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.

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