The Age of We Need Each Other


Fifteen years ago when I began writing books, I had high hopes that someday I would be “discovered” and that “my message” would thereby reach millions of people and change the world for the better.

That ambition began to disintegrate soon after, when after years of labor The Ascent of Humanity found no takers in the publishing world. So I self-published, still hoping that word-of-mouth would propel it to best-seller status. That would show all those publishers! I remember looking at the sales numbers in August 2007 – its fifth month, about the time it should have been gaining momentum. Total sales that month: five copies. Around the same time I was evicted from my apartment (having pinned all my hopes and income on the book) and spent the next half year living temporarily in other people’s houses, children in tow.

It was a painful yet beautiful clarifying experience that asked me, “Why are you doing this work? Is it because you hope to become a celebrated intellectual? Or do you really care about serving the healing of the world?” The experience of failure revealed my secret hopes and motivations.

I had to admit there was some of both motivations, self and service. OK, well, a lot of both. I realized I had to let go of the first motive, or it would occlude the second. Around that time I had a vision of a spiritual being that came to me and said, “Charles, is it really your wish that the work you do fulfill its potential and exercise its right role in the evolution of all things?”

“Yes,” I said, “that is my wish.”

“OK then,” said the being. “I can make that happen, but you will have to pay a price. The price is that you will never be recognized for your role. The story you are speaking will change the world, but you will never get credit for it. You will never get wealth, fame, or prestige. Do you agree to pay that price?”

I tried to worm my way out of it, but the being was unyielding. If it was going to be either-or, how could I live with myself knowing in my heart of hearts I’d betrayed my purpose? So I consented to its offer.

Of course, time would tell that it wasn’t actually either-or. What was important in that clarifying moment was that I declare my ultimate loyalty. Once that happened, recognition and prestige might or might not come as a byproduct, but it wouldn’t be the goal. After all, the work I do isn’t “my” work. These are ideas whose time has come and they need capable scribes. Our true wages in life consist of the satisfaction we get from a job well done. Aside from that, well, the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

That was part one of the disintegration of my ambition. The first part was the disintegration of personal ambition. The second part was the disintegration of the ambition to do big things to change the world. I began to understand that our concepts of big impact versus small impact are part of what needs to be healed. Our culture validates and celebrates those who are out there with big platforms speaking to millions of people, while ignoring those who do humble, quiet work, taking care of just one sick person, one child, or one small place on this earth.

When I meet one of these people, I know that their impact doesn’t depend on their kind action going viral on the internet and reaching millions of people. Even if no one ever knows and no one ever thanks them for taking in that old woman with dementia and sacrificing a normal life to care for her, that choice sends ripples outward through the fabric of causality. On a five hundred or five thousand year timescale, the impact is no smaller than anything a President does.

Certain choices feel significant to us, unreasonably. The heart calls us to actions that the mind cannot justify in the face of global problems. The logic of bigness can drag us into feelings of irrelevance, leading us to project importance onto the people we see on our screens. But knowing how much harm has been done by those very people in the name of bettering the world, I became wary of playing that game.

The calculating mind thinks that just helping one person has a smaller impact on the world than helping a thousand. It wants to scale up, to get big. That is not necessary in a different causal logic, the logic that knows, “God sees everything,” or the logic of morphic resonance that knows that any change that happens in one place creates a field that allows the same kind of change to happen elsewhere. Acts of kindness strengthen the field of kindness, acts of love strengthen the field of love, acts of hate strengthen the field of hate.

Nor is scaling up necessary when we trust that the tasks life sets before us are part of a larger tapestry, woven by an intelligence that puts us in exactly the right place at the right time.

I attended a funeral recently for a central Pennsylvania farmer, Roy Brubaker, among several hundred mourners. One of the testimonials came from a young farmer who said something like this: “Roy is the one who taught me what success really is. Success is having the capacity to always be there for your neighbors. Any time someone called with a problem, Roy would put down what he was doing and be right over to help.”

