Enough said

One of the effects of quick and easy electronic communication is that anyone can say anything to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people with a few quick clicks and a press of the “send” button, without even a moment’s pause. We’ve lost the value of allowing time and space for reflection to frame and produce our comments.

Who asks themselves these questions any more: Do I need to say this? Is this valuable? Is this the best way to say it? Is this what I really want to say? Is this clear and concise? Could this inadvertently bring hurt or harm to someone else? Is this true? Does anyone even care about this? Sometimes it feels like the whole world of interpersonal communications is set to either “knee-jerk” or  “stream of consciousness”  — unedited, unconsidered, unending.

Long before the advent of the internet, when we still wrote our first drafts in longhand and pecked out the final manuscript on a manual typewriter, when we still developed readable penmanship to write and mail letters to friends and family, I was trained as an English major to care deeply about the written and spoken word. Then I was trained as a journalist to know that any sentence that is incorrect or easily misconstrued could destroy my credibility or lead to lawsuit.  So I have always had a predisposition to exercise some care about my words.

Even so, looking back to my life before and after I came to understand the way the human mind works to create reality, I can see a huge change in the frequency, intensity and quality of my communications. Having learned to reflect, I find I have less and less need to say a lot, and I care more and more about what I do say. I find that a sudden urge to write or say a lot, in detail, with fervor, about anything feels symptomatic, rather than important, to me (not that I never do it anyway). By “symptomatic” I mean it lets me know my mind is racing, and I’m losing the capacity to reflect and speak from insight and wisdom, not from habit and reaction. It’s certainly not that I’m especially insightful or wise. We’re all the same. Everyone, abbubblessolutely everyone, on the planet has access to insights and wisdom beyond their habitual thinking. We don’t always take advantage of that access; some people have lost touch with it. But it’s there for us all, always.

We recognize that access by the feeling of a quiet mind. A mind at ease generates responsive ideas that are right for the moment, and nothing more. A mind at ease produces a graceful flow of ideas with plenty of space between, reflective space to allow fresh thoughts to form, like bubbles rising to the surface. A mind at ease listens without thought, taking in what others are saying and allowing it to have its own impact, without rushing to produce an answer. A mind at ease allows small thoughts to pass, unwritten and unsaid, while larger thoughts are rising. A mind at ease is comfortable in silence and clear in communication.

What generates a quiet mind and appreciation for it? We don’t have to do or fix anything to find our own quietude. It is our natural state. We just look to live in a quiet state of mind, to enjoy our lives as they unfold, simply realizing that original, constructive, creative thoughts are the natural gift that is our birthright to thrive and survive. Insight, wisdom and common sense come through us readily when we allow our minds to work in harmony with life, knowing that ideas will arise and create our experience of reality. Once a reality appears, it is. As thoughts flow, each passes, and something else is. A quiet mind does not entertain extraneous thought about the dynamic course of reality. It is.

Enough said.

Posted in innate health, Mind and Consciousness and Thought, Peace of Mind, State of Mind, Sydney Banks, Three Principles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life and Death

Anthony F. Arpaia

Anthony F. Arpaia, my father, 1898-1978

My Father and I used to take long walks around Washington, D.C., spending hours talking about life. On one of our last such walks, just before we moved away from D.C. and I got ready to leave for college, never to live at home again, my father said, “We measure out our lives with celebrations. First, you go to your friends’ weddings, then to baby showers, then to your friends’ children’s graduations and weddings, then to retirement parties, and then your calendar begins to fill more and more with funerals.” He had just lost one of his best friends, a man who was a lively participant in our lives as long as I could remember. I felt the loss, too, but I realized in that conversation it had a different significance for my father. It opened a chapter that would be filled with more loss. Or so it seemed.

I asked my Father, “It’s not possible for anyone not to die, is it?” That had never really hit me as a fundamental truth before. The journey to death begins at birth; there is only one ultimate destination in this world. My parents would die. I would die. I began to cry. “So why are we here at all?” I asked, welling with teen-age angst.

