Monday, June 27, 2011

The Empty Koan

Commentary on the First Koan of the Blue Cliff Record:

1. Emperor Wu of Liang asked the great master Bodhidharma, "What is the highest meaning of the holy truth?"

2. Bodhidharma said, "Empty, without holiness."

3. The Emperor said, "Who is facing me?"

4. Bodhidharma replied, "I don't know."

5. The Emperor did not understand.

6. After this Bodhidharma crossed the Yangtse River and came to the Kingdom of Wei.

7. Later the Emperor brought this up to Master Chih and asked him about it.

8. Master Chih asked, "Does your majesty know who this man is?"

9. The Emperor said, "I don't know."

10. Master Chih said, "He is the Mahasattva Avalokitesvara, transmitting the Buddha Mind Seal.

11. The Emperor felt regretful, so he wanted to send an emissary to go invite Bodhidharma to return.

12. Master Chih told him, "Your majesty, don't say that you will send someone to fetch him back. Even if everyone in the whole country were to go after him, he still wouldn't return."

[1] Wu asks the most important question that he could. He was a dedicated Buddhist. He built many monastaries and supported the flourishing of the Dharma in China. But why were the discourses on the Buddha on how to watch the breathing, how to notice annata, letting go of grasping, negativity, and confusion, and the five precepts not enough for him?

[2] Bodhidharma cuts through every obscuring concept in a single phrase, speaks to the very heart of the matter, and opens the door to sudden enlightenment. Will Wu walk through?

[3] Wu is bewildered, rather than let Bodhidharma slay his attachments, he gets defensive instead.

[4] In order to know who is in front of who, Wu needs to know himself. Nothing that the mind can know is present anywhere. Bodhidharma stays in this not knowing and stays free. He opens the gate one more time for Wu.

[5] Wu actually got a glimpse, in the moment of shock, when he heard, "Empty, without holiness," before his thinking spun around these words. Why did he not stay there?

[6] Wu sits with his confusion, the short phrase that Bodhidharma said, that could have pierced through every obscuration, is now lost in a sea of confused thoughts. Life must move on, the moment is lost, Bodhidharma moves on with his life.

[7] Master Chih has had his glimspes too, but Wu did not see Master Chih before Bodhidharma shook his tree.

[8] Master Chih saw what happened, how Wu was too attached to holiness to let it go and instead questioned the holiness of Bodhidharma, his right to say anything to him. Wu did not see the holiness of Master Chih either.

[9] At last, Wu speaks from his experience, but his "I don't know" is not like Bodhidharma's.

[10] Master Chih affirms the gift of liberation in the short phrase, tuned to Wu, by affirming the role that Bodhidharma played before Wu. How did Master Chih know?

[11] Wu is still used to being in control. Why not leave to find Bodhidharma? Or better, enter the regret and be washed clean. Master Chih also opened the door, but it was not even noticed.

[12] Master Chih gently strikes at Wu's attachment to being in control and opens the door one more time, everything Wu needs is already here. Why does he make Bodhidharma the issue, rather than his own mind? I do not know either, but he seems to have forgotten what he asked for. Bodhidharma simply spoke straightforwardly and honestly, and opened the door to enlightenment wide. Like a deer caught in headlights, Wu froze up and did not walk through. The door is still open. Wu would rather send an army to find Bodhidharma, rather than walk through. If Bodhidharma were to be captured and brought to him, would he say anything different? Why does he not see that Master Chih is also holding the door open? When Wu will walk through? How much thinking about seeing does it take to open the eyes and look?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sending Tariki

This is a sequence of photos (edited on the Gimp Linux Photo editor). The pictures are from bottom to top. The first picture is related to chanting the mantra "Om Namo Amida Buddha Hreeh" and invoking the blessing energy of Amida Buddha. The second picture is my receiving the energy and breathing in to take it in deeply (and breathing out to surrender and allow the energy to transform). The third picture is the energy spreading throughout the chakras, opening them up, and recharging the aura. The fourth is sending the energy of Amida Buddha to others. The aura is shown developing layers of protection.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Subtle Continuity of Memory in the Multiple Lifetime Continuum of the Individual Consciousness

One difference between Buddhism and what may be called the "prophetic religions" is that Buddhism is not based on an authoritarian personal god who speaks through a prophet, whose words are usually written down in a book, and must be believed on faith. Although the teachings of the Buddha are a kind of revelation from a higher mind, they are not framed as commands from a supreme authority that must be obeyed. They are the report of someone who saw into the nature of reality, saw its enlightened core, and showed a way to see the same thing. Because of this, there is nothing essential in the Buddhist teachings that cannot be verified in our own experience. Because of this, minor corrections in the Buddhist teaching can be done over time. The collective Buddhist experience occasionally finds superior formulations of its teachings, develops parts of its theory further in new directions, and has mechanisms to correct errors that occasionally are found. It does not need to claim that every word of the Buddha is absolutely true and try to convince a person to believe every word that the Buddha said. Buddha is more of a guide to a deeper reality, rather than an authority to be believed. In fact, merely believing the teachings is not the goal. Just as believing 2+2=4 does not mean that you know how to add, believing the teachings on how to end sorrow does not mean that one has ended sorrow in one's life. A person still needs to practice meditation and reach nirvana. Christianity has presented itself as a revealed teaching that must be believed and obeyed. Buddhist presents itself as a series of teachings, based on observed reality, where you verify step by step, in your personal experience, the principles which govern reality and then use those principles to end sorrow in your life, the life of humankind, and in the lives of your friends and family.

Therefore, in Buddhism, there is nothing you have to believe to become a Buddhist and follow the Buddhist path. You do not have to believe that Buddha is some kind of god or son of god to follow the Buddhist path. You do not have to seen him as a savior or even a guide. You can be completely agnostic about everything and just agree to have "tentative faith" in the teachings. You take them as a hypothesis that you are going to work with and see where the teachings lead. You do not have to actually and fully believe in the teachings until the teachings prove their truth in your own personal experience.

The advantage of Buddhism is that it is a kind of roadmap to a psychological world. Even though you do not need the map to this territory, it is useful. After a while of using the map, you can match the streets on the map with the streets you are actually traveling on, and once the correspondence has been made, you can find the city of Nirvana more quickly than just wandering around the inner world without the map. Occasionally, some parts of the map may be obsolete, like one street may have been erased that needs to be filled in or a new street has been built. But these updates do not affect travel down the main highway.

