So why is it important to really understand who, or more importantly, what we are?
How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world we navigate through day after day. It colors our interpretation of everything and therefore contributes to the world we collectively create together as we interact with one another and every living thing on this beautiful planet of ours. We either see ourselves as separate from the whole of existence or a beautiful expression of it and intimately woven both into and out of it. If we see ourselves as the latter then everything we do is viewed with a sense of inclusion, not exclusion. It’s what creates a sense of community; not just a community of people, but a community of all living things. Why do I believe that the latter statement is so important?
“Everything we do affects the whole of existence.” There is no such thing as a benign act. This is very important to understand, because the more we connect with and understand ourselves, the more we understand our connection to others, the environment, the planet as a whole, and the whole cosmos we’re a part of. The world as it is is only a reflection of how we see ourselves as individuals and collectively as a community.
The delicate “web of life” that sustains all of us is such that there is an extraordinary “inter-connectedness” to everything. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so as a consequence of its flawless design, nothing in nature is “independent!” Instead, every thread in the fabric of nature is “interdependent” with each and every living and non-living thing relying on the other for its continued existence. Every living thing is contributing to your existence so that you may live.
Something to keep in mind when one considers the world that we’ve divided up into countries, states, politics, social strata, class distinction, race, religion, ethnicity, and so on. All these distinctions leave us feeling disconnected and cut off from one another.
So then, why can’t we feel this connection to EVERYTHING?
It’s our identification with everything material that leads us to believe there is nothing beyond what we can perceive with our five senses, and even if there is, we tell ourselves, we don’t have time to think about all that nonsense.
It’s fascinating to me that we live in a world where we are surrounded by science and technology that can detect all kinds of things that lie beyond what can be perceived by our senses, and yet we still continue to hold the belief that we are our bodies and there is no deeper reality than what we experience on the most superficial level with our five senses. We’re left thinking this is all there is and that’s frightening. So, through the ages, we created elaborate myths to quell our fears.
Religion, in a very futile sense, tries to bridge the gap between the ethereal realms and the “here and now,” but, religion is insufficient at soothing our fears of the unknown and what lies beyond because one doesn’t practice religion, it’s only a one hour segment of most believer’s week. Its entire focus is outbound, dividing creation from its creator, when in fact the two are completely indivisible. It’s predicated on a dogma that is archaic and non-sensical. Its ritualized, rehearsed, redundant mental conjecture, which requires very little to no thought or self-discovery, nor does it require a peering into the abyss because the answers are all provided in advance. It doesn’t advocate an inward journey but rather an external projection to connect with a divine entity, “out there” beyond the physical realm.
Before the age of technology and all the countless diversions from one’s self that come with it, men had accessed a much deeper reality. The ancient wisdom of countless sages who penetrated the veil of this physical reality by going beyond “mind” and “thought” has been almost entirely forgotten and replaced by an epidemic of amnesia, an unknowing of who and what we truly are.
We in the western world, as opposed to those in the eastern world, have chosen an institutionalized, somewhat spoon fed way of thinking (or lack thereof) and seeing ourselves and the world that surrounds us, over a much deeper and profound knowledge discovered by Buddha and other ascended masters, that lies beyond the wellspring of thoughts that are constantly bubbling up inside us. We have divided ourselves into our essence and our persona by dissociating with our true essence and replacing it with a surface personality, with an ego, and countless societal labels, distractions, and technology.
Buddha said, in the Kalama Sutra, “in order to ascertain the truth, one must doubt ALL traditions, scriptures, teachings, and all the content of one’s mind and senses.”
Truth and essence lie beyond all such things; beyond our persona, beyond thinking, beyond the mind. In stillness, we find ourselves by discovering there is no “self.” That may be bothersome to some, but I for one take comfort in knowing I’m connected to everything, that I have no beginning and no end, that I’m part of a whole, that I’m limitless, eternal, and exist both within and without.
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery.
In the last ten years, research into states of consciousness has had a bit of a resurgence or what could be described as a new renaissance, as scientific inquiry in the field of psychedelics is revealing more and more mysteries of the human mind.
After a surge of very promising clinical research into psychedelics – a term meaning “mind manifesting” – from the 1950s and 60s, showing so much promise in treating depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia, recreational abuse of psychedelics created both political backlash and public outcry demanding their discontinuance. It forced the research to cease and to be abandoned by 1965. For four decades all the wonderful findings gathered had all but been lost. But, in the early 2000s, thanks to the tenacity and groundwork laid by a tremendous team of scientists from multiple disciplines, the Federal Government allowed research to resume, and what we’ve learned about the human mind, has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Used for thousands of years, it is well known that compounds such as psilocybin, derived from mushrooms, as well other psychedelics such as LSD and ayahuasca (often referred to as “the God drug”), create what can only be described a “mystical experiences” – typically described as the dissolution of one’s ego followed by a sense of losing all identification with one’s body, and a merging with nature and the surrounding universe. A sense of being connected to everything that is.
Those that have taken the deep dive into what we casually and even within the halls of academia refer to as a “trip,” report feeling flooded with love, beauty, and peace beyond anything they could imagine being possible. They all come back to their baseline level of consciousness, suffering from the same ineffability; a complete inability to describe what they experienced. They emerge from the experiences with unshakable convictions, the most important of which, is that ALL participants are sure beyond a doubt, that what they experienced was not at all “just a figment of their imagination.” They felt very strongly that these experiences “opened portals of perception” to other dimensions of reality, but in no way feel their experiences were hallucinatory.
It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, the physical form we take on in this physical reality, emerged from and is enmeshed in the universe. Our bodies are vessels made from and housing the universe itself. We (in the physical sense) “ARE” the Universe!
Artwork by Cameron Gray
Consider the fact that half the capacity of your lungs is outside in the trees. The entire water content of your body is from the ocean. The entire physical mass of your body came from the soil in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and even the animals you’ve consumed over the course of your lifetime. Your body is an accumulation of everything you’ve ever ingested. The energy powering your cells originated in the sun and was converted into physical mass by plants. Ingested by you, this stored energy is enzymatically converted by your body into the physical mass you identify with as being “you.”
Knowing the history of the universe is to know that Earth and everything on it, including your body, is made of stardust and is entirely “solar powered.” The Sun is at the very heart of your existence in the physical plane and is what is powering every aspect of your biology. One might even say that the Sun is your power cell, and is, therefore, an aspect of your physical system. The point being, we are connected to everything that surrounds us. This acknowledgment of our connection to everything was expressed as far back as the 1st century in the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, in which Hermes wrote: “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.”
Perhaps a more concrete example will suffice. Think of the water cycle as an analogue for understanding this concept. Just as a drop of rain (a liquid with mass) is formed by the coalescence or aggregation of water vapor (an invisible gas), the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from its source, the ocean . . . For a span of time, it is separate from its source, the ocean, but it “IS” the source, the ocean, and will someday return to its source, the ocean. So, it is with physical form. The physical aspect of your being that you identify with as being “YOU,” is nothing more than the product of focused consciousness that pulled together fields of energy and coalesced them into a density of material that you perceive as your physical mass. Again, your body is “yours” but it’s not “you.” This life is just a rite of passage that involves a body that belongs to you, but is not you. You, and every atom in your body, are as old as the Universe itself and arguably older because the universe exists within the parameters of time and space which are just constructs of the mind that arise from the perception of being separate. I, and many mystics, sages, gurus, and teachers would argue “YOU” have no beginning and no end . . .
We tend to maintain this illusion of being separate from everything because society breeds an outbound focus. As observers looking out from behind these eyes, we delude ourselves by clinging to the belief that we are separate from the universe, that we are “here” in these bodies, and life is “out there,” as something external to ourselves. But, “THERE” is a devious trick of the mind. The mind always makes us interested in things far away, over “there” so we can be lead from here to there. Our attention is always wandering to another place, another person, another thing, another time. As a result, we are never “HERE” and almost always elsewhere, lost in the capricious nature of our thoughts.
In India, there is an ancient proverb – diya tale andhera– which means “there is darkness under the lamp.” A lamp provides light that can fill an entire room and yet right underneath of it lies darkness. As is the case with man. We are capable of seeing all that surrounds us but incapable of seeing ourselves, within. We delude ourselves thinking life is “out there” and worse yet, that we are separate from it.
Why would I say something as preposterous as “life isn’t ‘out there’?” Consider for a moment that you have never “experienced” anything outside of yourself.
Sadhguru, an eastern guru (teacher) noted,
“Whatever you look at, you see from within yourself (from inside yourself looking out). Whatever you hear, you hear from within yourself. Where have you seen the whole world? Within yourself. Have you EVER experienced anything from outside of yourself?
EVERYTHING that has ever happened to you is only experienced from within you: Darkness and Light happen within you. Pain and pleasure happen within you. Joy and misery happen within you. Have you ever experienced anything from outside of yourself? No.”
“So the question is, what happens within you and who should determine how it happens? Someone else? “WE” determine what happens within us. We alone determine how we experience life. To believe otherwise is the ultimate form of slavery and means how we feel will always be determined by other’s choices.”
– Isha Foundation Goalcast
Though many reading this may feel insulated from the world “out there” and from others, sometimes creating feelings of loneliness and being all alone, we are never alone. This is merely a story our ego has created by living through constant comparison. It’s a failure to see our connection to everything we are a part of that leaves us feeling isolated, alienated, separate and alone. Seeing this connection brings an unceasing joy. It helps to see that we exist, we always have, and we always will. So, enjoy the journey because the journey has no purpose. The journey is the purpose! Every experience we have is only lending itself to the evolution of our consciousness because everything is our teacher.
“Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” – Eckart Tolle.
We, like everything else in the physical plane, are a unique, short-lived manifestation of the universe, much like waves on the surface of the ocean are an extension of the ocean itself.
Each individual wave on the ocean’s surface represents a discrete and uniquely individual event that is separate from every other wave on the surface of the ocean. Like us, a wave has a brief and distinctly separate life cycle from every other wave, but at the same time is connected to every other wave, because below that surface they all arise from the same ocean. Every wave emerges from the same source, the ocean, and each wave “IS” the ocean.
So it is with each individual’s life in this “physical” plane. Though appearing on the surface to be separate from all other waves of expression (physical expressions of the universe) that arose from the source field and give rise to the physical universe, (in the form of people, animals, plants, planets, stars, etc.) on a deeper level, woven out of the fabric of the universe itself, we are all ONE with the universe because, we ARE the universe. Each one of us is intimately tied into this vast sea of intertwining fields of energy we call the universe because we ARE the universe, just as each wave on the surface of the ocean IS the ocean. We have all emerged from the same source, the same sea of energy, as we all came forth from something “formless” into something taking on or congealing into a well defined “form.”
It may be a bit of a mental catapult, but if you can think of the universe as a vast sea of invisible, formless energy, where non-physical fields of energy coalesce and condense into physical matter, we take on form much the way water vapor, imperceptible to the eye, condenses to form clouds, and ultimately rain and various other forms of precipitation. Likewise, everything with “form” in the physical universe, including our bodies, is merely a unique manifestation of the same “formless,” imperceptible ocean of energy that gave rise to the physical universe itself and everything in it.
Everything that exists is just variations on a theme; a different wave of consolidated energy in the form of a human, a different physical expression of the original “source energy” or “source field,” (some may even call God) but nonetheless all emerging from the same source, the same sea of energy (God) as it emerged from something formless, nebulous, and intangible, into something perceptible and with form.
Just as a drop of rain, or a dewdrop on a leaf or a blade of grass, is formed by the condensation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean . . . for a span of time, it’s separate from its source, the ocean, but it is the source, the ocean, and will someday return to its source, the ocean. We’re not separate from a creator, we are part of the creator, which is creation itself. The creator and the creation are not mutually exclusive, but rather, mutually indivisible. The creator is the creation, and the creation is the creator. EVERYTHING IS ONE!!!
John Lennon glimpsed this idea when in the song, I AM THE WALRUS by the Beatles, he wrote, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together…”
He understood that we’re all connected and we are all one.
What we are is something that cannot be defined, only defiled by attempts to define it.
These labels we pin on ourselves are “MAYA,” the illusion of “self.” It’s a false image. This self-perception we have of ourselves is only an illusion that exists in relation to everything else we come in contact with or experience. This shell that we hide behind has been constructed over the course of our life and is nothing more than an accumulation of impressions that have been made upon us. It’s a collage of labels we identify with and have pinned to ourselves, believing the labels themselves give context to who we are. They’re all illusions of course. None of the labels we use to proclaim who or what we are can ever define what we truly are. It’s blasphemous to even attempt to do so.
Because of the way we’ve structure society, we’re turned inside-out. Over time we slowly lose the intimate relationship we’re having with ourself. We become oblivious of our connection to everything surrounding us, seeing ourselves in the context of comparison to everyone else.
More to come . . .
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 5 – The Importance of Understanding Who We Are
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery
So what exactly is this body of ours?
Let’s see if we can deconstruct the hyper-fixation on our body as what we think of as being “US.”
Our body is a very sophisticated technology with an intelligence completely separate from our cognitive awareness of it. Every cell, every organ, and every tissue in our body possesses an intelligence, a software so to speak, that is performing an unimaginable number of very complex processes and activities that we are completely unaware of. We delude ourselves in thinking, we’re running the machine; it’s running itself independent of any and all cognitive awareness on our part.
Made entirely from elements of Earth, it takes everything we eat or drink (which also comes from the Earth) and transforms it into the body that we temporarily inhabit, again, which is merely a living piece of the Earth. We aren’t living in these physical bodies, we’re “LIFE,” simply passing for a short while through and animating these bodies of ours. Just as birth is a passageway, death also is simply a passing through point; a doorway. There are no beginnings and no endings, only transitions . . .
To expand upon that, if you’re reading this, my suspicion is that right now, you think of yourself as being “alive.” But, what does it mean to think you’re alive right now and will someday die? That’s an understandable perspective if we think that we ARE the body, but, consider for a moment that you’re neither dead nor alive. You’re both in every moment!
When we are born, what is the very first thing we do? We inhale. We enter “the physical plane” by inhaling it. And, when we die? What is the last thing we do? We take our last breath. We “release ourselves from the physical plane” by exhaling it. Only breath keeps us tied into these bodies of ours.
Every breath in between the book ends we call birth and dying, contains both life and death. We inhale the life-giving properties of oxygen, O2, and exhale toxic carbon dioxide, CO2, which is fatal in elevated doses; so much so, that contrary to popular belief, our rate of breathing is not based on our body’s need for O2 but rather the body’s need to rid itself of CO2 in our bloodstream. This is why when you exercise there is a more laborious, forced nature to your exhaling than there is to the effort of inhaling.
Once here, in the physical plane, we (that is to say, our bodies), exist along a continuum between the life and death of our “body,” but not of “ourselves.” In any given moment, our body exists only as a ratio of percentages that include life and death, as we move along this continuum between birth and the demise of our physical body.
With the severing of the umbilicus connecting us to our mother, we are locked into our bodies. We will never be more alive! Growing at an alarming rate our cells propagate by dividing and multiplying much faster than they’re dying. With only so much real estate to occupy in these tiny bodies we’ve put on, all those new accumulating cells continue adding to our mass. As a result, we begin growing up. This gathering of mass, weight, and height continues until around the age of 18 – 21 where we hit a break even, and from then until around 25 years of age, we’re in a holding pattern in which our cells are dying at about the same rate our body is producing new ones. From 25 on, our body, at the pinnacle of its growth cycle, begins to go into decline. Now, our cells begin to degenerate and die off faster than the body can repair or replace them. Simply put, we begin to age.
In short, from birth until around 25 years of age we grow up; from 25 on we simply grow old, with every breath along our journey containing both life and death. Again, in the physical sense of our body, we’re neither living nor dead, we’re both.
Just as one cannot see light, but rather only what stops or reflects light, we cannot see LIFE, only what contains it. In other words, we cannot see our essence. We cannot see the living entity inside animating this body we’re leasing. We, at our essence, exist only as conscious awareness, (the seat of which has never been found anywhere in the human body) and have always existed. Birth and death are only properties of form, as everything in the physical plane is in endless transition, ever-changing, but we, in our essence, are formless with no beginning and no end. As a living entity, we ARE life, a pinpoint of consciousness, or if you like, awareness, simply passing through and temporarily contained in these vehicles called a human body.
Made up of only 11 elements (out of the 148 known elements), all of which come from the Earth, we are just a scoop of the Earth held together for a brief period of time by our breath. Nothing more. Our bodies are on loan; we borrow them from the Earth, temporarily animating them, and when we depart from the physical plane the Earth will reclaim them. The human body is simply a medium that allows life to pass through it. They are “ours,” but they are not “US.”
Our “current” physical state is just one aspect of ourselves, a shell, an outer dimension hiding a much deeper and far more expansive part of ourselves that exists beyond the boundaries of time and space and beyond form.
Thanks to modern physics and our recent understanding of thermodynamics, we now know energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. In other words, all the energy in the universe that exists is all the energy that has ever existed and ever will exist. All that is, has been part of the known universe since its inception. All the energy, life, and even consciousness contained within our body has been part of this physical universe since its inception. In that sense, the body you are currently borrowing is as old as the universe itself. Ponder that for a moment. The energy contained in every atom of your body is 13.7 billion years old.
With bodies made up of elements pulled directly from the Earth, which is an amalgamation of elements that coalesced from the dust-like remains of burnt out stars, we are quite literally made entirely of stardust, and stars were woven out of the fabric of the universe itself. We’re not living in the universe, we ARE the living universe!
Earlier I stated that at the level of our senses our perceptions are deceiving? Advances in physics, and more recently quantum physics, in drilling down into the smallest units of physical matter, discovered something quite unexpected – there is no “physical reality” at least not in the sense that we perceive it as “physical” or “real.”
What they discovered is that our physical reality is not made up of – how do I put this? – “physical matter,” and an emptiness between the molecules and between the stars. Rather it exhibits the characteristics of a vast sea of intertwining fields of energy in which everything we perceive as physical is in fact just a dense field of energy that vibrates at a frequency commensurate with our 5 senses. In other words, we only perceive it as “real” because we can observe it and “experience” it through our five sense organs. But how can we trust our senses as a reliable marker for what is real and what is not? So limited are our 5 senses, it’s like looking through a keyhole and trying to surmise what is in every room of a 150 story building . . . that of course, we can’t see and don’t have access to.
Of all the fields of energy that exists, we, as humans, perceive less than 1% (0.0035% to be exact) of them with our 5 senses. More than 99.9965% of the fabric of this universe is imperceptible to us through our senses organs, and yet we’re convinced that what we can experience through our senses is all that’s “real” – and believe there is no other reality or dimension to our being other than what we can sense by looking in the mirror.
So, what is “REAL?”
When we observe the fabric of reality at the quantum level, more and more evidence seems to point to the idea that the entire universe is a conscious field of energy, a canvass of sorts, that we as individuals, and collectively as an aggregation of sentient beings, project our conscious awareness onto, which creates the experiences that we have. In other words, we each are the center and the circumference of all of our experiences and are the center of our “own” universe. Our “realities” simply overlap with one another’s.
Here’s the odd part. Nothing, in reality, seems to exist until we consciously project our awareness onto it. In other words, is only a conscious projection of the mind.
Just as Einstein stated, that reality is just an illusion, what if what we think of as “reality” is really just another dream state, another form of consciousness? Like a dream state, only in high definition?
Sound absurd? Though some may think of that as straining the threads of credulity, outside of the fact that during our waking state, things tend to be more vivid and clear, ask yourself, “is reality really that different from our dream state?”
In a dream state, we see, yet without employing the use of eyes. We hear, yet without employing the use of ears. We taste things, but what are we tasting and what are we tasting them with? We engage in dialogue with others, experience tactile sensations, even sensations such as moving or falling. In our dreams, we experience all our same emotions and experience virtually every perception we experience in our waking “reality” and yet dismiss it as an “unreal“ fabrication of the subconscious mind.
What if “reality” is simply a conscious projection, just as quantum physics is implying it is? Far fetched? For most of us, that’s a leap perhaps because we’ve never taken the time to consider what we really are beneath the surface. That may all be slowly changing.
Artwork by Salvador Dali
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 4: What is Reality? Really?
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery!
It’s unfortunate, but life comes at us pretty quick. Pushed out of the security of the nest (home and the boundaries that define our sense of security), we’re taught from a very young age that what we “do” defines who we “are.” This is why we pin labels on ourselves. We’re encouraged to “find” success, happiness, love, and self-worth, as if participating in a scavenger hunt, never realizing that none of these are acquired from anything external to us. So misguided with this seemingly ostensible perspective of life as a money grab, and that money will solve all our problems, we completely neglect the most vital aspect of living . . . “self-awareness.”
