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The Self-contained Life


    Volker Brendel:  It is good to be together as friends again. I appreciate the opportunity to continue the meditation we started a couple of weeks ago.

    There are many apparent contradictions in life. One of these relates to the present moment compared to the past and the future. Sometimes the present moment is strongly emphasized in admonitions such as, "Be here now, be in the present moment! After all, this is the only moment we'll ever have, the past is past, and who knows what the future will hold?" These thoughts and sentiments are fair and truthful. However, without context they are misleading and off the mark. We obviously can continue the meditation we started two weeks ago because we remember certain themes and images introduced at that time that we can build on now. In this sense, our present moment now is infused by the past, and from a slightly different viewpoint, what happened two weeks ago sowed the seeds for what was future then and is present now. This is all pretty obvious and our common experience: we create in the present moment, but we build upon seeds of the past, and we are constantly sowing seeds for the future. All our thoughts and feelings and actions are in fact embedded in a multi-dimensional universe, including a continuum of space and time.

    Going back to our meditation of two weeks ago, Andrew and Larry offered a paradigm for living that is very different from most people's experience and even their vision of what is possible. This is remarkable because what was presented was a life of quiet creativity and happiness. You will recall Andrew's depiction of his days starting out with care of the horses and his property, breakfast with his spouse, and his healing presence with various friends and acquaintances throughout the day. I'm sure there are other aspects to his life, and it may not be practical for everyone to live exactly like that, but the overall approach of listening to Life, of trust, and of purposeful presence—that surely is accessible to anyone, anywhere. Why then this insistence on the insanity of harming oneself that Larry so powerfully alluded to as the common experience of people?

    There may be psychological aspects to this phenomenon that are beyond our understanding, having to do with the psychology of self-mutilation. That is certainly an interesting angle, and maybe mankind as a whole is so traumatized by its history that their current behavior is somehow caught up in this. But our own living should, and can, and does proclaim an alternative. While we may take past trauma into account when offering a healing hand, our own approach to life is firmly centered in what you might call a sane approach. Andrew's emphasis was on listening, being in a place of quiet, sensing the presence of Life, the Creator, the Almighty, the presence of something much larger than our own affairs. We can indeed relax into the presence of this force and trust its intelligence to arrange our lives. This quiet and trusting approach should not be mistaken for inactivity and laziness. Quite the contrary: it is intent listening and active listening and a purposeful participation in Life's purposes that is our privilege and our desire.

    The contrast we are drawing is not with the laid-back, lazy approach but with what has been called the self-active approach, the idea that our mental constructs take precedence over everything else and that it is by our mental ingenuity that we can arrange our own lives and society at large. This self-active approach is the prevalent paradigm, certainly here in the Western world. Society favors anything but the quiet approach to life. Modern life is less and less self-contained. Through electronic means our lives are connected with many factors that rightly should be taken care of in other ways. It is not hard to see this approach spiraling somewhat out of control. It is now common to look up any piece of knowledge that might be required for our current needs, rather than drawing from our own store of experience or that of friends nearby.

    At the Midwest universities, we just completed our spring term, ending as usual with examination week. It is always a challenge to instill in students any sense of continuity, so that they realize that what they learned at the beginning of the term, even in the previous term, actually should have turned into acquired knowledge and be the basis for new thinking on which they are being examined in the current cycle. I think even some of the best students tend to have vague memories of what went before and heavily rely on possibilities of lookup. This approach is so prevalent that it's difficult to give an examination without allowing such electronic means to refer to databases and webpages with some of the details that were covered in the class. Now you might say that if these electronic means are so prevalent and knowledge bases are so easily accessible, then what's wrong with that? Why not simply rely on these new media and proceed on that basis? Well, it is easy to point out the fallacy of complete reliance on such means because in any domain of knowledge those relying on constant lookup simply never develop a sense of context—after all, our brain is much faster than any lookup we currently know, and it is full of associations that are in part personal and put knowledge and new data into context. It is only as we see these connections that additional help of lookup and study becomes meaningful.

    The prevalence of these electronic devices is stunning. We've had houseguests in the last few days, younger people, and their smart phones are never far away, whether we sit in conversation, go on a walk, possibly even at the dinner table. I was reminded of a custom, I believe in the Native American community, to put a little basket at the front door and ask visitors to put a token (typically a stone) into that basket before entering the home. That "worry stone" represents all the worries the guest might carry with them, and thus they are encouraged to leave those worries behind as they enter the home space. I think in our days we would need two baskets: the first basket to leave all electronic media and the second basket to leave the worries—including the worries about not having access to the electronic media! Without the experience of quiet, of silence, of self-containment, it is easy to overlook its value. If we are constantly bombarded by seemingly interesting tidbits of questionable importance coming to us in all kinds of ways, then our thinking and feeling is naturally preoccupied by all that seeks our attention, and the value of being able to listen to what is within is not seen.