In the climate of India at the time when Buddha taught, reincarnation, the law of karma, and continuity of the individual through many lifetimes was a given. Everyone believed it. The Buddha did not question this belief, but just accepted this premise. Because he questioned some deep tenets of Santana Dharma, like how people understood the nature of the soul or self (atman) and proposed that our sense of self was an illusion (anatta), one can conclude that he would have questioned reincarnation and the law of karma if he thought it was a false teaching. Instead, it is part of Buddhist teaching that when Buddha was fully enlightened that he had perfect and complete memory of all his previous incarnations. He did not talk too much of these past lifetimes, because he wanted to share a teaching that could liberate others and not focus too much attention to himself. But a few times he shared experiences that did go into his own past lifetimes. In one village, for instance, a woman kept being critical of the Buddha and saying unkind things about him. The Buddha simply let her do this, blessed her, and moved on. When his disciples asked him why she behaved the way that she did, the Buddha said that in a previous lifetime he was a sannyasin and treated her unkindly, and that she was still feeling anger about this.

I like this small story about the Buddha, because it shows many things. One is that even a Buddha is not beyond the law of karma. Although the seeds of karma within the subconscious mind have been burned away and cannot create more karmaic effects, the causes already set into motion are still producing effects. When we get enlightened, people do not automatically change our opinion of us to match the new state that we attained. Enlightenment lets everyone be as they are and this loving acceptance gradually transforms them over time.

I also like that the Buddha was humble enough to admit his faults in a simple, honest, and straightforward way. He did not try to maintain an image of saintly perfection, but just told the truth of his life in a straight forward manner. He let the event with this woman just be about old karma coming to an end, let her have her words, and moved on. It may be that the karma does not end right way. The resentment within her, which continued into this lifetime, may not dissipate in just one conversation. She might need to share more harsh words. What I find in my own process and the process of others, though, is that when we meet people we had met before that those meetings are always "auspicious". They are how the law of karma, through synchronicity, brings people to us to complete itself. Even though the meeting may not instantly resolve the karma, sometimes it sets in motion the completion. The woman may dwell on her resentment and let it go later on. By blessing her instead of arguing with her, the Buddha does not re-ignite the karma, does not add fuel to its fire, but lets it burn away and complete itself. So Buddha, by his humble admission of his past fault, allows us to see how to end the chain reaction of karma. In this way, he serves as a model for the teaching that he shares to others.

There is a lot of confusion about what Buddha taught about the ultimate nature of the individual self. There is a reason for this confusion. People in this world, partly due to the intense emphasis on right and wrong beliefs, want to translate Buddhism into a set of beliefs. The Buddha was more interested in why people believe what they do, rather than what they believe. He did not think believing something on the basis of some kind of authority, whether it was the authority of a god, a book from that god, or of a priest or priestess group left behind by that god. He did not want people to believe things on heresay, or because of peer pressure, or because everyone thinks it is true. He wanted people to shed all beliefs and find out for themselves what is true. The position about beliefs that the Buddha had was essentially agnostic. He did not believe or disbelieve anything until his experience proved something real. In the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha talked about how the Vedic priests of India were handing down beliefs from generation to generation, but none of them were awakened directly to the truth. It becomes the blind leading the blind. These blind people may have beliefs about the nature of light and color, and maybe even the right beliefs about light and color, handed down faithfully from generation to generation, but it does not mean that they have opened their eyes and seen light and color for themselves. The Buddha did not want to add another word for the nature of the self, like the word "atman", that people would believe or disbelieve. This is why he was silent as to the ultimate nature of the self. He did not want to replace one belief with another belief. Words are just labels. He wanted people to directly realize that nature of the self.

In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha admits that when one is enlightened one gains four things, (1) bliss, (2) eternity, (3) self, and (4) freedom. One also gains kindness, compassion, joy, and peace, those these usually appear in the journey to enlightenment and keep on growing until they fully flourish. The kind of freedom you gain does enter suddenly. Something within breaks free of the chain of causation, breaks free from the endless robotic reactions of human condition reacting to human conditioning. When this happens, we can do or not do from a place of stillness inside, but we do not react, at least not as automatically. The word "self" is added to the list, because he wanted to balance his teaching with his previous teaching of "no self". There is a sense of self which is illusory and there is a sense of self that is real. Noticing the illusory nature of what we usually call self lets us eventually see the true nature of the individual self. Its true nature cannot be grasped conceptually, though any idea, including the idea of self. To realize its nature, one must go beyond the grip of all thoughts and directly see. It is parallel to thinking a thousand thoughts about a tree versus actually looking at a tree. What cannot be done with even millions of thoughts about a tree can be done with a single act of looking. Thought does have its place and thought can even understand its place, but it cannot replace one moment of thoughtless direct seeing.

Buddhism has evolved a fairly deep psychology of how we actually function. I do find that it holds up well to modern psychology. In many ways, the definitions are more precise and more easy to verify than some of the key concepts of modern psychology. Buddhist psychology focuses on how our sense organs join a sense object to produce a sensation, how the sensation is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, how the mind interprets the sensation and attaches to the pleasant, resists the unpleasant, and ignores the neutral and thus begins to form the three poisons of the mind (addictive craving, judgmental negativity, and obscuring delusion), and how these poisons produce all our sorrow. These chain reactions, even though they happen very fast, can be verified in our present experience. Key to this psychology is that there are "activations of samskaras". These are packets of mental and emotional conditioning that get activated by sensory experience. A person says something and I react to these words. I smell alcohol and suddenly I get a craving to drink. I look at a beautiful person of the opposite gender and a romantic craving arises. All these are examples of some latent samskara getting activated and causing an inner experience that may even motivate external actions. There are many steps to this process. There are 12 basic ones that Buddha maps out. In more advanced studies, the samskaras are seen to be not merely latent. They are seen to be subtle vortexes of energy vibrating at a certain frequency and emanating something like a radio frequency out from itself. These vortexes are merely passively waiting to be triggered, like a land mine, but are actively trying to hook into similars and drawn them into experience. They impell us to fulfill themselves and attract objects to them. If a person is an alcoholic, then he or she will unconsciously pick a road that goes to a tavern or pick a friend who will drink with him or her. It follows a like attracts like pattern. This like attracting like can have a polarity energy, like the positive and negative poles of a magnet latching on to each other. This explains, too, why victims of abuse may later become abusers and visa versa. In different situations, victims and abusers will switch roles. Like the woman was was treated harshly by the Buddha in a previous lifetime unleashing her anger toward him in the another lifetime. The internal causes and the external causes synchronize to cause a "ripening of karma".

