Last night, I watched this powerful video, in which Trevor Noah captures with such eloquence the common link between the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police; the rioting and protests that have ensued; and the global pandemic that has impacted every aspect of our lives.
What we are seeing, claims Noah, is a breakdown of the social contract that we have made with our society and specifically our government. He says, “We agree on common rules, ideals and practices that define us.” And we play by the rules because we want society to work for everyone. In exchange we have certain expectations from society—especially from those in power. Right now, these expectations are being violated in the most egregious ways imaginable.
Just consider the following:
The social contract that has been thrust upon us since birth has been rendered null and void. When public servants act like profiteers; when law enforcement personnel act lawlessly without consequence; when captains of industry seek only to amass personal fortune at the expense of everyone else; and when those in power have absolutely zero accountability to most of the people they represent, the social contract is no longer valid.
This is a done deal. There is no need to protest and riot. We simply need to create and enforce a new social contract. That contract is among ourselves, person-to-person. Pandemics, natural disasters intensified by climate change, and the chaos and injustice we are witnessing on a daily basis are teaching us one very important lesson: WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Instead of focusing on our differences, we have no choice but to find common ground.
It is time for a DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE. Let’s focus on what connects us, regardless of race, religion, sex, age, or any other factor. I believe we all have one common link, which is: NATURE. We are all embodied, sentient beings with the same basic needs, which psychologist Abraham Maslow identified in his famous hierarchy of needs:
In his final formulation of this hierarchy, Maslow placed self-transcendence (ST) at the very top. That is because he realized that our highest motivation—our true nature—lies in transcendent oneness with the people we value or cherish the most, not to mention the places, animals, plants, and ideals that we hold sacred. If you have ever loved someone or something so much that you would lay down your life for them, then you know what I mean.
The only way we are going to make it through these cataclysmic times and find light at the end of the tunnel is by valuing and cherishing EVERYONE the way we do our spouses, children, parents, lovers, pets, and dear friends. There is no other viable alternative.
Social engineering has led us to focus on our perceived differences and turn those differences into hatred, violence, discrimination, and disdain. In other words, those in power benefit from our animosity, and so they fan the flames of anger and prejudice on a daily basis. That is why the social contract imposed by the rich and powerful has no worth: it is not in our best interests. Let’s turn our back on it and replace it with something far more inspiring and sustainable.
We must reach out to each other, especially those who are most different from us, and say something along these lines:
YOU AND I ARE ONE.
WHAT YOU FEEL, I FEEL.
I HONOR AND PROTECT YOUR WELFARE AS I DO MY OWN.
WHEN YOU THRIVE, I THRIVE.
LET US COME TOGETHER FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL.
I know this is hard to do. That is why I have my doubts about the future of humanity, as I imagine you do. But extreme times demand extreme measures. Looking beyond our differences to find commonality, even when confronted with individuals and groups that stand for everything we despise, is our only hope. The social contract of the future will be one that promotes unity, cooperation, caring, and sharing. Why? Because in a rapidly-shrinking world, there is no other choice.
This past week, I came across the following video, entitled "The Great Realization," which I find tremendously inspiring and consistent with my own thoughts about the COVID-19 outbreak and its potentially positive ramifications:
As devastating as this pandemic has been, it has also presented many of us with an opportunity to reflect on what is and is NOT working in our society. We are seeing this time of stoppage as a Global Reboot--the subject of a recent post on the NATURE AM I blog. Also, in the newest episode of the NATURE AM I podcast, which you can listen to here, evolutionary biologist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris explains how COVID-19 may mark the beginning of an important evolutionary shift for the human species, from social and economic models driven by competition to ones based on cooperation:
Now, I need your input to help me formulate strategies for this Global Reboot. If you would, please take a few moments to answer the two questions shown below. They will be of great benefit. Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.
I am excited and honored to announce the debut of the NATURE AM I website and podcast. This is the biggest undertaking of my life, and I need your help. I believe with all my heart that now more than ever, we must learn to tune into nature's wisdom and let nature guide us to a more peaceful, balanced, and sustainable way of life.
