Let the Shaman Back In

While visiting a Tibetan-Himalayan store at my hometown, I had a chat with one of the shop’s owners. I mentioned to her my interest in Shamanism, and inquired as to the role such Medicine Men play in the society she came from. She told me she grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal. The nearest hospital was hours away, and thus the Shamans in the camp took care of illnesses, as well as matters of the spirit. She said that she can testify first-hand to Shamans helping a person heal from kidney stones, and how a Shaman, after several days of intensive work, cured a man that was bitten by a rabid dog.

Remember the days scientists, alchemists and astronomers were persecuted; chased off to hide in cellars for the fear of their lives? Aside of reading about it, we no longer know much of those dark times. We were born into an age that celebrates science and technology. We are people that want to develop artificial intelligence, aspires to populate the stars.

Yet, there were those medieval years, when religious institutions, thirsty for power, would have none of that. Curiously, it all seems to go in cycles. Those same institutions, before transforming into the behemoths they came to be, were cults persecuted by the religion that was the flavor of the day; be it Judaism, Christianity or Islam. It seems that whomever comes to power, does to its inferiors what they did not wish upon themselves. But I am digressing.

Let’s go back, reverse the wheel of time, and travel into the past; way, way back.

Our forefathers, some of which still believed the Earth to be flat, (whose descendants, or at least some of them, apparently, still believe today in the Flat Earth theory…) knew nothing of  Einstein’s theory of relativity, let alone iPhone 7. During those long-forgotten days, Shamans and Medicine Men had a role in their societies; be it a tribe or a village. They were held in high-respect as the communicators of divine and mysterious wisdom. Such men were consultants to anyone in need; a simple villager who had a feud with his neighbor, or the chief of the tribe, deciding whether to wage a war with a another nation. These occultists, if to expand their defined range, were considered holy rather than lunatic; their insights drawn from celestial mysticism. Some were frauds; no less frauds than the bulk of today’s politicians, but many were not. They had a talent, a gift of connecting with an astral plane and receiving answers to difficult questions. What happened with these people?

Organized religion and modern science drove them away as they were considered a threat to those in power. We discarded them as yesterday’s news; a fad we no longer had use for. Surely my Rabbi, Priest or Doctor have the correct answer; and if not them, there’s always Google… In our rush to make progress and shed off old superstitions, we did ourselves injustice and, to rephrase a corny idiom, threw the shaman with the bathwater. With that, we lost an important means of communication with a different plane of existence, the astral, the celestial; a realm that faithfully guided us, humans, during our earlier years as a specie. We felt like we grew out of that infantile phase of believing in tales. Yet, as Joseph Campbell would have surely told us, the myths are who we are. Our wisdom does not come from building spaceships; that is knowledge. Our wisdom comes intuition which draws, in turn, from another realm.

Shamanism still exists today, mostly in remote tribes and in cultures we consider backwards. While we struggle to find a higher-meaning to what we can do with all our amazing achievements, our technology, our knowledge – stored in terabytes out there in cyberspace, it may be time to open the door and let the Medicine Men back in. Ultimately, we are all Shamans, even if many of us did not yet realize it.

Learned from: a chat with a woman in a store, and reflections on technology and the loss of meaning.

Shaman of the Kaxinawá people

Shaman of the Kaxinawá people.
(c) Amir Leron Photography
For more information about Amir’s project, please visit www.amazoncalling.org

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What is really Namaste?

A short story.

A long, long time ago, although maybe not that long, there was a need for humanity to learn new lessons concerning racism, bigotry, and tyranny. Volunteers were sought until a soul at the Astral plane, agreed to come back to this world, and play a major role in teaching those lessons.

That soul embodied a personality named Donald Trump. And thus, while the person of Mr. Trump is acting like an egomaniac, a severely disturbed madman, deep inside of him there is a soul, a sagely spark, that is weeping ceaselessly at the deeds and horrors that the embodied personality performs. Mr. Trump is unaware of it, but his soul is. This is not to justify what Mr. Trump is doing, but I can say Namaste even to him as I admire the divine spark within him, the one that is suffering terribly while playing a predefined role of a villain, so vital for humanity at this time. Without his actions, we would not come to see the work that we, the tribe of this Earth, still need to do. In all honesty, a soul must be very elevated and brave to agree to accept such a role. And therefore, when I say Namaste, I bow deeply to that divinity. It is so easy to Namaste people you admire and think highly of, but Namaste is much more than that. This is the real meaning of Namaste.

Learned from: reflections of what is going on in the USA these days.

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The price of change

Watching the film Logan, my thoughts led me on an interesting route; one I thought of sharing in this post.

