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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

The photo is not about proclaiming the author’s beauty. I picked the grittiest, most unflattering filter I could find. I wanted to show something about me. This is my state of mind these days. I am squinting at reality because I don’t like what I see. It hurts; it’s overwhelming. I am unable to control it, understand it, or manage it any way. It’s happening, and I’m watching it. I’m wondering how to escape it, but knowing all along that you can’t. There is no escape from reality–there is no escape from anything. All you can do is change your perception. Changing a perception requires seeing the world around you–with its tragedies, insanity, cruelty, power struggles, and deep sadness–with different eyes.

I now understand detachment as a survival mechanism. There is a practical reason that Eastern religions promote observing reality rather than reacting to it. If you were to react emotionally to everything that happens to you, to your loved ones, to your community, to the world, you would lose your sanity and any ability to change what is under your control. An example of this is happening right now. Southern California is burning. Houses, neighborhoods, entire cities are vanishing in smoke. A ranch up north lost 40 horses in the blaze. The coyotes are screaming as the flames engulf them. We are surrounded by black, billowing smoke and ash. The world, our world, seems to be dying. At any moment, an ember could drift into my area and start a raging inferno.

My level of anxiety has skyrocketed to the point of paralysis. I now understand why people stand in front of the tsunami or the wildfire and don’t run. There comes a point where you can’t react anymore. The body and mind shut down. You decide to give in and drown. Or burn. Anything but continuing to live like a prisoner of panic and horror. What else can one do besides slowly go insane with the bad news that floods us minute by minute, or abandon ourselves to the abyss? There is only the option that I mentioned above: observe. Take only targeted and specific action. What does it really mean to ‘be the observer’? You must step outside of your mind. You must detach yourself from the spinning thoughts, worries, hypothetical disaster ruminations, and other chaotic maneuvers of the mind.

This means, of course, that you must understand that you are not your mind. There is an identity separate from the crazy chatterbox that pushes you to misery, depression, and anxiety. The Self that is not a slave to the mind is always there, always available to take over, always silently connected to God, or the creative principle, the One, the Source, or whatever you wish to call it. You have to find that Self and bring her forth and grant her control of reality. How to do that? This is what I did last night that has helped me tremendously to conceptualize the pain my mind subjects me to. I sat on the sofa, closed my eyes, and observed my thoughts, my state of mind.

It wasn’t enjoyable to watch my mind. It conjured up pictures of me burning alive, of my loved ones going up in flames, and my lungs shutting down and filling with smoke. Then I watched as my mind ran through multiple disaster scenarios and played them out. My mind noticed that my Self had detached from it, so it decided to call in the Big Guns: Demons. The pictures of Hell played out across a screen in my consciousness: Satan ripping me to pieces, devils eating me alive, horrifying monsters committing atrocious acts to my body, and animal predators chewing at my skin and muscles. Needless to say, it wasn’t my favorite meditation. However, there seemed to be a purpose. No matter how many scenes of graphic torture my mind put me through, “I” still survived. Kirsten’s essential self was unaffected by any of it. I arrived at the point where I didn’t care what horrors I was subjected to, because none of them destroyed the Observer. I was watching it all, but it was just another bad movie.

The news depends on keeping our minds in a state of total panic and fear. I am not denying the emotional impact of what is actually happening here in Southern California and elsewhere in the world; but what we are subjected to on social media and all over the Internet is far beyond calling our attention to situations that require our intervention or assistance. It’s not about how we can help; it’s about keeping us in a permanent state of alarm. A populace in a constant state of tension will willingly give in to whatever ‘fixes’ the people in power decide to ram through. Fear allows us to look for false solutions, which often are based on finding a scapegoat to absorb our sense of terror and powerlessness.

Most situations are beyond your control. There is nothing you can do concerning the events playing out at the moment. There are small, compassionate actions that you can engage in: offer a room to a displaced person, provide financial assistance when you can to relief agencies, or bring food/clothing/toiletries to a shelter. There are multiple kindnesses we can present as an offering to assuage the suffering of the world. But we can’t change the course of events alone; the fires will burn no matter how much we pray. Reach out to people and see what they need, but the course of droughts, fires, destruction, and climate changes are out of our hands now. Our world is reacting violently to our collective lack of caring, our exploitation, our rampant selfishness. We are going to pay the price for that for a long time. It will hurt.

