Category Archives: zen

What New Age?

As I related in my most recent post entitled CHOICE, I have no aversion to controversy, so I see little reason to waste your valuable Time today with preface or needless prevarication.  Though it might make those who consider themselves to be at the cutting edge of the New Age Movement uncomfortable, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: the New Age is no longer new and no longer relevant.  (Feel free to draw and quarter the messenger if you must, but this will in no way alter the veracity of his message.)  What began as a heartfelt and determined desire to cast off the manacles of institutionalized religion and reclaim a mystical connection to Divinity (and humanity’s corresponding Divine Nature) has over Time metamorphosed into a confused mishmash of conflicting and efficaciously questionable practices often characterized by cults of personality.  Given some of the things many practitioners of New Age spirituality often are willing to believe or do or pay outrageous sums of money for, is it any wonder that mainstream conformist society tends to consider such practitioners to be, at best, humorously misguided eccentrics or, at the worst, dangerously delusional psychotics?

Defending the “no longer new” aspect of my statement is done quite easily and in short order.  Though there was never a fountainhead, several names consistently come to mind when considering the emergence of the Aquarian New Age Movement.  Bailey, Blavatsky, Cayce, Crowley, and Fillmore were Occidentals who paved the way for the introduction to the West of many Eastern teachers and mystics, with but two examples being Paramahansa Yogananda and D.T. Suzuki.  The people mentioned above lived and worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  No matter how you look at it, there ain’t a thing new about an Age that has been extant for (give or take) well over 100 years.  ‘Nuff said.

As for the admittedly provocative “no longer relevant” comment, I base my position on a dispassionate assessment of an observable lack of results.  For every person that achieves a genuine awakening or personal healing experience within some branch of the New Age paradigm, there are hundreds, even thousands, who do not.  As a result some give up, others return to more orthodox religion or medicine, while many continue to graze at the spiritual buffet in an effort to find even a morsel that will satisfy their hunger.  It can be argued that the fault lies with less than dedicated students, not the teacher or the discipline.  While this position has situational merit the question should be “what degree of practical and consistent efficacy does a given teaching and approach possess?”  All around I see people who have spent hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars on workshops and various otherworldly accoutrement for the stated goal of improving their lives, yet nothing (other than being lighter in the pocketbook) has changed.  They are just as bereft/ill/miserable now as they were the day their search began.  This is the crux of my contention.

I will now speak the unspeakable:  It is not without good reason that the New Age movement has long carried the stench of snake oil.  For every method or teacher capable of delivering what is promised there are innumerable incompetents and outright frauds that can’t.  New Age franchises tend to attract the intrigued and the gullible, and it is those who are the most easily hornswoggled.  The innocent, the desperate, and the lazy are usually the most susceptible to the charms of the quack or the crook.  Though the charlatans have done much to damage the integrity of a movement that began with such noble intentions, the blame for its persistent dubious credibility can be spread evenly between the mountebanks and the dilettantes who enable them.

My goal here is not criticism for its own sake and I will not presume to tell anyone what qualifies as a fraudulent discipline; that is for you to decide.  (I will, however, submit that it is never a bad idea to keep the phrase caveat emptor in mind.)  Neither am I challenging the purveyors of any method to prove to little-ol’-me that their approach is effective.  My challenge is to you, the genuine seeker, to not be blinded by the feel-good nonsense that is so readily available in the spiritual marketplace.  Any practice that demands nothing of a seeker beyond great quantities of cash and (sometimes) adoration of the teacher is, in the view of this heretical mystic, suspect.

Pumped up power-of-positive-thinking drones that, though thinking positively, take no ACTION to change their state are deserving of the limited results their feeble efforts bring.  And you can have all the psychic readings and chakra cleansings that money can buy but, if you don’t make changes to the way you live your life as a result of the knowledge you gained from those readings and capitalize on the benefits of those purifications, you are wasting your money and your Time.  Nothing will ever replace the Time-honored and provable approach of sound theoretical knowledge combined with diligent and persistent work.

Instead of continuing to call an esoteric or mystical approach to spirituality by the outdated and meaningless handle New Age, maybe it would be better to call it Objective Mysticism or Practical Spirituality.  Unless, that is, the objective and/or the practical is not what you seek.  Unless, that is, the status quo is good enough for you.

©Billy Red Horse

Choice

“Far more than our abilities, it is our choices that show what we truly are.”
– Albus Dumbledore

To be called a heretic is an experience I have long savored and over the years I have had many opportunities to indulge my perverse enjoyment of being thus maligned.  No matter what spiritual discipline I have learned and taught, there has always been someone close by to wag a finger in my general direction and tell me just how wrong I am, how I am corrupting the teachings. It must be said that, when the textbook definition of the word heretic is considered, I truly am one!  A heretic is a person who holds controversial opinions, especially ones that publicly challenge officially accepted dogma.  That’s me all over!  It should therefore come as no surprise that I identify strongly with the Greek root of the word heretic.  That root is hairetikos, which means “able to choose.”