We were walking through the National Zoo, and my father pointed to a bench where we could sit a while. He pulled out his pipe and lit it, the sweetish aroma of his beloved Cherry Heering tobacco wafting past me. “We’re here to live,” he said. “To enjoy every moment of life that we have. To contribute to the story of mankind that continues to be told through the generations. We don’t need to think about death at all. When the time comes, it’s the natural outcome of life, an experience shared by every living thing, so it is nothing to fear or even consider. It’s just what ultimately happens. The point is to live every day so that when the end comes, you look back in joy and you look forward in peace.”

“So you’re not sad when your friends die?” I asked.

“Yes and no,” he said. “I’m not sad for them, just fulfilling the promise of all life. But I’m sad for myself because I enjoyed spending time with them, and I miss them. Grief is essentially a personal feeling.”

“What about people who die in horrible accidents, or war, or children who die of some disease before they even have a chance to live? Isn’t that some sort of perversion of the whole natural system?”

“No. It’s not for any of us to say who dies when. The point is to live from the outset  knowing that accidents happen and death could come at any time. So don’t waste a moment of your life. None of us knows in advance how long we have, but all of us who come into life have a chance to live each day we have to the fullest. Don’t give your life away postponing things.”

I’ve replayed that conversation many times over the years, when I was discouraged or tempted to quit something, or when I had thoughts about whether I was “ready” for some opportunity that came my way. I took it to mean, “Take what life has to offer and make the most of it.”

And now I’ve come to that point in my life where, increasingly, my contemporaries are dying. I’ve lost so many friends and colleagues in the last few years, people who were central to my life and work, whose absence changes the shape of my days and the arc of my life. And now I see more clearly the wisdom in my Father’s words. Looking back, each person who has gone did contribute to the story of mankind, accomplished things that mattered in their lifetimes, touched those who knew them in some way. While their absence is felt, so also their presence was and is still felt.

Anthony A. Quesen, my grandson, 1999-

Anthony A. Quesen, my grandson, 1999-

My Grandson, who was named for my Father and who was born almost 100 years after my Father was born, asked me, not long ago, if I was sad to be getting older. My first thought was the old saw, “Well, the alternative is much worse!” But I let that thought pass and reflected, because I wanted to honor my father’s memory with my answer to his namesake.  I told him, “No, I am grateful because every day is a gift, another opportunity to contribute to the story of mankind, another day to experience something new, to learn something, to help someone, to work at what I love to do, to understand life better. I have been ‘getting older’ since the minute I was born; so are you. All any of us has is this moment, this day, to make our life joyful and meaningful.”

“Wow,” he said. “I never thought about it that way. So it’s no big deal, getting older. You just live and do and don’t think about it. Cool.”

“Well, we can both thank my Father,” I said, and I told him the story.

“I wonder if that’s what his Father told him,” my Grandson mused.

I don’t know. But I suspect it is the wisdom of the ages, revealed generation to generation, by those who love the moment and fear nothing.

Posted in innate health, Peace of Mind, resiliency, Security | 5 Comments

Those beautiful unopened gifts


No matter how many pretty wrapped boxes we open, no matter how delighted we may be with this or that, no matter how thrilled we are to get something we were hoping for, the experience is fleeting and briefly satisfying. A universe of material things could never fill one soul.

The gifts that do fill our souls and lift our hearts are the gifts we carry with us always, the gifts we often forget we have, and often forget to open. They cannot be boxed and wrapped. They are ethereal and uncontained, and yet whenever we open them, they are all we need. Peace. Love. Joy. Gratitude.

These gifts are innate to us. They are never exhausted, worn or outdated. They are perfect whenever we rediscover them. Finding them is as natural as looking within. “Losing” them is just a matter of looking away. We merely lose sight of them. Look within again, and there they are. They are our human nature. Look into a baby’s eyes, look at a baby’s smile look at a baby’s easy interaction with everything and everyone around. That is the uncontaminated expression of the pure, deep feelings that are our birthright.

Why, then, is there so little peace, so little love, so little joy, so little gratitude in the global condition that spreads itself before us every day? As much as we long for peace on earth and good will to mankind, why are they so elusive?