But you can save your soul in the process. Stand back. Connect to the part of you that isn’t spinning in outrage and fear. Hold on to that authentic self through meditation, through prayer, through whatever means necessary. For if there is any hope for the world, it is only through our collective connection to something higher and finer in ourselves that can reach out and uplift others; if this divine vibration reaches enough of us, perhaps we can douse the flames of our own destruction.

–Kirsten A. Thorne

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Contrary to the title of this picture, I will not discuss what the Bible says about the Devil. I will, however, tell you what my subconscious mind says about him, or her, as the case may be. It was 3:00 AM, and I was not fully asleep when a vision took over my mind. It was not a dream; it had none of the bizarre, disjointed features of a dream. It was a lucid presentation of an event–just how to classify such an event is beyond my skills to describe. Suffice to say that I saw an old, old woman–revealed to be 96 years old, the age of my death as foretold by a gypsy–who approached me, smiling. I was happy to see her at first, until I realized that there was something terribly wrong with this old lady. She grinned at me, up close, and I saw a mouthful of rotten teeth as the stench of her breath hit my face. “I am the Devil,” she hissed, and then lifted her arm and attacked me with a pitchfork, stabbing me again and again in my side.

I knew she had come to take me away, and I was terrified. The vision faded, and I forced myself to fully return to my normal, conscious state. My first thought was: I can’t go out ghost hunting anymore. Pursuing phantoms in the dead of night is messing with my head. My second thought was: I am possessed, or about to be, and I’m scared that I might end up committed at a place quite similar to the one I investigate on a regular basis. Thank God such asylums are not longer legal . . . my third thought: GET THEE TO A YOGA CLASS at the crack of dawn. So away I went, early in the morning, to a yoga class that included a meditation that seemed designed for me and my particular needs (i.e., escaping the Devil). We were instructed to sit across from an image of the Divine and he/she directed a beam of light to explode the dark kernels of fear and bad karma that we had accumulated. Those dark seeds turned to ashes and were blown away by the divine wind of love and unconditional acceptance. All the corners had been illuminated, and I need not fear. I was crying like a child by the end of that meditation, and most importantly, I no longer felt as if the Devil were trying to take my soul.

Ghost hunters are a hardy bunch. We stare death in the face and record what is left over. We listen to hours of audio that might include something we don’t want to hear, and don’t wish to invade our lives. We don’t know what responds to us late at night in the old mental hospital, but we’re OK with that. Most of the time. The last time I was at Cam, Louis captured an EVP that could be life changing–yet again. At the time we heard nothing but the insane, incessant banging of the pipes with their attendant odd after-effects that sometimes seem to carry the voices into the atmosphere. I don’t remember exactly what Louis said, something like “do you remember me?” and the response that we heard, huddled around his digital audio recorder in a courtyard, was: “Is that all you want?” No, it was not vague or distorted; yes, we ALL heard it, and Ty (my husband) verified on video that none of us was talking at the time. It was so clear that we could all identify the words quite easily, without headphones or any audio enhancement programs. The voice was . . . tired, and slightly metallic, and perhaps a little sarcastic. He, whoever this was responding to us, wherever he might be–did not believe that all we wanted was an answer to our usual, repetitive questions. Of course we ask the same things over and over, because we are not engaged in a real conversation–we don’t hear the response until hours, days, or weeks later. The voice appeared to know something that even we do not–no, that is not all we want, we want so much more than to know whether or not you recognize us, or know us, or even what you think about our activities in these hideous hallways . . . we want to know more . . . we want to know if you are really the soul of a dead man, and if so, where the hell are you that you can talk to us, why in the name of all that’s holy are you still at Camarillo, what kind of afterlife is that, and the scariest question of all–is there no Heaven? Because if there’s a Heaven, then why are YOU, whatever you are, STILL HERE, inhabiting one of the worst places on Earth?

If a little girl’s spirit can find itself trapped in a place like this, then what is going to happen to me? What if I happen to die somewhere that I really don’t wish to, such as a hospital or a crappy hospice center somewhere in South Dakota? What about reincarnation? I thought we had a choice. Some of my sappier, New Age tomes on the afterlife talk about the fields of flowers and the Being of Diving Love who reunites us with all the people we loved and who loved us, and it’s one, big party until we have to decide whether or not to move on to Higher Spiritual Realms or choose another life to live on Earth. It’s all good, right?