In the final analysis, everything comes down to choice.  The great motivational speakers all state that the quantity and severity of challenges we experience in our lives is of little importance.  How we choose to perceive and respond to those challenges is what matters.  Where others might choose to be victims of circumstance, it is the Spiritual Warrior who responds with life affirming choices (and actions) rather than reacting as though everything is beyond her control.  It is the simple choice between being at the cause or at the effect.

Most every choice we make is a point of departure that will lead to an inevitable destination.  The demand upon us to make choices is as incessant as it is unavoidable.  To quote a line from lyricist Neil Peart, “[Even] if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”  To claim the power inherent in conscious choice is to simultaneously shoulder the burden of responsibility for the consequences of those choices.  It is this burden of responsibility that so frightens the average person and the reason so many prefer to let others make their choices for them.

We do not live alone in this world and no matter how considered one might be with regards to choices made, it is certain that those choices can and will be effected by the choices of others, those we know and those we don’t.  Is it not fair to ask that those who, as associates, friends, and coworkers, have the greatest access to (and, therefore, influence upon) us be at least as concerned with making conscious choices as are we?  This should give a person all the more reason to be selective about the company one keeps.

It may seem that in trying to consider the myriad of possible outcomes each choice could bring one could be easily overwhelmed, even to the point of mental and/or physical apoplexy.  This doesn’t have to be the case.  Gentle persistence is generally the best course when learning a new skill.  Learning how to make wise choices is no different.  Be aware of your choices and don’t be afraid to follow your instincts.

All humans are possessed of a dual nature that is equally adept at expressing the utmost love or manifesting lurid villainy.  What separates the killing fields from Elysian Fields is choice.  Whether we determine to Love or to Fear, to act or react, create or destroy is a function of how we use Energy.  It is our choices that send us down the infernal path and it is our choices that can redeem and Awaken us.

The meaning of Life is really quite simple:  Life is about choice.  Nothing has more influence on our lives and our happiness than the choices we make.  We are here because we choose to be.  Our life has the meaning we choose to give it.  Whether we live in the awareness of our elemental nature as a part of the world we inhabit and our spiritual nature as the offspring of Creation, or as victims of circumstance who are out of balance and out of control can only be decided by the individual.  Creation gives us sovereignty.  It is we alone who abdicate that sovereignty.  The Choice is ours.

There is so much darkness in the world, so very much pain that it often overshadows the Joy.  This does not have to be.  We are not condemned to the mire.  Beauty is but a choice away.

©Billy Red Horse

Burn Notice

The HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF INTERNATIONAL INTELLIGENCE by Nigel West offers the following definition for the term Burn Notice– “When a Central Intelligence Agency source has proved unreliable, a warning known as a Burn Notice is distributed, alerting personnel with responsibility for the recruitment or running of sources not to have any further contact with that individual.”  As the opening monologue of the old USA Network TV show BURN NOTICE related, “When you’re burned, you’ve got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history.  You’re stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in…(y)ou rely on anyone who’s still talking to you…(b)ottom line: As long as you’re burned, you’re not going anywhere.”

Join me in a piquant thought experiment:  Though you are most likely not a spy, intelligence informant, or even a breaker of law beyond that of an occasional moving violation, what would you do if you were to be the recipient of your own Burn Notice? What if you suddenly found yourSelf without credit, no access to your savings accounts, no record with any governmental, banking or business entity that you have ever existed?  People that once knew you deny they have ever even met you, let alone admit to having any sort of relationship to or with you.  Those hard copies you have of your birth certificate, your mortgage, your divorce decree?  Well, as there is no official record of these documents anywhere, then they must be clever forgeries.  If this happened to you, how would you respond?  Would you exert all possible energies to convince people of who you were and to reclaim what you feel is rightfully yours?  Would you, like the protagonist in the TV show, seek out the person or entity behind your burning? What would you do if, despite your best attempts, you were unable to reclaim that which was once yours?  Would you flounder? Would you spend the remainder of your days sulking and bemoaning your situation?  Would you start over?

Technology can fail.  In today’s modern digital society, it is not so far from the realm of possibility that you might, indeed, find yourSelf on the receiving end of your own version of a Burn Notice.  Though it might not be orchestrated by an unspecified shady governmental cabal or the result of some criminal enterprise out to purloin the identities of the unsuspecting, and though it might not be as total as that experienced by a burned spy, you still may one day find yourSelf in the position of having to prove who you are and exist without access to your digitally stored virtual resources until the matter can be resolved.  Could you do this?  Do you have sufficient liquid resources spread around and available should you require them?  Do you have multiple copies of relevant important documents stored in various secure locations?  Most importantly, in a worst case scenario, do have the fortitude to start over from scratch if you needed to?

Don’t get burned against your will.  Against your will?  An interesting concept which sets us off in an entirely new and intriguing direction.  Look at your Life.  Look at your tendencies. Look at the way you habitually respond to situations and circumstances.  Look at the good.  Look at the bad.  What if…what if you were to issue your own Burn Notice…to yourSelf?

How would your Life be different if you were to burn those traits that no longer served you?  What if you erased the behaviors that held you back or, worse, harmed you?  While it is not possible to avoid the consequences of our prior choices, decisions, and actions by “burning” them, it IS possible to create a “new identity” for ourselves, to move toward becoming the person we want to be.  Change your mind, change your approach, and you will most certainly change your Life.