The COVID-19 outbreak that we are experiencing and witnessing together is the result of climate change, habitat destruction, and other human-caused imbalances. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the time of procrastination, denial, and half-measures is over. Humanity has entered the Age of Consequences. Our carelessness and disregard for nature as a species is taking its toll in ways that will only intensify over time. Now, more than ever, those of us who care about the future of humanity must take action. But where do we begin?
Whatever questions or problems we may have, nature has the answers. This has always been true. The Art of Inspiration that I have devoted my life to studying and exploring is all about quieting the mind so that we can listen to what nature has to teach us. After more than three decades, I came to an important discovery this year. My entire life's work and spiritual path can be summed up in three words: NATURE AM I.
This may seem simple at first but actually far from it. First of all, what is nature? The dictionary defines it as "the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations." But this surely can't be right! Everything in the universe, including all of the elements, the cosmos and the biosphere, is nature with the EXCEPTION of humanity?
This is the heart of the crisis our world is experiencing. We have managed to separate and alienate ourselves from nature. This is no small feat! How does anyone convince themselves that they are apart from nature while inhabiting a body made of atoms, molecules, cells and tissue? Nature is the sustaining principle of the universe. It can be found in everything that exists, including all that can be known and all that can know. Nature is the consciousness that monitors and regulates all the dynamics of the universe, from the spiraling cosmos to the collisions of subatomic particles.
You do not need faith to believe in nature. It's just THERE. And guess? It always has been and always will be. This is Science 101. There is the law of conservation of matter and energy. Everything in nature gets reshuffled, rearranged, and recycled, but nature itself is never born and never dies, neither created nor destroyed. That's just reality.
NATURE AM I is not spirituality in any conventional sense because it does not invoke anything that can't be found or that is separate from the physical/material universe. But it is extraordinarily deep, because the history of science has taught us one crucial lesson: WHATEVER YOU CONSIDER NATURE TO BE, THERE is ALWAYS MORE. And it is a path of holiness in the purest sense possible. "Holy" and "whole" derive from the same root.
Humanity is crying out for a sense of wholeness and integration at a time when we have never felt more disconnected from the natural world, from each other, and even from the experience of our own bodies. NATURE AM I offers a simple way back to wholeness. Here are three things you can try right now:
This is a basic start. But it's how we begin to find our way back to the deepest possible connection we can have with nature: the experience of nature inspiration. And it holds the key to our future, to the future of our species and of the Earth. Thanks for your time.
NATURE AM I.
I am excited to announce the launch of the new, improved version of Virtual Global Chant this Wednesday, April 15, 6 pm Arizona Time. After four weeks of experimenting with different platforms and new technologies, we think we have something in place that will give you a really high-quality chanting experience. Here are instructions for how to get onto the site. Some of this information is intended for first-time Zoom users. So, if you are already experienced with Zoom, you can scroll down to the chant list for tomorrow's circle.
This Virtual GC is being hosted on Zoom, On Wednesday April 15, 2020, at 06:00 PM Arizona Time. To take part in this online event:
1. You can choose any device that has a web camera and microphone, such as a computer, laptop, Tablet/ iPad, or Smart phone. Both will be turned on before and after the chant circle, but we will turn them off while chanting to minimize noise and distraction.
2. To Join the Zoom Meeting, click on the following link:
Topic: Global Chant in Nature Alive's Personal Meeting Room
6 pm MST (Arizona time) Wednesday April 15
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 534 752 5737
3. The Meeting ID for this circle is: 534 752 5737. You will be prompted to enter the six-digit password: 733028. If you follow the link above, you probably won't need to type in either of these numbers.
4. If you don’t have the Zoom app installed on your device already, click on the same link above, and you will be prompted to install the app in order to enter the class.
5. Make sure you have installed the Zoom app on your device, at least one day before our chant circle.
6. If you cannot download or run the Zoom App, you will see a link that says, “Join From Browser.” When you click on that link you will see a message that says “Input your name to join meeting” followed by a box where you can type your name and click on the “Join” button to enter the class. PLEASE NOTE: this option has limited functions compared to installing the App and should only be used as a last resort.
