There is a salve that can heal the human heart and bring us closer to the freedom that most of us crave:
These themes of freedom and the end of suffering are captured in the powerful, evocative rendition of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" by Mavis Staples, which I'm featuring here in honor of Black History Month:
May I/you/we be filled with loving kindness,
May I/you/we be well,
May I/you/we be peaceful and at ease and happy,
May I/you/we be happy.
Suppose you were dreaming right now. Everything you would be experiencing at this moment would be a product of your imagination. Your dream body would be moving through a dreamscape, every detail of which would be generated by you. Although you may not know it, this dream would be happening entirely inside of you.
If this were a lucid dream, you would realize that you are more than just the dreamer reacting to events as they unfold in the dream. Lucidity means being aware that this is all a dream and that you are the dream-weaver who creates it. At the height of lucidity, you can control and manipulate the dream by making the leap from dreamer to dream-weaver.
This leap lets you engage in a type of alchemy by which you transform your dream body. When the one who creates the dream lives in that body, its capabilities expand infinitely. Suddenly, that body can take flight, change forms, or gain superhuman strength. The possibilities of what this body can accomplish or experience are limited only by the dream-weaver’s imagination.
Whether you know it or not, you ARE dreaming right now. Everything you know about yourself and the world around you is based on mental constructs—the products of your own mind. Psychologists and physicists are in agreement on this point. “The study of relativity theory,” writes Gary Zukav, “can produce the remarkable experience that space and time are only mental constructions.”
You may be tempted to think that waking reality is different from the kind of dreams you have when you sleep at night. In a dream, everything is subjective, whereas when you are awake, there is an objective reality upon which two or more people can agree. In actuality, there is no such thing as objective reality, according to quantum physicists. “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived,” wrote physicist Erwin Schrodinger. “Subject and object are only one.”
You and I can agree upon the existence of something—such as the words you are reading right now—because we share certain conventions. These are customary ways of perceiving and understanding the world which are based on shared assumptions that could be a function of similar genetic, social, and cultural influences. To a large extent, we are of like mind, which is why we may come to see the world in similar ways.
How like-minded are we? According to many of the world’s most influential wisdom teachings, such as those found in the 1000-year-old Recognition Sutras, there is only a singular consciousness in the universe—one light of awareness shining in each and every one of us. So, here is the bottom line: Everything you know is the dream of a single dream-weaver.
If this is all a dream, then what is it like to wake up from it? There is a reason that so many wisdom traditions speak of the experience of spiritual awakening. For instance, the term Buddha means “the awakened one.” You know that you are dreaming when you sleep at night because you can awaken to a very different reality from the one you experienced in your dream. In the same way, you must be able to awaken from the dream of waking reality to something completely different. Buddhists call this “other” reality shunyata—the realm devoid of all form.
Can you co-exist in both realities? Yes, of course! Just as there is lucid dreaming, you can also have an experience of lucid waking. This means knowing that the reality you are living in is all a dream, and that the dream-weaver lives and breathes inside of you. The experience is called “inspiration” and it is an unparalleled form of alchemy. Just as the medieval alchemists sought to transform base metals into noble ones, the alchemy of inspiration allows you to transform yourself from dreamer to dream-weaver. This transformation happens when you are able to embody fully the one light of awareness that is the source and essence of all creation.
On Thursday, February 28, I will discuss this alchemy and how it works in the following presentation:
In recent blog posts, I've described the "best feeling in the world" and explained how you caninduce that feeling, which I call inspiration. This experience lies at the heart of a creative revolution that is in its infancy. Inspiration also represents the next stage in the evolution of spirituality. A new form of yoga practice is taking shape, which allows you to cultivate your ability to experience inspiration and tap into its creative power. This practice is holistic, integrating body, mind, and spirit. It has to be, because inspiration is a full-body experience:
Here are the words to this chant, from the Hawaiian tradition:
I love you
Please forgive me
Everywhere you turn, you can see a profound restlessness building and growing. You may even feel it yourself. Something important is missing from people’s lives. In the past, many of us would seek to fill this void through participation in religious institutions and rituals. But now, we are rejecting conventional religion in unprecedented numbers. Increasingly, a majority of us are admitting that religion does not speak to our hearts.
This trend has been described as a shift from religion to spirituality. Although that may be true, such a shift will not resolve the restlessness we are feeling. The problem is that spirituality implies a pursuit of something outside of ourselves. And this pursuit tends to be intellectual to a certain degree. Never before have spiritual teachings been more readily available; with the click of a mouse, we gain access to sacred texts and all kinds of spiritual insights. Yet we find only a limited degree of fulfillment.
A more productive and meaningful trend is beginning to take shape. This is the shift from spirituality to inspiration. Whereas spirituality is a quest, inspiration is an experience: direct, personal, and unmediated. More importantly, this experience involves our entire bodies—not just our minds. In fact, inspiration is most likely to flourish when we silence our mental activity.
The shift from spirituality to inspiration may explain why yoga studios are popping up on every street corner at a time when churches are emptying out. One of the seminal texts in the yoga tradition, the Yoga-Bhashya, begins with the words, “Yoga is samadhi.” Although samadhi is often equated with ecstasy, this is not an entirely accurate translation. Samadhi is more closely related to inspiration, a three-fold experience that expresses itself simultaneously at each of the following levels: 1) emotional (blissful, ecstatic delight); 2) physiological (juicy, bursting radiance); and 3) noetic (intuitive, imaginative lucidity). Inspiration connects us with a profound and transcendent reality that abides in each of us.
As with any other form of yoga, the yoga of inspiration that I have developed consists of both an experience and a practice. The function of the practice is to draw you into the experience—nothing more. As I explained in Deep Creativity, the yoga of inspiration involves the cultivation of a set of qualities that I call the “Deep Six”: passion, quiescence, receptivity, self-transcendence, unconventionality and vision. Although devotion to this discipline can be helpful, it is important not to get so caught up in the practice that you lose sight of the big picture. If you make the practice a higher priority than the experience, then it is safe to say that you have veered off-course.
Inspiration is linked to creativity for a reason. When you master the yoga of inspiration, you gain access to the single most powerful creative force in the universe. At a time when humanity is desperately awaiting a creative revolution, the need for inspiration has never been more urgent. Besides giving rise to the greatest feeling in the world, inspiration has the added benefit of allowing you to tap into untapped expanses of creative potential within yourself. It is also the key to satisfying the restlessness that is being expressed so consistently and pervasively in our society. That is why the shift from spirituality to inspiration is so important.
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.