This farmer had been Roy’s intern. When he went into business for himself and became Roy’s competitor, Roy helped him along with advice and material aid, and even announced his new competitor’s farm share program to his own mailing list. At the end of his speech, the young farmer said, “I used to think Roy was able to help so many people because he was a successful farmer who had it made. But now I think he was probably more like me, with fifty vegetable crops all crying for attention and a million things to do. He was there for people anyway.”

Roy didn’t wait until he had it made to start being generous.

This is the kind of person that holds the world together. On a practical level, they are the reason society hangs together despite its pervasive injustice, poverty, trauma, and so on. They also anchor the field of love that helps the rest of us serve our purpose rather than our personal ambition.

As I run into more such people and hear their stories, I realize that I don’t need to worry about the size of my audience or about reaching “people of influence.” My job is just to do my work with as much love and sincerity as I can. I can trust that the right people will read it. I am awed and humbled by people like Roy whom I meet in my travels and in my community. They live in service, in love, with great faith and courage, and unlike me they don’t have thousands of people telling them how important their work is. In fact, quite often the system and culture we live in discourages them, telling them that they are foolish, naïve, irresponsible, impractical, and giving them little financial reward. How many times have you been told a life dedicated to beauty or nurture or healing is unrealistic? Maybe after everything on your farm is all ship-shape, maybe after you are personally secure with a solid career and secure investments, maybe then you can afford a little generosity. So I admire people who are generous first, generous with their precious lives. They are my teachers. They are the ones who have eroded my ambition to make it big – even with the excuse of serving the cause.

I am reminded of a Zen teaching story in which the Zen master is approached by a messenger from the emperor. “The emperor has heard of your teaching and wants you to come to court to be the official imperial teacher.”

The Zen master declined the invitation.

A year later the invitation was repeated. This time the master agreed to come. When asked why, he said, “When I first got the invitation, I knew I wasn’t ready because I felt the stirring of excitement. I thought this would be a great chance to spread the Dharma throughout the realm. Then I realized that this ambition, which sees one student as more important than another, disqualified me from being his teacher. I had to wait until I could see the emperor as I would any other person.”

Thanks to the humble people who hold the world together, I am learning no longer to favor the emperor over any other person. What guides me is a certain feeling of resonance, curiosity, or rightness.

Ironically, having lost my careerist ambitions, this year Oprah Winfrey invited me to tape an interview with her for (even more ironically) the show Super Soul Sunday. Five years ago my heart would have been thumping with excitement at the prospect of making it big, but now the feeling was one of curiosity and adventure. From the God’s-eye perspective, was that hour to be more important than the hour I spent with a friend in need? Or the hour you spent taking a stranger to the emergency room?

Yet my response was an immediate yes, accompanied by feelings of wonderment that my world was intersecting with hers. You see, Oprah occupies nearly a different universe from my own countercultural fringe. Could it be, I think with leaping heart, that the gulf between our worlds is narrowing? That the ideas I serve and the consciousness I speak to are ready to penetrate the mainstream?

I think the conversation with Oprah is a marker of changing times. I was amazed that someone in her position would even take notice of my writing, since it lies quite outside any familiar discourse within the mainstream. (At least I’ve never seen anything in mainstream media remotely similar to my election article that attracted her attention.) Our meeting is perhaps a sign that our country’s familiar, polarized social discourse is broken, and that her people – the vast and fairly mainstream audience she serves – are willing to look outside it.

By this I do not mean to diminish her extraordinary personal qualities. I experienced her as astute, perceptive, sincere, expansive, and even humble, a master of her art. But I think her reaching out reflects more than these personal qualities.

I sometimes see myself as a kind of receiving antenna for information that a certain segment of humanity is asking for. A use has been found for the weird kid in high school! On a much larger scale, Oprah is something akin to that as well: not just herself, she is an avatar of the collective mind. Deeply attuned to her audience, when she brings something into their view it is probably because she knows they are ready to see it.