7. You can also just call in from a mobile phone without any video access (only audio will be heard). Here is the number to call:
You will be prompted to enter meeting ID: 534 752 5737; and password: 733028
Once you're in Zoom:
1. You may be placed in a virtual waiting room, until the meeting opens. We will enter at approximately 15 minutes before the chant circle begins and start letting you into the meeting room then.
2. When you enter the meeting room, look at your screen. You will see icons at the bottom. There will be an icon to turn on the video so we can see you, and one for the microphone so we can hear you.
3. Once the chant circle starts all microphones, except our facilitator's (June Maker) and mine, will be muted. If you need to communicate with us, you will see an icon for “Chat.” You can click on this to type a brief question or comment.
4. When we unmute the mics, please make sure there is not a lot of ambient noise where you are, such as music, TV, or background conversations. That makes it harder for us to hear you or anyone else. If you do not want to be seen on the screen you can turn off your video icon. Then you will not be seen, but you will still be able to see June and me.
VIRTUAL GLOBAL CHANT
April 15, 2020
We are opening up in sweet surrender To the luminous love light of the One (2x).
We are opening (4x).
Sri guru sharanam namo namo namo
Let me be one with the infinite sun,
Forever & ever & ever (2x).
Kee-ay wahtay lenya lenya mahotay
Hi-ah-no, hi-ah-no, hi-ah-no (2x).
Native American: Sioux chant
Everything is Love, pure flowing Love,
There is only Love, Love, Love, Love (2x)
Jai Ma (8x).
Take me away won’t you carry me,
Let me rest in your arms for a while.
Take me away won’t you carry me,
Let me bathe in the sweetness of your smile.
Won’t you take me away (3x).
I am filled with the light of a thousand angels,
Softening my way (2x).
I am filled with the light of a thousand angels,
Softening my way to thee.
Joy, Joy is in my heart, Joy is in my heart,
Joy is in my heart (2x)
In my last blog post, I told you that I was working on an important project and that a big announcement was forthcoming. Then life took an unexpected turn! Although I am still working on that project with great excitement and hope to make an announcement soon, dealing with a pandemic has taken precedence. I have spent the past few weeks responding to the challenges at hand, as I am sure you have. My concern is for the welfare and safety of my family and community during this chaotic period.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, turning our lives and our world upside down, please remember that we are all in this together. You are not alone. If you are feeling scared or worried, I want you to know that I am here for you. And I will not forsake you.
With everything shutting down, the temptation is to shift into survival mode. But you and I can do much better than that. We can actually thrive in these challenging times. The secret lies in community. It always has. If we look out only for ourselves, we might be able to survive. But if we look out for each other, then we can flourish and make the best of this pandemic. With that in mind, here is what I would like to offer you:
1. Talk to me. I am happy to set aside a few minutes to touch base and listen to your concerns. You can email me here and we can set up a time for a telephone conversation. It will be my honor to listen to your concerns and to offer solace if you'd like. We can start with a 15-minute call and then schedule additional calls or longer sessions if you feel they are of benefit to you.
2. Come chant with me. I am starting up a Virtual Global Chant and welcome your participation. Starting on Wednesday, April 3, you can join the chant circle, hosted by FreeConferenceCall.com, in one of two ways:
a) By Phone (voice only): Call into this number, 978-990-5000, and then enter the following access code: 958340.
b) On the Web (which includes video capabilities): https://join.freeconferencecall.com/vastucson
Please note: You don't have to ascribe to any belief system or worship any deity to find benefit and enjoyment in these virtual chant circles. All of the chants we choose are focused on universal themes such as nature, love, beauty, peace, and harmony.
