Ends Meat

When they aren’t feeling apathetic and convinced that there is no use in trying, people are always wondering what they can do to personally enact some change in the world. By driving less, voting, participating in community groups and so on.

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One thing almost all humans on Earth can do to make a powerful positive change immediately without waiting for permission or a special vote that governments and corporate special interests cannot take away from them is: Stop eating meat, eggs and dairy.

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60 billion land animals and over a trillion (yes trillion) aquatic animals are killed by human hands (or machines) each year for food. In the U.S. that is 27 million animals a day, over 10 billion a year, a number that dwarfs the total human population of 7.2 billion world-wide.

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Even if you don’t care about the immense suffering of sentient animals confined to tight quarters, mutilation (beak and tail cutting, branding etc) and painful, fearful deaths, no educated person can disagree with the environmental abomination that is currently underway by the industrial meat, egg and dairy production industries. It is tantamount to a war against the Earth.

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It takes 12 times the water, 20 times the energy and 20 times the land to produce animal products over vegetables and grains. Animal farming depletes topsoil, pollutes waterways and destroys forests worldwide at a far greater rate than vegetable agriculture. For example, in the U.S. west of the Mississippi river, 70 percent of all water is used by animal farming and dairy production. The production of one hamburger uses more than four months of personal showering water.

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Animal farming is implicated as one of the largest sources of green house gasses (CO2, methane) produced, accounting for over 51 percent of total world-wide emissions of green house gasses. Over 260 million acres of forest land in the U.S. alone has been converted to meat production. One third of the total raw materials used for all purposes in the U.S. goes to the production of meat, eggs and dairy. In comparison, grains, fruits and vegetables use only about 5 percent of the same materials.

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It takes huge amounts of carbon dioxide and CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) in order to refrigerate and transport meat, when most grains don’t require refrigeration. Penned animals create 20 times the excrement of the total U.S. population in North America, creating polluted water ways and ground water.

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An estimated 40,000 people starve to death everyday worldwide. That’s 14.6 million a year who are poor and mostly children. That’s a small city being annihilated every day, almost the total U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war, daily, but no one is concerned. The countries who are involved in meat, egg and dairy production could easily stop this from happening by producing more fruits and vegetables and simply giving the excess to needy areas. But animal agriculture has made grain a prime commodity, when it can be feed to animals more profitably than given to the starving.

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The statistics go on and on, you can find peer reviewed journal articles and investigative reports on the ecological/environmental, political, social and moral implication of eating meat, fish, eggs and dairy all over the internet. The evidence is overwhelming; at this point in human history humanity must stop eating meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

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There are subtle arguments that come up from time to time to challenge this world view and mostly they just don’t hold water. For example, I have a personal friend who, due to food allergies cannot eat grains of any kind (including legumes, nuts and seeds) so he has to eat a diet of vegetables and meat. But how many people in the world are like that? It is a tiny percent and 99 percent of people can go to a totally vegan diet, especially when we are talking about the greater good of humanity and all life on the planet. Such people are off the hook, but the rest of us?

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People still say that being vegan isn’t healthy, which is flat out wrong and has been proven wrong in many studies. Just look up information on the internet on how to be a healthy vegan. It basically comes down to eating healthy grains, vegetables and fruits and taking a B12 supplement, a D vitamin and making sure your eating vegetables with iodine in them. That’s it, many non dairy milks put B12 in and you can get D from going out and getting sun daily. The information on how to be a healthy vegan is out there and not difficult to find in the internet age.

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One argument against this position is promulgated but the Weston Price organization which advocates eating meat and dairy for health. It is true that Weston Price proved scientifically that eating meat in traditional societies is quite healthy and even reverses many of the developmental disorders found in modern people. Never the less, this is an argument about personal health and enjoyment of meat and dairy products. Let’s be quite clear, this argument places personal health and enjoyment over the greater good of all people and the fate of entire world. This is tantamount to saying you would like the organic chicken for lunch while the plane is crashing. Your personal health will not mean much in a world destroyed by an out of control human agriculture system.

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The meat and vegetables that ancient people were eating were nothing like what is produced by industrial agriculture today. Even the milk which Hindus consumed in ancient times was nothing like the homogenized, pasteurized, hormone laden liquid people are consuming now. The point is, do we need to eat meat, eggs and dairy and the answer for the vast majority of humanity is no. But we do need to save our environment and morally, do we need to stop the unbelievably heinous torture and inhumanity toward fellow creatures on Earth?

