There is a trend lately to think of certain behaviors as immutable and impossible to change. We hear comments like “Oh, he’s just hard-wired that way.” Meaning, it’s in the genes; he (or she) can’t change. Really? That line of thinking can take us down a rather pessimistic path into entrenched fear. Fear of the external world, fear of change, fear of those different from us. Are these fears hard-wired in us or simply habit? Do our genes control our destiny? Maybe not. Perhaps our genes and we ourselves can be transformed by shifts in collective consciousness and the power of divine energy. By connecting through the heart with our fellow human beings and to the God/dess within us.
Biologist and author Bruce Lipton has written about “spontaneous evolution.” He cites scientific studies that show that “genetic determinism” is an outdated belief, and we are not victims of heredity. Signals from our external (or internal) environment ultimately control gene activity. Translated, this means that genetic predispositions can be overridden by real-world experiences such as those that open our hearts or connect us with our soul. Spiritual awakenings or other transformative moments have a power that can break through habitual personality patterns. As our awareness grows, we can also consciously choose to align with our soul instead of our personality self or ego.
New neural pathways are laid down in the brain with each change in consciousness or new experience that is consistently repeated (neuroplasticity). In other words, we are not doomed to replay old behaviors, thoughts, and memories over and over. As we allow accumulated emotions to be felt and released, space is freed up for the full power of the soul to take its place at the leading edge of our awareness and our lives. Within a regular spiritual practice, hard wires can be disconnected and old habits broken. Something as simple as meditating and aligning with your inner spirit on a daily basis, in your home or in nature, can open the door to this process. You begin to see the world and others with fresh eyes.
Right now, in this moment, breathe and let go into the inner peace and stillness inside you. Your soul is “wireless” and has no attachment to past experiences. Allow it, and the breath, to guide you to a totally present-moment experience of life, wherein peace alone fills your conscious awareness and defines your day. In doing so, you are no longer tied irrevocably to past behaviors and feelings that are fear-based. In the present, nothing exists except beingness and love, which is God embodied in human form. Fear cannot exist in the presence of love. Breathe in divine energy and breathe out old restrictions and preconceptions. In this state you are free, liberated from everything that has held you back in the past.
I find that when I consistently and consciously choose to let my soul lead the way, I start to recognize opinions and judgments, whether mine or someone else’s, for what they are: replayed past fears that separate people from one another. If I live from an open heart, I begin to think of people as doing the best they can with the awareness they have at the moment. This applies to self-recrimination as well. To see everyone, including myself, as being in the process of evolving allows for the possibility of transformation, individually and globally. No one is hard-wired for anything really—except love.
In the United States, there are societal rules about when silence or quiet is called for: in temples, churches, and meditation halls; in libraries and classrooms; in funeral homes and cemeteries. This is sanctified silence, the kind that is recognized as fitting into the social structure. The underside of these rules is another kind of silence, the silence of dissociation or noninvolvement, which can translate as complicity: “When there is conflict, keep your mouth shut,” “Don’t get involved,” “It’s not your problem, so why make trouble?” The threat of potential or escalating violence runs through these admonitions. Best to ignore whatever you’ve seen or heard. Only many of us don’t have that option in our lives. And now, increasingly, none of us have that option.
Loud, vocal, and acted-out hatred is playing out in city after city in this country. The kind of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and homophobia that has always existed but is now being given a green light by behavior and attitudes at the federal level. Nazism and Klanism is in full-out resurgence in this so-called “land of the free.” That freedom was about money, maleness, and white skin when this country began, and it still is. Yes, we have come a long way, but the segments of this society that don’t really want an egalitarian, balanced social framework are still clinging to the illusion of superiority and power. That is the old patriarchal paradigm that is so full of cracks now that even talk show hosts on late-night TV are addressing it. No, we are not going backward, but the labor pains we experience as we birth a new way of being on this planet can be intense and at times frightening.
There is no turning back, however. We signed up for this specific soul incarnation to be part of something monumental. So what do spiritual people, committed to love, peace, and harmony, do at times like these? We can limit exposure to the constant bombardment of negative news alerts, meditate more intensively, and hold love in our hearts and in our lives, but is that enough? Having come of age in the politically active 1960s and 70s and lived that to the full, I know that is part of my heritage, but I also realized over the years there is more to it. I have learned the immense importance of energy and of how our own life force and inner being affects everything around us. The world will change and the paradigm will shift, not from the force of will power and pushing against, but from the steady peaceful walking forward together into a vision of something more open and inclusive. The dynamic energy of transformation—from fear to love.
