Deepok Chopra surprises me with his very lucid review of the hard problem of consciousness:
Art by Richard Quinn
It is not often I share a personal story on this blog. In the last 8 years I have experienced a great deal of tragedy. In this time I lost my house and all of my belongings to a house fire. I lost my father two months later to a rapid onset of pancreatic cancer. In 2006 I experienced a series of tragedies and unfortunate events. As part of this ongoing stress I contracted a very painful, serious and for many months, undiagnosed illness, which among other things resulted in having my gallbladder being removed in December. This didn’t fix the problem, but it was their best guess at the time. Did I mention pain? Yes, chronic pain that completely debilitated me, resulting in a total loss of income, and a half-dozen visits to the emergency room bent over in total agony. I am only now recovering, thanks in part to adopting a very healthy diet and lifestyle, and a exercising a profound level of acceptance and love for myself and those around me.
The story below is for those who need to hear that profound personal transformation is possible for anyone, right now if you are willing to open your heart.
I came across this story a few weeks ago in a book I was reading while deeply detoxing in a far-infrared sauna at my local acupuncturist’s office. It touched me so deeply, that I wept quietly but deeply amidst the profuse and cleansing sweat while in the sauna. The story is from The New Holistic Health Handbook, and it’s a passage from a chapter by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross titled, Death Does Not Exist.
George Dvorsky just sent me this link of a talk given by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, describing from the inside her experience of a stroke. It moved me to tears. and captures so well what it’s like for those of us who’ve seen the world this way:
In recent years the question how can I help? has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how can I help? but how can I serve? Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who’s not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.
Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.
Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.
There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa’s basic message. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.
If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. A fixer has the illusion of being causal. A server knows that he or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown. Fixing and helping are very personal; they are very particular, concrete and specific. We fix and help many different things in our lifetimes, but when we serve we are always serving the same thing. Everyone who has ever served through the history of time serves the same thing. We are servers of the wholeness and mystery in life.
The bottom line, of course, is that we can fix without serving. And we can help without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul. They may look similar if you’re watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different, too.
Our ervice serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us.
Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. Fundamentally, helping, fixing and service are ways of seeing life. When you help you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.
Lastly, fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40 years of chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.
By Rachel Naomi Remen
What is history? Is it the stuff we read about in books, written by the biased perspective of the winners? Or is there another more genuine history that we are heir too? There is history within us that is our birthright and our salvation. This is the visceral and intuitive history we feel in our bones, and experience within ourselves, and which we can discover and awaken through myth, legend and lore. Behind every mask, lies a deeper truth that can never be re-written or erased, awaiting our discovery. The DaVinci code is merely the re-telling of an old tale of alignment to archetypal truths available to anyone willing to make the journey within. Sometimes all it takes is noticing the subtle psychic and vibratory landmarks of experience when we visit a sacred site. Notice how myths take on new life and meaning as we advance spiritually, transcending outside imposed historical interpretations. The Mists of Avalon is a perfect example of Grail Legend retold at a truer and more heart-chakra level. A uniting of opposites, a sacred union of feminine and masculine.
Do we store within ourselves this more true historical and personally relevant information? I believe so. Are we born with certain archetypes already in place, at the cellular or DNA level? Or are they so embodied within the socio-psychic landscape of the human communities that we are heir to, that only the most intuitive and insightful can gleam their otherwise subtle, yet profound influence?
This is where the creative spirit has the most opportunity to flourish. Rather than live within the linear timeline imposed on us by other mythmakers more powerful than ourselves, we have the opportunity to “step out of time”, and tap into the mythic landscape ourselves.
Across cultures and time periods there are certain archetypes, which appear over and over again, uniquely interpreted through the culture in which they arise. My personal favorite is Elvish lore, eloquently expounded on by J.R.R. Tolkien. Elves kind of represent a tangible connection or “bridge” to the divine. They are physical beings, yet they are also immortal. They work within the physical world, yet are also beings of light, not having to work magick because they are magick. And lest we think that we are just human beings, remember that these archetypes are universal. That means they are a part of us, a reflection of our higher s-elves, outside of time and space. In other words, the mythic landscape is our doorway into our united self. By tapping in and embodying these archetypes, especially the ones we resonate with the most, we can transform and heal ourselves from all of the illusionary samsara of this world we somehow mistakenly believed to be a part of us. There is an old saying, “you are in this world, but not of it”. So it is through myth, that we can transcend our suffering and embody our true self.
Before we make-wrong our own physical history, lets look at our own existence and how we came about. Here we are today, living within all historical currents there ever were. Our very conception represents the most sensitive coalescing of of events there ever could be. We are the product of one sperm out of hundreds of millions, and one ovum out of hundreds of thousands. A woman is born with already existing ovum. Lunar and menstrual cycles, diet, mood, and action then contributed to when and what ovum is released during a menstrual cycle. The slightest variation in any of these variables results in an entirely different ovum than ours. With the father, this is even more so. With so many hundreds of millions of sperm, what are the chances of the single one that unites to conceive us? A man’s sperm production is an on-going process that fluctuates constantly, every second. Such sperm production is even more sensitive to environment, arousal from a passerby potential mate, sleep, and diet, even the slightest exertion of walking a few feet.
In other words everything had to happen precisely the way it did up to our conception for us to have ever been born. To make our history wrong then would be to make our very existence wrong. Instead, gratitude for all that has come before us puts us in alignment with what and who we truly our. This can be both a discovery of beauty, delight and gratitude at our cultural heritage as well as one of somber humility and atonement for wrongs committed by our ancestors.
So no time to waste, gratitude is the first step. You’ll feel a whole lot better once you recognize this simple fact around your own conception. You are here, and there is a reason you are here, and you are meant to be here. You can’t change the past, but you are here now in the present, and that in itself is beautiful. So rather than be a prisoner to your past and most especially to everyone else’s (!), embody now in your present your most highest self. In this way you transcend so-called “history” and begin to embody the truest history there ever was, the mythic landscape of your soul.