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Even if you are an Atheist and believe in only materialism, you have to see the reasoning behind the ecological motives to stop this industry. For all organizations who claim to be religious and spiritually motivated there can be no excuse to not formally declare veganism as a foundation of your theological platform and require this as a duty of all practicing members of all world religions. Why? Because the foundation of all major religions requires that one sacrifice for the greater good of all. You cannot claim to be doing good in the world while simultaneously advocating the confinement, torture and killing of 60 billion land animals a year, much less the destruction of human health and the environment.

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This is something that all individuals can do immediately without permission from anyone.
Just stop reading for a minute and ask your inner self what is the right thing to do?

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There are so many issues to take a stand on in today‘s world that people have become confused about what to do and then, they end up doing nothing, continuing to live as they have lived. Most of the issues that confuse people are complex social/political debates about laws and social reforms that cannot be enacted by individuals, only collectively. But the issue of meat, eggs and dairy is really only in the hands of the individual. The world of 7.2 billion people is a different world from 2000 years ago when the estimated world population was 200-300 million. We can’t live like our ancestors and we have a moral imperative to change immediately.

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If you are on the path of spirit, that is, you recognize that you are more than just a material being then you must recognize that the path of spirit cannot coexist with a life that advocates immense violence and murder. In many of the world wisdom traditions/religions personal sacrifice of ego desire is a foundational element in the development of spiritual awakening (particularly because it helps to attenuate the transient personality and ego aggregates). Therefore, even if it were true that an animal protein diet was healthier for humans, it would still behoove humanity to sacrifice personal health for the greater good. We are sacrificing our health anyway, by polluting the environment and destroying the ecological foundation of our world. Said another way; because we want to be “healthy” by eating meat (or just because we enjoy it) we are willing to destroy the ecological fabric of our world thereby compromising everyone’s health.

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There is something that you can do to stop this run-away, ecological disaster, empire-death-war-meat-pharmaceutical, childish entertainment culture. No one can tell you what to do, we all chart our own course in life, out of infinite possibilities. The only way you can know if you are headed in the right direction is by following your conscience.

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The Dark Ages


The current narrative of our culture is that we are the most enlightened and advanced civilization that has ever existed on Earth. As evidence for this, the collective social body cites the advances of science and technology, world-wide communications, medical advances, the dissemination and understanding of diverse cultural information and so on. Yet, war hasn’t gone away, more people are enslaved today (actual slaves) than ever before and children still starve to death world-wide at a rate of 10,000 a day (about 3.5 million a year). The age of enlightenment in the west, around the 1700’s and onward, ushered in an era of rational reason, scientific and philosophical reasoning that was supposed to bring about a greater civilization for all. Yet when we look at the evidence (death camps and nuclear bombs) we can see that things have gotten worse not better.

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The so-called Dark Ages were supposedly the time after the last great Western empire culture to collapse (Rome) and the advent of the Renaissance leading to the current enlightenment era. Yet even the Romans were feeding people to lions as entertainment and all the “great” civilizations that we know of were empire cultures, founded on war and conquest. It makes a thoughtful person wonder, “when was an era of light?” as opposed to a dark age.

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The reality is that we live in the darkest of all ages. The ability for the individual to be able to see out of the current social narratives becomes more obscured daily. Barrages of information/disinformation on the internet, TV, entertainment, news sources fill the rational mind with data that can’t be used. Even in the ancient Western world there was a system of seeing such a situation with a global perspective. The system was a set of four realms of existence: Ekasia, Pistis, Dianoia and Nous.

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Ekasia means to live in the realm of desire, to live as an animal following ones feelings and lusts. This was considered the lowest realm by the Greeks and it seems to be where our so-called “advanced” civilization spends most of its time. Pistis is the realm of opinions and beliefs (the realm of thought) which is where most of us in Western civilization are proud to say we have graduated to as advanced human beings. Yet this was also considered a low level of development by our ancient ancestors because thought can easily be corrupted or incorrect. Dianoia was considered a realm of greater consciousness, where one becomes conscious of the self and ones effect on others and the world. Of course we have some spiritual teachers that talk about such things in this day in age, yet is this really a part of the narrative of our culture, is it part of the narrative of scientific enlightenment? If not, how can a scientific enlightenment lead to a better world without having people who have developed more conscious self awareness?

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Lastly, Nous was considered a higher realm of connection with the infinite divine. Yet, Nous was considered an actual experience, not a belief or an intellectual concept that one agreed or disagreed with. Remember, this is not an Eastern system of spirituality such as Hinduism where the cultural narrative simply takes for granted the connection with divinity through complex exercises (yoga) and meditation. This is Greek culture, the very foundation of what is now Western civilization. These various realms of human “knowing” reveal a much larger cosmological and philosophical outlook on the world than we, the supposedly advanced civilization, have today.

