Peace is every step, wrote the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Since the blog is about law, ethics, regulation, and policy relating to complementary medicine, I have resisted turning it into a journal. So many blogs have become vehicles for self-absorbed grandiosity–everything from the perspective of the mighty “I.”
And yet, and yet. This is where we live–in the “I,” and the attempt to both fully embody and simultaneously transcend personality. For a long time, I studied the Gurdjieff work (“the Work”–the presumptuousness of capitalizing the noun the way we capitalize God; as if there were no other work, no other path to the Self, enlightenment, luminosity, awareness, Realization, That, union with the eternal Christed self, whatever terminology we use for the ultimate spiritual attainment). But I digress.
How could I not write about the London bombings? The subject of complementary medicine–and the subject of law–both allude to the ultimate level to the highest aspirations of humanity; deep healing, wholeness, the at-one-ment sometimes referred to as the ‘peace that passes understanding,’ and in other traditions as union with the spark of divinity within.
In Beyond Complementary Medicine and Future Medicine (2003), I described a hierarchy of regulatory values, modeled on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the base are survival values, such as safeguarding physiological continuance, which in terms of complementary medicine regulation means fraud control–rooting out dangerous practitioners. Moving up the pyramid are protective values (such as quality assurance); still further up is the value of health care freedom, and then the value of integration (pluralism), and finally, corresponding with Maslow’s self-actualization, the regulatory objective of valuing transformation.
I aruged that most law and policy pertaining to complementary and integrative (alternative) medicine is pitched at the base (fraud control); Maslow remarked that a society that stays at this level is sick or neurotic. If we want to heal humanity at the fullest level, we have to see the possibility for therapies–conventional or complementary–to heal as well as cure, to bring human beings to peak experiences where unconditional regard and love for all is able to shine. Maslow was a psychologist, not a religious prophet, though in researching the peak state he inaugurated the movement that became transpersonal psychology, and thus described the collective aspiration of religions. And by therapies, I refer not only to evidence-based medical interventions, but all those actions that have a therapeutic effect, that make people feel and act more whole, that create the kind of world in which maxims such as “love thy neighbor” became embodied, attainable realities.
Today I had a yard sale. Something seemingly banal too shares the space with more weighty mental grappling. It is a clearing out, a letting go, a kind of communal colon cleanse of sludge — feng shui experts call it “clutter” — all the things once valued, still valuable but none the less occupying space, space that could be simply space, spaciousness, room in which to breathe, contemplate, be.
I say this as the teenager down the street is busy cramming thousands of songs into the latest “i-pod” (there again is the “i” — it seems we’ve boiled human evolution down to either “i” or “e” (as in e-mail, e-commerce, etc.). Forget the Alpha and the Omega; it’s the i and the e.
I like writing essays spontaneously; a myriad of details seem disconnected but in fact coalesce. Following the yard sale, I was guided to meditate, was told some truth would be forthcoming from within. The wisdom I received in meditation was that it was important for me to hold peace in my consciousness.
I have noticed, within recent weeks, and particularly in the last few days, a growing irritation, resentment, anger. Riding the “T,” Boston’s subway, seeing “the energy”–millions of people carrying the energy of the sickening death sweep in our sister country–encrusted my awareness with the hard rubble of hatred. That word describes something. Hatred of what? It is the opposite of peace, and like peace, can exist without an object. The purpose of tonight’s meditation was to scrape away that–for lack of a better term–karmic residue; I see it as analogous to going to the dentist and having tartar scraped off the teeth and gums. I go into meditation for the mind’s dentist–God, the angels, my spirit guides, Moses, Jesus Christ, Krishna, the Self, the Guru, the All-That-Is, Ha-Shem, choose your metaphor in my polymorphous spiritual vocabulary–to scrape away my infidelity to the deepest part of my spirit.
I learned from within how important it is for me to hold Peace in my consciousness. Because only if I hold peace can I radiate that peace to others.
Actually, I had been told this by many teachers–including my spiritual brother and yoga teacher, John Childers of Full Spectrum Yoga. But I had to hear it from within to really get it.
I had received a similar message after September 11. At that time, I literally saw the dark sludge being removed from my solar plexus, and realized that I had unwittingly connected to the mass consciousness of … anguish, despair, hatred, loss of faith, disconnectedness from God, choose your psycho-spiritual lesion. My spirit had contracted, and I needed mental dental care from my higher power. (Chronicled in A Friend of All Faiths — a title that was given to me so I have to stand by it).