No, it’s not all good. Sometimes, it’s sad, tragic, upsetting, scary and a touch evil. We don’t know shit about the afterlife, really. Of course, if you are devoutly religious, then you DO know, and I admire your faith and divine knowledge–I mean that sincerely–but if you are unlucky enough to not feel that kind of faith to the marrow of your bones, you go out searching for your own answers.

Sometimes you get laughter and humor.

Sometimes you get confusion and sadness.

Sometimes you get the Devil, and he tries to take your soul.

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Allan1952 on flickr.com

What, exactly, makes contact with us on paranormal investigations, or “ghost hunts?” This question has haunted me, so to speak, for years. Most of us assume that it is the intact spirit of a dead human being; however, after reading Colin Wilson’s Poltergeist: a Classic Study in Destructive Haunting, I may have another answer. This time the answer may be definitive.

The path to the answer is long and winding, requiring us to make some assumptions the materialist will not necessarily welcome. First and foremost—and I doubt anyone would disagree with this point—humans are inexhaustible fountains of kinetic, magnetic and electrical energy. Secondly, that energy does not evaporate or disappear upon the death of the body (the laws of physics support this notion, specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics). If we can accept the first two premises, I will add a third—human personality is intimately bound and expressed by the energy we store, produce and throw out into the world. Most of don’t ever attempt to harness or use our energy to affect the physical world; however, the interplay between human “foci” and the boundless energy of the poltergeist (more on this later) exemplifies this relationship between both complementary and oppositional forces (here I consider the forces in classic and quantum physics, but I must leave that for another entry). The evidence for the previous affirmations ranges from psychic healing to E.S.P. to apparitions of the dead (and living).  Anyone who thinks that the evidence does not exist has not researched the history of the so-called “paranormal”, and needs to read the peer-reviewed papers of William James and Frederic Myers from the Society for Psychical Research (to name two among hundreds who have studied anomalous phenomena).

How do we understand ourselves? We need to answer that question before we can decide what a ghost, a poltergeist or an elemental might be. There is an intimate interplay between our various “selves” and what we observe to be happening around us in haunted locations. It is a fact that something is “happening” during some paranormal investigations—but what we don’t often consider is the relationship between what we are observing and how we operate as human beings. Our minds do not create the phenomena per se, but the structure of our psyche organizes and energizes the spirits that draw from us in order to manifest or interact. If it seems intellectually suspicious to accept the existence of spirits as fact, I ask the reader to please read Wilson’s book—it makes perfect sense in the context of thousands of years of human experience. I am not asking for a leap of faith, but for the reader to consult an expert (Wilson) and to accept the preponderance of the evidence.

Our identity is not a solid, continuous, coherent structure. We have to construct our “selves” and create an identity from the fragments of our personality. Freud famously described the Id, Ego and Superego as the elements that constitute human personality. In the Huna philosophy, there are Lower, Middle and Upper selves. We are all aware of the “left brain, right brain” dichotomy, and the fact that one side of the brain can operate independently of the other. In broader strokes, there is the conscious and the unconscious mind, and the differences between “soul” and “spirit” that so many religions define (see Peter Novak’s The Lost Secret of Death for a fascinating discussion of this division). Across cultures, religions and philosophies, we find the same tendencies to view the human psyche as divided into various “compartments”, like rooms in a basement. Science itself supports this notion through studies of the brain, although doesn’t admit that there is a spiritual or extra-corporeal dimension to consciousness.

Wilson takes hundreds of cases of poltergeist disturbances and hauntings—both ancient and modern—and delves into the various theories that best explain the phenomena. He is particularly impressed by Max Long, Allen Kardec (father of Spiritism in Brazil), Cesare Lombroso, T.C. Lethbridge and the Huna philosophy of the self when attempting a coherent theory for the behavior and existence of “discarnate entities” Consider his understanding of the poltergeist:

“In addition to these two ‘souls’ [the conscious and the unconscious] we also “possess” (or “are?) a higher self, a superconscious being who might be regarded as the guardian angel, and—this is perhaps the most interesting suggestion—controls our future. It does so according to the desires and suggestions of the “middle self”—the conscious ego—and most of us have such messy lives because our suggestions are so muddled and contradictory.   . . .

