Mindful Musings

“Choose Faith, Not Belief In these Troubled Times”

By: Forrest Rivers

Faith is a beautiful thing. It can be compared to a budding flower, intuitively growing into its purpose to inspire and give life. However, this inspiring quality is too often confused with belief.

Faith and belief are not the same thing. Belief says: Through my rational mind, I think all things might be one. Or, in the future, I think I will succeed as an artist. Faith says: Within my soul, I feel all things are one. Or, I know I am already a successful artist … the world just hasn’t yet found out.

Belief thinks. Faith knows. Belief is fleeting, and can easily be broken down at the first sign of personal adversity or crisis. Hence, this popular phrase following a trying life circumstance: “I don’t know what to believe in anymore.”

The reason why belief is so fragile is because it is a projection of the mind’s ego. One of the defining characteristics of the ego-mind is that it views the world through the lens of separation. And because it sees itself as separate from the one unified consciousness, its thoughts are not truly rooted in anything but its own delusions of how it ‘thinks’ the world is.

This lack of intuitive knowing may also explain why belief often produces intense religious and political dogmas. In the absence of a deeper understanding, one begins to question the certainty of their own convictions and sets out to convert others to validate their ‘truth’ for them.

In contrast to belief is faith. Faith is the conquering of fear through inner surrender. It is born through one’s intuitive knowing and is strengthened through heartfelt prayer and meditation. Faith also finds its expression through participation in authentic acts of love and kindness.

Faith is firmly rooted in one’s own direct experience and soulful reflection. Another inspiring aspect of faith is that it takes on an eternal quality of higher truth that needs not be spoken to convert would-be believers.

For a person of faith, it is enough to know, for example, that Jesus and Krishna are sons of God in the respective Christian and Hindu traditions. Similarly, it is enough for those from Native American traditions to know (through direct experience) that in both form and spirit, the Earth is a perfect expression of divine awareness. With faith, one has no desire to convert others, for what is known can only be arrived at within.

The desire to inspire others through sharing wisdom and baring one’s soul is a hallmark of faith. The desire to control another’s thoughts is a hallmark of belief. The former is the source of inspiration for the sincerest artists, counsellors and spiritual seekers. The latter is too often the motivation for politicians, religious leaders and captains of industry. Faith heals and unites. Belief injures and divides.

These exceptional times that we find ourselves in have been mostly defined by our attachments to extreme belief. For example, amid the devastating backdrop of the COVID-19 health crisis, there is an alarming number of people who strongly believe that this pandemic is grossly overblown, despite medical evidence showing how horrifying this illness really is.

  Faith vs. belief


woman with surgical mask in front of laptop

Until recently, I used to be one of those people who believed that this pandemic was overblown, in order for political elites to control the people in their quest for total tyranny. But then I began hearing direct encounters from doctors (including from my own physician sister, who works in the ER) who have witnessed, firsthand, the destructive impact of the virus.

Another manifestation of extreme belief that has emerged in these times is the view that this pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse are signs that the apocalypse has arrived. Internet posts on this very topic have rapidly multiplied over the past six weeks, while the world has been in shutdown.

Of course, the negative consequences of current belief systems are there for us all to see. A particularly strong example is that of the current anti-shutdown protests in America. These protesters are demanding an immediate end to the shutdowns, even though virus cases are on the rise.

Fortunately, bubbling just below the surface is a faith-based perspective that transcends the realm of belief altogether. Viewed from this vantage point, many people of faith are increasingly coming to see this pandemic through a lens of greater awareness.

This expression of faith regards COVID-19 and all the challenges it presents as humanity’s golden opportunity to move beyond the state of ego-consciousness we have been in. Such a perspective extends beyond all divisive political, religious and societal dogmas, because it has everything to do with our own collective spiritual evolution as one human family.

Remember: Belief injures and divides. Faith heals and unites. Let faith be your guide in these troubled times!

******This article was originally published on themindfulword.org

 

Mindful Musings

Oneness: the need of the hour - Deepika Bengali - Medium

“Faithful Promise”

If I knew, I would
Share the secrets of this Universe
With you

If I could, I would
Voyage with you
To the depths
Of inner wisdom

If I heard that you
Had entered the cave of enlightenment
I would drop to my knees and exalt
This sacred green Earth we walk on

If I saw the light
Of illumination in your eyes
I would sit beneath the Bodhi tree and pray:
For all souls’ deliverance
Into your world
Of seeing One.

 

 

 

Mindful Musings

“Five ways to Inwardly Evolve in these Troubled Times”

By: Forrest Rivers

The world is in a panic about the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this still-emerging global outbreak, schools and universities have either shut down or have been forced to shift to remote classes, government buildings have been shuttered, restaurants and bars have been closed indefinitely and many billions of people have been forced to self-quarantine amid an increasingly chaotic environment that has some questioning if we are witnessing the wide-scale collapse of our social orders.