On this level of reality, where the samskaras are seen to be karmaic seeds that are trying to fulfill themselves, we can eventually learn how to perform miracles. What seems to be an impersonal and exacting law can be transformed into a mechanism of conscious reality creation. It explains why many Buddhist meditators, even though they did not try to consciously cultivate paranormal abilities, eventually do so, or at least have a few miraculous or paranormal things happen to them. When we work with the mechanisms of creation, the ones that normally cause karma to happen, we can eventually use those mechanisms to do things. When operates unconsciously in most people, operates more consciously in intermediate meditators. It is parallel to how gravity works. There is no gravity demon pulling people down from buildings and causing them to break their leg. There is simply a law at work which we can be conscious of or unconscious of. If I respect the law of gravity, then I simply can choose to not walk off buildings and not fall down and not break my leg. My life can be easier, less painful, and happier as a result. Respecting gravity does not mean that I will never suffer again. There are sometimes convergences of cause and effect that once they fully ripen nothing can really stop a bad thing from happening. But even in this case, respecting the law of karma can mean that I can just accept my fate and be at peace inside.

I wanted to share a kind of summary of the Buddhist worldview as a background for understanding the individual self. This is a different focus to the usual Buddhist texts, but is very consistent with them. The Buddha himself did not want anything to distract people from the practice of meditation and the attainment of enlightenment. But I feel that the mental body of most humans has undergone many shifts inside and that people want more information about certain things as part of their evaluation of a teaching. It is also clear to me that the Buddhist theory of self needs more elaboration. In the words of the Madyamika Buddhist philosophers, people need to be clear on what is being affirmed and what is being negated.

There are many people who wrongly assume what I call the "tapioca pudding" theory of the self, that at some point the individual self dissolves into like a drop of pudding getting stirred into a bowl of pudding or like a drop of water dissolving into an ocean. I think this metaphor was once used by a British poet who lumped both Hindu and Buddhist ideas of self and enlightenment together in his mind. The metaphor as a metaphor is okay, because there is a feeling experience when the sense of separateness dissolves that matches this metaphor. But the individual self remains intact. You can have a feeling of oneness with life and still be a distinct individual. Buddhism has always affirmed this. This is also true in the qualified monism of Ramanuja in Hinduism as well. It is good to separate metaphors that accurately describe how an experience in meditation feels to what actually happens on a more ontological level. Your experience of an isolated ego self shifts to a feeling of self that is blissful, free, eternal, and still an individual being. The shift is massive and is liberating. Having said this, the root self clinging of the ego may want to attach to this kind of enlightenment, trying to grasp for enlightenment, and thus avoid its own annihilation through believing and attaching to the teaching in an unwholesome way. I suspect that behind a lot of normal theistic belief in a personal god is an attachment to getting into heaven and avoiding hell, that the root of self clinging is behind the beliefs and therefore the beliefs do not banish the isolated ego, but may even strengthen it. I do find it interesting that Jesus says, "A person who seeks to keep his or her life shall lose it, while a person who seeks to lose his or her life for my sake, shall find it." It seems that Jesus was aware of something the cunning and intricacies of the root self-clinging of the ego self.

One of the interesting studies in hypnosis is the use of hypnosis to recover memories. It seems that there is a memory track that has an impartial record of all our experience. We have many kinds of memory. We have long term, short term, and working memory. My feeling is that sleep is necessary, in part, to digest our daily memories, sort them out in terms of importance, and decide which ones stay in our long term memory. But none of these memory system is perfect and all of them have a fading point. Even our working memory, which is the best memory we use most of the time, tends to forget things we have not used in a long while. Phone numbers that we had memorized because we used them often do get forgotten when we do not use them for a point of time. Less people even remember phone numbers because we all use speed dial systems now. But the memories that were once part of our long term, short term, and working memories do seem to get archived in a manner that we can often retrieve. There seems to be a level of memory we can access where everything is remembered. This is the assumption behind a certain kind of hypnotic procedure. The access to the memories is sometimes uncertain and the information can get distorted by wishes, by ego defenses, and by imagination. It seems it takes some training to learn how to access them better. But it only takes a small amount of work to verify that this memory level is there. My brother and I try to track actors when they are seen in different TV series and in different movies, try to remember their actual names. What I find is that holding this intention makes me "deliberately remember" better. When I hear the actual name of the actor or actress, then I "intend to remember", and find that this intention makes it more accessible. It is not perfect, but since I have tried to intentionally remember, I find my access to the memories has improved a lot. I also find that when I try to access the name of an actress or actor, and what they have played in before, several things happen. If I strain in a certain way to remember, it does not help much. But if I relax and trust in my subconscious mind to bring it up that it gently pops up later on. It is like it needs a free flowing space to surface it. In this regard, it is no surprise that the Buddha had access to his whole many lifetime memory continuum, since he dwelt always in peaceful relaxation within himself, completely trusting life. This is the ideal environment for memories to be accessible.

Studying how memory actually works in our lives, getting our memories trained, trying to memorize the Buddhist teachings (or something else of big importance), helps to develop something inside us. We can notice what we need to know in order to understand how to access past lifetime memories. But first we need to start where we are with ordinary memories and understand how they function. For instance, I find that there is something like trusting subconscious mind and relaxing to allow memory access. If one has a negative belief against past lifetimes and the paranormal, this could block us from trusting the subconscious mind from easily and gently bringing up past lifetime memories. There is a kind of skepticism that asks for proof and blocks verification from happening. When I have questioned people who have this kind of doubt, I am not clear what would actually prove something to them. The agnostic is honest about not knowing and does not believe or disbelieve something unless experience teaches it. There is another kind of stance that has a subtle active prejudice against certain things being true. It can block things from surfacing that do not fit our belief system. There is a kind of mass consciousness belief system that society has and it resists verification of what does not fit its world. This mass consciousness has variation, but what is curious is how much there is agreement about what is real and how. For instance, both atheists and theists seem to agree that you cannot really know what happens to you after you die. The theists just believe what they imagine the Bible says about it and the atheists do not believe what the Bible says as being authoritative. There is an agreement that no one can know and that people only live once and die. The near death experience (NDEs) are slowly giving some validity to what I call "experiential religion" (which Buddhism also is). Past life regression hypnosis gives some interesting material for people to contemplate as well. When we work with psychology, though, the variable creating our experience are often large and complex. This shows up in dreams and how to decode them, how to sort out wish fulfillment dreams from dreams that reveal some kind of reality. People can have false past lifetime memories if they do not sort all this out. This is why the Abhidharma looks at so many factors of consciousness, isolates them from each other, and then describes many of their interactions with each other. It is easy for one phenomena to get confused with another. Memory, desire, and imagination often affect each other and get confused with each other. Many people will hear what they want to hear, even when it was not said. The memory is false in the moment of creating it. Sometimes people remember things different than they happened. Every story of an accident may have a different spin to it and even have contradictory facts. But even though memory is faulty, it is enough to prove that some accident did happen. There is a legal precedent that there are more reliable and less reliable witnesses. There is a profile for those who are likely to distort the facts, knowingly or unknowingly. Just because memories can be unreliable does not mean that they are totally false. When a certain kind of memory access is done through hypnosis, you can feel the reliability of the memories, just as when we access our usual memory. We can tell whether it is "fuzzy" or "hazy", or whether it is clear. There are ways to filter out the distortions and make it more reliable. In Buddhism, they would call this "mind training".

