Category Archives: Opinions

You Have Nothing To Fear But … No, That’s Enough

If there is one predominant lesson that being alive has taught me is that I need to be afraid. We are bombarded every day with a million things that we need to fear. Things we need to be cognizant of so they don’t sneak up on us and author our demise.

We need to fear the flu season, dropping real estate prices, climate change, a higher dollar, a lower dollar, an oil shortage, losing our job, cellphone radiation, Ebola, and even the 100 days of happy challenge!?

In many cases it appears that fear is the currency used in attempt to promote support. Support for change that is in line with the beliefs of whomever is promoting the fear.

For instance with climate change, environmentalists will often speak as if we are on the edge of a cliff, if not already falling, when talking of how much we have already negatively affected the environment around us. On the other hand the senior economists will tell us how many jobs will be lost if we spend money on clean energy and implement carbon taxes.

In other cases it seems that fear is primarily used to gain attention, as it is with the evening news. A news story with potentially much more dire consequences will obviously gain more viewership than a good news story.

There is implied urgency with fear based information. It keeps us on our toes, promotes anxiety, keeps us perpetually in a state of flight or fight. Fear is very effective at gaining attention, and EVERYBODY knows it. That’s the problem.

Our fears are constantly tugged in every direction as people chase our money, or our vote, to support their cause. The progress of change is thus driven by fear.

As we evolve technologically, exponentially increasing amounts of information are available to anyone with a wi-fi connection, and thus our society becomes more and more burdened with a directly proportional amount of fear.

Taking a moment to look inwards, I have from my own experiences learned that fear is one of the primary sources of any suffering that I have gone through. It has created anger, misperceptions, anxiety, stress, and depression. It is an emotion built to address immediate and real danger, but has been tapped into as a tool of manipulation due to its extreme effectiveness.

Fear emerges from an idea of what may happen, not what is happening. It is a concept that carry’s no actual danger. It is an illusion infused into reality through our own reactions. Any action based on fear, is thus based on an illusion. 

The wonderful takeaway from all of this is that you can actually choose not to be afraid. More accurately, once you realize that fear isn’t real, you begin to create a world in which fear doesn’t exist. I can feel the change happening within myself now. I have also become much more aware of how often I create fear with my own thoughts, and they are losing their influence dramatically. I write this post as a call for the abandoment of fear. To dissolve the illusion of ever present immediate danger. To realize that if you truly want to change the world you must first exist in it.

The Scales Of Humanity

I have a theory that in order to be at peace with yourself you must make peace with the entire human experience. This includes the whole spectrum. Every good samaritan and corrupt leader, every violent act and healing hand, every unwanted thought and each brilliant idea, a miraculous birth or a painful death. You must make peace with everything, no matter how horrific, because such potential exists within each of us.

We are subject to corruption, superficiality, hatred, anger just because we belong to the human race. It is the risk of being alive. But fortunately we are also capable of amazing acts of love, compassion, caring, and sacrifice. It is Love vs Hate. That the scales of humanity tilt one way or the other is the primary determining factor in our destiny.

I really find the analogy of the scale useful as it helps demonstrate one of my key beliefs. Any attention directed towards hate, whether you are directly supporting a hateful idea or you are opposing a hateful idea (i.e. hating the hate) you are tilting the scales in the direction of hatred. I try to apply this idea when listening to the news and I hear a story relating to this eternal struggle. It’s not always easy.

For instance, with the winter Olympics in Sochi approaching the Russian law that makes homosexuality a crime is getting a lot of airtime. It is a despicable law based entirely on unsubstantiated fear and of course, hatred. Many discussions on this topic center around what is the best way to protest this law. I worry that while intense resistance of this ridiculous law is warranted, it will only slow the pace of change. Eckhart Tolle stated it best when he said “Whatever you fight you strengthen, and whatever you resist, persists.”. I think strong opposition to an idea, no matter how warranted, often causes the opposed to dig their heels in.

So how could you tilt the scales from such hatred towards love? What about a gay couple just being a loving gay couple. Regardless of being in the spotlight or not. If you are in a major televised event and you win, or come second, or lose, simply showing the loving support that is commonplace in many relationships would help lay the foundation for change. I realize this is not the accepted approach in our current world and people often want to make a big splash. But often when you make a big splash it’s because you hit a big wall. Of course safety is always a major concern and I have no idea how Russian authorities plan to react to gay athletes interacting like normal couples. This is where your country’s support would be vital.

This approach also requires a certain amount of sympathy towards the offenders. That we are all equal forms of life trying to navigate our way as members of humanity in all of it’s flaws. It requires the recognition that simply by being human we are also capable of such hatred if only our environment and genetics were changed slightly. But most importantly it is the knowledge that the power of love exists in all of us. Keep adding more to the scales and eventually, once a certain threshold is reached, the scales will permanently tilt towards it.

The Purpose of Art

The purpose of art is to transcend the senses. The very senses through which it comes to be. A poem, for instance, takes something as limited as the english language and attempts to use it as a catapult. It points to something far beyond the definitions of the words it uses. It creates a feeling, an unspeakable understanding of something which can’t be precisely talked about. In art there is no logic, there is nothing you can hold onto. It’s only job is to create space, to knock back those walls which limit possibility within your own existence. When it doesn’t make sense is when it is most effective. If your pre-established brain patterns can’t wrap itself around what’s being said it has two choices: throw the art away and call it garbage, or thought itself must be discarded. You must then feel art and not describe it. When in the presence of a wonderful painting it is enough to just to be with it. There is no need to admire the skill behind it’s creation. Let the emotion of the artist be replicated within yourself. The only truth that exists in the Universe is the truth of experience. When you share an experience of another through art you share a permanent bond. You understand yourself and others more completely. It is the cultivating of this kinship that will ultimately bring humanity together.

The Pine Trees

I live in Ottawa, Canada and last night around 10 centimeters of snow fell. As I got into my car this morning it was still coming down but it was quite tranquil. There was barely a breeze and snow falling this way does an excellent job of muffling the sounds of the rat race. It wasn’t sticky snow but was nonetheless gathering quite significantly on the branches of trees.

When I arrived at work the snow had stopped but the air was still calm. Then without much warning the clouds parted and the sun shone bright against a sky blue backdrop. The sun has been a rare sight in Ottawa lately so I took special notice of this. It hadn’t been out for 5 minutes when I noticed the wind was starting to blow. The snow that was laying softly on the ground was now starting to be thrown about by this ever increasing breeze. Looking into the distance each building had developed a white halo of drifting snow.

This quick change in the weather caught my eye and I stood from my desk and went to the window. What was a stiff breeze now became a gale. Snow everywhere was flung from it’s resting spot and visibility was decreasing with each passing gust. I looked towards the front entrance of my building where three or four 40 foot pine trees stand bunched together. They seemed either unaffected or protected from the dramatic shift in weather, but then something incredible happened…

As if some universal threshold was broken the wind reached such a speed that the branches could no longer hang on to their snow. In one swift punch from Mother Nature the pines disappeared into a cloud of it’s own blowing snow. The trees were violently shaken by the indecisive wind direction until all it’s branches lie clean. As the snow all moved along and the trees became bare I experienced a definite awe in witnessing such a simple event.

Soon I began to realize that what I saw had profound spiritual undertones. The gathering of snow on the branches was similar to how we add layers upon layers to ourselves. Then there was the sun busting through the clouds providing a sign of hope. With the appearance of the sun the winds start to dramatically change. The environment becomes turbulent and more violent. Often, in a spiritual journey, after the first signs of light things start to get worse before they get better. Then as if the tree can take no more it releases the snow and carries it’s burden no more. The pines stand barren, simpler and free. The winds still blow but those pines barely seem to notice anymore.

Epidemic of Separateness

If I had to pin point the biggest problem in the world today, I would say that it is the epidemic of separateness that permeates every aspect of our lives.

As a society we are always trying to place everyone in their appropriate category, and battling ourselves to improve our status. It happens with the choice of the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the degree on your wall.

We are also clamouring to rank people.

Radio stations rank the top singers. Hollywood awards oscars to the best actors. Forbes names the richest people in the world. America’s Most Wanted has the most dangerous criminals. TSN names the best hockey players.

Why do we do this?

Many people often align themselves with those they admire in order to elevate their status to the same level. And should anyone say something negative about anothers hero, they would defend them as if they were their own child. This is very prevalent in sports where some fans are so aligned with the success of their team that they violently defend their honour against all opposers, Occasionally to the point of death.

From the negative spectrum we are also very quick to condemn those we perceive as below us. The homeless, the criminals, the drug users, all allow us to elevate our own status at the cost of our perception of their value as human’s.

Perhaps it is fear that drives us. Fear that we will never become anything of value, or fear that we have nothing more to offer.

The truth of the matter is that we are all one. No one better. No one worse

We all came from this planet. Everything inside us is from the earth. Whatever force created the universe is equal inside all of us. To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle “We don’t have a life, we are life.”

Would you rank the best trees? I suppose you could rank the tallest tree, the greenest, or the longest living. But none of that captures the essence of a tree. How from billions of years of creation the universe has expressed itself so perfectly in it’s stillness. Don’t get it? It sure is tall though.

And that is essentially what happens with people. When we rank everything in such a superficial way we ignore the very essence inside every person. We forget that in the most important way we are all linked, we are all one.

If everyone truly realized this I wonder how different the world would be. Would millions be left to starve while millions of others waste food? Would those without money and insurance be left without health care? Would wars be waged if you realized how closely linked you are with those you wish to attack?

Maybe one day…

My Heart Is Broken

My heart is broken.

There are not enough tears to express the sadness I feel for what happened in Syria yesterday. Nerve gas attacks by the government on the people of Syria. The footage of children suffering just before succumbing to its dreadful effects is unbearable.  The fact that such a thing is possible speaks to the madness of the world we live in.

I sit here at work barely keeping it together. I know there is a flood of tears to come at the slightest trigger. I don’t know how to continue like normal after seeing such a thing.  I don’t want to continue like normal. I don’t want to be that guy who’s numb and can casually move past this. How can anyone continue on with such unnecessary pain occurring in the world?

Why Children?

Children represent how life wants to be lived. They go about in total presence enjoying every ounce of each and every little thing they come across. Children are our guide to happiness, our bringers of joy, and the brightest ray of hope in this mad world. I am convinced we are born into this world with life figured out and spend the rest of our time unlearning it. Yesterday’s attack is a cry for help from humanity. We are lost and we don’t know how to find our way back.

But what can I do?  What do I want to do?

What I want is for this not to have happened. To undo it. To prevent the suffering of those who suffered. Spiritually I know this is non-acceptance of what is. To deny this has happened is to live with anger clouding everything. And anger leads to a desire for vengeance. That those responsible must pay dearly. But that pattern has no end. It’s how you get there in the first place. Every act of violence results in an escalated act of violence.

We are all in this together

Much like a person who gets a serious illness, humanity is sick. While it is a few people who carry out the most dreadful of acts it is still humanity as a whole that is sick. When a person gets lung cancer they don’t say my lungs have cancer, they say I have cancer. Thus there is no real separation between us and those capable of heinous acts. We are at different ends of a scale but still on the same scale. If one is sick, we are all sick.

It’s time to question everything

We have got it wrong people. We aren’t slightly wrong, we’re not a little bit off target, we are way wrong. And we need to open our eyes to see it. We need to question our whole way of life. Science, Religion, Democracy, Capitalism, Socialism, Education, that 9 to 5 job, or that 6 to 6 job. What are any of these things accomplishing that is truly meaningful? What are they helping us become? Will they lead us to peace and happiness?

What do you want from life

Figuring out what you want from life is difficult. People will rarely say “I have everything I want” because they aren’t happy (or often very unhappy), and they need to assign that gap to something. If they watch enough TV I am sure they will assign that gap to something we can buy. If we spend endless hours at work that gap will be the promotion that we are longing for. If you’re in politics it’s likely more power that you crave.

But what if that gap wasn’t real

The essence of Spirituality is that we already have everything we need to feel Peace, Joy and Love. This is my path but this is also where my gap lies. Though I am not yet there I can sense the wisdom of looking internally instead of externally for happiness. I believe spirituality taps into the essence of who we are and that’s what Children are born with.

The majority of those who find spirituality later in life have found it through their own suffering. It is also sure that suffering in this world is increasing at an alarming rate. Perhaps it is our destiny to find spirituality this way. My only hope is that we can awaken enough to minimize the suffering along the way.