During our conversation I sometimes had the feeling that she personally would have liked to geek out and dive much deeper, but that she disciplined herself to remain the antenna of her audience and stay within the format of the program, which doesn’t lend itself to my usual long disquisitions. I meanwhile was trying to frame ideas for a mainstream audience that I expect isn’t familiar with some of my basic operating concepts. Our conversation felt a bit awkward at times, groping for a structure, as if we were trying to furnish a very large house with a motley mix of beautiful but odd furniture. Nonetheless I think we created a habitable enough corner to welcome people into a new perspective.

In the years since my encounter with the spiritual being, I’ve become comfortable in the cultural fringes where my work has found its home. I have scaled back on traveling and speaking in order to spend more time with my precious loved ones and to connect with the source of knowledge in nature, silence, and intimate connections. I’m with my family at my brother’s farm right now, doing farm labor part of the day and writing during the other part. The flurry of publicity that might follow the Oprah appearance (or might not – it could just be a blip on the radar) poses me with another question, the complement of the one my initial “failure” posed. If it serves the work, am I willing to sacrifice the reclusiveness I am coming to love? If it serves, am I willing to be on other programs where the host may not be as gracious as Oprah? Am I willing to be more of a public figure and deal with the attendant projections, positive and negative? Do I have the strength to remember who the real super souls are – the Roy Brubakers, the dolphin rescuers, the hospice workers, the care givers, the peace witnesses, the unpaid healers, the humble grandfathers taking a child berry-picking, the single moms struggling to hold it all together not imagining that their monumental efforts at patience have an impact on the whole world?

Let me be honest with you: if I hadn’t been facing the total collapse of my success fantasies already, I probably wouldn’t have accepted the spiritual being’s offer. And by the way, it is an offer that is constantly renewed. Every day we are asked, “What will you serve?” I had not the strength on my own to say yes to a life of service. Nor do I now, save for the help I receive from others who hold the field, the people who humble me every day with their generosity, sincerity, and selflessness. To the extent I am effective at what I do, it is because of you.

If I am right that my Oprah appearance is a marker (however small) of the unraveling of once-dominant worldviews, then it only happened because the emerging worldview I speak for is being held so strongly now by so many. Take it then as an encouraging sign. Whether or not it proves to be a breakthrough moment for the concepts of empathy and interbeing we discussed, it suggests that they are coming closer toward consensus reality. We will not be alone here much longer. I thank all who have held the field of knowledge I speak from, who believe my words even more than I do myself, and who therefore uphold me in the work that upholds you. That is how we transition from the Age of Separation to the age of We Need Each Other.

Source:

https://charleseisenstein.net/essays/the-age-of-we-need-each-other/

Happy Birthday Sharon Gannon


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When Padma ( this is how we affectionately call our guru Sharon Gannon) enters a room, she likes to greet everyone by making eye-contact and bowing gently, her face lit with a smile. This can take a while (like during this Jivamukti tribe gathering where hundreds of yogis come to learn from her). All the chitter-chatter stops and silence fills up the room. The atmosphere clears up. It is magical to be part of that.

Every year, at their home in the Wild Woodstock Forrest sanctuary, Sharon Gannon and David Life teach daily classes in August. It is my favorite time of the year.

Last year, on August 18th, she was just about to greet us her natural way and stopped. And gave us a short teaching instead:
« You know things happen in life and you adjust accordingly…It’s a good thing. It’s like rivers. Rivers are master adjusters, adapters. They are steady and flow. When they have to go around something, they go around something.
Sometimes, they get very intent on reaching their goal, they just push everything…. So there’s it that.
Isn’t it annoying when the teacher speaks cryptically? » [laughter] ~ Sharon Gannon

This world is a better place because of this gentle and mighty river!
Please join me in showering my guruma with love and abundant blessings to celebrate her birthday

IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE


FOTM-Placeholder-Cosmic-Snake_2Focus Of The Month – July, 2017


Om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavashishyate

That is whole. This is whole. From the whole the whole becomes manifest. From the whole when the whole is negated, what remains is again the whole.