The direction we’re given is not only misleading but can have devastating, life-long, adverse effects on our sense of well-being.
We’re not encouraged to delve into the inner dimension of our being to discover what makes us, “US.” With our focus constantly outbound, always looking for the next experience to create a desired feeling within us, our self-awareness becomes dulled to the point of becoming imperceptible.
Our essence becomes constrained by the straightjacket of our ego and its constant bantering that urges us to live only through comparison and competition. As a result, our essence is lost to insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, buried under layers and layers of a well-designed persona we’ve created to protect our vulnerable inner child; the innocent, eternally present aspect of ourselves that knew only how to be bewildered by the miracle of life, before the “been there done that,” predictability of life set in. Our primary concept of “self” becomes our identification with our body and a series of self-applied labels, comparing ourselves to others.
It’s unfortunate, but only a short period of our life is lived from our authentic self; that part of us that existed before we were taught what to think, what to believe, and how to see things.
From birth till around the age of eight years old we have no self-awareness, no concept of “I” as something separate from everything else, much less the ability to define ourselves as “I am . . . fill in the blank.” There is no “ego” yet. Life during this period is completely experiential, like a dream, where time doesn’t exist. There is no sense of fear, apprehension, expectation, or agenda. Children live immersed in the eternal “present” moment; an ability we lose as adults, where we are rarely present. How little control we have over our mind that often is working against us. We find ourselves drifting effortlessly into the past, ruminating on past experiences, lost in our memories or projecting ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown with an overactive imagination that we can’t seem to turn off.
Looking into the eyes of a young child, you’ll see that most often there is no self, only an empty yet expansive presence behind the eyes. “Essence” is all that is contained in the body of a child, and essence has no concept of time, no worries, no fear, no expectations, no script, no ego. For a child, nothing exists beyond the precious bubble of time or temporal experience they are involved in at any given moment. If only that could last forever…
By the age of 6, our indoctrination into society begins. We are placed in schools where we are taught to prepare for entry into a task-oriented business world that operates according to a very fixed schedule. Time, something that didn’t exist for us, now becomes an integral part of our lives and something we are taught to become very acutely aware of. For the first time, our lives are given structure, and we now have to learn how to compartmentalize time devoted to our own personal interests and the obligatory time devoted to our education and preparation for entry into the “system.”
In the classroom, we are taught vocabulary, colors, numbers, names of everything, and not only how to think, but what to think. We exchange our imaginations for rote memory and the regurgitation of facts, most of which have no relevance to us whatsoever.
Sadly, most of what we are taught goes unquestioned by our fledgling little minds, that simply trust that what adults are subjecting us to is in our own best interests. Lacking any sense of discernment, our entire focus is outbound. We’re taught that life isn’t something that “is,” it’s something we need to prepare for so we can begin participating in it. So in preparation for our entry into life, everything has been labeled for us, defined, mapped out and explained. As a result, we see ourselves and the world as a series of labels and never see the “essence” of anything ever again.
Ultimately, what we are being taught through our schooling process is how to become “essential,” “relevant,” and how to “compete” in the world. We mindlessly recite our allegiance to a country before we even know what the words mean. We quickly learn that the world is divided up into teams, and establish that a “country” is the team we belong to and something separate from every other country. With our clever intellect, we divided reality into a never-ending list of dualistic concepts: right-wrong, good-bad, gains-losses, us-them, etc. We’re taught to compete for good grades, compete for the best attendance, compete in sports, compete for prom court, compete for college placement, compete for jobs, compete for advancement, compete in the marketplace, and to compete against one another for not only survival but an imaginary social status that we think somehow defines us. From this level of thinking our “ego” begins to emerge.
Our “EGO” is just a poorly designed coping mechanism we construct to hide from others the innate sense of fear we feel as we venture out into the world alone. It’s all posturing and it’s all a bluff. We feign confidence, when in fact, most of us are just struggling to love or even like ourselves.
Life is no longer something we are connected to and having a symbiotic relationship with, but rather something to contend with and compete with. We see even the Earth as something to conquer, subdue, exploit, and cannibalize for the marketplace. We become separated and detached from everything, dividing even ourselves into two entities: our essence and our persona or ego.
Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona or personality that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness. This external image we project to the world, whether as a professional persona in the world of business or the personality we develop for our personal endeavors and relationships, creates a focus that only distorts the perception of who and what we really are . . . our “authentic self.” We are encouraged to wear these masks so long and so often that we forget the “essence” of who we are beneath it. As a result, living a life of casting shadows, we are provided with only a few brief glimpses of our “real self,” our “essence,” that lies beneath the veil of our ego; beyond that which we identify with as “self” – beyond name, beyond form, and beyond thinking.
Developed by living in a society of endless competition, our ego is like a reflection of us in the shards of glass of a shattered mirror where each shard represents different roles we play in different environments with different people to secure something for ourselves. It might be for friendship, sex, social status, entertainment, a job, self-preservation, or a whole host of other reasons.
Though it occurs at an almost entirely sub-conscious level, we tend to place people in our lives in the way that is most self-serving for us and meets our own self-interests. Instinctively seeking those experiences that provide us with pleasure vs those that elicit negative feelings, those we call “friends” are those who validate us, our beliefs, perspectives, and opinions because their belief systems and interests align with ours the most. By contrast, we tend to steer clear of people whose opinions and perspectives are different from ours. As a result, we become polarized, avoiding those that don’t agree with us and gravitating towards those that do. “Birds of a feather, flock together.”
Bound to our ego we constantly seek attention, importing and gathering the acceptance and validation of others. Without it, our ego collapses in on itself. It’s what drives us to seek inclusion and the company of others.
The fear and insecurity that lies behind the thin veil of our persona emerges in our time alone. It’s because we’ve forgotten how to simply “be.” How to be whole.
Who is truly solitary? “A sannyasin – a solitary being, a wanderer, absolutely happy in his aloneness. Alone, he is whole. This ‘beingness,’ this wholeness, makes you a circle, where the beginning and the end meet, the alpha and the omega meet.
He desires nothing of this world. He does not need to. He has learned whatever was to be learned from this world; the school is finished, he has passed through it, transcended it – a sannyasin is one whose need to be “needed” has disappeared, who does not ask anything of you, they draw no meaning from you, from your eyes, from your responses. – OSHO
This is how we are ALL born. But, life does something to us.
All children are complete, self-sufficient, and beautiful. They exist as a light unto themselves. As we become elderly, a lifetime of chasing titles, the respect of others, relevancy, and the need to be needed, we arrive at the beginning . . . the solace of our “being.”
We’re no longer needed. The people who needed us have all disappeared. The children have grown and have lives of their own with their own families, our spouse has passed, and now the world no longer needs us. Nobody comes to our home anymore to pay their respect. Even if we go for a walk, nobody recognizes us. We may have been prominent CEO’s, the president of a bank, actors, actresses, celebrities, but now we feel futile. No longer needed, in the end, we all become nobody. This is a beautiful place to arrive at if we allow it to be.
There’s a beautiful quote from Jesus: “When the beginning and the end have become one, you have become God.” It’s one of the oldest motifs in Egypt – a snake eating its own tail. That’s what the circle of life is, that what rebirth is, that’s what becoming like children is, moving in a circle, back to the source, returning there from where you have come.
But most of us don’t see the end and spend a lifetime trying to be admired and relevant, to someone, to anyone, but ourselves. It’s our need to feel relevant and to feel a sense of belonging that pushes us to compulsively seek romantic relationships or to cave into group mentality because of the false sense of security it provides us. Most of us are terrified of being alone and often feel very lonely if we’re not constantly surrounded by the attention of others. This is why humans are inherently social and generally timid about expressing their authentic self and their true feeling in relationships or their own ideas in group settings that may be “counter-culture” or different from what most would consider “mainstream” or “consensus.”
Self-expression was once a highly revered trait. But, today having your own identity, thoughts, and beliefs, is almost seen as audacious and rebellious if they lie outside of what we’ve been spoonfed to believe. But, ask yourself, can you think of anyone you admire that isn’t “different,” or “weird,” or fiercely independent? Who admires people that accel at “normalcy?”
Seeking inclusion, whether we realize it or not, we often place people in our lives in a way that makes our lives work, and in building our networks of friends and acquaintances, our ego is very strategic in keeping checks and balances of what people like about us and what they don’t, who we can share certain experiences with and who we can’t, and we can get what from and who we can’t. We wear different hats and different masks in different environments. It’s what through countless positive and negative interactions fashions us into a version of ourselves that we project as our persona to others in a way we think will be most appealing and acceptable to others.
Operating at a subconscious level, our ego begins to emerge shortly after the age of 8 years old. Very malleable and impressionable at this age, our ego is made up of a series of redundant, automatic patterns of behavior reinforced by experiences that had produced gains for us. In other words, we tend to repeat behaviors that get us what we want from others. Weighing out the payoff of choosing to interact within a framework of learned social behaviors against our need for self-expression and having a voice all our own, we are constantly governing our behaviors between two tidal forces: the ego and our essence.
Our ego, reinforced with every positive gain, getting us what we want, only chips away at our essence by constantly encouraging us to develop a persona which makes us more socially acceptable in the eyes of others.
We delude ourselves with our ego because it creates a false image of ourselves by fragmenting us into countless categories of comparison with everyone else. From the perspective of our ego, we never see ourselves as “whole” but instead, always see ourselves as lacking something that always makes us less than whole and inadequate. From this perspective, we can only live with the constant fear that we don’t measure up. We’re never good-looking enough, charismatic enough, likable enough, or lovable enough. The bottom line? We’re never “good enough!” And that is the tragedy of an overactive ego. This inadequacy is learned, not inherent, because we didn’t possess it as children.
As we enter our formative years, from early adolescence into our 20s, two decades of exposure to endless corporate propaganda promoting materialism, urging us to shop, define ourselves through the acquisition of “things” and television promoting images and messages just below the level of cognition (feeding the subconscious mind) of what’s acceptable and what’s not, our perception of “reality,” is galvanized and unshakable. Our religious beliefs, political views, perception of others, and the world around us, is pretty much set in stone unless we can rise above the level of our karma, or social conditioning.
Catering only to the “egoic mind,” our indoctrination into society is complete. We dutifully go about the business of working, paying our bills, and trying to not ruffle too many feathers along the way. Like chameleons, we learn to camouflage ourselves and cover up our insecurities by catering to others, both professionally and personally, in what we see as socially acceptable patterns of engagement and conversation, generally staying in the middle, as opposed to having views or beliefs that may be at the edges of the bell curve. As Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage, we each are merely players.”
This is detrimental long-term because it comes at a price . . . over time, we slowly lose a vast amount of our individuality as we try to blend in to secure the acceptance of others. Playing these roles we often lose sight of ourselves.
What’s been stolen from us, is awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love. Our entire “experience” of life is that of being something that we’re immersed in, an experience we’re having as a physical being. Rather than being something we’re a part of, it’s seen as something separate from us. It is something that’s happening to us or around us and entirely external.
In a very insidious way, we’re taught to “work hard,” “life is what you make of it,” and is measured in dollars and cents. In essence, we’re taught to be consumers. The value of our life is found through attainment. Our “self-image” becomes a projection. It’s just that; the image we hold of ourselves and project to others. It’s largely purchased. With this external focus, not only our happiness but life itself is also purchased in increments. We buy life and the experiences we have by going to work and “earning the right to have a life.” Life becomes a series of diversion tactics, designed to keep our heads emotionally “above water” and our fears and feelings of being inadequate at bay.
As consumers, we become anything but “present” because, having embraced the idea that happiness is just another purchase away, we are always hoping to import happiness from an external source. As a result, we’re never “present.” Without “presence of mind,” we’re never living “mindfully aware” of the moment, the NOW, that we’re immersed in, but instead lost in our thoughts and “to do” lists. As a result, we live with very little self-awareness, convinced our emotional state is entirely circumstantial and something we have little control over.
In such a competitive society, we become almost entirely identified with attainment, materialism, and the adornment, image, and preservation of our body. Why? Because society has no use of one’s soul. But, society can exploit our bodies, as workers, so it keeps us focused on the external with our primary focus being the preservation of our bodies. This is why an entire dimension of ourselves, our inner dimension, goes unnoticed. The spiritual aspect of ourselves is traded in and replaced by religion which only has us feasting on scraps from the table, nurturing the idea that we’re lost souls trying to find our way home. It divorces us from our “true” nature.
More to come . . .
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 3 – The Nature of Reality
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery!
Life is really about “managing” two aspects of our lives: our “outer-environment” and considerably more important, our “inner-environment.” Keeping all the plates spinning can be a daunting task, to say the least. Living in a fast-paced, schedule-oriented society like ours creates a very fixed and predictable structure to our lives, but this very structure to our lives leaves little flexibility and can create copious amounts of stress that can rob us of our sense of happiness and inner “well-being.” Fulfilling so many obligations to work and family means a large percentage of our lives is lived out merely at the level of “functionality,” with very little time to devote to ourselves. This can have detrimental effects on our level of self-awareness and the degree to which we consciously navigate through life. Not “engaged” with the dynamic process of life, we tend to merely go through the motions of securing our most basic needs.
The key to having a sense of balance and any resemblance of peace of mind is by cultivating our ability to be “PRESENT.” To be present is to live ‘mindfully engaged’ in the ‘now-ness’ of each moment, in order to prioritize things, evaluate their relevance, and thus effectively manage our inner “well-being.”
“Mindfulness” and “presence” are elusive concepts for most because society keeps us living at such a hurried pace, we’re always focused on what needs to be attended to next. As a result, we bring very little “awareness” to our state of being. Awareness is the ONLY catalyst to bring about changes in ourselves and in our life. Without awareness our emotional state of mind remains entirely “reactive” instead of “responsive” and entirely circumstantial.
How often do we devote way too much time to certain aspects of our lives only to have other aspects suffer? For example, there are many who work themselves to death, only to have their health and relationships deteriorate. This imbalance and inability to manage the various aspects of our lives can create so much unnecessary stress for us.
Our human intelligence, a recently acquired product of evolution, is such, that if we do not organize it properly, it only causes confusion and misery. Instead of being robust with tremendous potential and possibility, it is a very sophisticated tool that has become a big problem for most of humanity.
With clever minds, we’ve given our suffering all kinds of different names, calling it concern, stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, sadness, or misery, but essentially it simply means our mind has gone rogue and is now perceived as being beyond our control. How often I hear people say, “I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it! My mind won’t shut off!”
No longer able to see that our thoughts and feelings are “ours” but not “us,” the complexion of our emotions is seen as almost entirely circumstantial – meaning, we believe our feelings are just a natural response to what is happening to us in any given moment, therefore we just surrender to them, feeling powerless to do anything but wait for them to pass. This is a very debilitating and disempowering premise to approach life from. Our feelings emerge from one thing and one thing only: Our perceptions!!!
So moving beyond suffering involves becoming “mindful” of it. But, oh how much energy we exhaust in trying to ignore it!
Pain in life is inevitable, but emotional suffering truly arises from within us and our inability to remain present. Tortured by our thoughts we find ourselves effortlessly floating back into the past, where we ruminate on memories and things we cannot change; or we project ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown. Both are “non-realities” that are debilitating and disempowering projections of an overactive mind.
In other words, we lose our grip on reality, as our mind writes a script over every experience we’re having instead of seeing and experiencing each moment for what it is. Our focus becomes very myopic in nature as we incessantly replay events and/or conversations from the past over and over, that we believe are the source of our pain. All the while, we mentally drift back and forth between these two non-realities: the past or the future. We are anything but immersed in the “present” moment.
If we are suffering all by ourselves, it is our mind, along with its never ending stream of thoughts, that is now working against us; no one else. As a result, we become victims of its seemingly intentional and incessant provocation. This is all fear masquerading as logical thinking as our mind tries connecting the dots in trying to make sense of what is causing us so much pain, but it’s very pathological, compulsive, and misguided energy. Rather than soothing us, it devours us. Sadly, this is the default state of mind for most of society and this constant stress has profoundly detrimental effects on our health. Learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way is paramount to our well-being.
So, let’s give this context:
Most of us have never paid attention, nor have we explored the MOST IMPORTANT DIMENSION of who and what we are. We are trapped with a constant outbound focus, believing LIFE is “out there” and we’re “in here.” Looking out from behind these eyes of ours, we see life as something to be pursued, never realizing it’s only going on within us.
We cannot know life any other way than the way it happens within us. “YOU,” and you alone, ARE THE ONLY DOORWAY TO EXISTENCE for yourself and the experiences you’re having. LIFE is only experienced through the mechanisms of our body, which again, is OURS, but is not “US.” This distinction is crucial to one’s understanding on their path to enlightenment.
And therein lies the problem. Our whole perception of life is determined, not by the events themselves, but rather by our interpretation of all the information we take in through our five senses. Everything we know or ever could know, has entered our understanding by seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling. This is the only way you can know life and perceive the world around you. Without your senses you’d have no perception of the world or yourself at all. We experience this deprivation every night when we sleep.
As we enter into sleep, the whole of existence disappears because our five senses have shut down. Obviously, we don’t cease to exist, it’s just that the mechanisms of the body are not being employed to create an experience for us. When we awaken our “awareness” returns . . . at least of the “outside” world. We see ourselves as trapped in this avatar interacting with the world “out-there.” So, what I’m alluding to, is that our sense organs are all outbound. What we’ve internalized as “the world” pressing in on us, are only impressions; indelible perceptions we’ve developed about ourselves, others, and the world around us, based on what has happened to us along our journey over the course of our life. The repetitious patterns that play out have given a predictability to aspects of our life, and that predictability predisposes us to seeing what we want to see. What we see depends largely upon what we look for.
The cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us governing our hopes, fears, aspirations, biases, beliefs, prejudices, perspectives, and opinions –fashions and creates the lens we see reality through. This lens is our “karma.”
The key to developing peace of mind is to develop the awareness that life is only going within us. It’s ALL only perceived within us. Pleasure and pain is experienced within you. Joy and sadness is experienced within you. Lightness and darkness are experienced within you. Every experience is only going on WITHIN YOU.
Something I try to do in counseling others is to simply have them acknowledge their fear and realize it’s ALL going on within them. In doing so, we can then start to deal with our fears, insecurities, and past traumas to heal ourselves. So, to put an end to this endless chattering in our minds, wreaking havoc on our emotions that are teeming with so many complexions, we look at the irrationality of these thoughts by giving them context and putting them into one of two categories: Love or fear.
For all our complexity, and despite the fact that we give our emotions so many names, we really only have two emotions: LOVE & FEAR.
Anything other than LOVE is rooted in FEAR. All emotional suffering is fear. Anger, indignation, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and sadness, all come from unresolved hurt and the subsequent fear that developed within us as a result, that we are afraid to re-experience again.
For example, what is anger? Anger is a complicated emotion, because, unlike other emotions, it’s very acute in nature and has so many different triggers. If you look underneath anger, you’ll always find unresolved pain and fear. Anger can arise for a number of reasons, but, at its core, it emerges from fear. Anger can arise when something is threatening our physical or emotional sense of security, something that exposes our inefficiencies. Easily offended or provoked, we fear what others think of us or fear others will come to see who we really are behind the thin veneer of our persona (ego). Anger can be the fear of having to suffer the untoward consequences of choices that we’ve made, and as a result, we fear we will be penalized or will have something taken from us. Anger can be the fear that something adverse is going to happen to us or prevent us from getting what we want or the fear that something may be taken from us, meaning our expectations will go unmet. Fear that someone else’s decision or choices may create unwanted consequences for me.
What is depression? The fear our life is never going to be any better than our current state of affairs. And sadness? Sadness is the fear that the gaping hole left by something or someone we’ve grown attached to, in being lost, will leave us with the inability to ever recover because it or they cannot be replaced. Loneliness? Loneliness can be debilitating. It’s the fear that we’re always going to be alone or the belief that no one thinks we’re worthwhile or relevant enough to spend time with. Anxiety? Fear of the unknown. It’s all FEAR!
This is important, because a large number of our fears come from a very negative internal dialogue we’re having within ourselves, that stems from an incapacity to love and accept ourselves. As a result, we create self-deprecating and often frightening stories that only validate and reinforce our fears and the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. The key to reducing stress and healing the wounds from our past involves creating a “gap” between our thoughts and our feelings by becoming the observer of our thoughts and reframing them. By seeing the thoughts as separate from us and really having no power over us other than the credence we give them.
So, rising above the compulsive and capricious nature of our damaging thoughts involves developing our awareness, becoming “mindful,” present, and by paying attention to the meandering of the mind and the messages we’re sending to ourselves. Are we loving and honoring ourselves or are are we terrifying ourselves and bullying ourselves with insults that victimize us?