The main training is to review the "memory thread" at the end of the day. You remind the memory tape backwards, like rewinding a video, in fast mode, and get a feeling for the day, what was relevant, and what is worth noting. We kind of do this naturally already. This exercise is usually part of training in "nonreactive consciousness" where you learn to watch your memories without having a reaction to them. When you find yourself reacting to something, this is the samskaric memory, the seed of karma, that gets replanted and which can cause future events of sorrow to happen. If you learn to not react to this, then you can "discharge the seed", and prevent new karmaic events from happening in the future. Once you do it for a day, then you do it for a week, and then for a one month block of time. Then you can rewind the tape backwards as far as you want. You follow the thread of memory and you can go back to when you were born in this lifetime, then what it was like when you were in the bardo after death, and even back to when you died in the last lifetime. There might be gaps in the memory flow. In the hypnosis version, you learn to pick up on a memory fragment and expanding the thread from this point, moving forwards and backwards in time from the fragment. In both cases, you start from a reliable feeling of memory and flow in time within its continuity.

In the beginning, it is good to be agnostic about what is arising. There is a part of the ego that wants to immediately judge all experience as "real" or "unreal", "good" or "bad", and "true" or "false". When you learn to be in agnostic mode, you learn to just do the exercises and be "po" about everything. "Po" is a term coined by Edward DoBono that means "neither yes nor no" about what is arising. The fact that we do not have a word in our vocabulary already for it is revealing about our culture, which wants to judge everything automatically and instantly. Part of becoming the silent watcher in Buddhism is to relax this judgmental reflex and let experience simply reveal itself. When past lifetime memories actually do surface, in the beginning they might be dim. They are like the sparks from flint that can create a fire or could as easily just disappear into the cold night air. They need to be gently cradled and gently blown upon until the fire grows. Staying "po" about what arising, not trying to figure anything out, not trying to believe anything, not trying to disbelieve anything, not feeling a need to make a conclusion, but simply being with the experience until it gets revealed in its own time and in its own way.

This methodology shows both the experiential commitment of Buddhism and also a problem. The methodology is scientifically very pure and would work well to verify the truth of past lifetime memories. But it takes about 3 months to undergo the process. There is a question about whether or not it is worth doing so. I am hoping to devise a process, with the help of some hypnotic protocols, to make this discipline a little easier to master. But the thing is that when you do the method right, even though it is a little hard, you do train your mind in a good way and you automatically learn to filter the memory distortion stuff. This is because you follow the memory thread and get a direct feeling for the thread itself. In this thread is the feeling of what is a memory versus what is imagination. When you jump into a past lifetime memory, the feeling for the memory thread may not be as strongly grounded in the experience. You may need to learn how to filter those things in another way. The hypnotic guide can help this. But when a guide is doing the filtering, then it is less reliable scientifically. The subconscious bias of the operator needs to be factored in. But still, it may be a useful process in that it may make the experiences easier to reach. I think it is good to have a guide, because the many filters that need to be used to keep the memory thread pure are intermediate level meditation skills. When I talk with people or interview them during a session, I notice the need to filter out many things. There is a hidden mind training which is present in the interaction. Some people may need to work on certain things more than others. For instance, there is a kind of desire that does not want to see reality, but rather see what it wants and pretend it is there. This happens a lot in relationships. There is a lot to process to clear this kind of desire, like a fear that one might not love anyone when all his or her faults are seen. Some faults are deal breakers and some faults are not, and it takes a while to sort out which is which. There is a point when the pure desire to see what is does arise and puts no conditions on what reality should be. When this happens, then even memories are more reliable.

There was one psychotherapist who was successful in helping people to access past lifetime memories through a light trance and using simple free association. He taught people to be sensitive to how past lifetime memories are always floating around in our consciousness, but have not been validated as such. An example is the feeling of having met the person before. When we are locked into the social belief system about only one lifetime, we automatically assume that we could not have met this person in another lifetime. The part of the subconscious mind that brings up memories then works within this assumption and its limit and only brings up memories that fit the conscious belief system. It may have tried to send up some pictures from other lifetimes but was discounted. This part often sends up some tests to see how a person does with them and to see what the actual beliefs are. If they are validated, then more comes up. Part of hypnosis is to trust the deeper parts of consciousness and let them function in harmony with the conscious part again. Free association is where the ego filter is turned off and the person reports more of the free floating contents of the mind. In later stages, you can gently direct this free flowing state to pick up past lifetime memories or to tune into and validate ones that are already arising. When you are present and aware to your mind throughout the day, as the result of Buddhist mind training, then these past lifetime bleed throughs are more easily noticed and validated. They eventually weave a new kind of feeling for being a sentient beings who has lived in many times, many places, and in many bodies. The present lifetime takes up a new context, which is not merely a blank. You begin to see others in the same light. When you see a youtube video of a gifted singer who is only 8 years old, you can more easily see and feel that this sentient being is bringing through training from another lifetime or even several. You can look for other parts of the pattern, like she may have sung in the churches during the European middle ages, and may have art from that period in her room, perhaps even some possession from that lifetime that synchronicistically came back to her. The free associations that naturally arise around a memory core usually lead to other places in memory and previous experience. They gradually build up into another world view where past lifetime memory is natural.

It is usually not about the many thousands of women who believe they were Cleopatra or Mary Magdalene in a previous lifetime. It is fairly rare that people are famous people. It could be that there is simple wish fulfillment imagining those memories and that Cleopatra and Mary Magdalene are archetypal energies that people can identify with and be inspired by. It may serve some psychic function to lock into those energies and one may even make a psychic link to the actual sentient being who lived those lives. But this would still be different from the continuity of memory of a sentient being. There are many who have thought they were Jesus Christ. These people are definitely identifying with an archetype. They sometimes are people who suffer in a war and who see too much sorrow. The mind is complex and sometimes identifies with someone who represents being beyond this sorrow and yet compassionate to this sorrow.