My wife and I, incidentally, had a ‘discussion,’ let’s call it, about Iraq. More broadly, it was a conversation about whether war is ever justified. I know in my life there are times to stand up to threats, so by analogy (and my own Judaic training, a current that runs deep — biblical and Talmudic literature like sacred writing of other religions have debate about the “just war” and the “rules” for right conduct during war) it seemed to me one must take action. Why, as a practitioner of yoga who has read the Bhagavad-Gita, I know that even the hero Arjuna is admonished to take up his bow and fight, though he must (reluctantly) confront his own cousins in battle. The Gita is a wonderful metaphor, because in any war, we fight our own cousins, being one world family. In any event, my wife is a pacifist–to her, war can never be justified.
I sometimes think nobody listens to our conversations–put another way, I forget our conversations are heard, and resonate on many levels of the universe. Again this blog is not about politics, but its themes all bear on complementary medicine law and policy, which embraces spirituality–and, recalling the apex of the regulatory pyramid, the aspiration of not only controlling fraud through legal rules, but also encouraging human transformation, and thus ultimately, spiritual evolution.
I am not sure I became a pacifist after my meditation. But I did learn the value of holding peace, of making sure that peace is every step; because if I crunch my fist (or silently curse) the dude blaring his horn behind me on the highway or the loud being blaring their cellphone (and pointing their antenna at me) on the T, I am certainly not spreading peace–just the opposite. If I can hold the archetype mentally, just this shift is enough, is my contribution, as it will resonate not only in attitude and behavior, but also in energy.
I have more to say about energy–a passion of hot pursuit (through the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine). And I have to say about how I actually perceive my aura, human energy field, spiritual disposition, sensation of peace, choose your metaphor, affecting those of others (specifically in the heart center) on the T when I am awake enough to look. But on a more philosophical level (for the Cartesians who do not believe in auras or emanations), the reality is, as my wife likes to point out, we all share the same molecules.
Being peace. There is a Buddhist practice known as “tonglen” in which one breathes in the negativity and transforms in, breathing out positive energy. This practice is often performed at another’s deathbed, taking in the dying person’s suffering and transforming it, an alchemy that allows the individual to die in greater peace.
Tonglen. Compassion. Being peace. After September 11, the media kept playing over and over the images of the planes crashing into the towers; how many times does a person need to see this image repeated? At one point does news become contamination? How does this shape consciousness? How much sludge can the obese mind contain and still remain whole?
On the current tragedy–that word has become cheapened, we need another–I listened to the BBC World Service tonight. There is always another side, I gleaned from the broadcast; one cannot simply listen to a speaker and receive some wisdom. This in service, perhaps, of balance; but what I felt from the broadcast was the whipsaw of contradiction. Nothing can ever land in consciousness because there is always another point of view to disrespect and debate it. Dualism reigns, and we have a “balanced” media (perhaps in terms of balancing opinion; flashing the images sensationally is another matter).
But that is another topic; simply to say that being sensitive to energy means that, at some point, I must also disconnect from the mass consciousness, at least to the extent of keeping my wits about me. This is our world, our children’s world, our world for many generations, and as Hillel wrote, if I am for myself alone, what good am I?
I share not because it is “my” process but because by sharing I may encourage others. We live secret lives, hiding our deepest selves–our rage, insecurities, shadow sides, but of course then these explode. Literally as well as metaphorically. We also lack a universal spiritual language, a deficit that gets us in trouble when the paucity of adequate tools for connectedness lead to ignorant and degrading action.
I would have liked to live my life as a private person, and it would be much safer that way, less risky as an academic, attorney, person in a professional role; but here I am broadcasting on the worldwide web (a fitting name). Sharing broadly these perspectives is a form of connecting, one that augments my sense of purpose. Having shed all that sludge in the yard sale, may there be a brighter me, one courageous enough to broadcast on the spiritual frequencies — not only the intellectual ones, where arguments are shrouded in footnotes and private sensations are safe behind the mask of discourse. And may this brighter, truer self, more redolent of the one great self (or no-self if you’re a Buddhist, that name is fine too) shine in greater purity, broadcasting peace, and the steps of healing taken in the name of peace.
Thank you for witnessing, and may I in turn serve as witness to the deepest truth within you.
As some say in India:
Om (the primordial sound)
Shanti Shanti Shanti (peace, peace, peace)