To me, it’s because the prevailing consciousness in the world is mostly turned away from the infinite and impersonal spiritual gifts humanity naturally shares, and towards the finite and personal gifts people think they need to seek: goods, territory, power, control, influence. Because contentment and ease cannot be generated externally, no matter how hard we try or how much we get, the level of frustration increases, the level of dissatisfaction increases, the blame and hatred and resentments that drive the quest for external rewards increase. The only outcome for living in the constant feeling of “not enough yet” is pain, pain, and more pain. The relentless pursuit of unattainable happiness from things outside of ourselves is eroding the spirit of humanity. Yet, the beautiful gifts we have within are still close at hand. The hope for change is as simple as turning away from the hunt and quieting down, embracing the deeper feelings that bubble to the surface as soon as we let all that frantic personal thinking pass and leave it alone.

When life is all about me, my experience of life spirals down into a small dark cone of insecurity. What about me? What’s in it for me? What do I need? How do I get more? Who’s getting ahead of me? What will make me feel better? When those kinds of questions come to mind, I am thankful that I know now that they don’t mean anything. They are best ignored. They are not information about life, but about the quality of life; they are information about my increasing state of self-focus and insecurity.

When I am all about life, my experience of life expands into an ever widening circle of ease. What about others? How will this affect people? What do we all need? How can we work together? How do we open up new possibilities? How can I share good feelings? When those types of questions come to mind, I am thankful that I know now they do not mean I am losing ground. They are uplifting. They, also, are not information about life, but about the quality of life; they are information about my peace with being a part of the whole of humanity, the whole of life, an increasing state of gratitude and security.

When a critical mass of people find peace within, we will live in a peaceful world. With an understanding that the origin of our individual realities is the energetic expression of the pure force of mind manifested through our thoughts and brought to life by our conscious awareness, we wake up to the power to create each moment of our life experience. If what we are creating is not helpful, does not make sense, is sucking us into insecurity, we can stop, allow all those thoughts to pass and fade into nothing. A quiet mind will create entirely new thoughts.

If what others around us are creating is hurtful or hateful, we can allow those thoughts to pass us by without response, knowing that, unattended, they will diminish, knowing that others, too, can quiet down and get a fresh start.

It seems too simple. Not taking insecure thinking to heart is the opening that admits the illumination of peace, love, joy, gratitude. As simple as it is, though, it depends on each person experiencing that moment of truth, that moment of seeing that thoughts are illusions that come and go, of seeing how readily things change when certain thoughts pass and others come to mind.

Change comes one person at a time, but when it comes, it comes in an instant, in a flash of insight that shows us we are so much more powerful, so much better, so much happier,  than we think we are.

Posted in innate health, Mind and Consciousness and Thought, Peace of Mind, resiliency, State of Mind, Three Principles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peace and passion, powerful together

Here’s a great question one of my students asked me. “Is it really possible to have passion for life, passion for your ideals, passion for a cause, and still have peace of mind? Wouldn’t peace of mind make you dispassionate and uninvolved?”

The person who leaped to mind for me immediately is the Dalai Lama. I don’t think there is anyone on the public stage today with a consistently quieter mind than the Dalai Lama. Yet he is a  relentless crusader for peace and good will. He has a profound passion for improving the human condition. He does it from inner stillness, from his own certainty about his cause. People listen to him because they can “hear” the loving wisdom in him, even if they don’t agree with the philosophical foundations from which he speaks. He radiates kindness and authority simultaneously; he is not threatening, but touching. He speaks in measured, simple terms, and he is never off-message, yet he is at ease with people who are struggling with his message.

Contrast to him some of the political pundits who surface during election season, with wild-eyed rage for their ideals (on any side of  issues). Yes, they are passionate true believers. But only those who already agree with them can stand to listen to them. Their passion is to be right and inspire contempt for those who don’t think they are. They are agitated, aggressive and jumpy. They speak from the head, not the heart; from impassioned insecurity, not from a place of peace. They create argument and discomfort.