This vision has a voice, and it emerges from yet another kind of silence: the silence of the soul. On a spiritual path, we often center ourselves in the silent peace at our core. That very silence can give rise to the voice within us that expresses the vision and speaks for the freedom and rights of all people and all beings on this planet. You can remain peaceful and loving and still speak out against injustice and hatred and for unity, connection, and sister/brotherhood. In fact, it is our responsibility to speak up. This can take many forms: in writing articles, in signing petitions, in sending letters and emails, in attending nonviolent marches or gatherings, in joining community groups based in diversity—and, especially, in not letting racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, or homophobic remarks or behavior pass by us, unaddressed. You don’t have to be perfectly articulate or eloquent to honestly and calmly speak from your heart about universal love and human compassion.
Over the years, I have discovered that silence fills my soul at all times. I carry it with me, and it informs my entire life and connects me to the presence that is God. From that place, I share my heart’s vision of a world based in loving-kindness. From that place, I know with everything in me that I am not separate from any other being on Earth and that our voices were given to us for a reason: to speak to one another. From that place, there is only one voice, the voice of love.
Spiritual and self-help programs have counseled people for years to “let go and let God.” Wise advice. When you let go of everything (literally, everything), that very letting go creates an empty space in which you are inviting God to come in. The letting go is actually a welcoming, an open door for divine presence. At times of uncertainty or stress, it can be hard to remember this, but that wisdom, if relaxed into, can cut the cord that holds you to fear-based trying and replace it with the gentleness of allowing. On the level of egoic effort, nothing happens but straining and frustration. On the level of soulful surrender, all is flowing and perfectly unfolding.
Opening to the space within me has become part of my daily meditation practice. With each breath, I connect with the life-force energy that is God. When I let go completely into the spaciousness at the core of my being, external distractions fall away. Within that vast inner space is peace and expansive being-ness. Eyes closed, I see the light that animates everything. Here, there is no distinction between light and dark, me and God. There is only a deep awareness of universal consciousness, of oneness.
Making room for quiet time alone is also key. I have sought silence all my life, in nature, in sanctuaries, in solitude. Stillness takes me deeper into my soul. There is an empty space in silence that soothes me and brings me to the peaceful inner sanctuary filled with God’s essence. I don’t have to search for it because it is always with me, apparent as soon as I take a deep breath, relax, and am present in the stillness. Moment to moment, this is where I connect with the Divine.
Create space in your life, in your physical form, every day so that spirit can enter. That open space calls God to you. It’s a sacred invitation. If we fill our lives up with noise, busyness, and distractions, the Divine has nowhere to be fully present. If your body is filled with worries, fear, and frantic thoughts, God gets lost in the inner turmoil. It’s not that God ever disappears; it’s just that we can’t perceive the Presence that is always with us if we fill every crevice in our lives with clutter. Feng shui is based on this premise: clear your clutter, outer and inner, and your life can come into full bloom.
In silence, in stillness, in empty space, the mental and physical clutter of a busy life falls away, and you can hear spirit speak to you in a language that is beyond words. With every quiet breath, you go deeper. Look within, in the limitless spaciousness of your soul, and you will find God peacefully waiting, where s/he has always been and always will be.
“If you are never empty,
how can you know
the fullness of your spirit.
If you are never alone,
how can you know
I have discovered that the more I want a situation or person to either change or stay the same, the more I suffer. Yet I have also found that there is a peaceful core within me that understands impermanence and nonattachment. These two Buddhist principles have helped me accept the transitory nature of life. When I am deep in meditation, experiencing profound inner peace, I see clearly the truth of impermanence (nothing, good or bad, ever stays the same) and how letting go of attachment to a particular outcome frees me from the mental/emotional habits of the personality self. At the soul level, all is well, unfolding perfectly for my own expansion and evolution.
Embracing impermanence and nonattachment has been a gradual process for me, over many years. They used to be just concepts that I thought sounded good but I couldn’t really connect to experientially. Lately, however, as my spiritual awareness has deepened, those two insights have risen to the forefront of my consciousness. I often repeat them to myself like mantras to access the peace within me, which they are an integral part of. This is the soul’s peace, which does not judge or have opinions; it just witnesses. And from the witness’s point of view, it does not matter if something or someone changes or not. It’s all part of a greater picture that I, as a human being, have a limited ability to see in its entirety. I just have to trust in my soul’s perception (and in God) and surrender to the power of a divine purpose in everything.
Surrender and trust have also been key to letting go within my own life. They, too, accompany the experience of inner peace that I am connecting to more and more. There is a reason why these principles have been around for thousands of years and have been at the core of the teachings of great spiritual masters. They bring us to a place of flow in our lives, accepting “what is” and aligning with the continuous fluctuations of human existence. This is a time on Earth when the voices and energetic imprints of the greatest teachers are becoming more available to everyone. Their wisdom and beingness within the collective consciousness are here to help us as we move into our own wisdom and life mastery.
