as follows:
“Even as the bestirring of true love necessarily expresses itself in as many (sometimes unconscious and effortless) ways, so too a person who has heard even a whisper of the inner voice cannot but follow it.”
Guided by the inner voice, Gandhi expressed his heart’s compassion and decided to undertake other fasts as form of self-sacrifice through which he wished to arouse compassion in other people’s hearts. He fasted many times to end bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims even in his last fast when he was seventy-eight.
Many leaders since Gandhi have also turned to non-violence to resolve conflicts, such as, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. The basis of non-violence comes from the idea that rulers derive their power from the people. If people no longer support an unjust system, then it will fall. Of course, non-violence can be applied in areas outside politics, including in families, schools and local communities. As Gandhi points out, its application becomes clear when we listen to our conscience.
Make my mind still as a calm lake without waves
thoughts clear as crystal water
by Your grace open my heart softly
like petals of a wild Rose
scent my words with Your sweet inspiration
let all my cares drift into the mists
that I may share Your ways of wisdom
for that which grows wild, free
is always more beautiful
than that which is cultivated,
may creative, natural, spontaneity
be the still small voice
that guides my way
in humble gratitude
I arise to Your sacred ways
oh Great Spirit
by Deborah Morrison