The essential quality of a peaceful state of mind is security. Security is a clear-headed feeling of being at ease in one’s own skin, nothing to prove, nothing to fear. In that state of mind, all of us have access to wisdom and an intuition for what to do in the moment, for the right word, the right action, to be our best at whatever we are doing. In that state of mind, we operate from insight and inspiration.

When I consider this, I recall some years ago when I was asked to speak to an environmental group well-known at the time for dramatic descriptions at their meetings of the perils to the next generations of dirty air, depleted water, shrinking resources. They presented horrifying images to support their tirades, believing that they could scare people into caring about the planet and changing their habits. They had big crowds at their events, but nothing much seemed to be changing. People would get all worked up during the presentations and leave exhausted — but then they would quiet down and not remember what it was they had committed to do in the heat of the moment.

When they invited me to speak, I tried to decline. I told them I did not match their style and did entirely different work with people. But a good friend of mine was part of the group and she kept insisting that they go with a new approach and she kept persisting with me. So finally, with some trepidation, I went to talk to a two-hour meeting about caring for the planet. At first, people were confused. I was speaking of how we change our minds, about anything, about the quiet state that opens the door to the unknown and makes the unknown and untried seem possible. I was pointing towards the natural state of security and love from which people make moral choices far different from the expedient choices we make out of fear and insecurity. I asked the group to break into small groups and address the question of when they made choices in life about which they feel really good, and the state of mind they were in when they made them. The reports out from the small groups produced some touching stories — for example, a brother who at first resented his sister who needed a kidney and got angry when his parents suggested he might be a match, but then, when sitting quietly in the hospital with his very ill sister, suddenly had the insight that he loved her so much it would be an honor, not a sacrifice, to donate a kidney to her. He called that “a moment of happy clarity from which I never turned back.” His sister was in the audience, beaming.

We talked some more about how we create very different ideas from the same neutral information in higher states of mind, and how those states of mind happen. Then I had the group break up again, this time to talk specifically about ideas that came to them when they reflected about small changes that could make a big difference to the environment.

Again, the reports from the small groups were touching and inspiring. They had a lot of creative ideas, and all of them seemed plausible and achievable to those who thought of them. They left laughing and chatting together about how maybe it wasn’t crazy to think one person at a time could make a difference. They even talked about getting together in a month or so to compare stories.

What is more powerful than passion expressed through a peaceful state of mind?

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Incremental is infinite, too

Reading all the social media posts from people who are newly discovering the Principles at work behind life, I’ve been noticing how easily we become disappointed in ourselves, dropping quickly from gratitude for an insight to discouragement that we’re not where we want to be. What we forget is that gratitude and contentment nourish the rich soil in which further insights blossom; discouragement is the drought that turns the soil to dust where insights cannot flourish.

It is rare, though never impossible, that an individual experiences what we call an epiphany, an insight so profound and remarkable that the person is totally transformed in an instant. It is common, though often unappreciated, for all of us to experience life-improving insights as we go. Some are so ordinary as to pass with scarce notice. Some inspire new ideas about how our lives work. Some surprise us into major changes. The gift we have is the capacity to keep learning, keep changing, keep seeing life with more and more clarity. It’s one step at a time up the spiral staircase of insights, and we can’t see where, or if, it ends. Sometimes it feels as though we’re bounding up the steps two at a time; sometimes it feels like we’re barely moving; sometimes we seem to be stuck on a landing.

I learned this lesson first nearly 30 years ago, when I first became aware that I was experiencing life from the inside-out, creating my experience from whatever bits of my thinking I was taking to heart and seeing as real. Immediately after that first insight — the insight that I could let thoughts pass, or I could hold them in place — my moods no longer meant very much to me. Prior to that seemingly small shift in understanding, I would get mad at myself for being in a bad mood when I most needed to be on top of my game, not understanding that I was holding low moods in place by fighting them or wishing they would go away. I had learned the “so what” lesson — “So what if you’re in a bad mood? Thoughts come and go. Leave it alone and it will quickly pass.” But I hadn’t found gratitude for it because I was still judging myself for having bad moods at all. Wasn’t I supposed to be free of bad moods if I really understood the Principles that explain how thinking works?