There is no doubt that the human health threat of the Coronavirus is both real and alarming.

Perhaps just as concerning is the negative economic impact on the poor from all the forced closures and hits that the service industry has already endured. Adding to all the turmoil is a general climate of fear that has found its collective expression in panic-buying at grocery stores, massive unrest in global financial markets and extreme totalitarian measures being taken by governments around the world to contain the virus.

Fortunately, for us all, there are glimmers of hope that have emerged from this pandemic. If we can allow ourselves to be with what is, our response can provide us with ample and profound opportunities for spiritual growth.

5 ways to inwardly evolve in these troubled times


homeless person

Meaningfully contemplate death

A hallmark of any global pandemic is the media’s emphasis on the number of dead and dying. Undoubtably, the repetition of mounting death tolls from the disease can produce deep anxiety and fear among the global public. However, if we shift our perspective just a bit, the existential threat this virus now represents provides us all with a wonderful opportunity to confront our own fears of death.

Why is confronting this intrinsic fear so important? Many seekers within the Buddhist tradition believe that making peace with the inevitability of our own death is among the highest spiritual practices we can pursue. When we transcend our own fear of death, we unlock the sacred gate to live more freely and fully in the present moment. When we live more freely and fully, we follow our dharma and all of humanity benefits. This virus provides ample opportunity for such reflection.

Serve the elderly and the poor

Unquestionably, the rapid spread and fallout from COVID-19 presents a direct threat to the welfare of all global citizens. However, two very large demographics are at an especially heightened risk. Elderly people (those above 60 years old) and poor people are facing particularly difficult times. Due to their advancing age and weaker immune systems, the elderly are at a much higher risk of dying from this infection.

On the other hand, highly restrictive lockdown protocols by world governments have ground the world’s economy to a halt. It is the poor and working classes who have faced the brunt of economic shutdowns to contain the virus. Bartenders, restaurant and retail workers, flight attendants, custodial staff, small business owners and even many teachers are paying the price of our governments’ health measures through a wave of massive job layoffs and frightening financial insecurity that hasn’t been seen since the start of the Great Depression in 1929.

Now is a great time to rediscover our compassion as one people, and step up to alleviate the suffering of all those who are most vulnerable among us. Krishna, a God incarnate within the Hindu tradition, once counselled his beloved devotee, Arjuna, that karma Yoga (the spirit of selfless service) is among the surest paths to personal truth and enlightenment. Today, service to those who are vulnerable is imperative.

Reconnect with nature and art

In governments’ attempts to control the spread of COVID-19, the world has been advised to avoid large crowds and gatherings, stand six feet away from other people and self-quarantine at the immediate onset of symptoms.

In places like Italy and China (are Canada and the U.S. next?) citizens have even been forced by the military to remain confined in their homes, with the exception of trips to grocery stores or pharmacies. While social distancing is far from ideal (due to greater isolation and increased cases of depression), the time alone and away from work may wind up providing us with ample time to reconnect with the natural world and explore our creative outlets.

As a regular hiker and lover of the Earth, I have noticed how many more people have taken advantage of this forced period of isolation to take to the woods and explore the beauty of nature. As the capitalist machine grinds to a halt, wouldn’t it be wonderful if our Earth Mother emerges once more in the forefront of our awareness?

Social distancing also provides an ideal environment for self-reflection and the exploration of a plethora of creative outlets. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the enforced solitude caused by this pandemic winds up breeding a renaissance of creative expression, the likes of which we have not seen since the hippie counterculture of the 1960s.

Recognize humanity’s sense of oneness

Since the turn of the new millennium, it seems like the human race has been deeply embroiled in sectarian conflicts, and has been hopelessly divided by ethnic, racial, religious, national and political divisions.

Much of humanity has forgotten that there is far more that unites us than that which separates us. As the wise Ram Dass once noted, “we are here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.” The universal threat that COVID-19 presents to all human beings gives us a rare and beautiful opportunity to see past our superficial differences.

The existential fear this virus provokes is a powerful emotion that we all now share, regardless of what corner of the world we reside in. With this basic understanding comes a higher spiritual realization that we all share in one another’s suffering and joy, and that we are all tied together in a vast cosmic web.

This crisis may very well help us recover our sense of common humanity. If we can learn to adopt this perspective throughout these tumultuous times, the odds are good that we can also begin to identify and redress the very serious societal injustices that exist within our cultures when the scourge does finally pass.

Start a meditation practice

The anxiety that people, particularly the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, are feeling from this pandemic is understandable. However, what if the anxiety that many are rightfully feeling can be channelled into more positive ends that promote lasting and meaningful spiritual growth?