Logan-post1This latest installment in the Wolverine series, takes place in 2029; well over a decade from now. Keeping in mind that this X-Man tale unravels in a universe parallel to ours, what struck me as strange – well, one of the oddities, was that the future looked too much like our own current reality, that is, of 2017. The only notable difference was the self-driving trucks on the highway. Everything else, including the mobile phones used by the film’s characters, were very much like what we use today. Really? I was thinking, mobile phones change semi-annually, if not more frequently, and the filmmakers show us 2029 model that are similar to the ones used in 2017? Granted, it’s a parallel universe, and there is creative freedom, but still, is this simply lack of imagination, or there is something deeper going on?

i-robotIt is quite rare to find authors who can envision a future that is truly original. To dare contemplate a Black president back in the 1960s, or even just voice I have a dream, to write a future that includes robots back in the 1930s, such as Asimov did, to image paradigms that will be so dramatically different, is no easy fit. So many aspects of our lives are bound to change; so many factors involved in such a transformation, that a storyteller cannot be put at fault for holding on to some elements of our current reality. Even Star Wars, the film that didn’t invent Sci-Fi but definitely affected the genre like few others, was able to be just so original in conceiving its far, far away galaxy. If we take a closer look, the Star Wars universe is mostly made of variants on our own reality. In other words, one would hardly find in it totally new ideas of the sort that we do not know that we do not know.

There is no need to travel far in space and time to illustrate the above. Looking at our society today, it occurred to me that we consider ourselves progressive; well, at least a number of us do. Maybe the Amish and some members of the GOP still think progressive is a rude word, but for the most part, I find that even conservatives feel that, as a whole, humanity had made a significant progress in a fairly short amount of time. Yet, let’s look at something as basic as measurements; units we use to call out length, time, and the likes. We use 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour.

“Our 24-hour day comes from the ancient Egyptians who divided day-time into 10 hours they measured with devices such as shadow clocks, and added a twilight hour at the beginning and another one at the end of the day-time.”[1]. And 60 minute? Oh, that we own to the ancient Babylonians “…who had a predilection for using numbers to the base 60. For example, III II (using slightly different strokes) meant three times 60 plus two or 182.”[1].
swatchbeat1While I am sure this made perfect sense at the time, does it still make sense today? Wouldn’t a metric system be more rational?
“In 1998, the Swiss watch company Swatch introduced the concept of a decimal Internet Time in which the day is divided into 1000 ‘beats’ so that each beat is equal to 1 minute 26.4 seconds. The beats were denoted by the @ symbol, so that, for example, @250 denotes a time period equal to six hours.”[1].
So far there are no takers for this innovation. Progressive as we may be, we still use ancient and quite irrational, at least in my opinion and by today’s standards, time system.

When it comes to other units such as length, we didn’t measure up much better either…
“At first an inch was the width of a man’s thumb. In the 14th century, King Edward II of England ruled that 1 inch equaled 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.”[2].
“A yard was originally the length of a man’s belt or girdle, as it was called. In the 12th century, King Henry I of England fixed the yard as the distance from his nose to the thumb of his out-stretched arm. Today it is 36 inches.”[2]
The whole Imperial System of measurements seems to me more like a nightmare taken from the Brother Grimm fairy-tales. And while I understand how it came to be, decades have passed by without much innovation in that arena. That being said, some countries made the switch; yet others, including the USA, still linger with no clear end in sight.[3] Metric makes soooo much more sense. But… to be fair, there is also the cost of change that must be considered. Moving onto a more rational time system, a metric system, is so superbly complex that the long-term reward does not seem to justify the immediate high price.

200175946-001This line of thinking led me realize, that the same applied to us, as individuals, through our own lives.
We may stare at the tall pile of papers sitting on our desk, quietly cursing as we sift through it, searching for that single document, rather than make the onetime effort of sorting that mess once and for all, making our lives much easier thereafter. We may hold on to a broken relationship that we recognize doesn’t work, with the notion of ‘better the devil you know’, than dump it, and go through the full process of getting to know someone else anew. We weigh the price of change, compare it to the immediate benefits, and make a short-term decision: keep rather than change.