Victimizing ourselves is an easy place to go to because it actually serves us, at least temporarily. When we victimize ourselves we find it difficult just to breathe, so we give ourselves permission to just feel sorry for ourselves and play small for a bit. Others, understanding our pain, feel compassion for us, and subsequently, don’t expect much from us. So, we get to step out of the spotlight and stop participating in the incredible adventure of life to rest and regroup. But as is often the case, we often miss the lesson . . . the fact that EVERYTHING is our teacher.
Though usually met with resistance, pain is our teacher and is always a tremendous opportunity to grow! Primarily because, we tend not to grow during the joyous periods of our lives. During these times, we are immersed in the dynamic experience of life’s unfolding and the joy of just “being.”
Pain, has purpose! Whether physical or psychological in nature, all pain has purpose. When we are in pain we become laser focused!
Pain is a rather sophisticated biochemical cascade developed by the body, that summons and converges our entire energy and conscious awareness around the source of our pain or something that threatens our well-being. Pain is very acute and brings an immediacy to physiological and/or psychological gaps in our awareness by creating a hyper-focused awareness of the aspects of ourselves that we’ve been neglecting or to areas of the body that have recently experienced physical trauma.
Artwork by Martin Stranka
For example, the bulk of our immune system resides in our large intestine. Every year hundred of millions of people’s immune systems collapse because of poor, negligent choices made day in day out. With diets consisting of largely processed foods, loaded with sugar, and inorganic chemicals nature never intended for our bodies to process, our immune system is taxed and deteriorates. With millions of chemical processes occurring every minute of every day below the level of cognition and our conscious awareness, it’s only when the system collapses that the body’s software makes us painfully aware that it’s in trouble. Despite eating more than enough calories, the calories we consume are empty, nutrient-deficient calories. Starving our bodies without knowing it, our modern diets have created a very large percentage of people that are obese and simultaneously profoundly malnourished, decimating one’s immune system. In such a compromised state, that same percentage of the population develops a whole host of diseases ranging from the common cold, to the flu, to Type ll diabetes, to coronary heart disease, and cancers. All preventable by making conscious choices with respect to proper diet and exercise.
After years of neglect, and pushed beyond its ability to maintain homeostasis and a healthy internal state, our compromised bodies know how to draw our attention to what we’ve been either unaware of or simply ignoring. Diagnosed with any of these conditions, we seek the help of professional practitioners, and very quickly become acutely “aware” of the need to make better choices by choosing to live more mindfully, paying attention to what we failed to in the past.
With millions of years in its design the body knows how to heal itself, but sometimes it needs to gather our attention around what needs to be healed. Emotion trauma, always creates introspection and the tendency to reframe our choices. We evaluate the paths we’ve taken and where they’ve led us. In appraising the outcomes, we assign value to our choices, the intent and motivation behind those choices, and in turn learn a little bit more about ourselves, about our place in the universe, and how to move through this experience called LIFE.
Every living thing owes its existence, its development, its morphology, its anatomy and its physiology, and its survival to the natural process of natural selection and adaptation. Every virus, bacterium, fungi, mold, plant, fish, amphibian, reptile, and mammal’s intricate design is the result of adapting to opposing forcing acting upon them and nature’s beautiful solution in designing a way to counter and adapt to those pressures. Our emotional development is no exception. Every hardship galvanizes our emotional gains made in our development. This is what we call wisdom.
It’s unfortunate, but we live in a society that provides us with so many ways to distract ourselves, so, we don’t have to deal with our pain if we don’t want to. As a result, many become bitter instead of better; wounded instead of becoming wiser.
In our society, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport, where the individual is programmed out of the individual, and where endless marketing only creates a society of “isotypes,” our self-image is constantly being chipped away at. We cannot help but reinforce all of our fears and insecurities because society, sadly, only appeals to the egoic mind and keeps us focused on the superficial. With this constant outbound focus, we lose sight of who we are and become oblivious of the journey we’re on which becomes only an afterthought and something we rarely contemplate. And what is the journey we are on? The journey of self-discovery! Every experience here is lending itself to the evolution of consciousness, both ours as an individual and the collective consciousness of all that is.
Contrary to our popular societal belief, the point of our journey is not to simply work, shop, die and inherit some form of “eternity,” which for most, is a future event we arrive at “after” we die. Here’s the rub. If something is eternal, it’s infinite, it exists outside the dimension of time; it’s indivisible, with no beginning and no end. Time simply doesn’t apply in a dimension that’s infinite. Something doesn’t “become” eternal, it’s either eternal or it’s not. Though I explain this in far more detail in other writings of mine, our souls, the inner dimension of ourselves, are infinite with no beginning and no end. We are points of conscious awareness in the framework of a body and universe that is in endless transition and transformation.
And that’s the point! “Eternity” is not something we inherit, it is inseparable from what we are. We’re living it in each finite, tiny moment to moment experience we’re having! Forever is made up of “NOWs!” Eternity is only a series of “NOWs,” conscious experiences, strung together to create an endless procession of more “NOWs.”
We cannot have an experience that lies beyond our awareness because our awareness is the only way experiences can be “experienced.” We cannot have an experience we’re unaware of. Because we cannot experience anything outside of ourselves, every event requires us as an observer in order for it to be “experienced.” The external world you experience is not something separate from you, it is an extension of you.
Awareness is a process of inclusion, where what is happening outside of us is experienced “within” us. We are both the center and the circumference of every event happening within the sphere of our awareness. External events create internal ripples within us that we experience as thoughts and emotions; the two are connected but make no mistake about it, every experience we’re having is based on how we “think” and “feel” about it, and that is only going on within us as a perceptual experience. So, life is never happening to us, it’s only and always going on “within” us.
Awareness creates ALL our experiences and only exists within the infinitesimally small space between the past and the future, that we call “now.” NOW is all there is. The past exists only as our memory and the future only as our imagination, but both projections of the mind are happening NOW. So do we want to experience Life as it IS, or live trapped in our head, ruminating on the past or projecting into the future – neither of which is “REAL.”
When we lose ourselves in thought our awareness moves from the physical senses to the internal projections of the mind. We disappear as does our awareness of what is going on around us. We go largely unconscious as we indulge in the pictures appearing on the screen in the theatre of our mind. The physical realm evaporates away as we become lost in our thoughts. The moment is lost to the meanderings of our mind.
This is eternity – regardless of where the mind wanders, or where we choose to focus our attention – in reality, or in our thoughts – is all only happening NOW!
Eternity is happening NOW. We’re living in eternity – only transitioning in and out of form, from lifetime to lifetime, as we phase in and out of the physical dimension with the avatars we construct. We’re here because the physical plane provides opportunities that are simply not available for the evolution of consciousness, in the nonphysical, where we rest temporarily. In between lifetimes, there are no struggles, no challenges, no problems to be solved. Our conscious expansion is halted. The physical plane and the mental obstacle course that it creates allows for the individual and collective consciousness of creation itself to expand forever.
So, let’s expand!!!
To live our life to the fullest, assuming that our most basic needs of physical and financial security have been met, I believe there are five areas of life we need to develop and balance.
Whatever we have been deprived of in life always tends to be our highest aspiration. Growing up in poverty and instability, money and creating financial security for ourselves tends to be our greatest aspiration. Deprived of love and affection, finding a loving relationship tends to be our greatest pursuit. If we had the luxury of having a somewhat stable and wholesome upbringing, becoming the greatest version of ourselves is often our most determined pursuit, and part of that usually involves expansion into the spiritual expect of ourselves. But, though people associate the term “spirituality” with their highest aspiration, they often conflate the idea of spirituality and religion which by contrast, teaches us to export our happiness, well-being, and security to Heaven, believing a power much grander than ourselves will intervene should we need it to. It’s a somewhat fatalistic perspective, putting our lives in the hands of a god that ultimately determines what our fate is, we don’t. Unfortunately, that means that we will never have peace of mind until we shed our mortal coils, and are buried 6 feet under. That is not the goal of life. Life in the physical plane is one of contrast and struggles that serve as a catalyst in the transformation of expansion of our soul.
If we look outward it is an endless journey to finding happiness. If we turn inward and it is just one moment, where everything changes. We are no longer in pursuit of joy, but rather our lives become an expression of our own joyfulness.
“He who looks outside, DREAMS. He who looks inside, AWAKENS.” – Carl Jung
Since spirituality is a word ascribed to experiences that lie beyond our 5 senses, this area deals with our conscious perception, or lack thereof, of the non-physical aspect of ourselves that we loosely interpret as “I” or “me.” The proverbial “ghost in the machine.”
For most of us, we don’t develop deep roots and intimate ties with this aspect of ourselves, because so much of the intimate knowledge of the mystics has been kept from us and replaced by religion. As mentioned, many conflate religion (which sees creation as something separate from a “believed-in” creator) with spirituality. And society? Society only cultivates our overwhelming preoccupation and identification with the physical and mental aspect of ourselves – our ego.
In the Hindu tradition, this is referred to as “MAYA” – “the illusion of self,” and is a reference to the false identification we make with our physical body and even our thoughts as being “US,” as opposed to seeing the body as a vessel that we temporarily reside in, and our thoughts as an automatic process happening independent of who and what we are at our core – our essence.
From this perspective our body is seen as a sophisticated technology of sorts, that is an amalgamation of soil, water, air, and fields of energy that have coalesced into physical form, housing our consciousness. The body is ours, but it is not “US.”
A distinction between the brain and the mind should be made here because all too often we identify with our thoughts as being “US.”
Think of the brain as the doorway to experience in the physical plane of existence. It’s simply a technology created by nature itself.
Our thoughts occur spontaneously as an automatic process arising from the body’s software, with the brain acting like the CPU of a computer consolidating the information taken in through our 5 senses and creating perceptions that form the experiences we’re having in any given moment.
Here’s the kick in the head though. Quantum physics has revealed that there is no physical reality, at least not in the sense of what we believe reality to be.
Though imperceptible to us at the macroscopic level of our senses, everything, yes everything we see, taste, touch, hear, or smell, even solid objects, are vibrating. Light is a vibrational frequency detected by rods and cones in our retina that send a signal along the optic nerve to the occipital lobe of our brain which interprets it as shapes, shades, and colors to create sight. Sound is the vibration of air, or vibrational frequencies that upon vibrating the tympanic membrane of our ear, vibrates the three delicate bones of the inner ear, the incus, malleus, and the stapes. These vibrations are converted through nerve conduction into sound by the temporal lobe of the brain. Taste and smells? Again, both occur in tandem and are various vibratory frequencies of chemicals interpreted by the receptors in the tongue and the nose that are sent along the glossopharyngeal nerve to the olfactory cortex and are interpreted as a range of tastes and smells. All tactile senses are vibratory as well.
Why belabor the point of going to these lengths in explaining this and what the hell does any of this have to do with happiness and well-being? I do it to illustrate a point. Reality is only happening WITHIN you as a projection of the brain. Because you can observe these sensations, “YOU” are not the senses or sensations themselves, but rather the observer and ultimately the interpreter of them.
Think of our 5 senses as receptors that allow us to interface with these vibrational fields our physical form is immersed in. Everything we experience we experience because we are interacting with a narrow range of vibrational energies or frequencies that are commensurate with our 5 senses. As we do so our mind generates thoughts and feelings in response to them.
In every moment, we are viewing thoughts automatically generated by our mind. What we are witnessing is the mind sifting through information it has gathered from previous experiences, as it tries to tie or associate present experiences to what it has experienced in the past. This is how the brain wires itself and allows the mind to navigate through the experiences we’re having in the present moment. It does this to create predictions, because the only thing we know as “truth” is what we’ve already experienced. Every new experience is categorically associated with other similar experiences from the past.
But, to see ourselves as the body is to neglect and fail to see a much more expansive dimension of ourselves . . . our connection to everything.
Consider the fact that half the capacity of your lungs is outside in the trees. The entire water content of your body is from the ocean. The energy powering your cells originated in the sun and was converted into physical mass by plants. Ingested by you, this stored energy is enzymatically converted by your body into the physical mass you identify with as being “you.”
Knowing the history of the universe is to know that Earth and everything on it, including your body, is made of stardust and is entirely “solar powered.” The Sun is at the very heart of your existence in the physical plane and is what is powering every aspect of you. One might even say that the Sun is your power cell, and is, therefore, an aspect of your physical system. The point being, we are connected to everything that surrounds us. This acknowledgment of our connection to everything was expressed as far back as the 1st century in the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, in which Hermes wrote: “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.”
For a more expansive understanding of this concept, I encourage a reading of one of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing reality, which I came across in a book called THE SECRET OF SECRETS by OSHO. It is a collection of talks given by OSHO, filled with detailed explanations of what Master Lao Tzu referred to as the “Golden Flower;” an allegory for the blossoming of one’s wisdom.
The link is on the Shift Ethos home page, titled “The Universe Within and Without” or you can click here: https://shiftethos.com/2018/12/30/the-universe-within-and-without/
So, what does it mean to identify with our body as being us when in fact we, or perhaps I should say our body, is an amalgamation of the elements and fields of energy that surround us? Where does the physical aspect of ourselves begin or end? Our skin as the outmost aspect of our body?
We tend to think that the boundaries of the body are well defined by our skin, which separates our inner environment from our outer environment. But, in reality, we are an intricate piece of a much larger system that is interacting with itself, just as the molecules within us are part of a much larger system: our anatomy and physiology and all the chemical processes occurring within us.
Our physical body is just a scoop of the Earth held together by breath. As an extension of the Earth itself, which is the product of the burnt out crucible of a star predating the Sun, we are literally composed of stardust. Our body is a highly-organized aggregate of everything surrounding us (the air, the oceans, the plants, the soil, and minerals from the Earth) and is in constant interaction with it. The body is simply a medium that allows life to temporarily flow through it while housing the ethereal aspect of what we are for a brief time.
It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living on Earth, when in fact we “ARE” the living Earth. We believe we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, the physical form we take on, emerged from and are enmeshed with the universe. We are vessels made from and housing the universe itself. We “ARE” the Universe!
That is the physical aspect of ourselves. Our housing so to speak. But what about the “spiritual” non-physical aspect of ourselves?
As Rumi once so elegantly stated:
“I am not a drop in the ocean. I am the entire ocean in a drop.”
Just as a droplet of rain, or a dewdrop on a leaf or a blade of grass, is formed by the coalescence or aggregation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean. Inside every drop of rain lies the entire constituency of its source; the ocean. Though it is separate from its source; the ocean, it is the source; the ocean, and will someday return to its source; the ocean. There is no beginning and no end to this cycle. It is simply a system endlessly recycling itself.
So it is with physical form. The physical aspect that you identify with as being you, is nothing more than focused consciousness that pulls together fields of energy and coalesces it into what we perceive as physical mass. Your body belongs to you but it is not you.
Birth and death are only illusions and are a product of form, but at our core, our essence, we are formless. “YOU” have no beginning and no end…
Understanding this “oneness” with everything is the beginning of one’s spiritual awakening!
I’ve placed an entire chapter of the same title, from my forthcoming book, that I’ve broken up into 5 short reads, here on this website, https://shiftethos.com/2018/02/10/the-illusion-of-maya-self/, that provides far more detail on this concept.
Our spirituality (not to be conflated with religion) is where our life’s purpose and meaning comes from. I consider this aspect of the Human Experience to be paramount to our “well-being” because how we experience life is largely determined by what we ‘believe’ the Human Experience is about. To delve into true spirituality involves looking deeper inside ourselves, past the surface image in the mirror. It takes time and a little devotion to see beyond the veil of illusions, stemming from our ego, that we’ve created about ourselves, to discover what lies beneath this skin we wear. That’s because the stories and illusions we’ve created in our head have so many feelings associated with them.
These are deeply ingrained, often unshakable beliefs we’ve wrapped ourselves in that we feel define us in a pragmatic way, or so we think. In reality, we’re not limited by anything but the beliefs we hold about ourselves.
We will spend most of our time here because “mindfulness” is the centerpiece of our experience of life. The degree of “mindfulness” we exercise in any given moment determines the quality of our life at any time.
It goes without saying that, it’s important to maintain a strong desire to learn, and an intellectual hunger, because continued learning keeps us mentally healthy, engaged, and active. It also gives us perspective. Continual learning ALWAYS enriches our lives beyond measure because it’s a catalyst for the blossoming of wisdom. Hopefully, we are all constantly evolving and moving from a nebulous state of “being” into a state of “becoming” a better version of ourselves. This area deals not only with our desire to learn but the context we give to what is learned.
The mind and spirituality go hand-in-hand and are absolutely complementary, because what we fill the mind with plays an enormous role in how we advance spiritually and our conscious experience of LIFE itself. What I mean by that is that we can fill our heads with a lot of knowledge in learning new skills for our occupation, improve our financial status, or how to just survive in the world and still have little to no understanding of ourselves. That’s because few us rise above living at the level of mere “functionality” and keeping up with all of life’s obligations. With time often being in short supply, prioritizing things to allow for what is an advocation, can be daunting. But with determination we tend to find time for the things we want to find time for.
Social media and mass marketing through every medium cultivate an outbound focus, keeping us preoccupied with things that appeal only to our ego and constantly focused on our external reality. As a result, we become invisible to ourselves, and almost completely unaware of the inner dimension of ourselves. Our self-concept is nothing but a hollow projection of the beliefs we hold of ourselves. Instinctually, we begin to attach our value, sense of relevancy, and self-worth to a series of false identifications we make with things external to us: our body, our appearance, our relationships, our career, our income, our possessions, and the status symbol in our driveway. Whatever we identify with, our minds begin to wrap around. Once we begin identifying with these as a means of defining who we are, we’re heading for trouble, because all of these things are external, temporary, and can be taken away.
When we look out and see life, happiness, joy, love, and pleasure as an external pursuit, we’re in EGO. In meditating, we empty the mind of its contents, focus on our breathing and go within ourselves. Here we are creating a gap between our thoughts and feelings, and us as the observer of our thoughts and feelings. In doing so, we begin to realize we are something altogether separate from the experiences we’re having. We realize all these attributes of life simply spring forth from within us as a product of the quality of our thoughts. With this awareness the ego dissolves and we discovery our ESSENCE, which lies even underneath the experiences we’re having.
Prior to this discovery, this separation eludes us. We feel powerless in changing the way we feel. This is why we get stuck in our emotions. Looking within to find the source of our unhappiness goes against the ego’s tendency, which seeks pleasure and avoids pain. Instead of sitting with our pain, processing and transcending it, we by default, seek the path of least resistance and look for the next fleeting experience we can anesthetize ourselves with. When we live at the level of our ego we become trapped in an endless cycle of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance.
So, how we “experience” LIFE, that is to say, our “outer environment,” is only a reflection of our “internal environment,” and based solely upon the relationship we’re having with our self in any given moment. That relationship is taking place completely in our mind, and based upon the string of identifications we make with things that are not “us,” but instead labels we identify with and pin on ourselves in a feeble attempt to define who we are. So, it’s best to be “mindful” of it and the internal dialogue we are having with ourselves.
Make no mistake; LIFE is lived out entirely in our heads. Every feeling we have ever had is coming from the reality that we have created within us.
This can be a debilitating premise to some because prior to developing our awareness, the unfettered and unrestrained mind can make a mess of our lives by attaching meaning to all of our over-thinking. Trapped by our ego, we are always seeking validation.
In a society where we live our lives like machines, we have been hypnotized and programmed for misery. After all, living and making our way in the world is serious business! Places to be, obligations to keep, deals to close, quarterly reports to pour over and finish, and bills to pay. Who has time to be happy?
A very large percentage of the population at every tier of society is miserable, not because they live in dire circumstances, but because we have been lulled to sleep into accepting our role in society by living life as a series of scheduled events and a very acute focus on time. Our lives are compartmentalized into boxes of obligations and “To Do” lists. Consequently, we often seek to escape reality. We find ourselves often drifting back into the past, to “better days,” or projecting ourselves into the future with hopes and aspirations of a better life, but rarely if ever, are we fully “present.”
Society doesn’t allow one to live fully present. There are too many things to tend to, too much to get done, and too little time. As a result, always focused on the next thing to get done or the next place to be, the process of living one’s life can take place at an almost entirely sub-conscious level where we are neither alert nor fully aware of what is going on around us because our mind is always somewhere else; and we are never fully present. We’re always racing from one obligation to the next, one thought to the next, one fantasy to the next. This is all automatic thinking that is sub-conscious in origin and bubbling up to the level of conscious awareness.