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As for cosmology, the ancients who created Vedanta (Hinduism) purport four cycles of ages called Yugas. According to this philosophy humanity cycles through golden ages called Satya Yugas, to dark ages called Kali Yugas, cycling back and forth for eons. Even if you don’t believe that we are in a Kali Yuga or a dark age of Ekasia one has to wonder about the rise of so many overtly evil trends and behaviors in our social order. How can we possible suggest that we are in a golden era of enlightenment with the rise of newer and better weapons, human caused environmental disasters, the social trends of competition as positive, violence and immoral behavior as the subject matter of entertainment, greed of individual, corporate and governmental corruption on a scale never seen before?

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What is important to realize is that the scale of suffering in the world (with 7 billion people) is so incredibly immense as to be inconceivable for many people. If you were to somehow open your mental filtering valve to allow in the sensations of physical and emotional suffering from all of humanity you would be crushed. Our real problem as humanity is not so much that there is all this suffering but that most of us ignore the suffering to pursue the fulfillment of our personal desires in that face of that suffering – that is what makes this a dark age.

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One cannot have compassion for others while they are asleep in the fulfillment of their own desires. In order to do so one has to wake up and see the truth about one’s own desires; namely that they are an illusion. What happens when your desires are fulfilled? You suddenly have desire for the fulfillment of new desires, just as the hydra with a thousand heads.

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In the popular media there is a narrative suggesting that the psychological edifice of modernist, scientific, enlightenment thinking is under attack by so called obscurantist mysticism in the form of a revitalization of religious and spiritual currents throughout the world today. It is true that there are and have always been extremist organizations pushing obscurantist agendas for the sake of power while cloaking themselves in the name of religion. However, obviously these are not true religious or spiritual practitioners. For example, one might read some of the most prominent current European philosophers like Zizek or Badiou, or even older philosophers such as Nietzsche and see a well reasoned attack, on not only religious organizations but the belief in spiritual phenomena, as obscurantist nonsense. The problem with this reasoning is that it is only materialist, it ignores the phenomenal mental experience of the individual.

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While well reasoned, such logical objections to spirituality don’t take into account actual first person experiences which are supported by a large portion of the population in every generation and are recorded in a massive body of analysis throughout the world and all of human history which we call religious writings or theology. It’s interesting that a few philosophers (even if it’s a million) out of billions of human beings, who have no training in the spiritual arts, who’s minds are completely out of control (as demonstrated by their neurotic prolific writings), and who have never actually attempted to consistently practice the path of one of the world’s wisdom traditions are judging the validity of spiritual phenomena. All of this takes place in the shadow of the entirety of human history, where every single culture in the entire world has had highly organized spiritual traditions which seek to train individuals to overcome ego-centric consciousness in order to live better in this world, as well as obtain wisdom from a “spiritual realm.”

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Even if one rejects spiritual phenomena or higher realms as invalid it is important to see that wisdom traditions which seek to “awaken” individuals to compassion for others and their highest form of consciousness are much greater goals than our contemporary culture, which seeks to awaken the individual’s personal ambition. Until this situation is reversed we are firmly in the heart of a dark age which only seems to be getting darker.

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Individually we transcend a dark age when we constantly remember ourselves, awaken our consciousness and see that same consciousness in all others, seeking the highest good for all beings. A mind that is awake, flexible, ever adapting to the reality of the present is filled with light and can see. A mind focused on selfish ego desires is lost in the dark. Our first priority should always be to keep the light on, become a light in this dark age by maintaining constant awareness so that our desires and emotions do not cause harm. When others harm us or we harm them, only those who are awake and fully conscious can derail the cycle of acquired ego patterns playing out in harmful ways. It is important to recognize this as a dark age, because if a person is asleep and doesn’t know they are in the dark, they won’t even look for the light.

Bad Dog

With all the concerns in modern life we expend immense amounts of energy on so many daily activities, work, relationships and hobbies. How many moments do we stop to analyze how we are using our own mind, where and how are we using our mental energies? For most of us, it is very difficult to even be aware of what our mind is doing, we simply need to take actions and get things done in our daily lives. Which is to say, that we are mostly working on autopilot or daydreaming most of our lives, without seeing what our mind is actually doing moment-to-moment.

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The mind is like a bad dog, it needs to be trained, it needs to be on a short leash and made to heal constantly. Once we let the dog off the leash it runs around pooping in other people’s yards, biting and barking at others and sometimes worse. Dogs aren’t bad animals they need to be trained properly by their owners – just like minds. Dogs can perform many useful tasks like leading the blind, finding lost people, herding animals and pulling sleds but they can’t do those things without training. A mind cannot be useful without training either, yet how many of us allow our minds to run around the mental landscape freely, doing as they please? How many people even believe that their mind needs training outside of their professional field and academics in general?

