Mindful Musings

“The Uncomfortable Side of Comfort”

By: Forrest Rivers

The Wheel of Life - Samsara | Thangka Mandala

Clay, a dear friend of mine once said: There is nothing more uncomfortable for the seeker of truth than a comfortable place. I think his comment is wise. Comfort can breed complacency if one is not present or self-aware. Finding a comfortable place—be it at a long-term job, geographic location or even in a romantic relationship—can trap one in a monotonous routine challenging for personal growth. Now, there is nothing wrong whatsoever with wanting to lay down roots. For that is an inborn yearning we all have. However, we should be mindful of the fact that change is as essential to the soul’s evolution as food and water are to the body’s sustenance. So, at the moment when you begin feeling exceedingly comfortable in your “place”, stop for a moment and also access that space within yourself that acknowledges the discomfort which lies in feelings of comfort. After all, all happenings in this glorious Universe are always changing and in constant flux. The seasons change, stars are born then burn out and whole galaxies are created and destroyed. God designed things this way. If all of creation is tied in one infinite web, why would we not also spin along on the same wheel of change?

 

Mindful Musings

A Meditation on Freedom During COVID-19

By: Forrest RiversSo What IS Spiritual Freedom? — Spirit Quest with LindaAs the United States begins relaxing stay at home orders it has made me reflect on the meaning of freedom in the age of COVID-19. During this period of self-quarantining and social distancing, freedom has come to mean many different things to people.

For the mostly conservative anti-shutdown protesters in the United States (and to a much lesser extent in Great Britain and Germany) freedom has meant the right to work and operate one’s own business without undue interference by government. For these protesters, it has also implied the liberty to make one’s own personal decisions free of state tyranny. Yet, for other folks, freedom has come to mean something different. For many liberal urbanites and senior citizens freedom has come to be seen as the right to be protected from the threats posed by others’ irresponsible actions. In the context of this pandemic, some shoppers’ insistence on not wearing face coverings in crowded public places is an example of such a threat.

Medical workers on the front line of fighting the virus have also arrived at their own unique understanding of freedom. My sister, who is an ER doctor, has expressed to me that she and other medical workers would just like the freedom to be able to perform their (very vital) jobs without encountering societal road blocks along the way. A prime example of such a road block, is the US Government’s colossal failure to provide an adequate number of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits for hospitals.

In an inspiring development, a growing number of spiritual seekers, too, are coming to their own profound realization of freedom. In the context of the times, seekers of truth are regarding freedom as something that extends beyond the individual AND as one’s conscious choice to use their free will to alleviate the suffering of all beings. Such an understanding of freedom is akin, in a Christian sense, to being our brother’s keeper. And, in a Buddhist sense, rising to the level of becoming a Bodhisattva or one who devotes their life to service. This perception of freedom has everything to do with right intentions and challenges us to step outside ourselves and to flow with the great river of life. In the end, this acknowledgement of the interrelation of all things (oneness) is possibly the highest truth that mystics of every faith have discovered. Very fortunately for humanity, it appears that more people are beginning to understand that true freedom springs from an awareness that we are all connected. Below, are two powerful examples of this kind of freedom in action:

Example 1: My friend Jamie

For as long as I have known him, Jamie has been passionately devoted to the path of spirit and spreading the light of love. Recently, he began a live stream on Reddit centered on the themes of positivity and personal self-improvement. In just a few months, his platform has drawn up to 500 people at once from across the world. However, it is not the number of participants that matter in this story, but how Jamie has chosen to use his vehicle of expression to uplift others in this anxiety filled time. Recently, Jamie related a touching story to me about how he has been coaching (in his terms) one of his live stream participants through a difficult period of depression and sadness. Most significantly, Jamie revealed how this individual has been finding peace and comfort through their correspondences online. Incredibly enough, this participant lives in Australia! Jamie’s inspiring story is a testament to the fact that the vibrations of love can literally transcend the barriers of both time and space!