3. Take advantage of our online resources. Maria and I are sharing all kinds of free information in the days to come. She is in the process of preparing some wonderful online yoga classes, and we are putting together information about boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, managing stress, nutrition, self-care, and other practical things you can do to stay healthy. She is also offering free 15-minute consultations on yoga therapy and ayurveda. You may want to check out Maria's blog for updates as well as this blog and my Facebook page. I will be sharing things that are inspiring me right now, such as this beautiful video by Riya Sokol:
I feel very aligned with her message about gratitude. Every morning when I say The Pledge, I recite these words, "I pledge to live without expectations so that I may consider everything that comes into my life, even that which challenges me the most, as a gift and as an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to serve." For me, this pandemic has been both a challenge and a gift. While I despair for those who have fallen ill and are struggling just to catch a breath, not to mention all the health care workers and first responders who are putting their lives at risk every day tending to the sick, I am also relieved to see empty streets and blue skies uncontaminated by carbon emissions; to know that families are coming together to share quality time with one another; to hear stories of people who are are finding positive ways to reconnect with nature, take care of their precious bodies, and alleviate stress; and discover all the wonderful resources that people are making available to their communities out of a spirit of compassion and generosity. As someone who has devoted himself to the quest for inspiration, I find such responses to be incredibly inspiring.
Last but not least, I want to offer you this:
4. Let me know what you need. Whatever your issue or concern, I may be able to help you, or at least to connect you with someone who can.
You and I have the capacity to really flourish and find deep happiness even in the midst of a major crisis like this one. Just keep the following in mind:
together we thrive!
Since the start of 2020, I have been returning to my roots. Having been born in Havana, my heart has always been drawn to Cuba and the Cuban spirit. I gravitate instantly to wonderfully loving and joyful Cubans like my beloved friend, spiritual brother, and high priest of Cubanismo, Jorge Porrata. In January, Jorge helped me conduct a survey of fellow Cubans on the nature of the Cuban spirit.
I discovered what it is that I find so compelling about my birthplace, its people and culture. The two factors that Cubans most commonly associated with the Cuban spirit are: 1) a deep connection with nature; and 2) the desire and ability to rejoice in life. Let's look a little more closely at each of these.
For many of the Cubans I have met and admired, nature isn't something apart from themselves. It lives in them, and in their bodies. They know how to feel and savor the rhythms of life; their connection to the elements; the natural beauty that surrounds them; sights and sounds; tastes and scents; plants and animals; forests, oceans, and rivers; sensuality and sexuality; romance and passion; friends, lovers and family.
Very closely linked to that is the capacity to rejoice wholeheartedly in life, including all of its cycles and phases--its ups and downs. The word gozar is an important part of the Cuban vocabulary. It comes from the Latin gaudium meaning "joy" or "delight." This is not mere enjoyment. If I ask you, "Did you enjoy that movie you saw the other day?" and you say, "Yeah, it was pretty good," that is not the kind of enjoyment that Cubans are describing. They mean rejoicing fully, which is enjoyment to the nth degree.
For me, these two factors are inseparable. I express my Cuban spirit when I REJOICE IN MY CONNECTION WITH NATURE! And I have come to realize that this is what my life has been about, including my passion for sacred music that led me to start Global Chant and write The Chanter's Guide; my powerful connection with play, which I described in The Way of Play and which led to the establishment of PlayHaven; the profound love I feel for the practice of Repose, which opens me up to nature on a consistent basis; my 30-year obsession with creative inspiration, as described in Deep Creativity and my TEDx talk, "The Art of Creative Inspiration"; and most importantly of all, my passionate love and adoration for my wife Maria, who inspires my Cuban spirit to sing, dance, and celebrate the blessings of this life on a daily basis!
At a time when chaos and despair are all around us, I see an obvious path to a brighter future. Humanity has to get back in touch with nature. More than at any other time in the history of our species, we humans have become disconnected from our own bodies; from human touch; from family and community; from sensuality; from the joys of tending a garden or walking in the wilderness; from the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars; from clean air and water; from pure, unprocessed foods; and from a sense of our place in the universe.
As we reconnect with nature more fully and take our cues from those who know how to rejoice wholeheartedly in that connection, we can begin to let nature show us how to heal ourselves and our world, how to become better stewards of this beautiful Earth, and how to integrate ourselves back into the web of life so that we can feed and nurture the incredible biodiversity of this planet.
I am about to unveil an exciting new project that I believe has the power to initiate the evolutionary shift that the current times demand of us. We have no choice now but to step up and assume our role as important members of the global ecosystem. Please stay tuned for a big announcement in the days ahead. Here and Now, Baby!
