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Reality Check: New Age Miscellany

by Paul Naras

There has been some debate over New Age slogans like - You create your own reality. In its essence all this means is that we hold sway over our own thinking processes. It does not mean that we should shun or side-step or refrain from ministering to the unfortunate, ignorant, sickly, maladjusted, impoverished people of this earth because they deserve their lot in life since they probably created it. If I slip on a banana peel and break my hip is it really worth my while to spend days or weeks deliberating whether or not I created this reality? We don't subsist in a vacuum. As that great philosopher once said - Feces happens!

In its most simplex sense 'creating your own reality' advances the notion that if people think they are worthless, stupid and have nothing to contribute to the greater good, why should we be surprised if their lives eventually mirror the mindset? If the majority of the populace believe that the only way to resolve an international problem is to besiege and bombard, then warfare will be with us for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, one wonders what we could accomplish armed with knowledge, inner peace and collective will.

We can all reconstruct individual and communal reality by firstly remolding our own deep-seated notions. A white female associate of mine was waiting for an elevator late one evening. It stopped, the doors opened and standing in front of her were two African-American male teenagers. She found herself hesitating for an instant, got on, and experienced some trepidation as the elevator descended to the lobby. When she later assessed her feelings she had to admit to herself that the experience spoke volumes. After all, she had never been harassed by blacks in her life and she got along famously with all her non-white co-workers and acquaintances. She certainly didn't see herself as a racist.

All of us, to some extent, buy into the assumptions, the views and even the delusions of others. If I watch the local news on television every evening and the message that I have assimilated over the years happens to be that the city in which I live is not safe, then the city is not safe to me (regardless of any other evidence to the contrary). I stay in my apartment after the sun goes down. This is the reality I have created for myself. The mind is predisposed to swallow as gospel what it chooses to give credence to and so if I see enough minority youth on TV being arrested then obviously they are the ones who are committing most of the crimes.

Unfortunately it's not quite that simple. How often do we ask ourselves if our thoughts are really OUR thoughts? And what are we then projecting back to our loved ones and to our communities? We do create our reality but let's not take the phrase too literally. If I am fired from my job tomorrow it's more conducive to my emotional well-being to evaluate how I am going to creatively manage the situation and not to obsess over whether or not this 'ordeal' is all my own doing.

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "Solitude is impracticable and society fatal. We must keep our head in the one and our hands in the other".

The feeling of loneliness that many people experience sporadically and that some individuals apperceive almost continuously is a volitional emotional response triggered by their personal notions and expectations regarding the familial/communal affiliations in their lives (or the lack thereof).

In the best of all possible worlds it would be most gratifying to have and sustain healthy solid relationships with our immediate families, our spouses/lovers, our friends and acquaintances. If one, two or more of these categories happen to be wanting then the demonstrative effect on the psyche will rise proportionally to the emptiness and distress that is being experienced.

Decades ago loneliness used to be a more efficacious educator. If you were sitting on your front porch and suddenly realized that the most intimate conversations in your life were the ones you were having with the moon above your head then this revelation might have served as an impetus to more thoroughly analyze and decipher your emotional issues.

With today's technology many of the most socially dysfunctional people on the North American continent don't even recognize their own plight. Television can caress them all night long. They can live vicariously through the images on the screen. They can score the winning goal or be seduced by that soap opera hunk. They can plug into the Net, hatch a completely new-fledged provocative persona, and spend the rest of their lives in a different chat room every day of the year. They need never spend another moment alone.

Today more and more people are saying - Enough with the bread and circuses! They apprehend the incessant chatter, the deathless noise, the unremitting bombardment of images, products, scandals and gossip for what it really is - a palliative to divert focus from the 'self' and from subjects that really matter. These individuals are not turning their backs on society and nor they should, for it is the arena in which we have all chosen to labor and frolic. However, they are taking a conscious time-out every day to savor a time-honored pleasure - solitude.

Go to any park or playground and spend some time watching two year olds prancing and cavorting under the sun. Insects, pebbles and even blades of grass become the stuff of wonder, the fabric of enchantment. All of us were like that once. And we can be again.

It was quite amusing to be on any university campus in the early 70's. Every evening you would stumble over students lying on their backs on the lawn, stoned on hashish or some other narcotic, and all giggling and prattling - Wow, look at that tree! Check out those stars, man!

The New Age will accentuate the fact that opiates and hallucinogens (though not necessarily deleterious to all who use them) do only provide a bastardized illumination at best. Mystics will reject the primrose path of instant LSD gratification every time in favor of the more laborious but ultimately more rewarding 'high'way of meditation. New Agers will welcome solitude as an opportunity for personal unfoldment. They will realize that even in the midst of a supposedly lonely silent forest they are surrounded by more vitality, energy and spirit than even they can imagine.

