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Showing posts from September, 2015

THERE ARE NO OTHERS

We live in a world obsessed with work. Pundits debate the unemployment rate. Politicians curry the voter's favor by promising job opportunities. Employees regard long hours and weekend nights at the office as a mark of distinction or rite of passage, and even some bosses brag about "pulling all-nighters." The average office worker takes her job with her on trips, answering work-related phone calls and emails. It is a rather unfortunate fact that many is the job-holder who works not to serve others but rather to fulfill one or more of the following expedients: to pay bills, fit in with society, and more often than not earn name and fame to pamper the ego and get as rich as possible in the shortest amount of time. What about work as worship, as service to society and vehicle to not pamper the ego but trample it underfoot?

The British author Aldous Huxley once wrote that in the "world of today, the most useful people are those whose concern is with daily bread - those …

THE NON-DOER

The sages and scriptures tell us, "You are not the doer." Specifically it is Lord Krishna who counsels his disciple Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita to act without the idea of doership. This is the basis of karma yoga or the path of selfless action. Millennia later the sage Ramana Maharshi echoed this teaching.

What does it mean to act selflessly?

That you are to sever identification with the various roles you play in life. It is the student who studies, the spouse who supports his family, the human that eats, breathes, sleeps, etc. But you are none of these. You are merely the witness, the overriding consciousness associated with a certain body and mind that thinks certain thoughts and moves through life performing various actions. So you are spirit.

But what of this body, what of this role you play? Who is controlling it? Certainly not you, since you are merely the witness. God? But God is omnipresent, so you are God. A force/energy/presence? Merely another name for God. Let'…

PARADISE REGAINED

Here's a statistic: There are more African Americans behind bars today than there were slaves in 1850. That's crazy. Has the emancipation proclamation gotten us anywhere or has the monster merely changed its shape?

My question is, what about us honkies? (I consider myself Afro, since I am descended from the first man who they tell me was born in Africa, but I'll include myself among you Europeans, the only ones who read this, for empathy's sake - or is it sympathy? I always get those two terms confused.) Is the life you lead anything more than comfortable servitude? Do you like what you do for a living, or is it burdensome and laborious and engaged in perforce - because you have to, to pay bills or feel useful or merely because your bitch nags you or to get out of your own head?

The Genesis story about Adam and Eve is pertinent here. God created the first couple, Adam from the Earth, Eve from Adam's rib, and they lived in harmony with nature, husbanding the animals …

ETERNAL SUNSHINE

Since the formation of the mind - which has existed as long as humans have been around, maybe even longer, if you believe apes and other animals from which we derived can think - writers and scientists and metaphysicians and even the average person have occupied themselves, ourselves, with the question of all questions: How can a person be perfectly free in the moment?

Is it possible not to be conditioned by personality traits to act a certain way or impelled by circumstances to behave according to some generic set of rules which seem rather arbitrary. (Why do I have to shake your hand when in some cultures what is considered a formality is to smell your butt!) It is so easy to go through life automatically, like an android, from one task to another, driven by the search for sense pleasures, fulfilling obligations, and skirting pain.

The reactive individual is the most common type of human being. Haven't you ever observed that you know exactly what to say to a person to get a rise,…

FOOD FOR THOUGHTLESSNESS

Recently a friend and I had this casual conversation. The questions we raised are proceeded by the answers, which I've put in italics for clarity.

1. One concept that I can’t seem to grasp at all is “we are all ONE. Everything is good. We are a perfect spirit.” Does that imply a non-existing difference between right and wrong? What about morality? Isn’t conscience the development of morality and care for yourself and others? Also, if someone engages in wrongdoings against other beings, isn’t that person in violation of morality, natural law, higher self, higher will, etc? Isn’t there an internal contradiction and conflict in humans? Aren’t we supposed to be imperfect and learning through real life experiences in a real tangible world? What about accountability for our actions? Are we accountable to ourselves and others if we believe we are deep down a perfect spirit? I mean, who would want to change or grow?