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Dogs do not tire easily of fetching balls, neither does the mind of subtlety drawing one into an explosion of ignorant thoughts. Thinking that seeks to understand the clear working of the mind and sense impressions, as well as how to be more compassionate, truthful and seek justice for others, are useful and good thoughts. Random thoughts arising and causing rumination are the source of ignorant actions. Dogs are pack animals and tend to run with other dogs, doing what the other dogs in the pack do; just like human minds. Without constant vigilant awareness the mind will join in with others to fault find, think up doubts, criticize others, boast of one’s own virtuousness, envy what others have, judge others, talk about subjects that promote ignorance, and generally talk about likes and dislikes. All of these things are the result of an untrained mind getting off leash.

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How do we keep the dog on leash, how do we train the mind? In reality the world wisdom traditions came up with the solution a long time ago and have been saying the same thing over for millennia. However, when people hear the answer they generally agree, but when they attempt the solution (meditation) they find it difficult if not impossible and eventually give up. The dog doesn’t want to be put on leash, the dog wants to fetch random thoughts. The mind will twist, turn and roll around to avoid it’s training; this is why the beginning stages of formal meditation are so difficult. The mind is comfortable and addicted to being the way it has always been, it is much like the process of withdrawal symptoms of an addict. The body becomes uncomfortable, even painful and the mind becomes extremely agitated searching for anything to think about, creating fantasies, reveries, thinking up suspicions and ideas for future exploration or memories to ruminate on. All of this should be an indicator to those beginning meditation that the mind is in need of deep training in order to get it under control. Random thoughts of the mind are leading one around at will, rather than the owner leading the mind around.

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If we ignore what we have learned in meditation, by giving up and saying meditation is too difficult then we are allowing unconscious forces that are out of control, like a bad dog, to run our life. In essence, if we ignore the situation we are agreeing to allow unseen and untrained mental forces to influence our life. Such that, a belligerent, out of control, childish, emotional roller coaster-of-a-wild-animal gets to influence our most intimate life decisions.

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The bad doggie needs to learn to sit.

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Many people think that when they first starting sitting to meditate that meditation is about some amazing experience they will have mentally/spiritually. Really the amazing thing that begins to happen after meditating for some time is that one becomes so aware of each thought and physical condition in the body that not being mindful in regular life would almost be impossible. Seeing random thoughts, especially negative patterns (criticism, impatience, anger, sadness, jealousy and so on) derails these influences and keeps the dog on leash.

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People love their dogs like children. Like children, it’s difficult to see when they are acting badly, but it’s always easy to see when someone else’s dog is being naughty. Before we can keep the dog in our own yard and out of other people’s business we need to recognize that we have a bad dog. Keeping our attention inside the house (meditation) can help us see what a mess our doggie is making.

A Wealth of Distraction

Unless you are born with a trust fund or win the lottery you will have to work for a living. Many people are blessed with talent and intellect such that their pursuit of personal interests naturally leads to a healthy income. For the rest of humanity finding a job in order to support oneself is a necessity in the current social-political-economic system. Therefore, work as a means of earning money (not work as a creative expression of our personal talents and for the benefit of society as a whole) becomes the primary orientation of the individual; the matrix within which the individual brings about all other personal pursuits. In other words, the individual is essentially inert, unviable, ineffectual in terms of personal empowerment without first finding a source of earning money.

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For example, how would a person, without the support of family members or friends be able to live in a house or apartment, obtain food, transportation, education, healthcare, create and sustain new stable relationships with others, while not living anywhere? We take the need for earning money so much for granted in our culture that we forget that many of our human ancestors lived without money and never earned any money in their entire lives. Because we take earning money for granted we have begun to believe that how we live, within the social fiction of a money based system of economics, is a natural and normal part of human existence. Yet, it is a social fiction that we have all agreed to take part in, or is it? At least for the poorer part of the world (the majority) the monetary system is a situation that one is forced into – that is, it is not a social agreement, it is a form of manipulation and violence.

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The bourgeois middle class of privileged first world developed nations will talk about social responsibility yet they will continue to buy cheap goods from poor countries around the world (as they must, the economic system relies upon it and so does their lifestyle). These cheap goods represent the labor of the poor being exploited by the economic system of money that we all see as a necessity (the water we swim in). Instead of addressing the typical Marxist criticism of such a system of alienation and exploitation it is better for the individual to recognize the psychological workings of such a system within their own psyche and how it influences every area of personal behavior. Within such personal recognition, the individual is better able to see and stop the development of negative and violent behavior at the stage of thought before it manifests in action.

