I used to write a spiritual and progressive column on an internet site that claimed to reach a broad audience and could make me some part time money if I just kept writing and plugging away. The money was ‘pay per click’ with some commission for ad revenues initially – now that site just gives away coupons, travel miles and vacations or some manner of toy, gadget or consumer item.
For a writer trying to eek out a living is hard enough…to write progressive content about dumping the corporate mindset of political greed and consumption on a page full of ads that I had no control over and could potentially be about the very companies buying our democracy? It just made me feel like an asshole. Not that I wasn’t pleased with my final work but I felt the advertising would call my integrity into question. That and I just can’t eat a coupon.
I quickly created my own site and never looked back.
Until recently. I revisited both columns – I’m a firm believer that we don’t know where we’re going until we remember where we’ve been. It was the spiritual column that found me chuckling at myself. Not because of the work – it was at best indicative of a time during my own personal journey of intention and positivity – at worst it was incredibly naive.
I recall at the time that I struggled internally to write the words ‘power of positive thinking’ and ‘law of attraction.’ Not that there isn’t a little something to that – but I’m also a realist. That comes through in my photography. I don’t like to photoshop the hell out of a simple image but work with shadows and lighting until the essence and feeling of that moment reveals itself to me. Sometimes it is a completely happy accident. I think the world is plenty photogenic and mother nature doesn’t need candied-up like so much glitterati.
A quote has resonated with me over time that has been attributed to one of my favorite photographers, Dorthea Lange. “A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.“ As one of the photographers who recorded the haunting and famous black and white images of The Great Depression, she would know.
Life, like photography is a balance of shadows and light. I had to admit to myself that a lot of what I was seeing without my camera was worrisome. The political and environmental concerns were too real to imagine positive thinking could ‘change’ all that. It’s the same as praying which I didn’t put too much stock in at age 8, let alone in my 40’s. Then I saw a video that made me realize I was on the right path and that no path is full of rainbows and unicorn farts – unless you’re a sheltered pre-teen or a character in a Disney movie.
Using a photographer’s analogy: A lot of ‘new age’ spirituality never resonated with me because it literally ‘photoshopped’ right over reality, like many religions before. I never liked The Secret and was a critic of it from the get go – but there were other ‘new age’ problems. These problems were made very apparent to me after my first viewing of Josh Fox’s documentary, Gasland. I had to pause the movie several times because I was moved to tears. Things were worse than I had ever imagined and something had to be done. I was changed. I shared via my social network that I had viewed the film, and stated that, “I wish I could unsee Gasland but what has been seen cannot be unseen.”
Within 5 minutes there were two ‘new age’ folks asking me, ‘Why can’t you?’ and ‘Pretend you didn’t see it.’ This, ladies and gentlemen, in a nutshell is what my intuition had already been telling me was absolutely, inherently wrong – so very, very wrong – about this country’s inability to take their own blinders off.
I have the Smile or Die video bookmarked to share with others like me who share my same concerns. They are more often than not, deeply spiritual people who know how bad things are right now but that listening to their own intuition serves them well. They are incredibly vigilant. The keen observers, scouts and warriors for humanity and the environment that has sustained us.
“Has” being the operative word here. That’s all about to change in a big way.
What is the shift?
I believe it is an energy shift that is happening in waves. Part of the shift, the human aspect, is happening right now. All around us. You may not believe it has much to do with politics, markets, resources or government – but I put to you that is has everything to do with these things because they are, in fact, globally intrinsic and effect all people. The web of life. Whether you pay attention to the news outside the idiot box or not there are many things happening in other countries that your government does not want you to see – and if you are a truth seeker, like me – you dig until you find what resonates with you.
The digging is also a spiritual undertaking. An excavation. Investigating for your own peace of mind is one thing, to do it for the benefit of your craft, sometimes your own consciousness can take a good beating. You learn to assimilate information that makes you uncomfortable – but that is the purpose of any real spiritual undertaking – to get out of our own comfort zone. Learning to handle the truth, when we have been lied to for so long about so much, takes not only mental but spiritual stamina…stamina we have to want to obtain. This can be difficult when pushed or pulled in other directions, even from well intentioned others. This is when solitude beckons and only then can intuition be developed.
