Tuesday, 28 April 2009

On Pandemic Paranoia...

Hi all,

The idea that the Swine Flu epidemic in Mexico will turn into a worldwide pandemic is not totally unfounded. The fear that it will is unfounded and unhelpful.

Now, why should you listen to my take on the current pandemic threat? Well, for one thing, I'm up to my neck involved in preparing for it. You see, part of Warriorship - for me personally, at any rate - is knowing all about and planning for contingencies.

Actually, I'm rather well trained in the whole field of emergency management, including pandemic planning, and I spend part of my time teaching this stuff and building emergency response plans for organizations. As a matter of fact, I've been hired to produce a pandemic plan for an organization later this year (though something tells me they may want a draft a little sooner ;-)

Your worst enemy in any emergency is fear. Fear is a funny thing. The more you deny it, suppress it and refuse to face it, the more it controls you. And fear is an uncomfortable feeling, so we always tend to suppress it. The Warrior approach is to acknowledge your fear, stay present to it and discover that it's not really such a big monster after all. It's a bit of a cosmic joke, really.

Will the current epidemic turn into a catastrophic pandemic? I don't know the answer to that. What I do know (and what you probably don't) is this: we're FAR better prepared to meet a threat like this than at any time in history.

How so? Whenever there's a big emergency now, including pandemics, there's a whole apparatus throughout all levels of government and including many NGOs that swings into action behind the scenes. Numerous "emergency operations centers" have been activated, pandemic plans pulled off the shelf and supplies readied. The public perception that their government is just bumbling through could not be more mistaken.

Does this mean the politicians and bureaucrats will make the right decisions? Not always. Someone once said the history of the Western world is politicians and bureaucrats doing too little, too late. And there's lots of truth there, of course.

To be fair, these folks are going to have to make some tough calls in the days and weeks ahead. And, in hindsight, some of these decisions won't come out smelling like roses. That's inevitable.

When the SARS outbreak hit Toronto (from Hong Kong) a few years ago, we did a lot of things wrong in our efforts to contain it. And despite the screw-ups, we wrestled SARS to the ground in a matter of weeks.

The fact is, today we have much better early warning, diagnosis, containment measures, command and control, emergency stockpiles, decision-making processes, etc, than we've ever had before. Keep in mind that if this current Swine Flu outbreak were happening 100-150 years ago, you still wouldn't know about it and there wouldn't be any coordinated international response to it that meant anything. It would be free to spread like wild fire. Not so today.

So what should you do? Get informed. There are a zillion good websites to give you the facts and tell you how to prepare yourself, your family and your workplace. Use those resources.

And beware of the mainstream media. The media are not the unbiased purveyors of facts they fancy themselves to be. The media are collectively an interest group. And they love to sell you a product called "fear" because fear sells. Please don't fall for it.

Best wishes,

Dr. Symeon Rodger :-)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Why the Spartan Beat the Ninja...

So there I was last night flipping channels (a bad habit) when I got "trapped" by this fascinating show on Spike TV about who's the "deadliest warrior", the Spartan or the Ninja.

They were out to establish with ruthless scientific rigor who would have won in a 1-on-1 battle to the death between a single Ninja and a single Spartan soldier.

And scientific it was: they had living practitioners of both fighting systems, all the authentic weapons and equipment, 2 kinds of test dummies, equipment for measuring weapon speed and penetration, and two medical experts to assess the effects of individual blows.

Artificial, Of Course...

Yeah, the premise was a bit artificial in that the Spartan of c. 500 BC and the Ninja of c. 1500 AD were obviously never going to run into each other. Still, each in his own time had the reputation as the most feared adversary alive.

The other part of the artificiality was they would never likely face off anyway, since the Spartan was a soldier who fought conventional battles in large formations, whereas the Ninja was much more akin to a modern Special Forces guy who operates alone or in small groups. And tossing your Special Forces folks onto a conventional battlefield is a giant no-no ;-)

The Tests

These guys tested all manner of weapons and protective equipment from both sides for over 3 long days! They concluded the Ninja's sword - the "ninjato" (basically a straight version of the Samurai's "katana", itself the most lethal sword every devised) was FAR superior to the Spartan's shorter, bronze age sword.