In 2020, chaos seems to be prevailing. Can you feel it? I certainly can. Things seem to be spinning out of control. Humanity appears to be driving itself off a cliff. Meanwhile, those in power are putting their foot on the gas as they steer us towards impending disaster.
Today, approximately 25,000 people will starve to death. Some 200 species of plants and animals will go extinct. Over 100 acres of land will turn into desert. And at least 20 square miles of ocean will become dead zones devoid of oxygen.
Meanwhile, here are just a few of the topics that journalists are covering today: Valentine’s Day gifts, how to choose a video surveillance system for your home, gifts for new parents, the age gap in celebrity couples, and unique texts to send your BFF.
Those in power, including corporate, government, and religious “leaders,” want you to turn a blind eye and go about you daily life as if nothing was wrong. It’s just business as usual. Is it any wonder you may feel stressed, frustrated, or helpless. You might be asking yourself, as I have: Is there hope for the future? Can we get ourselves out of this mess before it’s too late?
\After searching my whole life for answers, I say: YES! And I say it wholeheartedly, definitively, and without the least bit of hesitation. I am not blind to what is happening here. Before switching over to psychology, I taught environmental chemistry at the college level. I have been monitoring this ecological catastrophe for over 40 years. Part of the reason I became a psychologist is that it became apparent to me that the crisis we face requires political will, leadership, shared vision, and inspiration. Humanity already possesses the technical know-how to steer away from this mess. The problem is 100% psychological.
I believe in my heart of hearts that we can right this ship. Humanity can thrive for the next 1000 years or more under the right conditions. And what are those conditions? How do we change to a more productive course? The answer is simple, and it is right in front of our eyes.
Nature is the answer. It is time for us to align ourselves fully with nature. We are an integral part of an ecosystem. Climate change has taught us one profound and unassailable truth about that ecosystem: IT ENCOMPASSES THE WHOLE EARTH. The decisions each of us makes and the actions we carry out affect everyone in the ecosystem, including other people and other species.
So, what can you do, right now at this critical juncture in human history? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This is just the beginning of a global movement that has the potential to bring us all together in ways that transcend our differences so that we can all co-exist and even thrive. Nature is the one link we all share, and it’s time to treat that connection with the utmost reverence and care. Whatever problems or concerns you face in your life, I assure you of one thing: NATURE IS THE ANSWER. Don’t believe me? Share some of your greatest personal challenges with me, and I will suggest a few practical, nature-based strategies that you can begin to implement today. Give it a try! What do you have to lose?
Dear Ms. Thunberg,
You are in a unique position to make a difference in protecting the planet, and I am here to serve this cause and to support you in your efforts however I can. In that spirit, I offer the following proposal and ask only that you read and consider it with care:
You can take the lead in forming an Earth Council representing people from every part of the world. Each member of the council takes a Pledge of Service to the Earth (POSTTE). The function of the council is to pass resolutions consisting of specific strategies to save the Earth’s ecosystems from permanent damage and protect the natural beauty and abundance of this planet for future generations.
A big reason why humanity cannot get out of the mess that we have created for ourselves is that we cannot see our way out. We need people of vision and high ideals to lead us into a peaceful, sustainable and balanced future. This is not an easy task and will take an extraordinary combination of imagination and practicality. Even those in power are enslaved to the current system, which is broken, outdated, and destructive. True leadership does not yet exist on a global level, but such leaders must arise in order to ascertain that life on Earth will continue to thrive. I believe in my heart that you are one of those leaders, and that you have the ability to attract other like-minded individuals to you.
The Earth Council will make decisions about major issues regarding the use, allocation and replenishment of the Earth’s resources. It will be advised by teams or subcommittees that will work on specific issues, such as: cleanup, culture, distribution, economics, education, food production, health and welfare, justice, manufacturing, re-introduction of endangered species, restoring habitats, spirituality (focusing on ethics and ideals), transportation, and waste management.
The size and makeup of the Earth Council can be whatever you think is right. This is your council, which you can lead as you see fit, according to your principles and ideals. Millions of people trust your integrity and dedication. I am one of them.