Yajur Veda and the Isha Upanishad

Yoga practices are magical practices. Magic happens when there is a shift in perception—what you thought was real drops away to reveal a more expanded enlightened reality. Yoga practices, fueled by a sincere intention for Self-realization, will transform habitual ways of seeing – of relating, to ourselves and others. Our thoughts, words and deeds are all interconnected with our relationship – it is what life is about. But, to the enlightened yogi, there are no “others.” In the yogic state of samadhi, the boundaries that separate you from God, as well as the world around you, the world of otherness, all dissolve. It takes some heavy-duty magic to accomplish a shift in perception like that!

The word perception means “to see.” But it means seeing with more than just the physical eyes. It means more than just to understand, but “to realize.” The English word “understand” implies a duality, as if you’re standing under something. But to really realize something is to immerse yourself and have a complete experience of it—to become with that something. And what is realized, or perceived, during samadhi is the one-ness of being. Otherness disappears as you see your own Self in others, revealing that only Love is real.

The chakras are doors of perception into new dimensions of reality. The bija mantras are the passwords or keys that open the doors to each one of these chakras, to each one of these worlds. Bija means “seed” in the sense of a potency or distilment, where something very large is compressed into something very small, compact and essential. Having something in a compact form is very good for traveling! That’s what we are doing in life. Our souls are journeying, traveling through dimensions of reality to our true home.

All of the yoga practices are purification practices that help us lighten our baggage so our travel is smoother. The system of asana has been very particularly designed to help purify our bodies, which are made of our karmas that come from our relationships. Yoga gives us the tools to purify our perception by removing the only dirt that really is: ignorance or avidya. That ignorance is caused by misperception, not being able to see or perceive ourselves, others and reality clearly.

We purify our perception through the only cleanser that is known to have the most wondrous results with absolutely no side effects. It’s like Clorox bleach without any chlorine. It’s like the most incredible detergent that doesn’t pollute any water system and doesn’t wear out the clothes in the washing machine. The magical cleanser I am talking about is love. When you can truly love others and yourself you can love God. Forgiveness of others and ourselves, as well as letting go of blaming, complaining and explaining, is necessary to allow love to work its magic.

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati described yoga as “the state where you are needing nothing.” You realize that you are a holy being—that you are whole. Eventually, as the dawning of this wholesome yogic enlightenment appears, you find yourself letting go of selfish tendencies and less compelled to blame others or see yourself as the victim of any type of abuse or circumstance.

Because we carry in our bodies our unresolved karmas, sometimes negative emotions can arise during the asana practice. Emotions such as fear, jealousy, anger, vengeance, cynicism, doubt and lack of faith are the results of karmas or actions we have done in our past that were not guided by love. These dark emotions are obstacles that cloud our vision and can stop us from feeling connected to our eternal true nature. We can address those troubling emotions through love and start to shift our perception away from disconnection and toward stability and joy—in other words towards sthira and sukham.

This way of thinking, where we as an individual do our best to enhance the lives of others and even the Earth herself, is quite new in a culture that is based on the assumption that the Earth belongs to us, and that to be happy, we must take from others. Fear causes us to feel that if we give we will lose – that there will be less for us. Through the practice of yoga we become fearless and daring. Instead of feeling incomplete, motivated by the need to take from others to feel whole, we might dare to ask, “What can I do for others? How could I live in such a way that my life enhances planet Earth?” This kind of shift in perception can be a huge turnaround, freeing us from cultural conditioning that may have been distorting our perception of reality for many years, even lifetimes. But selfless actions motivated by love are the kinds of actions that will lead to samadhi, living liberated, as a jivanmukta living in the light of love as joyful whole, holy beings.