Coming from the mind which views itself as separate and deals in concepts,…

BE UNIVERSAL

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which there is a conflict between a person's physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with. A person who is physically a boy may actually feel and act like a girl and is therefore very uncomfortable with the gender they were born as. Gender dysphoria doesn't imply homosexuality. A man can feel like a woman and still dig chicks. Like Bruce Jenner, who with his hormone therapy and plastic surgery has started a trend or at least given it a big boost.


More and more people, even kids, are having sex changes. I identify as a woman, says the boy. I say, identify with nothing. You are not male or female. Your spirit is free - to express itself through whatever your bodily vehicle happens to be. Which is why I don't agree with those who say they identify with one sex or the other. Even boys who are born boys should not consider themselves boys and go around grabbing their crotches, spitting, cussing, and ogling girls. Personally I never…

THE LIFE VICARIOUS

The Hindu avatar and hero of the epic Ramayana, Rama was born in 5114 BC in Ayodhya, an ancient city in India. That's over 7000 years ago, if you're counting. In his youth he became very disenchanted with earthly life. He saw it as filled with suffering, the few pleasures it held being fleeting and unreliable. This plunged him into the throes of a paralyzing depression. His concerned family sought the assistance of a hoary sage to help him through his inner turmoil.

Rama asked the sage, whose name was Vasistha: “How to attain the eternal state, free of pain, frailties, doubt and delusion? What is that eternal state, unapproached by sorrow, where I shall remain unscathed by the fire of sensual objects, though moving amidst them, like a ball of mercury exposed to fire, or an eel in muddy waters?”

Vasistha's answer: “Unless you consider the happiness of others as your own, you can never be at peace.”

In other words: live vicariously. The word vicarious originated in the mid 17t…

YOUR BLISS FIX

Meditation is a time-honored and hallowed practice dating back to the dawn of recorded history and certainly before that, it's just that nobody knew how to write their experiences down. These days there are skilled practitioners all over the place, advocating their particular brand and calling it mindfulness or concentration or inward focus, etc.

I can only give you what I learned as a child and have practiced on and off for decades. The holy man Sai Baba recommends meditating between the hours of 3 and 6 AM. As published on the website sathyasai.org, regularity is most important. Swami recommends a few minutes of meditation in the evening after dusk. He tells students that you have to look at any object --flame, idol, or picture for 12 seconds with total concentration and without blinking the eyelids. This is concentration (dharana). Twelve dharana concentrations make one meditation (dhyana). This means that meditation should last…

WHO TO TRUST?

I once tried to convince a friend with heart disease of the benefits of a vegan diet. I told him studies had shown that high cholesterol levels, which cause plaque to form in the arteries, are associated with diets high in meat, whose saturated fat content causes cholesterol levels in the blood to go up. An avowed carnivore, not to mention one who likes a good debate, my friend came back at me with studies he claimed showed no association between saturated fat intake and cholesterol levels. The culprit, he said, was sugar intake, and so it was fruit he should avoid, not the turkey burgers and chicken breasts he so loved. I replied rather cheekily that for any study that shows x, you can find a study showing not x, and since life can be characterized as an experiment of one, and the habit of eating meat had left my friend with a clogged coronary artery, then he should ignore the contrasting results of these scientific studies and see firsthand what effect a plant-based approach had on…

WASTE NOT WANT NOT

During my medical residency one of my attending physicians once said to me: "I always try to buy fresh vegetables to make for my kids but more often than not they wind up wilting in the back of the fridge only to be thrown out. I am sorry to say that it's the nonperishable items like macaroni and bread that end up getting eaten."

This is not uncommon, especially for working parents who try to balance busy schedules and housekeeping duties. As they say, haste makes waste.

I thought about this yesterday when my grandmother came over for lunch. My mother made pasta. "Why do you make pasta," I said, "when grandma never eats anything but fruit?" Sure enough my grandmother didn't touch the pasta, although she served herself a healthy portion - I presume for politeness' sake. And this is how social conventions get us into trouble. Why didn't she just stick to the fruit?

In a recent year the Agriculture Department estimated that 133 billion po…