Example 2: My friend Austin

Austin has to be one of the kindest souls I have met in my life. And, as an inspiring musician, he has always succeeded in moving others to God through his creativity. During the thick of the stay at home orders, Austin could sense that his neighbors were feeling a little down from this extended period of isolation. So, he took out his guitar and started playing soulful melodies daily with the intention to uplift everyone around him. Austin brought so much joy to the people around him, that he received humbling letters of gratitude from some of his neighbors for spreading peace and love during an otherwise dark time for many.

The examples of Jamie and Austin are powerful reminders that you can still (responsibly) respect social distancing guidelines while positively impacting other beings through your freedom of choice to acknowledge the cosmic threads that tie us all together. In these unprecedented times of suffering and hardship, shift your perspective of freedom from what is good for you to what is also good for all your brothers in sisters!

Mindful Musings

                    “Death is a Passage not the End”What Does the Bible Say About Death? 10 Important Things to Know Over the years, it has become as good as living truth to me that we are more than our bodies. When we die, I have no doubt that some essence of who we are transcends the act of death and the flesh of the body. Of course, exactly where we go remains one of the greatest existential mysteries. Similar to both the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs on Reincarnation, I intuitively feel that each of us has taken countless births as males and females, as rich and poor, as oppressor and oppressed and even as faithful lover and duplicitous cheater. It is even possible, as Tibetan Buddhists believe, that we have even taken animal form in our previous incarnations!

Perhaps, the Universe’s grand intention for reincarnation is for us all to steadily build toward full awareness of who we truly are through the many experiences lived and lessons learned from each incarnation. Buddhists might call this awareness “nirvana”, Hindu’s “self-realization” and Christian mystics “infinite bliss”, but the same idea is implied. Through each passing incarnation we move closer and closer to realizing our total union with the One, God, Tao, the Universal Mind. It is true, that hardliner materialist scientists cling to the notion that when our bodies die we in fact die too. However, isn’t it at least a little bit ironic that the very cycles in which they study can easily be summoned to rebuttal such closed ways of interpreting our being?

After all, the seasons undergo an eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth. The sun and moon partake in both an exquisite and cyclical dance of cosmic positioning. And, as theoretical physicists are just beginning to prove through reason and what sages have long known through meditation, the cosmos itself is constantly expanding, then imploding only to expand again. If we are truly one with all that is and comprised of the same universal matter why would our experience deviate from that same deeply profound and eternal law found everywhere else in our known Universe?

 

Mindful Musings

“Don’t Fear the Falling Tree”

By: Forrest Rivers

Creativity boost - Trees falling without a sound, quantum ...When I go hiking in the mountains during a storm I am sometimes asked this question: “aren’t you afraid a tree might fall on your head?” Usually, I only answer with an ambiguous shrug. I am happy to report that I now have a sure reply! No. I am not afraid of a tree falling on my head. Nor, for that matter, do I fear getting struck by lightning, being attacked by mountain lions or getting lost in the woods. In very recent times I expressed these fears…. but not anymore.  I am just beginning to truly understand the meaning behind a most popular truth: you can only control what you can control.  At some point in life, we must all find our faith within and surrender to the Universe.  Indeed, if all occurring phenomenon are really manifestations of the Ultimate Reality, the One, the Infinite; then everything in the cosmos is perfect just the way it is. All our suffering. All our pain. All our hopes. All our dreams. All our feelings of loss and gain. Everything unfolds with great intention and purpose. We are always cared for even if we cannot fully tune in to the subtle but inspiring guidance of the Universe.

In the end, that which we perceive as our unbearable suffering may well turn out to be our greatest blessing(s) later in this life, through death and beyond. Why? Because God is love and IT’s driving motivation is for us all to learn and to grow. So, if it should be my fate for a tree to fall on my head while walking through glorious mountains then let it fall where it may! Perhaps, suffering such a fate would mean that my soul was prepared to experience the oneness that abides in passing from life to death and back again.

Mindful Musings

“Dust off Your Spiritual Lamp”

Spiritual Photosynthesis: How to See Mystical Light and Shekinah ...