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The average Western person finds a job as a young person and begins to develop a career in a line of work that will define their working and personal life. If they are able to make a living they are able to have free time outside of work to pursue hobbies, personal interests and relationships. If they are not able to do so, they will become reliant upon family or friends for support or they will become homeless. In either case, such people will have all personal expression debilitated. Those who are successful or at least earn enough to have more money than they need to simply exist, are able to create a life for themselves that they envision and craft. This visioning and crafting that the individual takes part in and experiences as effective, all happens within the context of the monetary system; that is, none of it would take place without the empowerment of money within the violent social control of the larger economic-legal-political-industrial system. Without all that physical and social machinery there would be no empowerment to earning money. In a sense, what we see here is the foundation of what we call civilization, how civilization is in fact predicated upon violence. It is violence that is threatened or used to evict people from housing or land, it is used to make them pay their taxes, it is used to conscript youth into the military and it is used to make people follow civic rules. All of which are absolutely necessary for civilization to function as it is currently organized.

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This line of reasoning can help us see why the individual can lose sight of where their empowerment came from and see themselves as masters of their personal world. If one succeeds in the realm of earning money they can see themselves as having succeeded in all areas of life, since money buys them the ability to participate in all the other activities of life that they might view as personally empowering. But this is a mistake. Incredibly socially and morally stunted individuals can be successful within our current economic system, in fact, our economic system appears to favor such people. The result is a person who has not even begun to develop toward the highest potentials of humanity, yet such individuals may falsely believe that they are quite evolved.

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Earning money cannot make you compassionate, patient, humble, giving or able to perceive the suffering of others. In fact, it seems that earning money has the opposite psychological effect on people in our society. What is it that wealth is collectively distracting us from?

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Once empowered, within the context out our current economic system, a person with money may hold the false view that they know how the world works and have a clear view of reality. A person might believe this due to the fact that they are able to do as they please and are empowered through doing “what it takes” to get and hold a job in our society. Which appears to connote that such a person knows “how the world works.” But in reality, such a person only knows how to operate in our socially manipulated, collective fiction called the economic system. This does not mean that such a person actually perceives or understands anything about the underlying reality of our universe and the role of humanity within it.

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Such a realization is called, “seeing the truth in the false” within the philosophy of some of the worlds wisdom traditions. The truth in this case, is the realization of one’s own distraction from the highest potentialities of oneself and humanity in general. In exchange for the daydream of personal empowerment and the fantasy of narcissistic hedonism passed off as self realization, we are given a tiny area of the Earth to feel that we have some kind of dominion over (namely the house, office and car). I doubt our ancient ancestors were circumscribed by such a small domain of activity. Believing that you have the world at your finger tips because you have constant access to information and images from around the world obscures the truth: you are a human being with so much potential but you are just sitting in a room, car or office staring at screen – that’s what you are actually doing, regardless of what you believe you are doing.

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In order to activate the true wealth within your highest human potentialities you have to be in a place and state of mind where you are not distracted. That is why most of the world’s wisdom traditions suggest a regimen of some type of meditative practice. Without constant awareness of the mind and it’s distracted nature, there is no hope of harnessing the kind of internal energy needed to grow into our highest mental and spiritual potentialities. Yet the most distracted people, who tend to be the most successful people in the context of our society, will many times not understand such a point, believing they have attained a high level of personal evolution.

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One would have to question the viability of depending on a system that literally inhibits you from doing anything without money. Even those who earn a lot of money if they had their identity stolen or a government decided to shut down all their accounts, they could have all personal empowerment ended by a few key strokes. Beyond the purely pragmatic, we cannot be good human beings, much less humans striving to reach the peak of our potential without a calm undistracted state of mind. A money based system creates a mental landscape where it is nearly impossible for true personal development to occur.

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In order to do so, an individual must carve out a niche or regular intervals of time to practice the meditative arts, as did the great yogis, Buddhist monks and lamas, Daoist masters and the highest level shaman throughout all world cultures. But to do so is to deny self gratification in a system that not only constantly encourages the individual to enjoy themselves but creates an army out of the majority of people ready to criticize anyone that isn’t lock step with the system of self gratification. The only way for the average person to have enough strength and personal resolve to go against the paradigm is to experience spirit directly, which carries them beyond faith, to a place of knowing. It truly is a catch 22 situation, because in order to have powerful spiritual experiences one usually needs to be in a non distracted environment.

