Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Kipling Swehla - Newsletter 2010
Without going outside, you may know the whole world.
Tao Te Ching #47
It is often taught that if you want to learn how to live properly, simply observe Nature. Conversely I would say, if you want to know Nature, explore your internal self. The laws of the universe can be seen replicated within the micro and macro, the internal and external, the physical and energetic.
Rather than reminisce about my internal contemplations during 2010, I’d like to reflect on society’s experience over the last 10 years. People have been suffering from the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression. The cliched musing comes to mind, “How can a loving God allow suffering?”
Last year in a breaking news story, it was announced that a drug company was so successful in eliminating pain, that elderly people who had suffered for years from debilitating pain, were able to participate in sports and activities not enjoyed for decades. The unforeseen result of this miraculous breakthrough, was emergency surgery to replace joints suddenly ground down to nothing as a result of over-activity. Pain is information!!!
Western practitioners love to eliminate the symptoms while ignoring the cause. Western civilization is replicating this behavior in response to the Great Recession. On November 2nd, the American people, in a sweeping voice of anger and dismay, sent the message “Cut our Taxes! Quit spending our money!!”
In the 6 weeks since, the Federal Reserve has responded by printing gobs of new money in an attempt to provide cheap cash and the government has extended tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires in an attempt to stimulate economic growth and job hiring. The immediate effect has been escalating commodity prices and a stock market which has risen almost 4% in a few weeks. Sadly this is evidence that the money is being used by corporations and the wealthy to protect their investments by buying stocks and commodities. Essentially they are building higher walls and digging wider moats to help separate the growing rich from the expanding poor.
You may be wondering what does this political observation have to do with meditation? Everything! All you have to do is observe yourself and you recognize a huge problem in having a growing division between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 90%.
On a physical level, you could say,
The foot bone connected to the leg-bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the head bone.
Dem bones, dem bones gon-na walk a-roun'
This verse is literal in economics and is supposed to be how the Trickle Down theory works but, like the 1920’s when the division between the wealthiest 10% and the other 90% was enormous, though smaller than it is today, the middle and lower class had little to no expendable money due to high unemployment and low wages yet despite the slow economy, stock prices went up 600% in 8 years (not dissimilar to the recent surge in home prices and the more recent surge in commodities) because instead of investing in the well being of people less fortunate, the wealthy put their money into stocks and commodities driving prices up causing an artificial bubble. When the bubble popped, you saw Trickle Down economics at its realistic worst. For people to think they can exist and thrive in this bubble is sadly naive.
There’s also an internal, spiritual aspect to this as well. The writer/ philosopher, Ayn Rand insisted that altruism is unnatural and unrealistic. Humans live only to pleasure themselves and are only concerned for their own happiness and well being. If you come from the perspective of western religions, in which you perceive yourself to be a capsule, completely created and entirely divided from God or in Rand’s case if you believe in a complete absence of a greater being then this theory may seem plausible. It is not. It is an immature, short sighted thought. You can build a bubble around you, but as you try to avoid or ignore those less fortunate than you, you only make your world smaller and smaller.
From the Eastern spiritual view, it’s clear that we are all interconnected. We are all the energy that is the Tao. We are all interconnected like drops of water merging and flowing together in a river. The pattern of inseparable connectivity to other people like the bones in the human body is again replicated in the solar system. Life emerged from the oceans, which is swayed by the moon, which revolves around the earth, which revolves around the sun which provides the heat and light and energy. Individuals are just as equally intertwined with the sun and moon and oceans and environment as they are with every other living human and creature on the planet as are their bones to other bones and their cells to other cells.
Through meditation and tai chi you become aware of the internal flow of energy within your self. Next you become aware of the flow of energy in others and your connection to them. Truly profound happiness can only come from the absence of suffering world wide. In the elderly, beauty radiates from those that have lived a beautiful life. Yet in this capitalistic world of the bubble generation, we rely on plastic surgery to paint a happy face, to have money buy us the facade of happiness. A happiness that can only be skin deep.