The Ninja's weaponry was generally more robust and inventive. It included a lethal and accurate poison blow gun, the deadly "shuriken" throwing stars, and even the ability to attack the opponent's eyes with crushed glass or primitive pepper spray. He also wielded a ball and chain device that could deliver a killing blow right through the Spartan's bronze helmet.

So you'd think after all that the Ninja would win, right?

Guess again. After all the data was in, they fed it into a computer and then ran the 1-on-1 combat simulation 1000 times. And the Spartan won 65% of the time!


Simple, really: he was better protected than the Ninja. Yes, the Ninja had great weapons, but his bladed weapons couldn't penetrate the Spartan's bronze body armor and he could never get to the soft, unarmored spots because of the Spartan's expertise with his massive 4-foot diameter shield.

In other words, the reason the Spartan won comes down to one single principle; the same principle I've been trying to get you to pay attention to for a long time now...


So despite all the sophisticated weapons and strategies employed by both sides (and especially the Ninja), it all came down to resilience. And that principle says, "if your opponent can't hurt you, but you can hurt him, you win."

If you're saying, "that's all very nice, but I can't remember the last time I was attacked on the street by a Ninja," then consider the following:

Whatever goal you wish to achieve and, by extension, whatever fate you wish to avoid, there are typically only 1-3 key skills that you need to master in order to do so.

That means that if you want to get in great shape, you have to consider only 3 things - strength, flexibility and endurance. And you can get in better shape than 95% of the population by concentrating on only 3 exercises.

If you want to avoid cancer, then you need to boost your immune system to its optimal state. And you can do this by mastering 3 skills - diet, superfoods and undoing the 7 deadly spirals of disease (which is what Rock Solid Health Qi Gong does).

If you want to achieve wealth in your business, then there is only one skill you need to master. That's marketing. Everything else in business is just a postscript to that.

So now here's my challenge to you personally... Think about any one goal you want to achieve and figure out scientifically what are the 1-3 skills you must master to get there.

And that's the lesson from the Spartan warrior. Keep it simple and focus your energy on the essentials.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Saturday, 18 April 2009

When EVERYTHING Seems to Go Wrong...at Once!

Hi there,

As I just described to you in today's email, this year's Holy Week has more than lived up to its reputation as a time of trials and temptations. And it's a fact of human life, no matter what your spiritual perspective, that there WILL be times when you're overwhelmed by one crisis after another.

Fortunately, the world's Authentic Ancient Traditions have some wisdom to share with you that will help you prepare, survive and even thrive in the midst of it all...

First, though, I need to address the obvious problem... most people are under the partly mistaken impression that spiritual life is all about finding PEACE.

Well, yes it is... but...

Keep in mind that for most people around you, their ideas of inner peace don't go much beyond the kind of "peace" you feel when you're sunning yourself on a tropical beach with a good book in one hand and a pina colada in the other.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to point out that that kind of "peace" is superficial. It's really just a temporary absence of trouble.

I think you'll agree, though, that true inner peace would have to be something so strong you couldn't lose it because of changes in your circumstances. Otherwise it wouldn't be true inner peace at all, just an imitation. So let's dig a little deeper.

The next level of inner peace is the deep calming of your central nervous system. This is already a great thing in our culture because so few people ever experience it. Hara is one of the most effective ways to pursue this kind of peace.

Peace in the sense of deep calm in your central nervous system is usually a prerequisite for spiritual progress, but it's not the deepest level of inner peace. And that makes sense, of course, because, no matter how profoundly calm your nerves are, you can still lose that peace.

So the ultimate level of inner peace has to be so strong that it renders you invulnerable. It has to be a peace that "passes all understanding", as Christ said; otherwise it's bogus. This kind of peace only comes as the fruit of consistency in the practice of meditation and/or noetic prayer.

The catch is this: meditation and noetic prayer are tools for bringing the ultimate experience of inner peace. However, they do this by acting as "drills" that dredge up a lot of supressed emotional garbage so that this very garbage can be processed, integrated and transformed.

And that's partly why people in deep spiritual practice feel so "set upon", especially in the early stages. They're dealing with the darkness within. This tends to leave you with the feeling that the universe itself is conspiring against you! Actually, in a certain sense, the universe is conspiring FOR you; it just doesn't feel that way ;-)

You see, all these trials have a huge benefit that you don't sense when you're in the middle of them. Slowly but surely they're detaching you from your attachment to results, your attachment to your own addictions, from your attachment to this short and transitory life itself. This is part of getting you "unstuck" from the world of time and space and focusing your gaze on the transcendent reality.

In other words, you're being pulled towards enlightenment. You're being made spiritually strong, invulnerable to your environment and turned into a tested and proven warrior, capable of leading others.

Here are some tips from Ancient Traditions about how to make the journey easier:

1. Practice your spiritual discipline at every opportunity, whether you "feel like it" or not.
2. Expect challenges more than peace and learn to enjoy and thrive on challenge. This will give you courage.
3. Set challenges for yourself, especially physical ones, and use them to hone your Warrior's spirit.
4. Remember that every challenge conceals benefit for you within it. This will give you fortitude.
5. Keep yourself in good physical shape - without this you automatically begin to feel weak and powerless.
6. Stick to your program of regular exercise, regular spiritual practice and a good diet - this above all functions as a WALL around you.
7. Remember, that in a spiritual battle you can be lose over and over again without being defeated. The only defeat is giving up. Stand your ground no matter what. This will teach you faith, because if you stand your ground - meaning you maintain your meditation / prayer - you'll see yourself miraculously rescued time and time again.

Momentarily I have to leave for our main Easter service. It lasts 4 hours or so, starting just before midnight. Usually a joyful time, this year it comes on the heels of several nasty conflicts in the parish and so for me this service is likely to be a major spiritual trial.

I could choose to cower in my bed and not go. Or I can make the Warrior's choice and "dive in". In the words of a great spiritual guide of recent times, unless a person enters into the sea of trials armed with nothing but faith, he will not advance spiritually so much as an inch.

Diving in...

Dr. Symeon Rodger

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Recovering Childlike Wonder

In the story I shared with you in today's email - about the child who boarded a plane for Jamaica one night and thought he was moving through outer space because all he could see out the aircraft's window were stars - we have a vivid reminder of how WE ourselves used to see the world around us... as a wonderous and magical place...

...before we grew up and got "educated".

The question is, can we recover that sense of childlike wonder and innocence or will we spend the rest of our days in the "adult" world of boredom, the world devoid of magic, mystery and finally meaning.

This is a question I've thought about for decades. I guess the first really startling insight for me came from running into people from other cultures who just don't see the world in the same way Westerners do. Whether they're native peoples of North America, the descendents of the Pharoahs (the Egyptian Copts) or people from various places in the Far East, there seemed to be a common thread - this world is not nearly as solid and "real" as our eyes would suggest.

It's really astonishing to hang out with people who think this way. And it's very refreshing!

The fact is, we live in a civilization that, for all its achievements, has some bizarre ideas. For that last few centuries it's been telling us that the world as we see it is indeed very solid and real, and that it's the only thing that is real!

Until now...

As I explained in some detail in the "Gong-Fu" Special Report, science is now doing a "180" and saying basically, "Sorry. About that 'sold and real' stuff... we sort of screwed up. Turns out that everything you see as solid is just energy and your consciousness plays a role in how it manifests itself."

Okay, so far so good. It just means that every habit of perception we've learned since we were pre-schoolers turns out to be dead wrong. A minor adjustment (!) to our daily habits is in order.

But what's this mean in the end? Well, for one thing, it means that recovering childlike wonder isn't about building some escapist fantasy. Instead, it's about learning to see things the way the REALLY are. It's about seeing past what our senses tell us.

The question is how to do that. Fortunately, Authentic Ancient Traditions come to our rescue again, this time with an approach that's found everywhere from ancient Christianity to Taoism, Buddhism and elsewhere.

In the Far East it's usually referred to as "emptiness". It's the process of detaching yourself from the idea the world is solid and real. And there are lots of different methods used worldwide to achieve this, including meditations on emptiness, continuously reminding yourself of the "unreality" of the world of appearances and much more.

You can read more about this in my book, The 5 Pillars of Life, pages 167-170.

What are the advantages? Well, if you see everything that happens to you as "solid and real", then of course life's challenges will rip you apart emotionally because you are giving them the power to do that. On the other hand, as one Tibetan lama describes the perceptions of people who have had a direct experience of emptiness:

"...good and bad external conditions no longer have the power to disturb their mind, because they realize them to be like a magician's illusion, with no existence separate from the mind. Instead of being pulled apart like a puppet on a string, their minds remain free and tranquil in the knowlege of the equal and unchanging ultimate nature of all things. In this way, the person who directly realizes the true nature of phenomena experiences peace day and night." (1)

The catch for Westerners is that until we learn to quiet our mind and thoughts and arrive at the ability to enter into inner silence, at least for short periods, there's no way we're going to detach from appearances and reduce our vulnerability to our circumstances.

Without a doubt, the easiest way to enter into stillness is the ancient Taoist method the Japanese named Hara or Hara-gei. Why's it the best? Because it reintroduces you to the genuine wonder of the universe within you. It allows you to experience the childlike awe of tapping into the rhythms in your own body-mind organism, to feel and sense things you've been totally oblivious to since early childhood.

That takes you directly into stillness, which in turn is the surest foundation for the practice of emptiness, which in turn is the "adult's" recipe for returning to the experience of childlike wonder at and appreciation of the true magic of life.

To learn more about Hara, jump on over to:


You see, once your mind starts to pay attention to the wonders within you, your endless inner dialogue and your unruly emotions will quiet down without much effort on your part. And from there you just as effortlessly enter into emptiness.

However - and I won't delude you here - it takes a good deal of consistent application to get there. This is no magic pill. It's a wonderous and joyful process, but it's not an instant fix intended that will give you bliss even if the rest of your lifestyle sucks. There is no such thing.

In plain language, Hara is for Warriors, not wimps. Use it with care!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

(1) From Mahamudra Tantra: The Supreme Heart Jewel Nectar, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. New York: Tharpa Publications, 2005, pp. 137-8.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Who Determines Your Reality?

Well, it had to happen...

After we've enjoyed a few days of warm and sunny weather here in Ottawa (the second coldest national capital on earth, by the way) - even to the extent of sitting outside in T-shirts - we've suddenly been hit with another cold snap.

And worse than cold and worse than overcast, it's actually snowing!

Truth be told, this happens pretty much every year at some point in April. You get a taste of near summer-like weather and then BAM!

The most interesting thing, though, is the reactions of the people. From the several dozen people I've talked to today, I can only describe their moods as depressed. And it's all because of the weather. Since it's gray, dull, cold and snowing outside, they seem to assume that their inner worlds have to be gray, dull, cold and snowing too.

If you're near a window, have a look outside right now. Is it overcast? If so, I'd invite you to close your eyes and visualize the weather at 40,000 feet (10,000 meters). What's it like?

Well, as you probably know, it's always bright and sunny at that altitude. So you can tell yourself in all seriousness that just a few miles / kilometers away from where you're standing right now, it's a beautiful and sunny day.

What's the point of all this? Simple - you have a choice. You can choose to let your outer circumstances get the better of your inner world by getting depressed and down when the weather takes a turn for the worse, when your internet connection fails or when people around you are in foul moods for whatever reason.

OR, you can choose to be the one who consciously decides the quality of your inner world at all times. You can choose to live in any "world" you wish, no matter what's going on around you.

You may remember that in The 5 Pillars of Life, I mentioned that all Authentic Ancient Traditions are about freeing you from the domination of your environment. That's the essence of Warriorship - deciding to take responsibility for your inner world from now on.

To return to the example of people who allow themselves to get depressed because of a gray and snowy (or rainy) day... Are you able to see the day as beautiful and sunny? Can you focus on this so strongly that you don't even notice the weather?

A form of self-delusion, you say? Nonsense. Achieving the "diamond like concentration" that enables you to control your inner world and free yourself from the negative influences around you is one of the greatest of human spiritual achievments.

Try it out for yourself and you'll see. Of course, it takes practice ;-)

To your freedom,

Dr. Symeon Rodger