Most of the people when they go into past lifetimes end up experiencing lifetimes where they are not famous. Yet "fame" itself is very relative. Sometimes in a past lifetime one bumps into famous people or one is famous in a "small pond" or small group of people. Sometimes history tracks a semi-famous lifetime or part of a lifetime. Sometimes some confirmation is found for the memories that surface in ordinary history. Sometimes the ordinary history is not accurate, incomplete, or there are multiple versions of external history. Ordinary history is not completely reliable either and one must filter out and decode things too. There are paranoias and myopias of whole time periods of beings, more than just everyone believing the Earth was flat. Unlike the movies when they are doing time travel, you pick up on some things that are overlooked, deliberately or accidentally, by writers and directors, like how the above ground sewage in Europe not only lead to diseases, but made everything smell a certain way. Like odors, once you are in them for a while you tend to not notice them, but when you "come into the room" from another lifetime, you notice the smell in all its glory and/or foulness. Sometime not, too, because memory tends to be selective. We remember, both in this lifetime and others, what feels relevant to us. We remember what we want to remember. We might learn to access the perfect memory level, but past lifetime memory is like "super long term memory". Just as sleep helps to organize our long term memory, the bardo state, between death and rebirth, helps to organize our super long term memory. We sort out what was and was not important at this juncture. If we are trained, we learn to not react and to remember more, so that when we reincarnate we carry a more active relationship to our past lifetimes.

It takes time to get used to a new body and a new brain. There is some amnesia in the process of carrying past lifetime memory over to a new lifetime. It is not so ironclad that people either have perfect past lifetime memory or no memory at all. It is more like more important process of brain formation, language formation, sensory motor development all combine together and take precedence over remembering past lifetimes. The multiple lifetime memories may only start appearing when we are past 25 years, when the brain takes on its adult form. It may bleed through little bits early on in life, but these may surface and fall back into amnesia until the person is ready to just keep the memories and work with them again. Some things may trigger the memories. In this lifetime, it took me some time to understand that I was not learning from the Zen Koans studied, I was merely remembering the answers that I had learned before. The Zen Koans were a trigger to what I already had learned and a very useful one. Because you put profound attention into contemplating a koan, it is something that can easily be activated in another lifetime. There is some learning that the new body and mind must do to integrate the memories, but it is not the same as completely learning from scratch.

There is reason why amnesia is part of the process, too, if you look at many adults, they are locked into their minds and have really stopped learning. There beliefs have hardened into dogmas and are blocking a learning process from being kept alive. The Buddhist system has a safeguard against beliefs hardening into dogmas and that is the teaching of emptiness, that no concept, even Buddhist concepts, can grasp reality, only direct experience, only direct experience, only direct experience, and that merely labeling an experience by a belief does not mean we know something. Life wants to keep on growing and both memory and forget-ory help this. Some traumatic memories can paralyze a person until they learn how to handle them. They surface when we are ready to remember them. Some people may not really need them to function. They might feel they have met the person before. They might feel this about their best friends, but they may not validate the feeling as related to a past lifetime memory and might not need to validate it that way. Sometimes we remember more than we notice. Like I have a friend who has been a warrior in many lifetimes (not this one though), and has a warrior awareness that would be hard to make up unless you had the lifetimes. Again, it is not about what the movies show, which is usually a fantasy a writer has about what a warrior is like. Most warriors, for instance, to do "glory" in war. After your first best friend gets his head blow off, one sees that there is no glory in war. At best, you get to keep your country and have the women of your country not get raped, and have to rebuild. You only fight because it is necessary and for self defense. Everything else is a delusion or a wrong war to be in. In certain kinds of war times, you learn to go to an eating place and have your back to a safe wall, rather than exposed to the public which might harbor spies and hidden enemies. You watch how people move and notice by their movement whether they are civilians or military. You access tactical strength and only engage in battles that you have a chance of winning and only risk dying when the goal requires it. You do not blindly charge into battle and get shot by superior fire power like in all those movies. You shoot from behind trees and do surprise raids on key targets. You avoid open confrontation when the enemy has better weapons. You trust the you know your land better than they do and try to organize a counter attack where you might have the advantage, etc. I mention all this, not because it is necessary to learn all this or not all warriors learn the same lessons (though they are surprisingly similar at times), but just to give a sense of what kind of information carries from lifetime to lifetime even when you do not always need it. Knowledge of any kind has some transfer to new situations and expresses itself there. It is not a matter, too, of the knowledge being right or wrong, it is just a pattern of adaptation to the challenges of living that shape us and get carried forward. They are there if we know how to look for them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

About Conscious Parenting

The notes in this essay are related to a discussion that I had some time ago where a Sufi method of parenting shared on a cassette tape that I heard about 25 years before. The cassette itself was part of a series of lectures that I was very impressed with. It was related to what is now called, "the Fourth Way". It is a work that a very good Sufi teacher named Gurdjieff mainly brought into existence. He was the most successful in bring this work to the level that it is experienced by many groups today, though there are some other lesser known transmission lines of this knowledge that also have happened. One of the lines is through the Jesuits and has to do with what later became known is the "Enneagram personality work". Another line is through the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Christian churches and has to do with "Hesychasm", a method of prayer and meditation, similar to kundalini yoga, but focuses more on the 3rd Eye and Heart chakra. Another line is through Hasidic Judaism, where the cassettes that I heard were from. It seems that the Marx brothers, especially Harpo, were representatives of this school, and that it had something to do with "conscious movement". If you look at videos and watch how Harpo moves, there are indications of some mime training that is behind some of the teachings that I later incorporated into the Tanran Reiki energy exercises, to help people to directly feel the energy. Harpo tends to move very consciously and I find that watching him move always "wakes me up" some, out of the robotic slumber of automatic mental, emotional, and physical habits that we normally live in.

Regretfully, the cassettes got lost through a number of relocations in my life. The information is not found in any of the Sufi books I have of any lineage. Some of the information is, but several keys ideas and practices are missing. Part of my work in preserving this knowledge is to embed some of the missing ideas into a few stories and essays that I have written, just so if there is anything valuable in the ideas that it can transmitted to the future. This essay is going to serve this process. It may require "hearing between the lines" to fully get what the cassettes were trying to share. Sometimes the information is not so linear so as to be about memorizing some rules and robotically following them, but of understanding certain processes and being intuitively conscious of them when engaging certain life challenges in the world. This is especially true with parenting children.