Perhaps a Burn Notice is not such a scary thing after all.

©Billy Red Horse

Best Case Scenario

Not so long ago your humble scribe penned a most insightful tome entitled The High Cost Of Living. An astute and prepossessing piece, I labored through its composition to express with eloquence the weight of our every action and their attendant consequences.  I wish now to revisit the same subject matter, but this time from a slightly different perspective.  (Accuse me of repeating myself if you must; it is a charge I shall in no wise repudiate.  Yes, the topic is THAT important to me.)

Barring a total governmental usurpation of this nation’s private healthcare system, one might, with modern preventative medical care, deliberate nutrition, sufficient exercise, and efficacious stress release, expect to easily live to the age of 100 and even beyond.  (This is not at all an unreasonable assertion.  There are great sages of the past who have proffered that the human body is by design constructed to live a minimum of 125 years, but that is another topic for another time.)  Rather than surrendering to the storms of Life, there are those who will not only fight for every breath, every moment, but who will endeavor to fill those moments with thoughts and experiences and actions that make lLife worth the living.  Which brings us to a point (or two) well worth pondering.

Thinking solely in terms of quantity rather than quality, and taking into account the averment made in the preceding paragraph, best case scenario: how long will you be alive?  If, as you read this, you find you have reached the quarter-century mark and, for the sake of our discussion, you accept that the ripe old age of 100 is, in fact, within the realm of achievement, then basic mathematics dictates you have roughly 75 years of Life remaining in the here-and-now.  Not that bad, I suppose.  There are some who have never made it even close to the 75 years you hypothetically have left.

Now, let us bring forward for consideration a second best case scenario:  how long will you be dead?  Arguments of reincarnation put aside, it would not be unreasonable to proffer an answer for this second question to accurately be “forever.”  Comparing and contrasting the duration of best case scenario One with that of best case scenario Two, would it not be prudent to get as much out of scenario One as is humanly possible prior to entering scenario Two?

Returning to the 75 year figure mentioned above (for you more seasoned folks reading this, the following should carry an even greater weight), I should remind you that there are no guarantees.  Sure, you MIGHT have 75 years left or 65 years or 50 years or 25 years, all, of course, depending on your current chronological situation, general health, and all the other previously mentioned factors.  Or you might suffer the misfortune several weeks from now of expiring as the result of injuries sustained from being trampled by a stampeding herd of flash-mobbing teenagers.  Or you might be the victim of an undiagnosed cardiac malady and drop dead of heart failure before you finish reading this sentence.  So I ask once again, best case scenario, how long will you live?  Best case scenario, how long will you be dead?

In the overarching architecture of it all, even 100 years is less than the most fleeting moment when juxtaposed against Eternity.  If, in death, the best case scenario that can be hoped for is, at the very least, everlasting, should this not give one pause to design and experience a Life as devoid of pain and sorrow as possible?  One characterized by a vital existence, challenging, engaging, fulfilling and, above all, overflowing in Beauty?

Reject a willing servitude and find that which makes your Heart sing.  Cause no harm and do what you will. Love the Mother Earth and all Her children.  Become more than you feel you are, more than you think you can be.  When presented with a choice between Life-affirming and Life-negating, choose that which will amplify most your Great Desire.

There are those nihilists who will say, when presented with some conundrum or other, 100 years from now it won’t matter anyway.  I say, 100 years from now, what I do in this moment or the next or the next will be of the gravest importance.  The best case scenario allows for nothing else.

©Billy Red Horse

The Paradox

Our lives are cumulative.  Where we are at any given moment can be traced to the decisions we made 5 minutes, 5 years, or 5 decades earlier.  Ours is an existence characterized by Karmic consequence.

The interesting thing, however, is that the “we” of right now is not the same “we” of 5 minutes, 5 years, or 5 decades past, so “we,” in effect, are not “we” at all.  The paradox comes in that, on the one hand, while in the Time from our birth to the present moment up until the point of our death, the ecliptic of our Earthly journey can be conceived of symbolically as a great snowball, collecting snow (memories, attitudes, etc.) and increasing our substantive energetic girth inevitably for the duration of that journey.  On the other hand, not all that snow (those memories, attitudes, and the like) will remain constant for the entirety of the journey; we change, we (hopefully) mature, we transcend who we were and develop (again, hopefully) into the more Beautiful Who We Are.  We are, therefore, less like reservoirs and more like conduits.

Using another symbolic analogy, think of your “Self” like a baseball franchise that was founded on the very day you were born.  In the decades since you debuted there have been many coaches, even more players, changing uniforms, and a constantly rotating base of fans.  It’s still the “same” team, but different. The name has been a constant, there is a team memory, but the years have seen varying attitudes, aptitudes, concerns, and results.  The same but different; constant, yet ever-changing.

By the very act of living your Life you have seen to it that “you” are not who “you” once were.  Use your power of Choice and the discipline of action to move these changes with intent in the direction of your dreams.  While consequence is unlikely ever to be manipulated, future Karma CAN be.

©Billy Red Horse