    Now, society at large tells a different story; after all, the busy and connected life is good business, which is one aspect; and, of course, there are also good intentions contained in that approach. But let's look at one dramatic example that is going to change much in our lives within the next few years, I would think. What I'm referring to is new approaches to medicine that rely on unprecedented volumes of data acquired for each person, healthy or ill, through a plethora of modern sensors. There are now pioneers in that field who have collected from themselves and other volunteers data on heart rate, metabolites, DNA, gene expression, and so forth, totaling some 200 different variables that are continuously being monitored. The sensors then send all this data to the individuals' smart phones and databases, and in real time these individuals can track all kinds of physiological responses to acute and long-term stresses. The idea is that these sensors and electronic storage have become so cheap that it is actually possible to record all this data and process it and make it available to medical professionals. Let's say you have a virus infection; immediately these sensors will pick up your changed heart rate, changed gene expression as the immune system kicks on, and so forth; all this from the very beginning, maybe before you yourself notice any symptoms. As you go to your medical professional they will look at the data and say, "That's when it started and here's the genetic signature of this particular virus and this will be the treatment." That is roughly the scope of the vision being advocated. I have heard people going through this being grateful for getting the early warnings that they should exercise more and in other ways change their lifestyle.

    We can certainly conceive of examples and scenarios in which additional measurements could be helpful and, in some cases, prevent illness or more serious harm. A funny angle to these developments is that they are partly motivated by the observation that we have more electronic sensors on cars than we have on human bodies, and therefore we should change that! But this attitude ignores our innate ability to sense what is required to live a healthy and creative life. From that purview, adding more and more electronic sensors may end up doing more harm than good. We can easily see the contrast of the technological approach I just outlined to that which we've called attunement, being in the quiet space, sensing the presence of Life, the Creator, the Almighty, and letting what we call the healing current do what it needs to do, which then requires us to get out of the way. In many cases, the best and most active participation we can have is to allow the command "let" be heard.

    How many times have you meditated upon the fact that none of us created ourselves? Here we are in our marvelous bodies, functional minds, most capable feeling realms. If all that was created by Life's creativity, by Life's design, then surely Life is capable of making the most use these facilities to its creative purposes! As we meditate upon this we see the implications for our personal lives, how we take care of ourselves, how we create in our immediate spheres of responsibility. But we also see the applicability of all this to society at large, to mankind. The human approach is characterized by the self-active mind—a mind that is not designed to be self-active. It's a beautiful instrument for sensing. Here you have a sensor again! To sense the beauty and intelligence and creativity of the universe, and then act in concert with that.

    Ultimately, it's a ludicrous notion that with all kinds of sensors and humanly-devised designs we are going to conquer disease. As in all other fields, we can be grateful for surgical help here and there, in particular applications as part of what Life would want us to do with our minds. But the self-active approach, as is evidenced by everything we know of history and see around us, is simply doomed. We are familiar with the biblical words "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." These few words contain wisdom for the ages.

    We can congratulate ourselves on our activity, on our ingenuity, and our perceived progress, on all our achievements. But in the end, it will all be in vain unless the Creator, the Lord, is in the picture. This is not a religious concept; actually, it is what you might call a scientific concept, based on truth. We have the experience of this approach working: we have been in the quiet space, we have sensed the flow of life energy, and we've observed its healing effects in our own lives, and in our projects. Maybe those who work deliberately in the field of attunement have more examples than others concerning healing of the body and mind, but whatever we do, we wouldn't be here today if it weren't for our intent listening to the tone of Life and being in that flow. That flow has arranged this configuration of friends this morning. None of us had to wrestle everybody up and say, "Hey you would be a great addition to our conversation, you must be here." Quite clearly this body of friends has emerged on a different vibration, and here we find ourselves. And so it is with every aspect of our lives. Let the Lord build the house, let the Lord build my own house, the house of my body, mind, and feelings; let the Lord build my surrounds, my community. So, let us always make space for the voice within. It is always accessible, always there, and it's a matter of letting go of distractions and deliberately make space for that voice. From there, everything else flows.

May 14, 2017

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