Here is what I ask for myself. I have devoted my life to these issues and would like to be involved in the process in the following ways:
1. It would be my great honor to help you create the POSTTE. If you assemble a team to carry out this task, I would love to serve on that team. This is key to the Earth Council's success because the POSTTE will be much more than words. It is a full-fledged lifelong commitment to being of service to the Earth, including ecosystems, human civilization, and all life forms. Each person who takes the POSTTE is obligated by a sense of honor to embody and live in accordance with the ideals it expresses.
2. I would like to take the POSTTE myself and serve the Earth Council in some way, along with my wife Maria. We are fully in support of what you’re doing and will prove to be loyal and selfless allies in this cause, even if it’s just on an advisory basis. If there are teams assigned to address issues of Health and Welfare or Spirituality, we have both devoted our lives to these matters and can help the Earth Council generate effective strategies that can be implemented in a realistic manner.
The existing machinery of power in the world is coming off the rails at this moment. You and I can see this happening all around us. While it is important to speed up the collapse of this system, it is also urgently critical to start establishing reasonable, humane, and inclusive forms of global leadership to replace it. I know that the Earth Council I am describing can fill that void. What I am offering here is simply a proposal—a start to a discussion that I would be honored and thrilled to have with you and other like-minded people. Please know that I am at your service.
PLEASE SEE THE END OF THIS POST FOR A SPECIAL OFFER!
I love my body! Do you love yours? Look. I get it. There is pain, and trauma, and illness, and injury. Looking in the mirror, it's hard not to judge, compare, or criticize. Some part of your body may seem misshapen, too big, or too small.
But here is the basic truth of Ram Dass' profound teaching. To BE HERE NOW means to BE IN THE BODY. How could it not? You and I are embodied consciousness. And that consciousness is not just in your head. It imbues every bit of your body, from head to toe, from molecule to organism.
Three years ago, I was involved in the co-creation of the following video, which is a meditation on the fundamental truth that the one light of awareness called the Creative Spirit is embedded infinitely upon itself throughout the universe. Everywhere you turn, you will find the Creative Spirit--starting with your own body. That is why the soundtrack of the video repeatedly states that "there are no boondocks." Nothing is devoid of the Creative Spirit. Absolutely nothing.
Try this simple meditation: Take in the video without trying to judge or analyze its message.
When you arrive at the realization that physical is spiritual, that changes everything. This body that I occupy is not MY body. I had nothing to do with creating it and play hardly any role in regulating the myriad events that take place in that body every second, from the firing of neurons to the formation of new cells. Neuroscientists say that my conscious mind is an epiphenomenon, meaning that it's more of a passenger than a driver.
This body belongs to the entire universe. It is layer upon layer of lila, the divine play of the Creative Spirit. In moments of inspiration, I embody the Creative Spirit at play so fully that there is nothing else to be. As I said yesterday, Victor ceases to exist. I am utterly lost in the moment, in this bodily experience of the here and now.
Somehow, spirituality has become disembodied for many of us. The body is often seen as a source of guilt and shame. I heard a Hindu swami refer to it as a "sack of stools." And make no mistake about it: this kind of dismissal of the body has had an influence on all of us. Even though we are living in a supposedly materialistic society, many of us are disconnected and dissociated from the bodies that we inhabit. Comedian John Mullaney captures this state of affairs perfectly: "I don't know what my body is for, other than taking my head from room to room." It is time to find out what the body is really there for, so that we can experience the joys of living in a body to the fullest extent possible. For me, that is the true meaning of BE HERE NOW.
Yesterday, I posted an image of a glass dildo that you might have found inflammatory. My intention was not to shock. I see this type of sex toy in the same light that I see the temple bell Maria and I were given as a wedding gift. Both can be extraordinary tools for inducing the bodily experience of inspiration. Every morning, I ring that bell before stating the following invocation, which you might want to try for yourself:
I LOVE BEING ALIVE!
I AM BEAUTIFUL. AND GRACEFUL.
AND VITAL. AND PERFECT.
I AM FREE TO LIVE IN THIS MOMENT.
HERE AND NOW, BABY!