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But there is a process that seems to work to “awaken” people even within our distracted culture. Once the person has gotten tired of entertainments and distractions (not everyone does), like someone who has gotten sick of eating too much chocolate cake, they go looking for what more there could be to life. In such a frame of mind, they will discover the teachers and paths that can lead to true spiritual experience not just blind faith. Even charlatans and false teachers, fanatic cults and mega-church money makers will not stop a deeply dissatisfied person from finding out the truth. A tenet of ancient spiritual alchemy was that every experience is the experience you need next for your personal growth; in order to refine the base metal of your character into the gold of spiritual realization. Therefore, we live in an age of distraction based on wealth and this is our challenge and opportunity, to use these distractions as the fire to refine the base metal of our ego-mind into the gold of true spiritual wealth.

The Amusement Park

amusement park

In modern Western culture everything teaches us to fulfill ourselves with some type of enjoyment in order to “be happy.” In fact, enjoyment is the primary collective cultural imperative. Psychologically, to enjoy oneself in our culture is much more common of an individual mental narrative than say, the social imperative to sacrifice for the whole (as one among many possible narratives). Nearly everything we can see outside the work world, and many times within the work world, is an amusement of some kind. These amusements are ways of enjoying ourselves outside of work whether they are hobbies, entertainment, sports, arts, games, social pursuits and so on. The goal in our culture is to earn enough money in order to buy all the forms of entertainment one desires in the amusement park of our society. These forms of amusement serve to cloak the truth about our lives, the work we do, the direction of our society and the horrors that are currently underway throughout the world.

 
We live in a world that attempts to keep us in a daydream, not only through overtly escapist entertainment but through the pursuit of careers, sex, family life (as an ambition), ambitious goal setting, new electronics, shopping, fashion, watered down religion and of course drugs. This fixation on enjoyable pursuits focuses the mind upon the next thing, situation or goal that can maintain the dream of personal happiness. It is as if everyone in our society is collectively dreaming all the time. We are dreaming of where we would rather be when at work, or dreaming of the next entertainment even while still pursuing the current one.

 
If you are dreaming, you are asleep. Almost everything in our society attempts to keep you asleep. One might counter by saying, “well I enjoy my dream, what’s wrong with it?” Such a statement is similar to saying ignorance is bliss; usually it is blissful until something bites you in the rear end and you have to wake up. The question is how do we wake up?

 
If you are dreaming it’s usually because you are too tired to wake up. In order to wake up you have to generate enough energy, once you are energetic enough nothing will stop you from awakening. You can’t build enough energy to awaken if you drain all your energy on various amusements (our collective social goal). Career, relationships, sex, fitness, powerful emotions and so on, can steal your energy even to the point of harming your health (think fatigue, stress, rumination on negative thoughts and emotions etcetera).

 
We must leave the amusement park of emotions and awaken to reality – the reality as experienced within the body from moment-to-moment. In order to do so we must shift our consciousness away from daydreaming to reality as it is; usually this is painful for people in our society so they would rather keep on dreaming. If we can do this, we can wake up in dreams (lucid dreaming) and daydreams which keep us from seeing reality clearly.

 
Why awaken? Certainly many of the world’s wisdom traditions speak of the awareness of higher realms of consciousness that are only obtainable when one has done the work of building enough internal energy to awaken. Yet, even in our daily life waking up means being mindful; mindful of the state of affairs we are in. If we aren’t mindful it is very difficult to have a true mission in life. A mission gives life a deeper meaning than just a way to fulfill one’s hedonistic desires. Without a mission there is no reason to find true mentors, those teachers who can show us the way to fulfill a true life mission.

 
How do we save the energy that we already have in order to stop wasting it on dreaming and learn to wake up? We focus on activities that balance emotions that have gotten out of control in our amusement park world. Emotions like fear, anger, excitement, worry and sadness. Each of these emotions and others consume huge amounts of energy that can be used to awaken. Many times these emotions arise when the daydream of our amusements are thwarted. Our ambitious amusements can be calmed by practicing a sense of thankfulness. When we are thankful we can view the world and situations in the world with humility. If we are humble (without self consciousness) we can be patient, with ourselves, others and life situations. Inside an attitude of patience we can be compassionate, to ourselves, others and all beings. Being compassionate creates a giving heart, where one is willing to give not only of physical resources but one’s time and talents to so many who are in need.

 
Baring the awakening to higher realms of consciousness, awakening is for the change and improvement of our world in the here and now. Simply by being fully present in any given moment you harness energy wasted on frivolous amusements and bring it to serve the needs of reality rather than daydreams. Dreaming is for those who are asleep, experiencing reality is for those who are awake.