Enter the ancient Eastern practice of meditation. The extreme existential fear that we are now facing may inevitably lead many people to look within and seek some semblance of inner peace, amid the onslaught of a panic-driven media. The times are ripe for all of us to establish a daily meditation practice of stilling our minds, opening our hearts and surrendering to the present moment.

Further, the unique conditions of self-quarantining, coupled with a high-anxiety environment and unprecedented access to online meditation resources lends itself to the emergence of a ‘meditation evolution’ among the world’s populace.

A profound and inspiring movement towards inner peace and enlightenment could be one remarkable outcome of these trying times. And meditation could very well be the channel by which many seekers ascend into the higher states of planetary consciousness.

 

Mindful Musings

“A Ballad of Hope Amid a time of Crisis”

 

By: Forrest Rivers

 

The year was 2020

The world was plagued by a pandemic

that inflicted mass casualties across the land

Countless millions watched in horror

As loved ones fell victim to the virus

Many more struggled to find work and food

As the world’s exploitative economy

Suffered a catastrophic collapse….

Meanwhile, corrupt and greedy politicians

Stood callously by

As the number of homeless multiplied and starved around them

With little assistance coming from their maniacal rulers

Some people resorted to looting and organized crime

To get their needs met….

But set against this backdrop of death, fear and deprivation

A movement of higher consciousness was well underway

Driven into isolation to control the deadly virus

Citizens of the world came to have gratitude

For all the little things they had taken for granted:

Smiles from passing strangers,

Sentimental hugs,

Uplifting time spent with dear friends and family

And the sweet joys of live song and dance

Were all things sorely missed and remembered

Nostalgically….

Such expressions of gratitude

So intrinsic to what it means to be human

Triggered cosmic waves

Of beautiful but unintended consequences

For humanity’s awakening amid this age of crisis….

Sequestered in their homes for months

Some discovered a love for art and creativity

While others found God in books and through online talks

From enlightened teachers….

Souls fortunate enough to have nature out their front door

Planted a garden or communed with the Earth

Through walking, swimming and biking

And, inner reflection became a powerful tool

to confront despair for many more….

The ancient practice of meditation underwent a resurgence

As did faithful prayer and mindful attention

To each passing moment

And, the spirit of service

That was heartlessly neglected by society for far too long

Began bubbling within the hearts of each man, woman and child

once more….

FINALLY,

The day came

When it was safe for all to emerge from their houses

But when they re-entered the storm of form

What they found was not the same world as before….

A revolution had been born

And seeds planted

As all showed a genuine love for one another

And displayed reverence for the Earth

Consuming less and communing with Her more

Everywhere,

The Renaissance in art was felt

As Creative expression flourished

Like rivers flowing into the infinite blue ocean

For the first time in half a century

Young people everywhere

Chose to find meaningful work

Rather than chase the almighty dollar….

Of course,

Many day to day things remained the same….

Grocery stores were still frequented

Children still attended schools

And people still drove long distances

To see kindred spirits in kind—-

But inwardly,

Humanity had awakened from its stupor

Of vanity, greed and self-absorption

Upon entering this new world

Every step felt lighter

And the sun seemed to shine

With a greater luminosity

To herald the coming

Of mankind’s arrival

And to celebrate

Its most profound realization yet:

All things in life are ONE

And filled with the eternal bliss of the Universe

The age of crisis had given way

To mankind’s enlightenment

And the old adage that darkness gives way to light

Assumed a new and precious meaning

In this sacred season of spiritual revival.

 

Mindful Musings

An eagle, a lion, a wolf, a deer and a bear sat around the campfire for their weekly respite from work. This week, their conversation focused on the foils of humanity.As the embodiment of freedom and the first messenger of the Creator, the Eagle was the first to speak:

“My brothers and sisters, the humans, seem to be deluded into thinking they’re free. They seem to think that one can achieve freedom through the mind’s subjugation of nature. Why, that’s preposterous! Is it not, dear friends?”

All nodded in emphatic agreement, as the Eagle continued to speak:

“Through severing itself from the sacredness of the wild, humanity has only enslaved itself. For all beings draw their physical and spiritual sustenance from the Earth. She is our direct access point to the Creator. No being can fully connect with the Supreme Consciousness without communing with the Earth.”

The Eagle paused for a moment and continued:

“So, humans can go on exploiting and desecrating the land with their towers of hubris, talking wires and toxic chemicals, but none of it will satisfy their desperate thirst for freedom.

“Man speaks much about God, but rare is the human who knows that the Great Spirit dwells within the forests, mountains, oceans, rivers and deserts. Sadly, with the exception of their wise native brethren, it seems that humans are destined to follow down their own self-inflicted paths of suffering.”