By: Forrest Rivers

All the world’s mystics have discovered that the Self is more than our bodies and more than our minds. Why, then, do too many of us spin upon a wheel of despair driven largely by our own feelings of inadequacy? I can only attempt (key word here) to answer this question by posing another one: have you ever dug through your forgotten belongings only to find an old lamp covered in dust? If you have, then you noticed that as you flipped on the switch very little light shined.  So, what did you do?  Chances are, you simply wiped it away until a purer radiance shown.

The lamp metaphor can easily be applied to our own feelings of insecurity. Fortunately, there is something you can do when the negative emotions of shame, doubt and self judgement rear their ugly head (as they so often do). Meditation is that sacred cloth used to wipe away the dust of your childhood fears, pain and feelings of inadequacy. When we start to meditate regularly, it becomes increasingly difficult to run away from our higher selves…our “Atman” to borrow a beautiful Hindu phrase.

In the depths of meditation, the spark of God that lives within all of us reveals that very truth our minds try to keep concealed: self-judgment is a glitch in our own perception and is merely a small bump in the road on the higher path to self -realization.  When we dust off our spiritual lamps through the awe filled trance of meditation, self judgement is transformed into self-acceptance.

Mindful Musings

LSD Guru Tim Leary Interview

“An Ode to Leary”

By: Forrest Rivers

Slow down,

Breathe

Quiet your mind

And Meditate

The world is consumed

By madness….

But you don’t have to

Participate

In the senseless drama

That originates

From our worship of ego

For a wise man once said:

TURN ON

TUNE IN

DROP OUT!

But turn on to what?

Tune in to who

And drop out from Where?

TURN ON:

To living spirit

And the most high

TUNE IN:

To Mother Nature

And heed her signs

DROP OUT:

From this illusion that hides

The Unity of Creation.

Mindful Musings

The Smoky Mountains vs. the "Smokey Mountains”: Who's Right?

“A Faithful Silence”

By: Forrest Rivers

It is a beautiful day outside and you decide to hike to the top of a glorious mountain. When you arrive at the trailhead, your mind is anxious and your thoughts wander in every direction away from the present—the here and now. For the first 20 minutes of your walk, you are totally consumed by reflections upon the past and possibilities for the future. In your restless mind of untamed thoughts, emotions and impressions you replay your countless dramas from yesterday and make big plans for what you will accomplish tomorrow. Such worries over relationship troubles, workplace dramas and recent personal failures coalesce with wild imaginings of your hopes and dreams yet to be fulfilled. At this phase of your journey, you are feeling anxious and alienated from your inner self.

You continue walking along the trail in this uncomfortable and distracted state until the miraculous happens. Your mind begins to quiet and your heart tunes in to the glory of your natural surroundings. You then start to notice those wondrous happenings that you took for granted only moments ago. On your way up to the rarefied peak, you are swept away by the harmonious songs of the Earth. Through a new pair of eyes, the first thing you realize is how the warm life-giving rays of the sun stir all living creatures into action. As a child of the sun, you begin to feel an indescribable kinship with all beings of the forest. You then quiet down even more and tune in to the heavenly sounds of swaying tree tops and the whispering wind. You then smell the sweet aroma of spring’s blooming flowers and hear the faint sound of flowing water off in the distance. It is at this point, that you have entered into a natural and sacred space that has been called Zen, Oneness and Satchitananda by mystics across various faiths.

As you bask in the wonder of this heightened state of awareness, your body feels light as air and your vital energies come into balance. As the top draws near, you hardly recognize the being that has become, but yet, who has always been. Arriving at the mountain top, you now feel an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for the perspective of the Eagle. Standing at the summit of a rocky abyss, you recognize the soft grooves etched into the great blue hills. You then feel wildly comforted by the vast jungle forests that rests upon the surrounding mountain tops and stretch as far as your eyes can see. Looking out at the vast expanse of glorious Earth, you begin to understand just how inconsequential you are in the grand scheme of things. However, somewhere inside you know that in being nothing you are indeed everything. You then walk back down the mountain in a faithful silence.