An “awakened” person has an entirely different relationship with life and an entirely different experience of time. An awakened individual no longer dwells in the past, nor do they project themselves into the future. They no longer live lost in future aspirations (which does not mean not having goals), nor lamenting over the past. In other words, they stop living in their heads as victims of their memories or trapped in their imagination, compulsively creating thoughts that serve as the underpinnings of all their feelings in any given moment. The awakened individual knows only peace and joy because they don’t project any bias, good or bad, on to any experience they’re having. Everything simply is what it is. They know only how to be fully present moment by moment, by accepting life for what it is as opposed to what they want it to be. They are devoid of ALL expectations.
Until developing this kind of relationship with life, we tend to operate just below the level of our cognition (intentional – deliberate – focused thinking), below the level of our awareness or conscious thought, operating at the level of a whole system of patterns of learned behavior that are sub-conscious, automatic behaviors, learned in childhood. Subsequently, this is where we get in trouble emotionally. Think of this level of consciousness as running on autopilot, compulsively ‘reacting” to life. We believe we’re making conscious decisions and choices when in reality we’re not.
It’s unfortunate, but most of us suffer from a type of self-deception; the idea that as we decide upon things we’re making “conscious,” well thought out choices. We make choices from the time we awaken till we retire and go back to sleep, and really believe we’re thinking our choices through, but in most cases, it’s the automatic, pre-conditioned reactions developed from past experiences choosing for us!
This is why I have to draw a distinction between being conscious (the opposite of sleep) and truly being “awakened,” which is an entirely different realm of conscious awareness.
Again, at the level of awareness that most would consider being “conscious,” we operate in an involuntary, reflexive way controlled by biases, beliefs, and perspectives learned in our childhood that have been developed over time through recurring experiences and have created certain predictable behavioral responses and perceptions in us. This is KARMA.
Sadhguru, an eastern mystic, explains karma very well:
“The very way you think, feel, understand, perceive, and experience your life is determined by all these past inputs. So, your mind, is deeply, deeply, deeply conditioned by all this past activity. This conditioning of the mind, is traditionally what we call karma. Karma means action. More specifically, “MY ACTIONS.”
These are all the things that I did in body, in mind, in thoughts, in emotion, and energetically; most of them were done unconsciously.
The residual impact of all the activity that I have performed is right now ruling the very way I think, feel, understand, perceive, and experience my life. So, that is my karma, so this is how I am. Your karma is deciding everything about you.
So, the reason we say it is your karma is the very way you experience everything is your own making. In other words, it is determined by the biases, prejudices, and beliefs you developed from past experiences, that ultimately determines how you experience the present moment.
You are making up your experiences every moment of your life, but right now you are doing it in a compulsive way, so it looks like it is all just randomly happening to you. If you only become a little bit more conscious of this process you can make it happen any way you want. You are the maker of you all your experiences!”
Your experience of life is 100% you’re doing. So, whatever your past karma, that is the way you are.
If you are in love and hate, creating and averting, wanting and not wanting, your karma is growing. The stronger your likes and dislikes become, the stronger and more painful your karma becomes. If you have strong opinions about things, and a strong sense of like and dislike, your suffering is also intense, is it not?
Patterns of bondage are being built within you…”
[In awakening], now a new sensation comes. You are equanimous. You simply experience the sensation for what it is. You neither like it nor dislike it. You simply experience it because, if you like it you will distort it. If you dislike it you will distort it. All the karma attached to that type of situation in the past will begin to crumble within you. So, if you maintain this equanimous mind, then your karma will begin to collapse.
Your mind will become equanimous when you become accepting of what is there right now. You are neither liking it nor disliking it. You are simply experiencing it the way it is. In order to experience life to its fullest, we need to develop this attribute.
As you accept, accept, accept, you move into higher and higher levels of freedom. As you resist, resist, resist, you are digging your own grave all the time. Karma means action. Whose action? My action. Whose responsibility? My responsibility.
Karma is fatalism. Taking 100% responsibility of your life is the only way to overcome karma.”
Simply put, how someone treats you is “THEIR” karma, how you react is “YOURS!”
So, until we rise above the level of our karma (conditioning) we are each a product of our past experiences. Each of us has learned a countless number of beliefs that create our perceptions. As a result, we see what we have been “conditioned” to see, seeing things a certain way, through the lens fashioned by the impressions made upon us by all our experiences.
Based on those beliefs our thinking is subjective; meaning our past experiences created beliefs that function as the lens we view the world through today. We unconsciously and instinctively compare what we’re presented with to what we know from past experiences. Those memories, particularly the painful ones, which forged the deepest patterns in our way of thinking, dramatically influence how we evaluate and react to things.
Our painful or traumatic experiences, which we may not even consciously remember today, unconsciously determine our choices. The option of whether or not we take a risk in most cases is predetermined. Unconsciously, we may be afraid to feel the pain of being hurt again, and so we choose not to take the risk. We think our choice is well thought out because we believe we’ve weighed out all the available risk factors, but the real fact is, our inner fears outweighed any external facts about the risks and predetermined what our choice would be.
In most cases, we probably already decided not to take the risk, before it was even presented because we’ve programmed ourselves not to take risks above a certain imperceptible level of risk. This is because our thoughts bubble up to the surface in a never-ending procession from a wellspring inside of us often times creating very unrealistic fears and apprehensions. So why are we so afraid?
Research has shown that the pattern and types of thoughts that run in the background, like apps on a phone, are a product of the rudimentary thinking that developed in response to our childhood experiences, and that those patterns of thinking become automatic thoughts and behaviors that unconsciously determine all of our conscious thoughts as adults. So even though we believe we’re making “conscious” decisions today, the decisions we make are most often predetermined by “patterns” of thought that we are oblivious to. They were developed in childhood and running in the background, as adults.
Running on this type of “auto-pilot” we tend to “react” without any conscious thought, to our experiences in a preconditioned fashion, applying no reasoning to those reactions.
* It’s important to note that these “reactions” are triggered, automatic impulses learned in childhood that are so ingrained in us they never make it to the level of conscious thought. They’re automatic and therefore reactionary.
Trapped at this level of consciousness we fall victim to the impulsive thinking that takes place within us, never realizing that we are in fact, separate from our thoughts and therefore always at “choice” in choosing how we engage others or respond to our experiences. As a result, these unconscious “reactions” hold a lot of energy waiting to be triggered and released with a myriad of corresponding emotional responses tied to them. But in “reacting” we have no control over how we feel. These patterns of thinking are completely compulsory.
So, is there any hope of rising above this automatic behavior and habitual thinking that is so prevalent?
Buddha discovered, that until we develop our “awareness” and become the observer of our thoughts, which believe me, is an endeavor in and of itself, most of our beliefs and biases remain conditioned, impulsive patterns of behavior. Until we develop our awareness, our feelings will always lie beyond our control and we will remain powerless in “choosing” how we feel about things and whether we “react” or “respond” to things.
It’s unfortunate, but most will never ascend or awaken to a higher level of consciousness than the conditioned, well-rehearsed, well-learned, automatic, programmed, self-activated patterns of behaviors we learned in our childhood that govern most of our behaviors and decisions throughout each day. Doing so requires effort and a certain amount of tenacity. Living very hastily in a society of immediate gratification, the discipline of “mindfulness” is one that must be entered into with commitment and patience with one’s self, because it takes time and practice. After all, we’re trying to undo and overcome years or even decades of cultural programming.
This is why so often many of us can feel like victims when our expectations are not met and life fails to bend to our will because we believe that life is simply happening to us and we have very little “choice” in the way we feel about it.
Let me assure you, we have far more control over our experiences than we believe we do. The first step is developing “awareness.”
A good first step to truly developing awareness is to commit to turning off your television for one month. Remove yourself from all social media and news media. Simply be with yourself for one month, fully conscious of every experience you’re having.
When we turn off our television and remove ourselves from all media and news, we can begin to experience life as it “IS,” unfettered by the musings, perspectives, and opinions of others and outside influences. We can begin to exist as a piece of life, no longer feeling trapped by it. We become present, not projecting any bias on to what is happening around us. Pay attention to everything around you, and be a part of it, existing only as an observer, while suspending all judgment and allowing people to be who they are. Project the idea, that you’re connected to everything and that everything is merely an expression of your own inner reality.
Free yourself from all expectations and the need to have life bend to your will. Experience this and take note of how you feel.
This area deals with your physical health. Since your body is the means through which you experience everything in the physical plane, it is important to keep our body healthy. Our health is largely determined by our mental health and the way we feel because our thoughts create our beliefs, our beliefs create our story or the internal narrative we make up about ourselves, others, and every experience we’re having, and that story creates ALL of our feelings, again, about ourselves, others, and every experience we’re having.
The relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and physical health is a complex interweaving of the three. What the mind represses, the body expresses. Emotional “dis-ease” always leads to “disease.” We can eat all organic foods, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, not smoke, avoid soft drinks and juices, and workout every day. If we’re not emotionally well, our health will always suffer.
In addition to working out, I’m a huge advocate of Yoga. By yoga, I’m not referring to the American commercialization of the asanas (the body postures of yoga) involved in yoga. Though there are some benefits to performing just the asanas; the body, mind, spirit connection made by practicing the authentic, sacred practice of yoga developed in India, is a practice I encourage everyone to incorporate into their lives. Daily practice of this type of yoga will have you well on your way to boosting your physical integrity and grounding yourself emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
Notice I didn’t write “Relationships.”
“All Knowledge begins with Self-Knowledge” – We cannot know anything outside of our self . . . every experience is only happening within us. Since consciousness is always outbound [from within], we are both the center and the circumference – the subject and the object – of every experience we are having.
No one else is responsible for the way we feel – blame does not exist in an “awakened” individual. An awakened individual doesn’t seek love and understanding from another person; they radiate it unconditionally to others. They love with NO CONDITIONS placed upon another individual, in friendships or relationship that are romantic in nature.
At the level of our ego, everyone we meet is a reflection of what we love or hate about ourselves . . . and with society only appealing to the egoic mind, it keeps us trapped at the level of comparison and competition. That is very dangerous in a world where our unattended to minds are like a garbage heap; in that, every one that passes by throws something into it.
The impressions made upon us create our biases, beliefs, and opinions about everything. These predispositions create an internal dialogue within us, and the stories we come up with about others are always narratives that are commensurate with the beliefs that we have about ourselves. The content of these stories is woven together so as to validate or invalidate the beliefs we cling to about ourselves. That internal dialogue, validating us or attacking us, is a poorly designed coping mechanism developed in childhood, that no longer serves us as adults, but has become so compulsive we can’t seem to stop or just turn our minds off. Now our minds are working against us by keeping us trapped in duality.
“When pain, misery, or anger happen, it is time to look within you, not around you.”
The stories we make up about others is just our mind’s way of deflecting our own internal bully’s attacks (our intellect attacking our vulnerable inner emotional child), and gives ourselves permission to feel sorry for ourselves as victims . . . because as long as we judge the other person we don’t have to face our own self-deprecating internal dialogue who is really condemning us . . . not the other person.
As a result, we fail to acknowledge and understand others feelings, wants, desires, ambitions, and choices when we are only looking at what’s wrong with us . . . we see everything the other person is doing as uncaring, neglectful, and as rejecting and/or abandoning us, never realizing they are operating out of their own fear, just like us, and simply trying to protect themselves as well.
Relationships with our family, friends, and colleagues, are only a by-product of the only relationship we’re ever having, and that’s the relationship we’re having with ourselves.
In other words, the only relationship we are ever having, from the day we arrive, until the day we depart this world, is the one we are having with ourselves in any given moment, and that relationship is always and only taking place in our head. How we see ourselves isn’t based on what others think of us. It’s based on what “we think others think of us.” So, all external relationships essentially serve as a mirror reflecting back to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves because it is our interactions with others that evoke innate feelings within us that we use to weave together stories in our heads to explain everything that is going on around us . . . when in fact, it’s all going on within us.
An accurate depiction of ourselves is elusive because that depiction is completely imaginary (and by imaginary, I mean, only in our heads) and always filtered through the complexion of a whole myriad of different emotions that unfortunately, are always changing. In other words, we see ourselves through a different lens every time we choose to look at ourselves and contemplate the essence of who and what we are.
For the most part, our perception of self in any given moment is reactionary and myopic in nature, usually in response to an external trigger, or some circumstance we find ourselves in. It’s illusory, and making an accurate appraisal of ourselves “as a whole,” in an isolated moment of “feeling” something, is virtually impossible because we are not what happens to us nor are we the wellspring of feelings that bubble up to the surface in response to the events that transpire within a given day.
Developing “self-awareness” allows us to live consciously, in the eternal “NOW” and become the observer of our thoughts and the messages we are constantly sending to ourselves, that can either build us up or tear us down.
Here’s all I’m going to say about work. If it’s not in line with your passions and you’re seeking a job out of fear disguised as pragmatism, get out of it. And believe me, I know all too well that this is easier said than done. I too, have struggled for years in making the decision to pursue my passion. I’ve done so by working on what I’m passionate about in my spare time away from the pragmatism of my current job. I’m soon going to be making the leap!
People lose jobs every day. They hate “playing it safe” and taking a job just to make money. Doing so is ultimately unsatisfying and only erodes at our sense of happiness. Our career and all of our achievements along the way only provide us with a very transient sense of satisfaction if we are only working to make a living. If we aren’t truly passionate about what we are doing, no number of accolades will make work more meaningful.
I know that being pragmatic is the default judgment that most of us make in pursuing careers. But, if you have the means and the opportunity to pursue your dreams, do it in increments and then take the leap! Life is short! Take chances and go for it!
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of self-discovery!!!
(Excerpt from my forthcoming book)
One of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing reality, was in a book called THE SECRET OF SECRETS by OSHO, which is a collection of talks given by OSHO, filled with detailed explanations of what Master Lao Tzu referred to as the “Golden Flower;” an allegory for the blossoming of one’s wisdom.
Once the Empress Wu asked the Master Fa-tsang if he could possibly give her a practical and simple demonstration of the principle of cosmic interrelatedness, of the relationship of the one and the many, of God and his creatures, and of the creatures one to another.
Fa-tsang went to work and appointed one of the Palace rooms so that eight large mirrors stood at the eight points of the compass. Then he placed two more mirrors, one on the ceiling and one on the floor. A candle was suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room.
When the Empress entered, Fa-tsang lit the candle. The Empress cried, “How marvelous! How beautiful!”
Fa-tsang pointed at the reflection of the flame in each one of the 10 mirrors and said, “See, your Majesty, this demonstrates the relationship of the one and the many, of God to each one of his creatures.”
The Empress said, “Yes, indeed, Master. And what is the relationship of each creature to the other?”
Fa-tsang answered, “just watch, Your Majesty, how each mirror not only reflects the one flame in the center, each mirror also reflects the reflections of the flame in all the other mirrors until an infinite number of flames fill them all. All these reflections are mutually identical; in a sense they are interchangeable, and in another sense, each one exists individually. This shows the true relationship of each being too its neighbor, to all that is. Of course, I must point out Your Majesty,” Fa-tsang went on, “that this is only a rough approximate and static parable of the real state of affairs in the universe, for the universe is limitless, and in it, all is in perpetual multidimensional motion.” Then the master covered one of the infinite number of reflections of the flame and showed how each apparently insignificant interference affects the whole organism of our world. Keagan expresses this relationship by the following simple formula: One in all, all-in-one, one in one, all in all.
Then Fa-tsang, in order to conclude his command performance, held up a small crystal ball and said, “Now watch, Your Majesty, how all these large mirrors and all the myriad forms they reflect our mirrored in this little sphere. How the ultimate reality, the infinitely small contains the infinitely large, and the infinitely large, the infinitely small, without obstruction. Oh, if only I could demonstrate to you the unimpeded Mutual interpenetration of time and eternity, of the past, present and future. But alas, this is a dynamic process that must be grasped on an entirely different level . . .”
As I had expressed previously, nothing exists independent of the whole. Everything is interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent. We as individuals are part of the whole, not separate from it.
What we each see is slightly different because we live in different realities colored by our past experiences, what we’ve been exposed to, survived, endured, been taught, accepted as truth, and so on. As a result, we never see things as “THEY” are, but as “WE” are. Therefore “reality” is subjective at best because no one else sees the universe through “our” eyes, which as was explained earlier, have a bias.
Though we all come from the same source no two people are living in the same reality. Our realities merely overlap. This is why relationships can be such a difficult undertaking. How arduous of a task it is to get someone to see the world through our eyes, share our experiences, and view life through the lens of our thoughts, perspectives, feelings, and opinions, all of which were formed through countless experiences they’ve never had.
Ah, the human experience and the paradox of being human!
These two words, the mere fragment of a statement, and yet an all-encompassing declaration in and of itself, are the most provocative and powerful utterance in our human language. Whatever word we choose to place after this little snippet of a sentence is usually an uninspiring and very diminutive appraisal that we each hold of ourselves, as a series of labels that we identify with and subsequently take into the world every day.
Our entire mental construct of what we think life is, how it works, our place in it, and what we are, has been taught to us through endless social conditioning; and a redundancy of messages, massaged into our psyche that we passively accept as true.
Who we think we are is relative at best because, at the level of our egoic mind, we see ourselves only through the lens of all our social conditioning. The “conditioned-self” that we tend to identify so strongly with, is only an accumulation of impressions or beliefs we’ve gathered about ourselves over the course of a lifetime and pieced together as a collage of adjectives we would use to best describe ourselves.
Living at this level is to be trapped in one’s karma. “Karma” is the cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us from all of our combined experiences that have served to fashion the lens that we see ourselves, others, and our reality through. Karma is our perception of reality created in each moment by our biases, prejudices, opinions, and beliefs – all of which have been learned by assimilating the biases, prejudices, opinions, beliefs, and perspectives of the influential people in our lives. These impressions are made upon us by well-intentioned parents, friends, teachers, clergy, pastors, politicians, and not so well-intentioned media, marketing, propaganda, etc.
From constant programming, most of us see ourselves as separate from everything that surrounds us; detached, isolated, and defined by the boundaries of this physical body we reside in. But, that is only an illusion. We at the core of our being, our essence, don’t exist in isolation. We are intimately tied into and connected to everything that surrounds us. This separation we experience is only one aspect of the illusion of Maya (what we perceive as the “self”) and comes from a profoundly underdeveloped understanding of what reality on the physical plane is – an illusion.
Quantum Physics tells us there is no “physical reality” in the sense we think of it as physical. It’s ALL just fields of energy at play in an endless ocean of infinite frequencies interacting with one another. What appears solid and static at the macroscopic level of our senses, at the sub-atomic level is actually vibrating. EVERYTHING is vibrating! What appears solid is just a field of energy vibrating at a frequency that’s commensurate with our tactile senses so it appears to be physical like us. Speed up the vibration, things become liquid. Speed them up more things become gases, sounds, plasma, and even light. We are part of this system and we too are just a field of energy, though our “senses” would tell us we’re “physical” matter.
At the level of our senses, life is largely illusory, because any given experience we’re having is in fact, only going on within us and ultimately created by our perceptions, not our actual senses. This is why two people can see the same event and have two entirely, distinctively different experiences within them with vastly different emotional responses to them.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven..”
As we wander through the world with our senses tingling and interfacing with the external environment that surrounds us, our brain interprets incoming stimuli – lights, sounds, tastes, tactile senses – and, creates an experience within us. It not what’s going on around us but rather our perception of what’s going on around us that creates our reality and how we experience each moment. External events create ripples of biochemical exchanges within us, that we interpret as the experiences we’re having.
EVERYTHING, every experience we’re having is only happening within us, not without. We cannot experience anything outside of ourselves. Our internal and external environments are not mutually exclusive realities but are inseparable and intimately connected. Suffice it to say, without diving into quantum physics, and the concept of “superposition,” (the collapsing of reality around wherever we direct our attention) that nothing really exists without our perception or conscious awareness of it. And yes, this is eluding to the same idea as the philosophical conundrum, “if a tree falls in the forest, but no one, no animal is there to hear it, does it actually make a sound?” The idea is that reality doesn’t exist if there is no conscious observer of said reality.
A practical example may help. Every night when we retire and crawl into bed, shortly after falling asleep, there’s a gap between when we fall asleep and when we enter into a dream state. During this period of time there is no awareness of anything. Everyone you love, your pets, your house, the status symbol in your driveway, your titles, the entire universe and the whole of existence, ceases to exist for you. But as we know, “YOU” don’t cease to exist. Tied into this vehicle we borrow, this is a trick of the mind.
Think of the human brain like the CPU in a computer going into “sleep mode.” Though in “sleep mode” it still has access to all of the information it’s collected and stored, once awakened.
When we awaken, the interplay between the energetic triggers at the surface of our senses sets off a cascade of bio-electric impulses, like fireworks within this body we’re borrowing, that we interpret within us as the experiences going on around us. In essence, we are the center AND the circumference of every experience we’re having because again, Life is always and only going on “within” us.
The problem with relying on our perceptions is that they are very deceiving, especially in terms of trying to define what’s “real” and what’s “unreal.” Anyone who’s ever woke up in the middle of the night and mistook a shadow for something else knows our perceptions can deceive us. Interpreting a belt on the floor, in the middle of the night, as a snake, creates a very threatening experience within us, when there is absolutely no threat to us at all.
Einstein acknowledged this, when contrasting Newtonian physics and our perception of the world at the macroscopic level, with how reality appears at the level of quanta (sub-atomic), once sharing the sentiment that “reality is merely an illusion . . . albeit, a very persistent one.”
Perhaps the most persistent illusion we suffer from, in what we would define as our “physical” reality, is the belief that we are this body we inhabit, living on a planet in a vast cosmos. We hold the belief that we are alive in this body at the moment, living in this physical form, and will someday meet our demise and just “expire,” when our body meets it end. We celebrate birth as a glorious beginning and death as a tragic end, which we forget is part of every journey. Every journey has a beginning and an end.
This is an easy conclusion to arrive at in western society because our entire perspective is outbound.
Our busy lives leave little time to cultivate a much deeper understanding of who and what we are and how we are tied into this thing called “Life.” For most, Life is a repeating pattern of redundant weekly schedules, tasks, and obligations. Through our academic rigors, preparing us for entry into the workforce and by the stock tickers on Wall Street, we have been programmed to live Life merely at the level of functionality; waking up to alarm clocks, going to work, coming home, watching tv, going back to sleep, and hitting “repeat.” We dutifully pay our bills, shop, and take in a football game or some other form of entertainment on the weekend so we can decompress and start all over again on Monday morning.
Society cultivates this hyper-focus on everything external to us because it’s needed in the marketplace. Offering a vast kaleidoscope of indulgences, we compulsively externalize our emotional well-being and import our feelings, through the purchase of things and experiences.
Life itself is sold to us as a product.
The marketplace is built upon and kept growing by promoting the “cult of personality,” superficiality vs. substance, the promotion of our temporal existence vs. our spiritual evolution, and the constant promotion of fear, inadequacy, and insecurity, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport. It keeps us shopping and looking for happiness – “out there.” It offers countless remedies for our boredom or feelings of inadequacy, in the form of a constant barrage of celebrity endorsements and advertising always hyping products that add convenience, beauty, and style to our lives with the promise of inching us closer to “bliss.” But bliss and satiation are unattainable, as the marketplace is constantly producing more and more to consume, new and improved versions of everything, with “planned obsolescence” in the design of everything as a rule. Everything is outdated very quickly which always leaves us wanting the “latest-greatest” and wanting more and more. One need look no further than the human behavior displayed on “Black Friday” or at any Apple Store on the release of the latest iPhone. Shopping has truly become the opiate of our times.
For decades, we’ve been inculcated with messages designed to program the individual out of the individual, to devalue diversity, and to reduce the masses down to isotypes; monochromatic, unidimensional, malleable worker bees and consumers trying to become what the world has deemed “acceptable.” Programmed to think about ourselves, others, Life, and the world around us, the way it has been prescribed to us, we see reality through a fisheye lens, very narrow in focus.
As consumers, happiness is promoted as something we purchase, not something we actually become. Happiness becomes elusive, transient at best, and an entirely external pursuit purchased in increments. As a result, our self-image and emotional well-being are largely determined by our ability to accumulate material wealth and status symbols that convey an achieved level of success. But, none of this says anything about who we are.
More to come . . .
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” – Part 2: From Essence to Ego
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery.
Disclaimer: this particular writing of mine is essentially a transcript of a talk I gave in 2016 on the health of the planet, thus the title. What could be in essence, a small book is presented here as a singular writing.
Though there is quite a bit of information here, I hope you will take your time with it and perhaps even choose to read a little at a time. I hope you enjoy this editorial, as I believe it will be very eye-opening and informative as to where we stand in our relationship to the planet.
Ours is an exceptionally rare and unique planet in being a planet that has both water and soil on it. The thin skin of soil that covers the Earth is teeming with LIFE. It’s quite literally a living organism, not some dead biologically inert thing. We’re fortunate to have soil because most of the terrestrial environments are non-living. Most of the Earth’s terrain is mineral, it’s rock, and is absent of life. And yet, milled out of this substrate, somehow in the most miraculous of ways, soil forms on this rock, creating a very thin blanket where life is possible.
Through the miracle of nature itself, over eons of time, weathering breaks down the rock. Out of this mineral substrate, the nutrients of the rock are transformed by fungi and lichens, into the living, nutrient-rich layer we call “soil.” This precious life-giving soil, that in conjunction with the oceans and the air we breathe, is what makes life, especially our lives, possible.
Nature has provided us with an instruction booklet and its instructions are laws we must abide by in order to have a sustainable future, and yet, as a civilization we are violating those laws in a dramatic and devastating way every day, rendering for ourselves a bleak future that may soon be inescapable.
The most fundamental law of Nature, that clearly modern civilization and those of us living in it has very little understanding of, is that we cannot separate our well-being from the well-being of the planet we live on, any more than a child developing in-utero can separate its well-being from the well-being of its mother that is providing for and nourishing it. We are not just occupants of this planet we live on, we are an extension of it. We are quite literally made of Earth . . . .
Our relationship with the Earth in the past was balanced, interdependent, symbiotic, or in layman’s terms, mutually beneficial, one in which both beneficiaries contributed to the well-being of the other. Unfortunately, as business and industry has evolved in the last 200 years, our relationship with the Earth has become parasitic in nature, to the extent that we are now devouring and destroying the planet in a way, that is debilitating to every ecosystem, and every other living species on Earth. Though imperceptible to the masses living in first-world countries, where we are to a very large degree our lives have been completely removed from Nature, our blighting of the planet is clearly evident everywhere.
So to help “connect the dots,” I’m hoping to provide perspective by providing a “report card” of the planet, so to speak, in this article to see how the world is doing as a whole. This is important to understand because quite literally our children’s future depends on it.
“DRIVING WITH OUR EYES CLOSED”
When I was a child I grew up in a large family with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. My younger brothers and I would invariably rough house with one another and as you might imagine, one of us would always manage to get hurt. My mother delegated discipline to my father, who upon arriving home from work, and just prior to dispensing his corporal punishment (spankings), would say, “it’s always fun until somebody gets hurt.”
Sadly, we don’t always foresee the outcome of our actions or understand when we should have proceeded with caution until we brush up against negative consequences . . . . like spankings for example when you’re a child. This allegory could be a metaphor for the trajectory the human race is on, and it’s an unfortunate one.
John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
Everything living and non-living is connected, We are all individual notes in this GRAND SYMPHONY OF LIFE, that we all play a part in. I think that’s important to understand because for every action there is a reaction. Since everything is connected, there is nothing we can do as individuals, or collectively as a society, that doesn’t either directly or indirectly impact or affect every other living thing on the planet.
But over the past 3 decades, the understanding of how intimately our well-being is woven into the well-being of the planet has been lost.
Over the past 200 years, in our race to build a modern civilization, the understanding of how intimately our well-being is woven into the well-being of the planet has been lost to the majority, with each new generation even further removed from that understanding than the one that came before it. But in spite of the pervasive social apathy with respect to environmental issues and crises we’re now facing, there is an awakening occurring.
The environmental movement is one that is definitely gaining momentum, and there are a number of incredible, ingenious innovations, that both individuals and companies are coming up with to help us reconnect with the Earth. But despite these efforts there still are tens of millions, in our country alone, that still have absolutely no understanding of how our actions influence life on the Planet. There’s a disconnect that has occurred where we’ve given up self-reliance in exchange for a “CORPORATE LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM” we’ve created, that we expect to provide us with everything we need or could ever want.
We live in a world where we see money and the “economy” as the only way to survive on the planet instead of seeing the preservation of the planet itself as the only way to truly survive. It’s fascinating when one considers that we’re the only species that has to pay to live on the planet, especially when one understands that the Earth is a community to which we belong, NOT a commodity for our consumption. It belongs to all of us and not to corporations who now patent even life itself. We have yet to learn this.
Tom MacMillan, a pundit of environmental sustainability, shared his thoughts on the subject saying, “for 200 years we have been conquering Nature. Now we’re just beating it to death.” Humanity has arrived at a tipping point, where our continued existence on the planet, and for that matter, every living species, is now being threatened. For the first time ever, scientists are now plotting trajectories and timelines surmising how much time we actually have left. If we continue to live life as we are today it’s far less time than most would probably guess.
DELUSIONS OF GRANDUER
So how did we end up here?
No one would argue that civilization’s advancement in the past 200 years since the “Industrial Revolution,” has been anything short of extraordinary, but it has not come without an extraordinary cost to the planet. It’s a sad commentary, but it would appear that we as a civilization grew up before we figured out how to live on the planet in a sustainable way.
As we are waking up to the realization of what we are doing to our planet we must now build a new civilization overtop of the existing one, because if we don’t, our children will not have a future to inherit.
There’s essentially only one way to ensure our survival and that is to imitate Nature, not to contend with it or conquer it. Unfortunately, the way we are living on the planet as a Society is completely incongruent and out of sync with the Laws of Nature that govern the long-term sustainability of LIFE. Not only ours, but every living thing on the planet.
As a result, the effect we are having on the planet is creating stresses to every living ecosystem that are mounting in both scope and number and gaining more momentum with each passing year as the human population grows at an exponential rate.
To give that some perspective, consider that the Earth is an estimated 4.6 billion years old. If we were to compress 4.6 billion years into a time frame of just 46 years (which just so happens to be my age), on this timescale, humans have been on the planet for a little less than 4 hours. Our industrial revolution, “the age of technology, innovation, industry, and manufacturing,” would have been in effect for only about 1 minute out of a 46-year time span.
In that very brief span of time, since the industrial revolution began a little over 200 years ago, we have destroyed almost 60% of the world’s forests and brought about the extinction of over 50% of the world’s animals’ species. In our not so distant future we’re facing the 6th mass extinction this planet has seen as we are currently witnessing the greatest die-off of species since the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Currently, 52% of primates, 21% of reptiles, 41% of amphibians, 31% of fish species, 13% of birds species, 31% of invertebrates (butterflies, bees, earthworms, etc.), 68% of plant species and 22% of flowering plants are at a very high risk of extinction. – Statistics provided by the Center for Biodiversity.
Based on our current economic model 100% of humanity is at risk of extinction. If we don’t change our economic model and choose to continue with a “business as usual” mentality, then humanity has written its final chapter and we’re living in it. Our current economic model and way of doing business is not a sustainable scenario. Let me repeat that. THIS IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE SCENARIO!!!!!! This is not something to shrug our shoulders at and continue kidding ourselves that all is well in the world or even if it isn’t that someone somewhere is going to fix the problem.
THE WORLD AS THEY INTEND YOU TO SEE IT!!!
Scientific research worldwide over the last decade has revealed several very disturbing trends that indicate that this “unsustainable way of living” is pushing civilization towards rather dismal and dire circumstances. What projections now indicate is that in the very near future, we as a global society are poised for an economic and ecological collapse from which there will be no recovery. Sounds bleak and may even sound alarmist, but it’s not intended to. There’s room for hope, but it involves changes in our behavior, which is never easy, especially when people don’t understand the need to. Simply put, people don’t know what they don’t know. In other words, they don’t know what they haven’t been exposed to.
Some of you reading this may be thinking, “David, what are you talking about? I don’t see the sky falling in!” I can certainly appreciate that perspective. For those of us living in a first world country, what I’m describing lies beyond the perception that most of us have of the world around us. It’s simply not part of our reality, primarily because we don’t see any evidence for it in our immediate surroundings. As we go about our daily lives, we flush our toilet, but we don’t question where it goes. We put our garbage out on the curb, but we don’t ponder where it’s transported and dumped. It just “goes away.” We get our food from a grocery store chain, without ever questioning where it came from or what’s in it. We don’t till the fields and harvest our food ourselves. In other words, the world we’ve created is a society completely dependent on corporations to provide for us and we have very little if any connection to the natural world from where we came and yet are imperceptibly still connected to whether we realize it or not. Nature for the most part, is something we venture out into when we just need to “get away from it all.” It’s an escape.
Our lives to a very large degree, are very out of touch with respect to our impact on the Natural World because our lives have taken on the appearance of being almost completely independent of our very real dependence on the viability of the Earth’s eco-systems.
Our perception of what we call the “Real World” is anything but accurate, because our perception of what we think of as the “Real World,” (meaning civilization and the economy) is lacking any sense of “Reality” as to what the ecological state of the World we’re “really” living in, is actually in. This is no accident. And yes, that complicated sentence was intended to be complicated as I’m trying to emphasize how little reality there is to most people’s perception of the world around them.
Each of our lives is essentially lived out in a bubble, where down here on the surface of the planet, our point of view with respect to what is happening globally is extremely limited. It’s only in pulling back and looking at the world from the 50,000 ft. level, that we begin to see the big picture, one that is not provided to us in mainstream media.
THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE
Picture provide by infographic.com
Within our MAINSTREAM MEDIA, there is a constant manipulation of the information we’re provided with, providing us with a very distorted and limited view of the world. The late George Carlin understood the tremendous power media has in molding the public mind and public opinion. Truly considered by many as one of the greatest comedic geniuses of our time, part of his act was to harp on media. He would say, “My mind just doesn’t seem to work the right way. I’ve got this real moron thing I do. It’s called thinking. And I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions…I have certain rules I live by. My first rule, I don’t believe anything the government tells me….and I don’t take very seriously the media or the press in this country. It’s entertainment.”
Media has never been more consolidated and more contrived than it is today.
Consider that just 25 years ago, over 50 independent news companies provided our News. Most of these were privately held companies with a stake in making sure that the News they were providing was very accurate. Those that could be “trusted” with presenting the most accurate news coverage were viewed most and got the ratings, subsequently getting the support of those marketing companies that would advertise with them. It’s how they funded themselves and kept the lights on, so to speak.
Picture provide by Infographic.com
Today those 50+ companies have not only been acquired but consolidated by the very companies that used to advertise with them. Six publicly traded Corporate leviathans now control all our News and paint our very distorted perception of the World. Virtually every billboard, magazine, newspaper, radio and tv broadcast, is strategically designed as propaganda with a consistent message. That message is, “don’t worry about what is going on in the rest of the world, it’s all under control. We’re taking care of everything. And since “happiness” is something that can be acquired through the acquisition of material possessions, just enjoy your life, tend to yourself, your obligations, your interests . . . . . . . AND KEEP SHOPPING!!!” We have been conditioned to have a very myopic view of life, tending to our own obligations with very little time or energy to worry about much else.
Our news is dispensed by the very companies trying to sell us something at every commercial break, primarily because these are publicly traded companies with an enormous stake in what goes on in the marketplace. What goes on in the marketplace drives the economy. As a result, they have used corporate interests, theirs especially, to determine what information is disseminated to the masses and what isn’t in order to massage the public mind into seeing the world in a very specific way. Their motives are predicated on a singular goal . . . . Maintaining the Economy at all costs, using the corporate scoreboard we call “the NY Stock Exchange,” otherwise known as “Wall Street” and a centralized banking system, as a barometer for how we’re doing.
Picture provide by infographic.com
So it is by design that we never hear any news even remotely related to the “Ecological or Environmental Health of our Planet.” But as is always the case with neglect, there are always unforeseen complications and consequences that come along with blind ambition.
And therein lies the problem. With the majority of society completely in the dark, things are going downhill, and they’re going downhill very quickly. The life-sustaining eco-systems of our planet are in a lot of trouble. How much trouble? Without exception, every eco-system and every life support system on the planet is in decline.
For decades, issues regarding the viability of the Earth’s life support systems have been percolating. Over the years, countless documentaries have been made and Environmental groups have been “screeeeeeeeaming” for the masses to wake up and “Save the Planet!!!!!!” But our apathy surrounding such concerns has created a new challenge. The challenge now is to save civilization itself and ourselves with it.
“A BROKEN ECONOMIC MODEL – CREATES A DYING PLANET”
Save civilization? Why does civilization need saving? One needs to understand what builds and maintains a civilization. Most would argue, “The Economy.” True, to a certain degree. But there is something far more important that sustains civilization and it’s not a monetary system or the economy. Truly.
But on the premise that an economy is what maintains civilization let’s ask, “what drives an economy?” Answer: Commerce – the exchange of money for goods and services within a given monetary system. And what promotes commerce? The buying and selling of goods and services. And what ensures the buying and selling of goods and services? “Obsolescence.”
Business and industry have made an art form out of NOT only meeting our needs but artificially creating them through a constant barrage of media venues encouraging us to do the one thing needed to power the economy . . . . . SHOP!!!!!!!!
Photo provided by Flicker.com
Modern Economics is a well-oiled machine, where we are inundated with advertising everywhere encouraging us to shop. But the system we’re a part of is predicated on the fundamental law that drives economics . . . . . the ability to keep selling. The way to ensure that it to manufacture everything we purchase so that it either breaks or is obsolete within a very short span of time.
Photo provided by http://www.lolpics.ws
So that there is always the need to buy more of it and to massage our psyche so that we will always want the “latest-greatest” of everything. Like a Pavlovian response, the mere mention of a new iPHONE causes many zealots of Apple’s technology to spontaneously salivate in anticipation of its launch . . . and when it is launched, hundreds, and in some cases even thousands, will wait in line for hours upon hours to purchase it, staving off for 12 more months their appetite for the next new toy.
This represents the height of our conditioning. It is the essence of our cultural programming. This cultural programming is what keeps the economy going, necessitating companies need to keep making more of everything, which ensures profits in the never-ending competition for market share.
But, this approach to economics is very short-sighted and cannibalistic in nature, because it is a “linear model” where resources are exploited to collapse by business and industry, that provide the masses with only “throw away products.” Resources are fashioned into a product with a limited functionality causing it to break or become obsolete in a very short period of time, with little of it being recycled. In other words, “We consume in a fashion that no other species does. We create waste, meaning we create and things with no utility after their initial use.” We are the only species on the planet that does this.
Photo provided by http://www.worldwildlife.org
This model is based only on “consumption” which creates waste on a catastrophic scale, while we devour the planet, consume its resources, and give little to nothing back, as opposed to a “circular or sustainable model” where what is produced is reusable or can be recycled back into the environment.
This linear model where resources become depleted over time is evident in our current standard of living. Over 65% of what we throw away and put out on the curb, can be recycled. Sadly, statistics show that only about 46% of Americans recycle. The numbers are far lower for the business sector which produces an amount of waste beyond one’s comprehension.
Photo provided by Annonymousartrevolution.com
This model of doing business is one in which we have essentially “high-jacked” the planet and stolen it from every “free-living” species for our own exploitation, while we destroy their habitats. Our neighborhoods have become ecological deserts, where countless species are displaced. Outside of my yard, I don’t see any flowers in my neighbor’s yards, and yet we wonder why honey bees are disappearing, neonictinoids (Roundup) aside. The bees have nothing left to pollinate.
“A CULTURE OF UN-NECESSARIES”
Here in the West perhaps more than any other country, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business. We’ve in essence turned life into a “competitive money sport” where our feelings are externalized, where class and our sense of importance is tied to the acquisition of material possessions, preferably name-brand. We place a very low value on cooperation and caring for one another and glorify competition, dominance, and individualism.
We’ve been pitted against one another as individuals competing for jobs, as corporate entities fighting for market share, and as entire countries competing for resources. Because of this, we accept things like war on a philosophical level. This misguided value system has allowed Companies in all kinds of industries with a huge stake in the public’s penchant for impulsive spending, to profiteer by promoting the idea that our happiness and our sense of importance in LIFE is something that can be bought or can be attained by achieving a certain standard of living. By externalizing our feelings we have been programmed to become compulsive shoppers …. And who doesn’t love shopping?????
With the economy always trumping ecological concerns, we’ve created a culture steeped in entertainment and instant gratification. Since protecting the planet isn’t very marketable just yet, we’re kept insulated and detached from the harsh reality of what our expanding civilization is doing to ecosystems the world over.
Photo provided http://www.politicalcartoons.com
SO WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OUR HOME?
I promised at the beginning of this writing that I’d provide a report card for the planet, by highlighting what are arguably the most pressing issues and the greatest threat to our continued survival on the planet. So let’s do just that by starting with our Climate.
There is no amount of time or writing I could devote to this subject that would do it justice in helping us to see our impact on the Earth’s Climate, but I am going to say this. The biggest culprit is not what you think it is . . . and what is presented in the News is only half the story. Research shows that without using a drop of gas, oil, or fuel of any kind, ever again from this day forward that we would still exceed our maximum greenhouse gas carbon equivalent of 565 gigatons by the year 2030, without the energy sector even factoring into the equation, all by merely raising and eating livestock.
Despite being what is receiving all the press right now, carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the main culprit in global warming. The reason CO2 receives the most press because its presence in the atmosphere is much more persistent and longer lasting than Methane, but Methane, which traps 80 – 120 times more heat than CO2, is the main culprit in global warming.
If we reduce the number of methane emissions in the atmosphere, the levels go down fairly quickly, as will the global temperature, in decades, as opposed to CO2, where we really won’t see a signal in the atmosphere indicating an improvement for 150 years or so. Simply put, we don’t have that kind of time left. We as individuals have an enormous opportunity to curb global warming, with a simple lifestyle choice we make every day.
What if I told you, your diet is contributing to Global Warming more than any other contributing factor?
The single largest contributor of Methane to the atmosphere is an Industry that can be tied to almost every environmental problem known to civilization including: deforestation, excessive land use, water use and water scarcity, desertification (the process by which deserts are created), food scarcity, world hunger, poverty, the destabilization of entire populations, and on and on, can be directly tied to cattle farming and the meat industry. This industry is one that could single-handedly bring about our demise, and it is. It’s an environmental disaster that is being ignored by the very people who should be championing the cause to fix it, meaning our government and environmental groups but remain powerless because of the stranglehold the meat industry has on both of them. The lobbyists in Washington representing the meat industry’s interests have enormous monetary resources and make sure the public is kept entirely in the dark as to how this industry is procuring meat and how it operates. It’s an industry that is very corrupt, parasitic in nature and wrecking the planet.
Since this article is intended to be an overview of many environmental issues I’m not going to expound upon this. Instead, I’m going to suggest a movie that connects the dots and exposes ALL the devastating effects this incredibly abusive industry is doing to the planet. Directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, COWSPIRACY shows how this one industry is contributing to Climate Change more than the entire transportation sector, including cars, trucks, boats, planes, and trains combined. I highly recommend viewing this extremely informative movie.
Since CO2 gets so much fanfare, how does what we’re seeing today compare to what we’ve seen in the past? Simply put, we are witnessing the highest CO2 levels recorded in almost a million years. Now, since we live in a society of climate change deniers, with politicians and citizens repeating ad nauseum, “I’m no scientist,” as a manifesto to the climate experts to justify their ignorance on the subject matter and defiantly proclaim that we have no intent on changing any of our destructive behaviors, just to give that spike in CO2 perspective, consider the natural fluctuations of CO2 over the last 6 interglacial periods. The highest CO2 has ever been in the last 870,000 years is 290 ppm. Today we’re at 411 ppm and quickly heading to 500 ppm. There is nothing “NATURAL” about this kind of increase in C02. It is clearly anthropogenic. In other words, HUMAN.
Graph provided by http://globalclimate.ucr.edu/resources.html
Ice Core “Ancient-Atmospheric” Samples
And the story isn’t any better for Methane where we have witnessed a tremendous spike in atmospheric readings since the start of the “Industrial Revolution” in the 1800’s.
Graph provided by NOAA.org
Direct Measurement Atmospheric Samples
As the CO2 and Methane Levels have increased so have our global temperatures. The last 4 consecutive years have been the hottest global temperatures in recorded history with April, May, June, July, and August of 2014 being the 5 hottest months ever recorded.
Graphs provided by NOAA.org
Computer simulations, accounting for the continued projected CO2 and Methane emissions, show that the temperatures are going to continue to climb considerably over the next several decades, with an increase of 6-8F by the year 2050.
When CO2 reaches 450 ppm the polar ice sheets will go into irreversible retreat and melt completely which will account for a 216 ft. increase in sea level. This won’t happen overnight but by the year 2100 things will look quite different.
Picture provided by natgeo.com
Here in the states, the entire eastern seaboard would be underwater for 80 – 100 miles inland. In this scenario, New York City, Philadelphia, Hilton Head, Savannah, GA. and the entire state of Florida will disappear under water. New Orleans, Houston, and all the cities along the Gulf of Mexico will be under water by the year 2100.
On a bright note, everyone in New York City would have beachfront property…..
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
It was just announced by NASA in August of 2014, that “the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return.” Entering the sea and melting will account for a 3 – 5 ft. increase in sea level, and will displace over 10 million people worldwide living near river deltas where crops in the floodplains will see the intrusion of salt water, ultimately destroying the crops and making the land infertile.
Whether you believe that there is an anthropogenic or human contribution to climate change is ultimately irrelevant. The simple fact of the matter is, the world is heating up, and it’s doing so very quickly.
SO WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF A WARMER WORLD?
We need to look no further than the disappearance of fresh water in the Southwest United States. A few examples providing an eye-opening look at what is taking place include:
Butte County, CA 2011
Butte County, CA 2014
Orville Lake, Ca. 2011
Orville Lake, Ca. 2014
Bidwell Marina, CA 2011
Bidwell Marina, CA. 2014
Lake Mead, NV 2011
Lake Mead, CO. 2014
Lake Mead, CO. 2014
The reason these particular pictures strike a chord with me is because 3 years ago to the day, I was standing on the middle of the Hoosier Damn and at that time, the water level was covering the exposed shorelines in white. Today, the Colorado River that provides fresh water to southern Colorado, southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, has dropped to 39% of it’s capacity, its lowest level in history vs where it was just 3 years ago due to Global Warming, drought, a lack of snowfall and rain in the Rocky Mountains.
And just so you know this problem isn’t confined to the U.S., this is the Aral Sea lying between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south.
Aral Sea from June 1977 – June 2009
What you’re seeing here is the disappearance of 1,279 sq miles of fresh water in 22 years. This is now a global problem and we are seeing the fastest disappearance of fresh water in history. Water has quite literally become the new CURRENCY of the WORLD. The United Nations and the Pentagon announced just in October that in the very near future we will be fighting “CLIMATE WARS” – wars for access to life-supporting resources that still remain on the planet. A good example of what is coming is the scenario that will soon be playing out in the United States, where the average citizen is completely unaware of how we are all connected in the global economy of our civilization.
Map provided by www.shangri-la-river-expeditions.com
In many agricultural regions around the world snow, believe it or not, is the primary source of irrigation and drinking water. As temperatures continue to rise, there is less and less precipitation in part of the world that rely heavily upon it. The greatest loss of precipitation and snow occurring, is in the Himalayas of the Tibetan Plateau. This is soon going to be catastrophic to large populaces in India and China that reside along the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers because of their heavy reliance on these glacier-fed rivers, where the snowmelt each year provides the water for irrigating crops in the spring and summer, that provide food for the masses.
Within 8-10 years China and India are facing debilitating water losses and subsequent water shortages. Water shortages always lead to food shortages.
Lester Brown writes in his book, WORLD ON THE EDGE:
“For Americans, the melting of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau would appear to be China’s problem. It is. But it is also everyone else’s problem. For U.S., consumers, this melting poses a nightmare scenario. If China enters the world market for massive quantities of grain, as it has already done for soybeans over the last decade, it will come to the United States – far and away the leading exporter.
The prospect of 1.3 billion Chinese with rapidly rising incomes, competing with American consumers for the U.S. grain harvest, and thus driving up food prices, is not an attractive one. In the 1970s, when tight world food supplies were generating unacceptable food price inflation in the United States, the government restricted grain exports. This is no longer an option where China is concerned.”
Each month starting in 2008, when the Treasury Department was auctioning off securities to cover the U.S. fiscal deficit, China was the biggest buyer, now holding over $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt and has essentially become the biggest banker for the United States. Whether we like it or not, very soon Americans will be competing with Chinese consumers for our food harvests.
Their loss is our loss.
As the availability of water and food diminishes in China, desperate for food, they will be able to outbid Americans for our own food. Unfortunately, the economy doesn’t pick favorites. In the global economy, the market sells to the highest bidder, irrespective of nationality or who is producing what in the marketplace.
The last thing I’m going to say about global warming and climate change is its devastating impact on agriculture.
Our ability to feed the growing population of the world, which is growing at an extraordinary rate of 232,000 people per day, is beginning to diminish rapidly because of increasing temperatures.
All life on the planet today is the product of tremendous adaptations made over eons of time in response to a whole host of environmental pressures, one of which is temperature. In all forms, Life exists within a very narrow range of temperatures, and agriculture (vegetative life) is no exemption. Plants, which evolved long before animal life, have the extraordinary ability to harness and utilize energy from the Sun to power a biochemical, enzymatic process of combining CO2 it pulls in from the atmosphere and combines it with water to produce carbohydrates. This process is called photosynthesis.
Of concern, is the fact that photosynthesis is rather dramatically affected by temperature. In a study conducted at Ohio State University, research revealed that photosynthetic activity in plants increases until the temperature reaches 68° F, where the rate photosynthesis levels out. At 95° though, photosynthesis in rice, wheat, corn, and barley begins to decline. At 104°F it ceases entirely. These are heat indexes that we are hitting every year leading to tremendous crop failures, and what really sucks about this is that one of the first things to go if we continue on this trajectory is my favorite thing:
And that’s just unacceptable….and yes, I will hold all of you responsible!!!
DOING ARE PART….
So what can we do about it?
- No other decision we make will have a bigger impact on Global Warming than simply minimizing or completely eliminating the intake up “RED MEAT” from our diet. . . . . which will minimize your contribution to increasing levels of methane to almost nothing. In addition, it will stop contributing to the most environmentally destructive industry on Earth by preventing further deforestation, desertification (from overgrazing lands), water shortages and water scarcity, food scarcity, hunger, poverty, displacement of human populations, and on and on.
- In the future cities will have to be developed around people walking or biking, instead of cars, which will dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and rising greenhouse gases.
- Rooftops will be turned into solar cells and gardens.
- Alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources can further reduce emissions dramatically. Until they become more prevalent, minimizing our electrical usage with energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances helps as does adjusting our thermostats to minimize energy usage.
- Rooftop solar water heating is a trend that is gaining tremendous momentum. U.S. installation of these systems has more than tripled since 2005.
- Reducing paper usage to preserve forests is going to preserve the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us. This is a system of checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.
- One step that we can take to preserving trees is with respect to “Junk Mail.” The Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans as a whole receive close to five million tons of junk mail every year with the average American household receiving 20-25 pounds of junk mail a month.
- Catalog Choice is a non-profit group that offers a completely free service that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail. Their website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself.
- On an individual level PLANTING TREES AROUND OUR HOUSE certainly, help minimize our impact on the environment. Every tree planted is one more removing CO2 buildup from the atmosphere.
- SHOPPING AT LOCAL FARMS OR GARDENING IN OUR OWN BACKYARDS dramatically diminishes our carbon or ecological footprint. This is because food sold in a grocery chain arrived there from vast distances and various locales often in other countries. They are often transported by plane, by boat, by train, and by trucks, all of which run on fossil fuels, which only serves to continue adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.
We are currently removing approximately 1 acre (size of a football field) of rainforest every second of every day since 1940. To date, we’ve destroyed 60% of the world’s rainforests, 91% of which has been done to make room for Agri-business (the meat industry). This is problematic because the rainforests are literally the “lungs of the planet” removing CO2 from the atmosphere and releasing the very O2 that we breathe. They go, we go…
DOING OUR PART
- Reduce paper usage to preserve forests is going to preserve the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us. This a system of checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.
- Deforest your mailbox. “Junk Mail.” Again, we can eliminate 20-25 pounds of junk mail a month by going to Catalog Choice – Their website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself.
- Get News and Magazines online and if you can get used to using a Kindle buy ebooks.
- Plant trees and flowers in your yard. Our cities and suburbs are turning into “ecological deserts,” with yards we don’t use.
- The declining number of bees in recent years has been unprecedented, with their numbers declining by 25% every year for the last 4 years. Making our yards an oasis of flowers for bees can help them make a comeback. THEY NEED OUR HELP!!!! “Without bees, the human race will go extinct within 4 years.” – Albert Einstein
So, let’s look at our Oceans. How are they doing? Today our oceans are in near collapse because of 3 things: Acidification of the Oceans, Overfishing, and the unimaginable amount of plastic in our oceans.
In looking at each of these, let’s start by looking at the ocean’s ph (percent hydrogen – ph is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid). Because of the increasing levels of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, what we are seeing today is a catastrophic drop in the pH of the oceans due to the uptake of CO2. This process is driving the acidification of oceans as the CO2 combines with H2O to create carbonic acid.
Modeling demonstrates that if CO2 continues to be released on current trends, ocean average pH will reach 7.8 by the end of this century, corresponding to 0.5 units below the pre-industrial level, a pH level that has not been experienced for several millions of years (1). A change of 0.5 units might not sound like a very big change, but the pH scale is logarithmic meaning that such a change is equivalent to a three-fold increase in H+ (acidic) concentration. All this is happening at a speed 100 times greater than has ever been observed during the geological past. This is very problematic because there are countless marine species, communities, and ecosystems that might not have the time to acclimate or adapt to these fast changes in ocean chemistry.
The effects of this process of acidification can already be seen as coral reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate. This demise of coral reefs will be especially costly to an innumerable number of aquatic species that feed off and live within the coral reefs. The loss of the coral reefs will expand to include the loss of many of marine species. Current estimates project that all the world’s coral reefs will be gone by the year 2023.
Further contributing to the rapid loss of marine species is COMMERCIAL FISHING. Simply put, this is an industry that is completely unsustainable. This is because Commercial Fishing is done using trawlers like the one pictured here.
The problem with this type of harvesting fish from the ocean is that for every 1 pound of fish caught, an average of 4 pounds of unintended marine species is caught in trawler nets and discarded as “by-catch” or “by-kill.”
This includes whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, rays, sea turtles, squid, jellyfish, etc.
As of today, 3/4th of the world fisheries have been exploited to total collapse. The remaining 25% of ocean fisheries are in near collapse and because of this approach to harvesting the oceans for fish, the oceans are expected to be devoid of harvested fish by 2042.
One of the single biggest environmental issues facing civilization is the devastating impact the waste we’re producing is having on the oceans. Approximately 100,000,000,000 tons of plastic is manufactured every year with the average American throwing away an average of 4 ½ pounds of plastic trash a day. Sadly, only 7% of all the plastic manufactured is being recycled. As for the other 93%? Most of it ends up in landfills, but approximately 4.7 billion tons of plastic finds its way to the ocean every year.
The perception of plastic as a benign, harmless product could not be any more of a misguided perception. Plastic is, quite literally, a bio-toxic material, and its presence in the ocean poses an enormous problem, not only for marine life but for us as well. It’s a little-known fact by most, but the issue with plastic is the plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it undergoes photodegradation, where UV-light, or photos of light cause the polymer chains that the plastics are made from the breakdown into smaller and smaller polymers. But these polymers, once manufactured, never go away. Let me make that clear. They never go away. As they break down, they produce long-term, persistent, toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated bi-phenols, dioxins, and mercury, that do not degrade in days, weeks or months, but rather over decades, centuries, or even millennia.
Every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists today, whether it’s in your house, in a landfill, in the open environment, or in the ocean. As a result, the oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans. We are literally “plasticizing” the oceans.
In 1997, oceanographer and racing boat Captain Charles More, made a startling and tragic discovery while returning to California from Hawaii. What he discovered was a tremendous aggregation of plastic trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What is now known as the North Pacific Gyre, or more specifically the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” is a convergence of plastic trash over an area half the size of the U.S. or twice the size of the U.S. depending on the size of the particulates being measured. It was this discovery that led to an entirely new perspective on our use of plastic and its detrimental effects on the planet’s ecosystems. More specifically, it created an entirely new concern with respect to the use of “single use” plastics.
The oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans. We are literally “plasticizing” the oceans.
Today there are 5 Gyres or “garbage patches” that have formed in the oceans with the largest one being THE NORTH PACIFIC GYRE, which depending on the size of the plastic that is being measured ranges in size from twice the size of Texas to the size of the United States itself. In addition to the North Pacific Gyre, four others have been discovered in the South Pacific Ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean, and in the Indian Ocean.
The North Pacific Gyre is not an island of trash, but rather more like a soup of plastic confetti that’s very diffuse, this is confusing for the public to understand the threat this poses, because of the fact that we can’t really see most of it.
Despite the fact that there are environmental groups, think tanks, and scientist screaming with a sense of urgency to begin solving this problem, the prevailing mentality is, “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist.” If in fact there was an island of trash that we could walk across there may be more of a public urgency to fix the problem. But when we see blue seas with very few pieces of actual physical debris, it tends to be very deceptive and lulls us to sleep, thinking the issue is nothing to be alarmed about. It’s unfortunate but that is in fact, the very surreptitious nature of the plastic problem. If we could just see all of the plastic we would probably be inclined to go out and begin cleaning it up.
How pervasive is the problem of Plastic in our OCEANS? To show how pervasive the problem of plastic has become in 2013, photographer Chris Jordan documented our debilitating effect on even the most remote ecosystem in the world, Midway Island (pictured below) which is 2100 miles from any inhabitable continent. What he discovered was nothing short of appalling.
What he found was shorelines covered in plastic items and countless bird carcasses with bellies full of plastic.
Pictures provided by Chris Jordan www.chrisjordan.com
Once inside the sea animals, the animal is doomed because plastic itself cannot be broken down and most of it cannot pass through the digestive tract of the animal. It is estimated that Midway Island accumulates approximately 20,000 lbs of plastic garbage every year…..
Because of plastic in our ocean, dozens of species are going extinct and disappearing from the planet forever because of us. We are right in the middle of the greatest die-off of species on the planet since the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, all as a by-product of our “civilization.” Plastic in the environment, especially in the oceans, has literally reached critical mass and if not addressed will be the catalyst in the extinction of countless marine and avian species.
These whales have a story to tell us . . . . .
Plastic Bags are by far and away the number 1 killer of marine wildlife and even if we don’t live near a shoreline, we’re all contributing to the problem.
The average American consumer will throw away approximately 500 plastic bags per year. As the artist above displays in dramatic fashion (no pun intended), that’s quite a number. While we like to think that they go to a landfill, and many do, wind currents still carry a number of them to waterways where it still finds its way to the ocean. Subsequently, it’s ingested by turtles and seabirds who mistake it for jellyfish which is the primary source of food for them. Approximately 100,000 Sea Turtles die every year from ingesting plastic.
With that said, consider some sobering facts about plastic bags . . .
- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. What’s scary about this fact is that once ingested, it does not break down. When the marine animal’s body decomposes, the bag is released, where it can then be consumed again, and the cycle repeats.
- More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were discarded in 2008.
- Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
- The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags.
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
- Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
Facts provided by http://www.reuseit.com
Dean Jordan PhD, Dean of Political Psychology, International University for Graduate Studies shared his thoughts regarding plastic by saying:
“Plastic now runs our lives . . .We’ve always been told that if we would just recycle and throw trash away responsibly, everything will be okay. The lie that is built into that, is the fact that there is no place called “AWAY.” There is no place to really throw things away. Litter isn’t the issue. The issue is the manufacturing and use of plastics in the first place and the fact that this stuff doesn’t degrade. It doesn’t go AWAY.
What kind of egotism is it that we have as a society, that we’re willing to use something once, for five minutes, and then turn around and simply throw it into this magical place called “AWAY.” It is going to here long after we are all gone, and even much longer than when are great, great, great, grandchildren are gone, and all the while it will only continue to degrade into toxins and pollution that will continue to harm the environment, harm us, and harm our children for generations to come.”
The single action of choosing to dispose of plastic properly could save countless animals lives, including our own. If we see garbage on the ground and choose to walk past it, the very act of picking up that plastic bottle or plastic item could make all the difference in the world. The reality is, we are always at choice. Just recycling plastic is no longer enough. We’re allowed to ask for biodegradable paper products. We’re allowed to say no to the Styrofoam cup. We’re allowed to say no to plastic cups and bottles. We’re allowed to say no to the plastic grocery bag, and on and on.
The choice is yours . . . . . . Prevention is the key.
In a story that only karma could write, our nativity regarding our relationship with and abuse to the planet has come full circle with serious consequences for us and our children, that is rapidly bringing a close to our time left on the planet.
DOING OUR PART
RECYCLING IS NOT ENOUGH!!!!
- How can we expect any company, whose main product and therefore profit involves the production of plastic bottles, whether for water, soft drinks, alcohol, cleaning product, etc. to claim that they are for the environment when in fact they are the leading source of the problem?
- REFUSE TO USE ANY PLASTIC BAGS!!!!
- STOP PURCHASING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!!!! Instead, use reusable water bottles. Companies like BRITA and BOBBLE make reusable water bottles with carbon filters for drinking pure filtered water. Each filter can filter the equivalent of 300-350 water bottles.
- AVOID THE USE OF ANY TOOTHPASTE, GEL, FACIAL WASH, OR BODY SCRUB CONTAINING PLASTIC “MICRO BEADS!!!!”
- AVOID THE USE OF POLYSTYRENE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STYROFOAM)
WHEN SHOPPING!!!! Bring your own bags with you. Whether shopping at the grocery store or shopping at the MALL, bringing your own bags prevents plastic from ever having a chance of finding its way back into the environment.
- WHEN SHIPPING!!!! USE “ECO-FRIENDLY” BIO-DEGRADABLE (VEGETABLE BASED) PACKAGING PEANUTS AND OTHER PACKAGING MATERIALS. These are packaging materials made of starch, that to dispose of can simply have water added to them, where they dissolve entirely and pose no threat to the environment.
Ultimately the choice is ours!
Next up in our purveying of civilization’s gallery of destructiveness is Fukushima. This is a disaster of unfathomable proportions.
Following a major earthquake, a 15 meter (45 ft.) tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima nuclear reactors, causing a nuclear meltdown accident on March 11th, 2011.
The devastating effects to the reactor structure were initially well reported in all forms of media across the world, but the disaster was downplayed by TEPCO. We were told there were “partial” meltdowns, we now know that they were each a 100% core meltdown. All three cores largely melted in the first three days.
In order of magnitude, this disaster is many times that of Chernobyl, especially because fixing the problem is the problem!!!! There is absolutely no protocol, no strategy in place to deal with this catastrophe. Nowhere is there any literature or instructions on how to fix this issue. They are literally making it up as they go along and continue to, to this day.
At the time of the initial disaster, 300 tons (600,000 lbs.) of water was filtering through the site daily and seeping directly into the seawater and has been doing so for the last three and a half years unabated. Groundwater underneath the damaged infrastructure continues to be contaminated with many different radioactive compounds such as radioactive hydrogen, tritium, cesium 134, cesium 137, and strontium. A veritable cornucopia of radioactive elements.
Workers have been pumping this water out, at a rate of 400 tons each day, and storing it in hastily constructed steel tanks on the site.
There are now more than 1060 tanks and the ‘tank farm’ now dwarfs the original nuclear plant in size. Because of their poor construction, the concern is that another earthquake with a magnitude of 6 or more will more than likely rupture every tank releasing millions of tons of highly radioactive laced water into the ocean. This is a compounding problem. As the radiation seeps into the sea, algae absorb and concentrate the radioactive elements 100’s of times. Crustaceans concentrate them 100’s of times. Fish who feed on the corals concentrate it 100’s of times, where they are consumed by larger fish that concentrate it even more. Since we sit at the apex of the food chain, by the time we eat the fish at the top of the aquatic food chain, we are ingesting radioactive elements that have been concentrated by tens of thousands of times versus those radioactive elements free-floating in the open ocean.
Within days of the incident, nuclear radiation and radioactive isotopes were measurable, and not in insignificant proportions, in the rainfall here in the United States. In addition, ocean currents are now carrying the radioactive waste to our shorelines, and the fish we are harvesting from the Pacific are loaded with Cesium 137 in their tissues. These radioactive isotopes decay over hundreds of thousands of years and will continue to contaminate the food chain for as long. All of these radioactive isotopes cause cancer.
German scientists constructed a computer simulation model monitoring the levels of pollution in the Pacific Ocean alone. They show that the entire Pacific Ocean will be polluted with radioactive material by 2017.
The issue in fixing the problem is that core reactor #4 contains more than 1,500 fuel rods that are under 30 meters (90 ft.) of water in a severely damaged building above ground.
The amount of radiation in each of the 1,500 contains approximately 14,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. These need to be removed from the fuel pool because in the event that there is another major earthquake and the building goes down, all those fuel rods will be exposed to the air and will start burning, releasing an immeasurable about of radiation that at the very least would be 10x’s the amount of radiation released at Chernobyl. This radiation would pollute all of Japan and most of the Northern Hemisphere.
The rods need to be removed and contained, but the only plausible plan for removing them is to use a crane to delicately lift them out of the cooling pool. This is normally done using computers with only millimeters to spare. If the fuel rods touch, criticality could be reached resulting in another core meltdown. Nothing like this has ever been attempted, and if the rods touch all of humanity will be threatened for thousands of years.
I wish I had a “DOING OUR PART” addition to this section but there really isn’t anything “we” can do. This one lies beyond our reach. The one addendum I will add is to ask where your fish from when purchasing it, whether out or at the grocery store. Purchasing fish from the Atlantic may be a consideration.
Without soil, no life could exist on LAND. Soil is the fundamental resource for sustaining life, and a precious resource at that, considering that it takes approximately 500 years to produce just one inch of soil. I’ve found over the years that few people know the difference between soil and dirt. To understand the quality of the food we’re eating, we need to understand this fundamental difference.
This is what SOIL looks like. It’s rich and fertile teeming with life and with biologically active nutrients and minerals. It’s literally a living organism.
This is what DIRT looks like. Dirt in contrast to Soil is mineral, devoid of LIFE.
Back in the late 1930’s the chemical company DuPont sold the idea that chemistry was better for agriculture than the natural forces that had always governed plant life on the planet. They referred to this as “Better Living Through Chemistry.” Today we now know better. Industrial agriculture through chemistry has literally killed the soil and every year continues to.
Today our crops are grown in dirt, not soil which is why it requires such heavy supplementation with commercial fertilizers. We are told by the corporate killers like MONSANTO that commercial agriculture is the only way to feed the growing population. But after 30 years of collected data, we now know that the natural processes at work in nature are not something we can improve upon. These processes have developed over millions of years and are by far and away the most efficient way to create the greatest agricultural-yields and feed the masses.
Organic farming, using cover crops at the end of each season returns detritus and biological actives back into the soil that can produce 2-10x’s the agricultural yields of commercial petroleum-based agriculture.
Today, commercial agriculture has become almost entirely dependent on artificial, petroleum-based fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and GMO’s to maintain their yields. This is an industry that has literally been hijacked by companies like MONSANTO who have developed patents on seeds that can only be grown once in to make commercial farmers completely dependent on them in order to grow anything. With the coercion of our government and MONSANTO leaders running our Department of Agriculture, legislation has been put in place to make it against the law for farmers to keep seeds and forces them to only grow with genetically modified seed, the health effects of which are well documented and have been connected with diabetes, countless cancers, and several other diseases. To learn more about our food industry and GMO’s I highly encourage viewing several documentary films such as FOOD, INC., GMO’s OMG, and SYMPHONY OF SOIL……
Beyond becoming the world’s biggest science experiment, the issue with commercial agriculture is that it pollutes our water tables and groundwater with pesticides and fertilizers that enter our rivers and ultimately feed the oceans with poisonous chemicals.
This is because only 10-15% of the fertilizers dumped on the soils are actually utilized by the plants themselves. As much as 85% – 90% of the fertilizers used to support these crops end up in the water table eventually finding its way to streams, tributaries, rivers, and ultimately to the oceans where they are toxic to aquatic life. As of today, 270+ dead zones have been discovered in the oceans and are directly related to Agricultural Runoff.
DOING OUR PART
So what can we do about it?
- If at all possible, I cannot urge you enough to buy organics, for your health, for the health of the planet, and the health of every living thing on our planet.
- Shop at your local FARMER’S MARKET or Finley Market downtown, and support your local farmers.
- As a society we have got to take accountability for what we are doing to the planet. A good first step is weaning ourselves off of commercial agriculture, and corporate groceries stores. Support local organic farming.
- And if you’re slightly more daring, grow your own garden.
Not only is it good for our local economy but it reduces our carbon footprint to almost zero and it’s a legacy we can leave our children. We get back to being self-sustaining.
RESTORING OUR PLANET
SOCRATES once said, “people get the government, they deserve.”
I’m going to extend that concept by saying“ people get the government, the society, and the world they deserve.” We can fight with the politicians. We can fight with the corporations. We can march in the streets with banners and have clean up rock campaigns with the hopes of changing the world. But the bottom line is, the world will never change until we as individuals change.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
The very corporations and the very governments we march against are the very corporations and the very government that we vote for each and every day with the choices we make. Every dollar we spend we are voting for the world the way it is.
The lifeblood of each and every corporation, bank and government is money. We have it, and they want. These entities are merely a leviathan we’ve created through complacency, convenience, and in choosing to continue to support them. The only power corporations have over us is the power we give them by choosing their products and services. If collectively we chose to stop buying bottled water and using plastic bags they would have no choice but to discontinue manufacturing them. If we do not like what a bank is doing with our money, simply pull your money out and move it elsewhere.
The collective action of 314 million Americans is more than any government policy could ever hope to implement, change, or influence. And today we are stepping into the essence, the power, and magnitude of who we truly are and what we value. No one wants to look into the mirror and admit to themselves that they are the problem because ultimately that would require us to look at the consequences of what it is we each have done in taking the future away from our children.
And it is being taken away!
Hope lies in the fact that there is a spiritual awakening occurring in small pockets of humanity, where individuals and small groups are truly beginning to reconnect with nature. People are slowly beginning to rediscover our relationship with the natural world.
What we are finally starting to realize is that there is no one steering the ship, there are no leaders moving us in a positive direction, and they’re certainly not to be found in Washington D.C. or in the corporate entities on Wall Street. There are small pockets of heroes choosing to champion the cause of protecting the planet from our continued neglect.
We cannot continue blaming society for all the ills we are now confronting. Now is the time for each of us to step into the essence of who we are and the world we’ve created. Now is the time to restore our relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with the earth. Now is the time to begin speaking out for life. For the ecology of the planet, not the economy! It’s time to become advocates and heroes for Earth.
So how do we go about the task of restoring the planet?
By first realizing that in killing our ecosystems we are ultimately cannibalizing the planet that provides for us and bringing about our own demise and every other species. Recognizing that fact first, choose to begin Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, Refusing, and our independence from our dependence on corporations and blind submission to corporate interests. If society continues with a “business as usual” approach to industry and business, doing tomorrow what it is we have always done up until this point, nothing will change with respect to the global ecological forecasts.
Dramatic changes are going to be required of each of us . . . but the single biggest impact we can have in saving both civilization and the natural world is educating our children, teaching them to have a reverence for the Earth and its life support systems. This is the only way our children will have a viable planet left to inherit.
It’s our world. We can each make a difference, starting today . . .
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of discovery,
Image Credit: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.” – Terry Swearingen
Our planet is a beautiful one, but it’s ecological integrity and sustainability has reached a tipping point. Civilization is on an irrational and deadly course, and this course has now become a crisis.
Our planet has never needed protection before and life has always flourished on its own. But today, we are now facing a number of threats as a byproduct of the advancement of our civilization that is now threatening the viability of every species on Earth. Today, every living system on earth is in decline. The world and its resources are now being cannibalized by the most dominant species on the planet.
In the last 250 years since the Industrial Revolution began, the explosive growth of business and industry has not come without an extraordinary cost to the integrity of the planet and countless ecosystems. Despite the disparaging lack of exposure in mainstream media, man’s impact on the planet has been and continues to be nothing short of disastrous.
Today, a whole host of problems are now threatening our long-term survival on the planet and our children’s future. Unfortunately, we are facing a number of crises that are mounting in complexity and in scope, the cumulative effect of which may have already created insurmountable odds where the hope of reversing these trends and protecting our children’s future is dwindling.
With our growing population and the advancement of our civilization, the economy slowly gained precedence over the reflection upon how we’re impacting the Natural world. As a collective consciousness reflecting societal values, it has become more important than the ecology of the planet.
In our relentless pursuit to compete in the marketplace, industry has been driven to create more and more conveniences for us, which has created a “throw-away society.” That terminology, which could almost be regarded as trite and passé, is an oversimplification of the dangers posed by our most prevalent waste material . . . . . . plastic.
The convenience and cost effectiveness of plastic has led to its use in just about every aspect of our lives, but its benefits are easily dwarfed by the very disturbing and life-threatening consequence of its use. By “life-threatening” I mean threatening to all life, NOT just humans. Because of a lack of media exposure, the masses remain completely unaware in their understanding of how our collective actions are literally creating a biochemically toxic planet. As a byproduct of our consumption-based lifestyle, pollution and waste has become a devastating consequence of our choices and is now endangering the future of not only ourselves but truly every species on the planet.
By far and away, the single biggest pollutant society creates is “Single Use Plastics!!!!” By single use, we mean plastic that has a utility confined to one single use and is then discarded. Things like: Ziploc bags, Saran Wrap, plastic grocery bags, bottled water, shampoo bottles, cosmetics, and more. Since these are products everyone purchases, no one is exempt, we’re ALL contributing to the problem.
Living in the mid-west, many absolve themselves of any culpability in contributing to the problem, by believing that because of our lack of proximity to the oceans, we can’t possibly be contributing to the decline of the oceans or the environment as a whole. It’s a sad commentary but nothing could be further from the truth. Isolating the use of just one such “single-use plastic,” such as plastic grocery bags, one can easily begin to see that even those of us at a great distance from the oceans are still part of the problem.
With less than 40% of Americans recycling, most plastic grocery bags unfortunately, end up in a landfill where wind currents and breezes lift the plastic bags from the mass of garbage and carry them into the canopy of surrounding trees, litter our highways and surrounding forests, and choke waterways where they begin their long journey to the oceans.
This is but one example of how “single-use plastics” are leading to the degradation and decline of our oceans. Countless examples could be given but our impact will become very evident later in this writing.
Approximately 280 – 300,000,000 metric tons of plastic is manufactured every year with the average American throwing away approximately 4 ½ pounds of plastic trash a day.
Sadly, only 7% of all the plastic manufactured is being recycled. As for the other 93%? Most of it ends up in landfills, but approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way to the ocean every year. 
Do to a lack of media coverage, the accumulation of plastic in the oceans is a far bigger problem than most are aware of, because these are extremely long-term, very persistent, deadly, toxic chemicals that do not degrade in days, weeks, or months, but rather over decades, centuries, or even millennia.
Every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists today, whether it’s in your house, in a landfill, in the open environment, or in the ocean. This is because the chemical polymers they are manufactured from and consist of never go away. Let me repeat that. The polymers they are made of NEVER GO AWAY!!!! Plastic is a substance the planet simply cannot digest or recycle back into the environment.
Because of advances in civil engineering and planning, man has almost completely divorced himself from the natural world, as is evidenced by society and industry’s misunderstanding and disregard for what is in best interests of the environment which provide for us and every living thing. As technology has evolved it has served to subrogate us from a deep spiritual knowledge possessed by the ancients, that saw their divine connection with the natural world and the entire cosmos. We once saw ourselves as woven out of and into the very fabric of the universe itself, but to a very large degree, we’ve lost this connection to the Earth and the Cosmos.
What was lost was an ancient spiritual knowledge and understanding that life is only passing through us from the past into the future. We are merely vessels temporarily “housing” life. Unfortunately, as this knowledge was abandoned we it replaced it with the perverted ideology of materialism and consumption, along with the idea that we only live one life and disappear.
This mindset, firmly in place, has created a society that is predicated largely on entertainment, consumerism, conveniences, and an egocentric perspective of life, where we are oftentimes detached from the consequences of our actions. As a result, with the advancement of technology, making our lives easier and easier, our most sacred responsibility of preparing the way for future generations has been abandoned. The care taken by nurturing and protecting the planet we live on as an endowment for those that come behind us has been superseded by a narrowing focus on our lives in the “here and now” with little regard for the environment or consideration for what we’re leaving our children to inherit.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF NEGLECT . . . .
In 1997, oceanographer and racing boat Captain Charles Moore, made a startling and tragic discovery while returning to California from Hawaii. What he discovered was a tremendous aggregation of plastic trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What is now known as the North Pacific Gyre (pronounced – jī(ə)r), or more specifically the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” is a convergence of plastic trash over an area half the size of the U.S. or twice the size of the U.S. depending on the size of the particulates being measured.
It was this discovery that led to an entirely new perspective on our use of plastic and its detrimental effects on the planet’s ecosystems. More specifically, it created an entirely new concern with respect to the use of “single use” plastics. Astonished by what he saw, Capt. Moore has made saving the oceans his life’s work ever since. Shortly after his discovery, he and a team of scientists returned to this ocean desert to begin conducting research on its origins and the now well-documented hazardous effects of its degradation.
AN ISLAND OF TRASH?
Reading this, one may envision an island of trash floating in the ocean. If only we were so fortunate! That statement might sound a bit sarcastic, but at least if it was an island of trash and debris, containing what is becoming the biggest ecological disaster and biohazard in human history, it would be something that we could at least go out and clean up. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple of an issue. The problem is far worse.
Imagine a substance that can never ever disappear but only break down into smaller and smaller particulates till it becomes so fine and infinitesimally small that it simply creates an almost invisible mesh that is diffused throughout every square inch of the top 100 meters of ocean water and you’re starting to get the picture. The oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans. We are quite literally, slowly “plasticizing” the oceans.
To help create a picture of our ocean gyres where the plastic is accumulating, it is important to note, this trash is not like an island of debris with items touching one another. To the contrary! Although there are aggregates where fishing nets and garbage have collected, it’s more like a slimy, gelatinous, plastic soup, where the plastic has dissolved in the water to the extent that it is now a chemically rich, toxic film that floats near the surface with particulates of plastic of various sizes in it. This mass of plastic constitutes approximately 50% of the trash that has converged here. The other 50% sinks and is at the bottom of the ocean.
Above: Trawler Samples from the Pacific Gyre
The North Pacific Gyre is an enormous expanse of ocean and represents the largest climatic system on Earth. It is a circulation of currents that is roughly the size and area of Africa, or 10,000,000 sq. miles and the currents along its periphery take approximately six years to complete one cycle.  As a result of these enormous circular currents, garbage and more specifically plastics have aggregated into 2 very distinct patches – the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Western Garbage Patch.
Map provided by NOAA at www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/patch.html
In addition to the North Pacific Gyre, a total of five Gyres have been discovered in the world’s oceans all of which are seeing enormous aggregates of garbage and plastic accumulating in them.
Map provided by 5 Gyres at www.5gyres.org
The consequence of this garbage in the ocean is devastating to aquatic life and represents a greater, long-term, biohazard than even the worst oil spill in history.
The hazardous nature of plastic is because the decomposition of plastic, depending on the type, can take between 20 – 1000 years for its physical composition to decompose into the individual micro-polymers it is made up of. Complicating the issue is the way plastic decomposes. Plastic is not “bio”-degradable. It is not devoured by bacteria, mold, or fungi like organic matter is. Plastics, viewed at the level of its chemical bonds, are polymer chains (multiple links) created from monomer (single) hydrocarbon molecules that degrade through a process referred to as “photo-degradation,” a process in which the absorption of light, or more specifically, photons of light cause a chain or matrix of molecules to break apart. Ultraviolet light weakens the polymer chains until they break, which is why we see the confetti-like microplastics found in the ocean. Each break in these chains causes the release of hazardous, bio-toxic chemicals such as dioxins, mercury, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCB’s.
As the plastic degrades into smaller and smaller polymers, this “confetti” becomes “neustonic,” meaning it is now “bio-available” to sea animals, or small enough to be ingested, and can enter the digestive tract of sea animals that eat it.
The images below illustrate how small these plastic particulates, known as “micro-plastic,” can be. Without exception, these microplastics can be found on every shoreline worldwide and are so small that they are virtually indistinguishable from the granules of sand themselves. By simply taking a handful of sand and dumping it into a bucket of water, one will see the sand (which is essentially natural glass) sink to the bottom and the tiny pieces of plastic confetti float to the surface. Recently, microplastics have even been found in sea ice at the poles according to the UNEP. Sadly, their presence is very pervasive.
But not all of these microplastics are the end product of photodegradation. In the last decade, numerous companies jumped on the bandwagon touting the benefits of the tiny polymer microbeads as “polishing agents” or “exfoliating agents” in their toothpaste, gels, facial soaps, and body scrubs. What makes these so problematic is the fact that most municipal water systems aren’t equipped to remove or filter these microbeads out of the water so they end up in our streams, rivers, and oceans, having devastating effects on aquatic life.
Compounding the problem is the presence of “micro-fibers” that end up in our waterways, marine ecosystems, and ultimately our oceans, as our clothes, made of synthetic fibers such as acrylic and nylon breakdown in our washing machines. By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, ecologist Mark Brown estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans. 
Following his research, Mark Brown shared his findings with the largest outdoor apparel companies that are big purveyors of synthetic plastics, looking for their support in changing industry standards with the hopes of producing more durable materials that would produce fewer microplastics. He approached companies like Patagonia, NIKE, and Polartec, but none of these companies agreed to lend their support.
And that brings us to the problem: Eventually, all these polymers break into pieces so small that they are invisible to the naked eye (thus the film on the surface of the water and translucent or opaque appearance throughout the water to various depths) but are never truly gone. They’ve simply degraded to the microscopic level, but are very toxic and profoundly more hazardous to the environment and to every species, including us. With no government or legal protocols governing the manufacture of such products in place, the burden falls to us as consumers to make better choices when choosing what products to purchase and to avoid the purchase of these kinds of products.
SO HOW DOES THIS AFFECT US?
Most of the plastic in the gyre is roughly the same size as krill and plankton that sea animals feed upon, so it is very common for it to be mistaken as a food source and ingested. Because of its toxicity, the ratio of plastic to plankton is a very important ratio to keep track of in taking measurements of this particular debris in the ocean.
In the span of 10 years, with the first samples being taken in 1999 by Captain Charles Moore and a team of researchers, and the last samples being taken in the year 2009, the ratio of plastic to plankton went from a 6:1 ratio to a 36:1 ratio. The bioavailability of this plastic to sea animals is now six times what it was just 10 years ago, and sadly, this trend is not abating. Currently, of the 8 million tons of trash that are going into our oceans every year, 80% of this trash is coming from land and the other 20% coming from ships and platforms in the ocean such as oil drilling platforms and cruise-liners. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and Edward Humes, author of Garbology, “the weight of plastic finding its way into the sea each year is estimated to be equivalent to the weight of 40 aircraft carriers.” 
If the threat was only to sea creatures, that would be bad enough. But now, the threat is to all of us and our children.
In a story that only karma could write, the plastic we manufacture, purchase, and have grown accustomed to carelessly throwing away, is the very plastic creating a whole myriad of previously unforeseen and soon to be dire consequences for us.
Once degrading to the molecular level, the plastic ingested by fish and sea animals is absorbed into their bloodstream and tissues. This is where the insidious nature of plastic’s slow and unique demise of breaking down into smaller and smaller polymers, combined with our throwaway mentality, comes full circle. In what could be seen as almost an “act of justice” for our complete disregard for the environment, is now jeopardizing our long-term survival as a species on this planet.
Studies performed at the University of California – Santa Barbara, revealed the unthinkable. Devastating to consider, these studies have now found that these microscopic polymers once ingested diffuse into the tissues of fish and other animals where they can remain for months and can accumulate in the blood cells themselves. The problem with this is that the plastic contains persistent biochemically toxic concentrations, approximately 1,000,000 times greater than that found in seawater. 
Ultimately, these sea animals that are part of our food chain are now serving as a vector, in a negative feedback loop for humans, allowing these bio-toxins to be absorbed by humans ingesting them. These microscopic particles of plastic cannot be cooked out of the meat. Most disturbing about this finding is that prior to recent studies; experts believed that it would be impossible for plastic to be passed from species to species and find its way up the food chain. To the surprise of the researchers, not only did we find it was possible, but what we discovered was that as the polymers became smaller and smaller the more the rate of transfer from one species to the next increased. In other words, the smaller the polymers become the more they are absorbed and the more hazardous they become, infecting each species as it consumes the other.
In a study done in Singapore, scientists purchased fish in every single market in order to study the possibility of plastic being passed through the food chain. What their research uncovered was devastating. In every fish they sampled they found dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, which are used in plastic manufacturing. It is also found in the lining of canned food as an epoxy and a rust inhibitor which is leaching into the canned food itself and has serious health effects. It is an endocrine disruptor and can change hormone levels in people. Beyond that, they have also been tied to heart disease.
The reason we are seeing so many plastics in the oceans is that of our “Culture of Convenience,” which utilizes single-use plastics for everything. Single-use plastic is fantastic from an economic standpoint because their use warrants the need to always make more. More plastic, more money! But from an ecological standpoint, this approach to business is a system that is horribly flawed and inherently unsustainable. We cannot continue taking from a finite system and expect it to keep producing for us forever, while we’re using plastic items for a few minutes and then throwing them away.
AN INVISIBLE CONCERN
Walking along our beaches worldwide where more and more plastic is washing up every single year, one may be convinced, living in our own garbage is something we have just come to except. As mentioned earlier, because the North Pacific Gyre is not an island of trash, but rather more like a soup of plastic confetti that’s very diffuse, this is confusing for the public to understand the threat this poses, because of the fact that we can’t really see most of it. Despite the fact that there are environmental groups, think tanks, and scientist screaming with a sense of urgency to begin solving this problem, the prevailing mentality is, “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist.”
If in fact there was an island of trash that we could walk across there may be more of a public urgency to fix the problem. But when we see blue seas with very few pieces of actual physical debris, it tends to be very deceptive and lulls us into a state of apathy, thinking the issue is nothing to be alarmed about.
It’s unfortunate but that is, in fact, the very surreptitious nature of the plastic problem. If we could just see all of the plastic we would probably be inclined to go out and begin cleaning it up. What is invisible to the naked eye is where the real problem exists.
Using a plankton net trawler, to sift through the ocean water in order to obtain samples, what researchers have discovered is very alarming. Over 500 samples have been taken throughout the five gyres around the globe and of all of those samples, only two came back with no plastic in them. This is a globally pervasive problem in which our entire oceans are becoming infused with plastic.
Plankton Net Trawlers
IMPACT ON MARINE LIFE
As a result of our use and subsequent discarding of plastics, over 350,000 marine mammals are killed each and every year by either eating plastic or by becoming entangled in it, including dolphins, whales, sea lions, seals, along with countless species of fish.
“Despite appearances, this is not designer beachwear for aquatic animals!”
Approximately 100,000 sea turtles are killed every year by attempting to ingest plastic bags which are mistaken for their main source of food, jellyfish, and over 1.2 million sea birds die every year from ingesting plastic. 
Photo provided by National Geographic at www.tommtaylor.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/digital-image-creation
Over 1,000,000 seabirds die annually from ingesting plastic.
Currently, 663 Species of sea animals (2/3rd’s of aquatic life) have been identified as being adversely affected by the presence of plastic in our oceans. But in truth, every organism in the ocean is affected by the presence of this plastic, in every depth of the ocean. We are finding microplastic in krill and all the way up through the food chain in the bellies of fish, seals, whales, and seabirds.
Plastic has truly become the deadliest predator in the oceans.
Images provide by ENV at www.tomnotman.com
To illustrate this point, in January of this year, a Pilot whale washed up on the beach in Lanai, Hawaii. The whale was completely intact but somehow its stomach had come out of its body and was lying on the sand. In opening the stomach, they discovered the whale had ingested over 20 lbs. of plastic.
A sperm whale washed up on the shores of Spain and a necropsy was performed in order to determine what caused its death. Beyond belief, scientists discovered over 400 pounds of plastic in its belly. 
Photo provided by Inquisitr at www.inquisitr.com/561291/whale-death-caused-by-eating-plastic
Once inside the sea animals, the animal is doomed because plastic itself cannot be broken down and most of it cannot pass through the digestive tract of the animal.
Dozens of species are going extinct and disappearing from the planet forever because of us. Today we are currently seeing the greatest die-off of species on the planet since the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Plastic in the environment has literally reached a tipping point and if not addressed will be the catalyst in the extinction of countless sea species.
To show how pervasive the problem of plastic has become, in 2013 photographer Chris Jordan documented our debilitating effect on even the most remote ecosystem in the world, Midway Island. What he discovered was nothing short of appalling. In Seabirds on the island of Midway, more than 2,000 miles away from any inhabitable continent, he found shorelines covered in plastic items and countless birds carcasses with bellies full of plastic.
How much plastic is out there? It’s astounding! Over 20,000 tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway Island every year, with 5,000 tons of debris being fed by mothers to their chicks. As a result, 1/3rd of these chicks will die of plastic ingestion before ever reaching adulthood. To view a four-minute trailer for his movie, click on the link provided here.
By the year 2050 society is going to add an additional 33 billion tons of plastic to the oceans.  To say this is problematic would be an understatement because as for now, we still are not entirely sure where even half of the plastic goes, which is approximately 15 billion tons of plastic unaccounted for.
Marine Biologist Dr. Andrea Neal, studied what happens when microbes come in contact with plastic polymers and waste debris in our oceans, as well as studying the degradation rate and effects of these polymers breaking down in the oceans.
UV light interacting with these polymers changes the surface charge of the polymers, making them a favorable environment for microbial life. Even more insidious than this, is the fact that the UV light changes the actual structure of the carbon groups in these polymers.
“Because we get about 98% of our carbon from dissolved carbon in ocean water if we are changing the structure of carbon at its most basic level and we are in fact changing the very building blocks of life itself. Because the oceans are so vast, the tendency is to believe that they are somewhat impervious to the effects of our neglect. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that the oceans are in fact an incredibly delicate and fragile system. The smallest changes in temperature can affect the ocean’s conveyor belt, the smallest changes in the chemistry or pH of the ocean can kill massive numbers of species.
For example, studies recently discovered that the sunscreen people wear into the ocean have killed off entire coral reefs. With respect to Global Warming, we have changed the temperature of the ocean so dramatically since the birth of the Industrial Revolution that now over 50% of the world’s coral reef ecology has disappeared.”
Dr. Andrea Neal, CEO of Blue Ocean Sciences 
OUR DYING OCEANS
Oceans today are on the brink. They are suffering from so many stressors, that we have begun to see their decline to such an extent that the demise of the oceans as a life support system is becoming inevitable. Samples taken every day of the ocean reveal an entire menagerie of issues we must now confront, including increased acidification of the oceans, radioactive waste and radioactive heavy metals still leaking into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since March 11th 2011, oil spills, radar, and most pronounced and pervasive, is PLASTIC!
Photo provided by KUWAITIFUL at www.kuwaitiful.com/information/beach-pollution
How does this impact us? It impacts everything starting with carbon, oxygen, the food we eat, the water we drink, and more. It affects every aspect of our lives. If we do not change what we are doing to the ocean, we are literally destroying the building blocks of life itself.
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
SOCRATES once said, “people get the government, they deserve.” I’m going to extend that concept by saying people get the government, the society, and the world they deserve. To put it more bluntly.
“WE” Are The Issue!!!
Photos provided by GREENPEACE at www.greenpeace.org
The world is a reflection of who we are, and what the world is reflecting back to us is that most of us are in a deep slumber and have been lulled to sleep by an entertainment complex that has kept us very distracted and very uninformed as to what the real issues are in the world. The real news is superseded by the superficial. The real issues are not what is going on in “Hollyweird,” nor is it what is taking place on Capitol Hill, in corporations, or abroad.
We can fight with the politicians. We can fight with the corporations. We can march in the streets with banners and have clean up rock campaigns with the hopes of changing the world. But the bottom line is, the world will never change until we as individuals change.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
The very corporations and the very government we march against are the very corporations and the very government that we vote for each and every day with the choices we make. Every dollar we spend we are voting for the world the way it is. The lifeblood of each and every corporation, bank and government is money. We have it, and they want.
I, like many, would love to think that, somewhere a crackpot team of scientists will figure out how to fix the issues we face. I would love to think technology will fix everything. But until companies begin producing products that are environmentally safe, the burden is on us to “choose” as educated consumers and make better choices.
The environmentally irresponsible and neglectful corporate entities doing the well-documented damage to our ecosystems are monsters that we’ve created through complacency, convenience, and in our choosing to support them through the purchasing of their products. They have morphed collectively into a leviathan that is now devouring the planet. The only power corporations can exert over us is the power we give them by choosing their products and services.
Let’s ask a simple question. Why does any business fail? It’s because people have chosen to spend their money elsewhere. We support corporations by choosing their products and services. Likewise, our lack of support puts them out of business. Simply put, as consumers, we can starve the corporations that are ecologically irresponsible by spending our money elsewhere. In doing so, we’re cutting off their revenue stream and those corporations will either adapt to the new demand created by consumers or they go out of business.
If collectively we chose to stop buying bottled water, they would have no choice but to discontinue the manufacturing of it. If we collectively chose to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store, they would have no choice but to discontinue production. If we do not like what a bank is doing with our money, simply pull your money out and move it elsewhere. The collective action of 314 million Americans is more than any government policy could ever hope to implement, change, or influence.
Through our ignorance and our arrogance, we have neglected the planet on such an unprecedented scale that now we are stepping into the essence, the power, and magnitude of who we truly are. No one wants to look into the mirror and admit to themselves that they are the problem because ultimately that would require us to look at the consequences of what it is we each have done in taking the future away from our children. And it is being taken away!
Hope lies in the fact that there is an awakening occurring in small pockets of humanity, where individuals and small groups are truly beginning to reconnect with nature. People are slowly beginning to rediscover our relationship with the natural world. What we are finally starting to realize is that there is no one steering the ship, there are no leaders moving us in a positive direction, and they’re certainly not to be found in Washington D.C. or in the corporate entities on Wall Street.
Because we are a society of people immersed in the business of our daily lives fulfilling our own personal obligations and responsibilities, the “bigger picture” is something that eludes us. And why wouldn’t it? These issues aren’t talked about in the media. Subsequently, there is very little concern about our collective impact on the planet as a society. As a result, very few have awakened to the horror of what we doing to our home.
Today, we are beginning to eat the very plastic we throw away. Few have truly begun working towards what benefits the whole of humanity. There are only small pockets of heroes choosing to champion the cause of protecting the planet from our continued neglect, and those that do are often written off as “tree huggers” supporting “hippie causes.”
We cannot continue blaming society for all the ills we are now confronting. Now is the time for each of us to step into the essence of who we are and the world we’ve created. Now is the time to restore our relationship with ourselves, with each other, with the earth, and the universe.
Now is the time to begin speaking out for life. Not for the businesses or the banks on Wall Street . . . . . for the ecology of the planet, not the economy! It’s time to become advocates and heroes for Earth. Can you think of a better cause? Can you imagine having a better circle of friends than those willing to save Earth as an endowment for future generations?
RESTORING OUR PLANET
So how do we go about the task of restoring the planet? By first realizing that in killing our ecosystems, we are ultimately cannibalizing the planet that provides for us and bringing about our own demise and every other species. Recognizing that fact first, choose to begin Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, Refusing, and Reclaiming our independence from our dependence on corporations and blind submission to corporate interests.
Recycling is in and of itself, NOT enough . . . .
As a result of the Earth Day Movement, so many corporate killers have jumped on board to present products in a way that is referred to as “Greenwashing” the public mind. They take on the appearance of helping the environment, and provide citizens with a way to feel good about themselves for recycling, while simultaneously contributing to the problem. Remember, plastic never truly goes away.
As a consideration, let’s ask the obvious question. How can we expect any company, whose main product and therefore profit involves the production of plastic bottles, whether for water, soft drinks, alcohol, cleaning product, etc. to claim that they are for the environment when in fact they are the leading source of the problem? As we’ve discovered, even in recycling plastic bottles a percentage of it ultimately finds its way back into the environment, back into the oceans, back into the food chain, and ultimately back into our diet where it begins to create a whole host of health problems.
This is really an ethical issue for all of us in considering our children and the condition we’re going to leave the world in for them to inherit. Companies do not have a moral conscience when it comes to the “Economics of commerce” which is why the “Ecology of Commerce,” which involves understanding that everything we buy means they’re going to have to deplete more natural resources in order to make more of it, is not considered. It is rarely considered in the marketplace, which is predicated on the manufacturing of things with “planned obsolescence” as part of its design so that what is purchased will fail or to be used once and thrown away in order to keep selling more of it and making sure stockholders are making money. It is very disheartening, and a very sad commentary indeed, that money is far more important than the environment.
As a glowing exception to this model, when France and Australia were faced with the increasing number of plastic bottles ending up on beaches and in and around their cities, they decided on a very simple and environmentally responsible solution. For once an ethical decision was made to put the environment ahead of profiteering. By ethical, I’m referring to the fact that a society collectively looked forward to what it was they were leaving behind for future generations and changed their habits and the infrastructure of their society for the better. They stopped producing plastic bottles and instead created drinking stations for people, which forced citizens to begin using reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bottles.
The most effective technique any of us can employ in solving the problem is to refuse to use anything that is wrapped, sold, or marketed, with plastic or at the very least dramatically reduce our use of plastic items. This may be impossible, but we can make huge strides in diminishing our use of plastics. We are as much of a contributor to the problem as is any business or industry manufacturing plastic products. To give this argument some weight consider just for a moment the direct and indirect costs of bottled water.
Everything we do, every choice we make, every action we take counts. Understand, that everything you purchase means they’re going to make more of it. Reach for the glass bottle or do you reach for the plastic bottle of water? The glass bottle of water is far less damaging to the environment than the plastic.
Choosing to throw anything plastic on the ground carries with it the possibility that it could find its way into a storm drain or sewage drain, find its way to the rivers, and ultimately end up at sea. The single action of choosing to dispose of it properly could save countless animals lives, including our own. If we see garbage on the ground and choose to walk past it, the very act of picking up that plastic bottle or plastic item could make all the difference in the world.
The reality is, we are always at choice. We’re allowed to ask for biodegradable products. We’re allowed to say no to the Styrofoam cup. We’re allowed to say no to plastic cups and bottles. We’re allowed to say no to the plastic grocery bag, and on and on.
Prevention is the key.
What we cannot afford to do is walk through life with the misguided belief that someone, somewhere is going to figure it all out and that someone other than our self is going to save the planet. It is all of us making better choices that will create a much better future for our children.
The only way to confront the issue of global pollution and the increasing amount of plastic in the environment is with the choices we make every day. Every day we vote with our dollars in determining what it is we choose to purchase. If we stop purchasing items containing plastic or wrapped in plastic, sales decrease and manufacturers begin looking into alternative ways to meet a specific need.
“Plastic now runs our lives . . . . We’ve always been told that if we would just recycle and throw trash away responsibly, everything will be okay. The lie that is built into that, is the fact that there is no place called “AWAY.” There is no place to really throw things away. Litter isn’t the issue. The issue is the manufacturing and use of plastics in the first place and the fact that this stuff doesn’t degrade. It doesn’t go “AWAY.”
What kind of egotism is it that we have as a society, that we’re willing to use something once, for five minutes, and then turn around and simply throw it into this magical place called “AWAY.” It is going to here long after we are all gone, and even much longer than when are great, great, great, grandchildren are gone, and all the while it will only continue to degrade into toxins and pollution that will continue to harm the environment, harm us, and harm our children for generations to come.
Dean Jordan PhD, Dean of Political Psychology, International University for Graduate Studies. 
CHOICES WE CAN MAKE . . . .
REFUSE TO USE ANY PLASTIC BAGS!!!! The average American throws away over 500 plastic bags annually.
STOP PURCHASING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!!!! Instead, use reusable water bottles. Companies like BRITA and BOBBLE make reusable water bottles with carbon filters for drinking pure filtered water. Each filter can filter the equivalent of 300-350 water bottles.
AVOID THE USE OF ANY TOOTHPASTE, GEL, FACIAL WASH, OR BODY SCRUB CONTAINING PLASTIC “MICRO BEADS!!!!”
AVOID THE USE OF POLYSTYRENE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STYROFOAM)
WHEN SHOPPING!!!! Bring your own bags with you. Whether shopping at the grocery store or shopping at the MALL, bringing your own bags prevents plastic from ever having a chance of finding its way back into the environment.
WHEN SHIPPING!!!! USE “ECO-FRIENDLY” BIO-DEGRADABLE (VEGETABLE BASED) PACKAGING PEANUTS AND OTHER PACKAGING MATERIALS. These are packaging materials made of starch, that to dispose of can simply have water added to them, where they dissolve entirely and pose no threat to the environment.
Ultimately the choice is ours!
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MAY 30, 2014
SCIENTISTS CONSIDER NEW NAMES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
BY ANDY BOROWITZ
NEW HAVEN (The Borowitz Report)—After a report from the Yale Center on Climate Change Communication showed that the term “climate change” elicits relatively little concern from the American public, leading scientists are recommending replacing it with a new term: “You will be burnt to a crisp and die.”
Other terms under consideration by the scientists include “your cities will be ravaged by tsunamis and floods” and “earth will be a fiery hellhole incapable of supporting human life.”
Scientists were generally supportive of the suggestions, with many favoring the term “your future will involve rowing a boat down a river of rotting corpses.”
“Any of these terms would do a better job conveying the urgency of the problem,” Tracy Klugian, a spokesperson for the newly renamed Yale Center for Oh My God Wake Up You Assholes, said.
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Photograph by Mike Olbinski Photography/Corbis.