Essay by Sharon Gannon


Braja Raja – “The Dust of Braja”


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courtesy of the Shyamdas Foundation

When I was a child growing up Africa,  we called all friends of our parents ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ (in french ‘tantine’ or ‘‘tonton’) which was an honorific and considered respectful. And among the aunties and uncles, there were those you wanted to be related to: Too cool not to be yours. And they actually didn’t care for honorifics. Heartbreaks, delights, anything: you could call them and they would always be there for you. You would never feel uncomfortable around them.

Shyamdas – affectionately and respectfully called Shyamdasji – belongs to that category, as a spiritual teacher. He had dedicated his life to the music, literature, and people of Braj. He spoke Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, and Brajbhasha. He was a scholar who insightfully translated and commented many of the songs and writings of saints from the Pushti Marg tradition (Shri Vallabhacharya, Govinda Svami, Raskhan, Surdas and others). His immense knowledge was only surpassed by his joy  – ananda.

Shyamdasji lived in the bhav, mad in love with God and in service. He left his body in January of 2013.

Regular students of my classes are familiar with his voice … and his laughter!

Today, I’d like to share Braj Raja with you.

All these sacred and ancient teachings are preserved and distributed through the wonderful work of the Shyamdas Foundation.

As Shyamdasji would say: “It’s all Hari’s grace

Radhe, Radhe!

Jeanine

The birth of the Christ


December is a special month in our family. I was born in that month and our son’s birthday  is only a few days apart from mine. Then Christmas celebrations.

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Last night, I could not sleep when I went to bed. Totally overwhelmed by thoughts and gratitude.  It is indeed a merry time for those us who feel loved, warm and safe, with more than enough to eat.
But who doesn’t know somebody who is ill this holiday season? Very dear friends of mine are grieving over the loss of their father. Last Thursday, a student shared the story of A., his family is trapped in Syria. That story stayed with me. Christmas can be the hardest time of year for those who are struggling financially, those who are lonely, especially those estranged from close family. And at this one time of year when most human beings are determined to be happy; for millions of animals, Christmas celebrations are the cause of considerable cruelty.
CHRISTMAS is literally “the mass for Christ”, the celebration of the birth of Christ.
It is an awakening, a birthing of the Christ Consciousness  from inside of ourselves.
  • Christ must be lived to be known. In all good actions, in every material and spiritual service, and in the manger of meditation, the immortal Cosmic Christ is born anew. – Paramanhansa Yogananda 
  • The Christ Consciousness is revealed in us as compassion. – Sharon Gannon

When we allow our own light of love to radiate into the world around us, it is Christmas. Christmas is not some grand event happening on December 25th. It is not depending on external circumstances. The word « light » in English,  conveys a sense of not heavy and also illumination, bright. Giving and forgiving makes us (literally) light. Eating a plant-based diet too. Just like meditation unclutters the mind, chanting makes us beam. Yoga practices provide the sincere spiritual seeker with practical means for Self-Realization.

Christ Consciousness refers to the Light, that we are. It is the Self (with capital S), the Atman, it is our Buddha nature- It is Krishna Consciousness.

As the gentle swami Nirmalananda said:  Love alone can dispel present madness of hate. Let your light (of love) so shine before all, as Christ asks us, that there may be ever more bright and radiating light which hatred cannot overshadow. When the heart rules the mind, life has altogether a different quality and dimension.

Let the Love that you are shine and Merry Christmas!

Shine on and Merry Christmas!

Jeanine

Further reading:

Yoga and Christ by Sharon Gannon

The Need to love by Thich Nhat Hanh

We need you!


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This is a project that is very dear to my heart.

Next Saturday, Yogeswari and myself will teach a special yoga class to benefit our projects in Rwanda, in Cambodia and soon to start Ivory Coast.

If you are around please, please join the Yogathon in Geneva.

The smallest donation can make the biggest impact.

http://azaharfoundation.org

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OM love

 

Jeanine