A Thankful Heart

In the coming new year many people are looking to make a change or create a new resolution in order to change their lives. Yet when we are truly resolved we should decide and stick with our resolutions regardless of the time of year. Each day is the time to change and be resolved to be the kind of person that we know we can be. Continuing with the theme of the last post on this blog we should focus on the three M’s. The three M’s are Mission, Mentors and Mindfulness. We need to be clear on our mission, why are we here, what are we doing in this world? Who are we using as role models and teachers that can help us to reach the goals related to our life mission? Finally, are we being mindful, moment to moment watching how our mind works, seeing how our conditioned behaviors are helping or hindering our forward progress in our life mission?

 
Many times people will have a noble desire to cultivate some positive behavior such as patience or being more giving. However, it is easy to decide to cultivate a trait that we are not really prepared to enact in our lives due to unresolved internal conflicts. It is like saying to ourselves I’m resolved to become a fast runner but I know I have a leg injury such that I can’t even run until I first heal up. In such a case we should be focused on healing first and not planning for our daily running exercises. We all do this in regard to goals for personal change and transformation.

 
There is a process that can aid in transforming all of our actions and relationships regardless of the area of life we are concerned with. The foundation of transforming how we feel and interact with others and situations in life seems to be the attitude of thankfulness. Once we are thankful for what we have (things, health, family, friends, the beauty of the Earth and so on) we can see situations and people in their proper context. Rather than allowing small things to be taken out of context and becoming bigger than they should be, which steals energy away from other areas of our life including our health. The combination of mindfulness and thankfulness can transform all of our daily relations especially in regard to our thoughts and emotions.

 
Once we have cultivated a sense of thankfulness then we can begin to soften the most difficult part of our ego to overcome, pride. Pride is countered by humility and humility can only come about if we are thankful for what we have. Many people would like to cultivate humility for spiritual reasons however it is difficult to be humble in a non-self-conscious way if one is trying to be humble. When one is first truly thankful for what they have it is much easier to be spontaneously humble.

 
If we are thankful and naturally humble then the virtue of patience comes about naturally. Without patience most of the internal virtues people would like to cultivate are impossible. When we are impatient it is usually due to our pride (“I want it to be this way,” “how dare you impede me,” “I need it to be this way now…”). How do we become more patient? By focusing on what we are thankful for and allowing humility to naturally arise. In a humble mental state we are much more patient, allowing people and situations to play out as they will. We can simply observe them and learn from what they have to teach us. When we are impatient we can’t see the lessons that we could be learning and we end up allowing valuable life lessons to pass by in order to have life be the way our ego consciousness wants it to be. Without challenge, especially of an internal mental-emotional kind, human beings stagnate and wither spiritually.

 
If we can master patience in daily life, especially in unexpected daily life situations then we have graduated to the level of compassion. Only with the mindful state of patience can we begin to see people and situations in compassionate ways. Patience helps us to see beyond the surface level of behavior and problematic events, to compassionately engage life. Without compassion there really isn’t real transformation in our lives. This can include compassion for ourselves, others and all living things. Again, many people will set a resolution such as being more compassionate in their lives. Yet, if they haven’t first cultivated these other traits such as thankfulness and humility it will be very difficult to have compassion spontaneously arise.

 
Finally, if we have developed a mental state where compassion can arise we have come to the state where we can contribute and give. Give not only of our physical possessions but of our time, efforts and talents to a world so much in need. Giving in a begrudging way is not giving from a humble heart. A person that is giving with a sense of compassion is giving in an understanding way rather than in a judgmental way. A judgmental mind is one that sees itself as superior. In the judgmental mind there is a sense of superiority that is the foundation and origin of violence within the mind. Giving from a truly humble and non-self-conscious heart is in the higher order of virtues because it requires us to first address all of the other virtues already discussed.

 
Again, many people want to develop certain virtues before they even have the proper foundation. Let’s review the sequence discussed in this article:

 
Thankfulness – Humility – Patience – Compassion – Giving

 
When we begin with thankfulness it is as if we have the foundation of all the other virtues. But we can only find thankfulness when we are mindfully aware throughout the day. Instead of waiting for the new year to make a resolution, we should just resolve to be thankful for what we have in the present.