A few preliminary notes about "conscious parenting" or any parenting for that matter. I do find that, in general, parents do a good job raising their children. Humankind has been going forward, generation to generation, because human parents have managed to get their children to be functional adults who in their turn do the same. It is an amazing miracle that has kept humanity literally alive for over thousands of years. Like other animal species, humans are partly wired genetically to raise their children fairly well, well enough to insure that they become adults. What is interesting and what many researchers found, though, is that humans are less genetically wired to adapt to the environment than most animal species. There is something more open ended to human development. It allows humans to be more shaped and molded by their parents than other animal parents. As a result, animals have and need a shorter formative period before becoming a functional adult, whereas human children are becoming adults later and later in their history. In early human tribes, the ritual initiation into adult life could have been as early as 7 years old. In agricultural societies, it was around 12 to 14. In industrial societies, the ritual had become graduating from High School, therefore marked initiation around 18 years old. But it is really pushing more to 25 years old and even further, because this is usually when College graduation happens. There is apparently more to learn in being human than other animals species are required to learn. This is because human life is changing enormously. The early tribal humans could literally not function in modern industrial societies without at least undergoing some remedial education of a fairly long duration. The language systems of modern human life are very complex. Even the vocabulary and grammar mastery of language on a simple literal level requires years to achieve, and to understand how to decode the complex patterns of political spin and lying takes even more time, and to understanding how to encode and decode the neo-modern tribal slang of post industrial subculture tribes, each one different but related to the other subcultures, takes even more time.

Even though astrology is considered by modern liberal semi-scientific humanistic eduction to be a pseudo science, it seems that several developmental models, like Eric Erickson's 8 developemental stage model of childhood growth, Margarent Mahlers objective relations model of childhood growth, Maria Montessori's model of childhood education, the ideas on how to support the genius child in the writings of Alice Walker, the moral stages of Lawrence Kohlberg, Liedloff's continuum concept, or the sensory motor and cognitive development model of Jean Piaget all really presuppose developmental rhythms implied in basic astrology, in particular the Saturn cycle of moving through the houses every 7 years, though similar deductions can be seen by looking at the inner planets (short cycles, like the ultradian and cirdacian cycles) and the outer planets (larger developmental patterns, including whole generations mapped by Pluto, and multi-generational patterns mapped by the new planet Eris). Some of these theorists did have some exposure to astrology and may have believed in astrology as being useful, Rudolf Steiner brought some of this understanding into the Waldorf education system where it got interweaved with Montessori's ideas.

I find that, in general, sensory motor development is given less support than it really needs. Some training in Hatha Yoga does help, but Mime and Tai Chi training added to this would be better or the original full kundalini yoga system behind Hatha Yoga. When Yogananda brought the Kriya Yoga system to America, he intuitively and correctly left out the breathwork, the deep mudras, and the chanting of bija mantras. He still taught them, one on one, or esoterically, to students, but let a stripped down version of yoga be released to the public. The esoteric elements of yoga still sometimes cause an adverse reaction from dogmatic fundamentalist Christians who can and do repress this knowledge, sometimes trying to actually make it illegal in some states. They have failed to do this, but their repressive influence still exists.

There are certain junctures in childhood that are called "imprint formation" periods. This is where the child needs to get certain kinds of input from the environment in order to grow properly. There is something that I call "sensory motor phase", which lasts a fairly long time, and which the Steiner and Montessori schools generally do okay with. I say "do okay with" because, in general, parents and teachers cannot fully teach what they do not already know. The sensory and motor training of most industrial humans is lacking a lot. This educational process is the least audio and visual of them all. There are a class of humans who need to learn through the body and through the sensory and motor functioning of the body. They are called "kinesthetic learners". Up until recently, many of them were relegated to the class of "learning disabled" or "special needs children" or "mentally retarded" (this term is, mercifully, not used as much as it used to). Several teachers, however, were able to get this class of students to become high achievers in the school system by first teaching them in their primary learning modality first. Modern society is tremendously audio-visual in its learning processes and tends to discard the kinesthetics, yet as a group they are the hardest to "brainwash" into believing anything. Unless they feel truth as a body sensation, they do not believe something. The animal belly instincts are tied into more ancient parts of the brain that have a sense of reality that has evolved over millions of years and predates the strange cultural brainwash process that often is behind education. It seems that fundamentalist religious groups are aware of this aspect of education and this is why there are Koran schools and movements to teach Creationism and prayer in public schools, and why these groups do not merely want to "expose children" to their ideas and to all the other ideas of other religions. They really want the "one right belief system" to be taught instead.

In terms of child raising, there is a time when a child must go all over the house and touch everything. If they do not map out their world this way, their brain will be smaller and more shrivelled up, even organically. If there is trauma, the very shape of the brain can be affected. There is a reason why one favorite method of early death is due to brain tumors, why there are many epileptics, why many more brain illnesses are abounding than any time before in human history. Like many things, there are a vast array of multiple causes for this emergence, many remedial causes that can stop this, and many neutral causes that just grow around this. I learned a lot about this when I was visiting a house of a friend who often got the social task of being the house where kids were dropped off while parents were doing errands like going to the grocery store to buy food. The kids were bouncing off all the walls and causing much chaos. Me and my friend decided to go a place called Agate Beach and found, much to our surprise, that as soon as we were out in nature that the kids started spontaneously behaving better. When we got to the beach, they started making up many sensory motor tasks for themselves, collecting the smooth stones that the beach is known for, collecting branches, forming shapes, drawing in the sand, etc. Their brains, too, seemed to emanate natural oscillations circa 7.83 hz, the magnetic resonance frequency of the Earth and the harmonic our brains entrain to when we are "one with life". This is harder to notice unless you are an emerging telepath. But it is relatively easy to pick up if you are spending time immersing yourself into "brainwave music" and letting your brain EEG patterns move toward "coherence". When the brain reaches this coherence point, it broadcasts a pure signal from the brain that is usually experienced by humans as being "calm and content". It is the difference between a pure flute sound and a heavy metal concert where people are trying to "rock till you puke". There is a time for both, though too much catharsis, by itself, does not allow for "integration".