Still discouraged with my seemingly small progress, I was  meeting with an employee who shared  an idea she had that, while it was out of the box, could save our company a lot of time and money. I randomly asked when she had first thought of it. “Months ago,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I asked. “Because you were so upset so much of the time, I just didn’t feel like bringing things up that might set you off,” she said. “Lately you seem calmer and more approachable.”

Wow! Maybe that little so-what insight was more important than I thought it was. We worked with my employee’s new idea and made a significant improvement in our operations — and our bottom line. I realized that being able to shrug off a low mood had made enough of a difference in my composure that I was easier to work with, and more open to others’ ideas. I started feeling thankful for even that one small insight — and then came another.

I had the insight that I had never had a creative idea at work. Not once. Every really fresh thought I had that had helped propel the business I started forward had come to me at Disney World. Disney World! What was that about? Did I have to visit Fantasyland to find ideas? My spirits fell. I was too busy to run off to Disney World (even if it was less than three hours from home) every time I needed a good idea. I almost wished I’d never had that ridiculous insight. Yet, based on my first experience, I let that disappointment pass and just waited to see what I didn’t understand.

Aha! It quickly dawned on me that fresh ideas had nothing to do with Disney World, but everything to do with the state of mind I was in while there, just having fun with my family. I would leave my work behind and find myself in the moment, taking things as they came. So that was directional. I could look for that free and clear state of mind and not indulge myself when I started to ruminate about problems. That led to another seemingly small change with huge results. When I found myself going round and round and round over issues, I’d get up and walk around, allowing my thinking to turn elsewhere and my head to clear. Solutions started popping up out of the blue.

I could go on, but the point is made. Over time, I’ve had spiritually uplifting  insights, silly little insights, wildly creative insights, helpful ordinary insights. I’ve come to be grateful that I can count on insights to brighten my experience, like wildflowers after rain in the desert, and lighten my life, like sun after the rain. Perfectly natural. Logically predictable, though always new. In my heart, I have learned to be grateful for gratitude, because it is the beautiful home where wisdom and insight dwell together and generate the life of our dreams.

As always, to quote Sydney Banks,

“Gratitude and satisfaction have wonderful effects on our souls. They open our minds, clearing the way for wisdom and contentment to eter. Once you become grateful, the prison bars of your mind will fall away. Peace and contentment will be yours.”

The Missing Link, p. 131.

Posted in innate health, Mind, Mind and Consciousness and Thought, psychobiospiritual, Sydney Banks, Three Principles | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What is a calm state of mind?

Let’s start here: Calm is not merely the absence of stress and upset. People settle for that, but to settle is selling the infinite human potential short. “Well, I’m not upset and I’m not feeling totally stressed out, so I guess this is as good as it gets.”

Wrong! So very wrong! That’s only the least bad it gets.

Calm is not empty; it is full. Calm does not reflect the absence of trouble, dissatisfaction and ill will ; it reflects the presence of peace, gratitude and contentment. Calm is not a personal feeling of checking in with oneself and being OK; calm is an impersonal feeling of seeing beyond oneself and being deeply connected with all of life. Calm is not still and inactive; calm is engaged and involved in every moment. Calm is not neutral to what’s happening in life; calm is in love with life and everything in it. Calm is not quietly  indifferent; calm is unconditionally loving. Calm is not cool; calm is warm.

If we were the ocean, calm would be the deep, dynamic currents that perpetually steer the waters around the globe. If we were the colors, calm would be a gorgeous rainbow, lifting our hearts and spirits with its graceful arch. If we were the sky, calm would be the north star, faithfully guiding us no matter where we were temporarily. If we were a rolling meadow, calm would be the wildflowers, brightening and enlivening the landscape.

The most wonderful thing about a calm state of mind, though, is that we don’t have to work at it to have it. It is what we have, it is the ordinary spiritual state of human beings, but for all the thinking we do around it. Calm is simply the beautiful feeling that emerges from a mind at rest. It takes no effort whatsoever.