 
“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
-Lao Tzu

The Internal Compass

“If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition. If you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.” -Padmasambhava

Many people today are hungry to change their lives and the world, live better, do something that is meaningful, but you will hear the same frustrated mantra from so many people, “I just don’t know what to do.” Finding our way in the world (externally and internally) is not just a normal challenge, it is a test. It is a spiritual test to see if you have the resolve, skill, patience and energy to overcome the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will be repeatedly presented to you until you overcome it or you come to the end of your life. Challenges are presented in order to make you grow into those skills you are lacking. Once you overcome the challenge you will have grown and the next challenge will present itself. What many people can’t seem to identify in this process is, that it is a process, in order to grow spiritually you need to overcome the challenges presented to you. Many people seem, mistakenly, to believe that growing in terms of ordinary life experiences (career, relationships, arts and skills) is not spiritual growth. In reality, each of these things is a stepping stone to higher levels of development. We are not just speaking of knowledge and skills because even very immature and immoral people can attain high levels of learning. This is also not intended to spiritualize those who dominate and subdue others through belligerent business practices; many such people are not following their true calling, they are simply playing along with our current manipulative and psychotic culture as expressed through our society’s twisted economic system. What we are speaking of here is the ability to learn how to overcome the internal conflicts which can stop one from progressing on the path of their true potentiality.

One of the first challenges in this process of unfolding one’s potential abilities is to overcome confusion and listlessness. To become decisive and take some action, even if it’s a mistake, is to learn and move forward – at such a point the person has grown. But how is one to take an action in the first place? The needle of the “internal compass” seems to point in two directions; toward what we are attracted to, like or enjoy and away from things that are boring to us, useless, life killing. Many times, especially in regard to hobbies, a person doesn’t need to try to figure out how they are going to do some particular activity, it is almost as if nothing can stand in their way. This is exactly how we should guide ourselves in life, by going toward those things that fill us with energy and excitement, not running away from what we don’t like.

One early crux in this process of discovering one’s personal path is finding a way to make a living in the world that is in line with not only one’s interests but one’s values. This is a test that most people struggle with their whole lives. Some people, while seemingly successful in terms of our current wealth based culture fail the test from the very beginning by engaging in vocations which they know in their heart is the wrong path for them but is the safe bet to get by with in this society. If one has begun to awaken to the path of spirit they have already realized that playing along with a corrupt and evil social structure is not the correct path – the compass points away.

If we only follow the compass of what we are attracted toward we can still get lost. The internal compass is complex and needs a map to work with. Part of a map is the intention of the user, where does the map user want to go, what are the goals and destinations? One way of finding the right map and deciding on appropriate destinations is to use the mirror of relationship. In relationships (professional, friendship, intimate etc) we learn about ourselves and others and discover what is valuable and worth pursuing. Also, in relationship we see ourselves as we are, not as we would like to be. In the conflict between our imagined self and reality there are many opportunities for growth. Instead of looking for others faults we should see those faults and always be aware how the lesson of others faults apply to our own lives. In searching for our own faults we begin to draw out the map of where we are willing to go and not go and begin to see distant goals toward which we can chart a course.

The problem is that we can still chart a course to the wrong destination and realize after many years that we have been going the wrong direction the whole time. One way to avoid this is to find the right map with a pre-charted course; usually we find such maps through teachers, mentors, masters, gurus and so on. We have to use our internal compass to know if they are the right teacher for us. With the right mentor/teacher we can save ourselves years of wandering in circles. But with the wrong teacher one is better off to walk their path alone – this is why the internal compass is so important. If one is talented and motivated they can go far on their own, but no one can go as far as they could go unless they are mentored and coached along their path. Everyone intuitively knows that those at the highest levels of academics, athletics, medicine, philosophy and spiritual practice have had teachers/mentors who helped bring out latent potentiality. That is, our compass needs calibration and an accurate map to work with otherwise it will not take us where we want to go.

Our compass will always work, pointing toward what we are interested in and away from what we don’t like. But the compass cannot take us where we want to go, we have to be resolved and stay motivated to actually take the actions on a daily bases to reach our goals. There is nothing more motivating than feeling like one is on a mission toward doing what is right and bringing good into the world. In fact, the mission of one’s life helps define the destination on one’s map. The mission helps motivate us to overcome the obstacles in our way because we have a goal that is bigger than ourselves.

We return to the question, “what is one to do in the world?” The first thing you are to do is find your path, your mission and then find mentors who can show you a map of how to get to where you want to go. Constantly aware of your internal compass and ever looking into the mirror of relationship you will slowly steer toward the path of awakening your true potential. To simply follow the approved paths of our current corrupt society is to go to sleep, comfortable in the idea that one is successful on the path that everyone else is on. To follow the path of your true self, not the ego self which is created out of experience with corrupt human society, is a struggle – it is a spiritual test. As an old Daoist saying goes:

“Life acquires meaning only when we face the conflict between our desires and reality.”