The experience mentioned above, I found, allowed me to draw some ideas about what an optimal parenting could provide. I did find that sensory motor tasks were very helpful. Tai Chi, Chi Kung, and various kinds of movement work are helpful for kids and they are hungry to get it. They are a little impatient with Hatha Yoga, unless you move through a motion sequence with them. There is more sensory and motor variation in Chi Kung and children respond to this, especially if they are allowed to improvise a lot. Most adults do not realize how they are living a narrow band of physical and attitudinal postures. Many of the problems of later life are these rigid postures clashing with each other in relationships. They are habit reflexes that do not mix very well with other habit reflexes formed in other family systems. It is like everyone is born and raised in a small religious cult which has even secret handshakes. People can go through their entire life living a very small pattern vocabulary. Some New Age teachers help expand this pattern language and some merely teach another pattern. In terms of sensory and motor processes, the "hippie pattern" and the "corporate exec" pattern are equal. They are just patterns. It is better for our kinesthetic intelligence to "feel them from the inside" and to learn what they mean by trying them on. This is better than subtly forcing a child to conform to one sensory motor emotional pattern or another. As an adult, they will need a larger range of responses than any one family teaches. They ideally do not want to lock into one pattern. They rebell against parents trying to impose this on them. It will literally shrink their brain to fit into one pattern box.

The hidden gift of children to the parents is that they are not pattern rigid. They can remind and invoke the fluidic life state in their parents. A subtle power struggle ensues between parent and child where the child resists the socialization process and the parent imposes it. The good side of socialization is "harmony", but sometimes harmony is created by a subtle goose step to a hidden imposed rhythm. There is a greater sensitive harmony that is possible that is symbolized by the Tai Chi "push hands" exercise or the "melting into each other" of contact dance. In these, it takes a certain amount of wakefulness to find. It does involve how we "learn" patterns and robotically lock into them. Parents often resort to just giving commands of "do" and "do not" or worse "should" and "should not" (which is teaching a pattern that should always be operated from). Or if a child is "copping an attitude," is the immediate response to judge it and tell them what they should or should not feel? I have seen parents shout commands to their children with threats behind those shouts, with threats of a stick or a "time out" to back up the commands, with an obey/rebell versus control/allow dynamic forming that looms across the entire parent/child relationship, with the teenager eventually completing the rebellion. But then the teenager learns that they only have two patterns, one is to obey and the other is to rebell, and from an acting standpoint, that is very little emotional range. They may learn more range through suffering, because suffering, from one view, is when the emotional range that we have cannot adapt to the moment effectively. It forces us to grow. In Buddhism, you learn to "remain with the sensation" and not go into pattern, to stay directly in the learning process, to stay in unknowing, until insight dawns.

This society is a post patriarchal culture. The hierarchical system was based on authority and control, chain of command, rank and status, rewards and punishments, guilt, praise, shame, and approval, defining what is right and wrong, and having people live in a certain role conformity to what they are supposed to think, feel, and do. We are now in a pluralistic world where there are many conflicting role model ideals and many special interest groups who want to control public education to enforce their moral shoulds into the school system about what is right and wrong. The whole democratic system is based on democracy, indirect competition, and balance of power between different factions. Although it is for individual rights, there is a hidden assumption that the individual has few rights unless they are part of some group of people, some special interest group. Therefore everyone generally takes on a series of group labels, like liberal versus conservative, democrat or republican, theist or atheist, etc. I have, in my own journey, found that those labels rarely compute for me. My nonverbal development was less disrupted than my verbal development, where I had to keep switching languages very early in my life, being exposed to Mandarin, Kantonese, Spanish, at least one Incan dialect, and English, later on Russian (to learn how to play Chess), Sanskrit (to learn yoga), Tibetan (to learn more yoga), Pali (to learn meditation), Japanese (to learn Zen and Shingon), Chinese (to learn Chan and early Shingon), Latin, Greek, and Aramaic (to learn about Christianity and the New Testament), Arabic (to learn some Sufi teachings), and Hebrew (to learn about the Old Testament and the Qabalah). The nonverbal side was more constant and latched on to numbers and mathmatics, symbolic logic, game theory, geometry, and sketching to evolve my learning. I did feel that I evolved my comprehension of English after I learned from its Latin, Anglo-Saxon, and Greek roots, and found a series of phonetic rules behind the articulations of the language (and all human languages). This involved relearning, again and again, patterns of listening and speech, that humans often memorize in childhood and then forget, and then unconsciously live for the rest of their lives.

The Sufi group in question noticed that the human ego structure starts to crystallize into a specific pattern of thinking, emoting, and reacting to the world, form a specific kind of personality identity, and locks in. Once this happens, the person has an ego that they will eventually need to transcend in order to get enlightened, and that the vast majority of people will never succeed in doing, and that a large number of people will only have glimpses of in religious experiences or through psychoactive drugs. They asked whether it was possible to raise a child in such a way that did not have to "fall into ego consciousness" at all, or whether it was necessary to form an ego and then need to transcend it later on. It is a very interesting and deep question. What they concluded was that one will need to go through some kind of ego phase, but that the ego could be "softer" or less crystallized, and therefore easier to transcend later on. The time of the crystallization, according to their observations is around the age of six. They did find that a certain kind of "acting" would keep them psychically flexible, where they do not get molded into any rigid pattern so easily, and where their natural tendency to try on emotional roles in adults, even negative obnoxious ones, helped them to stay flexible. They found, too, that parents tend to clamp down too fast on these negative roles, usually from their own conditioned patterns that they were raised from, and unwittingly stamp their own ego pattern or the reverse pattern on their children. The pattern may even be a "good" pattern, but it becomes a subtle robotic pattern and pattern of conditioned reflexes, that the person will then live possibly for their whole life. It is then only during periods of sorrow where these patterns can soften and shift, though people often avoid the pain of these reprogramming phases by taking pain killing drugs of all kinds. People do not "remain with the sensation" until a new response from the luminous void happens from inside them.

The challenge is that the adult needs to keep awake and alive, above their own reactive patterns, in order raise their children. They need to keep in a learning process themselves. Otherwise, the children will be adapting to the rigid patterns of the parents and this is the real learning process that is behind all the words that are happening. There is a certain amount of healthy chaos going on that forces a certain amount of growth. Society is changing a lot and no control system is working very well. The tribe surrounding the children is changing a lot, members switching often, the extended family is less involved or nonexistent, many single moms are emerging and so one personality is imprinting on the child more than usual, with many dead beat dads or remote control dads making the process complex and often painful. This is interesting because the new astrological planet discovered is Eris who is about creative chaos and how control systems get subverted by seemingly random events and causes. Right now it is in the house of Aries which is about asserting oneself and defining oneself, and how the chaos itself is part of the process.