My insight out of this long and winding thought process that started, mind you, with the film Logan, is that cost and reward are not as simple to calculate as I first wanted to believe. This is because the price is typically immediate and thus hurts much more, while the reward is long-term and requires vision and patience. And we, humans, society at large, myself absolutely included, find patience in short supply. I have not yet found a way to more easily comprehend long-term reward that will motivate me to pay the short-term price. That is not to say that I do not change; change is something I practice daily. One large-scale example for me is the relocating of my family from NY to NC; a move that was done with a long-term vision in mind, and that, so far, proved beneficial and absolutely worth the material, mental and emotional price. But on a smaller scale, is it so much easier to duct-tape and patch, rather than take care of the root cause. This too is work-in-progress…

Learned from: a scene with a mobile phone in the film Logan

p.s. Read my review of the film Logan here.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/11/15/3364432.htm
[2] http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0769529.html
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_and_US_customary_measurement_systems

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Good for the ego

I recently attended a yoga class given at another city, by an instructor I never met before. While the class was pleasant, it quickly became apparent to me that I was, by far, more seasoned than that instructor. Not that there was anything wrong with the manner with which she instructed; on the contrary, her heart was no doubt in it, but there were small indications that gave it away.

I admit that I am almost as eager to encounter such opportunities — of taking classes with such instructors, as I am of partaking yoga with more experienced instructors, ones I am likely to learn some new insight from. Why? Because it’s a chance for me to work on my ego; that inner small, or not always that small, voice, that rushes to judge others, while, at thee same time, compliment the self. I realized some time ago that I cannot shut that voice off simply by the power of my will; after all, who knows me better than my ego? But I can observe. It is thus, a form of meditation. I practice this with an inner smile; watching the ego at work. It is actually quite entertaining; like watching a young child (or, for that matter, a politician,) boasting and bragging. I found that as I practice this sort of observation time and again, the voice becomes a little less loud, and lasts not as longer with each go. And as time goes by, with the inner silence that is eventually created, I am able to learn something new from each and every yoga instructor, from each and every person I meet, in class and out. May my learning journey never end.

Learned from: observing the disappearing small voice of my ego


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In the name of…

It had been my observation that, we, humans, when we want to claim something that cannot be otherwise justified or proved, tend to recruit to our aid, just about anyone and anything. It’s a curious, although not unpredictable, trait. In the name of love people inflict pain, conquer and kill. From Helen of Troy to the dismemberment of John Wayne Bobbitt, trojan-horsehistory is filled with so called crimes of passion. Some countries even allowed that by law, either due to religious dogma (most notably Sharia law related to infidelity,) inequality related to women’s rights, or by culture tolerance, as was the case with the Napoleon Code in France. But can violence and love be mentioned in the same breath? Isn’t love-driven passion a romanticized expression for simple jealousy and a need to own? Avoiding the ugliness of this reality, the person whose feeling get hurt, announces “in the name of love!” and goes on to carry out a crime.

Of course, love is but one of many such causes. For Country is another favorite call. We rise to wage war in the name of patriotism; the fools that we are. How often have corrupt political leaders pulled their nation to war out of personal gain? Whether it was to directly profit, or to distract the masses from the incompetence of its officials, loyal citizens paid with their lives; all in the name of country. And no, this is not to say that a country doesn’t have the right to defend itself.

godAnd then there is God, likely the ultimate of all causes. How easy it is to evoke the One for, well, just about anything. We create God in our image (not the other way around,) and thus we can mold him into whatever cause that best serves us. After all, if there was indeed only one rightful religion to claim God on its side, things would have been settled a long time ago. By the way, my sincere apologies if I offend anyone; I do not believe in God in the religious sense. I do believe, by choice which is what belief is all about, in a concept that can be called God, but for me the Divine is the way of the universe, both in forms visible and concealed. But I am digressing. The existence of the almighty aside, under the one name such large crimes were committed that no God in his rightful mind would have ever allowed it, let alone forgave the wrongdoers for their deeds, and more so, under His name.

So what is it with the need to evoke names and causes? Why can’t a lover simply tell the beloved, I love you and your behavior makes me feel hurt. Why do we, in the name of love, pull a knife, a gun, a wooden horse? Maybe we act that way when we can reason no longer and still wish to find a justification. So poor is the condition of our mind, mine included, that it resort to the irrational, infantile manner of action.

And now, in the name of keeping this post’s length manageable, I will end it here. See? That was easy…

Learned from: a reflection about how a guru I followed years ago, manipulate his followers into serving him, disguising it as a service for the divine.

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Why I meditate

A friend recently made a comment about her meditation practice. That prompt me to think about why do I meditate. Some meditate to reach enlightenment, others do it to calm the mind. There are those who adopt the practice for improved health, such as to lower their blood pressure, and the ones who do it to ignite their creative mind. And then there are those focus on universal causes such as World Peace, eliminating hunger, and the list goes on. But why do I meditate?