These three souls use three kinds of vital force, or mana, each with a different “voltage,” so to speak. The form used by the higher self is symbolized in religions by the sun. By way of illustrating this vital force on its lowest level, Long cites Nandoor Fodor’s Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, and Lombroso’s case of the poltergeist in the tavern. For the poltergeist, according to Long, is a spirit—“lower soul” which has somehow, in death, become separated from the middle and higher selves. According to Long, the lower self possesses memory, and the middle self does not. So a disembodied lower self is an earthbound spirit of the type that causes poltergeist disturbances. The disembodied middle self, separated from the other selves, is a wandering wraith without memory—in fact, what we would generally regard as a ghost.” (312-13)

A poltergeist, then, is a manifestation that draws energy from our lower selves. The destructive haunting takes advantage of our “energy leaks” to create disturbances in the environment, from rappings and scratching noises in the walls to smashed plates and spontaneous fires. The ghost is a remnant of a soul that never integrated itself, never found a way towards union through a higher spiritual purpose or mission. The ghost, possessing no memory, repeats actions in a mindless loop; it never realizes that time has moved forward. For the ghost, time does not move, but is paralyzed in an eternal present moment where is replays a trauma or relives the habits of an old life. The “higher self” presumably is capable of moving on to another plane of existence or another dimension of reality that we cannot perceive. The higher self is what we usually understand as the soul, capable of evolution and transformation. It seems to me that this is what reincarnates, what is reborn and continues a particular journey of self discovery.

This suggests that one person can divide into various energy forms, both while alive and after death. Lower spirits find us at our most vulnerable and feed off our energy; we can project our “middle selves,” the spirit without memory, into a double that does our bidding at a distance. This may be the body involved in astral travel and out-of-body experiences. All of this can occur while we are consciously occupying the only “self” we recognize: the higher self, the superego, or the seat of the soul. After death, our lower self can continue to generate energy or seek it from others–it is the instinct unleashed, the primitive desires of the frustrated child loosed upon the world. We could haunt someone through the lower self, sucking up the energies of those who allow us, and creating havoc and chaos without the higher self ever realizing it. Our “middle self” could split from us and create a ghost, again without our conscious awareness. What happens to our soul, our “higher self” after death? I believe that we strongly identify with our most developed and aware right brain, and consider that to be the source of our true identity; however, if we have not integrated the elements of our personality, our being, then we may well create the hauntings that others investigate. Could our divided mind fill the world with ghosts and poltergeists? Could that happen even in life? That would explain the complicated relationship we have with spirits and ghosts, the interplay between our conscious and unconscious minds with the myriad wandering spirits and thought forms (elementals and nature spirits ) that surround us.

I have often wondered, as I sit in the darkened hallways of Camarillo or the dingy surgical suites at Linda Vista what is speaking to us, what is slinking around the perimeter, who is touching our hair or brushing our face. If we have enough experience, we know what is exterior to us and what has a “natural” explanation; or so we think. If activity seems to occur more often when a certain person is in the room, it isn’t luck or “sensitivity”: it’s a mild form of possession, an interplay between the overflowing energy of the lower self, the unconscious, and a fragment of consciousness “out there” that is seeking self expression. I now believe that we can be possessed if we are weak, incautious, vulnerable or unaware of our own powerful emotions. Our energy is like food for lower entities, who–in the end–are fragments of the psyche of the dead (and in some cases, the living). We need to exercise extreme caution when we undertake such voyages of discovery in the land of the spirits, because we occupy the same space–and we create the same potential for chaos and terror.

If there is a way around the dilemma of the divided self, it would have to consist of a combination of mental and spiritual practices: as Wilson states, cultivate the authority of your higher self, so that “you” (your true soul) remains in control of your unconscious or lower self. I would add to that the necessity of continual spiritual development and transformation. Pray, meditate, find your path and purpose–protect the soul and foster its potential for great good in the world. Only through conscious integration of all your emotions, instincts, desires and mindless urges will you achieve the possibility of eternity as a soul with its memory–the past– intact; only through such integration is there a future, many futures, for you–the authentic you. Without such a resolution, such a marriage of the selves, the haunting that will most terrify you will be your own.

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