I remember when the feminist revolution took place that many males, including myself, were puzzled, we did want to honor the feminine, and we were having discussions about whether or not to open the door for a woman and other role patterns that we had learned. I did decide it was a good thing to open the door for women and then figured it that it was also nice to just do it for everyone, male or female. But some women would occasionally frown if I did it for them, because they did not want to get locked into the implied roles (this is the conform/rebel dynamic mentioned above, instead of embracing infinity). What I learned was that all of us were being released from gender roles and had to go back to creative chaos (in contact dance they talk about "embrace the awkwardness" aka remaining with the sensation). A question emerged from this process if there were some essential gender differences that the dance would still be based on, behind all the layers of social roles. How much is biologically determined? Is biology itself something rigid? Can it be changed? Should it be changed? What is doing the changing? So we go into the chaos of experience, with all kinds of responses possible with different people at different stages of this process, all usually afraid of dong the wrong thing when there are no longer obvious cue cards telling us what the right thing to do is. We have grown a bit too much to believe in anything in one sense. We are all a bit agnostic, though we also inherit dogmas we do not always know we have and sometimes do not realize how beyond question they are or how afraid we might be to fully question and end up with nothing. If some preacher wants us to go back to the Bible, we are aware of how many dogmatists contradict themselves in what this even means and how small minority is that thinks their version is the right version, and how many awkward verses need to be ignored or rationalized to hold those views. And yet when the baby is screaming or a two year old is "acting out", merely being agnostic and open minded does not seem enough. Some knowledge seems necessary to raise a child rightly so that they become healthy and functional adults. Human children are more easily woundable compared to other animals species. Other animals do not spend hours talking about their emotional problems with a therapist or friend. There is a longer and more complex set of phases that human children go through in order to become biological adults. The process seems to end at around 25 years, when the brain takes its final shape. The Saturn return is then 28, but really starts a little earlier, only 3 years with a full adult brain, unless it is addicted to brain hijack foods laced with MSG and Nutrasweet, white sugar, refined starches, hydrogenated oils, and salt (nothing wrong with real salt, but combined with the others keeps you hungry for more). The first 7 years the child is still attached to the energy field of mother, then next 7 years it expands to the family, the next 7 years it expands to friends and peer groups, and the next 7 years it expands to the world.

One way to process the Sufi group and the question it has about the parenting process is to see that the child is raising itself, drawing what it needs from the environment and exploring the environment. The early intelligence is more sensory and motor. Many parts of the brain will never directly function in the language universe. Even when the child is learning language, it is learning process is largely nonverbal. Its first language is its interaction with the world and how we interact with the child will be its impression of the world. If the ego is the "me constructed by thought", then it can be softened by more attention to what is not thought and keeping the learning going on this level and never "teaching ego" in thought. The child will probably form an ego anyway, but if it is softer than it will be easier to transcend later on. One way is to make the learning tasks feel like play and explorations, because that is what they really are. There will be pragmatic times when some emergency will require our intervention and even our control. But this will be different from the overall learning process. It would be good to see whether we are teaching a dynamic interactive harmony or are secretly imposing harmony as conformity to a pattern where people do not conflict with each other.

The question about conscious parenting is really only meaningful to parents who have some taste of enlightenment and want enlightenment to guide their parenting process. If parenting is only seen as a socialization process to get children to become conventional adults who fit into the social order, then the question is not necessary. To the degree that society is shaped by the conditioned mental, emotional, and physical reflexes it wants its people to act out, being both the shaper and the shaped, is the degree that keeping enlightenment alive in the child raising process is actually going to get in the way. Children live in the energy field of their parents and will act out what is in the field. To the degree that words and agendas do not really reflect each other, the children will act out the hidden conflicts within the parental field. The question is whether the patterns are made conscious and explored together with the children or people are just going to impose a pattern of shoulds through commands and occasionally or frequently meet resistance, with the resistance seen as the problem, and overcoming it seen as the solution. What I find is that children naturally obey their parents unless there is some need that is getting frustrated or if the command of the parent is not framed in a language that the child can understand or if the command is coming out of emotional ambivalence and confusion. But when parenting is taken on this other level, it becomes a mirror to our own learning process and our own unresolved issues from childhood. Parenting could be seen as a second chance to get it right energetically or to simply reverse roles and become the parents that raised us.

If you will notice that there is not really a lot of advice here in this essay. If it more like a question and a perspective that needs to also be worked out in practice and perhaps an invitation to take an honest look at how children a being raised and how much we feel the need to build control systems around them, and what this kind of thinking may not be reaching. It seems that women reach their sexual peak, according to some studies, around the age of 34. This may suggest the age which might be the best to have children. One Sufi school, a different one, suggested that people do not have children until they are 40 years old. While any number is a little arbitrary here, I am clear that I would not have had any idea of what I was doing in raising a child when I was in my 20s. I barely knew who I was, let alone could know what it meant to actively raise another human being into adulthood. I was barely an adult myself. When I got past 30, I found I felt I finally had some real knowledge, something tested in life and found to be workable, but not much real knowledge, and it was barely even applied rightly to myself. When I got past 40, I realized how much I was just unconscious and acting out patterns that I did not consciously chose to live out, but just happened due to the impacts of traumatic events and long term factors that I could not negotiate with. It seems that a lot of humans die with this level of knowledge and some of us change a little, gaining something we pass into the next lifetime, and grow step by step up the evolutionary ladder. Only recently has our expected lifespan moved past the biblical generation of 40 years, with cultural longevity seen by what percent of the people live past 100 (the Okinawans having the highest percentage which is 7 percent, though this might be changing adversely due to their diet getting westernized by fast food restuarants and school cafeterias, which is already creating a teenage obesity crisis).

I think what I would add to the Sufi understanding is "trusting the life force" to guide every process. To trust the channeling of Reiki energy and to see what the energy wants to see happen. To let this energy even guide the parenting process. Children are very energy sensitive and if the energy of the household is wholesome, then the children will tend to act out the harmony of the field, rather than the conflicts within the field. To constantly run energy into the family field so that it circulates in a peaceful and healthy way, to keep all conversations energy sensitive, to flow with the energy, and to be sensitive to when we disconnect with the energy and choose separation (children often act out when they feel they have lost connection). If there is a continuum like one theorist noted, then it is an energy feeling that unites the continuum. If there are developmental stages, they seem related to the chakras activating at different stages of the growth process from the root up to the crown chakra, or when planetary electromagnetic frequencies trigger them and form aspects with each other. Energy can unite all these awarenesses into a unified understanding and give relevance to keeping love energetically flowing among people, so that love does not reduce to a mental ethical ideal we are trying to live out or impose on ourselves or others. Mental ethical ideals are important, but are literally lifeless without the life force flowing behind them.