When I started the practice, many years ago, I didn’t really have much of a clue what the heck I was doing, but I aimed at a simple enough goal: reaching enlightenment… Intrigued by tales of a silvery light and eternal bliss, I desired that experience, and while I would occasionally glimpse into nothingness, a touch of Ananda, it was not yet “it”, or at least not the “it” I thought it should be. Then, several years ago, I finally had a chance to experience the so-called enlightenment; the full-blown package, the light, the nothingness, the whole nine yards. I recall how, at the peak of the experience, I found myself wondering (side comment: yes, that’s right, a little-known fact is that within enlightenment, besides the nothingness and bliss, there is still consciousness). So, as I was saying, I found myself wondering: now that I’ve reached “it”, what’s next? After all, I cannot stay seated here forever, enwrapped in bliss. Life goes on; where all this fits in? And then a voice; call it the cosmic consciousness, the medicine, or whatever you wish, replied, “That’s right. You can check enlightenment off your list of things to experience and move on. But how about trying to experience life, with its hurdles and challenges, as a form of meditation. And as meditation, every moment is bliss even if without the lightshow.” To be perfectly honest, the voice likely didn’t use those exact words, but that was the gist of it. Can I, I wondered, really do it? That is, take moments that are unpleasant and turn them into meditation? It is, I fully admit, a huge challenge, and had been for me work-in-progress ever since. But all this still doesn’t answer the basic question asked above, which is, why do I meditate?

The answer for me is multifaceted. I do this because my mind is often a whirlpool right from the early hours of the morning; often not slowing much at night, when thoughts take the shape of dreams. I found that if I can take a little time, as short as ten minutes, before starting the unabashed daily race, sit my butt on a pillow, or just on the edge of a chair, or even standing in a stable Qigong make-like-a-tree pose, close my eyes and focus on my breath and/or other elements my meditation practice entails, the mud, as Lao Tzu was quoted saying, starts to settle, and the water becomes clear. The problem is, of course, that the mornings I am most pressed for time and cannot fathom myself carving meditation time, are the days I need meditation most. Thus, ten minutes is my minimum, although if I can, I try for twenty min or even half an hour.

With regards to goals, I wanted to point out that while it is important to make the time and commit to the practice, the process is more important than the endgame. What I mean to say is that while I may spend time with my eyes close, and my mind wrestling the bars of its cage, frustration growing at the inability to achieve calm, it is all part of the process. What I have learned is that if I let myself be discouraged by the lack of peace of mind, I miss the point. Furthermore, my meditation habit adopts a destructive pattern; the more frustrated I will be at my restlessness, the harder it will be for me for the relax. Thus, I now embrace my state of being whatever it is; calm? Great! Restless? That’s just as fine. What I discovered is that regardless of my mindset, dedicating time to meditate already changes the rest of my day. The point is that if I take time to meditate, regardless of any immediate calm effect, somehow things go a little smoother on days that I meditate versus days I do not. Also, the process of letting go of troubling thoughts becomes easier and faster. It all comes from this practice. It is no magic; much like working our leg muscles for running a marathon, meditation works out brain patterns that form in-shape mental health.

I also meditate for creativity, though that seems to be just a byproduct of my sittings, whether I intend it or not. With clarity of mind comes fresh ideas, including the underlying thoughts behind many of this blog posts.

Learned from: my friend’s comment and… a little meditation

2016-11-10 09.04.22


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You remind of…

Passing my 50th birthday a couple of years back, I recently realized that I reached a point in my life, where almost anyone I meet reminds me of someone else I already met… The resemblance may be by appearance, tone of voice, or demeanor.

20-yearsWhile this may sound cute, it can be a hindrance on multiple facets. First, it creates within me a sense of confusion – do I really know you from somewhere, or is the notion simply an echo of another person? Furthermore, the sense of have I met you before? may clutter my judgement. If the original imprint — that is, the impression left with me from the person whom I confuse the current one with, is negative, I may be more critical of the new individual. On the flip side, if the impression was positive, I may find myself all too trusting. This led to consider gut feeling.

Gut feeling, I suspect, is partially based on subconscious memories of past experiences. Having some training in the ancient Taoist art of facial reading (Mien Shiang,) I know that although each person is unique, facial features disclose similar traits of character in different individuals. Thus, there is a reason why we remember a faces in connection with the experience we associate with that person. Still, I would like to believe that I give every individual I meet an equal opportunity, and confusing a newly encountered human with some echo of the past create challenge to that belief.

It made me think that maybe there is a sort of advantage for some memory loss at an advanced age; at least from the perspective of ghosts of past lives. Now, if I can only remember where I put my keys, that would be a little more helpful…

Learned from: meeting several people over the past few days who remind me other individuals from the past

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