Calm seems ordinary to people who are at peace with the deeper logic of created experience. We use the energy of life to create forms within our own minds and become conscious of what we’ve created. When we leave that process alone to work naturally, we create calm because, basically, we are creating a flow of thoughts connected to the flow of life. We move away from calm when we engage ourselves in thinking about our own thinking and trying to “fix” things or figure ourselves out.

Sydney Banks said, “Seek without seeking, for what you hope to attain is already within you.” (The Missing Link, p. 139) That essentially simple idea offers profound hope for peace among all mankind, if only it didn’t seem “too simple” to people who are striving mightily to make themselves into what they think they should be instead of  being what they already are.

Posted in innate health, Mind and Consciousness and Thought, psychobiospiritual, resiliency, Sydney Banks | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting over “it”

Often people talk about distressing events in catastrophic terms. “I don’t know how anyone will ever get over that!” Or, “It ruined my life; I’ll never get over it.” Or, “It was so awful, I’m not surprised he/she can’t get over it.” We talk as though there are “its” in life that track us and yap at our heels like indefatigable terriers after a fox.

Once the moment of something is over, though, the only “it” is a memory. And what is a memory? It is a thought carried forward through time. And how does a thought get carried forward through time? We keep re-thinking it. Otherwise, it would be stored away like a winter sweater in the tropics, tucked away where we could find it, but irrelevant to the present.  So we’re not looking for it. Forgotten, but not gone. Part of our life we leave in storage. If someone asks, “Didn’t you have a heavy cable-knit sweater?”, we can remember that we did. But we don’t drag it out and put it on and spend a lot of time sweating in it.

It has always struck me as odd that we all find it perfectly reasonable and understandable that we forget where we put things, we forget people’s names, we forget the details of last year’s birthday, we forget promises we made, we forget to do routine chores, we forget to return phone calls, we forget appointments, we forget our last addresses, we forget groceries we meant to buy. Thoughts slip into storage and we fail to retrieve them all the time. Yet we find it unreasonable and beyond comprehension that something to which we attach negative significance could slip into storage and not be retrieved.

How would our brains sort that out? How would the brain select what is forgettable from what is unforgettable? Thoughts are just fleeting energy traces. They all look the same to the brain. It is our own mind, our own creative power, that assigns significance and directs the continual re-creation of certain thoughts. The brain is part of our physical world; our minds are spiritual, the energy that infuses our physical body and empowers us to direct our life, to exercise free will over how we will hold and use our thinking.

We can remember anything. But we don’t have to remember any particular thing. We are in control of which thoughts we bring to mind and which thoughts we leave alone or allow to pass. That is why the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought refer to spiritual truths, not formed ideas. In the formless spiritual realm, there are no choices between this and that. Things are. It isn’t like we can pick and choose when the Principles apply and when they don’t. They are life itself in motion, infinitely. We are the energy of Mind creating Thought and experiencing our creations via Consciousness. All the time. It’s our thinking that generates our personal realities, and what we don’t bring to mind is not part of our reality in any given moment.

So we can always get over anything. We can simply allow it to stay folded up among all the other items in storage, unrecalled, once we have learned what we can from it.

I thought of this when I was working with a family not long ago. One of the children was “traumatized,” and could not stop talking about all the abuse she sustained from her alcoholic parents and how she just couldn’t live happily because of it. Her sibling was not interested in discussing that. “It was 10 years ago,” she said. “I’m glad it’s over. I can’t see much point dragging it into my life now.” They were only a year apart; they had exactly the same memories of childhood. But they were using their gifts of Mind, Thought and Consciousness and their free will very differently in relation to them. One was stuck in time; the other was living in the now.

In the words of Sydney Banks, “Discard the restless, haunting ghosts of yesterday and set yourself free to live the beauty of today,” (The Missing Link, p 104.)

Posted in Consciousness, innate health, Mind, Mind and Consciousness and Thought, psychobiospiritual, resiliency, Sydney Banks, Thought, Three Principles | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment