This summer, my main “spiritual project” has been to fully be the now moment at any given moment. Sounds like an easy task. But in reality, this was much, much harder than anticipated. After delving into some serious self-reflection, I realized that my blockage of the now moment came not from getting into the present moment, but rather staying within it. Why was it so hard to stay in the now moment? Too many distractions.
It seems as though there are a million different things that tempt us and sway us away from the now moment. In earlier times, our minds themselves were pretty effective at keeping us thinking somewhere else. But in the 21st century, we’ve even expanded our range of distractions to al list that can easily fill the rest of this week’s post. Movies, Music, TV, Internet, Social Media…all conveniently located at the tips of our fingers to distract us even quicker, even more efficiently. With every hit new song to the top viewed channel on YouTube, every little thing is constantly fighting for our focus. By giving up our highest intention to pay the lowest attention to some lackluster entertainment, we distract ourselves from the most important thing there is: now.
To fully understand what’s occurring in our minds, we find ourselves asking some very interesting questions, with some equally interesting responses. So, we ask and respond: why do we continuously choose to occupy our mind with distractions instead of living in the glorious and infinite present moment?
Boredom. We are taught to fear the blank spaces in our lives. Whether it be of time or of silence, peaceful nothingness has virtually become shunned in our society. More and more in this day and age, we seem to have a ‘default’ noisy mental state. We fill up every corner of our mind with something, just so we are not confronted with that uncomfortable feeling of pure oblivion. When we begin to feel that nothingness, we look for anything to fill that space, even if it isn’t real. We play movies in our minds, with the film reeling the stories of our past, or the dreams of our future. For better or for worse, we take this time to pass judgment and make expectation, either about the newest post on Facebook to the upcoming channel on Youtube. By constantly fixating on the images of yesterday and tomorrow, we find that we really don’t have time for anything else. And so, our minds have adapted to never being nothing.
Now, the question remains: why are we so afraid of nothingness?
In a nutshell, we are afraid of being mindless. As seen across the ages, we value our thought power so much we forget (or ignore) how misleading our thoughts can be. We are so attached to our thoughts that we often don’t even realize just how meaningless 99% of our thoughts are. In our unparalleled attachment to our minds, we far too often let our minds define Who We Are and What We Wish To Be. All too frequently, this leads to a false image of the self being created – one that is entirely based on your past physical history. Further, if your mind is unhappy with the false self it has created, then it will hope that in the future something happens that changes that definition. The ego in the mind craves every little detail (past or future) to remind itself of Who It Is – at the expense of your attention AND awareness.
Unfortunately, for the ego-bound mind, it cannot define itself Now. If all that exists is the present moment, then the ego itself has no basis of comparison to make its judgments or expectations. Without giving our minds the time to be subject to the ego’s whims, we have the space to experience ourselves in our truest form. Because, What could possibly be more important than Now?
The element of distraction certainly has seemed pretty elemental to our society – but it doesn’t have to be. By choosing to be mind-less, a deeper and higher voice can be heard. Just watch your thoughts for ONE DAY, and you will begin to understand what they are. Begin to see through the distractions, of past and future, and unwrap for yourself the greatest gift of all. The present.
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
The Boy Scouts of America has a new face. On May 23, 2013, the organization decided to openly accept members of the gay community into their ranks. With this measure, all boys, regardless of sexual orientation, will be allowed to be proud scout members. By facing such a monumental change, the BSA is showing the country and the world that they are prepared to be a part of an open society to all those who wish to be included.
Unfortunately, this is a face that not everyone agrees with. With every push forward, there seems to be another pull from behind. Across the country, the new motion by the BSA has been return with some serious backlash…from nowhere else but the Church itself. As a result of this new policy, many churches, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, and (possibly) the Roman Catholic Church, are deciding to sever their ties with the BSA completely. With nearly 70% of troops being supported by religious organizations and over 47,000 of these organizations wishing to withdraw their support from the BSA, these decisions made by the church will displace millions upon millions of youth looking to be a part of something greater than themselves.
With this in mind, what could possibly possess these religious intuitions to take such a stance? As any institution goes, it’s from fear of change. At all levels of those who object to this motion, fear runs deep in their words. As remark by Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee and advocate for the continuation of the gay scout ban, “We don’t hate people, we don’t hate anybody, but we just felt like there’s got be some objective standard, and we felt they were maintaining that until recently.” Also, noted by Tim Hester, executive pastor for the Southeastern Christ Church with over 300 of its members involved in scouts, “We want everyone, including ourselves, to live by biblical standards. We cannot be distracted from the mission God has called us to.” And finally, in an official statement released by the Assemblies of God, “we believe that the BSA policy change will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program, as Assemblies of God and many other churches can no longer support groups that are part of an organization allowing members who are openly homosexual.” Notice a pattern?
In all three of these statements, the same themes run through all: standards, missions, and a terrible prophecy. No matter if it is the BSA’s new policy or any other challenge to a religious institution, the need to maintain the social order (by the means of standards) is reinforced by some moral duty/obligation (by the means of missions) and of a message of doom for all those who follow this new path (by the means of a terrible prophecy). If this sounds familiar, it should, because ALL institutions (religious, economic, political) have been using this same formula to keep their members in fear and their own numbers in check. In its current regeneration, we see this playing out with the Boy Scouts. But when will it stop?
Until these institutions are willing to let go of their fear and accept their changing world, this cycle will continue. While living in their own fear, the only thing that they have chosen to accept is that they are becoming even more fearful of the world around them. Until the Church’s level of acceptance of change and for change will change, they will continue to see more people tuning out of their congregation and tuning in to another message that is more open to new idea, new interpretation, and new thought. By limiting their expression, they have limited their own growth. And THAT is their own cross to bear. Unless…they accept the changing times and ideas.
I’ve never been a GLBT rights activist, but I accept that people should love in the highest expression of their love. Though it is different from the way I know and the lifestyle that I have chosen, I accept that there are different ways to live, and different ways to love. In these days of such rapid change, I accept that my level of acceptance is changing as well. Right now, I have friends who are awaiting to become Eagle Scouts. They have readied themselves for the obstacles ahead – in their own lives and in society. As these hard working boys, with the other 2.7 million youth members, 1.1 million adult volunteers, and 110,000 troop units comprise the BSA, they are willing to accept the challenge. Though the Church may not, there are some who are prepared to change. Are You Prepared?
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
In the past few weeks, I was given the opportunity to be one of the two student scholar speakers at my commencement ceremony. I knew that giving the speech would be easy, but writing it would be extremely difficult. Through The Global Conversation, I have been used to writing to a very aware, very attuned audience. However, I knew my graduating class hadn’t been as into their greatest version of their greatest vision of themselves. So how to compromise? With some spiritual SWAG.
For many of the teens reading this, swag is probably the last thing they would associate with spirituality. Besides being one of the biggest culture slangs of this decade, swag has taken up many different meanings. But in its simplest form, all swag means is “the way one presents oneself”, which sounds A LOT like “the way one projects their state of being”. Does it sound spiritual now?
The point of swag is to outwardly display that inner state of oneness and beingness. And, it’s totally easy. So easy, that it can be broken down to a four letter acronym (using s, w, a, and g, of course). And here it is:
First, S for Style. We are all unique souls on our own unique journey with our own unique purpose. There is no single ‘right’ way; there is only the way that we choose. So, choose to make it yours. Personalize it with your own elaborations. Feel more attuned to Taoism than Buddhism? That’s fine. Feel like science explains spirituality better than metaphysics? That’s fine too. No matter how or what you believe, have your own personal spirituality, because with it, you will always be closer to your source.
Next, W for Wonder. We never stop wondering, even when our traditional classroom setting may end. For when we wonder, we question; and when we question, well, that’s when things really start to happen. When was your greatest expansion in thought, when you decided to just take on distorted beliefs or when you wondered if there was more to the picture? Always expand the boundaries, of consciousness and awareness, to understand even more of Who You Are.
Also, A for Accept. On our spiritual journeys, we will encounter challenges and obstacles that hardly seem ideal, but are aligned with our greater purpose. Sometimes we don’t understand why we don’t get the perfect grade, get the perfect job, get the perfect relationship. Once we accept that there is a deeper reason for what is happening, we can explore why it is happening and how this happening contributes to our spiritual evolution. For when we accept the fact, we can detach from the fact, and then understand the fact from an entirely new perspective. As long as you accept that new perspective.
Finally, G for Go. Go out there and never stop finding out who you are. Go explore, go discover, go out and constantly recreate your greatest vision. Some have said that staying in a static state is the closest thing the soul can experience to death. Go and expand your vision, and expand your awareness. You will never regret it.
With these ideas, we can project ourselves and our own spirituality in a way that truly promotes our unique journey. Once others recognize your ‘swag’, they will find it in themselves as well. And so the spiritual process goes on and on and on.
Using the same acronym, I presented these ideas to my graduating class, though using a bit more ‘Fenton High School’ oriented ideas and themes. Regardless, my final paragraph rings true here the same as it did in my gym:
“So, with a little bit of Style, Wonder, Acceptance, and Go in our steps, we are ready to walk out of here and rise as leaders of this brave new world with S-W-A-G swag. Though our emergence may not be as monumental as The Harlem Shake, it can be just as dynamic. It is now our choice, of whether the world will rule us, or if we will rule the world. So let’s go out there, let’s emerge with our heads held high and our spirits even higher. We ARE the class of 2013, and we got swag.”
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
For many of us, this Sunday (and the Sundays yet to come in May) marks the end of a very significant chapter in our life. Graduation for many of us is right here, giving us the promise of new hopes, new dreams, and new visions. In this very, very exciting time, though, we not only look forward to what is yet to come, but also remember what has come to pass.
Though it may seem a little nostalgic, take some time BEFORE graduation to remember what your greatest version of your grandest vision you had about Who You Are was in high school. For when we look forward, it is just as important to remember where we came from to continue to create and enhance that vision. We all had a dream, a goal, an ideal, and along our journey, we fulfilled them. So, think to yourself, “In High School, I wanted to…” and see just how far you have come.
For the sake of getting started, I have posted my own response below to the statement above. Though everyone’s journey IS different, I would LOVE to hear what you all have thought of your journey in high school in the comments below. For when we create a vision, AND share that vision, things really start to change. So without any further ado:
In High School I wanted to….
Learn to love it all. I love math, but I also, above all, love writing. Creating a sense of balance AND understanding of both the concrete and the abstract has been a pivotal point of my high school experience. As many believe that the arts and sciences remain in completely different domains, I have found the Middle Path. Incorporating both scientific analysis and artistic solutions has expressed many opportunities that would have gone unseen and unnoticed. By knowing both sides of the spectrum, the latent potential to be great and do great is forever being manifested. With great guidance from all those who have helped me along my journey (family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc.), I learned to create that balance. With this equilibrium, I will be ready for all the challenges of creating a New Cultural Story. For an example on how I have achieved that, I included a poem that I wrote in 2012, called The Human Element:
They say that matter
cannot be created
nor can it be destroyed.
They gave us these rules
to bring supreme logic
into our world of chaos.
They called it science
and wrote all of life
as stated definition.
But there is far more
than conscripted degree
and laboratory principle.
There are the moments
that can break its course
and tear fabric of reality.
For when conscience
enters the equation
all parts are variable.
The human element
arises from the hot heart
and melts cold discipline.
It challenges time itself
to see if our emotions
travel the speed of light.
This new reaction
removes the rational
and adds the relational.
It bends our very limits
Serving not to be bound
by any delicate formula.
This compound isn’t new
but has been here longer
than science or man himself.
For this part stems back
to the original periodic table
where both fire and water once ruled.
A time when nature
could bring men together
even in their darkest hours.
A place where love
had stopped wars from starting
or from sides being drawn.
A thought which soared
not from calculation
but from within the soul.
For then men listened
to their hearts and their spirits
to govern their actions.
But when man found law
he forgot to order humanity
in his hierarchy of desires.
And so he blindly mixed
compounds of fear and conceit
into imbalanced solutions.
There is much man has done
in the cold name of science
that has cost him his brother.
But when science is warmed
by the element of humanity
all is at balance again.
For in this modern day
we ourselves must emote
as much as we do examine.
Aware of the new order
we realize that our mind
is over our matter.
So as you complete your high school career, remember that vision what you wished to be, and how that has now created Who You Are. Share your journey, share your vision, and share your story. All it requires is a little time to look back.
Welcome to the 21st century. A time when iPhones dominate the land, and Twitter is found in every environment. This is the Digital Age; where everything is striving to be better, faster, and even more user-friendly.
At the center of this New Age is the Internet, which, some have arguably stated, is the most powerful force in this era, or even any era. It has shown itself to be the creator and the destroyer of the greatest mechanisms (politics, economics, science, and religion) of our culture. By having the power to affect politics systems, economic transactions, science discoveries, and religious movements all at the same time, the Internet has changed the very fabric of our society.
With so much influence in our lives, we have reached the conundrum:
Does the Internet have a soul?
As the Internet continues to expand, we do notice that it has a mass body of users and certainly a mind of its own. The spirit does have its place, and that place is everywhere. By understanding the thought and the science behind this marvel, the Internet becomes something that does have a higher meaning.
In psychological terms, the Internet draws a strong parallel to the collective consciousness. As by Carl Jung’s standards, collective consciousness is a source of high humanistic intelligence that is available for access by anyone at any time. Sound familiar? Both are nonphysical sources, and both are a storehouse for culminated information that transcends its so far limited lifespan. Through both mind and matter, the Internet has manifested a physical presence through virtual activity. And it keeps going and growing.
Also, in scientific theory, the Internet is also far more than just the sum of its parts. Though it may just be a vast amount of numerical computer code, the words it creates and the meaning it gives transcend its simple state. What are we but an infinite amount of coding, assembled and arranged just right, so that we can express thoughts and discuss ideas? On the atomic level, we are not more than just an interesting combination of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. But it’s about what those mere elements combine into that makes us incredible. Light and energy – spanning across time and space – has created the action and reaction that we see in our lives every day.
Through both mind and reason, we have transformed the Internet into something that has a spirit. We have given the Internet that “human element”, with a different type of embodiment. Though not everything on the Internet is even close to being in its highest spiritual form, its availability into a larger world with “big picture” ideas fuels its growth and development, as well as our own.
If you don’t feel as though the Internet is still without a soul, or having a very weak presence, then create it yourself. Make a comment rooted in your highest thought when everyone else’s are not. Make your spiritual presence known, so that it can be experienced by others across the country, and even across the world. Let yourself, and your laptop, be a part of that virtual collective consciousness.
As made apparent, The Global Conversation is our attempt to further manifest the soul of the Internet. Our ideas, merely words typed across our laptop to be read on your smartphone or monitor, is a transmission of light, both in the physical and spiritual sense. From status to message, each word, phrase, and post sparks a higher intention and a higher purpose. For on the network, even oneness can be found. Just send me its URL.
When we think of Buddhism, we usually visualize the calm ebbing peace of monks in meditation, prayer, and a state of reverence. However, when I scrolled through the main page of BBC News, I found quite the opposite. Instead of advocating non-violence, Buddhist monks were reported to be leading hate crimes and mob activities against the Muslim community, which has resulted in destruction of property, displacement, and death. These radical actions have occurred in primarily two countries separated by an entire ocean: Sri Lanka and Burma.
In the country of Sri Lanka, a new extremist Buddhist monk group, called the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, also called the Buddhist Strength Force) has risen. Extending their bitterness over their own civil war involving the Tamil Muslims in the early 1990s, the BBS has taken apart of various radical activities, including burning down Muslim homes, removing cultural programs, and attacks on mosques. These activities have been highly supported by the Sinhala Buddhist centered government of Sri Lanka, as the Secretary of Defense (and the president’s brother) has advocated the BBS and stated that “it is the monks who protect our country, religion, and race. No one should doubt these clergy. We are here to give you encouragement.” While the reports from Sri Lanka were disturbing, the reports from Burma are even more unsettling. In the Rakhine State, over 40 Rohingya Muslims (considered to be the most persecuted minority in the world) have been killed and over 12,000 have left their homes in fear as a result of Buddhist monk actions. With a very fragile democracy, massive corruption of the state and the police system has led to sympathy with the Rakhine Buddhist majority and their displays of public hostility, which has only encouraged more violence and bitterness to continue.
How does this happen? How do these actions even remotely represent the wisdom of Buddha’s being? The words of Buddha remain some of the world’s most sacred pacifist texts. When we hear the philosophical phrases such as “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love” and “Better than a thousand hollow words is the one word that brings peace”, we don’t think of extremists who are set to purge their society of different races and religions. Times are changing, but are they really changing so rapidly that a man who found peace under a bonsai tree can now represent a valid excuse for a hate crime?
Clearly, as our world becomes even more engrossed in the political and social turmoil of the day, we are forgetting Who We Are to become Who They Told Us To Be. And even monks aren’t immune to this. Making sense of it all can drive even the sanest senseless. Becoming too engrossed in anything – either political or social in nature – can have devastating effects on your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. With disputes between the majority and minority, differences in the eyes of both rulers and civilians overshadow the spiritual ties that bind them together. As religion has been dubiously warped countless times to fit the needs of the government, it is crucial that we truly understand the underlying force behind all decisions. As these primarily Buddhist political systems see the currently non-aggressive Muslim population as a threat, they are willing to take steps away from their original thought to secure their position of power. When looking at the actions of the ‘monk mobs’ in Sri Lanka and Burma, we cannot but to realize that they, though their religion, have done “spiritual actions based upon political motivations.” What if we could reverse this thinking?
Just image a world based on spiritual decisions. If we decide to create such a world, then we can transform the statement above to “political decisions based upon spiritual inspirations.” Siddhartha Gautama was a man who understood all of this. He realized the fraudulent happiness in politics, its lies, and its dissatisfaction; so he decided to become something different. At the age of 29, Gautama decided to completely leave his princely role to find his own definition of enlightenment. With a new source for his decisions, he created a new order based on love, detachment, and peace. We can do exactly the same thing: we can make our own decisions based on spiritual ideals, instead of political agenda. We, the youth with decide. With older generations too far embroiled in their own conflicts, we can make the decision, like Siddhartha, to detach ourselves from systems that are simply too dysfunctional. We can replace those systems with ones that promote peace, if we choose to truly love ourselves, and each other. All it takes is a change in thought, and a change in choice. Hopefully, if these current Buddhist monks choose their own spiritual decisions, they can become these same emissaries of light once again.
Forgive me, teens of the world, but as May 19th approaches sooner and sooner, I and every other senior in high schools across the world have become fixated on one day alone: graduation. With a little more than 6 weeks left and the bulk of my activities coming to a close, I cannot help to wonder: What am I going to miss? How much have I changed? Do I have any regrets?
The most daunting of questions on my mind, however, is the simplest: Have I had a fulfilling high school experience?
At this point, I begin to feel old. For this question is not just asked at the end of high school. The same question applies to the other senior, the one who has faced far more than our comparatively juvenile lives. For in our elder years, we also ask that same question, and hope we have the same answer. At the end of any great journey, be it of high school or of this physical stage of life, the necessity of optimizing that journey becomes of chief concern. We ask whether we had a fulfilling life. Did we, or did we not?
So when dealing with that experience – the experience of fulfillment – we often are led to second, third, and quadruple-guess ourselves. Fulfillment seems to be such an elusive concept; it is something that is supposed to happen naturally, yet seems to require a lot of effort to be achieved. Fulfillment also seems to be very paradoxical; it appears to only be felt after the experience, yet requires us to be living in every moment to be reached.
The very dictionary meaning of fulfillment is abstract enough, as it is listed by Merriam-Webster to mean “to execute, realize, and satisfy.” Is fulfillment really just some intangible ideal beyond our recognition or attainment? To answer that, fulfillment is defined by its spiritual definition. In a broader perspective, fulfillment simply means “to realize one’s potential.” To many, realizing one’s potential means they have done something worthwhile with their time in this life. With the majority, we are led to wonder whether we did change the world, make a difference, or even just make the world a better place overall.
The problem with fulfillment does not come from understanding it, but rather our judgment of it. Potential – our ability to be the very best version of ourselves – is something that does not have universal standards. We are all unique spiritual beings, with different purposes that aren’t even entirely known to us. Our soul desires to experience the full range of life, of loss, of love, so it may know itself. What our soul wishes to accomplish in this life cannot be quantitatively judged on a scale of 1 to 10. What one might call a complete failure may be success to another, all depending on the perspective of our soul. The nature of our soul is simply too intricate and complex to be considered so artificially.
Further, fulfillment of potential is not just something that happens retrospectively. We don’t need to wait until we are old – in mind and body – for us to recognize our fulfillment. We can experience it in this very moment. And this one. And this one. With any spiritual experience, the fulfillment of our potential truly does not happen after the fact, but is happening NOW. Fulfillment is living in the moment – being in tune with our spiritual purpose at all times. When we look backwards, we fear the feeling of regret. If we simply BE the greatest vision of the grandest version of ourselves, then there is nothing else we have to do. Though we may feel the regret that it wasn’t enough, it is exactly where we are at the part of the journey – right where our soul leads us. Within the spiritual journey, there is no right or wrong, there is only the way our spirit takes.
So that’s what that feels like. At any age, we worry and wonder about our fulfillment. If its high school or life itself, all we need to do is just let our soul do the work, and let ourselves follow. By living life from the highest point, there is nothing that goes unseen or undone. And it feels wonderful.