When I say ‘consciousness takes a good beating’, what I mean is that it is challenged – you challenge your comfort zone, your own way of thinking. The outcome of this practice is keener observation and your intuition becomes acute. A sharpened sword molded under your own blacksmith’s hammer.
This is not an easy task in the world we live in now – shifts are happening faster. One must make time to do the work, study, practice and meditate. Yes, meditate. The mind is a big place with lots of bright lights and swirling data coming at us at an alarming rate every day. It’s the best tool for quieting one’s mind in order to focus our best intentions even when the information we receive seems confusing. Finding the truth is like separating the wheat from the chaff. The best way to start to do this is turning off your television and picking up a book.
The journey isn’t about arriving
I know a lot of people who enjoy traveling but not always for the reasons that seasoned travelers take to the road. Arriving isn’t the goal – it is the journey that teaches us about observing. Speed bumps on the road aren’t so much of a surprise when we’re able to slow down and move over them smoothly. Many people are ill-equipped to deal with the slightest hiccup in their lives – the fastest way from point A to point B can be more fraught with difficulty than if we take our time – and in rushing, we miss an awful lot of the scenery and opportunities to learn from our surroundings and other people.
People in a hurry to get where they’re going are usually not attentive for long periods of time – so reading, researching and absorbing information can be a chore for them. Perhaps this is why it is frustrating to me to read badly written headlines, when many only read them like so many Twitter updates, rather than reading the content. Headlines are designed to capture attention. How long that attention lasts is of no concern to most media spin doctors. Some headlines are inflammatory, others are just plain shocking. To the point at which a satirical piece can be taken seriously, even by people we tend to imagine should be much more observant than the average Joe. Then again, politics doesn’t always denote intelligence.
What I have found is that the more I seek – I am sought by people who share my sensibilities and love of life. In the past two years, I’ve met people with a lot of courage to change what they see broken in the world we share. They think little of themselves and more of the greater good. They know what effects them, effects everyone – we really are all connected in more ways than one – but our biggest connection has been being fellow passengers on this boat. When people seek to sink the boat, some of us take it personally. This is exactly why people are in the streets with Occupy. This is why people complain about their government being corrupt. It’s also why politicians and banks that own them are nervous – they know we’re right. Quite simply, there are more of us then there are of them. When you don’t do right by the people and they finally learn the truth, they will let you know about it.
Imagine all the things that have come to light already by switching off televisions and reading alternative news sources! There really is an underground college that has taken shape via the internet. It is a very important tool for learning, sharing ideas and meeting people with common goals and concerns. Even a thousand miles away! I have found it to be a marvelous place for spiritual growth in this way as well. The shifts that are occurring are less scary when you find other people experiencing them – the same problems – the same suffering, and that connection is healing medicine for the planet. It is what the Buddha taught – that in our suffering, we also learn compassion for ourselves and others – because all beings suffer. Awakened beings wish to help ease this suffering, or what is called Samsara, by teaching a way of detachment of earthly possessions, among other things, which cause us unnecessary suffering and keep us from enlightenment.
|Representation of samsara in Buddhism / wheel of life|
Right now, there are many people in the 99% globally, who have learned this lesson quite acutely, not through spiritual practice or a guru but by physically losing their savings, work, homes and loved ones. You don’t see them giving up, nor their neighbors give up, their towns will not give up and a whole glorious wave of compassion is being unleashed and what I see now is that America, the sleeping giant, is finally coming out of REM sleep.
The hope is that it does not behave like a rudely awakened child because we have a lot of work ahead of us and we need to catch up with the rest of the world. Begin by embracing the reality that we no longer passengers on this ship, we are all crew. Prepare to roll up your sleeves.