For several moments, the group grew silent as they nodded their heads in agreement with the wise and venerable Eagle. Finally, the courageous Lion rose to speak:

African lion's face

“It appears to me that freedom is not the only thing that humans are misled about. Humankind is under the mistaken assumption that true courage is to conquer through might, which by way of the Universal law, isn’t morally right.

“True courage isn’t sending young people to fight for the money and power of tyrants. Nor is it courage, to commission expeditions to far-flung corners of the world in pursuit of precious resources and minerals that should never have been dug up from the ground.

“True courage is to look within to the hallowed guides of our being for divine instruction and inspiration: The sun and the moon, the cycle of the seasons, the whispering chorus of the wind, and the ebb and flow of water’s epic journey to the ONE.”

The Lion paused briefly to clear its throat, before proceeding:

“True courage is to stand behind the divine principles of creation and to be shining examples of IT’s perfect heart in form and in spirit—even in cases in which our own moral uncertainty is present.”

Once again, all in the circle grew silent, until it was the loyal Wolf’s turn to speak:

“My brothers and sisters, it’s not just freedom and courage that humans lack. They seem not to comprehend the meaning of loyalty. Loyalty has little to do with one’s peaceful assimilation to conformist rules and structures. Nor does it have anything to do with the jealous guardianship of one’s dogmatic beliefs and lifestyle choices. True loyalty has everything to do with one’s dedication to spirited self-reflection and genuine service to others.”

The Wolf paused for dramatic effect, before completing its thought:

“In our wolf packs, we’re loyal to one another through thick and thin. We’re loyal to one another for precisely this purpose: we’re all on this same journey through the wisdom of form. As far as I can see, humans have yet to learn the depths of this kind of loyalty.”

Wolf pack in the snow

All stared adoringly at the Wolf for a few moments, until the compassionate Deer assumed the mantle of inspiration:

“Friends, it’s quite apparent to me that the two-leggeds don’t appear to have an adequate understanding of compassion, either. One can’t live freely, be courageous or extend loyalty to others if they’re unable to open their hearts.

“Why, whenever we deer are forced to bury our kin in the ground, owing to another murderous sport hunter, I cry out in vain to the Creator and ask if man has a soul. For how can one kill their earthly brethren for entertainment? “

The Deer wiped a tear from its eye and continued:

“And it’s not just the murder of its own kind! Humans plunder one another in their petty contests for power and domination. How sad and senseless, indeed! The humans fail to understand that compassion extends both inwards and outwards in all directions from the heart, and washes over all beings without exception. True compassion, then, is to see the peace within oneself reflected in all creatures.”

To a jubilant chorus of “Amen,” the majestic Deer bowed to its beloved friends in the circle before sitting back down. At last, it was the faithful Bear’s turn to speak:

“My children and fellow teachers, I have sat here in a most grateful silence and listened to all your lamentations about modern man. I must say that I think your comments are wise and accurate.

“However, I would like to add that our lost human friends are lacking a fifth quality that fully explains why their conceptions of freedom, courage, loyalty and compassion are so sorely lacking. That missing quality is faith, and without it, they can’t understand what it means to be free, courageous, loyal or compassionate. “

The Bear paused for a moment to take a puff of sacred herb from his pipe. He then passed the instrument counter-clockwise and continued:

“Faith is at the root of our being. Think of the faith that bears must have each winter! For months at a time, we go into hibernation. We have tremendous faith that the wisdom of the universe will enable us to pull through the winter and experience the bounty of another springtime in bloom.

“Though mankind may lack a similar faith in themselves, it doesn’t imply that they won’t one day find it. We must not lose faith in humans and turn a blind eye to their suffering. For, as we know all too well, the ill-fated actions of man have an impact on our own quality of life.  It’s up to us, the animals, to show them how to live. We must inspire them all to look within themselves.”

At the exact moment that the Bear finished speaking, the group heard a rustling in the forest. All turned in amazement as two human teenagers walked through the woods, with big smiles on their faces.

Two teenagers smiling in woods

To the joy of all those gathered, the boy and girl proceeded to sit down in the Lotus position, next to a large stone. Hidden from plain view, the animals watched in delighted silence as the humans recited a moving prayer to the Earth:

“Great Spirit. Mover of the Cosmos. Lover of Morning and Night. We offer you, Mother Earth, our blessings and pray that you enlighten our souls with your compassion, peace and wisdom.

“You’re the essence of beauty and the source of all clarity.  Your life-sustaining rain washes over us with all its soulful purity. Your mountain peaks make us humble and reflect the vastness of your inner presence. And in your sacred forests, we feel the truth near and have nothing to fear.

“Earth Goddess: We pray for your protection and for the illumination of our human family. Peace. Peace. Peace.”