In 2020, my year of BE HERE NOW, I am happy to offer a brief daily meditation on this theme, exploring the different tools and techniques I have found for inducing and enhancing the bodily experience of inspiration. But I need to know that you are genuinely interested in this topic. Rather than posting to this blog, I will send out a short daily email that includes something you can try for yourself. There is no cost to sign up for this email. I will only send it out when at least 50 people have signed up.
HERE IS MY SPECIAL OFFER: Sign up for my FREE email list by clicking on the image below or sending an email to: email@example.com. Just write the words "BE HERE NOW" somewhere in the body or title of your email. Then you will receive a daily meditation from me in your inbox once enough people have signed up. I promise to keep it short and sweet!
“Here we are—here and now. That’s all there is.”
Happy 2020! On New Year’s Day, I decided to dedicate this year to one of the most profound spiritual teachings I have ever encountered: BE HERE NOW. These three simple words have had a lasting impact on my life, as they have had on countless others. It seems only fitting to honor the life of Ram Dass, who taught us their significance, by delving into the present moment as fully and deeply as I can and writing about my experiences here. My intention is to offer daily meditations on this theme.
But what does it mean to be here now? How does it feel? And what does it take not just to have the experience but to live sustainably in it? Such questions have been the focal point of both my spiritual practice and my life’s work as a psychologist. I call the experience of being fully present in the present “inspiration” and have devoted over three decades to exploring the nature of this experience, as described in my recent TEDx talk:
Inspiration lies at the heart of virtually every major creative breakthrough in human history. That’s a pretty big deal! Some have tried to downplay the importance of inspiration in the creative process. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” While there’s no denying all the hard work that goes into creativity, inspiration happens to be the tail that wags the dog. If you take it out of Edison’s equation, all you’re left with is...well…a whole lot of sweat.
For me, inspiration matters regardless of the outcome. This is the ultimate experience of the here and now. As psychologist Abraham Maslow observed, when you are inspired, you are “totally immersed, fascinated and absorbed in the present.” A radical shift happens—one that has been reported by creative people in every age and in all parts of the world. You become so utterly lost in the moment that you are, in Maslow’s words, “timeless, selfless, outside of space, of society, of history.”
Here is one of the great paradoxes of spiritual life: To be here now, in the fullest sense imaginable, is to disappear into the present moment. Ram Dass said, “The game is not about becoming somebody; it’s about becoming nobody.” I have found this out for myself, over and over, through direct experience. In moments of inspiration, there is no Victor to be found in this body. He is gone. All of his history—the total sum of his thoughts, words, and actions—ceases to exist or even matter.
So, what is left? When I vanish in this way, the only thing remaining in my body is: the Creator of the Freaking Universe! Call it what you will. I have tried all kinds of names for this ultimate source and essence of creation, this genius that inhabits the body, this light of awareness that illuminates all thoughts and all things. No words are adequate to name the ineffable or describe the indescribable. Currently, I have settled on “creative spirit.” Feel free to fill in the blanks with your own wording. Honestly, I hardly care what you call it. I am far more interested in how you experience it.
For me, an undeniable transformation happens that is thrilling and instantaneous. Suddenly I become a total embodiment of the creative spirit at play. It’s like the experience of staring at a Magic Eye picture such as the one shown here. At first, you see only a seemingly jumbled color pattern. Then, in a flash, your perspective shifts to reveal the 3D image hidden in that pattern.
You can see the underlying image of a bird in flight when you stop trying to see it and just give into the experience. The change in perspective that reveals the bird to you is a combination of art and grace. Your ability to relax, surrender, and allow the 3D image to show itself takes practice, like any art. Grace comes into play when the image appears, unforced, without any effort on your part. It feels like a gift or favor that has been bestowed upon you once you are prepared to receive it.
This is my recipe for inspiration: Art and Grace. I have no issue with the use of props, tools and toys that can help draw me into the here and now, as long as I don’t become so attached to them that I end up giving these vehicles far more credit than they deserve. I have spent a lifetime developing and refining the art of inspiration. Part of my art is recognizing when an external device can help stimulate my internal process. More about that tomorrow.
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