WAYS AND MEANS

Every single one of us is on a spiritual journey whether we want to believe this or not. There are secular humanists who want nothing to do with God but who are nevertheless awestruck by Nature and the Cosmos. There are individuals who spend their entire lives adhering to the tenets of a particular religious denomination and thusly contribute to church and community. And there are those who feel a restlessness and are not satisfied with the beliefs they have been weaned on and set off in search of their own truth.

Lest we step on any toes let us reiterate that no path is 'better' than any other. The lessons of existence have been devised to make us all (eventually) explore within. There are countless thoroughfares branching off the highway and we intuitively select the byway that will provide the adventure that our present state of personal evolvement requires; that will best empower our latent talents and faculties to blossom.

Disciples on the New Age footpath are possessed of the same emotions and foibles as every other human being. They can be consumed with misgiving, pride, envy and pretense. There are no amulets that can be worn or magic carpets that can be leased to accelerate the pilgrimage since any insight or mastery that one attains is commensurate to the effort one expends.

We live in a results-oriented society. We have winners and we have losers. We initiate tasks and projects. We complete them. We are rewarded. In the spiritual quest there is not as much significance placed on the ultimate end as there is on the voyage itself. The trip is the mission, the transfiguration. As Alan Watts has stated - "We do not dance to reach a certain point on the floor, simply to dance". And the seventh and final scene in Act V of Shakespeare's Macbeth is only a small portion of the play itself. Yes, certain aims and targets will be reached but at the crest of every hill we will see that the trail stretches onward and that a further objective lies in the distance. And this process will probably never come to a close.

Just as the steepest route up an escarpment can be fraught with peril so is the New Age quest replete with its own peculiar snares and pitfalls.

G.L. sometimes meditated for up to five hours a day. He soon discovered that this was having a negative effect on him. Trying to attain higher states of consciousness can be as addictive as junk food to some people. Meditation is a way of enhancing our course of life. It is not an escape clause permitting us to shirk our responsibilities to family, friends and associates.

H.M. joined four different organizations over a five year period and attended dozens of workshops by other teachers and gurus at the same time. A leaf that subjects itself to the vagaries of the wind may enjoy the ride but it never does reach a particular destination. How can you be sure that by swinging out onto a new thoroughfare you were not mere moments away from your goal on the old one? If your path rings true stay with it until its lessons have been imbibed. Otherwise your only remuneration may be setback and standstill.

J.S.'s spiritual ambitions became so all-consuming that she found herself becoming very self-centered and proud. She was also abnegating her sensuality and her humanness by putting all relationships with others on the back burner. She eventually realized that one has to honor the physical in order to venerate the spiritual.

PATHFINDERS

Years ago a television celebrity lost a substantial amount of weight and announced before an audience of millions which diet product she had used to achieve her goal. Within months literally hundreds of thousands of people had purchased the same product. Ironically many nutritional experts agreed that this product was not the optimum nor the most salutary formula for the overfed community and, indeed, the celebrity proceeded to put the pounds back on in double quick time.

It is for this very reason that identifying specific 'paths' may engender disapproving frowns - for by acclaiming the few one bypasses the many (which are just as worthy if not more so). Suffice to say that this writer/this web site is not here to direct anyone to a particular guru or organization.

Most New Agers realize that no one can run the metaphysical marathon for them. But it is mandatory to have others lining the route to hand them that cup of water (wisdom) when they need it the most, thus enabling them to continue on their way. Even though the answers to our questions lie within we should welcome and take advantage of the knowledge accrued by those who have gone before us.

SUCCESS ON THE PATH

If you never think of becoming a master of your life you will never be inspired to accomplish it.

There will come an inevitable point in the conscious spiritual journey, an undeniable level of awareness after which it will be impossible for the disciple to turn back. Once that Voice within has made us cognizant of its primacy and substantiality then the only choice is to press onward. We may stumble. We may stagnate. We may stop. But retreat will never be an option.

The obstacles of the ascent can be more easily circumvented if the mystical mountaineer has certain strengths and has already realized specific truths. Courage will be demanded. Self-discipline will be critical. Purity of heart and motive will be compulsory.

Everything is in flux. One must be able to grasp and to reconcile oneself to the law of constant change.

One must be prepared to abide the more incisive discomforts and afflictions of the path. Conversely, one will also begin to experience bliss more acutely than most other human beings.

As one learns so must one teach. The ulterior purpose is service - not subsistence in a cocoon of contemplation. The seeds of knowledge must be mobilized and dispersed in the broadest possible sense (and not simply sown in choice acreage determined by partisan decree).

The aspiration for mastery should be an abiding ideal and spiritual growth should not be assessed by the presence, recurrence or profusion of supranatural happenstances. It will be reflected in a more discerning comprehension of existence and a more fervid devotion to truth, humanity and the planet which we all inhabit.

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