Events in the world, and particularly within this country, are now making it essential for us to live in connection with our souls, accessing the deeper truths about life and living. In an environment in which people are being persecuted because of bigotry and prejudice, where is justice? How do we live with this? How do we love all of humanity when some are acting in destructive, hateful ways? This is the challenge of our times: to live in such a way that our own souls’ wisdom and light affect the collective consciousness in a positive way. If we believe that love is stronger than hate, and peace more powerful than fear, then we need to live that in every moment. For ourselves and for everyone who crosses our path. When we shift our own energy out of judgment and outrage, then everything begins to shift around us. The peaceful soul brings peace to the world.
As I see it, this is how we are evolving as a people and as a planet within a huge constantly changing universe. As the saying goes, “there is no way to peace; peace is the way.” May we all help each other find our way again and again to that deep inner peace.
Ever since the election, in spite of attempts to stay centered in a positive outlook, I often wake up in the morning with sadness and apprehension. As much as I try to avoid it, I find that I have to come to terms with a new presidential administration that is displaying the underside of human thought and behavior: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, elitism. Exclusion that sees “them” instead of “we.” This is the shadow of humanity that has existed for thousands of years as hatred of “otherness.” Yet, now it is in our faces, even more so than in past administrations, which were not exactly stellar either. Electing Barack Obama seemed a step toward inclusiveness and diversity, yet even then, the country was almost evenly split, as it has been for many years now. True, the electoral college is not a fair instrument for representing the will of the people, but changing that will not erase the shadow. We have to face the huge division that exists in this country.
The United States is not united. Nor has it ever been, really. This is a country that has always been made up of people from different countries, cultures, races, religions, and belief systems. The first explorers and colonists—the first “immigrants”—imposed their lives upon the people who already lived here, the Native Americans. The formation of a new country was rooted in exclusion and appropriation.* That shadow has always been there, even as waves of immigrants from countless countries came here seeking freedom and liberation from oppression. Slavery was the most extreme manifestation of the shadow, and racism continues in its wake. The United States has always embodied dual, contradictory aspects: open arms and closed doors; freedom and injustice.
This election has brought to the surface all the fear-based shadows in this country, shadows that exist worldwide as well: intolerance, separation, inability to accept difference. And here is the hard part: As the shadow of humanity is on full display all around us, we have to look at its presence within us as well. Where do we see “other” instead of brother or sister? Where do we judge, condemn, or exclude people from our lives? In what ways do we tell ourselves that the world would be so much better if certain people just didn’t exist? Do we live with an open heart or a closed mind? Do we live in love or in fear?
On the morning after the election, I was traveling to Florida to attend Panache Desai’s annual global gathering. My state of mind was heavy, to say the least. As I found my seat on the plane to Charlotte, where I would change planes, the woman next to me whispered, “Governor Romney is over there.” “Who?” I asked, still in my own thoughts. “Mitt Romney,” she answered, pointing a few rows up, to first class. Finally, it registered, and in exasperation, I replied, “Oh, great, that’s just what I need today.” The woman looked a bit puzzled, and suddenly, it all struck me as very funny, and I began to laugh. (She chuckled a little, but I’m sure she had no idea why I was laughing.) Encountering yet another conservative former presidential candidate seemed to me like a comical cosmic wink or wake-up call. The message: “There will always be someone you disagree with on the plane of life.” In this out-of-the-ordinary occurrence, I was being reminded that from the perspective of global oneness, there is no “other.” No one is excluded.
And that is precisely why we are here on the planet at this time: To break the toxic habit of “otherness.” To find common humanity even when there appears to be none. To love in the face of hate, hope in the face of despair, have courage in the face of fear. You and I are being called to shine our own peaceful light ever more dynamically in the world, no matter what else is going on. To speak out for human rights and universal sister/brotherhood as we hold unconditional love for all in our hearts. (This is the basis of many nonviolent movements for social change.) In seeing every single “other” as another “one” in oneness, we come into greater balance and harmony, both individually and collectively.
Even when it seems unrealistic or emotionally impossible, take a deep breath and express the truth of your soul, which is love, which is kindness. Find the inner strength and compassion to keep expanding your heart until the shadow of separation falls away and you see yourself reflected in every face you encounter. That is the loving connection that holds our very diverse humanity together, in spite of the conflicts that pull us apart. In the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Love is the strongest force the world possesses.”
*This continues today at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, where Native Americans are protesting a proposed oil pipeline as an environmental hazard and a threat to their sacred lands.